Jomini vs. Clausewitz in New York, 1854

The military theorist-in-chief of the American Civil War, Antoine-Henri Baron Jomini, had a number of unkind remarks to make on Clausewitz and On War. He wrote these in an open letter to the Russian Czar introducing the Russian edition of his own works in 1837.

I say "Russian edition" but it was in French, as French was spoken by the Russian nobility and the officer corps was entirely noble until WWI. This Francophone volume was brought out in English by Putnam in New York in 1854 with the letter to the Czar included.

This is the Jomini book most read by Civil War officers. Its comments on Clausewitz must have been baffling as Clausewitz was unknown here.
...the Prussian General Clausewitz died, leaving to his widow the care of publishing posthumous works which were presented as unfinished sketches. This work made a great sensation in Germany, and for my part I regret that it was written before the author was acquainted with my summary of the Art of War, persuaded that he would have rendered to it some justice.

One cannot deny to General Clausewitz great learning and a facile pen; but this pen, at times a little vagrant, is above all too pretentious for a didactic discussion, the simplicity and clearness of which ought to be its first merit. Besides that, the author shows himself by far too skeptical in point of military science; his first volume is but a declamation against all theory of war, whilst the two succeeding volumes, full of theoretic maxims, proves that the author believes in the efficacy of his own doctrines, if he does not believe in those of others.

As for myself, I own that I have been able to find in this learned labyrinth but a small number of luminous ideas and remarkable articles; and far from having shared the skepticism of the author, no work would have contributed more than his to make me feel the necessity and utility of good theories, if I had ever been able to call them in question; it is important simply to agree well as to the limits which ought to be assigned them in order not to fall into a pedantry worse than ignorance; it is necessary above all to distinguish the difference which exists between a theory of principles and a theory of systems.

It will be objected perhaps that, in the greater part of the articles of this summary, I myself acknowledge that there are few absolute rules to give on the divers subjects of which they treat; I agree in good faith to this truth, but is that saying there is no theory? If, out of forty-five articles, some have ten positive maxims, others one or two only, are not a 150 or 200 rules sufficient to form a respectable body of strategic or tactical doctrines? And if to those you add the multitude of precepts which suffer more or less exceptions, will you not have more dogmas than necessary for fixing your opinions upon all the operations of war?

At the same epoch when Clausewitz seemed thus to apply himself to sapping the basis of the science, a work of a totally opposite nature appeared in France, that of the Marquis de Ternay, a French emigre in the service of England. This book is without contradiction, the most complete that exists on the tactics of battles, and if it falls sometimes into an excess contrary to that of the Prussian general, by prescribing, in doctrines details of execution often impracticable in war, he cannot be denied a truly remarkable merit, and one of the first grades among tacticians.
Ternay who?

More on Clausewitz vs Jomini can be found here.

Portrait: Jomini, in Russian uniform, by George Dawe.