"Concentration in time" and the ACW (cont.)

Outside of Civil War studies, the term and idea “concentration in time” is credited to Clausewitz. Within Civil War studies, “concentration in time” has been deeply colored by Archer Jones’ formulation.

In Clausewitz’s Vereinigung chapter, the illustration is given of Napoleon’s Russian invasion. Napoleon deploys all of his strategic assets in one stroke: he does not stage an invasion in phases nor as piecemeal forces become available over time. And he has one aim: by advancing on Moscow, he will force a battle in his favor such that peace can be dictated from the occupied capital.

Jones’ first example of concentration in time is Lincoln’s order for simultaneous advances on February 22, 1862. This entails multiple forces, moving on multiple axes, in pursuit of multiple objectives, none of them decisive, none of them “politics by other means.” This is almost the opposite of what Clausewitz envisions by Vereinigung.

Jones makes the purpose of this simultaneity the negating of the defender’s advantage of interior lines. The defender enjoys an economy of movement when shifting force from point to point on interior lines of defense (to offset any attacker’s local superiority). Simultaneous attacks (“concentrations in time”) can prevent a shift by creating multiple challenges at once to the entire line of defense.

The deep reader recognizes interior and exterior lines as Jominian conceptions that have nothing whatever to do with Clausewitz. Simultaneous attacks on local objectives made by divided forces to offset the advantage of interior lines for purely military gain have nothing to do with Clausewitz on any level whatever.
What Jones has mistakenly done is taken the clarity of Clausewitz’s writing on concentration in space and then distilled, through Jones’ own dialectic and some inference, a unique parallel concept regarding time based on just one Clausewitzian nugget: the “at once,” the simultaneity.

The result is so highly idiosyncratic, to say the least, as to make ludicrous James McPherson’s claiming this formulation as his own, as he has done in two recent books and an article. McPherson, as he did so often in Battle Cry, misunderstands the sources he reads, so that in his new work, Archer Jones’s genesis of “concentration in time” with Lincoln’s 2/22 order becomes a full-blown Lincoln dictum, a veritable hallmark of Lincoln’s ongoing management of the war. Jones, in giving more examples after February 22, 1862, cites pairs of events that happen close in time without actually giving Lincoln any credit for orchestrating them; indeed, how could he? Their synchronicity is interesting but he wisely ascribes them generically to the Union. (This seems too much, BTW, if you consider the paper trail linking, or not linking, these pairs of events.)

Jones credits Clausewitz when introducing “concentration in time,” at the high concept level, but then develops his discussion without further reference to him. Thus, it’s possible that Jones is presenting his own riff on the germ of an attributed idea without intending to represent these as Clausewitz’s own.

If we take this Jonesian formula for simultaneity in a Jominian framework, we need not credit Lincoln for first use, but rather (with caveats), Scott.

I keep promising discussion of Scott’s coordinated offensives and will finally arrive at these next.