In 1793 such a force as no one had any conception of made its appearance. War had again suddenly become an affair of the people, and that of a people numbering thirty millions, every one of whom regarded himself as a citizen of the State... By this participation of the people in the war... a whole Nation with its natural weight came into the scale.
Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination. The bloody solution of the crisis, the effort for the destruction of the enemy's forces, is the first-born son of war. Only great and general battles can produce great results. Blood is the price of victory.
Our knowledge of circumstances has increased, but our uncertainty, instead of having diminished, has only increased. The reason of this is, that we do not gain all our experience at once, but by degrees; so our determinations continue to be assailed incessantly by fresh experience; and the mind, if we may use the expression, must always be under arms.
[The cause of inaction in war] ... is the imperfection of human perception and judgment which is more pronounced in war than anywhere else. We hardly know accurately our own situation at any particular moment while the enemy's, which is concealed from us, must be deduced from very little evidence.
To discover how much of our resources must be mobilized for war, we must first examine our political aim and that of the enemy. We must gauge the strength and situation of the opposite state. We must gauge the character and abilities of its government and people and do the same in regard to our own. Finally, we must evaluate the political sympathies of other states and the effect the war may have on them.
Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds; it is a fallacy that must be exposed: War is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst.
A general in time of war is constantly bombarded by reports both true and false; by errors arising from fear or negligence or hastiness; by disobedience born of right or wrong interpretations, of ill will; of a proper or mistaken sense of duty; of laziness; or of exhaustion; and by accident that nobody could have foreseen. In short, he is exposed to countless impressions, most of them disturbing, few of them encouraging. ... If a man were to yield to these pressures, he would never complete an operation.
As each man's strength gives out, as it no longer responds to his will, the inertia of the whole gradually comes to rest on the commander's will alone. The ardor of his spirit must rekindle the flame of purpose in all others; his inward fire must revive their hope.
The object of defense is preservation; and since it is easier to hold ground than to take it, defense is easier than attack. But defense has a passive purpose: preservation; and attack a positive one: conquest.... If defense is the stronger form of war, yet has a negative object, it follows that it should be used only so long as weakness compels, and be abandoned as soon as we are strong enough to pursue a positive object.
If we do not learn to regard a war, and the separate campaigns of which it is composed, as a chain of linked engagements each leading to the next, but instead succumb to the idea that the capture of certain geographical points or the seizure of undefended provinces are of value in themselves, we are liable to regard them as windfall profits.