Masters of the Battlefield: Great Commanders From the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era

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Overview

"The personality of a general is indispensable," Napoleon once said. "He is the head, he is the all, of an army." In Masters of the Battlefield, Paul K. Davis offers vivid portraits of fifteen legendary military leaders whose brilliance on and off the battlefield embody this maxim.

Hailing from the earliest days of Greek warfare to France at the turn of the nineteenth century, these men stand out for their tactical abilities—generals who made a difference in combat, grasping the way an enemy would think or move ...

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Masters of the Battlefield: Great Commanders From the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era

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Overview

"The personality of a general is indispensable," Napoleon once said. "He is the head, he is the all, of an army." In Masters of the Battlefield, Paul K. Davis offers vivid portraits of fifteen legendary military leaders whose brilliance on and off the battlefield embody this maxim.

Hailing from the earliest days of Greek warfare to France at the turn of the nineteenth century, these men stand out for their tactical abilities—generals who made a difference in combat, grasping the way an enemy would think or move and reacting not just to ensure victory, but do so in the face of superior forces. Among the leaders discussed in this encompassing work of military history are Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Belisarius, Chinggis Khan, Oda Nobunaga, the Duke of Wellington, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Davis briefly explores the biography of each commander, considering how his upbringing, early experiences, and social and cultural background might have translated into his leadership abilities. Relying on vast research, Davis describes the nature of armies and warfare of the time, from the phalanx battle of Ancient Greece to the artillery-heavy Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus. He also examines the course of the wars in which each general fought as a background to the particular battles that best illustrates their abilities, and discusses each battle in detail, aided extensively by detailed battlefield maps. Davis concludes each section with an analysis of the tactical skills and principles at which each general excelled.

In analyzing these remarkable leaders, Davis offers a picture of warfare throughout history, and shows this history to be directed—and oftentimes wholly decided—by the abilities of a single man. Masters of the Battlefield tells the stories of men who defined eras, reshaped nations, and who, through the introduction of new weapons and tactics, revolutionized the nature of warfare.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Davis’s (100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present) latest work focuses on 15 commanders across history who demonstrated prowess at the “grand tactics” of operational warfare. Each chapter is devoted to a particular commander, from the classical world through the Napoleonic wars. Davis begins with Epaminondas, a Theban who defeated Sparta in the fourth century BCE, and ends with Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. He explains in his introduction that he chose these particular men because they stood out in “their ability to deploy forces and their ability to motivate those forces in combat.” Each chapter contains the same basic structure: a brief biographical introduction, followed by a section on “Warfare of the Time,” an analysis of the opponents that the commander faced, and then one to three segments on particular battles, leading to a summation of the leader’s generalship. Additionally, Davis’s final chapter discusses the qualities of great commanders. He cites retired general Montgomery Meigs’s four qualities possessed by great commanders—intellect, energy, selflessness, and humanity—to which he adds one more.

Verdict Most commanders here are obvious inclusions—Alexander, Julius Caesar, John Churchill, Wellington, but one must wonder at some of the omissions. Why not Charlemagne, or Suleiman the Magnificent, among others? Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile introduction to famous generals for students and readers new to the topic.—Matthew Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ. Lib., Schuylkill Haven
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195342352
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/9/2013
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 781,319
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul K. Davis studied at Southwest Texas State University and the University of London. He teaches in San Antonio and is the author of five previous books, including 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Alexander (356-323 BC)

Chapter 2: HAN XIN (?-196 BC)

Chapter 3: HANNIBAL (247-182 BC)

Chapter 4: PUBLIUS CORNELIUS SCIPIO AFRICANUS (235-183 BC)

Chapter 5: BELISARIUS (505?-568)

Chapter 6: CHINGGIS KHAN (1162?-1227)

Chapter 7: JAN ZIZKA (1360?-1424)

Chapter 8: ODA NOBUNAGA (1534-1582)

Chapter 9: GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS (1594-1632)

Chapter 10: JOHN CHURCHILL, DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH (1650-1722)

Chapter 11: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (April 29, 1769-1852)

Chapter 12: NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (August 15, 1769-1821)

Chapter 13: Lessons Learned

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book is a richly engaging read you will want to take your t

    This book is a richly engaging read you will want to take your time with. It’s far from dry, with the imagery it brings forth taking you back to another time and surrounding you as if standing alongside the men on the battlefield eager for blood. With so much historical information of the world’s most noteworthy commanders pouring from the pages, there will surely be something within to wet most palates. While this book includes the typical names most people remember from their high school history class, like Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and Napoleon, the chapters within contain an even deeper military history long forgotten or skimmed over shedding light on the likes of Epaminondas, Belisarius, and Frederick II to name a few.

    “Caesar was also master of the offensive. He showed time and again in Gaul that he would attack, and do so quickly.”

    These men defined wartime during their era utilizing the most sought after tactics, weaponry, and armies bringing their foes to their knees, and often deaths. Davis utilizes extensive research to deliver a course in military history examining the course of the different wars, the men who fought them, and the components of all variables that helped make these leaders successful on and off the battlefield, including a plethora of detailed maps to further support the reading material.

    Even if you aren’t into military history, I highly recommend this book as it will divulge the game of warfare as few have seen and that will never be seen again. You won’t regret purchasing this book!

    *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review
    *You can view the original review at San Francisco Book Review

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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