Military History and Strategy Questions
Two factors were the most important in limiting warfare during Frederick the Great's time: the considerable amount of time it took to train soldiers and the constraints imposed by supply. When Frederick stepped up to the Prussian throne in 1740, the infantry weapons of that time were neither accurate nor lethal at ranges beyond one hundred meters. Consequently, infantry units were trained to maneuver and fire in mass formations, creating "killing zones" within the one hundred meters in front of the battle lines. As a result of these tactics, combat in the Eighteenth Century was very deadly to the participants and commanders sought to outmaneuver enemy armies rather than lose large numbers of veteran troops in combat. This required disciplined armies which were skilled in drill. Frederick was one of the first European leaders to implement a uniform system of drill throughout his army and he emphasized drill to such an extent that Prussian units could deploy from column to line more quickly than others. Such methods required long training periods, more than two years in the Prussian army. Such an investment in training further discouraged commanders from committing armies to costly battles (Duffy 10-12; Jones 269-70; Keegan 344-45; Palmer 93-94; Weigley, The Age of Battles 170).
Additionally, armies of that period relied upon magazines of supplies in fortified cities, delivered to them through large baggage trains. The movement of armies was limited by the speed of these trains and by the distance between them and the magazines. As a result, armies rarely moved more than five days march from the fortified cities and frequently stayed within the fortifications during wars. Campaigns thus centered around these fortifications and sieges were common (especially since sieges rarely involved pitched battles) (Palmer 94-95).
The political realities of most of the Eighteenth Century a...