1860s-1890s: Lessons from European, American and Colonial wars
Charles Cornwallis Chesney
‘Recent campaigns in Virginia and Maryland' RUSI Journal (Vol. 7, 1864)
‘Sherman’s campaign in Georgia’ RUSI Journal (Vol. 9, 1866)
Charles C Chesney began his career in the Royal Engineers, but subsequently forged a career as a military historian following his appointment as Professor of Military History at Sandhurst in 1858 and subsequently at the Staff College, Camberley. From this position Chesney established himself as one of the leading military critics of his time. His biographer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography declared that Chesney sought to ‘open the military student’s mind to an analytical view of the art of war in the past and present. Chesney’s lectures affected a revolution in this respect’. His lectures on the American Civil War, several of which were published in the RUSI Journal whilst the war was still in progress, sought to effect a transformation in how the war was viewed in Europe. The widespread feeling that the conflict was a clash of amateurs was disputed by Chesney who argued that this war, conducted on long-standing principles familiar to Napoleon or Hannibal, offered lessons of vital importance for the study of future war.
Charles Booth Brackenbury
‘The Military Systems of France and Prussia in 1870’ RUSI Journal (Vol. 15, 1872)
‘The Intelligence Duties of the Staff Abroad and at Home’ RUSI Journal (Vol. 19, 1876)
An officer of the Royal Artillery, Charles Booth Brackenbury was unusual in the Victorian British army in that he had little experience of colonial campaigning, but as The Times military correspondent, he witnessed both the 1866 Austro-Prussian and 1870-71 Franco-Prussian wars. As a consequence of these experiences, he became a leading exponent of the continental system of war, and particularly Prussian staff organisation. He agitated for tactical and organisational modernisation and reform. Brackenbury considered the continental staff system established by Moltke the elder, and which many commentators considered the cornerstone of Prussian success, as the system the British Army should aspire to. He believed a Chief of Staff should replace the British army's existing Commander-in-Chief. Significantly, it was his brother, Sir Henry Brackenbury, a member of the ‘Wolseley ring’ who established in 1887 the directorate of Military Intelligence, an embryonic British general staff responsible for mobilisation planning and intelligence collection.
In his 1872 article examining the military systems of France and Prussia, Charles Brackenbury underlined the importance of established common military principles, which when widely understood by the officer corps would allow each commander or staff officer to arrive at similar strategic, operational and tactical conclusions as would his fellow officers. His 1875 lecture to RUSI which examined the intelligence duties of foreign staff abroad and at home underlined the disparity in size between the British intelligence branch and existing continental staffs. Brackenbury led the calls for the upgrading and enlargement of the British staff system.
Charles Edward Callwell
‘Military Prize Essay “Lessons to be learnt from the Campaigns in which British Forces have been employed since the year 1865”’ RUSI Journal (Vol. 31, 1887)
An influential theorist on unconventional warfare following the publication of his 1896 Small Wars: their Principles and Practice, Callwell later served as Director of Military Operations at the War Office during 1915. In the view of several historians Small Wars established Callwell's credentials as the founding father of modern counter-insurgency. This article, distinctly of its time in language and opinions, was written by Callwell whilst a student at the Staff College, Camberley in 1886. It established his reputation as a theorist by highlighting that the British military system had to be capable of conducting war on a peace footing whilst confronting geography and climates of extreme difficulty. His examination of strategy, tactics, organisation and equipment necessary to undertake irregular warfare in this context won the RUSI Gold Medal.
George F R Henderson
‘Lessons from the Past for the Present’ RUSI Journal (Vol. 38, 1894)
‘Strategy and its Teaching’ RUSI Journal (Vol 42, No. 2, 1898)
George Henderson served as Professor of Military History at the Staff College, Camberley, between 1892 and 1899. His teaching of military history and its relationship to contemporary military art exerted a considerable and long-lasting influence on his students, many of whom rose to senior command during the First World War. His biography of Stonewall Jackson and examination of the Shenandoah Vally campaign influenced Lord Roberts conduct the South Africa campaign during 1900. Henderson published regularly in RUSI Journal throughout the 1890s. In these two articles Henderson sought to reinforce the importance for military command of a sound grounding in the principles of war drawn from a broad understanding of their application in previous conflicts.