This book is to be praised for the factual demolition of the theory that great armies move like clockwork to the ideas of their generals. The authors hour by hour analysis of the planned manoeuvres and the sham logic reality of Steinmetz,s attack and the suicidal assault on St Privat show just how badly the concept of the all knowing general staff is flawed.
The battle of Mars-la-Tour is an odd one; as Napoleon III left the army at Metz he instructed it to retreat from the fortress so as to avoid being trapped there. Unfortunately the commanders on the spot seemed to feel Metz was a lot safer. When the German forces arrived they attacked with such splendid confidence that the French formed the not-unreasonable view that it was they (the French)that were outnumbered. Piece by piece the events of the day and small decisions honestly made conspired to trap France's best army. From there it was downhill to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Great War.
David Ascoli's book is a masterly dissection of the events. I have read it many times and indeed designed a game using the main arguments he presents. Some readers will find the maps a little confusing; I did not, but I am in a minority.
Very much recommended.
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