Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant

The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 1

Carl von Clausewitz;
Translated by Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle

Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) is best known for his masterpiece of military theory On War, yet that work formed only the first three of his ten-volume published writings. The others, historical analyses of the wars that roiled Europe from 1789 through 1815, informed and shaped Clausewitz’s military thought, so they offer invaluable insight into his dialectical, often difficult theoretical masterwork.

Among these historical works, one of the most important is Der Feldzug von 1799 in Italien und der Schweiz, which covers an important phase of the French Revolutionary Wars. Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant covers the period of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and focuses on the Second Coalition’s campaign in Italy and their victories under Suvorov’s dynamic leadership that carried the tide of battle up against the French frontier.

“Carl von Clausewitz’sThe 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland deserves attention not only because it is one of the last texts he wrote. Careful readers would not fail to recognize why this largely overlooked campaign preoccupied Clausewitz’s mind in the late 1820s. None of the adversaries could claim a commander of Napoleon’s caliber, thus providing a more balanced view about the changes the French Revolution had ushered into the military realm. The campaign revealed the difficulties of coalition warfare, a subject Clausewitz mulled over in the late 1820s. Fought within a fraught domestic and international context, the campaigns leadership and direction frequently changed. For many of the participants, this remained mainly a war with limited objectives. In other words, throughoutThe 1799 Campaign,Clausewitz explored issues he had encountered while writing On War but was yet to capture on its pages comprehensively. Murray and Pringle’s translation is exceptional; it remains faithful to the original while offering its readers elegant and accessible prose.”

—Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, author of Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

“Carl von Clausewitz—the name evokes the masterpiece of military theory, but much of the great Prussian theorist’s voluminous legacy remains unknown to the wider public. This includes Clausewitz’s insightful analysis of crucial campaigns of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle have done a masterful job in rectifying this problem. They have already translated Clausewitz’s book on Napoleon’s 1796 Italian campaign, and now regale us with a new and exciting edition of the eminent military thinker’s analysis of the 1799 campaigns in Italy and Switzerland. This is a highly welcome and thought-provoking addition to Clausewitzian studies. The translation is brilliantly executed, with copious footnotes and annotations by the erudite editors. This book should be on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in the French Revolutionary Wars or who wants to understand how history, strategy, and politics interact under wartime conditions. Highly recommended!”

—Alexander Mikaberidze, author of The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History

Moving from strategy to battle scene to analysis, this first English translation of volume 5 of Clausewitz’s collected works nimbly conveys the character of Clausewitz’s writing in all its registers: the brisk, often powerful description of events as they unfolded and the critical reflections on strategic theory and its implications. Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant includes the major battles of Trebbia and Novi and will expand readers’ experience and understanding of not only this critical moment in European history but also the thought and writings of the modern master of military philosophy.

About the Author

Nicholas Murray teaches strategy and policy at the US Naval War College. He is the author of The Rocky Road to the Great War: The Evolution of Trench Warfare to 1914.

Christopher Pringle is an academic publisher and a former officer in the British Territorial Army. He is the author of Bloody Big BATTLES! Rules for Wargaming the Late Nineteenth Century and a supporting blog.

Murray and Pringle are the cotranslators and coeditors of Carl von Clausewitz’s Napoleon’s 1796 Italian Campaign, also from Kansas.