This was published over on The Athenaeum (my other blog) a while back. In conjunction with the present Russian led campaign in Syria I think it is worth moving it to SST as a teaching tool.
It will be said as it always is said that the study of old wars is merely an antiquarian conceit, but I disagree. I once team taught a course of "staff rides" on the WBS. The Washington area is close enough to many of the major sites to make this possible. Jeff White, now at WINEP, and I did this as colleagues. We were adjunct faculty at what was then the Defense Intelligence College. This was a course for hard skill Military Intelligence analysts both uniformed and civilian. You know, the kind of people who actually try to get generals to listen to them about reality, operations, terrain and leadership. This is an uphill task when dealing with people who are mainly concerned with career.
The drill was to load students, Jeff and me, a driver and a US Parks Service Ranger/Historian into a big bus and drive out to some stricken field where the Ranger would talk history and we would talk modern application. The Rangers know more about these battlefields and campaign areas than any other living creatures.
I was told by many officers that this course was the most valuable part of their military education, but my executive level colleagues at DIA had a low opinion of the whole thing. Those who dealt with "throw weight" and the like were particularly hurtful with references to "tree kicking," "bird watching" and the like. Fortunately, the Director of DIA, LTG Ed Soyster did not agree with them.
IMO it is a great mistake to think that war is a matter of technology and little else. War is a social activity, fought by armed groups. It is a process in which the mind of the enemy commander is the principle objective.
Stonewall Jackson understood that. He had learned that in an autodidactic process of many years of study in his modest home in Lexington, Virginia where he taught.
He understood that in war one must move fast, fast enough to get "inside" your enemy's cycle of information, decision and action and once inside that cycle you must remain there, dominating and in some cases paralyzing his movements by your dynamism. That truth remains.
Stonewall's first and perhaps best biographer was Colonel GFR Henderson of the British Army. The British have always appreciated Jackson more than the US Army, whom he abused fearfully.
General Sir Richard O'Connor the man who so badly defeated the Italian Army in Libya before the Germans sent Rommel was asked from whom he learned to operate with such purpose, drive and speed. "From Stonewall Jackson" was the reply.
IMO the Russians learned the Stonewall way of thinking not in Afghanistan but rather in Chechniya and Georgia. They seem to be applying it. pl