Debate continues - Maurice de Saxe

Better known than Folard is Maurice de Saxe. Friendly with Voltaire and well known by the French and Russian monarchs, Saxe was France’s hero of the War of Austrian Succession, winning victories at Fontenoy and Maastricht, among others.[1] Saxe’s support for the ordre profond was published in his Reveries, or Memoires sur l’art de guerre, and read not only in France, but throughout Europe. His proposed system differed slightly from that of Folard’s, though he accepted Folard’s system both as generally feasible and as commendable.[2] The column, Saxe suggested, should be designed according to the Roman legionary standards, with smaller battalion sizes and deeper formations, as opposed to the Greek-style phalanx which Folard had suggested.[3] As columns necessitated extremely high discipline, Saxe presumed, he proposed to keep soldiers in their vital formation by means of a cadenced march.[4] This discipline would compensate for unpredictable troop morale by keeping soldiers together and in line, something he felt Folard had not fully taken into account.[5] Saxe recognized that the column could not act alone, and advocated a use of mixed arms, in particular cavalry to support the ordre profond.[6] Finally, he agreed with Folard that it was the nature of the French to attack, and controversially advocated the use of pikes instead of gunpowder weapons within the ordre profond. [7] Saxe condemned firearms specifically because of their lack of accuracy and power:

Powder is not as terrible as believed. Few men, in these affairs, are killed from in front or fighting. I have seen entire salvos fail to kill four men. And I have never seen, and neither has anyone else, I believe, a single discharge do enough violence to keep the troops from continuing forward and avenging themselves with bayonet and shot at close quarters.[8]  


Though this particular suggestion met considerable criticism, in general, Saxe was widely influential. His outright support for the deep-order tactical system was dispersed and debated by tacticians as well as by monarchs. With the groundwork for the ordre profond complete, the fate of the system rested with the military and academic community.

[1] Phillips, 97-98.
[2] Saxe, Memoires sur L’Art de la Guerre, 3-4.
[3] Saxe, “My Reveries,” 148-149.
[4] Ibid., 109, 122.
[5] Saxe criticised Folard, stating “He supposes all men to be brace at all times and does not realize that the courage of troops must be reborn daily, that nothing is so variable, and that the true skill of a general consists in knowing how to guarantee it by his dispositions, his positions, and those traits of genius that characterize great captains. The same troops, who if attacking would have been victorious, may be invariably defeated in entrenchments. Few men have accounted for it in a reasonable manner, for it lies in human hearts and one should search for it there.” (Il suppose toujours les hommes braves, sans faire attention que la valeur des troupes est journalière, que rien n’est si variable, & que la vraie habileté d’un General consiste à savoir s’en garantir par les dispositions, par les positions, & par ces traits de lumières qui caractérisent les grands Capitaines.) Ibid., 100-101;  Saxe, Memoires sur L’Art de la Guerre, 3-4.
[6] Saxe, “My Reveries,” 126.
[7] See page 10; Saxe recommended 13 foot pikes and shields, justifying this decision with the confidence it would inspire in the French character: “According to my formation all the men are covered, each by each other, with reciprocal confidence; the front presents a forest of spears; their appearance is formidable and gives confidence to your own troops because they feel its power.” Ibid., 116-117.
[8] Ibid., 110.

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