by Paul Comben

 

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According to Helmuth von Moltke, no military plan ever survived first contact with the enemy. According to the Duke of Wellington, his plans were to be best thought of as tatty old bits of harness which could be knotted and pieced back together whenever anything snapped or fell off. For Napoleon, perhaps the single most important factor in a campaign’s success was to be found in one of his favourite maxims: “activité, activité, vitesse, vitesse.” This is best translated by recalling Stonewall’s words about surprising and mystifying your enemy – or in other words, acting quicker than they did and generally getting a move on.