The role of the American infantryman has remained constant since the earliest days of yank military history: to shut with and destroy the enemy. While this role has changed because of changes in tactics, technology, and therefore the strategic environment today’s infantryman faces the identical basic challenges faced by his predecessors. It’s important for infantry leaders to review the experiences of their predecessors to grasp how they adapted to vary and the way they forbade the external chaos and internal emotion of war. It’s also important to know how the infantry has worked as an element of a bigger, combined-arms team.
To understand these elements, maneuver leaders must study the history of the infantry in broad, depth, and in context. As an example, a maneuver leader should understand how an infantryman fought during the War of American Independence, how it differed from his role within the war, and therefore the general reasons for those changes. This understanding will help maneuver leaders to higher adapt to the change that they’re going to undoubtedly experience during their careers.
Next, one must study individual campaigns in-depth to completely understand the challenges faced by infantrymen and leaders and the way these challenges were overcome. For instance, by studying the campaign in Northern Virginia in 1864, maneuver leaders can see how new technology resulted during a bloody assault at Cold Harbor, and the way this forced an evolution in offensive tactics and therefore the beginnings of trench warfare at Petersburg several months later.
To understand our profession, it’s also important to look at how infantry operations have fit into the larger military effort, and the way cultural and political realities have influenced this relationship. A study into this context of the 1864 Northern Virginia campaign can explain how the economic weight of the North encouraged General Grant to use his forces as he did during this campaign. A study of its context may reveal why the military of Northern Virginia lost the campaign despite winning nearly every battle. It’s important for maneuver leaders to extrapolate these lessons to current and future conflicts, and understand how an operation’s context can affect its execution.
It is important for infantry and maneuver leaders to know that they’re not the primary Soldiers to encounter challenges in the sphere of battle, simply the foremost recent. It’s even more important to then project these lessons to current and future operations and avoid the mistakes of the past.