Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Run Forrest, run

Yes, we properly condemn him.  The man was a slave trade auctioneer, 'founded' the Klan, and fought on the wrong side of the second American revolution.  Thrice damned.

Also, he may have been a tactical military genius.  One of the best produced.  Ever.  Put aside his evil stuff (which was also complicated') and look to what he can teach us.

Nathan Beford Forrest

Maybe the best cavalryman since Genghis Khan.  Enjoyed a lively reputation, recognized by both side. 

'"Get thar fustest with the mostest".  Is attributed to him.  Which sound like a bumpkin but distills the problem down to its essence.   My history professor translated it as "get to the battle first and with the most men."  But it's so much more than that.

Let's break it down

Get:  to move.  Maneuver.  Critical in battle.  Don't stand on the X.  You are a fighting force, not a static fortress.  And Forrest was a horse soldier.  Movement was life, and they were intimately familiar with it. 
Thar:  a place.  The place of battle.  The decisive location.  The place your maneuvering to to meet the adversary.  A focal point.  The Schwerpunkt?  Yes, I believe that's the term for it.  Not that Forrest would know the term, as it hadn't been coined by some Junker in Prussia just yet.
Fustest:  First.  Before the other guy.  A point in time, and inside the other guy's OODA loop.  You have the initiative.  Or surprise.
With:  assembled.  A coherent group. Disciplined.  All together.  Teamed.  Already trained.
The Mostest: not just the most men.  But also material.  Weapons, bullets, rations.  Logistics.  Sufficient stuff to have enough weight to overcome the adversary at the point of decision and exert your will over them.  Also Force Multipliers.  Forrest used force multipliers if he didn't know the term we used for it in the 20th C.

Crams a lot of meaning into that ignorant bumpkin sentence.  And it was instinctive.  The guy didn't study military theory like Patton or McMaster.  He didn't break down that sentence like I did.  Deep down, he was no bumpkin.  His shrewd business acumen made him quite wealthy before the war.  Perhaps he cultivated that talk to lull his adversaries, the more easy to prey upon them.

Anyway.  Example of Forrest's principles:

Stalingrad.  The Germans wanted a city and went.  Got Thar.  Soviet forces hadn't concentrated and needed more time.  Germans were Fustest with the Mostest.  Germans won the town.  The Soviets traded men's lives for time.  That part isn't very nice, and not too Forrest like.  But it did keep the German's Thar...  The Soviets gathered their Mostest, then surround the Germans cutting them off, denying the Germans their Mostest and Getting Thar With at a time of their choosing.  Moved the goalposts on the Fustest

Battle of Bulge.  Concentrating on a Thar, a schwerpunkt in the Ardennes that worked before.  Germany concetrated forces (With the Mostest).  The intention was to Get through that spot, wreak havoc behind the lines, Fustest.   Also, pick bad weather to counter Allied air power, to add to the German Mostest.  Coulda worked, too, if not for Patton's flexibility and the 101st selling their spot of Thar (inconvenient to the Germans Fustest, that crossroads...) dearly.


The Neon Madman said...

A complex and fascinating character, like so many others in that conflict. If you have never done so, I would highly recommend reading Grant's and Sherman's memoirs, both available on

Comrade Misfit said...

Might have also stood a higher chance of working if the Germans had the fuel to keep their tanks going. But even if they had, the chances were very good that the attack would have failed. Once the weather cleared, the P-47s would have had even more of a field day.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Grants memoir may be the best ever written in English. That man could communicate so well with the written word.

Will said...

IIRC, Grant knew he was dying while writing it. It was intended to generate some income for his wife after he died. That may have had some influence on the quality, perhaps.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

That is true Will. He had throat cancer. Maybe from all the cigars. Before his initial victories at Island No 10, et al, Grant was a pipe smoker, but the artist that did his 'photo' for the paper had him smoking a cigar. So EVERYONE sent the only General in the North that could win something a box of stoagies.

But his writing ability was good before he put pen to memoir. His written orders, sent by courier in the heat of battle, were clear and concise as well, leaving the recipient no question as to Grant's meaning.

I spouted all that from memory. I hope I got it right.