Today in 1864, Sherman's army marched through Georgia toward Savannah. Instead of the traditional four man column on a road, Sherman's two wings stretched out widely over sixty miles. The force was spread thin and vulnerable to attack. Fortunately for Sherman, no formidable Confederate force was in the vicinity to oppose him. He violated not only marching procedure but that key military axiom: concentration of mass.
Lee joined Sherman in breaking the rules taught in the academies. Lee's famous division of his army at Chancellorsville defied all military logic yet it succeeded brilliantly.
However, only masters like Sherman and Lee could successfully pull off these violations of the rules. In 1879, Lord Chelmsford divided his forces when his British colonial army marched into Zulu territory in South Africa. The result was the Battle of Isahndlwarna, the first engagement where a non-European force defeated a colonial army. The American Army's spreading itself thin in Iraq partially led to the unraveling of that country by late 2006.
Only the best can break these rules. To paraphrase a French saying, even with technology, the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same.
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