On War - title image

Carl von Clausewitz

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NOTE: This version of Carl von Clausewitz's On War is the long-obsolete J.J. Graham translation of Clausewitz's Vom Kriege (1832) published in London in 1873. The 1976/84 Howard/Paret version is the  standard translation today; for the most accurate text one should always consult the 1943 Jolles translation. Consider the more modern versions and other relevant books shown below.

cover image Vom Kriege, by Carl von Clausewitz, ed. Werner Hahlweg.
From Gebundene Ausgabe - Dümmler, Bonn. Erscheinungsdatum: 1991, 19. Auflage, Nachdruck.fl.
ISBN: 342782019X.

This is the 19th German edition published by Dümmlers, Clausewitz's original publisher. It was edited by the esteemed German scholar Werner Hahlweg and is considered the standard and most accurate edition.

Jolles translation, book coverBuy the best translation—recommended for serious readers. The Book of War (The Modern Library, February 2000). ISBN: 0375754776. Clausewitz's On War and Sun Tzu's Art of War in one volume. The translation of Clausewitz's On War is the 1943 version done by German literary scholar O.J. Matthijs Jolles at the University of Chicago during World War II—not today's standard translation, but certainly the most accurate.

On War, Princeton ed.Buy the standard English translation of Clausewitz's On War, by Michael Howard and Peter Paret  (Princeton University Press, 1976/84). ISBN: 0691018545 (paperback). Kindle edition. This quite readable translation appeared at the close of the Vietnam War and—principally for marketing and copyright reasons—has become the modern standard.

Book coverVanya Eftimova Bellinger, Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War (Oxford University Press, 2015), ISBN: 0190225432. A rich biography of Countess Marie von Clausewitz that also sheds enormous light on the life, ideas, influences upon, and character of the great military thinker himself.


Attack on Cordon Lines


IF a supreme decision should lie in their defence and their attack, they place the assailant in an advantageous situation, for their wide extent is still more in opposition to all the requirements of a decisive battle than the direct defence of a river or a mountain range. Eugene's lines of Denain, 1712, are an illustration to the point here, for their loss was quite equal to a complete defeat, but Villars would hardly have gained such a victory against Eugene in a concentrated position. If the offensive side does not possess the means required for a decisive battle, then even lines are treated with respect, that is, if they are occupied by the main body of an army; for instance, those of Stollhofen, held by Louis of Baden in the year 1703, were respected even by Villars. But if they are only held by a secondary force, then it is merely a question of the strength of the corps which we can spare for their attack. The resistance in such cases is seldom great, but at the same time the result of the victory is seldom worth much.

The circumvallation lines of a besieger have a peculiar character, of which we shall speak in the chapter on the attack of a theatre of war.

All positions of the cordon kind, as, for instance, entrenched lines of outposts, etc., etc., have always this property, that they can be easily broken through; but when they are not forced with a view of going further and bringing on a decision, there is so little to be gained in general by the attack, that it hardly repays the trouble expended.


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