Thursday, July 24, 2003

Hannibal at Cannae - his deception fools to this day

By Douglas Moreman, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisianna

The Battle of Cannae told in many books on military tactics and strategy violates fundamental principles of war and teaches bad lessons to young officers. Hannibal misled, mystified, and surprised his enemy. He created a sequence of real situations and illusions. Some of his deceptions were so good they have been repeated in histories to this day as if they were facts.
I will describe how the historians and books on strategy have erred in their description of the battle. Briefly, I will correct these flaws:

1) the failure to penetrate all of Hannibal's deceptions,
2) the suggestion that one army surrounded and beat to death an army twice its size, and better equipped,
3) the failure to clearly show all four of the major points where Hannibal achieved, by clever plan, overwhelming superiority of numbers,
4) the claim that 8,000 cavalry blocked the retreat of 70,000 infantry,
5) the failure to explain how Hannibal survived what seems to have been an obvious blunder in the disposition of his troops and of his own person,
6) Hannibal had no routes of escape,
7) A successful general sacrifices sizable contingents of his army,
8) There were not multiple paths to success,
9) Hannibal's plan risked his total destruction upon the rapid success of just one contingent of troops.

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