Strategy of the central position

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The strategy of the central position was a key strategy used by Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars.[1] It involved attacking two cooperating armies at their hinge, swinging around to fight one until it fled, then turning to face the other. The strategy allowed the use of a smaller force to defeat a larger one. However, the strategy, while successful at the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras, failed at the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon was defeated because he was not able to prevent the joining of the British and Dutch forces by the Prussian forces.[2]

Central position also describes the overall strategic situation of Frederick the Great[3] during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War in the Eighteenth Century where, although Prussia was surrounded by enemies, Frederick was able to use his central position to maneuver and attack each enemy separately despite being vastly outnumbered overall.

In World War II, Rommel maintained a central position on the Mareth Line between allied forces in Tunisia and Libya.[4]

The tactic loses at least some of its advantage when employed against successive wings or flanks of a single force with a unified command structure, as a single defending force's better communication and coordination enable it to better execute a pincer movement against the attacker.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elements of Military Art and Science, Henry Wager Halleck, BiblioBazaar, 2008 original copyright 1862, p. 51.
  2. ^ The Napoleonic Revolution, Robert B. Holtman.1967, J.B. Lippincot Company
  3. ^ Frederick the Great and the Seven Years' War, Frederick William Longman, Longmans Green & Co., 1898, p.106 - 107; "...but he occupied a central position from which ... take his assailants in detail ...".
  4. ^ How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War—From Ancient Greece to the War on Terror, Bevin Alexander, 2002, New York, ISBN 1-4000-4948-2; pages 144-43..."Rommel could execute a classic example of the central position. From the Mareth Line, Rommel could strike first at the Americans and British in Tunisia, then turn back on Montgomery coming up from Libya."