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First generation warfare is a term created by the U.S. military in 1989, referring to the earliest stages of organized, state-controlled armed forces waging war in the modern era.[1]

In its most common usage, "First generation warfare" refers to battles fought with massed manpower, using line and column tactics with uniformed soldiers governed by the state.


Prussian infantry advancing in line and column formation at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg in 1745

In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War, the Treaty of Westphalia gave a practical sovereignty to the German states, which until then were semi-independent components of the Holy Roman Empire. This more firmly established the sovereignty of the nation-state, which meant, among other things, that governments would have exclusive rights to organize and maintain their own militaries. Before this time, many armies and nations were controlled by religious orders and many wars were fought in mêlée combat, or subversively through bribery and assassination. The first generation of modern warfare was intended to create a straightforward and orderly means of waging war.[2] Alternatively, it has been argued that the Peace of Westphalia did not solidify the power of the nation-state, but that the Thirty Years' War itself ushered in an era of large-scale combat that was simply too costly for smaller mercenary groups to carry out on their own. According to this theory, smaller groups chose to leave mass combat—and the expenses associated with it—in the domain of the nation-state.[3] The increased accuracy and speed of the rifled musket and the breech-loader marks the end of first generation warfare; the concept of vast lines of soldiers meeting face to face became impractical due to the heavy casualties that could be sustained. Because these technologies were adopted gradually throughout the Americas and Europe, the exact end of the first generation of modern warfare depends on the region, but all world powers had moved on by the latter half of the 19th century.[2]

Contributions to warfare

In order to create a more controlled environment for warfare a military culture was developed that, in many ways, is still visible in the armed forces of today. Specially crafted uniforms set soldiers apart from the general populace. An elaborate structure of rank was developed to better organize men into units. Rules for military drill were perfected, allowing line and column maneuvers to be executed with more precision, and to increase the rate of fire in battle.

Control of media information release during the war and production of counterfeit money in order to devaluate enemy's economy were used for the first time during Napoleonic wars.


See also


  1. Lind, William S.;Nightingale, Keith;Schmitt, John F.; Sutton, Joseph W.;Wilson, Gary I. (1989). The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lind, William S. (2004). "Understanding Fourth Generation War". Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  3. Echevarria, Antulio J. II (2005). Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths. United States Army. 

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