THIS BOOK owes a primary debt to Mr. Cecil Scott of The Macmillan Company whose advice and encouragement and knowledge of the subject were an essential element and a firm support from beginning to end. I have also been fortunate in the critical collaboration of Mr. Denning Miller who in clarifying many problems of writing and interpretation made this a better book than it would otherwise have been. For his help I am permanently grateful.
I should like to express my appreciation of the unsurpassed resources of the New York Public Library and, at the same time, a hope that somehow, someday in my native city a way will be found to make the Library’s facilities for scholars match its incomparable material. My thanks go also to the New York Society Library for the continuing hospitality of its stacks and the haven of a place to write; to Mrs. Agnes F. Peterson of the Hoover Library at Stanford for the loan of the Briey Procés-Verbaux and for running to earth the answers to many queries; to Miss R. E. B. Coombe of the Imperial War Museum, London, for many of the illustrations; to the staff of the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine Paris, for source material and to Mr. Henry Sachs of the American Ordnance Association for technical advice and for supplementing my inadequate German.
To the reader I must explain that the omission of Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and the Russo-Austrian and Serbo-Austrian fronts was not entirely arbitrary. The inexhaustible problem of the Balkans divides itself naturally from the rest of the war. Moreover, operations on the Austrian front during the first thirty-one days were purely preliminary and did not reach a climax, with effect on the war as a whole, until the Battle of Lemberg against the Russians and the Battle of the Drina against the Serbs. These took place between September 8 and 17, outside my chronological limits, and it seemed to me there was unity without it and the prospect of tiresome length if it were included.
After a period of total immersion in military memoirs, I had hoped to dispense with Roman-numeraled corps, but convention proved stronger than good intentions. I can do nothing about the Roman numerals which, it seems, are inseparably riveted to army corps, but I can offer the reader a helpful RULE ON LEFT AND RIGHT: rivers face downstream and armies, even when turned around and retreating, are considered to face the direction in which they started; that is, their left and right remain the same as when they were advancing.
Sources for the narrative and for all quoted remarks are given in the Notes at the end of the book. I have tried to avoid spontaneous attribution or the “he must have” style of historical writing: “As he watched the coastline of France disappear, Napoleon must have thought back over the long …” All conditions of weather, thoughts or feelings, and states of mind public or private, in the following pages have documentary support. Where it seems called for, the evidence appears in the Notes.