The Formative Years, 1755-1801

Charles Edward White

This is the first comprehensive study of Gerhard Scharnhorst. It focuses on his service in Hanover, corrects the inaccuracies of previous German editions, and presents many unpublished discoveries.
Date Published :
January 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
12 b/w maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781913118990
Pages : 436
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Available


This is the first comprehensive study of Gerhard Scharnhorst in any language. Other than the author’s The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militärische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 (1989), there exists no other work on Scharnhorst in English. Of the major German works, Das Leben des Generals von Scharnhorst (1869/71), written by Hanoverian historian Georg Heinrich Klippel, was a popular biography with no critical analysis. In keeping with the political correctness of his time, Klippel failed to include a single document from Scharnhorst’s voluminous papers that was disparaging toward the social, political, and military cultures in Hanover. Seventeen years later, Prussian historian Max Lehmann published his study of Scharnhorst (1886/87), which corrected many of the flaws in Klippel’s work, but failed to provide any critical analysis of Scharnhorst’s modernization, especially as it applied to Prussia. Like Klippel, Lehmann complied with the political correctness of his time in Prussia and Germany. Rudolf Stadelmann, Scharnhorst: Schicksal und Geistige Welt (1952), is an incomplete fragment that offers some interesting insights.

Scharnhorst: The Formative Years uses the previous German studies as a starting point to present many unpublished discoveries about his youth, his education and training, his extensive service in Hanover, and the modernization program Scharnhorst sought to implement in Hanover, and later realized in part in Prussia.

About The Author

Dr. Charles E. White was a historian with the United States Army for 33 years. After leaving active military duty and earning his doctorate in history from Duke University, he served as the Chief of Military History at the United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia; then as the Command Historian for the 21st Theater Army Area Command in Germany. Following those assignments, Dr. White served as the Army’s Lewis and Clark Historian during the national bicentennial commemoration of that expedition. Before retiring, he was the Command Historian for the United States Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is the author of The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militärische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1806 (1989), The US Army and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (2002), as well as articles and papers on American and German military history.


"...through a very detailed analysis of Scharnhorst’s syncretic private studies, provides an example of how professional officers ought to structure their personal study beyond merely reading their service chief’s professional reading list so that it is broad, intellectual, and critical."

- The Strategy Bridge

"For those with a deep interest in Scharnhorst’s life […], this book offers much material that has not previously been available in English. It is a very thoroughly researched biography that will require careful study to appreciate its quality."

- Miniature Wargames

"[A] great biography of this important figure in the history of warfare… this book [is] a welcome addition to the history of warfare and the German principalities before their final unification in the 19th century…"

- The Napoleon Series

More from this publisher