Antoine-Henri Jomini was born in 1779 in Payerne, where his father, a notary, held various prestigious offices. From an early age, Jomini had a particularly keen interest in strategic military affaires and military history. This caused him to pass up an opportunity to become a jurist in the hopes of enrolling in a military school in the Duchy of Württemberg. This dream, however, had to yield to the political realities and revolutionary upheavals at the time. Jomini opted for becoming a merchant instead. In the following years, he joined the world of banking in Basel and later in Paris quickly distinguishing himself for his acute intellect and sense of responsibility. However, news of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories in the Italian Lodi and Rivoli in 1796 and 1797 reached Jomini and rekindled his interest in works of military strategists and their relevance in relation to contemporary events. Subsequently, Jomini found a post with the Helvetic Republic and its armed forces that had yet to be established and organized. In 1799, he was awarded a high post under the Helvetic Minister of War Nicolas Répond.
After a conspiracy against his life from certain factions within the new ruling elite of the Helvetic Republic, Jomini left for Paris in order to work as a merchant once again. During this time, he also developed several anti-federalist constitutional conceptions for his home country. Following his interest in military matters, he managed to get in contact with Michel Ney, military commander and later Marshal of the French Empire under Napoleon I. Ney recognized Jomini’s talent for military and strategic affairs and took him under his wing. The 1805 campaign was a chance for Jomini to experience warfare at first hand, during which he met Napoleon I and was able to present to him some of his work. The Emperor was rather impressed and Jomini subsequently served as Colonel under Marshal Ney. Unfortunately, personal animosities between Jomini and Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Chief of Staff to Napoleon I prevented further promotion and Jomini was considering for some time entering the services of Napoleon’s future enemy, Alexander I of Russia. However, he stayed on in the service of the French and also participated in the 1812 invasion of Russia, where he fell very ill after having advised Napoleon as to where to best cross the Berezina.
After the Russian campaign, the animosities between Jomini and Berthier flared up again stronger than ever, which lead to the resignation of Jomini from his post within the French Empire. He joined the services of Tsar Alexander I of Russia instead. As adjudant, he was involved in strategic decisions in the Leibzig and Dresden campaigns and was counselling Alexander I during the Congress of Vienna. After the death of Alexander I in 1825, Jomini stayed on in the services of his successor Nicholas I of Russia and provided advice in particular during the Russo-Turkish War of 1828/1829 and the Crimean War (1853-1856). He retired in 1854 due to health issues and passed away in 1869.
Important works include: Traité des grandes opérations militaires; Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Révolution; La vie politique et militaire de Napoléon, racontée par lui-même au tribunal de César, d’Alexander et Frédéric; Précis politique et militaire de la campagne de 1815, pour faire suite à la vie de Napoléon; Précis de l’art de la guerre,
- Hauser, R. (Hrsg.), Jomini – Abriss der Kriegskunst, Reprint version, 2009, Hochschulverlag AG an der ETH Zürich, p. 293.
- Historisches Lexikon, accessible at http://www.hls-dhs-dss.ch/textes/d/D20402.php, last accessed on 16 March 2012.
- Langendorf, Jean-Jacques, Krieg führen: Antoine-Henri Jomini, Hrsg.: Michael Arnold, Walter Troxler, 2008, Hochschulverlag AG an der ETH Zürich.