ART OF WAR
BARON DE JOMINI,
GENERAL AND AID-DE-CAMP OF THE EMPEROR OF RUSSIA.
A New Edition, with Appendices and Maps.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
Capt. G.H. MENDELL,
CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS, U.S. ARMY,
Lieut. W.P. CRAIGHILL,
CORPS OF ENGINEERS, U.S. ARMY.
Originally published in 1862
In the execution of any undertaking there are extremes on either hand which are alike to be avoided. The rule holds in a special manner in making a translation. There is, on the one side, the extreme of too rigid adherence, word for word and line for line, to the original, and on the other is the danger of using too free a pen. In either case the sense of the author may not be truly given. It is not always easy to preserve a proper mean between these extremes. The translators of Jomini's Summary of the Principles of the Art of War have endeavored to render their author into plain English, without mutilating or adding to his ideas, attempting no display and making no criticisms.
To persons accustomed to read for instruction in military matters, it is not necessary to say a word with reference to the merits of Jomini. To those not thus accustomed heretofore, but who are becoming more interested in such subjects, (and this class must include the great mass of the American public,) it is sufficient to say, and it may be said with entire truth, that General Jomini is admitted by all competent judges to be one of the ablest military critics and historians of this or any other day.
The translation now presented to the people has been made with the earnest hope and the sincere expectation of its proving useful. As the existence of a large, well-instructed standing army is deemed incompatible with our institutions, it becomes the more important that military information be as extensively diffused as possible among the people. If by the present work the translators shall find they have contributed, even in an inconsiderable degree, to this important object, they will be amply repaid for the care and labor expended upon it.
To those persons to whom the study of the art of war is a new one, it is recommended to begin at the article "Strategy," Chapter III., from that point to read to the end of the Second Appendix, and then to return to Chapters I. and II. It should be borne in mind that this subject, to be appreciated, must be studied, map in hand: this remark is especially true of strategy. An acquaintance with the campaigns of Napoleon I. is quite important, as they are constantly referred to by Jomini and by all other recent writers on the military art.
U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. January, 1862.
DEFINITIONS OF THE BRANCHES OF THE ART OF WAR.
CHAPTER I. THE RELATION OF DIPLOMACY TO WAR.
ART. I.—Offensive Wars to Recover Rights.
ART. II.—Wars which are Politically Defensive, and Offensive in a Military View.
ART. III.—Wars of Expediency.
ART. IV.—Wars with or without Allies.
ART. V.—Wars of Intervention.
ART. VI.—Wars of Invasion, through a Desire of Conquest or for other Causes.
ART. VII.—Wars of Opinion.
ART. VIII.—National Wars.
ART. IX.—Civil and Religious Wars.
ART. X.—Double Wars, and the Danger of Undertaking Two at the Same Time.
CHAPTER II. MILITARY POLICY.
ART. XI.—Military Statistics and Geography.
ART. XII.—Different Causes which have an Influence over the Success of a War.
ART. XIII.—The Military Institutions of States.
ART. XIV.—The Command of Armies and the Supreme Control of Operations.
ART. XV.—The Military Spirit of Nations and the Morale of Armies.
CHAPTER III. STRATEGY. Definition of Strategy and Tactics. THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF WAR.
ART. XVI.—The System of Offensive or Defensive Operations.
ART. XVII.—The Theater of Operations.
ART. XVIII.—Bases of Operations.
ART. XIX.—Strategic Lines and Points, Decisive Points of the Theater of War, and Objective Points of Operation.
ART. XX.—Fronts of Operations, Strategic Fronts, Lines of Defense, and Strategic Positions.
ART. XXI.—Zones and Lines of Operations.
ART. XXII.—Strategic Lines of Maneuver.
ART. XXIII.—Means of Protecting Lines of Operations by Temporary Bases or Strategic Reserves.
ART. XXIV.—The Old and New Systems of War.
ART. XXV.—Depots of Supply, and their Relations to Operations.
ART. XXVI.—Frontiers, and their Defense by Forts and Intrenched Lines.—Wars of Sieges.
ART. XXVII.—Intrenched Camps and Tetes de Ponts in their Relation to Strategy.
ART. XXVIII.—Strategic Operations in Mountainous Countries.
ART. XXIX.—Grand Invasions and Distant Expeditions.
Epitome of Strategy.
CHAPTER IV. GRAND TACTICS AND BATTLES.
ART. XXX.—Positions and Defensive Battles.
ART. XXXI.—Offensive Battles and Orders of Battle.
ART. XXXII.—Turning Maneuvers, and Too Extended Movements in Battle.
ART. XXXIII.—Unexpected Meeting of Two Armies on the March.
ART. XXXIV.—Surprises of Armies.
ART. XXXV.—Attack of Cities, Intrenched Camps or Lines, and Coups de Main generally.
CHAPTER V. SEVERAL OPERATIONS OF A MIXED CHARACTER, WHICH ARE PARTLY IN THE DOMAIN OF STRATEGY AND PARTLY OF TACTICS.
ART. XXXVI.—Diversions and Great Detachments.
ART. XXXVII.—Passage of Rivers and other Streams.
ART. XXXVIII.—Retreats and Pursuits.
ART. XXXIX.—Cantonments and Winter Quarters.
ART. XL.—Descents, or Maritime Expeditions.
CHAPTER VI. LOGISTICS, OR THE PRACTICAL ART OF MOVING ARMIES.
ART. XLI.—A few Remarks on Logistics in general.
ART. XLII.—Reconnoissances, and other Means of Gaining Accurate Information of the Enemy's Movements.
CHAPTER VII. FORMATION AND EMPLOYMENT OF TROOPS FOR BATTLE.
ART. ART. XLIII—Posting Troops in Line of Battle.
ART. XLIV.—Formation and Employment of Infantry.
ART. XLV.—-Formation and Employment of Cavalry.
ART. XLVI.—-Formation and Employment of Artillery.
ART. XLVII.—Employment of the Three Arms together.
SKETCH OF THE PRINCIPAL MARITIME EXPEDITIONS.
THE ART OF WAR.
DEFINITION OF THE ART OF WAR.
The art of war, as generally considered, consists of five purely military branches,—viz.: Strategy, Grand Tactics, Logistics, Engineering, and Tactics. A sixth and essential branch, hitherto unrecognized, might be termed Diplomacy in its relation to War. Although this branch is more naturally and intimately connected with the profession of a statesman than with that of a soldier, it cannot be denied that, if it be useless to a subordinate general, it is indispensable to every general commanding an army: it enters into all the combinations which may lead to a war, and has a connection with the various operations to be undertaken in this war; and, in this view, it should have a place in a work like this.
To recapitulate, the art of war consists of six distinct parts:—
1. Statesmanship in its relation to war.
2. Strategy, or the art of properly directing masses upon the theater of war, either for defense or for invasion.
3. Grand Tactics.
4. Logistics, or the art of moving armies.
5. Engineering,—the attack and defense of fortifications.
6. Minor Tactics.
It is proposed to analyze the principal combinations of the first four branches, omitting the consideration of tactics and of the art of engineering.
Familiarity with all these parts is not essential in order to be a good infantry, cavalry, or artillery officer; but for a general, or for a staff officer, this knowledge is indispensable.
STATESMANSHIP IN ITS RELATION TO WAR.
Under this head are included those considerations from which a statesman concludes whether a war is proper, opportune, or indispensable, and determines the various operations necessary to attain the object of the war.
A government goes to war,—
To reclaim certain rights or to defend them;
To protect and maintain the great interests of the state, as commerce, manufactures, or agriculture;
To uphold neighboring states whose existence is necessary either for the safety of the government or the balance of power;
To fulfill the obligations of offensive and defensive alliances;
To propagate political or religious theories, to crush them out, or to defend them;
To increase the influence and power of the state by acquisitions of territory;
To defend the threatened independence of the state;
To avenge insulted honor; or,
From a mania for conquest.
It may be remarked that these different kinds of war influence in some degree the nature and extent of the efforts and operations necessary for the proposed end. The party who has provoked the war may be reduced to the defensive, and the party assailed may assume the offensive; and there may be other circumstances which will affect the nature and conduct of a war, as,—
1. A state may simply make war against another state.
2. A state may make war against several states in alliance with each other.
3. A state in alliance with another may make war upon a single enemy.
4. A state may be either the principal party or an auxiliary.
5. In the latter case a state may join in the struggle at its beginning or after it has commenced.
6. The theater of war may be upon the soil of the enemy, upon that of an ally, or upon its own.
7. If the war be one of invasion, it may be upon adjacent or distant territory: it may be prudent and cautious, or it may be bold and adventurous.
8. It may be a national war, either against ourselves or against the enemy.
9. The war may be a civil or a religious war.
War is always to be conducted according to the great principles of the art; but great discretion must be exercised in the nature of the operations to be undertaken, which should depend upon the circumstances of the case.
For example: two hundred thousand French wishing to subjugate the Spanish people, united to a man against them, would not maneuver as the same number of French in a march upon Vienna, or any other capital, to compel a peace; nor would a French army fight the guerrillas of Mina as they fought the Russians at Borodino; nor would a French army venture to march upon Vienna without considering what might be the tone and temper of the governments and communities between the Rhine and the Inn, or between the Danube and the Elbe. A regiment should always fight in nearly the same way; but commanding generals must be guided by circumstances and events.
To these different combinations, which belong more or less to statesmanship, may be added others which relate solely to the management of armies. The name Military Policy is given to them; for they belong exclusively neither to diplomacy nor to strategy, but are still of the highest importance in the plans both of a statesman and a general.
Offensive Wars to Reclaim Rights.
When a state has claims upon another, it may not always be best to enforce them by arms. The public interest must be consulted before action.
The most just war is one which is founded upon undoubted rights, and which, in addition, promises to the state advantages commensurate with the sacrifices required and the hazards incurred. Unfortunately, in our times there are so many doubtful and contested rights that most wars, though apparently based upon bequests, or wills, or marriages, are in reality but wars of expediency. The question of the succession to the Spanish crown under Louis XIV. was very clear, since it was plainly settled by a solemn will, and was supported by family ties and by the general consent of the Spanish nation; yet it was stoutly contested by all Europe, and produced a general coalition against the legitimate legatee.
Frederick II., while Austria and France were at war, brought forward an old claim, entered Silesia in force and seized this province, thus doubling the power of Prussia. This was a stroke of genius; and, even if he had failed, he could not have been much censured; for the grandeur and importance of the enterprise justified him in his attempt, as far as such attempts can be justified.
In wars of this nature no rules can be laid down. To watch and to profit by every circumstance covers all that can be said. Offensive movements should be suitable to the end to be attained. The most natural step would be to occupy the disputed territory: then offensive operations may be carried on according to circumstances and to the respective strength of the parties, the object being to secure the cession of the territory by the enemy, and the means being to threaten him in the heart of his own country. Every thing depends upon the alliances the parties may be able to secure with other states, and upon their military resources. In an offensive movement, scrupulous care must be exercised not to arouse the jealousy of any other state which might come to the aid of the enemy. It is a part of the duty of a statesman to foresee this chance, and to obviate it by making proper explanations and giving proper guarantees to other states.
Of Wars Defensive Politically, and Offensive in a Military Point of View.
A state attacked by another which renews an old claim rarely yields it without a war: it prefers to defend its territory, as is always more honorable. But it may be advantageous to take the offensive, instead of awaiting the attack on the frontiers.
There are often advantages in a war of invasion: there are also advantages in awaiting the enemy upon one's own soil. A power with no internal dissensions, and under no apprehension of an attack by a third party, will always find it advantageous to carry the war upon hostile soil. This course will spare its territory from devastation, carry on the war at the expense of the enemy, excite the ardor of its soldiers, and depress the spirits of the adversary. Nevertheless, in a purely military sense, it is certain that an army operating in its own territory, upon a theater of which all the natural and artificial features are well known, where all movements are aided by a knowledge of the country, by the favor of the citizens, and the aid of the constituted authorities, possesses great advantages.
These plain truths have their application in all descriptions of war; but, if the principles of strategy are always the same, it is different with the political part of war, which is modified by the tone of communities, by localities, and by the characters of men at the head of states and armies. The fact of these modifications has been used to prove that war knows no rules. Military science rests upon principles which can never be safely violated in the presence of an active and skillful enemy, while the moral and political part of war presents these variations. Plans of operations are made as circumstances may demand: to execute these plans, the great principles of war must be observed.
For instance, the plan of a war against France, Austria, or Russia would differ widely from one against the brave but undisciplined bands of Turks, which cannot be kept in order, are not able to maneuver well, and possess no steadiness under misfortunes.
Wars of Expediency.
The invasion of Silesia by Frederick II., and the war of the Spanish Succession, were wars of expediency.
There are two kinds of wars of expediency: first, where a powerful state undertakes to acquire natural boundaries for commercial and political reasons; secondly, to lessen the power of a dangerous rival or to prevent his aggrandizement. These last are wars of intervention; for a state will rarely singly attack a dangerous rival: it will endeavor to form a coalition for that purpose.
These views belong rather to statesmanship or diplomacy than to war.
Of Wars with or without Allies.
Of course, in a war an ally is to be desired, all other things being equal. Although a great state will more probably succeed than two weaker states in alliance against it, still the alliance is stronger than either separately. The ally not only furnishes a contingent of troops, but, in addition, annoys the enemy to a great degree by threatening portions of his frontier which otherwise would have been secure. All history teaches that no enemy is so insignificant as to be despised and neglected by any power, however formidable.
Wars of Intervention.
To interfere in a contest already begun promises more advantages to a state than war under any other circumstances; and the reason is plain. The power which interferes throws upon one side of the scale its whole weight and influence; it interferes at the most opportune moment, when it can make decisive use of its resources.
There are two kinds of intervention: 1. Intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states; 2. Intervention in external relations.
Whatever may be said as to the moral character of interventions of the first class, instances are frequent. The Romans acquired power by these interferences, and the empire of the English India Company was assured in a similar manner. These interventions are not always successful. While Russia has added to her power by interference with Poland, Austria, on the contrary, was almost ruined by her attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of France during the Revolution.
Intervention in the external relations of states is more legitimate, and perhaps more advantageous. It may be doubtful whether a nation has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another people; but it certainly has a right to oppose it when it propagates disorder which may reach the adjoining states.
There are three reasons for intervention in exterior foreign wars,—viz.: 1, by virtue of a treaty which binds to aid; 2, to maintain the political equilibrium; 3, to avoid certain evil consequences of the war already commenced, or to secure certain advantages from the war not to be obtained otherwise.
History is filled with examples of powers which have fallen by neglect of these principles. "A state begins to decline when it permits the immoderate aggrandizement of a rival, and a secondary power may become the arbiter of nations if it throw its weight into the balance at the proper time."
In a military view, it seems plain that the sudden appearance of a new and large army as a third party in a well-contested war must be decisive. Much will depend upon its geographical position in reference to the armies already in the field. For example, in the winter of 1807 Napoleon crossed the Vistula and ventured to the walls of Koenigsberg, leaving Austria on his rear and having Russia in front. If Austria had launched an army of one hundred thousand men from Bohemia upon the Oder, it is probable that the power of Napoleon would have been ended; there is every reason to think that his army could not have regained the Rhine. Austria preferred to wait till she could raise four hundred thousand men. Two years afterward, with this force she took the field, and was beaten; while one hundred thousand men well employed at the proper time would have decided the fate of Europe.
There are several kinds of war resulting from these two different interventions:—
1. Where the intervention is merely auxiliary, and with a force specified by former treaties.
2. Where the intervention is to uphold a feeble neighbor by defending his territory, thus shifting the scene of war to other soil.
3. A state interferes as a principal party when near the theater of war,—which supposes the case of a coalition of several powers against one.
4. A state interferes either in a struggle already in progress, or interferes before the declaration of war.
When a state intervenes with only a small contingent, in obedience to treaty-stipulations, it is simply an accessory, and has but little voice in the main operations; but when it intervenes as a principal party, and with an imposing force, the case is quite different.
The military chances in these wars are varied. The Russian army in the Seven Years' War was in fact auxiliary to that of Austria and France: still, it was a principal party in the North until its occupation of Prussia. But when Generals Fermor and Soltikoff conducted the army as far as Brandenburg it acted solely in the interest of Austria: the fate of these troops, far from their base, depended upon the good or bad maneuvering of their allies.
Such distant excursions are dangerous, and generally delicate operations. The campaigns of 1799 and 1805 furnish sad illustrations of this, to which we shall again refer in Article XXIX., in discussing the military character of these expeditions.
It follows, then, that the safety of the army may be endangered by these distant interventions. The counterbalancing advantage is that its own territory cannot then be easily invaded, since the scene of hostilities is so distant; so that what may be a misfortune for the general may be, in a measure, an advantage to the state.
In wars of this character the essentials are to secure a general who is both a statesman and a soldier; to have clear stipulations with the allies as to the part to be taken by each in the principal operations; finally, to agree upon an objective point which shall be in harmony with the common interests. By the neglect of these precautions, the greater number of coalitions have failed, or have maintained a difficult struggle with a power more united but weaker than the allies.
The third kind of intervention, which consists in interfering with the whole force of the state and near to its frontiers, is more promising than the others. Austria had an opportunity of this character in 1807, but failed to profit by it: she again had the opportunity in 1813. Napoleon had just collected his forces in Saxony, when Austria, taking his front of operations in reverse, threw herself into the struggle with two hundred thousand men, with almost perfect certainty of success. She regained in two months the Italian empire and her influence in Germany, which had been lost by fifteen years of disaster. In this intervention Austria had not only the political but also the military chances in her favor,—a double result, combining the highest advantages.
Her success was rendered more certain by the fact that while the theater was sufficiently near her frontiers to permit the greatest possible display of force, she at the same time interfered in a contest already in progress, upon which she entered with the whole of her resources and at the time most opportune for her.
This double advantage is so decisive that it permits not only powerful monarchies, but even small states, to exercise a controlling influence when they know how to profit by it.
Two examples may establish this. In 1552, the Elector Maurice of Saxony boldly declared war against Charles V., who was master of Spain, Italy, and the German empire, and had been victorious over Francis I. and held France in his grasp. This movement carried the war into the Tyrol, and arrested the great conqueror in his career.
In 1706, the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus, by declaring himself hostile to Louis XIV., changed the state of affairs in Italy, and caused the recall of the French army from the banks of the Adige to the walls of Turin, where it encountered the great catastrophe which immortalized Prince Eugene.
Enough has been said to illustrate the importance and effect of these opportune interventions: more illustrations might be given, but they could not add to the conviction of the reader.
Aggressive Wars for Conquest and other Reasons.
There are two very different kinds of invasion: one attacks an adjoining state; the other attacks a distant point, over intervening territory of great extent whose inhabitants may be neutral, doubtful, or hostile.
Wars of conquest, unhappily, are often prosperous,—as Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon during a portion of his career, have fully proved. However, there are natural limits in these wars, which cannot be passed without incurring great disaster. Cambyses in Nubia, Darius in Scythia, Crassus and the Emperor Julian among the Parthians, and Napoleon in Russia, furnish bloody proofs of these truths.—The love of conquest, however, was not the only motive with Napoleon: his personal position, and his contest with England, urged him to enterprises the aim of which was to make him supreme. It is true that he loved war and its chances; but he was also a victim to the necessity of succeeding in his efforts or of yielding to England. It might be said that he was sent into this world to teach generals and statesmen what they should avoid. His victories teach what may be accomplished by activity, boldness, and skill; his disasters, what might have been avoided by prudence.
A war of invasion without good reason—like that of Genghis Khan—is a crime against humanity; but it may be excused, if not approved, when induced by great interests or when conducted with good motives.
The invasions of Spain of 1808 and of 1823 differed equally in object and in results: the first was a cunning and wanton attack, which threatened the existence of the Spanish nation, and was fatal to its author; the second, while combating dangerous principles, fostered the general interests of the country, and was the more readily brought to a successful termination because its object met with the approval of the majority of the people whose territory was invaded.
These illustrations show that invasions are not necessarily all of the same character. The first contributed largely to the fall of Napoleon; the second restored the relation between France and Spain, which ought never to have been changed.
Let us hope that invasions may be rare. Still, it is better to attack than to be invaded; and let us remember that the surest way to check the spirit of conquest and usurpation is to oppose it by intervention at the proper time.
An invasion, to be successful, must, be proportioned in magnitude to the end to be attained and to the obstacles to be overcome.
An invasion against an exasperated people, ready for all sacrifices and likely to be aided by a powerful neighbor, is a dangerous enterprise, as was well proved by the war in Spain, (1808,) and by the wars of the Revolution in 1792, 1793, and 1794. In these latter wars, if France was better prepared than Spain, she had no powerful ally, and she was attacked by all Europe upon both land and sea.
Although the circumstances were different, the Russian invasion of Turkey developed, in some respects, the same symptoms of national resistance. The religious hatred of the Ottoman powerfully incited him to arms; but the same motive was powerless among the Greeks, who were twice as numerous as the Turks. Had the interests of the Greeks and Turks been harmonized, as were those of Alsace with France, the united people would have been stronger, but they would have lacked the element of religious fanaticism. The war of 1828 proved that Turkey was formidable only upon the frontiers, where her bravest troops were found, while in the interior all was weakness.
When an invasion of a neighboring territory has nothing to fear from the inhabitants, the principles of strategy shape its course. The popular feeling rendered the invasions of Italy, Austria, and Prussia so prompt. (These military points are treated of in Article XXIX.) But when the invasion is distant and extensive territories intervene, its success will depend more upon diplomacy than upon strategy. The first step to insure success will be to secure the sincere and devoted alliance of a state adjoining the enemy, which will afford reinforcements of troops, and, what is still more important, give a secure base of operations, depots of supplies, and a safe refuge in case of disaster. The ally must have the same interest in success as the invaders, to render all this possible.
Diplomacy, while almost decisive in distant expeditions, is not powerless in adjacent invasions; for here a hostile intervention may arrest the most brilliant successes. The invasions of Austria in 1805 and 1809 might have ended differently if Prussia had interfered. The invasion of the North of Germany in 1807 was, so to speak, permitted by Austria. That of Rumelia in 1829 might have ended in disaster, had not a wise statesmanship by negotiation obviated all chance of intervention.
Wars of Opinion.
Although wars of opinion, national wars, and civil wars are sometimes confounded, they differ enough to require separate notice.
Wars of opinion may be intestine, both intestine and foreign, and, lastly, (which, however, is rare,) they may be foreign or exterior without being intestine or civil.
Wars of opinion between two states belong also to the class of wars of intervention; for they result either from doctrines which one party desires to propagate among its neighbors, or from dogmas which it desires to crush,—in both cases leading to intervention. Although originating in religious or political dogmas, these wars are most deplorable; for, like national wars, they enlist the worst passions, and become vindictive, cruel, and terrible.
The wars of Islamism, the Crusades, the Thirty Years' War, the wars of the League, present nearly the same characteristics. Often religion is the pretext to obtain political power, and the war is not really one of dogmas. The successors of Mohammed cared more to extend their empire than to preach the Koran, and Philip II., bigot as he was, did not sustain the League in France for the purpose of advancing the Roman Church. We agree with M. Ancelot that Louis IX., when he went on a crusade in Egypt, thought more of the commerce of the Indies than of gaining possession of the Holy Sepulcher.
The dogma sometimes is not only a pretext, but is a powerful ally; for it excites the ardor of the people, and also creates a party. For instance, the Swedes in the Thirty Years' War, and Philip II. in France, had allies in the country more powerful than their armies. It may, however, happen, as in the Crusades and the wars of Islamism, that the dogma for which the war is waged, instead of friends, finds only bitter enemies in the country invaded; and then the contest becomes fearful.
The chances of support and resistance in wars of political opinions are about equal. It may be recollected how in 1792 associations of fanatics thought it possible to propagate throughout Europe the famous declaration of the rights of man, and how governments became justly alarmed, and rushed to arms probably with the intention of only forcing the lava of this volcano back into its crater and there extinguishing it. The means were not fortunate; for war and aggression are inappropriate measures for arresting an evil which lies wholly in the human passions, excited in a temporary paroxysm, of less duration as it is the more violent. Time is the true remedy for all bad passions and for all anarchical doctrines. A civilized nation may bear the yoke of a factious and unrestrained multitude for a short interval; but these storms soon pass away, and reason resumes her sway. To attempt to restrain such a mob by a foreign force is to attempt to restrain the explosion of a mine when the powder has already been ignited: it is far better to await the explosion and afterward fill up the crater than to try to prevent it and to perish in the attempt.
After a profound study of the Revolution, I am convinced that, if the Girondists and National Assembly had not been threatened by foreign armaments, they would never have dared to lay their sacrilegious hands upon the feeble but venerable head of Louis XVI. The Girondists would never have been crushed by the Mountain but for the reverses of Dumouriez and the threats of invasion. And if they had been permitted to clash and quarrel with each other to their hearts' content, it is probable that, instead of giving place to the terrible Convention, the Assembly would slowly have returned to the restoration of good, temperate, monarchical doctrines, in accordance with the necessities and the immemorial traditions of the French.
In a military view these wars are fearful, since the invading force not only is met by the armies of the enemy, but is exposed to the attacks of an exasperated people. It may be said that the violence of one party will necessarily create support for the invaders by the formation of another and opposite one; but, if the exasperated party possesses all the public resources, the armies, the forts, the arsenals, and if it is supported by a large majority of the people, of what avail will be the support of the faction which possesses no such means? What service did one hundred thousand Vendeans and one hundred thousand Federalists do for the Coalition in 1793?
History contains but a single example of a struggle like that of the Revolution; and it appears to clearly demonstrate the danger of attacking an intensely-excited nation. However the bad management of the military operations was one cause of the unexpected result, and before deducing any certain maxims from this war, we should ascertain what would have been the result if after the flight of Dumouriez, instead of destroying and capturing fortresses, the allies had informed the commanders of those fortresses that they contemplated no wrong to France, to her forts or her brave armies, and had marched on Paris with two hundred thousand men. They might have restored the monarchy; and, again, they might never have returned, at least without the protection of an equal force on their retreat to the Rhine. It is difficult to decide this, since the experiment was never made, and as all would have depended upon the course of the French nation and the army. The problem thus presents two equally grave solutions. The campaign of 1793 gave one; whether the other might have been obtained, it is difficult to say. Experiment alone could have determined it.
The military precepts for such wars are nearly the same as for national wars, differing, however, in a vital point. In national wars the country should be occupied and subjugated, the fortified places besieged and reduced, and the armies destroyed; whereas in wars of opinion it is of less importance to subjugate the country; here great efforts should be made to gain the end speedily, without delaying for details, care being constantly taken to avoid any acts which might alarm the nation for its independence or the integrity of its territory.
The war in Spain in 1823 is an example which may be cited in favor of this course in opposition to that of the Revolution. It is true that the conditions were slightly different; for the French army of 1792 was made up of more solid elements than that of the Radicals of the Isla de Leon. The war of the Revolution was at once a war of opinion, a national war, and a civil war,—while, if the first war in Spain in 1808 was thoroughly a national war, that of 1823 was a partial struggle of opinions without the element of nationality; and hence the enormous difference in the results.
Moreover, the expedition of the Duke of Angouleme was well carried out. Instead of attacking fortresses, he acted in conformity to the above-mentioned precepts. Pushing on rapidly to the Ebro, he there divided his forces, to seize, at their sources, all the elements of strength of their enemies,—which they could safely do, since they were sustained by a majority of the inhabitants. If he had followed the instructions of the Ministry, to proceed methodically to the conquest of the country and the reduction of the fortresses between the Pyrenees and the Ebro, in order to provide a base of operations, he would perhaps have failed in his mission, or at least made the war a long and bloody one, by exciting the national spirit by an occupation of the country similar to that of 1807.
Emboldened by the hearty welcome of the people, he comprehended that it was a political operation rather than a military one, and that it behooved him to consummate it rapidly. His conduct, so different from that of the allies in 1793, deserves careful attention from all charged with similar missions. In three months the army was under the walls of Cadiz.
If the events now transpiring in the Peninsula prove that statesmanship was not able to profit by success in order to found a suitable and solid order of things, the fault was neither in the army nor in its commanders, but in the Spanish government, which, yielding to the counsel of violent reactionaries, was unable to rise to the height of its mission. The arbiter between two great hostile interests, Ferdinand blindly threw himself into the arms of the party which professed a deep veneration for the throne, but which intended to use the royal authority for the furtherance of its own ends, regardless of consequences. The nation remained divided in two hostile camps, which it would not have been impossible to calm and reconcile in time. These camps came anew into collision, as I predicted in Verona in 1823,—a striking lesson, by which no one is disposed to profit in that beautiful and unhappy land, although history is not wanting in examples to prove that violent reactions, any more than revolutions, are not elements with which to construct and consolidate. May God grant that from this frightful conflict may emerge a strong and respected monarchy, equally separated from all factions, and based upon a disciplined army as well as upon the general interests of the country,—a monarchy capable of rallying to its support this incomprehensible Spanish nation, which, with merits not less extraordinary than its faults, was always a problem for those who were in the best position to know it.
National wars, to which we have referred in speaking of those of invasion, are the most formidable of all. This name can only be applied to such as are waged against a united people, or a great majority of them, filled with a noble ardor and determined to sustain their independence: then every step is disputed, the army holds only its camp-ground, its supplies can only be obtained at the point of the sword, and its convoys are everywhere threatened or captured.
The spectacle of a spontaneous uprising of a nation is rarely seen; and, though there be in it something grand and noble which commands our admiration, the consequences are so terrible that, for the sake of humanity, we ought to hope never to see it. This uprising must not be confounded with a national defense in accordance with the institutions of the state and directed by the government.
This uprising may be produced by the most opposite causes. The serfs may rise in a body at the call of the government, and their masters, affected by a noble love of their sovereign and country, may set them the example and take the command of them; and, similarly, a fanatical people may arm under the appeal of its priests; or a people enthusiastic in its political opinions, or animated by a sacred love of its institutions, may rush to meet the enemy in defense of all it holds most dear.
The control of the sea is of much importance in the results of a national invasion. If the people possess a long stretch of coast, and are masters of the sea or in alliance with a power which controls it, their power of resistance is quintupled, not only on account of the facility of feeding the insurrection and of alarming the enemy on all the points he may occupy, but still more by the difficulties which will be thrown in the way of his procuring supplies by the sea.
The nature of the country may be such as to contribute to the facility of a national defense. In mountainous countries the people are always most formidable; next to these are countries covered with extensive forests.
The resistance of the Swiss to Austria and to the Duke of Burgundy, that of the Catalans in 1712 and in 1809, the difficulties encountered by the Russians in the subjugation of the tribes of the Caucasus, and, finally, the reiterated efforts of the Tyrolese, clearly demonstrate that the inhabitants of mountainous regions have always resisted for a longer time than those of the plains,—which is due as much to the difference in character and customs as to the difference in the natural features of the countries.
Defiles and large forests, as well as rocky regions, favor this kind of defense; and the Bocage of La Vendee, so justly celebrated, proves that any country, even if it be only traversed by large hedges and ditches or canals, admits of a formidable defense.
The difficulties in the path of an army in wars of opinions, as well as in national wars, are very great, and render the mission of the general conducting them very difficult. The events just mentioned, the contest of the Netherlands with Philip II. and that of the Americans with the English, furnish evident proofs of this; but the much more extraordinary struggle of La Vendee with the victorious Republic, those of Spain, Portugal, and the Tyrol against Napoleon, and, finally, those of the Morea against the Turks, and of Navarre against the armies of Queen Christina, are still more striking illustrations.
The difficulties are particularly great when the people are supported by a considerable nucleus of disciplined troops. The invader has only an army: his adversaries have an army, and a people wholly or almost wholly in arms, and making means of resistance out of every thing, each individual of whom conspires against the common enemy; even the non-combatants have an interest in his ruin and accelerate it by every means in their power. He holds scarcely any ground but that upon which he encamps; outside the limits of his camp every thing is hostile and multiplies a thousandfold the difficulties he meets at every step.
These obstacles become almost insurmountable when the country is difficult. Each armed inhabitant knows the smallest paths and their connections; he finds everywhere a relative or friend who aids him; the commanders also know the country, and, learning immediately the slightest movement on the part of the invader, can adopt the best measures to defeat his projects; while the latter, without information of their movements, and not in a condition to send out detachments to gain it, having no resource but in his bayonets, and certain safety only in the concentration of his columns, is like a blind man: his combinations are failures; and when, after the most carefully-concerted movements and the most rapid and fatiguing marches, he thinks he is about to accomplish his aim and deal a terrible blow, he finds no signs of the enemy but his camp-fires: so that while, like Don Quixote, he is attacking windmills, his adversary is on his line of communications, destroys the detachments left to guard it, surprises his convoys, his depots, and carries on a war so disastrous for the invader that he must inevitably yield after a time.
In Spain I was a witness of two terrible examples of this kind. When Ney's corps replaced Soult's at Corunna, I had camped the companies of the artillery-train between Betanzos and Corunna, in the midst of four brigades distant from the camp from two to three leagues, and no Spanish forces had been seen within fifty miles; Soult still occupied Santiago de Compostela, the division Maurice-Mathieu was at Ferrol and Lugo, Marchand's at Corunna and Betanzos: nevertheless, one fine night the companies of the train—men and horses—disappeared, and we were never able to discover what became of them: a solitary wounded corporal escaped to report that the peasants, led by their monks and priests, had thus made away with them. Four months afterward, Ney with a single division marched to conquer the Asturias, descending the valley of the Navia, while Kellermann debouched from Leon by the Oviedo road. A part of the corps of La Romana which was guarding the Asturias marched behind the very heights which inclose the valley of the Navia, at most but a league from our columns, without the marshal knowing a word of it: when he was entering Gijon, the army of La Romana attacked the center of the regiments of the division Marchand, which, being scattered to guard Galicia, barely escaped, and that only by the prompt return of the marshal to Lugo. This war presented a thousand incidents as striking as this. All the gold of Mexico could not have procured reliable information for the French; what was given was but a lure to make them fall more readily into snares.
No army, however disciplined, can contend successfully against such a system applied to a great nation, unless it be strong enough to hold all the essential points of the country, cover its communications, and at the same time furnish an active force sufficient to beat the enemy wherever he may present himself. If this enemy has a regular army of respectable size to be a nucleus around which to rally the people, what force will be sufficient to be superior everywhere, and to assure the safety of the long lines of communication against numerous bodies?
The Peninsular War should be carefully studied, to learn all the obstacles which a general and his brave troops may encounter in the occupation or conquest of a country whose people are all in arms. What efforts of patience, courage, and resignation did it not cost the troops of Napoleon, Massena, Soult, Ney, and Suchet to sustain themselves for six years against three or four hundred thousand armed Spaniards and Portuguese supported by the regular armies of Wellington, Beresford, Blake, La Romana, Cuesta, Castanos, Reding, and Ballasteros!
If success be possible in such a war, the following general course will be most likely to insure it,—viz.: make a display of a mass of troops proportioned to the obstacles and resistance likely to be encountered, calm the popular passions in every possible way, exhaust them by time and patience, display courtesy, gentleness, and severity united, and, particularly, deal justly. The examples of Henry IV. in the wars of the League, of Marshal Berwick in Catalonia, of Suchet in Aragon and Valencia, of Hoche in La Vendee, are models of their kind, which may be employed according to circumstances with equal success. The admirable order and discipline of the armies of Diebitsch and Paskevitch in the late war were also models, and were not a little conducive to the success of their enterprises.
The immense obstacles encountered by an invading force in these wars have led some speculative persons to hope that there should never be any other kind, since then wars would become more rare, and, conquest being also more difficult, would be less a temptation to ambitious leaders. This reasoning is rather plausible than solid; for, to admit all its consequences, it would be necessary always to be able to induce the people to take up arms, and it would also be necessary for us to be convinced that there would be in the future no wars but those of conquest, and that all legitimate though secondary wars, which are only to maintain the political equilibrium or defend the public interests, should never occur again: otherwise, how could it be known when and how to excite the people to a national war? For example, if one hundred thousand Germans crossed the Rhine and entered France, originally with the intention of preventing the conquest of Belgium by France, and without any other ambitious project, would it be a case where the whole population—men, women, and children—of Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne, and Burgundy, should rush to arms? to make a Saragossa of every walled town, to bring about, by way of reprisals, murder, pillage, and incendiarism throughout the country? If all this be not done, and the Germans, in consequence of some success, should occupy these provinces, who can say that they might not afterward seek to appropriate a part of them, even though at first they had never contemplated it? The difficulty of answering these two questions would seem to argue in favor of national wars. But is there no means of repelling such an invasion without bringing about an uprising of the whole population and a war of extermination? Is there no mean between these contests between the people and the old regular method of war between permanent armies? Will it not be sufficient, for the efficient defense of the country, to organize a militia, or landwehr, which, uniformed and called by their governments into service, would regulate the part the people should take in the war, and place just limits to its barbarities?
I answer in the affirmative; and, applying this mixed system to the cases stated above, I will guarantee that fifty thousand regular French troops, supported by the National Guards of the East, would get the better of this German army which had crossed the Vosges; for, reduced to fifty thousand men by many detachments, upon nearing the Meuse or arriving in Argonne it would have one hundred thousand men on its hands. To attain this mean, we have laid it down as a necessity that good national reserves be prepared for the army; which will be less expensive in peace and will insure the defense of the country in war. This system was used by France in 1792, imitated by Austria in 1809, and by the whole of Germany in 1813.
I sum up this discussion by asserting that, without being a utopian philanthropist, or a condottieri, a person may desire that wars of extermination may be banished from the code of nations, and that the defenses of nations by disciplined militia, with the aid of good political alliances, may be sufficient to insure their independence.
As a soldier, preferring loyal and chivalrous warfare to organized assassination, if it be necessary to make a choice, I acknowledge that my prejudices are in favor of the good old times when the French and English Guards courteously invited each other to fire first,—as at Fontenoy,—preferring them to the frightful epoch when priests, women, and children throughout Spain plotted the murder of isolated soldiers.
Civil Wars, and Wars of Religion.
Intestine wars, when not connected with a foreign quarrel, are generally the result of a conflict of opinions, of political or religious sectarianism. In the Middle Ages they were more frequently the collisions of feudal parties. Religious wars are above all the most deplorable.
We can understand how a government may find it necessary to use force against its own subjects in order to crush out factions which would weaken the authority of the throne and the national strength; but that it should murder its citizens to compel them to say their prayers in French or Latin, or to recognize the supremacy of a foreign pontiff, is difficult of conception. Never was a king more to be pitied than Louis XIV., who persecuted a million of industrious Protestants, who had put upon the throne his own Protestant ancestor. Wars of fanaticism are horrible when mingled with exterior wars, and they are also frightful when they are family quarrels. The history of France in the times of the League should be an eternal lesson for nations and kings. It is difficult to believe that a people so noble and chivalrous in the time of Francis I. should in twenty years have fallen into so deplorable a state of brutality.
To give maxims in such wars would be absurd. There is one rule upon which all thoughtful men will be agreed: that is, to unite the two parties or sects to drive the foreigners from the soil, and afterward to reconcile by treaty the conflicting claims or rights. Indeed, the intervention of a third power in a religious dispute can only be with ambitious views.
Governments may in good faith intervene to prevent the spreading of a political disease whose principles threaten social order; and, although these fears are generally exaggerated and are often mere pretexts, it is possible that a state may believe its own institutions menaced. But in religious disputes this is never the case; and Philip II. could have had no other object in interfering in the affairs of the League than to subject France to his influence, or to dismember it.
Double Wars, and the Danger of Undertaking Two Wars at Once.
The celebrated maxim of the Romans, not to undertake two great wars at the same time, is so well known and so well appreciated as to spare the necessity of demonstrating its wisdom.
A government maybe compelled to maintain a war against two neighboring states; but it will be extremely unfortunate if it does not find an ally to come to its aid, with a view to its own safety and the maintenance of the political equilibrium. It will seldom be the case that the nations allied against it will have the same interest in the war and will enter into it with all their resources; and, if one is only an auxiliary, it will be an ordinary war.
Louis XIV., Frederick the Great, the Emperor Alexander, and Napoleon, sustained gigantic struggles against united Europe. When such contests arise from voluntary aggressions, they are proof of a capital error on the part of the state which invites them; but if they arise from imperious and inevitable circumstances they must be met by seeking alliances, or by opposing such means of resistance as shall establish something like equality between the strength of the parties.
The great coalition against Louis XIV., nominally arising from his designs on Spain, had its real origin in previous aggressions which had alarmed his neighbors. To the combined forces of Europe he could only oppose the faithful alliance of the Elector of Bavaria, and the more equivocal one of the Duke of Savoy, who, indeed, was not slow in adding to the number of his enemies. Frederick, with only the aid of the subsidies of England, and fifty thousand auxiliaries from six different states, sustained a war against the three most powerful monarchies of Europe: the division and folly of his opponents were his best friends.
Both these wars, as well as that sustained by Alexander in 1812, it was almost impossible to avoid.
France had the whole of Europe on its hands in 1793, in consequence of the extravagant provocations of the Jacobins, and the Utopian ideas of the Girondists, who boasted that with the support of the English fleets they would defy all the kings in the world. The result of these absurd calculations was a frightful upheaval of Europe, from which France miraculously escaped.
Napoleon is, to a certain degree, the only modern sovereign who has voluntarily at the same time undertaken two, and even three, formidable wars,—with Spain, with England, and with Russia; but in the last case he expected the aid of Austria and Prussia, to say nothing of that of Turkey and Sweden, upon which he counted with too much certainty; so that the enterprise was not so adventurous on his part as has been generally supposed.
It will be observed that there is a great distinction between a war made against a single state which is aided by a third acting as an auxiliary, and two wars conducted at the same time against two powerful nations in opposite quarters, who employ all their forces and resources. For instance, the double contest of Napoleon in 1809 against Austria and Spain aided by England was a very different affair from a contest with Austria assisted by an auxiliary force of a given strength. These latter contests belong to ordinary wars.
It follows, then, in general, that double wars should be avoided if possible, and, if cause of war be given by two states, it is more prudent to dissimulate or neglect the wrongs suffered from one of them, until a proper opportunity for redressing them shall arrive. The rule, however, is not without exception: the respective forces, the localities, the possibility of finding allies to restore, in a measure, equality of strength between the parties, are circumstances which will influence a government so threatened. We now have fulfilled our task, in noting both the danger and the means of remedying it.
We have already explained what we understand by this title. It embraces the moral combinations relating to the operations of armies. If the political considerations which we have just discussed be also moral, there are others which influence, in a certain degree, the conduct of a war, which belong neither to diplomacy, strategy, nor tactics. We include these under the head of Military Policy.
Military policy may be said to embrace all the combinations of any projected war, except those relating to the diplomatic art and strategy; and, as their number is considerable, a separate article cannot be assigned to each without enlarging too much the limits of this work, and without deviating from my intention,—which is, not to give a treatise on theses subjects, but to point out their relations to military operations.
Indeed, in this class we may place the passions of the nation to be fought, their military system, their immediate means and their reserves, their financial resources, the attachment they bear to their government or their institutions, the character of the executive, the characters and military abilities of the commanders of their armies, the influence of cabinet councils or councils of war at the capital upon their operations, the system of war in favor with their staff, the established force of the state and its armament, the military geography and statistics of the state which is to be invaded, and, finally, the resources and obstacles of every kind likely to be met with, all of which are included neither in diplomacy nor in strategy.
There are no fixed rules on such subjects, except that the government should neglect nothing in obtaining a knowledge of these details, and that it is indispensable to take them into consideration in the arrangement of all plans. We propose to sketch the principal points which ought to guide in this sort of combinations.
Military Statistics and Geography.
By the first of these sciences we understand the most thorough knowledge possible of the elements of power and military resources of the enemy with whom we are called upon to contend; the second consists in the topographical and strategic description of the theater of war, with all the obstacles, natural or artificial, to be encountered, and the examination of the permanent decisive points which may be presented in the whole extent of the frontier or throughout the extent of the country. Besides the minister of war, the commanding general and his chief of staff should be afforded this information, under the penalty of cruel miscalculations in their plans, as happens frequently in our day, despite the great strides civilized nations have taken in statistical, diplomatic, geographical, and topographical sciences. I will cite two examples of which I was cognizant. In 1796, Moreau's army, entering the Black Forest, expected to find terrible mountains, frightful defiles and forests, and was greatly surprised to discover, after climbing the declivities of the plateau that slope to the Rhine, that these, with their spurs, were the only mountains, and that the country, from the sources of the Danube to Donauwerth, was a rich and level plain.
The second example was in 1813. Napoleon and his whole army supposed the interior of Bohemia to be very mountainous,—whereas there is no district in Europe more level, after the girdle of mountains surrounding it has been crossed, which may be done in a single march.
All European officers held the same erroneous opinions in reference to the Balkan and the Turkish force in the interior. It seemed that it was given out at Constantinople that this province was an almost impregnable barrier and the palladium of the empire,—an error which I, having lived in the Alps, did not entertain. Other prejudices, not less deeply rooted, have led to the belief that a people all the individuals of which are constantly armed would constitute a formidable militia and would defend themselves to the last extremity. Experience has proved that the old regulations which placed the elite of the Janissaries in the frontier-cities of the Danube made the population of those cities more warlike than the inhabitants of the interior. In fact, the projects of reform of the Sultan Mahmoud required the overthrow of the old system, and there was no time to replace it by the new: so that the empire was defenseless. Experience has constantly proved that a mere multitude of brave men armed to the teeth make neither a good army nor a national defense.
Let us return to the necessity of knowing well the military geography and statistics of an empire. These sciences are not set forth in treatises, and are yet to be developed. Lloyd, who wrote an essay upon them, in describing the frontiers of the great states of Europe, was not fortunate in his maxims and predictions. He saw obstacles everywhere; he represents as impregnable the Austrian frontier on the Inn, between the Tyrol and Passau, where Napoleon and Moreau maneuvered and triumphed with armies of one hundred and fifty thousand men in 1800, 1805, and 1809.
But, if these sciences are not publicly taught, the archives of the European staff must necessarily possess many documents valuable for instruction in them,—at least for the special staff school. Awaiting the time when some studious officer, profiting by those published and unpublished documents, shall present Europe with a good military and strategic geography, we may, thanks to the immense progress of topography of late years, partially supply the want of it by the excellent charts published in all European countries within the last twenty years. At the beginning of the French Revolution topography was in its infancy: excepting the semi-topographical map of Cassini, the works of Bakenberg alone merited the name. The Austrian and Prussian staff schools, however, were good, and have since borne fruit. The charts published recently at Vienna, at Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and Paris, as well as those of the institute of Herder at Fribourg, promise to future generals immense resources unknown to their predecessors.
Military statistics is not much better known than geography. We have but vague and superficial statements, from which the strength of armies and navies is conjectured, and also the revenue supposed to be possessed by a state,—which is far from being the knowledge necessary to plan operations. Our object here is not to discuss thoroughly these important subjects, but to indicate them, as facilitating success in military enterprises.
Other Causes which exercise an Influence upon the Success of a War.
As the excited passions of a people are of themselves always a powerful enemy, both the general and his government should use their best efforts to allay them. We have nothing to add to what has been said on this point under the head of national wars.
On the other hand, the general should do every thing to electrify his own soldiers, and to impart to them the same enthusiasm which he endeavors to repress in his adversaries. All armies are alike susceptible of this spirit: the springs of action and means, only, vary with the national character. Military eloquence is one means, and has been the subject of many a treatise. The proclamations of Napoleon and of Paskevitch, the addresses of the ancients to their soldiers, and those of Suwaroff to men of still greater simplicity, are models of their different kinds. The eloquence of the Spanish Juntas, and the miracles of the Madonna del Pilar, led to the same results by very different means. In general, a cherished cause, and a general who inspires confidence by previous success, are powerful means of electrifying an army and conducing to victory. Some dispute the advantages of this enthusiasm, and prefer imperturbable coolness in battle. Both have unmistakable advantages and disadvantages. Enthusiasm impels to the performance of great actions: the difficulty is in maintaining it constantly; and, when discouragement succeeds it, disorder easily results.
The greater or less activity and boldness of the commanders of the armies are elements of success or failure, which cannot be submitted to rules. A cabinet and a commander ought to consider the intrinsic value of their troops, and that resulting from their organization as compared with that of the enemy. A Russian general, commanding the most solidly organized troops in Europe, need not fear to undertake any thing against undisciplined and unorganized troops in an open country, however brave may be its individuals. Concert in action makes strength; order produces this concert, and discipline insures order; and without discipline and order no success is possible. The Russian general would not be so bold before European troops having the same instruction and nearly the same discipline as his own. Finally, a general may attempt with a Mack as his antagonist what it would be madness to do with a Napoleon.
The action of a cabinet in reference to the control of armies influences the boldness of their operations. A general whose genius and hands are tied by an Aulic council five hundred miles distant cannot be a match for one who has liberty of action, other things being equal.
As to superiority in skill, it is one of the most certain pledges of victory, all other things being equal. It is true that great generals have often been beaten by inferior ones; but an exception does not make a rule. An order misunderstood, a fortuitous event, may throw into the hands of the enemy all the chances of success which a skillful general had prepared for himself by his maneuvers. But these are risks which cannot be foreseen nor avoided. Would it be fair on that account to deny the influence of science and principles in ordinary affairs? This risk even proves the triumph of the principles, for it happens that they are applied accidentally by the army against which it was intended to apply them, and are the cause of its success. But, in admitting this truth, it may be said that it is an argument against science; this objection is not well founded, for a general's science consists in providing for his side all the chances possible to be foreseen, and of course cannot extend to the caprices of destiny. Even if the number of battles gained by skillful maneuvers did not exceed the number due to accident, it would not invalidate my assertion.
If the skill of a general is one of the surest elements of victory, it will readily be seen that the judicious selection of generals is one of the most delicate points in the science of government and one of the most essential parts of the military policy of a state. Unfortunately, this choice is influenced by so many petty passions, that chance, rank, age, favor, party spirit, jealousy, will have as much to do with it as the public interest and justice. This subject is so important that we will devote to it a separate article.
[Footnote 1: Irregular troops supported by disciplined troops may be of the greatest value, in destroying convoys, intercepting communication, &c., and may—as in the case of the French in 1812—make a retreat very disastrous.]
One of the most important points of the military policy of a state is the nature of its military institutions. A good army commanded by a general of ordinary capacity may accomplish great feats; a bad army with a good general may do equally well; but an army will certainly do a great deal more if its own superiority and that of the general be combined.
Twelve essential conditions concur in making a perfect army:—
1. To have a good recruiting-system;
2. A good organization;
8. A well-organized system of national reserves;
4. Good instruction of officers and men in drill and internal duties as well as those of a campaign;
5. A strict but not humiliating discipline, and a spirit of subordination and punctuality, based on conviction rather than on the formalities of the service;
6. A well-digested system of rewards, suitable to excite emulation;
7. The special arms of engineering and artillery to be well instructed;
8. An armament superior, if possible, to that of the enemy, both as to defensive and offensive arms;
9. A general staff capable of applying these elements, and having an organization calculated to advance the theoretical and practical education of its officers;
10. A good system for the commissariat, hospitals, and of general administration;
11. A good system of assignment to command, and of directing the principal operations of war;
12. Exciting and keeping alive the military spirit of the people.
To these conditions might be added a good system of clothing and equipment; for, if this be of less direct importance on the field of battle, it nevertheless has a bearing upon the preservation of the troops; and it is always a great object to economize the lives and health of veterans.
None of the above twelve conditions can be neglected without grave inconvenience. A fine army, well drilled and disciplined, but without national reserves, and unskillfully led, suffered Prussia to fall in fifteen days under the attacks of Napoleon. On the other hand, it has often been seen of how much advantage it is for a state to have a good army. It was the care and skill of Philip and Alexander in forming and instructing their phalanxes and rendering them easy to move, and capable of the most rapid maneuvers, which enabled the Macedonians to subjugate India and Persia with a handful of choice troops. It was the excessive love of his father for soldiers which procured for Frederick the Great an army capable of executing his great enterprises.
A government which neglects its army under any pretext whatever is thus culpable in the eyes of posterity, since it prepares humiliation for its standards and its country, instead of by a different course preparing for it success. We are far from saying that a government should sacrifice every thing to the army, for this would be absurd; but it ought to make the army the object of its constant care; and if the prince has not a military education it will be very difficult for him to fulfill his duty in this respect. In this case—which is, unfortunately, of too frequent occurrence—the defect must be supplied by wise institutions, at the head of which are to be placed a good system of the general staff, a good system of recruiting, and a good system of national reserves.
There are, indeed, forms of government which do not always allow the executive the power of adopting the best systems. If the armies of the Roman and French republics, and those of Louis XIV. and Frederick of Prussia, prove that a good military system and a skillful direction of operations may be found in governments the most opposite in principle, it cannot be doubted that, in the present state of the world, the form of government exercises a great influence in the development of the military strength of a nation and the value of its troops.
When the control of the public funds is in the hands of those affected by local interest or party spirit, they may be so over-scrupulous and penurious as to take all power to carry on the war from the executive, whom very many people seem to regard as a public enemy rather than as a chief devoted to all the national interests.
The abuse of badly-understood public liberties may also contribute to this deplorable result. Then it will be impossible for the most far-sighted administration to prepare in advance for a great war, whether it be demanded by the most important interests of the country at some future time, or whether it be immediate and necessary to resist sudden aggressions.
In the futile hope of rendering themselves popular, may not the members of an elective legislature, the majority of whom cannot be Richelieus, Pitts, or Louvois, in a misconceived spirit of economy, allow the institutions necessary for a large, well-appointed, and disciplined army to fall into decay? Deceived by the seductive fallacies of an exaggerated philanthropy, may they not end in convincing themselves and their constituents that the pleasures of peace are always preferable to the more statesmanlike preparations for war?
I am far from advising that states should always have the hand upon the sword and always be established on a war-footing: such a condition of things would be a scourge for the human race, and would not be possible, except under conditions not existing in all countries. I simply mean that civilized governments ought always to be ready to carry on a war in a short time,—that they should never be found unprepared. And the wisdom of their institutions may do as much in this work of preparation as foresight in their administration and the perfection of their system of military policy.
If, in ordinary times, under the rule of constitutional forms, governments subjected to all the changes of an elective legislature are less suitable than others for the creation or preparation of a formidable military power, nevertheless, in great crises these deliberative bodies have sometimes attained very different results, and have concurred in developing to the full extent the national strength. Still, the small number of such instances in history makes rather a list of exceptional cases, in which a tumultuous and violent assembly, placed under the necessity of conquering or perishing, has profited by the extraordinary enthusiasm of the nation to save the country and themselves at the same time by resorting to the most terrible measures and by calling to its aid an unlimited dictatorial power, which overthrew both liberty and law under the pretext of defending them. Here it is the dictatorship, or the absolute and monstrous usurpation of power, rather than the form of the deliberative assembly, which is the true cause of the display of energy. What happened in the Convention after the fall of Robespierre and the terrible Committee of Public Safety proves this, as well as the Chambers of 1815. Now, if the dictatorial power, placed in the hands of a few, has always been a plank of safety in great crises, it seems natural to draw the conclusion that countries controlled by elective assemblies must be politically and militarily weaker than pure monarchies, although in other respects they present decided advantages.
It is particularly necessary to watch over the preservation of armies in the interval of a long peace, for then they are most likely to degenerate. It is important to foster the military spirit in the armies, and to exercise them in great maneuvers, which, though but faintly resembling those of actual war, still are of decided advantage in preparing them for war. It is not less important to prevent them from becoming effeminate, which may be done by employing them in labors useful for the defense of the country.
The isolation in garrisons of troops by regiments is one of the worst possible systems, and the Russian and Prussian system of divisions and permanent corps d'armee seems to be much preferable. In general terms, the Russian army now may be presented as a model in many respects; and if in many points its customs would be useless and impracticable elsewhere, it must be admitted that many good institutions might well be copied from it.
As to rewards and promotion, it is essential to respect long service, and at the same time to open a way for merit. Three-fourths of the promotions in each grade should be made according to the roster, and the remaining fourth reserved for those distinguished for merit and zeal. On the contrary, in time of war the regular order of promotion should be suspended, or at least reduced to a third of the promotions, leaving the other two-thirds for brilliant conduct and marked services.
The superiority of armament may increase the chances of success in war: it does not, of itself, gain battles, but it is a great element of success. Every one can recall how nearly fatal to the French at Bylau and Marengo was their great inferiority in artillery. We may also refer to the great gain of the heavy French cavalry in the resumption of the cuirass, which they had for so long thrown aside. Every one knows the great advantage of the lance. Doubtless, as skirmishers lancers would not be more effectual than hussars, but when charging in line it is a very different affair. How many brave cavalry soldiers have been the victims of the prejudice they bore against the lance because it was a little more trouble to carry than a saber!
The armament of armies is still susceptible of great improvements; the state which shall take the lead in making them will secure great advantages. There is little left to be desired in artillery; but the offensive and defensive arms of infantry and cavalry deserve the attention of a provident government.
The new inventions of the last twenty years seem to threaten a great revolution in army organization, armament, and tactics. Strategy alone will remain unaltered, with its principles the same as under the Scipios and Caesars, Frederick and Napoleon, since they are independent of the nature of the arms and the organization of the troops.
The means of destruction are approaching perfection with frightful rapidity. The Congreve rockets, the effect and direction of which it is said the Austrians can now regulate,—the shrapnel howitzers, which throw a stream of canister as far as the range of a bullet,—the Perkins steam-guns, which vomit forth as many balls as a battalion,—will multiply the chances of destruction, as though the hecatombs of Eylau, Borodino, Leipsic, and Waterloo were not sufficient to decimate the European races.
If governments do not combine in a congress to proscribe these inventions of destruction, there will be no course left but to make the half of an army consist of cavalry with cuirasses, in order to capture with great rapidity these machines; and the infantry, even, will be obliged to resume its armor of the Middle Ages, without which a battalion will be destroyed before engaging the enemy.
We may then see again the famous men-at-arms all covered with armor, and horses also will require the same protection.
While there is doubt about the realization of these fears, it is, however, certain that artillery and pyrotechny have made advances which should lead us to think of modifying the deep formation so much abused by Napoleon. We will recur to this in the chapter on Tactics.
We will here recapitulate, in a few words, the essential bases of the military policy which ought to be adopted by a wise government.
1. The prince should receive an education both political and military. He will more probably find men of administrative ability in his councils than good statesmen or soldiers; and hence he should be both of the latter himself.
2. If the prince in person does not lead his armies, it will be his first duty and his nearest interest to have his place well supplied. He must confide the glory of his reign and the safety of his states to the general most capable of directing his armies.
3. The permanent army should not only always be upon a respectable footing, but it should be capable of being doubled, if necessary, by reserves, which should always be prepared. Its instruction and discipline should be of a high character, as well as its organization; its armament should at least be as good as that of its neighbors, and superior if possible.
4. The materiel of war should also be upon the best footing, and abundant. The reserves should be stored in the depots and arsenals. National jealousy should not be allowed to prevent the adoption of all improvements in this materiel made in other countries.
5. It is necessary that the study of the military sciences should be encouraged and rewarded, as well as courage and zeal. The scientific military corps should be esteemed and honored: this is the only way of securing for the army men of merit and genius.
6. The general staff in times of peace should be employed in labors preparatory for all possible contingencies of war. Its archives should be furnished with numerous historical details of the past, and with all statistical, geographical, topographical, and strategic treatises and papers for the present and future. Hence it is essential that the chief of this corps, with a number of its officers, should be permanently stationed at the capital in time of peace, and the war-office should be simply that of the general staff, except that there should be a secret department for those documents to be concealed from the subalterns of the corps.
7. Nothing should be neglected to acquire a knowledge of the geography and the military statistics of other states, so as to know their material and moral capacity for attack and defense, as well as the strategic advantages of the two parties. Distinguished officers should be employed in these scientific labors, and should be rewarded when they acquit themselves with marked ability.
8. When a war is decided upon, it becomes necessary to prepare, not an entire plan of operations,—which is always impossible,—but a system of operations in reference to a prescribed aim; to provide a base, as well as all the material means necessary to guarantee the success of the enterprise.
9. The system of operations ought to be determined by the object of the war, the kind of forces of the enemy, the nature and resources of the country, the characters of the nations and of their chiefs, whether of the army or of the state. In fine, it should be based upon the moral and material means of attack or defense which the enemy may be able to bring into action; and it ought to take into consideration the probable alliances that may obtain in favor of or against either of the parties during the war.
10. The financial condition of a nation is to be weighed among the chances of a war. Still, it would be dangerous to constantly attribute to this condition the importance attached to it by Frederick the Great in the history of his times. He was probably right at his epoch, when armies were chiefly recruited by voluntary enlistment, when the last crown brought the last soldier; but when national levies are well organised money will no longer exercise the same influence,—at least for one or two campaigns. If England has proved that money will procure soldiers and auxiliaries, France has proved that love of country and honor are equally productive, and that, when necessary, war may be made to support war. France, indeed, in the fertility of her soil and the enthusiasm of her leaders, possessed sources of temporary power which cannot be adopted as a general base of a system; but the results of its efforts were none the less striking. Every year the numerous reports of the cabinet of London, and particularly of M. d'Yvernois, announced that France was about to break down for want of money, while Napoleon had 200,000,000 francs in the vaults of the Tuileries, all the while meeting the expenses of the government, including the pay of his armies.
A power might be overrunning with gold and still defend itself very badly. History, indeed, proves that the richest nation is neither the strongest nor the happiest. Iron weighs at least as much as gold in the scales of military strength. Still, we must admit that a happy combination of wise military institutions, of patriotism, of well-regulated finances, of internal wealth and public credit, imparts to a nation the greatest strength and makes it best capable of sustaining a long war.
A volume would be necessary to discuss all the circumstances under which a nation may develop more or less strength, either by its gold or iron, and to determine the cases when war may be expected to support war. This result can only be obtained by carrying the army into the territory of the enemy; and all countries are not equally capable of furnishing resources to an assailant.
We need not extend further the investigation of these subjects which are not directly connected with the art of war. It is sufficient for our purpose to indicate their relations to a projected war; and it will be for the statesman to develop the modifications which circumstances and localities may make in these relations.
[Footnote 2: It will be recollected that the author wrote this many years ago, since which time the inventive genius of the age has been attentively directed to the improvement of fire-arms. Artillery, which he regarded as almost perfect, has certainly undergone important improvements, and the improved efficiency of small arms is no less marked, while we hear nothing now of Perkins's steam-guns; and as yet no civilized army has been organized upon the plan the author suggests for depriving these destructive machines of their efficiency.—TRANSLATORS.]
[Footnote 3: There was a deficit in the finances of France at the fall of Napoleon. It was the result of his disasters, and of the stupendous efforts he was obliged to make. There was no deficit in 1811.]