Chapter 15: military Education—Military schools of France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, England, &c.—Washington's reasons for establishing the West point Academy.—Rules of appointment and Promotion in foreign Services.—Absurdity and injustice of our own system.
With the Romans, six years instruction was required to make a soldier; and so great importance did these ancient conquerors of the world attach to military education and discipline, that the very name of their army was derived from the verb to practise
Modern nations, learning from experience that military success depends more upon skill and discipline than upon numbers, have generally adopted the same rule as the Romans; and nearly all of the European
powers have established military schools for the education of their officers and the instruction of their soldiers.
, which has long taken the lead in military science, has six military schools for the instruction of officers, containing in all more than one thousand pupils, and numerous division and regimental schools for the sub-officers and soldiers.
maintains some twelve general schools for military education, which contain about three thousand pupils, and also numerous division, brigade, garrison, and company schools for practical instruction.
has some fifty military schools, which contain in all about four thousand pupils.
has thirty-five engineer and artillery technical schools, with about two thousand pupils; twenty-five military schools for the noblesse, containing eight thousand seven hundred pupils; corps d'armee
schools, with several thousand pupils; regimental schools, with eleven thousand
pupils; and brigade-schools, with upwards of one hundred and fifty-six thousand scholars;--making in all about two hundred thousand pupils in her military schools!
has five military schools of instruction for officers, number of pupils not known; a military orphan school, with about twelve thousand pupils; and numerous depot and regimental schools of practice.
The smaller European
, have each several military schools, with a large number of pupils.
It is seen from these statistics, that the European
powers are not so negligent in educating their officers, and in instructing and disciplining their soldiers, as some in this country would have us believe.
, and others, learning, by their own experience in the war of the American
revolution, the great necessity of military education, urged upon our government, as early as 1783, the importance of establishing a military academy in this country, but the subject continued to be postponed from year to year till 1802.
In 1794, the subaltern grade of cadet
was created by an act of Congress, the officers of this grade being attached to their regiments, and “furnished at the public expense with the necessary books, instruments, and apparatus” for their instruction.
But this plan of educating young officers at their posts was found impracticable, and in his last annual message, Dec. 7th, 1796, Washington
urged again, in strong language, the establishment of a military academy, where a regular course of military instruction could be given.
“Whatever argument,” said he, “may be drawn from particular examples, superficially viewed, a thorough examination of the subject will evince that the art of war is both comprehensive and complicated; that it demands much previous study; and that the possession
of it in its most improved and perfect state is always of great moment to the security of a nation.”
The subject was however postponed from time to time, till March, 1802, when a bill was passed establishing the Military Academy
. It was at first on a small scale, and its course of instruction meager and deficient.
It gradually became enlarged, but lingered along, with no great improvement, till 1817, when Capt. Patridge
was dismissed from the superintendency, and Col. Thayer
put in charge.
From this period we date the commencement of the success and reputation which the Military Academy has since enjoyed.
This institution, as now organized, consists of one cadet from each congressional district, and a few at large, making an average of two hundred and thirty-seven.
The course of instruction is four years, after which time the cadet is sent to his regiment or corps, with higher rank if there are vacancies, but if there are no vacancies, he goes as a cadet, with the brevet rank of the next higher grade.
The examination for admission to the institution is a very limited one, being confined to the elementary branches of an English education.
The annual course at the academy is divided into two distinct periods, the first extending from June till September, and the second from September to the following June.
During the first period, the cadets leave their barracks and encamp in tents, and are made subject to the police and discipline of an army in time of war. In addition to the thorough and severe course of practical exercises and drills in the different arms during these three summer months of each year, they are made to perform the same tours of guard-duty, night and day, as is required of the common soldier in time of actual war. This continues till the first of September of each year, when the cadets return to their barracks, and for the remaining nine months
devote themselves to the prescribed course of scientific and military studies, intermixed with military exercises and practical operations in the laboratory and on the field.
To test the progress of the cadets in their studies, there are held semi-annual public examinations.
These examinations are strict and severe, and all who fail to come up to the fixed standard are obliged to withdraw from the institution, to allow some one else from the same district to make the trial.
During their course of studies the cadets, as warrant-officers of the army, draw pay barely sufficient to defray their necessary expenses.
The allowance to each.
is twenty-six dollars per month, but none of this is paid to the cadet, but is applied to the purchase of books, fuel, lights, clothing, board, &c.
This institution furnishes each year to the army about forty subaltern officers, thoroughly instructed in all the theoretical and practical duties of their profession.
After completing this course, the cadet is usually promoted from the grade of warrant-officer to that of a commissioned officer, and is immediately put on duty with his regiment or corps.
This system of appointment to the army has produced the most satisfactory results, and has received the commendation of our best military men, and the approbation of all our presidents and most able statesmen.
Nevertheless, it has occasionally met with strong opposition; this opposition springing in part from a want of proper information respecting the character and working of the system, and in part from the combined efforts of those who from negligence or incapacity have failed to pass their examinations for promotion, and of those who, from a conscious want of qualifications or merit, feel assured that they cannot obtain commissions in the army so long as this system of merit, as fixed by examination, shall
Hence the effort to destroy the Military Academy, and to throw the army entirely open to political
Several legislative bodies, acting under these combined influences, have passed resolutions, giving various objections to the Military Academy, and recommending that it be abolished.
The objections made by the legislatures of Tennessee
, New Hampshire
, and Maine
, are mostly founded on false information, and may be readily answered by reference to the official records of the War-office.
But it is not the present object to enter into a general discussion of the charges against that institution, except so far as they are connected with the importance of military education, and the rules of military appointment and promotion.
It has been alleged by many of the opponents of the West Point Academy, that military instruction is of little or no advantage to a general;--that in the wars of Napoleon
, and in the American Revolution
, and the American
war of 1812, armies were generally led to victory by men without a military education, and unacquainted with military science;--and that in the event of another war in this country, we must seek our generals in the ranks of civil life, rather than among the graduates of our Military Academy.
The objection here made to military education will hold with equal force against education in any other profession.
We sometimes find men who have become eminent in the pulpit and at the bar, or in medicine and the sciences, without ever having enjoyed the advantages of an education in academic or collegiate halls, and perhaps even without that preliminary instruction usually deemed necessary for professional pursuits.
Shall we therefore abolish all our colleges, theological seminaries, schools of law and medicine, our academies and primary schools,
and seek for our professional men among the uneducated and the ignorant?
If professional ignorance be a recommendation in our generals, why not also in our lawyers and our surgeons?
If we deem professional instruction requisite for the care of our individual property and health, shall we require less for guarding the honor and safety of our country, the reputation of our arms, and the lives of thousands of our citizens?
But in reality, were not these men to whom we have alluded eminent in their several professions in spite of
, rather than by means of
their want of a professional education?
And have not such men, feeling the disadvantages under which they were forced to labor, been almost without exception the advocates of education in others?
But is it true that most of the generals of distinction in the more recent wars were men destitute of military education,--men who rose from the ranks to the pinnacle of military glory, through the combined influence of ignorance of military science and contempt for military instruction?
Let us glance at the lives of the most distinguished of the generals of the French Revolution
, for these are the men to whom reference is continually made to prove that the Military Academy is an unnecessary and useless institution, the best generals being invariably found in the ranks of an army, and not
in the ranks of military schools.
Facts may serve to convince, where reasoning is of no avail.
himself was a pupil of the military schools of Brienne and Paris
, and had all the advantages of the best military and scientific instruction given in France
was a pupil of the military school of Effiat, with all the advantages which wealth and nobility could procure.
was a pupil of the military school of Auxerre
, and a fellow-pupil with Napoleon
in the military school of Paris
Kleber was educated at the military
school of Bavaria
was a pupil of St. Germain-en-Loye, and had for his military instructor the great captain of the age. His whole life was devoted to the military art. Berthier
were both sons of officers, and, being early intended for the army, they received military educations.
Lecourbe had also the advantages of a military education before entering the army.
Pichegru and Duroc were pupils of the military school of Brienne.
Drouet was a pupil of the artillery school.
was first educated in the college of Soissons, and afterwards in the military schools of La Fere and Chalons
, called the “Organizer of French victory,” received a good early education, and was also a pupil of the engineer school of Mezieres.
Several of the distinguished French generals at first received good scientific and literary educations in the colleges of France
, and then acquired their military instruction in the subordinate grades of the army; and by this means, before their promotion to responsible offices, acquired a thorough practical instruction, founded on a basis of a thorough preliminary education.
Such was Suchet, a pupil of the college of Lisle
-Barbe; Lannes, a pupil of the college of Lectoure; and Mortier
, who was most carefully educated at Cambrai
were both educated for the church, though the latter profited but little by his instruction; Moreau
were educated for the bar; Massena
was not a college graduate, but he received a good preliminary education, and for several years before he entered the army as an officer, he had enjoyed all the advantages afforded by leisure and affluent circumstances; Ney
, though poor, received a good preliminary education, and entered a notary's office to study a profession.
was destitute of the advantages of early education, but, anxious to supply this deficiency, he early distinguished himself by his efforts to procure books,
and by his extraordinary devotion to military studies.
By several years devoted in this way to professional studies and the practical duties of a subordinate grade in the army, Hoche
acquired a military knowledge which early distinguished him among the generals of the French Revolution
-Cyr, being of parents in limited circumstances, had not the advantages of extensive education, but close and diligent application, an ardent ambition, and strong and powerful intellect, combined with long years of service in the practical operations of the field, at length enabled these men to overcome all obstacles, and force their way to the higher walks of their professions.
But both knew from experience the advantages of military instruction, and the importance of professional education in the army, and they have consequently both been the warmest friends and strongest advocates of the military schools of France
The Polytechnic School was established too late to furnish officers for any of the earlier wars of Napoleon
; but. in his last campaigns he began to reap the advantages of an institution which had been under his fostering care, and Bertrand
, Dode, Duponthon, Haxo, Rogniat
, Valaze, Gourgaud, Chamberry, and a host of other distinguished young generals, fully justified the praises which the emperor lavished on his “poulet aux oeufs d'or
,” --the hen that laid him golden eggs!
In our own revolutionary war, Generals Washington
, (Lord Stirling,) the two Clintons, the Lees, and others.
were men of fine education, and a part of them of high literary and scientific attainments; Washington
, Charles Lee
, the Clintons, and some others, had considerable military experience even before the war: nevertheless, so destitute was the army, generally, of military science, that the government was under the necessity of seeking it in
foreigners — in the La Fayettes
, the Kosciuskos, the Steubens, the De Kalbs
, the Pulaskis, the Duportails — who were immediately promoted to the highest ranks in our army.
In fact the officers of our scientific corps were then nearly all foreigners.
But, say the opponents of the Academy, military knowledge and. education are not the only requisites for military success; youthful enterprise and efficiency are far more important than a mere acquaintance with military science and the military art: long service in garrison, combined with the indolent habits acquired by officers of a peace-establishment, so deadens the enterprise of the older officers of the army, that it must inevitably result, in case of war, that military energy and efficiency will be derived from the ranks of civil life.
We are not disposed to question the importance of youthful energy in the commander of an army, and we readily admit that while seeking to secure to our service a due degree of military knowledge, we should also be very careful not to destroy its influence by loading it down with the dead weights of effete seniority.
But we do question the wisdom of the means proposed for supplying our army with this desired efficiency.
Minds stored with vast funds of professional knowledge, and the rich lore of past history; judgments ripened by long study and experience; with passions extinguished, or at least softened by the mellowing influence of age — these may be best suited for judges and statesmen, for here there is time for deliberation, for the slow and mature judgment of years.
But for a general in the field, other qualities are also required.
Not only is military knowledge requisite for directing
the blow, but he must also have the military energy necessary for striking
that blow, and the military activity necessary for parrying the attacks of the enemy.
A rapid coup d'oeil
, prompt decision, active movements, are
as indispensable as sound judgment; for the general must see
, and decide
, and act
, all in the same instant, Accordingly we find that most great generals of ancient and modern times have gained their laurels while still young.
Philip of Macedon
ascended the throne at the age of twenty-two, and soon distinguished himself in his wars with the neighboring states.
At the age of forty-five h had conquered all Greece
He died at forty-seven.
Alexander the Great
had defeated the celebrated The-ban band at the battle of Cheronea, and gained a military reputation at the age of eighteen.
He ascended the throne of his father Philip
before twenty, and at twenty-five had reached the zenith of his military glory, having already conquered the world.
He died before the age of thirty-two.
commanded the fleet sent to blockade Mitylene
, where he greatly distinguished himself before the age of twenty-two.
He soon after held the important offices of tribune, quaestor, and edile.
He had completed his first war in Spain
, and was made consul at Rome
before the age of forty.
He twice crossed the Rhine
, and conquered all Gaul
, and had twice passed over to Britain before the age of forty-five; at fifty-two he had won the field of Pharsalia, and attained the supreme power.
He died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, the victor of five hundred battles, and the conqueror of a thousand cities.
joined the Carthaginian army in Spain
at twenty-two, and was made commander-in-chief at twenty-six.
Victorious in Spain
, he crossed the Alps
and won the battle of Cannae
before the age of thirty-one.
, (the elder,) at the age of sixteen distinguished himself at the battle of Ticinus
; at twenty was made edile, and soon after pro-consul in Spain
; at twenty-nine he won the great battle of Zama
, and closed his military career.
(the younger) also
distinguished himself in early life; at the age of thirty-six he had conquered the Carthaginian armies and completed the destruction of Carthage
Gengis-Khan succeeded to the domain of his father at the age of thirteen, and almost immediately raised an army of thirty thousand men, with which he defeated a numerous force of rebels, who had thought to take advantage of his extreme youth to withdraw from his dominion.
He soon acquired a military reputation by numerous conquests, and before the age of forty had made himself emperor of Mogul.
Charlemagne was crowned king at twenty-six, conquered Aquitania at twenty-eight, made himself master of France
and the greater part of Germany
at twenty-nine, placed on his brows the iron crown of Italy
at thirty-two, and conquered Spain
Gonsalvo de Cordova
, the “great captain,” entered the army at fifteen, and before the age of seventeen had acquired a brilliant military reputation, and was knighted by the king himself on the field of battle; at forty-one he was promoted over the heads of older veterans and made commander-in-chief of the army in Italy
was placed at the head of the Huguenot army at the age of sixteen, at nineteen he became king of Navarre; at forty he had overthrown all his enemies, placed himself on the throne of France
, and become the founder of a new dynasty.
Montecuculi, at the age of thirty-one, with two thousand horse, attacked ten thousand Swedes and captured all their baggage and artillery; at thirty-two he gained the victory of Triebel, at forty-nine defeated the Swedes and saved Denmark
, and at fifty-three defeated the Turks at the great battle of St. Gothard.
In his campaigns against the French
at a later age, he made it his chief merit, “not that he conquered, but that he was not conquered.”
entered the army at the early age of twelve, and soon obtained the command of a regiment of horse; at twenty-four he became marechal-de-camp
, at forty-four marshal of France
, and at forty-nine gained the celebrated victory of Fontenoy
He died at the age of fifty-four.
entered the army of Conde
as a cadet at the age of seventeen, at twenty was made a lieutenant, at twenty-four he commanded two companies, at forty-one was a brigadier, at forty-three a marechal-de-camp
, and at forty-five commissaire-general of all the fortifications of France
At the age of twenty-five he had himself conducted several sieges, and had assisted at many others.
entered the army before the age of fourteen; he served one year as a volunteer, four years as a captain, four years as a colonel, three years as a major-general, five years as a lieutenant-general, and became a marshal of France
He had won all his military reputation by the age of forty.
commanded an army at the age of sixteen, and acquired his military reputation in very early life.
He died at fifty-eight.
The great Conde
immortalized his name at the battle of Rocroi, in which, at the age of twenty-two, he defeated the Spaniards.
He had won all his great military fame before the age of twenty-five.
Prince Eugene of Savoy
was a colonel at twenty-one, a lieutenant-field-marshal at twenty-four, and soon after, a general-field-marshal.
He gained the battle of Zenta at thirty. four, and of Blenheim
At the opening of the war of 1733, he again appeared at the head of the army at the advanced age of sixty-nine, but having lost the vigor and fire of youth, he effected nothing of importance.
Peter the Great
was proclaimed czar at ten years of age; at twenty he organized a large army and
built several ships; at twenty-four he fought the Turks and captured Asoph; at twenty-eight he made war with Sweden
; at thirty he entered Moscow
in triumph after the victory of Embach, and the capture of Noteburg and Marienburg; at thirty-one he began the city of St. Petersburg
; at thirty-nine he was defeated by the Turks and forced to ransom himself and army.
His latter years were mostly devoted to civil and maritime affairs.
He died at the age of fifty-five.
Charles the XII.
ascended the throne at the age of fifteen, completed his first successful campaign against Denmark
at eighteen, overthrew eighty thousand Russians at Narva before nineteen, conquered Poland
at twenty-four, and died at thirty-six.
Frederick the Great
ascended the throne at twenty-eight, and almost immediately entered on that career of military glory which has immortalized his name.
He established his reputation in the first Silesian war, which he terminated at the age of thirty.
The second Silesian war was terminated at thirty-three; and at forty-three, with a population of five millions, he successfully opposed a league of more than one hundred millions of people.
Prince Henry of Prussia
served his first campaign as colonel of a regiment at sixteen; at the age of thirty-one he decided the victory of Prague
, and the same year was promoted to the command of a separate army.
The military reputation he acquired in the Seven Years War was second only to that of Frederick.
had effected the conquest of Mexico
, and completed his military career, at the age of thirty-six.
, the most eminent of his great captains, died at the age of thirty-one.
He had earned his great renown, and closed his military achievements, before the age of twenty-five.
completed the conquest of Peru
at thirty-five, and died about forty.
Lord Clive began his military career at twenty-two, and had reached the zenith of his military fame at thirty-five; he was raised to the peerage at thirty-six, and died at fifty.
began his military service at about twenty-five, and became governor of Bengal at forty.
was made a lieutenant at seventeen, a captain at twenty, chef-de-bataillon
at twenty-four, general of brigade at twenty-five, and commander-in-chief of the army of Italy
All his most distinguished generals were, like him, young men, and they seconded him in his several campaigns with all the energy and activity of youthful valor and enthusiasm.
entered the army at fifteen; at the opening of the war he quickly passed through the lower grades, and became a general of brigade before the age of twenty-five, and a general of division at twenty-six; he died before the age of thirty-two, with a reputation second only to that of Napoleon
Kleber did not enter the army till later in life, but he quickly passed through the subordinate grades, and was made a general of brigade at thirty-eight, a general of division at forty, and general-in-chief of an army at forty-one: he died at forty-six.
On his death, and in Napoleon
's absence, Menau, aged and inefficient, succeeded by right of seniority to the command of the army of Egypt
Its utter ruin was the almost immediate consequence.
first entered the army at seventeen, but soon married a rich wife, and retired to civil life.
He returned to the army at the opening of the revolution, and in two years, before the age of thirty-five, was promoted to the rank of general of division.
He immediately acquired that high reputation which he sustained through a long career of military glory
became a sub-lieutenant at twenty-two, a captain at twenty-four; the following year he passed through the several grades of chef-de-bataillon
, colonel, and general of brigade, and became general of division at twenty-nine.
was a sub-lieutenant at seventeen, a general of brigade at twenty-three, and general of division at twenty-five.
entered the army at a very early age. He became chef-de-bataillon
at nineteen, colonel at twenty-one, general of brigade at twenty-three, and Viceroy of Italy
He soon proved himself one of Napoleon
's ablest generals.
At twenty-eight he commanded the army of Italy
, and at thirty-one gained great glory in the Russian
campaign, at the head of the fourth corps d'armee
-Cyr entered the army at the beginning of the Revolution, and passing rapidly through the lower grades, became a general of brigade at twenty-nine, and a general of division at thirty.
Suchet became a chef-de-bataillon
at twenty, general of brigade-at twenty-five, major-general
's army at twenty-seven, and general of division and of a corps d'armee
became a captain at twenty-three, chef-de-bataillon
at twenty-four, general of brigade at twenty-five, and general of division at twenty-eight.
was a captain at twenty-three, adjutant-general
at twenty-six, general of brigade at twenty-seven, and general of division at twenty-nine.
Lannes was a colonel at twenty-seven, general of brigade at twenty-eight, and very soon after general of division.
became adjutant-general at twenty-five, general of brigade at twenty-six, general of division at twenty-eight,
and general-in-chief of the army of Italy
He died at thirty.
was a chef-de-bataillon
at twenty-seven, general of brigade at twenty-nine, and general of division at thirty-two.
was a lieutenant at twenty, and passing rapidly through the lower grades, he became a general of brigade at twenty-five, and a general of division at twenty-seven.
was a captain at twenty-three, adjutant-general
at twenty-five, general of brigade at thirty, and general of division at thirty-one.
was a colonel at twenty-seven, a general of brigade at twenty-seven, and a general of division at thirty.
was a captain at twenty-one, chef-de-bataillon
at twenty-two, general of brigade at twenty-four, inspector-general
at twenty-seven, and general-in-chief of an army at thirty-two.
was a colonel at twenty-eight, general of brigade at twenty-nine, and general of division at thirty.
was made a captain at the organization of the army in 1793; he became a general of brigade at thirty-eight, and general of division at thirty-nine.
Bessieres entered the army at twenty-six, became a colonel at thirty, general of brigade at thirty-two, and general of division at thirty-four.
He died at forty-seven.
Duroc was a captain at twenty-three, chef-de-bataillon
at twenty-six, colonel and chef-de-brigade
at twenty-seven, and general of division at thirty.
He died at forty-one.
This list might be still further extended with the same results, but names enough have been given to show that the generals who assisted Napoleon
in his immortal campaigns were all, with scarcely an exception, young men
, still burning with the fires of youthful ardor and enthusiasm.
The grade of marshal was not created till after Napoleon
On ascending the throne of the
empire, he nominated to this rank eighteen of the most distinguished generals of France
Some of these were generals of the earlier wars of the Revolution, and had never served under him. Others were younger men, several being only thirty-four, thirty-five, and thirty-six years of age. The mean age of all was forty-four.
He afterwards made seven more marshals, whose mean age was forty-three.
These appointments, however, were regarded as rewards for past
services, rather than as a grade from which service was expected, for several of the older marshals were never called into the field after their promotion.
Having noticed the ages of the principal generals who commanded in the armies of Napoleon
, let us look for a moment at those who opposed him. In the campaign of 1796 the enemy's forces were directed by Beaulieu, then nearly eighty years of age; Wurmser, also an octogenarian, and Alvinzi, then over seventy: these had all three distinguished themselves in earlier life, but had now lost that youthful energy and activity so essential for a military commander.
In the campaign of 1800 the general-in-chief
of the Austrian forces was Melas
, an old general, who had served some fifty years in the army; he had distinguished himself so long ago as the Seven Years War, but he had now become timid and inefficient, age having destroyed his energy.
In the campaign of 1805 the French
were opposed by Kutusof
, then sixty, and. Mack
, then fifty-three; the plan of operations was drawn up by still more aged generals of the Aulic council.
In the campaign of 1806 the French
were opposed by the Duke
, then seventy-one, Hohenlohe
, then sixty, and Mollendorf, Kleist, and Massenbach, old generals, who had served under the great Frederick
, “exhumed from the Seven Years War,” --“whose faculties were frozen by age,” --“who had been buried for the last ten years in a lethargic sleep.”
In the campaign of 1807 the French
were opposed by Kamenski, then eighty years of age, Benningsen
, then sixty, and Buxhowden, then fifty-six.
The Allies now began to profit by their experience, and in 1809 the Austrian army was led by the young, active, skilful, and energetic Archduke Charles
; and this campaign, although the commander-in-chief
was somewhat fettered by the foolish projects of the old generals of the Aulic council, and thwarted by the disobedience of his brother, was nevertheless the most glorious in the Austrian annals of the wars of the Revolution.
At the opening of the campaign of 1812 the Emperor Alexander, young, (only thirty-five,) active, intelligent, and ambitious, had remodelled his army, and infused into it his own energy and enthusiastic love of glory.
He was himself at its head, and directed its operations.
was for a short time the nominal commander-in-chief, and exhibited an activity unusual at his age, but he was surrounded by younger generals — Barclay-de-Tolley, and Miloradowich, then forty-nine, Wintzengerode, then forty-three, Schouvalof, then thirty-five, and the Archduke Constantine
, then thirty-three,--generals who, at the heads of their corps, and under the young emperor and his able staff of young officers, in the two succeeding campaigns, rolled back the waves of French conquest, and finally overthrew the French
, who led the English
in these campaigns, was of the same age as Napoleon
, and had been educated at the same time with him in the military schools of France
were led by Schwartzenburg, then only about thirty, and the Prussians by Yorck, Bulow
, and Blucher
The last of these was then well advanced in life, but all his movements
being directed by younger men,--Scharnhorst
and Gneisenau,--his operations partook of the energy of his able chiefs of staff.
In the campaign of 1815, Napoleon
was opposed by the combinations of Wellington
and Gneisenau, both younger men than most of his own generals, who, it is well known, exhibited, in this campaign, less than in former ones, the ardent energy and restless activity which had characterized their younger days.
Never were Napoleon
's plans better conceived, never did his troops fight with greater bravery; but the dilatory movements of his generals enabled his active enemies to parry the blow intended for their destruction.
In the American
war of 1812, we pursued the same course as Austria
, and Russia
, in their earlier contests with Napoleon
, i. e
., to supply our armies with generals, we dug up the Beaulieus, the Wurmsers, the Alvinzis, the Melases, the Macks, the Brunswicks, and the Kamenskis of our revolutionary war; but after we had suffered sufficiently from the Hulls, the Armstrongs, the Winchesters, the Dearborns, the Wilkinsons, the Hamptons, and other veterans of the Revolution, we also changed our policy, ant permitted younger men — the Jacksons, the Harrisons, the Browns, the McReas, the Scotts,1
the Ripleys, the Woods, the McCombs
, the Wools, and the Millers — to lead our forces to victory and to glory.
In the event of another war, with any nation capable of opposing to us any thing like a powerful resistance, shall we again exhume the veterans of former days, and again place at the head of our armies respectable and aged inefficiency; or shall we seek out youthful enterprise and activity combined with military science and instruction?
The results of the war, the honor of the country, the glory
of our arms, depend, in a great measure, upon the answer that will be given to this question.
But it may be asked, how are we to secure this combination of military instruction and military energy; how are we to fill the higher grades of our army with young and active men possessing due military instruction and talent?
The question is not a difficult one, and our government can easily attain the desired object, if it will only set at work honestly, disregarding all party prejudices and the mercenary and selfish interests of its own members and advisers.
Other governments have pointed out to us the way. It is this: let merit
be the main test for all appointments and promotions in the army.
Let one or more of the subordinate grades be thrown open to the youth of the whole country, without distinction as to birth, or wealth, or politics; let them be kept on probation in this subordinate grade, and be thoroughly instructed in all that relates to the military profession; after strict examination let them be promoted to the vacancies in the higher grades as rapidly as they shall show themselves qualified for the duties of those grades, merit and services being here as elsewhere the only tests.
The first part of this rule is already accomplished by the Military Academy. One young man is selected from each congressional district, on an average, once in about two years, the selection being made by the representative of the district; these young men are made warrant officers in the army, and sent to a military post for instruction; frequent and strict examinations are instituted to determine their capacity and fitness for military service; after a probation of a certain length of time, the best
are selected for commission in the army, relative rank and appointments to corps being made strictly with reference to merit; birth, wealth, influence of political friends — all extraneous circumstances being excluded from consideration.
What can be more truly and thoroughly democratic than this?
What scheme can be better devised to supply our army with good officers, and to exclude from the military establishment the corrupting influence of party politics, and to prevent commissions in the army from being given to “the sons of wealthy and influential men, to the almost total exclusion of the sons of the poor and less influential men, regardless alike of qualifications and of merit?”
Unfortunately for the army and for the country this system ends here, and all further advancement is made by mere seniority, or by executive favoritism, the claims of merit having but little or no further influence.
Indeed, executive patronage is not unfrequently permitted to encroach even upon these salutary rules of appointment, and to place relatives and political friends into the higher ranks of commissioned officers directly from civil life, “regardless alike of qualifications and of merit,” while numbers “of sons of the poor and less influential men,” who have served a probation of four or five years in military studies and exercises, and have proved themselves, in some thirty examinations made by competent boards of military officers, to be most eminently qualified for commissions, are passed by in utter neglect!
Our army is much more open to this kind of favoritism and political partiality, than that of almost any of the governments of Europe
, which we have been accustomed to regard as aristocratic and wholly unfriendly to real merit.
In the Prussian service, in time of peace, the government can appoint no one, even to the subordinate grade of ensign, till he has followed the courses of instruction of the division or brigade-school of his arm, and has passed a satisfactory examination.
And, “no ensign can be promoted to a higher grade till after his promotion has been agreed to by the superior board or commission of
examiners at Berlin
, and his name has been placed on the list of those whose knowledge and acquirements (connaissances
) render them qualified (aptes
) for the responsible duties of their profession.
The nomination to the grade of second-lieutenant is not, even after all these conditions are fulfilled, left to the choice of the government.
When a vacancy occurs in this grade, the subaltern officers present to the commandant of the regiment a list of three ensigns who have completed their course of study; the commandant, after taking the advice of the superior officers of the regiment, nominates the most meritorious of these three to the king, who makes the appointment.”
The government can appoint to the engineers and artillery only those who have been instructed as éleves
in the Berlin school
of cadets and the school of artillery and engineers, and these appointments must be made in the order in which the pupils have passed their final examination.
In these corps the lieutenants and second captains can be promoted to a higher grade only after they have passed a satisfactory examination.
No political influence, nor even royal partiality, can interfere with this rule.
Even in the arbitrary monarchies of Austria
it is deemed necessary to subject all military appointments and promotions, in the peace establishments, to certain fixed rules.
In the Austrian army all sub-lieutenants must be taken from the military schools, or the specially-instructed corps of cadets and. imperial guards; from this grade to that of captain all promotions are made by the commandants of regiments and corps on the advice of the other superior officers.
Above the grade of captain all nominations for promotion are made to the emperor by the Aulic Council
, in the order of seniority of rank, except the claims of superior merit interfere.
“In the Russian
army,” says Haillot, “no one, not even a prince of the imitary
perial family, can reach the grade of officer till he has satisfactorily passed his several examinations, or finished the severe novitiate to which the cadets in the corps are subjected.”
Promotion below the grade of colonel is made partly by seniority, and partly by merit; above that grade, by selection alone.
In the British
service, rank in the line of the army is obtained by purchase, and the higher grades are in this way filled with young men of energy and enterprise; but this efficiency is gained by injustice to the poor man, who is without the means of purchasing rank.
In some respects it is preferable to our ruinous system of exclusive seniority and executive favoritism, but far more objectionable than that based on merit.
has recently said that the system of exclusive seniority would soon utterly destroy the efficiency of the army, by preventing young men from reaching the higher grades.
“At first,” says an officer of some distinction in the British
navy, in speaking of promotions in that arm of service, “it certainly looks very hard to see old stagers grumbling away their existence in disappointed hopes; yet there can be little doubt that the navy, and, of course, the country at large, are essentially better served by the present system of employing active, young, and cheerfuil-minded officers, than they ever could be by any imaginable system by seniority.
It must not be forgotten, indeed, that at a certain stage of the profession, the arrangement by which officers are promoted in turn is already made the rule, and has long been so: but, by a wise regulation, it does not come into operation before the rank of post-captain be attained.
Antecedent to this point, there must occur ample opportunities of weeding out those persons, who, if the rule of mere seniority were adopted, would exceedingly embarrass the navy list.”
We fully agree with this writer respecting the evils of a system of exclusive seniority, but not respecting
the best means of remedying these evils.
, where the wealthy and aristocratic classes govern the state, they may very well prefer a system of military appointment and promotion based exclusively on wealth and political influence; but in this country we are taught to consider merit
as a claim much higher than wealth, or rank, or privilege.
The various changes in the rules of appointment and promotion in the French
service, and the various results of these changes, both on the character of the army and the welfare of the state, are so instructive that we regret that our limits will not allow us to enter into a full discussion of them.
We can give only a very brief outline.
Previous to the Revolution, military appointment and promotion were wholly subject to the rules of nobility, certain grades in the army belonging of right to certain grades of the noblesse
; merit and service being excluded from consideration.
But the constituent assembly changed this order of things, and established the rule that threefourths of the sub-lieutenants be appointed by selection, after a concours
, and the other quarter be appointed from the sub-officers, alternately by seniority and selection, without concours
; the captains and lieutenants by seniority; the colonels and lieutenant-colonels two-thirds by seniority and one-third by selection; marechaux-decamp
and lieutenant-generals one-half by seniority and one-half by selection.
In 1793 the grades were still further opened to selection, and in the turbulent times that followed, a part of them were even thrown open to election by the soldiers.
But in 1795 the combined system of merit and seniority, with certain improvements, was restored.
In 1796 and the wars that followed, merit
Was the only qualification required, and Bonaparte
, and other young generals were actually placed in command of their seniors in rank.
Military talent and military
services, not rank, were the recognised claims for promotion, the baptism of blood
, as it was called, having equalized all grades.
, in leaving Egypt
, paid no attention to seniority of rank, but gave the command to Kleber, who was then only a general of brigade, while Menou
was a general of division.
Everybody knows that on the death of Kleber, General Menou
succeeded in the command; and that Egypt
, saved by the selection
of Kleber, was lost by the seniority
formed rules for promotion, both for peace and war, based on merit.
His peace regulations were much the same as the system of 1795; his field regulations, however, from the circumstances of the times, were almost the only ones used.
The following extract from the Reglement de Campagne
of 1809, (title XX.,) gives the spirit of this system:--“The next day after an action the generals of brigade will present to the generals of division the names of all such as have distinguished themselves in a particular manner; the generals of division.
will immediately report these to the commander-in-chief
, and also the names of the generals and superior officers whose conduct has contributed most to secure success, so that the general-in-chief may immediately inform his majesty.”
On the restoration of the Bourbons there were also restored many of the ancient privileges and claims of rank by the officers of the maison militaire du roi
, and court favoritism was substituted for merit and service.
But the revolution of 1830 produced a different order of things.
“The laws now regulate military promotion; the king can appoint or promote only in conformity to legal prescriptions; and even in the exercise of this prerogative, he is wise enough to restrain himself by certain fixed rules, which protect him from intrigues, and from the obsessions of persons of influence, and of party politicians.”
that the same could always be said of the executive of this country in making appointments and promotions in the army.
The existing laws and regulations of the French
service differ slightly for different corps, but the general rule is as follows: No one can be appointed to the grade of officer in the army who has not graduated at one of the military schools, or has not served at least two years as a subofficer in a corps d'armee
. In time of peace, no one can be promoted to the rank of lieutenant, captain
, or major, (chef-d'escadron
,) till he has served two years in the next lower grade; no one can be made lieutenant-colonel till he has served four years, nor be made colonel till he has served three years, in the next lower grade; no one can be made marechal-de-camp
, or marshal of France
, till he has served two years in the next lower grade.
These numbers are all diminished one half in time of war. For the grades of first-lieutenant and captain, two-thirds of the promotions are by seniority, and one-third by selection; for the chef-de-bataillon
, one-half by seniority and one-half by selection; for all the other grades by selection only.
In time of war, one-half of the promotions to the grades of first-lieutenant and captain are filled by selection, and all the promotions to other grades in this way. For promotion by selection, a list of the authorized candidates for each grade is made out every year by inspectors, and boards of examiners appointed ad hoc
, and the name, qualifications, and particular claim are given of each officer admitted to the contours
. The recommendations of these inspectors and examiners are almost invariably followed by the government in its selections.
This combined system of seniority and merit secures a gradual promotion to all, and at the same time enables officers of great talents and acquirements to attain the higher grades while
still young and efficient.
Merit need not, therefore, always linger in the subaltern grades, and be held subordinate to ignorance and stupidity, merely because they happen to be endowed with the privileges of seniority.
Moreover, government is precluded from thrusting its own favorites into the higher grades, and placing them over the heads of abler and better men.
If such a system of appointment were introduced into our army, and fixed by legal enactments, and no one were allowed to receive a commission till he had either distinguished himself in the field, or had passed an examination before a board of competent officers, we are confident that better selections would be made in the appointments from civil life than have been within the last ten years by the present system of political influence.
It would scarcely be possible to make worse selections.2
And if the combined
system of seniority and examination were pursued in promoting the subalterns already in service, it certainly would produce less injustice, and give greater efficiency to the army, than the present one of exclusive seniority and brevet rank, obtained through intrigue and political influence, or high military appointments bestowed as a reward for dirty and corrupt party services.
As a military maxim, secure efficiency, by limiting the privileges of rank; exclude favoritism, by giving the power of selection to boards of competent officers, totally independent of party politics
. Such a system has been for some time pursued in the medical department of our army; it has produced the most satisfactory results; stupidity, ignorance, and aged inefficiency have been overslaughed
, and will soon entirely disappear from that corps; they have been replaced by young men of activity, talent, character, intelligence, and great professional skill.
Is it less important to have competent military officers to command where the lives of thousands, the honor of our flag, the safety of the country depend upon their judgment and conduct, than it is to have competent surgeons to attend the sick and the wounded?
We wish to call particular attention to this subject.
It deserves attention at all times, but at the present moment it more especially demands a close and candid consideration.
The higher grades of our peace establishment are now filled with men so far advanced in life that, in case of an increase of the army, many of them must undoubtedly be either passed over, or put on a retired list.
Sooner or later some change of this kind will undoubtedly be made.
It is demanded by the good of service, even in time of peace; and in time of war, it will be absolutely
necessary to the success of our arms.3
But the great danger is that the change may be made for the worse — that all the appointments and promotions to the higher grades will be made through political influence, thus converting the army and navy into political engines.
Let proper measures be taken to prevent so dangerous a result; let executive patronage in the army be limited by wholesome laws, like those in France
; and let military merit and services, as determined by boards of competent military officers, be the only recognised claims to appointment and promotion, thus giving to the poor and meritorious at least an equal chance with the man. of wealth and the base hireling of party.
In actual service the system of exclusive seniority cannot exist; it would deaden and paralyze all our energies.
Taking advantage of this, politicians will drive us to the opposite extreme, unless the executive authority be limited by wholesome laws, based on the just principles of merit
But the importance of maintaining in our military organization a suitable system of military instruction is not confined to the exigencies of our actual condition.
It mainly rests upon the absolute necessity of having in the country a body of men who shall devote themselves to the cultivation of military science, so as to be able to compete with the military science of the transatlantic powers.
It is not to be expected that our citizen soldiery, however intelligent, patriotic, and brave they may be, can make
any very great progress in military studies.
They have neither the time nor opportunities for such pursuits, and if they can acquire a practical acquaintance with elementary tactics — the mere alphabet of the military art — it is as much as can reasonably be expected of them.
As a general rule, the militia are individually more capable and intelligent than the men who compose a regular army.
But they must of necessity be inferior in practical professional knowledge.
Technical education is necessary in every pursuit of life.
It is possible that the lawyer may succeed in some particular cases without a knowledge of law, but he will probably have few clients if he remain ignorant of the laws and precedents that govern the courts.
The unlearned chemist may succeed in performing some single experiment, but his progress will be slow and uncertain if he neglect to make himself familiar with the experiments and discoveries of his predecessors.
Learning, when applied to agriculture, raises it from a mere mechanical drudgery to the dignity of a science.
By analyzing the composition of the soil we cultivate, we learn its capacity for improvement, and gain the power to stimulate the earth to the most bountiful production.
How different the results attending the labors of the intelligent agriculturist, guided by the lamp of learning, from those of the ignorant drudge who follows the barren formula of traditional precepts!
As applied to manufactures and the mechanical arts, learning develops new powers of labor, and new facilities for subsistence and enjoyment.
Personal comforts of every kind are greatly increased, and placed within the reach of the humbler classes; while at the same time the “appliances of art are made to minister to the demands of elegant taste, and a higher moral culture.”
As applied to commerce, it not only greatly increases the facilities for the more general diffusion of civilization and
knowledge, but is also vastly influential in harmonizing the conflicting interests of nations.
Nor is learning less humanizing and pacific in its influence when applied to the military art. “During the dark ages which followed the wreck of the Roman
power, the military science by which that power had been reared, was lost with other branches of learning.
When learning revived, the military art revived with it, and contributed not a little to the restoration of the empire of mind over that of brute force.
Then, too, every great discovery in the art of war has a life-saving and peace-promoting influence.
The effects of the invention of gunpowder are a familiar proof of this remark; and the same principle applies to the discoveries of modern times.
By perfecting ourselves in military science, paradoxical as it may seem, we are therefore assisting in the diffusion of peace, and hastening on the approach of that period when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks.”
Explanation of Plates.
1, 2, 3.-- ||Used to illustrate the strategic relations of the armies A and B.|
4.-- ||Line of operations directed against the extremity of the enemy's line of defence, as was done by Napoleon in the Marengo campaign.|
5.-- ||Napoleon's plan of campaign in 1800, for the army of the Rhine, and the army of reserve.|
6 ||shows the plan adopted by Napoleon in the campaign of 1800, to preserve his communications.|
7 ||illustrates the same thing in the campaign of 1806.|
8.-- ||Interior and central line of operations.|
9 ||represents a camp of a grand division of an army.
The distance from the front row of tents to the line of camp-guards should be from 350 to 400 feet; thence to the line of posts, from 150 to 200 feet; thence to the line of sentinels, from 100 to 200 feet. In many cases, the line of posts between the camp-guards and sentinels may be dispensed with.
The distance between battalions will be from 50 to 100 feet; and the same between squadrons and batteries.|
10.-- ||Details of encampment for a battalion of infantry.
The width of company streets will depend upon the strength of a company, and will be so arranged that the front of the camp shall not exceed the length of the battalion, when drawn up in line of battle.
This width will be from 50 to 100 feet. The distance between the tents of each row will be 2 or 3 feet; the distance between the tents of one company and those of another, from 4 to 6 feet.|
11 ||is the camp of a squadron of cavalry.
A single company encamping alone, would be arranged in the same way as an entire squadron.
The horses are picketed in two lines parallel to the tents, and at a distance from them of about 12 feet. The forage is placed between the tents.
A squadron of two companies will occupy a front of about 180 feet. The fires, or company kitchens, should be 50 or 60 feet in rear of the non-commissioned officers' tents.|
12 ||is the camp of two batteries of foot artillery, or two companies of foot engineers.|
| ||[The plan of encampment for artillery, as given in the “Instruction of U. S. Field Artillery, horse and foot,” may be employed where a single battery encamps by itself, or where only the skeleton of companies is maintained; but it will be found exceedingly inconvenient, where a full battery, with a large train, encamps on the same line with other troops.
The plan we have given is that which is employed in most European services.]|
13.-- ||In this plan for mounted artillery and engineers, the fires are so arranged as to expose the ammunition as little as possible to the sparks from the kitchens.|
14.-- ||Simple parallel order of battle.|
|15.--||Parallel order, with a crochet on the flank.|
|16.--||Parallel order, reinforced on a wing.|
|17.--||Parallel order, reinforced on the centre.|
|18.--||Simple oblique order.|
|19.--||Obliquo order, reinforced on the assailing wing.|
|23.--||Order by echelon on a wing.|
|24.--||Order by echelon on the centre.|
|25.--||Combined order of attack.|
|26.--||Formation of infantry by two deployed lines.|
|27, 28.--||Arrangements corresponding to depth of column.|
|29.--||Formation by squares.|
|30.--||Mixed formation of three battalions.|
|31.--||Deep formation of heavy columns.|
|32.--||Formation in columns by brigade.|
|33.--||Formation of two brigades of cavalry, by the mixed system.|
|34.--||Passage of the Sound by the British fleet, in 1807.|
|35.--||Attack on Copenhagen.|
|36.--||Attack on Algiers.|
|37.--||Attack on San Juan d'ulloa.|
|38.--||Attack on St. Jean d'acre.|
|39.--||Plan of a regular bastioned front of a fortification.|
|40.--||Section of do. do.|
42.--||Demi-tenaillons, with a bonnet.|
|47.--||A mitre or priest-cap.|
|48.--||A bastioned fort.|
|49.--||Vertical section of a field intrenchment.|
|53.--||Crater of a military mine.|
|54.--||Pian of the attack of a regular bastioned work.|