previous next

[407] flank, though he doubtless had the shorter line of march, and could, as Forrest used to express it, have got there first with the most men. No; he wished to meet the enemy's blow with a fatal counterblow, and waiting patiently till they were committed beyond recall to their perilous march, then launched Soult to pierce and destroy their centre.

On the other hand, the Austrians at Leuthen sought to meet Frederick's great attack on their left flank by hurrying troops to fight him there and saw every column beaten in detail.

It is true that great allowances must be made for the Confederate Commander in the nature of the country — a tangled forest, through which you could not see the enemy a hundred yards off, and with no elevated points from which even his distant movements could be observed. If we had not had the spectacle of General Lee's accurate reading of the enemy's movements in the similar forest of the Wilderness, we might ascribe too great weight to this consideration, for after all, both sides labour under the same difficulty.

Under any circumstances it is a solemn moment in the life of a commander — it is a moment never to be forgotten by any observer, when the order of battle has gone forth and the fortune of a great army, and perhaps the fate of a people, hang upon one man's leadership. The facts to which the simple precepts of the art of war are now to be applied are the confused reports of distant outposts or the hurried inferences of hasty reconnoissances — at best but flitting shadows on an opaque curtain which shuts out the enemy from view; the opinions of others on these facts may be heard and weighed, but no advice can be asked, the commander must stand alone — the solitary dictator of the hour; and the tremendous decisions to be taken must be quickly taken — minutes counting for hours of ordinary time — under all the excitements of the field and amid a roar of artillery and a storm of musketry surpassing the worst rage of the elements in nature's tempests.

Surely all the lessons of the schools then shrivel into nothingness if they have not been engraved on the adamant of a great soul.

Fortunate is the General if at that moment he can find some lofty point of observation, like Wellington's at Talavera or Lee's at Fredericksburg, from which he may read with his own eyes the confused incidents of the struggle. Then he may seize that critical moment which they say offers itself in all battles to the eagle glance of genius.

But no one who observed General Bragg about midday of the 19th of September, in the depth of that thick woodland, could fail to be impressed with the extraordinary difficulties surrounding the commander

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: