Example of a battle of the offensive defense: battle of Austerlitz, December 2, 1805.
Very different from the last battle is that of Austerlitz
, which-is a defensive battle with offensive return, fought by Napoleon
, but offensive in the space in advance of his line
Here the destruction of nearly a whole army was the consequence.
This battle took place on the 2d of December, 1805.
had assembled about 70,000 men near Brunn
, and awaited, in a position chosen by himself, the attack of the allied Austrians
, whose army amounted to 84,000 men. His plan was to advance from his own position the moment the enemy attacked him, and to fall on their center with his concentrated forces, while his wings arrested the advance of the enemy's. The first partial victory obtained in the center, the disengaged forces then turn to the right and left, and attack the enemy's wings in their flank.
The allies advance with more than 50,000 men against Napoleon
's right wing, composed only of about 5000 men, but afterward reinforced to 12,000 men. The advance of those 50,000 men on the left wing of the allies leaves a free space between their two wings, which is occupied by only a very small force.
advances, there, divides by his movement the allied army in two parts, and defeats each wing separately.
The allies lost about 30,000 men, 130 guns, and the remainder of their army was very much scattered.
This battle also serves as an example of an order of battle with reinforced center.
Battle of Austerlitz.|
Use of the three arms, Combined or separate.
in the last chapter, we have seen the general character and disposition of battles, without making any distinction between the three arms.
We will now proceed to examine their use, and the role they play either separately or combined.
Every battle is composed of a series of fights, which may take place between troops employing but one arm-either of Infantry, Cavalry, or Artillery-or between troops belonging to the three arms united.
If, for instance, we take an army of five brigades engaged in a battle, and forming, we Will suppose, an oblique line of battle, each of the brigades will have to keep up a separate fight, in which it may have to act against infantry or cavalry, or against the three arms together.
It is evident that the brigade, being only a part of the whole line of battle, cannot be formed in an oblique order itself; it can only manoeuvre, as well as each of the three arms it is composed of, according to the small tactics of its country.
The general principles of formation of troops for fight have already been explained under normal battle arrangements; we must, however, pass in review the chief formations as given in the small tactics, and see in what cases they are to be employed.
Infantry can be arranged for fight as follows:--
1. In line.
The open or skirmisher line
Line of battalion with two or three ranks.
2. In column.
a. Column of battalion formed from the line on the two center platoons.
b. Column of companies formed from the line.
3. In squares.
is extended over a large space; therefore it cannot act with great effect on one special point.
All the men in this line act simultaneously; their action is short, and exhaustion soon follows,--be it from fatigue or from the using up of the ammunition.
The more we increase the number of men in the skirmisher line, the greater will be the loss to the enemy, but also to our-selves, besides the exhaustion of a greater number of our own men. Skirmisher lines are employed to scour the ground in advance of our battalions, to clear it of skirmishers sent out by the enemy, and to keep him at a distance from our lines.
We may use a strong or a weak skirmisher line, according to circumstances.
In general, strong skirmisher lines only should be employed where they have to prepare for a decided advance; and where we have special corps to fulfill this task, then entire battalions may be dissolved for skirmishing.
If we are obliged to take skirmishers from our line of battle, from the battalions we employ there, we should be careful not to use too many, as all those men we take for skirmishing cannot well be employed at the decisive moment; and we may add that, in skirmishing, we never arrive at a decisive result, and we forget but too easily, in those distant fights, the real object of the engagement.
In close line
, the battalion is arranged in two or three ranks, and occupies, if numbering 1000 men, from 200 to 300 yards in length, and 1 1/2 to 2 yards in depth.
The close line acts on a large space; its action is, therefore, not intense on one point, though more so than that of the skirmisher line; all its men act simultaneously.
Occupying a large space, and obliged to keep in order, its advance or retreat is rendered difficult in consequence of the configuration of the ground.
The line is, therefore, more adapted for a standing fight, where fire-arms are principally used.
Formed in line, we may await an advancing enemy by firing on him up to the last moment; and then, as soon as his advancing column charges our line, the wings of it take his column in flank, and, by putting at once a greater amount of forces to work, we may oblige him to retreat.
Wherever we wish to make use of our fire, we are obliged to adopt the line; besides, the ravages of cannon-shot are not so great in a line as they are in a column, because the shot, in passing through them, will carry away as many men as there are ranks, and the column is always composed of at least four times as many ranks as the line.
But if exposed to heavy infantry fire, the line suffers more than the column.
Infantry, if without cover, and exposed to artillery fire from the enemy, is therefore generally disposed in line.
Columns of battalions
, Fig. 1, Plate III., formed from the line on the two center platoons.
(I suppose the columns formed on the center platoons, because their deploying in line is easier than if formed on the platoons of the wing.) The columns of battalion occupy but 35 to 50 yards front, and about 30 in depth.
In the column we have a successive action; the space is restricted, and the forces are more concentrated on one point.
The action of the first rank is followed by that of the second, and so on.
The column can better move than the line; it occupies less space and encounters less difficulties on its march; it is the formation generally used for attack, in which movement is the first necessity.
The column cannot fight on its march; it must, therefore, pass as quickly as possible the distance between itself and the enemy, who uses the time of advance to prepare it the greatest possible losses.
The column, in approaching the enemy, acts by impulse; anything that retards the impulse of the column endangers its effect.
Very large ones — Fig. 13, Plate III.--as, for instance, used by Napoleon
--one division of 12 battalions in column, each battalion deployed and placed one behind the other — were always attended with bad results.
Broken ground, or any other obstacle, rendering the advance of a column slow, will partly destroy its effect.
Columns of company
, Fig. 2 and Fig. 3, Plate III., formed from the line, are sometimes used.
The space on which small columns act is restricted; but
the entire space is large, and even larger than that of the line.
A battalion formed in such columns encounters as many difficulties in its advance as the line; besides, the command ceases, and this mode of forming tends to too great a division of forces, instead of a concentration.
Those columns, in their advance, can never act simultaneously; some of them always arrive before the others, in consequence of the ground.
Those columns should only be employed on well-covered ground, where the acting in mass of the battalion is impossible.
4 and Fig. 5, Plate III.
Intermediary formations between columns and lines.
We have hollow squares, approaching more to the line, and full squares, approaching more to the column; the first is a good formation for a battalion remaining stationary, the second for one that is obliged to move.
Squares are used against cavalry attacks, being more exposed to such attacks in moving than in remaining stationary; tie full square should be more particularly employed than the hollow one, though it presents some disadvantages.
Cavalry can only act while moving.
A regiment of cavalry can be arranged in fighting order as follows :--
1. In line.
2. In column.
a. Open, or with distance.
.--The action of cavalry in open line extended over a large space is like that of infantry fighting in the same order.
No intense effort can be made in this order on one point; obstacles of little resistance only can be surmounted.
The loss, in this order, is small.
We use the skirmisher line whenever we are obliged to act against skirmishers of the enemy, against foraging parties, infantry in great disorder, or against artillery of the enemy.
This line has always the disadvantage in acting against close line or columns.
In close line
9, Plate III.
Squadrons are arranged one beside the other, but separated by a space of 6 to 12 yards; the squadron itself is arranged in one or two ranks.
The close line is more compact than the open one; it acts, however, on a large space, and demands much room for its formation as well as action.
It is generally used by light cavalry.
Against an open line, against infantry in disorder or too small squares, and against infantry in march, this formation is the best suited.
10, Plate III.
Squadrons are placed one behind the other, at a distance equal to the front of a platoon augmented by 10 to 15 yards. This order is a compact one, and corresponds with the column of battalion.
Its space of action is restricted; it acts by the impulse of the whole mass more than by that of each part
separately. It is of the first importance that all parts forming the front should act simultaneously.
Good order is the principal requisition; too quick a gait should not be used; the trot-out is the best suited for this order.
It is principally used by heavy cavalry in charging that of the enemy.
If we traverse a space in which we are exposed to losses, we may adopt a quicker gait; but then the squadrons should not follow each other too closely; the rout of the first would involve the others ; for such charges we must therefore employ
12, Plate III.
The squadrons are placed one behind the other, or in echelon, distant from each other one squadron front augmented by about 12 yards.
This order is generally used in charges against infantry, being able to resist and to form into squares.
Cavalry is easily thrown into disorder, and difficult to form again; it must, therefore, be provided with large reserves, and be arranged in deep order.
Besides, as in cavalry engagements all actions pass with exceeding rapidity, and as the most exposed part of cavalry while charging is its flank, several platoons are generally disposed on the two wings to cover them, and to take the enemy in flank while charging ours.
9 and 10.)
Artillery acts by batteries
.--When stationary and firing, batteries are arranged in line; when moving, they may do so either in line or in column.
While firing, the guns are distant from each other from 25 to 30 or 10 to 12 yards; the latter interval is used when we wish to concentrate the fire.
Batteries have not yet been arranged in columns for firing; this may perhaps be done with rifled guns, which fire at great distances, and with which we may fire over our own troops or artillery in first line.
When fighting, artillery can fire by volleys, or each gun by order, or as soon as it is charged; the second is generally used on the battle-field, the last only in extraordinary cases where delay would be dangerous.
Artillery can act in single batteries or en masse
Each of the three arms in the attack or defense.
By what has already been said, it is easy to conclude in what way troops should be disposed for fighting offensively or defensively.
For an offensive battle, in which we are the attacking party, movement
is the main requisition; therefore the principal mode of formation will be the column.
A brigade destined to execute an attack would be disposed as shown in Fig. 6, Plate III.
If the space in which the attack takes place is larger than the front of this brigade, another one
should be disposed, in a similar way, on its side, by alternate masses of battalions.
Various modes of disposing troops in the attack have been tried — to advance in line deployed; or to advance one battalion in line deployed, and one battalion on each-wing in columns; or to advance in large columns, like Fig. 13.
All these diverse dispositions are, however, not so practical as that given in Fig. 6, which is now generally employed.
The attack in columns of company is an impossibility as soon as it is executed by more than one or two battalions; and, even then, it should be resorted to only when the ground is too much covered to permit of the action of an entire battalion.
The attack itself should always be preceded by clouds of skirmishers, to protect the front and flank of the advancing columns; to drive back the skirmishers of the enemy; to prevent them from shooting the officers of the advancing troops; and, arriving near the energy's line, to damage it as much as possible; to direct their fire principally on the officers, and to bring the line in disorder before the shock of the two masses really takes place.
The improvement in fire-arms generally conducts the men and officers to a desire of prolonging the distant fight; this should be carefully avoided when we act offensively
, as the defending army is mostly favored by the ground it acts on, and naturally wishes a fight, which is never decisive, and in which our loss is probably greater than its own. The relative strength of the combatants remains nearly the same; the decisive moment is retarded or even totally missed, and the loss we sustain in the distant fight is a pure sacrifice of
It is not a retreat in good order to which we must force our enemy, but one in disorder, in which we can break or cripple a part of his army with little or no loss to ourselves.
Such a retreat can only be obtained by the struggle at close quarters.
The principal formation for the defense is the deployed line, which may be also arranged in alternate masses of battalions or in echelons.
The last disposition is more solid, especially for a wing which we do not intend to have reinforced, or for which we have only few troops to spare.
Fig. 7, Plate III., shows a similar disposition.
An advancing enemy is always taken in flank, either by the battery on the extreme wing or by the regiments above or below the one attacked.
The distance between two battalions is generally equal to the front of one of them deployed in line.
There is one great maxim for every defense, whatever be our disposition, whether in echelons or alternate masses, which is--After having delivered a well-directed volley at short distance, to encounter an advancing enemy by our own advance
By acting on this principle, the English
lines nearly always defeated the French
columns, during the Peninsular war. The English battalions, disposed in deployed lines of two ranks, were posted thirty to forty yards behind the ridge of steep hills; the columns, arriving breathless on this spot, received first a volley at half pistol-shot distance, which laid low nearly the whole of the first rank, and were then assailed with the bayonet, and invariably thrown down the hill.
When our line of battle is composed of alternate masses
of battalions, and if the first line is strongly pressed and obliged to retreat, the second line, which always disposed in columns, should advance, and pass the intervals in advancing, and not wait till they are passed by the first lire in retreating.
This is necessary, as well for the order as for the morale
of the troops; and, besides, it has the advantage of permitting our disordered battalions sooner to form again, before the disorder has become too great, and of better checking the advance of the enemy.
If infantry is obliged to act against cavalry alone, it forms in order of battle; but, instead of disposing in line or column, the battalions are disposed in squares.
These can also be formed by an entire brigade.
The batteries are generally disposed on the corners of the squares, being their weakest points.
When cavalry is the fighting troop, we may arrange it in various ways.
It can never act defensively; and even if inferior, and attacked, it must defend itself by attacking.
Being easily brought into disorder, it must be arranged in deep order of battle ; when several regiments are united, and have to form in line of battle, the first line may be arranged by squadrons deployed in line, as the ravages of artillery are less; the intervals between two regiments are equal to the front of one squadron.
In the intervals, but four or five hundred yards behind, is arranged the second line, either in close column or in columns of squadrons by platoons.
Fig. 11, Plate III.
Besides this second line, the reserve is kept in readiness a few hundred yards behind it. There exist many other battle arrangements for cavalry; there are
now, however, few civilized countries in which large masses of cavalry can act.
In all cavalry engagements, the party who keeps the best order during the charge will, everything else being equal, be successful; after a charge, the victorious cavalry is in just as much confusion as the defeated; and if, at this moment, it is charged itself, defeat will be sure to follow; besides, charges on the flank of charging cavalry are nearly always attended with success; from this it results that, in cavalry engagements, a rapid coup d'oeil
, by the commanding officer
, is of the greatest importance — sparing his forces, so as to have the last reserve to give out, and always engaging at the right moment his different squadrons, will assuredly give him the advantage over even a stronger enemy.
In acting against infantry formed in squares, it would seem that quickly succeeding charges, but executed each time only with a limited number of men, are more advantageous than those executed by too large a mass.
The squadrons are then generally disposed in open column or in echelons.
Fig. 12, Plate III.
The first squadron arriving near the infantry deprives it of its fire for the succeeding squadrons; and it is difficult, with the bayonet alone, to prevent cavalry breaking the ranks of infantry.
However, it must be stated that cavalry should generally only charge infantry in disorder or while marching, as in acting against infantry which is not
so, and which has time to form in squares, its loss is heavy and unnecessary.
Artillery never acts alone; it is always accompanied by one of the two other arms.
Smooth-bored guns open fire at about 1600 to 1100 yards; at these distances shots are fired: from 1100 to 1400 yards, and, if the ground permits it, they are fired by ricochet, or rolled; from 600 to 1200 yards, spherical case or shrapnels; and under 600 yards, canister is fired.
Against deployed lines, shrapnel and canister, and against columns, shrapnel and shot are the most advantageous.
Rifled guns commence firing sooner; the projectiles used are shells, shrapnels, and canister, the last only at short distances.
When acting against artillery of the enemy, our batteries should be disposed so as to take his batteries en echarpe
, or to place them in a concentric fire.
In forming large batteries of 40, 50, or even 100 guns, they can be disposed in one continued battery, or in small ones having sufficient intervals to permit the passage of the advancing battalions; both methods may be employed according to circumstances.
In artillery engagements more than in any others, it is of the utmost importance not to disperse our spare or reserve batteries, but always to concentrate an overwhelming fire on one point.
The three arms Combined.
In fight two kinds of arms are used, fire-arms and steel, (L'arme blanche
.) One represents the distant fight, and the other that at close quarters.
In consequence of the action of those two kinds of arms we distinguish four different periods; of these each fight is composed.
Advance and preparation.
Retreat or pursuit.
The two first periods belong to the fire-arms, the two last to the steel.
Infantry is provided with arms for both fights.
Artillery is used only for distant fight, cavalry for that at close quarters.
Infantry acts in all of the four periods; artillery, principally in the two first; and cavalry, in the two last.
Artillery prepares, cavalry completes, the work of infantry.
Infantry forms the really acting body of our whole line of battle; artillery assists it in the beginning, cavalry at the end, of its action.
Although the armament indicates so clearly the use of the three arms, we see, nearly every day, the greatest mistakes made in their employment.
In these cases it is generally cavalry that is the sufferer; but infantry likewise is sometimes the victim, if the artillery has not been made a right use of in the beginning of the action.
To show well the succeeding and simultaneous action of the three arms, let us suppose A B the enemy's line of battle, Plate IV., and our army consisting of five brigades, two of which we have in reserve and three in line of battle, as shown in the normal battle arrangements.
Each fight, when not intended to surprise the enemy, has an introduction.
In placing our army in the position M N, we cannot march at once to M “ N” ; we do not know exactly the enemy's position, neither do we know the strength of his forces; we must first see if it be prudent to engage in a fight, and if we may be aggressive, or if, by the superiority of the enemy, we would become defensive.
From the columns of march we must arrange our army in line of battle; we must reconnoiter the ground, and find out the best points of attack; all this takes a certain time, and is therefore called the Introduction.
Our army arrived at long cannon ranges, we put some of our batteries in position, and open a slow and measured fire ; we send our skirmishers in advance to scour and clear the ground we wish to occupy; we send also some detachments of cavalry as far as the enemy's first line of battle, to reconnoiter his position and strength.
The enemy will probably answer our first proceedings in a similar way; in the mean time our army draws near, and arrives at really effective cannon ranges, and the first period gradually passes to the second.
Advance and Preparation
In consequence of the counter disposition of the enemy, as well as the information received from our reconnoitering parties, we have been able to form an idea of his arrangements
and his strength; we have seen and reflected; we must now begin to act.
We have chosen our points of attack; and it is there we must proceed against the enemy, and drive him from his position.
The advance of our troops, however, must be prepared; our batteries must be put in position, with orders to keep up a continuous fire; our skirmishers must advance by degrees, and we must drive the enemy from any post he has taken in advance of his whole line of battle.
Artillery plays the principal role in this period of the fight.
The few batteries we have already placed in line should multiply themselves by their great energy and by their quick and rapid manoeuvres.
They should act by whole batteries, and not by sections.
Their duty is to find out the points where they can do the enemy the greatest damage, drawing near his battalions, delivering a short and well-directed fire, changing their position to act against another battalion, appearing where the enemy least expects them, where his battalions, behind cover, thought themselves well screened, disappearing before the enemy can make any attempt to drive them away, reappearing to spread disorder and loss in another direction, directing an overwhelming fire of shells and shrapnels against the astonished enemy, and spreading fear and terror through his whole line of battle,--this is the way artillery should act. Only light rifled guns, as now employed in Europe
, can accomplish such work.
In this period, artillery has principally to fire against
the enemy's cavalry and infantry; if, however, two of our batteries can unite their efforts, they may by their superiority silence one of the enemy's batteries.
To do this, they should advance in echelons by sections; some of the guns should fire shrapnels, to prevent a quick serving of the enemy's battery, and the others should try to dismount some of his guns by continually directing their united efforts on one gun; if they succeed in dismounting this, they should then proceed to another.
They should, in this operation, take such positions that their fire is concentric; at the same time that one battery fires at the enemy in front the other should rake him.
While this action of artillery is taking place, we should make our arrangements for the principal attack; the enemy, on account of our decided action, has put more forces in position, and we have had ample time to choose the point where we intend to break his line.
The armies having gradually drawn nearer, in some parts our first line is already engaged in a distant fight with the enemy's, and everything predicts the quick approach of the third period.
But we must render our success certain.
C D, in the figure, is the point where we must gain our first partial victory.
Opposite C D we place our artillery of reserve, forming one large battery of 60 to 70 guns, arranged in batteries, with small intervals, and concentrating their fire on C D. In this part we dissolve entire battalions into skirmisher lines, to clear and prepare the advance for our batteries and battalions; we bring our reserve nearer; we arrange our infantry in columns of attack; we place our cavalry in
readiness on the flanks and in the rear of our great mass, and then we order the advance.
Our skirmishers repulse quickly those of the enemy by their great superiority in number.
Our reserve batteries open fire, advancing in echelons by batteries.
They silence first those of the enemy; this accomplished, they concentrate their fire on his battalions.
Our infantry follows the movements of the artillery, and advances; arrived at canister ranges, the artillery delivers its last rounds, and our battalions pass the open space and fall on the weakened enemy.
The artillery should continue its fire till that of each gun is masked by the advancing columns; then, if our batteries are composed of rifled guns, they should at once commence to damage the enemy's reserve by firing shells over our own troops in the direction in which this reserve is probably placed.
This is certainly the most critical moment of the battle.
Our columns, in approaching the enemy's battalions, may deploy in line, and, by a very vigorous fire, drive them from their position, or they may continue their march in column, and attack theme with the bayonet.
The last is preferable, as the column, being once stopped and deployed, cannot be easily formed again; besides, the men, once in motion, and excited by the whole scene around them, are much more fit for dealing blows than for cool shooting; and finally, besides all this, the enemy might just choose
the moment we are deploying to fall himself on us. If our advance is well prepared, if our skirmishers, placed in the intervals of the advancing columns, keep up to the last moment a well-sustained fire, if our troops advance firmly toward the enemy, if the head of the columns, arrived at ten or twelve yards from his line, delivers its fire and then falls on the enemy with a shout, there are no soldiers in the whole world that could resist such an attack.
Wherever they have resisted, the two first periods have been badly conducted.
Real bayonet encounters in open field seldom or never take place, as one of the two parties generally turns back and retreats.
But the difficulty is much less to take than to keep the enemy's position.
Our columns, in falling on the enemy, become disbanded and disordered; at this moment the enemy advances with his second line sustained by his reserves.
In advancing in the enemy's position, we expose our flanks, and we are deprived of our artillery and cavalry; the enemy, on the other hand, has assembled those three arms for our reception; his artillery plays on us, raking us; its action is followed by charges of cavalry on our flank, and at the same time we are attacked in front by fresh regiments just arrived.
Thousands of examples show that, if our already victorious first line is well received, it must yield.
The Crimean war and the last Italian
war offer many such examples.
Our first line is driven back and retreats behind our second, which advances to sustain it; our cavalry charges the advancing cavalry of the enemy or his pursuing regiments; such of our guns as can be brought to bear reopen their
Our columns reassemble again, and form behind the artillery, which recommences to batter the position of the enemy; fresh troops advance for the struggle, till, finally, we gain the position, and force the enemy to retreat, or till we ourselves are obliged to do so. The one who has most spared his forces, and who has best understood how to make them act at the right moment, will obtain the victory At the battle of Solferino
, the Austrian center was attacked three times, and succumbed only at the third advance; it was deprived, in this critical moment, of its cavalry, which might, if it had been present, have turned the victory of the disbanded French columns into a retreat.
Retreat or Pursuit
If the second period of the distant fight belongs principally to artillery, the second period of the close-quarter fight belongs chiefly to cavalry.
Cavalry should fall on the retreating and shaken battalions of the enemy to disperse and destroy them.
When they are in disorder, the charge should take place at once, so as to leave them no time to form again; where they are still in order, a few guns, with which cavalry should always be provided, should advance to very effective canister ranges, deliver a few well-directed rounds, which should be immediately followed by an impetuous charge.
Cavalry should thus convert into a rout
to which the enemy has been forced by the infantry.
Wherever the enemy wishes to stop to rally his forces, he should be attacked immediately and with great energy; to
accomplish this fully, our cavalry should be always well supported by infantry and artillery.
The final pursuit of an entirely disordered and disbanded enemy generally belongs to cavalry alone.
The defense in those four periods should be similar to the attack, only that it should be more careful of its forces, and not give out its artillery too quickly; its principal moment for action should be from the time the fire of the attacking party has ceased and the enemy's columns are advancing to close.
This is the moment for the defense to bring a part of its reserve artillery in position, to fire canister on the advancing columns; its battalions, reinforced by reserves, deploy in line, and open a well-sustained fire; and finally, if the columns arrive at 15 to 20 yards, those lines deliver their last round, and, falling on the astonished and weakened columns, drive them back; its cavalry, kept in readiness, will charge at the same moment the attacking battalions in flank, and pursue them as far as their own lines.
The cavalry of the defense can charge against the enemy when he traverses the free space ; this is always dangerous; if the attacking battalions are not already weakened, the charge takes place better in the moment following the attack of the two lines, whatever be the result of this attack, because the victorious, as well as the defeated, will be in disorder.
If forced to retreat, the defense should arrange those of the reserves, or those regiments which have suffered the least, in line of battle behind the spot where the main attack took place, to cover the retreat of the defeated troops; it should try to rally those troops, and make the best use of its
artillery, and principally of its cavalry; the loss of a few guns should not be considered, if time is gained to form again the troops and to obtain an advance on the pursuing enemy.
The fight, as described, generally takes place when well-disciplined troops are opposed.
It is not necessary to say that our whole disposition, and the time of the four different periods, should differ according to the importance of the attack or to the character of the enemy.
To deal with Mexican
or Neapolitan soldiers, we need not pay much attention as regards introduction and preparation; the more boldly we act the greater will be the success.
I was told by an eye-witness of the battle of the Volturno, in 1860, that a band of English sailors belonging to a British man-of-war, having leave to go ashore, were present to see the light.
Carried away by the excitement of the whole scene around them, they advanced and found themselves at once in the vicinity of a Neapolitan battery, just commencing its fire.
With one impulse the unarmed English tars rushed to the battery, stormed it, and drove away the cannoneers; at the same moment the battalion for the cover of the battery advanced to attack them with the bayonet, but the battalion shared the same fate as the cannoneers — they were literally boxed out of the battery, which then turned its fire on its proper owners.
Any ammunition spent against such soldiers would evidently be a loss; the bayonet and sword are quite sufficient to settle every difficulty.
Besides the character, the strength of the enemy opposed to us, as well as the importance of the point of attack, will
much change the length of the periods.
Secondary points are attacked with less means, and defended with less.
We have no reserve artillery on these places.
Our batteries of brigade must do their best.
Infantry will act more in distant fight.
Neither of the two parties will risk a decisive blow without being sure of success; the closing takes place after a greater length of time, when one of the parties has gained, in the second period, an ascendant over the other.
If we are very superior to the enemy, our action should be short and decisive.
We should make the distant fight as short but as powerful as possible, and advance with our masses to crush him.
We conclude, from all that has been said--
That we should concentrate our principal forces, and keep them in reserve to strike the decisive blow on the most important point at the right moment.
That on all other parts of the battle-field we should place only the necessary amount of forces to keep back the enemy for the length of time required.
That we should act with superior forces on a restricted part of the battle-field.
That we should make a right use of the three arms in the four different periods.
That great artillery attacks, executed with a number of batteries, should first silence the fire of the enemy's artillery before commencing to batter his troops.
That the fire of artillery at short ranges should continue till the weakened state of the enemy becomes manifest.
That strong and reinforced skirmisher lines should
be employed only to precede a decisive attack, or to resist such an attack of the enemy.
That our advance, to close with the enemy, should take place in columns, proceeding at the quickest pace, but only after the enemy is already in such a state that the losses he can prepare for our columns will not give him the superiority in the moment of the shock.
That in the defense, after having kept up a destructive fire, we should, in the last moment, pass to the offensive, and attack the enemy ourselves.
That cavalry should act only against infantry which is unable at the moment to make a regular use of its firearms — meaning that cavalry should avoid all engagements where it is exposed to a well-ordered distant fight.
Finally, that in every fight we Should consider the object we wish to attain, our means and those of the enemy, and, principally, the character of the troops opposed to us.
It is necessary to say a few words on turning an enemy's army or his flank on the field of battle, and also on the attack of intrenched camps.
At all times, and with many generals, the idea of turning an enemy was a favorite one; and history offers just as many examples where these attacks have been successful as where they have not been so.
As a general rule, it may be observed--
That turning manceuvres should only be executed when we have a decided superiority over the enemy.
That no large circuitous movements should be made, for, while they are being executed, the main army might be
defeated — in other words, our army and the turning corps must remain connected.
When opposed to a distinguished general, the turning of his flank is always dangerous, as in the operation we offer our own flanks to his attack.
An attack in front of a wing in which it is at the same time outflanked, and obliged to form a crotchet, is, at all events, a safer mode than the turning by a separate corps.
The battles of the Alma
may serve as examples.
To show the danger of surrounding, we have but to remember the results of the battles of Austerlitz
, gained by Napoleon
; that of Stockach
, by the Archduke Charles
; and that of Salamanca
, gained by Wellington
The plan of the battle of Austerlitz
shows the manoeuvre of the allies.
With their right wing they intended to attack Napoleon
in front; with their left, amounting to 50,000 men, they intended to turn him. Napoleon
seized the moment when their left wing had advanced to the attack to fall with his main force in the free space left between the right and left wings, which were defeated separately.
At the battle of Rivoli
, the Austrian general, Alvinzi, had formed four columns, which were to surround and attack on all sides the small army of Napoleon
disposed on the plateau of Rivoli
left two of those columns no time to form; he defeated them before they could deploy in order of battle; the main column of Alvinzi was defeated in its turn by Napoleon
's entire force; and the fourth column, which had arrived in his rear, was arrested for some
time by a few battalions, and, after the defeat of the main body, obliged to surrender.
, commanding the French
army, imitated Alvinzi at Rivoli
, and attacked the Archduke Charles
in a similar way; Jordan
was entirely defeated.
In the attack of intrenched camps, or of field-works in general, we cannot proceed as we do against an army in open field; the enemy is more protected from our fire by the epaulement; and our advance, or rather our closing with him, is rendered difficult by the ditch; besides, in the advance, we are too much exposed to his fire, without being able to return it. On the other hand, the defender of an intrenched camp or redoubt cannot deploy great forces, and cannot himself pass to the offensive at the right moment.
These different circumstances should tell us how to conduct the attack.
A converging and overwhelming fire of shells should be directed on one point — if possible, against a corner of the intrenchment — to dismount the artillery of defense, to bring the troops in disorder, and to hinder the disposal of a strong reserve.
Heavy masses of skirmishers should advance also in a converging manner against that same point; and small columns of assault should be kept in readiness, but sheltered as much as possible up to the last moment.
If the ditch is deep — a serious obstacle to the passage of the troops — every skirmisher, before commencing to fight, should be provided with a fagot, to roll before him, and to serve him, at the same time, as cover.
Arrived at the ditch, this should be filled up with those fagots, and the columns which are kept ready should pass immediately to the assault.
If the epaulement is steep, the
storming column should be provided with ladders.
If the redoubts are open behind, cavalry should charge and enter them by the gorge, while the infantry attacks in front, and by this facilitate the action of the storming columns.
In general, it may be said that troops and their commanders who seek safety in intrenched positions, instead of giving open battle, are already half defeated, as they evidently give up all idea of offensive movements, and must quietly await the counter dispositions of the attacking and stronger enemy.
Example: battle of Waterloo.
few battles have been more often described than the battle of Waterloo
; but, having been fought by three different armies, the accounts concerning it are somewhat partial, agreeing with the prejudices of the Englishman, Frenchman, or Prussian who describes it. However, the French
and Prussian accounts are more in accordance with each other than either of the two with the English
The following description is taken from French and Prussian authentic reports.
, after his return from the Isle of Elba
, hoped to open successfully the campaign against the allies by falling on Blucher
, who, with their armies, amounting to 220,000 men, had taken up their quarters in Belgium
It was Napoleon
's intention to act speedily, and thereby surprise and defeat them separately.
With astonishing rapidity he concentrated his forces near Charleroi
, and, on the 16th of June, found himself and army in the quarters of Blucher
, who, however, had managed to assemble the greater part of his forces, about 80,000 men, near Fleurus
— leaving, in this position, his base of operation on the Rhine
, to form a junction with Wellington
, who was assembling his troops, that very day, near Quatre-Bras, distant about seven miles from Fleurus
had sent Marshal Ney
, with about 40,000 combatants, to attack the forces already at Quatre-Bras, while
he himself, with the main body, 65,000 men, attacked the army of Blucher
, having advanced very late, found the forces at Quatre-Bras too strong, and was obliged to retreat.
In the mean time, Napoleon
had defeated the Prussians, and forced them to leave the battle-field.
Double mistakes were made this day. Ney
, at Quatre-Bras, was already in the rear of Blucher
ordered him to leave this position, and to advance to Bry
, in order to cut the Prussians from their lines of communication; this order was not received by Ney
, but by the general commanding the greater part of his troops, and on his way to support him at Quatre-Bras; he took, in consequence of the new order, the road to Bry
, but lost his way, and was called back again by Ney
Those divisions, composing the 6th army corps, had passed the whole day in marching, and were therefore of no use either in the battle of Ligny
or in that of Quatre-Bras.
, thinking the Prussians had retreated to Namur
, left Grouchy
, with 35,000 men, to pursue them, while he advanced to Quatre-Bras, where he joined Ney
, and where he anticipated finding Wellington
had, however, already retreated to Mont St. Jean
, and taken a position there, where he was followed by Napoleon
, on the 17th of June.
It was too late, on this day, to make an attack, the army being very much exhausted; it was, therefore, postponed to the next day, the 18th.
In the mean while, Blucher
retreated in the direction of Wavre
, where he arrived on the 17th; the corps of Bulow
amounting to 30,000 men, was already there.
This corps had taken no part in the battle of Ligny
; and, besides, from the 80,000 men present at the battle of the 16th, Blucher
could assemble on the 17th about 40,000 or 45,000.
had pursued the Prussian army on the 17th, but only as far as Gembloux
, where a Prussian rear guard induced him to believe that the whole army was still there.
is about five or six miles from Mont St. Jean
concerted the measures to be taken for the 18th: Wellington
was to keep his position to the last, and Blucher
was to arrive and join him in the course of the battle.
Before proceeding further, we must say a few words concerning the strength of the armies, and the configuration of the ground on which the battle took place.
Strength of the armies.
Army of Wellington
From these troops, Wellington
detached about 19,000 men to Halle
, to cover his right flank on the road from Halle
Some smaller detachments, besides the
Movements of the 3 armies preceding the battle of Waterloo.|
loss sustained at Quatre-Bras, reduced the army present at the battle to about 70,000 men.
Army of Napoleon
| ||Battal's.||Squad's.||Guns.||Men. |
| ||1st. Count Erlon||32||21||46||20,564 |
| ||2d. Count Reille ||40 ||15 ||46 ||23,926 |
| ||6th. Count Lobau ||18 || ||32 ||10,932|
|Cavalry || ||87 ||48 ||10,000|
Of these 83,822 men, only about 68,000 to 70,000 were present at the battle of Waterloo
; the remainder represents the loss in the battles of Ligny
and Quatre-Bras, besides the division of Girard
, which was with the army of Marshal Grouchy
Several battalions, which had experienced heavy losses on the 16th, were consolidated; the number of battalions present was, therefore, only 97.
The Prussian army, under the command of Marshal Bliicher
, assembled at Wavre
on consisting of--
Four Army Corps:--
Of these four army corps, that of Bulow
was the only one
that took no part in the battle of Ligny
on the 16th; the other corps had experienced heavy losses, and the amount of forces disposable was 70,000 to 80,000 men. They were pursued by Marshal Grouchy
, with the 3d and 4th French
army corps, numbering about 35,000 men.
The battle-field chosen by the Duke
lies in advance of Mont St. Jean
The main road from Charleroi
passes through its center; it forms a kind of upland, gradually sloping on each side of the main road, across which, beyond.
Mont St. Jean
, lies a chain of hills.
It was on the top of these hills that the English
army was placed; the second line was partly behind them, and sheltered from the French artillery.
Belle Alliance and Mont St. Jean
are separated by a valley covered by fields.
In advance of the English
right wing is the Castle of Hougomont
, surrounded by a ditch, a large park, and a small wood; the castle was prepared for defense.
In the center, near the road, stood a farm, called La Haye Sainte
, and likewise prepared for defense.
On the left wing were three other farms — Haye, Papelotte, and Smouhen.
The village of Planchenois is about half a mile distant from the main road.
During the whole night of the 17th it rained in torrents, leaving the fields in a very swampy condition for the morning of the 18th.
Arrangements for Battle
's army occupied the heights near Mont St. Jean; two-thirds of his forces composed his right, and one-third his left wing; he hoped that this last one would be soon reinforced by the Prussians.
His troops were arranged in lines of two ranks; their principal tactic was the defense, and to act with powerful fire.
This is the system the English
principally employed in Spain
, and which they followed also at Waterloo
Little mobility could be found in their infantry; but their cavalry was very enterprising.
The half of Wellington
's army was composed of soldiers who had seen service in the preceding campaigns.
acted principally in columns; they were arranged as shown in the plan.
The object of Napoleon
, in this battle, was to destroy the English
army; this could only be accomplished by separating it entirely from the Prussian army, and by cutting off its line of retreat to Brussels
There were two ways leading to this result — a main attack on the left wing, or one on the center, of the English
position, to gain the road to the Forest
planned two attacks--one, a feint attack on the right wing of the English
, which was to induce them to reinforce it; and a main attack on the left wing.
The division of Jerome, conducted by Guilleminot
, attacks, at nearly twelve o'clock, the wood of Hougomont, and takes possession, after a severe struggle.
A brigade of English Guards, conducted by Cook
, comes to the rescue of the battalions
who defend it, and drive back the French
; the troops of Brunswick
replace this brigade in their position.
The division of Foy
backs the troops of Guilleminot
, who is dangerously wounded in the shoulder; he, nevertheless, leads on his troops to the fight, and the park is taken; the wood is disputed, and at last remains in possession of the French
The division of Bachelu advances between the wood and the main road leading to Charleroi
, but is stopped by the Hanoverians and the English brigade of Hackett
In the mean time, Ney
has arranged the right wing of the French
; eighty guns are in position to batter the left wing of the English
; four columns are formed for the attack--one on the left of the farm of La Haye Sainte
; one on the center of the left wing, between Papelotte and the main road; the third column is kept as reserve for the two first; and the fourth advances against Papelotte.
All these columns have for reserve the cavalry of General Guyot
During this time, Napoleon
has kept back his 6th army corps, his corps of Guards, and his cavalry of reserve, to bring them into action at the decisive moment.
The first column advances against La Haye Sainte
, and takes it. The second column advances through a heavy fire of artillery from the English
position, traverses the space between the two armies, and ascends the hill, where the 95th Regiment is placed.
Here the French
column is received by a heavy fire from this regiment and the German legion; it turns to the right, and closes with the division of Perponcher.1
The English line is broken, and the column advances.
The 32d English Regiment meets it, and is furiously attacked; it begins to give way, when the French
column is taken in flank by the 42d and 92d Regiments.
The division of Perponcher rallies, in the mean time.
, attacked on all sides, keep their ground, till they are charged by the second brigade of English cavalry; this cavalry fell afterward on the French
reserves and on three batteries, which were just passing through the valley between the two armies to approach more nearly the English
line; the horses and men were killed.
, seeing this, ordered the cavalry of Milhaud to advance against the English
, which, attacked by the Cuirassiers of Milhaud and the French Lancers
at the same time, was nearly destroyed.
The second and third columns, after having been repulsed, reassembled in the valley.
The French cavalry, after its success against the English
cavalry, advanced against La Haye Sainte
, to the spot where the action of the first column took place, which had in the mean time been driven back, and pursued by a battalion of Hanoverians; this was
charged by the French Cuirassiers
, and entirely dispersed.
The French cavalry then advanced against the English
line, but was charged by the cavalry of Somerset
; this was in its turn driven back by that of General d'homond coming to the assistance of the Cuirassiers of Milhaud.
The French column, being rid of the pursuing Hanoverians
, forms again and advances; other Hanoverian battalions advance to the encounter of this French division; they are charged, on their way, by Milhaud
's cavalry: two battalions are cut to pieces.
Milhaud's men are again forced to retreat by those of Somerset
In the mean time, about one o'clock, Napoleon
receives the news of the arrival of Prussian troops near Frischermont, and dispatches General d'homond, with 3000 horse, to his right wing, where they form a crotchet.
Those 3000 horse had supported Marshal Ney
in his attack.
On the English
right wing nothing of importance had been done; the wood was in the possession of the French
, the castle and garden in that of the English
had raised batteries against the castle, which began to burn.
, after the repulse of his first attack — which, however, was too isolated, and not properly supported by reserves — had reopened the fire of his batteries, and was again forming his troops.
Preceded by multitudes of skirmishers, the French
columns advance to the right and left of the main road; La Haye Sainte
, Papelotte, and Smouhen are carried by the French
has just disposed the 6th army corps, under General Mouton
, to sustain his troops, and finally to break the English
line, when he receives the news of the
attack by the Prussians, and that d'homond's corps is not sufficient to keep them back.
is obliged to send his 6th army corps in this direction, and arrest the advance of the Prussians.
It was about four o'clock when this occurred; the battle had raged five hours. The position of the three armies was as follows:--
Up to this hour, Napoleon
had only engaged his 1st and 2d army corps; the 6th corps, besides the Guard, had not yet moved, and the greater part of his cavalry had been likewise kept in reserve.
, on the other hand, had engaged nearly all their troops; and nearly all their reserves were used up in the action with the two first army corps.
At four o'clock, though nothing is decided, the advance of the 6th corps, supported by the Guards, would have undoubtedly settled the question.
In many parts, the second English line had already entered the first; the loss in killed, wounded, and deserters was exceedingly heavy, and all those remaining had to do their utmost to prevent the 1st and 2d French corps breaking their lines.
Since two o'clock Ney
had been deprived of his 3000 horse commanded by General d'homond; and, just at the moment he should have been assisted by the 6th corps, this was sent to drive back the Prussians.
At four o'clock, the Prussians, with 20,000 men, commence their attack.
They are first repulsed by the 6th army corps and the cavalry of General d'homond; but, being continually reinforced by fresh troops, they oblige General Mouton
to retreat, and enter
Planchenois at about five o'clock; they are, therefore, in the rear of a part of the French
In the mean time, Ney
had redoubled his efforts; Haye Sainte
, Papelotte, and Haye are in his undisputed possession.
At Papelotte the fight is recommenced in favor of the English
by the arrival of Prussian troops.
To aid his further attacks, Ney
orders the advance of the cavalry of General Guyot
Those Cuirassiers and Lancers take the English
batteries, and force the cannoneers to retreat.
The English infantry forms squares; the French
cavalry is forced to retreat to its own lines; Napoleon
sends to its assistance the cavalry of Kellermann
, and at the same time he is obliged to send a division of the Guards to sustain General Mouton
are driven from Planchenois, but, reinforced again, they return to the charge; Napoleon
sends another part of the Guards in this direction.
The Cuirassiers of Kellermann
, in the mean time, attack the enemy's line; his cannoneers retreat; some battalions are cut down; the English
infantry forms in squares; the French artillery, which had the greatest difficulty in advancing, is now near enough to commence a destructive fire against the English
line; but again, at the decisive moment, Napoleon
is obliged to send in another direction the troops which should have supported those different attacks and dealt the final blow.
has assembled near his center whatever men he could spare from his right and left wings.
His loss, at this moment, amounted to 18,000 men killed and disabled;
nearly half this number had deserted, or were employed ,carrying away the wounded.
attacked the English
line so vigorously with his exhausted troops that it was much shaken; the whole of the second line was put in the first, and two fresh divisions, Chasse
and division Belge
, came forward to support the center.
It was six o'clock; the army corps of Pirsch I. had entered the battle-field, and repulsed the French
right wing near Papelotte.
's army corps had arrived on the left of Planchenois, and, with Bulow
, attacked this village.
, unaware of these facts, wished to strike the last blow.
With one division of the Old Guard, all that was left for reserve, he arranged the attack on the left side of the main road; Ney
were to assemble whatever men they could, and advance simultaneously with him.
It is seven o'clock, and this last attack on the English
line is made.
, seeing their advance, arranges several battalions from the right wing in second line, and keeps the division Chasse
The 4th and 6th brigades of cavalry were brought from the left wing.
The whole French line was in movement.
The Guard's advance was supported by four batteries.
The English batteries fired only at the advancing battalions.
battalions, which first presented themselves to the French Guard
, were repulsed.
ordered the advance of the six battalions he
had kept in reserve; they received the Guard with a murderous fire.
A. moment the column stopped, and only a moment; it advanced again; the first English line was broken, and a battery carried.
The Guard deployed at a short distance from the second English line; it was assailed by a horrible fire, which it returned at only a few yards' distance.
At this moment, the Prussian reserve artillery, conducted by Pirsch I., opened its fire on the right flank of the advancing column; this, together with the obstinate resistance of the English
in the center, and the want of fresh troops on the French
side to sustain the attack, caused the Guard to retreat.
Its loss was heavy.
This was the moment for the English
line to advance.
, on the other hand, pressed forward from the wing.
The retreating French battalions soon found themselves turned and surrounded; they disbanded on all sides; their efforts in the attack had occasioned this disorder, and no reserve was present to stop the enemy's advance, and to give them time to rally.
Planchenois was taken by the Prussians, who now occupied the French
line of retreat.
The retreat becomes at every moment more disorderly; the cavalry of the allies charges whatever presents itself, and very soon all order and discipline cease — cavalry, artillery, infantry, all pell mell, try to get beyond the reach of the pursuers.
Only two or three batteries were saved.
's cavalry pursued the enemy during the whole night as far as Charleroi
In this memorable battle, the English
had to contend
with 55 of the French
battalions, and the Prussians with 42; these last, however, were Napoleon
's best troops, consisting of nearly all the Guard and of the 6th corps, which had not been present, and consequently had not experienced any loss, at the battles of Ligny
The loss of the English
amounted to 21,000 men; that of the Prussians, to 7000.
The French estimate their total loss, at Ligny
, Quatre-Bras, and Waterloo
, at from 25,000 to 30,000 men. The result of this battle would evidently have been very different, if the English
, instead of being attacked by 40,000 French only, had been attacked also by the remaining 30,000 men, who did not fire a single round against them.
Plan of the battle of Waterloo.|