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Grand Tactics.

we have given, in the preceding chapter, the view of a war in its whole ensemble, and we have shown the principles which should guide us in the direction to give our armies.

All our movements and manoeuvres, as given in the example, have brought us in the presence of the enemy; and the main object of those movements was, to bring, in the collision, the odds on our side.

It is evidently not enough to have the odds for us; our skill in tactics must be equal to that in strategy.

Our most skillful strategical combinations might prove of very little use, if our enemy, by a very superior tactical arrangement, would wrench the victory, which we have already half won, from our hands.

We must therefore study more closely the arrangement of our troops in fight and battle, see how we may consider an army and a battle; and let us then draw from the definition, as a sort of consequence, the way we should use the one in order to gain the other.

An army represents an accumulation of forces, to be used in destroying the obstacles which another party puts in our way to prevent us attaining our object. [56]

The greater the force, in comparison to the obstacle, the easier this is destroyed.

Marches and manoeuvres are the preparations; battle is the act of destruction.

If the preparations have exhausted our forces, we have none left for the destruction, and our own loss might be the consequence.

If the obstacle in our way is too heavy to be removed in one action, we must divide it, and destroy or remove each part of it separately; therefore, with superior forces we should act against each part of the enemy's army, and destroy one after the other. But as the entire obstacle is endowed with life, acts to obtain its own object, and tries its utmost to prevent us attaining ours, it will by every means endeavor to hinder the destruction of one of its parts.

The great art of Tactics is, therefore--

1st. To concentrate such forces on one point of our battle line, that we may destroy or completely remove the enemy's forces opposed to us on that point, before they can be properly reinforced.

2d. To choose such a point for our first action, that the consequence of its success is the destruction or removal of the other parts of the enemy's army.

3d. While we are gaining our first partial victory, to prevent the enemy attaining his own object or reinforcing the part we are beating.

Reflections on these three principal rules will bring us to the following conclusions :--

1st. That we should place, in our tactical arrangements, just as much weight on the employment of our time as we do on our space. [57]

2d. That the force at our disposal must be divided into parts connected by one organization and acting like one machine, so that we can give each of those parts one of the separate tasks to fulfill, which arise by the arrangement of our time and space on the battle-field.

We have, therefore, first to look to the organization of our armies and the elements composing them, before we can proceed to show their use.



Elements composing them, and their organization.

armies are composed of troops, and troops are composed of armed men,

By the nature of the armament we distinguish Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery.

Each of those armed men represents, by his own individual strength as well as by the nature of his arm, a force capable of doing a certain amount of work. The amount of work differs for each of the three arms; their examination will, therefore, be our first object.


Infantry forms to-day the mass of our armies; it is composed of men whose principal arm is a gun, on which a bayonet is fixed. The character of the arm shows the nature of the work infantry can produce.

The gun itself is a fire-arm, and its effect can be felt even at a great distance. The force that produces the work is the powder. The right application of the work depends on the skill of the man; therefore, in the management of the fire-arm, skill is more required than strength.

The bayonet, on the other hand, is an arm which can [59] only be used at close quarters, and in the man-against-man fight. For the management of this arm strength and individual courage are the principal qualities.

By the above definitions, we conclude that the men most distinguished for their skill in fire-arms should be particularly employed for distant fight. Men, on the other hand, distinguished for their great strength and courage, ought to be employed in the man-against-man struggle, and their arm should be the bayonet; this, therefore, conducts us to the adoption of different classes of infantry.

The best marksmen should be taken from the army to form special corps, called sharpshooters, rifles, skirmishers, (Chasseurs, Jager.) Their principal, object is distant fight; they have to prepare the action for the mass of our infantry. The strongest men, and those most remarkable for great bravery and courage, and who have seen the longest service, should form what is called a corps of reserve. They should be employed only in the last and most decisive moments, and their great object is to act en masse in the struggle at close quarters, and by their strength, bravery, and coolness decide the victory in our favor. The rest of the infantry would be called simply infantry of the line; its object is to form the real line of battle, and to be employed under all circumstances either for skirmishing or for fighting with the bayonet. Here the question arises, if we should arm these three classes of infantry differently, their action, and principally the time of it, being different.

I believe that one and the same caliber and one and the same ammunition should be adopted for all the armies of [60] one and the same country; but I think a difference should be made in the construction of the gun.

All the guns should be rifled, and used with the same ammunition. The sharpshooter's gun should be provided with finer sights; it should be somewhat shorter than that of the infantry, to permit of an easier management.

The sharpshooters, once in the engagement, can fire whenever they please, or whenever they have a chance. Each man has time to charge and use his gun with coolness and reflection; therefore to sharpshooters quick-loading guns should not be given; it would induce the men to spend their whole ammunition before they had even arrived to effective ranges.

On the other hand, the reserve and all those troops whose principal task is to fight at close quarters, who act in most parts en masse, fire only by order, and, what is still more important, fire nearly always only at the most decisive moment and at short distances, should be provided with guns permitting a quickly-succeeding and unremitting fire.

Infantry acting en masse or individually is. enabled to fight nearly on every ground, and to surmount, in its advance or retreat, any difficulty which roads or configuration of the country would oppose to it. Infantry can easily make use of cover, and can pass over from eighty to a hundred yards in one minute for great distances; and for small distances, its speed for a time may be even more than doubled. These different qualities have made infantry the principal arm in all well-organized armies.



We have seen that Infantry is able to fight at a distance as well as at close quarters; we may say that Cavalry and Artillery form the two extremes of Infantry, and possess each one quality of the Infantry, but in a higher degree. Cavalry is only fit for fighting in close battle; when exposed to distant fight, its loss is certain. Artillery, on the other hand, is only fit for distant fight, and close quarters is its death.

The arms of the horse soldier are his sword and horse; fire-arms are also used, but they are more to inspire confidence or to give signals, than of real use on the battle-field.

Cavalry, therefore, acts only by the muscular strength of the parts composing it; being formed of two parts, each endowed with force, the man and the horse, we can use either the strength of the man or that of the horse, or both combined. In other words, cavalry may be used only for the speed of the horse, as in ordnance service, or in fight where speed and shock of the horse; the bravery and strength of the man, find their consecutive employment. This would lead us to the adoption of different kinds of cavalry. Light cavalry, with the duties of outposts, pickets, foraging parties, for expeditions in the enemy's flank and rear, and for reconnoitering parties, etc.,--here speed is the principal requisition; daring and the capacity for fighting should evidently be found also, but we do not require strength and power in such a degree as we do for heavy and medium cavalry. This should act by its force and shock; speed is needed only for short times. [62]

The perfection of fire-arms has made cavalry, and principally heavy cavalry, lose much of its importance; and it is probable that one good medium, or even only light cavalry, will, in a short time, be exclusively used. Cavalry, although quicker than infantry, cannot be used on all ground. Its speed can, for a time, be double that of infantry.

Cavalry amounts, in most of the European armies, to one-sixth or one-fifth of the infantry; but it is probable that the next wars will reduce this number.


In Infantry and Cavalry individuals form the composing elements; in Artillery it is the arm.

The arm of Field Artillery is a gun reposing on a carriage drawn by four to eight horses, and served by ten to twenty men; it fires shots from 6 to 12 pounds, and shells up to 24 pounds. The object of artillery is distant fight; therefore, a powerful and precise fire is of the first importance. The fire is directed against movable objects; besides, its effects increase or decrease according to the distance; therefore the guns should possess facility of movement in an equally high degree.

The last two years have, by the introduction of rifled guns, worked such changes in the construction as well as the employment of this arm, that I will perhaps be allowed to say a few more words concerning it, than I did of the other two arms — so much more, as all the advantages which may be derived from a right choice of rifled guns are generally [63] not yet fully understood. In passing in review the whole history of gunnery, we find, from the day of the invention of cannon, the manifest desire to have powerful guns and to have manageable ones. To the heaviest 24 and 32 pounders on the most awkward carriages, used together with 2 and 3 pounders dragged by the men, we see succeed lighter 24-pounders on more manageable carriages, used together with horse artillery and light 6-pounders. With the mobility of armies we see increase the mobility of guns in general. 24-pounders are replaced by 12 and 18 pounders; horse artillery, light 6 and 4 pounders, were made still lighter than before. Carriages, caissons,, and the whole organization of artillery were arranged to permit of all calibers having a greater facility of manoeuvre. This was the state in which we find artillery only some few years ago. Powerful artillery was represented by 12-pounders, heavy and long guns, and by 24 and 32 pounder howitzers. Manageable artillery found its representatives in the light 6-pounder gun and 12-pounder howitzer of horse and foot artillery. In comparing the different times, we see that, with the improvement of the materiel and the many succeeding inventions, the calibers of the light and heavy artillery approach nearer each other; however, up to two or three years ago, most countries had still four or five different calibers, and consequently as many different artillery organizations, in their armies. In large armies simplification became a necessity. The first step was taken by the present Emperor of the French, in whose army all guns and howitzers were replaced by one light 12-pounder gun firing shot and shell, and uniting powerful fire to great mobility. In its fire it [64] was inferior to the long and heavy 12-pounder, but superior to it by its mobility; in this last quality it was somewhat inferior to the light 6-pounder, but at the same time surpassing this one by the power of its fire. This gun was constructed on the principle that a heavy projectile fired with a small charge is preferable to a light one fired with a heavy charge. The application of this principle soon conducted to the construction of rifled guns; and with their introduction we may say that artillery has entered an entirely new phase. From a rifled gun an elongated projectile, weighing more than the round bullet of the same diameter, is fired, with the same or even a smaller charge of powder than the last one. The initial velocity of the elongated projectile will be smaller than that of the bullet; but its ranges will be greater at equal elevation, already at short distances, because it more easily overcomes by its greater weight the resistance of the air. The initial velocity of the projectile being small, that of the recoil of the gun will be small too. We therefore conclude that by rifling guns we can fire a heavier projectile from a lighter gun, which means that we can unite in one and the same gun great power of fire with great mobility. The great art of the artilleryman is to choose from the infinity of variations of rifled guns the right one--that is, a gun possessing the highest degree of mobility joined to only the requisite quantity of power of fire. The lightest gun that can be found producing this required amount of power of fire will, therefore, be the best, and the model for field artillery. A 9-pound shell fired with precision up to 3000 yards is as much as we should demand of a field gun. Few countries permit ranges over 2500 [65] or 3000 yards; if above these distances, scarcely anything can be discerned: 2500 to 3000 yards is, therefore, the limit for the ranges; and as regards the weight of the projectile, we can only choose between 12-pound shells and those of less weight; heavier shells would conduct us to too heavy an artillery. The inferior limit of an effective shell is from 9 to 10 pounds; below this weight, the shell would have too small a diameter. The ranges of 12-pound and 9 to 10 pound shells are little different; the question will, therefore, arise, if the greater bursting effect of the 12-pounder will make up for the quarter more weight, or, at equal weight, the quarter-less shells, that we must carry with us in the field, besides the difference in the weight of the guns and the more or less mobility which would be the consequence. I think the question should be answered in the negative, and has been answered so by nearly all European artilleries; the consequence was that, in nearly all European armies, rifled 4-pounders, firing a 9 to 10 pound shell, were introduced, as the only field guns, and we may say that the construction of this gun was the solution of the greatest problem of artillery since the invention of powder. The Armstrong, Whitworth, and many other rifled guns, corresponding in their weight more to the smooth-bored 6-pounders, all those beautiful weapons may be said to be of faulty construction as field guns; they possess an excess of power, but are far from having the mobility of the rifled 4-pounder. This rifled gun is drawn by only four horses, and served by only six men. The Prussian 4-pounder gun is, however, in nearly every respect superior to the French one. Being equally light, its ranges, [66] and principally its precision, are much greater. The introduction of those guns has wonderfully simplified the organization of field artillery : but one caliber throughout the army, but one kind of ammunition, but one organization as mounted artillery, reduction of costs and losses by the employment of less horses and men, multiplied action by its great mobility, and great effect by its powerful and precise fire. Firing but shells, with infinitely more precision up to 3000 yards than the smooth-bored 12-pounders could fire their shots at 1500, it replaces advantageously guns and howitzers. Considering the standard of the science of artillery, we may say that, to-day, any field gun requiring more than four horses, to execute with ease its manoeuvring on any kind of ground, is of faulty construction, and possesses an excess of power to the detriment of mobility. It is very possible that the introduction of these light guns will conduct to an augmentation of the arm in general, and at the same time bring about a reduction of cavalry.

The number of guns now employed is about three for every 1000 soldiers; it will probably come to four or five. With new and inexperienced soldiers, the number of guns should be greater than with old and tried troops. In speaking of the use of the three arms in battle, I will say a few more words concerning the management of this new artillery.


We have seen in the preceding chapters what are the elements composing an army. These elements must be joined with an organization to permit of their simultaneous action. [67] Their simultaneous action is only possible by submitting them to one will; therefore an army is commanded by one person, and must be commanded by one person only, and not by two or more.

The orders of the commander must be executed by the elements composing the army. The commander cannot give orders for each element separately; therefore our elements should be formed into a certain number of bodies, and their commanders only should receive the orders from the commander-in-chief.

The number of those under-commanders one chief can attend to is restricted. Experience proves that the number should not be less than three or four, and not more than eight or ten. An army of 200,000 men, for instance, might, according to this, be divided into eight parts, each part numbering 25,000 men. For these 25,000 men we come to the same conclusion that we did for the whole army; subdivisions must be made, not less than three or four, and not more than eight or ten. These subdivisions must be again divided, and so on till we come to the unit of evolution — that is, one body composed of elements — which is not any more divided in the evolutions, as given in the small tactics of each arm. These divisions have received names, which are: Army corps, a body of 20,000 to 50,000 men, making part of a large army; division, a body from 10,000 to 20,000 men; brigade, from 4000 to 10,000 men; the brigade is composed of regiments, regiments of battalions, battalions of companies, squadrons, and batteries, and these of platoons, sections, etc.

A regiment is composed only of elements of the same [68] arm; it can be of infantry, cavalry, or artillery. A brigade can be composed of infantry or cavalry, it can also be composed of the three arms together. A division is ordinarily composed of two arms, infantry or cavalry joined with artillery, but it can likewise be provided with the three arms. The army corps is always composed of the three arms, and forms in itself a small army.

The battalion of infantry, squadron of cavalry, and battery of artillery form what is called a tactical unit. In speaking of the force of an army, it is generally given by the number of battalions, squadrons, or batteries. Their strength varies in the different armies. In the European armies, a battalion amounts to from 600 to 1300 men; squadrons, from 80 to 200 horses; and batteries, from 4 to 12 guns. Too strong a battalion is too difficult to move, and too small a one too soon used up; it is the same with squadrons; very strong batteries are subject to be too often divided. For infantry, battalions of 800 to 1000 men; for cavalry, squadrons from 100 to 150 horses; for artillery, batteries from 6 to 8 guns, are, however, the numbers generally used. Regiments of infantry are composed of 2 to 4 battalions. Regiments of cavalry, from 4 to 10 squadrons. Regiments of artillery, from 4 to 12 batteries. The brigade has generally 6 battalions; the division, 2 or 3 brigades; and the army corps, 2 or 3 divisions.

The organization of an army is different in nearly every country, and it is hardly possible to find one that is faultless. The bodies forming the immediate subdivisions of an army should be provided with the three arms, and form [69] small armies by themselves; they should be able to fight independently of the main body.

The number of brigades in these small armies is of importance. If we form a line of battle, 3 brigades would be preferable to 2, as we would be able to have one on each wing and one in the center; but we must have a reserve, and, besides, we might be compelled to make detachments: this would give us 2 brigades more, and would then lead us to an army corps composed of 5 brigades instead of 3. In treating of marches, we shall see that the number 5 is also the most convenient in the arrangement for marching in several columns.

The formation of these brigades should be different, each one having different tasks to fulfill. The brigade for detachment would be, in many cases, obliged to keep up a fight independently of the other 4 brigades; it should, therefore, be provided with the three arms, and principally with the elements permitting a well-sustained distant fight, as in many cases it would have to contend with superior numbers, whose advance it would have to arrest or retard. The three brigades forming the line of battle require no cavalry, as they can be provided with this arm from the reserve; they should each have a battery. The reserve brigade, acting only in the last extremity, should be composed of the best infantry regiments, besides all the cavalry and reserve artillery. This would give for the first brigade, which we will call advanced guard brigade, a composition of 4 battalions of infantry, 2 battalions of rifles, 2 batteries, and 4 squadrons; for each of the 3 brigades of the line, 4 battalions of infantry, 1 battalion of rifles, and [70] 1 battery; for the brigade of reserve, 4 battalions of infantry, 6 squadrons, and 6 batteries.

The more the organization of an army is complete, the more the command is facilitated; the order given at the head passes in a few moments through the whole army, and all the parts of this great mass work like one machine; but the command has only put all those forces to work; the work itself must be assigned beforehand. Besides, the machine must be kept in the best possible order; in other words, an army must be provided with ammunition and provisions; if it marches, the roads must be pointed out to the chief of every division or army corps, the time of the different movements determined, the places where rivers are to be passed shown, the means for crossing the rivers provided, orders for marching given, the place for each army corps in battle assigned, the time of action, the moment for the arrival of the different bodies, the lines of advance or retreat must be fixed in general and for each of the smaller parts in particular.

It is quite evident that the commander-in-chief of an army cannot attend to all these details; therefore he has another general under him, who is called the chief of the general staff, whose duties are to render possible the ideas and orders of the general-in-chief, and to see that those orders are properly carried out. Besides the above-mentioned duties of the staff, there are others which consist in a thorough study of the theater of the war and the providing of the most complete and correct maps, the working out of the general plan of campaign, the special plans of the battles, the receiving and giving the orders of the general-in-chief, [71] etc. etc. The commander of each army corps has his special staff.

In treating of the three arms separately, we have spoken of their proportions in an army; those proportions change much, according to the country and the length of the war. It becomes, therefore, one of the principal studies of a general, to always choose such ground for his actions, where he can make the best use of the arm in which he is superior, and where he can best spare the arm in which he is deficient. Large plains are best adapted for the action of heavy artillery and cavalry; hilly country, light artillery and infantry; covered ground, infantry and sharpshooters. Too small a quantity of artillery is dangerous, because our own troops, being too much exposed to the enemy's fire, and without the means of returning his ravages, would become demoralized. To new troops a strong artillery is of great advantage; after a check, it covers their retreat, and gives them time to reassemble; it well prepares their advance. Too small a body of cavalry forces us into narrow limits, prevents us from well surveying the surrounding country and from gathering information concerning the enemy; besides, cavalry alone can turn a defeat into a rout.

Generally speaking, the strength of an army depends on its number, the right proportion of the three arms, the confidence of the troops in their leader, and the general character of the men who compose the army.


Normal arrangement of troops in battle.

Now that we know the elements and how they are united, we must see how they are to be disposed, to execute the order of their commander for a simultaneous or successive action. Men, we have seen, represent forces capable of doing a certain amount of work in a certain length of time. The work done, exhaustion will follow for another length of time, till the strength of the men is re-established by food and repose. In an engagement, the exhaustion of our forces arises from several causes — the fatigue of the men, the using up of the ammunition, and their exposure to the destroying work of the enemy; this last cause acts on the number of our forces, and is even of more importance than the two others. Therefore we conclude that, if all our men commence work at the same time, and all act simultaneously, their action will be short and their exhaustion will be simultaneous; if, on the other hand, they act but in small parties, and one party after the other, their work will be done successively, their action will be long, and total exhaustion will only follow after a great length of time.

If we dispose all our

Fig. 9.

men in one line, a b, Fig. 9, parallel to the line of the enemy m n, each man will represent one of the forces, f. We see that all those forces act simultaneously, but also that they are all exposed to the work of the forces f′ of the enemy's line m n. The time of the action will therefore be short, [73] and a b will be soon exhausted. If, on the other hand, we dispose all our forces one behind the other, Fig. 10, and make them act against m n,

Fig. 10.

one force after the other will act, the work will be done successively, the time of the action will be long, and the exhaustion of the entire force will only follow after a greater length of time.

The representation for simultaneous action will, therefore, be the arrangement of our men in line parallel, and that of a successive action in line perpendicular, to that of the enemy. Applied to a battalion, this means for the first disposition in line deployed, for the second in columns.

Experience has given limits to the extension of lines and the depth of columns. Lines may be used in open and close order. In open order we see the skirmishers act; and if they do not form a regular line, their arrangement bears, at all events, the character, as it permits their simultaneous action. Arranged in close order, two or three ranks are chosen in preference to a single rank. Columns may be of different depths — those which have the necessary depth for fighting, and those which are only used in marching to overcome the difficulties of the ground more easily. From eight to ten ranks, one behind the other, are sufficient to give a column the desired quality of a longer sustained fight. More than eight or ten ranks would only be an unnecessary accumulation of force which would never be required for action. [74] Whatever we adopt, the line or the column, they will be both used up in the engagement; the length of time only will be different. If, therefore, to prevent our whole force being exhausted too quickly, we divide it into two parts, leaving one behind the other out of the enemy's reach, we will be enabled at any time to bring fresh troops in the conflict, and, by choosing the right moment for action — that is, when the enemy, by the struggle with our first force, is already weakened and in a state of confusion — those fresh troops will evidently have the best of it. This conducts to the arrangement of two or more lines of battle, one behind the other.

If, for instance, a and a′, Fig. 11,

Fig. 11.

represent each a battalion, a arranged in column and a′ in line, two other battalions, b and b′ should be arranged behind them. To advance, being formed in line, is difficult; and, as b and b′ must advance at the right moment, they are both arranged in columns.

To permit the action of b and b′, an interval must be left between a and a′ through which b and b′ can advance. If b and b′ are in straight line behind a and a′, their advance through the

Fig. 12.

interval will be more difficult; besides, if a and a′ retreated in disorder, they might involve b and b′; we may, therefore, arrange b and b′ in the intervals of a and a′, Fig. 12. [75]

The length of the intervals will

Fig. 13.

depend on our intention to fight formed in line or in columns. If we suppose that a, a′, a′, and b, b′, b′ represent battalions, Fig. 13, they may all have to act in columns. The distance from the center of a to the center of a′, Fig. 14, must, then, be

Fig. 14.

equal to the front of a and b both formed in column. If a, a′, a′ have to form in line, and b, b′, b′ remain in column, the distance from center to center of a and a′ must be equal to the front of a formed in line and b in column.

Finally, if a, a′, a′

Fig. 15.

a′ are formed in line, Fig. 15, and the interval should be such that b, after advancing, could form in line too, the distance from center to center of a and a′ must be equal to the front of a and b both formed in line.

We may, according to circumstances, employ any of the three arrangements, as well as considerations of different nature may oblige us to increase still more the distance between a, a′, a′.

But the arrangement of the enemy's troops is similar to ours; the moment our second line of battle advances against his first victorious one, his second line of battle, consisting [76] of fresh troops, advances against ours; therefore a third line would be necessary. As, however, on many points our two lines might prove sufficient, and as we do not know on which point the third line of battle might be required, we form it in one mass called reserve; this mass is placed near the center of our whole line of battle, and will act, or send reinforcements to the endangered parts only of our front line. As soon as its action is finished in that one part, it returns to its first position. If we have a point of great importance to defend, or if we wish to make a very vigorous attack on any particular point there, we may arrange more than two lines of battle.

We do the same with troops very apt to get into confusion. Cavalry, more easily disordered, should always be arranged in more lines of battle than infantry. Artillery, on the other hand, never fighting individually, cannot get into disorder, and requires, therefore, but one line.

There remains to be shown the average number of men disposed on every yard of the front line of battle. It is easy to see that the number of troops will be different according to the distance between the centers of a, a′, a′, and we have seen that those distances vary much. It is admitted that from 2 to 5 men, for each yard of the front, is a low number, from 6 to 8 an average, and above 8 a high number. We must, however, observe that an order of battle may not be deep, even if there are 8 or more men for every yard of the front. The meaning of a deep order of battle is, that a long fight can be kept up and continually supplied with fresh troops pouring in from the rear.

The number of men for every yard of the front line depends [77] greatly on the ground. Covered ground requires less troops, and admits of less men for every yard of front. The defense always requires less than the attack, and especially if favored by the ground. Therefore the distribution of forces may be very different near the different parts of the front. Near the main attack, from 10 to 15 men may be placed for every yard, while in other places, perhaps 2 or 3 could only be disposed. The number also varies with the total strength of the army; a small army will have less men for every yard of the front than a larger one.

In nearly every country normal battle formations have been adopted; those formations varying with the organization of the armies, it would be much too long to give even a part of them, as there are so many variations; but as, in the last chapter, I have given an organization for an army corps, I will now show how this army might be arranged, leaving the ground entirely out of the question. We have supposed, in the organization, that the army corps had 5 brigades, 1 advanced guard, 3 of the line, and 1 of reserve. The advanced guard may be called upon to fight independently of the remaining portion of the other body, or they might fight together, the advanced guard being the first attacked. I will give several plates showing how the troops might be arranged in the different cases. Those normal battle formations may be of great advantage when we have not much time for reflection — if attacked, for instance, on a march. The arrangement of the troops in those normal orders, as given in the plates, will show that, in fact, the troops are disposed in four lines of battle instead of two. The skirmishers [78] form the first line; they act in open order, and their action is simultaneous; their exhaustion soon follows. The second line finds its employment principally in the distant fight, but at effective ranges; from this it passes to the fight at close quarters; there it is relieved and sustained by the third line; and if this line is not sufficient, the fourth one, or reserve, must join its action with the three preceding ones.

As a general rule, however, for all these arrangements, without considering whether the space be large or small, we may say that a great portion of it should be kept in reserve; in the first line, only the number of troops just necessary should be placed.

Explanation of Plate first.

This plate shows the normal battle formation for a brigade, composed of 2 battalions of rifles, 4 battalions of the line, 4 squadrons, and 2 batteries.

Having ordinarily to resist a superior number, the movement of which it has to arrest for some time, or at least to retard, it must develop a great quantity of fire; this is attained by bringing the 2 battalions of rifles in the skirmisher line, and by dividing the battalions of the line in half battalions, and disposing them as shown in the plate; the reserve, which remains in hand, is quite sufficient to resist any sudden attack on one particular point of the line.

1 and 2 are the two rifle battalions.

3 and 3, 4 and 4, 5 and 5, 6 and 6 are the four battalions of the line.

Order of battle for the advanced guard brigade


I., II., III., IV. are the four squadrons of cavalry.

Of the 2 batteries, 1 battery and a half are in position, one half remains as reserve.

The rifles, in case of advance, form in the intervals in columns of company.

Explanation of Plate second.

This is the order of battle for a whole army corps; if the advanced guard brigade is present, it is kept in reserve, as shown in Plate IV. I., 1, 1 are the battalions of rifles; they form in the intervals between 2 and 4, and send out the skirmishers whenever they are required.

2, 3, 4, and 5 are the battalions of the line.

I., II., III., IV., V., and VI. are the six squadrons. Only four batteries are in line, 5 are kept in reserve.


Battles, fights, skirmishes, etc.

we distinguish between battles, fights, and skirmishes.

Battles are fought between the main bodies of two armies.

Fights are the rencounters between the larger portions of the main body.

Skirmishes are the rencounters of two small bodies or advanced guards of larger bodies, without the intention on either side to engage in any serious fight.

If the parts of a great army are so strong that they form in themselves armies, any serious engagement with a similar corps of the enemy may be called a battle.

On the other hand, a rencounter between two main bodies may bear only the character of a fight, in consequence of the small number of troops engaged, the insignificant result of the affair, and the wish on both sides, or on one only, to avoid a battle.

We have seen in the foregoing chapters that battles are the consequence of our strategical arrangements and movements. If we understood by our strategical plan the way to direct our concentrated forces against smaller bodies of the enemy, which we could easily defeat, a whole campaign might end in a series of fights. But if the enemy has as well calculated his movements as we have, an engagement of the main bodies will probably take place, which, in consequence [81] of the results, will be called a decisive or drawn battle. In this engagement, one or both parties may have acted aggressively. A battle can, therefore, as well as a whole campaign, be aggressive, defensive, or of the offensive defense. The whole nature of the war, as well as our preceding strategical arrangements, will most probably decide which of the two parties is to be the attacking one. If we have gained the strategical victory — if, for instance, our manoeuvres have conducted us on the communications of the enemy, we might await his attack in the position chosen by us; our object being not merely to repulse the enemy from our position, but to defeat and destroy him, we would be conducted to a battle bearing the character of an offensive defense.

If, on the other hand, the enemy's army stands in our way, and prevents us attaining our object, we would naturally become the attacking party; and finally, if we were inferior to it in number, and our only object consisted in the defense of one of its passages, we might be conducted to a purely defensive battle.

Purely defensive battles.

We can only determine upon fighting a purely defensive battle in case of a great inferiority to the enemy; we must then choose such a position as will make up for the deficiency of men. This position should prevent the enemy from developing any larger force than our own. It should present many obstacles, to make the enemy lose time in trying to surmount them; this time that we gain should be employed in acting against his already engaged, separated, and [82] inferior forces by our superior fire. But we should not choose too strong a position, because the enemy would then try to turn it; and there exists scarcely any position which cannot be turned.

In general, there is little to be said on purely defensive battles; their whole art consists in making the right use of the ground. They can never be decisive, as the only thing we could do would be to repulse the enemy, but not defeat him; they would retard, but never prevent, the final result: the enemy, repulsed on one point, would choose another, and force us to fight in a less favorable position. Those battles may, however, be advantageously chosen, if their main object is to retard the enemy's progress, and to gain the necessary time for assembling our principal forces on the really decisive point; but then those battles have more the character of a subordinate fight than that of a main action.

Defensive battles with offensive Returns.

We are conducted to such battles if the whole nature of the war is defensive for us; if we have been the defensive party in the strategical struggle; or, finally, if we have gained such a strategical victory over the enemy that we oblige him to attack us. The arrangement of defensive battle will always depend more or less on the nature of the ground; by choosing our own ground, we will evidently make the best use of it. The relation between the configuration of the ground and our arrangement will, however, vary much with the object we have in view. [83]

We may compare the general who fights a defensive battle with offensive return to a swordsman waiting to parry the thrust of his adversary and to follow it by a thrust of his own, or to the more consummate swordsman who feigns to be off his guard in order to induce his adversary to make a certain thrust, which he parries and follows by a deadly blow. This little illustration may be applied in the following manner: 1st. To await the enemy's attack in a chosen and strong position; to proceed ourselves to the attack only at the moment he enters our lines or that we have repulsed him. 2d. To await the enemy's attack in order to bring his forces in such a relative position to our own that his defeat or his destruction is inevitable. In this case, we do. not even await his attack, but commence our own as soon as his troops have arrived in the required positions. In the first case, only defeat, in the second, total destruction, may be the consequence. The first, where the decision takes place, will be in our own lines; in the second, it will be in advance of them. The general battle arrangements and orders of battle, as wall as many other considerations, will be the same as those of offensive battles; they will, therefore, be treated in the next chapter. I will give two examples — the plans of the battles of Austerlitz and Talavera — for the better understanding of battles of the offensive defense. The battle of Talavera is an illustration of the first, and that of Austerlitz of the second case.


Offensive battles.

We are conducted to such battles if the nature of the war is aggressive; or if the enemy opposes the attainment of our strategical object; or if we are forced by the manoeuvres of the enemy; and, finally, if by a wrong movement he exposes his army, or parts of it, to certain defeat. In an offensive battle two things may occur:--

1st. That the enemy awaits us in a chosen position.

2d. That we meet him unexpectedly on the march.

In the second case the general dispositions are the same as in the first, with the exception that we have no time for making any premeditated arrangements: a few words, therefore, will suffice to explain this second case, as all general arrangements will be spoken of in treating of the first one. The enemy, in finding us unexpectedly in his way, will probably be as much astonished as ourselves; therefore the one of the two who acts first with the greatest energy and coolness, and, principally, who has studied beforehand the entire configuration of the country, the principal roads, courses of rivers, mountains, distances of villages, extension of woods, etc. etc., and who has chosen the best order for marching and the best roads for the direction of his troops, will have the advantage on his side; he will at once find the important point where to direct his efforts, to concentrate his troops; and, being victorious there, he may attach little importance to secondary points. In unexpected battles the genius of a general will show itself more than in any other.

In the first case, we suppose that the enemy awaits us in a position chosen by himself. Our first care should be to [85] obtain a thorough knowledge of the ground, as well as the strength of the enemy's forces and the position they occupy on that ground. One will be obtained by being provided with good topographical maps; the other we must ascertain through spies, prisoners, deserters from the enemy, reconnoitering parties, and even by preparatory attacks. The information we gather concerning the enemy, and a knowledge of the ground he occupies, will partly tell us the object he has in view. But, before devising our plans, we should divide the battle-field into three zones — right, left, and center; and, to prevent us undertaking any dangerous enterprise, we should force ourselves to answer all questions which may present themselves in reflecting on the intentions and relative positions of the two armies; such questions might be, for instance, as follows :--

1st. What is the enemy's object?

2d. In which of the three zones has he concentrated his forces for the attainment of his object?

3d. What is the probable amount of those forces?

4th. What is the probable amount of forces in the two other zones?

5th. How can he act, from his position, on our communications, lines of retreat, flanks, and rear?

6th. Which of the three zones, by the configuration of the ground, is the easiest to attack, and which is the easiest to defend?

7th. How are the enemy's forces distributed in accordance with the configuration of the ground?

8th. In which of the three zones ought we to act for the speediest attainment of our strategical object? [86]

9th. In which of the three zones will we the soonest obtain an easy and partial victory?

10th. Will this zone permit us following up that partial victory, or will this victory, by the configuration of the ground, remain isolated?

11th. If the zone in which lies our strategical advantage is separated from the zone which would give us the first partial victory, which of the two zones should we choose?

12th. If the pursuit of the first partial victory is impossible in the zone where it is the easiest obtained, which other zone should we choose?

13th. When we find the point on which our first victory should take place, what time would probably elapse before that victory could be gained? what amount of forces should we employ?

14th. How long would it take the enemy to send assistance from the supposed position of his reserve to the threatened point?

15th. How could we prevent the enemy sending assistance to this point?

16th. What would be the required force to prevent the enemy obtaining his own object, while we are gaining our first partial victory?

We see by these questions and the answers we would be obliged to give--

1st. That the different points of the battle-field present very different degrees of importance.

2d. That the time, in our plan, must be just as much considered as our space. For instance, if we leave the enemy time to send his reserve, and perhaps one or two other divisions [87] which he could spare, to the threatened point, our anticipated victory might end with defeat.

We conclude, therefore, that we must distinguish on our battle-field five different objects :--

1st. The main attack in the zone we have chosen for our first partial victory.

2d. The feigned attack, if we think one necessary to draw the enemy's forces on this point.

3d. The preventing of the enemy obtaining his own object for the time we need to complete our first partial victory.

4th. The engagement of the enemy's remaining forces, to prevent their employment on other parts of the battle-field.

5th. The demonstration: to engage the enemy to make a detachment, to divide his forces in order to prevent a supposed attack or to keep free his line of retreat.

The main attack.

In the choice of the zone for the main attack, we should be guided by the consideration that the first partial victory must be obtained quickly, but at the same time the easy pursuit of this victory must be possible. The attack itself should be conducted with the greatest precision and energy.

The introduction should be short.

Arrived at very effective ranges, the fire of artillery as well as that of small arms should be overwhelming. To the fire the struggle at close quarters should succeed; there we should concentrate our best infantry and cavalry. The principal thing in the main attack is that we should develop a decided and overpowering superiority in all the three arms over the enemy.


Feint attack.

If we think it necessary to make another attack, we should choose such a point for it that the enemy would not consider a main attack impossible on that point. As we have seldom many troops to spare for these attacks, they should be directed against the weakest parts of the enemy, his flank or rear.

The direction and forces should, however, be such that the enemy must reinforce the point where the attack takes place. If it is successful, the victorious corps should at once pursue its victory, and by this assist the main attack. The time for this attack is generally before, and the distance of it should be as great as possible from, the main attack.

As regards its action, the introduction of the fight might be longer, and likewise the fight at effective ranges, as it is not executed with such imposing forces; but this should not lessen the energy. The advance from effective ranges should be firm and steady up to the last moment, when the struggle at close quarters begins. The attack, if repulsed, should be repeated with still more energy.

Number three.

While those two attacks take place, we must prevent the enemy attaining his object; this can only be done by opposing him, in the zone which he has chosen for the execution of it, with a body of such strength that he is unable to obtain it before we can complete our first partial victory. This corps that we oppose to him should act principally by its fire. It should form large reserves, in infantry as well as artillery, [89] which should be used at the last and most decisive moment only; it should make the best use of its cavalry — apt in such a way that the enemy, who advances supposing but little resistance before him, is at once and unexpectedly assailed by fresh troops, superior fire, and a cavalry ready to charge him at the least sign of disorder. This corps, in other words, has to play on a small scale the role of a battle of an offensive defense.

Number four.

To engage with the enemy in order to prevent him making use of his different corps. The real object being more to threaten than to act, a strong fire should be kept up on these points; the corps having this task to fulfill should use its reserve, and principally that of artillery; it should deceive the enemy on its strength by its multiplied fire, and make him believe that it would pass at any moment to a serious attack.

Number five.

The object of the demonstration is to force the enemy to make a large detachment. If we send a detachment on the communications of the enemy, he would be obliged himself to make a detachment even larger than ours, in order to keep clear his line of retreat. The detachment made by the enemy, the object of the demonstration is obtained.

The figures will explain more fully what has been said :--

If a b, Fig. 16, is the enemy's line of battle, if our main attack is directed against the center by the corps m, we might oppose the two wings only by small bodies, n and o, as explained under Number Four. [90]

In the mean time n and o are driven back to n′ and o′ by the two wings of the

Fig. 16.

enemy; we have been victorious in the center, have advanced to m′, and force by this both wings to retreat. In this figure we distinguish three actions — the main attack in the center, and the keeping of the wings in their positions by n and o, and at the same time the preventing of the enemy to attain his object.

Fig. 17.

Or, if a b is the enemy's line of battle, Fig. 17, we may dispose a main attack in m, and a feint attack in o, with the order to proceed to r on the communications of the enemy; n would be a small corps only to keep the right wing of the enemy in its place. In this figure we have four actions — those enumerated under 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th.

Fig. 18.

Or, if a b is the enemy's line of battle, Fig. 18, if we send a corps p to r on his communications, he is obliged to oppose to us a larger detachment, p′, to force us from his line of retreat. This would be a demonstration.

In uniting the different possible combinations, we come to the following general orders of battles:-- [91]

1st. The line of battle forms a straight line and is parallel to that of the enemy; this line can be

a. Without reinforcement on any point, Fig. 19.

Fig. 19.

b. Reinforced in one of the three zones, Fig. 20.

Fig. 20.

c. Reinforced in two of the three zones, Fig. 21.

Fig. 21.

2d. The line of battle is a straight line, but inclined to that of the enemy. It has--

a. One point of attack, properly called an oblique line of battle, Figs. 22, 23.

Fig. 22.


Fig. 23.

b. Two points of attack, Fig. 24.

Fig. 24.

In a and b, the angles can be 90 or under 90 degrees.

3d. The line of battle is a broken one formed in echelons.

a. One point of attack, Fig. 25.

Fig. 25.

b. Two points of attack, Fig. 26.

Fig. 26.


4th. The line of battle is a straight one, but forms a crotchet on one flank, Fig. 27.

Fig. 27.

5th. The line of battle is a curve.

a. Concave, Fig. 28.

Fig. 28.

b. Convex, Fig. 29.

Fig. 29.

The first order of battle, being a straight line without any reinforcement, would be. the arrangement, as the French would say, of a sabreur. This battle would represent the primitive state of the art of war.

However, there is one case in which we would adopt it, [94] and even be obliged to do so — that is, after gaining the strategical victory, and already on the enemy's line of communication; then we might have no reason to reinforce any one part; but as, in such a case, we would be obliged to have very strong reserves, they would represent a reinforcement of the center, or of the point threatened by the enemy.

Wing or reinforced center attacks are much more used and more convenient than simply parallel orders. The battle of Austerlitz, given as an example of a defensive battle, may be also taken for the example of one with a reinforced center.

Attacks reinforced on the two wings, or center and one wing, can be undertaken only in case of superiority. I will give two examples — the battle of the Alma, with two reinforced wings, and the battle of Wagram, with one wing and center reinforced.

The orders of battle under No. 2, making angles with the enemy's line, are principally used by an inferior force against a superior one. The plan of the battle of Leuthen, one of the most remarkable, will explain this oblique order of battle.

Double attacks of oblique or perpendicular lines should only be attempted when the aggressor is of very great superiority.

Attacks in echelons may be used against an enemy who cannot easily move from his position, and can therefore undertake no concentric fire on the first echelon, as would be the case in the attack of an entrenched camp.

Lines of battle with crotchets may be used by the aggressor; for the party attacked they are always dangerous, the corner being exposed to a concentric fire. The battle [95] of Prague, fought by Frederick II. against the Austrians, will be the example for this order of battle.

Convex lines of battle were used at Leipsic and on different other occasions; we are often obliged to use them after the passage of a river. They offer one great disadvantage; if broken at one point, the enemy finds himself at once in the rear of his adversary's whole formation of battle.

Concave lines of battle have sometimes been used. Hannibal's formation at Cunna was such. They should, however, only be adopted according to circumstances; if, for instance, the enemy's position forces us to it, or if this formation is the consequence of the advancing fight, the center giving way and the two wings approaching.

Such is said to have been the plan of the Austrians in the battle of Solferino, 1859.


Examples: example of battle with two wings reinforced.

Battle of the Alma.

Fought the 20th September, 1854, between the Russians and the allied English, French, and Turks.

Armies of the Allies.

Turks.--Division of Sulliman Pacha6000
French.--Division of General Bosquet6750
Division of General Canrobert6750
Division of Prince Napoleon6750
Division of General Forey6750
English.--Division of Sir Lacy Evans5250
Division of Brown5250
Division of Richard England5250
Division of the Guards5250
Division of Cathcart5250
Division of Cavalry800

With 136 guns, consisting principally of 9 and 12 pounders.

The Russian army consisted of--


With 96 guns, part of which were light guns.

On the 19th September the allies formed in line of battle as follows:-- [97]

Right wing--General Bosquet, Sulliman Pacha.

Center--General Canrobert, Prince Napoleon.

As reserve--General Forey.

Left wing--the whole English army.

In first line--Sir Lacy Evans and Brown.

In second line — Richard England and Guards.

In reserve — Cathcart and Cavalry.

The Russian army had taken a defensive position on the heights of the left bank of the Alma. (See plan.) The allies, after having reconnoitered this position, decided to attack it on the 20th September, and made the following arrangements :--

1st. The division of Bosquet, with the division of Sulliman Pacha, to advance at 5.30 A. M. of the 20th; to pass the Alma near the sea, ascend the heights on the left bank of the river, to turn the left flank of the Russians, and proceed to the attack.

2d. The left wing, consisting of the whole English army, to advance at 6 A. M., march against the right wing of the Russians, and to try to turn it.

3d. The center of the army, consisting of the divisions of Canrobert and Prince Napoleon and Forey, to advance at 7 o'clock to attack the Russian center.

This plan was, by different mistakes, only half executed. The whole of the French army followed the division of Bosquet, and formed their line of battle with their rear toward the sea. The English closed near them; and so it happened that the Russian right wing was not attacked at all, and, after a fight of from two to three hours, the Russian army found itself in the position R on the plan, and the French and English in A F. [98]

The Russians retreated in the best order, and unmolested by the enemy. We may well ask if 61,000 French and English could not have done better than to force 35,000 Russians to a well-ordered retreat.

The dispositions of the Russian commander, Prince Menschikoff, were made in the expectation of a main attack on the road to Burluk; this road was well swept by a battery of four 32-pounders; and in case the regiment Borodino (15th) was driven back, the advancing columns of the enemy would have been assailed on all sides by such a fire that their retreat would have been very probable. His plan of battle was of an offensive defense, but becoming offensive only at the moment the enemy entered his own lines. His front was about 7000 yards long, and counted, therefore, five men for every yard of the front, which number was quite sufficient, considering the nature of the ground. His position is given in the small plan I have subjoined; having the sea on his left and the allies in front, he can only retreat in the direction of his rear or right wing; any manoeuvre against his right wing, placing him between the forces of the allies and the sea, will therefore force him to leave his position or expose himself to total destruction.

We distinguish in the plan of the allies three different actions :--

1st. The main attack against the Russian right wing, executed with 27,000 men.

2d. The feint attack against the flank and rear of the Russian left wing, 13,000 men.

3d. Engagement in front, to keep the Russian forces in their place, and to prevent them acting elsewhere, 14,000 men. [99]

The French reserve of about 7000 men could act wherever its presence was required.

For the main attack nearly the half of the allied army was disposed, and this was quite right, only the order was rather vague and uncertain in saying that the English should try to turn the Russian right wing. It should have said that the English were to force, at whatever price, the extreme right wing of the Russians, and to proceed at once against their lines of retreat. This manoeuvre ought to have been the part of the French, whose army was better organized for rapid manoeuvres than the English, which still kept to its old system of lines as used by Wellington.

The main attack was to commence half an hour after the feint attack. The feint attack was to be executed by 13,000 men, and was to be the first act of hostility. What must be the result of this attack? The Russians, seeing a body nearly as strong as the half of their army appear on their left flank, will form a crotchet with their left wing, and, being assailed at nearly the same moment by the English on their right flank, will dispose of the center troops not yet attacked to oppose the English; and, seeing the danger of their position being turned and attacked at the same time, will commence a retrograde movement on their lines of retreat, which are still open. The French center, therefore, if the arrangements are well executed, having for object to keep the Russian troops in their position, arrives too late.

The same insignificant result — the well-ordered retreat of the Russians — was in Tact obtained by the allies' wrong execution of their plan, only with greater loss on both sides. The Russian right wing not being attacked, Menschikoff [100] could very well defend himself as long as he pleased; his communications and retreat in the interior remained always free, and, even if defeated, there was little danger for him, as the allies had no cavalry to pursue him.

If the allies had well reasoned the objects of the two armies, the plan, and probably the result also, would have been different. Menschikoff expected an attack in front; this was very evident by his whole position and arrangements; therefore he should have been left in this belief; he should have been first attacked in front, to deceive him on the real point of attack. The disposition of the allies might, therefore, have been--

1st. The English army, 27,000, to attack the Russian center and left wing in front, and to commence its action at 5 A. M.

2d. The division of Sulliman Pacha, 6000 men, to advance at 5.30, and pass the Alma near the sea, proceed against the Russian left wing, draw the attention of the Russians to it, and force them to make a detachment in this direction.

3d. The division of Bosquet, 6750 men, to attack the Russian right wing at 5.30.

4th. The divisions of Canrobert, Napoleon and Forey, to advance at 6 o'clock, when the whole Russian force is completely engaged, turn the Russian right wing, attack the regiment Uglitz, and establish itself on the Russian lines of retreat.

With 21,000 French on their line of retreat, to which the Russians had not one man to oppose, with 33,000 English and French in front, and 6000 Turks on their left flank, all attacking at the same time and all in communication, it

Battle of the Alma.

Battle of Wagram.

[101] is probable that the Russians would have been obliged to surrender. Sebastopol would have been the easy trophy of the victors, as it was without garrison at the time of the battle, after which only it was supplied from the army of Menschikoff.

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