Chapter 2: military policy, or the philosophy of war.
We have already explained what is understood under this denomination.
They are all the moral combinations which relate to the operations of armies.
If the political combinations of which we have just spoken are also moral causes which have an influence upon the conduct of a war, there are others which, without belonging to diplomacy, are none the more combinations of strategy or of tactics.
We could then give them no denomination more rational than that of military policy or philosophy of war.1
We shall stop at the first, for, although the true acceptation of the word philosophy may be applied to war as well as to the speculations of metaphysics, so vague an extent has been given to this acceptation, that we experience a kind of embarrassment in uniting those two words.
It will be recollected then that by policy of war
, I understand all the relations of diplomacy with war, whilst that military policy
designates only the military combinations of a State or of a general.
Military policy may embrace all the combinations of a project of war,
other than those of diplomatic policy and strategy; as the number of them is pretty large, we could not devote a special article to each, without going beyond the limits of this compend, and without deviating from our object, which is not to give a complete treatise of those matters, but merely to point out their relations with military operations.
In fact, we may range in this category the passions of the people against whom we are going to combat; their military system; the means of first line and of reserve; the resources of their finances; the attachment they bear to their government, or to their institutions.
Besides that, the character of the chief of the State
; that of the chiefs of the army, and their military talents; the influence which the cabinet or the councils of war exercise upon the operations, from the distance of the capitol
; the system of war which controls in the hostile staff; the difference in the constitutive force of the armies, and in their armament; the geography and the military statistics of the country where one is to penetrate; finally, the resources and the obstacles of every nature which may there be encountered, are so many important points to consider, and which are, nevertheless, neither of diplomacy nor of strategy.
There are no fixed rules to give on such matters, unless it be that a government should neglect nothing to arrive at a knowledge of these details, and that it is indispensable to take them into consideration in the plans of operations which it shall propose to itself.
We are about to sketch, however, the principal points which ought to guide in these kinds of combinations.
Article XI: military statistics and geography.
By the first of these sciences is understood as perfect a knowledge as possible, of all the elements of power, and all the means of war of the enemy we are called upon to combat; the second consists in the topographical
and strategical description of the theatre of war, with all the obstacles which art and nature may offer to enterprises; the examination of the permanent decisive points which a frontier or even the whole extent of a country presents.
Not only the public ministry, but the chief of the army and of the staff should be initiated into this knowledge, under pain of finding cruel mistakes in their calculations, as often happens, even in our day, notwithstanding the immense progress which civilized nations have made in all the sciences, statistical, political, geographical and topographical.
I will cite two examples of them of which I was a witness; in 1796, the army of Moreau
, penetrating into the Black Forest
, expected to find terrible mountains, defiles and forests, which the ancient Hercinius
called to memory with frightful circumstances; we were surprised after having climbed the cliffs of that vast plateau, which look upon the Rhine
, to see that those steeps and their counterforts form the only mountains, and that the country, from the sources of the Danube
to Donauwerth, presents plains as rich as fertile.
The second example, still more recent, dates in 1813; the whole army of Napoleon
, and that great captain himself, regarded the interior of Bohemia as a country cut up with mountains, whereas, there exists scarcely one more flat in Europe
, as soon as you have crossed the belt of secondary mountains with which it is surrounded, which is the affair of a march.
All the European
military men had nearly the same erroneous opinions upon the Balkan, and upon the real force of the Ottomans in the interior.
It seems that general orders were given from Constantinople
to cause this enclosure to be regarded as almost impregnable, and as the palladium of the empire, an error which, in my quality of inhabitant of the Alps
, I have never shared.
Prejudices, not less deeply rooted, led to the belief, that a people, all the individuals of which went unceasingly armed, would form a redoubtable militia, and would defend themselves to the last extremity.
Experience has proved, that the ancient institutions which placed the elite
of the Janizaries in the frontier cities of the Danube
, had rendered the population of those cities more warlike than the inhabitants of the interior, who make war against the unarmed rayahs; this phantasmagoria has been appreciated at its just value; it was but an imposing curtain which nothing sustained, and the first enclosure forced, the prestige has disappeared.
In truth, the projects of reform of the Sultan Mahmoud
had exacted the overthrow of the ancient system without giving time to substitute a new one for it, so that the empire found itself taken unprepared; experience has proved, however, that a multitude of brave men, armed to the teeth, does not still constitute a good army, nor a national defense.
Let us return to the necessity of being well acquainted with the geography and military statistics of an empire.
Those sciences are wanting, it is true, in elementary treatise, and remain yet to be developed.
, who has made on them an essay in the fifth part of his Memoirs, in describing the frontiers of the great states of Europe
has not been happy in his sayings and his predictions; he sees obstacles everywhere; he presents, among others, as impregnable, the frontiers of Austria
upon the Inn
, between the Tyrol and Passau
, where we have seen Moreau
manoeuvre, and triumph with armies of a hundred and fifty thousand men in 1800, 1805 and 1809.
The greater part of those reasonings are open to the same criticism; he has seen things too materially.
But if these sciences are not publicly taught, the archives of the European
staffs must be rich with valuable documents for teaching them, at least in the special schools of this corps.
In waiting for some studious officer to profit from those documents, published or unpublished, for giving the public a good military and strategical geography, it may, thanks to the immense progress which topography has made in our day, be supplied in part, by means of the excellent maps published within the last twenty years in all countries.
At the epoch of the commencement of the French
revolution, topography was yet in its infancy; excepting the semi-topographical map of Cassi, there was scarcely any but the works of Bakenberg, which would have merited that name.
and Prussian staffs had, meanwhile, good schools already, which from time to time, have borne their fruits; the maps recently published at Vienna
, Stuttgard, Paris
, as well as those of the interesting institute of Herder
, at Friburg in Brisgau, assure to future generals immense resources, unknown to their predecessors.
Military statistics is scarcely better known than geography; there are only a few vague and superficial tables, in which are thrown at hazard the number of armed men and vessels which a State possesses, as well as the revenues that it is supposed to have, which is far from constituting entirely a science necessary for combining operations.
Our aim is not to examine here thoroughly those important matters, but to indicate them as means of success in those enterprises which it should be desired to form.
Article XII: divers other causes which have an influence upon the success of a war.
If the excited passions of the people which we are to combat are a great enemy to conquer, a general and a government ought to employ all their efforts to calm those passions.
We could add nothing to what we have said on this subject in speaking of national wars.
On the other hand, a general ought to do every thing to electrify his soldiers, and to give them that same transport which it is important to allay in his adversaries.
All armies are susceptible of the same enthusiasm, the motives and the means only differ according to the spirit of the nations.
Military eloquence has made the subject of more than one work ; we will only indicate it as a means.
The proclamations of Napoleon
; those of General Paskevitsch
; the addresses of the ancients to their soldiers; those of Suwarof to men still more simple, are models of different kinds.
The eloquence of the juntas of Spain
, and the miraracles of the Madona del Pilar
, have led to the same results by very opposite roads.
In general, a cherished cause, and a chief who inspires confidence by past victories, are great means for electrifying an army and facilitating its successes.
Some military men have contested the advantages of enthusiasm, and preferred to it imperturbable sang-froid in combats.
Both have advantages and inconveniences which it is impossible to mistake; enthusiasm leads to the greatest actions, the difficulty is to sustain it constantly; and when an excited troop is discouraged, disorder is introduced into it more rapidly.
The greater or less activity and audacity in the chiefs of the respective armies is an element of success or of reverse which could not be subjected to rules.
A cabinet and a general-in-chief ought to take into consideration the intrinsic value of their troops, and their constitutive force compared with
that of the enemy.
A Russian general, commanding troops the most solidly constituted in Europe
, may undertake every thing in open field against undisciplined and disordered masses, however brave elsewhere may be the individuals who compose them.
Concert gives strength, order procures concert, discipline leads to order; without discipline and without order no success is possible.2
The same Russian
general, with the same troops, will not be able to dare every thing against European
armies, having the same instruction, and nearly the same discipline as his own. Finally, one can venture before a Mack what he would not venture before a Napoleon.
The action of the cabinet upon the armies has an influence also upon the audacity of their enterprises.
A general whose genius and arm are chained by an aulic council at four hundred leagues from the theatre of war, will struggle with disadvantage against him who shall have all liberty of action.
With regard to the superiority as to skill in the generals, it will not be contested that it is one of the most certain pledges of victory, especially when all other chances shall be supposed equal.
Doubtless great captains have many times been seen beaten by mediocre men; but an exception does not make a rule.
An order badly comprehended, a fortuitous event, may cause to pass into the camp of the enemy all the chances of success, which a skillful general should have prepared by his manoeuvres; it is one of those hazards which one can neither foresee nor avoid.
Would it be just, for that reason, to deny the influence of principles or of science, under ordinary circumstances?
Undoubtedly not, for this hazard even produces the finest triumph of principles, since they will be found applied by the army against which it was wished to employ them, and it will conquer through their ascendancy.
But in yielding to the evidence of those reasons, it will be inferred from them, perhaps, that they militate against science.
That would not be better founded, since the science consists in putting on one's side all the chances possible to foresee, and it cannot be extended to the caprices of destiny.
Now, for a hundred battles gained by skillful manoeuvres, there are two or three gained by fortuitous accidents.
If the skill of the general-in-chief
is one of the surest elements of victory,
it will easily be judged that the choice of generals is one of the most delicate points of the science of governments, and one of the most essential parts of the military policy of a State; unfortunately, this choice is subjected to so many petty passions, that chance, seniority, favor, spirit of coterie, jealousy, will often have as much part in it as the public interest and justice.
This object is, moreover, so important, that we shall consecrate to it a special article.
Article XIII: military institutions.
One of the most important points of the military policy of a State, is that which concerns the institutions that govern its army.
An excellent army, commanded by a mediocre man, may effect great things: a bad army, commanded by a great captain, will do, perhaps, as much; but it would do much more still, if it joined the good quality of the troops to the talents of their chief.
Twelve essential conditions concur in the perfection of an army:
The first, is to have a good system of recruiting;
The second, a good formation;
The third, a system of well organized national reserves;
The fourth, troops and officers well instructed in the manoeuvres, and in the interior and field service;
The fifth, a discipline strict, without being humiliating;
The sixth, a system of recompense and of emulation well combined;
The seventh, special arms, (engineers and artillery) having a satisfactory instruction;
The eight, an armament well contrived, and superior, if it be possible, to that of the enemy; applying this not only to offensive but to defensive arms;
The ninth, a general staff
, capable of turning to good account all those elements, and the good organization of which responds to the classical in struction of its officers;
The tenth, will be a good system for the supplies, the hospitals, and the administration in general.3
The eleventh, is a good system for organizing the command of armies and the high direction of operations;
The twelfth, consists in the excitation of the military spirit.
It must be said none of these conditions could be neglected without grave conveniences.
A fine army well manoeuvred, well disciplined, but without skillful conductors, and without national resources, allowed Prussia
to fall in fifteen days under the blows of Napoleon
On the other hand, it has been seen, in very many circumstances, how much a State ought to congratulate itself for having a good army; it was the care and the skill of Philip and Alexander
in forming and instructing their phalanxes, which rendered those masses so movable, and so fit to execute the most rapid manoeuvres, and which permitted the Macedonians to subjugate Persia
with that handful of choice soldiers.
It was the excessive love of the father of Frederick for soldiers, which procured this great king an army capable of executing all his enterprises.
A government which neglects its army under any pretext whatever, is then a government guilty in the eyes of posterity, since it prepares humiliations for its colors and its country, instead of preparing them for successes by following a contrary course.
Far from us the thought that a government ought to sacrifice every thing for the army!
This would be an absurdity.
But it ought to make it the object of its constant cares, and if the prince have not himself a military education, it is difficult to attain that end. In this case, which, unfortunately, happens but too often, it must be supplied by wise and provident institutions, at the head of which will be placed, without doubt, a good staff system, a good system of recruiting, and a good system of national reserves.
It is, especially in times of protracted peace, that it is important to watch over the preservation of armies, for it is then that they can more easily degenerate, and that it is important to maintain in them a proper spirit, and to exercise
them in great manoeuvres, very incomplete semblances, doubtless, of effective wars, but which incontestably prepare troops for them.
It is not less important to prevent them from falling into effeminacy, by employing them in labors useful for the defense of the country.
The isolation of troops by reigments in garrisons, is one of the worst systems that can be followed, and the Russian
and Prussian formation by permanent divisions and corps d'armee, seems much preferable.
In general, the Russian
army might at this day be offered as a model in a great many respects, and if, in many points, what is practiced therein, would become useless and impracticable elsewhere, we must acknowledge that in general, we could borrow from it many good institutions.
With regard to recompenses and advancement, it is essential to protect seniority of service, at the same time opening a door to merit; three quarters of the promotions ought to be according to the order of the register, and the other quarter reserved to men who should make themselves remarkable by their merit and their zeal.
In time of war, the order of the register ought on the contrary to be suspended, or reduced at least to a third of the promotions, leaving the other two-thirds to actions of eclat, and to well established services.
Superiority of armament may augment the chances of success in war; it does not of itself gain battles, but it contributes to it. Every one recollects how the great inferiority of the French
in artillery came near becoming fatal to them at Eylau
, and at Marengo
It is recollected also, what the French
heavy cavalry have gained in adopting the cuirass, which it had so long repulsed; each one knows finally, of what advantage is the lance; doubtless lancers as foragers are no better than hussars; but charging in line is a very different affair; how many thousands of brave horsemen have been victims of the prejudice they had against the lance, because it constrains a little more in carrying than the sabre!
The armament of armies is still susceptible of many improvements, and that one who shall take the initiative in these ameliorations, will assure to itself great advantages.
The artillery leaves little to be desired, but the offensive and defensive arms of the infantry and the cavalry, merit the attention of a provident government.
The new inventions which have had place within the last twenty years, seem to menace us with a great revolution in the organization, the armament, and even the tactics of armies.
Strategy alone will remain with its principles, which were the same under the Scipios and the Caesars as under Frederick, Peter the Great
, for they are independent of the nature of arms, or the organization of troops.
The means of destruction are being perfected with a frightful progression; the congreve rockets, of which the Austrians have succeeded, it is said, in regulating the effect and the direction; the schrapnell shells, which launch floods of grape to the range of the ball; steam guns of Perkins
, which vomit as many balls as a battalion, are going to centuple perhaps the chances of carnage, as if the hecatombs of the species of Eylau
, of Borodino
, of Leipzig
, and of Waterloo
, were not sufficient for desolating the European
If sovereigns do not unite in congress to proscribe those inventions of death and destruction, there will remain no other course to take than to compose the half of armies of cuirassed cavalry, to be able to capture with the greatest rapidity all the machines; and the infantry even will be compelled to retake its iron armour of the middle ages, without which a battalion could be struck down before approaching the enemy.
We may then see again the famous gendarmerie, men and horses, all barbed with iron.
In awaiting these circumstances, yet consigned to scarcely probable eventualities, it is certain that the artillery, and every kind of murderous pyrotechny, have made advances which ought to lead us to think of the modification of the deep order, which Napoleon
We shall return to this subject in the chapter on tactics.
Let us resume then, finally, in a few words the essential bases of the military policy which a wise government ought to adopt.
1. Is to give to the prince an education at the same time political and military; he will find in his councils rather good administrators than statesmen and soldiers; he ought then to seek to be one himself.
2. If the prince does not conduct his armies in person, the most important of his duties and the dearest of his interests will be that of causing himself to be well replaced; that is to say, to confide the glory of his reign and the security of his States, to the general the most capable of directing his armies.
3. The permanent army ought not only always to be found on a respectable footing; it must be in condition to be doubled at need by reserves wisely prepared.
Its instruction and its discipline should be in accordance with its good organization: finally, the system of armament should be equal at least, if not superior, to its neighbors.
4. The materiel
should equally be upon the best footing, and to have the necessary reserves.
5. It is important that the study of the military sciences be protected
and recompensed, as well as courage and zeal.
The corps to which those sciences are necessary ought to be esteemed and honored.
It is the only means of calling into them from all parts men of merit and genius.
6. The general staff
should be employed in time of peace in labors preparatory to all possible eventualities of war. Its archives ought to be found provided with numerous historical details of the past, and with all the documents statistical, geographical, topographical and strategical of the present and the future.
It is essential then that the chief of this corps and a part of its officers be permanently in the Capitol
in time of peace, and that the depot of war be nothing else than the depot of the general staff
, with the exception of a secret section to be given to it for documents which should be concealed from the subaltern officers of the corps.
7. Nothing should be neglected to have the military geography and statistics of neighboring States, to the end of knowing their material and moral means of attack and defense, as well as the strategical chances of the two parties; there should be employed in those scientific labors, distinguished officers, and they should be recompensed when they acquit themselves of them in a remarkable manner.
8. War once decided upon, it is necessary to resolve upon, if not an entire plan of operations, which is always impossible, at least a system of operations in which there shall be proposed an object, and a base shall be assured, as well as the material means necessary for guaranteeing the success of the enterprise.
9. The system of operations ought to be in unison with the object of the war, with the kind of enemies we will have to fight, with the nature and resources of the country, with the character of the nations and that of the chiefs who conduct them, either with the army or in the interior of the State
It ought to be calculated upon the natural and moral means of attack or defense which the enemies may have to oppose to us; finally, we ought to take into consideration the probable alliances which may supervene for or against the two parties in the course of the war, and which would complicate the chances of it.
10. The state of the finances of a nation should not be omitted in the list of the chances of war which we are called upon to weigh.
Nevertheless it would be dangerous to accord to it all the importance which Frederick the Great
seems to attach to it in the history of his times This great King
may have been right at a time when armies were recruited in most part by voluntary enlistment; then the last crown gave
the last soldier; but if national levies are well organized, money will have no longer the same influence, at least for one or two campaigns.
has proved that money procured soldiers and auxiliaries, France
has proved that love of country and honor equally gave soldiers, and that at need war supported war. Doubtless France
found in the richness of its soil and in the exaltation of its chiefs, sources of transient power which could not be admitted as the general base of a system; but the results of its efforts were not less striking.
Each year the numerous echos of the cabinet of London
, and M. D'Yvernois
especially, announced that France
was about to succumb for the want of money, whilst that Napoleon
was keeping up two millions of savings in the Tuileries, at the same time cancelling regularly the expenses of the State
and the pay of his armies.4
A power which should abound in gold could badly defend itself; history attests that the richest people are not the strongest nor the happiest.
Iron weighs as much at least as gold in the scales of military force.
Meanwhile let us hasten to acknowledge the happy union of wise military institutions, of patriotism, of order in the finances, of internal riches and public credit, will constitute the strongest nation, and the one most capable of sustaining a long war.
A volume would be necessary to discuss all the circumstances in which a nation may develop more or less of power, whether through gold or through iron, and to determine the case in which war may be supported by war. This result obtains only in directing your armies abroad, and all countries are not equally of a nature to furnish resources to an assailant.
We should go beyond our limits by treating thoroughly these matters; it will suffice, for the object which we propose, to indicate the relations which they have to a project of war; it is for the statesman to grasp the modifications which circumstances and localities may bring into those relations.
Before passing to the chapter on strategy, we shall terminate this sketch of the military policy of States, by a few observations upon the choice of generals-in-chief, upon the superior direction of the operations of war, and upon the military spirit to be impressed upon armies.
Article XIV command of armies, and the superior direction of military operations.
There has been a great deal of argument as to the advantage and the inconveniences which would result to a State whose monarch should march in person at the head of his armies.
Whatever may be thought of it, it is certain, that if the prince feels within himself the capacity and the genius of a Frederick, of a Peter the Great
, or of a Napoleon, he will take good care not to leave to his generals the honor of doing great things which he could do himself, for this would be wanting to his own glory, as well as to the good of the country.
Not having the mission to debate whether warrior kings are better for the people than pacific ones, a philanthropic question, foreign to our subject, we must limit ourselves to acknowledging, that with equality of merit and of chances, a sovereign will always have the advantage over a general who shall not himself be the chief of the State
Without taking into the account that he is responsible only to himself for the bold enterprises which he might form, he will be able still to do a great deal through the certainty he will have of the disposition of all the public resources for arriving at the object which he shall propose to himself.
He will have moreover, the powerful vehicle of favors, of recompenses and of punishments; he will have the utmost devotion at his command for the greatest good of his enterprises; no jealousy will be able to trouble the execution of his projects, or, at least, it will be very rare, and will happen only far from his presence on secondary points.
These are doubtless motives sufficient for deciding a prince to put himself at the head of his armies, whenever he shall have a decided vocation to that effect, and the struggle shall be worthy of him. But if, far from having the genius for war, he is of a feeble character, and easy to circumvent, then his presence in the army, instead of producing any good, would open the way for every intrigue: each one would offer him his projects and as he would not have the necessary experience to judge of the best, he would abandon himself to the counsels of his familiars.
The general who
should command under him, constrained and thwarted in all his enterprises, would be out of condition for doing anything good, though even he should have all the talent necessary for conducting a war. It will be objected that the prince could well be present with the army, without constraining the generalissimo, by placing on the contrary all confidence in him alone, and aiding him with his sovereign power.
In this case, that presence might produce some good, but it would often cause great embarrassment; if the army were ever turned, cut off from its communications, and obliged to open itself a way sword in hand, what sad results would not this position of the monarch at the head quarters produce?
When the prince
shall feel the necessity of placing himself at the head of his armies, but without possessing yet the confidence in himself necessary for directing every thing according to his own will, the best system which he can adopt, will be to imitate precisely what the Prussian government did with Blucher
; that is to say, to call to his assistance two generals the most famed for their capacity, the one taken from among men of acknowledged executive qualities, the other taken from among the best instructed chiefs of the staff.
This trinity, if it agree well, can give excellent results, as had place in the army of Silesia
The same system would be suitable also in the case where the monarch should judge it proper to confide the command to a prince of his house, as has frequently been seen since the time of Louis XIV. The prince
was often decorated only with the titular command, whilst a counselor was imposed upon him who commanded in reality.
This was the case with the Duke
, at the famous battle of Turin
, then with the Duke
of Burgundy and Vendome
, at the battle of Oudenard.
I believe even that it was so at Ulm
, between the Arch-Duke Ferdinand
This last mode is deplorable, for then, in fact, no person is responsible.
Every one knows that at Turin
, the Duke
judged with more sagacity than Marshal Marsin
, and the exhibition of full secret powers from the king was necessary, to cause the battle to be lost against the advice of the prince who commanded.
In the same manner at Ulm
, the Arch-Duke Ferdinand
displayed more courage and skill than Mack
, who was to serve him as mentor.
If the prince
have the genius and experience of an Arch-Duke Charles
, he should be given the command with carte-blanche, and with the choice of his instruments.
If he have not yet required the same titles, he may be sur rounded like Blucher
, with an instructed chief of staff, and with a counselor
taken from among men of tried execution.
But in no case would it be wise to give those counselors other power than a consultative voice.
We have said above, that if the prince does not himself conduct his armies, the most important of his duties will be that of causing himself to be well replaced, and this, unfortunately, is what scarcely ever happens.
Without going back to the times of antiquity, it suffices to recall the more recent examples which the ages of Louis XIV and Louis XV have furnished us. The merit of Prince Eugene, measured by his ill shaped figure, carried the greatest captain of his time into the hostile ranks; and after the death of Louvois
, they saw the Tallards, the Marsins, the Villerois, succeed the Turennes, the Condes, and the Luxumbourgs; later were seen the Soubises and the Clermonts succeed the Marshal Saxe
From the perfumed selections, made in the boudoirs of the Pompadours and the Dubarrys, down to the love of Napoleon
, there are, doubtless, many states of divers natures to pass over, and the margin is sufficiently great for offering to the least enlightened government, all the means of arriving at a rational result; but, in all times, human frailties will show their influence in one manner or another, and cunning or suppleness will often gain the day, over the modest merit which shall wait until it be known how to employ it.
Setting aside even all the chances taken in the nature of the human heart, it is just to acknowledge how difficult such selections are, even for Chiefs of the government the most ardent in their desires for the public welfare.
In the first place, to choose a skillful general, one must be a military man himself, and in condition to judge, or else refer to the judgments of others, which involves necessarily the inconvenience of coteries.
The embarrassment is, doubtless, not so great, when there is at command a general already illustrious from many victories; but, besides that every general is not a great captain for having gained a battle, (witness Jourdan
, and many others,) it does not always happen that a State has a victorious general at its disposition.
After long intervals of peace, it might chance that no European
general should have commanded-in-chief.
In this case, it would be difficult to know by what title one general should be preferred to another; those who, by long peace services, shall be at the head of the list, and shall have the grade requisite for commanding the army, will they be the most capable of doing it?
Moreover, the communications of chiefs of the State
with their subordinates, are so rare and so transient, that there is no occasion for astonishment at the difficulty of putting men in their place.
The faith of the prince, seduced by appearances, will then sometimes be surprised, and
with sentiments the most elevated, he can be deceived in his selections, without being liable to be reproached for it.
One of the surest means for avoiding this misfortune, would seem to be to realize the fine fiction of Fenelon
, and to seek the faithful Philocles
, sincere and generous, who placed between the prince and all aspirants to the command, would be able, by his more direct relations with the public, to enlighten the monarch as to the choice of individuals, the best recommended by their talents, as well as by their character.
But will this faithful friend himself never yield to personal affections?
Will he know how to divest himself of prepossessions?
Was not Suwaroff repulsed by Potemkin because of his personal appearance, and was not all the skill of Catharine needed to cause a regiment to be given to a man who afterwards shed so much lustre upon her arms?
It has been thought that public opinion would be the best guide; nothing is more hazardous.
Has not public opinion mode a Caesar of Dumouriez, who understood nothing of great warfare?
Would it have placed Bonaparte
at the head of the army in Italy
, when he was known but by two directors?
Meanwhile it must be acknowledged that this opinion, if it be not always infallible, is none the more to be disdained, especially, when it survives great crises and the experience of events.
The qualities most essential for a general-in-chief will ever be: A great character, or moral courage which leads to great resolutions; then sang-froid or physical courage which predominates over dangers
. Knowledge appears but in the third rank; it were blindness not to acknowledge that it will be a powerful auxiliary.
Moreover, as I have already said elsewhere, we must not understand thereby a vast erudition; it is not necessary to know a great deal, but to understand well, and above all to be deeply penetrated with regulating principles.
At the end of all these qualities will come personal character; a man brave, just, firm, equitable, knowing how to esteem the merit of others instead of being jealous of it, and skillful in making it serve to his own glory, will ever be a good general, and may even pass for a great man. Unfortunately this eagerness to render justice to merit is not the most common quality, mediocre minds are always jealous, and inclined to surround themselves badly, fearing to pass in the world for being led, and not knowing how to comprehend that the man nominally placed at the head of armies has always nearly the entire glory of their successes, even though he should have the least part therein.
The question has often been agitated whether the command should be
given in preference to the general habituated from long experience to the conduct of troops, or to generals of the staff or scientific arms, little habituated, themselves to managing troops.
It is incontestable that grand warfare is a science altogether separate, and that one may very well combine operations without having himself led a regiment to the enemy; Peter the Great
, Conda,acute; Frederick
are in point to prove it. It cannot be denied then that a man come from the staff may become a great captain as well as any other; but it will not be for having grown old in the functions of quarter-master that he will have the capacity for supreme command, it will be because he possesses in himself the natural genius for war and the requisite character.
In the same manner, a general from the ranks of the infantry or of the cavalry, will be as fit as a learned tactician to command an army.
The question seems then difficult to resolve in an absolute manner, and here still individualities will be everything.
In order to arrive at a rational solution, it is necessary to take a middle course and recognize:
That a general of the staff, the artillery or engineers, who shall also have conducted a division or a corps d'armee, will have, with equal chances, a real superiority over him who shall only be acquainted with the service of one arm or of a special corps;
That a general of troops who shall have studied war will be equally proper for command;
That great character precedes all the qualities requisite for a general-in-chief;
Finally that the union of wise theory with a great character will constitute the great captain.
The difficulty of assuring constantly a good choice, has give rise to the idea of supplying it by a good staff, which, placed as advisers of the generals, would have a real influence over the operations.
Undoubtedly a superior staff corps, in which should be perpetuated good traditions, will always be one of the most useful and happy of institutions; but it will be necessary to watch that false doctrines are not introduced therein, for then this institution would become fatal.
Frederick the Great
, in founding his military academy at Potsdam
, scarcely expected that it would terminate in the rechte schulter vor
of General Ruchel
and in presenting the oblique order as the infallible talisman, which causes the gain of battles: so true is it that from the sublime to the ridiculous there is often but a step.
Besides that, it would be necessary to avoid with great care exciting a conflict between the generalissimo and his chief of staff; and if the latter ought to be taken from amongst the best recognized notabilities of this corps, still it will be necessary to leave to the generals the choice of the individuals with whom he will best sympathise.
To impose a chief of staff on the generalissimo would be to lead to a confusion of powers; to allow him to take a man who is a cypher among his clients would be more dangerous still, for if he is himself a mediocre man, placed by favor or chance, his choice will be felt.
The mean term for avoiding these evils, will be to give to the general-in-chief
, the choice amongst many generals of an incontestable capacity who will be designated for him, but leaving him to take the one who shall sui him.
It has been thought also, in almost all armies successively, that more solemnity and weight would be given to the direction of military operations, by assembling often councils of war to aid the generalissimo with their advice.
Undoubtedly, if the chief of the army is a Soubise, a Clermont, or a Mack, a mediocre man in a word, he could often find in the council of war better opinions than his own; the majority even could make better decisions than he; but what success could be expected from operations conducted by others than those who have planned and combined them?
What will the execution of a project lead to, which the general-in-chief
only half comprehends, since it will not be his own thought?
I have had myself a terrible experience of this pitiful part of prompter at head quarters, and no one perhaps can better than myself appreciate it at its just value.
It is especially in the midst of a council of war that this part must be absurd, and the more numerous,the council, and the higher the military dignitaries of which it shall be composed, the more difficult it will be to cause truth and reason to triumph in it if there be ever so little dissidence.
What would a council of war have done in which Napoleon
, in quality of counselor, should have proposed the movement of Arcola
, the plan of Rivoli
, the march by the St. Bernard
, the movement of Ulm
, and that upon Gera
The timid would have found those operations rash even to folly; others would have seen a thousand difficulties of execution; all would have rejected them.
If, on the contrary, the council should have accepted them, and another than Napoleon
should have conducted them, would they not certainly have failed?
Therefore, in my opinion, councils of war are a deplorable resource; it can only have one favorable side, which is when the council is of the same
opinion as the general-in-chief
It may then give to the latter more confidence in his own resolutions, and he will have, moreover, the conviction that each of his lieutenants, penetrated with the same idea as himself, will do his best to assure its execution.
This is the only good which a council of war can produce, which, besides, ought always to be a council purely consultative and nothing more.
But if, in place of this perfect accord, there be dissidence, then such a council can have only unfortunate results.
From what precedes, I think it may be concluded, that the best manner of organizing the command of an army, when we shall not have a great captain, who has already given numerous proofs, will be:
1. To confide this command to a man of tried bravery, bold in combat, immoveable in danger;
2. To give him for a chief of staff, a man of high capacity, of a frank and loyal character, with whom the generalissimo may live in good harmony; the glory is sufficiently great to yield a part of it to a friend who should have concurred in preparing successes.
It was thus that Blucher
, assisted by the Gneisenaus and Mufflings, covered himself with a glory which probably he never would have acquired all alone.
Without doubt, this kind of double command would never equal that of a Frederick, of a Napoleon, or of a Suwarof, but, in default of this unity of a great captain, it is certainly the preferable mode.
Before finishing upon these important matters, is remains for me yet to say a few words upon another manner of influencing military operations: it is that of councils of war established in the capitol
near the government.
, directed a long time from Paris
, the armies of Louis XIV, and did it with success.
directed also from Paris
the armies of the Republic
; in 1793 he did very well, and saved France
; in 1794 he did at first very badly, then repaired his faults by chance; in 1796 he did decidedly very badly.
directed alone the operations without assembling a council.
The Aulic council of war, established at Vienna
, had often the mission of directing the operations of the armies; there has never been but one voice in Europe
upon the fatal effects which have resulted from it; is it wrong or right?
generals can alone decide.
As far as I am concerned, I think that the only attribute which such a I council should have, is reduced to the adoption of a general plan of operations.
It is already known that I do not understand by that, a plan which would trace out a whole campaign, would constrain generals and can
them to be beaten inevitably; but I understand the plan which should determine the aim of the campaign, the offensive or defensive nature of the operations, then the material means which it would be necessary to prepare beforehand for the first enterprises, then for the reserves, then for possible levies in case of invasion.
It cannot be denied that all these things may and even must be discussed, in a government council, composed of generals and ministers; but there, ought to be limited the action of such a council, for if it has the pretention to tell the generalissimo not only to march to Vienna
or to Paris
, but still to indicate to him the manner in which he must manoeuvre in order to arrive there, then the poor general will be certainly beaten, and all the responsibility of his reverses will weigh upon those who, at two hundred leagues from the enemy, pretend to direct an army, which it is already so difficult to direct well when one is upon the ground.
Article XV: military spirit of nations, and the moral of armies.
A government would adopt in vain the best regulations for organizing an army, if it did not apply itself also to exciting a military spirit in the country.
If, in the city of London
, they prefer the title of richest cashier to military decoration, that may do with an insular country, protected by its innumerable squadrons; but a continental nation, which should adopt the manners of the city of London
, or of the bourse of Paris
, would sooner or later be the prey of its neighbors.
It was to the assemblage of civic virtues and military spirit passed from institutions into manners that the Romans were indebted for their greatness; when they lost those virtues, and when, ceasing to regard the military service an honor as well as a duty, they abandoned it to the mercenary Goths
, Heruli and Gauls, the loss of the empire became inevitable.
Without doubt, nothing of that which may augment the prosperity of a country ought to be forgotten o<*>
despised; it is necessary even to honor skillful men and traders who are the first instruments of this prosperity, but it is necessary that this be subordinate to the great institutions which make the strength of States, by encouraging the masculine and heroic virtues.
Policy and justice will be agreed in that, for, whatever Boileau
may say of it, it will always be more glorious to brave death in the steps of the Caesars
, than to fatten on the public miseries, by playing upon the vicissitudes of the credit of the State
Woe to those countries where the luxury of the contractor and the stockholder insatiable of gold, shall be placed above the uniform of the brave man who shall have sacrificed his life, his health or his fortune, in the defence of the country.
The first means of encouraging the military spirit is to surround the army with all consideration, public and social.
The second, is to assure to the services rendered to the State
, the preference in all the administrative employments which should chance to be vacant, or to require even a given time of military service for certain employments.
It would be a subject worthy of the most serious consideration, that of comparing the ancient military institutions of Rome
with those of Russia
, and of drawing afterwards the parallel between them and the doctrines of modern Utopists who, declaiming against all participation of the officers of the army in the other public functions, no longer wish any but rhetoricians in the great offices.6
Without doubt, there are many employments which require special studies; but would it not be possible for the military man to devote himself, in the numerous leisures of peace, to the study of the career which he should wish to embrace, after having paid his debt to his country in that of arms?
And if administrative places were given by preference to officers retired from service with the grade of captain at least, would it not be a great stimulant for them to seek to arrive at this grade?
Would it not also be a stimulant for officers to think, in their garrisons, of seeking their recreations elsewhere than in the theatres and public cafes.
Perhaps it will be found that this facility of passing from the military service to places of civil administration, would be rather injurious than favorable to the military spirit, and that, in order to strengthen the latter, it would be suitable on the contrary to place the condition of soldier altogether beyond other careers.
The Janizaries and the Mamelukes had their origin in this principle.
These soldiers were bought at the age of seven
or eight years, and they were reared in the idea that they must die under their colors.
even, those men so proud of their rights, on becoming soldiers, contract the obligation for life ; and the Russian
soldier must serve for twenty-five years, which is almost equivalent to a life enlistment like that of the English
With such armies, as well as in those which are recruited by voluntary enlistment, perhaps it wouln be in fact, more suitable not to admit a fusion between the posts of military officers and civil places.
But, whenever the military service shall be a temporary duty imposed on the population, the case seems different, and the Roman
institutions which required a service of ten years in the legions, before being able to aspire to the various public functions, appears rather in effect the best means of preserving the martial spirit, especially at an epoch when the general tendency to material well-being, seems to become the dominant passion of societies.
However that may be, I think, that under all possible regimes, the constant aim of a wise government will be to elevate the military service to the end of nourishing the love of glory and all the warlike virtues, under penalty of incurring the blame of posterity, and of experiencing the fate of the Roman
It will not be all to inspire the military spirit in the populations; it will be necessary still to encourage it in the army.
What, in fact, would be gained, though the uniform should be honored in the city aid imposed as a civic duty, if men did not carry under their colors all the warlike virtues?
We should have a militia numerous, but without valor.
The moral exaltation of an army and military spirit are two very different things which we must take care not to confound, and which produce nevertheless, the same effect.
The first is, as has been said, produced by passions more or less transient, such as political or religious opinions, and a great love of country; whilst that military spirit being inspired by the skill of a chief or by wise institutions, depends less on circumstances and ought to be the work of a far seeing government.7
Let courage be recompensed and honored, let the grades be respected, and let discipline be in sentiment and in conviction still more than in form.
Let the body of officers and the ranks in general be convinced that resignation, bravery and the sentiment of duty, are virtues without which no
army is respectable, no glory possible; let all know well that firmness in reverses is more honorable than enthusiasm in successes, for there is only courage necessary for taking a position, whilst heroism is required for making a difflcult retreat before a victorious and enterprising enemy, without being disconcerted, and opposing to it a bold front.
It is the duty of the prince to recompense a handsome retreat as highly as the finest victory.
To harden the armies to labor and fatigue; not to allow them to be idle in the effeminacy of garrisons in times of peace; to inculcate in them the sentiment of their superiority over the enemy; without, however lowering the latter too much; to inspire the love of great actions; in a word, to excite enthusiasm by inspirations in harmony with the spirit which governs the masses; to decorate valor and punish weakness; and finally to brand cowardice; these are the means of forming a good military spirit,
It was effeminacy above all which was the ruin of the Roman
legions; those formidable soldiers who carried casque, buckler and cuirass under the burning sky of Africa
in the days of the Scipios, found them too heavy under the cold sky of Gaul
; then the empire was lost.
I have said that it is necessary never to inspire too much contempt for the enemy, because that where you should find an obstinate resistance, the moral
of the soldier might he shaken by it. Napoleon
, addressing himself at Jena
to the corps of Lannes, praised the Prussian cavalry, but promised that it could do nothing against the bayonets of his Egyptians!
It is necessary also to forewarn the officers, and through them the soldiers, against those sudden turns which often seize the bravest armies when they are not restrained by the curb of discipline, and by the conviction that order in a troop is the pledge of its safety.
It was not for the want of courage that a hundred thousand Turks were beaten at Peterwaradin by the Prince Eugene, and at Kagoul by Roumanzof; it was because that once repulsed in their disorderly charges, each one found himself delivered to his personal inspirations, all fighting individually without any order in the masses.
A troop seized with panic finds itself in the same state of demoralization, for disorder being once introduced, all concert and all ensemble in the individual wills becomes impossible; the voice of the chiefs can no longer make itself heard; every manoeuvre for re-establishing the combat becomes impossible of execution, and then there remains safety only in a shameful flight.
The people of lively and ardent imagination are more subject than
others to these panics, and those of the south are almost all in this category.
The remedy is in strong institutions and skillful chiefs alone.
even, whose military virtues have never been questioned when they have been well conducted, have often witnessed those alarms which it is permitted to call rediculous.
Who does not recall the inconceivable panic terror with which the infantry of Marshal Villars
was seized after having gained the battle of Friedlingen (1704)? The same thing had place in the infantry of Napoleon
after the victory of Wagram
, when the enemy was in full retreat.
And, what is more extraordinary still, is the rout of the 97th demi-brigade at the seige of Genoa
, where fifteen hundred men fled before a platoon of hussars, whilst that those same men took two days after the Diamond Fort
by one of the most vigorous coups-de-main of modern history.
It would seem, nevertheless, very easy to convince brave soldiers that death strikes more quickly and more surely men flying in disorder, than those who remian united to present a bold front to the enemy, or rally promptly if they happen to be momentarily forced.
army in this respect, may serve as a model for all those of Europe
, and the steadiness which it has displayed in all its retreats, belong as much to the national character as to the national instinct of the soldiers and to the establishment of a rigid discipline.
It is not indeed always the vivacity of imagination of troops which introduces disorder among them, the want of habits of order has much to do with it, and the want of precautions in the chiefs to assure the maintainance of them, contributes still more to it. I have been often astonished at the indifference of the greater part of generals on this subject; not only did they disdain to take the least logistic precaution for assuring the direction of small detachments and isolated men, they adopted no rallying signals in order to facilitate, in the different corps of an army, the reunion of the fractions which might be scattered in consequence of a sudden terror, or even an irresistible charge of the enemy; but they were even offended that any one should think of proposing to them such precautions.
In the meantime the most incontestable courage, and the severest discipline would be often impotent for remedying a great disorder, which the good habit of division rallying signals would much more easily obviate.
Without doubt there are cases where all human resources would be insufficient for the maintainance of order; such, for example, is that where the physical sufferings to which the troops should find themselves a prey, should have succeeded in rendering them deaf to all kinds of appeal, and where the chiefs themselves should be unable to do anything to reorganize them; this is what happened in 1812.
But beyond these
exceptionable cases, good habits of order, good logistic precautions, and a good discipline will succeed the most often, if not in preventing all panic.
at least in carrying a prompt remedy thereto.
It is time to quit those matters of which I have desired only to trace a sketch, and to pass on to the examination of the purely military combinations.