previous next

The destroyer of armies.

The fact has been frequently alluded to that the real destroyer of armies is not shot or steel, but disease engendered by carelessness on the part of the men, want of discipline, improper attention on the part of the medical officers, and an insufficient commissariat. The percentage of deaths in regular armies is always much less than in volunteer armies, and this results from the care and attention bestowed on the men by the officers, and the strict hygienic rules laid down for their guidance. The large amount of sickness now in our army is, in a great measure, owing to the want of care on the part of regimental and company officers, whose duty lies as much in looking to the health and habits of their men as in teaching them the use of arms or in leading them into battle. The Westminster Review gives the following statistics illustrative of the power of disease:

"The statistics of the Chef d'etat Major quoted by Canot, who was War Minister, gives the numbers of the invading army which crossed the Nieman on the 24th June at 302,000 men, 104,000 horses. On the advance to Moscow was fought the great battle of Borodino. In this battle there were put hors de combat --that is, killed and wounded — on the side of the Russians no less than thirty Generals, 1,600 officers, and 42,000 men, while the French, according to Marshal Berthier's papers, subsequently taken at Wilma, had in killed and wounded forty Generals, 1,800 officers, and 52,000 men. The French, however, claimed the victory, inasmuch as the Russians fell back after the battle, and left the French in possession of the ground. The cold began on November the 7th. But three days before the cold began — namely, on the 4th of November--there remained of the mighty host that had crossed the Neumann but 55,000 men and 1,200 horses. Two hundred and forty-seven thousand men had perished or become ineffective in one hundred and thirty-three days. Of the 55,000 men, however, plus any reinforcements they may have met on the way 40,000 men returned to France, showing how few men were lost in this masterly retreat, either by the severity of the winter or the harassing attacks of the enemy. But even if three-fourths of the wounded at Borodino had died, and allowing for those killed in minor actions and operations, there would remain nearly 200,000 men who perished by insufficient commissariat — by want of forethought. The Count de Segur the historian of this campaign, considers that the genius of Napoleon had culminated before he undertook this expedition, famous among the world's disasters, and that constant prosperity had led him to look on success as so certain that he neglected the means of attaining it.

Any way, here is an instance under the greatest Generals that it is not the enemy, however numerous or skillful, who effect the destruction of armies. It is fatigue, exposure, want of food, want of shelter, want of clothing, want of sanitary prevention.

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

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

hide Places (automatically extracted)

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

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Borodino (New York, United States) (2)
Wilma (Washington, United States) (1)
Moscow, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Count Segur (1)
Napoleon (1)
Berthier (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July, 11 AD (1)
April, 11 AD (1)
June 24th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: