1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Strategy
STRATEGY, a term literally meaning “the art of the leader or general” (Gr. στρατηγός). In the strict sense the word “strategy” was originally introduced into European military literature about the opening of the 18th century, when the practice of warfare had settled down into an established routine, and the need of some term arose which should express that peculiar quality of a general's mind which rendered victory the almost certain consequence of his appearance in the field. As at that period only some small departure from established precedent—a trick or stratagem—could turn the scale between armies of about equal power, the idea of a ruse became connected with the word, and the essential quality in the general's personality which alone rendered ruses practicable, or guaranteed success in their execution, passed out of men's minds, until the gradual disappearance of these methods in the Napoleonic period focused attention again on its essential meaning, i.e. the art of the leader. Then the term “strategy” became limited as a technical term to the “practice of the art of war by an executive agent of a supreme government,” or in Moltke's words, “the practical adaptation of the means placed at a general's disposal to the attainment of the object in view.” This definition fixes the responsibility of a commander-in-chief to the government he serves. He cannot be held answerable for the “means,” not even for the training of the “means” for a particular operation, unless he be appointed to his task in adequate time. He is charged with their employment within the limits of the theatre of operations assigned to him. If he considers the means placed at his disposal inadequate he need not accept the position offered him, but he steps beyond his province as a strategist if he attempts to dictate to the government what, in the widest sense, the means supplied to him should be.
Since, however, the “means,” i.e. the conditions of the problems presented by war, are subject to infinite variation (climate, topography, equipment, arms and men, all being liable to collective or independent change) it is clear that their employment can never be reduced to a “science” but must retain to the full the characteristics of an “art.” This distinction is essential, and must be borne in mind, for no soldier can expect to become a Napoleon merely by the study of that great strategist's campaigns. But if he lack practice and experience, and above all genius, the man who neglects such teachings as the contemplation of the works of his predecessors can supply does so at his own peril; and when, as in the case of the soldier, the whole destiny of an empire may depend on his action, he must be bold indeed who would neglect all possible precautions. The cases for study, however, rest on yet broader foundations, for, though theory deduced from history can never, from the nature of things, formulate positive prescriptions, it can at any rate enable the student to throw off the chains of convention and prepare his mind to balance the conflicting claims of the many factors which at every moment clamour for special recognition.
To understand the subject thoroughly it is necessary to follow in some detail the successive stages of human evolution. From the earliest times the defeat of the fighting men of a race has been the most certain road to the acquisition of its wealth, or the trade conditions on which that wealth was based.
To defeat an enemy it was first necessary to march to meet him, and during that march the invaders must either live on the country or carry their own food. If the defender drove off the cattle and burnt the crops, the latter alternative was forced upon them. Thus, since the supplies which could be carried were of necessity small, the defenders had only to create or utilize some passive obstacle for defence which the invaders could not traverse or destroy in the limit of time (fixed by the provisions they carried) at their disposal, to compel the latter to retire to their own country. Every sedentary nation, therefore, had a fixed striking radius which could only be extended by the exercise of ingenuity in the improvement of means of transport, i.e. carts and roads. The existence of roads, however, limited the march of an invader to certain directions, and hence it became possible for the defender to concentrate his efforts for their
defence on certain points, in fact, to create fortresses, greater or less in proportion to his fear of the enemy and his intelligent appreciation of the degree of sacrifice it was worth while to make to obtain security. A barbarian horde could be stopped by any barrier which could not be set on fire or escaladed without ladders or appliances. Ruses, such as the wooden horse of Troy, then became the fashion, and these had to be met by the cultivation of a higher order of intelligence, which naturally throve best in a crowded community, where each felt his dependence on his neighbour. Thus, for ages, the fort or fortress limited barbarian encroachments, and made possible the growth of civilization in the plains. Ultimately, when the civilized communities grew into contact with one another, developed antagonistic interests, and fell out with one another, intelligence was brought to bear on both sides, and the assailant met fortifi- cation with siege-craft. Then the whole cycle worked itself out again. To carry out a siege, men in numbers had to be concen- trated and fed whilst concentrated. The stores for attack were also heavy and difficult to convey, hence roads developed in- creased importance, and troops had to be abstracted from the fighting force to protect them. Thus again a limit of striking radius was fixed for the invader, and in proportion as the dimensions of the invaded country exceededÂ«this radius, and its people made the requisite sacrifices to maintain their fortifica- tions in order, the continued existence and growth of the smaller country was assured. Broadly, this equilibrium of forces remained for generations; the smallest states were eaten up, the larger ones continued to exist side by side with far more powerful enemies, but only on condition of their readiness to make the requisite sacrifice of their personal liberty and the property of their constituent units.
Then came the introduction of gunpowder and of siege artillery, and a fresh readaptation of conditions, which culmin- ated in the Netherlands during the 17th century and forms the starting-point of all modern practice.
Essentially the change consisted in this, viz. that in spite of the superiority of the cannon-ball to the battering-ram, yet to attack a wall effectively many guns had to be employed, and while the duration of the siege was enormously shortened, a far greater strain was thrown on the line of supply, for not only did guns weigh as much as their predecessors but they could expend their own weight of ammunition in a day. Hence the impor- tance of good roads became enhanced and correspondingly the incentive to attack the fortresses which guarded them. In com- parison to the money devoted to modern armies, the sums sunk on passive defences during the 16th and 17th centuries were colossal, but they could not keep pace with the progress of the attack, and once more fresh readjustment of means to end became necessary. The obvious course was to carry the war into the enemy's country from the outset, but since this transferred the burden of the siege upon the aggressor, the latter was compelled to develop the standing mercenary army, as feudal levies could not keep the field long enough to reduce a fortress. Mercenary armies, however, were difficult to keep together. They had to be tactfully commanded to ensure contentment, and allowed to main- tain social order amongst themselves, and the prospect of loot while on active service had to be held out to them. The sack of a city became thus the absolute and undeniable right of the soldiers. If in this or any other way their employer broke his contract, individuals promptly deserted to the other side. But this right of sack led to a recrudescence of the spirit of resistance in the fortresses (War of Dutch Independence and Thirty Years' War), and hence to a reaction in favour of greater humanity in warfare. But this was only obtained by the concession of a higher scale of pay and comfort to the men, which again threw an increased strain upon the communications, and also upon the treasure chest of their employer.
The growth of the mercenary system, and the facility with which such men could and did change their allegiance, led very rapidly to almost complete uniformity in the composition, training and tactical methods of all armies. Every one knew in advance the degree of effort his adversary proposed to put
forward in the next campaign, and made corresponding prepara- tions to meet him. Practically the king desiring to make wai submitted his idea to the best-known generals of his day and asked them to tender for its execution. The king, on his side, generally agreed to find the bulk of the labour â€” his standing army, re- inforced by auxiliaries to any desired extent â€” and as in the case of a modern government contract, the lowest tender was almost invariably accepted, with a pious exhortation to the successful competitor to spare his employer's troops to the best of his ability. Thus the opposing generals took the field, each equally fettered by the conditions of his tender. But two such armies, alike in almost every respect, were far too closely matched to be able easily to gain a decision in the open field. Once they were committed to a battle it was impossible to separate them until sheer physical exhaustion put a stop to the slaughter, and these highly trained men were difficult and expensive to replace. Naturally, then, the generals sought to destroy the existing equilibrium by other means. Primarily they took to strong entrenchments, but the building of these being a matter of time, the communications grew in importance and attempts agadnst them became more serious. One side or the other, consequently, to cover its communications, so extended its front that at length lines stretched right across whole frontiers till their flanks rested on the sea, or on some great fortress or neutral territory. The two armies would then face one another for months, each exhausting every device to induce the other to concentrate on one part of his front whilst an attempt was made by a rapid move to carry a relatively unguarded point elsewhere, e.g. Marlborough's surprise of the Ne plus ultra lines (see Spanish Succession). During such periods of immobility the works grew to the solidity of permanent fortifications, with wide and deep ditches, and with every obstacle known' to engineers, whilst to render them defensible by the minimum number of muskets, they were laid out so as to cross their fire over and over again opposite every weak point in their tracing. No amount of battering could alter their general trace, and so they remained defensible as long as their garrisons could be trusted to line the parapets at all. This state of things must have continued until progress in artillery had evolved a weapon with sufficient accuracy and shell power to drive the defenders from their parapets and keep them away till the last moment preceding assault, had not fresh factors evolved themselves from causes at work under totally different topo- graphical limitations and conditions.
First amongst these comes the accession to the throne of Prussia of a king who was commander-in-chief of his own army, and as such responsible to no one for the use he chose to make of it. This would really remove him at once from the category of strategists in the restricted sense in which the term is now employed, but since no convenient word exists to define the action of a ruler playing the double part of soldier and governor, it is convenient both in his case and in that of Napoleon to use the expression to cover the wider sphere. The permanence of the association between king and army enabled Frederick the Great to train his men specifically for the work he intended them to perform. Realizing to the full the value of the foundation laid by his father in developing to its utmost the fire power of the infantry, he devoted special attention to imparting to them a skill and rapidity in manoeuvre which ensured that in the open field his generals would always be able to place the muskets at their disposal in the best positions relatively to the enemy; and his cavalry were trained to such a pitch of mobility and precision in drill that they could be relied on to arrive at the appointed time and place to reap the fruits which the infantry fire had sown. To these startling innovations the Austrians had no new ideas to oppose. The old school, the survival of the fittest in the special theatre df its growth, i.e. the Netherlands and the Rhine, could not deal with the complete change in topographic surroundings â€” the far wider area of operations, the comparative scarcity of fortresses and the general practicability of the country for the movement of troops â€” not trains â€” off the roads. Frederick, relying absolutely on the intrinsic superiority of his army, knew that if he could catch his enemy in the open victory was a foregone conclusion. If the enemy, in accordance with precedent, fortified a position, a threat to his communications would force him to come out on pain of being surrounded (Pima 1756, Prague 1757). He followed this principle (see Seven Years' War) until the accession, first of France and the South German states, and afterwards of Russia, to the list of his enemies compelled him to give one enemy time to prepare a position whilst he was engaged against another. Before deliberately prepared positions his men were shot down in thousands, as they would have been in the Netherlands, and at length he was compelled, for want of an adequate artillery, to adopt the same procedure as his adversary. Thus the war ultimately came to an end by a process of mutual exhaus- tion. But it had brought out conspicuously the value of highly disciplined soldiery, and a fresh fetter was prepared for those on whom, after Frederick's death, the responsibility of command was to fall, and practically all Europe went back to the warfare by contract of the previous generation.
Meanwhile in France events were at work preparing the instrument Napoleon was destined to wield. Contrary to the prevailing opinion amongst modern historians, it is the fact that at no time in history was the art of war, and of all things appertaining to it, more closely studied than during the last years of the old royal army of France. Gribeauval paved the way for the creation of the artillery destined to win for Napoleon his greatest victories, and authors and generals such as the prince de Ligne (q.v.), the due de Broglie, Guibert (q.v.), Bosroger, du Teil and many others, pointed out clearly the line reform must take if the existing deadlock between attack and defence was to be removed; but none could suggest the first practical steps to apply, because the existing conditions were too closely interwoven and consolidated. In fact reform was impossible until the dissolution of society itself gave its ultimate particles freedom to combine in more suitable formations. Broadly, however, all were agreed that the protracted and inde- cisive operations of former wars were economically disastrous. A crushing and decisive victory was the aim for which all should strive; as a first step towards this object decentralization of command was essential, for freedom of manoeuvre, the only answer to Frederician methods, was impossible without it. This led to the idea of the permanently organized division of all arms; and events had reached this point when the deluge of the French Revolution overwhelmed them, and in face of a coalition of all Europe it became necessary to build up a new army from the very foundations. The steps by which it was sought to provide the men are dealt with in the article Con- scription; it is only necessary to point out here that it was not till 1799 that the laws became sufficiently defined to ensure a regular annual increment of recruits, and it was this regularity of supply, and not the fact that compulsion was needed to enforce it, which rendered expedient the complete revolution in warfare which Napoleon was destined to effect.
Until this reform was complete the revolutionary commanders were compelled to make war as best they could under pressure of the law of self-preservation, with the consequence that the whole army became habituated to the fact that orders in the field had to be obeyed at any sacrifice of life and comfort, and that neither hunger nor want of shoes, even of muskets, could be accepted as an excuse for hesitation to advance and to fight. Threatened on all sides, France was at first compelled to guard every avenue of approach by small separate forces taking their instructions only from a central authority in Paris, and thus the " division," a mobile force of all arms, which the earlier reformers had demanded, came spontaneously into existence to meet the requirements of the moment, and, thrown on its own resources, developed the brain and nervous system, i.e. the staff, necessary to co-ordinate the action of its limbs.
The next step in evolution came from the obvious advantage which must arise if these units, though starting from different bases, operated towards the attainment of a common purpose. The realization of this ideal, the starting-point of modern strategy, was the creation of Carnot, whose ideas, though far in advance both of contemporary opinion and of the technical means of execution then available (especially in the matter of imperfect means of telegraphy), formed a necessary step in the preparation of the machinery Napoleon was to inherit.
These, therefore, were the materials placed at his disposal when he began to practise the art of the leader: (1) a practically inexhaustible supply of men (the law in fact was not passed till two years later, but the idea was sufficiently evident) ; (2) divisional units and commanders, trained to unhesitating obedience to field orders, and accustomed to solve the problems presented to them in their own way, without guidance from superior authority; (3) the idea of co-operation between separate columns for a common purpose; and (4) a tradition that the word "impossible" did not exist for French soldiers.
The equipment of the allies started from very different founda- tions. To them the individual soldier was a valuable possession, representing an investment of capital generally estimated at Â£200 cash (as great a strain on the exchequer then as Â£2,000 would be to-day); and not only was he exposed to the risk of death in action, but he might die of disease or exhaustion on the march, and could always desert if he felt discontented. Moreover, the last campaigns of the Seven Years' War seemed altogether to justify methods of evasion and " strong positions." Frederick the Great,- beginning with the most audacious offensive, had ended by copying the caution of his antagonists, and each side had learnt to gauge the fighting value of a single battalion so accurately that to move a force, recognized by both as adequate for its purpose, into a threatening position, sufficed of itself to induce the adversary to accept the situation thus created. Since the value of a fortified position depended largely on the ground, the cult of topography became a mania, and (as Clausewitz puts it) the world lost itself in debating whether " the battalion defended the mountain or the mountain defended the battalion." The care for the comfort of the private soldier was pushed to such a degree that commanders would not report their units fit for action until complete to the last gaiter button and provided in advance with the regulation scale of rations for a fixed number of days. Over-centralization continued; though the expressions " divisions " and " corps " were already known, the idea these words now convey had not yet even come into existence. Though a certain number of units might be assigned to a subordinate commander, they still received all orders, except on the battlefield, from the central authority, and were, moreover, considered interchangeable. There was no personal bond between them and their general. To what lengths this system was pushed, and the consequences which flowed from it, may best be gauged from the fact that in 1805 Mack, when writing his defence for his failure at Ulm (see Napoleonic Campaigns), thought it quite natural to explain the delay in his movements on the day of Elchingen by the fact that when news of the French attack was received he was busy writing out the orders for the following day, which occupied fourteen pages of foolscap and "did not contain one superfluous word." Further, the idea prevailed in middle Europe that war was a matter concerning the contending governments in which the ordinary citizen had no interest whatever. It was true that the result of a war might transfer his allegiance from one crown to another, but this was scarcely more to the people than a change of landlords. Consequently they took little if any interest in the progress of a war, and on the whole were most inclined to help the army which most respected their private property and was willing to pay highest for its accommodation while billeted in their towns and villages. Since the goodwill of inhabitants is always valuable, commanders vied with one another in their efforts to purchase it, and respect for private property and rights reached an unprecedented level. Thus, during the whole of the campaign of the Netherlands in 1793 the Austrians paid hire to the owners of the fields in which they camped; and when on one occasion payment for lodgings hired for the wounded was in arrear, the wretched men were flung out on the streets. Yet another, and in a way more re- markable, illustration of this tendency occurred at the capture
of Mainz by the French (1794). A strong armed party of Austrians, endeavouring to escape across the Rhine to Kastel, were refused the use of the ferry boats until the regular payment was made, and actually laid down their arms to the enemy rather than break the law and seize the boats.
The cumulative influence of all these forces of retardation is easily followed. To avoid the cost of innumerable petty cash transactions with the inhabitants the troops were compelled to have recourse to the magazine system, which in turn tied them absolutely to the main roads; and the roads being numerous the army had to be broken up into small detachments to guard them. Thus the so-called " cordon " system grew out of its surroundings in a perfectly natural way, and was not due to the imbecility of the generals who employed it, but to the restraints placed upon them by custom and public feeling. Nothing more fortunate for the French could be imagined. Destitute of all the paraphernalia hitherto considered necessary, and com- pelled to fight at any cost in order to live, they found in these accumulated magazines and moving convoys the best possible bait to attract their starving men; relieved of all impedimenta, they could move freely through forests and marshes generally considered impracticable; and since from the magnitude of front covered, and the relatively small number of troops available, the allies could not oppose an unbroken front to their raids, they could swarm around the flanks of the positions and thus compel their evacuation. This struggle to safeguard or turn the flanks of positions led, as before in Marlborough's time and in our own day in Manchuria and South Africa, to a competition in extension, and at Napoleon's advent it was common to find armies of 20,000 to 30,000 men fighting desultory actions over a front of 20 to 30 m. This over-extension gave him his first opportunity, when the fire and energy he threw into his work, and the reckless disregard of human life he immediately displayed, stamped him at once as a born leader of men, and laid the foundation of that confidence in his guidance on the part of his troops which to the last proved his truest talisman of victory.
For the details of Napoleon's evolution the reader is referred to the articles French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Campaigns, and here it will suffice to point out the leading characteristics of those campaigns. Having swept the Austrians out of Sardinia, he turned against them in eastern Lombardy, and by a series of outflanking attacks threw them back into the Alps, defeating all their attempts to break out again by what is now known as a " series of operations on interior lines." All these were successful, not because of the form the operations took, but because the enormous increment of mobility he man- aged to impart to his men deprived his adversary of all accepted data by which to time his own combinations. It cannot with justice be said that the French won because they fought harder; but the rapid sequence of success confirmed both leader and men in a conviction of their combined superiority which led Napoleon in 1800 to the very brink of disaster. In 1796 through- out he was acting fairly in accordance with the teaching he had imbibed from his studies; in 1800 he appears as if seeking to determine how many of the established rules he could afford to neglect. We find him advancing to meet his adversary on a widely extended front without even exploring the country to learn where or in what strength that adversary stood. In 1805 this mistake is not repeated; a cavalry screen covers his advance, and his orders are based on the intelligence it transmits. But this precaution also proves insufficient. Cavalry can only see, they cannot hold; and only a combination of circumstances which he could not by any possibility have foreseen prevents his enemy from evading the blow at the last moment. What the position of the French would have been had Mack carried out his intention of leaving Ulm and destroying all his accumu- lation of supplies can only be imagined. But contemporary evidence prove* beyond doubt that Napoleon had already tr'ed the endurance of his men to the utmost.
In 1806 the mistake of sole reliance on a cavalry screen is no longer repeated. The cavalry now is backed by a strong advanced guard, one quarter of the whole army, following
behind it at short distance; and the whole command is now disposed in such a manner that no matter in what direction the enemy may appear it can concentrate in forty^eight hours to meet him. It is another form of the idea, prominent in British campaigns in the Sudan, of the advance in squares through the desert against a mobile enemy, the difference being that Napoleon's great "bataillon carree" has the advantage of mobility over its adversary. Concentration within forty- eight hours, however, would in itself be worse than useless unless the enemy stood fast to receive the intended shock; and it was the special object of the strong advanced guards or flank detachments to secure that he should do so. This could only be attained by a resolute offensive; no mere feeling the enemy's position would suffice to compel him. to stand, and might even frighten him into retreat. Hence the task devolving upon the troops thus selected was essentially distinct from that usually connected with the idea of an advanced or flank guard, and involved the conception of purchasing with their lives and by the vigour of their action the time necessary for the rest of the army to deliver a decisive blow.
This is the true meaning of Napoleon's maxim: On ne manoeuvre qu'autour d'un point fixe, a phrase which has been much misunderstood. The troops first engaged fix the enemy by the vigour of their attack, and thus constitute a pivot about which the remainder can manoeuvre.
Hitherto, however, the French armies had been operating in a country in which roughly one square mile of area would feed one thousand men for two days. Their freedom from convoys and other impedimenta enabled them to sweep out an area sufficient for their needs from day to day. But events now led them into a region in which this relation between the day's march and their subsistence no longer obtained. The emperor in fact had formed no conception of the roadlessness and poverty of Poland and East' Prussia. His men, no longer able to pick up their day's food by a day's march, rapidly fell off in condition and discipline (for short commons with the French always en- tailed marauding). As men and horses lost in condition the day's march dwindled further, with the result that heavier demands were made on the supply columns; and these being improvised and entrusted to an untrained personnel, the sufferings of the troops became unendurable, while the mobility of the French army sank below that of the enemy. Under these conditions the system of the advanced guard could no longer be trusted to work. Moreover the Russians, though deficient in the dash necessary to win victories in attack, have always taken longer to defeat than any other continental troops, and in the short winter days of the first half of the Polish campaign the emperor had no longer time to beat them into dissolution. The Russians would fight all day and retreat at night. As they fell back along their communications their feeding was easy. The exhausted French could never overtake them, and the emperor was at length compelled to adopt an expectant attitude. Not before Friedland (June 14, 1807), when the days were long and the country dry and everywhere passable, did his calculations of time and space prove realized and the system justified by the results.
When in 181 2 he again attempted to apply it at Vilna and Smolensk the Russians successfully repeated their tactics of evasion on every occasion, until, when they had fallen back to Borodino, their enemy had so far diminished that a battle in a selected position promised reasonable chances of success.
Meanwhile a fresh development in the tactics of the three arms added a new weapon to Napoleon's armoury, rendering the application of his system or any variant of it markedly more certain and efficacious. Whilst the infantry which fought under Napoleon's eagles had been steadily deteriorating, owing to the exorbitant demands his ceaseless marching campaigns had made upon them, the quality of his enemies had been as steadily improving. The growth of the sentiment of nationality had rendered it possible to throw aside the rigidity and impediments of the old conditions. There was no longer any fear that men would desert if called on to bivouac or if rations failed to come up to the accepted standard, and the essential points of the French infantry tactics having been assimilated they developed a relatively higher standard of endurance as measured by time. Means had to be discovered to ensure their destruc- tion before nightfall gave them the opportunity of withdrawal; and the evolution of the artillery arm (see Artillery) at last gave Napoleon the weapon he required to realize the ideal implanted in his mind by his teacher du Teil, vix. concentration of the destructive elements on the decisive point, which was derived originally from the analogy between the attack on a fortress and the conduct of a battle. A battle is but an abbrevi- ated siege, or a siege a prolonged battle. In the former the object is to purchase time at the cost of men's lives, in the latter to economize men by expenditure of time; but in both the final step is the same, viz. the creation of a breach of con- tinuity in the enemy's defence through which the assaulting columns can penetrate to the heart oi his position. Thanks to the increased mobility in the field artillery and skill in handling it (the result of years of experience), it was now pos- sible, once the aim of the enemy's infantry had been unsteadied, to bring up masses of guns to case-shot range and to breach the living rampart of the defence; and through the gap thus created, infantry or cavalry, or both combined, poured to overwhelm the last reserves beyond. This step completed Napoleon's means of destroying that " independent will power " of his adversary which is after all the greatest variable in the whole problem of war. His advanced guard engaged and fixed his enemy's attention, inducing him prematurely to use up his reserves, and when the battle was " ripe, " to use his own expression, the great blow was delivered with overwhelming suddenness by the balance of fresh troops which he had in hand. But the whole of his action depended essentially on an exact appreciation of the endurance of his own troops first engaged, at the cost of whom the reserves were saved up. It was the possession of this method which rendered Napoleon supreme upon the battlefield and fully justified the reluctance which his enemies showed to hazard its issue; but in the end it also proved the cause of his downfall, for in his fruitless efforts to bring the allies to action in 1813 he so completely wore out his troops that it became physically impossible for them to meet his demands. The campaign of 18 13 deserves attentive study, for in it Napoleon was both at his best and worst, acting as strategist pure and simple, applying the means at hand to the attainment of the object in view almost without a second thought for the diplomatic relations which so often hampered his military action, notably in 1814. In the famous " defensive campaign " of the latter year, which is usually held up as a model for imitation, he can hardly be said to have acted as a strategist at all, his movements being primarily directed to the destruction of the personal relations existing between the three allied monarchs, not to the annihilation of their respective armies, a task for which from the first he knew his resources to be entirely inade- quate. The Waterloo campaign (q.v.) again reveals the appli- cation of this system in its most finished form. That it failed ultimately was due primarily to atmospheric influences beyond the emperor's control, and in the second place to the intro- duction of a new tactical method by the British army for which his previous experience had in no way prepared him.
That after the event Napoleon should have sought to justify himself is further proof of the essential duality of his nature, which only rose to intuitive genius in war under the pressure of visible and tangible realities. Relaxed from excitement, he was the creature of his surroundings, controlled by contemporary thought like everyone else; and it is to failure to recognize this duality in his mind that all subsequent confusion in strategical thought owes its origin. It was clear that the career of such a genius could not pass unnoticed by military critics, hence, even while it was still in the making, every student of the military art felt compelled to pass judgment upon its incidents merely to show thathe was abreast of the times. More or less, each one tried to show that Napoleon's victories were due to the observance of the critic's own hobbies. These men, brought up on the old
military classics, and unaware of the ceaseless current of sociai changes which was seething around them, instinctively distorted facts to fit in with their preconceived theories. This is always inevitable with regard to contemporary criticism, since distance of time is always needed to bring facts down to their true perspective. It is quite clear from his innumerable reported conversations, and it is quite natural when one considers Napoleon's age, that in the back of his mind he stood rather in awe of these older and often far more deeply-read men. In any case it was quite obvious to him that his military reputation would stand or fall by their collective judgment. Hence, as soon as he had leisure, he set himself to explain his exploits in terms which they could understand. That he would be criticized for his frequent de- parture from established practice (for instance, in neglecting his communications, and again and again accepting or forcing on a battle in situations in which defeat must have spelt utter ruin) he was well aware. Hence to stifle such criticism in advance he went out of his way to accentuate the care he had devoted to his communications, as in the Marengo campaign, at Ulm, at Austerlitz, and again and again in the campaigns of Wagram and of Dresden. But the truth really is that as long as he adhered to his " bataillon carree " formation, and the country in which he was operating was fertile enough to support his men, his communications mattered little to him. His certainty of victory, if only the enemy could be induced to stand, was so great that he could fight his way through to where his rein- forcements were prepared for him, in whatever direction suited him best. Whilst he admitted, as all must do, the sound common sense at the bottom of all rules deduced from centuries of experi- ence, he never raised them to the dignity of inviolable principles, as he did the principle of the fixed point as a pivot for manoeuvres, the case-shot attack, and the employment of the avant-garde genirale. It seems indeed as if these fundamental principles appeared to his mind so self-evident that he assumed them as common knowledge in every intelligent mind, and hence never took the trouble to explain them to his marshals, though he did condescend to allude to them when writing to his brother Jerome and to Eugene de Beauharnais, with the limitations of whose minds he was quite familiar. Marmont, Rogniat, Soult and St Cyr were men for whose intellect he had the highest esteem, and all wrote at length on the subject of his campaigns, yet not an expression in their works, not a manceuvre in their independent commands, can be held to betray a knowledge of what was really the secret of the emperor's successes. For instance, by the year 18 12 Marmont may fairly be assumed to have learnt all he ever could learn from Napoleon's example; yet at Salamanca we find him manoeuvring quite like one of Frederick's generals. Napoleon would have attacked Welling- ton with a strong advanced-guard, one-fourth of his command at the least, and whilst the latter was busied in warding off his assailant's successive blows the emperor would have swung the remainder round upon his enemies' flank, and, with a three-to- one superiority at the decisive point, have driven him off the road back to Salamanca. This idea never even entered Marmont's head. Watching Wellington with a screen of vedettes only, he set his whole army in motion to march round his flank, like Frederick at Leuthen. An Austrian army in the old days would usually stand to be surrounded, but Wellington, instead, set his whole force in motion, i.e. manoeuvred. Again in 18 13 (just after frequent conversations with the emperor, in one of which the latter stated his opinion that war was a " science " like any other, and that some day he would write a book out of which any one could learn it), Marmont, in command of the VI. corps, found himself opposed to the Silesian army under Bliicher, and immediately took up a defensive position, which he occupied by two lines of brigades deployed in line and echeloned from left to right. No one who had entered into the spirit of the emperor's method could have adopted such a formation. Instances of a similar nature might be multiplied, and their multiplicity need surprise no one who has studied the psychology of action taken under circumstances of intense excitement or imminent danger. Most of us know rules for
conduct in all kinds of emergencies, but how often afterwards could anyone describe with accuracy the mental process by which his action in such crises was dictated? Probably never. Intuitively the mind recognizes the right course and fixes upon it, and with the cessation of the emergency finds it impossible to recall the order in which the facts presented themselves to his consciousness. In war these emergencies are constantly arising, so that by degrees the recollection of them becomes blurred, and the chief actor's presentation of them is often the least trustworthy testimony we possess. The act speaks for itself. But where hundreds of thousands of acts are crowded into the short compass of a campaign, a true view of their whole can only be obtained when all have become accessible and time emancipates criticism from partiality. But nations cannot afford to wait until lapse of time renders it safe to publish all diplomatic and other secrets; and many were ready to attempt the solution of the problems of Napoleon's career.
The most prominent were Jomini (q. v.), speaking for the French army, and Clausewitz (q. v.) , for the Prussian. The former, a native of Switzerland, had attracted the attention of Napoleon by the insight his criticisms revealed, and had been attached by him to the staff, where he served under Ney almost continuously from 1806 to 1813. In the latter year there is no doubt that he
|An image should appear at this position in the text.|
If you are able to provide it, see Wikisource:Image guidelines and Help:Adding images for guidance.
Line of Communication
Forming Front to
did valuable service in the operations culminating with the battle of Bautzen; but, receiving no adequate recognition for them, he deserted to the allies, and was attached by the emperor Alexander, where again he rendered conspicuous service, notably at Leipzig; but his desertion caused him to be viewed with such marked disfavour by all honourable men that he speedily sank into social oblivion, although he remained in the Russian service until his death in 1869. Nevertheless, though he had deserted his cause, he still retained unbounded admiration for the genius of his great master, whose reputation certainly does not suffer at his hands, except for the excess of adulation and bombast with which his historical writings are disfigured. But his social isolation cut him off from authentic eyewitness sources, and he was by nature an inventor of systems. The secret of Napoleon's success he found in the system of " interior lines " â€” a phrase he invented to designate a method which was almost as old as war itself; and from this system he deduced its opposite, " exterior lines, " and a whole sequence of others, which in the end all resolve themselves into the same idea. A diagram will make the matter clearer than many words. If an army A stands in a central position relatively to two other armies B, C, converging upon it, then, if it moves against each in succession and beats them both, it is said to act on " interior lines "; whilst B and G act on " exterior lines. " What it is said to do when at the first shock B beats it out of existence the books fail to inform us. From this theorem are deduced in succession the advantages and disadvantages of salient and re-entering angles, &c, with which, as a rule, military historians so freely befog their pages.
Since the object of all strategy is to bring the greatest possible force to bear against the decisive point, it is obvious to ask why armies should not always be concentrated, and why they should ever divide. The answer is that a given district and a single road will only subsist a certain number of men, a number which in practice is found to be about 60,000 with their requisite guns and train. Hence an army, say of 1 20,000 men, not only cannot sub- sist on a single line or road, but when divided into two equal parts, and separated only by a short day's march, is really more ready for instant action than an army of 90,000 on one road. Separa- tion, therefore, when large numbers are in question, is a necessity of existence, not a matter of free choice; but when it is thus forced upon a commander he regulates the rate of his march so that his separate columns cannot be attacked singly before the heads of both are within supporting distance of one another; the jaws of the crackers then close on the nut, and unless the nut proves harder than the crackers the nut is crushed. But this calculation reposes on an accurate knowledge of the marching powers of the adversary, and it was in this that Napoleon's enemies failed. Accustomed only to their own deliberate methods, they were quite unable to imagine Napoleon's lightning-like rapidity. Marching twenty-five miles in a day, his whole army would hurl itself on one of the columns whilst the other was still too far off to come to its aid, or if they had already approached so close that mutual co-operation was imminent, he would send a detachment against one to purchase time by the sacrifice Of its men's lives, and would then strike at the other with the bulk of his forces united. How the detachment executed its task depended chiefly on the nature of the ground. It might fight a series of rear-guard actions if a succession of readily defensible sections favoured such action, or it might -conceal its weakness and impose caution and respect on its opponent by the vigour of its attacks; for that there could be no rule, and circumstances alone could decide. In this form Napoleon won most of his earlier successes, but a little reflection will show that the method depended essentially upon his superior mobility and the willingness of his enemy to fight or the reverse. In time this dawned upon his opponents also, and when in 1813 around Dresden he tried to put this plan into force the allied column immediately threatened retreated before him, whilst the other continued its advance, thus compelling him to return to succour his retaining detachment, which, of course, could not struggle on indefinitely against a marked superiority of numbers. He himself confessed during the September days in Dresden that this jeu de va-et- vient, as he described it, had completely broken down his army. If, on the other hand, the commander of the central army under- estimates his opponent's marching powers its doom is sealed, for both his flanks are turned in advance and he comes under a concentrated fire to which it can only oppose a divergent one. This difference is more marked now than formerly; and stated in its extreme form, for rifle fire only, it really means that every bullet fired from the circumference stands a tenfold better chance of hitting something vulnerable than those directed from the centre towards the circumference. The only salvation for an army thus threatened is to move by a lateral march out*- side the jaws of the crackers, and fall on one limb only, when, if it is tactically formidable, it stands a good chance of over- whelming the force immediately opposed to it before the others can arrive. For instance, at Koniggratz, if the Austrian main army, pivoting on the fixed point made by their 2nd and 4th corps engaged with Prince Frederick Charles's army, had swung round the remaining six corps upon that of the crown prince by a short march of from six to eight miles, the Elbe army would have struck a blow in the air, and the situation
would have been rescued in spite of the slowness and indecision of previous movements. An army standing on interior lines, therefore, occupies a position of advantage or the reverse according to the skill of its leader and its own inherent fighting capacity, and this whether its position arises from opera- tions during the actual course of hostilities, or from circum- stances already pre-existent in peace time, as for instance, the configuration of frontiers. The phrase, therefore, " the use of interior lines, " though convenient to those who are thoroughly agreed as to its limitations, of itself explains nothing, and is a pitfall for the inexperienced.
A, however, in moving as suggested against his enemy's outer flank, exposes at the same time his own communications with any place lying directly behind his point of departure. If his army suffers only from slowness, but is really superior in fighting power, this risk may be lightly taken â€” victory settles all things. In proportion, however, as the result of collision is
|An image should appear at this position in the text.|
If you are able to provide it, see Wikisource:Image guidelines and Help:Adding images for guidance.
doubtful, alternative lines of retreat or supply will be advan- tageous. Hence a broad, if possible a concave or re- entering, base or starting-line is of great importance, and, since as an invader penetrates into his enemy's country his base becomes salient, whilst that of the defender becomes re-entrant, we have here a compensating arrangement which, under given conditions of country, equipment and the like, fixes the striking radius of an aggressor precisely as was the case in former times. The case of the French invasion of Russia in 1812 is an illus- tration. The Russian base at any moment may be considered as formed by lines traced just outside the striking radius of small bands of French marauders; the French base as including all the territory in their occupation, for within that area they were free to fortify or protect any accumulations of stores and supplies they chose to make. By the time the French reached Moscow the Russians could afford to attack them from any direction, for, whatever happened, retreat into their own undevastated country was always open. The South African war affords a modern example of the same thing.
These ideas are, after all, elementary, and readily grasped even by the average intellect, though many volumes have been devoted to proving them, and yet they are all that Jomini and his followers have to offer us â€” a fact that both explains and justifies the contempt with which military study was so long regarded by practical soldiers in England.
Clausewitz, however, approached his subject from a higher standpoint. Gifted with a mind of exceptional power, which he had trained to the utmost in the school of German philosophy, and having seen war from the beaten side, he knew well that something more than phrase-making was needed to force a great nation to the final abnegation of its independent will. He stood throughout in the closest connexion with the directing wills which guided the German nation to achieve the final downfall of Napoleon; and he knew that these men were neither bunglers nor fools, but men whose experience well entitled them to the authority they exercised. Hence he reasoned that the catastrophes they had shared in common needed deeper analysis than they had as yet received. First of- all he sought a satisfactory definition of what war really meant, and he found the closest analogy to it in the " unrestricted competition of the business world. " Had he written in modern times he would doubtless have cast it in the Darwinian mould, viz. " war is the struggle for existence' transferred to the national plane, " and this is a far more important contribution to sociology and the welfare of humanity, and will certainly exercise much greater influence on the evolution of the nations (on which, after all, the fate of the individual depends) than all the works of Darwin and Herbert Spencer combined. This transference of the question to the national plane is in fact their very antithesis, for whereas the survival of the fittest threatens the stability of society on the principle of the Kilkenny cats, the survival of the race necessitates its coherence. Next, Clause- witz analysed his subject into its constituent factors. In this process he investigates all the theories of bases and geometrical relations, only to discard them as quite inadequate solutions of war's many phenomena; and finally, as between equally armed opponents, he shows that essentially success in war depends on the moral factors only. First is " courage " in all its forms, from its lowest manifestation in the excitement of a charge, to its highest in the fearless acceptance of supreme reponsibility in face of the most imminent personal danger. Next comes " duty," again in its widest sense, from the uncomplaining endurance of the humblest musketeer in the ranks, to the readi- ness of the whole nation to submit to the sacrifice cf, and the restraint on, personal liberty that readiness for war entails. This " readiness, " moreover, he shows to be cardinal (for nations with land frontiers), for indubitably, under the conditions then prevailing, the surest guarantee of victory in the field was the concentration of every man, horse and gun in the shortest time on the decisive point. Thus only could the advantages of greater wealth, larger population and so forth be neutralized; and the growth of modern means of communication, railways, telegraphs, &c, have only confirmed his position. It has been the gradual appreciation of portions of Clausewitz's teaching, enforced by the drastic lessons of 1866 and 1870, which has turned all Europe into an armed camp, and this fact must, for generations, stultify all ideas of European disarmament. For since everything depends on instantaneous readiness for action, it is absurd to expect that any nation will voluntarily consent to throw away the advantages these sacrifices have obtained by agreeing to delay at the very moment when its existence is most gravely threatened. An unready nation has obviously everything to gain from delay.
All this portion of Clausewitz's work is fundamental, and no changes in armament or other conditions can ever affect it; it applies as much to land as to sea power, and essentially was the doctrine of Nelson and St Vincent. Indeed, at sea Nelson was in advance of Napoleon, for he quite understood the advan- tage to be gained in paralysing the independent will-power of his opponent by a vigorous attack, and was willing to stake his existence upon this principle, notwithstanding the infinitely more uncertain elements of wind and weather which conditioned his movements. But the rest of Clausewitz's teaching is too deeply coloured by his personal experiences, and he stood in too close a relation to the events of his time to be able to focus the details of the whole subject. Although he was the first to seize the meaning of Napoleon's case-shot attack (the descrip- tion occurs for the first time in his Campaign of 1815), he did not realise how this might be applied to the destruction of what he himself formulated as the most serious of all the many indeterminate factors with which a commander is called upon to deal, viz. " the independent will-power of his opponent." He saw clearly enough that time and space were the underlying conditions of all strategical calculation, and that time could be
bought at the cost of men's lives; but he did not take the next step forward and show how these calculations must inevitably be upset if the enemy possessed the power of destroying men faster than experience led one to expect. He formulates from his experience that a force of the magnitude of a division, say 10,000 men, can hold an overpowering enemy at bay for about six hours, and an army corps can hardly be destroyed in less than a day; on these data he bases his estimates of the marching area which an army may safely cover. But what if a new and unexpected method of applying " the means at hand to the attainment of the object in view " suddenly wipes out the divi- sion in two hours, or the army corps in six? In that case, surely, the independent will-power of the adversary would receive a most unwelcome check. Nor did he ever clearly formulate as a principle the importance of mobility. Every one of course has in a general way understood the advantages of " getting there first," and all of us have for years been familiar with the importance which Napoleon attached to rapid marching. But the tendency has always been to consider the rate of marching in itself as an invariable factor, and to calculate every operation or disposition from the time a column normally takes to deploy into position from a road or defile. But no systematic attempt to determine the advantages which might on occasion be obtained by sacrificing comfort and convenience to the acceleration of a march has ever been undertaken. Yet Napoleon saw and appreciated the point, and it must remain a riddle for all time how such a mind as Clausewitz's, which again and again had seen at first hand the consequences which followed from Napoleon's marche dc manmuvre â€” guns and trains upon the roads, infantry and cavalry moving in mass across country â€” could have failed to place on record the enormous advantages which might follow its adoption. The book as it stood, however, became the bible of the Prussian army, and its comprehension is an indispensable preliminary to all useful study of contemporary practice in war. Moltke's mind, and that of his whole generation, was formed upon it. To its strength the Germans owed all their successes, and to its weaknesses certain grave errors that were almost disasters.
Meanwhile the progress of invention suddenly destroyed the governing condition of all previous experience. The Napoleonic strategy, as we have shown, depended primarily on the certainty of decision conferred on him by his " case-shot attack "; but the introduction of the long-range infantry rifle (muzzle-loader) rendered it practically impossible to bring the masses of artillery to the close ranges required by the Napoleonic method. In the 1859 campaign (see Italian Wars) between France and Austria both sides were handled with such a general absence of intelligence, and the marksmanship of the Austrians in particular was so very inferior, that neither side derived advan- tage from the change. But when, in 1861-65 (see American Civil War), the theatre of interest was transferred across the Atlantic, the other causes united to give it immense importance. America in the sixties was almost as roadless as East Prussia and Silesia in Frederick the Great's time, and its forests, rivers and marshes were far more impenetrable. Both the Southern and Northern armies, moreover, were entirely new to their work, and consequently their operations became exceedingly slow. As far as the generals and staff had studied war at all they had been brought up to the Napoleonic tradition as handed down by Jomini and his school; and failing as a body to appreciate the intimate interdependence of the three arms, they believed that a resolute crowding on of masses (whether in line or column does not signify) upon the decisive point must suffice to overrun all opposition. But the slowness of operations gave time for entrenchments, and consequently scope for the powers of the new rifle. Whereas against the old musket one rush sufficed to cover the danger zone, the rifle widened this zone about threefold, so that human lungs and limbs could no longer accomplish the distance without pauses, during which pauses, since guns could no longer assist effectively, the attacking infantry had to protect itself by its own fire, standing in the open within point-blank range of the rifles of the cool, skilful and well-covered defenders. Thus when similar experiences had established uniformity of practice in the two contending forces the result was a deadlock, which was ended only by enormous numerical superiority and the " policy of attrition." The lesson, however, passed unnoticed in Europe except in so far as popular attention was caught by the deadliness of the rifle fire, which was attributed, not as it should have been to the peculiar conditions under which it was employed, but to the nature of the weapon itself; and from this conclusion it was a short step to the inference that the breech-loader, firing five rounds to one of the muzzle-loader, must prove a terrible instru- ment of destruction. Actually this inference has hampered strategic progress ever since.
The campaigns of 1866 in Bohemia, and of 1870 in France, furnish positive proof that Clausewitz had not appreciated the Napoleonic teaching to its full extent, for though the conditions again and again were ideal for its application, no trace of his fundamental principle is distinguishable in Moltke's orders. In the former it would seem from the maps that the Austrians actually possessed the form, though they had forgotten the spirit, as the detached group in Bohemia (see Seven Weeks' War) might well be considered as an avant-garde generate, and on the three days preceding Koniggratz, the distribution of the Austrian main army was such that the application of Napoleon's method must have followed had the idea been present. That Moltke himself never contemplated its employment is sufficiently evident from his unfulfilled plan of the 2nd of July, noon, wherein the whole Prussian army was to march across the front of the Austrians in position, precisely as Frederick had done with disastrous results at Kolin a century before.
No campaign, however, demonstrates in more striking manner the fatal consequences of ignoring Napoleon's saying, On ne manmuvre qn'autour d'une pointe fixe than 1870. Here was an army enormously superior in numbers and organization, disposing of an admirable cavalry and far superior artillery, repeatedly on the edge of disaster, not because of the superior cunning of their adversary, but simply because the mind of a reasonable man proved quite incapable of conceiving the blunders that his adversary perpetrated. Moltke always placed himself in his enemy's position and decided on what would be the rational course for him to pursue. He gave him the recog- nized three courses, but it happened that it was always the fourth (the unexpected, because from Moltke's standpoint so hopelessly irrational) that he took. The situations of the 8th, nth and 16th of August are all instances in point. On the last of these dates (see Franco-German War) the French commander-in-chief by merely standing still through irresolution found himself in a situation promising certain victory. It is true that he took no advantage of it, and nothing can detract from the magnifi- cent resolution of von Alvensleben, commander of the III. Corps, and the gallantry with which his troops and his comrades sup- ported him. But, equally, nothing can alter the fact that in spite of all Bazaine's mistakes the dawn of the 17th of August found the German headquarters with only the debris of two corps on the ground face to face with the whole French army, of which only one-third had been seriously engaged.
Sedan nearly ended in the same way. The Germans had, with their cavalry, fixed to a man the precise position of their enen-13', but no troops were told off to hold them, and all throughout the afternoon of the 31st and morning of the 1st the French army was free to issue from the bridge-head of Torcy on a broad front in masse de manmuvre and separate the wings of the Prussian army. Judging by the way they actually fought in the hopeless position in which they elected to remain, their prospects of success in the suggested manoeuvre were not small. After the war it was easy and natural to place the blame for the situations in the early days on the shoulders of the German cavalry, but closer study of the facts has shown that in spite of all their shortcomings this arm did not deserve it, for they actually found the enemy and reported his positions, while nothing could be urged against them in respect to Sedan, for by that time they had established a relative superiority over their enemy which was absolutely crushing. The truth is that the Prussian staff had not realized that cavalry reports alone, even if they arrive in time (which in fact very few ever did), do not afford a sufficient foundation on which to base a manoeuvre. If cavalry, three days' march in advance, report the presence of an enemy at a given spot, the fact affords no certain indication of where they may be even on the following day. It is not enough to find an enemy, he must also be fixed and held so that he cannot move; and the three arms, cavalry, artillery and infantry, form the most efficient combination for economically securing this end.
Twenty years at least elapsed before fresh light came; and then it came from France, not from Germany. No one can accuse the Germans of a tendency to sleep on their laurels; on the contrary, no army in history ever set itself to work with greater zeal and industry to profit by the lessons of its campaigns. But it is not in the ranks of the successful that the defects of the military machine are most surely revealed. Moreover, they were dazzled by the very brilliance of their victories, and gratitude to their leaders made them blind to those leaders' faults. The French started their reforms without these disadvantages. The younger officers, who had seen how splendidly the old imperial army had fought, and the spirit with which it had endured the misery brought upon it by the ineptitude of its leaders, felt no desire to shield the reputation of the latter, while the bitterness of the cup they were compelled to drink filled them with the determination and energy necessary to ensure regeneration. They had been beaten by the palpable neglect of their own Napoleonic traditions, and this fact added additional sting to their sufferings. Accordingly a number of the most zealous amongst them banded themselves together to ensure that the reason for their shame should no longer be forgotten. Presently these men assumed, by sheer weight of merit and industry, the practical control of the military history section of the general staff, and here they trained one another for the posts of instructors at the staff college (Ecole de Guerre), whence ultimately the supply of future commanders would be drawn. As a first step in their progress they ransacked the archives of the War Office and subjected the whole correspondence of Napoleon to a critical investigation, exceeding in thoroughness anything it had as yet undergone. This correspondence is incom- plete without comparison with the actual reports on which the letters were based and the executive orders issued, which hitherto had never seen the light. From the juxtaposition of the two a connected system was by degrees evolved. As has been indi- cated above, Napoleon never really appreciated the enormous intellectual gulf which separated him from his marshals. He habitually treated them as enjoying his own clearness of vision in their work, and it is only in his letters to Jerome and Eugene (with whose limitations he was only too well acquainted, but whom he employed because their interests were identical with his own) that he explains things in a form which even a child might understand. From these indications the whole web of the modern doctrine of the Ecole de Guerre was gradually woven, substantially in the form in which we have given it above. With this work the names of Maillard, Langlois, Bonttal, Foch, Colin, Camon, Desbriere and others deserve to be for ever associated, for they averted intellectual despair in the nation and rendered it possible for the best minds in the country to continue their labours for its regeneration. Without some such basis hope would have been impossible in face of the ever- growing forces of their watchful antagonist. As matters stand, as long as France can keep her ports open to commerce she cannot be overwhelmed by invasion, for it is a question of time and space; and with her existing network of railway communications, which favour her the more the farther the invaders penetrate, the application of this system promises quite astounding possibilities.
All systems, however, must sooner or later be discovered by the adversary, and require, moreover, adaptation to their surroundings, which may vary from the roadlessness of Poland in 1807 or the United States in 1862 to the highly developed
networks of communications of all kind* existing nowadays in western Europe; and in each, if the war lasts long enough, a deadlock must eventually come until some readaptation of exist- ing means is discovered which suffices to disturb this equilibrium. Wars, however, nowadays are so short that this condition of dead- lock can rarely arise. The side which starts with a pronounced superiority, whether due to more perfect organization, better tactics or the systematic training to some secret such as has been indicated above, will generally gain the lead from the outset and will keep it until its forces no longer suffice for the amount of work to be done. Then we get back to hard fighting pure and simple, in which the iron resolution of the commander ultimately decides the issue of events. But this resolution is not, as is generally supposed, a fixed quantity belonging in equal magni- tude to the leader at all times and places, but, is perhaps the most variable quantity of all. A human being can only put out a certain quantity of nervous energy or will-power in a given time, and of two men of equal character that one will succumb first upon whom the necessity for rapid decision is most fre- quently enforced. This holds good of every man throughout the whole army from highest to lowest. In this case the " art of the leader " will undoubtedly consist in adopting as his course of action that one which can be consistently followed without change of mind. Obviously his best course will be to seize the initiative and keep it up to the final act on the battlefield itself. The commander who is caught in the act of concentration or accepting battle of his own free choice cannot tell from one moment to the other at what point the attack may come or whether indeed it is coming at all, and the strain of expectancy is harder to bear than that of continuous action, and spreads also to every rank in his army. It has been held that as a consequence of the increase of range and rapidity of fire of modern weapons the defence has gained so enormously in power that a commander can accept the risks of a defensive battle with a light heart. This, however, ignores the fact that improved arms will be found in the hands of the assailant also, and every increment of range and rapidity of fire renders it easier to combine the action of many weapons on a single point. Formerly, when bullets barely travelled, with extreme elevation, 1000 yards, and the total artillery train of an army could be numbered in tens, not in hundreds as nowadays, tactical sur- prise was well-nigh impossible. Troops could always, either by selection of site or clearance around them, ensure that no formid- able force could assemble unnoticed within range of their position, while the round shot and the common shell of those days had little power of clearing or levelling solid parapets. Nowadays such selection of site, to say nothing of clearance, is impossible and inconceivable, and once the enemy's mounted men have been compelled to clear the field there is scarcely a limit to the fire power which may be brought into position unnoticed, and thence directed on any chosen point of the enemy's lines. One has but to take the map of Waterloo and its surroundings and consider how it would have facilitated Napoleon's purpose had it been possible for him to prepare the way for his infantry attack by a rain of modern shrapnel and H.E. shells directed from a balloon observatory and coming from every unseen point within a radius of say even 5000 yards. But Napoleon had to wait for several hours till the ground was dry enough to bring up even seventy-two guns to within effective case-shot range. Nowadays he could have switched on his whole two hundred at any moment after daybreak, and his balloon would have told him of the true position of his enemy's reserves. A balloon on the side of the allies could have told them no more than what they already knew, viz. that the whole French army was in front of them; and it is far easier to control and direct fire by observation on the relatively fixed targets which the de- fence necessarily presents than to do so upon the rapidly moving ones afforded by an assailant. Even where concealment can be practised to the utmost by the defender, and no balloons are available, the power still remains in the hands of the assailant of making any limited area he may choose absolutely untenable; it is only a question of turning on guns enough for the purpose.
But the less time the defender has been allowed in which to improve his position, the more rapidly will a given number of guns achieve the required result; and though we must admit the many difficulties of execution which prevent complete reali- zation of the ideal in practice, yet it is clear that the more closely one can approximate to this ideal, the less the demands which will be made upon the infantry when its turn comes to go for- ward. This matter is of such importance to the whole subject that we will put it forward in another form. Let us assume that the shells on bursting create only smoke and disturb the dust, delivering no man-killing fragments at all. Still it is clear that, say, 1 200 shells a minute bursting over a front of some 600 yards would shroud that front so completely with smoke and dust that its occupants would be quite unable to direct their aim upon the approaching assailants, and under cover of this smoke and dust cloud the latter would be free to carry out what dis- positions they might please with the minimum of loss. When finally the shell fire had to be stopped and the smoke lifted, the two infantries would be in presence of one another under conditions which have always been held to offer the maximum guarantee possible to the assailant, viz. an assured numerical superiority disposed in relatively the best positions for the use of their weapons, i.e. their fire converging on the point of attack.
From the consequent assault only entrenchments and physi- cally insuperable obstacles (a deep ditch for example) or wire entanglements which require machinery to tear away, can save the defenders. But such obstacles require time for their creation, hence the supreme importance of the utmost possible mobility. Now though in practice every great commander has utilized to the utmost such mobility as he might find in his troops (and by its use he has often, in countries well supplied with roads, succeeded in rendering the erection of entrenchments practically impossible, or in forcing an entrenched enemy to come out and fight in an unprepared position), yet no scientific attempt has hitherto been made to study the whole question of mobility, notwithstanding the fact that the Boer War of 1900-02 proved its importance up to the very hilt. The Boers were wanting in every quality which renders an enemy really formidable except mobility, but because of that supreme qualifi- cation and the fact that the enormous area of their country and their exact knowledge of its topography gave them every facility to employ it to the utmost, about nine times their numbers were required to subdue them; and the method ultimately adopted, though freely criticized, was in fact the only one feasible under the circumstances to bring them to a final surrender.
Actually, all systems, the Napoleonic as well as the others, can be defeated finally by an excess of mobility, the exact proportion depending on the topographical nature of the country fought over, the roads available and its extent. So great is its influence that it overrides all changes in armament or in tactics, as was shown in Manchuria in 1904-05, where in spite of both armies, or perhaps better because both armies were trained on western European lines, the actual form which the war assumed was that of Marlborough's times. It is sufficient to imagine the Japanese supplied with sufficient pioneer battalions, of the type employed on the Indian frontier, and a first-rate transport corps (which would have doubled their average rate of daily progress), to see how completely the situation would have been altered. They could have reached Mukden in half the time actually required, and would then have possessed a numerical superiority sufficient to ensure for them a second Metz or even a Sedan. It is in this direction that all great progress is to be looked for, but it involves experiment and organization beyond the capacity of any single student. We may, however, indicate the general outline such a development would require. Primarily time is chiefly lost in the hesitation of leaders and in the preparation and circulation of orders. A clear apprehension of the powers which modern weapons confer on the attack will lead to the elimination of the first, and a higher intellectual training of the whole army will materially reduce the second, for the limit to the brevity of orders is fixed by the trained intelligence of the recipients. Napoleon's marshals could move effectively in
response to an order of a couple of sentences; Mack's generals needed fourteen sheets of foolscap.
Next comes the rapidity of movement of the troops themselves when on the road. They cannot march for longer hours than already at times they are called upon to do; but by a better distribution of the weights carried between the men and their transport, they might well cover much more ground in the same time. Here again determination to take the offensive, and to keep it, largely governs the situation. An army determined to attack needs no entrenching gear, certainly not on its men. Its fire is its best protection, and when as in; recent campaigns in Bulgaria and the Far East the need for entrenchments has arisen, that has only occurred because the whole weapon of attack, viz. that combination of the three arms which we call an army, was not properly balanced in its parts at those particular moments so as to enable it to maintain its forward impulse. Either, as in Bulgaria, the staff was not up to its duties, or, as in the case of the Japanese, the artillery arm was too slow, or was locally outclassed by the artillery power of its adversary. But in all countries, roadless ones in particular, the progress of the front is conditioned by the efficiency of the transport services in rear, and only because this branch of the army has never received all the attention it deserves has it been necessary to overload the men and horses at the front in the preposterous manner which custom has everywhere sanctioned, which for the most part has been inherited from the time of Marlborough. Over and over again in the past two centuries men have shown that literally only muskets and ammunition are required to win battles, and that a great victory won by rapid marching is by far the most economical use that can be made of human powers. But again and again the pendulum has swung back, and the soldier, in order to be prepared for emergencies which only defeat can bring about, has been burdened down by a weight which has brought him on the field too late and too weary to win it, but in ample time to incur all the penalties of disaster.
In the future in western Europe that army whose transport service, based on motor vehicles and a good road maintenance corps of real working men, will relieve the soldier and his horse (where he has one) of every ounce of superfluous weight, includ- ing even in that expression greatcoats and all rounds of ammuni- tion in excess of 120 apiece, and whose men are uniformly trained to the Bersaglieri march (7 m. in one hour or 15 m. in three consecutive hours) , will possess a superiority over its adversary which he will require twofold odds to counteract. The suggestion that the ammunition supply should be limited may create sur- prise, but it is a logical consequence, and precisely one of those points on which the strategist of the future will require a firm conviction. The fundamental fact on which all tactical practice is based is this, that a relatively small loss suddenly inflicted exercises a far greater demoralizing effect upon its recipient than a much heavier punishment extended over a longer period. First-rate troops have often broken back in disorder under a sudden hail of bullets which has swept away not more than 2 to 3% of their strength, whilst exactly similar battalions in the same action have held out all day and remained an efficient fighting body after even 30% had fallen. But, armament being equal, this sudden loss can only be inflicted by placing the troops on the field in the best position possible, relatively to their enemy to derive the full benefit of their fire-power; and mobility is the chief factor in attaining this end. The point is most clearly seen in the case of the action of a well-mounted force against a slow-moving convoy ; the convoy forms a target which men can hardly miss; the assailants are a number of dots it is scarcely possible to hit. Two thousand rounds per man of the escort would scarcely suffice to obtain the same results as twenty rounds a man on the side of the assailants. This is a clear illustration of the principle involved, which should always be kept in mind.
Lastly the student should master the elementary principles of railway transportation. The progress since railways were last used in warfare in western Europe has been so enormoug that the data supplied therefrom are entirely antiquated, and
there is no indication that any general staff in Europe is alive to the possibilities they present in defence. As already pointed out, the assailant cannot count on their aid once he has penetrated within the enemy's country, and the farther he advances the worse matters become for him. It is enough to consider an invading force based on the east coast of Yorkshire with its head about Leeds; the technical excellence of English railways is so great that 1 20,000 men with all their share of guns and necessary equipment could be easily transferred say from Glasgow and Edinburgh round to Sheffield in twenty-four hours for a flank attack. Even double that number, from the south of England to the north of Yorkshire, could be moved in the same time. It is not suggested that such movements, might be in themselves desirable, but only that in face of such mobility of masses, no calculation of the enemy's movements would be possible.
In conclusion, the man who would fit himself for the highest commands in war, or even for the criticism, of those who exercise them, must never for one moment forget that the momentary spirit of the mass he directs is the fundamental condition of the success of every movement. Just as there is no movement so simple that its success may not be jeopardized by ill-will and despondency in execution, there is hardly any limit to what willing men can achieve, and it has been this power of evoking in their commands the spirit of blind trust and confidence that places men like Cromwell, Marlborough, Frederick and Napoleon almost beyond reproach. By the side of this power the technical knowledge and ingenuity displayed in their several undertakings appear quite trivial; probably the same ideas have occurred to thousands of quite mediocre men, but were never put into execution, because they could not count on the whole-souled devotion of their men to execute them. This power is born in a man, not acquired, but even those who possess it in embryo can increase and develop it enormously by a systematic study of the laws which govern the action of humanity in the mass.
From the above we arrive at the following definitions for the terms most generally employed by writers on military history and strategy.
Base. â€” The point, or line joining a series of points, from whence military operations originate. Ultimately military operations have their inception in an area, i.e. a whole country from which organization draws men, arms, food and material of all descriptions, forwarding them through a network of communications â€” roads, railways, canals, rivers, &c, and delivering them at points as near to the proposed enemy as circumstances render expedient. As an army never has too many men, and normal civil transport is cheaper in every way than military, the tendency is always to maintain the collection of men and materials under civil administration as long as possible. Thus as an army moves forward, settling the district behind it as it advances, the civil administration follows after it, only ceasing to exercise its functions when these can be no longer carried out without military protection. Generally there is a zone in which civil transport and supply exist side by side with military precautions greater or less, but for all practical purposes each column, whatever its strength, has its " base " at that point where the existing magazines are filled by civilian con- tractors in the ordinary course of trade, and with no extra charge for war risks.
Line of Communication. â€” The line of communication is the great main road, trunk railway, canal or river, or any combination of these means, for the transport of stores leading from the base to the army at the front. Along these arteries of communication depots are established, military authority commands, and every arrangement is made that foresight can suggest to meet the abnormal demands that a condition of war naturally gives rise to. Napoleon always used the words route de Varmee, which conveyed perhaps a clearer idea of the conditions the road or other means of com- munication had to comply with than the current term. In propor- tion to the numbers which have to be supplied by this line of communication its importance naturally increases. Thus whereas in 1870 the Germans on the Loire had a choice of magnificent main roads, even of canals and railroads, and if one were temporarily interrupted could switch off the current of supply to another without great inconvenience, the Russians in 1904 were tied to a single railway, any interruption of which must have paralysed altogether their vast army which ultimately numbered 400,000 mouths to be fed. It is clear, therefore, that the importance attaching to the protection of the line of communications must vary in accordance with the nature of the country in which war is carried on, the state of its communications of all sorts, the facility for establishing new ones, and the number of men depending for subsistence on any single road, railway, river or canal.
Line of Operations is a term applied to an imaginary line drawn from the centre of gravity of the army at the front to the country from which it originates. Whereas lines of communication, being dependent on the topographical conformation of the district may be highly circuitous; the line of operations is merely a general direction more convenient to keep in mind than the more complex idea embodied in the former word. Since practically all supply flows to an army along its line or lines of communication, and without them it can only exist for a limited period, practically all situations that can arise in war can be referred to their possible consequences in endangering more or less either one's own communications or those of the enemy. An army is thus said to " form front to a flank " when its communications run parallel to the direction it assumes when facing the enemy (see diagram). It is clear that in case of a defeat at or near A the communications are most gravely endangered, hence no commander voluntarily assumes such a posi- tion "unless he is absolutely confident in the power of his troops to beat the enemy and by so doing places his antagonist in even a worse position in case of defeat. This he can only do by placing himself more or less astride his adversaries' communications, when the latter if beaten is ruined beyond retrieval. Thus in the Marengo campaign, in 1800, Napoleon, in placing himself astride the Austrian communications, was himself compelled to form front to a flank, but this was only possible because the geographical relation of the French and Italian frontiers enabled him from the outset of the campaign to aim a blow in the rear of his opponents' actual front. Under modern conditions such situations in war between two great land powers can hardly arise. The preliminary concentration of armies is arranged in peace in such a manner that both armies will always start with their communications perpendicularly behind^ them. Hence though the advantage which can be gained by defeating an army when forming front to a flank is equally great, it cannot be attained except by accepting a corresponding risk, and the same holds good if one army places itself astride the com- munications of another, e.g. the Germans at Gravelotte. But when a land army has to deal with a great sea power controlling the va,st mercantile navies of the present day, the latter being free to land wherever he pleases can compel his adversary to form front to a flank almost as he pleases. This was the advantage Wellington derived from sea power in the campaign of Vittoria (see Peninsular War), and there are many theatres of war in which the operation might be repeated nowadays, for though armies have grown ten- fold in numbers the means of carrying them with certainty and speed have increased in a yet greater ratio. As between land powers the question may be complicated when the frontier is formed by some great natural obstacle, a great river or range of mountains. There can be an almost infinite range of gradation between the imagin- ary line marked across a plain by boundary pillars, and the hard and fast distinction drawn between sea and land. The advantage, however, always lies on the side of the nation that possesses behind such barrier the better means of lateral communications. Those on land can never be so good as the sea, but in proportion as they approach that ideal their possessor can transfer masses of men in complete security and comparative secrecy, to whichever portion of the frontier may suit his purpose best.
Exterior Lines. â€” When armies operate from several bases by lines converging on an army centrally situated as regards them, they are said to operate on exterior lines, and conversely the army operating from a centre against armies converging upon it is said to be acting on " interior lines." The question of the relative superiority of the one form or the other has been discussed above. It is only necessary to point out here that the question again is one of mobility in its widest sense, i.e. the mobility resulting from better communications both of intelligence, orders and the actual material forces by which war is made. Owing to the configuration of frontiers, it may be absolutely necessary to attack on exterior lines, but once the convergence these imply has been attained, and a victory won, the advantage of the form, which is derived from the superiority of communications at the disposal of the nation acting from the broader base, passes over to the defender, who destroying all railways, &c. in his retreat, compels the assailant to advance by route marching only, whereas as he, the defender, falls back within his own territory, he preserves unimpeded control over his own railways, and can thus transfer troops from one flank of the assailant to another, as the case may require.
Obstacles. â€” All obstacles, whether formed by rivers, marshes, forests or mountains, are of value in strategy only in so far as they delay the rapidity of communications by limiting the number of the available means of transport, whether roads or railways, and whatever angle they may form with the line of operations of the contending forces the advantage they offer falls entirely to the side that commands the exits of the defiles by which they are traversed on the farther side. When neither side commands such exits from the outset, the advantage falls to the side which can accumulate first at the desired point of passage a sufficient fire superiority to cover his subsequent necessary operations; in the case of a river, the building of one or several bridges ; in the case of a mountain range, the deployment of his advance-guard. In the former case there is no particular reason why the facilities of communication should be greater on one bank than the other. In the latter the side which has to traverse the mountains (marsh or forest) will always be at a disadvantage for the actual attack, but at an ad- vantage in regard to the secrecy with which he can fall upon the point of his own choice, and the more secure his telegraph lines, the greater will this advantage be. (F. N. M.)