Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/641

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when their commands were reduced, to “take a pike” in another regiment. The provost and his gallows were as much in evidence in a Spanish camp as in one of Landsknechts, but the comradeship and esprit de corps of a tercio were the admiration of all contemporary soldiers. With all its good qualities, however, this army was not truly national; men soon came from all the various nations ruled by the Habsburgs, and the soldier of fortune found employment in a tercio as readily as elsewhere. But it was a great gain that corps, as such, were fully recognized as belonging to the government, however shifting the personnel might be. Permanence of regimental existence had now been attained, though the universal acceptance and thorough application of the principle were still far distant. During the 16th century, the French regular army (originating in the compagnies d’ordonnance of 1445), which was always in existence, even when the Swiss and gendarmes were the best part of the field forces, underwent a considerable development, producing amongst other things the military terminology of the present day. But the wars of religion effectually checked all progress in the latter part of the century, and the European reputation of the French army dates only from the latter part of the Thirty Years’ War.

23. The Sixteenth Century.—The battle of St Quentin (1557) is usually taken as the date from which the last type of a purely mercenary arm (as distinct from corps) comes into prominence. “Brabançon” or “Swiss” implied pikemen without further qualification, the new term “Reiter” similarly implied mercenary cavalry fighting with the pistol. Heavy cavalry could disperse arquebusiers and musketeers, but it was helpless against solid masses of pikemen; the Reiters solved the difficulty by the use of the pistol. They were well armoured and had little to fear from musket-balls. Arrayed in deep squadrons, therefore, they rode up to the pikes with impunity, and fired methodically dans le tas, each rank when it had discharged its pistols filing to the rear to reload. These Reiters were organized in squadrons of variable strength, and recruited in the same manner as were the Landsknechts. They were much inferior, however, to the latter in their discipline and general conduct, for cavalry had many more individual opportunities of plunder than the foot, and the rapacity and selfishness of the Reiters were consequently in marked contrast to the good order and mutual helpfulness in the field and in quarters which characterized the regimental system of the Landsknechts.

24. Dutch System.—The most interesting feature of the Dutch system, which was gradually evolved by the patriots in the long War of Independence, was its minute attention to detail. In the first years of the war, William the Silent had to depend, for field operations, on mutinous and inefficient mercenaries and on raw countrymen who had nothing but devotion to oppose to the discipline and skill of the best regular army in the world. Such troops were, from the point of view of soldiers like Alva, mere canaille, and the ludicrous ease with which their armies were destroyed (as at Jemmingen and Mookerheyde), at the cost of the lives of perhaps a dozen Spanish veterans, went far to justify this view. But, fortunately for the Dutch, their fortified towns were exceedingly numerous, and the individual bravery of citizen-militia, who were fighting for the lives of every soul within their walls, baffled time after time all the efforts of Alva’s men. In the open, Spanish officers took incredible liberties with the enemy; once, at any rate, they marched for hours together along submerged embankments with hostile vessels firing into them from either side. Behind walls the Dutch were practically a match for the most furious valour of the assailants.

The insurgents’ first important victory in the open field, that of Rymenant near Malines (1577), was won by the skill of “Bras de Fer,” de la Noue, a veteran French general, and the stubbornness of the English contingent of the Dutch army—for England, from 1572 onwards, sent out an ever-increasing number of volunteers. This battle was soon followed by the great defeat of Gembloux (1578), and William the Silent was not destined to see the rise of the Dutch army. Maurice of Nassau was the real organizer of victory. In the wreck of all feudal and burgher military institutions, he turned to the old models of Xenophon, Polybius, Aelian and the rest. Drill, as rigid and as complicated as that of the Macedonian phalanx, came into vogue, the infantry was organized more strictly into companies and regiments, the cavalry into troops or cornets. The Reiter tactics of the pistol were followed by the latter, the former consisted of pikes, halberts and “shot.” This form was generally followed in central Europe, as usual, without the spirit, but in Holland it was the greater trustworthiness of the rank and file that allowed of more flexible formations, and here we no longer see the foot of an army drawn up, as at Jemmingen, in one solid and immovable “square.” In their own country and with the system best suited thereto, the Dutch, who moreover acquired greater skill and steadiness day by day, maintained their ground against all the efforts of a Parma and a Spinola. Indeed, it is the best tribute to the vitality of the Spanish system that the inevitable débâcle was so long delayed. The campaigns of Spinola in Germany demonstrated that the “Dutch” system, as a system for general use, was at any rate no better than the system over which it had locally asserted its superiority, and the spirit, and not the form, of Maurice’s practice achieved the ultimate victory of the Netherlanders. In the Thirty Years’ War, the unsuccessful armies of Mansfeld and many others were modelled on the Dutch system,—the forces of Spinola, of Tilly and of Wallenstein, on the Spanish. In other words, these systems as such meant little; the discipline and spirit behind them, everything. Yet the contribution made by the Dutch system to the armies of to-day was not small; to Maurice and his comrades we owe, first the introduction of careful and accurate drill, and secondly the beginnings of an acknowledged science of war, the groundwork of both being the theory and practice of antiquity. The present method of “forming fours” in the British infantry is ultimately derived from Aelian, just as the first beats of the drums in a march represent the regimental calls of the Landsknechts, and the depots and the drafts for the service battalions date from the Italian wars of Spain.

25. The Thirty Years’ War.—Hitherto all armies had been raised or reduced according to the military and political situation of the moment. Spain had indeed maintained a relatively high effective in peace, but elsewhere a few personal guards, small garrisons, and sometimes a small regular army to serve as a nucleus, constituted the only permanent forces kept under arms by sovereigns, though, in this era of perpetual wars, armies were almost always on a war footing. The expense of maintenance at that time practically forbade any other system than this, called in German Werbe-system, a term for which in English there is no nearer equivalent than “enlistment” or “levy” system. It is worth noticing that this very system is identical in principle with that of the United States at the present day, viz., a small permanent force, inflated to any required size at the moment of need. The exceptional conditions of the Dutch army, indeed, secured for its regiments a long life; yet when danger was finally over, a large portion of the army was at once reduced. The history of the British army from about 1740 to 1820 is a most striking, if belated, example of the Werbe-system in practice. But the Thirty Years’ War naturally produced an unusual continuity of service in corps raised about 1620-1630, and fifty years later the principle of the standing army was universally accepted. It is thus that the senior regiments of the Prussian and Austrian armies date from about 1630. At this time an event took place which was destined to have a profound influence on the military art. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden landed in Germany with an army better organized, trained and equipped than any which had preceded it. This army, by its great victory of Breitenfeld (1631), inaugurated the era of “modern” warfare, and it is to the system of Gustavus that the student must turn for the initial point of the progressive development which has produced the armies of to-day. Spanish and Dutch methods at once became as obsolete as those of the Landsknechts.

26. The Swedish Army.—The Swedish army was raised by a carefully regulated system of conscription, which was “preached in every pulpit in Sweden.” There were indeed enlisted regiments of the usual type, and it would seem that Gustavus