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HISTORY]
525
INFANTRY


approach to the precision of the barrack square! Now, this precision allowed Frederick to take risks that no former commander would have dared to take. At Hohenfriedberg the infantry columns crossed a marshy stream almost within cannon shot of the enemy; at Kolin (though there this insolence was punished) the army filed past the Impcrialist skirmishers within less than musket shot, and the climax of this daring was the “ oblique order ” attack of Leuthen. With this was bound up a. fire discipline that was more extraordinary than any perfection of manoeuvre. Before Hohenfriedberg the king ave orders that “ pelotonfeuer " was to be opened at 200 paces izrom the enemy and continued up to 30 paces, when the line was to fall on with the bayonet. The possibility of this combination of Hre and movement was the work of Leopold, who gave the Prussian infantry iron ramrods, and by sheer drill made the soldier a machine capable of delivering (with the flintlock muzzle-loading muskets, be it observed) five volleys a minute. This pelotonfeuer or company volleys replaced the old fire by ranks practised in other armies. Fire bc-gan from the flanks of the battalion, which consisted of eight companies (for Firing, 3 deep). When the right compan commander gave “ fire, ” the commander of No. 2 gave “ ready, " foliowed in turn by other companies up to the centre. The same process having been gone through on the left Hank, by the time the two centre companies had fired the two Hank companies were ready to recommence, and thus a continuous series of rolling volleys was delivered, at one or two seconds' interval only between companies. In attack this iire was combined with movement, each company in turn advancing a few paces after “ making ready.” In square, old-fashioned methods of fire were employed. Square was an indecisive and defensive formation, rarely used, and in the advance of the deployed line, the offensive and decision-seeking formation par excellence, the special Prussian fire-discipline gave Frederick an advantage of five shots to two against all opponents. The bayonet-attack, if the rolling volleys had done their work, was merely “ presenting the cheque for payment " as a modern German writer puts it. The cheque had been drawn, the decision given, in the fire-fight.

For some years this method of infantry training gave the Prussians a decisive superiority in whatever order they fought. Lmhem But their enemies improved and also grew in numbers, while the Prussian army's resources were strictly limited. Thus in the Seven Years' War, after the two costly battles of Prague and Kolin (1757) especially, it became necessary to manoeuvre with the object of bringing the Prussian infantry into contact with an equal or if possible smaller portion of the enemy's line. If this could be achieved, victory was as certain as ever, but the difnculties of bringing about a, successful manmuvre were such that the classical “ oblique order ” attack was only once completely executed. This was at Leuthen, December 5th, 1757, perhaps the greatest day in the history of the Prussian army. Here, in a rolling plain country occasionally broken by marshes and villages, the “oblique order” was executed at high speed and with clockwork precision. Frederick's object was to destroy the left of the Austrian army (Which far outnumbered his own) before the rest of their deployed line of battle could change front to intervene. His method was to place his own line, by a concealed flank march, opposite the point where he desired to strike, and then to advance, not in two long lines but in échelon of battalions from the right (see LEUTHEN). The échelon was not so deep but that each battalion was properly supported by the following one on its left (100 paces distance), and each, as it came within zoo yds. of the Austrian battalion facing it, opened its “rolling volleys ” While continuing to advance; thus long before the left and most backward battalions were committed to the fight, the right battalions were crumbling the Austrian infantry units one by one from left to right. It was the same, without parade manoeuvres, when at last the Austrians managed to organize aline of defence about Leuthen village. Unable to make an elaborate change of front with the whole centre and right wing for want of time, they could do no more than crowd troops about Leuthen, on a short lighting front, and this crumbled in turn before the Prussian volleys.

One lesson of Leuthen that contemporary soldiers took to heart was that even a two-to-one superiority in numbers could not remedy want of manmuvring capacity. It might be hoped 1 About this time there was introduced, for resisting cavalry, the well-known hollow battalion square, which, replacing the former masses of pikes, represented up to the most modern times the defensive, as the line or column represented the offensive formation of infantry.

that with training and drill an Austrian battalion could he made equal to a Prussian one in the front-to-front tight, and in fact, as losses told more and more heavily on Fredericlds army as years went on, the specific superiority of his infantry disappeared. From 1758 therefore, to the end of the war, there were no more Rossbachs and Leuthens. Superiority in eliiciency through previous training having exhausted its influence, superiority in force through manoeuvre began to'be the generals ideal, and as it was a more familiar notion to the average Prussian general, trained to manoeuvre, than to his opponent, whose idea of “ manoeuvre ” was to sidle carefully from one position to another, Prussian generalship maintained its superiority, in spite of many reverses, to the end. The last campaigns were indeed a war of positions, because Frederick had no longer the men available for forcing the Austrians out of them, and on many occasions he was so weak that the most passive defensive and the most elaborate entrenchments barely sufhced to save him. But whenever opportunity offered itself, the king sought a decisive success by bringing the whole of his infantry against part of the enemy's-the principle of Leuthen put in practice over a wider area and with more elastic manoeuvre methods. The long échelon of battalions directed against a part of the hostile line developed quite naturally into an irregular échelon of brigade columns directed against a part of the enemy's position. But the history of the “ cordon system” which followed this development belongs rather to the subject of tactics in general than to that of infantry lighting methods. Within the unit the tactical method scarcely varied. In a battle each battalion or brigade fought as a unit in line, using company volleys and seeking the decision by fire.

In this, and in even the most minute details of drill and uniform, military Europe slavishly copied Prussia for twenty years after the Seven Years' War. The services of ex- conim Prussian officers were at a premium just as those of, , e, .s, e, and Gustavus's officers had been I 50 years before. Military develop missions from all countries went to Potsdam or to ”1°"'S» the “Reviews” to study Prussian methods, with 333 as simple a faith in their adequacy as that shown to-day by small states and half-civilized kingdoms who send military representatives to serve in the great European armies. And withal, the period 1763-1792 is full of tactical and strategical controversies. The principal of these, as regards infantry, was that between “ fire ” and “shock ” revived about 1710 by Folard, and about 178O the American War of Independence complicated it by introducing a fresh controversy between skirmishing and close order. As to the first, in Folard's day as in Frederick's, fire action at close range was the deciding factor in battle, but in Frederick's1ater campaigns, wherein he no longer disposed of the old Prussian infantry and its swift mechanical fire-discipline, there sprang up a tendency to trust to the bayonet for the decision. If the (so-called) Prussian infantry of 1762 could be in any way brought to close with the enemy, it had a fair chance of victory owing to its leaders previous dispositions, and then the advocates of “shock/ who had temporarily been silenced by Mollwitz and Hohenfriedberg, again took courage. The ordinary line was primarily a formation for fire, and only secondarily or by the accident of circumstances for shock, and, chiefly perhaps under Saxe's influence, the French army had for many years been accustomed to differentiate between “linear ” formations for ire and “ columnar ” for attack-thus reverting to 16th -century practice. While, therefore, the theoreticians pleaded for battalion columns and the bayonet or for line and the bullet, the practical soldier used both. Many forms of combined line and' column were tried, but in France, where the question was most assiduously studied, no agreement had been arrived at when the advent of the skirmisher further complicated the issues. In the early Silesian wars, when armies fought in open country in linear order, the outpost service scarcely concerned the line troops sufficiently to cause them to- get under arms at the sound of firing on the sentry line. It was performed by irregular light troops, recruited from wild characters of all nations, who were also charged with the

preliminary skirmishing necessary to clear up the situation before