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526
[HISTORY
INFANTRY

attainable with the newly levied ardent Frenchmen

the deployment of the battle-army, but once the line opened fire their work was done and they cleared away to the flanks (generally in search of plunder). Later, however, as the preliminary manoeuvring before the battle grew in importance and the ground taken into the manoeuvring zone was more varied and extended than formerly, light infantry was more and more in demand-in a “ cordon ” defensive for patrolling the intervals between the various detachments of line troops, in an attack for clearing the way for the deployment of each column. Yet in all this there was no suggestion that light troops or skirmishers were capable of bringing about the decision in an armed conflict. When Frederick gained a durable eace in 1763 he dismissed his “ free battalions ” without mercy, and) by 1764 not more than one Prussian soldier in eleven was an “ irregular, ” either of horse or foot.

But in the American War of Independence the line was pitted against light infantry in difficult country, and the British and French Light officers who served in it returned to Europe ful l of enmfantry thusiasm for the latter. Nevertheless, their light infantry ° was, 'unlike Frcderick's, selected line infantry. The light infantry duties”-skirrnishing, reconnaissance, outposts-were grafted on to a thorough close-order training. At first these duties fell to the grenadiers and light companies of each battalion, but during the struggle in the colonies, the light companies of a brigade were so frequently massed in one battalion that in the end whole regiments were converted into light infantry. This combination of “line " steadiness and “ skirmisher ” freedom was the keynote of Sir John Moore's training system fifteen years later, and lVloore's regiments, above all the 52nd, 43rd (now combined as the Oxfordshire Light Infantry) and 95th Rifies (Rilie Brigade), were the backbone of the British Army throughout the Peninsular War. At Waterloo the 52nd, changing front in line at the double, flung itself on the head and fiank of the Old Guard infantry, and with the “ rolling volleys " inherited from the Seven Years' War, shattered it in a few minutes. Such an exploit would have been absolutely inconceivable in the case of one of the old “ free battalions.” But the light infantry had not merely been levelled up to the line, it had surpassed it, and in ISIS there were no troops in Europe, whether trained to fight in line or column or skirmishers, who could rival the three regiments named, the “Light Division ” of Peninsular annals. For meantime the infantry organization and tactics of the old régime, elsewhere than in England, had been disintegrated by the flames of the French Revolution, and from their ashes a new system had arisen, which forms the real starting-point of the infantry tactics of to-day. The controversialists of Louis XVI.'s time, foremost of whom were Guibert, Ioly de Maizeroy and Menil Durand (see Max The jahns, Gesch. d. Kriegswissenschaften, vol. iii.), were French agreed that shock action should be the work of troops 5E;°'"' formed in column, but as to the results to be expected from shock action, the extent to which it should be facilitated by a previous fire preparation, and the formations in which fire should be delivered (line, line with skirmishers or “ swarms ”) discussion was so warm that it sometimes led to wrangles in ladies' drawing-rooms and meetings in the duelling field. The drill-book for the French infantry issued shortly before the Revolution was a common-sense compromise, which in the main adhered to the F rederician system as modified by Guibert, but gave an important place in infantry tactics to the battalion “ columns of attack, ” that had hitherto appeared only spasmodically on the battlefields of the French army and never elsewhere. This, however, and the quick march (100 paces to the minute instead of the Frederician 75) were the only prescriptions in the drill-book that survived the test of a “ national ” war, to which within a. few years it was subjected (see FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS). The rest, like the “linear system ” of organization and manoeuvre to which it belonged (see ARMY, §§ 30-33; CONSCRIPTION, &c.) was ignored, and circumstances and the practical troop-leaders evolved by circumstances fashioned the combination of close-order columns and loose-o1'der skirmishers which constituted essentially the new tactics of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic infantry.

The process of evolution cannot be stated in exact terms, more especially as the officers, as they grew in wisdom through experience, learned to apply each form in accordance with ground and circumstances, and to reject, when unsuitable, not only the forms of the drill-book, but the forms proposed by themselves to replace those of the drill-book. But certain tendencies are easily discernible. The first tendency was towards the dissolu-The Prussian Grenadier battalions in the Silesian and Seven Years' Wars were more and more confined strictly to line-of-battle duties as the irregular light infantry developed in numbers. tion of all tactical links. The earlier battles were fou ht partly S

in line for fire action, partly in columns for the bayonet attack. Now the linear tactics depended on exact pre- ramad serration of dressing, intervals and distances, and evolution what required in the case of the Prussians years of F11 Fr-'ww steady drill at 76 paces to the minute was hardly marching at Ioo to rzo. Once, therefore, the line moved, it broke up into an irregular swarm of excited firers, and experience soon proved that only the troops kept out of the turmoil, whether in line or in column, were susceptible of manoeuvre and united action. Thus from about 1795 onwards the forms of the old régime, with half the troops in front in line of battle (practically in dense hordes of firers) and the other half in rear in line or line of columns, give way to new ones in which the skirmishers are fewer and the closed troops more numerous, and the decision rests no longer with the fire of the leading units (which of course could not compare in effectiveness with the rolling volleys of the drilled line) but with the bayonets of the second and third lines-the latter being sometimes in line but more often, owing to the want of preliminary drill, in columns. The skirmishers tended again to become pure light infantry, whose role was to prepare, not to give, the decision, and who fought in a thin line, taking every advantage of cover and marksmanship. In the Consulate and early Empire, indeed, we commonly find, in the closed troops destined for the attack, mixed line and column formations combining in themselves shock and controlled close order fire-absolutely regardless of the skirmishers in front. In sum, then, from 1792 to 1795 the fighting methods of the French infantry, of which so much has been written and said, are, as they have aptly been called, “horde-tactics.” From 1796 onwards to the first campaigns of the Empire, on the other hand, there is an ever-growing tendency to combine skirmishers, properly so called, with controlled and well-closed bodies in rear, the first to prepare the attack to the best of their ability by individual courage and skill at arms, the second to deliver it at the right moment (thanks to their retention of manoeuvre formations), and with all possible energy (thanks to the cohesion, moral and material, which carried forward even the laggards). Even when in the long wars of the Empire the quality of the troops progressively deteriorated, infantry tactics within the regiment or brigade underwent no radical alteration. The actual formations were most varied, but they always contained two of the three elements, column, line and skirmishers. Column (generally two lines of battalions in columns of double-companies) was for shock or attack, line for fire-effect, and skirmishers to screen the advance, to scout the ground and to disturb the enemy's aim. Of these, except on the defensive (which was rare in a Napoleonic battle), the “ column ” of attack was by far the most important. The line formations for fire, with which it was often combined, rarely accounted for more than one-quarter of the brigade or division, while the skirmishers were still less numerous. Withal, these formations in themselves were merely fresh shapes for old ideas. The armament of N apoleon's troops was almost identical with that of F rederick's or Saxe's. Line, column and combinations of the two were as old as Fontenoy and were, moreover, destined to live for many years after Napoleon had fallen. “ Horde-tactics ” did not survive the earlier Revolutionary campaigns. Wherein then lies the change which makes 1792 rather than 1740 the starting-point of modern tactics?,

The answer, in so far as so comprehensive a question can he answered from a purely infantry standpoint, is that whereas Frederick, disposing of a small and highly finished instrument, used its manoeuvre power and regimental zigzag" S efficiency to destroy one part of his enemy so swiftly rand that the other had no time to intervene, Napoleon, -'lrfilleo who had numbers rather than training on his side, only;';'Z;“ delivered his decisive blow after he had “fixed” all bodies 1815: of the enemy which would interfere with his preparations—i.e. had set up a physical barrier against the threatened

intervention. This new idea manifested itself in various forms.