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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/122

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114
REMARKS ON MODERN WARFARE.

whose country becomes the theatre of war.

Let us first consider the case of the soldier. As every one is aware, the chief feature in the military history of the past twenty years has been the vast improvements effected in firearms. We have passed, by successive stages, from smooth-bore muskets of short range, inaccurate firing, and slow loading, to rifles of long range, great accuracy, and rapid firing. In artillery the advance has been proportionate. Every one knows this, but everyone does not know that — strange though it may seem — the result of these improvements has been precisely the reverse of what was intended and what was anticipated; or, in other words, the proportion of killed and wounded was far greater with the old-fashioned weapons than it is at the present day. In proof of this the following facts, which are taken principally from a table in the history of the campaign in Bohemia in 1866, by Col. Cooke, R.E., may be quoted.

At the battle of Talavera (1809) the loss in killed and wounded was one-eighth of those engaged. At Austerlitz (1805) it was one-seventh. At Malplaquet (1709), at Prague (1759), and at Jena (1806) it was one-sixth. At Friedland (1807) and at Waterloo (1815) one-fifth. At Marengo (1800) it amounted to one-fourth. At Salamanca (1812) out of ninety thousand combatants thirty thousand were killed and wounded. At Borodino (1812) out of two hundred and fifty thousand, eighty thousand fell on the two sides. At Leipsic (1813) the French sustained a loss of one-third of their total effective. At Preussich-Eylau (1807) fifty-five thousand were killed and wounded out of a combined total of one hundred and sixty thousand combatants, giving a loss of more than one-third; while at Zorndorf (1758), the most murderous battle which history records in modern times, out of eighty-two thousand Russian and Prussian troops engaged, thirty-two thousand eight hundred were stretched upon the field at the close of the day.

Let us now come to more recent times. The first great battle in which rifled fire arms were used was Solferino (1859), and when the war broke out it was confidently predicted that the effects of the new weapon would be frightful; but the loss actually fell to one-eleventh of those engaged. At Königgrätz, where, in addition to rifled weapons, one side was armed with breechloaders, the actual loss was further diminished to one-fifteenth. Finally we come to the last war, in which the proportions were, Worth one-eleventh, Gravelotte one-twelfth, and Sedan one-tenth. These figures may surprise many who, not unnaturally, imagined that improved weapons entailed increased slaughter. It is not intended to imply that battles are not still sanguinary, but it is incontestable that they are much less so than they were. But it is not merely on the battle-field that the soldier's risk is now diminished, but throughout the whole campaign. Railways afford a more adequate supply of medical and other necessaries to the front, and a more rapid transfer of the sick and wounded to their permanent hospitals. The labors of the Geneva Society have materially conduced to the same end. Buildings and tents covered by the red cross are held to be sacred from fire; rules are laid down for the treatment of prisoners of war; explosive bullets are also forbidden; and to such a length has this spirit of mitigating the horrors of war extended that nothing but the esprit de corps of those who wield the lance has saved the "queen of weapons" from disestablishment. So much for the soldier in time of war. It only remains to remark that, if successful, he is rewarded and honored; if defeated, he obtains at least sympathy; and if wounded, a pension.

But how does the case stand for the civilian whose home happens to be situated in the theatre of war? What has been done for him? Absolutely nothing. The enormous area of country occupied by the vast numbers of men and horses which constitute modern armies, and the rapidity of their movements, combine to render their presence in an invaded country more than ever a national calamity; and the position of the unfortunate civilians, as a body, far from improving, becomes worse and worse. The non-combatant must stand by and see his house burnt, or turned into a barrack. His crops are trampled down, his orchards felled, his cattle slaughtered, his horses and waggons impressed, his very food requisitioned, and himself, family, and belongings turned destitute on the world. No surgeon is waiting to tend him if sick or, as not unfrequently happens, wounded. All the available care, energy, and attention of his government are concentrated on the army, while he must suffer unnoticed and uncared for. After the storm of war has passed, some inadequate charity, and some tardy compensation from the government which has been unable to defend