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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/124

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113
REMARKS ON MODERN WARFARE.

October 1810; spent weeks and weeks in futile examination of the lines of Torres Vedras; and recrossed into Spain on April 3, 1811, "having lost thirty thousand men by want, sickness, and the sword."[1] As the only action of any importance that occurred during the retreat was that of Barrosa, at which the French loss was under a thousand, the reader can estimate for himself what proportion of the total loss was due to "want and sickness."

These are but two instances out of many that might be quoted, but enough. Such protracted neglect and suffering would be impossible in these days, for the simple reason — if for no other — that the soldier is now much too expensive an article to be squandered in such a wholesale manner. Much, of course, remains to be done; but the attention which governments are now compelled to give to the subject, aided by the private efforts which the enthusiasm caused by the outbreak of war never fails to excite, will provide the necessary means and the power of properly applying them. The day seems to be approaching when the soldier of any country having any pretensions to be a military power may take the field, confident that, apart from the strain on his constitution arising from a short but arduous campaign, the only danger he will incur will be from his foeman's weapons. If he will only look back and compare his lot with that of his military ancestors he will think himself fortunate.

When we consider the position of the civilian, who may find his country the theatre of future wars, we wish we could think his prospects equally hopeful. It would be useless to attempt to give statistics of the losses inflicted on a country which is overrun by an invading army. Suffice it to say that the agricultural losses alone sustained by France in 1870-1 have been estimated at one hundred and seventy million pounds. It would be difficult enough to ascertain the loss in worldly goods represented by this vast sum; but who could calculate its equivalent in sorrow, misery, starvation, disease, and death in all its various and most fearful shapes? We cannot help thinking that the sufferings of the civilian in war call more loudly for sympathy than those of the soldier; but, unfortunately, there is none to hear. As long as the civilian is merely an accessory in the picture of which the soldier is the foreground, so long must he suffer comparatively unnoticed. A dead soldier is buried, a wounded one removed easily enough, their wants ere soon provided for; but a ruined and devastated home cannot be restored, and its scattered inhabitants collected in any appreciable time, perhaps never. Sometimes, too, the unhappy civilian, goaded to madness at the miseries inflicted on him, seizes arms and joins with the fury of despair in the defence of his village or farmhouse, as at Bazeilles and Chateaudun, thereby giving to his enemies a fresh handle, which they never fail to use, for increased exactions and further seventy. The brevity of modern campaigns, which have so materially benefited the soldier, produce no mitigation for the invaded country, for what is gained in time is lost in the numbers and rapidity of modern armies.

There seems to be absolutely no possibility of modifying the position of the inhabitants of an invaded country. All, then, that can be done is to confine the area of operations as much as possible; and we cannot help thinking that the tendency of modern warfare is in this direction — that nations will in future endeavor to fight their battles and finish their quarrels nearer to their frontiers than was formerly the case.

Time was when a country might be invaded and half of it overrun and occupied while the other half remained almost in ignorance; but we have changed all that. All parts of a civilized country are now so closely connected by commerce, travel, and intercommunication of every sort, intelligence is so rapidly and widely diffused, that when an invasion takes place every one knows, and what is more, every one feels. It has already been observed how terrible a visitation is the presence of a hostile army. Modern armies are not now small fractions of the population whence they are drawn; they represent, in fact are, whole nations in arms. After the battle of Sedan, notwithstanding the heavy losses she had suffered in the campaign, Germany had eight hundred thousand men on French soil. A comparison will give some idea of the vastness of this host. On October 16, 1813, there were assembled for the battle of Leipsic the military strength of three empires and three kingdoms, yet the total capitation of the forces was less than one half of the number above mentioned.

The national character of modern warfare being admitted, a result once established will generally be decisive for the war in which it occurs; and should be considered so, for national superiority is

  1. Alison's "History of Europe."