Ernest Franklin Robinson.

Military preparedness and the engineer online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryErnest Franklin RobinsonMilitary preparedness and the engineer → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



O .4
^ &


&H &

S t>

H ^

C/2 ^







ERNEST F. ROBINSON, Assoc. M. Am. Soc. C. E.

Captain, Corps of Engineers, N. G. N. Y.








CHAPTER I. Introductory.

CHAPTER II. How to Obtain a Military Training.
The Army.
College Training.
Home Study.
Training Camps.

CHAPTER III. The National Guard.

The National Guard of Today.
Defects of the National Guard.
Engineers of the National Guard.
CHAPTER IV. Military Organization.
Army Organization.

The Staff.

The Line.

Tactical Organization.
CHAPTER V. Military Administration.
Money Accountability.
Property Accountability.

Company Books and Records.

CHAPTER VI. Engineer Troops in the Field.

Scope of Services.
Detailed Duties.

On the March.

The Advance.

The Retreat.

The Attack.

The Defense.


In Camp.




CHAPTER VII. Fire Action.

Rifle Instruction.
Outdoor Firing.
Effect of Small Arms Fire.
Artillery Fire.
CHAPTER VIII. Meld Fortifications.

Location of Field Works.
Trace of Field Works.
Construction of Field Works.




Firing Trenches.

Head Cover.

Overhead Cover.

Cover Trenches.

Communicating Trenches.

Machine Gun Emplacements.

Gun Cover.
Concealment of Field Works.


Dummy Trenches.

Concealment from Aerial Observers.
CHAPTER IX. Obstacles.

Barrier Obstacles.
Destroying Obstacles.
Flares and Alarm Signals.
Land Mines.

CHAPTER X. Siege Works.
CHAPTER XI. Demolitions.

High Explosives.

Combustibles and Detonants.

How Smokeless Powder is Made.

Picric Acid.

T. N. T.

How to Stop the War.


Chemical Preparedness.

Military Explosives.
Firing Charges.
Demolitions by Explosives.

CHAPTER XII. Military Bridges.

Knots and Lashings.
Improvised Bridges.
Pile Bridges.
Spar Bridges.
Floating Bridges.
CHAPTER XIII. Topographical Sketching.

How Differing from Surveying Methods.
Instruments Used.
The Plane Table.
The Sketching Case.
The Prismatic Compass.
The Engineer Note Book.
Map Reproduction.
Landscape Sketching.
CHAPTER XIV. Needs of the Engineers in War.

Need of Officers and Non- Commissioned


National Guardsmen as Officers of Vol-
CHAPTER XV. Conclusion.

APPENDIX I. List of Reading on Military Subjects for

Civilian Engineers.
APPENDIX II. List of Engineer Property Carried by a

Company of Engineers in the Field.



Battery of Two 6-inch Coast Defense Rifles-, Mounted

Upon Disappearing Carriages Frontispiece

Fac-siinile form I. Ration Return 43, 44

" II. Morning Report 46,47

" " " III. Military Communication 51

Figure 1. Bar for Instruction in the Use of Sights.... 65

2. The Hollafield Rod 68

3. Target Nomenclature 69

4. Wind Nomenclature 70

5. Correction Scales 72

6. Cone of Dispersion 73

7. Fire from High Ground to Low and vice

versa 74

8. Danger Space 75

9. Defilade 75

10. Burst of Shrapnel 79

11. Trenches at Military and Topographical

Crests 82

12. Trenches at Foot of Slope, Military Crest

and in Rear of Crest 83

13. Squad Trench 85

14. Company Trench 86

15. Flank of a Trench 86

16. Typical Parapet 87

17. Protection from Enfilade 90

18. Digging in under Fire 90

19. Bullet-Proof Parapet 91



Figure 20. Standing Trench 92

21. Standing Trench with Passage 92

22. Firing Trench without Parapet 93

23. Recessed Firing Trench 94

24. Types of Loopholes 95

25. Loopholes Corrected for Wide Angle of Fire. 96

26. Individual Overhead Cover 96

27. Parapet Shelter 97

28. Firing Trench with Overhead Cover 98

29. Cover Trench 99

30. Machine Gun Emplacement 100

31. Machine Gun Emplacement for Cross-Fire. .101

32. Obstacles 107

33. Wire Entanglement 109

34. Land Mine and Fougasse Ill

35. Land Mines 112

36. Approach by Sapping 116

37. A Sap 117

38. A Mine 118

39. Mine Timbering 119

40. A Countermine 120

41. Placing Charge in Spar Bridge 135

42. The Explosion 136

43. Bridge Destroyed 136

44. Knots 139

45. Knots 141

46. Knots 143

47. Knots 145

48. Knots 147

49. Lashings 149



Figure 50. Ground Tackle 151

51. Floating Pile-driver 153

52. Trestle for Spar Bridge 154

53. Erection of Spar Bridge 155

54. Single Lock Bridge, Trestles Locked 156

55. Double Lock and Single Sling Bridges 157

56. Double Lock Bridge Completed 158

57. Lashed Spar Trestles 160

58. Loaded Ponton Carriage, Reserve Train 162

59. Birago Trestle 164

60. Barrel Raft for Floating Bridge 166

61. Timber Raft for Floating Bridge 167

62. Floating Bridge by Successive Bays 168

63. Floating Bridge by Parts 170

64. Floating Bridge by Rafts 171

65. Draw in Floating Bridge 173

66. Construction of Bridge, Light Equipage 174

67. Construction of Bridge, Reserve Equipage . . 174

68. Reconnaissance Instruments 181

69. Engineer Note-Book 186

70. Engineer Note-Book 187

71. Map Distances 188

72. Topographical Symbols 189

73. Topographical Symbols 190

74. Road Sketch 191

75. Landscape Sketch 197


The purpose of this book is to place before the En-
gineers of America as accurate an idea as possible of
the opportunities and limitations that will confront the
Civilian Engineer in the event of war, to show him what
he can do to assist in preparedness against invasion and
how he must go about the matter.

Modern War is largely an engineering problem, and
for its successful conduct there must be at the service
of the country from the first a very large number of
engineers with more than an indefinite notion that they
are willing to fight, and die if need be, for their coun-
try. Many, many more will fight and fewer by far will
die, if the engineering profession at large can readily
obtain a proper conception of the duties, the responsi-
bilities, and the active functions of the individual en-
gineer, in a few weeks immediately following his call to
the colors.

For this reason the Author addressed several large
meetings of Engineers belonging to the American
Society of Civil Engineers, the Harvard Engineering
Society of New York, etc., and what he was able to pre-
sent on the platform and the screen was so enthusias-
tically received that he was very ready to acquiesce in
the invitation of the Publishers to give the material to
the profession at large by broad publication.

The material of the lectures has been carefully re-
vised and very materially enlarged. The book, how-
ever, is not a service manual, of which several, admir-
ably prepared by the War Department, are available.
It attempts only to fulfill the purpose originally indi-
cated. If this attempt be successful, the Author's obli-
gations and his hopes will have been more than met.

A large part of the technical matter is based upon the


Engineer Field Manual, U. S. Army, and a number of
cuts have also been reproduced from the same source.
Chapter VI, ' ' Engineer Troops in the Field, ' ' is taken
almost entirely from an article in the Official Bulletin,
General Staff, Vol. 1, No. 4, Dec., 1914. The matter was
so important, as giving specifically and in detail the
duties of the Engineers under all conditions, that near-
ly half the original article is here reproduced.

The matter in Chapter V, on rifle instruction, illus-
trates the methods devised and used by the Author in
his own company.

Acknowledgment is made to Prof. Whitaker, of the
Department of Engineering Chemistry, Columbia Uni-
versity, for permission to reprint his excellent article
on "High Explosives."

New York. February 28, 1916.



The writer is in no sense an alarmist. He does not
believe that the cause of preparedness can be effec-
tively served nor any permanent good achieved by a
hysterical exposition of our defenseless condition,
coupled with frenzied calls for immediate action.
Indeed, such action, committing us by hasty and ill-
advised legislation, might easily work irreparable

The invasion of America, even by a nation as
powerful as any of those taking part in the present
conflict, is a task of such magnitude as to be under-
taken only upon due deliberation and for the gravest
of causes. However, the modern world moves upon
trade, and in reaching out for commercial supremacy
the United States may conflict with the interests of
another state to such an extent as to overweigh the
magnitude of the undertaking and cast the die in
favor of war.

From whence our next war will come, therefore,
it is not given any of us to know. In like manner
none may say that we will not have another war. But
this much seems evident, though preparedness is ad-
visable, there is yet time for preparedness of the right
sort, based upon a due appreciation of the needs
before us and of the resources at hand.

It would be an insult to the intelligence of the
engineers of the country to attempt to prove what is
well known, that we are not sufficiently prepared
for any war which might overtake us. It is there-
fore a waste of time to dwell upon our shortage of


equipment and ammunition or the tactical dispro-
portion of the various arms of the service.

This discussion shall deal, therefore, with a very
small part of the general subject of preparedness
the part of the engineer as an individual. It is not
proposed to recommend legislation, to outline a re-
serve system or to insist upon military training in the
schools. On the contrary, it will be assumed that
Congress has done nothing, that the Army has not
been increased, and that, as good engineers must often
do, we shall be forced to make the most effective use
of the material at hand.

Engineers, and the public in general, have become
thoroughly awake on the subject of preparedness, but,
contrary to the general public, the awakening of en-
gineers means that something will be accomplished. A
number of associations have passed resolutions in favor
of preparedness; others, as for instance the Western
Society of Engineers, have asked Federal aid in in-
structing their members for military duty; the great
national societies have a joint committee working upon
a project for a technical reserve of their members, to be
called into service in time of war ; and, finally, the en-
gineers of New York City have arranged a course of in-
struction, consisting of seven lectures delivered by
engineer officers of the Army.

All of this indicates an awakening to our national
needs which is very gratifying after the public indiffer-
ence which it replaces, but it must be admitted as the
honest opinion of the writer that, in its present form,
it is extremely improbable that all this agitation for
preparedness of engineers will add a single capable
soldier to our forces, or reduce in the slightest degree
the confusion which would rule the country when war
became imminent.

Effective preparedness lies in the individual, not in
the association, and if each engineer sees to it that he


personally is fully prepared to take his place as an
officer or non-commissioned officer of engineer troops,
then may we be said to have accomplished a great step
towards preparedness. The next war will be one of
engineers, and upon the efficient leadership of our
engineer troops will depend in large measure our ulti-
mate success.

The work of the Engineers is divided into two great
classes, that in the Zone of the Advance at the front,
and that in the Zone of the Line of Communications.
In the latter the works are of a more deliberate and
permanent character, directly akin to civil works.
Skilled civilian labor would be largely used, and civil-
ian Engineers could be taken directly from their daily
duties to supervise the construction of highways, rail-
ways, bridges, and the more deliberate defensive works
for their protection. In this work the civil engineer
can find a large sphere of usefulness, the duties differ-
ing little from those of his ordinary practice, except
that they are directed by officers towards military ends.
These men would not necessarily be commissioned, in
fact, many of those best qualified would be beyond the
age for commissions in the grades corresponding to the
work which they would do. Let it be understood,
therefore, that the writer considers such service of the
highest importance, and that a Technical Reserve of
members of the profession at large, immediately avail-
able for work of this character upon the outbreak of
hostilities would be of great value to the country. In
the discussion which follows, therefore, the former
class of engineering work only will be considered, that
of the Zone of the Advance, where conditions are
totally different.

There is work in plenty of both kinds to be done, and
one may render equally good service in either class.
However, if all choose to work in the rear, the troops at
the front will be seriously handicapped. Service along


the Line of Communications falls naturally to men of
long experience and ripe judgment. That at the front
requires men with physical endurance, initiative and
enthusiasm, qualities ordinarily possessed in good
measure by the younger generation of engineers. It is
to these men, therefore, that we must look for engineer
officers in our next war. The average engineer faces
much preparation before he is qualified to render
effective service of this character.

It has been said that the science of Engineer-
ing had its beginning when the Missing Link first
used a stone to crack a cocoanut. This is probably an
error in so far that the stone was used to crack, not the
cocoanut, but his neighbor's skull, since it is a pretty
well established fact that the first engineers were mili-
tary engineers. As time went on and civilization de-
veloped, engineers were in time of peace used upon
public works, and it is only in modern times that the
profession of engineering has become a distinct calling.
The latter is now so diversified in all its branches that
one adopting engineering as a profession must be a
specialist. It is beyond the capacity of any man to be
qualified in all the subjects that are grouped under the
term engineering.

A locating engineer could not be expected to take
charge of the electrification of his own railway, and a
bridge erector would hardly make a success as master
mechanic of the same road ; yet each is an engineer, and
a railroad engineer at that. Similarly, a successful
highway engineer would not be chosen to design a great
bridge, nor would an irrigation engineer step into a
position in charge of a shield tunneling job, and yet
each of these positions calls for a civil engineer.

The military engineer makes use of all branches of
engineering science but often in a different way and
with an entirely different view point than his civilian
confrere. His work is destructive as often as construe-


tive, his materials are scarce and of the crudest, and
often utterly unfitted for his purpose. Plant is almost
unknown, labor is plentiful but often inefficient, time is
all-important and there is constant and serious inter-
ference by the enemy with each step taken. Every-
thing must be done with a military purpose and from
the view point of the military man and until the en-
gineer acquires this point of view he cannot make a suc-
cess in the field.

It must also be remembered that the military en-
gineer is a soldier before he is an engineer. He com-
mands troops who must be prepared to fight as infan-
try to protect themselves or their work. He must there-
fore be versed in the drill regulations and the tactical
considerations governing the use of that arm of the
service. He must administer the affairs of his com-
mand and look after its training, housing, transporta-
tion and sanitation. He must understand thoroughly
the plain business of "soldiering" with its many de-
tails before he begins to think of using his men as

An officer in the field cannot act in a mere consulting
capacity upon purely technical matters. He must be
prepared to put his shoulder to the wheel and take his
share of the enormous amount of routine and other
necessary but uninteresting work with which the time
of the military man is filled. Nor is there a place at the
front for a specialist. The engineer officer must be
qualified to conduct a reconnaissance, locate trenches,
supervise their construction and the placing of ob-
stacles, direct siege operations, drive a mine or sap,
build roads, railroads or bridges, or use explosives, en-
tirely upon his own responsibility.

Let us consider for a moment that a number of prac-
tical engineers have been commissioned in a volunteer
reserve and that, war having been declared, one of
them receives an order to this effect :


" 1. Captain A. is detailed for duty and assigned to
the command of Company H, Second Engineers, U. S.
Volunteers, mobilized and stationed at Camp Wilson,
N. J.

2. Captain A. will make immediate requisition for
arms, equipment and engineer property and for trans-
portation to Portville for embarkation with expedi-
tionary forces."

Query : What does he requisition, of whom is it re-
quisitioned, and how much transportation does he re-
quest to move his company at war strength and fully
equipped ?

Again, suppose him arrived in camp, his officers and
men, volunteers like himself, just reported. The First
Sergeant says, "Captain, the cooks have nothing to
cook. No rations have been sent over by the commis-
sary. ' ' The Captain hurries to his organization supply
officer and complains of this manifest attempt to starve
his mjen. He is told, "Issue call was sounded at ten A.
M. and your Quartermaster Sergeant was not present.
Furthermore, we have received no ration return from
you nor a morning report of your strength. "

Query : What is a ration return or a morning report,
how do you make them out, and to whom do you send

And again, at the front, the brigade commander
sends an urgent call to division headquarters for an
engineer officer to assist in preparing a position for
defense. Captain A. is favorably known to chief en-
gineer of the division as a capable engineer and one
who has studied diligently since being commissioned, so
he is sent.

Knowing from his field manual that a good defensive
position should afford a clear field of fire to the front,
that it should provide concealment and good communi-
cations to the rear, with its flanks resting upon impas-
sable objects, Captain A. selects a position forward of


the crest of a slope, lays out complete trenches with
overhead cover, sods them over, places entanglements
at the foot of the slope, and carries the line from the
river bluff on the left to contact with the lines of an-
other brigade on the right. The attack is then awaited
in confidence.

But when the men have dug themselves in, a swell in
the ground completely blocks off from view the foot of
the slope and considerable space in front and rear, and
the entanglements, so plainly visible to Captain A. on
his horse, are in the middle of a dead zone, to which the
enemy advance by rushes, line after line, and destroy
the entanglements at their leisure. Spurred on by
their officers the men leave their elaborate trenches,
advance to where the enemy is visible and open fire
from a prone position, only to be driven back by
shrapnel from the enemy's artillery, firing over the
heads of his own troops. They are followed up the hill
by masses of the enemy's infantry, who rush the trench
before it can be reoccupied, drive the defenders back
in headlong flight, turn the flanks of the adjacent brig-
ade, and the day is lost.

These few instances are not exaggerations. Those
who served in the Spanish "War can multiply occur-
rences of the first two kinds and m<any an officer of
more experience than Captain A. has been guilty of
the same neglect, of locating trenches without placing
his eye at the level of the men who will occupy them.

In recent articles of the technical press it has been
urged that practical engineers, contractors' men, con-
struction foremen, etc., were as well or better qualified
to perform certain classes of work than regular en-
gineer troops and could be used for this work without
further training. This is admitted, but can they out-
side their special lines perform all the duties that fall
to the engineers, including fighting, as well as troops
possessing a more general training? These men have


made the United States famous wherever engineering
work is done and their knowledge and experience will
be a tower of strength to the army. But consider how
much more effective they would be if each were trained
as a soldier as well as an engineer; if he possessed a
familiarity with the different technical duties of the
military engineer in addition to his own specialized

Let us imagine that all members of the engineering
profession who are of military age and physically fit
have studied and attended instruction camps, lectures,
etc., until they are really fitted to command engineer
troops. Does this knowledge on their part tend to les-
sen the confusion and complications incident to their
recruiting, mobilization, mustering into service, com-
missioning and assignment, taking command and weld-
ing their organizations into efficient units? Yet this
must be done before they can become efficient officers.
If they simply enlist and serve in the ranks their train-
ing and talents are in a measure lost by not being fully
developed, and we still have the work of bringing them
into the service.

It must be admitted that a mere expression of will-
ingness to serve is not sufficient unless backed by indi-
vidual service and preparation along the lines of mili-
tary as well as engineering efficiency.

Congress is contemplating measures of prepared-
ness. There are many who await the result before de-
ciding what they, individually, will do. Opinions dif-
fer, and the legislative battle will be a long one. Any
measures adopted will take months to carry out, and re-
sults are at any ra<te uncertain. In the meantime we
have the National Guard, which is a going concern, and
which is working to the same end. That the National
Guard has its faults is admitted, but so has the Army ;
that those of the National Guard are the more serious
cannot be denied, but it must be conceded that the re-


suit in each case is due to conscientious effort, and is
probably the best that can be done under the circum-
stances. However, the faults of the National Guard
are due not so much to inside as to outside causes, not
the least of which is the attitude of the general public
towards the Guard. We cannot have full companies if
public sentiment does not favor enlistment, we cannot
have full attendance at maneuver and instruction
camps if employers will not let their men off, and we
cannot have efficient organizations if the men who can
make them so refuse to enlist.

But in spite of all its faults the National Guard can
be made a powerful factor in our defence. These men
are organized, they ore under arms, they are equipped
exactly like the Army, and receive instruction of the
same character out of the same text-books. The Guard
today, faulty as it is, still forms the most practicable,
and in fact the only practicable method we have of
promptly reinforcing the Regular Army in time of

So therefore if the engineer intends to join the Con-
tinental Army or an Officers' Reserve he may, instead
of marking time until all the legislation and plans are
perfected, improve his time by qualifying for the posi-
tion which he may desire to hold. The proposed law
authorizing these forces contemplates drawing largely
upon the National Guard for officers, and one can cer-
tainly lose nothing by advance preparation.



Considerable space has been devoted to showing that
the civilian engineer who wishes to become a potential
military engineer must first obtain a military training.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryErnest Franklin RobinsonMilitary preparedness and the engineer → online text (page 1 of 14)