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The organization of which I have just given a picture is in accord-
ance with existing armies; it results from the nature of arms and the
present manner of making war, and the object of the fractions of the
army is to facilitate the exercise of the command. Commands, again,
are of different kinds, and change character according to the number of
soldiers. .

A general who combats with ten thousand men should be in the midst
of his troops, and often exposed to the fire of small-arms.

A general commands thirty thousand men ; he orders the movement
of his troops and reserves, and if he is habitually, with the exception
of extreme cases, out of the range of musketry, he should be constantly
within that of cannon, and remain within the limit of the space where
the balls yet fall.

A general directs eighty or one hundred thousand men ; he determines
the plan, gives the orders before the battle, opens the movement, and
awaits the events in a central position. During the action he becomes
a kind of personified providence; he makes dispositions for unforeseen
cases, and provides remedies in case of great accidents. He should ex-
pose himself before the battle, so as to see for himself, and judge with
precision the actual state of things ; theso duties fulfilled, he gives his
orders, and lets every one perform the part assigned to him. If matters
progress favorably, he has nothing further to do ; if accidents happen,
he should guard against them by those combinations in his power j if
ma'tters progress very badly, and some great catastrophe is to be feared,
he must place himself at the head of the last troops and throw them
upon the enemy, and his presence, in this critical moment, gives an im-
pulse to them, and the moral effect produced doubles their valor.

It was thus Napoleon commanded. His operations having been near-
ly always crowned with success, and the armies he commanded being
very numerous, he has but seldom been exposed to any imminent dan-
ger. But at Liitzen, when matters were culminating in a crisis, and the
nature of the army, composed of young soldiers, was augmenting the
danger, he rallied the troops himself before Kay a, and led them to the
charge under a murderous fire.

From what I have said heretofore it will be apparent which principles
were the basis for the creation of the different grades. They have been
made in proportion with the actual commands, so that a chief, having a
social position separate from those of his subordinates, that position is
always superior even when he is off duty.



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS. 133

France is the only country where, greatly to the prejudice of the ser-
vice, there has not been created an intermediate grade between those of
lieutenant-general and marshal for the command of corps d'armée.
The dignity of marshal requires a command-in-chief, and the sad ex-
perience has been made that, when several marshals were united in the
same army and under the command of one of them, great misfortunes
were nearly. always the result, through the little harmony and subordi-
nation which reigned between them. An emperor or captain-general*
was needed to command an army, the greater portions of which were
under the orders of marshals.. Corps, it is true, were sometimes under
the orders of lieutenant-generals, who received the temporary title of
general -in-chief, and a commission for tho command. I have even to
add, that those who had once commanded them were never again call-
ed upon to take a simple division. But the grade being always the
same, it is grievous to establish such distinctions freely and volun-
tarily.

Since authority, necessary everywhere, is still more so among troops,
from the command of an army to that of a company — the chief who die-
appears must be immediately replaced — it has been necessary to estab-
lish, as a fundamental principle, the right of seniority in command.
But the accidental exercise of this right, brought about by fortuitous
events of war, i3 quite different (every one feels the necessity of this
disposition) from the delegation of authority with the same grade, ac-
cording to tho will of a sovereign, when he is the master of the choice.

Self-esteem suffers by being obliged to obey au equal, especially if he
is, besides, a junior; and self-esteem, the cause of so much good and
evil, exercises, in the profession of arms, an immense influence, because
it is tho very life of it.

An army composed of men without self-esteem is worth nothing;
the French arc such good soldiers because they aro impressed with it;
and through it we find soldiers coming from largo cities, where self-es-
teem is more active, but who are less strong and robust, so much more
valorous than those who come from the country.

NOTE.

The Battle of Grochow.— The Etonian tunny, under the command of Mai-
8hal Diebil Bcfa, the famed hero of the Balkan, had, on the 5th of February, 1831, upon
four different points, passed the frontiers <>f the contracted portion of old Bannatis,
now called the Kingdom of Poland, for the subjugation of a people who, like us,
were fighting fur the light of self-government.

His plan of operation was ably conceived. Pushing forward the main portion of
his immense host upon the military road which runs due west from the ancient Po-
lish province of Grodno to Warsaw, and touches the town of Siedlioe, where rested
the Polish right, ho was, while entertaining tLe contre and left of the Polish lino, to
make a vigorous eff:rt agninet ond outflank tho right of tho Pole;, and thus bsth

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134 THE SPIRIT OF

cut their communications with their capital and interpose his forcos between them
and their powerful fortress of Zamosk, on the River Wieprz — thus hoping to deal out,
in considerably less than ninety days, to the Folish rebellion the death-blow, as our
enemies no less confidently expected, at the beginning of this struggle, to do the
same with us.

However, there were in his front soldiers commanded by generals who, in the
school of Napoleon, had mastered grand operations. Against him he found pitted
men such asChlopicki and Skrzynecki. Their plan of operations was speedily form-
ed. Orders were despatched to the different Polish corps who confronted the vast
masses of Diebitsch to fall back in the direction of Warsaw, to cover the capital — a
movement which, in its general features, strongly resembled that of our forces in
thjippring of 1862, for the protection of Richmond.

The Russians, deeming the Poles discomfited by their show of superior strength,
now began a general forward movement from all points, in pursuance of their pro-
gramme of turning the Polish right. While their centre marched upon the high-
road and seized Siedlice, some fifty-five miles east of Warsaw, their columns of the
right wing debouched upon Warsaw from the north-east. Upon the Polish right, at
the village of Stoczek, Vas posted a corps of observation, commanded by General
Dwernicki. This small corps, consisting of barely five thousand men, was, early on
the morning of the 14th of February, assaulted by the Russian General Kreutz with
fifteen thousand men and twenty-four pieces of artillery. After a sanguinary strug-
gle the night saw the Russian column in utter disorder, driven back upon their
main body. The first action of the war had resulted gloriously for the Poles ; and the
Russians — what, with superstitions beli^l they thought more disastrous even than
the loss of the battle — had left in thefljfrms of the Poles an image of the Holy
Mother, which had cheered them undH^Kiè fire of cannon, and was borne in the
very centre of their columns while marching to the combat.

The Polish right wing was now, in. conformity with the general plan, more con-
tracted toward the centre. But, before this was executed, another heavy action at
Boimie resulted, on the following day (15th), in the defeat of the Russians by the
small corps under command of General Zymirski.

Two days later, on the 17th, the Polish right and centre were simultaneously at-
tacked. At Minsk, the Polish right, the Russians were again discomfited. The
centre column, far in advance of the Polish right and left, was under command of
General Skrzynecki. On the same day, at Dobre, while slowlj' retreating, it was
closely followed by thirty thousand Russians and sixty pieces of cannon, under
Diebitsch and the Grand-Duke Constantino. With a masterly coup oVœil Skrzynecki
arrested his march near the Village of Dobre, and calmly awaited the debouching of
the Russian masses behind a strong position, lined in front with ponds and marshes,
with but a single passage across, which could be completely reached by the fire of
his twelve pieces of heavy calibre. Urged to deeds of heroism by their illustrious
leaders, the Russians, for an entire day, vainly attempted to force the passage, and
six thousand in killed and prisoners were by them left upon the field. Night set in
upon another day glorious for the Poles.

On the 18th the entire Polish line was retrograding with exemplary order, and on
the 19th the army was from Warsaw but forty miles ; and on the same day the spirit-
ed combat of Swierza took place, where General Dwernicki beat Prince Wurtem-
berg, who had passed the Vistula at Pulawa, and was approaching Warsaw.

On the same day was fought the battle of Wavre, by Sir A. Alison styled the Bat-
tle of Grochow; and on the 24th and 25th were fought the Battles of Bialolenka
(24th), and of Grochow (25th), both likewise mitfoalled, by the same writer, the Bat-



dff



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS. 135

tie of Praga. His account of all those actions is so mixed up that it is barely possi-
ble to discern the true occurrences.

The Battles of Wavre and of Bialolenka were nearly fought upon the same ground
as the Battle of Groehow. From the 14th to the evening preceding the great bat-
tle ten days had passed, during which some ten sanguinary battles had been fought,
in which the Poles, though retreating, had been uniformly successful. The heroism
and endurance of their small army during these memorable ten days is above all
praise. In that short space of time the whole Russian army had been engaged by a
force not above one-sixth its strength, and thirty thousand of the invaders had been
either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.

For a like series of sanguinary actions, against such an overmatched force, we
look in vain in history. By it is demonstrated what a brave people may do in the
defence of its homes and the liberty of its country. Only a cause just and grand
could be contested for with like devotion. In the middle of winter, in a climate in-
finitely more rigorous than ours, in addition to forced and harassing marches, the
days were spent alternately in .ghting and marching, with but little rest for all;
for such were the requiremen s of the hour that, continually, while one-third were
resting upon the snow-covered ground, two-thirds had to be kept under arms to
guard their comrades' slumber. For the straggler in the rear, had there been any,
there would have been no quarter. Numberless hordes of Cossacks were hovering
around, day and night, ready to pounce upon the isolated victim as the hawk does
upon its prey. A continuous retreat, necessities of war, so disastrous in nearly all
its annals, appeared to have for this brave race nothing dispiriting. Their morale
was not shaken an iota; on the contrary, they seemed to draw inspiration from the
hourly increasing proximity to their capital, where, they well knew, tender hearts
were awaiting them, to cheer them on with noble devotion in the great battle which
was destined to be fought under the very walls of the ancient city.

The army of the Poles was now concentrated, with remarkable success, for not a
Bingle column of theirs had been cut off or defeated, on the west side of the Village
of Groehow, one Polish mile, or some seven English miles, from the City of Warsaw,
and it occupied a line which had been choseu with admirable genius. The right of
the Polish line rested upon the impenetrable marshes of the Vistula, called the
Marshes of Goclaw. The left was posted upon the slight elevation which commands
the Village of Kawenzyn, near the Vistula. From right to left there stretched, for
about three miles, an unbroken plain, composed mostly of cultivated fields, without
any other obstacles save those presented by the furrows which divide the fields of
the different proprietors— thus forming a magnificent field for all the manœuvres of
the three arms. Between the centre and the left the Polish line was perpendicularly
traversed by the high-road already mentioned, which leads from the province of
Grodno, through SiecUjce, upon Warsaw, and for the possession of which road, open-
ing the way to the city, the battle was being fought.

There was, however, upon this line, and between the Polish centre and left, a po-
sition which, in Polish history, was destined to become as famed as is the little
" wood of birches " in the Battle of llochkirch in Prussian annals— namely, a forest
of elder trees, situated in front of the Polish army, and for the possession of which
incredible efforts were made, during the Btruggle, by vast Russian hosts.

The Russian position was upon a front parallel to that of the Polish forces, con-
cealed by the dense woodlands which surround the Village of Groehow. and which
the Russians occupied in force. The road from Siedliec to Warsaw, having passed
over a country thickly wooded, after leaving the Village of Groehow debouches
upon the vast plain, stretching for seven uiile^ away toward the capital; and from



136 THE SPIRTT OF

the belt of woodlands, which concealed the Russian line of battle, the invaders be-
held, on the cold, frosty morning of the 25th of February, 1831, the magnificent pros-
pect, of the towers and domes of the rich and populous capital of the country, in
front the Vistula winding through the expanse, and which they had come to destroy —
confidently trusting that it would, by the mere force of overpowering numbers, be
their conquered prize before the evening sun had set in.

The Russian army consisted of eight corps of combatants, and three in reserve.
Their left wing was between the Village of Wavre and the marshes of Goclaw, and
composed of four divisions of infantry, forty -seven thousand strong, four divisions of
cavalry, fifteen thousand seven hundred, with one hundred and twenty pieces of
cannon. The centre, which rested opposite the forest of elder3, consisted also of
four divisions of infantry, fifty-seven thousand men. three of cavalry, ten thousand
five hundred strong, and had one hundred and eight pieces of cannon. The right
wing, opposite the Village ofKawenzyn, was composed of three and a half divisions
of infantry of thirty-one thousand men, four of cavalry, fifteen thousand seven
hundred and fifty men. with fifty-two pieces of cannon. Upon the borders of the
great forest, opposite the forest of elders, was placed the reserve, commanded by
Grand-Duke Constantine, in infantry and cavalry twenty thousand strong, with
thirty-two cannon — making a grand total of one hundred and ninety-six thousand
infantry and cavalry, with three hundred and twelve pieces of artillery.

Against this enormous host the Poles could muster, after great exertions, but a
vastly inferior force, numbering not more than forty-three thousand four hundred
infantry and cavalry, with ninety-six guns. General Szembek, commanding the
right wing, had seven thousand infantry, with twenty-four guns, and occupied the
space between the high-road and the marshes of the Vistula. The centre, composed
of Skrzynecki's and Zimirski's divisions, fifteen thousand strong, with sixty guns,
occupied the space between the forest of elders to the high-road ; the left wing oc-
cupied the Village of Kawenzyn with a force'of six thousand five hundred men and
twelve guns, under the command of General Krakowiecki. The entire cavalry, nine
thousand five hundred strong, commanded by Generals Uminski, Lubinski, Skar-
zynski, and Jankowski, were deployed in rear of the infantry and artillery, readj' to
precipitate themselves upon the Russian columns whenever an opportunity should
offer. Besides these, a small reserve of four battalions and eight squadrons, in
all about five thousand four hundred men, under the command of General Pac,
were posted upon both sides of the Warsaw high-road, a little to, the rear of General
Szembek.

Thus, in sullen silence, the opposing hosts remained during the night of the 24th,
awaiting the day which was to decide upon the fortunes of a country, and which to
thousands was to be the last one which should dawn upon them. The night was un-
usually serene and clear.. Thousands of watch-fires, around which the weary Poles
were reposing, illumined the horizon, while along the dark line of the forest which
enclosed the Russian hosts everything would have seemed quiet as the night but
for the dense volumes of smoke ascending from behind the curtain. Far in the dis-
tance myriads of lights were to be seen, showing the extent of the Polish capital,
which, like beacons, shone all night — for but few were there in the ancient city who,
wrapt in slumber, were forgetful of the threatening dangers.

With the break of day the armies were awaiting, in serried columns, the begin-
ning of the struggle. The first rays of light had scarce dispelled the darkness when,
upon the Polish left, in the direction of Kawenzyn, debotiched from the forest the
Russian right, with a force as large as the entire army of the Poles. Fifty pieces of
artillery preceded the columns, on the winga of which hung clouds of cavalry in



MILITARY INSTITUTIONS. 137

threatening masses. A tremendous cannonade was directed upon the village, which,
soon in flames, was wrapt in clouds of smoke. To this overpowering force there
were opposed seven battalions and twelve guns. With unflinching resolution Gen-
erals Krakowiecki and Malachowski made the most gallant efforts to keep their
ground. At the head of their columns, on foot, they repeatedly charged the advan-
cing battalions of the enemy, while the twelve pieces of artillery, skilfully served,
tore whole streets through the enemy's masses — unmindful of the concentrated fire
of the Russian artillery — directing every discharge into the dense advancing hosts.
For five long hours this gallant band withstood the successive shocks, till at last,
weary of unsuccessful efforts, the enemy's fire slackened and soon died away. Thus
the great attack upon the Polish left had been repulsed.

Mai>hal Diebitsch, during the whole of this attack, had firmly expected that tho
Polish left would bfl forced. He had, therefore, directed the whole masses of tho
Russian right upon the Village of Kawenzyn. expecting to force the Poles to weaken
their centre in order to sustain their left. But they well knew that no succor could
be expected from any quarter in the defence of the positions assigned to them re-
spectively, and thus they had formed the resolution to conquer or to die upon the
ground.

Up to ten o'clock in the morning the centre and right of the Polish line had re-
mained unattached. But when the efforts against their left became apparently use-
less, Diebitsch resolved upon a great demonstration against the Polish right. Two
hundred pieces of cannon, as if by magic, began to vomit their missiles of death
against the Polish line. The earth seemed to tremble under foot. Covered by this
tremendous fire, the Russians now began to debouch from the forest, and in one mo-
ment the plain of Wavre was covered with their columns. Looking over that plain,
between the forest of elders and the Vistula, the eye saw nothing but one undivided
mass of troops in motion; not even the different divisions could be distinguished*
from each other. Still under cover of the guns, the Russians steadily advanced.
But a great catastrophe awaited them. In an incredibly short space of time the en-
tire cavalry of the Poles had been collected; issuing through the openings left be-
tween the columns of the infantry, they threw themselves upon the Russians, and,
with one grand charge, swept them from the field.

This brilliant success inspired the Poles with tho greatest ardor. When the brave
horsemen returned from the charge cries of defiance rent the air from the entire
Polish line, striking terror into the enemy's ranks.

A lull now succeeded in the unequal contest. Rapidly the Russians concentrated
one hundred and twenty guns against the forest of elders, held by Generals Skrzy-
necki's and Zimirski's divisions, composed of the very flower of the Polish army.
Among the devoted soldiers holding this now for ever memorable forest was the cele-
brated Fourth regiment of infantry, which, on the day inaugurating the revolution,
had. to a man, taken the solemn oath administered by their brave colonel, Bogus-
lawski, never to fire a single shot, but always to attack with the bayonet, until their
country should be free— a pledge carried out under their succeeding colonel, Bor-
cenzki, and especially in the fierce struggle i >f (! mcliow, and so faithfully that, at the
end of the revolution, but ten nun remained.

One hundred thousand men now assaulted the forest of elders, ami after a fierce
Struggle the Poles, were driven from their position. But the artillery, with a bravery
never BUrpawed, dashed within two hundred yards of the Russian columns, and a
tremendous discharge Of grape, double-Shotted, Shattered the advance columns of the
confidently marching host. The Polish infantry, but fourteen battalions strong,
with a fierce charge of the bayonet, repulsed the Russians, and the forest was re-

12«



138 THE SPIRIT OF

taken. But in an Instant fresh regiments of infantry were hurried against the
biasing forest, while the Russian cuirassiers attacked both Hanks. While they were
endeavoring to break through the line the Polish cavalry, ever on the start, defeat-
ed the iron-dad regiments, and drove tlieni back in utter confusion. The Polish in-
fantry a second time was driven from the forest. Again the artillery shattered the
Etassians, and again, with one charge, they were repulsed by the infantry, and the
forest retaken a second time. The other portions of the line, during these fierce at-
tacks, were not unmolested. On the right and left the combat raged furiously, with-
out, b^owever. making any visible impression upon the stout Polish infantry.

Toward two o'clock in the afternoon, while the combat was extending along nil
points of the lino, the enemy made one grand last effort against the forest of elders,
when the second division, terribly reduced, began to give way, and the Russian col-
umns at once poured into the interval which had thus been made. Destruction
appeared inevitable; the crisis of the battle seemed to have come; and already the
wavering preceding a great catastrophe was to be seen in the Polish centre, when
the battle was restored by one of the most daring artillery charges on record. The
five Polish batteries of Adamski, Maslowski. Hildebrand, Bielak, and Picntka ad-
vanced, like cavalry, to the charge, throwing themselves into the interval with un-
daunted resolution, and. approaching close to the rapidly advancing Russian columns,
opened a fire of grape which spread destruction and disorder in their ranks. The
Russians halted in astonishment at so daring a charge ; and while they were yet at
bay, the batteries, with the celerity of thought, had taken shelter in rear of the now
confidently advancing second division, which, for the ninth and last time, had now
retaken the blood-stained ground of the forest.

For four hours this terrible massacre had lasted. Under their heroic leaders,
Skrzynecki, Zimirski, Boguslawski, Czyzewski, and Rohland, the Polish centre exe-
cuted deeds of daring such as have never been surpassed. Opposed, a living mass,
to the concentrated tire of one hundred and twenty guns, they never wavered for a
moment under a storm of missiles more terrible than had been hurled by four hun-
dred French guns, nineteen 3 r ears before, against the great redoubt, of the Moskowa,
Changes of front, the attack in columns, and in echelon, the concentration of forces
upon the Russian points which were wavering, reserving their fire until close to the
enemy and not wasting a single shot, were executed with an activity, order, and
coolness unparalleled. Only by such conduct could the tremendous attack of the
Russians have been withstood for four hours by fifteen thousand men, who, at the
ninth attack, had been reduced to less than ten thousand.



Online LibraryAuguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de MarmontThe spirit of military institutions → online text (page 15 of 33)