Draper Tolman Schoonover.

The Army and navy quarterly; an eclectic magazine online

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THE JAN 3 1885^^ ,^^^,_




VOL. I.— JANUARY, 1885.— NO. 1.


I. European Cavalry. By Colonel Keith Fraser. (From The Fortnightly

RevUw) 1

II. The British Navy. By Sir E. J. Reed, M.P. (From The Contemjporary

Kei'iew) 17

III. A Forgotten American Humorist. By Mrs. Launt Thompson. (From London

Society) 3G

IV. The Present Position of Tactics in England. By Colonel W. W. Knollys.

(From Colburn's Uydied Service Magazine) 65

V. The End of a Great Navy. By Vice- Admiral Jurien de la Gravikre. Trans-
lated from the Renie dea Deux Mondes by Ja8. Duval Rodney, Esq. . 74
VI. Torpedoes on Shipboard and in Boats. By C. Chabaud-Arnault, Capitaine de
Frdgate, M.F. Translated from the lievue MaHtime et Coloyiiale by Wm.

Bainbridge-Hoff, Commander U.S.N 91

VII. OxTR London Letter 118

VIII, Books Received 128




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JAN 8 1885



Army and Navy Quarterly.

Vol.. I. JANUARY, 1886. No. 1.



The recent formation of a dismounted oc^rpa d^&SJte composed of
officers and men drawn from nineteen raiments of cavalry in the
United Kingdom is perhaps the strangest episode in the annals of that
arm. Imperious circumstanoes have compelled the commander-in-
chief of the expedition to Khartoum to resort to this expedient in
order to obtain the services of a certain number of seasoned soldiers,
but we know from Lord Wolseley's writings that h^ does not in any
way share the opinion of some English officers, holding what are
termed advanced views, that cavalry will in future be useless on the
battle-field, even against disciplined infantry; that the extraordinary
improvements in modem firearms, their capacity for rapidity of fire
and greatly increased range, will have the effect of confining the duties
of cavalry to minor objects and of greatly diminishing its utility.
There might be some truth in this theory if battles were fought on
perfectly level plains, if smoke, dust, and mist were unknown, or if
the sudden appeariance of a body of horsemen well closed in on the
flank of infantry, exhausted by the fatigue and anxiety of a long
conflict, were no longer to have a terrifying effect Among the military
nations of the continent, however, it is recognized that^ so far from the
time for the efficacious employment of cavalry, either on the battle-field
or in enterprises against the flanks or rear of an enemy, being past, a
Vol. L— No. 1.

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glorious future is dawning for that arm, and that opportunities will
arise when well-disciplined, well-trained, and well-oommanded cavalry
may, through its power of securing for itself comparative immunity
from the dangers to which other arms are in a higher ratio exposed,
take a leading part in the conflict and perhaps decide the fate of
a campaign. Among other high authorities, Field-Marshal Count
Moltke has recorded his opinion that because in future the destructive
fire of artillery will necessitate a scattered formation, the rdle of cav-
alry will be most important. Greater skill will no doubt be required
in handling it so as to bring it into action decisively at the critical
moment, cito parare tjidoriam, for only by rapidity in manoeuvring
can the effect of the breech-loader be paralyzed.

History proves that without cavalry a victory is rarely brilliant.
If cavalry is beaten, according to Montecuculi, the battle is entirely
lost ; if, on the other hand, it is victorious, the victory is complete.
From the day when Hasdrubal destroyed the Roman host at Cannae
until that on which, two thousand years afterwards, the British squad-
rons, charging the flanks of the old guard at Waterloo, ^^ prevented all
rallying" after the annihilation of the French cavalry, this axiom has
been true. In the last great war cavalry on both sides were on several
occasions nobly sacrificed in order to gain time for the infantry, or in
heroic effort to avert disasters already irreparable, but neither in the
" death rides" of Worth or R^jonville, or in the terrible slaughter of
Sedan, were the losses as heavy as those incurred by cavalry in the dajrs
of muzzle-loaders. That the effect of the fire of modern weapons,
requiring as they do in their use considerable skill and a correct judg-
ment of distance, would be very destructive to cavalry moving rapidly
outside the zone of four hundred yards remains to be proved. In a
trial which lately took place in India between three Grardner guns and
a detachment of sixty picked shots file-firing at six stationary targets
at five hundred and eighty-five yards, the distance being unknown, the
latter made only twenty-four hits out of four hundred and eleven
rounds ; and at nine hundred yards volley-firing, the distance being
known, only thirty-six hits out of six hundred and thirty rounds.
The Ghirdner guns were even less successful, a result highly encouraging
to cavalry.

It is probable that, should war be declared between any of the great
states of Europe, several cavalry divisions would be at once pushed to
the threatened frontier in order to cover the mobilization and concen-
tration of the armies in their rear. From the first engagements of
cavalry and horse artillery on a large scale may be expected, and the

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question ais to which country is to be the theatre of operations will be
decided by the rival squadrons. In view of the momentous conse-
quences of success or failure at the outset of a campaign^ it is not to be
wondered at that a great increase has been gradually taking place in
the numbers of cavalry in foreign armies^ and that the closest attention
has been paid to the organization of that arm and to the tactics to be
employed in manoeuvring, in accordance with the exigencies of modern
warfare, the vast masses that will be brought into the field.

The proportion of cavalry to infantry in European armies is, —


Inf: .



Greece •

• • 1




• 1 to


Germany .

• * *■


Austro-Huugary •

• 1 **


Spain .

« . 1


Russia .

1 **






• 1 "


Sweden and

Norway . 1


England^ . •

1 '*


lUly .

• .1


Denmark • •

• 1 "


Holland .

• .1


The peace establishment of the cavalry of the four great continental
powers amounts to no less than two hundred and fifty thousand sabres^
which would form the first line in the event of war. Of these^ Euro-
pean Sussia possesses 80^976 ; France^ 68,733 ; Germany, 64,699 ; and
Austro-Hungary, 43,993. The experiment of arming the Russian cav-
alry with long rifles in order that it might act as infantry has been
condemned, but all cavalry, including a proportion of men in cuirassier
and lancer regiments, are armed with a breech-loading weapon. There
exist in all these countries nearly inexhaustible reserves, the youngest
classes of which would be recalled to the depots, and after a few weeks
of drill and instruction be able to join their regiments to fill up the
gaps which increase day by day after the commencement of a cam-
paign. From these also would be drawn the innumerable drivers for
the military train, staff orderlies, etc., who would otherwise have to
be deducted from the combatant strength of the war squadrons.

Of all nations the Germans may be said to have brought the or-
ganization of cavalry to the highest state of perfection. Acting on the
principle that to the army in the field at the commencement of a cam-
paign only such bodies should be sent as have existed in time of peace,
Germany could, in the event of a war calling forth all her resources,
put at once into first line ninety-three regiments of cavalry. These
would be supported by one hundred and forty-four squadrons of reserve
and the ninety-three depot squadrons of the regiments at the front; in

1 Exclusive of dismounted men, 1 to 11.7.

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all one handred and ten thousand sabres. New clothing and saddlery^
already fitted, for this large force is kept in store in charge of each
squadron commander. Besides the reserves of horses which, bought at
two years old, have been maintained in government establishments until
of an age for service, lai^ purchases would be made and depots formed
at the headquarters of each army corps. Nor would the French cav-
airy under the same circumstances be much inferior in point of num-
bers; for the first line would consist of seventy-seven regiments, with
a reserve composed of the depot squadrons and of one hundred and
forty-eight squadrons of territorial cavalry. In both of these countries
the number of horses exceeds three million, which on an emergency
could be purchased compulsorily. It is everywhere accepted as a fact
that good cavalry cannot be improvised, that bad cavalry is worse than
useless, and that as. it takes four times as long to make a cavalry as an
.infantry soldier, a suflBciency of trained men and horses must be main-
tained in the ranks in time of peace.

With r^ard to the organization of these great numbers of horse-
men in bodies admitting of good administration and practical eflScieucy,
although slightly different systems have been adopted in various armies,
the principles which have been acted upon have been the same. The
division of cavalry, consisting of two or three brigades, is considered in
these respects as the largest that can safely be administered and com-
manded by one officer. Occasions may arise when it may be advisable
to concentrate several divisions into a corps of cavalry under one chief
(and there are some who think that such a corps, accompanied by a
numerous artillery, with mitrailleuses or machine-guns, would be prac-
tically invincible) i but this could be done at any time. In addition to
independent divisions of cavalry, and in order to avoid the evil of
their being frittered away on the battle-field, a certain number of regi-
ments are attached, under the title of divisional cavalry, in proportion
of from two to four squadrons to each division of infantr}\ Although
the number of brigades in a division or of regiments in a brigade may
vary from two to three of each of these units, there has long been a
concurrence of opinion that a regiment should on no account consist of
less than five or more than eight squadrons, and that one of these squad-
rons should in war time be constituted a depot to which all recruits,
remounts, and reserves should be sent, and which should provide for
the necessities of the others. To have less than four squadrons in the
field to one at home is considered far too extravagant a system. As
the size of the war squadrons cannot, with due r^;ard to tactical effi-
ciency, exceed a certain limit, three of these do not constitute a body

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strong enough for the duties which a regiment may be ordered to un-
dertake. Even a closer identity of opinion is to be found in the or-
ganization of the squadron, the real administrative and tactical unit of
cavalry. On all hands it is agreed that the number of horses per squad-
ron should not be less than one hundred and fifty, or more than one
hundred and eighty. "Weak squadrons are the ruin of cavalry.'*
They are unable to perform detached duties properly, nor can they act
independently on the offensive or defensive. A squadron of less than
one hundred horses soon ceases to be one, even, perhaps, before it has
met the enemy. Squadrons themselves are divided into four sections,
each under its own officer, responsible to the commander for its effi-
ciency in quarters and in the field. These sections are again sub-
divided, so that the non-commissioned officers may keep a close and
helpful supervision over each soldier.

" Tactics,'* Napoleon has told us, " alone give us the means of aim-
ing at great results, are more necessary to cavalry than to infantry, and
must be changed every ten years if we wish to remain the victors.*'
The most subtle workman, deprived of an easily-managed tool, is capa-
ble of little, and there is no doubt that the leaders of cavalry before
that change was made had been seriously hampered by the stiff and
unwieldy formations in which that arm was called upon to manoeuvre
and to fight, until General von Edelsheim in 1864 introduced into the
Austrian cavalry a method of drill which created a complete revolution
in the tactics of that arm, which met with much opposition, but which
finally has since been adopted by every military nation in Europe. In
the Prussian army, especially ever since the close of the war in 1816,
in which the cavalry, notwithstanding its devotion, had had constantly
to give way to the French, owing to its having been placed under the
command of infantry generals, who used it simply as an auxiliary of
their own arm, the absolute necessity of having some fixed rules, which
should become second nature to the troops, had been admitted, and the
subject of regulating the formation and tactics of large bodies of cav-
alry had been under the consideration of the most distinguished soldiers
of that arm. But it was not till 1872 that a system was approved of
by the Emperor of Germany, which, with a few modifications, has now
been everywhere accepted as the basis for the manoeuvres of cavalry.
The principles of this system are those of the great king, the master of
the art, whose cavalry, more formidable by its rapidity and discipline
than by its bravery, was acknowledged even by his enemies to be the
best in the world, — the formations, those practically created by him,
which his pupils Ziethen and the incomparable Seidlitz had profited

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by, but \frhich had during the first years of this oentury fallen into

The most perfect training would indeed avail little if there were no
cohesion between the different arms^ if they were not aocustomed to
work together, or if no opportunities were afforded to commanders for
handling their troops independently or in combination with others.
The custom of holding autumn manoeuvres, to which during the inter-
vals of peace Frederick the Great attached so much importance, were
reintroduced in 1821 into the Prussian army, and have been carried on
with little intermission since. Other countries have followed the ex-
ample, and throughout the continent cavalry are assembled in brigades
or divisions for a few weeks in the autumn afler the recruits of the
year before have passed into the ranks. R^ments thus became accus-
tomed to work together and to know their neighbors, which keeps up
that spirit of comradeship so necessary on service. They learn to have
confidence in themselves and in each other, and a valuable opportunity
is afforded to their leaders of becoming acquainted with those under
their command.

We have seen the state of preparation for war in which the great
powers of the continent think it necessary to maintain their cavalry
in time of peace. Compare with this the condition of the cavalry of
this country I Insignificant in point of numbers, " it is," to quote
the words of a recent article in the limes, '^so organized that not a
single regiment can be sent into the field at its prescribed strength,
or maintained at that strength." Nor is this a new state of things.
All through the Peninsular War the dispatches of the Duke of Wel-
lington teem with complaints of his want of cavalry. Afler Salamanca
the want of sufficient cavalry prevented the pursuit and destruction of
Marmont's army ; at Vimiera he attributed his losses to the superiority
of the enemy in cavalry ; the great risk he ran at the passage of the
Douro was due to his weakness in that arm. Before Waterloo he had
won many battles, but had never been able to destroy his enemy from
the same cause. Even at that battle, when one-fourth of his army
consisted of cavalry, he was obliged to leave the pursuit to the squad-
rons of Ziethen. And yet in those great days the country possessed a
comparatively large force of mounted troops. But the lessons of the
war were forgotten in the long peace, and the army which embarked
for the Crimea took with it a mere handful of cavalry, only one-twelfth
of its whole strength. After the battle of the Alma that little force was
unable to follow up the success which the infantry had so gallantly ob-
tained, and Sevastopol was saved. The victory was not complete. A

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few weeks subeequently, after having on one day only met the enemy
in fight, our cavalry, called upon to do work far beyond its powers,
became a nonentity, one of its two brigades, composed of five so-called
r^ments of hussars, lancers, and light dragoons, being able to turn
out alt(^ether (me weak squadron. No valid reinforcement could be
dispatched from England, and in the second year of the war our cavalry,
with the exception of two magnificent regiments from India, consisted
jof raw recruits of all ages hastily enlisted, who, after a few weeks in
the riding-school, were sent out to complete their education before the
enemy in the campaign in the field which then appeared imminent. In
order to obtain trained soldiers, Europe was scoured for adventurers
who had served in foreign cavalry. These men, supplied with English
uniforms, were formed into regiments, and had it not been for the ces-
sation of hostilities would have been employed in the destruction of
soldiers of a nation with which their own governments were at peace.

If another great war were to come upon us should we now be in a
better plight ? Who would have the temerity to answer such a ques-
tion in the affirmative?

The total number of British cavalry which England, famous for
good riders and for her breed of horses, possesses for the defense of her
interests all over the world, is 15,956 men and 10,899 horses. Yet the
demands upon our cavalry are far heavier than on that of any other
country, for it must be in constant readiness to embark at the shortest
notice for the most distant lands. At this moment from the north to
the south of Hindostan, in the warlike capital of Oude, at the gates of
the turbulent city of the Nizam, or on the watch over the native armies
of the great Mahratta chiefs, and in Egypt and Natal, English cavalry
raiments are stationed.

The British cavalry is composed of thirty-one regiments, divided,
with the exception of the household cavalry, into heavy, medium, and
light. Little difference exists in the weights — which compare favor-
ably with those of foreign cavalry — of these various descriptions, as the
accoutrements and equipments are practically the same ; in fact, a few
years ago the men of the heavy cavalry were found to ride lighter than
those of the light. All are mounted on the same class of horse except
r^ments in India, which are mounted on Australian horses. There
are three regiments of household cavalry, five of lancers, ten of dragoon
guards and dragoons, and thirteen of hussars. Nine of these regiments
are on the Indian establishment, one is in Egypt, another in Natal.
Of the remaining twenty, the household brigade consists of 1221 men
and 825 horses; thirteen regiments of the line have each 469 men and

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300 horoeSy and four have 601 men and 400 horseSy making a total in
the United Kingdom, after deducting the men of the recently-formed
dismounted composite regiment, of 9034 men and 6325 horses. Five
of these raiments are stationed in Ireland, leaving the strength of the
cavalry in Great Britain available for foreign service (for it would prob-
ably be impossible to withdraw troops at present from Ireland, Egypt,
or Natal) at 6739 men and 4326 horses. From the former number
must be deducted about sixteen per cent, of recruits and thirty per cent*
of horses too old or too young for service, and those required for mount-
ing infantry officers, chaplains, surgeons, military police, signalers, and

Online LibraryDraper Tolman SchoonoverThe Army and navy quarterly; an eclectic magazine → online text (page 1 of 57)