Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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strategist and tactician, a man who could consult with
the commander-in-chief, and bring into play, at the
most effective moment, not only the reserve artillery,
but half the guns attached to divisions. This is com-
mon sense, but is not what is learned at Dum-dum,
Meerut, the Mount, or Ahmednugger. Those head-
quarters turn out excellent practical artillerists, but few
strategists or tacticians. We quote in more detail
Jomini's views as to the requisite qualifications of a


commander-in-chief, also his opinion as the arm whence
he may be best drawn. The translation or rather para-
phrase is our own.*

" A general must be a man of great mind, of a moral courage which
leads to great resolutions, of sangfroid or physical courage which over-
comes dangers. Knowledge is only a third-rank requisite, but is a powerful
auxiliary. Vast erudition is not here meant. It is necessary to know
little, but to know that little well, and to be well grounded in principles."
* * * * * *

" The question has often been agitated, whether command should be
given to the general long habituated to the management of troops, or to
generals who have risen in the Etat Major, and, though learned in war,
have been little habituated to handle troops. It is indisputable that a
general may be able to combine operations, and carry on war on a large
scale, who never led a regiment against the enemy. The great Cond6,
Frederic, and Napoleon, are examples."

Jomini proceeds :

" It cannot be denied that a man from the Etat Major, as well as any
other, may become a great Captain, but it will not be from having grown old
in the functions of quartermaster,t but because he possesses the natural
genius for war. A general of like character from the cavalry or infantry
will be equally fit for supreme command. Individual qualities will be

" In coming to a decision, all points must be considered, and a medium
taken. A general from the Etat Major, from the Artillery, or from the
Engineers, who has held the command of a division or corps d'armee, will
have, other points being equal, a superiority over the general who imder-
stands the conduct of only one arm, or of a special corps."

" In brief, a general who has thought much on war, that is, has studied
war, will be quahfied for command. A great and comprehensive mind is,
above every other quality, necessary for a commander-in-chief. Lastly, the
union of a wise theory with a great mind will constitute the great cap-

Such are the dicta of one of the ablest, and most
practical, military writers of the present age. Of one
who was the chief of Ney's staff, and who is supposed
to have inspired his genius. Of one who, even as a
traitor to the side on which he had so long fought, was
so much respected as a soldier, by the Emperor Alexan-
der, that he made him an aide-de-camp, and put him at
the head of an army. Jomini advocates all we urge.

* Precis de I'art de la guerre, par department combines the general

Ic Baron de Jomini. Paris, 1837, staff,

pages 604 and 605. X Jomini, part i., pages 110, 111,

t In the Russian army, for which and 112.
Jomini wrote, the quartermaster's

GG 2


Genius is heaven-born. Strategy, tactics, and all else
must give way on occasion. A general must understand
rules and principles, but not be the slave of them.
Neither rules nor principles require the term of a life to
learn. He must have moral and physical courage, and
ready aptitude to apply his resources. These qualifica-
tions are somewhat akin to genius. They are to be
cultivated, though not to the best advantage under dry
routine. The India Grovernment has seldom the power
of selection from generals who have commanded di-
visions. It is limited to select between commanders of
regiments, and men who, like Grenerals Patrick Grrant
and Cheape, and Colonels Tucker and Birch, though of
known ability, not only never led a regiment into
action, but never commanded one for a day.* Or the
selection may be extended to a third class, to men dis-
tinguished in youth as soldiers, but afterwards em-
ployed as civilians ; to the Broadfoots, Edwardes', Lakes,
Bechers, and Nicholsons of India; to the Hardinges,
Raglans, and Cathcarts of the Eoyal Army. The im-
portance of the subject tempts us again to quote
Jomini : —

" A general instructed in theory, but destitute of cowp d'oeil, of sang
froid, and of skill, may make a fine strategic plan, but fail in every law of
tactics when he finds himself in presence of an eifiemy. His projects will
then vanish, his defeat become probable. If he has force of character, he
may diminish the bad results of his check : if he loses his head, he will
lose his armyy

Few soldiers in India have witnessed much strategy ;
but many have witnessed the failure of tactics in the
presence of the enemy, aye, and every day witness it on
their own parade grounds, when " adjutants* regiments"
in the hands of routine lieutenant-colonels and majors,
even though they may " have never been on leave for a
day for thirty years," are clubbed up and tortured in
every conceivable way. [The men who never go on
* General Grant is the exception, but the corps was irregular.


leave are not the best ofl&cers. All work and no play
makes Jack a dull boy.] The card system fails. The
man who never reflected in his life cannot be expected to
reflect on an emergency. An inequality or contraction
of ground puts him out ; the unexpected appearance of a
crabbed brigadier flusters him ; the whirlwind rush of a
Sir Charles Napier down the line, frightens him out of
his senses ; cards, manuals, catechisms, and all other
helps are forgotten, and the unhappy field ofiicer is like
* a babe in a wood.' He loses his senses, and is alike
the laughing-stock of his sable soldiers, and of his
younger countrymen. Is such a man, — and there are
scores of them, — the fitting leader of a brigade through
the Bolan or the Khybur ; up the Persian Gulf, or to
China or Burmah? Yet they are the men so sent,
daily so selected. Can such men be expected to preserve
their senses in the presence of the enemy ? That such
men have not lost armies is no fault of the present
system, but is attributable to the courage and skill of
subordinates, and to the i^^«/of the company. But let
not Providence be too long tempted. Eome lost her
Legions when commanded by generals who were soldiers
only in name. Napoleon's words to his brother Louis
at Toulon apply to our argument. Standing in midst
of the corpses of 200 grenadiers slain through the ignor-
ance of their commander, at the assault of an impreg-
nable side of Fort Phuron, he observed, " If I had com-
manded here, all these brave men would be still alive.
Learn Louis, from this example, how absolutely ne-
cessary instruction is to those who aspire to command

We have dwelt so much on the mischiefs of routine
and strict seniority, and on the evils of having decrepit
or incapable ofiicers at the head of troops, that it
behoves us to ofier some remedy for present evils. We


know that the seniority system cannot be uprooted
altogether, nor indeed do we desire to uproot it. Senio-
rity must be the basis of Indian promotion, but seniority
may be, and must be, helped over the stile.

In the first place, then, let us earnestly deprecate the
threatened closing of the invalid establishment. As
Sir George Pollock deposed before the Lords, it has
often been grossly abused, but so have other establish-
ments. Army head- quarters, and the doctors between
them, ought to be able to prevent gross abuses. In-
vahd officers ought to be employed, as they usually have
been at Madras and Bombay, in duties commensurate
with their powers. It is by leaving them as gentlemen
at large that malingering is encouraged. Our objection
to the abrogation of the establishment is, on the double
ground that present incumbents have a sort of right to
its advantages, and that it is a safe outlet for incapables.
This latter is surely a substantial reason for its main-
tenance. What matter, whether a man be unwilling or
unable, so that he do not perform his duty ? His disease
may be real, though not apparent. It is, indeed, a
grievous disease, to prefer idleness and inaction to
moderate work. It is surely then better to shelve such
diseased gentlemen in small civil posts, requiring only
an hour or two's daily work,* than to have them at the
head of companies or regiments. In garrison duty,
with veterans, commanded by good officers, they may
also earn their bread. We pray then the authorities to
let the invalids stand, but to employ them as above
suggested. The alternative is to allow invalid officers
to cumber the regular ranks. Commanding officers are
men with bowels, and such men will not drive respect-

* Few such sinecures exist in different soldiers may creditably fill.
India ; but our argument is, that Pay and pension and post offices arc
there are quasi-civil posts which in- among them.


able incompetents, with families, out of their corps, to
starvation. The pension est^jblishment, in lieu of the
invahds, would be starvation to many.

But we have a more substantive proposal to make.
A scheme for an unattached list for the armies of India,
prepared with a view to relieve the service from the
weight of seniority, now lies before us, and as far as
it goes, it seems well suited to effect the object. We
therefore notice it at length.

First, let us glance at the measures which have been
adopted by the Court of Directors during the last
twenty-five years, to improve the condition of their
officers. — In 1832, the Court expressed themselves de-
sirous of remedying the then stagnant state of promo-
tion, and of providing for the comfort of their officers
on retirement. They intimated their willingness cor-
dially to encourage the institution of retiring funds, and
informed Government that they were prepared to bear
the increased charge of retired pay that would be con-
sequent upon the establishment of funds at the three
Presidencies. They sanctioned the remittance of the
retired officers' annuities through their treasury, at the
rate of two shULings the Sicca rupee, and the grant of
six per cent, per annum, on the balances of the several
funds. The number of retirements, however, were
limited to 24 per annum, for the three Presidencies, and
the amount of the annuities to be given in each year
was fixed at £7750.

Schemes for retiring funds were prepared, but none
were approved of. After waiting a reasonable period,
the Court resolved themselves to provide for the object
contemplated, by enlarging the retiring regulations.
This was effected in 1836. Officers were then for the
first time permitted to retire after certain fixed periods
of service instead of, as formerly, according to their
rank. In 1837 these new regulations were still further



enlarged, and a coloners pension was sanctioned for all
officers, whatever might he their rank, after 32 years
of actual service in India; lieutenant-colonel's pension,
after 28 years ; major's pension, after 24 years ; and
captain's pension after 20 years. This enlargement of
the retiring regulations was not productive of any real
advantage to the service. Mr. Philip Melvill, in his
evidence hefore the Lords in 1852, says —

" The first and great effect (of the new system of retirement) has been
to soothe the feelings of the officers with regard to the rate of their retiring
pension ; they know that, however unfortunate they may be as compared
with others in regimental rise, a fixed rate of pension is secured to them ;
the healing eSect of this change has been most beneficial."

He further says,

" The number of retirements is increasing, as a necessary consequence
of the additions made from time to time to the number of European
officers, but the percentage is much the same ; it is less than two per
cent, from all causes, whether retiring on full or half pay, or resigning
without any pay, and it has been much the same for the last thirty years."

He gives the numher of officers who are entitled to
retire on full pay at 1098, of whom 557 are entitled to
retire on the pay of a rank superior to that which they
had actually attained. The aggregate estahlishment
of European officers in 1834, he states to have heen
4084, and 5142 in 1852.

We give below an abstract * return, showing the

* Abstract return of retirements in the Bengal army from 1834 to
1853, showing the branch of the service to which the retired officers



g m



Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 37 of 39)