Henry Wager Halleck.

Elements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted online

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Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 10 of 35)
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From these remarks we must conclude - 1st. That the very thin as well as
the very deep formation is objectionable under ordinary circumstances,
and can seldom be employed with safety.

2d. That the attack by battalions in columns by division is the best for
carrying a position; the column should, however, be diminished in depth
as much as possible, in order both to increase its own fire and to
diminish its exposure to the fire of the enemy; moreover, it should be
well covered by tirailleurs and supported by cavalry.

3d. That the mixed formation of the first line deployed and the second
in columns of battalion by division is the best for defence.

4th. That either of the last two may be employed in the offensive or
defensive, according to the nature of the ground, the character of the
general, and the character and position of the troops. Squares are
always good against cavalry.

Troops should be habituated to all these formations, and accustomed to
pass rapidly from one to another in the daytime or at night. None,
however, but disciplined troops can do this: hence the great superiority
of regulars on the field of battle, where skilful manoeuvres frequently
effect more than the most undaunted courage.

The arm next in importance on the battle-field is _cavalry_. The
principal merit of this arm consists in its _velocity_ and _mobility_.
Cavalry has little solidity, and cannot of itself defend any position
against infantry; but in connection with the other arms, it is
indispensable for beginning a battle, for completing a victory, and for
reaping its full advantage by pursuing and destroying the beaten foe.

There are four different modes of forming cavalry, the same as for
infantry: 1st in deployed lines; 2d, a line of regiments in column of
attack on the centre; 3d, the mixed formation; and 4th, the deep
formation of several columns.

1st. The thin formation was deemed objectionable for infantry, on
account of its liability to be penetrated by cavalry. The same objection
does not hold so forcibly with respect to this latter arm; but full
lines are deemed less advantageous than lines deployed checker-wise or
in echelon. In either case the distance between the lines should be
sufficient to prevent the second line from coming in contact with the
first, in case the latter receives a slight check. This distance need
not be so great in lines deployed checker-wise, as when they are full,
or in echelon.

2d. The second system of formation, that is, a line of columns of attack
on the central division for infantry, is by battalion, but for cavalry,
by regiment. If the regiment is composed of eight squadrons, the column
will contain four lines, two squadrons forming a division; but if
composed of only six squadrons, the column will contain only three
lines, and consequently will be six files in depth. In either case the
distance between the lines should be that of a demi-squadron, when the
troops are drawn up in battle array; but when charging, the divisions
may close to a less distance.

3d. In forming a grand division of two brigades, by the third or mixed
system, two regiments may be deployed in the first line, and three
formed in columns of attack in rear of the flanks and centre, as is
shown in Fig. 33, the sixth being held in reserve. This formation is
deemed a good one.

4th. The fourth system, of deep columns of cavalry, is entirely unsuited
for the charge, and this formation can only be employed for troops drawn
up in reserve.

The flanks of lines or columns of cavalry are always much exposed, and
squadrons should therefore be formed in echelon on the right and left,
and a little in rear of the main body, in order to protect the flanks
from the attacks of the enemy's horse. Irregular cavalry is usually
employed for this purpose.

In the formation of a grand division in line of battle, care should be
taken not to give too great an extent to the command of the generals of
brigade. If the formation be in two lines, neither brigade should form
an entire line, but each should form a wing of the division, two
regiments of the same brigade being placed in rear of each other. This
rule is an important one, and should never be neglected.

It may also be laid down as a maxim, in the formation of cavalry on the
battle-field, that the first line after the charge, even if most
successful, may require reforming in rear of the second line, and that
this last should be prepared to act in the front line after the first
onset. The success of the battle frequently depends upon the charge of
the final reserve of cavalry on the flanks of lines already engaged.

It is on account of this frequent manoeuvring of the cavalry on the
battle-field, its reforming for repeated charges, that great bodies
deployed in full lines are principally objected to. They cannot be
handled with the facility and rapidity of columns of regiments by
divisions. The attack of Nansouty's cavalry, formed in this way, on the
Prussian cavalry, deployed in advance of Chateau-Thierry, in 1814, is a
good proof of this.

Cavalry may be brought to a charge - 1st, in columns; 2d, in line; and
3d, in route, or at random, _(à la déban-dade.)_ These may also be
varied by charging either at a trot or a gallop. All these modes have
been employed with success. In a regular charge in line the lance offers
great advantages; in the melee the sabre is the best weapon; hence some
military writers have proposed arming the front rank with lances, and
the second with sabres, The pistol and the carabine are useless in the
charge, but may sometimes be employed with advantage against convoys,
outposts, and light cavalry; to fire the carabine with any effect, the
troop must be at a halt. In all charges in line, especially against
cavalry, the fast trot is deemed preferable to the gallop, on account of
the difficulty of keeping up the alignment when the speed is increased.
Lances are utterly useless in a melée, and in employing troops armed in
this way, it is of the greatest importance to keep them in order and in
line. In charging with the sabre against artillery the gallop may
sometimes be employed, for velocity here may be more important than

We will now consider the formation and use of _artillery_ on the field
of battle. It may be laid down as a fundamental principle, that the fire
of artillery should be directed on that part of the enemy's line which
we design to pierce; for this fire will not only weaken this point, but
will also aid the attack of the cavalry and infantry when the principal
efforts are directed towards the intended point.

In the defence, the artillery is usually distributed throughout the
whole line, on ground favorable for its fire; but the reserve should be
so placed that it can easily be brought to bear on the point where the
enemy will be most likely to direct his principal attack.

Artillery placed on a plain, or with ground slightly inclined in front,
and using the point-blank or ricochet fire, is the most effective; very
high points are unfavorable If possible, the concentric fire should be
employed against the enemy's columns of attack. The position of the
English artillery on the field of Waterloo, and the use of the
concentric fire, furnishes one of the best examples for the disposition
of this arm to be found in modern military history.

The proper use of artillery on the battle-field is against the enemy's
infantry and cavalry, consequently only a small part of it should be
employed to respond to the fire of the enemy's batteries; not more than
one third at most can be spared for this object.

If possible, batteries should be established so as to take the enemy's
line in flank, either by an oblique or enfilading fire. A direct fire
against columns of attack, with a few light pieces thrown out to take it
in flank at the same time, will always be advantageous. A direct and
flank fire was employed with success by Kleist against the column of Ney
at the battle of Bautzen; the French marshal was forced to change his

Batteries should always be well secured on the flanks, and constantly
sustained by infantry or cavalry. If attacked by cavalry, the artillery
should keep up its fire as long as possible, first with ball, and then
with grape when the enemy arrives within a suitable distance. The same
rule will apply to attacks of infantry, except that the fire of solid
shot at a great distance is much less effective than against mounted

The _engineer troops_ are employed on the field of battle principally by
detachments, acting as auxiliaries to the other arms. Each regiment of
infantry should have a detachment of sappers armed with axes to act as
pioneers, for the removal of obstacles that may impede its advance.
These sappers are of the utmost importance, for without them an entire
column might be checked and thrown into confusion by impediments which a
few sappers with their axes would remove in a very short time.
Detachments of engineer troops must also act in concert with the cavalry
and artillery for the same purpose as above. In establishing the
batteries of artillery, in opening roads for their manoeuvres, and in
arranging material obstacles for their defence, the axes, picks, and
shovels of the sappers are of infinite value. Fieldworks, bridges, and
bridge-defences, frequently have a decisive influence upon the result of
a battle, but as these are usually arranged previous to the action, they
will be discussed in another place. In the attack and defence of these
field-works, the engineer troops play a distinguished part. The
consideration of this part of the subject, though perhaps properly
belonging to the tactics of battles, will also be postponed to another

We will now discuss the employment of the combined arms on the field of

Before the French Revolution, all the infantry, formed by regiments and
brigades, was united in a single body and drawn up in two lines. The
cavalry was placed on the two flanks, and the artillery distributed
along the entire line. In moving by wings, they formed four columns, two
of cavalry and two of infantry: in moving by a flank, they formed only
two very long columns; the cavalry, however, sometimes formed a third
and separate column in flank movements, but this disposition was rarely

The French Revolution introduced the system of grand divisions composed
of the four arms combined; each division moved separately and
independently of the other. In the wars of the Empire, Napoleon united
two or more of these divisions into a _corps d'armée,_ which formed a
wing, the centre, or reserve of his grand army. In addition to these
divisions and _corps d'armée,_ he had large reserves of cavalry and
artillery, which were employed as distinct and separate arms.

If the forces be sufficiently numerous to fight by _corps d'armée,_ each
corps should have its own reserve, independent of the general reserve of
the army. Again, if the forces be so small as to act by grand divisions
only, each division should then have _its_ separate reserve.

An army, whether composed of separate corps or of grand divisions,
usually forms, on the field of battle, a centre, two wings, and a
reserve. Each corps or division acts by itself, with its infantry,
cavalry, artillery, and engineer troops. The reserve of cavalry may be
formed in rear of the centre or one of the wings. In small forces of
fifty or sixty thousand men, the cavalry may act with advantage on the
wings, in the manner of the ancients. If the reserve of this arm be
large enough to form three separate bodies, it may _itself_ very
properly be formed into a centre and wings. If it be formed into two
columns only, they may be placed in rear of the openings between the
centre and the wings of the main force. The reserve of artillery is
employed either to reinforce the centre or a wing, and in the defensive
is frequently distributed throughout the whole line of battle. In
offensive operations, it may be well to concentrate as much fire as
possible on the intended point of attack. The mounted artillery either
acts in concert with the cavalry, of is used to reinforce that arm; the
light-foot acts with the infantry, and the batteries of heavy calibre
are distributed along the line, or concentrated on some important point
where their fire may be most effectual. They reach the enemy's forces at
a distance, and arrest the impulsion of his attack. They may also be
employed to draw the fire of his artillery; but their movements are too
slow and difficult for a reserve.

The order of succession in which the different arms are engaged in a
battle, depends upon the nature of the ground and other accidental
circumstances, and cannot be determined by any fixed rules. The
following, however, is most frequently employed, and in ordinary cases
may be deemed good.

The attack is first opened by a cannonade; light troops are sent forward
to annoy the enemy, and, if possible, to pick off his artillerists. The
main body then advances in two lines: the first displays itself in line
as it arrives nearly within the range of grape-shot; the second line
remains in columns of attack formed of battalions by division, at a
distance from the first sufficient to be beyond the reach of the enemy's
musketry, but near enough to support the first line, or to cover it, if
driven back. The artillery, in the mean time, concentrates its fire on
some weak point to open a way for the reserve, which rushes into the
opening and takes the enemy in flank and rear. The cavalry charges at
the opportune moment on the flank of the enemy's columns or penetrates
an opening in his line, and cutting to pieces his staggered troops,
forces them into retreat, and completes the victory. During this time
the whole line of the enemy should be kept occupied, so as to prevent
fresh troops from being concentrated on the threatened point.

The following maxims on battles may be studied with advantage: - 1st.
_General battles_ are not to be fought but under the occurrence of one
of the following circumstances: when you are, from any cause, decidedly
superior to the enemy; when he is on the point of receiving
reinforcements, which will materially effect your relative strength;
when, if not beaten or checked, he will deprive you of supplies or
reinforcements, necessary to the continuance or success of your
operations; and, generally, when the advantage of winning the battle
will be greater than the disadvantage of losing it.

2d. Whatever may be your reason for risking a general battle, you ought
to regard as indispensable preliminaries, - a thorough knowledge of the
ground on which you are to act; an ample supply of ammunition; the most
perfect order in your fire-arms; hospital dépôts regularly established,
with surgeons, nurses, dressings, &c., sufficient for the accommodation
of the wounded; points of rendezvous established and known to the
commanders of corps; and an entire possession of the passes in your own

3d. The battle being fought and _won_, the victory must be followed up
with as much alacrity and vigor, as though nothing had been gained, - a
maxim very difficult of observance, (from the momentary disobedience
which pervades all troops flushed with conquest,) but with which an
able general will never dispense. No one knew better the use of this
maxim than Napoleon, and no one was a more strict and habitual observer
of it.

4th. The battle being fought and _lost_, it is your first duty to do
away the _moral_ effect of defeat, - the want of that self-respect and
self-confidence, which are its immediate followers, and which, so long
as they last, are the most powerful auxiliaries of your enemy. It is
scarcely necessary to remark that, to effect this object, - to reinspire
a beaten army with hope, and to reassure it of victory, - we must not
turn our backs on an enemy, without sometimes presenting to him our
front also; - we must not confide our safety to mere flight, but adopt
such measures as shall convince him that though wounded and overpowered,
we are neither disabled nor dismayed; and that we still possess enough
both of strength and spirit to punish his faults, should he commit any.
Do you operate in a covered or mountainous country? - avail yourself of
its ridges and woods; for by doing so you will best evade the pressure
of his cavalry. Have you defiles or villages to pass? - seize the heads
of these, defend them obstinately, and make a show of fighting another
battle. In a word, let no error of your enemy, nor any favorable
incident of the ground, escape your notice or your use. It is by these
means that your enemy is checked, and your troops inspirited; and it was
by these that Frederick balanced his surprise at Hohenkirchen, and the
defeat of his plans before Olmutz. The movement of our own Washington,
after losing the battle of Brandywine, was of this character. He hastily
recrossed the Schuylkill with the professed intention of seeking the
enemy and renewing the combat, which was _apparently_ prevented only by
a heavy and incessant fall of rain. A rumor was now raised that the
enemy, while refusing his left wing, was rapidly advancing upon his
right, to intercept our passage of the river, and thus gain possession
of Philadelphia. This report justified a retreat, which drew from the
General repeated assurances, that in quitting his present position and
giving to his march a retrograde direction, it was not his object to
avoid, but to follow and to fight the enemy. This movement, though no
battle ensued, had the effect of restoring the confidence as well of the
people as of the army.[11]

[Footnote 11: There are innumerable works in almost every language on
elementary tactics; very few persons, however, care to read any thing
further than the manuals used in our own service. Our system of
infantry, cavalry, and artillery tactics is generally taken from the
French; and also the course of engineer instruction, so far as matured,
for sappers, miners, and pontoniers, is based on the French manuals for
the varied duties of this arm.

On Grand Tactics, or Tactics of Battles, the military and historical
writings of General Jomini abound in most valuable instructions.
Napoleon's memoirs, and the writings of Rocquancourt, Hoyer, Decker,
Okouneff, Roguiat, Jocquinot-de-Presle, Guibert, Duhesme, Gassendi,
Warnery, Baron Bohan, Lindneau, Maiseroy, Miller, and Ternay, are
considered as being among the best authorities.]



_Military Polity_. - In deciding upon a resort to arms, statesmen are
guided by certain general rules which have been tacitly adopted in the
intercourse of nations: so also both statesmen and generals are bound by
rules similarly adopted for the conduct of hostile forces while actually
engaged in military operations.

In all differences between nations, each state has a right to decide for
itself upon the nature of its means of redress for injuries received.
Previous to declaring open and public war, it may resort to some other
forcible means of redress, short of actual war. These are: -

1st. Laying an embargo upon the property of the offending nation.

2d. Taking forcible possession of the territory or property in dispute.

3d. Resorting to some direct measure of retaliation.

4th. Making reprisals upon the persons and things of the offending

It is not the present purpose to discuss these several means of redress,
nor even to enter into any examination of the rights and laws of public
war, when actually declared; it is intended to consider here merely such
military combinations as are resorted to by the state in preparation for
defence, or in carrying on the actual operations of a war.

In commencing hostilities against any other power, we must evidently
take into consideration all the political and physical circumstances of
the people with whom we are to contend: we must regard their general
character for courage and love of country; their attachment to their
government and political institutions; the character of their rulers and
their generals; the numbers, organization, and discipline of their
armies; and particularly the relations between the civil and military
authorities in the state, for if the latter be made entirely
subordinate, we may very safely calculate on erroneous combinations. We
must also regard their passive means of resistance, such as their system
of fortifications, their military materials and munitions, their
statistics of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, and especially
the geographical position and physical features of their country. No
government can neglect, with impunity, these considerations in its
preparations for war, or in its manner of conducting military

Napoleon's system of carrying on war against the weak, effeminate, and
disorganized Italians required many modifications when directed against
the great military power of Russia. Moreover, the combinations of Eylau
and Friedland were inapplicable to the contest with the maddened
guerrillas of Minos, animated by the combined passions of hatred,
patriotism, and religious enthusiasm.

Military power may be regarded either as absolute or relative: the
absolute force of a state depending on the number of its inhabitants and
the extent of its revenues; the relative force, on its geographical and
political position, the character of its people, and the nature of its
government. Its military preparations should evidently be in proportion
to its resources. Wealth constitutes both the apprehension and the
incentive to invasion. Where two or more states have equal means of war,
with incentives very unequal, an equilibrium cannot exist; for danger
and temptation are no longer opposed to each other. The preparation of
states may, therefore, be equal without being equivalent, and the
smaller of the two may be most liable to be drawn into a war without the
means of sustaining it.

The numerical relation between the entire population of a state, and the
armed forces which it can maintain, must evidently vary with the wealth
and pursuits of the people. Adam Smith thinks that a country purely
agricultural may, at certain seasons, furnish for war one-fifth, or even
in case of necessity one-fourth, of its entire population. A commercial
or manufacturing country would be unable to furnish any thing like so
numerous a military force. On this account small agricultural states are
sometimes able to bring into the field much larger armies than their
more powerful neighbors. During the Seven Years' War, Frederick
supported an army equal to one-twentieth of the entire Prussian
population, and at the close of this memorable contest one-sixth of the
males capable of bearing arms had actually perished on the field of

But the number of troops that may be brought into the field in times of
great emergency is, of course, much greater than can be supported during
a long war, or as a part of a permanent military establishment.
Montesquieu estimates that modern nations are capable of supporting,
without endangering their power, a permanent military force of about
one-hundredth part of their population. This ratio differs but little
from that of the present military establishments of the great European

Great Britain, with a population of about twenty-five millions, and a
general budget of $250,000,000, supports a military and naval force of
about 150,000 effective and 100,000 non-effective men, 250,000 in all,
at an annual expense of from seventy to eighty millions of dollars.

Russia, with a population of about seventy millions, supports an active
army of 632,000 men, with an immense reserve, at an expense of about
$65,000,000, out of a general budget of $90,000,000; that is, the
expense of her military establishment is to her whole budget as 7 to 10.

Austria, with a population of thirty-five millions, has an organized
peace establishment of 370,000, (about 250,000 in active service,) and
a reserve of 260,000, at an expense of $36,000,000, out of a general
budget of $100,000,000.

Prussia, with a population of about fifteen millions, has from 100,000
to 120,000 men in arms, with a reserve of 200,000, at an annual expense
of more than $18,000,000, out of a general budget of about $38,000,000.

France, with a population of near thirty-five millions, supports a
permanent establishment of about 350,000 men, at an expense of seventy
or eighty millions of dollars, out of a total budget of $280,000,000.

Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 10 of 35)