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 11 of 35)
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France has long supported a permanent military force of from
one-hundredth to one hundred-and-tenth of her population, at an expense
of from one-fourth to one-fifth of her whole budget. The following
table, copied from the "Spectateur Militaire," shows the state of the
army at six different periods between 1788 and 1842. It omits, of
course, the extraordinary levies of the wars of the Revolution and of
the Empire.


Budget. Army.
Dates. Population. Remarks.

Of State. Of the Army. Peace War
Estab. Estab.
Livres. Livres. Men. Men.
1788 24,000,000 500,000,000 100,000,000 180,000 360,000
Francs. Francs. Ordinance of
1814 28,000,000 800,000,000 180,000,000 255,000 340,000 1814
Report of
1823 31,000,000 900,000,000 200,000,000 280,000 390,000 Minister
of War.
Report of
1830 32,000,000 1,000,000,000 220,000,000 312,000 500,000 Minister
of War.
1840 34,000,000 1,170,000,000 242,000,000 312 ,000 - Budget of
1842 35,000,000 1,200,000,000 285,000,000 370,000 520,000 Expenses
of 1842.

From these data we see that the great European powers at the present day
maintain, in time of peace, military establishments equal to about
one-hundredth part of their entire population.

The geographical position of a country also greatly influences the
degree and character of its military preparation. It may be bordered on
one or more sides by mountains and other obstacles calculated to
diminish the probability of invasion; or the whole frontier may be wide
open to an attack: the interior may be of such a nature as to furnish
security to its own army, and yet be fatal to the enemy should he occupy
it; or it may furnish him advantages far superior to his own country. It
may be an island in the sea, and consequently exposed only to maritime
descents - events of rare occurrence in modern times.

Again, a nation may be placed between others who are interested in its
security, their mutual jealousy preventing the molestation of the weaker
neighbor. On the other hand, its political institutions may be such as
to compel the others to unite in attacking it in order to secure
themselves. The republics of Switzerland could remain unmolested in the
midst of powerful monarchies; but revolutionary France brought upon
herself the armies of all Europe.

Climate has also some influence upon military character, but this
influence is far less than that of education and discipline. Northern
nations are said to be naturally more phlegmatic and sluggish than those
of warmer climates; and yet the armies of Gustavus Adolphus, Charles
XII., and Suwarrow, have shown themselves sufficiently active and
impetuous, while the Greeks, Romans, and Spaniards, in the times of
their glory, were patient, disciplined, and indefatigable,
notwithstanding the reputed fickleness of ardent temperaments.

For any nation to postpone the making of military preparations till such
time as they are actually required in defence, is to waste the public
money, and endanger the public safety. The closing of an avenue of
approach, the security of a single road or river, or even the strategic
movement of a small body of troops, often effects, in the beginning,
what afterwards cannot be accomplished by large fortifications, and the
most formidable armies. Had a small army in 1812, with a well-fortified
depot on Lake Champlain, penetrated into Canada, and cut off all
reinforcements and supplies by way of Quebec, that country would
inevitably have fallen into our possession. In the winter of 1806-7,
Napoleon crossed the Vistula, and advanced even to the walls of
Königsberg, with the Austrians in his rear, and the whole power of
Russia before him. If Austria had pushed forward one hundred thousand
men from Bohemia, on the Oder, she would, in all probability, says the
best of military judges, Jomini, have struck a fatal blow to the
operations of Napoleon, and his army must have been exceedingly
fortunate even to regain the Rhine. But Austria preferred remaining
neutral till she could increase her army to four hundred thousand men.
She then took the offensive, and was beaten; whereas, with one hundred
thousand men brought into action at the favorable moment, she might,
most probably, have decided the fate of Europe.

"Defensive war," says Napoleon, "does not preclude attack, any more
than offensive war is exclusive of defence," for frequently the best way
to counteract the enemy's operations, and prevent his conquests, is, at
the very outset of the war, to invade and cripple him. But this can
never be attempted with raw troops, ill supplied with the munitions of
war, and unsupported by fortifications. Such invasions must necessarily
fail. Experience in the wars of the French revolution has demonstrated
this; and even our own short history is not without its proof. In 1812,
the conquest of Canada was determined on some time before the
declaration of war; an undisciplined army, without preparation or
apparent plan, was actually put in motion, eighteen days previous to
this declaration, for the Canadian peninsula. With a disciplined army of
the same numbers, with an efficient and skilful leader, directed against
the vital point of the British possessions at a time when the whole
military force of the provinces did not exceed three thousand men, how
different had been the result!

While, therefore, the permanent defences of a nation must be subordinate
to its resources, position, and character, they can in no case be
dispensed with. No matter how extensive or important the temporary means
that may be developed as necessity requires, there must be some force
kept in a constant state of efficiency, in order to impart life and
stability to the system. The one can never properly replace the other;
for while the former constitutes the basis, the latter must form the
main body of the military edifice, which, by its strength and
durability, will offer shelter and protection to the nation; or, if the
architecture and materials be defective, crush and destroy it in its

The permanent means of military defence employed by modern nations,
are -

1st. An army; 2d. A navy; 3d. Fortifications.

The first two of these could hardly be called permanent, if we were, to
regard their _personnel_; but looking upon them as institutions or
organizations, they present all the characteristics of durability. They
are sometimes subjected to very great and radical changes; by the
hot-house nursing of designing ambition or rash legislation, they may
become overgrown and dangerous, or the storms of popular delusion may
overthrow and apparently sweep them away. But they will immediately
spring up again in some form or other, so deeply are they rooted in the
organization of political institutions.

Its army and navy should always be kept within the limits of a nation's
wants; but pity for the country which reduces them in number or support
so as to degrade their character or endanger their organization. "A
government," says one of the best historians of the age, "which neglects
its army, under whatever pretext, is a government culpable in the eyes
of posterity, for it is preparing humiliations for its flag and its
country, instead of laying the foundation for its glory."

One of our own distinguished cabinet ministers remarks, that the history
of our relations with the Indian tribes from the beginning to the
present hour, is one continued proof of the necessity of maintaining an
efficient military force in time of peace, and that the treatment we
received for a long series of years from European powers, was a most
humiliating illustration of the folly of attempting to dispense with
these means of defence.

"Twice," says he, "we were compelled to maintain, by open war, our
quarrel with the principal aggressors. After many years of forbearance
and negotiation, our claims in other cases were at length amicably
settled; but in one of the most noted of these cases, it was not without
much delay and imminent hazard of war that the execution of the treaty
was finally enforced. No one acquainted with these portions of our
history, can hesitate to ascribe much of the wantonness and duration of
the wrongs we endured, to a knowledge on the part of our assailants of
the scantiness and inefficiency of our military and naval force."

"If," said Mr. Calhoun, "disregarding the sound dictates of reason and
experience, we, in peace, neglect our military establishment, we must,
with a powerful and skilful enemy, be exposed to the most distressing

These remarks were made in opposition to the reduction of our military
establishment, in 1821, below the standard of thirteen thousand.
Nevertheless, the force was reduced to about six or seven thousand; and
we were soon made to feel the consequences. It is stated, in a report of
high authority, that if there had been two regiments available near St.
Louis, in 1832, the war with Black Hawk would have been easily avoided;
and that it cannot be doubted that the scenes of devastation and savage
warfare which overspread the Floridas for nearly seven years would also
have been avoided, and some thirty millions have been saved the country,
if two regiments had been available at the beginning of that

[Footnote 12: We may now add to these remarks, that if our government
had occupied the country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande with a
well-organized army of twelve thousand men, war with Mexico might have
been avoided; but to push forward upon Matamoras a small force of only
two thousand, in the very face of a large Mexican army was holding out
to them the strongest inducements to attack us. The temporary economy of
a few thousands in reducing our military establishment to a mere handful
of men, again results in a necessary expenditure of many millions of
dollars and a large sacrifice of human life.]

We must, in this country, if we heed either the dictates of reason or
experience, maintain in time of peace a skeleton military and naval
force, capable of being greatly expanded, in the event of danger, by
the addition of new troops.

Much energy and enterprise will always be imparted to an army or navy by
the addition of new forces. The strength thus acquired is sometimes in
even a far greater ratio than the increase of numbers. But it must be
remembered that these new elements are, of themselves, far inferior to
the old ones in discipline, steady courage, and perseverance. No general
can rely on the accuracy of their movements in the operations of a
campaign, and they are exceedingly apt to fail him at the critical
moment on the field of battle. The same holds true with respect to
sailors inexperienced in the discipline and duties of a man-of-war.
There is this difference, however: an army usually obtains its recruits
from men totally unacquainted with military life, while a navy, in case
of sudden increase, is mainly supplied from the merchant marine with
professional sailors, who, though unacquainted with the use of
artillery, &c., on ship-board, are familiar with all the other duties of
sea life, and not unused to discipline. Moreover, raw seamen and
marines, from being under the immediate eye of their officers in time of
action, and without the possibility of escape, fight much better than
troops of the same character on land. If years are requisite to make a
good sailor, surely an equal length of time is necessary to perfect the
soldier; and no less skill, practice, and professional study are
required for the proper direction of armies than for the management of

But some have said that even these skeletons of military and naval
forces are entirely superfluous, and that a brave and patriotic people
will make as good a defence against invasion as the most disciplined and
experienced. Such views are frequently urged in the halls of congress,
and some have even attempted to confirm them by historical examples.

There are instances, it is true, where disorganized and frantic masses,
animated by patriotic enthusiasm, have gained the most brilliant
victories. Here, however, extraordinary circumstances supplied the place
of order, and produced an equilibrium between forces that otherwise
would have been very unequal; but in almost every instance of this kind,
the loss of the undisciplined army has been unnecessarily great, human
life being substituted for skill and order. But victory, even with such
a drawback, cannot often attend the banners of newly raised and
disorderly forces. If the captain and crew of a steamship knew nothing
of navigation, and had never been at sea, and the engineer was totally
unacquainted with his profession, could we expect the ship to cross the
Atlantic in safety, and reach her destined port? Would we trust our
lives and the honor of our country to their care? Would we not say to
them, "First make yourselves acquainted with the principles of your
profession, the use of the compass, and the means of determining whether
you direct your course upon a ledge of rocks or into a safe harbor?" War
is not, as some seem to suppose, a mere game of chance. Its principles
constitute one of the most intricate of modern sciences; and the general
who understands the art of rightly applying its rules, and possesses the
means of carrying out its precepts, may be morally certain of success.

History furnishes abundant proofs of the impolicy of relying upon
undisciplined forces in the open field. Almost every page of Napier's
classic History of the Peninsular War contains striking examples of the
useless waste of human life and property by the Spanish militia; while,
with one quarter as many regulars, at a small fractional part of the
actual expense, the French might have been expelled at the outset, or
have been driven, at any time afterwards, from the Peninsula.

At the beginning of the French Revolution the regular army was
abolished, and the citizen-soldiery, who were established on the 14th of
July, 1789, relied on exclusively for the national defence. "But these
three millions of national guards," says Jomini, "though good supporters
of the decrees of the assembly, were nevertheless useless for
reinforcing the army beyond the frontiers, and utterly incapable of
defending their own firesides." Yet no one can question their individual
bravery and patriotism; for, when reorganized, disciplined, and properly
directed, they put to flight the best troops in Europe. At the first
outbreak of this revolution, the privileged classes of other countries,
upholding crumbling institutions and rotten dynasties, rushed forth
against the maddened hordes of French democracy. The popular power,
springing upward by its own elasticity when the weight of political
oppression was removed, soon became too wild and reckless to establish
itself on any sure basis, or even to provide for its own protection. If
the attacks of the enervated enemies of France were weak, so also were
her own efforts feeble to resist these attacks. The republican armies
repelled the ill-planned and ill-conducted invasion by the Duke of
Brunswick; but it was by the substitution of human life for preparation,
system, and skill; enthusiasm supplied the place of discipline; robbery
produced military stores; and the dead bodies of her citizens formed
_épaulements_ against the enemy. Yet this was but the strength of
weakness; the aimless struggle of a broken and disjointed government;
and the new revolutionary power was fast sinking away before the
combined opposition of Europe, when the great genius of Napoleon, with a
strong arm and iron rule, seizing upon the scattered fragments, and
binding them together into one consolidated mass, made France
victorious, and seated himself on the throne of empire.

No people in the world ever exhibited a more general and enthusiastic
patriotism than the Americans during the war of our own Revolution. And
yet our army received, even at that time, but little support from
irregular and militia forces in the open field. Washington's opinions on
this subject furnish so striking a contrast to the congressional
speeches of modern political demagogues, who, with boastful swaggers,
would fain persuade us that we require no organization or discipline to
meet the veteran troops of Europe in the open field, and who would hurry
us, without preparation, into war with the strongest military powers of
the world - so striking is the contrast between the assertions of these
men and the letters and reports of Washington, that it may be well for
the cool and dispassionate lover of truth to occasionally refresh his
memory by reference to the writings of Washington. The following brief
extracts are from his letters to the President of Congress, December,

"The saving in the article of clothing, provisions, and a thousand other
things, by having nothing to do with the militia, unless in cases of
extraordinary exigency, and such as could not be expected in the common
course of events, would amply support a large army, which, well
officered, would be daily improving, instead of continuing a
destructive, expensive, and disorderly mob. In my opinion, if any
dependence is placed on the militia another year, Congress will be
deceived. When danger is a little removed from them they will not turn
out at all. When it comes home to them, the well-affected, instead of
flying to arms to defend themselves, are busily employed in removing
their families and effects; while the disaffected are concerting
measures to make their submission, and spread terror and dismay all
around, to induce others to follow their example. Daily experience and
abundant proofs warrant this information. Short enlistments, and a
mistaken dependence upon our militia, have been the origin of all our
misfortunes, and the great accumulation of our debt. The militia come
in, you cannot tell how; go, you cannot tell when; and act, you cannot
tell where; consume your provisions, exhaust your stores, and leave you
at last, at a critical moment."

These remarks of Washington will not be found too severe if we remember
the conduct of our militia in the open field at Princeton, Savannah
River, Camden, Guilford Court-House, &c., in the war of the Revolution;
the great cost of the war of 1812 as compared with its military results;
the refusal of the New England militia to march beyond the lines of
their own states, and of the New-York militia to cross the Niagara and
secure a victory already won; or the disgraceful flight of the Southern
militia from the field of Bladensburg.

But there is another side to this picture. If our militia have
frequently failed to maintain their ground _when drawn up in the open
field_, we can point with pride to their brave and successful defence of
Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans, Fort McHenry, Stonington, Niagara,
Plattsburg, in proof of what may be accomplished by militia in
connection with fortifications.

These examples from our history must fully demonstrate the great value
of a militia when properly employed as a defence against invasion, and
ought to silence the sneers of those who would abolish this arm of
defence as utterly useless. In the open field militia cannot in general
be manoeuvred to advantage; whereas, in the defence of fortified places
their superior intelligence and activity not unfrequently render them
even more valuable than regulars. And in reading the severe strictures
of Washington, Greene, Morgan, and others, upon our militia, it must be
remembered that they were at that time entirely destitute of important
works of defence; and the experience of all other nations, as well as
our own, has abundantly shown that a newly-raised force cannot cope, _in
the open field_, with one subordinate and disciplined. Here _science_
must determine the contest. Habits of strict obedience, and of
simultaneous and united action, are indispensable to carry out what the
higher principles of the military profession require. New and
undisciplined forces are often confounded at the evolutions, and
strategic and tactical combinations of a regular army, and lose all
confidence in their leaders and in themselves. But, when placed behind a
breastwork, they even overrate their security. They can then coolly look
upon the approaching columns, and, unmoved by glittering armor and
bristling bayonets, will exert all their skill in the use of their
weapons. The superior accuracy of aim which the American has obtained by
practice from his early youth, has enabled our militia to gain, under
the protection of military works, victories as brilliant as the most
veteran troops. The moral courage necessary to await an attack behind a
parapet, is at least equal to that exerted in the open field, where
_movements_ generally determine the victory. To watch the approach of an
enemy, to see him move up and display his massive columns, his long
array of military equipments, his fascines and scaling-ladders, his
instruments of attack, and the professional skill with which he wields
them, to hear the thunder of his batteries, spreading death all around,
and to repel, hand to hand, those tremendous assaults, which stand out
in all their horrible relief upon the canvass of modern warfare,
requires a heart at least as brave as the professional warrior exhibits
in the pitched battle.

But we must not forget that to call this force into the open field, - to
take the mechanic from his shop, the merchant from his counter, the
farmer from his plough, - will necessarily be attended with an immense
sacrifice of human life. The lives lost on the battle-field are not the
only ones; militia, being unaccustomed to exposure, and unable to supply
their own wants with certainty and regularity, contract diseases which
occasion in every campaign a most frightful mortality.

There is also a vast difference in the cost of supporting regulars and
militia forces. The cost of a regular army of twenty thousand men for a
campaign of six months, in this country, has been estimated, from data
in the War-office, at a hundred and fifty dollars per man; while the
cost of a militia force, under the same circumstances, making allowance
for the difference in the expenses from sickness, waste of
camp-furniture, equipments, &c., will be two hundred and fifty dollars
per man. But in short campaigns, and in irregular warfare, like the
expedition against Black Hawk and his Indians in the Northwest, and
during the hostilities in Florida, "the expenses of the militia," says
Mr. Secretary Spencer, in a report to congress in 1842, "invariably
exceed those of regulars by _at least three hundred per cent_." It is
further stated that "_fifty-five thousand militia_ were called into
service during the Black Hawk and Florida wars, and that _thirty
millions of dollars have been expended in these conflicts_!" When it is
remembered that during these border wars our whole regular army did not
exceed twelve or thirteen thousand men, it will not be difficult to
perceive why our military establishment was so enormously expensive.
Large sums were paid to sedentary militia who never rendered the
slightest service. Again, during our late war with Great Britain, of
less than three years' duration, _two hundred and eighty thousand
muskets were lost,_ - the average cost of which is stated at twelve
dollars, - making an aggregate loss, in muskets alone, _of three millions
and three hundred and sixty thousand dollars_, during a service of about
two years and a half; - resulting mainly from that neglect and waste of
public property which almost invariably attends the movements of
newly-raised and inexperienced forces. Facts like these should awaken us
to the necessity of reorganizing and disciplining our militia. General
Knox, when Secretary of War, General Harrison while in the senate, and
Mr. Poinsett in 1841, each furnished plans for effecting this purpose,
but the whole subject has been passed by with neglect.

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 11 of 35)