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 17 of 35)
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again separated into four distinct armies. The _first_, consisting of
near two thousand men, marched to the attack of Fort Du Quesne, but was
met and totally defeated by one-half that number of French and Indians.
The _second_ division, of fifteen hundred, proceeded to attack Fort
Niagara by way of Oswego, but returned without success. The _third_, of
three thousand seven hundred men, met and defeated Dieskau's army of
twelve hundred regulars and six hundred Canadians and Indians, in the
open field, but did not attempt to drive him from his works at
Ticonderoga and Crown Point. The _fourth_, consisting of three thousand
three hundred men and forty-one vessels, laid waste a portion of Nova
Scotia; thus ending the campaign without a single important result. It
was commenced under favorable auspices, with ample preparations, and a
vast superiority of force; _but this superiority was again more than
counterbalanced by the faulty plans of the English, and by the
fortifications which the French had erected, in such positions as to
give them a decided advantage in their military operations._ Washington
early recommended the same system of defence for the English on the
Ohio; and, after Braddock's defeat, advised "the erection of small
fortresses at convenient places to deposit provisions in, by which means
the country will be eased of an immense expense in the carriage, and it
will also be a means of securing a retreat if we should be put to the
rout again."

But this advice of Washington was unheeded, and the campaign of 1756 was
based upon the same erroneous principles as the preceding one. The
_first_ division, of three thousand men, was to operate against Fort Du
Quesne; the _second_, of six thousand men, against Niagara; the _third_,
of ten thousand men, against Crown Point; and a _fourth_, of two
thousand men, was to ascend the Kennebec river, destroy the settlements
on the Chaudiere, and, by alarming the country about Quebec, produce a
diversion in favor of the third division, which was regarded as the main
army, and was directed along the principal line of operations. The
entire French forces at this time consisted of only three thousand
regulars and a body of Canadian militia. Nevertheless, the English, with
forces nearly _six times_ as numerous, closed the campaign without
gaining a single advantage.

We here see that the French, with very inferior forces, still continued
successful in every campaign, uniformly gaining advantage over their
enemy, and gaining ground upon his colonies. By the possession of Forts
William Henry, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point, they completely commanded
Lake George and Lake Champlain, which afforded the shortest and easiest
line of communication between the British colonies and Canada. By means
of their forts at Montreal, Frontenac, Detroit, &c., they had entire
dominion of the lakes connecting the St. Lawrence with the Mississippi,
and Canada with Louisiana; moreover, by means of Fort Du Quesne and a
line of auxiliary works, their ascendency over the Indians on the Ohio
was well secured. But experience had at length taught the English
wherein lay the great strength of their opponents, and a powerful effort
was now to be made to displace the French from their fortresses, or at
least to counterbalance these works by a vast and overwhelming
superiority of troops.

In 1757, a British fleet of fifteen ships of the line, eighteen
frigates, and many smaller vessels, and a land force of twelve thousand
effective men, were sent to attempt the reduction of the fortifications
of Louisburg; but they failed to effect their object.

In 1758 the forces sent against this place consisted of twenty ships of
the line and eighteen frigates, with an army of fourteen thousand men.
The harbor was defended by only five ships of the line, one fifty-gun
ship, and five frigates, three of which were sunk across the mouth of
the basin. The fortifications of the town had been much neglected, and
in general had fallen into ruins. The garrison consisted of only two
thousand five hundred regulars, and six hundred militia. Notwithstanding
that the number of guns of the British fleet exceeded both the armaments
of the French ships and of all the forts, these British ships did not
risk an attack, but merely acted as transports and as a blockading
squadron. Even the French naval defence, and the outer works commanding
the harbor, were reduced by the temporary land-batteries which Wolfe
erected; and the main work, although besieged by an inequality of forces
of nearly _five_ to _one_, held out for two months, and even then
surrendered through the fears and petitions of the non-combatant
inhabitants, and not because it had received any material injury from
the besiegers. The defence, however, had been continued long enough to
prevent, for that campaign, any further operations against Canada. The
whole number of the English land forces in this campaign was computed at
fifty thousand men, of which more than forty thousand were in the field.
The _first_ division, of nine thousand men, was directed against Fort Du
Quesne, whose garrison did not exceed as many hundred. The _second_
division, of sixteen thousand effective troops, proceeded against
Ticonderoga and Crown Point; while a detachment of three thousand men
captured Fort Frontenac, then garrisoned by only one hundred and ten
men. The whole force of the French amounted to only five thousand; the
English attempted to drive them from their works by storm, but were
repulsed with a loss of near two thousand men, while their opponents
were scarcely injured. The _third_ division acted, as has just been
stated, in concert with the naval force against Louisburg.

In 1759, the _western_ division of the English army, consisting of a
strong body of Indians, and five thousand troops, wasted the whole
season in reducing Fort Niagara, which was garrisoned by only six
hundred men. The _central_ column of thirteen thousand men was
sufficiently successful to enable it to winter at Crown Point. The
_eastern_ division of eight thousand men under Wolfe ascended the St.
Lawrence with a fleet of twenty-two ships, thirteen frigates, and
fourteen sloops, and smaller vessels, carrying one thousand nine hundred
and ninety guns, and five thousand five hundred and ninety seamen. The
naval defence of Quebec consisted of eight frigates, carrying two
hundred and ten guns; the land forces numbered about nine thousand, and
the fortifications were armed with ninety-four guns and five mortars,
only a part of which could be brought to bear upon the anchorage ground.
Several attempts were made by the combined forces to carry these works,
but they proved equally unsuccessful. Although the English fleet carried
_twenty times_ as many guns as the forts, their inability to reduce
these works was acknowledged. The siege had continued for two months,
and still the fortifications were uninjured. General Wolfe himself
distinctly stated, that, in any further attempt to carry the place, the
"guns of the shipping could not be of much use;" and the chief engineer
of the expedition gave it as his opinion, that "the ships would receive
great damage from the shot and bombs of the upper batteries, without
making the least impression upon them." Under these circumstances it was
finally determined to endeavor to decoy Montcalm from his works, and
make him risk a battle in the open field. In an evil hour, the French
consented to forego the advantages of their fortifications, and the
contest was finally decided on the plains of Abraham, with forces nearly
equal in number. Both Wolfe and Montcalm fell in this battle, but the
former on the field of victory; and five days afterwards the inhabitants
of Quebec, weakened and dispirited by their losses, surrendered the
town, although its fortifications were still unharmed.

The French, in this campaign, had relinquished all idea of opposing the
enemy in the open field, and confined their efforts to retard the
advance of the English till France could send troops to their relief;
but no such relief came, and when the campaign of 1760 opened, the
little French army was concentrated at Montreal. As the English
divisions advanced, one by Oswego, one by Lake Champlain, and the third
by Quebec, they afforded to the French a fine opportunity for the
strategic movement from a centre against converging lines; but the
garrison was too weak to hope for success in either direction, and
therefore awaited the enemy within their works. Montreal, being but
slightly fortified, was soon reduced, and with it fell the French
empire erected in this country at infinite labor and expense.

At the first outbreak of the American Revolution, it was so obviously
important to get possession of the military works commanding the line of
Lake Champlain, that expeditions for this purpose were simultaneously
fitted out by Massachusetts and Connecticut. The garrisons of these
works were taken by surprise. This conquest, says Botta, the able and
elegant historian of the Revolution, "was no doubt of high importance,
but it would have had a much greater influence upon the course of the
whole war, if these fortresses, _which are the bulwarks of the
colonies_, had been defended in times following, with the same prudence
and valor with which they had been acquired."

In the campaign of 1775, an army of two thousand seven hundred and
eighty-four effective men, with a reserve of one thousand at Albany,
crossed the lake and approached the fortress of St. John's about the 1st
of September. The work was garrisoned by only about five or six hundred
regulars, and some two hundred militia. This was the only obstacle to
prevent the advance of our army into the very heart of Canada; to leave
it unreduced in rear would cut off all hope of retreat. Allen had
already made the rash and foolish attempt, and his whole army had been
destroyed, and he himself made prisoner. The reduction of this place was
therefore deemed absolutely necessary, but was not effected till the 3d
of November, and after a long and tedious siege. This delay decided the
fate of the campaign; for, although Montreal fell immediately
afterwards, the season was so far advanced that a large portion of our
troops, wearied with their sufferings from cold and want of clothing,
now demanded their discharge. The eastern division, of one thousand men
under Arnold, crossing the country by the Kennebeck and Chaudiere,
through difficulties and suffering almost unparalleled, arrived
opposite Quebec on the 9th of November. The place was at this time
almost without defence, and, had Arnold possessed a suitable pontoon
equipage, it might easily have been taken by surprise. But by the time
that the means for effecting a passage could be prepared, and a junction
could be effected between the two American armies, Quebec was prepared
to sustain their attack. The result of that attack is too well known to
require a repetition here.

Early the next season it was deemed necessary to withdraw the American
army from Canada. This retreat of undisciplined troops, in the presence
of vastly superior numbers of the enemy, would have been extremely
hazardous had it not been effected on a line of forts which were held by
our own troops. As it was we sustained no considerable loss.

Carleton pursued on rapidly, to co-operate with General Howe, who was
now lying at New York with over one hundred ships and about thirty-five
thousand troops; but he received a decided check from the guns of
Ticonderoga, and retired again to Canada.

By the British plan of campaign in 1777, the entire force of their
northern army was to concentrate at Albany. One division of fifteen
hundred men, including Indians, advanced by Oswego, Wood Creek, and the
Mohawk; but Fort Stanwix, with a garrison of only six hundred men,
arrested their progress and forced them to return. Another, leaving New
York, ascended the Hudson as far as Esopus; but its progress was so much
retarded by the small forts and water-batteries along that river, that
it would have been too late to assist Burgoyne, even if it could
possibly have reached Albany. The principal division of the enemy's
army, numbering about nine thousand men, advanced by the Champlain
route. Little or no preparations were made to arrest its progress. The
works of Ticonderoga were so out of repair as to be indefensible on the
flanks. Its garrison consisted of only fifteen hundred continental
troops, and about as many militia, over whom the general had no control.
Their supply of provisions was exhausted, and only one man in ten of the
militia had bayonets to their guns. Under these circumstances it was
deemed best to withdraw the garrison six days after the investment.
Burgoyne now advanced rapidly, but with so little precaution as to leave
his communications in rear entirely unprotected. Being repulsed by the
American forces collected at Saratoga, his line of supplies cut off by
our detached forts, his provisions exhausted, his troops dispirited, and
his Indian allies having deserted him, retreat became impossible, and
his whole army was forced to capitulate. This campaign closed the
military operations on our northern frontier during the war of the

We now come to the war of 1812. In the beginning of this war the number
of British regulars in the Canadas did not exceed three thousand men,
who were scattered along a frontier of more than nine hundred miles in
extent. In the whole of Upper Canada there were but seven hundred and
twenty men, and at Montreal, Three Rivers, and on the whole line of the
Sorel the whole defensive force amounted to only thirteen hundred and
thirty men, and the garrison of Quebec was so small, that no detachment
could be made without great inconvenience and danger. The fortifications
of Isle aux Noix, then emphatically the key of central Canada, was
without a garrison during nearly the whole of the first campaign. Under
these circumstances an American force of fifteen hundred or two thousand
men marching rapidly from Albany, might readily have broken the enemy's
line of defence, and cut off all Upper Canada from supplies and
reinforcements from England by way of Quebec. Let us see what course was

On the 1st of June an army of two thousand men was collected at Dayton,
in Ohio, placed under the command of an imbecile old officer of the
Revolution, and directed by Detroit against the Canadian Peninsula. The
dilatory march, absurd movements, and traitorous surrender of Hull's
army to a British force of three hundred regulars and four hundred
militia, are but too well known. Another American army of about ten
thousand men was afterwards raised in the west; the main division of
this army under Harrison marched by three separate routes to invade
Canada by way of Malden; but they failed to reach their destination, and
wintered behind the river Portage. The Eastern army was collected at
Albany in the early part of the summer and placed under the command of
General Dearborn, another old officer of the Revolution. Instead of
pushing this force rapidly forward upon the strategic line of Lake
Champlain, the general was directed to divide it into three parts, and
to send one division against the Niagara frontier, a _second_ against
Kingston, and a _third_ against Montreal. These orders were dispatched
from Washington the 26th of June, nearly a month after Hull had begun
his march from Dayton. Dearborn's army, on the first of September,
consisted of six thousand five hundred regulars and seven thousand
militia - thirteen thousand five hundred in all: six thousand three
hundred for the Niagara frontier, two thousand two hundred at Sacketts
Harbor, and five thousand for Lake Champlain. Even with this absurd plan
of campaign and faulty division of the forces, we might have succeeded
if the general had acted with energy, so exceedingly weak were the
Canadian means of defence; but instead of taking advantage of his
superiority in numbers and the favorable circumstances of the time, he
entered into an armistice with the British general, and his whole army
of thirteen thousand five hundred men lay inactive till the 13th of
October, when the absurd project of crossing the Niagara at Lewiston
failed, because the New-York militia had _constitutional scruples_
against crossing a river so long as the enemy were on the other side.
The Lake Champlain column, consisting of three thousand regulars and two
thousand militia, a considerable portion of which had been collected as
early as the first of August, had in four months advanced as far as La
Cole river, a distance of about two hundred miles from Albany. The
unimportant action at this place terminated the campaign, and the army
of the North returned to winter-quarters.

All the early part of the campaign of 1813, on the northern frontier,
was spent in a war of detachments, in which our troops captured Fort
George and York, and repelled the predatory excursions of the enemy. In
these operations our troops exhibited much courage and energy, and the
young officers who led them, no little skill and military talent. But
nothing could have been more absurd than for a general, with superior
forces in the vicinity of an enemy, to act only by detachments at a time
when his opponents were daily increasing in number. This useless war of
outposts and detachments was continued till July, when General Dearborn
was recalled, and General Wilkinson, another old officer of the
Revolution, put in his place. It was now determined to make a push for
Montreal, with the combined forces of the Northern army. Wilkinson, with
8,000 men, descended the St. Lawrence, but did not reach Prescott till
the 6th of November, thus affording to the English plenty of leisure to
prepare for his reception. Hampton, another old officer of the
Revolution, ascended Lake Champlain with another column of 4,000 men,
but refused to form any co-operation with Wilkinson, and after the
unimportant combat of Chrystler's Field, the whole army again retired
to winter-quarters.

In the mean time the army of the West, under Harrison, who was assisted
by the military skill and science of McCrea and Wood, and the bravery of
Croghan and Johnson, held in check the British and Indians; and the
battle of the Thames and the victory of Lake Erie formed a brilliant
termination to the campaign in that quarter. Had such victories been
gained on the Montreal or eastern portion of the frontier, they would
have led to the most important results.

The plan of operations for the campaign of 1814 was of the same diverse
and discordant character as before. But the command of the troops had
now fallen into the hands of young and energetic officers, and Brown,
assisted by such men as Wood, McCrea, Scott, Ripley, Miller, soon gained
the victories of Fort Erie, Chippewa, and Lundy's Lane; while McComb and
McDonough drove back the enemy from the line of Lake Champlain. With
these operations terminated the Northern campaign of 1814, the last
which has been conducted on that frontier.

Let us now turn to the system of works projected for the defence of this

The first works are at the Falls of St. Mary, on the western extremity
of the line.

The second works are at Mackinaw.

The third works are at the foot of Lake Huron.

The fourth works are near Detroit.

The fifth works are near Buffalo.

The sixth works are at the mouth of the Niagara river.

The seventh works are at Oswego.

The eighth works are at Sacketts Harbor.

The ninth works are below Ogdensburg.

The tenth works are at Rouse's Point.

The eleventh works are near the head-waters of the Kennebec or the

The twelfth works are at Calais, on the St. Croix.

All these works are small, and simple in their character, well
calculated to assist the operations of armed forces in the field, but
incapable of resisting a protracted siege. They are entirely different
in their character from those on the coast, the latter being intended
principally for the use of our citizen-soldiery, in the defence of our
seaport towns, while the former are intended merely as auxiliaries to
the operations of more disciplined troops.

This system of defence for our Northern frontier has been much commented
on by men professing some knowledge of the military art, and various
opinions have been advanced respecting its merits. Some have thought
that more and larger works should be placed on the western extremity of
this line; others attach by far the greatest importance to the central
or Montreal portion of the frontier; while others, again, attach a
higher value to the eastern extremity of the line.

These last would have us concentrate our main forces on the head-waters
of the Kennebec and the Penobscot, and then advance upon Quebec, a
distance of some 250 miles, along the isolated carriage-road, through
the valley of the Chaudiere. Here is only a single road, but little
travelled, and penetrating a wide and almost uninhabited wilderness.
General Jomini says emphatically, that _a line of operations should
always offer two or three roads for the movement of an army in the
sphere of its enterprises_, - an insuperable objection to the Kennebec
route, except as a diversion to the main attack. But there are still
stronger objections to this route, than its want of feasibility for the
transportation of the main army; for even should that army succeed in
reaching Quebec in safety, the expedition would be entirely without
military results, unless that fortress could be immediately reduced, - a
contingency which would be extremely doubtful under the most favorable
circumstances; and even should we be ever so fortunate in our
operations, the siege of such a place would occupy a considerable length
of time. It would be throwing our forces along the most difficult line
of operations, against the strongest point in the enemy's line of
defence, and making the success of the whole plan depend upon the
contingency of a reduction, in a few days, of one of the strongest
fortresses in the world. What principle in military science would
justify such a plan of campaign? We are fully aware of the great
advantages to be derived from the reduction of Quebec; and we are also
aware of the great difficulties to be encountered in any attempt to
accomplish that object. It may, and probably will ere long, be made to
surrender to our arms; but it would be utter folly to base our military
operations on the contingency of a short and successful siege. By
advancing upon Montreal by the Lake Champlain route, we could cut off
the Canadian forces in the West from all reinforcements; and then, as
circumstances might direct, could besiege Quebec, or attack the enemy in
the field, or perhaps, manoeuvring as the French did at the siege of
Mantua, accomplish both objects at the same time.

We have seen that it was one of Napoleon's maxims that _an army should
choose the shortest and most direct line of operations, which should
either pierce the enemy's line of defence, or cut off his communications
with his base_. It is the opinion of men of the best military talent in
our army that the Lake Champlain line satisfies all these conditions at
the same time; - that it is the most direct, most feasible, and most
decisive line which can be pursued in case of operations against Canada;
and that it is indispensable to success in war that this line be well
fortified in time of peace. All agree that the St. Lawrence above
Quebec constitutes the _key_ point of the enemy's defence, and the
_objective_ point towards which all our operations should be directed.
To reach this point, all our Boards of Engineers have deemed it best to
collect our troops at Albany and advance by Lake Champlain, a distance
of only two hundred miles. Besides the advantages of a good water
communication the whole distance for the transportation of military
stores, there are several roads on each side, all concentrating on this
line within our own territory. It has already been shown by the brief
sketch of our northern wars, that this line has been the field of strife
and blood for _fifteen campaigns_. Nature has marked it out as our
shortest and easiest line of intercourse with Canada, both in peace and
war. Military diversions will always be made on the eastern and western
extremities of this frontier, and important secondary or auxiliary
operations be carried on by the eastern and western routes; but until we
overthrow the whole system of military science as established by the
Romans, revived by Frederick and practised and improved by Napoleon, the

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 17 of 35)