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

. (page 18 of 35)
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 18 of 35)
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_central and interior line_, under all ordinary circumstances, will
furnish the greatest probabilities of success.

If the line of Lake Champlain is, as we have endeavored to show, the
most important line in the north; its security by fortifications is a
matter of the greatest interest. The works recommended by the Board,
consist of a single fort, costing $600,000, at Rouse's Point, on the
extreme frontier, and unfortified dépôts at Plattsburg and Albany. But
is this sufficient to accomplish the object? If the hostile army should
pass the extreme frontier barrier, what is to retard his advance, - what
defensive works are to protect the débouché of the Northern canal, or
even to save the great central dépôt? We know of no foreign engineer who
has recommended less than _three_ lines of fortifications for the
security of a land frontier; and Napoleon, the Archduke Charles, and
General Jomini, agree in recommending at least this number of lines.
There may be circumstances that render it unnecessary to resort to a
three-fold defence throughout the whole extent of our northern frontier;
but upon our main line of communication with Canada, - a line of maximum
importance both to us and to the enemy, we know of no reason for
violating the positive rules of the art, - rules which have been
established for ages; and sanctioned by the best engineers and greatest
generals of modern times.

Ticonderoga has more than once stayed the waves of northern invasion;
and we know of no change in the art of war, or in the condition of the
country, that renders less important than formerly the advantages of an
intermediate point of support between Albany and the Canadian lines.
Indeed it would seem that the connection of the Hudson with the lake by
the northern canal had even increased the value of such a point.

It would seem, moreover, that the great value of a central dépôt near
Albany would warrant a resort to the best means of security which can be
afforded by defensive works. Here we already have one of our largest
arsenals of construction; here are to be located magazines for the
collection and deposit, in time of peace, of gunpowder; here, in time of
war, is to be formed the grand military dépôt for our whole northern
armies; and here is the point of junction of the lines of communication
of our northern and eastern states, and the great central rallying point
where troops are to be collected for the defence of our northern
frontier, or for offensive operations against Canada. Such a place
should never be exposed to the _coup-de-main_ of an enemy. The chance
operations of a defensive army are never sufficient for the security of
so important a position. We do not here pretend to say what its defences
should be. Perhaps strong _têtes-de-pont_ on the Mohawk and Hudson
rivers, and detached works on the several lines of communication, may
accomplish the desired object; perhaps more central and compact works
may be found necessary. But we insist on the importance of securing this
position by _some_ efficient means. The remarks of Napoleon, (which have
already been given,) on the advantages to be derived from fortifying
such a central place, where the military wealth of a nation can be
secured, are strikingly applicable to this case.

But let us look for a moment at what is called the _western_ plan of
defence for our northern frontier.

Certain writers and orators of the western states, in their plans of
military defence, would have the principal fortifications of the
northern frontier established on Lake Erie, the Detroit river, the St.
Clair, and Lake Huron; and the money proposed for the other frontier and
coast works, expended in establishing military and naval dépôts at
Memphis and Pittsburg, and in the construction of a ship-canal from the
lower Illinois to Lake Michigan, - for the purpose of obtaining the naval
control of the northern lakes.

It is said that British military and steam naval forces will ascend the
St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario; that to counteract these operations we
must build an opposition steam-navy at Pittsburg and Memphis, and
collect out troops on the Ohio and Mississippi, ascend the Mississippi
and Illinois, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and the Georgian Bay, cross
over to the Ottawa by French river and Lake Nipissing, or Moon river and
the Muskago, then descend the Ottawa river to Montreal. But as there
might be some difficulty in conveying their war-steamers over some
twelve or fifteen portages between the Georgian Bay and the Ottawa, and
as the upper waters of that river are not navigable by such craft, it
has, by some of the military writers before alluded to, been deemed
preferable to descend Lake Huron, St. Clair river and lake, run the
gauntlet past the British forts on the Detroit, descend Lake Erie and
the Niagara[26] into Lake Ontario, so as to meet the English as they
come steaming up the St. Lawrence!

[Footnote 26: How they are to pass the Falls was not determined either
by Harry Bluff or the Memphis Convention.]

It is agreed upon all sides that the British must first collect their
forces at Quebec, and then pass along the line of the St. Lawrence and
Lake Ontario to reach the Niagara and Detroit frontiers. Our boards of
engineers have deemed it best to collect troops on the Champlain line,
and, by penetrating between Montreal and Quebec, separate the enemy's
forces and cut off all the remainder of Canada from supplies and
reinforcements from England. But it has been discovered by certain
western men that to cut the _trunk_ of a tree is not the proper method
of felling it: we must climb to the _top_ and pinch the buds, or, at
most, cut off a few of the smaller limbs. To blow up a house, we should
not place the mine under the foundation, but attach it to one of the
shingles of the roof! We have already shown that troops collected at
Albany may reach the great strategic point on the St. Lawrence by an
easy and direct route of _two hundred miles_; but forces collected at
Pittsburg and Memphis must pass over a difficult and unfrequented route
of _two thousand miles_.

Our merchant marine on the lakes secures to us a naval superiority in
that quarter at the beginning of a war; and our facilities for
ship-building are there equal if not superior to any possessed by the
enemy. The only way, therefore, in which our ascendency on the lakes can
be lost, is by the introduction of steam craft from the Atlantic. The
canals and locks constructed for this object will pass vessels of small
dimensions and drawing not over eight and a half feet water.

How are we to prevent the introduction of these Atlantic steamers into
our lakes? Shall we, at the first opening of hostilities, march with
armed forces upon the enemy's line of artificial communication and blow
up the locks of their ship-canals, thus meeting the enemy's marine at
the very threshold of its introduction into the interior seas; or shall
we build opposition steam-navies at Pittsburg and Memphis, some two
thousand miles distant, and then expend some forty or fifty millions[27]
in opening an artificial channel to enable them to reach Lake Ontario,
after its borders have been laid waste by the hostile forces? Very few
disinterested judges would hesitate in forming their opinion on this

[Footnote 27: The construction of the Illinois ship-canal, for vessels
of eight and a half feet draught, is estimated at fifteen millions; to
give the same draught to the Mississippi and lower Illinois, would
require at least ten millions more; a ship canal of the corresponding
draught around Niagara Falls, will cost, say, ten millions; the navy
yard at Memphis, with docks, storehouses, &c., will cost about two
millions, and steamers sent thence to the lakes will cost about fifty
thousand dollars per gun. On the other hand, the military defences which
it is deemed necessary to erect in time of peace for the security of the
Champlain frontier, will cost only about two thousand dollars per gun;
the whole expenditure not exceeding, at most, two millions of dollars!

It is not to be denied that a water communication between the
Mississippi and the northern lakes will have great commercial
advantages, and that, in case of a protracted war, auxiliary troops and
military stores may be drawn from the valley of the Mississippi to
assist the North and East in preventing any great accessions to the
British military forces in the Canadas. We speak only of the policy of
expending vast sums of money on this _military_ (?) _project_, to the
neglect of matters of more immediate and pressing want. We have nothing
to say of its character as a _commercial project_, or of the ultimate
military advantages that might accrue from such a work. We speak only of
the present condition and wants of the country, and not of what that
condition and those wants may be generations hence!]

[Footnote 28: There are no books devoted exclusively to the subjects
embraced in this chapter; but the reader will find many remarks on the
northern frontier defences in the histories of the war of 1812, in
congressional reports, (vide House Doc. 206, XXVIth Congress, 2d
session; and Senate Doc., No. 85, XXVIIIth Congress, 2d session,) and in
numerous pamphlets and essays that have appeared from the press within
the last few years.]



By the law of the 12th of December, 1790, on the organization of the
public force of France, the Army was defined, "A standing force drawn
from the public force, and designed to act against external enemies."
[_Une force habituelle extraite de la force publique, et destinée
essentiellement à agir contre les ennemis du dehors_.]

In time of peace, the whole organized military force of the State is
intended when we speak of _the army_; but in time of war this force is
broken up into two or more fractions, each of which is called an _army_.
These armies are usually named from the particular duty which may be
assigned to them - as, _army of invasion, army of occupation, army of
observation, army of reserve, &c._; or from the country or direction in
which they operate - as, _army of the North, of the South, of Mexico, of
Canada, of the Rhine, &c._; or from the general who commands it - as, the
_army of Soult, army of Wellington, army of Blücher, &c._

All modern armies are organized on the same basis. They are made up of a
Staff and Administrative departments, and four distinct arms - Infantry,
Cavalry, Artillery, and Engineers; each having distinct duties, but all
combining to form one and the same military body. In the actual
operations of a campaign, these forces are formed into _corps d'armée_,
each _corps d'armée_ being composed of two or more _grand-divisions_;
each grand-division, of two or more _brigades_; and each brigade, of
several _companies, squadrons_, or _batteries_.

In speaking of an army in the field, it is sometimes supposed to be
divided into two classes of men - the _Staff_ and _the line_. We here
include in the first class -

All officers, of whatever arm, above the rank of colonel;

All officers of the staff corps of whatever grade, and

All officers attached to the staff as aides, &c.;

All officers of the administrative departments;

All officers of artillery and engineer staffs;

The corps of geographical or topographical engineers, and

The guards.

In the second class are included all troops, of whatever arm, which
belong to the active army, in infantry, cavalry, artillery, and
engineers. All troops on detached service, such as recruiting, guarding
posts and depots, escorting convoys, &c., as well as all sedentary
corps, garrisons of fortified places, &c., are not regarded in this
classification as composing any part of the _line_ of the army.

_Troops of the line_ is a term applied only to such troops as form the
principal line on the battle-field, viz: - The heavy infantry and heavy
cavalry. These are technically called _infantry of the line_, and
_cavalry of the line_. In this sense of the term, light infantry, light
cavalry or dragoons, artillery, and engineers, are not classed as troops
of the _line_. But this distinction is now pretty much fallen into
disuse, and the division of an army into Staff and Administrative
departments, and four arms of service - Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and
Engineers - is now regarded as the most convenient, from being precise
and definite in its meaning.

The _general staff_ of an army includes all general officers of the
army, and such officers of lower grades as are attached to this general
duty, instead of serving with troops, or on special administrative duty.
The general officers are - 1st, the _generalissimo_, or commander-in
-chief; 2d, _generals_, or marshals, as they are called in
France, or field-marshals and generals of infantry and cavalry, as they
are called in England and the northern states of Europe; 3d,
_lieutenant-generals_; 4th, _generals of division_, or major-generals,
as they are called in England; 5th, _generals of brigade_, or
brigadier-generals, as they are sometimes called; - colonels, majors,
captains, lieutenants, ensigns, and cornets or cadets, are also either
attached to the staff, or form a part of the _staff corps_. The titles
of "adjutant-general," and of "inspector-general," are given to staff
officers selected for these special services, either in the general
staff or in the several _corps d'armée_. No special rank is attached to
these offices themselves, and the grade of those who hold them is fixed
by some special rule, or by their general rank in the army.

In the war of the Revolution, Washington held the rank of General, and
in 1798 the rank of Lieutenant-general. In the war of 1812, the highest
grade held by any of our officers was that of General of Division, or
Major-general, as it was called. The highest grade in our army at the
present time is called Major-general - a title that properly belongs, not
to the general of an army, but to the chief of staff. Hamilton had this
title when chief of Washington's staff; Berthier and Soult when chief of
Napoleon's staff, the former till the close of the campaign of 1814, and
the latter in the Waterloo campaign. General Jomini first greatly
distinguished himself as chief of Ney's staff, and afterwards on the
staff of the Emperor of Russia. Other generals have owed much of their
success to the chiefs of their staff: - Pichegru to Regnier, Moreau to
Dessoles, Kutusof to Toll, Barclay to Diebitsch, and Blücher to
Sharnharst and Gneisenau.

The _generalissimo_ or commander-in-chief of an army is the person
designated by the law of the land to take charge of the organized
military forces of the state. In this country the President, through his
Secretary of War, exercises this general command. In England, Wellington
acts in the capacity of commander-in-chief of all the British military
forces. In France, the Minister of War, under the king, has this general
direction. In other European services, some prince of the blood, or
distinguished general, exercises the functions of generalissimo.

An active army in the field should be commanded by a _general_, or, as
is done in some European countries, by a marshal. These may be regarded
as of assimilated rank.

A _corps d'armée_ should, be commanded by a _Lieutenant-general_. This
rule is almost universal in Europe. The number of marshals in France
under Napoleon was so great, that officers of this grade were often
assigned to _corps d'armée_.

A grand division of an army should be commanded by a _General of
Division_. In England, the assimilated grade is that of major-general,
and in France at the present time, the younger lieutenant-generals, or
the _maréchaux-de-camp_, command divisions.

A brigade should be commanded by a _Brigadier-general_. At the present
time in the French service, _maréchaux-de-camp_ act as commanders of

The several _corps d'armée_ are designated by numbers, 1st, 2d, 3d, &c.,
and in the same way the several divisions in each _corps d'armée_, and
the several brigades in each division.

When the number of troops are placed on a war footing, each _corps
d'armée_ ordinarily contains from twenty to thirty thousand men.

The command of these several _corps d'armée_, divisions, and brigades,
is taken by the officers of the corresponding grades according to
seniority of rank, and without reference to arms, unless otherwise
directed by the generalissimo, who should always have the power to
designate officers for special commands.

The _chief of staff_ of an army is usually selected from the grade next
below that of the general commanding, and receives the title, for the
time being, which is used to designate this special rank. In some
European armies, and formerly in our own service, this officer was
called major-general. In France, if the generalissimo commands in
person, a marshal is made chief of staff with the temporary title of
_major-général_; but if a marshal commands the army, a lieutenant
-general or _maréchal-de-camp_ becomes chief of staff with the
title of _aide-major-général_. The chiefs of staff of _corps d'armée_
and of divisions, are selected in precisely the same way.

The position assigned by the commanding general for the residence of his
staff, is denominated the _General Head-Quarter of the army_; that of a
_corps d'armée_ staff, the _Head-Quarters of_ [1st or 2d, &c.] _corps
d'armée_; that of a division, the _Head-Quarters of_ [1st or 2d, &c.]
_division_, [1st or 2d, &c.] _corps d'armée_.

The petty staffs of regiments, squadrons, &c., consisting of an
adjutant, sergeant-major, &c., are especially organized by the
commandants of the regiments, &c., and have no connection whatever with
the general staff of an army. Of course, then, they are not embraced in
the present discussion.

The subordinate officers of the staff of an army, in time of war, are
charged with important and responsible duties connected with the
execution of the orders of their respective chiefs. But in time of
peace, they are too apt to degenerate into fourth-rate clerks of the
Adjutant-general's department, and mere military dandies, employing
their time in discussing the most unimportant and really contemptible
points of military etiquette, or criticising the letters and dispatches
of superior officers, to see whether the wording of the report or the
folding of the letter exactly corresponds to the particular regulation
applicable to the case. Such was the character given to the first staff
of Wellington, and a similar class of men composed the staff of the army
of Italy when it was abolished by Napoleon and a new one formed in its
place. There are also some officers of this stamp in our own service,
but they are regarded by the army with universal contempt. The staff of
our army requires a new and different organization, and should be
considerably enlarged.

The following is the composition of a regularly organized general staff
in the French service, for an army of forty or fifty thousand men
divided into two _corps d'armée_ and a reserve.

1st. The marshal (or general) commanding-in-chief; and one colonel or
lieutenant-colonel, one major, three captains and three subalterns, as

2d. A lieutenant-general as chief-of-staff, with the title of
_major-general_, assisted by one colonel or lieutenant-colonel, three
majors, five captains, and one subaltern, as aides-de-camp.

3d. Three lieutenant-generals, commanding the _corps d'armée_ and
reserve. Each of these will be assisted by aides in the same way as the
_major-general_, and each will also have his regularly-organized staff
of _corps d'armée_, with a general of division or general of brigade as

4th. Six or nine generals commanding divisions, each having his own
distinct and separately organized staff. In the French army, the staff
of an officer commanding a division is composed of one colonel, two
majors, three captains, and six subalterns.

5th. Twelve or more generals of brigade, each having one captain, and
one subaltern for aides.

6th. There is also attached to the staff of the general-in-chief of the
army, the commandants of artillery and engineers, with several
subordinates, inspector-generals, and the ranking officers of each of
the administrative departments, with their assistants.

The generals select their aides and assistants from the staff corps, or
from either of the four arms of service.

The troops of these arms may be distributed as follows:

52 battalions of infantry, 35,000 men.
42 squadrons of horse, . . 6,500 "
13 batteries of artillery, (4 mounted and 9 foot,) . 2,500 "
5 companies of sappers, 2 of pontoniers,[29] and 1 of artificers,
. . . . . 1,500 "
- - -
45,500 "

[Footnote 29: One bridge-equipage is required for each _corps d'armée_.]

If we add to these the staff, and the several officers and employés of
the administrative departments, we have an army of nearly fifty thousand

This, it will be remembered, is the organization of an army in the
field; in the entire military organization of a state, the number of
staff officers will be still higher.

In 1788, France, with a military organization for about three hundred
and twenty thousand men, had eighteen marshals, two hundred and
twenty-five lieutenant-generals, five hundred and thirty-eight
_maréchaux-de-camp_, and four hundred and eighty-three brigadiers. A
similar organization of the general staff was maintained by Napoleon. At
present the general staff of the French army consists of nine marshals,
(twelve in time of war;) eighty lieutenant-generals in active service,
fifty-two in reserve, and sixty two _en retraite_ - one hundred and
ninety-four in all; one hundred and sixty _maréchaux-de-camp_ in active
service, eighty-six in reserve, and one hundred and ninety _en
retraite_ - four hundred and thirty-six in all. The officers of the
staff-corps are: thirty colonels, thirty lieutenant-colonels, one
hundred majors, three hundred captains, and one hundred lieutenants.
Those of other European armies are organized on the same basis.

It will be seen from these remarks that the organization of our own
general staff is exceedingly defective, and entirely unsuited to the
object for which it is created. We have two brigadier-generals for the
command of two brigades, and one general of division, with the title of
major-general, who acts in the fourfold capacity of general commanding
the army, lieutenant-general, general of division, and chief of staff of
the army. But as it is impossible with this number to maintain a proper
organization, the President (with the advice and consent of the Senate)
has, from time to time, increased this number to three major-generals,
and nine brigadier-generals, and numerous officers of staff with lower
grades. Nearly all these officers are detached from their several
regiments and corps, thus injuring the efficiency of regiments and
companies; and we have in our service, by this absurd mode of supplying
the defects of our system of organization by brevet rank, the anomaly
of _officers being generals, and at the same time not generals; of
holding certain ranks and grades, and yet not holding these ranks and
grades!_ Let Congress do away this absurd and ridiculous system, and
establish a proper and efficient organization of the general staff, and
restore the grades of general and lieutenant-general. In the war of
1812, instead of resorting to a proper organization when an increase of
the general staff was required, we merely multiplied the number of
major-generals and generals of brigade by direct appointment, or by
conferring brevet rank. It is now conceded that there never was a more
inefficient general staff than that with which our army was cursed
during the war; and the claims of brevet rank have ever since been a
source of endless turmoils and dissatisfaction, driving from the army
many of its noblest ornaments.

In the event of another war, it is to be hoped that Congress will not
again resort to the ruinous system of 1812. Possibly it may by some be
objected to the creation of generals, lieutenant-generals, &c., that it
increases the expense of the army and the number of its officers. This
need not be. The number, pay, &c., may remain the same, or nearly 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 18 of 35)