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 19 of 35)
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same, as at present. But by increasing the grades you avoid in a
considerable measure the difficulties of seniority claims and brevet
rank - the principal curses of our present system. If we merely increase
the number of each existing grade, giving a part of these rank above
their name and office, we merely multiply evils. But we will leave this
subject for the present, and recur to the general discussion of staff

The following remarks of Jomini on the importance of the staff of an
army are worthy of attention. "A good staff," says he, "is, more than
all, indispensable to the constitution of an army; for it must be
regarded as the nursery where the commanding general can raise his
principal supports - as a body of officers whose intelligence can aid
his own. When harmony is wanting between the genius that commands, and
the talents of those who apply his conceptions, success cannot be sure;
for the most skilful combinations are destroyed by faults in execution.
Moreover, a good staff has the advantage of being more durable than the
genius of any single man; it not only remedies many evils, but it may
safely be affirmed that it constitutes for the army the best of all
safeguards. The petty interests of coteries, narrow views, and misplaced
egotism, oppose this last position: nevertheless, every military man of
reflection, and every enlightened statesman, will regard its truth as
beyond all dispute; for a well-appointed staff is to an army what a
skilful minister is to a monarchy - it seconds the views of the chief,
even though it be in condition to direct all things of itself; it
prevents the commission of faults, even though the commanding general be
wanting in experience, by furnishing him good councils. How many
mediocre men of both ancient and modern times, have been rendered
illustrious by achievements which were mainly due to their associates!
Reynier was the chief cause of the victories of Pichegru, in 1794; and
Dessoles, in like manner, contributed to the glory of Moreau. Is not
General Toll associated with the successes of Kutusof? Diebitsch with
those of Barclay and Witgenstein? Gneisenau and Muffling with those of
Blücher? Numerous other instances might be cited in support of these

"A well-established staff does not always result from a good system of
education for the young aspirants; for a man may be a good mathematician
and a fine scholar, without being a good warrior. The staff should
always possess sufficient consideration and prerogative to be sought for
by the officers of the several arms, and to draw together, in this way,
men who are already known by their aptitude for war. Engineer and
artillery officers will no longer oppose the staff, if they reflect that
it will open to them a more extensive field for immediate distinction,
and that it will eventually be made up exclusively of the officers of
those two corps who may be placed at the disposal of the commanding
general, and who are the most capable of directing the operations of

"At the beginning of the wars of the Revolution," says this able
historian elsewhere, "in the French army the general staff, which is
essential for directing the operations of war, had neither instruction
nor experience." The several adjutant-generals attached to the army of
Italy were so utterly incompetent, that Napoleon became prejudiced
against the existing staff-corps, and virtually destroyed it, drawing
his staff-officers from the other corps of the army. In his earlier
wars, a large portion of staff duties were assigned to the engineers;
but in his later campaigns the officers of this corps were particularly
required for the sieges carried on in Germany and Spain, and
considerable difficulty was encountered in finding suitable officers for
staff duty. Some of the defects of the first French staff-corps were
remedied in the latter part of Napoleon's career, and in 1818 it was
reorganized by Marshal Saint-Cyr, and a special school established for
its instruction.

Some European nations have established regular staff-corps, from which
the vacancies in the general staff are filled; others draw all their
staff-officers from the corps of the army. A combination of the two
systems is preferred by the best judges. Jomini recommends a regular
staff-corps, with special schools for its instruction; but thinks that
its officers should be drawn, at least in part, from the other corps of
the army: the officers of engineers and artillery he deems, from their
instruction, to be peculiarly qualified for staff duty. The policy of
holding double rank at the same time in the staff and in the corps of
the army, as is done in our service, is pronounced by all competent
judges as ruinous to an army, destroying at the same time the character
of the staff and injuring the efficiency of the line.

The following remarks on the character and duties of general-officers of
an army, made at the beginning of the war of 1812, are from the pen of
one of the ablest military writers this country has yet produced: -

"Generals have been divided into three classes, - _Theorists_, who by
study and reflection have made themselves acquainted with all the rules
or maxims of the art they profess; _Martinets_, who have confined their
attention merely to the mechanical part of the trade; and _Practical
men_, who have no other or better guide than their own experience, in
either branch of it. This last description is in all services, excepting
our own, the most numerous, but with us gives place to a fourth class,
viz., men destitute alike of _theory_ and of _experience_."

"Self-respect is one thing, and presumption another. Without the former,
no man ever became a good officer; under the influence of the latter,
generals have committed great faults. The former is the necessary result
of knowledge; the latter of ignorance. A man acquainted with his duty
can rarely be placed in circumstances new, surprising, or embarrassing;
a man ignorant of his duty will always find himself constrained to
_guess_, and not knowing how to be right by _system_, will often be
wrong by _chance_."

"These remarks are neither made nor offered as applying exclusively to
the science of war. They apply to all other sciences; but in these,
errors are comparatively harmless. A naturalist may amuse himself and
the public with false and fanciful theories of the earth; and a
metaphysician may reason very badly on the relations and forms of matter
and spirit, without any ill effect but to make themselves ridiculous.
Their blunders but make us merry; they neither pick pockets, nor break
legs, nor destroy lives; while those of a general bring after them evils
the most compounded and mischievous, - the slaughter of an army - the
devastation of a state - the ruin of an empire!"

"In proportion as ignorance may be calamitous, the reasons for acquiring
instruction are multiplied and strengthened. Are you an _honest_ man?
You will spare neither labor nor sacrifice to gain a competent knowledge
of your duty. Are you a man of _honor_? You will be careful to avoid
self-reproach. Does your bosom glow with the holy fervor of
_patriotism_? You will so accomplish yourself as to avoid bringing down
upon your country either insult or injury."

"Nor are the more selfish impulses without a similar tendency. Has
_hunger_ made you a soldier? Will you not take care of your bread! Is
_vanity_ your principle of action? Will you not guard those mighty
blessings, your epaulets and feathers! Are you impelled by a love of
_glory_ or a love of _power_? And can you forget that these coy
mistresses are only to be won by intelligence and good conduct?"

"But the _means_ of instruction, say you, where are they to be found?
Our standing army is but a bad and ill-organized militia, and our
militia not better than a mob. Nor have the defects in these been
supplied by Lycées, Prytanées, and Polytechnic schools. The morbid
patriotism of some, and the false economy of others, have nearly
obliterated every thing like military knowledge among us."

"This, reader, is but one motive the more for reinstating it. Thanks to
the noble art of printing! you still have _books_ which, if _studied_,
will teach the art of war."

"_Books_! And what are they but the dreams of pedants? They may make a
Mack, but have they ever made a Xenophon, a Cæsar, a Saxe, a Frederick,
or a Bonaparte? Who would not laugh to hear the cobbler of Athens
lecturing Hannibal on the art of war?"

"True; but as you are not Hannibal, listen to the cobbler. Xenophon,
Cæsar, Saxe, Frederick, and Napoleon, have all thought well of books,
and have even composed them. Nor is this extraordinary, since they are
but the depositories of maxims which genius has suggested, and
experience confirmed; since they both enlighten and shorten the road of
the traveller, and render the labor and genius of past ages tributary to
our own. _These_ teach most emphatically, that the secret of successful
war is not to be found in mere _legs_ and _arms_, but in the _head_ that
shall direct them. If this be either ungifted by nature, or uninstructed
by study and reflection, the best plans of manoeuvre and campaign avail
nothing. The two last centuries have presented many revolutions in
military character, all of which have turned on this principle. It would
be useless to enumerate these. We shall quote only the greatest and the
last - _The troops of Frederick!_ How illustrious under him! How
contemptible under his successors! Yet his system was there; his double
lines of march at full distance; his oblique order of battle; his simple
lines of manoeuvre in the presence of an enemy; his wise conformation of
an _état-major;_ - all, in short, that distinguished his practice from
that of ordinary men, survived him; but the head that truly comprehended
and knew how to apply these, died with Frederick. What an admonition
does this fact present for self-instruction, - for unwearied
diligence, - for study and reflection! Nor should the force of this be
lessened by the consideration that, after all, unless nature should
have done her part of the work, - unless to a soul not to be shaken by
any changes of fortune - cool, collected, and strenuous - she adds a head
fertile in expedients, prompt in its decisions, and sound in its
judgments, no man can ever merit the title of a _general_."

The celebrated Marshal Saxe has made the following remarks on the
necessary qualifications to form a good general. The most indispensable
one, according to his idea, is valor, without which all the rest will
prove nugatory. The next is a sound understanding with some genius: for
he must not only be courageous, but be extremely fertile in expedients.
The third is health and a robust constitution.

"His mind must be capable of prompt and vigorous resources; he must have
an aptitude, and a talent at discovering the designs of others, without
betraying the slightest trace of his own intentions; he must be,
_seemingly_, communicative, in order to encourage others to unbosom, but
remain tenaciously reserved in matters that concern his own army; he
must, in a word, possess activity with judgment, be able to make a
proper choice of his officers, and never deviate from the strictest line
of military justice. Old soldiers must not be rendered wretched and
unhappy by unwarrantable promotions, nor must extraordinary talents be
kept back to the detriment of the service on account of mere rules and
regulations. Great abilities will justify exceptions; but ignorance and
inactivity will not make up for years spent in the profession."

"In his deportment he must be affable, and always superior to
peevishness or ill-humor; he must not know, or at least seem not to
know, what a spirit of resentment is; and when he is under the necessity
of inflicting military chastisement, he must see the guilty punished
without compromise or foolish humanity; and if the delinquent be from
among the number of his most intimate friends, he must be doubly severe
towards the unfortunate man. For it is better, in instances of
correction, that one individual should be treated with rigor (by orders
of the person over whom he may be supposed to hold some influence) than
that an idea should go forth in the army of public justice being
sacrificed to private sentiments."

"A modern general should always have before him the example of Manlius;
he must divest himself of personal sensations, and not only be convinced
himself, but convince others, that he is the organ of military justice,
and that what he does is irrevocably prescribed. With these
qualifications, and by this line of conduct, he will secure the
affections of his followers, instill into their minds all the impulses
of deference and respect; he will be feared, and consequently obeyed."

"The resources of a general's mind are as various as the occasions for
the exercise of them are multiplied and checkered: he must be perfectly
master of the art of knowing how to support an army in all circumstances
and situations; how to apply its strength, or be sparing of its energy
and confidence; how to post all its different component parts, so as not
to be forced to give or receive battle in opposition to settled plans.
When once engaged, he must have presence of mind enough to grasp all the
relative points of disposition and arrangement, to seize favorable
moments for impression, and to be thoroughly conversant in the infinite
vicissitudes that occur during the heat of a battle; on a ready
possession of which its ultimate success depends. These requisites are
unquestionably manifold, and grow out of the diversity of situations and
the chance medley of events that produce their necessity."

"A general to be in perfect possession of them, must on the day of
battle be divested of every thought, and be inaccessible to every
feeling, but what immediately regards the business of the day; he must
reconnoitre with the promptitude of a skilful geographer, whose eye
collects instantaneously all the relative portions of locality, and
feels his ground as it were by instinct; and in the disposition of his
troops he must discover a perfect knowledge of his profession, and make
all his arrangements with accuracy and dispatch. His order of battle
must be simple and unconfused, and the execution of his plan be as quick
as if it merely consisted in uttering some few words of command; as,
_the first line will attack! the second will support it! or, such a
battalion will advance and support the line._"

"The general officers who act under such a general must be ignorant of
their business indeed, if, upon the receipt of these orders, they should
be deficient in the immediate means of answering them, by a prompt and
ready co-operation. So that the general has only to issue out directions
according to the growth of circumstances, and to rest satisfied that
every division will act in conformity to his intentions; but if, on the
contrary, he should so far forget his situation as to become a
drill-sergeant in the heat of action, he must find himself in the case
of the fly in the fable, which perched upon a wheel, and foolishly
imagined that the motion of the carriage was influenced by its
situation. A general, therefore, ought on the day of battle to be
thoroughly master of himself, and to have both his mind and his eye
riveted to the immediate scene of action. He will by these means be
enabled to see every thing; his judgment will be unembarrassed, and he
will instantly discover all the vulnerable points of the enemy. The
instant a favorable opening offers, by which the contest may be decided,
it becomes his duty to head the nearest body of troops, and, without any
regard to personal safety, to advance against the enemy's line. [By a
ready conception of this sort, joined to a great courage, General
Dessaix determined the issue of the battle of Marengo.] It is, however,
impossible for any man to lay down rules, or to specify with accuracy
all the different ways by which a victory may be obtained. Every thing
depends upon a variety of situations, casualties of events, and
intermediate occurrences, which no human foresight can positively
ascertain, but which may be converted to good purposes by a quick eye, a
ready conception, and prompt execution."

"Prince Eugene was singularly gifted with these qualifications,
particularly with that sublime possession of the mind, which constitutes
the essence of a military character."

"Many commanders-in-chief have been so limited in their ideas of
warfare, that when events have brought the contest to issue, and two
rival armies have been drawn out for action, their whole attention has
devolved upon a straight alignment, an equality of step, or a regular
distance in intervals of columns. They have considered it sufficient to
give answers to questions proposed by their aides-de-camp, to send
orders in various directions, and to gallop themselves from one quarter
to another, without steadily adhering to the fluctuations of the day, or
calmly watching for an opportunity to strike a decisive blow. They
endeavor, in fact, to do every thing, and thereby do nothing. They
appear like men whose presence of mind deserts them the instant they are
taken out of the beaten track, or reduced to supply unexpected calls by
uncommon exertions; and from whence, continues the same sensible writer,
do these contradictions arise? from an ignorance of those high
qualifications without which the mere routine of duty, methodical
arrangement, and studied discipline must fall to the ground, and defeat
themselves. Many officers spend their whole lives in putting a few
regiments through a regular set of manoeuvres; and having done so, they
vainly imagine that all the science of a real military man consists in
that acquirement. When, in process of time, the command of a large army
falls to their lot, they are manifestly lost in the magnitude of the
undertaking, and, from not knowing how to act as they ought, they remain
satisfied with doing what they have partially learned."

"Military knowledge, as far as it regards a general or
commander-in-chief, may be divided into two parts, one comprehending
mere discipline and settled systems for putting a certain number of
rules into practice; and the other originating a sublimity of conception
that method may assist, but cannot give."

"If a man be born with faculties that are naturally adapted to the
situation of a general, and if his talents do not fit the extraordinary
casualties of war, he will never rise beyond mediocrity."

"It is, in fact, in war as it is in painting, or in music. Perfection in
either art grows out of innate talent, but it never can be acquired
without them. Study and perseverance may correct ideas, but no
application, no assiduity will give the life and energy of action; these
are the works of nature."

"It has been my fate (observes the Marshal) to see several very
excellent colonels become indifferent generals. I have known others, who
have distinguished themselves at sieges, and in the different evolutions
of an army, lose their presence of mind and appear ignorant of their
profession, the instant they were taken from that particular line, and
be incapable of commanding a few squadrons of horse. Should a man of
this cast be put at the head of an army, he will confine himself to mere
dispositions and manoeuvres; to them he will look for safety; and if
once thwarted, his defeat will be inevitable, because his mind is not
capable of other resources."

"In order to obviate, in the best possible manner, the innumerable
disasters which must arise from the uncertainty of war, and the greater
uncertainty of the means that are adopted to carry it on, some general
rules ought to be laid down, not only for the government of the troops,
but for the instruction of those who have the command of them. The
principles to be observed are: that when the line or the columns
advance, their distances should be scrupulously observed; that whenever
a body of troops is ordered to charge, every proportion of the line
should rush forward with intrepidity and vigor; that if openings are
made in the first line, it becomes the duty of the second instantly to
fill up the chasms."

"These instructions issue from the dictates of plain nature, and do not
require the least elucidation in writing They constitute the A, B, C of
soldiers. Nothing can be more simple, or more intelligible; so much so,
that it would be ridiculous in a general to sacrifice essential objects
in order to attend to such minutiæ. His functions in the day of battle
are confined to those occupations of the mind, by which he is enabled to
watch the countenance of the enemy; to observe his movements, and to see
with an eagle's or a king of Prussia's eye, all the relative directions
that his opponents take. It must be his business to create alarms and
suspicions among the enemy's line in one quarter, while his real
intention is to act against another; to puzzle and disconcert him in his
plans; to take advantage of the manifold openings which his feints have
produced, and when the contest is brought to issue, to be capable of
plunging with effect upon the weakest part, and carrying the sword of
death where its blow is certain of being mortal. But to accomplish these
important and indispensable points, his judgment must be clear, his mind
collected, his heart firm, and his eyes incapable of being diverted,
even for a moment, by the trifling occurrences of the day."

The _administrative service_ of an army is usually divided into several
distinct departments, as -

Pay department.
Subsistence "
Clothing "
Medical "}
} These in our service are united.
Hospital "
Barrack "}These in our service are combined
Fuel "}in one, called the Quartermaster's
Transportation "}department
Recruiting "
Military Justice, or Court Martial department.

It was intended to enter into the history, organization, and use of each
of these civico-military departments of an army; but our limits are such
as to preclude any thing like so detailed a discussion as would be
necessary for a proper understanding of the subject. We therefore pass
from the staff directly to the _line_ or rather the four principal arms
of an army organization.[30]

[Footnote 30: Of works that treat directly of staff organization and
duties, those of Grimoard, Thiébault, Boutourlin, Labaume, are esteemed
among the best. The writings of Jomini, Napoleon, Rocquancourt,
Vauchelle, Odier, Scharnhorst, also contain much valuable information on
this subject. The following list of books may be referred to for further
information on the subjects alluded to in this chapter:

_Aide-Mémoire des officiers généraux et supérieurs et des capitaines._

_Précis de l'art de la guerre._ Jomini.

_Mémoires de Napoléon._ Montholon et Gourgaud.

_Cours élémentaire d'art et d'histoire militaires._ Rocquancourt.

_Cours élémentaire d'administration militaire._ Vauchelle.

_Droite élémentaire d'art militaire, &c._ Gay de Vernon.

_Annuaire militaire historique, &c._ Sicard.

_Cours abrégé d'administration militaire._ Bernier.

_Cours d'administration militaire, &c._ Odier.

_De l'administration de l'armée d'Espagne._ Odier.

_De l'organization de la force armée en France._ Carion-Nisas.

_Elémens de l'art militaire, &c._ Cugnot.

_Mémoires sur la guerre._ Feuquiéres.

_Cours d'art militaire et d'histoire._ Jacquinot de Presle.

_Cours d'art militaire._ Fallot.

_Théorie de l'officier supérieur._ Léorier.

_Histoire de l'administration de la guerre._ Audouin.

_Instructions diverses a l'usage de l'école d'application du corps royal

_Handbuch für offiziere, &c._ Scharnhorst.

Having omitted all discussion of the several departments of the
administrative service of an army organization, it is not deemed
necessary to give the names of books of reference on the subjects of
pay, courts-martial, medicinal and hospital departments, &c., &c.]



_Infantry_. - Infantry constitutes, in active service, by far the most
numerous portion of an army; in time of peace its duties are simple,
and, in most countries, of little comparative importance; but in our
country the continually recurring difficulties on the Indian frontiers,
render this arm peculiarly necessary and important, even in time of
general peace. From the nature of infantry service - no peculiar

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 19 of 35)