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 20 of 35)
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technical knowledge (we speak of the privates and officers of the lower
grades) being so absolutely indispensable as in the other arms - the
soldier may in a short time be trained and instructed in his duties. For
this reason the ratio of infantry in a peace establishment is ordinarily
much less than in active service, this arm being always capable of great
expansion when occasion requires.

[Footnote 31: In discussing our own organization, it may be well to
compare it with the armies of some of the principal nations of Europe.
Our limits will not allow us to go very much into details, nor to make a
comparison with more than a single European power. We shall select
France, inasmuch as her army organization has served as a model for the
rest of Europe, and is still, in some respects, superior to most

In the early periods of society, and in countries where horses abounded,
men have usually preferred fighting on horseback; but civilization and a
more thorough acquaintance with war has always increased the importance
of infantry.

The Hebrews, and also the Egyptians, employed this arm almost
exclusively. The Asiatics generally employed both infantry and cavalry,
but with the Greeks the _infantry_ was the favorite arm. Even their
kings and generals usually fought on foot. The Romans conquered the
world mainly with their infantry. This arm was also considered of the
greatest importance by the ancient Germans and Gauls; but the migration
of the Huns and other Mongolic tribes mounted on small and fleet horses,
and the acquaintance formed by the Franks of northern Spain with the
Moors, who were mounted on beautiful horses from Arabia and the plateau
of Asia, introduced a taste for cavalry in western Europe. This taste
was still further cultivated under the feudal system, for the knights
preferred fighting on horseback to serving on foot. During the crusades
the infantry fell into disrepute. But the invention of gunpowder changed
the whole system of warfare, and restored to infantry its former

"The Romans," says Napoleon in his Memoirs, "had two infantries; the
first, lightly armed, was provided with a missile weapon; the second,
heavily armed, bore a short sword. After the invention of powder two
species of infantry were still continued: the arquebusiers, who were
lightly armed, and intended to observe and harass the enemy; and the
pikemen, who supplied the place of the heavy-armed infantry. During the
hundred and fifty years which have elapsed since Vauban banished lances
and pikes from all the infantry of Europe, substituting for them the
firelock and bayonet, all the infantry has been lightly armed......
There has been since that time, properly speaking, only one kind of
infantry: if there was a company of chasseurs in every battalion, it was
by way of counterpoise to the company of grenadiers; the battalion being
composed of nine companies, one picked company did not appear
sufficient. If the Emperor Napoleon created companies of voltigeurs
armed like dragoons, it was to substitute them for those companies of
chasseurs. He composed them of men under five feet in height, in order
to bring into use that class of the conscription which measured from
four feet ten inches to five feet; and having been until that time
exempt, made the burden of conscription fall more heavily on the other
classes. This arrangement served to reward a great number of old
soldiers, who, being under five feet in height, could not enter into the
companies of grenadiers, who on account of their bravery, deserved to
enter into a picked company: it was a powerful incentive to emulation to
bring the giants and pigmies into competition. Had there been men of
different colors in the armies of the emperor, he would have composed
companies of blacks and companies of whites: in a country where there
were cyclops or hunchbacks, a good use might be made of companies of
cyclops, and others of hunchbacks."

"In 1789, the French army as composed of regiments of the line and
battalions of chasseurs; the chasseurs of the Cevennes, the Vivarais,
the Alps, of Corsica, and the Pyrenees, who at the Revolution formed
half brigades of light infantry; but the object was not to have two
different sorts of infantry, for they were raised alike, instructed
alike, drilled alike; only the battalions of chasseurs were recruited by
the men of the mountainous districts, or by the sons of the
garde-chasse; whence they were more fit to be employed on the frontiers
of the Alps and Pyrenees; and when they were in the armies of the North,
they were always detached, in preference, for climbing heights or
scouring a forest; when these men were placed in line, in a battle, they
served very well as a battalion of the line, because they had received
the same instructions, and were armed and disciplined in the same
manner. Every power occasionally raises, in war-time, irregular corps,
under the title of free or legionary battalions, consisting of foreign
deserters, or formed of individuals of a particular party or faction;
but that does not constitute two sorts of infantry. There is and can be
but one. If the apes of antiquity must needs imitate the Romans, it is
not light-armed troops that they ought to introduce, but heavy-armed
soldiers, or battalions armed with swords; for all the infantry of
Europe serve at times as light troops."

Most European nations, for reasons probably similar to those of
Napoleon, keep up this nominal division of _infantry of the line_ and
_light infantry_; but both are usually armed and equipped alike, and
both receive the same organization and instruction. The light infantry
are usually made up from the class of men, or district of country, which
furnishes the greatest number of riflemen and sharpshooters. In France,
the light infantry is best supplied by the hunters of the Ardennes, the
Vosges, and the Jura districts; in Austria, by the Croates and Tyrolese;
in Prussia, by the "försters," or woodsmen; and in Russia, by the
Cossacks. Our own western hunters, with proper discipline, make the best
tirailleurs in the world.

Light infantry is usually employed to protect the flanks of the main
army, to secure outposts, to reconnoitre the ground, secure avenues of
approach, deceive the enemy by demonstrations, and secure the repose of
the other troops by patrolling parties. They usually begin a battle, and
afterwards take their places in the line, either on the flanks, or in
the intervals between the larger bodies. The battle of Jena furnishes a
good example of the use of French light infantry; and at the battle of
Waterloo, the Prussian tirailleurs were exceedingly effective in
clearing the ground for the advance of Blücher's heavy columns. The
attack of Floh-hug by Augereau, of Vierzehn Heilegen by Suchet, of
Iserstaedt by Desjardins, are models well worthy of study.

The infantry of the line acts in masses, and, on the field of battle,
constitutes the principal fighting force. Its formations and the manner
of engaging it have already been discussed under the head of tactics.

The importance of infantry is due, in considerable part, to the fact
that it can be used everywhere - in mountains or on plains, in woody or
open countries, in cities or in fields, on rivers or at sea, in the
redoubt or in the attack of the breach; the infantry depends only on
itself, whereas the other arms must depend in a considerable degree on
the efficiency of their materials and the will and strength of brute
force; and when the snows of Russia or the deserts of Egypt deprive
their animals of the means of sustenance, they become perfectly useless.

Foot-soldiers, in olden times, were armed with a spear and sometimes
with a sword, arrows, lance, and sling. At present they are armed with
a gun and bayonet, and sometimes with a sword. In some European
services, a few of the foot-soldiers are armed with a pike. Some of the
light troops used as sharpshooters carry the rifle, but this weapon is
useless for the great body of infantry. The short-sword is more useful
as an instrument for cutting branches, wood, &c., than for actual
fighting. The infantry have no defensive covering, or at least very
little. The helmet or cap serves to protect the head, and the shoulders
are somewhat defended by epaulets. It has often been proposed in modern
times to restore the ancient defensive armor of the foot-soldier; but
this would be worse than useless against fire-arms, and moreover would
destroy the efficiency of these troops by impeding their movements. The
strength of this arm depends greatly upon its discipline; for if calm
and firm, a mass of infantry in column or in square is almost

The bayonet was introduced by Vauban in the wars of Louis XIV., and
after the years 1703 and '4, the pike was totally suppressed in the
French army. This measure was warmly opposed by Marshal Montesquieu, and
the question was discussed by him and Marshal Vauban with an ability and
learning worthy of these great men. The arguments of Vauban were deemed
most conclusive, and his project was adopted by the king.

This question has been agitated by military writers in more recent
times, Puységur advocating the musket, and Folard and Lloyd contending
in favor of restoring the pike. Even in our own service, so late as the
war of 1812, a distinguished general of the army strongly urged the use
of the pike, and the fifteenth (and perhaps another regiment) was armed
and equipped in part as _pikemen_; but experience soon proved the
absurdity of the project.

Napoleon calls the infantry the _arm of battles_ and the _sinews of the
army_. But if it be acknowledged, that, next to the talent of the
general-in-chief, the infantry is the first instrument of victory, it
must also be confessed that it finds a powerful support in the cavalry,
artillery, and engineers, and that without these it would often be
compromised, and could gain but a half success.

The French infantry is divided into one hundred regiments of three
battalions each, a battalion being composed of seven companies. There
are also several other battalions of chasseurs, zuaves, &c., being
organized especially for service in Africa, and composed in part of
native troops.

In our own army we have eight regiments of infantry, each regiment
forming a single battalion of ten companies. The flank companies are
intended for light infantry.

In all properly organized armies the infantry constitutes from
three-fourths to four-fifths of the entire active force in the field,
and from two-thirds to three-fourths, say about seven-tenths of the
entire military establishment. In time of peace this proportion may be
slightly diminished.

_Cavalry._ - The use of cavalry is probably nearly as old as war itself.
The Egyptians had cavalry before the time of Moses, and the Israelites
often encountered cavalry in their wars with their neighbors, though
they made no use of this arm themselves until the time of Solomon.

The Greeks borrowed their cavalry from the Asiatics, and especially from
the Persians, who, according to Xenophon, held this arm in great
consideration. After the battle of Platea, it was agreed by assembled
Greece that each power should furnish one horseman to every ten
foot-soldiers. In Sparta the poorest were selected for this arm, and the
cavalry marched to combat without any previous training. At Athens the
cavalry service was more popular, and they formed a well-organized corps
of twelve hundred horsemen. At Thebes also this arm had consideration in
the time of Epaminondas. But the cavalry of Thessaly was the most
renowned, and both Philip and Alexander drew their mounted troops from
that country.

The Romans had made but little progress in this arm when they
encountered the Thessalians, who fought in the army of Pyrrhus. They
then increased their cavalry, but it was not numerous till after their
wars with the Carthaginians. Scipio organized and disciplined the Roman
cavalry like that of the Numidians. This arm was supplied from the ranks
of the richest citizens, and afterwards formed an order intermediary
between the Senate and the people, under the name of _knights_.

At a later period, the cavalry of the Gauls was particularly good. The
Franks were without cavalry when they made their first irruption into
Gaul. Under the reign of Childeric I. we see for the first time the
"cavaliers francs" figure as a part of the national forces. At the
battle of Tours the cavalry and infantry were in the proportion of one
to five, and under Pepin and Charlemagne their numbers were nearly
equal. Under Charles the Bald armies were composed entirely of cavalry,
and during the middle ages the knights disdained the foot service, and
fought only on horseback.

After the introduction of artillery, cavalry was still employed, though
to little advantage. Gustavus Adolphus was the first to perceive the
real importance of this arm in modern warfare, and he used it with great
success. But it was left for Seidlitz to perfect it under the direction
of Frederick the Great.

Marshal Saxe very justly remarked, that cavalry is the "_arme du
moment,_" for in almost every battle there are moments when a decisive
charge of cavalry will gain the victory, but if not made at the instant
it may be too late. The efficiency of cavalry depends upon the moral
impression which it makes on the enemy, and is greater in proportion to
the size of the mass, and the rapidity of its motion. This last quality
enables a commander to avail himself immediately of a decisive moment,
when the enemy exposes a weak point, or when disorder appears in his
ranks. But this requires a bold and active spirit, which shrinks not
from responsibility, and is able to avail itself with quickness and
decision of every opportunity. If it be remembered that it is essential
that this _coup d'oeil_, so rare and so difficult to acquire, be
accompanied by a courage and vigor of execution which nothing can shake,
we shall not be astonished that history furnishes so few good cavalry
generals, and that this arm so seldom does such execution as it did
under Frederick and Napoleon, with Seidlitz and Murat as commanders.

The soldier gains great _velocity_ by the use of the horse in war; but
in other respects he is the loser. The great expense and care required
of the cavalier to support his horse; the difficulty experienced in
surmounting ordinary obstacles, and in using his fire-arms to advantage,
are all prejudicial to success.

The unequal size of the horse, and the great diversity in his strength
and breed, have rendered it necessary to divide this arm into _light_
and _heavy_ cavalry, and a mixed class called _dragoons_. The heavy
cavalry is commonly used in masses where _force_ is mainly requisite;
the lighter troops are used singly and in small detachments, where
rapidity of movement is most desired.

The _heavy_ cavalry are divided into carabiniers, cuirassiers, and
sometimes lancers. The two latter are frequently united, the cuirassiers
being armed with the lance. These troops are seldom used for scouts,
vanguards, and convoys; but are frequently employed to sustain the light
cavalry. Their main duty is "_to appear on the field of battle and make
the decisive charges_."

The _light_ cavalry is composed of chasseurs, or troopers, hussars, and
lancers. The latter, when composed of large men and mounted on heavy
horses, are attached to the heavy cavalry.

The _dragoons_ were formerly a mixed body of horse and foot, but it
being found impossible to unite these two distinct arms in one, and the
attempt having destroyed the usefulness of the body to act in either
capacity, the term was applied to a mixed kind of cavalry between the
heavy and the light horse. In more recent wars they have also been
instructed as infantry and employed as foot-soldiers, till horses could
be found in the enemy's country with which to mount them. But we believe
there is no instance in more modern wars in which they have been
employed at the same time in both capacities.

This term is, very improperly, applied to all our cavalry; and some of
the congressional wiseacres have recently experimented on one of our
so-called regiments of _dragoons_, by dismounting it one year, selling
its horses at auction, and changing its arms and equipments, and again,
the next year, purchasing new horses, arms, and equipments for
remounting it; and all this for _economy!_

The Roman cavalry at first wore a round shield and helmet, the rest of
their body being nearly uncovered. Their arms were a sword and long thin
javelin, or lance, with an iron head. They afterwards reduced the shield
to a much smaller size, and made square, and their lance was greatly
increased in size and length, and armed at both ends. In other respects
they were armed in the same way as infantry. The use of the lance and
the shield at the same time, of course rendered both nearly worthless.
The Roman cavalry was superior to that of their enemies, except,
perhaps, the light cavalry of the Parthians.

The heavy armor which was sometimes worn by the ancients, like the _gens
d'armes_ of the middle ages, rendered them greatly inferior to infantry
in a close engagement. Tigranes, king of Armenia, brought an army of one
hundred and fifty thousand horse into the field, against the Roman
general Lucullus, who had only about six thousand horse and fifteen
thousand foot. But the Armenian cavalry, called _cataphratti_ were so
overburdened with armor, that when they fell from their horses they
could scarcely move or make any use of their arms. They were routed by a
mere handful of Roman infantry.

The modern cavalry is much lighter, and, by dispensing with armor,
shields, &c., it can move with much greater rapidity. A modern cavalry
horse carries a weight of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
pounds, viz.:

Heavy Light
cavalry. cavalry.

The rider, . . . . 160 140 lbs.
His arms and equipments, . . . 55 40
His horse equipments, . . . 60 45
Two days' rations of provisions and grain, 25 25
- - - - - - - - -
300 250

The horse moves per minute -

At a walk, from 110 yards to 120
At a trot, 220 240
At a gallop, 330 360

But on a march over the ordinary average of good and bad roads, cavalry
will walk about one hundred yards per minute, and at an easy trot, two

An ordinary day's march for cavalry is about thirty miles, but on a
forced march this arm can march fifty miles within the twenty-four
hours. A single horseman, or a small detachment, can easily exceed this

"Light cavalry," says Napoleon, in his Memoirs, "ought to reconnoitre
and watch the motions of the enemy, considerably in advance of the army;
it is not an appendage to the infantry: it should be sustained and
protected especially by the cavalry of the line. Rivalry and emulation
have always existed between the infantry and cavalry: light cavalry is
indispensable to the vanguard, the rearguard, and the wings of the army;
it, therefore, cannot properly be attached to, and forced to follow the
movements of any particular corps of infantry. It would be more natural
to attach it to the cavalry of the line, than to leave it in dependence
upon the infantry, with which it has no connection; but it should be
independent of both."

"If the light cavalry is to form vanguards, it must be organized into
squadrons, brigades, and divisions, for the purpose of manoeuvring; for
that is all vanguards and rearguards do: they pursue or retreat by
platoons, form themselves into several lines, or wheel into column, or
change their position with rapidity for the purpose of outfronting a
whole wing. By a combination of such evolutions, a vanguard, of inferior
numbers, avoids brisk actions and general engagements, and yet delays
the enemy long enough to give time for the main army to come up, for the
infantry to deploy, for the general-in-chief to make his dispositions,
and for the baggage and parks to file into their stations. The art of a
general of the vanguard, or of the rear-guard, is, without hazarding a
defeat, to hold the enemy in check, to impede him, to compel him to
spend three or four hours in moving a single league: tactics point out
the methods of effecting these important objects, and are more necessary
for cavalry than for infantry, and in the vanguard, or the rear-guard,
than in any other position. The Hungarian Insurgents, whom we saw in
1797, 1805, and 1809, were pitiful troops. If the light troops of Maria
Theresa's times became formidable, it was by their excellent
organization, and, above every thing, by their numbers. To imagine that
such troops could be superior to Wurmser's hussars, or to the dragoons
of Latour, or to the Archduke John, would be entertaining strange ideas
of things; but neither the Hungarian Insurgents, nor the Cossacks, ever
formed the vanguards of the Austrian and Russian armies; because to
speak of a vanguard or a rear-guard, is to speak of troops which
manoeuvre. The Russians considered a regiment of Cossacks who had been
trained worth three regiments untrained. Every thing about these troops
is despicable, except the Cossack himself, who is a man of fine person,
powerful, adroit, subtle, a good horseman, and indefatigable; he is born
on horseback, and bred among civil wars; he is in the field, what the
Bedouin is in the desert, or the Barbet in the Alps; he never enters a
house, never lies in a bed; and he always changes his bivouac at sunset,
that he may not pass a night in a place where the enemy may possibly
have observed him."

"Two Mamelukes kept three Frenchmen at bay, because they were better
armed, better mounted, and better exercised; they had two pairs of
pistols, a _tromblon_, a carbine, a helmet with a visor, a coat of mail,
several horses, and several men on foot to attend them. But a hundred
French did not fear a hundred Mamelukes; three hundred were more than a
match for an equal number; and one thousand would beat fifteen hundred:
so powerful is the influence of tactics, order, and evolutions! Murat,
Leclerc, and Lasalle, cavalry generals, presented themselves to the
Mamelukes in several lines: when the latter were upon the point of
outfronting the first line, the second came to its assistance on the
right and left; the Mamelukes then stopped, and wheeled, to turn the
wings of this new line: this was the moment seized for charging them;
they were always broken."

"The duty of a vanguard, or a rear-guard, does not consist in advancing
or retiring, but in manoeuvring. It should be composed of a good light
cavalry, supported by a good reserve of cavalry of the line, by
excellent battalions of foot, and strong batteries of artillery: the
troops must be well trained; and the generals, officers, and soldiers,
should all be equally well acquainted with their tactics, each according
to his station. An undisciplined troop would only embarrass the
advanced guard."

"It is admitted that for facility in manoeuvring, the squadron should
consist of one hundred men, and that every three or four squadrons
should have a superior officer."

"It is not advisable for all the cavalry of the line to wear cuirasses:
dragoons, mounted upon horses of four feet nine inches in height, armed
with straight sabres, and without cuirasses, should form a part of the
heavy cavalry; they should be furnished with infantry-muskets, with
bayonets: should have the _shakot_ of the infantry, pantaloons covering
the half-boot-buskin, cloaks with sleeves, and portmanteaus small enough
to be carried slung across the back when the men are on foot. Cavalry of
all descriptions should be furnished with fire-arms, and should know how
to manoeuvre on foot. Three thousand light cavalry, or three thousand
cuirassiers, should not suffer themselves to be stopped by a thousand
infantry posted in a wood, or on ground impracticable to cavalry; and
three thousand dragoons ought not to hesitate to attack two thousand
infantry, should the latter, favored by their position, attempt to stop

"Turenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Vendome, attached great importance
to dragoons, and used them successfully. The dragoons gained great glory
in Italy, in 1796 and 1797. In Egypt and in Spain, during the campaigns

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 20 of 35)