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 25 of 35)
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construct other means for effecting a passage. Every thing was done
that genius could devise and industry execute; nevertheless, the
operations of the army were greatly delayed - "_a delay,_" says the
historian, "_that may be considered as the principal cause of those long
and bloody operations which afterwards detained Lord Wellington more
than a year on the frontiers of Portugal._"

We might prolong these remarks by discussing the passages of the Ceira
and Alva, and their influence on the pursuit of Massena; Wellington's
passage of the Tagus, and his retreat from Burgos in 1812; the passage
of the Adour and Garonne in 1814; and the failure of the mines to blow
up the bridges of Saltador, Alcantara, &c.; but a sufficient number of
examples, it is believed, has already been adduced to show the advantage
of maintaining a properly organized and instructed body of sappers,
miners, and pontoniers, and the fatal results attending the want of such
troops, as a component part of an army organization.

It has already been remarked that the infantry of an army must always
form the basis of the apportionment; and by the general rule laid down
by military writers, the cavalry should be from one-fourth to one-sixth
of the infantry, according to the character of the war; the artillery
about two-thirds of the cavalry, or one-seventh of the infantry; and the
engineers from one-half to three-fourths of the artillery, - say about
two-thirds. The staff and administrative corps must vary according to
the nature of the organization, and the character of the theatre of war.
The former ought to be from two to five in a thousand, and the latter
from twenty-five to seventy-five,[40] as a general rule. These ratios
would give for a good army organization;

Staff, about ................................... 5
Administrative service - pay, medical, commissary,
quarter-master, &c. .............................65
Infantry, ......................................650
Cavalry, .......................................130
Artillery, ......................................90
Engineers, ......................................60
- - -
Total, ...................1,000

In a broken country, and against savage and undisciplined foes, like the
Indians in this country, the natives opposed to the English in India, to
the French in Algeria, or to the Russians in Circassia, the cavalry,
artillery, and engineers would be diminished, and the infantry and
administrative corps proportionably increased; the former because light
troops are always preferable against an undisciplined foe, and the
latter because of the difficulty of moving and procuring supplies in new
and uncultivated countries. The French forces in Algeria, in 1844,
amounted to about sixty thousand men, in the following proportion: -

Staff, ...................................4.7
Administrative, &c., ...................112.3
Infantry, ..............................687.3
Cavalry, ................................86.6
Artillery, ..............................61.2
Engineers, ..............................47.9
- - - - -
1000 men.

[Footnote 40: This supposes the teamsters, wagon-masters,
hospital-servants, &c., to be enlisted men, and not persons hired for
the occasion as is done in our army.]

In small peace establishments the relative proportion of infantry and
cavalry should be much less than when prepared for the field, because
troops for these two arms can be much more readily formed in case of
emergency, than for those which require more scientific information, and
technical skill and instruction. The staff and engineers are evidently
the most difficult to be formed in case of war, and next to these the
artillery and administrative corps.

In this country we can maintain, in time of peace, only the framework of
an army, looking to our citizen soldiery to form, in case of need, the
great mass of our military force. This is the starting point in our
military system, and the basis of our army organization. Let us see
whether this principle is carried out in practice.

For every thousand men in our present organization[41] we have,

For the staff, 2
Administrative, 20[42]
Infantry, 513
Cavalry, 150
Artillery, 310
Engineers, 5
- -

[Footnote 41: These numbers are the real rather than the _nominal_
proportions, many of our officers being called _staff_, who properly
belong to one of the other classes.]

[Footnote 42: Much of the administrative duty in our army is done by
unenlisted men, or by soldiers detached from their companies. Where such
is the case, the ratio of this branch of the service ought to be no
higher than is represented above.]

We see from this table, that while our artillery is nearly six times as
numerous as in ordinary armies, our staff is less by one-half, and our
engineers not more than one-half what ought to be their proportion in a
war establishment. To this excess of artillery over infantry and cavalry
in our army in time of peace there is no objection, inasmuch as the
latter could be more easily expanded in case of war than the artillery.
But for a still stronger reason our staff and engineers should also be
proportionally increased, instead of being vastly diminished, as is
actually the case.

Experience in the first campaigns of the American Revolution strongly
impressed on the mind of Washington the absolute necessity of forming a
regular and systematic army organization. But so difficult was it to
obtain properly instructed engineers, that he was obliged to seek his
engineer officers in the ranks of foreign adventurers, and to make
drafts from the other arms of service, and have them regularly
instructed in the duties of engineer troops, and commanded by the
officers of this corps. An order, in his own handwriting, giving the
details of this temporary arrangement, is dated March 30th, 1779. Until
men are enlisted for the purpose, companies of sappers and miners shall
be formed by drafts from the line. "The duties of the companies of
sappers and miners," he continues, "shall be under the direction of the
engineers, to construct field-works of every kind, and all works
necessary for the attack or defence of places, as circumstances may
require. On a march in the vicinity of an enemy, a detachment of the
companies of sappers and miners shall be stationed at the head of the
column, directly after the vanguard, for the purpose of opening and
mending the roads, and removing obstructions," &c. &c.

The great difficulties encountered by Washington in instructing his
inexperienced forces in the more difficult branches of the art, made him
the more earnest, in after years, to impress on us how important it was
for us _In peace to prepare for war._ The preparation here meant is not
the keeping up, in time of peace, of a large standing army, ever ready
to take the field; but rather the formation of a small body, educated
and practised in all the scientific and difficult parts of the
profession; a body which shall serve as the _cadre_ or framework of a
large army, capable of imparting to the new and inexperienced soldiers
of the republic that skill and efficiency which has been acquired by
practice. How far have we accomplished this object, and what will be the
probable operations in case of another contest with a European power?
New and inexperienced troops will be called into the field to oppose a
veteran and disciplined army. From these troops we shall expect all the
bravery and energy resulting from ardent patriotism and an enthusiastic
love of liberty. But we cannot here expect much discipline, military
skill, or knowledge of the several branches of the military art. The
peaceful habits of our citizens tend but little to the cultivation of
the military character. How, then, are we to oppose the hostile force?
Must human blood be substituted for skill and preparation, and dead
bodies of our citizens serve as epaulements against the inroads of the
enemy? To some extent, we fear it must be the case; but not entirely so,
for government has not altogether neglected to make preparation for such
an event. Fortifications have been planned or erected on the most
important and exposed positions; military materials and munitions have
been collected in the public arsenals; a military school has been
organized to instruct in the military sciences; there are regularly kept
up small bodies of infantry and cavalry, weak in numbers, but capable of
soon making good soldiers of a population so well versed as ours is in
the use of the musket and the horse; an artillery force, proportionally
much larger, is also regularly maintained, with a sufficient number of
men and officers to organize and make good artillery-men of citizens
already partially acquainted with the use of the cannon. But an
acquaintance with infantry, cavalry, and artillery duties is not the
only practical knowledge requisite in war. In the practical operations
of an army in the field, rivers are to be crossed, bridges suddenly
erected and suddenly destroyed, fieldworks constructed and defended,
batteries captured and destroyed; fortifications are to be put in order
and defended, or to be besieged and recaptured; trenches must be opened,
mines sprung, batteries established, breaches made and stormed;
trous-de-loup, abattis, palisades, gabions, fascines, and numerous other
military implements and machinery are to be constructed. Have our
citizens a knowledge of these things, or have we provided in our
military establishment for a body of men instructed and practised in
this branch of the military art, and capable of imparting to an army the
necessary efficiency for this service? Unfortunately this question must
be answered in the negative; and it is greatly to be feared that the
future historian will have to say of us, as Napier has said of the
English: - "_The best officers and soldiers were obliged to sacrifice
themselves in a lamentable manner, to compensate for the negligence and
incapacity of a government always ready to plunge the nation into a war,
without the slightest care of what was necessary to obtain success.
Their sieges were a succession of butcheries; because the commonest
materials, and the means necessary to their art, were denied the

[Footnote 43: The subjects discussed in this chapter are also treated by
most authors on Military Organization and Military History, and by the
several writers on Military Engineering. Allent, Vauban, Cormontaigne,
Rocquancourt, Pasley, Douglas, Jones, Belmas, Napier, Gay de Vernon, may
be referred to with advantage. Pasley, Douglas, Jones, and Napier, speak
in the strongest terms of the importance of engineer troops in the
active operations of a war, and of the absolute necessity of organizing
this force in time of peace. A list of books of reference on Military
Engineering will be given at the close of the following chapters.

While these pages are passing through the press, Congress has authorized
the President to raise _one company_ of engineer troops! This number is
altogether too small to be of any use in time of war.]



_Fortification_ is defined, - the art of disposing the ground in such a
manner as to enable a small number of troops to resist a larger army the
longest time possible. If the work be placed in a position of much
importance, and its materials be of a durable character, it is called
permanent; if otherwise, it receives the appellation of _field_, or
_temporary_. Fieldworks are properly confined to operations of a single
campaign, and are used to strengthen positions which are to be occupied
only for a short period. Generally these works are of earth, thrown up
by the troops in a single day. They are intimately connected with a
system of permanent fortifications, but from the facility of their
construction, no provision need be made for them before the actual
breaking out of war. Indeed, they could not well be built before
hostilities commenced, as their locality in each case must be determined
by the position of the hostile forces.

Having already described the general influence of permanent
fortifications as a means of national defence, we shall here speak
merely of the principles of their construction. It is not proposed to
enter into any technical discussion of matters that especially belong
to the instruction of the engineer, but merely to give the nomenclature
and use of the more important parts of a military work; in a word, such
general information as should belong to officers of every grade and
corps of an army.

The first species of fortification among the ancients was of course very
simple, consisting merely of an earthen mound, or palisades. A wall was
afterwards used, and a ditch was then added to the wall. It was found
that a straight wall could be easily breached by the enemy's
battering-rams; to remedy this evil, towers were built at short
intervals from each other, forming a broken line of salient and
re-entering parts. These towers or salient points gradually assumed a
shape approximating to the modern bastion.

After the invention of gunpowder and the application of cannon to the
attack and defence of places, it became necessary to arrange earthen
ramparts behind the thin walls of the ancient works, for the reception
of the new artillery. Moreover these walls were soon found inadequate to
resist the missiles of the besiegers, and it became necessary to replace
them by parapets of earth. In order to cover the retaining walls of
these parapets from the besieging batteries, it was also found to be
necessary to lower these walls as much as possible, and to raise the
counterscarps. The traces or plans of the works, however, received no
material change till about the close of the fifteenth century.

It is not known who first changed the ancient towers into bastions. Some
attribute it to an Italian, and with considerable show of reason, for a
bastion was built at Turin as early as 1461. Achmet Pacha, it is said,
fortified Otranto in this way, in 1480, but whether the system was
previously known among the Turks cannot be determined. Others attribute
the invention to Ziska, the celebrated leader of the Hussites. It is
most probable that the transition from the tower to the bastion was a
very gradual one, and that the change was perfected in several countries
at about the same time.

Fortifications, like other arts and sciences, greatly flourished in
Italy under the Medicis, and that country furnished Europe with its most
skilful engineers. Catharine of Medicis introduced into France many of
her countrymen, distinguished in this profession; among these may be
named Bellamat, Bephano, Costritio, Relogio, Vorganno, the two Marini,
Campi, and Hieronimo, who built several important places and directed
the sieges of others. These able foreigners were rivalled by some
distinguished French engineers, who laid the foundation of the "_corps
du Genie_" which has since become a school of military instruction for
the world. Among the early French engineers may be distinguished
Lafontaine De Serré, Feuquières, and St. Remy. Pedro Navarro had been
appointed a member of this corps, but his attention was more specially
directed to mining, and we do not learn that he distinguished himself in
the construction of any fortification.

In Germany, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, Albert Durer
distinguished himself as a writer on fortification; his book is
remarkable as containing the germs of many of the improvements which
were made by those who followed him. This is the more to be wondered at
as he was not a professed engineer. After him followed Spekel, a native
of Strasburg, who died in 1589. His writings are valuable as showing the
state of the art at that time, and the changes which he himself
introduced. He was an engineer of much practical knowledge and
experience, having assisted at the sieges of Malta, Golletta, Vienna,
Jula, Nicosia, Famagusta, &c.

The first French engineer who wrote on fortification was Errard de
Bar-le-Duc, who published near the close of the sixteenth century. As an
engineer, he was rivalled by Chatillon, a man of distinguished merit.
Errard fortified Amiens, built a part of the castle of Sedan, and a
portion of the defences of Calais. Under the reign of Louis XIII.,
Desnoyers, Deville, Pagan, and Fabre were greatly distinguished. Deville
published in 1628. He was a man of much learning and experience; but he
is said to have adopted, both in his theory and practice, the principles
of the Italian school, with most of its errors. Pagan began his military
career while young, and became _maréchal de champ_ at the age of 38,
when, having the misfortune to become blind, he was compelled to
relinquish his brilliant hopes. He was the ablest engineer of his age,
and was also greatly distinguished in other branches of science. In his
plans he inclined to the Dutch rather than the Italian school of
fortification. He published in 1645.

At the close of the sixteenth century, the Dutch had been forced to
resort to military defences to protect themselves against the
aggressions of the Spaniards. As the Dutch were inferior in other
military means, fortification became one of the vital resources of the
country. Their works, however, thrown up in much haste, were in many
respects defective, although well adapted to the exigencies of the time.
Freytag, their principal engineer, wrote in 1630. Some of his
improvements were introduced into France by Pagan. He was preceded by
Marolois, (a cotemporary of Pagan,) who published in 1613.

In Germany, Rimpler, a Saxon, wrote on fortification in 1671. He was a
man of great experience, having served at the sieges of Candia,
Phillipsburg, Bonn, Riga, Bremen, Dansburg, Bommeln, &c. He fell at the
siege of Vienna in 1683. His writings are said to contain the groundwork
of Montalembert's system.

In Italy, after the time of Tartaglia, Marchi, Campi, &c., we find no
great improvement in this art. Several Italians, however, distinguished
themselves as engineers under the Spaniards. The fortifications of
Badajos are a good example of the state of the art in Italy and Spain a
that epoch. The citadel of Antwerp, built by two Italian engineers,
Pacciotti and Cerbelloni, in 1568, has become celebrated for the siege
it sustained in 1832.

The age of Louis XIV. effected a great revolution in the art of
fortification, and carried it to such a degree of perfection, that it
has since received but slight improvement. The years 1633 and 1634 are
interesting dates in the history of this art, as having given birth
respectively to Vauban and Coehorn. The former was chief engineer of
France under Louis XIV., and the latter held a corresponding position
under the Dutch republic. Coehorn's ideas upon fortification are
conceived with an especial view to the marshy soil of his own country,
and, although well suited to the object in view, are consequently of
less general application than those of his more distinguished
cotemporary and rival. The best specimens of his mode of construction
that exist at the present day, are the fortresses of Manheim,
Bergen-op-Zoom, Nimiguen, and Breda.

Coehorn was followed in Holland by Landsberg, an able and practical
engineer, who to much reading added extensive experience, having himself
served at sixteen sieges. His system was in many respects peculiar, both
in trace and relief; it dispensed with the glacis, and all revertments
of masonry. His plans could be applied only to marshy soils. The first
edition of his work was published in 1685.

But the career of Vauban forms the most marked and prominent era in the
history of fortification; it constitutes the connecting link between the
rude sketches of the earlier engineers, and the well-established form
which the art has since assumed. In his earlier works we find many of
the errors of his predecessors; but a gradual change seems to have been
wrought in his mind by reflection and experience, and these faults were
soon remedied and a new and distinct system developed. Vauban has left
no treatise upon his favorite art, and his ideas upon fortification have
been deduced from his constructions, and from detached memoirs left
among his papers. The nature of his labors, and the extent of his
activity and industry, may be imagined from the fact that he fought one
hundred and forty battles, conducted fifty-eight sieges, and built or
repaired three hundred fortifications. His memoirs, found among his
manuscript papers, on various military and political subjects, are
numerous, and highly praised even at the present day. But his beautiful
and numerous constructions, both of a civil and military character, are
real monuments to his genius. The best illustrations of his principles
of fortification occur at Lille, Strasbourg, Landau, Givet, and
Neuf-Brisack. His writings on mines, and the attack and defence of
places, are, by the profession, regarded as classic. His improvements in
the existing method of attack gave great superiority to the arms of his
countrymen, and even enabled him to besiege and capture his rival
Coehorn, in his own works. He died in 1707, and was soon succeeded by

The latter did not attempt the introduction of any new system, but
limited himself to improving and perfecting the plans of his illustrious
predecessors. His improvements, however, were both extensive and
judicious, and are sufficient to entitle him to the place he holds as
one of the ablest military engineers the world has ever produced. His
works on the subject of fortification, besides being elegantly written,
contain the most valuable information of any works we have. His most
admired constructions are to be found at Metz, Thionville, and Bitche.
The beautiful crown works of Billecroix, at Metz, are perfect models of
their kind. Cormontaigne died in 1750.

Cotemporary with him were Sturin and Glasser. The former deviated but
slightly from the systems of his predecessors, but the latter invented
several ingenious improvements which gave him great reputation.

Next follows Rosard, a Bavarian engineer; and Frederick Augustus, king
of Poland, who devoted himself particularly to this art. The former
casemated only the flanks of his works, but the latter introduced
casemate fire more extensively than any one who had preceded him.

In France, Belidor and De Filey published about the middle of the last
century. They were both able engineers but their systems were inferior
to that of Cormontaigne.

In 1767 De la Chiche introduced a system of fortification in many
respects original. He raised his covered-ways so as to conceal all his
masonry, and casemated a great portion of his _enceinte_. For exterior
defence, he employed direct fire from his barbettes, and curvated fire
from his casemates; the direct fire of the latter secured his ditches.

Next to De la Chiche follows Montalembert, who published in 1776. He was
a man of much experience and considerable originality, but of no great
ability as an engineer. Most of his ideas were derived from De la Chiche
and the German school of Rimpler. His plans have generally been rejected
by his own countrymen, but they still have advocates among the Germans.

General Virgin, a distinguished Swedish engineer, wrote in 1781. His
idea of strongly fortifying the smaller towns to the comparative neglect
of the larger cities, constitutes one of the principal novelties in his

In 1794, Reveroni devised a system in which the casemates of
Montalembert were employed, but his guns were so arranged as to be
employed in barbette while the besiegers were at a distance, and
afterwards to be used for casemated fire. The casemate gun-carriage,
which formed a part of his invention, was ingenious, but never much
employed in practice.

Bousmard, a French emigrant, published in 1790. He adopted the general
trace of Vauban, but introduced modifications in the details essentially
different from those of Cormontaigne. Some of these modifications are
very valuable improvements, while others are of a more doubtful
character. Bousmard is, on the whole, a very able writer, and his works
should be found in the library of every military engineer.

Carnot's celebrated treatise was published in 1810. He was evidently a

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 25 of 35)