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 3 of 35)
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elections into contempt by the frauds and violence with which they were
conducted. From the time of the Gracchi there were no elections that
could bear the name. Confederate and rotten politicians bought and sold
the consulship. Intrigue and the dagger disposed of rivals. Fraud,
violence, bribes, terror, and the plunder of the public treasury
commanded votes. The people had no choice; and long before the time of
Cæsar, nothing remained of republican government but the name and the
abuse. Read Plutarch. In the 'Life of Cæsar,' and not three pages before
the crossing of the Rubicon, he paints the ruined state of the
elections, - shows that all elective government was gone, - that the
hereditary form had become a necessary relief from the contests of the
corrupt, - and that in choosing between Pompey and Cæsar, many preferred
Pompey, not because they thought him republican, but because they
thought he would make the milder king. Even arms were but a small part
of Cæsar's reliance, when he crossed the Rubicon. Gold, still more than
the sword, was his dependence; and he sent forward the accumulated
treasures of plundered Gaul, to be poured into the laps of rotten
politicians. There was no longer a popular government; and in taking all
power himself, he only took advantage of the state of things which
profligate politicians had produced. In this he was culpable, and paid
the forfeit with his life. But in contemplating his fate, let us never
forget that the politicians had undermined and destroyed the republic,
before he came to seize and to master it."

We could point to numerous instances, where the benefits of war have
more than compensated for the evils which attended it; benefits not only
to the generations who engaged in it, but also to their descendants for
long ages. Had Rome adopted the non-resistance principle when Hannibal
was at her gates, we should now be in the night of African ignorance and
barbarism, instead of enjoying the benefits of Roman learning and Roman
civilization. Had France adopted this principle when the allied armies
invaded her territories in 1792, her fate had followed that of Poland.
Had our ancestors adopted this principle in 1776, what now had been,
think you, the character and condition of our country?

Dr. Lieber's remarks on this point are peculiarly just and apposite.
"The continued efforts," says he, "requisite for a nation to protect
themselves against the ever-repeated attacks of a predatory foe, may be
infinitely greater than the evils entailed by a single and energetic
war, which forever secures peace from that side. Nor will it be denied,
I suppose, that Niebuhr is right when he observes, that the advantage to
Rome of having conquered Sicily, as to power and national vigor, was
undeniable. But even if it were not so, are there no other advantages to
be secured? No human mind is vast enough to comprehend in one glance,
nor is any human life long enough to follow out consecutively, all the
immeasurable blessings and the unspeakable good which have resolved to
mankind from the ever-memorable victories of little Greece over the
rolling masses of servile Asia, which were nigh sweeping over Europe
like the high tides of a swollen sea, carrying its choking sand over all
the germs of civilization, liberty, and taste, and nearly all that is
good and noble. Think what we should have been had Europe become an
Asiatic province, and the Eastern principles of power and stagnation
should have become deeply infused into her population, so that no
process ever after could have thrown it out again! Has no advantage
resulted from the Hebrews declining any longer to be ground in the dust,
and ultimately annihilated, at least mentally so, by stifling servitude,
and the wars which followed their resolution? The Netherlands war of
independence has had a penetrating and decided effect upon modern
history, and, in the eye of all who value the most substantial parts and
elementary ideas of modern and civil liberty, a highly advantageous one,
both directly and through Great Britain. Wars have frequently been, in
the hands of Providence, the means of disseminating civilization, if
carried on by a civilized people - as in the case of Alexander, whose
wars had a most decided effect upon the intercourse of men and extension
of civilization - or of rousing and reuniting people who had fallen into
lethargy, if attacked by less civilized and numerous hordes. Frequently
we find in history that the ruder and victorious tribe is made to
recover as it were civilization, already on the wane with a refined
nation. Paradoxical as it may seem at first glance, it is, nevertheless,
amply proved by history, that the closest contact and consequent
exchange of thought and produce and enlargement of knowledge, between
two otherwise severed nations, is frequently produced by war. War is a
struggle, a state of suffering; but as such, at times, only that
struggling process without which - in proportion to the good to be
obtained, or, as would be a better expression for many cases, to the
good that is to be borne - no great and essential good falls ever to the
share of man. Suffering, merely as suffering, is not an evil. Our
religion, philosophy, every day's experience, prove it. No maternal
rejoicing brightens up a mother's eve without the anxiety of labor."

One word more, and we must leave this subject. It has been said by some
that the duties of patriotism are less binding upon us than upon our
ancestors; that, whatever may have been the practice in years that are
past the present generation can in no manner bear arms in their
country's cause, such a course being not only _dishonorable_, but in the
eye of the Christian, _wicked_, and even _infamous_! It is believed,
however, that such are not the general opinions and sentiments of the
religious people of this country. Our forefathers lighted the fires of
Religion and Patriotism at the same altar; it is believed that their
descendants have not allowed either to be extinguished, but that both
still burn, and will continue to burn, with a purer and brighter flame.
Our forefathers were not the less mindful of their duty to their God,
because they also faithfully served their country. If we are called upon
to excel them in works of charity, of benevolence, and of Christian
virtue, let it not be said of us that we have forgotten the virtue of

[Footnote 2: For further discussion of this subject the reader is
referred to Lieber's Political Ethics, Part II., book vii. chap. 3;
Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy; Legare's Report of June 13,
1838, in the House of Representatives; Mackintosh's History of the
Revolution of 1688, chap. x.; Bynkershock; Vatel; Puffendorf;
Clausewitz; and most other writers on international law and the laws of

Dr. Wayland's view of the question is advocated with much zeal by Dymond
in his Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of
Christianity; Jay's Peace and War; Judd's Sermon on Peace and War;
Peabody's Address, &c.; Coue's Tract on What is the Use of the Navy?
Sumner's True Grandeur of Nations.]



War has been defined, "A contest between nations and states carried on
by force." But this definition is by some considered defective, inasmuch
as it would exclude all civil wars.

When war is commenced by attacking a nation in peace, it is called
_offensive_, and when undertaken to repel invasion, or the attacks of an
enemy, it is called _defensive_. A war may be essentially defensive even
where we begin it, if intended to prevent an attack or invasion which is
under preparation. Besides this general division of war, military
writers have made numerous others, such as -

_Wars of intervention_, in which one state interferes in favor of
another. This intervention may either have respect to the _internal_ or
to the _external_ affairs of a nation. The interference of Russia in the
affairs of Poland, of England in the government of India, Austria and
the allied powers in the affairs of France during the Revolution and
under the empire, are examples under the first head. The intervention of
the Elector Maurice of Saxony against Charles V., of King William
against Louis XIV., in 1688, of Russia and France in the seven years'
war, of Russia again between France and Austria, in 1805, and between
France and Prussia, in 1806, are examples under the second head. Most
liberal-publicists consider intervention in the internal affairs of
nations as indefensible; but the principle is supported by the advocates
of the old monarchies of Europe.

_Wars of insurrection_ to gain or to regain liberty; as was the case
with the Americans in 1776, and the modern Greeks in 1821.

_Wars of independence_ from foreign dictation and control as the wars of
Poland against Russia, of the Netherlands against Spain, of France
against the several coalitions of the allied powers, of the Spanish
Peninsula against France and of China and India against England. The
American war of 1812 partook largely of this character, and some
judicious historians have denominated it the war of Independence, as
distinguished from the war of the Revolution.

_Wars of opinion_, like those which the Vendeans have sustained in
support of the Bourbons, and those France has sustained against the
allies, as also those of propagandism, waged against the smaller
European states by the republican hordes of the French Revolution. To
this class also belong -

_Religious wars_, like those of Islamism, of the crusades, and of the

_Wars of conquest_, like those of the Romans in Gaul, of the English in
India, of the French in Egypt and Africa, and of the Russians in

_National wars_, in which the great body of the people of a state
engage, like those of the Swiss against Austria and the Duke of
Burgundy, of the Catalans in 1712, of the Americans against England, of
the Dutch against Phillip II., and of the Poles and Circassians against

_Civil wars_, where one portion of the state fights against the other,
as the war of the Roses in England, of the league in France, of the
Guelphs and Ghibelines in Italy, and of the factions in Mexico and South

It is not the present intention to enter into any discussion of these
different kinds of war, but rather to consider the general subject, and
to discuss such general principles and rules as may be applicable to all

War in its most extensive sense may be regarded both as a _science_ and
an _art_. It is a science so far as it investigates general principles
and institutes an analysis of military operations; and an art when
considered with reference to the practical rules for conducting
campaigns, sieges, battles, &c. So is engineering a science so far as it
investigates the general principles of fortification, and also
artillery, in analyzing the principles of gunnery; but both are arts
when considered with reference to the practical rules for the
construction, attack, and defence of forts, or for the use of cannon.

This distinction has not always been observed by writers on this
subject, and some have asserted that strategy is the _science_, and
tactics the _art_ of war. This is evidently mistaking the general
distinction between science, which investigates principles, and art,
which forms practical rules.

In popular language, however, it is usual to speak of _the military art_
when we refer to the general subject of war, and of _the military
sciences_ when we wish to call attention more particularly to the
scientific principles upon which the art is founded. We shall here
consider the military art in this general sense, as including the entire
subject of war.

As thus defined, the military art may be divided into four distinct
branches, viz.: 1st. _Strategy_; 2d. Fortification, or _Engineering_;
3d. _Logistics_; 4th. _Tactics_. Several general treatises on this art
add another branch, called _The Policy of War_, or the relations of war
with the affairs of state.

_Strategy_ is defined to be the art of directing masses on decisive
points, or the hostile movements of armies beyond the range of each
other's cannon. _Engineering_ embraces all dispositions made to enable
troops to resist a superior force the longest time possible; and also
the means resorted to by the opposing army to overcome these material
obstacles. _Logistics_ embraces the practical details of moving and
supplying armies. _Tactics_ is the art of bringing troops into action,
or of moving them in the presence of an enemy, that is, within his view,
and within the reach of his artillery. All these are most intimately
connected. A fault in tactics may occasion the loss of strategic lines;
the best combined manoeuvres on the field of battle may lead to no
decisive results, when the position, or the direction of the operation
is not strategic; sometimes not only battles, but entire campaigns, are
lost through neglect of the engineer's art, or faults in his
dispositions; again, armies would be of little use without the requisite
means of locomotion and of subsistence.

1. _Strategy_ regards the theatre of war, rather than the field of
battle. It selects the important points in this theatre, and the lines
of communication by which they may be reached; it forms the plan and
arranges the general operations of a campaign; but it leaves it to the
engineers to overcome material obstacles and to erect new ones; it
leaves to logistics the means of supporting armies and of moving them on
the chosen lines; and to tactics, the particular dispositions for
battle, when the armies have reached the destined points. It is well to
keep in mind these distinctions, which may be rendered still more
obvious by a few illustrations. The point where several lines of
communications either intersect or meet, and the centre of an arc which
is occupied by the enemy, are strategic points; but tactics would reject
a position equally accessible on all sides, especially with its flanks
exposed to attack. Sempronius at Trebbia and Varro at Cannae, so placed
their armies that the Carthagenians attacked them, at the same time, in
front, on the flanks, and in rear; the Roman consuls were defeated: but
the central strategic position of Napoleon at Rivoli was eminently
successful. At the battle of Austerlitz the allies had projected a
_strategic_ movement to their left, in order to cut off Napoleon's right
from Vienna; Weyrother afterwards changed his plans, and executed a
corresponding _tactical_ movement. By the former there had been some
chance of success, but the latter exposed him to inevitable destruction.
The little fort of Koenigsten, from its advantageous position, was more
useful to the French, in 1813, than the vast works of Dresden. The
little fort of Bard, with its handful of men, was near defeating the
operations of Napoleon in 1800, by holding in check his entire army;
whereas, on the other hand, the ill-advised lines of Ticino, in 1706,
caused an army of 78,000 French to be defeated by only 40,000 men under
Prince Eugene of Savoy.

War, as has already been said, may be either offensive or defensive. If
the attacking army be directed against an entire state, it becomes a war
of _invasion_. If only a province, or a military position, or an army,
be attacked, it is simply regarded as taking the _initiative_ in
offensive movements.

_Offensive_ war is ordinarily most advantageous in its moral and
political influence. It is waged on a foreign soil, and therefore spares
the country of the attacking force; it augments its own resources at the
same time that it diminishes those of the enemy; it adds to the moral
courage of its own army, while it disheartens its opponents. A war of
invasion may, however, have also its disadvantages. Its lines of
operation may become too _deep_, which is always hazardous in an enemy's
country. All the natural and artificial obstacles, such as mountains,
rivers, defiles, fortifications, &c., are favorable for defence, but
difficult to be overcome by the invader. The local authorities and
inhabitants oppose, instead of facilitating his operations; and if
patriotism animate the defensive army to fight for the independence of
its threatened country, the war may become long and bloody. But if a
political diversion be made in favor of the invading force, and its
operations be attended with success, it strikes the enemy at the heart,
paralyzes all his military energies, and deprives him of his military
resources, thus promptly terminating the contest. Regarded simply as the
initiative of movements, the offensive is almost always the preferable
one, as it enables the general to choose his lines for moving and
concentrating his masses on the decisive point.

The first and most important rule in offensive war is, to keep your
forces as much concentrated as possible. This will not only prevent
misfortune, but secure victory, - since, by its necessary operation, you
possess the power of throwing your whole force upon any exposed point of
your enemy's position.

To this general rule some writers have laid down the following
exceptions: -

1st. When the food and forage of the neighborhood in which you act have
been exhausted and destroyed, and your magazines are, from any cause,
unable to supply the deficiency, one of two things must be done; either
you must go to places where these articles abound, or you must draw from
them your supplies by _detachments_. The former is rarely compatible
with your plan, and necessarily retards its execution; and hence the
preference which is generally given to the latter.

2d. When reinforcements are about to join you, and this can only be
effected by a march through a country actually occupied by hostile
corps, or liable to be so occupied, you must again waive the general
rule, and risk one party for the security of the other; or, (which may
be better,) make such movements with your main body as shall accomplish
your object.

3d. When you have complete evidence of the actual, or probable
insurrection in your favor, of a town or province of your enemy, or of a
division of his army, you must support this inclination by strong
_detachments_, or by movements of your main body. Napoleon's operations
in Italy, in 1796-7, furnish examples of what is here meant.

4th. When, by dispatching a _detachment_, you may be able to intercept a
convoy, or reinforcement, coming to the aid of your enemy.

These are apparent rather than real exceptions to the rule of
concentration. This rule does not require that _all the army should
occupy the same position_. Far from it. Concentration requires the main
body to be in immediate and supporting reach: small detachments, for
temporary and important objects, like those mentioned, are perfectly
legitimate, and in accordance with correct principles. Napoleon's
position in Spain will serve as an illustration. A hand, placed on the
map of that country, will represent the position of the invading forces.
When opened, the fingers will represent the several detachments, thrown
out on important strategic lines, and which could readily be drawn in,
as in closing the hand, upon the principal and central mass, preparatory
to striking some important blow.

"If, as we have seen, it be the first great rule for an army acting on
the offensive principle, to keep its forces _concentrated_, it is, no
doubt, the second, _to keep them fully employed._ Is it your intention
to seize a particular province of your enemy? to penetrate to his
capital? or to cut him off from his supplies? Whatever measure be
necessary to open your route to these objects must be _promptly_ taken;
and if you mean to subsist yourself at his expense, your movements must
be more rapid than his. Give him time to _breathe_, - and above all, give
him time to _rest_, and your project is blasted; his forages will be
completed, and his magazines filled and secured. The roads of approach
will be obstructed, bridges destroyed, and strong points everywhere
taken and defended. You will, in fact, like Burgoyne, in 1777, reduce
yourself to the necessity of bleeding at every step, without equivalent
or use."

"Such cannot be the fate of a commander who, knowing all the value of
acting on the offensive, shakes, by the vigor and address of his first
movements, the moral as well as physical force of his enemy, - who,
selecting his own time, and place, and mode of attack, confounds his
antagonist by enterprises equally hardy and unexpected, - and who at last
leaves to him only the alternative of resistance without hope, or of
flying without resistance."

The British army, in the war of the American Revolution, must have been
most wretchedly ignorant of these leading maxims for conducting
offensive war. Instead of concentrating their forces on some decisive
point, and then destroying the main body of our army by repeated and
well-directed blows, they scattered their forces over an immense extent
of country, and became too weak to act with decision and effect on any
one point. On the other hand, this policy enabled us to call out and
discipline our scattered and ill-provided forces.

The main object in _defensive_ war is, to protect the menaced territory,
to retard the enemy's progress, to multiply obstacles in his way, to
guard the vital points of the country, and - at the favorable moment,
when the enemy becomes enfeebled by detachments, losses, privations, and
fatigue - to assume the offensive, and drive him from the country. This
combination of the defensive and offensive has many advantages. The
enemy, being forced to take the defensive in his turn, loses much of the
moral superiority due to successful offensive operations. There are
numerous instances of this kind of war, "the defensive-offensive," as it
is sometimes called, to be found in history. The last four campaigns of
Frederick the Great of Prussia, are examples which may serve as models.
Wellington played a similar part in the Spanish peninsula.

To merely remain in a defensive attitude, yielding gradually to the
advances of the enemy, without any effort to regain such positions or
provinces as may have fallen into his power, or to inflict on him some
fatal and decisive blow on the first favorable opportunity; such a
system is always within the reach of ignorance, stupidity, and
cowardice; but such is far from being the true Fabian system of
defensive war.

"Instead of finding security only in flight; instead of habitually
refusing to look the enemy in the face; instead of leaving his march
undisturbed; instead of abandoning, without contest, points strong by
nature or by art; - instead of all this, the true war of defence seeks
every occasion to meet the enemy, and loses none by which it can annoy
or defeat him; it is always awake; it is constantly in motion, and never
unprepared for either attack or defence. When not employed in efforts of
courage or address, it incessantly yields itself to those of labor and
science. In its front it breaks up roads or breaks down bridges; while
it erects or repairs those in its rear: it forms abbatis, raises
batteries, fortifies passes, or intrenches encampments; and to the
system of deprivation adds all the activity, stratagem, and boldness of
_la petite guerre_. Dividing itself into detachments, it multiplies its
own attacks and the alarms of the enemy. Collecting itself at a single
point, it obstructs his progress for days, and sometimes for weeks
together. Does it even abandon the avenues it is destined to defend? It
is but for the purpose of shielding them more securely, by the attack of
his hospitals, magazines, convoys, or reinforcements. In a word, by
adopting the maxim, that the _enemy must be made to pay for whatever he
gains_, it disputes with him every inch of ground, and if at last it
yields to him a victory, it is of that kind which calls forth only his

In discussing the subject of strategy, certain technical terms are
employed, such as _theatre of war; theatre of operations; base of
operations_, or the line from which operations start; _objective
points_, or points to which the operations are directed; _line of
operations_, or the line along which an army moves; _key points_, or
points which it is important for the defensive army to secure; _line of
defence,_ or the line which it is important to defend at all hazards:
and in general, _strategic points, strategic lines, strategic positions,
&c._ As these terms are very generally used in military books, it may be
well to make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with their import. After

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 3 of 35)