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 30 of 35)
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of the enemy. A rapid _coup d'oeil_ prompt decision, active movements,
are as indispensable as sound judgment; for the general must _see_, and
_decide_, and _act_, all in the same instant. Accordingly we find that
most great generals of ancient and modern times have gained their
laurels while still young.

Philip of Macedon ascended the throne at the age of twenty-two, and soon
distinguished himself in his wars with the neighboring states. At the
age of forty-five he had conquered all Greece. He died at forty-seven.

Alexander the Great had defeated the celebrated Theban band at the
battle of Cheronea, and gained a military reputation at the age of
eighteen. He ascended the throne of his father Philip before twenty, and
at twenty-five had reached the zenith of his military glory, having
already conquered the world. He died before the age of thirty-two.

Julius Caesar commanded the fleet sent to blockade Mitylene, where he
greatly distinguished himself before the age of twenty-two. He soon
after held the important offices of tribune, quæstor, and edile. He had
completed his first war in Spain, and was made consul at Rome before the
age of forty. He twice crossed the Rhine, and conquered all Gaul, and
had twice passed over to Britain, before the age of forty-five; at
fifty-two he had won the field of Pharsalia, and attained the supreme
power. He died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, the victor of five
hundred battles, and the conqueror of a thousand cities.

Hannibal joined the Carthaginian army in Spain at twenty-two, and was
made commander-in-chief at twenty-six. Victorious in Spain and France,
he crossed the Alps and won the battle of Cannæ before the age of

Scipio Africanus, (the elder,) at the age of sixteen distinguished
himself at the battle of Ticinus; at twenty was made edile, and soon
after pro-consul in Spain; at twenty-nine he won the great battle of
Zama, and closed his military career. Scipio Africanus (the younger)
also distinguished himself in early life; at the age of thirty six he
had conquered the Carthaginian armies and completed the destruction of

Gengis-Khan succeeded to the domain of his father at the age of
thirteen, and almost immediately raised an army of thirty thousand men,
with which he defeated a numerous force of rebels, who had thought to
take advantage of his extreme youth to withdraw from his dominion. He
soon acquired a military reputation by numerous conquests, and before
the age of forty had made himself emperor of Mogul.

Charlemagne was crowned king at twenty-six, conquered Aquitania at
twenty-eight, made himself master of France and the greater part of
Germany at twenty-nine, placed on his brows the iron crown of Italy at
thirty-two, and conquered Spain at thirty-six.

Gonsalvo de Cordova, the "great captain," entered the army at fifteen,
and before the age of seventeen had acquired a brilliant military
reputation, and was knighted by the king himself on the field of battle;
at forty-one he was promoted over the heads of older veterans and made
commander-in-chief of the army in Italy.

Henry IV. of France was placed at the head of the Huguenot army at the
age of sixteen, at nineteen he became king of Navarre; at forty he had
overthrown all his enemies, placed himself on the throne of France, and
become the founder of a new dynasty.

Montecuculi, at the age of thirty-one, with two thousand horse, attacked
ten thousand Swedes and captured all their baggage and artillery; at
thirty-two he gained the victory of Triebel, at forty-nine defeated the
Swedes and saved Denmark, and at fifty-three defeated the Turks at the
great battle of St. Gothard. In his campaigns against the French at a
later age, he made it his chief merit, "not that he conquered, but that
he was not conquered."

Saxe entered the army at the early age of twelve, and soon obtained the
command of a regiment of horse; at twenty-four he became
_maréchal-de-camp_, at forty-four marshal of France, and at forty-nine
gained the celebrated victory of Fontenoy. He died at the age of

Vauban entered the army of Condé as a cadet at the age of seventeen, at
twenty was made a lieutenant, at twenty-four he commanded two companies,
at forty-one was a brigadier, at forty-three a _maréchal-de-camp_, and
at forty-five commissaire-général of all the fortifications of France.
At the age of twenty-five he had himself conducted several sieges, and
had assisted at many others.

Turenne entered the army before the age of fourteen; he served one year
as a volunteer, four years as a captain, four years as a colonel, three
years as a major-general, five years as a lieutenant-general, and became
a marshal of France at thirty-two. He had won all his military
reputation by the age of forty.

Prince Maurice commanded an army at the age of sixteen, and acquired his
military reputation in very early life. He died at fifty-eight.

The great Condé immortalized his name at the battle of Rocroi, in which,
at the age of twenty-two, he defeated the Spaniards. He had won all his
great military fame before the age of twenty-five.

Prince Eugene of Savoy was a colonel at twenty-one, a
lieutenant-field-marshal at twenty-four, and soon after, a
general-field-marshal. He gained the battle of Zenta at thirty-four, and
of Blenheim at forty-one. At the opening of the war of 1733, he again
appeared at the head of the army at the advanced age of sixty-nine, but
having lost the vigor and fire of youth, he effected nothing of

Peter the Great of Russia was proclaimed czar at ten years of age; at
twenty he organized a large army and built several ships; at twenty-four
he fought the Turks and captured Asoph; at twenty-eight he made war with
Sweden; at thirty he entered Moscow in triumph after the victory of
Embach, and the capture of Noteburg and Marienburg; at thirty-one he
began the city of St. Petersburg; at thirty-nine he was defeated by the
Turks and forced to ransom himself and army. His latter years were
mostly devoted to civil and maritime affairs. He died at the age of

Charles the XII. of Sweden ascended the throne at the age of fifteen,
completed his first successful campaign against Denmark at eighteen,
overthrew eighty thousand Russians at Narva before nineteen, conquered
Poland and Saxony at twenty-four, and died at thirty-six.

Frederick the Great of Prussia ascended the throne at twenty-eight, and
almost immediately entered on that career of military glory which has
immortalized his name. He established his reputation in the first
Silesian war, which he terminated at the age of thirty. The second
Silesian war was terminated at thirty-three; and at forty-three, with a
population of five millions, he successfully opposed a league of more
than one hundred millions of people.

Prince Henry of Prussia served his first campaign as colonel of a
regiment at sixteen; at the age of thirty-one he decided the victory of
Prague, and the same year was promoted to the command of a separate
army. The military reputation he acquired in the Seven Years' War was
second only to that of Frederick.

Cortes had effected the conquest of Mexico, and completed his military
career, at the age of thirty-six.

Sandoval, the most eminent of his great captains, died at the age of
thirty-one. He had earned his great renown, and closed his military
achievements, before the age of twenty-five.

Pizarro completed the conquest of Peru at thirty-five, and died about

Lord Clive began his military career at twenty-two, and had reached the
zenith of his military fame at thirty-five; he was raised to the peerage
at thirty-six, and died at fifty.

Hastings began his military service at about twenty-five, and became
governor of Bengal at forty.

Napoleon was made a lieutenant at seventeen, a captain at twenty,
_chef-de-bataillon_ at twenty-four, general of brigade at twenty-five,
and commander-in-chief of the army of Italy at twenty-six. All his most
distinguished generals were, like him, young men, and they seconded him
in his several campaigns with all the energy and activity of youthful
valor and enthusiasm.

Dessaix entered the army at fifteen; at the opening of the war he
quickly passed through the lower grades, and became a general of brigade
before the age of twenty-five, and a general of division at twenty-six;
he died before the age of thirty-two, with a reputation second only to
that of Napoleon.

Kleber did not enter the army till later in life, but he quickly passed
through the subordinate grades, and was made a general of brigade at
thirty-eight, a general of division at forty, and general-in-chief of
an army at forty-one: he died at forty-six. On his death, and in
Napoleon's absence, Ménau, aged and inefficient, succeeded by right of
seniority to the command of the army of Egypt. Its utter ruin was the
almost immediate consequence.

Massena first entered the army at seventeen, but soon married a rich
wife, and retired to civil life. He returned to the army at the opening
of the revolution, and in two years, before the age of thirty-five, was
promoted to the rank of general of division. He immediately acquired
that high reputation which he sustained through a long career of
military glory.

Soult became a sub-lieutenant at twenty-two, a captain at twenty-four;
the following year he passed through the several grades of
_chef-de-bataillon_, colonel, and general of brigade, and became general
of division at twenty-nine.

Davoust was a sub-lieutenant at seventeen, a general of brigade at
twenty-three, and general of division at twenty-five.

Eugene Beauharnais entered the army at a very early age. He became
_chef-de-bataillon_ at nineteen, colonel at twenty-one, general of
brigade at twenty-three, and Viceroy of Italy at twenty-five. He soon
proved himself one of Napoleon's ablest generals. At twenty-eight he
commanded the army of Italy, and at thirty-one gained great glory in the
Russian campaign, at the head of the fourth _corps d'armée._

Gouvion-Saint-Cyr enured the army at the beginning of the Revolution,
and passing rapidly through the lower grades, became a general of
brigade at twenty-nine, and a general of division at thirty.

Suchet became a _chef-de-bataillon_ at twenty, general of brigade at
twenty-five, major-general of Brune's army at twenty-seven, and general
of division and of a _corps d'armée_ at twenty-eight.

Oudinot became a captain at twenty-three, _chef-de-bataillon_ at
twenty-four, general of brigade at twenty-five, and general of division
at twenty-eight.

Ney was a captain at twenty-three, adjutant-general at twenty-six,
general of brigade at twenty-seven, and general of division at

Lannes was a colonel at twenty-seven, general of brigade at
twenty-eight, and very soon after general of division.

Joubert became adjutant-general at twenty-five, general of brigade at
twenty-six, general of division at twenty-eight, and general-in-chief of
the army of Italy at twenty-nine. He died at thirty.

Victor was a _chef-de-bataillon_ at twenty-seven, general of brigade at
twenty-nine, and general of division at thirty-two.

Murat was a lieutenant at twenty, and passing rapidly through the lower
grades, he became a general of brigade at twenty-five, and a general of
division at twenty-seven.

Mortier was a captain at twenty-three, adjutant-general at twenty-five,
general of brigade at thirty, and general of division at thirty-one.

Macdonald was a colonel at twenty-seven, a general of brigade at
twenty-seven, and a general of division at thirty.

Marmont was a captain at twenty-one, _chef-de-bataillon_ at twenty-two,
general of brigade at twenty-four, inspector general at twenty-seven,
and general-in-chief of an army at thirty-two.

Bernadotte was a colonel at twenty-eight, general of brigade at
twenty-nine, and general of division at thirty.

Lefebvre was made a captain at the organization of the army in 1793; he
became a general of brigade at thirty-eight, and general of division at

Bessières entered the army at twenty-six, became a colonel at thirty,
general of brigade at thirty-two, and general of division at
thirty-four. He died at forty-seven.

Duroc was a captain at twenty-three, _chef-de-bataillon_ at twenty-six,
colonel and _chef-de-brigade_ at twenty-seven, and general of division
at thirty. He died at forty-one.

This list might be still further extended with the same results, but
names enough have been given to show that the generals who assisted
Napoleon in his immortal campaigns were all, with scarcely an exception,
_young men_, still burning with the fires of youthful ardor and
enthusiasm. The grade of marshal was not created till after Napoleon
became emperor. On ascending the throne of the empire, he nominated to
this rank eighteen of the most distinguished generals of France. Some of
these were generals of the earlier wars of the Revolution, and had never
served under him. Others were younger men, several being only
thirty-four, thirty-five, and thirty-six years of age. The mean age of
all was forty-four. He afterwards made seven more marshals, whose mean
age was forty-three. These appointments, however, were regarded as
rewards for _past_ services, rather than as a grade from which service
was expected, for several of the older marshals were never called into
the field after their promotion.

Having noticed the ages of the principal generals who commanded in the
armies of Napoleon, let us look for a moment at those who opposed him.
In the campaign of 1796 the enemy's forces were directed by Beaulieu,
then nearly eighty years of age; Wurmser, also an octogenarian, and
Alvinzi, then over seventy: these had all three distinguished themselves
in earlier life, but had now lost that youthful energy and activity so
essential for a military commander.

In the campaign of 1800 the general-in-chief of the Austrian forces was
Melas, an old general, who had served some fifty years in the army; he
had distinguished himself so long ago as the Seven Years' War, but he
had now become timid and inefficient, age having destroyed his energy.

In the campaign of 1805 the French were opposed by Kutusof, then sixty,
and Mack, then fifty-three; the plan of operations was drawn up by still
more aged generals of the Aulic council.

In the campaign of 1806 the French were opposed by the Duke of
Brunswick, then seventy-one, Hohenlohe, then sixty, and Mollendorf,
Kleist, and Massenbach, old generals, who had served under the great
Frederick, - men, says Jomini, "exhumed from the Seven Years'
War," - "whose faculties were frozen by age," - "who had been buried for
the last ten years in a lethargic sleep."

In the campaign of 1807 the French were opposed by Kamenski, then eighty
years of age, Benningsen, then sixty, and Buxhowden, then fifty-six. The
Allies now began to profit by their experience, and in 1809 the Austrian
army was led by the young, active, skilful, and energetic Archduke
Charles; and this campaign, although the commander-in-chief was somewhat
fettered by the foolish projects of the old generals of the Aulic
council, and thwarted by the disobedience of his brother, was
nevertheless the most glorious in the Austrian annals of the wars of the

At the opening of the campaign of 1812 the Emperor Alexander, young,
(only thirty-five,) active, intelligent, and ambitious, had remodelled
his army, and infused into it his own energy and enthusiastic love of
glory. He was himself at its head, and directed its operations. Kutusof
was for a short time the nominal commander-in-chief, and exhibited an
activity unusual at his age, but he was surrounded by younger
generals - Barclay-de-Tolley, and Miloradowich, then forty-nine,
Wintzengerode, then forty-three, Schouvalof, then thirty-five, and the
Archduke Constantine, then thirty-three, - generals who, at the heads of
their corps, and under the young emperor and his able staff of young
officers, in the two succeeding campaigns, rolled back the waves of
French conquest, and finally overthrew the French empire. Wellington,
who led the English in these campaigns, was of the same age as Napoleon,
and had been educated at the same time with him in the military schools
of France. The Austrians were led by Schwartzenburg, then only about
thirty, and the Prussians by Yorck, Bulow, and Blücher. The last of
these was then well advanced in life, but all his movements being
directed by younger men, - Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, - his operations
partook of the energy of his able chiefs of staff.

In the campaign of 1815, Napoleon was opposed by the combinations of
Wellington and Gneisenau, both younger men than most of his own
generals, who, it is well known, exhibited, in this campaign, less than
in former ones, the ardent energy and restless activity which had
characterized their younger days. Never were Napoleon's, plans better
conceived, never did his troops fight with greater bravery; but the
dilatory movements of his generals enabled his active enemies to parry
the blow intended for their destruction.

In the American war of 1812, we pursued the same course as Austria,
Prussia, and Russia, in their earlier contests with Napoleon, _i.e._, to
supply our armies with generals, we dug up the Beaulieus, the Wurmsers,
the Alvinzis, the Melases, the Macks, the Brunswicks, and the Kamenskis
of our revolutionary war; but after we had suffered sufficiently from
the Hulls, the Armstrongs, the Winchesters, the Dearborns, the
Wilkinsons, the Hamptons, and other veterans of the Revolution, we also
changed our policy, and permitted younger men - the Jacksons, the
Harrisons, the Browns, the McReas, the Scotts,[49] the Ripleys, the
Woods, the McCombs, the Wools, and the Millers - to lead our forces to
victory and to glory. In the event of another war, with any nation
capable of opposing to us any thing like a powerful resistance, shall we
again exhume the veterans of former days, and again place at the head of
our armies respectable and aged inefficiency; or shall we seek out
youthful enterprise and activity combined with military science and
instruction? The results of the war, the honor of the country, the glory
of our arms, depend, in a great measure, upon the answer that will be
given to this question.

[Footnote 49: Scott had acquired his military reputation, and attained
the rank of major-general at twenty-eight.]

But it may be asked, how are we to secure this combination of military
instruction and military energy; how are we to fill the higher grades of
our army with young and active men possessing due military instruction
and talent? The question is not a difficult one, and our government can
easily attain the desired object, if it will only set at work honestly,
disregarding all party prejudices and the mercenary and selfish
interests of its own members and advisers. Other governments have
pointed out to us the way. It is this: let _merit_ be the main test for
all appointments and promotions in the army. Let one or more of the
subordinate grades be thrown open to the youth of the whole country,
without distinction as to birth, or wealth, or politics; let them be
kept on probation in this subordinate grade, and be thoroughly
instructed in all that relates to the military profession; after strict
examination let them be promoted to the vacancies in the higher grades
as rapidly as they shall show themselves qualified for the duties of
those grades, merit and services being here as elsewhere the only tests.

The first part of this rule is already accomplished by the Military
Academy. One young man is selected from each congressional district, on
an average, once in about two years, the selection being made by the
representative of the district; these young men are made warrant
officers in the army, and sent to a military post for instruction;
frequent and strict examinations are instituted to determine their
capacity and fitness for military service; after a probation of a
certain length of time, the _best_ are selected for commission in the
army, relative rank and appointments to corps being made strictly with
reference to merit; birth, wealth, influence of political friends - all
extraneous circumstances being excluded from consideration. What can be
more truly and thoroughly democratic than this? What scheme can be
better devised to supply our army with good officers, and to exclude
from the military establishment the corrupting influence of party
politics, and to prevent commissions in the army from being given to
"the sons of wealthy and influential men, to the almost total exclusion
of the sons of the poor and less influential men, regardless alike of
qualifications and of merit?"

Unfortunately for the army and for the country this system ends here,
and all further advancement is made by mere seniority, or by executive
favoritism, the claims of merit having but little or no further
influence. Indeed, executive patronage is not infrequently permitted to
encroach even upon these salutary rules of appointment, and to place
relatives and political friends into the higher ranks of commissioned
officers directly from civil life, "regardless alike of qualifications
and of merit," while numbers "of sons of the poor and less influential
men," who have served a probation of four or five years in military
studies and exercises, and have proved themselves, in some thirty
examinations made by competent boards of military officers, to be most
eminently qualified for commissions, are passed by in utter neglect! Our
army is much more open to this kind of favoritism and political
partiality, than that of almost any of the governments of Europe, which
we have been accustomed to regard as aristocratic and wholly unfriendly
to real merit.

In the Prussian service, in time of peace, the government can appoint no
one, even to the subordinate grade of ensign, till he has followed the
courses of instruction of the division or brigade-school of his arm, and
has passed a satisfactory examination. And, "no ensign can be promoted
to a higher grade till after his promotion has been agreed to by the
superior board or commission of examiners at Berlin, and his name has
been placed on the list of those whose knowledge and acquirements
(_connaissances_) render them qualified (_aptes_) for the responsible
duties of their profession. The nomination to the grade of
second-lieutenant is not, even after all these conditions are fulfilled,
left to the choice of the government. When a vacancy occurs in this
grade, the subaltern officers present to the commandant of the regiment
a list of three ensigns who have completed their course of study; the
commandant, after taking the advice of the superior officers of the
regiment, nominates the most meritorious of these three to the king, who
makes the appointment." The government can appoint to the engineers and
artillery only those who have been instructed as _élèves_ in the Berlin
school of cadets and the school of artillery and engineers, and these
appointments must be made in the order in which the pupils have passed
their final examination. In these corps the lieutenants and second
captains can be promoted to a higher grade only after they have passed a
satisfactory examination. No political influence, nor even royal
partiality, can interfere with this rule.

Even in the arbitrary monarchies of Austria and Russia it is deemed
necessary to subject all military appointments and promotions, in the
peace establishments, to certain fixed rules. In the Austrian army all
sub-lieutenants must be taken from the military schools, or the
specially-instructed corps of cadets and imperial guards; from this
grade to that of captain all promotions are made by the commandants of
regiments and corps on the advice of the other superior officers. Above
the grade of captain all nominations for promotion are made to the
emperor by the Aulic Council, in the order of seniority of rank, except
the claims of superior merit interfere. "In the Russian army," says
Haillot, "no one, not even a prince of the imperial family, can reach
the grade of officer till he has satisfactorily passed his several
examinations, or finished the severe novitiate to which the cadets in
the corps are subjected." Promotion below the grade of colonel is made
partly by seniority, and partly by merit; above that grade, by selection

In the British service, rank in the line of the army is obtained by
purchase, and the higher grades are in this way filled with young men of

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 30 of 35)