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

. (page 32 of 35)
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 32 of 35)
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the enemy in this branch of the military art. No army was better
supplied than ours in all matters of subsistence, clothing, medical and
hospital stores, and in means of transportation. Two points, however,
are worthy of remark in this connection: 1st. The great waste of
material, which resulted from the employment of raw troops under short
enlistments, and commanded by officers appointed from civil life, who
were without experience and destitute of military instruction; and, 2d.
The immense expense of transportation, which was due in part to the
above cause and in part to the employment, in the administrative
departments, of civilians who were utterly ignorant of the rules and
routine of military service. This war was conducted on the system of
magazines and provisions carried in the train of the army, or purchased
of the inhabitants and regularly paid for, forced requisitions being
seldom resorted to, and then in very moderate quantities. The wisdom of
this plan was proved by the general good order and discipline of our
troops, and the general good-will of the non-combatant inhabitants of
the country which was passed over or occupied by the army.

The war in the Crimea proved most conclusively the vast superiority of
the French administrative system over that of the English - of the
military over a civil organization of the administrative corps of an
army. The French troops before Sebastopol were regularly, cheaply, and
abundantly supplied with every requisite of provisions, clothing,
munitions, medical stores, military utensils, and hospital and camp
equipages; while the English army, notwithstanding an immense
expenditure of money, was often paralyzed in its operations by the want
of proper military material, and not unfrequently was destitute of even
the necessaries of life.

Instead of profiting by this lesson, the recent tendency of our own
government has been (especially in supplying the army in Utah) to
imitate the sad example of the English, and to convert the supplying of
our armies into a system of political patronage to be used for party
purposes. If fully carried out, it must necessarily result in the ruin
of the army, the robbery of the treasury, and the utter corruption of
the government.


The war in Mexico, from the small number of troops engaged, and the
peculiar character of the ground in most cases, afforded but few
opportunities for the display of that skill in the tactics of battle
which has so often determined the victory upon the great fields of
Europe. Nevertheless, the history of that war is not without useful
lessons in the use which may be made of the several arms in the attack
and defence of positions. The limit assigned to these Notes will admit
of only a few brief remarks upon these battles.

The affairs of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma properly constitute only
a single battle. In the first, which was virtually a cannonade, the
lines were nearly parallel, and Arista's change of front to an oblique
position during the engagement, was followed by a corresponding movement
on the part of General Taylor. Being made sensible of the superiority of
the American artillery, the Mexican general fell back upon the Ravine of
Resaca de la Palma, drawing up his troops in a concave line to suit the
physical character of the ground. The Americans attacked the whole line
with skirmishers, and with dragoons supported by light artillery, and
the charge of a heavy column of infantry decided the victory. General
Taylor's operations at Monterey partook more of the nature of an attack
upon an intrenched position than of a regular battle upon the field. No
doubt Worth's movement to the right had an important influence in
deciding the contest, but the separation of his column from the main
body, by a distance of some five miles, was, to say the least, a most
hazardous operation. The Mexicans, however, took no advantage of the
opening to operate between the separate masses into which the American
army was divided. The loss which the Mexicans inflicted upon us resulted
more from the strength of their position than from any skilful use of
their defensive works. In the battle of Buena Vista, the efforts of
Santa Anna were principally directed to turning the American left. If he
had concentrated his masses more upon the centre at the plateau, the
success gained in the early part of the contest would probably have been
decisive. The American right at La Angostura was made almost
inaccessible by the deep ravines in its front, and the skilful use made
of the artillery from this point enabled General Taylor to gain the
victory, even after his left had been completely turned, and a portion
of the volunteers had actually fled from the field.

The manner in which Scott handled his troops in the various battles on
his line of march from Vera Cruz to the capital, proved him to be one of
the best generals of the age. At Cerro Gordo he so completely turned
Santa Anna's left as to cut off his line of retreat, and nearly
destroyed his army, the general himself barely escaping capture. The
turning of Valencia's position by the village of San Geronimo, at the
battle of Contreras, and the charge by Riley's columns of infantry, were
movements well planned and admirably executed, as were also the rapid
pursuit of Santa Anna to Churubusco, and the flank and rear attacks by
the brigades of Pierce and Shields. The victory of Molino del Rey was
mostly won with the musket, without very material assistance from heavy
artillery, and was one of the most brilliant but dearly bought
achievements of the war. The assault upon Chapultepec was preceded by a
long and heavy cannonade, which produced a decided moral effect upon the
enemy and greatly facilitated the assault.

With respect to the battles of the Crimean war, only that of the Alma is
subject to the tactical criticism of ordinary battles; those of
Balaklava, Inkerman, and the Tchernaya, were of the nature of sorties
made to prevent an assault of the unfinished works of defence, and to
prolong the operations of the siege. They must therefore be judged as
such, and not according to the ordinary rules applicable to contests in
the open field. At the battle of the Alma the Russians were attacked in
position, the two lines of battle being nearly parallel. According to
the original plan of attack, the Turks and Bosquet's division was to
turn the Russian left, while the main attack was made upon the centre.
But, on account of the division of command in the allied army, there was
no concert of action. The heavy column of Bosquet probably decided the
victory, although the battle was general throughout the whole line. The
English army advanced in columns of brigades at deploying distances, its
right connected with the French, and its left protected by a line of
skirmishers, of cavalry and horse artillery. With respect to the
formation and use of troops in the other battles, it may be remarked
that the charge of the English light cavalry at Balaklava was apparently
without necessity or object, and led to its inevitable destruction. In
the battle of Inkerman the Russians directed their main attack upon the
English right and centre, with false attacks upon the French left and
towards Balaklava. But these false attacks, as is usual in such cases,
were not conducted with sufficient energy and decision, and Bosquet was
thus enabled to perceive the real intentions of the enemy upon the
English portion of the line and move to its assistance. Moreover, the
main body of the Russians moved in too heavy and unwieldy masses, which
exposed them to terrible losses, and rendered impossible a rapid and
effective deployment of their numerical force. The same criticism is
applicable to their formation at the battle of the Tehernaya.


On the invasion of Mexico by the United States, the former republic had
a large army of tolerably good troops, though badly officered, still
worse equipped, and almost destitute of proper military stores; but she
was entirely wanting in two important elements of national
defence - fortifications and a navy. Her weakness was shown by the rapid
and easy conquest of almost the entire country.

We have already remarked that the fortifications of Russia confined the
theatre of war to a single point of the Crimea, and limited the military
operations of the allies to the prolonged and only partially successful
siege of Sebastopol.


Allusion has already been made to the weakness of Mexico, resulting from
her want of sea-coast defences, as shown by the war between that
republic and the United States. This would have been still more manifest
had she possessed any thing like a commercial marine, exposed to capture
by our naval forces. As it was, the Mexican war afforded not a single
contest between ships and forts, no opposition being made to the
occupation of Mexican ports by our naval force. The only coast defence,
the castle of San Juan d'Ulica was not attacked, but after the
bombardment and capture of Vera Cruz, it surrendered without a blow.

The Crimean war, on the contrary, exhibited in a most marked degree the
importance of a well-fortified sea-coast. Notwithstanding the immense
force of the combined fleets of England and France, no naval attack was
made upon either Cronstadt or Sebastopol, and the large naval force of
Russia proved utterly useless as a defence against a maritime descent.
There was, indeed, a simulachre of a "naval cannonade" on the latter
place on the 17th of October, 1854, intended as a diversion of the
attention and strength of the garrison from the land side, where the
real struggle for predominance was going on between the besieged and the
besiegers. The inutility of this attempt was so manifest that no
serious naval attack was undertaken, notwithstanding that the allies
were ready to bring to bear upon the antiquated and ill-armed Russian
works the most powerful naval armaments the world had ever seen.

The results of this "simulachre of a naval cannonade," as it has been
called, is worthy of note. The details are taken from Major Barnard's
able pamphlet on "The Dangers and Defences of New York," and Commander
Dahlgren's interesting and valuable work on "Shells and Shell Guns."

"The allied fleet consisted of 14 French, 10 British, and 2 Turkish
ships-of-the-line (some few of which had auxiliary steam power), and a
number of side-wheel steamers to tow these; and carried in all about
2,500 guns. It was opposed by about 280 guns from the works. The fleet
kept itself (in general) at a respectable distance (from 1500 to 2000
yards); too far to inflict any material injury with its armament
(32-pounders, with a moderate proportion of 8-inch shell-guns) upon the
works; - too far to receive much from the inefficient armament of the
Russian works."

"The only exception to this remark applies to the detached English
squadron under Sir Edmund Lyons, consisting of the _Agamemnon_,
_Sanspareil_, _London_, _Arethusa_, and _Albion_, the first-named of
which vessels took a position at 750 or 800 yards from Fort Constantine,
while the others stretched along at about the same distance from Fort
Constantine, the 'Wasp Tower,' and 'Telegraph Battery.' Dahlgren describes
the result as follows: - "

"The _Agamemnon_ was very seriously maltreated, though not to such an
extent as to impair her power of battery or engine. She was on fire
several times; was struck by 240 shot or shells; and, singular to say,
only lost 29, while her second, just by, lost 70 men. The _Albion_
suffered still more, and in an hour was towed out crippled, and on fire
in more than one place, with a loss of 81 men. The crews of the _London_
and _Arethusa_, fared rather better, but the ships nearly as ill; and
they too remained in station but a little time after the _Albion_. The
_Queen_ was driven off soon after she got into her new position, in
great danger; and the _Rodney_ had the bare satisfaction of getting
aground and afloat after experiencing some damage."

"The value of the small works on the cape and bluffs, was clearly
defined in these results; being above the dense cloud of smoke that
enveloped the ships and the lower forts, their aim was not embarrassed,
while the seamen labored under the difficulty of firing, with an
inconvenient elevation, at objects that they saw but seldom, and then
but dimly and briefly. As a consequence, three line-of-battle ships and
a frigate were driven off very shortly and in great peril, and a fourth
badly cut up; while the _Agamemnon_ lay opposed to one of the heaviest
sea-forts with two tiers of casemates, and at the end of five-hours came
off with comparatively little loss."

"Whatever superiority of effect the batteries on the heights may have
had (and we have so few details about these works that we can draw no
sure conclusion from this mere naked statement of damages received by
the vessels), it evidently was not for want of being _hit_ often enough
(smoke or no smoke), that the _Agamemnon_ escaped with so little injury.
She 'was struck by 240 shot and shells;' and it is only due to the
inefficiency of the projectiles by which she was struck, that she was
not destroyed."

"With respect to the damages received by Fort Constantine, Dahlgren
says: - "

"The distance of the _Agamemnon_ and _Sanspareil_ from Fort
Constantine (17th October, 1854), was assumed to be about 800 yards;
Lord Raglan states it to have been rather less. These two ships could
bring to bear about 87 guns, and the firing from them probably lasted
some four hours. There can be no doubt that it inflicted much damage,
for the Russian Commander-in-chief-admits it in his official report; but
not sufficient to impair the strength of the masonry, and far short of
effecting a breach in it."

"At Bomarsund, the results were rather different: - Three 32-pounders of
42 cwt. (guns of inferior weight), were landed from a ship's spar deck,
and placed in battery at 950 yards from the North Tower - the masonry of
good quality and 6-1/2 feet thick. In eight hours, the wall between two
embrasures was cut through from top to bottom, offering a practicable
breach, to effect which 487 shot and 45 shells were fired, being at the
rate of one round from the battery in rather less than a minute; or,
from each gun, one in 2-3/4 minutes. The Tower surrendered."

"It seems almost incredible that three pieces should be able to
accomplish fully that which eighty-seven pieces utterly failed to do,
the distances from the object being alike - particularly when it is
considered that many of the latter were of greater calibre, and most of
them employed much heavier charges where the calibres were similar. The
guns of the ship, if fired at the same rate as those of the battery,
which was not unusually rapid (one round in two and three-fourth
minutes), would have discharged some seven thousand seven hundred shot
and shells in the course of the four hours, supposing no interruption; a
number which, if properly applied, would appear, from the results of
three guns, to have been sufficient to breach the wall of the fort in
fourteen places; whereas they did not effect a single breach, which is
abundant proof of the lack of accuracy. They must either have been
dispersed over the surface of the fort, or else missed it altogether,
and this could have been due only to a want of the precision which was
attained by the battery. The constantly preferred complaint of motion in
the ships was not to be urged, because on the day of cannonading
Sebastopol, there was scarcely a breath of wind, and the ships were too
large to be easily moved by the swell, unless very considerable. That
the fort did no greater damage to the ships than it received from them,
proves no more than that its fire was quite as illy directed, and the
calibres too low. It is said that the _Agamemnon_ was struck in the hull
by two hundred and forty shot and shells, which must have been but a
small portion of what was fired, though sufficient to be decisive, if,
as already observed, the calibre had been heavier."

Here, then, a number of projectiles thrown from the ships, which were
sufficient, had they been thrown from a land battery, according to the
result at Bomarsund, to produce fourteen practicable breaches, failed
not only to produce a single breach, but even "to impair the strength of
the masonry."

The reason of this is obvious. That degree of precision of fire by which
a breach is effected by a land battery is utterly unattainable from a
floating structure, for the motion of the water, even in the calmest
days, is quite sufficient to prevent accuracy of aim at an object at a
distance, as in this case, of seven and eight hundred yards.

With respect to the action of the shot and shells upon the _Agamemnon_,
it is to be remarked that we have as yet had no fair trial of the power
of the fire of modern shell-guns of large calibre from land batteries
against ships of war. The Russians had some of them in their fleet, and
at Sinope, with their shell-guns, they blew up two Turkish frigates _in
fifteen minutes_. It does not appear that in the Crimean war they had
yet provided their fortifications with the modern armaments, for where
shells were thrown from their sea-coast batteries, they were in every
instance of inferior calibre.

With respect to the naval attack upon Kinburn, which has been referred
to as showing the importance of floating batteries as an auxiliary to
ships in reducing harbor defences, we have no official reports of the
Russians from which to derive accurate information of the strength of
the works attacked. Dahlgren, drawing his information from the official
accounts of the "English and French admirals," describes the works and
their location is follows: -

"The Boug and the Dnieper issue into a large basin, formed partly by
the projection of the main shore, partly by a long narrow strip of
Sand-beach, which continues from it and takes a north-westerly direction
until it passes the promontory of Otchakov, where it terminates, and
from which it is separated by the channel, whereby the waters of the
estuary empty into the Black Sea."

"The distance between the spit or extremity of this tongue and the
Point of Otchakov, or the main shore opposite, is about two miles; but
the water is too shoal to admit of the passage of large vessels of war,
except in the narrow channel that runs nearest to the spit and its
northern shore. Here, therefore, are placed the works designed to
command the entrance. They are three in number. Near the extreme point
of the spit is a covered battery built of logs, which are filled in and
overlaid with sand, - pierced for eighteen guns, but mounting only ten."

"Advancing further along the beach is a circular redoubt, connected
with the spit battery by a covered way. This work, built of stone, and
riveted with turf, is open, and said to be the most substantial of the
three; it has eleven cannon, and within is a furnace for heating shot."

"Further on, and where the beach has widened considerably, is Fort
Kinburn, a square bastioned work, extending to the sea on the south, and
to the waters of the estuary on the north. It is casemated in part,
though but few of these embrasures were armed, - its chief force being in
the pieces _en barbette, _and some nine or ten mortars. The masonry,
though solid, is represented by an eye-witness not to be bomb-proof, and
so dilapidated by age that the mortar was falling out from the
interstices, leaving the stone to disintegrate. The interior space was
occupied by ranges of wooden buildings, slightly constructed and
plastered over."

"This fort is said to be armed with sixty pieces. The English admiral
states, that all three of the works mounted eighty-one guns and mortars.
The calibres are not given officially, but stated in private letters to
be 18-pounders and 32-pounders."

"The above description will quite justify the further remark as to
these works: - "

"They were inferior in every respect, and manifestly incapable of
withstanding any serious operation by sea or land. The main fort was
particularly weak in design, and dilapidated; all of them were
indifferently armed and garrisoned."

"So much for the works. As to the character of the armament brought to
the assault, the same authority says: - "

"The allied force was admirably adapted to the operation, embracing
every description of vessel, from the largest to the smallest, and all
propelled by steam. There were screw-liners, and like vessels of
inferior class, side-wheel steamers, screw gunboats, floating-batteries,
mortar-vessels, etc., each armed in what was considered the most
approved manner. And this truly formidable naval force carried
_besides_ 'some thousand troops' on board, all designed to attack these
'dilapidated' works of Kinburn."

"Without going into the particulars, we simply give Dahlgren's account
of the affair: - "

"The French floating-batteries (_Devastation, Lave_, and _Tonnante_)
steamed in to make their first essay, anchoring some six or seven
hundred yards off the S.E. bastion of Fort Kinburn, and at 9.20 opened
fire, supported by the mortar-vessels, of which six were English, by the
gunboats, five French and six English, and by the steamer _Odin_, 16."

"The heavy metal of the floating-batteries (said to be twelve
50-pounders on the broadside of each) soon told on the walls of the
fort; and the vertical fire was so good that the French admiral
attributed to it, in great part, the speedy surrender of the place. The
gunboats also made good ricochet practice, which was noticed to be
severe on the barbette batteries."

"The Russian gunners, in nowise daunted by this varied fire, plied
their guns rapidly in return, directing their attention chiefly to the
floating-batteries, which were nearest."

"Exactly at noon, the admirals steamed in with the _Royal Albert _, 121,
_Algiers_, 91, _Agamemnon_, 90, and _Princess Royal_, 90, with the four
French liners in close order, taking position in line, ranging N.W. and
S.E., about one mile from the fort, in twenty-eight feet water."

"At the same time, a squadron of steam-frigates, under Rear-Admirals
Stewart and Pellion, dashed in through the passage to the basin, opening
fire on the spit and central batteries in passing, and anchoring well
inside of Fort Nicholaiev and Otchakov. The attack seaward was completed
by the _Acre_, 100, _Cura√Іoa_, 30, _Tribune_, 30, and _Sphynx_, 6,
opening on the central battery; while the _Hannibal_, 91, _Dauntless_,
24, and _Terrible_, 21, assailed that on the spit. To this storm of shot
and shells, the Russians could not reply long. In the spit battery, the
sand falling through between the logs, displaced by shot and shells,
choked the embrasures, and blocked up the guns. In the fort, the light
wooden buildings were in flames at an early hour; then the walls began
to crumble before the balls which came from every quarter, front, flank,
and rear; and as the guns were disabled successively, the return became
feeble, until few were in condition to be fired, the central redoubt
alone discharging single guns at long intervals. The Russian commander,
however, made no sign of surrender; but the admirals, seeing that his
fire had ceased, and further defence was unavailing, hoisted the white
flag at 1.35 P.M., upon which the works were given up on honorable

"The garrison consisted of about fourteen hundred men; their loss is
differently stated, - the French admiral says eighty wounded, - another,
forty-three killed and one hundred and fourteen wounded."

"The English suffered the least, having but two men wounded; besides
two killed and two wounded in the _Arrow_, by the bursting of her two
68-pounder Lancaster guns."

"The superiority of the allied vessels in number and calibre of
ordnance was very decided; they must have had at least six hundred and
fifty pieces in play, chiefly 32-pounders, and 8-inch shell guns, with a
fair proportion of 68-pounders and mortars, besides the 50-pounders of
the French floating batteries. To which the Russians could only reply
with eighty-one cannon and mortars, and no guns of heavier calibre than
32-pounders, while many were lower. The great disparity in offensive
power was not compensated to the works by the advantage of commanding
position, the Russian fort and redoubt being upon nearly the same level
with the ships' batteries, and also very deficient in proper strength.
On the other hand, the depth of water did not allow the liners to

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 32 of 35)