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 5 of 35)
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pursued and harassed to the uttermost. If he should be defeated, he must
form the best plan, and provide the best means of retreat. If possible,
he must take shelter in some line of fortifications, and prepare to
resume the offensive. Lines of intrenchment and temporary works may
sometimes serve him as a sufficient protection. Finally, when the
unfavorable season compels him to suspend his operations, he will go
into winter cantonments, and prepare for a new campaign.

Such are the ordinary operations of war: its relations to strategy must
be evident, even to the most superficial reader.

Not unfrequently the results of a campaign depend more upon the
strategic operations of an army, than upon its victories gained in
actual combat. Tactics, or movements within the range of the enemy's
cannon, is therefore subordinate to the _choice of positions_: if the
field of battle be properly chosen, success will be decisive, and the
loss of the battle not disastrous; whereas, if selected without
reference to the principles of the science, the victory, if gained,
might be barren, and defeat, if suffered, totally fatal: thus
demonstrating the truth of Napoleon's maxim, that success is oftener due
to the genius of the general, and to the nature of the theatre of war,
than to the number and bravery of the soldiers. (Maxim 17, 18.)

We have a striking illustration of this in the French army of the
Danube, which, from the left wing of General Kray, marched rapidly
through Switzerland to the right extremity of the Austrian line, "and by
this movement alone conquered all the country between the Rhine and
Danube without pulling a trigger."

Again, in 1805, the army of Mack was completely paralyzed, and the main
body forced to surrender, at Ulm, without a single important battle. In
1806, the Prussians were essentially defeated even before the battle of
Jena. The operations about Heilesberg, in 1807, the advance upon Madrid,
in 1808, the manoeuvres about Ratisbon, in 1809, the operations of the
French in 1814, and the first part of the campaign of 1815, against
vastly superior numbers, are all familiar proofs of the truth of the

Strategy may therefore be regarded as the most important, though least
understood, of all the branches of the military art.[4]

[Footnote 4: Strategy may be learned from didactic works or from general
military histories. There are very few good elementary works on this
branch of the military art. The general treatises of the Archduke
Charles, and of General Wagner, in German, (the former has been
translated into French,) are considered as the best. The discussions of
Jomini on this subject in his great work on the military art, are
exceedingly valuable; also the writings of Rocquancourt, Jacquinot de
Presle, and Gay de Vernon. The last of these has been translated into
English, but the translation is exceedingly inaccurate. The military
histories of Lloyd, Templehoff, Jomini, the Archduke Charles, Grimoard,
Gravert, Souchet, St. Cyr, Beauvais, Laverne, Stutterheim, Wagner,
Kausler, Gourgaud and Montholon, Foy, Mathieu Dumas, Ségur, Pelet, Koch,
Clausewitz, and Thiers, may be read with great advantage. Napier's
History of the Peninsular War is the only English History that is of any
value as a _military_ work: it is a most excellent book. Alison's great
History of Europe is utterly worthless to the military man; the author
is ignorant of the first principles of the military art, and nearly
every page is filled with the grossest blunders.

We subjoin the titles of a few of the best works that treat of strategy,
either directly or in connection with military history.

_Principes de la Stratégie, &c._, par le Prince Charles, traduit de
l'Allemand, 3 vols. in 8vo. This is a work of great merit. The technical
terms, however, are very loosely employed.

_Précis de l'Art de la Guerre_, par le Baron Jomini. His chapter on
strategy embodies the principles of this branch of the art.

_Grundsätze der Strategic_, Von Wagner.

_Cours Elémentaire d'Art et d'Histoire Militaire_, par Rocquancourt.
This work contains much valuable information connected with the history
of the art of war; but it is far too diffuse and ill-arranged for an
elementary book.

_Cours d'Art et d'Histoire Militaire_, par Jacquinot de Presle. This
work is especially designed for cavalry officers, and the other branches
of military service are but very briefly discussed.

De Vernon's Treatise on the Science of War and Fortification contains
much valuable information; but, as an elementary book, it has the same
objections as that of Rocquancourt.

_History of the Seven Years' War_, by Lloyd and Templehoff. The military
writings of Lloyd and Templehoff are valuable as connected with the
history of strategy; but many of the principles laid down by these
writers are now regarded as erroneous.

_Mémoires de Napoléon_. The Memoirs of Napoleon, as dictated by himself
to Gourgaud and Montholon, have been translated into English. It is
hardly necessary to remark that they contain all the general principles
of military art and science. No military man should fail to study them
thoroughly. The matter is so condensed, and important principles are
embodied in so few words, that they are not easily understood by the
ordinary reader, and probably will never be popular with the multitude.

_Essai général de Tactique_, par Guibert. A work very popular in its
day, but now far less valuable than the writings already mentioned.

_Ausführliche Beschreibung der Schlacht des Pirmasens_, von Gravert.
Regarded by military men as a valuable historical fragment.

_Mémoires sur les Campagnes en Espagne_. Souchet.

_Mémoires de Gouvion St. Cyr._

_Statistique de la Guerre_, par Reveroni St. Cyr.

_Première Campagnes de la Revolution_, par Grimoard.

_Victoires et Conquêtes_. Beauvais.

_Campagnes de Suwarrow_. Laverne.

_Histoire de la Guerre de la Péninsule_. Foy.

_Précis des Evénements Militaires_. Mathieu Dumas.

_Histoire de Napoléon et de la Grande Armée en 1812_. Ségur

_Mémoires sur la Guerre de 1809_. Pelet.

_La Campagne de 1814_. Koch.

_Vom Kriege - Die Feldzügge, &c._ Clausewitz.

_La Révolution, le Consulat et l'Empire._ Thiers.

_Mémoires sur la Guerre de 1812 - sur la Campagne du Vice roi en Italie,
en 1813 et 1814; Histoire de la Guerre en Allemagne en 1814; Histoire
des Campagnes de 1814 et 1815, en France_. Vaudoncourt.

_Essai sur l'Art Militaire, &c._ Carion-Nisas.

_Histoire de l'Expédition en Russie en 1812_. Chambray.

_War in Spain, Portugal, and the South of France_. John Jones.

_Peninsular War_. Napier.

_Notices of the War of 1812_. Armstrong

All the above are works of merit; but none are more valuable to the
military man than the military histories of Jomini and Kausler, with
their splendid diagrams and maps.]



_Fortifications, or engineering_, may be considered with reference to
the defence of states and the grand operation of armies; or with
reference to the details of the construction, and attack, and defence of
forts, and the influence of field-works on the tactical manoeuvres of
armies. It is proposed to speak here only of its general character, as a
branch of the military art, without entering into any professional
discussion of details.

The connection of fortification and strategy may be considered under two
distinct heads: 1st, the choice of sites for constructing fortresses for
defence; 2d, their influence in offensive operations, and the
determination of the question whether they can be passed with safety, or
whether the attacking force will be under the necessity of besieging

The centre and extremities of _a base of operations_ should always be
secured either by natural or artificial obstacles. This base is
generally chosen so that fortifications will be necessary for
strengthening only a part of the line. But if a frontier, like the side
of France towards Belgium, be destitute of natural obstacles, the
artificial means of defence must be proportionally increased. Great care
should be taken that permanent fortifications be made only on such
places as may favor military operations. If otherwise, the troops
detached from the active army for garrisoning them, will only tend to
weaken this force without any corresponding advantages. In this way,
fortifications may become actually injurious to defence. A number of the
European fortresses which were built before the subject of strategy was
properly understood, are now regarded as utterly useless, from their
ill-advised positions.

Whether a fortress may be safely passed with merely blockading or
observing it, depends very much upon the nature of the war, and the
numbers and position of the defensive army. The allies, in 1814,
invading France with a million of soldiers, assisted by the political
diversion of factions and Bourbonists within the kingdom, and treason in
the frontier fortresses, and even in the ranks of Napoleon's army, could
conduct their military operations on a very different plan from that
which would be adopted by either Austria, Prussia, Russia, England,
Spain, Portugal, Holland, Italy, and the German powers, if singly waging
war with the French. Napoleon sometimes detached a corps to observe a
fortress which threatened his line of operations or of manoeuvre; at
others, he delayed his advance till the place could be reduced.

"An army," says Jomini, "may sometimes penetrate between places on an
open frontier, to attack the enemy's forces in the field, taking care at
the same time to _observe_ these places; but no invading army can cross
a great river, like the Danube, the Rhine, or the Elbe, without reducing
at least one of the fortresses on that river, so as to secure a line of
retreat; but being in possession of such a place, it can continue the
offensive, while its _matériel de siège_ successively reduces the other

In case the main army is obliged to remain and cover the besieging
corps, it should take some central position, where it can command all
the avenues of approach, and fall with vigor on the enemy, should he
attempt to raise the siege. Napoleon's operations before Mantua, in
1796, offer the finest model for imitation.

The old system of intrenched camps and lines of contravallation is
unsuited to the spirit of modern warfare. In ancient times, and more
particularly in the middle ages, too much importance was attached to
tactical positions, and not enough to strategic points and lines. This
gave to fortifications a character that never properly belonged to them.
From the middle ages down to the period of the French Revolution, wars
were carried on mainly by the system of positions - one party confining
their operations to the security of certain important places, while the
other directed their whole attention to the siege and capture of these
places. But Carnot and Napoleon changed this system, at the same time
with the system of tactics, or rather, returned from it to the old and
true system of strategic operations. Some men, looking merely at the
fact that a _change_ was made, but without examining the _character_ of
that change, have rushed headlong to the conclusion that fortified
places are now utterly useless in war, military success depending
entirely upon a good system of marches.

On this subject, General Jomini, the great military historian of the
wars of the French Revolution, remarks that "we should depend entirely
upon neither organized masses, nor upon material obstacles, whether
natural or artificial. To follow exclusively either of these systems
would be equally absurd. The true science of war consists in choosing a
just medium between the two extremes. The wars of Napoleon demonstrated
the great truth, that distance can protect no country from invasion, but
that a state, to be secure, must have a good system of fortresses, and a
good system of military reserves and military institutions."

In all military operations _time_ is of vast importance. If a single
division of an army can be retarded for a few hours only, it not
unfrequently decides the fate of the campaign. Had the approach of
Blucher been delayed for a few hours, Napoleon must have been victorious
at the battle of Waterloo. An equilibrium can seldom be sustained for
more than six or seven hours between forces on the field of battle; but
in this instance, the state of the ground rendered the movements so
slow as to prolong the battle for about twelve hours; thus enabling the
allies to effect a concentration in time to save Wellington.

Many of Napoleon's brilliant victories resulted from merely bringing
troops to bear suddenly upon some decisive point. Rivoli in 1796-7,
Marengo in 1800, Ulm in 1805, Jena in 1806, Ratisbon in 1809, Brienne in
1814, and Ligny in 1815, are familiar examples. But this concentration
of forces, even with a regular army, cannot be calculated on by the
general with any degree of certainty, unless his communications are
perfectly secure. And this difficulty is very much increased where the
troops are new and undisciplined. When a country like ours is invaded,
large numbers of such troops must suddenly be called into the field. Not
knowing the designs of the invaders, much time will be lost in marches
and countermarches; and if there be no safe places of resort the
operations must be indecisive and insecure.

To a defensive army fortifications are valuable as points of repose,
upon which the troops, if beaten, may fall back, and shelter their sick
and wounded, collect their scattered forces, repair their materials, and
draw together a new supply of stores and provisions; and as rallying
points, where new troops may be assembled with safety, and the army, in
a few days, be prepared to again meet the enemy in the open field.
Without these defences, undisciplined and inexperienced armies, when
once routed, can seldom be rallied again, except with great losses. But
when supported by forts, they can select their opportunity for fighting,
and offer or refuse battle according to the probability of success; and,
having a safe place of retreat, they are far less influenced by fear in
the actual conflict.

The enemy, on the other hand, being compelled either to besiege or
_observe_ these works, his army will be separated from its magazines,
its strength and efficiency diminished by detachments, and his whole
force exposed to the horrors of partisan warfare. It has therefore been
estimated by the best military writers, that an army supported by a
judicious system of fortifications, can repel a land force _six_ times
as large as itself.

Every government should prepare, in time of peace, its most prominent
and durable means of defence. By securing in a permanent manner its
important points, it will enable a small force to retain possession of
these places against a greatly superior army, for a considerable length
of time. This serves the same purpose as a battle gained; for, in the
beginning of a war of invasion, the economy of time is of the utmost
importance to the defensive party, enabling it to organize and prepare
the great military resources of the state.

In all mountainous frontiers, or sides of states bordering on large
rivers, or chains of lakes, there will necessarily be but few points by
which an invader can penetrate into the interior of the country. Let us
suppose that, for a frontier of moderate extent, there are _five_
passes, or avenues through which the enemy may approach the interior. To
effectually defend these approaches against the invading army will
require, for each, an army of ten thousand men. Not being able to decide
positively on the plans of the enemy, all these communications must be
defended at the same time. This requires a defending army of fifty
thousand men. Let us now suppose each of these passes to be fortified in
such a way, that one thousand men will be able to hold the enemy in
check, and force him to resort to the operations of a siege; or, at
least, to retard his advance till an active army can be organized in the
interior, and prepared to meet him in the field. We here see that five
thousand men, by means of fortifications, can accomplish the same
defensive object as fifty thousand men without these artificial means of

But let us enter a little more into the details of frontier defences,
and examine the character of the several systems which have been
successively proposed or adopted. Frontiers are divided into four
distinct classes, according as the state may be open on one or more
sides, or bounded by mountains, large rivers and lakes, or by the sea.

An open frontier is the most difficult of defence; and while there
exists a perfect uniformity among military men upon the vast importance
of fortifying such a frontier, there is an equal diversity of opinion
respecting the best manner of arranging these works. We shall here
mention three general systems of arranging forts for the defence of an
open country, each of which has been advocated at different times, and
afterwards received various modifications and additions. These three
systems comprise the main features of all others worthy of much
consideration. They are: -

1st. The system of continuous lines, proposed by Montalembert.

2d. A system of three lines of detached works, strongly recommended by
D'Arçon and others.

3d. A system proposed by Vauban, and advocated by Rogniat, consisting of
lines of very strong works, placed at considerable distances from each
other and covering large _intrenched camps_.

The first of these systems was proposed in 1790, and for a time
attracted considerable notice in France, but has long since been
discarded, as being utterly incompatible with the principles of the
military art. A writer, however, of some pretensions in this country,
recommends its adoption for the defence of Baltimore and the shores of
the Chesapeake. The same author would dispense entirely with our
present system of fortifications on the sea-coast, and substitute in
their place wooden Martello towers! This would be very much like
building 120 gun ships at Pittsburg and Memphis, for the defence of the
Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, and sending out duck-boats to meet the
enemy on the Atlantic!

In the second system, the works on the extreme frontier are to be placed
about thirty or forty miles apart, and those of the second and third
lines respectively thirty or forty miles in rear of the first and second
lines, and opposite the intervals.

In the third system, first recommended by Vauban and more recently by
Rogniat, the works are to be arranged in the same manner as in that of
D'Arçon, but the distance between them is to be from seventy to one
hundred miles, and each fort arranged for covering a large intrenched

Either of these last two systems is well suited to the defence of an
open frontier. The former is applied to the side of France towards
Belgium, and the latter, with certain modifications, to the defence of
Western Germany. The first line of fortifications on the northern
frontier of France consists of Dunkirk, Lille, Valenciennes, Condé,
Quesnoy, Rocroi, Charlemont, Mézières, and Sedan; the second line, of
Calais, Andres, St. Omer, Béthune, Arras, Douai, Chambrai, Landrecies,
and Avesnes; the third line, of Boulogne, Montreuil, Hesdin, Abbeville,
Amiens, Bapaume, Peronne, Ham, and Laon.

For mountainous frontiers it is deemed necessary to secure all the
important passes with small redoubts or military works, and to defend
with strong forts the grand interior strategic points on which these
communications are directed. For a frontier of moderate extent there may
be some six or eight gorges in the mountains by which an army might
penetrate; but it will always be found that these roads concentrate on
two or three points in the great valleys below. Take, for example, the
frontier of France towards Switzerland and Italy. The passes of the
mountains are secured by the little works of Fort L'Ecluse, Fort
Pierre-châtel, Fort Barraux, Briançon, Mont Dauphin, Colmars, Entrevaux,
and Antibes; while Besançon, Grenoble, and Toulon, form a second line;
and Lyons a grand central dépôt.

Where a great river or chain of lakes forms the boundary of a state, the
system of defence will be much the same as that of an open land
frontier, the works of the first line being made to secure the great
bridges or ferries by which the enemy might effect a passage; those of
the second line, to cover the passes of the highlands that generally
approach more or less near the great watercourse; and those of the third
line, far enough in rear to protect the great internal communications of
the country. Let us take, for example, the side of France bordering on
the Rhine. Wissembourg and Lauterbourg, Fort Louis, Haguenau,
Strasbourg, Schelstadt, Neuf-Brisach, and Huneguen, cover the several
passages of the river; while Bitche, Phalsbourg, and Béfort form a
second line; Thionville, Metz, and Toul, a third line; and Verdun a
grand central dépôt.

The following are the principal objects proposed to be accomplished by
fortifications on a sea-coast.

1st. To close all important harbors to an enemy, and secure them to the
navy of the country.

2d. To prevent the enemy from forming an establishment on our shores,
from which, by his naval superiority, he might destroy our commerce and
keep the whole frontier in continual alarm.

3d. To cover our great cities against a maritime attack and bombardment.

4th. To cover our ship-yards and great naval depots.

5th. To prevent, as much as possible, the great avenues of interior
navigation from being blockaded by naval means at their entrance into
the ocean.

6th. To give to our navy facilities for protecting our coast trade from
the enemy's ships of war, and our internal communications, which lie
near the coast, from maritime descents.

Let us notice how France has attempted to accomplish this object. The
Mediterranean frontier has Fort Quarré, Fort St. Marguérite, St. Tropez,
Brigançon, the forts of Point Man, of l'Ertissac, and of Langoustier,
Toulon, St. Nicholas, Castle of If, Marseilles, Tour de Boue,
Aigues-Montes, Fort St. Louis, Fort Brescou, Narbonne, Château de
Salces, Perpignan, Collioure, Fort St. Elme, and Port Vendre. Toulon is
the great naval dépôt for this frontier, and Marseilles the great
commercial port. Both are well secured by strong fortifications. The
Atlantic frontier has Bayonne; the forts of Royan, Grave, Medoc, Paté,
&c., on the Gironde; Rochefort, with the forts of Chapus, Lapin, Aix,
Oleron, &c., to cover the roadstead; La Rochelle, with the forts of the
Isle of Ré; Sables, with the forts of St. Nicholas, and Des Moulines,
Isle Dieu, Belle Isle, Fort du Pilier, Mindin, Ville Martin; Quiberon,
with Fort Penthièvre; L'Orient, with its harbor defences; Fort Cigogne;
Brest, with its harbor defences; St. Malo, with Forts Cézembre, La
Canchée, L'Anse du Verger, and Des Rimains; Cherbourg, with its
defensive forts and batteries; Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais, and
Dunkirk. Cherbourg, Brest, and Rochefort, are great naval dépôts; and
Havre, Nantes, and Bordeaux, the principal commercial ports. Many of the
works above enumerated are small in extent and antiquated in their
construction, and some of them quite old and dilapidated nevertheless,
they have heretofore been found sufficient for the defence of the naval
depots and commercial seaports of France against the superior naval
forces of her neighbor.

Omitting for the present all discussion of sea-coast defences, let us
examine more particularly the character and influence of fortifications
on land frontiers.

All military writers agree that fortifications have heretofore exerted a
great, and frequently a decisive, influence on the operations of a war.
Those of France are frequently referred to as proofs of this influence.
But, while all are disposed to allow that these works contributed much
in former times to the defence of states, yet some have said that modern
improvements in the mode of attack have rendered forts far less valuable
than formerly.

Such, however, is not the case. Improvements in the mode of attack have
not kept pace with the facilities of locomotion; and, although
fortifications do not now usually sustain a siege of as _many days_ as
in former times, still, as compared with the relative lengths of
campaigns in ancient and modern wars, the _proportional_ length of
sieges is now even _greater_ than formerly. When the same is

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 5 of 35)