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 9 of 35)
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forming a line of battle, and to select the best of these modes
requires great experience, _coup d'oeil_, and genius. In relation to
this point Napoleon makes the following remarks: -

"Ought an army to be confined to one single encampment, or ought it to
form as many as it has corps or divisions? At what distance ought the
vanguard and the flankers to be encamped? What frontage and what depth
ought to be given to the camp? Where should the cavalry, the artillery,
and the carriages be distributed? Should the army be ranged in battle
array, in several lines? And if it should, what space should there be
between those lines? Should the cavalry be in reserve behind the
infantry, or should it be placed upon the wings? As every piece has
sufficient ammunition for keeping up its fire twenty-four hours, should
all the artillery be brought into action at the beginning of the
engagement, or should half of it be kept in reserve?"

"The solution of these questions depends on the following
circumstances: - 1st. On the number of troops, and the numbers of
infantry, artillery, and cavalry, of which the army is composed. 2d. On
the relation subsisting between the two armies. 3d. On the quality of
the troops. 4th. On the end in view. 5th. On the nature of the field.
And 6th. On the position occupied by the enemy, and on the character of
the general who commands them. Nothing absolute either can or ought to
be prescribed on this head. In modern warfare there is no natural order
of battle."

"The duty to be performed by the commander of an army is more difficult
in modern armies, than it was in those of the ancients. It is also
certain that his influence is more efficacious in deciding battles. In
the ancient armies the general-in-chief, at a distance of eighty or a
hundred toises from the enemy, was in no danger; and yet he was
conveniently placed, so as to have an opportunity of directing to
advantage all the movements of his forces. In modern armies, a
general-in-chief, though removed four or five hundred toises, finds
himself in the midst of the fire of the enemy's batteries, and is very
much exposed; and still he is so distant that several movements of the
enemy escape him. In every engagement he is occasionally obliged to
approach within reach of small-arms. The effect of modern arms is much
influenced by the situation in which they are placed. A battery of guns,
with a great range and a commanding position that takes the enemy
obliquely, may be decisive of a victory. Modern fields of battle are
much more extended than those of the ancients, whence it becomes
necessary to study operations on a large scale. A much greater degree of
experience and military genius is requisite for the direction of a
modern army than was necessary for an ancient one."

Figure 9 represents a camp (on favorable ground) of a grand-division of
an army, composed of two brigades or twelve battalions of infantry,
twelve squadrons of cavalry, five batteries of artillery, and three
companies of engineers.

Figure 10 represents the details of a camp of a battalion of infantry
composed of eight companies.

Figure 11 is the camp of a squadron of cavalry.

Figure 12 is the camp of two batteries of foot artillery, or two
companies of foot engineers.

Figure 13 is the camp of two batteries of mounted artillery, or two
companies of mounted sappers and pontoniers.

On undulating or broken ground the arrangement and order of the general
camp, as well as the details of the encampment of each arm, would admit
of much variation.[8]

[Footnote 8: There are many valuable remarks on the various subjects
comprised under the head of logistics, in the works of Jomini, Grimoard,
Thiebault, Boutourlin, Guibert, Laroche Amyon, Bousmard, Ternay,
Vauchelle, Odier, Audouin, Bardin, Chemevrieres, Daznan, Ballyet,
Dremaux, Dupre d'Aulnay, Morin, and in the published regulations and
orders of the English army.]



IV. Tactics. - We have defined tactics to be the art of bringing troops
into action, or of moving them in the presence of the enemy; - that is,
within his view, and within the reach of his artillery. This branch of
the military art has usually been divided into two parts: 1st. Grand
Tactics, or the tactics of battles; and 2d. Elementary Tactics, or
tactics of instruction.[9]

[Footnote 9: "It does not come within the view of this work to say any
thing of the merely mechanical part of the art; because it must be taken
for granted, that every man who accepts the command of an army knows at
least the alphabet of his trade. If he does not, (unless his enemy be as
ignorant as himself,) defeat and infamy await him. Without understanding
perfectly what are called _the evolutions_, how is it possible that a
general can give to his own army that order of battle which shall be
most provident and skilful in each particular case in which he may be
placed? How know which of these evolutions the enemy employs against
him? and, of course, how decide on a counter-movement which may be
necessary to secure victory or avoid defeat? The man who shall take the
command of an army without perfectly understanding this elementary
branch, is no less presumptuous than he who should pretend to teach
Greek without knowing even his letters. If we have such generals, let
them, for their own sakes, if not for their country's, put themselves
immediately to school."]

A _battle_ is a general action between armies. If only a small portion
of the forces are engaged it is usually denominated a _combat_, an
_affair_, an _action_, a _skirmish_, &c., according to the character of
the conflict. The art of combining and conducting battles of all
descriptions has been designated by the name of Grand Tactics.

Battles may be arranged into three classes; 1st. _Defensive_ battles, or
those given in a chosen position by an army waiting the attack of the
enemy. 2d. _Offensive_ battles, or those made by an army which attacks
the enemy in position. 3d. The _mixed_ or _unforeseen_ battles, given by
two armies meeting while on the march.

I. When an army awaits the attack, it takes its position and forms its
line of battle according to the nature of the ground and the supposed
character and strength of the enemy's forces. Such is usually the case
when an army wishes to cover a siege, protect a capital, guard dépôts of
provisions and military stores, or some important strategic point. The
general relations of positions with strategy and engineering have
already been considered; we will now discuss merely their relations to

The first condition to be satisfied by a tactical position is, that its
debouches shall be more favorable for falling on the enemy when he has
approached to the desired point, than those which the enemy can have for
attacking our line of battle. 2d. The artillery should have its full
effect upon all the avenues of approach. 3d. We should have good ground
for manoeuvring our own troops unseen, if possible, by the enemy. 4th.
We should have a full view of the enemy's manoeuvres as he advances to
the attack. 5th. We should have the flanks of our line well protected by
natural or artificial obstacles. 6th. We should have some means of
effecting a retreat without exposing our army to destruction.

It is very seldom that all these conditions can be satisfied at the same
time; and sometimes the very means of satisfying one, may be in direct
violation of another. A river, a forest, or a mountain, which secures a
flank of a line of battle, may become an obstacle to a retreat, should
the defensive forces be thrown back upon that wing. Again, the position
may be difficult of attack in front or on the wings, and at the same
time unfavorable for retreat. Such was Wellington's position at
Waterloo. The park of Hougomont, the hamlet of Haye Sainte, and the
marshy rivulet of Papelotte, were serious obstacles against the
attacking force; but the marshy forest of Soignies in rear, with but a
single road, cut off all hope of retreat.

II. According to the strategic relations of the contending forces in a
campaign, will it be determined whether we are to await the enemy, or to
seek him out and attack him wherever he may be found. We may sometimes
be obliged to make the attack at all hazards, for the purpose of
preventing the junction of two corps, or to cut off forces that may be
separated from the main body by a river, &c. As a general rule the
attacking force has a moral superiority over the defensive, but this
advantage is frequently more than counterbalanced by other conditions.

The main thing in an _offensive_ battle is to seize upon the decisive
point of the field. This point is determined by the configuration of the
ground, the position of the contending forces, the strategic object of
the battle; or, by a combination of these. For example, when one wing of
the enemy rests on a height that commands the remainder of his line,
this would seem the decisive point to be attacked, for its occupation
would secure the greatest advantages; but this point may be so very
difficult of access, or be so related to the strategic object as to
render its attack out of the question. Thus it was at the battle of
Bautzen: the left of the allies rested on the mountains of Bohemia,
which were difficult of attack, but favorable for defence; moreover,
their only line of retreat was on the right, which thus became the point
of attack for the French, although the topographical and tactical key of
the field was on the left.

III. It frequently happens in modern warfare that battles result from
the meeting of armies in motion, both parties acting on the offensive.
Indeed, an army that is occupying a defensive position may, on the
approach of the enemy, advance to meet him while on the march. Battles
of this kind may partake of the mixed character of offensive and
defensive actions, or they may be of the nature of a surprise to both
armies. To this class belong the battles of Rosbach, Eylau, Lutzen,
Luzzara, Abensberg, &c.

Surprises were much more common in ancient than in modern times, for the
noise of musketry and the roar of artillery, belonging to the posts or
wings assailed, will prevent any general surprise of an army. Moreover,
the division into separate masses, or _corps d'armée,_ will necessarily
confine the surprise to a part, at most, of the forces employed.
Nevertheless, in the change given to military terms, a surprise may now
mean only an unexpected combination of manoeuvres for an attack, rather
than an actual falling upon troops unguarded or asleep. In this sense
Marengo, Lutzen, Eylau, &c. are numbered with surprises. Benningsen's
attack on Murat at Zarantin in 1812 was a true surprise, resulting from
the gross negligence and carelessness of the king of Naples.

An _order of battle_ is the particular disposition given to the troops
for a determined manoeuvre on the field of battle. A _line of battle_ is
the general name applied to troops drawn up in their usual order of
exercise, without any determined manoeuvre; it may apply to defensive
positions, or to offensive operations, where no definitive object has
been decided on. Military writers lay down twelve orders of battle,
viz.: 1st. The simple parallel order; 2d. The parallel order with a
crotchet; 3d. The parallel order reinforced on one or both wings; 4th.
The parallel order reinforced on the centre; 5th. The simple oblique
order; 6th. The oblique order reinforced on the assailing wing; 7th. The
perpendicular order on one or both wings; 8th. The concave order; 9th.
The convex order; 10th. The order by echelon on one or both wings; 11th.
The order by echelon on the centre; 12th. The combined orders of attack
on the centre and one wing at the same time.

(Figure 14.)[10] The simple parallel order is the worst possible
disposition for a battle, for the two parties here fight with equal
chances, and the combat must continue till accident, superior numbers,
or mere physical strength decides the day; skill can have little or no
influence in such a contest.

[Footnote 10: In the plans, B is the army in position, and A the
attacking force arranged according to the different orders of battle. To
simplify the drawings, a single line represents the position of an army,
whereas, in practice, troops are usually drawn up in three lines. Each
figure represents a grand division of twelve battalions.]

(Figure 15.) The parallel order with a crotchet on the flank, is
sometimes used in a defensive position, and also in the offensive with
the crotchet thrown forward. Malplaquet, Nordlingen, Prague, and Kolin,
are examples of this order. Wellington, at Waterloo, formed the parallel
order with the retired crotchet on the right flank.

(Figure 16.) A line of battle parallel to the enemy's, if strongly
reinforced on one point, is according to correct principles, and may in
certain cases secure the victory; but it has many inconveniences. The
weak part of the line being too near the enemy, may, notwithstanding its
efforts to the contrary, become engaged, and run the risk of a defeat,
and thereby counterbalance the advantages gained by the strong point.
Moreover, the reinforced part of the line will not be able to profit by
its success by taking the enemy's line in flank and rear, without
endangering its connection with the rest of the line.

(Figure 17) represents the parallel order reinforced on the centre. The
same remarks are applicable to this as to the preceding.

These two orders were frequently used by the ancients: as at the battle
of Zama, for example; and sometimes by modern generals. Turenne employed
one of them at Ensheim.

(Figure 18) is the simple oblique order.

(Figure 19) is the oblique order, with the attacking wing reinforced.
This last is better suited for an inferior army in attacking a superior,
for it enables it to carry the mass of its force on a single point of
the enemy's line, while the weak wing is not only out of reach of
immediate attack, but also holds the remainder of the enemy's line in
check by acting as a reserve ready to be concentrated on the favorable
point as occasion may require.

The most distinguished examples under this order are the battles of
Leuctra and Mantinea, under the celebrated Epaminondas; Leuthen, under
Frederick; the Pyramids, Marengo, and Jena, under Napoleon.

(Figure 20.) An army may be perpendicular upon a flank at the beginning
of a battle, as was the army of Frederick at Rosbach, and the Russian
army at Kunersdorff; but this order must soon change to the oblique. An
attack upon both wings can only be made when the attacking force is
vastly superior. At Eylau, Napoleon made a perpendicular attack on one
wing at the same time that he sought to pierce the enemy's centre.

(Figure 21.) The concave order may be used with advantage in certain
cases, and in particular localities. Hannibal employed it at the battle
of Cannæ, the English at Crecy and Agincourt, and the Austrians at
Essling, in 1809.

(Figure 22.) The convex order is sometimes formed to cover a defile, to
attack a concave line, or to oppose an attack before or after the
passage of a river. The Romans formed this order at the battle of
Cosilinum; the French at Ramilies in 1706, at Fleurus in 1794, at
Essling in 1809, and at the second and third days of Leipsic in 1813,
and at Brienne in 1814.

(Figure 23.) The order by echelon on one wing may be frequently
employed with advantage; but if the echelon be made on both wings, there
is the same objection to its use as to the perpendicular order on both
wings. At Dresden, Napoleon attacked both wings at the same time; this
is the only instance in his whole history of a similar attack, and this
was owing to peculiar circumstances in the ground and in the position of
his troops.

(Figure 24.) The echelon order on the centre alone may be employed with
success against an army formed in a thin or too extended line of battle,
for it would be pretty certain to penetrate and break the line.

The echelon order possesses in general very great advantages. The
several corps composing the army may manoeuvre separately, and
consequently with greater ease. Each echelon covers the flank of that
which precedes it; and all may be combined towards a single object, and
extended with the necessary _ensemble_. At the battle of the Pyramids,
Napoleon formed the oblique order in echelon by squares. Portions of his
forces were arranged in echelon in some of his other battles.

(Figure 25.) The combined order in columns on the centre and one
extremity at the same time, is better suited than either of the
preceding for attacking a strong contiguous line. Napoleon employed this
order at Wagram, Ligny, Bautzen, Borodino, and Waterloo.

It is impossible to lay down, as a general rule, which of these orders
of battle should be employed, or that either should be exclusively
followed throughout the whole battle. The question must be decided by
the general himself on the ground, where all the circumstances may be
duly weighed. An order well suited to one position might be the worst
possible in another. Tactics is in this respect the very reverse of
strategy - the latter being subject to more rigid and invariable rules.

But whatever the plan adopted by the attacking force, it should seek to
dislodge the enemy, either by piercing or turning his line. If it can
conceal its real intentions, and deceive him respecting the true point
of attack, success will be more certain and decisive. A turning
manoeuvre may frequently be employed with advantage at the same time
with the main attack on the line. The operations of Davoust at Wagram,
and Richepanse at Hohenlinden, are good examples under this head. The
manoeuvre is, however, a difficult one, and unless executed with skill,
may lead to disasters like the turning manoeuvres of the Austrians at
Rivoli and Austerlitz, and of the French under Jourdan at Stackach, and
under Marmont at Salamanca.

We will now discuss the particular manner of arranging the troops on the
line of battle, or the manner of employing each arm, without entering,
however, much into the detailed tactics of formation and instruction.

We shall begin with _infantry_, as the most important arm on the

There are four different ways of forming infantry for battle: 1st, as
tirailleurs, or light troops; 2d, in deployed lines; 3d, in lines of
battalions, ployed on the central division of each battalion, or formed
in squares; 4th, in deep masses.

These different modes of formation are reduced to four separate systems:
1st, the thin formation of two deployed lines; 2d, a line of battalions
in columns of attack on the centre, or in squares by battalions; 3d, a
combination of these two, or the first line deployed, and the second in
columns of attack; and 4th, the deep formation of heavy columns of
several battalions. The tirailleurs are merely accessories to the main
forces, and are employed to fill up intervals, to protect the march of
the columns, to annoy the enemy, and to manoeuvre on the flanks.

1st. Formerly the line of battle for infantry was very generally that
of two deployed lines of troops, as shown in Fig. 26. But reason and
experience have demonstrated that infantry in this thin or light order,
can only move very slowly; that in attempting rapid movements it breaks
and exhibits great and dangerous undulations, and would be easily
pierced through by troops of a deeper order. Hence it is that the light
formation is only proper when the infantry is to make use of its fire,
and to remain almost stationary.

2d. If the formation of a line of battalions in columns of attack be
employed, the depth and mobility will depend upon the organization or
habitual formation of this arm.

In our service a battalion is supposed to be composed of ten companies,
each formed in three ranks. The two flank companies are designed for
tirailleurs. This would give a column of four divisions, and
consequently twelve files deep; and as only two of these files could
employ their fire, there would be much too large a portion of
non-combatants exposed to the enemy's artillery. In practice, however,
we employ the two-rank formation, which, if the flank companies be
detached, would give a column of attack eight files in depth, which is
not objectionable. If however, the flank companies should be present in
the battalion, the depth of the column would still be ten files.

In the French service, each battalion is composed of four divisions,
formed in either two or three ranks. The two-rank formation is the one
habitually employed. If all the companies be present, and the formation
in three ranks, the depth of column will be twelve files; if in two
ranks the depth will be eight, files. If the flank companies be
detached, the depth of column will be, for three ranks nine files, and
for two ranks six files. (Figs. 27 and 28.)

In the Russian service each, battalion has four divisions of three ranks
each. But the third rank is employed as tirailleurs, which gives a depth
of column of eight files. The employment of the third rank for
tirailleurs is deemed objectionable on account of the difficulty of
rallying them on the column. For this reason, the best authorities
prefer detaching an entire division of two companies.

The formation of squares is exceedingly effective in an open country,
and against an enemy who is superior in cavalry. Formerly very large
squares were employed, but they are now formed either by regiment or by
battalion. The former are deemed best for the defensive, and the latter
for offensive movements. The manner of arranging these is shown in
Figure 29.

3d. The mixed system, or the combination of the two preceding, has
sometimes been employed with success. Napoleon used this formation at
Tagliamento, and the Russians at Eylau. Each regiment was composed of
three battalions, the first being deployed in line, and the other two
formed in columns of attack by division in rear of the two extremities,
as shown in Fig. 30. It may in some cases be better to place the second
and third battalions in line with the first, and on the two extremities
of this battalion, in order to prolong the line of fire. The centre of
the line of each regiment would be less strong, however, than when the
two battalions by column are placed in rear of the other which is
deployed. This mixed system of formation has many advocates, and in
certain situations may be employed with great advantage.

4th. The deep order of heavy columns of several battalions is
objectionable as an habitual formation for battle, inasmuch as it
exposes large masses of men to the ravages of artillery, and diminishes
the mobility and impulsion of an attack without adding greatly to its
force. Macdonald led a column of this kind at the battle of Wagram with
complete success, although he experienced enormous losses. But Ney's
heavy columns of attack at Waterloo failed of success, and suffered
terribly from the concentric fire of the enemy's batteries.

Whenever deep columns are employed, Jomini recommends that the
grand-division of twelve battalions should have one battalion on each
flank, (Fig. 31,) marching by files, in order to protect its flanks from
the enemy's attacks. Without this defence a column of twelve battalions
deep becomes an inert mass, greatly exposed to be thrown into disorder
or broken, as was the column of Fontenoy, and the Macedonian phalanx by
Paulus Emillus. A grand-division is sometimes arranged in two columns by
brigade, as is represented in Figure 32. These are less heavy than a
single column of grand-division by battalion, but are subject to nearly
the same objections.

All offensive operations on the field of battle require _mobility,
solidity_, and _impulsion_; while, on the other hand, all defensive
operations should combine _solidity_ with _the greatest possible amount
of fire_.

Troops in motion can make but little use of their fire-arms, whatever
may be their formation. If in very large masses, they move slower and
are more exposed; but the moral effect of these large moveable columns
is such, that they frequently carry positions without ever employing
their fire. The French columns usually succeeded against the Austrian
and Prussian infantry, but the English infantry could not so easily be
driven from their ground; hey also employed their fire to greater
advantage, as was shown at Talavera, Busaco, Fuente de Honore, Albuera
and Waterloo. The smaller columns and the mixed formation were always
most successful against such troops.

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 9 of 35)