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mal courage are not answerable
for the superiority of the Germans
in the field ; qualities which John
Bright once told us can be bought
to any extent in the world's mar-
ket at $10 a week !

It is well to dwell on this fact,
and to endeavor to draw from it
the only legitimate inferences that
present themselves — namely, that a Cavat rvman.

A Freiicl


Imperial Germany.

The German


Germany owed her success in the Ikkl to far highcr
qualities than those which of ohl weighed down the
scales in the victor's favor.

Ahhough some nations arc still infected with Homeric
traditions of vainglorious martial prowess, the days of
the professional hero are gone forever. The old type,
that ever utilized a portion of its energies to vilify and
diminish an antagonist, has yielded to a better model.
To-day the peasant, the plain citizen, takes his place in
the ranks and, steeled in the ordeal of battle, returns as
a true type of a hero : a man who has quietly and
unostentatiously done his duty.

It is significant that you will never hear mention of a
brave ofificer in Germany. We constantly hear of " ein
tapferer Soldat, ' ' a brave soldier, but we fear the Ger-
mans might look upon the term a "gallant officer," to
which we are so accustomed, as slightly tautological —
not to say savoring of platitude and vulgarity. They
realize a dutiful ofificer, the other is assumed as a matter
of course. A German member of the Reichstag referring
to an ofificer as the "gallant member," as is the custom
in England, would be laughed out of countenance.

Bismarck boasted, in his speech of February 6, 1888,
that the Germans fear nobody but God. If we might
be pardoned differing from him in this particular in-
stance, we would venture to say that the average Ger-
man fears even a current of fresh air, which he calls
a draft, more than anybody else in Europe. Unlike
the French, who are intoxicated by martial glory, if he
does not fear fighting, at least it has no charms for him ;
he dislikes it. But the strength of the Germans lies
in the fact that at the call of duty they overcome their
antipathy, and stand — a nation in arms — ready to meet
those who ha\e put them to the trouble of doing so.

The Army.


The German army
is not meant to pro-
duce pugnacious
heroes ; it has a higher
aim. for it succeeds in
even training the cow-
ard to overcome his
timidity and to do his
duty. And what this
"doing his duty"
means, even the enemy
occasionally bears wit-
ness to. Thus Count
d'Herisson' draws the
following picture of an
episode of the battle of
Villiers Champigny :

The Germans, who
were truly splendid under
fire, advanced in dark
masses and at the mo-
ment of deljouchinjj in
loose sharpshooter for-
mation suddenly as one
man lifted their muskets
above their heads amid a
deafening "hurrah."
This seemed to magnify
their ranks as if hy some
pantomimic circus cfTect.
Our mohili^ guards, who
had never seen anything
similar, were cowed.

Hut if the popular idea of heroism is rather scouted
than \ahi((l in the (ierman armv, on the other hand

The German
conception of

A Prtssian Oi-i'icer.

• 1 1 I III issoii, " J our Mill nf ;iii Artillery OfTii er " (Paris ), pane zSo.

1 62 Imperial Gvniiaiiy.

ill IK) arinv is tlic spirit of true chivalry more cultivated
Cultivation oi {]rM\ there. It was consistent with the best Prussian

chivalry in tin-

f.erniaii ainiy. traditions that when French public ojMnion sou_^;ht a
scapegoat in Marshal Bazaine, his antagonist in war
(Prince Frederick Charles), a royal prince and dt)ughty
soldier, offered to testify to his worth.

During the battle of Sadowa a company of the second
Prussian Foot Guards stood to the right of the village of
Rosberitz. A regiment of Austrian cuirassiers advances
at full charge. Captain von Gorne orders his men to let
them come on within two hundred yards. A well-aimed
volley ! Saddles are emptied, the horses fall. Fresh
reserves rush forward in quick succession only to bite the
dust before the unefring aim of the Prussians. A pile
of wounded horsemen and horses covers the ground.

at Sa"dmra.'' Suddenly a single cuirassier jumps up, runs toward the
Prussian lines, and, vaulting into the saddle of a stray
charger, tries to regain his comrades. " Let nobody
fire at that man," the Prussian captain calls out in a
voice of thunder, and a mighty ' ' Bravo ' ' from the
Prussian ranks reechoes in answer after the flying

Even in peaceful incidents this chivalric sentiment
now and then manifests itself. An instance may be
found in the recent impressive ceremony of transferment
of the body of the French general Carnot from Magde-
burg to France.

In the inculcation of chivalry and the higher forms of

Appreciation of tj^g fulfilment of duty the Prussian authorities are not

chivalry in ■'

other countries, merely Content with precept drawn from the deeds of
their own countrymen, but have long cultivated a cos-
mopolitan spirit of appreciating such wherever found.
Thus when the well-known harrowing disaster occurred
of the foundering of the English troop-ship the Birken-

The Anuy. i6


head, ' the splendid instance of discipline evinced on that
occasion by the English troops on board was singled out
by the king of Prussia and the account of if ordered to
be read out aloud to every Prussian regiment in parade
as a shining example worthy of emulation of the noblest
fulfilment of duty.


With the vast improvements in our time in firearms
generally, other instincts must be called upon to face
the shock of battle ; not, perhaps, opposite instincts, but onnodem'^"'^
certainly qualities of a higher order than hitherto
required. The soldiers who of old would show the
wild beast roused within them in the heat and excite-
ment of a hard-fought, hand-to-hand grapple might not
be equally ready to stand at ease quietly for hours while
the pitiless "ping" of bullets — fired at a range of one
thousand yards — dealt death and devastation in their
sullen lines. Troops in days gone by were seldom
called upon to make forced marches to the degree that
is often called for in the present day ; nor were human
beings ever expected to lie down and sleep on the Ixuc-
fields for weeks together, and that mostly in the pouring
rain, as was the case in 1870 from Weissenburg to i>,iv;iiioii in the
(iravelotte and then on to .Sedan. Animal courage ^^ •»■ of '870.
alone, howevir high, can ne\er hope to meet such
requirements as are now asked of the rank and tile of a
great European army in the field. That readiness in
getting killed is not the only (lualit)' leciuired is shown
by the fact that thirty-six ( ierman ca\alry re^inuiils did
not lose a single man during the whole campaign of 1.S70 !
The Si.xth-Army Cc)rj)s was hardly uikN r lire al


• Tlif royal Iroop-sliip Hirkriilirad fouiulcred olV llii- soulli coasl i)f Atriia in
l'"ol>ruary, 1S32, willi llie Sfvciity-fourlli I-Iiglilaiidci's I'liinniaiulLMl hy Colonel
Sftmi on Iiiiriicl.


Iinpiiial Cicnuaiiy.

Tlie sense of
duty Prussia's

Its prevalence.

Besides perfect orj^anization, it was the lofty spirit —
the strrn sense of ([\\\\ — wliich alone, luuler leaders
of consummate genius, made those \iclorics possible.
And these leaders, in their turn, were nothing; else but

the outcome and
result of that su-
preme sense of
and duty wliich
is the one key-
note of the whole
organization of
Prussia, civil and
military. This
trait is striking,
from highest to
humblest — from
the king, who
declared himself
ready for duty,
d own to the
humblest Pome-
ranian peasant,
who, at the trum-
pet call of war,
(juietly reported
himself at the
nearest place of
enrollment and exchanged the hoe for the musket. This
trait is visible everywhere in those iron hoops of the Ger-
man army, the sergeants and non-commissioned officers.
It reaches, perhaps, its most pregnant significance in the
full captain, the company leader. The young lieutenant,
often an easy-going fop, is invariably a changed man


Alfred Krupp.
Founder of the iron and steel works at Essen.

The Anuv. 165

when intrusted witli the responsibihty of a captain's duty.
If Danton truly characterized "audacity," again and
again "audacity," as the watchword of successful revo-
lution, we might with ccjual justice define "duty,"
" dut\- " again and again, as the key-note, the rallying-
point, i>l Prussia's success in the field. This feeling
is even unassisted In- the traditional " contempt " for an
cnemv which has ever been inculcated in the breast
of the common soldier elsewhere. This undervaluing of
the enemv has been supposed to increase the moral Valuation of

i ' the enemy.

Strength of an army, although history does not show
that it ever prevented a defeat turning into a rout. The
Prussians, both officers and men, are intuiti\'ely taught
to overrate an enemy. Both in 1866 and 1870 the pre-
\'ailing opinions were of the superiority of the Austrian
cavalry, of the French infantry, etc. The soldiers
themselves used to make these assertions dispassion-
ately, but with a strongly expressed reservation that,
notwithstanding probable first defeats, they hoped to
win in the end. The true value of this sobriety of
spirit could, however, onl\- ha\e been fully demonstrated
by temporary defeat — in an iiuoluntary defensive posi-
tion — and we feel sure thai the nation which, above all
others in Eurojje, indi\i(hiall\- lialcs war and bloodshed
would have shown to advantage imdtr sucli ad\'erse
conditions. I'"or this steadiness in ad\crsity is more
readily found in iroops which respect their enemies than sieadiness in

1 1 1 ■ 1 ■ r 1 1 adversity.

ui those that despise then" toe and may lia\e to over-
come the disenchantment of finding out their mistake
.suddenly and jjossibly too lale.


The Pjohcmian campaign of 1S66 brought one Prus-
sian n:ini<' |)i-oniiiient]\- lo the front— that of (ieneral

1 66

Imperial Germany.

valor JTi iS66.

His popularity.

Steinmetz, the lion of Nachod. He was a splendid ex-
ample of that type of stubborn soldier ready to sacrifice
any number of his men in his dogged determination
to rout the foe. This type of soldier has been common
to all times and countries. The Prussian army had seen
no active service worth mentioning for generations, and

a man of General
Steinmetz' s mold
was well adapted
to lielp it over
the first squeam-
ishness in tasting
blood. Therefore
it was but natural
that this rugged
soldier of the
Bliicher school
(if it be fair to
compare him to
so modest a char-
acter as old
Marshal " Vor-
warts ' ' ) should
have come out of
the Bohemian
campaign to rind
his name a house-

Officers of the First and Second Cavalry Jiold word at
Regiments of the Prussian Guard.

home. In any

other country w^e should ha\e had that frail female com-
monly called "public opinion" pointing to General
Steinmetz as the man to lead supreme in future strug-
gles. Not so in Prussia. A higher standard than that
of public opinion directed and watched over the des-

The Army. 167

tinies of Germany. General Steinmetz's achievements
were recognized and rewarded as they deserved to be,
but not beyond their deserts. When, in 1870, a nation
in arms crossed the Rhine to the strains of " Die Wacht His pan in the


am Rhein," it found General Steinmetz in command of
the First Army. He was not a man to wait long for
orders when an enemy was in sight. He stormed the
heights of Spicheren and achieved a brilliant \ictory,
though at the price of a terrible loss of life. But the
workmanship that was good enough in 1866 was' no
longer to be tolerated in 1870. General Steinmetz had
attacked without, if not against, orders, and, although
victorious, had disconcerted the plans of his superiors,
which, if properly carried out, were intended to cut off
the army he had beaten at such heavy cost.

In any other country "public opinion" would have
lifted the victorious general into her lap, and he would
have been on the high road to further honors and re-
wards. Not so in Prussia; General Steinmetz was com-
manded to appear before the Red Prince and hear his
fate. "Your excellency, although an old soldier, has
presumably forgotten what it is to obey! " words which,
translated into their subsequent meaning, conveyed the Hi.s dismissal.
(irder to go home at once, stripped of his command, in
disgrace: " Cassio, I l<t\c thee: but never more be
officer of mine."

At the battle of Le Bourget (before Paris), October
30, 1870, tlie storming column, (onsisting <if the
Queen Elizabeth Regiment, tlic first battalion dl the
regiment Queen Augusta, and the second ccjuipany
of the pioneers of the Guard, was led by Colonel
Count Kanitz. They were exposed to a murderous lire ,

while the pioneers had to work their way gradually
through every obstacle in their path. The second bat-

1 68

Imperial Ccrmany.

Heroism at the
battle of
I,e Kourget.


talion of the Elizabeth Regiment advances with flying
colors, when its standard-bearer falls ; another non-
commissioned officer seizes the standard, but he, too, is
struck down. At that moment General von Budritzki
dismounts, seizes the flag, and rushes on in advance of
his grenadiers. Around him fall in quick succession
Colonel von Zaluskowski, the commander of the Eliza-
beth Regiment, and Count Waldersee, who had only

rejoined the army a
few days, cured of
the wound he had
received at Grave-
lotte. The papers
were full of this deed
of valor of General
von Budritzki, but
in spite of it he was
not promoted to an
independent c o m -
mand. Heroism is
not enough in Prus-
sia to be intrusted
with the welfare of
a Pruss i a n a r m y
It is even reported that, although General Herwarth
von Bittenfeld commanded the vanguard column in
1866, Moltke refused to grant him a corresponding
command in 1870, notwithstanding the repeatedly ex-
pressed wish of the king himself, witli whom he was an
especial favorite.

A Prussian officer does not hold a responsible com-
a Pm'J^^r' °'^ mand because of his bravery, but because of his sup-
posed talent for the disposition of troops {Dispositions-

The Helmet Worn by Bismarck during
THE War of 1S70.


The Army. 169

taletit), his capacity to take the initiative, to act with
judgment under unforeseen conditions — in short, his
fitness for command.

These incidents are instructive as showing how heroes,
however exaked. who disobey orders, or who — even far
less — are judged incompetent although in appearance
successful, are dealt with by the competent directing
minds in the German army. So little, however, are
these facts understood by public opinion in other coun-
tries, that after the retirement of the late Prince Alexan-
der of Battenberg from Bulgaria some of its exponents
busied themselves with his probable nomination to the
command of a Prussian army corps.


Neither the efficiency of the German army nor the |„fl^,e„^.^. „r
choice of its leaders depends on the watchfulness of puW"'^ ".pinion

1 m the Crerniaii

public opinion ; it is perfectly independent of it, and '*""^
this is one of the chief causes of its excellence. Neither
Count Waldersee nor Count Schlieffen, the two men
who have been appointed to succeed Count Moltke as
chief of the staf?, was known to the public at large and
neither has ever yet held an independent command in
action. The one supreme condition, the purity of the
fountain-head, no public opinion can guarantee ; only
the "si)irit" that dwells in Uu; iinmcdiate confidence of
the ruler and makes itself felt down to the common
soldier can do that.

What public o|)inion is capable of doing with regard
to an army we have witnessed in France, even since the ',','m^^" ''"""^^''
crushing lesson of rSyo. General Boulanger was in-
stalled at the War Ofifice, his popularity dail)' on tin-
increase. If, dining that period, one of those frontier
squabbles had led to war, (icneial iSonl.inger would


Imperial Germany.


Duty the

have been called by public opinion perhaps to the chief
command of the arm v. In this instance jiublic opinion
might have placed the fates of weal and woe of a nation
of 38,000,000 in the hands of an intriguer of doubtful
ability. Another recent instance of the line adopted
by public opinion in army matters in Austria is related
farther on.

If we are to judge by our own experience of public
opinion in England, we may fairly assume that, if we
were engaged in a serious struggle, we should be bur-
dened with heroes. Not so in the case of Prussia in the
War of 1870. The mightiest war of modern times hardly
produced a dozen men around the brows of whom
public opinion could weave its meretricious wreaths. It
was not intended it should. It was looked upon as bad
form in the army to be thought a hero ; quiet duty was
the watchword.

It is eminently characteristic of the above that when
Bismarck inquired after his sons during the war, he did
not ask their superior officer whether they had distin-
guished themselves, but only whether they had done their
duty. Strange reading this, for many of those who feel
the craving — the lust — for individual distinction.

Cheap heroism — distinction — would often have been
easier to gain than to fulfil quiet duty. Men who had
been too anxious to distinguish themselves were looked
at askance by their comrades. After the war a silent
etiquette was promulgated that conversations relating to
individual prowess were to be avoided. Everybody was
expected to do his duty and nothing more. The result
proved that it had been fairly done. The directing mind
saw that it was not done in vain. The campaigns of
1864, of 1866, of 1870, came and passed. Their
butcher's bills were quietly settled without swords and

The Army.


bayonets bending, cartridges jamming, and fighting men
being poisoned by rotten provisions. Would that our
historians could say >-
the same of the re-
cent English brawls
with sa\'ages !

It may be thought
that the Iron Cross'
was, after all, a pre-
mium on personal
distinction, and so
it was in one sense,
but not in a vulgar,
sporting sense. The
Iron Cross came as
a reward for duty
done more than for
personal distinction
achieved, and in its
application and dis-
tribution a truly
democratic spirit
prevailed. The Iron
Cross was in many
instances on the
breast of the ser-
geant and common

soldier before it was

ml ^ ^1 • An Okfickr oi- thk Hussars, Saxony.

xed to the uni-
form f)f those in responsible command. Leaving the
ranks to carry wounded comrades to the rear — a com-
mon form of distinction in some countries — was hardly a

The Iron Cross.

lAn order lioslowtd on those in llx- ''.irman army \v1]m arc iK-(tni<l wniiln nf
rewar<l for service.


Imperial Germany.

Heroism vs.

An instance of
clutv exceeded.

passport to the Iron Cross in 1870. Bismarck is said to
have jokingly remarked to a German prince, who like
himself wore the Iron Cross, tliat they had both received
it as a compliment.


Hut as everything has its tux) sides, so too the aspects
of personal achievement. Nor do we mean to say thai
there was no element of individual prowess in 1870. We
only mean to imply that the cheap sort of meretricious
heroism at the expense of duty, which has been and
would again be ruin in serious battle, was not encour-
aged nor rewarded. To prove that every rule may
have its exceptions, we cannot help mentioning one
of the few facts that have come to our knowledge in
which the limits of duty were almost exceeded in a
quiet, unostentatious, and chivalrous manner. It was at
the hard-fought battle of Gravelotte that a company
of the Alexander Guard infantry regiment was standing
under a withering hail of bullets. The men were
ordered to lie down under co\er. The officers alone,
as if by a superhuman instinct, remained upright, to
show the men that, although they were not to be need-
lessly exposed, there was even more expected of those
who were placed above them. Of twenty officers eigh-
teen were killed or wounded on that occasion. If their
action was an excess of duty, it was not of a meretri-
cious character. It was done quietly, unostentatiously,
with no reporters in sight, and with no individual re-
ward to follow. The true reward was, however, found
in the devotion of the troops themselves. For a few
days afterward, on the road to Sedan, this very com-
pany marched twenty-three hours out of the twenty- four
without leaving a single man behind.

The Army


Few things call more for our attention than the won-
derful marching capacity of tlie German army. It is an
unerring ])roof of the moral strength of an army, for its
source is far more of a moral than of a physical nature.
When the War of 1870 broke out, a friend of ours, who
had three brothers who were officers in the Prussian
army, expressed himself thus : ' ' Think of me, we shall
march the French to death." And the battle of Sedan
j)roved he was right. F"or it was above all this tremen-
dous capacity for marching which enabled the German
army to surround that unfortunate town as with an iron
ring. One of the most striking instances of this march-
ing aptitude and the moral force connected with it
was BlUcher's junction with Wellington
two days after the former's defeat at
Ligny. Heinrich von Treitschke has writ-
ten the following regarding it : '

The emperor Francis said to the officers of
Bliicher's staff: " Vou Prussians are devilish
fellows." And Metternich admitted to Frei-
herr vom Stein that an Austrian army would
have reciuired at least six weeks to recover-
from such a defeat — whereupon Stein answered
with emphasis: "There you see what moral
force can do ! "

It is not so much success as the causes
which lead to it that must interest the ob-

The English monthly periodicals dwell
from time to time on the efficiency of our
army, and draw comparisons between it
and those of continental nations. Lately
a writer in the Contemporary Review

capacity of Uie
German army.

At Sedan.

• " History of llic Nincleentli Cctiliir\," II. von Treit-
schke, \'ol. I., pajce 769.



Imperial Germany.

The " new

The "old

Stated that " the German armies were defeated by the
First RepubHc and by llic empire of France because
they were hving on the ' old traditions ' of Frederick,
and liad Jiot idapted themselves to the new conditions.
For precisely the ^ reasons the Austrians in 1866

and the French i' ' .it down before the Germans."

This statement ij albvery well as applying to certain
problems of military science ; but the " new conditions"
mentioned are not identical, nor covered by any new
systems of military tactics or strategy. For instance, in
1866 the Austrian artillery was superior to the Prussian,
and in 1870 the French rifles were again far superior to
the German needle-gun. The fact is that the ' ' new
conditions " are as old as the days of Sparta ; besides all
tactical innovations and strategical skill in the leader-
ship, they mean the fighting condition of a healthy,
strong community with a great cause, and full moral
confidence in that cause, at its back. The "old tradi-
tions" are as old as Darius and the battle of Arbela,
and mean the going down of an order of things that has
outlived itself through age or unfitness or corruption be-
fore the onslaught of health and strength.

The " old traditions" are alive in our midst in Eng-
land, as shown by the evidence of the Royal Commis-
sion to inquire into the weapons and ammunition of our
army after the late Egyptian campaign, and it reported
that the bayonets, the swords, as well as the ammuni-
tion, supplied were partly defective or useless. The
fiour was rotten, the biscuits mildewed, and almost
every other article of food inferior or adulterated.
And yet there was nobody to hang ! When a regi-
ment was to embark from an Irish port, it was found
that half the men w ,.-'e dead drunk. These are the old
traditions ! «

The Army.



In Prussia, such is the honest thoroughness and

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Online LibrarySidney WhitmanImperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character → online text (page 11 of 23)