Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/1017

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STRATEGY


conduct in all kinds of emergencies, but how often afterwards could anyone describe with accuracy the mental process by which his action in such crises was dictated? Probably never. Intuitively the mind recognizes the right course and fixes upon it, and with the cessation of the emergency finds it impossible to recall the order in which the facts presented themselves to his consciousness. In war these emergencies are constantly arising, so that by degrees the recollection of them becomes blurred, and the chief actor's presentation of them is often the least trustworthy testimony we possess. The act speaks for itself. But where hundreds of thousands of acts are crowded into the short compass of a campaign, a true view of their whole can only be obtained when all have become accessible and time emancipates criticism from partiality. But nations cannot afford to wait until lapse of time renders it safe to publish all diplomatic and other secrets; and many were ready to attempt the solution of the problems of Napoleon's career.

The most prominent were Jomini (q. v.), speaking for the French army, and Clausewitz (q. v.) , for the Prussian. The former, a native of Switzerland, had attracted the attention of Napoleon by the insight his criticisms revealed, and had been attached by him to the staff, where he served under Ney almost continuously from 1806 to 1813. In the latter year there is no doubt that he

Line of Communication

Communication

Forming Front to

a Flank

did valuable service in the operations culminating with the battle of Bautzen; but, receiving no adequate recognition for them, he deserted to the allies, and was attached by the emperor Alexander, where again he rendered conspicuous service, notably at Leipzig; but his desertion caused him to be viewed with such marked disfavour by all honourable men that he speedily sank into social oblivion, although he remained in the Russian service until his death in 1869. Nevertheless, though he had deserted his cause, he still retained unbounded admiration for the genius of his great master, whose reputation certainly does not suffer at his hands, except for the excess of adulation and bombast with which his historical writings are disfigured. But his social isolation cut him off from authentic eyewitness sources, and he was by nature an inventor of systems. The secret of Napoleon's success he found in the system of " interior lines " — a phrase he invented to designate a method which was almost as old as war itself; and from this system he deduced its opposite, " exterior lines, " and a whole sequence of others, which in the end all resolve themselves into the same idea. A diagram will make the matter clearer than many words. If an army A stands in a central position relatively to two other armies B, C, converging upon it, then, if it moves against each in succession and beats them both, it is said to act on " interior lines "; whilst B and G act on " exterior lines. " What it is said to do when at the first shock B beats it out of existence the books fail to inform us. From this theorem are deduced in succession the advantages and disadvantages of salient and re-entering angles, &c, with which, as a rule, military historians so freely befog their pages.

Since the object of all strategy is to bring the greatest possible force to bear against the decisive point, it is obvious to ask why armies should not always be concentrated, and why they should ever divide. The answer is that a given district and a single road will only subsist a certain number of men, a number which in practice is found to be about 60,000 with their requisite guns and train. Hence an army, say of 1 20,000 men, not only cannot sub- sist on a single line or road, but when divided into two equal parts, and separated only by a short day's march, is really more ready for instant action than an army of 90,000 on one road. Separa- tion, therefore, when large numbers are in question, is a necessity of existence, not a matter of free choice; but when it is thus forced upon a commander he regulates the rate of his march so that his separate columns cannot be attacked singly before the heads of both are within supporting distance of one another; the jaws of the crackers then close on the nut, and unless the nut proves harder than the crackers the nut is crushed. But this calculation reposes on an accurate knowledge of the marching powers of the adversary, and it was in this that Napoleon's enemies failed. Accustomed only to their own deliberate methods, they were quite unable to imagine Napoleon's lightning-like rapidity. Marching twenty-five miles in a day, his whole army would hurl itself on one of the columns whilst the other was still too far off to come to its aid, or if they had already approached so close that mutual co-operation was imminent, he would send a detachment against one to purchase time by the sacrifice Of its men's lives, and would then strike at the other with the bulk of his forces united. How the detachment executed its task depended chiefly on the nature of the ground. It might fight a series of rear-guard actions if a succession of readily defensible sections favoured such action, or it might -conceal its weakness and impose caution and respect on its opponent by the vigour of its attacks; for that there could be no rule, and circumstances alone could decide. In this form Napoleon won most of his earlier successes, but a little reflection will show that the method depended essentially upon his superior mobility and the willingness of his enemy to fight or the reverse. In time this dawned upon his opponents also, and when in 1813 around Dresden he tried to put this plan into force the allied column immediately threatened retreated before him, whilst the other continued its advance, thus compelling him to return to succour his retaining detachment, which, of course, could not struggle on indefinitely against a marked superiority of numbers. He himself confessed during the September days in Dresden that this jeu de va-et- vient, as he described it, had completely broken down his army. If, on the other hand, the commander of the central army under- estimates his opponent's marching powers its doom is sealed, for both his flanks are turned in advance and he comes under a concentrated fire to which it can only oppose a divergent one. This difference is more marked now than formerly; and stated in its extreme form, for rifle fire only, it really means that every bullet fired from the circumference stands a tenfold better chance of hitting something vulnerable than those directed from the centre towards the circumference. The only salvation for an army thus threatened is to move by a lateral march out*- side the jaws of the crackers, and fall on one limb only, when, if it is tactically formidable, it stands a good chance of over- whelming the force immediately opposed to it before the others can arrive. For instance, at Koniggratz, if the Austrian main army, pivoting on the fixed point made by their 2nd and 4th corps engaged with Prince Frederick Charles's army, had swung round the remaining six corps upon that of the crown prince by a short march of from six to eight miles, the Elbe army would have struck a blow in the air, and the situation