Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/80

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63
PERSIA.

the means of attack, it is true, are in an exact ratio with those of defence; so that an obstacle which would scarcely stop a European regiment for an hour, here detains a victorious army several days.

In Persia, and indeed all over the East, the art of war consists in hovering about an enemy, falling unawares on his quarters, intercepting his provisions, depriving him of water by turning off the streams and filling the wells, and in attacking his troops when sinking under famine and fatigue. The cavalry, like all irregular cavalry, cannot act with uniformity; it would be unable to cope with a corps disciplined in the European manner, though its evolutions and movements are extremely rapid, and each individual excels in the management of the horse. They are accustomed to no more than two manœuvres, the one for attack, and the other for flight. The first consists in charging all together pellmell; stopping here and there in groups of four or five, sometimes at the distance of several yards from one another, and each in an opposite direction. The second manœuvre is to gallop at full speed, to pull up the horse all at once, to turn in the saddle, fire backward at an enemy, and gallop away again. On various occasions, the Persians have pursued in their wars with the Turks a system ruinous to the inhabitants of the country, but which has frequently delivered them from their enemies without their having occasion to strike a blow. When they have known beforehand the point of attack, they have carried away the whole population and laid the country entirely waste for the space of several days' journey; and when the foe has penetrated into this desert, they have harassed him incessantly and reduced him with the assistance of famine.

A fault inherent in the organization of their cavalry, which damps the courage of the men, and diminishes the chance of success in battle, is the custom of obliging the soldier to find his own arms and horse. These frequently constitute his whole property; and as the state grants no compensation in case of their loss, his chief care is to preserve them. On more than one occasion, this solicitude has proved fatal to the honour of the Persian arms.

In Persia, there is no distinction between the civilian and the military man; every subject suddenly turns soldier. The khan of a tribe exchanges his pastoral occupations for the command of troops; and the same is the case with regard to the subaltern officers. The general-in-chief, who is almost always the prime minister, quits the divan for the camp: hence the army is deficient in good officers.

It has been already observed, that the infantry are much worse than the cavalry. Mr. Scott Waring mentions an instance

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