Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/317

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303
THE FIELD TELEGRAPH.

the animal kingdom, and confined to the existing generation. His conception of the indissolubleness of certain associations, in particular, preluded the elucidation of their organic character as resulting from the intercourse of the mind with its environment.—Westminster Review.

 

THE FIELD TELEGRAPH.
By A. HILLIARD ATTERIDGE.

IN the year 1802, when Napoleon was first consul, there arrived in Paris two artisans of Poitiers. One of these men, Jean Alexandre, had invented a rudimentary form of the electric telegraph, and, with his friend Beauvais, he had left the little country town full of high hopes to submit his discovery to the great soldier who was then guiding the destinies of France. He requested a personal interview with the first consul, refusing to communicate his secret to anyone else. He was referred to the astronomer Delambre, whom he succeeded in convincing of the value of his invention; still, however, declining to reveal the way in which the electric signals were transmitted, unless to Napoleon himself. But the latter refused to grant the required interview, saying he had no time to trouble himself with such matters; and Alexandre and Beauvais went back to Poitiers in bitter disappointment.[1] Had Napoleon listened to the proposals of Alexandre, the course of history might have been changed; for, had he been able to secure the exclusive possession of the electric telegraph, it is easy to imagine the effect it would have had upon his campaigns, and how difficult it would have been for even the allied armies of all Europe to contend against a great commander, who, by some secret means unknown to them, could obtain accurate and instantaneous information from every point of the theatre of war, and flash his orders to corps-d'armée divided from him and each other by miles of country, while his opponents had only to trust to horses and couriers to carry their orders and dispatches.

A very little study of the wars of the French Revolution, in comparison with those of our own time, will be sufficient to show what an advantage the telegraph is to the modern commander. A striking instance of the extreme difficulty of combining the operations of separate corps or armies in the same theatre of war, without the aid of the telegraph, is afforded by the history of the campaign of 1796, in Germany, when Moreau and Jourdan were "acting in concert" against the Austrians. The Archduke Charles left a weak retarding force in front of Moreau, while he directed all his available strength against Jourdan; and the former general was actually advancing in triumph

  1. Villefranche, "La Télégraphie Française, Étude Historique."