Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

some successes and some reverses. Let us Lave neither part nor parcel in her proceedings, but reserve an entire liberty of action in reference to our future conduct.* England has already gone through the first or aggressive phase in her Eastern policy. She is now strictly conservative, and intent on the improvement of what she already possesses; but we think we may say that she is also fully alive to the gravity of the Eastern question in all its bearings, and that she would not hesitate again to take up arms, if her rights or interests were seriously menaced, either in Turkey, or in. Egypt, or in Central Asia.

Art. VII.—1. A Treatise on Drill and Manoeuvres of Cavalry, combined with Horse-Artillery. By Major-General Michael Smith, C.B., commanding the Poonah Division of the Bombay Army, late of the 15th Hussars and 3rd Dragoon Guards. London, 1865.

2. Modern Warfare, as influenced by Modern Artillery. By Colonel MacDougall, author of 'The Theory of War' and 'The Campaigns of Hannibal.' London, 1864.

3. On Modern Armies. By Marshal Marmont, Due de Raguse. Translated by Captain Tendy, F.G.I., F.L.S., &c., Director of the Practical Military College. London, 1865.

4. A Military View of the recent Campaigns in Virginia and Mart/land. By Captain C. E. Chesney, R.E., Professor of Military History, Sandhurst College. With Maps. London.

5. A, Practical Course of Military Surveying, including the Principles of Topographical Drawing. By Captain Tendy, F.G.I., F.L.S., &c., Director of the Practical Military College at Sunbury. London, 1864.

6. The Operations of War Explained and Illustrated. By Edward Bruce Hamley, Colonel in the Army, Lieutenant-Colonel of

* We cannot close this article without raising our protest against the alarmist writers of the Indian press, and the sustained virulence with which they have attacked the non-intervention policy of Sir John Lawrence. This tone is not only unfair to the strong-minded statesman who now administers our Indian empire, and whose foreign policy, the result of much deliberation and of a wide experience, has been hitherto eminently successful, but it is also injudicious in itself, since it stimulates agitation in the Native press, and thus helps to unsettle the Native mind, and moreover encourages Russia to advance, by magnifying the danger of that advance to India, and overstating the indifference to it of the iiritish Government. We entirely approve of Sir John Lawrence's observance of a strict neutrality in the late Cabul revolution; and we are moreover satisfied that if, under altered circumstances, and in the possible event of the Eastern question being reopened in Europe, it should be found necessary to adopt more active measures in Asia, our present (jovcruor-licucrul will be found to be fully equal to the emergency.

Artillery, Artillery, Knigbt of the Legion of Honour and of the Medjidie, formerly Professor of Military History, Strategy, and Tactics at the Staff College, Member of the Council of Military Education. Edinburgh and London, 1866.

WE are not among the number of those who profess to believe that by studying the theory of his profession every subaltern officer may render himself fit, if he be so disposed, to command an army in the field and conduct a campaign to a successful issue. To command an army in the field and conduct a campaign to a successful issue, something more than average ability, even if it be improved by study, is required. A true genius for war, like a true genius for painting, is one of Nature's rarest and richest gifts. It comes to few, as is shown by the comparatively narrow space which the list of really great commanders fills on the page of history. But it does not therefore follow that gentlemen who adopt arms as a profession are justified in assuming that, so far as their intellectual faculties are concerned, they may lead a life of absolute idleness, yet fulfil the conditions of their calling. The greatest general that ever lived could have done nothing with his army, however numerous and effective, unless he had been aided in its management by subordinates who knew what they were about; and men who know what they are about in subordinate situations are those and only those who, by some process or another, have studied the art to the practice of which they are called. For war is a great art, as well in detail as in the concrete. It is just as much the subject of fixed laws as any other art, and cannot be mastered, either wholly or partially, except by such as give themselves the trouble to ascertain what these laws require. The recruit who submits to the rudiments of his drill is, indeed, learning something, though he know it not, of the rules of applied mechanics; and the corporal who trains him teaches these rules, himself being ignorant of the fact; but it is not exactly so as we look higher. The manoeuvring of a company, of a battalion, of a brigade, of a division, the movements of a great army and its disposition in order of battle,—all the operations connected with these things depend just as much upon mathematical calculation as the building of a' Great Eastern 'and her management in a gale of wind. The art of war, like erery other art, has thus its principles, which can neither be violated nor ignored, under any circumstances, with impunity; and its laws, which because they are based upon principle may, when an emergency arises, be set at nought, just as in other arts

genius from time to time overrides all rule, and thereby better establishes the principles on which the rules are founded.

It has long been thrown in our teeth by foreign writers on military subjects that, as a people, we are either ignorant of these truths or indifferent to their importance. 'An army of lions commanded by asses' was the not very flattering description given, both by friends and foes, of the British army which took part in the Crimean campaign. And M. Brialmont himself, the least prejudiced, perhaps, of all our critics, passes judgment upon us with equal severity, only in terms more urbane and assigning a reason for it. 'A cette epoque,' he remarks, speaking of the Duke's first entrance into the army, 'on avait 1'habitnde d'engager au service les jeunes gens dont 1'esprit etait lent ou tarde, parce qu'on s'imaginait que le carriere des armes exigeait moins d'activite intellectuelle que la magistrature, la politique, le bureau, les finances, 1'administration, et 1'eglise.' Now, to a certain extent, we admit that M. Brialmont is right, and the admission naturally leads to an acknowledgment that our friends in Paris and St Petersburg, in speaking of the Crimean War as they did, told a disagreeable truth in the most disagreeable way possible. But neither M. Brialmont nor other Continental writers quite do us justice. We never profess— for four hundred years and more we have not professed—to be in their sense of the term a military nation. We were the last people in Europe to tolerate the existence among us of standing armies. These came in with Oliver Cromwell so late as the close of the great Civil War, and the part which they played in the general administration of affairs was scarcely such as to make our forefathers fall in love with the institution. But when a whole people set their faces against an institution which they regard as dangerous to civil liberty, it would be ridiculous to expect from them any special zeal in fostering the qualities which contribute to make it effective. At the same time our critics should not altogether forget that though trusting more to our navy than our army for defence against aggression, and absolutely and entirely recovered from the ambition of foreign conquest, we have seldom taken part in a Continental war without giving both friends and foes sound reason to remember us. We played no mean part in Europe when Queen Anne filled the throne, as the best of Louis XlV.'s commanders could testify. The battle of Fontenoy was no discreditable affair, at all events, to the English troops engaged in it; and if we lost America through the blundering of one set of generals, we gained a great Indian empire by the valour and ability of others. Nor is this all. Experience has shown that, in whatever military virtues besides we may be deficient, our bitterest detractors cannot with truth accuse us of being

cowed rowed by reverses. When the great French revolution began, England still lay in a state of exhaustion from the efforts which she had made in the war with her American colonies. The feelings of the English people, likewise, were, for more reasons than one, decidedly against interference in that movement, and the Government itself as little desired as the people to draw the sword for abuses in a neighbouring country which could neither be denied nor defended. Yet when the French revolutionary chiefs declared war against kingly power, and in a spirit of propagandise! invaded the Netherlands, England, bound by treaty to defend an ally, laid aside her scruples and accepted the challenge. Probably not even the most querulous of our neighbours will deny that out of the gigantic struggle which followed she came triumphantly. The early failures in Holland were more than redeemed hy the victories in the Peninsula and the south of France; and the crowning success at Waterloo secured for Europe a peace which suffered no serious interruption throughout the interval of full forty years.

To another point, well worth their consideration, we beg to draw the attention of our foreign critics. Though forty years of peace do little to impair the efficiency of armies recruited by conscription and interwoven with the fundamental institutions of a State, they necessarily produce a somewhat {leadening effect upon such as are raised, like our own, by voluntary enlistment . Where every man knows that he is liable to serve, service is regarded neither as a hardship nor a degradation ; and the constant circulation through society of recruits going to join the ranks and trained soldiers returning home again, keeps up a military spirit in the entire population. The Governments of States so circumstanced are likewise deeply interested in fostering this spirit, and giving every encouragement to military science and military invention. They know that the nation's existence depends upon the power of the army to defend it, and they spare neither labour nor expense in perfecting the armament and improving the discipline and organisation of their soldiers. Hence, whenever the occasion arises, they are able to enter upon a new war, having lost nothing of wliat the old war may have taught them, and adding thereto not a little of what the soldiers of a by-gone generation wcro ignorant. With us the very reverse of this is too much the case. Our first thought on the return of peace is to reduce as many men as possible, and to break.up and disperse the military establishments which war had created. Consider how it fared with Woolwich, with Chatham, with Sandhurst, within a few years after the pacification of 1815. Consider how we rested on the glories of the war of the French Revolution; keeping to our old drill, our old musket, our old system of bribing into the

ranks

ranks the offscourings of society, whom not even the bounty could prevail upon to enlist, as soon as the price of labour rose and emigration became fashionable. And all this, because we are too jealous of our personal liberty to tolerate a conscription, even if it take the very innocent shape of a ballot for the militia, and too penurious to purchase an exemption from that necessity by paying more than we do for our soldiers when we get them and retaining more of them in our service.

It was a natural consequence of what we may call this fanaticism about personal liberty, and the result of a Parliamentary Government which wastes thousands upon thousands of pounds on timber, iron, and brick, yet grudges tens in providing men enough to make use of them,—that waking one morning after forty years of peace to the astounding intelligence that we had drifted into a war with Russia, we found ourselves unprepared to take the place which former achievements had won for us among the great powers of Europe. Almost all the superior officers who had studied in the school of Wellington were dead. The few that survived were old men, grown rusty in their profession. The generation which came next had either seen no war at all, or had gathered their .experience from campaigns in India, or in bush fighting at the Cape. Our men, on the other hand, were excellent, far better both in their

E'lysique and morale than those followers of whom the great uke had said, 'That with them he could do anything and go anywhere.' But they were few in number, some 25,000 or less, and there were no reserves behind, from which to reinforce them. How could we expect, with such a disposable force— even if it had been managed by the best instructed staff in the world—to come out of a trial of strength with the great Russian Empire otherwise than humiliated? And when we remember what the staff was, the marvel really is that worse did not befal us.* Still there is comfort in the reflection, that both the enemy and our ally bear testimony to the unflinching courage and endurance of the British troops. For an army of brave and enduring men is sure, if hostilities are protracted, to bring up to the surface, sooner or later, individuals worthy to command it. And the army of the Crimea, however unfortunate it may have been in the chiefs and heads of departments originally set over it, had among its regimental officers not a few well able to supply their places, when the casualties of war, or their own

* It if only fair to add, that the staff of the Crimean army greatly improved in efficiency as hostilities went on. At the end of the war. Colonel Mackenzie, Colonel Herbert, Colonel Wetherall, and, though last not least. Colonel Lord Longford, had become first-rate heads and administrators of departments. They studied in the school of experience, and learned, late, « hat a sounder professional education would have taught them before they took the field.

Vol. 120.—No. 240. 2 M failing

« AnteriorContinuar »