« PreviousContinue »
out and still more easily corrected; but bravery is a great weight in the balance of war, and only too often charged with the duty of saving the day or driving home a success.
The nations who have a good and numerous cavalry constantly harass the hostile army, which they sometimes succeed in demoralizing, and, on the field of battle, threaten their artillery with capture; one must then modify his tactics to suit theirs, and have no hard-and-fast general rules of war which would only serve to keep him moving slavishly in a disadvantageous rut. For that reason one should fully understand with whom he has to deal.
If the Cossacks attack at night it is to prevent your sleeping; to exhaust you by sleeplessness rather than to break through your lines; generally to show a bold front to them is all that is necessary to hold them in check. If attacked at night by Prussian cavalry it is a more serious affair, and it is not only necessary to be ready to receive them, but also prepared to manoeuvre against them. Whenever the Austrian cavalry makes a night attack you are safe in assuming that it is supported by infantry.
If, in daytime, the Cossacks show themselves in force upon one of your wings, but without artillery, it is probable that they are not supported; if they have guns, it is more than likely that they are strongly supported, and it will not be long before they prove it to you by the rapidity of their attack, outflanking your wings and threatening your lines of retreat. If the Prussian cavalry shows any artillery of small calibre, by pressing them closely you will be able to capture it. The calibre of the artillery firing upon you is a certain indication of the kind and strength of the troops which it accompanies.
The laws of morale and of military discipline are different in every country, especially in regard to the relations of soldiers to the inhabitants of the country occupied by hostile troops. What among Frenchmen would be called leaving camp without permission, and pillaging, with the people of the north is simply foraging. The appearance then of Cossacks, Prussians, or Hungarians in a village must not lead one to believe that they have come there to reconnoitre. No; they are probably there only to pillage: so keep on your guard, but draw no absolute conclusions from their appearance at that place.
If frequent Russian and Prussian patrols take the same road for several successive days, and especially if their armies remain in the same position for some time, it is an indication of movement towards the place reconnoitred.
If the English cavalry knew anything about war, on a battlefield they would perhaps be the most terrible cavalry in Europe; their well-known luxury in horses and equipments is in harmony with the beauty and courage of their soldiers; when they show themselves you maybe sure that their movements will be united, their attack powerful, and their retreat orderly. They are seldom separated from their infantry, which assures their repose in bivouac. They learn more of the position and dispositions of the enemy through spies, whom they pay handsomely, than through reconnaissances. If you learn that they are separated from their infantry, do not hesitate to attack them by night. When you charge, make a change of front and attack them in flank. This manoeuvre can always be successfully practised against an enemy like the English, who make a vigorous and disunited charge, whose horses are not very manageable, and whose men, brave but uninstructed, begin their charges too far away from the enemy.
If the Cossacks, in their retreat, keep breaking up more and more the longer you pursue them, do not infer from that that they have lost confidence and courage: it is their way of retreating, and a very dangerous one for their pursuers, who may very often have good reason to repent of their boldness. If, on the contrary, other European troops do not rally promptly in retreat, it is a proof of demoralization, and they must then be vigorously pushed.
Q. Because the northern infantry has been charged and run over, is it therefore in your power?
A. The Austrian infantry throw down their arms, and every soldier claims to be a Pole; they will faithfully follow you as prisoners. The Prussian infantry throw down their arms, but take them again promptly if they perceive help coming. The Russian infantry lie down, allow the charge to pass, rise and make renewed use of their arms. The Austrian skirmishers, clothed in gray, and armed with carbines using forced balls, are lost if you press them in the open; do not hesitate to charge them; they are yours, for they will not have time to reload their carbines.
The truth can be approximately arrived at in calculations of the strength of the enemy's force by the number of his bivouac fires, by knowing in advance that each fire represents so many men, more or less, according to the nationalities of the troops in bivouac. This difference is owing, above all, to very distinct national characteristics, and also to the kind of cooking utensils with which the troops are provided. As a French bivouac fire would indicate an average of ten men, so a Russian would indicate four; a Dutch, five; an English, six; the Austrian and German, six each,
It is to be understood that these calculations are only approximate, and that the brightness of the fire, indicating a greater or less number of men to feed it, gives the most reliable of all data.
Q. When should guides be employed f
A. Whenever one is not perfectly acquainted with the country in which he is operating, and especially when it is possible to mount the guides, so that the rate of travel will not be reduced to that of a pedestrian.
Q. Should guides be changed f
A. So long as they are familiar with the country they should be retained while the expedition lasts, especially if it is a delicate one.
Q. What should be done if, on an important expedition, your guide finds himself in a country which he does not know i
A. Take another, but keep the first one until the end of the expedition, so that he may not betray the object of the march.
Q. What precautions should be taken with a guide f
A. Their strictness should depend upon the greater or less importance of the expedition. The guide employed, either in peace or war, for work in rear of the lines of operations, should be allowed to march freely, and at the head of your column.
Q. And the guide who leads a reconnaissance f
A. He should march near the commanding officer, under the special guard of a sergeant and a corporal of cavalry, who will watch him constantly.
It must not be forgotten that, in a hostile country especially, a guide will always try to escape from you if he can do so easily and without danger.