Of Prussian Troops, their Excellencies and their Defects.
The strictest care and the most unremitting attention are required of commanding officers in the formation of my troops. The most exact discipline is ever to be maintained, and the greatest regard paid to their welfare; they ought also to be better fed than almost any troops in Europe.
Our regiments are composed of half our own people and half foreigners who enlist for money: the latter only wait for a favorable opportunity to quit a service to which they have no particular attachment. The prevention of desertion therefore becomes an object of importance.
Many of our generals regard one man as good in effect as another, and imagine that if the vacancy be filled up, this man has no influence on the whole; but one does not know how on this subject to make a proper application of other armies to our own.
If a deserter be replaced by a man as well trained and disciplined as himself, it is a matter of no consequence; but if a soldier, who for two years has been accustomed to arms and military exercise, should desert, and be replaced by a bad subject, or perhaps none at all, the consequence must prove eventually very material.
It has happened from the negligence of officers in this particular, that regiments have not only been lessened in number, but that they have also lost their reputation.
By accidents of this kind, the army becomes weakened at the very period when its completion is most essentially necessary, and unless the greatest attention is paid to the circumstance, you will lose the best of your forces and never be able to recover yourself.
Though my country be well peopled, it is doubtful if many men are to be met with of the height of my soldiers: and supposing ever that there was no want of them, could they be disciplined in an instant? It therefore becomes one of the most essential duties of generals who command armies or detachments, to prevent desertion. This is to be effected,
1st. By not encamping too near a wood or forest, unless sufficient reason require it.
2dly. By calling the roll frequently every day.
3dly. By often sending out patroles of hussars, to scour the country round about the camp.
4thly. By placing chasseurs in the corn by night, and doubling the cavalry posts at dusk to strengthen the chain.
5thly. By not allowing the soldiers to wander about, and taking care that each troop be led regularly to water and forage by an officer.
6thly. By punishing all marauding with severity, as it gives rise to every species of disorder and irregularity.
7thly. By not drawing in the guards, who are placed in the villages on marching days, until the troops are under arms.
8thly By forbidding, under the strictest injunctions, that any soldier on a march quit his rank or his division.
9thly. By avoiding night-marches, unless obliged by necessity.
10thly. By pushing forward patroles of hussars to the right and left, whilst the infantry are passing through a wood.
11thly. By placing officers at each end of a defile, to oblige the soldiers to fall into their proper places.
12thly. By concealing from the soldier any retrograde movement which you may be obliged to make, or giving some specious flattering pretext for doing so.
13thly. By paying great attention to the regular issue of necessary subsistence, and taking care that the troops be furnished with bread, flesh, beer, brandy, &c.
14thly. By searching for the cause of the evil, when desertion shall have crept into a regiment or company: enquiring if the soldier has received his bounty and other customary indulgencies, and if there has been no misconduct on the part of the captain. No relaxation of discipline is however on any account to be permitted. It may be said, that the colonel will take care of this business, but his efforts alone cannot be sufficient; for in an army, every individual part of it should aim at perfection, to make it appear to be the work of only one man.
An army is composed for the most part of idle and inactive men and unless the general has a constant eye upon them, and obliges them to do their duty, this artificial machine, which with the greatest care cannot be made perfect, will very soon fall to pieces, and nothing but the bare idea of a disciplined army will remain.
Constant employment for the troops is therefore indispensibly necessary: the experience of officers who adopt such plan will convince them of its good effects, and they will also perceive that there are dailyabuses to be corrected, which pass unobserved by those who are too indolent to endeavor to discover them.
This constant and painful attention may appear at first sight as rather a hardship on the general, but its consequences will make him ample amends. With troops so fine, so brave, and so well disciplined, what advantage can he not obtain? A general, who with other nations would be regarded as being rash or half mad, would with us be only acting by established rules. Any enterprise which man is capable of executing, may be undertaken by him. Besides this, the soldiers will not suffer a man to remain amongst them who has betrayed any symptoms of shyness, which would certainly not be regarded in other armies.
I have been an eye-witness to the conduct both of officers and private soldiers, who could not be prevailed on, though dangerously wounded, to quit their post, or fall into the rear to get themselves dressed. With troops like these the world itself might be subdued, if conquests were not as fatal to the victors as to the vanquished. Let them be but well supplied with provisions, and you may attempt any thing with them. On a march you prevent the enemy by speed; at an attack of a wood, you will force them; if you make them climb a mountain, you will soon disperse those who make any resistance, and it then becomes an absolute massacre. If you put your cavalry into action, they will charge through the enemy at the sword’s point and demolish them.
But as it is not alone sufficient that the troops be good, and as the ignorance of a general may be the means of losing every advantage, I shall proceed to speak of the qualities which a general ought to possess, and lay down such rules as I have either learned from well-informed generals, or purchased dearly by my own experience.
Of the Subsistence of Troops, and of Provisions.
It has been said by a certain general, that the first object in the establishment of an army ought to be making provision for the belly, that being the basis and foundation of all operations. I shall divide this subject into two parts: in the first I shall explain how and where magazines ought to be established, and in the latter, the method of employing, and transporting them.
The first rule is to establish the large magazines invariably in the rear of the army, and, if possible, in a place that is well secured. During the wars in Silesia and Bohemia, our grand magazine was at Breslau, on account of the advantage of being able to replenish it by means of the Oder. When magazines are formed at the head of an army, the first check may oblige you to abandon them, and you may be left without resource; whereas, if they Are established in the rear of each other, the war will be prudently carried on, and one small disaster will not complete your ruin.
Spandau and Magdebourg should be the chosen situations for magazines in the frontier of the Electorate. Magdebourg, on account of the Elbe, will be particularly serviceable in an offensive war against Saxony, and Schweidenitz against Bohemia.
You cannot be too cautious in the choice of commisaries and their deputies, for if they prove dishonest, the state will be materially injured. With this view, men of strict honor should be appointed as superiors, who must personally, frequently, and minutely examine and controle the accounts.
There are two ways of forming magazines, either by ordering the nobility and peasants to bring their grain to the depot, and paying them for it according to the rate laid down by the chamber of finance, or by taking a certain quantity from them by requisition. It is the business of the commissary to settle and to sign all these agreements.
Vessels of a particular construction are built for the purpose of conveying corn and forage along the canals and rivers.
Purveyors are never to be employed by in cases of the last necessity, for even Jews [sic] are less exorbitant in their demands: they increase the price of provisions, and sell them out again at a most extravagant profit.
The magazines should be established at a very early period, that no kind of necessary may be wanting when the army leaves its quarters to being a campaign: if they be too long neglected, the frost will put a stop to water-carriage, or the roads will become so excessively deep and heavy, that their formation will be a business of the utmost difficulty.
Besides the regimental covered waggons which carry bread for eight days, the commissary is provided with conveniencies for carrying provisions for a month.
The advantage of navigation is, however, never to be neglected, for without this convenience, no army can ever be abundantly supplied.
The waggons should be drawn by horses: trial has been made of oxen, but they do not answer the purpose.
The waggon-masters must be exceedingly careful that due attention be paid to their cattle. The general of an army must also have an eye to this circumstance, for the loss of horses will necessarily occasion a diminution of waggons, and consequently of provisions.
Moreover, unless they receive a proper quantity of good food, these horses will be unable to undergo the necessary fatigue. On a march, therefore, not only the horses will be lost, but also the waggons and their contents. The best concerted measures may be ruined by a repetition of such disasters. the general, therefore, must not neglect any of these circumstances, which are so materially important in all his operations.
In order to facilitate the carriage of provisions in a war against Saxony, advantage must be taken of the Elbe, and in Silesia of the Oder. The sea affords you this assistance in Prussia , but in Bohemia and Moravia, your only dependence is on carriages. It sometimes happens, that three or four depots of provisions are formed on the same line, as was the case with us in Bohemia in the year 1742. There was a magazine at Pardubitz, at Nienbourg, at Podjebrod, and at Brandies, to enable us to keep pace with the enemy, and follow him to Prague, if he had thought proper to have gone thither.
During the last campaign in Bohemia, Breslau furnished Schweidenitz, Schweidenitz supplied Jaromirez, and from thence provisions were carried to the army.
Besides the covered waggons which carry provisions, iron ovens always travel with the army, (the number of which has of late been very much augmented), and, on every halting day they are set to bake bread. On all expeditions, you should be supplied with bread or biscuit for ten days. Biscuits is a very good article, but our soldiers like it only in soup, nor do they know how to employ it to the best advantage.
On a march through an enemy’s country, the depot of meal should ever be in a garrisoned town near the army. During the campaign of 1745, our depot was first at Neustadt, then at Jaromirez, and last at Trautenau. Had we been farther advanced, we could not have had a depot in security nearer than that at Pardubitz.
I have provided hand-mills for each company, which are found to be exceedingly useful, as they are worked by the soldiers, who carry the meal to the depot, and receive bread in return. With this meal, you are enabled to husband your magazines, and have it in your power to remain much longer in camp than you could without such supply. Moreover, fewer escorts, and a smaller number of convoys will also be found sufficient.
On the subject of convoys, I must enlarge a little. The strength of escorts depends on the fear which you entertain of the enemy. Detachments of infantry are sent into the towns through which the convoy will pass, to afford then a point of support. Large detachments to cover them are sometimes sent out, as was the case in Bohemia.
In all chequered countries, convoys should be escorted by the infantry, to which a few hussars may be added, in order to keep a lookout on the march, and inform themselves of all situations where the enemy may lie concealed.
My escorts have been formed of infantry in preference to cavalry even in a plain country, and in my own opinion, with very much advantage.
For what regards the minutiae of escorts, I refer you to my military regulation. The general of an army cannot be too anxious about the security of his convoys.
One good rule to attain this end is, to send troops forward for the purpose of occupying the defiles through which the convoy is to pass, and to push the escort a league in front towards the enemy. By this maneuver the convoys are masked, and arrive in security.
Of Sutlers, Beer, and Brandy.
When you have it in contemplation to make any enterprize on the enemy, the commissary must be ordered to get together all the beer and brandy that he can lay his hands on, that the army may not want these articles, at least for the first days. As soon as the army enters an enemy’s country, all the brewers and distillers who are in the neighborhood must immediately be put in requisition: the distillers, in particular, must be instantly set to work, that the soldier may not lose his dram, which he can very badly spare.
Protection must be afforded to the sutlers, especially in a country whose inhabitants are fled, and where provisions cannot be had for money. At such a time we are justified in not being over nice with respect to the peasantry.
The sutlers and women must be sent out in search of vegetables and cattle. The price of provisions is however, a matter that requires much attention, as the soldier ought to be allowed to purchase at a reasonable price, and at the same time the sutler should derive an honest profit.
It may here be added, that the soldier receives gratis during a campaign two pounds of bread per day, and two pounds of flesh per week. It is an indulgence which the poor fellows richly deserve, especially in Bohemia, where the country is but little better than a desart.
Convoys for the army should ever be followed by herds of cattle, for the support and nourishment of the soldier.
Of Dry and Green Forage.
Oats, barley, hay, chopped straw, &c. compose what is called dry forage,. and are carried to the magazine. If the oats be either fusty or mouldy, the horses will contract the mange and farcy, and be so weakened as to be unserviceable even at the beginning of a campaign. Chopped straw is given because it is the custom, though it serves but barely to fill the belly.
The first object in collecting forage and carrying it to the magazine is, either to get the start of the enemy at the opening of a campaign, or to be prepared for some distant enterprise. But an army can seldom venture to move far from its magazines, as long as the horses are obliged to live on dry forage, on account of the inconvenience of moving it, as a whole province is sometimes unable to furnish a sufficient number of carriages. And in general, these are not the methods that we employ in an offensive war, unless there are no rivers, by means of which the forage can be transported.
During the campaign in Silesia, all my cavalry lived on dry forage, but we only marched from Strehla to Schwiednitz (where there was a magazine,) and from thence to Cracau, where we were in the neighborhood of the Brieg and the Oder.
When any enterprise is about to take place in the winter, the cavalry should carry with then forage for five days,. well bound together on their horses. If Bohemia or Moravia are to be the scene of action, unless you mean to destroy all your cavalry. We forage in the fields for corn and vegetables as long as any remain there, and after the harvest in the villages.
When we encamp on a spot where we mean to make some stay, an account should be taken of the forage; and when its quantity be ascertained, a regular distribution of it should be made according to the number of days which we intend to remain.
All large foraging parties are escorted by a body of cavalry, the strength of which is proportioned to the vicinity of the enemy, and the fear which you entertain of him. Foraging is sometimes carried on by the wings, or even the whole of an army.
The foragers always assemble on the road which they intend taking, either on the wings, in front, or in the rear of the army.
The advanced guard is composed of hussars, who are followed by the cavalry in a plain country, but in irregular situations, the infantry go before them. The advanced guard is to precede the march of about a fourth part of the foragers, who are to be followed by a detachment of the escort, partly horse and partly foot; then another party of foragers, followed by a detachment of troops, and after them the remainder in the same order. the march of the rear guard so to be closed by a troop of hussars, who will form the rear of the whole column.
It is to be remembered, that in all escorts the infantry take their cannon with them, and the foragers their swords and carbines.
When arrived at the spot where they intend foraging, a chain is to be formed, and the infantry posted near the villages, behind the hedges, and in the hollow ways. Troops of cavalry joined with infantry should be formed into a reserve, and placed in the centre to be ready to support any point where the enemy may endeavor to make an impression. The hussars are to skirmish with the enemy, in order to amuse them and draw them off from the forage. As soon as the inclosure is compleat, the foragers divide the ground by regiments. Great care must be taken by the officers commanding, that the trusses be made very large, and bound well together.
When the horses are laden, the foragers are to return to camp by troops, protected by small escorts, and as soon as they have all left the ground, the troops of the chain are to assemble and form the rear guard, followed by the hussars.
The method of foraging in villages differs from the foregoing only in this instance, viz. the infantry are posted round the village, and the cavalry behind them in a situation where they may be able to act. Villages are to be foraged one by one, to prevent the troops of the chain from being too much dispersed.
In mountainous countries, foraging becomes an arduous business, and on such occasions the greatest part of the escorts must be composed of infantry and hussars.
When we are encamped near the enemy, and intend remaining there some time, we must endeavor to secure the forage which is between the two camps. After that, we are to forage for two leagues round, beginning with the most distant fields, and preserving those that are near home till the last. If no stay be intended, we forage in the camp and in the neighborhood.
When it becomes an object to secure a large quantity of green forage, I would rather send the parties out twice, than occupy too great an extent of country at once. By this means you will preserve your chain more snug and compact, and the foragers will be in much greater security: whereas if too great a space be occupied, the chain must consequently be weakened and rendered liable to be forced.
Of the Knowledge of a Country.
The knowledge of a country is to be attained in two ways; the first (and that with which we ought to begin) is, by a careful and studious examination of a map of the country which is intended to be the scene of war, and by marking on it very distinctly the names of all the rivers, towns, and mountains that are of any consequence.
Having by this means gained a general idea of the country, we must proceed to a more particular and minute examination of it, to inform ourselves of the directions of the high roads, the situation of the towns, whether by a little trouble they can be made tenable, on what side to attack them if they are possessed by the enemy, and what number of troops are necessary for their defence.
We should also be provided with plans of the fortified towns, that we may be acquainted with their strength, and what are their most assailable parts. The course and depth of the large rivers should also be ascertained, how far they are navigable, and if shallow enough at any points to allow of being forded. It should also be known, what rivers are impassible in spring and dry in summer. This sort of enquiry must extend likewise to the marshes of any consequence that may be in the country.
In a flat, smooth country, the fertile parts should be distinguished from those that are not so, and we must be well acquainted with all the marches that either the enemy or ourselves can undertake, to pass from one great city or river to another. It will be necessary also to break up those camps, which are liable to be taken on that route.
A flat, open country can be reconnoitred presently, but the view is so confined in that which is woody and mountainous, that it becomes a business of much difficulty.
In order, therefore, to procure intelligence so highly important, we must ascend the heights, taking the map with us, and also some of the elders of the neighboring villages, such as huntsmen and shepherds. If there be one mountain higher than another, that must be ascended, to gain an idea of a country which we wish to discover.
We must gain a knowledge of the roads, not only to be satisfied in how many columns we may march, but also that we may be enabled to plan a variety of projects, and be informed how we may reach the enemy’s camp and force it, should any be established in the neighborhood, or how place ourselves on his flank, should he alter his position.
One of the most material objects is, to reconnoitre situations that, in case of necessity, may serve as camps of defence, as well as a field of battle, and the posts that may be occupied by the enemy.
A just idea must be formed of all these matters of intelligence, as well as of the most considerable posts, the vallies, chief defiles, and all the advantageous situations which the country affords: and we must seriously reflect on every operation that may take place, so that by being prepared beforehand with a plan of arrangements, we may not be embarrassed when called into action. These reflections should be well connected, and maturely digested, with all the care and patience that an object of so much consequence requires; and unless we can arrange the matter to our satisfaction the first time, we must try it over again and again till we have got it perfect.
It is a general rule in the choice of all camps, whether for offence or defence, that both wood and water be near at hand, that the front be close and well covered, and the rear perfectly open.
If circumstances forbid the examination of a country in the manner laid down, clever, intelligent officers should be sent thither under any kind of excuse, or even in disguise if necessary. They are to be well informed of the nature of the observations which they are to make, and at their return, the remarks which they have made on the camps and different situations are to be noted on a map: but when we can make use of our own eyes, we ought never to trust to those of other people.
Of the Coup D’Oeil.
The coup d’oeil may be reduced, properly speaking, to two points; the first of which is the having abilities to judge how many troops a certain extent of country can contain. This talent can only be acquired by practice, for after having laid out several camps, the eye will gain so exact an idea of space, that you will seldom make any material mistake in your calculations.
The other, and by far the most material point, is to be most material point, is to be able to distinguish at first sight all the advantages of which any given space of ground is capable. This art is to be acquired and even brought to perfection, though a man be not absolutely born with a military genius.
Fortification, as it possesses rules that are applicable to all situations of an army, is undoubtedly the basis and foundation of this coup d’oeil. Every defile, marsh, hollow way, and even the smallest eminence, will be converted by a skilful general, to some advantage.
Two hundred different positions may sometimes be taken up in the space of two square leagues, of which an intelligent general knows how to select that which is the most advantageous. In the first place, he will ascend even the smallest eminences to discover and reconnoitre the ground; and assisted by the same rules of fortification, he will be enabled to find out the weak part of the enemy’s order of battle. If time permit, the general would do well to pace over the ground, when he has determined on his general position.
Many other advantages may also be derived from the same rules of fortification, such as, the manner of occupying heights, and how to choose them, that they may not be commanded by others; in what manner the wings are to be supported, that the flanks may be well covered; how to take up positions that may be defended, and avoid those which a man of reputation cannot, without great risk, maintain. These rules will also enable him to discover where the enemy is weakest, either by having taken an unfavorable position, distributed his force without judgment, or from the slender means of defence which he derives from his situation. I am led by these reflections to explain in what manner troops ought to be distributed so as to make the most of their ground.
Of the Distribution of Troops.
Though the knowledge and choice of ground are very essential points, it is of no less importance that we know how to profit by such advantages, so that the troops may be placed in situations that are proper and convenient for them.
Our cavalry, being designed to act with velocity, can only be made use of on a plain, whereas the infantry may be employed in every possible variety of ground. Their fire is for defence, and their bayonet for attack. We always begin by the defensive, as much caution is necessary for the security of a camp, where the vicinity of the enemy may at any moment bring on an engagement.
The greater part of the orders of battle now existing are of ancient date: we tread in the steps of our ancestors without regulating matters according to the nature of the ground, and hence it is that a false and erroneous application so often takes place.
The whole of an army should be placed in order of battle agreeably to the nature of ground which every particular part of it requires. The plain is chosen for the cavalry, but this is not all which regards them; for if the plain be only a thousand yards in front, and bounded by a wood in which we suppose the enemy to have thrown some infantry, under whose fire their cavalry can rally, it will then become necessary to change the disposition, and place them at the extremities of the wings of the infantry, that they may receive the benefit of their support.
The whole of the cavalry is sometimes placed on one of the wings, or in the second line; at other times, their wings are closed by one or two brigades of infantry.
Eminences, church-yards, hollow ways, and wide ditches are the most advantageous situations for an army. If, in the disposition of our troops, we know how to take advantage of these circumstances, we never need to fear being attacked.
If your cavalry be posted with a morass in it’s front, it is impossible that it can render you any service: and if it be placed too near a wood, the enemy may have troops there, who may throw them into disorder and pick them off with their muskets, whilst they are deprived of every possible means of defence. Your infantry will be exposed to the same inconveniencies if they are advanced too far on a plain with their flanks not secured, for the enemy will certainly take advantage of such error, and make their attack on that side where they are unprotected.
The nature of the ground must invariably be our rule of direction. In a mountainous country I should place my cavalry in the second line, and never use them in the first line except they could act to advantage, unless it be a few squadrons to fall on the flank of the enemy’s infantry who may be advancing to attack me.
It is a general rule in all well-disciplined armies, that a reserve of cavalry be formed if we are on a plain, but where the country is chequered and intersected, this reserve is formed of infantry, with the addition of some hussars and dragoons.
The great art of distributing troops on the field is, so to place them, that all have room to act and be uniformly useful. Villeroi, who perhaps was not well acquainted with this rule, deprived himself of the assistance of the whole of his left wing on the plain of Ramillies, by having posted them behind a morass, where it was morally impossible that they could manoeuvre, or render and sort of support to his right wing.
To be convinced that your camp be well chosen, you must discover, whether a trifling movement of your’s will oblige the enemy to make one of greater consequence, or if after one march, he be under the necessity of making others. They who have the least occasion to move, are certainly the best situated.
The choice of situation for a camp should rest entirely with the general of an army, as it often becomes the field of battle, and the success of his enterprises so materially depends upon it.
As there are many observations to be made on this subject, I shall enter into it very particularly, saying nothing with respect to the method of placing troops in camp, but referring you on that head to mymilitary regulation.
I now proceed to speak only of affairs of consequence, and of matters that more immediately concern the general himself.
All camps are designed to answer two purposes, defense and attack. The first class consists of those camps in which an army assembles where the sole object is the convenience and accommodation of the troops. They ought to be encamped in small bodies near the magazine, but so situate that they may readily be assembled in order of battle.
Camps of this kind are generally formed at such distance from the enemy as to be free from all alarm. the king of England, who neglected this caution, and imprudently encamped himself on the bank of the Mein opposite the French army, ran a very great risk of being defeated at Dettinghen.
The first rule to be observed in the marking out a camp is, that both wood and water be at no great distance.
It is our custom to entrench camps, in the manner of the Romans, not only to secure ourselves against any enterprise which the numerous light troops of the enemy may attempt against us, but also to prevent desertion.
I have constantly observed, that fewer men have left us when the redans* [Footnote: * A fleche, or angular entrenchment, like an arrow.] were joined by two lines that extended all round the camp, than when this caution has been neglected. This is a serious fact, however ridiculous or trifling it may appear.
Camps of repose are those, where we expect forage; on some occasions that are designed to watch the enemy, who have as yet made no movements, that we may be regulated by their manoeuvres. As relaxation is the only object in camps of this nature, they should be rendered secure by being in the rear of a large river or morass, or in short by any means that will render their front inaccessible. Of this description was our camp at Strehla.
If the brooks and rivers in front of the camp are too shallow, dams must be employed in order to deepen them.
Though there be no dread of the enemy to annoy us in camps of this kind, the general of an army must nevertheless on no account be idle. The leisure which he now has must be employed in paying attention to the troops, and re-establishing the usual discipline. He must examine if the service be carried on in strict conformity to order, if the officers on guard are attentive and well informed of the duties of their situation, and if the rules which I have laid down for the posting of cavalry and infantry guards be properly and strictly observed.
The infantry should go through their exercise three times a week, and the recruits once every day,: on some occasions also entire corps may perform their manoeuvres together. The cavalry must likewise go through their evolutions, unless they are employed in foraging; and the general, knowing the exact strength of each corps, should take particular care that the recruits and young horses be well drilled. He must also frequently visit the lines, commending those officers who pay attention to their troops, and severely rebuking those who appear to have neglected them, for it is not to be supposed that a large army can beself-animated. It will ever abound with idlers and mallingers, who require the general’s attention to be put in motion and be obliged to do their duty.
Very great utility will be derived from camps of this sort, if they be employed in the manner which I have recommended, and the succeeding campaign will prove the good effects of their discipline and order.
We form our encampment, or we forage, near to the enemy, or at a considerable distance from him–I shall only speak of the former, where it is necessary that we make choice of the most fertile spots, and encamp in a situation which art or nature has rendered formidable.
When foraging camps are situate near the enemy, they should be very difficult of access, as foraging parties are regarded as detachments sent out against the enemy.
These parties may consist of a sixth part, or even half of an army. It would afford fine amusement to the enemy, if they were able on these occasions to attack us to our disadvantage, and it would certainly happen, but for the well-chosen situation of our camp.
But though the position be very good, and apparently there be nothing to fear from the enemy, there are, notwithstanding, other cautions which are by no means to be neglected. the most rigid secresy must be observed both in regard to the time and place of foraging, nor should even the general who is to command on the occasion be acquainted with these circumstances till a late hour in the preceding evening.
We should send out as many detached parties as possible, to be more certainly informed of any movements which the enemy may make: and unless prevented by reasons that are very material, we may, to save trouble, forage on the same day that they do. We are not, however, to place too much confidence in this circumstance, as the enemy, by being apprized of our design, may countermand the order for foraging, and attack the main body.
The camp of Prince Charles of Lorraine under Koniginggraetz was inaccessible by nature, and extremely convenient for the purposes of foraging. That which we occupied at Cholm was made strong by art, viz. by the abbatis which I ordered to be thrown up on our right wing and the redoubts which were in front of the infantry camp.
We entrenched a camp, when it is our intention to lay siege to a place, to defend a difficult pass, and supply the defects of the situation by throwing up works so as to be secure from every insult on the part of the enemy.
The rules which a general has to observe in the formation of all entrenchments are, to take advantage of every marsh, river, inundation, and abbatis which may serve to render the extent of his entrenchments more difficult. They had better be too small than too large, for the progress of the enemy is not checked by the entrenchments themselves, but by the troops who defend them.
I would not wish to make entrenchments, unless I could line them with a chain of battalions, and had also at my disposal a reserve of infantry that could be moved to any point as occasion might require. Abbatis are no longer of service than whilst they are defended by infantry.
The chief attention should be paid to the proper support of the lines of countervallation, which generally end in a river; and in such case the fosse should be carried some length into the river, and be so deepened as not to allow if being forded. If this precaution be neglected, you run the hazard of having your flank turned. It is necessary that you be abundantly supplied with provisions before you sit down behind the lines to besiege any place.
The flanks of entrenchments should be particularly strong, nor should there be a single point which the enemy might attack without being exposed to four or five cross fires. Infinite care and caution are required in the formation of entrenchments which are designed to defend the passes and defiles of mountains. The support of the flanks is here most essentially necessary, to accomplish which, redoubts are formed on the two wings: sometimes the whole entrenchment itself is made up of redoubts, so that the troops who defend it are in no danger of being turned.
Intelligent generals are well informed how to oblige the enemy to attack those points where the work is made strongest by the ditch being widened, deepened, and lined with pallisadoes, chevaux de frize placed at the entrances, the parapet made cannon-proof, and pits dug in the places that are most exposed.
But for the covering of a siege, I would always prefer an army of observation to an entrenched camp, and for this plain reason, because we are taught by experience that the old method is not to be depended on.
The Prince of Conde saw his entrenchment which was before Arras forced by Turenne, and Conde (if I am not mistaking) forced that which Turenne had formed before Valenciennes — since that period, neither of these great masters in the military art have made any use of them, but, to cover a siege, have always employed armies of observation.
I shall now treat of defensive camps, which are only strong by situation, and intended solely to be secure from the attacks of the enemy.
To render these situations equal to the purposes for which they are designed, it is necessary, that the front and both flanks be of equal strength, and the rear perfectly free and open. Of such nature are those heights, whose front is very extensive, and whose flanks are covered by marshes, as was the camp of Prince Charles of Lorraine at Marschwitz, where the front was covered by a marshy river, and the flanks by lakes; or like that which we occupied at Konopist in the year 1744.
We may also shelter ourselves under the protection of some fortified place, as was done by the Marshal de Neipperg, who after being defeated at Mollwitz, took up an excellent position under the walls of Neiss. As long as a general can maintain his post in camps of this kind, he will be secure from attack; but as soon as the enemy is in motion with a view of turning him, he will no longer be able to remain. His arrangements should therefore be so settled before-hand, that if the enemy succeed in their attempt to turn him, he may have nothing to do but fall back, and take up another strong position in the rear.
Bohemia abounds in camps of this description, and as the country is so chequered by nature, we are often obliged to occupy some of them against our inclination.
I must again repeat how necessary it is for a general to be on his guard, lest he be led, by a bad choice of posts, into errors that cannot be remedied, or in a situation from which he has no means of escaping but by a narrow defile. For if he have a clever enemy to deal with, he will be so closely pent up, and so completely prevented from fighting by the nature of the ground, as to be obliged to submit to the greatest indignity which a soldier can suffer, that of laying down his arms without the power of defending himself.
In camps that are intended to cover a country, the strength of the place itself is not the object of attention, but those points which are liable to attack, and by means of which the enemy may penetrate. Theseshould all be surrounded by the camp. Not that is necessary to occupy every opening by which the enemy may advance upon us, but that one only which would lead to his desired point, and that situation which affords us security, and from which we have it in our power to alarm him. In short, we should occupy that post, which will oblige the enemy to take circuitous routes, and enable us, by small movements, to disconcert his projects.
The camp at Newstadt defends the whole of the Lower Silesia against the attacks of an army that may be in Moravia. The proper position to take up, is to have the city of Neustadt and the river in front, and if the enemy shew a design to pass between Ottmachau and Glatz, we have only to move between Neiss and Ziegenhals, and there take up an advantageous camp which will cut them off from Moravia.
For the same reason the enemy will not dare to stir on the side of Cosel, for by placing myself between Troppau and Jaegerndorff (where there are many very excellent positions,) I cut him off from his convoys.
There is another camp of equal importance between Liebau and Schaemberg, which secures all Lower Silesia against Bohemia.
In all these positions, the rules which I have laid down ought to be observed, as far as circumstances will allow. I must yet add one more, which is, that when you have a river in front, you never allow tents to be pitched on the ground which you intend for the field of battle at a greater distance than half musket-shot from the front of the camp.
The frontier of the electorate of Brandenberg is a country which no camp can cover, as it has six leagues of plain ground which is open the whole way. To defend it against Saxony, it is necessary to be possessed of Wittenberg, and either encamp there or adopt the plan of the expedition which took place there in the winter of the year 1745. The camp at Werben covers and defends all that part which is on the side of the country of Hanover.
The front and flanks of a camp for offence must be always closed; for unless the flanks, which are the weakest part of an army, are well closed, you have nothing to expect form your troops. This was the fault of our camp at Czaslaw, before the battle of the year 1742.
The village houses which are on the wings, or in the front of our camp, are always occupied by troops, except on fighting days, when they are called in, lest by the enemy’s setting fire to such badly-constructed wooden buildings (as our own cottages and those of our neighbors generally are) the men may also be destroyed. There may, however, be an exception to this general rules, when any stone houses are in the villages, or any church-yards which do not communicate with wooden buildings.
But as it is our constant principle to attack, and not act on the defensive, this kind of post should never be occupied except it be at the head of the army, or in front of it’s wings; in such situations it will afford much protection to our troops in the attack, and prove of great annoyance to the enemy during the action.
It is also a circumstance of material import, that the depth of the small rivers or marshes which are in front or on the flanks of our camp be well ascertained, lest by the rivers being fordable, or the marshes practicable, you discover too late that you have trusted to a false point of defence.
Villars was beaten at Malplaquet by conceiving that the marsh on his right was impracticable, which proved to be only a dry meadow, which our troops passed to take him in the flank. Every thing should be examined by our own eyes, and no attentions of this nature treated on any account as matters of indifference.
How to secure a Camp.
The front of the first line must be defended by the regiments of infantry, and if a river be there, piquets must be posted on it’s banks. The rear of the camp is to be guarded by piquets from the second line. These piquets are to be covered by redans, joined by slight entrenchments, by means of which the camp will be entrenched after the manner of the Romans. We must occupy the villages which are on the wings, or even to the distance of half a league from thence, if they serve to defend any other passages.
The cavalry guards are to be posted agreeably to the rules laid down in my military regulation. We seldom had more than 300 maitres de garde*[Footnote *Private dragoons on guard] amongst 80 squadrons, unless we were very near to the enemy, as when we marched to Schweidenitz between the battle of Hohen-Freidberg, and again when we marched into Lusatia in order to go to Naumbourg. These advanced guards should be composed of all sorts of troops, for example, 2000 hussars, 1500 dragoons, and 2000 grenadiers. The general who has the command of bodies of men that are advanced, should be a man of sound understanding, and as it is his object to gain intelligence, not expose himself to action, his camps should be chosen with judgment, having in their front either woods or defiles with which he is well acquainted. He must also send out frequent patroles for the purpose of gaining information, that he may know at every instant what is going forward in the camp of the enemy.
If in the mean time you employ the hussars who remain with you to patrole in the rear and on the wings of the camp, you have taken all possible precautions to be guarded against any hostile enterprises.
Should a considerable body of troops endeavor to slide in between you and your rear guard, you may be assured that they have formed some design against it, and you are therefore to hasten to it’s support.
To conclude all that I have to say on this subject, it must be added, that if those generals who canton their troops wish to be free from danger and alarm, they should only occupy those villages which are between the two lines.
In what Manner and for what Reason we are to send out Detachments.
It is only repeating an ancient maxim in war to say, “That he who divides his force will be beaten in detail.” If you are about to give battle, strain every nerve to get together as many troops as you possibly can, for they never can be employed to better purpose. Almost every general who has neglected this rule, has found ample reason to repent of it.
Albemarle’s detachment, which was beaten at Oudenarde, lost the great Eugene the whole campaign; and Gen. Stahrenberg was beaten at the battle of Villa Viciosa in Spain, by being separated from the English troops.
Detachments have also proved very fatal to the Austrians in the latter campaigns that they have made in Hungary. The Prince of Hildbourghausen was defeated at Banjaluka, and General Wallis suffered a check on the banks of the Timok. The Saxons also were beaten at Kesseldorf, for want of having joined Prince Charles, as they could have done. I should have been defeated at Sohr, and deservedly too, if presence of mind in my generals, and valor in my troops, had not rescued me from such misfortune. It may be asked, are we then never to send out detachments? My reply is, that it is a business of so delicate a nature, as never to be hazarded but on the most pressing necessity, and for reasons of the utmost importance.
When you are acting offensively, detachments ought never to be employed, and even though you are in an open country, and have some places in your possession, no more troops are to be spared than are barely sufficient to secure your convoys.
Whenever war in made in Bohemia or Moravia, necessity requires that troops be sent out to insure the arrival of provisions. Encampments must be formed on the chain of mountains which the convoys are obliged to pass, and remain there till you have collected provisions for some months, and are possessed of some strong place in the enemy’s country that with serve as a depot.
Whilst these troops are absent on detachments, you are to occupy advantageous camps, and wait for their return.
The advanced guard is not reckoned as a detachment, because it should ever be near the army, and not ventured on any account too near the enemy.
It sometimes happens, that when we are acting on the defensive, we are forced to make detachments. Those which I had in Upper Silesia were in perfect safety by confining themselves, as I have already observed, to the neighborhood of fortified places.
Officers who have the command of detachments, should be men of prudence and resolution, for though they receive general instructions from their chief, it remains for themselves to consult on the propriety of advancing or retreating, as occasion may require.
When the force of the opponents is too strong, they should fall back, but on the other hand, they should well know how to take advantage, if the superiority happen to be on their own sides.
If the enemy approach by night, they will sometimes retire, and whilst they are supposed to be put to flight, return briskly to the charge and defeat them.
No regard whatever is to be paid to the light troops.
The first thing to be attended to by an officer who commands a detachment, is his own safety, and when that is secured, he is at liberty to form schemes against the enemy. To ensure rest to himself, he must keep his adversary constantly awake, by continually contriving plans against him, and if he succeed in two or three instances, the enemy will be obliged to keep on the defensive.
If these detachments be near the army, they will establish a communication with it by means of some town or neighboring wood.
In a war of defence, we are naturally induced to make detachments. Generals of little experience are anxious to preserve every thing, whilst the man of intelligence and enterprise regards only the grand point, in hopes of being able to strike some great stroke, and suffers patiently a small evil that may secure him against one of more material consequence.
The army of the enemy should be the chief object of our attention, it’s designs must be discovered, and opposed as vigorously as possible. In the year 1745 we abandoned Upper Silesia to the ravages of the Hungarians, that we might be better enabled to thwart the intentions of Prince Charles of Lorraine, and we made no detachments until we had defeated his army. When that was done, General Nassau in fifteen days cleared the whole of Upper Silesia of the Hungarians.
It is a custom with some generals to detach troops when they are about to make an attack, to take the enemy in the rear during the action, but much danger attends a movement of this kind, as the detachments generally lose their road, and arrive either too early or too late. The detachment which Charles XII. sent out on the evening before the battle of Pultawa lost it’s way, and was the cause of the army’s being beaten. Prince Eugene’s design of surprising Cremona failed also from the too late arrival of the detachment of the Prince of Vaudemont, which was intended to attack the gate of Po.
Detachments should never take place on the day of battle, unless it be in the manner of Turenne near Colmar, where he presented his first line to the army of the Elector Frederick William, whilst the second line passing through defiles attacked him in flank and routed him. Or we may copy the example of the Marshal de Luxembourg at the battle of Fleury, in the year 1690, who posted a body of infantry in some high corn on the Prince of Waldeck’s flank, and by that manoeuvre gained the battle.
After a victory, but never till then, troops may be detached for the protection of convoys, but even in this case they should not proceed a greater length than half a league from the army.
I shall conclude this article by saying, that detachments which weaken the army one half, or even a third part, are excessively dangerous, and strongly to be disapproved.
Of the Tricks and Stratagems of War.
In War, the skin of a fox is at times as necessary as that of the lion, for cunning may succeed when force fails. Since, therefore, force may at one time be repelled by force, and at another be obliged to yield to stratagem, we ought to be well acquainted with the use of both, that we may on occasion adopt either.
I have no wish to recite here the almost infinite list of stratagems, for they have all the same end in view, which is, to oblige the enemy to make unnecessary marches in favor of our own designs. Our real intentions are to be studiously concealed, and the enemy misled by our affecting plans which we have no wish to execute.
When our troops are on the point of assembling, we countermarch them in a variety of ways, to alarm the enemy, and conceal from him the spot where we really wish to assemble and force a passage.
If there be fortresses in the country, we choose to encamp in a situation that threatens three or four places at the same time. Should the enemy think proper to throw troops into all these places, the consequence will be, that his force will be so weakened, that we shall have a good opportunity of falling on him: but if one point only has been the object of his attention, we lay siege to that which is the most defenceless.
If the object be to pass a river, or be possessed of some post of importance, you must withdraw to a great distance both from the post and from the spot where you mean to pass, in order to entice the enemy after you. And when every thing is arranged and your march concealed, you are to betake yourself suddenly to the settled point and possess yourself of it.
If you wish to come to an action, and the enemy seems disposed to avoid it, you must appear to be in dread of the force which is opposed to you, or spread a report that your army is much weakened. We played this game before the battle of Hohen-Friedburg. I caused all the roads to be repaired as if I meant, at the approach of Prince Charles, to march to Breslau in four columns: his self-confidence seconding my design, he followed me into the plain, and was defeated.
Sometimes we contract the dimensions of the camp, to give it the appearance of weakness, and send out small detachments, (that we affect to be of great consequence,) in order that the enemy may hold us cheap, and neglect an opportunity which he might improve. In the campaign of 1745, if it had been my intention to take Konigingraetz and Pardubitz, I had only to make two marches through the country of Glatz on the side of Moravia, as that would certainly have alarmed Prince Charles and brought him thither, to defend the place from which, after leaving Bohemia, he drew all his provisions. You will be sure of creating jealousy in the enemy, if you threaten places that either communicate with the capitol or serve as depots for his provisions.
If we have no inclination to fight, we put a bold face upon the business, and give out that we are much stronger than we really are. Austria is a famous school for this sort of manoeuvre, for with them the art is brought to it’s greatest perfection.
By keeping up a bold and determined appearance, you give the idea of wishing to engage, and occasion a report to be circulated that you are meditating some very bold and daring enterprise: by means of which the enemy, in dread of the consequences of an attack, will frequently remain on the defensive.
It is an essential object in a war of defence, to know how to make a good choice of posts, and to maintain them to the last extremity: when forced to retire, the second line begins to move, followed insensibly by the first, and as you have defiles in your front, the enemy will not be able to take advantage of you in the retreat.
Even during the retreat, the positions that are taken up should be so oblique as to keep the enemy as much as possible in the dark. The more he endeavors to discover your designs, the more he will be alarmed, whilst you indirectly obtain the object of your wishes.
Another stratagem of war is, to shew to the enemy a front of very great extent, and if he mistake a false attack for a real one, he will inevitably be defeated.
By means of tricks also, we oblige the enemy to send out detachments, and when they are marched, take the opportunity of falling on him.
The best stratagem is, to lull the enemy into security at the time when the troops are about to disperse and go into winter quarters, so that by retiring, you may be enabled to advance on them to some good purpose. With the view, the troops should be so distributed, as to assemble again very readily, in order to force the enemy’s quarters. If this measure succeed, you may recover in a fortnight the misfortunes of a whole campaign.
Peruse with attention the two last campaigns of Turenne, for they are the chefs d’oeuvres of the stratagems of this age.
The schemes which our ancestors employed in war are now only in use amongst the light troops, whose practice it is to form ambuscades, and endeavor by a pretended flight to draw the enemy into a defile, that they may cut them in pieces. The generals of the present day seldom manage their matters so badly as to be taken in by such contrivances. Nevertheless, Charles XII. was betrayed at Pultawa through the treachery of one of the Cossac chiefs. The same accident also befel Peter I. on the Pruth, owing to the misconduct of a prince of that country. Both these men had promised a supply of provisions which it was not in their power to furnish.
As the method of making war by parties and detachments is fully laid down in my Military Regulation, I refer to that work all those who wish to refresh their memories, as it is a subject on which I have nothing farther to advance.
To be informed of the method to oblige the enemy to make detachments, we have only to read over the glorious campaign of 1690, made by the Marshal de Luxembourg against the King of England, which concluded with the battle of Neerwinde.
Of Spies, how they are to be employed on every Occasion, and in what Manner we are to learn Intelligence of the enemy.
If we were acquainted beforehand with the intentions of the enemy, we should always be more than a match for him even with an inferior force. It is an advantage which all generals are anxious to procure, but very few obtain.
Spies may be divided into several classes: 1st, common people who choose to be employed in such concern; 2dly, double spies; 3dly, spies of consequence; 4thly, those who are compelledto take up the unpleasant business.
The common gentry, viz. peasants, mechanics, priests, &c. which are sent into the camp, can only be employed to discover where the enemy is: and their reports are generally so incongruous and obscure, as rather to increase our uncertainties than lessen them.
The intelligence of deserters is, for the most part, not much more to be depended on. A soldier knows very well what is going forward in his own regiment, but nothing farther. The hussars being detached in front, and absent the greatest part of their time from the army, are often ignorant on which side it is encamped. Nevertheless, their reports must be committed to paper, as the only means of turning them to any advantage.
Double spies are used to convey false intelligence to the enemy. There was an Italian at Schmiedeberg, who acted as a spy to the Austrians, and being told by us, that when the enemy approached we should retire to Breslau, he posted with the intelligence to Prince Charles of Lorraine, who narrowly escaped being taken in by it.
The post-master at Versailles was a long time in the pay of Prince Eugene. This unfortunate fellow opened the letters and orders which were sent from the court to the generals, and transmitted a copy of them to Prince Eugene, who generally received them much earlier than the commanders of the French army.
Luxembourg had gained over to his interest a secretary of the King of England, who informed him of all that passed. The king discovered it, and derived every advantage from it that could be expected in an affair of such delicacy: he obliged the traitor to write to Luxembourg, informing him that the allied army would be out the day following on a large foraging party. The consequence was that the French very narrowly escaped being surprised at Steinquerque, and would have been cut to pieces if they had not defended themselves with extraordinary valor. It would be very difficult to obtain such spies in a war against Austria: not that the Austrians are less alive to bribery than other people, but because their army is surrounded by such a cloud of light troops, who suffer no creature to pass without being well searched. This circumstance suggested to me the idea of bringing over some of their hussar officers, by means of whom a correspondence might be carried on in the following manner. It is a custom with hussars, when opposed to each other as skirmishing parties, to agree every now and then to a suspension of arms, which opportunity might be employed in conveying letters.
When we wish to gain intelligence of the enemy, or give him a false impression of our situation and circumstances, we employ a trusty soldier to go from our camp to that of the enemy, and report what we wish to have believed. He may also be made the bearer of hand-bills calculated to encourage desertion. Having completed his business, he may take a circuitous march and return to camp.
There is yet another way to gain intelligence of the enemy when milder methods fail, though I confess it to be a harsh and cruel practice. We find out a rich citizen who has a large family and good estate, and allow him a man who understands the language of the country dressed as a servant, whom we force him to take along with him into the enemy’s camp, as his valet or coachman, under pretence of complaining of some injuries which he has received; he is to be threatened also at the same time, that if he does not return after a certain period, and bring the man with him, that his houses shall be burned, and his wife and children hacked in pieces. I was obliged to have recourse to this scheme at . . . . . and it succeeded to my wish.
I must farther add, that in the payment of spies we ought to be generous, even to a degree of extravagance. That man certainly deserves to be well rewarded, who risks his neck to do your service.
Of certain Marks, by which the Intentions of the Enemy are to be discovered.
The knowledge of the spot which the enemy has chosen as a depot for his provisions is the surest means of discovering his intentions before the campaign opens. For example, if the Austrians establish their magazines at Olmutz, we may be assured that they mean to attack Upper Silesia: if at Konigingraetz, we may be convinced that part of Schweidenitz is threatened. When it was the wish of the Saxons to invade the frontier of the Electorate, their magazines marked their intended route, for they were established at Zittau, Goerlitz, and at Guben, which are on the road leading to Crossen.
The first object of intelligence should be, on what side and in what situations the enemy means to fix his magazines.
The French played a double game, by forming depots on the Meuse and on the Scheld, in order to conceal their intentions.
When the Austrians are encamped, it is easy to discover when they intend moving, by their custom of cooking on the days of march. If, therefore, much smoke be perceived in their camp at five or six o’clock in the morning, you may take it for granted on that day they mean to move.
Whenever the Austrians intend fighting, all their strong detachments of light troops are called in; and when you have observed this, it behoves you to be very well upon your guard.
If you attack a post which is defended by their Hungarian troops, without being able to make any impression on it, you may be satisfied that the army is near at hand to support them.
If their light troops endeavor to post themselves between your army and the body of men which you have detached, you may be assured that the enemy has a design on that detachment, and your measures must be taken accordingly.–It must be added, that if the same general be always opposed to you, his designs will be readily discovered, and his plan of conduct very soon become familiar.
After mature reflection on the nature of the country which is the scene of war, the state of the army which you command, the safety of the magazines, the strength of the fortified places, the means which the enemy may be able to employ in order to gain possession of them, the mischief which the light troops may do by posting themselves on your flanks, rear, and other parts, or if the enemy should employ them to make a diversion; I say, after having well deliberated on all these points, you may conclude that an intelligent enemy will attempt that enterprise which is likely to give you the greatest annoyance, at least that such will be his intention, to frustrate which your every effort must be exerted.
Of our own Country, and that which is either neutral or hostile; of the Variety of Religions, and of the different Conduct which such Circumstances require.
War may be carried on in three different kinds of country: either in our own territories, those belonging to neutral powers, or in the country of an enemy.
If glory were my only object, I would never make war but in my own country, by reason of it’s manifold advantages, as every man there acts as a spy, nor can the enemy stir a foot without being betrayed.
Detachments of any strength may boldly be sent out, and may practise in safety all the manoeuvres of which war is capable.
If the enemy have the advantage, every peasant turns soldier and lends a hand to annoy him, as was experienced by the Elector Frederick William after the battle of Fehrbelin, where a greater number of Swedes was destroyed by the peasants than fell in the engagement. After the battle of Hohen-Friedberg, also, I observed that the mountaineers in Silesia brought into us the runaway Austrians in great abundance.
When war is carried on in a neutral country, the advantage seems to be equal, and the object of attention then is, to rival the enemy in the confidence and friendship of the inhabitants. To attain this end, the most exact discipline must be observed, marauding and every kind of plunder strictly forbidden, and it’s commission punished with exemplary severity. It may not be amiss also, to accuse the enemy of harboring some pernicious designs against the country.
If we are in a protestant country, we wear the mask of protector of the lutheran religion, and endeavor to make fanatics of the lower order of people, whose simplicity is not proof against our artifice.
In a catholic country, we preach up toleration and moderation, constantly abusing the priests as the cause of all the animosity that exists between the different sectaries, although, in spite of their disputes, they all agree upon material points of faith.
The strength of the parties you may be required to send out, must depend on the confidence that can be placed in the inhabitants of the country. In our country you may run every risk, but more caution and circumspection are necessary in a neutral country, at least till you are convinced of the friendly disposition of the whole, or the greatest part of the peasantry.
In a country that is entirely hostile, as Bohemia and Moravia, you are to hazard nothing, and never send out parties, for the reasons already mentioned, as the people there are not to be trusted any farther than you can see them. The greater part of the light troops are to be employed in guarding the convoys, for you are never to expect to gain the affection of the inhabitants of this country. The Hussites in the circle of Konigingraetz are the only people that can be induced to render us any sort of service. The men of consequence there, though seemingly well disposed towards us, are arrant traitors, nor are the priests or magistrates at all better. As their interest is attached to that of the house of Austria, whose views do not altogether clash with our’s , we neither can nor ought to repose any sort of confidence in them.
All that now remains for our management is fanaticism, to know how to inspire a nation with zeal for the liberty of religion, and hint to them in a guarded manner, how much they are oppressed by their great men and priests. This may be said to be moving heaven and hell for one’s interest.
Since these notes have been put together, the empress queen has materially increased the taxes in Bohemia and Moravia: advantage may be taken of this circumstance to gain the good-will of the people, especially if we flatter them that they shall be better treated if we become masters of the country.
Of every Kind of March, which it can be necessary for an Army to make.
An army moves for the purposes of advancing in an enemy’s country, to take possession of an advantageous camp, join a reinforcement, give battle, or retire before the enemy.
When the camp is properly secured, the next object is, to reconnoitre the whole neighborhood and every road that leads from it to camp, that we may be enabled to make the necessary arrangements, as a variety of circumstances may require.
With this view, and under various pretences we send out large detachments, accompanied by some engineers and quarter-masters, who are to pry into every place that is capable of being occupied by troops. They are also to take up the situation of the country, and reconnoitre the roads by which the troops can march. A certain number of chasseurs should follow them, who are to observe the roads very attentively, that they may be able to lead the columns, provided that the general marches thither.
On their return, the aforesaid officers are to make their report concerning the situation of the camp, the roads that lead to it, the nature of the soil, the woods, mountains, and rivers that are situate thereabouts; and the general, being well informed of all these particulars will make his dispositions accordingly. When the camp is not too near the enemy, the following arrangement may take place:–
I suppose that the camp may be approached in four different ways. The advanced guard, composed of six battalions of grenadiers, one regiment of infantry, two of dragoons, (consisting of five squadrons each,) and two regiments of hussars, under the command of Mr. N. N. will depart at eight o’clock this evening. All the encampments of the army are to follow this advanced guard, which is to take their tents only with them, leaving their heavy baggage with the army.
These troops are to march four leagues in front and occupy the defile, river, height, town, village, &c. which may be objects of attention, and wait there the arrival of the army, after which they are to enter into the camp which has been already marked out.
On the following morning the army, marching in four columns, is to move forward after the advanced guard: those men who have been posted as guards in the villages, falling in with their respective regiments. The cavalry of the two lines of the right wing, marching by it’s right, will form the first column: the infantry of the two lines of the right wing, marching by it’s right, will form the second: the infantry of the two lines of the left wing, filing by it’s right, will form the third; and the cavalry of the left wing, filing by it’s right, will form the fourth column.
The infantry regiments N. N. of the second line, and the three regiments of hussars under the command of General N. N. will escort the baggage, which is to march in the rear of the two columns of infantry.
Four aides-du-camp are to command this party, who are to take particular care that the carriages follow each other in order, allowing as little interval as possible.
If the general commanding the rear guard should be in want of support, he is immediately to apply to the commander in chief.
The chasseurs who have reconnoitred the roads, are to conduct the four columns.
A detachment of carpenters, with waggons laden with beams, joists, and planks, should precede each column, to throw bridges over the small rivers.
The heads of columns must be careful not to go before each other without allowing any intervals. Officers commanding divisions must be attentive in observing their distances.
When you have to pass a defile, the heads of columns must march very slowly, or halt now and then to allow the rear to recover it’s situation.
It is thus that the order of march is to be conducted.
When mountains, woods, or defiles, are met with on the march, the columns are to be divided, and the head, which consists of the infantry, is to be followed by the cavalry, who will close the march.
If there be a plain in the center, it is to be assigned to the cavalry, and the infantry formed into columns on the two extremities, are to traverse the wood; but this is only to be understood of a march which is made not too near the enemy. In that situation, we are content to place some battalions of grenadiers at the head of each column of cavalry, that they may preserve the order of battle.
The most certain way to insure the safe arrival of a reinforcement is, to march through a difficult road to meet it, and to retire from the enemy to avoid an engagement. By means of the superiority which you gain by the arrival of this succour, you will soon recover that ground, which you have, as it were, only lent to the enemy.
When we are obliged to march parallel to the enemy, it must be done in two lines, either by the right or by the left, and each line must form a column, with an advanced guard in front. In other respects, those rules which I have just laid down, may also here be employed.
All the marches which we made from Frankenberg to Hohen-Friedberg were directed in this manner, marching to the right.
I prefer these dispositions to any others, because the army can be formed in order of battle by one to the right or one to the left, which is much the readiest way of collecting them, and I would ever practice this method, if I had my choice in attacking the enemy, though I lost the advantage of it at Sohr and at Hohen-Friedberg. In this sort of march, care is to be taken that the flank be never shewn to the enemy.
When the enemy begins a march in preparation for an action, you are to disencumber yourself of all your heavy baggage, and send it under escort to the nearest town. The advanced guard is then to be formed, and pushed forward to the distance of a short half league.
When the army marches in front against the enemy, care must be taken not only that the columns do not go before each other, but also that when they draw near to the field of battle, they extend themselves in such a manner, that the troops do not take up more or less ground than they will occupy when they are formed. This is a business of much difficulty, as some battalions are generally too much crowded, and others have too much ground alloted them.
Marching by lines is attended with no sort of inconvenience, and on that account has by me ever been preferred.
When we expect to be engaged upon a march, great precaution is required, and it is necessary that the general be very much upon his guard. He should reconnoitre the ground, without exposing himself, from point to point, so as to have an idea of different positions, if the enemy should come to attack him.
Steeples and heights are to be made use of in order to reconnoitre the ground, and the road which leads to them is to be cleared by light troops, detached from the advanced guard.
Retreats are generally conducted in the following manner: A day or two before we depart, the heavy baggage is got together, and sent away under a strong escort.
The number of columns is then to be determined by the number of roads that can be made use of, and the march of the troops regulated by the nature of the ground. In a plain, the advanced guard is formed by the cavalry; if it be a chequered country, that post belongs to the infantry. in a plain country, the army will march in four columns.
The infantry of the second line of the right wing, filing by it’s right, and followed by the second line of the cavalry of the same wing, will form the fourth column. The infantry of the first line of the right wing, filing by it’s right, will be followed by the first line of cavalry of that wing, and form the third column.
The infantry of the second line of the left wing, followed by the cavalry of that same line, will form the second column. The infantry of the first line of the left wing will be followed by the cavalry of that same line, forming together the first column.
In this manner the rear guard will be formed by the whole of the cavalry, which may be supported, for security sake by the hussars of the army.
If, during the retreat, it be necessary to pass any defiles, the infantry must occupy them the evening before we depart, and be so posted as to cover the troops, in order that the passage of the defile may remain open.
Supposing that the army marches in two columns, the cavalry of the right will file by it’s left, the second line moving first, and taking the lead of the second column: the infantry of the second line, followed by the first, will place itself in the rear and follow this cavalry.
The cavalry of the left wing will file by it’s left, the second line moving first, and heading the first column. This will be joined by the infantry of the left wing, (whose second line will also move before the first,) and thus the first column will be formed.
Six battalions of the rear of the first line, supported by ten squadrons of hussars will form the rear guard. These six battalions are to place themselves in order of battle in front of the defile in two lines, as the checquered disposition of fully explains.
Whilst the army is passing the defile, the troops that are posted in front must cover and protect by their fire those which still remain on the other side of it.
When the whole army shall have come up, the first line of the advanced guard is to throw itself into the defile, having passed through the intervals of the second line; and when it is gone on, the second line will follow in the same manner, under cover of the fire of those who are posted on the other side, who are to follow last, and will form the rear guard.
The most difficult of all manoeuvres is, that of passing a river during a retreat in presence of the enemy. On this subject I cannot quote a better example that our repassing the Elbe at Kolin in the retreat of 1744.
But as towns are not always in the neighborhood of such situations, I will suppose that your only resource is in two bridges. In such a case a large entrenchment is to be thrown up which will include both bridges, leaving a small opening at the head of each of them.
This being done, we are to send across the river several pieces of cannon with a certain number of troops, and post them on the opposite bank, which should on no account be too steep, but sufficiently elevated to command that which is on the other side. The large entrenchment is then to be lined with infantry, and after such a disposition, the infantry are to be the first to pass over, whilst the cavalry, forming the rear guard, retire in a chequered way through the entrenchment.
When all are passed, the two small heads of the bridge are to be skirted by the infantry, whilst those who are in the entrenchment leave it, in order to retire.
If the enemy have any inclination for a pursuit, he will be exposed to the fire from both heads of the bridge, and from the troops who are posted on the other side of the river.
The infantry who were placed in the entrenchment having passed the river, the bridge is to be destroyed, and the troops who defended the heads of the bridge, are to pass over in boats, under cover of those who are posted on the other side of the river, whose duty it is to advance in order to support them.
When the pontoons are placed on the carriages, the last troops put themselves in motion.
Fougasses* may also be formed at the angles of the entrenchments, which may be set on fire by the last grenadiers at the moment that they have passed the river. [Footnote *Small mines to be fired on leaving entrenchments to render them useless to the enemy.]
On the Precautions necessary to be taken in a Retreat against Hussars and Pandours.
The hussars and pandours* [Footnote * Hungarian foot soldiers] are dreadful only to those who do not know them. They are never brave but when animated by the hope of plunder, or when they can annoy others without exposing themselves. The first species of their bravery they exercise against convoys and baggage, and the other against troops who are obliged to retire, whom they endeavor to teaze in their retreat.
Our troops have nothing serious to dread from them, but as a march is often retarded by their manner of skirmishing, and as some men will unavoidably be lost, and that too at a very inconvenient season, I shall explain the best method that I am acquainted with of getting rid of these gentry.
When we retreat through plains, the hussars are to be driven away by a few discharges of cannon, and the pandours by means of the dragoons and hussars, of whom they are in a very great dread. The most difficult retreats, and those in which the pandours have it in their power to do the greatest mischief are those where we have to pass woods, defiles, and mountains. In such cases, the loss of some men is almost inevitable.
In these situations, then, the heights should be occupied by the advanced guard with their front towards the enemy, and at the same time troops are to be detached on the flank of the line of march, who keeping along on the side of the army will always pass over the heights or through the woods. Some squadrons should also be at hand to be employed where the ground will allow of it.
On these occasions, we are never to halt, but keep constantly moving, for halting would certainly be an unseasonable sacrifice of some of your men.
The pandours fire as they lie down, and by that means keep themselves concealed; and when the marching of the army makes it necessary for the rear guard and the small parties that were detached to quit the heights and follow the main body, they then possess themselves of those situations, and being under cover, pick off those who are retreating. Neither musketry or cannon loaded with cartridge can do them much mischief, as they are scattered and concealed behind the heights and trees.
I made two retreats of this kind in the year 1745; one by the valley of Liebenthal, when marching to Staudenitz, and the other from Trautenau to Schatzlar. Notwithstanding every possible precaution, we lost sixty men killed and wounded in the first retreat, and more than two hundred in the second.
When we have to retreat through difficult ways, our marches should be very short, that we may be the more readily and perfectly on our guard. the longest march should not exceed two leagues, or one German mile, and as then we are not hurried, we are sometimes able to force the pandours, especially if they are imprudent enough to take shelter in a wood, which it is in our power to turn.
Of the Method in which the Light Prussian Troops conduct themselves when engaged with the Hussars and Pandours.
Our plan in forcing a post which is occupied by the enemy’s light troops is, to attack it hastily, for as they disperse in their mode of fighting, they cannot stand against the attack of our regular troops, who are never to mince the matter with them.
We have only to detach a few troops to cover the flanks of the party which marches against them, and then attack them with spirit, to insure their running away.
Our dragoons and hussars attack them closely formed and sword in hand, and as this is a sort of rencontre which they cannot endure, it has always happened that we have beaten them, without paying any regard to the superiority of their numbers.
By what Movements on our Side the Enemy may also be obliged to move.
We are egregiously mistaking, if we suppose that the mere movement of an army will oblige the enemy also to put himself in motion. This is to be effected not simply by moving, but by the manner in which it is conducted. –An intelligent enemy will not be induced to stir on account of any specious manoeuvres which you may think proper to practise: settled positions must be taken up that will oblige him to reflect, and reduce him to the necessity of decamping.
For this reason we should be well informed of the nature of the country, the abilities of the general to whom we are opposed, the situation of his magazines, the towns that are most convenient to him, and those from which he draws his forage, and when these various circumstances are well combined together, the plan is to be formed and maturely digested.
That general who has the most fertile imagination, and attempts the most frequently to distress his enemy, will eventually rival his antagonist in glory.
He who at the opening of a campaign is the most alert in the assembling his troops, and marches forward to attack a town or occupy a post, will oblige his adversary to be regulated by his motions, and remain on the defensive.
You must always be possessed of very good reasons for wishing to oblige the enemy to move during a campaign: whether with a view of taking a town near where he is encamped, driving him to a barren country where he will hardly be able to exist, or with the hope of bringing on an engagement which will prove of material advantage. Induced by reasons of this nature, you set about arranging your plan, taking care that the marches which you are to make, and the camps which you are to occupy, do not lead you into greater inconveniencies than the enemy will suffer, by drawing you away from your depot, which may be in a place but badly fortified, and liable to be plundered by the light troops during your absence; by taking up a position where you may be cut off from all communications with your own country, or by occupying a situation which you will soon be obliged to abandon for want of subsistence.
After serious deliberation on these objects, and after having calculated the chances of enterprise on the part of the enemy, your plan is to be arranged, either for the purpose of encamping on one of his flanks, approaching the provinces whence he draws his subsistence, cutting him off from his capitol, threatening his depots, or in short, taking up any position by which you deprive him of his provisions.
To give an instance with which the greatest part of my officers are well acquainted-I had formed a plan by which I had reason to hope that I should oblige Prince Charles of Lorraine to abandon Konigingraetz and Pardubitz in the year 1745.
When we quitted the camp at Dubletz, we ought to have gone to the left, passed along by the country of Glatz, and marched near Hohenmauth. By this manoeuvre we should have forced the Austrians, whose magazines were at Teutschbrod, and whose provisions were, for the most part, drawn from Moravia, to have marched to Landscron, leaving to us Konigingraetz and Pardubitz. The Saxons, being cut off from their home, would have been obliged to quit the Austrians, in order to cover their own country.
What prevented my making this manoeuvre at that period was, that I should have profited nothing if I had gained Koenigingraetz, as I must have sent detachments to the support of the Prince of Anhalt, in case that the Saxons had returned home. Besides this circumstance, the magazines at Glatz were not equal to the subsistence of my army during the whole of the campaign.
The diversions that are made by detaching troops, will also sometimes oblige the enemy to decamp, for generally speaking, every kind of enterprise that comes on him unawares will have the effect of deranging him, and obliging him to quit his position.
Of such nature are the passing of mountains which the enemy deems impassible, and the crossing of rivers without his knowledge.
Sufficient information is to be gained on this head by reading the campaign of Prince Eugene in the year 1701. The confusion of the French army when it was surprised by Prince Charles of Lorraine; who had crossed the Rhine, is a matter sufficiently well understood.
I shall conclude by saying, that the execution of enterprises of this nature should always correspond with the design, and as long as the general’s dispositions are wise and founded on solid principles, so long will he have it in his power to give the law to his enemy, and oblige him to keep on the defensive.
Of the Crossing of Rivers.
As long as the enemy remains on the other side of a river which you wish to cross, all force is useless, and recourse must be made to stratagem. To be informed how we are to pass a large river, we have only to consult Caesar’s passage of the Rhine, that of the Po by Prince Eugene, or of the Rhine by Prince Charles of Lorraine. These generals sent out detachments to impose upon the enemy, and conceal the spot where they intended to pass. They made every preparation for the building of bridges in places where they had no idea of employing them, whilst the main body of the army, by a night march, gained a considerable distance from the enemy, and had time to pass the river before the troop, who were to dispute their passage, could be put in order to prevent them.
We generally choose to cross rivers at those parts where there are some small islands, as they forward the business very materially. We wish also to meet on the other side with woods or other obstacles, that may prevent the enemy from attacking us before we have had time to get into proper order.
The most prudent measures and the most particular attention are required in enterprises of this nature. The boats or pontoons with every other article of necessary apparatus must be at therendezvous by the appointed hour, and every boatman well instructed what generally attends expeditions by night. Everything being arranged, the troops are to pass over and establish themselves on the other side of the river.
Whenever rivers are to be crossed, care should be taken that the two heads of the bridge be entrenched, and well furnished with troops. The islands which are in the neighborhood should be fortified, in order to support the entrenchments, and prevent the enemy, during your operations, from seizing or destroying the bridges.
If the rivers be narrow, we choose our passage at those parts where they form angles, and where the bank, by being a little more elevated, commands that on the opposite side.
On this spot we place as many cannon, with a proportionate number of troops, as the ground will allow, under the protection of which the bridges are to be built; and as the ground grows narrower on account of the angle, we are to advance but very little, and insensibly gain ground as the troops pass.
If there be any fords, we slope the ground leading to them, to enable the cavalry to pass.
Of the Manner in which the Passage of Rivers is to be defended.
Nothing is more difficult, not to say impossible, than to defend the passage of a river, especially when the front of attack be of too great an extent. I would never undertake a commission of this kind, if the ground which I had to defend was more than eight German miles in front, and unless there were two or three redoubts established on the bank of the river within this distance; neither should any other part of the river be fordable.
But supposing the situation to be exactly as I have stated, time must always be required to make the necessary preparations against the enterprises of the enemy, the disposition of which should be nearly as follows:–
All the boats and barks which can be found upon the river should be got together and conveyed to the two redoubts, that the enemy may not have it in his power to make use of them.
Both the banks of the river are to be reconnoitred, that you may discover and destroy those parts of them where it would be possible to pass.
The ground which might protect the passage of the enemy is to be particularly attended to, and your plans of attack must be regulated by the nature and situation of each part of it.
Roads sufficiently wide to admit of many columns are to be made along the whole front of the river which you are to defend, that you may march against the enemy free of every impediment.
These precautions being taken, the army is to be encamped in the center of the line of defence, that you may have but four miles to march to either extremity. Sixteen small detachments are then to be formed, and commanded by the most active, intelligent officers of dragoons and hussars; eight of which, under the orders of a general officer, are to have charge of the front of attack on the right, whilst the other eight, commanded in like manner, take care of the left.
These detachments will be designed to give information of the enemy’s movements, and of the spot where it will be his intention to pass.
During the day, guards are to be posted to discover what is going forward, and by night patroles are to go out every quarter of an hour near to the river, and not retire till they have distinctly seen that the enemy has made a bridge, and that the head has passed.
The aforesaid generals and commanding officers of redoubts are to send their reports to the commander in chief four times a day.
Fresh horses should be stationed between them and the army, in order to hasten the arrival of their dispatches, and inform the general as immediately as possible when the enemy is about to pass. As it is the duty of the general to repair thither at a moment’s warning, his baggage should be sent away beforehand, that he may be ready for every event.
The different dispositions for each part of the ground being already made, the generals are appointed by the commander in chief to those which regard the points of attack. No time is to be lost in marching, (the infantry taking the lead of the columns,) as you are to suppose that the enemy are entrenching themselves. When arrived, the attack is to be made instantly and with great spirit, as the only means of promising to yourself brilliant success.
The passages of small rivers are still more difficult to defend; their fords are to be rendered impassible, if possible, by throwing in of trees. But if the enemy’s bank commands your’s it is vain to attempt resistance.
Of the Surprise of Towns.
A town must be badly guarded and weakly fortified that suffers a surprise; and if it’s ditches be filled with water, the success of such enterprises must depend on a wintry season and hard frost.
Towns may be surprised by a whole army, as was the case at Prague in the year 1741, or the accident may happen from the garrison having been lulled into security by a long continued blockade, as was effected by Prince Leopold d’Anhalt at Glogau. Detachments also sometimes have the desired effect, as was attempted by Prince Eugene at Cremona, and as succeeded with the Austrians at Cosel.
The principal rule in making dispositions for surprise is, to be well informed of the nature of the fortifications and of the interiors of the place, so as to direct your attack to any particular spot.
The surprise of Glogau was a chef d’oeuvre, and is well worth the imitation of those who attempt such enterprises. There was nothing so extraordinary in the surprise of Prague, as it was impossible by such a variety of attacks must carry a place, where the garrison had so great an extent to defend. Cosel and Cremona were betrayed; the first by an officer who deserted and informed the Austrians that the excavation of the ditch was not quite completed, by which means they got over, and the place was carried.
If we wish to take small places, we batter some of the gates with mortars, whilst detachments are sent to the others to prevent the garrison from saving themselves.
If cannon are to be employed, they must be so placed that the artillerymen be not exposed to the fire of the musquetry; otherwise the guns will be in danger of being lost.
Of Combats and Battles.
The Austrian camp is surrounded by such a number of light troops, as to render a surprise a work of very great difficulty.
If two armies keep near to each other, the business will very soon be decided, unless one of them occupies an inaccessible post that will secure it from surprises; a circumstance which seldom takes place between armies, though it be nothing uncommon between detachments.
To have it in our power to surprise an enemy in his camp, it is necessary that he relies entirely either on the superiority of his troops, the advantageous situation of his post, the reports of his emissaries, or lastly, on the vigilance of his light troops.
The nature of the country and the position of the enemy should be perfectly well understood prior to the formation of any plan.
The roads leading to camp must be well examined, and the general disposition of things formed from thence, being regulated in every point by the particular and exact knowledge of all attendant circumstances.
The most intelligent chasseurs, who are best acquainted with the roads, should be appointed to conduct the columns.
Be particularly careful to conceal your design, for secresy is the soul of all enterprises.
The light troops should take the lead on the march, for which regulation various reasons may be assigned, though the real one be to prevent any scoundrel of a deserter from betraying you. They will also be of service by preventing the enemy’s patroles from approaching too nearly and discovering your movements.
The generals who are under your orders must be well instructed of all events that may happen, and how to act when any accident occurs.
If the enemy’s camp be situate in a plain, an advanced guard may be formed of dragoons, who, being joined by the hussars, will enter the enemy’s camp on full speed, throw it into confusion, and cut down whatever comes in their way.
The whole army should support these dragoons, and the infantry being at the head of it, should be particularly employed in attacking the wings of the enemy’s cavalry.
The advanced guard should begin the attack half an hour before day, but the army should not be more than eight hundred yards in it’s rear.
During the march the most profound silence is to be observed, and the soldiers must be forbidden to smoke tobacco.
When the attack has commenced and the day appears, the infantry, formed into four or six columns, must march straight forward to the camp, in order to support it’s advanced guard.
No firing is to be allowed before day-light, as it might prove the means of destroying our own people: but as soon as the day is broke, we should fire on all those places into which the advanced guard has not penetrated, especially on the wings of the cavalry, that we may oblige the troopers, who have not time to accoutre their horses, to abandon them and fly.
The enemy are to be followed even out of their camp, and the whole of the cavalry should be let loose after them to take advantage of their disorder and confusion.
If the enemy have abandoned their arms, a strong detachment must be left in charge of the camp, whilst the remainder of the army, instead of amusing themselves with plunder, pursue the enemy with all possible ardor; the more so, as a like opportunity of entirely routing them, may not soon present itself, and we may, by so doing, have the upper hand during the whole campaign, and be able to act just as we think proper.
Fortune intended to favor me with an opportunity of this kind before the battle of Mollwitz: we approached the army of the Marshal de Neuperg without being perceived, as they were cantoned in three villages; but at that time I wanted information how to profit by such circumstance.
My business then was, to have surrounded the village of Mollwitz by two columns, and to have attacked it. At the same moment I should have detached some dragoons to the other two villages where the Austrian cavalry lay, in order to throw them into confusion, whilst the infantry who followed them would have prevented the cavalry from mounting. By this method I am persuaded the whole army would have been destroyed.
I have already shewn the necessary cautions that respect our camp, and the manner in which it is to be protected: but if in spite of all our care, the enemy should approach the army, I would advise that the troops be formed in order of battle on the ground which is alloted to them, and that the cavalry remain firm on their posts, firing by platoons till daybreak. The generals are then to examine whether it be advisable to advance, if the cavalry has been victorious or suffered a repulse, and what farther methods are to be pursued.
On such occasions, each general should know how to act independently, without being obliged to wait for the instructions of the commander in chief.
For my own part, I am determined never to attack by night, on account of the confusion which darkness necessarily occasions, and because the major part of the soldiery require the eye of their officers, and the fear of punishments, to induce them to do their duty.
Charles XII. in the year 1715, attacked the Prince of Anhalt in the night, though he was but just disembarked on the island of Rugen. The King of Sweden had reason for so doing, as day-light would have discovered the weakness of his army. He came with four thousand men to attack five times the number, and of course was defeated.
It is an invariable axiom of war, to secure your flanks and rear, and endeavor to turn those of your enemy. This may be done in different ways, though they all depend on the same principle.
When you are obliged to attack an entrenched enemy, it should be done instantly, without allowing him time to finish his works. What would be of advantage to-day, may not be so to-morrow.
But before you set about making the attack, the enemy’s position must be well reconnoitred with your own eyes, and your first dispositions of attack will convince you whether your scheme will be easily put into execution, or become a work of labor and difficulty.
The want of sufficient support is the chief reason that entrenchments are taken. The entrenchment of Turenne was carried, as was also that of * . . . . [Footnote:* Probably that of Schellenberg] because there was sufficient ground to enable the Prince of Anhalt to turn it. That of Malplaquet was turned by the wood which was on the Marshal Villers’ left. Had the allies been aware of this circumstance at the beginning of the battle, it would have saved their army fifteen thousand men.
If a fordable river support the entrenchment, it must be attacked on that side. The work at Stralsund, conducted by the Swedes, was carried because the attack was made on the sea-side, where it happened to be fordable.
If the enemy’s entrenchments are of too great an extent, so that the troops are obliged to occupy more ground than they can well defend, we attack at several points, and provided we can keep our designs secret from the enemy, (which will prevent his meeting us with a sufficient force), we shall certainly get possession of the works.
Plate 6 will explain the following dispositions of an attack on an entrenchment, where I shall form the line with thirty battalions, and strenghthen the left wing by the river N. N. The attack on the left, where I wish to penetrate, shall be made by twelve battalions, and that on the right by eight. The troops destined for the attack are to be formed in a chequered way, with the allowance of proper intervals. The remainder of the infantry are to throw themselves into the third line, and behind them, at the distance of four hundred yards, the cavalry should be posted. By this means my infantry will keep the enemy in check, and be ready to take advantage of any false movement which he may make.
Care must be taken that each of these attacks be followed closely by a number of pioneers with shovels, pick-axes, and fascines to fill up the ditch, and make a road for the cavalry, when the entrenchment shall have been forced.
The infantry who form the attack are not to fire till the work is carried, and they are drawn up in order of battle on the parapet.
The cavalry are to enter through the openings made by the pioneers, and attack the enemy as soon as they find themselves of sufficient force. If the cavalry be repulsed, they must rally under the cover of the infantry’s fire until the whole army has got in, and the enemy are entirely routed.
I must here repeat, that I would never entrench my army unless I had a siege in contemplation; and I am not decided, whether it be not the best plan to go on before the army that comes to relieve a place.
But supposing for a moment, that we have an inclination to entrench ourselves; to execute such intention, the following method appears to me the most advantageous.
We contrive to have two or three large reserves, which are to be sent out during the attack to those points where the enemy is making his greatest efforts.
The parapet is to be lined by battalions, and a reserve placed behind them, to be at hand in case of necessity. The cavalry should be ranged in one line behind these reserves.
The entrenchments should be very well supported, and if it be joined by a river, the ditch should be carried some distance into it, to prevent it’s being turned.
If it be strengthened by a wood, it should be closed at that end by a redoubt, and a large abbatis of trees should also be made in the wood.
Particular regard must be paid to the flanking of the redans.
The ditch should be very deep and wide, and the entrenchments must be improved every day, either by strengthening the parapet, placing pallisades at the entrance of the barriers, digging of pits, or furnishing the whole of the camp with chevaux de frize.
The greatest advantage you have is, in the choice of your work, and in the observance of certain rules of fortification which will oblige the enemy to attack you on a small front, and that only in the principle points of your entrenchment.
Plate 7th will give you a more exact idea of this business. The army, which is there placed at the head of the entrenchment. is thrown back on one side by the river, so that you present a projecting front to the enemy who comes to attack you. Your right is safe from attack by means of the batteries placed at the extremities of that wing, which would play upon the enemy’s flank, whilst the centre redoubt would take him in the rear. The only point liable to attack therefore is the center redoubt, and even here he will be obliged to cut his way through the abbatis.
In your preparations for this attack it behoves you therefore to strengthen the fortifications of this redoubt, and as you have but one point which demands your particular attention, that one will consequently be more perfect and complete.
Plate 8th exhibits entrenchments of a different kind, which are composed of projecting and receding redoubts, which cross each other, and are connected by entrenchments.
By this method of fortification, those that project from the point of attack, and as they are but few of them, much less time is required in completing them, than if the whole front was to be equally well fortified.
In these projecting redoubts, the fire of the musquetry must always cross each other, and for this reason they should never be more than six hundred yards apart.
Our infantry defend an entrenchment by the fire of entire battalions, and every soldier should be provided with one hundred rounds. This, however, is not to prevent the placing as many cannon as we can between the battalions and the projecting redoubts.
Whilst the enemy are at a distance, we fire shot, but when they approach within four hundred yards, we have recourse to cartridges.
If, notwithstanding the strength of your entrenchment, and the smartness of your fire, the enemy should make any impression, the reserve of infantry must march forward to repel him, and if they also be obliged to fall back, your last effort to put him to the route must depend upon your cavalry.
The principal reasons why entrenchments are carried are these, the want of attention to proper rules in their construction, or the troops being turned or panic struck: the superior freedom and boldness with which the attackers are able to conduct themselves, gives them this advantage.
Examples have already shewn, that when an entrenchment is forced, the whole army is discouraged and put to flight: I have a better opinion of my troops, and am persuaded that they would repel the enemy; but what end would this answer, if the entrenchments prevent their profiting by such advantages?
As there are so many inconveniencies attending entrenchments, it naturally follows that lines are still more useless. The fashion of our day is that which was practised by Prince Louis de Baden, whose first lines were made on the side of Briel. The French also employed them after that in Flanders. I maintain that they are of no service whatever, since they compass more ground than the troops can possibly defend; they allow of a variety of attacks being made on them, and tempt the enemy to force a passage. On this account they do not cover the country, but, on the contrary, ensure the loss of reputation to the troops who have to defend them.
Although a Prussian army should be inferior to that which is opposed to them, they are not to despair of success, as the general’s management will supply the want of numbers.
An army that is weak should always make choice of a difficult, mountainous country, where the ground narrows, so that the superior number of the enemy, not being able to pass their wings, becomes useless, and often an incumbrance to them.
It may here be added, that in a country which is close and hilly, the wings can better be supported than when we are on a plain. We should not have gained the battle of Sohr but for the advantage of the ground, for though the Austrian army doubled ours, they were not able to break through our wings, as the ground rendered both the armies nearly equal.
The choice of ground is my first object, and my second the disposition of the battle itself; it is here that my oblique order of battle may be employed to advantage, for you to refuse one wing to the enemy, whilst you strengthen that which ought to make the attack. By this means you turn all your force on that wing of the enemy which you wish to take in flank.
An army of ten thousand men, if it’s flanks are turned, will very soon be defeated, as may be seen by plate 9th.–Every thing is done by my right wing. A body of infantry will move by degrees into the wood, to attack the flanks of the enemy’s cavalry, and protect the onset of our own: some regiments of hussars should be ordered to take the enemy in the rear whilst the army advances, and when their cavalry are routed, the infantry who are in the wood must take the enemy’s infantry in flank, whilst the remainder are attacking them in front.
My left wing will not stir till the enemy’s left wing is entirely defeated.
By this disposition you will gain the following advantages: 1st, that of making head with a small force against a much superior number; 2dly, of attacking the enemy at a point which will decide the business; 3dly, if your wing should chance to be beaten, as only a small part of your army has been engaged, three fourths of your troops, who are fresh, will be ready to support you in your retreat.
If you wish to attack an enemy that is advantageously posted, you must carefully examine both his strong and weak side before you make your dispositions for attack, and always choose that point where you expect to meet with the least resistance.
So many men are lost in the attacks on villages, that I have vowed never to undertake them, unless obliged by absolute necessity, for you run the hazard of losing the flower of your infantry.
It is said by some generals, that the most proper point of attack is the center of a post. Plate 10th will represent the situation of such a post, where I suppose the enemy to have two large towns and two villages on it’s wings. The wings must certainly be lost, when you have forced the center, and by similar attacks, the most complete victories may be obtained.
If must be added to the plan which I here lay down, that you must double your attack when you have once made an impression, in order to force the enemy to fall back both on his right and upon his left.
Nothing is so formidable in the attack of a post, as the discharge of cartridges from the batteries, which made a terrible havock amongst the battalions. I witnessed the attacks on the batteries of Sohr and Kesseldorf, and shall here communicate the idea suggested by my reflections on that business, supposing that we wish to be possessed of a battery mounted with fifteen pieces of cannon, which it is not in our power to turn.
I have remarked, that the fire of cannon and of infantry who defend a battery render it inaccessible. We cannot make ourselves masters of the enemy’s batteries but through their own fault: finding our infantry who attacked half destroyed and giving way, the infantry of the enemy quit their post to follow them, and being by this movement deprived of the use of their cannon, when they return to their batteries, our people enter with them and take possession.
The experience of those two battles gave me the idea, that in similar cases we should copy the example of our troops on this occasion, viz. to form the attack in two lines in a chequered way, and to be supported in the third line by some squadrons of dragoons.
The first line should be ordered to attack but faintly, and fall back through the intervals of the second, so that the enemy, deceived by this sham retreat, may abandon his post in order to pursue us.
This movement of theirs is to be our signal to advance and make a vigorous attack.
The disposition of this manoeuvre is explained in plate 11th.
It is my principle, never to place my whole confidence in one post, unless it can be physically proved to be safe from any attack.
The great dependence of our troops is in attacking, and we should act very foolish part to give up this point without good reason.
But if it be necessary that posts should be occupied, we remember to get possession of the heights, and make our wings sufficiently strong.
I would burn every village which is at the head or on the wings of the army, if the wind did not drive the smoke into the camp.
If there were any strong stone houses in front, I would defend them by the infantry, in order to annoy the enemy during the action.
Great care should be taken, not to place troops on ground where they cannot act; it was this which made our position at Grotkau in the year 1741 worth nothing, for the center and left wing were posted behind impassible bogs. The only ground that would admit of being manoeuvred on, was that which was occupied by a part of the right wing.
Villeroy was beaten at Ramillies for the very reason that I have just mentioned, as his right wing was rendered entirely useless, and the enemy crowded all it’s force against the right wing of the French which could make no resistance.
I allow the Prussian troops to take possession of advantageous posts as well as other troops, and to make use of them in favor of any movement, or to take advantage of their artillery; but they must quit this post instantly to march against the enemy, who instead of being allowed to begin the attack, is attacked himself, and sees all his projects miscarry. Every movement which we make in presence of the enemy without his expecting it, will certainly produce a good effect.
We must rank battles of this kind amongst the best, always remembering to attack the weakest point.
On these occasions, I would not permit the infantry to fire, for it only retards their march, and the victory is not decided be the number of slain, but by the extent of territory which you have gained.
The most certain way of insuring victory is, to march briskly and in good order against the enemy, always endeavoring to gain ground. It is the custom to allow fifteen yards of interval between squadrons in a difficult, intersected country, but where the ground is good and even, they form in a line entire.
No greater interval is to be allowed between the infantry than is sufficient for the cannon. It is only in attacks of entrenchment, batteries, and villages, and in the formation of the rear guard in a retreat, that the cavalry and infantry are placed in a chequered way, in order to give an immediate support to the first line by making the second fall into it’s intervals, so that the troops may retire without disorder, and be a mutual support to each other. This is a rule never to be neglected.
An opportunity offers itself here of giving you some principle rules on what you are to observe when you range the army in order of battle, whatever the ground may happen to be. The first is, to take up points of view for the wings; the right wing, for example, will alline itself by the steeple N. N.
The general must be particularly careful that he does not suffer the troops to take up a wrong position.
It is not always necessary to defer the attack till the whole army can engage, as opportunity may present advantages which would be lost by a little delay.
A great part of the army, however, ought to be engaged, and the first line should be the chief object in the regulation of the order of battle. If all the regiments of that line are not present, they should be replaced by the same number of the second.
The wings should always be well supported, especially those which are expected to make the greatest exertions.
In an open country, the order of battle should be equally strong throughout, for as the enemy’s movements are unconfined, he may have reserved a part of his army which he may make use of to cut you out a little employment.
In case that one of the two wings should not be properly supported, the general who commands the second line should send some dragoons thither, (without waiting for an order on the occasion) to extend the first line, and the hussars taken from the third line should replace the dragoons.
The reason for so doing, is, that if the enemy make a movement to take the cavalry of the first line in flank, your dragoons and hussars may be able in turn to repay the compliment.
You will see in plate 12th that I place three battalions in the interval between the two lines of the left wing, the better to support it: for supposing your cavalry to be beaten, these battalions will always prevent the enemy from falling foul on the infantry, an instance of which we witnessed at Mollwitz.
The general commanding the second line must preserve a distance of three hundred paces from the first, and if he perceive any intervals in the first line, he is to fill them up with battalions from the second.
In a plain, a reserve of cavalry should always be placed in the rear of the center of the battalions, and be commanded by an officer of address, as he is to act from himself, either in support of a wing that he sees hardly pressed, or by flanking the enemy who are in pursuit of the wing that is thrown into disorder, that the cavalry may in the mean time have an opportunity of rallying.
The affair should be begun by the cavalry on full gallop, and the infantry also should march on briskly towards the enemy. Commanding officers are to take care that their troops penetrate and entirely break through the enemy, and that they make no use of their fire arms till their backs are turned.
If the soldiers fire without the word of command, they are to be ordered to shoulder arms, and proceed without any halting.
When the enemy begins to give way, we fire, by battalions, and a battle conducted in this manner will very soon be decided.
A new order of battle is represented in plate 13th, which differs from the others in having bodies of infantry placed at the extremities of the wings of the cavalry. The battalions are intended to support the cavalry, by playing with their own cannon and those belonging to the wings of the cavalry, on the enemy’s cavalry, at the beginning of the affair, that our own may have a better game to play during the attack. Another reason is, that supposing your wings to be beaten, the enemy dare not pursue, for fear of being between two fires.
When your cavalry, to all appearance, has been victorious, this infantry is to approach that of the enemy, and the battalions which are in the intervals must make a quarter-wheel and place themselves on your wings, to take the enemy’s infantry in flank and rear, and enable you to make a handsome business of it.
The conquering wing of your cavalry must not allow the enemy’s cavalry to rally, but pursue them in good order, and endeavor to cut them off from the infantry. When the confusion becomes general, the commanding officer should detach the hussars after them, who are to be supported by the cavalry. At the same time some dragoons should be sent to the roads which the infantry have taken, in order to pick them up, and by cutting off their retreat, make a great number of them prisoners.
There is another difference in this order of battle, which is , that the squadrons of dragoons are mixed with the infantry of the second line: this is done, because I have remarked in all the affairs which we have had with the Austrians, that after the fire of their musquetry has continued for about a quarter of an hour, they get together round their colors; at Hohen Friedburg our cavalry charged many of these round-about parties, and made a great number of them prisoners. the dragoons, being near at hand, are to be let loose instantly, and they never fail to give a very good account of them.
It will be said, that I never employ my small arms, but that it is my wish in all these dispositions to make use of may artillery only: to this I answer, that one of the two accidents which I suppose will unavoidably happen, either that my infantry fire in spite of my orders to the contrary, or that they obey my commands, and the enemy begins to give way. In either case, as soon as you perceive any confusion amongst their troops, you are to detach the cavalry after them, and when they find themselves attacked in flank on one side, charged in front, and their second line of cavalry cut off by the rear, the greatest part of them will be sure to fall into your hands.
It then cannot be called a battle, but an entire destruction of your enemies, especially if there be no defile in the neighborhood to protect their flight.
I shall close this article with a single reflection, viz. if you march to battle in column, whether by the right or by the left, the battalions or divisions must follow each other closely, that when you begin to deploy, you may have it in your power readily to engage. But if you march in front, the distances of the battalions must be well attended to, that they be not too close or too far from each other.
I make a distinction between the heavy cannon and the field pieces attached to the battalions, as the former should be planted on the heights, and the latter fifty paces in front of the battalions. Both the one and the other should be well pointed and well fired.
When we are within five hundred yards of the enemy, the field pieces should be drawn by men, that they may fire without intermission as we advance.
If the enemy begin to fly, the heavy cannon are to move forward and fire a few rounds, by way of wishing them a good journey.
Six gunners and three regimental carpenters should be attached to every piece in the first line.
I had omitted saying, that at the distance of three hundred and fifty yards, the cannon should begin to fire cartridges.
But to what end serves the art of conquest, if we are ignorant how to profit by our advantage? To shed the blood of soldiers when there is no occasion for it, is to lead them inhumanly to the slaughter; and not to pursue the enemy on certain occasions, to increase their fear and the number of our prisoners, is leaving an affair to future chance which might be determined at the present moment. Nevertheless, you may sometimes be prevented from pursuing your conquest by a want of provisions, or the troops being too much fatigued.
It is always the fault of the general in chief if an army want provisions. When he gives battle, he has a design in so doing: and if he has a design, it is his duty to be provided with every thing necessary for the execution of it, and of course he ought to be supplied with bread or biscuit for eight or ten days.
With respect to fatigues, if they had not been too excessive, they must not be regarded, as on extraordinary occasions extraordinary feats should be performed.
When victory is perfectly decided, I would recommend a detachment to be made of those regiments who have been the greatest sufferers, to take care of the wounded, and convey them to the hospitals, which ought to be already established. Though our own wounded are to be the first objects of our attention, we are not to forget our duty to the enemy.
In the mean time the army is to pursue the enemy to the nearest defile, which in the first transport of their alarm they will not tarry to keep possession of, if you take care not to allow them sufficient time to recover their wind.
When you have attended to all these circumstances, the camp is to be marked out, paying strict regard to the established rules, and not allowing yourself to be lulled with too great an idea of security.
If the victory have been complete, we may send out detachments either to cut off the enemy’s retreat, seize his magazines, or lay seige to three or four towns at the same time.
On this article, general rules only can be given, as a great deal must depend on fortuitous circumstances. You are never to imagine that every thing is done as long as any thing remains undone; nor are you to suppose but that a cunning enemy, though he may have been beaten, will keep a sharp look-out to take advantage of your negligence or errors.
I pray to heaven, that the Prussians never may be beaten, and dare affirm that such an accident never will happen if they are well led on and well disciplined.
But should they meet with a disaster of such a nature, the following rules are to be observed in order to recover the misfortune. When you see that the battle is inevitably lost, and that it is not in your power to oppose the enemy’s movements, or even resist them much longer, you are to send the second line of infantry to any defile that may be near, and place them in it agreeably to the disposition which I have given under the article of retreats, sending thither at the same time as many cannon as you can spare.
If there be no defile in the neighborhood, the first line must retire through the interval of the second, and place itself in order of battle three hundred yards behind them.
All the remains of your cavalry must be got together, and if you choose it, they may be formed into a square to protect your retreat.
History furnishes us with accounts of two remarkable squares: one that was formed by General Schullembourg after the battle of Frauenstadt, by means of which he retired across the Oder without being forced by Charles XII.; the other by the Prince of Anhalt when General Stirum lost the first battle of Hochstaedt. This Prince traversed a plain of two leagues, and the French cavalry did not dare to molest him.
I shall conclude with saying, that though we are defeated, there is no occasion for running away forty leagues, but that we are to halt at the first advantageous post, and put a bold face upon the business, in order to collect the scattered army, and encourage those who are dispirited.
Of the Reasons which should induce us to give Battle, and in what Manner it is to be conducted.
Battles determine the fate of nations. It is necessary that actions should be decisive, either to free ourselves from the inconveniencies of a state of warfare, to place our enemy in that unpleasant situation, or to settle a quarrel which otherwise perhaps would never be finished. A man that is wise will make no sort of movement without good reason; and a general of an army should never be engaged without some design of consequence. If he be forced into an engagement by his adversary, his former errors must have reduced him to that situation, and given his enemy the power of dictating the law to him.
On the present occasion it will be seen, that I am not writing my own panegyric: for out of five battles which my troops have given to the enemy, three of them only were premeditated, and I was forced by the enemy into the other two. At the affair of Mollwitz the Austrians had posted themselves between my army and Wohlau, where I kept my provisions and artillery. At that of the Sohr, the enemy had cut me off from the road to Trautenau, so that I was obliged to fight, or run the risk of losing my whole army. But how great is the difference between forced and premeditated battles! How brilliant was our success at Hohen-Friedberg, at Kesseldorf, and also at Czaslau, which last engagement was the means of procuring us peace!
Though I am here laying down rules for battles, I do not pretend to deny that I have often erred through inadvertence; my officers, however, are expected to profit by my mistakes, and they may be assured, that I shall apply myself with all diligence to correct them.
It sometimes happens that both the armies wish to engage, and then the business is very soon settled.
Those battles are the best into which we force the enemy, for it is an established maxim, to oblige him to do that for which he has no sort of inclination, and as your interest and his are so diametrically opposite, it cannot be supposed that you are both wishing for the same event.
Many are the reasons that may induce us to give battle, such as, a desire to oblige the enemy to raise the siege of any place that may prove of convenience to yourself, to drive him out of a province which he possess, penetrate his country, enable yourself to lay a siege, correct him for his stubbornness if he refuse to make peace, or make him suffer for some error that he has committed.
You will also oblige the enemy to come to action when, by a forced march, you fall upon his rear and cut off his communications, or by threatening a town which it is his interest to preserve.
But in this sort of manoeuvre great care is to be taken that you do not get into the same embarrassed situation, or take up a position which enables the enemy to cut you off from your magazines.
The affairs which are undertaken against rear guards are attended with the least danger.
If you entertain a design of this nature, you are to encamp near the enemy, and when he wishes to retire and pass the defiles in your presence, make an attack upon his rear. Much advantage is often gained by engagements of this kind.
It is also a custom to teaze and tire the enemy, in order to prevent different bodies from forming a junction. The object in view sufficiently warrants such attempt, but a skilful enemy will have the address to get out of your way by a forced march, or escape the accident by taking up an advantageous position.
Sometimes when you have no inclination to fight, we are induced to it by the misconduct of the enemy, who should always be punished for his faults, if we can profit by so doing.
It must be urged, in addition to all these maxims, that our wars should ever be of short duration, and conducted with spirit, for it must always be against our interest to be engaged in a tedious affair. A long war must tend insensibly to relax our admirable discipline, depopulate our country, and exhaust it’s resources.
For this reason, generals commanding Prussian armies should endeavor, notwithstanding their success, to terminate every business prudently and quickly. They must not argue, as the Marshal de Luxembourg did in the Flanders wars, who when he was told by his son, “Father, it appears to me, that we could still take another town,” replied, “Hold your tongue, you little fool! Would you have us go home to plant cabbages?” In a word, on the subject of battles, we ought to be guided by the maxim of Sannerib of the Hebrews, “that it is better one man perish than a whole people.”
With regard to punishing an enemy for his fault, we should consult the relation of the battle of Senef, where the Prince of Conde brought on an affair of the rear guard against the Prince of Orange or the Prince of Waldeck, who had neglected to occupy the head of a defile, in order to facilitate his retreat.
The accounts of the battle of ….., gained by the Marshal de Luxembourg, and that of Raucoux, will also furnish you with other examples.
Of the Hazards and unforeseen Accidents which happen in War.
This article would be of a melancholy length, if it was my intention to treat of all the accidents which might happen to a general in war. I shall cut the matter short by saying, that it is necessary a man should have both address and good fortune.
Generals are much more to be pitied than is generally imagined. All the world condemns them unheard. They are exposed in the gazette to the judgment of the meanest plebeian, whilst amongst many thousand readers there is not one perhaps who knows how to conduct the smallest detachment.
I shall not pretend to excuse those generals who have been in fault; I shall even give up my own campaign of 1744, but I must add, that though I have many times erred, I have made some good expeditions; for example, the siege of Prague, the defence and the retreat of Koelin, and again the retreat in Silesia. I shall not enter farther into these actions, but must observe, that there are accidents which neither the most mature reflection or keenest human foresight can possibly prevent.
As I write at present solely for my own generals, I shall not quote other examples than what have occurred to myself. When we were at Reichenbach, I intended to have reached the river Neiss by a forced march, and to have posted myself between the town of that name and the army of General de Neuperg, in order to cut off his communication. All the necessary dispositions were arranged for such operation, but a heavy fall of rain came on which made the roads so very bad, that our advanced guard with the pontoons were unable to proceed. During the march of the army also so thick a fog arose, that the troops who were posted as guards in the villages wandered about without being able to join their respective regiments. In short, every thing turned out so ill, that instead of arriving at four o’clock A.M. as I had intended, we did not get there till midnight. The advantages to be derived from a forced march, were then out of the question, the enemy had the start of us, and defeated our project.
If, during your operations, disease should break out amongst your troops, you will be obliged to act on the defensive, which was the case with us in Bohemia in the year 1741, on account of the badness of the provisions with which the troops were furnished.
At the battle of Hohen-Friedberg, I ordered one of my aids du camp (flugel-adjutants) to go to Margrave Charles, and tell him to place himself, as eldest general, at the head of my second line, because General Kalckstein had been detached to the command of the right wing against the Saxons: this aid du camp mistook the business entirely, and ordered the margrave to form the first line into the second. By great good fortune I discovered the mistake, and had time to remedy it.
Hence we see the necessity of being always on our guard, and of bearing in mind, that a commission badly executed may disconcert all our intentions.
If a general fall sick, or be killed, at the head of a detachment of any importance, many of your measures must consequently suffer a very material derangement. To act offensively, requires generals of sound understanding and genuine valor, the number of which is but very small: I have at the most but three or four such in my whole army.
If, in spite of every precaution, the enemy should succeed in depriving you of some convoy, your plans will again be disconcerted, and your project either suspended or entirely overset.
Should circumstances oblige the army to fall back, the troops will be very much discouraged.
I have never been so unhappy as to experience a situation of this sort with my whole army, but I remarked at the battle of Mollwitz, that it required a length of time to reanimate troops who had been disheartened. At that time my cavalry was so weakened, that they looked on themselves as merely led to the slaughter, which induced me to send out small detachments to give them spirits, and bring them forward to action. It is only since the battle of Hohen-Friedberg, that my cavalry are become what they ever ought to be, and what they are at present.
If the enemy should discover a spy of any consequence in their camp, the compass is lost which was to have directed you, and you are unable to learn any thing of the enemy’s movements but from your own eyes.
The negligence of officers who are detached to reconnoitre may render your situation very distressed and embarrassing. It was in this way that Marshal de Neuperg was surprised; the hussarofficer who was sent forward on the look-out, had neglected his duty, and we were close upon him before he had the least suspicion of it. It was also owing to the carelessness of an officer of the regiment of Ziethen in making his patrole by night, that the enemy built his bridges at Selmitz, and surprised the baggage.
Hence will appear the truth of my assertion that the safety of a whole army should never be entrusted to the vigilance of an individual officer. No one man or subaltern officer should be charged with a commission of such material consequence. Treasure up, therefore, carefully in your mind what I have said on this subject under the article, “Of the Defence of Rivers.”
Too much confidence must not be reposed in patroles and reconnoitring parties, but in measures of more surety and solidity.
The greatest possible misfortune that can attend an army is treason. Prince Eugene was betrayed in the year 1733 by General St. . . . who had been corrupted by the French. I lost Cosel through the treachery of an officer of the garrison who deserted and conducted the enemy thither. Hence we are taught, that even in the height of our prosperity, it is not safe to trust to good fortune, or wise to be too much elevated with success; we should rather recollect, that the slender portion of genius and foresight which we may possess is at best but a game of hazard and unforeseen accidents, by which it pleases, I know not what destiny, to humble the pride of presumptuous man.
If it be absolutely necessary that the General of an Army should hold a Council of War.
It was a saying of Prince Eugene, “that if a general did not wish to fight, he had nothing more to do than hold a council of war;” and his assertion is proved, by the general voice of councils of war being against engaging. Secrecy, so necessary in war, can here be no longer observed.
A general, to whom his sovereign has entrusted his troops, should act for himself, and the confidence placed in him by his king is a sufficient warrant for such conduct.
Nevertheless, I am persuaded that a general ought not to be inattentive to the advice of even a subaltern officer, as it is the duty of a good citizen to forget himself when the welfare of his country is at stake, and not regard who furnishes the advice that may be productive of happy, wished-for consequences.
Of the Manoeuvres of an Army.
It will be seen by the maxims which I have laid down in this work, on what the theory turns of those evolutions which I have introduced amongst my troops. The object of these manoeuvres is to gain time on every occasion, and decide an affair more quickly than has heretofore been the custom; and, in short, to overset the enemy by the furious shocks of our cavalry. By means of this impetuosity, the coward is hurried away, and obliged to do his duty as well as the bravest; no single trooper can be useless. The whole depends on the spirit of the attack.
I therefore flatter myself that every general, convinced of the necessity and advantage of discipline, will do every thing in his power to preserve and improve it, both in time of war and of peace.
The enthusiastic speech made by Vegece respecting the Romans, will never leave my memory: “And at length,” says he, “the Roman discipline triumphed over the hordes of Germans, the force of the Gauls, the German cunning, the barbarian swarm, and subdued the whole universe.” So much does the prosperity of a state depend on the discipline of it’s army.
Of Winter Quarters.
When a campaign is ended, we think of winter quarters, which must be arranged according to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The first thing to be done is, the forming the chain of troops who are to cover these quarters, which may be effected in three different ways, either behind a river, taking advantage of posts that are defended by mountains, or under the protection of some fortified towns.
In the year 1741-2, my troops who wintered in Bohemia, took up their position behind the Elbe. The chain which covered them began at Brandeis, and extending along by Nienbourg, Koelin, Pojebrod, and Pardubitz, ended at Konigingraetz.
I must add here, that rivers must not be too much confided in, as when frozen they can be crossed at any point. Care should be taken to post hussars in every part of the chain to watch the enemy’s movements, for which purpose, they should patrole frequently in front to observe if all be quiet, or if the enemy be assembling troops.
Besides the chain of infantry, there should be placed also brigades of cavalry and infantry here and there, to be in readiness to lend assistance wherever it might be wanted.
In the winter of 1744-5, the chain of quarters was formed the whole length of those mountains which separate Silesia from Bohemia, and we guarded very particularly the frontiers of our quarters, that we might remain in quiet.
Lieutenant-General de Trusches had to take charge of the front of Lusatia as far as the country of Glatz, the town of Sagan, and the posts from Schmiedberg to Friedland, which last place was fortified by redoubts. There were also some other small entrenched posts on the roads of Schatzlar, Liebau, and Silberberg. The general had likewise contrived a reserve to support that post which might be first insulted by the enemy. All these detachments were covered by abbatis made in the woods, and all the roads leading into Bohemia were rendered impassible. Every post was also supplied with hussars, for the purpose of reconnoitring.
General Lehwald covered the country of Glatz with a detachment of the same nature, and with the same prudent cautions. These two generals lent each other assistance in such a way, that if the Austrians had marched against General Trusches, General Lehwald would have entered Bohemia to take the enemy in the rear, and Trusches would have returned the favor had Lehwald been attacked.
The towns of Tropau and Jagerndorf were our biggest points in Upper Silesia, and the communication was by way of Zeigenhals and Patchskau to Glatz, and by Neustadt to Neiss.
It must be observed here, that we are not to trust too much to the security of mountains, but remember the proverb, “that wherever a goat can pass a soldier can.”
With regard to the chains of quarters that are supported by fortresses, I refer you to the winter quarters of Marshal Saxe. They are the best, but it is not in our power to choose, as the chain must be made according to the nature of the ground which we occupy.
I shall lay it down here as a maxim, that we are never to fancy ourselves perfectly secure from the enemy’s annoyance in any one town or post, but that our attention must be constantly alive to the keeping of winter quarters quiet.
Another maxim to be observed in winter quarters is, to distribute the regiments by brigades, that they may be always under the eyes of the generals.
Our service also requires, that the generals should, if possible be with their own regiments: but there may be exceptions to this rule, of which the general commanding the army will be the best judge.
Here follow the rules that are to be observed respecting the maintenance of troops in winter quarters.
If circumstances absolutely require that we take up winter quarters in our own country, the captains and subaltern officers are to receive a gratuity proportionate to the common allowance which they receive in winter quarters. This is to be furnished with his bread and meat at free cost.
But if the winter quarters are in an enemy’s country, the general in chief of the troops shall receive 15,000 florins, the generals of the cavalry and infantry 10,000 each, lieutenant-generals 7000, major-generals (camp marshals) 5000, captains of cavalry 2000, of infantry 1800, and the subaltern officers 1000 ducats or from 4 to 500 florins. The country is to supply the soldier with bread, flesh, and beer gratis, but he is to have no money, as that only tends to favor desertion.
The general in chief is to take care that this business be properly arranged, and that no pillaging be allowed, but he is not to be too strict with an officer who has it in his power to make any trifling, fairadvantage.
If the army be quartered in an enemy’s country, it is the duty of the general commanding to see that the necessary number of recruits be furnished: (such distribution should obtain in the circles, that three regiments, for example, should be assigned to one, and four to the other.) Each circle should also be subdivided into regiments, as is done in the enrolling cantonments.
If the recruits are furnished voluntarily by the states of the country, so much the better; if not, compulsive methods must be used. They ought to arrive very early, that the officer may have time to drill them and make them fit for duty the following spring. This, however, is not to prevent the captain from sending out recruiting parties.
As the general in chief ought to interest himself in the whole of this oeconomy, he should be particularly careful that the artillery horses and the provisions, which are a tribute of the country, are furnished in kind or in hard cash.
All the baggage waggons, and in short, the whole apparatus of an army, is also to be repaired at the enemy’s cost.
Minute attention must be paid by the general that the cavalry officers repair their saddles, bridles, stirrups, and boots, and that the officers of infantry provide their men with shoes, stockings, shirts, and gaitres for the ensuing campaign. The soldier’s blankets and tent should also be repaired, the cavalry swords filed, and the arms of the infantry put in good condition. The artillery, likewise, must prepare the necessary quantity of cartridges for the infantry.
It still remains to be seen by the general, that the troops which form the chain are well provided with powder and ball, and in short, that nothing be wanting in the whole army.
If time allows, the general would do well to visit some of his quarters, to examine into the state of the troops, and satisfy himself that the officers attend to the exercising of their men, as well as to every other part of their duty; for it is necessary that the old soldiers should be employed in this way as well as the recruits, in order to keep them in practice.
At the beginning of a campaign, we change the cantoning quarters, and distribute them according to the order of battle, viz. the cavalry on the wings, and the infantry in the center. These cantonments generally extend nine or ten leagues (from four to five miles) in front, to four (two) in depth, and when the time of encamping draws near, they are to be contracted a little.
I find it very convenient in cantonments to distribute the troops under the orders of the six eldest generals: one , for example, shall command all the cavalry of the right wing, and another that of the left, in the first line, whilst two others shall command that of the second. In this method, all orders will more quickly be executed, and the troops be more easily formed into columns to go to camp.
On the subject of winter quarters, I must again advise you to be very careful of not going into them before you are well convinced that the enemy’s army is entirely separated. Keep always in your recollection the misfortune which befel the Elector Frederick William, when he was surprised by the Marshal de Turenne in his quarters at Alsace.
Of Winter Campaigns in particular.
Winter campaigns ruin the troops, both on account of the diseases which they occasion, and by obliging them to be constantly in motion, which prevents their being well cloathed or recruited. The same inconvenience attends the carriage of ammunition and provisions. It is certain, that the best army in the world cannot long support campaigns of this kind, for which reason they ought ever to be avoided, as being, of all expeditions, the most to be condemned. Accidents, however, may occur, which will oblige a general to undertake them.
I believe that I have made more winter campaigns than any general of this age, and that I shall do right to explain the motives which induced me to such undertakings.
At the death of the Emperor Charles VI. in the year 1740, there were but two Austrian regiments in all Silesia. Having determined to make good the claims of my house on that duchy, I was obliged to make war in winter, that I might profit by every favorable circumstance, and carry the theatre of war to the Neiss.
If I had delayed my project till the spring, the war would have been established between Crossen and Glogau, and it would have required three or four hard campaigns to effect that which we accomplished by one simple march. This reason appeared to me sufficiently cogent.
If I did not succeed in the winter campaign which I made in the year 1742 to relieve the country from the Elector of Bavaria, it was because the French behaved like fools, and the Saxons like traitors.
My third winter campaign in the year 1741-2 was forced upon me, as I was obliged to drive the Austrians from Silesia, which they had invaded.
From the beginning of the winter 1745-6, the Austrians and Saxons wished to introduce themselves into my hereditary dominions, that they might put every thing to fire and sword.–I acted according to my usual principle, and got the start of them by making war in the middle of winter in the very heart of their own country.
Should similar circumstances occur, I should not hesitate to pursue the same plan, and shall applaud the conduct of my generals who shall follow my example. But I must ever blame those who, without the concurrence of such reasons, shall undertake a war at that season of the year.
In regard to the detail of winter campaign, the troops are always to be as close to each other as possible in their cantonments, and two or three regiments of cavalry, mixed with infantry, should be lodged in one village, if it be large enough to hold them. Sometimes all the infantry are quartered in one town, as the Prince of Anhalt did at Torgau, Eilenbourg, Meissen, and two or three other small towns (whose names I forget) in Saxony, after which he encamped himself.
When we come near the enemy, a rendezvous is to be appointed to the troops, who are to continue marching as before in several columns; and when about to make any decisive movement, such as, storming the enemy’s quarters, or marching against him to engage, we arrange ourselves in order of battle, remaining under the canopy of heaven, each company kindling a large fire, by which to pass away the night. But as such fatigues are too distressing to be long endured, all possible dispatch should be employed in enterprises of this nature. We must not stand contemplating our danger or hesitating about it, but form our resolution with spirit and execute it with firmness.
Be careful of undertaking a winter campaign in a country which is crowded with fortified places, for the season will prevent your setting down seriously before a place which you cannot carry by surprise. We may be assured beforehand that such project will miscarry, as it is morally impossible it should be otherwise.
If it be left to our choice, the troops should have as much rest during the winter as possible, and the time should be employed tot he best advantage in recovering the army, that at the opening of the campaign they may get the start of their adversaries.
These are nearly the principal rules of the grand manoeuvres of war, the particulars of which have been explained as much as was in my power. I have taken particular care that what I have said should be clear and intelligible, but if any parts should, in your idea, still remain obscure, I shall be favored by your communicating them, that I may either explain myself more fully, or subscribe to your opinion, if it prove better than mine own.
The small experience of war which has fallen to my share, convinces me, that it is an art never to be exhausted, but that something new will ever reward his labor who studies it with serious application.
I shall not think my moments misemployed, if what I have said should stimulate my officers to the study of that science, which will afford them the most certain opportunity of acquiring glory, rescuing their names from the rust of oblivion, and securing by their brilliant actions a glorious and immortal fame.