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Through ruftling corn the harc astonish'd springs;
Deep mourns the turtle in fequefter'd bower,
Art. II. An Elay on Military Pirs Principles. By Major Tho
mas Bell. 8vo. 4 s. sewed. Becket. 1770. ROM this specimen of Major Bell's abilities, he appears
to be a good soldier, and it would have given us pleasure could we have added that he is also a good writer. By a good writer is here meant, one whose knowledge of language is equal to the purpose for which the pen is assumed : for to write, and at the same time to disclaim all pretension to literary skill, though this is sometimes done, is an absurd affectation of self-denial, and stands no chance of being accepted as a satisfactory apology for insufficiency
The language of this tract is by no means equal to the matter of it: for it is so obscure, and the train of thought is so desultory, that in reading thç preface we could not help contracting an unfavourable idea of the work that was to follow, as a system of first principles, or elements of military science.
The first principles of any art, are its fundamental truths; and on the proper choice and clear establishment of these principles, depend the strength, symmetry, and beauty, of the superstructure raised on thein. But though the Author is fond of the expression for principles, let the Reader determine by the following extract from his preface, whether we have done this gentleman any injustice by these preliminary observations:
To treat of any art or science by a primary relation of first principles, and from those principles to attempt to draw just infesences, mult ever be the way leait liable to err, and when erring, its errors the easielt perceived :--for that method which drily addresses itself to the understanding alone, will ever by it have its fyftems acknowledged, or detected and exploded.
. There are fome truths to which a large part of mankind give an entire assent, yet it has been thought necessary to have those truths, those first principles by all confessed, to all for ever repeated and inculcated.
• The first principles of all military matters have ever had, and perhaps ever will have, the utmoft neceffity of repetition ; as peace continually shews in all ilates, practices and cuftoms repugnant to true principles, and war has ever produced plans and actions where principles have been unknown or forgotten,
" Whatever profession is embraced as the pursuit for life, to are tive at, cohiprehend, and if posible, be malter of the first principles of such prefellion, must be the ardent wish, nay the 'only, the ultimate end of all application.--For he who applies himself to any butiness, art, or' science, civil or military, and although possessing the greatest love, the utmost passion for it, yet if he does not obtain a knowledge of the true means, of first leading truths, he never can arrive at the only end.
In the military profeffion first principles are the only governing túles; if they are disregarded, appearances may dazzle and mislead, and the most fatal effects may flow from a choice void of attention to them.
• Without' first principles all forts of preparations in peace, all sorts of operations in war will never be brought to the bar of truth --which is also the bar of national utility and of victory,—and all warfare will pass away without impressing on the mind truths and lights for future conduct and future benefit:-they are the only clue that lead through the labyrinth ; they set up and pull down states and kingdoms : -- with such companions, all countries find every thing within themselves ;---the clothing, the exercise, the mancuvres, the difcipline of troops are found without external search.
Cicero is an authority that may without fear be cited, in his treatite De Oratore he writes, “ I pofitively say there is no art in - which rules can be laid down for all its effects, but whoever has entered into the nature of certain directing principles, can never be under any difficulty of compalling the rest."
• There can be no man so ideal, so absolutely uninformed, so unterrefrial, as to suppose any society of men will, for any length of time, act up to the first principles of their institution ; but the neceflity for knowing first principles is not in the least destroyed thereby, for in critical scuations it must be from the perception of fuch truths, and the acting consistently with them, that can alone give birth to safety; and the military fociety can in war only hope for victory and conquest, but by the like similar means.
All history from the first record of events to the present time, however voluminous and various, might have the greatest part of its military relations comprized in a very few pages of first principles.
From this last paragraph the Author does not appear to use his words with any precision ; for we can never fuppose that the greateit part of the military relations in history, might be comprized in a few pages of first principles ; though poslibly the principles of attack and defence, deduced from those relations of military tranfaétions, might be contained in a very small compass.
The vague use our Author makes of his terms, is still more apparent in the following passage, where, for first principle, the sense of the passage requires first duty, and they are by no means tynonimous expressions.
« The first principle of a commander in war, is, to study the subject, be it campaign, battle, fiege, or expedition. A dup attention to such principle, is productive of sound plans, of en
terprize, of conquest, decisiveness of conduct, happy decisions, of little slaughter, undismay, and victory.'
A writer of fcientific principles, has no manner of use for fi gurative modes of expression ; brevity and perspicuity being the Þest characteristics of his language. The ensuing odd incoherent fimile could not be passed over without notice :
• All fancies in war might be like infe&ious provisions, buried; and when peace comes, they might be ploughed up, and see day-light, if it should be so ordained.'
The objects of Mr. Bell's attention, are treated of in the following order : Of Firs Principles—Invasions in general, and their Principles.---Exercise--Exercise of the Firelock---Battalion Firings Evolutions—War in general, and of its Study-Campaigns=-Battles -Sieges—Expeditions -The long Linen Gaiter - A Cloak--The Military Constitution, and of Discipline-Light Infantry-Power of Speech.
Though this arrangement of subjects cannot be called either analytical or fynthetical, yet in a detached view there are many judicious and pertinent remarks under each head, which prove the Major not to have been inattentive to those studies which distinguish the able officer.
That our milicary readers may be enabled to form a competent judgment of the manner in which these principles are delivered, we shall give that section entire which treats of battles.
• Battles have ever been the last resource of good generals; a situation where chance and accident often baffle and overcome the most prudential and most able arrangements, and where fuperiority in numbers by no means are certain of fuccefs, is such as is never entered into without a clear necessity for so doing.-The fighting a battle only because the enemy is near, or from having no other formed plan of offence, is a direful way of making war: Darius loft his crown and life by it ; King Harold of England did the same; and Francis I. at Pavia, lost the battle, and his liberty.–King John of France fought the battle of Poictiers, though ruin attended his enemy if he did not fight.
The true situation for giving battle, is when an army's situation cannot be worse, if it is defeated, than it must be if it does not fight at all, and when the gain may be great, and the loss little. Such was the Duke of Cumberland's at Haftenbeck, and Prince Ferdinand's at Fellinghausen.
• Another situation for giving battle, or attacking, is, when the enemy shall have put himself, or be drawn into a situation in which there may be the most moral probability of defeating him. There
may be exigencies of state that require its army to attack the'enemy at all events. Such were the causes of the battles of Blenheim, and of Zorndorff and Cunnesdorff in the late war.
• Another cause for giving battle, is, to attempt to relieve a place besieged, when, by overcoming either the besieging army or the covering one, the enemy may be obliged to abandon the fiege, when,
if defeated, the enemy's offensive projects can only aim at the taking of the place.
• A battle may also be proper to be given when any great corps is near making a junction with the army of the enemy, which, when made, will give him such a fuperiority, as to be decisive of the campaign in his favour, and when a defeat will not difenable to pursue the defensive plan.
• Extraordinary despondency in an army, a want of all confidence in their chief or chiefs, a disunion among them, the general commanding not in any great measure to be dreaded, the army differently composed, and badly disciplined, and the opposites of the foregoing being in the opposing army, may induce the general of the latter to give battle.-Such circumstances, in great measure, caused the battle of Rosbach to be fought by the Proflians.
The preparations for battle admit of infinite variety ; by a knowledge of the detail of battles, the precept will accompany the example. The main general preparatives are, to profit of any advantage of ground, that the tactical form of the army be in some measure adapted to it; and that such form is, if possible, a form tactically better than the adversary's; and, in forming the army, to have a moft careful attention to multiply resources, so that the fate of the army does not hang on one or two fingle efforts ; to give any particular part of the army, whose quality is fuperior to such part in the enemy's army, a pofition that ensures adion ; and, finally, to have a rear by nature, or, if poffible, by art, capable of checking the enemy in case of defeat.
Since the use of fire arms, tactics have in great measure been disregarded; those forms have only been fought which opposed the greatest quantity of fire: cannon will destroy columns, and troops drawn up with depth, are not so properly formed to defend hedges, where a long line of fire may be necessary : but, however, victories perhaps may be gained at present by mere dint of tacticism, as Inrely as they were ever gained heretofore.
If an army attacks, and marches of course to its adversary, im-preslion must be its objest, and that very often will be best done by an effort of weight upon a particular part, for when one part of an army gives ground, it is in general likely it will be defeated. --The concealing the real purposed attack may not always be posible, from the nature of the ground affording the enemy a view of all proceedings;, but it will, on the contrary, very often permit concealment: ---Marshal Luxembourg, at the battle of Fleurus, perceiving the Prince of Waldeck could not see the march of his cavalry on the left wing, drew them up on the Prince's right, which they attacked, and gained the victory.
• The drawing up an army in two long lines and a fhort one, must be from the different nature of ground, the different form and numbers of the enemy, only just taking things as they are found, without any fort of adjusting armies to ground, and to their opponents.
The coup d'æil of field fortification is, by irregular and detached works adapted to ground, to form a complete fyftematical piece of fortification, though to a common eye disjointed and unconnected.
The coup d'æil of battle is to throw an attacking army into only one, perhaps, or two or three points of form that hall bear down, or, by its fuccession of refource, drive away an opposition not formed ad. equate to repulse its attackers.
The ftratagems of battle are without end. If any particular part of the enemy's army should be less liable to régk than the other parts, there would be attack on that part.
It has been said, the Duke of Cumberland's situation at Halten. beck was one to give battle in.-The Duke having been, from the great fuperiority
of the French army, obliged to retreat, arrived at Haftenbeck; if he retreated farther, the electorate of Hanover was certainly loft ; if he fought a battle, and was beat, he could but then till retreat, and lose the electorate ; and if he was victorious, he might be able to preserve Hanover, if not fome part of the bishoprics :-if he had fought a battle before, he would have had no near place of safety for retreats and if he fought it on the ground near Hastenbeck, he had Hamelin close in his rear, which would afford him a secure and a fafe one. Here then was a true situation to fight a battle, much to be got by its gain, and nothing to be loft by defeat *.
• Duke Ferdinand, at the battle of Fellinghausen, had Ham to prote&t his retreat ; if he crossed the Lippe without fighting, Lipftadt would have quickly been invested ; if he did fight, and was fuccefsful, the fecurity of the bifhoprics would probably be the fruits of the success: if he was beat, he then only would have croffed the Lippe, and do what he would otherwise have done had he paffed it without fighting at all.-Moreover, the having both the French ar mies a&ting against his whole army, was à point to be withed ; ift, Because his army was unable to divide in any degree of equal oppofition to the French ; and, as there was a great jealousy and disagreement between the French Marshals, he might reasonably and juftifiably hope that such jealousy would produce its natural effects, and which it did do. This then was another fituation for battle, where the gain was great and probable, the loss not to be attended with fatal effects, and where an opportunity offered to fight, with such favourable circumstances, as, if missed, would not probably be regained,
• The King of Pruffia's battles, during the late war, were chiefly battles of Aare necessity; he was ruined if he did not fight.--In 1758, when the King of Prussia fought the battle of Zorndorff, his country was either to be ravaged by the Auftrians or the Ruse sians, if he acted on the defensive, as he could not make head againft both ;-a battle therefore might free him from one, and en able him to keep the other in check
at least.–The victory of Zorndorff freed him from the Russians, and gave him liberty to act against the Auftrians.
In 1759, the battle of Cunnesdorff againf the Russians, was another of absolute necellity: all the Prullian dominions were in pos. feflion of his enemies ; defending was ruin; and nothing but vic
Our Author having, juft before, observed, that if the Duke had not fought, he must have lost the electorate.