« AnteriorContinuar »
had held, as they ought to have done, the issues, from the obstacles which are presented by the mountains of Bohemia, the Prussians would have found their advance into Moravia a harder matter than it proved to be. Colonel Hamley, writing long before the event, has placed this fact in so clear a point of view, that it would be unjust not to quote his observations in detail.
Supposing Prussia, allied with Saxony, at war with Austria, an Austrian army, within the angle of the Bohemian frontier, and possessing the issues of it, would equally threaten Saxony and Silesia --and it is improbable that either Saxony or Prussia would consent to leave its territories uncovered—while the line of the Elbe and the rocky country on its banks would preclude the possibility of concentrating near the angle. Hence division would be inevitable should the Austrians be in a position to assume the offensive.
‘On the other hand, were the Austrians on the defensive, they might speedily be forced to quit the angle—as was proved in 1757, when an Austrian corps at Reichenberg was forced to retreat hastily to Prague at the approach of a Prussian corps from Silesia to Turnau.'
Saxony was not in alliance with Prussia, but with Austria, in the late war, and with Hanover also. Austria, however, in spite of this advantage, acted wholly on the defensive, and that very incident occurred which Colonel Hamley foretold. It was the old war of Frederic the Great over again, only on a much larger scale, and with some of its collateral circumstances reversed.
The three great obstacles in the way of armies operating one against the other, are mountain-chains, rivers, and fortified places. Mountain-chains are rarely defensible, unless they be of limited extent, and are covered on either flank by obstacles still more formidable than themselves. The Duke of Wellington's famous lines of Torres Vedras were of this description ; for they were flanked on one side by the sea, on the other by the Tagus; and though their extent was fully fourteen miles, only along one half of that distance were they assailable, every weak point being fortified and armed with heavy guns. The Riesengeberg and Erzgeberg ranges, like the Pyrenees and Alps, are too extensive for this, and can only be turned to account by the general who uses them as a screen, and holds the principal passes, as we have elsewhere indicated, with detachments, keeping his main body in hand to be launched against the first of the enemy's columns which may debouch into the plain. On the other hand, a skilful commander will avoid sending on a multiplicity of columns when their active communication is impossible through the passes. Threatening many points with detachments, each of which will appear to the defenders to be
the head of a heavy column, he will move in force through one pass, and thus be in a condition, when assailed by the enemy's main body, to confront it with his own. Rivers are, in one sense, more formidable than mountain-ranges; in another less so, considered as obstacles. If they be narrow, a few pontoons will bridge them anywhere, or tressel bridges are easily formed in various places. If they be wide and deep they are usually crossed by many permanent bridges along their course. In all cases, however, they wind and turn between banks which are sometimes higher on the one side and sometimes higher on the other. The defending force will retain its hold as long as it can of the side which the enemy is approaching. The attacking force will lose no time in driving the enemy across the river. Probably the bridges by which their retreat is conducted are fortified, in which case the assailants will look twice at them before they attempt to force a passage there. But spreading their outposts over as wide a space of ground as possible, they will examine the whole front of the line of operations and choose points of attack. These will of course lie where the near bank dominates the further bank, and batteries massed are able to sweep the country beyond. Meanwhile, by constant feints, the attention of the defenders will be directed elsewhere, while the necessary bridges or materials for bridges being well arranged under screen, are brought up and launched at night, so as to be ready for the troops to cross as soon as possible after dawn. With respect to fortresses, our present purpose will be sufficiently served if we say, that the art of war as now practised has materially lessened their value; and that nobody would dream in these days of stopping an invader at the frontier of a country by erecting there a chain of strong places, any more than he would trust to a river to arrest them. Besides, fortresses, unless they be placed on strategical points, do as much harm as good by locking up men and stores which had better be doing service in the field. however, be misunderstood. The entrenched camp at Linz, commanding as it does both banks of the Danube, with the roads to Vienna and Bohemia, and the passage of the Traun, at a point where the mountains of Salzburg on the one side and the Danube on the other, narrow the practical point of operations to about twenty-five miles, is of immense advantage to Austria. So also the Quadrilateral gave to the same Power, while she held it, absolute command over Italy. But these are exceptional works, forming, like the chain of forts round Paris, rather the bases of armies than mere obstacles to an invading force. In like manner it is necessary that in this country our principal dockyards and arsenals should be protected, and that somewhere
Let us not,
in the interior an intrenched camp should be formed, where the bulk of our military stores would be safe, and towards which, in case of a reverse, our beaten army, with the levies which are to reinforce it, might radiate. But these are very different things from the strong places to which, in the wars of the French Revolution, all parties too much trusted. The triple line of fortresses, for example, guarding the French frontiers of Belgium and the Rhine, did not stop for one hour the march of Blucher and Schwarzenberg upon Paris ; and Genoa, Como, Alessandria, and many more in Italy, the battle of Marengo handed over in a day to the victor. We must not, however, be tempted to pursue this part of our subject farther. It is enough to refer our readers to Colonel Hamley, who will explain to them clearly what the real importance of these several obstacles is, and how in every instance they prove effective only in the hands of officers who know how to use them, not alone for defensive but for offensive purposes also.
We have now gone with our intelligent guide over the whole of the ground which he has devoted to the consideration of questions of Strategy; and we wish that the limits at our disposal would permit us to follow where he leads into the region of Tactics. But this is impossible; and we regret the circumstance the more that Colonel Hamley's appreciation of the value of ground is clear and well demonstrated, and that his explanations of the incidents which led to success or failure in the various battles which he adduces in exemplification of his theory are excellent.
And now we must conclude, heartily recommending Colonel Hamley's work to the careful study, not of professional soldiers only, but of militiamen, volunteers, and civilians. The style is most attractive, the matter is deeply interesting and well handled, and the maps and plans with which the volume abounds are such as the least instructed may follow without becoming confused. With respect to the gallant author himself, our earnest hope is, that if ever the country be involved in war again, which God forbid !-and it be found necessary to employ an English army in the field, one who has shown such perfect acquaintance with the theory of his profession will not be overlooked; but that, placed in high command, the opportunity will be afforded him of proving that he is not less competent to direct troops in the presence of an enemy than to instruct his brother officers, by word of mouth and in writing, how to make themselves accomplished and scientific soldiers.
Art. VIII. — 1. Lettres sur l'Angleterre. Par Louis Blanc.
Paris, 1866. 2. L'Angleterre: Etudes sur le Self-Government. Par M. -
Paris, 1864. 3. The English at Home. Essays from the “Revue des Deux
Mondes.' By Alphonse Esquiros. Translated by Sir Lascelles Wraxall, Bart. London, 1863. no these works we as Englishmen owe no mean obligations;
they are all written with the avowed object of promoting a better understanding between ourselves and our illustrious neighbours on the other side of the Channel. As may be inferred from the nature of a collection of letters originally contributed to a daily journal, the work of M. Louis Blanc is of slighter texture than those of his countrymen which we have placed by its side ; and it is no inadequate proof of his powers as a writer that a correspondence chiefly devoted to topics of fugitive interest retains a literary charm in its elegance of style, and acquires a political importance from the candour with which the writer acknowledges the practical blessings of a system of politics wholly opposed to his own theories for the advancement of mankind. Whatever our differences with M. Louis Blanc in his capacity of abstract politician, it is pleasant to acknowledge the independent spirit and the serene temper with which, in exile, he has maintained the dignity of a man of letters. He has fulfilled, as scrupulously as if it were an obligation of personal honour, the duties which a political refugee owes to the country that becomes his asylum ; and in the work now before us, he has requited, by noble service, the hospitality England may well be proud to bestow on a guest of an intellect so remarkable and of a character so pure.
The volume of M. - is written in a graver style and with more definite purpose. Here the writer dives into our past history, pronounces judgment on our more conspicuous statesmen, touches on our colonial empire, examines our judicial, legislative, and financial systems, and expatiates with eloquent praise upon our Constitution, which he defines to be “no Constitution at all in the proper sense of the term.'
* We Frenchmen,' he says, ' possess half a dozen constitutions, without counting the famous declaration of the Rights of Man. The English have nothing which resembles a formula of abstract rights. Where then does one find the three or four fundamental propositions which serve for the base of their constitutional government? In the breast of each Englishman. Swift has given the key of this mystery, where he says the Englishman is a political, the Frenchman a sociable, animal.'
There is, indeed, a deeper truth in this sententious distinction than may be immediately apparent, for the political animal is more inclined than the social to maintain and improve a condition of things special to his own birthplace and belongings, and he is rendered practical by thus limiting the sphere of his speculation and endeavour: while the sociable animal is more cosmopolitan than the political. His instincts lead him to the benevolent ambition of extending his desire for social improvements to the farthest verge of kindred socialities. Hence he is not perhaps so practically fortunate in getting a good political Constitution for his native State as the animal exclusively political, but, en revanche, he scatters throughout all other States ideas for changing practical forms of society in order to get good theoretical constitutions. The Englishman aspires to an influence in the affairs of his own country, the Frenchman to an influence in the affairs of the world.
The volumes for which we are indebted to M. Esquiros are of a nature less didactic and serious than the work of M. and, though as varied in their range as M. Louis Blanc's lively epistles, embrace subjects of more lasting interest, treated with more elaborate care. Indeed they justify, in a remarkable degree, the assertion of their author, that a stranger is better able to judge of a country than the inhabitants themselves, especially if he be careful to surround himself with those national lights and documents to which,' says M. Esquiros, “I feel myself so greatly indebted.'. We doubt, indeed, if any Englishman would have written a work upon so many varieties in English life without incurring at least as many trivial mistakes in detail, and a far greater number of more serious errors incidental to prejudices imbibed with his mother's milk. Heartily do we wish that some eminent writer of our own land would attempt the task of writing as good a book upon France as M. Esquiros has written upon England—a work as patient and discriminative, as generous in panegyric and as temperate in criticism. It is much that French writers should enable their countrymen to form a better comprehension of ours; but the wise and kindly object they have in view remains incomplete till we have found English writers animated by the same spirit and gifted with the same power to lead Englishmen to a better comprehension of France and the French. Alliances formed solely by community of political, or even of commercial, interests are more precarious than certain philosophers suppose; they are only rendered safe against accident and passion when they are cemented by that cordiality of sentiment which ensures the forbearance of either people should disagreement between their Governments arise.