The Armies of Europe
MECW Volume 14, p. 401;
First published: in Putnam’s Monthly, August — December, 1855.
Putnam’s Monthly, No. XXXII, August 1855
The war raging on the shores of the Black Sea for the last two years, has called particular attention to the two millions of armed men kept in pay by Europe, even in the midst of peace, and destined, perhaps, to be very soon increased to twice that number; and if, as is all but certain, the war should continue, we may expect to see these four millions engaged in active operations, on a theater of war occupying, from sea to sea, the whole breadth of the European Continent.
For this reason, an account not only of the armies hitherto engaged in the Eastern conflict, but of the more important remaining armies of Europe as well, cannot he uninteresting to our readers, especially as, on this side of the Atlantic, nothing has fortunately ever been seen approaching, in any degree, the magnitude of even the second-rate armies of Europe; wherefore the organization of such bodies is but vaguely known to the non-professional public among us.
The jealousy which formerly surrounded the army of every power with mysterious secrecy, no longer exists. — Strange to say, even in countries the most adverse to publicity, where all departments of the civil administration remain, to the present day, enveloped in the darkness required by absolutism, the organization of the army is perfectly known to the public. Army lists are published, stating, not only the subdivision of the armed force in corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and squadrons, but also the dislocations of these bodies, with the numbers and the names of the officers commanding them. Whenever great reviews take place, the presence of foreign officers is not only tolerated, but even courted, criticism is solicited, observations are exchanged, the distinctive institutions and contrivances of each army are sagely discussed, and a publicity is established, which but too strangely contrasts with many other features in the same government. The actual secrets which a European war-ministry can contrive to keep to itself, are a few recipes for chemical compositions, such as rockets or fuses; and even these are found out very soon, or are superseded by the progress of invention; as, for instance, the British congreve-rocket composition, by Mr. Hale’s war-rockets, adopted in the U.S. army, and now in the British army also.
This publicity causes, In time of peace, the various war ministries of the civilized world to form, as it were, one large military committee, for the purpose of discussing the merit of all proposed innovations, and allowing each member to profit by the experience of all the remainder. Thus it has been brought about that the arrangements, organization and general economy of almost all European armies are nearly the same, and in this sense it may be said that one army is about as good as any other. But national character, historical tradition, and, above all things, different degrees of civilization, create as many diversities, and give to each army its peculiar points of excellence and weakness. The Frenchman and the Hungarian, the Englishman and the Italian, the Russian and the German, under certain circumstances, may be equally good and efficient soldiers; but, in spite of a uniform system of drill, which appears to level all distinctions, every one will be good in his own way, by virtue of qualities different from those possessed by his rivals.
This brings us to a question but too often mooted between the military patriots of different nationalities: Which are the best soldiers? Of course, every people is jealous of its own fame; and, in the opinion of the general public, fed by narratives which, whatever they may lack in critical exactness, are amply adorned with high patriotic coloring, — one regiment of its own can “lick” any two or three of any other nation. Military history, as a science in which a correct appreciation of facts is the only paramount consideration, is but of very recent date, and boasts as yet of a very limited literature. It is, however, an established branch of science, and more and more every day scatters to the winds, like chaff, the unblushing and stupid bluster which too long has characterized works calling themselves historical because they made a trade of distorting every fact they recounted. The time is past when, in writing the history of a war, people can continue that war, so to say, on their own account, and safely cannonade the late enemy with dirt, after the conclusion of peace forbids them from cannonading him with iron. And although many a minor point in military history remains still to be settled, yet thus much is certain, that there are none of the civilized nations which cannot boast of having, at some time or other, produced the best soldiers of their time. The German Landsknechte of the later middle ages, the Swiss soldiers of the sixteenth century, were for a period as invincible as the splendid Spanish soldiers, who succeeded them to the rank of “the first infantry of the world;” the French of Louis the Fourteenth, and the Austrians of Eugene disputed, for a while, with each other this post of honor, until the Prussians of Frederick the Great settled the question by defeating both of them; these, again, were hurled down into utter disrepute by a single blow at Jena, and once more the French were universally acknowledged the first soldiers of Europe; at the same time, however, they could not prevent the English, in Spain, from proving themselves their superiors under certain circumstances and in certain moments of a battle. No doubt, the legions which Napoleon led, in 1805, from the camp of Boulogne to Austerlitz, were the finest troops of their time; no doubt Wellington knew what he said, when he called his soldiers at the conclusion of the Peninsular war “an army with which he could go any where, and do any thing;” and yet the flower of this Peninsular British army was defeated at New Orleans, by mere militia men and volunteers, without either drill or organization.
The experience of all past campaigns, then, leads us to the same result; and every sensible old soldier, unbiassed by prejudice, will confirm it: that military qualities, both as regards bravery and aptitude for the work, are, upon the whole, pretty impartially distributed among the different nations of the world; that it is not so much the degree, as the special nature of the qualification, which distinguishes the soldiers of different nationalities; and that with the publicity established now-a-days in military matters, it is the assiduous application of thought, improvement, invention, to the military institutions and resources of a State, and the development of the military qualities specially distinguishing a nation, by which alone an army can be made, for a time, to rank foremost among its rivals. Thus we see, at once, what an advantage, in a military sense, a higher development of civilization gives to a country over its less advanced neighbors. As an example, we may mention that the Russian army, though distinguished by many soldier-like qualities of the first order, has never been able to establish a superiority over any army of civilized Europe. At even chances, the Russians would fight desperately; but up to the present war, at least, they were sure to he beat, whether their opponents were French, Prussians, Poles, or English.
Before we consider the different armies separately, a few general remarks respecting them all are requisite.
An army, especially a large one of from three hundred thousand to five hundred thousand and more men, with all its necessary subdivisions, its different arms, and its requirements in men, material, and organization, is itself so complicated a body that the highest possible simplification becomes indispensable. There are so many inevitable varieties, that it might be expected they would not be increased by factitious and unmeaning variegations. Nevertheless, habit and that spirit of show and parade which is the bane of old armies, has complicated matters in almost every European army to an incredible degree.
The differences in size, strength, and temperament which are found, both in men and horses, in every country, necessitate a separation of light infantry and cavalry from heavy infantry and cavalry. To attempt to completely obliterate this separation, would be to mix up in one body individuals whose military qualifications are opposite by nature, and would, therefore, to a certain degree neutralize each other; thereby lessening the efficiency of the whole. Thus, either arm is naturally divided into two separate bodies — the one comprising the heavier and clumsier men (and horses respectively), destined principally for the great decisive charges, and the fight in closed ranks; the other forming the lighter, more active men, specially adapted for skirmishing, outpost and advanced guard duty, rapid maneuvers, and the like. So far, the subdivision is perfectly legitimate. But, in addition to this natural distribution, in almost every army, each subdivision is again subdivided into branches distinguished by nothing but fanciful distinctions of dress and by theoretical quibbles which are constantly contradicted by practice and experience.
Thus, in every European army there exists a corps called Guards, pretending to be the élite of the army, but which in reality merely consists of the biggest monsters of men that can be got hold of. The Russian and the English Guards are most distinguished in this respect; though no proof exists that they exceed in bravery and effectiveness the other regiments in either service. Napoleon’s Old Guard was a far different institution; it was the actual élite of the army; and bodily size had nothing to do with its formation. But even this guard weakened the rest of the army, by absorbing its best elements, and consideration for such an unrivaled corps led Napoleon, sometimes, into mistakes-as at Borodino, where he did not bring the Guards forward at the decisive moment, and thereby missed the chance of preventing the Russian force from effecting their retreat in good order. The French have, beside their Imperial Guard, a sort of élite in every battalion, forming two companies — one of grenadiers, and the other of voltigeurs; thereby complicating the tactical evolutions of the battalion to an unnecessary degree. Other nations have similar corps. All these choice troops, beside their distinctive formation and dress, receive higher pay. It is ‘said that such a system Spurs the ambition of the private soldier, especially amongst excitable nations like the French and Italians; but the same object would be obtained, and perhaps more perfectly, if the men who had earned such distinctive marks should remain in the ranks of their respective companies, and were not made use of as a pretext for disturbing the tactical unity and symmetry of the battalion.
A still more striking humbug is practiced with regard to the cavalry. Here the distinction between light and heavy horse forms a pretext for subdivisions of all sorts-cuirassiers, dragoons, carabineers, lancers, chasseurs, hussars, and so on. All such subdivisions are not only useless, they are actually preposterous by the complications they cause. Hussars and lancers are imitated from the Hungarians and Poles; but in Hungary and Poland these arms have their sense-they were the national arms, and the dress of the troops carrying them was the national dress of the country. To imitate such peculiarities in other countries, where the national spirit is wanting that gave them life, is, to say the least of it, ridiculous; and well might, in 1814, the Hungarian hussar, when greeted with the title of “comrade” by a Russian hussar, reply, “No comrade — I hussar, you harlequin!” (Nix camerad — ich husar, du hanswurst!) Another such ridiculous institution, in almost all armies, is formed by the cuirassiers — men actually disabled, and disabling their horses, too, by the weight of their breast-plates (a French cuirass weighs twenty-two pounds), and, for all that, not protected by them from the effects of a rifle-ball fired at a hundred and fifty yards distance! The cuirass had been got rid of in almost all European armies, when Napoleon’s love of show and of monarchical tradition re-introduced it among the French, and his example was soon followed by all the nations of Europe.
Beside our own little army, the Sardinian is the only one, among civilized nations, in which cavalry consists of plain light and heavy horse, without any further subdivision, and Where the cuirass is completely done away with.
In the field artillery, a great complication of different calibers is found in every army. The English have the greatest diversity in theory, carrying eight calibers and twelve different models of guns; but in practice their enormous material allows them to reduce their artillery to great simplicity. In the Crimea, for instance, the nine-pounder and the twenty-four pound howitzer are almost the only calibers in use. The French have introduced, during the last few years, the greatest possible simplicity, by replacing their four different calibers by one, the light twelve-pound howitzer-gun, of which we shall speak in its place. In most other armies, from three to four calibers are still in existence, not counting the varieties of carriages, tumbrils, wheels, and the like.
The technical corps of the different armies, the engineers, and so on, to which we may add the staff, are organized in all armies upon a pretty similar footing, except that with the British, and to their great detriment, the staff does not form a separate corps at all. Other minor differences will be mentioned in their respective places.
We begin with that army which, from the organization it received during the revolution and under Napoleon, has served as a sort of model to all European armies since the beginning of this century.
I. The French Army
France had, when the present war broke out, one hundred regiments of infantry of the line (the 76th to 100th were, up to a recent date, called “light infantry,” but their drill and organization was in no way distinguished from the line regiments). Each regiment counts three battalions, two field-battalions, and the third as a reserve. In time of war, however, the third battalion can be very soon organized for field duty, and a fourth battalion, formed by the extra dépôt company of each of the three battalions, undertakes the duties of the dépôt. This was done during the wars of Napoleon, who even formed fifth, and, in some instances, sixth battalions. For the present, however, we can only count three battalions per regiment. Each battalion has eight service-companies (one of grenadiers, one of voltigeurs, and six center-companies); and each company, on the war footing, counts three officers and one hundred and fifteen non-commissioned officers and soldiers. A French battalion of the line, therefore, amounts, on the war footing, to about nine hundred and sixty men, one-eighth of whom (the voltigeur company) are especially set apart for light infantry duty.
The special corps destined for light infantry service consist of the chasseurs-à-pied and of the African corps. The chasseurs, before the war, only ten battalions, were, in 1853, raised to twenty battalions, so that nearly every infantry division of the army (four regiments) can, on its formation, receive one chasseur battalion. These battalions count ten companies, or nearly 1,300 men. The troops specially destined for African service consist of: three regiments, containing nine battalions of Zouaves; two regiments, or six battalions, of the Foreign Legion; six battalions of light infantry (of which, three battalions native chasseurs), together twenty-one battalions, or about 22,000 men.
The cavalry is divided into four distinct portions:-
1. Heavy or Reserve Cavalry, 12 regiments-2 of carabineers (cuirassier rifles), 10 of cuirassiers = 72 squadrons.
2. Cavalry of the line, 20 regiments- 12 of dragoons, 8 of lancers = 120 squadrons.
3. Light Cavalry, 21 regiments- 12 chasseurs-5-cheval, 9 hussars = 126 squadrons.
4. African light cavalry, 7 regiments-4 Chasseurs d'Afrique, 3 spahis = 42 squadrons.
The squadrons are of 190 men for the reserve and line cavalry, and 200 men for the light cavalry — on the war footing. In time of peace, there are scarcely four squadrons of 120 men fully equipped, so that, on every mobilization of the army, a great number of men on furlough have to be called in, and the horses for them to be found, which, in a country as poor in horses as France, can never be done without a large importation from abroad.
The artillery, as recently reorganized, is formed in seventeen regiments: five of foot-artillery, for garrison and siege duty; seven of the line (for service with the infantry divisions); four of horse-artillery, and one of pontoniers. The foot-artillery appear to be destined to act in the field on emergencies only. The artillery of the line have their gun-carriages and limbers constructed so that the gunners can ride on them during quick movements. The horse-artillery is organized as in other services. The line and horse-artillery count one hundred and thirty-seven batteries, of six guns each, to which sixty batteries of the foot-artillery may be added as a reserve, altogether, 1,182 guns.
Beside the above, the artillery comprises thirteen companies of workmen.
The special services of the army comprise:-A general staff of 560 officers; staffs for the fortresses, the artillery, and the engineers, of about 1,200 officers; three regiments of sappers and miners; five pack squadrons; five train squadrons; 1,187 medical officers, and so on. The total numbers are as follows:
|Line, 300 bat’s and 300 depot comp’s||335,000|
|Chasseurs, 20 battalions||26,000|
|African troops, 21 battalions||22,000|
|Reserve, 72 sq. and 12 dépôts,||16,300|
|Line, 120 " 20 "||28,400|
|Light, 126 " 21 "||31,300|
|African, 42 "||10,000||86,000|
|Artil'y and special corps||1,200 guns and||70,000|
|1,200 guns and||539,000|
To these are to be added the newly formed Guard in the strength of one division of infantry (two regiments of grenadiers, two of voltigeurs), one brigade of cavalry (one regiment of cuirassiers, one of guides), one battalion of chasseurs, and four or five batteries of artillery; as well as 25,000 men of the gendarmerie, 14,000 of whom are horse gendarmes. Two more regiments of infantry, the 101st and 102d, have recently been formed, and a new brigade of the foreign legion (Swiss) . is in course of formation. Altogether, therefore, the French army, in its present organization, contains the cadres for about 600,000 men, and this will be a pretty correct estimate of its present strength.
The army is recruited by ballot, among all young men who have reached their twentieth year. It is presumed that about 140,000 men are annually available, of which number, however, in time of peace, from 60,000 to 80,000 only are taken for service. The remainder may be called in at any time during the eight years following their ballot. A great number of soldiers, besides, are dismissed on long furloughs during peace, so that the actual time of service, even of those called in, does not exceed from four to five years. This system, while it gives the troops actually serving a high degree of efficiency, does not prepare any drilled reserves for a case of emergency. A great continental war, in which France would have to act with two or three large armies, would force her, even in the second campaign, to bring into the field many raw levies, and would show, in the third campaign, a very sensible deterioration of the army. The French are, indeed, very handy at learning the trade of a soldier, but, in that case, why keep up the long period of service, which excludes the greater portion of the available young men from the benefit of a school of military instruction?
Wherever military service is both compulsory and of long duration, the necessity of European society has introduced the privilege, for the wealthier classes, of buying off by a money-payment, in some shape or other, the obligation to serve personally. Thus, in France, the system of finding substitutes is legally recognized and about eighty thousand of these are constantly serving in the French army. They are mostly recruited from what are called the “dangerous classes;” they are rather difficult to handle, but, when once broken in, form capital soldiers. They require a very strict discipline to keep them in good behavior; and their notions of order and subordination are sometimes rather extravagant. Wherever there are large numbers of them in a regiment, they are sure to cause difficulties in a garrison. For this reason, it is thought that the best place for them is before the enemy, and, thus, the light troops of Africa are especially recruited from them; for instance, the Zouaves, who almost all entered the army as “remplaçants.” The Crimean campaign has fully shown that the Zouaves carry their African habits everywhere — their love of plunder, as well as their unruly conduct in adversity, and it is, perhaps, in this sense that a kindred genius, the late Marshal St. Arnaud, said, in his bulletin on the battle of the Alma, “The Zouaves are, indeed, the first soldiers of the world!”
The equipment of the French army is, upon the whole, first-rate. The arms are well constructed, and, especially the cavalry saber, of a very good model, though, perhaps, it is a little too long. The infantry are accoutred according to the new system which was introduced, at the same time, in France and Prussia; by it, the cross-belts, for pouch and sword, or bayonet, are done away with; both are worn on a belt round the waist, supported by two leather braces over the shoulders, while the knapsack is loosely worn over the shoulders by two straps, without the old-fashioned connecting strap across the chest. Thus, the chest is left entirely free, and the soldier becomes a different man altogether from the unfortunate being strapped and buckled up in the sort of leather cuirass in which the old system confined him. The dress is plain, but tasteful; it must, indeed, be admitted that, in military, as well as in civilian fashions, the French have showed more taste than any other nation. A blue tunic, or frock-coat, covering the thighs to the knees, with a low standing collar cut out in front, scarlet trowsers, moderately wide, a light képi, the most soldier-like headgear yet invented, shoes and gaiters, and a comfortable gray capote, form an outfit as simple and efficient as any known in European armies. In Africa, the head is protected from the rays of the sun by a white flannel capote, and flannel under-clothing is also served out to the troops. In the Crimea, heavy cloth capotes were worn during the last winter, covering the head, neck and shoulders. The chasseurs-à-pied are clothed all in gray, with green facings; the Zouaves have a sort of Turkish fancy costume, which appears well adapted to the climate and the duty they have to do. The Chasseurs, and some other African battalions, are armed with the Minié rifle, the remainder of the infantry, with plain percussion muskets. There appears to be, however, an intention to increase the proportion of the troops armed with rifled muskets.
The cavalry are a fine-looking class of men, lighter in weight than in many other armies, but none the worse for that. In the peace establishment, they are, upon the whole, passably well horsed by animals procured abroad, or from the horse-breeding establishments of the government, and the districts where they have succeeded in improving the native breed, which, until lately, was very poor. But, in case of war, when the number of horses has to be suddenly doubled, the resources of the country are altogether insufficient, and thousands of horses have to be bought abroad, many of which are scarcely fit for cavalry service. Thus, in any long war, the French cavalry will soon be deteriorated, unless the government can lay its hands on the resources of countries rich in horses, as it did in 1805, ‘6, and ‘7.
The artillery are now armed exclusively with the new light twelve-pound gun, the so-called invention of Louis Napoleon. But, as the light twelve pounder, adapted for a charge one quarter the weight of the ball, already existed in the English and Dutch armies, as the Belgians had already done away with the chamber in their howitzers, and as both Prussians and Austrians are in the habit, in certain cases, of firing shells from common twelve and twenty-four-pound guns, the pretended invention reduces itself to the adaptation of this light twelve pounder to the common French eight pounder carriage. However, the French artillery has evidently gained in simplicity and efficiency by the change; whether its mobility has not suffered, remains to be seen; as also, whether the twelve pounder will be found efficient enough for hollow shot. We have, at least, seen it stated that it has already been found necessary to forward howitzers of a heavier caliber to the army in the East.
The tactical regulations of the French army are a strange compound of soldierly sense and old-fashioned traditions. There is, perhaps, no language better adapted for the short, distinct, dictatorial military word of command, than the French; yet the command is generally given with an excessive prolixity of words — where two or three words would be sufficient, the officer has to shout out a whole sentence, or even two. The maneuvers are complicated, and the drill contains a good deal of old-fashioned nonsense, quite inapplicable to the present state of tactics. In skirmishing, that very function which appears innate to the Frenchman, the men are drilled with a pedantry hardly surpassed in Russia. The same is true in some of the cavalry and artillery maneuvers. But whenever the French have to go to war, the necessity of the case very soon dispenses with these antiquated and pedantic maneuvers; and new tactical methods, suited to new situations, are arranged and introduced by nobody so quickly as by the French.
Upon the whole, light troop duty is the forte of the French. They are literally the lightest troops in Europe. Nowhere is the average bodily size of the army so low as in France. In 1836, of about 80,000 men in the French army, only 743 were five feet eight inches or above; and only seven measured six feet; while full 38,000 measured from four feet ten and a half inches to five feet two inches! And yet these little men not only fight exceedingly well, but they also stand the heaviest fatigues, and beat, in agility, almost every other army. General Napier maintains that the British soldier is the heaviest laden fighting animal in the world; but he had never seen these French African campaigners carry, beside their arms and personal baggage, tents, firewood, provisions, heaped up on their backs to a hight far over-towering their shakos, and thus march thirty or forty miles in a day, under a tropical sun. And then compare the big, clumsy British soldier, who, in time of peace, measures five feet six inches, at least, with the puny, short-legged, tailor-like Frenchman, of four feet ten! And still, the little Frenchman, under all his load, remains a capital light-infantry-man; skirmishes, trots, gallops, lies down, jumps up, all the while loading, firing, advancing, retiring, dispersing, rallying, re-forming, and displays not only twice as much agility, but also twice as much intelligence as his bony competitor from the island of “rosbif.” This light-infantry service has been brought to perfection in the twenty battalions of chasseurs-à-pied. These incomparable troops, incomparable for their peculiar service, are drilled to make every movement, when within range of the enemy, in a sort of easy trot, called pas gymnastique, in which they make between one hundred and sixty and one hundred and eighty paces per minute. But not only can they run, with short intervals, for half an hour and more, but creeping, jumping, climbing, swimming, every movement that can possibly be required, are equally familiar to them, while they are first-rate riflemen. Who, at even odds, can hold out, in skirmishing fights, against these dead shots, finding shelter behind the least inequality of ground?
As to the action of the French infantry in masses, their passionate character gives them great advantages with great disadvantages. Generally, their first charge will be business-like, rapid, determined, if not furious. If successful, nothing can resist them. If defeated, they will soon rally, and be in a position to be again brought forward; but, in an unfortunate or even chequered campaign, French infantry will soon lose its solidity. Success is a necessary element to all armies, but especially to those of the Romano-Celtic race. The Teutonic race has, in this respect, a decided superiority over them. The French, when Napoleon had once put them on the track, could, for fifteen years, overthrow everything before them, until reverses broke them down; but a seven years’ war, such as Frederick the Great carried through, a war where often enough he was on the brink of ruin, often defeated, and yet finally victorious-such a war could never be won with French troops. The war in Spain, 1809-14, affords a conclusive example on this head.
Under Napoleon, the French cavalry were, in contrast to the infantry, far more renowned for their action in masses than for their duty as light troops. They were deemed irresistible, and even Napier admits their superiority over the English cavalry of that day. Wellington, to a certain degree, did the same. And strange to say, this irresistible cavalry consisted of such inferior horsemen, that all their charges were made in a trot, or, at the very outside, an easy canter! But they rode close together, and they were never launched except when the artillery, by a heavy fire, had prepared the way for them; and then in large masses only. Bravery and the flush of victory did the rest. The present French cavalry, especially the Algerian regiments, are very fine troops, good riders in general, and still better fencers; though, in horsemanship, they are still inferior to the British, Prussians, and, especially, the Austrians. But as the army, when placed on a war-footing, must double its cavalry, there is no doubt the quality will be deteriorated; it is, however, a fact, that the French possess, in a high degree, that essential quality of a horse-soldier which we call dash, and which makes up for a great many deficiencies. On the other hand, no soldiers are so careless of their horses as the French.
The French artillery has always ranked very high. Almost all improvements made in gunnery, during the last three or four centuries, have originated with the French. During the Napoleonic wars, the French artillery were especially formidable by their great skill in selecting positions for their guns, an art then but imperfectly understood in other armies. All testimony agrees that none equated the French in placing their guns so that the ground in front, while covering them from the enemy’s fire, was favorable to the effect of their own. The theoretical branch of artillery has also been constantly a favorite science with the French; their mathematical turn of mind favors this; and the precision of language, the scientific method, the soundness of views, which characterize their artilleristic literature, show how much this branch of science is adapted to the national genius.
Of the special corps, the engineers, staff, sanitary and transport corps, we can merely say that they are highly efficient. The military schools are models of their kind. The French officer is not required to have that general education which is expected in Prussia; but the schools he has to pass through furnish him with a first rate professional training, including a thorough knowledge of the auxiliary sciences, and a certain proficiency in at least one living language. There is, however, another class of officers in the French army, viz., that selected from old non-commissioned officers. These latter seldom advance higher than to a captaincy, so that the French often have young generals and old captains; and this system answers exceedingly well.
Upon the whole, the French army shows, in all its features, that it belongs to a warlike and spirited nation, that feels a pride in its defenders. That the discipline and the efficiency of this army have overcome the seductions laid out for it by Louis Bonaparte, and that the Pretorians of December, 1851, could so soon be turned into the heroes of the Crimea, certainly speaks highly to their credit. Never was an army more flattered, more courted by a government, more openly solicited to all sorts of excesses than the French in the autumn of 1851; never were they allowed such license as during the civil war of December; yet they have returned to discipline and do their duty very well. The Pretorian element, it is true, has, several times, risen to the surface in the Crimea, but Canrobert always succeeded in quelling it.
II. The English Army
The British army forms a complete contrast to the French. There are not two points of similarity between them. Where the French are strong, there the British are weak, and vice versa. Like old England herself, a mass of rampant abuses, the organization of the English army is rotten to the core. Everything seems to be arranged so as to prevent all possibility of the end aimed at ever being attained. By an inexplicable haphazard, the boldest improvements-though few, indeed-take their stand in the midst of a heap of superannuated imbecility; and yet, whenever the clumsy, creaking machine is set to work, it somehow or other manages to do its duty.
The organization of the British army is soon described. Of infantry there are three regiments of guards, eighty-five regiments of the line, thirteen regiments of light infantry, two regiments of rifles. During the present war, the guards, the rifles, and a few other regiments have three battalions, the remainder have two-a depot being formed by one company in each. The recruiting, however, is hardly sufficient to fill up the vacancies caused by the war, and so the second battalions can scarcely be said to be in existence. The present effective total of the infantry does certainly not exceed 120,000 men.
Beside the regular troops, the militia form part of the infantry as a sort of reserve or nursery for the army. Their number, according to act of Parliament, may come up to 80,000, but they cannot now number more than 60,000, although, in Lancashire alone, there are six battalions called out. As the law stands at present, the militia may volunteer to serve in the Colonies, but cannot be conducted to foreign theaters of war. They can, therefore, only serve to set free the line-soldiers who garrison Corfu, Malta and Gibraltar, or, perhaps, hereafter, some of the more distant settlements.
Of cavalry there are three regiments of guards (cuirassiers), six of dragoon guards (heavies), four of heavy dragoons, four of light dragoons, five of hussars, and four of lancers. Each regiment is to be raised, on the war-footing, to 1,000 sabers (four squadrons of two hundred and fifty men, beside a dépôt). Some regiments did go out with this strength, but the disasters of the Crimea in winter, the senseless charge at Balaklava, and the dearth of recruits have re-established, on the whole, the old peace-footing. We do not think that the whole of the twenty-six regiments amount, at this moment, to 10,000 sabers, or 400 sabers per regiment, on an average.
The artillery consists of the regiment of foot-artillery (twelve battalions, with ninety-six batteries), and the brigade of horse artillery (seven batteries and one rocket-battery). Each battery has five guns and one howitzer; the calibers of the guns are three, six, nine, twelve, and eighteen pounders, those of the howitzers four and two-fifth inches, four and a half inches, five and a half inches, and eight inches. Each battery, also, has two models of guns, of almost every caliber, heavy and light ones. In reality, however, the light nine pounder and twelve pounder, with four and a half inch and five and a half inch howitzer, form the field-calibers, and, upon the whole, the nine pounder may now be said to be the universally adopted gun of the British artillery, with the four and a half inch (twelve pounder) howitzer as an auxiliary. Beside these, six pounder and twelve pounder rockets are in use.
As the English army, on its peace establishment, forms but a cadre for the war-footing, and as it is recruited entirely by voluntary enlistment, its real force, at a given moment, can never be precisely stated. We believe, however, we may estimate its present strength at about 120,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and 12,000 artillery, with about 600 guns (of which, not one-fifth part are horsed). Of these 142,000 men, about 32,000 are in the Crimea, about 50,000 in India and the Colonies, and the remaining 60,000 (of whom one-half are raw recruits, the other half drilling them) at home. To these are to be added about 60,000 militia men. The pensioners, yeomanry cavalry, and other useless corps, not available for service abroad, we do not count at all.
The system of recruiting by voluntary enlistment, makes it very difficult, in time of war, to keep up the efficiency of the army, and this the English are now, again, experiencing. We see again, as under Wellington, that 30,000 or 40,000 men is the very outside of what they can concentrate and keep up on a given theater of war; and as, now, they have not Spaniards for their allies but French, the “heroic little band” of Britishers almost disappears in the midst of the allied army.
There is one institution in the British army which is perfectly sufficient to characterize the class from which the British soldier is recruited. It is the punishment of flogging. Corporal punishment does not exist in the French, the Prussian, and several of the minor armies. Even in Austria, where the greater part of the recruits consist of semi-barbarians, there is an evident desire to do away with it; thus the punishment of running the gauntlet has recently been struck out from the Austrian military code. In England, on the contrary, the cat-o'-nine-tails is maintained in its full efficiency — an instrument of torture fully equal to the Russian knout in its most palmy time. Strange to say, whenever a reform of the military code has been mooted in Parliament, the old martinets have stuck up for the cat, and nobody more zealously than old Wellington himself. To them, an unflogged soldier was a monstrously misplaced being. Bravery, discipline, and invincibility, in their eyes, were the exclusive qualities of men bearing the scars of at least fifty lashes on their backs.
The cat-o'-nine-tails, it must not be forgotten, is not only an instrument calculated to inflict pain; it leaves indelible scars, it marks a man for life, it brands him. Now, even in the British army, such corporal punishment, such branding, really amounts to an everlasting disgrace. The flogged man loses caste with his fellow soldiers. But, according to the British military code, punishment, before the enemy, consists almost exclusively in flogging; and thus, the very punishment which is said, by its advocates, to be the only means of keeping up discipline in cases of great urgency, is the means of ruining discipline by destroying the morale and the point d'honneur of the soldier.
This explains two very curious facts: first, the great number of English deserters before Sebastopol. In winter, when the British soldiers had to make superhuman exertions to guard the trenches, those who could not keep awake for forty-eight or sixty hours together, were flogged! The idea of flogging such heroes as the British soldiers had proved themselves in the trenches before Sebastopol, and in winning the day of Inkermann in spite of their generals! But the articles of war left no choice. The best men in the army, when overpowered by fatigue, got flogged, and, dishonored as they were, they deserted to the Russians. Surely there can be no more powerful condemnation of the flogging system thin this. In no former war have troops of any nation deserted in numbers to the Russians; they knew that they would be treated worse than at home. It was reserved to the British army to furnish the first strong contingent of such deserters, and, according to the testimony of the English themselves, it was flogging that made the men desert. The other fact is, the signal failure of the attempt to raise a foreign legion under the British military code. The Continentals are rather particular about their backs. The prospect of getting flogged has overcome the temptation of the high bounty, and good pay. Up to the end of June, not more than one thousand men had enlisted, where fifteen thousand were wanted; and this much is certain, if the authorities attempt to introduce flogging even among these one thousand reprobates, they will have to encounter a storm which will force them either to give way, or to dissolve the foreign legion at once.
The dress and equipments of the British soldiers are a model of what they should not be. Up to the present time, the dress in common wear is the same as armies used to wear as long ago as 1815. No improvement has been admitted. The old swallow-tall coatee, disfigured by ugly facings, still distinguishes the British from every other soldier. The trowsers are tight, and uncomfortable. The old cross-belt system for fixing bayonet-scabbard, pouch and knapsack, reigns supreme in almost all regiments. The cavalry wear a better fitting dress than the infantry, and far superior; but, for all that, it is much too tight and inconvenient. Besides, the English are the only nation who have maintained in their army the red coat, the “proud red coat” as Napier calls it. This coat, which makes their soldiers look like dressed-up monkeys, is supposed by its brilliancy to strike terror into the enemy. But alas, whoever has seen any of the brick-colored British infantry must confess that their coats, after four weeks’ wear, inspire ever looker-on with an incontrovertible idea, not of frightfulness, but of shabbiness, and that any other color would be far more terror-inspiring, if it only could stand dust, dirt, and wet. The Danes and Hanoverians used to wear the red coat, but they dropped it very soon. The first campaign in Schleswig proved to the Danes what a capital mark to the enemy is offered by a red coat and white cross-belts.
The new dress-regulation has brought forward a red coat of the cut of the Prussian coat. The infantry wear the Austrian shako, or the képi; the cavalry the Prussian helmet. The cross-belt accoutrements, the red color, the tight trowsers, are more or less maintained. Thus, the improvement amounts to nothing; and the British soldier will only look as strange as ever in the midst of the other European armies, dressed and accoutred, as they are, a little more in accordance with common sense.
Nevertheless, one improvement has been carried out in the British army, which far surpasses anything that has been done in other countries. This is, the arming f the whole of the infantry with the Minié rifle, as improved by Pritchett. How the old men, at the head of the army, men generally so obstinate in their prejudices, could come to so bold a resolution, it is difficult to imagine; but they did it, and thus doubled the efficiency of their infantry. At Inkermann, there is no doubt that the Minié rifle, by its deadly certainty of aim and great power, decided the day in favor of the English. Whenever an English line of infantry delivers its fire, the effect must be overpowering to any enemy armed with the common musket, for the English Minié rifle loads as quickly as any smooth-bored gun.
The cavalry are fine men, well horsed, armed with swords of a very good model; and what they can do, the have shown at Balaklava. But, on the whole, the men are too heavy for their horses, and, therefore, a few months of active campaigning must reduce the British cavalry to nothing. The Crimea has given us a fresh example of this. If the standard for heavy cavalry was reduced to five feet six inches, and for light cavalry to five feet four or, even, two inches, as, we believe, it is now for the infantry, a body of men might be formed far more suitable for their actual field duties. But, as it is, the horses are too heavily loaded, and must break down before they can be used, with effect, against the enemy.
The artillery, too, is composed of taller men than it should be. The natural standard of size for an artilleryman is, that he should be big enough to unlimber a twelve pound gun, and five feet two to five feet six inches are ample for this purpose, as we know from abundant personal experience and observation. In fact, men of about five feet five, or six, inches, if stoutly made, are, generally, the best handlers of guns. But the British want a crack corps, and their men, therefore, though tall and elegant to look at, lack that compactness of body which is so necessary to a really useful artilleryman. Their artillery material is first-rate. The guns are the best in Europe, the powder is acknowledged to be the strongest in the world, the shot and shell are of a smoothness of surface unknown anywhere else. But for all that, no guns in the world have as much windage, and this shows by what sort of men they are commanded. There is hardly an artillery in Europe officered by men of so deficient professional education as the British. Their information very seldom goes beyond the mere elements of the science of artillery, and, in practice, the handling of field-guns is as much as they understand, and that but imperfectly. Two qualities, in both officers and men, distinguish the British artillery: uncommonly good eye-sight, and great calmness in action.
Upon the whole, the efficiency of the British army is sorely impaired, by the ignorance, both theoretical and practical, of the officers. The examination which they are now expected to undergo, is actually ridiculous — a captain examined on the first three books of Euclid! But the British army is mainly instituted for the stowing away, in respectable situations, of the younger sons of the aristocracy and gentry, and the standard of education for its officers must, therefore, be regulated, not by the requirements of the service, but by what little information is commonly expected in an English “gentleman.” As to the practical military knowledge of the officer, it is equally insufficient. The British officer believes he has only one duty to perform: to lead his men, on the day of battle, straight against the enemy, and to give them an example of bravery. Skill in handling troops, seizing favorable opportunities, and the like, is not expected from him; and as to looking after his men and their wants, why, such a thing hardly ever enters his head. One half of the disasters of the British in the Crimea arose from this universal incapacity of the officers. They have, however, one quality which fits them for their functions: being, most of them, passionate huntsmen, they possess that instinctive and rapid appreciation of advantages of ground, which the practice of hunting is sure to impart.
The incompetence of the officers nowhere creates greater mischief than on the staff. As no regularly educated staff-corps exists, every general forms his own staff from regimental officers, ignorant of every part of their duty. Such a staff is worse than none. Reconnoitering, especially, is always done in a slovenly manner, as it must be, when done by men who know little of what is expected from them.
The education of the other special corps is rather better, but far below the standard in other nations; and, in general, an English officer would pass as an ignoramus amongst men of his class in any other country. Witness the military literature of the British. Not a work hardly, but is full of blunders which would not be forgiven anywhere else, to a candidate for a lieutenancy. Every statement of facts is given in a slovenly, unbusiness-like, and unsoldier-like manner, leaving out the most important points, and showing, at once, that the writer does not know his business.’ The consequence is, that the most ridiculous statements of foreign books are credited at once. We must, however, not forget to state that there are some honorable exceptions, amongst which W. Napier’s “Peninsular War,” and Howard Douglas’s “Naval Gunnery,” rank foremost.
The administrative, medical, commissariat, transport, and other accessory departments are in a deplorable state, and have experienced a thorough breakdown when put to the test in the Crimea. Efforts are made to improve them, as, also, to centralize the administration, but little good can be expected while the civil administration, and, in fact, the entire governing power, remains altogether the same.
With all these enormous drawbacks, the British army manages to hobble through every campaign, if not with success, yet without disgrace There is a loss of life, a deal of mismanagement, a compound of blunders which astonish us when compared with the state of other armies under the same circumstances; yet there is no loss of military honor, there is seldom a repulse, almost never a complete defeat. It is the great personal bravery and tenacity of the troops, their discipline and implicit obedience, which bring this about. Clumsy, unintelligent, and helpless as the British soldier is when thrown upon his own resources, or when called upon to do the duty of light troops, nobody surpasses him in a pitched battle where he acts in masses. His forte ‘s the action in line. An English line of battle will do what has scarcely ever been done by other infantry: receive cavalry in line, keep their muskets charged to the last moment, and fire a volley when the enemy is at thirty yards, and in almost every instance with perfect success. The fire of British infantry is delivered with such a coolness, even in the most critical position, that it surpasses, in effect, that of any other troops. Thus, the Highlanders, in line, repulsed the Russian cavalry at Balaklava. The indomitable tenacity of this infantry was never shown to greater advantage than at Inkermann, where the French, under the same circumstances, would certainly have been overwhelmed; but, on the other hand, the French would never have allowed themselves to be surprised, unguarded, in such a position. This solidity and tenacity in attack and defense, form the great redeeming quality of the British army, and have alone saved it from many a defeat, well-merited and all but intentionally prepared by the incapacity of its officers, the absurdity of its administration, and the clumsiness of its movements.
III. The Austrian Army
Austria profited by the first moments of repose after her severe trials in 1848 and 1849, to reorganize her army upon a modern footing. Almost every department has been completely reformed, and the army is now far more efficient than ever.
First comes the infantry. The line consists of sixty-two regiments, beside which there are one regiment and twenty-five battalions of rifles, and fourteen regiments and one battalion of frontier-infantry. The latter, with the rifles, make up the light infantry.
An infantry regiment of the line consists of five field and one depot battalion-together thirty-two companies — of which the field companies count 220 men, and the depot companies 130 men. Thus, the field battalion numbers about 1,300 men, and the whole regiment nearly 6,000 men, or as many as a British division. The whole line, therefore, on the war-footing, is about 370,000 strong.
The frontier infantry have per regiment, two field and one dépôt battalion, together sixteen companies; in all, 3,850 men: the whole frontier infantry comprises 55,000 men.
The chasseurs, or rifles, count in all thirty-two battalions, of about 1,000 men each: total, 32,000 men.
In cavalry, the army has, of heavies: eight regiments of cuirassiers, and eight of dragoons; of light horse: twelve of hussars, and twelve of lancers (seven of which were formerly light dragoons, or chevau-légers, but have been, latterly, turned into lancers).
The heavy regiments count six squadrons, beside one dépôt — the light ones eight squadrons, and one depot squadron. The heavy regiments have 1,200 men, the light ones 1,600 men. The whole cavalry numbers about 67,000 men, on the war-footing.
Of artillery, there are twelve field regiments, each consisting of four six pounders, three twelve pounder foot batteries, six cavalry batteries, and one howitzer battery, on the war-footing: total, 1,344 guns; one coast regiment, and one rocket regiment, of twenty batteries, with one hundred and sixty tubes. Total, 1,500 guns and rocket tubes, and 53,000 men.
This gives a total effective number, on the war-footing, of 522,000 fighting men.
To these are to be added about 16,000 sappers, miners and pontoniers, 20,000 gens d'armes, the transport corps, and the like, raising the total to about 590,000 men.
By calling in the reserve, the army can be increased by from 100,000 to 120,000 men; and by draining the resources of the military frontier to their utmost limit, another 100,000 to 120,000 men may be made available. But, as these forces could not be collected at a given moment, they would drop in gradually, and thus serve mainly to fill up the vacancies in the ranks. More than 650,000 men Austria could hardly bring together, at a time, under arms.
The army is divided into two quite distinct corps, the regular army and the frontier troops. For the first, the time of service is of eight years’ duration — after which the men remain two more years in the reserve. Long furloughs, however, are granted-as in France-and five years may be nearer the actual time the men are kept with the colors.
The frontier troops are got together upon a quite different principle. They are the descendants of South-Slavonian (Croat or Serbian), Wallachian, and partly of German, settlers who hold their lands by military tenure under the crown, and were formerly employed to protect the frontier, from Dalmatia to Transylvania, against the inroads of the Turks. This service is now reduced to a mere formality, but the Austrian government, nevertheless, has shown no inclination to sacrifice this capital nursery of soldiers. It was the existence of the frontier organization, which in 1848 saved Radetzky’s army in Italy, and which in 1849 made possible the first invasion of Hungary under Windischgrätz. Next to Russia, it is to the South-Slavonian frontier regiments that Franc’s Joseph owes his throne. In the long stretch of country occupied by them, every crown-tenant (that is almost every inhabitant), is obliged to serve from his twentieth to his fiftieth year, when called upon. The younger men, of course, make up the strength of the regiments; the older men, generally, only take their turns at the frontier guard-houses, until called upon to serve in time of war. This explains how a population of about 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 can furnish a contingent, in case of need, of 150,000 to 170,000 men, or from ten to twelve per cent, of the whole number.
The Austrian army has many points of resemblance to the British army. In both there are many nationalities mixed together, though each regiment, generally, belongs to one nation only. The Highland Gael, the Welshman, the Irishman, and the Englishman, scarcely vary more than the German, the Italian, the Croat, and the Magyar. In either, officers of all races, and even a great many foreigners, are to be found. In either, the theoretical instruction of the officers is extremely defective. In either, the tactical forms have retained a deal of the ancient line-formations, and adopted, in a limited degree only, the use of columns and skirmishing. In either, the dress is of an unusual color: with the English, red, with the Austrians, white. But in the efficiency of their arrangements, in the practical experience and competence of the officers, and in tactical mobility, the Austrians by far surpass the British.
The dress of the soldier, leaving apart the absurd white color of the infantry coat, has been adapted in its cut to the modern system. A short tunic, like the Prussians’ sky-blue trowsers, a gray capote, a light képi, similar to the French, make a very good and serviceable dress, excepting, always, the tight trowsers of the Hungarian and Croat regiments, which form part of the national dress, but are, for all that, very inconvenient. The accoutrements are not what they should be; the cross-belt system has been maintained. The frontier troops and artillery are dressed in brown coats; the cavalry, either white, brown or blue. The muskets are rather clumsy, and the rifles, with which both the chasseurs and a certain portion of each company are armed, are of a rather antiquated model, and far inferior to the Minié rifle. The common musket is the old flint gun changed, in an imperfect manner, into a percussion musket, and very often misses fire.
The infantry, and in this respect it is similar to the English, is more distinguished by its action in masses, than by its agility in light infantry service. We must, however, except the frontier troops and the chasseurs. The first are; for the most part, very efficient in skirmishing, especially the Serbians, whose favorite warfare is one of ambuscades. The chasseurs are mainly Tyrolians, and first-rate marksmen. But the German and Hungarian infantry generally impose by their solidity, and, during Napoleon’s wars, they often showed that in this respect they deserve to be placed along with the British. They, too, have more than once received cavalry, in line, without deigning to form square, and wherever they have formed squares, the enemy’s cavalry could seldom break them up — witness Aspern.
The cavalry is excellent. The heavy or “German” cavalry, consisting of Germans and Bohemians a is well horsed, well armed, and always efficient. The light cavalry has, perhaps, lost by mixing up the German chevau-1égers with the Polish lancers, but its Hungarian hussars will always remain the models of all light cavalry.
The artillery, recruited mostly from the German provinces, has always stood high; not so much by early and judicious adoption of improvements, as by the practical efficiency of the men. The non-commissioned officers, especially, are educated with great care, and are superior to those of any other army. With the officers, theoretical proficiency is left too much an optional matter, but yet Austria has produced some of the best writers on the subject. In Austria, study is the rule, at least with subalterns, while in England, an officer who studies his profession is considered a disgrace to his regiment. The special corps, staff, and engineers, are excellent, as is proved by the beautiful maps they have made from their surveys, especially of Lombardy. The British ordnance map, though good, is nothing in comparison.
The great confusion of nationalities is a serious evil. In the British army, every man can at least speak English, but with the Austrians, even the non-commissioned officers of the non-German regiments can scarcely speak German. This creates, of course, a deal of confusion, difficulty, and interpreting, even between the officer and the soldier. It is partly remedied by the necessity in which frequent change of quarters places the officers of learning at least something of every language spoken in Austria. But yet, the inconvenience is not obviated.
The severity of the discipline, which is whacked into the men by frequent applications of a hazel stick to their posteriors, and the long time of service, prevent the outbreak of serious quarrels between the various nationalities of the army, at least in time of peace. But 1848 showed how little internal consistency this body of troops possesses. At Vienna, the German troops refused to fight the revolution. In Italy and Hungary, the national troops passed over to the side of the insurgents, without as much as a struggle. Here it is that the weak point of this army lies. Nobody can tell how far or how long it will hold together, or how many regiments will leave it in any peculiar case, to fight their former comrades. There are six different nations, and two or three different creeds, represented in this one army; and, as to the sympathies pervading it, they must necessarily clash in a time like the present, when nations are panting for the free use of their forces. In a war with Russia, would the Greek Catholic Serbian, influenced by Pan-slavist agitation, fight the Russians, his cousins by race, and holding the same creed as he? In a revolutionary war, would the Italian and Hungarian forsake his country, to battle for an emperor foreign to him in language and nationality? It is not to he expected; and therefore, whatever the strength of the Austrian army may be, very particular circumstances are required to bring its full power into play.
Putnam’s Monthly, No. XXXIII, September 1855
I. The Prussian Army
The Prussian army deserves special notice, on account of its peculiar organization. While, in every other army, the peace-footing is the groundwork of the entire establishment, and no cadres are provided for the new formations which a great war at once necessitates, in Prussia, we are told, everything, to the minutest detail, is prepared for the war-footing. Thus, the peace establishment simply forms a school, in which the population are instructed in arms and maneuvers. This system, including, as it professes to do, the whole able-bodied male population in the ranks of the army on the war-footing, would appear to render the country which adopts it safe from every attack; yet this is by no means the case. What is attained is, that the country is stronger by about 50 per cent. than under the French or Austrian system of recruiting; by which means it is possible for an agricultural state of some seventeen millions of inhabitants, on a small territory, without a fleet or direct maritime commerce, and with comparatively little manufacturing industry, to maintain, in some respects, the position of a great European power.
The Prussian army consists of two great divisions: of those soldiers who are still being trained — the line; and of those trained men who may be said to have been sent home on indefinite furlough — the landwehr.
The service in the line lasts five years, from the twentieth to the twenty-fifth year of each man’s age; but three years of active service are thought sufficient; after which, the soldier is dismissed to his home, and placed for the remaining two years in what is called the war-reserve. During this time he continues to figure on the reserve-lists of his battalion or squadron, and is liable to be called in at any time.
After having been, for two years, in the war-reserve, he passes into the first levy of the landwehr (erstes Aufgebot der Landwehr), where he remains up to his thirty-second year. During this period he is liable to be called in, every other year, for the exercises of this corps, which generally take place upon a pretty extensive scale, and in connection with those of the line. The maneuvers generally last a month, and very often from 50,000 to 60,000 troops are concentrated for this purpose. The landwehr of the first levy are destined to act in the field along with the line. They form separate regiments, battalions, and squadrons, the same as the line, and carry the same regimental numbers. The artillery, however, remain attached to the respective regiments of the line.
From the thirty-second to the thirty-ninth year, inclusive, the soldier remains in the second levy (zwet’tes Aufgebot) of the landwehr, during which time he is no longer called upon for active duty, unless a war breaks out, in which case the second levy has to do garrison duty in the fortresses, thus leaving available the whole of the line and first levy for field operations. After the fortieth year, he is free from all liability to be called out, unless, indeed, that mysterious body called the Landsturm, or levy en masse, be required to arm itself. The landsturm includes every man not comprised in the former categories, with all those too small or too weakly, or otherwise liberated from service, between the sixteenth and sixtieth year of age. But this landsturm cannot even be said to exist on paper, for there is not any organization prepared for it, no arms or accoutrements provided; and if it should ever have to assemble, it would not be found fit for anything but police duty at home, and for a tremendous consumption of strong drink.
As in Prussia every citizen is, according to law, a soldier, from his twentieth to his fortieth year, a population of seventeen millions might be expected to furnish a total contingent of at least a million and a half of men. But, in reality, not one half of this number can be got together. The fact is, that the training of such a mass of men would presuppose, at three years’ service with the regiments, a peace establishment of at least 300,000 men, while Prussia merely maintains something like 130,000. Thus various devices are employed to liberate a number of men otherwise liable to serve: men fit enough for duty are declared too weak, the medical inspection either selecting the best candidates only, or allowing itself to be moved by bribes in the selection of those considered fit for duty, and so on. Formerly, the reduction of the time of actual service, for the infantry, to two years only, was the means of bringing down the peace establishment to some 100,000 or 10,000 men; but since the revolution a the government, having found out how much an additional year of service will do in making the men obedient to their officers, and reliable in case of insurrection, the three years’ service has been generally introduced again.
The standing army, or the line, is composed of nine army-corps — one of guards and eight of the line. Their peculiar organization will be explained presently. They comprise, in all, thirty-six regiments of infantry (guards and line), of three battalions each b ; eight regiments of reserve, of two battalions each; eight combined reserve battalions, and ten battalions of chasseurs (Jäger); in all, 144 battalions of infantry, or 150,000 men.
The cavalry is composed of ten cuirassier, five dragoon, ten lancer, and thirteen hussar regiments, of four squadrons, or 800 men each; in all, 30,000 men.
The artillery consists of nine regiments, each composed, when on the war-footing, of four six-pounder, three twelve-pounder, and one howitzer, foot batteries, and three batteries of horse artillery, with one reserve company to be turned into a twelfth battery; beside four garrison companies, and one company of workmen. But as the whole of the war reserve and landwehr of the first levy (of the artillery) are required to man these guns, and to complete the companies, the line-artillery may be described as consisting of nine regiments, of about 2,500 men each, with about thirty guns in each regiment, fully horsed and equipped.
Thus, the grand total of the Prussian line would amount to about 200,000 men; but from 60,000 to 70,000 men may safely be deducted for the war reserves, dismissed to their homes after three years’ service.
The first levy of the landwehr counts, for every regiment of the guards and line, one of landwehr, except for the eight reserve regiments; beside, it has eight reserve battalions, forming a total of 116 battalions, and about 100,000 men. The cavalry has two regiments of guards, and thirty-two of the line, with eight reserve squadrons; in all, 136 squadrons, or about 20,000 men. The artillery is attached to the line regiments, as before stated.
The second levy also counts 116 battalions, 167 squadrons (comprising sundry reserve and dépôt squadrons, whose duties are assimilated to those of the second levy), and some garrison artillery; altogether, about 150,000 men.
With the nine battalions of sappers, several minor corps, about 30,000 pensioners, and an army train amounting, on the war-footing, to no less than 45,000 men, the whole of the Prussian force is stated to amount to 580,000 men; of which, 300,000 are for the field, 54,000 for the dépôts, 170,000 for the garrisons and as a reserve, with about 60,000 non-combatants. The number of field-guns attached to this army should be between 800 and 850, divided into batteries of eight guns (six cannon and two howitzers) each.
For all these troops, not only the complete organization of the cadres, but also the arms and equipments, are provided; so that, in case of a mobilization of the army, nothing has to be found but the horses; and as Prussia is rich in horses, and as animals as well as men are liable to instant requisition, no great difficulty is presented by this necessity. So says the regulation; but how the matter stands, in point of fact, was shown when, in 1850, the army was mobilized. The first levy of the landwehr was equipped, though not without great difficulty; but the second levy found nothing provided, neither clothing, nor shoes, nor arms, and thus it offered the most ridiculous spectacle imaginable. Long before this occurred, competent judges, who had themselves served in the Prussian army, had predicted that such would be the case; and that, in point of fact, Prussia could, on an emergency, count upon nothing but the line and a portion of the first levy. Their opinion was fully borne out by the event. No doubt, the equipments for the second levy have since been provided; and this body, if called out now, would, in a month or six weeks, form a very respectable corps for garrison, and even field duty. But then, in time of war, three months’ drill is considered quite sufficient to prepare a recruit for the field; and thus, the cumbrous organization adopted by Prussia does not at all insure such enormous advantages as is generally believed. Beside, in a couple of years, the material reserved for the second levy will again have disappeared in the same way as that which had certainly once existed, but was not to be found when needed in 1850.
Prussia, when adopting the principle that each citizen was to be a soldier, stopped half-way, and falsified that principle, thereby falsifying all her military organization. Once the system of conscription abandoned for that of universal compulsory service, the standing army, as such, ought to have been abolished. Mere cadres of officers and non-commissioned officers should have been maintained, through whose hands the young men should have passed for instruction, and the period of instruction should not have lasted longer than was necessary for the purpose. If such had been the case, the time of service, during peace, must have been brought down to a year, for all the infantry, at least. But that would not suit either the government or the military martinets of the old school. The government wanted a disposable and reliable army, to be used, in case of need, against disturbances at home; the martinets wanted an army which, in precision of drill, in general appearance, and in solidity, could rival the remaining armies of Europe, composed of comparatively older soldiers. A body of young troops, serving no more than a single year, would not do for either purpose. Consequently, the middle course of three years’ service was adopted, and hence arise all the faults and weaknesses of the Prussian army.
As we have seen, at least one half of the available men are excluded from the army. They are at once inscribed on the rolls of the second levy, which body, swelled thereby nominally to enormous numbers, is completely swamped, in whatever efficiency it might possess, by a mass of men who never handled a musket, and are no better than raw recruits. This reduction of the actual military strength of the country by at least one half, is the first bad effect produced by the protracted time of service.
But the line itself, and the first levy of the landwehr, suffer under this system. Of every regiment, one third has served less than three, one third less than two years, and the remaining third less than one year. Now it is not to he expected that an army composed like this can have those military qualities, that strict subordination, that steadiness in the ranks, that esprit de (.orbs, which distinguish the old soldiers of the English, Austrian, Russian, and even the French armies. The English, who are competent judges in this matter, from the long period their soldiers serve, consider that it takes three years completely to break in a recruit. [See Sir W. Napier’s Peninsular War] Now, as, in time of peace, the Prussian army is composed of men none of whom have ever served three years, the natural consequence is that these military qualities of the old soldier, or at least the semblance of them, have to be drummed into the young Prussian recruit by an intolerable martinetism. The Prussian subaltern and sergeant, from the impossibility of the task imposed upon them, come to treat their subordinates with a roughness and brutality doubly repulsive from the spirit of pedantry with which it is coupled; and this pedantry is the more ridiculous because it is in complete contrast with the plain and sensible system of drill prescribed, and because it constantly appeals to the traditions of Frederick the Great, who had to drill a quite different set of men in a quite different system of tactics. Thus, real efficiency in the field is sacrificed to precision on the parade-ground, and the Prussian line, upon the whole, may be considered inferior to the old battalions and squadrons which, in the first onset, any of the great European powers can bring forward against it.
This is the case, in spite of advantages of which no other army is possessed. The Prussian, as well as the German in general, makes capital stuff for a soldier. A country, composed of extensive plains varied by large groups of mountains, furnishes material in abundance for every different arm. The general bodily aptitude for both light infantry and line infantry duty, possessed equally by the majority of the Germans, is scarcely equated by other nations. The country, possessing horses in plenty, furnishes numerous men for the cavalry, who, from their childhood, have been at home in the saddle. The deliberate steadiness of the Germans adapts them especially for the artillery service. They are, withal, among the most pugnacious people in the world, enjoying war for its own sake, and often enough going to look for it abroad, when they cannot have it at home. From the Landsknechte of the middle age to the present foreign legions of France and England, the Germans have always furnished the great mass of those mercenaries who fight for the sake of fighting. If the French excel them in agility and vivacity of onslaught, if the English are their superiors in toughness of resistance, the Germans certainly excel all other European nations in that general fitness for military duty which makes them good soldiers under all circumstances.
The Prussian officers form by far the best educated body of their class in the world. The general educational tests to which they are subjected are of a far higher standard than those of any other army. Brigade and divisional schools are maintained to complete their theoretical education; higher or more special military knowledge is provided for by numerous establishments. Prussian military literature holds a very high rank; the works it has furnished for the last twenty-five years sufficiently prove that their authors not only perfectly understood their own business, but could challenge, for general scientific information, the officers of any army. In fact, there is almost too much of a smattering of metaphysics in some of them, and this is explained by the fact that, in Berlin, Breslau, or Königsberg, you may see officers taking their seats amongst the students at the university lectures. Clausewitz is as much a standard author in his line, all over the world, as Jomini; and the works of the engineer Aster mark a new epoch in the science of fortification. Yet, the name of a “Prussian lieutenant” is a by-word all over Germany, and, indeed, the caricatured esprit de corps pedantry and impertinent manners inculcated by the general tone of the army, fully justify the fact; while nowhere are there so many old, stiff-necked martinets among the field-officers and generals as in Prussia-most of them, however, relics of 1813 and ‘15. After all, it must be acknowledged that the absurd attempt to force the Prussian line into what it can never be made to be-an army of old soldiers-deteriorates the quality of the officer as much as it does that of the soldier, and even more.
The drill-regulations in the Prussian-army are, undoubtedly, much the best in the world. Simple, consistent, based upon a few common sense principles, they leave very little to be desired. They are owing to the genius of Scharnhorst, who was, perhaps, the greatest military organizer since Maurice of Nassau. The regulations for handling large bodies of troops are equally good. The scientific manuals, however, for the artillery service, which are officially recommended to the officers, are old-fashioned and by no means up to the requirements of the present time; but this blame is confined to works bearing a more or less official stamp, and does not at all bear upon Prussian artilleristic literature in general.
The engineering body enjoy, and deservedly, a very high character. From them proceeded Aster, the first military engineer since Montalembert. They have constructed a seri@s of fortresses, from K5nigsberg and Posen to Cologne and Coblentz, which has obtained the admiration of Europe.
The equipment of the Prussian army, since the changes effected in- 1843 and ‘44, is not very handsome, but very convenient for the soldiers. The helmet is a very efficient protection against sun and rain, the clothing is loose and comfortable, the adjustment of the accoutrements still better than that adopted in France. The guards and light battalions (one to each regiment) are armed with the rifled needle-gun; the remainder of the line are having their muskets transformed, by a very simple process, into good Mini@
rifles; as to the landwehr, they, too, will, in two or three years, receive the Minié gun, but as yet they carry percussion muskets. The saber of the cavalry is too broad and crooked — most of the cuts fall flat. The material of the artillery, both in cannon, carriages, and harness, leave much to he desired.
On the whole, the Prussian army, that is, the line and first levy, forms a respectable body of men, but nothing like what Prussian patriotic authors boast. The line, once in the field, will very soon throw off the fetters of the parade-ground, and, after a few engagements, he equal to their opponents. The landwehr of the first levy, as soon as the old soldier-like spirit has been re-awakened, and if the war be popular, will equal the best old troops in Europe. What Prussia has to fear, is an active enemy during the first period of a war, when troops of superior organization, and of older standing, are brought against her; but in a protracted struggle she will have a greater proportion of old soldiers in her armies than any other European state. In the beginning of a campaign, the line will form the nucleus of the army, but the first levy will very soon push it into the shade, by the greater bodily strength and the higher military qualities of its men. They are the real old soldiers of Prussia-not the beardless youths of the line. Of the second levy we do not speak; it has yet to show what it is.
II. The Russian Army
In Russia, too, a certain provision has been made for establishing cadres for the war-footing, by a scheme of reserves, similar, in some points, to the Prussian landwehr system. But, on the whole, the Russian reserve comprises such a limited number of men, and the difficulty of bringing them together from all the points of that vast empire is so great, that, as early as six months after the Anglo-French declaration of war, and before a single shot had been fired in the Crimea, the abolition of the system and the formation of new bodies, followed up since by other new formations, at once became necessary. Thus, in Russia, we must distinguish between the army as it was on the breaking out of the war, and the army as it is now.
The Russian army, in time of peace, is divided as follows: — 1. The active army — six corps of the line, Nos. 1 to 6; 2. The reserve army — one corps of guards, one corps of grenadiers, two corps of cavalry of the reserve; 3. The special corps — that of the Caucasus, that of Finland, that of Orenburg, that of Siberia; 4. The troops for inland duty — veterans, inland guards, invalids, and so forth; 5. The irregular troops. To these must be added the reserves, consisting of soldiers dismissed on furlough.
The composition of each of the six corps of the line is as follows: — it includes three divisions of infantry, consisting each of a brigade of the line and one of light infantry, each brigade consisting of two regiments, each regiment of four service-battalions; in all, six brigades or twelve regiments, comprising forty-eight battalions, with one battalion of rifles, and one of sappers; total, fifty battalions. There is also one division of light cavalry, containing one brigade of lancers, and one brigade of hussars, each of two regiments, or sixteen squadrons; total, thirty-two squadrons. The artillery consists of one division [of artillery] of three foot brigades, and one horse brigade; total, fourteen batteries or 112 guns; total, per corps, fifty battalions, thirty-two squadrons, 112 guns; grand total, 300 battalions, 192 squadrons, 672 guns.
The guards contain three divisions, or six brigades, comprising twelve regiments (nine of grenadiers, and three of carabineers, or light infantry); in all, thirty-six battalions, for the regiments of guards and grenadiers count three service-battalions only. There is also one battalion of rifles and one of sappers and miners, beside three divisions of cavalry (one cuirassiers, one lancers, one hussars), comprising six brigades or twelve regiments, and making in all seventy-two squadrons of cavalry. There is one division of five brigades and fifteen batteries (nine foot, five horse, one rockets); in all, 135 guns. The grenadier corps consists of three divisions or six brigades, comprising twelve regiments or thirty-six battalions of infantry, one battalion of rifles, and one of sappers and miners. This corps also counts one division of cavalry, including two brigades (lancers and hussars), made up of four regiments or thirty-two squadrons. The artillery consists of three foot and one horse brigade, with fourteen batteries; in all, 112 guns.
The reserve cavalry is organized as follows: — lst corps: three divisions (two of cuirassiers, one of lancers), comprising six brigades or twelve regiments; in all, eighty squadrons (forty-eight of cuirassiers, thirty-two of lancers). There is also one division of horse artillery, containing three brigades, with six batteries; in all, forty-eight guns. — 2d corps: three divisions (one lancers, two dragoons) or six brigades; including twelve regiments or 112 squadrons (thirty-two of lancers, eighty of dragoons). There are also two squadrons of mounted sappers and pontoniers, and six batteries of horse artillery, comprising forty-eight guns.
The Caucasian corps is composed of one reserve grenadier brigade, containing two regiments or six battalions; three divisions of infantry, containing twelve regiments or forty-eight battalions; one battalion of rifles, one of sappers; forty-seven battalions of the Caucasian line (militia); total, 103 battalions. The cavalry consists of one regiment of dragoons, of ten squadrons. Of artillery there is one division, with ten common and six mountain batteries, of 180 guns in all.
The Finland corps consists of one division, comprising twe, brigades or twelve battalions of infantry; that of Orenburg, of one division, likewise of two brigades, but of only ten battalions;, that of Siberia, of one division, comprising three brigades; making fifteen battalions. Finally, the grand total of the regular troops, actually under arms in time of peace, may be stated as follows: -
|6 corps of the line||300||192||672|
The troops for inland service consist of fifty-two battalions of inland guards, 800 companies of veterans and invalids, eleven and a half squadrons of gens d'armes, and ninety-eight companies of artillery. These troops can hardly be counted in an estimate of the available force of the country.
The irregular troops, mostly cavalry, form the following divisions. —
1. The Don Cossacks: -fifty-six regiments, each of six sotnias; in all, 336 sotnias, thirteen batteries.
2. The Tshornomor (Black Sea Cossacks):-seventy-two sotiiias, nine battalions, three batteries.
3. The Caucasian line Cossacks (on the Kuban and Terek):-120 sotnias and three batteries.
4. The Astrachan Cossacks:-eighteen sotnias, one battery.
5. The Orenburg Cossacks:-sixty sotnias, three batteries.
6. The Ural Cossacks:-sixty sotnias.
7. The Bashkir levy:-eighty-five sotnias, almost all Bashkirs and Kalmyks.
8. The Siberian Cossacks:-twenty-four battalions, eighty-four sotnias, three batteries, composed partly of Tungusians, Buriates, etc.
9. The Azov Cossacks, engaged in naval service.
10. The Danubian Cossacks in Bessarabia: twelve sotnias.
11. The Baikal Lake Cossacks, but recently formed, of unknown organization and strength.
The total would amount to 847 sotnias (squadrons of 100 men each, from sto, hundred), thirty-three battalions, twenty-six batteries. This would make about 90,000 men of cavalry, and 30,000 infantry. But, for actual war purposes on the western frontier, perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 cavalry, a few batteries, and none of the infantry are available.
Thus, in time of peace, the Russian army (exclusive of the inland service troops) should consist of 360,000 infantry, 70,000 cavalry, and 90,000 artillery; in all, 500,000 men; beside a number of Cossacks, varying according to circumstances. But of these 500,000 men, the local corps of the Caucasus, of Orenburg, and Siberia cannot be made available for any war on the western frontier of the empire; so that, against western Europe, not more than 260,000 infantry, 70,000 cavalry, and 50,000 artillery, with about 1,000 guns, can be used, beside some 30,000 Cossacks.
So far for the peace establishment. For the event of a war, the following provisions were made: the full time of service was twenty, twenty-two, or twenty-five years, according to circumstances. But after either ten or fifteen years, according to circumstances, the soldiers we're dismissed on furlough, after which they belonged to the reserve. The organization of this reserve has varied very much, but it appears, now, that the men on furlough belonged, during the first five years, to a reserve battalion (the fourth of each regiment in the guards and grenadiers, the fifth in the line), a reserve squadron, or a reserve battery, according to their respective arms. After the lapse of five years they passed to the depot (fifth or respectively sixth) battalion of their regiment, or to the dépôt squadron or battery. Thus, the calling-in of the reserve would raise the effective strength of the infantry and artillery about fifty per cent., of the cavalry about twenty per cent. These reserves were to be commanded by retired officers, and their cadres, if not in full organization, were nevertheless, to a certain degree, prepared.
But when the war broke out, all this was altered. The active army had to send two divisions to the Caucasus, though it was destined to fight on the western frontier. Before the Anglo-French troops embarked for the east, three corps of the active army (the third, fourth, and fifth) were engaged in the campaign against the Turks. At that period, indeed, the reserves were concentrating, but it took an enormous length of time before the men could be brought up to their respective headquarters from all points of the empire. The allied armies and fleets in the Baltic and Black Seas, as well as the wavering policy of Austria, necessitated more vigorous measures; the levies were doubled and tripled, and the motley mass of recruits, thus got together, were formed, along with the reserves, into fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth battalions for all the infantry regiments, while a similar increase was made in the cavalry. Thus, the eight corps of guards, grenadiers, and line, instead of 376 battalions, now muster about 800, while, for every two squadrons or batteries of the peace establishment, at least one of reserve has been added. All these figures, however, look more formidable on paper than in reality; for, what with the corruption of the Russian officials, the mal-administration of the army, and the enormous length of the marches from the homes of the men to the depots, from the depots to the points of concentration of the corps, and from thence to the seat of war, a great proportion of the men are lost or invalided before they come to meet the enemy. Besides, the ravages of disease, and the losses in battle, during the two last campaigns, have been very serious, and, altogether, we do not think that the 1,000 battalions, 800 squadrons, and 200 batteries of the Russian army, can much exceed, at present, 600,000 men.
But the government was not satisfied with this. With a promptitude which shows how fully it is aware of the difficulty of bringing together large masses of men from the various portions of this vast empire, it decreed the levy of the militia as soon as the organization of the seventh and eighth battalions was completed. The militia, or opoltshenie, was to be organized in druginas (battalions) of 1,000 each, in proportion to the population of each province; twenty-three men out of every 1,000 males, or nearly one-quarter per cent. of the population were to serve. For the time being, the opoltshenic was called out in the western provinces only. This levy, made upon a population of 18,000,000, comprising about 9,000,000 males, must have produced about 120,000 men, and this agrees with what the reports from Russia state. There is no doubt that the militia will prove, in every respect, inferior even to the newly formed reserve, but, at all events, it is a valuable addition to the forces of Russia, and, if employed to do garrison duty in Poland, it can set free a good many regiments of the line.
On the other hand, not only many Cossacks, but even considerable numbers of Bashkirs, Kalmyks, Kirghiz, Tungusians, and other Mongol levies have arrived on the western frontier. This shows how early they were ordered westwards, for many of them had above a twelve-month’s march to make before they could arrive at St. Petersburg, or on the Vistula.
Thus, Russia has taxed her military resources almost to the utmost; and, after two years’ campaigning, during which time she has lost no decisive battle, she cannot muster more than 600,000 to 650,000 regular troops, with 100,000 militia, and perhaps 50,000 irregular cavalry. We do not mean to say that she is exhausted; but, there is no doubt, that now, after two years’ war, she could not do what France did after twenty years’ war, and after the total loss of her finest army in 1812: pour forth a fresh body of 300,000 men and arrest, for a time, at least, the onslaught of the enemy. So enormous is the difference, in military strength, between a densely and a thinly populated country. If France bordered on Russia, the 66,000,000 inhabitants of Russia would be weaker than the 38,000,000 French. That the 44,000,000 Germans are more than a match for the 66,000,000 subjects of the orthodox Czar, there is not the slightest doubt.
The Russian army is recruited in various ways. The great body of the men is raised by the regular levy, which takes place one year in the western, and the next in the eastern provinces of Russia in Europe. The general percentage is four or five men levied out of every 1,000 (male) “souls;” for in the Russian census the males only are counted, as, according to the orthodox belief of the east, the women do not constitute “souls.” Those from the western half of the empire serve twenty, those from the eastern half twenty-five years. The guards serve twenty-two years; young men from the military colonies twenty years. Beside these levies, the soldiers’ sons are a fertile source of recruits. Every son born to a soldier while in service is obliged to serve; and this principle is carried so far that children borne by soldiers’ wives are claimed by the state, though the husband may have been at the other end of the empire for five or ten years. These soldiers’ children are called cantonists, and most of them are educated at the expense of the government; from them most of the non-commissioned officers are taken. Finally, criminals, vagabonds, and other good-for-nothing individuals, are sentenced, by the courts of law, to serve in the army. A nobleman has the right of sending a serf, if otherwise able-bodied, into the army; and every father, when dissatisfied with his son, can do the same. “S'bogom idt pod Krasnuyu shapkoo.” Begone, then, with God, and put the red cap on — that is to say, go into the army — is a common saying of the Russian peasant to a disobedient son.
The non-commissioned officers, as we have said, are mostly recruited from the soldiers’ sons, educated in government establishments. From early boyhood subject to military discipline, these lads have nothing whatever in common with the men whom they are, subsequently, to instruct and direct. They form a class separate from the people. They belong to the state-they cannot exist without it: once thrown upon their own resources, they are fit for nothing. To get on, then, under the government, is their only object. What the lower class of employés, recruited from the sons of employés, are in the Russian civil service, these men are in the army: a set of cunning, low-minded, narrowly-egotistical subordinates, endowed with a smattering of elementary education, which almost renders them more despicable; ambitious from vanity and love of gain; sold, life and soul, to the state, and yet trying, daily and hourly, to sell the state, in detail, whenever they can make a profit by it. A fine specimen of this class is the feldjäger or courier who accompanied M. de Custine during his travels in Russia, and who is admirably portrayed in that gentleman’s account of Russia. It is this class of men, both in the civil and military branches, which principally foments the immense corruption pervading all branches of the public service in that country. But as it is, there is no doubt that, if this system of total appropriation of the children, by the state, were done away with, Russia would not be able to find a sufficient number of civil subaltern employés and military non-commissioned officers.
With the class of officers it is, perhaps, still worse. The education given to a future corporal or sergeant-major is a comparatively cheap article; but to educate officers for an army of one million (and that is the number for which the Russian cadres, officially speaking, should be prepared) is a costly affair. Private establishments do nothing or little for the purpose. The state, again, must do everything. But it evidently cannot educate such a mass of young men as are required for this use. Consequently, the sons of the nobility are, by a direct moral compulsion, induced to serve for at least five or ten years in the army or the civil service; for every family in which three consecutive generations have not “served,” loses its privilege of nobility, and especially the right to own serfs — a right without which, in Russia, extensive landed property is worse than valueless. Thus, vast numbers of young men are brought into the army with the rank of ensign or lieutenant, whose entire education consists, at the best, in a certain fluency in French conversation on the most ordinary topics, and some little smattering of elementary mathematics, geography and history — the whole drummed into them for mere show. To them, to serve is an ugly necessity, to be gone through, like a prolonged medical treatment, with unfeigned disgust; and as soon as the prescribed time of service has elapsed, or the grade of major is attained, they retire, and are inscribed on the rolls of the depot battalions. As to the pupils of the military schools, they, too, have almost all been crammed so as to pass the examinations; and they are, even in mere professional knowledge, far behind the young men from the Austrian, the Prussian, or French military schools. On the other hand, young men of talent, application, and passion for their special branch, are so rare in Russia that they are seized upon wherever they show themselves, he they foreigners or natives. With the greatest liberality, the state provides them with all the means for completing their studies, and gives them rapid promotion. Such men are used to show off Russian civilization before Europe. If they are inclined to literary pursuits, they meet with every encouragement so long as they do not overstep the bounds of Russian government requirements, and it is they who. have furnished what little there is of value in Russian military literature. But up to the present time, the Russians of all classes are too fundamentally barbarous to find any enjoyment in scientific pursuits or head-work of any kind (except intrigues), and, therefore, almost all their distinguished men in the military service are either foreigners, or, what nearly amounts to the same, “ostzeïski,” Germans from the Baltic provinces. So was the last and most distinguished specimen of this class, General Todtleben, the chief engineer at Sebastopol, who died in July from the effects of a wound. He was certainly the cleverest man at his trade in the whole siege, either in the Russian or the Allied camp; but he was a Baltic German, of Prussian extraction.
In this manner the Russian army has among its officers the very best and the very worst men, only that the former are present in an infinitesimally small proportion. What the Russian government thinks of its officers it has plainly and unmistakably shown in its own tactical regulations. These regulations do not merely prescribe a general mode of placing a brigade, division, or army-corps in action, a so-called “normal disposition,” which the commander is expected to vary according to the ground and other circumstances, but they prescribe different normal dispositions for all the different cases possible, leaving the general no choice whatever, and tying him down in a manner which, as much as possible, takes all responsibility from his shoulders. An army-corps, for instance, can be arranged, in battle, in five different ways, according to the regulations; and, at the Alma, the Russians were actually arrayed according to one of them-the third disposition-and, of course, they were beaten. This mania of prescribing abstract rules for all possible cases, leaves so little liberty of action to the commander, and even forbids him to use advantages of ground to such an extent, that a Prussian general in criticising it says:
“Such a system of regulations can he tolerated in an army, only, the majority of whose generals are so imbecile, that the government cannot safely intrust them with an unconditional command, or leave them to their own judgment.”
The Russian soldier is one of the bravest men in Europe. His tenacity almost equals that of the English and of certain Austrian battalions. As John Bull boasts of himself, he does not know when he is beaten. Russian squares of infantry have resisted, and fought hand to hand, a long while after the cavalry had ‘ broken them; and it has always been found easier to shoot them down than to drive them back. Sir George Cathcart, who saw them in 1813 and ‘14, as allies, and in 1854 in the Crimea, as enemies, gives them the honorable testimonial that they are “incapable of panic.” Beside this, the Russian soldier is well made, healthy, a good marcher, a man of few wants, who can eat and drink almost anything, and more obedient to his officers than any other soldier in the world. And yet the Russian army is not much to boast of. Never, since Russia was Russia, have the Russians won a single battle against either Germans, French, Poles, or English, without being vastly superior in numbers. At even odds, they have always been beaten by any army, except Turks or Prussians; and at Citate and Silistria, the Turks, though inferior in numbers, defeated them.
The Russians are, above all things, the clumsiest soldiers in the world. They are not fit either for light infantry or for light cavalry duty. The Cossacks, capital light cavalry as they are in some respects, are so unreliable generally, that before the enemy a second line of out-posts is always placed in the rear of the line of Cossack out-posts. Beside, the Cossacks are totally unfit for a charge. As to the regular troops, infantry and cavalry, they are not fit to act in skirmishing order. The Russian, imitator as he is in everything, will do anything if ordered or compelled, but will do nothing if he has to act upon his own responsibility; in fact, this term can hardly be applied to a being who never knew what responsibility was, and who will go to be shot at with the same passive obedience as if he were ordered to pump water, or to whip a comrade. To expect from the Russian soldier, when acting on out-post duty or in skirmishing order, the rapid glance of the Frenchman, or the plain common sense of the German, would be an insult to him. What he requires is command-clear, distinct command — and if he does not get it, he will perhaps not go backwards, but he will certainly not go forwards, nor use his own senses.
The cavalry, though a deal of expense and care has been bestowed upon it, has never been excellent. Neither in the wars against the French, nor in that against Poland, did the cavalry distinguish itself. The passive, patient, enduring obedience of the Russians is not what is wanted in cavalry. The first quality of the horseman is just what the Russian lacks most: “dash” Thus, when the 600 English dragoons, with all the daring and pluck of real horsemen, dashed at the numerically far superior Russians at Balaklava, they rode down before them Russian artillery, Cossacks, hussars, lancers, until they came to the solid columns of the infantry; then they had to turn back; yet, in that cavalry action, it is still doubtful who deserves to be called the victor. If such a senseless charge had been made against any other army, not a man would have returned; the enemy would have taken them in flank and rear, and cut them down singly. But the Russian horsemen actually awaited them standing, and were ridden down before they thought of moving their horses! Surely, if anything should condemn the Russian regular cavalry, it is such a fact as this.
The artillery is provided with a material of unequal quality, but where it has good guns, it will do its duty well. It will display great bravery in the field, but it will always be found wanting in intelligence. A Russian battery which has lost its officers is good for nothing; and while the officers live, it can only take the positions, often absurd, prescribed by the regulations. When besieged in a fortress where patient endurance and constant exposure to danger are required, the Russian artillery will distinguish itself, not so much by precision of aim, as by devotion to duty and steadiness under fire. The whole of the siege of Sebastopol proves this.
In the artillery and engineers, however, are to be found those well-educated officers whom Russia shows off before Europe, and who are really encouraged to use their talents freely. While in Prussia, for instance, the best men, when subalterns, have usually been so thwarted by their superiors, and while all their proposed improvements have been snubbed as presumptuous attempts at innovation, so that many of them have had to seek employment in Turkey, where they have made the regular artillery one of the best in Europe — in Russia, all such men are encouraged, and, if they distinguish themselves, make a rapid and brilliant career. Diebitsch and Paskiewitsch were generals at twenty-nine and thirty years of age, and Todtleben, at Sebastopol, in less than eight months was advanced from a captain to a major-general.
The great boast of the Russians is their infantry. It is of very great solidity, and, used in line or column, or behind breastworks, will always be awkward to deal with. But here its good qualities end. Almost totally unfit for light infantry duty (the so-called chasseurs are light infantry in name only, and the eight battalions of rifles attached to the line corps are the only real light infantry in the service), usually bad marksmen, good but slow marchers, their columns are generally so badly placed that it will always be possible to pound them well with artillery before they are charged. The “normal dispositions,” from which the generals dare not deviate, contribute a great deal toward this. At the Alma, for instance, the British artillery made terrible havoc amongst the Russian columns long before the equally clumsy British line had formed, defiled across the river and re-formed for the charge. But even the boast of solid tenacity must be taken with a considerable grain of salt, since at Inkermann 8,000 British infantry, surprised in a position but incompletely and slovenly occupied, resisted, in hand to hand fight, the 15,000 Russians brought against them for more than four hours, and actually repelled every renewed attack. This battle must have shown the Russians that, upon their own favorite ground, they had found their masters. It was the bravery of the British soldiers and the intelligence and presence of mind of both non-commissioned officers and soldiers which defeated all the attempts of the Russians; and from this battle we must consider as justified, the claim of the British to the title of the first infantry of the line in the world.
The clothing of the Russian army is a pretty close imitation of that of the Prussians. Their accoutrements are very badly adjusted; not only the belts for bayonets and cartridge pouch are crossed over the chest, but also the straps which hold the knapsack. There are, however, some alterations being made just now, but whether they affect this point, we do not know. The small arms are very clumsy, and have only been lately provided with percussion caps; a Russian musket is the heaviest and most unwieldy thing of its kind. The cavalry swords are of a bad model and badly tempered. Of the guns, the new ones taken in the Crimea, are described as very good and of excellent workmanship; but whether that is uniformly the case is very doubtful.
Finally, the Russian army still bears the stamp of an institution in advance of the general state of civilization of the country, and has all the disadvantages and drawbacks of such hot-house creations. In petty warfare, the Cossacks are the only troops to be feared, from their activity and indefatigability; but their love of drink and plunder makes them very unreliable for their commander. In grand war, the slowness with which the Russians move will make their strategic maneuvers little to be feared, unless they have to deal with such negligent opponents as the English were last autumn. In a pitched battle, they will be obstinate opponents to the soldiers, but not very troublesome to the generals who attack them. Their dispositions are generally very simple, founded upon their prescribed normal rules, and easy to be guessed at; while the want of intelligence in both general and field officers, and the clumsiness of the troops, make it a matter of great risk for them to undertake important maneuvers on a battle field.
III. The Smaller Armies of Germany
Bavaria has two army-corps, of two divisions each. Each division contains two brigades of infantry (four regiments of infantry and one battalion of rifles), one brigade of cavalry, containing two regiments, and three foot and one horse batteries. Each army-corps has, beside, a general reserve of artillery, of six foot batteries, and a detachment of sappers and miners. Thus, the whole army forms sixteen regiments of three battalions each, with six battalions of rifles, in all, fifty-four battalions; two regiments of cuirassiers, and six of light dragoons, in all, forty-eight squadrons; two regiments of foot artillery (of six six-pounder and six twelve-pounder batteries each), and one of horse artillery (four six-pounder batteries), in all, twenty-eight batteries of eight guns each, making 224 guns, beside six companies of garrison artillery, and twelve train companies; there are also one regiment of engineers, of eight companies, and two sanitary companies. The whole strength, on the war-footing, is 72,000 men, beside a reserve and landwehr, the cadres of which, however, do not exist.
Of the army of the Germanic Confederation, Austria furnishes the 1st, 2d, and 3d corps; Prussia the 4th, 5th, and 6th; Bavaria the 7th. The 8th corps is furnished by Württemberg, Baden, and Hesse-Darmstadt.
Württemberg has eight regiments (sixteen battalions) of infantry, four of cavalry (sixteen squadrons), one regiment of artillery (four foot and three horse-batteries, with forty-eight guns). Total, about 19,000 men on the war-footing.
Baden keeps four regiments (eight battalions), two fusileer battalions, one rifle battalion; in all, ten battalions of infantry, with three regiments, or twelve squadrons of cavalry, and four foot and five horse-batteries, containing together forty guns. Total, on the war-footing, 15,000 men.
Hesse-Darmstadt has four regiments or eight battalions of infantry, one regiment or six squadrons of light horse, and three batteries of artillery (one mounted) of eighteen guns. Total, 10,000 men.
The only peculiarity of the 7th and 8th army-corps is, that they have adopted the French gun-carriage for the artillery. The 9th federal army corps is formed by the kingdom of Saxony, which furnishes one division, and Electoral Hesse and Nassau, which furnish the second.
The quota of Saxony is four brigades of infantry, of four battalions each, and one of rifles, of four battalions; beside four battalions of the line, and one battalion of rifles as a reserve, still unorganized; four regiments of light horse, of five squadrons each; one artillery regiment, six foot and two horse-batteries. Total, twenty battalions of infantry, twenty squadrons and fifty guns; or 24,500 men on the war-footing. In Electoral Hesse there are four regiments or eight battalions, with one battalion of fusileers and one of rifles; two squadrons of cuirassiers, seven squadrons of hussars; three batteries, of which one of horse artillery. Total, ten battalions, nine squadrons, nineteen guns, and 12,000 men on the war-footing. Nassau affords seven battalions, 2 batteries, or 7,000 men, and twelve guns, on the war-footing.
The 10th army-corps consists of Hanover and Brunswick, which maintain the first division; and of Mecklenburg, Holstein, Oldenburg, and the Hanse towns, which furnish the second division. Hanover furnishes eight regiments or sixteen battalions, and four battalions of light infantry; six regiments or twenty-four squadrons of cavalry, and four foot and two horse-batteries. Total, 22,000 men, and thirty-six guns. The artillery is on the English model. Brunswick furnishes five battalions, four squadrons, and twelve guns, in all, 5,300 men. The small States of the second division are not worth mentioning.
Finally, the smallest of the small fry of German States form a reserve division, with which the entire army of the German Confederation, on the war-footing, may be summed up in a table, as follows: -
|I. CONTINGENTS.||II. RESERVE CONTINGENTS.|
This of course does not represent the real armed force of the Confederation, as, in case of need, Prussia, Austria, and Bavaria would furnish far more than the above contingents. The troops of the 10th corps and reserve division, perhaps, also, those of the 9th corps, would form the garrisons, so as not to interfere, by their multifarious organizations and peculiarities, with the rapidity of field operations. The military qualities of these armies are more or less the same as those of the Austrian and Prussian soldiers; but, of course, these small bodies furnish no occasion for developing military talents, and many old-fashioned arrangements exist among them.
In a third and concluding article, we shall consider the Spanish, Sardinian, Turkish and other armies of Europe.
Putnam’s Monthly, No. XXXVI, December 1855
I. The Turkish Army
The Turkish army, at the beginning of the present war, was in a higher state of efficiency than it had ever reached before. The various attempts at reorganization and reform made since the accession of Mahmud, since the massacre of the janissaries, and especially since the peace of Adrianople, had been consolidated and systematized. The first and greatest obstacle — the independent position of the pashas in command of distant provinces — had been removed, to a great extent, and, upon the whole, the pashas were reduced to a discipline somewhat approaching that of European district commanders. But their ignorance, insolence, and rapacity remained in as full vigor as in the best days of Asiatic satrap rule; and if, for the last twenty years, we had heard little of revolts of pashas, we have heard enough of provinces in revolt against their greedy governors, who, originally the lowest domestic slaves and “men of all work,” profited by their new position to heap up fortunes by exactions, bribes, and wholesale embezzlement of the public money. That, under such a state of things, the organization of the army must, to a great extent, exist on paper only, is evident.
The Turkish army consists of the regular active army (Nizam), the reserve (Redif), the irregular troops, and the auxiliary corps of the vassal states.
The Nizam is composed of six corps (Orders), each of which is raised in the district it occupies, similar to the army-corps in Prussia, each of which is located in the province from which it recruits itself. Altogether the organization of the Turkish Nizam and Redif is, as we shall see, copied from the Prussian model. The six Orders have their head-quarters in Constantinople, Shumla, Toli-Monatzir, Erzeroum, Bagdad, and Aleppo. Each of them should be commanded by a Mushir (field marshal), and should consist of two divisions or six brigades, formed by six regiments of infantry, four of cavalry, and one of artillery.
The infantry and cavalry are organized upon the French, the artillery upon the Prussian system.
A regiment of infantry is composed of four battalions of eight companies each, and should count, when on its full complement, 3,250 men, inclusive of officers and staff, or 800 men per battalion; the general strength, however, before the war, seldom exceeded 700 men, and in Asia was almost always much less.
A cavalry regiment consists of four squadrons of lancers, and two squadrons of chasseurs, each squadron to contain 151 men; in general, the effective strength was here even more below the standard than in the infantry.
Each artillery regiment consists of six horse and nine foot batteries, of four guns each, thus representing a total of sixty guns.
Every order was thus expected to number 19,500 infantry, 3,700 cavalry, and sixty guns. In reality, however, from 20,000 to 21,000 men in all is the utmost, ever reached.
Beside the six Orders, there are four artillery regiments (one of reserve, and three of garrison artillery), two regiments of sappers and miners, and three special detachments of infantry sent to Candia, to Tunis, and Tripoli, of a total strength of 16,000 men.
The total strength of the Nizam, or regular standing army, before the war, should, therefore, have been as follows:
|36||reg. of infant. averaging||2,500-90,000|
|7||“ field artillery||9,000|
|2||“ sappers and miners||1,600|
The soldiers, after having served five years in the Nizam, are dismissed to their homes, and form, for the seven following years, part of the Redif or reserve. This reserve counts as many orders, divisions, brigades, regiments, etc., as the standing army; in fact, it is to the Nizam what in Prussia the first levy of the landwehr is to the line, with the sole exception, that in Prussia, in larger masses than brigades, line and landwehr are always mixed, while in the Turkish organization they are to be kept separate. The officers and non-commissioned officers of the Redif are constantly assembled at the depots, and once a year the Redif are called in for exercise, during which time, they receive the same pay and rations as the line. But such an organization, presupposing a well-regulated civil administration, and a civilized state of society, far from having been reached in Turkey, must in a great degree exist on paper only, and if we count, therefore, the Redif as equal in numbers to the Nizam, we shall certainly put it down at its highest possible figure.
The auxiliary contingents consist of troops from:
|1. The Danubian Principalities||6,000 men.|
|2. Servia||20,000 "|
|3. Bosnia and Herzegovina||30,000 "|
|4. Upper Albania||10,000 "|
|5. Egypt||40,000 "|
|6. Tunis and Tripoli||10,000 "|
|Total, about||116,000 "|
To these troops must he added the volunteer Bashi Bazouks, whom Asia Minor, Kurdistan, and Syria can furnish in great numbers. They are the last remnant of that host of irregular troops which, in past centuries, flooded Hungary, and twice appeared before Vienna. Mostly cavalry, their inferiority, even to the worst-equipped European horseman, has been proved by two centuries of all but constant defeats. Their self-confidence has disappeared, and now they serve no other purpose than to swarm around the army, eating up and wasting the resources upon which the regular body should subsist. Their love of plunder and unreliable temper make them even unfit for that active outpost duty which the Russians expect from their Cossacks; for the Bashi Bazouks, when most wanted, are least to be found. In this present war, it has, therefore, been found desirable to keep their numbers down, and we do not think that there were ever collected more than 50,000 of them.
Thus the numerical strength of the Turkish army, at the beginning of the war, may he estimated as follows:
|Auxiliaries, regulars from Egypt and Tunis||50,000|
|Do. irregulars, Bosnia and Albania||40,000|
But again, from this sum total several deductions have to be made. That the Orders stationed in Europe were in pretty good condition, and as near their full complement as can be expected in Turkey, seems pretty certain; but in Asia, in the distant provinces where the Mussulman population predominates, the men might be ready, while neither arms, nor equipments, nor stores of ammunition were forthcoming. The Danubian army was formed from the three European Orders principally. They were the nucleus around which the European Redifs, the Order of Syria, or, at least, a good part of it, and a number of Arnauts, Bosnians, and Bashi Bazouks were collected. Yet the excessive caution of Omer Pasha — his constant unwillingness up to the present time to expose his troops in the field — is the best proof that he has but a limited confidence in the capabilities of this, the only good regular army Turkey ever possessed. But in Asia, where the old Turkish system of embezzlement and laziness was still in full blossom, the two Orders of the Nizam, the whole of the Redifs, and the mass of the irregulars were unable to withstand a Russian army vastly inferior in numbers; in every battle they were beaten, and, at the end of the campaign of 1854, the Asiatic army of Turkey had all but ceased to exist. There, then, it is clear that not only the details of the organization, but a great proportion of the troops themselves had no real existence. The want of arms, equipments, ammunition, and provisions, was the constant complaint of the foreign officers and newspaper correspondents in Kars and Erzeroum; and they plainly stated that nothing but the indolence, incapacity, and rapacity of the Pashas was the cause of it. The money was duly sent to them, but they always appropriated it to their own uses.
The equipment of the Turkish regular soldier is on the whole imitated from the western armies, the only distinction being the red fez or skull-cap, which is about the worst head-gear possible in that climate, where, during the heats of summer, it causes frequent sun-strokes. The quality of the articles furnished is bad, and the clothing has to stand longer than can be expected, in consequence of the officers generally pocketing the money destined for its renewal. The arms are of an inferior description, both for the infantry and cavalry; the artillery alone has very good field-guns, cast at Constantinople, under the direction of European officers and civil engineers.
The Turk, in himself, is not a bad soldier. He is naturally brave, extremely hardy and patient, and, under certain circumstances, docile. European officers who have once gained his confidence, can rely upon him, as witness Grach and Butler at Silistria, and Iskender Bey (Ilinski) in Wallachia. But these are exceptions. On the whole, the innate hatred of the Turk for the “Giaour” is so indelible, and his habits and ideas are so different from those of a European, that, so long as his remains the ruling race in the country, he will not submit to men whom he inwardly despises as incommensurably his inferiors. This repugnance is extended to the very organization of the army, ever since it has been put upon a European footing. The common Turk hates Giaour institutions as much as the Giaours themselves. Then the strict discipline, the regulated activity, the constant attention required in a modern army are things utterly hateful to the lazy, contemplative, fatalist Turk. The officers, even, will rather allow the army to be beaten than exert themselves, and use their own senses. This is one of the worst features in the Turkish army, and alone would suffice to make it unfit for any offensive campaign.
The private and non-commissioned soldiers are recruited by volunteers and the ballot; the lower grades of officers are sometimes filled by men promoted from the ranks, but generally by the camp-followers and domestic servants, the tshibukdjis and kafeidjis of the higher officers. The military schools at Constantinople not very good in themselves, cannot furnish young men enough for the vacancies. As to the higher ranks, a system of favoritism exists, of which the western nations have no idea. Most of the generals were originally Circassian slaves, the mignons of some great man in the days of their youth. Utter ignorance, incapacity, and self-sufficiency rule supreme, and court-intrigue is the principal means of advancement. Even the few European generals (renegades) in the service would not have been accepted, if they had not been absolutely necessary to prevent the whole machine from falling to pieces. As it is, they have been indiscriminately taken, both from men of real merit and mere adventurers.
At present, after three campaigns, no Turkish army can be said to exist, except the 80,000 men of Omer Pasha’s original army, part of which is stationed on the Danube, and part in the Crimea. The Asiatic army consists of about 25,000 rabble, unfit for the field, and demoralized by defeat. The remainder of the 400,000 men are gone nobody knows where; killed in the field or by sickness, invalided, disbanded, or turned into robbers. Very likely this will be the last Turkish army of all; for, to recover from the shock received by her alliance with England and France, is. more than can be expected from Turkey.
The time is gone by when the contests of Oltenitza and Citate created an exaggerated enthusiasm for Turkish bravery. The stubborn inactivity of Omer Pasha sufficed to raise doubts as to their other military qualifications, which not even the brilliant defense of Silistria could entirely dispel; the defeats in Asia, the flight of Balaklava, the strictly defensive attitude of the Turks in Eupatoria, and their complete inactivity in the camp before Sebastopol have reduced the general estimate of their military capabilities to a proper level. The Turkish army was so constituted that a judgment on its- general value was hitherto completely impossible. There were, no doubt, some very brave and well-managed regiments, capable of any duty, but they were greatly in the minority. The great mass of the infantry lacked cohesion, and was, therefore, unfit for field-duty, though good behind intrenchments. The regular cavalry was decidedly inferior to that of any European power. The artillery was by far the best portion of the service, and the field-regiments in a high state of efficiency; the men were as if born for their work, though no doubt the officers left much to desire. The Redifs appear to have suffered from a general want of organization, though the men no doubt were willing to do their best. Of the irregulars, the Arnauts and Bosnians were capital guerrillas, but nothing more, best used in defending fortifications; while the Bashi Bazouks were all but worthless, and even worse than that. The Egyptian contingent appears to have been about on a level with the Turkish Nizam, the Tunisian nearly unfit for anything. With such a motley army, so badly officered and subject to such maladministration, no wonder it is all but ruined in three campaigns.
II. The Sardinian Army
This army is composed of ten brigades of infantry, ten battalions of rifles, four brigades of cavalry, three regiments of artillery, one regiment of sappers and miners, a corps of carabineers (police troops), and the light horse in the island of Sardinia.
The ten brigades of infantry consist of one brigade of guards, four battalions of grenadiers, two battalions of chasseurs, and nine brigades of the line, equal to eighteen regiments of three battalions each. To these are added ten battalions of rifles (bersaglieri), one for every brigade, thus constituting a proportion of light infantry, actually trained, far stronger than in any other army.
There is, besides, a depot battalion for every regiment.
Since 1849, the strength of the battalions has been very much reduced, from financial motives. On the war-footing, a battalion should number about 1,000, but on the peace-footing there are no more than about 400 men. The remainder have been dismissed on indefinite furlough.
The cavalry counts four regiments of heavy, and five of light cavalry. Every regiment has four field and one depot-squadron. On the war-footing, a regiment should count about 800 men in the four field-squadrons, but on the peace-footing there are scarcely 600.
The three regiments of artillery consist of one regiment of workmen and artificers, one of garrison artillery (twelve cornpanies), and one of field-artillery (six foot, two horse, two heavy batteries of eight guns each). The light batteries have eight lb. guns and twenty-four lb. howitzers, the heavy batteries sixteen lb. guns; in all eighty guns.
The regiment of sappers and miners has ten companies, or about 1,100 men. The carbineers (horse and foot) are very numerous for such a small kingdom, and number about 3,200 men. The light horse, doing duty as police troops in the island of Sardinia, figure about 1,100 strong.
The Sardinian army, in the first campaign against Austria, in 1848, certainly reached the strength of 70,000 men. In 1849, it was very near 130,000. Afterwards it was reduced to about 45,000 men. What it is now it is impossible to say, but there is no doubt that, since the conclusion of the treaty with England and France,’ it has been again increased.
This great elasticity of the Piedmontese army, which allows it to increase or diminish the numbers present under arms at any time, arises from a system of recruiting very nearly akin to that of Prussia; and, indeed, Sardinia may be called, in many respects, the Prussia of Italy. There is in the Sardinian states a similar obligation for every citizen to serve in the army, though, unlike Prussia, substitutes are allowed; and the time over which this obligation extends, consists, as in Prussia, of a period of actual service and another period, during which the soldier dismissed from the ranks remains in the reserve, and is liable to be called in again in time of war. The system is something between the Prussian method and that of Belgium and the minor German states. Thus, by calling in the reserves, the infantry, from about 30,000 men, may be raised to 80,000, and even more. The cavalry and field artillery would undergo but a small augmentation, as in these arms the soldiers generally have to remain with the regiments during the whole period of their service.
The Piedmontese army is as fine and soldier-like a body of men as any in Europe. Like the French, they are small in size, especially the infantry; their guards do not average even five feet four inches; but what with their tasteful dress, military bearing, well-knit but agile frames, and fine Italian features, they look better than many a body of bigger men. The dress and equipments are, with the infantry of the line and guards, upon the French principle, with a few details adopted from the Austrians. The bersaglieri have a costume of their own, a little sailor’s hat with a long hanging plume of cock-feathers and a brown tunic. The cavalry wear short brown jackets, just covering the hip-bone. The percussion-musket is the general arm of the infantry; the bersaglieri have short Tyrolese rifles, good and useful weapons, but inferior to the Minié in every respect. The first rank of the cavalry used to be armed with lances; whether this is still the case with the light-horse we cannot say. The eight lb. calibre for the horse and light-foot batteries gave them the same advantage over the other continental armies which the French had while they preserved this calibre; but their heavy batteries, carrying sixteen pounders, rendered them the heaviest field artillery of the continent. That these guns, when once in position, can do excellent service, they have shown on the Chernaya, where their accurate firing contributed a great deal to the success of the Allies, and was universally admired.
Of all the Italian states, Piedmont is the best situated for creating a good army. The plains of the Po and its tributaries produce capital horses, and a fine, tall race of men, the tallest of all Italians, exceedingly well-adapted for cavalry and heavy artillery service. The mountains, which surround these plains on three sides, north, west, and south, are inhabited by a hardy people, less in size, but strong and active, industrious and sharp-witted, like all mountaineers. It is these that form the staple of the infantry, and especially of the bersaglieri, a body of troops nearly equaling the Chasseurs de Vincennes in training, but certainly surpassing them in bodily strength and endurance.
The military institutions of Piedmont are, upon the whole, very good, and, in consequence, the officers bear a high character. So late as 1846, however, the influence of the aristocracy and the clergy had a great deal to do with their appointment. Up to that period, Charles Albert knew but two means of governing-the clergy and the army; in fact, it was a general saying in other parts of Italy, that in Piedmont, out of three men you met in the street, one was a soldier, the second a monk, and only every third man a civilian. At present, of course, this has been done away with; the priests have less than no influence, and, though the nobility preserve many officers’ commissions, the wars of 1848 and ‘49 have stamped a certain democratic character upon the army which it will not be easy to destroy. Some British Crimean newspaper correspondents have stated that the Piedmontese officers were almost all “gentlemen by birth,” but so far from this being the case, we know, personally, more than one Piedmontese officer who rose from the ranks, and can safely assert that the mass of the captains and lieutenants are now composed of men who either gained their epaulettes by bravery against the Austrians, or who at least are not connected with the aristocracy.
We think that the greatest compliment that can be paid to the Piedmontese army is contained in the opinion expressed by one of its late opponents, General Schönhals, quarter-master-general of the Austrian army in 1848 and ‘49. In his “Recollections of the Italian Campaigns”, this general, one of the best officers of the Austrian army, and a man violently opposed in every way to anything smacking of Italian independence, treats the Piedmontese army throughout with the highest respect.
“Their artillery he says, “consists of picked men, under good and well-informed officers; the matériel is good, and the calibre is superior to ours [...]."The cavalry is no contemptible arm; the first rank carry lances, but as a very adroit rider only can well manage this arm, we should not like to say that this innovation was exactly an improvement. Their school of equitation, however, [... ] is very good.” “At Santa Lucia, both parties fought with astonishing bravery. The Piedmontese attacked with great vivacity and impetuosity — both Piedmontese and Austy-ians performed many feats of great personal valor.” “The Piedmontese army has a right to mention the day of Novara without a blush,” — and so on.
In the same way, the Prussian General Willisen, who assisted in part in the campaign of 1848, and who is no friend of Italian independence, speaks highly of the Piedmontese army.
Ever since 1848, a certain party in Italy has looked upon the king of Sardinia as the future chief of the whole peninsula. Though far from participating in that opinion, we still believe that whenever Italy shall reconquer her freedom, the Piedmontese forces will be the principal military instrument in attaining that object, and will, at the same time, form the nucleus of the future Italian army. It may undergo, before that happens, more than one revolution in its own bosom, but the excellent military elements it contains will survive all this and will even gain by being merged in a really national army.
III. The Smaller Italian Armies
The papal army hardly exists except on paper. The battalions and squadrons are never complete, and form but a weak division. There is, besides, a regiment of Swiss guards, the only body on which the government can place any reliance. The Tuscan, Parmesan and Modenese armies are too insignificant to be mentioned here; suffice it to say that they are organized, upon the whole, on the Austrian model. There is, besides, the Neapolitan army, of which, too, the least said the sooner mended. It has never shone conspicuously before the enemy, and, whether fighting for the king, as in 1799, or for a constitution, as in 4821, it always distinguished itself by running away. Even in 1848 and ‘49, the native Neapolitan army was everywhere beaten by the insurgents, and, had it not been for the Swiss, King Bomba would not now be on his throne. During the siege of Rome, Garibaldi advanced with a handful of men against the Neapolitan division and beat it twice."’ The army of Naples, on the peace-footing, is estimated at 26,000 or 27,000 men, but in 1848 it is stated to have numbered nearly 49,000 men, and the full footing should raise it to 64,000. Of all these troops, the Swiss are alone worth mentioning.
They consist of four regiments, of two battalions each, and should number, when complete, 600 men per battalion, or 4,800 men. But the cadres are now overfilled, so that each battalion is about 1,000 strong (the fourth, or Bernese regiment, alone mustering 2,150), and the whole number may be estimated at nearly 9,000. These are really first-rate troops, commanded by officers of their own country, and independent, in their internal organization and administration, from the government of Naples. They were first taken into pay in 1824 or ‘25, when the king, no longer trusting the army that so shortly before had revolted, found it necessary to surround himself with a strong body-guard. The treaties or “capitulations,” as they were called, were concluded with the different cantons for thirty years; the Swiss articles of war and the Swiss military organization were secured to the troops; the pay was three-fold that of the native Neapolitan soldiers; the troops were recruited by volunteers from each canton, where recruiting offices were established. Pensions were secured to retiring officers, veterans, and the wounded. If, at the expiration of the thirty years, the capitulation was not renewed, the regiments were to be broken up. The present Swiss constitution forbids recruiting for foreign service, and the capitulations, therefore, were canceled after 1848; recruiting has stopped, at least ostensibly, in Switzerland, but at Chiasso and other points of Lombardy, depots were established, and many a recruiting agent secretly continued his business on Swiss soil. So eager was the Neapolitan government for recruits, that it did not refuse to accept the refuse of the political refugees then in Switzerland. The King of Naples, under these circumstances, confirmed the privileges granted to the Swiss soldiers by the capitulations, and in August last, when the thirty years had elapsed, by a special decree again prolonged these privileges for so long a time as the Swiss should remain in his service.
IV. The Swiss Army
In Switzerland no national standing army exists. Every Swiss is compelled to serve in the militia, if able-bodied; and this mass is divided into three levies (Auszug, erstes and zweites Aufgebo), according to age. The young men, during the first years of service, are called out separately for drill, and collected from time to time in camps; but whoever has seen the awkward gait and uncomfortable appearance of a Swiss squad, or heard the jokes they crack with the drill-sergeant while under drill, must at once see that the military qualities of the men are but very poorly developed. Of the soldierly capabilities of this militia we can only judge by the one example of the Sonderbund war, in 1847, which campaign is distinguished by the extremely small number of casualties in proportion to the forces engaged. The organization of the militia is almost entirely in the hands of the various cantonal governments; and, though its general form is fixed by federal laws, and a federal staff is at the head of the whole, this system cannot fail to create confusion and want of uniformity, while it must almost necessarily prevent a proper accumulation of stores, the introduction of improvements, and the permanent fortification of important points, especially on the side where Switzerland is weak, toward Germany.
The Swiss, like all mountaineers, make capital soldiers when drilled; and, wherever they have served as regular troops under foreign banners, they have fought exceedingly well. But being rather slow-headed, they need drilling much more, indeed, than either French or North Germans, to give them confidence in themselves., and cohesion. It is possible that national feeling might possibly replace this in the case of a foreign attack upon Switzerland, but even this is very doubtful. An army of 80,000 regular troops, and less, would certainly be a match for all the 160,000 and more men which the Swiss say they can congregate. In 1798, the French finished the business with a few regiments."’ The Swiss boast a great deal of the rifles of their sharp-shooters. There are, certainly, in Switzerland, comparatively more good shots than in any other European country, the Austrian Alpine possessions excepted. But when one sees how these dead shots, when called in, are almost all armed with clumsy common percussion muskets, the respect for the Swiss sharp-shooters is considerably lessened. The few battalions of rifles may be good shots, but their short, heavy pieces (Stutzen) are antiquated and worthless compared with the Minié, and their awkward, slow method of loading, with loose powder from a horn, would give them but a poor chance when opposed to troops armed with less superannuated weapons.
Altogether, arms, accoutrements, organization, drill, everything is old-fashioned with the Swiss, and very likely will remain so as long as the cantonal governments have anything to say on the subject.
V. The Scandanavian Armies
The Swedish and Norwegian armies, though united under one as the two countries to which they belong. 326 crown, are as separate
In contrast to Switzerland, both give us the example of an Alpine country with a standing army; but the Scandinavian peninsula is altogether, by the nature of the soil, and the consequent poverty, and thin population of the country, so much akin to Switzerland, that even in the military organization of both, one system, and that the militia system, predominates.
Sweden has three sorts of troops, — regiments raised by voluntary enlistment (Värfvade truppar), provincial regiments (Indelta truppar), and Reserve troops. The Värfvade consist of three regiments of infantry, containing six battalions, two of cavalry and three of artillery, with thirteen foot and four horse batteries, altogether 96 six lb., 24 twelve lb., and 16 twenty-four lb. guns. This makes a total of 7,700 men, and 136 guns. These troops contain all the artillery for the whole army.
The Indelta form twenty provincial regiments of two battalions, with five separate battalions of infantry, and six regiments of a strength varying from one to eight squadrons. They are estimated at 33,000 men.
The Reserve troops form the mass of the army. When called in they are expected to reach 95,000 men.
There is, besides, in the province of Götaland, a sort of militia constantly under arms, numbering 7,850 men, in twenty-one companies and sixteen guns. Altogether, therefore, the Swedish army comprises about 140,000 men with 150 field guns.
The volunteers for the enlisted regiments are generally engaged for fourteen years, but the law allows engagements of three years. The Indelta are a sort of militia, living, when once trained, in farms apportioned to them and their families, and called in only once a year for four weeks’ drill. They have the revenues of their farms for pay, but when assembled they receive a special compensation. The officers also receive crown-lands on tenure in their respective districts. The Reserve consists of all able-bodied Swedes from twenty to twenty-five years of age; they are drilled a short time, and afterwards called in a fortnight in every year. Thus, with the exception of the few VSrfvade and the Gothland troops, the great body of the army — Indelta and Reserve — are, to all intents and purposes, militia.
The Swedes play a part in military history which is beyond all proportion to the scanty population which furnished their renowned armies. Custavus Adolphus, in the thirty years’ war, marked a new era in tactics by his improvements; and Charles XII, with his adventurous foolhardiness which spoiled his great military talent, actually made them do wonders — such as to take entrenchments with cavalry. In the later wars against Russia, they behaved very well; in 1813, Bernadotte kept them as much as possible out of harm’s way, and they were scarcely under fire, unless by mistake, except at Leipsic, where they formed but an infinitesimal part of the allies. The Värfvade, and even the Indelta, will, no doubt, always sustain the character of the Swedish name; but the Reserve, unless assembled and drilled a long time before brought into action, can only figure as an army of recruits.
Norway has five brigades of infantry containing twenty-two battalions and 12,000 men; one brigade of cavalry, of three divisions of chasseurs, containing 1,070 men; and one regiment of artillery of about 1,300 men; beside a reserve of militia, of 9,000 men; altogether about 24,000 men. The character of this army does not vary much from that of Sweden; its only distinguishing feature is a few companies of chasseurs, provided with flat snow-shoes, on which, with the assistance of a long pole, they run, Lapland fashion, very rapidly over the snow.
The Danish army is composed of twenty-three battalions of infantry (one of guards, twelve line, five light, five chasseurs) in four brigades, each battalion numbering about 700 men on the peace-footing; three brigades of cavalry (three squadrons of guards, six regiments of dragoons, of four squadrons each, the squadron containing 140 men in time of peace), and one brigade of artillery (two regiments and twelve batteries with 80 six lb. and 16 twelve lb. guns), and three companies of sappers. Total, 16,630 infantry, 2,900 cavalry, 2,900 artillery and sappers with ninety-six guns.
For the war-footing, each company is raised to 200, or the battalion to 800 men, and each squadron to 180 men, raising the line in all to 25,500 men. Besides, thirty-two battalions, twenty-four squadrons, and six batteries of the reserve can be called in, representing a force of 31,500 men and raising the total of the force to about 56,000 or 57,000 men. Even these, however, can be increased in case of need, as during the late war Denmark proper alone, without either Holstein or Schleswig, could muster from 50,000 to 60,000 men, and the Duchies are now again subject to the Danish conscription.
The army is recruited by ballot, out of the young men of from twenty-two years and upwards. The time of service is eight years,
but actually the artillery remain six years, the line four years only with the regiments, while for the remainder of the time they belong to the reserve. From the thirtieth to the thirty-eighth year the men remain in the first, and then up to the forty-fifth year in the second levy of the militia. This is all very nicely arranged, but, in any war against Germany, nearly one-half of the troops-those from the Duchies — would disband and take up arms against their present comrades. It is this strong admixture of Schleswig-Holsteiners which forms the great weakness of the Danish army, and, in reality, almost nullifies it in any complications with its most powerful neighbor.
The Danish army, since its reorganization in 1848-49, has been well equipped, well armed, and brought altogether to a very respectable footing. The Dane, from Denmark proper, is a good soldier and behaved very well in almost every action of the three years’ war; but the Schleswig-Holsteiner proved himself decidedly his superior. The corps of officers is good upon the whole, but there is too much aristocracy and too little scientific education in it. Their reports are slovenly made, and similar to those of the British, to which army the Danish troops likewise appear related in their want of mobility; but they have not shown of late that they possess such immovable steadiness as the victors of Inkermann. The Schleswig-Holsteiners are, without any dispute, among the best soldiers in Europe. They are excellent artillery men, and as cool in action as the English, their cousins. Though inhabitants of a level country, they make very good light infantry; their first rifle-battalion in 1850 might have vied with any troop of its class.
VI. The Army of Holland
The Dutch army numbers thirty-six battalions of infantry in nine regiments, containing 44,000 men in all; four regiments of dragoons composed of twenty squadrons; two squadrons of mounted chasseurs; and two squadrons of gens d'armes; in all, twenty-four squadrons, comprising 4,400 cavalry, with two regiments of field artillery (five six lb. and six twelve lb. foot, two six lb. and two twelve lb. horse batteries, of 120 guns in all), and one battalion of sappers, making a total of 58,000 men, beside several regiments in the colonies. But this army does not always exist in time of peace. There is a nucleus remaining under arms, consisting of officers, subalterns, and a few voluntarily enlisted men. The great mass, though obliged to serve for five years, are drilled during a couple of months, and then dismissed so as to be called in for a few weeks in each year only. Besides, there is a sort of reserve in three levies, comprising all the able-bodied men from twenty to thirty-five years of age. The first levy forms about fifty-three, and the second twenty-nine battalions of infantry and artillery. But this body is not at all organized, and can hardly be accounted even as militia.
VII. The Belgian Army
The Belgian army has sixteen regiments of infantry, containing forty-nine battalions, beside a reserve battalion for each regiment; comprising in all 46,000 men. The cavalry consists of two regiments of chasseurs, two of lancers, one of guides, two of cuirassiers, making thirty-eight squadrons, beside seven reserve squadrons, in all 5,800 men. There are four regiments of artillery (four horse, fifteen foot batteries, four depot batteries, twenty-four garrison companies), with 152 guns, six and twelve pounders; and one regiment of sappers and miners, numbering 1,700 men. The total, without the reserve, is 62,000 men; with the reserve, according to a late levy, it may be raised to 100,000. The army is recruited by ballot, and the term of service is eight years, but about one half of that time is passed on furlough. On the peace-establishment, therefore, the actual force will scarcely reach 30,000 men.
VIII. The Portuguese Army
The Portuguese army consisted, in 1850, of the following troops: -
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The artillery consists of one field-regiment, of one horse and seven foot batteries; three regiments of position and garrison artillery, and three detached battalions in the islands. The calibre is six and twelve pounds.
IX. The Spanish Army
Of all European armies, that of Spain is, from peculiar circumstances, most a matter of interest to the United States. We give, therefore, in concluding this survey of the military establishments of Europe, a more detailed account of this army than its importance, compared with that of its neighbors on the other side of the Atlantic, might seem to warrant.
The Spanish military force consists of the army of the interior, and of the colonial armies.
That of the interior counts one regiment of grenadiers, forty-five regiments of the line, of three battalions each, two regiments of two battalions each in Ceuta, and eighteen battalions of cazadores or rifles. The whole of these 160 battalions formed, in 1852, an effective force of 72,670 men, costing the state 82,692,651 reals, or $10,336,581, a year. The cavalry comprises sixteen regiments of carabineers, or dragoons and lancers, of four squadrons each, with eleven squadrons of cazadores, or light horse, in 1851; in all 12,000 men, costing 17,549,562 reals, or $2,193,695.
The artillery numbers five regiments of foot artillery, of three brigades each, one for each division of the monarchy; beside five brigades of heavy, three of horse, and three of mountain artillery, making a total of twenty-six brigades, or, as they are now called, battalions. The battalion has in the horse artillery two, in the mountain and foot artillery four batteries; in all ninety-two foot and six horse batteries, or 588 field guns.
The sappers and miners form one regiment of 1,240 men.
The reserve consists of one battalion (No. 4) for every infantry regiment, and a depot-squadron for each cavalry regiment.
The total force — on paper — in 1851 was 103,000 men; in 1843, when Espartero was upset, it amounted to 50,000 only; but at one time Narvdez raised it to above 100,000. On an average 90,000 men under arms will be the utmost.
The colonial armies are as follows:
1. The army of Cuba; sixteen regiments of veteran infantry, four companies of volunteers, two regiments of cavalry, two battalions of four batteries foot, and one battalion of four batteries of mountain artillery, one battalion of horse artillery with two batteries, and one battalion of sappers and miners. Beside these troops of the line, there is a milicia disciplinada of four battalions and four squadrons, and a milicia urbana of eight squadrons, making a total of thirty-seven battalions, twenty squadrons and eighty-four guns. During the last few years this standing Cuban army has been reinforced by numerous troops from Spain; and if we take its original strength at 16,000 or 18,000 men, there will now be, perhaps, 25,000 or 28,000 men in Cuba. But this is a mere approximation.
2. The army of Porto Rico; three battalions of veteran infantry, seven battalions of disciplined militia, two battalions of native volunteers, one squadron of the same, and four batteries of foot artillery. The neglected state of most of the Spanish colonies does not allow any estimate of the strength of this corps.
3. The Philippine Islands have five regiments of infantry, of eight companies each; one regiment of chasseurs of Luzon; nine foot, one horse, one mountain battery. Nine corps of five battalions of native infantry, and other provincial corps, previously existing, were dissolved in 1851.
The army is recruited by ballot, and substitutes are allowed. Every year a contingent of 25,000 men is levied; but, in 1848, three contingents, or 75,000 men, were called out.
The Spanish army owes its present organization principally to Narváez, though the regulations of Charles Ill, of 1768 a Still form the groundwork of it. Narváez had actually to take away from the regiments their old provincial colors, different in each, and to introduce the Spanish flag into the army! In the same manner he had to destroy the old provincial organization, and to centralize and restore unity. Too well aware, by experience, that money was the principal moving lever in an army which had almost never been paid and seldom even clad or fed, he also tried to introduce a greater regularity in the payments and the financial administration of the army. Whether he succeeded to the full extent of his wishes, is unknown; but any amelioration introduced by him, in this respect, speedily disappeared during the administration of Sartorius and his successors. The normal state of “no pay, no food, no clothing,” was re-established in its full glory; and while the superior and general officers strut about in coats resplendent with gold and silver lace, or even don fancy uniforms, unknown to any regulations, the soldiers are ragged and without shoes. What the state of this army was ten or twelve years ago, an English author thus describes:-
“The appearance of the Spanish troops is, to the last degree, unsoldierly. The sentry strolls to and fro [...] on his beat, his shako almost falling off the back of his head, his gun slouched on his shoulders, singing outright [...] a lively seguidilla with the most sans façon air in the world. He is, not unfrequently, destitute of portions of his uniform; or his regimental coat and lower continuations are in such hopeless rags, that, even in the sultry summer, the slate-colored great-coat is worn as a slut-cover [...] the shoes [...], in one case out of three, are broken to pieces, disclosing the naked toes of the men — such in Spain are the glories of the vida militar.”
A regulation, issued by Serrano, on Sept. 9, 1843, prescribes that: -
“All officers and chiefs of the army have in future to present themselves in public in the uniform of their regiment, and with the regulation sword, whenever they do not appear in plain clothes; and all officers are also to wear the exact distinctive marks of their rank, and no other, as prescribed, without displaying any more of those arbitrary ornaments and ridiculous trimmings by which some of them have thought proper to distinguish themselves.”
1 So much for the officers. Now for the soldiers: —
“Brigadier General Cordoba has opened a subscription in Cadiz, heading it with his name, in order to procure funds for presenting one pair of cloth trousers to each of the valiant soldiers of the regiment of Asturias!”
This financial disorder explains how it has been possible for the Spanish army to continue, ever since 1808, in a state of almost uninterrupted rebellion. But the real causes lie deeper. The long continued war with Napoleon, in which the different armies and their chiefs gained real political influence, first gave it a pretorian turn. Many energetic men, from the revolutionary times, remained in the army; the incorporation of the guerrillas in the regular retained force even increased this element. Thus, while the chiefs retained their pretorian pretensions, the soldiers and lower ranks altogether remained inspired with revolutionary traditions. In this way the insurrection of 1819-23 was regularly prepared, and later on, in 1833-43, the civil war again thrust the army and its chiefs into the foreground. Having been used by all parties as an instrument, no wonder that the Spanish army should, for a time, take the government into its own hands.
“The Spaniards are a warlike but not a soldier-like people,” said the Abbé de Pradt. They certainly have, of all European nations, the greatest antipathy to military discipline. Nevertheless, it is possible that the nation, which for more than a hundred years was celebrated for its infantry, may yet again have an army of which it can be proud. But, to attain this end, not only the military system, but civil life, still more, requires to be reformed.