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Full text of "The Strategy Of Indirect Approach"

Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR 
OPEN UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 

HYDERABAO-500 083 



Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR OPEN UNIVERSITY 
LI B RA R Y 



Call No. Accession No 

Author: ft 0JU 
Title : 1rt&fif< 

This book should be returned on or before the date 
last marked below. 



x 

24 Russell Square 
London 



To 

IVOR MAXSE 
Trainer of Troops for "War 



PREFACE 



JVly original study of the strategy of indirect ap- 
proach was written in 1929. Published under the title 
The Decisive Wars of History, it has-been out of print 
for some time. In the years following its publication, 
I continued to explore this line of thought, and from 
the results of such further study compiled a number of 
supplementary notes, which were privately circulated. 
Since the course of the present war has provided 
further examples of the value of the indirect approach, 
and thereby given fresh point to the thesis, the issue of 
a new edition of the book provides an opportunity to 
include these hitherto unpublished notes in exten- 
sion of Chapter XL The other principal additions to 
Part I are a chapter (IV) devoted to the Byzantine 
campaigns, of Belisarius in particular, which T. E. 
Lawrence had urged me to include; and a chapter 
(XII) on the * Concentrated Essence of Strategy'. I 
have, also, amplified the parts of the book which deal 
with the campaigns of Hannibal, Scipio, Caesar, 
Cromwell, Marlborough, Frederick, Napoleon, and 
Moltke. And at the end of the book comes a new 
chapter, on Hitler's strategy. 

When, in the course of studying a long series of mili- 
tary campaigns, I first came to perceive the superiority 

ix 



PREFACE 

of the indirect over the direct approach, I was looking 
merely for light upon strategy. With deepening reflec- 
tion, however, I began to realize that the indirect 
approach had a much wider application that it was 
a law of life in all spheres : a truth of philosophy. Its 
fulfilment was seen to be the key to practical achieve- 
ment in dealing with any problem where the human 
factor predominates, and a conflict of wills tends to 
spring from an underlying concern for interests. In all 
such cases, the direct assault of new ideas provokes a 
stubborn resistance, thus intensifying the difficulty of 
producing a change of outlook. Conversion is achieved 
more easily and rapidly by unsuspected infiltration of 
a different idea or by an argument that turns the flank 
of instinctive opposition. The indirect approach is as 
fundamental to the realm of politics as to the realm of 
sex. In commerce, the suggestion that there is a bar- 
gain to be secured is far more potent than any direct 
appeal to buy. And in any sphere it is proverbial that 
the surest way of gaining a superior's acceptance of a 
new idea is to persuade him that it is his idea! As in 
war, the aim is to weaken resistance before attempting 
to overcome it ; and the effect is best attained by draw- 
ing the other party out of his defences. 

This idea of the indirect approach is closely related 
to all problems of the influence of mind upon mind 
the most influential factor in human history. Yet it is 
hard to reconcile with another lesson : that true con- 
clusions can only be reached, or approached, by pur- 
suing the truth without regard to where it may lead or 
what its effect may be on different interests. 

History bears witness to the vital part that the ' pro- 
phets ' have played in human progress which is evi- 
dence of the ultimate practical value of expressing un- 
reservedly the truth as one sees it. Yet it also becomes 
clear that the acceptance and spreading of their vision 



PREFACE 

has always depended on another class of men 
'leaders' who had to be philosophical strategists, 
striking a compromise between truth and men's re- 
ceptivity to it. Their effect has often depended as much 
on their own limitations in perceiving the truth as on 
their practical wisdom in proclaiming it. 

The prophets must be stoned; that is their lot, and 
the test of their self-fulfilment. But a leader who is 
stoned may merely prove that he has failed in his 
function through a deficiency of wisdom, or through 
confusing his function with that of a prophet. Time 
alone can tell whether the effect of such a sacrifice re- 
deems the apparent failure as a leader that does 
honour to him as a man. At the least, he avoids the 
more common fault of leaders that of sacrificing the 
truth to expediency without ultimate advantage to the 
cause. For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in 
the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the 
womb of his thought. 

Is there a practical way of combining progress to- 
wards the attainment of truth with progress towards 
its acceptance? A possible solution of the problem is 
suggested by reflection on strategic principles which 
point to the importance of maintaining an object con- 
sistently and, also, of pursuing it in a way adapted to 
circumstances. Opposition to the truth is inevitable, 
especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the 
degree of resistance can be diminished by giving 
thought not only to the aim but to the method of ap- 
proach. Avoid a frontal attack on a long established 
position ; instead, seek to turn it by a flank movement, 
so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust 
of truth. But, in any such indirect approach, take care 
not to diverge from the truth for nothing is more 
fatal to its real advancement than to lapse into un- 
truth. 

xi 



; PREFACE 

The moaning of these reflections may be "made 
clearer by illustration from one's own experience. 
Looking back on the stages by which various fresh 
ideas gained acceptance, it can be seen that the pro- 
cess was eased when they could be presented, not as 
something radically new, but as the revival in modern 
terms of a time-honoured principle or practice that 
had been forgotten. This required not deception, but 
care to trace the connection since 'there is nothing 
new under the sun'. A notable example was the way 
that the opposition to mechanization was diminished 
by showing that the mobile armoured vehicle the 
fast-moving tank was fundamentally the heir of the 
armoured horseman, and thus the natural means of 
reviving the decisive role which cavalry had played in 
past ages. 



Xll 



PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION 

The first chapter of this book is in a general sense 
the preface, explaining its purpose, scope, and theme. 
These have evolved more gradually and less consecu- 
tively than is usual in the preparation of a book, and 
as the guiding idea has been that of an attempt to 
distil the essence of one's reading and reflection over 
a number of years, so the historical narrative is a con- 
densed product of the notes made when studying each 
of the several wars epitomized. It would have been 
easier to have woven these notes into a narrative of 
greater length, but the desire that the 'wood' should 
not be obscured by the 'trees' has prompted a severe 
pruning of unessential facts. If the foliage is too bare 
for the taste of some readers, I would ask their for- 
giveness on the score that, for the specialized student, 
this book is intended as a guide in historical study 
rather than as a compendium of history. 

I would also utilize this 'preliminary' preface to 
acknowledge the kindness of those who have read and 
criticized the typescript and proofs at various stages. 
For helpful comments and suggestions my thanks are 
due, in particular, to my friends, Brigadiers J. G. Dill, 
B. D. Fisher, J. F. C. Fuller, H. Karslake, Colonel the 
Viscount Gort, Mr. E. G. Hawke, and T.E.S. 

(Thes* were their ranks in 1929 when the original edition was 
published. They are now General Sir John Dill, Lieut-General 

xiii 



PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION 

Sir JJertie Fisher, Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, Lieut-General 
Sir 'Henry Karslake, and General the Viscount Gort. The late 
T. E. Lawrence was then serving in the ranks of the Royal Air 
Force under the name of T. E. Shaw, legally assumed for the time, 
and for reasons of discretion wished only his initials to appear in 
the acknowledgement.) 



XIV 



CONTENTS 

PREFACE page ix 

PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION xiii 

PARTI 

I. HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 1 

H. GREEK WARS EPAMINONDAS, PHILIP, 

AND ALEXANDER 7 

in. ROMAN WARS HANNIBAL, SCIPIO, AND 

CAESAR 28 

IV. BYZANTINE WARS BELISARIUS AND 

NARSES 4 49 

V. MEDIEVAL WARS 70 

VI. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY GUSTAVUS, 

CROMWELL, TURENNE 81 

VII. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY MARL- 
BOROUGH AND FREDERICK 95 
Vffl. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND NAPOLEON 

BONAPARTE 121 

DC. 1854-1914 160 

X. CONCLUSIONS 178 

XI. CONSTRUCTION 184 

XH. THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF 

STRATEGY 212 

XV 



CONTENTS 
PART II 

THE PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN THE 

WESTERN THEATRE, 1914 page 219 

XIV. THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 235 

XV. THE SOUTH-EASTERN OR MEDJTERRANEAN 

THEATRE 248 

XVI. THE STRATEGY OF 1918 265 

* PART III 

xvii. HITLER'S STRATEGY 291 

INDEX 311 



xvi 



MAPS 

I. GREECE facing page 20 

II. EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN * 46 

III. ENGLAND (AND THE LOWLANDS) 90 

IV. THE SPANISH PENINSULA 152 
V. THE UNITED STATES IN 1861 170 

VI. CENTRAL EUROPE 176 

VII. THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-18 230 

VHI. THE WESTERN FRONT, 1918 284 



XVU 



PART I 



Chapter I 
HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 



Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to 
profit by others' experience.' This famous saying, 
quoted of Bismarck but by no means original to him, 
has a peculiar bearing on military questions. For it has 
often been remarked that the soldier, unlike the fol- 
lowers of other professions, has but rare opportuni- 
ties to practise his profession. Indeed, it might even 
be argued that in a literal sense the profession of arms 
is not a profession at all, but merely ' casual employ- 
ment'. And, paradoxically, that it ceased to be a pro- 
fession when the soldier of fortune gave way to the 
'professional soldier' when mercenary troops who 
were employed and paid for the purpose of a war were 
replaced by standing armies which continued to be 
paid when there was no war. 

This logical, if somewhat extreme argument recalls 
the excuse often made in the past for paying officers 
a rate inadequate to live on, and by some of those 
officers for doing an inadequate day's work the con- 
tention being that the officer's pay was not a working 
salary but a 'retainer', paid to him for the benefit of 
having his services available in case of war. 

If the argument that strictly there is no ' profession 
of arms' will not hold good in most armies to-day 
B 1 



HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE] 

on the score of work, it is inevitably strengthened on 
the score of practice by the increasing infrequency of 
wars. Are we then left with the conclusion that armies 
are doomed to become more and more 'amateurish' 
in the popular bad sense of that much-abused and 
misused word? For, obviously, even the best of peace 
training is more 'theoretical' than 'practical' experi- 
ence. 

But Bismarck's aphorism throws a different and 
more encouraging light on the problem. It helps us to 
realize that there are two forms of practical experience, 
direct and indirect. And that of the two, indirect prac- 
tical experience may be the more valuable : because 
infinitely wider. Even in the most active career, especi- 
ally a soldier's career, the scope and possibilities of 
direct experience are extremely limited. In contrast to 
the military, the medical profession has incessant prac- 
tice yet the great achievements in medicine and sur- 
gery have usually been due to the research worker and 
not to the general practitioner. 

Direct experience is inherently too limited to form 
a secure foundation for either theory or application. 
At the best it produces an atmosphere, which is of 
value in drying and hardening the structure of our 
thought. The greater value of indirect experience lies 
in its greater variety and extent. 'History is universal 
experience' the experience not of another, but of 
many others under manifold conditions. 

Here we have the rational justification for military 
history its preponderant practical value in the train- 
ing and mental development of a soldier. But the bene- 
fit depends, as with all experience, on its breadth : on 
how closely it approaches the definition quoted above ; 
and on the method of studying it. 

Soldiers universally concede the general truth of 
Napoleon's much*quoted dictum that in war ' the moral 

2 



HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 

is to the physical as three to one*. The actual arith- 
metical proportion may be worthless, for morale is apt 
to decline if weapons be inadequate, and the strongest 
will is of little use if it is inside a dead body. But al- 
though the moral and physical factors are inseparable 
and indivisible, the saying gains its immortal value 
because it expresses the idea of the predominance of 
moral factors in all military decisions. On them con- 
stantly turns the issue of war and battle. And in the 
history of war they form the more constant factors, 
changing only in degree whereas the physical factors 
are fundamentally different in almost every war and 
every military situation. 

This realization affects the whole question of the 
study of military history for practical use. The method 
in the last few generations has been to select one or 
two campaigns, and to study them exhaustively as a 
means of developing both our minds and a theory of 
war. But the continual changes in military means 
from war to war, entail a grave danger, even a cer- 
tainty, that our outlook will be nahrow r and the les- 
sons fallacious. In the physical sphere, the one con- 
stant factor is that means and conditions are invari- 
ably inconstant. 

In contrast, human nature varies but slightly in its 
reaction to danger. Some men by race, by environ- 
ment, or by training, may be less sensitive than others, 
but the difference is one of degree, not fundamental. 
The more localized the situation, and our study, the 
more disconcerting and less calculable is such a differ- 
ence of degree. It may prevent any exact calculation of 
the resistance which men will offer in any situation, 
but it does not impair the judgement that they will 
offer less if taken by surprise than if they are on the 
alert ; less if they are weary and hungry than if they 
are fresh and well fed. The broader the psychological 

3 



HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 

survey the better foundation it affords for deductions. 

The predominance of the psychological over the 
physical, and its greater constancy, point to the con- 
clusion that the foundation of any theory of war should 
be as broad as possible. An intensive study of one 
campaign unless based on an extensive knowledge of 
the whole history of war is as likely to lead us into 
pitfalls as onto the peaks of military achievement. But 
if a certain effect is seen to follow a certain cause in a 
score or more cases, in different epochs and diverse 
conditions, there is ground for regarding this cause as 
an integral part of any theory of war. 

The thesis set forth in this book is the product of 
such an * extensive' examination. It might, indeed, be 
termed the compound effect of certain causes these 
being connected with my task as military editor of the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica. For while I had previously 
delved into various periods of military history accord- 
ing to my inclination, this task compelled a general 
survey of all, often against my inclination. And a sur- 
veyor even a tourist, if you will has at least a wide 
perspective and can at least take in the general lie of 
the land, where the miner knows only his own seam. 
During this survey one impression grew ever stronger 
that throughout the ages decisive results in war have 
only been reached when the approach has been in- 
direct. In strategy the longest way round is apt to be 
the shortest way home. 

More and more clearly has the fact emerged that a 
direct approach to one's mental object, or physical ob- 
jective, along the 'line of natural expectation' for the 
opponent, has ever tended to, and usually produced 
negative results. The reason has been expressed vividly 
in Napoleon's dictum that 'the moral is to the physi- 
cal as three to one'. It may be expressed scientifically 
by saying that, while the strength of an enemy country 

4 



HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 

lies outwardly in its numbers and resources, these are 
fundamentally dependent upon stability or * equili- 
brium' of control, morale, and supply. 

To move along the line of natural expectation con- 
solidates the opponent's equilibrium, and, by stiffen- 
ing it, augments his resisting power. In war, as in 
wrestling, the attempt to throw the opponent without 
loosening his foothold and balance can only result in 
self-exhaustion, increasing in disproportionate ratio 
to the effective strain put upon him. Victory by such a 
method can only be possible through an immense mar- 
gin of superior strength in some form, and, even so, 
tends to lose decisiveness. In contrast, an examination 
of military history not of one period but of its whole 
course brings out the point that in almost all the de- 
cisive campaigns the dislocation of the enemy's psy- 
chological and physical balance has been the vital pre- 
lude to a successful attempt at his overthrow. 

This dislocation has been produced by a strategic 
indirect approach, intentional or fortuitous. It may 
take varied forms, as our analysis reveals. For the 
strategy of indirect approach is inclusive of, but wider 
than, the manoeuvre sur les derrieres which General 
Camon's researches showed as being the constant aim 
and key-method of Napoleon in his conduct of opera- 
tions. While Camon was concerned primarily with the 
logistical moves the factors of time, space, and com- 
munications this analysis seeks to probe deeper to 
the psychological foundations, and, in so doing, finds 
an underlying relationship between many strategical 
operations which have no outward resemblance to a 
manoeuvre against the enemy's rear yet are, none the 
less definitely, vital examples of the * strategy of in- 
direct approach'. 

To trace this relationship and to determine the char- 
acter of the operations, it is not necessary, and is in- 

5 



HISTORY AS PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE 

deed irrelevant, to tabulate the numerical strengths 
and the details of supply and transport. Our concern 
is simply with the historical effects in a comprehensive 
series of cases, and with the logistical or psychological 
moves which led up to them. 

If similar effects follow fundamentally similar moves, 
in conditions which vary widely in nature, scale, and 
date, there is clearly an underlying connection from 
which we can logically deduce a common cause. And 
the more widely the conditions vary, the firmer is this 
deduction. 

But the objective value of a broad survey of war is 
not limited to the research for new and true doctrine. 
If a broad survey is ^n essential foundation for any 
theory of war, it is equally necessary for the ordinary 
military student who seeks to develop his own outlook 
and judgement. Otherwise his knowledge of war will 
be like an inverted pyramid balanced precariously on 
a slender apex. At a university, the student only comes 
to post-graduate research after he has had a general 
grounding in history as a schoolboy, and then, as an 
undergraduate, has developed this background by the 
study of the constitutional and economic aspects, and 
of special periods. Yet the military student, who com- 
monly comes late to his subject, when the mind is less 
supple than in adolescence, is expected to begin at a 
point corresponding with post-graduate research. 



6 



Chapter II 

GREEK WARS EPAMINONDAS, PHILIP, 
AND ALEXANDER 



The most natural starting-point for a survey is the 
first ' Great War' in European history the Great Per- 
sian War. We cannot expect much guidance from a 
period when strategy was in its infancy; but the name 
of Marathon is too deeply stamped on the mind and 
imagination of all readers of history to be disregarded. 
It was still more impressed on the imagination of the 
Greeks ; hence its importance came to be exaggerated 
by them and, through them, by Europeans in all sub- 
sequent ages. Yet by the reduction of its importance 
to juster proportions, its strategical significance is in- 
creased. The Persian invasion of 490 B.C. was a com- 
paratively small expedition intended to teach Eretria 
and Athens petty states in the eyes of Darius to 
mind their own business and abstain from encour- 
aging revolt among Persia's Greek subjects in Asia 
Minor. 

Eretria was destroyed and its inhabitants deported 
for resettlement on the Persian Gulf. Next came the 
turn of Athens, where the ultra-democratic party was 
known to be waiting to aid the Persian intervention 
against their own conservative party. The Persians, 

7 



GREEK WARS 

instead of making a direct advance on Athens, landed 
at Marathon, twenty-four miles north-east of it. There- 
by they could calculate on drawing the Athenian army 
towards them, thus facilitating the seizure of power in 
Athens by their adherents, whereas a direct attack on 
the city would have hampered such a rising, perhaps 
even have rallied its force against them ; and in any 
case have given them the extra difficulty of a siege. 

If this was their calculation, the bait succeeded. The 
Athenian army marched out to Marathon to meet the 
supposed main mass of the enemy's armed forces 
most literally fulfilling modern military doctrine. Un- 
luckily for the Persians, a change of feeling had oc- 
curred among their democratic adherents in Athens. 
Even so, they proceeded to execute the next step in 
their strategical plan. Under the protection of a cover- 
ing force, they re-embarked the rest of the army in 
order to move it round to Phalerum, land there, and 
make a spring at unguarded Athens. 

Thanks to the energy of Miltiades, the Athenians 
took their one chance by striking without delay at the 
covering force. And in the battle, the superior armour 
and longer spears of the Greeks, always their supreme 
assets against the Persians, combined with their novel 
tactics to give them the victory although the fight 
was harder than patriotic legend suggested, and most 
of the covering force got safely away on the ships. 
With still more creditable energy the Athenians coun- 
ter-marched rapidly back to their city, and this rapid- 
ity, combined with the dilatoriness of the disaffected 
party, saved them. For when the Athenian army was 
back in Athens, and the Persians saw that a siege was 
unavoidable, they sailed back to Asia as their merely 
punitive object was not worth purchasing at a heavy 
price. 

Ten years passed before the Persians made a real 

8 



GREEK WARS 

effort to repeat and reinforce the intended lesson. The 
Greeks had been slow to profit by the warning, and it 
was not until 487 B.C. that Athens began the expansion 
of her fleet which was to be the decisive factor. Thus 
it can with truth be said that Greece and Europe were 
saved by a revolt in Egypt which kept Persia's atten- 
tion occupied from 486 to 484 as well as by the death 
of Darius, ablest of the Persian rulers of that epoch. 

When the menace developed, in 481, this time on a 
grand scale, its very magnitude not only consolidated 
the Greek factions and states against it, but compelled 
Xerxes to make a direct approach to his goal. For the 
army was too big to be transported by sea, and so was 
compelled to take an overland route. And it was too 
big to supply itself, so that the fleet had to be used for 
this purpose. The army was tied to the coast, and the 
navy tied to the army each tied by the leg. Thus the 
Greeks could be sure as to the line along which to ex- 
pect the enemy's approach, and the Persians were un- 
able to depart from it. The nature of the country 
afforded the Greeks a series of points at which they 
could firmly block the line of natural expectation and, 
as Grundy has remarked, but for the Greeks' own 
dissensions of interest and counsel 'it is probable that 
the invaders would never have got south of Ther- 
mopylae'. As it was, history gained an immortal story 
and it was left to the Greek fleet to dislocate the in- 
vasion irredeemably by defeating the Persian fleet at 
Salamis while Xerxes and the Persian army watched 
helplessly the destruction of what was not merely their 
fleet, but, more vitally, their source of supply. 

It is worth note that the opportunity for this deci- 
sive naval battle was obtained by a ruse which might 
be classified as a form of indirect approach Themis- 
tocles's message to Xerxes that the Greek fleet was 
ripe for treacherous, surrender. The deception, which 

9 



GREEK WARS 

drew the Persian fleet into the narrow straits where 
their superiority of numbers was discounted, proved 
all the more effective because past experience endowed 
the message with plausibility. Indeed, Themistocles' 
message was inspired by his fear that the allied Pelo- 
ponnesian commanders would withdraw from Sala- 
mis, as they had advocated in the council of war thus 
leaving the Athenian fleet to fight alone, or giving the 
Persians a chance to use their superior numbers in the 
open sea. On the other side there was only one voice 
raised against Xerxes' eager desire for battle. It was 
that of the sailor-queen, Artemisia, from Halicarnas- 
sus, who urged the contrary plan of abstaining from a 
direct assault and, instead, co-operating with the Per- 
sian land forces in a move against the Peloponnesus. 
She argued that the Peloponnesian naval contingents 
would react to such a threat by sailing for home, and 
thereby cause the disintegration of the Greek fleet. It 
would seem that her anticipation was as well justified 
as Themistocles' anxiety; that such a withdrawal 
would have been carried out the very next morning 
but for the fact that the Persian galleys blocked the 
outlets, preparatory to attack. When the attackers ad- 
vanced through the narrow straits, the Greek galleys 
backed away; the Persian galleys thereupon quick- 
ened their rate of rowing, and as a result became a 
congested mass, helplessly exposed to the counter- 
stroke which the Greek galleys delivered from either 
flank. 

In the seventy years that followed, one of the chief 
factors which restrained the Persians from further in- 
tervention in Greece would seem to have been the 
power of indirect approach, to the Persians' own com- 
munications, that Athens could wield this'deduction 
is supported by the prompt revival of such interfer- 
ence after the destruction of the Athenian fleet at Syra- 

10 



GREEK WARS 

cuse. Historically, it is worth note that the use of 
strategic mobility for an indirect approach was realized 
and exploited much earlier in sea than in land war- 
fare. The natural reason is that only in a late stage of 
development did armies come to depend upon 'lines 
of communication' for their supply. Fleets, however, 
were used to operate against the sea-borne communi- 
cations, or means of supply, of a hostile country; and 
once this conception was established it was natural to 
apply it as a means to a naval end a 'military' end at 
sea. 

With the passing of the Persian menace, the sequel 
to Salamis was the rise of Athens to the ascendency in 
Greek affairs. This ascendency was ended by the Pelo- 
ponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). But the extravagant 
duration of these twenty-seven years of warfare, and 
their terrible drain not only on the chief adversaries 
but on the luckless would-be neutrals may be traced 
to the fluctuating and often purposeless strategy into 
which both sides repeatedly drifted. 

In the first phase Sparta and her allies attempted a 
direct invasion of Attica. They were foiled by Peri- 
cles' war policy of refusing battle on land while using 
the superior Athenian army to wear down the enemy's 
will by devastating raids. 

The term 'war policy' is used of intent, although 
the phrase 'Periclean strategy' is almost as familiar as 
that of 'Fabian strategy' in a later age. Clear-cut 
nomenclature is essential to clear thought, and the 
term 'strategy' is best confined to its literal meaning 
of ' generalship ' the actual direction of military force, 
as distinct from the policy governing its employment 
and combining it with other weapons : economic, poli- 
tical, psychological. For such war policy the term 
'grand strategy' has been coined, but, apt as it is, its 
meaning is not so easily grasped. Hence although I 

11 



GREEK WARS 

prefer * grand strategy' and have often used it else- 
where, I shall here normally use the term 'war policy' 
because analysis and classification are the dominant 
purposes of this examination of history. 

In contrast to a strategy of indirect approach which 
seeks to dislocate the enemy's balance in order to pro- 
duce a decision, the Periclean plan was simply a war 
policy with the aim of gradually draining the enemy's 
endurance in order to convince him that he could not 
gain a decision. Unluckily for Athens, an importation 
of plague tipped the scales against her in this moral 
and economic attrition campaign. Hence in 426 B.C. 
the Periclean strategy was made to give place to the 
direct offensive strategy of Cleon and Demosthenes. 
This cost more, and succeeded no better, despite some 
brilliant tactical successes. And in the early winter of 
424 B.C. Brasidas, Sparta's ablest soldier, wiped out 
all the advantage that Athens had painfully won : by a 
strategic move directed against the roots, instead of 
the trunk, of the enemy power. Passing by Athens 
itself, which he ignored, he marched swiftly north 
through the length of Greece and struck at the Athe- 
nian dominion in Chalcidice which has been aptly 
termed the 'Achilles heel of the Athenian empire'. By 
a combination of military force with the promise of 
freedom and protection to all cities which revolted 
against her, he so shook the hold of Athens there that 
he drew her main forces thither. At Amphipolis they 
suffered disaster, and Cleon, death. Though Brasidas 
himself fell in the moment of victory, Athens was glad 
to conclude a negative peace with Sparta. 

In the succeeding years of pseudo-peace, repeated 
Athenian expeditions failed to regain the lost footing 
in Chalcidice. Then, as a last offensive resort, Athens 
undertook an expedition against Syracuse, the key to 
Sicily, whence came the overseas food supply of Sparta 

12 



GREEK WARS 

and the Peloponnese generally. As a war policy of in- 
direct approach it had the defect of striking, not at the 
enemy's actual partners, but rather at his business 
associates. And thereby, instead of distracting the 
enemy's forces, it drew fresh forces into opposition. 

Nevertheless, the moral and economic results of 
success might well have changed the whole balance of 
the war if there had not been an almost unparalleled 
chain of blunders in execution. Alcibiades, the author 
of the plan, was recalled from his joint command by 
the intrigues of his political enemies. Rather than re- 
turn to be put on trial for sacrilege, and meet a certain 
death sentence, he fled to Sparta there to advise the 
the other side how to thwart his own plan. And the 
stubborn opponent of the plan, Nicias, was left in 
command to carry it out. Instead by his obstinate 
stupidity, he carried it to ruin. 

With her army lost at Syracuse, Athens staved off 
defeat at home by the use of her fleet, and in the nine 
years of sea warfare which followed she came within 
reach not only of an advantageous peace but of the 
restoration of her empire. Her prospects, however, 
were dramatically extinguished by the Spartan ad- 
miral, Lysander, in 405 B.C. In the words of the Cam- 
bridge Ancient History 'his plan of campaign . . . was- 
to avoid fighting, and reduce the Athenians to ex- 
tremities by attacking their empire at its most vulner- 
able points ' The first clause is hardly accurate, for 

his plan was not so much an evasion of battle as an 
indirect approach to it so that he might obtain the 
opportunity when, and where, the odds were heavily 
in his favour. By skilful and mystifying changes of 
course, he reached the entrance to the Dardanelles 
and there lay in wait for the Pontic grain-ships on 
their way to Athens. 'Sincethe grain-supply of Athens 
was a life interest,' the Athenian commanders 'hurried 

13 



GREEK WARS 

with their entire fleet of 180 ships to safeguard it.' For 
four successive days they tried in vain to tempt Ly- 
sander to battle, while he gave them every encourage- 
ment to think they had cornered him. Thus, instead 
of retiring to revictual in the safe harbour of Sestos, 
they stayed in the open strait opposite him at Aegos- 
potamoi. On the fifth day, when most of the crews had 
gone ashore to collect food, he suddenly sallied out, 
captured almost the whole fleet without a blo\V, and 
'in one single hour brought the longest of wars to an 
end'. 

In this twenty-seven years' struggle, where scores of 
direct approaches failed, usually to the injury of those 
who made them, the scales were definitely turned 
against Athens by Brasidas's move against her Chal- 
cidice 'root'. The best-founded hopes of a recovery 
came with Alcibiades's indirect approach on the 
plane of grand strategy to Sparta's economic root in 
Sicily. And the coup de grace, after another ten years' 
prolongation, was given by a tactical indirect ap- 
proach at sea, which was itself the sequel to a fresh in- 
direct approach in grand strategy. For it should be 
noted that the opportunity was created by menacing 
the Athenians' 'national' lines of communication. By 
taking an economic objective Lysander could hope at 
the least to drain their strength ; through the exaspera- 
tion and fear thus generated, he was able to produce 
conditions favourable to surprise and so obtain a swift 
military decision. 

W. With the fall of the Athenian empire the next phase 
in" Greek history is the assumption by Sparta of the 
headship of Greece. Our next question is, therefore 
what was the decisive factor in ending Sparta's ascen- 
dancy? The answer is a man, and his contribution to 
the science and art of warfare. In the years immedi- 
ately preceding the rise of Epaminondas, Thebes had 

14 



GREEK WARS 

released herself from Sparta's dominion by the method 
later christened Fabian, of refusing battle a war 
policy of indirect approach, but a strategy merely of 
evasion while Spartan armies wandered unopposed 
through Boeotia. This method gained them time to 
develop a picked professional force, famous as the 
Sacred Band, which formed the spear-head of their 
forces subsequently. It also gained time and oppor- 
tunity for disaffection to spread, and for Athens, 
thereby relieved of land pressure, to concentrate her 
energy and man-power on the revival of her fleet. 
Thus in 374 the Athenian confederacy, which included 
Thebes, found Sparta willing to grant an advantageous 
peace. Although quickly broken, through an Athenian 
maritime adventure, a fresh peace congress was con- 
vened three years later by which time the Athenians 
were tired of war. Here Sparta regained at the council 
table much that she had lost on the field of war, and 
succeeded in isolating Thebes from her allies. There- 
upon Sparta eagerly turned to crush Thebes. But on ad- 
vancing into Boeotia, her army, traditionally superior 
in quality and actually superior in number (10,000 to 
6,000) was decisively defeated at Leuctra by the new 
model army of Thebes under Epaminondas, perhaps 
the most original genius in military history. 

He not only broke away from tactical methods es- 
tablished by the experience of centuries, but in tactics, 
strategy, and grand strategy alike laid the foundations 
on which subsequent masters have built. Even his 
structural designs have survived or been revived. For 
in tactics the 'oblique order' which Frederick made 
famous was but a slight elaboration of the method of 
Epaminondas. At Leuctra, reversing custom, Epami- 
nondas placed not only his best men but the most on 
his left wing, and then, holding back his weak centre 
and right, developed a crushing superiority against one 

15 



GREEK WARS 

wing of the enemy the wing where their leader stood, 
and thus the key of their will. 

A year after Leuctra, Epaminondas led the forces 
of the newly formed Arcadian League in a march 
upon virgin Sparta itself. This march into the heart 
of the Peloponnesian peninsula, so long Sparta's un- 
challenged domain, was distinguished by the mani- 
fold nature of its indirect approach. It was made in 
mid-winter and by three separated, but converging, 
columns thus * distracting' the forces and direction 
of the opposition. For this alone it would be almost 
unique in ancient, or, indeed, in pre-Napoleonic war- 
fare. But with still deeper strategical insight, Epami- 
nondas, after his force had united at Caryiae, twenty 
miles short of Sparta, slipped past the capital and 
moved up from the rear. This move had the additional 
and calculated advantage of enabling the invaders to 
rally to themselves considerable bodies of Helots and 
other disaffected elements. The Spartans, however, 
succeeded in checking this dangerous internal move- 
ment by an emergency promise of emancipation ; and 
the timely arrival at Sparta of strong reinforcements 
from her Peloponnesian allies thwarted the chance of 
the city falling without a set siege. 

Epaminondas soon realized that the Spartans would 
not be lured into the open, and that a prolonged in- 
vestment meant the dwindling of his own hetero- 
geneous force. He therefore relinquished the blunted 
strategic weapon for a more subtle weapon a war 
policy of indirect approach, true grand strategy. At 
Mount Ithome, the natural citadel of Messenia, he 
founded a city as the capital of a new Messenian state, 
established there all the insurgent elements that had 
joined him, and used the booty he had gained during 
the invasion as an endowment for the new state. This 
was to be a check and counterpoise to Sparta in 

16 



GREEK WARS 

southern Greece ; by its secure establishment she lost 
half her territory and more than half her serfs. Through 
Epaminondas's foundation of Megalopolis, in Arca- 
dia, as a further check, Sparta was hemmed in both 
politically and by a chain of fortresses, so that the eco- 
nomic roots of her military supremacy were severed. 
When Epaminondas left the Peloponnese, after only a 
few months' campaign, he had won no victory in the 
field, yet his war policy had definitely dislocated the 
foundations of Spartan power. 

The politicians at home, however, had desired a 
destructive military success, and were disappointed at 
not achieving it. And with Epaminondas's subsequent, 
if temporary, supersession, Theban democracy by 
short-sighted policy and blundering diplomacy for- 
feited the advantage won for it. Thus it enabled its 
Arcadian allies, repudiating gratitude in growing con- 
ceit and ambition, to dispute Theban leadership. In 
362, Thebes was driven to a choice between the for- 
cible reassertion of her authority and the sacrifice of 
her prestige. Her move against Arcadia caused the 
Greek states to divide afresh into two opposing coali- 
tions. Happily for Thebes, not only was Epaminondas 
at her service, but also the fruits of his grand strategy 
for his creations of Messenia and Megalopolis now 
contributed not merely a check to Sparta but a make- 
weight to the Theban side. 

Marching into the Peloponnese, he joined forces 
with his Peloponnesian allies at Tegea, thus placing 
himself between Sparta and the forces of the other 
anti-Theban states, which had concentrated at Man- 
tinea. The Spartans marched by a roundabout route 
to join their allies, whereupon Epaminondas made a 
sudden spring by night, with a mobile column, at 
Sparta itself, and was only foiled because a deserter 
warned the Spartans in time for them to double back 
c 17 



GREEK WARS 

to their city. He then determined to seek a decision by 
battle and advanced from Tegea against Mantinea, 
some twelve miles distant, along an hour-glass shaped 
valley. The enemy took up a strong position at the 
mile-wide* waist'. 

With his advance we are on the borderline between 
strategy and tactics ; but this is a case where arbitrary 
division is false, all the more because the sources of 
his victory are to be found in his indirect approach to 
the actual contact. At first, Epaminondas marched 
direct towards the enemy camp, causing them to form 
up in battle order facing his line of approach the line 
of natural expectation. But when several miles distant, 
he suddenly changed direction to the left, turning in 
beneath a projecting spur. This surprise manoeuvre 
threatened to take in enfilade the enemy's right wing; 
and to dislocate still further their battle dispositions, 
he halted, making his troops ground arms as if about 
to encamp. The deception succeeded ; the enemy were 
induced to relax their battle order, allowing men to 
fall out and the horses to be unbridled. Meanwhile, 
Epaminondas was actually completing his battle dis- 
positions similar to, but an improvement on, those 
of Leuctra behind a screen of light troops. Then, on 
a signal, the Theban army took up its arms and swept 
forward to a victory already assured by the disloca- 
tion of the enemy's balance. Unhappily, Epaminondas 
himself fell in the moment of victory, and in his death, 
contributed not the least of his lessons to subsequent 
generations by an exceptionally dramatic and con- 
vincing proof that an army and a state succumb 
quickest to paralysis of the brain. 

The next decisive campaign is that which, just over 
twenty years later, yielded to Macedon the supremacy 
of Greece. All the more significant because of its 
momentous results, this campaign is an illuminating 

18 



GREEK WARS 

example of how policy and strategy can assist each 
other and also how strategy can turn topographical 
obstacles from its disadvantage to its advantage. The 
challenger, though a Greek, was an 'outsider', while 
Thebes and Athens were united in the effort to form 
a Pan-Hellenic League to oppose the growing power 
of Macedon. They found a foreign backer in a Persian 
king strange comment upon past history and human 
nature. Once more it is the challenger who is seen to 
have grasped the value of the indirect approach. Even 
the pretext for Philip of Macedon's attempt to secure 
the supremacy was indirect, for he was merely invited 
by the Amphictyonic Council to aid in punishing Am- 
phissa, in western Boeotia, for a sacrilegious offence. 
And it is probable that Philip himself prompted this 
invitation, which rallied Thebes and Athens against 
him, but at least ensured the benevolent neutrality of 
other states. 

After marching southwards, Philip suddenly di- 
verged at Cytinium from the route to Amphissa the 
natural line of expectation and iristead occupied and 
fortified Elatea. That initial change of direction fore- 
shadowed his wider political aims ; at the same time it 
suggests a strategic motive which events tend to con- 
firm. The allied Thebans and Boeotians barred the 
passes into Boeotia, both the western route from Cyti- 
nium to Amphissa, and the eastern pass of Parapo- 
tamii, leading from Elatea to Chaeronea. The first 
route may be likened to the upper stroke of an L, the 
route from Cytinium to Elatea as the lower stroke, 
and the prolongation across the pass to Chaeronea as 
the upward finish of the lower stroke. 

Before initiating a further military move, Philip 
took fresh steps to weaken his opponents politically, 
by forwarding the restoration of Phocian communi- 
ties earlier dispersed by the Thebans; morally, by 

19 



GREEK WARS 

getting himself proclaimed as the champion of the 
God of Delphi. 

Then he sprang suddenly, in the spring of 338 B.C., 
after clearing his path by a stratagem. Having already, 
by occupying Elatea, distracted the strategic attention 
of the enemy towards the eastern route which had 
now become the line of natural expectation he dis- 
tracted the tactical attention of the force barring the 
western route by arranging that a letter which spoke 
of his return to Thrace should fall into its hands. 
Then he moved swiftly from Cytinium, crossed the 
pass by night and debouched into western Boeotia at 
Amphissa. Pressing on to Naupactus, he opened up 
his communications with the sea. He was now on the 
rear of, if at a distance from, the defenders of the 
eastern pass. Thereupon they fell back from Parapo- 
tamii not only because if they stayed their line of 
retreat might be cut, but also because there was no 
apparent value in staying. Philip, however, once more 
diverged from the line of expectation, and made yet 
another indirect approach. For, instead of pressing 
eastwards from Amphissa through hilly country which 
would have aided resistance, he switched his army 
back through Cytinium and Elatea, turned south- 
ward through the now unguarded pass of Parapo- 
tamii, and descended upon the enemy's army at Chae- 
ronea. This manoeuvre went far towards assuring his 
victory in the battle that followed ; its effect was com- 
pleted by his tactics. He lured the Athenians out of 
position by giving way before them, and then, when 
they had pressed forward on to lower ground, break- 
ing their line with a counterstroke. As the result of 
Chaeronea, the Macedonian supremacy was estab- 
lished in Greece. 

Fate cut off Philip before he could extend his con- 
quests to Asia, and it was left to his son to conduct 

20 




10 20 40 

WoverJOOOft, 



GREEK WARS 

the campaign that he had intended. Alexander had as 
legacy not only a plan and a model instrument the 
army which Philip had developed 1 but a conception 
of grand strategy. Another heirloom of decided 
material value was the possession of the Dardanelles 
bridge-heads, seized under Philip's direction in 336 B.C. 
If we study a chart of Alexander's advance we see that 
it was a series of acute zig-zags. A study of its history 
shows that there were deeper reasons than the logisti- 
cal for this indirectness. Indeed, his logistical strategy 
is direct and devoid of subtlety. The cause would ap- 
pear to be, first, that in the youthful Alexander, bred 
to kingship and triumph, there was more of the 
Homeric hero than in the other great captains of his- 
tory 2 ; and, still more perhaps, that he had such justifi- 
able confidence in the superiority of his instrument 
and his own battle-handling of it that he felt no need 
to dislocate preparatorily his adversaries' strategic 
balance. His lessons for posterity lie at the two poles 
war-policy and tactics. 

Starting from the eastern shore of the Dardanelles, 
he first moved southward and defeated the Persian 
covering force at the Granicus river. Here the enemy 
at least had the shrewdness to appreciate that if they 

* 

1 Philip had spent three years of his youth as a hostage in Thebes 
when Epaminondas was at his peak and the impressions Philip 
then received can be clearly traced in the subsequent tactics of the 
Macedonian army. 

* At the start of his invasion of Asia, Alexander romantically 
re-enacted the Homeric story of the expedition against Troy. 
While his army was waiting to cross the Dardanelles, Alexander 
himself with a picked detachment landed near Ilium, at the spot 
where the Greeks were supposed to have moored their ships in the 
Trojan War, and then advanced to the site of the original city, 
where he Offered sacrifice in the temple of Athena, staged a mimic 
battle, and delivered an oration at the reputed burial-mound of 
Achilles, his traditional ancestor. After these symbolical per- 
formances, he rejoined his army, to conduct the real campaign. 

22 



GREEK WARS 

could concentrate against, and kill, the over-bold 
Alexander himself, they would paralyse the invasion 
at its birth. They failed but narrowly in this pur- 
pose. 

^ Alexander next moved south on Sardis, the political 
and economic key to Lydia, and thence west to Ephe- 
sus, restoring to these Greek towns their former demo- 
cratic government and rights, as a means to secure his 
own rear in the most economical way. 

He had now returned to the Aegean coast, and he 
pursued his way first south and then eastward along it 
through Caria, Lycia, and Pamphylia. In this approach 
his object was to dislocate the Persian command of 
the sea by depriving the Persian fleet of freedom to 
move, through depriving it of its bases. At the same 
time, by freeing these sea-ports, he deprived the enemy 
fleet of much of its man-power, which was recruited 
from them. 

Beyond Pamphylia, the coastline of, the rest of Asia 
Minor was practically barren of ports. Hence he now 
turned north again to Phrygia, and eastwards as far as 
Ancyra (modern Ankara) consolidating his hold on, 
and securing his rear in, central Asia Minor. This 
done, he turned south through the Cilician '* Gates' on 
the direct route towards Syria, where Darius III was 
concentrating to oppose him. Here, through the failure 
of his intelligence service, and his own assumption that 
the Persians would await him in the plains, Alexander 
was strategically out-manoeuvred. While Alexander 
made a direct approach, Darius made an indirect, and, 
moving up the higher reaches of the Euphrates, came 
through the Amanic Gates on Alexander's rear. The 
latter, who had been so careful to secure his chain 
of bases, now found himself cut off from th&n. But, 
turning back, he extricated himself at the battle of 
Issus by the superiority of his tactics and his tactical 

23 



GREEK WARS 

instrument. And no great captain used the indirect 
approach more in his tactics. 

Thereafter he again took an indirect route, down 
the coast of Syria instead of pressing on to Babylon, 
the heart of the Persian power. Grand strategy clearly 
dictated his course. For if he had dislocated, he had 
not yet destroyed the Persian command of the sea ; so 
long as it existed it might be the means of indirect 
approach to his own rear. And Greece, especially 
Athens, was unpleasantly restive. His advance into 
Phoenicia disrupted the Persian fleet, for what re- 
mained was mainly Phoenician. Most of it came over 
to him, and the Tyrian portion fell with the fall of 
Tyre. Even then he again moved southward, into 
Egypt, a move more difficult to explain on naval 
ground, except as an additional precaution. It is more 
intelligible, however, in the light of his political pur- 
pose of occupying the Persian empire and consolidat- 
ing his own in substitution. For this purpose Egypt 
was an immense economic asset. 

At last he marched northwards again to Aleppo, 
then turned eastwards and made a direct approach 
against the new army which Darius had assembled 
near Mosul. Once again, at Gaugamela, Alexander 
and his army showed their complete superiority to an 
army that was the least serious of the obstacles in 
Alexander's path to his grand strategic goal. The oc- 
cupation of Babylon followed. 

Alexander's succeeding campaigns, until he reached 
the borders of India, were militarily a ' mopping up ' of 
the Persian empire, if politically the consolidation of 
his own. But he forced the Uxian defile and the Persian 
6 Gates' by an indirect approach, and when he was 
confronted on the Hydaspes by Porus, he produced a 
masterpiece of indirectness which showed the ripening 
of his own strategical powers. By laying in stores of 

24 



GREEK WARS 

corn, and by distributing his army widely along the 
western bank, he mystified his opponent as to his in- 
tentions. Repeated noisy marches and counter-marches 
of Alexander's cavalry first kept Porus on tenterhooks, 
and then, through repetition, dulled his reaction as 
by a sleeping draught. Having thus fixed Porus to a 
definite and static position, Alexander left the bulk of 
his army opposite it, and himself with a picked force 
made a night crossing eighteen miles upstream. By the 
surprise of this indirect approach he dislocated the 
mental and moral equilibrium of Porus, as well as the 
moral and physical equilibrium of his army. In the 
ensuing battle, Alexander, with a fraction of his own 
army, was enabled to defeat almost the whole of his 
enemy's. If this preliminary dislocation had not oc- 
cured there would have been no justification, either in 
theory or in fact, for Alexander's exposure of an iso- 
lated fraction to the risk of defeat in detail. 

In the long wars of the ' Successors ' which followed 
Alexander's death and rent his empire asunder, there 
are numerous examples of the indirect approach. His 
generals were abler men than Napoleon's marshals, 
and their experience had led them to grasp the deeper 
meaning of economy of force. While many of their 
operations are worth study, the present analysis is re- 
stricted to the decisive campaigns of ancient history, 
and in these wars of the Diadochi only the last, in 
301 B.C., can be definitely so termed. The claim of this 
to decisiveness can hardly be challenged, for in the 
measured words of the Cambridge Ancient History, by 
its issue 'the struggle between the central power and 
the dynasts was ended' and 'the dismemberment of 
the Graeco-Macedonian world became inevitable'. 

By 302 B.C., Antigonus, who claimed to stand in 
Alexander's place, was at last within reach of his goal 
of securing the empire for himself. Expanding from 

25 



GREEK WARS 

his original Satrapy of Phrygia, he had won control of 
Asia from the Aegean to the Euphrates. Opposing 
him, Seleucus had held on to Babylon with difficulty; 
Ptolemy was left only with Egypt; Lysimachus was 
more secure in Thrace ; but Cassander, the most for- 
midable of the rival generals and the keystone of the 
resistance to Antigonus's almost realized dream, had 
been driven from Greece by Antigonus's son Deme- 
trius who in many characteristics was a second 
Alexander. Called upon for unconditional surrender, 
Cassander replied by a stroke of strategic genius. The 
plan was arranged at a conference with Lysimachus, 
and Ptolemy's aid towards it was sought, while he in 
turn got in touch with Seleucus by sending messengers 
on camels across the Arabian desert. 

Cassander kept only some 31,000 men to face 
Demetrius's invasion of Thessaly with 57,000 and 
lent the rest of his army to Lysimachus. The latter 
crossed the Dardanelles eastwards, while Seleucus 
moved westwards towards Asia Minor, his army in- 
cluding 500 war elephants obtained from India. 
Ptolemy moved northwards into Syria, but on receiv- 
ing a false report of Lysimachus's defeat, returned to 
Egypt. Nevertheless, the convergent advance fronj 
both sides on the heart of his empire constrained Anti- 
gonus to recall Demetrius urgently from Thessaly, 
where Cassander had succeeded in keeping him at bay 
until the indirect move against his strategic rear in 
Asia Minor called him off as Scipio's fundamentally 
similar move later forced HannibaFs return to Africa. 
And at the battle of Ipsus, in Phrygia, Cassander's 
strategy was consummated by his partners' decisive 
tactical victory, which ended in the death of Anti- 
gonus and the flight of Demetrius. In this battle, it is 
worth remark, the war elephants were the decisive in- 
strument, and, fittingly, the tactics of the victors were 

26 



GREEK WARS 

essentially indirect. After their cavalry had disap- 
peared from the scene with Demetrius in hot pur- 
suit, their elephants cut off his return. Even then, in- 
stead of assaulting Antigonus's infantry, Lysimachus 
demoralized them by threat of attack and arrow fire 
until they began to melt. Then Seleucus struck, with a 
thrust at the point where Antigonus himself stood. 

When the campaign had opened the scales were 
heavily weighted and steeply tilted on the side of Anti- 
gonus. Rarely has the balance of fortune so dramatic- 
cally changed. It would seem clear that Antigonus's 
balance had been upset by the indirect approach which 
Cassander planned. This dislocated the mental equili- 
brium of Antigonus, the moral equilibrium of his 
troops and his subjects, and the physical equilibrium 
of his military dispositions. 



27 



Chapter III 

ROMAN WARS HANNIBAL, SCIPIO, 
AND CAESAR 



The next conflict decisive in its results, and in 
effect on European history, was the struggle between 
Rome and Carthage in which the Hannibalic, or 
Second Punic, War was the determining period. This 
falls into a series of phases or campaigns, each decisive 
in turning the current of the war into a fresh course. 

The first phase opens with Hannibal's advance from 
Spain towards the Alps and Italy, and the natural 
closing-point appears to be the annihilating victory of 
Trasimene, which left Rome unshielded, save by her 
walls and garrison, to Hannibal's immediate approach 
had he chosen to make it. 

The reason commonly assigned for Hannibal's ini- 
tial choice of the circuitous and arduous land route in 
preference to the direct sea route is that of Rome's 
supposed 'command of the sea'. But it is absurd to 
apply the modern interpretation of this phrase to an 
era when ships were so primitive, and their ability to 
intercept a foe at sea so uncertain. Even to-day such 
'command' has limitations. But beyond this reflection 
there is a significant sidelight in a passage of Polybius 
(iii. 97) when, speaking of the very time of Trasimene, 

28 



ROMAN WARS 

he refers to the Roman Senate's anxiety lest the Car- 
thaginians 'should obtain a more complete mastery 
of the sea'. Even in the closing stage of the war, after 
the Romans had won repeated victories at sea, de- 
prived the Carthaginian fleet of all its Spanish bases, 
and were established in Africa, they were powerless to 
prevent Mago landing an expeditionary force on the 
Genoese Riviera, or Hannibal sailing tranquilly back 
to Africa. It seems more probable that Hannibal's in- 
direct and overland route of invasion was due to the 
aim of rallying the Celts of Northern Italy against 
Rome. 

Next, we should note the indirectness even of this 
land march, and the advantage gained thereby. The 
Romans had dispatched the consul, Publius Scipio 
(father of Africanus), to Marseilles, with the object of 
barring Hannibal's path at the Rhdne. Hannibal, 
however, not only crossed this formidable river un- 
expectedly high up, but then turned still further north- 
ward to. take the more devious and difficult route by 
the Is&re valley, instead of the straightfer but more easily 
barred routes near the Riviera. When the elder Scipio 
arrived at the crossing three days later he was 'aston- 
ished to find the enemy gone ; for he had persuaded 
himself that they would never venture to take this (nor- 
therly) route into Italy ' (Polybius.). By prompt decision 
and speedy movement, leaving part of his army behind, 
he^got back to Italy by sea in time to meet Hannibal on 
the plains of Lombardy. But here Hannibal had the 
advantage of suitable ground for his superior cavalry. 
The victories of the Ticinus and the Trebia were the 
sequel, and their moral effect brought Hannibal re- 
cruits and supplies 'in great abundance'. 

Master of the north of Italy, Hannibal wintered 
there. The following spring, anticipating Hannibal's 
continued advance, the new consuls took their armies, 

29 



ROMAN WARS 

the one to Ariminum (Rimini) on the Adriatic, the 
other to Arretium (Arezzo) in Etruria thereby com- 
manding the eastern and western routes respectively 
by which Hannibal could advance towards Rome. 
Hannibal decided on the Etrurian route, but instead 
of advancing by one of the normal roads, he made 
thorough inquiries, through which 'he ascertained 
that the other roads leading into Etruria were long 
and well known to the enemy, but that one which 
led through the marshes was short, and would 
bring them upon Flaminius by surprise. This was 
what suited his peculiar genius, and he therefore 
decided to take this route. But when the report was 
spread in his army that the commander was going to 
lead them through the marshes, every soldier felt 
alarmed . . .' (Polybius). 

Normal soldiers always prefer the known to the un- 
known ; Hannibal was an abnormal general and hence, 
like other great captains, chose to face the most 
hazardous conditions rather than the certainty of meet- 
ing his opponents in a position of their own choosing. 

For four days and three nights Hannibal's army 
marched 'through a route which was under water', 
suffering terribly from fatigue and enforced want of 
sleep, while losing many men and more horses. But on 
emerging he found the Roman army still passively en- 
camped at Arretium. Hannibal attempted no direct 
attack. Instead, as Polybius tells us, 'he calculated 
that, if he passed the camp and made a descent into 
the district beyond, Flaminius partly for fear of 
popular reproach and partly from personal irritation 
would be unable to endure watching passively the 
devastation of the country but would spontaneously 
follow him . . . and give him opportunities for attack'. 
Here we have a mental application of the manoeuvre 
against the enemy's rear, based on searching inquiries 

30 



ROMAN WARS 

about his opponent's character. And it was followed 
by a physical execution. Pressing along the road to 
Rome, Hannibal laid and achieved the greatest am- 
bush in history. In the misty dawn of the following 
morning, the Roman army, in hot pursuit along the 
hill-bordered skirts of the Lake of Trasimene, was 
caught by surprise in a trap front and rear and anni- 
hilated. Readers of history all remember the victory, 
but are apt to overlook the mental thrust that made 
it possible. But Polybius, although lacking our advan- 
tage of two thousand more years' experience of war- 
fare, drew the correct moral 'for as a ship, if you 
deprive it of its steersman, falls with all its crew into 
the hands of the enemy ; so, with an army in war, if 
you outwit or out-manoeuvre its general, the whole 
will often fall into your hands '. 

We now enter the second phase of the war. Why, 
after Trasimene, Hannibal did not march on Rome is 
a mystery of history and all solutions are but specu- 
lation. Lack of an adequate siege-train is an obvious 
reason, but may not be the complete explanation. All 
we know for certain is that the succeeding years were 
spent by Hannibal in trying to break Rome's hold on 
her Italian allies and to weld them into a coalition 
against her. Victories were merely a moral impetus 
towards this end. The tactical advantage would al- 
ways be assured if he could obtain battle under con- 
ditions favourable for his superior cavalry. 

This second phase opens with a Roman, if strangely 
un-Roman, form of the indirect approach, a form 
which has given to history and to subsequent imita- 
tions, many of them bad, the generic title * Fabian 
strategy' although, strictly, it was a war-policy, ^not 
a strategy. The war policy of Fabius was not merely 
an evasion of battle to gain time, but calculated for its 
effect on the moral of the enemy and, still more, for 

31 



ROMAN WARS 

its effect on their potential allies. Fabius realized Han- 
nibal's military superiority too well to risk a military 
decision. While seeking to avoid this, he aimed by 
military pin-pricks to wear down the invaders' endur- 
ance and, coincidently, prevent their strength being 
recruited from the Italian cities or their Carthaginian 
base. The key condition of the strategy by which this 
war policy was carried out was that the Roman army 
should keep always to the hills, so as to nullify Hanni- 
bal's decisive superiority in cavalry. Thus this phase 
becomes a mental tug-of-war between the Hannibalic 
and the Fabian forms of strategy. 

Hovering in the enemy's neighbourhood, cutting off 
stragglers and foraging parties, preventing him from 
gaining any permanent base, Fabius remained an elu- 
sive shadow on the horizon, dimming the glamour of 
Hannibal's triumphal progress. Thus Fabius, by his 
immunity from defeat, thwarted the effect of Hanni- 
bal's previous victories upon the minds of Rome's 
Italian allies and checked them from changing sides. 
This guerilla type of campaign also revived the spirit 
of the Roman troops while depressing the Cartha- 
ginians who, having ventured so far from home, were 
the more conscious of the necessity of gaining an early 
decision. 

But attrition is a two-edged weapon and, even when 
skilfully wielded, puts a strain on the users. It is es- 
pecially trying to the mass of the people, eager to 
see a quick finish and always inclined to assume that 
this can only mean the enemy's finish. The more the 
Roman people recovered from the shock of Hannibal 's 
victory, the more they began to question the wisdom 
of the Fabian treatment which had given them a 
chance to recover. And their smouldering doubts were 
naturally fanned by the ambitious hotheads in the 
army, who were ever ready to criticize Fabius for his 

32 



ROMAN WARS 

4 cowardly and unenterprising spirit'. This led to the 
unprecedented step of appointing Minucius, who was 
both Fabius's chief subordinate and his chief critic, as 
co-dictator. Whereupon Hannibal seized the oppor- 
tunity to draw Minucius into a trap from which he 
was barely rescued by Fabius's speedy intervention. 

For a time this quieted criticism of Fabius. But when 
his six months' appointment expired, neither he nor 
his policy were popular enough to secure an extension. 
And at the consular elections, one of the two chosen 
was the impetuous and ignorant Varro, who had 
earlier engineered Minucius's appointment. Moreover, 
the Senate passed a resolution that they should give 
battle to Hannibal. There was ground for this decision 
in the devastation that Italy was suffering, and it was 
backed up by the practical step of raising the largest 
army, eight legions, which Rome had ever placed in 
the field. But the Romans were to pay dearly for elect- 
ing a leader whose offensive spirit was not balanced 
by judgement. 

His abler colleague, Paullus, wished to wait and 
manoeuvre for a favourable opportunity, but such 
caution did not accord with Varro's ideas ' So much 
had been said about men taking the field not to set 
sentinels, but to use their swords.' Varro's concep- 
tion, and public promise, was to attack the enemy 
wherever and whenever they found him. As a result, 
he took the first opportunity of offering battle to Han- 
nibal in the plain at Cannae. When Paullus argued 
that they should try to draw Hannibal into country 
more suitable for infantry action, Varro used his alter- 
nate day of command to advance into close contact. 
When Paullus kept the troops in their entrenched 
camp next day, calculating that shortage of supplies 
would soon force Hannibal to move away, Varro * be- 
came more than ever inflamed with the desire for 
D 33 



ROMAN WARS 

fighting' according to Polybius's account. And that 
feeling was shared by most of the troops, who chafed 
at the delay. 4 For there is nothing more intolerable to 
mankind than suspense ; when a thing is once decided, 
men can but endure whatever out of the catalogue of 
evils it is their misfortune to undergo.' 

Next morning, Varro moved the Roman army out 
of camp to provide the kind of battle which Hannibal 
desired. As usual, the infantry of both sides were 
posted in the centre, and the cavalry on the flanks 
but Hannibal's detailed disposition was unconven- 
tional. For he pushed forward the Gauls and Spani- 
ards, who formed the centre of the infantry line, while 
holding back his African foot, posted at each end of 
the line. Thus the Gauls and Spaniards formed a 
natural magnet for the Roman infantry, and were, as 
intended, forced back so that what had been a line 
bulging outwards became a line sagging inwards. The 
Roman legionaries, flushed with their apparent suc- 
cess, crowded into the opening where the press grew 
ever denser, until they could scarcely use their 
weapons. While they imagined that they were break- 
ing the Carthaginian front, they were actually pushing 
themselves into a Carthaginian sack. For at this junc- 
ture Hannibal's African veterans wheeled inwards 
from both sides, and automatically enveloped the 
thickly packed Romans. 

Meanwhile, Hannibal's heavy cavalry on the left 
wing had broken through the opposing cavalry on 
that flank and, sweeping round the Romans' rear, dis- 
persed their cavalry on the other flank hitherto held 
in play by the elusive Numidian horse. Leaving the 
pursuit to the Numidians, the heavy cavalry delivered 
the final stroke by bursting into the rear of the Roman 
infantry, already surrounded on three sides and too 
tightly jammed to offer effective resistance. Thence- 

34 



ROMAN WARS 

forward, the battle was merely a massacre. According 
to Polybius, out of the 76,000 men of the Roman 
army, 70,000 fell on the field of battle. Among them 
was Paullus but the offensively-inspired Varro was 
one of the few who successfully escaped. The disaster 
broke up the Italian confederation for a time, but 
failed to break Rome itself where Fabius helped to 
rally the people for sustained resistance. 

Rome's inflexible resolution henceforward in pur- 
suing the strategy of evasion at any sacrifice combined 
with the conditions of the age, with Hannibal's own 
comparative weakness, and with his situation as the 
invader of a primitively organized land to thwart 
his aim. (Wheft Scipio later retorted with a counter- 
invasion of Africa he found the more highly developed 
economic structure of Carthage an aid to his purpose.) 

The second phase of the war closed with yet another 
type of the strategic indirect approach, when the con- 
sul, Nero, bluffed the arch-bluffer and, slipping away 
from before him, concentrated by forced marches 
against Hasdrubal, who had just arrived with his 
army in Northern Italy. After destroying him at the 
Metaurus, and with him Hannibal's hope of ultimate 
victory, Nero was back in his camp opposite Hannibal 
before the latter realized that it had been empty. 
Thereafter stalemate reigned in Italy the third phase. 
During five years, Hannibal stood at bay in southern 
Italy, and a succession of Roman generals retired lick- 
ing their wounds from their too direct^ approaches to 
the lion's lair. 

Meantime Publius Scipio the younger had been sent 
to Spain on a desperate venture tq redeem the disaster 
which had there overtaken his dead father and uncle, 
and to maintain, if possible, Rome's slender foothold 
in the north-east corner of Spain against the vic- 
torious and greatly superior Carthaginian forces in 

35 



ROMAN WARS 

that country. By swiftness of movement, superior tac- 
tics, and skilful diplomacy he converted this defensive 
object into an offensive, if indirect, thrust at Carthage 
and at Hannibal. For Spain was Hannibal's real strate- 
gic base; there he had trained his armies, and thither 
he looked for reinforcements. By a masterly combina- 
tion of surprise and timing, Scipio had first deprived 
the Carthaginian armies of Cartagena, their main base 
in Spain, as a prelude to depriving them of their allies 
and overthrowing their armies. 

Then, elected consul on his return to Italy, he was 
ready for the second and decisive indirect approach, 
long conceived by him, against Hannibal's strategic 
rear. Fabius, now old and set in mind; voiced the or- 
thodox view, urging that Scipio's duty was to attack 
Hannibal in Italy. * Why do you not apply yourself to 
this, and carry the war in a straightforward manner to 
the place where Hannibal is, rather than pursue that 
roundabout course according to which you expect 
that when you have crossed into Africa, Hannibal will 
follow you thither?' Scipio gained from the Senate a 
bare permission to cross into Africa, but was refused 
leave to levy troops. In consequence he set out on his 
expedition with but 7,000 volunteers and two dis- 
graced legions which had been relegated to garrison 
duty in Sicily in penance for their share in the defeat 
at Cannae. On landing in Africa, he was met by the 
only cavalry force which Carthage had immediately 
available. By a cleverly graduated retreat he lured it 
into a trap and destroyed it. Thereby he not only 
gained time to consolidate his position but also created 
a moral impression which, on the one hand, induced 
the home authorities to back him more generously 
and, on the other, shook the hold of Carthage upon 
her African allies save for the most powerful, Syphax. 

Scipio then tried to secure the port of Utica, to 

36 



ROMAN WARS 

serve as his base, but was baffled in an attempt to take 
it as swiftly as he earlier succeeded in capturing Carta- 
gena. And he was forced to abandon the siege six 
weeks later when Syphax brought an army of 60,000 
men to reinforce the new Carthaginian forces which 
Hasdrubal was raising. On the approach of the com- 
bined armies, much superior to his own in numbers if 
not in quality, Scipio fell back to a small peninsula, 
where he fortified a prototype of Wellington's Lines of 
Torres Vedras. Here he first lulled the commanders of 
the investing forces into a feeling of security, then dis- 
tracted their attention by ostensible preparations for 
a sea-borne thrust against Utica, and finally made a 
night move upon the enemy's two camps. The de- 
moralizing and disorganizing effect of the surprise was 
intensified by Scipio's subtle calculation in first launch- 
ing an attack on Syphax's less orderly camp, where 
the swarm of huts overflowed the fortified boundaries 
and were made of inflammable reeds and matting. In 
the confusion caused by setting fire to these huts the 
assailants were able to penetrate into the camp itself, 
while the blaze drew Hasdrubal's Carthaginians to 
open their own gates and pour out to the rescue, imag- 
ining that the conflagration was accidental for when 
darkness fell, all had been quiet and normal in the 
Roman camp, seven miles distant. When the gates of 
the Carthaginian camp were thus opened, Scipio 
launched upon them the second stroke of his attack, so 
gaining entry without the cost of making a breach. 
Both the hostile armies were dispersed, with the re- 
puted loss of half their total strength. 

If we have here outwardly crossed the border-line 
from strategy into tactics, this * brilliant' success is in 
reality a case where strategy not merely paved the way 
for a victory in battle but executed it where, indeed, 
the victory was merely the last act of the strategic 

37 



ROMAN WARS 

approach. For an unresisted massacre is not a battle. 

After his bloodless triumph Scipio did not at once 
move on Carthage. Why? If history does not give a 
direct answer it affords clearer grounds for a deduc- 
tion than in the case of Hannibal's neglect of Rome 
after Trasimene and Cannae. Unless there is oppor- 
tunity and favourable prospect for a quick surprise 
assault, a siege is the most uneconomic of all opera- 
tions of war. History, even down to 1914-1918, attests 
this. And when the enemy has still a field army capable 
of intervening, a siege is also the most dangerous for 
until it is crowned by success the assailant is pro- 
gressively weakening himself out of proportion to his 
enemy. 

Scipio had to reckon not only with the walls of 
Carthage but with the return of Hannibal a con- 
tingency which was, indeed, his calculated aim. If he 
could compel the capitulation of Carthage before 
Hannibal could return, it would be a great advantage. 
But it must be by a moral, and hence cheap, disloca- 
tion of the city's resistance not by a heavy physical 
expenditure of force which might leave him still facing 
unbreached walls when Hannibal descended on his 
rear. 

Instead of moving on Carthage, Scipio systemati- 
cally lopped off her supply areas and allies. Above all, 
the relentless pursuit and overthrow of Syphax was a 
detachment of force which abundantly justified itself. 
For by restoring his own ally, Masinissa, to the throne 
of Numidia he ensured for himself the cavalry re- 
sources to counter Hannibal's best weapon. 

To reinforce these forms of moral suasion he ad- 
vanced to Tunis, in sight of Carthage, as 'a most 
effective means of striking the Carthaginians with ter- 
ror and dismay'. Coming on top of the other indirect 
forms of pressure it was sufficient to dislocate the Car- 

38 



ROMAN WARS 

thaginians' will to resist, and they sued for peace. But 
while the terms were awaiting ratification in Rome, 
the provisional peace was broken when Carthage re- 
ceived news of Hannibal's return, and of his landing 
at Leptis. 

Scipio was thus placed in a difficult and dangerous 
position. For although he had not weakened himself 
by an assault on Carthage, he had let Masinissa go 
back to Numidia, to consolidate his new kingdom 
after Carthage had accepted Scipio's peace terms. In 
such circumstances, an orthodox general would either 
have taken the offensive, in order to prevent Hannibal 
reaching Carthage, or have stood on the defensive to 
await relief. Instead, Scipio took a course that when 
plotted geographically looks fantastic. For if Hanni- 
bal's direct route from Leptis to Carthage be pictured 
as travelling up the right-hand stroke of an inverted 
V (A), Scipio, leaving a detachment to hold his camp 
near Carthage, .marched away down the left-hand 
stroke. Truly a most indirect approach ! But this route, 
the Bagradas valley, took him into the heart of Car- 
thage's main source of supplies from the interior. And 
it also brought him nearer, with every step he marched, 
to the Numidian reinforcements which Masinissa was 
bringing in response to an urgent summons. 

The move attained its strategic object. The senate 
of Carthage, aghast at the news that this vital territory 
was being progressively devastated, sent messengers 
urging Hannibal to intervene at once and bring Scipio 
to battle. And Hannibal, although he had told them in 
answer 'to leave such matters to him', was neverthe- 
less drawn by the compulsion of conditions created 
by Scipio to move west by forced marches to meet 
Scipio, instead of north to Carthage. Thus Scipio had 
lured him to an area of his own choosing, where Han- 
nibal lacked the material reinforcement, stable pivot, 

39 



ROMAN WARS 

and shelter in case of defeat which he would have en- 
joyed if the battle had taken place near Carthage. 

Scipio had thrust on his enemy the need of seeking 
battle, and he now exploited this moral advantage to 
the full. When Masinissa joined him, almost coinci- 
dently with Hannibal's arrival on the scene, Scipio fell 
back instead of going forward, and thus drew Hanni- 
bal to a camping-ground where the Carthaginians 
suffered from lack of water and to a battleground in 
the plain where Scipio's newly acquired advantage in 
cavalry could have full play. He had taken the first 
two tricks ; on the battlefield of Zama (more correctly, 
Naraggara) he was enabled to take the rubber by tacti- 
cally over-trumping Hannibal's former cavalry trump. 
And when tactical defeat for the first time overtook 
Hannibal, the consequences of his preliminary strate- 
gic defeat also overtook him for there was no shelter- 
ing fortress at hand where the defeated army could 
rally before the pursuit annihilated it. The bloodless 
surrender of Carthage followed. 

The campaign of Zama made Rome the dominant 
power in the Mediterranean world. The subsequent 
extension of that supremacy, and its translation into 
suzerainty continued without serious check, if not 
without recurrent threat. Thus 202 B.C. forms a 
natural conclusion for a survey of the turning points 
and their military causes, in the history of the ancient 
world. Ultimately the tide of Roman expansion was to 
ebb, then that universal empire was to fall to pieces, 
partly under barbarian pressure but still more from 
internal decay. 

During the period of 'the Decline and Fall', during 
the centuries when Europe was shedding its old single- 
coloured skin for a new skin of many colours, there is 
profit to be got from a study of the military leader- 
ship. Sometimes much profit, as in the case of Beli- 

40 



ROMAN WARS 

sarius and later generals of the Byzantine empire. But, 
on the whole, decisiveness is too difficult of definition, 
turning points too obscure, purposeful strategy too 
uncertain, and records too unsafe, to provide a basis 
for scientific deductions. 

Before the power of Rome had climbed to its zenith 
there was, however, one internal war that calls for exa- 
mination, both because it was the stage for one of the 
undisputed Great Captains of history and because it 
vitally affected the course of history. For just as the 
second Punic War gave the world to Rome, so the 
Civil War of 50-45 B.C. gave the Roman world to 
Caesar and Caesarism. When Caesar crossed the 
Rubicon in December 50 B.C., his power rested only 
upon Gaul and Illyricum ; Pompey was in control of 
Italy and the rest of Rome's dominions. Caesar had 
nine legions, but only one was with him at Ravenna ; 
the remainder were far away in Gaul. Pompey had 
ten legions in Italy, seven in Spain, and many detach- 
ments throughout the empire. But those in Italy had 
only cadres present with the eagles and a legion in 
hand was worth more than two unmobilized. Caesar 
has been criticized for his rashness in moving south 
with such a fraction of his army. But time and surprise 
are the two most vital elements in war. And beyond 
his appreciation of them, Caesar's strategy was essen- 
tially guided by his understanding of Pompey's mind. 

From Ravenna there were two routes to Rome. 
Caesar took the longer and less direct down the 
Adriatic coast but he moved fast. As he passed 
through this populous district many of the levies being 
assembled for Pompey joined him instead a parallel 
with Napoleon's experience in 1815. Morally dislo- 
cated, the Pompeian party quitted Rome and fell back 
to Capua while Caesar, interposing between the ene- 
my's advanced force at Corfinium and their main force 

41 



ROMAN WARS 

under Pompey round Luceria, secured another 
bloodless transfer of strength to himself. He then con- 
tinued his advance south towards Luceria, the snow- 
ball process likewise continuing; but his advance, 
which had now become direct, stampeded the enemy 
into a retreat to the fortified port of Brundisium (Brin- 
disi) on the heel of Italy. And the very vigour with 
which he followed them up hastened Pompey's deci- 
sion to retire across the Adriatic to Greece. Thus an 
excess of directness and a want of art, in the second 
phase, had robbed Caesar of his chance of ending the 
war in one campaign, and condemned him to four 
more years of obstinate warfare all round the Medi- 
terranean basin. 

The second campaign now opened. Caesar, instead 
of following up Pompey directly, turned his attention 
and forces to Spain. For thus concentrating against 
the * junior partner' he has been much criticized. But 
his estimate of Pompey's inactivity was justified by 
the event. This time Caesar began the campaign too 
bluntly, and a direct advance on the enemy's main 
forces at Ilerda, just across the Pyrenees, enabled them 
to decline battle. An assault failed, and Caesar only 
averted disaster by his personal intervention. The 
morale of his men continued to sink until, just in time, 
he changed his method of approach. 

Instead of making any further attempt to press the 
siege, Caesar devoted his energies to the creation of 
an artificial ford which enabled him to command both 
banks of the river Sicoris, on which Ilerda stood. This 
threatened tightening of his grip on their sources of 
supply induced Pompey's lieutenants to retire, while 
there was time. Caesar allowed them to slip away un- 
pressed, but instead sent his Gallic cavalry to get on 
their rear and delay their march. Then, rather than 
assault the bridge held by the enemy's rearguard, he 

42 



ROMAN WARS 

took the risk of leading his legions through the deep 
ford, which was regarded as only traversable by 
cavalry and, marching in a wide circuit during the 
night, placed himself across the enemy's line of retreat. 
Even then he did not attempt battle, but was content 
to head off each attempt of the enemy to take a fresh 
line of retreat using his cavalry to harass and delay 
them while his legions marched wide. Firmly holding 
in check the eagerness of his own men for battle, he 
at the same time encouraged fraternization with the 
men of the other side, who were growing more and 
more weary, hungry, and depressed. Finally, when he 
had shepherded them back in the direction of Ilerda, 
and forced them to take up a position devoid of water, 
they capitulated. It was a strategic victory as blood- 
less for the defeated as for the victor and the less men 
slain on the other side, the more potential adherents 
and recruits for Caesar. Despite the substitution of 
manoeuvre for direct assaults upon his enemy the 
campaign had cost him only six weeks of his time. 

But in his next campaign he changed his strategy 
it lasted eight months before victory crowned his arms, 
and even then was not complete. Instead of advancing 
into Greece by the indirect land route through Illy- 
ricum, Caesar decided on the direct sea route. There- 
by he gained time initially but lost it ultimately. Pom- 
pey had originally a large fleet, Caesar none and al- 
though he had ordered the construction or collection 
of ships on a large scale, only part were available. 
Rather than wait, Caesar sailed from Brindisi with 
barely half his assembled force. On landing at Palaeste 
he headed up the coast for the important seaport of 
Dyrrachium (Durazzo), but Pompey just reached there 
first. Fortunately for Caesar, Pompey was as slow as 
ever, and missed the chance of using his superior 
strength before Antony, with the other half of Caesar's 

43 



ROMAN WARS 

army, could evade the opposing fleet and join him. 
And even when Antony landed on the other side of 
Dyrrachium, Pompey, though centrally placed, failed 
to prevent Caesar and Antony effecting a junction at 
Tirana. Pompey fell back, followed by his opponent, 
who offered battle in vain. Thereafter the two armies 
lay facing each other on the south bank of the river 
Genusus, which itself was south of Dyrrachium. 

The deadlock was broken by an indirect approach. 
By a long and difficult circuit of some forty-five miles 
through the hills, Caesar succeeded in placing himself 
between Dyrrachium and Pompey before the latter, 
who had only a straight twenty-five miles to cover, 
awoke to the danger and hurried back to save his 
base. But Caesar did not press his advantage ; and as 
Pompey had the sea for supplies there was no induce- 
ment to a man of his temperament to take the lead in 
attack. Caesar then took the original but singularly 
profitless course of constructing extensive lines of in- 
vestment round an army which was not only stronger 
than his own, but could supply itself easily, or move 
away, by sea whenever it wished. 

Even Pompey the passive could not forego the op- 
portunity of striking at weak points of such a thin 
line, and his success led Caesar into an attempt to re- 
deem it by a concentrated counter-attack which failed 
disastrously. Only Pompey's inertia saved Caesar's 
demoralized troops from dissolution. 

Caesar's men clamoured to be led afresh against 
the enemy, but Caesar had learnt his lesson, and after 
making good his retreat he reverted to a strategy of 
indirect approach. Pompey had a better opportunity 
to apply it at this juncture by recrossing the Adriatic 
and regaining control of Italy, where his path would 
have been smoothed by the moral impression of 
Caesar's defeat. Caesar, however, showed more ap- 

44 



ROMAN WARS 

preciation of the possibilities of this westward move 
as a danger to himself. He moved rapidly eastward 
against Pompey's lieutenant, Scipio Nasica, who was 
in Macedonia. Pompey, thereby mentally dominated, 
was drawn to follow Caesar ; taking a different route, 
he hurried to Scipio's support. Caesar arrived first, 
but rather than throw his troops against fortifications, 
he allowed Pompey to come up. This seeming loss of 
an opportunity on Caesar's part may also have been 
due to his view that, after Dyrrachium, a strong in- 
ducement would be needed to make Pompey give 
battle in the open. If so, that idea was correct, for al- 
though Pompey had a two to one superiority in num- 
bers, he took the risk of offering battle only under the 
persuasion of his lieutenants. Just as Caesar had pre- 
pared a series of manoeuvres to create the opportunity, 
Pompey advanced and gave it to him at Pharsalus. 
For Caesar's interest, the battle was undoubtedly pre- 
mature and the closeness of the issue was the mea- 
sure of its prematurity. Caesar's indirect approach had 
been made to restore the strategic balance, and a 
further one was needed to upset Pompey's balance. 

After the victory of Pharsalus, Caesar chased Pom- 
pey across the Dardanelles, through Asia Minor, and 
thence across the Mediterranean to Alexandria 
where Ptolemy assassinated him, thus saving Caesar 
much trouble. But Caesar forfeited the advantage by 
intervening in the quarrel between Ptolemy^and his 
sister Cleopatra over the Egyptian succession, thereby 
wasting eight months in an unnecessary diversion of 
effort. It would seem that Caesar's recurrent and deep- 
rooted fault was his concentration in pursuing the ob- 
jective immediately in front of his eyes to the neglect 
of his wider object. Strategically he was an alternating 
Jekyll and Hyde, 

The interval allowed the Pompeian forces to rally, 

45 



ROMAN WARS 

and to obtain a new lease of life in Africa and Spain. 
In Africa Caesar's difficulties were increased by the 
direct action already adopted by his lieutenant, Curio. 
After landing, and winning an initial victory, Curio 
had let himself be lured into a trap by King Juba, ally 
of the Pompeian party, and there exterminated. Caesar 
opened his African campaign with equal directness, 
impetuosity, and insufficiency of force as in his Greek 
campaign, ran his head into a noose, and was extricated 
from it by his usual combination of luck and tactical 
skill. After this he settled down in a fortified camp 
near Ruspina to await the arrival of his other legions, 
refusing all temptation to battle. The Jekyll of blood- 
saving manoeuvre then became uppermost in Caesar 
and for several months, even after his reinforce- 
ments arrived, he pursued a strategy of extreme but 
narrow indirectness of approach, manoeuvring re- 
peatedly to inflict a series of pin-pricks whose wearing 
and depressing effect on the enemy's morale was shown 
in the swelling stream of desertions. At last, by a 
somewhat wider indirect approach to the enemy's im- 
portant base at Thapsus, he created a favourable op- 
portunity for battle. And his troops taking the bit 
in their teeth launched the attack and won the battle 
without higher direction. 

In the Spanish campaign which followed, and closed 
the war, Caesar from the outset strove to avoid loss of 
life and manoeuvred ceaselessly within narrow limits to 
work his opponents into a position where he could 
make a battle cast with the dice loaded for him. He 
gained such an advantage at Munda, and gained the 
victory, but the closeness of the struggle, and the 
heavy cost of life therein incurred, point the distinc- 
tion between economy of force and mere thriftiness of 
force. Caesar's indirectness of approach appears nar- 
row and wanting in surprise. In each of his campaigns 

46 



100 ZOO 300 400 500 

Alexanders Route ** 




ROMAN WARS 

he strained the enemy's morale, but did not dislocate 
it And the reason would appear to be that he was 
more concerned to aim at the mind of the enemy's 
troops than at the mind of their command. If his cam- 
paigns serve to bring out the distinction between the 
two qualities of indirect approach to the opposing 
forces and to the opposing command they also bring 
out most forcibly the difference between a direct and 
an indirect approach. For Caesar met failure each 
time he relied on the direct, and retrieved it each time 
he resorted to the indirect. 



48 



Chapter IV 

BYZANTINE WARS BELISARIUS AND 
NARSES 



After Caesar's crowning victory at Munda, he was 
granted 'perpetual dictatorship' of Rome, and the 
Roman world. This decisive step, a contradiction in 
terms, spelt the sterilization of the constitution. There- 
by it paved the way for the conversion of the Republic 
into the Empire which carried within its system the 
germs of its own decay. The process, however, was 
gradual if, on a long view, progressive. Five hundred 
years passed between Caesar's triumph and the final 
collapse of Rome. And even then a * Roman Empire' 
continued for another thousand years in a different 
location. This was due, first, to Constantine the Great's 
transfer of the capital from Rome to Byzantium (Con- 
stantinople), in 330 ; second, to the definite division, in 
364, of the Roman world into an Eastern and a Western 
Empire. The former kept its strength better than the 
latter, which increasingly crumbled under barbarian 
attacks and barbarian permeation until, near the end 
of the fifth century A.D., the establishment of an in- 
dependent kingdom of Italy following that of similar 
kingdoms in Gaul, Spain, and Africa was accom- 
panied by the deposition of the nominal Emperor of 
the West. 

E 49 



BYZANTINE WARS 

In the middle of the sixth century there was, how- 
ever, a period when the Roman dominion was revived 
in the West from the East. During Justinian's reign 
in Constantinople, his generals reconquered Africa, 
Italy, and southern Spain. That achievement, associ- 
ated mainly with the name of Belisarius, is the more 
remarkable because of two features first, the extra- 
ordinarily slender resources with which Belisarius un- 
dertook these far-reaching campaigns; second, his 
consistent use of the tactical defensive. There is no 
parallel in history for such a series of conquests by 
abstention from attack! And it may seem all the more 
strange since they were carried out by an army that 
was based on the mobile arm and mainly composed 
of cavalry. Belisarius had no lack of audacity, but his 
tactics were to allow or tempt the other side to do 
the attacking. If that choice was, in part, imposed on 
him by his numerical weakness, it was also a matter of 
subtle calculation, both tactical and psychological. 

His army bore little resemblance to the classical 
pattern of the legionary army it was closer to the 
medieval form, but more highly developed. To a sol- 
dier of Caesar's time it would have been unrecogniz- 
able as a Roman army, though a soldier who had 
served with Scipio in Africa might have found the 
trend of its evolution less surprising. Between Scipio 
and Caesar, while Rome itself was changing from a 
city-state into an Empire, the army had been trans- 
formed from a short-service citizen force to a long- 
service professional force. But military organization 
had not fulfilled the promise of cavalry predominance 
that was foreshadowed at Zama. The infantry were 
the staple of the Imperial Roman Army, and the 
cavalry (though the breed of horses had greatly im- 
proved in size and speed) had become as subsidiary 
as they had been in the earlier stages of the war 

50 



BYZANTINE WARS 

against Hannibal. As the need for greater mobility in 
frontier defence became more evident, the proportion 
of the cavalry was gradually increased, but it was 
not until the legions were overwhelmed at Adrian- 
ople, in 378, by the cavalry of the Goths, that the 
Roman armies came to be reorganized in accordance 
with this lesson. And in the generations that fol- 
lowed, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. 
Under Theodosius, the expansion of the mobile arm 
was hastened by enlisting vast numbers of barbarian 
horsemen. Later, the recruiting balance was to some 
extent corrected, while the new type of organiza- 
tion was systematized. By the time of Justinian and 
Belisarius, the principal arm was formed by the 
heavy cavalry, who were armed with bow as well 
as lance, and clad in armour. The underlying idea 
was evidently to combine the value of mobile fire- 
power and of mobile shock-power as separately de- 
monstrated by the Hun or Persian horse-archer and 
the Gothic lancer in a single disciplined fighting man. 
These heavy cavalry were supplemented by lightly 
equipped horse-archers a combination which, both 
in form and tactics, foreshadowed that of modern 
light and heavy (or medium) tanks. The infantry like- 
wise were of light and heavy types, but the latter, with 
their heavy spears and close-locked formation, merely 
served as a stable pivot round which the cavalry could 
manoeuvre in battle. 

In the early part of the sixth century the East-Roman 
Empire was in a precarious situation. Its forces suf- 
fered a number of humiliating defeats on the Persian 
frontier, and its whole position in Asia Minor seemed 
in danger. For a time pressure was relieved by a Hun- 
nish invasion of Persia from the north, but war broke 
out afresh on the frontier about 525 though in a 
rather desultory way. It was here that Belisarius first 

51 



BYZANTINE WARS 

won distinction, by his* conduct of several cavalry 
raids into Persian Armenia, and later by a spirited 
counter-attack after the Persians had captured a fron- 
tier castle. The contrast with the poor performance of 
other leaders led Justinian to appoint him Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the forces in the East when he 
was well under thirty. 

In 530, a Persian army of some 40,000 men ad- 
vanced upon the fortress of Daras. To meet them 
Belisarius had a force of barely half their strength, 
mostly composed of raw recruits who had recently 
arrived. Rather than stand a siege, he decided to risk 
a battle, though on a position he had carefully pre- 
pared for defensive-offensive tactics he could count 
on the Persians' contempt for the Byzantines, as well 
as their superiority in numbers, to make them take the 
lead in attack. A wide and deep ditch was dug in front 
of Daras, but near enough to the walls to allow the 
defenders of the ditch to be supported by overhead 
fire from the battlements. Here Belisarius placed his 
less reliable infantry. A cross-trench ran forward at 
right angles from each end, and from the ends of these 
projecting trenches another straight one stretched out- 
wards to the hills on either side of the valley. Along 
these flanking extensions, which had wide passages at 
intervals, bodies of heavy cavalry were posted ready 
for counter-attack. The Hunnish light cavalry were 
posted at the two inner corners so that, if the heavy 
cavalry on the wings were driven back, they might re- 
lieve the pressure by making a harassing sally on to 
the attacker's rear. 

The Persians, on arrival, were baffled by these dis- 
positions, and spent the first day in exploratory skir- 
mishing. Next morning, Belisarius sent a letter to the 
Persian commander suggesting that the points in dis- 
pute could be settled better by mutual discussion than 

52 



BYZANTINE WARS 

by fighting. He wrote "The'first blessing is peace, as 
is agreed by all men who have even a small share of 
reason. . , . The best general, therefore, is that one 
which is able to bring about peace from war/ These 
were remarkable words to come from a soldier so 
young on the eve of his first great victory. But the 
Persian commander replied that the promises of 
Romans could never be trusted. In his mind, Beli- 
sarius's message and his defensive attitude behind a 
trench were merely signs of fear. So the attack was 
launched. The Persians were careful not to push into 
the obvious trap in the centre but their care played 
into the hands of Belisarius. For it meant not only that 
their effort was split but that the fighting was confined 
to the cavalry 'on the wings to the arm in which 
Belisarius was least outnumbered and on which he 
could best rely. At the same time, his infantry were 
able to contribute by their archery fire. The Byzantine 
bow outranged the Persian, and the Persian armour 
was not proof against the Byzantine arrow as the 
Byzantine was against the Persian. 

Against his left wing the Persian cavalry at first 
made progress, but then a small cavalry detachment 
which had been hidden behind a hill on the flank sud- 
denly charged them in rear. This unexpected stroke, 
coupled with the appearance of the Hunnish light 
cavalry on their other flank, caused them to retreat. 
Then, on the other flank, the Persian cavalry pressed 
still deeper, up to the walls of the city, only to produce 
a gap between their advancing wing and their static 
centre a gap into which Belisarius threw all his avail- 
able cavalry. This counterstroke at the weakened hinge 
of the Persian line first drove the Persian cavalry wing 
off the battlefield into a divergent line of flight, and 
then turned on the exposed flank of the Persian in- 
fantry in the centre. The battle ended in the decisive 

53 



BYZANTINE WARS 

defeat of the Persians the first they had suffered at 
Byzantine hands for several generations. 

After some further reverses the Persian King began 
to discuss terms of peace with Justinian's envoy. The 
negotiations were still in progress when the King of 
the Saracens, an ally of the Persians, suggested a new 
plan of campaign for an indirect stroke at the Byzan- 
tine power. He argued that, instead of attacking where 
the Byzantine frontier was strongly held and fortified, 
there would be more profit in the unexpected. A force 
composed of the most mobile troops available should 
move west from the Euphrates across the desert 
which had long been considered an impassable bar- 
rier and pounce upon Antioch, the wealthiest city of 
the East-Roman Empire. This plan was adopted, and 
was carried far enough to prove that such a desert 
crossing was practicable with a suitably constituted 
type of army. Belisarius, however, had made his own 
forces so mobile, and developed such an efficient sys- 
tem of communication along the frontier, that he was 
able to hasten down from the north in time to antici- 
pate the enemy's arrival. Having frustrated the threat, 
he was content to shepherd the invaders back on their 
homeward course. Such restraint did not please his 
troops. Aware of their murmurs he tried to point out 
to them that true victory lay in compelling one's op- 
ponent to abandon his purpose, with the least possible 
loss to oneself. If such a result was obtained, there was 
no real advantage to be gained by winning a battle 
'for why should one rout a fugitive?' while the at- 
tempt would incur a needless risk of defeat, and of 
thereby laying the Empire open to a more dangerous 
invasion. To leave a retreating army no way of escape 
was the surest way to infuse it with the courage of 
desperation. 

Such arguments were too reasonable to satisfy the 

54 



BYZANTINE %ARS 

instinctive blood-lust of the soldiery. So to retain his 
hold on them he gave rein to their desires and as a 
result suffered his only defeat, in the process of proving 
the truth of his warning. But the Persians' victory over 
their pursuers was purchased at so heavy a price that 
they were forced to continue their retreat. 

After his successful defence of the East, Belisarius 
was shortly sent on an offensive mission to the West. 
A century earlier the Vandals, a Germanic people, had 
ended their southward migration by occupying Roman 
Africa, and establishing their capital at Carthage. 
From there they conducted piracy on a great scale and 
also sent out raiding expeditions to plunder the cities 
of the Mediterranean seaboard. In 455 they had 
sacked Rome itself, and subsequently inflicted an 
overwhelming defeat on a great punitive expedition 
sent from Constantinople. After some generations, 
however, luxury and the African sun not merely 
softened their manners but began to sap their vigour. 
Then in 531 the Vandal King Hilderic, who had be- 
friended Justinian in his youth, was deposed and im- 
prisoned by a warlike nephew, Gelimer. Justinian 
thereupon wrote Gelimer asking him to release his 
uncle, and when this request was rebuffed he decided 
to send an expeditionary force to Africa under Beli- 
sarius. For it, however, he provided only 5,000 cavalry 
and 10,000 infantry. Though they were picked troops, 
the odds seemed heavily against them, since the Van- 
dals were reputed to have nearly 100,000 troops. 

When the expedition reached Sicily, Belisarius heard 
some encouraging news that some of the best of the 
Vandal forces had been sent to deal with a revolt in 
Sardinia, then a Vandal possession, and that Gelimer 
himself was away from Carthage at the moment. Beli- 
sarius lost no time in sailing for Africa, and made a 
successful landing at a point some nine days' march 

55 



BYZANTINE WARS 

/rom Carthage : in order to avoid the risk of intercep- 
tion by the superior Vandal fleet. On hearing the news, 
Gelimer hastily ordered the various contingents of the 
army 'to converge on a defile near Ad Decimum, 
the tenth milestone on the main road to Carthage, 
where he hoped to surround the invaders. But this 
plan was dislocated because Belisarius's rapid advance, 
synchronized with a threat to Carthage by his fleet, 
caught the Vandal troops in the process of assem- 
bling; and a confused series of combats produced 
such disorder among the Vandal forces that they not 
only forfeited their opportunity of overwhelming Beli- 
sarius, but were dispersed in all directions thus 
leaving him a clear path into Carthage. By the time 
Gelimer had reassembled his troops, and, having re- 
called his expeditionary force from Sardinia, was ready 
to take the offensive again, Belisarius had restored the 
defences of Carthage which the Vandals had allowed 
to fall into disrepair. 

After waiting several months for the Vandals' ex- 
pected attempt to eject him, Belisarius concluded from 
their inactivity that their morale was low, and being 
on his own side now assured of a secure place of re- 
treat in case of defeat, he decided to venture upon the 
offensive. Pushing his cavalry ahead, he came upon 
the Vandals in camp at Tricameron, behind a stream, 
and started the battle without waiting for his infantry 
to come up. His idea would seem to have been that, by 
his manifest weakness of numbers, he might tempt the 
Vandals into an attack upon him, so that he could 
counter-attack them as they were crossing the stream. 
But a 'provocative' attack and simulated retreat failed 
to draw them further than the brook in pursuit. There- 
upon Belisarius took advantage of their caution to 
push a much larger force across the stream undis- 
turbed, and then, after developing an attack on their 

56 



BYZANTINE WARS 

centre, which fixed their attention, he extended the 
attack along the whole front. 

The Vandals' resistance promptly collapsed, and 
they took refuge in their stockaded camp. During the 
night Gelimer himself fled, and after his disappear- 
ance his army scattered. This victory, followed up by 
Belisarius's pursuit and ultimate capture of Gelimer, 
settled the issue of the war. While the reconquest of 
Roman Africa had looked a desperate venture in pros- 
pect, it had proved astoundingly simple in execution. 

That easy triumph encouraged Justinian to attempt 
the reconquest of Italy and Sicily from the Ostrogoths 
and as cheaply, if possible. He sent a small army up the 
Dalmatian coast. He persuaded the Franks, by a prom- 
ise of subsidies, to attack the Goths in the north. Under 
cover of these diversions, he dispatched Belisarius to 
Sicily with an expeditionary force of 12,000 men, in- 
structing him to give out on arrival there that the 
force was on its way to Carthage. He was then to 
occupy the island if he found that it could be easily 
taken ; if not, he was to re-embark without showing 
his hand. In the event, there was no difficulty. Al- 
though the Sicilian cities had been well treated by 
their conquerors, they readily welcomed Belisarius as 
their deliverer and protector. The small Gothic garri- 
sons offered no serious resistance to him save at 
Palermo, which he overcame by a stratagem. In con- 
trast to his success, the attempted invasion of Dal- 
matia ended in disaster. But as soon as this diversion- 
ary advance was renewed by a reinforced Byzantine 
army, Belisarius crossed the Straits of Messina to be- 
gin the invasion of Italy. 

Dissension among the Goths, and the negligence of 
their King, cleared his path through southern Italy, as 
far as Naples, which was strongly fortified and held 
by a garrison equal in scale to his own force. Baulked 

57 



BYZANTINE WARS 

for a time, Belisarius eventually found a way of entry 
through a disused aqueduct ; filtering a picked body 
of men through the narrow tunnel, he combined a rear 
attack with a frontal escalade at night, and thereby 
gained control of the city. 

The news of its fall caused such an outcry among 
the Goths as to produce an uprising against their King, 
and his replacement on the throne by a vigorous 
general named Vitiges. But Vitiges took the typical 
military view that it was necessary to finish the Pran- 
kish war before concentrating against the new in- 
vader. So, after leaving what he considered an ade- 
quate garrison in Rome, he marched north to deal 
with the Franks. But the people of Rome did not 
share his view, and since the Gothic garrison felt that it 
was not adequate to defend the city without their 
help, Belisarius was able to occupy the city without 
difficulty the garrison withdrawing as he approached. 

Too late, Vitiges repented his decision, and, after 
buying off the Franks with gold and territory, gathered 
an army of 150,000 men to recapture Rome. To de- 
fend it, Belisarius had a bare 10,000. But in the three 
months' grace allowed him before the siege began, he 
had remodelled the city's defences and built up l^rge 
stocks of food. His method of defence, moreover, was 
an active one with frequent well-judged sorties. In 
these he exploited the advantage which his cavalry en- 
joyed through being armed with bows, so that they 
could harass thelenemy's cavalry masses while them- 
selves keeping out of reach, or tease the Gothic lancers 
into blind charges. Though the strain on the scanty 
defenders was severe, the strength of the besieger was 
shrinking much faster, especially through sickness. To 
accelerate the process Belisarius boldly took the risk 
of sending two detachments from his slender force to 
seize by surprise the towns of Tivoli and Terracina, 

58 



BYZANTINE WARS 

which dominated the roads by which the besiegers 
received their supplies. And when reinforcements 
reached him from home, he extended his mobile raids 
across to and up the Adriatic coast towards the 
Goths' main base at Ravenna. Finally, after a year's 
siege, the Goths abandoned the attempt and withdrew 
northward their departure being hastened by the 
news that a Byzantine raiding force had seized Rimini, 
a town on their communications disturbingly close to 
Ravenna. As the rear half of the Gothic army was 
crowding over the Mulvian bridge, it suffered heavily 
from a parting stroke which Belisarius launched 
against it. 

While Vitiges retreated north-east towards Ravenna, 
Belisarius dispatched part of his force, with the fleet, 
up the west coast to capture Pavia and Milan. He 
himself, with a mere 3,000 men, rode across to the 
east coast, where he was joined by a newly landed 
reinforcement of 7,000, under Narses, the eunuch 
Court. Chamberlain. Thence he hastened to the re- 
lief of his endangered detachment at <Rimini, which 
had allowed itself to be shut in by Vitiges. Mask- 
ing the fortress of Osimo, where the Goths had 
left a force of 25,000, Belisarius slipped past it 
and advanced on Rimini, in two columns, while 
another part of his force went by sea. This advance 
from three directions was intended to give the 
Goths an exaggerated impression of his strength. To 
strengthen the impression, a far-stretched chain of 
camp-fires were lighted by night. The stratagem suc- 
ceeded, helped by the fear which Belisarius's name now 
inspired, and the much larger Gothic army bolted in 
panic on his approach. 

Belisarius now, while keeping watch over Vitiges in 
Ravenna, planned to clear his communications with 
Rome by reducing the various fortresses that he had 

59 



BYZANTINE WARS 

slipped past in his rapid advance. With such small 
numbers as he possessed this was not an easy problem, 
but his method was to isolate, and concentrate upon 
particular fortresses while using a far-flung curtain of 
mobile detachments to keep any potential relieving 
forces occupied in their own area. Even so, the task 
took a considerable time, and was the more pro- 
tracted because some of his generals who had in- 
fluence at court to cover their disobedience were in- 
clined to seek easier and wealthier objectives. Mean- 
time Vitiges was prompted to send embassies to the 
Franks and the Persians with the tempting suggestion 
that there was now a great opportunity to turn the 
tide of Byzantine expansion if they were to join in a 
concerted attack on the Empire from both sides while 
its forces were so widely stretched out. The King of 
the Franks responded by crossing the Alps with a 
large army. 

The first to suffer were their expectant allies. For 
after the passage of the Po near Pavia had been 
opened to them by the Goths, who were there faced 
by a Byzantine force, they attacked both sides im- 
partially, and put them to flight. They then proceeded 
to eat up the countryside. As their army was almost 
entirely composed of infantry, their foraging range 
was narrow, and before long they perished in thou- 
sands from the results of the famine they had created. 
Hamstrung by their own improvident folly they dared 
not to push on in face of a mobile opponent, and were 
with little difficulty induced by Belisarius to return 
home. Belisarius was then able to tighten his grip on 
Ravenna, and bring about the surrender of Vitiges. 

At this point he was recalled by Justinian, osten- 
sibly to deal with the Persians' renewed threat which 
in itself was real. It would seem, however, that jealousy 
was the deeper motive, since it had come to Justinian's 

60 



BYZANTINE WARS 

ears that the Goths had made peace proposals to Beli- 
sarius on the basis of recognizing him as Emperor of 
the West ^ 

While Belisarius was on his way home, Chosroes, 
the new King of Persia, repeated the cross-desert 
march that had been frustrated the time before, and 
succeeded in capturing Antioch. Having despoiled this 
and other Syrian cities of their wealth, he accepted 
Justinian's offer of a large annual payment in return 
for a new peace treaty. Justinian saved his own purse 
by tearing up the treaty as soon as Chosroes had re- 
turned to Persia, and Belisarius to Constantinople. 
Thus only his subjects were the losers a result which 
accorded with the normal experience of warfare. 

In the next campaign King Chosroes invaded Col- 
chis, on the Black Sea coast, and captured the Byzan- 
tine fortress of Petra. At the same time Belisarius 
arrived on the eastern frontier. Hearing that Chosroes 
had gone off on a distant expedition, though it was 
not yet known where, Belisarius immediately seized 
the opportunity for a surprise inroad into Persian 
territory. To extend the effect he dispatched his Arab 
allies on a raid down the Tigris into Assyria. This well- 
timed thrust proved to be an unconscious demonstra- 
tion of the value of the indirect approach. For it 
threatened the base of the Persian army that had in- 
vaded Colchis, and thereby brought Chosroes hurry- 
ing back to avert the severance of his communica- 
tions. 

Soon afterwards, Belisarius was recalled to Con- 
stantinople this time because of domestic troubles. 
During his absence from the East, the Persian King 
launched an invasion of Palestine with the aim of cap- 
turing Jerusalem, now the wealthiest city in the East, 
since the destruction of Antioch. When the news 
came, Justinian dispatched Belisarius to the rescue. 

61 



BYZANTINE WARS 

This time Chosroes had brought a very large army, 
estimated at 200,000 men, and in consequence could 
not take the desert route ; he had to march up the 
Euphrates into Syria before turning south against 
Palestine, Thus sure of the route that Chosroes would 
have to follow, Belisarius concentrated his available 
troops, few but mobile, at Carchemish, on the upper 
Euphrates, whence they could threaten the flank of 
the invader's line of advance near its most vulnerable 
point the bend southward. When their presence was 
reported to Chosroes, he sent an envoy to Belisarius 
for the nominal purpose of discussing a possible basis 
of peace and the real purpose of ascertaining the 
strength and state of Belisarius's force which, actu- 
ally, was less than a tenth, perhaps hardly a twentieth, 
of the scale of the invading army. 

Guessing the object of this mission, Belisarius 
staged a military 'play '. He picked out the best of his 
own men including contingents of Goths, Vandals, 
and Moors who had enlisted in his service after being 
taken prisoner and moved out to a point on the Per- 
sian envoy's route of approach, so that the latter 
might imagine that he had been met at what was one 
of the outposts of a great army. And the soldiers were 
instructed to spread out over the plain and kept con- 
stantly in movement, so as to magnify their apparent 
numbers. This impression was deepened by Beli- 
sarius's air of light-hearted confidence and the care- 
free behaviour of the troops as if they had nothing 
to fear from any possible attack. The envoy's report 
convinced Chosroes that it was too hazardous to con- 
tinue his invasion with so formidable a force on the 
flank of his communications. Then, by further con- 
fusing manoeuvres of his cavalry along the Euphrates, 
Belisarius bluffed the Persians into making a hurried 
retreat across the river, and thence back home. Never 

62 



BYZANTINE WARS 

was an invasion, potentially irresistible, more econo- 
mically defeated. And this miraculous result was 
achieved by an indirect approach which, though pro- 
fiting by a flanking position, was in itself purely psy- 
chological. 

Belisarius was once again recalled to Constanti- 
nople through Justinian's jealous suspicion of his 
ever-growing fame. Before long, the mismanagement 
of affairs in Italy so imperilled the Byzantines' hold 
upon it that Justinian was forced to send Belisarius 
back there to restore the situation. Parsimony com- 
bined with jealousy led the Emperor, however, to 
allow his general the meagrest resources for the task, 
which had grown to vast dimensions by the time Beli- 
sarius arrived at Ravenna. For the Goths, under a new 
king, Totila, had gradually rebuilt their strength, re- 
gained all the north-west of Italy, and then overrun 
the south. Naples had fallen to them and Rome was 
threatened. Belisarius made a daring but unsuccessful 
attempt to save Rome by sailing round the coast with 
a detachment, and forcing a passage, up the Tiber. 
Totila then dismantled the fortifications, left a force 
of about 15,000 to pin down Belisarius's 7,000 on the 
coast, and marched north with the aim of capturing 
Ravenna in Belisarius's absence. But Belisarius out- 
manoeuvred his 'warders', and slipped into Rome. It 
would serve as a bait that no Goth of spirit could re- 
fuse. In the three weeks before Totila returned with his 
army, Belisarius had repaired the fortifications so well, 
save for replacing the gates, that he was able to repulse 
two successive heavy attacks. In these the Goths lost 
so heavily that their confidence waned, and when they 
made a third attempt later Belisarius delivered a 
counterstroke that threw them back in confusion. 
Next day they abandoned the siege and withdrew to 
Tivoli. 

63 



BYZANTINE WARS 

But despite repeated appeals Justinian only sent re- 
inforcements in driblets, and thus, instead of being 
able to attempt the reconquest of the country as a 
whole, Belisarius was reduced to spending several 
years in a 'tip and run' campaign among the for- 
tresses, and from port to port. At last, seeing that it 
was hopeless to expect that Justinian would ever trust 
him with an adequately strong army, he obtained per- 
mission to give up the task and return to Constanti- 
nople. 

Four years later, repenting of his decision to aban- 
don Italy, Justinian decided to undertake a fresh ex- 
pedition. Unwilling to put Belisarius in charge, lest he 
might be creating a rival sovereign, he eventually gave 
the command to Narses who had long been a keen 
theoretical student of war, and who, in the crowning 
phase of Belisarius's first Italian campaign, had been 
given a chance to prove his practical skill. 

Narses made full use of the greater opportunity 
now offered him. In the first place, he made it a con- 
dition of accepting the offer that he was provided with 
a really strong and. well-equipped force. With this he 
marched north round the Adriatic shore. His march 
was assisted by the Goths' belief that his invasion 
would necessarily come across the sea since they 
assumed that the rugged coastal route, with its 
numerous river-mouths, was too difficult for him to 
attempt. But by arranging for a large number of boats 
to keep pace with his overland advance, and using 
them to form floating bridges, Narses made unex- 
pectedly rapid progress, and reached Ravenna with- 
out opposition. Losing no time, he pressed on south- 
ward, circling past the various fortresses which barred 
the way with the aim of forcing battle on Totila be- 
fore his forces were fully assembled. Totila held the 
main pass across the Apennines, but Narses slipped 

64 



BYZANTINE WARS 

over by a side path and came upon Totila at Taginae. 

Here Narses had a superiority of force over the 
Goths, in contrast to Belisarius's constant inferiority 
in former campaigns. Nevertheless, having drawn his 
full profit from the strategic offensive, Narses pre- 
ferred the tactical defensive on meeting Totila. Count- 
ing on the instinctive 'oflfensiveness' of the Goths to 
make them take the lead in attack, he prepared a trap 
for them on lines which foreshadowed the English 
tactics at Crecy, against the French chivalry, eight hun- 
dred years later. His design was based on an aware- 
ness of the Goths' justified contempt for the frailty of 
the Byzantine infantry in face of a cavalry charge. In 
the centre of his line he placed a large body of dis- 
mounted cavalry, to use their lances on foot, so that 
they might appear to the enemy like a mass of infan- 
try spearmen. On each flank of this central body he 
placed his foot-archers, pushed well forward in a cres- 
cent from which they could enfilade any assault on the 
centre, with most of his mounted cavalry close in rear 
of them. Well out to the left, under a hill, he posted q, 
picked force of cavalry to deliver a surprise stroke 
upon the Goths 5 rear as soon as they became deeply 
engaged. 

This cleverly baited trap fulfilled its purpose. The 
Gothic cavalry were launched against the supposedly 
unreliable infantry in the enemy's centre. In their 
charge they suffered badly from the converging hail of 
arrows on their flanks, and were then checked in front 
by the firm stand of the dismounted lancers while 
increasingly galled by the archers who now closed in 
on their flanks. As for the Gothic infantry, these hesi- 
tated to come up in support for fear of being them- 
selves attacked in rear by the horse-archers whom 
Narses had posted near the flanking hill. After con- 
tinuing the vain effort for some time, the disheartened 
F 65 



BYZANTINE WARS 

Gothic cavalry began to fall back, whereupon Narses 
delivered a decisive counterstroke with his own cavalry , 
hitherto held in reserve. The defeat of the Goths was 
so complete that Narses met with little further serious 
resistance in carrying out the second reconquest of Italy . 

The final subjugation of the Goths was accom- 
plished just in time to leave Narses free to deal with a 
new incursion of the Franks, made in response to the 
Goths 5 desperate appeal. This time the Franks pushed 
much deeper than before down into Campania, It 
would seem that Narses, profiting by the experience 
of their first invasion, wished to give them 'rope to 
hang themselves' to avoid battle until their huge 
strength had dwindled under the rigours of the march 
and the toll of dysentery. They still numbered 80,000, 
however, when he offered battle to them at Casilinum. 
Here he devised a trap that was shrewdly fitted to their 
characteristic tactics. An army of foot, they attacked 
in a deep column, relying on weight and momentum. 
Their weapons were of a close-range type the spear, 
the throwing axe, and the sword. 

At Casilinum Narses held his centre with spearmen 
and bowmen, on foot. The charge of the Franks drove 
them back, but then Narses wheeled in his cavalry 
wings against their flanks. This halted them, and they 
promptly faced outwards ready to meet a charge. But 
he made no attempt to close with them, knowing that 
their formation was too solid to be broken by shock. 
Instead, he checked his cavalry just out of range of the 
Franks' throwing axes, and ordered them to use their 
bows raining arrows on a mass that could not re- 
taliate without disjointing its own close-ranked forma- 
tion. When, at last, they sought relief by breaking 
their ranks, and edging away to the rear, he seized the 
opportunity to charge home. This well-timed stroke 
shattered them, and scarcely a man escaped. 

66 



BYZANTINE WARS 

At first glance the interest of the campaigns of Beli- 
sarius and Narses appears to be tactical rather than 
strategical, since so many of the movements lead 
directly to battle and there are fewer examples of cal- 
culated manoeuvring against the enemy's communica- 
tions than in the campaigns of other Great Captains. 
But closer examination modifies this impression. Beli- 
sarius had developed a new-style tactical instrument 
with which he knew that he might count on beating 
much superior numbers, provided that he could in- 
duce his opponents to attack him under conditions 
that suited his tactics. For that purpose his lack of 
numbers, when not too marked, was an asset, especi- 
ally when coupled with an audaciously direct strategic 
offensive. His strategy was thus more psychological 
then logistical. He knew how to provoke the barbarian 
armies of the West into indulging their natural in- 
stinct for direct assault ; with the more subtle and skil- 
ful Persians he was able at first to take advantage of their 
feeling of superiority to the Byzantines, and later, when 
they learnt respect for him, he exploitedtheir wariness 
as a means of outmanoeuvring them psychologically. 

He was a master of the art of converting his weak- 
ness into strength ; and the opponent's strength into a 
weakness. His tactics, too, had the essential charac- 
teristic of the indirect approach that of uncovering 
and dislocating a joint. When asked privately by 
friends during his first Italian campaign the grounds 
of his confidence in tackling such vastly superior forces, 
he replied that in the first engagements with the Goths 
he was on the look-out to discover their weaknesses, 
and had observed that they were unable to bring their 
numbers conceitedly into play. The reason, apart from 
the embarrassment of excessive bulk, was that while 
his own cavalry were all good mounted horsemen, the 
Goths had no practice in this branch ; their horsemen 

67 



BYZANTINE WARS 

were trained to use only lances and swords, while their 
foot-archers were accustomed to move behind and 
under shelter of the cavalry. Thus the horsemen were 
ineffective except in close combat, while having no 
means of defending themselves against a mounted op- 
ponent who kept just out of reach and rained arrows 
upon them; as for their foot-archers, these would 
never risk being caught in the open by the enemy's cav- 
alry. The effect was that the Gothic cavalry were always 
tryingto get to close quarters, and could be easily galled 
into an ill-timed charge, whereas the infantry tended 
to hang back when the shielding cavalry got far ahead 
so that combination broke down, while a gap was 
createdinto which flankcounterstrokes could be driven. 

The tactical system and the defensive-offensive stra- 
tegy which Belisarius developed became the foundation 
of the Byzantine Empire's successful maintenance of its 
position, and the Roman tradition, during the cen- 
turies that followed while Western Europe was pass- 
ing through the Dark Ages. The subsequent elabora- 
tion of these methods, and the army's reorganization, 
can be followed in the two great Byzantine military 
text-books, the Strategicon of the Emperor Maurice 
and the Tactica of Leo. This structure proved strong 
enough to withstand many-sided barbarian pressure, 
and even the tidal wave of Mohammedan conquest 
which submerged the Persian Empire. Although out- 
lying territories were lost, the main bastions of the 
Byzantine Empire were kept intact, and from the reign 
of Basil I in the ninth century the lost ground was pro- 
gressively regained. Under Basil II, early in the eleventh 
century, the Empire reached the highest point of its 
power since Justinian, five hundred years before, and 
stood more securely than it had in his time. 

Fifty years later its security was dissipated and its 
prospects forfeited within the space of a few hours. 

68 



BYZANTINE WARS 

Prolonged immunity from danger had led to ever-in- 
creasing cuts in the military budget, and caused the 
decay as well as the reduction of the army. Then the 
rising power of the Seljuk Turks under Alp Arslan, 
from 1063 onwards, brought a belated awakening to 
the need for rearmament, and in 1068 the general 
Romanus Diogenes was made emperor as a step 
towards coping with the danger. Instead of allowing 
himself time to train the army up to its former pitch 
of efficiency, he embarked prematurely on an offen- 
sive campaign. Encouraged by initial success on the 
Euphrates, he led his forces deep into Armenia, and 
near Manzikert met the main Seljuk army. Impressed 
by the size of the Byzantine army, Alp Arslan offered 
to open negotiations for a peace settlement, but 
Romanus insisted that, prior to any discussions, the 
Turkish Sultan must evacuate his camp and withdraw 
which would have meant a loss of 'face' that he 
could hardly be expected to accept. Following Alp 
Arslan's refusal, Romanus launched an attack, and, 
breaking with the Byzantine military tradition, allowed 
himself to be drawn on further and furtherin a vaineflfort 
to come to close quarters with an evasive and nimble 
foe, whose clouds of horse-archers continually harassed 
his advance. By duskhis troops wereexhausted, and their 
formation became disjointed, when at last he ordered 
a retirement ; the Turks now closed in round his flanks, 
and under this encircling pressure his army broke up. 
The defeat was so disastrously complete that the 
Turks were soon able to overrun the greater part of 
Asia Minor. Thus through the folly of a single hot- 
headed general, whose offensive spirit was not balanced 
by judgement, the Empire suffered a blow from which 
it never recovered although it had sufficient power 
of endurance to last, in a diminished form, for a further 
four hundred years. 

69 



Chapter V 
MEDIEVAL WARS 



Ihis chapter serves merely as a link between the 
cycles of ancient and modern history, as, although 
several of the medieval campaigns are tempting as 
illustrations, the sources for knowledge of them are 
far more exiguous and less reliable than in earlier or 
later times. For scientific truth in the deduction of 
causes and effects, the safe course is to base our 
analysis of history on established facts, and to pass 
over certain periods, even at the sacrifice of valuable 
confirmatory examples, where it is necessary to choose 
between conflicting textual or historical criticism of 
the evidence. It is true that controversy has raged 
round the tactical rather than the strategical details of 
medieval military history, but the dust thus raised is 
apt to envelop both, in the view of the normal student 
of war, and to make him perhaps excessively dubious 
of deductions drawn from this period. But, without 
including it in our specific analysis, certain of 
its episodes may be worth sketching, not least 
as a means to suggest their potential interest and 
profit. 

In the West during the Middle Ages the spirit of 
feudal chivalry was inimical to military art, though 
the drab stupidity of its military course is lightened by 

70 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

a few bright gleams no fewer perhaps, in proportion, 
than at any other period in history. 

The Normans provided some of the earliest gleams, 
and their descendants continued to illuminate the 
course of medieval warfare. The value they put on 
Norman blood led them to expend brains in substitu- 
tion for it, with notable profit. 

The date which every schoolboy knows, if he knows 
no other, 1066, was marked by strategy and tactics as 
skilful as their result was decisive, decisive not only 
for the immediate issue but in its effect on the whole 
course of history. William of Normandy's invasion of 
England profited from a strategic distraction, and 
thereby gained at the outset the virtues of an indirect 
approach. This distraction was the landing of King 
Harold's rebel brother, Tostig, and his ally, Harold 
Hardrada, King of Norway, on the Yorkshire coast. 
This had seemed less immediate a danger than Wil- 
liam's invasion. But it matured earlier, and thus gave 
added effectiveness to William's plans, even though it 
was promptly defeated. Two days after the annihila- 
tion of the Norse invaders at Stamford Bridge, William 
landed on the Sussex coast. 

Instead of advancing northward, he lured Harold 
into a precipitate dash southwards with only a frac- 
tion of his force by ravaging the lands of Kent and 
Sussex. The further south Harold came, and the sooner 
he gave battle, the further, both in distance and time, 
would he be separated from his reinforcements. If this 
was William's calculation, it was justified by events. 
He brought Harold to battle within sight of the Chan- 
nel coast, and decided the issue by a tactical indirect 
approach ordering a feigned flight by part of his 
force which led his opponents to dislocate their own 
dispositions. And, in the final phase, the device of high 
angle archery fire which caused Harold's death 

71 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

might be classified as an indirect fire approach! 

William's strategy after this victory is equally signi- 
ficant. Instead of marching direct on London, he first 
secured Dover, and his own sea communications. On 
reaching the outskirts of London, he avoided any 
direct assault, but made a circle, and a circular swathe 
of devastation, round London to the west and then to 
the north. Threatened with starvation, the capital sur- 
rendered when William had reached Berkhamstead. 

The next century witnessed a further proof of Nor- 
man genius for war, in one of the most astonishing 
campaigns in history. This was the conquest of the 
greater part of Ireland, as well as the repulse of a 
strong Norse invasion, by Earl ' Strongbow' and a few 
hundred knights from the Welsh Marches an achieve- 
ment remarkable for the extreme slenderness of the 
means, the extreme difficulty of the forest and bog 
country, and for the adaptability with which the con- 
querors recast and reversed the conventional feudal 
methods of war. They showed their skill and calcula- 
tion by the way they repeatedly lured their opponents 
to battle in open ground, where their mounted charges 
had full effect; by the way they exploited feigned re- 
treats, diversions, rear attacks to break up the oppos- 
ing formation ; by the strategic surprises, night attacks, 
and use of archery to overcome opposition when they 
could not lure an enemy from the shelter of his de- 
fences. 

The thirteenth century, however, is more plentiful 
still in strategic fruits. The first were gathered in 1216, 
when King John saved his kingdom, after almost los- 
ing it, by a campaign wherein pure strategy was un- 
mixed with battles. His means were mobility; the 
strong resisting power then possessed by fortresses ; 
and the psychological power inherent in the dislike of 
the townsmen for the barons and their foreign ally, 

72 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

Louis of France. When Louis, after landing in east 
Kent, occupied London and Winchester, John was too 
weak to oppose him in battle ; and most of the country 
was dominated by the barons. But John still preserved 
the fortresses of Windsor, Reading, Wallingford, and 
Oxford which commanded the line of the Thames 
and separated the baronial forces north and south of 
it while the key stronghold of Dover remained un- 
taken in Louis's rear. John had fallen back to Dorset, 
but when the situation became clearer, he marched 
north, in July, to Worcester, securing the line of the 
Severn and thus establishing a barrage to prevent the 
tide of rebellion flowing further to the west and south- 
west. Thence he moved east along the already secured 
line of the Thames as if to relieve Windsor. 

To confirm the besiegers in this belief, he sent a de- 
tachment of Welsh archers to fire into their camp at 
night, while he himself swerved north-east, and, thanks 
to this start, won the race to Cambridge. He was now 
able to establish a further barrage across the routes to 
the north, while the main French forces were tied to 
the siege of Dover. His success in circumscribing and 
contracting the area of opposition and disaffection 
spelt the failure of the rebels and their ally, even 
though King John's own reign was ended by his death 
in October. If he died of a surfeit of peaches and new 
ale, their hopes died of a surfeit of strategic strong- 
holds. 

The next successful baronial insurrection was bro- 
ken by the masterly strategy of Prince Edward, later 
Edward I, in 1265. The sequel to King Henry Ill's 
defeat at Lewes had been to establish the supremacy 
of the baronial party throughout most of England, ex- 
cept on the Welsh Marches. Thither Simon de Mont- 
fort marched, crossing the Severn and pursuing his 
triumphant path as far as Newport. Prince Edward, 

73 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

who had escaped from the baronial army to join his 
adherents in the border counties, dislocated de Mont- 
fort's plans by seizing the Severn bridges behind him, 
and then moving down on his rear. Edward not only 
threw him back across the Usk, but, by a raid with three 
galleys on his ships at Newport, frustrated his new 
plan of transporting his army back to England. De 
Montfort was thus forced to undertake a roundabout 
and exhausting march north through the barren dis- 
tricts of Wales, while Edward fell back to Worcester 
to hold the Severn against his arrival. Then, when de 
Montfort's son marched to his relief with an army 
from eastern England, Edward utilized his central 
position to crush each o the de Montforts in turn 
while they were separated and blindfolded by march 
and counter-march on his part which exploited mobi- 
lity to achieve a couple of shattering surprises. 

Edward, as king, was to make an even greater con- 
tribution to military science in his Welsh wars, not 
only in developing the use of the bow and the com- 
bination of cavalry charges with archery fire, but, still 
more, in his strategic method of conquest. The prob- 
lem was to subdue a hardy and savage mountain race 
who could evade battle by retiring to the hills, and 
then re-occupy the valleys when the invader broke off 
operations for the winter. If Edward's means were 
comparatively limited he had an advantage in the fact 
that the area of the country was also limited. His 
solution was a combination of mobility and strategic 
points. By building castles at these points, by con- 
necting them with roads, and by keeping his opponents 
constantly on the move so that they had no chance 
to recuperate physically and psychologically, or re- 
cover geographically, during the winter he split up 
and wore down their power of resistance. As his 
method was a reflection of the Roman, so it fore- 

74 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

shadowed our own on the North-West frontier of India. 

Edward's strategic gifts did not survive him, how- 
ever, and in the Hundred Years* War there is nothing 
to learn, ^ave negatively, from the strategy of his 
grandson or his great-grandson. Their purposeless 
parades through France were mostly ineffective ; and 
the few which had greater results were the outcome of 
their greater folly. For in the campaigns of Cr6cy and 
Poitiers, Edward III and the Black Prince respectively 
got themselves into perilous situations. These had the 
extremely indirect and unintended merit that the very 
predicament of the English incited their direct-minded 
opponents to rush headlong into battle under condi- 
tions all to their disadvantage and thus give the Eng- 
lish the chance to rescue themselves from their pre- 
dicament. For in a defensive battle, on ground chosen 
by the English, their use of the longbow in face of the 
futile tactics of the French chivalry gave them an 
assured tactical superiority. 

The severity of these defeats in battle proved, how- 
ever, of ultimate advantage to the French. For in the 
next stage of the war they adhered steadfastly to the 
Fabian policy of the Constable du Guesclin. The stra- 
tegy by which he carried out this policy was to avoid 
battle with the main English army, while constantly 
hampering the movement, and contracting the terri- 
tory, of his opponents. Far removed from a passive 
evasion of battle, his strategy exploited mobility and 
surprise to a degree that few generals have matched 
cutting off convoys, cutting up detachments, and cap- 
turing isolated garrisons. Always taking the line of 
least expectation, his surprise attacks on such garri- 
sons, often by night, were helped both by his new and 
rapid storm methods and by his psychologically cal- 
culated choice of objectives where the garrisons were 
discontented or the population ripe for treachery. So, 

75 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

also, he fanned every flame of local unrest as an im- 
mediate distraction to the enemy's attention and an 
ultimate subtraction from their territory. 

Within less than five years, du Guesclin had reduced 
the vast English possessions in France to a slender 
strip of territory between Bordeaux and Bayonne. He 
had done it without fighting a battle. Indeed, he never 
pressed the attack on even a small English force if it 
had gained time to take up defensive dispositions. 
Other generals have maintained, in common with 
moneylenders, the principle 4 no advance without secur- 
ity ' ; du Guesclin's principle was : 'No attack without 
surprise'. 

The next serious English attempt at foreign con- 
quest was at least inspired by method, and by a closer 
calculation of end and means after a rash beginning. 
For Henry V's most famous campaign was his most 
foolish. In the 'Edwardian' parade which culminated 
at Agincourt, the French had only to block Henry's 
path to ensure his collapse from hunger; but their 
leaders had forgotten the lesson of Crecy and the 
teaching of du Guesclin. They thought that with a 
four-to-one superiority of force it would be shameful 
to use this superiority for anything save a direct at- 
tack. And as a result they provided a more shameful 
repetition of Crecy and Poitiers. After this escape, 
Henry V employed what may be called a 'block sys- 
tem' strategy, seeking permanent conquest by metho- 
dical extensions of territory, in which the population 
was conciliated as a means to secure his tenure. The 
interest and value of Henry's later campaigns lies in 
their grand strategy rather than in their strategy. 

In the realm of strategy our survey of the Middle 
Ages may well close with Edward IV, who in 1461 
gained his throne, and in 1471 regained it, after being 
an exile, by his exceptional use of mobility. 

76 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

In the first campaign the result was mainly due to 
swiftness of judgement and movement. Edward was 
engaged against the local Lancastrians in Wales when 
he got word that the main Lancastrian army was com- 
ing down from the north upon London. Turning back, 
he reached Gloucester on the 20th of February 
where he learnt of the Lancastrian victory at Saint Al- 
bans on the 17th of February over the Yorkist force 
under Warwick. Saint Albans to London was twenty 
miles, Gloucester to London more than one hundred 
miles ; and the Lancastrians had three days in hand. 
But at Burford, on the 22nd of February, Edward was 
joined by Warwick, and heard that the Corporation of 
London was still arguing the terms of surrender with 
the city gates shut. Edward left Burford next day, 
entered London on the 26th of February, and was there 
proclaimed king, while the discomfited Lancastrians 
retired to the north. When he followed them up, he 
risked much by attacking an army of superior strength 
in its chosen position at Towton. But the advantage 
was regained for him by the accident of a snowstorm 
and its exploitation by his subordinate, Fauconberg, 
who galled the blinded defenders with arrows until 
they indulged in the fatal relief of a disordered charge. 

In 1471 there was more subtlety and no less mobil- 
ity in Edward's strategy. He had lost his throne in the 
interval ; but with a loan of 50,000 crowns from his 
brother-in-law, 1,200 followers, and some promissory 
notes of assistance from his former supporters in Eng- 
land, he attempted to retrieve his fortune. When he set 
sail from Flushing, the coasts of England we 
against him, but, following the line of 
tion, he landed in the Humber on the 
tion that as this district was Lancast 
it would be unguarded. Moving swil 
news of his landing could spread 

77 




MEDIEVAL WARS 

gather, he reached York. Thence he marched down 
the London road and neatly swerved past a force 
blocking the way at Tadcaster. Keeping the lead from 
this force, which turned to pursue him, his threat to the 
next opposing force, which awaited him at Newark, 
induced it to retire eastwards. Thereupon Edward 
turned south-we$t to Leicester, where he gathered in 
more adherents. He then headed for Coventry, where 
Warwick, now hisbhief opponent, was assembling his 
forces. Having dra^/n both his pursuers thither, and 
having still further increased his force at the enemy's 
expense, he turned south-east and marched straight on 
London, which opened its gates to him. Now feeling 
strong enough to accept battle, he marched out to 
greet his long-baffled pursuers on their arrival at Bar- 
net ; and here a fog-confused battle ended in his favour. 

That same day the Lancastrian Queen, Margaret of 
Anjou, landed at Weymouth with some French mer- 
cenaries. Gathering her adherents in the West, she 
marched to unite with the army which the Earl of 
Pembroke had raised in Wales. By swiftness again, 
Edward reached the edge of the Cotswolds while her 
army was marching north along the Bristol-Gloucester 
road in the valley below. And then, in a long day's 
race one army in the valley, the other on the heights 
above he caught hers in the evening at Tewkesbury, 
having prevented it crossing the Severn at Gloucester 
by sending orders ahead to the Constable to close the 
gates. Nearly forty miles had been covered since day- 
break. That night he Damped too close to the Lan- 
castrians for them to escape. Their position was strong 
defensively, but Edward used his bombards as well as 
archers to gall them into a charge, and thus gained 
a decisive advantage in the morning's battle. 

Edward's strategy was exceptional in its mobility 
but typical of the age in its lack of subtlety. Formedie- 

78 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

val strategy had normally the simple and direct aim of 
seeking immediate battle. If the result was not indeci- 
sive it was usually decisive against those who sought 
it, unless they could induce the defender to become 
tactically the assailant. 

The best example of strategy in the Middle Ages 
comes not from the West but from the East. For the 
thirteenth century, strategically distinguished in the 
West, was made outstanding by the paralysing lesson 
in strategy taught by the Mongols? to European chiv- 
alry. In scale and in quality, in surprise and in mobil- 
ity, in the strategic and in the tactical indirect ap- 
proach, their campaigns surpass any in history. In 
Jenghiz Khan's conquest of China we can trace his use 
of Taitong-Fu to bait successive traps as Bonaparte 
later utilized the fortress of Mantua. And by far-flung 
movements with a combination of three armies he 
finally broke up the moral and military cohesion of 
the Kin empire. When in 1220 he invaded the Karis- 
mian empire, whose centre of power lay in modern 
Turkestan, one force distracted the enemy's attention 
to the approach from Kashgar in the south ; then the 
main mass appeared in the north ; and, screened by its 
operations, he himself with his reserve army swung 
wider still and, after disappearing into the Kizyl- 
Kum desert, debouched by surprise at Bokhara in the 
rear of the enemy's defensive lines and armies. 

In 1241, his general, Sabutai, set out to instruct 
Europe. While one army, as a strategic flank guard, 
marched through Galicia engaging the attention of 
the Polish, German, and Bohemian forces, besides in- 
flicting successive defeats the main army iji three 
widely separated columns swept through Hungary to 
the Danube. In this advance, the two outer columns 
formed both a shield and a cloak to the later released 
move of the central column. Then, converging on the 

79 



MEDIEVAL WARS 

Danube near Gran, only to be balked by the assembly 
of the Hungarian army on the far bank, the Mongols, 
by a skilfully graduated retirement, lured their op- 
ponents away from the shelter of the river and the 
reach of reinforcements. 

Finally, by a swift night manoeuvre and surprise on 
the Sajo river, Sabutai dislocated and annihilated the 
Hungarian army and became master of the central 
plains of Europe until he voluntarily relinquished 
his conquest a year later, to the astonished relief of a 
Europe which had no power to eject him. 1 

1 The strategy and tactics of the Mongols are dealt with more 
fully in the author's earlier book Great Captains Unveiled. 



80 



ChapterJVI 

THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 
GUSTAVUS, CROMWELL, TURENNE 

We come to the first 'Great War' of modern his- 
tory, the Thirty Years' War. Incidentally, those who 
use this description for the war of 1914-18 are belated 
in their historical nomenclature, for even three cen- 
turies previously the title was growing threadbare with 
hard wear. 

The Thirty Years' War reveals no campaign that 
can be called decisive. The nearest was the final duel 
between Gustavus and Wallenstein which, through the 
former's death in the culminating battle of Lutzen, 
was decisive in quenching the possibility of a great 
Protestant confederation under Swedish leadership. 
But for the French intervention, and Wallenstein's 
murder, it might have been decisive in establishing a 
united Germany more than three centuries before this 
was achieved. Such results and possibilities were in- 
directly gained, for the only pitched battle of the cam- 
paign ended in defeat for those in whose favour it 
tilted the scales of the war. This defeat, partly due to 
the inferiority of Wallenstein's fighting machine to 
that of the Swedes, was also partly due to Wallen- 
stein's failure to profit tactically by his strategical op- 
portunityfor he had obtained prior to the battle a 
o 81 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

very real advantage. And it is worth while to note that 
this had come through not one, but three, successive 
indirect approaches which, indeed, had changed the 
whole aspect of the war. 

Called back to command a non-existent army by 
the abject entreaties of the sovereign who had wronged 
him, Wallenstein had gathered within three months 
some 40,000 soldiers of fortune, drawn by the glamour 
of his name. Despite the urgent appeal for aid from 
Bavaria, then being overrun by Gustavus's all-con- 
quering army, Wallenstein instead turned north against 
Gustavus's weaker ally, the Saxons, and after throw- 
ing them out of Bohemia, moved on towards Saxony 
itself. He even compelled the reluctant Elector of 
Bavaria to bring his army to join him, thus apparently 
leaving Bavaria more defenceless than ever. But the 
reality was otherwise, and Wallenstein's calculation 
justified for the threat of losing Saxony, his junior 
partner, compelled Gustavus to quit Bavaria and hurry 
to the rescue. Before he could come up, Wallenstein 
and the Elector had united. Faced with their com- 
bined forces, Gustavus fell back on Nuremberg. 
Thither Wallenstein followed, but finding the Swedes 
strongly posted, remarked that ' battles enough had 
been fought already, and it was time to try another 
method'. Instead of pitting his new levies against the 
long-invincible Swedes, he dug himself into a position 
from which while his army rested securely, gaining 
confidence daily he could command Gustavus's lines 
of supply with his light horse. He maintained this 
method and object unswervingly, deaf to all challenges 
to battle, until the Swedish king, shadowed by the 
gaunt spectre of famine, attempted a vain assault on 
his position. The repulse was, militarily, only an un- 
fortunate incident; politically, its echoes resounded 
throughout Europe. If it had not dislocated, it had 

82 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

disturbed the moral ascendency which Gustavus's 
many victories had gained him, and thereby loosened 
his hold over the German states. Wallenstein com- 
binedarealistic grasp of the limitations of hismeans with 
a far-seeing calculation of the grand-strategical end. 

From Nuremberg, Gustavus marched south against 
Bavaria once more and Wallenstein turned north 
against Saxony. The master move brought Gustavus 
to heel as promptly as before ; but by superb marching 
he came up before Wallenstein could intimidate the 
Saxons into a separate peace. And in the desperate 
battle of Lutzen which followed, the Swedish irmy 
redeemed its strategic set-back by a tactical success ; 
but at the price of its leader's death. This entailed the 
forfeiture of his project of a great protestant combina- 
tion under Swedish direction. For sixteen years longer 
the war dragged out its weary and wasteful length, 
leaving Germany a desert, and yielding to France the 
predominant place in the polity of Europe. 

The outstanding contrast between the civil wars, 
1642-52, in Great Britain, and the wkrs of the same 
century on the continent, is that of the decision-compel- 
ling spirit which marked the former. The spirit which 
breathed through this last great conflict in our own 
country is excellently expressed in Defoe's Memories 
of a Cavalier * we never encamped or entrenched . . . 
or lay fenced with rivers or defiles. Twas the general 
maxim of the war where is the enemy? Let us go and 
fight him.' 

Yet despite this offensive spirit the First Civil War 
continued four years, without any battle proving clear- 
ly decisive, except tactically and when it ultimately 
flickered out in 1646, left the Royalist embers still so 
numerous and so glowing that, with the aid of discord 
among the victors, the flames could burst out afresh, 
two years later, in a greater blaze than ever. 

83 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

In examining the reasons for this indecisiveness 
where the spirit of decisiveness was so manifest, we 
may note that the military campaigns took the form 
of repeated direct advances by one side or the other, 
interspersed with what in modern language would be 
called * mopping up' operations, which had but a local 
and transient effect at the price of a drain of 
strength. 

At the outset the Royal forces were based on the 
West and Midlands; the Parliamentary forces, on 
London. The first Royalist advance on London came 
to an ignominious end at Turnham Green, often styled 
the Valmy of the Civil War, a bloodless ending which 
was the moral sequel to the bloody inconclusiveness of 
the Battle of Edgehill, fought by the main armies 
earlier in the advance. 

Thenceforward, Oxford and its surrounding towns 
became the fortified pivot of the Royalists. On the 
edge of this zone the two main armies for long con- 
fronted each other ineffectively, while a see-saw strug- 
gle between local forces and detachments went on in 
the west and north. At last, in September 1643, the 
urgent need of the besieged city of Gloucester com- 
pelled the main Parliamentary army under Lord Essex 
to advance to its relief by a restricted dfetour past the 
flank of the Oxford zone. This enabled the Royalists 
to bar his homeward path ; but, again, a direct clash 
at Newbury yielded an indecisive result. 

Natural war-weaimess might now have brought the 
struggle to a negotiated end but for Charles's political 
blunder in making a truce with the Irish rebels. This, 
by its appearance of bringing Catholic Irish to subdue 
Protestant England, brought instead the greater coun- 
ter-weight of Presbyterian Scotland into the scales 
against the Royal cause. Encouraged by the fact that 
a Scottish army was advancing to engage the northern 

84 



THE SEVENTEENTHiCENTURY 
Royalists, the Parliamentarians now again concen- 
trated their strength for a direct advance on the Ox- 
ford zone an advance which brought no greater re- 
sult than the occupation of a few outlying fortresses. 
The king, indeed, was even able to detach Rupert for 
a swift concentration with the northern Royalists 
against the Scots. Unhappily for him, tactical defeat 
at Marston Moor more than undid the effect of this 
strategic opportunity. But the victors profited little. 
Once more the ineffectiveness of the direct and main 
move on Oxford produced loss of heart and desertion 
and, save for the inflexible purpose of men like Crom- 
well, might have led to a peace of war-weariness. For- 
tunately for the Parliament, the Royal cause was 
crumbling even worse, internally far more than from 
external blows. Thus it was a morally and numerically 
inferior foe, only preserved so long by faulty Parlia- 
mentary strategy, that Fairfax and Cromwell with the 
new model army overthrew at Naseby in 1 645. Yet even 
this tactically decisive victory did not prevent the war 
continuing for another year. 

It is a different picture when we come to the Second 
Civil War, with Cromwell as the ruling mind and the 
twenty-eight-year-old John Lambert as his brilliant 
assistant. When it became known, late in April 1648, 
that the Scots were raising an army to invade England 
in support of the Royalists, Fairfax prepared to march 
north to meet them, while Cromwell was sent west to 
deal with the Royalist risings in South Wales. Then, 
however, further outbreaks in Kent and East Anglia 
tied Fairfax to those parts while the invasion of the 
north was developing. Lambert was left with only a 
small force to delay the invaders which he did most 
effectively by the indirect course of constantly threaten- 
ing their flank as they marched down the west coast 
route, while checking any attempt of theirs to cross 

85 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

the Pennines and rally their friends in Yorkshire. 

At last, on the fall of Pembroke (the llth of July 
1648), Cromwell was able to move north. Instead of 
advancing direct to meet the Scots, he marched in a 
sweeping curve by Nottingham and Doncaster col- 
lecting suppli|p on the way then north-westward to 
join Lambert at Otley on the flank of the Scottish 
army which was strung out between Wigan and Pres- 
ton, with a corps of 3,500 under Langdale covering 
the left flank. Cromwell had only 8,600 men, including 
Lambert's horse and the Yorkshire militia, against 
some 20,000 of the enemy. But his descent on the tail of 
the Scottish column at Preston dislocated its balance, 
and caused it to turn and meet him in successive frac- 
tions. On Preston Moor, Langdale's corps was over- 
thrown. Then, pressing the pursuit fiercely, Cromwell 
rolled up the Scottish column, driving it through 
Wigan to Uttoxeter and Ashbourne, where checked 
in front by the midland militia and pressed in rear by 
Cromwell's cavalry it surrendered on the 25th of 
August. This victory was decisive; not only did it 
crush the foes of the Parliament, but it enabled the 
army to ' purge' the Parliament, and to bring the king 
to trial and execution. 

The subsequent invasion of Scotland is really a 
separate war, waged by the newly established regime, 
to forestall the plan of the king's son, the future 
Charles II, to regain the lost throne by Scottish aid. 
Thus it hardly comes in the category of campaigns 
which have decisively affected the course of history. 
At the same time it furnishes remarkable evidence of 
how strongly Cromwell was imbued with the strategy 
of indirect approach. When he found the Scottish 
army, under Leslie, in position across his path to Edin- 
burgh, a mere contact-making engagement satisfied 
him of the strength of Leslie's situation. Although 

86 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 
within sight of his goal, and short of supplies, he had 
such self-restraint as to abstain from a frontal assault 
on disadvantageous ground. Despite his innate eager- 
ness for battle he would not venture it unless he could 
draw the enemy into the open and get a chance to 
strike at an exposed flank. Hence he feUJ^ack on Mus- 
selburgh, and then to Dunbar, to re-provision his 
forces. Within a week he advanced afresh and at Mus- 
selburgh issued three days' rations as a preliminary to 
a wide manoeuvre through the hills of Edinburgh and 
the enemy's rear. And when Leslie succeeded in mov- 
ing across to bar his path directly at Corstorphine 
Hill (the 21st of August 1650), Cromwell, though now 
far from his base, sought yet another approach by a 
manoeuvre to his left, only to be blocked afresh by 
Leslie at Gogar. Most men would have gambled on a 
direct battle. But not Cromwell. Cutting his loss in 
sick, due to exposure and fatigue he fell back on 
Musselburgh and thence to Dunbar, drawing Leslie 
after him. He would not, however, embark his army, 
as some of his officers urged, but waited at Dunbar in 
the hope that the enemy would make a false move that 
might become his opportunity. 

Leslie, however, was a shrewd opponent, and his 
next move deepened Cromwell's danger. Leaving the 
main road, Leslie made a circuit round Dunbar dur- 
ing the night of September the 1st, and occupied 
Doon Hill, overlooking the road to Berwick. He also 
sent a detachment to seize the pass at Cockbumspath 
seven miles further south. Thus next morning Crom- 
well found himself cut off from England, 
was all the worse because his supplies we 
short and his sick-list lengthening. 

It had been Leslie's plan to wait on 
anticipation that the English would try 
way along the road to Berwick, and the 

87 




THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

upon them. But the ministers of the kirk were eager 
to see the jaws of 'the Lord's' trap close upon 'the 
Moabites', and their clamour was reinforced by signs 
that the invader might be contemplating escape by 
sea. Moreover, the weather on the 2nd was so tem- 
pestuous as almost to drive the Scottish troops off the 
bare crest of Doon Hill. About 4 p.m. they were seen 
to be descending the slopes and taking up a position 
on the lower ground near the Berwick road, where 
they had more shelter from the rain, while their front 
was covered by the Brock burn which ran through a 
ravine until it neared the sea. 

Cromwell and Lambert were together watching the 
movement, and into their minds, simultaneously, came 
the thought that 'it did give us an opportunity and 
advantage to attempt upon the Enemy'. For the Scots' 
left wing was wedged between the hill and the steep- 
sided burn, and would have difficulty in helping the 
right wing if an attack was concentrated there. At a 
council of war that evening Lambert put the case for 
an immediate stroke against the Scots' right wing, to 
roll up their line, while at the same time concentrating 
the artillery against their cramped left wing. His argu- 
ments carried the council, and in recognition of his 
initiative Cromwell entrusted him with the conduct of 
the opening moves. During the night, 'a drakie nicht 
full of wind and weit', the troops were moved into 
position along the north side of the burn. After mar- 
shalling the guns opposite the Scots' left wing, Lam- 
bert rode back to the other flank at daybreak to lead 
the cavalry's attack near the sea. Helped by surprise, 
both they and the infantry in the centre were able to 
cross the burn without difficulty, and although their 
further advance was temporarily checked, the inter- 
vention of the English reserves turned the scales on 
the seaward flank, and enabled Cromwell to roll up 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

the Scottish line from right to left into a corner, 
between hill and burn, from which the Scottish troops 
could only extricate themselves by breaking into flight. 
Thus by a tactical indirect approach, following in- 
stantly upon the over-confident opponent's slip, Crom- 
well shattered a force twice his own strength sealing 
with triumph a campaign in which he had refused all 
temptation, even to the apparent hazard of his for- 
tunes, to abandon his strategy of indirect approach. 

The victory of Dunbar gave Cromwell the control 
of southern Scotland. It practically wiped the army of 
the Kirk, and the Covenanters as a political factor, off 
the balance-sheet of the war. Only the pure Royalist 
element of the Highlands was left to oppose him. The 
process of settlement was delayed by Cromwell's grave 
illness ; meantime Leslie had breathing space to or- 
ganize and train the new Royalist army beyond the 
Forth. 

When, late in June 1651, Cromwell was fit enough 
to resume operations, he was faced with a difficult 
problem. His solution, for subtlety and toasterly cal- 
culation, compares favourably with any strategic com- 
bination in the history of war. Although now, for the 
first time, the superiority in numbers was on his side, 
he was faced by a canny adversary established in a 
region of marsh and moorland which afforded every 
natural advantage to the weaker side in barring the 
approach to Stirling. Unless Cromwell could over- 
throw the resistance within a brief time he would be 
doomed to spend another trying winter in Scotland, 
with inevitable suffering to his troops and the likeli- 
hood of increasing difficulties at home. And to dis- 
lodge the enemy would not suffice, for a partial suc- 
cess would only disperse the enemy into the High- 
lands, where they would remain a thorn in his side. 

Let us watch the unfolding of Cromwell's plan. 

89 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

First he menaces Leslie in front, storming Callander 
House, near Falkirk. Then he passes, in stages, his 
whole army across the Firth of Forth and marches on 
Perth, thereby not only turning Leslie's defensive bar- 
rier across the direct approach to Stirling but gaining 
possession of the key to Leslie's supply area. By this 
manoeuvre he had, however, uncovered the route to 
England. Here lies the supreme artistry of Cromwell's 
plan. He was on the rear of an enemy now threatened 
with hunger and desertion and he left a bolt-hole 
open. As one of his opponents said, 'We must either 
starve, disband, or go with a handful of men into Eng- 
land. This last seems to be the least ill, yet it seems 
very desperate.' They naturally chose it, and at the end 
of July started on the march south into England. 

Cromwell, foreseeing this, had prepared their recep- 
tion with the aid of the authorities at Westminster. 
The militia was called out promptly, all suspected 
Royalists were kept under surveillance, hidden stores 
of arms were seized. Once more the Scots moved down 
the west coast route. Cromwell dispatched Lambert's 
cavalry to follow them, while Harrison moved obli- 
quely across from Newcastle to Warrington, and Fleet- 
wood moved north with the midland militia. Lambert 
slipped round the flank of the enemy, *and joined 
Harrison on the 13th of August. The two then op- 
posed an elastic delaying resistance to the oncoming 
invader. Cromwell, meantime, was marching, twenty 
miles a day in August heat, down the east coast route 
and then south-westwards. Thus four forces were con- 
verging on the trapped invader. Charles's turn away 
from the route for London towards the Severn valley 
only delayed for a few days, and failed to disturb, the 
closing of the jaws. On the 3rd of September, the anni- 
versary of Dunbar, the battlefield of Worcester pro- 
vided Cromwell with his 4 crowning mercy '. 

90 



ENGLAND 
and the Lowlands 

Miles 



Land over 500 
Main Roads 




Stanford, London. 



THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

armies. He, too, was manoeuvred into a position where 
Turenne had him at a disadvantage, on the Sasbach ; 
but at the outset of the action Turenne was killed by a 
cannon-shot and with his fall the balance of the war 
changed again. 

Why is the decisiveness of this winter campaign of 
Turenne's in such startling contrast with the rest of the 
campaigns of the seventeenth century in Europe? It 
was an age when generals, however limited their hori- 
zon, were at least supremely skilful in manoeuvre. But 
in this art they were so well matched that even flank 
moves which in other ages might have succeeded, were 
adroitly parried. And a real dislocation of the op- 
ponent's system was only this once achieved. Turenne 
is famous as the one Great Captain who improved 
continuously with age, and there is thus a special sig- 
nificance in the way in which, after commanding in 
more campaigns than any other general in all history, 
he reached in his last campaign a solution of the prob- 
lem of achieving a decision in seventeenth-century 
warfare. For he did it without departing from the 
golden rule of those times that highly-trained soldiers 
were too costly to be squandered. 

It would seem that his experience had taught him 
that under such conditions a decisive result could only 
be gained by a strategic plan in which the approach 
was radically more indirect than any yet conceived. 
Thus, at a time when all manoeuvres were based on 
fortress pivots which formed the protected supply 
depots for the maintenance of the field armies he cut 
loose from such a base of operations, and sought in 
the combination of surprise and mobility not only a 
decision but his security. It was a just calculation, not 
a gamble. For the dislocation mental, moral, and 
logistical created among the enemy, afforded him 
throughout an ample margin of security. 

94 



Chapter VII 

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 
MARLBOROUGH AND FREDERICK 

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13) is re- 
markable for its curiously dual nature. In policy it was 
both an extreme case of war with a limited aim, and a 
decisive struggle to enforce or break the predominant 
power of France under Louis XIV. In strategy it main- 
ly comprised a futile series of direct approaches or 
scarcely more purposeful indirect moves, yet was 
punctuated by a number of brilliant indirect ap- 
proaches, mainly associated with the illustrious name 
of Marlborough. The significant interest of these lies 
in the way that they mark the several turning-points 
of the war. 

The coalition against France comprised Austria, 
Great Britain, several of the German states, Holland, 
Denmark, and Portugal. Louis XIV's main support 
came from Spain, Bavaria, and at the outset, Savoy. 

It was in Northern Italy that the war opened, while 
the other armies were preparing. The Austrians, under 
Eugene, assembled in Tyrol, and made ostentatious 
preparations for a direct advance. Thereupon, the 
opposing army, under Catinat, placed itself to block 
their path at the Rivoli defile. But Eugfcne, having 
secretly reconnoitred a difficult passage through the 

95 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

mountains long unused by troops, came down to the 
plains by a wide circuit to the east. Pressing his advan- 
tage by subsequent manoeuvres which repeatedly de- 
luded his opponents as to his intentions, he finally 
drew them into a disastrous attack upon him at Chiari, 
and established his position firmly in northern Italy. 
The result of this indirect approach not only gave the 
allies a valuable moral tonic at the outset of their 
struggle with the reputedly invincible armies of the 
Grand Monarque, but dealt a crippling blow to the 
French and Spanish power in Italy. One important 
sequel was that the Duke of Savoy, an instinctive ad- 
herent of the stronger party, changed sides. 

In 1702 the main struggle began. The largest French 
army was assembled in Flanders, where the French 
had fortified the sixty-mile long Lines of Brabant 
from Antwerp to Huy, on the Meuse, to secure the 
rear of their proposed advance. At the threat of in- 
vasion, the instinct of the Dutch was to sit tight within 
their fortresses. Marlborough had a different concep- 
tion of war. But he did not exchange this passive de- 
fensive for a direct offensive against the French army, 
under Boufflers, then marching towards the Rhine. 
Instead, uncovering the precious fortresses, he moved 
swiftly towards the Lines of Brabant, and the French 
line of retreat. Boufflers, at once feeling the pull of this 
moral ' lassoo ', hurried back. Physically tired and mor- 
ally dislocated, the French army might have been an 
easy victim for Marlborough, who was waiting ready 
to embrace it ; but the Dutch^deputies, content to see 
the invasion called off, opposed die consummation by 
battle. Twice more that year Boufflers was drawn into 
a trap by Marlborough, and each time the hesitations 
of the Dutch helped to extricate him. 

The next year Marlborough planned a subtle man- 
oeuvre to gain possession of Antwerp and thereby 

96 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 
penetrate the fortified breakwater. By a direct advance 
westward from Maastricht he hoped to rivet the French 
main army, under Villeroi, to the southern end of the 
Lines. Next, a Dutch force under Cohorn was to 
attack Ostend, assisted by the fleet, while another 
Dutch force, under Spaar, moved on Antwerp from 
the north-west these moves from the seaboard being 
intended to make the French commander at Antwerp 
look over his shoulder, and draw away part of the 
forces holding the northern end of the Lines. Four 
days later, a third Dutch force, under Opdam, would 
strike at them from the north-east, while Marlborough 
would give Villeroi the slip and race northward to join 
in the converging stroke at Antwerp. The first phase 
opened promisingly ; Marlborough's threat drew Vil- 
leroi's army down towards the Meuse. Then, however, 
Cohorn dropped the Ostend move in favour of a nar- 
rower move near Antwerp in conjunction with Spaar 
which did not have the same distracting effect. And 
Opdam, to his danger, moved prematurely. Moreover, 
when Marlborough started on his switch-march to the 
north, he did not succeed in giving Villeroi the slip ; in 
fact, Villeroi beat him in the race by sending Boufflers 
ahead with 30 of his cavalry squadrons and 3,000 
grenadiers holding on to their stirrup-leathers. This 
mobile force covered nearly forty miles in twenty-four 
hours, and on the 1st of July, together with the Ant- 
werp garrison, fell upon Opdam, whose force was 
badly mauled before it made good its escape. What 
Marlborough had proudly christened 'the Great De- 
sign' was completely wrecked. 

Following this disappointment, Marlborough pro- 
posed a direct assault upon the Lines just south of 
Antwerp. The Dutch commanders rejected his pro- 
posal, with good reason since it would have meant 
a frontal attack upon a fortified position held by nearly 
H 97 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

equal forces. Along with his brilliance in manoeuvre, 
Marlborough showed at times, especially times of dis- 
appointment, a touch of the reckless gambler. British 
writers of history, dazzled by his exploits as well as his 
personal charm, are apt to be unjust to the Dutch 
who had more at stake than Marlborough. Danger 
was too close to their country for them to regard war 
as a fascinating game or a great adventure ; they were 
acutely aware that, like Admiral Jellicoe, two cen- 
turies later, they * could lose the war in an afternoon 5 
if they courted a battle in circumstances that carried 
a serious risk of decisive defeat. 

In face of the unanimous judgement of the Dutch 
generals, Marlborough gave up the idea of assaulting 
the Antwerp sector, and turned back to the Meuse, 
where he covered the siege of Huy. While there he 
again urged, late in August, an attack on the Lines, 
with somewhat better justification since the southern 
sector was more favourable. But his arguments failed 
to convince the Dutch. 

Marlborough's intense disgust with the Dutch made 
him the more susceptible to the arguments that Wratis- 
law, the Imperial envoy, now skilfully urged in favour 
of switching his forces to the Danube. The conjunc- 
tion of these two influences produced in 1704, with the 
aid of Marlborough's broad strategic outlook, one of 
the most striking examples in history of the indirect 
approach. Of the main hostile armies, one under Vil- 
leroi was in Flanders ; one under Tallard lay on the 
upper Rhine between Mannheim and Strasbourg, \vith 
smaller linking forces; and a combined army of 
Bavarians and French, under the Elector of Bavaria 
and Marsin, was near Ulm and the Danube. This last 
was pushing menacingly forward from Bavaria to- 
wards Vienna. Marlborough planned to switch the 
English part of his army from the Meuse to the Dan- 

98 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 
ube, and then to strike decisively at the Bavarians, the 
junior partner of the enemy firm. This long-range 
move to a point so far from his base, and from the 
direct interests which he was shielding in the north, 
was audacious by any standard, but much more so by 
that of the cautious strategy of his time. Its security 
lay in the dislocating effect of its surprise. This was 
contained in the 'variable' direction of his march, 
which at each stage threatened alternative objectives, 
and left the enemy in doubt as to his actual aim. 

When he moved south up the Rhine it first appeared 
that he might be taking the Moselle route into France ; 
then, when he pressed on beyond Coblenz, it looked as 
if he might be aiming at the French forces in Alsace 
and by making Visible preparations to bridge the Rhine 
at Philipsburg, he reinforced this natural delusion. 
But on reaching the neighbourhood of Mannheim, 
whence his obvious direction was south-west, he 
turned south-east instead, vanished into the wooded 
hills bordering the valley of the Neckar, and thence 
marched across the base of the Rhine-Danube tri- 
angle towards Ulm. The mask of strategic ambiguity 
which had covered his march helped to compensate its 
rather slow pace averaging about ten miles a day 
for some six weeks. After meeting Eugene and the 
Margrave of Baden at Gross Heppach, Marlborough 
moved on with the forces of the latter, while the former 
went back to detain, or at least to delay, the French 
armies on the Rhine whither Villeroi had belatedly 
followed Marlborough from Flanders. 1 

But although Marlborough had placed himself on 
the rear of the Franco-Bavarian army in relation 

1 Until Marlborough definitely quitted the Rhine valley he had 
always the power of making a swift return down the river to Flan- 
ders by embarking his troops in the boats that had been collected. 
This was a further cause of distraction to the French commanders. 

99 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

to France, he was still on their front in relation to 
Bavaria. This geographical juxtaposition combined 
with other conditions to hinder the exploitation of his 
strategic advantage. Of these conditions, one was 
general to the age ; the rigidity of the tactical organiza- 
tion of armies, which made difficult the completion of 
a strategic manoeuvre. A general could draw the ene- 
my to ' water', but could not make him drink could 
not make him accept battle against his inclination. A 
more particular handicap was that Marlborough had 
to share the command with the cautious Margrave of 
Baden. 

The combined armies of the Elector of Bavaria and 
Marshal Marsin occupied a fortified position on the 
Danube at Dillingen, east of Ulm and midway between 
there and Donauworth. As Marshal Tallard's army 
might move eastward from the Rhine, Ulm was a pre- 
carious place at which to seek an entry into Bavaria. 
Marlborough decided that he must gain a crossing at 
Donauworth, the natural terminus of his new line of 
communications which had been changed, for greater 
security, to the easterly route through Nuremberg. 
With Donauworth in his possession, he would have a 
safe passage into Bavaria and could manoeuvre secure- 
ly on either bank of the Danube. 

Unfortunately, the flank move across the face of the 
enemy's position at Dillingen was rather too obvious in 
purpose and slow in pace, so that the Elector was able 
to dispatch a strong detachment to defend Donau- 
worth. Although Marlborough made greater haste in 
the last stage of the march, the enemy were able to 
extend the entrenchments of the Schellenberg, the hill 
covering Donauworth, by the time Marlborough ar- 
rived on the 2nd of July. Rather than allow the enemy 
time to complete the defences, he delivered his attack 
the same evening. The first assault was bloodily re- 

100 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

pulsed, with the loss of more than half the troops en- 
gaged, and it was only when the bulk of the allied 
armies arrived, giving them a superiority of more than 
four to one, that weight of numbers began to turn the 
scales. Even then, the issue was decided through a 
flanking movement which found and penetrated a 
weakly-held sector of the entrenchments. Marlborough 
admitted, in a letter, that the capture of Donauworth 
'a coute un peu cher\ Criticism of his tactics here 
was all the more general since the decisive manoeuvre 
had been conducted by the Margrave. 

The enemy's main forces now withdrew to Augs- 
burg. Thereupon Marlborough, pressing south into 
Bavaria, devastated the countryside, burning hundreds 
of villages and all the crops as a lever to force the 
Elector of Bavaria to terms or to accept battle at a 
disadvantage. The purpose of this brutal expedient, of 
which he was privately ashamed, was nullified by an- 
other condition of the time that, war being the affair 
of rulers rather than of their peoples, the Elector was 
slow to be affected by inconveniences at second hand. 
Thus Tallard had time to come up from the Rhine, 
and he arrived at Augsburg on the 5th of August. 

Fortunately, his appearance on the scene was offset 
by that of Eugene, who took the bold course of slip- 
ping away from before Villeroi in order to join Marl- 
borough. Just previously it had been arranged that, 
under cover of the forces of Marlborough and Eugene, 
the Margrave should move further down the Danube 
to besiege the enemy-held fortress of Ingolstadt. Then, 
on the 9th, news came that the combining enemy ar- 
mies were moving north, towards the Danube. It 
looked as if their aim was to strike at Marlborough's 
communications. Nevertheless, Marlborough and 
Eugdne allowed the Margrave to continue his diver- 
gent march towards Ingolstadt thereby reducing 

101 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

their combined forces to 56,000 men in face of the 
enemy's total of some 60,000, which might be in- 
creased. Their willingness to dispense with the Mar- 
grave was understandable in view of their distaste for 
his caution, but their readiness to release his forces 
was remarkable because of their decision to seek battle 
at the first opportunity. It showed great confidence in 
their own qualitative superiority over the enemy 
perhaps over-confidence in view of the closeness of the 
battle which followed. 

Fortunately for them, there was quite as much con- 
fidence on the other side. The Elector of Bavaria was 
eager to take the offensive, although most of his own 
troops had not yet arrived. When Tallard argued that 
it would be wiser to wait for them, and meantime 
entrench, the Elector scoffed at such caution. Tallard 
sarcastically retorted: 'If I were not so convinced of 
your Highness's integrity, I should imagine that you 
wished to gamble with the King of France's forces 
without having any of your own, to see at no risk what 
would happen. ' It was then agreed, as a compromise, 
that the French forces should make a preliminary 
bound to a position near Blenheim, behind the little 
river Nebel, on the way to Donauworth. 

Here the next morning, the 13th of August, they 
were caught by the sudden advance of the Allies along 
the north bank of the Danube. Marlborough struck 
direct at the French right, near the Danube, while 
Eug&ie swung inland against the French left the 
narrow space between the river and the hills allowed 
little room for manoeuvre. The Allies' only advantage, 
apart from their spirit and training, lay in the unex- 
pectedness of their action in seeking battle under such 
circumstances. This partial measure of surprise hin- 
dered the two French armies from making properly 
co-ordinated dispositions, so that they fought in order 

102 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

of encampment rather than in order of battle. This 
resulted in a scarcity of infantry in the wide central 
sector. But the disadvantage did not become apparent 
until late in the day, and might never have become 
important but for other slips. The first stage of the 
battle went adversely for the allies. The attack of Marl- 
borough's left wing on Blenheim failed with heavy 
loss, and the attack of his right wing on Oberglau also 
failed. Eugene's attack further to the right was twice 
repulsed. And when Marlborough's troops in the 
centre were in process of crossing the Nebel, their 
head was smitten by a French cavalry charge that was 
barely repelled. Owing to a misunderstanding that was 
lucky for them, this counterstroke was carried out by 
fewer squadrons -than Tallard intended. But it was 
followed by another counterstroke, on their exposed 
flank, from Marsin's cavalry which was interrupted 
in the nick of time by a counter-counterstroke from 
part of Eugene's cavalry, unhesitatingly released by 
him in response to Marlborough's appeal. 

If disaster had been averted, nothing more than a 
precarious equilibrium had been achieved. And unless 
Marlborough could push on he would be in a bad 
hole with the marshy Nebel at his back. But Tallard 
was now to pay dearly for his miscalculation in allow- 
ing Marlborough to cross the river unopposed or 
rather, for the ineffective execution of his design. For 
once Tallard's cavalry counterstrokes had failed in 
their purpose of overwhelming the van of Marl-, 
borough's centre, the remainder of it was able to form 
up across the river during the ensuing lull. And al- 
though Tallard had 50 battalions of infantry alto- 
gether to Marlborough's 48, he had only 9 in the cen- 
tral sector to oppose 23 owing to the fault in the 
initial dispositions, which he had not readjusted while 
there was time. When these few squares of infantry 

103 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

were eventually overwhelmed by weight of numbers 
and close-quarter artillery fire, Marlborough was able 
to push through an open gap, thereby cutting off the 
congested mass of the French infantry near the Dan- 
ube at Blenheim, and also laying bare Marsin's flank. 
The latter was able to disengage himself from Eugene 
and withdraw without being seriously pressed, but a 
large part of Tallard's army was penned against the 
Danube and forced to surrender. 

It was a victory gained at heavy cost, and at still 
heavier risk in dispassionate analysis it becomes 
clear that the scales were turned more by the stoutness 
of the rank and file, together with the miscalculations 
of the French command, than by Marlborough's skill. 
But the ultimate fact of victory sufficed to make the 
world overlook what a gamble the battle had been. 
And the shattered 'invincibility' of French arms 
changed the whole outlook of Europe. 

The allied armies, following up the French retreat, 
advanced to the Rhine and crossed it at Philipsburg. 
But the cost of victory at Blenheim now became 
apparent in the general disinclination to further exer- 
tions save on Marlborough's own part and the 
campaign petered out. 

For 1705 Marlborough devised a plan for the in- 
vasion of France by which he would avoid the entang- 
ling network of the Flanders fortresses. While Eugene 
engaged the French forces in northern Italy, and the 
Dutch stood on the defensive in Flanders, the main 
allied army, under Marlborough, would advance up 
the Moselle on Thionville, and the Margrave's army 
would make a converging advance across the Saar. 
But the design was marred by a series of hitches. Sup- 
plies were not delivered as promised, transport was 
lacking, allied reinforcements fell much below expec- 
tation, and the Margrave showed a reluctance to co- 

104 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

operate which might be traced to jealousy, but also 
had a better justification in an inflamed wound from 
which he subsequently died. Nevertheless, Marlbor- 
ough persisted in his plan when every condition of 
success had faded and it had become a direct ap- 
proach in the narrowest sense. He pushed up the 
Moselle, apparently in the hope that his very weak- 
ness would tempt the French to battle. But Marshal 
Villars preferred to see Marlborough become weaker 
still through shortage of food. And Villeroi took the 
offensive in Flanders with such effect as to make the 
Dutch urgently call for aid. This dual pressure led 
Marlborough to break off the venture though in the 
bitterness of his disappointment he made the Mar- 
grave his scapegoat. He even sent to Villars a letter of 
apology, for his retreat, in which he placed the entire 
responsibility on the Margrave's shoulders. 

Marlborough's swift march back to Flanders 
promptly relieved the situation there. On his approach 
Villeroi gave up the siege of Liege and retired within 
the Lines of Brabant. Marlborough then devoted his 
mind to the elaboration of a scheme for piercing'this 
barrier. By a feint at a weakly fortified sector near the 
Meuse he drew the French southward, and then, 
doubling back, broke through a strongly-fortified but 
weakly-held sector near Tirlemont. He failed, how- 
ever, to exploit the opportunity by a prompt advance 
on Louvain and over the Dyle. That failure, it would 
seem, was due partly to the fact that he had deceived 
his allies even more thoroughly than the enemy, but 
still more to a momentary exhaustion of his own 
energy. None the less, the famous Lines were no 
longer a barrier. 

A few weeks later he formed a fresh design which 
bore evidence of evolution in his generalship. If it was 
crowned by no greater success, it revealed a greater 

105 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Marlborough. His previous manoeuvre in Flanders 
had been based on pure deception, and for success 
had required a speed of execution which was difficult 
to attain with his Dutch clogs. This time he tried an 
indirect approach by a route that offered alternative 
objectives thus producing a wide distraction of the 
opposing forces which diminished the need for superior 
speed. Swinging south of Villeroi's position near Lou- 
v^in, he advanced on a line which kept the enemy in 
doubt as to his aim, since it threatened any of the 
fortresses in that area Namur, Charleroi, Mons, and 
Ath. Then, on reaching Genappe, he wheeled north up 
the road through Waterloo towards Brussels. Villeroi 
hurriedly decided to march back to the rescue of the 
city. But just as the French were about to move, 
Marlborough, who had made a fresh swerve back 
eastwards during the night, appeared on the new front 
they had taken up. Owing to his distracting move it 
was an ill-knit front, if less vulnerable than their 
marching flank would have been. He had arrived just 
too soon for his own advantage, and the wary Dutch 
generals thus found reason for resisting his desire to 
deliver an immediate attack arguing that, whatever 
the confusion on the other side, the enemy's actual 
position behind the Ysche was stronger than at Blen- 
heim. 

In the next year's campaign Marlborough conceived 
the idea of carrying out an indirect approach of far 
wider scope by crossing the Alps to join Eugene. He 
might thus drive the French out of Italy and gain a 
back entrance to France, combining this land ap- 
proach with amphibious operations against Toulon 
and with Peterborough's operations in Spain. The 
Dutch, modifying their usual caution, agreed to take 
the risk of letting him go. The project was forestalled 
by Villars's defeat of the Margrave of Baden and Vil- 

106 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

leroi's advance in Flanders. This venturesome move 
was due to Louis XIV's belief that to take the offen- 
sive 'everythwere' would create such an impression of 
strength as to give him the best chance of securing on 
favourable terms the peace that he now needed and 
desired. But to take the offensive in the theatre where 
Marlborough lay was a short cut, not to peace, but 
to a defeat that would spoil his aim. Marlborough 
lost no time in seizing his opportunity it was, in his 
judgement, the second time that the French had re- 
deemed his prospects by their reluctance to stay quietly 
within their lines when the game was in their hands. 
He met them at Ramillies, where they had occupied 
a concave position. He exploited his position on the 
chord of the arc to execute a tactical form of indirect 
approach. Following an attack on the French left, 
which drew their reserves thither, he skilfully dis- 
engaged his own troops on that wing, and switched 
them across to press home the advantage gained on 
his own left wing, where the Danish cavalry had pene- 
trated a gap. This menace in rear coupled with the 
pressure in front caused the collapse of the French. 
And Marlborough exploited the victory by a pursuit 
so effective that all Flanders and Brabant fell into his 
hands. 

That same year the war in Italy was virtually ended 
by another example of the indirect approach. At the 
outset Eugene had been forced back as far east as 
Lake Garda and then into the mountains, while his 
ally, the Duke of Savoy, was besieged in Turin. In- 
stead of trying to fight his way forward, Eugene out- 
manoeuvred and slipped his opponents, cut himself 
adrift from his base, pressed on through Lombardy 
into Piedmont and at Turin inflicted a decisive de- 
feat on the numerically superior but mentally dislo- 
cated enemy. 

107 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

The tide of war had now ebbed to the frontiers of 
France, both north and south. But in 1707 disunity of 
purpose among the allies gave her time to rally, and 
the next year she concentrated her main forces against 
Marlborough. Tied by the leg to Flanders, and heavily 
outnumbered, he turned the balance by a repetition of 
the Danube move in reverse whereby Eugene brought 
his army from the Rhine to join Marlborough. But 
the French were now under the able Vendome, and 
they advanced before Eugene could arrive. Having 
induced Marlborough to fall back to Louvain by this 
direct menace, Vendome scored the first trick by sud- 
denly turning westwards thereby regaining Ghent, 
Bruges, and practically all Flanders west of the Scheldt 
without cost. But instead of marching to oppose him 
directly, Marlborough hazardously thrust south-west- 
wards, to interpose between him and the French fron- 
tier. At Oudenarde, the initial advantage gained by a 
strategic dislocation was pressed home by a tactical 
dislocation. 

If Marlborough could have carried out his own wish 
for a prompt move on Paris it is possible that the war 
might have been ended. Even as it was, Louis was 
driven to seek peace that winter, offering terms that 
amply met the allies' objects. But they rejected the sub- 
stance for the shadow of his complete humiliation. 
Marlborough himself was not blind to the value of the 
offer, but he was better, and keener, at making war 
than at making peace. 

Thus the war had a fresh lease of life in 1709. Marl- 
borough's project now was for an indirect military ap- 
proach to a key political objective his idea being to 
slip past the enemy's forces, mask their fortresses and 
aim at Paris. But this was too bold even for Eugene's 
stomach. Hence it was modified to a plan which 
avoided a direct attack on the entrenched Lines cover- 

108 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

ing the frontier between Douai and Bethune, but in- 
stead was aimed to secure the flanking fortresses of 
Tournai and Mons as a preliminary to an advance into 
France down a route east of the fortified zone. 

Once again Marlborough succeeded in deceiving his 
opponents. His menace of a direct attack on the bar- 
rier-line led them to draw off most of the garrison of 
Tournai to reinforce it, whereupon Marlborough 
doubled back and closed upon Tournai. But this place 
resisted so stubbornly as to cost him two months' 
delay. However, a fresh threat to the lines of La 
Bassee enabled him to pounce upon Mons and invest 
it unchecked. But the French moved across rapidly 
enough to block his onward path and the further de- 
velopment of his 'design. This frustration led him to 
revert to a direct approach in which he showed too 
little calculation of the consequences in relation to the 
circumstances less wise than Cromwell before Dun- 
bar. Although the assault on the well-entrenched and 
prepared enemy holding the Malplaquet 'gateway' 
ended in a victory, it was at such a disproportionate 
cost that Villars, the defeated commander, was justi- 
fied in writing to Louis, 'If God gives us another de- 
feat like this, your Majesty's enemies will be des- 
troyed.' His judgement was prophetic in so far as this 
victory in battle proved to have cost the allies their 
hopes of victory in the war. 

In 1710 stalemate reigned, with Marlborough caged 
behind the bars of the Ne Plus Ultra lines, which the 
French had constructed from Valenciennes to the sea, 
while his political opponents were given fresh leverage 
to loosen his position at home. Fortune, too, turned 
against those, who had forfeited her favours, for in 
1711 Eugene's army was called away by the political 
situation, and Marlborough was left to face a greatly 
superior foe. Too weak to attempt or achieve any 

109 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

decisive operation, he could at least assert his own 
mastery by exploding the French boast in naming 
their lines Ne Plus Ultra. This he did by the most un- 
cannily indirect of all his approaches deceiving, dis- 
tracting, doubling successively, until he was able to 
slip through the lines without firing a shot. But two 
months later he was recalled home to meet disgrace, 
and in 1712 a war-weary England left her allies to fight 
alone. 

The Austrians and Dutch, now under Eugene, still 
held their own for a time, and both sides were growing 
equally exhausted. But in 1712 Villars produced a com- 
pound manoeuvre that for deceptiveness, secrecy, and 
rapidity was worthy of Marlborough, and in conse- 
quence gained a cheap and decisive victory over the 
allies at Denain. This completed the disintegration of 
the coalition, and Louis was able to gain a peace very 
different from what would have been his lot before 
Malplaquet. One direct approach had, by its vain cost, 
done much to undo the aggregate advantage which in- 
direct approaches alone had built up. And it is not the 
least significant feature that the issue was finally 
settled, in the reverse way, by yet another example of 
the indirect approach. 

Although the allies had forfeited their primary ob- 
ject of preventing Louis XIV's practical union of 
France and Spain, England came out of the war with 
a territorial profit. This owed much to the fact that 
Marlborough's vision stretched beyond the limits of 
his own theatre of war. As a military distraction and a 
political asset, he had combined long-range operations 
in the Mediterranean with his own in Flanders. The 
expeditions of 1702 and 1703 helped to subtract Portu- 
'gaLand Savoy from the enemy's balance and paved 
the way For a move against their greater asset, Spain. 
The next move, in 1704, gained Gibraltar. Then 

110 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Peterborough in Spain ably fulfilled a distracting 
role, and in 1708 another expedition took Minorca. 
If later operations in Spain were mishandled, and 
less fortunate in result, England came out of the 
war in possession of Gibraltar and Minorca, two 
keys to the command of the Mediterranean, as well 
as of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in the North 
Atlantic. 

Frederick's Wars 

The indecisive results of the war of the Austrian 
Succession, 1740-48, cannot be better illustrated than 
in the fact that the most militarily successful nation 
the French merely gleaned from it the phrase 'you 
are as stupid as the Peace' to hurl at fellow-citizens 
who were objects of dislike. Frederick the Great was 
the one ruler to profit, or profiteer. He gained Silesia 
early and then retired from the competition. Although 
he came in again later, he risked much without gaining 
more, except the right to embroider some illustrious 
victories on his colours. The war, however, established 
the prestige of Prussia as a great power. 

The events which decided the cession of Silesia to 
Prussia, by the early peace of Breslau in 1742, deserve 
notice. At the opening of that year, the prospect 
seemed to be fading. A combined advance by the 
French and Prussians upon the Austrian main army 
had been arranged. But the French were soon brought 
to a standstill. Then Frederick, instead of continuing 
westwards to unite with his ally, suddenly 
southwards towards Vienna. Although 
troops appeared before the enemy capit 
fell back for the enemy army was 
him off from his base. This advance of 
usually been denounced as a mere an 
tration ; yet in view of its sequel the 




THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

haps be harsh. For his rapid retreat, an apparent 
sauve quipeut, drew the Austrians in pursuit of him 
far into Silesia where, turning at bay, he inflicted a 
sharp reverse, exploiting it by a vigorous pursuit. Only 
three weeks later, Austria made a separate peace with 
Frederick, by which Silesia was ceded. It may be un- 
wise to draw strong deductions from this event, yet it 
is at least significant that this sudden disposition to a 
peace of sacrifice should have followed the one in- 
direct approach of the war in this theatre even 
though it comprised but a mere appearance before 
Vienna and a small tactical victory, wrested appar- 
ently from the jaws of defeat and far less spectacular 
than many of Frederick's other victories. 

If the war of the Austrian Succession was indecisive 
in its general results, the other and succeeding major 
war of the mid-eighteenth was no better from the 
standpoint of European policy. The one country that 
achieved results which decisively affected the course 
of European history was England. And England was 
not only an indirect participant in the Seven Years* 
War (1756-63), but made her contribution and took 
her profits indirectly. While the armies of Europe 
were exhausting themselves and their states in direct 
action, small detachments from England were turning 
this weakness to advantage by acquiring the British 
Empire. Moreover, the fact that Prussia, when on the 
verge of exhaustion, obtained a peace of indecision 
instead of humiliation, was as much due to the indirect 
dislocation of the offensive power of France through 
her colonial disasters, as it was to the abandonment of 
Russia's intended coup de grdce to Prussia through the 
death of the Tsaritsa. Fate was merciful to Frederick 
the Great : by 1762 his long string of brilliant victories 
in battle had left him almost stripped of resources and 
incapable of further resistance. 

112 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Only one campaign between European forces in 
this long series can truly be termed decisive either in 
its military or political results the campaign which 
ended in the English capture of Quebec. And that was 
not only the briefest, but waged in a secondary theatre. 
As the capture of Quebec and the overthrow of the 
French dominion in Canada was made possible by the 
capacity for grand-strategic indirect approach con- 
tained in sea-power, so the actual military course of 
the campaign was decided by a strategic indirect ap- 
proach. The result is the more suggestive because this 
apparently hazardous indirect approach was only un- 
dertaken after the direct approach on the line of the 
Montmorency had failed with serious loss of lives and, 
still more, of morale. In justice to Wolfe, it must be 
pointed out that he only resigned himself to this direct 
approach after various baits the bombardment of 
Quebec, as well as the exposure of isolated detach- 
ments at Point Levis and near the Montmorency Falls 
had failed to lure the French from their strong posi- 
tion. But in the failure of these, compared with the 
success of his final hazardous landing on the French 
rear above Quebec, there is a lesson. To entice the 
enemy out was not enough ; it was necessary to draw 
him out. So also there is a lesson in the failure of the 
feints by which Wolfe tried to prepare his direct ap- 
proach. To mystify the enemy was not enough; he 
must be distracted a term which implies combining 
deception of the enemy's mind with deprivation of his 
freedom to move for counter-action, and the disten- 
sion of his forces. 

Gambler's last throw as Wolfe's ultimate move 
seemed on the surface, all these conditions were ful- 
filled and the result was victory. Even so, to those 
who habitually study military history in terms of 
armed force, the degree of'dislocation caused in the 
i 113 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

French forces would not seem to warrant the measure 
of their collapse. Numerous theses have been written 
to show what the French might have done, and how 
they might well have repaired their situation. But 
Quebec is an illuminating example of the truth that a 
decision is produced even more by the mental and 
moral dislocation of the command than by the physi- 
cal dislocation of its forces. And these effects trans- 
cend the geographical and statistical calculations 
which fill nine-tenths of the normal book on military 
history. 

If, as history shows, the main European channel of 
the Seven Years' War was so indeterminate in its 
course, despite so many tactical victories, it is worth 
while to inquire into the cause. While the number of 
Frederick's foes is the usual explanation, the sum of 
his advantages is a counterbalance so strong as to 
make the explanation not altogether adequate. We 
need to probe deeper. 

Like Alexander and Napoleon, and unlike Marl- 
borough, he was free from the responsibility and limi- 
tations which are imposed on a strategist in the strict 
sense of the word. He combined in his person the 
functions of strategy and grand strategy. Moreover, the 
permanent association between him, as king, and his 
army enabled him to prepare and develop his means 
for the end which he chose. The comparative scarcity 
of fortresses in his theatres of war was another advan- 
tage. 

Although faced by the coalition of Austria, France, 
Russia, Sweden, and Saxony, with England as his 
only ally, Frederick had at the outset, and until mid- 
way through the second campaign, a superiority in 
the actual forces available. In addition, he had the 
two great assets of a tactical instrument superior to 
any of his enemies, and of a central position. 

114 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

This enabled him to practise what is commonly 
called the strategy of * interior lines', striking out- 
wards from his central pivot against one of the forces 
on the circumference, and utilizing the shorter dis- 
tance he had thus to travel to concentrate against one 
of the enemy forces before it could be supported by 
the others. Ostensibly, it would seem that the further 
apart these enemy forces, the easier it must be to 
achieve a decisive success. In terms of time, space, and 
number, this is undoubtedly true. But once more the 
moral element intrudes. When the enemy forces are 
widely separated each is self-contained and tends to 
be consolidated by pressure. When they are close to- 
gether they tend to coalesce and 'become members 
one of another ', mutually dependent in mind, morale, 
and matter. The minds of the commanders affect each 
other, moral impressions are quickly transfused, and 
even the movements of each force easily hinder or dis- 
organize thqge of the others. Thus while the antagonist 
has less time and space for his action, the dislocating 
results of it take effect more quickly* and easily. 
Further, when forces are close together the enemy's 
mere divergence from his approach to one of them 
may become an unexpected, and therefore truly in- 
direct approach to another. In contrast, when forces 
are widely separated there is more time to prepare to 
meet, or avoid, the second blow of the army which is 
exploiting its central position. 

The use of 'interior lines' as Marlborough used 
them in his march to the Danube is a form of the in- 
direct approach. But although it is an indirect ap- 
proach in relation to the enemy forces as a whole, it is 
not so in relation to the force that is the actual target, 
unless this is taken unaware. Otherwise the move 
needs to be completed by a further indirect approach 
to the objective itself. 

115 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Frederick consistently used his central position to 
concentrate against one fraction of the enemy, and he 
always employed tactics of indirect approach. Thereby 
he gained many victories. But his tactical indirect ap- 
proach was geometrical rather than psychological 
unprepared by the subtler forms of surprise favoured 
by Scipio and for all their executive skill, these 
manoeuvres were narrow. The opponent might be un- 
able to meet the following blow, owing to the rigidity 
of his mind or his formations, but the blow itself did 
not fall unexpectedly. 

The war opened at the end of August 1756 with 
Frederick's invasion of Saxony to forestall the plans 
of the Coalition. Profiting by initial surprise, Frederick 
entered Dresden almost unopposed. When an Austrian 
army came belatedly to the rescue, he advanced up the 
Elbe to meet it and, repulsing it in a battle near Leit- 
meritz, assured his occupation of Saxony. In April 
1757, he crossed the mountains into Bohemia and 
marched on Prague. On arrival, he found the Austrian 
army posted in a strong position on the heights behind 
the river. Thereupon, leaving a detachment to mask 
his movement and watch the fords, he marched up- 
stream during the night, crossed the river, and ad- 
vanced against the enemy's right. Although his ap- 
proach began in an indirect way, it became direct 
before the manoeuvre was complete for the Austrian 
army had time to change front, so that the Prussian 
infantry found themselves attempting a frontal assault 
across a fire-swept glacis. They fell in thousands. Only 
the unexpected arrival of Zeiten's cavalry, which had 
been sent on a wide detour, turned the scales of battle 
and produced the retreat of the Austrians. 

The subsequent siege of Prague was interrupted by 
the advance, to the city's relief, of a fresh Austrian 
army under Daun. When word came of its approach, 

116 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

Frederick took as much of his force as he could spare 
from the siege and moved to meet Daun. When he 
encountered the Austrian army at Kolin on the 18th of 
June, he found it strongly entrenched, and also nearly 
twice as strong as his own. Once more, he attempted 
a move past its right flank, but the manoeuvre was 
so narrow that his columns, galled by the fire of the 
enemy's light troops, were drawn off their course into 
a direct and disjointed attack which ended in disas- 
trous defeat. Frederick was forced to give up the siege 
of Prague, and then to evacuate Bohemia. 

Meantime the Russians had invaded East Prussia, 
and a French army had overrun Hanover, while a 
mixed army of the allies, under Hildburghausen, was 
threatening to march on Berlin from the west. To pre- 
vent the junction of the last two armies, Frederick 
made a hurried march back through Leipzig, and suc- 
ceeded in checking the menace. But he was then called 
away by fresh danger in Silesia, and while he was on 
his way thither an Austrian raiding force entered and 
sacked Berlin. This force had hardly been chased 
away before Hildburghausen again began to advance, 
and Frederick raced to meet him. In the battle of 
Rossbach that followed, the Allied army, twice 
Frederick's strength, tried to copy Frederick's charac- 
teristic manoeuvre and turn it against him. Not only 
did the narrowness of the manoeuvre give him ample 
warning, but the allies' hasty assumption that he was 
retreating led them to 'distract' their own forces in 
order to catch him up so that when he counter- 
manoeuvred, not to face them, but to fall on their far 
flank, they were almost instantaneously dislocated. 
Thus here, through his opponents' bungling, Frederick 
achieved a real indirect approach of surprise, not 
merely of mobility. And this was by far the most 
economical of all his victories, for at the price of only 

117 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

500 casualties he inflicted 7,700 and dispersed an army 
of 64,000. 

Unhappily for him, he had drained his strength too 
low in the previous battles to reap the full benefit. 
He had still to deal with the Austrian army that he 
had failed to break up at Prague and Kolin, and al- 
though he succeeded at Leuthen, the victory there 
won by his famous oblique advance a brilliantly 
executed if rather obvious indirect approach cost him 
more than he could afford. 

Tttus the war continued, with the prospect dimmer, 
in 1758. Frederick began by a real indirect approach 
against the Austrians, marching right across their 
front and past their flank to Olmtitz, twenty miles into 
enemy territory. Even when he lost an important con- 
voy of supplies, he did not fall back, but instead con- 
tinued his march through Bohemia right round the 
Austrian rear and into their entrenched base at Konig- 
gratz. But he had now once more to pay forfeit for 
the opportunities lost at Prague and Kolin, for the 
Russian 'steam-roller' had at last got up steam and 
had rolled forward to Posen, on the road to Berlin. 
Frederick decided that he must forgo the completion 
of his Bohemian campaign and march north to stop 
the Russians. He succeeded, but the battle of Zorn- 
dorf was another Prague. Once again Frederick cir- 
cumvented the obstacle offered by the Russians' strong 
position, marching right round their eastern flank in 
order to strike them from the rear. But once again the 
defender was able to achieve a change of front, and 
convert Frederick's indirect approach into a frontal 
attack. This had brought him into grave difficulties 
before his cavalry commander, Seydlitz, intervened 
by a circling stroke against the enemy's new flank 
across ground that had been deemed impassable thus 
giving his manoeuvre an unexpectedness which made 

118 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

it, in effect, a truly indirect approach. But Frederick's 
losses, if somewhat lighter than the Russians', were 
the heavier in comparison with his resources. 

With his human capital still more reduced he had to 
leave the Russians to recuperate and move back 
against the Austrians to suffer at Hochkirch, not 
only a further reduction but a defeat, through undue 
confidence that his old Austrian opponent, Daun, 
would never take the initiative. Thus Frederick was 
surprised in a double sense ; surrounded by night, he 
was only saved from destruction through Zeiten's 
cavalry keeping a passage open for his retreat. So, on 
the war went in 1759, with Frederick's strength declin- 
ing. At Kunersdorf he suffered the worst defeat of his 
career, from the Russians, and at Maxen another from 
Daun again due to misplaced confidence. Hence- 
forth he could do no more than passively block the 
enemy. 

But while the fortunes of Prussia were sinking into 
twilight the sun was shining in Canada. Wolfe's pro- 
gress there encouraged England to send troops direct- 
ly to Germany, and by a victory over the French at 
Minden, these offset Frederick's own disasters. 

Nevertheless, his weakness was more marked than 
ever in 1760. He gained a respite from the pressure in 
the east by the ruse of letting the Russians capture a 
dispatch worded * Austrians totally defeated to-day, 
now for the Russians. Do what we agreed upon.' But 
although the Russians promptly acted upon this gentle 
hint, and retired, the * posthumous' defeat of the 
Austrians at Torgau subsequently was another Pyrrhic 
victory for Frederick. Paralysed by his own losses, 
with only 60,000 men left in all, he could not venture 
another battle and was even shut up in Silesia, cut off 
from Prussia. Fortunately, the Austrian army's stra- 
tegy was as nerveless as ever, while the Russian army's 

119 



THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

rear services broke down with the consistency that 
always marked them. And at this lingering crisis the 
Tsaritsa died. Her successor not only made peace, but 
began to contemplate aiding Frederick. For a few 
months, France and Austria continued a desultory 
war, but the former's strength was undermined by her 
colonial disasters, and, with Austria now not only 
inert but weary, peace was soon arranged leaving aU 
the warring countries exhausted, and none, except 
England, better off for the seven years' exuberant 
bloodshed. 

If many lessons are to be culled from Frederick's 
campaigns, the main one would appear to be, in brief, 
that his indirectness was too direct. Or, to express it 
in another way, that he regarded the indirect approach 
as a matter of pure mobility, instead of a combina- 
tion of mobility and surprise. Thus, despite all his 
brilliance, his economy of force broke down. 



120 



Chapter VIII 

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND 
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE 

Thirty years pass and the curtain rises on 'The Great 
War' that was illumined by the genius of Napoleon 
Bonaparte. As had been the case a century before, 
France was the menace against which the powers of 
Europe banded themselves. But this time the course 
of the struggle was different. Revolutionary France 
had many sympathizers, but they did not form the 
governments of the nations, nor did they control the 
armed forces of their states. Yet, beginning the war 
alone, forcibly isolated as if infected by the plague, 
she not only repulsed the combined effort to smother 
her, but, changing in nature, became an expanding 
military menace to the rest of Europe, and ultimately, 
the military master of most of it. The clue to her 
achievement of such power lies partly in natural, 
partly in personal, conditions. The former sprang 
from the national and revolutionary spirit which in- 
spired the citizen armies of France, and in compensa- 
tion for the precise drill which it made impossible, 
gave rein instead to the tactical sense and initiative of 
the individual. These new tactics of fluidity had for 
their simple, yet vital pivot, the fact that the French 
now marched and fought at a quick step of 120 paces 

121 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

to the minute, while their opponents adhered to the 
orthodox 70 paces. This elementary difference, in days 
before mechanical science endowed armies with means 
of movement swifter than the human leg, was one 
factor in making possible the rapid transference and 
reshuffled concentrations of striking power whereby 
the French could in Napoleon's phrase, multiply 
'mass by velocity' both strategically and tactically. 

A second natural condition was the organization of 
the army into permanent divisions the fractioning of 
the army into self-contained and separately acting 
parts. Initiated by de Broglie, the reform had taken 
effect even before the Revolution. But then Carnot 
initiated and Bonaparte developed the idea that these 
divisions while operating separately should co-operate 
to a common goal. 

A third condition, linked with this, was that the 
chaotic supply system and the undisciplined nature of 
the Revolutionary armies compelled a reversion to the 
old practice of 'living on the country'. And the dis- 
tribution of the army in divisions meant that this prac- 
tice detracted less from the army's effectiveness than 
in old days. Where, formerly, the fractions had to be 
collected before they could carry out an operation, now 
they could be serving a military purpose while feeding 
themselves. 

Moreover, the effect of 4 moving light' was to ac- 
celerate their mobility, and enable them to move freely 
in mountainous or forest country. Similarly, the very 
fact that they were unable to depend on magazines 
and supply-trains for food and equipment lent im- 
petus to hungry and ill-clad troops in descending upon 
the rear of an enemy who had, and depended on, such 
direct forms of supply. 

The personal conditions centred round the genius of 
a leader Napoleon Bonaparte whose military abil- 

122 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

ity was stimulated by study of military history and, 
even more, by the food for thought provided in the 
theories of the two most outstanding and original 
military writers of the eighteenth century Bourcet 
and Guibert. From Bourcet he learnt the principle of 
calculated dispersion to induce the enemy to disperse 
their own concentration preparatory to the swift re- 
uniting of his own forces. Also, the value of a 'plan 
with several branches', and of operating on a line 
which threatened alternative objectives. Moreover, 
the very plan which Napoleon executed in his first 
campaign was based on one that Bourcet had designed 
half a century earlier. From Guibert he acquired an 
idea of the supreme value of mobility and fluidity of 
force, and of the potentialities inherent in the new 
distribution of an army in self-contained divisions. 
Guibert had defined the Napoleonic method when he 
wrote, a generation earlier : ' The art is to extend forces 
without exposing them, to embrace the enemy without 
being disunited, to link up the moves or the attacks 
to take the enemy in flank without exposing one's own 
flank. 9 And Guibert's prescription for the rear attack, 
as the means of upsetting the enemy's balance, be- 
came Napoleon's practice. To the same source can be 
traced Napoleon's method of concentrating his mobile 
artillery to shatter, and make a breach at, a key point 
in the enemy's front. Moreover, it was the practical 
reforms achieved by Guibert in the French army 
shortly before the Revolution which fashioned the 
instrument that Napoleon applied. Above all, it was 
Guibert's vision of a coming revolution in warfare, 
carried out by a man who would arise from a revolu- 
tionary state, that kindled the youthful Napoleon's 
imagination and ambition. 

While he added littlp to the ideas he had imbibed, 
he gave them fulfilment. Without his dynamic applica- 

123 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

tion, the new mobility might have remained merely a 
theory. Because his education coincided with his in- 
stincts, and because these in turn were given scope by 
his circumstances, he was able to exploit the full 
possibilities of the new 'divisional' system. In develo- 
ping the wider range of strategic combinations thus 
possible, lay Napoleon's chief contribution to stra- 
tegy. 

The amazement caused by the discomfiture, at Val- 
my and Jemappes, of the first partial invasion of 1792 
has tended to obscure the fact that France and the 
Revolution were in far greater danger subsequently. 
For it was only after the execution of Louis XVI that 
the First Coalition was formed by England, Hol- 
land, Austria, Prussia, Spain, and Sardinia and only 
then that determination of spirit and resources of men 
and material were thrown into the scales. If the con- 
duct of the war by the invaders lacked purposeful and 
skilful direction, the situation of the French grew 
more and more precarious until fortune changed 
dramatically in 1794 and the tide of invasion flowed 
back. Henceforth, from being the resisting party, 
France became the aggressor. What caused this ebb? 
Certainly no strategic master-stroke ; but though the 
aim was vague and limited, the significance of the 
event is that the decision sprang from a strategic ap- 
proach that was definitely indirect. 

While the main armies were pitting themselves 
against each other near Lille, with much bloodshed 
but no finality, Jourdan's far-distant army of the 
Moselle was ordered to assemble a striking force on 
its left for an advance westwards through the Ar- 
dennes, to operate towards Li6ge and Namur. Reach- 
ing Namur after a hungry march, during which his 
troops had lived on such supplies as they could pick 
up from the countryside, Jourdan heard by message 

124 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

and the distant sound of gun-fire that the right wing 
of the main army was engaged unsuccessfully in front 
of Charleroi. So, instead of laying formal siege to 
Namur, he moved south-westwards towards Char- 
leroi and the rear flank of the enemy. His arrival in- 
timidated the fortress into surrender. 

Jourdan seems to have had no wider object in view, 
but the innate psychological 'pull' of such a move on 
to the enemy's rear gave him what Napoleon and 
other great captains sought as a calculated result. 
Coburg, the enemy commander-in-chief, hurried back 
eastwards, collecting such troops as he could on his 
way. He threw them into an attack upon Jourdan, 
who was entrenched to cover Charleroi. Although the 
struggle, famous as the battle of Fleurus, was severe, 
the French had the inestimable advantage of having 
strategically dislocated the enemy and having drawn 
him to attack with a fraction of his strength. The 
defeat of this fraction was followed by the general 
retreat of the allies. 

When the French, in turn, assumed the role of in- 
vaders, they failed, despite their superior numbers, to 
achieve any decisive results in the main campaign 
across the Rhine. Indeed the campaign was, in the end, 
not merely blank, but blasted and by an indirect ap- 
proach. In July 1796, the Archduke Charles, faced by 
the renewed advance of the two superior armies of 
Jourdan and Moreau, decided, in his own words, 'to 
retire both armies (his own and Wartensleben's) step 
by step without committing himself to a battle, and to 
seize the first opportunity to unite them, so as to throw 
himself with superior, or at least equal, strength on 
one of the two hostile armies'. But the enemy's pres- 
sure gave him no chance to practise this 'interior 
lines' strategy direct in aim, .save for the idea of 
yielding ground to gain an opportunity until a 

125 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

French change of direction suggested a more auda- 
cious stroke. It was due to the initiative of a cavalry 
brigadier, Nauendorff, whose wide reconnaissance 
showed him that the French were diverging from the 
Archduke's front to converge on and destroy Wartens- 
leben. He sent the inspired message: * If your Royal 
Highness will or can advance 12,000 men against 
Jourdan's rear, he is lost.' If the Archduke's execution 
was not as bold as his subordinate's conception, it 
was sufficient to bring about the collapse of the 
French offensive. The disorderly retreat of Jourdan's 
shattered army back to and over the Rhine, compelled 
Moreau to relinquish his successful progress in 
Bavaria and fall back similarly. 

But while the main French effort on the Rhine 
failed, and failed afresh later, the decision came from 
a secondary theatre, Italy where Bonaparte suc- 
ceeded in converting a precarious defensive into a 
decisive indirect approach to a victorious issue. The 
plan was already in his mind two years before, when 
he had been a staff-officer in this zone, and subse- 
quently in Paris it had taken definite form. Just as the 
plan itself was a reproduction of the 1745 plan, im- 
proved by application of the lessons of that campaign, 
so Bonaparte's key ideas had been moulded by the 
masters who had guided his military studies during 
his most impressionable years. That period of study 
was brief he was only twenty-four when, as Captain 
Bonaparte, he was given command of the artillery at 
the siege of Toulon, and only twenty-six when he was 
made commander-in-chief of the * Army of Italy'. If 
he had packed much reading and thinking into a few 
years, he had little leisure for reflection thereafter. 
Dynamic rather than deep-thinking, he did not evolve 
any clear philosophy of war. And his working theory, 
so far as it found expression in his writings, was rather 

126 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

a patchwork quilt lending itself to misinterpretation 
by subsequent generations of soldiers who have hung 
upon his words. 

This tendency, as well as the natural effect of his 
early experience, is illustrated in one of the most 
significant and oft-quoted of his sayings 'The prin- 
ciples of war are the same as those of a siege. Fire 
must be concentrated on one point, and as soon as the 
breach is made, the equilibrium is broken and the rest 
is nothing.' Subsequent military theory has put the 
accent on the first clause instead of on the last ; in par- 
ticular, on the words 'one point' instead of on the 
word 'equilibrium'. The former is but a physical meta- 
phor, whereas the latter expresses the actual psycho- 
logical result which ensures 'that the rest is nothing'. 
His own emphasis can be traced in the strategic course 
of his campaigns. 

The word ' point ' even, has been the source of much 
confusion, and more controversy. One school argues 
that Napoleon meant that the concentrated blow 
must be aimed at the enemy's strongest point, on the 
ground that this, and this only, ensures decisive results. 
For if the enemy's main resistance be broken, its rup- 
ture will involve that of any lesser opposition. This 
argument ignores the factor of cost, and the fact that 
the victor may be too exhausted to exploit hi& success 
so that even a weaker opponent may acquire a rela- 
tively higher resisting power than the original. The 
other school, better imbued with the idea of economy 
of force, but only in the limited sense of first costs, 
contends that the offensive should be aimed at the 
enemy's weakest point. But where a point is obviously 
weak this is usually because it is remote from any 
vital artery or nerve centre, or because it is deliberately 
left weak to draw the assailant into a trap. 

Here, again, illumination comes from the actual 

127 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

campaign in which Bonaparte put this maxim into 
execution. It clearly suggests that what he really meant 
was not 'point', but 'joint' and that at this stage of 
his career he was too firmly imbued with the idea of 
economy of force to waste his limited strength in 
battering at the enemy's strong point. A joint, how- 
ever, is both vital and vulnerable. 

It was at this time, too, that Bonaparte used another 
phrase that has subsequently been quoted to justify 
the most foolhardy concentrations of effort ^against 
the main armed forces of the enemy. 'Austria is our 
most determined enemy. . . . Austria overthrown, 
Spain and Italy fall of themselves. We must not dis- 
perse our attacks but concentrate them.' But the full 
text of the memorandum containing this phrase shows 
that he was arguing, not in support of the direct attack 
upon Austria, but for using the army on the frontier 
of Piedmont for an indirect approach to Austria. In 
his conception, northern Italy was to be the corridor 
to Austria. And in this secondary theatre, his aim 
following Bourcet's guidance was to knock out 
the junior partner, Piedmont, before dealing with the 
Senior partner. In execution, his approach became still 
more indirect, and acquired a subtler form. For con- 
tact with reality shattered the dream which, afjer his 
initial success, he communicated to his government 
4 In less than a month I hope to be on the mountains 
of Tirol, there to meet the army of the Rhine, and 
with it to carry the war into Bavaria.' It was through 
the frustration of this project that his real opportunity 
developed. By drawing Austria's forces into offen- 
sives against him in Italy, and defeating them there, 
he gained, twelve months later, an open road into 
Austria. ^ f 

When Bonaparte assumed command of the 'Army 
of Italy', in March 1796, its troops were spread out 

128 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 
along the Genoese Riviera, while the allied Austrian 
and Piedmont forces held the mountain passes into 
the plains beyond. Bonaparte's plan was to make two 
converging thrusts across the mountains at the fortress 
of Ceva, and having gained this gateway into Pied- 
mont, to frighten her government into a separate 
peace by the threat of his advance on Turin. He hoped 
that the Austrian forces would be still in their winter 
quarters although if they should move to join their 
allies nb had in liiind a feint towards Acqui to make 
them withdraw in a divergent, north-easterly direction. 
But in the event it was by fortune rather than design 
that Bonaparte gained the initial advantage of separat- 
ing the two armies. The opportunity was created by 
an offensive move on the part of the Austrians who 
made a bound forward to threaten Bonaparte's right 
flank and forestall any French advance on Genoa. 
Bonaparte countered this threat by a short-arm jab 
towards the joint of the Austrian advance though 
two more jabs at a neighbouring point were needed 
before the Austrians accepted the repulse and fell back 
on Acqui. Meantime, the bulk of the French army 
was advancing on Ceva. Bonaparte's rash attempt, on 
the 16th of April, to take the position by direct assault 
was a failure. He then planned an encircling manoeuvre 
for the 18th, and also changed his line of communica- 
tions to a route further removed from possible Aus- 
trian interference. The Piedmontese, however, with- 
drew from the fortress before the new attack deve- 
loped. In following them up, Bonaparte suffered an- 
other expensive repulse when he tried another direct 
assault, on a position where the Piedmontese had 
chosen to make a stand. But at the next tim of asking 
both their flanks were turned, a^(4 they were hustled 
back into the plains. In the eyes of the Piedmontese 
government, the threat to Turin from the oncoming 
K 129 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

French now loomed much larger than the Austrians' 
belated promise to march to their aid, by a necessarily 
roundabout route. The 'equilibrium was broken', and 
its psychological effect dispensed with any need for 
physical defeat to make the Piedmontese appeal for 
an armistice which removed them from the scales of 
the war. 

No commander's first campaign could have been 
better suited to impress him with the vital importance 
of the time factor all the more because it would seem 
that if the Piedmontese had held out even a few days 
longer Bonaparte might, for want of supplies, have 
been obliged to retreat back to the Riviera. Whether 
this reported admission of his be true or not, the im- 
pression made on him is shown in his remark at the 
time 'It may be that in future I may lose a battle, 
but I shall never lose a minute. ' 

He was now superior to the Austrians alone (35,000 
to 25,000). Did he advance directly upon them? No. 
The day after the armistice with Piedmont had been 
settled, he took Milan as his objective ; but Tortona 
to Piacenza was his indirect way thither or, rather, 
on to its rear. After deceiving the Austrians into a 
concentration at Valenza to oppose his expected north- 
eastward advance, he marched east instead, along the 
south bank of the Po, and so, on reaching Piacenza, 
he had turned all the Austrians' possible lines of re- 
sistance. 

To gain this advantage he had not scrupled to vio- 
late the neutrality of the Duchy of Parma, in whose 
territory Piacenza lay, calculating that he might there 
find boats and a ferry to compensate his lack of a 
proper bridging train. But this disregard for neutral 
rights had an ironically retributive effect. For when 
Bonaparte swung north against the Austrians' rear 
flank the latter decided to retire without loss of time 

130 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 
through an intervening strip of Venetian territory 
thus saving themselves by following his example of 
disrespect for the rules of war. Before he could use the 
Adda as a river-barrier across their line of retreat, the 
Austrians had slipped out of his reach, to gain the 
shelter of Mantua and the famous Quadrilateral of 
fortresses. In face of these stubborn realities, Bona- 
parte's vision of invading Austria within a month 
became a distant vista. And increasingly distant, be- 
cause the Directory, growing anxious over the risks 
of the move and its own straitened resources, ordered 
him to march down to Leghorn, and 'evacuate* the 
four neutral states on the way which meant, in the 
language of the time, to plunder their resources. In 
that process Italy was despoiled to such an extent that 
it never recovered its former state of prosperity. 

From a military point of view, however, this restric- 
tion of Bonaparte's freedom of action proved the 
proverbial 'blessing in disguise'. For by compelling 
him to delay the pursuit of his dreams, it enabled him, 
with the enemy's assistance, to adjust hife end to his 
means until the balance of forces had turned far 
enough to bring his original end within practicable 
reach. To quote the judgement of Ferrero, the great 
Italian historian : 

'For a century the first campaign in Italy has been 
described I am almost tempted to say, sung as a 
triumphant epic of offensive movements, according 
to which Bonaparte conquered Italy so easily because 
he followed up attack with attack, with a boldness that 
was equal to his good luck. But when the history of 
the campaign is studied impartially, it is clear that the 
two enemies attacked, or were attacked alternately, 
and that in the majority of cases the attacker failed.' 

More by force of circumstances than by Bonaparte's 
design, Mantua became a bait to draw successive Aus- 

131 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

triari relieving forces far from their bases, and into 
his jaws. It is significant, however, that he did not 
entrench himself in a covering position after the cus- 
tom of the traditional general, but kept his forces 
mobile, disposed in a loose and wide-flung grouping 
which could be concentrated in any direction. 

In face of the first Austrian attempt at relief, Bona- 
parte's method was imperilled by his own reluctance 
to give up the investment of Mantua, and only when 
he cut loose this anchor was he able to use his mobility 
to overthrow the Austrians, at Castiglione. He was 
now ordered by the Directory to advance through the 
Tyrol and co-operate with the main Rhine army. The 
Austrians profited by this direct advance on his part 
to slip away eastwards with the bulk of their force, 
through the Val Sugana, down into the Venetian 
plain, and then westwards to relieve Mantua. But 
Bonaparte, instead of pursuing his advance north, or 
falling back to guard Mantua, turned in hot chase of 
their tail through the mountains, thereby retorting to 
the enemy's indirect approach with one of his own 
but with a more decisive aim than theirs. At Bassano, 
he caught and crushed the rear half of their army. And 
when he emerged into the Venetian plain in pursuit of 
the other half, he directed the pursuers to cut the enemy 
off from Trieste and their line of retreat to Austria, 
not to head them off from Mantiia. Thus they became 
a fresh addition to his Mantuan safe-deposit. 

The locking up of so much of her military capital 
drove Austria to a fresh expenditure. This time, and 
not for the last time, the directness of Bonaparte's tac- 
tics imperilled the successful indirectness of his stra- 
tegy. When the converging armies of Alvintzi and 
Davidovich drew near to Verona, his pivot for the 
guarding of Mantua, Bonaparte hurled himself at the 
former^ the stronger, and suffer ed a severe repulse 

132 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

at Caldiero. But instead of retreating, he chose the 
daring course of a wide manoeuvre round the southern 
flank of Alvintzi's army and on to its rear. ,How des- 
perate he felt was shown in the letter he wrote to warn 
the Directory 'The weakness and exhaustion of the 
army cause me to fear the worst. We are perhaps on 
the eve of losing Italy. ' The delays caused by marshes 
and water-courses increased the hazard of his man- 
oeuvre, but it upset the enemy's plan of closing their 
jaws on his army, supposed to be at Verona. While 
Alvintzi wheeled to meet him, Davidovich remained 
inactive. Even so, Bonaparte found it hard to over- 
come Alvintzi's superior numbers. But when the scales 
of battle were hanging in the balance at Arcola, Bona- 
parte resorted to. a tactical ruse, a device rare for him 
sending a few trumpeters on to the Austrian rear to 
sound the charge. Within a few minutes the Austrian 
troops were streaming away in flight. 

Two months later, in January 1797, the Austrians 
made a fourth and last attempt to save Mantua, but 
this was shattered at Rivoli where Bonaparte's loose 
group formation functioned almost perfectly. Like a 
widespread net whose corners are weighted with stones, 
when one of the enemy's columns impinged on it the 
net closed in round the point of pressure and the 
stones crashed together on the intruder. This self-pro- 
tective formation which thus, on impact, became a 
concentrated offensive formation, was Bonaparte's de- 
velopment of the new divisional system by which an 
army was permanently sub-divided into independently 
moving fractions, instead of, as formerly, constituting 
a single body from which only temporary detachments 
were made. The group formation of Bonaparte's Ita- 
lian campaigns became the more highly developed 
bataillon carr&, with army corps replacing divisions, of 
his later wars. Although at Rivoli this loaded net was 

133 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

the means of crushing the Austrians' manoeuvring 
wing, it is significant to note that the collapse of their 
main resistance came from Bonaparte's audacity in 
sending a single regiment of 2,000 men across Lake 
Garda, in boats, to place themselves on the line of re- 
treat of a "whole army. Mantua then surrendered, and 
the Austrians who had lost their armies in the effort 
to save this outer gate to their country had now to 
watch, helplessly, Bonaparte's swift approach to the 
defenceless inner gate. This threat wrung peace from 
Austria while the main French armies were still but a 
few miles beyond the Rhine. 

In the autumn of 1798, the Second Coalition was 
formed by Russia, Austria, England, Turkey, Portu- 
gal, Naples, and the Papacy to cast off the shackles 
of this peace treaty. Bonaparte was away in Egypt, 
and when he returned the fortunes of France had sunk 
low. The field armies were greatly depleted, the trea- 
sury was empty, and the conscript levies were falling 
off. Bonaparte, who on his return had overthrown 
the Directory and become First Consul, ordered the 
formation at Dijon of an Army of Reserve, composed 
of all the home troops that could be scraped together. 
But he did not use it to reinforce the main theatre 
of war, and the main army on the Rhine, Instead, he 
planned the boldest of all his indirect approaches 
a swoop along an immense arc on to the rear of 
the Austrian army in Italy. This had driven the small 
French 'Army of Italy' back almost to the French 
frontier and penned it into the north-west corner of 
Italy. Bonaparte had intended to move through Swit- 
zerland, to Lucerne, or Zurich, and then to descend 
into Italy as far east as the Saint Gothard pass, or 
even the Tyrol. But the news that the Army of Italy 
was hajd pressed led him to take the shorter route by 
the Saint Bernard pass. Thus, when he debouched 

134 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

from the Alps at Ivrea, in the last week of ^lay 1800, 
he was still on the right front of the Austrian army. 
Instead of pressing south-east direct to the aid of Mas- 
s&ia, who was shut up in Genoa, Bonaparte sent his 
advanced guard due south to Cherasco, while, under 
cover of this distraction, he slipped eastward to Milan 
with the main body. Thus, instead of advancing to 
meet the enemy in what he termed * their natural 
position', facing west of Alessandria, he gained a 
* natural position' across the Austrians' rear forming 
tfiat strategic back-stop, or barrage, which was the 
initial objective of his deadliest manoeuvres against 
the enemy's rear. For such a position, offering natural 
obstacles, afforded him a secure pivot from which to 
prepare a stranglehold for the enemy, whose instinc- 
tive tendency, when cut off from their line of retreat 
and supply, was to turn and flow back, usually in 
driblets, towards him. This conception of a strategic 
barrage was Bonaparte's chief contribution to the 
strategy of indirect approach. 

At Milan he had barred one of the two Austrian 
routes of retreat, and now, extending his barrage south 
of the Po to the Stradella defile, he also blocked the 
other. But here, for the moment, his conception had 
somewhat outranged his means for he had only 
34,000 men, and owing to Moreau's reluctance, the 
corps of 15,000 that Bonaparte had ordered the Army 
of the Rhine to send over the Saint Gothard pass was 
late in arriving. Concern over the thinness of his bar- 
rage became accentuated. And at this juncture Genoa 
capitulated, thereby removing his 'fixative' agent. Un- 
certainty as to the route the Austrians might now take, 
and the fear that they might retire to Genoa, where 
the British navy could revictual them, led hi* to for- 
feit much of the advantage he had gained. For, credit- 
ing his opponents with more initiative than tlfey pos- 
' 135 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

sessed, he quitted his ' natural position ' at the Stradella 
and pushed Westward to reconnoitre them, sending 
Desaix with a division to cut the road from Alessan- 
dria to Genoa. Thus he was caught at a disadvantage, 
with only part of his army at hand, when the Austrian 
army suddenly emerged from Alessandria and ad- 
vanced to meet him on the plains of Marengo (the 
14th of June 1800). The battle was long in doubt, and 
even when Desaix's detachment returned the Aus- 
trians were only driven back. But then Bonaparte's 
strategic position became the lever which enabled him 
to wring from the demoralized Austrian commander 
an agreement that the Austrians were to evacuate 
Lombardy and retire behind the Mincio. Although 
the war was resumed in a desultory fashion beyond 
the Mincio, the moral repercussion of Marengo was 
manifested in the armistice which closed the war of the 
Second Coalition six months later. 

After several years of uneasy peace, the curtain that 
had fallen on the French Revolutionary Wars rose on 
a new act the Napoleonic wars. In 1805, Napoleon's 
army of 200,000 men was assembled at Boulogne, 
menacing a descent on the English coast, when it was 
suddenly directed by forced marches to the Rhine. 
It is still uncertain whether Napoleon seriously in- 
tended a direct invasion of England, or whether his 
threat was merely the first move in his indirect ap- 
proach to Austria. Probably, he was acting on Bour- 
cet's principle of 'a plan with branches'. When he 
decided to take the eastward branch, he calculated 
that the Austrians Would, as usual, send an army into 
Bavaria to block the exits of the Black Forest. On this 
basis he planned his wide manoeuvre round their 
northern flank, across the Danube, and on to the 
Lech his intended strategic barrage across their rear. 
It was a repetition, on a grander scale, of the Stra- 

136 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 
delU manoeuvre and Napoleon himself emphasized 
the parallel to his troops. Moreover, his superiority of 
force enabled him, once the barrage was established, 
to convert it into a moving barrage. This, closing 
down on the rear of the Austrian army, led to its al- 
most bloodless surrender at Ulm. 

Having wiped out the weaker partner, Napoleon 
had now to deal with the Russian army, under Kuto- 
sov. This, after traversing Austria and gathering* 
smaller Austrian contingents, had just reached the 
Inn. A less immediate threat was the return of the 
other Austrian armies from Italy and the Tyrol. The 
size of his forces was now, for the first but not the 
last time, an inconvenience to Napoleon. With such 
large armies, the space between the Danube and the 
mountains to the south-west was too cramped for any 
local indirect approach to the enemy, and there was 
not time for a wide movement of the range of the Ulm 
manoeuvre. But so long as the Russians remained on 
the Inn, they were in a 'natural position' forming 
not only a shield to Austrian territory, but a shield 
under cover of which the other Austrian armies could 
come up from the south, through Carinthia, and join 
them in presenting Napoleon with a solid wall of re- 
sistance. 

Faced with this problem, Napoleon used a most 
subtle series of variations of the indirect approach. 
His first aim was to push the Russians as far east as 
possible, so as to separate them from the Austrian 
armies now returning from Italy. So, while advancing 
directly east towards Kutosov and Vienna, he sent 
Mortier's corps along the north bank of the Danube. 
This threat to Kutosov's communications with Russia 
was sufficient to induce him to fall back obliquely 
north-eastwards, to Krems on the Danube. Napoleon 
thereupon dispatched Murat on a dash across Kuto- 

137 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

sov's new front, with Vienna as his goal. From Vienna, 
Murat was directed northwards on Hollabrunn. Thus, 
after first threatening the Russians' right flank, Napo- 
leon now menaced their left rear. Owing to Murat's 
mistaken agreement to a temporary truce, this move 
failed to cut off the Russians, but it at least drove 
them into a hurried retreat still further north-east to 
Olmiitz, within close reach of their own frontier. Al- 
though they were now separated from the Austrian 
reinforcements, they were nearer to their own, and at 
Olmiitz they actually received a large instalment. To 
press them further back would only consolidate their 
strength. Besides, time pressed, and the entry of Prus- 
sia into the war was imminent. 

Hence Napoleon resorted to the indirect approach 
of tempting the Russians into taking the offensive by a 
subtle display of his own apparent weakness. To face 
the 80,000 men of the enemy army, he concentrated 
only 50,000 at Briinn, and thence pushed out isolated 
detachments towards Olmiitz. This impression of 
weakness he supplemented by * doves of peace' to the 
Tsar and the Austrian emperor. When the enemy 
swallowed the bait, Napoleon recoiled before them to 
a position at Austerlitz, designed by nature to fit his 
trap. And in the battle which followed he used one of 
his rare examples of the tactical indirect approach to 
offset his equally rare inferiority of numbers on the 
battlefield. Luring the enemy to stretch their left in an 
attack on his line of retreat, he swung round his centre 
against the weakened * joint' and thereby obtained a 
victory so decisive that within twenty-four hours the 
Emperor of Austria asked for peace. 

Whe$, a few months later, -Napoleon turned to deal 
with Prussia, he had a superiority of almost two to one 
availablet-ap army that was 'grand' both in quantity 
and quality against one that was defective in training 

138 



- THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

and obsolete in outlook. The effect of this assured 
superiority on Napoleon's strategy was marked, and 
had a growing influence on the conduct of his later 
campaigns. In 1806, he still sought, and gained, the 
advantage of initial surprise. To this end he had can- 
toned his troops near the Danube, and thence swiftly 
concentrated to the north, behind the natural screen 
formed by the Thiiringian forest. Next, debouching 
suddenly from the wooded range into the open coun- 
try beyond, his bataillon carre drove straight ahead 
towards the heart of the enemy country. Thus Napo- 
leon found himself, rather than placed himself, on the 
rear of the Prussian forces ; and in swinging round to 
crush them at Jena, he seems to h^ve relied primarily 
on sheer weight : the moral effect of his position being 
incidental, although important. 

So also in the campaign against the Russians which 
followed, in Poland and East Prussia, Napoleon seems 
concerned mainly with the single end of bringing his 
enemy to battle confident that, when this happened, 
his machine would overpower the enemy.* He still uses 
the manoeuvre on to the enemy's rear, buit it is more 
as a means of gripping them firmly, so that they can 
be drawn into his jaws, than as a means of liquefying 
their moral, so that mastication may be easier. 

The indirect approach is here a means of distraction 
and physical 'traction' rather than of distraction and 
moral dislocation. 

Thus in the Pultusk manoeuvre he aimed to draw 
the Russians westwards so that when he advanced 
north from Poland, he might cut them off from Russia, 
The Russians slipped out of his jaws. In Jam 
the Russians moved westwards on their o\ 
towards the remnant of their Ptnssian 
zig, and Napoleon was quick to seize 
to cut their communications with Prussia/ Hi6 Msl 

139 




THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

tions, however, fell into the hands of the Cossacks, 
and the Russian army fell back just in time. Napoleon, 
thereupon, followed them up directly; and, finding 
them in a frontal position at Eylau, ready to accept 
battle, he relied on a purely tactical manoeuvre against 
their rear. Its working suffered from the interference 
of snowstorms, and the Russians, though mauled, 
were not masticated. Four months later, both sides had 
recuperated, and the Russians suddenly moved south 
against Heilsburg, whereupon Napoleon wheeled his 
bataillon carre east to cut them off from Konigsberg, 
their immediate base. But this time he was so appar- 
ently obsessed with the idea of battle that when his 
cavalry, reconnoitring to the flank of his route, re- 
ported the presence of the Russians in a strong posi- 
tion at Friedland, he swung his forces straight at the 
target. The tactical victory was won, not by surprise 
or mobility, but by pure offensive power here ex- 
pressed in Napoleon's new artillery tactics, the massed 
concentration of guns at a selected point. This was 
to become more and more the driving-shaft of his 
tactical mechanism. If at Friedland, as often later, it 
ensured victory, it did little to save lives. It is curious 
how the possession of a blank cheque on the bank of 
man-power had so analogous an effect in 1807-14 and 
in 1914-18. And curious, also, that in each case it was 
associated with the method of intense artillery bom- 
bardments. 

The explanation may be that lavish expenditure 
breeds extravagance, the mental antithesis of economy 
of force to which surprise and mobility are the 
means. This hypothesis is strengthened by the simi- 
larity of effect seen in Napoleon's policy. 

Napoleon was able, to use the glamour of his victory 
at Friedland to reinforce the glamour of his personal- 
ity in seducing the Tsar from his partners in the 

140 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

Fourth Coalition. But he then risked his advantage, 
and ultimately his einpire, by excess in exploiting it. 
The severity of his terms to Prussia undermined the 
security of the peace, his policy towards England con- 
templated nothing short of her ruin, and his aggression 
raised Spain and Portugal as fresh enemies. Here it is 
apt to note that it was an indirect approach Sir John 
Moore's brief 4 in and out 5 thrust against Burgos and 
the communications of the French forces in Spain 
which dislocated Napoleon's plans in Spain, gave the 
national rising time and space to gather strength, and 
thus ensured that the Iberian peninsula should hence- 
forth be a running sore in Napoleon's side. Above all, 
the moral influence of this first check to Napoleon's 
irresistible progress gives it a decisive significance. 
Napoleon had no chance to redeem it, for he was 
called back by the threatened uprising of Prussia and 
the fresh intervention of Austria. The latter matured, 
and in the campaign of 1809, we see Napoleon again 
trying, at Landshut and Vienna, to manoeuvre on to 
the enemy's rear. But when hitches occur in the execu- 
tion of these manoeuvres, Napoleon's impatience leads 
him to gamble on a direct approach and battle, and at 
Aspern-Essling he suffers in consequence his first great 
defeat. If he retrieves it by the victoty of Wagram at 
the same point, six weeks later, the price is high and 
the peace thereby gained unstable. 

The Peninsular War 

But Napoleon had two years' grace in which to 
operate on and cure the ' Spanish ulcer'. As Moore's 
intervention had thwarted Napoleon's attempt to 
check the inflammatory condition in its early stages, so 
in the years that followed Wellington was to hinder all 
remedial measures and enable the wound to fester, the 
poison to spread, through the Napoleonic system. The 

^ 141 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

French had beaten, and continued to beat any regular 
Spanish forces, but the thoroughness of these defeats 
was of the greatest benefit to the defeated. For it 
ensured that the main effort of the Spanish was thrown 
into guerrilla warfare. An intangible web of guerrilla 
bands replaced a vulnerable military target, while enter- 
prising and unconventional guerrilla leaders, instead of 
hide-bound Spanish generals, conducted operations. 
The worst misfortune for Spain, and hence for Eng- 
land, was the temporary success of attempts to form 
fresh regular forces. Fortunately they were soon beaten, 
and as the French dispersed them so, coincidently, did 
they disperse their own good fortune. The poison 
spread again instead of coming to a head. 

In this curious warfare, England's most profound 
influence Was in aggravating the trouble and encourag- 
ing the sources of it. Rarely has she caused a greater 
distraction to her opponents at the price of so small a 
military effort. And the effect produced in Spain was 
in significant contrast with the slight results, indeed 
the unhappy results, produced on the one hand by her 
attempts at direct co-operation with her Continental 
allies during these wars, and on the other by her ex- 
peditions to trans-oceanic points too remote, geogra- 
phically and psychologically, to affect her opponent. 
From the standpoint of national policy and prosper- 
ity the second class of expedition, however, had its 
justification in adding Cape Colony, Mauritius, Cey- 
lon, British Guiana, and several West Indian islands 
to the British Empire. 

But the rtfal effect of England's grand-strategic in- 
direct approach in Spain has been obscured by the 
traditional tendency of historians to become obsessed 
with battles. Indeed, by treating the Peninsular War 
as a chronicle of Wellington's battles and sieges it be- 
comes meaningless. Sir John Fortescue did much to 

142 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

correct this tendency and fallacy, despite the fact that 
he was primarily concerned with the localized 'His- 
tory of the British Army'. It is significant that as his 
own researches deepened he gave more and more em- 
phasis to the predominant influence of the Spanish 
guerrillas on the issue of the struggle. 

If thQ presence of the British expeditionary force 
was an essential foundation for this influence, Welling- 
ton's battles were perhaps the least effective part of 
his operations. By them he inflicted a total loss of 
some 45,000 men only counting killed, wounded and 
prisoners on the French during the five years' cam- 
paign until they were driven out of Spain, whereas 
Marbot reckoned that the number of French deaths 
alone during this* period averaged a hundred a day. 
Hence it is a clear deduction that the overwhelming 
majority of the losses which drained the French 
strength, and their morale still more, was due to the 
operations of the guerrillas, and of Wellington him- 
self, in harrying the French and in making the country 
a desert where the French stayed only to starve. Not 
the least significant feature is that Wellington fought 
so few battles in so long a series of campaigns. Was 
this due to that essentially practical 'common-sense' 
which biographers have declared to be the key to his 
character and outlook? In the words of his latest 
biographer 'direct and narrow realism was the es- 
sence of Wellington's character. It was responsible for 
his limitations and defects, but in the larger stage of 
his public career it amounted to genius.' This diag- 
nosis admirably fits the symptoms, both good and ill, 
of Wellington's strategy in the peninsula. 

The expedition which was to have such momentous 
consequences was itself a subtraction of force from 
the main and abortive effort on the Scheldt, and was 
undertaken more from the hope of saving Portugal 

143 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

than from any dfeep appreciation of its grand-strategic 
potentialities in aggravating the 'Spanish ulcer 5 . 
Castlereagh's uphill advocacy, however, was aided by 
' Sir Arthur WeUesley's expression of opinion that, if 
the Portuguese army and militia were reinforced by 
20,000 British troops, the French would need 100,000 
to conquer Portugal, a quantity they could not spare if 
the Spanish still continued to resist. Expressed in a 
different way, this might mean that 20,000 British 
would suffice to cause the 'distraction' of nearly 
100,000 French, part at least from the main theatre of 
war in Austria. 

As ah aid to Austria the expedition was to prove of 
no avail, and as a shield to Portugal not altogether 
satisfactory from a Portuguese standpoint. But as a 
strain on Napoleon and an advantage to England it 
bore fruit tenfold. 

Wellesley was given 26,000 men, and in April 1809 
he arrived at Lisbon. Partly as a result of the Spanish 
insurrection, partly as a sequel to Moore's thrust at 
Burgos and retreat to Corunna the French were 
widely scattered over the peninsula. Ney was vainly 
trying to subdue Galicia in the extreme north-western 
corner. South of him, but in the north of Portugal, 
Soult lay at Oporto, with his army itself dispersed in 
detachments. Victor lay round Merida, facing the 
southern route into Portugal. 

Profiting by his central position, his unexpected 
appearance, and the enemy's dispersion, Wellesley 
moved north against Soult. Although he failed to cut 
off Soult's most southerly detachments as he had 
planned, he surprised Soult himself before the latter 
could assemble his force, upset his dispositions v by a 
crossing higher up the Douro, and developed this 
incipient dislocation by heading Soult off from his 
natural line of retreat. Like Turenne in 1675, Wellesley 

144 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

mopped up the resistance without it ever having had 
the chance to coagulate. And at the end of Soult's en- 
forced retreat through the bleak mountains north- 
ward into Galicia, his army had suffered loss and ex- 
haustion out of all proportion to the fighting. 

Wellesley's second operation, however, was neither 
so profitable nor so well-conceived in its adjustment 
of end and means. Victor, who had remained passively 
at Merida, was recalled, after Soult's 'disappearace', 
to Talavera, where he could cover the direct approach 
to Madrid. A month later Wellesley decided to march 
by this route on Madrid, pushing into the heart of 
Spain and into the lion's jaws. For he offered a tar- 
get on which all the French armies in Spain could 
concentrate by the easiest routes. Moreover, by thus 
rallying on their central pivot they had the chance of 
knitting together the communications between them 
when the armies were scattered these communica- 
tions were their greatest source of weakness. 

Wellesley advanced with only 23,000 men, sup- 
ported by a similar number of Spanish ttoops under 
the feeble Cuesta, whereas Victor in falling back had 
brought himself within close reach of support from 
two other French forces near Madrid. And the hostile 
concentration was likely to total over 100,000, since 
'through accident rather than design' as Fortescue 
remarks the forces of Ney, Soult, and Mortier had 
drifted Madrid-wards from the north. If fortune 
favours the calculating bold, it often turns against the 
rash. Hampered by Cuesta's irresolution and his own 
supplies, Wellesley did not succeed in joining issue 
with Victor until die latter was reinforced by Joseph 
Bonaparte from Madrid. Constrained to fall back in 
his turn, Wellesley emerged somewhat luckily from a 
defensive battle at Talavera, but would have advanced 
again if Cuesta had not refused. This was fortunate 
L 145 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

for Wellesley, as Soult was descending upon his rear. 
Cut off from the route by which he had come, 
Wellesley escaped by slipping south of the Tagus ; but 
only after a costly, demoralizing and exhausting re- 
treat did he regain the shelter of the Portuguese fron- 
tier. Want of food hampered the French pursuit. This 
closed the campaign of 1809 and taught Wellesley the 
worthlessness of Spanish regular forces a lesson he 
might have learnt from Moore's experience. As a 
reward for his efforts he was created Viscount Welling- 
ton. He did more to deserve this the next year. 

For in 1810, with Austria now driven to peace, 
Napoleon was free to concentrate his attention on 
Spain and Portugal until 1812. These two years 
were the critical period of the Peninsular War. And 
the inability of the French to accomplish their pur- 
pose then is of greater historical significance than their 
subsequent defeats, or Wellington's victories, in 1812 
and 1813. The foundation of the British success lay in 
Wellington's shrewd calculation of the economic fac- 
tor the limited French means of subsistence and 
his construction of the lines of Torres Vedras. His 
strategy was essentially that of indirect approach to a 
military-economic object and objective. 

Before the main campaign opened he was aided by 
the Spanish regular forces in their customary way. 
They embarked on a winter campaign in which they 
were so thoroughly crushed and dispersed that the 
French, deprived of any target, were induced to 
stretch themselves more widely still .over Spain in- 
vading the rieh province of Andalusia in the south. 

Napoleon now took control, if from a distance, and 
by the end of February 1810 had concentrated nearly 
300,000 men in Spain with more to come. Of this 
total, 65,000 were assigned to Massena for the task of 
driving the British out of Portugal. If the number was 

146 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

large, its small proportion to the whole is illuminating 
evidence of the growing strain of the guerrilla war in 
Spain. And Wellington, by the inclusion of British- 
trained Portuguese troops, had made up his total to 
50,000. 

Massena's invasion came by the north, past Ciudad 
Rodrigo, and thus gave Wellington the longest time 
and space for his strategy to take effect. His precau- 
tions in stripping the country of provisions formed a 
* transmission-brake' on Massena's advance, while his 
half-way stand at Bussaco served as a * foot-brake' 
which was strengthened by Massena's folly in com- 
mitting his troops to a needless direct assault. Then 
Wellington fell back to the lines of Torres Vedras 
which he had constructed, across the mountainous 
peninsula formed by the Tagus and the sea, to cover 
Lisbon. On the 14th of October, four months and 
barely two hundred miles from his start, Massena 
came within sight of the lines a sight which struck 
him with the full shock of surprise. Unable to force 
them, he hung on for a month until compelled by 
starvation to retreat to Santarem, thirty miles back, 
on the Tagus. Wellington, shrewdly, made no attempt 
to press his retreat or bring on a battle, but set himself 
to confine Massena within the smallest possible area 
so that he might have the greatest possible difficulty in 
feeding his men. The French, now and later, had to 
pay dearly for their faith in the optimistic illusions 
encouraged by Napoleon's hyperbolical phrase : ' Sup- 
plies? don't talk to me about them. Twenty thousand 
men can live in a desert. ' 

Wellington maintained this strategy resolutely, des- 
pite the indirect risk of a change of policy at home, 
and the direct risk caused by Soult's advance in the 
south, by way of Badajoz, which was made a diver- 
sion to relieve the constriction of Massena. And he 

147 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

withstood every effort of Mass6na to draw him into 
an attack. He was both justified and rewarded, for at 
last, in March, Massna had to go; and when the 
starving wreckage of his army recrossed the frontier 
he had lost 25,000 men, of whom only 2,000 had fallen 
in action. 

Meantime the Spanish guerrillas had been growing 
ever more active and numerous. In Aragon and Cata- 
lonia alone, two French corps (totalling nearly 60,000 
men), instead of helping Mass6na's Army of Portugal, 
had been practically paralysed during several months 
by a few thousand guerrillas and troops used guerrilla- 
wise. In the south, too, where the French were be- 
sieging Cadiz, the very failure of the allies to exploit 
their victory at Barrosa and raise the siege proved of 
advantage to them by retaining the besieging troops 
there on a vain task. Another distracting influence 
during these years was the constant threat and fre- 
quent fact of British landings, at points along the im- 
mense coastline, made possible by sea-power. 

Henceforth Wellington's greatest influence came 
through his threats rather than his blows. For, when- 
ever he threatened a point, the French were forced to 
draw off troops thither, and thus give the guerrillas 
greater scope in other districts. Wellington, however, 
was not content with threats. Following up Massena's 
retreat on Salamanca, he used his army to cover the 
blockade of the frontier fortress of Almeida in the 
north, while he directed Beresford to invest Badajoz 
in the south. Thereby he tied up his own power of 
mobility, and divided his force into two nearly equal 
parts. But fortune favoured his course. Massena, hav- 
ing rallied and slightly reinforced his army, came back 
to the rescue of Almeida ; and at Fuentes de Onoro, 
Wellington was caught in a bad position and seriously 
imperilled. But he managed to beat off the attack 

148 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

although he admitted, 'If Boney had been there, we 
should have been beat. ' Near Badajoz, too, Beresford 
marched out to meet Soult's relieving force ; after mis- 
handling the fight and admitting defeat at Albuera, 
the situation was saved for him by his subordinates 
and troops if at an exorbitant cost. Wellington now 
concentrated his efforts on the siege of Badajoz, but 
without a siege train, until he had to raise the siege as 
a result of the unfettered move southwards of Mar- 
mont who had taken over Massena's army to join 
Soult. The two now planned a united advance on 
Wellington. Fortunately, fusion brought friction. And 
Soult, alarmed by the fresh blaze-up of guerilla war in 
Andalusia, retiirned thither with part of his army, 
leaving Marmont in control. Thanks to Mannont's 
extreme caution, the campaign of 1811 petered out 
quietly. 

By his battles Wellington had risked much, indeed 
all, and it would be hard to argue that they had gained 
much advantage beyond that already produced and 
promised by his earlier strategy. In view of his slender 
margin of strength, they were not a profitable invest- 
ment, for while his loss in them was less than the 
French, it was proportionately much greater. But he 
had tided over the most critical period. And now 
Napoleon unwittingly came to his aid to make his 
advantage secure. For Napoleon was preparing his 
invasion of Russia. Thither his attention and his 
strength were henceforth turned. This development 
and the trying guerrilla situation caused a change of 
plan in Spain, where the main French line of effort 
was altered to an attempt to subdue Valencia and 
Andalusia thoroughly before concentrating afresh 
against Portugal. Compared with 1810, the French 
troops were reduced by 70,000 ; and of those who re- 
mained, no less than 90,000 were employed from 

149 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast to Oviedo on 
the Atlantic coast in guarding the communications 
with France against the guerrillas. 

Thus given free scope and weakened opposition, 
Wellington sprang suddenly on Ciudad Rodrigo and 
stormed it, while a detachment under Hill stood guard 
over his strategic flank and rear. Marmont was unable 
to intervene, unable to retake the fortress because his 
siege-train had been captured there, and unable also 
to follow Wellington across the food-stripped country 
between them. Under cover of this hunger-screen, 
Wellington slipped south and stormed Badajoz in 
turn if at a far greater cost, and by a narrower mar- 
gin of time. At Badajoz he captured the French pon- 
toon-train. As he promptly followed up this gain by 
destroying the French bridge of boats across the 
Tagus at Almaraz, he had now achieved a definite 
strategic separation of the two armies of Marmont 
and Soult, whose nearest way of communication was 
now by the bridge at Toledo, over three hundred miles 
from the mouth of the Tagus. Apart from this, Soult 
was tied fast to Andalusia by a want of supplies and a 
surfeit of guerrillas, while Wellington, now able to 
operate secure from interference, concentrated two- 
thirds of his strength for an advance on Marmont at 
Salamanca. But the directness of his approach pro- 
pelled Marmont back towards his source of reinforce- 
ment. 

The balance of numbers thus being restored, Mar- 
mont manoeuvred against Wellington's communica- 
tions, with all the more advantage because he had 
none of his own to worry about. On several occasions 
the two armies raced alongside each other in parallel 
columns, only a few hundred yards apart, each seeking 
a favourable chance to strike. The French, by their 
capacity to out-march the British, tended to out- 

150 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 
manoeuvre them. But on the 22nd of July over-con- 
fidence led Marmont into a slip which momentarily 
dislocated his own forces. He allowed his left wing 
to become too far separated from his right wing. 
Wellington instantly exploited the opportunity by a 
swift pounce upon the exposed wing. This produced 
the defeat of the French army before further rein- 
forcements reached it. Wellington did not, however, 
achieve its real disruption in this battle of Salamanca ; 
and he was still heavily inferior to the French in the 
peninsula as a whole. He has been blamed for not 
following up the defeated French forces, now under 
Clausel. But having lost the immediate chance of dis- 
persing them, it is unlikely that he could have regained 
it before they reached the shelter of Burgos ; and such 
a pursuit would have exposed him to the risk that 
King Joseph from Madrid might have descended at 
any moment on his own rear and communications. 

Instead, he decided to make a move on Madrid 
for its moral and political effect. His entry into the 
capital was a symbol and a tonic to the Spanish, while 
Joseph made a fugitive exit. But the defect of this 
coup was that Wellington's stay could only be fleeting 
if the French gathered in force ; and nothing was more 
likely than the loss of Madrid to make their armies, 
scattered on the circumference, rally on the centre. 
Wellington cut his stay short without compulsion and 
marched on Burgos. But the French system of * living 
on the country' deprived such a stroke at their com- 
munications with France of anything like a normal 
influence on their situation. And even the limited in- 
fluence was forfeited by the ineffectiveness of Welling- 
ton's siege methods and means, whereby time dribbled 
away that he could not afford to lose. For his very 
success at, and after, the battle of Salamanca had 
induced the French to abandon their tasks and terri- 

151 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

tory in Spain in order to concentrate from all quarters 
against him. In relation to their armies Wellington was 
more dangerously placed than Moore before him, but 
he fell back just in time ; and, when Hill joined him, he 
felt secure enough to offer battle to the united French 
armies at Salamanca once again. Their numerical 
advantage was slight compared with earlier days, 
90,000 to 68,000, and they did not care to accept the 
challenge on a battlefield chosen by Wellington. Hence 
Wellington continued his retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo. 
And with his arrival there the curtain came down on 
the campaign of 1812. 

Although he was back once more on the Portuguese 
frontier, and thus, superficially, no further forward, 
actually the issue of the Peninsular War was decided. 
For by abandoning the greater part of Spain to con- 
centrate against him, the French had abandoned it to 
the Spanish guerrillas and lost the chance of shaking 
their grip. On top of this disaster came the news of 
Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, which led to the 
withdrawal of more French troops from Spain. Thus 
when the next campaign opened the situation had 
completely changed. Wellington, now reinforced to 
100,000 men, less than half of whom were British, was 
the aggressor and the superior, while the French, de- 
moralized more by the strain of the incessant guerrilla 
war than by military defeats, were almost at once 
compelled to fall back behind the Ebro, and reduced 
to the role of trying to hold on to the northern fringe 
of Spain. Even there, the scales were turned against 
them by the pressure of guerrillas in their rear, in 
Biscay, and the Pyrenean districts which forced the 
French to take away four divisions from their slender 
strength to withstand this back pressure. Wellington's 
gradual advance to the Pyrenees and into France 
though flecked by occasional misadventures, success- 

152 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

fully retrieved is no more than a strategic epilogue 
to the story of the Peninsular War. 

This happy conclusion could hardly have come but 
for the moral and physical support of Wellington's 
presence in the peninsula ; and his activities, by dis- 
tracting the attention of the French in part to him, 
repeatedly facilitated the spread of the guerrilla war. 
Yet it is a question, and an interesting speculation, 
whether his victories in 1812, by stirring the French to 
cut their loss and contract their zone, did not improve 
their prospects and make his own advance harder in 
1813. For the wider and the longer they were dis- 
persed throughout Spain, the more sure and more 
complete would be their ultimate collapse. The Penin- 
sular War was an outstanding historical example, 
achieved by instinctive common sense even more than 
by intention, of the type of strategy which a century 
later Lawrence evolved into a reasoned theory, and 
applied in practice if without so definite a fulfilment. 

From observing the 'Spanish ulcer' we have now 
to turn back to examine another type of strategical 
growth, which was insidiously affecting Napoleon's 
own mind. 

Napoleon from Vilna to Waterloo 

The Russian campaign of 1812 is the natural climax 
to the tendencies already seen to be growing in 
Napoleon's strategy that of relying more on mass 
than on mobility, and on strategic formation rather 
than on surprise. The geographical conditions merely 
served to accentuate its weaknesses. 

The very scale of Napoleon's forces, 450,000 men, 
induced him to adopt an almost linear distribution, 
which in turn entailed a direct approach along the line 
of natural expectation. It is true that, like the Ger- 
mans in 1914, he 'loaded' one end the left of his 

154 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

line, and sought to swing it round in a vast sweep 
upon the Russians at Vilna. But even allowing for his 
brother Jerome's inertia in the role of fixing the enemy, 
this manoeuvre was too cumbrous and too direct to 
be an effective means of distracting and dislocating 
the enemy, unless they had been of abnormal stupi- 
dity. And, in the event, its limitations were exposed by 
the Russians' deliberate adoption of a strategy of 
evasion. As Napoleon pressed into Russia, after his 
first blows 'in the air' he contracted his line into his 
customary bataillon carre, and tried to swing it tacti- 
cally on to the enemy's rear. But even when the Rus- 
sians, changing to a 'battle' policy, were so foolish as 
to push their heads towards Napoleon's open jaws, 
these jaws closed so obviously, at Smolensk, that the 
Russians slipped out; while at Borodino the jaws 
broke off their own teeth. No example could have 
better demonstrated the drawbacks of a convergent as 
compared with a true indirect approach. The disas- 
trous results of the subsequent retreat from Moscow 
were due less to the severe weather the frost actually 
was later than usual that year than to the demoraliza- 
tion of the French army. And this was caused through 
the frustration of its direct battle-aimed strategy by 
the Russian strategy of evasion which in turn was 
the strategic method here used to carry out what may 
be classified as a war policy of indirect approach. 

Moreover, the harm done to Napoleon's fortunes 
by his defeat in Russia was immensely increased by 
the moral and material effects of the ill-success of his 
armies in Spain. And it is significant to note in assess- 
ing the deadly effect of England's action here that, in 
this campaign, England was following her traditional 
war policy of ' severing the roots '. 

When, in 1813, Napoleon, with fresh forces more 
massive and less mobile than ever, was confronted 

155 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

with the uprising of Prussia and with the invading 
armies of Russia, he sought to crush them in his now 
habitual way by the converging weight of his bataillon 
carrd. But neither the battle of Lutzen nor the battle 
of Bautzen was decisive, and thereafter the allies, by 
an ever lengthening retirement, thwarted Napoleon's 
further attempts to bring them to battle. Their evasive- 
ness induced Napoleon to ask for a six weeks' suspen- 
sion of hostilities ; and when it terminated Austria, 
also, was arrayed with his enemies. 

The autumn campaign, which followed, throws a 
curious light on Napoleon's changed mentality. He 
had 400,000 men, a total nearly equal to that of his 
opponents. He used 100,000 for a convergent advance 
against Berlin, but this direct pressure merely consoli- 
dated the resistance of Bernadotte's forces in that 
area, and the French were thrown back. Meantime, 
Napoleon himself, with the main army, had taken up 
a central position covering Dresden in Saxony. But 
his impatience overcame him, and he suddenly began 
to advance directly east upon Bliicher's 95,000. 
Blucher fell back to lure him into Silesia, while 
Schwarzenberg, with 185,000, began to move north- 
ward down the Elbe from Bohemia, and across the 
Bohemian mountains into Saxony on to Napoleon's 
rear at Dresden. Leaving a detachment behind, Napo- 
leon hurried back, intending to counter this indirect 
approach with a still more deadly one. His plan was 
to move south-west, cross the Bohemian mountains, 
and place himself across Schwarzenberg's line of re- 
treat through the mountains. The position he had in 
mind was ideal for a strategic barrage. But the news 
of the enemy's close approach made him lose his 
nerve, and at the last moment he decided instead on a 
direct approach to Dresden, and to Schwarzenberg. 
This resulted in another victorious battle; but it was 

156 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

only tactically decisive, and Schwarzenberg retreated 
safely southward through the mountains. 

A month later the three allied armies began to close 
in upon Napoleon who, weakened by his battles, had 
fallen back from Dresden to Dtiben, near Leipzig. 
Schwarzenberg lay to the south, Bliicher to the north 
and, unknown to Napoleon, Bernadotte was almost 
round and behind his northern flank. Napoleon de- 
cided on a direct, followed by an indirect, approach 
first, to crush Bliicher and then to cut Schwarzenberg's 
communications with Bohemia. In the light of his- 
torical experience as set forth in earlier pages, it would 
seem that the sequence was at fault. Napoleon's direct 
move on Bliicher did not bring the latter to battle. Yet 
it had one curious result, all the more significant be- 
cause it was unpremeditated. The direct move upon 
Bliicher was, quite unrealized, an indirect move upon 
Bernadotte's rear. And, by unnerving Bernadotte, it 
led him to fall back hurriedly northward, and so re- 
moved him from Napoleon's line of retreat. Thereby 
this 'blow in the air' at Bliicher saved N&poleon from 
utter disaster a few days later. For when Bliicher and 
Schwarzenberg closed in upon him at Leipzig, Napo- 
leon accepted the gage of battle and suffered defeat 
but, in his extremity, still had a path by which he 
could extricate himself, and withdraw safely to France. 

In 1814, the allies, now vastly superior in numbers, 
made their converging invasion of France, Napoleon 
was driven, for want of the numbers he had expended 
through his imperial faith in the power of mass to 
resharpen his old weapons of surprise and mobility. 
Nevertheless, brilliant as his handling of them, the 
accent should be put on the word 'his' for he was 
too impatient, and too obsessed with the idea of 
battle, to use them with the artistic subtlety of a 
Hannibal or a Scipio, a Cromwell or a Marlborough. 

157 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

By their use, however, he long postponed his fate. 
And he made a discerning adjustment between his 
end and his means. Realizing that his means were too 
reduced to obtain him a military decision, he aimed 
to dislocate the co-operation between the allied armies ; 
and he exploited mobility more astonishingly than 
ever to this end. Even so, remarkable as was his success 
in retarding the enemy's advance, it might perhaps 
have been more effective and enduring if his ability 
to continue this strategy had not been diminished by 
his inherent tendency to consummate every strategic 
by a tactical success. By repeated concentrations 
five of them marked by manoeuvres which struck the 
target in rear against the separated fractions of 
enemy, he inflicted a series of defeats on them : until 
he was rash enough to make a direct approach and 
attack on Bliicher at Laon, and suffered a defeat that 
he could not afford. 

With only 30,000 men left, he decided, as a last 
throw, to move eastward to Saint Dizier, rally such 
garrisons as he could find, and raise the countryside 
against the invaders. By this move he would be across 
Schwarzenberg's communications ; he had, however, 
not only to place himself on the enemy's rear but to 
raise an army there before he could act. And the prob- 
lem was complicated not only by lack of time and lack 
of a force, but by the peculiar moral sensitiveness of 
the base he thereby uncovered. For Paris was not like 
an ordinary base of supply. As a crowning mishap, 
his orders fell into the enemy's hands, so that both 
surprise and time were forfeited. Even then, so potent 
was the strategic 'pull' of his manoeuvre, it was only 
after heated debate that the allies resolved to move 
into Paris, instead of turning back to counter his 
move. Their move proved to be a * moral knock-out' 
for Napoleon's cause. It has been said that the factor 

158 



THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

which most influenced their decision was the fear that 
Wellington, moving up from the Spanish frontier, 
would reach Paris first. If this be true, it forms an 
ironical final triumph for the strategy of indirect ap- 
proach and its decisive 'pull'. 

In 1815, after his return from Elba, the size of 
Napoleon's forces seems to have sent the 'blood' to 
his head again. Nevertheless, in his own fashion he 
used both surprise and mobility, and in consequence 
came within reach of a decisive result. If his approach 
to the armies of Bliicher and Wellington was geogra- 
phically direct, its timing was a surprise and its direc- 
tion dislocated the enemy's 'joint'. But, at Ligny, Ney 
failed to carry out the manoeuvre role allotted to him 
the tactical indirect approach so that the Prussians 
escaped decisive defeat. And when Napoleon turned 
on Wellington at Waterloo his approach was purely 
direct, thus entailing a loss of time, and of men, which 
accentuated the greater trouble caused by Grouchy's 
failure to keep Bliicher 4 distracted ' well away from the 
battlefield. Thus Bliicher's appearance, even though 
he merely arrived on Napoleon's flank, by its unex- 
pectedness was psychologically an indirect approach 
and as such was decisive. 



159 



Chapter DC 
1854-1914 

When the great 'Peace 5 Exhibition of 1851 ushered 
in a fresh era of bellicosity, the first war of the new 
series was as indecisive in its military course as in its 
political end. Yet from the squalor and stupidity of 
the Crimean War we can at least cull negative lessons. 
Chief among them is the barrenness of the direct ap- 
proach. When the generals wore blinkers it was natural 
that an aide-de-camp should launch the Light Bri- 
gade straight at the Russian guns. In the British army, 
the directness which permeated every sphere of action 
was so extremely precise and rigidly formal that it per- 
plexed the French commander, Canrobert until some 
years later he attended a Court Ball. Then light came 
to him, and he exclaimed : 'The British fight as Vic- 
toria dances.' But the Russians were no less deeply 
imbued with the instinct of directness so that even 
when a spasmodic manoeuvre was attempted, a regi- 
ment, after marching all day, finally found itself back 
facing Sebastopol as at daybreak. 

In studying the depressing evidence of the Crimea 
we cannot overlook, although we should not exag- 
gerate, the fact that in the forty years which had 
elapsed jince Waterloo the armies of Europe had be- 
come more strictly professionalized. Its significance is 
not as an -argument against professional armies, but 
- l > 160 



1854-1914 

as an illustration of the latent dangers of a profes- 
sional environment. These dangers are inevitably 
accentuated on the higher levels, and with length of 
service, unless counteracted by revivifying touch with 
the outer world of affairs and thought. On the other 
hand, the early stages of the American Civil War were 
to reveal the weaknesses of an unprofessional army. 
Training is essential to forge an effective instrument 
for the general to handle. A long war or a short peace 
afford the most favourable conditions for the produc- 
tion of such an instrument. But there is a defect in the 
system if the instrument is superior to the artist. 

In this, as in other aspects, the American Civil War 
of 1861-1865 offers an illuminating contrast. The mili- 
tary leaders, especially in the South, were mainly 
drawn from those who had made arms their profes- 
sion, but the pursuit of this profession had in many 
cases been varied with civil employment or leisure for 
individual study. And the parade ground had not been 
either the breeding ground or the boundary of their 
strategical ideas. Nevertheless, despite* a refreshing 
breadth of view and fertility of resource in what may 
be termed local strategy, the conventional aim at first 
ruled the major operations. 

The American Civil War 

In the opening campaign the opposing armies sought 
each other in a direct advance, and the result was in- 
decisive alike in Virginia and in Missouri. Then 
McClellan, appointed to the command-in-chief of the 
North, in 1862 conceived the plan of utilizing sea- 
power to transfer his army on to the enemy's strategic 
flank. This had richer prospects than a direct 
land advance, but seems to have been con ^ 
as the means of a shorter direct appr 
mond, the enemy's capital, than as af ihjiifrect ap- 
M 161 




1854-1914 

proach in the true sense. But these prospects were 
nullified by President Lincoln's reluctance to accept a 
calculated risk in consequence of which he kept back 
McDowell's corps for the direct protection of Wash- 
ington. This deprived McClellan not only of part of 
his strength but of the element of distraction essential 
to the success of his plan. 

Hence, on landing, McClellan lost a month in front 
of Yorktown, and the plan had to be altered to a con- 
vergent or semi-direct approach in conjunction with 
McDowell, who was only allowed to advance over- 
land along the direct approach from Washington to 
Richmond. * Stonewall' Jackson's indirect operations 
in the Shenandoah Valley then exerted such* a moral 
influence on the Washington Government as again to 
suspend McDowell's sharei in the main advance. Even 
so, McClellan's advanced troops were within four 
miles of Richmond, ready for the final spring, before 
Lee was sufficiently strong to intervene. And even 
after McClellan's tactical set-back in the Seven Days' 
Battles, he had the strategical advantage perhaps a 
greater one than in the previous phase. For the inter- 
ruption of his flank march had not prevented him 
switching his base southwards to the James River, 
whereby he had not only secured his own communica- 
tions but placed himself dangerously close to the 
enemy's communications running southward from 
Richmond. 

The advantage was forfeited by a change of strategy. 
Halleck, placed over McClellan's head from political 
motives as general-in-chief, ordered McClellan's army 
to be re-embarked and withdrawn northward to unite 
with Pope's army in a direct overland advance. As so 
often in history, a direct doubling of strength meant 
not a doubling but a halving of the effect through 
simplifying the enemy's 'lines of expectation 5 . Yet 

162 



1854-1914 

Halleck's strategy fulfilled the obvious interpretation 
of the principle of concentration thereby revealing 
the pitfalls which underlie this conventional path to 
the military goal. The ineffectiveness of the strategy 
of direct approach which ruled throughout the second 
half of 1862 was appropriately sealed by the bloody 
repulse at Fredericksburg on the 13th of December. 
And the continuance of this strategy in 1863 led, not 
to a closer approach to Richmond, but to a Confeder- 
ate invasion of Northern territory following the col- 
lapse of the Union army's offensive. 

The direct invasion was in turn repulsed at Gettys- 
burg, an4 the close of the year saw both armies back 
in their original positions, both too drained of blood 
to do more than bare their teeth at each other across 
the Rapidan and Rappahannock. It is significant that 
in these campaigns of mutual direct approach, such 
advantage as there was inclined in turn to the side 
which stood on the defensive, content to counter the 
other's advance. For in such strategical conditions the 
defensive, by its mere avoidance of vain 'effort, is in- 
herently the less direct form of two direct strategies. 

The repulse of Lee's invasion at Gettysburg has 
commonly been acclaimed the turning-point of the 
war, but the claim is only justified in a dramatic sense, 
and the sober verdict of historical opinion has more 
and more emphasized that the decisive effects came 
from the West. The first was as early as April 1862, 
when Farragut's squadron ran past the forts guarding 
the mouth of the Mississippi, and thereby gained the 
bloodless surrender of New Orleans. It was the thin 
end of a strategical wedge which split the Confederacy 
up the vital line of this great river. 

The second decisive effect was achieved higher up 
the Mississippi on the same day (the 4th of July) as 
Lee began his retreat from Gettysburg. This was the 

163 



1854-1914 

capture of Vicksburg by Grant, which gave the Union 
complete control of this vital artery. Thereby the 
Confederacy was deprived permanently of the nourish- 
ment of reinforcements and supplies from the Trans- 
Mississippi states. But the grand-strategic effect of 
this concentration against the junior partner should 
not be allowed to overshadow the strategic means by 
which it was achieved. The first advance on Vicks- 
burg in December 1862 had been made by an over- 
land route down the railway, combined with a water- 
borne expedition under Sherman down the Missis- 
sippi. When Grant's advance was hamstrung by Con- 
federate cavalry raids on his communications, the 
Confederate forces were able to concentrate against 
Sherman's move, which thus became an essentially 
direct approach and was repulsed without difficulty 
when he tried to make a landing close to Vicksburg. 
In February and March 1863, four unsuccessful at- 
tempts were made to reach the goal by narrow out- 
flanking manoeuvres. Then, in April, Grant resorted 
to a truly indirect approach which had a likeness, not 
merely in its audacity, to Wolfe's final bid for Quebec. 
Part of the Union fleet and transports ran south- 
ward past the Vicksburg batteries, by night, to a point 
thirty miles below the fortress. The bulk of the army 
moved thither overland, by the west bank of the 
Mississippi ; and, under cover of Sherman's distracting 
movements towards the north-east of Vicksburg, it 
was transported to the east bank in face of weak op- 
position. Then, when Sherman rejoined him, Grant 
took the calculated risk of cutting himself loose from 
his new temporary base and moving north-eastward 
into the enemy's territory to place himself on the rear 
of Vicksburg, and astride its communications with the 
main Eastern states of the Confederacy. In this man- 
oeuvre he made almost a complete circuit from his 

164 



1854-1914 

starting-point. He thus appeared to put himself mid* 
way between the enemy's upper and lower jaws 
their two forces which were concentrating, respec- 
tively, at Vicksburg and at Jackson, forty miles to the 
east (Jackson was the junction of a lateral north and 
south railway with the main east and west line): But 
in reality he dislocated the action of these jaws. 

It is worthwhile to note that, on arriving at this 
railway, he found it advisable first to move Ids whole 
army eastward to compel the enemy to evacuate Jack- 
son. This illustrated the change in strategical condi- 
tions brought about by the development of railways. 
For while Napoleon had used the line of a river or 
range of hills as his strategic barrage, Grant's strategic 
barrage was constituted by the possession of a single 
point a railway junction. Once this was secured, he 
turned about and moved on Vicksburg, which was 
now isolated, and remained isolated long enough to 
ensure its capitulation seven weeks later. The strategic 
sequel was the opening of the Chattanooga gateway 
into Georgia, the granary of the Confederacy, and 
thence into the Eastern states as a whole. 

Defeat was now hardly avoidable by the Con- 
federacy. Yet the Union almost forfeited the victory 
already ensured. For in 1864, with the north growing 
weary under the strain, the moral element became pre- 
ponderant. The peace party was being daily swelled 
from the ranks of the war- weary, the presidential elec- 
tion was due in November, and unless Lincoln was to 
be supplanted by a President pledged to seek a com- 
promise peace, a solid guarantee of early victory must 
be forthcoming. To this end, Grant was summoned 
from the west to take over the supreme command. 
How did he seek to gain the required early victory? 
By reverting to the strategy which good orthodox 
soldiers always adopt that of using his immensely 

165 



1854-1914 

superior weight to smash the opposing army, or at 
least to wear it down by a 'continuous hammering'. 
We have seen that in the Vicksburg campaign he had 
only adopted the true indirect approach after repeated 
direct approaches had failed. He had then brought it 
off with masterly skill but the underlying lesson had 
not impressed itself on his mind. fc 

Now, in supreme corpmand, he was true to his 
nature. He decided on the old and direct overland ap- 
proach southward from the Rappahannock towards 
Richmond. But with a certain difference of aim for 
the enemy's army rather than the enemy's capital was 
his real objective. He directed his subordinate, Meade, 
that 'wherever Lee goes, there you will go too'. And, 
in justice to Grant, it should also be noted that if his 
approach was direct in the broad sense, it was in no 
sense a mere frontal push. Indeed, he continuously 
sought to turn his enemy's flanks by manoeuvre, if 
manoeuvre of a narrow radius. Further, he fulfilled all 
the military precepts about keeping his army well con- 
centrated and maintaining his objective undeterred by 
alarms elsewhere. Even a Foch could not have sur- 
passed his 'will to victory'. And those who practised a 
similar method in 1914-18 might have felt envy of 
him for the generous support given, and unfailing 
confidence shown, by his political chief. It would be 
hard to find conditions more ideal for the orthodox 
strategy of direct approach in its best manner. 

Yet by the end of the summer of 1864 the ripe fruit 
of victory had withered in his hands. The Union 
forces had almost reached the end of their endurance, 
and Lincoln despaired of re-election a sorry repay- 
ment for the blank cheque he had given his military 
executant. It is an ironical reflection that the deter- 
mination with which Grant had wielded his superior 
masses, now fearfully shrunk after the fierce battles of 

166 



1854-1914 

the Wilderness and Cold Harbour, had utterly failed 
to crush the enemy's army, while the chief result the 
geographical advantage of having worked round close 
to the rear of Richmond was gained by the blood- 
less manoeuvres which had punctuated his advance. 
He had thus the modified satisfaction of being back, 
after immense lo^s, in the position which McClellan 
had occupied in 1 862. 

But when the sky looked blackest it suddenly light- 
ened. At the November elections, Lincoln was re- 
turned to power. What factor came to the rescue, and 
averted the probability that McClellan, the nominee 
of the peace-desiring Democratic party, would re- 
place him? Not Grant's campaign, which made practi- 
cally no progress between July and December, and 
definitely petered out with a costly double failure in 
mid-October. By the verdict of historians, Sherman's 
capture of Atlanta in September was the instrument 
of salvation. 

When Grant had been called to the supreme com- 
mand, Sherman, who had played no small part in his 
Vicksburg success, had succeeded him in the chief com- 
mand in the west. Between the two there was a contrast 
of outlook. While Grant's primary objective was the 
opposing army, Sherman's was the seizure of strategic 
points. Atlanta, the base of the army opposing him, 
was not only the junction of four important railways, 
but the source of vital supplies. As Sherman pointed 
out, it was 'full of foundries, arsenals and machine 
shops', besides being a moral symbol ; he argued that 
'its capture would be the death-knell of the Con- 
federacy'. And he sought to strike it by manoeuvre, 
as far as possible, rather than battle deeply imbued 
with the idea of success at the lowest possible price. 

Whatever divergence of opinion may exist as to the 
respective merits of Grant's objective and Sherman's, 

167 



1854-1914 

it is obvious that the latter is better suited to the psy- 
chology of a democracy. Perhaps only an absolute 
ruler, firmly in the saddle, can hope to maintain un- 
swervingly the military ideal of the * armed forces ' ob- 
jectiveeven he would be wise to adjust it to the 
realities of the situation, and to weigh the prospects of 
fulfilling it. But the strategist who is the servant of a 
democratic government has less rein. Dependent on 
the support and confidence of his employers, he has 
to work with a narrower margin of time and cost than 
the 'absolute' strategist, and is more pressed for quick 
profits. Whatever the ultimate prospects he cannot 
afford to postpone dividends too long. Hence it may 
be necessary for him to swerve aside temporarily from 
his objective, or at least to give it a new guise by chang- 
ing his line of operations. Faced with these inevitable 
handicaps, it is fitting to ask whether military theory 
should not be more ready to reconcile its ideals with 
the inconvenient reality that its military effort rests on 
a popular foundation that for the supply of men and 
munitions, and even for the chance of continuing to 
fight at all, it depends on the consent of the 'man in 
the street*. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and 
strategists might be better paid in kind if they attuned 
their strategy, so far as is rightly possible, to the popu- 
lar ear. 

Sherman's economy of force by manoeuvre is the 
more notable because, compared with Grant in Vir- 
ginia, he was practically tied to one line of railway for 
his supplies. Yet, rather than commit his troops to a 
direct attack, he cut loose temporarily even from this. 
Only once in all these weeks of manoeuvre did he at- 
tempt a frontal attack, at Kenesaw Mountain; and it 
is as significant that he did it to save his troops from 
the strain of a further flank march over rain-swamped 
roads as that it suffered a repulse which was mitigated 

168 



1854-1914 

because the attack was stopped immediately after the 
first check. This, indeed, was the only occasion during 
the whole 130-mile advance through mountainous and 
river-intersected country that Sherman committed his 
troops to an offensive battle. Instead, he manoeuvred 
so skilfully as to lure the Confederates time after time 
into vain attacks upon him. To force an opponent 
acting on the strategic defensive into such a succession 
of costly tactical offensives was an example of strategic 
artistry unparalleled in history. And it was all the 
more remarkable because of the way Sherman was 
tied to a single line of communications. Even from the 
narrowest military criterion, ignoring its immense 
moral and economic effect, it was a great feat; for 
Sherman inflicted more casualties than he suffered, 
not merely relatively but actually in 'striking' com- 
parison with Grant in Virginia. 

After gaining Atlanta, Sherman took a risk greater 
than ever before, and for which he has been much 
criticized by military commentators. He was convinced 
that if he could march through, and ruin the railway 
systems of, Georgia the 'granary of the South' 
and then march through the Carolinas the heart of 
the South the moral impression of this invasion, and 
the stoppage of supplies going north to Richmond and 
Lee's army, would cause the collapse of the Con- 
federates' resistance. Hence, ignoring Hood's army, 
which he had forced to evacuate Atlanta, he began his 
famous 'march to the sea' through Georgia, living on 
the country while he destroyed the railways. On the 
15th of November 1864, he left Atlanta ; on the 10th of 
December he reached the outskirts of Savannah, and 
there reopened his communications this time, by 
sea. To cite the verdict of the Confederate general, and 
historian, Alexander 'There is no question that the 
moral effect of this march upon the country at large 

169 



1854-1914 

. . . was greater than would have been the most de- 
cided victory.' Sherman then moved northwards 
through the Carolinas towards Lee's rear, depriving 
the South of its chief remaining ports. 

Not until over three months later, the beginning of 
April, did Grant resume his advance. This obtained a 
dramatic success, and the surrender of Richmond was 
followed within a week by the surrender of Lee's army. 
Superficially, it was a triumphant vindication for 
Grant's direct strategy and 'battle' objective. Rather 
than forfeit the glamour for the Army of the Potomac, 
he even took pains to ensure that Sherman's army 
should not arrive on the scene prematurely. But, for a 
serious judgement, the time factor is all important. 
The collapse of the Confederate resistance was due to 
the emptiness of its stomach reacting on its moral. The 
indirect approach to the enemy's economic and moral 
rear had proved as decisive in the ultimate phase as it 
had been in the successive steps by which that decision 
was prepared in the west. The truth comes home to 
anyone who undertakes a careful and comprehensive 
study of the war. It was appreciated more than thirty 
years ago by the future official historian of the 
World War, General Edmonds, who in his history 
of the American Civil War reached the conclusion 
that: 

* The military genius of the great confederate leaders, 
Lee and Jackson, the unrivalled fighting capacity of 
the Army of Northern Virginia, and the close proxim- 
ity of the rival capitals, have caused a disproportion- 
ate attention to be concentrated upon the eastern 
theatre of war. It was in the west that the decisive 
blows were struck. The capture of Vicksbufg and Port 
Hudson in July 1 863 was the real turning point of the 
war, and it was the operations of Sherman's grand 
army of the west which really led to the collapse of the 

170 



THE UNITED STATES 
IN 1861 




Stanford, London, 



1854-1914 * 

Confederacy at Appomattox Court House' the site 
of Lee's surrender in the east. 

The disproportionate attention may be traced part- 
ly to the glamour of battle which hypnotizes most 
students of military history, and partly to the spell cast 
by Henderson's epic biography Stonewall Jackson 
more epic than history. The distinctive military value 
of this book is scarcely reduced, and even enriched, 
through embodying more of Henderson's conception 
of war than of Jackson's execution. But by the interest 
it created in the American Civil War it focussed the 
attention of British military students on the cam- 
paigns in Virginia, to the neglect of the western 
theatres where the decisive acts took place. A modern 
historian might render a service to future generations 
if he were to analyse the effect of this 'disproportion- 
ate attention', not merely one-sided but fallacious, 
upon British military thought before 1914, and British 
strategy in 1914-18. 

Moltke's Campaigns 

When one passes from the American Civil War to 
the wars in Europe which followed on its heels, one is 
impressed above all by the sharpness of its contrasts. 
The first contrast is that in 1866 and 1870 both sides 
were, nominally at least, prepared for the conflict ; the 
second, that the contestants were professional armies ; 
the third, that the opposing higher commands achieved 
a record of mistakes and miscalculations unap- 
proached by either side in the American Civil War ; 
the fourth, that the strategy adopted by the Germans 
in both wars was far more lacking in art; the fifth, 
that, despite the deficiency, the issue was quickly de- 
cided. Moltke's strategy was that of a direct approach 
with little trace of guile, relying on the sheer smashing 
power of a superior concentration of force. Are we 

172 



* 1854-1914 

to conclude that these two wars are the proverbial 
exceptions which prove the rule? They are certainly 
exceptional, but hardly exceptions to the rule that has 
emerged from the long list of cases already examined. 
For in none of them were inferiority of force and 
stupidity of mind so markedly combined in the scale 
of the defeated side, weighing it down from the outset. 

In 1866, the Austrians' inferiority of force rested 
primarily in the fact of having an inferior weapon 
for the Prussians' breech-loading rifle gave them an 
advantage over the Austrians' muzzle-loader which 
the battlefield amply proved, even if academic mili- 
tary thought in the next generation tended to over- 
look it. In 1870, the French inferiority of force lay 
partly in their inferior numbers and partly, as with the 
Austrians of 1866, in their inferior training. 

These conditions are more than adequate to explain 
the decisiveness of the Austrian defeat in 1866 and, 
still more, the French defeat in 1870. In preparation 
for war, any strategist would be rash to base his plans 
on the supposition that his enemy would be as weak 
in brain and body as the Austrians of 1866 and the 
French in 1870. 

At the same time, it is worth pointing out that the 
German strategy was less direct in execution than in 
conception. In 1866, the need to save time by using 
all available railways led Moltke to detrain the Prus- 
sian forces on a widely extended front of over 250 
miles. His intention was, by a rapid advance, converg- 
ing inward through the frontier mountain belt, to 
unite his armies in northern Bohemia. But the loss of 
time due- to the King of Prussia's reluctance to appear 
the aggressor frustrated his intention and thereby 
endowed his strategy with an indirectness of approach 
that he had not intended. For the Austrian Army con- 
centrated and pushed forward in the interval, thus 

173 



1854-1914 

depriving Moltke of his desired concentration area. 
And the Prussian Crown Prince, believing that the 
projecting province of Silesia was menaced, wrung 
from Moltke a reluctant sanction to move his army 
south-eastwards to safeguard Silesia. Thereby he 
separated himself further from the other armies ; and 
thereby also he put himself in a position to menace the 
flank and rear of the Austrian mass. Pedants have 
spilled much ink in condemning Moltke for sanction- 
ing this wide extension; in reality, it scattered the 
seeds of a decisive victory, even though he had not 
sown them deliberately. 

These dispositions so disturbed the mental equili- 
brium of the Austrian command that the Prussians, 
despite a prodigal series of blunders, were able, first 
to get through the mountains on both sides, and then 
to . reap the harvest at Koniggratz where more 
blunders contributed to the indirectness, and hence the 
decisiveness of their approach. The Austrian comman- 
der, indeed, was beaten before the battle opened: he had 
telegraphed to his Emperor urging an immediate peace. 

It is worth note that Moltke's far-stretched assembly 
of his forces proved to have more flexibility than the 
Austrians' concentration on a front of forty miles 
which gave them the apparent advantage of being able 
to operate on 'interior lines'. And it should also be 
mentioned that, although Moltke's intention had been 
to concentrate his forces before the enemy was met, 
this was not with the aim of delivering a dkect attack. 
His original plan had two branches. If exploration 
were to show that the Austrians* supposed position 
behind the Elbe at Josefstadt was insecure, the Crown 
Prince's army was to side-step eastwards tod take it 
in flank, while the other two armies piipied it in front. 
If an attack seemed impracticable, 4& three armies, 
were to circle westv^ird, cro& the Elbe at Pardubitz, 
*.*"** 174 > 



1854-1914 

and then, swinging east, menace the enemy's com- 
munications with the south. In the event, however, 
the Austrians were found to be on the near side of 
the Elbe, having concentrated further forward than 
Moltke expected so that the Crown Prince's direc- 
tion of advance automatically turned their flank, and 
brought about their envelopment. 

In 1870, Moltke had intended to bring about a deci- 
sive battle on the Saar, in which all his three armies 
would concentrate on and pulverize the French. This 
plan was upset not by the enemy's action, but by their 
paralysis. This paralysis was caused by the mere news 
that the German Third Army, on the extreme left, had 
crossed the frontier far to the east and won a minor 
tactical success over a French detachment at Weissen- 
burg. In the outcome, the indirect effect of this petty 
engagement was more decisive than the intended great 
battle would probably have been. For, instead of being 
wheeled inwards to augment the main mass, the Third 
Army was allowed to pursue a tranquil course well 
outside the zone of the main opposing armies. Thus it 
took no part in the blundering battles of Vionville and 
Gravelotte the position of the French was such that 
it could hardly have taken an effective part if it had 
been nearer. And it thereby became the vital factor in 
the next, and decisive, phase. 

For when the French main army stimulated rather 
than depressed by the result of the battle of Gravelotte 
fell back to^a flank, into Metz, it might easily have 
slipped away from the exhausted German First and 
Second armies; but the likelihood of interception by 
the Third Army was an inducement to Bazaine to stay 
securely in Metz. Thus the Germans had time to re- 
cover cohesion; the French, time to lose it, in the in- 
activity which followed their abandonment of the 
open field. In consequent, MacMahon was enticed 

- 175 



1854-1914 f 

or, rather, politically pressed into his ill-advised and 
worse-conducted move to the relief of Metz. Thus, un-j 
intended and unforeseen , was created the opportunity 
for the German Third Army, still marching 'free' to* 
wards Paris, to make an indirect apprbach to Mac- 
Mahon's army. Making a complete change of direc- 
tion from westward to northward, it moved round on 
the flank and rear of MacMahon. The result wa$ 
Sedan. Thus there was more indirectness in the fleci- 
sive phase than a superficial view would suggest. But 
it was the superficial, not the underlying ded^tion^ 
that influenced the mass of military theorizing Ivhich 
followed 1870. And this influence dominated the next 
large-scale war the Russo-Japanese. 

The Russo-Japanese War 

The Japanese strategy, slavishly following its Ger<- 
man mentors, was essentially that of a direct approach; 
There was no real attempt to take advantage of tt|e 
Unusually advantageous condition that the Russiafl 
war-effort was entirely dependent on a single line of 
railway the Trans-Siberian. Never in all history has 
an army drawn breath through so long .and narrow $ 
windpipe, and the very size of its body made its breath- 
ing more difficult. But all that Japan's strategists con- 
templated was a direct blow at, and into, the teeth of 
the Russian army. And they held their own forces 
more closely grouped than those of Moltfce in 1870. 
It is trne that they attempted a certain convergence $f 
approach before Liao-Yang, ,and subsequently, on 
making contact, sought repeatedly to outflafek their 
opponent; but if these outflanking movements look 
comparatively wide on the map they were extremely 
narrow in proportion to the scale qf the forces. Al- 
though they had no 'free' army as it was Moltkefe 
good fortune to have, no unintended bait such as 

176 - . - 



V 













1854-1914 

Metz, ancTno MacMahon to swallow it for they had 
swallowed their own bait in taking Port Arthur they 
hoped for a Sedan. Instead, there was an abundance 
of indecisive bloodshed. As a result, they were so ex- 
hausted after the final indecisive battle of Mukden 
that they were glad, and lucky, to make peace with a 
foe who had no heart in the struggle, and had not yet 
put one-tenth of hfe available forces into it. 

This analysis of history is concerned with facts and 
not with conjectures: with what was done, and its 
result, not with what might have been done. The 
theory of the indirect approach which has evolved 
from it must rest on the concrete evidence of actual 
experience that the direct approach tends to be in- 
decisive. It is not affected by arguments for or against 
the difficulties of making an indirect approach in a 
particular case. From the standpoint of the basic thesis 
it is irrelevant whether a general could have taken, or 
could have done better by taking, a different course. 

But for the general service of military knowledge 
speculation is always of interest, and often of value. 
So, diverging from the direct path of this study, one 
may point out the potential parallel between Port 
Arthur and Mantua while taking account of the 
handicaps which the Japanese suffered in the scanty 
communications and difficult country of Korea and 
Manchuria. If conditions wfcre harder in some ways, 
they were more advantageous in others and the in- 
strument better. Thus reflection prompts the question 
whether, in the earlier phase of the war, Japanese 
t strategy might not with advantage have exploited the 
*bait of Port Arthur in the way that Bonaparte ex- 
ploited Mantua. And, in the later phase, there would 
seem to have been scope for using at least a propor- 
tion of the Japanese force against the slender Russian 
windpipe between Harbin and Mukden. 
N 177 



Chapter X 
CONCLUSIONS 

X his survey has covered twelve wars which deci- 
sively affected the course of European history in an- 
cient times, and the eighteen major wars of modern 
history counting as one the struggle against Napo- 
leon which, temporarily damped down in one place, 
burst out afresh in another with no real intermis- 
sion. These thirty conflicts embraced more than 280 
campaigns. In only six of these campaigns those 
which culminated at Issus, Gaugamela, Friedland, 
Wagram, Sadowa, and Sedan did a decisive result 
follow a plan of direct strategic approach to the main 
army of the enemy. In the first two of these, Alexan- 
der's advance was prepared by a grand strategy of 
indirect approach, which had seriously shaken the 
Persian empire and its adherents' confidence, while his 
success in any battlefield test was virtually guaranteed 
by the possession of a tactical instrument of greatly 
superior quality, which was applied in a technique of 
tactical indirect approach. In the next two cases, 
Napoleon had each time begun by attempting an in- 
direct approach, while his resort to direct attack was 
due in part to his impatience, and in part to his con- 
fidence in the superiority of his instrument. This 
superiority was based on his use of massed artillery 
against a key point, and at both Friedland and Wag- 

178 



CONCLUSIONS 

ram the decision was primarily due to this new tactical 
method. But the price paid for these successes, and its 
ultimate effect on Napoleon's own fortunes, do not 
encourage a resort to similar directness even with a 
similar tactical superiority. As for 1866 and 1870, we 
have seen that although both campaigns were con- 
ceived as direct approaches, they acquired an unin- 
tended indirectness which was reinforced by the 
Germans' tactical superiority in each case ; a superior- 
ity assured by the breech-loader in 1866, and by 
superior artillery in 1870. These six campaigns, when 
analysed, provide little justification for the complai- 
sant adoption of a direct strategy by anyone entitled 
to be called a general. Yet throughout history the 
direct approach has been the normal form of strategy, 
and a purposeful indirect approach the exception. It 
is curious, too, how often generals have adopted the 
latter, not as their initial strategy, but as a last re- 
source. Yet it has brought them a decision where the 
direct approach had brought them failure and there- 
by left them in a weakened condition tp attempt the 
indirect. A decisive success obtained in such deteri- 
orated conditions acquires all the greater significance. 
Our survey has revealed a large number of cam- 
paigns in which the indirectness of approach is as 
manifest as the decisiveness of the issue among them 
those of Lysander in the Aegean, 405 B.C. ; Epaminon- 
das in the Peloponnese, 362 B.C. ; Philip in Boeotia, 
338 B.C. ; Alexander on the Hydaspes ; Cassander and 
Lysimachus in, the Near East, 302 B.C.; Hannibal's 
Trasimene campaign in Etruria; Scipio's Utica and 
Zama campaigns in Africa ; Caesar's Ilerda campaign 
in Spain ; and, in modern history, Cromwell's Preston, 
Dunbar, and Worcester campaigns ; Turenne's Alsace 
campaign of 1674-5; Eugene's Italian campaign of 
1701 ; Marlborough's Flanders campaign of 1708, and 

179 



CONCLUSIONS 

Villars's of 1712; Wolfe's Quebec campaign; Jour- 
dan's Moselle-Meuse campaign of 1794; the Arch- 
duke Charles's Rhine-Danube campaign of 1796; 
Bonaparte's Italian campaigns of 1796, 1797, and 
1800; his Ulm and Austerlitz campaigns of 1805; 
Grant's Vicksburg and Sherman's Atlanta campaigns. 
In addition, the survey has brought out numerous 
border-line examples in which either the indirectness 
or its effect are less clearly established. 

This high proportion of history's decisive cam- 
paigns, the significance of which is enhanced by the 
comparative rarity of the indirect approach, enforces 
the conclusion that the indirect approach is by far the 
most hopeful and economic form of strategy. Can we 
draw still stronger and more definite deductions from 
history? Yes. With the exception of Alexander, the 
consistently successful great commanders of history, 
when faced by an enemy in a position strong naturally 
or materially, have hardly ever attacked it directly. 
If, under pressure of circumstances, they have reluc- 
tantly risked a direct attack, the result has commonly 
been to blot their record with a failure. 

Further, history shows that rather than resign him- 
self to a direct approach, a Great Captain will take 
even the most hazardous indirect approach if neces- 
sary over mountains, deserts or swamps, with only a 
fraction of force, even cutting himself loose from his 
communications. Facing, in fact, every unfavourable 
condition rather than accept the risk of stalemate in- 
vited by direct approach. Natural hazards, however 
formidable, are inherently less dangerous and less un- 
certain than fighting hazards. All conditions are more 
calculable, all obstacles more surmountable, than 
those of human resistance. By reasoned calculation 
and preparation they can be overcome almost to time- 
table. While Napoleon was able to cross the Alps in 

180 



CONCLUSIONS 

1800 'according to plan', the little fort of Bard could 
interfere so seriously with the movement of his army 
as to endanger his whole plan. 

Turning now to reverse the sequence of our examina- 
tion, and surveying in turn the decisive battles of his- 
tory, we find that in almost all the victor had his 
opponent at a psychological disadvantage before the 
clash took place. Examples are Marathon, Salamis, 
Aegospotamoi, Mantinea, Chaeronea, Gaugamela 
(through grand strategy), the Hydaspes, Ipsus, Trasi- 
mene, Cannae, Metaurus, Zama, Tricameron, Tagi- 
nae, Hastings, Preston, Dunbar, Worcester, Blen- 
heim, Oudenarde, Denain, Quebec, Fleurus, Rivoli, 
Austerlitz, Jena, Vicksburg, Koniggratz, Sedan. 

Combining the strategical and the tactical examina- 
tion, we find that most of the examples fall into one of 
two categories. They ware produced either by a stra- 
tegy of elastic defence calculated retirement that 
was capped by a tactical offensive, or by a strategy of 
offence, aimed to place oneself in a position 'up- 
setting' to the opponent, and capped by a tactical 
defensive : with a sting in the tail. Either compound 
forms an indirect approach, and the psychological 
basis of both can be expressed in the word 'lure' or 
'trap'. Indeed, it might even be said, in a deeper and 
wider sense than Clausewitz implied, that the defensive 
is the stronger as well as the more economical form of 
strategy. For the second compound, although super- 
ficially and logistically an offensive move, has for its 
underlying motive to draw the opponent into an 'un- 
balanced' advance. The most effective indirect ap- 
proach is one that lures or startles the opponent into 
a false move so that, as in ju-jitsu, his own effort is 
turned into the lever of his overthrow. 1 

1 The latest example was the precipitate advance of the French 
and British Annies into Belgium in May 1940. 

181 



CONCLUSIONS 

In history, the indirect approach has normally con- 
sisted of a logistical military move directed against an 
economic target the source of supply of either the 
opposing state or army. Occasionally, however, the 
move has been purely psychological in aim, as in some 
of the operations of Belisarius. Whatever the form, the 
effect to be sought is the dislocation of the opponent's 
mind and dispositions such an effect is the true gauge 
of an indirect approach. 

A further deduction, perhaps not positive but at 
least suggestive, from our survey, is that in a cam- 
paign against more than one state or army it is more 
fruitful to concentrate first against the weaker partner, 
than to attempt the overthrow of the stronger in the 
belief that the latter's defeat will automatically involve 
the collapse of the others. 

In the two outstanding struggles of the ancient 
world, the overthrow of Persia by Alexander and of 
Carthage by Scipio both followed upon the severing 
of the roots. And this grand strategy of indirect ap- 
proach not only gave birth to the Macedonian and 
Roman empires, but created the greatest of their suc- 
cessors, the British Empire. On it, too, was founded 
the fortunes and imperial power of Napoleon Bona- 
parte. Later still, on this foundation arose the great 
and solid structure of the United States. 

The art of the indirect approach can only be mas- 
tered, and its full scope appreciated, by study of and 
reflection upon the whole history of v/ar. But we can 
at least crystallize the lessons into two simple maxims, 
one negative, the other positive. The first is that, in 
face of the overwhelming evidence of history, no 
general is justified in launching his troops to a direct 
attack upon an enemy firmly in position. The second, 
that instead of seeking to upset the enemy's 
equilibrium by one's attack, it must be upset before 

182 



CONCLUSIONS 

a real attack is, or can be successfully, launched. 
Lenin had a vision of fundamental truth when he 
said that 'the soundest strategy in war is to postpone 
operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy 
renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible 
and easy'. This is not always practicable, nor his 
method of propaganda always fruitful. But it will bear 
adaptation 'The soundest strategy in any campaign 
is to postpone battle, and the soundest tactics to post- 
pone attack, until the moral dislocation of the enemy 
renders the delivery of a decisive blow practicable.' 



183 



Chapter XI 
CONSTRUCTION 

Having drawn our conclusions from an analysis of 
history it seems advantageous to construct on the 
fresh foundations a new dwelling house for strategic 
thought. 

Let us first be clear as to what is strategy. Clause- 
witz, in his monumental work, On War, defined it as 
'the art of the employment of battles as a means to 
gain the object of war. In other words, strategy forms 
the plan of the war, maps out the proposed course of 
the different campaigns which compose the war, and 
regulates the battles to be fought in each.' 

One defect of this definition is that it intrudes on 
the sphere of policy, or the higher conduct of the war, 
which must necessarily be the responsibility of the 
government and not of the military leaders it employs 
as its agents in the executive control of operations. 
Another defect is that it narrows the meaning of 
'strategy' to the pure utilization of battle, thus con- 
veying the idea that battle is the only means to the 
strategical end. It was an easy step for his less pro- 
found disciples to confuse the means with the end, and 
to reach the conclusion that in war every other con- 
sideration should be subordinated to the aim of fight- 
ing a decisive battle. 

184 



CONSTRUCTION 

Relation to Policy 

To break down the distinction between strategy and 
policy would not matter much if the two functions 
were normally combined in the same person, as with 
a Frederick or a Napoleon. But as such autocratic 
soldier-rulers have long been rare, and became tem- 
porarily extinct in the nineteenth century, the effect 
was insidiously harmful. For it encouraged soldiers to 
make the preposterous claim that policy should be 
subservient to their conduct of operations and, especi- 
ally in democratic countries, it drew the statesman on 
to overstep the indefinite border of his sphere and 
interfere with his military employee in the actual use 
of his tools. 

Moltke reached a clearer, and wiser, definition in 
terming strategy 'the practical adaptation of the 
means placed at a general's disposal to the attainment 
of the object in view'. This definition fixes the respon- 
sibility of a military commander to the government by 
which he is employed. His responsibility is that of 
applying most profitably to the interest of the higher 
war policy the force allotted to him within the theatre 
of operations assigned to him. If he considers that the 
force allotted is inadequate for the task indicated he 
is justified in pointing this out, and if his opinion is 
overruled he can refuse or resign the command ; but 
he exceeds his rightful sphere if he attempts to dictate 
to the government what measure of force should be 
placed at his disposal. 

On the other hand, the government, which formu- 
lates war policy, and has to adapt it to conditions 
which often change as a war progresses, can rightly 
intervene in the strategy of a campaign not merely by 
replacing a commander in whom it has lost confidence, 
but by modifying his object according to the needs 
of its war policy. While it should not interfere with 

185 



CONSTRUCTION 

him in the handling of his tools, it should indicate 
clearly the nature of his task. Thus strategy has not 
necessarily the simple object of seeking to overthrow 
the enemy's military power. When a government ap- 
preciates that the enemy has the military superiority, 
either in general or in a particular theatre, it may 
wisely enjoin a strategy of limited aim. 

It may desire to wait until the balance of force can 
be changed by the intervention of allies or by the 
transfer of forces from another theatre. It may desire 
to wait, or even to limit its military effort permanently, 
while economic or naval action decides the issue. It 
may calculate that the overthrow of the enemy's mili- 
tary power is a task definitely beyond its capacity, or 
not worth the effort and that the object of its war 
policy can be assured by seizing territory which it can 
either retain or use as bargaining counters when peace 
is negotiated. Such a policy has more support from 
history than military opinion hitherto has recognized, 
and is less inherently a policy of weakness than its 
apologists imply. It is, indeed, bound up with the his- 
tory of the British Empire, and has repeatedly proved 
a lifebuoy to Britain's allies as well as of permanent 
benefit to herself. However unconsciously followed, 
there is ground for inquiry whether this 'conservative' 
military policy does not deserve to be accorded a 
place in the theory of the conduct of war. 

The more usual reason for adopting a strategy of 
limited aim is that of awaiting a change in the balance 
offeree, a change often sought and achieved by drain- 
ing the enemy's force, weakening him by pricks in- 
stead of risking blows. The essential condition of such 
a strategy is that the drain on him should be dis- 
proportionately greater than on yourself. The object 
may be sought by raiding his supplies, by local attacks 
which annihilate or inflict disproportionate loss on 

186 



CONSTRUCTION 

parts of his force, by luring him into unprofitable at- 
tacks, by causing an excessively wide distribution of 
his force and, not least, by exhausting his moral and 
physical energy. 

This closer definition sheds light on the question, 
previously raised, of a general's independence in 
carrying out his own strategy inside his theatre of 
operations. For if the government has decided upon a 
4 Fabian' war policy the general who, even within his 
strategic sphere, seeks to overthrow the enemy's mili- 
tary power may do more harm than good to the 
government's war policy. Usually, a war policy of 
limited aim imposes a strategy of limited aim, and a 
decisive aim should only be adopted with the approval 
of the government which alone can decide whether it is 
* worth the candle '. 

We can now arrive at a shorter definition of strategy 
as ' the art of distributing military means to fulfil the 
ends of policy'. For strategy is concerned not merely 
with the movement of armies as its role is often 
defined but with the effect. When the application of 
the military instrument merges into actual fighting, 
the dispositions for and control of such direct action 
are termed 'tactics'. The two categories, however, al- 
though convenient for discussion, can never be truly 
divided into separate compartments because each not 
only influences but merges into the other. 

As tactics is an application of strategy on a lower 
plane, so strategy is an application on a lower plane of 
'grand strategy'. If practically synonymous with the 
policy which governs the conduct of war, as distinct 
from the permanent policy which formulates its ob- 
ject, the term 'grand strategy' serves to bring out the 
sense of 'policy in execution'. For the role of grand 
strategy is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources 
of a nation towards the attainment of the political 

187 



CONSTRUCTION 

object of the war the goal defined by national policy. 
Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the 
economic resources and man-power of the nation in 
order to sustain the fighting services. So also with the 
moral resources for to foster the willing spirit of a 
people is as important as to possess the more con- 
crete forms of power. Grand strategy, too, should 
regulate the distribution of power between the several 
services, and between the services and industry. And 
fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand 
strategy. This should take account and apply the 
power of financial pressure, diplomatic pressure, com- 
mercial pressure, and, not least, ethical pressure, to 
weaken the opponent's will. A good cause is a sword 
as well as a buckler. 

Furthermore, while the horizon of strategy is 
bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the 
war to the subsequent peace. It should not only com- 
bine the various instruments, but so regulate their use 
as to avoid damage to the future state of peacefulness, 
secure and prosperous. The sorry state of peace, for 
both sides, that has followed most wars can be traced 
to the fact that, unlike strategy, the realm of grand 
strategy is for the most part terra incognita still 
awaiting exploration, and understanding. 

Pure Strategy 

Having cleared the ground, we can build up our 
conception of strategy on its original and true basis 
that of 'the art of the general'. This depends for suc- 
cess, first and most, on a sound calculation and co- 
ordination of the end and the means. The end must be 
proportioned to the total means, and the means used 
in gaining each intermediate end which contributes to 
the ultimate must be proportioned to the value and 
needs of that intermediate end whether it be to gain 

188 



CONSTRUCTION 

an objective or to fulfil a contributory purpose. An 
excess may be as harmful as a deficiency. A true ad- 
justment would establish a perfect economy of force, 
in the deeper sense of that oft-distorted military term. 
But, because of the nature and uncertainty of war, an 
uncertainty aggravated by its unscientific study, a true 
adjustment is beyond the power of military genius 
even, and success lies in the closest approximation to 
truth. 

This relativity is inherent because, however far our 
knowledge of the science of war be extended, it will 
depend on art for its application. Art can not only 
bring the end nearer to the means, but by giving 
a higher value to the means, enable the end to be 
extended. This complicates calculation, because no 
man can exactly calculate the capacity of human 
genius and stupidity, nor the incapacity of will. 

Elements and Conditions 

Nevertheless, in strategy calculation is simpler and 
a closer approximation to truth possible than in tac- 
tics. For in war the chief incalculable is the human 
will, which manifests itself in resistance, which in turn 
lies in the province of tactics. Strategy has not to over- 
come resistance, except from nature. Its purpose is to 
diminish the possibility of resistance, and it seeks to 
fulfil this purpose by exploiting the elements of move- 
ment and surprise. Movement lies in the physical 
sphere, and depends on a calculation of the conditions 
of time, topography, and transport capacity. By trans- 
port capacity is meant both the means by which, and 
the measure in which, force can be moved and main- 
tained. 

Surprise lies in the psychological sphere and de- 
pends on a calculation, far more difficult than in the 
physical sphere, of the manifold conditions, varying 

189 



CONSTRUCTION 

in each case, which are likely to affect the will of the 
opponent. 

Although strategy may aim more at exploiting 
movement than at exploiting surprise, or conversely, 
yet the two elements react on each other. Movement 
generates surprise, and surprise gives impetus to 
movement. For a movement which is accelerated or 
changes its direction inevitably carries with it a degree 
of surprise, even though it be unconcealed ; while sur- 
prise smooths the path of movement by hindering the 
enemy's counter-measures and counter-movements. 

As regards the relation of strategy to tactics, while 
in execution the borderline is often shadowy, and it is 
difficult to decide exactly where a strategical move- 
ment ends and a tactical movement begins, yet in con- 
ception the two are distinct. Tactics lies in and fills 
the province of fighting. Strategy not only stops on 
the frontier, but has for its purpose the reduction of 
fighting to the slenderest possible proportions. 

Aim of Strategy 

This statement may be disputed by those who con- 
ceive the destruction of the enemy's armed force as 
the only sound aim in war, who hold that the only 
goal of strategy is battle, and who are obsessed with 
the Clausewitzian saying that 'blood is the price of 
victory'. Yet if one should concede this point and 
meet its advocates on their own ground, the statement 
would remain unshaken. For even if a decisive battle 
be the only goal, all recognize that the object of 
strategy is to bring about this battle under the most 
advantageous circumstances. And the more advan- 
tageous the circumstances, the less, proportionately, 
will be the fighting. 

The perfection of strategy would, therefore, be to 
produce a decision without any serious fighting, His- 

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tory, as we have seen, provides examples where stra- 
tegy, helped by favourable conditions, has practically 
produced such a result among them Caesar's Ilerda 
campaign, Cromwell's Preston campaign, and Napo- 
leon's Ulm campaign. More recent examples are 
Moltke's success in surrounding MacMahon's army 
at Sedan in 1870, and the way that Allenby in 1918 
surrounded the Turks in the hills of Samaria y closing 
every bolt-hole. 1 

While these were cases where the destruction of the 
enemy's armed forces was economically achieved 
through their disarming by surrender, such 4 destruc- 
tion' may not be essential for a decision, and for the 
fulfilment of the war-aim. In the case of a State that is 
seeking, not conquest, but the maintenance of its 
security, the aim is fulfilled if the threat be removed 
if the enemy is led to abandon his purpose. The defeat 
which Belisarius incurred at Sura through giving rein 
to his troops' desire for a 'decisive victory' after the 
Persians had already given up their attempted invasion 
of Syria was a clear example of unnecessary effort 
and risk. By contrast, the way that he defeated their 
far more dangerous later invasion, and cleared them 
out of Syria, is perhaps the most striking example on 
record of achieving a decision in the real sense, of 
fulfilling the national object by pure strategy. For in 
this case, the psychological action was so effective that 
the enemy surrendered his purpose without any physi- 
cal action at all being required. While such bloodless 
victories have been exceptional, their rarity should 
enhance rather than detract from their value as an 
indication of latent potentialities, in strategy and 
grand strategy. Despite many centuries' experience of 

1 Still more recent examples have been provided by the Ger- 
mans' success in cutting off the Allied armies in Belgium, and by 
WavelTs campaign in Libya. 

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war, we have hardly begun to explore the field of psy- 
chological warfare. 

From deep study of war, Clausewitz was led to the 
conclusion that 'All military action is permeated by 
intelligent forces and their effects. * Nevertheless, 
nations at war have always striven, or been driven by 
their passions, to disregard the implications of such 
a conclusion. Instead of applying intelligence, they 
have chosen to batter their heads against the nearest 
wall. 

It rests normally with the government, responsible 
for the grand strategy of a war, to decide whether 
strategy should make its contribution by achieving a 
military decision or otherwise. And just as the mili- 
tary is but one of the means to the end of grand 
strategy one of the instruments in the surgeon's case 
so battle is but one of the means to the end of 
strategy. If the conditions are suitable, it is usually the 
quickest in effect, but if the conditions are unfavour- 
able it is folly to use it. Let us assume that a strategist 
is empowered to seek a military decision. His respon- 
sibility is to seek it under the most advantageous cir- 
cumstances in order to produce the most profitable 
result. Hence his true aim is not so much to seek battle 
as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that 
if it does not of itself produce the decision, its con- 
tinuation by a battle is sure to achieve this. In other 
words, dislocation is the aim of strategy; its sequel 
may be either the enemy's dissolution or his disrup- 
tion in battle. Dissolution may involve some partial 
measure of fighting, but this has not the character of a 
battle. 

Action of Strategy 

How is the strategic dislocation produced? In the 
physical, or 'logistical', sphere it is the result of a 

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move which (a) upsets the enemy's dispositions and, by 
compelling a sudden "change of front 9 , dislocates the 
distribution and organization of his forces ; (b) separ- 
ates his forces ; (c) endangers his supplies ; (d) menaces 
the route or routes by which he could retreat in case 
of need and re-establish himself in his base or home- 
land. A dislocation may be produced by one of these 
effects, but is more often the consequence of several. 
Differentiation, indeed, is difficult because a move 
directed towards the enemy's rear tends to combine 
these effects. Their respective influence, however, 
varies and has varied throughout history according 
to the size of armies and the complexity of their or- 
ganization. With armies which 'live on the country', 
drawing their supplies locally by plunder or requisi- 
tion, the line of communication has negligible im- 
portance. Even in a higher stage of military develop- 
ment, the smaller a force is, the less dependent it is on 
the line of communication for supplies. The larger an 
army, and the more complex its organization, the 
more prompt and serious in effect is a menace to its 
line of communication. 

Where armies have not been so dependent, strategy 
has been correspondingly handicapped, and the tacti- 
cal issue of battle has played a greater part. Neverthe- 
less, even thus handicapped, strategic artists have fre- 
quently gained a decisive advantage previous to battle 
by menacing the enemy's line of retreat, the equili- 
brium of his dispositions, or his local supplies. 

To be effective, such a menace must usually be 
applied at a point closer, in time and space, to the 
enemy's army than a menace to his communications; 
and thus in early warfare it is often difficult to 
distinguish between the strategical and tactical 
manoeuvre. 

In the psychological sphere, dislocation is the result 
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of the impression on the commander's mind of the 
physical effects which we have listed. Hie impression 
is strongly accentuated if his realization of his being 
at a disadvantage is sudden, and if he feels that he is 
unable to counter the enemy's move. In fact, psycho- 
logical dislocation fundamentally springs from this 
sense of being trapped. This is the reason why it has 
most frequently followed a physical move on to the 
enemy's rear. An army, like a man, cannot properly 
defend its back from a blow without turning round to 
use its arms in the new direction. * Turning' temporar- 
ily unbalances an army as it does a man, and with the 
former the period of instability is inevitably much 
longer. In consequence, the brain is much more sensi- 
tive to any menace to its back. In contrast, to move 
directly on an opponent is to consolidate his equili- 
brium, physical and psychological, and by consoli- 
dating it to augment his resisting power. For in the 
case of an army it rolls the enemy back towards their 
reserves, supplies, and reinforcements, so that as the 
original front is worn thin new layers are added to the 
back. And, at best, it imposes a strain rather than 
producing a shock. 

Thus a move round the enemy's front against his 
rear has the aim not only of avoiding resistance on its 
way but in its issue. In the profoundest sense, it takes 
the line of least resistance. The equivalent in the psy- 
chological sphere is the line of least expectation. They 
are the two faces of the same coin, and to appreciate 
this is to widen our understanding of strategy. For if 
we merely take what obviously appears the line of 
least resistance, its obviousness will appeal to the op- 
ponent also : and this line may no longer be that of 
least resistance. In studying the physical aspect we 
must never lose sight of the psychological, and only 
when both are combined is the strategy truly an in- 

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direct approach, calculated to dislocate the opponent's 
equilibrium. 

Thus we see that the mere fact of marching in- 
directly towards the enemy and on to the rear of his 
dispositions does not constitute a strategic indirect 
approach. Strategic art is not so simple. Such an ap- 
proach may start by being indirect in relation to the 
enemy's front, but by the very directness of its pro- 
gress towards his rear may allow him to change his 
dispositions so that it soon becomes a direct approach 
to his new front. 

Because of the risk that the enemy may achieve such 
a change of front, it is usual, and usually necessary, 
for the dislocating move to be preceded by a move, or 
moves, which can perhaps best be classified under the 
term * distract ' in its literal sense of * to draw asunder '. 
The purpose of this 'distraction' is to deprive the 
enemy of his freedom of action, and it should operate 
in both the physical and psychological spheres. In the 
physical, by causing a distension of his forces or their 
diversion to unprofitable ends, so that they are too 
widely distributed, and too committed elsewhere, to 
have the power of interfering with one's own deci- 
sively intended move. In the psychological sphere, the 
same effect is sought by playing upon the fears of, and 
by deceiving, the opposing command. * Stonewall' 
Jackson realized this when he framed his strategical 
motto 'Mystify, mislead, and surprise'. For to mys- 
tify and to mislead constitutes * distraction,', while sur- 
prise is the essential cause of 'dislocation'. And it is 
through the 'distraction' of the commander's mind 
that the distraction of his forces follows. The loss of 
his freedom of action is the sequel to the loss of his 
freedom of conception. 

A more profound appreciation of how the psycho- 
logical permeates and dominates the physical sphere 

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has an indirect value. For it warns us of the fallacy and 
shallowness of attempting to analyse and theorize 
about strategy in terms of mathematics. To treat it 
quantitatively, as if the issue turned merely on a 
superior concentration of force at a selected place, is 
as faulty as to treat it geometrically : as a question of 
lines and angles. 

Even more remote from truth because in practice 
it usually leads to a dead end is the 'grooved* ten- 
dency, especially characteristic of modern text-books, 
to treat war as mainly a matter of concentrating 
superior force. In his celebrated definition of economy 
of force Foch termed it 'The art of pouring out all 
one's resources at a given moment on one spot; of 
making use there of all troops, and, to make such a 
thing possible, of making those troops permanently 
communicate with each other, instead of dividing 
them and attaching to each fraction some fixed and 
invariable function; its second part, a result having 
been attained, is the art of again so disposing the 
troops as to converge upon, and act against, a new 
single objective.' 

It would have been more exact, and perhaps more 
lucid, to say that an army should always be so distri- 
buted that its parts can aid each other and combine 
to produce the maximum possible concentration of 
force at one place, while the minimum force necessary is 
used elsewhere to prepare the success of the concen- 
tration. 

To concentrate all is an unrealizable ideal. And 
dangerous even as a hyperbole. Moreover, in practice 
the 'minimum necessary' may form a far larger pro- 
portion of the total than the 'maximum possible'. It 
would even be true to say that the larger the force 
that is effectively used for distraction of the enemy, the 
greater is the chance of the concentration succeeding 

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in its aim. For otherwise it may strike an object too 
solid to be shattered. Superior weight at the intended 
decisive point does not suffice unless that point cannot 
be reinforced in time by the opponent. It rarely suffices 
unless that point is not merely weaker numerically but 
has been weakened morally. Napoleon suffered some 
of his worst checks because he neglected this guaran- 
tee. And the need for distraction has grown with the 
delaying power of weapons. 

Basis of Strategy 

A deeper truth to which Foch and the other dis- 
ciples of Clausewitz did not penetrate fully is that in 
war every problem, and every principle, is a duality. 
Like a coin, it has two faces. Hence the need for a 
well-calculated compromise as a means to reconcilia- 
tion. This is the inevitable consequence of the fact 
that war is a two-party affair, so imposing the need 
that while hitting one must guard. Its corollary is that, 
in order to hit with effect, the enemy must be taken off 
his guard. Effective concentration can 4 only be ob- 
tained when the opposing forces are dispersed; and, 
usually, in order to ensure this, one's own forces must 
be widely distributed. Thus, by an outward paradox, 
true concentration is the product of dispersion. 

A further consequence of the two-party condition is 
that to ensure reaching an objective one should have 
alternative objectives. Herein lies a vital contrast to 
the single-minded nineteenth-century doctrine of Foch 
and his fellows & contrast of the practical to the 
theoretical. For if the enemy is certain as to your point 
of aim he has the best possible chance of guarding 
himself and blunting your weapon. If, on the other 
hand, you take a line that threatens alternative objec- 
tives, you distract his mind and forces. This, moreover, 
is the most economic method of distraction, for it al- 

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lows you to keep the largest proportion of your force 
available on your real line of operation thus recon- 
ciling the greatest possible concentration with the 
necessity of dispersion. 

The absence of an alternative is contrary to the very 
nature of war. It sins against the light which Bourcet 
shed in the eighteenth century by his most penetrating 
dictum that 'every plan of campaign ought to have 
several branches and to have been so well thought out 
that one or other of the said branches cannot fail of 
success'. This was the light that his military heir, the 
young Napoleon Bonaparte, followed in seeking al- 
ways, as he said, to 'faire son theme en deuxfafons\ 
Seventy years later Sherman was to re-learn the lesson 
from experience, by reflection, and to coin his famous 
maxim about 'putting the enemy on the horns of a 
dilemma'. In any problem where an opposing force 
exists, and cannot be regulated, one must foresee and 
provide for alternative courses. Adaptability is the 
law which governs survival in war as in life war 
being but a concentrated form of the human struggle 
against environment. 

To be practical, any plan must take account of the 
enemy's power to frustrate it ; the best chance of over- 
coming such obstruction is to have a plan that can be 
easily varied to fit the circumstances met ; to keep such 
adaptability, while still keeping the initiative, the best 
way is to operate along a line which offers alternative 
objectives. For thereby you put your opponent on the 
horns of a dilemma, which goes far to assure the gain- 
ing of at least one objective whichever is least 
guarded and may enable you to gain one after the 
other. In the tactical field, where the enemy's disposi- 
tions are likely to be based on the nature of the ground, 
it may be more difficult to find a choice of dilemma- 
producing objectives than it is in the strategical field, 

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where the enemy will have obvious industrial and rail- 
way centres to cover. But you can gain a similar ad- 
vantage by adapting your line of effort to the degree of 
resistance that is met, and exploiting any weakness 
that is found. A plan, like a tree, must have branches 
if it is to bear fruit. A plan with a single aim is apt 
to prove a barren pole. 

Cutting Communications 

In the planning of any stroke at the enemy's com- 
munications, either by manoeuvre round his flank or 
by rapid penetration of a breach in his front, the ques- 
tion will arise as to the most effective point of aim 
whether it should be directed against the immediate 
rear of the opposing force, or further back. Some 
guidance on the question can be obtained from analy- 
sis of cavalry raids carried out in the past, especially 
in the more recent wars since railways came into use. 
While such cavalry raids had more limited potentiali- 
ties than an inroad of modern mechanized forces, this 
difference emphasizes rather than detracts from the 
significance of the evidence which they provide. Mak- 
ing the necessary adjustment, the following deduc- 
tions can be drawn : 

In general, the nearer to the force that the cut is 
made, the more immediate the effect ; the nearer to the 
base, the greater the effect. In either case, the effect is 
much greater and more quickly felt if made against a 
force that is in motion, and in course of carrying out 
an operation, than against a force that is stationary. 

In deciding the direction of a mobile stroke, much 
depends on the strategic position and supply condi- 
tions of the enemy forces, i.e. the number of their lines 
of supply, the possibility of adopting alternative lines 
of supply, the amount of supplies likely to be accumu- 
lated in advanced depots close behind their front. 

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After these factors have been considered, they should 
be reconsidered in the light of the accessibility of the 
various possible objectives, i.e., the distance, the 
natural obstacles, and the opposition likely to be met. 
In general, the longer the distance that has to be 
covered, the greater the ratio of natural obstacles, but 
the less the ratio of opposition. 

Thus, unless the natural obstacles are very severe, 
or the enemy has unusual independence of supplies 
from base, more success and more effect is to be ex- 
pected from cutting his communications as far back 
as possible. A further consideration is that while a 
stroke close in rear of the enemy force may have more 
effect on the minds of the enemy troops, a stroke far 
back tends to have more effect on the mind of the 
enemy commander. 

Cavalry raids in the past often forfeited their effect 
by lack of care in carrying out the demolition side of 
their task. As a result the prospective value of mobile 
raids on communications has been unduly discounted. 
It is apt to be forgotten that the flow of supplies may 
be interrupted not only by demolitions on the route, 
but by actual or threatened interception of trains and 
lorry convoys. The latter form of interruption is in- 
creased in potentiality by the development of mechan- 
ized forces (because of their fluidity). 

The Method of Advance 

Until the end of the eighteenth century, a physically 
concentrated advance, both strategic (to the battle- 
field) and tactical (on the battlefield) was the rule. 
Then Napoleon, exploiting Bourcet's ideas and the 
new divisional system, introduced a distributed strate- 
gic advance the army moving in independent frac- 
tions. But the tactical advance was still, in general, a 
concentrated one. 

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Towards the end of the nineteenth century, with the 
development of fire weapons, the tactical advance be- 
came dispersed, i.e., in particles, to diminish the effect 
of fire. But the strategic advance had again become 
concentrated this was due partly to the growth of 
masses, and partly to the misunderstanding of the 
Napoleonic method. 

To-day we must recognize the need of reviving the 
distributed strategic advance, if there is to be any 
chance of reviving the art and effect of strategy. But 
two new conditions air power and motor power 
seem to point to its further development into a dis- 
persed strategic advance. The danger of air attack, the 
aim of mystification, and the need of drawing full 
value from mechanized mobility, suggest that advan- 
cing forces should not only be distributed as widely as 
is compatible with combined action, but be dispersed 
as much as is compatible with cohesion. And the de- 
velopment of wireless is a timely aid towards recon- 
ciling dispersion with control. 

Instead of the simple idea of a concentrated stroke 
by a concentrated force, we must choose according to 
circumstance between these variants : 

(i) Dispersed advance with concentrated single 
aim, i.e. against one objective. 

(ii) Dispersed advance with concentrated serial 

aim, i.e. against successive objectives. 
(These will each demand preliminary moves to dis- 
tract the enemy's attention and forces, unless the pos- 
sibility of taking alternative objectives enables us to 
rely on such distracting effect being produced already 
by the enemy's perplexity.) 

(iii) Dispersed advance with distributed aim, i.e. 
against a number of objectives simultaneously. 
(Under the new conditions of warfare, it may happen 
that the cumulative effect of partial success, or even 

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mere threat, at a number of points may be greater 
than the effect of complete success at one point.) 

The prospect of reviving the effectiveness of armies, 
except in mere protectiveness, lies in the development 
of such new methods: methods which aim at per- 
meating and dominating areas rather than capturing 
lines; at the practicable object of paralysing the 
enemy's action rather than the theoretical object of 
crushing his forces. Fluidity of force may succeed 
where concentration of force merely entails a helpless 
rigidity. 

Grand Strategy 

This book is concerned with strategy, rather than 
with grand strategy or war policy. To deal adequately 
with this wider subject would require not only a much 
larger volume, but a separate volume for while grand 
strategy should control strategy, its principles often 
run counter to those which prevail in the field of 
strategy. For that very reason, however, it is desirable 
to include here some indication of the deeper con- 
clusions to which a study of grand strategy leads. 

Whereas strategy is only concerned with the prob- 
lem of 'winning the war', grand strategy must take a 
longer view for its problem is the winning of the 
peace. Such an order of thought is not a matter of 
'putting the cart before the horse \ but of being clear 
as to where the horse and cart are going. 

The object in war is to attain a better peace even 
if only from your own point of view. Hence it is essen- 
tial to conduct war with constant regard to the peace 
you desire. This is the truth underlying Clausewitz's 
definition of war as 'a continuation of policy by other 
means' the prolongation of that policy through the 
jsvar into the subsequent peace must always be borne 
in mind. A State which expends its strength to the 

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point of exhaustion bankrupts its own policy, and 
future. 

If you concentrate exclusively on victory, with no 
thought for the after-effect, you may be too exhausted 
to profit by the peace, while it is almost certain that 
the peace will be a bad one, containing the germs of 
another war. This is a lesson supported by abundant 
experience. The risks become greater still in any war 
that is waged by a coalition. For in such a case a too 
complete victory inevitably complicates the problem 
of making a just and wise peace settlement. Where 
there is no longer the counter-balance of an opposing 
force to control the appetites of the victors, there is no 
check on the conflict of views and interests between 
the parties to the alliance. The divergence is then apt 
to become so acute as to turn the comradeship of 
common danger into the hostility of mutual dissatis- 
faction so that the ally of one war becomes the 
enemy in the next. 

This raises a further and wider question. The fric- 
tion that commonly develops in any alliance system, 
especially when it has no balancing force, has been one 
of the factors that have fostered the numerous at- 
tempts throughout history to find a solution in fusion. 
But history teaches us that in practice this is apt to 
mean domination by one of the constituted elements. 
And though there is a natural tendency towards the 
fusion of small groups in larger ones, the usual result 
of forcing the pace is the confusion of the plans to 
establish such a comprehensive political unit. 

Moreover, regrettable as it may seem to the idealist, 
the experience of history provides little warrant for 
the belief that real progress, and the freedom that 
makes progress possible, lies in unification. For where 
unification has been able to establish unity of ideas 

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it has usually ended in uniformity, paralysing the 
growth of new ideas. And where the unification has 
merely brought about an artificial or imposed unity, 
its irksomeness has led through discord to disruption. 
Vitality springs from diversity which makes for 
real progress so long as there is mutual toleration, 
based on the recognition that worse may come from 
an attempt to suppress differences than from accep- 
tance of them. For this reason, the kind of peace that 
makes progress possible is best assured by the mutual 
checks created by a balance of forces alike in the 
sphere of internal politics and of international rela- 
tions. In the former sphere, the experience of the two- 
party system in English politics continued long enough 
to show its practical superiority, whatever its theoreti- 
cal drawbacks, to atny other system of government 
has yet been tried. In the international sphere, 
* balance of power' was a sound theory so long as 
balance was preserved. But the frequency with 
which the European 'balance of power' has become 
unbalanced, thereby precipitating war, has produced 
a growing urge to find a more stable solution : either 
by fusion or federation. Federation is the more hope- 
ful method, since it embodies the life-giving principle 
of co-operation, whereas fusion encourages the mono- 
polizing of power by a single political interest. And 
any monopoly of power leads to ever-repeated de- 
monstration of the historical truth epitomized in Lord 
Acton's famous dictum 'All power corrupts, and 
absolute power corrupts absolutely. ' From that danger 
even a federation is not immune, so that the greatest 
care should be taken to ensure the mutual checks and 
balancing factors necessary to correct the natural 
effect of constitutional unity. 

Another conclusion which develops from the study 

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of grand strategy (national war-policy), against the 
background of history, is the practical necessity of 
adapting the general theory of strategy to the nature 
of a nation's fundamental policy. There is an essential 
difference of aim, and must be a consequent difference 
of appropriate method, between an 'acquisitive' and 
a 'conservative' State. In the light of this difference it 
becomes clear that the pure theory of strategy, as out- 
lined earlier in this chapter, best fits the case of a State 
that is primarily concerned with conquest. It has to be 
modified if it is to serve the true purpose of a nation 
that is content with its existing territorial bounds, and 
primarily concerned to preserve its security and main- 
tain its way of life. The acquisitive State, inherently 
unsatisfied, needs to gain victory in order to gain its 
object and must therefore court greater risks in the 
attempt. The conservative State can achieve its objd$$ 
by merely inducing the aggressor to drop his attempt ' 
at conquest by convincing him that ' the game is not 
worth the candle'. Its victory is, in a real sense, at- 
tained by foiling the other side's bid for victory. In- 
deed, in attempting more it may defeat its own pur- 
pose by exhausting itself so much that it is unable te 
resist other enemies, or the internal effects of over- 
strain. Self-exhaustion in war has killed more States 
than any foreign assailant. 

Weighing these factors of the problem, it can be 
seen that the problem of a conservative State is to 
find the type of strategy that is suited to fulfil its in- 
herently more limited object in the most strength- 
conserving war so as to insure its future as well as 
its present. At first glance, it might seem that pure 
defence would be the most economical method ; but 
this implies static defence and historical experience 
warns us that this is a dangerously brittle method on 
which to rely. Economy of force and deterrent effect 

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are best combined in the defensive-offensive method, 
based on high mobility that carries the power of quick 
riposte. The East Roman Empire was a case where 
such an actively * conservative' strategy had been 
carefully thought out, as a basis of war-policy a 
fact which goes far to explain its unrivalled span of 
existence. Another example, more instinctive than 
reasoned, is provided by the strategy, based on sea- 
power, that England practised in her wars from the 
sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The value of it 
was shown by the way that her strength kept pace 
with her growth, while all her rivals broke down in 
turn through self-exhaustion in war traceable to 
their immoderate desire for the immediate satisfaction 
of outright victory. 

A long series of mutually exhausting and devas- 
tating wars, above all the Thirty Years' War, had 
brought statesmen in the eighteenth century to realize 
the necessity, when engaged in war, of curbing both 
their ambitions and their passions in the interests of 
their purpose. On the one hand, this realization tended 
to produce a tacit limitation of warfare an avoidance 
of excesses which might damage after-the-war pros- 
pects. On the other hand, it made them more ready 
to negotiate a peace if and when victory came to 
appear dubious of achievement. Their ambitions and 
passions frequently carried them too far, so that the 
return to peace found their countries weakened rather 
than strengthened, but they had learnt to stop short 
of national exhaustion. And the most satisfactory 
peace settlements, even for the stronger side, proved 
to be those which were made by negotiation rather 
than by a decisive military issue. 

This gradual education in the inherent limitations 
of war was still in process when it was interrupted by 

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the French Revolution, bringing to the top men who 
were novices in statesmanship. The Directory and its 
successor, Napoleon, pursued the vision of an endur- 
ing peace through war after war for twenty years. The 
pursuit never led to the goal, but only to spreading 
exhaustion and ultimate collapse. 

The bankruptcy of the Napoleonic Empire renewed 
a lesson that had often been taught before. The im- 
pression, however, came to be obscured by the sunset 
haze of Napoleonic myth. The lesson had been for- 
gotten by the time it was repeated in the war of 
1914-18. 

Although war is contrary to reason, since it is a 
means of deciding issues by force when discussion 
fails to produce an agreed solution, the conduct of 
war must be controlled by reason if its object is to be 
fulfilled. For 

(1) While fighting is a physical act, its direction is a 
mental process. The better your strategy, the easier 
you will gain the upper hand, and the less it will cost you. 

(2) Conversely, the more strength you waste the 
more you increase the risk of the scales of war turning 
against you ; and even if you succeed in winning the 
victory, the less strength you will have to profit by the 
peace. 

(3) The more brutal your methods the more bitter 
you will make your opponents, with the natural result 
of hardening the resistance you are trying to over- 
come ; thus the more evenly the two sides are matched 
the wiser it will be to avoid extremes of violence which 
tend to consolidate the enemy's troops and 
behind their leaders. 

(4) These calculations extend further, 
tent you appear to impose a peace ent 
own choosing, by conquest, the stiffer the 

will raise in your path. CC ( p.p. 

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CONSTRUCTION 

(5) Furthermore, if and when you reach your mili- 
tary goal, the more you ask of the defeated side the 
more trouble you will have, and the more cause you 
will provide for an ultimate attempt to reverse the 
settlement achieved by the war. 

Force is a vicious circle, or rather, a spiral unless 
its application is controlled by the more carefully 
reasoned calculation. Thus war, which begins by deny- 
ing reason, comes to vindicate it throughout all 
phases of the struggle. 

The fighting instinct is necessary to success in the 
battlefield although even here the combatant who 
can keep a cool head has an advantage over the man 
who 'sees red' but should always be ridden on a 
tight rein. The statesman who gives that instinct its 
head loses his own ; he is not fit to take charge of the 
fate of a nation. 

Victory in the true sense implies that the state 01 
peace, and of one's people, is better after the war than 
before. Victory in this sense is only possible if a quick 
result can be gained or if a long effort can be econo- 
mically proportioned to the national resources. The 
end must be adjusted to the means. Failing a fair pros- 
pect of such a victory, wise statesmanship will miss no 
opportunity for negotiating peace. Peace through 
stalemate, based on a coincident recognition by each 
side of the opponent's strength, is at least preferable 
to peace through common exhaustion and has often 
provided a better foundation for lasting peace. 

It is wiser to run risks of war for the sake of pre- 
serving peace than to run risks of exhaustion in war 
for the sake of finishing with victory a conclusion 
that runs counter to custom but is supported by ex- 
perience. Perseverance in war is only justifiable if there 
is a good chance of a good end the prospect of a 

208 



CONSTRUCTION 

peace that will balance the sum of human misery in- 
curred in the struggle. Indeed, deepening study of past 
experience leads to the conclusion that nations might 
often have come nearer to their object by taking ad- 
vantage of a lull in the struggle to discuss a settlement 
than by pursuing the war with the aim of * victory '. 

History reveals, also, that in many cases a beneficial 
peace could have been obtained if the statesmen of the 
warring nations had shown more understanding of 
the elements of psychology in their peace ' feelers'. 
Their attitude has commonly been too akin to that 
seen in the typical domestic quarrel; each party is 
afraid to appear yielding, with the result that when 
one of them shows any inclination towards concilia- 
tion this is usually expressed in language that is too 
stiff, while the other is apt to be slow to respond 
partly from pride or obstinacy and partly from a ten- 
dency to interpret such a gesture as a sign of weaken- 
ing when it may be a sign of returning commonsense. 
Thus the fateful moment passes, and the conflict con- 
tinues to the common damage. Rarely does a con- 
tinuation serve any good purpose where the two 
parties are bound to go on living under the same roof. 
This applies even more to modern war in Europe than 
to a domestic conflict, since the industrialization of 
nations has made their fortunes inseparable. It is the 
responsibility of statesmanship never to lose sight of 
the post-war prospect in chasing the 'mirage of vic- 
tory'. 

Where the two sides are too evenly matched to offer 
a reasonable chance of early success to either, the 
statesman is wise who can learn something from the 
psychology of strategy. It is an elementary principle 
of strategy that, if you find your opponent in a strong 
position costly to force, you should leave him a line of 
retreat as the quickest way of loosening his resis- 
p 209 



CONSTRUCTION 

tance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, 
especially in war, to provide your opponent with a 
ladder by which he can climb down* 

The question may arise as to whether such con- 
clusions, based on the history of war between so-called 
civilized States, apply to the conditions inherent in a 
renewal of the type of purely predatory war that was 
waged by the barbarian assailants of the Roman 
Empire, or the mixed religious and predatory war that 
was pursued by the fanatical followers of Mahomet. 
In such wars any negotiated peace tends to have in 
itself even less than the normal value (it is only too 
clear from history that States rarely keep faith with 
each other, save in so far, and so long, as their pro- 
-mises seem to them to combine with their interests). 
But the less that a nation has regard for moral obliga- 
tions the more it tends to respect physical strength 
the deterrent power of a force too strong to be chal- 
lenged with impunity. In the same way, with indivi- 
duals it is a matter of common experience that the 
bully-type and the robber-type hesitate to assail 
anyone who approaches their own strength and are 
far more reluctant to attempt this than a peaceful type 
of individual is to tackle an assailant bigger than him- 
self. 

It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, 
whether individuals or nations, can be bought off 
or, in modern language, * appeased 5 since the pay- 
ment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more dane- 
geld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force 
makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of 
a formidable opposing force. This forms an adequate 
check except against pure fanaticism a fanaticism 
that is unmixed with acquisitiveness. 

While it is hard to make a real peace with the pre- 
datory types, it is easier to induce them to accept a 

210 



CONSTRUCTION 

state of truce and far less exhausting than an attempt 
to crush them, whereby they are, like all types of man- 
kind, infused with the courage of desperation. The 
experience of history brings ample evidence that the 
downfall of civilized States tends to come not from 
the direct assaults of foes but from internal decay, 
combined with the consequences of exhaustion in war. 
A state of suspense is trying it has often led nations 
as well as individuals to commit suicide because they 
were unable to bear it. But it is better than to reach 
exhaustion in pursuit of the mirage of victory. More- 
over, a truce to actual hostilities enables a recovery 
and development of strength, while the need for vigi- 
lance helps to keep a nation * on its toes '. 

Peaceful nations are apt, however, to court unneces- 
sary danger because, when once aroused, they are 
more inclined to proceed to extremes than predatory 
nations. For the latter, making war as a means of 
gain, are usually more ready to call it off when they 
find an opponent too strong to be easily overcome. 
It is the reluctant fighter, impelled by emotion and not 
by calculation, who tends to press a fight to the bitter 
end. Thereby he too often defeats his own end, even 
if he does not produce his own direct defeat. For the 
spirit of barbarism can be weakened only during a 
cessation of hostilities ; war strengthens it pouring 
fuel on the flames. 



211 



Chapter XII 

THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF 
STRATEGY 

This brief chapter is an attempt to epitomize, from 
the history of war, a few truths of experience which 
seem so universal, and so fundamental, as to be termed 
axioms. 

They are practical guides, not abstract principles. 
Napoleon realized that only the practical is useful 
when he gave us his maxims. But the modern tendency 
has been to search for principles which can each be 
expressed in a single word and then need several 
thousand words to explain them. Even so, these ' prin- 
ciples' are so abstract that they mean different things 
to different men, and, for any value, depend on the 
individual's own understanding of war. The longer 
one continues the search for such omnipotent abstrac- 
tions, the more do they appear a mirage, neither at- 
tainable nor useful except as an intellectual exercise. 

The principles of war, not merely one principle, can 
be condensed into a single word 'concentration'. 
But for truth this needs to be amplified as the 'con- 
centration of strength against weakness'. And for any 
real value it needs to be explained that the concentra- 
tion of strength against weakness depends on the dis- 
persion of your opponent's strength, which in turn is 

212 



THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF STRATEGY 

produced by a distribution of your own that gives the 
appearance, and partial effect of dispersion. Your dis- 
persion, his dispersion, your concentration such is 
the sequence, and each is a sequel. True concentration 
is the fruit of calculated dispersion. 

Here we have a fundamental principle whose under- 
standing may prevent a fundamental error (and the 
most common) that of giving your opponent free- 
dom and time to concentrate to meet your concentra- 
tion. But to state the principle is not of much practical 
aid for execution. 

The above-mentioned axioms (here expressed as 
maxims) cannot be condensed into a single word ; but 
they can be put into the fewest words necessary to be 
practical. Eight in all, so far six are positive and two 
negative. They apply to strategy as well as tactics, 
unless otherwise indicated. 

Positive 

1. Adjust your end to your means. In determining 
your object, clear sight and cool calculation should 
prevail. It is folly * to bite off more than you can chew ', 
and the beginning of military wisdom is a sense of 
what is possible. So learn to face facts while still pre- 
serving faith : there will be ample need for faith the 
faith that can achieve the apparently impossible 
when action begins. Confidence is like the current in a 
battery; avoid exhausting it in vain effort and re- 
member that your own continued confidence will be 
of no avail if the cells of your battery, the men upon 
whom you depend, have been run down. 

2. Keep your object always in mind, while adapting 
your plan to circumstances. Realize that there are 
more ways than one of gaining an object, but take 
heed that every objective should bear on the object. 
And in considering possible objectives weigh their 

213 



THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF STRATEGY 

possibility of attainment with their service to the ob- 
ject if attained to wander down a side-track is bad, 
but to reach a dead end is worse. 

3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation. 
Try to put yourself in the enemy's shoes, and think 
what course it is least probable he will foresee or fore- 
stall. 

4. Exploit the line of least resistance so long as it 
can lead you to any objective which would contribute 
to your underlying object. (In tactics this maxim ap- 
plies to the use of your reserves ; and in strategy, to the 
exploitation of any tactical success.) 

5. Take a line of operation which offers alternative 
objectives. For you will thus put your opponent on the 
horns of a dilemma, which goes far to assure the 
chance of gaining one objective at least whichever 
he guards least and may enable you to gain one 
after the other. 

Alternative objectives allow you to keep the oppor- 
tunity of gaining an objective; a single objective, un- 
less the enemy is helplessly inferior, means the cer- 
tainty that you will not gain it once the enemy is no 
longer uncertain as to your aim. There is no more 
common mistake than to confuse a single line of 
operation, which is usually wise, with a single objec- 
tive, which is usually futile. (If this maxim applies 
mainly to strategy, it should be applied where possible 
to tactics, and does, in effect, form the basis of infiltra- 
tion tactics.) 

6. Ensure that both plan and dispositions are flexible 
adaptable to circumstances. Your plan should fore- 
see and provide for a next step in case of success or 
failure, or partial success which is the most common 
case in war. Your dispositions (or formation) should 
be such as to allow this exploitation or adaptation in 
the shortest possible time. 

214 



THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF STRATEGY 

Negative 

7. Do not throw your weight into a stroke whilst your 
opponent is on guard whilst he is well placed to parry 
or evade it. The experience of history shows that, save 
against a much inferior opponent, no effective stroke 
is possible until his power of resistance or evasion is 
paralysed. Hence no commander should launch a real 
attack upon an enemy in position until satisfied that 
such paralysis has developed. It is produced by dis- 
organization, and its moral equivalent, demoralization, 
of the enemy. 

8. Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in 
the same form) after it has once failed. A mere rein- 
forcement of weight is not sufficient change, for it is 
probable that the enemy also will have strengthened 
himself in the interval. It is even more probable that 
his success in repulsing you will have strengthened 
him morally. 

The essential truth underlying these maxims is that, 
for success, two major problems must be solved dis- 
location and exploitation. One precedes and one 
follows the actual blow, which in comparison is a 
simple act. You cannot hit the enemy with effect un- 
less you have first created the opportunity ; you can- 
not make that effect decisive unless you exploit the 
second opportunity that comes before he can recover. 

The importance of these two problems has never 
been adequately recognized a fact which may go far 
to explain the common indecisiveness of warfare. The 
training of armies is primarily devoted to developing 
efficiency in the detailed execution of the attack. This 
concentration on tactical technique, in peace-time 
exercises, tends to obscure the psychological element. 
It fosters a cult of soundness, rather than of surprise. 
It breeds commanders who are so intent not to do 

215 



THE CONCENTRATED ESSENCE OF STRATEGY 

anything wrong, according to 'the book 5 , that they 
forget the necessity of making the enemy do some- 
thing wrong. The result is that their plans have no 
result. For, in war, it is by compelling mistakes that 
the scales are most often turned. 

Here and there a commander has eschewed the ob- 
vious, and has found in the unexpected the key to a 
decision unless fortune has proved foul. For luck 
can never be divorced from war, since war is part of 
life. Hence the unexpected cannot guarantee success. 
But it guarantees the best chance of success. 



216 



PART II 



Chapter XIII 

THE PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN THE 
WESTERN THEATRE, 1914 

The starting-point of a survey of the Western Front 
campaign must be the pre-war plans. The Franco- 
German frontier was narrow, only some 150 miles 
long, and so afforded little room for the manoeuvre 
of the masses which the conscriptive system had 
created and developed. At the south-eastern end the 
frontier abutted on Switzerland, and, after a short 
stretch of flat country near Belfort, ran for 70 miles 
along the Vosges mountains. Thence the line was pro- 
longed by an almost continuous fortress chain based 
on Epinal, Toul, and Verdun ; and just beyond the 
last-named lay the frontiers of Luxembourg and Bel- 
gium. In the resurrection and reconstruction period 
which followed the disasters of 1870, the French plan 
was that of an initial defensive, based on the frontier 
fortresses, to be followed by a decisive counterstroke. 
To this end the great fortress system along the Alsace- 
Lorraine frontier had been created, and gaps such as 
the Trouee de Charmes between Epinal and Toul had 
been left to * canalize' the expected German invasion 
so that the counter might be delivered with more 
assurance and effectiveness. 

This plan was marked by a certain indirectness of 
approach, perhaps as much as was possible in view 

219 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

of the restricted frontier without violating neutral 
territory. 

But in the decade before 1914 a new school of 
thought arose, with Colonel de Grandmaison as its 
prophet, which denounced this plan as contrary to the 
French spirit and as 'an almost complete atrophy of 
the idea of the offensive'. The advocates of the offen- 
sive b entrance found in Joffre, who was appointed 
Chief of the General Staff in 1912, a lever for their 
intentions. Grasping it, they gained control of the 
French military machine, and, throwing over the old 
plan, formulated the now famous, or notorious, Plan 
XVII. This was purely a direct approach in the form 
of a headlong offensive against the German centre 
' with all forces united '. Yet, for this frontal and whole- 
front offensive, the French plan counted upon having 
a bare equality of strength against an enemy who 
would have the support of his own fortified frontier 
zone while, by rushing forward, the French fore- 
swore any advantage from their own. The one con- 
cession to historical experience, and common sense, in 
this plan was that the fortress of Metz should be 
masked, not directly assaulted the attack passing 
south of it into Lorraine, and north of it also. The 
latter wing would extend the offensive into Belgian 
Luxembourg if the Germans violated neutral terri- 
tory. By an historical paradox, the French plan drew 
its inspiration from a German, Clausewitz, while the 
German plan was far closer to the Napoleonic in 
origin if still more Hannibalic. 

Britain's contingent share in the French plan was 
settled less by calculation than by the 'Europeaniza- 
tion* of her military organization and thought during 
the previous decade. This continental influence drew 
her insensibly into a tacit acceptance of the role of an 
appendix to the French left wing, and away from her 

220 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

historic exploitation of the mobility given by sea- 
power. At the council of war on the outbreak, Sir 
John French, who was to command the British ex- 
peditionary force, expressed a doubt of 'the pre- 
arranged plan 9 ; as an alternative, he suggested that 
the force should be sent to Antwerp where it would 
have stiffened the Belgians' resistance and, by its mere 
situation, have threatened the rear flank of the Ger- 
man armies as they advanced through Belgium into 
France. But Major-General Henry Wilson, when 
Director of Military Operations, had virtually pledged 
the General Staff to act in direct conjunction with the 
French. The informal military negotiations between 
1905 and 1914 had paved the way for a reversal of 
England's centuries-old war policy. 

This fait accompli overbore not only French's strate- 
gical idea but Haig's desire to wait until the situation 
was clearer and the army could be enlarged, and even 
Kitchener's more limited objection to assembling the 
expeditionary force so close to the frontier. 

The final French plan was the one thing needed to 
make the original German plan framed by Graf von 
SchliefFen in 1905 a true indirect approach. Faced 
by the blank wall which the French fortified frontier 
presented, the logical military course was to go round 
it through Belgium. Schlieffen decided on this course, 
and to move as widely as possible. Strangely, even 
when the invasion of Belgium began, the French com- 
mand assumed that the Germans would confine their 
advance to a narrower front, east of the Meuse. 

Schlieffen's plan concentrated the bulk of the Ger- 
man forces on the right wing for this gigantic wheel. 
The right wing was to sweep through Belgium and 
northern France, and then, continuing to traverse a 
vast arc, would wheel gradually east. With its extreme 
right passing south of Paris, and crossing the Seine 

221 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

near Rouen, it would thus press the French back to- 
wards the Moselle, where they would be hammered 
in rear on the anvil formed by the Lorraine fortresses 
and the Swiss frontier. 

The real subtlety and indirectness of the plan lay, 
not in this geographical detour, but in the distribution 
of force and in the idea which guided it. An initial sur- 
prise was sought by incorporating reserve corps with 
active corps at the outset in the offensive mass. Of the 
72 divisions which would thus be available, 53 were 
alloted to the swinging mass, 10 were to form a pivot 
facing Verdun, and a mere 9 were to form the left 
wing along the French frontier. This reduction of the 
left wing to the slenderest possible size was shrewdly 
calculated to increase the effect of the swinging mass 
by its very weakness. For if the French should attack 
in Lorraine and press the left wing back towards the 
Rhine, it would be difficult for them to parry the 
German attack through Belgium and the further 
they went the more difficult it would be. As with a 
revolving door, if the French pressed heavily on one 
side, the other side would swing round and strike them 
in the back, and the more heavily they pressed the 
severer would be the blow. 

Geographically, Schlieffen's move through Belgium 
was a strategic approach of very limited indirectness 
because of the density of force in relation to space. 
Psychologically, his design for, and distribution of 
force on, the left wing made it a definitely indirect 
approach. And the French plan made it perfect. If a 
ghost can chuckle, how the departed SchliefFen must 
have chuckled when he saw that the French did not 
even have to be enticed into his trap. But his chuckle 
must soon have changed into chagrin. For his suc- 
cessor, Moltke ' the younger ' in family order but the 
older in caution abandoned Schlieffen's plan in exe- 

222 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

cution, after having already modified and marred it in 
pre-war preparation. 

Between 1905 and 1914, as more troops became 
available, he increased the strength of the left wing 
disproportionately to the right. By making this wing 
safer, he made the plan unsafe, and began a continuous 
sapping at its foundations which ended in its collapse. 

When the French offensive developed in August 
1914, Moltke was tempted to accept the challenge in a 
direct manner, and to seek a decision in Lorraine, 
postponing the right wing's sweep. The impulse was 
only a momentary one, but in that brief lapse he had 
diverted to Lorraine the six newly formed Ersatz divi- 
sions which should have gone to increase the strength 
of his right wing. And this fresh accession of strength 
made the princeling commanders in Lorraine more 
loath to fulfil their self-suppressing role. Prince Rup- 
precht of Bavaria, instead of continuing to fall back 
and draw the French on, halted his army, ready to 
accept battle. Finding the French attack slow to 
develop, he arranged with his neighbour to anticipate 
it by a German attack. The two armies had now 
25 divisions against 19, and thus lacked the superior- 
ity, as well as the strategic position, to make the 
counterstroke decisive. The result was merely to throw 
back the French on to their fortified barrier and so, 
not only to restore and augment their power of re- 
sistance, but to enable them to dispatch troops west- 
wards for the battle of the Marne. 

The German action in Lorraine undermined Schlief- 
fen's plan even more gravely, if less obviously, than 
the progressive reduction of the weight and role of the 
right wing. Here, however, came the immediate cause 
of the collapse. From the right wing Moltke sub- 
tracted, first, seven divisions to invest or stand guard 
over Maubeuge, Givet, and Antwerp ; then four divi- 

223 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

sions to reinforce the East Prussian front. When 
Kluck's army on the extreme right wheeled in prema- 
turely on his neighbour's request and with Moltke's 
approval and thereby presented a chance for the 
Paris garrison to catch him in flank, only 13 German 
divisions were available against 27 Franco-British 
divisions on this decisive flank. That fact brings out 
the extent to which Schlieffen's 'decisive wing 5 had 
been weakened directly and indirectly. While the 
German inferiority was due to subtraction of force 
from the right wing, the French superiority was due 
to the misguided action of the German left wing. 

Although with the battle of the Marne we cross the 
shadowy border-line between strategy and tactics, this 
battle, which turned the tide of the war, yields so many 
sidelights on the problem of the 'approach' that it 
deserves examination, For these sidelights to be re- 
flected, a background of events is necessary. 

The repulse of Joffre's right wing in Lorraine had 
been followed by the throwing back of his centre in a 
head-on crash in the Ardennes, and by the narrow 
escape of his left wing, belatedly extended, from a 
disastrous encirclement between the Sambre and the 
Meuse. With Plan XVII shattered to pieces, Joffre 
formed a new plan out of the wreckage. He decided 
to swing back his left and centre, with Verdun as the 
pivot, while drawing troops from his now firmly but- 
tressed right wing to form a fresh 6th Army on his 
left. 

On the German side, the first highly coloured re- 
ports from the army commanders in the battles of the 
Frontiers had given the German Supreme Command 
the impression of a decisive victory. Then the com- 
paratively small totals of prisoners raised doubts in 
Moltke's mind, and led him to a more sober estimate 
of the situation. The new pessimism of Moltke com- 

224 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 
bined with the renewed optimism of his army com- 
manders to produce a fresh change of plan, which 
contained the seeds of disaster. When, on the 26th of 
August, the British left wing fell back southwards 
from Le Cateau, badly mauled, the German 1st 
Army, under Kluck, turned south-westwards again. 
If this direction was partly due to a misconception of 
the line of retreat taken by the British, it was also in 
accordance with Kluck's original role of a wide cir- 
cling sweep. And by carrying him into the Amiens- 
Pfronne area, where the first elements of the newly 
formed French 6th Army were just detraining after 
being switched from Lorraine, it compelled a hurried 
withdrawal of the 6th Army and thus had the effect 
of dislocating Joffre's design for an early return to the 
offensive. 

But Kluck had hardly swung out to the south-west 
before he was induced to swing in again. For, to ease 
the pressure on the British, Joffre had ordered the 
neighbouring army (Lanrezac) to halt and strike back 
at the pursuing German 2nd Army (Biilow), which, 
shaken by the threat, called on Kluck for aid. Lan- 
rezac's attack, on the 29th of August, was stopped be- 
fore this aid was needed ; but Biilow asked Kluck to 
wheel inwards nevertheless, in order to cut off Lan- 
rezac's retreat. Before acceding, Kluck referred to 
Moltke. The request came at a moment when Moltke 
was becoming perturbed, in general, over the way the 
French were slipping away from his embrace, and, in 
particular, over a gap which had opened between his 
2nd and 3rd Armies. Hence Moltke approved Kluck's 
change of direction, which meant the abandonment 
of the original wide sweep round the far side of Paris. 
Now, the flank of the wheeling German line would pass 
the near side of Paris, and across the face of the Paris 
defences. By this contraction of his frontage and 
ft 225 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

greater directness of approach, for the sake of security 
Moltke sacrificed the wider prospects inherent in the 
wide, sweep of the SchliefFen plan. And, as it proved, 
instead of contracting -the risk he contracted a fatal 
counterstroke. 

The decision to abandon the original plan was 
definitely taken on the 4th of September, and in place 
of it Moltke substituted a narrower envelopment, of 
the French centre and right. His own centre (4th and 
5th Armies) was to press south-east, while his left 
(6th and 7th Armies), striking south-westwards, sought 
to break through the fortified barrier between Toul 
and Epinal, the 'jaws' thus closing inwards on either 
side of Verdun. Meantime his right (1st and 2nd 
Armies) was to turn outwards, and, facing west, hold 
off any countermove which the French attempted 
from the neighbourhood of Paris. 

But such a French countermove had begun before 
the newer plan could take effect. 

The opportunity was less quickly appreciated by 
Joffre, who had ordered a continuance of the retreat, 
than by Gallieni, the Military Governor of Paris. On 
the 3rd of September Gallieni realized the meaning of 
Kluck's wheel inwards, and directed Maunoury's 6th 
Army to be ready to strike at the exposed German 
right flank. All the next day an argument raged at 
Joffre's headquarters, the case for an immediate 
counter-offensive being pressed by Major Gamelin, 
his military secretary, but stoutly opposed by General 
Berthelot, the most powerful voice on the general 
staff. The issue was only settled, and Joffre's sanction 
gained, when GaUi&ii came through on the telephone 
that evening. Once convinced, Joffre acted with deci- 
sion. The whole left wing was ordered to turn about, 
and return to a general offensive beginning on the 
6th of September. 

226 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 
Maunoury was quick off the mark, on the 5th, and 
as his pressure developed on the Germans' sensi- 
tive flank, Kluck was constrained to draw off first 
one part, and then the remaining part of his army 
to support his threatened flank guard. Thereby a 
thirty-mile gap was created between the 1st and 2nd 
German armies, a gap covered only by a screen of 
cavalry. Kluck was emboldened to take the risk be- 
cause of the rapid retreat of the British opposite to 
that gaping sector. Even on the 5th, instead of turning 
about, the British had continued a further day's march 
to the south. But in this 'disappearance' lay the in- 
direct and unintentional cause of victory. For, when 
the British retraced their steps, it was the report that 
their columns were advancing into the gap which, on 
the 9th of September, led Billow to order the retreat 
of his 2nd Army. The temporary advantage which 
the 1st Army, already isolated by its own act, had 
gained over Maunoury was thereby nullified, and it 
fell back the same day. 

By the 1 1th the retreat had extended, independently 
or under orders from Moltke, to all the German 
armies. The attempt at a partial envelopment, pivot- 
ing on Verdun, had already failed the jaw formed by 
the 6th and 7th Armies merely breaking its teeth on 
the defences of the French eastern frontier. It is diffi- 
cult to see how the German command could reason- 
ably have pinned their faith on achieving as an im- 
provised expedient the frontal assault that, in cool 
calculation before the war, had appeared so hopeless 
as to lead them to take the momentous decision to 
advance through Belgium as the only feasible alter- 
native. 

Thus, in sum, the battle of the Maine was decided 
by a jar and a crack. The jar administered by Mau- 
noury's attack on the German right flank causing a 

227 * 



* PLAfS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

crack in a weak joint of the German line, and this 
physical crack in turn producing a moral crack in the 
German command. 

Against this background it can be seen that Kluck's 
indirect move, his wheel outward after Le Cateafl, was 
as valuable in upsetting Joffre's second plan for an 
early return to the offensive and in accelerating the 
dangerous momentum of the Franco-British retreat, 
as his subsequent wheel inward, directly towards the 
opponent, was fatal to the German plan. We may 
note, too, that Moltke's strategic approach became 
increasingly direct, and that the frontal assault of the 
German left wing proved not only a costly failure but 
brought no strategic return to compensate its cost. 

It would be far-fetched to characterize Joffre's re- 
treat as an indirect approach. The opportunity on the 
Marne was presented, not created, nor even sought. 
Gallium's thrust was in the nick of time, before the 
German 1st and 2nd Armies could take up their new 
flank guard dispositions. But it was too direct to pro- 
duce decisive results, and would have been more direct 
still if he had made it south of the Marne as Joffre 
first instructed. Finally, it can be seen that the actual 
decision, the move which compelled the Germans to 
retreat, was due to an indirect approach so uninten- 
tional as to form an act of historical comedy. This was 
the disappearance of the British expeditionary force, 
and its happily belated reappearance opposite the 
strained and weakened joint of the German right 
wing. French critics have reproached it for this slow- 
ness, not realizing that it contributed a new, if some- 
what different point to the fable of the hare and the 
tortoise. If it had returned sooner the joint would 
hardly have been so weakened. Maunoury's attack 
could not have produced a decision for he had al- 
ready been brought to a halt while the two German 

228 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 4. 

corps taken from the joint were still on the march, and 
contributing nothing to the issue. 

In analysing the cause of the German retreat, how- 
ever, we must take account of a factor customarily 
overlooked. This was the sensitiveness of the Supreme 
Command to reports of landings on the Belgian coast 
which might menace their rear and communications. 
It led them to contemplate a withdrawal before the 
battle of the Marne even began. On the 3rd of Septem- 
ber Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch, the representative of the 
Supreme Command, came to the 1st Army with the 
latest precautionary order and informed it that 'The 
news is bad : the 7th and 6th Armies are blocked be- 
fore Nancy-Epinal. The 4th and 5th are meeting 
strong resistance. The French are railing forces from 
their right towards Paris. The English are disembark- 
ing fresh troops continuously on the Belgian coast. 
There are rumours of a Russian expeditionary "force 
in the same parts. A withdrawal is becoming inevi- 
table.' 

The sensitiveness of the German command had en- 
larged three battalions of marines which landed at 
Ostend, for forty-eight hours, into a corps of 40,000 
men. The Russians are said to have sprung from the 
heated imagination of an English railway porter 
there should be a statue in Whitehall dedicated 'To 
the Unknown Porter'. The historians of the future 
may consider that this party of temporary visitors to 
Ostend, together with the Russian myth, were the 
primary cause of the victory of the Marne. 

When the moral effect of these phantom forces is 
weighed with the material detention of German forces 
in Belgium, owing to fears of a Belgian sortie from 
Antwerp which developed on the 9th of September 
the balance of judgement would seem to turn heav- 
ily in favour of the strategy which Sir John French 

229 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

had suggested at the outset. By it the British expedi- 
tionary force might have had a positively, and not 
merely negatively, decisive influence on the struggle. 

The latent menace of the Belgian coast to the Ger- 
man rear had throughout been appreciated by Falken- 
hayn, who now replaced Moltke. His first step was to 
undertake the reduction of Antwerp, and from this 
grew the germ of a manoeuvre which savoured of the 
indirect approach. Its execution fell short of, and be- 
came more direct than, its conception, yet it sufficed 
to bring the Allies afresh to the verge of disaster. 

The Allied frontal pursuit had been definitely 
checked on the Aisne before Joffre, on the 17th of 
September, seeing that Maunoury's attempts to over- 
lap the German flank were ineffectual, decided to 
form a fresh army under de Castelnau for an out- 
flanking move. By then the German armies had re- 
covered cohesion, and the German command was 
ready to meet such limited manoeuvre now the 
natural line of expectation. The next month was occu- 
pied by the extremely obvious and abortive series of 
attempts by either side to overlap the other's western 
flank a phase popularly, if inaccurately, styled 'the 
race to the sea'. Falkenhayn tired of the game long 
before JofFre, and on the 14th of October planned a 
strategic trap for the next allied attempt which he fore- 
saw would follow. His latest-formed flank army was 
to parry the attempt, while another composed of the 
forces released by the fall of Antwerp and of four 
newly raised corps was to sweep down the Belgian 
coast, crush in the flank, and crash upon the rear, of 
the attacking Allies. He even held back, momentarily, 
the troops pursuing the Belgian field army from Ant- 
werp in order to avoid prematurely alarming the 
Allied command. 

Fortunately for the Allies, King Albert, from cau- 

230 



THE 
WESTERN FRONT 




PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

tion or realism, refused Foch's invitation to join in this 
outflanking effort, and declined to quit the coastal 
district. Thereby the Belgian army was in position to 
withstand, and eventually, by flooding the low coastal 
strip, frustrate the German sweep from the north. 
This compelled Falkenhayn to make a more direct 
approach to the Allied flank which had just been 
extended to Ypres by the arrival of Haig's corps from 
the Aisne. Although the attempted advance of the 
earlier-coming British right and centre corps had al- 
ready been held up, Sir John French ordered his left 
wing under Haig to attempt the realization of Joffre's 
outflanking dream. Fortunately again, the attempt 
coincided with the premature opening of the German 
attack, and thus was stillborn although for a day or 
two French, under Foch's influence, persisted in be- 
lieving that this British 'attack 5 was going on, whereas 
actually Haig's troops were struggling hard even to 
hold their ground. The delusion of the French and 
British chiefs as to the reality of the situation was 
partly responsible for the fact that Ypres, like Inker- 
man, was essentially a 'soldiers' battle'. Falkenhayn, 
too, once his hope of sweeping down the coast had 
faded, persisted for a month in trying to force a deci- 
sion by a direct approach. When the direct defence, 
despite weakness of strength, triumphed as usual over 
the direct attack, the trench barrier became consoli- 
dated from the Swiss frontier to the sea and stale- 
mate ensued. 

The Western Theatre, 1915-1917 

The military record of the Franco-British alliance 
during the next four years is a story of the attempt to 
break this deadlock, either by forcing the barrier or 
by haphazardly seeking a way round. 

On the Western front, with its interminable parallel 

232 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

lines of entrenchments, strategy became the hand- 
maiden of tactics, while tactics became a robot. The 
strategical side of the years 1915-17 does not call 
for much examination. On the Allied side the strategy 
was purely that of direct approach, and it was in- 
effectual to break the deadlock. Whatever be our 
opinion of the merits of attrition, and of the argument 
that the whole period should be regarded as one con- 
tinuous battle, a method which requires four years to 
produce a decision is not to be regarded as a model 
for imitation. 

At Neuve Chapelle, the first attempt at the offen- 
sive in 1915, the approach was direct, but tactical sur- 
prise at least was sought and gained. Thereafter, with 
the adoption of prolonged 'warning' bombardments, 
all the attempts became barefaced frontal assaults. Of 
this ^nature were the French offensive near Arras in 
May 1915 ; the Franco-British offensives of September 
1915 in Champagne and north of Arras; of July to 
November 1916 on the Somme ; of April 1917 on the 
Aisne and at Arras ; and lastly the British offensive at 
Ypres from July to October 1917 which, like King 
Charles II, took so long in dying in the swamps of 
Passchendaele. On the 20th of November 1917, at 
Cambrai, tactical surprise was revived by the use 
of massed tanks, suddenly unleashed, in place of a 
long preliminary bombardment ; but strategically this 
small-scale attack, so happy in its opening, so un- 
happy in its end, could hardly be termed an indirect 
approach. 

On the German side, the strategy was strictly defen- 
sive except for the Verdun interlude in 1916. That, 
again, was essentially a direct approach unless the 
idea of bleeding one's enemy to death by an illimitable 
series of limited leech-bites can be termed indirect. 
But the expenditure in leeches caused its bankruptcy. 

233 



PLANS AND THEIR ISSUE IN WESTERN THEATRE 

More akin to the nature of the indirect approach, 
but purely defensive in aim, was Ludendorff 's ably 
conceived and prepared withdrawal of part of the 
German forces to the Hindenburg line in the spring 
of 1917. To anticipate the renewal of the Franco- 
British offensive on the Somme, a new trench line of 
great artificial strength was built across the chord of 
the arc Lens-Noyon-Reims. Then, after devastating 
the whole area inside the arc, the Germans withdrew 
by methodical stages to the new and shorter line. This 
manoeuvre, distinguished by its moral courage in yield- 
ing ground, dislocated the whole plan of the Allies' 
spring offensive. Thereby it helped to gain the Ger- 
mans a year's respite from serious danger and from 
any combined offensive of the Allies, allowed time for 
Russia's disintegration to become complete, and en- 
abled Ludendorff to make his supreme bid for victory, 
with superiority of force, in 1918. 



234 



Chapter XIV 
THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

On the eastern front the plans of campaign were 
more fluid, less elaborately worked out and formu- 
lated although they were to be as kaleidoscopic in 
their changes of fortune as in the western theatre. The 
calculable condition was geographical; the main in- 
calculable, Russia's rate of concentration. 

Russian Ppland was a vast tongue of country pro- 
jecting from Russia proper, and flanked on three sides 
by German or Austrian territory. On its northern 
flank lay East Prussia, with the Baltic* Sea beyond. 
On its southern flank lay the Austrian province 
of Galicia, with the Carpathian mountains beyond, 
guarding the approaches to the plain of Hungary. On 
the west lay Silesia. 

The Germanic border provinces were provided with 
a network of strategic railways, whilst Poland, as well 
as Russia itself, had only a sparse system of com- 
munications. Thus the German alliance had a vital 
advantage, in power of concentration, for countering 
a Russian advance. But if they took the offensive, the 
further they progressed into Poland or Russia proper 
the more would they lose this advantage. Hence the 
experience of history suggested that their most pro- 
fitable strategy was to lure the Russians forward into 
position for a counter-stroke, rather than to inaugurate 

235 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

an offensive themselves. The one drawback was that 
such a Punic strategy gave the Russians time to con- 
centrate, and set in motion, their cumbrous and rusty 
machine. 

From this arose an initial cleavage between German 
and Austrian opinion. Both agreed that the problem 
was to hold the Russians in check during the six weeks 
before the Germans, it was hoped, would have crushed 
France, and could switch their forces eastwards to join 
the Austrians in a decisive blow against the Russians. 
The difference of opinion was on the method. The 
Germans, intent on a decision against France, wished 
to leave a minimum force in the east. Only a political 
dislike of exposing national territory to invasion pre- 
vented them evacuating East Prussia, and standing on 
the Vistula line. But the Austrians, under the in- 
fluence of Conrad von Hotzendorf, Chief of their 
General Staff, were anxious to throw the Russian 
machine out of gear by an immediate offensive. As 
this promised to keep the Russians fully occupied 
while the campaign in France was being decided, 
Moltke fell in with this strategy. Conrad's plan was 
that of an offensive north-eastwards into Poland by 
two armies, protected by two more on their right, 
further east. 

On the opposing side, also, the desires of one ally 
vitally affected the strategy of the other. The Russian 
command, both for military and for racial motives, 
wished to concentrate first against Austria, while the 
latter was unsupported, and to leave Germany alone 
until later, when the full strength of the Russian army 
would be mobilized. But the French, anxious to re- 
lieve the German pressure against themselves, urged 
the Russians to deliver a simultaneous attack against 
Germany. The outcome was that the Russians con- 
sented to undertake an extra offensive for which they 

236 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

were neither ready, in numbers, nor organized. On the 
south-western front, two pairs of armies were to con- 
verge on the Austrian forces in Galicia ; on the north- 
western front, two armies were to converge on the 
German forces in East Prussia. Russia, whose pro- 
verbial slowness and crude organization dictated a 
cautious strategy, was about to break with tradition 
and launch out on a double direct approach. 

On the outbreak of war the Russian Commander- 
in-Chief, the Grand Duke Nicholas, accelerated the 
invasion of East Prussia in order to ease the pressure 
on his French allies. On the 17th of August Rennen- 
kampf's army crossed the east frontier of East Prussia, 
and on the 19th to 20th of August met and threw back 
the bulk of Prittwitz's German 8th Army at Gum- 
binnen. On the 21st of August, Prittwitz heard that 
Samsonov's Army had crossed the southern frontier 
of East Prussia in his rear, which was guarded by only 
three divisions in face of ten. In panic, Prittwitz 
momentarily spoke of falling back behind the Vistula, 
whereupon Moltke superseded him by a retired general, 
Hindenburg, with Ludendorff as Chief of Staff. 

Developing a plan which, with the necessary move- 
ments, had been already initiated by Colonel Hoffmann 
of the 8th Army staff, Ludendorff concentrated some 
six divisions against Samsonov's left wing. This force, 
inferior in strength to the Russians, could not have 
been decisive ; but Ludendorff, finding that Rennen- 
kampf was still near Gumbinnen, took the calculated 
risk of withdrawing the rest of the German troops, 
except the cavalry screen, from that front and rushing 
them back against Samsonov's right wing. This daring 
move was aided by the absence of communication 
between the two Russian commanders and the ease 
with which the Germans deciphered the Russian wire- 
less orders. Under converging blows, Samsonov's 

237 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

flanks were crushed, his centre surrounded, and his 
army practically destroyed. If the opportunity was 
presented rather than created, this brief Tannenberg 
campaign forms an almost perfect example of the 'in- 
terior lines ' form of the indirect approach. 

Then, receiving two fresh army corps from the 
front in France, the German commander turned on 
the slowly advancing Rennenkampf whose lack of 
energy was partly due to his losses at Gumbinnen and 
subsequent lack of information and drove him out 
of East Prussia. As a result of these battles, Russia 
had lost a quarter of a million men and, what she 
could afford still less, much war material. The in- 
vasion of East Prussia, however, had at least helped to 
make possible the French revival on the Maine by 
causing the dispatch of two corps from the west. 

But the effect of Tannenberg was diminished be- 
cause, away on the Galician front, the scales had 
tilted against the Central Powers. The offensive of the 
Austrian 1st and 4th Armies into Poland had at first 
made progress, but this was nullified by the onslaught 
of the Russian 3rd and 8th Armies upon the weaker 
2nd and 3rd Armies which were guarding the Austrian 
right flank. These armies were heavily defeated (the 
26th to 30th of August), and driven back through 
Lemberg. The advance of the Russian left wing thus 
threatened the rear of the victorious Austrian left 
wing. Conrad tried to swing part of his left wing 
round against the Russian flank, but this blow was 
parried. And then, caught with his forces disorganized 
by the renewed advance of the Russian right wing, he 
was forced, on the llth of September, to extricate 
himself by a general retreat falling back almost to 
Cracow by the end of September. 

Austria's plight compelled the Germans to send 
aid. The bulk of the German force in East Prussia was 

238 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

formed into a new 9th Army, and switched south to 
the south-west corner of Poland, whence it advanced 
on Warsaw in combination with a renewed Austrian 
offensive. But the Russians were now approaching the 
full tide of their mobilized strength ; re-grouping their 
forces and counter-attacking, they drove back the ad- 
vance and followed it up by a powerful effort to in- 
vade Silesia. 

The Grand Duke Nicholas formed a huge phalanx 
of seven armies three in the van and two protecting 
either flank. A further army, the 10th, had invaded 
the eastern corner of East Prussia and was engaging 
the weak German forces there. To counter the danger, 
the German eastern front was placed under the firm 
of Hindenburg-Ludendorff-Hoffmann, which devised 
yet another master-stroke, based on the system of 
lateral railways inside the German frontier. The 9th 
Army, falling back before the Russian advance, 
slowed it down by a systematic destruction of the 
scanty communications in Poland. On reaching the 
Silesian frontier, unpressed, it was first switched north- 
ward to the Posen-Thorn area, and then thrust south- 
east, on the llth of November, up the west bank of 
the Vistula, against the joint between the two armies 
guarding the Russian right flank. The wedge, as if 
driven in by a mallet, split the two armies, forced the 
1st back on Warsaw and almost achieved another 
Tannenberg against the 2nd which was nearly sur- 
rounded at Lodz, when the 5th Army from the van 
turned back to its rescue. As a result, part of the 
German enveloping force almost suffered the fate 
planned for the Russians, but managed to cut its way 
through to the main body. If the Germans were balked 
of decisive tactical success, this manoeuvre had been a 
classic example of how a relatively small force, by 
using its mobility for indirect approach to a vital 

239 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

point, can paralyse the advance of an enemy several 
times its strength. The Russian * steam-roller* was 
thrown out of gear, and never again did it threaten 
German soil. 

Within a week, four new German army corps ar- 
rived from the western front, where the Ypres attack 
had now ended in failure. Although they came too 
late to clinch the missed chance of a decisive victory,, 
Ludendorff was able to use them in pressing the Rus- 
sians back to the Bzura-Ravka river line in front of 
Warsaw. There, on the east as on the west, the trench 
stalemate settled in ; but the crust was less firm, and 
the Russians had drained their stock of munitions to 
an extent that their poorly industrialized country 
could not make good. 

The real story of 1915 on the eastern front is that of 
the tussle of wills between Ludendorff, who desired to 
reach a decision by a strategy that was at least geogra- 
phically an indirect approach, and Falkenhayn, who 
considered that he could both limit his expenditure 
of force and cripple Russia's offensive power by a 
strategy of direct approach. Holding the superior ap- 
pointment, Falkenhayn succeeded in gaining his way; 
but his strategy did not succeed in fulfilling either object. 

Ludendorff perceived that the Russians' autumn 
advance towards Silesia and Cracow had enmeshed 
the body of their army deeply in the Polish salient. In 
the south-western corner they had even poked their 
head through the meshes, into Austrian territory, 
when LudendorfFs Lodz blow fell and temporarily 
paralysed the body; by the time feeling and strength 
came back, the jagged edges of the net had been re- 
knit and reinforced. From January to April the Rus- 
sian body wriggled furiously but ineffectively on the 
Carpathian side; its struggles merely wrapped its 
cumbrous mass more firmly in the net. 

240 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

Ludendorff wished to seize the opportunity for a 
wide indirect approach round the northern flank near 
the Baltic, through Vilna, towards the Russian rear 
and astride their sparse rail communications with the 
Polish salient. Falkenhayn, however, shrank both 
from its boldness and its demand upon his reserves 
although he was to expend far more in his own way. 
Reluctantly dissuaded from a fresh direct attempt to 
trench-barrier in the west, and compelled to dole out 
reserves to strengthen his Austrian allies, he decided 
to employ them in a strategically limited, if tactically 
unlimited, attempt to lame Russia so that he might 
return to renew his offensive in the west undisturbed. 

The plan in the east, suggested by Conrad and 
adopted by Falkenhayn, was to break through the 
Russian centre in the Dunajec sector between the 
Carpathians and the Vistula. On the 2nd of May the 
blow fell. The surprise was complete, the exploitation 
rapid, and by the 14th of May the whole line along the 
Carpathians had been rolled backeighty miles to theSan. 

Here we can see an illuminating example of the 
difference between the indirect approach and what is 
commonly called surprise. Surprise of time, place, and 
force was achieved; but the Russians were merely 
rolled back in snowball fashion. Although they lost 
heavily, they were rolled back towards their reserves, 
supplies, and railways thereby the Germans con- 
solidated the snowball and enabled Russian accretions 
to make good the pieces that fell off. Moreover, while 
the pressure of this direct approach was a dangerous 
strain on the Russian command, it was not a dis- 
locating jar. 

Falkenhayn now realized that he had committed 

himself too far in Galicia to draw back. His partial 

offensive had gained no secyre halting-place, and only 

by bringing more troops from France could he hope 

a 241 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

to fulfil his aim of transferring troops back there. But 
once more he chose an almost direct approach. He 
changed the direction of the offensive from eastward 
to north-eastward and in conjunction ordered Luden- 
dorff all this time fretting impatiently in East Prussia 
to strike south-eastward. Ludendorff contended 
that this plan, if convergent, was too much of a frontal 
attack, and that while the two wings might squeeze 
the Russians they would do no more. He again urged, 
and Falkenhayn again rejected, the Vilna manoeuvre. 
The outcome proved Ludendorff correct; Falken- 
hayn's shears, as they closed, merely pushed the Rus- 
sians back out of the now shallow space between 
them. By the end of September they were back on a 
long straight line between Riga on the Baltic and 
Czernowitz on the Rumanian frontier. If never again 
a direct menace to Germany, they imposed on her an 
irremediable strain, by detaining large German forces 
and keeping Austria morally and physically on the rack. 

*When Falkenhayn broke off large-scale operations, 
he gave Ludendorff a belated and half-hearted sanc- 
tion to try the Vilna manoeuvre with his own meagre 
resources. This light and isolated thrust cut the Vilna- 
Dvinsk railway and almost reached the Minsk rail- 
way, the central line of Russian communications 
despite the Russians being free to concentrate all their 
reserves to resist it. These results were a suggestive 
testimony to its potentialities if attempted earlier, and 
in strong force, when the Russian body was firmly en- 
tangled in the Polish net. 

Their offensive in the east being terminated, and 
their defensive in the west being unshaken, the Central 
Powers utilized the autumn to carry through a cam- 
paign in Serbia. This campaign, from the viewpoint of 
, the war as a whole, was an indirect approach with 
limited aim, but in its own sphere was decisive in aim. 

242 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

Its course, too, if helped by the geographical and 
political situation, sheds light on the effect of this 
method. The plan was based on Bulgaria's interven- 
tion in the war on the side of the Central Powers. The 
direct Austro-German invasion was being held in 
check when the Bulgarians moved westward into 
Serbia; even then, helped by the mountainous coun- 
try, the Serbians' resistance remained firm until the 
Bulgar left wing worked round into southern Serbia 
across their rear, cutting them off from the Franco- 
British reinforcements which were being sent up from 
Salonika. Thereupon the Serbian collapse was swift, 
and only a tattered remnant survived the mid-winter 
retreat westwards through Albania to the Adriatic 
coast. This quick concentration against a junior part- 
ner relieved Austria of danger on this side while giving 
Germany free communication through, and control 
of, Central Europe. 

The operations of 1916 and 1917 on the Russian 
front call for little comment, being essentially defen- 
sive on the Austro-German side, and essentially direct 
on the Russian side. The significance of the Russian 
operations is that they throw into clear relief not 
only the barrenness of a strategy which relies on the 
application of mere weight in a direct approach, but 
its * boomerang' moral effect. When the Revolution 
presaged the complete collapse of Russia's military 
effort, in 1917, the Russian forces were actually better 
armed and better equipped than at any previous time. 
But the immense, and visibly abortive, losses had 
undermined the fighting will of the most patiently self- 
sacrificing troops in Europe. A similar effect was seen 
in the mutinies in the French army after the spring 
offensive in 1917. Most of the outbreaks there occurred 
when slaughter-wearied troops were ordered to return, 
to the trenches. 

243 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

The one Russian operation which had some in- 
directness of approach was Brusilov's offensive near 
Luck, in June 1916. And it had this quality because 
the offensive had no serious intention. It was con- 
ceived merely as a diversion, and released prematurely 
owing to Italy's appearance. No preparation nor con- 
centration of troops had been made, and the unexpec- 
tedness of this almost casual advance brought about 
such a collapse of the somnolent Austrian defence that 
within three days 200,000 prisoners were netted. 
Rarely has a surprise shock been so manifold in its 
strategic results. It stopped the Austrian attack on 
Italy. It compelled Falkenhayn to withdraw troops 
from the western front, and so to abandon his attri- 
tion campaign round Verdun. It spurred Rumania to 
enter the war against the Central Powers. It caused the 
downfall of Falkenhayn and his replacement by Hin- 
denburg and Ludendorff (Hoffmann, to 'the firm's' 
loss, was left in the east). Although Rumania's entry 
was the pretext for Falkenhayn's supersession, the 
real reason was that his direct strategy in 1915, nar- 
row both in purpose and direction, had made possible 
the Russian revival which completed the ruin of the 
1916 strategy. 

But the indirectness and the good effect of Brusi- 
lov's offensive were short-lived. It led the Russian com- 
mand, too late, to throw the weight of their forces in 
this direction. And, in accord with the natural laws of 
war, the prolongation of the effort along the line of 
hardening resistance used up the Russian reserves 
without compensating effect. Brusilov's ultimate loss 
of 1,000,000 casualties, though terrible, could be made 
good ; but, by revealing to the survivors the mental 
bankruptcy of the Russian command, it caused the 
moral bankruptcy of Russia's military power. 

The Russians' obsessed concentration on this effort 

244 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

enabled Hindenburg and Ludendorffto carry through 
another quick-change indirect approach as against 
Serbia in 1915. Partly from force of circumstances, it 
became more truly a strategic indirect approach. 
Rumania was the target. At the outset she had 23 
divisions, indifferently equipped, against 7 opposing 
her; and she hoped that the pressure of Brusilov, of 
the British on the Somme, and of the allied force now 
at Salonika would prevent these being reinforced. But 
these pressures were all direct, and they did not pre- 
vent the withdrawal of sufficient troops to crush 
Rumania. 

Rumania's territory, sandwiched between Transyl- 
vania and Bulgaria, had strong natural ramparts on 
either side of the Carpathians and the Danube but by 
its situation lent itself to a strategy of indirect ap- 
proach. Further, her Dobruja 'back-yard' strip near 
the Black Sea formed a bait which a skilful opponent 
could attach to his hook. 

Her desire and decision to take the offensive west- 
wards into Transylvania made her opponents' countef- 
action more subtly indirect than they intended. 

The Rumanian advance began on the 27th of 
August 1916. Three main columns, each of about 
4 divisions, moved north-west through the Carpathian 
passes in a direct approach towards the Hungarian 
plain. To guard the Danube, 3 divisions were left, and 
3 more in the Dobruja whither the Russians had 
promised to send reinforcements. But the slow and 
cautious advance of the Rumanian columns into 
Transylvania, hampered by the enemy's destruction 
of bridges but not by resistance, did not seriously 
menace the 5 weak Austrian divisions which covered 
the frontier until they had been reinforced by 5 Ger- 
man and 2 Austrian divisions. In fulfilment of the 
other half of the plan, adopted by Falkenhayn before 

245 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

his downfall, 4 Bulgarian divisions with a German 
stiffening, and an Austrian bridging train, were placed 
under Mackensen for the invasion of the Dobruja. 

While the Rumanian columns were crawling west- 
ward into Transylvania, Mackensen stormed the Tur- 
tucaia bridgehead on the 5th of September, destroying 
the 3 Rumanian divisions which guarded the Danube 
front. Then, with his Danube flank secure, he moved 
eastwards, deeper into the Dobruja if away from 
Bucharest the natural line of expectation. It was a 
shrewd moral thrust, for the automatic strategic effect 
was to draw away the Rumanian reserves intended to 
support the Transylvania offensive which lost such 
impetus as it had. 

Falkenhayn, now given the executive command here, 
launched a counter-offensive perhaps too eagerly 
and directly. For though he skilfully concentrated 
against the southern and centre columns in turn, using 
smaller if not minimum forces to hold off the other 
opponents who hardly needed holding off the re- 
sult was to throw the Rumanians back, but not to cut 
them off from the mountains. The mischance jeopar- 
dized the whole German plan. For, with all the passes 
still in their hands, the Rumanians sturdily repulsed 
the German efforts to press through on their heels. 
Falkenhayn's first attempt to get through further west 
was foiled ; but a renewed effort broke through just 
before the coming of the winter snows. By swinging 
westward he had now, however, entered Rumania by 
the front door, and the consequent direct approach 
had to cross a series of river lines. Fortunately for him, 
when he had been checked along the Alt, Mackensen 
intervened. 

Mackensen had switched the bulk of his force back 
from the Dobruja, past Turtucaia, to Sistovo where, 
on the 23rd of November, he forced the crossing of 

246 



THE NORTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

the Danube. It is a moot point whether this abandon- 
ment of his potential position on the Rumanian rear 
for a convergent advance of their main army towards 
Bucharest was the most profitable strategy. It enabled 
Falkenhayn to cross the Alt, but it enabled the Ru- 
manians to use their * close' central position for a 
dangerous counterstroke at Mackensen's flank. This 
was almost enveloped. Once the danger was averted, 
however, the combined pressure of Falkenhayn and 
Mackensen pressed the Rumanian army back through 
Bucharest, whence it withdrew to the Sereth-Black 
Sea line. 

The Germans had gained possession of most of 
Rumania, with its wheat and oil, but they had not cut 
off or destroyed the Rumanian army, whose moral 
and mental strength had been consolidated in resisting 
the last stage of the enemy's advance. The next sum- 
mer its sturdy resistance foiled the German attempt 
to drive it behind the Prut and thus complete the 
occupation of Rumania. Only in December 1917, 
when Bolshevik Russia signed an armistice with Ger- 
many, was Rumania, thereby isolated, forced to fol- 
low suit. 



247 



Chapter XV 

THE SOUTH-EASTERN OR 
MEDITERRANEAN THEATRE 

The Italian Theatre 

In 1917, Italy was the scene and object of the Ger- 
man command's autumn repertory performances. 
Here again the configuration of the frontier gave the 
Germans scope for a geographical indirect approach 
which was denied to their opponents. And the latter 
showed no inclination to try the psychological indirect 
approach. 

The Italian frontier province of Venezia formed a 
salient pointing to Austria, flanked on the north by 
the Austrian Tyrol and Trentino, on the south by the 
Adriatic. Bordering on the Adriatic was a stretch of 
relatively low ground on the Isonzo front; but the 
frontier then followed the Julian and Carnic Alps in a 
wide sweep round to the north-west, the arc continu- 
ing south-westward to Lake Garda. The great breadth 
of the Alpine masses on the north, and the absence of 
any vital objective, did not encourage Italy to take the 
offensive in that direction. She was thus restricted, for 
an offensive, to a direct advance eastwards towards 
Austria. It inevitably suffered the potential and per- 
petual menace of an Austrian descent from the Tren- 
tino on its rear. But with her choice so restricted she 
chose this course. 

248 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

For two and a half years she persevered with the 
direct approach, by which time the 'eleventh battle* 
of the Isonzo had been fought in vain, the Italian 
armies had scarcely advanced beyond their starting- 
point, and their casualties totalled some 1,100,000 
while the Austrians had lost some 650,000. During 
that period, Austria had only once taken the offen- 
sive. This was in 1916, when Conrad had sought to 
obtain Falkenhayn's support for an attempt to over- 
throw Italy by a thrust southwards from the Trentino 
against the rear of the Italian armies then engaged on 
the Isonzo. But Falkenhayn, distrustful of the plan 
as well as of * decisive* strokes, and intent on his Ver- 
dun attrition process, declined even to lend the mini- 
mum of 9 German divisions for which Conrad asked 
to relieve Austrian divisions on the eastern front. In 
default of this aid, Conrad decided to make the at- 
tempt single-handed, taking some of his best divisions 
from the east and thereby exposing this front to 
Brusilov's subsequent advance, without obtaining ade- 
quate force to achieve his Italian plan. 

Nevertheless, the attack came close to success. If it 
could not be said to avoid the natural line of expecta- 
tion, it had a measure of unexpectedness because the 
Italian command did not believe that Conrad had the 
force or the facilities for a large-scale attack. It was a 
large-scale attack, but not quite large enough. The 
attack, when launched, gained rapid success in the 
first days; and although Cadorna was able, and 
prompt, to withdraw reserves from the Isor 
besides preparing the evacuation the 
stores and heavy artillery it was a race, 
even. The Austrian attack was within i 
through into the plain, but had lost its : 
want of reserves when Brusilov's 
eastern front caused its suspension. 

249 




THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 
When Ludendorff, seventeen months later, took up 
the idea of a combined blow at Italy because of the 
serious condition of Austria the prospects were less 
favourable. He could only spare his slender general 
reserve of six divisions, while his ally was suffering, 
morally and materially, from exhaustion. And, for 
lack of means, the plan was limited to a narrower and 
more direct approach a thrust at the north-eastern 
corner of the Isonzo front, where it bent round to- 
wards the Alpine mass. The choice of the actual sec- 
tor, however, was chosen on a principle new to this 
front that of seeking the line of least tactical resis- 
tance. Originally, the plan was for a break-through at 
Caporetto, followed merely by rolling up the Isonzo 
front ; it was subsequently expanded into a more am- 
bitious design without an increase of means. Luden- 
dorff, at Caporetto, like the British that same autumn 
at Cambrai, provided an example of the profound 
strategic error of not ' cutting your coat according 
to your cloth'. He went to the other extreme from 
Falkerihayn who had always ordered too little cloth, 
underestimating the measurements of the coat, and 
then had to order more, to enlarge the coat into an 
unsatisfactory patchwork. 

On the 24th of October the attack was launched 
having been skilfully prepared and concealed and 
drove a wedge deep between the Italian armies. A 
week later, it had reached the Tagliamento. But once 
the Italians had extricated their severed forces if 
with the loss of a large part the continuation of 4he 
advance became a purely direct approach westward v 
pressing the Italians back to the Piave river: a stout 
barricade behind which to shelter. Too late, Luden- 
dorff thought of switching reserves round to the Tren- 
tino, but was foiled by the inadequacy of the rail com- 
munications. The Trentino army made an ineffective 

250 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

attempt to advance with its own slight resources ; this 
belated stroke had lost the effect of a rear thrust, for 
the whole Italian front and reserves had been pushed 
almost as far back. 

The initial surprise having passed, the Austro- 
German attack was now a purely direct convergence, 
which pressed the Italians back towards their reserves, 
supplies, homeland, and Allied reinforcements. It had 
the natural negative result. But the measure of suc- 
cess attained with such slender resources casts an ironi- 
cal reflection on Falkenhayn's refusal to listen to 
Conrad's more promising plan early in 1916. 

The Balkan Theatre 

Before we turn to consider LudendorfFs plan for 
1918, it is necessary to survey the action taken or at- 
tempted by his opponents, during the previous three 
years, beyond the bounds of the French and Russian 
fronts. 

While the French and British headquarters in 
France preserved an unquenchable faith dn the power 
of a direct approach, not only to break through the 
trench barrier but to gain a decisive victory, strong 
doubt of its prospects was felt (from October 1914 on- 
wards) in quarters either further or nearer to the 
trench front. Those who had this view, from the per- 
spective which distance enables, were not all political , 
leaders; they included Gallieni in France and Kit : 
chener in England. On the 7th of January 1915 Kit- 
chener wrote to Sir John French : 'The German lines 
in France may be looked upon as a fortress that can- 
not be carried by assault and also that cannot be com- 
pletely invested, with the result that the lines may be 
held by an investing force while operations proceed 
elsewhere. * 

It was argued, notably by Winston Churchill, that 

251 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

the enemy alliance should be viewed as a whole, and 
that modern developments had so changed concep- 
tions of distance and powers of mobility that a blow 
in some other theatre of war would correspond to the 
classic attack on an enemy's strategic flank. (In this 
connection the example of Napoleon, so often quoted 
to support the case for persevering on the Western 
front, appears rather to lend its weight to the alterna- 
tive design.) Further, it was agreed that such an opera- 
tion would be in accordance with the traditional am- 
phibious strategy of Britain, and would enable her to 
exploit the military advantage, hitherto neglected, of 
sea-power. In January 1915 Lord Kitchener advocated 
a plan for severing Turkey's main line of eastward 
communication by a landing in the Gulf of Alexan- 
dretta. The post-war comments of Hindenburg and 
Enver have shown how this would have paralysed 
Turkey; but it could hardly have exercised a wider 
influence, or been an indirect approach to the Central 
Alliance as a whole. 

Lloyd George advocated the transfer of the bulk of 
the British forces to the Balkans as a way to the 
enemy's 'back-door'. But the French and British 
commands, confident of an early decision in France, 
argued vehemently against any alternative strategy 
stressing the difficulties of transport and supply, and 
the ease with which Germany, in their opinion, could 
switch troops to meet the threat. If there was sub- 
stance in the argument, their fervour led them to 
exaggerate their case. Their objections, too, were less 
relevant when applied to Gallteni's Balkan scheme. 
He proposed a landing at Salonika as a starting-point 
for a march on Constantinople with an army strong 
enough to encourage Greece and Bulgaria to join 
forces. The capture of Constantinople was to be fol- 
lowed by an advance up the Danube into Austria- 

252 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

Hungary, in conjunction with the Rumanians, This 
had a fundamental resemblance to the course actually 
taken in the last months of the war. In September 1918 
German military opinion tended to regard such a con- 
tingency as 'decisive*. And in the first week of Novem- 
ber the threat, though not yet close, was an important 
factor in hastening Germany's capitulation. 

In January 1915, however, the weight of military 
opinion bore down all counter-proposals to the plan 
of concentration of effort on the Western Front. But 
misgivings were not silenced, and at this juncture a 
situation arose which revived the Near-Eastern scheme 
in a new, if attenuated form. 

On the 2nd of January, 1915, Kitchener received an 
appeal from the Grand Duke Nicholas for a diversion 
which would relieve the Turkish pressure on Russia's 
forces in the Caucasus. Kitchener felt unable to pro- 
vide the troops and suggested a naval demonstration 
against the Dardanelles. Churchill's imagination 
seized upon the wider strategic possibilities, and he 
proposed, in default of military aid, to convert the 
demonstration into an attempt to force the passage. 
His naval advisers, if not enthusiastic, did not oppose 
the project; and the admiral on the spot, Garden, 
drew up a plan. A naval force, mainly of obsolete 
vessels, was got together with French aid, and after 
preliminary bombardment, entered the straits on the 
18th of March. But a newly-laid row of mines, in an 
unsuspected spot, caused the sinking of several ships ; 
and the attempt was abandoned. 

It is a moot point whether a prompt renewal of the 
advance would have succeeded, for the Turkish am- 
munition was exhausted, and in such conditions the 
mine obstacle might have been overcome. But the 
new naval commander, Admiral de Robeck, decided 
against it, unless military aid were forthcoming. Al- 

253 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

ready, a month before, the War Council had deter- 
mined on a joint attack, and begun the dispatch of a 
military force under Sir Ian Hamilton. But the authori- 
ties, slow in accepting the new scheme, were equally 
slow in releasing the necessary troops for its execu- 
tion ; and even when these were sent, in inadequate 
numbers, several more weeks' delay had to be in- 
curred at Alexandria in order to redistribute the 
force in its transports suitably for tactical action. 
Worst of all, this fumbling policy had thrown away 
the chance of surprise. When the preliminary bom- 
bardment took place in February, only 2 Turkish divi- 
sions were at the Straits ; this was increased to 4 by 
the date of the naval attack ; and to 6 when Hamilton 
was at last able to attempt his landing. For this he had 
only 4 British divisions and 1 French division actu- 
ally inferior in strength to the enemy in a situation 
where the inherent preponderance of defensive over 
offensive power was multiplied by the natural difficul- 
ties of the terrain. His weakness of numbers, and his 
restricted mission of aiding the passage of the fleet, 
compelled him to choose a landing on the Gallipoli 
peninsula in preference to one on the mainland or on 
the Asiatic shore. 

On the 25th of April he made his spring, at the 
southern tip of the peninsula near Cape HeUes and 
also near Gaba Tepe, some fifteen miles up the Aegean 
coast ; the French, as a diversion, made a temporary 
landing at Kuin Kale on the Asiatic shore. But once 
the momentary asset of tactical surprise had passed, 
and the Turks were able to bring up their reserves, the 
invaders could not expand their two precarious foot- 
holds. 

Ultimately, in July, the British Government decided 
to send a further 5 divisions to reinforce the 7 now on 
the peninsula. By the time they arrived the Turkish 

254 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

strength in the region had also risen, to IS divisions. 
Hamilton decided on a double stroke a reinforced 
blow from Gaba Tepe and a new landing at Suvla 
Bay, a few miles north to sever the middle of the 
peninsula and secure the heights commanding the 
Narrows. If this thrust appears more direct than a 
landing at Bulair or on the Asiatic shore, its justifica- 
tion is that it was on a line not expected by the enemy 
command, whose reserves were concentrated at the 
other points. Only H Turkish battalions barred the 
way during the thirty-six hours before reserves ar- 
rived. Time and opportunity were forfeited by the 
inexperience of the landing troops and the inertia of 
the commanders on the spot. The deadlock, the dis- 
appointment, and the opposition of those who had 
always disliked the project, soon brought about the 
evacuation of the peninsula. 

Yet the verdict of Falkenhayn on the Dardenelles 
scheme was : "If the straits between the Mediterranean 
and the Black Sea were not permanently closed to 
Entente traffic, all hope of a successful course of the 
war would be very considerably diminished. Russia 
would have been freed from her significant isolation 
. . . which offered a safer guarantee than military suc- 
cesses that sooner or later a crippling of the forces 
of this Titan must take place automatically.' The 
fault was not in the conception but in the execution. 
If the British had used at the outset even a fair pro- 
portion of the forces they ultimately expended in drib- 
lets, it is clear from the evidence of the opposing com- 
manders that success would probably have crowned 
their undertaking. While the Dardanelles move was a 
direct approach to Turkey, it was an indirect approach 
to the main Turkish armies then engaged in the Cau- 
casus, and, on the higher level, an indirect approach to 
the Central Powers as a whole. Viewed against the 

255 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

gloomy background of the Western Front, where the 
density of force in relation to space offered no pros- 
pect of a decisive penetration, the Dardanelles con- 
ception appears to have fulfilled the principle of ad- 
justing the end to the means as thoroughly as its 
execution violated this principle. 

The Palestine and Mesopotamia Theatres 

The Middle-East expeditions hardly come within the 
scope of this survey. Strategically they were too re- 
mote to have any hope of exercising a decisive effect ; 
and, considered as means of strategic distraction, each 
of them absorbed far greater forces of the British than 
they diverted of the enemy. 

In the sphere of policy, however, a case can be 
made out for them. Britain, in the past, has often 
redeemed the forfeits of her allies on the continent 
by seizing the overseas possessions of the enemy. In 
the event of an unfavourable or indecisive issue to the 
main, struggle such counter-gains are an asset in 
negotiating a favourable peace settlement. And they 
are a tonic during the struggle. 1 

The local strategy of the Palestine expedition de- 
serves study. At the outset it combined the disadvan- 
tages of both the direct and indirect approach. It took 
the line of natural expectation, which was also the 
longest and most difficult way round to any vital 
point of the Turkish power. After the first two failures 
(in March and April 1917) at Gaza, which guarded the 

1 Those who opposed any idea of returning some of Germany's 
confiscated colonies, from concern that they might become a 
source x>f danger, failed to take account of the indirect value to us, 
in case of war, of having places where we might score an early 
success to offset the depressing effect of enemy successes in the 
European theatre and help to balance the loss of prestige these 
might cause. The psychological importance of such counterpoises 
should never be overlooked, especially by a sea power. 

256 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 
direct coast approach from Egypt to Palestine, the 
larger force available in the autumn was used for a 
less direct attempt. The plan designed by Chetwode 
and adopted by Allenby on relieving Murray in com- 
mandwas as geographically indirect as the water- 
supply and the narrow width of the tract between the 
sea and the desert allowed. The Turkish defences 
stretched some twenty miles inland from Gaza, while 
Beersheba, ten miles further inland, foftned an out- 
lying post guarding the eastern margin of the area of 
possible approach. Secrecy and ruses drew the Tur- 
kish attention Gaza-wards; then Beersheba with its 
water-supply was seized by a wide and swift swoop on 
its unprotected side. Next in the plan, preceded by a 
distracting attack on Gaza, was a blow at the flank of 
the Turkish main position while the cavalry from 
Beersheba swept round the Turks' rear. But difficulties 
in the water-supply and a Turkish counterstroke north 
of Beersheba hamstrung this manoeuvre ; although the 
Turkish front was pierced, decisive results were 
missed. The Turkish forces were rolled back, ulti- 
mately beyond Jerusalem, but they were not rolled 
up and cut off as intended. 

A decision, and the attempt to reach it, were post- 
poned a year until September 1918. Meantime, in 
the desert to the east and south, a curious campaign 
was not only helping to weaken the fighting strength 
of Turkey but shedding some new light on strategy 
and, in particular, on the indirect approach. This cam- 
paign was the Arab Revolt, with Lawrence as its 
guiding brain. If it falls into the category of guerrilla 
warfare, which is by its very nature indirect, its 
strategy had such a scientifically calculated basis that 
we should not miss its reflection on normal warfare. 
Admittedly an extreme form of the indirect approach, 
it was most economically effective within the limits of 
s 257 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

the instrument. The Arabs were both more mobile and 
less able to bear casualties than orthodox armies. The 
Turks were almost insusceptible to loss of men, but 
not to loss of material of which they suffered a 
scarcity. Superb in sitting tight in a trench, firing at a 
directly oncoming target, they were neither adaptable 
to, nor able to endure the strain of, fluid operations. 
They were trying to hold down a vast area of country 
with a quantity of men which was not large enough to 
spread itself in a network of posts over the area. Also, 
they depended on a long and frail line of communica- 
tions. 

From these premisses was evolved a strategy which 
was the antithesis of orthodox doctrine. Whereas nor- 
mal armies seek to preserve contact, the Arabs sought 
to avoid it. Whereas normal armies seek to destroy 
the opposing forces, the Arabs sought purely to des- 
troy material and to seek it at points where there 
was no force. But Lawrence's strategy went further. 
Instead of trying to drive the enemy away by cutting 
off their supplies, he aimed to keep them there, by 
allowing short rations to reach them, so that the longer 
they stayed the weaker and more depressed they be- 
came. Blows might induce them to concentrate, and 
simplify both their supply and security problems. Pin- 
pricks kept them spread out. Yet for all its uncon- 
ventionality this strategy merely carried to its logical 
conclusion that of following the line of least resistance. 
As its author has said : ' The Arab army never tried to 
maintain or improve an advantage, but to move off 
and strike again somewhere else. It used the smallest 
force in the quickest time at the farthest place. To 
continue the action till the enemy had changed his dis- 
positions to resist it, would have been to break the 
fundamental rule of denying him targets. ' 

What was this but the strategy evolved in 1918 oft 

258 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

the Western Front? Fundamentally the same, but 
carried to a further degree. Its application to the prob- 
lem of normal warfare is conditioned by the factors of 
time, space, and force. While it is a quickened and 
active form of blockade it is inherently slower to take 
effect than a strategy of dislocation. Hence, if national 
conditions make a quick issue imperative the latter 
appears preferable. But unless the end is sought by an 
indirect approach, the * short-cut 5 is likely to prove 
slower, more costly, and more dangerous than the 
'Lawrence* strategy. Lack of room and density of 
force are also handicaps, if rarely insuperable. A 
reasoned verdict is that in normal warfare the choice 
should fall on the form of indirect approach which 
aims at a quick decision, by * trapping* the opponent 
if there is a good prospect of its success. Otherwise, 
or after it has failed, the choice should fall on that 
form of indirect approach which aims at an eventual 
decision by sapping the opponent's strength and will. 
Anything is preferable to the direct approach. 

The opportunity of carrying the strategy of the 
Arab revolt to completion was not vouchsafed, for in 
September 1918 when it had reduced the Turkish 
forces on the Hejaz railway to a state of paralytic help- 
lessness the main Turkish forces in Palestine were 
overthrown by a single decisive stroke. In this stroke 
of AUenby's, however, the Arab forces played a signi- 
ficant part. 

Whether these final operations in Palestine should 
be classified as a campaign or as a battle completed by 
a pursuit is difficult to determine. For they opened 
with the forces in contact and the victory was com- 
plete before that contact was broken, so that they 
would seem to fall into the battle category. But victory 
was achieved mainly by strategic means, and the share 
of fighting was insignificant. 

259 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

This has led to a depreciation of the result, especi- 
ally among those whose scale of values is governed by 
the dogma of Clausewitz that blood is the price of 
victory. Though Allenby had a superiority of more 
than two to one in numbers, perhaps three to one, the 
balance was not so heavily in his favour as in the 
original British advance into Palestine, which had 
ended in failure. And many other offensives had failed, 
both in the World War and earlier, with similar 
superiority of force. 

A more serious * depreciation' is on the score of the 
decaying morale of the Turks. But when full deduction 
is made for the advantageous conditions of September 
1918, the operations deserve to rank among history's 
masterpieces for their breadth of vision and treatment. 
While the subject was not a difficult one, the picture is 
almost unique as a perfect conception perfectly exe- 
cuted in its broad lines at least. 

The plan abundantly fulfilled Willisen's definition 
of strategy as 'the study of communication', and also 
Napoleon's maxim that * the whole secret of the art of 
war lies in making oneself master of the communica- 
tions '. For it aimed to make the British master of all, 
and all forms of, the Turkish communications. To cut 
an army's lines of communication is to paralyse its 
physical organization. To close its line of retreat is to 
paralyse its moral organization. And to destroy its lines 
of intercommunication by which orders and reports 
pass is to paralyse its sensory organization, the essen- 
tial connection between brain and body. The third 
effect was here sought and secured by the air force. 
This drove the enemy aircraft out of the air, making 
the enemy's command blind; and then, by bombing 
the main telegraph and telephone exchange at Afule, 
made it also deaf and dumb. The second phase of this 
action aptly followed the cutting of the main railway 

260 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 
at Deraa by the Arabs, which had the physical effect 
of shutting off the flow of Turkish supplies temporar- 
ily and temporarily was all that mattered here and 
the mental effect of inducing the Turkish command to 
send part of its scanty reserves thither, just before it 
was deprived of its power of control. 

The three so-called Turkish * armies ' depended on a 
single artery of railway communication from Damas- 
cus which branched at Deraa one line continuing 
south to the Hejaz; the other turning west across the 
Jordan to Afule, where it sent out one shoot towards 
the sea at Haifa and the other southwards again to 
the railheads of the 7th and 8th Turkish armies. The 
4th Army, east of the Jordan, depended on the Hejaz 
branch. To get a grip on Afule and the Jordan crossing 
near Beisan would sever the communications of the 
7th and 8th armies, and also close their lines of retreat 
except for the difficult outlet to the desolate region 
east of the Jordan. To get a grip on Deraa would sever 
the communications of all three armies, and the best 
line of retreat of the 4th. 

Deraa was too far to be reached from the British 
front in a time short enough to exert a prompt in- 
fluence on the issue. Fortunately, the Arabs were 
available to emerge like phantoms from the desert and 
cut all three of its railway 'spokes'. But neither the 
nature of the Arab tactics nor the nature of the coun- 
try lent itself to the formation of a strategic barrage 
across the Turkish rear. As Allenby sought a quick 
and complete decision he had to seek a closer site for 
such a barrage one where the Jordan and the ranges 
west of it could be utilized to bar the enemy's exit. 
The railway junction of Afule and the Jordan bridge 
near Beisan lay within a sixty-mile radius of his front, 
and hence within the range of a strategic 'bound* by 
armoured cars and cavalry, provided that these vital 

261 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

points could be reached without check. The problem 
was to find a line of approach difficult for the Turks 
to obstruct in time, and to ensure that they did not 
block it 

How was the problem solved? The flat coastal 
plain of Sharon afforded a corridor to the Plain of 
Esdraelon and Valley of Jezreel, where Afule and 
Beisan lay. This corridor was interrupted by only a 
single door so far back that it was unguarded 
formed by the narrow mountain belt which separates 
the coastal Plain of Sharon from the inland Plain of 
Esdraelon. But the entrance to the corridor was bolted 
and barred by the trenches of the Turkish front. 

By a long-continued 'psychological preparation 5 , 
in which ruses were substitutes for shells, Allenby 
diverted the enemy's attention away from the coast to 
the Jordan flank. The success of the distraction was 
helped by the very failure of two attempted advances 
east of the Jordan during the spring. In September, 
while the Turks' attention was still being drawn east, 
Allenby's troops were moving secretly west until in 
the sector near the coast their two-to-one superiority 
had developed into five to one. On the 19th of Septem- 
ber, after a quarter of an hour's intense bombardment, 
the infantry advanced, swept over the two shallow 
Turkish trench systems, and then wheeled inland like 
a huge door swinging on its hinges. The cavalry 
pressed through the opened door and, riding up the 
corridor with their armoured cars ahead, gained the 
passes into the Plain of Esdraelon. This successful 
passage owed much to the fact that the Air Force had 
rendered the enemy command deaf, dumb, and blind. 
Next day the strategic barrage was established across 
the Turks' rear. Their one remaining bolt-hole was 
eastwards over the Jordan. They might have reached 
this but for the Air Force since the direct infantry 

262, 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

advance was making slow progress in face of stub- 
born Turkish rearguards. Early in the morning of the 
21st of September, the British aircraft spotted a large 
column practically all that survived of the two Tur- 
kish armies winding down the steep gorge from 
Nablus to the Jordan. Four hours' air attack turned 
the column into a rabble. From this moment may be 
timed the extinction of the 7th and 8th 'armies'. The 
rest was but a rounding-up of cattle. 

East of the Jordan, where no strategic barrage was 
feasible, the fate of the 4th 'army' became a rapid 
attrition under constant pin-pricks rather than a near 
dispatch. The capture of Damascus followed. The 
victory was then exploited by an advance to Aleppo 
200 miles beyond Damascus, and 350 miles from 
the front from which the British had started thirty- 
eight days before. During this advance they had taken 
75,000 prisoners at a cost of less than 5,000 casualties. 

Aleppo had just been reached when Turkey, men- 
aced more imminently by Bulgaria's collapse 
and Milne's approach from Salonika 4 on Constan- 
tinople and her rear, surrendered on the 31st of 
October. 

In analysing the decisive victory in Palestine it is 
to be noted that the Turks were still capable of hold- 
ing up the British infantry until the strategic barrage 
across their rear became known and produced its in- 
evitable, and invariable, moral effect. Further, that 
because a preliminary condition of trench warfare 
existed the infantry were necessary to break the lock. 
But once the normal condition of warfare was thus 
restored the victory was achieved by the mobile ele- 
ments, which formed but a fraction of the total force. 
.The subtlety of this particular example of indirect ap- 
proach was limited to the preparation ; its execution 
depended purely on the dislocating and demoralizing 

, 263 



THE SOUTH-EASTERN THEATRE 

application of mobility which, by its extreme degree, 
was a sustained surprise. 

One other south-eastern theatre requires incidental 
note Salonika. The dispatch of allied troops thither 
arose out of a belated and ineffectual attempt to send 
succour to the Serbs in the autumn of 1915. Three 
years later it was the spring-board of an offensive 
which had vital consequences. But while the retention 
of a foothold in the Balkans was necessary during the 
interval for reasons of policy, and of potential strategy, 
the wisdom and necessity of locking up so many troops, 
ultimately half a million, in what the Germans ironi- 
cally called their * largest internment camp', are open 
to doubt. 



264 



Chapter XVI 
THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

Any study of the military course of the final year is 
dependent upon, and inseparable from, an understand- 
ing of the naval situation preceding it. For, in default 
of an early military decision, the naval blockade had 
tended more and more to govern the military situation. 
Indeed, if the historian of the future has to select 
one day as decisive for the outcome of the World War 
he will probably choose the 2nd of August 1914 
before the war, for England, had yet begun when 
Winston Churchill, at 1.25 a.m., sent the order to 
mobilize the British Navy. That Navy was to win no 
Trafalgar, but it was to do more than any other factor 
towards winning the war for the Allies. For the Navy 
was the instrument of the blockade, and as the fog of 
war dispersed in the clearer light of the post-war years 
that blockade was seen to assume larger and larger 
proportions : to be, more and more clearly, the decisive 
agency in the struggle. Like those * jackets ' which used 
to be applied in American jails to refractory prisoners, 
as the blockade was progressively tightened so did it 
first cramp the prisoner's movement and then stifle 
his breathing, while the tighter it became and the 
longer it continued the less became the prisoner's 
power of resistance, and the more demoralizing the 
sense of constriction. 

265 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

Helplessness induces hopelessness, and history at- 
tests that loss of hope, not loss of lives, is what decides 
the issue of war. No historian would underrate the 
direct effect of the semi-starvation of the German 
people in causing the final collapse of the ' home- 
front*. But leaving aside the question of how far the 
revolution caused the military defeat, instead of vice 
versa, the intangible all-pervading factor of the block- 
ade intrudes into every consideration of the military 
situation. 

For it was the fact and the potential menace, if not 
perhaps the effect, of the blockade which impelled 
Germany to undertake her first submarine campaign 
in February 1915. This gave Britain a lever to loosen 
the Declaration of London and tighten the blockade 
by claiming the right to intercept and search all 
ships suspected of carrying goods to Germany. More- 
over, the German action in torpedoing the Lusitania 
gave the United States a vital if delayed propulsion 
towards entering the war, besides serving to counter- 
act the friction between Britain and the United States 
caused by the tightened blockade. 

Two years later, the economic strain caused by the 
blockade led the German military leaders to sanction 
an intensive renewal of the * unlimited' submarine 
campaign. Britain's dependence on sea-borne sup- 
plies for the sustenance of her people and the main- 
tenance of her armies was a weak point in her armour, 
and the inherently quicker effect of the submarine 
form of blockade lent force to the argument that this 
grand-strategical form of indirect approach would in- 
flict a mortal blow. If the calculation proved faulty, 
the case of Britain came critically close to establishing 
its correctness. The loss of shipping rose from 500,000 
tons in February to 875,000 in April; by the time 
counter-measures combined with Germany's insuffi- 

266 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

cient submarine resources to cause a progressive de- 
cline Britain had only food enough to sustain her 
people for another six weeks. 

TTie German leaders' hopes of an economic decision 
had reacted on their fears of an economic collapse and 
led them to initiate the submarine campaign, fully 
realizing, and accepting as almost certain, the risk 
that it would bring the United States into the war 
against them. This risk became fact on the 6th of 
April, 1917. But although, as Germany calculated, 
America's military strength required a long time to 
develop, her entry into the war had a prompt effect in 
tightening the grip of the naval blockade. As a party 
to the war, the United States wielded this economic 
weapon with a^ determination, regardless of the re- 
maining neutrals, far exceeding Britain's boldest 
claims in the past years of controversy over neutral 
rights. No longer was the blockade hindered by neutral 
objections ; instead, America's co-operation converted 
it into a stranglehold under which Germany gradually 
became limp, since military power is based on econo- 
mic endurance a truth too often overlooked. 

The blockade may be classified as a grand strategy 
of indirect approach to which no effective resistance 
was possible and of a type which incurred no risk 
except in its slowness of effect. The effect, true to the 
law of momentum, tended to gather speed as it con- 
tinued, and at the end of 1917 the Central Powers were 
feeling it severely. It was this economic pressure which 
not only lured but constrained Germany into the mili- 
tary offensive of 1918, which, once it failed, became 
felo de se. In default of a timely peace move on her 
part she had no choice between this offensive gamble 
and slow enfeeblement ending in eventual collapse. 

If, after the Marne, in 1914, or even later, she had 
adopted a war policy of defence in the west, offence 

267 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

in the east, the issue of the war might well have been 
different. For, on the one hand, she could unquestion- 
ably have consummated the dream of Mittel-Europa, 
while, on the other, the blockade was still a loose 
grip, and could hardly have been tightened effectively 
so long as the United States remained outside the con- 
flict With the whole belt of central Europe under her 
control, with Russia out of the war, even in economic 
vassalage, there is flimsy ground for any belief that 
the efforts of Britain, France, and Italy could have 
done more than, if as much as, to induce Germany to 
relinquish the bargaining counters of Belgium and 
northern France in return for the undisputed reten- 
tion of her gains in the east. A greater Germany, 
greater too in potential strength and resources, could 
well have afforded to forgo the desire for a military 
victory over the western allies. Indeed, to forgo aims 
which are not 'worth the candle' is the difference be- 
tween grand strategy and grandiose stupidity. 

But in 1918 the chance had passed. Her economic 
endurance had been severely reduced, and the tighten- 
ing blockade was reducing it faster than any late-hour 
infusion of the economic resources of conquered Ru- 
mania and the Ukraine could restore it. 

These were the conditions under which the final 
German offensive, the bid for a saving military deci- 
sion, was made. The release of troops from the Russian 
front gave her superiority of force, if considerably less 
than the allies had enjoyed during their offensive cam- 
paigns. In March 1917, a total of 178 French, British, 
and Belgian divisions were marshalled against 129 Ger- 
man divisions. In March 1918, a total of 192 German 
divisions were available against 173 Allied divisions 
counting proportionately the double-sized American 
divisions, of which 4 i had arrived. While the Germans 
were able to bring a few more divisions from the east, 

268 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

the American inflow developed from a trickle to a 
torrent under pressure of the emergency. Of the Ger- 
man total, 85, known as * storm divisions', were in 
reserve, and of the Allied total 62 but under no cen- 
tralized control ; for the scheme of a general reserve of 
30 divisions under the Versailles military executive 
committee had broken down when Haig declared that 
he was unable to contribute his quota of 7. When the 
test came, the agreement for mutual support made 
between the French and British commanders also 
broke down. Disaster hastened an overdue step, and 
on Haig's initiative Foch was appointed, first to co- 
ordinate, and then to command, the Allied armies. 

The German plan was distinguished by a research 
for tactical surprise more thorough and far-reaching 
than in any of the earlier operations of the war. It 
is to the credit of the German command and staff that 
they realized how rarely the possession of superior 
force offsets the disadvantage of attacking in the ob- 
vious way. Also, that effective surprise can only be 
attained by a subtle compound of many deceptive 
elements. And that only by such a compound key 
could a gate be opened in the long-locked front. A 
brief but intense bombardment with gas-shell was to 
be the main element Ludendorff had failed to grasp 
the significance of the tank and to develop it in time. 
But, in addition, the infantry were trained in new in- 
filtration tactics of which the guiding idea was that 
the leading troops should probe and penetrate the 
weak points of the defence, while the reserves were 
directed to back up success, not to redeem failure. 
The assaulting divisions were brought up by night 
marches ; the masses of artillery were brought close to 
the front line in concealment, and opened fire without 
preliminary 'registration'. Further, the preparations 
made for successive attacks at other points helped to 

269 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

mystify the defender, while being in readiness for the 
future. 

This was not all. From the experience of the vain 
allied offensives Ludendorff had drawn the deduction 
that 4 tactics have to be considered before purely stra- 
tegical objects which it is futile to pursue unless tacti- 
cal success is possible'. In default of a strategical in- 
direct approach, this was undoubtedly true. Hence in 
the German design the new tactics were to be accom- 
panied by a new strategy. One was the corollary of the 
other, both based on a new or resurrected principle 
that of following the line of least resistance. The con- 
ditions of 1918 in France limited the scope for taking, 
and Ludendorff did not attempt to take, the line of 
least expectation. But with the opposing armies spread 
out in contact along the far-flung line of entrench- 
ments, a quick break-through followed by a rapid ex- 
ploitation along the line of least resistance might come 
within reach of a goal which normally has been only 
attainable by taking the line of least expectation. 

The break-through proved quick, the exploitation 
rapid. Yet the plan failed. Where did the fault lie? The 
general criticism subsequent to the event, and to the 
war, was that the tactical bias had led Ludendorff to 
change direction and dissipate his strength to con- 
centrate on tactical success at the expense of the stra- 
tegical goal. It seemed, and was said, that the principle 
was false. But a closer examination of the German 
documents since available, and of LudendorfFs own 
orders and instructions, throws a different light on the 
question. It would seem that the real fault lay in 
LudendorfFs failure to carry out in practice the new 
principle he had adopted in theory : that he either did 
not grasp or shrank from the full implications of this 
new strategic theory. For, in fact, he dissipated too 
large a part of his reserves in trying to redeem tactical 

270 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

failure, and hesitated too long over decisions to ex* 
ploit his tactical successes. 

The trouble began even in his choice of the point 
of attack. It was to be made by the 17th, 2nd, and 
18th Armies on a sixty-mile front between Arras and 
La Ffcre. Two alternative proposals had been con- 
sidered. One, for an attack on the flanks of the Verdun 
salient, had been rejected on the score that the ground 
was unfavourable ; that a break-through could hardly 
lead to a decisive result ; and that the French army had 
recuperated too well after nearly a year's undisturbed 
convalescence. The other, for an attack between Ypres 
and Lens although favoured by Ludendorff 's strate- 
gical adviser, Wetzell, and espoused by Prince Rup- 
precht, commanding the front between St. Quentin 
and the sea was rejected on the score that it would 
meet the main mass of the British Army and that the 
low-lying ground would be late in drying. 

The choice fell on the Arras-La F&re sector for 
the reason that, apart from the ground being favour- 
able, this sector was the weakest in defences, de- 
fenders, and reserves. Moreover, it was close to the 
joint between the French and British armies Luden- 
dorff hoped to separate the two, and then pulverize 
the British army, which he estimated to be weakened 
seriously by its prolonged efforts at Ypres. But al- 
though the comparative weakness of this sector was 
true as a generalization, in detail his judgement was 
badly at fault. The northerly third of it was strong 
and strongly held, by the British 3rd Army, with 14 
divisions (of which 4 were in reserve), while the bulk 
of the British reserves were on this flank which also 
could, and did, receive support more quickly from the 
other British armies, further north. The remaining 
two-thirds of the front upon which the German blow 
fell was held by the British 5th Army. The central 

271 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

sector facing the German 2nd Army was held by 5 
divisions. The southern, and longer, part facing the 
German 18th Army, was held by 7 divisions (of which 
one was in reserve). 

Ludendorff gave his 17th Army, near Arras, 19 
divisions for the initial attack, by its left wing only, 
on a fourteen-mile front. As the British salient to- 
wards Cambrai was not to be attacked directly, but 
pinched out, this five-mile stretch was adequately 
occupied by 2 German divisions of the German 2nd 
Army. This army concentrated 18 divisions against 
the left wing of the British 5th Army (5 divisions), on 
a fourteen-mile front. On the extreme south, either 
side of Saint Quentin, came the 18th Army, Luden- 
dorff gave it only 24 divisions to attack on a twenty- 
seven mile frontage. Despite his new principle, he was 
distributing his strength according to the enemy's 
strength, and not concentrating against the weakest 
resistance. 

The direction given in his orders emphasized this 
tendency still more. The main effort was to be 
exerted north of the Somme, After breaking through, 
the 17th and 2nd Armies were to wheel north-west, 
pressing the British back towards the coast, while the 
river and the 18th Army guarded their flank. The 
18th Army was merely an offensive flank-guard. As it 
turned out, this plan was radically changed, and had 
the appearance of following the line of least resistance, 
because Ludendorff gained rapid success where he de- 
sired it little, and failed to gain success where he 
wanted it most. 

The attack was launched on the 21st of March, and 
the surprise was helped by an early morning mist. 
While the thrust broke through completely south of 
the Somme, where the defence but also the attacking 
force was thinnest, it was held up near Arras, a 

272 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

check which reacted on all the attack north of the 
river. Such a result was a calculable certainty. But 
Ludendorff, still violating his new principle, spent the 
following days in trying to revive his attack against 
the strong and firmly held bastion of Arras main- 
taining this direction as his principal line of effort. 
Meantime he kept a tight rein on the 18th Army, 
which was advancing in the south without serious 
check from its opponents. As late as the 26th of 
March he issued orders which restrained it from cross- 
ing the Avre, and tied it to the pace of its neighbour, 
the 2nd which, in turn, was held back by the very 
limited success of the 17th Army, near Arras. Thus 
we see that in reality Ludendorff was bent on breaking 
the British army by breaking down its strongest sector 
of resistance in a direct assault. And because of this 
obsession he failed, until too late, to throw the weight 
of his reserves along the line of least resistance south 
of the Somme. 

The intended wheel to the north-west might have 
been fulfilled if it had been made after passing the 
flank, and thus been directed against the rear, of the 
Arras bastion. On the 26th of March the attack north 
of the Somme (by the left wing of the 17th Army and 
the right of the 2nd Army) was visibly weakening 
the price of its hard-earned gains. South of the Somme 
the left of the 2nd Army reached, and was now to be 
embarrassed by, the desert of the old Somme battle- 
fields a brake on movement and supply. The lt 
Army alone was advancing with unslackenedjjj 

This situation led Ludendorff to adopt 
but without relinquishing his old. He 01 
28th of March a fresh and direct attack 
ground near Arras by the right of 
and to be followed by a 6th Army at 
north, between Vimy and La Bass6e. 
T 273 




THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

ing situation south of the Somme led him to indicate 
Amiens as the principal goal for the 2nd Army. 
Even so, he restrained the 18th Army from pushing 
on, to turn the flank of the Amiens resistance, without 
fresh orders. Amiens, having been recognized as an 
additional main objective, was to be gained by a direct 
approach across bad ground. 

On the 28th of March the Arras attack was 
launched, unshielded by mist or surprise, and failed 
completely in face of the well-prepared resistance of 
Byng's 3rd Army. Only then did Ludendorff abandon 
his original idea, and direct his main effort, and some 
of his remaining reserves, towards Amiens. Mean- 
time he ordered the 18th Army to mark time for two 
days. When the attack was renewed on the 30th of 
March it had little force, and made little progress in 
face of a resistance that had been allowed time to 
harden helped by the cement of French reserves 
which were now being poured into the sagging wall. 
That day was the first on which the French artillery, 
arriving later than the infantry, had come into action 
in force. A further German effort was made by 15 
divisions, of which only 4 were fresh, on the 4th of 
April, and had still less success. 

Rather than be drawn into an attrition struggle, 
Ludendorff then suspended the attack towards Amiens. 
At no time had he thrown his weight along the line of 
fracture between the British and French armies. Yet 
on the 24th of March, Petain had intimated to Haig 
that if the German progress continued along this line 
he would have to draw back the French reserves 
south-westwards to cover Paris. How little more Ger- 
man pressure would have been needed to turn the 
crack into a yawning chasm! The knowledge brings 
confirmation of two historical lessons that a joint is 
the most sensitive and profitable point of attack, and 

274 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

that a penetration between two forces or units is more 
dangerous if they are assembled shoulder to shoulder 
than if they are widely separated and organically 
separate* 

With a large part of his reserves holding the vast 
bulge south of Arras, Ludendorff turned, if without 
much confidence, to release a fresh attack further 
north. On the 25th of March he ordered a small-scale 
attack to be prepared between La Bassee and Armen- 
tifcres as a step towards expanding the width of his 
break-through. After the failure of his Arras attack 
on the 28th of March, he had extended the scheme. 
The attack south of Annenti&res was to be followed 
twenty-four hours later by an attack north of it, 
pinching out the town. 

Arranged late, the attack was not ready for launch- 
ing until the 9th of April, and, even so, was conceived 
merely as a diversion. But its astonishing early success 
helped again by an early morning fog against a 
weakened sector, led Ludendorff to convert it bit by 
bit into a major effort. Along an eleven-mile front 
south of Armentiteres, 9 German divisions, with 5 
more in the second wave, fell on 1 Portuguese and 
2 British divisions (behind which were 2 more in close 
reserve). Next day 4 divisions, with 2 more in the 
second line, attacked north of Armenti&res on a seven- 
mile front again helped by a thick mist. As the re- 
sistance began to harden, fresh divisions were thrown 
in by driblets, until by the end of the first week in 
May more than 40 had been used. Ludendorff had 
thus drifted into an attrition campaign. 

The British were desperately close to their bases and 
the sea, but their resistance had stopped the German 
tide, after a ten-mile invasion, just short of the im- 
portant railway junction of Hazebrouck. Then, on the 
17th of April, Ludendorff attempted a convergent 

275 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

blow on either side of Ypres but it was anticipated, 
and almost nullified, by Haig's indirect action in 
swinging back his line here during the previous forty- 
eight hours. This project having been deflated, Luden- 
dorff returned to a purely direct attack south of Ypres, 
where French reserves had arrived to take over part 
of the line. The attack on the 25th of April, falling on 
the joint, cracked it at Kemmel Hill ; but Ludendorff 
stopped the exploitation for fear of a counterstroke. 
Throughout he had doled out reserves sparingly, too 
late and too few for real success. After the failure of 
his first offensive he seems to have had little faith in 
the second, and after a final effort on the 29th of April 
he stopped it. But he intended only a temporary sus- 
pension until he could draw off the French reserves 
to their own front planning then to strike a final 
and decisive blow at the British in Flanders. 

Already, he had ordered preparations for an attack 
on the Chemin-des-Dames sector between Soissons 
and Reims. This was intended for the 17th of April, 
but was not ready until the 27th of May largely 
owing to Ludendorff's prolongation of the Flanders 
offensive, with its consequent drain on his reserves. 
The intelligence section of the American G.H.Q. had 
predicted the site and approximate date of the attack, 
but their warnings were only heeded at a late hour 
when confirmed by a prisoner's report on the 26th of 
May. It was then too late to strengthen the defence, 
beyond putting the troops on the alert, but the warn- 
ing enabled reserves to get on the move. Next morn- 
ing the blow was delivered by 15 divisions, with 7 
more close behind along a twenty-four-mile front 
held by 5 divisions, French and British (with 4 in 
reserve behind them). Covered at the start by a cloak 
of mist and smoke, the attack swept the defenders off 
the Chemin-des-Dames, and then over the Aisne. It 

276 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

reached the Marne by the 30th of May. But once again 
Ludendorff had obtained a measure of success for 
which he was neither prepared nor desirous. The sur- 
priser was himself surprised. The opening success not 
only attracted thither too large a proportion of his 
own reserves, but forfeited their effect because they 
had no start over the Allied reserves in the race. 

The extent of the opening success offers scope for 
analysis. It would seem to have been due in part to the 
distraction of the Allies' attention and reserves else- 
where, in part to pursuing more assiduously the line 
of least resistance, and in part to the folly of the local 
French army commander. He insisted on the infantry 
being massed in the forward positions, there to be 
compressed cannon-fodder for the German guns. The 
artillery, local reserves and command posts of the 
defence were similarly close to the front and in con- 
sequence the quicker and greater was the collapse that 
followed the German break-through. Thereby the at- 
tack regained the tactical surprise effect which it had 
partly lost the day before it was launched. For, as the 
object of all surprise is dislocation, the effect is similar 
whether the opponent be caught napping by deception 
or allows himself to be trapped with his eyes open. 

Ludendorff had now created two huge bulges, and 
another smaller one, in the Allied front. His next 
attempt was to pinch out the Compiegne buttress 
which lay between the Somme and Maine bulges. 
But this time there was no surprise, and the blow on 
the west side of the buttress, on the 9th of June, was 
too late to coincide with the pressure on the east. 

A month's pause followed. Ludendorff was anxious 
to fulfil his long-cherished idea of a decisive blow 
against the British in Belgium, but he considered that 
their reserves there were still too strong, and so again 
decided on a diversion hoping that a heavy blow in 

277 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

the south would draw off the British reserves. He had 
failed to pinch out the Comp&gne buttress on the 
west of his Marne salient; he was now about to at- 
tempt the same thing on the east, by attacking on 
either side of Reims. But he needed an interval for rest 
and preparation, and the delay was fatal giving the 
British and French time to recuperate, and the Ameri- 
cans time to gather strength. 

The tactical success of his own blows had been 
Ludendorff 's undoing in the sense that, yielding to 
their influence, he had pressed each too far and too 
long, thus using up his own reserves, and causing an 
undue interval between each blow. He had followed, 
not the line of least resistance, but the line of harden- 
ing resistance. After the initial break-through, each 
attack had become strategically a pure direct ap- 
proach. He had driven in three great wedges, but none 
had penetrated far enough to sever a vital artery ; and 
this strategic failure left the Germans with an 
indented front which invited flanking counter- 
strokes. 

On the 15th of July Ludendorff launched his new 
attack, but its coming was no secret. East of Reims it 
was foiled by an elastic defence, and west of Reims 
the German penetration across the Marne merely en- 
meshed them more deeply to their downfall for on 
the 18th of July Foch launched a long-prepared stroke 
against the other flank of the Marne salient. Here 
P6tain, who directed the operation, employed the key 
which Ludendorff lacked, using masses of light tanks 
to lead a surprise attack on the Cambrai model. 
The Germans managed to hold the gates of the salient 
open long enough to draw their forces back into 
safety, and straighten their line. But their reserves 
were depleted. Ludendorff was forced, first to post- 
pone, and then to abandon the offensive in Flanders, 

278 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

so that the initiative definitely and finally passed to 
the Allies. 

The nature of the Allied counterstroke on the 
Marne requires examination. Petain had asked Foch 
to assemble two groups of reserves at Beauvais and 
Epernay respectively, with a view to a counterstroke 
against the flank of, and subsequent to, any fresh 
German attack. The first group, under Mangin, was 
used to break the German attack of the 9th of June, 
and was then switched to a position on the west face 
of the Marne salient. Foch planned to use it for the 
direct purpose of an attack against the rail centre of 
Soissons. While this was being prepared the intelli- 
gence service obtained definite news of the forth- 
coming German attack near Reims. Foch thereupon 
determined to anticipate it, not retort to it, by launch- 
ing his stroke on the 12th of July. P6tain, however, 
had the contrary idea of letting the Germans come on 
and entangle themselves, and then of striking at their 
rear flank. And, somewhat curiously, the French 
troops were not ready on the 12th of July so that the 
battle was fought more according to Petain's than to 
Foch's conception. More, but not wholly. For P&ain's 
plan had been, first, to yield his forward position to 
the attackers, by holding it lightly, and bring them to 
a halt in face of the intact rear position ; then to launch 
local counter-attacks so that the enemy might be drawn 
to engage their reserves in the new pockets that their 
attacks on either side of Reims would make ; finally, 
to unleash Mangin to the real counter-offensive east- 
ward along the base-line of the main Marne salient. 
Thereby he might close the neck of the vast sack in 
which the German forces south of the Aisne would be 
enclosed. 

Events and Foch combined to modify this concep- 
tion. East of Reims the German attack was nullified 

279 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

by the elastic; defence a form of tactical indirect ap- 
proach. But west of Reims the commanders persisted 
in the old rigid method of defence, and had their line 
broken. The Germans penetrated beyond the Marne ; 
to avert the danger, P6tain was driven to throw in 
most of the reserves he had intended for use in his 
second phase. To replace them, he decided to draw 
from Mangin and to postpone the latter's counter- 
stroke, already ordered by Foch for the 18th of July. 
When Foch heard of this order, he promptly counter- 
manded it. Hence the second phase had to be dropped 
out, so that the German reserves were available to 
hold Mangin back, and hold open the neck of the 
sack. The counterstroke soon became a purely direct 
pressure converging, like Falkenhayn's of 1915 in 
Poland, on the whole sack and pressing the Germans 
back out of it. 

Foch's governing idea henceforth was simply to 
keep the initiative and to give the enemy no rest while 
his own reserves were accumulating. His first step was 
to free his own lateral railways by a series of local 
offensives. The first was made by Haig on the 8th of 
August in front of Amiens. By skilful precautions 
and deceptions, Rawlinson's 4th Army was doubled, 
and the attack led by 450 tanks was, in its opening, 
perhaps the most complete surprise of the war. If it 
soon came to a halt the directness of its pressure was 
a natural reason its initial shock of surprise sufficed 
to dislocate the moral balance of the German Supreme 
Command, and by convincing Ludendorff of the moral 
bankruptcy of his troops led him to declare that peace 
must be sought by negotiation. Meantime, he said, 
'the object of our strategy must be to paralyse the 
enemy's war-will gradually by a strategic defensive'. 

Meantime, however, the Allies evolved a new strate- 
gic method. Foch gave the first impulse by ordering 

280 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

a succession of attacks at different points. Haig com- 
pleted its evolution by refusing to agree to Foch's in- 
structions for a continuance of the 4th Army's frontal 
pressure. Its advance was only resumed after the 3rd 
and 1st Armies in turn had struck. Hence the allied 
offensive although only in the sphere of Haig's and 
P&ain's control became a series of rapid blows at 
different points, each broken off as soon as its initial 
impetus waned, each so aimed as to pave the way for 
the next, and all close enough in time and space to 
react on one another. Thus a check was placed on 
Ludendorff's power of switching reserves to anticipate 
the blows, and a progressive tax placed upon his re- 
serve balance at an economical cost to the Allied 
resources. This method, if not a true indirect approach, 
appears at least a border-line case. If it did not take 
the line of least expectation, it avoided the line of 
natural expectation. If it did not take the line of least 
resistance, it never continued along the line of harden- 
ing resistance. In effect, it was a negative form of the 
indirect approach. 

In view of the moral and numerical decline of the 
German forces, this method sufficed, for a time at any 
rate, to ensure a continuous advance and gradual 
weakening of the German resistance. The clear evi- 
dence of this decline and Haig's consequent assurance 
that he could break the Hindenburg Line, where the 
German reserves were strongest, caused Foch to relin- 
quish the method in favour of a general and simul- 
taneous offensive at the end of September. 

The plan was for a directly convergent pressure 
upon the vast salient formed by the German front in 
France. It was hoped that the two Allied wings 
formed by the British and Americans respectively 
would, as they closed in, cut off a large part of the 
German armies in the salient. This hope was based on 

281 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

the idea that the Ardennes formed an almost impass- 
able back wall with narrow exits on the flanks. One 
may add, incidentally, that this idea of the Ardennes 
must have arisen from a lack of knowledge of the dis- 
trict for it is well-roaded, and most of it is rolling 
rather than mountainous country. 1 

Originally, on Pershing's suggestion, the plan had 
contained a certain degree of indirectness of approach. 
His proposal was that the American army should ex- 
ploit its local success in erasing the Saint Mihiel 
salient by an advance towards Briey, and past Metz, 
with the aim of getting astride the German communi- 
cations in Lorraine and menacing their western line of 
retreat to the Rhine. But Haig objected to this move 
as divergent from, instead of convergent with, the 
other Allied attacks. And Foch changed his plan ac- 
cordingly, discarding Pershing's project. The Ameri- 
can army, in consequence, had to transfer its effort 
westwards and hastily mount an attack, with a bare 
week's preparation, in the Meuse-Argonne sector. 
Here the prolonged pressure along the line of harden- 
ing resistance resulted in high cost and profound con- 
fusion, besides proving unnecessary to ease Haig's ad- 
vance through the Hindenburg Line. 

There, the course of events tended to demonstrate 
that a direct approach, given overwhelming fire 
superiority and a morally decaying opponent, can 
break into the enemy's position but cannot break 
him up. By the 1 1th of November, the date of the 
Armistice, the German forces, at the sacrifice of their 
rearguards, were safely out of the salient and back on 
a shortened and straightened line. The Allied advance 
had practically come to a standstill less because of 

1 It would seem that a similar misjudgement led the Allied Com- 
mand in May 1940 to discount the possibility that the German 
jhanized forces would attempt that route of invasion. 

282 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

German resistance than because of the difficulty of 
its own maintenance and supply across the devastated 
areas. Under these conditions, a direct approach had 
merely helped the Germans to slip away faster than 
they could be followed. 

Fortunately, the last phase of the military offensive 
mattered little. The moral blow which the initial sur- 
prise of the 8th of August had given to the German 
Command was completed, and made mortal, by an 
indirect approach in a far-distant theatre. This was 
the Allied offensive on the Salonika front. Aimed at a 
sector where the terrain was so difficult that the 
defenders were few, it soon broke through. Once this 
had happened, the difficult mountain country hin- 
dered the defenders switching their reserves laterally 
to block the progress of the advance down the line of 
least resistance. With their army split in two, the war- 
weary Bulgarians craved an armistice. This achieve- 
ment not only knocked away the first prop of the 
Central Alliance but opened the way for an advance 
upon Austria's rear. The menace became closer when 
an Italian offensive fell on, and broke through, Aus- 
tria's morally shaken and physically exhausted front; 
for with Austria's prompt capitulation her territory 
and railways were available to the Allies as a base of 
operations against Germany's back door. In Septem- 
ber, General von Gallwitz had told the German Chan- 
cellor that such a contingency would be * decisive'. 

This menace, together with the heightened moral 
effect of the blockade that other, grand-strategical, 
indirect approach on a people now hunger-stricken 
and hopeless, constituted a pair of spurs by which in 
the last days the German Government was urged to- 
wards surrender. They were spurs applied to a bolting 
steed, but a crack of the whip had made it bolt the 
news of the collapse of Bulgaria, reinforced by the 

283 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

first' reports of the renewal of the frontal attack in 
France. 

The Supreme Command lost its nerve only for a 
matter of days, but that was sufficient, and recovery 
too late. On the 29th of September Hindenburg and 
Ludendorff took the precipitate decision to appeal for 
an armistice, saying that the collapse of the Bulgarian 
front had upset all their dispositions 'troops des- 
tined for the Western front had had to be dispatched 
there'. This had 'fundamentally changed 5 the situa- 
tion in view of the attacks then being launched on the 
Western front; for though these 'had so far been 
beaten off, their continuance must be reckoned with'. 

This clause refers to Foch's general offensive. The 
American attack in the Meuse-Argonne had begun 
on the 26th of September, but had come practically 
to a standstill by the 28th. A Franco-Belgo-British 
attack had opened in Flanders on the 28th ; if un- 
pleasant, it did not look really menacing. But on the 
morning of the 29th Haig's main blow was falling on 
the Hindenburg Line, and the early news was dis- 
quieting. 

In this emergency, Prince Max was called to be 
Chancellor to negotiate a peace move, with his in- 
ternational reputation for moderation and honour as 
its covering pledge. To bargain effectively, and without 
confession of defeat, he needed, and asked, a breathing 
space 'of ten, eight, even four days, before I have to 
appeal to the enemy*. But Hindenburg merely reiter- 
ated that 'the gravity of the military situation admits 
of no delay*, and insisted that 'a peace offer to our 
enemies be issued at once '. 

Hence, on the 3rd of October, the appeal for an 
immediate armistice went out to President Wilson. 
It was an open confession of defeat to the world. And 
even before this on the 1st of October the Supreme 

284 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

Command had undermined their own home front by 
communicating the same impression to a meeting of 
the leaders of all political parties. 

Men who had so long been kept in the dark were 
blinded by the sudden light. All the forces of discord 
and weakness received an immense impulse. 

Within a few days the Supreme Command became 
more cheerful, even optimistic, when it saw that the 
British success in breaking into the Hindenburg Line 
had not been followed by an actual break-through of 
the fighting front. More encouragement came from 
reports of a slackening in the force of the Allies' at- 
tacks, particularly in the exploitation of opportunities. 
Ludendorff still wanted an armistice, but only to give 
his troops a rest as a prelude to further resistance, and 
to ensure a secure withdrawal to a shortened defen- 
sive line on the frontier. By the 1 7th of October he even 
felt he could do it without a rest. It was less that the 
situation had changed than that his impression of it 
had been revised. The situation had never been quite 
so bad as he had pictured it on the 29th of September. 
But his first impression had now spread throughout 
the political circles and public of Germany as the 
ripples spread when a pebble has been dropped in a 
pool. The 'home-front' began to crumble later, but it 
crumbled quicker than the battle-front. 

On the 23rd of October, President Wilson replied to 
the German requests by a note which virtually re- 
quired an unconditional surrender. LudendorfF wished 
to carry on the struggle in the hope that a successful 
defence of the German frontier might damp the deter- 
mination of the Allies. But the situation had passed 
beyond his control, the nation's will-power was 
broken, and his advice was in discredit On the 26th of 
October he was forced to resign. 

Then for thirty-six hours the Chancellor lay in coma 

286 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

from an overdose of sleeping draught. When he re- 
turned to his office on the evening of the 3rd of Novem- 
ber, not only Turkey but Austria had capitulated. 
The back gate was open. Next day revolution broke 
out in Germany, and swept rapidly over the country, 
fanned, as peace negotiations were delayed, by the 
Kaiser's reluctance to abdicate. Compromise with the 
revolutionaries was the only chance, and on the 9th of 
November Prince Max handed over to the Socialist 
Ebert. The German armistice plenipotentiaries were 
already with Foch. At five a.m., on the llth of 
November, they signed the terms; at 11 a.m. the war 
was over. 

The issue of the war had been finally decided on 
the 29th of September decided in the mind of the 
German Command. Ludendorff and his associates 
had then 'cracked ', and the sound went echoing back- 
wards until it had resounded throughout the whole of 
Germany. Nothing could catch it or stop it. The 
Command might recover its nerve, the actual military 
position might improve, but the moral impression 
as ever in war was decisive. 

Among the causes of Germany's surrender the 
blockade is seen to be the most fundamental. Its 
existence is the surest answer to the question whether 
but for the revolution the German armies could have 
stood firm on their own frontiers. For even if the 
German people, roused to a supreme effort in visible 
defence of their own soil, could have held the allied 
armies at bay, the end could only have been post- 
poned because of the grip of sea-power, Britain's 
historic weapon. 

But in hastening the surrender, in preventing a con- 
tinuance of the war into 1919, military action ranks 
foremost. That conclusion does not imply that at the 
moment of the Armistice Germany's military power 

287 



THE STRATEGY OF 1918 

was broken or her armies decisively beaten, nor that 
the Armistice was a mistaken concession. Rather does 
the record of the lat ' hundred days', when sifted, 
confirm the immemorial lesson that the true aim in 
war is the mind of the hostile rulers, not the bodies of 
their troops; that the balance between victory and 
defeat turns on mental impressions and only in- 
directly on physical Wows. It was the shock of being 
surprised, and the feeling that he was powerless to 
counter potential strategic moves, that shook Luden- 
dorff's nerve more than the loss of prisoners, guns, 
and acreage. 



288 



PART III 



Chapter XVII 
HITLER'S STRATEGY 

The course of Hitler's campaigns, before and since 
the outbreak of actual war, has provided the most 
striking demonstration of the method traced in the 
earlier part of this book. He has given the strategy of 
indirect approach a new extension, logistically and 
psychologically, both in the field and in the forum. 

It is wise in war not to underrate your opponent. It 
is equally important to understand his methods, and 
how his mind works. Such understanding is the neces- 
sary foundation of a successful effort to foresee and 
forestall his moves. The peaceful Powers have suffered 
a lot from 'missing the bus' through their slowness to 
gauge what he would next attempt. A nation might 
profit a lot if the advisory organs of government in- 
cluded an 'enemy department', covering all spheres of 
war and studying the problems of the war from the 
enemy's point of view so that, in this state of detach- 
ment, it might succeed in predicting what he was 
likely to do next. 

Nothing may seem more strange to the future his- 
torian than the way that the governments of the 
democracies failed to anticipate the course which 
Hitler would pursue. For never has a man of such 
immense ambition so clearly disclosed beforehand 
both the general process and particular methods by 

291 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

which he was seeking to fulfil it. Mein Kampf, together 
with his speeches and other utterances, provide abun- 
dant clues to his direction and sequence of action. If 
this amazingly clear self-revelation of how his mind 
works is the best evidence that what he has achieved 
is not a matter of accident, nor of mere opportunism, 
it is *also the clearest confirmation of the proverbial 
saying 'What fools men are'. Even Napoleon did 
not show such contemptuous disregard for his op- 
ponents, and for the risks of unveiling his intentions. 
Perhaps Hitler's apparent carelessness in this respect 
is due to a realization that men easily miss what is 
right under their eye, that concealment can often be 
found in the obvious, and that in some cases the most 
direct approach can become the least expected just 
as the art of secrecy lies in being so open about most 
things that the few things that matter are not even 
suspected to exist. 

Lawrence of Arabia remarked of Lenin that he was 
the only man who had thought out a revolution, car- 
ried it out, and consolidated it. That observation can 
be applied also to Hitler with the addition that he 
had 'written it out'. It is clear, too, that he had pro- 
fited by studying the methods of the Bolshevik revolu- 
tion. Not only in gaining power, but in extending it. 
It was Lenin who enunciated the axiom that 'the 
soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations 
until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders 
the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and 
easy'. There is a marked resemblance between this 
and Hitler's saying that 'our real wars will in fact all 
be fought before military operations begin'. In Raus- 
chning's account of a discussion on the subject, in 
Hitler Speaks, he declared 'How to achieve the 
moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has 
started that is the problem that interests me. Who- 

292 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

ever has experienced war at the front will want to 
refrain from all avoidable bloodshed. ' 

In concentrating on that problem Hitler has di- 
verged from the orthodox trend of German military 
thought which, for a century, had concentrated on 
battle and had led most of the other nations along 
the same narrow path of military theory. Accepting 
the Prussian philosopher of war, Clausewitz, as their 
master, they blindly swallowed his undigested aphor- 
isms. Such as 'The bloody solution of the crisis, the 
effort for the destruction of the enemy's forces, is the 
first-born son of war. ' 'Only great and general battles 
can produce great results.' ' Blood is the price of vic- 
tory.' 'Let us not hear of generals who conquer without 
bloodshed.' Clausewitz rejected the idea that 'there is 
a skilful method of disarming and overcoming an 
enemy without great bloodshed, and that this is the 
proper tendency of the Art of War'. He dismissed it 
as a notion born in the imagination of 'philanthro- 
pists'. He took no account of the fact that it might be 
dictated by enlightened self-interest, by the desire for 
an issue profitable to the nation : not merely a gladia- 
torial decision. The outcome of his teaching, applied 
by unthinking disciples, was to incite generals to seek 
battle at th^ first opportunity, instead of creating an 
advantageous opportunity. Thereby the art of war was 
reduced in 1914-18 to a process of mutual mass- 
slaughter. 

Whatever the limit of his lights, Hitler has far trans- 
centfed these Clausewitzian bounds. While for him 
* war is life ', the aim of conducting it in such new ways 
as to 'preserve the precious German blood' recalls the 
keynote which Napoleon sounded up to 1805 'All 
my care will be to gain victory with the least possible 
shedding of blood. ' But in the ways of fulfilling this, 
Hitler has gone beyond Napoleon. Rauschning quotes 

293 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

him as saying c People have killed only when they 
could not achieve their aim in other ways. . . . There 

is a broadened strategy, with intellectual weapons 

Why should I demoralize the enemy by military means 
if I can do so better and more cheaply in other ways? ' 
c Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, to 
conquer him through himself.' 

The extent to which Hitler has given a new direc- 
tion and wider meaning to the German doctrine of 
war may best be seen by comparing his theory and 
practice with that of General Ludendorff the direc- 
tor of Germany's war-effort in the last war, and Hit- 
ler's former associate in the abortive 1923 project to 
seize control of Germany by a 4 march on Berlin '. 

After the establishment of the totalitarian state, and 
after he had had nearly twenty years for reflection on 
the lessons of the last war, Ludendorff set forth his 
conclusions as to future * totalitarian warfare'. He 
opened with a heavy attack on the theories of Clause- 
witz which had been the foundation of the Ger- 
man doctrine in 1914. To Ludendorff, their fault was 
not that they went too far in the way of unlimited 
violence, regardless of cost, but that they did not go 
far enough. He criticized Clausewitz for allowing 
policy too much importance, not too little. As typical 
of Clausewitz, he cited a passage concluding "The 
political goal is the end, and warfare is a means lead- 
ing to it, and a means can never be thought of without 
a certain end. ' In Ludendorff 's view, this was out of 
date. The totalitarian principle demanded that in war 
a nation should place everything at its service ; and, 
in peace, at the service of the next war. War was the 
highest expression of the national 'will to live', and 
politics must therefore be subservient to the conduct 
of war. 

Reading Ludendorff s book, it became clear that 

294 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

the main difference between his theory and Clause- 
witz's was that the former had come to think of war 
as a means without an end unless making the nation 
into an army be considered an end in itself. This was 
hardly so new as Ludendorff appeared to imagine. 
Sparta tried it, and in the end succumbed to self- 
inflicted paralysis. With the aim of developing the 
nation for war, of creating a super-Sparta, Luden- 
dorfFs primary concern was to ensure 'the psychical 
unity of the people 5 . Towards this, he sought to culti- 
vate a religion of nationalism through which all 
women would accept that their noblest rote was to 
bear sons to 'bear the burden of the totalitarian war*, 
and all men would develop their powers for that pur- 
pose in short, to breed, and be bred, for slaughter. 
The other positive suggestions which Ludendorff 
offered towards achieving 'psychical unity' amounted 
to little more than the age-old prescription of sup- 
pressing everyone who might express, or even enter- 
tain, views contrary to those of the High Command. 

Another condition on which Lu4endorff insisted 
was the need for a self-sufficient national economic 
system suited to the demands of totalitarian war. 
From this, he appeared to realize that military power 
rests on an economic foundation. Yet, curiously, 
when he dwelt on the crippling difficulties caused in 
the last war by the Allied blockade, he did not see how 
this admission reflected on his belief that wars are 
decided by battle between the armies. On this score, 
he considered that Germany's old master deserved 
praise 'Clausewitz only thinks of the annihilation 
of the hostile armies in battle'. In LudendorfFs view 
this remained an 'immutable principle' whereas in 
Hitler's view the true aim of the war-leader should be 
to produce the capitulation of the hostile armies with- 
out a battle. 

295 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

Ludendorff s picture of the way that the next war 
would be waged was merely an intensified reproduc- 
tion of the offensives he had carried out in 1918 
which had been brilliant in their opening but barren in 
their issue. For him the offensive was still a battle- 
process in which the infantry would be helped for- 
ward by artillery, machine-guns, mortars, and tanks 
until it * overwhelms the enemy in a man-to-man fight '. 
All movements should lead to battle ; mechanization 
would merely quicken the rush to battle. 

It was not that Ludendorff had any moral or even 
soldierly objection to the more widely spread forms of 
warfare. He remarked that the requirements of totali- 
tarian warfare 'will ever ignore the cheap theoretical 
desire to abolish unrestricted U-boat warfare', while 
aircraft would in future combine with submarines at 
sinking every ship which tried to reach the enemy's 
ports 'even vessels sailing under neutral flags'. And 
in regard to the question of striking direct at the civil 
population, he emphasized that a time would come 
when 'bombing squadrons must inexorably and with- 
out pity be sent against them '. But on military grounds, 
which for him were paramount, the air force must 
first be used to help in beating the opposing army. 
Only then should it be unleashed against the interior 
of the opposing country. 

While welcoming every new weapon and instru- 
ment, he added them to his armoury rather than 
fitted them into any grand strategic pattern. He con- 
veyed no clear idea, and seemed to have none, of the 
relationship between the different elements in war. 
His message was, in brief multiply every kind of 
force as much as you can, and you will get some- 
where but where, he neither wondered nor worried. 
The one point on which he was really clear was that 
4 the military Commander-in-Chief must lay down his 

296 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

instructions for the political leaders, and the latter 
must follow and fulfil them in the service of war 9 . In 
other words, those who are responsible for national 
policy must give him a blank cheque drawn on the 
present resources of andfuture prosperity of the nation. 

Much as there was in common between Ludendorff 
and Hitler in their conception of the race, the state, 
and the German people's right to dominate, their 
differences were quite as great especially in regard 
to method. 

While Ludendorff demanded the absurdity that 
strategy should control policy which is like saying 
the tool should decide its own task Hitler solved that 
problem by combining the two functions in one per- 
son. Thus he enjoyed the same advantage as Alex- 
ander and Caesar in the ancient world, or Frederick 
the Great and Napoleon in later times. This gave him 
an unlimited opportunity, such as no pure strategist 
would enjoy, to prepare and develop his means for 
the end he had in view. At the same time he had early 
grasped what the soldier, by his very profession, is 
less ready to recognize that the military weapon is 
but one of the means that serve the purposes of war : 
one out of the assortment which grand strategy can 
employ. 

While there are many causes for which a state goes 
to war, its fundamental object can be epitomized as 
that of ensuring the continuance of its policy in face 
of the determination of the opposing state to pursue 
a contrary policy. In the human will lies the source 
and mainspring of conflict. For a state to gain its 
object in war it has to change this adverse will into 
compliance with its own policy. Once this is realized, 
the military principle of 'destroying the main armed 
forces on the battlefield', which Clausewitz's dis- 
ciples exalted to a paramount position, fits into its 

297 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

proper place along with the other instruments of 
grand strategy which include the more oblique kinds 
of military action as well as economic pressure, propa- 
ganda, and diplomacy. Instead of giving excessive 
emphasis to one means, which circumstances may 
render ineffective, it is wiser to choose and combine 
whichever are the most suitable, most penetrative, and 
most conservative of effort i.e. which will subdue 
the opposing will at the lowest war-cost and minimum 
injury to the post-war prospect. For the most decisive 
victory is of no value if a nation be bled white in gain- 
ing it 

It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover 
and pierce the Achilles' heel of the opposing govern- 
ment's power to make war. And strategy, in turn, 
should seek to penetrate a joint in the harness of the 
opposing forces. To apply one's strength where the 
opponent is strong weakens oneself disproportionately 
to the effect attained. To strike with strong effect, one 
must strike at weakness. 

It is thus more potent, as well as more economical, 
to disarm the enemy than to attempt his destruction 
by hard fighting. For the 'mauling' method entails 
not only a dangerous cost in exhaustion but the risk 
that chance may determine the issue. A strategist 
should think in terms of paralysing, not of killing. 
Even on the lower plane of warfare, a man killed is 
merely one man less, whereas a man unnerved is a 
highly infectious carrier of fear, capable of spreading 
an epidemic of panic. On a higher plane of warfare, 
the impression made on the mind of the opposing 
commander can nullify the whole fighting power that 
his troops possess. And on a still higher plane, psycho- 
logical pressure on the government of a country may 
suffice to cancel all the resources at its command so 
that the sword drops from a paralysed hand. 

298 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

To repeat the keynote of the initial chapter: the 
analysis of war shows that while the nominal strength 
of a country is represented by its numbers and re- 
sources this muscular development is dependent on 
the state of its internal organs and nerve-system 
upon its stability of control, morale, and supply. 
Direct pressure always tends to harden and consoli- 
date the resistance of an opponent like snow which 
is squeezed into a snowball, the more compact it be- 
comes, the slower it is to melt. Alike in policy and in 
strategy or to put it another way, in the strategy of 
both the diplomatic and the military spheres the in- 
direct approach is the most effective way to upset the 
opponent's balance, psychological and physical, there- 
by making possible his overthrow. 

The true purpose of strategy is to diminish the pos- 
sibility of resistance. And from this follows another 
axiom that to ensure attaining an objective one 
should have alternative objectives. An attack that con- 
verges on one point should threaten, and be able to 
diverge against another. Only by this flexibility of aim 
can strategy be attuned to the uncertainty of war. 

Whether by instinct or reflection, Hitler acquired 
an acute grasp of these strategic truths of which few 
soldiers have ever been aware. He applied this psycho- 
logical strategy in the political campaign by which he 
gained control of Germany exploiting the weak 
points of the Weimar Republic, playing on human 
weakness, alternatively playing off capitalist and 
socialist interests against each other, appearing to 
turn first in one direction and then in another, so that 
by successive indirect steps he approached his goal. 

Once his control of Germany was achieved, in 1933, 
the same compound process was given a wider exten- 
sion. Having negotiated, the next year, a ten-year 
peace-pact with Poland to cover his eastern flank, in 

299 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

1935 he threw off the armament limitations imposed 
by the Versailles Treaty, and in 1936 ventured the 
military reoccupation of the, Rhineland. That same 
year he definitely began * camouflaged war* by sup- 
porting General Franco's bid to overthrow the 
Spanish Republican Government as an indirect ap- 
proach, in conjunction with Italy, against the strategic 
rear of France and Britain. Having thus weakened 
their position in the west, and having also covered 
himself in the west by refortifying the Rhineland, he 
was able to turn eastwards to make moves that were 
further indirect strokes at the strategic foundations of 
the Western Powers. 

In March 1938 he marched into Austria, and thus 
laid bare the flank of Czechoslovakia, while breaking 
the girdle which France had woven round Germany 
after the last war. In September 1938 he secured, by 
the Munich agreement, not merely the return of the 
Sudetenland but the strategic paralysis of Czecho- 
slovakia. In March 1939 he occupied the country he 
had already paralysed, and thereby enveloped the 
flank of Poland. 

By this series of practically bloodless manoeuvres, 
carried out by * peace-marches' under cover of a 
smoke-screen of plausible propaganda, he had not 
only destroyed the former French domination of cen- 
tral Europe and strategic encirclement of Germany, 
but reversed it in his own favour. This process was 
the modern equivalent* on a wider scale and higher 
plane, of the classical art of manoeuvring for position 
before offering battle. Throughout its course Ger- 
many's strength had been growing, both directly by 
the vast development of her armaments, and indirectly 
by subtraction from the strength of her potential 
main opponents through lopping off their allies and 
loosening their strategic roots. 

300 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

Thus by the spring of 1939 Hitler had decreasing 
cause to fear an open fight. And at this critical moment 
he was helped by a false move on Britain's part the 
guarantee suddenly offered to Poland and Rumania, 
each of them strategically isolated, without first secur- 
ing any assurance from Russia, the only power which 
could give them effective support. Such a blind step 
was the rashest reversal of a policy of appeasement 
and retreat that has ever been conceived. By their 
timing, these guarantees were bound to act as a pro- 
vocation. By their placing, in parts of Europe inac- 
cessible to our forces, they provided an almost irre- 
sistible temptation. Thereby the Western Powers 
undermined the essential basis of the only type of 
strategy which their now inferior strength made prac- 
ticable for them. For instead of being able to check 
aggression by presenting a strong front to any attack 
in the west, they gave Hitler an easy chance of break- 
ing a weak front and thus gaining an initial triumph. 

Hitler had always planned, as Rauschning shows, 
to direct his surprise strokes against weak or isolated 
countries while throwing on his opponents' shoulders 
the main burden of attack he had far more real 
respect for the power of modern defence than any of 
the Allied soldiers or statesmen. Now they had given 
him an easy opportunity to do so. In such circum- 
stances his principles of strategy obviously pointed to 
an immediate attempt to make a pact with Russia 
that would ensure her *4etac^iment. Once that was 
secured, Hitler was 'sitting pretty 5 . If the Allies 
declared war in fulfilment of their obligations they 
would automatically forfeit the advantages of defence 
and be committed to an inherently offensive strategy 
without the necessary resources and under the most 
unfavourable conditions. If they merely tapped at the 
Siegfried Line they would manifest their impotence, 

301 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

and forfeit prestige. If they pressed the attack, they 
would only pile up their losses and weaken their own 
chance of subsequent resistance when Hitler was free 
to turn westwards. 

The only way in which they might have extricated 
themselves from this awkward pbsition, without al- 
lowing Hitler to have his way entirely, was by adopt- 
ing the 'sanctions* policy of economic and diplomatic 
boycott, coupled with the supply of arms to the victim 
of aggression. This would have done Poland quite as 
much good, and done much less harm to their own 
prestige and prospects, than a declaration of war 
under such adverse conditions. 

In the event, the deliberate offensive which the 
French attempted made no impression on the Sieg- 
fried Line, while the way it was * boosted' meant that 
its failure was all the more damaging to the Allies 5 
prestige. Coupled with the Germans* swift success in 
Poland, it had the effect of increasing the neutrals' 
fear of Germany while shaking practical confidence 
in the Allies even more than another compromise 
could have done. 

Hitler was now able to consolidate his military 
gains and exploit his political advantages behind the 
cover of his Western defences that the would-be 
rescuers of Poland were palpably incapable of forcing. 
He might have maintained this secure defensive until 
the French and British peoples grew weary of war, as 
its farcical aspect became plainer. But the Allied 
statesmen were led to take the offensive in talk long 
before they had the means to translate it into effective 
action. All they succeeded in doing was to provoke 
consequences which they were unready to meet. For 
their line of talk gave Hitler a fresh opportunity, as 
well as an incentive, to forestall them in * opening up' 
the war. While many people in Britain and France 

302 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

were dreaming of how the small neutral countries ad- 
joining Germany might open a way to her flanks, 
Hitler turned the Allies' flanks by the invasion of no 
less than five of these countries having an aggressor's 
characteristic freedom from scruples. 

It was no new conception on his part. As far back 
as 1934 he had described to Rauschning and others 
how he might seize by surprise the chief ports of the 
Scandinavian peninsula through a simultaneous series 
of coups carried out by small sea-borne expeditions, 
covered by the air force. The way would be prepared 
by his partisans on the spot, and the actual move 
would be made on the pretext of protecting these 
countries against invasion by other Powers. 'It would 
be a daring, but interesting undertaking, never before 
attempted in the history of the world' there spoke 
the artist of war. This striking conception was fulfilled 
in the plan that was executed on the 9th of April 1940, 
and succeeded beyond expectation. Whereas he had 
reckoned that his coups might fail at several points, 
while counting for success on securing a majority of 
the strategic points, he gained every one without check 
although he had audaciously stretched his fingers 
as far north as Narvik. 

His amazingly easy success, sealed by the equally 
easy frustration of the Allies' attempted counter-in- 
vasion of Norway, must naturally have encouraged 
him to attempt the other part of his original design. 
This was to seize the Low Countries as a base for air 
and submarine attack on England. Whether he had 
definitely extended his plan to embrace the defeat of 
France we do not yet know for certain, and must wait 
for history to tell us. (Successful war-leaders are some- 
times as much surprised by the extent of their own 
success as those they take by surprise, and their sub- 
sequent account of it is not historical evidence.) When 

303 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

discussing the circumstances in which he would risk 
a great war, he had expressed his intention to remain 
on the defensive in the West and leave the enemy to 
take the first offensive step, whereupon he would 
pounce upon Scandinavia and the Low Countries, 
improve his strategic position, and make a peace 
proposal to the Western Powers. * If they don't like it, 
they can try to drive riie out. In any case they will 
have to bear the main burden of attack.' On the other 
hand, perhaps looking further ahead, he had re* 
marked *I shall manoeuvre France right out of her 
Maginot Line without losing a single soldier. ' Granted 
the hyperbole for his losses were small in compari- 
son with his gains that was what he accomplished 
last summer. 

The most significant feature of the Western cam- 
paign was Hitler's care to avoid any direct assault, 
and his continued use of the indirect approach 
despite his immense superiority in modern means of 
attack. Although he had twice as many divisions as 
the French and British combined, and an advantage 
of four to one in aircraft and tanks odds which 
would have justified him in attacking the strongest 
position he did not attempt to penetrate the Maginot 
Line. Instead, by his ' baited offensive' against the two 
small neutrals, Holland and Belgium, he managed to 
lure the Allies out of their defences on the Belgian 
frontier. Then, when they had advanced deep into 
Belgium, their march being deliberately unimpeded 
by his air force, he struck in behind them with a 
thrust at the uncovered hinge of the French advance. 

This deadly thrust was delivered by a striking force 
so small, if composed of armoured divisions, as to 
suggest that it may only have been intended as a * try 
on'. And the fact that it came off was chiefly due to the 
recklessness, or perilous conventionality, of the French 

304 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

Command in concentrating almost the whole of their 
left wing for a massive advance to offer battle in Bel- 
gium, while leaving a few second-rate divisions to 
guard the pivotal sector facing the Ardennes a 
wooded and hilly area which they assumed to be too 
difficult as a line of approach for mechanized divi- 
sions. Tfye Germans, by contrast, in exploiting its 
possibilities for surprise, had shown their appreciation 
of the oft-taught lesson that natural obstacles are in- 
herently less formidable than human resistance in 
strong defences. 

As for the nature of Hitler's aim, the explanation 
may well be that his was a 'plan with branches 5 
adaptable to alternative objectives, according to the 
resistance encountered. Such planned opportunism 
would be more creditable to his strategic sense, and 
more characteristic of his practice, than the rigidly 
preconceived plan which he claimed, in his post- 
victory speech, to have followed. It is clear, too, that 
the rapid progress of the German penetration beyond 
Sedan benefited much from the fact that it successively 
threatened alternative objectives, and kept the French 
in doubt as to its real direction first, whether it was 
towards Paris or the rear of the forces in Belgium; 
then, when the German armoured divisions swung 
westwards, whether they were moving on Amiens or 
Lille. 'Selling the dummy' first one way and then the 
other, they swept on to the Channel coast. 

The tactics of the German forces correspo; 
their strategy avoiding head-on assaults, 
seeking to find 'soft spots' through whic^ 
infiltrate along the line of least resistanc 
Allied statesmen, vitally misunderstanf 
warfare, called on their armies to meet 1 
'furious unrelenting assault', the 
swept round and past their clumsy 
x 305 




HITLER'S STRATEGY 

(The Allied troops might perhaps have stemmed it if 
they had not been told to cast away the idea of defend- 
ing barrier-lines : nothing could have been less effec- 
tive than their attempts at counter-attack.) While the 
Allied commanders thought in terms of battle, the 
new German commanders sought to eliminate it by 
producing the strategic paralysis of their opponents 
using their tanks, dive-bombers, and parachutists to 
spread confusion and dislocate communications. The 
outcome cast an ironical reflection on the complacent 
assumption of one of the Allied chiefs that the oppos- 
ing generals would be handicapped by the fact that 
none of them had been more than captains in the last 
war. Eight years earlier Hitler had criticized the Ger- 
man generals as 'blind to the new, the surprising 
things ' ; as imaginatively sterile ; as being 'imprisoned 
in the coils of their technical knowledge'. Their suc- 
cessors, it is clear, had learnt to appreciate new ideas. 

But this exploitation of new weapons, tactics, and 
strategy does not cover all the factors in Germany's 
run of success. In Hitler's warfare the 'indirect ap- 
proach has been carried into wider fields and deeper 
strata. Here he profited by studying the Bolshevik 
technique of revolution, just as the new German Army 
had profited by applying the British-evolved technique 
of mechanized warfare whether he knew it or not, 
the basic methods in both spheres could be traced 
back to the technique of Mongol warfare under Jenghiz 
Khan. To prepare the way for his offensive, he sought 
to find influential adherents in the other country who 
would undermine its resistance, make trouble in his 
interest, and be ready to form a new government 
compliant to his aims. Bribery was unnecessary he 
counted on self-seeking ambition, authoritarian in- 
clination, and party-spirit to provide him with willing 
and unwitting agents among the ruling classes. Then 

306 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

to open the way, at the chosen moment, he aimed to 
use an infiltration of storm-troopers who would cross 
the frontier while peace still prevailed, as commercial 
travellers or holiday-makers, and don the enemy's 
uniform when the word came ; their role was to sabo- 
tage communications, spread false reports, and, if 
possible, kidnap the other country's leading men. This 
disguised vanguard would in turn be backed up by 
air-borne troops. 

In the warfare he intended to stage, frontal advances 
would be either a bluff or a walking-on part. The lead- 
ing role would always be played by the rear attack in 
one of its forms. He was contemptuous of assaults and 
bayonet-charges the A B C of the traditional soldier. 
His way in warfare began with a double D de- 
moralization and disorganization. Above all, war 
would be waged by suggestion by words instead of 
weapons, propaganda replacing the projectile. Just as 
an artillery bombardment was used in the last war to 
crush the enemy's defences before the infantry ad- 
vanced, so a moral bombardment would be used in 
future. All types of ammunition would be used, but 
especially revolutionary propaganda. 'Generals, in 
spite of the lessons of the war, want to behave like 
chivalrous knights. They think war should be waged 
like the tourneys of the Middle Ages. I have no use for 
knights. I need revolutions.' 

The object of war was to make the enemy capitu- 
late. If his will to resist could be paralysed, killing was 
superfluous besides being a clumsy and expensive 
way of attaining the object. The indirect way of in- 
jecting germs into the body of the opposing nation, 
to produce disease in its will, was likely to be far more 
effective. 

Such is Hitler's theory of war with psychological 
weapons. If we are to check him we must understand 

307 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

it* The value of its application to the military sphere 
has been proved. To paralyse the enemy's military 
nerve-system is, clearly, a more economical form of 
operation than to pound his flesh. Its application to 
the political sphere has been proved in effect, but not 
in content. It is open to question whether it would 
have succeeded in demoralizing resistance if it had not 
been backed by overwhelming mechanical force. Even 
in the case of France, the German superiority in 
modern weapon-power was large enough to explain 
her collapse, apart from any decay or disorder of the 
national will. Force can always crush force, given 
sufficient superiority. It cannot crush ideas. Being in- 
tangible they are invulnerable, save to psychological 
penetration, and their resilience has baffled innumer- 
able believers in force. None of them perhaps were so 
aware of the power of ideas as Hitler. But the increas- 
ing extent to which he has had to rely on the backing 
of force as his power has extended, forms increasing 
cause for doubt whether he has not over-estimated 
the value of his technique in converting ideas to his 
purpose. For ideas that do not spring from the truth 
of experience have a relatively brief impetus and a 
sharp recoil. 

Hitler, a master of strategy, has given that art a 
new development. He has also mastered, better than 
any of his opponents, the first stage of*grand strategy 
that of developing and co-ordinating all forms of 
warlike activity, and all the possible instruments 
which may be used to operate against the enemy's will. 
But he would seem, like Napoleon, to have an in- 
adequate grasp of the higher level of grand strategy 
that of conducting war with a far-sighted regard to 
the state of the peace that will follow. To do this 
effectively, a man must be more than a strategist; he 
must be a leader and a philosopher combined. While 

308 



HITLER'S STRATEGY 

strategy is the very opposite of morality, as it, is 
largely concerned with the art of deception, grand 
strategy tends to coincide with morality: through 
having always to keep in view the ultimate goal of the 
efforts it is directing. 

In trying to prove their irresistibility in attack the 
Germans have weakened their own defences in many 
ways strategic, economic, and, above all, psycho- 
logical. As their forces have spread over Europe, 
bringing misery without securing peace, they have scat- 
tered widespread the germs of resentment from which 
resistance to their ideas may develop. And to these 
germs their own troops have become more susceptible 
from being exposed to contact with the people of the 
occupied countries, and made sensitive to the feelings 
they inspire. This is likely to damp the martial en- 
thusiasm which Hitler has so assiduously stimulated, 
and to deepen their longing for home. The sense of 
being friendless reinforces the effect of staleness, open- 
ing the way for the infiltration of war-weariness as 
well as of counter-ideas. 

Here is opportunity which could be developed by 
a fuller vision of grand strategy on our side. So long 
as we remain invincible, that opportunity will grow. 
Ours is a simpler goal to attain than Hitler's. To im- 
pose his peace he needs complete victory which he 
cannot attain without conquering us and has then to 
solve the problem of holding down all the conquered 
peoples. To gain the peace that we desire we have 
to convince his people that he cannot gain such a 
victory as will give them a satisfactory peace, and that 
the future holds no hope until, realizing the emptiness 
of victory, they give up such a futile pursuit. 



309 



INDEX OF PERSONALITIES 



Achilles, 22 

Albert, King of the Belgians, 230-1 

Alci blades, 13 

Alexander the Great, 22-5, 114, 178, 

179, 180, 182 
Allenby, General Sir Edmund, 191, 

257-64 

Alp Arslan, 69 . 

Alvintzi, 132 
Antigonus, 25-7 
Antony, 43-4 
Artemisia, Queen, 10 

Baden, Margrave of, 99-101, 104, 

107 

Basil 1, 68 
Basil II, 68 

Bavaria, Elector of, 98-102 
Bazaine, Marshal, 176 
Bclisarius, 40, 50-68, 182, 191 
Bernadotte, Marshal, 156-7 
Berthelot, General, 227 
Bismarck, 1,2 
Black Prince, the, 75 
Bliicher, Marshal, 156-9 
Boufflers, Marshal, 96-7 
Bourcet, Kerre de, 123, 128, 136, 200 
Bournonville, 92-3 
Brasidas, 12 

Broglie, Marshal de, 122 
Brusilov, General, 244-5, 249 
BiXlow, General von, 225, 227 
Byng, General Sir Julian, 274 

Cadorna, General, 249 
Caesar, Julius, 41-9, 50, 179, 191 
Camon, General, 5 
Canrobert, Marshal, 160 
Garden, Admiral, 253 
Caraot, 122 
Cassander, 26-7, 179 
Castelnau, General de, 230 
Castlereagh, Lord, 144 
Catinat, Marshal, 95 ' 
Charles 1, 84-6 



Charles H, 86-90 

Charles, the Archduke, 125-6, 180 

Chetwode, General Sir Philip, 257 

Chosroes, 61-2 

Clausewitz, Carl von, 182, 184, 190, 
192,197,202,220,293-7 

Cleon, 12 

Cleopatra, 45 

Coburg, 125 

* Conrad von Hdtzendorff, Field- 
Marshal, 236, 238, 241 , 249 

Constantino the Great, 49 

Cromwell, Oliver, 85-90, 109, 179, 
191 

Cuesta, 145 

Darius the Great, 7, 9 
Darius in, 23-4 
Daun, Marshal, 116-19 
Davidovitch, General, 132 
Defoe, Daniel, &3 
Demetrius, 26-7 
Demosthenes, 12 
Desaix, General, 136 

Ebert,Friedrich,287 
Edmonds, Brig.-Gen. Sir J. E., 170 
Edward 1, 73-5 
Edward III, 75 
Edward IV, 76-8 
Enver Pasha, 252 
Epaminondas, 14-18, 22, 179 
Eugene, Prince, of Savoy, 95-6, 99, 
101-4, 106-10, 179 

Fabius, Cunctator, 31-6 

Fairfax, Lord, 85 

Falkenhayn, General von, 230, 232, 

240 etseq., 249-51, 255 
Farragut, Admiral, 163 
Ferrero, Guglielmo, 131 
Flaminius, 30 
Foch, Marshal Ferdinand, 166, 196, 

197, 232, 269, 278 etseq. 
Fortescue, Sir John, 142, 145 



311 



INDEX OF PERSONALITIES 



Franco, General, 300 
Frederick the Great, 15, 111-20, 185 
French, Field-Marshal Sir John, 
221,229,332,251 

Gaffieni, General, 226, 228, 251-2* * 
Gallwitz, Genial von, 283 
Gamelin, Commandant, 226 
Gelimer, 55-^ 

Grandmaison, Colonel de, 220 
Grant, General, U.S., 164-70, 180 
Grouchy, Marshal, 159 
Gucsclin, Constable du, 75-6 
Guibert, Comte de, 123 , 
Gustavus Adolphus, 81-3 

Haig, Field-Marshal Sir Douglas, 
221 , 232, 269, 274, 276, 284 

Halleck, General, 162-3 

Hamilton, General Sir Ian, 254^5 

Hannibal, 28-40, 179, 220 * ** 

Harold, King, 71-2 

Henderson, Colonel G. F., 171 

Henry V, 76 

Hentsch, Colonel, 229 

Hindenburg, Field-Marshal von, 
237, 239 et seq., 252, 284 

Hitler, Adolf, 291 et seq. 

Hoffmann, Colonel, 237, 239, 244 

Hood, General J. B., 169 

Jackson, General 'Stonewall', 162, 

170-1, 195 

Jellicoe, Admiral Sir John, 98 
JenghizKhan,79,306 
Joffre, Marshal, 220, 224 et seq. 
John, King, 72-3 

Joseph (Bonaparte), King, 145, 151 
Jourdan, General, 124-5, 126, 180 
Justinian, 50-2, 54, 55, 57, 60-1, 

63-4,68 

Kitchener, Earl, 221, 251-2 
Kluck, General von, 224 et seq. 

Lambert, John, 85-6, 88 
Lanrezac, General, 225 
Lawrence, T. E., 257-59, 261, 292 
Lee, General Robert E., 162-3, 166, 

169, 170 
Lenin, 183, 292 
Leslie, General, 86-90 
Lincoln, Abraham, 162, 165-7 
Lloyd George, David, 252 
Louis XIV, 92, 95 et seq. 
Ludendotff, General, 234, 237, et 

seq., 250-1, 269 et seq., 294-7 



Lysander, 13, 14, 179 
Lysimachus, 26-7, 179 

Mcdellan, General G.B., 161-2, 167 
McDowell, General I., 162 
Mackensen, Field-Marshal von, 

246-7 
MacMahon, Marshal, 175-6, 177, 

191 

Mago,29 

Mangin, General, 279-80 
. Marbot, General, 143 
Marlborough, Duke of, 95-110, 114, 

US, 179 

Marmont, Marshal, 149, 150-1 
Marsin, Marshal, 98, 100, 103-4 
Masinissa, 38-40 
Massena, Marshal, 146-9 
Maunoury, General, 226-8, 230 
Max of Baden, Prince, 284, 287 
Meade, General G. G., 166 
Miltiades, 8 



, 
Moltke, Count von (the elder), 172- 

6,185,191 4 
Moltke r Count voa (the younger), 

222 et sea. * 
M(totecueuh,93 
Montfort, Simon de, 73-4 
Moore, General Sir John, 141, 144, 

146 

Moreaii, General, 125, 126, 1 35 , 
Mortier, General, 137, 145 
Murat, Marshal, 137-8 
Murray, General Sir Archibald, 257 

Napoleon 1, 2, 4, 5, 41, 79, 114, 121- 
59, 165, 178, 179, 180, 182, 191, 
197, 198, 200, 207, 212, 220, 252, 
260,292,293,308 

Narses, 59, 64-7 

Ney, Marshal, 144-5 

Nicholas, the Grand Duke, 237, 239, 
253 

Nicias, 13 

Pericles, 11 

Pershing, General J. J., 282 
Petain, Marshal, 274, 278-81 
Peterborough, Earl of, 106, 1 10 
Philip of Macedon, 19-22, 179 
Polybius, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35 
Pompey the Great, 41-5 
Prittwitz, General von, 237 

Rauschning, Hermann, 292, 293, 

302, 303 
Rawlinson, General Sir Henry, 280 



312 



INDEX OF PERSONALITIES 



RennebkAmpf, General, 237-8 
Robeck, Admiral de, 253 
Romanus Diogenes, 69 
Rupert, Prince, 85 

Rupprecht of Bavaria, Prince, 223, 
271 

Sabutai, 79-80 
Samsoriov, General, 237 
Schlieffen; Count von, 221 et seq. 
Scipio Africanus, 26, 29, 35-40, 50, 

116,179,182 
Scipio Nasica, 45 
Seleucus.26-7 
Seydlitz, General, 118 
Sherman, General W. T., 164-70, 

180, 198 

Soult, Marshal, 144-5, 147, 149, 150 
Strongbow, Earl, 72 
Syphax,36-8 ;# 

Tallard, Marshal, 98, 101-4 

Themistocles, 9, 10 .J * 

Theodosius, 51 

Totila, 63 fc 

Turenne, Marshal, 92-4, 144, 179 



Varro, 33-5 

Venddme, Marshal, 108 

Victor, Marshal, 144*$ 

Villars, Marshal, 105-& 109, 110, 

Hleroi, Marshal, 97-9, 105-7 
Yttiges, 58-60 * 

Wallenstein, 81-3 

Wavell, General Sir Archibald, 191 

Wellington, Duke of, 37, 141-54, 

159 

Wetzell, Colonel, 271 
Wilhelm p, the Kaiser, 287 
Willisen,260 

William the Conqueror, 71-2 
Wilson, General Sir Henry, 221 
Wilson, Woodrow, 284, 286 
Wolfe, General, 113, 119, 164, 180 
Wra*islaw,98 

Xerxes, 9, 10 
Zeiten, General, 116 



313 



IKDE^OF OPERATIONS 



Ad Decimum, battle ot 56 
Adrianople, battle of, 51 
Aegospotamoi, manoeuvre' of, 14, 

181 

Agincourt, battle of, 76 
Amiens offensive (191 8), 280 
Amphipolis, battle of, 12 
Arcola, battle of, 133 

Atlanta, manoeuvre of, 167-9, 180 
Austerlitz, battle of, 138, 179, 181 

Badajoz, siege of, 149, 150 
Bagradas, manoeuvre of the, 39 
Bassano, battle of, 1 32 
Blenheim, battle of, 101-4, 106, 181 
Brabant, Lines of, penetration of, 

96, 105 
Bussaco, battle of, 147 

Cambrai, battle of, 233 
Cannae, battle of, 33-5, 181 
Caporetto, battle of, 250-1 
Carchemish, manoeuvre of, 62, 191 
Carolinas, march through the, 170 
Casilinum, battle of, 66 
Chaeronea, battle of, 20, 1 81 
Chalcidice, manoeuvre of, 12 
Chemin-des-Dames offensive (1918), 

276-7 
Cr6cy, battle of, 65, 67, 76 



Danube, march to the, 98-9 
Daras, battle of, 52-4 
Denain, battle of, 110, 181 
Donauwdrth, storm of, 100-1 
Dresden, battle of, 157 
Dunajec, battle of the, 241 



.Fleurus, battle of, 125, 181 
Fredericksburg, battle of, 163 
Friedland, battle of, 140, 178 

Gaugamela (or Arbela), battle of, 

24,178,181 
Gaaa, battles of, 266-7 
Genappe, manoeuvre of, 106 
Georgia, march through, 169 
Gettysburg, battle of, 163 
Granicus, battle of the, 22 

Hastings, battle of, 71-2, 181 
Hazebrouck offensive (1918), 275-6 
Hindenburg Line, withdrawal to the, 

234 
Hydaspes, battle of the, 25, 181 

Herda, manoeuvre of, 42-3, 179, 191 
Ipsus, battle of, 26-7, 181 
Issus, battle of, 23, 178 

Jena, battle of, 139, 181 

Kenesaw Mountain, battle of, 168 
Kizyl-Kum desert, manoeuvre of 

the, 79 

Kolin, battle of, 117 
Kdniggratz (or Sadowa), battle of, 

174,178,181 
Kunersdorf, battle of, 119 



La Bassee, Lines of, 109 
Laon, battle of, 159, 
Leipzig, battle of, 1 57 
Lemberg, battle of, 238 

- wMwjw) WVWMV **m uvj mt m . Lcuctra, Dattlo oi, 15 

Dunbar, battle of, 87-9, 109, 179, Leuthen, battle of, 118 
181 Liao-Yang, battle of, 176 

Ligny, battle of, 159 

Etrurian marshes, manoeuvre of the, Lodz, manoeuvre of, 239 
32 Luck, battle of, 244 

Eylau, battle of, 140 Ltitzen, battle of, 81, 83 

314 



INDEX OF OPERATIONS 

Malplaquct, battle of, 109, 1 10 St QuentuvdfiBfensive (1918), 269*-74 

Mantineia, battle of, 17-18, 181 Sajo, battle of the, 80 

Mantua, siege of, 79, 132-4, 177 Salamanca, battle of t 151-2 

Manzikert, battle of, 69 Salamis, battle of, 9, 10 

Marathon, battle of, 7, 8, 181 Sedan, battle of (1870), 176, 177, 
Marcngo, battle of, 137 178, 181, 191 ; (1940), 304-5 

Marne, battle of the (1914), 224-30; Schheffen PlaiL the, 221 et seq. 

(1918), 278-80 Stamford Bndgft, battle of, 71 

Marston Moor, battle of, 85 Steadella, manoeuvre of the, 1 35 

Megiddo, battle of, 259-63 Sura, battle of, 54* 191 

Mctaurus, battle of the, 35, 181 - Syracuse, siege of, 12 
Metz, siege of, 175 

Meuse-Argonne offensive (1918), Taginae, battle of, 65-6, 181 

282 * Ifelavera, baitte of, 145 

Minden, battle of, 1 19 , Tannenberg, battle of, 237-8 

Moscow, retreat from, 152, 155 Tewkesfeurj, battle of, 78 

Mukden, battle of, 177 Thapsus, battle of, 46 

Munda, battle of, 46 Ticinus, battle of the, 29 

Torgau, battle of, 119 

Naples, stonn of, 57-8 . Torres Vedras, Lines of, 37, 146-7 

Naraggara (or Zama), battle of, 40, Towton, battle of, 77 

50, 1 79 Trasimone, Lake, ambush of, 2 

Naseby, battle of, 85 Trebia, battle of the, 29 

Ne Plus Ultra Lines, 109, 1 10 Tricameron, battle of, 56, 181 

Nuremberg, manoeuvre of, 82 Turin, battle of, 107 

Turkheim, battle of, 93 
Oudenarde, battle of, 108, 181 

prffc ,>> r 'an Vim, manoeuvre of, 1 37, 179, 180 

Perth, manoeuvre Of, 90 Utica manffiuvre of 37 170 

Pharsalus, battle of, 45 UUca ' manoeuvre o1 ' 37 ' 179 

Piacenza, manoeuvre of, 130 . _. . . ^^ 

Poitiers, battle of, 75, 76 Verdun offensive, the, 233 

Port Arthur, seige of, 177 Vicksburg, manoeuvre of, 164-5, 

Prague, battle oft 1 16 170. 180, 184 

Preston, manoeuvre of, 86, 179, 181, Vilna, manoeuvre of, 242 

191 Vosges, manoeuvre of the, 92-3, 179 
Pultusk, manoeuvre of, 1 39 

' , ^ Wagram, battle of, 141, 178 

Quebec, battle of, 113, 164, 180, 181 Waterloo, battle of, 159 

i> -ir u ~, * ^ Worcester, battletof, 90, 179, 181 
Ramilhes, battle of, 107 

Rivoli, battle of, 133, 181 v- <r*i'v* noi A^ w 

Rome, sieges of, 58-9, 63 Y P res offensive (14), 232 
Rossbach, battle of, 1 17 

Zama (or Naraggara), battle of, 40* 
Sadowa (or Kdniggrfttz), battle of, 50, 179 

174, 178, 181 Zorndorf, battle of, 1 18 



315 



INDEX OF DEDUCTIONS 



LAMM.********!'. WJIIWMTVW, value 01, 99, 

f23, 12$i 197-9, 201, 214; 299, 
- 305 * .- * 
Bait, ttrategk, V^lue of a, 131, 182, 

304 ' <i L *jf * 1 
Balance, Insetting the opponent's, 5, 

48*123,182-3,194,299 
Barrage, strategic, the use of, 135, 

165.26K3 ^Eafc 
Bat tie, place iH^]MMNy> 82, 149, 

ColomesVas an objective* 256 
Communications, \ in relation to 

strategy, 9, 11, 168-9, 173, 176, 

193,199-200,260,306 
Commander, the mind of, as a tar- 
get, 48, 115, 194.200, 288 . 
Concentration of fwrees, 1^6-9, 200- 

2 21213 ' 

Contiguity offerees, effect of, 115, 

275 
Dislocation, of the opponent's mind 

and forces, 5, 48, 68, 94, 115, 

182-3, 192-*, 215, 241, 259, 277, 

304 

Dispersion, effect of calculated, 98, 
, 123, 132^3*lgi201 * 

bistraction, ittg&ftance of, 92, 113, 

142, 195, 196, if?; 201, 299 
Distribution of force, 132-3, 187, 

196,?00-2 

Divisional system, effect of the, 92, 
.98,122,132-3,200 
Economy offeree, 48, 120, 169, 188- 

9,202-3,205,207-8,298 
False move, luring the opponent 

into a, 50, 67, 75, 169, 181, 216, 

304 
Flexibility, importance of, 123, 198, 

202,214,299,305 



Grand strategy, 11, 187-8, 202-1 U 

297-8,299-300,308-9 
Guerrilla-type strategy, 75-6, 1^2-3, 

154,259-60" 

Historical study, 6, 70, 188 
Interior lines, in strategy, 115 
Joint, sensitivity of a, 127-8, 274, 

298 

Limitation of aim, 186-7, 191, 205-8 
Mobility, 79, 120, 122-3, 132, 154, 

158,189-93,199,214 
Natural obstacles, influence of, 30, 

181,200,305 
Object, the, 69, 188-9, 202-3, 213, 

297,301,309 
Paralysis, rather than destruction, as 

the aim, 202, 298, 307 
Psychological factors, influence of, 

3-5, 48, 67, 115, 140, J61, 168, 

181-2, 191, 194, 197-8, 207, 209- 

10, 213,215-16, 256, 298, 309 
Secrecy, art of, 292 
Sieges, 38 
Statesmen and soldiers, relative 

functions, 114, 166, 185-6,297 
Supply, in relation to strategy, 9, 11, 

94, 122, 168-9, 193, 199, 200, 258, 

299 
Surprise, 41, 154, 189-90, 195, 214, 

241,269,277 
Tactic*, in relation to strategy, 158, 

187,189-92,198,270 
Time factor, the, 41, 190, 197, 199, 

259,267 
War-policy, 11, l|6-, 191, 202-11, 

293,297,302,309 
Weapons, effect of superior, 8, 22, 

32, 40, 50-1, 58, 67, 114, 140, 173, 

180, 200, 202, 270, 279, 281, 304, 

308 



11% 



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