Monday, September 28, 2009

Interesting article I found at Napoleonic Wargame Club's newletter

I was looking for information about artillery and stumbled across this at the following link. The website for Napoleonic Wargames Club has not been updated in years, however their forum remains active.


By Capt. Francisco Palomo, Publisher: Pierre Desruisseaux, Secretary of State
Editor : Chris Wattie, 1st KGL Hussars, British Army

The full text of Clausewitz’s "Principles Governing the Use of Troops" is appended. I trust the membership will find it instructive:

Principles Governing the Use of Troops

1. If we cannot dispense with firearms (and if we could, why should we bring them along?), we must use them to open combat. Cavalry must not be used before the enemy has suffered considerably from our infantry and artillery. From this it follows:

(a) That we must place the cavalry behind the infantry. That we must not be easily led to use it in opening combat. Only when the enemy's disorder or his rapid retreat offer the hope of success, should we use our cavalry for an audacious attack.

2. Artillery fire is much more effective than that of infantry. A battery of eight six-pounders takes up less than one-third of the front taken up by an infantry battalion; it has less than one-eighth the men of a battalion, and yet its fire is two to three times as effective. On the other hand, artillery has the disadvantage of being less mobile than infantry. This is true, on the whole, even of the lightest horse artillery, for it cannot, like infantry, be used in any kind of terrain. It is necessary, therefore, to direct the artillery from the start against the most important points, since it cannot, like infantry, concentrate against these points as the battle progresses. A large battery of 20 to 30 pieces usually decides the battle for that section where it is placed.

3. From these and other apparent characteristics the following rules can be drawn for the use of the different arms:

(a) We should begin combat with the larger part of our artillery. Only when we have large masses of troops at our disposal should we keep horse and foot-artillery in reserve. We should use artillery in great batteries massed against one point. Twenty to thirty pieces combined into one battery defend the chief part of our line, or shell that part of the enemy position which we plan to attack.

(b) After this we use light infantry – either marksmen, riflemen, or fusiliers – being careful not to put too many forces into play at the beginning. We try first to discover what lies ahead of us (for we can seldom see that clearly in advance), and which way the battle is turning, etc. If this firing line is sufficient to counteract the enemy's troops, and if there is no need to hurry, we should do wrong to hasten the use of our remaining forces. We must try to exhaust the enemy as much as possible with this preliminary skirmish.

(c) If the enemy should lead so many troops into combat that our firing line is about to fall back, or if for some other reason we should no longer hesitate, we must draw up a full line of infantry. This will deploy between 100 and 200 paces from the enemy and will fire or charge, as matters may be.

(d) This is the main purpose of the infantry. If, at the same time, the battle-array is deep enough, leaving us another line of infantry (arranged in columns) as reserve, we shall be sufficiently master of the situation at this sector. This second line of infantry should, if possible, be used only in columns to bring about a decision.

(e) The cavalry should be as close behind the fighting troops during battle as is possible without great loss; that is, it should be out of the enemy's grapeshot or musket fire. On the other hand, it should be close enough to take quick advantage of any favourable turn of battle.

4. In obeying these rules more or less closely, we should never lose sight of the following principle, which I cannot stress enough: Never bring all our forces into play haphazardly and at one time, thereby losing all means of directing the battle; but fatigue the opponent, if possible, with few forces and conserve a decisive mass for the critical moment. Once this decisive mass has been thrown in, it must be used with the greatest audacity.

5. We should establish one battle-order (the arrangement of troops before and during combat) for the whole campaign or the whole war. This order will serve in all cases when there is no time for a special disposition of troops. It should, therefore, be calculated primarily for the defensive. This battle-array will introduce a certain uniformity into the fighting method of the army, which will be useful and advantageous. For it is inevitable that a large part of the lower generals and other officers at the head of small contingents have no special knowledge of tactics and perhaps no outstanding aptitude for the conduct of war.
Thus there arises a certain methodism in warfare to take the place of art, wherever the latter is absent. In my opinion this is to the highest degree the case in the French armies.

7. The army consists of several such independent corps, which have their own general and staff. They are drawn up in line and behind each other, as described in the general rules for combat. It should be observed at this point that, unless we are very weak in cavalry, we should create a special cavalry reserve, which, of course, is kept in the rear. Its purpose is as follows:

(a) To fall upon the enemy when he is retreating from the field of battle and to attack the cavalry which he uses to cover up his retreat. Should we defeat the enemy's cavalry at this moment, great successes are inevitable, unless the enemy's infantry would perform miracles of bravery . Small detachments of cavalry would not accomplish this purpose.

(b) To pursue the enemy more rapidly, if he should be retreating unbeaten or if he should continue to retreat the day after a lost battle. Cavalry moves faster than infantry and has a more demoralizing effect on the retreating troops. Next to victory, the act of pursuit is most important in war.

(c) To execute a great (strategic) turning move, should we need, because of the detour, a branch of the army which moves more rapidly than the infantry.

In order to make this corps more independent, we should attach a considerable mass of horse artillery; for a combination of several types of arms can only give greater strength.

8. The battle-order of troops described thus far was intended for combat; it was the formation of troops for battle. The order of march is essentially as follows:

(a) Each independent corps (whether brigade or division) has its own advanced- and rear-guard and forms its own column. That, however, does not prevent several corps from marching one behind the other on the same road, and thus, as it were, forming a single column. The corps march according to their position in the general formation of battle. They march beside or behind each other, just as they would stand on the battlefield. In the corps themselves the following order is invariably observed: the light infantry, with the addition of one regiment of cavalry, forming the advanced and rear-guard, then the infantry, the artillery, and last the remaining cavalry. This order stands, whether we are moving against the enemy – in which case it is the natural order – or parallel with him. In the latter case we should assume that those troops which in the battle formation were behind each other should march side by side. But when we have to draw up the troops for battle, there will always be sufficient time to move the cavalry and the second line of infantry either to the right or left.

4. Principles For The Use Of Terrain

1. The terrain (the ground or country) offers two advantages in warfare. The first is that it presents obstacles to the enemy's approach. These either make his advance impossible at a given point, or force him to march more slowly and to maintain his formation in columns, etc. The second advantage is that obstacles in the terrain enable us to place our troops under cover.
Although both advantages are very important, I think the second more important than the first. In any event, it is certain that we profit from it more frequently, since in most cases even the simplest terrain permits us to place ourselves more or less under cover. Formerly only the first of these advantages was known and the second was rarely used. But today the greater mobility of all armies has led us to use the former less frequently, and therefore the latter more frequently. The first of these two advantages is useful for defence alone, the second for both offence and defence.

2. The terrain as an obstacle to approach serves chiefly to support our flank, and to strengthen our front.

3. To support our flank it must be absolutely impassable, such as a large river, a lake, an impenetrable morass. These obstacles, however, are very rare, and a complete protection of our flank is, therefore, hard to find. It is rarer today than ever before, since we do not stay in one position very long, but move about a great deal. Consequently we need more positions in the theatre of war.
An obstacle to approach which is not wholly impassable is really no point d'appui for our flank, but only a reinforcement. In that case troops must be drawn up behind it, and for them in turn it becomes an obstacle to approach.
Yet it is always advantageous to secure our flank in this way, for then we shall need fewer troops at this point. But we must beware of two things: first, of relying so completely on this protection that we do not keep a strong reserve in the rear; second, of surrounding ourselves on both flanks with such obstacles, for, since they do not protect us completely, they do not always prevent fighting on our flanks. They are, therefore, highly detrimental to our defence, for they do not permit us to engage easily in active defence on either wing. We shall be reduced to defence under the most disadvantageous conditions, with both flanks thrown back.

4. The observations just made furnish new arguments for the formation in depth. The less we can find secure support for our flanks, the more corps we must have in he rear to envelop those troops of the enemy which are surrounding us.

5. All kinds of terrain, which cannot be passed by troops marching in line, all villages, all enclosures surrounded by hedges or ditches, marshy meadows, finally all mountains which are crossed only with difficulty, constitute obstacles of this kind. We can pass them, but only slowly and with effort. They increase, therefore, the power of resistance of troops drawn up behind them. Forests are to be included only if they are thickly wooded and marshy. An ordinary timber-forest can be assed as easily as a plain. But we must not overlook the fact that a forest may hide the enemy. If we conceal ourselves in it, this disadvantage affects both sides. But t is very dangerous, and thus a grave mistake, to leave forests on our front or flank unoccupied, unless the forest can be traversed only by a few paths. Barricades built as obstacles are of little help, since they can easily be removed.

6. From all this it follows that we should use such obstacles on one flank to put up a relatively strong resistance with few troops, while executing our planned ffensive on the other flank. It is very advantageous to combine the use of entrenchments with such natural obstacles, because then, if the enemy should pass the obstacle, the fire from these entrenchments will protect our weak troops against too great superiority and sudden rout.

7. When we are defending ourselves, any obstacle on our front is of great value. Mountains are occupied only for this reason. For an elevated position seldom has any important influence, often none at all, on the effectiveness of arms. But if we stand on a height, the enemy, in order to approach us, must climb laboriously. He will advance but slowly, become separated, and arrive with his forces exhausted.
Given equal bravery and strength, these advantages may be decisive. On no account should we overlook the moral effect of a rapid, running assault. It hardens the advancing soldier against danger, while the stationary soldier loses his presence of mind. It is, therefore, always very advantageous to put our first line of infantry and artillery upon a mountain.
Often the grade of the mountain is so steep, or its slope so undulating and uneven, that it cannot be effectively swept by gunfire. In that case we should not place our first line, but at the most only our sharp-shooters, at the edge of the mountain. Our full line we should place in such a way that the enemy is subject to its most effective fire the moment he reaches the top and reassembles his forces.
All other obstacles to approach, such as small rivers, brooks, ravines, etc., serve to break the enemy's front. He will have to re-form his lines after passing them and thus will be delayed. These obstacles must, therefore, be placed under our most effective fire, which is grape-shot (400 to 600 paces), if we have a great deal of artillery or musket-shot (150 to 200 paces), if we have little artillery at this point.

8. It is, therefore, a basic law to place all obstacles to approach, which are to strengthen our front, under our most effective fire. But it is important to notice that we must never completely limit our resistance to this fire but must hold ready for a bayonet-charge an important part of our troops (1/3 to 1/2) organized into columns.
Should we be very weak, therefore, we must place only our firing line, composed of riflemen and artillery, close enough to keep the obstacle under fire. The rest of our troops, organized into columns, we should keep 600 to 800 paces back, if possible under cover.

9. Another method of using these obstacles to protect our front is to leave them a short distance ahead. They are thus within the effective range of our cannon (1000 to 2000 paces) and we can attack the enemy's columns from all sides, as they emerge.

10. Thus far we have considered the obstacles of the ground and country primarily as connected lines related to extended positions. It is still necessary to say something about isolated points.

On the whole we can defend single, isolated points only by entrenchments or strong obstacles of terrain. We shall not discuss the first here. The only obstacles of terrain which can be held by themselves are:

(a) Isolated, steep heights.

Here entrenchments are likewise indispensable; for the enemy can always move against the defender with a more or less extended front. And the latter will always end up by being taken from the rear, since one is rarely strong enough to make front towards all sides.

(b) Defiles. By this term we mean any narrow path, through which the enemy can advance only against one point. Bridges, dams, and steep ravines belong here.

We should observe that these obstacles fall into two categories: either the aggressor can in no way avoid them, as for example bridges across large rivers, in which case the defender can boldly draw up his whole force so as to fire upon the point of crossing as effectively as possible. Or we are not absolutely sure that the enemy cannot turn the obstacle, as with bridges across small streams and most mountain defiles. In that case it is necessary to reserve a considerable part of our troops 1/3 to 1/2 for an attack in close order.

(c) Localities, villages, small towns, etc. With very brave troops, who fight enthusiastically, houses offer a unique defence for few against many. But, if we are not sure of the individual soldier, it is preferable to occupy the houses, gardens, etc., only with sharp-shooters and the entrances to the village with cannons. The greater part of our troops (1/2 to 3/4) we should keep in close columns and hidden in the locality or behind it, so as to fall upon the enemy while he is invading.

11. These isolated posts serve in large operations partly as outposts, in which case they serve not as absolute defence but only as a delay to the enemy, and partly to hold points which are important for the combinations we have planned for our army. Also it is often necessary to hold on to a remote point in order to gain time for the development of active measures of defence which we may have planned. But, if a point is remote, it is ipso facto isolated.

12. Two more observations about isolated obstacles are necessary. The first is that we must keep troops ready behind them to receive detachments that have been thrown back. The second is that whoever includes such isolated obstacles in his defensive combinations should never count on them too much, no matter how strong the obstacle may be. On the other hand, the military leader to whom the defence of the obstacle has been entrusted must always try to hold out, even under the most adverse circumstances. For this there is needed a spirit of determination and self-sacrifice, which finds its source only in ambition and enthusiasm. We must, therefore, choose men for this mission who are not lacking in these noble qualities.

13. Using terrain to cover the disposition and advance of troops needs no detailed exposition. We should not occupy the crest of the mountain which we intend to defend (as has been done so frequently in the past) but draw up behind it. We should not take our position in front of a forest, but inside or behind it; the latter only if we are able to survey the forest or thicket. We should keep our troops in columns, so as to find cover more easily. We must make use of villages, small thickets, and rolling terrain to hide our troops. For our advance we should choose the most intersected country, etc.
In cultivated country, which can be reconnoitered so easily, there is almost no region that can not hide a large part of the defender's troops if they have made clever use of obstacles. To cover the aggressor's advance is more difficult, since he must follow the roads.
It goes without saying that in using the terrain to hide our troops, we must never lose sight of the goal and combinations we have set for ourselves. Above all things we should not break up our battle order completely, even though we may deviate slightly from it.

14. If we recapitulate what has been said about terrain, the following appears most important for the defender, i.e., for the choice of positions:

(a) Support of one or both flanks.

(b) Open view on front and flanks.

(c) Obstacles to approach on the front.

(d) Masked disposition of troops. And finally

(e) Intersected country in the rear, to render pursuit more difficult in case of defeat. But no defiles too near, since they cause delay and confusion.

15. It would be pedantic to believe that all these advantages could be found in any position we may take up during a war. Not all positions are of equal importance: the most important are those in which we most likely may be attacked. It is here that we should try to have all these advantages, while in others we only need part.

16. The two main points which the aggressor should consider in regard to the choice of terrain are not to select too difficult a terrain for the attack, but on the other hand to advance, if possible, through a terrain in which the enemy can least survey our force.

17. I close these observations with a principle which is of highest significance, and which must be considered the keystone of the whole defensive theory:



For if the terrain is really so strong that the aggressor cannot possibly expel us, he will turn it, which is always possible, and thus render the strongest terrain useless. We shall be forced into battle under very different circumstances, and in a completely different terrain, and we might as well not have included the first terrain in our plans. But if the terrain is not so strong, and if an attack within its confines is still possible, its advantages can never make up for the disadvantages of passive defence.

All obstacles are useful, therefore, only for partial defence, in order that we may put up a relatively strong resistance with few troops and gain time for the offensive, through which we try to win a real victory elsewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment