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Bistritz, Von Moltke had done with strategy. The tactical decision was at hand, and the next few hours would show whether the great object of all marches and all manœuvresthe destruction of the enemy's army-would be accomplished. There could be little doubt of the result. The whole army was concentrated at the decisive point. The enemy, originally equal in strength and in moral, was now outnumbered and disheartened, his retreat on Vienna compromised, and a river at his back. Benedek was even more demoralised than his men. The vigorous offensive which had baffled his attempts to concentrate and thrown his unwieldy columns into a confusion from which he was powerless to extricate them; the rapid movements which had rendered him incapable of decision; the incessant blows which had fallen on his isolated corps d'armée, had reduced the stout soldier of Solferino to a man who seeks only to evade his doom. On his arrival at Königgrätz, he sent a despairing telegram to the Emperor: Make peace at any ' price. A catastrophe is inevitable.' And yet Benedek was a man of undaunted courage and iron will. By those who can see no excuse for failure in a general, he has been branded as a commander of the most faulty type; he was 'dull-minded, obstinate, and sluggish.' The military student will prefer the verdict of a man who had himself handled great masses in the field, who knew what war is, and understood the difficulties of command.

"When I listen," said Von Moltke, " to all the exaggerated flattery which the public thinks fit to bestow upon me, I can only think how it would have been if this victory, this triumph, had not been ours. Would not this selfsame praise have been changed to indiscriminate censure, to senseless blame? A vanquished commander! Oh, if outsiders had but the faintest notion of what that may mean! The Austrian headquarters on the night of Königgrätz-I cannot bear to think of it. A general, too, so deserving, so brave, and so cautious!'" (Moltke, by Professor Müller, p. 26.)

On the night of Königgrätz the Austrians had lost over 70,000 soldiers, and more than 200 guns. The war was practically at an end. Despite a brilliant victory over the Italians at Custozza, the Emperor was compelled to recognise that further resistance was absolutely hopeless. Within fourteen days of the famous order which set his armies moving on Gitschin, Von Moltke could say to the King, as they watched the desperate fighting on the long green slopes

* Morris's 'Moltke,' p. 90.

above the Bistritz, Your Majesty will win to-day, not only the battle, but the campaign.'

When we remember that this astonishing result was brought about, within so short a space of time, by armies acting on a double line of operations, we can quite understand that the advantage of a central position should seem illusory, and the wisdom of Napoleon's maxim doubtful. Von Moltke not only cheerfully accepted the risks of a converging march, but when, on Benedek's withdrawal to Königgrätz, concentration became possible, he deliberately postponed it, resolving to effect it, not within reach of the Austrian outposts, but in the very midst of the Austrian lines. Never was maxim so persistently ignored. That so profound a student should thus have set at naught what had come to be regarded as perhaps the most important rule of war, should have induced the critics to consider whether the application of this rule was absolute and universal. They did nothing of the kind. To question the judgement of Napoleon was to their minds the worst of heresies. But in accepting an isolated opinion as infallible, and in attempting to formulate hard and fast rules for the conduct of war, they exposed their own ignorance of the art of command. The truth is, that warfare is no exact science; that there is scarcely a single rule which is not limited in its application; and that the precepts of the great masters are merely warnings against the risks which may be incurred by any particular course of action. They tell us that the path is dangerous, not that it leads to certain destruction; and by none have these warnings been more persistently disregarded than by the very men who uttered them. Unfortunate is the soldier,' says Clausewitz, who is content to crawl about in the beggardom of rules, to which 'genius rises superior, and over which it perchance makes 'merry.'

Moreover, the situation which Napoleon was discussing when he enunciated his maxim was totally different from that with which the Prussian leader had to deal.

'Frederick marched to the conquest of Bohemia on two lines of operation with two armies sixty leagues from each other, and which were to join hands forty leagues from their point of departure, under the walls of a fortified place, in presence of the enemy's armies. . . On May 4 his two armies (100,000 strong) were only six leagues apart, but were still separated by two rivers, the fortress of Prague, and the Prince of Lorraine's army, 70,000 strong. Their junction seemed impossible, yet it was effected on the 6th of May, at daybreak, within 300 toises of the Austrian camp. Fortune overwhelmed

Frederic with her favours. He had placed himself in a situation to be defeated in detail before his two armies could join, and to have each of them separately driven from Bohemia.' *

The important distinction is this: when Frederick crossed the frontier, the Austrian army was so placed that the greater part of it could be readily concentrated before the two Prussian columns could combine, and had thus an excellent opportunity of using its interior lines. On June 22, 1866, on the other hand, Von Moltke was well aware that the Austrian army was very far from being concentrated; that the dispositions adopted for the march, and the distance it had to traverse, rendered it very improbable that it could do so in time to prevent the junction of the Crown Prince and Prince Frederick Charles. In short, the danger that this concentration would have to be effected in presence of the enemy's whole army, or even of a great part of it, was remote. It is the certainty of such danger to which Napoleon's words refer. We cannot believe that the great Emperor could have hesitated to employ the same means of extricating himself from a difficult situation under the same circumstances.

It is curious that none of the critics should have observed that it was Benedek and not Von Moltke who set rules completely at defiance. When he moved northwards, it was with the intention of concentrating round Josephstadt; but it was impossible,' says the Austrian Staff History, 'taking the latest information into consideration, not to see (on June 17) that the concentration of the Imperial army 'was already gravely compromised.' It is no great tribute to Von Moltke's acumen to say that he realised his opponent's danger to be far greater than his own. An army which attempts to concentrate in a central locality between two armies advancing on a double line, is even more unfavourably situated than two converging armies endeavouring to form a junction under the beard of an army already assembled in position.

But there is more than this to be said for Von Moltke's strategy, and Mr. Morris has so far grasped the truth that we may use his words.

'One of the dangers of an advance on a double line is that it is difficult to make the converging armies keep time with each other on their march, and this gives the adversary an occasion to interpose, and to strike right and left at his divided enemies. But the electric

* Napoleon's Historical Miscellanies, vol. iii. pp. 178-9.

telegraph enables armies to communicate with each other, at any distance, from hour to hour, nay from minute to minute, and so to regulate their movements as to be in concert; this immensely diminishes in operations of this kind the hazards which otherwise would be incurred, and Moltke directed the Prussian armies by the electric telegraph in their advance on Gitschin.' (Moltke, p. 85.)

We agree, however, with Mr. Morris, that this undeniable truth is not itself an explanation of Von Moltke's strategy. No one, so far as we are aware, has been bold enough to assert that the telegraph neutralises the advantages of a central position and interior lines. But Mr. Morris is perfectly correct in saying that the hazards of a double line of operations are much diminished; and there can be no doubt whatever that Von Moltke realised this fact as clearly as he realised the superiority of the needle gun over the muzzle loader. It is scarcely too much to say that the telegraph has effected as great a revolution in strategy as the breechloader has in tactics. Operations which were impracticable or dangerous under the old conditions have become feasible. The sphere of a commander-in-chief's control has greatly widened. He can manœuvre a detachment hundreds of miles distant from his own headquarters. In the campaign of 1864, Grant was in closer touch with Sherman, although 500 miles divided them, than was Napoleon at La Belle Alliance with Grouchy at Walhain. Lee, defending Richmond against McClellan in 1862, detained 70,000 Federals at a distance from the decisive point by means of a single division, under Stonewall Jackson, operating in the Valley of Virginia, 100 miles westward of the Southern capital. Every attempt of the Northern Government to strengthen the main army was frustrated. At the first sign of movement, the telegraph set Jackson in motion, and his timely threats against Washington, in the estimation of the Northern President and the Northern people so vital a point, sufficed to arrest the march of the masses which should have reinforced McClellan. We do not wish, however, to be misunderstood. Detachments have still their dangers. No reports, however full and timely, can supply the information which only the actual eyesight of the commander can detect. The best maps cannot supply sufficient acquaintance with the country, and events move so fast in war as to anticipate the telegraph. Headquarters can never be entirely au courant with the situation, and a great deal of initiative must perforce be left to the leaders of detachments. Mr. Morris points out that the telegraph did not prevent Prince Frederick Charles from acting with

out regard to the Crown Prince, and marching on Münchengrätz instead of Gitschin on June 28. Why, when a few words would have despatched the first army in the right direction, was this false move permitted? It is not difficult to find the answer. The telegraph, as we have already suggested, can never compensate for the absence of the commander-in-chief from the immediate scene of action. Von Moltke, in his office in Berlin, believed himself less qualified to judge of the manner in which his designs should be carried out, than Prince Frederick Charles within sight of the Austrian vedettes. The most remarkable point about his strategy is the self-restraint he imposed upon ' himself in leaving his subordinate commanders such free scope, each within his own sphere.' * During the eventful period from June 22 to the day of Königgrätz but five orders from the Royal headquarters, and those of the briefest, are on record. The leaders of the two armies were enlightened as to the plan of campaign; the method of execution was left entirely to their own judgement. That such liberty of action might lead to error, the march on Münchengrätz attests. But Von Moltke was true to the principles with which he had imbued the Prussian system of command. That the man on the spot, if he has been trained to responsibility, is the best judge of what should be done, was the substance of his teaching, and in 1866 he was evidently of the opinion that fewer mistakes were likely to result from giving his subordinates a free hand, than by tying them to the other end of the electric wire.

Had Mr. Morris, instead of relying on one isolated maxim, examined each one of those which deal with the converging march of widely separated columns, he would have found that Napoleon's main objection to such strategy was founded on the difficulty of intercommunication.

'Opérer par des directions éloignées entre elles et sans communications, est une faute qui ordinairement en fait commettre une seconde. La colonne détachée n'a des ordres que pour le premier jour; ses opérations, pour le second jour, dépendent de ce qui est arrivé à la principale colonne : ainsi, selon les circonstances, cette colonne perdra du temps pour attendre des ordres, ou bien elle agira au hasard.' (Maximes de Napoléon, p. 11.)

We may fairly conclude, therefore, that whilst the modern system of mobilisation and the existence of railways make


Moltke, by Lord Wolseley, United Service Magazine,' October



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