((OOC: Originally these essays were going remain as drafts until we have more information on military things, however the new format of the Royal Herald I have decided to release them. The intent behind this is to be a manual of arms written by Degwin Zabi based on his military experiences, it’ll be divided into four parts. Part One will cover the Introduction and Chapter One: The Recruitment and Training of Infantry and Cavalry and their Equipage. Part Two will cover Chapter Two: Formations and Tactics of Land Battles. Part Three shall cover Chapter Three: Military Engineering and Chapter Four: Siegecraft. Part Four shall cover Chapter Five: Espionage. I expect as our knowledge of warfare grows Nirath’s generals (and eventually admirals) will write commentaries and edits – and help propagate the knowledge of the art of warfare through successive generations.))
The Formations and Tactics of Land Battles.
My loyal reader, I have described to you the recruitment, training and equipping of the forces that you command, now I shall show you the optimal way to organise and deploy your forces to the field. The military establishment consists of three parts, the cavalry, infantry and marine, I am not an admiral so the following chapter shall focus solely on the first two.
The Regimental System
It is an undisputed fact that the Regimental system is the best manner in which an army may be organised. In the regimental system army commanders hire Captains to command regiments of a varying number of men. Depending on the needs of the commander the number and type of troops may be specified. Most regiments tend to be mixed units of between forty and two hundred men. While I do not condemn this mixing of units, since it gives commanders flexibility even at low levels it can become a liability when preparing for large scale actions, I shall discuss methods for solving these liabilities further into this chapter.
Structure of a Mixed Infantry Regiment
The mixed infantry regiment is possibly the most flexible fighting force available to low level commanders, which is one of the reasons that mixed infantry regiments are among the most commonly seen units on the battlefield, and are especially beloved of mercenaries who are always unsure of who they are about to fight.
The lowest rung of the mixed infantry regiment is the file, a group of three men commanded by a file leader for a total of four in a file. My astute readers will have already comprehended that this is because four is the number of ranks which make up the standard block formation. Above this base building block there is a myriad of organisational styles, depending on the whims of their commander, the majority of regiments combine these files into cohorts of forty, or ten files, with one file leader being nominated as a sergeant. This division is repeated until all the regiment is under a sergeant, who represents the interests of the Captain should the regiment be divided by a general.
While some regiments have in recent years begun to experiment with mixed cohorts where the fourth rank of every file is a bowman I have not seen any evidence that on a battlefield the loss of depth of formation is worth the added flexibility within cohorts so I discourage the practice. Instead for a mixed cohort I suggest that between a quarter and a third of the total force be separated into their own cohort under the command of a serjeant, thus for a mid sized regiment of one hundred and twenty men forty would be archers and eighty would be infantrymen divided among three cohorts.
Structure of a Cavalry Regiment
I do not mix infantry and cavalry within regiments. I know those who do, and the immense logistical issues that these regiments have accrued have placed me firmly in the school of thought that keeps cavalry separate from the infantry. Cavalry regiments tend to be smaller than infantry regiments and organised around squadrons of twenty troopers each led by a lance-serjeant, though it is not unknown, especially for heavy cavalry to be based around squadrons of forty or more.
Operations in the Field
Means of Preserving Health
This article is of the greatest importance: the means of preserving the health of the troops. This depends on the choice of situation and water, on the season of the year, medicine, and exercise. As to the situation, the army should never continue in the neighbourhood of unwholesome marshes any length of time, or on dry plains or eminences without some sort of shade or shelter. In the summer, the troops should never encamp without tents. And their marches, in that season of the year when the heat is excessive, should begin by break of day so that they may arrive at the place of destination in good time. Otherwise they will contract diseases from the heat of the weather and the fatigue of the march. In severe winter they should never march in the night in frost and snow, or be exposed to want of wood or clothes. A soldier, starved with cold, can neither be healthy nor fit for service. The water must be wholesome and not marshy. Bad water is a kind of poison and the cause of epidemic distempers.
It is the duty of the sergeants, of the captains, and even of the commander-in-chief himself, to take care that the sick soldiers are supplied with proper diet and diligently attended by the physicians. For little can be expected from men who have both the enemy and diseases to struggle with. However, the best judges of the service have always been of the opinion that daily practice of the military exercises is much more efficacious towards the health of an army than all the art of medicine. For this reason they exercised their infantry without intermission. If it rained or snowed, they performed under cover; and in fine weather, in the field. They also were assiduous in exercising their cavalry, not only in plains, but also on uneven ground, broken and cut with ditches. The horses as well as the men were thus trained, both on the above mentioned account and to prepare them for action. Hence we may perceive the importance and necessity of a strict observance of the military exercises in an army, since health in the camp and victory in the field depend on them. If a numerous army continues long in one place in the summer or in the autumn, the waters become corrupt and the air infected. Malignant and fatal distempers proceed from this and can be avoided only by frequent changes of encampments.
Care to Provide Forage and Provisions
Famine makes greater havoc in an army than the enemy, and is more terrible than the sword. Time and opportunity may help to retrieve other misfortunes, but where forage and provisions have not been carefully provided, the evil is without remedy. The main and principal point in war is to secure plenty of provisions and to destroy tIle enemy by famine. An exact calculation must therefore be made before the commencement of the war as to the number of troops and the expenses incident thereto, so that the provinces may in plenty of time furnish the forage, corn, and all other kinds of provisions demanded of them to be transported. They must be in more than sufficient quantity, and gathered into the strongest and most convenient cities before the opening of the campaign. If the provinces cannot raise their quotas in kind, they must commute for them in money to be employed in procuring all things requisite for the service. For the possessions of the subjects cannot be kept secure otherwise than by the defense of arms.
These precautions often become doubly necessary as a siege is sometimes protracted beyond expectation, the besiegers resolving to suffer themselves all the inconveniences of want sooner than raise the siege, if they have any hopes of reducing the place by famine. Edicts should be issued out requiring the country people to convey their cattle, grain, wine and all kinds of provisions that may be of service to the enemy, into garrisoned fortresses or into the safest cities. And if they do not comply with the order, proper officers are to appointed to compel them to do it. The inhabitants of the province must likewise be obliged to retire with their effects into some fortified place before the irruption of the enemy. The fortifications and all the machines of different kinds must also be examined and repaired in time. For if you are once surprised by the enemy before you are in a proper posture of defense, you are thrown into irrecoverable confusion, and you can no longer draw any assistance from the neighbouring places, all communication with them being cut off. But a faithful management of the magazines and a frugal distribution of the provisions, with proper precautions taken at first, will insure sufficient plenty. When provisions once begin to fail, parsimony is ill-timed and comes too late.
The troops should never want wood and forage in winter or water in summer. They should have corn, wine, vinegar, and even salt, in plenty at all times. Cities and fortresses are garrisoned by such men as are fit for the service of the field. They should be provided with all sorts of arms, arrows, slings, stones, catapults and balistae for their defence. Great caution is requisite that the unsuspecting simplicity of the inhabitants be not imposed on by the treachery or perjury of the enemy, for pretended conferences and deceitful appearance of truces have often been more fatal than force. By observing the foregoing precautions, the besieged may have it in their power to ruin the enemy by famine, if he keeps his troops together, and if he divides.them, by frequent sallies and surprises.
Marches in the Neighbourhood of the Enemy
An army is exposed to more danger on marches than in battles. In an engagement the men are properly armed, they see their enemies before them and come prepared to fight. But on a march the soldier is less on his guard, has not his arms always ready and is thrown into disorder by a sudden attack or ambuscade. A general, therefore, cannot be too careful and diligent in taking necessary precautions to prevent a surprise on the march and in making proper dispositions to repulse the enemy, in case of such accident, without loss.
In the first place, he should have an exact description of the country that is. the seat of war, in which the distances of places specified by the number of miles, the nature of the roads, the shortest routes, by-roads, mountains and rivers, should be correctly inserted. We are told that the greatest generals have carried their precautions on this head so far that, not satisfied with the simple description of the country wherein they were engaged, they caused plans to be taken of it on the spot, that they might regulate their marches by the eye with greater safety. A general should also inform himself of all these particulars from persons of sense and reputation well acquainted with the country by examining them separately at first, and then comparing their accounts in order to come at the truth with certainty.
If any difficulty arises about the choice of roads, he should procure proper and skillful guides. He should put them under a guard and spare neither promises nor threat to induce them to be faithful. They will acquit themselves well when they know it is impossible to escape and are certain of being rewarded for their fidelity or punished for their perfidy. He must be sure of their capacity and experience, that the whole army be not brought into danger by the errors of two or three persons. For sometimes the common sort of people imagine they know what they really do not, and through ignorance promise more than they can perform. But of all precautions the most important is to keep entirely secret which way or by what route the army is to march. For the security of an expedition depends on the concealment of all motions from the enemy. When the enemy has no intimation of a march, it is made with security; but as sometimes the scouts either suspect or discover the decampment, or traitors or deserters give intelligence thereof, it will be proper to mention the method of acting in case of an attack on the march.
The general, before he puts his troops in motion, should send out detachments of trusty and experienced soldiers well mounted, to reconnoiter the places through which he is to march, in front, in rear, and on the right and left, lest he should fall into ambuscades. The night is safer and more advantageous for your spies to do their business in than day, for if they are taken prisoners, you have, as it were, betrayed yourself. After this, the cavalry should march off first, then the infantry; the baggage, bat horses, servants and carriages follow in the center; and part of the best cavalry and infantry come in the rear, since it is oftener attacked on a march than the front. The flanks of the baggage, exposed to frequent ambuscades, must also be covered with a sufficient guard to secure them. But above all, the part where the enemy is most expected must be reinforced with some of the best cavalry, light infantry and foot archers.
Passages of Rivers
The passages of rivers are very dangerous without great precaution. In crossing broad or rapid streams, the baggage, servants, and sometimes the most indolent soldiers are in danger of being lost. Having first sounded the ford, two lines of the best mounted cavalry are ranged at a convenient distance entirely across the river, so that the infantry and baggage may pass between them. The line above the ford breaks the violence of the stream, and the line below recovers and transports the men carried away by the current. When the river is too deep to be forded either by the cavalry or infantry, the water is drawn off, if it runs in a plain, by cutting a great number of trenches, and thus it is passed with ease.
Navigable rivers are passed by means of piles driven into the bottom and floored with planks; or in a sudden emergency by fastening together a number of empty casks and covering them with boards. The cavalry, throwing off their accoutrements, make small floats of dry reeds or rushes on which they lay their rams and cuirasses to preserve them from being wet. They themselves swim their horses across the river and draw the floats after them by a leather thong.
But the most commodious invention is that of the small boats hollowed out of one piece of timber and very light both by their make and the quality of the wood. The army always has a number of these boats upon carriages, together with a sufficient quantity of planks and iron nails. Thus with the help of cables to lash the boats together, a bridge is instantly constructed, which for the time has the solidity of a bridge of stone.
As the enemy generally endeavor to fall upon an army at the passage of a river either by surprise or ambuscade, it is necessary to secure both sides thereof by strong detachments so that the troops may not be attacked and defeated while separated by the channel of the river. But it is still safer to palisade both the posts, since this will enable you to sustain any attempt without much loss. If the bridge is wanted, not only for the present transportation of the troops but also for their return and for convoys, it will be proper to throw up works with large ditches to cover each head of the bridge, with a sufficient number of men to defend them as long as the circumstances of affairs require.
Rules for Encamping an Army
An army on the march cannot expect always to find walled cities for quarters, and it is very imprudent and dangerous to encamp in a straggling manner without some sort of entrenchment. It is an easy matter to surprise troops while refreshing themselves or dispersed in the different occupations of the service. The darkness of night, the necessity of sleep and the dispersion of the horses at pasture afford opportunities of surprise. A good situation for a camp is not sufficient; we must choose the very best that can be found lest, having failed to occupy a more advantageous post the enemy should get possession of it to our great detriment.
An army should not encamp in summer near bad waters or far from good ones, nor in winter in a situation without plenty of forage and wood. The camp should not be liable to sudden inundations. The avenues should not be too steep and narrow lest, if invested, the troops should find it difficult to make their retreat; nor should it be commanded by any eminences from which it may be annoyed by the enemy’s weapons. After these precautions, the camp is formed square, round, triangular or oblong, according to the nature of the ground. For the form of a camp does not constitute its goodness. Those camps, however, are thought best where the length is one third more than the depth. The dimensions must be exactly computed by the engineers, so that the size of the camp may be proportioned to the number of troops. A camp which is too confined will not permit the troops to perform their movements with freedom, and one which is too extensive divides them too much. There are three methods of entrenching a camp. The first is for the case when the army is on the march and will continue in the camp for only one night. They then throw up a slight parapet of turf and plant it with a row of palisades or caltrops* of wood. The sods are cut with iron instruments. If the earth is held strongly together by the roots of the grass, they are cut in the form of a brick a foot and one half high, a foot broad and a foot and one half long. If the earth is so loose that the turf cannot be cut in this form, they run a slight trench round the camp, five feet broad and three feet deep. The earth taken from the trench forms a parapet on the inside and this secures the army from danger. This is the second method.
But permanent camps, either for summer or winter, in the neighborhood of an enemy, are fortified with greater care and regularity. After the ground is marked out by the proper officers, each century receives a certain number of feet to entrench. They then range their shields and baggage in a circle about their own colors and, with. out other arms than their swords, open a trench nine, eleven or thirteen feet broad. Or, if they are under great apprehensions of the enemy, they enlarge it to seventeen feet (it being a general rule to observe odd numbers). Within this they construct a rampart with fascines or branches of trees well fastened together with pickets, so that the earth may be better supported. Upon this rampart they raise a parapet with battlements as in the fortifications of a city. The centurions measure the work with rods ten feet long and examine whether every one has properly completed the proportion assigned to him. The tribunes likewise inspect the work and should not leave the place till the whole is finished. And that the workmen may not be suddenly interrupted by the enemy, all the cavalry and that part of the infantry exempted by the privilege of their rank from working, remain in order of battle before the entrenchment to be ready to repel any assault.
The first thing to be done after entrenching the camp, is to plant the ensigns, held by the soldiers in the highest veneration and respect, in their proper places. After this the head quarters is prepared for the general and his assistants, and the tents pitched for the Captains, who have soldiers particularly appointed for that service and to fetch their water, wood, and forage. Then the specialists, cavalry and infantry, have the ground distributed to them to pitch their tents according to the rank of the several regiments. Four foot-soldiers of each infantry regiment and four troopers of each cavalry regiment are on guard every night. As it seemed impossible for a sentinel to remain a whole night on his post, the watches were divided by the hourglass into four parts, that each man might stand only three hours. All guards are mounted by the sound of trumpet and relieved by the sound of cornet. The serjeants are to choose proper and trusty men to visit the different posts and report to them whatever they find amiss. This is a military office and the persons appointed to it are called officers of the rounds.
Motives for the Plan of Operations for a Campaign
Readers of this military abridgement will perhaps be impatient for instructions relative to general engagements. But they should considerthat a battle is commonly decided in two or three hours, after which no further hopes are left for the worsted army. Every plan, therefore, is to be considered, every expedient tried and every method taken before matters are brought to this last extremity. Good officers decline general engagements where the danger is common, and prefer the employment of stratagem and finesse to destroy the enemy as much as possible in detail and intimidate them without exposing our own forces.
It is the duty and interest of the general frequently to assemble the most prudent and experienced officers of the different regiments of the army and consult with them on the state both of his own and the enemy’s forces. All overconfidence, as most pernicious in its consequences, must be banished from the deliberations. He must examine which has the superiority in numbers, whether his or the adversary’s troops are best armed, which are in the best condition, best disciplined and most resolute in emergencies. The state of the cavalry of both armies must be inquired into, but more especially that of the infantry, for the main strength of an army consists of the latter. With respect to the cavalry, he must endeavour to find out in which are the greatest numbers of archers or of troopers armed with lances, which has the most cuirassiers and which the best horses. Lastly he must consider the field of battle and to judge whether the ground is more advantageous for him or his enemy. If strongest in cavalry, we should prefer plains and open ground; if superior in infantry, we should choose a situation full of enclosures, ditches, morasses and woods, and sometimes mountainous. Plenty or scarcity in either army are considerations of no small importance, for famine, according to the common proverb, is an internal enemy that makes more havoc than the sword. But the most material article is to determine whether it is most proper to temporize or to bring the affair to a speedy decision by action. The enemy sometimes expect an expedition will soon be over; and if it is protracted to any length, his troops are either consumed by want,. induced to return home by the desire of seeing their families or, having done nothing considerable in the field, disperse themselves from despair of success. Thus numbers, tired out with fatigue and disgusted with the service, desert, others betray them and many surrender themselves. Fidelity is seldom found in troops disheartened by misfortunes. And in such case an army which was numerous on taking the field insensibly dwindles away to nothing.
It is essential to know the character of the enemy and of their principal officers-whether they be. rash or cautious, enterprising or timid, whether they fight on principle or from chance and whether the nations they have been engaged with were brave or cowardly.
We must know how far to depend upon the fidelity and strength of mercenaries, how the enemy’s troops and our own are affected and which appear most confident of success, a consideration of great effect in raising or depressing the courage of an army. A harangue from the general, especially if he seems under no apprehension himself, may reanimate the soldiers if dejected. Their spirits revive if any considerable advantage is gained either by stratagem or otherwise, if the fortune of the enemy begins to change or if you can contrive to beat some of their weak or poorly-armed detachments.
But you must by no means venture to lead an irresolute or diffident army to a general engagement. The difference is great whether your troops are raw or veterans, whether inured to war by recent service or for some years unemployed. For soldiers unused to fighting for a length of time must be considered in the same light as recruits. As soon as the regiments are assembled from their several quarters, it is the duty of a good general to have every corps instructed separately in every part of the drill by serjeants of known capacity chosen for that purpose. He should afterwards form them into one body and train them in all the manoeuvres of the line as for a general action. He must frequently drill them himself to try their skill and strength, and to see whether they perform their evolutions with proper regularity and are sufficiently attentive to the sound of the trumpets, the motions of the colours and to his own orders and signals. If deficient in any of these particulars, they must be instructed and exercised till perfect.
A favourable opportunity must be watched for, and they must first be prepared by frequent skirmishes and slight encounters. Thus a vigilant and prudent general will carefully weigh in his council the state of his own forces and of those of the enemy, just as a civil magistrate judging between two contending parties. If he finds himself in many respects superior to his adversary, he must by no means defer bringing on an engagement. But if he knows himself inferior, he must avoid general actions and endeavour to succeed by surprises, ambuscades and stratagems. These, when skillfully managed by good generals, have often given them the victory over enemies superior both in numbers and strength.
Preparations for a General Engagement
Having explained the less considerable branches of the art of war, the order of military affairs naturally leads us to the general engagement. This is a conjuncture full of uncertainty and fatal to kingdoms and nations, for in the decision of a pitched battle consists the fullness of victory. This eventuality above all others requires the exertion of all the abilities of a general, as his good conduct on such an occasion gains him greater glory, or his dangers expose him to greater danger and disgrace. This is the moment in which his talents, skill and experience show themselves in their fullest extent.
To enable the soldiers to charge with greater vigour, it is customary to order them a moderate refreshment of food before an engagement, so that their strength might be the better supported during a long conflict. When the army is to march out of a camp or city in the presence of their enemies drawn up and ready for action, great precaution must be observed lest they should be attacked as they defile from the gates and be cut to pieces in detail. Proper measures must therefore be taken so that the whole army may be clear of the gates and form in order of battle before the enemy’s approach. If they are ready before you can have quitted the place, your design of marching out must either be deferred till another opportunity or at least dissembled, so that when they begin to insult you on the supposition that you dare not appear, or think of nothing but plundering or returning and no longer keep their ranks, you may sally out and fall upon them while in confusion and surprise. Troops must never be engaged in a general action immediately after a long march, when the men are fatigued and the horses tired. The strength required for action is spent in the toil of the march. What can a soldier do who charges when out of breath? Two armies, one tired and spent, the other fresh and in full vigor, are by no means an equal match.
The Sentiments of Troops Should be Determined before Battle
It is necessary to know the sentiments of the soldiers on the day of an engagement. Their confidence or apprehensions are easily discovered by their looks, their words, their actions and their motions. No great dependence is to be placed on the eagerness of young soldiers for action, for fighting has something agreeable in the idea to those who are strangers to it. On the other hand, it would be wrong to hazard an engagement, if the old experienced soldiers testify to a disinclination to fight. A general, however, may encourage and animate his troops by proper exhortations and harangues, especially if by his account of the approaching action he can persuade them into the belief of an easy victory. With this view, he should lay before them the cowardice or unskillfulness of their enemies and remind them of any former advantages they may have gained over them. He should employ every argument capable of exciting rage, hatred and indignation against the adversaries in the minds of his soldiers.
It is natural for men in general to be affected with some sensations of fear at the beginning of an engagement, but there are without doubt some of a more timorous disposition who are disordered by the very sight of the enemy. To diminish these apprehensions before you venture on action, draw up your army frequently in order of battle in some safe situation, so that your men may be accustomed to the sight and appearance of the enemy. When opportunity offers, they should be sent to fall upon them and endeavor to put them to flight or kill some of their men. Thus they will become acquainted with their customs, arms and horses. And the objects with which we are once familiarised are no longer capable of inspiring us with terror.
Choice of the Field of Battle
In drawing up an army in order of battle, three things are to be considered: the sun, the dust and the wind. The sun in your face dazzles the sight: if the wind is against you, it turns aside and blunts the force of your weapons, while it assists those of your adversary; and the dust driving in your front fills the eyes of your men and blinds them. Even the most unskillful endeavor to avoid these inconveniences in the moment of making their dispositions; but a prudent general should extend his views beyond the present; he should talke such measures as not to be incommoded in the course of the day by different aspects of the sun or by contrary winds which often rise at a certain hour and might be detrimental during action. Our troops should be so disposed as to have these inconveniences behind them, while they are directly in the enemy’s front.
Various Formations For Battle
Cohorts have four formations in which they can engage in battle:
The block is a rectangle four ranks deep with a varying number of files, often ten, the block is the most versatile of the formations for melee combat. A block can take a charge from any facing though it is vulnerable to being surrounded if the enemy has greater numbers. The main advantage of the block comes from the ability to have a rank pull back when they have become fatigued or taken casualties and have another fresh rank ready to take their place. This allows troops in block formation to stand in the line of battle for longer than they otherwise could have, rotating towards the back of the formation for a rest after getting fatigued. The depth of the block also means that it is more adept at receiving charges than the other three formations.
The line is a formation one or two ranks deep, two ranks deep is often called a double line but in essence they are the same formation. The line formation is suitable for controlling a large area of the battlefield with a smaller number of troops or for enveloping fixed enemy positions. The line formation is also one of the best formations to place archers and other missile troops in since it allows more troops to have the ability to fire upon the enemy. The line is unfortunately weak against the charge since it lacks the density to withstand the pressure placed upon it.
The wedge formation is a triangle of infantrymen at most three abreast at the ‘point’. The wedge is designed for the charge, the smaller front places a great pressure on a single point in the enemy’s line which the successive amounts of troops are intended to widen eventually splitting the enemy’s formation. The main flaws of the wedge are that it can only be used on the attack and tends to cause significant casualties and combat fatigue within the attacking cohort.
The circle formation is a deep formation wherein every soldier is facing outwards, in a cohort of forty this would be three ranks deep. The circle is an excellent defensive formation against overwhelming enemies and against having the cohort surrounded. It is difficult to move in the circle formation however so it is most often used to prevent units from breaking – or to rally those that have already broken.
Tactics for Battles
There are no tactics that instantly assure success, the flow of battle is decided by the ground in which the battle is fought and by the preparations made by generals beforehand. The ability to read the flow, to know when to attack and when to defend, where to push the enemy, and where to give him room can only be learned through battle. It is not possible to teach a novice to see and to feel the flow of battle through the reading of a book, even written by wiser masters than I.
Instead I offer to you dear reader the Seven Basic Manoeuvres. These are the basic building blocks upon which all manoeuvres and combat actions are built, even the most complex battle plans find their roots in these seven stratagems and a wise general makes great use of them all.
Penetration of the Centre
This is the oldest of the tactical manoeuvres and is the most often performed in its variations on the battlefield. This manoeuvre is of particular interest whenever both enemy flanks are protected. In execution secondary units engage the left and right wings of the enemy front in order to attract enemy reserves. The main blow, given by a superior force, including any reserves, is then unleashed against the enemy centre, in an attempt to break their forces apart. A second reserve stands ready in order to exploit a successful main attack. If well executed, this manoeuvre offers the possibility of encircling parts of the enemy force. However, if insufficient force is expended for the main blow, or if the flanks are too weak, because of concentration in the centre, a commander may risk getting enveloped.
Envelopment of a Single Flank
This is the second most frequently employed tactic. The enemy is engaged frontally, through pinning attacks, while reserves and a portion of the army are committed against one of the enemy’s open flanks, in an attempt to turn and roll up the enemy front towards its centre. When building up strength for the flank attack, a commander must be careful not to excessively weaken his centre. A counter-blow by the enemy through the weakened centre could be fatal.
Envelopment of Both Flanks
This is more difficult to achieve than envelopment of a single flank since it requires massive force superiority. In execution this is similar to the envelopment of a single flank, except that the commander attempts to attack both of the enemy’s exposed flanks, in order to completely encircle him. This manoeuvre is risky, because unless a superior force is at hand, a commander could easily overextend his forces, inviting the enemy to counterattack by concentrating a superior force at one or more points.
Attack in Oblique Order
This manoeuvre dates back to ancient times and has been employed by many great commanders over the ages. This tactic is of particular interest whenever both enemy flanks are protected by natural obstacles. When attacking in oblique order the commander attempts to mass superior strength against one wing of the enemy army, while smaller, secondary forces pin down the rest of the frontline and lure away reserves from the main attack on the other wing.
The Feigned Withdrawal
This is most often employed to lure the enemy into an ambush, or to surprise him and throw him off balance. Using this tactic a flight or retreat is feigned to entice the enemy forces to abandon their battle formations or into a weakened position. If only the centre withdraws, the enemy can be lured forward into a ‘pocket’, thereby exposing themselves to flank attacks. When the centre reverses and starts to push back after their feigned withdrawal, the enemy will find himself attacked from three directions. However care must be exercised and the discipline of the army must be impeccable, otherwise the feigned retreat could easily become a real one.
Attack from a Defensive Position
Similar to the feigned withdrawal a well-chosen defensive position is prepared, and the commander proceeds to lure his enemy into the position, before resuming an offensive at a well-timed moment. In this case care must be exercised in order to avoid excessive defensive-mindedness. Blind reliance on strongly prepared positions is also be a mistake.
The Indirect Approach
This is the most risky of the manoeuvres, speed, surprise, superiority of force and timing are essential if this method is to succeed. This approach is useful however as it forces a decisive action upon the enemy, even if he’s unwilling to accept battle. In this method the commander attempts to divert the enemy’s attention by secondary attacks, whilst the main body strategically envelops the enemy’s flank or rear, in order to cut off the enemy’s lines of communication. A successful execution of this manoeuvre will interrupt the enemy’s supplies and reinforcements, and cut off their natural line of retreat, thereby leaving the enemy in a critical position.
On Facilitating the Flight of the Enemy:
Generals unskilled in war think a victory incomplete unless the enemy are so straightened in their ground or so entirely surrounded by numbers as to have no possibility of escape. But in such situation, where no hopes remain, fear itself will arm an enemy and despair inspires courage. When men find they must inevitably perish, they willingly resolve to die with their comrades and with their arms in their hands. A golden bridge should be made for a flying enemy, for when they have free room to escape they think of nothing but how to save themselves by flight, and the confusion becoming general, great numbers are cut to pieces. The pursuers can be in no danger when the vanquished have thrown away their arms for greater haste. In this case the greater the number of the flying army, the greater the slaughter. Numbers are of no signification where troops once thrown into consternation are equally terrified at the sight of the enemy as at their weapons. But on the contrary, men when shut up, although weak and few in number, become a match for the enemy from this very reflection, that they have no resource but in despair.
Manner of Conducting and Orderly Retreat.
Having gone through the various particulars relative to general actions, it remains at present to explain the manner of retreating in presence of the enemy. This is an operation, which, in the judgement of men of greatest skill and experience, is attended with the utmost hazard. A general certainly discourages his own troops and animates his enemies by retiring out of the field without fighting. Yet as this must sometimes necessarily happen, it will be proper to consider how to perform it with safety.
In the first place your men must not imagine that you retire to decline an action, but believe your retreat an artifice to draw the enemy into an ambuscade or more advantageous position where you may easier defeat them in case they follow you. For troops who perceive their general despairs of success are prone to flight. You must be cautious lest the enemy should discover your retreat and immediately fall upon you. To avoid this danger the cavalry are generally posted in the front of the infantry to conceal their motions and retreat from the enemy. The first divisions are drawn off first, the others following in their turns. The last maintain their ground till the rest have marched off, and then file off themselves and join them in a leisurely and regular succession. Some generals have judged it best to make their retreat in the night after reconnoitering their routes, and thus gain so much ground that the enemy, not discovering their departure till daybreak, were not able to come up with them. The light infantry was also sent forward to possess the eminences under which the army might instantly retire with safety; and the enemy, in case they pursued, be exposed to the light infantry, masters of the heights, seconded by the cavalry.
A rash and inconsiderate pursuit exposes an army to the greatest danger possible, that of falling into ambuscades and the hands of troops ready for their reception. For as the temerity of an army is increased and their caution lessened by the pursuit of a flying enemy, this is the most favorable opportunity for such snares. The greater the security, the greater the danger. Troops, when unprepared, at their meals, fatigued after a march, when their horses are feeding, and in short, when they believe themselves most secure, are generally most liable to a surprise. All risks of this sort are to be carefully avoided and all opportunities taken of distressing the enemy by such methods. Neither numbers nor courage avail in misfortunes of this nature.
A general who has been defeated in a pitched battle, although skill and conduct have the greatest share in the decision, may in his defense throw the blame on fortune. But if he has suffered himself to be surprised or drawn into the snares of his enemy, he has no excuse for his fault, because he might have avoided such a misfortune by taking proper precautions and employing spies on whose intelligence he could depend.
When the enemy pursue a retreating foe, the following snare is usually laid. A small body of cavalry is ordered to pursue them on the direct road. At the same time a strong detachment is secretly sent another way to conceal itself on their route. When the cavalry have overtaken the enemy, they make some feint attacks and retire. The enemy, imagining the danger past, and that they have escaped the snare, neglect their order and march without regularity. Then the detachment sent to intercept them, seizing the opportunity, falls upon them unexpectedly and destroys them with ease.
Many generals when obliged to retreat through woods send forward parties to seize the defiles and difficult passes, to avoid ambuscades and block the roads with barricades of felled trees to secure themselves from being pursued and attacked in the rear. In short both sides have equal opportunities of surprising or laying ambuscades on th1e march. The army which retreats leaves troops behind for that purpose posted in convenient valleys or mountains covered with woods, and if the enemy falls into the snare, it returns immediately to their assistance. The army that pursues detaches different parties of light troops to march ahead through by-roads and intercepts the enemy, who are thus surrounded and attacked at once in front and rear. The flying army may return and fall on the enemy while asleep in the night. And the pursuing army may, even though the distance is great, surprise the adversary by forced marches. The former endeavour may be at the crossing of a river in order to destroy such part of the enemy’s army as has already crossed. The pursuers hasten their march to fall upon those bodies of the enemy that have not yet crossed.