Works of Frederick Engels 1855
The Prussian army deserves special notice, on account of its peculiar organization. While, in every other army, the peace-footing is the groundwork of the entire establishment, and no cadres are provided for the new formations which a great war at once necessitates, in Prussia, we are told, everything, to the minutest detail, is prepared for the war-footing. Thus, the peace establishment simply forms a school, in which the population are instructed in arms and maneuvers. This system, including, as it professes to do, the whole able-bodied male population in the ranks of the army on the war-footing, would appear to render the country which adopts it safe from every attack; yet this is by no means the case. What is attained is, that the country is stronger by about 50 per cent. than under the French or Austrian system of recruiting; by which means it is possible for an agricultural state of some seventeen millions of inhabitants, on a small territory, without a fleet or direct maritime commerce, and with comparatively little manufacturing industry, to maintain, in some respects, the position of a great European power.
The Prussian army consists of two great divisions: of those soldiers who are still being trained — the line; and of those trained men who may be said to have been sent home on indefinite furlough — the landwehr.
The service in the line lasts five years, from the twentieth to the twenty-fifth year of each man’s age; but three years of active service are thought sufficient; after which, the soldier is dismissed to his home, and placed for the remaining two years in what is called the war-reserve. During this time he continues to figure on the reserve-lists of his battalion or squadron, and is liable to be called in at any time.
After having been, for two years, in the war-reserve, he passes into the first levy of the landwehr (erstes Aufgebot der Landwehr), where he remains up to his thirty-second year. During this period he is liable to be called in, every other year, for the exercises of this corps, which generally take place upon a pretty extensive scale, and in connection with those of the line. The maneuvers generally last a month, and very often from 50,000 to 60,000 troops are concentrated for this purpose. The landwehr of the first levy are destined to act in the field along with the line. They form separate regiments, battalions, and squadrons, the same as the line, and carry the same regimental numbers. The artillery, however, remain attached to the respective regiments of the line.
From the thirty-second to the thirty-ninth year, inclusive, the soldier remains in the second levy (zwet’tes Aufgebot) of the landwehr, during which time he is no longer called upon for active duty, unless a war breaks out, in which case the second levy has to do garrison duty in the fortresses, thus leaving available the whole of the line and first levy for field operations. After the fortieth year, he is free from all liability to be called out, unless, indeed, that mysterious body called the Landsturm, or levy en masse, be required to arm itself. The landsturm includes every man not comprised in the former categories, with all those too small or too weakly, or otherwise liberated from service, between the sixteenth and sixtieth year of age. But this landsturm cannot even be said to exist on paper, for there is not any organization prepared for it, no arms or accoutrements provided; and if it should ever have to assemble, it would not be found fit for anything but police duty at home, and for a tremendous consumption of strong drink.
As in Prussia every citizen is, according to law, a soldier, from his twentieth to his fortieth year, a population of seventeen millions might be expected to furnish a total contingent of at least a million and a half of men. But, in reality, not one half of this number can be got together. The fact is, that the training of such a mass of men would presuppose, at three years’ service with the regiments, a peace establishment of at least 300,000 men, while Prussia merely maintains something like 130,000. Thus various devices are employed to liberate a number of men otherwise liable to serve: men fit enough for duty are declared too weak, the medical inspection either selecting the best candidates only, or allowing itself to be moved by bribes in the selection of those considered fit for duty, and so on. Formerly, the reduction of the time of actual service, for the infantry, to two years only, was the means of bringing down the peace establishment to some 100,000 or 10,000 men; but since the revolution a the government, having found out how much an additional year of service will do in making the men obedient to their officers, and reliable in case of insurrection, the three years’ service has been generally introduced again.
The standing army, or the line, is composed of nine army-corps — one of guards and eight of the line. Their peculiar organization will be explained presently. They comprise, in all, thirty-six regiments of infantry (guards and line), of three battalions each b ; eight regiments of reserve, of two battalions each; eight combined reserve battalions, and ten battalions of chasseurs (Jäger); in all, 144 battalions of infantry, or 150,000 men.
The cavalry is composed of ten cuirassier, five dragoon, ten lancer, and thirteen hussar regiments, of four squadrons, or 800 men each; in all, 30,000 men.
The artillery consists of nine regiments, each composed, when on the war-footing, of four six-pounder, three twelve-pounder, and one howitzer, foot batteries, and three batteries of horse artillery, with one reserve company to be turned into a twelfth battery; beside four garrison companies, and one company of workmen. But as the whole of the war reserve and landwehr of the first levy (of the artillery) are required to man these guns, and to complete the companies, the line-artillery may be described as consisting of nine regiments, of about 2,500 men each, with about thirty guns in each regiment, fully horsed and equipped.
Thus, the grand total of the Prussian line would amount to about 200,000 men; but from 60,000 to 70,000 men may safely be deducted for the war reserves, dismissed to their homes after three years’ service.
The first levy of the landwehr counts, for every regiment of the guards and line, one of landwehr, except for the eight reserve regiments; beside, it has eight reserve battalions, forming a total of 116 battalions, and about 100,000 men. The cavalry has two regiments of guards, and thirty-two of the line, with eight reserve squadrons; in all, 136 squadrons, or about 20,000 men. The artillery is attached to the line regiments, as before stated.
The second levy also counts 116 battalions, 167 squadrons (comprising sundry reserve and dépôt squadrons, whose duties are assimilated to those of the second levy), and some garrison artillery; altogether, about 150,000 men.
With the nine battalions of sappers, several minor corps, about 30,000 pensioners, and an army train amounting, on the war-footing, to no less than 45,000 men, the whole of the Prussian force is stated to amount to 580,000 men; of which, 300,000 are for the field, 54,000 for the dépôts, 170,000 for the garrisons and as a reserve, with about 60,000 non-combatants. The number of field-guns attached to this army should be between 800 and 850, divided into batteries of eight guns (six cannon and two howitzers) each.
For all these troops, not only the complete organization of the cadres, but also the arms and equipments, are provided; so that, in case of a mobilization of the army, nothing has to be found but the horses; and as Prussia is rich in horses, and as animals as well as men are liable to instant requisition, no great difficulty is presented by this necessity. So says the regulation; but how the matter stands, in point of fact, was shown when, in 1850, the army was mobilized. The first levy of the landwehr was equipped, though not without great difficulty; but the second levy found nothing provided, neither clothing, nor shoes, nor arms, and thus it offered the most ridiculous spectacle imaginable. Long before this occurred, competent judges, who had themselves served in the Prussian army, had predicted that such would be the case; and that, in point of fact, Prussia could, on an emergency, count upon nothing but the line and a portion of the first levy. Their opinion was fully borne out by the event. No doubt, the equipments for the second levy have since been provided; and this body, if called out now, would, in a month or six weeks, form a very respectable corps for garrison, and even field duty. But then, in time of war, three months’ drill is considered quite sufficient to prepare a recruit for the field; and thus, the cumbrous organization adopted by Prussia does not at all insure such enormous advantages as is generally believed. Beside, in a couple of years, the material reserved for the second levy will again have disappeared in the same way as that which had certainly once existed, but was not to be found when needed in 1850.
Prussia, when adopting the principle that each citizen was to be a soldier, stopped half-way, and falsified that principle, thereby falsifying all her military organization. Once the system of conscription abandoned for that of universal compulsory service, the standing army, as such, ought to have been abolished. Mere cadres of officers and non-commissioned officers should have been maintained, through whose hands the young men should have passed for instruction, and the period of instruction should not have lasted longer than was necessary for the purpose. If such had been the case, the time of service, during peace, must have been brought down to a year, for all the infantry, at least. But that would not suit either the government or the military martinets of the old school. The government wanted a disposable and reliable army, to be used, in case of need, against disturbances at home; the martinets wanted an army which, in precision of drill, in general appearance, and in solidity, could rival the remaining armies of Europe, composed of comparatively older soldiers. A body of young troops, serving no more than a single year, would not do for either purpose. Consequently, the middle course of three years’ service was adopted, and hence arise all the faults and weaknesses of the Prussian army.
As we have seen, at least one half of the available men are excluded from the army. They are at once inscribed on the rolls of the second levy, which body, swelled thereby nominally to enormous numbers, is completely swamped, in whatever efficiency it might possess, by a mass of men who never handled a musket, and are no better than raw recruits. This reduction of the actual military strength of the country by at least one half, is the first bad effect produced by the protracted time of service.
But the line itself, and the first levy of the landwehr, suffer under this system. Of every regiment, one third has served less than three, one third less than two years, and the remaining third less than one year. Now it is not to he expected that an army composed like this can have those military qualities, that strict subordination, that steadiness in the ranks, that esprit de (.orbs, which distinguish the old soldiers of the English, Austrian, Russian, and even the French armies. The English, who are competent judges in this matter, from the long period their soldiers serve, consider that it takes three years completely to break in a recruit. [See Sir W. Napier’s Peninsular War] Now, as, in time of peace, the Prussian army is composed of men none of whom have ever served three years, the natural consequence is that these military qualities of the old soldier, or at least the semblance of them, have to be drummed into the young Prussian recruit by an intolerable martinetism. The Prussian subaltern and sergeant, from the impossibility of the task imposed upon them, come to treat their subordinates with a roughness and brutality doubly repulsive from the spirit of pedantry with which it is coupled; and this pedantry is the more ridiculous because it is in complete contrast with the plain and sensible system of drill prescribed, and because it constantly appeals to the traditions of Frederick the Great, who had to drill a quite different set of men in a quite different system of tactics. Thus, real efficiency in the field is sacrificed to precision on the parade-ground, and the Prussian line, upon the whole, may be considered inferior to the old battalions and squadrons which, in the first onset, any of the great European powers can bring forward against it.
This is the case, in spite of advantages of which no other army is possessed. The Prussian, as well as the German in general, makes capital stuff for a soldier. A country, composed of extensive plains varied by large groups of mountains, furnishes material in abundance for every different arm. The general bodily aptitude for both light infantry and line infantry duty, possessed equally by the majority of the Germans, is scarcely equated by other nations. The country, possessing horses in plenty, furnishes numerous men for the cavalry, who, from their childhood, have been at home in the saddle. The deliberate steadiness of the Germans adapts them especially for the artillery service. They are, withal, among the most pugnacious people in the world, enjoying war for its own sake, and often enough going to look for it abroad, when they cannot have it at home. From the Landsknechte of the middle age to the present foreign legions of France and England, the Germans have always furnished the great mass of those mercenaries who fight for the sake of fighting. If the French excel them in agility and vivacity of onslaught, if the English are their superiors in toughness of resistance, the Germans certainly excel all other European nations in that general fitness for military duty which makes them good soldiers under all circumstances.
The Prussian officers form by far the best educated body of their class in the world. The general educational tests to which they are subjected are of a far higher standard than those of any other army. Brigade and divisional schools are maintained to complete their theoretical education; higher or more special military knowledge is provided for by numerous establishments. Prussian military literature holds a very high rank; the works it has furnished for the last twenty-five years sufficiently prove that their authors not only perfectly understood their own business, but could challenge, for general scientific information, the officers of any army. In fact, there is almost too much of a smattering of metaphysics in some of them, and this is explained by the fact that, in Berlin, Breslau, or Königsberg, you may see officers taking their seats amongst the students at the university lectures. Clausewitz is as much a standard author in his line, all over the world, as Jomini; and the works of the engineer Aster mark a new epoch in the science of fortification. Yet, the name of a “Prussian lieutenant” is a by-word all over Germany, and, indeed, the caricatured esprit de corps pedantry and impertinent manners inculcated by the general tone of the army, fully justify the fact; while nowhere are there so many old, stiff-necked martinets among the field-officers and generals as in Prussia-most of them, however, relics of 1813 and ‘15. After all, it must be acknowledged that the absurd attempt to force the Prussian line into what it can never be made to be-an army of old soldiers-deteriorates the quality of the officer as much as it does that of the soldier, and even more.
The drill-regulations in the Prussian-army are, undoubtedly, much the best in the world. Simple, consistent, based upon a few common sense principles, they leave very little to be desired. They are owing to the genius of Scharnhorst, who was, perhaps, the greatest military organizer since Maurice of Nassau. The regulations for handling large bodies of troops are equally good. The scientific manuals, however, for the artillery service, which are officially recommended to the officers, are old-fashioned and by no means up to the requirements of the present time; but this blame is confined to works bearing a more or less official stamp, and does not at all bear upon Prussian artilleristic literature in general.
The engineering body enjoy, and deservedly, a very high character. From them proceeded Aster, the first military engineer since Montalembert. They have constructed a seri@s of fortresses, from K5nigsberg and Posen to Cologne and Coblentz, which has obtained the admiration of Europe.
The equipment of the Prussian army, since the changes effected in- 1843 and ‘44, is not very handsome, but very convenient for the soldiers. The helmet is a very efficient protection against sun and rain, the clothing is loose and comfortable, the adjustment of the accoutrements still better than that adopted in France. The guards and light battalions (one to each regiment) are armed with the rifled needle-gun; the remainder of the line are having their muskets transformed, by a very simple process, into good Mini@
rifles; as to the landwehr, they, too, will, in two or three years, receive the Minié gun, but as yet they carry percussion muskets. The saber of the cavalry is too broad and crooked — most of the cuts fall flat. The material of the artillery, both in cannon, carriages, and harness, leave much to he desired.
On the whole, the Prussian army, that is, the line and first levy, forms a respectable body of men, but nothing like what Prussian patriotic authors boast. The line, once in the field, will very soon throw off the fetters of the parade-ground, and, after a few engagements, he equal to their opponents. The landwehr of the first levy, as soon as the old soldier-like spirit has been re-awakened, and if the war be popular, will equal the best old troops in Europe. What Prussia has to fear, is an active enemy during the first period of a war, when troops of superior organization, and of older standing, are brought against her; but in a protracted struggle she will have a greater proportion of old soldiers in her armies than any other European state. In the beginning of a campaign, the line will form the nucleus of the army, but the first levy will very soon push it into the shade, by the greater bodily strength and the higher military qualities of its men. They are the real old soldiers of Prussia-not the beardless youths of the line. Of the second levy we do not speak; it has yet to show what it is.
In Russia, too, a certain provision has been made for establishing cadres for the war-footing, by a scheme of reserves, similar, in some points, to the Prussian landwehr system. But, on the whole, the Russian reserve comprises such a limited number of men, and the difficulty of bringing them together from all the points of that vast empire is so great, that, as early as six months after the Anglo-French declaration of war, and before a single shot had been fired in the Crimea, the abolition of the system and the formation of new bodies, followed up since by other new formations, at once became necessary. Thus, in Russia, we must distinguish between the army as it was on the breaking out of the war, and the army as it is now.
The Russian army, in time of peace, is divided as follows: — 1. The active army — six corps of the line, Nos. 1 to 6; 2. The reserve army — one corps of guards, one corps of grenadiers, two corps of cavalry of the reserve; 3. The special corps — that of the Caucasus, that of Finland, that of Orenburg, that of Siberia; 4. The troops for inland duty — veterans, inland guards, invalids, and so forth; 5. The irregular troops. To these must be added the reserves, consisting of soldiers dismissed on furlough.
The composition of each of the six corps of the line is as follows: — it includes three divisions of infantry, consisting each of a brigade of the line and one of light infantry, each brigade consisting of two regiments, each regiment of four service-battalions; in all, six brigades or twelve regiments, comprising forty-eight battalions, with one battalion of rifles, and one of sappers; total, fifty battalions. There is also one division of light cavalry, containing one brigade of lancers, and one brigade of hussars, each of two regiments, or sixteen squadrons; total, thirty-two squadrons. The artillery consists of one division [of artillery] of three foot brigades, and one horse brigade; total, fourteen batteries or 112 guns; total, per corps, fifty battalions, thirty-two squadrons, 112 guns; grand total, 300 battalions, 192 squadrons, 672 guns.
The guards contain three divisions, or six brigades, comprising twelve regiments (nine of grenadiers, and three of carabineers, or light infantry); in all, thirty-six battalions, for the regiments of guards and grenadiers count three service-battalions only. There is also one battalion of rifles and one of sappers and miners, beside three divisions of cavalry (one cuirassiers, one lancers, one hussars), comprising six brigades or twelve regiments, and making in all seventy-two squadrons of cavalry. There is one division of five brigades and fifteen batteries (nine foot, five horse, one rockets); in all, 135 guns. The grenadier corps consists of three divisions or six brigades, comprising twelve regiments or thirty-six battalions of infantry, one battalion of rifles, and one of sappers and miners. This corps also counts one division of cavalry, including two brigades (lancers and hussars), made up of four regiments or thirty-two squadrons. The artillery consists of three foot and one horse brigade, with fourteen batteries; in all, 112 guns.
The reserve cavalry is organized as follows: — lst corps: three divisions (two of cuirassiers, one of lancers), comprising six brigades or twelve regiments; in all, eighty squadrons (forty-eight of cuirassiers, thirty-two of lancers). There is also one division of horse artillery, containing three brigades, with six batteries; in all, forty-eight guns. — 2d corps: three divisions (one lancers, two dragoons) or six brigades; including twelve regiments or 112 squadrons (thirty-two of lancers, eighty of dragoons). There are also two squadrons of mounted sappers and pontoniers, and six batteries of horse artillery, comprising forty-eight guns.
The Caucasian corps is composed of one reserve grenadier brigade, containing two regiments or six battalions; three divisions of infantry, containing twelve regiments or forty-eight battalions; one battalion of rifles, one of sappers; forty-seven battalions of the Caucasian line (militia); total, 103 battalions. The cavalry consists of one regiment of dragoons, of ten squadrons. Of artillery there is one division, with ten common and six mountain batteries, of 180 guns in all.
The Finland corps consists of one division, comprising twe, brigades or twelve battalions of infantry; that of Orenburg, of one division, likewise of two brigades, but of only ten battalions;, that of Siberia, of one division, comprising three brigades; making fifteen battalions. Finally, the grand total of the regular troops, actually under arms in time of peace, may be stated as follows: -
|6 corps of the line||300||192||672|
The troops for inland service consist of fifty-two battalions of inland guards, 800 companies of veterans and invalids, eleven and a half squadrons of gens d'armes, and ninety-eight companies of artillery. These troops can hardly be counted in an estimate of the available force of the country.
The irregular troops, mostly cavalry, form the following divisions. —
1. The Don Cossacks: -fifty-six regiments, each of six sotnias; in all, 336 sotnias, thirteen batteries.
2. The Tshornomor (Black Sea Cossacks):-seventy-two sotiiias, nine battalions, three batteries.
3. The Caucasian line Cossacks (on the Kuban and Terek):-120 sotnias and three batteries.
4. The Astrachan Cossacks:-eighteen sotnias, one battery.
5. The Orenburg Cossacks:-sixty sotnias, three batteries.
6. The Ural Cossacks:-sixty sotnias.
7. The Bashkir levy:-eighty-five sotnias, almost all Bashkirs and Kalmyks.
8. The Siberian Cossacks:-twenty-four battalions, eighty-four sotnias, three batteries, composed partly of Tungusians, Buriates, etc.
9. The Azov Cossacks, engaged in naval service.
10. The Danubian Cossacks in Bessarabia: twelve sotnias.
11. The Baikal Lake Cossacks, but recently formed, of unknown organization and strength.
The total would amount to 847 sotnias (squadrons of 100 men each, from sto, hundred), thirty-three battalions, twenty-six batteries. This would make about 90,000 men of cavalry, and 30,000 infantry. But, for actual war purposes on the western frontier, perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 cavalry, a few batteries, and none of the infantry are available.
Thus, in time of peace, the Russian army (exclusive of the inland service troops) should consist of 360,000 infantry, 70,000 cavalry, and 90,000 artillery; in all, 500,000 men; beside a number of Cossacks, varying according to circumstances. But of these 500,000 men, the local corps of the Caucasus, of Orenburg, and Siberia cannot be made available for any war on the western frontier of the empire; so that, against western Europe, not more than 260,000 infantry, 70,000 cavalry, and 50,000 artillery, with about 1,000 guns, can be used, beside some 30,000 Cossacks.
So far for the peace establishment. For the event of a war, the following provisions were made: the full time of service was twenty, twenty-two, or twenty-five years, according to circumstances. But after either ten or fifteen years, according to circumstances, the soldiers we're dismissed on furlough, after which they belonged to the reserve. The organization of this reserve has varied very much, but it appears, now, that the men on furlough belonged, during the first five years, to a reserve battalion (the fourth of each regiment in the guards and grenadiers, the fifth in the line), a reserve squadron, or a reserve battery, according to their respective arms. After the lapse of five years they passed to the depot (fifth or respectively sixth) battalion of their regiment, or to the dépôt squadron or battery. Thus, the calling-in of the reserve would raise the effective strength of the infantry and artillery about fifty per cent., of the cavalry about twenty per cent. These reserves were to be commanded by retired officers, and their cadres, if not in full organization, were nevertheless, to a certain degree, prepared.
But when the war broke out, all this was altered. The active army had to send two divisions to the Caucasus, though it was destined to fight on the western frontier. Before the Anglo-French troops embarked for the east, three corps of the active army (the third, fourth, and fifth) were engaged in the campaign against the Turks. At that period, indeed, the reserves were concentrating, but it took an enormous length of time before the men could be brought up to their respective headquarters from all points of the empire. The allied armies and fleets in the Baltic and Black Seas, as well as the wavering policy of Austria, necessitated more vigorous measures; the levies were doubled and tripled, and the motley mass of recruits, thus got together, were formed, along with the reserves, into fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth battalions for all the infantry regiments, while a similar increase was made in the cavalry. Thus, the eight corps of guards, grenadiers, and line, instead of 376 battalions, now muster about 800, while, for every two squadrons or batteries of the peace establishment, at least one of reserve has been added. All these figures, however, look more formidable on paper than in reality; for, what with the corruption of the Russian officials, the mal-administration of the army, and the enormous length of the marches from the homes of the men to the depots, from the depots to the points of concentration of the corps, and from thence to the seat of war, a great proportion of the men are lost or invalided before they come to meet the enemy. Besides, the ravages of disease, and the losses in battle, during the two last campaigns, have been very serious, and, altogether, we do not think that the 1,000 battalions, 800 squadrons, and 200 batteries of the Russian army, can much exceed, at present, 600,000 men.
But the government was not satisfied with this. With a promptitude which shows how fully it is aware of the difficulty of bringing together large masses of men from the various portions of this vast empire, it decreed the levy of the militia as soon as the organization of the seventh and eighth battalions was completed. The militia, or opoltshenie, was to be organized in druginas (battalions) of 1,000 each, in proportion to the population of each province; twenty-three men out of every 1,000 males, or nearly one-quarter per cent. of the population were to serve. For the time being, the opoltshenic was called out in the western provinces only. This levy, made upon a population of 18,000,000, comprising about 9,000,000 males, must have produced about 120,000 men, and this agrees with what the reports from Russia state. There is no doubt that the militia will prove, in every respect, inferior even to the newly formed reserve, but, at all events, it is a valuable addition to the forces of Russia, and, if employed to do garrison duty in Poland, it can set free a good many regiments of the line.
On the other hand, not only many Cossacks, but even considerable numbers of Bashkirs, Kalmyks, Kirghiz, Tungusians, and other Mongol levies have arrived on the western frontier. This shows how early they were ordered westwards, for many of them had above a twelve-month’s march to make before they could arrive at St. Petersburg, or on the Vistula.
Thus, Russia has taxed her military resources almost to the utmost; and, after two years’ campaigning, during which time she has lost no decisive battle, she cannot muster more than 600,000 to 650,000 regular troops, with 100,000 militia, and perhaps 50,000 irregular cavalry. We do not mean to say that she is exhausted; but, there is no doubt, that now, after two years’ war, she could not do what France did after twenty years’ war, and after the total loss of her finest army in 1812: pour forth a fresh body of 300,000 men and arrest, for a time, at least, the onslaught of the enemy. So enormous is the difference, in military strength, between a densely and a thinly populated country. If France bordered on Russia, the 66,000,000 inhabitants of Russia would be weaker than the 38,000,000 French. That the 44,000,000 Germans are more than a match for the 66,000,000 subjects of the orthodox Czar, there is not the slightest doubt.
The Russian army is recruited in various ways. The great body of the men is raised by the regular levy, which takes place one year in the western, and the next in the eastern provinces of Russia in Europe. The general percentage is four or five men levied out of every 1,000 (male) “souls;” for in the Russian census the males only are counted, as, according to the orthodox belief of the east, the women do not constitute “souls.” Those from the western half of the empire serve twenty, those from the eastern half twenty-five years. The guards serve twenty-two years; young men from the military colonies twenty years. Beside these levies, the soldiers’ sons are a fertile source of recruits. Every son born to a soldier while in service is obliged to serve; and this principle is carried so far that children borne by soldiers’ wives are claimed by the state, though the husband may have been at the other end of the empire for five or ten years. These soldiers’ children are called cantonists, and most of them are educated at the expense of the government; from them most of the non-commissioned officers are taken. Finally, criminals, vagabonds, and other good-for-nothing individuals, are sentenced, by the courts of law, to serve in the army. A nobleman has the right of sending a serf, if otherwise able-bodied, into the army; and every father, when dissatisfied with his son, can do the same. “S'bogom idt pod Krasnuyu shapkoo.” Begone, then, with God, and put the red cap on — that is to say, go into the army — is a common saying of the Russian peasant to a disobedient son.
The non-commissioned officers, as we have said, are mostly recruited from the soldiers’ sons, educated in government establishments. From early boyhood subject to military discipline, these lads have nothing whatever in common with the men whom they are, subsequently, to instruct and direct. They form a class separate from the people. They belong to the state-they cannot exist without it: once thrown upon their own resources, they are fit for nothing. To get on, then, under the government, is their only object. What the lower class of employés, recruited from the sons of employés, are in the Russian civil service, these men are in the army: a set of cunning, low-minded, narrowly-egotistical subordinates, endowed with a smattering of elementary education, which almost renders them more despicable; ambitious from vanity and love of gain; sold, life and soul, to the state, and yet trying, daily and hourly, to sell the state, in detail, whenever they can make a profit by it. A fine specimen of this class is the feldjäger or courier who accompanied M. de Custine during his travels in Russia, and who is admirably portrayed in that gentleman’s account of Russia. It is this class of men, both in the civil and military branches, which principally foments the immense corruption pervading all branches of the public service in that country. But as it is, there is no doubt that, if this system of total appropriation of the children, by the state, were done away with, Russia would not be able to find a sufficient number of civil subaltern employés and military non-commissioned officers.
With the class of officers it is, perhaps, still worse. The education given to a future corporal or sergeant-major is a comparatively cheap article; but to educate officers for an army of one million (and that is the number for which the Russian cadres, officially speaking, should be prepared) is a costly affair. Private establishments do nothing or little for the purpose. The state, again, must do everything. But it evidently cannot educate such a mass of young men as are required for this use. Consequently, the sons of the nobility are, by a direct moral compulsion, induced to serve for at least five or ten years in the army or the civil service; for every family in which three consecutive generations have not “served,” loses its privilege of nobility, and especially the right to own serfs — a right without which, in Russia, extensive landed property is worse than valueless. Thus, vast numbers of young men are brought into the army with the rank of ensign or lieutenant, whose entire education consists, at the best, in a certain fluency in French conversation on the most ordinary topics, and some little smattering of elementary mathematics, geography and history — the whole drummed into them for mere show. To them, to serve is an ugly necessity, to be gone through, like a prolonged medical treatment, with unfeigned disgust; and as soon as the prescribed time of service has elapsed, or the grade of major is attained, they retire, and are inscribed on the rolls of the depot battalions. As to the pupils of the military schools, they, too, have almost all been crammed so as to pass the examinations; and they are, even in mere professional knowledge, far behind the young men from the Austrian, the Prussian, or French military schools. On the other hand, young men of talent, application, and passion for their special branch, are so rare in Russia that they are seized upon wherever they show themselves, he they foreigners or natives. With the greatest liberality, the state provides them with all the means for completing their studies, and gives them rapid promotion. Such men are used to show off Russian civilization before Europe. If they are inclined to literary pursuits, they meet with every encouragement so long as they do not overstep the bounds of Russian government requirements, and it is they who. have furnished what little there is of value in Russian military literature. But up to the present time, the Russians of all classes are too fundamentally barbarous to find any enjoyment in scientific pursuits or head-work of any kind (except intrigues), and, therefore, almost all their distinguished men in the military service are either foreigners, or, what nearly amounts to the same, “ostzeïski,” Germans from the Baltic provinces. So was the last and most distinguished specimen of this class, General Todtleben, the chief engineer at Sebastopol, who died in July from the effects of a wound. He was certainly the cleverest man at his trade in the whole siege, either in the Russian or the Allied camp; but he was a Baltic German, of Prussian extraction.
In this manner the Russian army has among its officers the very best and the very worst men, only that the former are present in an infinitesimally small proportion. What the Russian government thinks of its officers it has plainly and unmistakably shown in its own tactical regulations. These regulations do not merely prescribe a general mode of placing a brigade, division, or army-corps in action, a so-called “normal disposition,” which the commander is expected to vary according to the ground and other circumstances, but they prescribe different normal dispositions for all the different cases possible, leaving the general no choice whatever, and tying him down in a manner which, as much as possible, takes all responsibility from his shoulders. An army-corps, for instance, can be arranged, in battle, in five different ways, according to the regulations; and, at the Alma, the Russians were actually arrayed according to one of them-the third disposition-and, of course, they were beaten. This mania of prescribing abstract rules for all possible cases, leaves so little liberty of action to the commander, and even forbids him to use advantages of ground to such an extent, that a Prussian general in criticising it says:
“Such a system of regulations can he tolerated in an army, only, the majority of whose generals are so imbecile, that the government cannot safely intrust them with an unconditional command, or leave them to their own judgment.”
The Russian soldier is one of the bravest men in Europe. His tenacity almost equals that of the English and of certain Austrian battalions. As John Bull boasts of himself, he does not know when he is beaten. Russian squares of infantry have resisted, and fought hand to hand, a long while after the cavalry had ‘ broken them; and it has always been found easier to shoot them down than to drive them back. Sir George Cathcart, who saw them in 1813 and ‘14, as allies, and in 1854 in the Crimea, as enemies, gives them the honorable testimonial that they are “incapable of panic.” Beside this, the Russian soldier is well made, healthy, a good marcher, a man of few wants, who can eat and drink almost anything, and more obedient to his officers than any other soldier in the world. And yet the Russian army is not much to boast of. Never, since Russia was Russia, have the Russians won a single battle against either Germans, French, Poles, or English, without being vastly superior in numbers. At even odds, they have always been beaten by any army, except Turks or Prussians; and at Citate and Silistria, the Turks, though inferior in numbers, defeated them.
The Russians are, above all things, the clumsiest soldiers in the world. They are not fit either for light infantry or for light cavalry duty. The Cossacks, capital light cavalry as they are in some respects, are so unreliable generally, that before the enemy a second line of out-posts is always placed in the rear of the line of Cossack out-posts. Beside, the Cossacks are totally unfit for a charge. As to the regular troops, infantry and cavalry, they are not fit to act in skirmishing order. The Russian, imitator as he is in everything, will do anything if ordered or compelled, but will do nothing if he has to act upon his own responsibility; in fact, this term can hardly be applied to a being who never knew what responsibility was, and who will go to be shot at with the same passive obedience as if he were ordered to pump water, or to whip a comrade. To expect from the Russian soldier, when acting on out-post duty or in skirmishing order, the rapid glance of the Frenchman, or the plain common sense of the German, would be an insult to him. What he requires is command-clear, distinct command — and if he does not get it, he will perhaps not go backwards, but he will certainly not go forwards, nor use his own senses.
The cavalry, though a deal of expense and care has been bestowed upon it, has never been excellent. Neither in the wars against the French, nor in that against Poland, did the cavalry distinguish itself. The passive, patient, enduring obedience of the Russians is not what is wanted in cavalry. The first quality of the horseman is just what the Russian lacks most: “dash” Thus, when the 600 English dragoons, with all the daring and pluck of real horsemen, dashed at the numerically far superior Russians at Balaklava, they rode down before them Russian artillery, Cossacks, hussars, lancers, until they came to the solid columns of the infantry; then they had to turn back; yet, in that cavalry action, it is still doubtful who deserves to be called the victor. If such a senseless charge had been made against any other army, not a man would have returned; the enemy would have taken them in flank and rear, and cut them down singly. But the Russian horsemen actually awaited them standing, and were ridden down before they thought of moving their horses! Surely, if anything should condemn the Russian regular cavalry, it is such a fact as this.
The artillery is provided with a material of unequal quality, but where it has good guns, it will do its duty well. It will display great bravery in the field, but it will always be found wanting in intelligence. A Russian battery which has lost its officers is good for nothing; and while the officers live, it can only take the positions, often absurd, prescribed by the regulations. When besieged in a fortress where patient endurance and constant exposure to danger are required, the Russian artillery will distinguish itself, not so much by precision of aim, as by devotion to duty and steadiness under fire. The whole of the siege of Sebastopol proves this.
In the artillery and engineers, however, are to be found those well-educated officers whom Russia shows off before Europe, and who are really encouraged to use their talents freely. While in Prussia, for instance, the best men, when subalterns, have usually been so thwarted by their superiors, and while all their proposed improvements have been snubbed as presumptuous attempts at innovation, so that many of them have had to seek employment in Turkey, where they have made the regular artillery one of the best in Europe — in Russia, all such men are encouraged, and, if they distinguish themselves, make a rapid and brilliant career. Diebitsch and Paskiewitsch were generals at twenty-nine and thirty years of age, and Todtleben, at Sebastopol, in less than eight months was advanced from a captain to a major-general.
The great boast of the Russians is their infantry. It is of very great solidity, and, used in line or column, or behind breastworks, will always be awkward to deal with. But here its good qualities end. Almost totally unfit for light infantry duty (the so-called chasseurs are light infantry in name only, and the eight battalions of rifles attached to the line corps are the only real light infantry in the service), usually bad marksmen, good but slow marchers, their columns are generally so badly placed that it will always be possible to pound them well with artillery before they are charged. The “normal dispositions,” from which the generals dare not deviate, contribute a great deal toward this. At the Alma, for instance, the British artillery made terrible havoc amongst the Russian columns long before the equally clumsy British line had formed, defiled across the river and re-formed for the charge. But even the boast of solid tenacity must be taken with a considerable grain of salt, since at Inkermann 8,000 British infantry, surprised in a position but incompletely and slovenly occupied, resisted, in hand to hand fight, the 15,000 Russians brought against them for more than four hours, and actually repelled every renewed attack. This battle must have shown the Russians that, upon their own favorite ground, they had found their masters. It was the bravery of the British soldiers and the intelligence and presence of mind of both non-commissioned officers and soldiers which defeated all the attempts of the Russians; and from this battle we must consider as justified, the claim of the British to the title of the first infantry of the line in the world.
The clothing of the Russian army is a pretty close imitation of that of the Prussians. Their accoutrements are very badly adjusted; not only the belts for bayonets and cartridge pouch are crossed over the chest, but also the straps which hold the knapsack. There are, however, some alterations being made just now, but whether they affect this point, we do not know. The small arms are very clumsy, and have only been lately provided with percussion caps; a Russian musket is the heaviest and most unwieldy thing of its kind. The cavalry swords are of a bad model and badly tempered. Of the guns, the new ones taken in the Crimea, are described as very good and of excellent workmanship; but whether that is uniformly the case is very doubtful.
Finally, the Russian army still bears the stamp of an institution in advance of the general state of civilization of the country, and has all the disadvantages and drawbacks of such hot-house creations. In petty warfare, the Cossacks are the only troops to be feared, from their activity and indefatigability; but their love of drink and plunder makes them very unreliable for their commander. In grand war, the slowness with which the Russians move will make their strategic maneuvers little to be feared, unless they have to deal with such negligent opponents as the English were last autumn. In a pitched battle, they will be obstinate opponents to the soldiers, but not very troublesome to the generals who attack them. Their dispositions are generally very simple, founded upon their prescribed normal rules, and easy to be guessed at; while the want of intelligence in both general and field officers, and the clumsiness of the troops, make it a matter of great risk for them to undertake important maneuvers on a battle field.
Bavaria has two army-corps, of two divisions each. Each division contains two brigades of infantry (four regiments of infantry and one battalion of rifles), one brigade of cavalry, containing two regiments, and three foot and one horse batteries. Each army-corps has, beside, a general reserve of artillery, of six foot batteries, and a detachment of sappers and miners. Thus, the whole army forms sixteen regiments of three battalions each, with six battalions of rifles, in all, fifty-four battalions; two regiments of cuirassiers, and six of light dragoons, in all, forty-eight squadrons; two regiments of foot artillery (of six six-pounder and six twelve-pounder batteries each), and one of horse artillery (four six-pounder batteries), in all, twenty-eight batteries of eight guns each, making 224 guns, beside six companies of garrison artillery, and twelve train companies; there are also one regiment of engineers, of eight companies, and two sanitary companies. The whole strength, on the war-footing, is 72,000 men, beside a reserve and landwehr, the cadres of which, however, do not exist.
Of the army of the Germanic Confederation, Austria furnishes the 1st, 2d, and 3d corps; Prussia the 4th, 5th, and 6th; Bavaria the 7th. The 8th corps is furnished by Württemberg, Baden, and Hesse-Darmstadt.
Württemberg has eight regiments (sixteen battalions) of infantry, four of cavalry (sixteen squadrons), one regiment of artillery (four foot and three horse-batteries, with forty-eight guns). Total, about 19,000 men on the war-footing.
Baden keeps four regiments (eight battalions), two fusileer battalions, one rifle battalion; in all, ten battalions of infantry, with three regiments, or twelve squadrons of cavalry, and four foot and five horse-batteries, containing together forty guns. Total, on the war-footing, 15,000 men.
Hesse-Darmstadt has four regiments or eight battalions of infantry, one regiment or six squadrons of light horse, and three batteries of artillery (one mounted) of eighteen guns. Total, 10,000 men.
The only peculiarity of the 7th and 8th army-corps is, that they have adopted the French gun-carriage for the artillery. The 9th federal army corps is formed by the kingdom of Saxony, which furnishes one division, and Electoral Hesse and Nassau, which furnish the second.
The quota of Saxony is four brigades of infantry, of four battalions each, and one of rifles, of four battalions; beside four battalions of the line, and one battalion of rifles as a reserve, still unorganized; four regiments of light horse, of five squadrons each; one artillery regiment, six foot and two horse-batteries. Total, twenty battalions of infantry, twenty squadrons and fifty guns; or 24,500 men on the war-footing. In Electoral Hesse there are four regiments or eight battalions, with one battalion of fusileers and one of rifles; two squadrons of cuirassiers, seven squadrons of hussars; three batteries, of which one of horse artillery. Total, ten battalions, nine squadrons, nineteen guns, and 12,000 men on the war-footing. Nassau affords seven battalions, 2 batteries, or 7,000 men, and twelve guns, on the war-footing.
The 10th army-corps consists of Hanover and Brunswick, which maintain the first division; and of Mecklenburg, Holstein, Oldenburg, and the Hanse towns, which furnish the second division. Hanover furnishes eight regiments or sixteen battalions, and four battalions of light infantry; six regiments or twenty-four squadrons of cavalry, and four foot and two horse-batteries. Total, 22,000 men, and thirty-six guns. The artillery is on the English model. Brunswick furnishes five battalions, four squadrons, and twelve guns, in all, 5,300 men. The small States of the second division are not worth mentioning.
Finally, the smallest of the small fry of German States form a reserve division, with which the entire army of the German Confederation, on the war-footing, may be summed up in a table, as follows: -
|I. CONTINGENTS.||II. RESERVE CONTINGENTS.|
This of course does not represent the real armed force of the Confederation, as, in case of need, Prussia, Austria, and Bavaria would furnish far more than the above contingents. The troops of the 10th corps and reserve division, perhaps, also, those of the 9th corps, would form the garrisons, so as not to interfere, by their multifarious organizations and peculiarities, with the rapidity of field operations. The military qualities of these armies are more or less the same as those of the Austrian and Prussian soldiers; but, of course, these small bodies furnish no occasion for developing military talents, and many old-fashioned arrangements exist among them.
In a third and concluding article, we shall consider the Spanish, Sardinian, Turkish and other armies of Europe.