ATTACK

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ATTACK. Every combat consists of attack and defence: the first, with few exceptions, will always be more advantageous: hence an experienced general chooses it, if possible, even in a defensive war. Nothing is more ruinous than to lose its advantage; and it is one of the most important objects to deprive an adversary of it, and to confine him to the defensive. The attack is directed according to the condition and position of the enemy, according to the purpose of the war, according to place, time and circumstances. Many modes and combinations are allowable. The simplest and most unexpected form will be the best. On the dexterity and courage of the troops, the correct and quick execution of the attack will depend. Those attacks are the best, where all the forces can be directed in conceit towards that point of the enemy on which his position depends. If he be beaten at this point, the resistance at others will be without concert or energy. Sometimes it may be of advantage to attack the weakest side of the enemy, if in this way a fatal blow can be given to him; otherwise, an attack at this point is not advisable, because it leads to no decisive results, leaves the stronger points to be overcome afterwards, and divides the force of the assailant. In most cases, the enemy may be defeated, if his forces can be divided, and the several parts attacked in detail. The worst form of attack is that which extends the assailing troops in long, weak lines, or scatters them in diverging directions. It is always unfortunate to adopt half measures, and not aim to attain the object at any price. Instead of saving power, these consume it in fruitless efforts, and sacrifices are made in vain. Feeble assaults and protracted sieges are of this ruinous character. The forms of attack in a battle, which have been used from the earliest times, are divided by the tacticians into, 1, the parallel. This is the most natural form, and even the troops attacked strive as much as possible to preserve it; for as long as they can do so, they retain their connexion, and the power of applying their force as occasion may require ; but, for this very reason, it is not the best form of attack, because it leaves the defensive party too long in possession of his advantages. 2. The form in which both the wings attack, and the centre is kept back. Where the front of the enemy is weak (the only case in which it is practicable), it appears, indeed, overpowering. 3. The form in which the centreis pushed forward, and the wings kept back, will hardly ever be chosen, on account of several evident disadvantages. 4. The famous oblique mode, where one wing advances to engage, whilst the other is kept back, and occupies the attention of the enemy by pretending an attack. Epaminondas, if not the inventor of this form, knew, at least, how to employ it to the greatest advantage. Whilst the wing which remained behind engaged the attention of the enemy, he increased, continually, the strength of the one advancing, which he led against the flank of the enemy, with a view of overpowering it by numerical superiority. The success of this mode is almost certain, provided the enemy takes no measures against it. In our times, this form of attack is executed in another way :whilst engaging the enemy, his flank is surrounded by detached corps, which fall, at the same time, on his rear. If he suffers this quietly, he is vanquished. The enemy's attention is kept occupied, during such operations, mostly by feigned attacks or movements, which are called, in general, demonstrations, and are intended to keep him in error concerning the real object. (On the attack of fortresses, see the article Siege.) Field fortifications are attacked with columns, if possible, from several sides at the same time, and with impetuosity. Commonly, the artillery breaks a way beforehand, destroys the works, and disturbs the garrison.