BATTLE

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BATTLE. The object of a war may be obtained in two different ways: either one party forces the enemy, by skilful manoeuvres, marches, demonstrations, the occupation of advantageous positions, &c, to quit the field (which belongs to the province of strategy) ; or the hostile masses approach each other {by design or by chance), so that a battle becomes necessary to determine which shall keep the field. The rules for insuring a successful issue, whether they respect the preparations for the conflict, or the direction of the forces when actually engaged, belong to tactics, in the narrower sense of the word. Strategy also shows the causes which bring armies together, and produce battles without any agreement between the parties. It belongs not to this article to explain this point. It may be sufficient to say, in general, that armies, in their marches (and consequently in their meeting), are chiefly determined by the course of the mountains and rivers of a countiy. In ancient times and the middle ages, the battleground was often chosen by agreement, and then the battle was a mere trial of strength, a duel en gros; but, in our time, such trifling is done away. War is now carried on for the real or pretended interest of a nation, or a ruler who thinks or pretends that his interest is that of the nation. Wars are not undertaken for the purpose of fighting, and battles are merely the consequence of pursuing the purpose of the war. They arise from one party's striving to prevent the other from gaining his object. Every means, therefore, of winning the battle is resorted to, and an agreement can hardly be thought of. In this respect, a land battle is entirely different from a naval BATTLE. The former is intended merely to remove an obstacle in the way of gaining the object of the war; the destruction of the enemy, therefore, is not the first thing sought for. The views of one party can often be carried into effect with very little efiusion of blood ; and if a general can obtain the same end by manoeuvring as by a battle, he certainly prefers the former. But the object of a naval engagement is, almost always^ the destruction of the enemy; those cases only excepted, in which a fleet intends to bring supplies or reinforcements to a blockaded port, and is obliged to fight to accomplish its purpose.As the armies of the ancients were not so well organ ized as those of the moderns, and the combatants fought very little at a distance, after the battle had begun, manoeuvres were much more difficult, and troops, when actually engaged, were almost entirely beyond the control of the general. With them, therefore, the battle depended almost wholly upon the previous arrangements, and the valor of the troops. Not so in modern times. The finest combinations, the most ingenious manoeuvres, are rendered possible by the better organization of the armies, which thus, generally at least, remain under the control ofjthe general. The battle of the ancients was the rude beginning of an art now much developed. It is the skill of the general, rather than the courage of the soldier, that now determines the event of a battled Tliere is, probably, no situation, whic$ requires the simultaneous exertion of ail the* powers of the mind more than that of a general at the decisive moment of a BATTLE. While the soldier can yield himself entirely to the impulse of his courage, the general must coolly calculate the most various combinations ; while the soldier retreats, the general must endeavor to turn the tide of battle by his ardor or his genius. Daring courage, undaunted firmness, the most active and ingenious invention, cool calculation and thorough selfpossession, amid scenes of tremendous agitation, and under the consciousness that the fate of a whole nation may depend on him alone in the trying moment,these are the qualities which a good general cannot dispense with for a moment. If it is the character of genius to conceive great ideas instantaneously^ military genius is, in this respect, the greatest. Great generals have therefore been, in all ages, the objects of admiration ; and as a great artist 'may be no example, in a moral point of view, although we admire the genius displayed in his productions, so we cannot but bestow the same kind of admiration on the high intellectual gifts of a great general. Few situations, therefore, enable a man to acquire higher glory, than that of a great commander in a good cause.If troops meet accidentally, and are thus obliged to fight, it is called a rencontre. Further, battles are distinguished into offensive and defensive. Of course, a battle which is offensive for one side is defensive for the other. Tacticians divide a battle into three periodsthat of the disposition, that of the combat, and the decisive moment. The general examines the strength, reconnoitres the position, and endeavors to learn the intention of the enemy. If the enemy conceals his plan and position, skirmishes and partial assaults are often advisable, in order to disturb him, to obtain a view of his movements, to induce him to advance, or with the view of making prisoners, who may be questioned, 6oc. Since the general cannot direct all these operations in person, officers of the start' and aids assist him; single scouts or small bodies are sent out, and spies are employed. Any person or thing (ministers, peasants, shepherds, maps, &c), which can afford information ot the enemy, or the ground on which the battle is likely to take place, is made use of for obtaining intelligence, by force or otherwise. According to the knowledge thus acquired, and the state of the troops, the plan of the battle, or the disposition, is made; and here military genius has an opportunity to display itself There is an immense difference between the quick, clear and ingenious disposition of a great general, which shows the leading features of the plan to every commander under him, and provides for all cases, favorable or unfavorable, with a few distinct touches, without depriving the different commanders of freedom of action, and the slow, indistinct, minute, and, after all, inaccurate dispositions of a feeble commander. Napoleon's dispositions are real masterpieces. Like a great artist, he delineates, with a few strokes, the whole character of the battle; and as the disciples of Raphael assisted in the painting of his pictures, but necessarily worked in the great style of their master, which his first lines gave to the picture, so all the skilful generals under Napoleon labored for the accomplishment of one great end, sometimes disclosed to them, sometimes concealed in the breast of the commander. To the disposition also belongs the detaching of large bodies which are to cooperate in the battle, but not under the immediate command of the chief. The plan of the battle itself, the position of the troops, &c, is called the order of battle (ordre de bataille). This is either the parallel, or the enclosing (if the enemy cannot develope his forces, or you are strongenough to outflank him), or the oblique. (See Attack.)* When each division of troops has taken its position, and received its orders, and the weaker points have been fortified (if time allows it), the artillery placed on the most favorable points, ajl chasms connected by bridges; villages, woods, &c, taken possession of} and all impediments removed as far as possible (which very often cannot be done, except by fighting), then comes the second periodthat of the engagement. The combat begins, either on several points ax a given signal, as is the case when the armies are very large, and a general attack is* On the oblique order of battle, see Mtfonges I iii dicte au comte de Mantholon; and Precis des Guerres de Frederic II ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA.U ATTLEAXE ; a weapon much used in the early part of the middle ages, particularly by the people who fought on foot. It was not uncommon, however, among the knights, who used also the mace, a species of iron club or hammer. Both are to be seen in the different collections of old arms in Europe. Both these weapons, and another kind, called, in German, Morgenstern (morning star), consisting of a staff, having an iron ball at the end, with cross iron spikes, served to give stunning blows, whose force was felt through the iron armor of the knights. Knights used chiefly the Morgenstern and the mace. The Greeks and Romans did not employ the battleaxe, though it was found among contemporary nations. In fact, the axe is one of the earliest weapons, its use, as an instrument of domestic industry, naturally suggesting its application for purposes of offence ; but, at the same time, it will always be abandoned as soon as the art of fencing, attacking and guarding is the least cultivated ; because the heavier the blow given with this instrument, the more will it expose the fighter. It is a weapon which affords hardly any guard, and it never would have remained so long in use in the middle ages, had it not been for the iron armor, which protected the body from every thing but heavy blows. In England, Ireland and Scotland, the battleaxe was much employed. At the battle of Bannockburn, king Robert Bruce clave an English champion down to the chine with one blow of his axe. A blow of equal force was given by a Suabian knight, in the Levant, in presence of the German emperor. The Lochaber axe remained a formidable implement of de struction in the hands of the Highlanders nearly to the present period, and is still used, by the cityguard of Edmburgh, in quelling riots, &c.