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Small Wars

Their Principles and Practice





Publisher's imprint
Publisher's imprint


By HARRISON and SONS, 15-47, St. Martin's Lane, W.C.,
PRINTERS in Ordinary to His Majesty.


To be purchased, either directly or through any Bookseller, from
WYMAN and SONS, Ltd., 29, Breams Buildings, Fetter Lane, E.G., and
54, St. Mary Street, Cardiff; or
H.M. STATIONERY OFFICE (Scottish Branch), 23, Forth Street, Edinburgh; or
E. PONSONBY, Ltd 116, Grafton Street, Dublin,
or from the Agencies in the British Colonies and Dependencies,
the United States of America, the Continent, of Europe and Abroad of


(Reprinted 1914.)
Price Four Shillings.


In preparing this new edition for the press, advantage has been taken of experiences gained in campaigns which have taken place since the book was originally compiled. These include the French advance to Antananarivo and their later operations in Madagascar, the guerilla warfare in Cuba previous to the American intervention, the suppression of the rebellions in Rhodesia, the operations beyond the Panjab frontier in 1897-98, the re-conquest of the Sudan, the operations of the United States troops against the Filipinos, and many minor campaigns in Bast and West Africa.

Some of the later chapters have been re-arranged and in part re-written, and new chapters have been added on hill warfare and bush warfare. Useful hints have been obtained from the notes which Lieut.-Colonel Septans, French Marine Infantry, has incorporated in his translation of the first edition. An index has been added.

My acknowledgments are due to the many officers who have afforded valuable information, and who have aided in revising the proofs.

Chas. E. Callwell,
Major, R.A.

July, 1899.


This book has now been revised and brought up to date by the author, Colonel C. E. Callwell. It is recommended to officer as a valuable contribution on the subject of the conduct of small wars. It is full of useful facts and information on all the details which must be considered in the management of those minor expeditions in which the British Army is so frequently engaged. But it is not to be regarded as laying down inflexible rules for guidance, or as an expression of official opinion on the subjects of which it treats.

Chief of the General Staff.



Meaning of the term "Small War" 21  
General scope of the work 22
Arrangement adopted 22
General treatment 23
Causes of small wars as affecting their conditions.
The various kinds of adversaries met with.
Classes into which these campaigns may be divided 25
Campaigns of conquest and annexation and their characteristics 25
Examples 25
The suppression of insurrections and lawlessness, and its features 26
This, a frequent sequel to conquest and annexation 26
Examples 27
Campaigns to wipe out an insult or avenge a wrong 27
Examples 28
Campaigns for the overthrow of a dangerous power 28
Campaigns of expediency 28
The great variety in the natures of enemy to be dealt with 29
Opponents with a form of regular organization 29
Highly disciplined but badly armed opponents 30
Fanatics 30
The Boers 31
Guerillas, civilized and savage 31
Armies of savages in the bush 32
Enemies who fight mounted 32
The importance of studying the hostile mode of war 32


The objective in small wars.
Selection of objective in the first place governed by the cause of the campaign 34
Cases where the hostile country has a definite form of government 34
The question of the importance of the capital as an objective 35
When the capital is a place of real importance in the country its capture generally disposes of regular opposition 36
The great advantage of having a clear and well defined objective 37
Tirah, a peculiar case  
Objective when the purpose of hostilities is the overthrow of a dangerous military power 39
Objective when there is no capital and no army 40
Raids on live stock 40
Destruction of crops, etc. 40
Suppression of rebellions 41
Special objectives 42
Conclusion 42


Difficulties under which the regular forces labour as regards intelligence. The advantage is usually enjoyed by the enemy in this respect, but this circumstance can sometimes be turned to account.
Absence of trustworthy information frequent in small wars 43
Want of knowledge may be as to the theatre of war or as to the enemy 43
Illustrations of effect of uncertainty as to routes 44
Illustrations of effect of uncertainty as to resources of theatre 45
Illustrations of effect of uncertainty as to exact position of localities 45
Uncertainty in the mind of the commander reacts upon his plan of operations 46
Effect of doubt as to strength and fighting qualities of the enemy 47
Examples 47
Uncertainty as to extent to which the hostile population itself, and the neighbouring tribes, etc., will take part in the campaign 49
Example of Ambela 49
Difficulty of eliciting correct information from natives 49
Treachery 60
Uncertainty as to movements and intentions of enemy prevails in all classes of warfare 51
Difference in this respect between regular warfare and small wars; reasons for it 51
Advantages enjoyed by the enemy as regards intelligence 53
Knowledge of theatre of war 53
The enemy seems always to know the movements of the regular army 53
This can be turned to account by publishing false information as to intentions 54
Conclusions arrived at in chapter only to be considered as generally applicable 55


The influence of the question of supply upon small wars and the extent to which it must govern the plan of operations.
Small wars when they are campaigns against nature are mainly so owing to supply 57
Reasons for this  
Connection between supply and transport 58
Supply trains in small wars 58
Difficulties as to supply tend to limit the force employed 60
The question of water 60
Supply a matter of calculation, but there is always great risk of this being upset by something unforeseen 62
Rivers as affecting supply in small wars 63
The boat expeditions to the Red River and up the Nile 64
Principle of holding back the troops and pushing on supplies ahead of them 65
Examples illustrating this 66
Example of a theatre of war being selected owing to reasons of supply 67
The Nile Expedition a remarkable illustration of the subject of this chapter 68
Sketch of this campaign from the point of view of supply 68


Boldness and vigour the essence of effectively conducting such operations.
The initiative 71
Forced upon the regular army to start with 71
Promptitude at the outset of less moment than the maintenance of the initiative when operations have begun 72
Reasons for this 72
Examples of evil consequences which arise from insufficient organization when the campaign is in progress 74
Examples of decisive results being obtained by promptitude at the outset 74
Strategical offensive essential 75
This not incompatible with tactical defensive 76
Effect of decisive action upon waverers in the hostile ranks and upon those hesitating to throw in their lot with the enemy 76
Even when the regular army is obliged to act strategically on the defensive this must not be a passive defensive 77
Great impression made upon the enemy by bold and resolute action 78
The importance of following up successes with vigour 70
Small forces can at times perform exploits of great subsequent importance by means of bluff 80
Examples 81
Conclusion 83


Tactics favour the regular army while strategy favours the enemy, therefore the object is to fight, not to manoeuvre.
The regular forces are at a disadvantage from the point of view of strategy 85
Communications a main cause of this 85
Enemy has little anxiety as to communications, and operations cannot be directed against them 86
Examples of this 87
The enemy's mobility benefits him strategically 87
His power of sudden concentration and dispersion 88
Note that the mobility of the enemy does not necessarily prevent strategical surprises by the regulars 89
The better organized the enemy the less does he enjoy the strategical advantage 90
On the battle-field the advantage passes over to the regular forces 90
Reasons for the tactical superiority of the organized army 90
Since tactical conditions are favourable, while strategical conditions are the reverse, the object is to bring matters to a tactical issue. Usually better to fight the enemy than to manoeuvre him out of his position 91
Example of Tel-el-Kebir 92
Objection to elaborate manoeuvres as compared to direct action 92
Circumstances when this principle does not hold good 94
The question of the wounded 95
How this may hamper the regular troops strategically 96


To avoid desultory warfare the enemy must be brought to battle, and in such manner as to make his defeat decisive.
Prolonged campaigns to be avoided 97
Reasons for this 97
Troops suffer from disease 97
Supply difficulties render protracted operations undesirable 98
Enemy gains time to organize his forces 98
Desultory operations tend to prolong a campaign 98
Guerilla warfare very unfavourable to regular troops 99
Indecisive conduct of campaign tends to desultory warfare 100
Examples 100
Skirmishes should be avoided 102
Sometimes desirable to conceal strength so as to encourage enemy to fight 102
General engagements the object to be aimed at 103
Examples 103
Campaigns where circumstances oblige the enemy to adopt a decisive course of action are the most satisfactory 105
Owing to difficulty of getting enemy to accept battle, it is expedient to ensure a decisive victory when he does so 106
Battles sometimes to be avoided if losses cannot be risked 107


Division of force, often necessitated by the circumstances, is less objectionable in these campaigns than in regular warfare.
Usual objections to division of force 108
Conditions of campaign often render it unavoidable in small wars 108
Moral effect of numerous columns 109
Enemy unable to profit by the situation and confused by several invading forces 110
Examples 111
Several columns have advantage that, even if some fail to make way, others succeed 111
Separation only permissible if each portion can stand by itself 112
Difficulty of judging requisite strength 112
Separation dangerous when superiority is not established 113
Difficulty of calculating upon exact co-operation between two separated forces intended to unite for some particular object 113


Lines ok communications, their liability to attack, the drain they are upon the army, and the circumstances under which they can be dispensed with.
Organization of lines of communication need not be considered in detail 115
Their length and liability of attack 116
Need of special force to guard them 116
Examples 117
Large numbers of troops absorbed 117
Abandoning communications altogether 118
Liberty of action which the force gains thereby 118
It involves the army being accompanied by large convoys 119
Question greatly affected by the length of time which the operation involves 120
Partial abandonment of communications 120
Examples of armies casting loose from their communications for a considerable time 121
Sir F. Roberts' daring advance on Kabul 122
Risks attending this 122
Inconvenience which may arise from the force being unable to communicate with bodies with which it may be co-operating 123
Conclusion as to abandonment of communications 124


Guerilla warfare in general.
Guerilla warfare in general 125
Influence of terrain 127
Promptitude and resolution essential to deal with guerillas 127
Abd-el-Kader 128
General Bugeaud's mode of crushing him 128
Campaigns when want of mobility and decision on the part of the regular troops against guerillas has had bad effect 129
The broad principles of the strategy to be employed against guerillas 130
The war in Cuba 131
The sub-division of the theatre of war into sections 133
Fortified posts and depots 134
Flying columns 135
Their strength and composition 136
Columns of mounted troops in certain theatres of war 136
Suppression of the rebellion in Southern Rhodesia 137
The columns in the South African War 139
Danger of very small columns 140
Need for independence 142
Difficulty of controlling movements of separated columns 142
The South African "drives" 143
Need of a good Intelligence department in guerilla warfare, and of secrecy 143
Carrying off cattle and destroying property 145
Objection to the principle of raids 146
Pacification of revolted districts 147
Hoche in La Vendee 147
Upper Burma 147
Severity sometimes necessary 148
Conclusion 148


Tactics of attack.
Offensive tactics generally imperative 150
How theory of attack differs in small wars from regular warfare 150
Artillery preparation 152
When and when not expedient 152
Objections to it 153
If enemy is strongly posted sometimes very desirable 154
It also sometimes saves time 154
Instances of want of artillery preparation 154
Importance of capturing enemy's guns 156
Trust of irregular warriors in their guns 157
Importance of capturing trophies 158
Difficulty of ensuring decisive success 159
Reasons for this 159
Objection to purely frontal attacks, advantage of Hank attack 160
Enemy seldom prepared for flank attacks, or attack in rear 161
Examples 161
Flank attacks give better chance of decisive victory 162
Containing force, in case of attacks on the flank or rear of the company 163
Action of Kirbekan, a rear attack 164
Co-operation of containing force 164
Main attack on the flank 164
Peiwar Kotal 165
Enemy inclined to draw away his forces to meet the Hank attack and so opens the way for a frontal attack 166
Difficulty of ensuring combination between a front and a flank attack 167
Ali Musjid 168
French disaster at Bang Bo 168
Cavalry in flank attacks 169
Artillery in flank attacks 170
Imperative necessity of following up a preliminary success 170
Need of initiative on the part of subordinates in attack 171
Cavalry to be at hand to complete victory 172
Other arms to play into the hands of the cavalry 173
Importance of the cavalry acting at the right moment 173
Artillery to be pushed up to the front to play on enemy when line
gives way 174
Attack often offers opportunities for deceiving the enemy as to available strength, and thus for gaining successes with insignificant forces 175
The separation of force on the battlefield 175
Advantages of this 177
Examples 177
Disadvantages 178
Enemy may beat fractions in detail 178
Difficulty of manoeuvring detached forces effectively 180
Detached bodies may fire into each other 181
Risk of misunderstandings 182
Examples 183
Note on the battle of Adowa 184
Risk of counter-attack 184
Examples of hostile counter-attack 185
Need of co-operation between infantry and artillery to meet counterattacks 186
Tendency of enemy to threaten flanks and rear of attacking force 186
The battle of Isly 187
An illustration of an echelon formation 188
Remarks on the echelon formation 188
Importance of pressing on, and not paying too much attention to demonstrations against flanks and rear 189
Attacks on caves in South Africa 191
Hour for attack 192
Attacks at dawn 192
Examples 193
Attacks early in the day expedient, to allow of effective pursuit 194


Tactics of defence.
Defensive attitude unusual, but sometimes unavoidable 195
Small bodies of regular troops hemmed in 196
Even then defensive must not be purely passive 196
Examples of minor counter-attacks under such circumstances 197
A counter-attack on a large scale must not miscarry where the army is in difficulties 198
Evils of passive defence if not imperative 199
Examples 200
Active defence 201
Remarks on defensive order of battle 202
The engagement at Kailua as example of active defence 203
Advantages of a line formation over square, even when the enemy is addicted to shock tactics 203
Examples 204
Difficulty as to flanks 205
The enemy may decline to attack 205
Conclusion 206


Pursuits and retreats.
Enemy not prepared for a vigorous pursuit if beaten, or for following up their victory with energy if triumphant 207
Their mobility makes them difficult to pursue 207
Infantry in pursuit 208
Need for great vigour 209
Detached force to strike in on line of retreat 209
Tendency of the enemy to disperse in all directions 210
Use of cavalry and horse artillery in pursuit 211
Retreats 211
Difficulty caused by carrying off wounded in retreat 212
Retreat draws down upon the troops the waverers in the hostile ranks 212
Enemy's eagerness at first to follow up a retiring force 213
Examples 213
Although irregular warriors at first keen in pursuit their ardour soon cools 214
Examples 215
Annihilation of regular forces due generally to their being completely isolated or to special causes 216
Beginning of retreat the critical period 216
General organization of a retreat 217
General Duchesne's orders 218
Note as to retreat in face of very determined adversaries who rely on shock attacks 219
Rearguards 219
Importance of main body keeping touch with the rear guard withdrawal of rear guards counter-attack sometimes the wisest course when a rear guard is in serious difficulty 220
Lieut.-Col. Haughton at the retreat from the Tseri Kandao pass 224
Conclusion 225


The employment of feints to tempt the enemy into action and to conceal designs upon the battlefield.
Drawing the enemy on 227
Reasons why this can so often be carried out 227
How enemy's eagerness to follow up a retiring force can be turned to account 228
Hostile leaders cannot control their followers 229
The Zulus drawn into a premature attack at Kambula 229
Other examples 230
Value of the stratagem of pretended retreat in insurrectionary wars 231
Cavalry especially well adapted for this sort of work 231
Enticing the enemy into an ambuscade 232
Enemy sometimes drawn on unintentionally 233
Examples of Arogee and Nis Gol 233
Drawing the enemy on by exposing baggage, etc. 234
Drawing enemy on by artillery fire 234
Inducing the enemy to hold his ground when inclined to retire 235
Feints as to intended point of attack 235
In some cases the enemy cannot be drawn into action 235
The action of Toski as an illustration of this 237
Conclusion 238


Surprises, raids and ambuscades.
Surprise a favourite weapon of the enemy, but one which can also be used against him 240
Best time of day for surprises 240
By day a rapid march from a distance is generally necessary 241
Mobility essential in troops employed 241
Importance of keeping the project secret 242
Enemy to be put on a false scent if possible 244
Raids a form of surprise 245
Raids on the live stock of the enemy 245
The French "razzias" in Algeria 246
Difficulty of bringing in captured cattle, etc. 247
Ambuscades 248
Ease with which the enemy can sometimes be drawn into them 248
Remarks on the arrangement of ambuscades 250
Points to bear in mind 252
Skill of the enemy in devising ambuscades in small wars 252
The ambuscade at Shekan 254
Other examples 254


Squares in action on the march and in bivouac.
Square formation cannot be satisfactorily treated under the head either of attack or defence 256
Object of square formation 256
Enemy's tendency to operate against the flanks and rear of regular troops 257
Two forms of squares, the rigid and the elastic. The rigid form here dealt with 258
Usual formation 259
Squares in action. A formation at once offensive and defensive 259
Example of Achupa in Dahomey 259
Organization of squares in action 260
Abu Klea 261
Question of skirmishers 261
How to deal with gaps 262
Suggestion as to reserves in squares 262
The corners 263
Position of artillery 263
Position of cavalry 264
Question of forming two or more squares 265
Square affords a target for the enemy 266
Limited development of fire from a square 267
Square in attack 267
Tamai 267
Capture of Bida 268
Square formation has frequently proved most effective 269
Square formation as an order of march 270
Forming square on the move 270
Difficulties of marching in square 272
Suakin 1885 273
Artillery and cavalry with reference to squares on the march 274
Bivouac in square 276
Conclusion 276


Principles of laager and zeriba warfare.
General principles of laager and zeriba warfare 277
Tactically a defensive system 278
Objections to this 278
Situations where laagers and zeribas are very necessary 279
Their value in dealing with guerillas 279
Conditions necessary for their construction 280
Campaigns in which laagers and zeribas have been largely used 280
Their special advantages 282
Economy of outposts 282
Security at night 282
They generally, but not necessarily, enable the regular troops to select their ground and time for fighting 282
They afford the troops repose during prolonged operations 284
Zenbas may become defence posts upon the line of communications, or may serve as supply depots in advance of an army 284
General conclusions 285


Hill warfare.
Explanation of the term "hill warfare" 286
Its difficulties in all parts of the world 286
"Sniping" 287
Retirements unavoidable at times 287
Care of the wounded 288
Special risk to officers in Indian frontier fighting 288
Enemy generally warlike and nowadays well armed 289
Stones and trees can be thrown down on the troops 289
Size of columns 290
Several columns usual 291
Length of marches 291
The troops generally on the lower ground, the enemy on the heights 292
"Crowning the heights" 292
Examples of neglect of this 292
Enemy's dislike of attacking up hill and of being commanded 293
Seizing the high ground in attacking a defile 294
Occupying the heights in moving along a valley or defile 294
Moving flanking parties, and stationary flanking piquets 294
General arrangement when stationary picquets are adopted 295
Remarks on flanking picquets 296
Remarks on moving flanking parties 298
Comparison of system of crowning the heights to square formation 299
Retirement a necessity at times, but general conduct of operations should be such as to render them as infrequent as possible 299
Reconnaissances, in reference to this 300
Forces detached for particular objects, in reference to it 300
Holding capture heights, in reference to it 302
The case of Dargai 302
Troops not to get into clusters under enemy's fire 303
Remarks on attack in hill warfare 304
The Gurkha scouts attacking above Thati 305
Turning movements not to be undertaken too readily 306
Mountain guns and cavalry in attack in hill warfare 307
Remarks on the destruction of villages 308
The work must be carried out deliberately 308
Principle of attacking a village 309
Presence of women and children in villages 310
Stone throwers 310
The difficulty of communicating orders during action in hill warfare 310
Precautions to be observed 312
Importance of avoiding being benighted 313
Course to be pursued if troops are benighted 315
An early decision to be arrived at as to intended course of action when night approaches 315
Guns to be sent on 316
Examples of troops being benighted 317
Troops on the move at night 318
Sir W. Lockhart's maxims 320
Advantages which experienced troops enjoy in this class of warfare 320
Danger of even small ravines unless the heights are held 321
Value of counter-attack when troops get into difficulties 322
Examples of catching the enemy in ravines 322
General question of rear guards and retirements 324
Persistency of hill men in pursuit 325
The fact that the retirement is generally down hill tells against the regulars 326
Advisability of a sudden start and rapid movement at first when retiring 327
Changing a movement of advance into one of retirement 328
Details of retirement operations 329
Withdrawal of picquets 329
Picquets covering each other's retirements 330
Importance of parties nearest the enemy getting timely notice of intended retirement 332
Direction to be followed by retiring picquets 332
Pursuit often checked completely if enemy is roughly handled at the start 333
Value of counter-attacks when in retreat 334
Ravines to be avoided, and junctions of these with valleys to be specially guarded 335
Men to be sent on ahead to find the route in unknown country 335
Pace of column to be regulated by that of rear guard 336
The theory of rear guard duties in hill warfare 336
Position of baggage in retreats 338
Remarks on operations in forest-clad hills 339
Flankers in such terrain 340
Stockades 341
The first reconnaissance to Saran Sar in Tirah as an example of hill warfare 342
Scouts 345
Outposts 346
Conclusion 346


Bush warfare.
Comparison between the general features of bush warfare and of hill warfare 348
The question of scouts 352
Special infantry organization necessary 353
Sectional organization in Ashanti 354
Tendency of the enemy to attack flanks and rear 354
Flanking parties 355
This leads to a kind of square formation being very generally adopted 355
Its employment in Dahomey 355
Example of Amoaful 357
Advantages of this formation in bush fighting 358
Baggage and supply train 359
Arrangement of marches in the bush 359
Action of troops when fired upon 360
Small columns in the bush 362
Remarks on operations in a hilly country covered with jungle 362
Attack of stockades 362
Movement through very thick jungle 364
Guides 365
Difficulty of following up success in the bush, and consequence of this 365
Danger of dividing force in such country 367
How to avoid enemy's ambuscades. Impossibility of doing so in some theatres of war 368
Sir F. Roberts's instructions for dealing with ambuscades in Burma 368
Retreats in the bush 369
Heavy expenditure of ammunition 370
Searching the bush with volleys 371
Firing the bush 372
Conclusion 373


Infantry tactics.
Scope of this chapter 374
Object of normal infantry fighting formation 374
Reasons why this is not altogether applicable to small wars 375
Deep formation unusual in attack 375
Reasons 375
Proportion of supports and reserves can generally be reduced 379
Attacks on hill positions 377
British and French methods 377
Reserving fire in attack 378
Formation at Tel-el-Kebir 379
Attack on the Atbara zeriba 379
Tendency to draw supports and reserves forward to extend the firing line 381
General Skobelef's peculiar views 381
The company frequently made the unit 382
Attacks should usually be carried out at a deliberate pace 383
Infantry crossing especially dangerous zones 384
Compact formations desirable on the defensive 386
Macdonald's brigade at the battle of Khartum 387
Infantry opposed to irregular cavalry 388
Great importance of thorough fire discipline 388
Magazine rifle in the case of fanatical rushes 389
The question of volleys and of independent fire 390
Fire discipline in hill warfare 392
The conditions which in regular warfare make unrestrained fire at times almost compulsory, do not exist in small wars 392
Fire discipline on the defensive 393
Advantage of reserving fire for close quarters 394
Foreign methods 395
Remarks on the expenditure of ammunition 396
Expenditure of ammunition during night attacks 397
The bayonet of great value, although theoretically the superiority of the regulars should be more marked as regards musketry than in hand to hand fighting 398
Great effect of bayonet charges 399
On the defensive the bayonet is less certain 399


Cavalry and mounted troops generally.
Variety in mounted troops employed 401
Necessity generally of a respectable force of mounted troops in these campaigns 401
Examples of want of mounted troops 402
Need of mounted troops for raids 403
Importance of cavalry shock action 404
Risk of falling into ambushes or getting into ground where cavalry cannot act 405
Cavalry able to act effectively on broken ground where it would be useless in regular warfare 406
Irregular hostile formations militate against effective cavalry charges 406
Cavalry and horse artillery 408
Cavalry acting against hostile mounted troops 409
Importance of discipline and cohesion in such work 409
Difficulty of meeting a reckless charge of fanatical horsemen 410
Enemy's horse inclined to use firearms from the saddle 411
Cavalry if rushed to keep away from the infantry 412
Cavalry dealing with horsemen who fight on foot 412
Importance of lance 414
Skobelef s views on the action of Russian cavalry in the Turkoman campaign 414
Dismounted action of cavalry 415
Risk to horse-holders and horses 415
Combination of mounted and dismounted work suitable in certain conditions 416
Dismounted action the only possible action of cavalry in very broken ground 418
Valuable where judiciously used against hostile masses otherwise engaged 419
Dismounted action in general 420
Mounted troops, when dismounted, sometimes able to pose as a large force and so deceive the enemy 420
Mounted troops attacking di-mounted 420
Mounted rifles and mounted infantry as compared to cavalry 422
Final remarks on dismounted work 423


Camel corps.
Camel corps a form of mounted infantry 425
Object to be able to traverse long distances 425
Difficult position of camel corps in action 426
Their helplessness when mounted. How to act if suddenly attacked 427
The affair of Burnak as illustrating camel operations 427
Camel corps only suitable in certain theatres of war 428


Artillery tactics.
Artillery preparation 429
Guns to push up to close range 429
Examples 430
Chief risk run by guns pushed well to the front 432
Massing of guns unusual and generally unnecessary 433
Question of dispersion of guns in attack 433
Dispersion of guns on the defensive 435
Value of guns on the defensive against fanatical rushes 430
Comparative powerlessness of guns against mud villages 437
High explosives 438
Guns must be light and generally portable 438
Question of case shot 439


Machine guns.
Uncertainty as to how best to employ them 440
Their frequent failure till recently 440
Their value on the defensive 441


The service of security.
Importance of the service of security 442
Outposts 442
Hour at which the enemy is most likely to give trouble 442
Hostile night attacks unusual 443
Comparatively small size of force helps enemy in preparing for night attacks 445
The Boer night attacks 445
Attacks at dawn very frequent 446
Annoyance by marauders and small hostile parties at night very common 448
Principle of outposts 448
Difference between the system in regular warfare and in small wars 449
Liability to attack from any side 450
Outposts generally close in, and not intended to offer serious resistance 451
Units to be protected generally find their own outposts 451
Arrangement of outposts, however varies according to nature of enemy 452
Extent to which the rapid movements of irregular warriors influence outposts 452
Difficulties of outposts in jungle and bush and in the hills 454
Tofrek 455
Picquets by day 455
Objections to the plan of outposts falling back at once on the main body 456
Picquets in hill warfare by day 457
Outposts in the bush by day 458
Need of even small parties always keeping a look-out in enclosed country 459
Regular troops to a certain extent at a disadvantage in outpost work in small wars 460
General remarks on outposts at night 461
Outposts at night on open ground 462
Outposts at night in the South African War 463
Distant picquets at night 464
Ambuscades as outposts 466
General Yusuf's system peculiar 466
Outposts by night in bush warfare 467
Outposts by night in hill warfare 467
The system of distant picquets at night not always adopted in hill warfare 470
Remarks on dealing with snipers at night 471
Sentries at night 472
Posting picquets at night 473
Defensive arrangements in front of outposts at night 474
Sir B. Blood's plan of using villagers as outposts 474
Service of security on the march 474
Effect of hostile tendency to operate against flanks and rear 475
Service of security when marching in square 476
Flanking parties and rear guards 476
Convoys 477
Importance of keeping columns on the march well closed up 478
Duties of the advanced guard 478
Conclusion 479


Night operations.
Reason why night attacks find so much favour in the present day 481
General question of their advisability in small wars 481
Upon the whole the drawbacks decidedly outweigh the advantages 482
Risk of confusion and panic 4S3
Objections less serious in the case of attacks on a very small scale 485
Division of force at night almost always a mistake 485
Need of careful preparations 486
Precautions against assailants mistaking each other for the enemy 486
The bayonet the weapon for night attacks 487
Examples of successful night attacks on a small scale 487
Night marches. When especially advantageous 488
Risk of movement being detected by some accident 489
Enemy keeps a bad look-out at night 490
Risk of confusion on the march 491
Importance of the troops being well disciplined 492
General conclusions as to night operations 493
Arrangements for repelling night attacks 494
Lighting up the ground 495
Artillery and machine guns in case of night attacks 495
The question of reserves 496
Need of strict fire discipline 496
Bayonet to be used if the enemy penetrates into the lines 497
Counter-attacks in case of a night attack by the enemy 497
Conclusion 498
INDEX. 499


I. The Ambela Campaign 49
II. Communications to Khartum 70
III. Fight at Khan Band 166
IV. Kirbekan 166
V. The Peiwar Kotal 166
VI. Action at Charasia 166
VII. Affair of Bang Bo 169
VIII. Battle of Kandahar 176
IX. Wedza's Stronghold 176
X. Deh Khoja 180
XI. Affair of Longbatta 184
XII. The Zlobani Mountain 184
XIII. Action of Kailua 203
XIV. Saran Sar 344
XV. Macdonald's Brigade at Khartum 387


Chapter I.

Meaning of the term "Small War."

SMALL WAR is a term which has come largely into use of late years, and which is admittedly somewhat difficult to define. Practically it may be said to include all campaigns other than those where both the opposing sides consist of regular troops. It comprises the expeditions against savages and semi-civilised races by disciplined soldiers, it comprises campaigns undertaken to suppress rebellions and guerilla warfare in all parts of the world where organized armies are struggling against opponents who will not meet them in the open field, and it thus obviously covers operations very varying in their scope and in their conditions.

The expression "small war" has in reality no particular connection with the scale on which any campaign may be carried out; it is simply used to denote, in default of a better, operations of regular armies against irregular, or comparatively speaking irregular, forces. For instance, the struggle in 1894-95 between Japan and China might, although very large forces were placed in the field on both sides, from the purely military point of view almost be described as a small war; for the operations on land were conducted between a highly trained, armed, organized, and disciplined army on one side, and by forces on the other side which, though numerically formidable, could not possibly be described as regular




troops in the proper sense of the word. Small wars include the partisan warfare which usually arises when trained soldiers are employed in the quelling of sedition and of insurrections in civilised countries; they include campaigns of conquest when a Great Power adds the territory of barbarous races to its possessions; and they include punitive expeditions against tribes bordering upon distant colonies. The suppression of the Indian Mutiny and the Anglo-French campaign on the Peiho, the British operations against the Egyptian army in 1882, and the desultory warfare of the United States troops against the nomad Red Indians, the Spanish invasion of Morocco in 1859, and the pacification of Upper Burma, can all alike be classed under the category of small wars. Whenever a regular army finds itself engaged upon hostilities against irregular forces, or forces which in their armament, their organization, and their discipline are palpably inferior to it, the conditions of the campaign become distinct from the conditions of modern regular warfare, and it is with hostilities of this nature that this volume proposes to deal.

General scope of the work.

Upon the organization of armies for irregular warfare valuable information is to be found in many instructive military works, official and non-official. The peculiar arrangements as to transport, the system of supply, the lines of communications, all these subjects are dealt with exhaustively and in detail. In this volume, therefore, questions of organization will be as far as possible avoided. It is intended merely to give a sketch of the principles and practice of small wars as regards strategy and tactics, and of the broad rules which govern the conduct of operations in hostilities against adversaries of whom modern works on the military art seldom take account.

Arrangement adopted.

The earlier chapters will deal with the general principles of strategy, the later chapters with tactics. In a treatise which necessarily covers a great deal of ground it is difficult



to avoid a certain amount of repetition, but it has been thought better to incur this than to interpolate constant references from one part of the book to the other. The subject will throughout be discussed merely from the point of view of the regular troops. The forces opposing these, whether guerillas, savages, or quasi-organized armies, will be regarded as the enemy. A comparison will be to a certain extent established between the conduct of campaigns of this special character and the accepted principles of strategy and tactics.

The teachings of great masters of the art of war, and the experience gained from campaigns of modern date in America and on the continent of Europe, have established certain principles and precedents which form the groundwork of the system of regular warfare of to-day. Certain rules of conduct exist which are universally accepted. Strategy and tactics alike are in great campaigns governed, in most respects, by a code from which it is perilous to depart. But the conditions of small wars are so diversified, the enemy's mode of fighting is often so peculiar, and the theatres of operations present such singular features, that irregular warfare must generally be carried out on a method totally different from the stereotyped system. The art of war, as generally understood, must be modified to suit the circumstances of each particular case. The conduct of small wars is in fact in certain respects an art by itself, diverging widely from what is adapted to the conditions of regular warfare, but not so widely that there are not in all its branches points which permit comparisons to be established.

General treatment.

In dealing with tactical questions arising in small wars the more recent campaigns are chiefly taken into consideration, owing to the advances in the science of manufacturing war material. Tactics necessarily depend largely on armament, and while the weapons which regular troops take into the field have vastly improved in the last 40 years, it must be




remembered that the arms of the enemy have also improved. Even savages, who a few years ago would have defended themselves with bows and arrows, are often found now-a-days with breechloading rifles - the constant smuggling of arms into their territories, which the various Powers concerned seem wholly unable to suppress, promises that small wars of the future may involve very difficult operations.

On the other hand the strategical problems presented by operations of this nature have not altered to at all the same extent. Therefore there is much belonging to this branch of the military art still to be learnt from campaigns dating as far back as the conquest of Algeria and as the terrible Indian struggle of 1857-58. And the great principle which regular troops must always act upon in small wars - that of overawing the enemy by bold initiative and by resolute action whether on the battlefield or as part of the general plan of campaign - can be learnt from the military history of early times just as well as it can be learnt from the more voluminously chronicled struggles of the present epoch.



Chapter II.
Causes of small wars as affecting their conditions.
The various kinds of adversaries met with.

Classes into which these campaigns may be divided.

Small wars may broadly be divided into three classes - campaigns of conquest or annexation, campaigns for the suppression of insurrections or lawlessness or for the settlement of conquered or annexed territory, and campaigns undertaken to wipe out an insult, to avenge a wrong, or to overthrow a dangerous enemy. Each class of campaign will generally be found to have certain characteristics affecting the whole course of the military operations which it involves.

Campaigns of conquest and annexation and their characteristics.

Campaigns of conquest or annexation are of necessity directed against enemies on foreign soil, they mean external not internal war, and they will generally be directed against foemen under control of some potentate or chief. Few countries are so barbarous as not to have some form of government and some sort of military system. So it comes about that campaigns of conquest and annexation mean for the most part campaigns against forces which, however irregular they may be in their composition, are nevertheless tangible and defined. Glancing back over the small wars of the century the truth of this is manifest.


The conquest of Scinde and the Punjab involved hostilities with military forces of some organization and of undoubted fighting capacity. The French expedition to Algeria overthrew a despotic military power. The Russians in their gradual extension of territory beyond the Caspian have often had to deal with armies - ill armed and organized, of course, but nevertheless armies. To oppose the annexation of his dominions, King Thebaw of Burma had collected bodies of troops having at least a semblance of system and cohesion, although they showed but little




fight. The regular troops detailed for such campaigns enjoy the obvious advantage of knowing whom they are fighting with; they have a distinct task to perform, and skilful leadership, backed by sufficient force, should ensure a speedy termination of the conflict.

The suppression of insurrections and lawlessness, and its features.

But campaigns for the subjugation of insurrections, for the repression of lawlessness, or for the pacification of territories conquered or annexed stand on a very different footing. They are necessarily internal not external campaigns. They involve struggles against guerillas and banditti. The regular army has to cope not with determinate but with indeterminate forces. The crushing of a populace in arms and the stamping out of widespread disaffection by military methods, is a harassing form of warfare even in a civilised country with a settled social system; in remote regions peopled by half-civilized races or wholly savage tribes, such campaigns are most difficult to bring to a satisfactory conclusion, and are always most trying to the troops.

This a frequent sequel to conquest and annexation.

It should be noted that campaigns of conquest, and annexation not infrequently pass through two distinct stages. In the first stage the forces of civilization overthrow the armies and levies which the rulers and chieftains in the invaded country gather for its defence, a few engagements generally sufficing for this; in the second stage organized resistance has ceased, and is replaced by the war of ambushes and surprises, of murdered stragglers and of stern reprisals. The French conquest of Algeria is a remarkable illustration of this. To crush the armies of the Dey and to wrest the pirate stronghold which had been so long a scourge of neighbouring seas from his grasp, proved easy of accomplishment; but it took years and years of desultory warfare to establish French rule firmly in the vast regions which had been won. The same was the case in Upper Burma; the huge country was nominally annexed, practically without a struggle, but several years of typical guerilla warfare followed before British power was




thoroughly consolidated in the great province which had been added to the Indian Empire.


Insurrections and revolts in districts difficult of access where communications are bad and information cannot readily be obtained involve most troublesome military operations. In Europe the Carlist wars and early wars of Balkan liberation are examples of this. In the United States, the periodical risings and raids of the Red Indians led to protracted indecisive hostilities of many years' duration. The Kaffir and Matabili rebellions in South Africa have always proved most difficult to suppress. The case of the Indian Mutiny is somewhat different at least in its early stages for here the rebels owing to the peculiar circumstances of the case were in a position to put armies in the field, and this led to field operations of most definite and stirring character; but, as the supremacy of British military power in India became re-established, and as the organized mutineer forces melted away, the campaign degenerated in many localities into purely guerilla warfare, which took months to bring to a conclusion. As a general rule the quelling of rebellion in distant colonies means protracted, thankless, invertebrate war.

Campaigns to wipe out an insult or avenge a wrong.

Campaigns of the third class have characteristics analogous to the conditions ordinarily governing wars of conquest and of annexation. Hostilities entered upon to punish an insult or to chastise a people who have inflicted some injury, will generally be on foreign soil. The destruction of a formidable alien military power will necessarily involve external war. Under this heading, moreover, may be included expeditions undertaken for some ulterior political purpose, or to establish order in some foreign land - wars of expediency, in fact. Campaigns of this class when they do not (as is so frequently the case) develop into campaigns of conquest, differ from them chiefly in that the defeat of the enemy need not be so complete and crushing to attain the objects sought for.





The Abyssinian expedition of 1868 is a typical example of a campaign to avenge a wrong; it was undertaken to compel the release of prisoners seized by King Theodore. The China War of 1860, and the Spanish invasion of Morocco in 1859, were of the same nature. The Ashanti imbroglio of 1874 and the French operations against the Hovas in 1883 and the following year may be similarly classed. Most of the punitive expeditions on the Indian frontier may be included in this category; but many of these latter have resulted in annexation of the offending district, and the French campaigns in Annam in 1861 and recently in Dahomey ended in like fashion.

Campaigns for the overthrow of a dangerous power.

Wars entered upon to overthrow a menacing military power likewise often terminate in annexation. The Zulu war was a campaign of this nature - the disciplined armies of Ketchwayo were a standing danger to Natal, and the coming of the Zulu power was indispensable for the peace of South Africa; the war, however, ended in the incorporation of the kingdom in the British Empire. The Russian expeditions against the Tekke Turkomans were partly punitive; but they were undertaken mainly to suppress this formidable fighting nomad race, and the final campaign became a campaign of conquest. The short and brilliant operations of the French against the Moors in 1844 afford a remarkable instance of a small war having for its object the overthrow of the dangerous forces of a threatening state, and of its complete fulfillment; but in this case there was no subsequent annexation.

Campaigns of expediency.

Wars of expediency undertaken for some political purpose, necessarily differ in their conditions from campaigns of conquest, punitive expeditions, or military repression of rebellious disorders. The two Afghan wars, and especially the first, may be included in this category. The Egyptian war of 1882 is another example. Such campaigns are necessarily carried out on foreign soil, but in other respects they may have few features in common.



The great variety in the natures of enemy to be dealt with.

To a certain extent then the origin and cause of a small war gives a clue to the nature of the operations which will follow, quite apart from the plan of campaign which the commander of the regular forces may decide upon. But when conflicts of this nature are in prospect, the strength and the fighting methods of the enemy must always be most carefully considered before any decision as to the form of operations to be adopted is arrived at; the tactics of such opponents differ so greatly in various cases that it is essential that these be taken fully into consideration. The armament of the enemy is also a point of extreme importance. In regular warfare each side knows perfectly well what is to be expected from the adversary, and either adversary is to a certain extent governed by certain rules common to both. But in small wars all manner of opponents are met with, in no two campaigns does the enemy fight in the same fashion, and this divergence of method may be briefly illustrated from various campaigns of the past century.

Opponents with a form of regular organization.

Some small wars of late years have been against antagonists with the form and organization of regular troops. The hostile armies have been broken up into battalions, squadrons, and batteries, and in addition to this the weapons of the enemy have been fairly efficient. This was the case in Egypt in 1882, to a certain extent in Tonkin as far as the Chinese were concerned, and also in a measure in the Indian Mutiny. In such struggles the enemy follows as far as he is able the system adopted in regular warfare. In the campaigns above-mentioned, the hostile forces had enjoyed the advantage of possessing instructors with a knowledge of European methods. In cases such as these the warfare will somewhat resemble the struggles between modern armies, and the principles of modern strategy and tactics are largely if not wholly applicable.


At the outset of the last Afghan war the hostile forces had a form of regular organization; this could, however,




scarcely claim to be more than a travesty, and the Afghan armament was, moreover, most inferior. The Russians in their campaigns against Khokand and Bokhara had to deal with armies standing on a somewhat similar footing as regards organization and weapons. Somewhat lower in the scale, but still with some pretence to organization and efficient armament, were the Dey of Algiers' troops which confronted the French invasion in 1830. There is, of course, a great variety in the extent to which the hostile forces approximate to regular armies in various small wars; but there is a clear distinction between troops such as Arabi Pasha commanded in 1882, and mere gatherings of savages such as the British and French have at times to cope with in Western Africa.

Highly disciplined but badly armed opponents.

The Zulu impis, again, presented totally different characteristics. Here was a well disciplined army with a definite organization of its own, capable of carrying out manoeuvres on the battlefield with order and precision; but the Zulu weapons were those of savages. The Matabili were, organized on the Zulu model, but their system was less perfect. Zulus and Matabili fought in a fashion totally different from the Chinese, the Afghans, and Arabi Pasha's forces, but they were none the less formidable on that account.


The Hadendowa of the Red Sea Littoral, the Afghan Ghazis, and the fanatics who occasionally gave the French such trouble in Algeria, had not the discipline of the Zulu or of the Matabili, nor yet their organization; but they fought on the same lines. Such warriors depend on spears and knives and not on firearms. They are brave and even reckless on the battlefield. Tactics which serve well against forces armed with rifles and supported by artillery, are out of place confronted with such foes as this. Face to face with Sudanese and Zulus old orders of battle, discarded in face of the breech-loader and of shrapnel shell, are resumed again. The hostile tactics are essentially aggressive, and inasmuch as they involve substitution of shock action for




fire action, the regular forces are compelled, whether they like it or not, to conform to the savage method of battle.

The Boers.

In the Boer war of 1881 the British troops had a different sort of enemy to deal with altogether. The Boers were armed with excellent firearms, were educated and were led by men of knowledge and repute, but they at that time had no real organization. They were merely bodies of determined men, acknowledging certain leaders, drawn together to confront a common danger. The Boers presented all the features of rebels in a civilized country except in that they were inured from youth to hardship, and that they were all mounted. As a rule adversaries of this nature prefer guerilla warfare, for which their weapons and their habits especially adapt them, to fighting in the open. The Boers, however, accepted battle readily and worked together in comparatively speaking large bodies even in 1881. The incidents of that campaign, although the later and greater war has rather overshadowed them and deprived them of interest, were very singular, and they afford most useful lessons with regard to the best way of operating against adversaries of this peculiar class. In 1901 and 1902, after the overthrow of the organized Boer armies had driven those still in the field to adopt guerilla tactics, the operations partook of the character of irregular warfare against a daring and well armed enemy gifted with unusual mobility and exceptional cunning.

Guerillas, civilized and savage.

The Turks in Montenegro, the Austrians in Bosnia, and the Canadian forces when hunting down Riel, had to deal with well armed and civilized opponents; but these preferred guerilla methods of warfare, and shirked engagements in the open. Organization they had little or none; but in their own fashion they resisted obstinately in spite of this, and the campaigns against them gave the regular troops much trouble. These operations afford good illustrations of guerilla warfare of one kind. Guerilla warfare of a totally different kind is exemplified by the Maori and the Kaffir wars, in which




the enemy, deficient in courage and provided with poor weapons, by taking advantage of the cover in districts overgrown with bush and jungle managed to prove most difficult to subdue. To regular troops such antagonists are very troublesome, they shun decisive action and their tactics almost of necessity bring about a protracted, toilsome war. The operations on the North-West Frontier of India in 1897 afford admirable examples of another form of guerilla warfare that against the well armed fanatical cut-throat of the hills, lighting in a terrain peculiarly well adapted to his method of making war.

Armies of savages in the bush.

Savages dwelling in territories where thick tropical vegetation abounds, do not, however, always rely on this desultory form of war. In Dahomey the French encountered most determined opposition from forces with a certain organization which accepted battle constantly. The Dutch in Achin, where the jungle was in places almost impenetrable, found an enemy ready enough to fight and who fought under skilful guidance. The Ashantis during the campaign of 1871 on several occasions assembled in large bodies; they did not hesitate to risk a general engagement when their leaders thought an opportunity offered.

Enemies who fight mounted.

Another and altogether different kind of enemy has been met with at times in Morocco, in Algeria, and in Central Asia. In the Barbary States are to be found excellent horsemen with hardy mounts. The fighting forces of the Arabs, Moors, and Tartars have always largely consisted of irregular cavalry, and the regular troops campaigning in these countries have been exposed to sudden onslaught by great hordes of mounted men. The whole course of operations has been largely influenced by this fact.

The importance of studying the hostile mode of war.

Military records prove that in different small* wars the hostile mode of conducting hostilities varies to a surprising extent. Strategy and tactics assume all manner of forms. It is difficult to conceive methods of combat more dissimilar




than those employed respectively by the Transkei Kaffirs, by the Zulus, and by the Boers, opponents with whom British troops successively came in conflict within a period of three years and in one single quarter of the African continent. From this striking fact there is to be deduced a most important military lesson. It is that in small wars the habits, the customs, and the mode of action on the battlefield of the enemy should be studied in advance. This is not imperative only on the commander and his staff - all officers should know what nature of opposition they must expect, and should understand how best to overcome it. One of the worst disasters which has befallen British troops of recent years, Isandlwhana, was directly attributable to a total misconception of the tactics of the enemy. The French troubles in Algeria after its conquest were due to a failure to appreciate for many years the class of warfare upon which they were engaged. The reverses in the first Boer war arose from entering upon a campaign without cavalry, the one arm of the service essential to cope with the hostile method of conducting warfare. In great campaigns the opponent's system is understood; he is guided by like precedents, and is governed by the same code; it is only when some great reformer of the art of war springs up that it is otherwise. But each small war presents new features, and these features must if possible be foreseen or the regular troops will assuredly find themselves in difficulties and may meet with grievous misfortune.



Chapter III.
The objective in small wars.

Selection of objective in the first place governed by the cause of the campaign.

The selection of the objective in a small war will usually be governed in the first place by the circumstances which have led up to the campaign. Military operations are always undertaken with some end in view, and are shaped for its achievement. If the conquest of the hostile territory be aimed at, the objective takes a different form from that which it would assume were the expedition dispatched with merely punitive intent. A commander bent on extorting terms from some savage potentate will frame his plans on different lines from the leader sent to crush the military power of a menacing tribe. But in all cases there are in warfare of this nature certain points which will, apart from the cause of the campaign, influence the choice of the objective, and which depend mainly on the class of enemy to be dealt with.

Cases where the hostile country has a definite form of government.

The enemy is often represented by a people with comparatively speaking settled institutions, with a central form of government, and with military forces regulated and commanded by a central authority. Monarchical institutions are to be found in many semi-civilized and savage lands, amounting often to forms of despotism which are particularly well calculated to ensure a judicious management of available military forces when at war. The savage Zulu warriors fought in organized armies controlled by the supreme authority of the king. Runjeet Singh was a respected ruler who could dispose, of organized forces completely at his command; the Amir of Bokhara stood on a similar footing during the campaigns which ended in the annexation of his




khanate to the Russian Empire. The Ashantis and Dahomeyans were nationalities which although uncivilized were completely dominated by their sovereigns. In cases such as these the objective will generally be clear and well defined. There are armies the overthrow of which will generally bring the head of the hostile state to reason. There are centres of government the capture of which will paralyse the forces of resistance of the country. To a certain extent the destruction of the military forces of the enemy under such conditions almost necessarily involves the fall of the capital, because the military forces gather for the protection of the capital and the fall of the capital follows upon their defeat almost as a matter of course. The conditions approximate to those of regular warfare in the very important particular that from the outset of the campaign a determinate scheme of operations can be contemplated and can be put in force.

The question of the importance of the capital as an objective.

In great campaigns of modern history it has come to be considered as the usual objective that the capital of the hostile nation should be threatened, and that it should if possible be actually captured. In a civilized country the metropolis is not only the seat of government and of the legislature, but it is also generally the centre of communications and the main emporium of the nation's commerce. Its occupation by an enemy means a complete dislocation of the executive system, it brings about a collapse of trade, and, if the occupation be long continued, it causes financial ruin. But the capitals of countries which become the theatres of small war are rarely of the same importance. In such territories there is little commercial organization, the chief town generally derives its sole importance from being the residence of the sovereign and his council, and its capture by a hostile army is in itself damaging rather to the prestige of the government than injurious to the people at large.


In the last Afghan war Kabul was occupied early in the campaign, after the overthrow of the troops of Yakoub Khan. But its capture by no




means brought about the downfall of the Afghans as a fighting power, on the contrary it proved to be merely the opening engagement of the campaign. The country was in a state of suppressed anarchy, the tribes scarcely acknowledge the Amir to be their King, and when Kabul fell and the government such as it was, ceased to exist, the people generally cared little; but they bitterly resented the insult to their nation and to their faith which the presence of British troops in the heart of the country offered.


But, although the relations of Kabul to the Afghan race maybe taken as typical, there are often exceptions, and cases have often occurred in these wars where the capital of the country has proved the core of its resistance. In the case of a petty chieftain the capital means his stronghold. Sekukuai's and Morosi's mountains are examples of this, and their capture put an immediate end to the campaign in each case. When the object of the war is to extort certain conditions or to exact reparation from some half-civilised or savage potentate, the capture of his capital will generally have the desired effect. It was so in the Chinese war of 1860, when all efforts at negotiation failed till the allied forces were at the gates of Pekin.

When the capital is a place of real importance in the country its capture generally disposes of regular opposition.

When the capital is really the focus and centre of a State, however barbarous, any approach to organized resistance under the direct control of the head of the State, will almost always cease when the capital falls; but it does not by any means follow that the conflict is at an end. The capture of Algiers in 1830 closed the campaign as one against armies including troops of all arms; it proved, however, to be only the prelude to years of desultory warfare. It was the same in Dahomey, where the fighting power of Benauzin's forces was utterly broken in trying to bar the advance of the invaders to Abomey, but there were troublesome hostilities with guerillas subsequently. On the other hand, the fighting after the occupation of Ulundi in the Zulu war and of Buluwayo in the Matabili campaign, was only of a desultory description. The amount of resistance offered to the regular troops after they have overthrown the more or less organized forces of the




enemy and seized the chief town varies in different cases. But the French experiences in Algeria, and the British experiences in Afghanistan, show that these irregular, protracted, indefinite operations offer often far greater difficulties to the regular armies than the attainment of the original military objective.

The great advantage of having a clear and well-defined objective.

The advantage of having a well defined objective even for a time can, however, scarcely be over-rated, and the Central Asian campaigns of Russia illustrate this vividly. Turkestan was territory inhabited largely by nomads, but its rolling plains and steppes were studded with historic cities many of which had been for ages the marts of oriental commerce. The invaders went to work with marked deliberation. They compassed the downfall of the khanates by gradually absorbing these cities, capturing them in many cases by very brilliant feats of arms. The conquests were not achieved by any display of mighty force, the actual Russian armies in these operations were rarely large, but the objectives were always clear and determinate; the capture of one city was generally held sufficient for a year, but it thereupon became a Russian city. The troops had always an unmistakable goal in front of them, they went deliberately to work to attain that goal, and when it was attained they rested on their laurels till ready for another coup. Such is the military history of the conquest of Central Asia. It is a record of war in which desultory operations were throughout conspicuous by their absence. Such conditions are, however, very seldom found in small wars; important towns and centres of trade, moreover, are not the sole conditions offering distinct objectives.


Sometimes the circumstances of the case will cause the enemy to muster in full strength, and will permit of a decisive victory being gained which concludes the war, and it is most fortunate when the operations take this form. The enormous importance of moral effect in these campaigns will be dealt with in a later chapter, suffice it to say here




that it is a factor which enters into all their phases; a defeat inflicted upon a large force of irregular warriors terrifies not only those engaged, but also all their kind. It is the difficulty of bringing the foe to action which, as a rule, forms the most unpleasant characteristic of these wars; but when such opponents can be thoroughly beaten in the open field at the commencement of hostilities, their powers of further serious resistance often cease. And so, when by force of circumstances the enemy is compelled to accept battle to defend some point of great importance to him or to safeguard some venerated shrine, thus offering a well-defined objective, the regular troops greatly benefit. Many examples of this might be quoted. Denghil Tepe, for instance, became the stronghold in which practically the whole military power of the Tekke Turkomans concentrated itself in 1879 and 1880, although the Turkomans are, in the main, a nomad race; the Russians failed in their first campaign through mismanagement, but the objective never was in doubt, and in their second venture the formidable nomad race, which might have taken years to subdue, was crushed for good and all when the fortress fell. The experience of the French in Annam in 1861 is another case in point. They had formed a small settlement at Saigon, and this the Annamese, profiting by the inability of the French to detach troops thither during the China war, blockaded in great force, forming a regular entrenched camp close by. Thus it came about that when the French were at last able to land a large force at Saigon, they found a formidable hostile army before them in a highly defensible position, which was just what they wanted. By bold and skilful dispositions they signally defeated the Annamese drawn up to meet them, and the effect of the blow was so great that they were able to overrun the country afterwards almost unhindered.

Tirah, a peculiar case.

The Tirah campaign of 1897 affords a singular example of the advantages of a definite objective. It was the just boast of the Afridis and Orukzais that the remarkable upland




valleys which constitute their summer home, and which were practically unknown to the British, had defied the efforts of all invaders. The duty of Sir W. Lockhart's army, therefore, was to overrun these valleys, and to prove to the formidable tribesmen that whatever might have been their experience in the past, they had now to do with a foe capable of bursting through the great mountain barriers in which they put their trust, and of violating the integrity of territory which they believe to be incapable of access by organized troops. The army performed its task of penetrating into Tirah, and of leaving its mark in the usual manner by the demolition of buildings and destruction of crops. Nor did its subsequent retirement, harassed by the mountaineers in defiles where they could act to the very best advantage, appreciably detract from the success of the operation as a whole. For the enemy had learnt that an Anglo-Indian army could force its way into these fastnesses, could seize their crops, destroy their defences, burn their villages, and could, after making its presence felt in every ravine and nook, get out again; and that settled the matter. The conditions here were peculiar, but they illustrate well the broad principle that in warfare of this nature it is half the battle to have a distinct task to perform.

Objective when the purpose of hostilities is the overthrow of a dangerous military power.

Sometimes when the war is undertaken, as in the case of Zululand, to overthrow a dangerous military power, the objective is the army of the enemy wherever it may be. The very fact of this being a formidable force will generally cause it to accept battle readily to confront an invader. The objective becomes primarily some point in hostile territory which the hostile army will certainly endeavour to protect - the capital or some stronghold involving the military prestige of the enemy, and an advance on this leads to a pitched battle, which is what the regular troops want. Thus in the Spanish campaign of 1859 against the Moors the town of Tetuan was made the goal of the invaders, and in endeavouring to bar the road the forces of the Sultan suffered several severe defeats. On




the Red Sea littoral, in the days when Mahdism was a power in those parts, the very fact of any Anglo-Egyptian advance always ensured great gatherings of dervishes eager for the fray. In the Matabili war the advance of the small British force on Buluwayu forced the impis of Lohongula to assemble and to fight.

Objective when there is no capital and no army.

But when there is no king to conquer, no capital to seize, no organized army to overthrow, and when there are no celebrated strongholds to capture, and no great centres of population to occupy, the objective is not so easy to select. It is then that the regular troops are forced to resort to cattle lifting and village burning and that the war assumes an aspect which may shock the humanitarian. "In planning a war against an uncivilized nation who has, perhaps, no capital," says Lord Wolseley, "your first object should be the capture of whatever they prize most, and the destruction or deprivation of which will probably bring the war most rapidly to a conclusion." This goes to the root of the whole matter. If the enemy cannot be touched in his patriotism or his honour, he can be touched through his pocket.

Raids on live stock.

Fighting the Kirghiz and other nomads of the steppes the Russians have always trusted largely to carrying off the camels and flocks of the enemy as a means of bringing their antagonists to reason. In Algeria the French, adopting the methods of Abd-el-Kader and his followers, made sudden raids or "razzias" - dealt with later in the chapters on guerilla warfare and raids - carrying off the live stock and property of their wandering opponents. In the Kaffir wars, especially in 1852, this mode of procedure has been very common, adapted with success, and it is the usual plan of action in the small punitive expeditions in East and West Africa. The United States troops used to retaliate upon the Red Indians in similar fashion.

Destruction of crops, etc.

The destruction of the crops and stores of grain of the enemy is another way of carrying on hostilities. This method




of warfare is more exasperating to the adversary than carrying off live stock; for while they appreciate the principle that the victor is entitled to the spoils, wanton damage tends to embitter their feeling of enmity. The same applies to the destruction of villages so often resorted to in punitive expeditions, but it hardly does so to the same extent, since the dwellings of these races can be reconstructed easily while their food supplies, if destroyed, cannot be replaced. It is so often the case that the power which undertakes a small war desires to acquire the friendship of the people which its armies are chastising, that the system of what is called "military execution" is ill adapted to the end in view. The most satisfactory way of bringing such foes to reason is by the rifle and sword, for they understand this mode of warfare and respect it. Sometimes, however, the circumstances do not admit of it, and then their villages must be demolished and their crops and granaries destroyed; still it is unfortunate when this is the case.

Suppression of rebellions.

When, however, the campaign takes the form of queuing an insurrection, the object is not only to prove to the opposing force unmistakably which is the stronger, but also to inflict punishment on those who have taken up arms. In this case it is often necessary to injure property. "A war," wrote Sir G. Cathcart from Kaffirland in 1852, "may be terminated by the surrender or capitulation of the hostile sovereign or chief, who answers for his people; but in the suppression of a rebellion the refractory subjects of the ruling power must all be chastised and subdued." Still there is a limit to the amount of licence in destruction which is expedient. Hoche, whose conduct of the campaign against the Chouans and insurgents from La Vendee will ever remain a model of operations of this kind, achieved success as much by his happy combination of clemency with firmness, as by his masterly dispositions in the theatre of war. Expeditions to put down revolt are not put in motion merely to bring about a temporary cessation of




hostility. Their purpose is to ensure a lasting peace. Therefore, in choosing the objective, the overawing and not the exasperation of the enemy is the end to keep in view.

Special objectives.

In some small wars the conditions have imposed certain objectives on the regular forces of necessity. For instance, the Nile Expedition was undertaken for the relief of Khartum, and it was only when the beleaguered city fell that any doubt with regard to its objective arose. The Chitral campaign was analogous. Such cases are, however, peculiar.


The subject of the selection of the objective does not lend itself to exhaustive treatment, and is certainly not one with regard to which rules of conduct could with advantage be drawn up. Each case must be decided on its merits. The main points of difference between small wars and regular campaigns in this respect are that, in the former, the beating of the hostile armies is not necessarily the main object even if such armies exist, that moral effect is often far more important than material success, and that the operations are sometimes limited to committing havoc which the laws of regular warfare do not sanction. The conditions of a campaign undertaken against a savage race swayed by a despotic sovereign differ so fundamentally from hostilities against gatherings of independent clans, that principles which govern the operations from the very outset in the one case are wholly inapplicable to the other. The crushing of an insurrectionary movement or the settlement of a conquered country, are undertakings so distinct from enterprises entered upon to overawe a semi-civilized state, that what may present itself as the obvious objective under the former set of circumstances may be non-existent in the latter. It is this extraordinary diversity of conditions which makes the consideration of small wars so complex and so difficult to discuss as one general object.



Chapter IV.
Difficulties under which the regular forces labour as regards intelligence.
The advantage is usually enjoyed by the enemy in this respect,
but this circumstance can sometimes be turned to account.

Absence of trustworthy information frequent in small wars.

Of late years it has become the practice at the head-quarters of all regular armies to study the strength and organization of other countries in view of possible eventualities, and to collect information as to, and to prepare plans of, theatres of war which may some day take place. Accurate information as to the organized military forces of other leading nations is not difficult to obtain; the topographical features, the communications and the military resources of civilized countries are well known. But it is a very important feature in the preparation for, and the carrying out of, small wars that the regular forces are often working very much in the dark from the outset.


The reasons for this are obvious enough. Small wars break out unexpectedly and in unexpected places. The operations take place in countries often only partially explored if not wholly unexplored. The nature of the enemy, his strength, his weapons, and his fighting qualities can be only very imperfectly gauged. The routes which the troops will have to follow are little known. The resources of the districts to be traversed cannot be estimated with any certainty. What is known technically as "intelligence" is defective, and unavoidably so.

Want of knowledge may be as to the theatre of war or as to the enemy.

The difficulties which arise from this ignorance of the conditions under which the regular army will be operating really divide themselves into two main headings; difficulties




arising from want of knowledge of the theatre of war. and difficulties consequent upon the doubt that exists as to the strength, the organization, and the fighting qualities of the enemy. Of these the former may be said upon the whole to be the most important as a rule. For it is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of small wars as compared with regular hostilities conducted between modern armies, that they are in the main campaigns against nature.

Illustrations of effect of uncertainty as to routes;

The evil effects which will from time to time result from ignorance of the theatre of war can perhaps best be demonstrated by a few examples. One fruitful source of trouble, for instance, is that the route to be followed may not be accurately known.


This is well illustrated by Hicks Pasha's disastrous attempt to march from the Nile to El Obeid in 1883. The staff were not familiar with the position of the wells, the distances, and the difficulties to be encountered. The guides were treacherous. The force lost its way, lost time, and lost heart, and when at last the Mahdists attacked it, the troops, worn out and despairing, made no fight of it, and were annihilated.


In the Ambela campaign of 1863, the route over the Sukhawai Pass leading to Chamla had been reported to be easy in the extreme, but it turned out to be quite the reverse, and this disarranged the plans.


Sir H. Stewart's force on its march from the Abu Klea wells to the Nile in 1885 was taken, unnecessarily as was subsequently discovered, through some thick bush at night. The movement being conducted in the dark great confusion occurred amongst the transport; and the force was so seriously delayed that it failed to reach the river before daylight and was forced to fight at a great disadvantage in consequence.


General Dodds in writing of his campaign in Dahomey remarks, "Le manque complet de renseignements sérieux a été la plus gross difficulté qu'ait rencontrée la conduite des opérations."


The French expedition despatched to effect the capture of the Madagascar capital and the subjugation of the Hovas in 1895, is a good illustration of the unfortunate consequences of defective information as to a theatre of prospective war. After studying available sources of intelligence, the Paris War Office decided to make a carriageable road from the point selected for disembarkation, and to trust almost entirely to wheeled transport. It was not known that there were extraordinary engineering difficulties to be overcome and that the work involved an inordinate amount of manual labour. The construction of this road caused much serious delay, and kept the troops hard at work in unhealthy districts for months, which




resulted in a deplorable mortality. In the end General Duchesne threw the paper scheme to the winds, and, pushing on with a fraction of his army equipped with pack transport, made short work of the Hovas before Antananarivo.

as to resources of theatre;

Again, the resources of the theatre of war in supplies, in water, and in transport may not be properly estimated. It is a most serious thing if an operation has been undertaken in the belief that supplies will be found in a certain locality and if this belief is, when too late, discovered to be unfounded. On the other hand, an under-estimate of the resources of a district may lead to the troops being encumbered with a mass of transport which might have been dispensed with, and which hampers them in their operations.


In both the Russian campaign against Khiva in 1873, and in the French expedition into Dahomey in 1893, great inconvenience arose from water not being found where it was expected. One of the Russian columns against Khiva was indeed obliged to turn back and suffered considerably from privations.

as to exact position of localities.

Inconvenience and even disaster may be caused by doubt as to the exact position of some topographical feature or locality, or by an error in a map in which the commander of the troops is trusting. Ignorance as to the nature of a place which it has been determined to capture may also cause much trouble.


(1) A remarkable example of this is afforded by an incident in the first Dutch expedition against the Sultan of Achin in 1873. The primary object of this expedition was the capture of the Sultan's capital and stronghold Kota Raja. Only the approximate position of this was known. But the force fought its way to its immediate vicinity, the country being for the most part overgrown with thick tropical vegetation in which were scattered numbers of fortified villages.


The troops had gained a place of some importance known to be close to Kota Raja. A fortified village crowded with warriors was found a few hundred yards off, and as a preliminary it was decided to capture this. A part of the force was detached for the purpose which after severe fighting succeeded in gaining a footing within the defences; but it soon became manifest that the troops detailed were insufficient to clear the place, artillery especially being wanting. The officer in command thought it better not to




ask for support. He decided to retreat, and the enterprise thereby miscarried. Largely owing to this reverse it was resolved to return to the coast, and as a consequence the expedition completely failed [indecipherable] the object for which it had been set and it re-embarked.


It was afterwards discovered that the village, some of the defenses of which had been carried by a portion of the Dutch force as above described, was Kota Raja itself. Had this been known at the time of attack and all available troops been launched against it, it is quite possible that the place would have fallen and that a most important success would have been achieved.


(2) A somewhat analogous episode, but attended by no bad consequences, occurred when General Baratieri was preparing to attack the fortress of Algiers in 1830. A heavy mist hung over a plain near the city, and that was mistaken for the sea. The general had no great confidence in his maps which, however, turned out to be perfectly correct. He assumed from the position of what he took to be the sea, that the point he was making for lay quite differently from that what was shown on the map, and he started his columns in an altogether false direction. The mistake was only rectified when, riding forward on to some high ground, he was startled by finding Algiers lying immediately below him, and close at hand.


(3) During the first part of the Bhutan war in 1864, a column of 2,000 men with a transport train including 150 elephants was sent over 40 miles of most difficult country, hilly and overgrown with jungle, to capture the hill fort of the Bhutias known as Bishensing. After a [indecipherable] march of some days the place was reached, and was found to consist of a single stone house occupied by an old Lama priest. No fort existed, and the place was destitute of any importance whatever, military or other.


(4) The disastrous battle of Adowa seems to have been brought on by a mistake as regards a certain locality, or rather by the fact that there were two localities of the same name a few miles apart. Owing to this, one of the three separate Italian columns advanced towards Adowa by night, moved considerably further than was intended by General Baratieri and its advanced guard came unexpectedly on the Abyssinian host early in the morning. The consequence was that the column was soon enveloped and almost annihilated, and that the whole of the arrangements designed by the Italian commander-in-chief were thrown out of gear.

Uncertainty in the mind of commander reacts upon his plan of operations.

These few examples give actual instances of mistakes occurring through ignorance of the theatre of war. But it is not only mistakes and miscalculations of this kind which may prove a source of inconvenience and possibly of danger. There is also the uncertainty in the mind of the commander to be taken into account. The effect of this uncertainty cannot be illustrated by instances selected from history,




although, it will often be a powerful factor in influencing his course of conduct. Nothing more tends to hinder the framing of a decisive and assured plan of campaign and to delay the execution of the plan when it has been resolved upon, than this feeling of doubt, the fear that something unexpected will mar the combination and upset the calculations upon which it was based.

Effect of doubts as to strength and fighting qualities of enemy.

But while many small wars - the Indian Mutiny for instance, some of the campaigns of the United States troops against the Red Indians, the first Boer war, &c. - take place in theatres of operations which are well known, where the uncertainty above spoken of as regards communications, supplies, and so forth, does not then exist, there is almost always doubt as to the fighting strength of the enemy. Information as to this is invariably defective. The intelligence department finds great difficulty in organising an efficient service of espionage for obvious reasons - the spy captured by civilized troops does not have a very good time, in the hands of barbarians his lot is even more unenviable. Even where the opposing force has an organization which has been studied in peace time, it is not known how far it will work when put to the test of war against a civilized power. Even more important than the fighting strength of such antagonists, moreover, are their fighting qualities; although these can at times be fairly well estimated it is surprising how often the estimate turns out to be quite incorrect - as in the case of the South African war of 1899-1902.


A few examples may he given to show the uncertainty on these points which is such a feature of small wars. It may, however, be accepted as a general rule - and the reason why this is so needs no demonstration - that the less organized the forces of the enemy are, the more difficult is it to form any estimate of their strength or their quality.


Twice over during the last Afghan war the strength of the Afghans was altogether under-estimated, and on both occasions with somewhat unfortunate results. The first occasion was in the winter of 1879, when the great




uprising of the tribes took place which ended in the siege ot Sharpur; serious losses were suffered in endeavouring to hold an extended line round Kabul, owing to the great numerical strength of the enemy not becoming for some time known. The second occasion was, later on, when Ayoub Khan advanced from Herat to the neighbourhood of Kandahar with a large force well supplied with artillery; owing to a failure to appreciate the importance of this movement only a brigade very weak in British troops was sent to confront it, and this was disastrously defeated at Maiwand.


The unfortunate reverse suffered by the Italian troops at Dogalt near Massawa arose almost entirely from ignorance of the hostile strength. A small force was left isolated, and the reinforcements sent to its assistance were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers.


The French in Dahomey were not prepared to find the enemy in possession of guns; and as they operated in compact formation the hostile artillery proved somewhat inconvenient on one or two occasions. Similarly the United States troops had not at first expected to find the Filipinos with artillery; but these brought up two guns to defend Kalumpit.


At the outbreak of hostilities between the British and the Boers in 1881, the prevailing opinion in Natal, and in South Africa generally, was that the Boers would fight with little spirit and would easily lie dispersed by the slender force under Sir G. Colley. But the event proved that the general estimate of their capabilities and courage was wrong, that the campaign had been undertaken with an altogether insufficient number of troops, and that the quelling of the revolt must have proved a difficult and costly undertaking had it been persisted in.


The Dutch in their first expedition to Achin were altogether unprepared for the warlike qualities displayed by the Achinese and for their skill in constructing works of defence. The consequence was that the campaign was entered upon with an insufficient force, and that unnecessary loss was on several occasions incurred in attacking fortified localities without proper preparation.


The Italians appear to have altogether under-estimated the fighting capacity and the numerical strength of King Meneleck's army before the battle of Adowa. This was the chief cause of the very serious reverse which befel their arms. Neither the commander-in-chief nor his brigadiers seem to have had any idea that they were within a few miles of an army five-fold superior to their own, and consisting of formidable warriors effectively armed and full of fight, when the unfortunate nocturnal advance was made which brought on the battle.


The French, on the other hand, entered upon their final campaign against the Malagasies with an exaggerated notion of the opposition they were likely to meet with. Visitors to the country came away with the idea that the Queen's army was a fairly efficient force which would give a good account of itself under the circumstances. In previous campaigns, moreover, the Malagasies had given the French a good deal of trouble. The consequence




was that it was very properly decided at Paris to send a large expeditionary force, to make the road already referred to, and to take the campaign very seriously. The resistance proved, however, beneath contempt, and there seems now to be little doubt that the invading army was unnecessarily large and that its size proved an incubus to its commander, who eventually concluded the campaign in brilliant fashion with a small flying column.

Uncertainty as to extent to which, the hostile population itself, and the neighbouring tribes, etc., will take part in the campaign.

In irregular campaigns it is always doubtful how far the people of the hostile country, or in minor operations the hostile tribe, will put forth their entire strength. The attitude, moreover, of neighbouring peoples and tribes is at times a subject of great uncertainty. The very serious inconvenience which may arise when a neighbouring tribe unexpectedly assumes an unfriendly demeanour is singularly well illustrated by the Ambela campaign.

Example of Ambela.

The operations were undertaken with a view of attacking and dispersing a settlement of Hindustani fanatics at a place called Malka, north of the Peshawur valley (see plan opposite). The plan decided upon was to fall upon the place from the north by a sudden march through the Ambela defile in the Chamla valley, so as to drive the enemy towards the Indian plains and into the arms of troops advancing from about Sitana.


The expeditionary force under Sir N. Chamberlain was advancing slowly into the Ambela defile, a long and difficult pass through the hills, when the Buner tribe, a warlike mountain race dwelling in the hill country north of the Chamla valley, suddenly, assumed a threatening attitude. For a march from Ambela to Malka with so formidable an enemy on the flank, a far larger army than that told off would have been necessary, and the consequence was that Sir N. Chamberlain found himself obliged to halt in the defile. The Hindustanis who were blocking the exit were supported actively by some small Mahommedan tribes, and were supported passively by the Buners. The inaction of the British force tended to encourage the enemy. For nearly a month it was in close contact with a resolute and enterprising foe, and severe fighting took place in which considerable loss was suffered. In the end the Buners were conciliated and, the hostile gathering in the defile being dispersed, the column marched to Malka and carried out the programme decided upon at the outset.

Difficulty of eliciting correct information from natives.

The difficulty of dealing with Orientals and savages, whether as informers or spies, is referred to in many textbooks and works of reference on reconnaissance and intelligence duties. The ordinary native found in theatres of war peopled by coloured races lies simply for the love of the thing



Image of map - The Ambela Campaign.
The Ambela Campaign.

and his ideas of time, numbers, and distance are of the vaguest, even when he is trying to speak the truth. Most officers have experienced this during the ordinary course of foreign service. In small wars the field intelligence department is often greatly hampered by this difficulty in eliciting correct information from the people of the country - more so than would generally be the case in civilized countries. But that this difficulty is one which can be overcome has often been proved in actual campaigns, and notably in the remarkable set of operations which carried the Anglo-Egyptian troops by successive stages from Wadi Halfa to Omdurman in the years 1895-1898, and which afford a signal illustration of what can be achieved by a thoroughly efficient intelligence department. Even then, however, the incapacity of appreciating numbers which Orientals habitually display, was evidenced by the fact that the Khalifa mustered for his last stand a considerably larger army than the native reports had given him credit for.


One other difficulty which the regular army has sometimes to contend with in small wars is treachery on the part of ostensibly neutral bodies or tribes, while, in civilized warfare such a thing is almost unknown. The Indian Mutiny furnishes the ever memorable case of Cawnpore, and in the campaigns against the Red Indians the United States troops had constantly to be on the watch against hostile perfidy. The standard of honour varies greatly among different uncivilized or semi-civilized races; but it is not by any means the ease that those lowest in the human scale are the least to be trusted. When operating in certain parts of the world or in contact with certain people a commander has always to be on his guard, and the following incidents are worth citing as showing what has at times to be expected: -


In 1884 the French concluded a treaty of peace relative to Tonkin with the Chinese, in virtue of which Tonkin was acknowledged to be a French acquisition. Shortly afterwards, however, a column of troops marching




through the country was suddenly attacked by the Chinese near Bac Le; a regular ambush had been formed, and the column was very roughly handled. Hostilities were therefore resumed.


During the march of the Anglo-French expeditionary force from the Taku Forts towards Pekin in 1860, the Chinese had consented in the course of negotiations that the allies might advance to Tang Chow, ten miles short of the capital; but the hostile army was found barring the road and, in consequence of the enemy's threatening demeanour, it was found necessary to attack this army and to drive it off.


The Boer war of 1881 commenced with the incident of Bronker's Spruit - an incident that would never occur in regular warfare. Part of a British regiment was marching through the Transvaal, no hostilities having occurred. An ambush for it was prepared, and it was suddenly ordered to halt. The commanding officer naturally declined. The troops were fired upon when practically unprepared, and so many were killed and wounded that the force was obliged to surrender.

Uncertainty as to movements and intentions of enemy prevails in all classes of warfare.

In every class of warfare uncertainty must exist as to the movements, intentions, and whereabouts of the enemy. Unless there is some special reason for acting to the contrary, a commander always endeavours to keep his antagonist in doubt upon these points. To correctly interpret the auguries derived from reconnaissances, from information brought in by spies, and from the various forms of circumstantial evidence provided by the theatre of war, is often one of the most difficult of military problems. But the causes which tend to bring about this uncertainty differ considerably in irregular warfare from those prevailing in great campaigns.

Difference in this respect between regular warfare and small wars; reasons for it.

Regular armies are governed by certain strategical laws - elastic laws no doubt, but none the less laws - a complete disregard of which will lead to disaster. They conceal their movements and concentrations behind screens of outposts. They control as far as practicable the telegraph lines, the postal system, the press, and the other channels for disseminating news, and by these methods they can for a time keep their adversaries in perplexity as to when and where the blow will fall, and can conceal combinations by which they propose to parry the adversary's attack. But this concealment can only be kept up for a certain time and till the opposing forces




come in contact. Once the two armies really confront each other, and the veil which has hidden one from the other is rent asunder, each can guess not only the position and strength but also the intentions of the, other, and each can infer how the other will act in the various contingencies that may arise. Both are governed by the same laws, and are as it were, playing the same game.


But in a small war it is not so. The more irregular and the less organized the forces of the enemy are, the more independent do they become of strategical rules. An army which disperses if it is beaten, cannot be treated in the same way as an army which under such circumstances retreats in as compact and regular formation as the case admits of towards its base. It is far more difficult to infer from the indications which come to hand what such an enemy means to do, and to foresee, what will happen under any conditions which the regular army may be able to bring about.


There is, moreover, another peculiarity which is very generally found in the antagonists with whom the organized forces in small wars have to cope. This is the extreme rapidity with which the enemy conducts his movements and operations. This mobility, which as will be seen in later chapters greatly influences the strategical and tactical conditions, is attributable to various causes - actual marching power, freedom of impedimenta, knowledge of the theatre of war, and so forth. But one important consequence of this mobility on the part of the enemy undoubtedly is to increase the perplexity and uncertainty in which the regular army is plunged. In the Red Indian campaigns the great difficulty was generally to find the camps of these nomad marauders, who travelled huge distances in a few hours after one of their devastating forays. In Algeria the French were incessantly despatching expeditions against the Kabyles which could effect nothing because the enemy disappeared. The mobility of the Zulu impis kept the British in constant bewilderment as to their approximate




positions, in the earlier stages of the war. As a consequence of the rapidity of the enemy's movements, large hostile forces were on more than one occasion met with quite unexpectedly in the Afghan and Sudan campaigns.


It may be taken, then, to be a feature of small wars that the regular army labours under grave embarrassments due to want of accurate intelligence as to the theatre of war, and as to the movements, the strength and the fighting value of the bodies opposed to it. The extent to which this is so varies of course greatly in different campaigns. But in operations of this nature there is always an amount of uncertainty which ought seldom to exist in regular warfare between two modern armies maintaining efficient staffs in peace time. This doubt reflects itself in the movements of the regular forces; it dogs them in their advance, cramping their liberty of action to such an extent that it not unfrequently brings them to a complete standstill, to the great encouragement of the enemy and to the detriment of a decisive campaign.

Advantages enjoyed by the enemy as regards intelligence.

Knowledge of theatre of war.

On the other hand, the enemy enjoys many advantages in the matter of "intelligence." It is of course the case that semi-civilized or barbarian nations, that tribes on the borders of the foreign possessions of Great Powers or insurgents within their borders, that the class of people, in fact, who form the enemy in small wars, are very ignorant as to the resources, the military strength, and the, comparatively speaking, perfect army organization of the country with which they engage in hostilities. Were it not so small wars would be of far rarer occurrence. But from the very nature of such campaigns the enemy is generally operating in a theatre of war with which he is familiar. He knows the tracks over the hills, the paths through the jungle, the passages over the rivers, the points where he can be sure of replenishing his few requirements.

The enemy seems always to know the movements of the regular army.

More than this. The enemy, however little he may understand the fighting system of the regular troops, or appreciate the value of their weapons, or grasp what they are aiming at,




is generally aware of every movement which they make as soon as it is completed, and often before it has begun. This arises from the social system in such theatres of war and from the manner in which the inhabitants live. News spreads in a most mysterious fashion. The people are far more observant than the dwellers in civilized lands. By a kind of instinct they interpret military portents even when totally deficient of courage or fighting capacity. Camp gossip is heard by those who are attracted by the ready payment which supplies brought to a civilized army always meet with, and it flit's from mouth to mouth till it reaches the ears of the hostile leaders. The regular army is being watched in all its operations and cannot prevent it. The enemy has no organized intelligence department, no regular corps of spies, no telegraphs - and yet he knows perfectly well what is going on. He sees his opponent's hand. And it may be added thai the press is apt to favour the enemy, for the war correspondents are generally all on the side of the regular army, and may, even with the best intentions not to prejudice the course of operations and in spite of censorships, give information to the foe.


To take a recent example of the difficulty of concealing movements and intentions from the enemy. In the campaign against the Hunza-Xagar tribes north of Kashmir in 1891, the British force was, after the storming of the fort of Nilt, brought to a standstill for several days by a formidable line of defence works covering an extensive mountain position of great natural strength. Attempts were on more than one occasion made to gain a lodgment in these lines by a night attack but the enemy seemed always to know what was intended beforehand. One night an attack had been intended; but it did not actually take place because the enemy suddenly opened a heavy fire before the storming parties approached, evidently knowing that an assault was impending.

This can be turned to account by publishing false information as to intentions.

Inconvenient as it is that the enemy seems always to be so well informed as to what the regular army does or is going to do, this circumstance can sometimes be turned to account. By spreading fictitious information as to proposed movements, or by publishing it abroad that some imaginary enterprise is




impending, the hostile leaders can be put on a false scent. The news is sure to reach them. And although the troops in small wars find their opponents as a rule skilled in the arrangement of ambushes and the carrying out of surprises, masters in the art of military deception, crafty and cunning, they find them on the other hand to be by no means so wary in avoiding snares as they are artful in setting them. This fact - the ease with which such warriors can often be deceived, surprised, lured into ambushes, and so forth - will be referred to again in another chapter. Suffice it to say here that when the plan is adopted of propagating misleading intelligence as to prospective operations, the enemy generally falls into the trap readily enough.


During the war in Tonkin in 1884, an advance was about to be made from Hanoi to Bacninh by the French. The Chinese and Black Flags had constructed a series of fortified positions blocking the direct road, and were prepared to contest the passage. The French general therefore spread the report that he meant to fight his way through; then he suddenly marched off to a flank, and, moving across country, reached Bacninh from another side. The enemy, completely deceived, was unprepared to bar the way to the French force, which gained its destination with little trouble.


The transfer by sea of the British expeditionary force from Alexandria to Ismailia, in 1882, was carried out under the cover of a pretended attack on Aboukir. It was of the utmost importance that a secure footing should be gained in the Suez Canal before Arabi Pasha should guess that this was the real point of attack. Rolling stock, which it was foreseen would be required on the railway from Ismailia to the Nile Delta, was embarked at Alexandria on the pretence of being sent to Cyprus. Orders wore drawn up for a combined attack by land and sea upon the Aboukir forts. The fleet and the transports on their way from Alexandria to Ismailia actually steamed into Aboukir Bay, and on the same day 3,000 Egyptian troops were sent thither from Cairo. It is said that Arabi Pasha first heard of the great transfer of force from one side of Egypt to the other a year later when a prisoner in Ceylon.


Previously to the second attack on Dargai in the Tirah campaign, information had been allowed to leak out that it was contemplated to conduct the operation on the same lines as on the previous occasions - to advance direct on the position with one column and to turn the right with another. The consequence was that large bodies of the enemy remained on the hostile right flank awaiting this expected turning movement, a turning movement which was never really intended to take place. This division of the tribal




forces reduced, at any rate during the earlier part of the day, the numbers available to hold the formidable position against which the assault was eventually delivered. On hearing that the Dargan heights were likely to be held in strength. Sir W. Lockhart had ordered the tribesmen's attention to be occupied in front, while a force was to proceed as rapidly as possible, past the front of Dargai so as to threaten their line of retreat; this turning movement was not, however, carried out, the result being that great difficulty was experienced in capturing a position which would probably have been evacuated by the enemy the moment our troops had established themselves in rear of it. But the storming of the heights, if it was attended with serious loss, exerted great moral effect on the tribesmen and gave the enemy the severest losses of the whole campaign.


The evening before the battle of Khartum information reached Sir H. Kitchener that the Khalifa contemplated a night attack. Such an eventuality was most undesirable, and so villagers were sent out to reconnoitre the hostile position and to convey the idea that the Anglo-Egyptian army intended a night attack upon the Mahdists. The consequence was that the enemy's host remained in its position, and that the battle was deferred till the morning.

Conclusions arrived at in chapter only to be considered as generally applicable.

But all that has been said in this chapter with regard to the peculiar conditions as to intelligence which prevail in small wars must be understood to be applicable only generally. In many cases they hold good only partially. In some cases they do not hold good at all. The operations may take place in districts to the full as well known to the regular army as they are to the enemy, perfect acquaintance with the organization and strength of the hostile force will at times be enjoyed, the inhabitants of the theatre of war may be strongly in favour of the regular army and may avoid giving information of any kind to the other side. All this depends upon the circumstances of the case. The conditions vary so greatly in small wars that the principles which govern them, as a whole, are in the highest degree elastic. It can therefore only be laid down as a usual condition in warfare of this nature that the regular army is at a disadvantage as compared to the enemy as regards what we call military intelligence, but it is by no means an invariable rule.



Chapter V.
The influence of the question of supply upon small wars
and the extent to which it must govern the plan of operations.

Small wars when they are campaigns against nature are mainly so owing to supply.

The fact that small wars are, generally speaking, campaigns rather against nature than against hostile armies has been already referred to. It constitutes one of the most distinctive characteristics of this class of warfare. It affects the course of operations to an extent varying greatly according to circumstances, but so vitally at times as to govern the whole course of the campaign from start to finish. It arises almost entirely out of the difficulties as regards supply which the theatres of small wars generally present.


Climate affects the health of troops, absence of communications retards the movements of soldiers, the jungle and the bush embarrass a commander; but if it were not for the difficulty as regards food for man and beast which roadless and inhospitable tracts oppose to the operations of a regular army, good troops well led would make light of such obstacles in their path. It is not the question of pushing forward the man, or the horse, or the gun, that has to be taken into account, so much as that of the provision of the necessaries of life for the troops when they have been pushed forward.

Reasons for this.

The less fertile and productive the theatre of war, the more elaborate have to be the arrangements for the commissariat. The worse are the tracks, the more difficult is it to ensure an efficient transport service to carry the supplies which do not exist on the spot. The larger the columns of transport are, the greater force do they require for their protection from hostile raids. This all-important question of




supply is in fact at the root of most of the difficulties, and has been the cause of some of the disasters, to which regular troops engaged in small wars seem ever to be prone.

Connection between supply and transport.

Supply and transport are intimately bound up in all military operations. On the Continent of Europe where roads, railways, and canals generally abound, where the districts which may at some future period become scenes of war can be foreseen in times of peace, and where contending armies can live largely if not wholly upon the country they traverse, an organized supply service comes into existence as armies change from the peace to the war footing. Unless railways make it unnecessary, arrangements are generally made for ensuring that with, and immediately in rear of, the troops, shall move great trains of wagons carrying rations for the force to last for several days; and, as the army advances on a broad front, it covers these trains from hostile attacks, and their protection is not therefore a source of great anxiety to the leader. Then, as the supplies carried in these trains are consumed, they are made good, partly from what can be obtained from the theatre of war, and partly by the empty transport moving back to fixed supply magazines for replenishment. As long as the army does not move forward with great rapidity and does not outstrip its supply train, or does not suddenly change its course as a result of defeat or of some unforeseen event, there is no reason why all should not work smoothly.

Supply trains in small wars

In small wars the circumstances are, however, wholly different. The absence of communications makes the transport of a given quantity of food a matter of far graver difficulty than it is in the average European theatre of war. Animals can draw a considerably greater weight than they can carry, and therefore the substitution of pack transport for wagons at once greatly increases the size of the train - a British battalion on the Indian scale requires for its 1st and 2nd line transport a little over a mile of track, if from its nature





the mules have to move in single file. Moreover, the worse the route is, the slower does the transport move. Supply in fact is largely dependent upon the nature of the route which the force is following, and if the route is very bad or very narrow the commissariat service is apt to suffer in proportion.


If no supplies can be obtained from the theatre of war, as is so often the case in these operations, everything in the way of food for man or beast has to be carried. It must be remembered that the transport animals themselves have to be fed, and that if no forage is obtainable they have to carry their own food. It may be taken as a rough rule that a transport animal cannot under the most favourable circumstances carry food for itself for more than a month; this, moreover, takes no account of the return journey. A little consideration of these points makes clear what difficulties the question of supply is apt to raise.


Experience shows that in small wars very great distances have often to be traversed through barren arid districts, where the soil is not cultivated, where no sheep or cattle are to be found, where a scanty population subsists on food unsuited for European soldiery, and where no forage for horses or mules exists. Supplies have then to be carried sufficient to subsist the force while it traverses the whole distance, and the consequence of this is that supply trains grow to an enormous size and become very troublesome to control and difficult to protect. The army in fact becomes a mere escort for its food, and it often has to establish some form of entrenched camp to leave its food in under the guardianship of part of the force, before it can fight a battle. A few examples of these great unwieldy moveable magazines may be cited here in illustration.


In the British expedition to Abyssinia in 1868, the moveable magazine for a force of 10,000 fighting men amounted to 26,000 animals and 12,000 followers. When the Russians conquered Khiva in 1874, the column from Tashkend, consisting of 5,500 men, was accompanied by a supply column of





8,800 camels. When during the last Afghan war Sir D. Stewart marched from Kandahar to Kabul, his force of 7,000 had 6,000 transport animals, and later on, on Sir F. Roberts's return march to Kandahar, his army of 10,000 had with it over 8,000 transport animals. The French expeditionary force of 15,000 men despatched to capture Antananarivo started with 5,000 two-wheeled wagons; eventually the flying column which captured the place, and which was 4,000 strong, moved off with 2,800 pack animals.


Into the question of how best to protect these great supply columns, it is not proposed in this chapter to enter. But it is obvious that their convoy through a country occupied by a hostile population is a formidable problem; and as a consequence it may be accepted as a general principle that in small wars supply presents not only great difficulties in the way of organization, but exerts also a powerful influence over actual tactics when the regular troops meet their antagonists in conflict.

Difficulties as to supply tend to limit the force, employed.

So great indeed are the difficulties that arise in many small wars from supply, that it becomes necessary to cut down the forces engaged to the lowest possible strength consistent with safety, and that campaigns have to be embarked upon with armies barely capable numerically of performing the work which they may have in hand. A condition of things is evolved, in fact, such as called from Henry IV of France the remark with regard to campaigns against Spain in his day: - "Invade with a large force and you are destroyed by starvation; invade with a small one and you are overwhelmed by a hostile population." General Skobelef, when engaged upon his campaign against the Turkomans in 1880, which will be referred to later, was constantly in fear that the Russian Government would take alarm at the slowness of his progress and would send reinforcements across the Caspian; weakness of force to him was under the circumstances a source of strength.

The question of water.

An element moreover enters into the question of supply in many small wars which seldom need to be taken into consideration except transitorily in a Continental campaign.




This is the question of water. When the theatre of war is a desert with only a few scattered wells, water becomes a matter of supply, and has to be carried with the force. Its transport is exceptionally troublesome. The transport animals themselves require it as well as troops and horses. From its nature much of it is apt to be lost in transit. It requires special arrangements for its storage as well as for its carriage. A failure of the water supply means disaster if not annihilation. During the protracted operations of the German military forces against the Herreros and other tribes of Damaraland and Namaqualand, this question was constantly a source of difficulty and a cause of delay.


(1) During the Russian campaign against Khiva one of the three invading columns, that based on the Caspian Sea at Krasnovodsk, after suffering terrible privations from want of water, was in the end obliged to turn back, and never reached the Khivan oasis. In 1866, a Russian column under General Tchernaieff attempted to march from Tashkend to capture Samarcand; but after proceeding a considerable distance it was obliged to turn back owing to difficulties as to supply, principally water.


(2) In 1840, a small British force holding Kahan in the Marri country which flanked the Bolan route to Kandahar, was hemmed in by hostile tribesmen; a detachment sent back from it had met with disaster; the garrison was known to be in grave jeopardy from lack of good water and sufficient food; so a force was organised to succour it.


The relieving troops had been assured of water at the foot of an important pass; but on reaching the spot designated none was found: the Marris were holding the heights, the water supply with the troops was exhausted, there was nothing for it but to storm the position and get to Kahan. But the assault miscarried. The waverers among the hostile tribesmen lurking among the hills to watch the issue, then rushed down eager to participate in the fray, and only by dint of resolute fighting was this counter-attack repelled. The force was now in desperate straits from want of water and had to retire to seek it, abandoning everything. When the stricken remnant reached water the supply train had been lost and there was no food left, so the force had to march back 50 miles to its original starting point, where it arrived in piteous plight. Kahan had to be left to its fate and the disaster was at the time irretrievable. This misfortune appears to have been entirely caused by the failure to find water where its existence had been calculated upon.


It may be mentioned that the Kahan garrison, after a most gallant defence, was granted a safe conduct, and eventually reached the frontier



post, "emaciated, ragged, hungry and destitute, yet bringing with them their gun and their honour."


(3) During Admiral Rawson's advance on Benin in 1897, it had been expected that water would bo found in a place called Agagi, 12 miles from the capital, but on reaching the locality the wells were found to be dry. It was decided therefore to push on as a flying column, carrying three days' water supply as well as provisions and ammunition.


The position of the wells fixes the lines of military operations in a desert, just as it fixes the caravan routes and the highways of commerce. They become points of supreme strategical importance, a fact of which the enemy is well aware. The Mahdists made a desperate attempt to prevent Sir H. Stewart's forces from reaching the Abu Klea wells; and it is said that during Hicks Pasha's ill-fated attempt to march to El Obeid from the Nile, they closed up the wells in rear of his force as it advanced, so as to make its retreat impossible. The enemy is generally fully alive to the importance of destroying the water supply, which can easily be done in the case of scattered wells; in the Mohmund campaign of 1897, the hill men broached their tanks, and this was one of the chief difficulties General Elles had to contend with. It is clear then that the question of water exerts at times a dominant influence over the course of these campaigns. In almost all tropical campaigns the subject of water is a source of anxiety and it is constantly in the mind of the commander as he shapes his plan of operations.

Supply a matter of calculation, but there is always great risk of this being upset by something unforeseen.

Supply both of food and of water is in reality merely a matter of calculation. For a given force proceeding a given distance at a given rate, the amount that will be required is a question of figures, and, in a theatre of war possessing good communication, problems of this land can be worked out with considerable probability of the results arrived at in practice corresponding to those arrived at in theory. But in uncivilized countries it is almost impossible to predict the rate at which the force will advance. Trustworthy information as to the country to be traversed is often lacking; unexpected




obstacles spring up, quite apart from the endeavours of the enemy to check progress; the extent to which the theatre of war itself may assist as regards providing supplies is undetermined; doubts and perplexity on this score are constantly arising and thwarting the regular army. A good example of a wholly unforeseen difficulty arising as regards supply, and falsifying predictions based on a most careful review of the situation with reference to available food, occurred during the Nile expedition of 1884-85.


The River Column, starting from Hamdab beyond Korti carried with it 100 days' supplies, which was believed to be sufficient to take it to Berber. It was discovered, however, after the force had proceeded some distance that one-third of the biscuits were unserviceable, which reduced the time that the column could operate independently by more than one month. This unfortunate contretemps, which could not of course be foreseen, completely upset the calculations upon which the general plan of campaign had been based.

Rivers as affecting supply in small wars.

In countries where small wars take place, communications are generally most indifferent. Railways there are none. Proper roads admitting of the passage of wheeled transport are seldom existent. The inhabitants of the theatre of war are generally satisfied with rugged tracks available only for pack transport. But navigable rivers are often to be found, and these, even if they are not used for the actual movement of troops, are of incalculable assistance at times as channels for forwarding supplies, especially if steamers can be put on them.


The rivers in Cochin China and Tonkin proved in this manner of great service to the French in their campaigns in 1861 and 1884-85. The Achin river similarly aided the Dutch in their second expedition against the Achin Sultanate.


But this is especially well illustrated by the French campaign against Dahomey in 1892-93. The Wémé river leading into the heart of this jungle-grown theatre of war, enabled General Dodds to advance with assured steps more than half way from the coast to Abomey the capital, in spite of determined action on the part of the enemy, for supply and water were during that stage a matter of little difficulty. As soon as the French column was obliged to strike off from the river the difficulty of protecting the transport train began to manifest itself, and progress became deliberate and dangerous.




The boat expeditions to the Red River and up the Nile.

The use of steamers may, however, be denied by circumstances. It may be impossible to tow barges from the bank. Sailing is generally impracticable. And from the nature of these wars it is generally the case that the regular forces are advancing from the sea, and that the current is therefore against them. But two notable British campaigns have shown how rivers can be used for forwarding supplies even under such unfavourable circumstances. In both the Red River Expedition and the Nile Expedition of 1884-85, row-boats were used, by which at once the force itself and the supplies for the force advanced. The troops rowed the boats themselves and carried their supplies with them, thus forming their own transport - a transport which from its nature needed no forage to be carried for it. The Red River Expedition moved through a country wholly destitute of supplies, the entire force going by boat. The Nile Expedition moved through a country where some supplies were obtainable; part of the force - the mounted portion - marched, some steamers and barges were available, and the force was assisted by some transport on its line of advance. But both these campaigns show how rivers can be made use of as channels of supply, the troops themselves forming the transport.

Principle of holding back the troops and pushing on supplies ahead of them.

Earlier in this chapter the enormous amount of transport required for a force penetrating far into a territory destitute of supplies has been pointed out. The fact that tills transport has to be fed itself and that it may have to carry its own food has been commented upon. It is clear that the longer the troops are operating in a resourceless country the more supplies will they want, and the larger will be the transport columns. Obviously, therefore, it is often of vital importance in the conduct of such operations that the army should be as short a time as possible away from its base, and that the troops should be kept back while the supplies are pushed ahead under the escort of the smallest force which can safely be entrusted with the duty.




It often occurred in the later days of the South African War of 1899-1902, when the straggle had degenerated into guerilla warfare that, at the cost of vast trouble and accompanied by an imposing escort, a convoy would be sent out into the heart of some district far from the railway. But then the supplies which it carried would be consumed by troops which were not engaged on active operation at the moment because there happened to be no enemy at hand - by troops which could have been fed without the slightest difficulty on the railway. Sometimes the very column which had escorted a convoy far afield would bivouac by the convoy till its contents were consumed, and would then escort the empty wagons back. That this occurred so often can only be attributed to a failure to realize the interdependence which exists between the administration of supply and the strategy of the campaign. The commander who does not realize this interdependence, and who does not frame his general plans of operations with it in view, will assuredly not make the most of that aggregate of fighting men and animals and non-combatants and transport and stores which make up his command, under the conditions usually prevailing in small wars.


But on the other hand the principle of holding back the bulk of the troops and pushing supplies on ahead, must not be carried too far. The supplies must move under adequate escort and must be guarded by a sufficient force when they have reached their destination. As the escorts and guards consume supplies, the great object is to reduce them to a minimum, and the best means of doing this is to create fortified depots in the enemy's country, where the supplies are collected and stored ready for the army to use when it advances in force. Or it may be necessary, as suggested above, to push out a portion of the army to fight its way into the theatre of war and to hold its ground, while supplies are moved forward in rear of it and collected under its protection, the rest of the force remaining at the base waiting till all is ready. But however the



operation is carried out, the broad principle is to advance with the smallest force consistent with safety under the given circumstances, and to store sufficient food for the whole army to be enabled to perform its allotted task. The Russian campaigns in 1879 and 1880 against the Turkomans, and the advance of the British troops form the Suez Canal to the Nile delta in 1882, afford fine examples of this great principle of conducting a small war in a desert country.

Examples illustrating this.

(1) In 1879 a Russian army of some 16,000 men under General Lomakin was detailed to move from the Caspian Sea into the Turkoman country and subdue its people. A place called Chikislar, in somewhat unhealthy surroundings near the southern end of the sea, was made the base, and there elaborate preparations of all kinds was made for the campaign. But the enterprise failed disastrously, mainly owing to a disregard of the principle enunciated above.


The country between Chikislar and the Tekke oases is not a desert, but it is not on the other hand a district which a large army could live upon. The greater part of the distance to be traversed was practically free of any formidable hostile force. But instead of keeping the bulk of his army west of the Caspian Sea while supplies were collecting. General Lomakin assembled his troops immediately at Chikislar, they ate up the supplies as fast as they were disembarked, and, as a consequence, the large force was for months detained in an unhealthy locality. Depots of supplies were not formed in advance along the line to be followed, and when the army eventually moved forward it was followed by a gigantic but nevertheless insufficient transport train. The difficulty of feeding the troops grew from day to day. Nothing could, indeed, more clearly show the fatal effects of a failure to grasp the essential principles of supplying an army operating in a desert country, and of a defective organization of the commissariat and transport services, than the fact that only 1,400 fighting men out of the original force of over 16,000 could be assembled for the one battle of the campaign - the disastrous assault on Denghil Tepe.


(2) General Skobelef the following year conducted the campaign on altogether different lines. He did not assemble his main body at Chikislar till the last moment He pushed out small bodies and formed defensive posts on the intended line of operations, where he stored provisions for the army he was about to lead to Denghil Tepe. He recognised that the campaign he was undertaking hinged upon supply, and with this constantly in view, everything was arranged for deliberately and in advance. His system was slow, but it was absolutely sure. It is indeed a remarkable illustration of the great influence which the question of supply exerts over the conduct and course of small wars, that a leader like Skobelef, whose daring and




resolution had been so signally conspicuous two years before in the campaign in Bulgaria against the formidable Turkish troops, should, while operating against the feeble military forces of the Tekke Turkomans, be found spending months in organizing his commissariat and in forming advanced food depots, while he must from his intrepid disposition have been even more anxious than were the Russian army and the Russian people to wipe out promptly the disgrace of the previous year's disaster. In the end organization and calculation triumphed, and the campaign concluded with a brilliant success.


(3) The Egyptian campaign of 1882 differed from those against the Turkomans above referred to in that the distance was short, and that the line of advance from Ismailia was through country held strongly by the enemy. To ensure the water supply it was of vital importance to secure the Kassassin lock on the sweet water canal, which marked the course of the proposed line of operations, and owing to the difficulty of forwarding supplies up to this point it was necessary to send the smallest possible force to seize it, and to hold it. Therefore a mere fraction of the expeditionary force was pushed to the front and bore the brunt of the Egyptian attacks, while the bulk of it remained idle at Ismailia and was only moved forward when sufficient food had been collected for it to operate with rapidity and decision. The operations lasting up to the fight of Tel el Kebir serve as a model of how a campaign should be conducted in a country where the transport of supplies is a main difficulty.


The difficulty of supplying an army in warfare of this class may arise from the nature of the country as in Tirah and in the district about Ismailia, or from the great distances to be traversed as in the Turkoman campaigns and in South Africa, or from both, as was the case in Lord Wolseley's Nile Expedition and the later campaigns which broke up the Mahdist power. But the principle remains the same.

Example of a theatre of war being selected owing to reasons of supply.

Before finishing this chapter on supply as affecting the course of small wars, an example may be cited of a campaign where this question decided the selection of the actual theatre of war. The Nile Expedition of 1884-85, serves this purpose well. Apart from the exigencies of supply, the shortest route by far to Khartum was that from Suakin viâ Berber: but between Suakin and Berber, water is only to be found in a few wells scattered far apart, so it would have been necessary to carry water; and as a great part of the Egyptian Sudan north of Khartum is practically a desert, a force advancing




through it needs a vast transport train to carry its fond unless it follows the line of the great natural highway of the Nile. But an army following the course of the great river was free of all anxiety as to water, and was able, by using boats as shown in an earlier paragraph, to dispense with the huge trains of transport animals which usually form so essential a feature of a desert campaign. Thus it was that the supply question almost necessarily made the Nile valley the theatre of the campaign for the relief of Khartum, instead of the desert between Suakin and Berber.

The Nile Expedition a remarkable illustration of the subject of this chapter.

This Nile Expedition has been frequently referred to throughout this chapter. Like many of the Russian campaigns in Asia, like the French Madagascar expedition of 1895, and like many other small wars, it was essentially a campaign against nature, a struggle against the difficulties arising from supplying the wants of troops traversing great stretches of desert country. But it had this peculiarity - it was a campaign not only against nature but also against time, because it was undertaken to relieve a beleaguered city. For this reason, and also because of the remarkable manner in which its phases demonstrate the influence which the question of food and water may exert over a small war, an outline account of it from the point of view of supply will not be out of place in closing the subject.

Sketch of this campaign from the point of view of supply.

From Lower Egypt to the second cataract at Wadi Halfa, the railways along its coarse and the numerous steamers upon its waters make the Nile and its valley an excellent line of operations for a small army. For this reason the Nile Expedition may be taken as having had its base at Wadi Halfa.


Above Wadi Halfa up to the Third Cataract (see the plan facing next page) the Nile, at the season when the despatch of the force really commenced, and for several months afterwards, forms a series of rapids most difficult to navigate. From the Third Cataract to Hamdab the river offers no difficulty to small steamers; but only two were available on this stretch. Armed opposition was not to he expected north of Korti, therefore between Wadi Halfa and that point the transport of the troops and their food, and the arrangement of supplies for feeding them en route, were practically the only points to be thought of. The campaign proper would only begin after passing Korti.




Lord Wolseley's plan was to start his force from Korti with 100 days' supplies, which, supplemented by supplies which would be conveyed across the desert from Korosko to Abu Hamed as soon as that point had been reached, it was hoped would carry the army from Korti to Khartum. The force was to row itself from Wadi Halfa to Korti in the boats specially sent out for the purpose, carrying its 100 days' supplies with it and fed by the way from depots established in advance along the route. A small mounted detachment and the specially organized camel corps, however, marched the whole way.


The first thing, therefore, was to push on supplies by every available means so that the whole force should be fed on its way to Korti, and so that there should be sufficient supplies at the front for the mounted troops (who had not the boat supplies to depend upon) to be able to carry out such operations as might prove necessary. In the meantime most of the troops were held back below Wadi Halfa up to the last possible moment, although a small force had to be pushed on to protect the supply depots and secure the line to Korti.


In spite of the most strenuous exertions, the difficulty of collecting the necessary supplies along the route and at Korti gave rise to delay. The force took longer to assemble at its advanced base than had been anticipated, because food for its consumption took longer to collect than had been expected. Time was throughout of the most momentous importance. And so it came about that "when the troops eventually began to reach Korti, the situation had become so critical at Khartum that Lord Wolseley decided to at once send the camel corps across the desert from Korti to Metemma, to open up communications with General Gordon. The camel corps had been organized with the possibility of this contingency in view, although the original plan of campaign had been that the whole force should move by river. The difficulty of calculating the time within which supplies can be stored along a line of communications, even when the enemy has not to be taken into account, was thus demonstrated before the actual campaign began.


The force detailed to march to Metemma reached Gubat close to that point and 180 miles from Korti; but it took 21 days to do so. The delay was entirely due to supply difficulties, for instead of marching straight across, it was found necessary to form a depot at Jakdul about half way where there were good wells, and to send the transport back from there to Korti to bring up more food, before the rest of the distance could be covered. The fight at Abu Klea, which will be referred to in other chapters, had a most unfortunate effect as regards supply, for the transport suffered considerably in the action; and the transport being throughout heavily worked and getting little rest was seriously crippled by the time that the force had reached its destination near Metemma.


Khartum having fallen immediately after this and a complete change having thus occurred in the strategical situation, the desert force after a




time withdrew to Abu Klea. Lord Wolseley had for a time hoped before closing operations for the season to capture Berber by a combined movement of the desert force and of the River Column which was in the meantime following the Nile, and thus to establish an advanced post at an important strategical point in anticipation of a campaign against Khartum some months later. But it was found that the transport of the desert force had completely collapsed under the strain thrown upon it, and that the necessary food for the force intended for this enterprise could not have been carried. Owing to the supply question the desert force had thus become inoperative.


But the River Column had also become practically inoperative, likewise on account of supply. This advanced by boat with its 100 days' ration as originally intended, but, owing to an exceptionally low Nile, the rapids to be ascended proved to be more difficult than had been anticipated, and the progress of the column was unexpectedly slow. A convoy had been organized to move from Korosko to Abu Hamed and replenish supplies; but before the column reached that point it became clear that, even allowing for this assistance, the supplies would not suffice to carry it to Berber and back - the already referred to loss of a month's biscuits very seriously affecting the question. So it became necessary to recall the column to Korti, and the operations came to an end.


It may seem strange that the conveyance of a large store of food from Korosko to Abu Hamed should have offered no serious difficulties, considering the great distance, 230 miles - two-thirds of that from Wadi Halfa to Korti and across an almost waterless desert. But in this case the camels, starting fresh, would have made, as it were, a forced march in a very few days, so that their own food was not a serious item. Asking, moreover, as they reached Abu Hamed with their loads, the operation was successful even if they then collapsed. Such conditions seldom occur. As the force did not reach Abu Hamed this notable item in the programme was not actually carried out; but it is practically certain that it would have been, had not the River Column been recalled.


From beginning to end the question of food governed the movements of the expeditionary force. The question of water also greatly influenced the operations of the desert force, and introduced this important element of supply into the problem. It was not the impossibility of getting the troops themselves to Khartum, with or without fighting, in the short space of time available which brought about the failure of the campaign, but the impossibility of arranging for their supply within that time. And it must be added that the supply difficulties were enormously increased by the lateness of the start, by the unfortunate postponement in deciding on the despatch of the expedition. A few weeks sufficed to convert the Nile between the second and third cataracts from a great waterway up which the steamers from below Wadi Halfa could have steamed with ease, into a succession of tortuous rapids passable only with difficulty by small boats.



Chapter VI.
Boldness and vigour the essence of effectively conducting such operations.

The initiative.

It is an established canon of the art of war that the seizure of the initiative at the outset and its maintenance thenceforward, is one of the best assured means of commanding success. To dominate the course of operations, to hold the lead and compel the antagonist to follow suit, is the way to achieve the victory.

Forced upon the regular army to start with.

In an earlier chapter it has been pointed out that the conditions which bring about small wars are such as generally to throw upon the regular troops the responsibility of acting. Whether the object with which it enters upon hostilities be to wipe out an insult, to repress a rebellion, or to consolidate a conquest, the onus of opening the campaign will rest usually with the trained and organized army. It follows therefore from their very nature, that the initiative in small wars at the start belongs to the regular force, and that the question of seizing it does not in consequence arise.


Under certain circumstances the enemy will sometimes make the first move. In an insurrection this is indeed generally the case - it was so in the Indian Mutiny. But rebels, unless the disaffection has been carefully concealed and unless the movement is organised and controlled by very capable leaders, rarely open proceedings by an effective operation of war. The massacre of a few settlers, the capture of some small defensive post, the banding together of a few parties of armed and angry men, does not constitute a seizure of the initiative in its military sense. The campaign



Map of Plan II. Communications to Khartum.
Plan II. Communications to Khartum.

only commences when troops are put in motion to put down the disturbance by force.

Promptitude at the outset of less moment than maintenance of the initiative when operations have begun.

In regular warfare between two nations possessing highly organized military systems, this taking the lead at the outset is an object which both seek to obtain. Each has its plan of campaign. The one that gets the start can thereby dislocate the whole scheme of operations which has been elaborated, in theory, by the other. But in small wars, although promptitude in opening hostilities is more or less incumbent, on the regular army, there are not the same reasons for precipitating events. The opponents have no intricate mobilization system which a sudden blow may throw out of gear. It is not a case of seizing the initiative, for that is not in the early stages, except in a few rare cases, in dispute. The great point to aim at is not so much that there should be no delay in getting into motion, as that when once in motion there should be no check. An ephemeral triumph is dearly purchased at the cost of a subsequent period of discreditable inaction.

Reasons for this.

For it is a cardinal principle in the conduct of warfare of this nature that the initiative must be maintained, that the regular army must lead while its adversaries follow, and that the enemy must be made to feel a moral inferiority throughout. The lower races are impressionable. They are greatly influenced by a resolute hearing and by a determined course of action. "A la guerre," wrote Napoleon, "le moral et l'opinion sont la moitié de la réalité" - a maxim which is especially applicable to small wars. "Do not forget that in Asia he is the master who seizes the people pitilessly by the throat and imposes upon their imagination " was Skobelef's view. The spectacle of an organized body of troops sweeping forward slowly but surely into their territory unnerves them. There must be no doubt as to which side is in the ascendant, no question as to who controls the general course of the war; delays must not occur, they cause the enemy to pluck up courage; every pause is interpreted as weakness, every halt




gives new life to the foe. That being so, it is essential that the campaign should not be commenced till there are sufficient forces on the spot to prosecute the work with vigour, and till these are thoroughly organized and equipped for the task which they have in hand, whatever it may be. "If you have at any period of the operations to halt for some time in order to bring up provisions," says Lord Wolseley, " you give the enemy such renewed courage as to make him often forget the success you had perhaps already achieved; he imagines you halt from fear."


The Ambela campaign, already referred to on p. 49, is an excellent example of embarking on an expedition insufficiently prepared. The Indian Government ordered this undertaking against the advice of Sir H. Rose, the Commander-in-Chief, who pointed out that an adequate transport service did not exist and that one could not be got ready for a considerable time, and who wished the campaign to be deferred. As soon as the force moved off into the hills the transport broke down to such an extent that it was impossible to deliver a blow at the tribesmen who were preparing to bar the way, and a halt ensued. This decided the Bunerwals who were wavering, to throw in their lot against the British force; and although they eventually held aloof their attitude compelled Sir N. Chamberlain to await reinforcements. In consequence his army was, as previously related, for a considerable time acting on the defensive and it felt to the full all the disadvantages of that situation.


Small wars for the most part take place in distant lands. If they are entered upon without a correct estimation of the strength and organization of the army necessary to achieve the end in view, and if it is found out when the die is cast that more men are required to ensure a triumph, it is sometimes by no means easy to get reinforcements within a reasonable time. For instance, in 1884 the French undertook operations in Formosa with a quite inadequate force, and, being unable to afford it any assistance after its insufficiency had become apparent, they were obliged to withdraw it after it had gained some ground and had made the French army respected in that part of the Chinese dominions.


Once the war has commenced, a delay has the effect of




giving the enemy an opportunity of organizing his fighting strength, and this he will not be slow to take advantage of. Previous to the opening of hostilities such people often do not recognize what is impending, and they are in consequence apt not to avail themselves of the chance which the respite affords them; so that at that stage a pause on the part of the regular troops does little harm. On the other hand the history of small wars offers many striking examples of the evil which results when a miscalculation of supply and transport requirements brings the operations of the regular army to a standstill in the middle of a campaign, or when circumstances arise in the course of military events which demand action on its part for which it was not organized.

Examples of the evil consequences which arise from insufficient organization when the campaign is in progress.

When in 1880 the British disaster at Maiwand led to the investment of Kandahar by Ayoub Khan's forces, there were considerable number of troops on the line of communications from Kandahar to India. These, had their transport service been in effective condition, could have rapidly concentrated and moved forward for the relief of the threatened city. But, as it was, the Afghan army was for a time permitted to hold a complete mastery in this port of the theatre of war, a condition of things which might have led to very serious results but for the despatch of Sir K. Roberts's force from Kabul


Owing to the circumstances attending the outbreak of the Indian mutiny the rebels for a time secured the initiative. It was due to no want of vigour, and it was certainly in no way the result of want of foresight, that the force organised at Allahabad by Sir H, Havelock and Colonel Neill was unable to move on Cawnpore till the small British force holding out there in grievous straits had been induced to surrender. But the delay a delay arising chiefly from transport difficulties to start with had disastrous consequences quite apart from the terrible massacre with which the name of Cawnpore will be associated for all time. It enabled the rebels to gather strength and for a time to hold a complete ascendancy in the Doab and Oudh. It left them with the upper hand at that most critical stage of a small war, its opening phase after hostilities have actually taken place.

Examples of decisive results being obtained by promptitude at the outset.

But, on the other hand, occasions will arise when prompt action at the outset may crush the enemy before he becomes formidable, and may stave off a troublesome campaign. The effect of a heavy blow struck without hesitation is always very great when uncivilized races or guerillas have to be dealt




with. Obviously circumstances may sometimes attend the outbreak of a small war when vigour and promptitude may achieve brilliant results, and when it behoves the commander to strike at once even with inferior forces. This course is, of course, the best to pursue if the circumstances promise decisive results in case of the operation succeeding, and when the conditions will not require the success to be followed up.


The campaigns of the United States troops against the Red Indians furnish frequent examples of this. But there the detachments in the territory subject to the hostile raids were kept constantly on the alert and ready for action. The nature of the warfare, moreover, was not such as to call for a great development of force demanding elaborate organization. The Indian forays which gave rise to the punitive expeditions were very sudden, and they could only be met by prompt and vigorous action.


The affair at Sarras near Wadi Halfa, in 1887, is an excellent specimen of an operation of this class. A force of Mahdists, the advanced guard of more formidable bodies, had occupied this point, 33 miles from the Egyptian outposts. No sooner was news of this brought to Wadi Halfa than Colonel Chermside, who was in command, arranged for a night march of mounted troops, so as to surprise the enemy in the morning and to occupy his attention till the infantry should come up. The Mahdist force was completely defeated and Sarras remained free of hostile bodies for some months afterwards. The risk of news of the impending attack of the Egyptian troops reaching the enemy was averted by the promptitude with which the operation was carried out.

Strategical offensive essential.

It cannot be insisted upon too strongly that in a small war the only possible attitude to assume is, speaking strategically, the offensive. The regular army must force its way into the enemy's country and seek him out. It must be ready to fight him wherever he may be found. It must play to win and not for safety. It was his thorough grasp of this great principle and his insistence on its being kept constantly in view which, rather than any transcendent display of tactical genius or powers of organization on his part, has made the name of General John Nicholson so illustrious. It is not a question of merely maintaining the initiative, but of compelling the enemy to see at every turn that he has lost it and to recognize that the forces of civilization are dominant and not to be



This not incompatible with tactical defensive.

denied. And it must be remembered that the strategical offensive is not incompatible with acting on the defensive on the battle-field. In many recent campaigns the regular forces have, as a rule, when it came to actual fighting allowed themselves to be attacked. The Zulu war illustrates this principle very well; Colonel Wood's force at Kambula and Lord Chelmsford's force moving to relieve Ekowe were both on Zulu ground, they compelled the Zulus to fight or to acknowledge inferiority; but both at Ginghilovo and at Kambula it was the Zulus who assumed the offensive not the British, and it was the same at Ulundi.

Effect of decisive action upon waverers in the hostile ranks and upon those hesitating to throw in their lot with the enemy.

There is one very important point in which the hostile forces met with in small wars differ from those met with in great campaigns. They swell and contract according to the moral effect which is produced, and quite apart from losses in action or from the exigencies of the conflict. Irregular armies always count many waverers, there are always crowds of warriors ready to flock to the standard in case of victory, even on the battle-field a large proportion of the opposing force consists generally of mere lookers-on. But these lookers-on will be the foremost in pursuit should the regular army meet with disaster, and will probably join in the next engagement should it meet with a reverse. A vigorous offensive has the effect of keeping at home those who hesitate to take up arms and of thereby diminishing the fighting strength of the enemy. A bold plan of campaign tends to reduce the hostile forces to the lowest limits and to disincline those who are uncompromised from joining in.


The effect of a victory in this respect is well illustrated by the light at Ibeka in Kaffirland in 1877. The affair was in itself of little importance; but the colonial troops gained a distinct success over the Galekas who made a concerted attack upon them, and this occurred just as the Jaikas were about to rise. The consequence was that this latter tribe deferred commencing hostilities for some months, by which time the forces in the colony had been augmented and were far better prepared to deal with them.


Sir F. Roberts's action when advancing on Kabul in 1879, in attacking at Charasia with only the part of his force available at the time, so as to prevent




threatening gatherings of tribesmen from joining the Afghan troops in their resistance to the British advance, illustrates the effect which vigorous action will have in preventing waverers from taking up arms. A part of the Amir's army had occupied a strong position barring the way to Kabul, and the advanced British brigade found its further progress arrested. On the hills on the flanks were to be seen parties of hill-men evidently meditating mischief, and reports gave grounds for expecting that their numbers would rapidly swell. It was decided to attack without waiting till the other brigade, which was a march in rear, should come up, and the attack completely succeeded, the Afghan troops being driven in confusion off the ground. The tribesmen, as soon as they saw which way the issue was decided, dispersed to their homes and offered no molestation to the British army, which occupied Kabul without further opposition. Although, later on, a great uprising of the tribes round the city took place, there can be no doubt that the prompt action at Charasia, for the time being, prevented a national movement against the invaders at a juncture when these were in a position full of danger.

Even when the regular army is obliged to act strategically on the defensive, this must not be a passive defensive.

It must, of course, happen sometimes in small wars that the regular troops are for a time compelled by the existing conditions in the theatre of war to adopt a defensive attitude strategically. It is most unfortunate when this occurs, because it puts the disciplined army in a thoroughly false position. The enemy gathers courage, many who have held aloof flock-to join the hostile standards, the longer the situation lasts, the more formidable will be the forces which must eventually be overthrown. But under these undesirable circumstances the great tactical principle that a passive defensive is inadmissible must be kept in view. It may not be possible to act decisively, to carry out great operations of war, or to seize the initiative in the theatre of conflict as a whole; but it will rarely happen that isolated enterprises cannot be undertaken which will prevent the troops from becoming disheartened and which will ensure that the enemy maintains his respect for the forces of civilization.


The army before Delhi, in spite of the tremendous difficulties of the situation, never permitted the mutineers to dominate the surrounding country. On the other hand the disasters of the first Afghan war are mainly traceable to the want of boldness and vigour shown at Kabul when the situation began to grow grave. And it is worthy of note that during the




Boer war of 1881, at a time when the troops on the Natal frontier were acting strategically on the defensive, waiting for reinforcements, a cavalry reconnaissance under Sir E. Wood to Utrecht in the Transvaal assumed an importance out of all proportion to its military significance, from the impression which the news of it created among the Boers who were daily growing bolder, and from the satisfaction which it caused in the British camps and throughout Natal


When such conditions prevail it is, of course, essential that any offensive movement by the regular army should not meet with reverse. Any chance of such a contretemps must be avoided. But it will often happen that the situation admits of some sudden stroke being delivered, not necessarily on a great scale, which will prove to the enemy that the regular army is only biding its time to regain the upper hand, and which will exert a great moral effect within the force itself. Opportunities of this kind must not be allowed to slip away.

Great impression made upon the enemy by bold, resolute action.

The records of small wars show unmistakably how great is the impression made upon semi-civilized races and upon savages by a bold and resolute procedure. The military history of our Indian Empire affords proof of this on every page. From the days of Clive down to the present time victory has been achieved by vigour and by dash rather than by force of numbers. The spirit of attack inspiring leaders and subordinates alike has won the day for us. Arcot, Plassey, and Meani may be cited as examples; their story is familiar to all. And in no campaign has this spirit been more constantly evinced, and has its influence been demonstrated with such irresistible force, as in that where the enemy was from strength of numbers and from the peculiar conditions which prevailed the most formidable - the Indian Mutiny.


During this great struggle the operations in the field consisted, almost to a monotonous extent, of a succession of combats in which small British columns always attacked the very superior forces of the enemy, and always beat them.




Blow upon blow was delivered, and the rebels were never allowed to strike back. It was not that there was no resistance - far from it; the mutineers in the earlier stages always fought with courage, at times they fought with desperation. Nor was it that the enemy was crushed by force of armament; relatively to the British troops the rebels were supplied with efficient weapons. It was the spirit of the offensive animating the British leaders and their men throughout the vicissitudes of a singularly active campaign, which led to their long succession of victories. Conspicuous for the unflinching courage and the restless energy with which the operations were conducted was Sir H. Boss's memorable struggle in the Central Provinces. The rebels were given no rest and no breathing space. Every success was instantly followed up. The campaign of Gwalior was not merely a triumph of strategy and tactics but also of resolution. Asiatics do not understand such vigour and are cowed by it. The records of the Mutiny teach us the art of conducting small wars with unmistakable clearness, and they cannot be too carefully studied as examples of leadership. In the field after the first few gloomy weeks the issue never was in doubt, it was only where, as at Delhi, attack was impracticable, that the enemy was for a time enabled to hold his ground.


In the Russian campaigns in Central Asia it has generally been the same. Energy and resolution have been the watchword. The procedure has been rather to overawe the enemy by a vigorous offensive, than to bring against him a mighty force, and the results achieved by comparatively speaking small forces in that vast territory speak for themselves. Prestige is everything in such warfare. It is the commander who recognizes this and who acts upon it, who conquers inferior races absolutely and for good.

Importance of following up successes with vigour.

The secret of overcoming such adversaries does not, however, lie only in bold attack. In all warfare a victory to be complete must be followed up. In small wars a single blow




will often achieve important results, but a succession of blows paralyses the enemy. Irregular warriors do not understand the importance of following up a success at once if they defeat their opponents they are satisfied for the time being, and they pause to glory in their triumph and to divide the spoils which they have won. When they find themselves straggling against a foe who is not content to rest on his laurels after a victory but who presses vehemently on and gives them no rest, their hearts fail them and they collapse. Vigour in pursuit is as important in small wars as is intrepidity in attack.


This was well illustrated in a recent campaign. Colonel Kelly in his daring advance from Gilgit to Chitral acted upon the principle of giving the enemy no breathing space to recover from his reverses. After driving the hillmen from their formidable position at Chokalwat, as a result of some hours of fighting, he pushed on and completed his day's march as if nothing had happened. This sort of thing bewildered the Chitralis. They did not understand it. It was the same principle as had been adopted in the Indian Mutiny, where the rebels were always pursued relentlessly, no victory was held to be complete enough, every success being followed up as long as man or horse could march. This method is sound on tactical grounds in all wars; but in campaigns against savages and guerillas the procedure is not merely sound on tactical grounds but also as part and parcel of the system of overawing and terrifying the enemy, which is the great object always to be kept in view, and it can be employed with far less risk against irregular forces than it could against a regular army, inasmuch as irregulars have so little rallying power.

Small forces can at times perform exploits of great subsequent importance by means of bluff.

The alarm which this sort of resolute offensive creates in the ranks of the enemy in small wars can scarcely be exaggerated. A masterful military policy bewilders such antagonists. Moral force is even more potent than physical force in compassing their downfall. All history shows that this is so, and before




concluding this chapter it will not be out of place to point out how, in campaigns of this class, a happy appreciation of this great principle has from time to time enabled soldiers of decision and resource to achieve most signal results, and has led to their gaining startling triumphs with relatively insignificant forces. Dash and audacity displayed at the right moment have given rise to episodes flavouring the tedious operations which are characteristic of, and inevitable in, warfare of this nature, with a spice of romance. Handfuls of men have overawed a host. Mere detachments have wrested historic strongholds from the grasp of potentates with warlike races at their beck and call. For such episodes great campaigns offer no opportunity and grand combinations of war afford no precedent.


(1) The capture of the great walled city of Tashkend by General Tchernaieff in 1865, is a case in point. The place contained more than 100,000 inhabitants, and it was defended by 30,000 fighting men. It was one of the great commercial centres of the East, its name was known from Stambul to the Yellow Sea. Its perimeter was about 16 miles, its ramparts were of stout design, and its battlements sheltered a respectable artillery.


The Russian General arrived before it with 2,000 men and 12 guns, and determined upon a coup de main. An entrance was surprised at dawn of day at two points by storming parties, and these opened the gates. The guns upon the battlements on one side were seized and spiked. So great was the effect produced within the city by this daring feat of arms, that its notables surrendered at once, this in spite of the fact that in street fighting the Russian troops could not have successfully coped with the great numerical superiority of their adversaries. Tashkend fell and was incorporated in the Tsar's dominions from that time forward.


From a number of examples which the Indian Mutiny affords two may be given.


(2) A handful of civilians were holding out in a bungalow in Arrah against the mutineers of several regiments from the neighbouring garrison of Dinapore, who were aided by the inhabitants of the district. It was one of the opening scenes of the outbreak, the rebel cause was in the ascendant still, and the besiegers of Arrah had heavily defeated a relieving column from Dinapore under circumstances which will be referred to in another chapter. But Major Eyre, who was proceeding by water up the Ganges with his battery, heard of the peril in which the little band was placed, and he determined to make one effort for its succour. He formed a little flying




column, consisting of a company of infantry borrowed from a small cantonment close by, of two of his own guns, and of a party of mounted volunteers. He landed this insignificant detachment at a point a few miles from Arrah, and marched against the enemy. The rebels gathered in great force to bar the way, but the petty British force attacked them without hesitation. The struggle was severe, the odds desperate. The determined attitude of the small British force, however, daunted the mutineers,and by resolute fighting it forced its way through the middle of their line of battle. So great was the effect of the intrepid bearing of the assailants upon the hostile array, that all resistance to the British ceased when the column was still some miles from Arrah, and that the garrison was relieved without further conflict. It was a brilliant exploit, not so much in its execution, skilful as this was, as in its conception. This is the way to deal with Asiatics - to go for them and to cow them by sheer force of will.


(3) The other instance from the Indian Mutiny is of a somewhat different kind, an episode which involved no fighting. The story is a familiar one, and the sequel to it, which does not here concern us, has excited keen controversy. Just as the British troops after the storming of Delhi had finally gained the mastery in the city, but while parts of it and many of the villages around were still infested with armed rebels, a report came to hand that the King of Delhi, the descendant of the Moguls who had been set up by the insurrectionary forces as a kind of puppet figure-head upon the throne of his ancestors, had taken refuge at a tomb a few miles distant. Major Hodson with only 50 troopers rode out to bring him in. The road was thronged with sullen angry crowds retiring from Delhi. Around the tomb the followers of the king were mustered in great force. Their demeanour was so grim and ominous that it was clear that the least indecision would change their attitude from one of passive hostility into one of active resistance, but Hodson's iron will and hardihood fairly daunted the mob. Not one of the vast multitude dared to lift his hand when, arrived at the tomb, he rode up to it alone and ordered the fallen monarch to surrender. No one ventured to intervene when the king was brought back a prisoner to Delhi. On the following day Hodson under very similar circumstances, but supported by a somewhat stronger detachment, captured the king's two sons at the same place.


(4) A fine example of a great military achievement by a force insignificant as compared with that opposed to it, is afforded by the Duc D'Aumale's attack on Abd el Kader's "smala" in 1843. "Smala," is the name given in Algeria to a nomad settlement - an assemblage of families or clans, or even at times of whole tribes which moves from place to place in search of sustenance or safety; with it go its camels and its herds which form its principal wealth. The general-in-chief had ascertained the approximate position of the smala, far beyond the chain of defensive posts which at that time marked the limits of French sway, and he resolved upon a combined movement to attack it. The Duo D'Aumale's column consisted of 600 cavalry and 300 foot soldiers. The mounted portion, pushing on ahead of the less




mobile infantry, came suddenly upon the great gathering, just as it was taking up new camping ground after one of its periodic changes in position; Abd el Kader himself happened not to be present, but 5,000 of the Emir's regular troops were on the spot. The Duc resolved upon a bold stroke. Without waiting for his infantry, without heeding the vast superiority of the hostile force, he attacked with his squadrons, profiting by the confusion in the smala and by the circumstance that his appearance on the scene was wholly unexpected. His success was complete. The enemy was utterly dispersed. Numbers of prisoners were taken. An immense booty in camels, sheep, and cattle was secured, and the banners and the treasure of the great nomad chieftain fell into the hands of the insignificant body of French cavalry. The most decisive reverse suffered by Abd el Kader throughout his years of struggle with the conquerors of Algeria was inflicted upon him in what was almost an accidental encounter with a few troops of horse.


(5) Another cavalry exploit of later date deserves a mention here. This was the capture of Cairo after the British victory at Tel-el-Kebir. The circumstances are so well known that they need not be detailed. Suffice it to say, that a few squadrons succeeded, without firing a shot and by mere exercise of moral force, in compelling the surrender of a great Oriental city, crowded with armed soldiery and containing all the needful means for driving such a force in confusion from its gates.


(6) Only one more instance need be given - Lieutenant Grant's memorable feat of arms at Thobal in Manipur.


Lieutenant Grant commanded a detachment of 84 men in Tamu, one of the nearest posts to the town of Manipur when the outbreak occurred there. On the news reaching Tamu he volunteered to advance and to try to succour the prisoners believed to be in the Manipuris hands, and he obtained the necessary sanction. He advanced for three days, gaining about 30 miles, driving the enemy before him and marching chiefly at night. Advancing again on the third night, the party come early in the morning of the fourth day upon the enemy in force on a stream, the bridge over which the Manipuris were destroying.


Grant attacked at once, forced the passage and then formed a defensive post beyond. This the enemy, who had guns, attacked for two days. Then three days were spent in negotiations in which Grant throughout adopted a peremptory demeanour and impressed the enemy with the belief that his force was far larger than it was in reality. The negotiations having fallen through, the Manipuris attacked again, but they were beaten off and the following day they withdrew. Grant then received orders to retire. With this insignificant detachment he had been 14 days in the enemy's country unsupported, had defeated far superior hostile forces again and again, and had created an impression among the Manipuris which went a long way towards re-establishing British prestige in the country.


These numerous illustrations of remarkable results attained by, relatively to the hostile strength, feeble forces have been




quoted not merely to demonstrate what small bodies of regular troops can achieve in warfare of this class. They serve also to point the moral which it has been the object of this chapter to enforce, to teach the great principle that vigour and decision are at the root of effective conduct of such operations. To attempt to lay down rules for guidance in such enterprises, to suggest the conditions under which such exploits may or may not be safely ventured on, would be wholly out of place. The military instinct of the responsible authority on the spot must point the way and must hold the balance.


To the commander thrown upon his own resources in a distant land, hedged round by dangers and perplexity, outnumbered and perhaps at bay, who sees a great chance open should he risk all on one single throw, the accepted code of strategy and tactics is of no avail and the maxims of the academic school of military thought have small significance. A reverse means not defeat alone, it means destruction. If he decides to venture there is no going back. It is in cases such as this that genius triumphs over theory, and that the leader endowed with the gift of command knows instinctively how to act and to create for himself his own rules of conduct.



Chapter VII.
Tactics favour the regular army while strategy favours the enemy -
therefore the object is to fight, not to manoeuvre.

The regular forces are at a disadvantage from the point of view of strategy.

It is a singular feature of small wars that from the point of view of strategy the regular forces are upon the whole at a distinct disadvantage as compared to their antagonists.

In spite of sea power, in spite of the initiative, in spite of science, and in spite of the wealth, of the reserve of fighting strength and of the resources at their back, the trained and organized armies of the civilized country have undoubtedly the worst of it as regards strategical conditions, and that it is so is actually in a large degree directly traceable to the very causes which establish their tactical superiority, and which eventually lead as a rule to the triumph of the forces of civilization. For it is the elaborate organization of the regular troops which cramps their freedom in the theatre of war, and it is the excellence of their armament and the completeness of their equipment which overburdens them with non-combatant services and helps to tie them to their base.

Communications a main cause of this.

The bonds which fetter a modern army to its starting point result partly from the supply question dealt with in a former chapter, partly from the necessity of replenishing ammunition and military stores, and partly from the obligations of sending sick and wounded to the rear. They enforce the establishment of a line of communications and its maintenance and defence. They hamper the commander's liberty of action at every turn. In a special chapter dealing with lines of communications later on it will be shown what a terrible drain in men they are, and how they reduce the




fighting force with which it is hoped to decide the issue. As it presses forwards the regular army drags after it a lengthening chain which increases in burden at every step.


Moreover, communications are not required on account of the replenishment of food and war material alone. They may also be required to afford a line of retreat should a reverse be met with. An organized force must from its nature maintain its cohesion, come what may, and it must if beaten hold together as best it can and fall back on its base; to enable it to do so it should be linked to this base. Lines of communications are in fact a necessary consequence of elaborate and systematic organization, of modern armament, of the extensive requirements of the soldier of to-day, and of the conditions under which a regular army operates. The enemy, on the other hand, in most small wars works upon an altogether different system.

Enemy has little anxiety as to communications, and operations cannot be directed against them.

The adversaries with whom the regular troops in these campaigns have to cope depend on no base and have no fixed system of supply. They are operating in their own country. Their food requirements are small - what they need they carry with them. Each man takes with him all the ammunition that he wants. The wounded in battle have to shift for themselves as best they can. The enemy lives in fact from hand to mouth, and it follows from this that he does not need communications as a channel for replenishing food or warlike stores, nor does he need lines of communications to retreat by if defeated. Warriors such as form the enemy in small wars simply disperse when they are worsted. They disappear in all directions, but unless awed by their experience into submission they are ready to collect again should an opportunity offer at a later period.


So it comes about that the enemy is untrammelled by the shackles which so limit the regular army's liberty of action, a fact which is of great strategical importance; for while the organized forces are dependent upon communications




which their antagonists may attack and even cut, they cannot retaliate. And as operations directed against an opponent's communications represent the most effective weapon in the armoury of strategy, the regular army is clearly at a disadvantage.

Examples of this.

(1) The extent to which the enemy disregards the safety of his communications in this sort of warfare is well exemplified by the campaign of 1889 on the Nile, which terminated in the fight of Toski. Wad en Nejumi, the Mahdist emir, was sent to invade the territories effectively occupied by Egyptian troops. He directed his advance by the left or west bank of the river. The frontier post Wadi Halfa, a formidable fortress to warriors such as formed Nejumi's following, lies on the right bank. Below it the Egyptian forces had armed steamers at their command, which empowered them to cross the river from side to side at pleasure. Therefore from the moment that he passed Wadi Halfa making northwards, Nejumi was making a flank march along an obstacle of which his opponents held the passages, he was leaving his communications at the mercy of his adversary, and he was judged by the experience of regular warfare, placing himself in an impossible strategical position.


Nejumi nevertheless resolutely pressed on. Soon after passing Wadi Halfa he was attacked in flank and roughly handled by the Egyptian frontier forces, under Colonel Wodehouse, but he moved on undismayed. He was eventually brought to a standstill and defeated, not by the severance of his exposed communications, not by the attacks upon his rear which his antagonists could deliver where and when they liked, but by an enemy who confronted him and beat him on the battlefield in a fair stand-up fight.


(2) Another example from Nile warfare is afforded by the situation previous to the battle of the Atbara. The capture of Shendi cut the Dervish communications with Omdurman. No European army would under such circumstances have maintained its ground and accepted battle.

The enemy's mobility benefits him strategically.

But it is not alone from the fact that the regular forces are hampered by communications while the enemy is not, that the strategical advantage rests with the latter. The rapidity of the hostile movements, which arises partly from the freedom from impedimenta and partly from the singular marching power which are characteristics of regular warriors, prejudices the course of the campaign to their great benefit. If defeated they disperse, so that the victory cannot be followed up. The regular army finds that some mysterious influence




will on occasions draw down great hosts of angry foemen to give it battle, but those hosts melt away and vanish when their design miscarries. Restricted by no precedents, governed by no strategic code, embarrassed by no encumbrances, they come and go at will.


The doubts and perplexities which such unconventional procedure causes the commander of the regular forces, has been referred to in an earlier chapter. He is moving as it were in a groove, chained to a fixed fine of operations and to a fixed fine of conduct, while the enemy enjoys an independence amounting at times almost to absolute freedom of action, and this freedom of action is a direct consequence of the conditions under which the irregular warriors assemble for a conflict. In the hostile ranks there is no solid cohesion and no mutual reliance. No man fully trusts his comrade or his leader. As long as all goes well, irregular forces hold together and obey their chiefs, but in the hour of trial the bonds which keep the mass intact are apt to snap, and then the whole dissolves and disappears. This is not only the case with mere guerilla bands; even when the hostile forces have a military organization, even when they comprise battalions, batteries and squadrons it often is the same.

His power of sudden concentration and, dispersion.

In the Afghan wars and in most Indian hill campaigns these sudden gatherings and prompt dispersions have been a feature of the enemy's mode of levying war; after a fight Afghans and hill-men hide their arms at home and then come out and welcome troops who are pursuing them. In Spain's campaign against Morocco in 1859 the bulk of the Moorish array similarly disappeared after each fight before pursuit could be organized, but it always collected again a little further back ready for another trial of strength. The French operations against Abd el Kader drifted on for years; the Kabyle chieftain would appear with his following where least expected and inflict much damage, but he always vanished when an organized body of troops was put upon his track. Although





the enemy was of quite a different character, these same conditions prevailed in the later stages of the South African war, it was the difficulty in inflicting serious injury on the nomad Boer commandos which was the main cause of the operations being so protracted. Dealing with adversaries who operate in this capricious fashion, regular troops are, in so far as strategy is concerned, clearly at a serious disadvantage.

Note that the mobility of the enemy does not necessarily prevent strategical surprises by the regulars.

While emphasising the fact that in small wars the enemy almost always possesses far greater mobility than the regular troops, and that strategically this mobility favours the side of the irregular warriors, it is well to point out that the leaders of the hostile forces are apt to under-rate the mobility of the disciplined army. They see what a cumbrous machine it is, how long it takes to get ready for its advance, how tied and bound it seems to be to its communications, and they persuade themselves that, it is incapable of rapid, deft, and sudden strokes. No greater mistake can be made than to suppose that because the enemy enjoys the singular power of sudden concentration and dispersion, and of rapid transfer of force from one part of the theatre of war to another, it is impossible to carry out a strategical surprise upon such adversaries. Indeed such enterprises are to a certain extent favoured by the contempt which irregular opponents entertain for the marching powers of the regulars. It appears that the Khalifa meant to confront Sir H. Kitchener's army in a favourable position for defence two marches short of Omdurman, but that he was not prepared for the rapid advance of the Anglo-Egyptian forces. An earlier incident in the re-conquest of the Sudan - the surprise of Abu Hamed by General Hunter after a rapid march of several days from near Hamdab - affords another remarkable illustration of strategical surprise by a disciplined force in a campaign against adversaries noted for their powers of movement. Still these examples and others which might be quoted, in no wise disprove the fact that in small wars the enemy is



  as regards mobility the superior of the regular army and gains thereby from the strategical point of view.

The better organized the enemy, the less does he enjoy the strategical advantage.

While laying down the principle that the strategical conditions in small wars favour the 'enemy, it is necessary to point out that the extent to which this is the case varies greatly with the nature of the hostile forces. For, as already shown in Chapter II, these differ widely in their composition, in their organization, and in the circumstances under which they take the field in different cases. Sometimes the regular army has to cope with a military system not unlike its own - the forces of Arabi Pasha in 1882 had, in appearance at least, a modern organization, and the Chinese troops who opposed the French in 1884-85 were on the same footing. It is an undoubted fact indeed that the more nearly the enemy approximates in system to the European model, the less marked is the strategical advantage he enjoys.

On the battle-field the advantage, passes over to the regular forces.

Strategy is not, however, the final arbiter in war. The battle-field decides, and on the battle-field the advantage passes over to the regular army. Superior armament, the force of discipline, a definite and acknowledged chain of responsibility, esprit de corps, the moral force of civilization, all these work together to give the trained and organized army an incontestable advantage from the point of view of tactics.

Reasons for the tactical superiority of the organized army.

The tactical superiority of the regular troops is somewhat discounted, it is true, by the enemy's rapidity of movement when in action, by his power of getting over difficult ground and by the physical endurance of warriors of this class. But nothing can compensate for the difference in weapons, in training, in cohesion and in method, between regular troops and the forces of an uncivilized adversary. Preponderance of numbers may at times give victory to the other side, some local feature on the battle-field may turn the scale against the regular army, the impulse of a ghazi rush may break the line and smother the efficacy of its overwhelming ascendancy in



armament. In the hills and in the jungle the activity and knowledge of the terrain of the enemy tend to minimize the benefits which disciplined troops enjoy owing to their weapons. No rule in war is absolute. But under the ordinary circumstances under which small wars take place, and as a general rule during their progress, the tactical conditions are all in favour of the trained and organized force. Man for man, the fanatic or cut-throat, the hardy nomad or the reckless savage, may match or be more than a match for the European soldier; in the aggregate irregular warriors fail.

Since tactical, conditions are favourable, while strategical conditions are the reverse, the object is, to bring matters to a tactical issue.

And so we arrive at a great broad principle which stands out dear and well defined amid the vague uncertainties which enshroud all operations of this class. Since tactics favour the regular troops while strategy favours the enemy, the object to be sought for clearly is to fight, not to manoeuvre, to meet the hostile forces in open battle, not to compel them to give way by having recourse to strategy. Of course exceptions to this rule will arise at times. They are rare, however, and it cannot be too strongly insisted upon that, to beat irregular opponents and savages, the most efficacious plan is to engage them on every possible occasion.

Usually better to fight the enemy than to manoeuvre him out of his position.

It will sometimes happen that the adversary takes up ground eminently favourable to his mode of combat, thus minimising tactical inferiority, and in such a case it may be better to dislodge him by some manoeuvre not involving battle. Such conditions must, however, be understood to be exceptional. In the majority of cases which present themselves, the boldest will be found to be the wisest course, and an assault upon the enemy - it may be on his flank, it may be on his rear - will prove at once a safer and a more efficacious procedure than some profound strategical combination designed to drive him from his ground without a fight. It constantly occurs that the opponents of the regular troops have occupied a position from which it is imperative that they should be dislodged. Barely will it occur in such




a contingency that the officer in command does not find presented to him two alternatives - one of driving the enemy out by force, the other of demonstrating against his line of retreat in such a manner that he will make his escape. But there should rarely be any doubt as to which alternative to follow. When there is a chance of a fight it should not be allowed to slip by.


One single example may be cited in support of this, an example which illustrates with exceptional vividness and force the principle enunciated above.

Example of Tel-el-Kebir.

The Egyptian forces in 1882 had strongly entrenched themselves in the important strategical position of Tel-el-Kebir, covering the point where the railway from Cairo to Ismailia and the fresh water canal quit the Nile delta and enter the shallow depression in the desert by which they reached the Suez Canal. This depression formed the line of advance selected by Sir O. Wolseley. The British expeditionary force having advanced to within striking distance of the Egyptian lines, it was necessary either to carry them by assault or to pass them by a flank march through the desert. The latter course would have compelled the enemy to evacuate their entrenchments and to fall back into the delta, and it would in all probability have brought the British army on to well watered and highly cultivated ground without a serious action. But Sir G. Wolseley's great object was to fight a decisive battle in the desert; for in the intersected ground beyond, Arabi Pasha could probably have avoided a general engagement, and could have carried on a harassing resistance for some time. It was also foreseen that, if the hostile leader and his troops found themselves being worsted and were given time for mischief, great damage might be done to Cairo and elsewhere. The surest means of averting this danger was to inflict a crushing defeat on the enemy, which would paralyse his further action and which would enable Cairo to be occupied by a sudden coup.


But the works thrown up at Tel-el-Kebir were evidently formidable, and to storm them in broad daylight would have incurred most serious low. Therefore it was decided to attack the lines at dawn of day after a night march in line of battle. The complete success which attended the execution of this plan is a matter of history. The issue which might have been decided, though less promptly and less absolutely, by a strategical manouvre, was left to tactics to decide, and the result was a prompt and brilliant termination to the war.

Objection to elaborate manoeuvres as compared

Then, again, there may sometimes be a choice between attacking the enemy, and embarking on an elaborate strategical combination which, should it succeed, will achieve



to direct action.

a brilliant and far reaching success, but the execution of which bristles with difficulties. Profound plans carefully worked out on paper in advance are very apt to miscarry when they come to be put in practice in irregular warfare, which is so often carried on in a difficult and not very well known terrain. In Chapter IX it will be shown how difficult it is to ensure co-operation between separate columns and forces in this class of warfare, and any elaborate plan almost necessarily means the attempt to manoeuvre a number of separate columns and forces with some definite object in view. There will often be temptation to attempt some far-reaching combination, but in nine cases out of ten it will probably be better to fall upon the enemy with whatever forces are to hand and thereby to make sure of a fight, even if there be no hope of annihilating the foe.


A good example of this has recently been provided in the attempt of the Germans to surround the main body of the Herreros in the Waterberg in 1904. There were only about 2,500 troops with 30 guns actually engaged in this operation, but, broken up into small columns, they moved very slowly owing to transport difficulties, and they had to operate over a wide extent of country before anything like a ring round the Waterberg was completed. While this ring was closing in the enemy was, however, breaking out through the intervals, and although there was some desultory fighting the result was that the Herreros with their wives, children, and herds, practically all escaped. They withdrew, it is true, into a district of sand-veld where they appear to have suffered severely.


A rapid movement of the Germans more or less concentrated and a sudden attack, would almost certainly have produced a greater moral effect, and it would have permitted of an energetic and obstinate pursuit by forces not already exhausted by long marches in a difficult country.


In the latter days of the South African War of 1899-1902 it came to be fully recognised that it was not elaborate manoeuvres, but rapid movement and attack wherever the enemy could be found, which paid. The "drives" it is true involved careful and deliberate planning. But that was a special phase of the campaign, and one which was only rendered possible by exceptional conditions as regards




blockhouses, and by the circumstances of the case permitting of great developments of force.

Circumstances when this principle does not hold good.

Circumstances will, no doubt, sometimes arise where it is desirable to resort to strategy. If the enemy has taken up a position so formidable as to make its attack a risky operation, it may become unavoidable to manoeuvre him out of it; or he may be covering some point the occupation of which with promptitude is essential, and it may be possible to reach this by a turning movement; or the immediate objective may be the succour of some beleaguered garrison which may be best effected without fighting. In such cases engagements are to be avoided, and the general principle above laid down does not hold good. The following instances where commanders of regular troops have to a certain extent shirked actual combat and have gained their object by manoeuvres, and where their action appears to have been quite justified, may be quoted before concluding the chapter.


(1) The case of the French march from Hanoi to Bacninh in 1884, already referred to on p. 55, is a good illustration. The occupation of Bacninh was most desirable in view of the moral effort which it must inevitably have in Tonkin, where the general situation gave rise to anxiety. The enemy was in great force, and had thrown up elaborate earthworks on the direct line. The French troops would, no doubt, have fought their way through successfully if called upon, but the losses must have been severe. By marching round the hostile flank Bacninh, fell into the French hands almost without fighting, and the Chinese in consequence withdrew out of this part of the theatre of war in haste.


(2) Colonel Kelly in his advance for the relief of Chitral, while never hesitating to attack the hostile forces if these attempted to bar his way, managed by detours over the hills to avoid conflicts in some positions exceptionally favourable to the enemy. His object was to reach a hard-pressed garrison with all possible despatch; the overthrow of the enemy was subsidiary to the relief of Chitral, and in this case the judicious course clearly was to fight when necessary, but not to court battle. The mountainous tracts between Gilgit and Mastuj were eminently favourable for an obstinate defence, and the Chitralis showed considerable aptitude in selecting formidable positions to bar the road to Colonel Kelly's column. In the two actions which were fought the British commander turned the enemy out of their positions by pushing detachments round their flanks. With a small force




having a difficult and dangerous task to achieve, direct frontal attacks would have been quite out of place. Under such circumstances the broad principle that an irregular opponent should be attacked and not manoeuvred out of his ground, cannot be said to apply.

The question of the wounded.

The object in this chapter has been to explain that since irregular warriors have generally the advantage strategically over disciplined forces, these latter enjoy a tactical superiority in virtue of their arms. Before closing it, however, a word may be said about one especial difficulty under which the regular army labours in this class of warfare - care of the wounded. Alike in their movements to and fro about the theatre of war, and when in the presence of the enemy on the battle-field, the wounded are almost always a special cause of anxiety to the regular troops. Strategically as well as tactically the disciplined army is at a very serious disadvantage in this respect.


Fighting against savages, Asiatics, Red Indians, and foes of that class, the responsibility for safeguarding the troops who may happen to be placed hors de combat is a perpetual source of worry to the commander. Nor does this difficulty arise only when campaigning against uncivilized races. In guerilla warfare in civilized countries the wounded can seldom be left to the tender mercies of the peasants in arms. Civil strife is demoralising and leads to pitiless reprisals on the part of soldiery and insurgents; the partisan warfare in La Vendee, in the Peninsula, and in Cuba was marked by the utmost ferocity on the part of the guerillas. It was, on the other hand, a most gratifying feature of the prolonged struggle against the Boers in 1901-1902 that, even at a time when the British troops were sweeping the whole country bare and were burning farms and collecting the Boer women and children into concentration camps whether they would or no, when the contest had lost all semblance of regular warfare, and when the roaming bands of the enemy were suffering great privations in what had degenerated into a hopeless resistance to overwhelming forces,




the Boers almost invariably treated British wounded who fell into their hands with the utmost consideration.

How this may hamper the regular troops strategically.

In later chapters the influence of this question of wounded on the tactical dispositions will appear. But quite apart from their being one of the many causes which necessitate the maintenance of communications by regular troops in the field, the presence of wounded - and often of sick - will sometimes seriously hamper the strategical freedom of an army in this class of warfare, and of this the following episode is a good example: -


During the advance of Sir B. Blood's division against the Mohmunds from Malakand, in 1897, his rear brigade was attacked one night in its camp by the Mamund clan, inhabiting a district on the flank of the general line of march. This clan was not concerned in the campaign, but its uncalled-for hostility had to be dealt with and the brigade at once undertook punitive measures. The operations in the first instance led to heavy fighting, which will be referred to in other chapters, and they resulted in serious loss to the brigade - so long, indeed, was the list of casualties that the brigade was brought to a standstill. The wounded could not be sent away, and to have left them behind under adequate guard would have weakened General Jeffreys' small force to such an extent that it could not safely have resumed the coercion of the recalcitrant clan.


Other impediments, such as supply columns and spare stores, an army can take with it when it goes to fight, and if the worst comes to the worst they can be abandoned; but the wounded cannot be moved about like this, and they cannot be left in the lurch. Transport for the supplies and stores exists, but it may not be available if the number of the wounded grows very large. The question of the wounded constitutes a difficulty quite apart, and at times this will endanger the safety of the entire force.



Chapter VIII.
To avoid desultory warfare the enemy must be brought to battle, and in such manner as to make his defeat decisive.

Prolonged campaigns to be avoided.

In the last two chapters have been pointed out the importance of a vigorous and masterful conduct of operations in these campaigns, and how their nature tends to render trial by battle preferable to out-manoeuvring the enemy, in the theatre of war. In this chapter the object will be to show how essential it is to prevent the struggle from degenerating into desultory warfare, to regular troops the most tedious and harassing form which hostilities can assume.

Reasons for this.

Troops suffer from disease.

In campaigns of this class a main object to be aimed at is to shorten their duration. They take place as a rule in territories and in climates which do not suit the trained soldier. Even where this is not the case, as for instance in some of the campaigns in South Africa, in Morocco, or in North America, the very fact of being on active service necessarily entails hardships on the troops, which in time causes wastage and leads to loss. The enemy fighting in his own country suffers far less; and even if he suffers as much or suffers more, this does not justify the exposure of the troops to the risks of disease longer than is absolutely necessary. The experiences of small wars of the past all go to prove that the losses in men which the regular army sustains are due far more to sickness than to fire and sword - accurate statistics have in many cases been compiled, and they place this beyond question. There are exceptions, of course, to this as to every other rule in war - as for instance




in the case of the Zulu campaign where the disaster at Isandlwhana brought the wastage due to battle up to a figure rather higher than that arising from disease - but in most operations of which details upon this point exist, and especially where the struggle has been prolonged as in Afghanistan, in the Russian expeditions against the Tekkes and in the case of Burma, it is sickness and not the loss involved by actual conflict which saps the strength of the regular army. The hostilities, moreover, often take place in unhealthy, and even deadly, climates, in torrid, fever-stricken theatres of war such as Dahomey and Benin, as Tonkin and Achin; when this is so the troops are decimated by ill-health even when the war is of short duration. In the French operations against the Hovas, in 1895, they lost 3,400 out of a force of 15,000; of these losses only a very few occurred in the battlefield.

Supply difficulties render protracted operations undesirable.

Another reason why protracted operations are to be avoided has been already dealt with incidentally in a former chapter. This is the difficulty of supply. The provision of food for man and beast being so very serious a consideration in this class of warfare, it is obvious that, as a rule, every day's delay means a waste of power. Just as the supply question tends to cut down the force detailed for the campaign, so it also tends to cut down the time that is available. In the case of the Nile Expedition, sketched from the point of view of supply on pp. 68-70, it was essential that the task allotted to the River Column should be completed within a given period. In all campaigns in unproductive districts, time must be a very important matter.

Enemy gains time to organize his forces.

And there is yet another reason for hastening the issue of such campaigns. As already pointed out in Chapter VI, the enemy is generally far more energetic in organizing his strength once the operations have commenced, than he is when they are merely impending. If allowed time the hostile forces are apt to become much more formidable than




they would have been had the war been prosecuted with greater rapidity at the outset.


This is illustrated by the French operations against Madagascar in 1883-86. The proceedings were, as far as hostilities on land were concerned, carried out in a very half-hearted manner and they drifted on over many months. The Malagasies were at the outset unprepared and without organisation; but during the war the condition of their forces steadily improved under the guidance of Europeans, and they were far more formidable at its conclusion than at its commencement. The French obtained satisfactory terms of peace as a consequence of their blockade of the island; but the campaign on land was little better than a failure.

Desultory operations tend to prolong a campaign.

Protracted campaigns are then to be avoided as far as possible, and the question how to accelerate their progress is one which the commander and staff must ever keep in view. To ascertain the surest method of shortening their duration it is best to consider what are the causes of these delays which are so mischievous. These causes are often preventable causes. Dilatory proceedings may arise from bad organization or they may follow from insufficient preparation, questions with which we are not concerned here. They may arise from lack of zeal among subordinates, or they may be due to want of energy in high places. But one of the commonest causes of operations being unduly prolonged, is to be found in their having been allowed to drift into a desultory form of warfare, and this is a question of strategy and tactics.

Guerilla warfare very unfavourable to regular troops.

It may be accepted as a general rule that guerilla warfare is the most unfavourable shape which a campaign can take for the regular troops. At surprises and ambushes, at petty skirmishes, at attacks on detached parties and at cutting off stragglers, the enemy is usually an adept. Intimate acquaintance with the terrain, natural agility, cunning, and the warlike instinct which is natural in races where security of life and property does not exist, all combine to make antagonists of this kind most formidable if the hostilities are confined to operations of a guerilla character. In most small wars the enemy inclines to this mode of carrying on the




campaign, and shirks more regular engagements, and it becomes necessary when this is the case to force him into decisive action. During the French campaigns against Abd el Kader it was found almost impossible to get the wary emir to fight. The Spanish armies were confronted by the same problem, as were the American forces in the Philippines. British troops have experienced the same difficulty in recent times in Burma, in the South African wars, and in the Tirah campaign. It is a feature of most insurrectionary wars on a small scale, as for instance in Montenegro in 1875-77. The great Circassian leader, Schamyl, kept the Russians at bay for years with guerilla tactics; it was when he formed his followers into armies and weighed them down with guns that his cause declined. The Poles in 1853 committed the fatal error of assembling in formed bodies; had they confined themselves to desultory warfare, their overthrow would have proved a far more difficult task for the Russian armies. Still circumstances often are such that the enemy cannot be tempted into battle, and adheres entirely to the guerilla form of making war, and in Chapter XI this contingency is especially dealt with.

Indecisive conduct of campaign tends to desultory warfare.

Invertebrate, undecided leadership of the regular troops induces desultory operations, and guerilla warfare is merely the most aggravated form of desultory operations. Marches with no particular object in view or marches with no object apparent to the enemy, advances followed by retirements, attacks on hostile positions and the abandonment of the ground after it has been won - it is operations such as these which raise the spirits of the hostile forces and which may lead to a prolonged, costly and ineffective campaign, disastrous to the health of the troops and damaging to the prestige of the civilized power which has put them in the field. Every undertaking should have a definite and distinct purpose, and once entered upon should be carried out to the end unless some insuperable objection unexpectedly arises. The




enemy must be forced to understand that business is meant, that the regular army intends to accomplish whatever enterprise it engages in. Half measures are fatal.


(1) The Russian failures in the Caucasus were mainly due to the objectless character of their campaigns. They would assemble a great force and march through the forest and over the hills to capture some stronghold, which they often would find abandoned. Then they would march solemnly back again, harassed all the way by the warlike Circassians, Georgians, and Chechens, and would settle down into cantonments till the spirit moved them to undertake some similar spasmodic enterprise.


(2) During the campaign in Morocco in 1859, the Spanish forces allowed themselves on several occasions to be drawn by the Moors into purposeless engagements. Although they generally gained a certain measure of success in these during the actual fighting, they were obliged at its termination to relinquish what ground they had won; and the Moors interpreted this into a victory for themselves. Unpremeditated actions of this kind are to be deprecated; they lead to loss for no advantage. On the occasions on which the Spanish troops deliberately and with a definite object in view attacked the forces of the Sultan, they were almost always rewarded with signal success.


(3) The small Russian columns sent against the Tekke Turkomans in 1876-77, afford illustration of the evil of desultory, indecisive operations, although the Asiatic wars carried out by the military forces of the Tsar against inferior races have generally been conducted in a very different spirit. Detachments too weak to effect any good purpose were sent out with no very clear object in view, pottered about and after a time were driven back, the result being merely to damage Russian prestige and to confirm the Turkomans in their hostile attitude.


(4) The campaign against the Mahdists about Suakin in 1885 was opened by the action of Hashin, consisting of the capture of some hills a few miles north-west of the town. One of these hills, the furthest off and by far the largest and most important, was stormed in fine style; but the bush about its base was thick, and at this point the action was indecisive. When after a short time the large hill was abandoned the enemy at once reoccupied it; and as the British force, after leaving a garrison in zeribas constructed some distance to the rear, thereupon retired back to Suakin, the Dervishes were justified in concluding that, if not victorious, they at least had not been beaten. Two days later the British force commenced an advance south-westwards, and the insignificant moral effect which the slight success at Hashin had exerted over the enemy, was shown by the determined onslaught made upon it at Tofrek.


(5) In the Dutch campaigns in Achin their troops were on more than one occasion sent to capture a fortified village which, when captured, was promptly abandoned. A minor episode in 1874, may be narrated as an




instance of the objectless fighting which was rather a feature of the operations. A patrol of one non-commissioned officer and six men with a native drummer went out further than was intended, and was attacked and driven back, the drummer being mortally wounded and being left behind. Several small detachments moved out to the place from different points, till some 200 men were engaged, and in the end the enemy drew off. But the Dutch lost an officer and 3 men killed and 11 men wounded, having gained nothing whatever, for the patrol was merely reconnoitring in advance of the Dutch lines and the enemy was not in force and was making no attack or even demonstration.

Skirmishes should be avoided.

As a general rule it appears to be desirable to avoid skirmishes unless the enemy compels the regular troops to engage in them. Skirmishes mean desultory war. "Ne faites jamais de petite paquets à la guerre," was a saying of Skobelef's. The tendency of skirmishes is merely to temporarily frighten the enemy, not to inflict lasting injury. Petty annoyance is the favourite weapon of the guerilla, and regular troops are sorely tempted to retaliate in the same coin, to haggle as it were with the hostile gatherings instead of enduring worry and molestation for a season, biding their time till they can strike home. For instance, using artillery to drive off insignificant bands will seldom be desirable, they merely disappear to come again; it is far better to tempt them into some rash action, to let them gather strength and courage and then fall upon them and give them a lesson which they will not forget. And it must be remembered that the smaller the scale of a conflict the less does the tactical superiority of the regular troops tell, for it gives the enemy a better chance of utilising to the full his skill in ambushes and in profiting by accidents of ground; the larger the detachment the less liable is it, generally speaking, to be overwhelmed by a sudden rush.

Sometimes desirable to conceal strength so as to encourage enemy to fight.

To lay down as an arbitrary rule that it is better to conceal than to parade the strength of the regular army would be improper, for the moral effect upon the adversary of a show of force is often great. But at times it will be advisable to impress the hostile forces with the belief that they are




confronted by a less formidable opponent than is in fact the case, otherwise it may be impossible to get them to fight. Whether concealment of strength is, or is not, expedient depends entirely on the nature of the enemy and of the war. Brave and determined warriors like the Black Flags of Tonkin, the Zulus or the Achinese, fanatics like the Mahdists or the Afghan ghazis, rebels who have no alternative but to fight like the defenders of Delhi, will accept battle in any case. In the later French campaigns in Algeria on the other hand, in the Russian operations against Schamyl, in wars against the Kaffirs, the Maoris and the Burmese, the great difficulty has generally been to bring on a decisive struggle - most unfortunately for the regular forces.

General engagements the object to be aimed at.

For general engagements are the object to be aimed at. Some losses may be suffered at the moment, but loss is saved in the end. There can be no doubt that pitched battles take the fight out of adversaries such as have to be dealt with in these wars. The severer the conflict, the more the superiority of the regular troops is brought home to the enemy. It sometimes happens that, even when the enemy gains the upper hand, the havoc caused by arms of precision convinces him that the cause is hopeless. Isandlwhana, so terribly disastrous to the British troops, opened the eyes of the Zulus to the nature of the antagonists they had to deal with and shook their confidence in their own invincibility. The heavy losses suffered by the followers of the Mullah in the fight at Gumburu in Somaliland, where Colonel Plunkett's force was annihilated, counteracted the effects of their victory.


In 1864, in the early days of the Russian operations against Khokand, a detached sotnia of cavalry with a gun was surrounded by an immensely superior force of Khokandians at Ikan. For two days the Russians defended themselves against overwhelming odds; they inflicted great loss upon the enemy, and finally managed to escape. The moral effect inspired by the fight made by this detachment was very great; although it was almost the only conflict of the year it appears to have so gravely impressed the Khokandians as to have materially assisted the Russians next year in their successful attack upon Tashkend, mentioned on p. 81.




The British victory at Ahmed Khel over a formidable force of Afghans who, attacking with great determination suffered very heavy losses, had an excellent effect over the tribes round Ghazni. When Sir P. Roberts's force some months later traversed the same district on the march from Kabul to Kandahar, no opposition was offered.


In the second attack upon Dargai in the Tirah campaign the British troops suffered serious losses and only gained the day with great difficulty. But their victory seems to have enormously impressed the tribesmen, and, indeed, to have had the somewhat unfortunate result of impelling them to adopt guerilla tactics during the future operations.


Examples of this might be multiplied. The enemy seldom fights so well again after having had a taste of the arms and methods of a regular farce, and this is a powerful argument for bringing matters to a fighting issue. The records of small wars prove beyond the possibility of doubt that the campaigns marked by a few general actions are those which are the most decisive and the most satisfactory. The Zulu war, in spite of its unfortunate commencement, is a case in point. The military power of the Matabili was broken by their attacks upon the laagers at Imbembesi and Shangani during the first campaign in that country. The Indian Mutiny was remarkable for the readiness displayed by the enemy in accepting battle; had it been otherwise its final suppression would have been far more arduous.


The Russians in Central Asia have been very fortunate in finding their opponents, as a rule, inclined for decisive conflicts. At Yedshar in 1866, a very large army from Bokhara marching in Tashkend in the hope of recovering that city, was confronted by a far inferior Russian force. A severely contested action ensued in which the latter was completely victorious. Two years later a decisive engagement was fought under the walls of Samarcand. These two battles decided the fate of Turkestan, the capture of Tashkend having given the Russians a firm footing in the country to start with. Minor engagements have been conspicuous by their absence in Central Asia. Almost every episode in the campaigns which brought the Cossacks to Bokhara and the sources of the Sir




Daria was an important operation or war, and to this may be attributed the extraordinary success which the Russians have achieved.

Campaign a where circumstances oblige the enemy to adopt a decisive course of action are the most satisfactory.

The conditions of the struggle may of course compel the enemy to commit himself to decided action, and it is a most fortunate circumstance when this is so. In the Abyssinian campaign, for instance, in 1868, King Theodore had no choice except to trust to the natural strength of his position at Magdala with its defences and its guns, and to stand his ground when the British troops arrived. The first phase of the French invasion of Algeria - the overthrow of the power of the Dey and seizure of his capital - gave the regular forces little trouble, for there was a distinct objective and one which the enemy was bound to cover; as soon as General Bourmont effected his landing, the forces of the Dey were concentrated so as to bar the French line of advance to Algiers and they were of course utterly defeated. The seizure of Delhi by the mutineers in 1857 was not without a certain advantage to the British troops, for it led to this point becoming the focus of the rebel movement, it raised the city into being a strategical centre of supreme importance, it bound the enemy firmly to that centre, and it enabled our forces by the capture of that centre, to strike a blow at the insurrectionary movement which utterly shattered the hostile chances of achieving ultimate success. In the Ashanti and Dahomey wars the British and French columns in each case aimed at the Royal capitals; Kings Koffee and Benanzin were forced to bar the way as best they could and to thus expose their armies to the risk of general actions in which the regular troops could bring their superiority in armament, in discipline, and in leadership decisively to bear. During the prolonged hostilities on the Red Sea Littoral near Suakin, Osman Digna's forces were always based upon the fertile district of Tokar; a natural disinclination to engage in military enterprises long deterred the Cairo authorities from occupying the locality; but when at last in 1891, a




force was sent to seize and hold it, the sagacious Dervish chief recognized how far-reaching would be the consequences, and he made a resolute attempt to stop the Egyptian advance from Trinkitat; this led to the decisive engagement at the ruins of Tokar which finally broke up the Mahdist power in that theatre of protracted and desultory operations.

Owing to difficulty of getting enemy to accept battle, it is expedient to ensure a decisive victory when he does so.

Battles, then, are the objects to be sought for by the regular troops, and since the enemy as a general rule shirks engagement in the open field, the strongest grounds exist for tempting him to fight, for drawing him on by skilful dispositions, and for inducing him to enter eagerly upon the conflict if he shows symptoms of inclination for a battle. Where it is so difficult to bring matters to a tactical issue, it is clear that when efforts in this direction prove successful the fight should be decisive. The question of luring such adversaries on to action will be dealt with in a later tactical chapter, as will also that of flank attacks and turning movements aiming at the hostile line of retreat - forms of operation rendered very necessary by the importance of beating the enemy thoroughly when he is brought to action. Battles being so desirable and so difficult to bring about, it stands to reason that when a conflict does occur the opportunity should be taken full advantage of. It must be fully realised that mere defeat of the adversary is not enough, the opposing forces should be beaten so thoroughly that they will not offer further opposition. They must if possible be in a military sense destroyed. Decisive victory is to be sought for and not merely success.


In the Egyptian campaign of 1882, already referred to on p. 92, the recognition to its full extent of this important principle was a distinctive feature. Some days before the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, the Egyptian army came out in force from its entrenchments and attacked the British troops at Kassassin, where they were then rapidly concentrating. The enemy was repulsed with little difficulty, and was followed up to within a short distance of Tel-el-Kebir. The Egyptian works might possibly have been carried by assault then and there without serious resistance being encountered. But the British forces available on the spot at the time were not sufficient to




achieve an absolutely decisive victory, the cavalry were not ready to follow up a success at once, and in any case attack by day on the hostile fortifications must have entailed heavy loss. The troops were therefore recalled, the attack was delayed till everything was prepared, and the brilliant result which followed on this temporary postponement of decisive action justified it conclusively.

Battles sometimes to be avoided if losses cannot be risked.

The experience gained in small wars of the past seems then to point unmistakably to the need of so conducting operations as to bring about general actions, and if possible decisive actions, and the reasons for this are readily deducible from the peculiar characteristics of such warfare. But, as pointed out in the last chapter, cases may arise - if a beleaguered garrison has to be relieved for instance - when it may be wiser to avoid a battle, if that be possible without too great a show of weakness. And when a small force has some important task to fulfil, the carrying out of which will tax its strength, it may be undesirable to incur heavy loss in conflicts not absolutely necessary. When Sir H. Havelock first advanced from Cawnpore for the relief of the Residency at Lucknow he lost so heavily in three engagements - unavoidable engagements in which the enemy was signally defeated - that he was compelled to return to Cawnpore and await reinforcements, because with his diminished force he could not have accomplished what he had undertaken. It is the same when a convoy has to be protected; an irreducible minimum of force will be necessary as escort and if this minimum becomes diminished through losses suffered by the way in battle, the escort is no longer equal to its task and the convoy may be placed in great peril. The inconvenience which will sometimes follow from a fight even if the regular force is victorious, is well illustrated by what occurred in the Bayuda desert in 1885; the heavy losses suffered by the column at Abu Klea and about Gubat, although the hostile attacks were beaten off with great slaughter, so seriously reduced its fighting strength that, till reinforced from Korti, it was barely strong enough to guard the great transport columns under its protection.



Chapter IX.
Division of force, often necessitated by the circumstances,
is less objectionable in these campaigns than in regular warfare.

Usual objections to division of force.

Division of force in the theatre of war is generally held to be bad strategy, and with good reason. An army broken up into fragments runs risk of being beaten in detail, because it may afford the enemy an opportunity of throwing his whole available strength into the scale at some particular point against a mere fraction of the total army which has been put into the field. "L'art de la guerre se réduit pour ainsi dire à un seul principe: réunir en un point donné une plus grande masse que l'ennemi," wrote Napoleon. Strategy and tactics alike are held to hinge upon the principle of securing superiority at the point of contact, and division of force tends to place the enemy in the position of putting this principle in practice.


But even in regular war this rule is far from absolute. As long as the separated portions of an army are strong enough to hold their own against any hostile bodies likely to be brought against them, they run no risk. Circumstances will often render it impossible or undesirable to move the whole army as one compact force.

Conditions of campaign often render it unavoidable in small wars.

In small wars separation in the field is often a necessary consequence of the conditions of the campaign. In the first place there frequently is more than one objective in struggles of this nature. Thus in the Afghan wars the cities of Kabul and Kandahar have always been in the first instance aimed at, necessitating at least two entirely different lines of advance. During the Indian Mutiny, Delhi and Lucknow became two




distinct gathering points of the rebel forces. In guerilla warfare the regular army of necessity becomes split up into many fractions - as will be seen in Chapter XI, separation of force is the basis of conducting operations against opponents who adopt this method of making war.


Then again, the peculiar circumstances attending the conduct of small wars often render a separation of force desirable even when it is not dictated by the conditions of the case. The importance of rapid decisive combinations has been referred to in former chapters. In roadless inhospitable districts, however, quick movements of large armies are impossible, and in such theatres of operations the mobility of a body of troops is in inverse proportion to its size. Supply is a great difficulty, and only a certain amount of supplies can be moved along a particular route within a given time. Operations take place in broken intersected country where there is little room to deploy, and where only a limited force can be drawn up in line of battle. All this tends often to make it preferable, even if not absolutely necessary, to move in several columns instead of moving concentrated.

Moral effect of numerous columns.

Moreover, moral effect has to be taken into consideration. The importance of impressing the enemy with a sense of his inferiority to the forces brought into the field against him, has been already dwelt upon. There can be no doubt that the spectacle of several well appointed columns of regular troops pouring into their territory, alarms the semi-civilized races and savages more than does a single army, and for this reason division of force is often expedient. A skilful commander with well organized forces under his control welcomes an opponent who moves against him in several separate detachments, for, working on interior fines, he hopes to beat these one by one; but the chiefs, to whom races such as form the enemy in most small wars look for guidance, possess neither the knowledge nor the skill requisite for turning to good account the division of the regular forces into groups. To




beat in detail an army separated into fractions, a better military system is needed than tribesmen, savages, or rebels can lay claim to, or than even fairly organized forces like the Chinese, or like the Egyptian troops as they existed in the campaign of 1882, generally can boast of. Therefore, because invasion by several lines tends to impress the adversary without as a rule involving serious risk, this plan of action is often adopted in operations against irregulars, even when the circumstances of the case do not in themselves dictate a division of force.


The French operating against Tunis in 1885 invaded the beylik from several points, and the feeble resistance offered by the Tunisian people can largely be attributed to the alarm caused by this procedure of the invaders. The invasion of Manipur in 1891 was carried out by three converging columns. In many Indian frontier campaigns, the Black Mountain operations in 1888 for instance, several columns have entered the hostile territory and have exercised a great moral effect upon the enemy, as was the case when two separate divisions, one invading their territory from the side of Peshawur and the other from Malakand, and meeting in the heart of it, caused the complete submission of the Mohmunds in 1897.

Enemy unable to profit by the situation, and confused by several invading forces.

The appearance of numerous distinct invading forces not only terrifies an antagonist who possesses neither the dexterity nor the power to deal with them in the most effective manner, but it perplexes him and confuses his plans. In attempting to cover all points he covers none. In endeavouring to arrest the advance of each of the several invading columns he fails to utilise his fighting strength to the best advantage. One of the greatest difficulties which the leader of a tumultuary assemblage labours under is to bow the whole to his will, and when irregular forces see their territory invaded from several points their chief must possess an exceptional personality, and must enjoy unusual authority, if he is to keep them concentrated for decisive action.




Many instances can be adduced from small wars to show how true this is, of which the following may suffice.


In the Zulu war, although Ketchwayo's impis possessed a rude organization, were highly disciplined, and enjoyed extraordinary mobility, the fact that his territory was invaded at three different points seems to have so greatly disconcerted the monarch that, although the British operations for some months were singularly ineffective, he made no attempt to carry the war into Natal.


It appears that during the Russian expedition against Khiva, part of the Khivan forces sent to check the column from Turkestan was withdrawn just as this reached the oasis, being moved northwards to reinforce the detachments confronting the column coming from the other side. In consequence the Turkestan column was almost unopposed.


The Ashanti war of 1874 illustrates this particularly well. The real line of attack ran northwards by the shortest road leading from Cape Coast Castle to Kumasi. But three detached forces of limited fighting value worked independently in support on the flanks. One of these forces, operating on the left, never penetrated into Ashanti territory at all, but in spite of this it appears to have contained a large hostile force. Another, on the right, moved forward parallel to the main attack a considerable distance, eventually retiring without fighting, but it likewise occupied the attention of considerable Ashanti detachments. The third, which advanced by a line a long way to the right, possessed some fighting value and, penetrating far into the hostile territory, had to overcome some resistance. This column eventually reaching Kumasi from the right after the place had been destroyed by Sir O. Wolseley's main body and evacuated, retired by the same line as the main body had followed in its advance to, and withdrawal from, the capital. The Ashantis thus having four forces to deal with, detached large bodies to arrest the progress of two of them, neither of which were entitled to much respect, and by doing so they weakened themselves at the decisive point for no purpose.

Several columns have advantage that, even if some fail to make way, the others succeed.

There is another reason for invading the opponents' territory in several distinct bodies which will in some of these campaigns render such procedure desirable. This is that occasionally when great difficulties of terrain have to be overcome or when accurate information of the theatre of war is unobtainable, it may be doubtful if the objective can be reached at all by any particular line. In such a case it is clearly a wise precaution to move by several different lines if possible, since it is fair to assume that all of the routes will not prove impracticable. Such conditions are no doubt unusual,




but history shows that they will sometimes be found to exist. In the Russian campaign against Khiva it will be remembered that the Krasnovodsk column had to turn back on account of want of water, and that the oasis was subjugated by the other two. The Chitral campaign of 1897 also illustrates this; had Colonel Kelly's column failed to reach the beleagured fort, it is doubtful if the army advancing from the south would have been in time to save the garrison.

Separation only permissible if each portion can stand by itself. Difficulty of judging requisite strength.

It is the case, then, that division of force is at times dictated by circumstances, and is at other times rendered desirable by the conditions in spite of the well known strategical objections to separation in the field. Splitting up the available forces is, however, only justifiable when each fraction is strong enough to stand by itself and to hold its own against any force which the enemy will be able to bring against it. This is where the difficulty arises in planning the campaign, because it is so often impossible to foresee how far the opposing forces may be able to assemble in any particular part of the theatre of war. When it is so hard to estimate the total hostile strength, it naturally is often quite impracticable to calculate the amount of fighting power which may have to be dealt with along one of the several fines of operations. The great mobility which the enemy enjoys, the suddenness of hostile concentrations, and the complete disintegration of the opposing forces after a reverse, all tend to complicate the problem. Moreover, there is always a chance that the antagonists may possess a chief who will know how to profit by the separation of regular armies in the field. At one crisis of the campaign in the Indian Mutiny the rebel leaders displayed sufficient grasp of the art of war to gravely imperil the safety of the British armies; this was when they launched a formidable force against Cawnpore while Sir (Colin Campbell was carrying out his first relief of Lucknow - had they been a little prompter, the Cawnpore garrison might have been destroyed before the Lucknow force could get back to its assistance.



Separation dangerous when superiority is not established.

But it must always be remembered that separation in the field is very dangerous to an army if there is any doubt as to its superiority over the forces opposed to it. The disastrous termination to the first occupation of Kabul in 1841-42 was in the first instance largely due to the detachment of small forces far away towards the Hindu Kush. The vacillation of those in high command soon became apparent to the Afghans, to whom it seemed as though the invaders feared to take any energetic action. The forces of the enemy grew apace, they began operations by swallowing up the isolated fractions, and these small successes encouraged the hostile swarms which were gathering so ominously in proportion as they disheartened the central body of troops at Kabul. The first Afghan war was, of course, a somewhat exceptional case, for at the very root of the art of the effective conduct of operations against irregular antagonists are the assumption and the maintenance of a dominant bearing in the theatre of war. Still, circumstances sometimes arise which, for a time at least, impose upon the regular troops a cautious attitude, and when this is the case a splitting up of the army is wholly inadmissible unless each detached portion can be trusted to act decisively in case of trouble. The disasters suffered by the Republican troops in La Vendee prior to the arrival of Hoche upon the scene, were largely due to their being scattered about in small bodies, which from their organization and nature were quite incapable of striking effective blows against the insurgents.

Difficulty of calculating upon exact co-operation between two separated forces intended to unite for some particular object.

It is obvious that, the longer the divided portions of an army are kept apart and the further the distance they have to march before uniting, the greater is the risk of failure. When the French were advancing to occupy Bacninh in Tonkin they moved for some days in two distinct forces, the idea being that these should meet at the stronghold and attack it from two sides, but one of the two columns came late upon the scene. The same




occurred shortly afterwards in the attack on Hung Hua, where the plan of cooping up the Chinese was well conceived but where it failed in execution. To ensure the simultaneous arrival of the separate bodies demands very careful calculation of times and distances, even under the most favourable circumstances. But in theatres of war of which no accurate maps exist, and of which the topographical features and communications are imperfectly known, it is almost impossible to make a correct forecast of the length of time which troops will take to reach some spot at several marches distance. Operations of this character are dangerous in regular warfare owing to the fact that an alert opponent may bring his whole army to attack one of the fractions on the march. In small wars, on the other hand, the fear is rather that one of the fractions will, owing to unforeseen difficulties of terrain checking the other, arrive prematurely, and that the plan of operations will miscarry in consequence.



Chapter X.
Lines of communications, their liability to attack, the drain they are upon the army,
and the circumstances under which they can be dispensed with.

Organization of lines of communications need not be considered in detail.

It is not proposed in this chapter to discuss the proper organization of a line of communications, a subject which is somewhat outside of the scope of this work. Suffice it to say that an elaborate arrangement of posts and depôts, a well regulated chain of command, and a sound system of decentralization under which local commanders are given great powers, are the essential features of the system. Many military works exist, official and unofficial, which explain the organization. In this chapter the object will rather be to draw attention to the drain which, owing to the hostile methods of fighting, the protection of lines of communications makes upon an army operating in such districts as usually form the theatre of small wars, and to consider the circumstances under which communications can be dispensed with altogether.


The necessity as a rule of maintaining communications with the base, and the freedom which the enemy enjoys in this respect, have been already referred to as showing how, strategically, the regular troops are in these wars at a disadvantage. Communications cramp the operations of the regular army, they act as a drag on its mobility and they tend to tie it down. But there is another respect in which lines of communications in warfare of this character prove a very serious difficulty - they are often of immense length and are generally much exposed to hostile enterprises. The consequence of this is that their protection absorbs a large proportion of the forces in the theatre of war.



Their length and liability to attack.

Lines of communications may lead through districts where the temper of the population is intensely hostile, and when this is the case the posts and depots along the line, and the convoys and detachments passing between them, are so constantly exposed to attack that special troops have to be told off to provide against it. Not only may operations be directed against the line by the military forces of the enemy, but the depredations of the local population are a constant source of anxiety. Moreover, experience shows that in small wars lines of communications through an enemy's country are often of great length, and this obviously adds to the difficulties of their efficient protection. The distance from Peshawur to Kabul was 160 miles, nearly the whole of which ran through rugged tracts, infested with turbulent marauders and inhabited by unfriendly tribes. The distance from Zula, the base on the Red Sea, to Magdala was 380 miles. From Majunga on the coast to Antananarivo the distance traversed by the French was about 230 miles, and for about 130 miles of this they maintained a regular line of communications; beyond that point the force moved as a flying column.

Need of special force to guard them.

In European campaigns the army which invades the territories of its adversary can generally cover its communications; it is indeed one of the main principles of strategy in regular warfare that an army must do so if it is not to expose itself to the gravest dangers. The fighting force protects its communications itself by the direction of its march and as a result of the extent covered by its frontage. But in small wars this is impossible as a rule. What happens is that a body of troops pushes far into a country the whole population of which goes to form the enemy; the fighting force at the front deals with such opponents as it meets with or as strive to prevent it reaching the point it aims at; but behind the fighting force the line of communications leading back to the base requires a separate force, or several separate forces, as a guard. When this line of communications is of great length, and when




the inhabitants of the theatre of war are ever on the alert to harass the regular troops, the detachments necessary to render the line secure accumulate until they become a most serious drain on the available resources in men.


In an earlier chapter it has been pointed out how the fear of exposing the communications of the expeditionary force to menacing tribes, the intervention of which in the struggle had not been foreseen, brought the troops to a standstill completely in the Ambela campaign. During the Spanish invasion of Morocco in 1859, their army advanced towards Tetuan from Ceuta, and the line of communications was only exposed to hostile enterprises on one side owing to its being contiguous with the shore; nevertheless it was the case that the route was never secure and that only strong detachments could be sent along it with safety. In 1874 the enemy closed in upon the line of communications of the main British force advancing into Ashanti, and completely severed it at times. During the Boer war in 1881 the hostile demonstrations against the communications of Sir G. Colley's force at Mount Prospect led to his marching a part of the troops at his disposal back to clear the road; the result of this move was the fight near the Ingogo, in which the column was brought to action by the Boers in a most unfavourable position. Unless, in fact, an adequate force is detailed to protect the line, or lines, of communications there is always great risk of their being cut temporarily or permanently.

Large numbers of troops absorbed.

It is surprising what forces this guarding of the communications absorbs. In the Afghan campaign the number of troops employed on the Khaibar line between Kabul and Peshawur in March 1880, was more than 15,000 men; at the same time the Kabul field force consisted of only about 12,000 men. General Skobelef made great efforts to get every available man up to the front for his operations against Denghil Tepe in 1880, the detachments on the communications being reduced to the lowest possible limits




consistent with the safety of the various posts; yet, while the army at the front mustered a bare 8,000 men, the troops on the communications mounted up to about 4,500, or to over one-third of the whole force. In desert campaigns, where the wells mark the only points suitable for posts on the routes leading back to the base, large forces are seldom required for the defence of the line of communications, because the number of posts to protect is of necessity small. But, considering small wars as a whole, this loss of fighting strength due to the drain caused by the obligation of guarding the communications is a distinctive and a very inconvenient feature.

Abandoning communications altogether.

It is partly due to the difficulty of guarding a line of communications and to the drain which this creates on the strength of the army as a whole, that in operations of this sort cases so often occur of regular forces abandoning their communications altogether. But there are also other weighty arguments to influence the commander when it becomes a question whether such a procedure, a procedure seldom attempted in a great campaign, should or should not be adopted.

Liberty of action which the force gains thereby.

An army cast loose from its communications enjoys great liberty of action. The very fact of its being so situated shows that it is independent as regards supplies. It can turn in any direction, and the enemy can only foil its plan of campaign by meeting it upon the battle-field. This is the reason why the system of flying column - self-contained bodies of troops roaming through the theatre of war - is so largely adopted in irregular warfare. Small flying columns form, as a matter of fact, a most effective protection for the line of communications of an army. They can move out and deal with any gathering of hostile warriors threatening the line in decisive fashion, and are in the meantime unhampered by solicitude as to their own communications inasmuch as they can always return intact to their starting point. By employing such columns freely, a chain of communications may be maintained, which in reality consists




merely of detached links. To deal with a foe who resorts to guerilla warfare, flying columns must be largely employed in any case, as will be seen in the next chapter.

It involves the army being accompanied by large convoys.

When the army itself abandons its communications and thus becomes a flying column, the fact of its being a self-contained force, advantageous as this is in certain respects, has also very serious drawbacks. For it follows as a matter of course that the troops are burdened with wounded and with great supply trains and columns carrying military stores-sufficient to make good whatever is expended during the whole time that the army is cut off from its base. This means a mass of transport, and all this transport has to be protected. The size of the train relatively to the strength of the force depends of course upon the length of time which it is to be adrift; but it is in all oases bound to form a troublesome charge, and it may become a veritable mill-stone round the neck of the commander if it swells to excessive dimensions.


The conditions of one phase of the Tirah campaign of 1897 were no doubt exceptional, still they afford a most remarkable example of comparatively speaking large forces moving through a theatre of war as two flying columns. In this case the Anglo-Indian army burst into Tirah from the rear, striking the head of the valleys which form that remarkable tract of country. The object was to overrun this territory of the Afridis and Orukzais and, having entered it as it were by the back door, the obvious trend of the invading army was towards that part of the enemy's country which borders upon the Panjab. In moving in this direction the invaders were approaching their own country, and they could advance in full confidence of finding supplies and every requisite prepared for them. Communications were therefore abandoned and the army, split in two, descended the valleys of the two rivers which drain Tirah, each moving independently as a large flying column.




In the various campaigns which the British and Egyptian troops have carried out against the followers of the Mahdi, the principle of moving as a force independent of communications has often been well illustrated, and the difficulties caused by the great transport train necessary under the circumstances, has been made manifest. In the operations of the Desert column between Korti and Metemma, for instance, the force was practically a flying column, and it was greatly harassed by its convoy of supplies and stores. When the enemy was found in force near Abu Klea, a zeriba had to be formed for the convoy to remain in under protection of a part of the troops, while the rest went out to fight their way to the wells.


During the French advance from the Weme river to Abomey in the Dahomey campaign, General Dodd's force was practically a flying column with a large convoy to protect; this convoy often proved a sore inconvenience during the numerous engagements which took place.


At Ahmed Khel, when Sir D. Stewart's force was marching from Kandahar to Kabul without maintaining its communications, the necessity of guarding the great trains upon which the army depended, prevented an effective pursuit of the Afghan tribesmen after they had been beaten off.


During the march of half Sir W. Lockhart's force down the Bara valley from upper Tirah, the transport columns were a constant source of anxiety, extending as they did over a great distance on the march and thereby greatly scattering the force in an extraordinary difficult country.

Question greatly affected by the length of time which the operation involves.

There is of course a great difference between an army merely casting itself loose from its communications for an operation which can be concluded in a few days, and the same army becoming a flying column for a considerable time and with a view of making some lengthy march - the supplies and stores required for some very short period seldom become a really serious burden to the force. The final advance to Kumasi from beyond Amoaful was made as a flying column, supplies for four days being carried; but the troops readily agreed to make their rations last six days, and in consequence there was practically no convoy at all. The conditions were altogether different in the case of Sir D. Stewart's march from Kandahar to Kabul, a distance of about 260 miles which took about six weeks to cover, and also in the case of General Duchesne's final advance to Antananarivo, abandoning communications a distance of 100 miles.

Partial abandonment of communications.

Often the abandonment of communications is not complete. Although Sir H. Stewart's force which crossed the Bayuda




Desert to Metemma was to all intents and purposes a flying column, it left in rear of it as it advanced a chain of defensive posts; in virtue of their existence it was possible to send strongly guarded supply convoys backwards and forwards between the column and its base. This was the principle also in the later days of the South African war of 1899-1902 when the campaign had become one against nomad bands of guerillas. In warfare of this nature there is always risk of the communications being cut, and the situation in the theatre of war in fact is sometimes such that it is really very much a matter of opinion whether a line of communications can be properly said to exist or not.

Examples of armies casting loose from their communications for a considerable time.

But in the case of Sir D. Stewart's march quoted above and of Sir P. Roberts's march from Kabul to Kandahar a few months later, there was no doubt upon this point. The forces absolutely abandoned their lines of communications for the time. They were completely adrift. For a space they disappeared into the heart of the enemy's country, and to the outer world their position and their progress were quite unknown till they reappeared near the goal they were aiming at. Such incidents are of very rare occurrence in regular warfare - the solitary instance of such an operation upon a great scale of late years has been General Sherman's famous march through Georgia to the sea. But as long as an army is fully equipped, is prepared for the enterprise, and is capable of dealing effectively with any opposition it may meet with, the undertaking is not necessarily dangerous or even difficult. And when, in addition to this, the force is proceeding to some secure-point where it can depend upon establishing its communications afresh, the operation may become quite a simple one. In this latter respect the march from Kabul for the relief of Kandahar differed widely from the march of the Ghazni Field Force, for Sir F. Roberts had a beleaguered force as his objective, not merely a junction with a friendly army.



Sir. Roberts's daring advance on Kabul.

The last Afghan war furnishes another and even more striking instance of abandonment of communications. This was when Sir F. Roberts first advanced from the Kurum valley to Kabul. Unable to spare the troops necessary to guard his communications, he organized his army as a flying column and advanced into the heart of a difficult country against a great oriental city, a city noted as a hot-bed of fanaticism, guarded by a considerable body of fairly armed troops, and surrounded by warlike tribes who could be depended upon keenly to resent the intrusion of an invader into their territories. In this case a telling blow speedily delivered was imperative, and it was essential to strike at once. The force was compelled by the circumstances to cast itself loose from its communications, and its capture of Kabul was a signal exploit - a memorable feat of arms. But the operation was somewhat hazardous, and it serves rather as an illustration of the startling results which can in warfare of this nature be obtained by boldness and resolution, than as an example readily to be followed in the future except when there is no help for it.

Risks attending this.

It must not be forgotten that an army without communications in a hostile country, which meets with a reverse, is in a very serious plight. Especially is this so if the population is - as is so often the case - merely waiting for an opportunity to rise en masse and tread the invader down. Hicks Pasha's force appears to have been destroyed actually on the battlefield of Shekan; but, isolated as it was in the desert and with no line of retreat secure, it is most improbable that, even if the termination of the fight had been less disastrous, the hapless army could ever have got back to the Nile. Not the least important function of a line of communications is that of serving as a line of retreat in case of need, the posts along it, fortified as they usually are, afford refuges and pivots of defence to the army in its rearward march. A force which has no such line to follow, may have to fight its way through ever




increasing hostile legions right back to where it started from. It has no temporary asylum near at hand, where it can gain a brief respite from hostile attacks and recover from defeat, and owing to its isolation it runs grave risk of being utterly destroyed. The disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1844 is a case in point.

Inconvenience which may arise from the force being unable to communicate with bodies with which it may be co-operating.

Then there is another matter with regard to an army which has abandoned its communications which should be mentioned here. Co-operation between it and other forces in the theatre of War is rendered very difficult because its movements are unknown. Information as to the course of events and of changes in the military situation cannot be imparted to it. It is in the dark as to the progress of the operations as a whole. The broad strategical conditions of the campaign may be transformed without its commander being aware of it. He cannot communicate with other forces with which it is desirable that he should act in combination, in case he is obliged to vary his plan. The inconvenience which may arise from this is remarkably well illustrated by what occurred in the beginning of 1885 in the latter part of what may be called the fighting phase of the Nile campaign.


The columns which advanced from Korti respectively to Metemma and towards Abu Hamed, were flying columns - communication between them and Korti took some days. When Khartum was discovered to have fallen the whole situation in the theatre of war completely changed, and the object which the expedition had in view, namely the relief of that fortress, ceased to exist. The British Government having resolved that the Mahdi must be crushed at Khartum, Lord Wolseley decided that an autumn campaign would be necessary.


He was not aware that Sir R. Buller's column had in the meantime been obliged to fall back with its transport crippled, and to abandon the steamers which had come from Khartum. Unacquainted with the actual condition of the force, he ordered it to move on Berber and to meet General Brackenbury's column there. Then, when he heard of its retrograde movement from Metemma to Gakdul he determined, not knowing how completely its transport had broken down, that the Desert Column should return to near Korti and that it should then follow the River Column along the Nile, and he issued orders to that effect. It was not till a few days later that Lord Wolseley learnt that the Desert Column was quite incapable of undertaking




any enterprise involving mobility. He was also unaware that the River Column had met with unexpected difficulties, and that in consequence it was doubtful if its supplies would hold out. It was only when this news arrived that it was decided to recall both forces to near Korti. Thus, detailed orders were twice over issued under a misapprehension of the existing conditions. This misapprehension arose from the fact that the two forces were flying columns and that they had no means of direct and immediate communication with the commander-in-chief.

Conclusions as to abandonment of communications.

It is clear, then, that many objections exist to an army abandoning its communications and advancing as a flying column. Under certain circumstances the course is perfectly justifiable, conditions will arise in small wars which may compel such procedure to be adopted, it saves the drain upon the available resources in men which a line of communications almost of necessity involves. But it is not a strategical manoeuvre to be undertaken lightly, except as a temporary expedient or as a minor operation of war, and it is absolutely essential that a force which in this manner casts itself loose in the theatre of war, should have an organization calculated to meet the special requirements of the case and based on a full acquaintance with the conditions of the campaign.



Chapter XI.
Guerilla warfare in general.

Guerilla warfare in general.

It has been pointed out in earlier chapters that guerilla warfare is a form of operations above all things to be avoided. The whole spirit of the art of conducting small wars is to strive for the attainment of decisive methods, the very essence of partisan warfare from the point of the enemy being to avoid definite engagements. The inconveniences and dangers to regular troops when the adversary adopts this attitude, are fully recognised by competent commanders. But no amount of energy and strategic skill will at times draw the enemy into risking engagements, or induce him to depart from the form of warfare in which most irregular warriors excel and in which regular troops are almost invariably seen at their worst.


It is only proposed in this chapter to treat of the strategical aspect of carrying on guerilla warfare - or rather of the means by which adversaries depending on this system of conducting hostilities can best be dealt with. In those which discuss mountain and bush warfare, outposts, surprises, ambushes and raids, the methods by which the hostile procedure can be best met as a question of minor tactics, are touched upon in more detail.


The aptitude which such opponents as regular armies have so often in these campaigns to cope with, display in harassing the troops who have penetrated into their fastnesses, is known to all. They revel in stratagems and artifice. They prowl about waiting for their opportunity to pounce down upon small parties moving without due precaution. The straggler and camp follower are their natural prey. They hover on the flanks of the column, fearing to strike but ready




to cut off detachments which may go astray. It is not only, so to speak, the rank and file who are masters of this branch of the military art, leaders are produced who excel in controlling the scattered bodies engaged in it, and who give to it direction and vitality. A glance back over the small wars of an hundred years reveals few chiefs of imperishable renown in the ranks of the foes who have opposed the forces of civilization, few personalities figuring large in history. But a few great names are handed down to us, and these are not the names of men who led great hosts to battle, they are the names of commanders of guerillas and banditti. No one to-day remembers who led the Khalsa armies at Sobraon, or the Beluchis in Scinde, but Abd el Kader and the Circassian Schamyl figure among the great soldiers of the age. Charette and Andreas Hofer still live in history, not as patriots only but also as masters of one form of the art of war. Tantia Topi owes his reputation not to Kalpi and Cawnpore, but to the months when, with a dwindling following and bound to a declining cause, he kept the field while the British hunted him in vain. And De la Rey, De Wet and Botha never fully displayed their rare gifts of leadership till the Boer armies had been dissipated, and till the great struggle in South Africa had degenerated into a thoroughly irregular campaign.


Guerilla warfare is what the regular armies always have most to dread, and when this is directed by a leader with a genius for war, an effective campaign becomes well-nigh impossible. The guerilla has ever been a thorn in the side of the organized force. It was so in the Peninsular war, where the Spanish partisans proved a formidable foe to the French invaders. Fra Diavolo and his brigand bands were almost a match for the veterans of Massena in Calabria. The Cossacks, masters of this method of conducting operations, contributed almost more towards bringing about the terrible disasters which befel the Grand Army on its retreat from Moscow, than did the rigours of a Russian winter or the combinations




of the able commanders of the pursuing armies. Before the last Russian intervention in the Balkans the Turks found the Montenegrins far more difficult to subdue than the organized Servian armies. It is because of this that the art of combating the guerilla method of conducting operations deserves especial attention when small wars are in question. Moreover, experience proves that even when there have been at the outset armies to beat in the field, the campaign will drift on in desultory fashion long after these have been overthrown, and that in small wars guerilla operations are almost invariably a feature of some phase of the struggle.

Influence of terrain.

The terrain has much to say to effective conduct of partisan warfare on the part of the enemy. The Philippines and Brittany like Castille and Trans-Caucasia, present theatres of operations eminently suited to operations of this class. New Zealand, the kloofs and bushland of Kafiraria, Burma, and Achin, all fitted to a nicety the guerilla tactics of opponents designed by nature to pursue this form of war. Hilly and broken ground or districts clothed in jungle growth and thickets especially lend themselves to these very desultory operations. On the prairie, on the veld and on the steppes, on the contrary, guerilla methods can only be adopted by mounted men, whose mobility at least partially compensates for the lack of cover as they approach their foe.

Promptitude and resolution essential to deal with guerillas.

Surprise is the essence of such operations - surprise, with retreat ere the opponent can recover, as a sequel, and in consequence the combinations of the enemy are of necessity framed on a small scale. Surprises with large forces are difficult to carry out. The Boers, it is true, managed some of their most effective strokes with comparatively speaking strong commandos, but the withdrawal of any large force when once committed to action is always most risky. Guerilla warfare, in fact, means almost of necessity petty annoyance rather than operations of a dramatic kind. Such capricious methods of conducting operations are best met by a resolute plan of




campaign and by an organization favouring rapid and energetic counter-strokes. Surprise can, to a certain extent, be guarded against by measures taken for security. But the escape of the enemy can only be frustrated by having troops ready to follow up at once and to follow up effectively.

Abd el Kader.

The French operations in Algeria during many years of war will ever serve to illustrate what is the right way and what is the wrong way of dealing with an antagonist who adopts the guerilla mode of war. Abd el Kader was a partisan leader of the foremost rank. He intuitively grasped the conditions of the case. He recognized at once that his followers could not hope to beat the trained soldiers of France in open battle. His personal ascendancy over the nomads of the south and over the wild Berber hill-men, enabled him to play the strategist from wherever his wandering abode might be, over a vast extent of country. For years his bold and sudden strokes bewildered the French leaders. He had full information of their slow, deliberate movements. He knew when a garrison was drained of troops and he straightway fell upon it. He cut communications and he swept away convoys. But by the time the French had assembled their forces for a counter-stroke, and had dragged their guns and impedimenta to the spot, the hostile body which had done the mischief had vanished into the desert, or had flown to some hill refuge whither the cumbrous column could not follow it.

General Bugeaud's mode of crushing him.

But when the right leader came upon the scene from France a great change came over the spirit of the struggle. General Bugeaud added to great natural gifts a ripe experience. He had served an apprenticeship in guerilla warfare years before in Spain. He knew the game, and his appearance on the scene as chief marked a transformation. "Vous aurez beaucoup à oublier," he said to his assembled lieutenants, and he altered the whole system of campaigning on the spot. He perceived that he had to deal not with a hostile




army but with a hostile population, that this population consisted, largely of clans and tribes of fixed abode, and that to bring them to reason he must reach them through their crops, their flocks, and their property. He established numbers of mobile detachments all over the country to watch centres of disturbance, and to strike at once on sign of trouble. These columns owed their strength to rapidity of movement rather than to numbers, they were kept equipped and supplied with a sufficiency of pack transport, artillery and baggage being reduced to a minimum. Their rôle was not merely to disperse the gatherings of the enemy, but also to chastise the rebels in their homes. The razzias or raids of the Arabs had been a terror to the French, but General Bugeaud instituted razzias by way of counter-stroke and turned Abd el Kader's own methods against the nomad leader. "Il se quand bat il veut, il cherche, il poursuit l'ennemi, l'inquiete, et se fait craindre," wrote Saint Arnaud. Abd el Kader had at last met his match, and the cause he had upheld so long with conspicuous ability and unfaltering courage, declined from the day his great opponent landed in Algiers, in 1841, invested with full powers.

Campaigns when want of mobility and decision on the part of the regular troops against guerillas has had bad effect.

In campaigns where the hostile tactics have been limited to surprises on a small scale and to ambuscades, and which have drifted on in desultory fashion for long periods, the want of prompt energetic action on the part of the regular troops has generally been mainly responsible for their failure to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. In the protracted Maori war the British operations were carried out with marked deliberation. It is true that at times, when the enemy stuck to his pahs and accepted battle, the operations were attended with great success, but the system of mobile columns ready to act at a moment's notice was not put in force, and therefore the Maoris played a game of hide and seek, and considering their inferiority to the regular troops they kept it up for a vexatiously long time. The




Russians during the long years of war in Trans-Caucasia against the fiery partisan leader Schamyl utterly lacked the system of decentralized vigour which Bugeaud employed so effectively under somewhat similar conditions in Algeria. The Kaffir war in 1851-52 was throughout of a guerilla character, the enemy not being formidable although greatly favoured by the topographical features of the country, but the British forces lacked mobility and the commissariat and transport services were not organized to meet the case. The slow progress made by the Germans in 1904-05 in suppressing the revolted tribes in South-West Africa appears to have been mainly due to the lethargic movements of forces constantly hampered by inadequate transport. The hill campaigns of India illustrate guerilla warfare excellently; the climate does not favour rapid energetic movements, the troops are always hampered by much baggage, and only certain of the native Indian troops are mountaineers and a match in activity for the hill-men; but the fact that the marauding hill tribes dwell in villages, the locality of which is often well known, compensates to a certain extent for all this because they can be punished by having their homes destroyed and their fields laid waste.

The broad principles of the strategy to be employed against guerillas.

Vigorous leadership and the rapid movement of columns from place to place will not, however, suffice by itself to subdue determined adversaries who have resorted to the methods of partisan warfare. An elaborate strategical organization is necessary as well. The principle of constantly harassing the enemy and of giving the hostile detachments no rest, can only be put in force if the theatre of war is carefully prepared for it beforehand. Experience shows that, if possible, the whole area of operations should be sub-divided into sections, each of which has its own military force or aggregate of military detachments told off to it. This was the system adopted by Hoche when operating against the Chouans in Brittany, it was the system introduced by Bugeaud to a certain extent




when he took over the command in Algeria, it was the system under which the conquest of Upper Burmah was made good, and it was the system which, when developed to an extent hitherto unparalleled in war, eventually compelled the Boers to submit to the British forces under Lord Kitchener.


When the theatre of war has been sub-divided into sections, each section must have its defensive posts, its depôts of supply and its columns. There must be places whither raided flocks and herds can be brought. The sections must be further parcelled out into convenient and well-defined areas for the purpose of clearing the country of the supplies which may be useful to the enemy, to ensure that this process shall be carried out methodically and completely. How far such clearance is to be carried out depends of course on the circumstances of the case; but it is essential that it should be carried out systematically, whether it takes the form of devastating the country, or whether it be limited to the seizure of the supplies which may be necessary for the troops.

The war in Cuba.

Before proceeding further and discussing details as regards the strength and composition of flying columns, it will not be out of place to refer to the case of a recent campaign which lasted for years, a campaign in which a huge army of regular soldiers strove vainly to suppress insurrection in a territory with a vast extent of coast line although the disciplined troops had sea power at their command, a campaign which was only terminated by the intervention of the military and naval forces of a great neighbouring state. As this was a case where the trained and disciplined soldiery signally failed to overcome the irregular warriors arrayed against them, it may be worth while to briefly examine the causes which led to this unusual result, and we cannot do better than to quote the opinion of Lieutenant Barnes, 4th Hussars, who was present for some time in the theatre of war while the struggle was at its height,




and who thus had especial opportunities for making observations and for forming judgment


"Although the Spanish Government for more than three years in Cuba maintained an army numerically far stronger than the insurgent forces, much better armed and organized, and superior in courage, they were utterly unable to subdue or even to check the revolt,which spread steadily westward until the whole island was disaffected. Some explanation of this remarkable fact may be found in the following considerations: - The Spanish troops were obstructed by the intense hostility of the inhabitants. They could get no good information of the rebel movements, while the rebels were never in doubt about theirs. An insurgent was distinguished from the peaceful cultivator only by his badge which could be speedily removed, and by his rifle which was easily hidden. Hence the Government forces, whether in garrison or operating in the country, were closely surrounded by an impalpable circle of fierce enemies who murdered stragglers, intercepted messages, burned stores, and maintained a continual observation.


" The country was densely wooded, and in the eastern districts mountainous. There were no good roads. This absence of good communications had a most paralyzing effect on the military movements; the mobility of the intangible enemy was, however, unimpaired. Moving swiftly by the tracks in the forests, the rebels harassed all the Spanish columns and occasionally destroyed one. Finally, the climate was deadly. Small-pox, malaria, and yellow fever filled the hospitals and drained the fighting units.


"All these are obstacles to success rather than causes of failure - these latter must be looked for in the tactics and conduct of the Spanish forces. There was a complete absence of any general plan. Columns moved about haphazard in the woods, fighting the enemy where they found them and returning with their wounded to the towns when they were weary of wandering. Their method of warfare was essentially defensive. They held great numbers of towns and villages with strong garrisons. They defended or tried to defend, long lines of communications with a multitude of small blockhouses. They tried to treat the rebels as though they were merely agrarian rioters, and to subdue the revolt by quartering troops all over the country. The movement was on a scale far exceeding the scope of such remedies; it was a war, and this the Spanish Government would never recognize. Over all the petty incidents of guerilla skirmishing, the frequent executions and the stern reprisals threw a darker shade.


" There appeared to be only one way of stamping out the revolt. It was a case for the subaltern with his half company operating independently and fighting the enemy wherever found, sometimes getting destroyed, but usually hurting much more than he was hurt. This might have been combined with a liberal use of mounted infantry or of cavalry acting as such, all working on some general system and operating in one district after another. It would then have become a very bloody and ferocious struggle,




but the rebels having fewer men would probably have had enough of it first. But the Spanish troops are not adapted for this sort of disseminated work, most of the regimental officers having risen from the ranks and therefore lacking the self-reliance and initiative which are indispensable qualifications."


It must be remembered that the Cuban insurgents came of an intelligent race. They were well armed and most determined. To coerce such a people into submission is no easy task, as was found in 1901-02 in South Africa. But it is clear from the above account that the broad principles which must guide the conduct of regular forces engaged in operating against guerillas were not put in force. Mobile columns acting resolutely on the offensive were not employed. No attempt was made to parcel the revolted area out into districts and to stamp out rebellion in one district after another. The campaign against the Cuban Rebels teaches us what to avoid rather than what to do.

Tho sub-division of the theatre of war into sections.

The sub-division of the theatre of war into sections, each with its commander, its chains of posts, and its mobile columns may be said to be the first step towards dealing with guerilla warfare effectively. It must be remembered that operations of this class generally cover a wide area and that considerable doubt often exists as to the position of the enemy's centres of activity. Clearing the country of supplies and, in some cases, rendering it impossible for an enemy to exist in the country at all owing to no food or shelter being left, may become part of the programme. If this is to be done methodically it can be most effectually carried out by areas, each with its responsible commander. If one area is disposed of easily while another gives serious trouble, troops can if necessary be transferred from one to the other and a rearrangement of boundaries may take place. It is the only plan by which a form of operations, which will always be harassing to regular troops and which may take an inordinate time to conclude unless method be brought into play, is likely to be carried out efficiently and economically. The




failure to work on these lines has been commented upon above in the case of the Spanish efforts to subdue the Cubans. In Burma and during the later stages of the South African war of 1899-1902, this system formed the basis of the plan of campaign.


The extent of the various sections depends on the nature of the country, the amount of cultivation, the thickness of the population, the strength of the enemy, and so forth. No rule can possibly be laid down on such a subject. But in open territory like the veld, and when the enemy consists of mounted men, the areas will naturally be larger than in close intersected country such as hill and bush warfare takes place in. The area of the sections is, of course, also largely governed by the numbers of the troops available for their subjection.

Fortified posts and depôts.

Each section must have a certain number of posts told off to it. By dint of well constructed defence works, such posts can be rendered absolutely secure, without their proving a serious drain on the fighting force which may be available - the essence of operations against guerillas is to be found in utilising the troops available as far as possible for mobile columns, and that being so the garrisons of fortified posts should be reduced to a minimum consistent with safety. In these posts supplies are collected; and if there are many of them, columns and detachments can move in all directions with little transport, always sure of finding the food which they require to keep them in the field. These supply depôts are replenished from time to time by convoys; and, as these convoys, unless they are under strong escort, always offer the enemy opportunities of attack under comparatively speaking favourable circumstances, a multiplication of fortified posts where convoys can find shelter facilitates the replenishment of supplies and reduces the proportion of the troops required for convoy duty. In the South African war the difficulties of convoying supplies, added to the necessity of securing the railways, gave rise to




those remarkable lines of blockhouses, which eventually served the purpose of ring defences enclosing many of the areas where Boer resistance was most strenuous and where Boer activity most marked. The larger fortified posts, where considerable stores of supplies are collected, serve as main bases for the flying columns, and at these not only food and forage, but also ammunition and equipment are often stored. It is to these larger posts that captured live stock is generally brought for safety.


The nature of the fortification varies according to the circumstances of the campaign. In the Kaffir war of 1851-52 large forts existed which were perfectly secure from the attacks of an enemy most disinclined to leave his kloofs and mountain fastnesses except for a raid; Sir G. Cathcart indeed took considerable exception to the elaborate works constructed. On the other hand in Algeria, where a determined enemy was in the field who could at times come down upon a garrison in considerable force, large forts were necessary for security. In the operations in Rhodesia in 1896 the "base" of a column often consisted merely of some wagons in laager, with a few men and perhaps a Maxim, acting as garrison. The character of the defences depends in fact on the nature of the theatre of war, or the extent to which the posts are isolated, and on the strength of hostile resistance.

Flying columns.

As flying columns necessarily play so important a part in operations of this class, their strength and organization deserve special attention. The system which General Bugeaud introduced in Algeria was not new - General Hoche had worked on similar lines against the Chouans in Brittany with brilliant success. The principle of flying columns has since been used with much effect in the Western States against the Red Indians. It has also been put in force in Afghanistan, in Burma, in Rhodesia, and more recently in the prolonged struggle against the Boers.



Their strength and composition.

The troops forming such columns must be thoroughly equipped for the tasks they have to perform, and they should be able to travel light. Mobility is the first essential. The guerilla trusts to sudden strokes, and it is of the utmost importance that the marauding party should not have time to disperse and that it should be attacked before it can withdraw and dissolve. Hoche urged the leaders of mobile columns to accustom their men to fatigue and hardships and to keep them in condition. The detachments of United States troops operating against the Red Indians depended for success mainly on mobility, and in the later stages of the South African war mobility was the main essential looked for in columns.


The question of the strength to be given to columns depends upon the circumstances of the case. In Burma they seldom numbered more than 300 men, with one or two guns. In Algeria, where the enemy was brave, resolute, and capable of suddenly gathering in formidable strength, small bodies would have been unsuitable; General Bugeaud recommended three or four battalions with cavalry and two guns as a proper strength. Practically, however, the columns should be as small as possible consistent with safety. Their composition, of course, depends upon the conditions of the campaign and upon the terrain - on open ground a large part of the force generally consists of mounted men, in thick bush infantry alone can be used. In Abd el Kader's days portable artillery scarcely existed, and it was wheeled guns to which General Bugeaud so much objected. Guns on mules are by no means out of place in a flying column of dismounted troops, and may prove very useful; machine guns are generally very well adapted for this sort of work. Where it is proposed to raid live stock, some mounted troops are indispensable to bring the booty in.

Columns of mounted troops in certain theaters of war.

In the campaigns against the roving Indians on the prairies, the United States leaders always depended largely upon mounted troops; great distances had to be covered and




the cavalry became highly efficient at this sort of work. Some of the marches were astonishing, and they often finished up with a skillfully executed surprise of the hostile marauders; infantry were sometimes carried in Wagons, but the most brilliant exploits in these campaigns were carried out by mounted troops alone. In Kaffirland, and in South Africa generally, only mounted troops can hope to get on terms with the enemy if he does not mean fighting. Similarly on the steppes the mobile columns are formed of mounted Cossacks and irregulars. The Kirghiz freebooter Kutebar, in the days when Russia was preparing for the incorporation of Khokand, defied all efforts to effect his capture and his subjection for a decade; as long as he was at large his meteoric appearances and his impudent hardihood made him at once a peril to Russian progress and a scourge to the clans which had welcomed the arrival of the Cossack - only the most lightly equipped of mounted troops can hope to cope with such a foe. As observed above, mounted troops are essential to bring in captured cattle, and, when the enemy's livestock forms an objective, cavalry columns are the most effective means of sweeping the booty in from over a wide area. In the desultory warfare in Central Asia against the nomads, whose sole wealth consists in flocks and herds, the Russians employed raids of mounted men with conspicuous success. In the Kaffir campaign of 1877 small mobile columns of mounted police scoured the country raiding the cattle of the enemy, and they greatly assisted thereby in crushing the rebellion.

Suppression of the rebellion in Southern Rhodesia.

The suppression of the rebellion in Southern Rhodesia in 1896 affords an admirable illustration of the right method of dealing with guerilla warriors of a certain type. The Matabili, conquered and deprived of leadership and cohesion, were not in themselves a formidable fighting race, and they eschewed all fighting in the open except on one or two occasions during the prolonged operations. The Mashonas were still less warlike. But the territory affected was of vast extent, the




available British forces were small, and certain large tracts of country were singularly well adapted for the display of guerilla tactics by nimble savages such as the insurgents were. The troops employed to stamp out the revolt were for the most part mounted, but they were assisted by dismounted friendlies. They were broken up by General Carrington into mobile columns, varying in strength according to the task set before them, but often consisting of only a mere handful of men. Although the food supply of these in their rapid movements over great distances sometimes proved a difficulty, the fine climate and open air life rendered all ranks capable of enduring great fatigues and of covering an immense amount of ground within the 24 hours. Some portable guns and Maxims were available and accompanied the more important columns, rendering useful service.


The principle enforced, and rigidly carried out, was that each column had some definite task to perform, and must push through with it in spite of distance and of natural obstacles. The scattered impis of the Matabili were hunted down relentlessly and compelled to fight or to submit. On one or two occasions - as in the Matoppo Hills - the enemy gathered in considerable numbers, and, profiting by the nature of the terrain, accepted battle after a fashion. But such favourable opportunities for giving the rebels a lesson did not generally present themselves, and the campaign was essentially one of surprises and ambuscades on one side, and of vigour and determination on the other. In 1897, during the final operations against the Mashonas, it was found that the only way of compelling their submission was to hunt them into their cave strongholds, destroy their kraals, and finally capture them in their caves - a by no means easy task; the method adopted is given in some detail in Chapter XII. The operations were not of a dramatic kind, but they were singularly effective. It was the system of Bugeaud and of Hoche adapted to the special conditions of veld and koppie




warfare, and the campaign serves as a model of what such campaign should be.

The columns in the South African War.

The evolution of the mobile columns which played such a paramount part in the later stages of the South African War, throws a flood of light upon the subject of dealing with determined opponents fighting in guerilla fashion. In many respects the conditions of the struggle were extraordinarily favourable to the Boers for prosecuting partisan warfare, although they were not favourable in all respects. Their commandos enjoyed extraordinary mobility. The vast extent of the country created almost insuperable difficulties as regards supply for the British troops. The Boers fought with a grit and determination worthy of the highest admiration, and they were gifted with never-failing cunning and with rare foresight. But, on the other hand, the veld presents for the most part a singularly open country, and it is in broken and wooded territory that the guerilla enjoys the greatest liberty of action. The British moreover had an enormous preponderance of force, and their resources in all respects were practically unlimited.


When it became apparent that the collapse of the Boer armies, the capture of all the most important points in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and the appropriation of the railway communications throughout the country, did not mean that the war was over, but that it was going to definitely assume a guerilla character, an elaborate system of flying columns was set on foot. But in the early days these columns were for the most part only flying columns in the sense that they were self-contained as regards supplies. They consisted largely of infantry. Their transport was made up of ponderous ox-wagons travelling slowly. No self-respecting column was without its heavy gun. Their movements were lethargic, their spheres of operations were cramped owing to the comparatively limited distances which they covered day by day, rarely did they inflict serious loss upon the enemy, and




considering the mobility of the enemy it is not to be wondered at that the roll of prisoners taken by them was small. But in spite of this, these slow-moving columns did most excellent work. They cleared the country of livestock and of supplies with a thoroughness which the more mobile forces of a later date could not have attempted. The torpid columns of the early months of 1901 paved the way for those sudden strokes and rapid movements, which culminated in the drives of the last few months of the war.


Gradually it came to be recognised that to deal with the roving commandos effectively and to put an end to resistance, columns must attain a maximum of mobility. This could only be achieved by eliminating dismounted men and forming the columns practically entirely of mounted troops. But this imposed great difficulties owing to the bulk and weight of the forage which had to be carried. The number of supply depôts had to be increased, and, as these had to be scattered all over the theatre of war and their replenishment demanded expenditure of force, lines of blockhouses were instituted to facilitate the movements of convoys - lines of blockhouses which served a very useful purpose later on in the time of the drives. Thanks to this system the now genuinely mobile columns began to do brilliant work, to make important captures of prisoners, and to give a display of the art of war in dealing with a guerilla enemy operating in an extended theatre such as has not been seen before in any country. They covered great distances. They marched often at night. Their efforts were constantly directed towards surprising the scattered Boer detachments and giving them no rest. When by these means contact, was gained with hostile commandos, they struck at once and struck hard. There was nothing new in the principle underlying their operations, the novelty lay only in the methods by which the principle was put in practice.

Danger of very small columns.

Although the columns organized to put down guerilla warfare should be as small as possible they must not be




too small. If there be any fear of the enemy combining his forces to attack columns in detail, or of acting on interior lines as it is called, there must be troops enough to deal with whatever hostile forces can be assembled. In the early days of La Vendée, separation proved fatal to the Republican forces. The peasants gathered from time to time in great force and overwhelmed the detachments of regulars - the system of small columns introduced later by General Hoche was adapted to different conditions, to a more purely guerilla warfare than when the insurrection was at its height. In Mexico small columns of French and of Imperial troops suffered very severely when the troubles first broke out against Maximilian's rule, because the enemy was able to bring considerable forces against them. In Upper Burma, where very small columns were adopted during the prolonged period of pacification, no serious disaster occurred. Considering the great number of columns operating in a vast extent of almost unexplored country for many months, this is very noteworthy; but on one or two occasions it would have been advantageous had they been stronger. Sir F. Roberts's instructions were that "the troops should make their presence felt everywhere," and in view of the enormous area to be overrun, the columns had to be reduced to a minimum strength. During the operations against the Angoni Zulus in the Mpseni country in 1898, an insignificant force of 400 local troops with two guns, by dint of rapid marches and resolute initiative, completely broke up a numerous and warlike tribe, seizing their cattle when they fled, and attacking them whenever they made any attempt to stand. The smaller the column the more mobile it will generally be; the more mobile it is the more suddenly it can deliver its strokes; and the essence of combating guerilla warfare is to hit unexpectedly and hard. The enemy's game likewise is to hit unexpectedly, but generally not very hard.



Need for independence.

It is very important that flying columns should be made as independent as is possible within their own sphere of operations. Sir F. Roberts's instructions in the case of Upper Burma were that the "utmost latitude of movement" should be given to their commanders. This principle appears also in General Heche's system, and to a less extent in that of General Bugeaud. In summing up the lessons of La Vendée General V. Boguslawski writes: - " The leaders of the columns must be officers who, in certain cases, understand how to depart from the plan of operations on their own responsibility, if the general situation appears to have altered." In the later stages of the South African war column commanders were always allowed great independence, except when some combined operation was being carried out by several columns.

Difficulty of controlling movements of separated columns.

In dealing with guerilla warfare like that in Rhodesia, one of the greatest difficulties to be contended with is that it is impracticable to issue definite orders to a force operating at a considerable distance from head-quarters. The inconvenience caused by this on the Nile early in 1885 was alluded to on p. 123, although there the operations were not directed against guerillas. During the campaign in Uganda in 1897-98, which covered an immense extent of country, messages had to be sent by native runners; it sometimes took as much as six days to communicate with a subordinate, and twelve days to get a reply. The same difficulty occurred in Sierra Leone in 1898.


Under such circumstances a great deal of latitude must be left to subordinates, whose judgment should remain as far as possible unfettered. It is one of the awkward problems which an officer with the general control of operations over a large territory finds himself confronted with. On more than one occasion in Rhodesia contemplated junctions of separate columns did not come off, but their leaders knew that what they had to do was to strike at any hostile gatherings with which they obtained touch, and they constantly acted on




their own responsibility in consequence. In no class of warfare is the need of self-reliant subordinate officers so urgent as in operations of this nature, and the lack of such may spoil the best matured combinations of the chief. It has been seen that the Spanish failure in dealing with the Cuban insurgents has been attributed partially to the want of an abundant supply of such leaders, a want which will generally make itself felt in any army in which the bulk of commissions are gained from the ranks.

The South African "drives."

The "drives" instituted in the closing days of the South African war may be called the last word in strategy directed against guerilla antagonists. In principle the drives combined the system of sub-dividing the theatre of war into sections, of utilizing highly mobile troops, of acting with the utmost energy, and of getting the full benefit out of fortified posts. The plan was practically perfect in theory, and the lines of blockhouses were there ready to form the barrier against which the commandos were to be forced. But its execution was extremely difficult. There was always risk of a gap being left somewhere, or of the enemy breaking through lines which were necessarily stretched almost to the breaking point. The "drives" achieved great results however, and they present perhaps the most remarkable feature of that long drawn out campaign against the Boer guerillas. The method is obviously one which could only be used after prolonged operations and after ample preparation, and it would rarely happen that such heroic remedies would be necessary in operations against the class of enemy ordinarily met with in small wars.

Need of a good intelligence department in guerilla warfare, and of secrecy.

In no class of warfare is a well organized and well served intelligence department more essential than in that against guerillas. Hoche instituted an elaborate system of espionage in Brittany, paying particular attention to this very important subject. Guerillas trust to secret and to sudden strokes, and if the secret is discovered their plan miscarries. On the other hand, all movements intended against them must be




concealed or they will be scared away. Guerilla warfare means that the regular troops are spread about a hostile country where all their movements can be watched by the enemy and where their camps are full of spies. Experience proves that partisan leaders can seldom be trusted, and that in all dealings with them great circumspection is essential. Hoche discouraged parleying with the rebels by subordinate officers, distrusting their chiefs. "Parle comme si tu avais confiance en tout le monde" ["Speak as if you had confidence in everyone"] was the motto of General Bugeaud "et agis comme si tu ne pouvais t'en rapporter a personne." Such conditions call for a very efficient and watchful secret service for a trustworthy corps of spies and for a wide awake police, with a capable intelligence department controlling the whole.


A well organized corps of scouts drawn from the more intelligent members of the community who may side with the regular forces, is an invaluable adjunct to the intelligence department. Dealing with the partisan operations of South African races or, in territories like Cuba and Mexico, of rebels, settlers in sympathy with the disciplined forces can generally be found, whose knowledge of the country and the people well qualify them for such work. Moving about secretly by night scouts of this class can detect and locate the hostile gatherings, can discover where the enemy has concealed his flocks, and can lead the columns to the spot where it is proposed to strike. In bush warfare, to be dealt with later on, scouts are generally natives who cannot be trusted far out of sight; but Europeans who have long lived an open air life in a theatre of guerilla warfare, who are accustomed to track footprints and who are adepts at the hunter's craft, will move miles ahead of the fighting force and can sometimes fix the quarry at several marches distance.


Lack of an efficient intelligence service was one of the many causes of the Spanish failure in Cuba. In the Peninsula the French commanders never got over the difficulty of establishing some organized method of obtaining information as




to the movements and intentions of the Spanish guerillas. Until Bugeaud came upon the scene the French in Algeria paid insufficient attention to this all-important matter, and the Russians operating against Schamyl and the tribesmen of the Trans-Caucasian hills were generally completely at fault as regards intelligence. In the later days of the South African war the paramount importance of a well equipped intelligence department was fully recognized, and its work exercised a great influence on the course of the operations. The Germans operating in South-West Africa have sorely felt the want of an adequate intelligence service - it is only in armies accustomed to the varying conditions of irregular warfare that the importance of this subject is fully appreciated.

Carrying off cattle and destroying property.

The adoption of guerilla methods by the enemy almost necessarily forces the regular troops to resort to punitive measures directed against the possessions of their antagonists. It must be remembered that one way to get the enemy to fight is to make raids on his property - only the most cowardly of savages and irregulars will allow their cattle to be carried off or their homes to be destroyed without making some show of resistance. Antagonists who will not even under such circumstances strike a blow, can only be dealt with by depriving them of their belongings or burning their dwellings. When operations are being carried out against guerillas scattered over great tracts of country, it has generally been found very useful to send raiding parties consisting of mounted men great distances, to carry off the enemy's flocks and herds or to destroy encampments and villages. As already mentioned the Russians have put this method of warfare in force in Central Asia, and the French made large use of it in some of their Algerian campaign. In Chapter XVI raids will be considered from the tactical point of view, here it is only necessary to draw attention to them as one means of bringing guerillas to book. The raiding plan is of course somewhat different from the methodical




clearing of the whole country such as was carried out in South Africa in 1901-02.

Objection to the principle of raids.

The objection to raids pure and simple is really one of principle. To filch the property of irregulars when they are absent is not the true spirit of waging war against such opponents; the proper way to deal with them is to kill them or to wound them, or at least to hunt them from their homes and then to destroy or carry off their belongings. But it must be remembered that the French in Algeria and the Russians on the steppes have had to deal with nomads who thought fit to adopt guerilla tactics, and who never fought if they could help it; British troops have had practically no experience of such conditions.


Raids designed to destroy hostile depôts of food or ammunition of course stand on a different footing altogether, their value in any class of warfare can hardly be overrated; but guerillas, savages, or semi-civilized adversaries rarely have such depôts, therefore the question of operations against them hardly arises in small wars. The system of raiding the enemy's cattle was employed to a certain extent by the British forces in Kaffirland in 1877, and in the suppression of the Rhodesian rebellion; but it was not found that these enterprises had much effect upon the Mashonas in 1897, who held out till tackled in their caves. In those campaigns great difficulty was experienced in getting the enemy to fight, as the French found in Algeria and the Russians in some of their steppe campaigns, but the South African native races are not nomads, and it is always nomads who especially prize their flocks and herds. Of course if the force is actually short of food, raids may become absolutely necessary; and should a body of troops for any reason have been compelled to adopt a defensive attitude for a time, a bold raid will tend to re-establish its prestige, and will encourage all ranks at a time when they may be depressed owing to their unsatisfactory position. But regular troops who can find no better




means of stamping out the resistance of determined guerillas than by cattle lifting raids will probably take a long time to perform their task.

Pacification of revolted districts.

Hoche in la Vendée.

When the operations take the form of pacifying a disturbed district, as was the case in La Vendée and as is, indeed, usual during at least some period of a guerilla war, much judgment is needed. The enemy must be chastised up to a certain point but should not be driven to desperation. General Hoche's system is thus described by Thiers.


"Hoche devised an ingenious mode of reducing the country without laying it waste, by depriving it of its arms and taking part of its produce for the supply of the Republican army. In the first place he persisted in the establishment of entrenched camps * * * . He then formed a circular line which was supported by the Sevres and Loire and tended to envelope progressively the whole country. This line was composed of very strong posts connected by patrols, so as to leave no free space by which an enemy who was at all numerous could pass. These posts were directed to occupy every hamlet and village and to disarm them. To accomplish this they were to seize the cattle which usually grazed together and the corn stowed away in the barns; they were also to secure the principal inhabitants; they were not to restore the cattle and the corn, nor to release the persons taken as hostages, till the peasants should have voluntarily delivered up their arms."


This was a case of restoring order in a great tract of civilized country where the insurrection was prompted largely by religious feeling. It was a case of civil war, and the brilliant Trench soldier-administrator substituted this system for the devastation which had been tried by his predecessors and which had failed.

Upper Burma.

Similarly in Burma great care was taken not to exasperate the people of the newly acquired province, and to punish only the dacoits and marauders who invested the country and were reducing it to anarchy. The country was divided into groups of posts, each group having troops enough to garrison all the posts, while a flying column was always ready to take the field. The operations were especially directed against the dacoits, villages which harboured them were destroyed, cattle were carried off and crops impounded;




but great care had to be exercised not to punish villages which were merely victims of dacoity. Fines were sometimes inflicted to make the villagers give up their arms if it was thought they were in league with the marauders. But in these operations the population was friendly to the regular troops and the operations were not directed against the people as a whole.

Severity sometimes necessary.

In the Indian Mutiny, a campaign for the suppression of a rebellion where the most drastic measures were justified by the events at its outset, guerilla warfare was not a feature, except in the Central Provinces and in some few localities after the rebel armies had been overthrown. The nature of the campaign was indeed such that the insurgents were so roughly handled in action that the country was practically pacified on the battle-field. But in South Africa in 1851-52, in 1877, and again in 1896, rigorous treatment was meted out to the enemy in crushing out disaffection, and with good results; the Kaffir villages and Matabili kraals were burnt, their crops destroyed, their cattle carried off. The French in Algeria, regardless of the maxim, "Les repriásailles sont toujours inutiles," dealt very severely with the smouldering disaffection of the conquered territory for years after Abd el Kader's power was gone, and their procedure succeeded. Uncivilized races attribute leniency to timidity. A system adapted to La Vendée is out of place among fanatics and savages, who must be thoroughly brought to book and cowed or they will rise again.


The subject of how best to deal with an enemy who deliberately adopts guerilla tactics, and who persists in resistance in spite of such damage as regular troops can inflict in destroying villages, carrying off five stock and trampling down crops and so on, presents a very awkward problem. Elusive guerilla bands are difficult to surprise and it is only by surprise that loss can, as a rule, be inflicted on them. Hill warfare and bush warfare, to be




dealt with in later chapters, are essentially contests against guerillas operating in exceptionally awkward country who can always escape if they wish to. Wholesale destruction of the property of the enemy may sometimes do more harm than good, and it is, in any case, by no means easy to carry out. In the preceding paragraphs the subject has only been dealt with in very general terms as the conditions vary in different cases; a plan which may be highly effective in the one may fail altogether in the other, but the principle of dividing up the theatre of war into sections, each treated to a certain extent by itself, will generally be found to be applicable, and a happy combination of mobile columns and of defensive posts in the various sections should then bring about success within a reasonable time.



Chapter XII.
Tactics of Attack.

Offensive tactics generally imperative.

In the majority of small wars the regular troops generally have to adopt the offensive on the battle-field as a matter of course. The enemy declines to attack, trusting to advantages of position and to such cover as nature provides or as can be improvised. The Sikhs, the most formidable fighting race which the British Army has had to deal with in the east, adopted defensive tactics from choice, when engaged on what was essentially an offensive campaign. Brave and fanatical warriors who fight in masses and adopt shock tactics sometimes, it is true, compel the regular army to act on the defensive, to march and to fight in square and to forego the moral advantage of being the attacking side, but such conditions are the exception and not the rule.


The great importance of impressing the enemy with the feeling of inferiority, the advantage of a dominating attitude in the theatre of war, the value of moral effect, have been dealt with in earlier chapters. A daring and resolute plan of campaign affords the best guarantee of ultimate success, and the same great principle holds good on the battle-field, as the history of the small wars most unmistakably proves. When decisive victories have been won by insignificant bodies of regular troops over great masses of barbaric foe-men as at Plassey, Isly and Meani, it has almost always been due to the assumption of a bold offensive, and this gives to the study of the tactics of attack against such antagonists, a special interest.

How theory of attack differs in small wars from regular warfare.

As a broad principle of the conduct of these campaigns, the importance of successes in action being decisive has been already pointed out. Since fights are difficult to bring about, and inasmuch as it is on the battle-field that the issue must be




decided, it is obvious that when an action has been brought on, mere victory is not enough. The enemy must not only be beaten. He must be beaten thoroughly. Let there be no mistake about this - the theory of attack when regular troops are pitted against irregulars, differs fundamentally from the theory of attack designed to meet the case of great operations between armies of the first class.


On the European battle-field the end to be attained in attack is, in the ordinary course, to drive the enemy out of his position. The general, intent upon the progress of the action in his coign of vantage, his finger on the conflict's pulse, is no less rejoiced than is the panting soldier in the firing line, when the hostile musketry slackens and dies away - a sure sign that the defenders are going to quit their ground. "By all that is holy he is limbering up! Stole away! " - King-lake's immortal story of the hillside beyond the Alma exactly presents the spirit animating all ranks in an assault upon a disciplined army in position. Up to the last moment there is painful uncertainty whether the venture will succeed or not. To the columns sheltering in front of the Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, or below the Grivitza position during the second attack on Plevna, the mere disappearance of the foe to their immediate front would have meant triumph of the most far-reaching kind.


But in combat with irregular warriors something more than this is wanted. The issue of the assault will seldom be in doubt, nor will it often entail losses of any military importance. The position which the foe has taken up rarely has any intrinsic importance of its own, and therefore its evacuation by the defenders will seldom appreciably benefit the troops beyond clearing the way for further advance. The mere expulsion of the opponent from ground where he has thought fit to accept battle is of small account; what is wanted is a big casualty list in the hostile ranks - they have been brought up to the scratch of accepting battle, they must feel what




battle against a disciplined army means. It is this fact which justifies the plan of operating against the line of the enemy's retreat, and which often makes some form of enveloping attack advisable.

Artillery preparation.

But before dealing with this very important subject of the direction which attacks should take, and detailing the reasons for adopting the various courses likely to suggest themselves, the question of artillery preparation, which plays so important a part in modern tactics, deserves attention. It is a question which affects the development of a fight, from whatever side the attack may be directed.


The experience of recent great campaigns proves that artillery preparation is generally of great value of attack in regular warfare. The first duty of the guns of the attack is to silence those of the enemy, the next is to overwhelm the defenders with their fire at the point or points selected for assault. In small wars, however, it is only the second phase of this artillery preparation which need generally be taken into consideration, because even if the enemy has guns he seldom can use them with effect. The main object of the artillery preparation in warfare of this nature is as a rule simply to make as it were a breach in the enemy's line of battle for the infantry to break in, and this is of course under certain conditions an almost indispensable prologue to the assault.

When and when not expedient.

But this procedure is not always necessary and it often is not advisable to adopt it. Artillery admittedly exercises great moral effect in every kind of warfare, and this is especially the case when in conflict with uncivilized forces, owing to their tendency to exaggerate the potentialities of the arm. Asiatics have always set great store on the possession of guns. Irregular warriors who can put a few field pieces into their line of battle are apt to attach a most exaggerated importance to them - it is a characteristic of such opponents, and one which regular troops can at times turn to good account, as will be shown further on. When the antagonist happens to possess




guns he particularly dreads artillery fire, and even if the enemy has no guns and does not know artillery, he is greatly terrified when the shells begin to seek him out. The consequence is that, in either case, a preliminary bombardment tends to drive the enemy out of his position and to scare him away before the attack develops, which is just the thing that is least wanted. The French attacks on Bacninh and Hung Hua in Tonkin in 1884 ended in the Chinese being driven out by artillery fire with very little loss, when it was most desirable to have inflicted a heavy defeat upon them. Similarly in Madagascar in 1896 the French found that the use of guns made it almost impossible to effectively cut the retreat of the Hovas, who generally fled immediately any shells burst near them. Sometimes in pursuance of some special object it may be expedient to drive the enemy off in this fashion - the tribesmen evacuated the formidable Sempagha position under the fire of artillery in the advance into Tirah. But as a general rule, certainly at the outset of a campaign, the withdrawal of irregular adversaries from a position where they have shown themselves prepared to accept battle, is a distinct misfortune, and on this account it is a mistake to be too free with shell fire in the early stages of a fight.

Objections to it.

Moreover, artillery preparation sometimes shows the enemy what is to be the point of attack, which may be by no means desirable. It is of course incompatible with anything in the nature of a surprise. The sortie from Kandahar against the village of Deh Khoja in 1880, is an example of this; a half hour's bombardment from the ramparts served to alarm the Afghans and to warn them of the project, so that they flocked to the point of danger from all sides. This objection to artillery preparation is, however, by no means so generally applicable as is the objection that premature gunnery tends to frighten the adversary away without a fight. "The effect of artillery," says Lord Wolseley, "is absurdly small upon an enemy who does not fight in large or even in formed bodies,"




referring of course to actual not to moral effect. The chances of dealing decisively with a timid opponent may be destroyed by the discharge of a few introductory projectiles which inflict little or no loss.

If enemy is strongly posted sometimes very desirable.

But it must not be supposed that artillery preparation may not at times be most essential. If the enemy be strongly posted and be resolved on offering a determined resistance, a preliminary bombardment may be indispensable. A very remarkable example of the value of an artillery bombardment is afforded by what occurred at Omdurman, where the fire of the gunboats and howitzer battery the day before the decisive battle had the effect of driving the Khalifa's army out of the town; it seems in fact to have been largely due to this bombardment that the enemy elected to fight in the open with results so happy for the Anglo-Egyptian army. In the Indian Mutiny the guns did splendid service in most of the actions in paving the way for the infantry, a very favourite manœuvre being to send out some artillery on both flanks so as to enfilade the hostile position to a certain extent; but in that campaign the rebels were well armed and often fought with desperation. The three minutes of concentrated artillery fire previous to the successful assault on the bluff at Dargai appears to have greatly assisted the infantry, although from the nature of the ground it probably caused little actual loss to the tribesmen. If the enemy be posted in a defence work, a preliminary bombardment is most desirable supposing that the resistance is likely to prove formidable - Mahmud's zeriba on the Atbara is a case in point. Instances might be multiplied to show the need of guns to prepare the way for the infantry in such cases. The nature of the hostile position, the fighting qualities of the adversaries, the question whether the actual capture of the ground occupied by the opposing force as affecting the situation at the moment is of more importance than giving the enemy a lesson - these are the points which must be taken into account when deciding




whether the guns are to be used freely from the outset or not.

It also sometimes saves time.

When it happens to be a matter of urgency to achieve rapid success the use of artillery freely before the infantry can get to work may be most desirable, even if it has the effect of driving the enemy off without his suffering seriously. An example of such a case is furnished by the relief of Fort Gulistan on the Samana ridge in 1897 by General Yeatman-Biggs. The tribesmen had captured another post, that of Saragheri which lay between Fort Gulistan and the relieving army, and, as the force advanced, the hill of Saragheri was found to be covered with hostile crowds. Great anxiety existed with regard to the fate of Gulistan and the tribesmen were driven off by artillery fire. The infantry got no chance and the hostile losses were only slight, but the column was in consequence little delayed and it was soon afterwards seen that the imperilled garrison was still holding out.

Instances of want of artillery preparation.

It is moreover necessary to point out that there have been cases where the failure to carry out a preliminary bombardment has led to most unfortunate results. The story of Chillianwalla is well known. At the battle of Wad Ras near Tetuan in 1859 the Spaniards attacked the village of Amsal without artillery preparation, and they were several times repulsed; they only carried it eventually after losing very heavily. Want of artillery preparation seems to have been a main reason for the very severe losses of the Dutch in their attacks on the Achinese stockades in 1873-74; that guns were very effective against these works is shown by the fact that the Kraton at Kota Raja, the main hostile stronghold, was evacuated under a concentrated bombardment. It stands to reason that it is far preferable to frighten an enemy out of his position by artillery fire alone, than to suffer a reverse owing to attacking without any preliminary bombardment by guns. Artillery preparation is essential at times; it is only when it is not essential that the question arises




whether the nature of the case renders it expedient or otherwise.

Importance of capturing enemy's guns.

And while on the subject of artillery, an important principle of offensive tactics with reference to the enemy's guns may here be mentioned. This is that, when such opponents as the regular troops have to cope with in these wars bring guns into the field, it is most desirable to capture those guns. The great importance which irregular warriors attach to this arm has been referred to already. Asiatics are inclined to calculate the strength of an army by the number of its guns. It is true that the ordnance which such adversaries bring into the field is seldom formidable. The material is usually obsolete. The ammunition is ineffective. The fuzes are almost always useless. But it is not on account of the assistance which his artillery affords the enemy on the battle-field that it is a valuable prize to strive for. It is on account of the moral effect which the loss of the guns produces in the hostile ranks, that their capture offers so attractive an objective for the regular troops. Retreat can be explained away, and gaps in the ranks waved aside with a pious ejaculation. But the loss of guns is not so easily accounted for. A barbaric host which marches out to war with a great train of cannon - symbols of military power as they are held to be throughout the land - but which returns without them, brings back with it incontrovertible evidence of its own defeat. Artillery is a favourite plaything of the semi-civilized potentate, chieftains put their trust in it, the rank and file regard it as a mighty engine to destroy their foes, and so it comes about that when they see their guns are lost they think that their only hope of victory is gone, and a sauve qui peut is very likely to be the upshot.


Moreover, such artillery as these armies bring into the field is not difficult to capture. The battery seldom forms a mobile unit. The guns are dragged up into position somehow, but there is no means of carrying them off at a




moment's notice when the assailants press the attack home to the spot where they have been placed.


In those actions of the last Afghan war in which the enemy had guns and where the British proved successful - Charasia, the Peiwar Kotal and Kandahar for instance - they were generally all or nearly all captured. In the Indian Mutiny the rebel guns were generally well served and were fought with great tenacity; but the enemy seldom succeeded in carrying them off, and large numbers of them swelled the booty after the later British successes in the field; in that campaign the hostile artillery was really formidable at first, and the rebels with justice had confidence in it, some of their field batteries moving in excellent style. The great losses in guns which the mutineers sustained were no doubt partially due to the resolution with which they were kept in action to the last, but the result of these losses was that the enemy lost all confidence and in the end fought with no hope of victory. During the China war of 1860 the large number of guns captured by the allies at the two actions fought on the march from Tientsin to Pekin - Shankiawan and Palikao - had a most depressing effect upon the Chinese levies.


A good example of the moral effect of capture of artillery is afforded by the following incident. In 1854 the Khokandians assembled in great force before Fort Perovski, the Russian advanced post on the Sir Dana, and practically blockaded it The commandant resolved on a bold stroke. He sent out such troops as he could spare to attack the enemy unexpectedly. The small force, however, soon found itself in a critical situation, being threatened from all sides; but in their endeavour to wipe the Russian column out, the formidable hostile forces made the mistake of leaving their artillery almost without protection of other troops. Perceiving this the officer in command of the Russians delivered a vigorous attack upon the guns, and captured them. The effect was immediate. The Khokandians took fright, fled in wild disorder leaving many trophies in the hands of the insignificant Russian force, and Fort Perovski saw no more of them for a time.


The assailants should be prepared to turn captured guns upon the enemy if possible; in the French attack upon the Hova position covering Antananarivo, their turning force captured two guns on the extreme right of the defenders and used them with good effect, the accompanying batteries having been much delayed by the terrain.

Trust of irregular warriors in their guns.

It is indeed interesting to note that artillery is often not only a source of embarrassment to irregular warriors but




becomes a real danger. Schamyl's cause declined when he increased the number of his guns; he would not abandon them when attacked in force, and was driven by their possession to abandon his guerilla tactics. In the instruction book of the Bokharan forces occurred the passage, "Special care must be taken of the guns, and it must be remembered that the strength of one gun is equal to that of 1,000 soldiers"; the Russians did not, however, find the Bokharan artillery to be very damaging. General Skobelef in his campaign against the Turkomans used to say, "If I had the right I would present the Tekkes with a few old guns." Still it would rarely be the case that an enemy should be deliberately permitted to carry off his artillery; for even when this compels him to adopt unsuitable tactics it is the result of an exaggerated belief in the virtue of the guns, and if the guns are captured the moral effect is proportionate.

Importance of capturing trophies.

Just as the enemy's artillery is always a most desirable objective on the battle-field in campaigns of this nature because of the prestige gained by taking it, so the capture of trophies should also constantly be kept in view. British troops no longer take their colours into action, although prizing them none the less on this account as emblems of regimental distinction; but Asiatics and irregular warriors in many other parts of the globe generally bring banners into the field. Fanatics prize their standards highly and look on them as sacred, their loss is regarded as a disaster and as prophetic of ultimate overthrow. There is of course no material benefit to be gained by capturing them, but the moral effect of securing them is great. As, in planning the campaign, the seizure of some ancient city or historic stronghold should be rated far above its military importance, so on the battle-field the wresting of trophies of this nature from the enemy is to be accounted as a very proper object to be attained. It must never be forgotten that in small wars moral effect ranks almost before material gain.



Difficulty of ensuring decisive success.

Desirable as it is to ensure that success in action shall mean not merely the defeat of the hostile forces but their destruction, the conditions of the case will often render such decisive results quite impossible. Rugged, rocky hillsides may be the scene of struggle. The fight may take place in thickets and in tangled jungle growth, where control of the troops engaged is almost impossible. The terrain in which a fight takes place indeed rarely lends itself to decisive tactical combinations. But, quite apart from the topographical conditions which so often prevail in operations of this class, there are two notable characteristics of irregular warriors which tend to hinder the achievement of decisive victory.

Reasons for this.

In the first place such opponents are apt to lose heart prematurely at the spectacle of assaulting columns advancing steadily upon them. The moral effect of deliberate attack of this nature affects the nerves of the best of troops, to irregular warriors it is appalling and uncanny - and they give way before it.


In the second place, when such adversaries do give way, they retreat with amazing rapidity. They evaporate and disappear. They disperse in all directions and conceal their arms, and on this account effective pursuit becomes most difficult; cavalry alone can attempt it, and the ground is often unsuitable for mounted men to traverse. The French in Tonkin seldom got to close quarters with the Chinese, even when these had carefully prepared their ground and when their attitude in the preliminary stages of the fight appeared to foreshadow a desperate resistance; so precipitate was their retreat when the assailants began to drive their attack home, that they got away with little loss. Both at Charasia and Ahmed Khel the Afghans fled so quickly from the field when the fate of the day was decided against them, that from that moment they suffered few casualties.


A very good example of the rapidity with which regular warriors effect their escape is afforded by the very successful action at Landaki in 1897, by which Sir B. Blood forced an entrance into Swat.




The tribesmen were defending the "Gate of Swat," a typical military defile, where a great rugged spur from the hills south of the valley of the Swat river stood out like a buttress, allowing only a narrow passage between its declivities and the river. The enemy fully expected that an attempt would be made to force the defile and had gathered in strength at that point, while sangars crowded with hill-men crowned the spur. Sir B. Blood determined to occupy the enemy with artillery fire and with part of his force, to hold the cavalry ready for a swoop through the defile, to send a strong force up the hills under General Meiklejohn to turn the hostile outer flank, and by cutting off the enemy's line of retreat into the hills, to hustle him over the spur down into the plain beyond, where the cavalry could finish off the job in style.


The troops under General Meiklejohn had proceeded a considerable distance up the hills, and were within effective musketry range of the crest of the spur before the enemy seemed quite to realize the nature of the movement. Then, however, the tribesmen broke and fled precipitately, and by the time the spur was captured they were already disappearing over the plain beyond making for the foot hills. The victory was singularly complete, some 200 of the enemy were killed, and an entrance into Swat was forced at a trifling sacrifice; but thanks to their great fleetness of foot the hillmen managed to escape out of the trap which was being laid for them, without their suffering as heavily as had been hoped from the horsemen whom they with good reason greatly dreaded.

Objection to purely frontal attacks, advantage of flank attacks.

The fact is that purely frontal attacks are a mistake because, in the first place, the enemy gives way before them and because, in the second place, from their direction the hostile line of retreat is left unthreatened. Frontal attacks combined with flank attacks are infinitely preferable if circumstances permit of the manœuvre. Or the attack may be solely directed against the flank and even against the rear of the opponent. In regular warfare flank attacks are held to be expedient owing to the heavy loss sustained in frontal attacks when there are modem arms of precision in the defenders' hands; but in small wars, although frontal attacks may sometimes be dangerous for the same reason, the great objection to them is that they do not ensure decisive victory. A case like Dargai is really exceptional, although it is at the same time most instructive. At Dargai the extraordinary strength of the enemy's position as against a frontal attack led, on the one hand, to very heavy loss in the assaulting columns and, on the




other, to the tribesmen sticking to their ground far longer than they would have done had their flank been threatened; it was the absence of any turning movement on the part of the regular troops which caused the victory to be so decisive, but at such a heavy sacrifice.

Enemy seldom prepared for flank attacks or attack in rear.

It is somewhat singular that, taking into account the tendency of irregular warriors to threaten the flanks and rear of the regular forces, such adversaries seldom seem to be prepared for attacks upon their own flank or rear. When they prepare their positions for defence they do not take the contingency into account. Of course it is not always so - the tribesmen had made especial arrangements for securing their flanks with sangars at the Sempagha Pass when Sir W. Lockhart attacked it in 1897. But an examination of the general course of actions in many campaigns in very different theatres of war and under most varying conditions, shows that it very frequently is the case. The oft-quoted Chinese complaint of the ignorance of the barbarians who did not know that guns could only shoot out of their muzzles and not backwards, and who in consequence attacked the Celestials, not in front as they expected but in rear, may have been mythical; but it has a spice of truth in it. It does not seem to occur to irregular warriors that they may not necessarily be attacked at the point where they have made their most elaborate preparations. It is somewhat singular that it should be so, because such antagonists are always in great terror of having their retreat cut, and if they find the regular troops getting round their flanks they generally abandon their positions in hot haste; still experience shows that it is the case. The following three examples illustrate the unpreparedness of the enemy for attacks in rear and flank; but many others might be quoted.


In 1853 a Russian force advancing into Daghestan found the Tavliena in force in a fortified position behind the River Metchik. The bulk of the troops were directed to assault the lines in front, but a part of the force




was sent to make a detour through the forests and debouch in rear of the enemy. Schamyl's followers were preparing to offer a strenuous resistance to the attack which they saw the troops in front of them preparing, when suddenly they became aware of the movement against their rear. They were completely unprepared for this, although the nature of the country should have suggested its possibility. They incontinently fled, abandoning their works, while the column threatening their rear was still some distance off and before it had fired a shot.


The forcing of the Khan Band defile by General N. Chamberlain in 1857 also illustrates this. This was a narrow gorge south-west of Dera Ghozi Khan. It had been the scene of a combat in which the Sikhs some years before had suffered very severely at the hands of the Bozdar tribe. The route passed through this narrow gorge, the hills on the left being practically inaccessible while those to the right were difficult. Plan III, facing p. 166, shows the enemy's position and the line followed by the attack. The Bozdars had some sangars in the gorge itself, and others on the hills to the right so as to take in flank the troops as they forced the passage - these latter breastworks were close to the defile and formed the left of the enemy's position. General Chamberlain, quitting the trough of the valley with the bulk of his force some distance from where it narrowed into a gorge, advanced against the extreme left of the hostile line of defence by making a detour over the hills. The sangars on the flank were not arranged to meet such an attack, and were easily captured. The hill-men had in fact assumed as a matter of course that the troops would follow the volley and endeavour to force the defile itself, although it was obvious that there was really nothing whatever to hinder a turning movement such as General Chamberlain carried out with complete success.


The battle of Suruj Kund near Multan in 1847, also serves as a good example of this. The Sikhs having taken up a strong position and entrenched it, General Markham was sent with the British and Indian troops, to fall upon the left flank of the enemy, while some Sikh and other troops, auxiliaries to the British, remained in front and eventually assisted to complete the victory. "The battle of Suruj Kund," wrote Major Herbert Edwardes who was with the auxiliaries, "may be described as the most gentlemanly ever fought. A mere manœuvre of fine soldiership turned a large army out of a strong entrenchment, and routed them with the loss of five guns before they understood the attack. It was the triumph of discipline over an irregular army. A regular army in the same entrenchments would have changed its front, but the rebels not being attacked as they intended to be attacked were unable to fight at all. General Markham placed his force upon the hostile flank and simply rolled up the line. The hostile Sikhs could make nothing of it"

Flank attacks give better chance of a decisive victory.

As a consequence of the omission on the part of the enemy to protect his flanks, an attack on one, or even on both, of them can generally be carried out without meeting with




serious resistance. When such a direction is given to the assailants, or to a portion of them, it is clear that its tendency is to bring the regular troops, or some of them, upon the hostile line of retreat. The direction of the attack has in fact the effect of compensating to a certain extent for that precipitancy of retreat which irregular warriors, thanks to their fleetness of foot, can indulge in, and which so greatly militates against a decisive success. The enemy cannot get away so easily, and if the adversary has guns a flank attack is far more likely to secure their capture than a frontal one. In a word flank attacks tend to bring about decisive victories, to ensure the very objects which in warfare of this nature are the most difficult to obtain, and it stands to reason that, the more the flank attack is directed against the rear of the enemy, the worse is his chance of escape in most cases. Of course peculiarities of terrain may modify this, but as a general rule it will be so. It must however be borne in mind that irregular warriors are always very nervous about their line of retreat - as shown at Landaki, mentioned on p. 160; they are very apt to beat so precipitate a retreat when they feel their flanks threatened, that they get off in spite of the best arrangements.

Containing force, in case of attacks on the flank or rear of the enemy.

When the question arises of attacking a hostile position in flank or rear, it is always a matter for consideration whether a containing force should be left in front, and whether this force should, if existing, join in the attack. If there is any fear of the enemy abandoning his position before the flank or rear attack develops, it is generally well to occupy him in front. At Assaye Sir A. Wellesley brought the whole of his small army upon the Mahratta flank. At Kandahar, on the other hand, the enemy was to a certain extent contained by troops on his front and by artillery fire, although the main attack fell on Ayoub Khan's right flank. At El Teb the British square manœuvred so as to come upon the flank of Osman Digna's entrenchments, no containing force remaining




in front. At Kirbekan, where the attack was directed against the enemy's rear, a very small containing force was left in front; the guns of this detachment took part in the action but the rest of it was not engaged.

Action of Kirbekan, a rear attack.

This battle of Kirbekan is so remarkable an example of an attack upon the rear of a strong position occupied by irregular warriors, that it deserves to be narrated in some little detail. The Mahdists held a position with their right flank resting on the Nile, which is shown in Plan IV, facing p. 166. Close to the Nile, and at right angles to it, was a chain of rocky knolls on which the enemy was posted, sheltered behind stone breastworks. About 600 yards off, in echelon to the left rear, was a remarkable ridge of trap rock with almost precipitous sides; this also extended on a line at right angles to the Nile, and it was occupied by the Arabs. In rear of the hostile position, at some little distance off, was the mouth of the rocky Shukuk defile; and it was most important to cut the enemy off from retreating into this. General Earl decided to march right round the enemy's left and to attack the hillocks in rear and the ridge at its right extremity. Two guns with an infantry escort were left in front of the hillocks to occupy the enemy, and the camel corps was deputed to demonstrate against the front of the ridge, while the rest of the force was detailed for the turning movement.


The operation was signally successful. The Dervishes grimly stuck to the position, although they must have seen the march of the column which was to attack them from the rear from the ridge. On reaching the right rear of the hostile position, the knolls and the ridge were attacked simultaneously. The Arabs stood their ground well and suffered heavily, although a proportion escaped before the attack commenced. But the victory was complete, and the hostile power in that part of the theatre of war was absolutely broken and destroyed in this one single action.

Co-operation of containing force.

In this fight the small force left in front of the hostile position was merely a containing force. It made no direct attack. As a rule, however, the force in front co-operates more directly in the combat in such operations, and the attack takes the form of a combined assault in front and in flank or else in rear. If it can be arranged that the frontal attack shall occupy the attention of the enemy and keep him on his ground, and that the flank attack shall develop just as the flight begins so that the fugitives can be shot down by the troops working on to their line of retreat, an ideal tactical situation has been created. The action at Ferkeh on the




Nile in 1896 is a case where the main attack was on the hostile front and where a smaller force appeared on the enemy's line of retreat at the psychological moment; the Dervish force on this occasion was little, if at all, superior in numbers to the regular troops, and it was practically destroyed. General Negrier's method of assaulting the Chinese works in Tonkin, which were generally isolated on hills and knolls, was most effective; while the bulk of the infantry, supported by artillery, moved direct against the objective, clouds of skirmishers pushed rapidly ahead, worked round the flanks and brought a cross fire to bear on the enemy in retreat; the Chinese seldom let the French get to close quarters and, but for this enveloping form given to the attacks, they invariably would have practically all escaped. In the desultory fighting in Burma, where the dacoits and other hostile bodies generally held villages or some form of stockade, the cavalry used to work round both flanks before the infantry attacked, so as to be ready to deal with the fugitives. These minor operations in Tonkin and Burma serve to illustrate the principle of combined front and flank attacks very well.

Main attack on the flank.

If the hostile position is very strong, and if a frontal attack is therefore likely to lead to hard fighting, the main assault is generally best made upon the flank; a minor direct attack upon the front will be very effective when the flank assault has begun to make itself felt. The conditions in this case, of course, differ entirely from those described above as prevailing in Tonkin and Burma, where the enemy was disinclined to offer a determined resistance. As an example of cases where, owing to the strength of the adversary's position, the main attack has been on the flank while the assault on the front has been only a subsidiary and secondary operation, may be cited the attack on the Peiwar Kotal.

Peiwar Kotal

The capture of the Peiwar Kotal by Sir F. Roberts, in 1878, is illustrated by Plan V, facing p. 166, which shows the general course of the action. The Afghans held the pass over a lofty ridge with difficult approaches.



  A frontal attack upon their position would clearly have entailed severe losses, and so Sir F. Roberts determined to attack the enemy's left with the bulk of his force, the plan being a surprise after a night march. Part of his army was to attack from in front when the main movement against the hostile flank had succeeded. Reaching the extreme left of the Afghan defences at early dawn, the turning force was completely successful, rolling up the left wing of the enemy in great confusion towards the centre. It was however, found, that the advance along the ridge became after a time almost impracticable, and a further turning movement was then undertaken, directed on to the line of retreat of the defenders. The enemy thereupon began to give way all along the line, and this enabled the frontal attack to be driven home. The victory was complete, the enemy's guns were all captured, and the Afghan troops fled in the utmost confusion having suffered considerable losses.
Enemy inclined to draw all his forces to meet the flank attack and so opens the way for a frontal attack. Antagonists of this character, if attacked in flank, are much inclined to draw all the forces over to that side to meet the onset, thus enabling a movement against their front to make great way. As actions in such warfare are seldom on a large scale this is generally quite feasible; the distances are small and the massing of the bulk of the defending force on one side or the other can be rapidly effected. The consequence is that a frontal attack, after the hostile forces have been drawn off to strengthen the threatened flank, may succeed in gaining some great and even decisive advantage, even when made by a relatively small body of troops, if the troops are handled skilfully.
  At Charasia, in 1879, the Afghans had taken up a strong position in the hill, on either side of a defile through which the road led to Kabul, and were especially in strength to the left of it. Sir F. Roberts disposed his forces for the attack so as to launch the greater part under General Baker against the Afghan right, while a small body under Major White was to occupy the enemy in front of the defile. Plan VI, opposite, shows the Afghan position. As General Baker fought his way forward, driving the Afghans off, numbers of the enemy hurried over from near the defile to reinforce their comrades on the threatened right. Major White, finding the enemy in front of him to be no longer very formidable, attacked with great vigour, and he was so successful with his small force that he completely overthrew the hostile left and secured the defile. Hereabouts was posted the enemy's artillery which was all captured by the small force, the rôle of which had in the first instance merely been to contain the enemy on that side.



Difficulty of ensuring combination between a front and a flank attack. For the execution of combined attacks of this kind careful calculation of time and a correct appreciation of the general probabilities of the action about to take place, are necessary. At Kirbekan, the hour at which the guns of the containing force in front of the enemy's position were to commence firing, was carefully laid down. If combination be essential to success, it is imperative that the two detached forces shall actually co-operate at the proper moment. It may be impossible to communicate between them, and the terrain may be such that neither force knows exactly what the other is doing; at Charasia the two forces, although some distance apart, could watch each other's movements to a certain extent. As a rule it is best to allow the detached commanders some latitude of action, because something unforeseen may at any moment arise; but if mutual co-operation be the essence of the operation it is imperative that there be a thorough understanding between the separate portions of the force engaged. Further on, in discussing the general question of divided forces co-operating to achieve some common object on the battle-field, some instances will be adduced to show how difficult it often is for a commander to handle detached bodies actually in action, and to illustrate the strange mistakes which occur. Everything depends on both the force which is in front, and that which is turning the flank or which is manœuvring against the rear of the opposing army, having been given a correct impulse to start with.
  It has frequently occurred that one or the other has, either owing to some misapprehension or else to unforeseen difficulties, entirely failed to perform its share of the task. Thus General Duchesne during his final advance on Antananarivo in 1895, finding the Hovas in a very strong fortified position on the Amboluminas range, arranged to attack them both in front and on their left rear; the column destined to turn the flank marched off some time before daybreak, while the advance of the columns against the front was




made ostentatiously in the morning; but the enemy fled precipitately as soon as the frontal attack developed itself and before the turning force could join in; the advanced troops and cavalry of this latter managed, however, to cut in on the hostile line of retreat, and to do good execution.


Calculations as to the length of time which will be required for a force to march to a certain point over ground which is often not very well known, are apt to prove inaccurate even if some unexpected action on the part of the enemy has not upset them. Moreover any divided action of two distinct forces moving some distance apart, is always liable to miscarry owing to some misunderstanding. The attack on Ali Musjid in 1878, serves as a good example of a turning force failing to perform its share in an attack owing to its meeting with unexpected difficulties of terrain. The serious reverse suffered by the French at Bang Bo, in 1885, may be cited as an illustration of a mistake with regard to a turning force having a most unfortunate sequel.

Ali Masjid.

(1) Ali Musjid in the Khaibar pass was a well placed and somewhat formidable fort, and the Afghans had made elaborate preparations to hold the position. The plan of operations was to send one force over the hill to the right of the pass, aiming at a point some distance in rear of the position so as to intercept the enemy's retreat: to send another force, moving on a line inside of the first, to assail the position in reverse and on its loft flank, and to move the remainder of the troops up the pass and attack in front. The first force, under General Tytler, started at 6 p.m.; the second, under General Macpherson, at 2.30 a.m.; and the main body at 7 a.m.. this last being under Sir S. Browne, who was in command of the whole. Sir S. Browne arrived before the position, bombarded it, and commenced his infantry attack in the afternoon. But it soon became apparent that the turning forces had not reached their destinations and that the project of striking simultaneously from two sides had failed, so the action was discontinued. General Macpherson's force had been delayed by the almost insuperable difficulties of the road, and was therefore unable to co-operate. General Tytler's force, however, succeeded in striking the defile higher up, and late in the afternoon it managed to out off a considerable part of the hostile which was retiring. During the night the fort was evacuated, and it was occupied next morning without further fighting.

French disaster at Bang Bo.

(2) Bang Bo lies a few miles within the Chinese frontier. General Negrier had pushed the Chinese before him and captured Langson, and had




followed, them up into their own territory, driving them out of Tonkin by a series of brilliant tactical operations.


The route beyond followed the trough of a deep depression in the hills. A few miles beyond the frontier the French found the enemy in position on some heights (A in the sketch opposite), stretching across the valley and narrowing it into a gorge, and they carried these by a spirited attack in the afternoon. From the high ground another line of defences was observed about two miles ahead; this consisted of a strong entrenchment (B) right across the sole of the valley, of some works on knolls (C, C), and of a small work on a commanding hill (D). The troops bivouacked for the night, part of the force having pushed on and occupied two abandoned works (E, E).


General Negrier determined on a combined turning movement and frontal attack next morning, and he directed his right wing to advance at an early hour and to capture the hill (D) from the right, thus taking in reverse the Chinese line of defence, which was evidently well prepared and strongly held. When this point had been captured the frontal attack was to be delivered.


The morning unfortunately broke with a thick fog. The right wing could only advance very slowly, feeling its way to the front for about three hours. Then the fog began to lift and the troops destined for the attack on the hill (D) pressed forward; but they were suddenly brought to a standstill by the deep ravine (F), which it was found impossible to cross. The Chinese, perceiving the movement against their left, sent men to occupy the hill (D) which had not been held by them at all till then, and when the fog completely lifted General Negrier saw these men moving up the hill Hearing no firing he assumed that the Chinese were not holding the eminence, and that the troops he saw were French who had crept close up unobserved in the mist. Under this false impression of the tactical situation at the moment, he at once launched the remainder of his force against the entrenchments in the valley. These proved to be most formidable, and the attack on them failed. The right wing endeavouring to attack the hostile position on its immediate left gained some ground, it is true, but it was compelled to retire before a vigorous counter-attack. The Chinese then advanced over their main entrenchment in pursuit of the troops who had been repulsed in the frontal attack, and the consequence was that the two divided French wings were only withdrawn out of action with such difficulty and after such determined fighting, that General Negrier felt himself compelled to withdraw to Langson, having lost one-eighth of his force.

Cavalry in flank attacks.

Advantageous, in fact, as are flank attacks combined with assaults on the front of the enemy's position, owing to their increasing the probability of gaining a decisive success, there is always a chance of the combination fading unless all goes right. If the ground be favourable for cavalry action, mounted



Plan VII. Affair of Bang Bo.
Plan VII. Affair of Bang Bo.

troops are very valuable in flank attacks, thanks to the rapidity with which they can act against the enemy in retreat. The action of Badli ke Serai between the rebels and the force moving from Meerut to Delhi after the outbreak of the Mutiny, is an excellent example of such action by mounted troops; the cavalry and horse artillery were sent to operate against the enemy's flank and rear while the infantry attacked in front, and the result was a completed rout of the mutineers. This war indeed furnishes numerous other instances of the same kind. At Kali Nuddi after the relief of Sir J. Outram, at Lucknow by Sir C. Campbell, the cavalry was similarly sent round by a concealed detour to fall upon the rebels in retreat; the enemy was driven from his position by the infantry, but was retiring in good order till the cavalry swooped down; the effect of the troopers' onslaught was tremendous, the mutineers' force being utterly dispersed and suffering very heavy losses. In the Chitral Expedition of 1895, the cavalry sent round to operate against the flank of the tribesmen on the Swat river, who were occupied by the infantry in front, scattered the enemy like chaff by its sudden appearance, although the ground was by no means favourable for the action of mounted men. The fire of cavalry dismounted may be particularly effective on an enemy's flank.

Artillery in flank attacks.

The effect of artillery accompanying a flank attack is also very great. At the Peiwar Kotal the guns with the turning force did fine execution. A main object of such operations is to act against the enemy in retreat, and as such adversaries are very quick in withdrawing, guns are often the only means of inflicting loss when the hostile force gives way. In the Mutiny the horse artillery performed signal service in this manner, working with the cavalry. When guns get upon the flank of an enemy's position they can moreover often enfilade it with great effect.

Imperative necessity of following up a preliminary success.

In all attacks upon irregular warriors, or upon armies of inferior morale, it is not only essential to drive the assault home with vigour, but to follow up any success gained with




the utmost energy and decision. The impression created amongst such opponents by even a trifling preliminary success is very great, and once they are got on the move they must be kept upon the move. This is a broad principle of offensive tactics, whether the assault be delivered in front, in flank, or as a combination of both directions of attack. It is at the root of the whole system of conducting operations in warfare of this nature, in which moral effects counts for so much. Of course when the opposing force occupies several distinct lines of defence - a system to which such adversaries, notably the Chinese, are much addicted - infantry may after capturing the first line be able to reach the second in time to come to close quarters with its defenders; but this seldom happens. Once the first line is forced, resistance as a rule collapses to an extent which can never be hoped for when fighting against regular troops. Dash is not only essential to start with, but advance must continue without a pause till the enemy has been driven from his last position. This was the system followed in the Indian Mutiny and by General Negrier in Tonkin. The adversary does not understand it, and becomes hopelessly demoralized.

Need of initiative on the part of subordinates in attack.

In small wars the principle is so clearly established that the enemy once on the move must be kept on the move, that the responsibility assumed by the subordinate commander who presses on, is not so great as in a struggle against regular troops. There is little risk of the enemy rallying. The more quickly and resolutely he is followed up the smaller does the chance become of his showing further fight. In hill and jungle warfare, to be dealt with especially further on, initiative is especially desirable on the part of junior officers. The following striking incident at the battle of Kandahar deserves mention, as it illustrates so will the importance of individual initiative in not allowing the enemy to recover from the effects of a first reverse.




The Afghans held the long ridge, shown in Plan VIII, facing p. 176, and the villages of Ghundigan and Ghundi to its right front. Sir F. Roberts' plan was to attack the right flank of the enemy, and the action commenced by two brigades advancing parallel to each other and capturing the two villages about simultaneously. The enemy retreated round the right of the ridge to the village of Pir Paimal and to the reverse slope of the ridge. As the two brigades advanced, sweeping round the ridge, that on the right struck the village of Pir Paimal and captured it; but then the advanced troops found themselves suddenly in face of nearly the whole Afghan army close to, and on the ridge above, the village.


Hostile reinforcements were hurrying up, and the enemy was bringing a heavy artillery fire to bear on the British troops sweeping round the end of the ridge. If the Afghans were to make a counter-attack on the advanced detachments, a serious check might befall the hitherto victorious troops. The situation was critical. The enemy was showing unexpected tenacity and was in strong force. There was no time to lose. Major White, whose regiment, the 92nd, was furthest to the front, at once formed it for a final attack. Charging the enemy he drove his men in like a wedge between the masses on the low ground and those on the ridge, and captured two guns. This sudden onslaught completely changed the aspect of affairs, the enemy broke and fled in all directions, and all further resistance practically ceased.

Cavalry to be at hand to complete victory.

The value of cavalry in completing a victory if the ground be at all suitable, can scarcely be exaggerated. In the present day this arm of the service is, at least in regular warfare, accustomed to work in large independent bodies on the battlefield, and experience has shown that under normal conditions this arrangement is the best; the tendency of modern tactical organization is to reduce the amount of divisional cavalry to a relatively insignificant body. But in small wars some bodies of mounted men should generally be kept at various points ready to assist the infantry, in preference to the cavalry being, all practically kept as one force. This is of course speaking of cases where the armies in action are some thousands strong; with very small bodies of troops the cavalry is necessarily on the spot. The reason why this dispersion of the mounted troops is desirable is that there shall be mounted men ready at all points to follow up success at once; the enemy gets away so quickly that if the troopers are not on the spot they may be late.



Other arms to play into the hands of the cavalry.

When there is ground in rear of the hostile position where cavalry will be able to work effectively, infantry and artillery should endeavour to drive the enemy in that direction so as to give the mounted troops a chance of inflicting heavy losses. It is often the case that a force of irregular warriors will be found occupying rugged hills, on the far side of which are stretches of level ground; the enemy will endeavour to avoid these stretches of level ground when driven from his position, but with good management the infantry and artillery may make retreat by any other line impossible. At Landaki mentioned on p. 160, the very rapid flight of the Swatis, and the delay which arose in getting the cavalry through the defile by the river owing to the road being broken, saved the tribesmen from the mounted troops, whose prowess they had learnt to dread; when Sir B. Blood had broken out of the Malakand position a few days before, the infantry had driven the tribesmen down on to a level valley, where the 11th Bengal Lancers and Guides cavalry had given them a lesson which will be remembered for years.


The great problem when attacking irregular warriors in position is not so much to decide how to capture that position, for the chances are that this will not prove very difficult, as to make certain that the victory shall be a real victory causing the enemy heavy loss. This end may be achieved in various ways under diverse sets of conditions. But, given the suitable situation, no more effectual way of achieving a decisive and lasting triumph can be found than to compel the broken straggling array, which has been driven from the ground whence it bid the troops defiance, to stream across a level tract of country, where the cavalry can deal a coup de grâce.

Importance of the cavalry acting at the right moment.

At the battle of Kandahar the plan was that the whole of the cavalry was to make a wide turning movement outside the infantry, was to cross the Argandhab and was to fall upon the enemy in retreat, but owing to unforeseen circumstances it was greatly delayed and came up very late; a few




squadrons following the infantry and ready to strike promptly, would have been of the utmost assistance after the last stand was made by the Afghans. In broken intersected country the charge of a small detachment of cavalry may be of great value as a minor episode of the conflict, and it is essential that the troopers should be at hand, to strike when an opportunity offers and thereby to complete what the infantry has begun. The cavalry operations against the hostile flanks and rear in the Mutiny and in the Egyptian campaign of 1882 were admirable, and were highly effective owing to the ground being generally favourable. Under these circumstances massing the cavalry seems to have been a good arrangement. But on battlefields less suited for the combined action of great bodies of horse, and in attacking an enemy who, once the infantry have come to close quarters retires at a rate completely outpacing the trained foot soldier, it is most expedient that the c