The Relations of the Offensive and Defensive to Each Other in Tactics
Too Long; Didn't ReadFirst of all we must inquire into the circumstances which give the victory in a battle.
Of superiority of numbers, and bravery, discipline, or other qualities of an army, we say nothing here, because, as a rule, they depend on things which lie out of the province of the art of war in the sense in which we are now considering it; besides which they exercise the same effect in the offensive as the defensive; and, moreover also, the superiority in numbers in general cannot come under consideration here, as the number of troops is likewise a given quantity or condition, and does not depend on the will or pleasure of the general. Further, these things have no particular connection with attack and defence. But, irrespective of these things, there are other three which appear to us of decisive importance, these are: surprise, advantage of ground, and the attack from several quarters. The surprise produces an effect by opposing to the enemy a great many more troops than he expected at some particular point. The superiority in numbers in this case is very different to a general superiority of numbers; it is the most powerful agent in the art of war.—The way in which the advantage of ground contributes to the victory is intelligible enough of itself, and we have only one observation to make which is, that we do not confine our remarks to obstacles which obstruct the advance of an enemy, such as scarped grounds, high hills, marshy streams, hedges, inclosures, etc.; we also allude to the advantage which ground affords as cover, under which troops are concealed from view. Indeed we may say that even from ground which is quite unimportant a person acquainted with the locality may derive assistance. The attack from several quarters includes in itself all tactical turning movements great and small, and its effects are derived partly from the double execution obtained in this way from fire-arms, and partly from the enemy’s dread of his retreat being cut off.