WELLINGTON'S MILITARY ACHIEVEMENTS CONTRASTED WITH THOSE OF OTHER COMMANDERS.*
THE broad principles of any art are probably always the same, how- ever they may differ in the modes and material means by which they are exercised. In war, for example, a general attack appears limited to line or column, though nothing could seem more widely separated than the solid immoveable density of Philip's phalanx or Napoleon's Old Guard, and the tumultuous crowd of a band of Negroes ; but these last, well handled, might be slaughterous enough to similar troops. Weapons may be classed as missiles and as hand-to-hand,—though wide the contrast between the bow and arrow and dart, or the still more simple sling, compared with the Minis rifle or the last new piece of artillery : yet slings and arrows have done some business in their day—and sc have clubs. A similar resemblance may be traced in strategy. Wellington in India, commenting on Monson's disastrous retreat before Holkar, deduces the rule, that if the commander of a retreat- ing army determines to fight, he should make the attack, not wait for it : a principle which Xenophon when pressed by the Persians, and Hannibal by the Romans, had both illustrated upwards of two thousand years ago. Another fundamental law, which though obvious has been neglected by great generals, is laid down by the same authority on the same occasion—the first thing we should consider in any military operation is how we are to feed the army.
An essential resemblance existing between military exploits, however widely they may at first sight appear to differ, a com- parison of the achievements and character of Wellington with those of other great commanders ancient and modern, would in competent hands have formed both an interesting and an in- structive book. It would have been, in fact, the art of war illus- trated by personal examples, so as to combine history, historical anecdotes, and military science, with the further advantage of a contemporary name to excite the attention of the reader. The "Peninsular and Waterloo Officer" seems hardly competent in a military point of view to the task he has undertaken. In a logical sense he is clearly unfitted for his theme. He compares things together that have no points of resemblance, and contrasts figures that have no true dissimilitude for the one to contribute to the effect of the other. What is worst of all, he seems to have studied the art of composition in a very bad school—that of the con- venticle pulpit. He has not, indeed, any of the platform force ; but he has that onesided exaggeration which, although found in many places, nowhere displays itself so rankly as among sectarian preach- ers of indifferent ability and narrow training. Men, nations, and circumstances, the most remote from any relation to the character of the Duke of Wellington and his campaigns, are brought into contrast or comparison, when there is really nothing to contrast or compare. This not only weakens the effect of the book, but some- times pushes it to absurdity. Even when some well-founded points of resemblance really exist, they are overwhelmed by in- different or feeble ideas. Take, for instance, a passage from the chapter headed " Wellington, Pelopidas, Epaminondas."
" In action Pelopidas was of a fiery temperament ; the Duke all coolness: as the sentence, 'Let the troops pass,' [cross] pronounced by him with all imaginable gravity at the Douro, testifies. Pelopidas had no sooner set foot on Theban soil on his return from his Persian mission, than he was called upon to lead the troops of his little country against the tyrant of Phern: the Duke, just as his mission to Vienna was being brought to a close, was called upon to lead the troops of various nations against the tyrant of France. "From not having sufficient control over his temper, Pelopidas was. led into many errors : the Duke never from a similar cause. Personal feelings were allowed by Pelopidas to cross him in.the discharge of his public duties: the Duke never permitted any feelings of the kind to interfere with his pub- lic duty. Pelopidas's whole life was spent in combating tyranny : so was that of the Duke for more than twenty years. The last battle and victory of Pelopidas was fought against a ruthless tyrant: the last battle and victory of the Field-Marshal was fought to prevent an equally cruel oppressor from spreading his baneful influence over Continental Europe. Both were suc- cessful, end, strange coincidence, by similar means, —a general charge of all arms. As at Cynoscephalse so at "Waterloo ; the vanquished were driven far from the field with great loss, the roads being everywhere covered with the slain. The issue of the battle of Cynoscephalia led to the death of the tyrant Alexander, by the hands of his wife and her brothers: Waterloo, to the capture, exile, and death of the French usurper on a rock, deserted by his wife and her brothers. As on the day of CynoscephaLm two hills called by that name stood in a most inviting position between the belligerents, se on the morning of Salamanca, there were likewise two hills called DOP Arapilis between the armies of Murmont and the Duke of Wellington. As on the day of Cynoscephalee, so on that of Salamanca, those hills were looked upon by the respective commanders as the keys to their respective positions. As at Cynoseephalm so at Salamanca, the belligerents imme- diately after daybreak made desperate efforts to obtain possession of the hills: As at Cynoacephalre so at Salamanca, the weaker party lost the priee- But though the tyrant legions strengthened their position by their success at the hills—as at Cynoseephalre so at Salamanca, the victors, before the film descended beneath the Western horizon, were driven from the field with great slaughter. As in the days of Pelopidas Thebes was the only com- monwealth that retained any remains of patriotism, so at the commence' • The Military Achievements of Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington, contrasted with those of Alexander, Pyrrhus. Hannibal, Caesar, Marlborough, Napoleon, aad other celebrated Commanders. By a Peninsular and Waterloo Officer, Author of "Military Memoirs of an Infantry Officer." Published by Hope and Co. meet of the Duke's military career in Europe, 1807, England was the al- most only nation of the European commonwealth that had a real detestation of tyrelln9.'
Again, take Pyrrhus ; though the comparison here is more ger-
mane, and the fact remarkable as being contrary to the established maxim and the general conduct of reserving the best troops for the
last effort. “It is a singular fact that when about to give or receive battle Pyrrhus
formed his infantry in the same manner that the infantry of the left wing of the Alliedarmy were drawn up by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, the most experienced of his allies being placed in the first line, his native troops in the second, and the least experienced of the Allies in the third. At Water- loo, the Belgians, most of whom had seen service, occupied the first line, the British the second, and the Hanoverians, the least acquainted with field duties, the third ; and the propriety of making such a distribution was signally proved before the close of that eventful contest, during which, on the flight of the troops in the first line, those of the second stepped forward and saved the day."
The Peninsular Officer does not seem to have adhered to a prin- ciple in his choice of generals to contrast or compare. He goes back to Cyrus, the elder Brutus, and Publicola ; while he omits several modern commanders, from whose military life more im- portant military lessons might be drawn, or between whom and the Duke there is less disparity.. The man of all other command- ers whom Wellington most resembled was Marlborough—" If I believed in the transmigration of souls," said Sir George Murray when editing the papers of the victor of Blenheim, " I should say that the soul of Marlborough had passed into Wellington " : and the circumstances of both were very similar. Anything either of interest or instruction that might be gained from the comparison is lost by the author's absurd desire to elevate Wellington : he charges Marlborough, among other things, with want of prudence, —confounding masterly comprehension with rashness. The in- structive and curious points which the contrast between Welling- ton and Napoleon would furnish are likewise lost sight of, and from the same cause. To this, however, must be added a lack of capacity. The writer seldom advances beyond the trite or obvious ; though his industry has brought together a great number of curi- ous facts.
Mingled with the strategy and achievements of the greatest generals are some of the writer's own reminiscences. This is one t3 illustrate a tale of augury in connexion with Pharsalia. "On the day of Pharsalia, Caius Cornelius, one of the ancient race of soothsayers, and personal friend of Livy, who attests the fact when observ- ing the flight of birds at Padua, remarked to those around him, 'The great affair now draws to a decision—the two generals are engaged.' And after making a second observation, cried most enthusiastically, Caesar, thou art victorious!' and on perceiving the people somewhat astounded at the an- nouncement, he removed the sacred fillet from his head, and swore he would not replace it till the event had put his art beyond question. "Now, though no prognosticator bad any hand in the matter to which I am about to allude, yet true it is, that a worthy inhabitant of Montreuil determined as correctly the commencement and termination of the battle of Waterloo as Cornelius did that of Pharsalia.
"Having, in December 1815, been detached with two companies to a small village about three miles from Montreuil, I and a brother officer were assigned by a nobleman of the old school quarters in his own chateau a lit- tle distance from the village. The battle of Waterloo having been alluded to after dinner, my kind host remarked that the result of it was known as soon at Montreuil as at Brussels. Not a little puzzled to know how this could possibly be, I begged my friend to favour us with an explanation • and received from his own lips the following interesting solution—' A report be- ing current at Montreuil, on the morning of the 18th June, that a great bat- tle had been fought two days before, and that the French had been victorious, may informant drove into Montreuil to ascertain the particulars. Seeing the ramparts crowded with people with their eyes riveted on some Northern ob- ject, he proceeded thither, and learned that a respectable inhabitant of the place who then (three o'clock) lay stretched on the ground and listening with as much anxiety as if he heard the report of every cannon and musket, had declared that another engagement had commenced, a little before noon, and was then going on. Having put a few questions to the person himself, my noble host felt so much interested in the matter that he returned to Mon- treuil after dinner, and remained until a little before nine o'clock in the evening, when the person rose, and after remarking, All is lost—the sound of the artillery is going towards Paris,'—walked away, leaving the people in a state of almost indescribable excitement.' "
There is this contrast in the comparison : the modern prophet only professed to rely on natural circumstances, whereas the ancient worked by supernatural art. This reminiscence from Vittoria, though not very striking, takes ns behind the scenes into the individualities of war.
"Proceeding onward on our important journey, [Wellington's battle- fields,' we arrive at Vittoria, the scene of the most magnificent of all 'Welling- ton's battles, .particularly when viewed from that part of the position on which our brigade was posted—the heights of Puebla. Let a man fancy himself on the summit of a high hill, looking down upon a plain some miles in extent, covered with nearly 150,000 soldiers of the first nations in Europe, and 300pieces of artillery vomiting fire and death in every direction, and thousands of the infantry pointing their deadly weapons at each other—the space between the belligerents barely permitting their doing so without crossing the muzzles of theirpieces :—and he will have some faint idea of what passed on the plains of Vittoria, and be able to paint in imagination a tow of the extraordinary and exciting scenes to which we were witnesses— scenes which to the latest moment of my existence will never be obliterated from my memory. "From the commencement of the battle (ten .o'clock) till half-past twelve, the French in our immediate front on the heights made three several at- remlits to wrest them from us, but seeing, at the latter hour, that the grand struggle for supremacy was about to take place in. the centre, they desisted from all offensive operations', nave to tickle our ears occasionally with a rifle- ball or two when any of our heads became visible to them. For, being on higher ground than our opponents, my own commanding-officer, who had succeeded to the command of the troops on the heights, ordered all officers and men to lie down, and keep their persons out of the view coufthe_French in their front, that no unnecessary casualties might oc- cur. This order none of us relished, the grand attack in the centre being the to be_ made. Taking advantage of the Colonel walking a few paces to "`e rear, I made a similar movement to the front ; but had scarcely squatted, before my kind French friends favoured me with a few of their pellets, which, passing over me, their music roused the ire of my chief to such a pitch, that he angrily exclaimed, Who is it that is again drawing the enemy's fire on us ?' Half tempted to leave my hiding-place and confess my error, and yet anxious to witness the result of the grand nolliSe in the centre, I remained, in hopes that the French would, as far as regarded my- self, cease their funning,' and that our brigadier would forget the matter —watching with unbounded delight the progress of the struggle, not alto- gether unmixed with some degree of anxiety, it being evident, from the close and desperate nature of the attack and defence, that the conflict could not be of long duration. But my anxiety was soon relieved, by seeing the enemy, in a little more than a quarter of an hour turning to the rightabout, and walking off towards 'Vittoria. Being the only person in the regiment who could then see how matters were proceeding, I started up, and, at the full extent of my voice, cried, 'They run ! the victory is ours !' and the glorious news being received with the reiterated cheers of the whole, the Colonel thinking the enemy were about to renew their attack, came hurriedly towards us; but, on being undeceived as to the true cause of the cheers, lie favoured me with a severe reprimand—first for disobedience of orders, and then for exposing myself unnecessarily to the fire of the enemy."