THE WILTSHIRE PEACE MANCEUVRES.
THE Second Series of Autumn Manceuvres are now at an end, and although marred by some striking blemishes, they have been a great improvement on the operations of last year. Ever since the two Camps broke up and fairly took the field, the troops have been incessantly in motion, working hard five days ontof seven. The marches and counter-marches have been long, and would have delighted my Uncle Toby. The Southern Army, especially, has displayed great activity, and has been employed with a dexterity which does credit to its Staff. The invaders have won all the tactical honours, but to this day we do not know how far the gods of the Horse Guards fought against their country. For the M.anceuvres of 1872 have been the sport of what is called a" General Idea," and this wonder- ful ghostly essence, this fantastic creature of the brain, compounded of such stuff as dreams are made of and rounded with a march-past, has been invoked ever and anon at the pleasure of head-quarters to upset the results obtained by actual breathing warriors. The authorities prepared two armies, Bet them down at the extremities of a cockpit, and told their leaders they had. full liberty of action, subject to what is called the general idea,—in other words, subject to the caprices of a very fanciful fiction. England is invaded. There are great armies contending in the Southern counties. A diversion is attempted in Dorset, and enemy's troops are at Ringwood, Blandford, Sturminster Newton, Yeovil, and what not. On the other side there are corps at Bristol and Bath, Pewsey, Wilton and Salisbury, and Aldershot. Sir Robert Walpole and Sir John Michel are to move the flesh-and-blood soldiers ; somebody behind a cloud, presumably the Duke of Cambridge, moves the imaginary troops. And throughout the campaign they have done so with a carious felicity, vexing the souls of Walpole and Michel ; but we are glad to say that the Southern leader disregarded the general idea, and like a sensible man struck at the real soldiers. The cream of the joke, so far as the general idea is concerned, is this. Obviously the fate of England would be decided not in Wiltshire, but Kent or Sussex. The great movements and heavy battles in that quarter would exert a strong, probably overwhelming, influ- ence on the lesser armies dodging over Salisbury Plain. Yet no notice is taken of the main tide of strife. The part of Hamlet is omitted from the tragedy as edited by the Horse Guards. Nevertheless, nothing is more certain than that had the main English Army been victorious in the South, the enemy in Wilts must have retreated to his ships ; and, vice vend, the British beaten on the road to London, Walpole would have made tracks for the Thames Valley at speed. The truth is, these general ideas can be worked out on Kriegs-Spiel maps, but are a delusion and a snare when flung like fetters over the operations of existing military bodies. If the Manceuvres of 1872 prove the executioner of ambitious general ideas, which include a front stretching from the Foreland to the Severn, they will have performed an acceptable service.
Practically considered, the movements have been, at least on one side, reasonable and interesting. The campaign opened on one side with a senseless night march of cavalry to obtain results better secured by daylight, and on the other by a direct march upon Melbury Abbas, whereby the Southern troops obtained possession of the western end of the chalk ridge, and by means of their cavalry of the roads to Salisbury. On the following day, the Northern force being nailed by the general idea to the left bank of the Wiley, the Southerners brought their infantry to Fonthill and Teffont, and pushed their cavalry towards the watery line of demarcation. Thus the general idea had enabled the Southerners to seize not only the highways, but a tract of country admirably suited for a display of tactical skill. On Thursday afternoon, the Commander-in-Chief permitted some foolish cavalry charges which had no object. The next day it was open to Sir Robert Walpole to assail his foe or stand on the defensive. He took the latter course, believing, it is said, that ghostly troops in Warminster protected his right flank. Sir John Michel disregarded the children of the Duke's fancy, and by clever movements so imposed on Walpole that the latter allowed his right flank to be turned at Codford. When Michel had done his work, the general idea struck in, and ruled that he could not have performed his smart exploit, because there were troops at Warminster. So his men were sent back to Fonthill and Teffont, and on Saturday they tried again. Sir Robert did nothing but march and countermarch on the north bank of the Wiley. Sir John, cleverly imposing upon his adversary by a show of force towards his centre, skilfully moved
Horsford's division upon Wilton, crossed the river, and timing pose. They have been taking a leaf out of the book of their play. Then followed the final act of strife. The Northern opponents, and it now remains to be seen what good be able to get out of their leaf. We shall Army had to defend Amesbury, and took post near Stone-
henge. The Southerners were to get at Amesbury, if they endeavour to explain this surprising change of tactics, and could. Again Sir John imposed upon Sir Robert, crossed his for the occasion we shall place ourselves, if not exactly at front and the river also, and seized the London road. This the Clerical stand-point, which is a degree of complaisance was effected by a demonstration on Rox Hill, to cover the that perhaps would not be expected from us, at least in such march of the Divisions from Berwick St. James, to Great a position that we may be able to give due account of the Durnford. According to the reports, Walpole was again Clerical hopes and calculations. The Italian Government is outmanceuvred, for he lost his communications without se- already fully aware of the meaning of the new policy, and it is curing those of his rival. He was the victim, he says, of the time that English Liberals should learn to comprehend it also.
general idea, for he assumed that Wilton and Salisbury were Our first reflection—dictated by the circumstance that ever occupied by spectral defenders, whereas the Duke had caused since the aggrandisement of Piedmont the Clericals chiefly them to retreat before an advance of spectral invaders. Into contented themselves with a masterly inactivity, and that the rights and wrongs of the Generals we do not enter, but at present they follow a totally different course—is to this the tyranny of the general idea is comparable to nothing save effect, that the Clericals must either see or imagine they see the conduct of De Quincey's elder brother, who shifted the something which encourages them to alter their attitude. For frontiers of Tigro-Sylvania at his will and pleasure. The twelve years the maxim "No elettori, ne eletti," had been inept general idea apart, it is plain that Michel was sagacious obeyed with almost religious fervour by the Catholic party, and daring, and that Walpole was not sagacious and was and pending the time when the prayers of the faithful should apathetic. The explanation offered is that Michel listened cause fire from Heaven to descend on the Sub-Alpine King to his staff, while Walpole was his own counsel. ' However and his sacrilegious satellites, it seemed as if the House of that may be, purely defensive tactics, unless succoured by the Savoy was to be untroubled by any more terrestrial conse- general idea, were proved for the hundredth time to be a quences of Clerical discontent. If a sceptical outsider pro- broken reed. fessed to doubt whether the fire was so certain to descend from
Thus there have been at work on the theatre and beyond Heaven, he was probably answered by an inexpressible look of the theatre of war two forces,—the useful tacticians and the compassion for his benighted condition. Among people a useless strategists. It was the business of the latter to upset little more to be trusted or a little more behind the scenes, it the former, and provide on behalf of Walpole compensations was often freely enough confessed that a contemptuous refusal for the inventiveness and energy of Michel. We do not dis- to participate in any electoral contests under the Italian pnte the fact that the tactics have been instructive, or that Government had the additional advantage of being eminently the strategy was amusing ; but taken together, the product calculated to prevent the possibility of public defeats. II unreason and discontent. As an example of business-like "Our Catholics are the best in the world," it used capacity on the part of the Horse Guards, we cannot regard to be whispered among shrewd gentlemen in black the campaign as anything but a failure, referable mainly to coats and Roman collars, "but they are disheartened the passion for general ideas, which are mere paper pellets of and disorganised. Catholics have been always slow and tin- the brain. At the best, the Autumn Manceuvres must fall wieldy in the work of organisation. Besides, there is a great short of reality, but they become ridiculous when performed deal of apathy which requires to be quickened. But wait a under such capricious and shadowy conditions. while." And then it was piously added-that the Lord would For the rest, they have been very successful. They have work great things yet for His Church, a devout sentiment stimulated the zeal of the Army ; afforded officers and men which evidently did not exclude the manipulation of tern- instruction with an object, so much more effective than in- poral expedients on the occurrence of a temporal opportunity. struction without an object ; varied the routine duty of camp Meantime, the years have been flying by, the foreigner has and garrison by the novelties of a nomad life ; and to some disappeared from Italy, and while the completion of the degree tested organisation, tactics, and generalship. We have Liberal programme has ever menaced more and more closely not sufficient information to warrant any observations on the the supremacy, or as Catholics say, the liberty of the Church, Tactical experiments—if there were any—nor can we yet the Catholic propaganda has gone on unceasingly, in Triduos at form any definite opinion on the action of the Control Rome, in exhortations from a thousand pulpits, in admonitions Department. Much more evidence than that yet afforded is from ten thousand confessionals. The suffering Church, the needed for purposes of criticism. On the bearing of the troops august prisoner of the Vatican, the spread of infidelity, have there seems to be but one opinion, and it is creditable to been watchwords with which dark-robed or white-robed enthu- regimental discipline. The Auxiliary Forces came out better siesta of every priestly or monastic order have been endeavour- than was anticipated ; but so far as the Volunteers are con- ing to conjure back the zeal of tepid congregations, just as the oerned that is not surprising, for they were virtually picked Theatine, and the Dominican, and the Jesuit endeavoured to men. The Militia appear to have raised the reputation of kindle hearts and steel resolutions in the portentous crisis of that branch ; but we all know that the country regiments only the Lutheran Reformation. As the result of all this propa- want training, clothing, and good food to make them effective gandisnl, we find to-day that the Clericals have discarded a soldiers. Hereafter we shall get the complaints of competent large part of their obedience to the old maxim "Ne elettori, observers. The most salient lesson taught by the Mancenvres ne eletti," and have ventured to challenge conclusions with is,—give up the fatuity of General Ideas, all paper forces and Liberal opponents by the Liberal method of a recourse to the considerations. Define the field and the objects of the cam_ ballot-boxes. It is not too much to say that the Clericals paign, and let the Generals manceuvre as best they can, must have been conscious of some improvement in their Another lesson is,—choose your commanders from among the chances. They have not, indeed, carried off the victory rising generation of soldiers ; for the future belongs to the either in the whole or in the majority of the oases in 1 young or comparatively young, so that the novel, as far as it which they appealed to the vote, but they have won many is sanctioned by experience, may have some chance of being important successes. Even where they were completely defeated recognised. Another year ought to see material amendments they registered at least some votes, and what is most sugges- in the system and execution of our Peace Mancoavres. tive, instead of interpreting their failures as the just punish-