16 JULY 1859, Page 15


BIJEGOYNE'S MILITARY OPINIONS.° Mama has been expected from Sir John Burgoyne's long-an- nounced work, and the lover of sound and solid food will not be disappointed. From the preface we learn that this volume con- tains the pith of the General's long and varied experience, won during half a century of service in nearly every quarter of the globe. Captain Wrottesley has selected the papers and put them together with such brief notes as seemed necessary to elucidate points in the text. It is a wholesome contribution to our com- paratively small supply of solid military literature ; and though a great proportion of it has appeared before, yet the student of his own times and the military reader will be glad to see the papers brought into one volume. First we have documents touching upon our national defences ; then we have some solid criticism on the war in the Baltic and the Crimea : these are the portions which the general reader will find most interesting. Lastly, we have a series of essays on purely military topics, engineering, the attack and defence of fortresses, naval gunnery, the new rifled ordnance and its probable influence on military operations, ca- valry, military education, and the examination test. Some of these papers will interest and instruct the general reader quite as much as they will the military student. In the first pages of the volume will be found that representa- tion on the subject of our national defences which drew forth the celebrated letter of the Duke of Wellington. Sir John wrote in 1846, and no man of judgment who reads what he then wrote, and who is mindful of what has since happened, will say that the gloomy views of the Duke of Wellington were not justified. Actual war has made us more keenly alive to the weakness of our po- sition in Europe, and we have done much to regain our strength • but looking to What is passing around us, and regarding well the circumstances which are now even more favourable to invasion than they were in 1846, we shall all see that Sir John's letter not only marks a point to which we should never recede, but also serves as a perpetual reminder of what it is incumbent on us to do. In 1846, then, we had no more than 30,000 regular troops in Great Britain and Ireland. For Ireland 20,000 were absolutely required ; leaving not more than 10,000 for the defence of Great Britain. Such a state of things is incredible at this day. But it was a small part of the evil. " Nothing can be more unsatis- factory than the state of our arsenals," wrote Sir John, in respect of implements, ammunition, and military stores. " It is believed that there is not in the whole of the British islands a sufficiency of artillery for the equipment of an army of 20,000 men." The amount of small arms was quite unequal to any state of war. We were all but absolutely without defensive fortresses : not one of our dockyards was secure against even a coup de main. We had no means of defence, if the Channel were free, nor were likely to have for two or three years. And such was the state of our navy that the freedom of the Channel was by no means an improbability. Well might Sir John exclaim—" it is miserable for a country like England to be reduced to such a condition !" Great changes have been made for the better, but a relaxed military polity has once before led us to the brink of ruin, and it may again, unless we are watchful, active, and always remember the needs of our po- sition. It has absolutely required nearly ten years of constant importunity and the incentives supplied by a great war to induce our governments to raise our means of defence by land and sea to their present comparatively respectable position. Who knows how soon an interval of peace might delude us into forgetfulness? In 1850 Sir John Burgoyne was compelled to write—" the very object of armed forces and military means appears to be gradually diminishing from sight." Troops seemed to be considered merely as a reserved police ; and such indeed was the false politico- economical view of armies that prevailed in 1850-51, a period supposed by some to be the eve of a golden cycle of peace, when in reality it was the dawn of an ale of war. As in 1850 there was an improvement upon 1846, so in 1859 there is an improvement upon 1850, but the improvement is hardly greater considered in relation to the enormously improved means of invasion possessed by a neighbouring power ; which has a large fleet, no widely- spread empire like ours ; and a huge army which, on a peace es- tablishment, has been able to defeat the Austrian army raised to a war footing. Nor, in 1850, had that army been inflamed by battle and victory except on the sultry plains, and in the rugged mountains of Algeria. The reasons that have led to improve- ments since 1846 hold as good as ever ; and, indeed, they are supplemented by other reasons, of great weight, which had no existence in 1846, and urge on the completion of our defensive armaments by sea and land. The paper most applicable to our present condition is that written in 1850, and we commend it to the close attention of our readers. We are aware that Sir Howard Douglas differs in opinion from Sir John Burgoyne on the question of the supposed loss of the advantages we derived from a superiority of seamanship, in consequence of the application of steam to men of war and the augmented importance of gunnery; but granting that on this point Sir Howard is right, as we believe he is, the reasoning of Sir John Burgoyne is not less impressive, nor, in a slightly diminished degree, less applicable now than it was nine years ago. To keep our place and maintain befitting • The Military Opinions of General Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Bart., 0.O.B. Collected and Edited by Captain the Honourable George IN rottesley, R.E. Pub- lished by Bentley.

dignity and independenoe, we must make our young men perform that portion of their duty to their country which consists in hold- ing themselves ready at all points to defend her, and in regarding excellence in the use of arms and submission to the fruitful teach- ings of discipline as among those things which make up the edu- cation of a Man.

The mind of Sir John Burgoyne is essentially professional, and, in reading this volume, allowance must be made for that. It is especially manifest in the essay on militia and volunteers. In treating this subject, the military man generally takes for granted that what those mean who call for volunteers is, an untrained and undisciplined mob of persons with rifles ; and it is further taken for granted that the advocates of volunteers desire to " rely " upon that kind of force which presents itself as a wild chaos to the imagination of most military men, and strikes them with horror. Nothing can be further from the truth. What says Sir John ?

"There are three fallacies, connected with the capability of this country for defence against a powerful invasion, that are very prevalent in England, and that tend to lead us to a false sense of security ;—one is, that if any attempt at invasion were made, we have hundreds of thousands of brave spirts, who would rush to arms, pour down on the rash intruders, and drive them into the sea;—the second, that the country of England, with its enclosures and hedge-fences is particularly favourable for the desultory warfare of an armed population and irregulars,- especially if armed, after habitual practice, with rifles ;—and the third, that our great financial means would afford us such advantages on the occurrence of a war, that it is the best policy to husband and allow to accumulate for that very event, amounts that are now demanded for a more constant state of preparation."

Few will be inclined to disagree with Sir John in representing these fallacies as dangerous. Only madmen will deny that, for purely campaigning purposes, nothing can surpass a well-trained, well-equipped, well-appointed, regular army, of sufficient strength to reduce all idea of invasion to a dream. But we cannot have that kind of standing army in England; and the volunteer force now demanded is not a huge band of brave spirits, merely adepts in rifle shooting, but a system of organized and disciplined bodies, made as perfect as soldiers who do not adopt soldiering as a pro- fession can be made. Of course even these alone could not oppose a regular army, but they would not fly like sheep before it. We do not want energetic popular demonstrations got up on the spur of the moment, but a body of citizen soldiers second only to the regular army, organized deliberately, perfected with care—a mili- tary institution which shall count for something in the calculations of an enemy, and available for use in the event of an actual assault from him. We want to see military training become an essential element in the education of our youth ; we want to see our prin- cipal citizens regarding this military training as an object which it is their duty to promote ; and we do not want to see spasmodic efforts which are sure to fail. Sir John Burgoyne, from the pro- fessional turn of his mind, overlooks the great moral effect upon neighbouring countries, and upon our own people, of the restora- tion of the old familiarity with arms. It would be an immense gain to the.State if every capable man were made to feel that he was an element in the forces destined to defend his country in the hour of need. It would be an important sanitary advantage if Our youth once more had their muscles and sinews braced up by physical training. In the science of health muscular exercise plays an important part, and muscular exercise is precisely one of the chief wants of the youth of a people debilitated by sedentary occupations. Independently, therefore, of providing a force which could be counted upon in case of need, volunteer training, and the manly games that would be sure to accompany it, would supply one of the most pressing demands of a time given up to employ- ments that deteriorate the physical man, and, as a consequence, mar the full development of the moral and intellectual man. Besides, there is something degrading to the national character in the delegation of national defence absolutely to the hands of hired men. A great nation should be armed at all points, equal to peace or war, and as ready to defend itself as to carry on the ordinary concerns of life. The assumption that lies at the base of the pro- fessional opposition to volunteers is, that there is something mysterious in the duties of a private soldier, which demands a life's devotion to acquire ; and, because it is found. that this life devotion is necessary to the most inferior members of society, it is argued that it would be required from those above them. Now there is Ito mystery in the matter, and the long time, the wearisome repeti- tion, the constant training are required because the rank and file of the British army is composed of the least intelligent. We repeat again that a regular army is necessarily the finest fighting and campaigning machine in the world, but it would be far finer if it were composed of the class of men whom we may expect to find in the ranks of the volunteers.

Sir John lays it down that our southern counties are peculiarly unsuited to defensive operations. On this point he must be heard :-

"It is quite a delusion to suppose that the character of the general face of the country in England affords peculiar facilities for defence, and particu- larly for harassing an enemy by an armed population and irregulars.' The roads are abundant and good, so that combined movements may be regulated in an infinite variety ; the hedge rows, from which so much advantage is expected for defence, afford no real obstacle, but would act as a screen to those movements ; all this is decidedly in favour of the well-organized army. The columns of the enemy would be brought to bear on the direction that their general thought most desirable, and would penetrate with the greatest ease through the scattered lines of irregulars. Even supposing that the latter knew where the attack would be made, and accumulated their forces there, the regular troops, in addition to their

superiority as soldiers, , can, by their compact order, always absolutely i bring greater numbers into action within a limited front, than their op- ponents ;—thus they would make their passage through, and appearing in

the rear of the broken intervening masses, would throw them into utter panic and confusion—so much for the front :—no subsequent attack upon the flanks and rear of disciplined troops, who have been so far success- ful, would be possible; it is some time before the dispersed and alarmed bodies that have had their first confidence and hopes crushed, can be col- lected for acting in this manner ; flying corps are left to counteract them, in force regulated according to the necessity of the case; these are sup- ported, from time to time, by the reinforcements on their way to join the army in front, and thus would make effective occasional impression."

Now, without questioning one who on this point must be an authority, we may ask whether the very fact that the country is the reverse of defensive does not render it necessary that numbers should make up for the want of good positions. Of course, if the numbers were an armed mob, without guidance, fighting in inde- pendent order like madmen, they would only facilitate the opera- tions of the enemy. But that volunteers should necessarily be a mob under no control we respectfully deny. To say they would, as a matter of course, be a mob, is to assume the point in dispute, and that assumption rests on the other assumption, that the duties of a private soldier can only be learned by studying and practising them, and nothing else. What does demand a life study and practice is the science and habit of command. Whether our pro- fessional teachers overcome their objections to volunteers or not, we are satisfied that a great disaster will one day fall upon Eng- land unless the people, and those who are in authority over them, disabuse themselves of the modern and pernicious notion that the defence of this realm can only be safely entrusted to that uncon- stitutional and dangerous force, a Standing Army.