29 JUNE 1867, Page 15



MR. HOZIER, whose letters to the Times from the head-quartets of the Prussian Army earned him such deserved reputation, has

wrought up the loose material collected in the garrison, the camp,

on the line of march, and in the field of battle into two goodly volumes. Nearly a year has elapsed since the bulk of those

irregular communications were hastily composed, and few will say too much time has been given to the construction of the story to parts of which they related. At first sight, we should be disposed to say that even more time might have been usefully spent in diminishing bulk by condensation. And the criticism would have been fair, had Mr. Hozier offered his work to the public as a history. With a modesty equal to his ability as a keen observer and lively writer, he puts forward no claim to consideration ex- cept as an eye-witness and a narrator facts. He avows that he avoided criticism, from a sense of his incompetence, but while we admire the fine feeling which prompted him to refrain in the presence of those whom he regards as his masters, we none the less regret that he should have mistrusted his faculty, and deprived us of the benefit of his mature reflections. Regarding his work as a contribution to history, we do not quarrel with its bulk, because, in addition to much useful and precise information of a technical

kind conveyed in a readable style, it presents us with graphic pictures, imparting to the mind the very movement of the war. Of these the future historian will be able to make good use, and those who read them with admiration in the columns of our con- temporary will be glad to preserve them in a collected form, set in the very midst of the story they adorn. It is to be be regretted, however, that a little more care was not displayed in correcting the press, and in fashioning the grammar to meet the exigencies of the narrative. This is a minor defect, but a vexatious one, and in any future edition of the book it would be worth while to erase these blots. The capital defect of the work, however is one of a different order. Too little attention is paid to the proceed- ings of the Austrians, and their appearance in these pages wants firmness and solidity. We fear that this arises from the point of view which fortune offered to our author. He followed the Prussian camp, and, like the rest of the world, he is still ignorant of much which it is desirable should be known of the proceedings on the other side. But the defect, inevitable as it may be, gives an air of one-sidedness to the narrative which is quite uninten- tional, and we never, at any moment, get a fair, barely, a partial glimpse into the mind of Benedek, or of the circumstances under which he wrought at his heavy task. Yet one of the most instructive pages in the history of the war will be that which shows why Benedek made so poor a use of the position in which he stood. A Napoleon so placed would have been harder to kill, and would have been killed with more difficulty. Benedek was either a very ordinary soldier, or he was subjected to benumbing influences which fettered his powers. Except his retreat from Moravia to Vienna through Hungary, and his choice of a position of battle taken by itself, we see nowhere a single instance of ability above mediocrity. But Mr. Hozier neither brings this home with sufficient force, nor does he attempt to account for it. Perhaps the real reason for this omission was lack of sound information, and in that case our author is of course to be commended for his discretion. The result is that there remains an excellent opportunity for any one who has the requisite information to do for the Austrian what Mr. Hozier has done for the Prussian side. When that has been accomplished, we shall have a more accurate conception of what this Prusso-Austrian War really was, why it lasted so short a time, and why a great military monarchy so rapidly went down.

In some respects the reasons are obvious enough ; but they are antecedent to the actual collision, and outside the purely military transactions. They are to be found in the more steadfast purpose and certain tread of the Prussian statesmen in politics, and in the amazing forethought which presided over the manufacture of the Prussian Army. There is a passage in the prefatory portion of this book which illustrates most strikingly what we mean. The first orders for the mobilization of part of the Prussian Army were given on the 4th of May, and on the 7th the orders were forwarded to the remainder. "The mobilization," writes Mr. Hozier, "was effected with wonderful rapidity and precision. At the end of fourteen days the 490,000 men who form the strength of this army stood on parade, armed, clothed, equipped with all neces- • The Seven Weeks' War. Its Anteoedeuts and its Incidents. Sy H. M. Hosier, F.C.S., F.O.S. (Sued upon letters reprinted, by peruilesion„Irom the nine..) Two you. Loudon: Macmillan. varies for a campaign, and fully provided with the necessary transport trains, provision, and ammunition columns, as well as field hospitals." In another ten days "the troops had taken up their positions on the frontier, a triumph for the Prussian machi- nery of mobilization:" This great exploit could only have been performed by a nation which had thought war, and incessantly prepared for its advent, during years of peace. The up-springing of such a powerful mass at a moment's notice is really more worth reflection than the swift and effective application of it on the field of battle. In truth this Prussian army was a weapon forged for the purpose of winning an empire. Based on a wise extension of the old system of Scharnhorst, it gave the Prussian King the finest fighting material a general could desire,—old soldiers who were young men ; old in training, young in years. And as a basis and support for these was provided with infinite care and forecast that varied administrative machinery which, at rest during peace, yet perfect even in rest, needed only a few telegraphic messages to call it into sudden and effective activity. France alone of all other nations can boast of anything at all approaching to the completeness of the Prussian system. The reader who is interested in this subject will do well to read carefully the first chapter of the third book of Mr. Hoziers's work. He will there see its anatomy in detail. He will see that the system was not exhausted when the troops we have referred to were called up and posted. Behind them lay reserves of more than 200,000 men. Indeed, so well filled, well appointed, and well supplied is this Prussian army, that the troops who crossed the Elbe after the battle of Koniggratz were actually more numerous than those which burst through the mountain frontier of Bohemia. When we remember how our choice little handful of soldiers languished in the Crimea, and grew daily fewer for want of reinforcements ; how they were forced to occupy less and less ground, and how we were a whole year mustering a respectable army, about as strong as two Prussian corps, we shall be strikingly impressed with the difference between strong and well organized military institutions, and the makeshift which we call an army. At this very time, and for the defence of our homes, it would take us half a year to make a show of doing what the Prussians did in a month ; and when we had done it, the machine would be imperfect, certain to involve immense loss of life and treasure, and after all liable to break down under rough handling.

The application of the vast organized masses gathered on the Austrian and Saxon frontier was marked by skill, energy, and decision. Success, we know, is held to be the criterion of ability in warfare, and Mr. Hosier states it point-blank as a maxim, but it is a maxim to the soundness of which we demur ; for when the Prussian General directed his masses from two widely separated bases, he acted on a principle which has over and over again proved fatal to armies. If, indeed, he rested his plan upon a knowledge of the numerical inferiority of the Austrian Army, upon a well grounded belief in the military inferiority of his principle opponent and of the corps commanders in the rival force, and upon a con- fidence in the powers of the needle-gun, then he was justified in ruuing the risk of being defeated in detail. If he calculated on the hesitation of Benedek, on the known tendency of the Austrian Emperor to trouble his Generals with 'vexatious meddling, and on the superiority of his armament, he showed a sound judg- ment. What we contend for is that these facts should be taken into consideration when we appreciate the correctaess of Prussian strategy, and that our young military students should not be induced by the success of Prussian arms to refer the success to the wrong causes. A distinguished military teacher tells us truly that if two armies operating from divergent bases can be brought to act in combination upon a third, the results will be more de- structive than those produced by one army operating from one base against another. All depends on the " if " and the "can." Waterloo and Koniggratz are the great examples in favour of the maxim. The famous campaigns of Napoleon in 1796 and 1814 are the examples which show how dangerous it is. But really the pages of history are strewn with the wrecks of armies beaten in detail because operating from divergent beam The success of the English and Prussians in 1815, and of the Prussians alone in 1866, are the exceptions which prove the rule. In this very case, had Benedek taken a decided part at an early stage in the cam- paign, and had he concentrated the bulk of his army against the Crown Prince so as to hurl him back into Silesia, or heap up his columns in the mountain passes, the invasion of Bohemia would have failed ; or had he been able to hold the Crown Prince in check by sealing up the passes, while he fell upon Prince Frederick Charles, the result would have been the same. One fact alone might have frustrated him—the needle-gun. Mr. Hozier says the influence of this weapon has been overrated, but it is impossible to read the details he gives of the combats and believe that we can form too high an opinion of its weight in determining the issue. Indeed, it is plain from Podol and Trautenau to Tobitschau that the needle- gun was equal to a reinforcement of at least one-fourth. That it told less at Koniggriitz is accounted for by the fact that the woody cover was in some degree a compensatory advantage on the Austrian side. Even there, however, the rapid fire told more heavily than the slower fire of the Austrians. Had Benedek known the value of this weapon, and had he been aware before- hand of what Gablenz learned by experience at Trautenau, that the loss even of the victors was more than double that of the vanquished, he would probably have entirely abandoned offensive for defensive war, and eschewing the "open," would have studiously placed his men under cover in strong positions. Entrenched in the position suggested by Mr. Limier in the angles between the Adler and the Elbe, he would have been very formidable, and might, at least, have prolonged the contest for weeks, falling back on Olmiitz with an unbroken army, if forced to budge from his position. No one can tell what havoc a little delay might have made in diplomatic regions. Almost any course would have been preferable to that adopted, which literally amounted to the sacrifice of a gallant army in detail. Benedek neither supported Clam Gallas and the Saxons on the Iser, nor Gablenz and Ramming in front of the Silesian passes. In every fight except that on the Bistritz he threw inferior into the jaws of superior forces, and superior forces armed with a breech-loader. His superiority on the Bistritz was short- lived, and here, as elsewhere, he allowed himself to be outgeneralled and outnumbered. All this part of the war, especially as regards the movements of the Prussians, is admirably told by our author, who makes us see the evolutions he describes, and carries us right into the heart of the battle. But we do not think he does justice to the Crown Prince, who put his divisions so ably through the mountains, working at express speed, and whose march upon the right flank of Benedek is as fine a thing as any exploit in war. Perhaps the injustice is unintentional. Had Mr. H.ozier accom- panied the Crown Prince, we might have heard a different story.

The Prussian King was not aware of the magnitude of the victory he won on the 3rd of July, and deserves no credit for the method by which he did not improve the opportunity. Indeed, the subsequent retreat of Benedek with an army in fighting order was produced merely by pressure, by the weight of the impending forces. Napoleon would have been over the Elbe on the night of the 3rd, and would not have allowed his opponent an hour's rest. The interest of the campaign ceases with Koniggratz, because from that point diplomacy comes in to trouble the movements of armies ; but the interest of the narrative in Mr. Hozier's hands is far from terminating at this point, and some of his most -entertaining chapters are those which describe the advance of the different columns on Vienna. We need not follow him to the :banks of the Danube, though we recommend our readers to do so. We ought to say that in addition to the main campaign, Mr. Hosier has furnished the best account yet published in English of the move- ments which carried the Prussians over the Main, and brought the South German Courts to terms. It is worthy of remark, by the way, that the only Prussian defeat was inflicted by our old toin- rades in arms, the valiant soldiers of Hanover. The book also contains a notice of the Italian battles by land and sea. Ex- cellent maps are incorporated in these volumes, and the plan of Kiiniggratz is singularly well done.