Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

On War by Carl von Clausewitz

Part 2 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

we must here observe that by this natural tendency
of War we only mean the philosophical, the strictly
logical, and by no means the tendency of forces actually
engaged in conflict, by which would be supposed to be
included all the emotions and passions of the combatants.
No doubt in some cases these also might be excited to
such a degree as to be with difficulty restrained and
confined to the political road; but in most cases such a
contradiction will not arise, because by the existence of
such strenuous exertions a great plan in harmony therewith
would be implied. If the plan is directed only upon
a small object, then the impulses of feeling amongst
the masses will be also so weak that these masses will
require to be stimulated rather than repressed.


Returning now to the main subject, although it is true
that in one kind of War the political element seems
almost to disappear, whilst in another kind it occupies
a very prominent place, we may still affirm that the one
is as political as the other; for if we regard the State
policy as the intelligence of the personified State, then
amongst all the constellations in the political sky whose
movements it has to compute, those must be included which
arise when the nature of its relations imposes the necessity
of a great War. It is only if we understand by policy
not a true appreciation of affairs in general, but the
conventional conception of a cautious, subtle, also dishonest
craftiness, averse from violence, that the latter
kind of War may belong more to policy than the first.


We see, therefore, in the first place, that under all
circumstances War is to be regarded not as an independent
thing, but as a political instrument; and it is only by
taking this point of view that we can avoid finding ourselves
in opposition to all military history. This is the
only means of unlocking the great book and making it
intelligible. Secondly, this view shows us how Wars
must differ in character according to the nature of the
motives and circumstances from which they proceed.

Now, the first, the grandest, and most decisive act of
judgment which the Statesman and General exercises is
rightly to understand in this respect the War in which
he engages, not to take it for something, or to wish to
make of it something, which by the nature of its relations
it is impossible for it to be. This is, therefore, the first,
the most comprehensive, of all strategical questions.
We shall enter into this more fully in treating of the
plan of a War.

For the present we content ourselves with having
brought the subject up to this point, and having thereby
fixed the chief point of view from which War and its theory
are to be studied.


War is, therefore, not only chameleon-like in character,
because it changes its colour in some degree in each
particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the
predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful
trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements,
hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind
instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which
make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordinate
nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely
to the reason.

The first of these three phases concerns more the people
the second, more the General and his Army; the third,
more the Government. The passions which break forth
in War must already have a latent existence in the peoples.
The range which the display of courage and talents shall
get in the realm of probabilities and of chance depends on
the particular characteristics of the General and his
Army, but the political objects belong to the Government

These three tendencies, which appear like so many
different law-givers, are deeply rooted in the nature of the
subject, and at the same time variable in degree. A
theory which would leave any one of them out of account,
or set up any arbitrary relation between them, would
immediately become involved in such a contradiction
with the reality, that it might be regarded as destroyed
at once by that alone.

The problem is, therefore, that theory shall keep itself
poised in a manner between these three tendencies, as
between three points of attraction.

The way in which alone this difficult problem can be
solved we shall examine in the book on the "Theory of
War." In every case the conception of War, as here
defined, will be the first ray of light which shows us the
true foundation of theory, and which first separates the
great masses and allows us to distinguish them from
one another.


HAVING in the foregoing chapter ascertained the complicated
and variable nature of War, we shall now occupy
ourselves in examining into the influence which this
nature has upon the end and means in War.

If we ask, first of all, for the object upon which the
whole effort of War is to be directed, in order that it may
suffice for the attainment of the political object, we
shall find that it is just as variable as are the political
object and the particular circumstances of the War.

If, in the next place, we keep once more to the pure
conception of War, then we must say that the political
object properly lies out of its province, for if War is an act
of violence to compel the enemy to fulfil our will, then
in every case all depends on our overthrowing the enemy,
that is, disarming him, and on that alone. This object,
developed from abstract conceptions, but which is also
the one aimed at in a great many cases in reality, we shall,
in the first place, examine in this reality.

In connection with the plan of a campaign we shall
hereafter examine more closely into the meaning of disarming
a nation, but here we must at once draw a distinction
between three things, which, as three general objects,
comprise everything else within them. They are the

The military power must be destroyed, that is, reduced
to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the War.
This is the sense in which we wish to be understood hereafter,
whenever we use the expression "destruction of
the enemy's military power."

The country must be conquered, for out of the country
a new military force may be formed.

But even when both these things are done, still the War,
that is, the hostile feeling and action of hostile agencies,
cannot be considered as at an end as long as the will of
the enemy is not subdued also; that is, its Government
and its Allies must be forced into signing a peace, or the
people into submission; for whilst we are in full occupation
of the country, the War may break out afresh, either in the
interior or through assistance given by Allies. No doubt,
this may also take place after a peace, but that shows
nothing more than that every War does not carry in itself
the elements for a complete decision and final settlement.

But even if this is the case, still with the conclusion
of peace a number of sparks are always extinguished
which would have smouldered on quietly, and the excitement
of the passions abates, because all those whose
minds are disposed to peace, of which in all nations and
under all circumstances there is always a great number,
turn themselves away completely from the road to resistance.
Whatever may take place subsequently, we must
always look upon the object as attained, and the business
of War as ended, by a peace.

As protection of the country is the primary object
for which the military force exists, therefore the
natural order is, that first of all this force should be
destroyed, then the country subdued; and through the
effect of these two results, as well as the position we then
hold, the enemy should be forced to make peace. Generally
the destruction of the enemy's force is done by
degrees, and in just the same measure the conquest of
the country follows immediately. The two likewise
usually react upon each other, because the loss of provinces
occasions a diminution of military force. But
this order is by no means necessary, and on that account
it also does not always take place. The enemy's Army,
before it is sensibly weakened, may retreat to the opposite
side of the country, or even quite outside of it. In
this case, therefore, the greater part or the whole of the
country is conquered.

But this object of War in the abstract, this final means
of attaining the political object in which all others are
combined, the DISARMING THE ENEMY, is rarely attained
in practice and is not a condition necessary to peace.
Therefore it can in no wise be set up in theory as a
law. There are innumerable instances of treaties in which
peace has been settled before either party could be looked
upon as disarmed; indeed, even before the balance of
power had undergone any sensible alteration. Nay,
further, if we look at the case in the concrete, then we
must say that in a whole class of cases, the idea of a complete
defeat of the enemy would be a mere imaginative
flight, especially when the enemy is considerably superior.

The reason why the object deduced from the conception
of War is not adapted in general to real War lies in
the difference between the two, which is discussed in the
preceding chapter. If it was as pure theory gives
it, then a War between two States of very unequal
military strength would appear an absurdity; therefore
impossible. At most, the inequality between the physical
forces might be such that it could be balanced by the
moral forces, and that would not go far with our present
social condition in Europe. Therefore, if we have seen
Wars take place between States of very unequal power,
that has been the case because there is a wide difference
between War in reality and its original conception.

There are two considerations which as motives may
practically take the place of inability to continue the
contest. The first is the improbability, the second is
the excessive price, of success.

According to what we have seen in the foregoing chapter,
War must always set itself free from the strict law of logical
necessity, and seek aid from the calculation of probabilities;
and as this is so much the more the case, the more
the War has a bias that way, from the circumstances
out of which it has arisen--the smaller its motives are,
and the excitement it has raised--so it is also conceivable
how out of this calculation of probabilities even motives
to peace may arise. War does not, therefore, always
require to be fought out until one party is overthrown;
and we may suppose that, when the motives and passions
are slight, a weak probability will suffice to move that
side to which it is unfavourable to give way. Now, were
the other side convinced of this beforehand, it is natural
that he would strive for this probability only, instead of
first wasting time and effort in the attempt to achieve
the total destruction of the enemy's Army.

Still more general in its influence on the resolution to
peace is the consideration of the expenditure of force
already made, and further required. As War is no act
of blind passion, but is dominated by the political
object, therefore the value of that object determines
the measure of the sacrifices by which it is to be purchased.
This will be the case, not only as regards extent, but also
as regards duration. As soon, therefore, as the required
outlay becomes so great that the political object is no
longer equal in value, the object must be given up, and
peace will be the result.

We see, therefore, that in Wars where one side cannot
completely disarm the other, the motives to peace on
both sides will rise or fall on each side according to the
probability of future success and the required outlay.
If these motives were equally strong on both sides, they
would meet in the centre of their political difference.
Where they are strong on one side, they might be weak on
the other. If their amount is only sufficient, peace will
follow, but naturally to the advantage of that side which
has the weakest motive for its conclusion. We purposely
pass over here the difference which the POSITIVE and
NEGATIVE character of the political end must necessarily
produce practically; for although that is, as we shall
hereafter show, of the highest importance, still we are
obliged to keep here to a more general point of view,
because the original political views in the course of the
War change very much, and at last may become totally

Now comes the question how to influence the probability
of success. In the first place, naturally by the same
means which we use when the object is the subjugation
of the enemy, by the destruction of his military force
and the conquest of his provinces; but these two means
are not exactly of the same import here as they would be
in reference to that object. If we attack the enemy's
Army, it is a very different thing whether we intend to
follow up the first blow with a succession of others, until
the whole force is destroyed, or whether we mean to
content ourselves with a victory to shake the enemy's
feeling of security, to convince him of our superiority,
and to instil into him a feeling of apprehension about
the future. If this is our object, we only go so far in the
destruction of his forces as is sufficient. In like manner,
the conquest, of the enemy's provinces is quite a different
measure if the object is not the destruction of the enemy's
Army. In the latter case the destruction of the Army is
the real effectual action, and the taking of the provinces
only a consequence of it; to take them before the Army
had been defeated would always be looked upon only as
a necessary evil. On the other hand, if our views are not
directed upon the complete destruction of the enemy's
force, and if we are sure that the enemy does not seek
but fears to bring matters to a bloody decision, the taking
possession of a weak or defenceless province is an advantage
in itself, and if this advantage is of sufficient importance
to make the enemy apprehensive about the general
result, then it may also be regarded as a shorter road to

But now we come upon a peculiar means of influencing
the probability of the result without destroying the
enemy's Army, namely, upon the expeditions which have
a direct connection with political views. If there are any
enterprises which are particularly likely to break up the
enemy's alliances or make them inoperative, to gain
new alliances for ourselves, to raise political powers in
our own favour, &c. &c., then it is easy to conceive how
much these may increase the probability of success, and
become a shorter way towards our object than the routing
of the enemy's forces.

The second question is how to act upon the enemy's
expenditure in strength, that is, to raise the price of

The enemy's outlay in strength lies in the WEAR AND
TEAR of his forces, consequently in the DESTRUCTION of them
on our part, and in the LOSS of PROVINCES, consequently
the CONQUEST of them by us.

Here, again, on account of the various significations
of these means, so likewise it will be found that neither
of them will be identical in its signification in all cases
if the objects are different. The smallness in general
of this difference must not cause us perplexity, for in
reality the weakest motives, the finest shades of difference,
often decide in favour of this or that method of applying
force. Our only business here is to show that, certain
conditions being supposed, the possibility of attaining
our purpose in different ways is no contradiction,
absurdity, nor even error.

Besides these two means, there are three other peculiar
ways of directly increasing the waste of the enemy's
force. The first is INVASION, that is THE OCCUPATION OF THE
to levy contributions upon it, or to devastate it.

The immediate object here is neither the conquest of
the enemy's territory nor the defeat of his armed force, but
merely to DO HIM DAMAGE IN A GENERAL WAY. The second
way is to select for the object of our enterprises those
points at which we can do the enemy most harm. Nothing
is easier to conceive than two different directions in which
our force may be employed, the first of which is to be preferred
if our object is to defeat the enemy's Army, while
the other is more advantageous if the defeat of the enemy
is out of the question. According to the usual mode of
speaking, we should say that the first is primarily military,
the other more political. But if we take our view from
the highest point, both are equally military, and neither
the one nor the other can be eligible unless it suits the
circumstances of the case. The third, by far the most
important, from the great number of cases which it
embraces, is the WEARING OUT of the enemy. We choose this
expression not only to explain our meaning in few words,
but because it represents the thing exactly, and is not
so figurative as may at first appear. The idea of wearing
out in a struggle amounts in practice to A GRADUAL EXHAUSTION

Now, if we want to overcome the enemy by the duration
of the contest, we must content ourselves with as small
objects as possible, for it is in the nature of the thing that
a great end requires a greater expenditure of force than a
small one; but the smallest object that we can propose to
ourselves is simple passive resistance, that is a combat
without any positive view. In this way, therefore, our
means attain their greatest relative value, and therefore
the result is best secured. How far now can this negative
mode of proceeding be carried? Plainly not to absolute
passivity, for mere endurance would not be fighting;
and the defensive is an activity by which so much of the
enemy's power must be destroyed that he must give up
his object. That alone is what we aim at in each single
act, and therein consists the negative nature of our

No doubt this negative object in its single act is not
so effective as the positive object in the same direction
would be, supposing it successful; but there is this
difference in its favour, that it succeeds more easily than
the positive, and therefore it holds out greater certainty
of success; what is wanting in the efficacy of its single
act must be gained through time, that is, through the
duration of the contest, and therefore this negative
intention, which constitutes the principle of the pure
defensive, is also the natural means of overcoming the
enemy by the duration of the combat, that is of wearing
him out.

Here lies the origin of that difference of OFFENSIVE and
DEFENSIVE, the influence of which prevails throughout the
whole province of War. We cannot at present pursue this
subject further than to observe that from this negative
intention are to be deduced all the advantages and all
the stronger forms of combat which are on the side of
the Defensive, and in which that philosophical-dynamic
law which exists between the greatness and the certainty
of success is realised. We shall resume the consideration
of all this hereafter.

If then the negative purpose, that is the concentration
of all the means into a state of pure resistance, affords a
superiority in the contest, and if this advantage is sufficient
to BALANCE whatever superiority in numbers the
adversary may have, then the mere DURATION of the contest
will suffice gradually to bring the loss of force on the part
of the adversary to a point at which the political object
can no longer be an equivalent, a point at which, therefore,
he must give up the contest. We see then that this class
of means, the wearing out of the enemy, includes the great
number of cases in which the weaker resists the stronger.

Frederick the Great, during the Seven Years' War,
was never strong enough to overthrow the Austrian
monarchy; and if he had tried to do so after the fashion
of Charles the Twelfth, he would inevitably have had to
succumb himself. But after his skilful application of the
system of husbanding his resources had shown the powers
allied against him, through a seven years' struggle, that the
actual expenditure of strength far exceeded what they
had at first anticipated, they made peace.

We see then that there are many ways to one's object
in War; that the complete subjugation of the enemy is
not essential in every case; that the destruction of the
enemy's military force, the conquest of the enemy's provinces,
the mere occupation of them, the mere invasion of
them--enterprises which are aimed directly at political
objects--lastly, a passive expectation of the enemy's
blow, are all means which, each in itself, may be used
to force the enemy's will according as the peculiar
circumstances of the case lead us to expect more from
the one or the other. We could still add to these a
whole category of shorter methods of gaining the end,
which might be called arguments ad hominem. What
branch of human affairs is there in which these sparks
of individual spirit have not made their appearance,
surmounting all formal considerations? And least of all
can they fail to appear in War, where the personal character
of the combatants plays such an important part, both in
the cabinet and in the field. We limit ourselves to pointing
this out, as it would be pedantry to attempt to reduce
such influences into classes. Including these, we may
say that the number of possible ways of reaching the
object rises to infinity.

To avoid under-estimating these different short roads to
one's purpose, either estimating them only as rare exceptions,
or holding the difference which they cause in the
conduct of War as insignificant, we must bear in mind the
diversity of political objects which may cause a War--
measure at a glance the distance which there is between
a death struggle for political existence and a War which
a forced or tottering alliance makes a matter of disagreeable
duty. Between the two innumerable gradations
occur in practice. If we reject one of these gradations
in theory, we might with equal right reject the whole,
which would be tantamount to shutting the real world
completely out of sight.

These are the circumstances in general connected with
the aim which we have to pursue in War; let us now turn
to the means.

There is only one single means, it is the FIGHT. However
diversified this may be in form, however widely
it may differ from a rough vent of hatred and animosity
in a hand-to-hand encounter, whatever number of things
may introduce themselves which are not actual fighting,
still it is always implied in the conception of War that all
the effects manifested have their roots in the combat.

That this must always be so in the greatest diversity
and complication of the reality is proved in a very simple
manner. All that takes place in War takes place through
armed forces, but where the forces of War, i.e., armed
men, are applied, there the idea of fighting must of necessity
be at the foundation.

All, therefore, that relates to forces of War--all that is
connected with their creation, maintenance, and application--
belongs to military activity.

Creation and maintenance are obviously only the means,
whilst application is the object.

The contest in War is not a contest of individual against
individual, but an organised whole, consisting of manifold
parts; in this great whole we may distinguish units of two
kinds, the one determined by the subject, the other by the
object. In an Army the mass of combatants ranges itself
always into an order of new units, which again form
members of a higher order. The combat of each of these
members forms, therefore, also a more or less distinct unit.
Further, the motive of the fight; therefore its object
forms its unit.

Now, to each of these units which we distinguish in
the contest we attach the name of combat.

If the idea of combat lies at the foundation of every
application of armed power, then also the application
of armed force in general is nothing more than the determining
and arranging a certain number of combats.

Every activity in War, therefore, necessarily relates to
the combat either directly or indirectly. The soldier is
levied, clothed, armed, exercised, he sleeps, eats, drinks,

If, therefore, all the threads of military activity terminate
in the combat, we shall grasp them all when we
settle the order of the combats. Only from this order
and its execution proceed the effects, never directly
from the conditions preceding them. Now, in the combat
all the action is directed to the DESTRUCTION of the enemy,
or rather of HIS FIGHTING POWERS, for this lies in the conception
of combat. The destruction of the enemy's fighting
power is, therefore, always the means to attain the object
of the combat.

This object may likewise be the mere destruction of
the enemy's armed force; but that is not by any means
necessary, and it may be something quite different.
Whenever, for instance, as we have shown, the defeat
of the enemy is not the only means to attain the political
object, whenever there are other objects which may be
pursued as the aim in a War, then it follows of itself that
such other objects may become the object of particular
acts of Warfare, and therefore also the object of combats.

But even those combats which, as subordinate acts,
are in the strict sense devoted to the destruction of the
enemy's fighting force need not have that destruction
itself as their first object.

If we think of the manifold parts of a great armed force,
of the number of circumstances which come into activity
when it is employed, then it is clear that the combat of
such a force must also require a manifold organisation,
a subordinating of parts and formation. There may
and must naturally arise for particular parts a number of
objects which are not themselves the destruction of the
enemy's armed force, and which, while they certainly
contribute to increase that destruction, do so only in an
indirect manner. If a battalion is ordered to drive the
enemy from a rising ground, or a bridge, &c., then properly
the occupation of any such locality is the real object,
the destruction of the enemy's armed force which takes
place only the means or secondary matter. If the enemy
can be driven away merely by a demonstration, the object
is attained all the same; but this hill or bridge is, in point
of fact, only required as a means of increasing the gross
amount of loss inflicted on the enemy's armed force. It
is the case on the field of battle, much more must it
be so on the whole theatre of war, where not only one
Army is opposed to another, but one State, one Nation,
one whole country to another. Here the number of
possible relations, and consequently possible combinations,
is much greater, the diversity of measures increased, and
by the gradation of objects, each subordinate to another
the first means employed is further apart from the ultimate

It is therefore for many reasons possible that the object
of a combat is not the destruction of the enemy's force,
that is, of the force immediately opposed to us, but
that this only appears as a means. But in all such
cases it is no longer a question of complete destruction,
for the combat is here nothing else but a measure of
strength--has in itself no value except only that of the
present result, that is, of its decision.

But a measuring of strength may be effected in cases
where the opposing sides are very unequal by a mere
comparative estimate. In such cases no fighting
will take place, and the weaker will immediately give

If the object of a combat is not always the destruction
of the enemy's forces therein engaged--and if its object
can often be attained as well without the combat taking
place at all, by merely making a resolve to fight, and by
the circumstances to which this resolution gives rise--
then that explains how a whole campaign may be
carried on with great activity without the actual combat
playing any notable part in it.

That this may be so military history proves by a
hundred examples. How many of those cases can be
justified, that is, without involving a contradiction
and whether some of the celebrities who rose out of
them would stand criticism, we shall leave undecided,
for all we have to do with the matter is to show the
possibility of such a course of events in War.

We have only one means in War--the battle; but this
means, by the infinite variety of paths in which it may be
applied, leads us into all the different ways which the
multiplicity of objects allows of, so that we seem to have
gained nothing; but that is not the case, for from this
unity of means proceeds a thread which assists the study
of the subject, as it runs through the whole web of military
activity and holds it together.

But we have considered the destruction of the enemy's
force as one of the objects which maybe pursued in War,
and left undecided what relative importance should be
given to it amongst other objects. In certain cases it
will depend on circumstances, and as a general question
we have left its value undetermined. We are once more
brought back upon it, and we shall be able to get an
insight into the value which must necessarily be accorded
to it.

The combat is the single activity in War; in the combat
the destruction of the enemy opposed to us is the means
to the end; it is so even when the combat does not
actually take place, because in that case there lies at
the root of the decision the supposition at all events
that this destruction is to be regarded as beyond doubt.
It follows, therefore, that the destruction of the enemy's
military force is the foundation-stone of all action in War,
the great support of all combinations, which rest upon it
like the arch on its abutments. All action, therefore,
takes place on the supposition that if the solution by force
of arms which lies at its foundation should be realised,
it will be a favourable one. The decision by arms is, for
all operations in War, great and small, what cash payment
is in bill transactions. However remote from
each other these relations, however seldom the realisation
may take place, still it can never entirely fail to

If the decision by arms lies at the foundation of all
combinations, then it follows that the enemy can defeat
each of them by gaining a victory on the field, not
merely in the one on which our combination directly
depends, but also in any other encounter, if it is only
important enough; for every important decision by arms
--that is, destruction of the enemy's forces--reacts upon
all preceding it, because, like a liquid element, they tend
to bring themselves to a level.

Thus, the destruction of the enemy's armed force
appears, therefore, always as the superior and more
effectual means, to which all others must give way.

It is, however, only when there is a supposed equality
in all other conditions that we can ascribe to the destruction
of the enemy's armed force the greater efficacy.
It would, therefore, be a great mistake to draw the
conclusion that a blind dash must always gain the
victory over skill and caution. An unskilful attack would
lead to the destruction of our own and not of the enemy's
force, and therefore is not what is here meant. The
superior efficacy belongs not to the MEANS but to the END,
and we are only comparing the effect of one realised
purpose with the other.

If we speak of the destruction of the enemy's armed
force, we must expressly point out that nothing obliges
us to confine this idea to the mere physical force; on
the contrary, the moral is necessarily implied as well,
because both in fact are interwoven with each other,
even in the most minute details, and therefore cannot
be separated. But it is just in connection with the
inevitable effect which has been referred to, of a great
act of destruction (a great victory) upon all other decisions
by arms, that this moral element is most fluid, if we may
use that expression, and therefore distributes itself the
most easily through all the parts.

Against the far superior worth which the destruction
of the enemy's armed force has over all other means
stands the expense and risk of this means, and it is
only to avoid these that any other means are taken.
That these must be costly stands to reason, for
the waste of our own military forces must, ceteris
paribus, always be greater the more our aim is directed
upon the destruction of the enemy's power.

The danger lies in this, that the greater efficacy
which we seek recoils on ourselves, and therefore has
worse consequences in case we fail of success.

Other methods are, therefore, less costly when they
succeed, less dangerous when they fail; but in this is
necessarily lodged the condition that they are only opposed
to similar ones, that is, that the enemy acts on the same
principle; for if the enemy should choose the way of a
great decision by arms, OUR MEANS MUST ON THAT ACCOUNT
HIS. Then all depends on the issue of the act of destruction;
but of course it is evident that, ceteris paribus,
in this act we must be at a disadvantage in all respects
because our views and our means had been directed in
part upon other objects, which is not the case with the
enemy. Two different objects of which one is not partthe other
exclude each
other, and therefore a force
which may be applicable for the one may not serve for
the other. If, therefore, one of two belligerents is
determined to seek the great decision by arms, then he has
a high probability of success, as soon as he is certain
his opponent will not take that way, but follows a
different object; and every one who sets before himself
any such other aim only does so in a reasonable manner,
provided he acts on the supposition that his adversary
has as little intention as he has of resorting to the
great decision by arms.

But what we have here said of another direction of
views and forces relates only to other POSITIVE OBJECTS,
which we may propose to ourselves in War, besides the
destruction of the enemy's force, not by any means
to the pure defensive, which may be adopted with a view
thereby to exhaust the enemy's forces. In the pure
defensive the positive object is wanting, and therefore,
while on the defensive, our forces cannot at the same time
be directed on other objects; they can only be employed
to defeat the intentions of the enemy.

We have now to consider the opposite of the destruction
of the enemy's armed force, that is to say, the
preservation of our own. These two efforts always go
together, as they mutually act and react on each other;
they are integral parts of one and the same view, and
we have only to ascertain what effect is produced when
one or the other has the predominance. The endeavour
to destroy the enemy's force has a positive object, and
leads to positive results, of which the final aim is the
conquest of the enemy. The preservation of our own forces
has a negative object, leads therefore to the defeat of the
enemy's intentions, that is to pure resistance, of which
the final aim can be nothing more than to prolong the
duration of the contest, so that the enemy shall exhaust
himself in it.

The effort with a positive object calls into existence
the act of destruction; the effort with the negative
object awaits it.

How far this state of expectation should and may be
carried we shall enter into more particularly in the
theory of attack and defence, at the origin of which we
again find ourselves. Here we shall content ourselves
with saying that the awaiting must be no absolute
endurance, and that in the action bound up with it
the destruction of the enemy's armed force engaged in
this conflict may be the aim just as well as anything else.
It would therefore be a great error in the fundamental
idea to suppose that the consequence of the negative
course is that we are precluded from choosing the destruction
of the enemy's military force as our object, and must
prefer a bloodless solution. The advantage which the
negative effort gives may certainly lead to that, but only
at the risk of its not being the most advisable method,
as that question is dependent on totally different conditions,
resting not with ourselves but with our opponents.
This other bloodless way cannot, therefore, be looked
upon at all as the natural means of satisfying our
great anxiety to spare our forces; on the contrary,
when circumstances are not favourable, it would be
the means of completely ruining them. Very many
Generals have fallen into this error, and been ruined
by it. The only necessary effect resulting from the
superiority of the negative effort is the delay of the decision,
so that the party acting takes refuge in that way,
as it were, in the expectation of the decisive moment.
The consequence of that is generally THE POSTPONEMENT
OF THE ACTION as much as possible in time, and also in space,
in so far as space is in connection with it. If the moment
has arrived in which this can no longer be done without
ruinous disadvantage, then the advantage of the negative
must be considered as exhausted, and then comes forward
unchanged the effort for the destruction of the enemy's
force, which was kept back by a counterpoise, but never

We have seen, therefore, in the foregoing reflections,
that there are many ways to the aim, that is, to the
attainment of the political object; but that the only
means is the combat, and that consequently everything
is subject to a supreme law: which is the DECISION BY
ARMS; that where this is really demanded by one, it is
a redress which cannot be refused by the other; that,
therefore, a belligerent who takes any other way must
make sure that his opponent will not take this means of
redress, or his cause may be lost in that supreme court;
hence therefore the destruction of the enemy's armed
force, amongst all the objects which can be pursued in War,
appears always as the one which overrules all others.

What may be achieved by combinations of another
kind in War we shall only learn in the sequel, and naturally
only by degrees. We content ourselves here with acknowledging
in general their possibility, as something pointing
to the difference between the reality and the conception,
and to the influence of particular circumstances. But we
could not avoid showing at once that the BLOODY SOLUTION
OF THE CRISIS, the effort for the destruction of the enemy's
force, is the firstborn son of War. If when political
objects are unimportant, motives weak, the excitement
of forces small, a cautious commander tries in all kinds
of ways, without great crises and bloody solutions, to
twist himself skilfully into a peace through the characteristic
weaknesses of his enemy in the field and in the
Cabinet, we have no right to find fault with him, if the
premises on which he acts are well founded and justified
by success; still we must require him to remember that
he only travels on forbidden tracks, where the God of
War may surprise him; that he ought always to keep his
eye on the enemy, in order that he may not have to defend
himself with a dress rapier if the enemy takes up a sharp

The consequences of the nature of War, how ends and
means act in it, how in the modifications of reality it
deviates sometimes more, sometimes less, from its strict
original conception, fluctuating backwards and forwards,
yet always remaining under that strict conception as under
a supreme law: all this we must retain before us, and
bear constantly in mind in the consideration of each of
the succeeding subjects, if we would rightly comprehend
their true relations and proper importance, and not
become involved incessantly in the most glaring contradictions
with the reality, and at last with our own selves.


EVERY special calling in life, if it is to be followed with
success, requires peculiar qualifications of understanding
and soul. Where these are of a high order, and manifest
themselves by extraordinary achievements, the mind
to which they belong is termed GENIUS.

We know very well that this word is used in many
significations which are very different both in extent and
nature, and that with many of these significations it is
a very difficult task to define the essence of Genius;
but as we neither profess to be philosopher nor grammarian,
we must be allowed to keep to the meaning
usual in ordinary language, and to understand by
"genius" a very high mental capacity for certain employments.

We wish to stop for a moment over this faculty and
dignity of the mind, in order to vindicate its title, and to
explain more fully the meaning of the conception. But
we shall not dwell on that (genius) which has obtained
its title through a very great talent, on genius properly
so called, that is a conception which has no defined limits.
What we have to do is to bring under consideration
every common tendency of the powers of the mind and
soul towards the business of War, the whole of which
common tendencies we may look upon as the ESSENCE OF
MILITARY GENIUS. We say "common," for just therein
consists military genius, that it is not one single quality
bearing upon War, as, for instance, courage, while other
qualities of mind and soul are wanting or have a direction
which is unserviceable for War, but that it is AN
may predominate, but none must be in opposition.

If every combatant required to be more or less endowed
with military genius, then our armies would be very weak;
for as it implies a peculiar bent of the intelligent powers,
therefore it can only rarely be found where the mental
powers of a people are called into requisition and trained
in many different ways. The fewer the employments
followed by a Nation, the more that of arms predominates,
so much the more prevalent will military genius also be
found. But this merely applies to its prevalence, by no
means to its degree, for that depends on the general state
of intellectual culture in the country. If we look at a
wild, warlike race, then we find a warlike spirit in
individuals much more common than in a civilised people;
for in the former almost every warrior possesses it, whilst
in the civilised whole, masses are only carried away by it
from necessity, never by inclination. But amongst
uncivilised people we never find a really great General,
and very seldom what we can properly call a military
genius, because that requires a development of the
intelligent powers which cannot be found in an uncivilised
state. That a civilised people may also have a warlike
tendency and development is a matter of course; and
the more this is general, the more frequently also will
military spirit be found in individuals in their armies.
Now as this coincides in such case with the higher degree
of civilisation, therefore from such nations have issued
forth the most brilliant military exploits, as the Romans
and the French have exemplified. The greatest names
in these and in all other nations that have been renowned
in War belong strictly to epochs of higher culture.

From this we may infer how great a share the intelligent
powers have in superior military genius. We shall now
look more closely into this point.

War is the province of danger, and therefore courage
above all things is the first quality of a warrior.

Courage is of two kinds: first, physical courage, or
courage in presence of danger to the person; and next,
moral courage, or courage before responsibility, whether
it be before the judgment-seat of external authority, or
of the inner power, the conscience. We only speak
here of the first.

Courage before danger to the person, again, is of two
kinds. First, it may be indifference to danger, whether
proceeding from the organism of the individual, contempt
of death, or habit: in any of these cases it is to be regarded
as a permanent condition.

Secondly, courage may proceed from positive motives,
such as personal pride, patriotism, enthusiasm of any
kind. In this case courage is not so much a normal
condition as an impulse.

We may conceive that the two kinds act differently.
The first kind is more certain, because it has become a
second nature, never forsakes the man; the second
often leads him farther. In the first there is more of
firmness, in the second, of boldness. The first leaves the
judgment cooler, the second raises its power at times,
but often bewilders it. The two combined make up the
most perfect kind of courage.

War is the province of physical exertion and suffering.
In order not to be completely overcome by them, a certain
strength of body and mind is required, which, either
natural or acquired, produces indifference to them.
With these qualifications, under the guidance of simply a
sound understanding, a man is at once a proper instrument
for War; and these are the qualifications so generally
to be met with amongst wild and half-civilised tribes.
If we go further in the demands which War makes on it,
then we find the powers of the understanding
predominating. War is the province of uncertainty:
three-fourths of those things upon which action in War
must be calculated, are hidden more or less in the clouds
of great uncertainty. Here, then, above all a fine and
penetrating mind is called for, to search out the truth by
the tact of its judgment.

An average intellect may, at one time, perhaps hit
upon this truth by accident; an extraordinary courage,
at another, may compensate for the want of this tact;
but in the majority of cases the average result will always
bring to light the deficient understanding.

War is the province of chance. In no sphere of human
activity is such a margin to be left for this intruder,
because none is so much in constant contact with him on
all sides. He increases the uncertainty of every circumstance,
and deranges the course of events.

From this uncertainty of all intelligence and suppositions,
this continual interposition of chance, the actor
in War constantly finds things different from his expectations;
and this cannot fail to have an influence on his
plans, or at least on the presumptions connected with
these plans. If this influence is so great as to render
the pre-determined plan completely nugatory, then, as
a rule, a new one must be substituted in its place; but
at the moment the necessary data are often wanting for
this, because in the course of action circumstances press
for immediate decision, and allow no time to look about
for fresh data, often not enough for mature consideration.

But it more often happens that the correction of
one premise, and the knowledge of chance events which
have arisen, are not sufficient to overthrow our plans
completely, but only suffice to produce hesitation.
Our knowledge of circumstances has increased, but our
uncertainty, instead of having diminished, has only
increased. The reason of this is, that we do not gain all our
experience at once, but by degrees; thus our determinations
continue to be assailed incessantly by fresh experi-
ence; and the mind, if we may use the expression, must
always be "under arms."

Now, if it is to get safely through this perpetual conflict
with the unexpected, two qualities are indispensable:
in the first place an intellect which, even in the midst
of this intense obscurity, is not without some traces
of inner light, which lead to the truth, and then the
courage to follow this faint light. The first is figuratively
expressed by the French phrase coup d'oeil. The other is
resolution. As the battle is the feature in War to which
attention was originally chiefly directed, and as time
and space are important elements in it, more particularly
when cavalry with their rapid decisions were the
chief arm, the idea of rapid and correct decision related
in the first instance to the estimation of these two elements,
and to denote the idea an expression was adopted which
actually only points to a correct judgment by eye. Many
teachers of the Art of War then gave this limited
signification as the definition of coup d'oeil. But it is
undeniable that all able decisions formed in the moment
of action soon came to be understood by the expression,
as, for instance, the hitting upon the right point of attack,
&c. It is, therefore, not only the physical, but more
frequently the mental eye which is meant in coup d'oeil.
Naturally, the expression, like the thing, is always more
in its place in the field of tactics: still, it must not be
wanting in strategy, inasmuch as in it rapid decisions are
often necessary. If we strip this conception of that which
the expression has given it of the over-figurative and
restricted, then it amounts simply to the rapid discovery
of a truth which to the ordinary mind is either not
visible at all or only becomes so after long examination
and reflection.

Resolution is an act of courage in single instances,
and if it becomes a characteristic trait, it is a habit of
the mind. But here we do not mean courage in face of
bodily danger, but in face of responsibility, therefore,
to a certain extent against moral danger. This has
been often called courage d'esprit, on the ground that it
springs from the understanding; nevertheless, it is no
act of the understanding on that account; it is an act of
feeling. Mere intelligence is still not courage, for we
often see the cleverest people devoid of resolution. The
mind must, therefore, first awaken the feeling of courage,
and then be guided and supported by it, because in
momentary emergencies the man is swayed more by his
feelings than his thoughts.

We have assigned to resolution the office of removing
the torments of doubt, and the dangers of delay, when
there are no sufficient motives for guidance. Through
the unscrupulous use of language which is prevalent,
this term is often applied to the mere propensity to daring,
to bravery, boldness, or temerity. But, when there are
SUFFICIENT MOTIVES in the man, let them be objective or
subjective, true or false, we have no right to speak of
his resolution; for, when we do so, we put ourselves in
his place, and we throw into the scale doubts which did
not exist with him.

Here there is no question of anything but of strength
and weakness. We are not pedantic enough to dispute
with the use of language about this little misapplication,
our observation is only intended to remove wrong objections.

This resolution now, which overcomes the state of
doubting, can only be called forth by the intellect, and,
in fact, by a peculiar tendency of the same. We maintain
that the mere union of a superior understanding
and the necessary feelings are not sufficient to make
up resolution. There are persons who possess the keenest
perception for the most difficult problems, who are also
not fearful of responsibility, and yet in cases of difficulty
cannot come to a resolution. Their courage and their
sagacity operate independently of each other, do not give
each other a hand, and on that account do not produce
resolution as a result. The forerunner of resolution is an
act of the mind making evident the necessity of venturing,
and thus influencing the will. This quite peculiar direction
of the mind, which conquers every other fear in
man by the fear of wavering or doubting, is what makes
up resolution in strong minds; therefore, in our opinion,
men who have little intelligence can never be resolute.
They may act without hesitation under perplexing
circumstances, but then they act without reflection.
Now, of course, when a man acts without reflection he
cannot be at variance with himself by doubts, and such
a mode of action may now and then lead to the right
point; but we say now as before, it is the average result
which indicates the existence of military genius. Should
our assertion appear extraordinary to any one, because
he knows many a resolute hussar officer who is no deep
thinker, we must remind him that the question here is
about a peculiar direction of the mind, and not about great
thinking powers.

We believe, therefore, that resolution is indebted to a
special direction of the mind for its existence, a direction
which belongs to a strong head rather than to a brilliant
one. In corroboration of this genealogy of resolution
we may add that there have been many instances of men
who have shown the greatest resolution in an inferior
rank, and have lost it in a higher position. While, on
the one hand, they are obliged to resolve, on the other
they see the dangers of a wrong decision, and as they are
surrounded with things new to them, their understanding
loses its original force, and they become only the more
timid the more they become aware of the danger of the
irresolution into which they have fallen, and the more
they have formerly been in the habit of acting on the spur
of the moment.

From the coup d'oeil and resolution we are naturally to speak of
kindred quality, PRESENCE OF MIND,
which in a region of the unexpected like War must act a
great part, for it is indeed nothing but a great conquest
over the unexpected. As we admire presence of mind
in a pithy answer to anything said unexpectedly, so we
admire it in a ready expedient on sudden danger. Neither
the answer nor the expedient need be in themselves
extraordinary, if they only hit the point; for that which
as the result of mature reflection would be nothing
unusual, therefore insignificant in its impression on us,
may as an instantaneous act of the mind produce a
pleasing impression. The expression "presence of mind"
certainly denotes very fitly the readiness and rapidity
of the help rendered by the mind.

Whether this noble quality of a man is to be ascribed
more to the peculiarity of his mind or to the equanimity
of his feelings, depends on the nature of the case,
although neither of the two can be entirely wanting.
A telling repartee bespeaks rather a ready wit, a ready
expedient on sudden danger implies more particularly a
well-balanced mind.

If we take a general view of the four elements composing
the atmosphere in which War moves, of DANGER, PHYSICAL
EFFORT, UNCERTAINTY, and CHANCE, it is easy to conceive that
a great force of mind and understanding is requisite to
be able to make way with safety and success amongst
such opposing elements, a force which, according to the
different modifications arising out of circumstances,
we find termed by military writers and annalists as ENERGY,
All these manifestations of the heroic nature might be
regarded as one and the same power of volition, modified
according to circumstances; but nearly related as these
things are to each other, still they are not one and the
same, and it is desirable for us to distinguish here a
little more closely at least the action of the powers of
the soul in relation to them.

In the first place, to make the conception clear, it is
essential to observe that the weight, burden, resistance,
or whatever it may be called, by which that force of the
soul in the General is brought to light, is only in a very
small measure the enemy's activity, the enemy's resistance,
the enemy's action directly. The enemy's activity
only affects the General directly in the first place in
relation to his person, without disturbing his action as
If the enemy, instead of two hours, resists for
four, the Commander instead of two hours is four hours
in danger; this is a quantity which plainly diminishes
the higher the rank of the Commander. What is it for
one in the post of Commander-in-Chief? It is nothing.

Secondly, although the opposition offered by the enemy
has a direct effect on the Commander through the loss of
means arising from prolonged resistance, and the responsibility
connected with that loss, and his force of will is
first tested and called forth by these anxious considerations,
still we maintain that this is not the heaviest
burden by far which he has to bear, because he has only
himself to settle with. All the other effects of the enemy's
resistance act directly upon the combatants under his
command, and through them react upon him.

As long as his men full of good courage fight with zeal
and spirit, it is seldom necessary for the Chief to show
great energy of purpose in the pursuit of his object.
But as soon as difficulties arise--and that must always
happen when great results are at stake--then things
no longer move on of themselves like a well-oiled machine,
the machine itself then begins to offer resistance, and to
overcome this the Commander must have a great force
of will. By this resistance we must not exactly suppose
disobedience and murmurs, although these are frequent
enough with particular individuals; it is the whole
feeling of the dissolution of all physical and moral power,
it is the heartrending sight of the bloody sacrifice which
the Commander has to contend with in himself, and then
in all others who directly or indirectly transfer to him
their impressions, feelings, anxieties, and desires. As
the forces in one individual after another become prostrated,
and can no longer be excited and supported by an
effort of his own will, the whole inertia of the mass gradually
rests its weight on the Will of the Commander: by the
spark in his breast, by the light of his spirit, the spark
of purpose, the light of hope, must be kindled afresh in
others: in so far only as he is equal to this, he stands above
the masses and continues to be their master; whenever
that influence ceases, and his own spirit is no longer strong
enough to revive the spirit of all others, the masses drawing
him down with them sink into the lower region of animal
nature, which shrinks from danger and knows not shame.
These are the weights which the courage and intelligent
faculties of the military Commander have to overcome if
he is to make his name illustrious. They increase with the
masses, and therefore, if the forces in question are to
continue equal to the burden, they must rise in proportion
to the height of the station.

Energy in action expresses the strength of the motive
through which the action is excited, let the motive have
its origin in a conviction of the understanding, or in an
impulse. But the latter can hardly ever be wanting
where great force is to show itself.

Of all the noble feelings which fill the human heart in
the exciting tumult of battle, none, we must admit, are
so powerful and constant as the soul's thirst for honour
and renown, which the German language treats so unfairly
and tends to depreciate by the unworthy associations
in the words Ehrgeiz (greed of honour) and Ruhmsucht
(hankering after glory). No doubt it is just in War that
the abuse of these proud aspirations of the soul must
bring upon the human race the most shocking outrages,
but by their origin they are certainly to be counted
amongst the noblest feelings which belong to human
nature, and in War they are the vivifying principle which
gives the enormous body a spirit. Although other
feelings may be more general in their influence, and many
of them--such as love of country, fanaticism, revenge,
enthusiasm of every kind--may seem to stand higher,
the thirst for honour and renown still remains indispensable.
Those other feelings may rouse the great masses
in general, and excite them more powerfully, but they do
not give the Leader a desire to will more than others, which
is an essential requisite in his position if he is to make
himself distinguished in it. They do not, like a thirst
for honour, make the military act specially the property
of the Leader, which he strives to turn to the best account;
where he ploughs with toil, sows with care, that he may
reap plentifully. It is through these aspirations we have
been speaking of in Commanders, from the highest to the
lowest, this sort of energy, this spirit of emulation, these
incentives, that the action of armies is chiefly animated
and made successful. And now as to that which specially
concerns the head of all, we ask, Has there ever been
a great Commander destitute of the love of honour, or
is such a character even conceivable?

FIRMNESS denotes the resistance of the will in relation
to the force of a single blow, STAUNCHNESS in relation to a
continuance of blows. Close as is the analogy between
the two, and often as the one is used in place of the other,
still there is a notable difference between them which
cannot be mistaken, inasmuch as firmness against a
single powerful impression may have its root in the
mere strength of a feeling, but staunchness must be
supported rather by the understanding, for the greater the
duration of an action the more systematic deliberation
is connected with it, and from this staunchness partly
derives its power.

If we now turn to STRENGTH OF MIND OR SOUL, then the first
question is, What are we to understand thereby?

Plainly it is not vehement expressions of feeling, nor
easily excited passions, for that would be contrary to
all the usage of language, but the power of listening to
reason in the midst of the most intense excitement, in
the storm of the most violent passions. Should this
power depend on strength of understanding alone? We
doubt it. The fact that there are men of the greatest
intellect who cannot command themselves certainly
proves nothing to the contrary, for we might say that it
perhaps requires an understanding of a powerful rather
than of a comprehensive nature; but we believe we shall
be nearer the truth if we assume that the power of submitting
oneself to the control of the understanding,
even in moments of the most violent excitement of the
feelings, that power which we call SELF-COMMAND, has its
root in the heart itself. It is, in point of fact, another
feeling, which in strong minds balances the excited
passions without destroying them; and it is only through
this equilibrium that the mastery of the understanding
is secured. This counterpoise is nothing but a sense of
the dignity of man, that noblest pride, that deeply-
seated desire of the soul always to act as a being endued
with understanding and reason. We may therefore
say that a strong mind is one which does not lose its
balance even under the most violent excitement.

If we cast a glance at the variety to be observed in
the human character in respect to feeling, we find, first,
some people who have very little excitability, who are
called phlegmatic or indolent.

Secondly, some very excitable, but whose feelings
still never overstep certain limits, and who are therefore
known as men full of feeling, but sober-minded.

Thirdly, those who are very easily roused, whose feelings
blaze up quickly and violently like gunpowder, but do
not last.

Fourthly, and lastly, those who cannot be moved by
slight causes, and who generally are not to be roused
suddenly, but only gradually; but whose feelings become
very powerful and are much more lasting. These are
men with strong passions, lying deep and latent.

This difference of character lies probably close on
the confines of the physical powers which move the human
organism, and belongs to that amphibious organisation
which we call the nervous system, which appears to be
partly material, partly spiritual. With our weak philosophy,
we shall not proceed further in this mysterious
field. But it is important for us to spend a moment
over the effects which these different natures have on,
action in War, and to see how far a great strength of mind
is to be expected from them.

Indolent men cannot easily be thrown out of their
equanimity, but we cannot certainly say there is strength
of mind where there is a want of all manifestation of power.

At the same time, it is not to be denied that such men
have a certain peculiar aptitude for War, on account of
their constant equanimity. They often want the positive
motive to action, impulse, and consequently activity,
but they are not apt to throw things into disorder.

The peculiarity of the second class is that they are
easily excited to act on trifling grounds, but in great
matters they are easily overwhelmed. Men of this kind
show great activity in helping an unfortunate individual,
but by the distress of a whole Nation they are only inclined
to despond, not roused to action.

Such people are not deficient in either activity or
equanimity in War; but they will never accomplish
anything great unless a great intellectual force furnishes
the motive, and it is very seldom that a strong, independent
mind is combined with such a character.

Excitable, inflammable feelings are in themselves
little suited for practical life, and therefore they are
not very fit for War. They have certainly the advantage
of strong impulses, but that cannot long sustain them.
At the same time, if the excitability in such men takes
the direction of courage, or a sense of honour, they may
often be very useful in inferior positions in War, because
the action in War over which commanders in inferior
positions have control is generally of shorter duration.
Here one courageous resolution, one effervescence of the
forces of the soul, will often suffice. A brave attack,
a soul-stirring hurrah, is the work of a few moments,
whilst a brave contest on the battle-field is the work of
a day, and a campaign the work of a year.

Owing to the rapid movement of their feelings, it is
doubly difficult for men of this description to preserve
equilibrium of the mind; therefore they frequently
lose head, and that is the worst phase in their nature as
respects the conduct of War. But it would be contrary
to experience to maintain that very excitable spirits can
never preserve a steady equilibrium--that is to say, that
they cannot do so even under the strongest excitement.
Why should they not have the sentiment of self-respect,
for, as a rule, they are men of a noble nature? This
feeling is seldom wanting in them, but it has not time
to produce an effect. After an outburst they suffer most
from a feeling of inward humiliation. If through education,
self-observance, and experience of life, they have learned,
sooner or later, the means of being on their guard, so that
at the moment of powerful excitement they are conscious
betimes of the counteracting force within their own breasts,
then even such men may have great strength of mind.

Lastly, those who are difficult to move, but on that
account susceptible of very deep feelings, men who stand
in the same relation to the preceding as red heat to a flame,
are the best adapted by means of their Titanic strength
to roll away the enormous masses by which we may
figuratively represent the difficulties which beset command
in War. The effect of their feelings is like the movement
of a great body, slower, but more irresistible.

Although such men are not so likely to be suddenly
surprised by their feelings and carried away so as to be
afterwards ashamed of themselves, like the preceding,
still it would be contrary to experience to believe that
they can never lose their equanimity, or be overcome
by blind passion; on the contrary, this must always
happen whenever the noble pride of self-control is wanting,
or as often as it has not sufficient weight. We see examples
of this most frequently in men of noble minds belonging
to savage nations, where the low degree of mental cultivation
favours always the dominance of the passions. But
even amongst the most civilised classes in civilised States,
life is full of examples of this kind--of men carried away
by the violence of their passions, like the poacher of old
chained to the stag in the forest.

We therefore say once more a strong mind is not one
that is merely susceptible of strong excitement, but one
which can maintain its serenity under the most powerful
excitement, so that, in spite of the storm in the breast,
the perception and judgment can act with perfect freedom,
like the needle of the compass in the storm-tossed ship.

is denoted tenacity of conviction, let it be the result of
our own or of others' views, and whether they are principles,
opinions, momentary inspirations, or any kind of emanations
of the understanding; but this kind of firmness
certainly cannot manifest itself if the views themselves
are subject to frequent change. This frequent change
need not be the consequence of external influences;
it may proceed from the continuous activity of our own
mind, in which case it indicates a characteristic unsteadiness
of mind. Evidently we should not say of a man who
changes his views every moment, however much the
motives of change may originate with himself, that he
has character. Only those men, therefore, can be said
to have this quality whose conviction is very constant,
either because it is deeply rooted and clear in itself,
little liable to alteration, or because, as in the case of
indolent men, there is a want of mental activity, and
therefore a want of motives to change; or lastly, because
an explicit act of the will, derived from an imperative
maxim of the understanding, refuses any change of
opinion up to a certain point.

Now in War, owing to the many and powerful
impressions to which the mind is exposed, and in the
uncertainty of all knowledge and of all science, more
things occur to distract a man from the road he has
entered upon, to make him doubt himself and others,
than in any other human activity.

The harrowing sight of danger and suffering easily
leads to the feelings gaining ascendency over the conviction
of the understanding; and in the twilight which
surrounds everything a deep clear view is so difficult
that a change of opinion is more conceivable and more
pardonable. It is, at all times, only conjecture or guesses
at truth which we have to act upon. This is why differences of
opinion are
nowhere so great as in War, and
the stream of impressions acting counter to one's own
convictions never ceases to flow. Even the greatest
impassibility of mind is hardly proof against them,
because the impressions are powerful in their nature,
and always act at the same time upon the feelings.

When the discernment is clear and deep, none but
general principles and views of action from a high standpoint
can be the result; and on these principles the
opinion in each particular case immediately under
consideration lies, as it were, at anchor. But to keep to
these results of bygone reflection, in opposition to the
stream of opinions and phenomena which the present
brings with it, is just the difficulty. Between the particular
case and the principle there is often a wide space
which cannot always be traversed on a visible chain of
conclusions, and where a certain faith in self is necessary
and a certain amount of scepticism is serviceable. Here
often nothing else will help us but an imperative maxim
which, independent of reflection, at once controls it:
that maxim is, in all doubtful cases to adhere to the first
opinion, and not to give it up until a clear conviction
forces us to do so. We must firmly believe in the superior
authority of well-tried maxims, and under the dazzling
influence of momentary events not forget that their value
is of an inferior stamp. By this preference which in
doubtful cases we give to first convictions, by adherence
to the same our actions acquire that stability and consistency
which make up what is called character.

It is easy to see how essential a well-balanced mind is
to strength of character; therefore men of strong minds
generally have a great deal of character.

Force of character leads us to a spurious variety of it

It is often very difficult in concrete cases to say where the
one ends and the other begins; on the other hand, it does
not seem difficult to determine the difference in idea.

Obstinacy is no fault of the understanding; we use the
term as denoting a resistance against our better judgment,
and it would be inconsistent to charge that to the
understanding, as the understanding is the power of
judgment. Obstinacy is A FAULT OF THE FEELINGS or heart.
This inflexibility of will, this impatience of contradiction,
have their origin only in a particular kind of egotism,
which sets above every other pleasure that of governing
both self and others by its own mind alone. We should
call it a kind of vanity, were it not decidedly something
better. Vanity is satisfied with mere show, but obstinacy
rests upon the enjoyment of the thing.

We say, therefore, force of character degenerates into
obstinacy whenever the resistance to opposing judgments
proceeds not from better convictions or a reliance upon a
trustworthy maxim,
but from a feeling of opposition.
If this definition, as we have already admitted, is of little
assistance practically, still it will prevent obstinacy
from being considered merely force of character intensified,
whilst it is something essentially different--something
which certainly lies close to it and is cognate to it, but is
at the same time so little an intensification of it that
there are very obstinate men who from want of understanding
have very little force of character.

Having in these high attributes of a great military Commander
made ourselves acquainted with those qualities
in which heart and head co-operate, we now come to a
speciality of military activity which perhaps may be looked
upon as the most marked if it is not the most important,
and which only makes a demand on the power of the mind
without regard to the forces of feelings. It is the connection
which exists between War and country or ground.

This connection is, in the first place, a permanent
condition of War, for it is impossible to imagine our
organised Armies effecting any operation otherwise than
in some given space; it is, secondly, of the most decisive
importance, because it modifies, at times completely
alters, the action of all forces; thirdly, while on the one
hand it often concerns the most minute features of locality,
on the other it may apply to immense tracts of country.

In this manner a great peculiarity is given to the effect
of this connection of War with country and ground.
If we think of other occupations of man which have a
relation to these objects, on horticulture, agriculture,
on building houses and hydraulic works, on mining,
on the chase, and forestry, they are all confined within
very limited spaces which may be soon explored with
sufficient exactness. But the Commander in War must
commit the business he has in hand to a corresponding
space which his eye cannot survey, which the keenest
zeal cannot always explore, and with which, owing to the
constant changes taking place, he can also seldom become
properly acquainted. Certainly the enemy generally
is in the same situation; still, in the first place, the
although common to both, is not the less a difficulty,
and he who by talent and practice overcomes it will
have a great advantage on his side; secondly, this equality
of the difficulty on both sides is merely an abstract
supposition which is rarely realised in the particular case,
as one of the two opponents (the defensive) usually knows
much more of the locality than his adversary.

This very peculiar difficulty must be overcome by a
natural mental gift of a special kind which is known by
the--too restricted--term of Orisinn sense of locality.
It is the power of quickly forming a correct geometrical
idea of any portion of country, and consequently of being
able to find one's place in it exactly at any time. This
is plainly an act of the imagination. The perception no
doubt is formed partly by means of the physical eye,
partly by the mind, which fills up what is wanting with
ideas derived from knowledge and experience, and out
of the fragments visible to the physical eye forms a whole;
but that this whole should present itself vividly to the
reason, should become a picture, a mentally drawn map,
that this picture should be fixed, that the details should
never again separate themselves--all that can only be
effected by the mental faculty which we call imagination.
If some great poet or painter should feel hurt that we
require from his goddess such an office; if he shrugs
his shoulders at the notion that a sharp gamekeeper must
necessarily excel in imagination, we readily grant that we
only speak here of imagination in a limited sense, of its
service in a really menial capacity. But, however slight
this service, still it must be the work of that natural
gift, for if that gift is wanting, it would be difficult to
imagine things plainly in all the completeness of the visible.
That a good memory is a great assistance we freely allow,
but whether memory is to be considered as an independent
faculty of the mind in this case, or whether it is just that
power of imagination which here fixes these things better
on the memory, we leave undecided, as in many respects
it seems difficult upon the whole to conceive these two
mental powers apart from each other.

That practice and mental acuteness have much to do
with it is not to be denied. Puysegur, the celebrated
Quartermaster-General of the famous Luxemburg, used
to say that he had very little confidence in himself
in this respect at first, because if he had to fetch the
parole from a distance he always lost his way.

It is natural that scope for the exercise of this talent
should increase along with rank. If the hussar and
rifleman in command of a patrol must know well all the
highways and byways, and if for that a few marks, a few
limited powers of observation, are sufficient, the Chief
of an Army must make himself familiar with the general
geographical features of a province and of a country;
must always have vividly before his eyes the direction
of the roads, rivers, and hills, without at the same
time being able to dispense with the narrower "sense
of locality" Orisinn. No doubt, information of
various kinds as to objects in general, maps, books,
memoirs, and for details the assistance of his Staff,
are a great help to him; but it is nevertheless certain
that if he has himself a talent for forming an ideal
picture of a country quickly and distinctly, it lends to
his action an easier and firmer step, saves him from a
certain mental helplessness, and makes him less dependent
on others.

If this talent then is to be ascribed to imagination, it
is also almost the only service which military activity
requires from that erratic goddess, whose influence is
more hurtful than useful in other respects.

We think we have now passed in review those
manifestations of the powers of mind and soul which military
activity requires from human nature. Everywhere
intellect appears as an essential co-operative force;
and thus we can understand how the work of War, although
so plain and simple in its effects, can never be conducted
with distinguished success by people without distinguished
powers of the understanding.

When we have reached this view, then we need no longer
look upon such a natural idea as the turning an enemy's
position, which has been done a thousand times, and a
hundred other similar conceptions, as the result of a
great effort of genius.

Certainly one is accustomed to regard the plain honest
soldier as the very opposite of the man of reflection,
full of inventions and ideas, or of the brilliant spirit
shining in the ornaments of refined education of every
kind. This antithesis is also by no means devoid of
truth; but it does not show that the efficiency of the
soldier consists only in his courage, and that there is no
particular energy and capacity of the brain required in
addition to make a man merely what is called a true
soldier. We must again repeat that there is nothing more
common than to hear of men losing their energy on being
raised to a higher position, to which they do not feel
themselves equal; but we must also remind our readers
that we are speaking of pre-eminent services, of such
as give renown in the branch of activity to which they
belong. Each grade of command in War therefore
forms its own stratum of requisite capacity of fame and

An immense space lies between a General--that is, one
at the head of a whole War, or of a theatre of War--and his
Second in Command, for the simple reason that the latter
is in more immediate subordination to a superior authority
and supervision, consequently is restricted to a more
limited sphere of independent thought. This is why
common opinion sees no room for the exercise of high
talent except in high places, and looks upon an ordinary
capacity as sufficient for all beneath: this is why people
are rather inclined to look upon a subordinate General
grown grey in the service, and in whom constant discharge
of routine duties has produced a decided poverty of mind,
as a man of failing intellect, and, with all respect for his
bravery, to laugh at his simplicity. It is not our object
to gain for these brave men a better lot--that would
contribute nothing to their efficiency, and little to their
happiness; we only wish to represent things as they
are, and to expose the error of believing that a mere
bravo without intellect can make himself distinguished
in War.

As we consider distinguished talents requisite for those
who are to attain distinction, even in inferior positions,
it naturally follows that we think highly of those who
fill with renown the place of Second in Command of an
Army; and their seeming simplicity of character as compared
with a polyhistor, with ready men of business, or
with councillors of state, must not lead us astray as to
the superior nature of their intellectual activity. It
happens sometimes that men import the fame gained
in an inferior position into a higher one, without in reality
deserving it in the new position; and then if they are
not much employed, and therefore not much exposed
to the risk of showing their weak points, the judgment
does not distinguish very exactly what degree of fame is
really due to them; and thus such men are often the
occasion of too low an estimate being formed of the
characteristics required to shine in certain situations.

For each station, from the lowest upwards, to render
distinguished services in War, there must be a particular
genius. But the title of genius, history and the judgment
of posterity only confer, in general, on those minds which
have shone in the highest rank, that of Commanders-
in-Chief. The reason is that here, in point of fact, the
demand on the reasoning and intellectual powers generally
is much greater.

To conduct a whole War, or its great acts, which we
call campaigns, to a successful termination, there must
be an intimate knowledge of State policy in its higher
relations. The conduct of the War and the policy of
the State here coincide, and the General becomes at
the same time the Statesman.

We do not give Charles XII. the name of a great genius,
because he could not make the power of his sword subservient
to a higher judgment and philosophy--could not
attain by it to a glorious object. We do not give that
title to Henry IV. (of France), because he did not live long
enough to set at rest the relations of different States by his
military activity, and to occupy himself in that higher field
where noble feelings and a chivalrous disposition have less
to do in mastering the enemy than in overcoming internal

In order that the reader may appreciate all that must
be comprehended and judged of correctly at a glance by
a General, we refer to the first chapter. We say the General
becomes a Statesman, but he must not cease to be the
General. He takes into view all the relations of the
State on the one hand; on the other, he must know
exactly what he can do with the means at his disposal.

As the diversity, and undefined limits, of all the circumstances
bring a great number of factors into consideration
in War, as the most of these factors can only be
estimated according to probability, therefore, if the
Chief of an Army does not bring to bear upon them a
mind with an intuitive perception of the truth, a confusion
of ideas and views must take place, in the midst of which
the judgment will become bewildered. In this sense,
Buonaparte was right when he said that many of the
questions which come before a General for decision would
make problems for a mathematical calculation not
unworthy of the powers of Newton or Euler.

What is here required from the higher powers of the
mind is a sense of unity, and a judgment raised to such a
compass as to give the mind an extraordinary faculty of
vision which in its range allays and sets aside a thousand
dim notions which an ordinary understanding could only
bring to light with great effort, and over which it would
exhaust itself. But this higher activity of the mind,
this glance of genius, would still not become matter of
history if the qualities of temperament and character of
which we have treated did not give it their support.

Truth alone is but a weak motive of action with men,
and hence there is always a great difference between
knowing and action, between science and art. The man
receives the strongest impulse to action through the
feelings, and the most powerful succour, if we may use
the expression, through those faculties of heart and mind
which we have considered under the terms of resolution,
firmness, perseverance, and force of character.

If, however, this elevated condition of heart and mind
in the General did not manifest itself in the general
effects resulting from it, and could only be accepted on
trust and faith, then it would rarely become matter of

All that becomes known of the course of events in War
is usually very simple, and has a great sameness in appearance;
no one on the mere relation of such events perceives
the difficulties connected with them which had to be
overcome. It is only now and again, in the memoirs of
Generals or of those in their confidence, or by reason of
some special historical inquiry directed to a particular
circumstance, that a portion of the many threads composing
the whole web is brought to light. The reflections,
mental doubts, and conflicts which precede the execution
of great acts are purposely concealed because they affect
political interests, or the recollection of them is accidentally
lost because they have been looked upon as mere
scaffolding which had to be removed on the completion
of the building.

If, now, in conclusion, without venturing upon a closer
definition of the higher powers of the soul, we should
admit a distinction in the intelligent faculties themselves
according to the common ideas established by language,
and ask ourselves what kind of mind comes closest to
military genius, then a look at the subject as well as at
experience will tell us that searching rather than inventive
comprehensive minds rather than such as have
a special bent, cool rather than fiery heads, are those to
which in time of War we should prefer to trust the welfare
of our women and children, the honour and the safety
of our fatherland.


USUALLY before we have learnt what danger really is,
we form an idea of it which is rather attractive than
repulsive. In the intoxication of enthusiasm, to fall
upon the enemy at the charge--who cares then about
bullets and men falling? To throw oneself, blinded by
excitement for a moment, against cold death, uncertain
whether we or another shall escape him, and all this close
to the golden gate of victory, close to the rich fruit which
ambition thirsts for--can this be difficult? It will not be
difficult, and still less will it appear so. But such moments,
which, however, are not the work of a single pulse-beat,
as is supposed, but rather like doctors' draughts, must be
taken diluted and spoilt by mixture with time--such
moments, we say, are but few.

Let us accompany the novice to the battle-field. As
we approach, the thunder of the cannon becoming plainer
and plainer is soon followed by the howling of shot, which
attracts the attention of the inexperienced. Balls begin
to strike the ground close to us, before and behind. We
hasten to the hill where stands the General and his
numerous Staff. Here the close striking of the cannon
balls and the bursting of shells is so frequent that the
seriousness of life makes itself visible through the youthful
picture of imagination. Suddenly some one known to us
falls--a shell strikes amongst the crowd and causes
some involuntary movements--we begin to feel that we
are no longer perfectly at ease and collected; even the
bravest is at least to some degree confused. Now, a
step farther into the battle which is raging before us like
a scene in a theatre, we get to the nearest General of
Division; here ball follows ball, and the noise of our
own guns increases the confusion. From the General of
Division to the Brigadier. He, a man of acknowledged
bravery, keeps carefully behind a rising ground, a house,
or a tree--a sure sign of increasing danger. Grape rattles
on the roofs of the houses and in the fields; cannon
balls howl over us, and plough the air in all directions,
and soon there is a frequent whistling of musket balls.
A step farther towards the troops, to that sturdy infantry
which for hours has maintained its firmness under this
heavy fire; here the air is filled with the hissing of balls
which announce their proximity by a short sharp noise
as they pass within an inch of the ear, the head, or the

To add to all this, compassion strikes the beating heart
with pity at the sight of the maimed and fallen. The
young soldier cannot reach any of these different strata
of danger without feeling that the light of reason does not
move here in the same medium, that it is not refracted
in the same manner as in speculative contemplation.
Indeed, he must be a very extraordinary man who,
under these impressions for the first time, does not lose
the power of making any instantaneous decisions. It
is true that habit soon blunts such impressions; in half
in hour we begin to be more or less indifferent to all
that is going on around us: but an ordinary character
never attains to complete coolness and the natural
elasticity of mind; and so we perceive that here again
ordinary qualities will not suffice--a thing which gains
truth, the wider the sphere of activity which is to be filled.
Enthusiastic, stoical, natural bravery, great ambition,
or also long familiarity with danger--much of all this
there must be if all the effects produced in this resistant
medium are not to fall far short of that which in the student's
chamber may appear only the ordinary standard.

Danger in War belongs to its friction; a correct idea
of its influence is necessary for truth of perception, and
therefore it is brought under notice here.


IF no one were allowed to pass an opinion on the events
of War, except at a moment when he is benumbed by frost,
sinking from heat and thirst, or dying with hunger and
fatigue, we should certainly have fewer judgments correct
*objectively; but they would be so, SUBJECTIVELY, at least;
that is, they would contain in themselves the exact relation
between the person giving the judgment and the
object. We can perceive this by observing how modestly
subdued, even spiritless and desponding, is the opinion
passed upon the results of untoward events by those
who have been eye-witnesses, but especially if they have
been parties concerned. This is, according to our view,
a criterion of the influence which bodily fatigue exercises,
and of the allowance to be made for it in matters of

Amongst the many things in War for which no tariff
can be fixed, bodily effort may be specially reckoned.
Provided there is no waste, it is a coefficient of all the
forces, and no one can tell exactly to what extent it may
be carried. But what is remarkable is, that just as only
a strong arm enables the archer to stretch the bowstring
to the utmost extent, so also in War it is only by means
of a great directing spirit that we can expect the full power
latent in the troops to be developed. For it is one thing if
an Army, in consequence of great misfortunes, surrounded
with danger, falls all to pieces like a wall that has been
thrown down, and can only find safety in the utmost
exertion of its bodily strength; it is another thing
entirely when a victorious Army, drawn on by proud
feelings only, is conducted at the will of its Chief. The
same effort which in the one case might at most excite
our pity must in the other call forth our admiration,
because it is much more difficult to sustain.

By this comes to light for the inexperienced eye one
of those things which put fetters in the dark, as it were,
on the action of the mind, and wear out in secret the
powers of the soul.

Although here the question is strictly only respecting
the extreme effort required by a Commander from his
Army, by a leader from his followers, therefore of the
spirit to demand it and of the art of getting it, still the
personal physical exertion of Generals and of the Chief
Commander must not be overlooked. Having brought
the analysis of War conscientiously up to this point,
we could not but take account also of the weight of this
small remaining residue.

We have spoken here of bodily effort, chiefly because,
like danger, it belongs to the fundamental causes of friction,
and because its indefinite quantity makes it like an
elastic body, the friction of which is well known to be
difficult to calculate.

To check the abuse of these considerations, of such a
survey of things which aggravate the difficulties of War,
nature has given our judgment a guide in our sensibilities.
just as an individual cannot with advantage refer to his
personal deficiencies if he is insulted and ill-treated,
but may well do so if he has successfully repelled the
affront, or has fully revenged it, so no Commander or
Army will lessen the impression of a disgraceful defeat by
depicting the danger, the distress, the exertions, things
which would immensely enhance the glory of a victory.
Thus our feeling, which after all is only a higher kind
of judgment, forbids us to do what seems an act of justice
to which our judgment would be inclined.


By the word "information" we denote all the knowledge
which we have of the enemy and his country; therefore,
in fact, the foundation of all our ideas and actions. Let
us just consider the nature of this foundation, its want
of trustworthiness, its changefulness, and we shall soon
feel what a dangerous edifice War is, how easily it may
fall to pieces and bury us in its ruins. For although it
is a maxim in all books that we should trust only certain
information, that we must be always suspicious, that is
only a miserable book comfort, belonging to that description
of knowledge in which writers of systems and compendiums
take refuge for want of anything better to say.

Great part of the information obtained in War is contradictory,
a still greater part is false, and by far the
greatest part is of a doubtful character. What is required
of an officer is a certain power of discrimination, which
only knowledge of men and things and good judgment
can give. The law of probability must be his guide.
This is not a trifling difficulty even in respect of the first
plans, which can be formed in the chamber outside the
real sphere of War, but it is enormously increased when
in the thick of War itself one report follows hard upon the
heels of another; it is then fortunate if these reports
in contradicting each other show a certain balance of
probability, and thus themselves call forth a scrutiny.
It is much worse for the inexperienced when accident
does not render him this service, but one report supports
another, confirms it, magnifies it, finishes off the picture
with fresh touches of colour, until necessity in urgent
haste forces from us a resolution which will soon be discovered
to be folly, all those reports having been lies,
exaggerations, errors, &c. &c. In a few words, most
reports are false, and the timidity of men acts as a multiplier
of lies and untruths. As a general rule, every one is
more inclined to lend credence to the bad than the good.
Every one is inclined to magnify the bad in some measure,
and although the alarms which are thus propagated
like the waves of the sea subside into themselves, still,
like them, without any apparent cause they rise again.
Firm in reliance on his own better convictions, the Chief
must stand like a rock against which the sea breaks its
fury in vain. The role is not easy; he who is not by
nature of a buoyant disposition, or trained by experience
in War, and matured in judgment, may let it be his rule
to do violence to his own natural conviction by inclining
from the side of fear to that of hope; only by that means

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest