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Title: The Brain of an Army - A Popular Account of the German General Staff
Author: Wilkinson, Spenser
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Brain of an Army - A Popular Account of the German General Staff" ***

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  & CO 1895



  _and in conjunction with_



[Transcriber's note: the errata items below have been applied to this


page 9, line 6 for _have_ read _has_

page 10, line 21, for _occasion_ read _occasions_


Six years ago a Royal Commission, under the presidency of Lord
Hartington, was known to be inquiring into the administration of the
national defence.  There was much talk in the newspapers about the
Prussian staff, and many were the advocates of its imitation in this
country.  Very few of those who took part in the discussions seemed to
know what the Prussian staff was, and I thought it might be useful to
the Royal Commission and to the public to have a true account of that
institution, written in plain English, so that any one could understand
it.  The essay was published on the 11th of February, 1890, the day on
which the Report of Lord Hartington's Commission was signed.

The essential feature of the Prussian staff system consists in the
classification of duties out of which it has arisen.  Every general in
the field requires a number of assistants, collectively forming his
staff, to relieve him of matters of detail, to act as his confidential
secretaries, and to represent him at places where he cannot be himself.
The duties of command are so multifarious that some consistent
distribution of functions among the officers of a large staff is
indispensable.  In Prussia this distribution is based on a thoroughly
rational and practical principle.  The general's work is subdivided
into classes, according as it is concerned with administration and
discipline or with the direction of the operations against the enemy.
All that belongs to administration and discipline is put upon one side
of a dividing line, and upon the other side all that directly affects
the preparation for or the management of the fighting--in technical
language, all that falls within the domain of strategy and tactics.
The officers entrusted with the personal assistance of the general in
this latter group of duties are in Prussia called his "general staff."
They are specially trained in the art of conducting operations against
an enemy, that is in the specific function of generalship, which has
thus in the Prussian army received more systematic attention than in
any other.  In the British army the assistants of a general are also
grouped into classes for the performance of specific functions in his
relief.  But the grouping of duties is accidental, and follows no
principle.  It has arisen by chance, and been stereotyped by usage.
The officers of a staff belong to the adjutant-general's branch or to
the quartermaster-general's branch, but no rational criterion exists by
which to discover whether a particular function falls to one branch or
to the other.  That this is an evil is evident, because it is manifest
that there can be no scientific training for a group of duties which
have no inherent affinity with one another.  The evil has long been
felt, for the attempt has been made to remedy it by amalgamating the
two branches in order to sever them again upon a rational plane of

But while the essence of the Prussian general staff lies deeply
embedded in the organization of the Prussian army, the interest of the
general public has been attracted by the fact that the great strategist
to whom the victories of 1866 and 1870 are ascribed was not the
commander of the Prussian army, but merely the chief of the general
staff of a royal commander-in-chief.  It may well be doubted whether
this feature of the Prussian system is suitable for imitation
elsewhere.  The Germans themselves evidently regard it as accidental
rather than essential, for in organizing their navy they have, after
much experiment and deliberation, adopted a different plan.  They have
appointed their chosen admiral to be, not chief of the staff to an
Emperor who in war, as he takes the field with the army, cannot
undertake the command of the navy, but to be "the commanding admiral."

I refrained in the first edition of this essay from drawing from the
German institution which it describes a moral to be applied to the
British army, and was content with a warning against overhasty
imitation.  At that time the nature of the relation between Moltke and
the King was still to some extent veiled in official language, and
nothing so far as I am aware had been published which allowed the facts
to rest upon well authenticated, direct evidence as distinguished from
inference.  Since then the posthumous publication of Moltke's private
correspondence,[1] and of the first instalment of his military
correspondence,[2] has thrown a flood of light upon the whole subject.
I had the good fortune to be furnished with an earlier clue.  As soon
as my essay was ready for the press I ventured to send a proof to Count
Moltke, with a request that he would allow me in a dedication to couple
his name with studies of which his work had been the subject.  He was
good enough to reply in a letter of which the following is a

BERLIN, January 20, 1890.


I have read your essay on the German general staff with great interest.

I am glad that on p. 63 you dispose of the ever-recurring legend
according to which before every important decision a council of war is
assembled.  I can assure you that in 1866 and in 1870-71 a council of
war was never called.

If the commander after consultation with his authorized adviser feels
the need of asking others what he ought to do, the command is in weak

If King William I. ever really used the expression attributed to him on
p. 58, he did himself a great injustice.  The king judged the
perpetually changing military situation with an uncommonly clear eye.
He was much more than "a great strategist."  It was he who took upon
himself an immeasurable responsibility, and for the conduct of an army
character weighs more than knowledge and science.  I think your
excellent work would lose nothing if that passage were omitted.

You touch on p. 112[3] upon the relation between the commander and the
statesman.  Neither of the two can set up for himself in advance a goal
to be certainly reached.  The plan of campaign modifies itself after
the first great collision with the enemy.  Success or failure in a
battle occasions operations originally not intended.  On the other hand
the final claims of the statesman will be very different according as
he has to reckon with defeats or with a series of uninterrupted
victories.  In the course of the campaign the balance between the
military will and the considerations of diplomacy can be held only by
the supreme authority.

It has not escaped your penetration that a general staff cannot be
improvised on the outbreak of war, that it must be prepared long
beforehand in peace, and be in practical activity and in close
intercourse with the troops.  But even that is not enough.  It must
know who is to be its future commander, must be in communication with
him and gain his confidence, without which its position is untenable.

Great is the advantage if the head of the State is also the leader in
war.  He knows his general staff and his troops, and is known by them.
In such armies there are no pronunciamentoes.

The constitution, however, does not in every country admit of placing
the head of the State at the head of the army.  If the Government will
and can select in advance the most qualified general for the post, that
officer must also be given during peace the authority to influence the
troops and their leaders and to create an understanding between himself
and his general staff.  This chosen general will seldom be the minister
of war, who during the whole war is indispensable at home, where all
the threads of administration come together.

You have expressed the kind intention of dedicating your interesting
essay to me, but I suggest that you should consider whether without
such a dedication it would not still better preserve the character of
perfectly independent judgment.

With best thanks for your kind communication,
    I am, dear sir, yours very truly,
            Field Marshal.

It was hardly possible for Moltke, bound as he was by his own high
position, to have expressed more plainly his opinion of the kind of
reform needed in the British army, nor to have better illustrated than
by that opinion the precise nature of his own work.[4]

With Moltke's view that the peculiar position which he held was not
necessarily the model best suited for the circumstances of the British
army it is interesting to compare the judgment expressed quite
independently by Lord Roberts, who kindly allows me to publish the
following letter:--

    11_th September_, 1891.


I am much obliged to you for so kindly sending me _The Brain of an
Army_ and the other military works which reached me two or three mails
ago.  Some of the books I had seen before, and _The Brain of an Army_ I
had often heard of, and meant to study whenever sufficient leisure was
vouchsafed to me, which, alas! is but seldom.  I have now read it with
great interest.

One point that strikes me is the strong inclination evinced at present
to assume that the German system of apportioning the duties of command
and staff is deserving of universal adoption because under exceptional
circumstances, and with quite an exceptional man to act as head of the
Staff, it proved eminently successful in the wars between Prussia and
Austria and Prussia and France.

The idea of a Chief of the Staff who is to regulate the preparations
for and the operations during a campaign, and who is to possess a
predominant influence in determining the military policy of a nation,
is quite opposed to the views of some of the ablest commanders and
strategists, as summarized at pages 17 and 18 of Home's _Précis of
Modern Tactics_, Edition 1882; and I doubt whether any really competent
general or Commander-in-Chief would contentedly acquiesce in the
dissociation of command and responsibility which the German procedure
necessarily entails.  That Von Moltke was the virtual
Commander-in-Chief of the German forces during the wars in question,
and that the nominal commanders had really very little to say to the
movements they were called upon to execute, seems to be clearly proved
by the third volume of the Field Marshal's writings, reviewed in _The
Times_ of the 21st August last.  Von Moltke was a soldier of
extraordinary ability, he acted in the Emperor's name, the orders he
initiated were implicitly obeyed, and the military machine worked
smoothly.  But had the orders not been uniformly judicious, had a check
or reverse been experienced, and had one or more of the subordinate
commanders possessed greater capacity and resolution than the Chief of
the Staff, the result might have been very different.

In military nations a Chief of the Staff of the German type may perhaps
be essential, more especially when, as in Germany, the Emperor is the
head of the Army and its titular Commander-in-Chief.  The reasons for
this are that, in the first place, he may not possess the qualities
required in a Commander-in-Chief who has to lead the Army in war; and
in the second place, even if he does possess those qualities, there are
so many other matters connected with the civil administration of his
own country, and with its political relations towards other countries,
that the time of a King or Emperor may be too fully occupied to admit
of his devoting that exclusive attention to military matters which is
so necessary in a Commander-in-Chief, if he desires to have an
efficient Army.  A Chief of the Staff then becomes essential; he is
indeed the Commander-in-Chief.

In a small army like ours, however, where the Commander-in-Chief is a
soldier by profession, I am inclined to think that a Chief of the Staff
is not required in the same way as he is in Germany.  With us, the man
of the stamp sketched in chapter iv. of _The Brain of an Army_ should
be the head of the Army--the Commander-in-Chief to whom every one in
the Army looks up, and whom every one on service trusts implicitly.
The note at page 12 [61] of your little book expresses my meaning
exactly.  Blucher required a Scharnhorst or a Gneisenau "to keep him
straight," but would it not have been better, as suggested in your
note, "to have given Scharnhorst and Gneisenau the actual command"?

I think, too, that an Emperor or King would be more likely than a man
of inferior social standing to take the advice of a Chief of the Staff.
The former would be so immeasurably above all those about him that he
could afford to listen to advice--as the Emperor of Germany undoubtedly
did to that of Von Moltke on the occasion mentioned in the note at page
14 [64].  But the Commander of about much the same standing socially as
his Chief of the Staff, and possibly not much the latter's senior in
the Army, would be apt to resent what he might consider uncalled-for
interference; and this would be specially the case if he were of a
narrow-minded, obstinate disposition.  Indeed, I think that such a
feeling would be almost sure to arise, unless the Commander-in-Chief
were one of those easy-going, soft natures which ought never to be
placed in such a high position.

My personal experience is, of course, very slight, but I have been a
Commander with a Chief of the Staff, and I have been (in a very small
way) the Chief of the Staff to a Commander, with whom I was sent "to
keep him straight."  It was not a pleasant position, and one which I
should not like to fill a second time.  In my own Chief of the Staff
(the late Sir Charles Macgregor) I was particularly fortunate; he was
of the greatest possible assistance to me; but without thinking myself
narrow-minded and obstinate, I should have objected if he had acted as
if he were "at the head of the Army."

I have been referring hitherto more to war than peace, but even in
peace time I doubt if a Chief of the Staff of the German type is
suitable to our organization, and to the comparative smallness of our
army.  In war time it might easily lead to disaster.  The less capacity
possessed by the nominal Commander-in-Chief the greater might be his
obstinacy, and the more capacity he possessed the more he would resent
anything which might savour of interference.  Altogether I think that
the office of Chief of the Staff, as understood in Germany, might
easily be made impossible under the conditions of our service.  My
opinion is that the Army Head-Quarters Staff are capable of doing
exactly the same work as the Grand General Staff of the German Army
perform, and that there is no need to upset our present system.  We
have only to bring the Intelligence and Mobilization Departments more
closely into communication with, and into subordination to, the
Adjutant-General and Quarter-Master-General, as is now being done in
India with the best results.

You will understand that the foregoing remarks are based on the
assumption that in the British Service the office of Commander-in-Chief
is held by the soldier who, from his abilities and experience, has
commended himself to the Government as being best qualified to organize
the Army for war, and if requisite to take command in the field.  If,
however, for reasons of State it is thought desirable to approximate
our system to the German system in the selection of the head of the
Army, it might become necessary to appoint a Chief of the Staff of the
German type to act as the responsible military adviser of the
Commander-in-Chief and the Cabinet.  But in this case the
responsibility of the Officer in question should be fully recognised
and clearly defined.

Believe me,
    Yours very truly,


The Report of Lord Hartington's Commission, which appeared in the
spring of 1890, seemed to justify the apprehension which had caused me
to write, for it recommended the creation, under the name of a general
staff, of a department bearing little resemblance to the model which it
professed to copy.  The Commission, however, was in a most awkward
dilemma.  It was confronted in regard to the command of the army with
two problems, one of which was administrative, the other
constitutional.  The public was anxious to have an army efficient for
its purpose of fighting the enemies of Great Britain.  The statesmen on
the Commission were intent upon having an army obedient to the
Government.  The tradition that the command of the army being a royal
prerogative could be exercised otherwise than through the constituted
advisers of the Crown was not in practice altogether extinct.  It can
hardly be doubted that the Commission was right in wishing to establish
the principle that the army is a branch of the public service,
administered and governed under the authority of the Cabinet in
precisely the same way as the post office.  No other theory is possible
in the England of our day.  But the attempt to make the theory into the
practice touched certain susceptibilities which it was felt ought to be
respected, and the Commission perhaps attached more importance to this
kind of consideration than to the necessity of preparing the war office
for war.

It was no doubt of the first importance to guard against the recurrence
of a state of things in which all attempts to bring the army into
harmony with the needs of the time and of the nation were frustrated by
an authority not entirely amenable to the control of the Secretary of
State.  Not less important, however, was the requirement that any
change by which this result, in itself so desirable, might be attained
should at the same time contribute to the supreme end of readiness for
conflict with any of the Great Powers whose rivalry with Great Britain
has in recent times become so acute.

In the war of which a part is examined in the following pages a chief
of the staff is seen drafting the orders by which the whole army is
guided.  He has no authority; the orders are issued in the name of the
commander,--that is in Prussia, of the king.  When, as was the case in
1866 and in 1870-1, the king shows his entire confidence in the chief
of the staff by invariably accepting his drafts, the direction of the
army, the generalship of the campaign, is really the work of the chief
of the staff, though that officer has never had a command, and has been
sheltered throughout under the authority of another.  The generalship
or strategy of the campaigns of 1866 and 1870-1 was Moltke's, and
Moltke's alone, and no one has borne more explicit testimony to this
fact than the king.  At the same time no one has more emphasized the
other fact, that he was covered by the king's responsibility, than
Moltke himself.

The work of generalship can rarely be given to any one but the
commander of an army.  When the commander owes his position to other
than military considerations, as is the case in Prussia, where the king
is born to be commander-in-chief as he is born to be king, he is wise
to select a good professional general to do the work.  But where a
government is free to choose its commander, that officer will wish to
do his own work himself, and will resent the suggestion that an
assistant should prompt and guide him.  The Hartington Commission
proposed at the same time to abolish the office of commander-in-chief,
and to create that of a "chief of the staff."  This new officer was to
advise the Secretary of State--that is, the Government--upon all the
most important military questions.  He was to discuss the strength and
distribution of the army, and the defence of the Empire; to plan the
general arrangements for defence, and to shape the estimates according
to his plan.  In a word, he was to perform many of the most important
duties of a commander-in-chief.  But he was to be the adviser or
assistant, not of a military commander, but of a civilian
governor-general of the army.

An army cannot be directed in war nor commanded in peace under the
immediate authority of a civilian.  There must be a military commander,
the obedient servant of the Government, supported by the Government in
the exercise of his powers to discipline and direct the army, and
sheltered by the Government against all such criticism as would weaken
his authority or diminish its own responsibility.  The scheme
propounded by the Hartington Commission evaded the cardinal question
which has to be settled: that of the military command of the army in
war.  War cannot be carried on unless full and undivided authority is
given to the general entrusted by the Government with the conduct of
the military operations.  That officer will necessarily be liable to
account to the Government for all that is done, for the design and for
its execution.

The Report of the Commission made no provision whatever for the command
of the army in war.  The proposed "chief of the staff" was to be
entrusted during peace with the duty of the design of operations.  Had
the Commission's scheme been adopted, the Government would, upon the
near approach of war, still have had to select its commander.  The
selection must fall either upon the "chief of the staff" or upon some
other person.  But no general worth his salt will be found to stake his
own reputation and the fate of the nation upon the execution of designs
supplied to him at second-hand.  No man with a particle of self-respect
would undertake the defence of his country upon the condition that he
should conduct it upon a plan as to which he had never been consulted,
and which, at the time of his appointment, it was too late to modify.
Accordingly, if the scheme of the Commission had been adopted, it would
have been necessary to entrust the command in war to the officer who
during peace had been chief of the staff.  But this officer being in
peace out of all personal relation with the army could not have the
moral authority which is indispensable for its command.  The scheme of
the Hartington Commission could therefore not be adopted, except at the
risk of disaster in the event of war.

While I am revising the proof of this preface come the announcements,
first, that Lord Wolseley is to succeed the Duke of Cambridge, and,
secondly, that though the title of Commander-in-Chief is to be
retained, the duties attaching to the office are to be modified and its
authority diminished.

The proposed changes in the status of the Commander-in-Chief show that
the present Government is suffering from the pressure of an anxiety
exactly like that which paralysed Lord Hartington's Commission, while
from the speeches in which the new scheme has been explained the idea
of war is altogether absent.  The Government contemplates depriving the
Commander-in-Chief of his authority over the Adjutant-General and the
Quartermaster-General, as well as over the heads of some other military

The Adjutant-General's department embraces among other matters all that
directly concerns the discipline, training, and education of the army;
while such business as the quartering and movements of troops passes
through the office of the Quartermaster-General.  These officers are to
become the direct subordinates of the Secretary of State.  In other
words, the staff at the headquarters of the army is to be the staff,
not of the nominal Commander-in-Chief, but of the Secretary of State,
who is thus to be made the real Commander-in-Chief of the army.

This is evidently a momentous change, not to be lightly or rashly
approved or condemned.  The first duty is to discover, if possible, the
motives by which the Government is actuated in proposing it.  Mr.
Balfour, speaking in the House of Commons on the 31st of August,
explained the view of the Government.

"What," he said, "is the substance and essence of the criticisms passed
by the Harrington Commission upon the War Office system, which has now
been in force in this country for many years?  The essence of the
criticisms of the Commissioners was that by having a single
Commander-in-Chief, through whom, and through whom alone, army opinion,
army matters, and army advice would come to the Secretary of State for
War, you were, in the first place, throwing upon the Commander-in-Chief
a burden which no single individual could possibly support; and,
secondly, you were practically destroying the responsibility of the
Secretary of State for War, who nominally is the head of the
department.  If you put the Secretary of State for War in direct
communication with the Commander-in-Chief alone, I do not see how the
Secretary of State for War can be anything else than the administrative
puppet of the great soldier who is at the head of the army.  He may
come down to the House and express the views of that great officer, but
if he is to take official advice from the Commander-in-Chief alone it
is absolutely impossible that the Secretary of State should be really
responsible, and in this House the Secretary of State will be no more
than the mouthpiece of the Commander-in-Chief."

Mr. Balfour's first point is that the burden thrown upon a single
Commander-in-Chief is too great for one man to bear.  Marlborough,
Wellington or Napoleon would, perhaps, hardly have accepted this view.
But supposing it were true, the remedy proposed is infinitely worse
than the disease.  In 1887 the Royal Commission, over which the late
Sir James Stephen presided, examined with judicial impartiality the
duties of the Secretary of State for War.  That Commission in its
report wrote as follows:--

"The first part of the system to be considered is the Secretary of
State.  On him we have to observe, _first_, that the scope of his
duties is immense; _secondly_, that he performs them under extreme
disadvantages.  He is charged with five separate great functions, any
one of which would be sufficient to occupy the whole time of a man of
first-rate industry, ability, and knowledge.

"_First_, he is a member of the Cabinet, and a Member of Parliament, in
which capacity he has to give his attention, not only to the matters of
his own department, but to all the leading political questions of the
day.  He has to take part in debates on the great topics of discussion,
and on many occasions to speak upon them in his place in Parliament.

"_Secondly_, he is the head, as has been already observed, of the
political department of the army.  He may have to consider, and that at
the shortest notice, the whole conduct of a war; all the important
points connected with an expedition to any part of the globe; political
questions like the abolition of purchase; legislative questions like
the Discipline Act, and many others of the same kind.

"_Thirdly_, he is the head of the Ordnance Department, which includes
all the questions relating to cannon, small arms, and ammunition, and
all the questions that arise upon the management of four great
factories, and the care of an enormous mass of stores of every

"_Fourthly_, he has to deal with all the questions connected with
fortifications and the commissariat.

"_Fifthly_, he is responsible for framing the Military Estimates, which
override all the other departments, and regulate the expenditure of
from £16,000,000 to £18,000,000 of public money.

"It is morally and physically impossible that any one man should
discharge all these functions in a satisfactory manner.  No one man
could possess either the time or the strength or the knowledge which
would be indispensable for that purpose; but even if such a physical
and intellectual prodigy were to be found, he would have to do his duty
under disadvantages which would reduce him practically to impotence."

If, then, the Commander-in-Chief is overburdened, it is at least
certain that the right way to relieve him cannot possibly consist in
adding to the functions of the Secretary of State.

The real point of Mr. Balfour's statement of the case is in what
follows.  If you have a single Commander-in-Chief through whom, and
through whom alone, army opinion, army matters, and army advice would
come to the Secretary of State, then, according to Mr. Balfour, you
practically destroy the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

It is a mark of the hastiness of debate that the word responsibility
has crept in here.  No word in the political vocabulary is so
dangerous, because none is so ambiguous.  Properly speaking, a person
is said to be responsible when he is liable to be called to account for
his acts, a liability which implies that he is free to act in one way
or another.  These two aspects of the term, the liability and the
freedom of choice implied, lead to its use in two opposite senses.
Sometimes responsibility means that a man must answer for what he does,
and sometimes that he may do as he pleases without being controlled by
any one.  The word is as often as not a synonym for authority.  When
Moltke speaks of the "immeasurable responsibility" of the King of
Prussia, he really means that the King took upon himself as his own
acts decisions of the gravest moment which were prompted by his
advisers, and that by so doing he covered them as against the rest of
the world; he did not mean that the King had to account for his conduct
except to his own conscience and at the bar of history.  A Secretary of
State for War, in his relations with the army, wields the whole
authority of the Government.  The only thing which he cannot do is to
act in opposition to the wishes of his colleagues, for if he did he
would immediately cease to be Secretary of State.  As long as they are
agreed with him he is the master of the army.  But his liability to be
called to account is infinitely small.  The worst that can happen to
him is that if the party to which he belongs should lose its majority
in the House of Commons the Cabinet of which he is a member may have to
resign.  That is an event always possible quite apart from his conduct,
and his actions will as a rule not bring it about unless for other
reasons it is already impending.  Whenever, therefore, the phrase "the
responsibility of the Secretary of State" occurs, we ought to
substitute for it the more precise words: "the power of the Cabinet to
decide any matter as it pleases, subject to the chance of its losing
its majority."

What Mr. Balfour deprecates is a single Commander-in-Chief, and it is
important to grasp the real nature of his objection.  If the whole
business of the army be conceived to be a single department of which
the Commander-in-Chief is the head, so that the authority of the
Secretary of State extends to no other matters than those which lie
within the jurisdiction of the Commander-in-Chief, then undoubtedly the
Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief are each of them in a
false position, for one of them is unnecessary.  The Secretary of State
must either simply confirm the Commander-in-Chief's decisions, in which
case his position as superior authority is a mere form, or he must
enter into the reasons for and against and decide afresh, in which case
the Commander-in-Chief becomes superfluous.  It is bad organization to
have two men, one over the other, both to do the same business.

Mr. Balfour's objection to this arrangement is, however, not that it
sins against the principles of good organization, but that it
practically abolishes the Secretary of State.  It leaves the decision
of questions which arise within the War Office and the army in the
hands of a person who is outside the Cabinet.  In this way it
diminishes the power of the Cabinet, which rests partly upon the
solidarity of that body, and partly upon the practice by which every
branch of Government business is under the control of one or other of
its members.

Both these objections appear to me to rest upon false premises.  I
shall show presently that the duties of the Secretary of State must
necessarily include matters which do not properly come within the scope
of a Commander-in-Chief, and I cannot see how the authority of the
Cabinet to manage the army rationally would be impaired by a War Office
with a military head, the subordinate of the Secretary of State.

But both objections, supposing them to be valid, would be overcome by
making the Commander-in-Chief Secretary of State--that is, by
abolishing the office of Secretary of State for War, and entrusting his
duties to the Commander-in-Chief as a member of the Cabinet.  Why,
then, does not the Government adopt this plan, which at first sight
appears so simple?  There is a good reason.  The Cabinet is a committee
of peers and members of Parliament selected by the leader of a party
from among his followers.  The bond between its members is a party
bond, and their necessary main purpose is to retain their majority in
the House of Commons.  A military Commander-in-Chief means an officer
selected as the representative, not of a party, but of a subject.  He
is the embodiment of strategical wisdom, and to secure that strategical
knowledge and judgment receive due attention in the councils of
government is the purpose of his official existence.  To make him a
member of the Cabinet would be to disturb the harmony of that body by
introducing into it a principle other than that of party allegiance,
and the harmony could not be restored except either by subordinating
strategy to party, which would be a perversion of the
Commander-in-Chief, or by subordinating party to strategy, a sacrifice
which the leaders of a party will not make except under the supreme
pressure of actual or visibly impending war.

The preliminary decision, then, which may be taken as settled--for the
other party if it had been in power would certainly have come to the
same conclusion--is that no military officer, either within or without
the Cabinet, is to have in his hands the whole management of the army;
the absolute power of the Cabinet must be preserved, and therefore no
military officer is to have more than departmental authority; the
threads are not to be united in any hands other than those of the
Secretary of State.  This determination appears to me most unfortunate,
for to my eye the time seems big with great events requiring a British
Government to attach more importance to preparation for conflict than
to the rigorous assertion of Cabinet supremacy.  Be that as it may, the
practical question is whether the proposed sub-division of the business
of the War Office into departments is a good or a bad one.  I think it
incurably bad, because it follows no principle of classification
inherent in the nature of the work to be done.

To find the natural and necessary classification of duties in the
management of an army we must look not at the War Office but at war.
Suppose the country to be engaged in a serious war, in which the army,
or a large portion of it is employed against an enemy, who it may be
hoped will not have succeeded in invading this island.  In that case we
can distinguish clearly between two functions.  There must be an
authority directing against the enemy the troops in the field; a
general with full powers, implicitly obeyed by all the officers and
officials accompanying his army.  There must also be an administrative
officer at home, whose function will be to procure and convey to the
army in the field all that it requires--food, ammunition, clothing and
pay, fresh men and fresh horses to replace casualties.  This officer at
home cannot be the same person as the general in the field; for the two
duties must be carried on in two different places at the same time.
The two functions, moreover, correspond to two different arts or
branches of the military art.  The commander in the field requires to
excel in generalship, or the art of command; the head of the supply
department at home requires to be a skilled military administrator in
the sense not of a wielder of discipline or trainer of troops, but of a
clever buyer, a producer and distributor on a large scale.  Neither of
these officers can be identical with the Secretary of State, whose
principal duty in war is to mediate between the political intentions of
the Government and the military action conducted by the commander in
the field.  This duty makes him the superior of the commander; while
the officer charged with military supply, though he need not be the
formal subordinate of the commander, must yet conform his efforts to
the needs of the army in the field.

There are many important matters which cannot be confined either to the
department of command or to that of supply.  Under this head fall the
terms of service for soldiers, the conditions of recruiting, the
regulations for the appointment and promotion of officers.  These are
properly the subjects of deliberation in which not only military, but
civil opinions and interests must be represented; for their definition
the Secretary of State will do well to refer to a general council of
his assistants, and the ultimate settlement will require the judgment
of the Cabinet, and sometimes also the sanction of Parliament.  In time
of war it is generally necessary quickly to levy extra men, and to
drain into the army a large part of the resources of the country.  Such
measures must be thought out and arranged in advance during peace, for
the greatest care is required in all decisions which involve the
appropriation by the State of more than the usual share of the
energies, the time and the money of its citizens.  Regulations of this
kind can seldom be framed except as the result of the deliberations of
a council of military and civil officers of experience.  These, then,
are the rational sub-divisions of army business.  There is the
department of command, embracing the discipline and training of the
troops, their organization as combatant bodies, the arrangement of
their movements and distribution in peace and war, and all that belongs
to the functions of generalship.  These matters form the proper domain
of a Commander-in-Chief.  Side by side with them is the department of
supply, which procures for the commander the materials out of which his
fighting machine is put together and kept in condition.  Harmony
between them is secured by the authority of the Government, wielded by
the Secretary of State, who regulates according to the state of the
national policy and of the exchequer the amount to be spent by each
department, and who presides over the great council which lays down the
conditions under which the services of the citizens in money, in
property, or in person are to be claimed by the State for its defence.

The examination, then, of the conditions of war, and the application,
during peace, of the distribution of duties which war must render
necessary, lead to the true solution of the difficulty raised by Mr.
Balfour.  The internal affairs of the army are indeed one department,
but the position of head of that department, while it could properly be
filled by a Commander-in Chief, is not and cannot be identical with
that of the minister who personifies the Cabinet in relation to the
army.  The minister ought to be concerned chiefly with the connexion
between the national policy and the military means of giving it effect.
The intention to make the Secretary of State head of the military
department seems to me to prove that the Government really takes no
account of what should be his higher duties.  The lack of the
conception of a national policy is thus about to embarrass the military
management of the army.

It is not my object here to consider in detail how the principles of
organization for war should be applied to the British army.  That
subject has been fully treated by Sir Charles Dilke and myself in the
last chapter of our "Imperial Defence," a chapter which has not been
criticised except with approval.  But I am concerned to show that the
German practice cannot at any point be quoted in support either of the
recommendations of the Hartington Commission or of the proposals now
announced by the Government, which to any one who regards them from the
point of view of the nation, that is of the defence of the Empire, must
appear to be at once unnecessary, rash and inopportune.

        _September_ 3_rd_, 1895.

[1] See in particular the passage in Moltke, _Gesammelte Schriften_, V.
298-9, which I have translated in an essay entitled "The Brain of the
Navy," p. 28.

[2] It seems incredible that so important and so interesting a work as
Moltke's military correspondence in relation to the Danish war of 1864
should hitherto have been ignored by English military writers.

[3] The reference is to a passage in the last chapter of the first
edition, which has been rewritten.

[4] The passage which Moltke disliked was erased in the first edition,
its place being supplied by words borrowed from his letter.  In this
edition it is printed as it was first written, in order to make the
letter intelligible.  The last chapter has in this edition been
condensed, and I hope made simpler and clearer.  One or two other
slight changes in expression arise from the reconsideration of phrases
which Count Moltke marked in reading the proof.


In May, 1887, a Select Committee was appointed to examine into the Army
and Navy Estimates.  On the 8th of July Major-General (now
Lieut-General) Brackenbury, in the course of examination by the
Committee, made a series of comparisons between the English and the
German systems of army management.  He referred particularly to the
great general staff of the German army, which he described as "the
keystone of the whole system of German military organization ... the
cause of the great efficiency of the German army ... acting as the
powerful brain of the military body, to the designs of which brain the
whole body is made to work."  "I cannot but feel," he said, "that to
the want of any such great central thinking department is due that want
of economy and efficiency which to a certain extent exists in our army."

If at any time a statesman should be found to undertake the work of an
English Minister of War, his first wish would be to grasp the nature of
this keystone of the German system, to distinguish in it between
essentials and accessories, to perceive which of its peculiarities are
local, temporary, and personal; and what are the unchangeable
principles in virtue of which it has prospered.  Equipped with this
knowledge, he would be able to reform without destroying, to rise above
that servile imitation which copies defects as well as excellences,
and, without sacrificing its national features, to infuse into the
English system the merits of the German.

For such a statesman, and for the public upon whose support he must
depend, this book has been written.  It is an endeavour to describe the
German general staff and its relation to the military institutions from
which it is inseparable.

To illustrate the general staff at work in war, the campaign of 1866,
rather than that of 1870, has been chosen, because it better
exemplifies some of the relations between strategy and policy.

_December_, 1889.






Political and military situation on the 2nd of July--Position of the
Prussian armies---Topography of the district--Supposed position of the
Austrian army, and consequent arrangements for July 3rd--True position
of the Austrian army discovered--Consequent fresh orders for July
3rd--Which result in a decisive victory



The secret of King William's military success--His selection of a
single adviser, and resolute adherence to his proposals--History of the
office of chief of the general staff--Proceedings at Gitschin the night
before the battle



Prussian system of division of labour and organization of
responsibility--Simplicity of its working illustrated from the fewness
and brevity of the orders issued



Nature of the preparations for a
campaign--Mobilization--Concentration--Influence of considerations of
policy--King William in 1866 anxious to avoid war--Problems solved by
the Prussian staff in preparation for the campaign: calculation of the
force required--Its distribution in the theatre of war--Choice of
points of concentration; formation of two armies in 1866
inevitable--Movement of troops to the points selected; transport by
rail and subsequent marches--Position on June 6th--Opening of campaign
postponed for political reasons--Delay leads to better knowledge of
Austrian movements, and corresponding modification of Prussian
arrangements--King William finally decides for war--Invasion of
Saxony--Position of Prussian armies on June 22nd--Summary



Difficulties which beset the judgment of the conduct of a
campaign--Insufficiency of the attainable knowledge of the motives
which guided the commanders--Reserve therefore incumbent on the
military critic--Illustration of hasty judgment--Impartiality consists
only in the attempt to understand





Spirit of the Prussian officers--The officer the teacher and leader of
his men--System of promotion--Selection for the higher
commands--Superiors responsible for the efficiency of their subordinates



The army corps and its subdivisions--The company, squadron, and battery
commanders--The superior prescribes the object, and leaves to his
subordinate the choice of means--Graduation of authority and
responsibility--Resulting in freedom of superiors from the burden of



Peace training determined solely by the requirements of war--It
culminates in the manoeuvres--Which complete the training of the
troops--And develop and test the capacity of the generals



Review of the means adopted to secure its proper handling--Vastness of
the administrative tasks involved in its management--Sketch of a
mobilized Prussian army corps on the march and in quarters--Dual nature
of its commander's anxieties--System devised to relieve
him--Administrative services organized under two or three responsible
heads--Military functions partly those of direction, partly those of
routine--The latter dealt with by the adjutancy



The bureau which assists the general in the military
direction--Enumeration of its functions in war--And in peace--The chief
of the general staff of the army corps--Summary



Forms a corps by itself, but not a close corporation--Alternation
between service on the general staff and service with the troops--No
career merely on the staff except for scientific work, involving
abandonment of prospect of command--Numbers and distribution of general
staff--Alternative service on great general staff, and on general staff
of a constituent part of the army--Influence on the work of the
experience thus acquired--Members of the general staff dispersed
throughout the army--The general staff recruited from the pick of the
young combatant officers





Direct preparation for war consists in determining beforehand the
distribution of the forces, their concentration and transport to the
frontier--Information on which these arrangements are based collected
by general staff--Its subdivision for the purpose--Thoroughness of the
work--The _Registrande_--Merely a preliminary groundwork--Explains
Prussian knowledge of enemy's resources in 1866 and 1870--Similar
organization in other armies--Railway arrangements--Production of maps



Regeneration of Prussia assisted by education--War school founded by
Scharnhorst in 1810--Scharnhorst's earlier educational work--History of
the war academy since 1810--The present regulations--The order of
service--Object of the war academy--Constitution and
management--Entrance examination--Practical lessons compulsory--The
order of teaching--Standard by which to judge it---Course of study at
the academy--Method of instruction--Tactics--Military
history--History--Staff duties and tour--Comparison with the university



Relation between teaching and research--Exemplified in practice of
general staff--Military history--School of Clausewitz--The critical
method--Historical works of the Prussian general staff--Campaign of
1859--The "applicatory method"--Campaigns of 1866 and of
1870-71--Historical monographs--Connection between military history and
theory--Theory in Prussia the work of individuals--Moltke's paper on
the influence of new firearms upon tactics--His views justified by the
events of 1866--Contributions to military doctrine by individual
members of the Prussian staff--Moral influence of the intellectual lead
taken by the general staff



Character needed for a strategist--Relation between a
commander-in-chief and the chief of his staff--Element of permanent
value in the Prussian system--Classification of duties--General summary










On the afternoon of Monday, the 2nd of July, 1866, King William of
Prussia with his retinue drove into the little town of Gitschin, in the
hilly region of Northern Bohemia, on the southern side of the Giant
Mountains.  His upright bearing scarcely showed the burden of his
sixty-nine years, nor did his frank expression reveal the weight of
care that pressed upon him.  After months of weary diplomacy, the
political crisis had been brought to a head by a resolution of the Diet
of the Germanic Confederation to the effect that Prussia had violated
"the peace of the Confederation," and that the armies of the
confederated States were to be called out.  This resolution, not three
weeks old, meant that Prussia was at war with Saxony, Hanover, Hesse,
Bavaria and Würtemberg, and with the Austrian Empire.  Besides this
long array of enemies there were friends of various degrees of good and
ill will to be considered.  Russia was a benevolent onlooker; Italy an
active ally, not indeed very formidable in the field, but able to
occupy a portion of the Austrian forces.  France was the ambiguous
busybody, waiting to take a side according to the prospect of
advantage, and the French ambassador was on his way to pay his
unwelcome respects to the Prussian king.  Even at home there were grave
difficulties.  The Prussian Parliament, representing at that time a
liberal electorate, was directly opposed to the whole policy of which
the war was a part.  The king had left Berlin to join the army only on
Saturday morning, after a fortnight of constant anxiety over the
complicated operations which had resulted in the capture of the
Hanoverian army and the occupation without fighting of the kingdom of

The invasion of Bohemia by two separate armies had been ordered on June
22nd.  Each of these armies had passed the mountain wall that shelters
Bohemia on the north, and they were now only a day's march apart
quartered in scattered villages a few hours' drive to the east of
Gitschin.  The troops were fatigued with a week's hard work.  The Crown
Prince coming from Silesia with 115,000 men had with various portions
of his army fought three severe battles and as many serious skirmishes.
His force lay on the left bank of the Elbe around his headquarters at
Königinhof, twenty-one miles due east of Gitschin.[1]  Prince Frederick
Charles, the king's nephew, commanded the other army of 140,000 men,
which had met with little serious resistance, though the troops were
tired with the needless marching caused by ill-considered arrangements.
This prince had come to report in person to Gitschin from his
headquarters at Kamenitz, six or seven miles to the east.

The exact whereabouts of the Austrian army was unknown.  It was
supposed to have placed itself in position behind the Elbe, which here
being about the size of the Isis above Oxford, runs from north to south
with a gentle curve to the east.  From Königinhof to Königgrätz the
straight line, five-and-twenty miles long, runs due north and south.
If this line be taken as a bowstring, the Elbe corresponds to the bow,
of which the handle is the fortress of Josephstadt.  Königgrätz, the
southern point of the bow, is in a straight line twenty-seven miles
from Gitschin, and the high road roughly coincides with this line.  On
the Monday afternoon at Gitschin it was believed that the Austrian army
was on the left (eastern) bank of the Elbe, with its flanks covered by
the fortresses of Königgrätz and Josephstadt.  This was an awkward
position to attack, and it had been decided to let both Prussian armies
rest next day, while officers should be sent to study the approaches
and make arrangements for a turning manoeuvre.

Prince Frederick Charles on returning to his headquarters at Kamenitz
learned that the whole supposition was wrong.  Some of his officers
reconnoitring towards Königgrätz had found large bodies of Austrian
troops in bivouac on both sides of the high road along the valley of
the Bistritz brook, which runs nearly parallel with the Elbe about
seven miles to the west of that river.  A comparison of reports showed
that there must be at least four Austrian army corps behind the
Bistritz, so Frederick Charles, interpreting this as indicating the
intention to attack him next morning, determined to be beforehand with
the enemy and himself to attack at daybreak.  At 9 p.m. he issued his
orders for this movement, and at 9.45 sent off to Königinhof a letter
asking the Crown Prince to send one or more corps towards Josephstadt
to occupy the enemy in that quarter.  The chief of his staff was sent
to Gitschin to report to the king, and arrived there at 11 p.m.

"The king[2] at once decided to attack the enemy in front of the Elbe
with all his forces, whether the whole Austrian army or only a large
portion of it should be found there....  Accordingly by his Majesty's
command the following communication to the second army [that of the
Crown Prince] was at once prepared":--

"According to the information received by the first army the enemy in
the strength of about three corps, which, however, may be further
reinforced, has advanced beyond the line formed by the Bistritz at
Sadowa, where an encounter with the first army is to be expected very
early in the morning.

"According to the orders issued, the first army will stand to-morrow
morning, July 3rd, at 2 a.m., with two divisions at Horsitz with one at
Milowitz, one at Cerekwitz, with two at Pschanek and Briskan, the
cavalry corps at Gutwasser.

"Your Royal Highness will at once make the arrangements necessary to be
able to move with all your forces in support of the first army against
the right flank of the enemy's expected advance, and to come into
action as soon as possible.  The orders sent from here this afternoon
under other conditions are no longer valid.


[Illustration: Sketch Map 1--THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF KÖNIGGRÄTZ.]

This note, with a shorter note to the commander of one of the corps
lying between Gitschin and Königinhof (the only part of the second army
at this time west of the Elbe), telling him to be ready for the Crown
Prince's orders, was despatched at midnight.

The whole Austro-Saxon army (eight corps) was in fact concentrated
between the Elbe and the Bistritz, not indeed for attack but for the
defence of a strong position on the left bank of the brook, facing
westwards.  Had the arrangements of Prince Frederick Charles not been
supplemented, the 3rd of July might have been an unfortunate day for
Prussia.  The first army would have been engaged against an enemy
strongly posted and counting nearly double its numbers.  The detachment
by the second army of one corps towards Josephstadt could hardly have
produced a decisive effect, and the rest of the second army would have
been too far away to co-operate in time.  But the order sent from
Gitschin entirely met the situation.  Without interfering with Prince
Frederick Charles's attack it brought the entire second army to his
help in the direction where its action would produce the greatest
effect--on the enemy's flank.

When the morning came, the attack of the first army as it developed,
disclosed the great strength of the Austrian position and the numbers
by which it was defended.  Prince Frederick Charles was unable to do
much more than keep the Austrians engaged until the second army came
up.  The attack of the Crown Prince's leading divisions decided the
day.  With their capture and maintenance of Chlum, the key of the
position, the situation of the Austrian army became critical, and the
issue not only of the fight but of the whole campaign was practically
settled.  The resolution formed between eleven and twelve at night on
July 2nd, in the Lion Inn at Gitschin, had secured the victory of
Königgrätz, perhaps the greatest battle of modern times,[3] and without
exception the most decisive in its results.

[1] See sketch map 1.

[2] _Der Feldzitg von_ 1866 _in Deutschland_.  Redigirt von der
Kriegsgeschichtlichen Abtheilung des groszen Generalstabes, p. 249.

[3] There is a doubt whether the number of combatants was greater at
Leipsic or at Königgrätz.  According to the Belgian Précis
(_Bibliothèque Internationale d'Histoire militaire_) the figures are:--

  At Leipsic: Allies . . . . . . . . . 300,000
      "       French . . . . . . . . . 180,000
                   Total . . . . . . . 480,000

  At Königgrätz: Austrians . . . . . . 215,000
        "        Prussians . . . . . . 220,000
                   Total . . . . . . . 435,000

  According to Rüstow (_Feldhernkunst des 19ten
  Jahrhunderts_) the numbers engaged were:--

  At Leipsic (Oct. 18th): French . . . 130,000
      "           "       Allies . . . 290,000
                     Total . . . . . . 430,000
  At Königgrätz, total of both sides   450,000



The King of Prussia is reputed to have been a modest man and to have
known the limits of his faculties.  He was not a great strategist.  He
once said to his brother (the father of Prince Frederick Charles), "If
I had not been born a Hohenzollern I should have been a
sergeant-major."  How then did he make the swift decision resulting in
a success that would have done credit to the genius of Frederick the
Great or Napoleon?  The answer is supplied by the Prussian historian of
the Italian campaign of 1859.  "There are generals," says this writer,
"who need no counsel, who deliberate and resolve in their own minds,
those about them having only to carry out their intentions.  But such
generals are stars of the first magnitude who scarcely appear once in a
century.  In the great majority of cases the leader of an army will not
be willing to dispense with advice.  The suggestions made may very well
be the result of the deliberations of a smaller or greater number of
men specially qualified by training and experience to form a correct
judgment.  But even among them only one opinion ought to assert itself.
The organization of the military hierarchy should promote subordination
even in thought.  This one opinion only should be submitted for the
consideration of the commander-in-chief by the one person to whom this
particular service is assigned.  Him let the general choose, not
according to rank or seniority, but in accordance with his own personal
confidence.  Though the advice given may not always be unconditionally
the best, yet, if the action taken be consistent and the leading idea
once adopted be steadfastly followed, the affair may always be brought
to a satisfactory issue.  The commander-in-chief retains as against his
adviser the infinitely weightier merit of taking upon himself the
responsibility for all that is done.

"But surround a commander with a number of independent men---the more
numerous, the more distinguished, the abler they are and the worse it
will be--let him hear the advice now of one now of another; let him
carry out up to a certain point a measure judicious in itself, then
adopt a still more judicious but different plan, and then be convinced
by the thoroughly sound objections of a third adviser and the remedial
suggestions of a fourth,--it is a hundred to one that though for each
of his measures excellent reasons can be given, he will lose the

The one authorised adviser here described was by the Prussian system
provided for the king in the person of the chief of the general staff
of the army.  This office had risen to importance during the wars of
liberation, though at that epoch the general staff was in the peace
organization a subordinate branch of the Ministry of War.  The
Prussians fighting Napoleon, had had no Napoleon to pit against him.
The best they could do was to put Blücher in command with Scharnhorst,
and after Scharnhorst's death with Gneisenau to keep him straight.[1]
In the period that followed the peace of 1815 the position of the
general staff received strict definition.  In 1821 Müffling was
appointed its chief, and it was settled that he should not be
subordinate to the Minister of War but directly responsible to the
king.  This constitution of the office on a new basis outside of and
independent of the Ministry of War was an advance in the division of
labour implying the want of a fresh organ to perform functions not
before satisfactorily exercised.  The business of the Ministry of War
was to raise, maintain and administer the army.  The business of the
staff was to direct the army in war, and during peace to make such
special preparations as might be necessary to this end.  In order to be
able to devote all its energies to the conduct of armies fighting in
the field, unhampered by the details of daily administration, the
general staff was placed on an independent footing.  In 1829 Müffling
was succeeded by Lieut-Gen. von Krauseneck, whose successor (in 1848)
was Lieut-Gen. von Reyher.  Reyher died in 1857, when the duties of the
office were intrusted to Major-General von Moltke.

The division of labour between the royal commander-in-chief and the
chief of the staff may be illustrated by the proceedings of the evening
before the battle of Königgrätz.  When General von Voigts-Rhetz (the
chief of Prince Frederick Charles' staff) reached Gitschin and reported
to the king, who was just going to bed, the king sent him to Moltke
saying, "If General Moltke thinks this information involves a fresh
decision he is to come for orders whatever be the time of night."
Voigts-Rhetz went to Moltke's quarters and made his report.  Moltke
made up his mind what ought to be done, and then went to the king, whom
he found in bed, and explained his view that whether the whole Austrian
army or only a part of it was at Sadowa the sound course was to move
forward both Prussian armies, so as to take the Austrians in front and
flank.  An attack like this from two sides at once must in any case
give the Prussians the best chance of victory they could hope for, and
the result would be the more decisive the larger the portion of the
Austrian army to be engaged.  The king at once gave his assent.  Moltke
then wrote the two notes, which were sent off immediately.

It was 11 p.m. when Voigts-Rhetz reached Gitschin.  The letters were
despatched at midnight.  In that hour fall the reports of Voigts-Rhetz
to the king and to Moltke; Moltke's deliberation and determination; his
visit to the king's quarters and the writing and despatching of the
notes.  It appears from these data that there was no discussion, and
that even at this period, the opening of their first great campaign,
the king's confidence in Moltke was as thoroughly established as we
know it to have been four years later.[2]

[1] It might perhaps have been better to have given Scharnhorst and
Gneisenau the actual command.  In any case the arrangement adopted in
1813 laid the foundation of the German system of the general staff.

[2] In the Crown Prince's diary of the Franco-German War we read under
the date January 15th, "Werder asks whether he would not do better now
to abandon Belfort as he thinks he can still defend Alsace?  Moltke
read this out and added, with unshakeable icy calmness, 'Your Majesty
will no doubt approve of General Werder being informed in reply that he
has simply to stay where he is and beat the enemy where he finds him.'
Moltke appeared to me admirable beyond all praise.  In one second he
had settled the whole affair."  _Deutsche Rundschau_, October, 1888, p.



In one sense there is nothing remarkable in the decision of the 2nd of
July.  Given two armies fighting on the same side and within a day's
march of each other, and a hostile army within a day's march of both of
them, it is not difficult to see what the two armies should do.
Nothing is easier than to solve problems of this sort in the study.
Even with the imperfect knowledge of the facts which the Prussians
possessed, the arrangements made at Gitschin were no more than the
suggestions of military common sense.  But simple as the situation
seems, nothing is so difficult as to secure such a solution in the
practice of war.  It is a common-place in that kind of military
criticism which is wise after the event that Benedek might have avoided
disaster if he had only acted on any reasonable plan and stuck to it.
The merit of the Prussians lay in the system which gave military common
sense its due place in the organization, so as to make sure that it
would be applied when wanted.  It was a matter of the judicious
division of labour.

At the headquarters of an army there are a hundred different anxieties.
In peace there is the recruiting, training, clothing, feeding, and
arming of the troops; the distribution of commands; the maintenance of
discipline.  In war most of these matters continue to require
attention; subordinates must be kept to their appointed tasks; above
all the field of politics must be watched from day to day, sometimes
even from hour to hour.  The Prussian system gave to the chief of the
general staff the sole duty of attending to the movements of the
armies, and, regarding each new situation as a problem in strategy, of
explaining the solution which presented itself to his trained judgment
as the best.  Free from the pressure of other cares and
responsibilities an officer in this position would be more likely to
see clearly and judge coolly than one overloaded with work and
distracted with the thousand worries of command.  This is the division
of labour according to kind, which gives each sort of work to a man
specially trained for its performance.  It is supplemented by an
organization of responsibility which relieves a man from detail in
proportion to the extent and grasp of his supervision.  The army was
broken up into minor armies each with its own commander and his chief
of the staff, so that the chief of the general staff himself had to
consider only the large problems of the campaign, the general nature of
the movements to be effected by the two or three pieces on his board.
The head of each army is told the general intention and the share of
work assigned to his force.  He in turn regards his army corps or
divisions[1] as so many units, and besides a statement of the object to
be aimed at gives only such general directions as the corps or division
commanders cannot arrange for themselves.  All the detail of the
movements is left in the hands of the corps or division commanders and
their special staffs.

It is worth while showing by a convincing proof to what simplicity the
system here described reduces the business of supreme command.  On June
21 a Prussian _parlementaire_ handed in to the Austrian outposts a
notification of the commencement of hostilities.  At that time the
first army was concentrated opposite the Austrian frontier across the
border that separates Saxony from Silesia; the second army was
concentrated near Neisse.  From that day until the decisive battle only
five short orders from the king's headquarters are on record:--

(1) _June_ 22.--Telegram from Berlin to both armies (at Görlitz and
Neisse): "His Majesty orders both armies to advance into Bohemia and to
seek to unite in the direction of Gitschin."

A letter of the same date contained a slightly fuller explanation, and
added, to Prince Frederick Charles, that as the second army had the
difficult task of issuing from the mountains the first army must
shorten the crisis by pushing on rapidly.

(2) _June_ 29.--Telegram from Berlin to Prince Frederick Charles: "His
Majesty expects that the first army by a quickened advance will
disengage the second army which, in spite of a series of victorious
actions, is still for the time being in a difficult situation."

(A repetition to Prince Frederick Charles, who had been losing time by
his timid and methodical movements, of his original instructions.)

(3) _June_ 30.--Telegram from Kohlfurt (on the way from Berlin to the
army) to both armies: instructing the second army to maintain itself on
the Elbe and the first army to push forward towards Königgrätz.  (A
modification, to suit events, of the plan of No. 1.)

(4) _July_ 2.--Gitschin.  Order arranging for both armies to rest on
July 3, while the country to the front and the Austrian supposed
position should be reconnoitred.  Cancelled the same evening by

(5) Moltke's note (quoted p. 54) to the Crown Prince.

The brevity and simplicity of these instructions find a counterpart in
the orders issued by the army commanders.  Moltke's note sent off from
Gitschin at midnight on Monday was delivered at the Crown Prince's
headquarters at Königinhof at four on Tuesday morning.  At five General
von Blumenthal, the chief of the general staff of the second army, sent
out an army order of some twenty lines:--

"According to information received here it is expected that the enemy
will to-day attack the first army which is at Horsitz, Milowitz, and
Cerekwitz.  The second army will advance to its support as follows:--

(l) "The first army corps will march in two columns by Zabres and Gr.
Trotin to Gr. Burglitz." ...

And so on for the other corps.  In this way an army of 115,000 men
(four army corps and a cavalry division) was directed by five sentences
of two lines each.  This was sufficient.  The details were arranged for
each army corps by the corps commander with the assistance of his staff

[1] In 1866 the first army was composed of divisions not combined into
army corps.  The second army was worked by army corps.



The movements of an army during a campaign after the first serious
engagements can rarely, if ever, be settled in detail before the war.
They must needs depend largely on those of the enemy, which cannot be
accurately foreseen.  But before war is declared, before the fighting
begins, while the troops are still in their own territory, a
well-conducted government can make its preparations without hindrance.
The army can be placed on a war footing, and assembled at whatever
point or points are judged most advantageous.  These preparations in
Prussia fall in different degrees within the domain of the general

The changes by which the army is placed on a war footing, known
collectively as mobilization, include the calling out of the reserves
of men and horses; their distribution among the various corps and their
equipment; and the creation and completion of the staffs and of the
different services of supply.  All these proceedings in Prussia the
general staff had perfectly arranged and regulated down to the minutest
detail, so that the order needed only to be issued, and the whole
operation would take place as if by clockwork within a given number of
days.[1]  The process of mobilization is in essentials the same
whatever be the frontier on which the war is to be fought.  It places
the troops ready at their ordinary headquarters, and in Prussia no
regiment leaves its headquarters except in perfect readiness to take
the field.

On the other hand, the collection of the army on the frontier is the
first stage of the actual operations, resembling the opening of a game
of chess, and it is of the greatest importance that the points selected
should be those best suited for the beginning of the particular
campaign in prospect.

The placing of an army on a war footing and its transport to a frontier
are political acts of the gravest moment.  They are therefore usually
controlled almost as much by political as by military considerations,
and it is impossible rightly to appreciate them without taking into
account the political circumstances by which they are affected.  The
influence of politics upon the two processes is however different.  In
regard to mobilization, which may be compared to a mechanical process,
the statesman may urge its postponement or its execution by gradual
instalments.  In neither case is the essential nature of the operation
changed, though the amount of friction involved may be increased.  But
the assembling of an army is the immediate preliminary to attack or
defence, and the statesman's unwillingness to attack may affect the
choice of time and place for the collection of the force available.

The King of Prussia was sincerely anxious to avoid a war, and until
June 14 was determined not to take the initiative nor to agree to any
measure which might savour of attack.  He was with difficulty induced
to consent to the successive stages of preparation.  Not until the
beginning of May, when the Austrian mobilization was far advanced and
the transport to the frontiers impending, were the orders for the
Prussian mobilization issued, and that not at once, but piecemeal
between May 3 and May 12.  The forces thus called out formed a total of
326,000 combatants, divided into nine army corps,[2] a reserve corps at
Berlin,[3] the corps of occupation in Holstein, and the corps collected
at Wetzlar from the Prussian garrisons withdrawn from fortresses of the
German confederation.  The arrangements made for the disposition of
these forces between May 12 and June 22 form the basis of the
subsequent success, and may perhaps best be described in the form of a
series of problems and their solutions.

1.  The first step of preparation for a war is the calculation of the
force required.[4]  In the case of our own small wars it is
self-evident that such a calculation is necessary, and the campaign of
1882 in Egypt is an instance in which it was worked out to a nicety.
It might seem equally a matter of course that when two Continental
states go to war each of them will assume from the beginning that its
whole available force will be employed.  Yet instances are numerous in
which campaigns have been lost mainly through neglect to work out this
calculation.  In 1859 the Austrians undertook with little more than
half their army a war against the combined forces of France and
Sardinia; in 1885 King Milan attacked the Bulgarians without calling
out the whole of the Servian army.  In both cases defeat was largely
due to this initial error.

The basis of the calculation is furnished by an estimate of the force
which will be at the disposal of the enemy.  In 1866 the Prussian staff
had to face the preliminary difficulty that it was uncertain even as
late as May 8 which of the German states would be on the Prussian and
which on the Austrian side.  The least favourable assumption was made,
and it was estimated that the hostile forces would be in North Germany
36,000, in South Germany 100,000, and in Saxony and Austria 264,000,
making a total of 400,000 men.[5] There could be no doubt that Prussia
must employ the whole of her available forces.

2.  The next question was how to distribute the Prussian forces against
these three sets of enemies.  A proportionate division based on the
estimate just given would have resulted in the employment of 215,000
men against Austria and Saxony, of 30,000 against North Germany, and of
80,000 against South Germany.  The staff, however, expected that the
South German forces would not be ready until a late stage of the war,
and might in the first instance be neglected.  Hanover and Hesse lying
between the two halves of Prussia and separating Westphalia and Rhenish
Prussia from the main body of the kingdom,[6] were more serious foes.
It would be necessary to strike hard at them, if possible, before their
preparations could be completed.  But the fate of Prussia and of
Germany really depended upon the issue of the conflict with Austria.
If she were beaten here, Prussia would in any case be undone; if she
were successful in this struggle, the minor states, even though not
themselves beaten, must needs fall under her sway.  It was decided to
employ almost the whole army (eight and a half corps and the reserve
corps, 278,000 men) against Austria and Saxony, and to meet the rest of
the German enemies with a scratch army (48,000) made up of half the
seventh corps and of the troops assembled in Holstein and at Wetzlar.
This force was destined first of all to disarm Hesse and Hanover
(capitulation of Langensalza June 29), and then to attack and defeat
the South German contingents.

3. The next problem is the choice of the point or points at which the
army is to be assembled for the purpose of beginning the operations.
This is the first act of generalship in the campaign, and a mistake
here is usually the prelude of misfortune.  Every general wishes, if
possible, to meet with his whole force the divided forces of the enemy,
and therefore his first thought is to assemble his army at one place,
or at least to collect it so that all its parts may unite for battle.

[Illustration: Sketch Map 2--PRUSSIA in 1866]

The Prussian army, if assembled in Upper Silesia, would be at the point
of Prussia nearest to the Austrian capital; if assembled at Görlitz,[7]
it would interpose between Berlin or Breslau and an Austrian army
approaching from Bohemia.  These were, therefore, the most favourable
points of assembly, the one for attack and the other for defence.  But
the position in Silesia would lose much of its value unless it were
intended, as soon as the army should be ready, to march on Vienna; and
this course in the middle of May was, to the king's mind, inadmissible.
There was, however, a second quite unanswerable argument against
assembling the whole army at either place.  The movement could not be
carried out in a reasonable time.  To march to either district from the
distant provinces would have been an affair of many weeks, and the
concentration would run the risk of being too late.  The difficulty
could not be overcome by the use of the railways.  To move a whole army
corps by a single railway required, according to the nature of the
line, irrespective of the distance, from nine to twelve days.  But for
the transport to Upper Silesia only one, and for that to Görlitz only
two, through railways were available, so that a very long time would be
required to move the whole army by rail to either point.  Moreover,
neither of the districts in question is so fertile as to be able to
feed a large army for more than a few days.  As the king was determined
not to fight, if fighting could be avoided, it might become necessary
to keep the army waiting for some weeks after its concentration.  This
would be to starve it before a shot had been fired.  Thus it was
impracticable in the political circumstances to collect all the nine
corps into one army, either for offence or defence.  Separate armies
had to be formed, and considerations of defence to prevail.  The
principal centres of concentration were fixed in the neighbourhood of
Görlitz and of Schweidnitz, points on the lines of an Austrian advance
towards Berlin and Breslau respectively from Northern Bohemia, where at
this time (the middle of May) the Austrian army was believed to be

4. Upon the basis of this decision the movement of the troops to the
frontier was arranged.  The railway system, as has been seen, did not
admit of moving the corps directly and speedily to Görlitz and
Schweidnitz.  Five railways in all were available, leading to points on
the Prussian frontier facing the kingdom of Saxony and the Austrian
Empire.  They ended at Zeitz, Halle, Hertzberg, Görlitz, and
Schweidnitz (or Neisse), places scattered along a curve some 250 miles
long.  The quickest practicable way of assembling the army was to use
all these railways at once, and when the troops had thus been deposited
on the frontier to continue the concentration by marches.  The shortest
lines of march to assemble the whole army would be the radii leading to
the centre of the curve; but this was in the enemy's territory, so that
these lines, if they had been for other reasons desirable, could not be
adopted before war had been declared.  The alternative was to
concentrate by marches along the circumference, and this was the plan
adopted.  Each corps, as soon as its debarkation from the train was
complete, was marched along the arc towards the point of concentration
selected for it.

The corps from Posen and Silesia, collected at Schweidnitz and Neisse
(grouped together as the second army under the Crown Prince), were
moved to their right to Landshut and Waldenburg.[8]  Those of
Westphalia (half a corps) and Rhenish Prussia were detrained at Zeitz
and Halle, and marched round the frontier of Saxony to the point where
the Elbe emerges from that kingdom.  These troops, with the reserve
corps from Berlin, formed the Elbe army, destined to continue its
eastward movement by the invasion of Saxony.  The corps from Pomerania,
Brandenburg, and Prussian Saxony, were combined into the first army,
under Prince Frederick Charles.  They were first assembled between
Torgau and Cottbus, and then marched along the frontier towards
Görlitz, reaching the western corner of Silesia (neighbourhood of
Hoyerswerda) about the end of the first week in June, when the other
movements described were also completed.

5. The staff was now anxious to begin the campaign.  The three armies
could not be united on Prussian soil without leaving some important
district unprotected, nor await where they were the Austrian attack
without the risk that one of them in isolation might be exposed to the
blows of a superior force.  This same risk only would be incurred in
the attempt to meet by a concentric advance towards some point of
Austrian territory; it would increase with every additional day allowed
for the Austrian preparations.  But the king still thought a settlement
possible, and would not permit hostilities to commence.

6. On June 11, the Prussian staff learned that of seven Austrian army
corps destined to operate against Prussia six were in Moravia, not in
Bohemia, as had been supposed.  The inference was, that the Austrians
contemplated advancing upon Breslau by way of Neisse, for which
movement the data obtained showed that they would be able to cross the
Silesian border with five or six army corps by about June 19.  To meet
this invasion, if it should take place, the second army was moved to
the river Neisse, facing south, and was reinforced by the guard corps
from Berlin, and by the first corps, moved originally from East Prussia
by rail to Görlitz, and now by marching transferred from the first army
to the second.  At the same time the first army continued its eastward
march as far as Görlitz, where it would be near enough to reach Breslau
as soon as the Austrians, if they should really invade Silesia, or, if
not required in that direction, could be moved readily into either
Saxony or Bohemia.  These movements were effected by June 19.

The Elbe army was also to be moved to the east, to join the first army,
but its most convenient route from Torgau to Görlitz lay through
Dresden.  While the changes just described were in the course of
execution, the political situation also had changed.  The hostile
resolution of the diet on June 14 enabled the king to make up his mind.
On June 15 war was declared against Saxony.  On the 16th the Elbe army
crossed the border; on the 18th occupied Dresden; and on the 19th,
connection having been established with the first army, now about
Görlitz, was placed under the command of Prince Frederick Charles.
This prince concentrated the first army to the south of Görlitz, on the
confines of Saxony and Silesia, close to the Bohemian border, while the
Elbe army from Dresden rapidly closed up to his right flank.  The
intention was that both should advance as one army into Bohemia, and
move, with the left wing skirting the foot of the Giant Mountains, to
meet the second army.  There had been no sign of an Austrian attack on
Silesia, so the Crown Prince was ordered to prepare for a march
westward into Bohemia to meet his cousin.  On the 19th he was to send
one corps in advance to Landshut, still keeping the rest of his force
on the Neisse ready to face either south or west.  A day or two later
two more of his corps were withdrawn to the mountains, a single corps
only remaining on the Neisse, and much trouble being taken to deceive
the Austrians into the belief that the whole army was still there and
was about to march towards Moravia.  This was the position of both
Prussian armies on June 22, when the telegram already quoted ordered
them to cross the Bohemian frontier and to try to effect their union
about Gitschin.


It will be observed that from the first stage of the preparations one
object, the concentration of as large a force as possible for the
purpose of defeating the Austro-Saxon forces, had been followed by the
chief of the staff.  His arrangements were at first controlled by
political considerations, the effect of which in the circumstances was
to render impracticable the formation at the outset of a single army.
Afterwards, before war had been finally decided upon, the armies were
moved to meet the changed situation created by the Austrian
arrangements at length known.  The invasion of Saxony was a further
stage in the general concentration.  By June 22 it had become clear
that the Austrians were not invading Silesia.  The question was,
whether to continue through Prussian territory the march of the first
army towards the second--a safe course now that the Austrian position
was known--or to take for both the shortest line of meeting, that into
Bohemia, with the attendant risk to the second army.  The bolder course
was adopted, and was abundantly justified by success.

[1] The details of the operation of mobilization are kept secret, but
the elementary principles have everywhere been copied from the Prussian
system and may be explained in an imaginary example.  Suppose a company
to have a peace strength of 120 men and to pass each year forty men
into the reserve, receiving instead the same number of recruits, the
war strength being 240.  The public announcement of the decree for
mobilization makes it the duty of each of the 120 reservists to proceed
directly to the headquarters of the company, where they will arrive,
according to the distance from their homes, say on the first, second,
or third day of mobilization.  The captain has a nominal list of the
whole company, and keeps in store under his own responsibility the
complete new war kit for each of the 240 men.  As they arrive the men
pass the doctor, receive their kits, and are told off to their posts in
the completed company.  According to the care with which the rules have
been framed (this is the staff's principal share in the work) so as to
divide the labour, occupying every man from the general to the bugler
and giving to each that work which he can best do, and to none more
than he can do in the time allowed, will be the rapidity, ease, and
certainty with which the whole mobilization will be effected.

[2] The guard with its peace quarters at Berlin, and corps I. to VIII.
quartered in peace in districts corresponding in the main to the eight
provinces: Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Prussian Saxony, Posen,
Silesia, Westphalia, Rhenish Prussia.  See sketch map 2.

[3] Called out on May 19th.

[4] "What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not
down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet
him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the
other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage and desireth
conditions of peace."

[5] The numbers actually called out against Prussia proved to be:--

  North Germans . . . . . .  25,000
  South Germans . . . . . .  94,000
  Austrians and Saxons  . . 271,000
      Total . . . . . . . . 390,000

[6] See sketch map 2.

[7] See sketch map 3.

[8] See sketch map 3.



Except the conduct of military operations there is nothing so difficult
as to appreciate them truly.  A multitude of considerations affect the
leading of armies and many of them evade the research of the historian.
The critic therefore can rarely be sure that he has placed himself in
the exact position of the general whose acts he is studying.  If, for
example, he supposes a commander to have been without information which
in fact he possessed, his judgment may be founded upon a picture
completely distorted.  Such mistakes are made even by the most careful
historians.  The Prussian staff history of the campaign of 1866 alleges
that the Austrian commanders were unaware of the Crown Prince's march
westwards from the Neisse.  The Austrian staff history shows that very
good information on the subject had reached the Austrian headquarters
as early as June 25, before any of the Crown Prince's corps had crossed
the border.  Where it is so difficult to avoid error it is rash to be
dogmatic.  But it may be permissible to raise a doubt as to the value
of some of the judgments that seem to have become traditional
concerning this campaign.  Mr. O'Connor Morris, for example, in the
_Academy_ of March 23, 1889, wrote:--"The strategy of Moltke is not
perfection, as worshippers of success have boasted, but he never
attempted, in his invasion of France, to unite widely divided armies,
within striking distance of a concentrated foe, as he did at Gitschin,
under the very beard of Benedek."[1]  A similar criticism, without the
sneer, may be found in the Belgian _Précis_.  But neither writer has
explained where the mistake lay.  Even the Austrian historian declares
that, given the Prussian positions on the Neisse and in Lusatia, the
only sound course was the advance to meet at Gitschin.  Was the error
in the original dispersion of the forces along the frontier?  If so,
the critics should explain what alternative was practicable in view of
the political conditions and of the geography of the theatre of war.
Would it not be safer to say that the preparations for the campaign of
1866 show the influence upon strategy of a very complicated political
situation?  The opening of the campaign of 1870 presented in comparison
a simple problem.  There was a single enemy to be faced; and there was
no motive for hesitation or delay.  Moreover, the German staff could
count upon beginning the campaign on the least favourable hypothesis
with 330,000 men against 250,000.[2]  Possibly in 1866 the strategists'
task would have been easier, and posterity would have thought no worse
of Prussian policy if the king had realized early in May that
mobilization meant war, and had given Moltke from that time a free
hand.  But this again is a criticism easy to make twenty years after
the event.  The conflict was between Germans, and the general opinion
at the time condemned the Prussian policy.  Moreover, Prussia had then
no important success on record since the decisive stroke at Waterloo.
In these conditions the king's hesitation was natural enough, and even
the anxiety to cover every part of Prussian territory is quite
intelligible.  Much must needs remain obscure, for it may be years
before the personal history of the principal actors at this period is
given to the world.  Meanwhile, the function of criticism is to seek
first of all to understand the events with which it deals.

It is of little purpose to read a summary of the movements of the
troops during a campaign, and to be given a list of the mistakes made
by the generals on each side.  Such a system leads the reader to
suppose that generals as a rule have been remarkably careless, weak,
and ignorant, and entirely conceals from him the difficulties which
always beset the conduct of operations.  But where a measure adopted in
the field is shown by the result to have been attended with risks or
followed by disaster, the attempt to ascertain why it was employed
invariably throws light upon the nature of war; and this method of
study, though it offers little satisfaction to the vanity that likes to
take a side and to distribute praise or blame, rewards, by quickening
the insight and forming the judgment, the labour which it requires.

[1] If Mr. O'Connor Morris will mark on a map the positions of the
Austrian and Prussian armies on June 22nd, the date of the order "to
unite widely divided armies," etc., he will discover that the Austrian
forces were distributed over an area not less extended than that which
included both Prussian armies.

[2] _German Staff History_, 1870-71, vol. i. p. 74.





The general staff has been described as the "brain of an army."  The
metaphor is peculiarly apt, for the staff, like the human brain, is not
independent but a part of an organic whole.  It can perform its
functions only in connection with a body adapted to its control, and
united with it by the ramifications of a nervous system.  How then is
the Prussian army adapted to receive the impulses conveyed from its
intellectual centre?

An army is what its officers make it, and in the Prussian army the
officers take their profession seriously.  It may be doubted whether
there is in the world any body of men so entirely single-minded in
their devotion to duty.  Most of them are, according to English
notions, ridiculously poor.  Their pay is small, and they have never
made the acquaintance of luxury.

In 1874 the emperor in an official address to the army wrote, "The more
general the spread of luxury and comfort, the more solemnly is the
officer confronted by the duty never to forget that his honourable
position in the state and in society has not been gained and cannot be
maintained by material wealth.  Not only does an enervating mode of
life damage the combatant qualities of an officer, but the pursuit of
gain and comfort would dangerously undermine the very ground upon which
the officer's position is built up."[1]  These words fairly express the
spirit of those to whom they were addressed, and many an officer takes
a pride in his poverty, and starves with cheerfulness and even with
merriment.  Some of the superior officers have set the example by
abandoning the dearly-loved cigar, and a Prussian officer's mess has
decidedly no attractions for the gourmet.

"Teacher and leader in every department is the officer.  This implies
that he is superior to his men in knowledge, experience, and strength
of character.  Without fearing responsibility, every officer in all
circumstances however extraordinary is to stake his whole personality
for the fulfilment of his mission, even without waiting for orders."[2]
This is the foundation stone of Prussian discipline, the secret by
which is secured "the legitimate ascendency of the officers, the
justified confidence of the soldiers, the daily interchange of mutual
devotion, the conviction that each one is useful to all and that the
chiefs are the most useful of all."[3]  The attainment of the ideal
thus officially set up is facilitated by the system of promotion.  The
principle of seniority, without which no public service can be a
profession or offer a career, is allowed its legitimate place, being
modified only by the retirement of the incapable, and by special
selection for the general staff.  "It is necessary that the higher
commands should be attained only by such officers as unite
distinguished abilities and military education with corresponding
qualities of character and with bodily activity."[4]  Moreover, "it is
the special duty of the general commanding to see that all the
commandants of fortresses, all the commanders of divisions, brigades,
regiments, and battalions, and all the field-officers in the district
of his army-corps, retain their posts only so long as they have the
bodily activity necessary for service in the field, and the knowledge
and capacity needed for their several particular callings.  The moment
he notices in this respect the slightest change to the detriment of my
service, it is his duty, for which he will be held responsible, to
inform me.  He must also send me the names of all officers who
distinguish themselves or are fit for a higher post."[5]

The first feature, then, of the Prussian system is the method by which
it is attempted, with considerable success, always to put the right man
in the right place, and having done so, to see that he keeps up to the

[1] _Verordnung über die Ehrengerichte der Offiziere im Preussischen
Heere_, May 2nd, 1874.

[2] _Felddienstordnung_, 1887, § 6.

[3] Taine, _L'Ancien Régime_, p. 108.

[4] Cabinet order of May 8th, 1849.

[5] Cabinet order, _i.e._ King's order in Cabinet of March 13th, 1816.



Organization implies that every man's work is defined; that he knows
exactly what he must answer for, and that his authority is co-extensive
with his responsibility.

A modern army fights by army corps, and by army corps the Prussian army
is managed, in peace as well as in war.  Each province is an army corps
district.[1]  All the troops in it belong to the corps[2] and are under
the command of the general, who has in military matters absolute
authority, being independent of the Ministry of War and responsible
directly to the king and to no one else.  Every question that comes up
in the corps can be finally settled by its commanding general, except a
very few matters which require the king's assent, or an arrangement
with the Ministry of War.  But comparatively few questions of detail
come as high as the commanding general.

His corps is at all times organized very much as it would be in war.
In the infantry four companies make a battalion, three battalions a
regiment, two regiments a brigade, two infantry brigades with their due
proportion of cavalry and artillery form an infantry division.  In the
cavalry four or five squadrons form the regiment, two or three
regiments the brigade, and two or three brigades the division.  In the
artillery two or three batteries form a group (_Abtheilung_, now
officially translated brigade division), two or three groups a
regiment, and two regiments a brigade.  The corps is made up of
infantry divisions, a cavalry brigade or division,[3] and an artillery

Responsibility and authority begin with the smallest units, the
company, squadron, or battery.  The captain, the commander of such a
unit, is the lowest officer who has the power of punishment.  In his
hands lies in peace the training, and in war the leading of the
company, squadron, or battery.  The lieutenants and in a lower sphere
the noncommissioned officers are his assistants acting under his
responsibility.  In the company, to take the infantry as the type, the
captain is supreme.  The methods of instruction, the distribution of
time, and the order to be followed in the process are matters which he
settles according to his own judgment.  His superiors abstain from any
interference.  They are concerned only with the result, of which they
satisfy themselves by inspection at the end of the period assigned to
company training.  If any of the soldiers have not been properly
instructed, or if the company is not fit to take its place in the
battalion, that is the captain's fault, and he is likely to lose his
chance of promotion.

The battalion commander receives his trained companies and practises
them in battalion manoeuvres.  His business is with the battalion as a
body composed of four units, not with the internal affairs of the
companies.  In battle as on the parade ground this rule is observed.
For example: "If a battalion receives the order to attack a farm its
commander must assign to the several companies the part which each is
to play, must prescribe the points of attack, and at least in general
terms the directions of their advance.  He must also arrange the time
of their coming into action so that they may co-operate.  But how each
company is to accomplish the task assigned to it, in what formation it
is to fight--these and similar details he will do well, if he knows
that his captains have the necessary insight, to leave to them."[4]

In this way authority and responsibility are graduated throughout the
army corps.  Every commander above the rank of captain deals with a
body composed of units with the interior affairs of none of which he
meddles, except in the case of failure on the part of the officer
directly responsible.  The higher the commander and the greater his
authority, the more general becomes the supervision and the less the
burden of detail.  The superior prescribes the object to be attained.
The subordinate is left free to choose the means, and is interfered
with only in exceptional circumstances.  Thus every officer in his own
sphere is accustomed to the exercise of authority and to the free
application of his own judgment.

By this system the labour and responsibility of commanding an army
corps are reduced to practicable dimensions.  Regimental affairs are
settled by the colonels; brigade affairs by the major-generals.  The
divisions commanded by lieutenant-generals are completely organized
bodies capable, in case of need, of independent action and requiring
little supervision from the corps commander.  The general commanding
the army corps has to deal directly with only a few subordinates, the
commanders of his infantry divisions, of his cavalry brigade or
division, and of his artillery brigade, and with the heads of the corps
organizations for such purposes as supply and medical service.  He
inspects and tests the condition of all the various units, but he does
not attempt to do the work of his subordinates.  He is thus at liberty
to keep his mind concentrated upon those essential matters which
properly require his decision, for example, in war, whether he will
advance or retire, whether he will move to the right or to the left,
whether to fight or to postpone an engagement; how to distribute his
force;--what portion he will at once engage and where he will place his
reserve.  When he receives an order from the army headquarters he is
able to deliberate upon the best way of realizing the intention
conveyed, for he is as far as possible unhampered by the worry of
detail.  He can make up his mind coolly, a very necessary process,
seeing that he will stake life and reputation to carry out what he has
once decided.

[1] The civil and military boundaries are not quite identical.

[2] The garrisons of fortresses are exceptions.

[3] In recent years the cavalry division has been made independent of
the army corps.

[4] Blume, _Strategic_, p. 136.



"The demands which war makes upon the troops must determine their
training in peace....  The tasks of the soldier in war are simple.  He
must always be able to march and to use his weapon.  He can do both
only so far as his moral and intellectual qualities suffice and his
bodily and military training has been effective.  Moreover, his
performance will be fully useful only when it is guided by the will of
the leader and regulated by discipline."[1]

The ideal here formulated is realized by devoting much time and
attention to training and teaching each individual recruit.  Next comes
the exercise of the company, also as thorough as possible.  These two
stages of schooling occupy the greater part of the military year.  Then
when the companies are perfect they take their places in the battalion,
and the battalions in due time in the regiment and in the brigade.  The
crown of the whole training is formed by the manoeuvres, in which
divisions and occasionally army corps are assembled for practice,
resembling as nearly as may be the operations of actual war.

Several objects are served by these manoeuvres.  In the first place,
the separate exercise of brigades preceding the manoeuvres proper
completes the formal training of the troops, and gives practice in the
evolutions of large homogeneous masses of each of the three arms.  The
manoeuvres of divisions and army corps serve to accustom the three arms
to act in concert, and to overcome the great friction which at first
always impedes the movements of such large composite bodies.  All the
various manoeuvres, moreover, give the superior officers the
opportunity of inspecting the work of their inferiors, that is, of
ascertaining how far the training of the troops has been thorough, and
with what degree of skill they are handled.

Not the least important purpose of the manoeuvres is the training of
commanders.  The troops are divided into two parties supposed to be
enemies at some stage of an imaginary war.  The commander of each side
learns from the umpire the nature of the supposed operations which have
brought his forces into their actual situation, together with such
information concerning the enemy as in real war he might be presumed to
have obtained.  He has then to act according to his own judgment.  In
this way the generals are practised and tested in the power of rapidly
and surely grasping situations such as occur in war and of acting upon
the insight thus gained.  The arrangements are so made as to afford
practice like this to as many officers as possible of all ranks, though
it is chiefly the generals, the commanders of brigades, divisions, and
army corps who profit by them.

Thus the Prussian system of training produces as the net result on the
one hand an army corps as an instrument pliable to its commander's
touch, so that it can be surely and easily handled in any situation,
and on the other hand a general skilled in the manipulation of this
powerful and complicated instrument.

[1] _Felddienstordnung_, §§ 1, 2.



The Prussian army in 1866 consisted of nine army corps.  The German
army to-day has twenty, and in case of war the number would be
increased.  Large forces like these are rendered manageable by grouping
them into armies of four or five corps, and dealing with the armies as
units.  It is evident that the working of the armies and therefore of
the whole depends upon the ease and certainty with which the several
corps are directed.  Some of the means taken to secure this end have
been already touched upon.  In the first place each of the component
parts of the corps must be perfectly trained and disciplined.
Secondly, the corps must have had so much practice in working together
as a whole that it has none of the weaknesses of a "scratch team."
Thirdly, the general must be a real commander, able to read a
battle-field, to judge a situation coolly, and to decide promptly.
These qualities are secured partly by the selection[1] exercised in the
appointment of generals, partly by the frequent opportunities for
practice and testing afforded by the manoeuvres.

But it is not enough to secure a general of tactical and strategical
ability and experience.  He must be protected against the danger of
being absorbed by the worries of administration.

Before a body of 30,000 men can be assembled on the ground selected for
manoeuvres or on the field of battle, a vast amount of business must be
transacted, requiring for its performance abilities of quite another
sort than those needed to handle and lead the troops in action.  The
men must all be clothed and equipped.  They must be properly and
regularly fed.  The task of supplying an army corps with provisions is
like that of feeding a small town which, instead of remaining in its
place, moves every day to a new site ten or fifteen miles distant from
the old one.  Among 30,000 men there will always be a number of sick
who require attention.  If the corps should meet the enemy there may be
thousands of wounded to be tended, removed, protected, and fed.  Order
must be maintained, so that a special set of functionaries is needed to
apply and enforce the laws by which the army is regulated.  The numbers
of the corps can be maintained only by a constant stream of fresh men,
trained soldiers not before employed in the war, arriving from its
peace quarters.

Every one of these matters needs constant attention, or the whole
machine would get out of gear and cease to work.

The friction that inevitably arises from these complicated necessities
is diminished and to some extent overcome by the organization of
responsibility among the several bodies composing the army corps.  But
the anxieties of the commanding general can never be removed.  In order
to realize the magnitude and variety of his cares, the attempt may be
made to draw a rough picture of the army corps at work during a

The corps is moving westward along one of the great Continental
high-roads.  A vast forest spreading on each side for many miles
confines the troops to the actual roadway.

The cavalry division is looking out for the enemy in the open country
twenty miles in advance to the west of the forest.  Parties of hussars
in every road, lane, and bypath are watching the country as they move
on across a front of eight or nine miles, followed two or three miles
behind on the main road by the rest of the division, a column two miles
long of dragoons, uhlans, and horse artillery.  At the head of this
column is the lieutenant-general commanding the cavalry division, with
his staff.  It is ten o'clock in the morning, and under the hot July
sun a cloud of dust envelops all but the leading squadron as horse and
guns move on at a steady trot.  Now and then a fitful breeze carries
the dust towards the south and reveals for a moment the long cavalcade.

The pace has just slackened to a walk as two horsemen gallop towards
the road from the north-west.  They are a young officer of hussars and
a private whose bandaged arm shows that he has been wounded.  Both are
covered with dust, and their horses show signs of extreme fatigue.  As
they approach the road the general and his suite move on to a pasture
field to the right to meet them, the column continuing along the road.
The lieutenant respectfully salutes and tells his story briefly.  A few
questions are asked and answered.  The column is halted, and during the
short rest which ensues the general dictates a note which is written by
one of his officers.  The note is handed to an uhlan, who gallops off
at once along the road towards the rear.  A few minutes later the
signal to mount is given, and the whole mass of horsemen and guns in a
succession of parallel columns leaves the road and trots over the
fields to the north-west, soon disappearing in a fold of the ground.

The uhlan sent back with the letter approaches after a five-mile gallop
a group of comrades lying by the roadside, with their horses tethered
near in the grass.  One of the horses is saddled and bridled, and as
the messenger comes up its rider springs into the saddle.  A few
sentences are exchanged as the new-comer, dismounting, hands the note
to the fresh rider, who in turn gallops off along the road towards the
rear.  Three times the note thus changes hands.  The fourth rider,
whose station was five miles from the western edge of the forest
region, is continually meeting troops on the march.  He passes first a
few squadrons of cuirassiers, then a mile or two further infantry,
guns, more infantry, and then a string of waggons a mile long, laden
with cartridges, shell, bridging material, and appliances for the
comfort of wounded men.  All this is merely the advanced guard of the
army corps.

As the rider draws nearer to the wood he finds a mile of clear road,
and then meets the general commanding the corps to whom his note is

The hussar lieutenant had started before dawn, and after riding many
miles to the front, evading the enemy's scouting parties, had watched a
hostile cavalry division break up from its bivouac.  He had been able
to identify the division and to ascertain that it was unusually strong
both in cavalry and horse artillery.  On his return he had been seen by
an enemy's patrol, and had escaped capture only by running the gauntlet.

The information thus obtained is of great importance, not only to the
cavalry division, whose commander has promptly acted upon it, but to
the army corps and to the army of which it is a part.  The general
commanding the army corps therefore sends an officer with the report
and a further note from himself to the army headquarters in rear, on
the east of the forest.  This officer having to follow the high-road,
meets and rides past the main body of the army corps on the march.

The leading brigade of infantry, with a number of guns and ammunition
waggons, covers the road for a mile and three-quarters; then for
another mile and a half is the corps' artillery, then the whole second
division of infantry (with its cavalry regiment and its artillery)
trailing its length for four and a half miles.  Then after having the
road to himself for a quarter of an hour, as he emerges from the forest
on its eastern side, the rider passes the heavy baggage, a line of
military carts and waggons conveying those requisites which the troops
need every night for comfort, and which cannot be carried in the
knapsacks.  These waggons stretch for a mile and a half along the road.
Soon after passing them the rider takes a cross-road leading to the
north, just as he is meeting the foremost portion of the army corps
trains, which in their turn would cover the road for eleven or twelve
miles with their long succession of vehicles: ammunition waggons for
guns and small arms; provision stores for four days for 30,000 men; hay
and oats for the horses of cavalry, artillery, and waggons; the corps
pontoon train; the hospital carts, and a multitude of country carts
pressed into the service to enable extra stores of provisions to be
taken on, and to relieve the military waggons.

Thus from the general to the rear of the baggage proper would be nearly
twelve miles, from the rear of the baggage to the rear of the trains,
if all were on the march at the same time, another twelve miles, while
the general himself was found nearly five miles behind the front of the
advanced guard of the corps.

When the officer, late in the afternoon, rides back from the army
headquarters with a letter for the corps commander, he finds a
different scene.  At a village in the middle of the forest the leading
waggons of the train are beginning to form up north and south of the
road.  There is here an extensive open space, which before night will
be packed with waggons.  Farther on the road is clear.  The heavy
baggage has dispersed among the cross-roads, each set of waggons
seeking the quarters of its regiment.  At the western edge of the
forest the troops of the army corps have taken possession of all the
villages on the road and in the neighbourhood, so that within a radius
of six miles from where the road enters the open country every farm or
cluster of buildings is tenanted by its company or battery.  The
villages farthest to the west contain the advanced guard, and beyond
them still the outposts have placed picquets and sentries in all the
roads and lanes leading to the west.

The general's quarters are in a straggling village on the main road, at
the White Cross Inn.  In front of the house an officer is explaining to
an old farmer that the provisions produced by the villagers are
satisfactory, that no further requisition will be made, but that for a
further supply of oats, cheese, and bacon, if delivered next morning,
payment will be made in cash.  In a small parlour of the inn two
officers are busy examining the contents of half a dozen mail bags
collected from post-offices in the district.

Upstairs the general, who has just come in from the outposts, is
hearing reports.  The corps intendant proposes to form a temporary
depot at the village where the trains are parked, and to send back the
requisitioned carts next morning to the railway terminus assigned to
the corps.  Another officer announces that the telegraph from army
headquarters will by evening be opened as far as the same village, a
third that 150 horses are unserviceable, and that it will be two days
before fresh horses from home will reach the depot.  A fourth brings a
list of the number of men who are disabled by sore feet, diarrhoea, and
sunstroke.  At this moment comes the letter from army headquarters,
which instructs the general to be ready at short notice to march his
whole corps towards the north, along the front of the forest.  This
involves the movement of the trains along a cross-road through the
forest, and arrangements must be made to ensure this road, which is a
bad one, being cleared of hindrances and made fit to bear the heavy

The examination of the mail bags has yielded fresh information about
the enemy.  All the officers but one are dismissed, and the general,
with his confidential secretary, is proceeding to study the new
situation thus revealed when a fresh messenger gallops up to the house
with a note to the effect that the advanced guard of the neighbouring
corps ten miles to the south is attacked by a superior force of the
enemy, and that its commander begs the general to move his corps to its
assistance, so as to be able to join in the action before noon next day.

This picture is a mere shadow of the reality.[2]  It may help however
to illustrate the dual nature of the cares by which a general is
distracted.  He has at the same time to perform the military functions
of command and to superintend the business of management.  His duty as
a commander involves continuous attention to the enemy's movements and
to the instructions of his own chief.  He must study the intentions of
the army commander to whom he is subordinate and conform to them in his
own movements against the enemy.  But the mere management of his corps
requires an effort which tends to absorb his energies and make him
forget both his commander and the enemy.

A good system must as far as possible relieve the general from these
cares of management, so that he can keep his mind free to study his
instructions and watch his foe.  Accordingly side by side with that
distribution of authority among the combatant units which facilitates
the exercise of the general command is an organization upon similar
principles of the administrative services.  The supervision of each
branch is in the hands of an executive officer in the _entourage_ of
the general.

The corps intendant is responsible for the supplies of provisions,
stores, and money, and for their transport.  The hospitals and
ambulance work are controlled by the surgeon-general.  The legal
business is conducted and prepared for the general's decision by an
officer called the corps auditeur.

The strictly military functions of command fall naturally into two
classes, according as they are concerned with the direction of the
troops as pieces in the game played against the enemy, or with their
internal management.  The everyday life of a soldier is to a great
extent a matter of routine.  In every regiment there are at all times
guards and sentries and an officer of the day; there are patrols and
fatigue parties.  These duties are undertaken by all in turn, and they
therefore need to be equitably distributed from day to day.  A roll of
the regiment is therefore made every day accounting for all the
officers and men.  The working of all this internal mechanism is in
every regiment arranged by the adjutant, under the authority and
supervision of the commanding officer.  The brigade, the division, and
the army corps are each of them in like manner provided with an
adjutancy, which in the case of an army corps is formed by a bureau of
four officers.

[1] The thoroughness of this selection has increased in recent years,
inasmuch as most of the generals appointed have enjoyed the special
training of the staff.  An incapable, of any rank is ruthlessly retired.

[2] The details of organization on which it is based are those of the
German army in the period between 1875 and 1885.  The materials for a
similar account of the Prussian army corps of 1866 are not accessible.
The reader may imagine the confusion which would follow a battle,
especially a defeat which might compel the corps to retreat as best it
could through the forest, with its trains perhaps entangled in the
cross-road leading north.



There remain as the general's special province the communication with
the army headquarters and the direction of the troops as fighting
bodies; the regulation of marches, halts, and combats; the
reconnaissance of the country with a view to these operations; the
collection and sifting of news about the enemy; and the compilation of
reports for the information of the higher commanders and for the
records of the army corps.

The bureau or department which assists the general in these matters is
the general staff of the army corps.  It consists of a colonel or
lieutenant-colonel as chief, one field officer, and two captains.[1]
The functions of the general staff of a division or army corps during
war may be summarised under the following heads:[2]--

(1) Elaboration in accordance with the situation from time to time of
all arrangements concerning the fighting, marching, repose, and safety
of the troops.

(2) Communication of these arrangements in the form of orders.

(3) Collection, sifting, and appreciation of all information about the

(4) Maintenance of the efficiency of the division or army corps and of
an uninterrupted knowledge of its condition in every respect.

(5) Keeping record of all operations.

(6) Reconnaissances.

The peace duties of the bureau are a preparation for those of war.
They embrace the elaboration of the arrangements for mobilization,
which require periodical, almost continuous revision, all arrangements
for marching and quarterings, the selection of a site and all other
preparations for the autumn manoeuvres, and the superintendence of the
railway and telegraph service of the army corps.

The chief of the general staff of the army corps is authorized to
represent the general in his absence and to issue in his name such
orders as will admit of no delay.  Accordingly he has a general
supervision over the whole staff and may control not merely his direct
subordinates, but the adjutants, the intendant, and the auditeur.

It is one of the duties of the general staff to attend to the material
well-being of the troops, so as to secure their being at all times in
condition to march or to fight.  The heads of the several departments
specially concerned with this care can work efficiently only in so far
as they are kept in touch of the military situation.  They must know,
for example, when an advance or retreat is contemplated, or a battle is
in prospect, so as to make their arrangements accordingly.  For this
purpose the chief of the general staff of the army corps is the organ
of communication between them and the commanding general.  All the
orders for the movement of the troops and for their distribution in
quarters pass through his hands, and he is also responsible for the
collecting and sifting of information concerning the enemy.  His three
assistants relieve him from too much absorption in mechanical detail.
He is thus a sort of confidential secretary to the general, preparing
for him all important correspondence and serving as an _alter ego_.  He
knows the general's views and intentions and can therefore see with the
general's eyes.  He is familiar with the methods and ideas of the army
headquarters, for he has been trained in the great general staff at
Berlin under the personal influence of its chief.  He is familiar with
the working of the army corps, for he has held his post during years of
peace before the war, and has been responsible for the arrangement of
the corps manoeuvres.  Thus his training and experience peculiarly
qualify him to be the general's right-hand man, to translate the
general's wishes into detailed orders, and to submit for his approval
at any time such suggestions as will meet the situation.

The system here described provides as effectively as may be for the
judicious employment of the army corps.  Each branch of administration
is so organized as to centre in a competent special manager whose
decisions, though they must be submitted to the general, will seldom
require to be revised or reversed.  The general, while in this way in
touch with all that is done in and for his corps, can give his main
attention to the military operations.  These also are prepared for him
and the details elaborated by a group of officers specially trained and
practised in this particular branch: the art of command.

[1] In peace there is usually only one captain.  The lieutenant-general
commanding a division has the assistance of a single officer of the
general staff, usually a captain or a major.  In the smaller units,
comprising only a single arm, the general staff is not represented.

[2] Bronsart von Schellendorf, _Der Dienst des Generalstabes_, vol. i.,
p. 4.



The Prussian general staff forms a corps by itself.  The officers
belonging to it wear a special uniform, and their names do not appear
in any regimental lists.  The proposals for their promotion are made by
the chief of the staff of the army,[1] and advancement in its ranks is
quicker than in the army generally.

The corps thus constituted is, however, not a close corporation.  By
the rule that regimental service must alternate with employment on the
general staff, the connection between the army and the staff is
maintained, and the practical competence of the staff officers is
secured.  The first appointment to the staff and the subsequent return
to it are alike dependent upon selection, or, in other words, upon
special merit.

A captain on the staff after four or five years' work is transferred to
a regiment.  A year or two later he may be again selected for the staff
as major.  After a further term he will receive the command of a
battalion, then return to work on the staff, and afterwards be promoted
to the command of a regiment.  From this post he may again be chosen to
the staff, returning eventually as a major-general to the command of a

Those officers who are selected for the purely scientific work of the
general staff, such, for instance, as the geographical and
topographical surveys, are considered to have embraced a special career
and to have given up the prospect of command in the field.  They are
placed on an auxiliary establishment or side list of the general staff.
As a rule they are students rather than fighting men, or officers of
distinguished scientific attainments who have not the bodily activity
required for service in the field.  They remain on the auxiliary
establishment, and do not revert to the wider field of active service
among the combatants.

The Prussian general staff numbers altogether about 200 officers, 90 of
whom are distributed among the divisions and army corps,[2] whilst
about 100, half of whom belong to the auxiliary establishment, form the
great general staff at Berlin.  Service in the staff office of a
division or army corps alternates with employment on the great general
staff, so that the officer whose diligence and ability have opened for
him the staff career, and whose performance secures his periodical
return to it, passes through the various stages of regimental service,
of service on the general staff of the great constituent units of the
army, and of employment in the great central agency of direction.

Thus the general staff is not merely the intellectual spring which
gives the impulse to the whole army, but it forms also a medium of
circulation by which all the parts are kept in uninterrupted
communication with the centre.  At the great general staff the art of
command is studied with special reference to the employment of the
German army as a weapon against France, Russia, or any other probable
adversary, and in conjunction with the Austrian, Italian, or any other
allied army.  The wide views thus acquired are applied to the handling
of the several units of which the army is composed, while the central
office in all its general studies has the benefit of the practical
experience obtained in the management of the company, the squadron, and
the battery, as well as of every unit up to the division and the army

The influence of the general staff is not limited to the work of the
200 officers who comprise it at any given time.  Many of the commanders
of regiments and battalions have been members of the general staff, and
are taking their turn of practice with the troops.  Nearly all the
higher commanders have passed through the various stages of duty in the
general staff.  The great general staff is perpetually training fresh
generations.  Some sixty junior officers are temporarily attached to it
without being incorporated, that is, without ceasing to belong to their
regiments.  They are the pick of the 100 lieutenants who every year
leave the Kriegsakademie, or Staff College, at Berlin.  They work for a
year at the central general staff office, under the personal
supervision of the chief of the general staff of the army, who thus
acquires an intimate knowledge of their ability and character.  At the
end of their year they rejoin their regiments.  After a term of
regimental work the best of them will be chosen as captains to the
general staff to fill up vacancies caused by promotions.  In this way
the general staff keeps up its numbers by the continual selection of
the fittest.

[1] In the case of regimental officers these proposals are made by the
commander of the regiment; cf. Cabinet order of March 22, 1864.

[2] Four of the German army corps--those of Saxony, Würtemberg, and
Bavaria (two corps)--do not belong to the Prussian army.





The chief of the general staff of the army, assisted by the great
general staff, which is his special organ, and which has its permanent
abode in Berlin, is occupied during peace with preparations for the
conduct of the army in war.  The work undertaken with this object
divides itself naturally into three branches, according as it consists
in actual arrangements for particular wars regarded as probable, in the
training of officers to the art of command, or in the scientific study
of war as a means of forming and exercising the faculty of generalship.

The direct preparation for probable wars consists in arranging, in
anticipation of each of the various possible complications, the most
suitable distribution of the forces available, their concentration on
the frontier, and their transport from the peace quarters to the
districts selected for this purpose.[1]  These matters require for
their decision a thorough knowledge of the countries forming the
theatre of war and of the armies of all the probable combatants.

The great general staff in time of peace is constantly engaged in the
collection and digestion of such information.  For this purpose it is
organized into three divisions,[2] to each of which a portion of Europe
is assigned.  The first division deals with Sweden, Norway, Russia,
Turkey, and Austria; the second with Germany, Denmark, Italy, and
Switzerland; the third with the western states of Europe and with
America.  Of the thoroughness with which the work is done some idea may
be formed by an examination of the reference index,[3] which was for
many years (1869-1883) annually printed and published.  The reader who
opens one of these volumes at the chapter headed "British Empire" will
find there a mass of ordered information such as is hardly anywhere
else accessible.  It begins with a detailed account of the progress of
the Ordnance survey during the year, dealing separately with England,
Scotland, and Ireland, and with the Admiralty surveys.  Then under the
heading land and people, comes a list of new statistical publications,
an abstract of the census and of the Registrar-General's reports, and a
note of any works that illustrate the subjects.  Succeeding headings,
worked out with great minuteness, are: constitution, administration,
and finance, intellectual culture, emigration, mining, agriculture,
forestry, and marine economy, industry and trade.  Communications are
subdivided into railways, post, telegraphs, and inland navigation.
Several pages are devoted to an exhaustive catalogue of every
publication issued during the year, English or foreign, bearing upon
the British army, including official publications, controversial
pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles.  The navy is treated in
a similar manner, though less space is devoted to it; and lastly, there
is a review of all new guide-books, books of travel, and maps relating
to Great Britain, especially of county guides, histories, maps and
plans.  The progress of the British colonies is followed in the same

The minute systematic study which is thus devoted to the resources of
every European country gives a basis for judging of its fighting power
far more certain than the collection of mere military statistics.  For
the reference index is only a groundwork upon which the military study
of the countries can be founded.  It is not the product of the three
divisions, but of the geographical and statistical section, which
belongs to the auxiliary establishment, and in this way it prepares the
materials upon which the three divisions are to work.

The index is no longer given to the world; but the volumes already
published are a monument of systematic research, and reveal the depth
and breadth of the foundation upon which the great general staff
builds, in other words, the accuracy and fulness of the knowledge at
the disposal of its chief when he frames a plan of operations.  It is
therefore not a matter of surprise that in 1866 the chief of the
Prussian general staff was well informed concerning the position and
condition of every part of the Austrian army up to the time when the
special preparations for the war began; was able to gauge very fairly
the time that would be required for its mobilization and transport, and
knew perhaps as well as any one in Austria the difficulties in which
that empire would be placed by an effort to continue the struggle.  A
still more complete knowledge of the adversary's military and other
resources was revealed by the German general staff at the opening of
the campaign of 1870.

The German staff has now no longer a monopoly of these studies, as may
be seen by a glance at the _Revue Militaire de l'Étranger_, published
fortnightly (since 1872) by the second bureau of the French general
staff.  The intelligence division[4] of our own War Office performs
somewhat similar duties of geographical and statistical research.

The transport of the portions of the army from their peace quarters to
the places of assembly selected for the commencement of operations has
been referred to in the account of the campaign of 1866.  It was then
effected partly by marching, partly by railway.  Immediately after that
campaign the veteran critic Jomini, in an essay upon its lessons, urged
the importance of "the serious study of the modifications which
railways will cause from this time onwards in the general direction of
the operations of war, _i.e._ in strategy," and spoke of the want of
this study as "the gap at present existing in the theory of the art of
war."[5]  The gap, one would think, had been pretty well filled up
already by a staff which in twenty-one days had moved 197,000 men,
55,000 horses, and 5,300 military vehicles over distances varying from
120 to 360 miles without a single accident, and without any serious
departure from the pre-arranged time-tables.

The great general staff has a special division devoted to the
manipulation of railways in war, and the attempt is made to give every
officer of the general staff the benefit of a period of service in this
particular branch.

The production of maps for the army is so closely connected with the
study of the various probable theatres of war that the two duties
cannot safely be entrusted to different institutions.  In Germany the
principal government geographical establishment is a branch of the
great general staff, the officers employed in it being on the auxiliary
list.  This service is arranged in three departments, the
trigonometric, the topographic, and the cartographic, all of which are
under the supervision of the chief of the National Survey, who is
himself a subordinate of the chief of the general staff of the army.

[1] See Part I. Chap. IV.

[2] The details of this organization have been modified in recent years.

[3] _Registrande der Geographisch-Statistischen Abtheilung des Grossen
Generalstabes_.  Berlin, 1869-83.

[4] See a lecture delivered at the Royal United Service Institution in
1875 by the late Major-General, then Major C. B. Brackenbury, R.A.,
entitled "The Intelligence Duties of the Staff at Home and Abroad," in
reading which, however, the date of its production should be remembered.

[5] Jomini, _Troisième Appendice au Précis de l'Art de la Guerre_.
Paris, 1866.



The distinctive feature of the regeneration by which modern Prussia was
raised up, after the Prussia of Frederick the Great had been shattered
in the first conflict with Napoleon, was the effort to lay a solid
foundation in healthy institutions and especially in a sound education.
The work which was done for Prussian institutions by Stein and for
liberal education by Humboldt, was done for the army by Scharnhorst, to
whom military education was the corner-stone of army reform.  The
University of Berlin began its work on October 15th, 1810, and on the
same day[1] was opened the War School for officers, the great military
high school of Germany, now known as the War Academy.  It was the
creation of Scharnhorst, whose greatness is nowhere more conspicuous
than in his educational work.

As early as 1792, before he had ever seen a battle, he had published a
_Soldier's Pocket-book_, in which the principles and details of field
service were explained and illustrated by examples from then recent
wars.  The experiences of his first campaigns in 1793 and 1794 led him
during his last years in the Hanoverian service to draw up a series of
memoirs in which military education occupies a prominent place, and
when in 1801 he joined the Prussian service, one of his first
appointments was that of lecturer to the classes of young officers
which had been instituted by Frederick the Great and still continued to
be held.  Scharnhorst rearranged and extended the courses of
instruction, and himself as "Director of the Academy" taught to the
higher class the important subjects of tactics and strategy.  The
lectures which he gave between 1801 and 1805 have been preserved in a
fragmentary state, and show that he was the first to concentrate the
attention of his pupils on the conduct of the operations of war,
instead of merely busying them with the details of the several
technical arts and sciences which subserve that end.  The regulations
for the Academy which he drafted in 1805 contain the outlines of the
system which in a more developed form is still characteristic of the
highest Prussian military education.  Scharnhorst's best pupil at this
time was Carl von Clausewitz, who in after years attributed to these
early lessons the intellectual impulse which produced his masterly
essays, and the historical method in which all his theory has its
roots.  Lectures and classes were abruptly ended by the mobilization of
1805, which was followed in 1806 by the great catastrophe.

The War School of 1810 aimed at the higher training of selected
officers whose ability gave promise of a career in the superior ranks.
It was distinct from the lower schools intended to give a professional
training to young men preparing to become officers, and was closely
connected with the general staff, in which Scharnhorst, at this time
its chief, paid great attention to the instruction of the younger
members.  One of the first professors appointed was Clausewitz.

The wars of liberation practically dissolved the War School, which,
however, after the peace of 1815 was re-established without substantial
modification, though it was placed in the department, not of the chief
of the staff, but of the inspector-general of military education.
During the subsequent long period of peace, the Academy had the
services of many distinguished men.  From 1818 to 1830 Clausewitz was
its director.  The great geographer Karl Ritter was from 1820 to 1859
one of its professors.  In 1859 the title of War Academy was definitely
adopted, and in 1872 the institution was again placed under the
superintendence of the chief of the general staff.

The regulations at present in force, though of recent date, are little
more than a codification of the system which has been gradually
developed on the foundations laid by Scharnhorst, and their value and
the authority which attaches to them are in great measure due to the
long and unbroken tradition which they represent.

They are embodied in two short codes entitled respectively "Order of
Service," and "Order of Teaching of the War Academy."  A concise
account of these documents will best explain the workings of this

The Order of Service is one of the few results of the brief reign of
the lamented Emperor Frederick, whose signature it bears.  It begins in
true German fashion with a definition: "The object of the War Academy
is to initiate into the higher branches of the military sciences a
number of officers of the necessary capacity belonging to the various
arms, and thus to enlarge and extend their military knowledge and to
clear and quicken their military judgment.

"Side by side with this direct training for their profession, they are
to endeavour, in proportion to the requirements of the army, to
penetrate deeper into certain departments of formal science, and to
acquire mastery in speaking and writing one or two modern foreign

The Academy in its scientific working--as an institution for teaching
and study--is under the chief of the general staff of the army, who is
responsible for the appointment of the teachers, for the selection of
officers as students ("the call to the Academy"), for their dismissal
in case of need, and for the permission to attend a particular course
occasionally granted to officers not "called."  For the discipline and
management of the Academy, the director, a general, is responsible.  He
is assisted by one or two deputies and by a Board of Studies, over
whose nomination the chief of the staff has a controlling influence.
The duties of the board are to approve of the programmes of the several
professors' courses, and to conduct the examinations at the beginning
and at the end of the course.  The complete course lasts three years,
with a long vacation of three months each summer.  The appointment or
"call" of students is in each case only for a year, its renewal
depending upon diligence and good conduct.  Any officer of five years'
service not yet within four years from his turn of promotion to captain
may apply for admission to the Academy, which is regulated by

"The object of the entrance examination is to ascertain whether the
candidate possesses the degree of general education and the knowledge
requisite for a profitable attendance at the lectures of the Academy.
The examination is also to determine whether the candidates have the
power of judgment, without which there could be no hope of their
further progress."  The questions set are to be such as cannot be
answered merely from knowledge stored up in the memory, and should test
the capacity for clear, collected, and consistent expression.  The
military subjects required are tactics, formal and applied, the nature
and construction of firearms, fortification and surveying.  The general
subjects are history, geography, mathematics, and French.  The paper in
applied tactics must be as simple as possible.  It must consist of a
problem for solution, so as to oblige the candidate to make a decision
and give his reasons for it.  Each candidate must send in an essay
written at home on one of a list of subjects announced some months
beforehand.  This is particularly intended to test his power of
judgment and the degree of general education he has attained.  It may
be either in German or French.  "Of those officers whose work is judged
the best (by the Board of Studies) the director may submit to the chief
of the general staff of the army, with a view to their being called to
the Academy, the names of any number not exceeding a hundred.  The
chief of the staff communicates his decisions to the generals
commanding army corps, who inform the officers concerned."

The _Order of Service_ lays down that in the instruction given at the
Academy certain practical applications shall never be omitted:--

"As a continuous commentary on the lectures, the students, under the
guidance of their professors, are to visit the military workshops,
technical institutions, and exercising grounds at Berlin and Spandau,
and the fortifications of Spandau.  They are to attend the exercises of
the railway regiment, and make journeys of instruction on the military

"The lessons in tactics, fortification, and transport are to be
supplemented by practical exercises.  Moreover, during a portion of the
holidays after the first and the second year, each officer is attached
for instruction to a regiment of one of the two arms to which he does
not properly belong.  Lastly, the third year's course is always to
conclude with a three weeks' tour, for practical instruction in staff

The _Order of Service_ concerns itself no further with the scope and
method of teaching, but decrees that these shall be determined by the
order of teaching to be issued by the chief of the general staff of the

The _Order of Teaching_ of the War Academy at present in force was
issued by Count Moltke at the close of his career at the head of the
Prussian staff.[2]  Its value can be made clear only by a reproduction
of its principal clauses.  But a true judgment of an educational
institution must be based upon the existence of a standard of
comparison, an ideal which may be readily accepted as the measure of
perfection.  Such a normal type may be sought in the best University
training of the present day, of which the spirit may perhaps be
expressed in a few sentences.

A system of instruction, intended not for children but for men, which
is not an attempt to make good the defects of early education, but
addresses itself to minds already trained and disciplined, cannot be
regulated mechanically.  In all intelligent education the order of
teaching is at once natural and rational.  The subjects group
themselves by their relation to the end in view, and the necessity of
each new advance is evident to the student as soon as he is prepared
for it.  Such a course of study has a unity, and a completeness, which
is of great significance in view of the formation of a type of
character.  The highest education, however, has features peculiarly its
own.  It is founded in the conception of science, not as a department
of knowledge, but as "the proper method of knowing and apprehending the
facts in any department whatever."[3]  From this idea of method flow
practical consequences.  The student, as soon as maturity is
approached, abandons the general realm of knowledge, and concentrates
himself upon a single province,[4] in which, however, he becomes not
merely a follower, but an independent worker, seeing and judging for
himself and co-operating with his teacher in advancing the bounds of
knowledge.  Above all, "it is not the substance of what is
communicated, but the act of communication between the older and the
younger mind, which is the important matter."[5]

From this educational standpoint, Count Moltke's _Order of Teaching_
deserves a close examination.  Its opening paragraphs must be given in


"In accordance with the objects for which the Military Academy is
instituted, its course of study must aim at a thorough professional
education; it must not lose itself in the wide field of general
scientific studies.

"A sound formal education is the indispensable pre-requisite of a
thorough military professional education.  The deepening of the formal
training, of the general intelligence and judgment, must therefore
never be lost sight of during, and side by side with, the professional
studies.  Accordingly the course will be based upon the knowledge
gained in the cadet corps, the military schools, the school for
artillery and engineers, and, as regards general knowledge, in the
gymnasia.  But a simple repetition of things already known, by way of
refreshing the memory, cannot be sufficient.  As the whole course aims
at a higher culture, it must proceed independently, entirely free from
the constraint of a school.

"The practical abilities of the officers, acquired during five years'
service, offer in many respects a foundation upon which the teachers
can build.


"The instruction at the Military Academy begins with the elements of
the various subjects, the object being, in the first instance, to
strengthen and enlarge the grasp of what has already been learned.  It
proceeds, as the subjects develop, to more difficult matters, aiming,
as its ultimate goal, at the thorough preparation of the officer for
the modern requirements of war.  The instruction in the formal sciences
must for this purpose proceed in a different manner from that adopted
in the military subjects.  The scientific teaching may take the form of
lectures, which appeal merely to the comprehension and the memory of
the hearer, while in the military subjects, everything depends upon the
pupil learning to apply and to make the most of the knowledge which he
acquires.  It is, moreover, essential to bring about an active process
of mental give and take between teacher and pupils, so as to stimulate
the pupils to become fellow-workers.  The awakening effects of
co-operation like this will never be seen where the one only expounds,
and the other only listens.  But it will naturally be produced by the
combination of clear exposition, with practice in the application to
specific concrete cases of the knowledge gained.  (The so-called
'applicatory method' of teaching.  Cp. p. 187, note.)

"Accordingly, in the purely military subjects the lectures are, as far
as possible, to be interspersed with practical examples, in which the
details are explained upon the map.  Moreover, in this department,
there will be opportunities of encouraging the pupils from time to time
to deliver original addresses, the preparation of which should lead to
the formation of independent opinions.  The subjects of these addresses
are to be military, and never merely scientific.

"If the teacher succeeds by the force of his word and his person in
developing the mental powers of his pupils so that they eagerly look
forward to the next year's course and are thoroughly roused to work for
themselves, he has accomplished his task.  For the Academy is not to
give fragments of disconnected knowledge; in its course of teaching the
necessity of every new subject must rest upon truths which the pupils
have already perceived and made their own."

The general framework being thus erected, the _Order of Teaching_
proceeds to review the several subjects[6] taught in the Academy,
indicating in each case the reason why the particular subject is to be
taken up, and the manner in which it is to be treated.

The following paragraphs, which deal with the four principal subjects
of instruction, give a sufficient insight into the system:--


"The object of the tactical instruction, to which, above all,
pre-eminent importance must be attached, is (1) to give the officers a
thorough knowledge of the tactical regulations in force in our army and
those of our great neighbours, and (2) by teaching and by setting
problems to make them familiar with the endless diversity of the
conditions of modern battle.

"The first year's course comprises (_a_) the outlines of the historical
growth of our army organization and of our tactical forms; (_b_) our
drill-books, order of field service and musketry instruction, so far as
they are important for the use of the troops in the field; (_c_)
thorough explanation of the forms of battle of the great European
armies of to-day.

"Hand in hand with this formal instruction, the German regulations
dealing with march, combat, and rest must be illustrated by problems
involving a small detachment of all arms.  In these problems the
principal stress is to be laid on the co-operation and mutual support
of the various arms.

"In the second and third years' course only applied tactics will be
taught.  During the second year the duties of the infantry and cavalry
division, with special regard to the issue of orders and the conduct of
battle, must be thoroughly studied.  The third year's course embraces
the functions of an army corps acting as a portion of an army.

"The teacher must throughout endeavour to make his instruction
suggestive by examples and by exercises on the map and in the open air.
In this he will be successful in proportion as he makes use of the
experiences of modern and of recent wars.


"The lectures upon military history offer the most effective means of
teaching war during peace, and of awakening a genuine interest in the
study of important campaigns.  These lectures should bring into relief
the unchangeable fundamental conditions of good generalship in their
relation to changeable tactical forms, and should place in a true light
the influence of eminent characters upon the course of events and the
weight of moral forces in contrast to that of mere material instruments.

"These lectures must not degenerate into a mere succession of
unconnected descriptions of military occurrences.  They must regard
events in their causal connections, must concern themselves with the
leadership, and must at the same time bring out the ideas of war
peculiar to each age.  They will acquire a high value if the teacher
succeeds in bringing into exercise the judgment of his pupils.

"This judgment, however, must never degenerate into mere negative
criticism, but must clothe itself in the form of distinct suggestions
as to what ought to have been done and decided.

"The lectures in the first year's course will treat of one or more of
the campaigns of Frederick the Great; in the second year's course,
campaigns of the Revolution or of Napoleon I.; and in the third year's
course, campaigns of the period since Napoleon, especially those of the
time of the Emperor William I.


"A thorough historical knowledge is a necessary part of general
scientific education, and is also of manifold value in the professional
life of an officer.  Accordingly, the lectures which are to lay the
foundations for it are continued throughout the three years' course.
Their object is to show consecutively the general development of the
human race in the successive stages of religious conceptions, of
political and social forms, and in the results of science, art, and
philosophy.  All these phases of human progress are to be illustrated
in the history of representative nations and individuals.  Growing
forms are to be explained in connection with previous conditions, and
finally the exposition must reach the present time, the ground upon
which the officer's work is founded, and of which therefore he must
understand the gradual historical growth.


"This course is to deal with the functions of the general staff, and
with the service of the general staff officer in peace and war.  It
includes, in any order preferred by the teacher--

"The historical development of our general staff.

"The corresponding arrangements of the other Great Powers.

"The subdivision of our army as based upon the Imperial Constitution,
the military laws, and the conventions.[7]

"The office work of the general staff officer in its general outlines;
the preparations for the manoeuvres and for mobilization; the various
constituent parts of the mobile army.

"Railways and transport.

"The duties of the general staff officer in the field, especially his
position and functions in relation to the general command.

"The principles of the supply of armies in peace and war, the resources
and means available for the purpose, and the methods employed.

"The war strength and composition of the armies of our great neighbours.

"The practice tour[8] with which the course terminates offers the
opportunity of testing the capacity, knowledge, and endurance of each
officer--of finding what he can do.  Upon the basis of simple general
and special ideas, usually framed by the teacher who conducts the
exercise, the decisions of the general commanding and the general staff
officer's share in the measures adopted will be illustrated.  For this
purpose it will be useful to form two sides, neither of which should,
as a rule, exceed the strength of an imaginary infantry division on a
war footing.  The exercise should be so arranged as to occasion in turn
practice in formal work such as may promote facility in the issue of
orders and a knowledge of the arrangements of our army, discussions
upon the spot of tactical situations, analyses of the effects upon the
troops of dispositions given, and lastly, comprehensive examinations of
the situation presented by the campaign or battle.  Each officer who
joins the tour should have the opportunity of grappling with as many as
possible of these various kinds of difficulties."

The advocates of original research as the true instrument of higher
education may not at first sight recognise their ideal in Moltke's
_Order of Teaching_.  They may smile at an academy where natural
science and history are taught in lectures appealing only to the
intelligence and the memory.  But the school at Berlin has a practical
aim.  It is a school of war, and in all that relates to war the German
staff officer learns to apply that science which consists in the true
method of apprehending.  Moreover, the _Order of Teaching_, like all
other German military regulations, does not fully reveal the
thoroughness of the work executed in obedience to its precepts.  In
military history, for instance, it lays down that the third year's
course is to deal with "campaigns of the time of William I."  This
phrase would be met by very superficial work.  The letter would be
fulfilled by a perusal of a _précis_ of the campaigns of 1866 or of
1870.  A study of one of these campaigns in the official history might
seem completely to fulfil the requirements.  But in practice the
students at the Academy work out the selected campaign on a still wider
basis.  In the probationary year which follows the Academy course they
are allowed access to the materials from which the staff histories were
written, and are expected to form their own judgment on the campaign
from the study of the original documents themselves.  This is the very
ideal of the ideal professor of history.

There is no doubt another point of view from which the War Academy may
be differently judged.  A University, strictly speaking, is a school of
free thought, and should give to those who have lived its life and
breathed its spirit a view of the world, of nature and of humanity, of
which the characteristic is freedom, spontaneity, independence.  The
man who in this sense has had a liberal education may be reactionary or
progressive in his sympathies, may be democratic or authoritative in
his leanings, but in any case if the University has done its work he
will choose his own way.  He will take his bearings for himself, and
his thought will be conditioned by no ordinances and limited by no
authority.  At this intellectual freedom the War Academy does not aim.
Its business is not with the progress of humanity, but with the
training of good servants for the King of Prussia.  Whether this
immediate object is a means to the higher end is a question for the
historian in some future century.

[1] Schwartz, _Leben des Generals Carl von Clausewitz_, etc., vol. i.
p. 151.

[2] It is dated August 12th, 1888; Count Moltke's resignation as chief
of the general staff of the army is dated in the _Gazette_, August
10th, 1888.

[3] Mark Pattison's _Suggestions on Academical Organisation, with
Especial Reference to Oxford_, p. 307.

[4] Cp. Pattison's _Suggestions_, p. 262.

[5] Cp. Paulson's _Suggestions_, p. 165.

[6] List of the subjects taught in the Academy, with number of hours
per week in each year's course devoted to each:--

                                    1st        2nd         3rd
  MILITARY SUBJECTS.               year's      year's      year's
                                   course.     course.     course.

  Tactics . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4           4           2
  Military history  . . . . . . . .   3           4           4
  Early history of armies . . . . .   1          --          --
  Construction and nature of weapons  3          --          --
  Fortification . . . . . . . . . .   3          --          --
  Means of communication  . . . . .  --           2          --
  Military surveying  . . . . . . .  --           2          --
  Military law  . . . . . . . . . .  --           1          --
  Military hygiene  . . . . . . . .  --           1          --
  Military geography  . . . . . . .  --           2          --
  Duties of the general staff . . .  --          --           4
  Siege warfare . . . . . . . . . .  --          --           3


  History . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3           3           3
  General geography . . . . . . . .   2          --          --
  Administration and law, including
    international law . . . . . . .  --          --           2
  Mathematics        (Mathematical )  4           3           2
  Physical Geography (sciences as  )  2          --          --
  Physics . . . . .  (alternatives ) --           3          --
  Geodesy . . . . .  (for language.) --          --           3
  Chemistry . . . .  (             ) --          --           2
  French  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6           6           6
    or  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  Russian . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6           6           6

Every candidate for admission to the Academy is required to say whether
he proposes to take up the subjects grouped as mathematical sciences,
or a language, and if a language whether French or Russian.

[7] The conventions are the agreements with Prussia by which the armies
of Saxony, Bavaria, and Würtemberg are regulated.

[8] The practice tour (_Uebungsreise_) is a sham fight, or rather a
sham campaign, carried out in the district chosen for the purpose by
officers without men.  The troops are imaginary, but the officers
taking part in the exercise are assigned to the several posts of
command, and upon the basis of the imaginary situation, communicated by
the umpire, work out all the necessary orders and dispositions.



The condition of success in the higher education is that the teacher
should be himself a student.  He should have in his subject that vital
interest which comes of the endeavour to extend his mastery and to
widen in his own particular branch the existing bounds of knowledge and
achievement.  The true teacher does not study his subject in order to
be able to teach, but teaches because he is possessed by his subject.
The benefits of teaching in the higher stages are therefore never
one-sided.  The pupil returns in a different form the help which he
receives.  For while the elucidation of principles acquires a peculiar
freshness and force in the hands of an active pioneer of knowledge, the
necessities of exposition compel the investigator to keep his
researches in contact with the system or body of doctrine which he
expounds.  This fundamental relation between teaching and research is
realized in the connection between the War Academy and the great
general staff.

It has already been shown how the great general staff is the organ by
which during peace its chief collects and sifts the information upon
which he bases his plan for the opening of a campaign, and how, when
the operations have begun, the general staff, through its several
ramifications, keeps him supplied with the data concerning his own army
and that of the enemy which he requires from time to time in order to
shape his further decisions.

All this is but preliminary or preparatory work.  The decisive act is
that by which the chief of the staff, from the information he has thus
acquired, constructs a problem and designs its solution--puts to
himself the question, What is now to be done? and answers it.  Thus in
the last analysis the soul of the organism resides in the chief of the
staff, and is manifested in the exercise of his peculiar faculties.  It
therefore becomes necessary to investigate the nature and origin of the
qualities in virtue of which he is fitted for his post.

The _Order of Teaching_ of the War Academy explains the method by
which, in an elementary stage, the intellectual faculties requisite for
command are developed and trained.  The mental outfit of the ideal
general is there analyzed into its constituent parts, which are
classified according to their importance.  The highest place is
assigned to military history as "the most effective means of teaching
war during peace."[1]  Accordingly the study of military history, to
which so large a space is assigned in the course of the War Academy, is
pursued on a higher plane by the great general staff, which has a
special department for its cultivation.  In this historical work, and
in the method on which it is conducted, lies the secret of Prussian

The leading ideas of the school must be sought in the writings of
Clausewitz,[2] the great exponent of the lessons learned in Prussia
from the wars against Napoleon.  Clausewitz distinguishes the mere
narration of events, which gives at most the superficial relations of
cause and effect, from their critical examination.  In the critical
method applied to military history he defines[3] three stages or
operations.  There is first the historical process proper, which has
for its object the ascertainment of the facts so far as this is
possible with the existing materials.  Upon the basis thus furnished
the military student will proceed to seek to understand the events in
their relations as cause and effect, and then when their real
historical connection[4] has thus been determined will undertake to
form a judgment as to the fitness of the means employed for the ends
which it was sought to attain.

It is in this last process that the educational value of military
history is to be sought.  The Prussian School aims not only at
developing the power of comprehension, but also at forming the
character.[5]  Accordingly it requires that the student should not
merely make himself acquainted with the facts of a campaign, and with
the general bearings of theory upon its events.  He is expected in
every case to form a definite conclusion as to what ought to have been
done.  He must clearly make up his mind what course he would himself
have adopted in the circumstances which confronted the general whose
operations he is studying.

The influence of the ideas of Clausewitz upon the historical studies of
the general staff is clearly marked.  In 1862 was published "The
Italian Campaign of the year 1859, compiled by the Historical
Department of the General Staff of the Royal Prussian Army."  It is an
open secret that this work was written by Moltke himself; and therefore
it is worth noting that the preface describes the object of the book
almost in the words of Clausewitz: "to ascertain as accurately as
possible the nature of the events in Northern Italy during those few
eventful weeks, to deduce them from their causes--in short, to exercise
that objective criticism without which the facts themselves do not
afford effective instruction for our own benefit."  The history of the
Italian campaign is a model of this positive criticism.  At, every
stage the writer places himself in turn in the position of the
commander of each side, and sketches clearly and concisely the measures
which at that moment would, in his opinion, have been the most
appropriate.  This is undoubtedly the true method of teaching the
general's art, and the best exercise in peace that can be devised for
those who have acquired its mastery.

In 1867 appeared "The Campaign of 1866 in Germany, compiled by the
Department for Military History of the Great General Staff."  This work
is described in its preface as "drawn from the official reports of the
Prussian troops, and intended in the first instance for their use.  The
description," the writer goes on to say, "is one-sided, because
hitherto our late antagonists have not made disclosures such as would
suffice to explain the motives of their action."  A similar
qualification may be applied to the account of the Franco-German war
published by the great general staff.  But both works supply, within
the limits laid down by their authors, precisely the kind of history
which is of the greatest value to the military student.  The utmost
pains have been taken to secure a true statement of facts, and a clear
exposition of the guiding motives on the Prussian or German side.
Accordingly these works, and the account published more recently of the
campaign of 1864 in Denmark, form rich storehouses of material for that
"objective criticism" in the exercise of which lies the principal means
of maturing the military judgment.

The great general staff began in 1883 to publish a series of historical
monographs, of which the object is, in the case of subjects chosen from
recent campaigns, "to throw light upon important questions relating to
the art of command, in particular the mode of employing, and the
performance possible to, the several arms; the service of security;
minor warfare; fortification; the composition and preservation of
armies."  Those of the essays which take their subjects from earlier
campaigns are intended "to enrich our insight into the nature of war,
and to make possible a profounder and more correct judgment of events,
and of the persons concerned in them."

The _Order of Teaching_ of the War Academy describes the purpose of all
these studies in military history.  They are to lead to a knowledge of
"the unchanging conditions upon which good generalship depends, in
their connection with changing tactical forms."  Before there can be
good practice there must be a true theory, and a true theory can be
acquired only from historical study pursued according to a sound
method.  Moreover, the theory can never have an independent existence;
it must always derive its sustenance from fresh contact with the
historical reality of which it is the abstract.  It is like the giant
Antasus, whose strength fails whenever he is lifted up from the touch
of his mother Earth.  On the other hand, historical study which did not
yield a theory would be barren and useless.

This connection between history and theory finds expression in the
tradition of the Prussian service.  The general staff has been no less
active in the production of theoretical works than in that of
historical studies.  But in the department of theory each work is
published on the responsibility of its author.  There is no official
theory;[6] only the theories of individual officers.  A short account
of the principal works which in this way emanated from the general
staff during the reign of King William I. will show that the accepted
body of military doctrine is almost entirely due to this one source.

In 1865 appeared as a supplement to a military newspaper an anonymous
memorandum of eight pages, headed "Remarks on the Influence of the
Improved Firearms upon Battle."  This short essay, of which the
authorship was afterwards acknowledged by Moltke, gave a searching
analysis, based upon exact historical data, of the modifications in the
handling of troops on the battlefield to be looked for from the
adoption of rifled cannon and breechloading rifles.  The writer drew
with a master's hand in a few strokes the characteristics of the
physiology and psychology of the modern battlefield, as results of the
new arms.  The rifled gun can change its target without changing its
position.  Its long range and its accuracy, where the distance is known
and the target visible, must prevent the enemy from employing large
columns within a mile.  The breech-loading rifle requires soldiers
carefully taught to shoot.  But sharpshooting must be the exception.
Decisive results on a large scale must be sought by reserving the fire
for those short ranges at which errors in estimating the distance are
immaterial.  A strict control of the fire by the officers must prevent
the waste of ammunition.  The formation for firing will be the line two
deep; that for manoeuvring in the range of the enemy's rifled guns will
be a line of small columns, which can rapidly deploy, are easily
handled, and admit of the full use of the ground for protection and
concealment when in motion.  The new firearms produce their full effect
only on open ground.  Accordingly the defender will seek positions such
as are formed by a gentle slope of the ground offering a free and
extensive field of fire.  The attacker will seek for his advance the
protection afforded by broken ground or by woods and villages.  Though
in the abstract the new weapons are favourable to the defence, so that
a general on the defensive will try to force the enemy to attack him in
a good position, the breechloading rifle, if it can be brought within
effective range of the defender, will quickly bring about a decision.
The defenders will not be able to sustain the hail of bullets, and if
they attempt to charge with the bayonet will be effectually stopped by
the rapid fire of the needle-gun.[7]

The views here expressed were put into practice, and proved to be
sound, on the battlefields of 1866.  The battle of Nachod, in which the
Crown Prince's left column, emerging from the mountains, defeated the
Austrian corps which tried to prevent its debouching, illustrated the
leading ideas of Moltke's essay.  The position was on the crest of a
long slope, up which the Austrians attacked.  The Prussian troops were
handled in small columns, which deployed to resist by steady and rapid
fire at short ranges the advance of the Austrian masses.  After the
war, a younger officer of the general staff, Major, afterwards
Lieutenant-General Kühne, published a critical history of these early
battles of the Crown Prince; and it is worth noting that he found the
chief cause of success on the actual battlefields to have lain in the
thoroughness with which the men had been taught to handle the
needle-gun, and in the judgment with which the officers applied the
small column for manoeuvre and the deployed formations for firing.  At
Königgrätz itself was illustrated the view that the attack would find
its advantage in broken or covered ground, for the decisive blow was
prepared essentially by Fransecky's hard fighting in the wood of

After the war of 1870, the Prussian staff was for many years engaged
upon its history, which was not complete until 1881.  During this
period the main business of military criticism was the sifting of that
war, with a view to the improvement of theory, in other words to the
better management of future wars.  It has always been thought
remarkable that this criticism should have been undertaken by the
Germans themselves.  The bulk of this work also was done by the general
staff, in the shape of unofficial publications by members of that body.
Between 1870 and 1875 appeared the studies of Verdy du Vernois in _The
Art of Command_, works which have exercised the profoundest influence
on the military literature of our time, and which recall the efforts of
Scharnhorst to teach, not a series of disconnected sciences, but a
doctrine of the conduct of war.[8]  Verdy's studies were based on his
work in the historical department of the staff, where he was engaged on
the records of both the great campaigns.  In 1882 appeared the essay on
_Strategy_ of Blume, who had prepared for it by a strategical history,
published in 1872, of the campaign of 1870 from the battle of Sedan
onwards.  In 1883 was published the brilliant popular work of Von der
Goltz, _The Nation in Arms_, also the outcome of extensive historical
studies.[9]  All these writers were members of the Prussian general

The tactical discussions which immediately followed the war were
conducted in the main by writers whose experience had been gained, not
on the staff, but in the actual command of fighting units.
Boguslawski, Laymann, Tellenbach, and May had been company leaders on
the French or Bohemian battlefields.  But even here the influence of
the staff was considerable.  Bronsart von Schellendorf, who wrote the
reply to May's _Tactical Retrospect_, Von Scherff, whose essays on
formal tactics were very widely read at the time of their publication
(1873), and Meckel, whose treatise on tactics in 1881 condensed into a
systematic shape the substantial results of the ten years' controversy,
were all officers of the general staff.  Thus it is hardly too much to
say that for more than twenty years the Prussian general staff has done
a great part of the military thinking of Europe.

The school through which a Prussian officer must pass before he can
become a general has now been described, at least in its most striking
features.  After five years' service as a lieutenant he has mastered
the elementary duties, and assimilated the spirit of his class, with
its ideals of work and intelligent but absolute obedience.  In three
years at the War Academy he has learned the nature of war, and acquired
an insight into the conduct of the armies.  At the same time he has
been taught to deal in a practical way with practical questions, never
allowing himself to shrink from the effort of forming a decision.  He
has now arrived at full maturity in frame, intelligence, and character,
and spends the more active years of manhood in the higher studies of
the great general staff, the executive and practical activities of
command, and the comprehensive and instructive functions of the general
staff of the division or the army corps.  During these years and in all
these varied occupations his energies are put forth to their full
extent, for advancement can only be secured by valuable work in each
successive sphere.  By the time he attains to general rank he has
acquired a vast and varied experience; a practised eye, whose rapid and
penetrating glance on the march and in the field seems to the layman
almost miraculous; and a sureness and swiftness of judgment which
decides without fail in an instant nine-tenths of the questions which
arise in the exercise of command.

It is not contended that the system here described is perfect.  Every
system has its failures, and there is no possibility of entirely
excluding the influences of favour or prejudice.  But it may be
asserted with confidence that the high average of practical ability
secured in the superior officers of the Prussian army is due in the
main to the practice of selection, the careful inspection by the
superiors, at every stage, and to the mature wisdom by which the higher
education of the general staff is directed.  The intellectual
advancement of the officers of every army is confronted by a peculiar
difficulty.  The foundations of all military institutions are authority
and obedience--principles which appear to be directly opposed to the
free movement of intelligence.  Every army is constantly in danger of
decay from mental stagnation.  Free criticism is liable to undermine
discipline, and the habit of unconditional obedience too often destroys
the independence of judgment without which moral and intellectual
progress is impossible.  The Prussian general staff has escaped from
this dilemma by itself taking the lead in scientific progress, and
organizing itself, in regard to all that concerns the business of
national defence, as an institution for the advancement of learning.

[1] Cf. Colonel Maurice in the _Encyclopedia Britannica_ article "War,"
p. 345: "There does not exist, and never has existed ... an 'art of
war' which was something other than the methodic study of military

[2] It is interesting to note that Moltke was a pupil at the War
Academy from 1823 to 1826, while Clausewitz was its director.  The
director, however, is not a teacher, and Clausewitz did not publish any
of his principal works during his lifetime, so that the evidence does
not prove a personal influence of Clausewitz upon Moltke.

[3] See Vom Kriege, _Hinterlassenes Werk des Generals Carl von
Clausewitz_, Zweites Buch, Fünftes Capitel.

[4] Clausewitz is fully aware of the difficulty with which this
critical study has to contend, that the real causes, the motives which
led to the adoption of a particular measure, are in many cases unknown.

[5] It may be interesting to compare with what follows Foster's _Essay
on Decision of Character_, Letter VI., in which the value of a
"conclusive manner of thinking" is discussed.

[6] The drill-books and regulations for field service embody an
official theory, and it is, of course, indispensable that they should.
But these books are not prepared under the responsibility of the
general staff.  The usual practice is to appoint a committee composed
of a number of combatant officers of all ranks,--a general commanding
an army corps, commanders of divisions, brigades, regiments, and
battalions.  They will, as a rule, have had the general staff training,
but it is as experienced commanders that their judgment is asked.  They
prepare a draft code of regulations, which is first issued
experimentally, and only adopted after full criticism and revision.

[7] The précis given in the text needs only the alteration of two words
to bring it perfectly up to date.  For "a mile" substitute "two miles,"
and for a "line two deep" substitute "line in single rank"="line of
skirmishers."  For a recent and interesting but heterodox discussion of
tactical questions the reader may be referred to _Ein
Sommernachtstraum_ (_Midsummer Night's Dream_), which is by a
well-known officer, long a member of the general staff.

[8] Verdy's practice is to use the history of a campaign real or
imaginary as a series of problems set to the student.  This is called
in Germany "the applicatory method," and its introduction is ascribed
to General von Peucker, who was Director of Military Education in
Prussia from 1854 to 1872.

[9] Von der Goltz's papers on Rossbach and Jena appeared in 1882.



In the best work the man is more than the school.  An ordinary man
gives out no more than has been put into him.  All his performances can
be explained by his antecedents.  But the best workers contribute from
themselves an element which no analysis can adequately explain.  A
Newton or a Columbus, a Stanley or a Whitworth, has some unseen spring
of force and insight.

A man of this stamp is required at the head of an army, and above all
at the head of the organization entrusted with the design of operations.

The eve of a war is always accompanied by a great outburst of feeling,
which in ninety-nine men out of a hundred manifests itself as an
excitement, a disturbance, interfering with the action of the judgment
and distorting the view of persons and events.  But this is the very
time when the weightiest decisions must be taken.  The provisional plan
of concentration, the result of careful preparation in quieter times,
has to be reconsidered in relation to the circumstances of the moment,
and definitely settled and adopted.  The judgment of the strategist
must therefore be perfectly clear, uninfluenced by the emotions which
he shares with the rest of his countrymen.

When the concentration has been ordered, and while the armies are in
movement, come the first collisions, following one another in quick
succession.  Every day brings its surprises, even to the best informed
and best prepared headquarters.  The strategist's equilibrium must be
disturbed as little by unexpected events as by the throbs of national
emotion.  He must prepare the way for a decisive battle.  No one knows
better than he the terrible nature of the sacrifices which it will
involve, and the stakes which are risked upon its issue.  The lives of
thousands will be lost; many thousands will be wounded; a mistake,
miscalculation, or mishap may lead to defeat, with far-reaching,
perhaps disastrous, consequences to his country.  But under the weight
of this vast responsibility the strategist's judgment must work
smoothly and easily, like the compass in a storm, with no derangement
of its delicate equipoise.

The man whose insight remains clear, whose judgment retains its even
balance, when the greater part of mankind are stunned with the awe of
great events, who remains true to himself while others are carried away
by what seems an irresistible current, is not cast in the common mould.
Ordinary men shrink into insignificance beside him.  He is separated
from the average officer by a gulf which no system of training can
bridge.  The inner calm which neither great occurrences, nor danger,
nor responsibility can disturb cannot be imparted, and no method can be
prescribed for its acquisition.

The natural place for a leader of men is in the supreme command.  Where
a general of this type is at the head of an army he will himself
superintend the work of strategical preparation such as is carried on
in the office of the great general staff at Berlin.  His chief of the
staff will be a confidential assistant, whose main function will be to
lighten for him the burden of detail, and the two men will stand to one
another in the same relation as that which subsists between the general
commanding an army corps and the chief of the general staff of the

In Prussia the king is the head of the army, and there are good reasons
why he should take the field in person--reasons which have not been
weakened by his becoming also German Emperor.  A king who keeps in his
own hands the general direction of the Government cannot very well work
out for himself the problems involved in the strategical preparation of
a campaign.  His chief of the staff becomes his strategical adviser,
alike during peace and war, and occupies a position of far greater
importance than the assistant to a professional commander-in-chief.
King William I., in the two great wars in which he took the field,
reposed entire confidence in his chosen chief of the staff; and to the
fine character which could do this without loss of dignity, as well as
to the genius of Moltke, must be attributed the success with which in
these wars the armies were directed.  Moltke always attributed to the
king the responsibility for the strategical decisions, and that quite
correctly; but the king equally correctly regarded Moltke as their
source, and attributed the success of the army to Moltke's "conduct of
the operations."[1]  The victories of Prussia in 1866, and of Germany
under Prussian guidance in 1870, were due to the perfect understanding
between the king and Moltke, a relation equally creditable to them
both.  It must not be forgotten, moreover, that the king exercised the
supreme political as well as the supreme military authority, and that
in the political department, too, he had in Bismarck a trusted adviser,
the counterpart of Moltke.  Thus was secured the harmony between the
political and the military direction which is essential to great
success in war.  From the exceptional characters of the king, of
Bismarck, and of Moltke, and from the equally exceptional relation
between them, it would be rash to deduce a system, which in any case
could be applicable only to the case of a king wielding the entire
executive power.

The relation between the Commander-in-Chief and his chief of the staff
must thus be regarded as a personal one, which will vary in its nature
according to the characters and gifts of the two men.  If the commander
has in himself the necessary intellectual power, the chief of the staff
should be of subordinate mould; if the commander requires help in the
conception of the operations, his assistant must be able to supply the
initiative required.  It is evident that the case in which the
subordinate is the source of inspiration implies on the part of the
commander a magnanimity far from common, and that, therefore, this
arrangement must be considered to be rather the exception than the rule.

The element of permanent value in the Prussian system is the
classification of duties according to which it regulates the division
of labour.  The whole authority of the Government is concentrated in
the person of the king who is the head of the army.  The king does
nothing himself; every part of the work is done for him.  The whole of
the business of the army is divided up into compartments, so as to
leave nothing over, and at the head of each compartment is an officer,
who within it exercises the king's authority.  The king's supervision
does not appear to consist in his doing over again the work of these
officers.  They submit to him any important new decisions which they
propose, for they are responsible to him.  But in case the king is
unable to agree with the course proposed, there is reason to believe
that the officer who suggests it retires, his place being filled by a
successor who shares the king's view.  In this way the authority of the
king is maintained without impairing the initiative of his chosen and
authorized assistants.

The actual command of the troops is in the hands of the generals
commanding army corps and of the governors of fortresses; they account
directly to the king, and all their subordinates to or through them.
The general concerns of the army pass through one of three departments.
Personal matters, such as the appointment and promotion of officers,
retirements, rewards, and decorations go to the king's military
cabinet, which has its own chief.  Administrative affairs, that is
questions of organization, equipment, armament, and fortification,
belong to the ministry of war.  The third department, that of the
general staff, is principally occupied with the strategical and
tactical rather than with the administrative direction of the army.
These various departments communicate directly with one another, a
process which is facilitated by regulations leaving no doubt which of
them upon any given point has the power to decide.

It thus appears that the institution of a general staff as one of the
organs of the management of an army is based upon a true analysis
applying equally to all civilized armies, and to all ordered warfare.

Military success requires primarily the intelligent direction against
the enemy of the forces employed.  The general staff originated as the
auxiliary instrument of this direction, and as such is found, at least
in a rudimentary form, in every army.  In Prussia alone its full
importance was understood, and it received an organization peculiarly
suited to its purpose.  The distinction was steadily kept in view
between the all-important conduct of the operations against an enemy
and the subordinate though necessary business of administration.[2]
Every function directly bearing upon the conception or design of the
action of the army or of its principal parts against the enemy was
assigned to the general staff, which thus became an enlargement of the
commander's mind, serving to facilitate his performance of his most
characteristic and most difficult duty.  To the command thus
strengthened the army was rendered pliable partly by means of a
suitable subdivision into permanent autonomous bodies, and partly
through the organization of the administrative side by side with the
military services.

The army corps--managing its own internal affairs--having its
adjutancy, its auditoriat, and its intendancy to supply its needs with
the assistance of and in connection with the ministry of war--is a body
easily amenable to the strategical direction proceeding from a general
centre.  Thus the growth of the organ of strategical direction was
necessarily accompanied by a corresponding development of other
military institutions by which the perfect adaptability of the organism
to the directing agency was attained and preserved.

The importance of the office of chief of the general staff of the army
led to its being filled by selection.  The confidence reposed in a
chosen chief implied that he should be unhampered in the means of
fulfilling his duties.  He was therefore entrusted with the selection,
and eventually with the training, of the officers for his own

The design of military operation involves the most complete knowledge
of the military sciences, and the most perfect mastery of the military
art.  Accordingly the great general staff has become a school of
generalship, from which have emanated a series of masterpieces of
military history and historical criticism, while its individual members
have produced valuable works dealing with the various branches of the
theory of the art of war.

The attachment of the War Academy to the general staff for which it is
the training school is the means of raising to the highest level the
standard of military education.

The common devotion of the general staff in all its branches to that
portion of military activity which makes the most exacting demands upon
the intellectual faculties as well as upon the will, finds its
expression in the unity of the general staff through all the branches
of the army.  A consequence of the selection by which the corps is
composed, and of the requirement of practical familiarity with the
duties of leadership and with the life and spirit of the troops, is the
constant passage of officers to and fro between regimental and general
staff service, and their alternate employment in the various branches
of the general staff itself.

The general staff, in short, is the brain, and something more than the
brain, of the army.

"Its chief and his 200 officers prepare beforehand for all probable
campaigns; they follow the progress of the armies of their neighbours
at the same time that they study the several theatres of war; they work
out together the methods of war; they familiarize themselves with the
machinery of the army, bringing their influence to bear upon all
questions of organization and training; they form an organism whose
arteries spread all through the army, gathering practical experience
and carrying wherever they go the same continuous stream of principles
and of doctrines."[3]

[1] See the king's letters to Moltke of Oct. 28, 1870: "Ihrer ...
weisen Führung der Operationen," and of March 22, 1871: "Die
unübertreffliche Leitung der Kriegsoperationen."  Moltke, _Gesammelte
Schriften_, i., 268, 9.

[2] The function of the military administrator is to transform into
military force so much of the resources of the State as the Government
thinks proper.  The process is continuous, and goes on during war as
well as during peace.  In Prussia it is conducted by the ministry of
war, the channel or instrument by which the resources of the country
are rendered available for employment against the enemy.  Cp. p. 61.

[3] _Revue militaire de l'Étranger_, vol. xxxii. p. 261.


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Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.