To sum up the characteristic points of the infantry battle-tactics of 1870-71, it will be necessary in doing so to mention in the first place what we did not see. That is to say, no volleys in battle; no, or at least a very few, attacks by troops in close order; if, however, a compact body ever did attack, it was always a small one, never amounting to a battalion column. But we did see great deployments of skirmishers on both sides; long continued gradually advancing musketry fights, often rolling backwards and forwards; at last the flank of one party turned or else One side ex hausted; the other side pressing on in conse quence, or a rush of dense clouds of skirmish ers who endeavor at any price to dislodge their opponents; not forgetful that, in case of fail ure and retreat, they are dead men. On both sides great dispersion; intermingling of troops and particularly in broken ground die hence the leader's control diminished. With the Germans —more steadiness and the habit of reserving their fire. With the French — more hurry and the habit of firing at long ranges. However great the effect of the artillery; however enor mous was the loss of the French by shells, there was still no example of a really great result being due specially to artillery. Even the plateau of Floing, which was cannonaded from all sides, had to be stormed by infantry. And the same may be said of Saint Privat.
The instances which have been given are the principal assaults in the first half of the war; they present many points of resemblance. In pearly every case the troops were drawn up4n two lines of company columns and a re serve. The slcirnilshers were sent forward, the first line followed at 150 or zoo paces dis tant and then the second line. In no instance, however, does it appear that there was more than one line of skirmishers; behind them the troops marched with dogged bravery, in solid line of two ranks, shoulder to shoulder, or in company columns with platoon fronts far in side the line of rapid effective fire; and they combated this march until the fire caused a break in their lines and a retreat, or until they reached the work after enormous losses and held it as the result of a hand-to-hand fight. The skirmish line was so small in comparison with the main force that it really amounted to nothing and the attack was in fact made in solid line. The attack and the forward move ment were not distinguished. This defective formation was the principal cause of the heavy losses.
In offensive tactics we may consider three general modes of attack, one of which the commander of a combined force must select as the most suitable for his purpose. (1) Frontal attack, which would mean a direct advance upon the whole of the enemy's line or position. As a general rule, this form of
attack is unadvisable, as even in case of suc cess the result is not decisive; the enemy's line of retreat being unassailed, he simply falls back to a position more to the rear. There may, however, be situations when the nature of the ground prevents any other mode of or where the frontal attack may be made use of to feel the enemy and ascertain his exact dispositions, in preparation for a con centrated attack upon one of his weak points, as soon as they are discovered. (2) Combined attack upon front and flank. In this case the enemy is attacked in front at the same time that a portion of the force is directed at one of the flanks. An attack upon the flanks by itself unaccompanied by a front attack is not advisable, except in the case of small de tachments acting against one another, or un less the attack can be effected by surprise, in which case the enemy is unable to meet it In time by a change of front. Were a strong force in position attacked solely on the flank it would quickly form up its reserves to a new front, the troops of the 'original front coming up in support. For a flank attack, therefore, to succeed, it must, as a general rule, be accompanied by a frontal attack, sufficient to hold the enemy to his original position. An attack upon both flanks combined with a frontal attack can only be tried under circumstances of great superiority of numbers, without which it would become a most dangerous operation, enabling the enemy to give the counter-stroke of a weak point of a straggling line and beat the assailants in detail by cutting their force into two. In engagements where the numbers are small the flank attack may be made alone.
(3) Concentrated attack upon a weak point, to break through the enemy's line or force his position. This mode of attack, if the most difficult of execution, is undoubtedly in case of success the most decisive, the enemy being broken into fractions which can subse quently be beaten in detail. The enemy's line of retreat may also thus be arrived at, and his communications cut before he can recover himself.' The attack must always be made with force sufficient to resist a counter enveloping attack on the part of the enemy; which might otherwise be disastrous in its results. The in creased range of modern guns and rifles has made this attack more hazardous than ever, for a concentrated fire-action can now be brought to bear on the assailant, not only from all parts of the defense in his immediate front, but in most cases from either as well.
Unless, therefore, the ground covers the Inove ment in a great degree it should not be at tempted.