By the end of the third stage it may be presumed that the enemy has been forced to show his hand sufficiently for the purposes re quired of determining the best method of finally attacking him, and the commander's main dis positions are either directed to be carried out in their original design or else modified to suit new ascertained conditions.
The artillery, which up to this time has con tinued from its first position to support the general advance, by endeavoring to silence the enemy's guns and to dtaw off hts fire from the infantry, is now directed to deliver barrages and to concentrate its fire upon the intended point of attack in order to prepare the way for the infantry assault. The moral effect of this fire upon the defenders will probably be very great, even if the physical effect upon troops partly behind cover of grotmd and ob stacles be comparatively trifling.
Whenever the ground will admit, the in fantry are supported on the flanks by cavalry, which advances under cover in small" columns, with strong supports close at hand, and losing no opportunity of attacking any advanced troops of the enemy and warding off adverse attacics in return. The very fact of the cavalry occa sionally showing itself on the flanks gives con fidence to the attacking infantry and demoral izes die defenders, especially if they are them-. selves deficient or weak in that arm.
The fourth stage is now commenced, by the infantry being firmly launched at the se lected points of attack, and it comprises the whole of the real action up to the moment which immediately precedes final success or failure.
The infantry here plays the principal part. It is fairly committed to the fight and having received its final impulse in the desired direc tion from the commander of the force, no power can alter or recall it, for good, during the remainder of the engagement. Its develop ment of fire-action should rapidly increase as it nears the point of attack, for upon its weight of fire depends its success.
The cavalry on the flanks should be on the watch, not only to protect the infantry flanks of its own troops extended in the advance, but also to seize opportunities of approaching un seen the flanlcs of the opposing infantry or artillery, and of .throwing them into disorder or demoralizing them, if not inflicting serious injury. If repulsed and in its turn disordered,
it must rally under the protection of other arms, and again return to exercise similar functions. But cavalry at this stage can only play a minor part, unless the ground be mon than usually favorable to its action; with the exception, therefore, of strong supports to the cavalry acting on the flanks, the remainder of this arm would still be kept in reserve, but not so far to the rear that it could not be brought up quickly if required to make a di version or demonstration on either flank The artillery, which during the former stages has been of first importance on ac count of its long range, now falls into the sec ond place. The circumstances of the case must determine whether it shall keep up its fire on the enemy's guns to relieve its ovm infantry or whether it shall fire on the enemy's troops. As the rule to be followed is, that it shall fire on that arm of the enemy which is for the time the most important, the enemy's infantry will in all probability be now the object. In either case, a moment may arrive during this stage when a second position more in ad vance is necessary for the guns, on account of their fire becoming masked by their own advancing infantry. If a portion or the whole of the guns can, in such case, be advanced rapidly and placed in •-a good position (espe cially on a flank, whence they can add th.eir own fire to that of the advancing troops, which are at the moment absorbing the whole atten tion of the defending infantry), the proximity to the enemy's line, of this second principal ar tillery posinon, must not be too much limited by ordinary rules of caution. When the at tack and defense are dearly matched, it is clear that the addition of a close artillery fire on either side may turn the scale and com pensate by decisive success for any loss sus tained. As this close action of guns may in case of repulse lead to confusion, it would perhaps be advisable that the whole of the available artillery should not take up this sec ond advanced position, but that a portion be held in reserve, massed in a favorable position, and be kept in action all the time in support of the advanced battery.