BATTLE. An encounter between two armies, resulting from an attempt of one of the armies to attain an object while the other opposes the attempt. This encounter is usually a general action in which all of the divisions of the armies are or may be engaged. Battles are classified as defensive, offensive and mixed. In a purely defensive battle the army selects a position in which to await the enemy and there to give battle with no other end in view than to hold this position and repulse the enemy. In a purely offensive battle an army seeks the enemy and attacks him wherever he is to be found. A mixed battle is a combination of these two. All other things being equal, an offensive battle offers the greatest advantages, as it permits a general to choose his point of attack and gives him time to make all the preparations that he may deem necessary. Not withstanding the practical application of science in warfare, the inventions of airplanes, wireless telegraphy, etc., battles, though planned and fought almost solely on tactical principles, have in many cases important strategical bearings which it is the province of an able general to see and to take advantage of. Skilfully com bined strategical marches, when ably executed, may alone decide the fate of a campaign, with out the necessity of coming into collision with the enemy; but this is a rare case, and a battle is usually the necessary sequence to an import ant strategical movement, and, if well planned and successfully fought, may prove decisive of the war. Military writers designate by orders of battle the general combinations made to attack one or more points of an enemy's posi tion; while they apply the term line of battle to the disposition of the troops, in their rela tions to each other for mutual co-operation, acting either offensively or defensively. What ever may be the disposition of the troops, the line of battle of any considerable force will present a well-defined centre and two wings; thus offering to an assailant one or more of these as his point of attack. This has led to dividing orders of battle into several classes, arising from the necessary disposition of the assailing force, as it moves to attack one or more of these points.If an equal effort is made to assail every point of the enemy's line, the assailing force must necessarily advance on a line parallel to the one assailed, and this therefore has received the name of the parallel order of battle. If the line of the assailing force is sensibly perpendicular to that of the assailed, the disposition is said to be the per pendicular order. If the main attack is made by one wing, the centre and other wing being held back, or refused as it is termed, the posi tions of the lines of the two parties become naturally oblique to each other, and this is termed the oblique order. In like manner the concave order results from an attack by both wings, the centre being refused, and the convex order from refusing the wings and attacking by the centre, etc. The order of battle should result from the position in which the enemy's forces are presented for attack; and as these, if skilfully disposed, will be posted so as to take advantage of the points of vantage which the position they occupy offers, the order of battle for assailing may vary in an infinity of ways. Still it is not to be inferred that one
order is not superior to another, or. that the choice between them is one at pleasure. In the parallel order, for example, the opposing forces being supposed equal in all points, there is no reason why one point of the enemy's line should be forced rather than another, and, therefore, success depends either upon destroying his whole line, or simply pushing it back; as chance alone will determine a break in any part of his line. In the oblique order, on the contrary, one wing being refused, or merely acting as a menace, the other may be strongly re-enforced, so as to overwhelm the wing opposed to it, and, if this succeeds, the assailing army, by its simple onward movement, is gradually brought to gain ground on the enemy's rear, and to threaten his line of retreat. Again, in crossing a river on a bridge, or passing through any other defile to assail an enemy opposing this movement, the order of battle becomes neces sarily convex, the extremity of the defile itself becoming the centre from which the assailing forces radiate, to enlarge their front, while they are obliged to secure the defile on each flank. To lay down rules therefore as to what order of battle should, in every case, be em ployed would be pure pedantry. Talent, skill and experience can alone enable a general to decide this point in any given case. As to the distribution of the troops belonging to the separate fractions of the entire force, as an army corps, a division, etc., the rule is to so distribute them that they shall fight under the immediate eye of their respective commanders and support each other. While engineering sci ence is now applied to the emergencies of mod ern warfare in order to facilitate locomotion and communication, and while the modern battle is largely decided by a superiority of motor trans ports, transporting men from one part of the battlefield to another, with airmen to guide operations, it must be remembered that even in the highly scientific battle of to-day, with vast and newly-invented war machinery at hand, the infantry is the principal and most important arm, which is charged with the main work on the field of battle and decides the final issue of combat. The role of the infantry, whether offensive or defensive, is the role of the entire force, and the utilization of that arm gives the entire battle its character. The success of the infantry is essential to the success of the combined arms. If the hostile lines are held by good infantry, properly led and supported by proper artillery, fire action alone will not bring about a decision. For this purpose the assault will be necessary. See ADVANCE GUARD; ATTACK; OUTPOST; PATROLS; RECONNAISSANCE; STRATEGY; and TACTICS.