TACTICS OF INFANTRY.
Infantry, except during a single period, name ly, the Era of Knights or the Age of Chivalry, has always been the principal arm, that is to say numerically the strongest, and in its action the most decisive, and ever since the introduction of firearms the infantry has been gaining in impor tance. It is the only arm which can act inde pendently, that is without the assistance of the other arms, under all conditions of ground, weather, and other circumstances, in attack or defense, while in motion or when at rest, in closed or open order, with fire action or shock action; it can operate on all kinds of ground; it is more independent of circumstances than the other arms; in it movement and effective firing may be combined to a far greater ex tent than in the other arms; it can come into action more easily and readily; it is equally effective in attack and defense; it is more easily and cheaply equipped and maintained than the other arms; and it he more quickly made efficient. But it is limited in its rate of movement, hence the advantage of combining cavalry with it; and in the range of its effective action, hence the ad VII nt age of combining artillery with it for battle, and cavalry for reconnaissance.
Infantry holds its high position mainly on ac count of its great lire-action combined with its capacity to utilize fully the configuration of the ground.
The fire of the present breeeh-loading rifle be gins to make itself felt at 2500 yards, but does not become effective as aimed lire until about 1000 yards from the enemy: at 500 yards it is decisive, and at 300 practically annihilating. Constant improvement gradually increases these distances, and in the Boer War it was noticed that the British attack usually Caine to a stand still at 900 yards.
The perfection of firearms and the more ex tended utilization of the configuration of the ground have greatly increased the power and sig nificance of fire-action. The introduction of an automatic firearm is now only a question of a comparatively short time, and this will still further increase fire effect. The bayonet attack, as an independent act, has ceased to exist; it can no longer overcome fire-aetion, but can only win the results of previous fire-action. The latter
takes by far the longer time and makes the high est demands on the strength and endurance of the troops; moreover, its annihilating effect pun ishes promptly any rash resort to the bayonet. Nevertheless the necessity for the bayonet re mains; not indeed in hand to hand conflict, but as a threatening measure in the assault of a po sition, and because of the confidence it inspires and the power of the initiative which it confers, According to the great German tactician Meekel, "The laurel of victory still hangs on the point of the bayonet." The power of infantry fire necessitates cover, and the utilization of the natural configuration of the ground to secure this has acquired vital im portance. The crossing of open spaces is avoided as much as possible, or postponed to decisive moments; hence, the battle usually crystallizes around woods, villages, and groups of buildings. But in broad open fields, as in the United States, or where troops are opposed to each other in strong natural or artificial positions for a consid erable time, artificial cover must be obtained, consequently intrenchment is resorted to, and an intrenehing tool has become a necessary part of the soldier's equipment.
The formations in which infantry moves and fights are not the result of haphazard theory, hut have grown out of the conditions of warfare, and their importance is attested by the filet that, in spite of the improvement in firearms, the losses in battle have become gradually smaller. Infantry can fight only when the distance from the enemy, or the available natural or artificial cover, permits it to fire, and effective fire can only be obtained when the soldier has room to use his arm freely, consequently this arm fights in open or dispersed order, the closed order being used only for troops in rear of the firing line. The greatest difficulty in leading infantry is the loss of control by the officers due to this dis persed order, and this can only be overcome by training, discipline, drill, and the example of the officers.