restricted access VII. The Purpose of This Study and What Would Be Necessary to Complete It
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46 VII The Purpose of This Study and What Would Be Necessary to Complete It Other thoughts on this study must come from the meditations of the reader. To be of value in actual application these should be founded on a study of modern combat, and that study cannot be made from the accounts of historians alone. Historians describe in a general way the actions of the troop formations, but in their narratives the detailed descriptions, as well as those of the individual soldier in action, as in reality, remain wrapped in a cloud of mist. And yet we must comprehend both because they form the rationale and the starting point for all methods of combat, past, present, and future. Where can these details be found? We have very few narratives showing the action as closely as Colonel Bugeaud’s account of the fighting at l’Hopital.39 These narratives are more 39. Thomas Robert Bugeaud de la Piconnerie (1784–1849), marshal of France, governorgeneral of Algeria. Bugeaud rose from the enlisted ranks of Napoleon’s Garde Imperiale to become one of France’s most revered—and reviled—soldiers. A veteran of Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau, and the Spanish campaigns, after France’s defeat in 1814, he was pardoned by the Restoration and reinstated to his rank of colonel. He defected to Napoleon during the Hundred Days Campaign to fight under Marshal Suchet. After Waterloo, he was forbidden to hold military rank and retreated to his home province of Périgord to farm. The July Revolution of 1830 restored Bugeaud to the army and in the following year he was appointed marechal de camp and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, where he proved himself a relentless enemy of democracy. By 1836, he held the rank of lieutenant general, and although he disagreed with Louis Phillipe’s Algerian policy, he was persuaded to take command of field The Purpose of This Study 47 detailed, because the slightest detail is important, as are actors or witnesses who were able to see and remember, which is required to study combat today. The number and kind of troops killed, where they are injured, sometimes reveal more than longer narratives that do not analyze action.40 We must learn how man, and in particular the French, fought yesterday; how and to what extent, under the pressure of danger and the survival instinct , necessarily, inevitably, he followed, ignored, or forgot rules or recommended methods, or to say how he fought by his instinct or by his warlike intelligence. Once we truly know this, without illusion, we will be closer to understanding how he will behave tomorrow, with and against today’s faster and more destructive weapons. We can see, knowing that man is capable of only a given amount of terror, knowing the moral force of its destructive power, the speed of it; that tomorrow, more than ever, formal methods that give only the illusion of the battlefield, and contempt for our own experience, hold us back. Tomorrow, the value of the individual soldier will be greater than ever, and so too as a consequence the value of group solidarity.41 * Only the study of the past can give us a sense of what is practical, inevitable , for the fighting soldier tomorrow. So informed, prepared, we will not be surprised because we can arrange our fighting doctrine, our organization, the best formation appropriately. This will have the effect of regularizing it to the extent possible and therefore leave the least to chance, extending the commander’s control over the soldier when the soldier’s instinct becomes absolutely incompatible with prescribed tactics. This is the only way to preserve discipline, which is broken at precisely the instant of the greatest need. And take care that above all this is before actual combat and not in maneuver. Maneuvers are the march and movements of troops in the field in the largest formations with all possible order and speed; they are not the same as action itself. Action follows. forces there. His campaigns against the Algerians were notable for their “flying columns,” entailing the rapid, relentless pursuits of the enemy by his light forces. Louis Phillipe appointed Bugeaud governor-general of Algeria in 1840, a post he held until 1846. Bugeaud was a great favorite of his troops, who admired his pragmatic, if costly, style of desert warfare. He was in Paris during the Revolution of 1848 but chose not to participate. He was a prolific writer not...