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THE OPINIONS OF FIELD-MARSHAL RADETZKY.
The last ten years have witnessed the departure from among us of many generals who distinguished themselves in the great continental
We have suffered the loss of a Wellington, and of his favourite pupil Raglan, while Austria has to lament the death of the hero who preserved for her her Lombardo-Venetian dominions. The masterly retreat from Milan and the battle of Novara will be eternally remembered by the Austrians as the greatest achievements that distinguished the whole revolutionary campaign. Radetzky had been brought up in a good school : he served through the great war as quartermaster-general, and amassed a fund of valuable experiences, which he turned to advantage when the crisis arrived. The biography of the field-marshal has already appeared, but it is far from furnishing a correct appreciation of his eminent services in the organisation and administration of the army. This will be best understood by a study of his opinions, a short abstract of which we now propose offering to our readers. A careful examination of these pages will prove that the field-marshal could manage his pen almost as well as his sword. Radetzky was fond of writing, and continued the practice to the last day of his life. While constantly engaged in drawing a useful application from the events of the day, he never neglected the slightest thing that would ameliorate the army or benefit the state. His modesty would not permit him to claim publicity for his opinions so long as he was alive. He feared nothing so much as one-sided criticism, or any doubt as to the purity of his motives. Now, however, that the grave has closed over him, it is but right his country should know how much he strove for the welfare of his fatherland, like the great Eugène of Savoy, whom he chose as his model. Any future biographer of Radetzky will find these papers indispensable, and they should be carefully studied by every military man who desires to obtain information on many interesting topics. Although these opinions refer to a political complication long passed by, the political views of the field-marshal, as regards the position of Austria to the rest of the Continent, possess great value, for circumstances have not so greatly altered but that the same coalitions may again spring into life. Being necessarily desirous to give our article a general character, we will, therefore, proceed to select such passages as will prove interesting to others besides purely professional readers.
Almost the first paper we stumble on contains opinions which may be useful to ourselves at the present moment, when so much is being done to enhance the value of our staff. The experiences of the Crimea proved to us that more was to be desired from a staff-officer than wearing a handsome uniform and being mounted on expensive horses, and the defects so evident in our system it is now sought to remove by the establishment of a staff college, where officers will be thoroughly instructed
Denkschriften militärisch-politischen Inhalts aus dem handschriftlichen Nachlass des K. K. Osterreichischen Feld-Marschales Grafen Radetzky, Stuttgard: T. and G. Cotta. 1858.
in their various and important duties. We have no details at present as to the working of the new system, but, if it be carried out in its integrity, we entertain no doubt that much benefit will be derived from it. According to Radetzky's suggestions, the staff-officer should be entrusted with all movements relating to the dislocation and marching of troops ; he should have the entire management of the spy-system; he should draw
up the plans for the great manæuvres; undertake all military reconnoissances either on the
frontier or in the interior of the country, and be employed on all extraordinary missions which will increase his local knowledge of the country. From the quartermaster-general's staff he demands an immensity of useful knowledge, which we fear we might ask in vain from our own officers of that branch. One point he presses, however, appears to us novel.
Whenever an officer of the general staff is attached to an embassy in a foreign country, the state has a right to expect from him full details on the following subjects : 1. An accurate and detailed statement of the forces of the state to which he is sent. It is not sufficient for him to send home a statement of the numbers of these forces and any changes that may occur, but it is absolutely necessary that he should be acquainted with the minutest details of the nature of the troops, their temper, education, and military bearing, their mode of marching, manæuvring, camping, and fighting, their commissariat, recruiting, and internal administration, but, above all, the character of their leaders and military chiefs. There will be no great difficulty in an intelligent officer obtaining these details, and should any occur, his ambassador is bound to assist him. So far as is possible, he should try to obtain the same information about the adjacent states in every indirect manner, and before all he must exercise the greatest possible amount of cleverness, so as not to gain the character of a spy, and compromise the home authorities. 2. He must pay the closest attention to every expression or movement that suggests war as imminent or remote. For this purpose he should closely observe the papers, journals, and magazines, the state of the fortresses, munitions of war, concentration of troops in encampments—in a word, every object that may prove of importance for his own country to be acquainted with. An experienced officer will manage, under the pretext of sociability, to form military and other acquaintances, which will enable him to obtain much valuable information; and a clever man, who chooses his friends carefully, will much sooner in this way become conversant with a state secret than it he ran the risk of being regarded as a spy. The greatest calmness and caution are the more to be recommended here, as such an officer of the embassy will always be carefully watched by the secret police of the foreign state. If he goes to work, however, with the proper secrecy, he will be easily enabled to form connexions whence he may derive valuable information in future.
The field-marshal enters into some further details into which it is unnecessary to describe here, but we may express our surprise at the naïveté with which this odious system is recommended. We dare say it is a common rule for all governments to carry out the suggestions of Radetzky, but they have the decency to keep it from the public ken. Here, though, we have the Austrian government gravely allowing such a plan to be made public. It would have been, perhaps, as well if we had sent an officer to make these researches before we rushed into the war with Russia, for there is no doubt we were entirely in the dark as to the number of troops that could be brought against us, or the points at which they were stationed. It is, however, some excuse for Radetzky's suggestions to the Austrian government, that the French kept up perfectly organised
bureaux d'espionnage in Austria at the time of which he is writing, and that the Russians had a general officer attached to their embassy for a
Another very interesting memoir, written by Radetzky in 1813, relates to the armistice by which Napoleon sought so cleverly to get the better of the allies. His object in lengthening the armistice till the 20th of July Radetzky saw through at once: he wished to bring up his reinforcements and crush the allies. From the Rhine fresh levies were coming up; from Spain large bodies of troops had been recalled; while in Italy the viceroy was forming an army. Saxony had been forced by the conqueror to send up a double contingent, and the screw was being put on the princes of the Rhenish Confederation for the same purpose. It was evident that Napoleon was employing the armistice to strengthen his army by all the means in his power. What were the Austrians to do in such a state of things? This is Radetzky's proposition :
As regards the organisation and strength of the army, it cannot be often enough repeated that Napoleon, during the armistice, will find time and means to bring his army up to at least two hundred and fifty thousand men. If Austria take part in the war against France, it may be confidently assumed that he will be able to oppose sixty thousand men to the allies, and employ some one hundred and eighty thousand men against us. The chief object of the common plan of operations will be only to act offensively with the main army, but keep all the other forces acting on the defensive until Napoleon's main body has been beaten. This is the only way in which a favourable result may be hoped. All isolated advantages, however great they may be, when not gained by the main army, will be useless, so long as a weakening of the enemy's main strength is not obtained. Hence it is absolutely necessary that our army should be raised at once to one hundred and fifty thousand men.
But the difficulty was how to effect this. The finances of Austria were exhausted, and the emperor himself vacillating as to the policy of again drawing the sword against the redoubtable Napoleon. We all know the result: how the French, in their arrogance, defied the world in arms, and were defeated, not ingloriously, by the masses brought to bear against them, and the fatal error committed by Vandamme. The policy recommended by Radetzky was pursued, and the emperor was consequently prevented from falling on any one of the three main armies of the allies and destroying them in detail. We find our author writing from Toplitz on the 4th of September, 1813:
Napoleon has entirely lost one corps d’armée. Four others have suffered considerable losses against General Blücher, and those opposed to the Crown Prince of Sweden are not in the best condition. The value of the plan of operations has been confirmed in spite of many difficult events in the execution, and it appears highly advisable to continue our further movements after the same principles that have already produced such favourable results. Our object should, therefore, be to cause the Emperor Napoleon the greatest possible loss, and thus continually deprive him of the opportunity of concentrating his physical and moral strength on one point. And, secondly, to cut off all communication with France, by which additional forces might join his army.
The allies must have begun to feel a strange confidence when such suggestions could be offered, and Radetzky only endorses the views expressed by Marmont when writing of this memorable campaign, who says that Napoleon was morally defeated ere a shot had been fired. And
yet it was a noble fight he fought: inch by inch he sullenly yielded his ground, and had he been only able personally to direct all the movements of the campaign, the result might have proved very different. Radetzky justly allows that the Emperor Napoleon found it much easier to gain a battle at one point with superior strength than to maneuvre simultaneously at various points against equal bodies of troops. His terrible presence aroused the enthusiasm of his wearied generals, and the fear of him drove his worn-out soldiers on against the enemy. « On the day of battle he will, and must, be superior to us. He undertakes the maddest schemes without any fear of the consequences, and carries them through with a consistency that overthrows everything that cannot keep in step with him. His way of carrying on war, however, must never be ours. He must seek general actions : we avoid them.” The following memoir on the campaign of 1813, written about a fortnight before the battle of Leipzig, also appears to be a very correct appreciation of the state of the two armies:
The experiences we obtained after the opening of the campaign furnished us with the following results. The Emperor Napoleon, who at the commencement of the campaign was strong enough to crush any one of the three armies opposed to him, probably allowed himself to be deceived as to the movements of the main army, and sought it near Zittau and Gabel, while it was debouching at Dippoldiswald. This alone will explain the reason why he selected the worst of the three forward movements left to him, and attacked the centre of the allied army through Blücher's corps. With a rapidity that did all honour to his infantry, he hurried back to Dresden to prevent the main army advancing. He concentrated a large portion of his force near this capital, and thus enabled Blücher to carry out the successful operations with which we are already acquainted. Nature herself seemed to have conspired against the main army, while it was struggling with the great difficulties presented by the ground, incessant rain so ruined the roads that it was impossible for the columns to reach Dresden at the appointed time. For the same reasons neither the reserve guns nor ammunition could be brought up. Under these circumstances it was the more impossible to risk a decisive action before Dresden, as we had the defiles in our rear and General Vandamme at Königstein behind our right flank. Still the main object had been attained. Napoleon had been compelled to fatigue his troops greatly; the armies of the crown prince and General Blücher were disengaged, and enabled to assume the offensive at once. The considerable losses of the main army in the fights near Dresden and the retreat on Bohemia were amply compensated by the advantages thus obtained for the armies of Blücher and the crown prince. The madness of General Vandamme at length afforded the main army the opportunity to cope with the evil effects which accompany every retreat. From this moment there was visible in the French army a degree of indecision and timidity in moving, which overthrew every calculation based on the heroism of the chief and the willing and prompt obedience of his orders by the subordinates. This army was seen to start thrice for Silesia and return to Dresden. Its movements against Berlin, which were impeded by the happy arrangements of the crown prince, were carried out without any concert with the other French armies, and the attempt to debouch by Kulm, which had quite the character of a serious attack, could only be a last desperate step. Since that period the allies have moved in perfect harmony, and each of the three armies can boast of having been useful to the other.
The 18th of October was the decisive blow to Napoleon's power in Germany, and we find Radetzky indefatigable in his recommendations to Schwarzenberg to press on the pursuit, which he had no inclination to
do. By the victory of Leipzig the allies gained an immediate accession of strength; the Rhine princes were compelled to turn round, and their contingents were ordered to fight against their old lord, which they evinced no hesitation in doing. The retreat of the French across the Rhine gave the allies seventy thousand fresh troops at their disposition. The force with which they proceeded to crush the power of Napoleon was strangely disproportionate : the main army amounted to two hundred and fifty thousand men, the army of South Germany reckoned three hundred and fifteen thousand, while the movements were supported from Italy by one hundred thousand more; and yet Napoleon did not quail for a moment, as witness the magnificent campaign he fought in 1814, and the repeated defeats to which he subjected the allies. Had it not been for Blücher's impetuosity, and his own strange vacillation at the Congress of Châtillon, he might have maintained himself on the throne. But the modern Attila had played his part out—he had advanced European civilisation by at least one hundred years, and he was at length to make room for his incompetent successors. Strange dispensation, that the very measures by which the allies believed they had excluded the Napoleon family eternally from the throne of France, played the most decided part in raising the present emperor to the exalted post he now so worthily fills.
One of the most important improvements made by Radetzky in the Austrian army was the formation of the mounted orderly corps, dating so far back as 1814, and which has proved its value in every campaign. The principal duties of these men were threefold. In the first place, they undertook all the espionage, for which the smartest men were selected ; secondly, they performed courier duties; and thirdly, they acted as gendarmes at head-quarters, and formed an escort for the general commanding during action. The established strength of the corps was five officers and one hundred and ninety men, and they certainly did very efficient service. In the late reforms of the Austrian army these orderlies have been reorganised, and form an integral portion of the staff. The advantages such a body of men offers are, that they are thoroughly up to their work, and, secondly, there is no longer occasion to detach men from the various regiments to perform these duties, as is the case with ourselves. Radetzky was always very proud of this arrangement of his, and employed the orderlies with great advantage during the whole of the Italian campaign.
There is a great gap in Radetzky's opinions from 1815 (when he was actively engaged at head-quarters in Paris) until 1827, when the movements of the Russians against Turkey called his attention to political affairs. We are much struck with the remarks he makes about Turkey, as they have been fully confirmed by recent events. He starts from the principle that Turkey is a decaying state, and that before long it must be erased from the map of Europe. The Congress of Vienna weakened its strength materially, and yet it did not arouse from its lethargy. England, by the acquisition of Corfu and Malta, threatened all the Turkish harbours, and was in a position to close the Dardanelles if she chose. Russia, who before could undertake no war against Turkey until she had secured a free passage through Poland, had a free course by the incorporation of that country, while Austria, by the acquisition of Dalmatia, was rendered vastly superior to Turkey. All this the Sultan had allowed to