Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2.—: PRINCIPLES FOR THE USE OF TROOPS - On War, vol. 3
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2.—: PRINCIPLES FOR THE USE OF TROOPS - Carl von Clausewitz, On War, vol. 3 
On War, trans. Col. J.J. Graham. New and Revised edition with Introduction and Notes by Col. F.N. Maude, in Three Volumes (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & C., 1918). Vol. 3.
Part of: On War
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PRINCIPLES FOR THE USE OF TROOPS
(1) Since we cannot dispense with the use of fire-arms (if we could, why should we carry them at all?) we must open the combat with them, and the cavalry should not be employed until the enemy has suffered considerably by the action of infantry and artillery. From this follows:
(a) That the cavalry should be posted behind the infantry.
(b) That we must not be induced to bring the cavalry into action too soon. The cavalry should not be launched boldly to the attack until such disorder prevails in the enemy’s ranks that we may hope for success by his hasty retreat.
(2) The fire of artillery produces greater effect than that of infantry. A battery of eight six-pounders does not occupy a third part of the front of a battalion of infantry, is worked by an eighth of the number of men composing a battalion, and does certainly twice, if not three times, as much execution with its fire.* On the other hand, artillery has the disadvantage of not being so easily moved as infantry. This applies in general, even to the lightest description of horse artillery, for it cannot be used like infantry upon any ground. From the commencement, therefore, the artillery must be kept united at the most important points, because it cannot, like infantry, concentrate itself at those points during the progress of the battle. A great battery of twenty or thirty guns is in most cases decisive at the point where it is placed.
(3) From the particulars just specified and others which are evident, the following rules present themselves for the use of the different arms of the service respectively.
(a) The battle is commenced by artillery. The greater proportion of that arm being brought into use from the very first, it is only with large masses of troops that both horse and foot artillery are kept in reserve. Artillery is used in large masses brought together at single points. Twenty or thirty guns defend the principal point in one great battery, or batter the point in the enemy’s line which it is intended to attack.
(b) We next use light infantry—either marksmen, riflemen, or fusiliers—principally in order not to bring too many troops into action at once; we try first to feel what there is in our front (for that can seldom be properly examined), we want to see which direction the fight as likely to take.
If we can maintain an equal fight with the enemy with this line of skirmishers, and that there is no reason for hastening the affair, we should do wrong to hurry forward other forces; we should weary out the enemy with this kind of fight as much as possible.
(c) If the enemy brings so many troops into the combat as to overpower our line of skirmishers, or if we cannot delay any longer, we bring forward a full line of infantry, which deploys itself at 100 or 200* paces from the enemy, and either opens fire or advances to the attack, according to circumstances.
(d) This is the chief purpose for which the infantry is destined: if we are drawn up in such deep formation that we have still a line of infantry in column in reserve, we are tolerably well master of the combat at this point. This second line of infantry should, if possible, be used only in columns, to decide the day.
(e) The cavalry during this time keeps in rear of the troops engaged in action, as near as it can, without suffering much loss, that is beyond the reach of grape and musketry. It must, however, be at hand, that we may be able to profit by any success which takes place in the course of the combat.
(4) In following these rules more or less strictly, we must keep in view the following principle, on which I cannot insist too strongly, viz., not to make a venture with all our forces at once, because we thus throw away all means of directing them; to weary our adversary with as few troops as possible, and keep in hand a considerable mass for the last decisive moment. Once this last reserve is staked, it must be led with the utmost boldness.
(5) An order of battle, that is, a method of drawing up the troops before and during the battle, must be established for the whole campaign. This order of battle is to be observed in all cases when there is not time to make special dispositions. It must, therefore, be based chiefly with a view to the defensive. This order of battle will reduce the form or manner in which the Army fights to a kind of method, which is very necessary as well as salutary, because a great number of the Generals of second order, and other officers at the head of smaller units, have little knowledge of tactics, and no special aptitude at all for War.
By this, a certain methodicism is instituted which takes the place of art, where the latter is wanting. My persuasion is that this exists to the greatest degree in the French Army.
(6) According to what has been said respecting the use of the different arms of the service, this order of battle for a Brigade would be something like the following:
According to the same principles, a similar disposition may be established for a Corps of larger proportions: at the same time it is not essential that the order adopted should be precisely that now laid down, it may differ in some respects, so that it is in conformity with the foregoing principles. Thus, for instance, the usual position of the cavalry, g, h, may be in the line l, m, and then it is only brought forward when it is found to be too far in rear at l, m.
(7) The Army consists of several such independent Corps, which have their Generals and Staff. They are drawn up in line, or one behind another, according as that may be prescribed by the general principles for the combat. One thing we have still to add, which is, that if we are not too weak in cavalry, we should form a special reserve of that arm, which naturally will be placed quite in rear, and is for the following purposes:
(a) To press upon the enemy, if he retreats from the field, and to attack the cavalry which he employs in covering his retreat. If the enemy’s cavalry is beaten at that moment, great results must follow, unless the enemy’s infantry performs prodigies of valour. Small bodies of cavalry will not answer the purpose on such an occasion.
(b) To hasten the pursuit of the enemy if, without being beaten, he makes a retreat; or if, after a lost battle, he continues to retire on the following day. Cavalry marches quicker than infantry, and is more dreaded by troops that are retreating. And next to beating the enemy, the pursuit is the most important thing in War.
(c) If our object is to make a great turning movement (to turn the enemy Strategically), and on account of the détour we must employ an arm which marches quicker, then we may take this reserve cavalry for the purpose.
In order to make this Corps more independent, horse artillery should be attached to it; for there is greater strength in a combination of several arms.
(8) The order of battle for the troops has relation to the battle; it is their disposition for that end.
The order of march is, in its essentials, as follows:
(a) Each complete unit (whether Brigade or Division) has its own advance- and rear-guard, and forms a column of itself; that does not, however, prevent several such units from marching on the same road one after another, and thus, to a certain extent, forming as a whole one great column.
(b) The units march according to their position in the general order of battle; that is to say, according as their appointed place in that order may happen to be in line with, or in rear of, each other, so they march.
(c) In the columns themselves the following order is invariably observed: the light infantry form the advance- and rear-guards, accompanied by a proportion of cavalry; then follows the infantry; then the artillery; last of all, the rest of the cavalry.
This order is kept, whether we move against the enemy—in which case it is the natural order—or parallel with the enemy, in which case, properly, those who in the order of battle are to stand behind one another should march side by side. If we have to form line of battle, there can never be want of time to such a degree that we cannot withdraw the cavalry and the second line by one flank or the other.
[* ]The modern quick-fiiring battery of four guns can deliver easily 8000 bullets a minute, and occupies forty yards of front, a battalion of 800 men in line takes roughly 400 yards, and can deliver about the same number of bullets.
[* ]To bring these ideas up to date, all that is necessary is to multiply the number of guns and distances by ten—in the form of the battle—there is no material change. Modern cavalry can cover ten times the distance at speed as when Clausewitz wrote.—Editor.