Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics

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Author: Maurice de Saxe

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ARTILLERY AND TRANSPORT.

I never would have an army composed of more than ten legions, eight regiments of cavalry, and sixteen of dragoons. This would amount to thirty-four thousand foot and twelve thousand horse, a total of forty-six thousand men. With such an army, one of a hundred thousand can be stopped if the general is clever and knows how to choose his camps. A greater army is only an embarrassment. I do not say that reserves are unnecessary, but only that the acting part of an army ought not to exceed such a number.

M. de Turenne was always victorious with armies infinitely inferior in numbers to those of his enemies because he moved more easily and knew how to select positions such that he could not be attacked while still always keeping near the enemy.

It is sometimes impossible to find a piece of ground in a whole province that will contain a hundred thousand men in order of battle. Thus the enemy is almost always forced to divide, in which case I can attack one of the parts; if I defeat it, I thereby intimidate the other and soon gain superiority. In short, I am convinced that the advantages which large armies have in numbers are more than lost in the encumbrance, the diversity of operations under the jarring conduct of different commanders, the deficiency of provisions, and many other inconveniences which are inseparable from them. But this is not the subject that I am discussing here, and it is only the question of proper proportions that led to this digression.

Sixteen pounders are equally as useful as twenty-four pounders to batter a breach and are much less difficult to 244 transport. Fifty of them, together with twelve mortars and ammunition in proportion, will be sufficient for such an army as I have been describing. Boats, with all the tackle to make a bridge, twelve hinged bridges for the passage of canals and small rivers, together with the necessary equipment, also are required.

For the rest of the transport and food supplies of the army, I prefer wagons made of wood, without any iron work in them. These are used by the Russians, and also we see them coming from Franche-Comté to Paris. They can travel from one end of the world to the other without damaging the roads. One man can drive four with ease. Each is drawn by two oxen. Ten of our wagons do more harm to a road than a thousand of these.

If we would only consider the disadvantages caused by our present method of transport, we should see the utility and benefit of adopting this. How many times is food totally lacking because the wagons have not been able to get up? How often is the baggage and artillery left behind, and the army forced to make a sudden halt? A little rainy weather and a hundred or two wagons are enough to destroy a good road and make it impassable; it is repaired and a hundred more wagons make it worse than it was before; put fascines on it and in no time they will be cut to pieces by the wheels which carry such a heavy weight on two points only.

All the wagons of the army should be drawn by oxen, both because of their even pace and their economy. They can be pastured anywhere and, if there is any shortage of them, more can be obtained from the depot. In addition, 245 they require little harness. Wherever the army halts they pasture and feed themselves.

A single man can handle four wagons, each drawn by two oxen. It would require twelve or fifteen horses to haul as much as these eight oxen. The latter do not consume the forage they haul because they are sent out to pasture while the wagoners are cutting and loading it.

If one of the oxen is injured, it is killed and eaten and another one is purchased. All of these reasons induce me to prefer oxen to horses for transport. Each one, however, should be branded so that everyone can distinguish his own in the pasture.

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Chicago: Maurice de Saxe, "My Reveries Upon the Art of War: Artillery and Transport," Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, ed. Thomas R. Phillips (Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1940), Original Sources, accessed February 24, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8SG8P1DD6J9EDTL.

MLA: de Saxe, Maurice. "My Reveries Upon the Art of War: Artillery and Transport." Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, edited by Thomas R. Phillips, Harrisburg, PA, The Military Service Publishing Company, 1940, Original Sources. 24 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8SG8P1DD6J9EDTL.

Harvard: de Saxe, M, 'My Reveries Upon the Art of War: Artillery and Transport' in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics. cited in 1940, Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, ed. , The Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, PA. Original Sources, retrieved 24 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8SG8P1DD6J9EDTL.