Battle Studies
by Colonel Charles-Jean-Jacques-Joseph Ardant du Picq
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AND MAJOR ROBERT C. COTTON GENERAL STAFF (INFANTRY), U.S. ARMY Joint Author of "Military Field Notebook"


[Transcriber's note: Footnotes have been moved to the end of the book.]



Colonel Ardant du Picq was the exponent of moral force, the most powerful element in the strength of armies. He has shown it to be the preponderating influence in the outcome of battles.

Your son has accomplished a very valuable work in translating his writings. One finds his conclusions amply verified in the experience of the American Army during the last war, notably in the campaign of 1918.

Accept, my dear General, my best regards. F. FOCH.


BY FRANK H. SIMONDS Author of "History of the World War," "'They Shall Not Pass'—Verdun," Etc.

In presenting to the American reading public a translation of a volume written by an obscure French colonel, belonging to a defeated army, who fell on the eve of a battle which not alone gave France over to the enemy but disclosed a leadership so inapt as to awaken the suspicion of treason, one is faced by the inevitable interrogation—"Why?"

Yet the answer is simple. The value of the book of Ardant du Picq lies precisely in the fact that it contains not alone the unmistakable forecast of the defeat, itself, but a luminous statement of those fundamental principles, the neglect of which led to Gravelotte and Sedan.

Napoleon has said that in war the moral element is to all others as three is to one. Moreover, as du Picq impressively demonstrates, while all other circumstances change with time, the human element remains the same, capable of just so much endurance, sacrifice, effort, and no more. Thus, from Caesar to Foch, the essential factor in war endures unmodified.

And it is not the value of du Picq's book, as an explanation of the disasters of 1870, but of the triumphs of 1914-18, which gives it present and permanent interest. It is not as the forecast of why Bazaine, a type of all French commanders of the Franco-Prussian War, will fail, but why Foch, Joffre, Petain will succeed, that the volume invites reading to-day.

Beyond all else, the arresting circumstances in the fragmentary pages, perfect in themselves but incomplete in the conception of their author, is the intellectual and the moral kinship they reveal between the soldier who fell just before the crowning humiliation of Gravelotte and the victor of Fere Champenoise, the Yser and the colossal conflict of 1918 to which historians have already applied the name of the Battle of France, rightly to suggest its magnitude.

Read the hastily compiled lectures of Foch, the teacher of the Ecole de Guerre, recall the fugitive but impressive words of Foch, the soldier, uttered on the spur of the moment, filled with homely phrase, and piquant figure and underlying all, one encounters the same integral conception of war and of the relation of the moral to the physical, which fills the all too scanty pages of du Picq.

"For me as a soldier," writes du Picq, "the smallest detail caught on the spot and in the heat of action is more instructive than all the Thiers and the Jominis in the world." Compare this with Foch explaining to his friend Andre de Mariecourt, his own emotions at the critical hour at Fere Champenoise, when he had to invent something new to beguile soldiers who had retreated for weeks and been beaten for days. His tactical problem remained unchanged, but he must give his soldiers, tired with being beaten to the "old tune" a new air, which would appeal to them as new, something to which they had not been beaten, and the same philosophy appears.

Du Picq's contemporaries neglected his warning, they saw only the outward circumstances of the Napoleonic and Frederican successes. In vain du Picq warned them that the victories of Frederick were not the logical outgrowth of the minutiae of the Potsdam parades. But du Picq dead, the Third Empire fallen, France prostrated but not annihilated by the defeats of 1870, a new generation emerged, of which Foch was but the last and most shining example. And this generation went back, powerfully aided by the words of du Picq, to that older tradition, to the immutable principles of war.

With surprising exactness du Picq, speaking in the abstract, foretold an engagement in which the mistakes of the enemy would be counterbalanced by their energy in the face of French passivity, lack of any control conception. Forty years later in the Ecole de Guerre, Foch explained the reasons why the strategy of Moltke, mistaken in all respects, failed to meet the ruin it deserved, only because at Gravelotte Bazaine could not make up his mind, solely because of the absence in French High Command of precisely that "Creed of Combat" the lack of which du Picq deplored.

Of the value of du Picq's work to the professional soldier, I naturally cannot speak, but even for the civilian, the student of military events, of war and of the larger as well as the smaller circumstances of battle, its usefulness can hardly be exaggerated. Reading it one understands something, at least of the soul as well as the science of combat, the great defeats and the great victories of history seem more intelligible in simple terms of human beings. Beyond this lies the contemporaneous value due to the fact that nowhere can one better understand Foch than through the reading of du Picq.

By translating this volume of du Picq and thus making it available for an American audience whose interest has been inevitably stirred by recent events, the translators have done a public as well as a professional service. Both officers enjoyed exceptional opportunities and experiences on the Western front. Col. Greely from Cantigny to the close of the battle of the Meuse-Argonne was not only frequently associated with the French army, but as Chief of Staff of our own First Division, gained a direct knowledge of the facts of battle, equal to that of du Picq, himself.

On the professional side the service is obvious, since before the last war the weakness of the American like the British Army, a weakness inevitable, given our isolation, lay in the absence of adequate study of the higher branches of military science and thus the absence of such a body of highly skilled professional soldiers, as constituted the French or German General Staff. The present volume is a clear evidence that American officers themselves have voluntarily undertaken to make good this lack.

On the non-professional side and for the general reader, the service is hardly less considerable, since it supplies the least technically informed with a simply comprehensible explanation of things which almost every one has struggled to grasp and visualize during the last six years extending from the battle of Marne in 1914 to that of the Vistula in 1920.

Of the truth of this latter assertion, a single example will perhaps suffice. Every forthcoming military study of the campaign of 1914 emphasizes with renewed energy the fact that underlying all the German conceptions of the opening operations was the purpose to repeat the achievement of Hannibal at Cannae, by bringing the French to battle under conditions which should, on a colossal scale, reproduce those of Hannibal's greatest victory. But nowhere better than in du Picq's volume, are set forth the essential circumstances of the combat which, after two thousand years gave to Field Marshal von Schlieffen the root ideas for the strategy expressed in the first six weeks of 1914. And, as a final observation, nowhere better than in du Picq's account, can one find the explanation of why the younger Moltke failed in executing those plans which gave Hannibal one of the most shining triumphs in all antiquity.

Thus, although he died in 1870, du Picq lives, through his book, as one of the most useful guides to a proper understanding of a war fought nearly half a century later.


Snowville, New Hampshire, October 15, 1920.


Colonel Ardant du Picq's "Battle Studies" is a French military classic. It is known to every French army officer; it is referred to as an established authority in such works as Marshal Foch's "The Principles of War." It has been eagerly read in the original by such American army officers as have chanced upon it; probably only the scarcity of thinking men with military training has precluded the earlier appearance of an American edition.

The translators feel that the war with Germany which brought with it some military training for all the best brains of the country has prepared the field for an American edition of this book. They are sure that every American reader who has had actual battle experience in any capacity will at some point say to himself, "That is absolutely true...." or, "That reminds me of the day...."

Appendices II, III, IV, and V, appearing in the edition from which this translation is made, deal with issues and military questions entirely French and not of general application. They are therefore not considered as being of sufficient interest to be reproduced herein. Appendix VI of the original appears herein as Appendix II.

The translation is unpretentious. The translators are content to exhibit such a work to the American military public without changing its poignancy and originality. They hope that readers will enjoy it as much as they have themselves.

J. N. G. R. C. C.


We present to the public the complete works of Colonel Ardant du Picq, arranged according to the plan of the author, enlarged by unpublished fragments and documents.

These unpublished documents are partially known by those who have read "Studies on Combat" (Hachette & Dumaine, 1880). A second edition was called for after a considerable time. It has left ineffaceable traces in the minds of thinking men with experience. By its beauty and the vigor of its teachings, it has created in a faithful school of disciples a tradition of correct ideas.

For those familiar with the work, there is no need for emphasizing the importance and usefulness of this rejuvenated publication. In it they will find new sources of interest, which will confirm their admiration for the author.

They will also rejoice in the popularity of their teacher, already highly regarded in the eyes of his profession on account of his presentation of conclusions, the truth of which grows with years. His work merits widespread attention. It would be an error to leave it in the exclusive possession of special writers and military technicians. In language which is equal in power and pathetic beauty, it should carry its light much further and address itself to all readers who enjoy solid thought. Their ideas broadened, they will, without fail, join those already initiated.

No one can glance over these pages with indifference. No one can fail to be moved by the strong and substantial intellect they reveal. No one can fail to feel their profound depths. To facilitate treatment of a subject which presents certain difficulties, we shall confine ourselves to a succinct explanation of its essential elements, the general conception that unites them, and the purpose of the author. But we must not forget the dramatic mutilation of the work unfortunately never completed because of the glorious death of Ardant du Picq.

When Colonel Ardant du Picq was killed near Metz in 1870 by a Prussian shell, he left works that divide themselves into two well-defined categories:

(1) Completed works:

Pamphlet (printed in 1868 but not intended for sale), which forms the first part of the present edition: Ancient Battle.

A series of memoirs and studies written in 1865. These are partly reproduced in Appendices I and II herein.

(2) Notes jotted down on paper, sometimes developed into complete chapters not requiring additions or revision, but sometimes abridged and drawn up in haste. They reveal a brain completely filled with its subject, perpetually working, noting a trait in a rapid phrase, in a vibrating paragraph, in observations and recollections that a future revision was to compile, unite and complete.

The collection of these notes forms the second part: Modern Battle.

These notes were inspired by certain studies or memoirs which are presented in Appendices I-V, and a Study on Combat, with which the Colonel was occupied, and of which we gave a sketch at the end of the pamphlet of 1868. He himself started research among the officers of his acquaintance, superiors, equals or subordinates, who had served in war. This occupied a great part of his life.

In order to collect from these officers, without change or misrepresentation, statements of their experiences while leading their men in battle or in their divers contacts with the enemy, he sent to each one a questionnaire, in the form of a circular. The reproduction herein is from the copy which was intended for General Lafont de Villiers, commanding the 21st Division at Limoges. It is impossible to over-emphasize the great value of this document which gives the key to the constant meditations of Ardant du Picq, the key to the reforms which his methodical and logical mind foresaw. It expounds a principle founded upon exact facts faithfully stated. His entire work, in embryo, can be seen between the lines of the questionnaire. This was his first attempt at reaction against the universal routine surrounding him.

From among the replies which he received and which his family carefully preserved, we have extracted the most conclusive. They will be found in Appendix II—Historical Documents. Brought to light, at the urgent request of the author, they complete the book, corroborating statements by examples. They illuminate his doctrines by authentic historical depositions.

In arranging this edition we are guided solely by the absolute respect which we have for the genius of Ardant du Picq. We have endeavored to reproduce his papers in their entirety, without removing or adding anything. Certain disconnected portions have an inspired and fiery touch which would be lessened by the superfluous finish of an attempt at editing. Some repetitions are to be found; they show that the appendices were the basis for the second part of the volume, Modern Battle. It may be stated that the work, suddenly halted in 1870, contains criticisms, on the staff for instance, which aim at radical reforms.






















1. Ancient and Modern Battle 2. Moral Elements in Battle 3. Material and Moral Effect 4. The Theory of Strong Battalions 5. Combat Methods


1. Masses—Deep Columns 2. Skirmishers—Supports—Reserves—Squares 3. Firing 4. Marches—Camps—Night Attacks


1. Cavalry and Modern Appliances 2. Cavalry Against Cavalry 3. Cavalry Against Infantry 4. Armor and Armament






1. Introduction 2. Succinct History of the Development of Small Arms, from the Arquebus to Our Rifle 3. Progressive Introduction of Fire-Arms Into the Armament of the Infantryman 4. The Classes of Fire Employed with Each Weapon 5. Methods of Fire Used in the Presence of the Enemy; Methods Recommended or Ordered but Impractical 6. Fire at Will—Its Efficacy 7. Fire by Rank Is a Fire to Occupy the Men in Ranks 8. The Deadly Fire Is the Fire of Skirmishers 9. The Absolute Impossibility of Fire at Command


1. Cavalry (An Extract from Xenophon) 2. Marius Against the Cimbrians (Extract from Plutarch's "Life of Marius") 3. The Battle of The Alma (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq) 4. The Battle of the Alma (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq) 5. The Battle of Inkermann (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq) 6. The Battle of Magenta (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq) 7. The Battle of Solferino (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq) 8. Mentana (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant du Picq)



Near Longeville-les-Metz on the morning of August 15, 1870, a stray projectile from a Prussian gun mortally wounded the Colonel of the 10th Regiment of the Line. The obscure gunner never knew that he had done away with one of the most intelligent officers of our army, one of the most forceful writers, one of the most clear-sighted philosophers whom sovereign genius had ever created.

Ardant du Picq, according to the Annual Register, commanded but a regiment. He was fitted for the first rank of the most exalted. He fell at the hour when France was thrown into frightful chaos, when all that he had foreseen, predicted and dreaded, was being terribly fulfilled. New ideas, of which he was the unknown trustee and unacknowledged prophet, triumphed then at our expense. The disaster that carried with it his sincere and revivifying spirit, left in the tomb of our decimated divisions an evidence of the necessity for reform. When our warlike institutions were perishing from the lack of thought, he represented in all its greatness the true type of military thinker. The virile thought of a military thinker alone brings forth successes and maintains victorious nations. Fatal indolence brought about the invasion, the loss of two provinces, the bog of moral miseries and social evils which beset vanquished States.

The heart and brain of Ardant du Picq guarded faithfully a worthy but discredited cult. Too frequently in the course of our history virtues are forsaken during long periods, when it seems that the entire race is hopelessly abased. The mass perceives too late in rare individuals certain wasted talents—treasures of sagacity, spiritual vigor, heroic and almost supernatural comprehension. Such men are prodigious exceptions in times of material decadence and mental laxness. They inherit all the qualities that have long since ceased to be current. They serve as examples and rallying points for other generations, more clear-sighted and less degenerate. On reading over the extraordinary work of Ardant du Picq, that brilliant star in the eclipse of our military faculties, I think of the fatal shot that carried him off before full use had been found for him, and I am struck by melancholy. Our fall appears more poignant. His premature end seems a punishment for his contemporaries, a bitter but just reproach.

Fortunately, more honored and believed in by his successors, his once unappreciated teaching contributes largely to the uplift and to the education of our officers. They will be inspired by his original views and the permanent virtue contained therein. They will learn therefrom the art of leading and training our young soldiers and can hope to retrieve the cruel losses of their predecessors.

Ardant du Picq amazes one by his tenacity and will power which, without the least support from the outside, animate him under the trying conditions of his period of isolated effort.

In an army in which most of the seniors disdained the future and neglected their responsibilities, rested satisfied on the laurels of former campaigns and relied on superannuated theories and the exercises of a poor parade, scorned foreign organizations and believed in an acquired and constant superiority that dispenses with all work, and did not suspect even the radical transformations which the development of rifles and rapid-fire artillery entail; Ardant du Picq worked for the common good. In his modest retreat, far from the pinnacles of glory, he tended a solitary shrine of unceasing activity and noble effort. He burned with the passions which ought to have moved the staff and higher commanders. He watched while his contemporaries slept.

Toward the existing system of instruction and preparation which the first blow shattered, his incorruptible honesty prevented him from being indulgent. While terrified leaders passed from arrogance or thoughtlessness to dejection and confusion, the blow was being struck. Served by his marvelous historical gifts, he studied the laws of ancient combat in the poorly interpreted but innumerable documents of the past. Then, guided by the immortal light which never failed, the feverish curiosity of this soldier's mind turned towards the research of the laws of modern combat, the subject of his preference. In this study he developed to perfection his psychological attainments. By the use of these attainments he simplified the theory of the conduct of war. By dissecting the motor nerves of the human heart, he released basic data on the essential principles of combat. He discovered the secret of combat, the way to victory.

Never for a second did Ardant du Picq forget that combat is the object, the cause of being, the supreme manifestation of armies. Every measure which departs therefrom, which relegates it to the middle ground is deceitful, chimerical, fatal. All the resources accumulated in time of peace, all the tactical evolutions, all the strategical calculations are but conveniences, drills, reference marks to lead up to it. His obsession was so overpowering that his presentation of it will last as long as history. This obsession is the role of man in combat. Man is the incomparable instrument whose elements, character, energies, sentiments, fears, desires, and instincts are stronger than all abstract rules, than all bookish theories. War is still more of an art than a science. The inspirations which reveal and mark the great strategists, the leaders of men, form the unforeseen element, the divine part. Generals of genius draw from the human heart ability to execute a surprising variety of movements which vary the routine; the mediocre ones, who have no eyes to read readily therein, are doomed to the worst errors.

Ardant du Picq, haunted by the need of a doctrine which would correct existing evils and disorders, was continually returning to the fountain-head. Anxious to instruct promising officers, to temper them by irrefutable lessons, to mature them more rapidly, to inspire them with his zeal for historical incidents, he resolved to carry on and add to his personal studies while aiding them. Daring to take a courageous offensive against the general inertia of the period, he translated the problem of his whole life into a series of basic questions. He presented in their most diverse aspects, the basic questions which perplex all military men, those of which knowledge in a varying degree of perfection distinguish and classify military men. The nervous grasp of an incomparable style models each of them, carves them with a certain harshness, communicates to them a fascinating yet unknown authority which crystallizes them in the mind, at the same time giving to them a positive form that remains true for all armies, for all past, present and future centuries. Herewith is the text of the concise and pressing questions which have not ceased to be as important to-day (1902) as they were in 1870:


"In the last century, after the improvements of the rifle and field artillery by Frederick, and the Prussian successes in war—to-day, after the improvement of the new rifle and cannon to which in part the recent victories are due—we find all thinking men in the army asking themselves the question: 'How shall we fight to-morrow?' We have no creed on the subject of combat. And the most opposing methods confuse the intelligence of military men.

"Why? A common error at the starting point. One might say that no one is willing to acknowledge that it is necessary to understand yesterday in order to know to-morrow, for the things of yesterday are nowhere plainly written. The lessons of yesterday exist solely in the memory of those who know how to remember because they have known how to see, and those individuals have never spoken. I make an appeal to one of those.

"The smallest detail, taken from an actual incident in war, is more instructive for me, a soldier, than all the Thiers and Jominis in the world. They speak, no doubt, for the heads of states and armies but they never show me what I wish to know—a battalion, a company, a squad, in action.

"Concerning a regiment, a battalion, a company, a squad, it is interesting to know: The disposition taken to meet the enemy or the order for the march toward them. What becomes of this disposition or this march order under the isolated or combined influences of accidents of the terrain and the approach of danger?

"Is this order changed or is it continued in force when approaching the enemy?

"What becomes of it upon arriving within the range of the guns, within the range of bullets?

"At what distance is a voluntary or an ordered disposition taken before starting operations for commencing fire, for charging, or both?

"How did the fight start? How about the firing? How did the men adapt themselves? (This may be learned from the results: So many bullets fired, so many men shot down—when such data are available.) How was the charge made? At what distance did the enemy flee before it? At what distance did the charge fall back before the fire or the good order and good dispositions of the enemy, or before such and such a movement of the enemy? What did it cost? What can be said about all these with reference to the enemy?

"The behavior, i.e., the order, the disorder, the shouts, the silence, the confusion, the calmness of the officers and men whether with us or with the enemy, before, during, and after the combat?

"How has the soldier been controlled and directed during the action? At what instant has he had a tendency to quit the line in order to remain behind or to rush ahead?

"At what moment, if the control were escaping from the leader's hands, has it no longer been possible to exercise it?

"At what instant has this control escaped from the battalion commander? When from the captain, the section leader, the squad leader? At what time, in short, if such a thing did take place, was there but a disordered impulse, whether to the front or to the rear carrying along pell-mell with it both the leaders and men?

"Where and when did the halt take place?

"Where and when were the leaders able to resume control of the men?

"At what moments before, during, or after the day, was the battalion roll-call, the company roll-call made? The results of these roll-calls?

"How many dead, how many wounded on the one side and on the other; the kind of wounds of the officers, non-commissioned officers, corporals, privates, etc., etc.?

"All these details, in a word, enlighten either the material or the moral side of the action, or enable it to be visualized. Possibly, a closer examination might show that they are matters infinitely more instructive to us as soldiers than all the discussions imaginable on the plans and general conduct of the campaigns of the greatest captain in the great movements of the battle field. From colonel to private we are soldiers, not generals, and it is therefore our trade that we desire to know.

"Certainly one cannot obtain all the details of the same incident. But from a series of true accounts there should emanate an ensemble of characteristic details which in themselves are very apt to show in a striking, irrefutable way what was necessarily and forcibly taking place at such and such a moment of an action in war. Take the estimate of the soldier obtained in this manner to serve as a base for what might possibly be a rational method of fighting. It will put us on guard against a priori and pedantic school methods.

"Whoever has seen, turns to a method based on his knowledge, his personal experience as a soldier. But experience is long and life is short. The experiences of each cannot therefore be completed except by those of others.

"And that is why, General, I venture to address myself to you for your experiences.

"Proofs have weight.

"As for the rest, whether it please you to aid or not, General, kindly accept the assurance of most respectful devotion from your obedient servant."

* * * * *

The reading of this unique document is sufficient to explain the glory that Ardant du Picq deserved. In no other career has a professional ever reflected more clearly the means of pushing his profession to perfection; in no profession has a deeper penetration of the resources been made.

It pleases me particularly to associate the two words 'penseur' and 'militaire,' which, at the present time, the ignorance of preconceived opinion too frequently separates. Because such opinion is on the verge of believing them to be incompatible and contradictory.

Yet no calling other than the true military profession is so fitted to excite brain activity. It is preeminently the calling of action, at the same time diverse in its combinations and changing according to the time and locality wherein it is put to practice. No other profession is more complex nor more difficult, since it has for its aim and reason the instruction of men to overcome by training and endurance the fatigue and perils against which the voice of self-preservation is raised in fear; in other words, to draw from nature what is most opposed and most antipathic to this nature.

There is, however, much of routine in the customs of military life, and, abuse of it may bring about gross satires which in turn bring it into derision. To be sure, the career has two phases because it must fulfill simultaneously two exigencies. From this persons of moderate capacity draw back and are horrified. They solve the question by the sacrifice of the one or the other. If one considers only the lower and somewhat vulgar aspect of military life it is found to be composed of monotonous obligations clothed in a mechanical procedure of indispensable repetition. If one learns to grasp it in its ensemble and large perspective, it will be found that the days of extreme trial demand prodigies of vigor, spirit, intelligence, and decision! Regarded from this angle and supported in this light, the commonplace things of wearisome garrison life have as counterweights certain sublime compensations. These compensations preclude the false and contemptible results which come from intellectual idleness and the habit of absolute submission. If it yields to their narcotic charms, the best brain grows rusty and atrophies in the long run. Incapable of virile labor, it rebels at a renewal of its processes in sane initiative. An army in which vigilance is not perpetual is sick until the enemy demonstrates it to be dead.

Far, then, from attaching routine as an indispensable companion to military discipline it must be shown continually that in it lies destruction and loss. Military discipline does not degenerate except when it has not known the cult of its vitality and the secret of its grandeur. The teachers of war have all placed this truth as a preface to their triumphs and we find the most illustrious teachers to be the most severe. Listen to this critique of Frederick the Great on the maneuvers which he conducted in Silesia:

"The great mistake in inspections is that you officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict. Take shoe-makers and tailors and make generals of them and they will not commit worse follies! These blunders are made on a small as well as on a large scale. Consequently, in the greatest number of regiments, the private is not well trained; in Zaramba's regiment he is the worst; in Thadden's he amounts to nothing; and to no more in Keller's, Erlach's, and Haager's. Why? Because the officers are lazy and try to get out of a difficulty by giving themselves the least trouble possible."

* * * * *

In default of exceptional generals who remold in some campaigns, with a superb stroke, the damaged or untempered military metal, it is of importance to supply it with the ideals of Ardant du Picq. Those who are formed by his image, by his book, will never fall into error. His book has not been written to please aesthetic preciseness, but with a sincerity which knows no limit. It therefore contains irrefutable facts and theories.

The solidity of these fragmentary pages defies time; the work interrupted by the German shell is none the less erected for eternity. The work has muscles, nerves and a soul. It has the transparent concentration of reality. A thought may be expressed by a single word. The terseness of the calcined phrase explains the interior fire of it all, the magnificent conviction of the author. The distinctness of outline, the most astounding brevity of touch, is such that the vision of the future bursts forth from the resurrection of the past. The work contains, indeed, substance and marrow of a prophetic experience.

Amidst the praise rendered to the scintillating beauties of this book, there is perhaps, none more impressive than that of Barbey d'Aurevilly, an illustrious literary man of a long and generous patrician lineage. His comment, kindled with lyric enthusiasm, is illuminating. It far surpasses the usual narrow conception of technical subjects. Confessing his professional ignorance in matters of war, his sincere eulogy of the eloquent amateur is therefore only the more irresistible.

"Never," writes Barbey d'Aurevilly, "has a man of action—of brutal action in the eyes of universal prejudice—more magnificently glorified the spirituality of war. Mechanics—abominable mechanics—takes possession of the world, crushing it under its stupid and irresistible wheels. By the action of newly discovered and improved appliances the science of war assumes vast proportions as a means of destruction. Yet here, amid the din of this upset modern world we find a brain sufficiently master of its own thoughts as not to permit itself to be dominated by these horrible discoveries which, we are told, would make impossible Fredericks of Prussia and Napoleons and lower them to the level of the private soldier! Colonel Ardant du Picq tells us somewhere that he has never had entire faith in the huge battalions which these two great men, themselves alone worth more than the largest battalions, believed in. Well, to-day, this vigorous brain believes no more in the mechanical or mathematical force which is going to abolish these great battalions. A calculator without the least emotion, who considers the mind of man the essential in war—because it is this mind that makes war—he surely sees better than anybody else a profound change in the exterior conditions of war which he must consider. But the spiritual conditions which are produced in war have not changed. Such, is the eternal mind of man raised to its highest power by discipline. Such, is the Roman cement of this discipline that makes of men indestructible walls. Such, is the cohesion, the solidarity between men and their leaders. Such, is the moral influence of the impulse which gives the certainty of victory.

"'To conquer is to advance,' de Maistre said one day, puzzled at this phenomenon of victory. The author of "Etudes sur le Combat" says more simply: 'To conquer is to be sure to overcome.' In fine, it is the mind that wins battles, that will always win them, that always has won them throughout the world's history. The spirituality, the moral quality of war, has not changed since those times. Mechanics, modern arms, all the artillery invented by man and his science, will not make an end to this thing, so lightly considered at the moment and called the human soul. Books like that of Ardant du Picq prevent it from being disdained. If no other effect should be produced by this sublime book, this one thing would justify it. But there will be others—do not doubt it—I wish merely to point out the sublimity of this didactic book which, for me, has wings like celestial poetry and which has carried me above and far away from the materialistic abjectness of my time. The technique of tactics and the science of war are beyond my province. I am not, like the author, erudite on maneuvers and the battle field. But despite my ignorance of things exclusively military, I have felt the truth of the imperious demonstrations with which it is replete, as one feels the presence of the sun behind a cloud. His book has over the reader that moral ascendancy which is everything in war and which determines success, according to the author. This ascendancy, like truth itself, is the sort which cannot be questioned. Coming from the superior mind of a leader who inspires faith it imposes obedience by its very strength. Colonel Ardant du Picq was a military writer only, with a style of his own. He has the Latin brevity and concentration. He retains his thought, assembles it and always puts it out in a compact phrase like a cartridge. His style has the rapidity and precision of the long-range arms which have dethroned the bayonet. He would have been a writer anywhere. He was a writer by nature. He was of that sacred phalanx of those who have a style all to themselves."

Barbey d'Aurevilly rebels against tedious technicalities. Carried away by the author's historical and philosophical faculties, he soars without difficulty to the plane of Ardant du Picq. In like manner, du Picq ranges easily from the most mediocre military operations to the analysis of the great functions of policy of government and the evolution of nations.

Who could have unraveled with greater finesse the causes of the insatiable desires of conquest by the new power which was so desirous of occupying the leading role on the world's stage? If our diplomats, our ministers and our generals had seized the warning of 1866, the date of the defeat of Austria, it is possible that we might have been spared our own defeats.

"Has an aristocracy any excuse for existing if it is not military? No. The Prussian aristocracy is essentially military. In its ranks it does accept officers of plebeian extraction, but only under condition that they permit themselves to be absorbed therein.

"Is not an aristocracy essentially proud? If it were not proud it would lack confidence. The Prussian aristocracy is, therefore, haughty; it desires domination by force and its desire to rule, to dominate more and more, is the essence of its existence. It rules by war; it wishes war; it must have war at the proper time. Its leaders have the good judgment to choose the right moment. This love of war is in the very fiber, the very makeup of its life as an aristocracy.

"Every nation that has an aristocracy, a military nobility, is organized in a military way. The Prussian officer is an accomplished gentleman and nobleman; by instruction or examination he is most capable; by education, most worthy. He is an officer and commands from two motives, the French officer from one alone.

"Prussia, in spite of all the veils concealing reality, is a military organization conducted by a military corporation. A nation, democratically constituted, is not organized from a military point of view. It is, therefore, as against the other, in a state of unpreparedness for war.

"A military nation and a warlike nation are not necessarily the same. The French are warlike from organization and instinct. They are every day becoming less and less military.

"In being the neighbor of a military nation, there is no security for a democratic nation; the two are born enemies; the one continually menaces the good influences, if not the very existence of the other. As long as Prussia is not democratic she is a menace to us.

"The future seems to belong to democracy, but, before this future is attained by Europe, who will say that victory and domination will not belong for a time to military organization? It will presently perish for the lack of sustenance of life, when having no more foreign enemies to vanquish, to watch, to fight for control, it will have no reason for existence."

In tracing a portrait so much resembling bellicose and conquering Prussia, the sharp eye of Ardant du Picq had recognized clearly the danger which immediately threatened us and which his deluded and trifling fellow citizens did not even suspect. The morning after Sadowa, not a single statesman or publicist had yet divined what the Colonel of the 10th Regiment of the Line had, at first sight, understood. Written before the catastrophes of Froeschwiller, Metz and Sedan, the fragment seems, in a retrospective way, an implacable accusation against those who deceived themselves about the Hohenzollern country by false liberalism or a softening of the brain.

Unswerved by popular ideas, by the artificial, by the trifles of treaties, by the chimera of theories, by the charlatanism of bulletins, by the nonsense of romantic fiction, by the sentimentalities of vain chivalry, Ardant du Picq, triumphant in history, is even more the incomparable master in the field of his laborious days and nights, the field of war itself. Never has a clearer vision fathomed the bloody mysteries of the formidable test of war. Here man appears as his naked self. He is a poor thing when he succumbs to unworthy deeds and panics. He is great under the impulse of voluntary sacrifice which transforms him under fire and for honor or the salvation of others makes him face death.

The sound and complete discussions of Ardant du Picq take up, in a poignant way, the setting of every military drama. They envelop in a circle of invariable phenomena the apparent irregularity of combat, determining the critical point in the outcome of the battle. Whatever be the conditions, time or people, he gives a code of rules which will not perish. With the enthusiasm of Pascal, who should have been a soldier, Ardant du Picq has the preeminent gift of expressing the infinite in magic words. He unceasingly opens an abyss under the feet of the reader. The whole metaphysics of war is contained therein and is grasped at a single glance.

He shows, weighed in the scales of an amazing exactitude, the normal efficiency of an army; a multitude of beings shaken by the most contradictory passions, first desiring to save their own skins and yet resigned to any risk for the sake of a principle. He shows the quantity and quality of possible efforts, the aggregate of losses, the effects of training and impulse, the intrinsic value of the troops engaged. This value is the sum of all that the leader can extract from any and every combination of physical preparation, confidence, fear of punishment, emulation, enthusiasm, inclination, the promise of success, administration of camps, fire discipline, the influence of ability and superiority, etc. He shows the tragic depths, so somber below, so luminous above, which appear in the heart of the combatant torn between fear and duty. In the private soldier the sense of duty may spring from blind obedience; in the non-commissioned officer, responsible for his detachment, from devotion to his trade; in the commanding officer, from supreme responsibility! It is in battle that a military organization justifies its existence. Money spent by the billions, men trained by the millions, are gambled on one irrevocable moment. Organization decides the terrible contest which means the triumph or the downfall of the nation! The harsh rays of glory beam above the field of carnage, destroying the vanquished without scorching the victor.

Such are the basic elements of strategy and tactics!

There is danger in theoretical speculation of battle, in prejudice, in false reasoning, in pride, in braggadocio. There is one safe resource, the return to nature.

The strategy that moves in elevated spheres is in danger of being lost in the clouds. It becomes ridiculous as soon as it ceases to conform to actual working tactics. In his classical work on the decisive battle of August 18, 1870, Captain Fritz Hoenig has reached a sound conclusion. After his biting criticism of the many gross errors of Steinmetz and Zastrow, after his description of the triple panic of the German troops opposite the French left in the valley and the ravine of the Mance, he ends by a reflection which serves as a striking ending to the book. He says, "The grandest illustration of Moltke's strategy was the battle of Gravelotte-Saint Privat; but the battle of Gravelotte has taught us one thing, and that is, the best strategy cannot produce good results if tactics is at fault."

The right kind of tactics is not improvised. It asserts itself in the presence of the enemy but it is learned before meeting the enemy.

"There are men," says Ardant du Picq, "such as Marshal Bugeaud, who are born military in character, mind, intelligence and temperament. Not all leaders are of this stamp. There is, then, need for standard or regulation tactics appropriate to the national character which should be the guide for the ordinary commander and which do not exact of him the exceptional qualities of a Bugeaud."

"Tactics is an art based on the knowledge of how to make men fight with their maximum energy against fear, a maximum which organization alone can give."

"And here confidence appears. It is not the enthusiastic and thoughtless confidence of tumultuous or improvised armies that gives way on the approach of danger to a contrary sentiment which sees treason everywhere; but the intimate, firm, conscious confidence which alone makes true soldiers and does not disappear at the moment of action."

"We now have an army. It is not difficult for us to see that people animated by passions, even people who know how to die without flinching, strong in the face of death, but without discipline and solid organization, are conquered by others who are individually less valiant but firmly organized, all together and one for all."

"Solidarity and confidence cannot be improvised. They can be born only of mutual acquaintanceship which establishes pride and makes unity. And, from unity comes in turn the feeling of force, that force which gives to the attack the courage and confidence of victory. Courage, that is to say, the domination of the will over instinct even in the greatest danger, leads finally to victory or defeat."

In asking for a doctrine in combat and in seeking to base it on the moral element, Ardant du Picq was ahead of his generation. He has had a very great influence. But, the doctrine is not yet established.

How to approach the adversary? How to pass from the defensive to the offensive? How to regulate the shock? How to give orders that can be executed? How to transmit them surely? How to execute them by economizing precious lives? Such are the distressing problems that beset generals and others in authority. The result is that presidents, kings and emperors hesitate, tremble, interrogate, pile reports upon reports, maneuvers upon maneuvers, retard the improvement of their military material, their organization, their equipment.

The only leaders who are equal to the difficulties of future war, come to conclusions expressed in almost the same terms. Recently General de Negrier, after having insisted that physical exhaustion determined by the nervous tension of the soldier, increased in surprising proportions according to the invisibility of the adversary, expressed himself as follows:

"The tide of battle is in the hands of each fighter, and never, at any time, has the individual bravery of the soldier had more importance.

"Whatever the science of the superior commander, the genius of his strategic combinations, the precision of his concentrations, whatever numerical superiority he may have, victory will escape him if the soldier does not conduct himself without being watched, and if he is not personally animated by the resolution to conquer or to perish. He needs much greater energy that formerly.

"He no longer has the intoxication of ancient attacks in mass to sustain him. Formerly, the terrible anxiety of waiting made him wish for the violent blow, dangerous, but soon passed. Now, all his normal and physical powers are tried for long hours and, in such a test, he will have but the resoluteness of his own heart to sustain him.

"Armies of to-day gain decisions by action in open order, where each soldier must act individually with will and initiative to attack the enemy and destroy him.

"The Frenchman has always been an excellent rifleman, intelligent, adroit and bold. He is naturally brave. The metal is good; the problem is to temper it. It must be recognized that to-day this task is not easy. The desire for physical comfort, the international theories which come therefrom, preferring economic slavery and work for the profit of the stranger to the struggle, do not incite the Frenchman to give his life in order to save that of his brother.

"The new arms are almost valueless in the hands of weakhearted soldiers, no matter what their number may be. On the contrary, the demoralizing power of rapid and smokeless firing, which certain armies still persist in not acknowledging, manifests itself with so much the more force as each soldier possesses greater valor and cool energy.

"It is then essential to work for the development of the moral forces of the nation. They alone will sustain the soldier in the distressing test of battle where death comes unseen.

"That is the most important of the lessons of the South African war. Small nations will find therein the proof that, in preparing their youth for their duties as soldiers and creating in the hearts of all the wish for sacrifice, they are certain to live free; but only at this price."

This profession of faith contradicts the imbecile sophisms foolishly put into circulation by high authority and a thoughtless press, on the efficiency of the mass, which is nothing but numbers, on the fantastic value of new arms, which are declared sufficient for gaining a victory by simple mechanical perfection, on the suppression of individual courage. It is almost as though courage had become a superfluous and embarrassing factor. Nothing is more likely to poison the army. Ardant du Picq is the best specific against the heresies and the follies of ignorance or of pedantry. Here are some phrases of unerring truth. They ought to be impressed upon all memories, inscribed upon the walls of our military schools. They ought to be learned as lessons by our officers and they ought to rule them as regulations and pass into their blood:

"Man is capable of but a given quantity of fear. To-day one must swallow in five minutes the dose that one took in an hour in Turenne's day."

"To-day there is greater need than ever for rigid formation."

"Who can say that he never felt fear in battle? And with modern appliances, with their terrible effect on the nervous system, discipline is all the more necessary because one fights only in open formation."

"Combat exacts a moral cohesion, a solidarity more compact that ever before."

"Since the invention of fire arms, the musket, rifle, cannon, the distances of mutual aid and support are increased between the various arms. The more men think themselves isolated, the more need they have of high morale."

"We are brought by dispersion to the need of a cohesion greater than ever before."

"It is a truth, so clear as to be almost naive, that if one does not wish bonds broken, he should make them elastic and thereby strengthen them."

"It is not wise to lead eighty thousand men upon the battle field, of whom but fifty thousand will fight. It would be better to have fifty thousand all of whom would fight. These fifty thousand would have their hearts in the work more than the others, who should have confidence in their comrades but cannot when one-third of them shirk their work."

"The role of the skirmisher becomes more and more predominant. It is more necessary to watch over and direct him as he is used against deadlier weapons and as he is consequently more prone to try to escape from them at all costs in any direction."

"The thing is then to find a method that partially regulates the action of our soldiers who advance by fleeing or escape by advancing, as you like, and if something unexpected surprises them, escape as quickly by falling back."

"Esprit de corps improves with experience in wars. War becomes shorter and shorter, and more and more violent; therefore, create in advance an esprit de corps."

These truths are eternal. This whole volume is but their masterful development. They prove that together with audacious sincerity in the coordination of facts and an infallible judgment, Ardant du Picq possessed prescience in the highest degree. His prophetic eye distinguished sixty years ago the constituent principles of a good army. These are the principles which lead to victory. They are radically opposed to those which enchant our parliamentarians or military politicians, which are based on a fatal favoritism and which precipitate wars.

Ardant du Picq is not alone a superior doctrinaire. He will be consulted with profit in practical warlike organization. No one has better depicted the character of modern armies. No one knew better the value of what Clausewitz called, "The product of armed force and the country's force ... the heart and soul of a nation."

No more let us forget that he launched, before the famous prediction of von der Goltz, this optimistic view well calculated to rekindle the zeal of generals who struggle under the weight of enormous tasks incident to obligatory service.

"Extremes meet in many things. In the ancient times of conflict with pike and sword, armies were seen to conquer other solid armies even though one against two. Who knows if the perfection of long-range arms might not bring back these heroic victories? Who knows whether a smaller number by some combination of good sense or genius, or morale, and of appliances will not overcome a greater number equally well armed?"

After the abandonment of the law of 1872, and the repeal of the law of 1889, and before the introduction of numerous and disquieting reforms in recruitment and consequently, in the education of our regiments, would it not be opportune to study Ardant du Picq and look for the secret of force in his ideas rather than in the deceptive illusions of military automatism and materialism?

The martial mission of France is no more ended than war itself. The severities of war may be deplored, but the precarious justice of arbitration tribunals, still weak and divested of sanction, has not done away with its intervention in earthly quarrels. I do not suppose that my country is willing to submit to the mean estate, scourged with superb contempt by Donoso Cortes, who says:—

"When a nation shows a civilized horror of war, it receives directly the punishment of its mistake. God changes its sex, despoils it of its common mark of virility, changes it into a feminine nation and sends conquerors to ravish it of its honor."

France submits sometimes to the yoke of subtle dialecticians who preach total disarmament, who spread insanely disastrous doctrine of capitulation, glorify disgrace and humiliation, and stupidly drive us on to suicide. The manly counsels of Ardant du Picq are admirable lessons for a nation awakening. Since she must, sooner or later, take up her idle sword again, may France learn from him to fight well, for herself and for humanity!

ERNEST JUDET. PARIS, October 10, 1902.

* * * * *

Ardant du Picq has said little about himself in his writings. He veils with care his personality. His life and career, little known, are the more worthy of the reader's interest, because the man is as original as the writer. To satisfy a natural curiosity, I asked the Colonel's family for the details of his life, enshrined in their memory. His brother has kindly furnished them in a letter to me. It contains many unpublished details and shows traits of character which confirm our estimate of the man, Ardant du Picq. It completes very happily the impression made by his book.

"PARIS, October 12, 1903.


"Herewith are some random biographical notes on the author of 'Etudes sur le Combat' which you requested of me.

"My brother entered Saint-Cyr quite late, at twenty-one years, which was I believe the age limit at that time. This was not his initial preference. He had a marked preference for a naval career, in which adventure seemed to offer an opportunity for his activity, and which he would have entered if the circumstances had so permitted. His childhood was turbulent and somewhat intractable; but, attaining adolescence, he retained from his former violence a very pronounced taste for physical exercise, especially for gymnastics, little practiced then, to which he was naturally inclined by his agility and muscular strength.

"He was successful in his classes, very much so in studies which were to his taste, principally French composition. In this he rose above the usual level of schoolboy exercises when the subject interested him. Certain other branches that were uninteresting or distasteful to him, as for instance Latin Grammar, he neglected. I do not remember ever having seen him attend a distribution of prizes, although he was highly interested, perhaps because he was too interested. On these occasions, he would disappear generally after breakfast and not be seen until evening. His bent was toward mechanical notions and handiwork. He was not uninterested in mathematics but his interest in this was ordinary. He was nearly refused entrance to Saint-Cyr. He became confused before the examiners and the results of the first part of the tests were almost negligible. He consoled himself with his favorite maxim as a young man: 'Onward philosophy.' Considering the first test as over and done with, he faced the second test with perfect indifference. This attitude gave him another opportunity and he came out with honors. As he had done well with the written test on 'Hannibal's Campaigns,' he was given a passing grade.

"At school he was liked by all his comrades for his good humor and frank and sympathetic character. Later, in the regiment, he gained naturally and without effort the affection of his equals and the respect of his subordinates. The latter were grateful to him for the real, cordial and inspiring interest he showed in their welfare, for he was familiar with the details of the service and with the soldier's equipment. He would not compromise on such matters and prevaricators who had to do with him did not emerge creditably.

"It can be said that after reaching manhood he never lied. The absolute frankness from which he never departed under any circumstances gave him prestige superior to his rank. A mere Lieutenant, he voted 'No' to the Coup d'Etat of December 2, and was admonished by his colonel who was sorry to see him compromise thus his future. He replied with his usual rectitude: 'Colonel, since my opinion was asked for, I must suppose that it was wanted.'

"On the eve of the Crimean war, his regiment, (67th) not seeming destined to take the field, he asked for and obtained a transfer to the light infantry (9th Battalion). It was with this battalion that he served in the campaign. When it commenced, he made his first appearance in the fatal Dobrutscha expedition. This was undertaken in a most unhealthy region, on the chance of finding there Cossacks who would have furnished matter for a communique. No Cossacks were found, but the cholera was. It cut down in a few hours, so as to speak, a large portion of the total strength. My brother, left with the rear guard to bury the dead, burn their effects and bring up the sick, was in his turn infected. The attack was very violent and he recovered only because he would not give in to the illness. Evacuated to the Varna hospital, he was driven out the first night by the burning of the town and was obliged to take refuge in the surrounding fields where the healthfulness of the air gave him unexpected relief. Returned to France as a convalescent, he remained there until the month of December (1854). He then rejoined his regiment and withstood to the end the rigors of the winter and the slowness of the siege.

"Salle's division to which the Trochu brigade belonged, and in which my brother served, was charged with the attack on the central bastion. This operation was considered a simple diversion without a chance of success. My brother, commanding the storming column of his battalion, had the good fortune to come out safe and sound from the deadly fire to which he was exposed and which deprived the battalion of several good officers. He entered the bastion with a dozen men. All were naturally made prisoners after a resistance which would have cost my brother his life if the bugler at his side had not warded off a saber blow at his head. Upon his return from captivity, in the first months of 1856, he was immediately made major in the 100th Regiment of the Line, at the instance of General Trochu who regarded him highly. He was called the following year to the command of the 16th Battalion of Foot Chasseurs. He served with this battalion during the Syrian campaign where there was but little serious action.

"Back again in France, his promotion to the grade of lieutenant-colonel, notwithstanding his excellent ratings and his place on the promotion list, was long retarded by the ill-will of Marshal Randon, the Minister of War. Marshal Randon complained of his independent character and bore him malice from an incident relative to the furnishing of shoes intended for his battalion. My brother, questioned by Marshal Niel about the quality of the lot of shoes, had frankly declared it bad.

"Promoted finally to lieutenant-colonel in the 55th in Algeria, he took the field there in two campaigns, I believe. Appointed colonel of the 10th of the Line in February, 1869, he was stationed at Lorient and at Limoges during the eighteen months before the war with Germany. He busied himself during this period with the preparation of his work, soliciting from all sides first-hand information. It was slow in coming in, due certainly to indifference rather than ill-will. He made several trips to Paris for the purpose of opening the eyes of those in authority to the defective state of the army and the perils of the situation. Vain attempts! 'They take all that philosophically,' he used to say.

"Please accept, Sir, with renewed acknowledgements of gratitude, the expression of my most distinguished sentiments.


"P. S. As to the question of atavism in which you showed some interest in our first conversation, I may say that our paternal line does not in my knowledge include any military man. The oldest ancestor I know of, according to an album of engravings by Albert Durer, recovered in a garret, was a gold and silversmith at Limoges towards the end of the sixteenth century. His descendants have always been traders down to my grandfather who, from what I have heard said, did not in the least attend to his trade. The case is different with my mother's family which came from Lorraine. Our great-grandfather was a soldier, our grandfather also, and two, at least, of my mother's brothers gave their lives on the battlefields of the First Empire. At present, the family has two representatives in the army, the one a son of my brother's, the other a first cousin, once removed, both bearing our name.

"C. A. DU P."


Ardant du Picq (Charles-Jean-Jacques-Joseph), was born October 19, 1821 at Perigueux (Dordogne). Entered the service as a student of the Special Military School, November 15, 1842.

Sub-Lieutenant in the 67th Regiment of the Line, October 1, 1844.

Lieutenant, May 15, 1848.

Captain, August 15, 1852.

Transferred to the 9th Battalion of Foot Chasseurs, December 25, 1853.

Major of the 100th Regiment of the Line, February 15, 1856.

Transferred to the 16th Battalion of Chasseurs, March 17, 1856.

Transferred to the 37th Regiment of the Line, January 23, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonel of the 55th Regiment of the Line, January 16, 1864.

Colonel of the 10th Regiment of Infantry of the Line, February 27, 1869.

Died from wounds at the military hospital in Metz, August 18, 1870.


Orient, March 29, 1854 to May 27, 1856. Was taken prisoner of war at the storming of the central bastion (Sebastopol) September 8, 1855; returned from enemy's prisons December 13, 1855.

Served in the Syrian campaign from August 6, 1860 to June 18, 1861; in Africa from February 24, 1864 to April 14, 1866; in Franco-German war, from July 15, 1870 to August 18, 1870.

Wounded—a comminute fracture of the right thigh, a torn gash in the left thigh, contusion of the abdomen—by the bursting of a projectile, August 15, 1870, Longeville-les-Metz (Moselle).


Chevalier of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honor, Dec. 29, 1860.

Officer of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honor, September 10, 1868.

Received the medal of H. M. the Queen of England.

Received the medal for bravery in Sardinia.

Authorized to wear the decoration of the fourth class of the Ottoman Medjidie order.



On the 22nd of July, the three active battalions of the 10th Regiment of Infantry of the Line left Limoges and Angouleme by rail arriving on the 23rd at the camp at Chalons, where the 6th Corps of the Rhine Army was concentrating and organizing, under the command of Marshal Canrobert. The regiment, within this army corps, belonged to the 1st Brigade (Pechot) of the 1st Division (Tixier).

The organization on a war footing of the 10th Regiment of Infantry of the Line, begun at Limoges, was completed at the Chalons camp.

The battalions were brought up to seven hundred and twenty men, and the regiment counted twenty-two hundred and ten present, not including the band, the sappers and the headquarters section, which raised the effectives to twenty-three hundred men.

The troops of the 6th Corps were soon organized and Marshal Canrobert reviewed them on the 31st of July.

On August 5th, the division received orders to move to Nancy. It was placed on nine trains, of which the first left at 6 A. M. Arriving in the evening at its destination, the 1st brigade camped on the Leopold Racetrack, and the 10th Regiment established itself on the Place de la Greve.

The defeats of Forbach and Reichshofen soon caused these first plans to be modified. The 6th Corps was ordered to return to the Chalons camp. The last troops of the 2d Brigade, held up at Toul and Commercy, were returned on the same trains.

The 1st Brigade entrained at Nancy, on the night of August 8th, arriving at the Chalons camp on the afternoon of August 8th.

The 6th Corps, however, was to remain but a few days in camp. On the 10th it received orders to go to Metz. On the morning of the 11th the regiment was again placed on three successive trains. The first train carrying the staff and the 1st Battalion, arrived at Metz without incident. The second train, transporting the 2d Battalion and four companies of the 3d was stopped at about 11 P.M. near the Frouard branch.

The telegraph line was cut by a Prussian party near Dieulouard, for a length of two kilometers, and it was feared the road was damaged.

In order not to delay his arrival at Metz, nor the progress of the trains following, Major Morin at the head of the column, directed his commands to detrain and continue to Metz.

He caused the company at the head of the train to alight (6th Company, 2d Battalion, commanded by Captain Valpajola) and sent it reconnoitering on the road, about three hundred meters in advance of the train. All precautions were taken to assure the security of the train, which regulated its progress on that of the scouts.

After a run of about eight kilometers in this way, at Marbache station, all danger having disappeared and communication with Metz having been established, the train resumed its regulation speed. In consequence of the slowing up of the second column, the third followed at a short distance until it also arrived. On the afternoon of the 12th, the regiment was entirely united.

The division of which it was a part was sent beyond Montigny and it camped there as follows:

The 9th Chasseurs and 4th Regiment of the Line, ahead of the Thionville railroad, the right on the Moselle, the left on the Pont-a-Mousson highway; the 10th Regiment of the Line, the right supported at the branch of the Thionville and Nancy lines, the left in the direction of Saint-Privat, in front of the Montigny repair shops of the Eastern Railroad lines.

The regiment was thus placed in the rear of a redoubt under construction. The company of engineers was placed at the left of the 10th near the earth-works on which it was to work.

Along the ridge of the plateau, toward the Seille, was the 2d Brigade, which rested its left on the river and its right perpendicular to the Saint-Privat road, in rear of the field-work of this name. The divisional batteries were behind it.

The division kept this position August 13th and during the morning of the 14th. In the afternoon, an alarm made the division take arms, during the engagement that took place on the side of Vallieres and Saint-Julien (battle of Borny). The regiment immediately occupied positions on the left of the village of Montigny.

At nightfall, the division retired to the rear of the railroad cut, and received orders to hold itself in readiness to leave during the night.

The regiment remained thus under arms, the 3d Battalion (Major Deschesnes), passing the night on grand guard in front of the Montigny redoubt.

Before daybreak, the division marched over the bank of the Thionville railroad, crossed the Moselle, and, marching towards Gravelotte, descended into the plain south of Longeville-les-Metz, where the principal halt was made and coffee prepared.

Scarcely had stacks been made, and the men set to making fires, about 7 A.M. when shells exploded in the midst of the troops. The shots came from the Bradin farm, situated on the heights of Montigny, which the division had just left the same morning, and which a German cavalry reconnaissance patrol supported by two pieces had suddenly occupied.

The Colonel had arms taken at once and disposed the regiment north of the road which, being elevated, provided sufficient cover for defilading the men.

He himself, stood in the road to put heart into his troops by his attitude, they having been a little startled by this surprise and the baptism of fire which they received under such disadvantageous circumstances.

Suddenly, a shell burst over the road, a few feet from the Colonel, and mutilated his legs in a frightful manner.

The same shell caused other ravages in the ranks of the 10th. The commander of the 3d Battalion, Major Deschesnes, was mortally wounded, Captain Reboulet was killed, Lieutenant Pone (3d Battalion, 1st Company), and eight men of the regiment were wounded. The Colonel was immediately taken to the other side of the highway into the midst of his soldiers and a surgeon called, those of the regiment being already engaged in caring for the other victims of the terrible shot.

In the meantime, Colonel Ardant du Picq asked for Lieut.-Colonel Doleac, delivered to him his saddlebags containing important papers concerning the regiment and gave him his field glasses. Then, without uttering the least sound of pain, notwithstanding the frightful injury from which he must have suffered horribly, he said with calmness: "My regret is to be struck in this way, without having been able to lead my regiment on the enemy."

They wanted him to take a little brandy, he refused and accepted some water which a soldier offered him.

A surgeon arrived finally. The Colonel, showing him his right leg open in two places, made with his hand the sign of amputating at the thigh, saying: "Doctor, it is necessary to amputate my leg here."

At this moment, a soldier wounded in the shoulder, and placed near the Colonel, groaned aloud. Forgetting his own condition, the Colonel said immediately to the surgeon: "See first, doctor, what is the matter with this brave man; I can wait."

Because of the lack of instruments it was not possible to perform the amputation on the ground, as the Colonel desired, so this much deplored commander was transported to the Metz hospital.

Four days later (19th of August), Colonel Ardant du Picq died like a hero of old, without uttering the least complaint. Far from his regiment, far from his family, he uttered several times the words which summed up his affections: "My wife, my children, my regiment, adieu!"




Battle is the final objective of armies and man is the fundamental instrument in battle. Nothing can wisely be prescribed in an army—its personnel, organization, discipline and tactics, things which are connected like the fingers of a hand—without exact knowledge of the fundamental instrument, man, and his state of mind, his morale, at the instant of combat.

It often happens that those who discuss war, taking the weapon for the starting point, assume unhesitatingly that the man called to serve it will always use it as contemplated and ordered by the regulations. But such a being, throwing off his variable nature to become an impassive pawn, an abstract unit in the combinations of battle, is a creature born of the musings of the library, and not a real man. Man is flesh and blood; he is body and soul. And, strong as the soul often is, it can not dominate the body to the point where there will not be a revolt of the flesh and mental perturbation in the face of destruction.

The human heart, to quote Marshal de Saxe, is then the starting point in all matters pertaining to war.

Let us study the heart, not in modern battle, complicated and not readily grasped, but in ancient battle. For, although nowhere explained in detail, ancient battle was simple and clear.

Centuries have not changed human nature. Passions, instincts, among them the most powerful one of self-preservation, may be manifested in various ways according to the time, the place, the character and temperament of the race. Thus in our times we can admire, under the same conditions of danger, emotion and anguish, the calmness of the English, the dash of the French, and that inertia of the Russians which is called tenacity. But at bottom there is always found the same man. It is this man that we see disposed of by the experts, by the masters, when they organize and discipline, when they order detailed combat methods and take general dispositions for action. The best masters are those who know man best, the man of today and the man of history. This knowledge naturally comes from a study of formations and achievements in ancient war.

The development of this work leads us to make such an analysis, and from a study of combat we may learn to know man.

Let us go even back of ancient battle, to primeval struggle. In progressing from the savage to our times we shall get a better grasp of life.

And shall we then know as much as the masters? No more than one is a painter by having seen the methods of painting. But we shall better understand these able men and the great examples they have left behind them.

We shall learn from them to distrust mathematics and material dynamics as applied to battle principles. We shall learn to beware of the illusions drawn from the range and the maneuver field.

There, experience is with the calm, settled, unfatigued, attentive, obedient soldier, with an intelligent and tractable man-instrument in short, and not with the nervous, easily swayed, moved, troubled, distrait, excited, restless being, not even under self-control, who is the fighting man from general to private. There are strong men, exceptions, but they are rare.

These illusions, nevertheless, stubborn and persistent, always repair the very next day the most damaging injuries inflicted on them by experience. Their least dangerous effect is to lead to prescribing the impractical, as if ordering the impractical were not really an attack on discipline, and did not result in disconcerting officers and men by the unexpected and by surprise at the contrast between battle and the theories of peacetime training.

Battle, of course, always furnishes surprises. But it furnishes less in proportion as good sense and the recognition of truth have had their effect on the training of the fighting man, and are disseminated in the ranks. Let us then study man in battle, for it is he who really fights.



Man does not enter battle to fight, but for victory. He does everything that he can to avoid the first and obtain the second.

War between savage tribes, between Arabs, even today, [1] is a war of ambush by small groups of men of which each one, at the moment of surprise, chooses, not his adversary, but his victim, and is an assassin. Because the arms are similar on both sides, the only way of giving the advantage to one side is by surprise. A man surprised, needs an instant to collect his thoughts and defend himself; during this instant he is killed if he does not run away.

The surprised adversary does not defend himself, he tries to flee. Face to face or body to body combat with primitive arms, ax or dagger, so terrible among enemies without defensive arms, is very rare. It can take place only between enemies mutually surprised and without a chance of safety for any one except in victory. And still ... in case of mutual surprise, there is another chance of safety; that of falling back, of flight on the part of one or the other; and that chance is often seized. Here is an example, and if it does not concern savages at all, but soldiers of our days, the fact is none the less significant. It was observed by a man of warlike temperament who has related what he saw with his own eyes, although he was a forced spectator, held to the spot by a wound.

During the Crimean War, on a day of heavy fighting, two detachments of soldiers, A and B, coming around one of the mounds of earth that covered the country and meeting unexpectedly face to face, at ten paces, stopped thunderstruck. Then, forgetting their rifles, they threw stones and withdrew. Neither of the two groups had a decided leader to lead it to the front, and neither of the two dared to shoot first for fear that the other would at the same time bring his own arm to his shoulder. They were too near to hope to escape, or so they thought at least, although in reality, reciprocal firing, at such short ranges, is almost always too high. The man who would fire sees himself already killed by the return fire. He throws stones, and not with great force, to avoid using his rifle, to distract the enemy, to occupy the time, until flight offers him some chance of escaping at point-blank range.

This agreeable state of affairs did not last long, a minute perhaps. The appearance of a troop B on one flank determined the flight of A, and then the opposing group fired.

Surely, the affair is ridiculous and laughable.

Let us see, however. In a thick forest, a lion and a tiger meet face to face at a turn in the trail. They stop at once, rearing and ready to spring. They measure each other with their eyes, there is a rumbling in their throats. The claws move convulsively, the hair stands up. With tails lashing the ground, and necks stretched, ears flattened, lips turned up, they show their formidable fangs in that terrible threatening grimace of fear characteristic of felines.

Unseen, I shudder.

The situation is disagreeable for both: movement ahead means the death of a beast. Of which? Of both perhaps.

Slowly, quite slowly, one leg, bent for the leap, bending still, moves a few inches to the rear. Gently, quite gently, a fore paw follows the movement. After a stop, slowly, quite slowly, the other legs do the same, and both beasts, insensibly, little by little, and always facing, withdraw, up to the moment where their mutual withdrawal has created between them an interval greater than can be traversed in a bound. Lion and tiger turn their backs slowly and, without ceasing to observe, walk freely. They resume without haste their natural gaits, with that sovereign dignity characteristic of great seigneurs. I have ceased to shudder, but I do not laugh.

There is no more to laugh at in man in battle, because he has in his hands a weapon more terrible than the fangs and claws of lion or tiger, the rifle, which instantly, without possible defense, sends one from life into death. It is evident that no one close to his enemy is in a hurry to arm himself, to put into action a force which may kill him. He is not anxious to light the fuse that is to blow up the enemy, and himself at the same time.

Who has not observed like instances between dogs, between dog and cat, cat and cat?

In the Polish War of 1831, two Russian and two Polish regiments of cavalry charged each other. They went with the same dash to meet one another. When close enough to recognize faces, these cavalrymen slackened their gait and both turned their backs. The Russians and Poles, at this terrible moment, recognized each other as brothers, and rather than spill fraternal blood, they extricated themselves from a combat as if it were a crime. That is the version of an eyewitness and narrator, a Polish officer.

What do you think of cavalry troops so moved by brotherly love?

But let us resume:

When people become more numerous, and when the surprise of an entire population occupying a vast space is no longer possible, when a sort of public conscience has been cultivated within society, one is warned beforehand. War is formally declared. Surprise is no longer the whole of war, but it remains one of the means in war, the best means, even to-day. Man can no longer kill his enemy without defense. He has forewarned him. He must expect to find him standing and in numbers. He must fight; but he wishes to conquer with as little risk as possible. He employs the iron shod mace against the staff, arrows against the mace, the shield against arrows, the shield and cuirass against the shield alone, the long lance against the short lance, the tempered sword against the iron sword, the armed chariot against man on foot, and so on.

Man taxes his ingenuity to be able to kill without running the risk of being killed. His bravery is born of his strength and it is not absolute. Before a stronger he flees without shame. The instinct of self-preservation is so powerful that he does not feel disgraced in obeying it, although, thanks to the defensive power of arms and armor he can fight at close quarters. Can you expect him to act in any other way? Man must test himself before acknowledging a stronger. But once the stronger is recognized, no one will face him.

Individual strength and valor were supreme in primitive combats, so much so that when its heroes were killed, the nation was conquered. As a result of a mutual and tacit understanding, combatants often stopped fighting to watch with awe and anxiety two champions struggling. Whole peoples often placed their fate in the hands of the champions who took up the task and who alone fought. This was perfectly natural. They counted their champion a superman, and no man can stand against the superman.

But intelligence rebels against the dominance of force. No one can stand against an Achilles, but no Achilles can withstand ten enemies who, uniting their efforts, act in concert. This is the reason for tactics, which prescribe beforehand proper means of organization and action to give unanimity to effort, and for discipline which insures united efforts in spite of the innate weakness of combatants.

In the beginning man battled against man, each one for himself, like a beast that hunts to kill, yet flees from that which would kill him. But now prescriptions of discipline and tactics insure unity between leader and soldier, between the men themselves. Besides the intellectual progress, is there a moral progress? To secure unity in combat, to make tactical dispositions in order to render it practically possible, we must be able to count on the devotion of all. This elevates all combatants to the level of the champions of primitive combat. Esprit appears, flight is a disgrace, for one is no longer alone in combat. There is a legion, and he who gives way quits his commanders and his companions. In all respects the combatant is worth more.

So reason shows us the strength of wisely united effort; discipline makes it possible.

Will the result be terrible fights, conflicts of extermination? No! Collective man, a disciplined body of troops formed in tactical battle order, is invincible against an undisciplined body of troops. But against a similarly disciplined body, he becomes again primitive man. He flees before a greater force of destruction when he recognizes it or when he foresees it. Nothing is changed in the heart of man. Discipline keeps enemies face to face a little longer, but cannot supplant the instinct of self-preservation and the sense of fear that goes with it.


There are officers and soldiers who do not know it, but they are people of rare grit. The mass shudders; because you cannot suppress the flesh. This trembling must be taken into account in all organization, discipline, arrangements, movements, maneuvers, mode of action. All these are affected by the human weakness of the soldier which causes him to magnify the strength of the enemy.

This faltering is studied in ancient combat. It is seen that of nations apt in war, the strongest have been those who, not only best have understood the general conduct of war, but who have taken human weakness into greatest account and taken the best guarantees against it. It is notable that the most warlike peoples are not always those in which military institutions and combat methods are the best or the most rational.

And indeed, in warlike nations there is a good dose of vanity. They only take into account courage in their tactics. One might say that they do not desire to acknowledge weakness.

The Gaul, a fool in war, used barbarian tactics. After the first surprise, he was always beaten by the Greeks and Romans.

The Greek, a warrior, but also a politician, had tactics far superior to those of the Gauls and the Asiatics.

The Roman, a politician above all, with whom war was only a means, wanted perfect means. He had no illusions. He took into account human weakness and he discovered the legion.

But this is merely affirming what should be demonstrated.



Greek tactics developed the phalanx; Roman tactics, the legion; the tactics of the barbarians employed the square phalanx, wedge or lozenge.

The mechanism of these various formations is explained in all elementary books. Polybius enters into a mechanical discussion when he contrasts the phalanx and the legion. (Book 18.)

The Greeks were, in intellectual civilization, superior to the Romans, consequently their tactics ought to have been far more rational. But such was not the case. Greek tactics proceeded from mathematical reasoning; Roman tactics from a profound knowledge of man's heart. Naturally the Greeks did not neglect morale nor the Romans mechanics, [2] but their primary, considerations were diverse.

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