BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe


The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


Memories and studies of war and peace

by Archibald Forbes

Excerpt:

But if one may deprecate the strength of Lord Wolseley's expression, Moltke himself is found to a considerable extent in accord with the English soldier-author. Proud as he was of the full adequateness of the "Staff History," he owned that "it is for the greater number of readers too detailed, and written too technically," and he recognised that "an abstract of it must be made some day." Of all men Moltke himself was plainly the man, not indeed to confine himself to an "abstract," but to write a concise history of the war, based chiefly on the authentic "Staff History " record, but infused also with his own unique knowledge of men and things, of springs of action and motives; revealing certain phases, in a word, of the inner history of the momentous period in which he was something more than merely one of the chief actors. His modesty, his dislike to personality even when not of an offensive kind, his detestation of gossip, were recognised characteristics; but he quite justly did not regard them as hindering him from writing the bright and amusing sketch of his personal experiences in the battle of Kciniggratz, and the personally vindicatory denials of councils-of-war in 1866 and 1870-71 printed as appendices to his "Franco-German War" volume. Amidst the wealth of curious inner history of which this quiet, reticent old man was the repository, and which only now is gradually becoming divulged, there was, of course, much that could not then, or, indeed, ever be revealed; but beyond question there was much which, so far as principle and even policy were concerned, he needed not to reserve. And a book on the Great War, written not only for soldiers but for the nations, illuminated by the perspicuity and graceful strength of style that marked Moltke's previous works, enriched with such personal estimates of men and with such revelations of inner history as he could legitimately have made —- would not that book have shared immortality with Xenophon's "Anabasis," with Caesar's "Commentaries" on an earlier Gallic War, with Napier's "History of Wellington's Peninsular Campaigns"?

Such a book Moltke might have written, and could have written had he chosen. Whether he could have done so THE GERMAN "STAFF HISTORY." 49

when, at the age of eighty-seven, he yielded to his nephew's entreaties, and began the work which was given to the world after the ending of a life so full of years and honours, is a question that cannot be conclusively answered. It is sufficient to say that he did not do this, nor attempt to do it. In the main, in the book he did write, he clung to his conception of an "abstract" of the "Staff History." While he followed that guide—virtually following himself as he was when his years had been fewer—he was on sure groimd; and he followed it so closely that in three out of four of his pages there is the distinct echo of the "Staff History," the actual words of which, indeed, are adopted with great frequency. When he turned away from that lamp to his path, he did not uniformly maintain entire accuracy of statement. His style, though mostly retaining its directness and simplicity, is sometimes obscure; and its dryness and absence of relief betray a certain tiredness. His nephew holds that the work, "which," he says, "was undertaken in all simplicity of purpose as a popular history," is practically the expression of Moltke's personal opinions from his own standpoint as chief of the general staff. On this it may be remarked that the book he wrote in his extreme old age, entitled "History of the Franco-German War of 1870-71," exhibits no single element of a "popular history"; and that Moltke's statements are most open to question in the few passages in which he is transparently writing as the chief of staff.

How powerful is the glamour of Moltke's name was evinced in the all but unanimous gush of indiscriminate and uncritical eulogy with which this posthumous book was received. His prestige is so high that it is probable the work might be accepted both by writers and by students of war as absolutely accurate. It may not be considered as quite sacrilegious if one who was an eye-witness of the Franco-German War, who had the honour of some personal intercourse with Count Moltke in the course of that war, and who has studied that great personage in his various characters as organiser, strategist, writer, and man, should

E

venture to point out some errors in his "Franco-German War." It is not proposed to follow him beyond the first period of the campaign, which closed with the elimination of the French regular army from the theatre of actual war by the capitulation of Sedan.

Moltke states that on the 2nd of August, 1870, the German garrison evacuated Saarbiiicken, "after a gallant defence and repeated counter-strokes." Gallant front, quaint, cheery, dashing Von Pestel did maintain, facing for fourteen days with his battalion of infantry and three squadrons of uhlans, the French masses gathered on the Spicherenberg over against the little open town at scarcely more than chassepot-fire distance, and craftily displaying his handful so that companies seemed battalions and his battalion a brigade at the least. Gallant and prolonged defence Gneisenau and he did make when at length, under the eyes of their Emperor and his son, Frossard's three French divisions streamed down from their upland and swept across the valley on the 1,500 Rhinelanders calmly holding the little town. But there were no "counter-strokes" on the part of the German defenders, which would have been, indeed, as futile as foolish. For several hours two battalions of Prussians fended off three divisions of Frenchmen who vacillated in their enterprise, and then they withdrew leisurely and in order. The only semblance of a "counterstroke" was made by one man, and that man a British officer—Wigram Battye of the "Guides," who died fighting in Afghanistan in the early campaign of 1879. Battye was with a Prussian company which was just withdrawing from an advanced position . A soldier was shot down by his side, whereupon Battye, rebelling vehemently against the retirement, snatched the dead man's needle-gun and pouchbelt, ran out into the open, dropped on one knee, and opened fire on Pouget's brigade. Pouget's brigade responded with alacrity, and presently Battye was bowled over by a chassepot bullet in the ribs. A German professor and a brother-Briton ran out and brought him in, conveyed him to a village in the rear, plastered layer upon layer of THE BATTLE OF THE SPICHEREN. 51


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