IV
 

To pass to a different topic: on the march, the general will need to exercise a constant forethought to relieve the horses' backs and the troopers' legs, by a judicious interchange of riding and of marching. Wherein consists the golden mean, will not be hard to find; since "every man a standard to himself,"[1] applies, and your sensations are an index to prevent your fellows being overdone through inadvertence.

But now supposing you are on the march in some direction, and it is uncertain whether you will stumble on the enemy, your duty is to rest your squadrons in turn; since it will go hard with you, if the enemy come to close quarters when the whole force is dismounted.[2] Or, again, suppose the roads are narrow, or you have to cross a defile, you will pass, by word of mouth, the command to diminish the front;[3] or given, again, you are debouching on broad roads, again the word of command will pass by word of mouth, to every squadron, "to increase their front"; or lastly, supposing you have reached flat country, "to form squadron in order of battle." If only for the sake of practice, it is well to go through evolutions of the sort;[4] besides which it adds pleasure to the march thus to diversify the line of route with cavalry mavouvres.

Supposing, however, you are off roads altogether and moving fast over difficult ground, no matter whether you are in hostile or in friendly territory, it will be useful if the scouts attached to squadrons[5] rode on in advance, their duty being, in case of encountering pathless clefts or gullies, to work round on to practicable ground, and to discover at what point the troopers may effect a passage, so that whole ranks may not go blindly roaming.[6]

Again, if there is prospect of danger on the march, a prudent general can hardly show his wisdom better than by sending out advanced patrols in front of the ordinary exploring parties to reconnoitre every inch of ground minutely. So to be apprised of the enemy's position in advance, and at as great a distance off as possible, cannot fail to be useful, whether for purposes of attack or defence; just as it is useful also to enforce a halt at the passage of a river or some other defile, so that the men in rear may not knock their horses all to bits in endeavouring to overtake their leader. These are precepts known, I admit, to nearly all the world, but it is by no means every one who will take pains to apply them carefully.[7]

It is the business of the hipparch to take infinite precautions while it is still peace, to make himself acquainted with the details, not only of his own, but of the hostile territory;[8] or if, as may well betide, he personally should lack the knowledge, he should invite the aid of others[9]--those best versed in the topography of any district. Since there is all the difference in the world between a leader acquainted with his roads and one who is not; and when it comes to actual designs upon the enemy, the difference between knowing and not knowing the locality can hardly be exaggerated.

So, too, with regard to spies and intelligencers. Before war commences your business is to provide yourself with a supply of people friendly to both states, or maybe merchants (since states are ready to receive the importer of goods with open arms); sham deserters may be found occasionally useful.[10] Not, of course, that the confidence you feel in your spies must ever cause you to neglect outpost duty; indeed your state of preparation should at any moment be precisely what it ought to be, supposing the approach or the imminent arrival of the enemy were to be announced. Let a spy be ever so faithful, there is always the risk he may fail to report his intelligence at the critical moment, since the obstacles which present themselves in war are not to be counted on the fingers.

But to proceed to another topic. The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice.[11] Accordingly, in addition to[12] this method of ordering the march by word passed along the line, the appointment of file- leaders seems desirable, who again are to be supplemented by section- leaders,[13] so that the number of men to whom each petty officer has to transmit an order will be very few;[14] while the section-leaders will deploy and increase the front, whatever the formation, without confusion, whenever there is occasion for the movement.[15]

When an advanced guard is needed, I say for myself I highly approve of secret pickets and outposts, if only because in supplying a guard to protect your friends you are contriving an ambuscade to catch the enemy. Also the outposts will be less exposed to a secret attack, being themselves unseen, and yet a source of great alarm to the enemy; since the bare knowledge that there are outposts somewhere, though where precisely no man knows, will prevent the enemy from feeling confident, and oblige him to mistrust every tenable position. An exposed outpost, on the contrary, presents to the broad eye of day its dangers and also its weaknesses.[16] Besides which, the holder of a concealed outpost can always place a few exposed vedettes beyond his hidden pickets, and so endeavour to decoy the enemy into an ambuscade. Or he may play the part of trapper with effect by placing a second exposed outpost in rear of the other; a device which may serve to take in the unwary foeman quite as well as that before named.

Indeed I take it to be the mark of a really prudent general never to run a risk of his own choosing, except where it is plain to him beforehand, that he will get the better of his adversary. To play into the enemy's hands may more fitly be described as treason to one's fellow-combatants than true manliness. So, too, true generalship consists in attacking where the enemy is weakest, even if the point be some leagues distant. Severity of toil weighs nothing in the scale against the danger of engaging a force superior to your own.[17] Still, if on any occasion the enemy advance in any way to place himself between fortified points that are friendly to you, let him be never so superior in force, your game is to attack on whichever flank you can best conceal your advance, or, still better, on both flanks simultaneously; since, while one detachment is retiring after delivering its attack, a charge pressed home from the opposite quarter cannot fail to throw the enemy into confusion and to give safety to your friends.

How excellent a thing it is to endeavour to ascertain an enemy's position by means of spies and so forth, as in ancient story; yet best of all, in my opinion, is it for the commander to try to seize some coign of vantage, from which with his own eyes he may descry the movements of the enemy and watch for any error on his part.[18]

Whatever may be snatched by ruse, thief fashion,[19] your business is to send a competent patrol to seize; or again where capture by coup de main[20] is practicable, you will despatch a requisite body of troops to effect a coup de main. Or take the case: the enemy is on the march in some direction, and a portion of his force becomes detached from his main body or through excess of confidence is caught straggling; do not let the opportunity escape, but make it a rule always to pursue a weaker with a stronger force.[21] These, indeed, are rules of procedure, which it only requires a simple effort of the mind to appreciate. Creatures far duller of wit than man have this ability: kites and falcons, when anything is left unguarded, pounce and carry it off and retire into safety without being caught; or wolves, again, will hunt down any quarry left widowed of its guard, or thieve what they can in darksome corners.[22] In case a dog pursues and overtakes them, should he chance to be weaker the wolf attacks him, or if stronger, the wolf will slaughter[23] his quarry and make off. At other times, if the pack be strong enough to make light of the guardians of a flock, they will marshal their battalions, as it were, some to drive off the guard and others to effect the capture, and so by stealth or fair fight they provide themselves with the necessaries of life. I say, if dumb beasts are capable of conducting a raid with so much sense and skill, it is hard if any average man cannot prove himself equally intelligent with creatures which themselves fall victims to the craft of man.

[1] The phrase is proverbial. Cf. Plat. "Theaet." 183 B.

[2] See "Hell." V. iv. 40 for a case in point.

[3] Or, "advance by column of route." See "Hell." VII. iv. 23.

[4] Or, "it is a pleasant method of beguiling the road." Cf. Plat. "Laws," i. 625 B.

[5] {ton upereton} = "ground scouts," al. "orderlies." Ordonnances, trabans (Courier). See Rustow and Kochly, p. 140. "Cyrop." II. i. 21; II. iv. 4; V. iii. 52; VII. v. 18, and VI. ii. 13; "Anab." I. ix. 27; II. i. 9; where "adjutants," "orderlies" would seem to be implied.

[6] Al. "to prevent whole divisions losing their way." Cf. "Anab." VIII. iii. 18.

[7] See "Econ." xx. 6. foll.

[8] Or, "with hostile and friendly territories alike."

[9] Lit. "he should associate with himself those of the rest"; i.e. his colleagues or other members of the force.

[10] Cf. "Cyrop." VI. i. 39, where one of the Persians, Araspas, undertakes to play this role to good effect.

[11] i.e. "given by general word of command, or in writing." As to the "word-of-mouth command," see above, S. 3; "Hell." VII. v. 9; and for the "herald," see "Anab." III. iv. 36.

[12] Reading {pros to dia p.}, or if {pros to} . . . transl. "with a view to."

[13] Lit. pempadarchs, i.e. No. 6 in the file. See "Cyrop." II. i. 22 foll., iii. 21.

[14] Lit. "so that each officer may pass the word to as few as possible."

[15] Cf. "Anab." IV. vi. 6.

[16] Lit. "makes plain its grounds of terror as of confidence."

[17] N.B. Throughout this treatise the author has to meet the case of a small force of cavalry acting on the defensive.

[18] As, e.g. Epaminondas at Tegea. See "Hell." VII. v. 9.

[19] e.g. defiles, bridges, outposts, stores, etc.

[20] e.g. a line of outposts, troops in billets or bivouac, etc.

[21] "It is a maxim, the quarry should be weaker than the pursuer."

[22] Zeune cf. Ael. "N. A." viii. 14, on the skill of wolves in hunting.

[23] For {aposphaxas} Courier suggests {apospasas}, "dragging off what he can."