قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864
Devoted To Literature And National Policy

The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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which governs the arrangement of forces when stationary, is one of considerable importance. It is in camps that armies are educated, that all the details of organization are systematized, that the morale of troops is cultivated, that a round of laborious though monotonous duties is performed. Nothing is so trying to the temper of the individuals composing an army as a long season in a stationary camp; nothing has more effect for good or for evil upon the army in the aggregate, than the mode in which the time, at such a season, is occupied. The commander who does not exercise care to have his camps pitched in the proper localities, to insure the observance of hygienic rules, and to keep his men employed sufficiently in military exercises, will have discontented, unhealthy, and indolent troops.

The words 'camps' and 'cantonments' are frequently used in the newspapers without any discrimination; but they denote two entirely different methods of sheltering troops. A camp is defined to be the place where troops are established in tents, in huts, or in bivouac; while cantonments are inhabited places which troops occupy for shelter when not put in barracks. Of camps there are several kinds, according to the purposes to be effected by their establishment, such as the nightly camps while upon the march, camps of occupation, camps in line of battle, &c. Cantonments are most frequently used when, during the winter, or other considerable period of inactivity, it is necessary to distribute an army over a large district of country, so as to guard a number of points. We have not had any instance of cantonment, properly speaking, during the present war; but in Europe this method of disposing troops is frequently adopted.

The scenes ensuing upon the arrival of an army corps at its camping ground for a night, after a day's march, are very lively, often amusing, and sometimes present picturesque effects. Where the country traversed by the army is known to the commander, he is able to designate the nightly camps of the different corps with precision; if, on account of ignorance of the country, this cannot be done, places are approximately indicated upon the information given by maps or extracted from the inhabitants, or procured by reconnoitring parties. Usually, however, the commander possesses considerable topographical information, procured by his officers in the advance with the cavalry and light troops, so that he can fix the nightly camps in such a manner that the various corps shall all be upon the same line, and lie within supporting distances. The vicinity of streams is invariably selected for a camp, if other circumstances permit. When a corps arrives within a mile or two of its destination, the commander sends forward some of his staff officers (accompanied by a cavalry guard, if the country is suspicious), and these officers select the different localities for the camps of the divisions, of the artillery, the cavalry, and the trains, care being taken to give all equal facilities for wood and water, and at the same time to take advantage of the features of the country for military purposes, such as the guarding of roads in all directions, the establishment of the picket line, &c. The leading division arrives perhaps at 5 p.m., and its commander is shown to the locality assigned him. He immediately distributes the ground to the brigades, and the troops, as fast as they arrive, filing into the designated spots, occupy but a few moments in the necessary formalities by which disorder is prevented; then each man quickly spreads his little tent upon the place which in the military order belongs to him, a general din of cheerful voices arises, a unanimous rush is made to the water, cooking fires are kindled in all directions, and in ten minutes a scene of (it may be) utter desolation becomes full of life and activity. For a couple of hours the columns continue to file in, until all the hillsides are covered with tents. Then, far into the night, is heard the braying of mules, the shouts of drivers, and the rattling of wheels, as the heavy wagon trains toil to the place of rest. All through the evening prevails that peculiar, cheerful din of a camp, as peculiar and characteristic as the roar of a great city; gradually the noises decline, the bugles and drums sound the tattoo, the fires grow dim, and the vast mass of hardy, resolute humanity is asleep—all except the two or three score of sick and dying men, wasted by fever, who have been jolted all day over the rough roads in the ambulances, and now groan and writhe in delirium upon their narrow stretchers in the camp hospitals.

Camps designed to cover and guard a country, are constructed when the army has not sufficient strength to advance, or when the season prevents, or some other cause interferes with the prosecution of hostilities, while at the same time it is necessary to occupy a portion of the hostile territory. We have had numerous examples of this kind of camps—indeed, our armies occupy them generally while lying inactive during the winter. The character of the ground must always determine the shape and features of such a camp, but unless peculiar modifying circumstances dictate otherwise, the general form is that of the arc of a circle. This, with extensions at the sides to cover the flanks, and a rear guard, is the best for protection. The extent of this kind of camp is governed by circumstances, but is much greater, generally, than would be supposed. The camp of an army of 100,000 men, designed to cover any considerable district of territory, in a country where hills and rivers assist in giving protection, might have a front (including flanking parties of cavalry) of from 30 to 50 miles, and a depth of from 10 to 20; besides a continuous chain of forces in the rear, guarding communications with the base of supplies, from 10 to 50 miles distant.

Camps in line of battle are generally established when opposing armies, lying in proximity, must be on the alert for attacks. They cover but little more ground than is required for the manœuvres of the force, and are so arranged that, in case of probable conflict, the troops can assume immediately the formations of battle. Such camps are arranged in two or three lines, adapted to the natural features of the country for defence. The approach of the enemy having been communicated from the outposts, the tents are rapidly struck, the baggage loaded and sent to the rear, and in an hour the army is free from all encumbrances, and ready to meet the advancing foe. Usually, when armies lie in contact, expecting battle, the troops bivouac—no tents being pitched except at the headquarters of superior commanders, and at other places sufficiently in the rear to be free from immediate danger. The troops may be obliged to remain thus for a day or two, no fires being permitted in the advanced lines, so that their positions may not be indicated.

The season for the suspension of active hostilities having arrived, it is necessary for the commander of an army to select some place in which his forces can remain for the winter—where they will have sufficient facilities for fuel and water, where their health can be preserved, where they can be protected against surprises or annoyance, where the country can be covered and guarded, and where the supplies can be drawn with security from the base of operations. After a due consideration of all the intelligence that can be obtained upon these points, the commander issues his general directions, the various corps move to their designated positions, and preparations for the habitations of the winter are made. Each corps commander, either personally or by his staff officers, makes a survey of his ground, and assigns the positions of his divisions. If within a few miles of the enemy, he throws detachments of observation toward the front, and then proceeds to establish his picket line, usually some three or five miles in