Page images
PDF
EPUB

largest share in the success of affairs; it is what Polya bius calls, as I have already observed, [ro] Cóv vez apár Tölv to apolegér. It consists in having great views , in forming a plan at a distance; in proposing an end and design, which is never out of sight; in taking all the measures, and preparing all the means necessary tą make it succeed'; 'in knowing when to seize favourable occasions, which are always on the wing, and never return; introducing into this scheme even sudden and unforeseen accidents; in a word, in foreseeing all that may happen, and in watchingevery thing, without being embarrassed or disconcerted by any event. For, as the same [s] Polybius observes, the concurrence of all the wisest measures that can be concerted and executed, is scarce sufficient to make a design succeed; whereas the omission of one single circumstance, how slight soever it may appear, is often enough to prevent its success.

Such was the character of Hannibal and Scipio. Both formed great projects, bold and singular, of vast extent, long duration, capable of perplexing the strongest head, but alone salutary and decisive.

Hannibal discerned from the beginning of the war, that the only means of conquering the Romans was by attacking them in their own country: He disposed of every thing that was necessary at a distance, for the carrying on this great design. He foresaw every difficulty, and every obstacle. The passage of the Alps was no stop to his progress. So wise a commander, as [+] Polybius observes, would have been careful not to have engaged himself so far, if he had not been before assured that those mountains were not impracticable. The success answered his views; and we know with what rapidity he carried on his conquests, and how near Rome was brought to her destruction.

Scipio formed a design, which seemed no less bold, but met with better success; and this was to fall upon the Africans in Africa itself. How many obstacles seemed to oppose the pursuit of this project ? Was it [r] Polyb. pag. 551. [s] Pag. 5526 l Pag. 201, 202

not

[ocr errors]

not natural, said some to defend his own country, bęć fore he attacked that of theenemy, and to secure peace in Italy, before the war was carried into Africa ? What refuge would the empire have left, if the conqueror Hannibal should march against Rome? Would there then be time to recal the consul to their assistance? What would become of Scipio and his army, if he lost the battle? And what might not be apprehended from the Carthaginians and their allies, united together, and fighting for their liberties, in the sight of their wives, their children, and their country? These were the reflections of Fabius, which appeared very plausible, but did not stop Scipio ; and the success of the enterprise shewed sufficiently with what wisdom it had been formed, and with what ability conducted; and it was visible, that in all the actions of this great man, there was nothing which arose from chance, but all was the effect of that solid reasoning and consummate prudence, which distinguish, the conduct of the great captain from the casual successes of the mere soldier.

2. Profound Secrecy. 9. One of the most certain means to make an enterprise succeed, is secrecy; and [u] Polybius requires that a general should be so impenetrable upon this article, that not only friendship and the most intimate familiarity should never be able to draw an indiscreet word from him, but that it should not be even possible for the most subtle curiosity to discover any thing of what he has in his mind, either in his countenance or his manner of behaviour.

The siege of Carthagena was the first enterprise of Scipio in Spain, and in a manner the first step to all his other conquests. He spoke of it only to. Lælius, and intrusted him with it only, because it was absolutely necessary. It could be likewise only by silence and a profound secrecy, that another enterprise suefeeded, of still greater importance, as it drew along [a] Pag. 522.

with it the conquest of Africa, which was when Scipio burnt the two camps by night, and cut in pieces both the armies of the enemy. • The frequent successes which Hannibal had in laying ainbúscades for the Romans, and thereby destroying so many generals with their best troops, in concealing his marches from them, in surprising them by unforeseen attacks, in removing from one part of Italy to another, without finding any obstacle, on the enemy's part, are a proof of the profound secrecy with which he concerted and executed all his enterprises. Subtlety, refined disguise, and stratagem, were his prevailing talents; and all this could only succeed by impenetrable secrecy. 3. To know well the Character of the Generals

against whom one is to engage. It is a great piece of skill, and an important part of the knowledge of war, to be thoroughly acquainted with the character of the generals who command the enemy's arıny, and to know how to take advantage of their faults, for, says Polybius, it is either the ignorance or negligence of commanders which makes the generality of enterprises miscarry. Hannibal possessed this science to perfection, and it may be truly said, that his continual attention to the genius of the Ro. man generals, was one of the principal causes which gained the battles of Trebia and Thrasimene. [x] He knew all that passed in the enemy's camp, as well as in his own. When Paulus and Varro were sent against him, he was soon informed of the different characters of those two commanders, and of their divisions, dissimiles discordesque imperitare; and he did not fail to make his advantage of the eagerness and impetuosity of Varro, by laying baits for his rashness, in suffering him to gain some slight advantages, which were followed by the famous overthrow at Cannæ.

[x] Omnia ei hostium laud secus, Nec quicquam eorum, quæ apud quàm sua, nota erant. Liv. lib. hostes agebantur, eum fallebat. Ib.

xxii. n. 41.

n. 28.

The

The information Scipio had of the want of discipline in the enemy's camps, inspired him with the thought of setting fire to them by night; the success of which enterprise was followed with the conquest of Africa. [y] Hæc relata Scipioni spem fecerant castra hostium per occasionem incendendi. 4. To keep up an exact Discipline in the Army.

Military discipline is in a manner the soul of the army, which connects and unites all the parts of it together, which puts them in motion, or keeps them at rest, as there is occasion, which points out and distributes to each their proper functions, and contains them all within the bounds of duty.

It is allowed, that our two generals excelled in this particular; but it must be owned that Hannibal's method in this point, seems far superior to Scipio's. [3] Thus it has always been looked upon as a master-piece in the art of war, that Hannibal, during sixteen years war in a foreign land, at such a distance from his own country with such various success, at the head of an army, made up, not of Carthaginians, but a confused body of several nations, who were neither united by customs, language, habits, arms, ceremonies, or sacrifices, and had even very different objects of worship; that Hannibal, I say, should have so united them together, that there never arose any sedition, either amongst themselves or against him, though provisions were frequently wanting, and their pay offen delayed. How necessary was it for a strict discipline to be firmly established, and inviolably observed among the troops to obtain this effect. 5. To live after a plain, modest, frugal, and laborious

Manner. It is a very ill taste, and argues little elevation of mind to make the grandeur of an officer or a general, consist in the magnificence of his equipage, furniture, (-y] Liv. lib. xxx.

[{] Lib. xxviii. n. 12. VOL. III,

dress

K

dress or table. How is it possible for such trifles io become military virtues? What else do they require besides great riches? And are those riches always the rewards of merit, and the fruit of virtue ? It is a shame to reason and good sense, it is a disgrace to so warlike a people as we are, to copy the manners and customs of the Persians, by introducing the luxury of cities into the camp and army. May not an officer or commander better employ the time, care and expence, which all this apparatus necessarily draws along with it; and does he not owe them to his country? Commanders of old thought and acted in a very different

manner.

Livy gives Hannibal an encomium which I am afraid several of our officers may have cause to blushat. “ There was no labour, says he, sufficient to fatigue “his body, or sink his spirits. He supported heat and “cold equally. He eat and drank out of necessity " and want, and not out pleasure. He had no set

hour of going to rest, but took that time for sleep “which was unemployed in business; neither was it

procured by silence, or the softness of his couch. “ He often lay upon the ground, wrapt up in a sol“dier's coat, amidst the centinels and guard." He was distinguished from his equals, not by a greater magnificence of dress, but by better horses and arms.

Polybius, after commending Scipio for the shining virtues which were admired in him, such as his liberality, magnificence and greatness of soul, adds, that those who knew him thoroughly no less admired [a] his sober and frugal life, which enabled him to apply himself wholly to public business. He was not very nice about his apparel ; it was manly and military, and very suitable to his person, which was tall and majestie

. . [6] Præterquam suapte naturâ multa majestas inerat, adornabat promissa cæsaries habitusque corporis non cultus munditiis, sed virilis verè

[a] 'Ayníves, sy vrlos, rñ - Polyb. p. 577.. ωινόα περί το σχολεθέν έλαμένος. (6) Liv. lib. xxviji. A. 35.

ас

« PreviousContinue »