THE Navy grows too introspective and so tends to forget that in war the military part of the national exertion is but a fraction of the whole. Did the Navy fully realize this fact, it would seriously ponder the question that at once arises: what steps have been taken to assure that the military part is properly coordinated with the other parts of the national exertion; or, to put it the other way, what steps have been taken to assure that the other parts of the national exertion are properly coordinated with the military effort? Cooperation is a fundamental principle of success. When we so carefully subject all naval plans to the searching test of this principle, how much more important it is to make sure that the whole national plan meets the principle. This paper is an attempt to inquire into the proper roles to be played by the statesman and the sea officer in the tragedy of war; an attempt to discover how each in playing his role may bring the drama to a successful conclusion.
The citizen of the United States assumes that if he through Congress supplies the Navy with material and men, the Navy will make these, ship for ship and man for man, the best in the world. In this assumption he is wholly justified. If the Navy falls down it violates the trust placed in it. The Navy knows this full well, and strives continuously to achieve perfection. The money is supplied by the people. The total is usually less than is needed but it is given the Navy in nearly the distributions asked. With this money the Navy designs and makes or buys its material. If in quality it is not the best in the world, class for class, the fault is the Navy’s alone. It may be deficient in quantity—that in the final analysis lies within the province of Congress—but it may not be deficient in quality. So much for material. The personnel is more important. The Navy has short enlistments—obviously a handicap. Nevertheless, we must face facts, not theories. Theoretically a twelve year enlistment would be far better than a four year one. Practically it is another matter—the Navy could not get recruits. Facing this practical aspect, the Navy has done the best thing possible; it has asked and Congress has most liberally granted inducements to a man to serve sixteen or twenty years. Of course the result comes slowly, but it comes. In fine, the citizen through Congress has supplied some material; he has supplied some trained men and is supplying more and more of them through the very means the Navy has asked. So far as concerns the quality of the Navy there can be no passing of responsibility on to Congress or to the apathy of the country. The quality of the Navy is squarely the Navy’s duty.
Having forged the best navy in the world, is the work of the Navy done? The weapon is finished and kept keen and at hand against the time of need; but, when that time comes, what of its use? Now, paradoxical as it may sound, in the use of the Navy, the Navy itself plays a minor part, for: first, the Navy is the tool of the statesman; and second, the Commander-in-Chief, the President, is not himself of the Navy. He has a higher role. The use is directed by the President; the details of use are alone the Navy’s. If an impracticable use is directed, all the technical perfection, all the strategical excellence, all the tactical preeminence in the world will be of little avail. Although, in such a case, the Navy would have no choice but to obey its orders, the Navy would get as much pleasure from the procedure as would any artificer in seeing a fine tool put to a totally improper use. What is far worse, the country would pay, as it always does, in money squandered and lives needlessly spent. Can the Navy say this is none of its business?
The Navy cannot in good conscience rest content in making itself in every way the best possible. It must go beyond this end and so prepare that when the statesman is forced to call upon the Navy to defend his policies, the statesman may find his fearful task lightened so far as the Navy may do it, and consequently the possibility of directing an improper use lessened. A moment’s reflection will show that a mistake in policy may nullify the work of years in creating the finest military force. Policy must control. A fleet may sometimes be well sacrificed to policy; a glorious strategical opportunity may sometimes well be let slip for policy. Clausewitz enunciated this truth years ago in an axiom: “War is only a continuation of state policy by other means.” This is irrefutable. It becomes more apparent as it comes more to be recognized that wars are fought by nations, not by armies and navies. Yet it cannot be apparent to all, for General Ellison, an eminent British officer, has said: “Politics and strategy are radically and fundamentally things apart from one another. Strategy begins where policy ends.”1 Remarkably enough, in the prefatory note of the same volume in which the foregoing occurs, we find the reaction
1 The Perils of Amateur Strategy, p. 100.
of the statesman: “General Ellison . . . . seems to see his way, at some undetermined moment, to hand over the strategy of war to ‘professionals’! The transition moment is so difficult to fix, the strands of military and civil life are so intertwined, that his problem appears to me insoluble.”2 This point has also received the attention of General Sir Frederick Maurice, who comments very pithily:
. . . . it has been a common practice for British writers on military matters to fulminate against political interference in strategy, and it has not been difficult for them to find numerous instances both in the history of the American War and in that of other wars in which political interference has been utterly mischievous. These fulminations leave the statesman cold, because he is aware that there must be civilian control of strategy, and he is therefore apt to ascribe them either to military ignorance of political science or to the soldiers' lust of power.*
Fortunately in the United States, due primarily to the wisdom of our forebears who drafted our organic law, we have been largely spared this error. It is well, however, to keep the error in mind that it may be promptly recognized, and to remember “that in the modern nation in arms the military part in the combined effort is but twenty-five per cent of the whole.”4 The duty of the Navy is not to make itself as perfect as may be—that is but the means—the duty of the Navy is to end war quickly.
The statesman must control. The consequent terrific responsibility is his. We might expect to find that the subject had been given profound study. Instead, we find it authoritatively stated: “There is no standard work on war in the English language, no volume of permanent value which deals with the organization, maintenance and employment of armies from the point of view of the statesman and the citizen.”5 The lack of such a work is lamentable. Unquestionably the matter is within the domain of the statesman, but equally unquestionably, in such a government as ours, the statesman has not the time to work it out. It is not worked out until war comes, and then, apparently, it takes about three years. Every war that has ever been waged had for its object peace. Is it inherent in a democratic
2 By the Rt. Hon. Viscount Esher, p. vii.
3Statesmen and Soldiers of the Civil War, p. 152-
4 Ibid, p. 149.
5 Henderson, The Science of War, p. 12.
government that it must war for three years before it can learn to fight for the real object? The relation of strategy to policy is basic. In the study of the art of war this should get early and thorough consideration. The statesman’s duty is to study the art of war just so far and no farther.6 However, the matter lies in a sort of no man’s land, beyond the duties and responsibilities of the generals and admirals, beyond the engrossing peace-time duties of the statesmen. The weak points in an army, in a fleet, in any organization, arc where one sphere of responsibility is relieved and another takes over. As matching joints may leave enough for the entrance of a wedge, the only safe rule is to have a slight overlap. It is the duty of the Navy to overlap a little on policy. The matter is too grave to allow any nice scruples to stand in the way. The Navy is the tool of the statesman, but surely not an unthinking one.
Admitting the necessity, the question becomes: how can the Navy within its limitations do anything? Let us follow the methods of the masters and turn to history.
We are living in the age of representative government. The present is also the age of representative war, that is to say, war wherein the military leader is the representative of the head of the government and not the head himself. History proves that representative war may be conducted efficiently. It also proves, as is to be expected, that it is harder to conduct such a war efficiently than it is to conduct a direct war with the head of the state in command in the field. It is always harder to act through an agent than directly. But that is beside the point, for as long as we have representative government we shall have representative war. The point is to study the successful systems that history records for the conduct of representative war, and profit therefrom. Three successful systems stand out. They were: the system the English used in the Seven Years’ War; the system the Prussians used in 1864, 1866, and 1870-71; and
” “Evidently .... the statesman must be acquainted with war; he need not be a master of the art, he need not himself be able to handle fleets or armies; but he ought to have a true knowledge of what can and what cannot be done by those instruments, and of the way in which their use or misuse will react upon the well being of the community which puts its trust in him."— Wilkinson, Government and the War, p. 10.
the system Lincoln used after Grant was made Commander of the Armies.
Of these in their order.
The Seven Years’ War is of signal interest to us on several counts, for it was not only a beautifully conducted war strategically, but it immediately preceded the American Revolution, it determined the destiny of North America, and many of the men who wrote the Constitution fought in it. It left its imprint on that immortal instrument. It is today a vital force.
The Seven Years’ War was Pitt. Pitt did not become the virtual head of the English government until a year after the war had opened, and he fell a year before it closed, but in the intervening five years he molded the world. All statesmen nowadays are politicans; unfortunately not all politicians are statesmen. Pitt forced himself into power by the expedients of the politician. “Walpole was a minister given by the King to the people; Pitt was a minister given by the people to the King,—as an adjunct.”7 Then Pitt proved himself a statesman—one of the greatest—to the salvation of England and America.
During the years Pitt was in power the war was consistently conducted according to what he called “my system,” which has been epitomized:
Throughout the period of his triumphal progress Pitt leaned on two men of marked ability, Lord Anson the sailor and Lord Ligonier the military commander-in-Chief. For practical purposes these three formed a triumvirate to conduct strategy and operations, Pitt the statesman and Foreign Minister being primus inter pares.’
We may now trace the imprint of this system on our Constitution, and it is worth doing. Pitt was to all intents the head of the government; the head of our government is the President. Pitt had commanders associated with him but he was primus inter pares; hence, “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. . . .” The wisdom of this provision was so well comprehended in 1787 that the clause was scarcely debatable, and is barely mentioned in the Federalist:
Of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of war most peculiarly demands
''Samuel Johnson, Boswell’s Life (Oxford edition), I, 470.
8 Ellison, The Perils of Amateur Strategy, p.
those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand. The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength; and the power of directing and employing the common strength forms a usual and essential part in the definition of the executive authority.'
But note that what the framers of the Constitution meant when they provided that the President should be Commander-in-Chief was not that he should exercise tactical command but that he should have in his single hand, just as had Pitt, the power to direct war. The rare combination of practical statesmen and soldiers that drafted our Constitution had learned this lesson from the recent past. Have we adhered to the system they bequeathed us? Have we conducted war as Pitt did?
To better understand Pitt’s system it is illuminating to make a comparison with the World War. There is an interesting and instructive analogy between the Gallipoli expedition and the attack on Rochefort in 1757. Gallipoli originated from the request of the Russians for relief from the pressure being put upon them by the Turks; Rochefort from the request of Frederick the Great for relief from the pressure the French were putting upon him. Gallipoli was the child of Churchill, forced through against expert advice by the insistence of that one man over the mistrust of almost every one else: Rochefort was the child of Pitt, forced through despite the fact that “Anson grumbled”; Ligonier “for some time .... was doubtful about the whole design”; Hardwicke—that combination of brilliant judge and less brilliant statesman— “did not believe in the expedition”; “the expedition had not yet sailed, and in one last appeal the old King implored Newcastle to get it diverted to Stade.”10 Both Gallipoli and Rochefort were failures in their immediate objects; and yet in their ultimate objects, whereas Gallipoli was an egregious failure, the effect of Rochefort “had been to reduce the spirits of the French government so low that they made a representation to Vienna with a view of getting rid of the continental entanglement, and leaving their hands free to deal with England and save their American Colonies .... it was absolutely necessary for them to withdraw .... a considerable force for the protec-
10 Corbett, England in the Seven Years’ War, I, 191, 192, 198.
tion of their own coasts.”11 Both Rochefort and Gallipoli were eccentric operations; but the former was carefully limited to a raid, the latter actually became an attempted invasion.12 In the Rochefort expedition the civilian minister in control recognized and followed strategical principles; in the Gallipoli expedition the civilian minister ignored them. But in both cases the civilian overrode the expert advice. In the one case this resulted in substantial benefit; in the other it came within an ace of bringing ruin. In seeking to prevent a future Gallipoli the means must not be such as also to preclude a Rochefort. From this it is clear that the absolute divorce, once war is declared, of policy and strategy—besides being an impossible dream—is not the answer.
What is the answer? There would seem to be considerable likeness between Pitt and Churchill; yet the one seems to have been just about always right, the other wrong. Both Pitt and Churchill had able advisers, although Pitt unquestionably had the better, for he received pretty constant advice from Frederick, and, incidentally, almost always acted upon it. Pitt found or made time to ponder and digest the advice he got; Churchill was so rushed that he seems to have jumped to a conclusion and then used only the advice that bolstered that conclusion. Pitt confined himself strictly to questions of the higher command, and at that he worked himself very nearly to the breaking point; Churchill, caught in a vicious system, found himself charged with practically everything concerning the primary effort of the greatest empire in the greatest war there has been. What Churchill was supposed to do staggers the imagination. The man that conducts war serves a jealous mistress; he cannot also serve another.
For England the Seven Years’ War was essentially a maritime war. Pitt’s policy was to make it so and he succeeded. The theater of war spread from Canada to India. In the nature of things the details of all the operations had to be left to the commanders on the scene. In other words, Pitt, within just bounds, respected the initiative of the subordinate. Although con-
11 Ibid, p. 244.
” Clausewitz has pointed out that 50,000 men can defend a district against 50,000, but that 1,000 cannot defend it against 1,000; to be secure against the 1,000 will take almost as many as to defend against 50,000.
ditions might have forced the observance of this great principle anyway, it was recognized and knowingly adopted.
Pitt himself defined the object of the operations, but left the method of attaining it to his Commanders, to whom he allowed a large measure of latitude and discretion. He never failed to make use of every incentive which could spur them to action and entire success. He insisted on the initiative being taken and risks run, but he was always as generous in cases of failure as he was appreciative of good work. He succeeded in inspiring the Admiralty and the War Office with his own spirit and energy, and seconded their efforts with all the resources of the country. The lesson which his practice may teach every Government engaged in war is, that while statesmen alone can direct all the Departments of State, and combine Navy, Army, Diplomacy, and Finance to the common end, those responsible for the actual operations must be unfettered in their decisions, and in their methods of carrying them out.”
Save Wolfe, who was too young at the start and until his deeds overcame the distrust of the old King for young commanders, and Anson, who was afloat only a few months during the war and was about seventy, there were no really great English commanders—none comparable to the giants that were to come before the business of fighting the French was finally done. And yet England won more by this war than she has by any other. The system is more important than the commanders.
Pitt’s fall is interesting. England had won North America, India, Africa, was on the way to get all of the French West Indies, had seized Belle Isle, had secured Hanover and had lost only Minorca. The foundation of the British empire had been laid; but that very fact, the fear of great colonial expansion and the fate of Spain, was one of the things urged against Pitt! There was a strong peace party. In this pass Pitt got positive proof that Spain was coming into the war as an ally of France. Spain was holding off till her American convoy got home. Pitt was for getting the convoy. Was he right? A deep student of this war, certainly not unfriendly to Pitt, has remarked on this:
Being convinced that war with Spain was inevitable he was bidden by pure strategy to strike at once. Every war we had had with Spain had opened with an attempt upon the plate fleet. One more such attempt could hardly have given us a worse reputation, especially as in this case it would probably have been preceded by the withdrawal of our ambassador. Yet was the game
” Foster, Organization, p. 236.
worth the candle? .... It is very doubtful . . . . even at the eleventh hour Spain might be persuaded there was an easier way of obtaining her end than by burning her fingers for France. There was much to justify at least an attempt to stay her hand, and it is difficult to read the reasoned arguments of such a man as Hardwicke without feeling that the great majority of sagacious and experienced statesmen would have been like Anson and Ligonier, on his side and the King’s and not on Pitt’s.”
Possibly Pitt in becoming a master of war was losing a little of the cunning of the master of state. Can anyone read of his fall without thinking of the opening of the World War by Germany? Pure strategy can ruin any nation.
The Prussian system was conceived by von Clausewitz, developed by von Roon, perfected by von Moltke, transmitted to the Reich, and ruined by the War Lords. The success of the Prussian army dazzled the world. Of course the Prussian methods were copied. All the nations fell over themselves to adopt the Prussians’ general staff system, their scheme of training officers, their intelligence system, their planning section, their literature, everything. In the course of time other nations probably even improved on the Prussian model. The Prussians hid nothing. They wrote very fully. They freely sent military missions to the smaller countries that asked for them. But they had something up their sleeves.
When towards the end of his life von Moltke said that in whatever direction other nations might develop their strength, Germany would remain supreme in the command, many of us thought that he was referring to the German General Staff system. We were, I think, wrong in this. Von Moltke meant that Germany had thought out a system for the conduct of war and the other nations had not. When mobilization was ordered, the old King William, Bismarck, and von Roon knew their duties and places as thoroughly as did the humblest reservist tramping to his place of muster. This was not because they wore the pickclhaube instead of the top hat, but because they had thought about the matter.”
In other words the Prussians had that which Colonel Henderson lamented the English lacked—education in “the organization, maintenance and employment of armies from the point of view of the statesman
“ Corbett, England in the Seven Years’ War, II, 207-8.
” Maurice, Statesmen and Soldiers of the Civil War, p. 149.
and the citizen.” They were well content to see and aid others grasp the form and miss the substance. In the sequel, of course, when the system descended to mediocre hands, they fooled their own descendants. They were a little too clever.
We are still enamored of the Prussian system. It is well to recollect that the German empire was built by Bismarck and not by von Moltke. Without the army the empire could not have been built, but the army was a tool, a means, not an end. Bismarck said:
The task of the commanders of the army is to annihilate the hostile forces; the object of the war is to conquer peace under conditions which are conformable to the policy pursued by the state. To fix and limit the objects to be attained by the war, and to advise the monarch in respect to them, is and remains during the war just as before it, a political function, and the manner in which these questions are solved cannot be without influence on the method of conducting the war.1*
Ponder also his careful explanation to von Moltke on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War:
Success, however, essentially depends upon the impression which the origination of the war makes upon us and others; it is important that we should be the party attacked "
Contrast that with Germany’s opening of the World War. Is any room left for doubt that the interplay of policy and strategy was thoroughly comprehended and provided for in the Prussian system?
Perhaps the strangest thing is that Bismarck, the civil head of the government, accompanied the army in both the Austrian and the French wars. True, in the French war, so far as military decisions were concerned, he was merely an onlooker, so that he complains he knew even less of its progress than the princes nominally commanding the armies; whereas in the Austrian war he seems to have stuck in his oar at least once to get the King to overrule the generals. However, it is well known how perturbed Bismarck was as the seige of Paris dragged, and the active steps he took to hasten events. One shudders to think what a mess even Pitt would have made had he been able to go with the fleet. The dominance of the army in Prussia was so complete that there was no fear. Bismarck was one of the
18Bismarck—The Man and the Statesman, II, 106.
"Ibid, p. 101.
world’s strongest men; he was wholeheartedly supported throughout by both von Moltke and von Roon; he had the entire confidence of the King. Still the hegemony of the soldiers was such that although Bismarck was with the army in the field he was unable to interfere. With a weaker man than Bismarck, with less powerful support, would not the dominance of the military even then have become exclusive in all matters of government and pure strategy have come into its own? Was there a weakness in the far-famed Prussian system? Was not its strength after all perhaps as much Bismarck as von Moltke?
We know how the system finally worked out: “Witness .... Ludendorff’s continual intrusion in diplomatic and in internal German affairs, resulting in permanent conflict between this semi-dictator and the regular government of the Empire.”18 Somehow the mere thought of a Ludendorff intruding on Bismarck’s diplomatic preserve tickles the visibilities.
The first of the conditions of success in war is policy. The succeeding conditions such as thorough indoctrination of the officers, the development of initiative, exhaustive study and training, were carried through with Prussian thoroughness. The great condition, separation of command from the other functions, was rigorously observed. The standard work of the Prussian army stated that the mixing of administration with conduct of war was a “terrible mistake for the reason given, that it would be impossible that a man would be found who .... was equally master of the art of military administration and of handling armies.”18
Now mark the great change from the Prussian system to the German system of the World War. What grew to be the typical German opinion was that: “In view of the swift march of modem military operations, politics will retire more and more into the background after the first roar of the cannon.”20 In other words war was to be short and snappy. The initial strategy would carry the war through; there would be no time for more. Politics, which works slowly, would have had scarcely time to catch its breath before it found itself at the peace table. Under such circumstances, of
18 Castex, Questions of General Staff.
18 Von der Goltz, The Nation in Anns, p. 142.
* Ibid., p. 141.
course, the statesman would have nothing to do till the war was over, and consequently war statesmanship ceased to have importance. This was a momentous change from the views of Bismarck and his great confreres. Such the theory—and then we see the fatuous step forcing Great Britain into the World War within three days and precluding any possibility of a short war. The statesman had been relegated to the background. Unrestricted submarine warfare was on and off and on. At last pure strategy reigned. There were no amateurs. In the Franco-Prussian War the Prussians committed military errors that, had the French had a leader of ability, might easily have been serious. Throughout the entire World War there was no military error of great moment committed by the Germans; and yet in the end a virtually undefeated army was beaten, an undefeated fleet was abjectly surrendered. Verily there is more to war than military perfection.
We have glanced at a system for the conduct of representative war evolved by an aristocratic landowning and commercial government; at a system evolved by an aristocratic and landowning and military government; let us now turn to our own final Civil War system, evolved by just such a government as we still have.
The Confederacy contained a united and determined people, brave almost to a fault. The region occupied was extensive and well adapted to defense, and-could be and speedily was made entirely self-supporting. It is almost axiomatic that under such circumstances a people fighting for its liberty cannot be permanently conquered.21 Up to the spring of 1864 the Confederacy had won the war; by the spring of 1865 “the resistance of the Confederacy was crushed, its cause lost, and every interest and principle that had been invoked in its behalf abandoned forever. The causes of this tremendous defeat deserve to be very carefully scrutinized.”22 We have not given this war the close study it, above all other wars, should get from us. Thoughtlessly the whole thing has been dismissed as a matter of superior numbers and of the abilities of
21 Pitt had once prophetically stated in Parliament, “Conquer a free population of three million souls? The thing is impossible.”
22 Wilkinson, War and Policy, p. 32
commanders in the field. The complete upset of the course of the war in so short a time as one year could not have been effected without commanders of the first rank, neither could so complete an upset have been accomplished by such commanders alone. The world has never seen a better system for the conduct of representative war than that evolved by Grant and Lincoln.
Contrast the system of 1864 with that of the year before. In 1863 Lee started the campaign that ended with Gettysburg by dividing his army into three parts, each separated about forty miles. Hooker faced Lee with an army half again as big, and Hooker’s army was massed within thirty-five miles. Of course Hooker saw his opportunity; the merest tyro could have seen it. He asked permission to attack. He was ordered under no circumstances to let any part of Lee’s army get between him and Washington! Not the least part of Lee’s genius was that he knew and dared count on the political weakness of his enemy. And right here it is well clearly to understand that Lincoln was not a weak man. Time and again it was shown that under his velvet glove the hand was hard as had to be. History has justly appraised him. His statesmanship in respect to the conduct of war was of the same supremely high character as his statesmanship in other regards. Again, after Lee had crossed the Potomac, he separated his army. Even Lincoln in Washington now had information enough to see the great weakness of the Confederate position and was for attacking. He was overruled by his Cabinet. Napoleon said: “A council of war never fights.” The defense of Washington had hauled McClellan back from within sight of Richmond after he had reported, probably correctly, that with 35,000 more men he could take it. The defense of Washington had been a millstone around the neck of each Federal commander. Yet in 1864 Early could have taken Washington, and the only reason he did not attack was that the defenses appeared to be fully manned—by reenforcements that had arrived from Grant’s army within the hour. In this strait even the President appealed to Grant to remove the Army of the Potomac from before Richmond; but the Cabinet, the Secretary of War, the precious Chief of Staff, said not a word.23 Grant had already detached all the men for the defense of Washington he proposed to. He could at last, however, name a commander for the defending forces. He detached one indoctrinated general, and within a few months the hoodlums of Richmond painted on a gun going forward to the force threatening Washington: “For General Sheridan care of General Early.” At that it was probably not so much because it was Sheridan as because it was a general under the aegis of Lincoln and Grant, and orders from Washington ceased. The system was perfected. Every part of the active armies of the United States was under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy and of the Commander of the Armies. So far as concerned the operations of those armies no one else had anything to do but to do as he was told. What a change a year had wrought.
The great change in the Federal government’s conduct of the war has been explained:
In March, 1864, Grant was appointed Command- er-in-Chief. Lincoln abdicated his military functions in his favor, and the Secretary of War had nothing more to do than comply with his requisitions. Then, for the first time, the enormous armies of the Union were maneuvered in harmonious combination, and the superior force was exerted to its full effect. 24
To state that Lincoln abdicated his military functions, unless the word military is used in its very narrowest sense, is incorrect. The correct statement would be that Lincoln at last succeeded in reassuming the command functions of the presidency,25 and then delegated those functions, in accordance
24 The Assistant Secretary of War on July 12, 1864, sent the following extraordinary despatch to Grant: “Nothing can possibly be done here for want of a commander. General Augur commands the defenses of Washington, with McCook and a lot of brigadier-generals under him .... the Secretary of War directs me to tell you . . . . that advice or suggestions from you will not be sufficient. General Halleck will not give orders except as he receives them. The President will give none, and till you direct positively and explicitly what is to be done, everything will go on in the deplorable way in which it has gone on for the past week.”
25 Henderson, Stonewall Jackson, (1913 ed), I, 208.
As early as August 29, 1862, Lincoln sent a despatch to McClellan giving advice and then adding: “But I wish not to control. That I now leave to General Halleck, aided by your counsels.” Halleck’s weakness coupled with political pressure soon made it impossible to live up to this.
with a true conception of the initiative of the subordinate, to his command of the armies. “The particulars of your plans I neither know nor seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you.”28 Lincoln abdicated nothing. He had taken an oath to be Commander-in-Chief. He followed every move with the minutest scrutiny, loath to interfere, as he had always been, but ready to, had it become necessary. That Grant understood clearly his relation to the President is evidenced by the fact that when Lee wrote and suggested a military convention Grant sent the letter on to Washington and asked instructions. This was the very first time Grant asked instructions from Washington. The war had arrived at the higher sphere where policy directly controlled, and went beyond the authority delegated to the military commander. Sherman later misunderstood this to his grief. Grant’s reply from Stanton, but written by Lincoln in his own hand, was:
The President directs me to say that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of Lee’s army, or on solely minor and purely military matters. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question; such questions the President holds in his own hands and will submit to no military conferences or conventions."
The master of state could not delegate affairs of state to the military commander any more than he would delegate military affairs to the statesmen. But for the terms of capitulation of the enemy army, knowing the magnanimity of his great commander, he sent no trammeling instructions. Grant was able to make terms that more than any other one thing went so far to heal the wounds of the war. Lincoln’s despatch is great for the things it does not say. All of which shows that when Grant came east Lincoln at last had the chance to be Commander-in-Chief in the way he had intuitively known from the very first he should be; in the way the Constitution meant him to be.
The part of the Secretary of War in the system is important. At the very beginning of the war:
28 Letter from Lincoln to Grant, April 30, 1864. Observe that it was the particulars he did not seek to know.
29 See Sherman’s Memoirs, II, 359-60.
So completely overwhelmed was the Secretary of War in providing arms and supplies for the 75,000 militia, that the subject of organizing the volunteers and regulars called out by the President’s proclamation of May 3, (1861) was tossed over for solution to the Secretary of the Treasury.M
As early as October, 1862: “The Secretary of War had withdrawn from active interference in matters of command.”29 It is easy to see why. The Secretary of the Treasury had his own troubles by then— plenty of them. There was no one other than the Secretary of War to see to the supply of men and munitions. All the bureaus having these duties were directly under him. He simply had to direct and coordinate. As the armies grew to a million men it became utterly impossible for the Secretary of War to undertake any duties beyond these. So, without any legal change, simply by the inexorable march of events, supply and operations, administration and strategy, became separate and distinct.
In the Navy a similar situation worked itself out. The office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy was created July 31, 1861. By a stroke of fortune that seems almost a direct intervention of Providence there was appointed to this office Gustavus V. Fox. Fox had spent most of his life in the Navy. The Secretary of the Navy soon found himself fully occupied with procuring supplies, ships, and men—and with writing his diary. Fox corresponded directly with the admirals, drew the strategic plans, became the chief of naval operations. To Fox, Halleck came for naval cooperation; to Fox, the President turned for advice on naval operations.
Was there ever a more beautiful understanding of indoctrination than this?
My opinions on all matters are very strong, but if I am possessed properly of the views of my superiors, I make them my study, and conform my conduct to them as though they were my own.”
The cry of the junior for the doctrine; the paean of praise when at last he gets it:
That we are now all to act on a common plan, converging on a common center, looks like enlightened war Glad.................................. I am that there are
minds now at Washington able to devise.
I now know the result aimed at; I know my base, and have a pretty good idea of my lines of opera-
” Upton, The Military Policy of the United States, p. 233.
” Ibid, p. 387.
" Letter of Sherman to Grant, May 28, 1865.
tion. No time shall be lost in putting my forces in mobile condition.11
Did the Prussians ever realize better than Grant the necessity of allowing the indoctrinated subordinate his initiative?
The more distant commanders, however, Grant meant to leave, in all the details of their operations, quite as untrammeled as he himself had hitherto been. He, indeed, assigned them their objective points and their armies; told them what they were to do and gave them the means with which to do it; but the use of those means, the accumulation of their own supplies, the tactics of their battles, and in some degree the strategy of their own campaigns—these were left to each commander’s judgment.”
The great system of Lincoln and Grant— very logical, very simple. “In war everything is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.”33
The points of concurrence in the three successful systems for the conduct of representative war imaged in the foregoing may be briefed.—
Major control by civilian head of government.
Prussian system—Yes. Strategic plan approved in advance.
Direct relation between head of government and senior military heads—“triumvirate.”
Prussian system—Yes, except there were only two members, as the navy was non-essential.
Severance of operations from administration and supply.
Initiative of subordinates.
Interference by policy with strategy.
31 Letter of Sherman to Grant, April 10, 1864.
” Badeau, Military History of U. S. Grant, II, 50.
“Von Clausewitz, On War, Book I, Chap. 7.
Interference by policy with tactics.
May we not safely say that these common features must be observed in any system for the conduct of representative war that is to be successful?
Von Clausewitz has condensed the distinction between strategy and tactics to an aphorism: “Strategy is the use of battle in war; tactics the use of troops in battle.” This terse definition enables us to see at once that tactics is as exclusively a matter for the military as is policy for the statesmen. In a popular government, where the statesman is the superior, a knowledge of tactics on his part is worse than useless. History abundantly proves this: Jefferson Davis’ knowledge of tactics defeated the Confederacy; a Secretary of War, who had been a general, was literally run out of office by “a village mob.” But the converse does not hold, for the military man, the junior, cannot dangerously interfere in policy. Moreover, a knowledge of policy on his part is invaluable; it is nigh impossible to see how the military heads can properly perform their high duties without a pretty thorough knowledge of the nation’s policy. But what of strategy? Strategy is middle ground. The statesman makes war for the very reason that he is forced to the pass where he has no choice but to call strategy to the aid of his policy; the military man uses strategy to assure successful tactics. It follows that the statesman must be able to tell the military head, in a general way, wherein battle will be most advantageous for his policy, and he must, in order to get anywhere, know enough of purely military strategy to present a workable problem. To illustrate the point take a horrible example —Gallipoli. Had the statesman been wise, immediately the great political desirability of the capture of Constantinople seriously struck him, the strategic difficulties would also have come to mind. The statesman would then have realized that the urgent problem, after all, was to bring pressure on Turkey that in turn would relieve pressure on Russia. He could then have presented the problem to his military adviser in a workable aspect. A properly equipped military adviser must have known enough of policy to have realized what was wanted.
He could at once have discarded any strategy that would not further the policy. Had each understood the whole field of strategy and insisted that the whole field be mutually covered, could Hindenburg have been so puzzled that the British did not strike at Alexandretta? There must be an overlap in strategy.
In the United States we have ready at hand a triumvirate for the conduct of war: the President, the head of the government, responsible alike for policy and strategy, a responsibility that he cannot shift; the Chief of the General Staff; and the Chief of Naval Operations. Here is the board to conduct war. If it is enlarged, what happens? We get more than one expert in a special branch; we get differences of opinion; we get objections and not expedients; we get a council of war. One poor general is better than two good ones. When does this triumvirate begin to function? Obviously this cannot wait until the formal declaration of war. It should start functioning when the President begins to act as Commander-in-Chief. That moment will probably be when the outlook becomes so gloomy that the President suggests where the ships should be. Then the Chief of Naval Operations should report to the President as his expert naval adviser and the medium to translate and transmit his orders to the Navy under his command.34
The danger in the United States is this: We fortunately have long periods of peace and short periods of war. During peace, there being no war to conduct, the service of supply is really all there is, operations being entirely controlled by supply, and not the contrary as is the case in war. As a natural consequence the Secretary of the Navy is, as you might say, complete in his own office; he controls the Navy in every respect. This in turn, through the years, naturally gives rise to the theory that the President has delegated his office of Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to the Secretary of the Navy. The courts have, in effect, so stated. The truth is rather that the President has not delegated his office, but that in time of peace the office lies dormant. When war does come the office awakens. Throughout the preceding years, however, the Secretary of the Navy has been doing all the work of the Navy; the President has grown used to this; he has always dealt with the Navy through the Secretary; unconsciously the Secretary assumes the duties of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. One mortal man cannot carry the two duties the Secretary thus undertakes. Churchill tried it in England during the World War. Both of the duties suffer. In war when a duty suffers men die.
For want of a nail an empire was lost. Possibly the missing nail could be found in a Navy Regulation:
The Chief of Naval Operations will, when directed, report to the President of the United States as his aide in the execution of his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.
President Coolidge, clearly expressing the conviction of the practical, thinking citizen, has said:
We want no more war. You men and women who have seen it or have been engaged in it want war least of all. We want peace with justice and with honor. But this does not justify the government in disregarding history, in leaving the people undefended against national peril at home or abroad. Not for defiance, but for defense; not for aggrandizement, but for protection; not as an appeal to force but to insure the administration of justice we need an adequate army and navy. The forces of evil and despotism have ever been gathering. Our safety and security lies in their realization that this nation has such a force and such a spirit that they can attack American rights only at their peril. America represents the greatest treasure that there is on earth, the greatest power that there is to minister to the welfare of mankind; to leave it unprepared and unprotected is not only to disregard the national welfare, but to be no less guilty of a crime against civilization. The day of competitive armaments, we hope, is passing, but we cannot yet see when the day will be past for adequate military preparation.*5
We are in the morrow of a great war. Years will pass; new statesmen will come. Will they realize that:
In time of war the civilian as much as the soldier is responsible for defeat and disaster. Battles are not lost alone on the field; they may be lost beneath the dome of the capitol, they may be lost in the Cabinet, or they may be lost in the private office of the Secretary of War. Whenever they may be lost, it is the people who suffer and the soldiers who die, with the knowledge and the conviction that our military policy is a crime against life, a crime against property, and a crime against liberty.38
Will the statesmen even have thought, amid the pressing problems of years of peace, that material preparation, that command preparation so far as the Army and Navy can carry it, are but the foundation? Will they realize that merely providing for an Army and Navy is not enough to purge of the guilt of a crime against civilization? Will they realize that preparation by the statesman and understanding of the war duties of the various offices of state are vital? That they may not realize all this is our weakest link. The Navy can help to the realization of it, and to that end must work unceasingly.
35 Address at Northampton, May 30, 1923.—The Price of Freedom, p. 347.
36Upton, The Military Policy of the United States, p. xi.