The problem which faces the professional military man as he embarks upon his career is a difficult one. He has made the de cision to adopt a profession wherein the opportunity for active practice is extremely limited. The graduate lawyer, doctor, or tradesman is immediately plunged into an activity which crystallizes the theory he has assimilated in school and opens new and immediate fields for development. Not so with the junior officer in time of peace. True, he has much to learn in the field of technique. He must familiarize himself with the materiel and organization of his time and acquaint himself with the technical details of his particular arm. He disciplines, and is disciplined. He is instructed in the combined functioning of all arms and services. If fortunate, he participates in field maneuvers which serve as the best available training for the practice of his profession. As time goes on, he begins to realize that all this is but scanty preparation for the grim reality of war. He asks himself how successful this peacetime theory is going to prove. For in his memory he has pictures of stirring events which convince him that the peacetime training of years, when put to the test, may be found lacking and be overthrown in a few short months. How can he be sure that his theories will not meet such a fate? How can he determine what is true and what is false? How can he better visualize what may happen when it comes his turn to go forth to battle? What principles should he adopt in seeking to fortify himself against future developments? Where can he find a guide? There is no laboratory for war other than war itself, and war is so destructive of all things as to preclude the idea of seeking it for purposes of training. All that is left, then, is to study what has transpired in past wars, and through the process of careful thought to attempt to translate the lessons learned and the principles found into terms of future wars.
Military history, therefore, becomes the laboratory of the military man. In its pages he will find suggestions which make for greatness or mediocrity in the military leader. From the study and analysis of the campaigns of great leaders, certain principles emerge which have stood the test of time and which will serve as the foundation for present, though perhaps more elaborate, military operations.
The history of war dates back many thousands of years, but wily in relatively recent times has there been an effort on the part of any writer to define the broad principles of war.
During the early part of the nineteenth century General Jomini published the first of his military works. In this and subsequent volumes he enunciated the main principles of war and illustrated their application by drawing on the campaigns of the great captains of different ages. He found, as a result of his study and analysis, that war is an art, the highest expression of which is to be found in the battles and campaigns of great military leaders. He was the first to show that there is a similarity of pattern in the military conceptions of these men and that this similarity can be reduced to certain principles which form the pattern.
The purpose of this study will be to touch upon the lives of a few great military leaders and to suggest how out of the campaign and battles of these men has been derived what today we call the art of war.
The first great military leader was Alexander. He was the first to reduce war to a science. In order better to appreciate his contribution to military art, it is necessary to examine what others did before him.
The Battle of Marathon, 490 B.C., in which the Greeks under Miltiades defeated the invading Persian army, affords us one of our earliest examples of how tactical skill can overcome sheer weight of numbers (Figs. 2a and 2b). The Persian army had completed its disembarkation and was drawn up on the seashore in front of its fleet. The Greek army, greatly outnumbered, occupied the high ground to the north. To avoid being outflanked, Miltiades lengthened his line so as to rest his flanks upon two streams running southward to the sea. As an additional security measure, he made his flank units stronger by further weakening his center.
The Greeks advanced rapidly to the attack; but at the first impact their light center was thrown back by the Persians, who then pushed forward to exploit the success. The Greek wings, however, were unshaken and, at a word from their leader, swung inward against the flanks of the Persian force. Cramped for maneuver room and surprised by this unexpected attack, the Persian army was severely defeated. Here we see illustrated for the first time the tactical double envelopment.
Our next historical example is the Battle of Leuctra, 371 B.C. (Fig. 2c). Here Epaminondas, faced with odds of two to one, clearly demonstrated how brains and ingenuity on the part of a leader can overcome great obstacles. At Leuctra, Epaminondas with six thousand Thebans faced an army of over eleven thousand Spartans. The latter were fresh from recent victories and high in morale, while the Thebans were still suffering from the disappointment of many failures.
As the two armies drew up for battle, Epaminondas noted that the Spartan King and his choicest troops were on the right flank of the Spartan army. He reasoned that success might crown his efforts could he but defeat this group and put it to flight. To this end, he quadrupled the strength of his own left, led it forward, and ordered his center and right to advance more slowly, and in echelon, so as not to become seriously engaged until the Spartan right had been defeated. His plan was successful. The threat of the Theban center and right served to prevent the Spartans from reinforcing their right, which was crushed by the heavy assault of the Theban left. Epaminondas completed his victory by wheeling against the flank of the remaining Spartan troops with his left wing at the moment that his center and right engaged them in front.
This Theban victory resulted from Epamiriondas' ability to seize the initiative and to bring to bear at a critical point on the battlefield a striking force superior to the resisting force. That he was able to do this in spite of his total numerical inferiority is a tribute to his reasoning and generalship. In order to obtain the necessary strength in his left wing, Epaminondas weakened his center and right to such an extent that they could not be used to engage seriously the forces opposed to them. Yet they had to hold these forces in check until the left wing attack could be driven home. Therefore, the maneuver now referred to as the oblique order was resorted to. Through this maneuver Epaminondas fixed in position the entire enemy line; and he was able by reason of the deception of his dispositions to drive his main thrust home before the weakness in his own center and right had been detected by the Spartans. No finer illustration of the successful application of the principles of mass (concentration of combat power) and economy of forces is to he found in ancient military history.
Aside from the contributions made by Epaminondas and Miltiades, little recorded progress in military art is found prior to the time of Alexander the Great. It was the general rule for opposing armies to draw up in line of battle facing each other and to fight until one or the other gave way. Usually, it was the stronger, numercially, of the two which won by overlapping arid outfianking the other, simply because its greater numbers enabled it to form a longer line. Evidence of planned tactics does not appear.
When Alexander, at the age of twenty, succeeded his father, Philip, to the throne of Macedon (336 B.C.), he inherited an army superior to any the world had yet seen. Philip had been a great organizer, and it was through his efforts that the army of Macedon had become such a fine military machine.
The Macedonian army consisted of foot troops and cavalry. Organized around the native Macedonian phalanx as a nucleus, it comprised soldiers from allied nations and tributary tribes and mercenaries.
There were four classes of infantry: the pezetaeri, or foot companions, who bore the sarissa, a twenty-one-foot spear, and were heavily armored; the hypaspists, or shield-bearing guards, with sword and one-handed pike, also heavily armored; the peltasts, a well-organized and substantially armed light infantry; the psiloi, or irregular lightly armed foot, composed of archers, slingers, and darters. The pezetaeri and hypaspists were also called hoplites.
Of cavalry, there were the Cavalry Companions (the blue bloods of Macedon), the Thessalians, and the Greeks. All of these were heavily armed and well equipped. Alexander considered them the finest troops of his army. His shock tactics depended upon these troops. Next came the light cavalry, made up of well-armed mercenary troops. Third, was a group of lancers and horse-bowmen. Finally, there were a number of irregular nomads, armed in any manner.
The Macedonian phalanx was the tactical unit of the day. It was made up of both infantry and cavalry and was designed to operate as an independent force. It was fashioned from the earlier Greek phalanxes but was much improved. It was designed for shock action and represented the best thought of the day.
The unit of the phalanx was a lochos, or file, of sixteen heavy infantrymen, hypaspists or pezetaeri, whose chief was the front-rank man. Four lochoi made a tetrarchia of sixty-four men, a platoon as it were. Two tetrarchia made a taxiarchia, or company, of one hundred and twenty-eight men. Two taxiarchia made a syntagma, or battalion, of two hundred and fifty-six men. This was a body sixteen men square. Each unit had its leader and assistant leaders, and was so arranged that the best men were in front and rear, with the least reliable in the center. Four syntagmas formed a chiliarchia, or regiment, of one thousand and twenty-four men, under a strategos (colonel). Sixteen syntagmas, or four chiliarchias, constituted a simple phalanx, which was thus made up of four thousand and ninety-six heavy infantrymen. In addition, there were attached regular complements of cavalry and light troops. The phalanx might be compared to our division, though much smaller. There were also double and quadruple phalanxes, each formed, as its name implies, from two or more simple phalanxes. Figure 2d shows a simple phalanx formed for battle and gives normal distances and reinforcements. Figure 16 shows a lochos, or file.
The heavy infantry and heavy cavalry bore the brunt of the fighting. The lighter troops were used in front, in rear, and on the flanks to secure the main body and to reconnoiter and harass the enemy.
The artillery of the day was much improved by Philip and, later, by Alexander, who was the first to construct the machines and to mount them on wagons in such a manner as to be able to march them in company with the army, as our field artillery does today. Up to this time these military machines had been used only in sieges. Having them at hand, Alexander made constant use of them at defiles, against fleldworks, in crossing rivers, and in many sudden emergencies. The artillery comprised the catapult and ballista (Fig. 3). The catapult, a huge bow-like affair, shot spears or spikes weighing up to 300 pounds. It had a maximum range of half a mile. The ballista, which was a large mechanically operated throwing arm, was capable of throwing huge stones and similar objects to a great distance at high angles.* The catapult would correspond to our gun; the ballista, to our howitzer or mortar.
In the middle of the sixth century B.C., the Persians under Cyrus began a series of conquests which resulted in elevating the Persian state to the first rank among the military powers of that time. We are interested in this Persian rise to power because it was attended by the Great War between Greece and Persia.
About 500 B.C., the Grecian cities in Asia Minor, which some years before had been brought under the sway of Persian authority, revolted. They were assisted in this action by the Greek states. Darius, the King of Persia, quelled this revolt and then determined to punish the Greek states for the aid they had given. To this end he undertook a joint military and naval expedition against Greece. This Persian invasion was turned back by the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.), already described. Later, 480 B.C., Darius' successor Xerxes undertook a second such expedition. After meeting with considerable early success, this second invasion was repulsed and the Persians were driven out of Greece, never to return.
* It is said that the ballista could throw a stone weighing 200 pounds to a distance well over 600 yards.
This aggression served to implant in the heart of every Greek a hatred of Persia and a desire to avenge the wrong. And so it is natural that we find in Philip of Macedon, and later in his son Alexander, the cherished ambition to lead the Greeks against the hereditary enemy of Hellas, the Persian King. Philip's death came while he was planning such an undertaking, and it fell to Alexander to carry the plan to its conclusion. From the time he ascended the throne to his death thirteen years later, his dream of conquering and Hellenizirig Asia was to be his ruling ambition. That he accomplished the one but not the other was due to the fact that he worked on an impossible theory, that of coalescing races by intermarriage and forced migration.
In 334 B.C., at the age of twenty-two, Alexander started upon his conquest of Persia. He took with him thirty thousand foot and five thousand horse, the finest equipped and best trained army of the age. His advance took him first eastward and southward through Asia Minor and Phoenicia, then westward along the southern shores of the Mediterranean through Egypt, until he controlled the entire Mediterranean coastline and had neutralized the Persian fleet by victories on land and sea. Here was the first example of grand strategy. He did not propose to risk himself and his army in the heart of Persia without first securing his base.
Alexander returned from Egypt to Syria and from there embarked upon his invasion of the Persian Empire. Across the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers to Arbela, where he met and defeated the second great Persian army, thence to Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis, he marched his army. In the space of four short years all of Persia had been overrun, its armies destroyed and its king made a fugitive.
Alexander, in pursuit of the fleeing Darius, pushed through Media and the Caspian Gates to Parthia. There he learned that Darius had been murdered by his attendants. From Parthia he ranged south and east to subdue the provinces of Ariana, Drarigiana, and Arachosia. He then made his way over the mountains into Bactria and Sogdiana as far as the Jaxartes River. From this point he retraced his steps southward over the mountains and then moved eastward to undertake the conquest of India. Crossing the Indus, in the spring of 326 B.C., he continued his march to the bank of the Hydaspes River. Here his further eastward movement was opposed by the army of Porus, one of the kings of India.
By patient planning and masterly strategy Alexander succeeded in forcing a crossing and defeating the opposing army. But his progress into India was stopped by the growing discontent in his army and its refusal to advance further. Forced to yield to this strong feeling on the part of his veterans, Alexander constructed a fleet and transported his army down the Hyphasis to the Indus, and thence to its mouth. Here he split his force. A part of it sailed by sea to the Persian Gulf, while Alexander with the remainder crossed the Gedrosian Desert and returned through Pasargadae to Babylon. In this latter city, in 323 B.C., his career came to an end. Stricken with fever, he died at the height of his glory, and his great dreams of a vast world empire came to naught.
Such then, briefly, is the outline of eleven consecutive years of unremitting campaigning. It is a saga of conquest filled with action of every kind and description; sea battles, land battles, and sieges; burning deserts, icy mountains, and swollen rivers. Certainly every problem known to man must have presented itself for his solution.
An examination of Alexander's battles will reveal how he contributed to the art of war by formulating those principles of the art which were later to be elaborated by Hannibal, Caesar, Frederick, and Napoleon. For this examination the battles of Issus, Arbela, and the Hydaspes have been chosen.
During his advance south from Asia Minor into Phoenicia, Alexander, through lack of knowledge of the terrain, permitted Darius to cut off his communications by striking across his rear through the Amanic Gates (Fig. 4a).
The situation was serious. Alexander was headed south through Beilan Pass when word came that the entire Persian army was at Issus, astride his communications. Once he had confirmed this report, Alexander lost little time. He faced his army about and, sending his cavalry forward to seize the defile of the Syrian Gates, retraced his steps toward Issus.
Darius had made no effort to seize the Syrian Gates but had remained at Issus. Hearing of Alexander's action, he took up a defensive position behind the Pinarus, a little stream everywhere fordable, and awaited Alexander's move (Fig. 4b).
The position was a narrow one arid did not give Darius an opportunity to deploy his greatly superior numbers.* He, therefore, took up a position of great depth. The cavalry was posted on his seward flank, where the ground was suitable for its action. His mountain flank was secured by detachments of light infantry.
* Some writers state that Darius had 500,000 men; others give much lower figures. The brunt of the battle was borne by troops that numbered about 100,000. Alexander's strength was 3035,000.
Alexander advanced to the attack under cover of light infantry and cavalry. Detachments were sent to drive back the force Darius had posted in the mountains. Once this had been accom plished, other light troops worked their way through the hills to a position opposite the left flank of the main Persian battle line. The stage was now set for the decisive action. Alexander instructed his center and left to advance slowly and to delay becoming seriously engaged until the Persian left had been crushed. The Macedonian right wing, led by Alexander in person, consisted of the heavy cavalry and the hypaspists. It advanced slowly across the eastern part of the plain, with its right flank skirting the high ground, until it came within range of the Persian arrows. Then, at a pre-arranged signal, it dashed across the river and drove back the Persian left. This exposed the entire Persian line to the flanking action of Alexander's heavy horse. The result was the complete route of the Persian army.
The Persian cavalry on the opposite flank tried to do the corresponding thing. But Alexander's left had been refused; and by the time the Persians had crossed the stream to engage it, their left had been defeated and their line of retreat threatened. They lost confidence, broke off the battle, and fled. By vigorous pursuit Alexander completed the destruction of the Persian army.
The action leading up to the Battle of Issus, as well as the battle itself, serves to illustrate not only the superior qualities of leadership possessed by Alexander but also his tactical skill as a general.
To find that an enemy greatly superior in numbers had planted himself astride his line of communication would come as a shock to any military leader, regardless of his poise or past record of success. To be thus surprised when far from home and without hope of assistance would serve further to confuse and magnify the difficulties to be overcome. Yet this was the situation which confronted Alexander as he stood at the head of his army near Beilan Pass. Let us examine further his solution of the problem in an effort to uncover the reasons for his success.
Alexander's training had impressed upon him the futility of acting on unconfirmed intelligence. His first move was to check the truthfulness of the reports which had reached him. Once con vinced of their correctness, he proceeded to act.
His immediate concern was to make secure the return march of his army through the defile of the Syrian Gates. To obtain this security, he took advantage of the mobility of his cavalry to dispatch it on the mission of seizing and holding this defile until the remainder of the army arrived; in so many words, security through mobility.
Once safely through the Syrian Gates, his next concern was to ascertain the Persian dispositions, as well as to secure the advance of his own force. By throwing out a screen of light infantry and cavalry to his front and flanks, he was able to accomplish both of these ends. The initiative rested with him and the time to make a decision was at hand.
Alexander's decision was to retain the initiative by attacking the Persian army. Any frontal attack would mean opposing his thin line to the enemy's mass. No opportunity for flanking action against the seaward flank existed. He, therefore, decided to strike his main blow against the enemy's left, while at the same time making a display of strength against the rest of the hostile position. This display of strength would serve as a holding attack.
In obtaining the necessary forces to insure the success of his main attack, Alexander had been compelled to weaken the rest of his army. Therefore, in order to prevent the enemy from defeating his own center and left before his main attack should prove successful, Alexander adopted Epaminondas' tactics of Leuctra. He instructed his center and left to advance echeloned to the left rear and not to permit themselves to become seriously engaged until the enemy's left had been broken. Here we see true evidence of military greatness and a fine example of the application of some of the principles of war: mass obtained through use of economy of forcc.; security obtained through the active use of covering forces and the deceptiveness of maneuver.
One other point worth noting is that Alexander led the force charged with making the main attack. Here was the leader's place in battle. Success or failure on this portion of the field meant everything. To plan a battle is not enough. To plan a battle and commit troops to action is still not enough. That action must be vigorously and intelligently directed. Such direction at all points of the battlefield is not within the physical capabilities of one mar', but to direct it at the decisive point is possible; and this direction may prove to be the deciding factor between victory and defeat.
Little mention has been made of the aftermath of this battle. Alexander's attack, striking into the rear of the Persian force and threatening to cut off its retreat, threw panic into the closely packed hordes and caused them to flee in ever- increasing terror and confusion. Cut down by Alexander's pursuing cavalry and hampering each other's movement by their uncontrolled efforts to escape, less than four thousand survived to rejoin Darius east of the Euphrates River. Others scattered into the adjacent mountains or were killed. By active pursuit on the heels of a successful battle Alexander had destroyed a vast hostile army. He who fights and runs away may live to fight another dayunless actively pursued.
The first thing worth noting in the campaign which culminated in the Battle of Arbela is Alexander's estimate of the situation. He reasoned that to undertake a military expedition into Persia without first subjugating the entire Mediterranean seaboard from Macedon to Egypt would expose his rear to attack from both land and sea ; by land from Phoenicia and Egypt; by sea from the Persian fleet which still controlled the eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, after his victory at Issus, Alexander spent the better part of two years building the foundation for his campaign into Persia. There is not space here to recount in detail the obstacles which he overcame during this period. The siege of Tyre, the destruction of the Persian fleet, and the conquest of Egypt are replete with examples of his intellect, courage, and resourcefulness. As has already been stated, here for the first time in history was methodical war on the grand scale. Here was exemplified the principle of strategic security.
Hearing that Darius was assembling a new army to oppose him, Alexander moved without delay to strike this gathering force; back from Egypt to Gaza, the center of his strategic base, and thence eastward to seek battle in the heart of his enemy's country. Decision and action! Seek out the threat and destroy it. Where better is illustrated the principle of the objective? Cities or provinces did not tempt Alexander. It was the enemy's armed forces that he sought. Once they were destroyed, all else would be his for the asking.
From Gaza through Jerusalem to Damascus, and thence north ward and eastward across the Euphrates, Alexander moved. Darius' plan was to draw him deep into hostile territory and then crush him. But Darius underestimated the caliber of his opponent.
Soon after crossing the Euphrates, Alexander noted increasing evidence of the presence of Darius' force. His reconnaissance agencies finally located the mass of the Persian army east of the Tigris on the plains of Gaugamela, near ancient Ninevev, and some seventy miles west of Arbela. Swinging swiftly to the north, Alexander succeeded in making an unopposed crossing of the Tigris and advanced to within seven miles of the Persian camp.
Rumor and the conflicting reports of prisoners estirnate(1 Darius numbers to be in excess of one million. What Alexander believed has not been recordedcertainly he did not hesitate to attackbut evidently these stories found credence in his army. Alexander at this time is estimated to have had about 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry.
The Persians deployed for battle on a broad plain which would permit the free maneuvering of cavalry and chariots. Darius had learned a lesson at Issus. He was not to be caught a second time with his army crowded into a restricted space.
After four days of preparation, Alexander set out with his army under cover of darkness, intending to attack Darius at daybreak. Delay having made this impossible, he established a new camp within sight of the Persian hosts while he reconnoitered the prospective battlefield.
When Alexander appeared, the Persians were drawn up in battle array. As the Macedonians went into camp, Darius realized that there would be no attack that day, but his fear of a night attack caused him to keep his troops under arms throughout the hours of darkness. Consequently, when Alexander formed for battle the next morning, the Persians were weary for lack of sleep.
The dispositions of the armies for battle were as shown in Figure 4c
Alexander was on the right with the Cavalry Companions, covered to his front by light infantry. The Macedonian phalanx was in the center. On the left were the Greek and Thessalian heavy horse. In rear of each flank Alexander placed a column of light horse and foot, each so disposed that it could face quickly in any direction. He thus protected his flanks against envelopment by the long Persian line.
The Persians deployed a double infantry line of many provincial contingents, with cavalry on each flank. The center was composed of what little Greek infantry* still remained to Darius, and here he himself took post with the cavalry of his guard. A line of chariots at wide intervals covered each wing.
As Alexander moved to the attack, his entire army shifted to the right (Fig. 4d). It is not clear whether this was due to the natural drift of the phalanx or to obstacles placed by the Persians. In any event, this caused a corresponding drift on the part of the Persian left wing and opened a gap in the center of the Persian line. The Persian wings swept in to envelop Alexander's flanks but were met and repulsed by the light troops disposed for that purpose. Alexander noticed the gap in the Persian center. Quickly forming a giant wedge from the right- flank units of the Macedonian phalanx and headed by the Cavalry Companions, he led it against this break in the enemy line. His attack was overwhelming and split the Persian force. Darius, in the path of this onslaught, turned and took flight. Panic spread throughout the Persian center and left, and they crumpled and gave way.
Alexander was forced to turn from his pursuit, momentarily, to rectify conditions on his own left, which had temporarily fallen back. This done, he returned to the vigorous pursuit of the fleeing Persians. Day and night he pushed after the dispersed and panic-stricken enemy until he had hopelessly scattered the entire force. This pursuit is notable as perhaps the first instance of relentless pressure on a defeated enemy to the limit of endurance of man and horse. Alexander lost more horses from exhaustion in the pursuit than in the battle itself.
In the spring of 326 B.C., Alexander was undertaking the conquest of India. His army had arrived at the north bank of the Hydaspes River. On the far side, disputing his crossing, was the army of Porus, one of the many kings of India (Fig. 5).
The Hydaspes River presented a most formidable obstacle. About half a mile in width, and swollen by rains, it was everywhere unfordable. To cross it with an army in the face of determined hostile resistance seemed out of the question. Alexanders solution of the problem remains a classic. It is the basis of our modern doctrine for the attack of a river line.
First undertaking to convince Porus that he intended to wait until the river fell before attempting to cross, Alexander carefully spread rumors to that effect. He provided a basis for the rumors by settling his troops in camp and collecting vast stores of supplies from the surrounding country. This activity did not cause Porus to relax his vigilance.
Alexander then proceeded t.o confuse him by engineering a series of feints and alarms. He constructed many boats and located them at various points upstream and downstream from his camp. He embarked and disembarked his troops and made numerous feints at crossing in the night. He assembled his army in the light of the camp fires, as though making ready for a crossing; blew his bugles and created a big hubbub, only to dismiss it without actually making any real attempt to cross. For a while Porus met all this activity with equal energy. He would order his men under arms and move reinforcements to all threatened crossing points. Soon, however, he began to weary of this ceaseless vigilance and relaxed his efforts. This was what Alexander had been waiting for.
Having lulled Porus into a false sense of security by his failure to follow through with any of his long series of feints, Alexander now determined to take advantage of his opponent's carelessness. His reconnaissance had discovered a suitable crossing some sixteen miles above camp. Continuing his feints in the vicinity of the camp, Alexander moved his main body to the selected crossing point. This movement was carried out on a stormy night when the darkness, thunder, and rain combined to conceal all preparation. The route chosen was well back from the river and out of sight and hearing of Porus' scouts. Careful plans for the crossing had resulted in the construction of many boats and rafts and in their con cealment in the vicinity of the assembly point for the crossing force.
Faulty reconnaissance very nearly brought the undertaking to a disastrous conclusion; for when Alexander's troops reached what they thought to be the far bank of the river, it was discovered that they were on an island and still separated from the main shore by a deep channel. Fortunately, a place was found where the infantry could cross by wading breast-deep. The cavalry swam across. Alexander hastily assembled his leading units and moved to gain contact with Porus' main forces.
Meanwhile, Porus was going through the throes of indecision. He could see what he thought to be the bulk of Alexander's force still occupying the main camp and estimated the crossing force to be a very small one. Consequently, the force which he sent to oppose it was annihilated by Alexander.
Porus was now completely bewildered. He did not know what to believe but finally decided to move against Alexander. Leaving part of his force behind to guard against any crossing in front of Alexander's camp, he moved out some distance and drew up in line of battle on a plain where the ground was suitable for his plan of defense. There he waited for Alexander to attack.
Porus' dispositions are shown in Figure 5. In front were the elephants, which Porus knew Alexanders cavalry could not face, one hundred feet apart and covering the entire infantry line. Columns of foot flanked the elephants. These animals were intended to keep the Macedonian cavalry at a distance and to trample down the foot when it should advance against the Indian line. The cavalry was on the wings; in its front were scythed chariots. Porus' intention was to fight a purely defensive battle.
Alexander arrived at the head of his heavy cavalry and proceeded to reconnoiter the enemy dispositions. Knowing that the Indian army outnumbered him in every arm except cavalry, Alexander decided that he must use this arm, despite the elephants, to gain his victory. The presence of the elephants along the entire hostile front precluded other than a flank attack. His reconnaissance having discovered a concealed approach through the hills to the south flank of Porus' army, over this route he dispatched one of his most trusted leaders, Coenus, in command of a body of heavy horse, with instructions to smash the right flank and rear of the Indian army. Alexander, with the Cavalry Companions and sustained by the Macedonian phalanx, made an oblique movement toward Porus' left. This movement resulted in much the same formation as that used at Issus. His center and left were refused and acted as a threat to hold in check the Indian center and right, while his own right drove into and heavily engaged the Indian left.
Meanwhile, Coenus had ridden unobserved to a position opposite the enemy right flank and rear. Porus had moved the cavalry of his right flank across to help his left check Alexander's attack. This left the infantry of the Indian right exposed to Coenus' attack. He took them by surprise in flank and rear and so badly cut them up that they no longer affected the outcome of the battle. Coenus rallied his forces and, continuing his circuit of the Indian army, struck in rear the cavalry opposed to Alexander. Caught between two attacks, this force was defeated and retired in confusion to the protection of the elephants. These beasts were turned to charge Alexander's cavalry. This movement exposed their flanks to the advancing Macedonian phalanx, which wounded the animals and killed their drivers. All became confusion. The elephants, out of control and maddened with pain, turned and trampled their own infantry. Alexander and Coenus pressed their cavalry attacks with such vigor that soon the entire Indian army was a milling, panic- stricken mass. Very few of its number survived the battle and the pursuit which followed. Porus was captured and his army destroyed. The crossing of the Hydaspes, with its ensuing battle, is an excellent example of how strategic and tactical skill can combine to overcome the greatest difficulties.
* In the battle itself Alexander is reported to have had 5,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry; Porus had 4,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry.
One cannot help but be impressed by the long-range planning which led up to this victory. The ceaseless and apparently aimless activity which went on continuously in Alexander's camp was all directed toward a definite end, that of creating in the mind of the opposing leader a picture so confused as to render him incapable of correct action at the proper moment.
Once this state of mind had been established, the initial success was guaranteed. Not only this; we can see how his state of mental uncertainty continued to hamper Porus' actions long after the existing facts should have made clear to him the true situation. It was this uncertainty Which prevented him from taking advantage of Alexander's error in reconnaissance and from opposing in force the actual crossing. A real display of opposition at the time when Alexander's troops were frantically searching for a means of crossing the second channel would have resulted in their defeat. But the psychological forces that ruled Porus' mind as a result of Alexander's deceptive measures combined to spare the latter this embarrassment.
in the action after the crossing we see the use of the principles of offensive and mass. Alexander's initiative had been so outstanding that it apparently did not occur to Porus to undertake to fight other than a defensive battle. And, in truth. Alexander gave him no opportunity to make a choice. There was no delay on Alexander's part in seeking out the hostile army, once the crossing had been made. Yet his advance was not haphazard. It was made with a definite plan in mind. We are impressed by the ceaseless activity which furnished the prologue of the final action. First, the advance to make contact; then, the skirmishing to cover the assembly of his force and to insure time for reconnaissance; and, ultimately, the tactical plan wherein, as at Issus, concentration of combat power was obtained through economy of forces and security gained through maneuver. The piece dc résistance of this plan was the swift and hidden thrust by Coenus with the heavy cavalry. Here concentration of combat power and mobility rode side by side with surprise to effect the destruction of all opposition. The crossing of the Hydaspes was a great series of actions, planned and led by an intelligent and active general. Action based upon intelligence would seem to be the ideal combination in any fighting man, particularly when such qualities are tempered by patience and supplemented by a high type of courage.
Alexander possessed such qualities and combined them with an energy that was remarkable. A natural orator, a master organizer, and a keen judge of men, he left little to be desired in the qualifications of a great leader.
To say that Alexander was a military genius would be to repeat what every historian has Written and, in saying it, to explain his greatness by attributing it to forces over which he had no control. Perhaps such a man does possess qualities not ordinarily bestowed upon human beings. That we cannot know. Yet, it is so easy to explain a man's greatness by attributing it to genius that we are prone to overlook the possibility that genius may be attained.
In the world of Alexander, as in the world today, every man was not afforded the opportunity of displaying his capabilities. For that reason, many a potential Alexander died without realizing the powers which were latent within him. Great deeds call for exceptional circumstances. A great man cannot be recognized as such until he has displayed those characteristics which make for greatness. Such opportunity does not come to all.
We cannot create the opportunity for greatness. That either strikes us or passes us by. We can, however, prepare ourselves against the event of opportunity finding us unready. Any such preparation cannot help but give greater completeness to that spark of natural ability which may exist within us, unknown perhaps to us or to the world until the call of opportunity demands its expression. Such preparation lies in the field of self-improvement, and calls for a planned expansion of our individual capacity for work through self-discipline and continuous application. No great military leader ever lived who achieved greatness through inactivity of mind or body. Their very greatness depended upon their ability to keep in the van. The miracle of birth can furnish no last guarantee of this. Rather, it is developed by training and hard work.
Genius, then, is relative. It can be great or small, and its degree may be measured in great part by the thoroughness with which it has been anticipated.
That Alexander possessed a genius for making war equal to that of any man is written between the lines of the record of his accomplishments. Leaving home with an enormous debt, in a few years he had possessed himself of all the treasures of the earth. With courage, endurance, intelligence, and skill he completed the conquest of the entire then-known world, marching over nineteen thousand miles in his eleven years of campaigning; and all this before he was thirty-two.