The following pages were hastily thrown together in the form of lectures, and delivered, during, the past winter, before the Lowell Institute of Boston. They were written without the slightest intention of ever publishing them; but several officers of militia, who heard them delivered, or afterwards read them in manuscript, desire their publication, on the ground of their being useful to a class of officers now likely to be called into military service. It is with this view alone that they are placed in the hands of the printer. No pretension is made to originality in any part of the work; the sole object having been to embody, in a small compass, well established military principles, and to illustrate these by reference to the events of past history, and the opinions and practice of the best generals.
Small portions of two or three of the following chapters have already appeared, in articles furnished by the author to the New York and Democratic Reviews, and in a “Report on the Means of National Defence,” published by order of Congress.
Our distance from the old world, and the favorable circumstances in which we have been placed with respect to the other nations of the new world, have made it so easy for our government to adhere to a pacific policy, that, in the sixty-two years that have elapsed since the acknowledgment of our national independence, we have enjoyed more than fifty-eight of general peace; our Indian border wars have been too limited and local in their character to seriously affect the other parts of the country, or to disturb the general conditions of peace. This fortunate state of things has done much to diffuse knowledge, promote commerce, agriculture, and manufactures; in fine, to increase the greatness of the nation and the happiness of the individual. Under these circumstances our people have grown up with habits and dispositions essentially pacific, and it is to be hoped that these feelings may not soon be changed. But in all communities opinions sometimes run into extremes; and there are not a few among us who, dazzled by the beneficial results of a long peace, have adopted the opinion that war in any case is not only useless, but actually immoral; nay, more, that to engage in war is wicked in the highest degree, and even brutish.