Thus, after these lines were written, I had occasion in Land and Water to estimate the garrison of Przemysl before the figures were known. The element wherewith to guide one’s common sense was the known perimeter to be defended; and arguing from this, I determined that a minimum of not less than 100,000 men would capitulate. I further conceived that the total losses could hardly be less than 40,000, and I arrived at an original force of between three and four corps.
[Illustration: Sketch 32.]
THE FIRST OPERATIONS.
In any general view of the great war which aims both at preserving proportion between its parts, and at presenting especially the main lines in relief, the three weeks between the German sudden forcing of war and the seventeen or eighteen days between the English declaration and the main operations upon the Sambre, will have but a subsidiary importance. They were occupied for at least half the period in the mobilization of the great armies. They were occupied for the second half of the period in the advance across the Rhine of German numbers greatly superior to the Allies, and also through the plain of Northern Belgium. The operation, as calculated by the German General Staff, was delayed by but a very few days—one might almost say hours—by the hastily improvised resistance of Liege, and the imperfect defence of their country which was all the Belgian forces, largely untrained, could offer.
We must, therefore, pass briefly enough over that preliminary period, though the duty may be distasteful to the reader, on account of the very exaggerated importance which its operations took, especially in British eyes.
For this false perspective there were several reasons, which it is worth while to enumerate, as they will aid our judgment in obtaining a true balance between these initial movements and the great conflicts to which they were no more than an introduction.
1. War, as a whole, had grown unfamiliar to Western Europe. War on such a scale as this was quite untried. There was nothing in experience to determine our judgment, and after so long a peace, during which the habits of civil life had ceased to be conventioned and had come to seem part of the necessary scheme of things, the first irruption of arms dazzled or confounded the imagination of all.
2. The first shock, falling as it did upon the ring fortress of Liege, at once brought into prominence one of the chief questions of modern military debate, the value of the modern ring fortress, and promised to put to the test the opposing theories upon this sort of stronghold.