Even the resistance of an ordinary Division of 8000 to 10,000 men of all arms even opposed to an enemy considerably superior in numbers, will last several hours, if the advantages of country are not too preponderating, and if the enemy is only a little, or not at all, superior in numbers, the combat will last half a day. A Corps of three or four Divisions will prolong it to double the time; an Army of 80,000 or 100,000 to three or four times. Therefore the masses may be left to themselves for that length of time, and no separate combat takes place if within that time other forces can be brought up, whose co-operation mingles then at once into one stream with the results of the combat which has taken place.
These calculations are the result of experience; but it is important to us at the same time to characterise more particularly the moment of the decision, and consequently the termination.
No battle is decided in a single moment, although in every battle there arise moments of crisis, on which the result depends. The loss of a battle is, therefore, a gradual falling of the scale. But there is in every combat a point of time (*)
(*) Under the then existing conditions of armament understood. This point is of supreme importance, as practically the whole conduct of a great battle depends on a correct solution of this question—viz., How long can a given command prolong its resistance? If this is incorrectly answered in practice—the whole manoeuvre depending on it may collapse—e.g., Kouroupatkin at Liao-Yang, September 1904.
when it may be regarded as decided, in such a way that the renewal of the fight would be a new battle, not a continuation of the old one. To have a clear notion on this point of time, is very important, in order to be able to decide whether, with the prompt assistance of reinforcements, the combat can again be resumed with advantage.
Often in combats which are beyond restoration new forces are sacrificed in vain; often through neglect the decision has not been seized when it might easily have been secured. Here are two examples, which could not be more to the point:
When the Prince of Hohenlohe, in 1806, at Jena,(*) with 35,000 men opposed to from 60,000 to 70,000, under Buonaparte, had accepted battle, and lost it—but lost it in such a way that the 35,000 might be regarded as dissolved—General Ruchel undertook to renew the fight with about 12,000; the consequence was that in a moment his force was scattered in like manner.
(*) October 14, 1806.
On the other hand, on the same day at Auerstadt, the Prussians maintained a combat with 25,000, against Davoust, who had 28,000, until mid-day, without success, it is true, but still without the force being reduced to a state of dissolution without even greater loss than the enemy, who was very deficient in cavalry;—but they neglected to use the reserve of 18,000, under General Kalkreuth, to restore the battle which, under these circumstances, it would have been impossible to lose.