On War — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about On War Volume 1.
and collected; even the bravest is at least to some degree confused.  Now, a step farther into the battle which is raging before us like a scene in a theatre, we get to the nearest General of Division; here ball follows ball, and the noise of our own guns increases the confusion.  From the General of Division to the Brigadier.  He, a man of acknowledged bravery, keeps carefully behind a rising ground, a house, or a tree—­a sure sign of increasing danger.  Grape rattles on the roofs of the houses and in the fields; cannon balls howl over us, and plough the air in all directions, and soon there is a frequent whistling of musket balls.  A step farther towards the troops, to that sturdy infantry which for hours has maintained its firmness under this heavy fire; here the air is filled with the hissing of balls which announce their proximity by a short sharp noise as they pass within an inch of the ear, the head, or the breast.

To add to all this, compassion strikes the beating heart with pity at the sight of the maimed and fallen.  The young soldier cannot reach any of these different strata of danger without feeling that the light of reason does not move here in the same medium, that it is not refracted in the same manner as in speculative contemplation.  Indeed, he must be a very extraordinary man who, under these impressions for the first time, does not lose the power of making any instantaneous decisions.  It is true that habit soon blunts such impressions; in half in hour we begin to be more or less indifferent to all that is going on around us:  but an ordinary character never attains to complete coolness and the natural elasticity of mind; and so we perceive that here again ordinary qualities will not suffice—­a thing which gains truth, the wider the sphere of activity which is to be filled.  Enthusiastic, stoical, natural bravery, great ambition, or also long familiarity with danger—­much of all this there must be if all the effects produced in this resistant medium are not to fall far short of that which in the student’s chamber may appear only the ordinary standard.

Danger in War belongs to its friction; a correct idea of its influence is necessary for truth of perception, and therefore it is brought under notice here.


If no one were allowed to pass an opinion on the events of War, except at a moment when he is benumbed by frost, sinking from heat and thirst, or dying with hunger and fatigue, we should certainly have fewer judgments correct objectively; but they would be so, SUBJECTIVELY, at least; that is, they would contain in themselves the exact relation between the person giving the judgment and the object.  We can perceive this by observing how modestly subdued, even spiritless and desponding, is the opinion passed upon the results of untoward events by those who have been eye-witnesses, but especially if they have been parties concerned.  This is, according to our view, a criterion of the influence which bodily fatigue exercises, and of the allowance to be made for it in matters of opinion.

Project Gutenberg
On War — Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.