IN those long-gone days when the gods of Olympus were in all their glory, and when those gods were in the habit of disturbing the domestic peace of worthy men, there was born unto an Arcadian nymph a son, for whom no proper father could be found. The father was Mercury, who was a Dieu à bonnes fortunes, and he did not, like some Christian gentlemen in similar circumstances, altogether neglect his boy; for (so goes the story) the child was “such a fright” that his mother was shocked and his nurse ran away (Richard III. did not make a worse first appearance) ; whereupon Mercury seized him, and bore him to Olympus, where he showed him, with paternal partiality, to all the gods, who were so pleased with the little monster that they named him Pan, as evidence that they were All delighted with his charming ugliness, — they being, it should seem, as fond of hideous pets as if they had been mere mortals, and endowed with a liberal share of humanity’s bad taste. There are other accounts of the birth of Pan, one of which is, that he was the child of Penelope, born while she was waiting for the return of the crafty Ulysses, and that his fathers were all the aspirants to her favor, — a piece of scandal to be rejected, as reflecting very severely upon the reputation of a lady who is mostly regarded as having been a very model of chastity. It would have astonished the gods, who were so joyous over the consequence of their associate’s irregularities, had they been told that their pet was destined to outlast them all, and to affect human affairs, by his action, long after their sway should be over. Jupiter has been dethroned for ages, and exists only in marble or bronze ; and Apollo, and Mercury, and Bacchus, and all the rest of the old deities, are but names, or the shadows of names ; but Pan is as active to-day as he was, when, nearly four-and-twenty centuries ago, he asked the worship of the Athenians, and intimated that he might be useful to them in return, — which intimation he probably made good but a little later on the immortal field of Marathon. For not only was Pan the god of shepherds, and the protector of bees, and the patron of sportsmen, but to him were attributed those terrors which have decided the event of many battles. He is generally identified with the Faunus of the Latins, and a new interest in the Fauni has been created by the genius of Hawthorne. If it be true that the popular idea of Satan is derived from Pan, we have another evidence therein of the breadth as well as the length of his dominion over human affairs; for Satan, judging from men’s conduct, was never more active, more successful, and more grimly joyous than he is in this year of grace (and disgrace) one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one. “ The harmless Faun,” says Bulwer Lytton, “ has been the figuration of the most implacable of fiends.” Satan and Pan ought to be one, if we regard the kind of work in which the latter has lately been engaged. The former's sympathies are undoubtedly with the Secessionists, and to his active aid we must attribute their successes, both as thieves and as soldiers.
The number of instances of panic terror in armies is enormous. Panics have taken place in all armies, from that brief campaign in which Abram smote the hosts of the plundering kings, hard by Damascus, to that briefer campaign in which General McDowell did not smite the Secessionists, hard by Washington. The Athenians religiously believed that Pan aided them at Marathon ; and it would go far to account for the defeat of the vast Oriental host, in that action, by a handful of Greeks, if we could believe that that host became panic-stricken. At Platæa, the allies of the Persians fell into a panic as soon as the Persians were beaten, and fled without striking a blow. At the Battle of Amphipolis, in the Peloponnesian War, and which was so fatal to the Athenians, the Athenian left wing and centre fled in a panic, without making any resistance. The Battle of Pydna, which placed the Macedonian monarchy in the hands of the Romans, was decided by a panic befalling the Macedonian cavalry after the phalanx had been broken. At Leuctra and at Mantinea, battles so fatal to the Spartan supremacy in Greece, the defeated armies suffered from panics. The decision at Pharsalia was in some measure owing to a panic occurring among the Pompeian cavalry; and at Thapsus, the panic terror that came upon the Pompeians gave to Cæsar so easy a victory that it cost him only fifty men, while the other side were not only broken, but butchered. At Munda, the last and most desperate of Cæsar’s battles, and in which he came very nearly losing all that he had previously gained, a panic occurred in his army, from the effects of which it recovered through admiration of its leader’s splendid personal example. The defeat of the Romans at Carrhæ by the Parthians was followed by a panic, against the effects of which not even the discipline of the legions was a preventive. At the first Battle of Philippi, the young Octavius came near being killed or captured, in consequence of the success of Brutus’s attack, which had the effect of throwing his men into utter confusion, so that they fled in dismay. What a change would have taken place in the oceanstream of history, had the future Augustus been slain or taken by the Republicans on that field on which the Roman Republic fell forever! But the success of Antonius over Cassius more than compensated for the failure of Octavius, and prepared the way for the close of “the world’s debate ” at Actium. Actium, by the way, was one of the few sea-fights which have had their decision through the occurrence of panics, water not being so favorable to flight as land. Whether the flight of Cleopatra was the result of terror, or followed from preconcerted action, is still a question for discussion; and one would not readily believe that the most, gallant and manly of all the Roman leaders — one of the very few of his race who were capable of generous actions — was also capable of plotting deliberately to abandon his followers, when the chances of battle had not been tried. Whether that memorable flight was planned or not, the imitation of it by Antonius created a panic in at least a portion of his fleet; and the victory of the hard-minded Octavius over the “soft triumvir” — he was “soft” in every sense on that day — was the speedy consequence of the strangest exhibition of cowardice ever made by a brave man.
In modern wars, panics have been as common as ever they were in the contests of antiquity. No people has been exempt from them. It has pleased the English critics on our defeat at Bull Run to speak with much bitterness of the panic that occurred to the Union army on that field, and in some instances to employ language that would leave the impression that never before did it happen to an army to suffer from panic terror. No reflecting American ought to object to severe foreign criticism on our recent military history ; for through such criticism, perhaps, our faults may be amended, and so our cause finally be vindicated. The spectacle of soldiers running from a field of battle is a tempting one to the enemies of the country to whom such soldiers may belong, and few critics are able to speak of it in any other than a contemptuous tone. Would Americans have spoken with more justice of Englishmen than Englishmen have spoken of Americans, had the English army failed at the Alma through a panic, as our army failed at Bull Run? Not they! The bitter comments of our countrymen on the inefficiency of the British forces in the Crimea, and the general American tendency to attribute the successes of the Allies in the Russian War to the French, to the Sardinians, or to the Turks, — to anybody and everybody but to the English, who really were the principal actors in it, — are in evidence that we are drinking from a bitter cup the contents of which were brewed by ourselves. It is wicked and it is foolish to accuse our armies of cowardice and inefficiency because they have met with some painful reverses ; but the sin and the folly of foreigners in this respect are no greater than the sin and the folly that have characterized most American criticism on the recent military history of England.
The most important fruitful battle mentioned in British history, next to that of Hastings, is the Battle of Bannockburn, the event of which secured the independence and nationality of Scotland, with all the consequences thereof; and that event was the effect of a panic. The day was with Bruce and his brave army; but it was by no means certain that their success would be of that decisive character which endures forever, until the English host became panic-stricken. Brilliant deeds had been done by the Scotch, who had been successful in all their undertakings, when Bruce brought up his reserve, which forced even the bravest of his opponents either to retreat or to think of it; but their retreat might have been conducted with order, and the English army have been saved from utter destruction and for future work, had it not been for the occurrence of one of those events, in which the elements of tragedy and of farce are combined, by which the destinies of nations are often decided, in spite of “ the wisdom of the wise and the valor of the brave.” The followers of the Scottish camp, anxious to see how the day went, or to obtain a share of the expected spoil, at that moment appeared upon the ridge of an eminence, known as the Gillies’ Hill, behind their countrymen’s line of battle, displaying horse-cloths and similar articles for ensigns of war. The struggling English, believing that they saw a new Scottish army rising as it were from the earth, were struck with panic, and broke and fled; and all that followed was mere butchery, though perfectly in accordance with the stern laws of the field. The English army was routed even more completely than was the French army, five centuries later, at Waterloo. Scott, with his usual skill, has made use of this incident in “ The Lord of the Isles,” but he ascribes to patriotic feeling what had a less lofty origin, which was an exercise of his license as a poet.1
And mimic ensigns high they rear,
And, like a bannered host afar,
Bear down on England’s wearied war.
Reproof, command, and counsel vain,
The rearward squadrons fled amain,
Or made but fearful stay :
But when they marked the seeming show
Of fresh and fierce and marshalled foe,
The boldest broke array.”
The last three lines describe almost exactly what, we are told, took place at Bull Run, where our soldiers were beaten, it is asserted, in consequence of the coming up of fresh men to the assistance of the enemy, but who were not campfollowers, but the flower of that enemy’s force. The reinforcements, contrary to what was supposed, were not numerous; but a fatigued, worn-out, ill-handled army cannot be expected to be very clever at its arithmetic. Our men greatly overrated the strength of the new column that presented itself,'—at least, so we judge from some powerful narratives of the crisis at Manassas that have appeared. The eye of the mind did the counting, not the more trustworthy bodily organ. They “ looked, and saw what numbers numberless” “ the sacred soil of Virginia” appeared to be sending up to aid in its defence against “ the advance,” and it cannot be surprising that their hearts failed them at the moment, as has happened to veterans who had grown gray since they had receded the baptism of fire. Had there been a couple of trained regiments at the command of General McDowell, at that time, with which to have met the regiments that were restoring the enemy’s battle, the day would, perhaps, have remained with the Union army; but, as there was no reserve force, trained or untrained, a retreat became inevitable; and a retreat, in the case of a new army that had become exhausted and alarmed, meant a rout, and could have meant nothing else. We shall never hear the last of it, particularly from our English friends, who are yet jeered and joked about the business at Gladsmuir, in 1745, where and when their army was beaten in five minutes and some odd seconds by Prince Charles Edward’s Highlanders, their cavalry running off in a panic, and their General never stopping until he had put twenty miles between himself and the nearest of the plaid-men. Indeed, he did not consider himself safe until he had left even all Scotland behind him, and had got within his Britannic Majesty’s town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which, as it was well fortified, promised him protection for the time. Four months later, at Falkirk, a portion of another English army was thrown into a panic by the sight of "the wild petticoat-men,” and made capital time in getting out of their way. Two regiments of cavalry rushed right over a body of infantry lying on the ground, bellowing, as they galloped, “ Dear brethren, we shall all be massacred this day ! ” They did their best to make their prediction true. A third regiment, and that composed of veterans, were so frightened, that, though they ran away with the utmost celerity, they did not have sense enough to run out of danger, but galloped along the Highland line, and received its entire fire. Some of the infantry were literally so swift to follow the example of the cavalry, that the Highlanders believed they were shamming, and so did not follow up their success with sufficient promptitude to reap its proper fruits. One of the regiments that ran was the Scots Royals, seeing which, Lord John Drummond exclaimed, “ These men behaved admirably at Fontenoy: surely this is a feint.” This suspicion of the enemy’s purpose to entrap them actually paralyzed the Highland army for so long a time that the panic-stricken English were enabled for the most part to escape; so that to the completeness of their fright the English owed their power to rally their army, which did not stop in its retreat until it reached Edinburgh, the next day. In the same war, half a dozen MacIntosh Highlanders, commanded by a blacksmith, so acted as to throw fifteen hundred men, under Lord Loudoun, into a panic, which caused them all to fly ; and though but one of their number was hurt by the enemy, they did much mischief to themselves. This incident is known as “ The Rout of Moy,” as Loudoun’s force was marching upon Moy Castle, the principal seat of the Macintoshes, for the purpose of capturing Prince Charles Edward, who was the guest of Lady Macintosh, whose husband was with Lord Loudoun. To render the mortification of the flying party complete, the affair wms suggested by a woman, Lady MacIntosh herself.
“ The Races of Castlebar” are very renowned in the military history of Britain. In 1798, after the Irish Rebellion had been suppressed, a small French force was landed at Killala, under command of General Humbert, and soon established itself in that town. A British army, full four thousand strong, was assembled to act against the invader, at the head of which was General Lake, afterward Lord Lake, — elevated to the peerage in reward of services performed in India, and one of the most ruthless of those harsh and brutal proconsuls employed by England to destroy the spirit of the people of Ireland. The two armies met at Castlebar, the French numbering only eight hundred men, with whom were about a thousand raw Irish peasants, most of whom had never had a musket in their hands until within the few days that preceded the battle, — races, we mean. A panic seized the British army, and it fled from the field with the swiftness of the wind, but not with the wind’s power of destruction. The French had one small gun, — the British, fourteen guns. Humbert afterward kept the whole British force at bay for more than a fortnight, and did not surrender until his little army had been surrounded by thirty thousand men. It is calculated that the British made the best time from Castlebar that ever was made by a flying army. It was no exaggeration to say that “ the speed of thought was in their limbs” for a short time. Bull Run was a slow piece of business compared to Castlebar; and our countrymen did not run from a foe that was not half so strong as themselves, and who had neither position nor artillery. The English have accused the Irish of not always standing well to their work on the battle-field ; but it would have required two Irishmen to run half the distance in an hour that was made at Castlebar by one Englishman. The most flagrant cases of panic that happened in the ’Forty-Five affair befell Englishmen, and rarely occurred to Irishmen or to Scotchmen. The conduct of the Scots Royals at Falkirk was the only striking exception to what closely approached to the nature of a general rule.
The civil war which ours most resembles is that which was waged in England a little more than two centuries ago, and which is known in English history as “ The Great Civil War,” though in fact it was but a small affair, if we compare it with that which took place nearly two centuries earlier than Cromwell’s time, — the so-called Wars of the Roses. The resemblance between our contest and that in which the English rose against, fought with, defeated, dethroned, tried, and beheaded their king, is not very strong, we must confess; but the main thing is, that both contests belong to that class of wars in which, to borrow Shakspcare's words, “ Civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” Were there no exhibitions of fear in that war, no flights, no panics on the grand scale? Unless history is as great a liar as Talleyrand said it was, when he declared that it was founded on a general conspiracy against truth,— and who could suppose an English historian capable of lying? — shameful exhibitions of fear, flights of whole bodies of troops, and displays of panic terror were very common things with our English ancestors who fought and flourished tempore Caroli Primi. The first battle between the forces of the King and those of the Parliament was that of Edgehill, which was fought on Sunday, October 23d, 1642. Prince Rupert led his Cavaliers to the charge, ordering them, like a true soldier, to use only the sword, which is the weapon that horsemen always should employ. “ The Roundheads,” says Mr. Warburton, “seemed swept away by the very wind of that wild charge. No sword was crossed, no saddle emptied, no trooper waited to abide the shock; they fled with frantic fear, but fell fast under the sabres of their pursuers. The cavalry galloped furiously until they reached such shelter as the town could give them; nor did their infantry fare better. No sooner were the Royal horse upon them than they broke and fled; Mandeville and Choltmondely vainly strove to rally their terror-stricken followers; they were swept away by the fiery Cavaliers.” If this was not exactly the effect of a panic, then it was something worse : it followed from abject, craven fear. The bravest and best of armies have been known to suffer from panic terror, but none but cowards run away at the first charge that is made upon them. It is said, by way of excuse for the men who thus fled, in spite of the gallant efforts of their officers to rally them, that they were new troops. So were our men at Bull Run new troops; and this much can be said of them, that, if they became panic-stricken, it was not until after they had fought for several hours on a hot day, and that they were not well commanded, the officers setting the example of abandoning the field, and not seeking to encourage the soldiers, as was done by the English Parliamentary commanders at Edgehill. Therefore the English Bull Run was a far more disgraceful affair than was that of America.
We shall not dwell upon the multitudinous panics and flights that happened on both sides in the Great Civil War, but come at once to what took place on the grand field-days of that contest, — LongMarston Moor and Naseby. At LongMarston Moor, fought July 2, 1644, English, Irish, and Scotch soldiers were present, so that all the island races were on the field in the persons of some of the best of their number. The Royalists charged the Scotch centre, and were twice repulsed; but their third charge was more successful, and then most of the gallant Scotch force broke in every direction, only some fragments of three regiments standing their ground. “ The Earl of Leven in vain hastened from one part of the line to the other,” says Mr. Langton Sanford, “ endeavoring by words and blows to keep the soldiers in the field, exclaiming, ‘ Though you run from your enemies, yet leave not your general; though you fly from them, yet forsake not me !’ The Earl of Manchester, with great exertions, rallied five hundred of the fugitives, and brought them back to the battle. But these efforts to turn the fate of the day in this quarter were fruitless, and at length the three generals of the Parliament were compelled to seek safety in flight. Leven himself, conceiving the battle utterly lost, in which he was confirmed by the opinion of others then on the place near him, seeing they were fleeing upon all hands toward Tadcaster and Cawood, was persuaded by his attendants to retire and wait his better fortune. He did so, and never drew bridle till he came to Leeds, nearly forty miles distant, having ridden all that night with a cloak of drap-de-berrie about him belonging to the gentleman from whom we derive the information, then in his retinue, with many other officers of good quality. Manchester and Fairfax, carried away in the flight, soon returned to the field, but the centre and right wing of their army were utterly broken. ‘It was a sad sight,’ exclaims Mr. Ash, [an eye-witness of the affair,] ‘ to behold many thousands posting away, amazed with panic fears ! ’ Many fled without striking a blow; and multitudes of people that were spectators ran away in such fear as daunted the soldiers still more, some of the horse never looking back till they got as far as Lincoln, some others toward Hull, and others to Halifax and Wakefield, pursued by the enemy’s horse for nearly two miles from the field. Wherever they came, the fugitives carried the news of the utter rout of the Parliament’s army.” 2 This strong picture of the panic that prevailed in the very army that won the Battle of Long-Marston Moor is confirmed by Sir Walter Scott, who says that the Earl of Leven was driven from the field, and was thirty miles distant, in full flight toward Scotland, when he was overtaken by the news that his party had gained a complete victory. Yet Leven was an experienced soldier, having served in the army of Gustavus Adolphus, in which he rose to very high rank; and the Scottish forces had many soldiers who had been trained in the same admirable school. That there were many spectators of the battle, whose fright “ daunted the soldiers still more,” shows that people were as fond of witnessing battles in 1644 as they are in 1861, and that their presence on the Moor was productive of almost as much evil to the Roundheads as the presence of Congressmen and other civilians at Manassas was to the Federal troops on the 21st of July. There would seem to be indeed nothing new under the sun, and folly is eternally reproducing itself. One of the names connected with our defeat is that of one of the most gallant of the Parliament’s commanders at Long-Marston: Fairfax being named after the sixth Lord Fairfax, whose singular history furnished to Mr. Thackeray the plan for his “ Virginians.”
The panic at Naseby (June 14, 1645) was not of so pronounced a character as that at Long-Marston; but it helps to prove the Englishman’s aptitude for running, and shows, that, if we have skill in the use of heels, we have inherited it: it is, in a double sense, matter of race. In spite of the exertions of Ireton, the cavalry of the left wing of the Roundheads was Swept out of the field by Prince Rupert’s dashing charge; while the foot were as deaf to the entreaties of old Skippon that they would keep their ranks. Later in the day the Cavaliers took their turn at the panic business, their horse flying over the hills, and leaving the infantry and the artillery, the women and the baggage, to the mercy of the Puritans,— and everybody knows what that was. The Cavaliers were even more subject to panics than the Puritans, as was but natural, seeing that they could not or would not be disciplined ; and there were many of the leaders of the deboshed, godless crew of whom it could have been sung, as it was of Peveril of the Peak,—
And to see a beer-glass turned over the thumb well ;
But he fled like the wind, before Fairfax and Cromwell,
Which nobody can deny! ”
Cromwell’s last victory but one, that of Dunbar, (September 3, 1650,) was due to the impertinent interference of “ outsiders ” with the business of the Scotch general, and to the occurrence of a panic in the Scotch army. The priests did for Leslie’s army what the politicians are charged with having done for that of General McDowell. The Scotch were mostly raw troops, and soon fell into confusion ; and then came one of those scenes of slaughter which were so common after the Cromwellian victories, and which, in spite of Mr. Carlyle’s crazy admiration of them, must ever be regarded by sane and humane people as the work of the Devil. It is in dispute whether Cromwell’s last great victory, that of Worcester, (September 3, 1651.) was a panic affair or not; for while Cromwell himself wrote that “ indeed it was a stiff business,” and that the dimensions of the mercy were above his thoughts, he complacently says, “ Yet I do not think we have lost above two hundred men.” Now, as the English critics on the Battle of Bull Run will have it that it was but a cowardly affair on our side, because but few men were at one time reported to have fallen in it, it follows that Cromwell’s army at Worcester must have been an army of cowards, as it lost less than two hundred men, though it had to fight hard for several hours for victory. “As stiff a contest, for four or five hours,” said the Lord-General, “as ever I have seen.” And what shall we think of the Scotch, who lost fourteen thousand men ? Mr. Lodge, whose sympathies are all with the Cavaliers, says that the action is undeservedly called the Battle of Worcester, “ for it was in fact the mere rout of a panic-stricken army.” Certainly all the circumstances of the day tend to confirm this view of what occurred on it: the heavy loss of the Scotch, the small loss of the English, and the all but total destruction of the Royal army. That Cromwell should make the most of his victory, of the “crowning mercy,” as he hoped it might prove, was natural enough. Nothing is more common than for the victor to sound the praises of the vanquished, that being a delicate form of self-praise. If they were so clever and so brave, how much greater must have been the cleverness and bravery of the man who conquered them ? The difficulty is in inducing the vanquished to praise the victor. We have no doubt that General Beauregard speaks very handsomely of General McDowell; but how speaks General McDowell of General Beauregard ? Wellington often spoke well of Napoleon’s conduct in the campaign of 1815 ; but among the bitterest things ever said by one great man of another great man are Napoleon’s criticisms on the conduct of Wellington in that campaign. We are not to suppose that Wellington was a more magnanimous person than Napoleon, which he assuredly was not; but he was praising himself, after an allowable fashion, when he praised Napoleon. There would have been a complete change of words in the mouths of the two men, had the result of Waterloo been, as it should have been,favorable to the French. Napoleon said that he never saw the Prussians behave well but at Jena, where he broke the army of the Great Frederick to pieces. He had not a word to say in praise of the Prussians who fought at the Katzbach, at Dennewitz, and at Waterloo. Human nature is a very small thing even in very great men.
As we see that the Roundheads triumphed in England, notwithstanding the panics from which their armies suffered, subduing the descendants of the conquering chivalry of Normandy, “ to whom victory and triumph were traditional, habitual, hereditary things,” may we not hope that the American descendants and successors of the Roundheads will be able to subdue the descendants of the conquered chivalry of the South, a chivalry that has as many parents as had the Romans who proceeded from the loins of the “ robbers and reivers” who had been assembled, as per proclamation, at the Rogues’ Asylum on the Palatine Hill ? The bravery of the Southern troops is not to be questioned, and it never has been questioned by sensible men; but their pretensions to Cavalier descent are at the head of the long list of historical false pretences, and tend to destroy all confidence in their words. They may be aristocrats, but they have not the shadow of a claim to aristocratical origin.
Lord Macaulay’s brilliant account of the Battle of Landen (July 19,1993) establishes the fact, that it is possible for an army of veterans, led by some of the best officers of their time, to become panic-stricken while defending intrenchments and a strong position. “ A little after four in the afternoon,” he says, “ the whole line gave way.” " Amidst the rout and uproar, while arms and standards were flung away, while multitudes of fugitives were choking up the bridges and fords of the Gette or perishing in its waters, the King, [William III.,] having directed Talmash to superintend the retreat, put himself at the head of a few brave regiments, and by desperate efforts arrested the progress of the enemy.” Luxembourg failed to follow up his victory, or all would have been lost. The French behaved asdid the Southrons after Bull Run : they gave their formidable foe time to rally, and to recover from the effect of the panic that had covered the country with fugitives ; and time was all that was necessary for either the English King or the American General to prevent defeat from being extended into conquest.
Two of Marlborough’s greatest victories were largely owing to the occurrence of panic among the veteran troops of France. At Ramillies, the French left, which was partially engaged in covering the retreat of the rest of their army, were struck with a panic, fled, and were pursued for five leagues. At Oudenarde, (July 11, 1708,) the French commander, VendÔme, “urged the Duke of Burgundy and a crowd of panic-struck generals to take advantage of the night, and restore order; but finding his arguments nugatory, he gave the word for a retreat, and generals and privates, horse and foot, instantly hurried in the utmost disorder toward Ghent.” The retreat of this crowd, which was a complete flight, he covered by the aid of a few brave men whom he had rallied and formed, and whose firm countenance prevented the entire destruction of the French army. Yet the French soldiers of that time were men of experience, and were accustomed to all the phases of war.
At the Battle of Rossbach, (November 5, 1757,) the troops of France and of the German Empire fell into a panic, and were routed by half their number of Prussians. That defeat was the most disgraceful that ever befell the arms of a military nation. The panic was complete, and no body of terrified militia ever fled more rapidly than did the veteran troops of Germany and France on that eventful day. Napoleon, half a century later, said that Rossbach produced a permanent effect on the French military, and on France, and was one of the causes of the Revolution. The disgrace was laid to the account of the French commander, the Prince de Soubise, who was a profligate, a coward, and a booby, and who neither knew war nor was known by it.
The English army experienced whatever of pleasure there may be in a panic, or rather in a pair of panics, at the grand Battle of Fontenoy, (May 11, 1745,) on which field they were so unutterably thrashed by the French and the Irish. In the first part of the action, the Allies were successful, when suddenly the Dutch troops fell into a panic, and fled as fast as it is ever given to Dutchmen to fly. There is nothing so contagious as panic terror, and the rest of the army, exposed as it was to a tremendous fire, soon caught the disease, and was giving way under it, when their commander, the Duke of Cumberland, who was well seconded by his officers, succeeded in rallying them. They renewed the combat, and their enemy became so alarmed in their turn that even the French King, and his son the Dauphin, were in danger of being swept away in the rout. Again there came a turn in the battle, and, mostly because of the daring and dash of the famous Irish Brigade, the Allies were beaten and forced to retreat. It is stated that the whole body of heroic British Grenadiers who were engaged at Fontenoy gave a strong proof of the effect of the panic upon their minds — and bodies; thus establishing the fact that they had stomachs for something besides the fight. “Not to put too fine a point upon it,” they, with a unity of place and time that speaks well for their discipline, did that which was done by the valiant General Sterling Price at the Battle of Boonville, and which has caused them to leave a deep impression on the historic page, though nothing can be said in support of the attractiveness of the illustration which those gallant men contributed to that page.
There was a partial exhibition of panic terror made by the English troops at the Battle of Banker’s Hill. They were twice made to run on that Seventeenth of June of which something has been said during the last six-and-eighty years; and they were brought up to the point of making a third attack only by the greatest exertions of their commanders, and after having been considerably reinforced. This third attack would have been as promptly repulsed as its predecessors had been, but that the American troops had used up all their powder, and few of them had bayonets. The firmness, and skill as marksmen, of a body of militia had caused a larger body of British veterans twice to retreat in great disorder, and under circumstances much resembling those that characterize what is known as a panic. Had a third repulse of the assailants occurred, nothing could have prevented their flight to their boats. But it was written that the Americans should retreat; and it is safe to say that they showed much more steadiness in the retreat than the enemy did alacrity in the pursuit.
Panic terror was no uncommon thing during the Reign of Terror in France, in the armies of the French Republic. The early efforts of the French Republicans in the field sometimes failed because of panics occurring in their armies; and they were not unknown to any of the armies that took part in the long series of wars that began in 1792 and lasted, with brief intervals of peace, down to the summer of 1815. At Marengo, both armies suffered from panics. As early as ten o’clock in the forenoon, a portion of Victor’s corps retired in disorder, crying out, “ All is lost!” There were, in fact, three Battles of Marengo, the Austrians winning the first and second, and losing the third, which was losing all, — war not exactly resembling whist. When Desaix said, at three o’clock in the afternoon, that the battle was lost, but there was time enough to win another, he spoke the truth, and like a good soldier. The new movements that followed his arrival and advice caused surprise to the Austrians, and surprise soon passed into panic. The panic extended to a portion of the cavalry, no one has ever been able to say why; and it galloped off the field toward the Bormida, shouting, “ To the bridges ! ” The panic then reached to men of all arms, and cavalry, artillery, and infantry were soon crowded together on the banks of the stream which they had crossed in high hopes but a few hours before. The artillery sought to cross by a ford, but failed, and the French made prisoners, and seized guns, horses, baggage, and all the rest of the trophies of victory. Thus a battle which confirmed the Consular government of Bonaparte, which prepared the way for the creation of the French Empire, and which settled the fate of Europe for years, was decided by the panic cries of a few horse-soldiers. The Austrian cavalry has long and justly been reputed second to no other in the world, and in 1800 it was a veteran body, and had been steadily engaged in war, with small interruption, for eight years; but neither its experience, nor its valor, nor regard for the character which it had to maintain, could save it from the common lot of armies. It became terrified, and senselessly fled, and its evil example was swiftly communicated to the other troops: for there is nothing so contagious as a panic, every man that runs thinking, that, while he is himself ignorant of the existence of any peculiar danger, all the others must know of it, and are acting upon their knowledge. That Austrian panic made the conqueror master of Italy, and with France and Italy at his command he could aspire to the dominion of Europe. The man who began the panic at Marengo really opened the way to Vienna to the legions of France, and to Berlin, and (but that brought compensation) to Moscow also.
There were panics in most of the great battles of the French Empire, or those battles were followed by panics. At Austerlitz the Austrians suffered from them; and though the Russian soldiers are among the steadiest of men, and keep up discipline under very extraordinary difficulties, they fared no better than their associates on that terrible field. They had more than one panic, and the confusion was prodigious. It was while flying in terror, that the dense, yet disorderly crowds sought to escape over some ponds, the ice of which broke, and two thousand of them were ingulfed. One of their generals, writing of that day, said, — “I had previously seen some lost battles, but I had no conception of such a defeat.” Jena was followed by panics which extended throughout the army and over the monarchy, so that the Prussian army and the Prussian kingdom disappeared in a month, though Napoleon had anticipated a long, difficult, and doubtful contest with so renowned a military organization as that which had been created by the immortal Frederick; and he had remarked, at the beginning of the war, that there would be much use for the spade in the course of it. In the Austrian campaign of 1809, there was the beginning of a panic that might have produced serious consequences. The Archduke John, the Patterson of those days, was at the head of an Austrian army which was expected to take part in the Battle of Wagram; but it was not until after that battle had been gained by the French that that prince arrived near the Marchfeld, in the rear of the victors. A panic broke out among the persons who saw the heads of his columns, — camp-followers, vivandières, long lines of soldiers bearing off wounded men, and others. The young soldiers, who were exhausted by their labors and the heat, were conspicuous among the runaways, and there was a general race to “ the banks of the darkrolling Danube.” Nay, it is said that the panic was taken up on the other side of the river, and that quite a number of individuals did not stop till they had reached Vienna. Terror prevailed, and the confusion was fast spreading, when Napoleon, who had been roused from an attempt to obtain some rest under a shelter formed of drums, fit materials for a house for him, arrived on the scene. In reply to his questions, Charles Lebrun, one of his officers, answered, “ It is nothing, Sire, — merely a few marauders.” “ What do you call nothing ? ” exclaimed the Emperor. “ Know, Sir, that there are no trifling events in war: nothing endangers an army like an imprudent security. Return and see what is the matter, and come back quickly and render me an account.” The Emperor succeeded in restoring order, but not without difficulty, and the Archduke withdrew his forces without molestation. The circumstances of the panic show, that, if he had arrived at his intended place a few hours earlier, the French would have been beaten, and probably the French Empire have fallen at Vienna in 1809, instead of falling at Paris in 1814 ; and then the House of Austria would have achieved one of those extraordinary triumphs over its most powerful enemies that are so common in its extraordinary history. The incident bears some resemblance to the singular panic that happened the day after the Battle of Solferino, and which was brought on by the appearance of a few Austrian hussars, who came out of their hidingplace to surrender, many thousand men running for miles, and showing that the most successful army of modern days could be converted into a mob by — nothing.
Seldom has the world seen such a panic as followed the Battle of Vittoria, in which Wellington dealt the French Empire the deadly blow under which it reeled and fell; for, if that battle had not been fought and won, the Allies would probably have made peace with Napoleon, following up the armistice into which they had already entered with him ; but Vittoria encouraged them to hope for victory, and not in vain. The French King of Spain there lost his crown and his carriage ; the Marshal of France commanding lost his bûton, and the honorable fame which he had won nineteen years before at Fleurus; and the French army lost its artillery, all but one piece, and, what was of more consequence, its honor. It was the completest rout ever seen in that age of routs and balls. And yet the defeated army was a veteran army, and most of its officers were men whose skill was as little to be doubted as their bravery.
There were panics at Waterloo, not a few ; and, what is remarkable, they happened principally on the side of the victors,— the French suffering nothing from them till after the battle was lost, when the pressure of circumstances threw their beaten army into much confusion, and it was not possible that it should be otherwise. Bylandt’s Dutch-Belgian brigade ran away from the French about two o’clock in the afternoon, and swept others with them in their rush, much to the rage of the British, some of whom hissed, hooted, and cursed, forgetting that quite as discreditable incidents had occurred in the course of the military history of their own country. One portion of the British troops that desired to fire upon those exhibitors of “Dutch courage” actually belonged to the most conspicuous of the regiments that ran away at Falkirk, seventy years before. At a later hour Trip's Dutch-Belgian cavalry-brigade ran away in such haste and disorder that some squadrons of German hussars experienced great difficulty in maintaining theirground against the dense crowd of fugitives. The Cumberland regiment of Hanoverian hussars was deliberately taken out of the field by its colonel when the shot began to fall about it, and neither orders nor entreaties nor arguments nor execrations could induce it to form under fire. Nay, it refused to form across the high-road, out of fire, but “ went altogether to the rear, spreading alarm and confusion all the way to Brussels.” Nothing but the coming up of the cavalry-brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur, at a late hour, prevented large numbers of Wellington’s infantry from leaving the field. The troops of Nassau fell “ back en masse against the horses’ heads of the Tenth Hussars, who, keeping their files closed, prevented further retreat.” The Tenth belonged to Vivian's command. D’Aubreme’s Dutch-Belgian infantry-brigade was prevented from running off when the Imperial Guard began their charge, only because Vandeleur's cavalry-brigade was in their rear, with even the squadron-intervals closed, so that they had to elect between the French bayonet and the English sabre. There was something resembling a temporary panic among Maitland’s British Guards, after the repulse of the first column of the Imperial Guard, but order was very promptly restored. It is impossible to read any extended account of the Battle of Waterloo without seeing that it was a desperate business on the part of the Allies, and that, if the Prussians could have been kept out of the action, their English friends would have had an excellent chance to keep the field — as the killed and wounded. Wellington never had the ghost of a chance without the aid of Bülow, Zieten, and Blücher.3
The Russian War was not of a nature to afford room for the occurrence of any panic on an extensive scale, but between that contest and ours there is one point of resemblance that may be noted. The failures and losses of the Allies, who had at their command unlimited means, and the bravest of soldiers in the greatest numbers, were all owing to bad management; and our reverses in every instance are owing to the same cause. The disaster at Bull Run, and the inability of our men to keep the ground they had won at Wilson’s Creek, in Missouri, (August 10,) were the legitimate consequences of action over which the mass of the soldiers could have no control. It is due to the soldiers to say this, for it is the truth, as every man knows who has observed the course of the contest, and who has seen it proceed from a political squabble to the dimensions of a mighty war, the end of which mortal vision cannot foresee.
It would be no difficult task to add a hundred instances to those we have mentioned of the occurrence of panics in European armies ; but it is not necessary to pursue the subject farther. Nothing is better known than that almost every eminent commander has suffered from panic terror having taken control of the minds of his men, and nothing is more unjust than to speak of the American panic of the 21st of July as if it were something quite out of the common way of war. True, its origin has never been fully explained; but in this point it only resembles most other panics, the causes of which never have been explained and never will be. It is characteristic of a panic that its occurrence cannot be accounted for; and therefore it was that the ancients attributed it to the direct interposition of a god, as arising from some cause quite beyond human comprehension. If panics could be clearly explained, some device might be hit upon, perhaps, for their prevention. But we see that they occurred at the very dawn of history, that they have happened repeatedly for five-and-twenty centuries, and that they are as common now in the nineteenth Christian century as they were in those days when Pan was a god. “ Great Pan is not dead,” but sends armies to pot now as readily as he did when there were hoplites and peltasts on earth. We can console ourselves, though the consolation be but a poor one, with the reflection that all military peoples have suffered from the same cause that has brought so much mortification and so great loss immediately home to us. Our panic is the greatest that ever was known only because it is the latest one that has happened, and because it has happened to ourselves. It is idle, and even laughable, to attempt to argue it out of sight. We should admit its occurrence as freely as it is asserted by the bitterest and most unfair of our critics; and we should recognize the truth of what has been well said on the subject, that the only possible answer to the attacks that have been made on the national character for military capacity and courage is victory. If we shall succeed in this war, the rout of Bull Run will no more destroy our character for manliness than the rout of Landen destroyed the character of Englishmen for the same virtue. If we fail, we must submit to be considered cowards : and we shall deserve to be so held, if, with our superior numbers, and still more superior means, we cannot maintain the Republic against the rebels.
- * An incident closely resembling that which created the English panic at Bannockburn happened, with the same results, in one of the battles won by the Swiss over their invaders ; but we cannot call to mind the name of the action in which it occurred.↩
- Mr. Sanford quotes from a letter written by a spectator of the panic at Long-Marston Moor, which is so descriptive of what we should expect such a scene to be, that we copy it. “I could not,” says the writer, ‘‘meet the Prince [Rupert] until after the battle was joined; and in fire, smoke, and confusion of the day I knew not for my soul whither to incline. The runaways on both sides were so many, so breathless, so speechless, so full of fears, that I should not have taken them for men but by their motion, which still served them very well, not a man of them being able to give me the least hope where the Prince was to be found, both armies being mingled, both horse and foot, no side keeping their own posts. In this terrible distraction did I scour the country; here meeting with a shoal of Scots crying out, ‘ Wae ’s me! We ’re a’ undone! ‘ and so full of lamentations and mourning, as if their day of doom had overtaken them, and from which they knew not whither to fiy. And anon I met with a ragged troop, reduced to four and a cornet; by-and-by, a little footofficer, without a hat, band, or indeed anything but feet, and so much tongue as would serve to inquire the way to the next garrisons, which, to say truth, were well filled with stragglers on both sides within a few hours, though they lay distant from the place of fight twenty or thirty miles.”— See Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, (p. 606,) the best work ever written on the grand constitutional struggle made by the English against the usurpations of the Stuarts. The letter here quoted was written by an English gentleman, Mr. Trevor, to the best of the Royalist leaders, the Marquis (afterward first Duke) of Ormond.↩
- There is no great battle concerning which so much nonsense has been written and spoken as that of Waterloo, which ought to console us for the hundred-and-one accounts that are current concerning the action of the 21st of July, no two of which are more alike than if the one related to Culloden and the other to Arbela. The common belief is, that toward the close of the day Napoleon formed two columns of the Old Guard, and sent them against the Allied line; that they advanced, and were simultaneously repulsed by the weight and precision of the English fire in front; and that, on seeing the columns of the Guard fall into disorder, the French all fled, and Wellington immediately ordered his whole line to advance, which prevented the French from rallying, they flying in a disorderly mass, which was incapable of resistance. So far is this view of the “Crisis of Waterloo” from being correct, that the repulse of the Guard would not have carried with it the loss of the battle, had it not been for a number of circumstances, some of which made as directly in favor of the English as the others worked unfavorably to the French. When Napoleon found that the operations of Bülow’s Prussians threatened to compromise his right flank and rear, he determined to make a vigorous attempt to drive the Allies from their position in his front, not merely by employing two columns of his Guard, but by making a general attack on Wellington’s line. For this purpose, he formed one column of four battalions of the Middle Guard, and another of four other battalions of the Middle Guard and two battalions of the Old Guard. At the same time the corps of D'Erlon and Reille were to advance, and a severe tiraillade was opened by a great number of skirmishers; and the attack was supported by a tremendous fire from artillery. So animated and effective were the operations of the various bodies of French not belonging to the Guard, that nothing but the arrival of the cavalry brigades of Vandeleur and Vivian, from the extreme left of the Allied line, prevented that line from being pierced in several places. Those brigades had been relieved by the arrival of the advance of Zieten’s Prussian corps, and were made available for the support of the points threatened by the French. They were drawn up in rear of bodies of infantry, whom they would not permit to run away, which they sought to do. The first column of the Guard was repulsed by a fire of cannon and musketry, and when disordered it was charged by Maitland’s brigade of British Guards. The interval between the advance of that column and that of the second column was from ten to twelve minutes; and the appearance of the second column caused Maitland’s Guards to fall into confusion, and the whole body went to the rear. This confusion, we are told, was not consequent upon either defeat or panic, but resulted simply from a misunderstanding of the command. The coming up of the second column led to a panic in a Dutch-Belgian brigade, which would have left the field but for the presence of Vandeleur’s cavalry, through which the men could not penetrate; and yet the panic-stricken men could not even see the soldiers before whose shouts they endeavored to fly! The second column was partially supported, at first, by a body of cavalry; but it failed in consequence of a flank attack made by the FiftySecond Regiment, which was aided by the operations of some other regiments, all belonging to General Adam’s brigade. This attack on its left flank was assisted by the fire of a battery in front, and by the musketry of the British Guards on its right flank. Thus assailed, the defeat of the second column was inevitable. Had it been supported by cavalry, so that it could not have been attacked on either flank, it would have succeeded in its purpose. Adam’s brigade followed up its success, and Vivian’s cavalry was ordered forward by Wellington, to check the French cavalry, should it advance, and to deal generally with the French reserves. Adam and Vivian did their work so well that Wellington ordered his whole line of infantry to advance, supported by cavalry and artillery. The French made considerable resistance after this, but their retreat became inevitable, and soon degenerated into a rout. An exception to the general disorganization was observed by the victors, not unlike to an incident which we have seen mentioned in an account of the Bull Bun flight. In the midst of the crowd of fugitives on the 21st of July, and forcing its way through that crowd, was seen a company of infantry, marching as coolly and steadily as if on parade. So it was after Waterloo, when the grenadiers à cheval moved off at a walk, “ in close column, and in perfect order, as if disdaining to allow itself to be contaminated by the confusion that prevailed around it.” It was unsuccessfully attacked, and the regiment “literally Walked from the field in the most orderly manner, moving majestically along the stream, the surface of which was covered with the innumerable wrecks into which the rest of the French army had been scattered.” It was supposed that this body of cavalry was engaged in protecting the retreat of the Emperor, and, had all the French been as cool and determined as were those veteran horsemen, the army might have been saved. Troops in retreat, who hold firmly together, and show a bold countenance to the enemy, are seldom made to suffer much.↩