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IF I had ever professed to be an amateur military critic, my experience in America would have disgusted me with the task. I used to hear and read so much of profound military speculations from men who knew even less about the science of war than I did myself, that I got almost to disbelieve in the existence of such an art at all. I plead guilty to an heretical belief that even the recognised professors of the science talk about a basis of operations, a concentrated movement, a system of strategy, in order to invest themselves with an uncalled-for appearance of profundity. I remember Mr. Hawthorne once remarking to me about a certain metaphysical philosopher, that he never knew a man who had such a talent for confusing a simple
NOTES OF THE WAR.
question, and I confess that this talent seems to me to be largely developed amongst military critics. At Washington, during the war, every militia officer, and everybody who might have been a militia officer, and everybody whose friend had, might, would or could have been an officer, considered himself justified in talking about Jomini and Vauban and the science of strategics.
My own impression is, that in the American war there was very little possibility for scientific operations of any kind; and that if there was such a possibility, it certainly was not improved. However, right or wrong, I have no intention of filling my pages with descriptions of the military campaign. When I was in Italy two years ago, during the Garibaldian war, of all the facts and incidents connected with it, the one which brought the war nearest home to my mind, was a scene I once witnessed in the back streets of Naples. It was at the time when the siege of Capua was going on, and a decisive battle was hourly expected. I had been hunting up and down the low purlieus of Naples, to look after a refugee who was keeping out of sight, and to whom I was anxious to deliver a letter. I was passing up the narrow squalid staircase of one of the deserted palaces, where hundreds of poor families appear to burrow in one common wretchedness. I had not succeeded in finding the object of my search, and was making my way out as rapidly as I could, when an old woman rushed out, and,