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Helmuth von Moltke: Memorandum on the Effect of Improvements in Firearms on Battlefield Tactics (1861)

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We may harbor the conviction that, on the occasion of a war breaking out in the not too distant future, none of our neighboring powers will have brought its firearms up to the same level of perfection as those of the Prussians. A sustained artillery battle at a great distance, a standing gun battle between lines of marksmen, cannot bring any success for our adversaries, and it is all the more certain that [there will be] an impetuous beeline, a stampede in scattered swarms, followed by the advance of units in closed formation, especially when we are dealing with the French.

Whenever the target object moves, [and] the familiar range thereby becomes an unfamiliar, changing one, whenever an immediate threat impairs the calm [required for] delivering fire, then the impact of the rifled gun, as well as the infantry rifle, is more easily diminished than is the case with a smoothbore, with a flatter trajectory for the shells; at closer ranges anyway, the grapeshot impact of the rifled guns is weaker than is the case with smoothbores.

How, then, is the impetuous crush of the enemy to be faced? Should we meet him halfway, outdo him offensively? Does the moral element of higher spirits created thereby offset the material advantages of our superior firearms? For while we are on the move, in most cases, we are masking our batteries and dispensing with the full shooting impact of the artillery and the largest part of the infantry.

When, on an otherwise favorable terrain, the enemy is not allowed to draw up within a quarter of a mile, then it will also only be able to start attacking from a great distance. A few hits from the rifled guns will blast that column apart. The two spearheads of a battalion will send several hundred bullets toward an attacking cavalry, and up to 1000 against the infantry, before they are reached by them.

One is tempted to declare it impossible for such an attack to succeed if the defender does not lose his head.

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