Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial evidence book. People's Exhibit 48.
The Alarm (Newspaper) article, "Street Fighting," 1885 July 25
Introduced into evidence during testimony of Eugene Seeger (Vol. K p. 627-634), 1886 July 29.
Transcript of article.
Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial evidence book. People's Exhibit 48.
People's Ex. 48.
THE ALARM., Chicago, July 25, 1885.
How to meet the enemy.
Some valuable hints for the Revolutionary Soldiers. What an Officer of the United States Army has to say.
The following letter was published some time ago in the San Francisco Truth, and will no doubt be read by the friends of The Alarm with great interest.
"I am an officer in the army of the United States. Of the things I write I have actual knowledge. On the tactical points made I can adduce the best authorities, nay so undeniable are my positions that I fancy even no militia "officer" can be found who will venture to assail them.
General Upton said to me once with great earnestness that the "day of armies was passing away". I believed him then and I believe his saying is now secretly accepted as an axiom by the best military authorities.
This introduces my subject. I desire to explain in simple words some of the "mystery" of the art of war, to place the details of the science of butchery plainly before the people, to point out its weak places and its assailable points so that in future uprisings the people may stand some chance of winning.
I assert as a preliminary point that in the past twenty years no uprising of the people could ever possibly have been suppressed save by the arrant ignorance and stupidity of the people themselves. Further that the same statement is nearly true. Concerning insurrections of a time before high explosives were known to the scientific world.
In every case the people have slaughtered and subdued themselves solely because of a lack of coolness, a want fo simple military knowledge and a senseless adherence to the dictates of a peculiar something variously denominated "conscience", "mercy", "humanity", "honorable warfare", etc.
I have not space, nor is it necessary for me to criticize separately the various popular wars wherein these follies caused defeat. Nor have I the egotism to reproduce in new words the eloquent thought of Felix Pyat published in a late number of Truth, concerning the rightfulness of a war to the knife and the knife to the hilt whenever war shall be necessary. I assume that my readers and myself are well agreed that against tyrants all means are legitimate, and that in war that course is best, though bloodiest, which soonest ends the contest. My sole purpose in this article at least is to show the "lower strata" their power first by pointing out the weak points in our prescribed tactics for suppressing
riots, and second to insist verbally at least that the people themselves shall in future battles add a little common sense to their gallant heroism and thus insure success instead of inviting defeat.
The army of the United States and the various state militia regiments are organized upon the unit of fours. That is four men constitute the basis of all formations for march, parade or battle. Each set of fours in any front rank has a duplicate of itself in the rear rank. The right hand man of the set is No. 1, the left hand, No. 4. In changing direction of the march in column of fours, when the turning point is reached if the change is made to the right No. 1 acting as the "pivot" marks time in his place while 2, 3 and 4, wheel to the right around him preserving their front unbroken. If the change is to the left No. 4 acts as the pivot. In formations in line by a single change of direction (fours right or left) the line is broken into a column of fours. So also from a column of fours can the change be made by the same command into line, changing the front in each case the degree of a right angle. This simple method of formation permits the most rapid and effective change of front that can be devised. Upon the appearance of an enemy on either flank, one simple order converts the flank into a front, and upon a dispersal of the threatening force the onward march can at once be resumed.
The art of war consists in but one thing, to make the soldiers fight; soldier (paid) will not fight well unless they are reasonably sure of being able to run in case of defeat; they cannot run if the line of retreat is not kept open; the line of retreat cannot be kept open if the enemy is permitted to get between you and the place you want to run to; in other words, if the enemy turns your flank, surrender or death are the sole alternatives. This is in brief the art of war. And in future revolts instead of merely playing the defense the people should assume the aggressive. A modern militia man is decidedly quick in sensing the proper time to run.
Now, in days past the military authorities when called upon to suppress a riot have taken excellent care to do it with the least danger possible to themselves. They never attempt to clear a street until they have secured their line of retreat. And even then they are decidedly cautious in their advance. They know how dubious an enterprise they are engaged in even if the people do not.
Over this problem of street fighting they have wasted years of study without finding a way of putting down the people after all. General Emory Upton after years of study upon it finally blew out his brains because of his failure to remedy the weakpoints and especially to guard against the
total inefficiency of any known tactics when matched against ten pounds of dynamite.
The plan given below shows the method now accepted as the best for the purpose stated:
The figure represents a street; the dotted lines are the curbs of the sidewalk; the letters o, o represent the troops formed into two columns of fours, headed by a gatling gun, and with its officers, colors, ambulances, etc., (x) in the rear out of harm's way. The single line of men on the sidewalks are skirmishers thrown out to feel the way forward; they are also sharp shooters and they are charged with the duty of clearing the houses on the line of advance; the men on the right sidewalk fire obliquely into the windows of the houses on the left side, and those on the left side endeavor similarly to clear the houses on the right side. Thus the advance goes forward cautiously. When a cross street is reached a company is left to picket and hold it open and the advance continues. In former times the progress of troops was stayed for a time by rough barricades thrown clear across the street. To storm this and exterminate its defenders was an easy matter. They were poorly armed, ignorant; and though ever so daring and devoted their defeat was only a question of time.
Military knowledge has become popularized a little even since 1877, and it would not be hard to find in every large city of the world to-day upon the side of the people some fair leaders capable of meeting the enemy in some such way as suggested by the following plan:
This diagram shows a street corner. Along one avenue come the troops in street fighting formation. Until they reach the corner they see no obstacle to their advance, the reason being that the revolutionists have not pursued their usually silly plan of running a barricade across the entire street, but instead have arranged at the angles small movable barricades arranged so as to permit from them a vigorous cross fire upon the head of the column as soon as it debauches into the increasing street. The letters o, o, represent the revolters. An inspection of the plan will show that a party of them are stationed in each building on the corners of the street. As the enemy reaches the point simultaneously with the raking fire from the barricades it receives also several pounds of dynamite thrown upon the troop by the insurgents in the houses, who, immediately after throwing escape through the side entrance on the other street; there joining their companions with the barricade they move to the right and left and take up a new similar position on the next street corner.
If a man of perception is in charge he will probably have also a flying batallion armed with explosives who will after the first repulse of the enemy proceed upon streets parallel to the enemy's avenue of advance until a position in his rear is obtained. A vigorous attack from this parallel
street through intersecting ones upon the enemy's line of communication to the rear would beyond doubt greatly assist, and if successful would ensure the total annihilation or surrender of the troops.
If the men in the barricades are armed with the new International dynamite-rifle (which I am told exists in the hands of the revolutionaries) I give it as a careful technical opinion that pursuing these tactics under brave and able leaders, fifty men can hold at bay and finally destroy in any of our cities, an attacking force of five thousand troops.
Space forbids any further amplification of my subject at this time, but I may on another occasion be able to greet you again.
R. S. S.
Alcatraz Island, December 8.