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The Sublime of Logistics - circa olden days

Logistics do not deal directly with war, but with everything that makes it possible

To feed an ambulant city with a population of 200 000 propelling forward at fifteen miles (24 km) a day

Standard fare was about 2 pounds (900g) of bread per day, sometimes replaced by the hard biscuit

60 000 men required 90 000 bread rations per day. Twelve ounces of flour produces a pound of bread. The quantity of flour needed for a ten day period = 1 350 000lb, or 612 000 kg (612 tonnes)

Horses require dependent on season, about ten times that of men, or approximately 20 pounds (9 kg) of fodder per day

One acre of green fodder could feed fifty horses. 40 000 animals accompanying an army would therefor require 800 acres per day

A modest artillery train of 6 half-cannon with 100 rounds, powder and shot required 250 horses

3000 wagons were collected to accompany 24 000 men

In October Gustavas Adolphius took along his 20 000 men and marched for Naumburg in order to seize the crossings over the Halle, covering 270 miles (430 km) in 27 days

For Louis XIV’s war against the Dutch 1672, Louvoius built what was perhaps the largest field army since Xerxes, 120 000 man strong, mobilized from all over Western Europe

120 000 x 2 pounds per day = 240 000 pounds or 108 000 kg (108 tonnes) of bread per day

Having decided, on 23 August, to go to war against Austria, Napoleon’s first move was to order his forces to their areas of deployment

Heilbronn and its surroundings (15 000 – 16 000) was forced to surrender 85 000 bread rations, 24 000lb. salt, 3600 bushels of hay, 6000 sacks of oats, 5000 pints of wine, 800 bushels of straw and 100 horse wagons

35 000lb. (15 800 kg) meat = (seventy oxen)

Happily for Napoleon, Vienna was near at hand. Here there were vast quantities of arms and ammunition. More important still, 100 000 quintals (1 000 000 kg) of flour and 13 000 bushels of fodder were found in the Imperial magazines alone

The town was ordered to find food to last 80 000 men for three weeks. About 75 000lb (34 000 kg) of bread, 25 000lb (11 300 kg) meat, 200 000lb oats (90 000 kg), 280 000lb (127 000 kg) hay and 375 buckets wine, each day

In January 1811 the provisioning of Danzig with victuals was ordered. By 1 March, subsistence to last 400 000 men and 50 000 horses for 50 days was to be concentrated there. In addition, further ‘large stores’ were to be stockpiled on the Oder

The supply from base of fodder for 250 000 horses accompanying the army being an utterly insoluble problem, the beginning of the war had to be postponed until the end of June

Never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake

Tchaikovsky’s - 1812 Overture (with Cannons)

Scarcely had the guns of Waterloo fallen silent than soldiers everywhere began the process of studying Napoleon’s campaigns with an eye to learning from them lessons for the future

A well conceive railway net might enable troops to be shifted rapidly from one point to another hundreds of miles distant, thus multiplying numbers by velocity and enabling them to concentrate, first against one enemy, then against another

In 1846 the Russians moved a corps of 14 500 men, together with all its horses and transport, 200 miles (320 km) from Hradisch to Cracow in two days by rail

Four years later, the Austrians moved 75 000 men from Hungary to Vienna
Seven years subsequent to that from 16 April to 15 July, the French transported by rail 604 381 men and 129 227 horses. 227 649 and 36 357 respectively went directly to the theatre of operations in Italy

In Prussia the heirs of Fredrick the second echoed his saying that good communication’s only made a country easier to overrun

The Prussian army only began to take a serious interest in railroads during the revolutions of 1848-9, when moving troops by road became unsafe

In 1864, the Prussians transported an infantry division (15 500 men, 4583 horses, 377 vehicles) by rail using a total of 42 trains – an average of seven per day – to move this force 175 miles (280 km)

Magazines of flour and fodder were set up around Kiel, as was a reserve wagon-park 1000 strong

1866 mobilisation proceeded smoothly; in twenty-one days, 197 000 men and 55 000 horses and 5500 vehicles of all kinds were deployed

Ultimately 280 000 men, concentrated in a single theatre of operations, were to be supplied from base, an enterprise far exceeding anything previously attempted, with the exception of Napoleon’s ill-fated Russian adventure

The severe limitation of the number of troops that can be marched on a single road

In theory, it was possible to multiply this figure by employing large numbers of wagons divided into echelons each carrying a day’s supply

In practice it was found that no more than one Corps – 31 000 men – could be marched over each road

Three Corps was crowded on a single road so that the supply train could no longer get though

It was estimated that no less than 16 200 tonnes were trapped on the lines, unable to moved forward or backwards, while hundreds upon hundreds of railway wagons were serving as temporary magazines and could not themselves be used even if the lines were free to carry them

While bread went stale, fodder rotted and cattle died of malnutrition

At the end of the battle of Koniggratz, the railways did not, therefore, exercise the slightest influence on the progress of the campaign

In 1866 Moltke’s soldiers were able to carry all their ammunition inside the corps, a total of 163 rounds per rifle being distributed between the regimental wagons, the battalion’s carts and the men’s backs

Throughout the campaign no more than 1.4 million rounds were expended, an average of seven per combatant

Men should take along their provisions, instead of being disentrained in order to be fed at the stations

Owing to political difficulties the German railway network was less unified

The Franco Prussian war of 1870

The Prussian army was ready; at the outbreak of war, it was only necessary to push a button in order to set the whole gigantic machine in motion

The burdening of the railways by trains carrying troops made it impossible to push supplies forward

When trains carrying subsistence finally started on 3 August the lines quickly became blocked

Insert irony here

Moltke’s forces could only live if they kept moving

Moltke had concerned himself with the possibilities of demolishing and rebuilding railways in wartime

Eisenbahntruppe formations were set up, whose task it was to deal with these novel aspects of the military art

Each corps being served by a train battalion with 40 officers, 84 doctors,1540 men, 3074 horses and 670 wagons.

Combat troops followed closely by spare horses, pack horses, medicine cart, mobile canteen. Small baggage: wagons of the divisional staff, infantry ammunition, field forges, canteen wagons, troops provision columns, reserve provision columns,
Heavy baggage: ammunition columns, officer’s baggage, the field bakery, field hospital, remaining provision columns, pontoon column, second echelon ammunition column and the remount depot

As always, fodder had proved especially difficult to procure and the number of dead horses was legion

After the war of 1870, French and German writers accused each other of having constructed their railways with intent to wage aggressive war

By D-Day 1944 the Germans had 1.5 million railway workers operating 988 000 freight cars and used 29 000 per day

Sublime of Logistics - circa olden days
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Semiotext(s) Works V - Sublime of Logistics - circa olden days

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Chronological history of Military Logistics part 1 (with artistic licence) from;

Van Creveld, M 1977, Supplying War, Cambridge University Press, USA.