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3: Strength and Resources of the Warring Powers

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Within the whole history of mankind the nations of the earth had never been so thoroughly equipped for the art of warfare as they were in 1914. While the arts of construction have enormously developed, those of destruction have fully kept pace with them; and the horrors of war have enormously increased side by side with the benignities of peace. It is interesting to trace the history of warfare from this point of view. Beginning with the club and hammer of the stone age, advancing through the bow and arrow and the sling-shot of later times, this art, even in the great days of ancient civilization, the eras of Greece and Rome, had advanced little beyond the sword and spear, crude weapons of destruction as regarded in our times. They have in great part been set aside as symbols of military dignity, emblems of the "pomp and circumstance of glorious war."

Descending through the Middle Ages we find the sword and spear still holding sway, with the bow as an important accessory for the use of the common soldier. As for the knight, he became an iron-clad champion, so incased in steel that he could fight effectively only on horseback, becoming largely helpless on foot. At length, the greatest stage in the history of war, the notable invention of gunpowder was achieved, and an enormous transformation took place in the whole terrible art. The musket, the rifle, the pistol, the cannon were one by one evolved, to develop in the nineteenth century into the breech-loader, the machine gun, the bomb, and the multitude of devices fitted to bring about death and destruction by wholesale, instead of by the retail methods of older days.

At sea, the sailing vessel, with her far-flung white wings and rows of puny guns, has given way to the steel-clad battleship with her fewer but enormously larger cannons, capable of flinging huge masses of iron many miles through the air and with a precision of aim that seems incredible for such great distances.

We must add to this the torpedo boat, a tiny craft with a weapon capable of sinking the most costly and stupendous of battleships, and the submarine, fitted to creep unseen under blockading fleets, and deal destruction with nothing to show the hand that dealt the deadly blow. Even the broad expanse of the air has been made a field of warlike activity, with scouting airships flying above contending armies and signaling their most secret movements to the forces below.


In regard to loss of life on the battle-field, it may be said that many of the wars of ancient times surpassed the bloodiest of those of modern days, despite the enormously more destructive weapons and implements now employed. When men fought hand to hand, and no idea of quarter for the defeated existed, entire armies were at times slaughtered on the field. In our days, when the idea of mercy for the vanquished prevails, this wholesale slaughter of beaten hosts has ceased, and the death list of the battle-field has been largely reduced by caution on the part of the fighters. With the feeling that a dead soldier is utterly useless, and a wounded one often worse than useless, as constituting an impediment, every means of saving life is utilized. Soldiers now fight miles apart. Prostrate, hidden, taking advantage of every opportunity of protection, every natural advantage or artificial device, vast quantities of ammunition are wasted on the empty air, every ball that finds its quarry in human flesh being mayhap but one in hundreds that go astray. In the old-time wars actual hand-to-hand fighting took place. Almost every stroke told, every thrusting blade was directly parried or came back stained with blood. In modern wars fighting of this kind has ceased. A battle has become a matter of machinery. The strong arm and stalwart heart are replaced by the bullet-flinging machine, and it is a rare event for a man to know to whose hand he owes wound or death. Such, at least, was largely the case in the war between Russia and Japan in 1905. But in recent battles we read of hordes of soldiers charging up to the muzzles of machine guns, and being mowed down like ripened wheat.


But while loss of human life in war has not greatly increased, in other directions the cost of warfare has enormously grown. In the past, little special preparation was needed by the fighter. Armies could be recruited off-hand from city or farm and do valiant duty in the field, with simple and cheap weapons. In our days years of preliminary preparation are deemed necessary and the costs of war go on during times of profound peace, millions of men who could be used effectively in the peaceful industries spending the best years of their lives in learning the most effective methods of destroying their fellow men.

This is only one phase of the element of cost. Great workshops are devoted to the preparation of military material, of absolutely no use to mankind except as instruments of destruction. The costs of war, even in times of peace, are thus very large. But they increase in an enormous proportion after war has actually begun, millions of dollars being needed where tens formerly sufficed, and national bankruptcy threatening the nation that keeps its armies long in the field. The American Civil War, fought half a century ago, was a costly procedure for the American people. If it had been fought five or ten years ago its cost would have been increased five-fold, so great has been the progress in this terrible art in the interval.


It is our purpose in the present chapter to take up the subject of this cost and review the condition and resources of the several nations which were involved in the dread internecine struggle of 1914, the frightful conflict of nations that moved like a great panorama before our eyes. These resources are of two kinds. One of them consists in the material wealth of the nations concerned, the product of the fields and factories, the mineral treasures beneath the soil, the results of trade and commercial activity and the conditions of national finance, including the extent of available revenue and the indebtedness which hangs over each nation, much of it a heritage from former wars which have left little beyond this aggravating record of their existence. It is one which adds something to the cost of every particle of food consumed by the people, every shred of clothing worn by them. Additions to this incubus of debt little disturb the rules when blithely or bitterly engaging in new wars, but every such addition adds to the burdens of taxation laid on the shoulders of the groaning citizens, and is sure to deepen the harvest of retribution when the time for it arrives.

A second of these resources is that of preparation for war in time of peace, the training of the able-bodied citizens in the military art, until practically the entire nation becomes converted into a vast army, its members, after their term of compulsory service, engaging in ordinary labors in times of peace, yet liable to be called into the field whenever the war lords desire, to face the death-belching field piece and machine gun in a sanguinary service in which they have little or no personal concern. This preparedness, with the knowledge of the duties of a soldier which it involves, is a valuable war resource to any nation that is saddled with such a system of universal military training. And few nations of Europe and the East are now without it. Great Britain is the chief one in Europe, while in America the United States is a notable example of a nation that has adopted the opposite policy, that of keeping its population at peaceful labor, steadily adding to its resources, during the whole time in which peace prevails, and trusting to the courage and mental resources of its citizens to teach them quickly the art of fighting when, if ever, the occasion shall arrive.

It must be admitted that the European system of militarism is likely to be of great advantage in the early days of a war, in which large bodies of trained soldiers can be hurled with destructive force against hastily gathered militia. The distinction between trained and untrained soldiers, however, rapidly disappears in a war of long continuance. Experience in the field is a lesson far superior to any gained in mock warfare, and the taking part in a few battles will teach the art of warfare to an extent surpassing that of years of marching and counter-marching upon the training field.


Britain and the United States, the only two of the greater nations that have adopted the policy here considered, are not trusting completely to chance. Each of them has a body of regular troops, fitted for police duty in time of peace and for field duty in time of war, and serving as a nucleus fitted to give a degree of coherence to raw militia when the sword is drawn. Subsidiary to these are bodies of volunteer troops, training as a recreation rather than as an occupation, yet constituting a valuable auxiliary to the regular forces. This system possesses the advantage of maintaining no soldiers except those kept in constant and needful duty, all the remaining population staying at their regular labors and adding very materially every year to the resources of the nation, while saving the great sums expended without adequate return in the process of keeping up the system of militarism.

What is above said refers only to the human element in the system. In addition is the necessity of preparing and keeping in store large quantities or war material - cannons, rifles, ammunition, etc. - the building of inland forts and coast and harbor fortifications, for ready and immediate use in time of war. In this all the nations are alike actively engaged, the United States and Britain as well as those of the European continent, and none of them are likely to be caught amiss in this particular. Cannon and gunpowder eat no food and call for no pay or pension, and once got ready can wait with little loss of efficiency. They may, indeed, become antiquated through new invention and development, and need to be kept up to date in this particular. But otherwise they can be readily kept in store and each nation may with comparative ease maintain itself on a level with others as regards its supply of material of war.


In one field of war-preparation little of the distinction indicated exists. This is that of ocean warfare, in which rivalry between the great Powers goes on without restriction - at least between the distinctively maritime nations. In this field of effort, the building of gigantic battleships and minor war vessels, Britain has kept itself in advance of all others, as a nation in which the sea is likely to be the chief field of warlike activity. Beginning with a predominance in war ships, it has steadily retained it, adding new and constantly greater war ships to its fleet with a feverish activity, under the idea that here is its true field of defense. It has sought vigorously to keep itself on a level in this particular with any two of its rivals in sea power. While it has not quite succeeded in this, the United States and Germany pushing it closely, it is well in the lead as compared with any single Power, and to keep this lead it is straining every nerve and fiber of its national capacity.


Coming now to a statement of the strength and resources of the chief Powers concerned in the present war, Austria-Hungary, as the originator of the outbreak, stands first. It is scarcely necessary to repeat that its severe demands upon Servia, arising from the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand and its refusal to accept Servia's almost complete acceptance of its terms, led to an immediate declaration of war upon the small offending state, the war fever thus started quickly extending from side to side of the continent. Therefore in considering the existing conditions of the various countries involved, those of Austria-Hungary properly come first, the others following in due succession.

Austria-Hungary is a dual kingdom, each partner to the union having its separate national organization and legislative body. While both are under the rule of one monarch, Francis Joseph being at once the Emperor of Austria and the King of Hungary, their union is not a very intimate one. There is large racial distinction between the two countries, and Hungary cherishes a strong feeling of animosity to Austria, the outcome of acts of tyranny and barbarity not far in the past.

The two countries closely approach each other in area, Austria having 115,903 and Hungary 125,039 square miles; making a total of 240,942. The populations also do not vary largely, the total being estimated at about 50,000,000. Of these the Slavs number more than 24,000,000, approaching one half the total , while of Germans there are but 11,500,000, little more than half of the Slavic population. The Magyars, or Hungarians, a people of eastern origin, and the main element of Hungarian population, number about 8,750,000. In addition there are several millions of Roumanian and Italic stock, and a considerable number of Jews and Gypsies. The inclusion of this heterogeneous population into one kingdom dates far back in medieval history, and it was not until 1867, as a consequence of a vigorous Hungarian demand, that Austria and Hungary became divided into separate nations, the remnant of their former close union remaining in their being ruled by one monarch, the venerable Francis Joseph, who is still upon the throne. This division quickly followed the war between Prussia and Austria in 1866, and was one of the results of the defeat of Austria in that war.

Austria is a hilly or mountainous country, its plains occupying only about one fifth of the total territory. The most extensive tracts of low or flat land occur in Hungary, Galicia and Slavonia, the great Hungarian plain having an area of 36,000 square miles. Much of this is highly fertile, and Hungary is the great granary of the country. Austria-Hungary is well watered by the Danube and its tributaries and has a small extent of sea-coast on the Adriatic, its principal ports being Trieste, Pola and Fiume. Its railways are about 30,000 miles in length. In consequence of its interior position its largest trade is with Germany, through which empire there is also an extensive transit commerce. Its mountainous character makes it rich in minerals, the chief of these being coal, iron, and salt.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, formerly part of Turkey in Europe, were put under the military occupation and administrative rule of Austria after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8, and in 1908 were fully annexed by Austria, an act of spoliation which had its ultimate result in the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, and may thus be considered the instigating agency in the 1914 war.

The finances of Austria-Hungary may be briefly given. Austria has an annual revenue of $636,909,000; Hungary of $410,068,000; their expenditure equaling these sums. The debt of Austria is stated at $1,433,511,000; of Hungary, $1,257,810,000; and of the joint states at $1,050,000,000. Military service is obligatory on all over twenty years of age who are capable of bearing arms, the total terms of service being twelve years, of which three are passed in the line, seven in the reserve, and two in the Landwehr. The army is estimated to number 390,000 on the peace footing and over 2,000,000 on the war footing. Its navy numbers four modern and nine older battleships, with twelve cruisers and a number of smaller craft.


Germany, in the census of 1910, was credited with a population of 64,925,993. This is in great part composed of Teutons, or men of German race, its people being far less heterogeneous than those of Austria, though it includes several millions of Slavs, Lithuanians, Poles and others. It has an area of 208,738 square miles. It is mountainous in the south and center, but in the north there is a wide plain extending to the German Ocean and the Baltic Sea, and forming part of the great watershed which stretches across Europe. Its soil, except in the more rugged and mountainous districts, is prolific, being well watered and bearing abundant crops of the ordinary cereals. Potatoes, hemp, and flax are very abundant crops and the sugar beet is extensively cultivated. The forests are of great extent and value, and are carefully conserved to yield a large production without over cutting. Among domestic animals, the cattle, sheep and swine of certain districts have long been famous.

The minerals are numerous and some of them of much value, those of chief importance being coal, iron, zinc, lead and salt. While much attention is given to mining and agriculture, the manufacturing industries are especially important. Linens and other textiles are widely produced and iron manufacture is largely carried on. The Krupp iron works at Essen are of world-wide fame, and the cannon made there are used in the forts of many distant nations.

These are a few only of the large variety of manufactures, a market for which is found in all parts of the world, the commerce of Germany being widely extended. In short, the empire has come into very active rivalry with Great Britain in the development of commerce, and to its progress in this direction it owes much of its flourishing condition. Hamburg is by far the most important seaport, Bremen, Stettin, Danzig and others also being thriving ports. The total length of railway is over 40,000 miles.

The annual revenue of the German Empire is nearly $900,000,000; that of its component states, $1,500,000,000; that of the states at $3,735,000,000. The revenue is derived chiefly from customs duties, excise duties on beet-root sugar, salt, tobacco and malt and contributions from the several states.

Germany is the foster home of modern militarism and is held to have the most complete army system in the world. Every man capable of bearing arms must begin his military training on the 1st of January of the year in which he reaches the age of twenty, and continue it to the end of his forty-second year, unless released from this duty by the competent authorities, either altogether or for times of peace.

Seven years of this time must be spent in the army or fleet; three of them in active service, four in the reserve. Seven more years are passed in the Landwehr, the members of which may be called out only twice for training. The remaining time is passed in the Landsturm, which is called out only in case of invasion of the empire. The total peace strength of the army is given at 870,000; of the reserves at 4,430,000; the total being 5,300,000.

The naval force of Germany is very powerful, though considerably less than that of Great Britain. It comprises 19 of the enormous modern battleships, 7 cruiser battleships, and 20 of older type; 9 first-class and 45 second and third-class cruisers, and numerous smaller warships, including 47 torpedo boats, 141 destroyers and 60 submarines.


Russia, the third of the three nations to which the war was most immediately due, is the most extensive consolidated empire in the world, its total area being estimated at 8,647,657 square miles, of which 1,852,524 are in Europe, the remainder in Asia. The population is given at about 160,000,000, of which 130,000,000 are in Europe.

Agriculture is the chief pursuit of this great population, though manufactures are largely developing. The forests, immense in extent, cover forty-two per cent of the area and contain timber in enormous quantities. While a large part of the area is level ground, there is much elevated territory, and the mineral wealth is very important. It includes gold, silver, platinum, iron, copper, coal and salt, all of large occurrence. Of the people, over 1,800,000 are employed in manufacture, and the annual value of the commerce amounts to $1,300,000,000. The length of railway is about 50,000 miles.

Russia is heavily in debt, Germany being its largest creditor. The total debt is stated at $4,553,000,000, its revenue $1,674,000,000. The liability to military service covers all able-bodied men between the ages of twenty and forty-two years. Five years must be passed in active service, the remainder in the various reserves. On a peace footing the army is 1,290,000 strong; its war strength is 5,500,000. The territor8al service is capable of supplying about 3,000,000 more, making a possible total of 7,500,000. As regards the navy, it was greatly reduced in strength in the war with Japan and has not yet fully recovered. The empire now possesses nine modern battleships, four cruiser battleships, and eight of old type. There are also cruisers and other vessels, including 23 torpedo boats, 105 destroyers, and 48 submarines.


France, the one large Power in Europe in which the people have created a republic and have got rid of the FACT of a king, as illustrated in the other continental Powers, - and in addition to the mountain realm of Switzerland, in which the people govern themselves through their representatives, - has taken up the dogma of militarism in common with its neighbors and constitutes the fourth of the Powers in which this system has been carried to its ultimate conclusion of a world-wide war.

France had a startling object lesson in 1870. It had, under Napoleon III, been imitating Prussia in its military establishment, and its government officials coincided with the emperor in the theory that its army was in a splendid state of preparation. Marshal Leboeuf lightly declared that "everything was ready, more than ready, and not a gaiter button missing," and it was with a light-hearted confidence that the Emperor Napoleon declared war against Prussia, the insensate multitude filling Paris with their futile war cry of "On to Berlin."

This is not the place to deal with this subject, but it may be said that France quickly learned that nothing was ready and the nation went down in the most sudden and awful disaster of modern times. A lesson had been taught, one not easy to forget. The Republic succeeded the Empire, and has since been working on the theory that war with its old enemy might at any time become imminent and no negligence in the matter of preparation could be permitted. As a consequence, France went into the war of 1914 in a state of fitness greatly superior to that of 1870, and Germany found France waiting on its border line, alert and able, ready alike for offense or defense.

What are the natural conditions, the strength and resources, of this great republic? France has an area of 207,054 square miles, almost the same as that of the German Empire. If its numerous colonies be added, its total area is over 4,000,000 square miles. But this vast colonial expanse is of no special advantage to it in a European war. Its population is 39,601,509; if Algeria, its most available colony, be added, it is about 45,000,000, a total 20,000,000 less than the population of Germany.

Its soil is highly fitted for agricultural use, about mine tenths of it being productive and more than half of it under the plow, the cereals forming the bulk of its products. Its wheat crop is large and oats, rye and barley are also of value, though the raising of the domestic animals is of less importance than in the surrounding countries. The growth of the vine is one of its most important branches of agriculture, and in good years France produces about half of the total wine yield of the world. In mineral wealth it stands at a somewhat low level, its yield of coal, iron, etc. being of minor importance.

France enjoys a large and valuable commerce and active manufacturing industries, products of a more or less artistic character being especially attended to. Of the textile fabrics, those of silk goods are much the most important, this industry employing about 2,000,000 persons and yielding more than a fourth in value of the whole manufactured products of France. Other products are carpets, tapestry, fine muslins, lace and cotton goods. Products of different character are numerous and their value large. The fisheries of France are also of much importance. Its commerce, while large, is very considerably less than that of Great Britain and Germany, France being especially a self-centered country, largely using what it makes.

There is abundant provision for internal trade and travel, there being 30,000 miles of railway, 3,000 miles or canal, and 5,500 miles of navigable rivers. The annual revenue approaches $1,000,000,000, and the public debt in 1914 was at the large total of over $6,200,000,000. This is much the largest debt of any nation in the world, the debt of Russia, which comes next in amount, being about $l,l700,000,000 less. It is largely due to the cost of the war of 1870 and the subsequent large payment to Germany. Yet the French people carry it without feeling seriously overburdened.

Coming now to the French military system, it rivals that of Germany in efficiency. The law requires the compulsory military service of every French citizen who is not unfit for such service. They have to serve in the regular army for three years, in the regular reserves for six years, in the territorial army for six years, and finally in the reserves of this army for ten years. This gives France a peace strength of 720,000 and a total war strength of 4,000,000. The navy is manned partly by conscription, partly by voluntary enlistment, the naval forces comprising about 60,000 officers and men.

The naval strength of the republic embraces 17 modern battleships, 25 of older type, 18 first-class, 13 second and third-class cruisers, 173 torpedo boats, 87 destroyers, and 90 submarines. There is another element of modern military strength of growing importance and sure to be of large use in the war under review. This is that of the airship. In 1914 France stood at the head in this particular, its aeroplanes, built or under construction, numbering 550. Germany had 375, Russia 315, Italy 270, Austria 220, Britain 180 and Belgium 150. In dirigible balloons Germany stood first, with 50. France had 30, Russia 15, Austria 10 and Britain 7. These air-soaring implements of war came into play early in the conflict and Tennyson's vision of "battles in the blue" was realized in attacks of aeroplanes upon dirigibles, with death to the crews of each.


Great Britain, the remaining party to the five-fold war of great European Powers, is an island country of considerably smaller area than those so far named. Including Ireland it has an area of 121,391 square miles, about equal to that of the American State of New Mexico and not half the size of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Its population, however, surpasses that of France, amounting to 45,221,615. If the outlying dominions of Great Britain be added it becomes the greatest empire in the world's history, its colonial dominions being estimated at over 13,000,000 square miles, and the total population of kingdom and colonies at 435,000,000, the greatest population of any country in the world. And Britain differs from France in the fact that much of this outlying population is available for war purposes in case of peril to the liberties of the mother country. At the outbreak of the war of 1914 the loyal Dominion of Canada sprang at once into the field, mobilized its forces, and offered the mother land material aid in men and gifts of varied nature.

The same sense of loyalty was shown in Australia and South Africa and in others of the British oversea dominions, while India added an important contingent to the army and much other aid.

As for the immediate kingdom, it is not of high value in agricultural wealth, being at present divided up to a considerable extent into large unproductive estates, and it is quite unable to feed its teeming population, depending for this on its large commerce in food products. Its annual imports amount to about $3,000,000,000, its exports to $2,250,000,000.

Commercially and industrially alike Great Britain stands at the head of all European nations. Its abundant mineral wealth, especially in coal and iron, has stimulated manufactures to the highest degree, while its insular character and numerous seaports have had a similar stimulating effect upon commerce. Its revenue, aside from that of the colonies, amounts to about $920,000,000 annually, and its public debt reaches a total of $3,485,000,000.

The British government depends largely for safety from invasion upon its insular position and its enormously developed navy, and has not felt it necessary to enter upon the frenzy of military preparation which pervades the continental nations. No British citizen is obliged to bear arms except for the defense of his country, but all able-bodied men are liable to militia service, the militia being raised, when required, by ballot. Enlistment among the regulars is either for twelve years' army service, or for seven years' army service and five years' reserve service. The peace strength of the army is estimated at about 255,000 men, the reserves at 475,000; making a total of 730,000.

It is in its navy that Great Britain's chief warlike strength exists, the naval force being much greater than that of any other nation. It possesses in all 29 modern battleships, many of them of the great dreadnaught and super-dreadnaught type. In addition it has 10 cruiser battleships, and 38 older battleships, most of the latter likely to be of little service for warlike duty. There are also 45 first-class, and 70 second and third-class cruisers, 58 torpedo boats, 212 destroyers and 85 submarines, the whole forming a total navel strength approaching that of any two of the other Powers.


As regards the remaining nations engaged in the war, Servia, in which the contest began, has an area of 18,782 square miles, a population of 4,000,000, and a standing army of 240,000, a number seemingly very inadequate to face the enormously greater power of Austria-Hungary. But the men had become practically all soldiers, very many of them tried veterans of the recent Balkan War; their country is mountainous and admirably fitted for defensive warfare, and their power of resistance to invasion was quickly shown to be great.

Belgium, the other early seat of the war, is still smaller in area, having but 11,366 square miles. But it is very densely populated, possessing 7,432,784 inhabitants. Its army proved brave and capable, its fortifications modern and well adapted to defense, and small as was its field force it held back the far more numerous German invaders until France and Great Britain had their troops in position for available defense. This small intermediate kingdom therefore played a very important part in the outset of the war.

If one judges by the figures given of the available military strength of the nations involved, the huge host said to have followed Xerxes to the invasion of Greece could easily be far surpassed in modern warfare. The fact is, however, that these huge figures greatly exceed the numbers that could, except in the most extreme exigency, be available for use in the field, and for real active service we should be obliged to greatly reduce these paper estimates. It must be taken into account that the fields and factories of the nations cannot be too greatly denuded of their trained workers. It was a shrewd saying of Napoleon Bonaparte that "An army marches on its stomach," and the important duty of keeping the stomach adequately filled can not be overlooked.

In actual war also there is an enormous exhaustion of military material, which must be constantly replaced, and this in turn demands the services of great numbers of trained artisans. The question of finance also cannot be overlooked. It needs vast sums of money to keep a modern army in the field, this increasing rapidly as the forces grow in numbers, and no national treasure chest is inexhaustible. Tax as they may, the war lords cannot squeeze out of their people more blood than flows in their veins, and exhaustion of the war-chest may prove even more disastrous than exhaustion of the regiments. For these reasons a limit to the size of armies is inevitable and in any great war this limitation must quickly make itself apparent.

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