Reason Two: Desertion

Second, the ordre profond was proposed as a solution to desertion problems. It was largely agreed that the ordre mince provided too much space for indecision and panic, especially in troops that did not have the robotic constitution of the Prussian or British line soldiers. A battlefront which could extend upwards of six miles simply did not allow for enough supervision to effectively counter desertion.[1] Additionally, the long and drawn out waits during the battle for deployment, positioning, and repositioning allowed soldiers hours to reconsider their decision to forfeit their lives; far too many found the time to decide against such a course of action. The ordre profond, on the other hand, would not be plagued by these problems. By grouping troops in a confined mass, soldiers would be held together and propelled by the momentum of the soldiers beside, behind, and in front of them.[2] Folard argued that only those in the front of the column would be susceptible to panic, yet these soldiers would be forced forward by those behind them. The soldier in the back ranks, on the other hand, would be unable to see the enemy and be encouraged by the forward motion of those ahead.[3] Propelled by the swift action and momentum of the column, soldiers would not have the time to reconsider, a vital step in countering panic.[4] Caught in the swift momentum of battle, soldiers would charge towards the enemy before they had the time to think twice. Meanwhile, swift and decisive victories would prevent battlefield panic and horrors, giving the soldiers far less reason to desert.

[1] Griffith, French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics, 7.
[2] Ibidem.
[3] Folard, in Quimby, 30.
[4] Accordingly, Frederick the Great claimed that "If my soldiers began to think, not one would remain in the ranks." Frederick, quoted in John Levi Martin, “The Objective and Subjective Rationalization of War,” Theory and Society 34, no.3 (Sept. 2005): 234.

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