Eleven of the most important battles in American and European History are brought to life in this volume, which spends enough time giving interesting background and detailed information, to give each battle vital and lively interest. Particularly moving are three eye-witness accounts of the horrors of the Great War, at Verdun, Ypres, and Argonne. Other battles recounted include Saratoga, Yorktown, and Gettysburg in America, and Sedan, Austerlitz, and Waterloo in Europe.
ARGONNE FOREST—SHOWING THE CONCRETE DUGOUTS OF GERMAN HEADQUARTERS.
Theodore Roosevelt once very fittingly said: "As a civilized people we desire peace, but the only peace worth having is obtained by readiness to fight when wronged."
It was squarely upon this principle that our own country gained its democratic birth and freedom in 1776. And it was no less squarely upon this principle that she recently went a step farther by crossing the big sea to lend a helping hand to sister nations struggling in the avaricious clutches of an autocratic neighbor.
Far be it from my purpose in writing this book to glorify or exalt the horrors of battle. On the contrary my effort has been to put in the foreground only those elements of the field of conflict which to every growing, vibrant, red-blooded lad are so momentous and essential to his well-being—the lessons of heroism, self-sacrifice and patriotism with which the Grim Juggernaut seems, somewhat paradoxically, beautifully and lavishly invested.
Indeed, war is a theme full of interest and terror. Its history is a record of the fate of opinions, principles, social feelings, and political tendencies. Many of the great ideas and impulses that agitate communities report ultimately to the battlefield. The issues of combat have determined the progress of religions, the influence of governments, and the direction of morals. Thus out of much evil may come ultimate good—out of much suffering, a final benefit.
The eleven battles described in this volume are all as historically correct as extensive research among the works of the foremost authorities can make them. In some instances, particularly in the case of the battles of the late war, I have included authenticated items and episodes told me by participants themselves. Only in one instance does any fiction knowingly appear. This is merely in the characters of the three boys appearing in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The things they saw and endured are all facts substantiated by the records of our race, the lads simply being a medium of expression.
These eleven battles are the most famous and important of their time, gauged in all cases not by the sizes of the opposing forces but by that truer standard: their significance and value to the peoples of the country or countries they affected. The fortunes of nations have balanced upon their outcome; the social and industrial fabric of a world has changed color at their conclusion.
In reading over this manuscript at its completion, I was mildly astounded at the contrasts in weapons and methods of warfare as exhibited in my century-and-half of battles. Picture there at Saratoga the clumsy, old-fashioned, unreliable flintlock musket, the unwieldy bayonet, the crude round-shot cannon, the open fighting, the pitiful lack of spiritual consolation and attention of good surgeons and nurses. Compare this, if you will, to the environs at Chateau-Thierry,—the neat, high-power repeating rifle; the lead-raining, regiment-decimating little machine gun; the great camouflaged field-pieces that send an explosive shell twenty miles or more to the target which its gunners cannot see; the giant man-carrying birds of the sky, equipped with deadly guns and bombs and means for constant communication with the earth, and capable of ripping through the air above or below the clouds at the stupendous rate of two miles a minute; the powerful electrical searchlights that cut swathes of daylight through the most inky night; the suffocating bombardments of diabolical gas-shells; the deep trenches; the adamantine dugout shelters thirty feet underground; and last, but not least, the extensive army of skilled surgeons, nurses, chaplains, cooks, dentists, barbers, social welfare workers—all anxious to serve at the first sign of need!