[PW] " An Army Marches on Its Stomach "

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sat Dec 31 11:42:11 PST 2016


Thanks for your response, T. F. Mills. No further details about "Mrs.
Parton" were included in the August 26, 1861 article. However, a good
candidate has been identified by researcher Stephen Goranson who
responded to my post on a separate mailing list. Apparently, the
newspaper writer found the three quotations by Frederic of Prussia,
Marshal McMahon and Napoleon in a book authored by James Parton. The
gender switch was probably an error. Here is the pertinent 1860
citation:

[ref] 1860 (1859 Copyright), Life of Andrew Jackson by James Parton,
Volume 1 of 3, Chapter XLII: Hunger and Mutiny, Quote Page 457 and
458, Mason Brothers, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link [/ref]

https://hdl.handle.net/2027/yale.39002060929859?urlappend=%3Bseq=475

[Begin excerpt]
"An army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly," Frederic of Prussia
used to say. "Few men know," Marshal McMahon is reported to have
remarked, after one of the late Italian battles, "how important it is
in war for soldiers not to be kept waiting for their rations; and what
vast events depend upon an army's not going into action before it has
had its coffee." I have read somewhere that Napoleon, on being asked
what a soldier most needed in war, answered, "A full belly and a good
pair of shoes."
[End excerpt]

For completeness, below is the full text of the 1861 newspaper piece.
Afghanistan was oddly spelled as "Affghanistan"; "Kabul" was "Cabul".

[ref] 1861 August 26, Janesville Daily Gazette, A Few Words On
Rations, Quote Page 1, Column 4, Janesville, Wisconsin.
(Newspapers_com)[/ref]

https://www.newspapers.com/image/13248122/?terms=belly

[Begin excerpt]
A FEW WORDS ON RATIONS.—The British rout in Affghanistan, when they
abandoned Cabul so disastrously, was due to one day's failure in
provisioning the men. Marshal McMahon says that vast events depend
upon an army's not going into action "till it has had its coffee." We
quote these words from Mrs. Parton, who adds that Napoleon says that
what soldier needs most is two things, "a full belly and a pair of
shoes"—and tells us that Frederic used to say, "An army, like a
serpent, goes upon its belly."
[End excerpt]

Garson

On Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:35 PM, T.F. Mills <phasco at earthlink.net> wrote:
> On 30 Dec 2016 at 12:58, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
>
>> The saying was ascribed to Napoleon by October 1862. This version used
>> the word "marched":
>>
>> [ref] 1862 October 18, The Springfield Daily Republican, Gastronomy,
>> Quote Page 6, Column 1, Springfield, Massachusetts.
>> (GenealogyBank)[/ref]
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> Napoleon said an army marched on its belly. Dismiss all incompetent
>> and hang all rascally commissaries, and decrease the number of deaths
>> in the army twenty-five per cent.
>> [End excerpt]
>
> It is interesting that the Napoleon attribution seems to emerge during the American Civil War,
> and in several American newspapers.  (Newspapers at the time copied each other
> extensively.)   Note that in the above quote, it is not Napoleon advocating hanging
> incompetent commissaries, but the newspaper in 1862.  At such a time, it is convenient to
> invoke an expert like Napoleon, even if a total invention.  Both sides in the ACW had virtually
> no experience with supply and transport, especially on the massive scale suddenly required.
> Ditto for mass transport and deployment of troops.   It took half the war for competent
> generals to emerge.  Likewise, the Crimean war was a similar comedy of errors after 40
> years of European peace.  (On at least one occasion, Russian and British supply trains
> bumped into each other and proceeded to ignore each other out of embarrassment.)
> Without wartime practice, military logistics is surprisingly difficult.
>
>> Passages like the one below sometimes lead to misattributions when a
>> reader inattentively attaches the wrong name to a nearby quotation:
>
> Indeed!  And see more below.
>
>> [ref] 1861 August 26, Janesville Daily Gazette, A Few Words On
>> Rations, Quote Page 1, Column 4, Janesville, Wisconsin.
>> (Newspapers_com)[/ref]
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> Marshal McMahon says that vast events depend upon an army's not going
>> into action "till it has had its coffee." We quote these words from
>> Mrs. Parton, who adds that Napoleon says that what soldier needs most
>> is two things, "a full belly and a pair of shoes"-and tells us that
>> Frederic used to say, "An army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly."
>> [End excerpt]
>
> Patrice de MacMahon, future Pres of France, had just been promoted Marshal in 1859 during
> the Italian war, but who is Mrs. Parton, and what does she know of the Friedrich/Napoleon
> dictum?  These words are strikingly similar to the Duke of Marlborough a century earlier than
> Boney:
>
> "An army cannot preserve good order unless its soldiers have meat in their bellies, coats on
> their backs and shoes on their feet."
>
> Trevor Royle (Military Quotations) sources this as a letter to Col. William Cadogan in 1703.
> (Cadogan was Marlborough's trusted QMG at the time, and as such hardly needed lecturing
> on the subject, but inexperience and civilian contractors created difficulties.)
>
> All the same, "Mrs. Parton" seems like a very interesting source, perhaps the "original" of the
> attributions to Friedrich and Napoleon.  (Garson, does the full text of "A Few Words on
> Rations" say more about Mrs. Parton?)
>
>
> T.F. Mills
> (Colorado, USA)
>
>


More information about the Project-Wombat-Open mailing list