3480 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
losses, they had beaten back their enemy in
two of the greatest battles in world history.
Though they had lost much, they had
saved more. Threatened repeatedly with
annihilation, they might well be grateful
that they had come through the ordeal
so well. They faced the future with confidence. In the acid test of battle, the
French army had once more shown itself worthy of the best traditions of a
glorious past. The little Belgian army
had suffered terribly, but it still remained
in being, and could be recruited from the
hundreds of thousands of fugitives who
had fled from their native land before
the conqueror. Of the gallant little army
of Britons who had seen more desperate
service in four months than had perhaps
ever before fallen in the same time to the
lot of an army there remained hardly
more than some fragments, but reinforcements were pouring in, and though, in
future, the quality could never again
be so good, the numbers would in time
become immensely greater.
Events on the Eastern Fronts had already shown that the war was to be a long
one, an affair not of months but of years.
And the Allies felt that, having survived
the first great onslaught, they had reason
to feel content, for they believed that
Time was on their side.
CHAPTER CLXXV-FIRST BATTLES ALONG THE EASTERN FRONTS.
IN order to understand
the course of events
along the Eastern
Fronts, it is necessary
first to study the map.
Russian Poland, it will
be observed, projects
East Prussia and Austrian Galicia as into
the jaws of a trap, and forms what is
known to military men as a ''salient angle,"
which is always considered a difficult
position to defend. This weakness of
the Russian position might be eliminated
in one of two ways: by conquering those
portions of Germany and Austria that
lay to the north and south of Poland, or
by withdrawing from Poland and taking
up a straight line of defense to the eastward.
This last step was what the Russians were
ultimately forced to do, but, of course,
they did not seriously consider it at first,
but devoted their efforts to capturing
the projecting "jaws" of hostile territory
that threatened them.
In preventing the consummation of
this Russian purpose the Germans and
Austrians were aided by two important
circumstances. The defense of East Prussia was simplified by the fact that it possessed some natural advantages in the
way of defense and by the fact that the
German fleet controlled the Baltic Sea.
On the other hand, Austrian Galicia was
in large measure a flat country which
would be comparatively easily overrun;
but behind it rose the tall and rugged
ramparts of the Carpathians, through
whose passes the Austrians, if defeated,
could retire, and from which they could
sally out and harass the invaders. In
the matter of strategic railroads and
ordinary highways, the Central Powers
enjoyed an immense advantage, and were
able to mass troops at a given point, by
train or automobile, much more rapidly
than could the Russians.
This advantage would have been all
the greater had it not been for two or
three other considerations. The Russian
infantryman was physically superior to
any other soldier in the world, and could out march any other soldier. Furthermore,
in the Cossacks the Russians had in great
numbers a body of mobile horsemen superior to any other large body of cavalry
in any army; men whose trade was war
and who were the descendants of men
whose trade was war. For transportation
of supplies the Russians depended in large.
measure upon immense numbers of two
and four-wheeled wagons, drawn by hardy