The wounded is to the dead as four to one
Prompted by a previous thread about dead combatants in the early modern period…
Back in high school I was first introduced to the rather devious idea that a combatant might desire to wound an enemy rather than kill him outright. The idea was that, even if the wounded soldier wasn’t used as a decoy to draw additional forces into a killing zone (a staple in war movies), more resources would be expended caring for that casualty than if they were simply killed in action. I think I probably heard about it in the context of the Vietnam war (punji sticks or some such, maybe small mines that incapacitated rather than killed outright). Seemed logical but cold-hearted.
(Correspondence, vol. 1, pp. 471-472, Richard Hill to Charles Hedges, Turin, 17 December 1704)
I’m not going to declare this the first recognition of the attritional benefits of casualties (versus KIAs), but it strikes me as pretty early. And this undoubtedly wasn’t an intentional Allied tactic, but early modern medicine being what it was, I can’t imagine the survival rate in those hospitals was very high. (Yet another prompt to look into that military medicine literature.)
As a side note, the personality of Richard Hill shines through the quote as well, particularly his glee at French suffering. His historical recognition of Italy as the burial ground for generations of French soldiers is also a nice touch. Unless you happen to be French.