Return to Military Theory and Strategy page.
The "Particular Instruction of the King of Prussia to the Officers of his Army, and especially those of the Cavalry" were written by Frederick the Great and translated from French into English by Lieut.-Colonel T. Foster at the end of the 18th century and published together with the "Military Instruction from the Late King of Prussia to His Generals" in one book. The dedication to Major General Goldworthy is dated March 1797. I have typed in the 5th edition of 1818.
Last updated 1/27/96
When the whole of an army, or a part of it, is on the march, the guards in front and rear, as well as the flank patroles, are furnished by the light troops. They are intended also, for the most part, to form the advanced guards. When the army is arrived at the ground of encampment, the guard in front divides itself into several parties, so extended as to cover the whole front of the camp, whilst the infantry are employed in pitching tents and posting sentries. The same precautions are to be observed by the rear guard and flank patroles. Whilst the army is thus employed, it is the peculiar business of the light troops that are advanced to send forward patroles to search and scour minutely all the woods, copses, ravines, or defiles that may be in their front, and it may be, occupied by the enemy, who taking advantage of the army's being employed in arranging their camp, might fall upon it, and throw it into confusion. When all this business is finished, and the camp properly settled, the major-general of the day, or some other commanding officer, arrives, places the guards, and appoints to every officer his proper post.
All the advanced posts should be so contrived, that the piquets be placed on elevated situations and concealed by trees: the main body of the guard should be posted seven, eight, or nine hundred paces in the rear of the piquets, either in some small wood or behind houses, to prevent being seen, and their force discovered by the enemy, but the advanced guards should never allow the piquets to be out of their sight.
When the officer has taken possession of his post, and the advanced guards are properly placed, if he be a stranger tot he country, he must procure a man from some neighboring house or village, and question him (whilst he carefully examines his map of the country) concerning the names of the surrounding villages, if there be in the neighborhood any defiles, swamps, ravines, or other necessary objects of his attention: he must also carefully observe all the roads and bye-paths that are in his front, enquiring particularly whither they lead, if passable by cannon, and if the enemy can advance to his post by any indirect approach. He must get himself informed of all these particulars as minutely as possible, that he may be qualified to give satisfactory answers if called upon, be able to take proper measures if occasion present, and give particular instructions to his patroles who are to march in front.
When he is perfectly acquainted with these circumstances, he must repair to his vedettes, who should always be double on each post, and assign to each his particular charge, on what part of the neighborhood he is continually to have his eye, especially on the ravines, causeways, or villages.
These dispositions having taken place, and the posts sufficiently instructed, if there be time, the officer may allow the advanced guard to dismount and feed their horses. But if his post be not perfectly secure, one half of the detachment must remain saddled and bridled till the other half are fed and mounted. No feeding or dismounting is to be allowed at night, as that is supposed to have taken place just before dark; so that during the night the horses may be saddled and bridled, and at least one half mounted, to be prepared for any accident that may happen.
If the main body of the advanced guard should be placed near a village, the commanding officer may send a man or two to the top of the steeple, or of some high house, that he may be able to discover the enemy, and by discharging a pistol, give notice of their approach.
When the general of the camp comes near the advanced guard, they are to mount and advance their carbines; but if the body of the guard be so situate as to be entirely discernible by the enemy, it will not be advisable to mount, as the enemy will thereby be informed of the presence of the general or some superior officer, who may, in consequence, be disturbed in the visiting of his posts. If any detachment passes in front of an advanced guard, the guard also mount and advance their carbines.
The officer must scrupulously examine all persons who come towards his post from without, of whatever degree, whether peasants or travellers; enquiring whence they come, whither they are agoing, what their business in camp or elsewhere, or if they have any knowledge of the enemy or their situation; after which he will either suffer them to pass on, or send them back, agreeably to the orders he has received. He must conduct himself in the same manner towards the people who bring provisions into the camp, and, if he be forbidden to suffer them to pass, send them back in a civil manner, doing every thing in his power to conciliate the affections of the inhabitants, as by this means he may often gain information very material to the army.
The officer must visit his vedettes both by night and day, enquiring of them what their duty is on that post, and what they have observed there, to convince himself that they are properly acquainted with their charge. He should also be provided with a good spy-glass, to enable him to reconnoitre the environs of his post. During the night, his posts are to be visited hourly by a non-commissioned officer, and once by himself, to keep his people waking and alert.
If an advanced guard be placed so near the enemy as to be able to discover all their movements, much attention is required to discern if any number of troops arrive, what they are, if they again quit the camp, and what route they take. Troops are often detached from the enemy's camp, especially from the second or third line, without striking tents, the better to conceal their march.
It is for this reason, that an officer commanding an advanced guard is required to be particularly attentive, to be provided with a very good glass, and when such event takes place, to report it immediately to the general commanding. This precaution is more particularly necessary at day-break, that he may be assured whether the enemy's camp retain it's old position, or if any change has taken place in the night.
By night it is easy to discover if troops enter or leave the camp, by the noise that is made: their arrival will be known by the clashing of fire-arms, the voices of the waggoners and artillery drivers, the cracking of whips, and the neighing of horses. If there be any cavalry amongst them, it will also be manifested by the driving in of piquet-posts, and the lighting of fires. In this case the officer should be constantly in front, perfectly quiet, and observing all that passes. But if the army or a part of it decamp during the night, it will be discovered, in addition to the foregoing circumstances, by the gradual decrease of noise, and lessening brightness of the fires. To this last circumstance, however, it is not always prudent to trust, as the fires are often kept up by the light troops after the army has decamped.
When the army moves by day, the advanced guards should mount at the moment that the drums beat to march, watching the enemy, and moving forward as soon as their posts are fallen back, and have formed (as they generally do) the rear guard. The moment of departure for the advanced guards is at all times to be ordered by the general commanding. On these occasions no particular movement is to be made before the time, but they are to remain in their former position till the moment of departure, for by repeated movements, or too much hurry in mounting, the enemy may conceive that the army is retreating, and send immediately some troops in it's pursuit. It is not even necessary that the private soldier should be informed of what is going forward; for which reason an officer or non-commissioned officer must be sent round in proper time to relieve at once all the detached posts and vedettes.
As soon as the vedettes perceive the approach of an enemy's party, they are to fire; he that has fired is then to hasten instantly to the advanced guard, and report what he has seen; the guard ready and concealed, will remain on it's post, sending forward a non-commissioned officer with a few men to reconnoitre the force of the enemy, and then reporting immediately to the general commanding all that has passed, that he may make his dispositions accordingly, and reinforce the advanced guard if necessary.
It often happens that the generals of the enemy approach the advanced guard under an escort, in order to dislodge the vedettes from their heights, that they may gain possession of them, and reconnoitre our camp. As soon as the officer commanding shall be informed of this by his vedettes, he must betake himself to the spot, and if he see several people approaching the height under an escort, send the intelligence instantly to the general officer under whose orders he acts, exerting himself to the utmost of his power in defense of the height, that the enemy may not become possessed of it and discover the situation of our camp.
When a trumpeter from the enemy's camp, either alone or accompanied by an officer, comes toward a vedette and sounds a parley, one of the vedettes must advance towards him and conduct him to his post, placing him with his face towards the country from whence he came, to prevent his discovering any thing in our camp to our disadvantage: a vedette is then to repair to the officer commanding the advanced guard, and to report him, who will immediately go himself or send a non-commissioned officer to blind his eyes and conduct him to his post. He is then to enquire of him the object of his visit, report it to the general, and obtain his leave to conduct him to the camp. The same ceremonies are to be observed with respect to deserters from the enemy, who are to have their arms taken from them at the advanced guard, and be conducted to the general commanding under a proper escort. This circumstance happening at night furnishes an additional reason for attending particularly to these cautions.
When an advanced guard is placed with a deep ditch, river, or brook in it's front, the officer commanding the post is to survey the whole length of his district, to discover if there be any bridges or fords which render the passage easy; if so, he will place his vedettes in such a manner as to prevent the enemy from taking advantage of such circumstances to fall upon him. In this case, the vedettes are not to be drawn in at night, as they generally are, but to remain constantly on their posts. The bridge should be stripped, and the planks laid by, in readiness to be replaced if any detachments or patroles should have occasion to pass. During the night, small patroles should be pushed the whole extent of the ditches or rivulets, marching with great caution and circumspection, and if the bank be much covered with brambles, stopping frequently and listening to find if there be any rustling amongst them, as a company of infantry might easily lie there concealed and annoy the patroles.
It is to be observed as a general rule, that the vedettes are on no account whatever to be placed out of sight of each other.
Towards the close of the evening, the officer commanding the advanced guard must report by a non-commissioned officer all that he has observed at his post, and also all that he has learnt from the peasants or his patroles: to be correct in this, he would do right to commit to paper the occurrences of the day, and, if necessary, make his report in writing. At the same time he will learn the parole and countersign. The countersign is to be given to each vedette the moment he is posted, which will take place every hour, or every two hours, according to the season and the weather. Neither the parole, or any order of material import, is to be imparted by the officer to any person whatever.
When the darkness of the night prevents a distant view, and especially in the vicinity of the enemy's posts, the officer must fall back with his detachment two or three hundred paces; the vedettes also must do the same, still preserving a convenient distance.
When the night is perfectly obscure, the horses are not to be allowed to feed, or even to be unbridled. If occasion require, or if from contiguity of situation, a surprise be to be feared, the detachment should remain mounted the whole night. If there be no danger, a part may dismount, and if the season require, and circumstances allow, a little fire may be kindled, provided it be in a hollow place, and not easily to be discovered. On the least alarm, the fire is to be extinguished, to effect which, earth or sand may be used for want of water; otherwise it would serve as a guide to the enemy, and prove an annoyance to the post.
The officer commanding an advanced guard should be particularly attentive tot he keeping his people waking and alert, not allowing them on any account whatever to sleep, or fasten their horses, but hold them by the end of the halter, with the reigns the bit and bridle on the saddle, that at the first signal, they may be in readiness to mount.
Small patroles, according to the strength of the guard, are to be sent in front of the vedettes every hour, or oftener, if necessary, who will advance two hundred paces beyond the vedettes and traverse their whole front, halting frequently to discover if there be any noise or footstep near; if it be the case, one of the patrole is to return immediately with the report to the advanced guard, whilst the remainder place themselves as near the noise as possible, to discover the cause: if it prove to proceed from a party of the enemy, the patrole will fire and fall back quickly, under cover of the night, on the grand guard.
Whenever the vedettes hear any noise by night one of them should advance four or five hundred paces, challenge and demand the countersign, and if he receives no answer, he should fire and fall back quickly.
When troops detached from camp approach the vedettes, they are not to be allowed to come within the line, even though they be provided with the countersign: the commanding officer of the advanced guard must order the officer of the detachment to come forward in charge of a non-commissioned officer and two men, and question him minutely, (unless he happen to know him personally,) making him remain with the him whilst his detachment files off towards the camp; as soon as the detachment has passed the post, the officer may be permitted to follow. But if it happen that the detachment has been many days absent from camp, and consequently ignorant of the countersign, it behoves the officer commanding the advanced guard to redouble his care and diligence in making the most scrupulous examination, and if he find no reason to the contrary, he may suffer the detachment to file off one by one, in front of his guard.
If an advanced guard should not be able, for want of sufficient strength, to extend properly it's vedettes, particularly if the country be hilly or intersected with many little vallies or defiles, or the night should be dark and gloomy, the vedettes must visit each other alternately from left to right, taking care that one be always fixed on his post, that nothing may pass unobserved in the hollow ways: on these occasions, the patroles should also be on the march, and the advanced guard constantly in motion.
It frequently happens, that a general wishing to reconnoitre the enemy, takes the officer of the advanced guard with him in front of his post, as a protection: in this case, the officer, leaving his vedettes on their posts, must form with the remainder of his party a guard in front of the general, and patroles on his flanks, to cover him and his suite: if the general proceed the whole length of the line, the officer must keep himself four or five hundred paces towards the enemy on the general's flank, in such a manner that he may be always covered: besides this, he may detach a part of his troop towards the enemy, who marching by the general, one by one at a certain distances, with their eyes constantly looking towards the enemy, will prevent any thing from approaching to the annoyance of the general whilst making his discoveries. When the general is returned to camp, and safe within the line, the officer may return to his post.
When an officer commanding an advanced guard has reason to expect an attack by night, he must give such instructions to his vedettes and non-commissioned officers that are detached, that if the accident should arrive, they may not fall back immediately on his post, but a little to one side of it. The advantage arising from this caution will be, that the enemy, though superior in numbers, will not have it in their power to fall on the main body with the whole front of their party, or even attack them on the flank or in the rear, and put them to route by favor of the night. In these circumstances, the advanced guard, are to keep up a constant firing, and to retire very slowly, skirmishing as they go, to allow time for the troops who are ordered to their support to arrive, and that the army may have proper notice of the enemy's approach.
If any man of the advanced guard should desert during the night, the officer must immediately change the countersign, and send it to the piquets and vedettes, lest the enemy, profiting by such intelligence, might present themselves as friends, and surprise the detachment. the same rule should also be observed on any desertion whatever. It is likewise very material, that he change the position of his troop, lest the deserter may conduct the enemy immediately upon him.
It often happens during the night, that the army decamps very quietly, either on an expedition or from some other motive, leaving their advanced guards on their post till daybreak, to conceal their intentions from the enemy: in this case the greatest circumspection is required, that no patrole of the enemy approach and discover it's being marched. To effect this, the whole of the guard should be mounted, and small patroles be constantly moving four or five hundred paces in front of the vedettes, to hinder their approach. But if at day-break, the enemy should discover what has happened, the officer must draw in his posts insensibly, and betake himself to the station assigned him, leaving a non-commissioned officer as a rear guard to cover him in the same manner that he covers the army.
His eyes should nevertheless be often turned behind him, to discover if the enemy follow, in what force, and what troops they are, which circumstances he is to report to the officer commanding the rear guard. It happens too often, that on quitting their ground, the soldiers, servants, women, or other followers of the camp, set fire to the huts, discovering by such practice the march of the army. The greatest attention and most positive orders must be enjoined to prevent such accidents.
If an advanced guard be placed in a very hilly country, it is not enough that it is covered in front of the enemy, but the officer must also visit during the day all the neighborhood, to select proper situations in the low places and copses for night-posts, where he may be safe from being surprised or surrounded: the patroles also should visit during the night every situation where there is any kind of danger.
When an officer, placed in a country with which he is unacquainted, receives orders during the night to change the position of his guard, he is not to do it instantly without care or caution, but first have recourse to his map by a light procured from an adjacent house, or some other means, and examine particularly the neighborhood to which he is about to remove. The situation of his main guard, his vedettes, and the route his patroles are to take, should be particularly clear and manifest to him. He should endeavor to lay hold of some countryman, learn from him all necessary circumstances, be conducted by him to the ground which he has observed on his map, and then post his vedettes according to the plan that he has formed.
Finding himself in a strange country, and particularly if there be an enemy in the neighborhood, he must keep his party mounted all night, constantly sending out patroles.
At day-break, when he is able to look about him, the little errors and mistakes which took place owing to the darkness of the night, may be rectified. The safety and security of an entire army often depends on the vigilance and intelligence of an officer commanding an out-post or detachment. He ought consequently to pay the most particular attention to the exact execution of his duty, as the least negligence on his part may be productive of the most disastrous consequences, both to himself and the whole army. Supposing, indeed, that he should be attacked by a force greatly superior to his own, it is his duty to maintain his post as long as possible, and if forced at length to retire, it should be done coolly, skirmishing and keeping up a constant fire, that the body of the army which he covers may have time to take up a good position, and be well prepared to receive the enemy.
It is a general custom for the new guard to advance at day-break within five or six hundred paces of the old guard, to support it in case of an attack, which often happens at that period. If all be quiet, the new guard advances, and salutes at the distance of five hundred paces, taking ground to the left. The officer commanding the old guard gives the word to mount, and to salute, as soon as he sees the new guard arrive. The two officers then meet each other, and the relieving officer learns from the retiring one all the necessary particulars. The officer of the new guard chuses and appoints the men that are necessary as vedettes, and followed by a non-commissioned officer, learns from the officer of the old guard the situation of the posts.
A non-commissioned officer should attend him, that he may be informed how to place and to relieve the posts. This business being settled, every particular communicated, and all the patroles of the old guard called in, it files off, and at the distance of one hundred paces, recovers arms; the new guard immediately comes also to the recover. The one officer conducts his party in good order to the regiment, and presents himself to the general commanding, whilst the other takes possession of the spot occupied by the old guard, and orders his people to dismount.
Patroles are of two kinds, those that are made by night, and those by day. The difference between the two consists only in the manner of making them. I shall now proceed to give a concise idea of what ought to be the conduct of a commissioned or non-commissioned officer, who is ordered to take charge of a patrole by day.
When a commissioned or non-commissioned officer shall be ordered with five or six men to endeavor to make observations on the enemy's army, or to reconnoitre a part of the country near the enemy, he must detach one of his most trusty men four or five hundred paces in front; if it be in a flat country, he may send another man to the same distance on that side where he supposes the enemy to be placed, and if danger be to be apprehended on both sides, a third man may be detached to the other side at the same distance. These men must march in a parallel line with the main body; but if the day should prove foggy, the advanced guard and flank patroles would do well rather to approach the main body, than keep at a distance from it, to prevent their being cut off, or inclining too much to one side.
In dark cloudy weather, firing is of very little service; in these circumstances, therefore, a more than common share of caution is necessary.
Nevertheless, it sometimes happens, that patroles can be pushed with the greatest advantage under cover of a fog.
If there should be discovered on the sides of the heights any copses or villages at more than four or five hundred paces distance, the patroles are not to go absolutely into them, but to approach them very nearly, and if nothing be to be discovered by this means, they will pass quietly along the skirts of the woods or villages, to learn if they are occupied by any party of the enemy.
If a detachment, whether large or small, be obliged to enter a forest, the men marching on the flanks must keep so near as not to lose sight of the main body of the party. The man who is in front of all, must always maintain the same distance, searching all the bushes and thickets that he meets with, and paying the greatest possible attention to whatever he sees or hears. If a hill or any height should be before him, he must creep up very quietly, and look very narrowly all around him; and if no party of the enemy or any other object of impediment be to be discovered, continue his route.
If a commissioned or non-commissioned officer be detached with eight, ten, or twelve men, he must always send two men four or five hundred paces in front; and on whatever side he expects the enemy, he will for safety have a man on each flank, who must attend to the foregoing instructions.
If we pass by a forest, two men should be stationed at such a distance in the rear, as never to lose sight of the main body of the party, to prevent thereby a surprise from the enemy in that quarter, if any be concealed in the wood.
The two men who are sent forward, may march side by side in a flat country, but if a village or small wood should be in their front, one must proceed some hundred paces before the other to survey such object; the second man should follow at a regular distance, traversing the whole extent of these objects, observing the same cautions with the man before him, that he may discover the enemy, though they may have been passed unperceived by the other.
If these two men should arrive at a mountain or height, they are not both to ascend it, but one is to advance at a gallop, observing all the afore-mentioned rules for the discovery of the enemy: if he see nothing, he is to remain on the summit till the other man, at a walk, has joined him, when they may pursue their route as before. If the men in front or on the flanks perceive the enemy without being discovered themselves, they are to fall back immediately on the body of the party without firing, that they may take some other route without being observed. But if these men meet the enemy, and are perceived by them, they are immediately to give notice of it, by discharge of musket or pistol; and, if they be not too suddenly surprised, and their retreat to the party cut off, hasten to report to the commissioned or non-commissioned officer what they have seen: and as detachments of this kind are not always intended for fighting or engagement with the enemy, the officer commanding must fall back with his party as soon as he is assured by discharge of pistol of the presence of the enemy, without waiting to be informed by any of his people who are upon the flanks.
If the man who has met the enemy advances upon him, and is superior in number, he is not to wait their arrival to risk an engagement, but disperse his people one by one, before the enemy be too near.
These scattered men must endeavor to gain the woods or villages, for it is hardly to be supposed that the enemy will follow them thither, from a fear that a corps de reserve lies there concealed. This is often the case, and naturally proves fatal to the enemy that are too eager in their pursuit. Indeed, though a few men should be taken in a retreat of this kind, some will remain to report to the general or the officer who sent out the detachment; whereas, if they retreated in a body, it is more than probably that every one would be taken.
When a commissioned or non-commissioned officer is ordered to march with two, three, or four men into a country occupied by a party of the enemy, he must avoid the high roads, and even the bye-paths that are much trodden, and steal along, if the country will allow it, by the side of bushes and in hollow places, where he and his people may be covered. In this case, he must not regard how much he winds about, so that he ultimately attains the object of his mission. If in his march he meet with any heights, he must halt his people, and ascend them alone very gently, looking on every side for the enemy: if all be safe, he should silently pursue his route, attending to the foregoing instructions. If this expedition be undertaken by night, it is to be conducted in the manner which will hereafter be explained.
Every person who is met by the advanced guard, or the flank patroles, should be conducted to the officer commanding the detachment, to be by him examined; and if they were going towards the enemy, they should be kept under charge of two or three men in the rear, as long as the officer may think necessary to prevent their giving to the enemy any intelligence of his operations.
An officer sent on a reconnoitring party (where it is his duty to get as near the enemy as he conveniently can) should decline, on his march through suspected places, any kind of engagement with the enemy, unless it be absolutely unavoidable. On the discovery of an enemy's patrole, he should do all in his power to avoid them, even though he be superior in force, and much less should he busy himself in plundering or taking prisoners, as by those means he would certainly be discovered, the enemy fall upon him, and his project miscarry.
If it be an object to gain a height which is in possession of the enemy, it should be approached as quietly and as closely as possible, and then attacked with the greatest precipitation to dislodge the enemy; and, after all the necessary observations have been made, the party should retire through bye-paths and covered ways. In an expedition of this kind, it would be prudent to leave in the rear at a certain distance from the enemy, along the side of a village or hedge through which the party must again pass, a few men with some of the worst horses, and if possible, those that are white, that they may be seen at a distance, and give the idea to the enemy who are pursuing the patrole, of a corps de reserve being posted there. This will abate their ardor of pursuit, and give the patrole time to save itself. A trumpeter also may be placed behind a hill, who should shew himself and sound a march when he sees the patrole closely pressed, to make the enemy believe that a corps de reserve is concealed also on that side. The men who are left behind, on seeing their comrades pursued, should shew themselves now on one side of the bushes, and now on the other, with the appearance of reconnoitring. They may also now and then discharge a pistol, as if to give notice to troops behind them, of the enemy's approach. When the patroles come near them, they are to be the first to retreat with the bad horses. If this scheme should not succeed, but that the enemy still continues the pursuit, the officer should order his people to disperse, making them well acquainted with the place of rendezvous.
In patroles of this nature, the retreat ought never to be conducted with too much hurry, but now and then a halt to be made, and a force shewn to the enemy at every defile or bridge, to endeavor to keep them in check, suffer the bad horses to gain ground, and the good ones to get wind. The pursuing enemy should always be kept upon a run to put their horses out of wind, but if they also are found to come near the defile or bridge, the party should retire very alertly, so as not to give them an opportunity of slackening their pace. If, in these circumstances, there be any bridges or villages to pass, the former, if the enemy be not too near, should be stripped or destroyed, and the entrance to the latter barricadoed with poles, pieces of timber, carriages, or whatever is near at hand; the good horses will always be able to follow fast enough, and the enemy will find themselves checked.
In a word, an officer should do his utmost to prevent any of his people being taken unguardedly, or through his negligence, for the losses to which light troops are daily subject, fall sufficiently heavy, and though men are readily replaced, it is no easy matter to procure seasoned soldiers. An officer should also be particularly careful that his people do not tarry in the villages at the doors of the public houses, and that all his orders are executed with the greatest exactness.
When an officer is sent in front on an expedition of this kind, he ought to avoid going through the villages as much as possible, even though they may have been scoured by his advanced guard. If he must of necessity, pass them, it must be done cautiously, halting at a convenient distance till the advanced guard has made it's report. This report alone, however, is not to satisfy him, but he must visit in person every barn and stable, to convince himself that no enemy lies there concealed: for it often happens, that an enemy will suffer a patrole to pass, cut off it's retreat, and fall with advantage on the main body of the party.
Two men should be left as a guard on each defile or bridge, which is to be passed and repassed towards the enemy, who by a frequent discharge of pistol are to inform the officer commanding the detachment, if the enemy, who lay concealed as he went forward, should wish to take possession of the bridges or defiles, and cut off his retreat: in such case, these men are to retire immediately. If an accident of this kind should happen to an officer, he ought to be prepared before hand, from his knowledge of other bridges or fords, learnt from his map or otherwise, to make good his retreat without falling into the hands of the enemy.
The same line of conduct should also be observed with respect to rivers, whose banks are to be traversed when patrolling on the side of the enemy.
Possession should be kept of all the bridges, and every avenue guarded, so that if the enemy should approach with a view to cut off the retreat, the detachment, informed of it by discharge of pistol, may take another route. No harm can arise from weakening the detachment by this means, as on these occasions they are not designed to fight.
Provided that care be taken of the men and horses, and that the soldier is convinced that you feel an interest in his comfort and safety on every occasion, you are sure to gain the confidence and good-will of all who are under your command.
The people who are left behind to guard the bridges and the avenues, have nothing to fear except from their own negligence, as on the approach of the enemy, they have always sufficient time to retire.
Every officer who is ordered on an expedition of this nature, should exert himself to execute his commission with all possible prudence, and reconnoitre minutely whatever he sees. If he be to reconnoitre the enemy's camp, to discover it's situation, to learn how it is protected on each side, whether by a river, wood, mountain, swamp, or village, he ought to know of how many lines it is composed, the extent of it's front, the situation of head-quarters, and the park of artillery; whether the camp be entrenched, what are the names of the villages in front, rear, and on the flanks; if the enemy has any advanced posts, of what troops composed, and where placed; if the neighboring towns and villages furnish the camp with provisions and forage, what articles they deliver, and in what quantity. These are questions which will certainly be put to him by the general commanding, whose dispositions will be influenced by his answers.
Nothing can reflect so much discredit on an officer as making erroneous reports, and then endeavoring to excuse himself by saying, "I must have been mistaking," or "my eye-sight must certainly have deceived me." In cases of this importance, every thing should be examined with the most perfect attention; he must endeavor to attain an accurate distinction of objects, be provided with an excellent spy-glass, never trust to appearances, and above all, not suffer himself to be imposed upon through fear. He has it is his power to communicate his observations to old confidential soldiers, and hear their opinion, by which means he will be convinced of the reality of things, and not in danger of mistaking an hundred horse for a whole regiment, or a flock of sheep for a body of infantry.
When an officer is about to make a patrole to some distance, which will require three, four, or more days' absence, he should take with him the countersign for as may days as he may think necessary: he should also be provided with one day's forage for his horses, and see that his people be supplied with bread and other necessaries, that they may not be obliged to go into the villages and ask for such articles, a practice which should never take place but by night, and then without making themselves known.
If it can be avoided, he should take no guide, but be able to direct his march from the information gained from his map, even though he be an entire stranger to the country: he must avoid also as much as possible all conversation with the inhabitants, especially in an enemy's country, and not suffer his people to form any sort of connection with them, for he certainly will be betrayed if the object of his mission be once discovered. He should select, as much as possible, those of his people who speak the language of the country, that he may the more easily pass as a friend, learn whatever is necessary, and keep himself unknown. If, during his march, he should be obliged to go near the enemy, he must lie hid by day in some thick wood, and use no fire. Both the horses and men should take this opportunity to rest, and a few dismounted men should be posted as guards in the thickest part of the wood towards the enemy. If the flat country can be discovered form the top of a high tree, a man should be sent thither, but the people who are on this duty are not to fire if they see the enemy, but give the alarm by whistling, or striking their hands upon something, so that if the enemy be advancing in a direct line on the detachment, it may be able to withdraw in silence.
All persons who may come near the place where the detachment lies concealed, such as woodsmen, shepherds, or women, should be secured and confined near the detachment till night. The officer is not to ask them any particular question, using only common conversation about the different roads, to keep them ignorant of that which he is about to pursue: in other respects he should treat them very civilly, and suffer them to depart when he wishes to begin his march. As soon as they are at a sufficient distance to prevent their seeing any thing he is to continue his route.
When a commissioned or non-commissioned officer is sent by night with a small party to reconnoitre if the enemy be actually arrived at such a place, and in what force, or indeed on any expedition whatever, he is to form his advanced guard according to the strength of his detachment: this guard should never be far from the main body of the party, but march in such a way as to keep it always in sight, and let it'smovements be a guide for their own. The men who march in front and on the flanks will hear any sort of noise, such as the barking of dogs or trampling of horses, much sooner than those who compose the body of the troop, on account of the noise made by the feet of their own horses. The whole detachment should halt every now and then to listen, and frequently dismount to apply their ears to the ground, as by this means footsteps are heard at a great distance.
If dogs frequently bark, it may naturally be supposed that there are some people not far off: in this case, the officer commanding the detachment must endeavor to steal forward to the spot from whence the sound proceeds, with some of the most intelligent of his people, and try to discover, with great caution and silence, what there is going forward.
If the sound proceed from a village where nothing is to be discovered, he should go on dexterously to the first house where he sees a light, and leave his horse in charge of one of his comrades, whilst he creeps along by the hedges, passes through the gardens, and inner yards, (sometimes even on all fours if necessary) till he arrives at the window where he saw the light, and then examine if any soldiers of the enemy be there, by knocking gently at the window, and calling out the master of the house. From him he must enquire, i a polite manner, what troops there be in the village, of what force, and if there be any others in the neighborhood, and then retire quietly to report to the officer commanding the detachment.
If he perceive a fire in any part, he must approach it quietly, (giving his horse in charge, if obliged to go on foot,) to learn if they are enemy's troops, and observe as particularly as possible their number and description. But if it prove to be nothing more than a party of shepherds or countrymen, he may learn from them all he wishes to know.
In a strange country, the detachment should always be provided with a guide, and unless satisfied of his fidelity, he should be kept constantly in sight, and tied to one of the party. He may also every now and then be threatened to have his brains blown out if he dare to conduct the detachment into the hands of the enemy.
As long as the night patrole remains in an open smooth country, small patroles on the flanks (as has already been mentioned) may constantly be sent out. But when it has to pass through a forest, these small patroles should fall back on the main body, particularly if the wood be thick, or the night very dark. -- If the wood be not very thick, they may, however, be continued, taking care never to lose sight of the detachment, for fear of going astray and losing themselves.
The officer should order two men on whom he can depend, to march in front at a certain distance, and halt his party often to listen for whistlings or any other signals that have been agreed on between them, that the party may not fall into the hands of the enemy.
When, in a dark night, an officer is to form the advanced guard of a larger detachment, he should order some of his people to go before, and some to follow the party, one by one, so as to form a sort of chain from the advanced guard to the main body, and at every crossing he should leave a man to point out the road which the others have taken.
The greatest attention must be paid to keeping the people awake by night, for if a few in the front should fall asleep and stop suddenly, the people in the rear, being ignorant of the real cause, will halt also, and produce very probably the most disagreeable consequences.
It should be an established rule in all patroles, particularly by night, to select those soldiers who can speak fluently the language of the country, especially if it be that of an enemy, that they may easily pass as friends, and gain from the inhabitants all the information that is required.
The greatest silence must also be observed in the march of patroles by night: no dogs or white horses should be allowed, nor the horse be subject to neighing:, neither must the men be suffered to speak, strike fire or smoke, as all these circumstances not only prevent their own hearing, but also serve as information to the enemy on their approach.
If an officer wish particularly to know the hour, he must examine the dial by a piece of lighted armadou under his cloak, and the moment he is informed the armadou must be extinguished.
The cloaks also which the men wear at night, should not be of a bright color, as the white or yellow shoulder belts render them sufficiently distinguishable.
When a patrole has to pass bridges or defiles in the night, it's first object should be to visit carefully the environs on each side, and not to proceed till perfectly convinced that no party of the enemy be in the neighborhood.
If it be the intention to return the same way, one or two men should be left, who are to give intelligence by discharge of pistol if the enemy be near, that the party may take a different route.
If a night expedition of this kind be to take place near, or in front of the enemy's posts, the flanks on the side of the enemy must be opened by small bodies of four or six men belonging to the party, so that if any detachment of the enemy should approach, the march of the main body may not so easily be interrupted: these small bodies may always keep the enemy in check for some little time.
If the detachment should be partly composed of infantry or chasseurs, it becomes their duty, particularly in woods, to cover the march of the cavalry.
When a detachment wants forage by night, a few of the men who understand the language of the country should be sent into a village to enquire for it, and bring it to the detachment on their horses, studiously avoiding every kind of outrage or excess, to keep the inhabitants ignorant of the strength of the whole party, as well as of their station. Civil behavior will often prevent their informing the enemy that you have been there.
When a patrole by night shall perceive, without being observed, the approach of an enemy, it should endeavor to ascertain their force, which may be done with tolerable exactness by attending to the tread of their horses. This intelligence must be immediately conveyed by trusty soldiers to the camp, headquarters, and advanced posts, to put them on their guard. The patrole is then to retire very quietly, and if convinced that the enemy marches with it's camp or head-quarters, the general commanding should be immediately be informed of it: but if the patrole itself be discovered, after a few pistol shots, it should rejoin the grand guard, and endeavor with it to restrain the enemy as long as possible, that the troops of the camp or quarter may be prepared to received them.
It often happens, that the frequent and sudden appearances of the enemy are only intended to alarm and fatigue our posts: it therefore sometimes becomes necessary to inform the camp or head-quarters of such circumstances, without firing or any kind of noise; by this means the enemy are defeated in their intent, and by misconceiving that they take us by surprise, they themselves are routed and beaten. Another material advantage is, that by avoiding firing, noise, and hurry, all orders that are issued are more regularly executed. Men who are soundly asleep in camp or quarters, on being suddenly awoke, and not aware of the cause, often take to their heels, every one upon his own account, instead of repairing to the places appointed for the squadrons in case of alarm.
But it is often the case, that the enemy does not come slowly on, but on full gallop, in order to mix themselves with the patroles and grand guards, and by that means reach the quarter. under those circumstances information cannot be too quickly conveyed; it therefore becomes necessary to fire a good deal, and not fall back immediately on the camp or quarter, but take a different direction. Thus the enemy will be pursuing in the dark, going from the camp instead of approaching it, occasioning, it may be, some fortunate circumstance in our favor. But to accomplish this, it is very essential, that the people who are advanced, should be before-hand well instructed that they may be quite prepared when such circumstances arrive.
When the approach of the enemy is early and silently discovered, the great advantage accrues of mounting the people and posting them where the enemy is expected to pass: to entice them still more effectually, the advanced guards may be allowed to remain, and be ordered to post themselves on that side where you are placed. When these retire, they are to keep up a constant firing, and when near the spot where the main party is placed, pass it rapidly: the enemy will of course wish to enter the village with them, expecting support from those without, and as soon as entered, will disperse themselves for the sake of plunder: it is then that the officer who is advantageously posted can fall on the enemy who are without the village, and though he be inferior in numbers, attack them to advantage, and acquire great reputation. The grand guard, which hitherto had been drawing on the enemy, now returns and falls on those dispersed in the village, who are unable to resist, and seek their safety in flight. If they find that their companions are beaten, they are very easily made prisoners; but if it be evident that the enemy is so very superior in number, that no advantage can arise from the attack, the troop which was ready to engage must silently retire, inclining to one side.
If an officer commanding a patrole by night has with him some infantry or chasseurs, he should order them to compose his flank patroles; but when he comes to a forest, he must only suffer two men to march in front, followed by the infantry, divided into two or more parties, according to his force, which are again to be followed by the cavalry, who should also have a rear guard of two men: the flank patroles are to be furnished by the infantry the whole extent of the detachment, as they can pass more easily along the narrow paths, or between the bushes, than the cavalry. As soon as the enemy are perceived, or any firing be heard in front, the infantry must disperse to right and left, out of the road, marching along on each side at certain distances, to the end that whilst the enemy are falling on the two men in front, the course may be clear for them to fall back on the main body, and put themselves in good order to receive the enemy and put them to the route.
When the firing of the infantry has obliged the enemy to retire, great success will frequently attend the pursuit of the cavalry; but if the cavalry should happen to be repulsed, they must fall back through the infantry, who are to support them in their turn. IF the whole detachment be obliged to give way, the rear guard is to be furnished by the infantry in the woods and the cavalry in the open country.
If the officer commanding find that he is pursued by a large body of cavalry, he must divide his infantry into three parties, and his cavalry into two, making only one front if his detachment, so that the cavalry may be in the center and the infantry on the wings. He may also place here and there a good infantry marksman in the rear of the cavalry: in this manner a good retreat may always be conducted, by making one part support the other. The infantry will keep up a constant fire as they retreat, and being supported by the cavalry, will be less exposed than them. The flanks are to be covered by the infantry, and the enemy's cavalry, though superior in number, will not expose itself so readily to fire as the infantry. But if, on the other hand, each corps be individually put in motion, it often happens that the one abandons the other, and that party which ought singly to have sustained the attack, chooses rather to retire under cover of the night.
If it be impossible to hold out any length of time, some trusty soldiers should be sent to the camp or quarter for a reinforcement, to avoid the risk of losing the whole party.
When an officer is ordered to go on the wing of an enemy's post or army with thirty or forty cavalry, in order to observe it's motions, or cover some part of the country, he should endeavor, by means of maps or more particular information, to gain a perfect knowledge of it. In the first place, he ought to know how to choose his post, which should be as much as possible on a height covered with trees, from whence he can discover all the motions of the enemy, without allowing himself to be perceived. The post being well chosen, he is to repair to it by night in the greatest silence possible, (particularly if the country be hostile,) avoiding all the villages, and every other means of discovering himself; when arrived, the kindling of fire and every kind of noise is strictly to be forbidden. At day-break he should place some dismounted men on the slope of the hill towards the enemy, behind trees or bushes, who may be able to discover all that is in their front. If sufficient information cannot be attained by this means, people must be placed on the tops of high trees to observed every thing with attention, and the officer is to be acquainted, in the most exact circumstantial manner, with all that they can discover.
He is also to observe in person all the enemy's motions, note them in his tablets, and mark the hour, and even the moment, when each particular circumstance happened, so that he may be enabled to render an exact account to the general commanding every evening.
As the chief design of a detachment is to discover others whilst it keeps itself concealed, it is essential that both men and horses should be provided with provisions and forage for three days: at the expiration of this time, it is generally relieved, but the officer who understands his duty will rather wish to remain on his post.
The new detachment is to be conducted by night with all the foregoing cautions by a man belonging to the old detachment, who knows where to find the officer who brings it: by this means he may remain making his observations a long time before he is discovered. But as soon as he finds himself perceived by any means, his attention and vigilance must be redoubled: by day he must strive to maintain his post to the best of his power, but as soon as it becomes dark, he should choose some other place in the neighborhood to pass his nights. From this place (of which no person should be informed beforehand) he will constantly send forward small patroles to secure himself both on the right and left. Before day-break he should quit his nocturnal situation, to prevent discovery, and secure for some nights to come quiet and peaceable possession. By day he must ascend some neighboring height from whence he can discover the enemy: through this means he will always be able to maintain his ground, being the only person informed where he shall pass the following day and night. The night post may be changed, now here and now there, as often as he deems necessary. His choice, however, must always be so made as to enable him to attain the object of his mission. He should have no fixed post, nor should any person have an idea of his designs. The detachment should only be informed of the rallying point at camp, or some other place, in case he should be obliged to disperse them.
No fire should, on any account, be permitted during the night, but in case that any thing is absolutely wanted, it should be sought for in the villages that are in the rear: even this however, is to be avoided if possible.
On the whole, an officer entrusted with so hazardous a commission, must do all in his power to get acquainted with the neighborhood, it's defiles, it's copses, and it's heights, that he may be enabled frequently to change his position. He is, however, always to keep himself concealed, that neither the enemy or the inhabitants may be absolutely certain of his situation. by this means the enemy, if they have any designs upon him, must first find him out, which attempt will discover their intentions.
On these occasions, the horses should never be unsaddled, or at farthest not more than one half at a time, should such indulgence prove absolutely necessary. With regard to the men, the officer's personal example and kind treatment will keep their spirits up by day, and their eyes open by night.
As the chief design of an officer commanding a detachment of this nature is to observe the enemy, and reconnoitre a country with which he is acquainted, he ought by no means to busy himself with prisoners or plunder, but execute with judgment the task which has been assigned him, without being discovered or obliged to abandon his post, and having the mortification to see his design miscarry. he ought (if the phrase may be allowed) to be constantly creeping round about the enemy, be very shy of entering any houses by day, and especially of putting the inhabitants to any expence, for in such case they will spare no pains and neglect no means to discover his lurking place, unkennel him, and drive him out of the neighborhood.
An officer with such a charge has to encounter, most undoubtedly, much of danger and fatigue: but on the other hand, his success will be eminently glorious, for he has to cover an extent of country with a handful of people, which would naturally require a much greater number, especially if the party have less activity than light troops: by this means, therefore, he performs a very essential service to the army.
As to what remains, he is to put in practice (if he well knew how to apply them) all the rules laid down for the conduct of patroles and of advanced guards.
This business is to be executed in a variety of ways, depending on the officer's particular idea, local situation, it's being day or night, &c. &c. The task itself is not very arduous, but often of great service and utility to the general commanding, when he is unable by spies or other means to gain intelligence of the enemy.
The approach to the enemy is to be conducted in the manner already laid down for the patroles by day. In order to keep concealed, all the villages and high roads are to be avoided, and he must steal across the defiles and villages, from copse to copse and height to height, keeping a sharp look-out on every road that the enemy may take.
If he wish to make any discovery from a height, he must ascend it alone, and on foot, leaving his horse at the bottom of the ascent: if the height be entirely void of shelter, he must not wear his hat or any kind of clothing that will make him distinguishable at a distance. He should also alter his appearance, when on the height, to that of husbandman for instance: in a word, he should have nothing about him that looks soldier-like, as a man who sees at a good distance will easily distinguish a military man from a rustic.
In this manner he must examine very minutely on all sides, and if he discover a party of the enemy of nearly his own force, fall on them with fury, and take some of them prisoners.
During their first surprise, he will ask the most material questions, promising them their liberty if they speak truth and threatening them with death if they refuse: he is not, however, to place implicit confidence in all they say, but be able to distinguish the possible and the likely from the untrue, to avoid doing himself an injury by making a false report. In an expedition of this nature, an officer must not allow his patience to be exhausted by waiting, lest by being too precipitate, he fall into the snare which he had designed for others.
If he be posted in a copse, and see many people coming towards him from the enemy's country, a man should be sent softly forward in a round-about way, (to conceal from whence he came,) who in some thick part of the copse should put the necessary questions to them; for if he went on strait forward, and a party of the enemy happen to be in the neighborhood, the detachment would run the risk of being discovered.
In general, it is necessary on these occasions to make use of many little stratagems, which must depend entirely on the ingenuity of the officer.
When it is dark, the rules laid down for the night patroles are to be observed: the officer must keep a sharp lookout in the enemy's advanced guards, to see if it be not possible to take advantage of the night to approach them as near as possible, fall on them with the greatest activity, and carry off all that he can lay hold of.
If any of the officer's party speak the language of the country, he must suffer them to go in front, close to the vedettes, where, by calling themselves deserters, and speaking to them on indifferent subjects, they may often approach very near to their posts.
When an officer goes on an expedition of this kind, he should always have with him people on whom he can depend; and that neither he nor they may lose their money, they had better be cautioned before hand, and have it lodged in the regimental chest, or some safe hands, taking a proper security for it: for it will sometimes happen that a man, who on other occasions is very brave, will neglect to execute his duty where there is a chance of losing his property.
If the detachment want provisions or forage, they are to be procured by night, in the manner already mentioned.
In case that an officer is detached with thirty, forty, or fifty men, as a patrole, or with any other view, and he meets with a party of cuirassiers or heavy dragoons belonging to the enemy, he should endeavor, as much as possible, to conceal the strength of his own party, not discovering more than are barely necessary to observe the force and appearance of the enemy.
If he know how to profit of this advantage, he will be enabled to make a stand against them, tho' they exceed his numbers by more than half. He ought to examine if they have marched any distance, if the horses be tired, and their baggage with them, if the road by which they came be bad or otherwise, if the country be swampy, if the horses sink or the soil be firm, if they march on a plain or in a defile, and whether possible to surround them.
He should be master of all these circumstances at one view, concealing himself at a distance, or shewing but a small part of his force. His future arrangements must depend entirely on circumstances.
If he perceive that he cannot attack them to advantage on their march, he must suffer them to pass quietly on, keeping at a certain distance with a few of his people, (the major part being concealed,) as if disinclined or afraid to attack them, till they arrive at a situation more favorable to his design. He is then to divide his detachment into four, five, or six parties, and begin the attack on the weakest side, of which an intelligent officer ought always to be a judge.
A very little time will convince him of the capacity of the officer opposed to him, and the good or bad order of his people, from whence he will easily conclude if any advantage be to be gained.
It should ever be an officer's design to fatigue and harass the enemy's horse, by drawing them on to soft ground where the heavy cavalry readily sink, and obliging them to a variety of manoeuvres, with a view of throwing them into disorder. If he carry this point, his success is certain.
The attack is then to be made on all sides, and when every fear of resistance be done away, he may give quarter: if it be necessary, however, the horses may be killed till he finds himself completely master of the enemy, and that they are flying: at this period he may be allowed to take some prisoners.
All that can be done by the officers of the enemy in such situation is, either to send a part of their people towards us, or wait steadily and without moving to receive us. In the first case, they must be attacked and beat back to the body of the party as soon as possible, our troops mixing with them: during this period, the other parties are to make a general attack on all sides, occasioning universal disorder. In the second case, we should endeavor to surround them on all sides, keeping up a general fire; and as they will be obliged to turn against those who take them in the rear, that favorable moment should be employed in charging them to advantage.
But if the enemy's officer be a man of experience, the moment he sees any people coming towards him, he will take such a position as to secure his rear, and only subject himself to be attacked in front. It will then be very difficult, if not impossible, to make any thing of him. In this case, the wisest part to take is, to withdraw to a certain distance, and suffer the enemy to continue their march, but to follow sufficiently close to take advantage of any favorable position to employ the means already laid down.
When an officer falls in with a detachment of hussars of equal strength with his own, fortune generally decides in favor of the best men and the best horses, who attack their adversary vigorously, though they should be fired on, and never suffer themselves to give way, but fall resolutely on them without making any use of their fire arms.
There are, however, many advantages to be derived from being in an open country, which will more happily forward this design.
Supposing his detachment to consist of forty men, the first line should be composed of twenty -five, and the second of fifteen, to shew a larger front to the enemy, but this arrangement must take place without the adversary's knowledge: the rear rank is then to be so disposed, that the flank files of the front rank be always covered, to give the appearance of the ranks being complete; the enemy, conceiving of course that the detachment is stronger than it really is, will be the more afraid to attack it. In this order we may march directly towards them, and when the horses are on a full trot, oblique a little, I will suppose towards the right, to take the enemy on the left wing, and if they have not paid immediate attention to this manoeuvre, they will be easily outflanked on the left and beaten. But if the enemy perceive the intention, they will naturally make a movement to the left, to avoid being flanked: as soon as we find this, five or six men filing from our left (who have been well instructed how to proceed) should fall on the enemy's right wing, whilst the rest attack the left, sword in hand. By this means you endeavor to throw them into disorder and confusion, which will occasion their defeat.
An officer who is commanded with a body of men to cover an army or regiment whilst they are deploying, (any are often employed on this service,) should have his eye as well towards the enemy as towards the army which he is designed to cover. He must send out flankers towards the enemy, who, by keeping up a constant firing, will endeavor to disperse them: in this interval he is to pay attention to the movements in his rear, so that he may be always near his own party, and be able to take up the same position that is adopted by the larger body. As soon as he hears a retreat or march sounded, he should collect his people as expeditiously as possible, and fall into the interval allotted for him. If he be to cover another body of cavalry besides his own, and to which he does not belong, he must betake himself to the nearest wing, join in the attack, and cover the flank, if the enemy wish to make an impression there. If he succeed in breaking the enemy, he must endeavor, if possible, to put them entirely to the route. As soon as the enemy attempt to rally, he must strenuously exert himself to prevent them, taking care that he is properly supported, and not run the risk, by advancing too far, of being surrounded.
Supposing that the first line has six squadrons to cover it, and the second line only four, these last must nevertheless be placed directly behind the right wing of the first line. With these four squadrons the officer commanding is to check the enemy, should they be disposed to make an impression on the flank of the second line. If he perceive that the enemy makes an impression on the flanks during the attack, he must hasten to their support, and attack the enemy's flank himself, taking care in doing this, that he does not expose the flank of the second line, and abandon it to the enemy.
If the first line has broken the enemy, and is mixed with it, the second line will naturally come up to it's support; but if the second line be composed of heavy cavalry that cannot move quickly enough, the officer with the party must still follow the first line, keeping himself compact, in order to receive prisoners. What follows, regards the officers of each wing of the second line.
The welfare and safety of an entire army often depends on a detachment of this nature. An officer, therefore, who is appointed to such a command, cannot use too much circumspection for the safety of the army behind him. I will imagine his force to consist entirely of light cavalry.
Supposing, then, that an officer has thirty or forty men given to him, with which he is to occupy a certain village: as soon as he arrives he must make a patrole of a third or fourth part of his force, and push it as far as he can with safety to right and left, even to the enemy's posts. He should reconnoitre all the villages, copses, and defiles that are in his front, placing the remainder of his detachment, during this examination, under cover behind the village, but if he fear an attack, they should all accompany him.
When the patrole is finished, he must take with him a man of the village on horseback, to shew him all the particular objects in the neighborhood of his post, on which side the enemy is situate, and by what roads or defiles they can approach him, having recourse at the same time to his chart, in order to gain a more perfect knowledge of the country.
As soon as this business is completed, he must place his vedettes in such a way, that they can see the whole extent of the country towards the enemy, as has been already said with respect to the advanced guards: a few of his people should also be sent to the top of the village steeple with some of the peasants who are well acquainted with the surrounding country, to observe attentively all that passes, and when they discover the enemy, give the signal by one stroke on the bell: if there be no village steeple, he must send one man to the top of the highest house.
When an officer has made his patrole agreeably to the rules laid down, he may allow half of his party to go into the nearest peasants' houses, unsaddle, unbridle, and feed half of the horses, and when they have finished, suffer the remaining half to do the same. But if the enemy be in the neighborhood, and an attack to be feared, he must remain hid in the rear of the village, and feed his horses tide to a hedge.
It is also necessary to have a guard on foot, who can always see the vedettes, and who are to report the least movement that they may make. Nor is it of less importance that posts should be placed on both sides of the village, especially if the country be hilly or abounding in copses, to cover the flanks, and prevent attack or surprise from those quarters.
In a word, security is to be regarded as the first object, not only in front, but also on the flanks and in the rear, particularly at night, even though we are convinced that we have friends posted in our neighborhood.
The officer should frequently send small patroles of two or three men in front of the vedettes, who are to endeavor to gain heights which are at too great a distance for established posts, and try to discover something relative to the enemy.
He may also make patroles of this kind in person, with fifteen, twenty, and even thirty men, to shew himself to the enemy, and by that means, make them believe that he is stronger than he really is. By doing this, the advantage will accrue of knowing more intimately the distance and position of the enemy.
By day, half the horses may be unsaddled, and half the people allowed to sleep, the other half remaining saddled and bridled. At nightfall, the patroles should be made in the neighborhood and in front of the vedettes, (the officer himself being present,) to discover if any change has taken place. He is then to report, in writing if possible, to the general.
When night is quite come on, the vedettes should fall back, and if they were placed on heights, they should now descend to the low ground, as by night it is much more easy to discover a person when looking upwards, than if you have to look into a bottom.
If there be a forest or any defiles leading to the village, which the vedettes can see only by day, posts should be placed in them: if any bridges be in front, the vedettes should remain there by day, and fall back at night, taking care that the bridge be stripped.
All the wide and public entrances to the village should be barricadoed with carriages, trees, or bars, and peasants placed there as guards, who should, nevertheless, be frequently visited, lest of themselves they open the passage.
The officer should inform his people who are without the village, of two or three secret avenues which are unknown to the enemy: with these passages the men must make themselves perfectly acquainted, that they may be able to find them readily by night, or in case of necessity. It is by these passages, (known only to the detachment,) that the officer will send out by night small patroles to visit the vedettes, and go along the whole extent of the chain. About midnight the officer will do well to be particularly attentive to his guards, and if the enemy attempt any thing, conduct himself according to the plan laid down for night patroles. Towards morning, even before day-break, the whole detachment must mount, and if the officer has thought proper to shift his ground during the night, the night posts are to be informed of it, that they may know where to find him. A report is then to be made immediately to the general commanding, or to the officer who sent out the detachment, of all that has passed during the night, particularly if the enemy has made any movement, or has discovered his approach; in this case the officer's vigilance should be redoubled: he should be constantly in the open country, and conduct himself in every respect as has been directed under the article of advanced guards.
As soon as the day begins to dawn, the vedettes must gradually resume their posts, keeping a sharp look-out on all sides: small patroles should also be kept ready to move forward and scour the copses and neighboring country. If no party of the enemy have crept thither, these men may remain there till broad day: this precaution is particularly necessary in cloudy weather, and they may disperse themselves and cover the whole front. If all be quiet, the officer himself should advance, and endeavor to make some discovery; in which case the patroles should file away in front, as far as he shall deem practicable. During this period the whole detachment should be mounted and ready on any emergency.
When all the patroles are returned, the officer should report to the general whatever he has learnt relating to the enemy, and then send a man again to the top of the steeple or highest house, unsaddle and feed half his horses, and endeavor to prevent any inhabitant of the country from going towards the enemy, to betray him or discover his position.
It would not be amiss to acquaint all the inhabitants of the neighborhood also, that if any of them go in front of the posts towards the enemy, the vedettes are ordered to kill them immediately. But if an occasion should offer for sending forwards a trusty man, it should certainly be done, though it cost a little money, as more intelligence is to be gained by these means than by the patroles, measures can be taken more advantageously, and a more exact and particular report made, which should be done, if possible, morning and evening.
For what remains to be undertaken in this situation, all the means laid down for advanced guards, day and night patroles, and reconnoitrings, (made use of as fundamental principles,) may be employed.
It is to be presumed, that when an officer is commanded to take possession of a situation with which he is acquainted, that the general has given him all the necessary instructions; such as, on what side he is to particularly have his eye, what part he is to cover particularly more than others, whither he should send his patroles, to what posts of the enemy his is to pay particular attention, and on what side to retreat if attacked by a superior force.
An officer in this situation is supposed to remain some time on his post, being generally relieved every two days or twenty-four hours, according as the duty of the post may be fatiguing, or require much attention.
Two cases may here be supposed, -the detachment consisting entirely of cavalry, or of cavalry and infantry.
The dispositions to be made in these cases are exactly similar to those already laid down: but as both the climate and roads are materially changed in winter, the officer will do well to attend to the following cautions:-
When arrived at his post and he has patroled to reconnoitre the neighborhood, he should take with him a man of the village as a guide, and amongst other questions inquire of him, if the sides of the road are passable after a fall of snow: he will also carefully observe all the country round, that he may take his measures accordingly, cover the parts most exposed, choose the fittest places for his advanced guards and vedettes, and appoint an alarm post for the detachment in case of an alert. Hereafter he will receive more particular instructions. As neither men nor horses can keep the open field in this season as in summer, that side of the village should be chosen which is the least exposed. The people should occupy houses, whose back doors open on the place of rendezvous, and the officer should take care that they be not too much dispersed: a non-commissioned officer should also remain in each house, to have an eye on the rest, and particularly to keep them awake by night. The officer's quarter should be chosen as near the center of his party as possible, with a sentinel on foot to give an alarm on the first discharge of a pistol. If it be necessary, all the people may assemble by night in the officer's quarter, that he may be guarded against every accident. He must not allow carriages, pieces of timber, or other obstacles to remain in the streets of the village, that may incommode his people, if they should be obliged to be on horseback by night.
An officer should never indulge himself in the idea of his being on a secure post, that he has a superior force, or that the enemy is too far distant to come on him quickly, as nothing is more deceiving or dangerous. We have but too many instances where this misplaced security has been the cause of surprise, and where the watchful and diligent man has been more than a match for the sleepy and slothful. To avoid surprise, we should ever be as watchful as if close to an enemy constantly disposed to attack us.
There is no necessity for attending to a soldier's grumblings, who is naturally never satisfied; on the contrary, he should be convinced, that the situation which he occupies requires all such cautions, as the least negligence might prove of material advantage to the enemy. If, notwithstanding all these attentions, any misfortune should happen, (which will seldom be the case), the satisfaction will remain of having exerted our utmost endeavors to do our duty.
All that can be undertaken or done on a post of this nature, is with a view to gain time, that the detachment be not attacked unawares, but be always under arms at the place of assembly, and in a situation to resist the enemy, or inform the army of their approach.
The patroles should be well instructed how to march, and on which side, never going out at regular hours, for fear of being observed, and carried off by the enemy.
If any enterprise on the part of the enemy be to be feared, the whole detachment should be collected together (no matter at what hour) on the alarm post, or at the officer's quarter, and wait for day-break in that situation.
In general the people should be kept awake, during the whole night, even in their quarters, and for this non-commissioned officers are to be held responsible.
The officer himself must frequently visit his posts during the night, and shew himself in the village, for the people, knowing their chief to be on the watch, will be more alert themselves: he may also take a man with him, now from this house and now from that, to attend him whilst visiting his posts. When the detachment finds that the officer does not spare himself, they will give him there esteem and confidence, and follow him any where, and at any hour.
A sentinel on foot should always be placed at the officer's door, and if a trumpeter be with the detachment, he also should be quartered near him.
If the enemy approach the posts by day, the officer must immediately mount his detachment, and hasten to the support of his advanced guards, or to allow them to fall back on him, if necessary. If it happen by night, he will immediately dispatch some men in front of the enemy to those entrances of the village which are only known to the advanced guards, to support them, and allow them to fall back. Every practicable means must be employed to attain this end, as the safety of the whole army is concerned. For this reason, he must try to check the enemy, though superior in number, and endeavor to draw them away from the quarter. Immediate report should be made of what passes to the general commanding, that a reinforcement may arrive, and the detachment be enabled to fall back on the body of the army.
Further, all the methods before mentioned for the safety of quarters, advanced guards, patroles, and reconnoitrings, may also here be employed.
In dark, stormy weather, the vedettes should not only be brought nearer each other at equal distances, but they should also visit each other alternately, so that no space be left uncovered, by which through favor of the night an enemy might pass.
If infantry should compose a part of the detachment, they ought to be placed in houses fronting the enemy, that they may be ready on the first signal to throw themselves along the hedges and entrances of the village, and support the people that are posted without. All the large avenues of the village which are barred by carriages and pieces of timber, should also be lined with infantry. By day, these guards may keep themselves on some heights beyond the barriers, form whence they can behold the vedettes, but at night they must retire within them. Posts of infantry should also be placed at those particular entries to which attention has been paid, and if the cavalry should be obliged to make use of them, the sentries are to close them again the moment they are passed, to prevent the enemy from penetrating the village. This body of infantry should endeavor to keep the enemy in check as long as possible, and when returning towards the rallying point, should pass across the courts and gardens, when by meeting the cavalry and mutually supporting each other, they will often succeed in repulsing the enemy.
It is very essential, that an officer commanding a post of this nature, should endeavor to promote a good understanding between the cavalry and infantry, taking particular care that the latter are well put up, for as they are not much accustomed to a life of ease, they will do all in their power to defend and keep possession of good quarters.
For whatever more may be required in these circumstances, regard must be had to what has been already said under the article of Spies.
If an officer wish to signalize himself by engaging in an affair with an enemy of superior force, he should propose to himself an attack on a quarter that is occupied by hussars, as being the most agreeable, easy and certain way of acquiring reputation.
But to insure success in this enterprise, he must begin by procuring the most exact information of all the particulars of the village and neighborhood which the enemy possess. He should know for a certainty what officer commands the post, if he be experienced or young, ignorant, and wedded to self-opinion. For an officer of the latter description always fancies himself sufficiently secure when he has posted his vedettes, occupied the avenues leading to the village by a sorry guard, and sent out patroles at certain hours, and on well-known roads.
He ought also to know if his adversary trust to the superiority of his troop, for in that case he generally thinks himself wrong if any of his arrangements betray a fear of the enemy, and from that circumstance often exposes himself from too much caution.
He should likewise be instructed of all the means of defence which the enemy possess in the village, on what side their people are quartered, and where the alarm post is situate: what description of troops they are, if picked men or drafts from different corps: if in case of alarm by night, the people are all assembled in one house, or suffered to be scattered about in their quarters: if any assistance can be sent to them, and from what point, and how much time it would require to arrive at the post attacked. He ought to know in what manner the advanced guards are placed by night and day, and what are the hours, and what the destinations chosen by the patroles.
When sufficiently informed on all these subjects, he will of course make his disposition for the attack, which could not possibly commence earlier. The affair may take place by night or day: I shall begin with the latter--
If he be convinced that the officer keeps a good look-out by night, and conducts himself in such a manner as entirely to prevent being surprised, he must endeavor to gain his point by day.
The advanced guards of the enemy are not to be disturbed, but we are to pass by them on one side through open roads where there is no wood or hollow way; this understanding is big with difficulties, if not altogether impracticable, but in a mountainous country, or one that is full of copses, the following method may be observed:-- If the enemy's quarter be far distant, the march should be begun at dark night or in a fog, and continued towards a village, copse, or valley in the neighborhood, or on one of the flanks of the enemy: to obtain this point, we must avoid falling in with the enemy's patroles, and when arrived, wait patiently the coming day, or until their patroles are returned into their quarters. If we have escaped their sight, and they in consequence have reported that they have met with nothing, their officer will most probably put his people under cover, order them to lay by their arms, feed their horses, and even unsaddle them, for they will conclude themselves to be in safety, and be glad to procure a little sleep, which is denied them by night. The advanced guard then fall full gallop on the enemy's advanced guard, to prevent their mounting, or entering the village with them: enter the village and disperse themselves, firing their pistols through the windows to increase the confusion. The officer's quarter should be pointed out to some daring fellows, who will immediately repair thither, and seize his person, or at least prevent his getting on horseback. If the advanced guard can arrive at the village without engaging the advanced guard of the enemy, so much the better, for when they see that we are possessed of the village, they will not expose themselves by endeavoring to enter, but rather decamp, by which means we shall have fewer enemies to encounter. The officer, with his troop divided into two parts, should follow pretty closely the advanced guard: one part must support the advanced guard, and cut to pieces every one who presents himself, without taking prisoners, till the enemy is entirely in their power: the other part should remain without the village, regularly formed: if there be not a second officer, the command must be given to a non-commissioned officer, who should post a few men here and there on the heights, to be able at the same time to observe the approach of a reinforcement, and inform the detachment of it.
The officer himself should visit different parts of the village to give his orders, keep his people together, and prevent pillaging: against this practice he must give particular cautions beforehand, and threaten those that may offend with the most exemplary punishment, explaining to each individual what he has to do.
All prisoners are to be delivered up to the party who remain without the village, to hinder the people from dragging them about here and there, which would prevent their taking others. they should be instructed beforehand, that when they give their own names, and those of the people whom they have taken, that after the business is over, every man may know his own prisoners. For want of this precaution, the soldiers often keep their prisoners with them, and the officer finds himself left alone, instead of every man being employed in making as many prisoners as he can.
The trumpeter, if there be any with the detachment, should remain with the party without the village.
The officer must be very attentive to the time he stays on this expedition, lest it fail by the arrival of a reinforcement to the enemy, or himself with his detachment be surprised and made prisoners.
When all the prisoners that can be taken are secured, the officer should order the retreat to be sounded, and the non-commissioned officers to assemble without the village: the prisoners are then to be given in charge to the men who are the worst mounted, and put into the shortest road. The officer with the rest of his party will follow at a convenient distance, forming himself, for the sake of security, into a rear guard.
If, for the reasons laid down in the preceding article, an attack be proposed on a quarter of hussars by night, it should be begun by approaching as near as possible to the village where they are cantoned, avoiding the advanced guards, arriving at the intended point, if possible, from behind by going about, and endeavoring to prevent the enemy from assembling.
In order to attain the first object, the advanced guard with the flankers near to each other must move forward in silence, and endeavor to approach the enemy. As soon as the flankers find they are discovered, they should fall on the enemy full gallop, and endeavor to mix with them, without allowing them to mount, or accompany them into the village.
The distribution of his party is first to take place, which cannot properly be done without having some idea of the force of the enemy. Suppose the party attacked to be fifty in number, and the attackers only twenty-five or thirty, the arrangements are to be made in the following manner:--
A non-commissioned officer with ten men forms the advanced guard, who are already acquainted with the enemy's rallying point, in case of an alert: as soon as he has entered the village with the enemy, he must make directly for this spot, and take possession of it, killing and dispersing whatever comes in his way.
The second party, consisting also of ten, will follow the first pretty closely, enter the village with them, and then disperse to prevent the enemy from rallying, hashing every individual as he presents himself: this is not the moment for making prisoners, but must be delayed till the enemy can no longer resist, or that they have surrendered themselves.
The third party of five will also follow the first, keeping their files close, that they may be in readiness to repair to any spot where the enemy appear to intend resistance, or where the greatest uproar prevails, in order to support the suffering party.
The fourth party, composed also of five, must remain drawn up without the village, to receive the prisoners that are brought to them. But if they perceive that the enemy are beaten, a part of them may also be detached to ramble round the village, and pick up those who wish to escape on foot.
The quarter of the officers, as has been already said, should be the first object of the people appointed to that service, and the officers, if possible, made prisoners. The other men should scatter themselves about the village, to prevent the enemy from mounting, or assembling together.
The officer will most certainly endeavor to escape, by passing through the garden or some other opening, that he may be able to rally his people: but though he should succeed in this, the third detachment will be sufficiently strong to disperse them again, and when the officers are once taken, no one will remain to give orders, or get the people together.
The officer who commands should be personally present to give all the necessary orders, and as soon as the affair is finished, he ought to retire in the manner proposed for an attack by day.
In a night expedition of this nature, every kind of pillage must be very particularly forbidden, for if this be suffered, the soldier neglects his chief object, and thinks he can in security commit such baseness as tarnishes the most noble exploit, forfeits the reputation of an officer, makes the whole enterprize miscarry, and leads the detachment into the very snare which they had prepared for the enemy.
The retreat is to be conducted in the same manner as proposed in the attack by day.
In night expeditions it is also necessary to make use of some mark or signal to know each other, such as, the turning of the pelisses, wearing the cloaks, or putting a piece of white linen on one arm, a green bough in the cap, or choosing some particular word, which must be given to the people beforehand, that they may know each other in the dark: for want of this caution, very serious inconvenience often happens.
It is to be supposed, that when an officer is sent to put a country under contribution, or to procuire provisions for the army, that they country is quite free of the enemy.
Under these circumstances, the general will give him all the orders and means that are necessary to the execution of his commission, as it is seldom left to an officer to receive on his own account the contributions of a whole country. He is in general only charged to make good the requisites to the general, by means of hostages, threats, or even force. So that as long as the country in question refuse not the contribution demanded, it is by no means to be distrained on: and the officer must keep his people in perfect good order, forbidding the least excess, and ordering them to be content with common fare both for themselves and horses. By these means he will the more easily accomplish his end, and the inhabitants will be better able to comply with his demands, than if tormented by too much teasing or pecuniary extortion.
On these occasions, the officer should never suffer his private interest to render him forgetful of the object of his mission, viz. the welfare of the whole army. Moreover, he must remain with his detachment till ordered by the general to remove, or till the inhabitants have furnished the necessaries demanded.
Besides this, he ought not to neglect his personal safety, as it is very easy to imagine that he stands in some danger from people whoa are obliged to come down largely. the peasants, whilst they are supposed to be employed in getting their goods together, will use every means to rid themselves of their guests, and inform the nearest enemy of what is going forward, that by their arrival the project may be defeated, and their property preserved. In this case the officer will do well to keep patroles, constantly moving round the villages under contribution, which are situated near the enemy, to gain from them certain intelligence of their appearance, whether they be still or in motion, and if any reinforcements arrive. --According to these circumstances he must regulate his conduct, either hastening the contributions, or allowing more time to the inhabitants, without proceeding to extremities. He should report to the general every motion or change of the enemy, so that if it be their object to prevent the contribution, measures may be taken accordingly, and another detachment sent to his support. Thus situate, he will be able to accomplish his purpose. In a word, every part of his duty must be strictly attended to, and executed with the utmost exactness.
There still remains a case, where an officer may be ordered to levy a contribution on a country which is not absolutely occupied by the enemy, but rendered suspicious by patroles or continual detachments.
This only happens when the country in front is unfavorable for him, but convenient for the enemy to halt, and pay troublesome visits. For this reason every means should be used to prevent the enemy from tarrying there, and exerting themselves to rob us of the necessaries of which we stand in need. It is also possible that a party may want provisions, or may have received express orders from the king to raise contributions in a country, for punishment or some other reason. In both these cases, the officer will be obliged, to enable him to gain his point, to make arrangements totally different from those which he would employ, if he had no enemy to fear, or if they were at such a distance as not to disturb him in his expedition.
To insure success, it will therefore be necessary for him to have a perfect knowledge of the country: he should also be informed, if the enemy come thither with whole detachments, or only sent frequent patroles, how they behave to the inhabitants, whether by pillage or any other outrage they render themselves disagreeable. He must also endeavor to make the people his friends, that he may gain intelligence relating to the enemy.
To give some security to his patroles, he should know whither and into what villages the enemy have been most accustomed to send patroles, of what force, what route they take, the moment of their arrival and departure, at what distance the troops are that furnish the patroles; and, in short, whether the country be hilly, swampy, or intersected by small woods or any other object. To learn these particulars, he should be furnished with an intelligent spy, and an accurate map of the country.
As expeditions of this nature will not allow an officer to divide his people without great risk, he had better attempt his march in form of patroles, with an advanced and rear guard, and flank patroles, endeavoring nevertheless to conceal himself as much as possible. He must consequently instruct his people, that on the least discovery of the enemy, they are to halt and inform him of it, that he may take another road: but if he be so lucky as to gain the village unperceived, he must not go directly into it, but halt in the nearest copses or vallies. From thence, he should detach one or two trusty non-commissioned officers, with six or eight men, into the villages which are not occupied by the enemy, and which are nearer to the army than that where he is posted. In general it is necessary that the greatest prudence be observed, unless the officer chooses to return empty handed, or run the risk of being carried off.
But in order to gain his point, the officer and non-commissioned officers (who received their instructions beforehand) should so place their advanced guards that they may discover every thing on the side of the enemy, not neglecting to send forward frequent patroles. They must, however, avoid every village, marching in such a way as to conceal themselves, and still observe every thing. The officer should remain with his detachment, without the village which ought to contribute, in a copse or some covered place, shifting his position has often as he shall find necessary, to prevent being found by the enemy, from a deserter, or by any other means. He Must, however, never change his post without informing his people who are out where they may find him. The non-commissioned officers commanding the detached posts should also be informed of the place of assembly, in case of being surprised by the enemy.
These precautions being observed, the officer must send some men into the village, who are to bring back with them the magistrate and other chief inhabitants. But to prevent their seeing the strength of his detachment, he should order one party to fall back into the wood, that he may appear in more force than he really is. He must acquaint these inhabitants what they are to deliver, and by what time. They will, of course, make all the difficulties and remonstrances possible, in order to gain time and delay the delivery. But as these situations will not allow of much parley, he must explain himself to them very seriously, detain the most wealthy of them, and send the rest back to the village, threatening to set fire to it at the four corners, if the requisition be not delivered by the time appointed.
The advanced guards and patroles must take good care that whilst the contribution is raising, no person goes from the village towards the enemy, and lay hold of every one they meet who wishes to pass.
As soon as the requisition is got together, it is to be loaded on waggons, and sent away by night in charge of a non-commissioned officer and a few men: the officer also will follow by the same route given him for the army, having obtained a certificate from the inhabitants to produce to the general, and prove that every thing has been done for the good of the service. All the non-commissioned officers also, who may be detached in other villages, must behave in like manner, receiving certificates of what has been delivered, to prevent any excess being committed, either by themselves or their people.
The officer may also take with him some of the inhabitants to attest the good behavior of the party. When the different deliveries are made, the parties must acquaint each other of their departure, and every part is to be charged with the covering of the waggons that are in front of it, till they all arrive at the army.
By an alarm post we are to understand a certain point where a party is to assemble, in case of alarm, surprise, or approach of an enemy. It is not a matter of indifference how this place is chosen, so as to be in a condition to assemble, and shew a face to the enemy.
When the place is to be fixed on, the village and all its environs are to be well examined, to know if the country be smooth, hilly, or intersected by woods or rivers. Distinction should also be made, whether it would answer the purpose by day or by night, if the ground can contain many different bodies of troops, or only light troops.
If there be any hussars in the village, the alarm post must not be in front towards the enemy, but in the rear, (particularly at night,) and towards that side from whence we can be supported; as otherwise the enemy might prevent our rallying, and disperse the people as fast as they come out of the village. By day, a spot may be chosen in front of the village, and on that side where the advanced guard is placed, to cover that as well as the quarters.
If the environs are too level, and the enemy can approach the village on every side, the detachment had better assemble in the rear of the village, and be kept awake the whole night. From this spot small patroles should constantly be sent out. The officer or non-commissioned officer of the advanced guard must also be made acquainted with this situation, that in case he has a report to make, or is repulsed by the enemy, he may know where to find the main body of the party.
If the country be much intersected, the alarm post, both by day and night, should be chosen behind some defiles, through which the enemy are obliged to pass, as by this means a small party can defend itself against a much superior force.
It would be an egregious error, to choose an alarm post in front of a defile, at least if it be not covered by a body of infantry.
The moment any alert happens during the night, the detachment must assemble as quickly as possible in the rear of the village, to keep the enemy in check, till the whole of it be got together. If then, on account of superiority, it should be obliged to retire, it should be done very coolly, to allow time for the troops in the rear to put themselves in good order to support you, receive the enemy, and make a glorious affair of it.
The place of rendezvous, both by night and day, should be pointed out to the people by the commanding officer, and the officers ought always to be the first on the spot to give their orders, and form the people as they arrive.
According to the Chevalier Folard's system, the knowledge of the nature and qualities of a country which is the theatre of war, is a science to be acquired. It is the perfection of that art, to learn at one just and determined view, the benefits and disadvantages of a country where posts are to be placed, and how to act to the annoyance of the enemy. This is, in a word, the true meaning of a coup d'oeil, without which an officer may commit errors of the greatest consequence. In short, without this knowledge, success cannot be promised in any enterprise, as the business of war requires much practice and experience to be well understood. To learn this before we begin a campaign, and, when engaged in it, to be able to join practice to theory, is the business of every good officer.
But as we are not always at war, as the army is not always campaigning, and the regiments only assemble at certain periods for exercise, we must endeavor to improve ourselves by means of our own genius and imagination, so as to learn, even in time of peace, a science so useful and necessary.
In the opinion of the Chevalier Folard, field diversions are the best calculated to give a military coup d'oeil, for we not only learn from thence to distinguish the difference of countries, which never resemble each other, but we also get acquainted with a variety of stratagems, all of which have some connection with the business of war. One of the great advantages which we derive from hunting, is the knowledge of different countries, which gives us a coup d'oeil almost imperceptibly, which a little reflection and practice will soon make perfect.
Besides hunting, by which few people have an opportunity to profit, travels and walks have their advantages.
Whilst travelling, we can look with a penetrating eye over all the country that we pass, figure to ourselves an enemy's post at whatever distance we please, conceive ourselves on another, judge of all the benefits and disadvantages peculiar to each party, arrange in imagination the plan of attack and defence of our post, and as the unceasing variation of country offers incessantly new discoveries, an imagination a little warmed will never want employment.
Whilst walking, the eye may judge and measure the distance of one place or thing from another; and to be certain that we are not mistaking, we can walk it over and convince ourselves of the justness of our coup d'oeil.
Every country will furnish an officer, who wishes for instruction, with the means of exercising his eyes and ideas: whilst he who engages in the profession from necessity, without any taste, will let slip the most happy opportunities of improving himself without turning them to any advantage.
This page originally created by Ed Allen, Stanford University