ARTICLE XI. On the Duty of an Officer detached with twenty, thirty or forty horse
On the Duty of an Officer detached with twenty, thirty or forty Horse, to occupy a Village in Front, or on the Flank of an Army, whilst it is in Winter Quarters.
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.