ARTICLE XII. On the manner in which an Officer should attack a Quarter that is occupied
On the Manner in which an Officer Commanding a Party of Cavalry, should attack a Quarter that is occupied by Hussars.
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.