ARTICLE XIV. On the Conduct of an Officer who is ordered to put a Country under Contribution
On the Conduct of an Officer who is ordered to put a Country under Contribution.
It is to be supposed, that when an officer is sent to put a country under contribution, or to procure 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.