ARTICLE III. Of Night Patroles
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.