"The Partisan in War"
Having said so much of the Partisan in general, and his corps, I shall speak of his duties in particular, and begin with a detail of them, as follows, viz.
1. He must procure good and faithful spies, who have a thorough knowledge of the country where the operations of a campaign are to be carried on; and it must be his particular study to manage them in such a manner, as to avoid, as much as possible, letting any one of them know the business on which another is employed. This caution is necessary, to prevent their being able to impose upon him, by having all one story to tell him.
2. It is absolutely necessary that he should get acquainted with some of the principal inhabitants of whatever country he may be in, and use his endeavours to discover whether they are attached to the cause, in which he is engaged, from national principles, or mercenary expectations, in order that he may avail himself of the information which he may be able to obtain from them, through either motive, and not be entirely dependent on his spies for intelligence.
3. When deserters from the enemy come in to his post, they are to be received kindly, but to be escorted with all convenient speed to head quarters, lest they should have come for other purposes than those they process, and in order to give them no opportunity of tampering with his men, or enticing them to desert.
4. Every intelligence of the situation and designs of the enemy, ought to be forwarded the moment it is received, to the commander in chief, or the adjutant general, according to its urgency and importance. At the same time, if, while the Partisan is moving before the army, he should meet with any rivers, which must be crossed in their march, he must find out the safest ford or passage for them, and give information of it to his commander.
Having stated everything necessary to the equipment of a corps of light troops for service, I shall next mention the rules to be observed in their marches by day, and first:
The Order of March.
1. One corporal, with two men on horseback in front.
2. One corporal, with three chasseurs and three light infantry men to follow.
3. One serjeant, with six chasseurs and six light infantry men to follow, the last-mentioned corporal, out of which number, he is to detach one man on each flank.
4. One Serjeant, with twelve light dragoons, who is likewise to detach flanking parties, if the country will permit of it, but if not, this duty must be performed by infantry.
5. One subaltern, with two serjeants, two corporals and thirty infantry, to follow, who is also to send out flanking parties.
6. The captain who is on duty for the day when the march commences, is to move next, with one hundred men, commissioned and non-commissioned officers in proportion, composed of cavalry, chasseurs, and light infantry, and in like manner to detach flanking parties.
7. The main body follows last, one troop of cavalry heading the column, if in an open country; then all the infantry, and the remainder of the cavalry closing the line of march. A sufficient guard of cavalry and infantry ought to be always left to bring up the baggage.
In the order of march above stated, it must be carefully observed, that every succeeding party is never to lose sight of the party immediately in its front, but to keep at a regular distance from it.
Order of March.
1. A faithful corporal, and six trusty infantry men, with a confidential guide, ought to march first, in the greatest silence.
If the corporal should find an enemy's patrol approaching, he is to halt, and immediately dispatch one of his men back to the next party, falling back at the same time with his own party, to the right and left, that he may suffer the enemy's patrol to advance, until he can discover their number. If he finds their strength superior to his own, he is to retreat towards the party immediately behind him, to which he before sent intelligence; but if he finds it inferior or equal only, he is to rush upon them, make the men prisoners, but without firing, send them immediately to his commanding officer, and wait his further orders.
2. A serjeant with fifteen infantry, ought to follow the corporal, at a distance not greater than two hundred yards, so that he may always be at hand to support him, if occasion requires it, according to the method above directed.
3. A subaltern with two serjeants, two corporals, and thirty men, ought to follow the serjeant, sending two men in front, who are never to lose sight of the serjeant's party, or to be out of the hearing of the subaltern.
4. The commanding officer is to follow next with the main body, the infantry in front, and the cavalry closing the march; flanking parties of infantry are to keep at such a distance, as always to be able to observe the movement of the main body.
C A U T I O N S.
1. In all marches of a light corps, silence is commendable; but in night marches, the profoundest silence is absolutely necessary; the cavalry should be particularly instructed, that in case of a sudden halt, the men must constantly keep working their bridles, that they may thereby prevent the neighing of their horses.
2. But yet, as it often unavoidably happens, that troops have to pass wooden or stone bridges in the night, when the noise made by the march of cavalry or carriages, over such places, can be heard at a great distance, (particularly by a watchful enemy;) to prevent this, the pioneers should, upon such occasions, lay straw or loose earth upon them.
3. In night marches, particularly when both the men and horses are greatly fatigued, it frequently happens, that confusion arises from the men falling asleep; the horses finding themselves then unchecked by the bridle, and being also tired, are apt to stop; the men in the rear, whether they are or are not so sleepy, thinking the leading file halted, may imagine the halt to be general, and consequently fall also asleep. The front of the line continues its march, ignorant of the cause which has stopped those behind them, and by that means the line gets separated. From this circumstance, though apparently trifling, much alarm and disappointment often ensues.
4. To prevent any accident of this kind from ever happening to a corps of light troops, two or more active serjeants might be appointed to ride backwards and forwards, from the front to the rear of the line, during the whole march, and carefully attend to its strict regularity and order.
N.B. As a whole army may be liable to experience a similar embarrassment from the same circumstance, I submit to the judgement of commanders in chief, the propriety of appointing a field officer, with a sufficient number of captains, subalterns, and non-commissioned officers, for the purpose of executing the same duty to an army in night marches.
5. It has often happened, that the march of an army or a large body of troops, has been impeded in the night time, by small parties from the enemy occasionally appearing on the flanks of the line of march, and firing a few scattered shots at them. As this is often returned by the fire of a whole regiment, a confusion is caused in the line of march by it. In order to guard against any such cause of alarm or inconvenience, it would be proper always, previous to the march of an army, to appoint a subaltern of the infantry, joined by three, four, or five men from each company, as occasion may require, to advance towards such small parties, add immediately disperse them; unless he should find that they were only a part of a greater force, in which case, he should send immediate notice to the commanding officer, that he may take such measures as he thinks fit.
When horse patrols are sent out, they should be warned, on pain of the most exemplary punishment, never to dismount or quit their horses for a moment, especially for the purpose of going into houses for refreshment; as instances have occurred, where soldiers, that have done so, have had their horses taken away, even from the doors of such houses, by the enemy.
6. Having explained how a march by night ought to be conducted, the same method will equally apply to a march by day, in a thick and close fog.
7. A Partisan ought always to employ guides, who voluntarily offer to serve in that capacity for reward; but never to force them into his service; for on the first appearance of danger, or in time of the least confusion, they will take every opportunity of running away, -- it is therefore much better to procure willing guides, who may become attached to him from kind treatment, and the prospect of reward for the risks they may run.
8. At all times when the corps is drawn up, either for a march, or in order to make detachments from it, the adjutants must tell the men off into divisions, subdivisions, &c. and assign the officers, their respective stations, which they are, on no account whatsoever to quit, during their march, either by day or by night, as they are to be responsible for the proper intervals, between the several divisions, being regularly preserved, so that the whole or any part of the corps may be able to form, with the greatest regularity, at a moment's notice.
9. If at any time it should be found advisable or necessary for the corps to make a retreat, it must be done exactly in the same manner as it advanced, with this difference, that what was the rear of the line, becomes then the front, and what was the front, becomes then the rear.
Having before mentioned the necessary qualifications of a Partisan, I cannot omit again saying, that the abilities requisite for conducting a branch of the service upon which so much depends, are rarely to be attained by the common routine of duty. An officer may be of approved courage, understand the discipline necessary for the command of a regiment in every situation, it may be required to act in the line, and acquit himself with credit, on all such occasions, yet as light troops are intended and adapted for particular services, the officer who is appointed to command them, should not only have experience of service in general, but also possess the peculiar talents adequate to the discharge of the duty of so arduous and important a command; even a commander in chief cannot possibly frame instructions for his conduct on all occasions, as the nature of the service on which he is employed is such, that his own experience alone can be the rule -- by which his steps are to be regulated, particularly if he has opposed to him a Partisan, who understands his business, and who, it is naturally to be supposed, will be the most experienced officer, in that kind of service, that can be selected from the army of the enemy.
1. When a corps, or a considerable detachment from it, is ordered upon any enterprise or to reconnoitre, it may happen that their motions are known to the enemy, who finding himself not strong enough to attack them, will lie concealed, until he finds that the corps or detachment is returned to its station; when presuming, that the men and horses, from being fatigued and exhausted, will of course, as soon as they have posted the pickets, retire to rest; waits for that moment to make his attack with a prospect of success; and accordingly immediately drives in the pickets, expecting to find the main body unprepared to receive him.
To prevent any such advantage from being taken of him by an enemy, the Partisan, after having posted the necessary pickets, should in person remain with fifty or one hundred men, at a convenient distance between the pickets and his station, so as to be himself at hand to support the pickets, observing upon all occasions this general rule, that one third of the corps shall be always at their arms, whilst the rest are refreshing themselves and their horses. By this precaution, he will not only be able to disappoint any design of an enemy, but also very probably to turn his expected victory into a complete defeat.
2. Whenever a station is taken by a corps of light troops, alarm posts ought to be fixed, to which, in case of alarm, the troops are immediately to repair. -- And these alarm posts should be frequently changed, to prevent the enemy from ever gaining any knowledge of them.
3. A field officer, two captains, six subalterns with two hundred men, and a proportionate number of non-commissioned officers, cavalry and infantry, completely armed and accoutred, should assemble every evening, and send out patrols during the night, between the head station and the out-posts, which will always prevent the possibility of a surprise, particularly if the corps is brought to such a degree of discipline and good order, as to be ready to turn out at a moment's notice, properly armed and accoutred, fit for action.
4. In posting the videts in the daytime, the highest situation to be found, should be chosen, to enable them to see around them, to a greater distance, and the centries on foot ought to be posted one or two hundred yards in their rear, but so as to have each other constantly in view; -- their arms ought always to be loaded, and whenever a videt discovers an enemy, he is to give notice, by firing; upon which the foot centry is to retreat towards the officer of his own picket, who must have a centinel constantly posted at a very small distance from the picket; this last centinel is immediately to inform the officer of the firing, who must directly send a small patrol to the alarmed videt, and at the same time dispatch a light dragoon to the commanding officer of the corps with the intelligence.
5. In the night time, the foot centry must be the furthest advanced, and the videt in his rear, but at such a distance that they can observe one another, -- and to prevent a possibility of any man's deserting, or any enemy passing, the chain of centries should be so formed, that no two of them are so near, as to be able to converse together, nor at so great a distance, as to pass between them undiscovered. The line of videts should be so placed in the rear of the chain of centries, as to occupy the intervals. The out-centries in the night time, instead of being posted on the highest situations, as the videts should be in the day time, must on the contrary be placed in the lowest, by which means they can much better see any object, by looking up the accents, than they could by looking down from them. When the patrols go their rounds in the night time, and are demanded by the centries and videts, to give the countersign, they must never suffer any person to come nearer to them than the distance of at most three yards; and the countersign must never be given in a louder voice than is necessary for the centry to hear it, lest an enemy, or his spy should lie concealed so near as to catch it.
6. The officer of the picket must frequently change his situation, during the night. In cold weather, when it is necessary to have fires, it would not be amiss to leave them burning, when he moves to a fresh place, and even to leave some of the mens packs on the ground; for if the enemy should have meditated an attack upon his post, they would naturally direct their motions to the place where they had perceived the fires; but on coming up and finding the soldiers' packs, it is reasonable to suppose they would conclude that the picket had fled precipitately, and while they were taking up the packs, or otherwise off their guard, the officer of the picket would have a very favourable opportunity of striking an advantageous blow.
A circumstance similar to this fell under my own observation in the year 1760. It was as follows: Having a detachment of hussars and chasseurs under my command, near Northeim, in the Hanoverian dominions, the enemy, by means of their spies, received intelligence of my situation. A strong detachment of Monsieur Belsance's cavalry, from Gettingen, was consequently ordered to endeavour to attack me by surprise, and had actually the address to carry off one of my videts, by the stratagem of a farmer's waggon, conducted by three French soldiers in disguise.
As they passed his post, the soldier who was the driver, being challenged by my videt, answered, that he belonged to the neighbourhood, and entering into other conversation with my centinel, came so near at last, without being suspected, that he suddenly sprung upon him, and with the assistance of the other two, secured him before he could fire. Unsuspicious of any discovery of my station, or any accident to my videt, and the weather being cold, we had made fires; after having for some time warmed ourselves, upon hearing a noise, I fell back with my party about two hundred yards; then listening with great attention, I soon could hear the enemy approaching with the utmost silence and caution. As soon as they came near the fires we had just quitted, they threw in their shot; but finding no resistance, they exclaimed, that the enemy had fled, then dismounted, and fell to rifling some packs my people in their hurry had left behind them. This I could perceive by the light of the fires, and thinking it the most advantageous moment to attack them, accordingly rushed upon them, after killing several, took nine prisoners.
General Luckner, who was stationed at Icefeld, to my left, and alarmed by the firing of my party, discovered a strong detachment coming to attack him, with which he engaged, and soon after we met, driving the enemy before us, and pursued them to the gates of Gettingen. This instance may prove a caution to others.
9. A Partisan should always, when he sends out the night pickets, give to the officers commanding them, a particular countersign, besides the general countersign of the army, in order that if any soldier should desert in the night, they may immediately make use of that secret countersign, in the corps; the change however must be communicated as soon as possible to the commanding officer, who will in like manner, acquaint the next troops of it, so that it may be quickly known to the pickets of the army, and any ill consequences that might otherwise follow, be thereby prevented. -- A centinel must never, I have said, allow a stranger to approach nearer to him than the distance of three yards, neither must he ever hold discourse with, or take a dram, on his post, from any person.
10. The commanding officer of the light corps must always have a trumpeter or drummer at hand, that in case he receives intelligence of any immediate danger, he may instantly order one or the other to sound, or beat an alarm.
11. Dogs should never be suffered amongst a light corps in quarters, nor to be with them at any time in the field; as many discoveries of dangerous consequences have happened to my own knowledge,(not necessary to be mentioned here) from those animals.
12. A Partisan must be particularly careful of never being drawn into an ambuscade; but on the contrary, should be fruitful in stratagems, to lay snares for the enemy; as in this the most essential part of his duty consists. He should therefore spare no expence in rewarding faithful spies, upon whom his success in enterprises of this nature, will in a great measure depend; because he must himself lie concealed till the moment he is to act; and in order to prevent every possibility of failure in his plans, he should suffer no person, not even women or children, to pass or repass him, before he has struck his blow.
13. When a Partisan intends to attack an enemy's post, by a coup de main, he must endeavour to march in the night undiscovered, to a place where he can lie concealed, as near their post as possible, and from whence he can see their patrol go out in the morning, whom he is to suffer to pass unmolested; but as soon as they are out of sight, he is then to push rapidly forward towards the enemy's post, (of which it is to be presumed, he is already informed of the strength and defence;) and as they will most probably be off their guard, by depending upon their patrols, that are but just sent out, the attack cannot well fail of being successful. Hence it is evident, too much precaution cannot be used by an officer having the command of any post, and that he should not trust to his patrols alone for safety, as has been before fully explained.
14. It often happens, that a commander in chief has occasion to send a detachment upon a particular secret service, which requires them to cross an unfordable river; it is impossible therefore to cross it, otherwise than by swimming it in the night. To accomplish this, after the Partisan has beforehand informed himself where he can best enter the river, and find a good landing on the other side, the following manner of swimming the horses must be observed. -- The first horse's head must be inclined a little towards the current of the river, the second horse's head must be brought up to the saddle of the first, with his head inclined in like manner towards the stream, and so on with all the rest in succession, till the whole are passed. -- But to execute such a service as this, it is requisite that the horses should be all good; for if there are any amongst them that appear unfit or unused to this kind of expedition, it will be prudent, in the Partisan, to leave them behind. -- That the above method is not impracticable, I have been told, by old Austrian officers, who assured me that they had, in the year 1745, swam across that very rapid river the Rhine, at Hoechst and Oppenheim, with whole regiments of hussars. -- I swam across the river Maine, in the month of October, 1761, with a detachment of light cavalry, between Rompelheim and Ovenback, where that river is very deep and rapid, being then on an enterprise, by order of Duke Ferdinand; I executed the service I was sent upon, by taking a French courier, between Oppenheim and Frankfort, at the very time that the Duke had intelligence he was to pass, where I likewise took Baron Blumm, a captain in Chamborant's regiment of hussars.
15. When the corps remains for some time at any station, and the horses are unsaddled, particular care must be taken, that the saddles are laid up in such a manner, with the pistols in the holsters, that if there should be any sudden occasion to call the men out, they may be ready to mount in a moment; and when in quarters, the saddles must in like manner be laid up ready in the stables. -- Soldiers must take their carbines, pistols, swords, and ammunition, into the rooms where they sleep.
16. When a Partisan has reason to apprehend an attack from the enemy, he must, every evening, send his baggage to some distance in his rear, not only for the sake of preserving, but principally that he may not be incumbered with it, so as to be impeded or retarded in his movements, in case of attack.
17. A Partisan must never consider his station secure, particularly in bad weather, especially if he has to deal with an active enemy. In short, circumspection is so peculiarly his duty, that it cannot be too often inculcated. Of this assertion, the defeat of Colonel Rall, at Trenton, which has before been mentioned, was a striking though unfortunate proof. Before the enemy could reach his post, they had to cross the river Delaware, amongst thick shoals of ice, while a heavy snow fell, and the weather was intensely cold, and severe, it being Christmas night. From such appearances united, he thought himself perfectly secure from any attack, more especially from troops he held in contempt; but those very circumstances favoured Mr. Washington's design, or indeed presented the opportunity on which he chose to hazard all his success. How far he judged right, the fatal consequences that ensued to the British arms, were a sufficient testimony.
18. One other instance shall
be mentioned, to show the fallacy and danger of considering a
post secure, on account of the severities and badness of weather,
or of any other difficulty an enemy may have to encounter in approaching
it. In the year 1780, while General Mathews, of the British foot
guards, commanded at Kingsbridge, a part of the American army,
between two and three hundred men in number, were posted at a
place called Young's house, behind the White Plains, and were
particularly troublesome to the British troops; by intercepting
their provisions, and stopping loyalists and deserters who were
coming from different parts of the country, to join the British
army. Several attempts were made to dislodge and disperse them,
but without success. In the month of February, when there happened
to be a very heavy fall of snow, which was in several places,
for considerable distances together, more than three feet deep;
it was resolved to seize the opportunity of making another attempt
upon that post; and accordingly Colonel, now General Norton, of
the foot guards, undertook the expedition, with the light infantry,
and grenadiers of the guards, some Hessian infantry, mounted chasseurs
and refugees. -- He set out from Kingsbridge between nine and
ten o'clock in the evening, with one hundred fledges, and two
pieces of cannon, which were thought necessary, not only to ease
the march over the snow, but also as it was reported that the
rebels had fortified Young's house; on proceeding however a short
way, the fledges and cannon being found a hindrance, they were
both sent back; but the Colonel still determined to prosecute
his undertaking without them. He crossed the country, in order
to avoid the enemy's patrols, and about nine o'clock next morning
arrived at Young's house, which was at the distance of sixteen
miles only, in the direct road; effectually surprised and took
the whole party, without letting a single man escape, and returned
to Kingsbridge that same evening, without leaving a soldier of
his own detachment behind, except those who were killed in the
attack, having marched, in that time, not less than forty miles.