by Lieut. Gen. Lovel Frederick Fitz. Clarence, G. C. H. London.
on the Theory and General Principles of Outpost duties.
from the "Manual of Outpost Duties."
[Compiled for the Richmond Dispatch.] Question — What are the different parties of troops called in the British service, as laid down in the Field Exercise Book, which act in front of an army, for its protection and security, when in camp or cantonments? Answer — The Outlaying Picquet, his Patrols and Detached Parties, and the Reserve for the Picquets--in all, four. Q.--What is an outlaying picquet, and its object? A.--An outlaying picquet is a certain number of men, under the command of a captain or subaltern, detached to the front of the main body of troops. Its principal duties are to secure the safety and repose of the camp or cantonments by occupying such ground, and commanding such roads, that no part of the enemy's force can approach without being seen. Q.--What is the reserve? A.--It is a body of troops of such force, and so places, as to support and assist the picquets on their being attacked, or that the picquets can retire on if found necessary; and to impede the advance of the enemy, so as to enable the main body to get under arms. Q.--What is a patrol? A.--As relating to an outlaying picquet it is composed of a small body of men, under command of a subaltern or non-commissioned officer, to be sent to the front and flanks of the picquet, for the purpose of gaining information in regard to the movements and position of the enemy that may be in their vicinity. Q.--On being ordered to take charge of an outlaying picquet with a view of covering any part of the camp or cantonment, what would be your first duty? A.--To make a nominal list of the non-commissioned officers and men of the picquet, and inspect their arms, ammunition, and rations. Q.--How would you move the picquet to the ground you are ordered to occupy? A.--I should move as an advance guard to avoid being surprised, with advance, flank, and connecting files. Q.--On moving to the ground you are to occupy, what observation would you make? A.--I should take particular notice of all roads on my flanks, and such positions that, should I be driven in, I could defend. Q.--What is your ‘"First Duty"’ on arriving on the ground you are to occupy? A.--The ground having been pointed out to me by a superior officer, where my right and left flanks are to rest, I immediately guard against surprise by placing sentries in such situations that no enemy can approach my picquet without being seen. Besides which the advance files of my picquet will feel their way, and ascertain if any immediate attack is probable. Q.--What is the second duty after taking the foregoing precaution? A.--To communicate with the officers of the picquets on my right and left flanks. Q.--How do you communicate? A.--I take as many men as I think will be requisite to keep up a chain of sentries from my picquet to the picquet that I am going to communicate with, posting double sentries as I pass along and keeping them on view; and having communicated with the officer on my flank, or non-commissioned officer in charge of the flank parties, I return to my picquet, reducing or increasing the sentries as I find requisite, and placing them in the most advantageous positions to overlook the approaches to my picquet. My junior officer or sergeant having done the same on the other flank, I then, by visiting myself, personally, ascertain that they have posted the sentries according to orders, and communicate with the officer on my other flank. Q.--When do you conceive that your sentries are posted as they ought to be? A.--When they completely command every approach to the picquet, and can see the sentries on their right and left, and are as much concealed as possible from the enemy's view. Q.--Should the picquet be a flank picquet, what precautions would you take for its security? A.--I should, after taking care of my immediate security, send out patrols, under an officer or non-commissioned officer, to the unprotected flank, which I should do every half hour, day and night. Q.--Into how many reliefs do you divide your picquets? And how often do you relieve your sentries? A.--Into three reliefs of double sentries, and relieve them every hour, taking care to have sufficient men to patrol. Q.--After your communications are established with the picquets on your flanks, and your own security from surprise ensured, what do you do? A.--With a patrol I make myself thoroughly acquainted with the approaches and environs of my post; and if ordered to defend it, do my best to strengthen it, by throwing no obstacles, making loop holes should my picquet occupy a house, and in the neighboring walls; throwing up breastworks, if I have tools, and making my defence so as to have as many cross fires as possible. Q.--Are the sentries on an out laying picquet posted double? A.--Yes, and a communicating (single) sentry from them to the body of the picquet, to convey any signal or order that might come from the front. Q.--How do you place your sentries at night? A.--I generally move them from the place they occupied during the day, particularly should they have been seen by the enemy, and if they have been on a height, I move them to lower ground, in order that they may discern any object on the sky-line with greater case than looking down they would be able to do, and place them in the most advantageous positions. Q.--Would you increase the number of sentries at night? A.--As a rule, yes, with the view of preventing the possibility of the enemy stealing in between them. Q.--Would you increase your sentries at any other time? A.--Yes, during foggy weather. Q.--Ought you to post your sentries thickly or not? A.--If possible, not, but it must depend on the nature of the ground and the state of the atmosphere. The great object should be to save my men as much as possible, always bearing in mind that every unnecessary sentry entails additional duty on all his comrades. Q.--When the advance sentry is very near the enemy, what precautions would you take to secure his preservation? A.--I should place obstacles in the approaches to his post, about thirty yards in his front, as well as flanks, when it is practicable to do so, such as a battle, &c., which the sentry could see over, and so that they may not afford shelter to the enemy, in order to stop any sudden rush that might be made upon him. I should particularly take this precaution at night, or should, the sentry be placed at the end of a bridge where he must actually stand on the end of the defile. Q.--Were you not to take this precaution, what might happen? A.--The sentry might be suddenly overcome, and not able to fire or give the alarm, and, consequently, the picquet might be surprised from being unable to get under arms in time to meet the enemy. Q.--Is it generally recommended that the advanced sentries should be so protected? A.--Yes, where practicable, for the above reasons. Q.--When a wood is in your front, how would you place your sentry? A.--As far from the wood as would be advisable, with a view of keeping as good a look out as possible, but being most particular not to endanger the sentry from a sudden rush from the wood. Q.--How do you insure the body of the picquet being instantly made acquainted with any immediate threatened approach of the enemy? A.--By the communicating sentry firing, or making the preconcerted signal. Q.--What regulates the actual position where you place the body of your picquet? A.--After having ascertained the most advantageous point for posting my advanced sentries, I place my picquet so as to be within hearing of the connecting sentries fire, and out of sight of the enemy, and as near the centre of my line of sentries as possible. Q.--Do you examine the sentries as they are relieved? A.--Yes; in order to ascertain whather they have observed anything in their front, and, if of importance, immediately to report the circumstance to the field officer of the picquets, always taking care to state in my report whether the movements, or whatever demonstration was observed, was on our right or the enemy's left, or vice versa. Q.--On receiving verbal orders from your superior, do you write them down immediately? A.--Yes, in order to give them over correctly to the officer of the new picquet that relieves me. Q.--Do you place the same men on the same posts during the time they are on picquet? A.--Yes; and I take care to place the most intelligent men on the most important stations. Q.--Should a sentry or man from the picquet desert, what would you do? A.--Immediately inform the field officer of the day of the circumstance and the officers on my right and left, and be most careful of my immediate security. Q.--When you are permitted to have a fire for your picquet, where would you place it? A.--As much out of observation as possible; and, in case the picquet should be attacked at night, I should previously point out the place for the alarm post, on the strangest and most defensible ground; and, if possible, in fear of the fire, in order that the enemy should be exposed themselves on coming up to it. Q.--When do you always get your picquet under arms? A.--One hour before daybreak. Q.--How do you ensure your sentries looking in the right direction during dark? A.--By placing a place of stick horizontally on two forked pegs in the direction of the enemy's post. This precaution is to be taken side by the body of the picquet. Q.--Under what circumstances should you retire your picquets? A.--When my flanks are thoroughly threatened, unless I have orders to defend my post to the last. Q.--If forced to retire, in what direction would you fall back? A.--The field-officer of the day having shown me where the reserve a posted, I should retire upon it, firing and disputing the ground; and on approaching the reserve, I should order my picquet, which would be in extended order, to place itself on its flank, and not cloud its front by our retrograde movement, so as to impede its fire on the advancing enemy. Q.--When you hear firing on your flank or flanks, which indicates a retrograde movement of the picquets posted there, what should you do? A.--I should retire throwing myself on the flank of the advancing enemy, of course keeping my retreat open to the rear. Q.--If, after you have been relieved from your post, you hear firing in the front, what should you do? A.--I should immediately return and give my support to the advance picquets, and sideward of what I had done, to the field officer of the day. Q.--You have stated that a patrol is a body of troops varying in strength according to circumstances, sent out under commend of an officer, or N. C. officer, to gain information regarding the enemy; how many different sorts of patrols are laid down in the Regulations of our service? A.--Two. One for patrolling when the enemy is near; the other when the enemy is distant. Q.--What should you do previously to going out with your patrol when the enemy is near? And how do you move? A.--I should inform the officer, or N. C. officer, on my flank from whence I start; that I am going to patrol. Q.--Do you always commence patrolling from a flank of your picquet? A.--As a general rule, yet; and return by the other, passing along the front of the lines of sentries, never out of their sight, if possible, during the day, nor out of hearing the report of a 11 o'clock at night, and move as silently as possible, often halting to listen, and recurring within the line of sentries to the place from whence I started. Q.--If you meet an enemy within the line of sentries, what do you do? A.--Immediately fire, and continue doing so, to give the alarm. Q.--Should a patrol avoid firing as much as possible? A.--Yes, and give as little alarm as can be avoided to the picquet. Q.--How should you act when ordered to patrol the enemy being distant? A.--I should move in the direction ordered as a small advance guard, with feelers in front, flankers, and connecting files, the first being men chosen for their quickness of eight and her ring. Q.--What should the advanced files and the feelers do if they hear any footsteps approaching? A.--They should instantly fall back to the patrol; and if a larger body than the party to which they belong was advancing, two men should be sent back to the picquet to give information to the officer, who would take immediate measures accordingly. Q.--What do the patrol do? A.--It realizes steadily, and, if possible, an observed, on the picquet but if observed and overtaken, it will keep up an incessant fire to give the alarm. Q.--Should a patrol fire on meeting an enemy's patrol? A.--If possible not, as it tends to alarm unnecessarily? Q.--Who should inform the conductors of the different patrols the route they should take? A.--The field officer of the day, who would also inform them the distance they should patrol to the front or flanks. Q.--Do you send out a strong patrol just before daybreak? A.--Yes, towards the enemy, and this patrol must be very cautions, as this is generally the time the enemy makes his attack. Q.--What precaution should be taken on the return of the patrol? A.--They must often look to the rear on returning to ascertain that they are not followed, which is very frequently the case, and frequently halt to listen. Q.--In what manner would you move a large patrol to the front? A.--In the same way as an advance guard, with advanced, connecting and flank files.