-- from Thomas Simes' Military Dictionary, London, 1768.
This page presents excerpts from Regulations for the Exercise of Riflemen and Light Infantry and Instructions for Their Conduct in the Field, Printed for the War Office, London 1799. Although this drill manual was published a number of years after the Revolution, experience gained in the American War seems quite evident. Many aspects of light infantry duty are discussed in the original text, but only those passages having to do with the advanced guard are included here.
General RuleIt is a rule which must always be attended to, that no column, regiment, or detachment, whether it be near, or at a distance from the enemy, marches without an advanced guard, and flank patroles, in order to reconnoitre the country, and prevent the possibility of an attack before the column has time to form, or to look for and dislodge the enemy when he is supposed to be in the neighbourhood, though no account is received of his exact position.
Distribution of the advanced guard and flank patrolesThe distribution of the advanced guard, and flank patroles, remains as has been before directed. The intention being, that they should be sent as far in front and on the flanks as possible, it becomes equally necessary, that they again should detach in their front and on their flanks (in as large proportion as their numbers will allow) skirmishers, whose business it will be to examine closely all objects which present themselves on the march, to transverse all inclosures, and the like. Skirmishers must always be in parties of two men each, so that while one is employed on the look-out, and if any thing approach, or is perceived at a distance, the one may immediately make a report to the body from which he is detached, while the other keeps his eye constantly on the object till the return of his comrade.
The distance at which an advanced guard and flank patroles should keep from the column must be determined by local circumstances, and by the strength of the column. They should, however, be always at such a distance, that if they should be unexpectedly attacked, the column may have time to put itself in a posture of defence; and also, that if defiles1, villages, or woods, present themselves on the line of march, they may be examined thoroughly before the arrival of the head of the column, that there may then be no delay. The skirmishers must be very cautious during the march, not to be cut off from the advanced guard; and the same precautions are necessary for the advanced guard, with respect to the column.
When an Advanced Guard meets an enemyIf the commander of the head of an advanced guard, should have intelligence of the approach of an enemy's patrole, he will first halt, endeavour to discover the strength of it, and then fall back on the main body, the commanding officer of which, if the enemy is in not too great force, should try to conceal his men, suffer the enemy to approach, and endeavour to entangle him between his parties, and the head of the column, when he may attack him without risk.
If an advanced guard is set upon unawares, by a body of the enemy in ambuscade2, the officer commanding it must immediately attack; but it will depend upon what may be the general object of the move, whether he is to engage with his whole force, trusting to the column for support, or whether he is merely to keep the enemy in check, so as to gain the time sufficient for the column to make such dispositions as may be thought necessary.
It is a maxim however, and one which cannot be too strongly impressed upon the mind of every officer commanding an advanced guard, or flank patrole, that in the event of his being pursued, by a considerable body of the enemy, he is by no means to fall back immediately upon the column: officers should therefore take precautions against any unforeseen accidents that may occur during the march, and attentively observe the ground by which a retreat may be effected. The commanding officer of an advanced guard is not to confine himself to the main body, but occasionally to visit the advanced, and flank patroles, that he may make his own observations, and trust as little as possible to the reports of others.
When the column haltsIf in the course of a march the column should halt, the advanced guard will of course do the same; the flank patroles and skirmishers making front outwards; and it is to be observed, that no defile within a short distance of the advanced guard or flank patrole, should be left unoccupied. The advanced guard should endeavour even to make itself master of the ground beyond the defile, if it is only be sending a few men to take post there, that the column may be in security during the halt, and the men be suffered to rest themselves. Besides, by this precaution, the advanced guard will secure the pass of the defile. It will of course be understood that when a column halts, the advance guard and flank patroles will post their own sentries, and thus form the pickets, and chain of sentries for the whole column.
The Order of MarchAn excerpt from Lt. Colonel Andreas Emmerich's The Partisan In War, or The Use of a Corps of Light Troops to an Army (London: H. Reynell, 1789, pages 47-50).
Back to The Recreated Regiment page
Back to the home page
Copyright © 2010,
The Loyal American Regiment