"The Partisan in War"
The service of a Partisan with cavalry, can only be performed in those seasons of the year, during which there is forage abroad for horses, and men can endure to be exposed continually to the open air. In winter, when frost and snow allow little or no forage abroad, and force men into regular quarters, the Partisan can no longer act with his cavalry. Were the severity of that season, however, no obstacle to the service, a body of horse are too easily tracked on snow, to make their motions secure; besides, that they cannot then be conveniently rough-shod, without being liable to a discovery.
At the same time, a commander in chief may require a Partisan to undertake an expedition, and get into the rear of the enemy's army, in winter, however difficult and hazardous the enterprise may seem. As he cannot then, with propriety, employ horses, he must make use of infantry, that is, chasseurs on foot, who should be all picked men, and volunteers. -- A piece of duty, on which I was ordered in the year 1761, will perhaps give an idea of the nature of such service.
About the middle of November, at which time the weather was very unfavourable, as the allied army was stationed at the Hube, near Einbeck, in the Hanoverian dominions, and the French about three miles from them, the centinels of both armies being almost near enough to speak with each other, I requested a detachment of General Freytag's chasseurs, on foot, to be put under my command, finding that though I was not positively ordered, it was the wish of Duke Ferdinand, that I should endeavour to get in the rear of the enemy, to reconnoitre their posts, alarm and distress them to the utmost of my power. Emulated by a desire to gain the esteem of commanders so admired and beloved as Duke Ferdinand, and the Hereditary Prince, now Duke of Brunswick, I undertook the expedition on foot. I set out from the neighbourhood of Lord Fred. Cavendish's post, then commanding the British chasseurs, passed through the Soling Forest, to Goslar, crossed the river Weser, near Hochster; from thence to Warburg, where I tried to slip through the enemy, by Battenburg, but was discovered by Chamborant's hussars, and obliged to go back to Lipstad, where Colonel Munro, of Hanoverian troops, commanded. I remained there for some days, before I could get through the French posts. At last I succeeded, and crossed the river Rure, by Swerden, in the night, passed Iserlow, Ludenshid, towards Newvitt, then turned to my left, towards Marburg, adjoining to the road from Frankfort to Cassell; came into the dominions of the Counts of Witgenstein and Berleburg, where I learned, that after my departure, the allied and French armies had gone into winter quarters, that I was then in the middle of the French army, and, consequently, in so critical a situation, that my first indispensable object was, to endeavour to effect my retreat, if it were possible. While I directed my march for this purpose, however, I lost no opportunity of doing detriment to the enemy. Some couriers, who travelled in waggons, which was a mode of conveyance I did not suspect them to use, escaped me; but I raised an alarm everywhere on the roads, destroyed many young horses going to the enemy, took several officers prisoner, on their way from Cassell to Frankfort, and nearly made a prize of the Duke of Broglio himself, the commander in chief of the French army. The Duke had moved his head-quarters, from Cassell to Frankfort. As he passed from the former to the latter place, I was posted in a wood, between the villages of Jesberg and Holshausen, near a hollow part of the way, about one hundred and fifty yards from the road.
The Duke was preceded by about fifty Nassau hussars, and followed by Shomberg's dragoons, a guard, by far too formidable for my detachment. Before he came into the hollow way, if I am not mistaken, he looked straight towards the tree, behind which I stood, as if he had suspected the spot.
From thence I continued my march by Zigenhein and Humberg, in the Hessian dominions, towards Melzungen, where I crossed the river Fulda, on ice, proceeded towards Cassell, where the Duke's brother, Count Broglio, commanded, with ten thousand men, and stopped on Christmas night, at the village of Hielige Rode, where, agreeable to particular intelligence I had received, I took a French Commissary-general, in the house of the clergyman of that place. A report being spread of this circumstance, by the firing of alarm cannon, in Cassell, the French troops came out in quest of me, and kept watch on every road. From Hielige Rode, I made good my retreat, however, through deep snow, to Auschlach and Landwernhagen, where I took four French officers, in bed; proceeded to Spikershausen; crossed the Fulda again, upon the ice, and came to Wilhelmshausen; passed the Reinhard's Wald; re-crossed the Weser, by Hochster and the Soling Forest, until I reached Einbeck, about the 6th of January, where I found General Luckner, who had the outpost of the allied army. This march, which lasted nearly two months, was performed on foot, without losing, or leaving a single man behind, belonging to my detachment.
Whoever will take the trouble to trace this route, on a map of those countries, will have a still clearer idea of what zeal in service, joined to a hardy constitution, can effect. A minute detail of my march, in this expedition, would oblige me to mention circumstances, which I could not do with safety to those, who are still living in honour and respect, in their own countries; for the sake of those, however, who may adventure on the same duty hereafter, I shall describe how I regulated my movements, the precautions I took, and the means I made use of, to find provisions for my detachment, in so difficult a situation as I was placed, being in the center of the enemy's army, which was one hundred thousand men strong, and filled every town and village with its troops.
I began my march in the evening, and continued it during the night. A little before day-break, I tried to get into a house that stood alone, and at a distance from any town or village, where I laid, during the day, which was, at that season very short; marched again at evening, and again, before day, got into a solitary house.
When I stopped at such a house, for the day, my first precaution was to secure every person in it, until my departure. If I suffered a farmer or his servants, to go out of the house to feed their cattle, or to get any other necessary thing for himself or my detachment, one of my men always attended him, in disguise, till he returned. The provisions which I obliged the farmers to furnish, I paid for liberally; and before I left their houses, I always made handsome presents besides, to themselves and their servants; -- at the same time, threatening them with severe revenge, if they discovered, upon any occasion, the stay I had made with them. Generous treatment, I found, not only gave ease to my expedition, but procure me so much friendship and good wishes, that if I came again, I might expect their doors to be freely opened to me.
Should a visitor come to a house, where a detachment is lying, during the day, he must also be secured, till night, and then recompensed for his detention. In a country, however, the inhabitants of which are friendly to the cause of the enemy, this goodwill cannot be expected. When the French found out, how I had escaped their notice and observation, in the manner above mentioned, they publish'd an order, that none of the inhabitants of the country should wear green clothes, which was the uniform of my party; and that any person who heard, and did not give an account of me, to the next garrison, should be hanged at his own door.
In order to prove successful in an attack, by surprise, in the night, upon any post, which happens to lie in his direct road, and if no taken, might frustrate his expedition, or otherwise impede the service, the Partisan must gain perfect information of the strength and number of the enemy, whether they are in camp of in quarters; if cavalry or infantry; their distance from any garrison, and where their centinels are placed.
He must then dismount the best part of his men, at a proper distance from the enemy, while the remainder hold their horses. Those who are for the attack must sling their carbines, and with sword in hand, rush suddenly upon the adversary. -- The men should, before the attack, have a signal word given them, to prevent any mistake from being made, and their falling upon each other; as, in the night, some confusion is often apt to happen, though such a step may at times, be necessary, to open a passage for the Partisan, to the object of his expedition, if he can avoid it, it is always more prudent and safe.
The following circumstance happened in 1762. While I was in the rear of the French army, in the neighbourhood of Newvitt, near the river Rhine, a detachment of Conslans's hussars, commanded by Captain Saltikoff, which had been long in search of me, becoming at last tired of their pursuit, or imagining that I had returned to the allied army, took up their quarters, on a Sunday evening, at a village near Weyersbach, consisting of eight large farm houses, which stood close together. He ordered a certain number of his men to each house, and proposed to resume his march about two o'clock next morning. Having intelligence of his situation, I sent my spy to the village, who heard Captain Saltikoff give his last orders to his men, which were to retire soon to rest, and be ready to set out at the time above-mentioned.
About nine o'clock in the evening, I advanced within a small distance of the village, and dismounted the greatest part of my detachment. Having called also at a post-house, about half a mile from it, I enquired of the post-master if he had seen any of my people, who answered, that I should find all my party in the farm houses of the village before me. Upon this, I stepped softly up to the village, and saw, through the window of each house, the number of soldiers in it, some of whom were playing at cards, some eating and drinking, and others asleep. I accordingly gave orders with respect to how many of my men should attack each house, and upon a signal given, they were all attacked, and forcibly entered at the same moment, and Captain Saltikoff and his detachment made prisoners, without a shot being fired.
Having now offered every useful observation that occurs to my memory, on the subject of this treatise, I have only to add, that the account which I have endeavoured to give, of the duty of a Partisan, and the use of a corps of light troops, to an army, is not obtained from books, having never met with anyone on the subject. It is drawn from the experience I had in the service, and the various expeditions, I undertook in that capacity and command. I trust, it will inform and impress every young officer, with the indispensable necessity of precaution in forming, and resolution in executing every military enterprise. It may also be amusing, but cannot be displeasing to the old soldier, to be put in remembrance of his former life and actions. If my hints, should induce anyone of the latter, to say more on the subject, and dilate the ideas, I may have too faintly expressed to their full extent, I shall consider it as the highest approbation of what I have done.
To conclude, as it is often difficult, in time of war, to find select chasseurs, who are active, good marksmen, and well acquainted with the use of a rifle, I submit to better judges, whether it might not be attended with great convenience and benefit to the service, if two active men, of every company of every regiment in it, were taught the use of a rifle, as a man, who is not very expert in using a rifle, cannot have a more improper piece put into his hands; and the other points of duty belonging to light troops; in order, that when occasion required, they might be formed into a corps for the use of the army.