The Officers' Guide to Knowledge


To General Officers commanding in Chief:

You have heard that secrecy is one of the first requisites in a commander. In order, therefore, to get a name for this great miliatry virtue, you must alwayss be silent and sullen, particularly at your own table; and I would advise you to secure your secrets the more effectually, by depositing them in the safest place you can think of; as, for instance, in the breast of your wife or mistress.

Though you are not to allow swearing in others, it being forbidden by the articles of war, yet by introducing a few oaths occasionally into your discourse, you will give your inferiors some idea of your courage; especially if you should be advanced in years; for then they must think you a daredevil indeed. I would recommend it to you to make use of some oath or execration peculiar to yourself, in imitation of Captain Bobadil; as 'I hope to be damned' or any other equally expressive of your future wishes or expectations.

Be sure to give out a number of orders. It will at least show the troops you do not forget them. The more trifling they are, the more it shows your attention to the service; and should your orders contradict one another, it will give you an opportunity of altering them, and find subject for fresh regulations.

To Aides-de-Camp of General Officers:

Whenever the general sends you with a message in the field though ever so trifling, gallop as fast as you can up to and against the person, to whom it is addressed. Should you ride over him, it would show your alertness in the performance of your duty.

In delivering the message be as concise as possible, no matter whether you are understoodor not, and gallop back again as fast as you came. To appear the more warlike, you should ride with your sword drawn; but take care you do not cut your horse's ear off.

You should always assume a mysterious air; and if anyone asks you the most trifling question, such as, whether the line will be out at exercise to-morrow? Or any other matter of equal importance, never give a direct answer; but look grave, and affectedly turn the discourse to some other subject. If a subaltern should only venture to ask you what it is o'clock, you must not inform him, in order to show that you are fit to be entrusted with secrets.

To Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels, commanding Corps:

When promoted to the command of a regiment from some other corps, show them that they were all in the dark before, and overturning their whole rouine of discipline, introduce another as different as possible; I will not suppose of your own-you may not have genius enough for that; but if you can only contrive to vamp up some old exploded system, it will have all the appearance of novelty to those, who have never practised it before; the few who have, will give you credit for having seen a great deal of service.

You cannot take too much pains to maintain subordination in your corps. The subalterns of the British Army are but too apt to think themselves gentlemen; a mistake which it is your business to rectify. Put them, as often as you can, upon the most disagreeable and ungentlemanly duties; and endeavour by every means to bring them upon a level with the subaltern officers of the German armies.

When the regiment is on the march, gallop from front to rear as often as possible, especially if the road is dusty. Never pass through the intervals, but charge through the centre of each platoon or division. The cry of-open to the right and left-incline to the right-marks your importance; and it is diverting enough to dust a parcel of fellows already half choked, and to see a poor devil of a soldier, loaded like a jack-ass, endeavouring to get out of your way. In your absence the same liberty may be taken by the adjutant. (Sheppard 3-5)

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