Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/615

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AS in boxing, fencing, saber and bayonet exercises, there are comparatively few postures, guards, thrusts and strokes, so in warfare, whether the numbers be large or small, the arms most modern or ancient, there are just a few principles to whose steady adherence and skilful manipulation all success is due. In order that these may become apparent without irksome study of military details, let us imagine a command of say a thousand men, fairly well drilled, of good ordinary intelligence and engaged in a cause worthy of being fought for. We have been in camp for some time, but an order has now come to join the main army. This is a long distance off, the railway communications have been broken, and the intervening country, though possessed of good roads, is more or less in the hands of the enemy.

Our scouts have kept us informed as to the condition of the country for several miles around; our first day's march is, therefore, not hampered with any especial dread of surprise. We move quickly and at ease. Safe as everything appears to be, the commander relaxes none of the needful precautions; at least fifty men, under command of an experienced officer, are sent quite far to the front, the distance varying with the nature of the country—the farther, the more broken it may be. The best roads are followed; the men are allowed to march at ease, though always preserving their company organization, while the officers are always more or less on the alert. There is a small rear guard, but it is upon the advance that the main responsibility falls. Of the fifty thrown forward, about half will remain together; the rest are scattered; some far to the front along the highway; others on either side of the route, riding up the hills on either hand, making sure that no deep gorge, dense growth of forest or thicket, nor even a field of grain conceals an enemy. It is upon the alertness of those vedettes on front and flanks that the safety of the force in great measure depends. History records many relaxations of this principle of precaution, and for lack of it sudden ambushes and deplorable disasters. It was thus, in spite of Washington's repeated warnings, that Braddock fell into a cunning ambuscade, and thus (not to multiply examples) that Custer and his command were massacred to a man among the high Rockies.

On the annexed map the men may be located at 'A' marching from 'D' in the direction of the village, 'F'. The advance is at 'B', the rear guard at 'C'. The commander rides with the main column, near the