Distribution Of Outpost Troops
Categories: THE THEORY OF SECURITY
Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual Advanced Training
The outpost will generally be divided into four parts. These, in order
from the main body, are the reserve, the line of supports, the line of
outguards, and the advance cavalry.
[Illustration: PLATE SHOWING THE IDEAS INVOLVED IN AN OUTPOST]
The distance separating these parts, and their distance from the main
body, will depend upon the object sought, the nature of the terrain, and
the size o
the command. There can be no uniformity in the distance
between supports and reserve, nor between outguards and supports, even
in the same outpost. The avenues of approach and the important features
of the terrain will largely control their exact positions.
The outpost of a small force should ordinarily hold the enemy beyond
effective rifle range of the main body until the latter can deploy. For
the same purpose the outpost of a large force should hold the enemy
beyond the artillery range.
The reserve constitutes the main body of the outpost and is held at some
central point from which it can readily support the troops in front or
hold a rallying position on which they may retire. The reserve may be
omitted when the outpost consists of less than two companies.
The reserve may comprise one-fourth to two-thirds of the strength of the
The supports constitute a line of resisting and supporting detachments,
varying in size from a half company to a battalion. They furnish the
line of outguards.
The supports are numbered consecutively from right to left. They are
placed at the more important points on the outpost line, usually in the
line on which resistance is to be made in case of attack.
As a general rule, roads exercise the greatest influence on the location
of supports, and a support will generally be placed on or near a road.
The section which it is to cover should be clearly defined by means of
tangible lines on the ground and should be such that the support is
centrally located therein.
The outguards constitute the line of small detachments farthest to the
front and nearest to the enemy. For convenience they are classified as
pickets, sentry squads, and cossack posts. They are numbered
consecutively from right to left in each support.
A picket is a group consisting of two or more squads, ordinarily not
exceeding half a company, posted in the line of outguards to cover a
given sector. It furnishes patrols and one or more sentinels, double
sentinels, sentry squads, or cossack posts for observation.
Pickets are placed at the more important points in the line of
outguards, such as road forks. The strength of each depends upon the
number of small groups required to observe properly its sector.
A sentry squad is a squad posted in observation at an indicated point.
It posts a double sentinel in observation, the remaining men resting
near by and furnishing the reliefs of sentinels. In some cases it may be
required to furnish a patrol.
A cossack post consists of four men. It is an observation group similar
to a sentry squad, but employs a single sentinel.
At night it will sometimes be advisable to place some of the outguards
or their sentinels in a position different from that which they occupy
in the day time. In such case the ground should be carefully studied
before dark and the change made at dusk. However, a change in the
position of the outguard will be exceptional.
Sentinels are generally used singly in daytime, but at night double
sentinels will be required in most cases. Sentinels furnished by
cossack posts or sentry squads are kept near their group. Those
furnished by pickets may be as far as 100 yards away.
Every sentinel should be able to communicate readily with the body to
which he belongs.
Sentinel posts are numbered consecutively from right to left in each
outguard. Sentry squads and cossack posts furnished by pickets are
counted as sentinel posts.
By day, cavalry reconnoiters in advance of the line of observation. At
night, however, that the horses may have needed rest and because the
work can be done better by infantry, the greater part of the cavalry is
usually withdrawn in rear of the supports, generally joining the
reserve, small detachments being assigned to the supports for patrolling
at a distance.
With efficient cavalry in front, the work of the infantry on the line of
observation is reduced to a minimum.
General instructions for the advance cavalry are given by the outpost
commander, but details are left to the subordinate.
Instead of using outguards along the entire front of observation, part
of this front may be covered by patrols only. These should be used to
cover such sections of the front as can be crossed by the enemy only
with difficulty and over which he is not likely to attempt a crossing
In daylight much of the local patrolling may be dispensed with if the
country can be seen from the posts of the sentinels. However, patrols
should frequently be pushed well to the front unless the ground in that
direction is exceptionally open.
Patrols or sentinels must be the first troops which the enemy meets, and
each body in rear must have time to prepare for the blow. These bodies
cause as much delay as possible without sacrificing themselves, and
gradually retire to the line where the outpost is to make its
Patrols must be used to keep up connection between the parts of the
outpost except when, during daylight, certain fractions or groups are
mutually visible. After dark this connection must be maintained
throughout the outpost except where the larger subdivisions are provided
with wire communication.
In addition to ordinary outguards, the outpost commander may detail from
the reserve one or more detached posts to cover roads or areas not in
the general line assigned to the supports.
In like manner the commander of the whole force may order detached posts
to be sent from the main body to cover important roads or localities not
included in the outpost line.
The number and strength of detached posts are reduced to the absolute
needs of the situation.