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picket with the exact whereabout of the
force upon which he is to retire for support
in case of attack, and with the roads conducting
to it. Upon the exactness of these
instructions the safety of the army may
depend; inasmuch as a mistake by a picket,
in its retreat, might lay the whole army open
to a sudden onslaught. The importance of
confiding the points of the military fan to
vigilant officersof giving them a faithful
map of the country, good glasses, and ready
writing materialsthe importance of details
like these, in the government of an army in
the field, seldom strike us, civilians, as we
cozily read over the accounts of army
movements in the columns of our morning paper.
Yet the duties of the man who commands an
outpost are grave and onerous in the highest
degree. He must be brave as a lion, crafty as
a cat. When he perceives that the enemy is not
in his immediate neighbourhood, he must send
out scouts in all directions, till he discovers
the points to which he has retired. Every
sound he hears must be noted; every country-
man he meets must be questioned; the rise
of every cloud of dust must be chronicled, to
estimate the movements or intentions of the
foe. His conjectures and his observations
must be clearly given to the officer of the
grand-garde immediately in his rear. Again,
he is responsible that all communications
with the enemy shall be impossible along the
line of his sentinels. No bearer of a flag of
truce should pass his line of posts before he
has received an order to this effect from his
superior officer. He must take care that all his
men do not eat their meals at the same time;
that they lie down in rotation, and that the
horses of the mounted patrols go to drink
two or three at a time only. As soon as
night closes in, his responsibilities double.
Half of his men remain under arms all night;
the rest sit, having their arms and saddles at
their side. Colonel Tevis insists that these
poor fellows should never be allowed to
occupy a house; since, enclosed within four
walls, they neither hear nor see all that is
going on around them. If the time be
winter, and a fire be indispensable, only half
of the outpost should be allowed to approach
it at once, the other half of the force being
stationed at a distance ready to receive the
enemy. As the night wears through, in the
performance of these exciting duties, while,
far away behind, the divisions sleep securely,
the grand-gardes prepare to relieve the outposts.
With the first break of day, fresh
soldiers approach their tired brethren of the
outposts to relieve themthis time being
sagaciously chosen by prudent generals, because
it is the time most favourable to the
enemy for an attack. Thus, in the event of a
skirmish, the outposts are doubly strong at
the most perilous moment, the relieving and
the relieved soldiers being together. Should
the advance of the enemy appear general,
the officer commanding an outpost collects
his sentinels, and opposes the advance
sufficiently to give the grand-gardes time to
receive the advanced pickets of the enemy,
and to keep up a harassing fire upon them.
As the pickets retire upon the main body,
opposing the enemy and slackening his advance
at every turn, they make for its flanks,
in order to leave its front clear for any movements
which the commander may consider
advisable. It is, however, a rule that the
pickets should never retire before their
scouts and outposts have joined them.

In this way, is the fan of an army
regulated. Upon its proper construction, as the
reader will have already observed, depends
the safety of an army, very often. And thus
responsibility descends from the field-marshal
to the captain, spying through a night-glass
over a gloomy landscape to catch reflections
of the enemy's bivouac firesthe dust of his
horses' hoofs, or the glitter of his steel, under
the pallid rays of the moon. Let the captain
doze over his work; let the sentinel get
drowsy before the icy wind; and the enemy
may suddenly cleave his way to the heart of
the camp, or a spy may go safely through the
lines. To any perceptible movement in the
solemn gloom, the sentinel answers with a bullet.
Even now, as we write at night, many
countrymen's eyes are strained over the
gloom of a Crimean landscape, staring
excitedly to catch any movement of the
enemy in the distance. Many a light-hearted
young fellow, who has spent years in London
whispering roguish things behind marabout
fans, to willing ears and sparkling eyes,
now sternly holds the command of a point in
the great military fan that protects the
slumbers of our soldiers. And if, this night,
under the heavy clouds of a Crimean sky,
and in the drenching rain, the enemy approach
our young friend's point of the fan, sure
enough are wethough we thought him an
empty fellow when he aired his Piccadilly
collars in Hyde Parkthat he will not hold
his weapon with a trembling hand, nor give
an inch of ground too early. It is a pity
he does not know enough to do all that is in
the capacity of his brave nature. Still we
think tenderly of him; seeing him at this
moment with his brave face full before the
enemy. The Russians will not pass his
sentinels, we warrant.

Now ready, price Five Shillings and Sixpence, cloth boards,
THE TWELFTH VOLUME
OF
HOUSEHOLD WORDS,
Containing from No. 280 to No. 303 (both inclusive) and the extra Christmas Number.

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