The Service Of Security
Categories: THE SERVICE OF SECURITY
Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual
Security has the same meaning in the military world as elsewhere. We
properly think of the security of our persons, our property, our
families in connection with the term. In the military world the family,
or community, being so much larger, the word security acquires
A husband and father provides for the protection of his family whether
at home or abroad. So does the military commande
for his command,
whether it is an army or a squad; whether it is in camp, on the march,
in battle, advancing upon or retreating from the enemy. The end desired
is the same in all cases. A study of all the measures adopted by the
successful generals in history shows that the means are not very
A body of troops in camp is protected (made secure) by the use of groups
placed between the enemy and the camp. We were told by a bee expert in
Arizona that a limited number of bees remained in the vicinity of the
hive. They were quick to observe and resist (the two great duties of an
outpost) any intruder.
Suppose that you are in a part of the jungles of Borneo where wild
Mohammedan tribes still exist, that you have had a strenuous day's
march, and it is time for you to halt and camp for the night. If you are
a thoughtful and experienced hunter you will pitch your camp where its
protection will be least difficult. A few wild men may severely punish
you for a lack of judgment in the matter. They may probably spring from
a weak and unexpected quarter when the occasion is least favorable for
you. And unless the members of your camp know that you have exercised
wise discretion, and that there are proper measures for their security,
they will be unable to obtain the needed repose for the following day's
work. From this we can see the important business (function) of an
As a father would interpose himself between his wife and children and an
attacking bulldog, so would a military commander provide a similar
protection for his camp. We see from this one of the big duties of an
outpost commander, i.e., especial attention should be devoted to the
direction from which the enemy (bulldog) is coming or is thought to be
coming, and a probably less degree of attention to other points.
Consider yourself a member of General Sherman's army during its march
from the North on Atlanta. You are to camp for the night on a very open
piece of ground. You do not know where the enemy is, but you believe
that he is somewhere south of you. The troops are tired. They have had a
long, hard march. Let us suppose it is your duty to provide the security
of the main body for the night. General Sherman has given you a certain
number of men for this purpose. Just how would you go about it?
Regardless of other considerations, it is imperative that your own main
force be not surprised or caught off guard by any contingency, however
exceptional. To secure this immunity, it is necessary to send men or
groups of men in the direction of the probable advance of the enemy,
anti to arrange these men or groups of men so that they can be of
assistance to each other. This we call forming an outpost.
It may be possible to have a line of protection extending around the
entire camp. It must be extended and arranged so as to keep the enemy so
far away from our main body that he cannot observe our numbers or our
position. The enemy must not be permitted to approach close enough to
the main body to annoy or surprise it. Experience shows that all of this
is best accomplished by placing: 1st, some groups or line of groups
farthest from our main body and closest to the enemy in order to
observe, to report the movements of the enemy, and, when necessary, to
make a temporary resistance; 2d, a line of resistance (supporting
groups) called supports upon which the first line can retire before,
being swamped by superior numbers; 3d, large groups, or line of groups
(line of reserves), so located that they may go to the assistance of
the second line in case of necessity. Such arrangements may be
illustrated by the following diagram.
PLATE SHOWING THE MAIN IDEAS INVOLVED IN SECURITY
Danger zone ---- Danger zone
Cavalry -- -- Cavalry
-- -- -- --
/ -- -- \
/ / \ \
+ / ---- ---- \ +
^ + / \ +
/ ^ + +-----------+ +
/ \ MAIN BODY ^
/ \ +-----------+ \
Line of observation. \ Line of reserves -
Occupied by small \ to move forward to
groups. Drive back \ help line of supports.
enemy patrols. \
Line of supports on line of resistance.
Rallying point for small groups in front.
Note that distances from the line of observation to the main body
increase as the groups increase in size. The reserves are the largest
groups. The groups on the Line of observation are the smallest.
It is most important to note that the groups are placed according to
the conditions and circumstances of the particular case. Don't follow
any blind rules. Your judgment must tell you when to place this group
here and not to place that group there. Have as few men on such duty as
If a swamp, or a large body of water here, very small groups will
afford the necessary security.
If a forest, or steep hills here, very small parties will afford the
Assume that we want to afford security for our main body from any
especially dangerous sector such as ABC. Our cavalry is in front of our
first line and in touch with the enemy. The danger zone represents the
direction from which the enemy is expected.]
This plan must be modified according to the particular case. Let us
suppose that we are camping by a large body of water, or that we are
surrounded by mountains. We can easily imagine where we could change
the above general plan so as to give adequate protection and at the same
time lessen the number of men detailed for security. We must never
forget that men are generally tired when they arrive in camp, and that
we should make their work as light as circumstances permit. It requires
a nice judgment to choose the correct number for security.
We should know the names of these groups. Farthest away is the line that
sees, and reports what it sees, but can offer only a limited resistance.
This is called the line of observation or the line of outguards. In
rear of the line of outguards we have larger groups placed at greater
distances. These are called supports. This is the line that fights.
This is the line that makes extensive preparations for fighting (or
resisting). It is called the line of supports or the line of
resistance. We have one farther and last line of groups which is
still larger and occupies still greater distances than the two we have
just discussed. This is the safety valve and is called the reserve, or
the line of reserves. This is the line that gives a sound factor of
safety. It will only be called upon in cases of emergency and may
therefore generally enjoy a considerable degree of repose. But it and
the line of supports combined must have sufficient strength to delay the
enemy, in case of a general attack, long enough for our main body to
form for battle.
Let us look at the line of outguards for further important
considerations and distinctions. The enemy's movements and operations
should ordinarily be expected where there are for him least
difficulties. Large (dangerous) bodies of troops find trouble in
marshes, thick forests, steep mountainous country. They avoid these
obstacles as much as possible, selecting open country, solid soil,
strong bridges, and good roads. Here is where large and strong groups in
opposition are necessary. Small and unimportant groups (or no groups at
all) should be placed where the enemy's advance is exceptionally
difficult. Finally, there will be places between these last two extremes
that require just an average amount of attention, that is to say,
require groups of medium strength.
The groups that are largest and are used at the important places where
danger is most expected, are called Pickets. (These consist of from
two squads of eight men each to eight squads.) The least important
groups are called Cossack Posts. (These consist of four men, usually a
noncommissioned officer and three privates.) The groups of average
importance are called Sentry Squads. (These consist of eight men, a
corporal and seven privates.)
Having discussed in broad terms the security of troops in camp, we are
prepared to consider their security while either advancing upon or
retreating from the enemy. In either case groups are placed between our
main body and the actual or supposed position of the hostile troops.
When we are advancing upon an enemy our advanced groups constitute what
we term the advance guard. If we are retreating from the enemy, our
rear groups compose the rear guard. The main general ideas of an
advance guard are illustrated by the husband who takes his wife and
family to his house after an evening's absence. The house is dark and
without occupants. The wife and children are apprehensive of danger. The
husband goes first, turns on the light, and searches for any indications
of an enemy. He looks, if desirable, in the closets and under the beds.
If there is any one that may harm his family it is his duty to find out
and dispose of him.
In the advance guard we have exactly the same general scheme as with
outposts. Far advanced to the front (and often to the sides or flanks)
we have small groups (called, when considered collectively, the advance
party) whose business it is to inform us of the presence of the enemy.
Next we have a large group (support) to assist these small and rather
helpless ones in advance in case of difficulty. And last we have a still
larger group (reserve) that may be called upon in great emergencies.
We should fully understand that all these groups are out to accomplish
several ends, but their one great and ultimate object should be to push
on ahead of the main body so that it may be secure and its march
uninterrupted. To accomplish this it is desirable to get all possible
information about the enemy; it is also desirable to keep him from
getting any information about your own troops.
The ideas are nearly the same with rear guards. Note this important
difference: if, in an advance upon the enemy, your advance guard should
suddenly be fired upon, your main body would (temporarily) halt. If, in
a retreat, your rear guard is halted by the enemy's fire, your main body
would normally be marching farther from it. In the first case assistance
is near at hand. In the second it is withdrawing. The rear guard in a
retreat should therefore be a little larger than in an advance. It must
be able to extricate itself from any situation however difficult or it
loses its usefulness. Its commander should have a cool, level head. To
delay the enemy and thus assist the main body to escape is his mission.
For him to remain too long in a good position might endanger not only
his safety but that of the main body as well.