Advice to the Officers of the British Army
with the addition of some hints to the drummer and private soldier

Chapter XIV
To the Serjeant

As by your appointment to the halbert, you are probably at the summit of your preferment (unless you have a pretty wife, sister, or daughter) you may now begin to take a little ease, and relax from that rigid discipline you observed, when corporal.

Into whatever company you are admitted, you must be careful to impress everyone with an idea of your own consequence, and to make people believe, that the serjeants are the only useful and intelligent men in the corps.

You are not only to entertain a hearty contempt for your officers, but you must also take care to communicate it to the soldiers. The more you appear to despise your superiors, the greater respect, you know, your inferiors will profess for you. You will easily contrive to humbug the young subalterns, and make them do just what you please in the company: but remember, that you are to assume the merit of their good-natured actions to yourself, and to impute all the others to their own impulse.

When an officer calls you out of the ranks, run up to him with your halbert recovered, and run your fingers in his eyes, and tread upon his toes. This he will attribute to your great alacrity in obeying his orders, mixed with a modest confusion in addressing yourself to a man of his importance; and you may afterwards tell it as a good joke among your brother serjeants.

Should you be reprimanded by your officers for being intoxicated and having neglected your duty, tell them; that some serjeants of other regiments, old acquaintances of yours, with whom you had formerly served, had come to pay you a visit, and that you were obliged to entertain them, as they do their brother officers, for the honour of the corps.

Confine the soldiers as often as possible. This will afford you an opportunity of obliging them, or their wives, by getting them off again: and if your officer refuses to release them at your request, you may easily find means to bring them off at a court-martial, by softening or suppressing the evidence. Whenever you appear against a soldier, be sure to give him a great character, if called upon, in order to show your impartiality.

When you command a guard, as soon as you have mounted, get to the next alehouse, and take post by the window, in order to see that none of the soldiers quit their guard.

When you attend a General officer as orderly serjeant, you must stick close to him, wherever he goes, and walk with your halbert charged, the point towards the General; that in case he stops or turns suddenly, he may feel that you are near him and attentive to receive his orders.

When you are ordered to make cartridges, moisten the paper a little. This will make them roll up the neater, and you will get the more credit from the quarter-master for your workmanship. If, when they come to be used, they should be found unserviceable, it will be supposed, that they got damaged in the quarter-master's store.

Should you be reprimanded by your officers for being intoxicated and having neglected your duty, tell them; that some serjeants of other regiments, old acquaintances of yours, with whom you had formerly served, had come to pay you a visit, and that you were obliged to entertain them, as they do their brother officers, for the honour of the corps.

Whenever you mount guard in garrison or quarters, be sure to leave it upon record on the wainscotting or ceiling of the guard-room. This practice, besides the ornament it will afford the room, will form a series of useful and authentic historical tables for the regiments that succeed you.

If you have a knack at recruiting, and can get sent on that service with an extravagant young suballtern, your fortune is made; that is, if you mind what you are about; as the more he runs out, the more you ought to get. You may quiet your conscience, should it be troublesome, by considering that if you did not fleece him, some one else would, and that the money so acquired is better in your pocket than in those of a pack of whores and gamblers. Nor need you fear anything from his future resentment in case of a discovery; as it is ten to one but the consequences of six months recruiting will oblige him to sell out, and quit the regiment for ever.

Whenever you beat up in a country town, though your officer should be the youngest ensign in the army and the son of a valet de chambre, you must not fail to dub him captain, and stile him his honour at every word. You may also give it out that he is heir to a very large estate in some country between Cornwall and Berwick, but you forget the name. This will give him importance, and, what is more material, credit; and as to the untruth, it is at worst a white lie; and, besides, if detraction is a vice, its opposite must be a virtue.

In enlisting men never mind whether they are fit for service or not. If they cannot serve, they are the more likely to pay the smart.

But remember, that you are to furnish at least one, if not two or more young recruits, for every man you enlist. This will be doing a benefit to the parish: for you give them in lieu of the recruit you trepan, one much younger, who consequently must be of more value, as his country will enjoy the advantage of his services the longer.

In any dispute respecting the enlisting of a man, you may safely give your testimony or oath for the fairness of the transaction, although you were not present, nor saw anything of the matter. It is for the good of the service.

As soon as a recruit has spent all his bounty money, which with your kind assistance, and that of the drummer and party, he may do in a very short time, endeavour to put him out of conceit with the service, that he may attempt to desert. This, if he is an innocent country fellow, he will manage in so awkward a manner, as to enable you to retake him immediately. Here is at once twenty shillings dead, over and above the regimental reward; and it will besides procure you the character of a vigilant and alert officer. Should he, however, escape, bring in a long account against him for necessaries and money advanced, though you never furnished him with a single article, or lent him a farthing. This you may safely do, as he will not be present to contradict you, and should he be afterwards taken, the word of a deserter, guilty of perjury, cannot be put in competition with your accounts.

If on service you detect a soldier marauding, be sure to seize upon the plunder, whether pig, lamb, goose, or other poultry; but as it may be the first offence, and a reprimand may deter him from the like practices in future, you need not report him to the commanding officer; and if you eat the stolen goods, it is only to prevent the sin of waste.

When you have the rear-guard in camp, you may take up your station at one of the huts, and leave the guard to the corporal. It is no more than what is done by the officer of the quarter-guard; and if the rounds should by accident fall upon your guard, whilst you are missing, say that you were just gone to visit your sentinels or to quell a riot.

In order to turn the penny, contrive, when in camp, to let your wife keep a hut in the rear, and sell ale and gin. The standing orders only say, you shall not do it, but do not prohibit her. Here you may settle with your men; and if they spend the greatest part of their pay in liquor, it is no more than they would do elsewhere, and you may as well have their money as another.

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