OF PRUSSIA'S MILITARY
Of the Subsistence of Troops, and of Provisions.
It has been said by a certain general, that the first object in the establishment of an army ought to be making provision for the belly, that being the basis and foundation of all operations. I shall divide this subject into two parts: in the first I shall explain how and where magazines ought to be established, and in the latter, the method of employing, and transporting them.
The first rule is to establish the large magazines invariably in the rear of the army, and, if possible, in a place that is well secured. During the wars in Silesia and Bohemia, our grand magazine was at Breslau, on account of the advantage of being able to replenish it by means of the Oder. When magazines are formed at the head of an army, the first check may oblige you to abandon them, and you may be left without resource; whereas, if they Are established in the rear of each other, the war will be prudently carried on, and one small disaster will not complete your ruin.
Spandau and Magdebourg should be the chosen situations for magazines in the frontier of the Electorate. Magdebourg, on account of the Elbe, will be particularly serviceable in an offensive war against Saxony, and Schweidenitz against Bohemia.
You cannot be too cautious in the choice of commisaries and their deputies, for if they prove dishonest, the state will be materially injured. With this view, men of strict honor should be appointed as superiors, who must personally, frequently, and minutely examine and controle the accounts.
There are two ways of forming magazines, either by ordering the nobility and peasants to bring their grain to the depot, and paying them for it according to the rate laid down by the chamber of finance, or by taking a certain quantity from them by requisition. It is the business of the commissary to settle and to sign all these agreements.
Vessels of a particular construction are built for the purpose of conveying corn and forage along the canals and rivers.
Purveyors are never to be employed by in cases of the last necessity, for even Jews [sic] are less exorbitant in their demands: they increase the price of provisions, and sell them out again at a most extravagant profit.
The magazines should be established at a very early period, that no kind of necessary may be wanting when the army leaves its quarters to being a campaign: if they be too long neglected, the frost will put a stop to water-carriage, or the roads will become so excessively deep and heavy, that their formation will be a business of the utmost difficulty.
Besides the regimental covered waggons which carry bread for eight days, the commissary is provided with conveniencies for carrying provisions for a month.
The advantage of navigation is, however, never to be neglected, for without this convenience, no army can ever be abundantly supplied.
The waggons should be drawn by horses: trial has been made of oxen, but they do not answer the purpose.
The waggon-masters must be exceedingly careful that due attention be paid to their cattle. The general of an army must also have an eye to this circumstance, for the loss of horses will necessarily occasion a diminution of waggons, and consequently of provisions.
Moreover, unless they receive a proper quantity of good food, these horses will be unable to undergo the necessary fatigue. On a march, therefore, not only the horses will be lost, but also the waggons and their contents. The best concerted measures may be ruined by a repetition of such disasters. the general, therefore, must not neglect any of these circumstances, which are so materially important in all his operations.
In order to facilitate the carriage of provisions in a war against Saxony, advantage must be taken of the Elbe, and in Silesia of the Oder. The sea affords you this assistance in Prussia , but in Bohemia and Moravia, your only dependence is on carriages. It sometimes happens, that three or four depots of provisions are formed on the same line, as was the case with us in Bohemia in the year 1742. There was a magazine at Pardubitz, at Nienbourg, at Podjebrod, and at Brandies, to enable us to keep pace with the enemy, and follow him to Prague, if he had thought proper to have gone thither.
During the last campaign in Bohemia, Breslau furnished Schweidenitz, Schweidenitz supplied Jaromirez, and from thence provisions were carried to the army.
Besides the covered waggons which carry provisions, iron ovens always travel with the army, (the number of which has of late been very much augmented), and, on every halting day they are set to bake bread. On all expeditions, you should be supplied with bread or biscuit for ten days. Biscuits is a very good article, but our soldiers like it only in soup, nor do they know how to employ it to the best advantage.
On a march through an enemy's country, the depot of meal should ever be in a garrisoned town near the army. During the campaign of 1745, our depot was first at Neustadt, then at Jaromirez, and last at Trautenau. Had we been farther advanced, we could not have had a depot in security nearer than that at Pardubitz.
I have provided hand-mills for each company, which are found to be exceedingly useful, as they are worked by the soldiers, who carry the meal to the depot, and receive bread in return. With this meal, you are enabled to husband your magazines, and have it in your power to remain much longer in camp than you could without such supply. Moreover, fewer escorts, and a smaller number of convoys will also be found sufficient.
On the subject of convoys, I must enlarge a little. The strength of escorts depends on the fear which you entertain of the enemy. Detachments of infantry are sent into the towns through which the convoy will pass, to afford then a point of support. Large detachments to cover them are sometimes sent out, as was the case in Bohemia.
In all chequered countries, convoys should be escorted by the infantry, to which a few hussars may be added, in order to keep a lookout on the march, and inform themselves of all situations where the enemy may lie concealed.
My escorts have been formed of infantry in preference to cavalry even in a plain country, and in my own opinion, with very much advantage.
For what regards the minutiae of escorts, I refer you to my military regulation. The general of an army cannot be too anxious about the security of his convoys.
One good rule to attain this end is, to send troops forward for the purpose of occupying the defiles through which the convoy is to pass, and to push the escort a league in front towards the enemy. By this maneuver the convoys are masked, and arrive in security.