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

Chapter XVII
To the Private Soldier

As a private soldier, you should consider all your officers as your natural enemies, with whom you are in a perpetual state of warfare: you should reflect that they are constantly endeavouring to withhold from you all your just dues, and to impose on you every unnecessary hardship; and this for the mere satisfaction of doing you an injury. In your turn, therefore, make it a point to deceive and defraud them, every possible opportunity; and more particularly the officers of the company to which you belong.

First then, take every method of getting into your captain's debt; and, when you are pretty handsomely on his books, turn out a volunteer for foreign service, or else desert; and after waiting for a proclamation, or an act of grace, surrender yourself to some other corps.

On duty, as soon as the corporal has posted you sentry, and left you (if he has given himself the trouble of coming out with the relief), endeavour to accommodate yourself as conveniently as you can, the health of every good soldier being of the utmost consequence to the service. For this purpose, if you have a sentry-box, get some stones, and make yourself a seat; or bore two large holes in the opposite sides, through which you may pass your stick, or for want of it, your firelock. Thus seated, in order that you may not fall asleep, which would be rather improper and dangerous for a sentry, sing or whistle some merry tune, as loud as possible: this will both keep you awake, and convince people that you really are so.

In camp, where you cannot have the benefit of a box, as soon as you are posted, carefully ground your arms in some dry place, a good soldier being always careful of his arms; and, wrapping yourself up in your watch-coat, sit or lie down in the lee of some officer's marquis; and, to pass the tedious hours away, whistle or sing, as before directed; and if ever you smoke, there cannot be a better time to take a pipe.

At a field-day, stop up the touchhole of your piece with cobler's wax, or some other substance. This will prevent your firing, and save you the trouble of cleaning your arms: besides, unless the quarter-master-serjeant and his pioneers are uncommonly careful, you may secrete some cartridges to sell to the boys of the town to make squibs.

If you are sentinel at the tent of one of the field-officers, you need not challenge in the fore part of the evening, for fear of disturbing his honour, who perhaps may be reading, writing, or entertaining company. But as soon as he is gone to bed, roar out every ten minutes at least, Who comes there? though nobody is passing. This will give him a favourable idea of your alertness; and though his slumbers may be broken, yet will they be the more pleasing, when he finds that he reposes in perfect security. When the hour of relief approaches, keep constantly crying out, Relief, relief! it will prevent the guard from forgetting you, and prove that you are not asleep.

Perhaps it may be unnecessary to inform you that in relieving you may go without your arms and take the firelock from the man you relieve. By this contrivance none of the firelocks, but those of the sentries, will be wet, or out of order.

On a march, should you be one of the baggage guard, put your arms, knapsack, and haversack on the waggon; and if they are lost, or your firelock broken, make out some story to your captain, who at all events must replace and repair them.

Should you, by accident, have pawned or sold your necessaries, feign sickness on the day they are reviewed, and borrow those of any soldier, whose company is not inspected. You may, in your turn, oblige him in the like manner; and, if this cannot be done, contrive to get confined for some trivial neglect, till the review is over.

If your comrade deserts, you may safely sell your whole kit and charge him with having stolen it: should he be caught, and deny it, nobody will believe him.

If the duty runs hard, you may easily sham sick, by swallowing a quid of tobacco. Knock your elbow against the wall, or your tent-pole, and it will accelerate the circulation to the quickness of a fever. Quick lime and soap will give you a pair of sore legs, that would deceive the surgeon-general himself: and the rheumatism is an admirable pretence, not easily discovered. If you should be sent to a hospital in London, contrive to draw money from the agent; it is your officer's business to look to the payment.

When you are really taken ill, flap your hat, let your hair hang down loose upon your shoulders, wear a dirty handkerchief about your neck, unhook your skirts, and ungaiter your stockings. These are all privileges of sickness.

If your mess have changed their marketing for gin, or any other good liquor, and have nothing to put into the pot, carefully wrap up a puppy or a brickbat in a cloth, and call it a sheep's head, or a pudding. This you may very safely do, as it is a hundred to one that your officer will not be at the pains to examine it.

At a field-day, stop up the touchhole of your piece with cobler's wax, or some other substance. This will prevent your firing, and save you the trouble of cleaning your arms: besides, unless the quarter-master-serjeant and his pioneers are uncommonly careful, you may secrete some cartridges to sell to the boys of the town to make squibs.

In the firings always be sure to fill your pan as full of powder as possible; it will cause much fun in the ranks, by burning your right-hand man: and on the right wing it will also burn the officers; who, perhaps, to save their pretty faces, may order the right-hand file of each platoon not to fire, and thus save the them trouble of dismounting their firelocks and washing the barrel after the exercise is over.

In coming down as front rank, be sure to do it briskly, and let the toe of the butt first touch the ground. By this you may possibly break the stock; which will save the trouble of further exercise that day: and your captain will be obliged to make good the damage.

When you want to screw in a fresh flint, do it with your bayonet: if this notches it, it will be useful as a saw, and you will, besides, show your ingenuity in making it serve for purposes for which it never was intended: though, indeed, this weapon may be said to be the most handy of any a soldier carries. It is an excellent instrument for digging potatoes, onions, or turnips. Stuck in the ground, it makes a good candlestick; and it will on occasion serve either to kill a mud lark, or to keep an impertinent boot at a proper distance, whilst your comrades are gathering his apples.

Should you get to be an officer's servant, you may immediately commence fine gentleman. If he is about your own size, you may wear his shirts and stockings; and should you tear them in putting them on, it is his fault for having them made so small.

When he is on guard, you may invite company to his marquis, and it is hard if you cannot get a key that will open his canteens.

If on the march he gives you a canteen with a lock to carry, this is truly muzzling the ox; which is forbidden in scripture. You may therefore punish him by breaking the bottle and drinking his liquor: there will be no difficulty to bring witnesses to prove it was done by a fall.

When you wait on him at the mess, you may easily contrive to pocket half a fowl, a duck, a tongue, or some such convenient morsel; and you and your brethren must be very awkward and improvident if you can't filch some beer, or a bottle of wine, to drink with it. Some sutlers are kind enough to poor servants to score a pot or two of ale for their benefit.

If you are batman to an officer, your perquisites are certain. Sell half the forage to the sutlers who keep horses or asses: if they don't pay you in money, they will in gin. As a Christian is more worthy than a beast, it is better your master's horses should want than you.

When in quarters, should your landlord be uncivil, there are various methods by which you may bring him to reason. If he refuses to subsist you at the rated allowance, you may soon force him to it by roasting a cat, a dog, or an old boot, at the landlord's fire: for it is no business of his what you dress for your own dinner.

You may be sure that, go into what quarters you will, the landlord will heartily wish you out of them. You should therefore make it a point to give him good cause for it; as it is hard a man should be hated and despised without reason.