- Part I
- Part II
- Part III
everal manuals intended to provide instruction in drill were published during the period of the French and Indian War. Of these several works, those written by General Humphrey Bland and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cumberland were the most widespread and likely to have been used by Provincial troops in North America.
Bland’s manual went through several editions, and heavily influenced what was written by the Duke of Cumberland in 1757, as well as a number of other contemporary English militia manuals. A 1757 edition of Cumberland’s was sent to Colonel Henry Bouquet in January of 1759, with orders to instruct his troops in it, as well as all the regiments in American were to do.
While many of the basics are covered by Bland and Cumberland, a thorough consultation of other works is necessary to fill in some gaps or find instruction on other maneuvers.
What follows then, are instructions and advise pertaining to marching, the proper handling of arms, guard duty, and other aspects of military drill that may be presented at living history programs and military encampments representing the period of the French and Indian War. The explanations of the various movements have been transcribed in language that will hopefully be easier to understand than that which is found in some of the period works, while still retaining the character and flavor of those earlier pieces. All persons portraying rangers of the 1st Troop of Rangers, Georgia should acquaint themselves with this manual, particularly where it concerns the manual exercise.
Great care must be taken not to begin a motion until the command or drum signal is ended. Commands and signals to be very exact in counting a second of time, or 1, 2, between every motion. The exercising officer to take the space of two seconds between the end of each motion and his giving the command for another; and this the men will observe, when they exercise by one word of command only.
As performing the exercise well depends a great deal on how the words of command are given, those commands should be delivered clear and distinct, that the men may not mistake one command for another. The officer must not over-strain his voice and must learn to emphasize the right place, and where to make the proper pauses, which can be of great service to the men, in giving them time to think on the word of command before it is fully delivered. Most commands are given in two parts, the first being the preparative (explaining what is to be done) and the second being that of execution. Pauses between commands of preparation and execution shall be indicated in this manual by the placement of a comma. The delivery of commands should be practiced until they are given in a strong, clear and judicious manner.
When assembly is beat, or the officer orders the men to stand to their arms, the soldiers will present themselves facing their officer. The serjeant will place a corporal to the right of the formation as a marker. The other soldiers will assemble to his left and in one rank, unless ordered otherwise. When under arms, the men should fall in with their firelocks at half-cock and pans shut. The men must always maintain perfect steadiness and silence when in ranks and will give their full attention to the word of command.
The men shall stand in close order, lightly touching at the elbow. If open order is desired, the officer shall command “Take open order, MARCH!” at which the men will stretch out their right arms and side-step to their left, so that they may touch the shoulder of the man next on their right with only their finger tips.
The shortest men to be placed in the centre of the line and the tallest on the right and left. If there are enough men to allow it, the officer may wish to form the men into two ranks. He will tell off the men into four sections from the right.
To form two ranks, the officer will command “Form your Ranks, MARCH!” at which the men of the centre sections will march one pace to their front and halt. These men will constitute the front rank. To form the rear rank, the officer will command “To the Right and Left Inward, FACE! March! Halt! Front!” At this, the men of the flank sections will face towards that space formerly occupied by the centre section and will march to fill that space until they are halted (when the two section meet) and faced to their proper front.
Once formed into ranks, the officer may wish to cause the ranks to be opened to facilitate inspection. He shall command “Rear Rank, to your Proper Distance,” at which the men of the rear rank will face to the right about. The command “MARCH!” will cause the rear rank to march four paces to the rear where they are commanded to “HALT!” whereupon they halt, then face to their proper front again by the right about. To close the ranks, the command shall be “Rear Rank, Close to the Front, MARCH!” at which the rear rank marches four paces and regains their dress.
Dismissing the Company
When the company is finished with its duty and is to be dismissed, the officer will command “To the Right About, DISMISS!” At which the men will face to the rear, and march forward three paces before dispersing. If there be a drummer, he should beat a Ruffle at the last part of the command. If the company be under arms, the officer will first cause the firelocks to be clubbed and only then order the dismissal.
The Position of a Soldier While Under Arms
The heels are to be in a line, not more than four inches apart, the toes turned out, the shoulders square to the front and kept back; the breast pressed forward; the belly drawn in, without bending the right hand hanging down the right side with the back of the hand to the front. The head turned a little to the right, except the right-hand man, who looks full to the front or to the exercising officer.
The firelock is carried on the left shoulder, the barrel outwards, the butt in the left hand, two fingers being under it, the middle finger just upon the turn, the forefinger and the thumb just above the turn, the piece almost upright, the butt flat against the outside of the hip bone, the lock a little turned up, the guard just below the left breast, the piece pressed to the body with the ball of the thumb.
Changing Direction by Turns
The simplest way to change the direction of a marching company is to cause them to turn. This is a quarter-pivot, done by each soldier in a formation, the result of which is a change in the direction of that formation.
The preparative word “Right” should be said as the right feet of the company come to the ground. A pause of a few steps should here be given to allow the men to think about the maneuver. The command “TURN!” is also said as the right foot hits the ground. The men will take one farther step forward with their left feet, pivot ninety degrees on their right heels, and step off again with their left feet. The opposite of this command is:
When the company is to march to the right about, the command shall be:
Again, the preparative “Right About” is given as the right foot comes to the ground. After a pause of a few more steps, the command “TURN!: is given as the right foot hits the ground. One farther step forward is taken with the left foot, then spin to the right about on both heels, stepping off again with the left foot.
Changing Direction by Wheels
When the entire formation is to turn, and not the soldiers within it, it is called a “wheel”. A wheel may be to the right or left, accomplishing a turn of a quarter circle (ninety degrees), or the wheel may be to the right or left about, which will accomplish a half-circle (one hundred-eighty degrees).
In wheeling, the men of the front rank close, or dress, to the pivot (inside) of the wheel, so that they touch the man who is next to them on that side. At the same time, the men must look to the outside of the wheel in order to keep their line even. Simply put, the men should lean in and look out.
The men of the rear rank need only to look forward and cover their file leader, though the rear rank should incline slightly to the outside of the wheel in order to do this.
The motion of each man is quicker or slower, according to the distance he is from the pivot. Thus; when you wheel to the right, each man moves quicker than his right-hand man. The man who stands at the pivot of the wheel in the front rank must cast his eye to the outside of the line and simply pivot in place as he marches. The outside man should look a little towards the pivot of the wheel and should neither speed nor slow his pace, but must march as he normally would, with the rest of the line adjusting their pace to his.
When wheeling a quarter-circle from the halt, the command shall be:
When wheeling a half-circle from the halt, the command shall be:
When wheeling on the march, the command of execution shall be “WHEEL!” as in:
If the wheel is to be less than a full quarter or half-circle, the officer will command, “FRONT!” when the line is to cease wheeling and resume marching to its front.
It may be that the officer will wish the company to wheel by divisions of twos, fours, etc. In this case, it is most necessary that the men know their place in the line.
Every division of four men in a rank wheel to the right.
A wheel may also be executed on the centre file. Which file is to act as the pivot should be designated prior to the company beginning it’s manoeuvers. As in a normal wheel, the men should look to the outside and keep elbow contact towards the direction of the wheel. The command to wheel on the centre shall be:
The Oblique Step
On some occasions while on the march, the officer may wish to shift the line at an oblique angle to one direction or the other, while still keeping the men faced to their front. The command shall be:
At this, the men will continue to face forward, but will cross-step in a forty-five degree angle towards the direction indicated. The company will cease marching at the incline and resume their normal march to the front at the command “FRONT!”
Maneuvering by Files
At times, moving a company in line is not practical. In a situation such as marching on a narrow road or other defile, it is best to have the company march by files. A “file” most commonly refers to a pair of soldiers, placed one behind the other while in ranks. It is understood in the following manoeuvers that a pair of files shall move together.
At this, the two right hand files will march straight forward. The rest of the company will face to their right and march until they reach the position of the first files. Each pair of files will turn to the left and continue marching, resulting in a column of two files marching to the front.
To re-form the company, the command shall be:
At this, the lead pair of files march by the half-step. The following files incline to the left until they reach their place in the line. When the entire company is reformed into line, the company is commanded to resume the previous marching pace.
The command may also be given to advance by files from the left or from the centre, as in:
The centre two files will march straight forward. The rest of the company will face towards the centre files, either to the right, or to the left, and march until they reach the position of the centre files. They will then turn to the right or left and continue marching, resulting in a double file of march.
Movements of Arms
The First Part
In this section, all the various commands of the Manual Exercise are given. Many of these commands will not be given in battle, but are only spoken during instruction. The men should be taught to give a pause (1, 2) between each motion of a movement.
When rendering a salute with firelocks, the command “Present your Arms” may be given, that movement being the same as “Rest your Bayonets.” The direction of presented arms may be changed as follows:
From either the Rest or the Recover, bayonets may be charged as follows:
It should be noted that in many instances, and with experienced troops, it is not necessary to always give such commands as “Poise your Firelock” and “Join your Right Hand to your Firelock”, but that the men will still be cautions to perform the movements, though the command not be given.
The Second Part
In this section, all the individual steps of loading and firing are given for the purposes of instruction. It should be noted that not all of these commands may be given when drilling experienced troops.
Raise the firelock with your right hand (as if to poise it) at the same time turning the barrel inwards and seizing it with the left hand just above the feather spring, the elbows raised and the hammer about the height of the breast.
Bite off the top of the cartridge paper a good way down and (placing immediately your thumb upon the mouth of it) bring it opposite to the pan, the cartridge being held upright.
Shut the pan with the two last fingers and pushing down the butt cast back the muzzle of the piece catching it in the hollow of the right hand letting the firelock slip through the left hand till the butt comes near to the ground & opposite to the left toe, the piece in turning up must be kept close to the body, the cartridge (covered with the thumb) close to the muzzle in a line with the barrel, the right elbow turned down.
The centre rank (or front rank, if in two ranks) steps back with the right foot, one foot in a direct line to the rear, by that means bringing their right foot just behind the foot of the front rank and the firelock kept in the same position as the first motion.
The rear rank steps with the right foot to the right till his toe touches the hinder part of the left heel of his right hand man at the same time bending his right knee a little so that his body may be opposite to the interval of his file leader and the file upon his right. The firelock in the same attitude as that of the centre rank.
Bring down the muzzle of your piece with both hands, throwing forward your left hand as far as the swell, placing the butt in the hollow betwixt your right breast and shoulder, pressing it close to you; at the same time taking your right thumb from the cock (but keeping the forefinger on the trigger) both arms close to your body; the centre rank levels a little to the right of the front rank; the rear rank levels through the interval of his file leader and the right hand file, the whole taking good aim by leaning their heads to the right and looking along the barrels.
Draw the trigger briskly with your forefinger and immediately upon firing the front rank rises, all the three ranks bringing their heels four inches distant behind their left heels at the same time bringing back the firelock almost level as in the 1st motion of “Handle your Cartridge”, the right thumb upon the cock, the right elbow raised, the ranks then facing full to the right.
Strain the tumbler to the half bent with your right thumb, bringing down your right elbow which by that means add to its force.
The Third Part
After the company has finished firing, the arms are to be cleaned and bayonets returned as follows:
Taking out the wiping cloth, bring it up to the pan, clean it, then shutting the pan, as when you held the cartridge, & casting back the muzzle as if to charge.
When the inspecting officer passes, drop the rammer, then immediately drawing it out of the barrel, turn it, shorten it against your breast, return the rammer full to its pipes with your right thumb and forefinger continued just below the butt of the rammer.
The 1757 Platoon Exercise
In this section, two sets of commands will be laid out. Those commands which are to be spoken by the officer will be written as:
The other commands are here listed as a guide to the motions of the men, but are not spoken. These shall be written in brackets as:
The men shall be careful to always perform every motion of the drill.
It should be noted that the more limited spoken commands given in this section will suffice for normal drill and particularly for battle.