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INSTRUCTION FOR SKIRMISHERS.
General Principles and Division of the Instruction.
1. THE movements of skirmishers should be subjected to such rules as will give to the commander the means of moving them in any direction with the greatest promptitude.
2. It is not expected that these movements should be executed with the same precision as in closed ranks, nor is it desirable, as such exactness would materially interfere with their prompt execution.
3. When skirmishers are thrown out to clear the way for, and to protect the advance of, the main corps, their movements should be so regulated by this corps, as to keep it constantly covered.
4. Every body of skirmishers should have a reserve, the strength and composition of which will vary according to circumstances.
5. If the body thrown out be within sustaining distance of the main corps, a very small reserve will be sufficient for each company, whose duty it shall be to fill vacant places, furnish the line with cartridges, relieve the fatigued, and serve as a rallying point for the skirmishers.
6. If the main corps be at a considerable distance, besides the company reserves, another reserve will be required, composed of entire companies, which will be employed to sustain and reinforce such parts of the line as may be warmly attacked; this reserve should be strong enough to relieve at least half the companies deployed as skirmishers.
7. The reserves should be placed behind the centre of the line of skirmishers, the company reserves at one hundred and fifty, and the principal reserve at four hundred paces. This rule, however, is not invariable. The reserves, while holding themselves within sustaining distance of the line, should be, as much as possible, in position to afford each other mutual protection, and must carefully profit by any accidents of the ground to conceal themselves from the view of the enemy, and to shelter themselves from his fire.
8. The movements of skirmishers will be executed in quick, or double quick time. The run will be resorted to only in cases of urgent necessity.
9. Skirmishers will be permitted to carry their pieces in the manner most convenient to them.
10. The movements will be habitually indicated by the sounds of the bugle.
11. The officers, and, if necessary, the non-commissioned officers, will repeat, and cause the commands to be executed, as soon as they are given; but to avoid mistakes, when the signals are employed, they will wait until the last bugle note is sounded before commencing the movement.
12. When skirmishers are ordered to move rapidly, the officers and non‑commissioned officers will see that the men economize their strength, keep cool, and profit by all the advantages which the ground may offer for cover. It is only by this continual watchfulness on the part of all grades, that a line of skirmishers can attain success.
13. This instruction will be divided into five articles, and subdivided as follows:
1. To deploy forward.
2. To deploy by the flank.
3. To extend intervals.
4. To close intervals.
5. To relieve skirmishers.
1. To advance in line.
2. To retreat in line.
3. To change direction.
4. To march by the flank.
1. To fire at a halt.
2. To fire marching.
1. The rally.
2. To form column to march in any direction.
3. The assembly.
1. To deploy a battalion as skirmishers.
2. To rally the battalion deployed as skirmishers.
14. In the first four articles, it is supposed that the movements are executed by a company deployed as skirmishers, on a front equal to that of the battalion in order of battle. In the fifth article, it is supposed that each company of the battalion, being deployed as skirmishers, occupies a front of one hundred paces. From these two examples, rules may be deduced for all cases, whatever may be the numerical strength of the skirmishers, and the extent of ground they ought to occupy.
15. A company may be deployed as skirmishers in two ways; forward, and by the flank.
16. The deployment forward will be adopted when the company is behind the line on which it is to be established as skirmishers: it will be deployed by the flank, when it finds itself already on that line.
17. Whenever a company is to be deployed as skirmishers, it will be divided into two platoons, and each platoon will be subdivided into two sections; the comrades in battle, forming groups of four men, will be careful to know and to sustain each other. The captain will assure himself that the files in the centre of each platoon and section are designated.
18. A company may be deployed as skirmishers on its right, left, or centre file, or on any other named file whatsoever. In this manner, skirmishers may be thrown forward with the greatest possible rapidity on any ground they may be required to occupy.
19. A chain of skirmishers ought generally to preserve their alignment, but no advantages which the ground may present should be sacrificed to attain this regularity.
20. The interval between skirmishers depends on the extent of ground to be covered; but in general, it is not proper that the groups of four men should be removed more than forty paces from each other. The habitual distance between men of the same group in open grounds will be five paces; in no case will they lose sight of each other.
21. The front to be occupied to cover a battalion comprehends its front and the half of each interval which separates it from the battalion on its right and left. If a line, whose wings are not supported, should be covered by skirmishers, it will be necessary either to protect the flanks with skirmishers, or to extend them in front of the line so far beyond the wings as effectually to oppose any attempt which might be made by the enemy’s skirmishers to disturb the flanks.
To deploy forward.
22. A company being at a halt or in march, when the captain shall wish to deploy it forward on the left file of the first platoon, holding the second platoon in reserve, he will command:
1. First platoon—as skirmishers. 2. On the left file—take intervals. 3. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
23. At the first command, the second and third lieutenants will place themselves rapidly two paces behind the centres of the right and left sections of the first platoon; the fifth sergeant will move one pace in front of the centre of the first platoon, and will place himself between the two sections in the front-rank as soon as the movement begins; the fourth sergeant will place himself on the left of the front-rank of the same platoon, as soon as he can pass. The captain will indicate to this sergeant the point on which he wishes him to direct his march. The first lieutenant, placing himself before the centre of the second platoon, will command:
Second platoon backward—MARCH.
24. At this command, the second platoon will step three paces to the rear, so as to unmask the flank of the first platoon. It will then be halted by its chief, and the second sergeant will place himself on the left, and the third sergeant on the right flank of this platoon. If the company is on the march, the second platoon will be halted at the first command.
25. At the command march, the left group of four men, conducted by the fourth sergeant, will direct itself on the point indicated; all the other groups of fours throwing forward briskly the left shoulder, will move diagonally to the front in double quick time, so as to gain to the right the space of twenty paces, which shall be the distance between each group and that immediately on its left. When the second group from the left shall arrive on a line with, and twenty paces from the first, it will march straight to the front, conforming to the gait and direction of the first, keeping constantly on the same alignment and at twenty paces from it. The third group, and all the others, will conform to what has just been prescribed for the second; they will arrive successively on the line. The right guide will arrive with the last group.
26. The left guide having reached the point where the left of the line should rest, the captain will command the skirmishers to halt; the men composing each group of fours will then immediately deploy at five paces from each other, and to the right and left of the front-rank man of the even file in each group, the rear-rank men placing themselves on the left of their file leaders. If tiny groups be not in line at the command halt, they will move up rapidly, conforming to what has just been prescribed.
27. If, during the deployment, the line should be fired upon by the enemy, the captain may cause the groups of fours to deploy, as they gain their proper distances.
28. The line being formed, the non-commissioned officers on the right, left, and centre, of the platoon, will place themselves ten paces in rear of the line, and opposite the positions they respectively occupied. The chiefs of sections will promptly rectify any irregularities, and then place themselves twenty-five or thirty paces in rear of the centre of their sections, each having with him four men taken from the reserve, and also a bugler, who will repeat, if necessary, the signals sounded by the captain.
29. Skirmishers should be particularly instructed to take advantage of any cover which the ground may offer, and should lie flat on the ground whenever such a movement is necessary to protect them from the fire of the enemy. Regularity in the alignment should yield to his important advantage.
30. When the movement begins, the first lieutenant will face the second platoon about, and march it promptly, and by the shortest line, to about one hundred and fifty paces in rear of the centre of the line. He will hold it always at this distance, unless ordered to the contrary.
31. The reserve will conform itself to all the movements of the line. This rule is general.
32. Light troops will carry their bayonets habitually in the scabbard, and this rule applies equally to the skirmishers and the reserve; whenever bayonets are required to be fixed, a particular signal will be given. The captain will give a general superintendence to the whole deployment, and then promptly place himself about eight paces in rear of the centre of the line. He will have with him a bugler and four men taken from the reserve.
33. The deployment may be made on the right or the centre of the platoon, by the same commands, substituting the indication right or center, for that of left file.
34. The deployment on the right or the centre will be made according to the principles prescribed above; in this latter case, the centre of the platoon will be marked by the right group of fours in the second section; the fifth sergeant will place himself on the right of this group, and serve as the guide of the platoon during the deployment.
35. In whatever manner the deployment be made on the right, left, centre (or any file), the men in each group of fours will habitually deploy at five paces from each other, and upon the front-rank man of the even-numbered file. The deployments will habitually be made at twenty paces interval; but if a greater interval be required, it will be indicated in the command.
36. If a company be thrown out as skirmishers so near the main body as to render a reserve unnecessary, the entire company will be extended in the same manner, and according to the same principles, as for the deployment of a platoon. In this case, the third lieutenant will command the fourth section, and a non-commissioned officer designated for that purpose, the second section; the fifth sergeant will act as centre guide; the file closers will place themselves ten paces in rear of the line, and opposite their places in line of battle. The first and second lieutenant will each have a bugler near him.
To deploy by the flank.
37. The company being at a halt, when the captain shall wish to deploy it by the flank, holding the first platoon in reserve, he will command:
1. Second platoon—as skirmishers. 2. By the right flank—take intervals. 3. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
38. At the first command, the first and third lieutenants will place themselves, respectively, two paces behind the centres of the first and second sections of the second platoon; the fifth sergeant will place himself one pace in front of the centre of the second platoon; the third sergeant, as soon as be can pass, will place himself on the right of the front-rank of the same platoon. The captain will indicate to him the point on which he wishes him to direct his march. The chief of the first platoon will execute what has been prescribed for the chief of the second platoon, Nos. 23 and 24. The fourth sergeant will place himself on the left flank of the reserve, the first sergeant will remain on the right flank.
39. At the second command, the first and third lieutenants will place themselves two paces behind the left group of their respective sections.
40. At the command march, the second platoon will face to the right, and commence the movement; the left group of fours will stand fast, but will deploy as soon as there is room on its right, conforming to what has been prescribed No. 26; the third sergeant will place himself on the left of the right group, to conduct it; the second group will halt at twenty paces from the one on its left, the third group at twenty pace from the second, and so on to the right. As the groups halt, they will face to the enemy, and deploy, as has been explained for the left group.
41. The chiefs of sections will pay particular attention to the successive deployments of the groups, keeping near the group about to halt, so as to rectify any errors which may be committed. When the deployment is completed, they will place themselves thirty paces in rear of the centre of their sections, as has been heretofore prescribed. The non-commissioned officers will also place themselves as previously indicated.
42. As soon as the movement commences, the chief of the first platoon, causing it to face about, will move it as indicated No. 30.
43. The deployment may be made by the left flank according to the same principles, substituting left flank for right flank.
44. If the captain should wish to deploy the company upon the centre of one of the platoons he will command:
1. Second platoon—as skirmishers. 2. By the right and left flanks—take intervals. 3. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
45. At the first command, the officers and non-commissioned officers will conform to what has been prescribed No. 38.
46. At the second command, the first lieutenant will place himself behind the left group of the right section of the second platoon, the third lieutenant behind the right group of the left section of the same platoon.
47. At the command march, the right section will face to the right, the left section will face to the left, the group on the right of this latter section will stand fast. The two sections will move off in opposite directions: the third sergeant will place himself on the left of the right file to conduct it, the second sergeant on the right of the left file. The two groups nearest that which stands fast, will each halt at twenty paces from this group, and each of the other groups will halt at twenty paces from the group which is in the rear of it. Each group will deploy as heretofore prescribed No. 40.
48. The first and third lieutenants will direct the movement, holding themselves always abreast of the group which is about to halt.
49. The captain can cause the deployment to be made on any named group whatsoever; in this case, the fifth sergeant will place himself before the group indicated, and the deployment will be made according to the principles heretofore prescribed.
50. The entire company may be also deployed, according to the same principles.
To extend intervals.
51. This movement, which is employed to extend a line of skirmishers, will be executed according to the principles prescribed for deployments.
52. If it be supposed that the line of skirmishers is at a halt, and that the captain wishes to extend it to the left he will command:
1. By the left flank (so many paces) extend intervals. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
53. At the command march, the group on the right will stand fast, all the other groups will face to the left, and each group will extend its interval to the prescribed distance by the means indicated No. 40.
54. The men of the same group will continue to preserve between each other the distance of five paces, unless the nature of the ground should render it necessary that they should close nearer, in order to keep in sight of each other. The intervals refer to the spaces between the groups, and not to the distances between the men in each group. The intervals will be taken from the right or left man of the neighboring group.
55. If the line of skirmishers be marching to the front, and the captain should wish to extend it to the right, he will command:
1. On the left group (so many paces) extend intervals. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
56. The left group, conducted by the guide, will continue to march on the point of direction: the other groups throwing forward the left shoulder, and taking the double quick step, will open their intervals to the prescribed distance, by the means indicated No. 25, conforming also to what is prescribed No. 54.
57. Intervals may be extended on the right, centre, (or any group) of the line, according to the same principles.
58. If in extending intervals, it be intended that one company or platoon should occupy a line which had been previously occupied by two, the men of the company or platoon which is to retire, will fall successively to the rear as they are relieved by the extension of the intervals.
To close intervals.
59. This movement, like that of opening intervals, will be executed according to the principles prescribed for the deployments.
60. If the line of skirmishers be halted, and the captain should wish to close intervals to the left, he will command:
1. By the left flank (so many paces) close intervals. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
61. At the command march, the left group will stand fast, the other groups will face to the left and close to the prescribed distance, each group facing to the enemy as it attains its proper distance.
62. If the line be marching to the front, the captain will command:
1. On the left group (so many paces) close intervals. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
63. The left group, conducted by the guide, will continue to move on in the direction previously indicated; the other groups, advancing the right shoulder, will close to the left, until the intervals are reduced to the prescribed distance.
64. Intervals may be closed on the right, centre (or any group) according to the same principles.
65. When intervals are to be closed up, in order to reinforce a line of skirmishers, so as to cause two companies to cover the ground which had been previously occupied by one, the new company will deploy so as to finish its movement at twenty paces in rear of the line it is to occupy, and the men will successively move upon that line, as they shall be unmasked by the men of the old company. The reserves of the two companies will unite behind the centre of the line.
To relieve a company deployed as skirmishers.
66. When a company of skirmishers is to be relieved, the captain will be advised of the intention, which he will immediately communicate to his first and second lieutenants.
67. The new company will execute its deployment forward, so as to finish the movement at about twenty paces in rear of the line.
68. Arrived at this distance, the men of the new company, by command of their captain will advance rapidly a few paces beyond the old line, and halt; the new line being established, the old company will assemble on its reserve, taking care not to get into groups of fours until they are beyond the fire of the enemy.
69. If the skirmishers to be relieved are marching in retreat, the company thrown out to relieve them will deploy by the flank, as prescribed No. 38, and following. The old skirmishers will continue to retire with order, and having passed the new line, they will form upon the reserve.
To advance in line, and to retreat in line.
70. When a platoon or a company deployed as skirmishers is marching by the front, the guide will be habitually in the centre. No particular indication to this effect need given in the commands, but if on the contrary it be intended that the directing guide should be on the right, or left, the command guide right, or guide left, will be given immediately after that of forward.
71. The captain, wishing the line of skirmishers to advance, will command:
1. Forward. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
72. This command will be repeated with the greatest rapidity by the chiefs of sections, and in case of need, by the sergeants. This rule is general, whether the skirmishers march by the front or by the flank.
73. At the first command, the three sergeants will move briskly on the line, the first on the right, the second on the left, and the third in the centre.
74. At the command march, the line will move to the front, the guide charged with the direction will move on the point indicated to him, the skirmishers will hold themselves aligned on this guide, and preserve their intervals toward him.
75. The chiefs of sections will march immediately behind their sections, so as to direct their movements.
76. The captain will give a general superintendence to the movement.
77. When he shall wish to halt the skirmishers, he will command:
78. At this command, briskly repeated, the line will halt. The chiefs of sections will promptly rectify any irregularity in the alignment and intervals, and after taking every possible advantage which the ground may offer for protecting the men, they, with the three sergeants in the line, will retire to their proper places in rear.
79. The captain wishing to march the skirmishers in retreat, will command:
1. In retreat. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
80. At the first command, the three sergeants will move on the line as prescribed No. 73.
81. At the command march, the skirmishers will face about individually, and march to the rear, conforming to the principles prescribed No. 74.
82. The officers and sergeants will use every exertion to preserve order.
83. To halt the skirmishers, marching in retreat, the captain will command:
84. At this command the skirmishers will halt, and immediately face to the front.
85. The chiefs of sections and the three guides will each conform himself to what is prescribed No. 78.
To change direction.
86. If the commander of a line of skirmishers shall wish to cause it to change direction to the right, he will command:
1. Right wheel. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
87. At the command march, the right guide will mark time in his place; the left guide will move in a circle to the right, and that he may properly regulate his movements, will occasionally cast his eyes to the right, so as to observe the direction of the line, and the nature of the ground to be passed over. The centre guide will also march in a circle to the right, and in order to conform his movements to the general direction, will take care that his steps are only half the length of the steps of the guide on the left.
88. The skirmishers will regulate the length of their steps by their distance from the marching flank, being less as they approach the pivot, and greater as they are removed from it; they will often look to the marching flank, so as to preserve the direction and their intervals.
89. When the commander of the line shall wish to resume the direct march, he will command:
1. Forward. 2. MARCH.
90. At the command march, the line will cease to wheel, and the skirmishers will move direct to the front; the centre guide will march on the point which will be indicated to him.
91. If the captain should wish to halt the line, in place of moving it to the front, he will command:
92. At this command, the line will halt.
93. A change of direction to the left will be made according to the same principles, and by inverse means.
94. A line of skirmishers marching in retreat will change direction by the same means, and by the same commands, as a line marching in advance; for example, if the captain should wish to refuse his left, now become the right, he will command: 1. Left wheel. 2. MARCH. At the command halt, the skirmishers will face to the enemy.
95. But if, instead of halting the line, the captain should wish to continue to march it in retreat, he will, when he judges the line has wheeled sufficiently, command:
1. In retreat. 2. MARCH.
To march by the flank.
96. The captain, wishing the skirmishers to march by the right flank, will command:
1. By the right flank. 2. MARCH (or double quick—MARCH).
97. At the first command, the three sergeants will place themselves on the line.
98. At the command march, the skirmishers will face to the right and move off; the right guide will place himself by the side of the leading man on the right to conduct him, and will march on the point indicated; each skirmisher will take care to follow exactly in the direction of the one immediately preceding him, and to preserve his distance.
99. The skirmishers may be marched by the left flank, according to the same principles, and by the same commands, substituting left for right; the left guide will place himself by the side of the leading man to conduct him.
100. If the skirmishers be marching by the flank, and the captain should wish to halt them, he will command:
101. At this command, the skirmishers will halt and face to the enemy. The officers and sergeants will conform to what has been prescribed No. 78.
102. The reserve should execute all the movements of the line, and be held always about one hundred and fifty paces from it, so as to be in position to second its operations.
103. When the chief of the reserve shall wish to march it in advance, he will command: 1. Platoon forward. 2. Guide left. 3. MARCH. If he should wish to march it in retreat, he will command: 1. In retreat. 2. MARCH. 3. Guide right. At the command halt, it will reface to the enemy.
104. The men should be made to understand that the signals or commands, such as forward, means that the skirmishers shall march on the enemy; in retreat, that they shall retire, and to the right or left flank, that the men must face to the right or left, whatever may be their position.
105. If the skirmishers be marching by the flank, and the captain should wish to change direction to the right (or left), he will command: 1. By file right (or left). 2. MARCH. These movements will also be executed by the signals Nos. 14 and 15.
106. Skirmishers will fire either at a halt or marching.
To fire at a halt.
107. To cause this fire to be executed, the captain will command:
108. At this command, briskly repeated, the men of the front-rank will commence firing; they will reload rapidly, and hold themselves in readiness to fire again. During this time the men of the rear-rank will come to a ready, and as soon as their respective file leaders have loaded they will also fire and reload. The men of each file will thus continue the firing, conforming to this principle, that the one or the other shall always have his piece loaded.
109. Light troops should be always calm, so as to aim with accuracy; they should, moreover, endeavor to estimate correctly the distances between themselves and the enemy to be hit, and thus be enabled to deliver their fire with the greater certainty of success.
110. Skirmishers will not remain in the same place whilst reloading, unless protected by accidents in the ground.
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Transcribed by Scott Gutzke, 2004-2006.
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