INSTRUCTION FOR SKIRMISHERS
General principles and division of the instruction.
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 his 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 of the same platoon, as soon as he can pass. The captain will indicate to the 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 the platoon.
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 men of the even file in each group, the rear rank men placing themselves on the left of their file leaders. If any 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 this 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 150 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 eighty 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 same commands, substituting the indication right or centre, 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, or centre, the men in each group of fours will always 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 he 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, No. 263 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 paces 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. 39.
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, be 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 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 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 rear of it. Each group will deploy as heretofore prescribed in 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 interval.
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 what the means indicated, No. 25, conforming also to what is prescribed, No. 54.
57. Intervals may be extended on the centre of this 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, or on the centre, 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 the 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.