INSTRUCTION FOR SKIRMISHERS
General principles and division of the instruction.
To form column.
127. A company deployed as skirmishers, is rallied in order oppose the enemy with better success; the rallies are made at a run, and with bayonets fixed; when ordered to rally, the skirmishers fix bayonets without command.
128. There are several ways of rallying, which the chief of the line will adopt according to circumstances.
129. If the line, marching or at a halt, be merely disturbed by scattered horsemen, it will not be necessary to fall back on the reserve, but the captain will cause bayonets to be fixed. If the horsemen should, however, advance to charge the skirmishers, the captain will command, rally by fours. The line will halt if marching, and the four men of each group will execute this rally in the following manner: the front rank man of the even numbered file will take the position of guard against cavalry; the rear rank man of the odd numbered file will also take the position of guard against cavalry, turning his back to him, his right foot thirteen inches from the right foot of the former, and parallel to it; the front rank man of the odd file, and the rear rank man of the even file, will also place themselves back to back, taking a like position, and between the two men already established, facing to the right and left; the right feet of the four men will be brought together, forming a squares and serving for mutual support. The four men in each group will come to a ready, fire as occasion may offer, and load without moving their feet.
130. The captain and chiefs of sections will each cause the four men who constitute his guard to form square, the men separating so as to enable him and the bugler to place themselves in the centre. The three sergeants will each promptly place himself in the group nearest him in the line of skirmishers.
131. Whenever the captain shall judge these squares too weak, but should wish to hold his position by strengthening his line, he will command:
Rally by sections.
132. At this command, the chiefs of sections will move rapidly on the centre group of their respective sections, or on any other interior group whose position might offer a shelter, or other particular advantage; the skirmishers will collect rapidly at a run on this group, and without distinction of numbers. The men composing the group on which the formation is made, will immediately form square, as heretofore explained, and elevate their pieces, the bayonets uppermost, in order to indicate the point on which the rally is to be made. The other skirmishers, as they arrive, will occupy and fill the open angular spaces between these four men, and successively rally around this first nucleus, and in such manner as to form rapidly a company circle. The skirmishers will take as they arrive, the position of charge bayonet, the point of the bayonet more elevated, and will cock their pieces in this position. The movement concluded, the two exterior ranks will fire as occasion may offer, and load without moving the feet.
133. The captain will move rapidly with his guard, wherever he may judge his presence most necessary.
134. The officers and sergeants will be particular to observe that the rally is made in silence, and with promptitude and order; that some pieces in each of their subdivisions be at all times loaded, and that the fire is directed on those points only where it will be most effective.
135. If the reserve should be threatened, it will form into a circle around its chief.
136. If the captain, or commander of a line of skirmishers formed of many platoons, should judge that the rally by section does not offer sufficient resistance, he will cause the rally by platoons to be executed, and for this purpose, will command:
Rally by platoons.
137. This movement will be executed according to the same principles, and by the same means, as the rally by sections. The chiefs of platoon will conform to what has been prescribed for the chiefs of section.
138. The captain wishing to rally the skirmishers on the reserve, will command:
Rally on the reserve.
139. At this command, the captain will move briskly on the reserve; the officer who commands it will take immediate steps to form square; for this purpose, he will cause the half sections on the flanks to be thrown perpendicularly to the rear; he will order the men to come to a ready.
140. The skirmishers of each section, taking the run, will form rapidly into groups, and upon that man of each group who is nearest the centre of the section. These groups will direct themselves diagonally towards each other, and in such manner as to form into sections with the greatest possible rapidity while moving to the rear; the officers and sergeants will see that this formation is made in proper order, and the chiefs will direct their sections upon the reserve, taking care to unmask it to the right and left. As the skirmishers arrive, they will continue and complete the formation of the square begun by the reserve, closing in rapidly upon the latter, without regard to their places in line; they will come to a ready without command, and fire upon the enemy; which will also be done by the reserve as soon as it is unmasked by the skirmishers.
141. If a section should be closely pressed by cavalry while retreating its chief will command halt; at this command, the men will form rapidly into a compact circle around the officer, who will re-form his section and resume the march, the moment he can do so with safety.
142. The formation of the square in a prompt and efficient manner, requires coolness and activity on the part of both officers and sergeants.
143. The captain will also profit by every moment of respite which the enemy’s cavalry may leave him; as soon as he can, he will endeavor to place himself beyond the reach of their charges, either by gaining a position where he may defend himself with advantage, or by returning to the corps to which he belongs. For this purpose, being in square, he will cause the company to break into column by platoons at half distance; to this effect, he will command:
1. Form column. 2. MARCH
144. At the command march, each platoon will dress on its centre, and the platoon which was facing to the rear will face about without command. The guides will place themselves on the right and left of their respective platoons, those of the second platoon will place themselves at half distance from those of the first, counting from the rear rank. These dispositions being made, the captain can move the column in whatever direction he may judge proper.
145. If he wishes to march it in retreat, he will command:
l. In retreat. 2. MARCH (or double quick – MARCH).
146. At the command march, the column will immediately face by the rear rank, and move off in the opposite direction. As soon as the column is in motion, the captain will command:
3. Guide RIGHT (or LEFT).
147. He will indicate the direction to the leading guide; the guides will march at their proper distances, and the men will keep aligned.
148. If again threatened by cavalry, the captain will command:
1. Form square. 2. MARCH
149. At the command march, the column will halt; the first platoon will face about briskly, and the outer half sections of each platoon will be thrown perpendicularly to the rear, so as to form the second and third fronts of the square. The officers and sergeants will promptly rectify any irregularities which may be committed.
150. If he should wish to march the column in advance, the captain will command:
1. Form column. 2. MARCH.
151. Which will be executed as prescribed No. 144.
152. The column being formed, the captain will command:
1. Forward. 2. MARCH (or double quick – MARCH). 3. Guide LEFT (or RIGHT).
153. At the second command, the column will move forward, and at the third command, the men will take the touch of elbows to the side of the guide.
154. If the captain should wish the column to gain ground to the right or left, he will do so by rapid wheels to the side opposite the guide, and for this purpose, will change the guide whenever it may be necessary.
155. If a company be in column by platoon, at half distance, right in front, the captain can deploy the first platoon as skirmishers by the means already explained; but if it should be his wish to deploy the second platoon forward on the centre file, leaving the first platoon in reserve, he will command:
1. Second platoon – as skirmishers. 2. On the centre file take intervals. 3. MARCH (or double quick – MARCH.)
156. At the first command, the chief of the first platoon will caution his platoon to stand fast; the chiefs of sections of the second platoon will place themselves before the centre of their sections; the fifth sergeant will place himself one pace in front of the centre of the second platoon.
157. At the second command, the chief of the right section, second platoon, will command: Section right face; the chief of the left section: Section left face.
158. At the command march, these sections will move off briskly in opposite directions, and having unmasked the first platoon, the chiefs of sections will respectively command:
By the left flank – MARCH, and By the right flank – MARCH;
and as soon as these sections arrive on the alignment of the first platoon, they will command: As skirmishers – MARCH. The groups will then deploy according to prescribed principles, on the right group of the left section, which will be directed by the fifth sergeant on the point indicated.
159. If the captain should wish the deployment made by the flank, the second platoon will be moved to the front by the means above stated, and halted after passing some steps beyond the alignment of the first platoon; the deployment will then be made by the flank according to the principles prescribed.
160. When one or more platoons are deployed as skirmishers, and the captain should wish to rally them on the battalion, he will command:
Rally on the battalion.
161. At this command, the skirmishers and the reserve, no matter what position the company to which they belong may occupy in order of battle, will rapidly unmask the front of the battalion, directing themselves in a run towards its nearest flank, and then form in its rear.
162. As soon as the skirmishers have passed beyond the line of file closers, the men will take the quick step, and the chief of each platoon or section will reform his subdivision, and place it in column behind the wing on which it is rallied, and at ten paces from the rank of the file closers. These subdivisions will not be moved except by order of the commander of the battalion, who may, if he thinks proper, throw them into line of battle at the extremities of the line, or in the intervals between the battalions.
163. If many platoons should be united behind the same wing of a battalion, or behind any shelter whatsoever, they should be formed always into close column, or into column at half distance.
164. When the battalion, covered by a company of skirmishers, shall be formed into square, the platoons and sections of the covering company will be directed by their chiefs to the rear of the square which will be opened at the angles to receive the skirmishers, who will be then formed into close column by platoons in rear of the first front of the square.
165. If circumstances should prevent the angles of the square from being opened, the skirmishers will throw themselves at the feet of the front rank men, the right knee on the ground, the butt of the piece resting on the thigh, the bayonet in a threatening position. A part may also place themselves about the angles, where they render good service by defending the sectors without fire.
166. If the battalion on which the skirmishers are rallied be in column ready to form square, the skirmishers will be formed into close column by platoon, in rear of the centre of the third division, and at the command, Form square – MARCH, they will move forward and close on the buglers.
167. When skirmishers have been rallied by platoon or section behind the wings of a battalion, and it be wished to deploy them again to the front, they will be marched by the flank towards the intervals on the wings, and be then deployed so as to cover the front of the battalion.
168. When platoons or sections, placed in the interior of squares or columns, are to be deployed, they will be marched out by the flanks, and then thrown forward, as is prescribed, No. 157; as soon as they shall have unmasked the column or square, they will be deployed, the one on the right, the other on the left file.
169. A company deployed as skirmishers will be assembled when there is no longer danger of its being disturbed; the assembly will be made habitually in quick time.
170. The captain wishing to assemble the skirmishers on the reserve, will command:
Assemble on the reserve.
171. At this command, the skirmishers will assemble by groups of fours; the front rank men will place themselves behind their rear rank men; and each group of fours will direct itself on the reserve, where each will take its proper place in the ranks. When the company is re-formed, it will rejoin the battalion to which it belongs.
172. It may be also proper to assemble the skirmishers on the centre, or on the right or left of the line, either marching or at a halt.
173. If the captain should wish to assemble them on the centre while marching, he will command:
Assemble on the centre.
174. At this command, the centre guide will continue to march directly to the front on the point indicated; the front rank man of the directing file will follow the guide, and be covered by his rear rank man; the other two comrades of this group, and likewise those on their left will march diagonally, advancing the left shoulder and accelerating the gait, so as to reform the groups while drawing nearer and nearer the directing file; the men of the right section will unite in the same manner into groups, and then upon the directing file, throwing forward the right shoulder. As they successively unite on the centre, the men will bring their pieces to the right shoulder.
175. To assemble on the right or left file will be executed according to the same principles.
176. The assembly of a line marching in retreat will also be executed according to the same principles, the front rank men marching behind their rear rank men.
177. To assemble the line of skirmishers at a halt, and on the line they occupy, the captain will give the same commands; the skirmishers will face to the right or left, according as they should march by the right or left flank, re-form the groups while marching, and to arrive on the file which served as the point of formation. As they successively arrive, the skirmishers will support arms.