INSTRUCTION FOR SKIRMISHERS
General principles and division of the instruction.
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:
Commence – FIRING.
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.
To fire marching.
111. This fire will be executed by the same commands as the fire at a halt.
112. At the command commence firing, if the line be advancing, the front rank man of every file will halt, fire, and reload before throwing himself forward. The rear rank man of the same file will continue to march, and after passing ten or twelve paces beyond his front rank man will halt, come to a ready, select his object, and fire when his front rank man has loaded; the fire will thus continue to be executed by each file; the skirmishers will keep united, and endeavor, as much as possible, to preserve the general direction of the alignment.
113. If the line be marching in retreat at the command commence firing, the front rank man of every file will halt, face to the enemy, fire, and then reload whilst moving to the rear; the rear rank man of the same file will continue to march, and halt ten or twelve paces beyond his front rank man, face about, come to a ready, and fire, when his front rank man has passed him in retreat and loaded; after which, he will move to the rear and reload; the front rank man in his turn after marching briskly to the rear, will halt at ten or twelve paces from the rear rank, face to the enemy; load his piece and fire, conforming to what has just been prescribed; the firing will thus be continued.
114. If the company be marching by the right flank, at the command, commence firing, the front rank man of every file will face to the enemy, step one pace forward, halt, and fire; the rear rank man will continue to move forward. As soon as the front rank man has fired, he will place himself briskly behind his rear rank man and reload whilst marching. When he has loaded, the rear rank man will, in his turn, step one pace forward, halt, and fire, and returning to the ranks, will place himself behind his front rank man; the latter, in his turn, will act in the same manner, observing the same principles. At the command, cease firing, the men of the rear rank will retake their original positions, if not already there.
115. If the company be marching by the left flank, the fire will be executed according to the same principles, but in this case it will be the rear rank men who will be first.
116. The following rules will be observed in the cases to which they apply:
117. If the line be firing at a halt, or whilst marching by the flank at the command, Forward – MARCH, it will be the men whose pieces are loaded, without regard to the particular rank to which they belong, who will move to the front. Those men whose pieces have been discharged, will remain in their places to load them before moving forward, and the firing will be continued agreeably to the principles prescribed above.
118. If the line be firing either at a halt, advancing, or whilst marching by the flank, at the command, In retreat – MARCH, the men whose pieces are loaded will remain faced to the enemy, and will fire in this position; the men whose pieces are discharged will retreat loading them, and the fire will be continued agreeably to principles prescribed No. 112.
119. If the line of skirmishers be firing either at a halt, advancing, or in retreat, at the command, By the right (or left) flank – MARCH, the men whose pieces are loaded will step one pace out of the general alignment, face to the enemy, and fire in this position; the men whose pieces are unloaded will face to the right (or left) and march in the direction indicated. The men who stepped out of the ranks will place themselves, immediately after firing, upon the general direction, and in rear of their front or rear rank men, as the case may be. The fire will be continued according to the principles prescribed for firing when marching by a flank.
120. Skirmishers will be habituated to load their pieces whilst marching; but they will be enjoined to halt always an instant, when in the act of charging cartridge, and priming.
121. They should be practiced to fire and load kneeling, lying down, and sitting, and much liberty should be allowed in these exercises, in order that they may be executed in the manner found to he most convenient. Skirmishers should he cautioned not to forget that, in whatever position they may load, it is important that the piece should be placed upright before ramming, in order that the entire charge of powder may reach the bottom of the bore.
122. In commencing the fire, the men of the same rank should not all fire at once, and the men of the same file should be particular that one or the other of them be always loaded.
123. In retreating, the officer commanding the skirmishers should seize on every advantage which the ground may present, for arresting the enemy as long as possible.
124. At the signal to cease firing, the captain will see that the order is promptly obeyed; but the men who may not be loaded, will load. If the line be marching, it will continue the movement; but the man of each file who happens to be in front, will wait until the man in rear shall be abreast with him.
125. If a line of skirmishers be firing advancing, at the command halt, the line will re-form upon the skirmishers who are in front; when the line is retreating, upon the skirmishers who are in rear.
126. Officers should watch with the greatest possible vigilance over a line of skirmishers; in battle, they should neither carry a rifle or fowling piece. In all the firings, they, as well as the sergeants, should see that order and silence are preserved, and that the skirmishers do not wander imprudently; they should especially caution them to be calm and collected; not to fire until they distinctly perceive the objects at which they aim, and are sure that those objects are within proper range. Skirmishers should take advantage promptly, and with intelligence, of all shelter, and of a accidents of the ground, to conceal themselves from the view of the enemy, and to protect themselves from his fire. It may often happen that intervals are momentarily lost when several men near each other find a common shelter; but when they quit this position, they should immediately resume their intervals and their places in line, so that they may not, by crowding, needlessly expose themselves the fire of the enemy.