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Abstract of Infantry Tactics

Abstract of Infantry Tactics
Including Exercises and Manoeuvres of Light-Infantry and Riflemen:
For the Use of the Militia of the United States

Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins


To secure uniformity of instruction and practice between the infantry of the militia and that of the regular army, this Abstract, both in its principles and details, is taken from the work which governs the regular infantry. The form of the two works is also the same.

An abridgment of the larger work (which is indicated in the title of Abstract) was deemed, however, indispensable, for general circulation in the militia infantry. Hence, many particular paragraphs have been suppressed or curtailed; some entire articles (the titles excepted) omitted, and also the whole of Section V, or the evolutions of many battalions in the same line. These omissions and curtailments reduce the Abstract to about four-sevenths of the prototype. A greater reduction, for officers, and particularly for field-officers, was considered unadvisable.

In the larger book, all the paragraphs, from the beginning to the end, are, for the convenience of reference, numbered in one unbroken series. The same numbers are retained in the Abstract to all the paragraphs not omitted, in order to afford the means of internal reference, reference to the larger book, and to exhibit, at the same time, the places of the several omissions. The Abstract, however, is deemed complete within itself for the instruction of any corps less than a brigade.

Section II
School of the Soldier
74. THIS school, which has for its object the instruction of soldiers, having an influence on, and being intimately connected with, the instruction of companies, on which depends that of the battalion, ought to be established and inculcated, with the utmost care and attention.

Division of the School of the Soldier
75. The School of the Soldier shall be divided into three parts. The first will include all that ought to be taught without arms.
76. The second will include the analysis of the manual exercise, and of the loadings and firings.
77. The third will comprehend the different steps, the principles of marching to the front and to a flank, alignments, wheelings and changes of direction.
78. Each part shall be divided into lessons, as follows:

Part First.
Lesson 1. Position of the soldier without arms.
Motion of the head to the right and left
Lesson 2. Facings.
Lesson 3. Principles of the ordinary step.
Lesson 4. Principles of the oblique step.

Part Second.
Lesson 1. Principles of shouldered arms.
Lesson 2. The analysis of loading and firing, and of the manual exercise.
Lesson 3. Loading in quick, and quickest time.

Part Third.
Lesson 1. The union of from six to ten men, in order to march to the front; and practising the different steps.
Lesson 2. To march by a flank.
Lesson 3. Principles of alignment.
Lesson 4. Principles of wheeling and changes of direction.

79. Each lesson shall be followed by observations, demonstrating the utility of the principles, which shall have been prescribed. The instructor cannot study them too much, not be too particular in their application.
80. Commands shall be always animated and loud, in proportion to the number of recruits at exercise.
81. There shall be two sorts of commands, viz. Those of caution and those of execution.
82. The words of caution, which are in these regulations printed in Italics, must be distinctly pronounced in a full voice, dwelling a little on the last syllable.
83. The commands of EXECUTION will be distinguished be CAPITALS, and shall be pronounced with a firm, quick tone.
84. Those commands, the expression of which shall be separated by dashes, will be divided in pronouncing them.
85. the instructers will always explain what they teach, in few words, clearly and distinctly. They shall, themselves, always executed what they command, in order thus to exemplify the principle they are explaining. They will endeavor to accustom the recruit to assume the proper position, and will not place him in it till his want of comprehension shall oblige them so to do.

Part 1.
86. The first part of the School of the Soldier shall be taught to squads of three or four men, when the number of instructers will permit: they will be place in one rank, without arms, one pace from each other.

Lesson 1.
Position of the Soldier.
87. (Pl. III. Fig 1.) The heels on the same line, as near each other as the conformation of the man will permit; the feet forming with each other an angle something less than a right one, and turned out equally; the knees straight, but not stiff; the body perpendicular on the haunches, and inclining a little forward; the shoulders kept back and falling equally; the arms hanging naturally; the elbows near the body; the palm of the hand turned a little to the front, the little finger back, and touching the seam of the pantaloons; the face well to the front; the chin a little drawn in, without constraint; and the eyes cast on the ground, at the distance of fifteen paces.

Remarks on the Position of the Soldier

98. The instructor, having established the position, shall teach the recruit the motions of the head, to the right and left by the commands,

1. Eyes–RIGHT. 2. FRONT.

99. At the conclusion of the second part of the first command, the soldier will turn his head to the right, but not suddenly, so that the corner of the left eye, nearest the nose, shall be in a line with the buttons of the coat, his eyes being fixed in the line of the eyes of the men of the rank he stands in.
100. At the second command, the head resumes its habitual position to the front.
101. The motions of Eyes–LEFT, will be executed by inverse means.
102. The instructer shall take care that the motion of the head may not alter the squareness of the shoulders, which might happen if the motion were too sudden.
103. When the instructer wishes the squad to rest, he will command,


104. At this command, the soldier will not be required to maintain either his position or steadiness; but his left heel shall not quit its place.
105. The instructer, to make the squad resume its position, will command,

1. Attention. 2. SQUAD.

106. At the first word, the soldier will fix his attention; at the second, he will resume the prescribed position and steadiness.

Lesson II.

107. In going through the facings, from a halt, the left heel never quits the ground.
108. The execute the face to a flank, the instructer will command,

1. Squad. 2. Right (or left)-FACE.

109. ONE MOTION. At the second command, the recruits will turn on the left heel, and, at the same time, carry the right heel to the side of the left, placing it on the same line. This line will be exactly at right angles with that previously occupied by the heels.
112. To make a full face to the rear, the command will be,

1. Squad. 2. About–FACE.

113. FIRST MOTION. At the word About, make a half face to the right; slip the right foot to the rear, the hollow opposite to , and full three inches from, the heel; seize, at the same time, the cartridge-box by the corner with the right hand.
114. SECOND MOTION. At the word FACE, turn on the two heels, raising a little the toes, the hams straight, and face to the rear; bring, at the same time, the right heel to the side of the left, and let go the cartridge-box.
118. To face to the left about, is deemed useless, as the same front can always be gained by facing to the right about.
119. With firelocks, in the first motion of facing to the right about, each man will turn the firelock with the left hand, the lock to the front, and replace it in the position of carry (or shoulder) arms, at the instant of bringing the right heel by the side of the left.
120. The instructor will take great care that the motions in this lesson do not derange the position of the body, which ought to remain thrown forward. He will also, frequently, after the command Right (or left)-FACE, give the command,


121. At this, the squad shall face back to its proper front, by the left, if it had last faced to the right; and by the right, if it had last faced to the left; but a full face from the rear to the proper front shall be preceded by the command, About–FACE.

Lesson III.

Principles of the Ordinary Step.
132. The length of the ordinary step shall be twenty-eight inches, reckoning from heel to heel; and ninety of these paces shall be taken in a minute.
133. The instructer, seeing the recruit confirmed in his position, shall explain to him the principles and mechanism of the step, by placing himself three or four paces in front of, and facing the recruit, and by showing him, slowly, the mode of executing the step, thus exemplifying the principles he is explaining. He will command,

1. Forward. 2. MARCH.

134. (Pl. III. Fig 2.) At the first word, the recruit shall throw the weight of the body on the right leg.
135. At the second, he will smartly throw forward the left foot twenty-eight inches, without a jerk, the ham straight, the toes pointing a little downwards, and, as well as the knee, turned slightly out. He will, at the same time, throw forward the weight of the body, and , without stamping, will plant the foot flat, precisely at the distance prescribed from the right foot, the whole weight of the body resting on the foot which comes to the ground. The recruit shall, smartly, but without a jerk, pass the right foot to the front, near the ground, and will plant it at the same distance, and in the same manner, as has been explained for the left foot. He will march in this manner, keeping the shoulders square, and the head direct to the front.
136. when the instructer wishes the squad to halt, he will command,

1. Squad. 2. HALT.

137. At the second word, let the rear foot be brought up to the side of the other.

Remarks on the Principles of the Step.

146. the instructer will explain to the recruit, occasionally, the cadence of the step, by giving the words one and two, when the feet ought to be respectively planted on the ground, observing that ninety cadenced steps are taken in a minute.

Lesson IV.
Principles of the Oblique Step.

147. This step will be in common time.
149. (Pl. II. Fig. 1.) The recruit being steady in his rank, the instructer will make him step off with the right foot, to the right and front, obliquely, and shall make him plant it twenty-six inches from the left; observing to make him turn the point of the right foot a little inwards, prevent the throwing forward of the left shoulder. The recruit will rest this position.
150. At the word two, by the instructer, the recruit shall advance his left foot over the shortest line, and plant it eighteen inches in front of the right heel. He will rest in this position.
151. He will continue to march in this manner, at the words, one and two, stopping at each step, and paying the greatest attention to keeping the shoulders square, and the head direct to the front.
152. The oblique step to the left shall be executed on the same principles, the recruit stepping off with the left foot.
153. After some lessons of this kind, the recruit shall oblique to the right and left, without dwelling on the step as follows:
154. The recruit marching to the front, in common time, the instructer will command,

1. Right oblique. 2. MARCH

155. At the second word, which shall be given at the instant when the left foot is coming to the ground, the recruit shall commence the oblique step to the right, observing to conform to the above directions relative to the execution and length of the step and squareness of the shoulders to the front, but without stopping at each step. He will thus march on at the prescribed rate of ninety paces in a minute.
156. Obliquing to the left shall be executed on the same principles; the instructer giving the word MARCH, at the instant when the right foot comes to the ground.
157. To resume the march to the front, the instructer will command,

1. Forward. 2. MARCH.

158. At the second word, which shall be given when either foot is coming to the ground, the recruit shall resume the march to the front, and the ordinary step of twenty-eight inches.

Remarks on the Oblique Step.

General Remarks on the Direct and Oblique Steps.
162. To ascertain whether the position of the body conform to the principles prescribed; whether the step be regularly formed; and whether the weight of the body rest on the foot which is on the ground; the instructer shall frequently post himself from ten to twelve paces in front, facing the recruits. If he do not perceive the sole of the shoe, when they raise and plant the foot; and in he observe no waving of the upper part of the body, he may rest assured that the principles are properly observed.
163. When the principles of the step are shown to three or four men at a time, accurate dressing need not be required, as that might divide their attention; besides, when they have acquired the habit of taking the cadenced step, they will have learnt the true means of preserving the alignment.


Shouldered Arms.

165. The instructer shall not pass the recruits to this Second Part of the School of the Soldier, until they are perfectly confirmed in the position of the body, and in the execution of the direct and oblique steps.
166. The instructer shall then place four men in one rank, elbow to elbow, and shall instruct them to hold their arms, at a shoulder, as follows:


Principles of Shouldered Arms.

167. The recruit being placed, as directed in the first lesson of the First Part, the instructer will make him raise and turn up the left hand, without bending the wrist, the fore arm only acting. The instructer will then raise the musket perpendicularly, and place is as follows:
(Pl. III. Fig. 1.) The musket in the left hand, the arm being a little bent; the elbow back, and joined to the body without pressure; the palm of the hand firmly against the exterior rounding of the butt; the exterior edge od the butt resting on the joints of the fingers next the palm; the heel of the butt resting between the first and second fingers; the thumb above, in front; the third and little fingers under the butt, which must be more or less kept back, according to the conformation of the recruit, in such manner that the firelock, seen from the front, may rest always perpendicular, and that the movement of the thigh, in marching, may not derange it in its perpendicular position; the ramrod against the hollow of the shoulder; the right arm hanging naturally, as in No. 87.

Remarks on Shouldered Arms.

172. The instructer, previously to proceeding to the second lesson, whall make the recruits at shouldered arms, practise the motions of eyes right, eyes left, and also the facings to the right, to the left, and to the right-about.


The Analysis of Loading and Firing, and of the Manual Exercise.

173. This shall be taught to four men in a rank, elbow to elbow, and to the same afterwards in two files.
174. The execution of each command shall be divided into distinct motions, that the recruit may the better understand its mechanism.
175. At the last syllable of the command, the recruit shall execute the first motion smartly. At the words two and three, the other motions shall be executed. When the recruits shall know thoroughly the position of each motion of a command, they will be instructed how to execute the commands without dwelling on each motion separately; but they must observe the mechanism of the motions, the better to confirm them in the use of the firelock.
176. This lesson shall be taught in the following order:–The instructer will command,

Load by twelve commands.


1. LOAD.

177. FIRST MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 3.) Half face to the right, on the left heel, placing at the same time the right foot square behind the left heel, the hollow of the foot resting against that heel; turn the firelock, with the left hand, the lock outwards, at the same time seizing the small of the stock with the right hand, the firelock being detached from the shoulder, and supported perpendicularly on the palm of the left hand remaining under the butt.
178. SECOND MOTION. With the right hand bring down the firlock into the left, which receives it at the swell, the thumb extended, the butt under the right fore arm, the small resting against the body under the right breast; the muzzle as high as the eyes; the guard turned a little outward, the left elbow supported on the side of the haunch; the thumb of the right hand will be place against the hammer above the flint, at the moment the firlock is thrown into the left hand; the four fingers of the right hand shut, the right fore arm alond the butt.

2. Open–PAN.

179. ONE MOTION. Throw open the pan with the thumb of the right hand, the left hand holding the piece firmly; draw back the right elbow; carry the hand to the rear, passing it between the butt and body, and open the cartridge-box.

2. Handle–CARTRIDGE.

180. ONE MOTION. Take the cartridge with the thumb and two first fingers; place it between the teeth, the right hand passing between the body and the butt.


181. ONE MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 4.) Tear the cartridge, holding it near the opening, sink down the cartridge, holding it perpendicularly against the pan, the palm of the right hand turned towards the body, the right elbow against the butt.


182. ONE MOTION. Sink forward the head, cast the eyes to the pan, filling it with powder; press close the top of the cartridge at the opening, between the thumb and fore-finger; raise the head, place the right hand behind the pan, holing the little and third finger firm against the back of the pan.

6. Shut–PAN.

183. ONE MOTION. Hold the firelock firm with the left hand; shut the pan forcibly with the two last fingers, holding always the cartridge between the thumb and two fore-fingers; seize immediately the small of the stock with the two last fingers and palm of the right hand; the right wrist close to the body, the elbow to the rear, and a little detached from the body.

7. Cast–ABOUT.

184. FIRST MOTION. With the right arm smartly stretched, without lowering the right shoulder, swing round the firelock to the left thigh, along which the butt must press strongly, turning, at the same time, the ramrod towards the body, opening and letting the piece slip through the left hand as far as the middle pipe, the cock resting on the thumb of the right hand; face at the same time to the front, turning on the left heel, carrying the right foot forward, the heel resting against the hollow of the left.
185. SECOND MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 5.) Quit the firelock with the right hand, sinking it with the left along and near the body, raising at the same time the right hand to the muzzle, holding the top of the cartridge up; let the butt fall to the ground gently, the left hand against the body, under the lowest coat button, the musket in contact with the left thigh, the butt of the ramrod opposite the centre of the body.

8. Charge–CARTRIDGE.

186. ONE MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 5.) Glance the eye to the muzzle of the barrel; turn smartly the upper side of the right hand towards the body, in order to discharge the powder into the muzzle, raising the elbow as high as the wrist; shake the cartridge, and insert it in the barrel, and leave the had reversed, the fingers closed without pressure.

9. Draw–RAMROD.

187. FIRST MOTION. Lower smartly the right elbow, and seize the ramrod between the thumb and fore-finger bent, the other fingers closed; draw it smartly, exteding the arm, the nails uppermost; seize it back handed at the middle, with the fore-finger and thumb, the palm of the hand outwards; turn it quickly between the bayonet and the body, at the same time closing the fingers upon it; the ramrod of each man in the rear rank grazing the right should of the man in his front; the ramrod parallel to the bayonet, the arm extended, the eyes upward, the butt of the ramrod opposite the muzzle, without being inserted. 188. SECOND MOTION. Insert the butt of the ramrod as low as the hand.


189. ONE MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 6.) Extend the arm its whole length, in raising the right hand to seize the ramrod with the thumb extended and the fore-finger bent, the other fingers being closed; drive the ramrod forcibly into the barrel, ramming home twice; seize it again by the small end, between the thumb and fore-finger bent, the others closed, the right elbow close to the body.

11. Return–RAMROD.

190. FIRST MOTION. As in the first motion of drawing ramrod, bring the small end of it opposite to the upper pipe, and hold it there without entering it.
191. SECOND MOTION. Introduce the small end into the pipe, and force it into its place; raise the right hand quickly, and place it somewhat bent, on the butt of the ramrod, the palm downwards.

12. Shoulder–ARMS.

192. FIRST MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 1.) Raise the firelock with the left hand, along the left side, the left hand as high as the shoulder, the left elbow resting on the firelock, keeping the barrel outwards; at the same time sink down the right hand, in order to seize the firelock at the small of the stock. 193. SECOND MOTION. Raise the firelock with the right hand; let the left hand fall, to seize and support the butt, carrying back, at the same time, the right heel to the side of the left, and in the same alignment; support the firelock against, and at the left shoulder with the right hand in the position indicated for shouldered arms; the right hand touching the small of the stock, without pressing against it. 194. THIRD MOTION. Let the right hand fall smartly to the right thigh, hanging there, as already prescribed.


195. FIRST MOTION. As in the first motion of loading.
196. SECOND MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 7.) Bring the firelock with the right hand before the middle of the body; place the left hand, with the little finger touching the feather-spring, and the thumb as high as the chin pointing upwards along the wood of the stock, the S (or plate opposite to the lock) being turned almost towards the body, the ramrod towards the front; and apply, at the same time, the thumb of the right hand to the head of the cock, the fore-finger under, and against the guard, and the three other fingers joined to the first.
197. THIRD MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 7.) Sink down smartly the right elbow, cocking at the same time, and seize the firelock at the small of the stock.


198. ONE MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 9.) Sink down smartly the muzzle of the piece, slipping the left hand along the stock, as far as the tail-pipe; apply the butt to the right shoulder; the muzzle a little below the level of the eye, the elbows kept lowered; shut the left eye; look along the barrel with the right eye; lower the head towards the butt in order to aim; and place the fore-finger on the trigger.
199. (Pl. III. Fig. 10.) The men of the rear rank will, at the same time, step with the right foot eight inches to the right, towards the left heel of the man on their right, throwing the weight of the body on the right leg.
200. The the soldier may be habituated to wait for the word fire, the instucter shall frequently order arms to be recovered by the following command:


201. ONE MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 7.) Raise the firelock smartly, and resume the position of the third motion of ready.


202. ONE MOTION. Done in the same manner as in Nos. 198, 199.


203. ONE MOTION. Apply, with force, the first finger to the trigger, without moving the head, and remain in that position.


204. ONE MOTION. Bring down the firelock smartly into the position of the second motion of load, except that the thumb, in lieu of being placed against the hammer, will, with the fore-finger bent, seize the top of the cock, the other fingers remaining shut. The men of the rear rank shall bring back the right foot behind the left, placing the hollow of that foot against the left heel.
205. If, in this position, the instructer wish to make the ranks re-load, he will command,


206. ONE MOTION. Raise the cock to the half-cock notch, taking care not to cock it; carry the right hand, between the butt and the body, to the cartridge box, and open it.
207. When, instead of loading, the instructer wishes to shoulder arms, he will command,


208. At the word Shoulder, the recruits will half-cock, as has been explained, shut pan, and seize the firelock at the small of the stock. At the word ARMS, they will shoulder smartly and front.
209. The squad, being formed in a single rank, elbows touching, arms shouldered, will be taught to fire both as a front and second rank, kneeling, as in a square against cavalry. The kneeling position will be assumed at the word READY, as above, after the precautionary command,

Front rank kneeling

210. FIRST MOTION. Turn the firelock, the lock outwards; seize it with the right hand at the small, as in the first motion of loading, and remain facing to the front, turning the point of the left foot a little inwards.
211. SECOND MOTION. (Pl. III. Fig. 8.) Throw the right foot smartly to the rear, the heel raised, and the foot resting on the toes, bent; kneel down with the right knee ten or twelve inches in the rear, and about six inches to the right of the left heel, observing not to come down suddenly; bring down the firelock at the same time with the right hand, and seize it with the left at the swell; place the butt on the ground without shock, in front of the right thigh, so that the beak of the butt may be opposite to the left heel, and, at the same time, seize the cock between the thumb and fore-finger.

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