Musket drill, circa 1791
According to this page, the American 1791 drill manual was almost a literal translation of the French manual of the same year. Count on governments to make a complicated process even more complicated. In place of taking aim, the manual instructs:
"Let the muzzle be below the level of the eye a little, and the right elbow kept lowered, without being pressed against the body; shut the left eye; look along the barrel with the right eye; sink forward the head towards the butt in order to level; and place the fore finger on the trigger.
83. Apply, with force, the first finger on the trigger, without lowering or turning the head more, and remain in that position.”
1) I've seen the ORIGINAL of a late 17th century manual on musket reloading, in Library of Congress Rare Books collections. It had not a word in it, after the title page, everything was huge (maybe 12 x 18") images of what the next position looked like. I wonder for a while and then realized -- at that time, how many musketeers would be literate anyway? You showed them the picture and gave a verbal explanation. This original was amusing because on the back side of the pages were brown ink doodles of guys in 17th century clothing.... doodles by a person or persons dead for centuries.
2) The evolution of commands begins, if I recall correctly, in the 17th century, when the Dutch rediscover the Roman system from reading Josephus.... don't divide your army into three gigantic units, or "battles," divide them into smaller units, for flexibility. Then, because tactics became more complicated than push ahead and see who wins, they started with "short sentence" commands, eventually evolving to the modern drill form, where the first word or words clue what the command will be, and the second gives the signal to execute it. RIGHT ... FACE. STAND AT ... EASE. COLUMN OF FILES FROM THE RIGHT ... COLUMN RIGHT.
By the Civil War, things were getting complicated. If I remember, the skirmish line (groups of four sent ahead and free to take cover, etc.) had 27 bugle commands to follow, to advance, move in different directions, and rejoin their regiment in different ways. The system was intended to let units deploy into 2 or 4 man deep lines for fighting, without or without skirmishers, and then quickly reform into columns of 4 or so men to move down narrow roads, then repeat the process quickly (since your opponent was not going to watch passively while troops tried to form a firing line).
Sounds like a really bad translation job....and step 83? Get real!
Posted by: Flighterdoc at April 3, 2010 01:32 PM
I talked to someone who read math books onto tapes for the blind. He said that trying to describe a square, cube, a triagle, a pyramid, a circle and a sphere was a lot harder than you would think.
If you've NEVER experienced one of those, it is very difficult to get someone to the Ah-ha! moment.
I could see how it would be extremely difficult to teach someone to 'aim' who had never held a gun before, using only words.
Posted by: Jim D. at April 3, 2010 03:22 PM
Books of that era had illustrations, via woodcuts or copper plates.
Posted by: Flight-ER-Doc at April 3, 2010 04:00 PM
Oh, yes! I didn't mean to imply they didn't. But I don't think even illustrations on 'aiming' can make up for instruction and feedback.
83 steps is too many, of course. But if you're going to throw a book out there and be sure instructors will be used, those words (and illustrations) on the page are all you have to work with.
Posted by: Jim D. at April 3, 2010 06:21 PM
"This evolution in words of command also happened in the French Army and illustrate even more clearly the need for only a one syllable for the executive part of the command."
I remember nudging my nephew, when we were seeing Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings", for the first time, when watching the elves in the battle scenes, and explaining that whoever Jackson had doing his Elvish translations, clearly didn't have any battle experience.
(My nephew didn't appreciate the interruption.)
Posted by: Jeff Dege at April 3, 2010 08:02 PM
Dang! Reality impinging on fantasy never turns out well....;)
Posted by: Flighterdoc at April 4, 2010 07:09 AM
Does anyone know for sure what "lock and load" really means.
Posted by: Chuck at April 4, 2010 10:53 AM
I got to do the countermarch. But that was in the AFROTC Band.
- Old band nerd, at the Right of the Line, with the Colors.
Posted by: Justthisguy at April 5, 2010 12:52 PM
Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!
Posted by: emt training at April 9, 2010 07:23 AM