Thursday, July 29, 2010

Light Infantry Skirmishing

This is an interesting article I had tucked away, it gives you an insite into how skirmishers were really used at the time. This article comes from a reenactor site 22e demi-brigade d'infanterie de ligne

Skirmishing in the 10e régiment d'infanterie légère in 1816.

The following text is found in the archives of SHD (the former S.H.A.T.) in the Château de Vincennes. It has been copied by hand and translated by Martin Lancaster.
Unfortunately, the signature and name of the file of this document got lost. From memory, it is an instruction of the 10e régiment d'infanterie légère, dating from 1816.
Service of the Tirailleurs.
First Part.
The first part contains general observations which have not been transcribed. The paragraphs of this part have been numbered from 1 to 15.
Second Part.
Peloton school of tirailleurs.
Article I.
General Rules.
16. Before deploying a company as tirailleurs, one will make it count by four, in each rank, from the right-hand side to the left.
17. Tirailleurs should, without awaiting any command, remove and put the bayonet on the musket, when they judge it right: it will be the rule to remove it while deployed, and to put it on the fusil when reforming.
Note. This is a means of precaution to avoid accidents; stopped in front of the enemy.
18. The reserves will keep the bayonet on the musket constantly; they will always conform to the movements of the tirailleurs.
19. The tirailleurs, on the double [au pas de course], will carry the weapon at will, in the manner that seems most convenient to them.
20. One calls interval [intervalle], the space that separates two tirailleurs in the same line [ligne]; and distances [distance], the space that is between the first and the second line.
21. The interval of 10 paces [6,5 m] will be that which the tirailleurs will usually take, in between themselves.
22. The distance from one line to the other will be indicated in article III.
Article II.
Of the deployments.
23. One will spread oneself as tirailleurs, in two manners: standing firm (also called, by the flank [par le flanc]), and while marching (also called, forward [en avant]).
Article III.
Deployment standing firm.
24. The captain wanting to deploy his company on the ground, which it occupies, will give the following commands:
En Tirailleurs.
Par le flanc droit et le flanc gauche – à droit, à gauche.
À tant de pas, prenez vos distances. Pas de course – marche.

[As skirmishers.
By the right flank and the left flank – right, left.
To so many paces take your distances. At the double. – march.
25. With the command à droit and à gauche, the first section will be turn to the right, the second to the left, and the third rank will about turn.
26. At the command marche, the third rank which has about turned will march ahead, and led by the sergent-major, will place itself at about 50 paces [32,5 m] behind, to be formed there in two ranks, and to be used as reserve.
27. At the same command, the men on the flanks of the first and second rank, will start to march; the others will follow the movement, each man advancing behind the man which precedes him, to the number of paces indicated by the captain. The captain, seeing the deployment being almost completed, will have sound the command halte: at this signal, the men will halt and face. The tirailleurs of the second rank will remain behind those of the first, with 1 pace [0,65 m] distance. The captain will go to the reserve, the heads of sections to about 10 paces [6,5 m] behind and opposite the centre of their section.
28. Two caporaux placed at the centre of the company, one to the first, the other with the second rank, will be used as guides with each line of tirailleurs.
29. The sous-officiers will not have fixed places; they will go everywhere where they will consider their presence necessary, and will particularly take care that the two lines do not merge.
Article IV.
Deployment while marching (also called, forwards).
30. The company marching en bataille, the captain wanting to deploy it as tirailleurs while continuing to gain ground ahead, will give the following commands:
En avant en tirailleurs.
À tant de pas, prenez vos intervalles. Pas de course – marche.

[Forward as skirmishers.
To so many paces take your intervals. At the double – march.
31. At the command, marche, the third rank will stop, the sergent-major will form it immediately in two ranks, as above, and it will be held about 50 paces [32,5 m] behind the line of the tirailleurs.
32. With this same command, the two first ranks will continue to march forward; each file,
except for that of the centre which will move straight to the front, will extend gradually
to the right and to the left of this one, so that the men while eventually little by little,
arrive at their interval in the line. The captain, seeing the deployment completed, or nearly so,
will have sound the command halte, if he needs to correct the line,
if not he will let his peloton march to the front thus scattered as tirailleurs.
33. Up to now we supposed the company to be formed in three ranks, and the third rank being used as reserve; if instead of being in three ranks, the company was only in two, the principles of the two species of deployments would be the same, with this difference, that the reserve which, in the company of three ranks, had been formed of the third rank, would be composed, in the company on two rows, of files taken on the right and left of the peloton, always forming a number of men equal to the third part of the company.
34. In the stationary deployment (or by the flank), these files will about turn, and will take 50 paces [32,5 m], behind the line of the tirailleurs.
35. In the deployment while advancing (or forward), these same files will stop with the command march, to meet on their ground, and to also maintain a gap of 50 paces [32,5 m] from the line of the tirailleurs.
Article V.
Observations on the various deployments.
Once the soldiers are well strengthened in the mechanism of the deployments, one will remove the commands: par le flanc droit, et par le flanc gauche, à droite, à gauche, à tant de pas prenez vos distances ou vos intervalles, pas de charge – marche, these commands will be replaced by the call en tirailleurs, which will be the signal to spread themselves. The captain will have then not need to give any other warning than: À tant de pas, being used to indicate to the tirailleurs the interval that they must take. This warning, of how many paces, will be even necessary only when the interval is not that indicated in No. 21.
Article VI.
On rallying.
36. At the call ralliement, the tirailleurs will come at the double [pas de course] to meet with the reserve, to take such formation there that the captain will judge suitable.
37. If the captain would intend to reform his company in line [en bataille] of three ranks, he would indicate this to the tirailleurs by placing the reserve in advance in a single rank, and each man at the time he arrives would form again his rank of size.
38. If, instead of that, he wanted to form a circle [cercle], he would also indicate it to the tirailleurs, by making the rank of the reserve form it in advance. In this formation, the men will not seek their rank of size, all their attention having to tend to being promptly gathered to resist an attack of cavalry.
39. With the approach of the cavalry, the captain will give the signal commencez le feu. This fire will be carried out by the second and third ranks, the first kneeling down, and crossing the bayonet.
40. If the reserves are too far away from the tirailleurs, at the moment when the ralliement would be sounded, it would go forward to meeting them, having however intention to stop in time, to be able to indicate to them in which order they will have to meet.
41. The circle formed against the cavalry, will break with the command: sur le centre, rompez le cercle – marche. It will be able to also break as tirailleurs, with the simple call: en tirailleurs; this deployment will be carried out like a fan [en eventail] (No. 32 of the instruction).
Article VII.
Rallying of a company formed in two ranks.
42. The captain intending to reform its company in line [en bataille], will indicate this to the tirailleurs, by making turn à droite and à gauche with the reserve, and leaving, between the two portions, a sufficient interval to frame the remainder of the company.
43. The gathering of the company in a circle [cercle], always having to be made on three ranks, will always be carried out like it was indicated above, No. 38.
Article VIII.
On firing.
44. There will be two species of fires: the fire standing firm [de pied ferme], and firing while marching [en marchant].
Article IX.
Invariable rules for all firing.
45. It is necessary to look at, as invariable rules, that the tirailleurs of the same file should never make fire at the same time, and than one of them must always have their weapon loaded.
46. The men having counted by fours before being deployed, the fire of the tirailleurs will always start with the first numbers of the first rank, and will be continued by fours, each man firing only after his neighbour on his right-hand side.
47. The man of the second rank regulate themselves, for firing, on their head of file in the first rank, in the manner which will be indicated for each fire.
48. Fire will never cease other than with the call, cessez le feu, regardless of such movement that the line of the tirailleurs carries out besides.
Article X.
Fires standing firm
[feux de pied ferme].
49. With the signal commencez le feu, the two ranks will make ready [aprêteront]; the second rank remaining in this position, fire will start with the first rank, in the manner indicated above, No. 46.
50. The man of the first rank, after having made fire, will, while turning left, come in the place of his comrade of the second rank to go while charging, who will replace him with the first; the man of the second rank having made fire, will pass by again behind that of the first, and so on until they receive the signal cessez le feu.
51. At this last signal, each man will take again his place, the men of the first rank, in first line; those of the second, in second line.
Article XI.
Firing while marching
[feux en marchant].
52. There will be three species of fires while marching: fires while advancing [en avançant], fires in withdrawal [en retraite], and fire while going to one side [en marchant par le flanc].
Article XII.
General rule relating to the three species of fires while marching.
53. The tirailleurs will always start marching before beginning fire.
Article XII.
Fire while advancing
[feux en avançant].
54. At the call commencez le feu, the men of the first line will take the double [pas de course], to go quickly to about thirty paces [19,5 m] from the point of the departure; during this time, the second line will continue to march at the ordinary pace.
55. Arriving at 30 paces [19,5 m], the first line will stop, shall fire (of four into four) and will load standing still.
56. The second line, having heard the fire of the first line, will advance ahead of it by about 30 paces [19,5 m], will give fire, also charge with firm foot, and so on.
57. At the call cessez le feu, fire will cease; and the two ranks will continue to go straight in front of them, in the order where they find themselves, but one tclosed up to the other with one pace [0,65 m] apart.
58. If instead of the signal cessez le feu, one would sound halte, the two ranks close also their distance, and would continue the fire, which would then become feu de pied ferme; just as it would become fire of side, if one sounded par le flanc droit or par le flanc gauche, and fire in retirement, if demi-tour were sounded.
Note. Experience showed that this last explanation was necessary to render comprehensible well with the soldier that fires, once engaged, must be continued until the call cessez le feu, regardless of such movement that the line of the tirailleurs carries out besides.
Article XIII.
Fire in withdrawal
[feux en retraite].
59. The captain wanting to carry out firing in withdrawal, will have his tirailleurs make a turn about, and will start them to march, which will be carried out to the sound of the fourth and first call, demi-tour, and en avant.
60. The two lines being in retreat, the captain will sound commencez le feu.
61. At this signal, the first rank will stop, and the second will take the quick pace [pas accéléré], to go to be established to about 30 paces [19,5 m] behind. The first rank being stopped as has just been said, it will face to the front, and will engage fire as soon as it sees the second line in position. The first rank having made fire, will about turn; and, passing in the intervals of the second line, in its turn will be established at about 30 paces [19,5 m] from this one, and so on until the signal cessez le feu, halte, en avant, etc. (see, for these various signals, what has been sayed in No. 58).
It seems here is missing at least an article on the fire while going to one side [en marchant par le flanc].

Calls adopted for the school of tirailleurs.
1. En avant. [Forward]
2. Par le flanc droit. [Right face.]
3. Par le flanc gauche. [Left face.]
4. Demi-tour à droite. [Right turn about.]
5. Pas de course. [At the double]
6. Halte. [Halt.]
7. En tirailleur. [A skirmishers.]
8. Ventre à terre. [Belly to the ground.]
9. Se relever. [Get up.]
10. Commencez le feu. [Start firing.]
11. Cessez le feu. [Cease firing.]
12. La charge. [Attack.]
13. Le ralliement. [Rally.]
14. Feu de peloton. [Fire of the peloton.]
15. Feu de deux rangs. [Fire of two ranks.]
16. Rompre par peloton. [Breaking of the peloton.]
17. Changement de front (à droite et à gauche). [Change of direction (to the left and to the right)]
18. à 45 dégrés. [by 45 degrees]
      à 22½ dégrés. [by 22½ degrees]
      à 75 dégrés. [by 75 degrees]
      à 60 dégrés. [by 60 degrees]
19. Roulement. [Roll of drums.]
20. Garde à vous bataillon. [Attention battalion.]
21. Garde à vous tel ou tels bataillons. [Attention such or such battalions.]
22. Garde à vous telle ou telles compagnies. [Attention such or such companies.]
23. Raccorder une ligne d'un seul bataillon. [Contract the line of a single battalion.]
24. Raccorder une ligne de plusieurs bataillons. [Contract the line of a several battalions.]
25. Formez les carrés. [Form squares.]
26. Rompez les carréés. [Break squares.]
27. Découverte de l'ennemi (Infanterie). [Discovery of the enemy (infantry).]
28. Découverte de l'ennemi (Cavalerie). [Discovery of the enemy (cavalry).]
Note. In the call No. 18 indicating the degree of angle of an oblique change of face the low notes indicate the tens and high notes the digits of the number of degrees.
In the calls garde à vous tel ou tels bataillons, telle ou telles compagnies, like in those raccorder la ligne, the low notes indicate the number of the battalion, the high notes that of the company.
See for the call garde à vous demi bataillons de droite, ou de gauche, note 2 on page 58 [probably the preceding note].
The notes of these calls have not been transcribed.

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