By Abel Land
This is a new idea to help pass on the information acquired on foot drill of his Majesties forces during the North American conflict of 1812. Each Wednesday, there will be a new dispatch, including excerpts from the manuals employed to help train recruits.
This week's post is on the position of the soldier, not under arms. This starting post sets the foundation into which all foot drill is rooted.
This first manual is the Rules and Regulations 1807, now the dates of for the conflict are 1812-15, why is a book published in 1807 crucial, the General Regulations and Orders from 1811, and 1815 both have this to say on the subject; “Every Serjeant of Cavalry and Infantry is required to have in his Possession a Copy of the Abstract of the Rules and Regulations for the Manual and Platoon Exercises; Formations, Field-Exercises, and Movements of His Majesty's Forces, which was printed for their Use, and issued, in the Month of January, 1807.” (Orders and Regulations 1811, 89) This manual should be the most common reference for all serjeants conducting foot drill, unless ordered differently, or future military historians in the 21st century where there will be multiple other sources to do research from.
1807 breaks the exercise down into three sections, the first is of the drill or instruction
of the recruit, in 40 parts. The first section, which will be looked at over the next few posts, is on training without arms, beginning with the position of the soldier.
“The equal squareness of the shoulders and body to the front is the first and great principle of the position of a soldier. The heels must be in a line, and closed. —The, knees straight without stiffness. —The toes a little turned out, so that the feet may form an angle of about 60 degrees. —Let the arms hang near the body, but not stiff, the flat part of the hand and little finger touching the thigh; the thumbs as far back as the seams of the breeches. —The elbows and shoulders to be kept back; the belly rather drawn in, and the breast advanced, but without constraint; the body upright, but inclining forward, so that the weighs of if principally bears on the forepart of the feet; the, head to be erect, and neither turned to the right nor left. The position in which a soldier should move, determines that in which he should standstill. Too many methods cannot be used to supple the recruit, and banish the air of the rustic. But that excess of setting up, which stiffens the person, and tends to throw the body backward instead of forward, is contrary to every true principle of movement, and must therefore be most carefully avoided.”
(Rules and Regulations 1807, 3)
Here in the Canadas, there should be no slacking of military discipline before or during the conflict. The Rules and regulations 1807 and the Rules and Regulations for the Formation, Exercise & Movements of the Militia of Lower-Canada published in 1812; have similarities in military discipline. The relatable section is entitled Squad Drill and reads “Position of the soldier. An equal squareness of the shoulders and body, to the front, is the first great principle; the heels must be in a line and closed; the knees straight without stiffness, and the toes a little turned out." (… the Militia of Lower-Canada 1812, 1)
The third manual is from 1806, and is A Practical Guide for the Light Infantry Officer, by Capitan T. H. Cooper. This manual emits the nuances of the detailed description of how to individually fall in. But gives general observations of how to form an independent company and how to form a homogenized battalion. "When Light Infantry companies are in line with their battalions, they are to form, and act, in every respect, as a company of the battalion. Loose Files. When acting by themselves, and not in line, they may loosen their files six inches apart from each other.” (Copper 1806, 1)
Continuing the topic of light infantry, the British realization that during the ongoing conflict in Europe against the Corsican upstart Napoleon Bonaparte, that the need to define and develop systems of light maneuvers is necessary. Either through the use of light infantry battalions or rifle troops.
The progression to light drill seems not to have affected the firm upper lip of battalion drill, as seen in the next two manuals. The first is A System of Drill and Maneuvers, as practiced by the 52ed Light Infantry Battalion by Captain John Cross in 1823.
“On the word "Attention," the arms are to be dropped smartly down the side, the right heal to be brought up in line with the left, and the knees straightened; the elbows slightly touching the body, the fingers straight, the thumb close to the fore-finger; the thumb, fore, and middle fingers in a small degree turned out, (in order to keep the elbows close to the body), the edge of the hand very slightly touching the thigh, and about two inches behind the seam of the trousers; the body is to be erect, but inclined a little forward, the head to be held up well, the chin kept in, the eyes off the ground, and the whole attitude without constraint.” (Cross 1823, 2)
The 52ed Light Infantry Battalion in 1823 is conducting virtually the same system for the position of the soldier as the 1807 Rules and Regulations. For the rest of the standing army in 1824 Field Exercise and Evolution of the Army, the passage on the position of the soldier reads with remote grammatical differences with the 1807 manual.
I hope this dispatch reaches all the unit in good standing after the Christmas season. The next post will follow in half a fortnight.
Happy reading privates… if you can,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Serjeant Abel Land,
41st Regiment of Foot winter garrison at Fort George, Upper Canada
Cross, John. 1823. A System of Drill and Maneuvers, as Practised in the 53nd Light Infantry Regiment. London: W. Clowes, Northumberland-Court.
General Regulations and Orders for the Army. 1811. London: W. Clowes.
General Regulations and Orders for the Army. ———. 1815. 2ed ed. London: W. Clowes, Northumberland-Court.
Rules and Regulations for the Formation, Exercise & Movements of the Militia of Lower-Canada. 1812. Quebec: The new Printing Office.
Rules and Regulations for The Manual and Platoon Exercises, Formations, Field-Exercise, And Movements, of His Majesty’s Forces. For the Use of The Non-Commissioned Officers of The British Army. 1807. London: C. Roworth, Printer, Bell Yard, Temple Bar.
T.H., Cooper. 1806. A Practical Guide for the Light Infantry Officer. London: Robert Wilks.
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These articles are written and compiled by members of the 41st Regiment Living History Group.