Pvt. Cary Allen, right, gets instruction on stacking arms from 1st Sgt. Mike Rigsby at the Company B, 19th TN. Camp of Instruction in Gray Saturday. Photo by Ned Jilton II
One question most asked by Civil War reenactors drilling in Camps of Instruction across the region this past weekend had to be, did the man who wrote the army manual get paid by the word?
Reenactors for all eras work hard at accuracy and drill to get it right. To be as authentic as possible they use the various army manuals from which era they reenact. In the case of the Civil War one of the better known would be Hardee's Rifle & Light Infantry Tactics written by Gen. William J. Hardee.
The problem is that it's not always easy to interpret what the army manual means. For example try this jewel from Hardee's manual to deploy skirmishers from the battalion.
"The company which as faced to the right, and also the companies which have faced to the left, will march straight forward. The fourth company will take an interval of one hundred paces counting from the left of the fifth, and its chief will deploy its first platoon on its left file. The seventh and eighth companies will each take an interval of one hundred paces, counting from the first file of the company, which is immediately on its right; and the chiefs of these companies will afterwards deploy their first platoons on the right file."
Deploying skirmishers and rallying them back into formation was one of the many things worked on by members of Company B, 19th Tennessee, during their Camp of Instruction held in Gray Saturday. Interestingly enough, the company and regiment they portray served in Gen. Hardee's Corps during this time in 1864 so they could blame their corps commander for any confusion.
Eventually, after stopping to check the manual and with help from veterans of the company, both the privates and officers had the deployment down. Many people don't realize that officers have to drill as much as the privates. The proper order must be given at the proper time for deployments to work. In addition there is one order to accomplish some things while standing still while there are different orders to accomplish the same things on the move.
An example of an officer having trouble giving the right orders during drill would be Abraham Lincoln. Yes, before being President of the United States, Lincoln was Captain of a company of local Illinois militia in 1832.
While drilling his company one day Capt. Lincoln had his men marching in "line of battle" across a field when he came to a fence. He could not remember the orders to get the men from "line of battle" into "column of march" so they could get through the gate. After a few uncomfortable moments Capt. Lincoln finally ordered the men to fall out and fall back in on the other side of the fence.
Fortunately Capt. Ric Dulaney of Company B did not have to resort to the Lincoln method as he got the men into line of skirmish and then back into column successfully.