Click Here for Home Page
Home History About Us News Events Articles Store Birthplace Map Directions Lodging Links Volunteer Contact Us

Formations and Duties - by Mike Kyle
 

For those who follow the mounted arm of the civil war, it was thought, perhaps, a brief over view of that arm might be of interest.

To begin, we should lightly touch on some of the terms and commands most often encountered in the writings of both commanders and veterans.  It is also pertinent to our brief coverage to include some formations and duties that is the everyday lot of a cavalryman.

WE BEGIN WITH A CONCISE SYSTEM Of INSTRUCTION For the
Militia and Volunteer Cavalry of the United States
FROM INSTRUCTIONAL SOURCES OF THE UNITED STATES MILITARY
 

  • Rank-Is any number of men side by side in line.
  • File-Is composed of two men, one behind the other.
  • Cavalry are said to be marching by-
  • Files-When each front-rank man has his rear-rank man following him, the whole in one single string.
  • Twos- when each front-rank "two" has its rear-rank "two" following it, being a column two abreast.
  • Fours-When each front-rank "four" has its rear-rank "four" following it, being a column four abreast.
  • A Platoon-is composed habitually of twelve files; it may also be increased to sixteen; in that case, it is divided into two sections. It is the fourth part of a squadron. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, from the right.
  • A Division-is composed of two platoons. A company, two platoons, is administrative.
  • A Squadron-is composed of two divisions (companies), or four platoons.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES
 
Distance-is the vacant space from one rank to another in column. When ranks are closed, the distance, if mounted, is two feet, measured from the croup of the horse of the front rank to the head of the horse of the rear rank. On foot it is one foot. Open rank is six yards when mounted; on foot it is six paces.
Interval-is the vacant space between two troops, or between the fractions of a troop in line.

To Wheel on A fixed Pivot

The object of a wheel on a fixed pivot is when the platoon forms a part of the squadron, to pass from the order of battle to the order of column, and the reverse.

The trooper who forms the pivot of the wheel turns upon his own ground.

The platoon being halted-
To place it in a direction perpendicular to the original front, the command is- Platoon right (or left) wheel. March.
At 90 degrees-Halt, Right (or left) dress.

The platoon being halted-
To place it towards its right (or left) in a direction oblique or 45 degrees from its front-Platoon right (or left) half wheel. March. Halt. Right (or left) dress.

The platoon being halted-
To place the platoon 180 degrees from its front-Platoon right (or left) About wheel.  March. Halt-dress (as above).

The platoon being halted-
To move the platoon in a circle (360 degrees)- Platoon in-circle right (or left) wheel. March. Halt, & etc.

The platoon being on the march-
The same movements are executed by the same commands.

To wheel on a moveable pivot

The wheel on a moveable pivot is employed in the successive changes of direction of a column.

In this wheel, the object of the moveable pivot is to leave by degrees the ground on which the movement commences, by advancing in the new direction.

Conducting the Turn

The conductor (trooper) of the marching flank should in crease his gate.
He should then describe an arc of a circle so as to cause the files neither to open or close.
The Pivot (trooper) describes an arc of five paces.

In each rank, the troopers from the center to the marching flank in crease the gait progressively, so that the center man preserves the gait at which the platoon was marching. The troopers from the center to the pivot slacken the gait progressively.
At the end of the wheel on a moveable pivot, all the troopers straighten their horses. The marching flank and the pivot resume the gait at which they originally marched.

Advance Guard and Outpost
Thrown out in the direction of the enemy to offer troops on the march or in camp protection from surprise and defense from sudden attack.

Number of advance guard and outpost dependent on:
Strength of army
Nature of country
Need for development
      Wide development more troops needed. In extreme conditions 1/3,
          small (2-3 thousand) 1/5.

The force should be large enough to offer obstinate resistance if attacked.

The outpost and advance guard will act offensively to offer resistance to every attempt the enemy makes to gain information of troop strength, deployment, and intentions, & etc.

Patrols

Patrols of discoveries
Purpose:
To ascertain if a certain place is in enemies' possession.
To search for and determine the enemies movements.
To locate and probe the enemies' lines for military information such as strength, positions and defensive measures, & etc.

Formation:
Squad, Platoon, or larger with advance guard, flankers if necessary, and rear guard. They should be capable of offensive or defensive action.

Duties:
Patrol is exterior to the line of outpost.

Gain information as to strength of enemy.
Observe movement.
Note distances of enemies' outposts, pickets, and patrols.
Description of the ground covered.  It should include information such as; condition of roads, streams, rivers, bridges, condition and nature of the ground leading to the streams and rivers & etc.

Secret Patrols
Purpose:
Generally sent out on flanks, and sometimes in the rear, of the enemies' army to make observations and gather information of armies' movements. Generally to ascertain the overall picture of enemies' intentions.

Formation:
Six to eight men to travel in secret and possibly for long distances.
No advance guard or rear guard.
One man to be detached to look over country from observation positions to determine route.
March takes byroads and secluded routs to avoid detection.
Guide sought if possible.
If anything hostile approaches, patrol is to flee and hide. If discovered, "it must fly". Once freed of pursuit, it will resume its mission by a roundabout way.


ADVANCE GUARD Of A Column in March

Purpose of advance and rear guard, flank guard:

Give notice and provide time for column to attack or retreat in case of enemy being discovered.

The strength of and distance of guard will depend on nature of ground covered and strength of guard.

The larger the column the stronger and more extended will be the advance guard, flank and rear guard.
             
Formation of a column at march.
Approximate distance 500 paces

Vedettes - 3 men
^^^

Sargent  - 8 men
^^^
^
^
^
^
^
^

Officers - 13 men
*
^^^
^^
^^
^^
^^
^^

Main Body
*
^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^^^
^^

Officers - 13 men
*
^^
^^
^^
^^
^^
^^^
 
Sargent  - 8 men
^
^
^
^
^
^
^^^

Vedettes - 2 or 3 men

^ ^ ^

OUTPOST

Cavalry outposts were of varying strengths, set out to form a flexible screen against in filtrating patrols and to check and report enemy movements generally. The customary setup was an outpost, with perhaps one half the total strength forming the "grand guard". In front and on both flanks, at five hundred yards distance, were the pickets, and thrown out five hundred yards from them were the solitary vedettes. Patrols moved constantly between the grand guard and the pickets, and from 3a.m. to sunrise were sent forward at least two miles in front of the vedettes. Units went on picket for twenty-four hours, and horses at the advanced posts remained saddled and bridled for instant use.

SOURCES:
A Concise system of Instructions,
Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, 1855.

Patten's Cavalry Drill and Sabre Exercise, 1861,

Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States, Major William Gilham, 1861.

Arms and Equipment of the Civil War, Jack Coggins, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1962.

TO BE CONTINUED

 
Click Here for More Articles
 
Visitor Hours
Laurel Hill is open dawn to dusk for self guided tours of the property.  Office open by appointment.
   Learn More..
Latest News
JEB Stuart Birthplace Raffle - Feb 3, 2018
   Learn More..
Upcoming Events
Oct 7 - Oct 8, 2017
2017 26th Annual Civil War Reenactment and Living History
   Learn More...

Mission Statement
Mission Statement of J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Trust, Inc.
   Learn More..
2017 Spring Newsletter
Articles
J. E. B. Stuart V: Confederate Monuments Can Be A Starting Point of Honest Discussion
   Read Now...

Membership
Join Us in preserving the only site in America remembering the life and career of JEB Stuart.
   Learn More..
Laurel Hill Store


Laurel Hill 1842 by Pat G. Woltz - Box of 6 cards with envelopes
5.00

  More Store Items...



Patrick County Chamber of Commerce
Click to Visit Chamber Website



Mill Creek General Store
Click to Visit



150th Commemoration of the Civil War
Click to Visit




Lover's Leap Birdhouses
Meadows of Dan, VA


Featured Link



Wood Brothers Racing
Click Here for Website


  More Links...

 
J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace, Inc.    ~     P. O. Box 1210    ~     Stuart, VA 24171-1210    ~     laurelhill@jebstuart.org
 
~  Design and Automation by Chatmoss Web Systems  ~