The proper arms position for the rear rank during a bayonet charge is not specified in the drill manuals. Both "Right Shoulder Shift" and "Arms Port" have been practiced by our battalion at various times. A first person account of the maneuver is described in a letter from William D. Rogers, while he was serving with the First Florida Infantry.

Tullahoma, Tennessee

April 17th 1863

Dear Papa and Mother,

It is with great pleasure that I take my knapsack on my knee and my pen in hand to write you a few lines informing you that I am very well at present and hope they may find yoiu all enkjoying the same. I have no news at all to write everything is exactly the same as when I wrote last the only thing that has transpired since then that is worth relating is a review we had the other day. A general review of Breckenridges Div. Genls Hardee and Polk were both present and after we had passed in review they called on Genl Breckenridge for three of the best Regiments he had, they wanted to see them drill and decide which was the best. Genl B selected our Regt, the 18th Tenn. and the 20th Lou as the best he had, and we at once commenced. Our Regt drilled first. Lieut Col Mashbourne of the 3rd Fla drilled us. We all did ouir best as we wanted to get the praise but the 18th Tenn beat us and got the praise of being the best and our Regt 2nd best. Just before oiur Regt quit the Col got us in line of battle across the old field and told us he wanted us to make a charge just like we did when we charged the Yanks. We started in common time but didn't get far before he gave us the command "Charge Bayonets, Douible Quick, March" when the front rank came to a charge and the rear rank to "right shoulder shift arms" we made the charge and yelled with as much spirit as if the Yanks had been there sure enough. The Genls waved their hats to us and said was very well done but the 18th Tenn beat us, they went through the same that we did and when they made the charge they got about half-way across the field yelling as loud as they could when all at once the Drum tapped and they all dropped like they were dead even the Col and his horse both come down. The horse lay as close the ground as he could get and the Col right behind him. They all lay for several minutes before they got up. It beat any thing I ever saw in my life and I never did hear such cheering in my life as was done when they dropped, they got the praise and well do they deserve it for they beat anything drilling that ever I say. The Col has his horse trained to lay down whenever he says to.

I received a letter from Jimmy & Sister the other day and also one from Johny. I have written to Jimmy and Johny both today.

Well, Papa and Mother, Goodbye for this time. Kiss all the children for me and write soon to your Affectionate Son

Wm D. Rogers

[1st Florida Infantry - Army of the Tennessee]

This historical account of "Charge Bayonets" supports the "Right Shoulder Shift" position. Another article, Notes on Charge - BAYONET by Dom Dal Bello, is also an excellent reference related to this topic.

The letter text was obtained from http://44tennessee.tripod.com/rightshouldershift.html, with the orginal source being State Archives of Florida.

There is no command "Load and Hold". The proper command is "Cease Fire". At this command the soldier will reload and come to the ready, giving you the same result. The echoing of commands other than while in combat also falls under the heading of reenacting dogma. Only the company commander or Battalion commander should be heard. While in Battalion formation, the Company commanders only should softly repeat the Colonels orders. This also applies to the company level as well. Only the Captain should be heard to give orders, the First Sergeant should not repeat his commands. When the First Sergeant is in command, his orders should not be repeated and so on. The use of sabres to change direction or signify some other action is also inaccurate. Only "Shoulder Arms, Present Arms and Parade Rest" are recognized. The ever - present "without doubling" is another incorrect command. Though it has been seen in a few period letters, the actual command is not found in any period manual. The correct command would be for example "in two ranks, right face".

 

CompanyFormation

A soldier should be soldierly in dress, soldierly in carriage, and soldierly in courtesies. On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned and hooked at the collar. Sergeants, with muskets, will salute by bringing the left hand across the body, so as to strike the musket near the right shoulder. Corporals out of ranks, and privates, not sentries, will carry their muskets at a shoulder as sergeants and salute in like manner. When a soldier without arms or side-arms only meets an officer, he is to raise his hand to the right side of the visor of the cap, palm to the front, elbow raised as high as the shoulder, looking at the same time in a respectful manner at the officer, who will return the compliment. A non-commissioned officer or soldier seated, will rise on the approach of an officer, and make the customary salutation. If standing, he will turn toward the officer for the same purpose. If parties remain in the same area, such compliments need not be repeated. When an officer approaches a number of enlisted men, the word "attention" should be given by someone who perceives him and all should stand at attention and salute. An officer armed with a sabre, renders the sabre salute, if the sabre is drawn; otherwise he salutes with the hand. Salutes are not rendered when marching at the double quick time or at the trot or gallop. Non-commissioned officers and soldiers should pay the same salutations to officers of other regiments, Navy and Marines. When speaking to an officer a soldier should speak in the third person such as, "Does the Captain want his horse this morning?" Do not say "Do you want your horse this morning." In speaking to an officer an enlisted man should refer to another enlisted man by his proper title, as "Sergeant Smith, Private Ryan". When asked his name a soldier should answer " Private Jones, Sir". Do not use slang while speaking to an officer. After a soldier finishes a task he was ordered to do, he should always report back to that same officer who gave him the order i.e. "The Captains message has been delivered". Always salute an officer just as soon as that officer makes the first move to leave. Upon entering an office or tent, a soldier should knock, whether open or closed, enter, taking off the hat, and remain just inside the door until asked what is wanted; then go to a few feet from the officer, stand at attention and salute. On completion, salute, face toward the door and go out. When an enlisted man recieves a message, verbal or written, from an officer for delivery, he will salute, and say "Yes Sir", and execute an about-face and proceed immediately to the recipient. Upon reaching the recipient the soldier will salute and say "Sir, Captain Smith presents his compliments". If the officer sending the message is junior to the one recieving it, then the soldier will not present the compliment but say "Sir, Lt. Smith directed me to tell the Captain" etc. The compliments of a junior are never presented to a senior.

The correct method to execute "Countermarch" was exercised at the School of the Company held in May, 2012, at Ft. Branch.

The method for "Countermarch", as defined in Hardee's 'Rifle and Infantry Tactics, Revised and Improved', is provided below with the addition of diagrams depicting the movements. Referencing the first statement (334), note that the countermarch should only be executed from the halt, and is executed at the company level.

 

Countermarch1

SCHOOL OF THE COMPANY-LESSON VI.

ARTICLE FOURTH.

Countermarch.

    334. The company being at a halt, and supposed to constitute part of a column, right in front, when the instructor shall wish to cause it to countermarch, he will command:

1. Countermarch.     2. Company, right-FACE.     3. By file left.     4. MARCH.

    335. At the second command, the company will face to the right, the two guides to the right about; the captain will go to the right of his company and cause two files to break to the rear, and then place himself by the side of the front rank man, to conduct him.

    336. At the command march, both guides will stand fast: the company will step off smartly; the first file, conducted by the captain, will wheel around the right guide, and direct its march along the front rank so as to arrive behind, and two paces from the right guide; the leading file having arrived at a point opposite to the left guide, the captain will command :

Countermarch2

1. Company.   2. HALT.   3. FRONT.   4. Right-DRESS.

    337. The first command will be given at four paces from the point where the leading file is to rest.

Countermarch3

    338. At the second command, the company will halt.

    339. At the third, it will face to the front.

    340. At the fourth, the company will dress by the right; the captain will step two paces outside of the left guide, now on the right, and direct the alignment, so that the front rank may be enclosed between the two guides; the company being aligned, he will command FRONT, and place himself before the centre of the company as if in column; the guides passing along the front rank, will shift to their proper places, on the right and left of that rank.

Countermarch4

    341. In a column, by platoon, the countermarch will be executed by the same commands, and according to the same principles; the guide of each platoon will face about, and its chief will place himself by the side of the file on the right, to conduct it.

    342. In a column, left in front, the countermarch will be executed by inverse commands and means, but according to the same principles. Thus, the movement will be made by the right flank of subdivisions, if the right be in front, and by the left flank, if the left be in front ; in both cases the subdivisions will wheel by file to the side of the front rank.

Civil War Sesquicentennial

Civil War SesquicentennialFor information on 150th anniversary events, news, history and web sites.

 

 

North Carolina Sesquicentennial

Information on North Carolina Sesquicentennial events and exhibitions.

 

Civil War Traveler

Civil War Trails LogoCivil War battlefields & sites in 30 states plus maps, events, reenactment schedules, podcasts, books, e-newsletter and more...

 

Go to top