Search This Blog

On Riflemen and Cavalry - A Letter from Militia Major General Joseph Graham in 1808

"To General W. R. Davie. M. C.
Vesuvius Furnace, Dec. 19, 1808.
Dear Genl: —

On taking a review of the organization of our regular army I apprehend it is on a plan more expensive than needful. I observe there is one regiment of Riflemen and one ditto of Cavalry. I know of nothing that can justify such an appointment and expense except it is expected by the administration to send them to such distant points westwardly or southwardly as it would be too far for the Militia. If any actual service is expected the number of Regulars is so small there is no doubt the Militia would be called on; then sir put the question to yourself what kind of troops do you get You know you have as many Cavalry already equpt at their own expense as would be a sufficient proportion to any army of Infantry you would want and when you call for footmen from the Militia take the Southern States throughout I think you will find the arms half rifles, and men. who have been habituated to use them since their infancy and furthermore the Militia generally prefer service in the Cavalry or Rifles to that of the Line. I know it is a matter certain whenever either are wanted for actual service in the old United States enough can be had from volunteers from the Militia After the war commenced in the south-land we had no Riflemen who were Regulars and I appeal to your knowledge of those times if we had not always a sufficient proportion of them yea the misfortune was we frequently had scarcely any other and as to Cavalry when the Militia was properly equipt, mounted and officered I could point out places where they acquitted themselves equal to Regulars. I have been with them when equal numbers ot Tarleton's men fled before them.

The discipline actually necessary to be known in service for Cavalry or Riflemen is so simple it may be acquired in a short time. That the United States should have some intelligent officers for each I grant may be proper; but to keep on the establishment a whole regiment of each I think inconsistent with true economy.

Regiments of Musquet and Bayonette men and a suitable proportion ,of Artillery are the kind of troops we want; it is a work of time to form these from the Militia even if you had arms enough to put into their hands; until they were some tim'e in service under regular officers they never did acquit themselves well on a large scale with those tools to the southward but generally acted well as Cavalry and Riflemen. After I was wounded in the Parthian fight opposing Lord Cornwallis entering Charlotte in September 1780 I was moved by a wagon out of the way of the enemy into Guilford County. I stopped all night near Mocks Tavern with the late Genl. Morgan on the eve of his going to the southward with about 300 regulars; interrogating me as to the position of Charlotte, the roads leading from it, the principal farms, mills, etc. etc. he inquired if we had many good Riflemen; mentioned his name was Morgan and supposed I had heard of his commanding Riflemen in the northern army which had been very troublesome to the enemy; but says he "my Riflemen would have been of little service if we had not always had a line of Musquet and Bayonette men to support us, it is this that gives them confidence. They know if the enemy charges them they have a place to retreat to and are not beat clear off." How well this doctrine of the General was verified you who were present are the best judge. Though the General might not be as scientific an officer as others he certainly understood the duties of the field (fighting I mean) nearly as well as any of them. In the disposition General Greene made of his army at the actions of Guilford, Eutaw and other places, where he had a large proportion of Militia Riflemen he adopted the same principle that Genl. Morgan communicated to me and you observe thereby he escaped the errors and disasters of his predecessor to the southward who had formed his calculations on the Militia acting equal to Regulars when they were equipt in the same manner.

I assure you sir I have not made these remarks out of an itch for scribbling but from a solemn conviction that they are well founded. If any additions should be attempted to our standing army and you coincide with me in opinion you are at liberty to make what use you please of this letter. As a looker on I may sometimes discover things which might escape the attention of those who are constantly employed in the public service; in which case I will consider it a duty and take the liberty to communicate it at any time you have leisure.

A line on the times will be acceptable to,
Your sincere friend,

J. Graham. "
pp. 134-136

General Joseph Graham and his papers on North Carolina Revolutionary history, by William Alexander Graham, 1904


"Charlotte Journal Dec. 2, 1836

   Died, at his residence in Lincoln County, on the 12th ult., MAJOR GENERAL
JOSEPH GRAHAM, aged 77 years.
   GEN. GRAHAM was born in Pennyslvania, October 13th, 1759. His mother, being 
left a widow with five small children and slender means to support them, 
removed to North Carolina when he was about seven years of age and settled in 
the vicinity of Charlotte. He received the principal part of his education at 
an academy then taught in Charlotte, and was distinguished among his fellow 
students for talents, industry, and the most manly and conciliating 
deportment. His thirst for knowledge led him, at an early period, to become 
well acquainted with all those interesting events which preceded and prepared 
him for our Revolution Struggle.
   He was present in Charlotte on the 20th of May, 1775, when the first 
Declaration of Independence was formally and publically made. The deep 
impression made upon his mind by the solemn and illustrious decisions of that 
day, gave good evidence that he was then preparing for the noble stand which 
he took during the war.
   He enlisted in the Army of the United States in the month of May, 1778, at 
the age of 19 years. He served in the Fourth Regiment of North Carolina under 
COL. ARCHIBALD LYTLE and acted as an officer in CAPT. GOODEN'S Company. The 
troops to which he was attached were ordered to rendezvous at Bladensburg in 
Maryland. Having proceded as far as Caswell County, they received intelligence 
of the battle of Monmouth, and that the British having gone to New York, their 
services would not be needed. He returned home on furlough.
   He was again called into service on the 5th of Nov., 1778, and marched 
under the command of GENERAL RUTHERFORD of Purrysburg, on the Savannah river, 
soon after the defeat of GENERAL ASHE at Brier Creek. He was with the troops 
under GENERAL LINCOLN in the trying and painful struggles agains GENERAL 
PROVOST, and fought in the Battle of Stono on the 28th of June, 1778, which 
lasted an hour and 20 minutes. 
   During nearly the whole campaign, he acted as Quarter Master. In July, 
1779, he was taken with fever, and after two months severe illness was 
discharged near Dorchester and returned home.j
   After recovering from the affects of sickness and privation, he aided his 
mother in the support of her family and was ploughing in her field when he 
received intelligence of the surrender of Charleston, and that the British had 
defeated COL. BUFORD of the Waxhaw, and were within 40 miles of Charlotte. 
Instead of being deterred by the sufferings of the previous campaign, or the 
perils of that alarming moment, he removed at once to leave the plough, and 
enter the Army. 
   He was immediately appointed Adjutant of the Mecklenburg Regiment, and 
spent the summer with them in opposing and assailling the troops of LORD 
ROWDON. When it was understood that the British were marching to Charlotte, he 
was commanded by GEN. DAVIDSON to repair to that place and take command of 
such force as should collect there, and to join COL. DAVIS. The British Army 
entered Charlotte the 26th of Sept. 1780. GEN. GRAHAM was assigned the command 
of his troops which sustained the retreat of GEN. DAVIS, and opposed 
TARLETON'S Cavalry and a Regiment of Infantry for four miles on the road 
leading to Salisbury.
   After a long and well directed fire upon the British from the Courthouse to 
the Gum Tree, GEN. GRAHAM retreated with the men under his command and formed 
on the plantation now owned by JOSEPH McCONNAUGHEY, ESQ. and again attacked 
their advancing column of infantry. There his life was providentially 
preserved from the bursting of a gun fired by the soldier who stood at his 
side, and whose arm was wounded. After again retreating, he formed on the hill 
where Sugar Creek Church now stands. There owing to the impudent, but honest, 
zeal of a MAJOR WHITE, they were detained too long, for by the time they 
reached the Cross Roads, a party of British Dragoons were coming up the road, 
heading from CAPT. KENNEDY'S, and after close pursuit for nearly two miles 
overtook them. COL. FRANCIS LOCKE of Rowan County, an intelligent and brave 
officer, was killed upon the margin of a small pond, now to been at the end of 
MR. ALEX. KENNEDY'S LANE. Between the spotand where MR. JAMES A. HOUSTON 
livesm, GEN. GRAHAM was cut down and severely wounded. He received nine 
wounds, six with the sabre and three with lead. His life was again narrowly 
and mercifully preserved by a large stock buckle, which broke the violence of 
the stroke, which to human view, must otherwise have proved fatal. He received 
four deep gashes of the sabre over his head and one in his side and three 
balls were afterwards removed from his body.
   After being much exhausted by loss of blood, he reached the home of MRS. 
SUSANNAH ALEXANDER, who yet lives near the same place, where he was kindly 
nursed and watched during the night, and his wounds dressed as well as 
circumstances would permit. The next day, he reached his Mother's, where MAJOR 
BOSTWICK now lives. From that, he was taken to the hospital, and was two 
months recovering.
   Thus, at the tender age of 21 year, we see this gallant officer leading a 
band of brave men as ever faced a foe, to guard the ground consecrated by the 
Declaration of American Independence, and when the foot of tyranny was 
treading on it, and assistance proved unsuccessful, leaving his blood as the 
best memorial of a righteous cause, and of true heroism in its defence.
   While the whole country was in distress, its property pillaged, its houses 
forsaken, and its defenseless inhabitants flying from the shock of arms, a few 
noble sons of Mecklenburg compelled LORD CORNWALLIS to designante Charlotte as 
the "Hornet's Nest" of America.
   As soon as he recovered from his wounds, he again entered the service of 
his country. GEN. WILLIAM L. DAVIDSON, who had command of all the militia in 
the Western counties of North Carolina, applied to him such rank as the number 
of men raised would justify. It proved not only his energy of purpose, but 
great influence, that, at  that difficult and hazardous period, he could raise 
a company of 55 men in two weeks. They were mounted riflemen, armed also with 
swords, and some with pistols. They suppllied themselves with horses, procured 
their own equipments and entered the field, without commissary or 
quartermaster, and with every prospect of hard fighting and little 
   After TARLETON'S signal defeat at the Cowpens, CORWALLIS resolved to pursue 
GEN. MORGAN. At that time GENERAL GREENE had received the command of the 
Southern Army and had stationed himself at Hick's Creek, on the North side of 
the Peedee, near to Cheraw. After MORGAN'S victory and successful retreat, 
GEN. GREENE left his main army with GEN. HUGER, and rode 150 miles to join 
MORGAN'S detachment. The plan of opposing LORD CORNWALLIS in crossing the 
Catawba River was arranged by GEN. GREENE,and his execution assigned to GEN. 
DAVIDSON. Feints of passing were made at different places, but the real 
attempt was made at Cowan's Ford. 
   Soon after the action commenced, GEN. WM. L. DAVIDSON was killed, greatly 
lamented by all who knew him as a talented, brave and generous officer. The 
company  commanded by GEN. GRAHAM was the first to commence the attack on the 
British, as they advanced through the river, which was resolutely continued 
until they reached the bank, loaded their arms, and commenced a heavy fire 
upon his men, two of whom were killed. It was supposed that GEN DAVIDSON was 
killed by a Tory, who was pilot to the British in crossing the river, as he 
was shot with a small rifle ball. COL. WM. POLK and REV. MR. McCALL were near 
to him when he fell. His body was found that night and buried in the present 
graveyard of Hopewell Church.
   The North Carolina  Militia was then placed under the command of GEN. 
PICKENS of South Carolina, and continued to pursue the British as they 
advanced toward Virginia. GEN GRAHAM with his company and some troops from 
Rowan County, surprised and captured a guard at Hart's Mill, one and a half 
miles from Hillsboro, where the British Army then lay, and the same day were 
united to COL. LEE'S forces. On the next day, he was in action under COL. 
PICKENS with COL PYLES, who commanded 350 Tories on their way to join 
TARLETON. These Tories supposed the Whigs to be a Company of British Troops 
sent for their protection and commenced crying, "God Save the King." TARLETON 
was about a mile from that place, and retreated to Hillsboro'. Shortly 
afterward, GEN. GRAHAM was in an engagement at Clapp's Mill, on the Alamance 
and had two of his company killed, three woounded and two taken prisoners. A 
few days afterwards, he was in action at Whitsell's Mill under the command of 
   As the time for which his men had engaged expired, and the country annoyed 
by Tories, GEN. GREENE directed him to return with his company and keep them 
in a compact body until they crossed the Yadkin, which they did March 14, 
1781. After the battle at Guilford, the British retired to Wilmington and but 
little military service was performed in North Carolina during the summer of 
1781. After the first of November, COL. FANNING surprised Hillsboro' and took 
GEN. BURKE prisoner. GEN. RUTHERFORD, who had been taken prison at GATES' 
defeat and with many other distinguised citizens had been confined in custody, 
was dischared and returned home about his time. -- He immediately gave orders 
to GEN. GRAHAM, in whose military prowess and general influence he had the 
utmost confidence, to raise a troop of calvary in Mecklenburg. Three troops of 
Dragoons and about 200 mounted Infantry were raised and formed into a Legion, 
of which ROBERT SMITH ESQ., who had been a Captain in the North Carolina Line 
was appointed Colonel, and GEN. GRAHAM was appointed Major. They forthwith 
commenced their march towards Wilmington -- South of Fayetteville, with 96 
Dragoons and 40 mounted infantry, GEN. GRAHAM made a gallant and successful 
attack upon a body of Tories, commanded by the noted Tory COLONELS McNEIL , 
RAY, GRAHAM, and McDOUGAL. This action took place near McFall's mill, on the 
Raft Swamp, in which the Tories were signally defeated, their leaders 
dispersed in dismay and their cause greatly injured. That 136 Whigs should 
attack and triumphantly defeat 600 Tories, headed by four Colonels, reflects 
great honor upon the bravery and intelligence of their youthful leader.
   A short time afterwards, he commanded one Troop of Dragoons and two of 
mounted infantry, in surprising and defeating a band of Tories on MR. ALFRED 
MOORE'S plantation, opposite to Wilmington. On the next day, he led the Troops 
in person, which made a resolute attack on the British garrison near the same 
place. Shortly afterwards, he commanded three companies in defeating the 
celebrated COL. GAYNY, near Waccomaw lake. Shortly afterr this, the war was 
terminated in the South by the surrender of LORD CONWALLIS at Yorktown in 
   This campaign closed COL. GRAHAM'S services in the Revolutionary War, 
having commanded in 15 engagements with a dgree of courage, wisdom, calmness 
and success, surpassed, perhaps, by no officer of the same rank. Hundreds who 
served under under him have delighted in testifying to the upright, faithful, 
prudent, and undaunted manner in which he discharged the duties of his trying 
and responsible station.
   After the close of the War, he was elected first Sheriff of Mecklenburg 
County, and gave great satisfaction by the faithful and exemplary performance 
of the duties of that office. He was afterwards, for a number of years, a 
prominent member of the General Assembly from the same County. About the year 
1787, he was married to the second daughter of MAJ. JOHN DAVIDSON. By this 
marriage he had 12 children, seven of whom have survived him. Not long after 
his marriage, he removed to Lincoln County and engaged in the manufacture  of 
Iron, and for more than 40 years before his death, conducted a large 
establishment with great energy and prudence.
   In the year 1814, when the war with the Creek Indians was raging with 
violence, and GENERALS JACKSON, COFFEE and CARROLL, were repelling with signal 
bravery, their ruthless aggressions, North Carolina determined to send 1000 
men to aid the volunteers from Tennessee and Georgia in the confllict with 
those savages. GEN. GRAHAM'S renown as an officer, and his worth as a man, 
commended him as leader of the troops from this State. He received the 
commission of General, and was strongly solicited by the Governor of the State 
to accept the appointment. Although the circumstances of his family rendered 
his absence one of great loss and self-denial, he promptly obeyed the call of 
his country and marched at the head of a fine Regiment of Volunteers to the 
scene to the conflict. They arrived about the time the last stroke of 
punishment was inflicted upon the Creeks by GEN. JACKSON, at the battle of 
Horse Shoe; and in time to receive the submission of those they expected to 
conquer. Several hundred of the lower Creeks surrender to them. For many years 
after the last war, he was Major General of the 5th Division of the Militia of 
North Carolina.
   By the life of temperance and regular exercise, with the blessing of God, 
he enjoyed remarkable health and vigor of constitution. On the 13th of 
October, 1836, he made the following minute in his Day Book, "This day I am 77 
years of age and in good health, Dei Gratis."
   As the disease which terminated his life was apoplexy, its paralyzing 
stroke was sudden and unexpected. He rode from Lincolnton on the 10th of 
November, and on the evening of the 12th, closed his eyes upon the cares and 
trials of a long and useful life."

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by:Carolyn Shank December 22, 2007, 5:28 pm

American Heritage Magazine, April 1956, Volume 7, Issue 3
At Cowpens, Dan Morgan showed how militia can be used. The formula worked in three later fights.


At Cowpens, Dan Morgan showed how militia can be used. The formula worked in three later fights.

On a January morning in 1781 a battle was fought in the South Carolina backwoods which became the tactical show piece of the American Revolution. It set a pattern not only for two other decisive actions of that war but also for a hard-fought engagement of the War of 1812.

This was the Battle of Cowpens, an American victory resulting in the destruction of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s materially superior British force.

The American commander, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, was a self-educated frontiersman. Well versed in the craft and guile of Indian fighting, he baited a psychological trap which his opponent entered unsuspectingly. Fifty minutes later the small British army had lost nine-tenths of its numbers in killed, wounded and prisoners.

The war had reached a stalemate in the North. Savannah and Charleston had fallen to the invaders, and in the summer of 1780 the only American army in the South ceased to exist when Lord Cornwallis defeated Major General Horatio Gates in the Battle of Camden.

Fugitives from that disaster were combined with southern militia and a few hundred Continentals, or American regulars, to form a new army of about 2,400 men under Major General Nathanael Greene. At the outset Greene could hardly hope to fight Cornwallis and his 4,000 redcoats for control of South Carolina. The most Greene could do was to harass the enemy’s Hanks, attack outposts, cut off detachments, and nourish the guerrilla operations of such border captains as Marion, Sumter and Pickens.

The great object was to survive. And since mobility meant more to Greene than mass, he did not shrink from the unorthodox strategy of dividing his force in the face of a stronger enemy. After all, a small army could run faster than a large one. He detached Morgan with about 600 men to prey upon British outposts in western South Carolina. Greene advanced with his remaining troops to the north-central part of the state, where he could support American guerrilla leaders.

Cornwallis saw that he had no opportunity for a classic campaign on “interior lines”—beating a divided enemy by overwhelming each force in turn with superior numbers. Morgan and Greene were 140 miles apart, and the British general reluctantly split his own army by sending Tartelon in pursuit of Morgan while he himself prepared to move against Greene.

Tarleton’s force numbered slightly more than 1,000 British regulars and American loyalists of equal merit. The stocky little Oxford graduate had made his name a legend of terror in the South. After surprising an American militia column on the South Carolina frontier, the victors gave “Tarleton’s quarter” with their sabers to those trying to surrender.

Dan Morgan also had a reputation to uphold. Commanding the famous regiment of riflemen in the early years of the Revolution, he was man enough at the age of forty to discipline those turbulent frontier characters with his own two fists. But now he commanded scared rustics instead of the tough riflemen of Saratoga.

On January 16, 1781, Morgan had reached the northwest corner of South Carolina when his scouts informed him that Tarleton was within a day’s march and pursuing at his usual hell-for-leather pace. Recent reinforcements had given the rebels nearly an equality in numbers, but the newcomers consisted of militiamen with little or no training. If Morgan continued to retreat, they would desert at every opportunity. And if he fought Tarleton, they would run. Morgan decided to fight.

Morgan impressed his officers as being confident to the point of recklessness in his choice of a battlefield. Other American generals had placed militiamen in positions where their fortitude would not be given too severe a test—in the second or third lines, or in some part of the field defended by natural obstacles. Above all, it was considered essential to keep open a line of retreat for the inevitable moment when the recruits would throw away their muskets and sprint to the rear.

Contrary to precedent, Morgan decided to make a stand in a comparatively level clearing, known as the Cowpens because it had once been a pasture for backwoods cattle. There were no natural obstacles to defend either front or flanks from the charge of Tarleton’s dragoons. And the unfordable Broad River in the rear cut off all retreat.

Further shocks awaited Morgan’s officers when he drew up his line of battle at dawn on the seventeenth, after the men had eaten a good breakfast around the campfires. The most undependable American troops made up the first line. And since it was certain that they would run, Morgan created a virtue out of a necessity by giving them permission to retire after firing three times.

“Three shots, boys, and you are free!” he exhorted, riding up and down the line. But he insisted that they make an orderly withdrawal around the American left and halt out of range of enemy musket balls.

The second line, 150 yards behind the first, consisted of Continentals and reliable Virginia militia veterans. Drawn up along a slight rise, they had orders to hold their ground at any cost after the retirement of the first line.

Farther to the rear was another low ridge, just high enough to offer shelter from the British fire. On the reverse slope, in the left rear, Morgan placed his dragoons, many of whom were infantry recently mounted on country nags.

Ahead of the (list line he stationed some riflemen as a thin screen of skirmishers. Alter picking off as many foemen as possible, they were to fall back into the ranks of the militia and set an example ol steady firing.

As Morgan had anticipated, his opponent found the park-like clearing an ideal battlefield. In past operations against rebel militia Tarleton never deemed it necessary to order any variation from a plain, unvarnished frontal assault. If the mere gleam of oncoming bayonets and sabers did not unnerve these novices, a whiff of musketry usually sufficed to sweep them from the field.

Tarleton’s first move, while deploying, was to order dragoons forward against the American marksmen of the skirmish line. They were stopped by a crackle of rifle fire which emptied about fifteen saddles before the skirmishers fell back into the ranks of the first line.

Two of the British three-pounders known as “grasshoppers” began to send cannon balls ricocheting through the rebel ranks. The militiamen stood firm in spite of the screams of maimed comrades, and their ordeal was cut short by Tarleton’s impetuosity. Without waiting for the artillery to fire again, he ordered the whole battle line forward with perfect confidence as to the result.

The British had approached within’a hundred yards before their ranks were thinned by the first ragged American volley. Dingy powder smoke blotted them from sight as the militiamen reloaded with a frantic clatter of iron ramrods and firing pans. This was a tense moment for recruits who could imagine that the unseen foe was about to rip through the wall of powder smoke with bayonets.

It is to the credit of the militiamen that most of them fired three shots before retiring in haste. The first line might have stuck it out longer if the men had realized that their fire had stopped the British infantry with heavy losses. As the militiamen pounded around the American left toward the low ridge in the rear, the dragoons of the British right galloped out in pursuit. They were met by a surprise charge of the American dragoons and hurled back alter a brief melee.

Behind the ridge the militiamen scarcely had time for a sigh of relief before Dan Morgan took them in hand. Alternately praising and scolding, he ordered them to form into column and reload. Probably no other American general of the war was as well equipped to understand these scared recruits. Morgan knew that it was unjust as well as futile to condemn untrained rustics as poltroons when they ran from European regulars. They were not lacking in pride, and on this winter morning in 1781 he staked everything on an appeal to them for another effort. The militiamen did not hesitate when Dan Morgan ordered the column around the ridge at a quickstep and back into the fight.

Taking a shorter way, the paternalistic commander returned to the battlefield just in time to find the Continentals giving ground. Tarleton had thrown in his last fresh troops, the Highlanders of the 71st, in an attempt to overlap the right of the American second line and roll it up.

It is axiomatic that battles are won by reserves. The outcome of Cowpens was settled when the militiamen of the first line came back to score a devastating surprise. Rounding the ridge on the American right, they completed nearly a full circuit of the field. And they struck the British left rear just as the American dragoons closed in on the right alter routing Tarleton’s horsemen.

That was it. In a moment the field presented the strange spectacle o( British regulars surrendering wholesale to despised militiamen who yelled “Tarleton’s quarter.” They would doubtless have paid oft old scores if Morgan and his officers had not intervened. As it was, the British had 100 killed, including 39 officers, and 229 wounded. Nearly 600 unhurt prisoners were disarmed by rebels whose casualties amounted to twelve killed and sixty wounded. Tarleton and a handful of redcoats escaped as scattered fugitives, leaving behind their cannon, small arms, colors, and baggage.

Morgan had no time to accept congratulations. Winning the battle was only halt of his responsibility, since it remained to save the prisoners and spoils from recapture by the main British force. Cornwallis, upon learning of the disaster, reacted just as Morgan had anticipated. He demanded that his army strip down to essentials for the chase to head oil Morgan. Even the casks of rum were emptied out on the ground before the mournful gaze of the redcoats.

Despite such heroic sacrifices, the British lost the rate by a margin so narrow as to cause Morgan sleepless nights. It was his last campaign in the Revolution, for arthritis compelled his retirement shortly after handing over his command to Greene.

It was Greene’s purpose to play a grim game of strategic tag by keeping just a march or two ahead of Cornwallis and drawing him ever farther from his bases of sea-borne supplies. Thus the British detachments and outposts in the rear would be left a prey to American guerrilla bands.

Greene had resolved not to accept battle unless he held a great advantage, and he led his opponent a chase all the way to the Virginia border.

On the return trip, with Cornwallis still doggedly pursuing. Greene received large militia reinforcements in the vicinity of Guilford Courthouse. He decided to fight. With 4,400 troops, he had a temporary numerical advantage of two-to-one, but fewer than 700 of the Americans had ever been in battle. Grccnc trusted in the Cowpens plan to overcome this handicap, and on the morning of March 15,1781, he drew up his three lines in the clearing.

The most undependable novices were placed in the first line behind a rail fence, so that the enemy would have to cross 500 yards of open ground to reach them. Greene’s second line, made up of somewhat more reliable militiamen, was goo yards to the rear. About a quarter of a mile farther back, the third line consisted of Continentals. Picked riflemen had been posted in the woods on both sides of the clearing for the purpose of enfilade fire.

Unfortunately, a departure from precedent may have cost him the victory. The distances of Cowpens had been reassuring, but at Guilford nearly half a mile separated the front-line militiamen from the haven of the third line. In their haste to withdraw, most of them fired at ranges too long for effect before scattering in a wild flight which did not end until the majority were miles away. This collapse unnerved the men of the second line, though at least they did fire two respectable volleys before the rout of one wing led to the retreat of the other.

The numerical advantage now passed to Cornwallis as he bore down on the American third line. Although a new Maryland regiment broke, the rest of the Continentals proved a match for the Guards. Cornwallis was in danger of losing the day when he resorted to the desperate expedient of firing grapeshot into a melee and cutting down some of his own Guards as the price of driving the rebels back.

Greene could probably have retained the field by throwing in a regiment he held in reserve. But with his usual prudence he used these fresh troops to cover a general withdrawal, and the redcoats were too crippled by casualties to pursue. Of the approximately 2,000 British who took part, 93 were killed and 439 wounded, including losses of the Guards which amounted to nearly fifty per cent. Greene’s casualties were 78 killed and 183 wounded, though hundreds of the militia had deserted.

Greene incurred two more tactical reverses during the summer of 1781, but he continued to hold the upper hand in strategic respects with his marches and countermarches. His dream of another Cowpens came very near to realization, moreover, in the Battle of Eutaw Springs. Greene had about 2,500 men early in September when he encountered Colonel Alexander Stewart’s nearly equal force on the main British supply route about seventy miles northwest of Charleston. This time the rebel militia of the front line fired at least ten shots before falling back without panic. Greene’s victory seemed assured as the second line of Continentals charged with the bayonet while the dragoons hit the British flank.

Success was the undoing of half-starved troops who broke ranks to plunder stores of rum and rations after overrunning the enemy’s camp. Their disorder gave Stewart the opportunity for a counterstroke which drove them from the field with losses of 522 killed, wounded, and missing. But he suffered 866 casualties of his own, and after leaving scores of wounded to American care, he retreated to Charleston.

This was the last battle in the South for the invaders, who evacuated the interior and withdrew to the protection of their cannon and warships at Charleston and Savannah. Thus the Cowpens formula, by accounting in eight months for the destruction of one small army and the crippling of two others, must be reckoned among the decisive factors in evicting the British from the Carolinas.

Dan Morgan was in his grave, and so was Nathanael Greene, when the pattern battle had a reincarnation after an interlude of 32 years. It was revived in the spring of 1813 by Jacob Brown, another ex-Quaker who loved war. And in half an hour the 38-year-old militia brigadier won a victory which snatched him from obscurity to nation-wide notice.

Brown would have thought anyone mad to suggest such a possibility on the May morning when he descried an enemy squadron anchoring off Sackett’s Harbor, the American naval base at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The British, he realized, were about to launch an amphibious assault; and he had the responsibility of defense with a force too small to win and too large to be sacrificed.

For that matter, his own professional attainments were not impressive. He had been commissioned a militia general because he was a New York landed proprietor, not because he had demonstrated any grasp of tactics. But if he had never commanded in a battle, at least the former schoolmaster had read a good many books about battle. And somewhere along the way he had been fascinated by the saga of Cowpens.

The American squadron was at the other end of the lake, attacking Fort George, a British post of second-rate strategic value at the mouth of the Niagara River. Brown had been left with about 500 regulars, including a few marines and bluejackets, and nearly the same number of local militiamen.

At dawn on May 29 Sir George Prevost’s 800 regulars landed on wooded Horse Island, within easy wading distance of the mainland. Brown’s 500 militiamen were posted behind natural cover along the beach. He asked only that they fire while the redcoats were wading through the shallows. Then they were free to make for the nearby woods, where Brown hoped to rally them later as his mobile reserve.

The small harbor was formed by Navy Point, a tongue of land projecting from the mainland into Black River Bay. At the base of the peninsula, just north of the village and about half a mile from the beach, were the navy yard, the blockhouse named Fort Tompkins, the log barracks, and the parade ground. Two American vessels were potential enemy prizes—a captured 10-gun brig, and a nearly completed 28-gun ship designed to be the dreadnaught of the lake.

Brown’s militiamen made it hot for the redcoats before scattering. The grenadiers of the 104th, according to the British account, waded ashore under “so heavy and galling a fire from a numerous but almost invisible foe, as to render it impossible for the artillery to come up.”

While the militiamen found a refuge in the second-growth woods, Prevost’s troops re-formed on the beach. Advancing with a stately tread under fire from Fort Tompkins, the scarlet column deployed for battle against the 500 American regulars drawn up on the parade ground as the second line of defense. There a memorable fight ensued as the opposing lines traded volley after volley without giving an inch.

Both forces were hidden by gunpowder smoke when a nervous American naval officer concluded prematurely that the battle was lost. Setting fire to the navy yard and the two ships to cheat the enemy of spoils, he precipitated one of the most melodramatic scenes in the nation’s military annals. For Brown’s regulars continued to stand their ground with the British fire in their faces and the flames of the blazing warehouses at their backs.

Both casualty-ridden lines were near the breaking point when Prevost tried for victory with an attack on the American left flank. By this time Brown had managed to rally about a hundred militiamen—farmers and villagers led by the local butcher—after convincing them that it was safe to share in the glory already won by the regulars. They bore down with awkward zest on the British right flank just as the redcoats were carrying out their own flanking movement; at this critical stage it took only a threat by fresh forces to decide the issue, and the British broke and ran.

The redcoats were allowed to withdraw to Horse Island and row away in their longboats without any interference. Brown did not trust his mobile reserve for a pursuit. Besides, all hands were needed as firemen; and the two ships were saved, though the navy yard burned to the ground as the enemy sailed back to Kingston.

Brown was rewarded for his revival of the Cowpens tactics by an appointment as brigadier in the regular army. Early in 1814 he put up a second star after relieving the incompetent James Wilkinson as commander on the northern front. Colonel Winfield Scott being made a brigadier soon afterwards, the two generals trained the little American army which distinguished itself during the summer of 1814 in the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane. After the war Brown remained in the army and became commanding general from 1821 until his death in 1828.

Before long, of course, the Cowpens formula was outdated by improvements which multiplied the range of cannon and small arms. But after figuring in four decisive actions, the old battle piece had passed into honorable retirement with a record unique in American military history.

Lynn Montross has written several books on the American Revolution, including The Reluctant Rebels (1950) and Rag, Tag and Bobtail (1951), the story of the Continental Army.

William Duane's "Origin of the Rifle Corps" in A Handbook for Riflemen (1812)

As with Colonel Alexander Smyth (wiki), the first Colonel of the Regiment of Riflemen, formed in 1808, Lieutenant Colonel William Duane was a Jeffersonian republican political appointee with no previous regular military service. Some additional background on his "political" and "military" career, not discussed in his wiki bio is, provided below.* He was on the US Regiment of Riflemen roll from 1808-1810 and later produced, for intended personal profit,  "A Handbook for Riflemen" (1812), as well as a "Handbook for Infantry (1814)," the latter which was ultimately not accepted by the Army (although approved by Congress).

Thomas Noxon Toomey, in his 1917 article "THE HISTORY OF THE INFANTRY DRILL REGULATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY," made note that only two articles, one unattributed and another a mere note, had  previously been published on the history of the United States Infantry drill. Toomey, therefore, was breaking historical ground. In setting the context of  Smyth and Duane's doctrinal efforts, he relates:  
"The first of the unofficial systems to be introduced was the French system of 1791 as modified by Napoleon in 1805. The Napoleonic system was introduced by Mac Donald who published in 1807 a quite poor translation of the French tactics. This translation was republished in 1809 by Lieut Col William Duane, of the Rifles, in his American Military Library (6).  A somewhat corrected edition was published in Boston by Colonel De Lacroix in 1810.(7) A work published in Boston in 1811 by Gen Isaac Maltby met with some favor in Masschussetts.(8) Smirk's "Review of a Battalion" was also used in this country(9). At the outbreak of the War of 1812 Colonel Alexander Smyth, Inspector-General of the Army, published a set of drill regulations (10) at the request of the Secretary of War. Smyth's work was a good improvement and abridgement of Mac Donald's translation of the French tactics. On March 30, 1812 they were ordered to superceed Steuben's tactics in the regular army. In the Same year was published a second edition of the work to which Smyth put his name. This system was probably used somewhat up to 1815 although Duane's Handbook was made regulation on March 19, 1813.

In the "Hand-book for Infantry"(ll) of William Duane, a former editor, we have the work of an enthusiast who undertook to diffuse military knowledge in America.**** His system of drill was largely original and at first incomplete. The first part was finished in 1808 but not published until 1812, after it had been voted on favorably by the House of Representatives, while his system was under consideration by the Senate Colonel Duane promised its completion. It was then made the regulation drill for the army by a General Order of the War Department on March 19, 1813. The system was completed in 1814 but the War Department order had done little to spread its employment, as only four regiments of regulars and some of the Virginia, New York, Jersey, and Pennsylvania militia used it. A small book based on Duane's first publication was printed in South Carolina. Duane's plan of drill met with much opposition due to politics, and because it was impractical, it resembling a fancy exhibition drill.

In 1813 Congress, either uninformed of the official status of Duane's tactics or considering them unsuitable, passed a resolution requesting the President "to cause to be prepared and laid before Congress, as soon as practicable, a military system of discipline for the infantry of the army and militia of the United States". Owing to the occupation of all the principal officers with the war, no action was taken on this resolution, and every tactical officer continued to use the system he preferred. The real step towards training the army was made in 1814 when Major General Scott instructed in person the two brigades of Brown's division in camp at Buffalo. He used an edition of MacDodald's translation of the French tactics, probably Smyth's abridgement, and a copy of the original French with which to correct them. It was to that instruction that the victories which followed are ascribed.
****Besides his Handbook he published the American Military Library 1809 and a large Military Dictionary 1810 without prospects of profit " pp. 1-2

The history of the infantry drill regulations of the United States Army, by Thomas Noxon Toomey, 1917

Or  go here for that article.


Noxon was being generous to Duane in characterizing his efforts as "enthusiastic" and not for "prospects of profit," although he does not comment on Duane's original "intent" behind the handbook  - as did John Quincy Adams and Worthingon C. Ford (below).

Nevertheless, I found Duane's 2nd section in Chapter 1 - "Origin of the Rifle Corps," interesting, not the least because he denotes,  from a somewhat formal American perspective, the alternate use of the term "Sharp-shooters" (or Sharpshooters) with Rifle units of the day - long before the combination of the introduction of the Sharps rifle and the popularity of so-naming units, north and south during the Civil War, confused the origins of the name. He also provides a useful French-English glossary translation for units such as the Voltigeurs, an American version of which, The U.S. Regiment of Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen, would be formed in 1847, for service in the war with Mexico.


Rifle corps called also Sharp-shooters and Tirailleurs, sometimes Chasseurs a pied, and Yagers, and also Voltigeurs, and Eclaireurs, according to the service upon which they are employed; owe their rise and importance to the American revolution. They were the creation of accidents, but of accidents, proceeding from natural circumstances, and became important from actual experiment, before they were adopted into military establishments.

 In the war of the American revolution, the use of rifle men was demonstrated and, soon improved upon by those European officers, who had, by being allies or enemies of America in the contest, witnessed the effect of the desultory and direct fire with smooth barrels at Bunker's hill, with rifle barrels at Saratoga, and in all the subsequent actions of the revolutionary war.

 The habits of life of the American farmer and the early necessity of self defence against the rude men of the wilderness and the beasts of the forests ; gave the rifle gun or grooved carabine, a preference over the plain fusil or gun ; it was found more certain in its execution than the smooth bore of the fowling piece, and firelock by those who were always armed.

The habits which grew out of he state of early settlement in a country yet uncultured and uncivilized, made every man a good shot. The dangers from the Indians and the wild beasts of the desert, were then the first incentives to expertness, and the causes of skill in the use of the rifle. The pursuit of the deer and other animals, and all the various birds which furnish what is understood by the comprehensive term sport, administered to the habits which were necessary to defence, and each to the other. No game laws, nor religious jealousies, retarded or checked the alacrity of the American farmer. The youth at the moment he was able to pull a trigger, was educated to the sports of the field, and the expertness of the American farmer became proverbial, as the use of the rifle was an indispensible qualification to every man who had occasion to defend himself, or a taste for ths sports of the field and the forest.

In this situation of the country the American revolution commenced. A foreign veteran army, led on by generals schooled in the tactics of Prussia, appeared amongst a people strangers to the concert of battalions or brigades ; to whom the tactics and manoeuvres of the scientific soldier, and the arts of the engineer, were alike unknown. But there was not a man in the country Who could not hit a space of a foot diameter, at one hundred and fifty yards, with a single ball. The great mass of the settlers remote from cities could shoot a squirrel, and shoot it in the head from choice, and with confidence and certainty.

From such materials, ready prepared, the sagacity of the first founders of American independence, formed a force new in its character, and more fatal in its tactics to the armies of Britain, than the Hungarian hussars had been to the opponents of Austria, the Prussian artillery to the enemies of Frederic, or the French echellons to the coalesced powers of Europe. The first operations of the new species of light corps, were conducted and regulated by the mode of Indian warfare, by the judgment of the citizens who associated together, and agreed to act on particular points of the British lines, on their columns of march, and on their outposts and foraging parties, and in such numbers as accident brought together.

The momentary experience of the Massachusetts yeomanry in their pursuit of the British corps at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, and the effect of their spirit and perseverance in pursuing and routing a more numerous body of disciplined soldiers, inspired an auspicious confidence in this new mode of warfare; subsequent events confirmed these early prepossessions, and the application of this species of action to operations of the line, at the battle of Bunker's hill, where the British suffered in the loss of officers and men to an extent unexampled, inspired the British during the remainder of the war, with such constant apprehension, that the officers were thenceforth clad and accoutred like the rank and file, to evade if possible, the dextrous fatality of the expert sharp-shooters. The confidence of Americans was encreased in proportion to their success—and soon after the campaign which was fatal to Burgoyne, corps of rifle men assumed a more consistent organization ; they were formed into companies, embodied into regiments, and placed under skilful and intrepid officers—and in the course of the war were eminently distinguished by their gallantry under a Morgan, a Mifflin, a Steele, and other brave officers.

The British endeavored to collect bodies of tories and refugees, to form similar corps, to counteract this species of force ; and the auxiliaries from Hesse and other parts of Germany, brought some who were employed under the denomination of Yagers or hunters, in an analogous warfare.

The French who had been engaged in the wars of the revolution had seen the effects produced by these light troops; they had not forgotten them; and on the first movements of the French revolution, endangered by the defection of so many military men of the old school, they saw the necessity of a new organization for raw troops; experience pointed out to the French the fitness and utility of these detached corps, who were called tirailieurs ; a term significant of one who fires at random, or at his own discretion, and without a special command ; in a desultory manner, but with deliberation. To give them the consistency of infantry they were disciplined as infantry of the line, or were selected from the most expert of the whole army ; various corps were embodied under the denomination of Chasseurs a pied, or foot hunters; Voltigeurs or Vaulters, from the agility' required in a particular branch of exercise on service.

The Austrian and Prussian, and other German armies, have adopted the system of rifle corps ; and very soon after the British engaged in the war on the European continent against France, they found the necessity of adopting them likewise.

The celebrated general Lloyd, during his services in the Austrian army, particularly in the wars in Saxony, Bohemia, and Silesia, against Prussia; very sagaciously perceived the defects of the prevailing military dispositions, and although he did not immediately organize any corps upon the principles which he recommended, he very plainly points oat those services, for which some troops were required, to which rifle-men have been' since applied with all the success which his judgment anticipated. General Lloyd frequently in the progress of his work, called Military Reveries, points out the uses of this species of light troops, particularly in these terms.

"Armies, he says, are now :usually formed in two or three lines; between their lines and the enemy, light troops often amounting to twenty thousand, form a chain of observation, to prevent the enemy from attacking unexpectedly. Frequently they are sent out on detachments, to cover or cut off convoys,  while the main army is acting in a certain line of operation.  These light troops are considered as mere scouts, which  seldom take a part in the battle. When you advance, or when the enemy advances, these light troops retire by files  to the right and left, and are no more heard of till the action  terminates. Why they do not form on the enemy's flanks, and create a diversion there, has been often a matter of, surprize to judicious military characters. Small bodies of :  tight troops stationed between hedges, near the high roads, and behind clumps of trees, or in woods, would observe and  harrass the enemy and annoy his columns, and aid a decisive attack by the army, more effectually than ten or fifteen thou sand men acting in a straggling chain of observation. A regular chain is' easily observed by the enemy who manoeuvres under cover of it, whereas a broken chain of detached  parties unites or disperses in an instant, becomes as it were invisible, and gives immediate information of the minutest movement made by the enemy."
This little extract gives a perspicuous view of the duties of rifle-men.

Baron Gross, an able officer, who has published an useful tract on the dudes of an officer in the field, thus illustrates the utility of the American discovery in the art of war, and shews the effects which were realized by the French through this means.

"The French since the revolution, have so successfully introduced a new military system, that it becomes impossible to " oppose them effectually, by any other mode than adopting one, founded on similar principles. They send a number of rifle-men in front of their line to annoy their adversary, and " conceal behind them the different movements of their columns. Nothing can be effected against this disposition but by opposing light troops of a similar description."

It is here obvious that the means recommended by Lloyd upon theory, and adopted from the American practice, have been momentous.

An English writer, who blends more aspersity than becomes an officer, in a didactic work, gives very strong evidence of the truth which he reluctantly admits in the success of the French rifle corps, and the causes which gave rise to them ; in the following remarks:

"The art of war during the French revolution has undergone a considerable change. Pitched battles and regular engagements are now in a great measure avoided, and a constant series of unremitting operations are directed against the flanks and rear of an enemy, to retard or prevent his progress in front. To light movements the French are indebted for much of their success in the war; and they adopted them more from necessity than choice. Their numberless conscripts, undisciplined, marched raw to the armies, were thrown in swarms on the flanks of the Austrian columns to act irregularly, and their success answered the expectation. The Austrian columns, unaccustomed to this novel species of attack, when they looked for a regular battle, fell into confusion and retreated before a undisciplined rabble. Such is the origin of the war of posts which the French found it convenient to carry on, till tactical habits rendered their troops capable of acting in the line. Nations adopt from each other what sad experience proves to be an obvious advantage in carrying on war. The action of rifle corps and light troops is now much depended on, and not unfrequently decides the contest. The tactics of light troops have now necessarily become an important branch of general discipline."

This short sketch of the origin and character of rifle corps was a necessary preface to their mode of discipline and exercise.

After their introduction into the armies of Europe, they we're first formed into companies, and subsequently into regiments, in the campaigns of Switzerland and Italy, against the Austrians ahd Russians, and subsequently in the battles which determined the war against Austria, Russia, and Prussia. The French corps susceptible of being employed as rifle men, amounted to forty•thousand men in the grand army, and greatly contributed . to the victory in the memorable battle of Jena. They were composed of men selected from the line, and denominated corps d'elite, or select troops.

European nations being our imitators in this branch of military force, renders it necessary in America to pay the more attention thereto, because should a War occur on our shores, we shall be opposed by the weapons which we have ourselves invented. Upon rifle corps, and horse or flying artillery, artillerie legere, we shall have to rely much in conducting war, because these are the means best suited to the nature of our country.

The service of rifle corps is properly a branch of the service of light troops, generally, so called, as well as the chasseurs of the French, and what is called light infantry. In the old establishments of Europe, prior to the American revolution, light infantry consisted of a single flank company attached to each regiment. The French had embodied before the revolution a few corps wholly of that description. They now have grenadier riflemen as well as battalion ; and they select men of particular expertness, and form them into distinct companies of the same half brigade ; such as swimmers, vaulters, etc

During the American revolution, some of the most active British officers had suggested the employment of the flank corps of the regiments in a collective manner. Among these were general Howe, general Williamson, and general Gray, memorable for their midnight expeditions. Since the French revolution, the European nations generally have pursued the system, and whole regiments and divisions of armies have been formed of infanterie legere, or light infantry, chasseurs a pied, tirailleurs, or sharp shooters, or rifle corps, all of which bear some analogy to each other."
Duane, pp. 2-8


Selected excerpts from Duane's 108 page handbook (note - descriptive table of contents does not match perfectly with internal chapter sections headings, e.g. Chap VI):

CHAP I - Of Military Discipline 

1 Difference between an army and a mob consists in discipline which produces the effect of one will, through subordination. 
All troops should learn infantry movements first otherwise fatal errors arise.
2 Origin of rifle corps...American revolution...Yagers...French revolution...tirailleurs...voltiguers General Lloyd... Baron...Gross...Colonel Macdonald...General Howe...General Williamson [see verbatim above]

CHAP II - On the Drill of Riflemen

1 How it should be conducted Prejudices which prevent rifle discipline...The opinion of an enemy... Colonel Ehwakl of the Hessians...Fatal effects of sycophancy in obstructing military knowlege
2 The first drills exactly as infantry of the line...ranking and sizing...telling off marking time.
3 Facing with moving feet...Indian file...Indian pace.
4 Marching and facing 

5 Marching and wheeling in single files

"...although as marksmen, the American rifle men surpass all others ; in what regards discipline and the strength and confidence arising from discipline, they are interior to the rifle men of other nations, and for this reason, that in European armies the rifle men are selectcd out of infantry corps already disciplined, and it is by the skill which they display in the target practice as infantry, that they are chosen for the tirailleurs or rifle men ; so that their appointment to rifle corps takes place only after they have had an infantry discipline.
On the other hand, the American rifle men are not made acquainted with infantry movements....very little care has been bestowed on any part of the rifle discipline but what relates to the mere firing, while the importance oi discipline is never made known, and therefore remains unknown, and they have consequently no ideas of the effect of discipline, and are led to believe that all their military effect is in distinct military action, and not at all dependent on action combined...." p. 9

CHAP III - Movements by half platoons or half companies

1 Use of dividing into what consists the difference of the movements of riflemen and the infantry in line, applied to drills...telling off from right to left by the voice and wheeling in sections.
2 Movements in files by the centre 

3 Movements from the flanks
4 Countermarching
5 Movements in sections of three
6 Movements in sections of three from half platoons 
7 Sections of five and movements by heads of sections, in open order to the rear
8 Movements in echellons to the front in ranks of sections...rule for determining this movement... accurately advancing by echellons from the centre and by heads of sections...retiring in the same order 
9 Augmenting and diminishing front...manner of executing it...first use of the indispensible oblique, or line of science...rules for augmenting and reducing front

CHAP IV - The Fire of Rifle Corps 

1 How their discipline is rendered effective, introductory to the use of the rifle
2 Manual exercise of the riflemen...the firing motions to be minutely practised...none omitted nor slurred over
3 Of firing on the spot
4 Another method 

"...There is one pace however peculiar to the rifle corps is better understood by Americans under the of the Indian fiace or Indian file step. This step or pace is required only when rifle men act alone or are detached from main body of the army. The rifle is then carried on the horizontal or sloped trail and a word of command suitable to rifle.....The trail step or Indian file flace is usually made without any violence of the body, a regular constant even movement of the foot twenty four inches at a step ; and after practice is to be performed in every position, whether in single or double ranks, in Indian file, or in open or extended order...."pp. 38-39

"...Whenever it is practicable riflemen will load with powder measure and loose ball...taught to fire at a target without a rest...practice...should begin by firing at fifty yards distance and increase it by degrees to 100 ISO 200 and 300 yards...officers of rifle corps should be as expert as the privates and should be competent to instruct as well as correct error...The proper charge of the rifle must be particularly attended to ; a measure provided to contain an exact charge attached to his powder flask. And riflemen must be practised to load and to fire as they lie on the ground and to fire from behind tree and stone fences and in every species of covered ground...."pp. 42-44

CHAP V - Formation of the Company 

1 Corresponding with the infantry in every particular
2 The pivot...its use in wheeling
3 Duties of light to proceed in particular circumstances...retreating across a plain... how they manoeuvre
4 Offensive evolutions...coup de main..advanced parties...occupy defiles...surprizes...harrass convoys...cover foragers...occupy bridges ambuscades...covering manoeuvres in action 

"...The movements of riflemen it has been observed before are conducted in a method more open or in a looser or more extended order than the movements in the column of attack column of march or the line Their habitual order is in two ranks or files of two deep and their distance when not manoeuvring in the close order is 36 inches front and depth for each man This is their uniform parade distance which...."p. 53

"...The movements of rifle corps with an army are in advance or on flanks and in various dispositions analogous to the operations of the line but in their own peculiar mode of movement On the parade drill they learn the side step..." p. 58

"Light troops act offensively in general but on special occasions defensively They may also be included in the order of battle in detached divisions or companies or as in the French dispositions occasionally as parts of the line or they may be left wholly out of the order of battle and reserved for particular auxiliary services for a coup de main or for diverting the attention of an enemy from the manoeuvres of the main army The general duties of light troops may be simply stated under the following heads
1 To form advanced parties and patroles where an enemy is expected or military movements apprehended
2 To occupy defiles and elevated positions and prevent surprises or to communicate intelligence of the positions and movements of an enemy
3 To annoy an enemy drawn up or moving into order of battle by disconcerting its movements and depressing the advanced posts and patroles of an enemy
4 To take an enemy in the rear or on a flank by surprise and to turn a flank by rapid and bold enterprises in action
5 To harrass an advancing enemy on a march seize magazines and convoys
6 To forage and cover the movements of cavalry foraging parties
7 To form ambuscades and other bold enterprises
8 To occupy bridges and passes in advancing and to destroy bridges on a retreat
9 To harrass an enemy on his retreat
10 To rally from a dispersed order in cases of exigency and act as solid columns or lines of manoeuvre like infantry
It is a general rule in relation to light infantry that they are to act whenever required with light cavalry or hussars ami that the movements of light infantry and light cavalry should be co operative and reciprocal their services on so many occasions being essential to each other...."pp. 60-61

CHAP VI - Formation of the Regiment 

1 Of what number it should consist how officers are posted in close and open order

"...The rifle corps, for the observance of order in military arrangement, should be organized on the same principles as a regiment of the line. The French, who have carried military arrangements to the greatest perfection, have half brigades of riflemen, with a grenadier company to each battalion, who act as flankers lo every description of military men en foot. This organization is founded on the power and principles of emulation, and the graduated esprit de corps. An American rifle regiment should on this plan consist of two battalions, or ten companies, on the war establishment, consisting of one thousand men. Two of these companies should be select, and it should be an object of emulation in the regiment, to be enrolled in these companies. The staff of every description the same as the infantry ; each company one captain, one first, one second, and one third lieutenants; the regimental staff a colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and adjutant...." p. 62-63

"...With a view to the operations of a regiment or battalion it is not practicable to define with precision the number of men that may be required for a given service as it depends on local circumstances and the judgment of the commanding officer The same is to be said of the proper distance to advance....." p. 64

"...In advancing, the signal being given co advance, it is followed immediately by the order fire.
The men of the rear rank advance by the right of their file leaders, to the front ten paces, make ready, mark their object, take aim, and fire, without command.
The officers being provided with a whistle for a signal, with which the men should be previously exercised ; that officer who is stationed on the flank of the front rank, gives the signal for his rank to move forward in like manner ten paces,passing by the left elbow of the rear rank man ; and so alternately.
The front rank is under the guidance of the subalterns, and the rear rank under the most expert non-commissioned officers; the captains of companies are between the ranks, and direct the whole as occasion requires.
As soon as the men have fired, but not before, the proper officers dress their ranks quickly as possible and correct their distances where necessary.
After the signal to cease firing is given....not a shot is to be fired, and the men arc halted.
A scheme of signals by the whistle for riflemen, is annexed to this work....."p. 66

"...Rifle men, advanced in front of a line for the various purposes of tactics are called tirailleurs in the French movements from a French term signifying irregular shooters on other occasions when employed to make discoveries and report them called eclaireurs from the celerity of their motion and their attack coming like lightning In their extended position they are denominated altogether the chain The object of the chain is to scour a tract of country by means of a detached body more or less numerous as occasion may require to clear woods thickets morasses and enclosures to shew the way towards the advance posts of an enemy and counteract their out scouts and report both their position and movement's to occupy as far as circumstances will admit every advantageous spot or position in front either for annoyance of an enemy to prevent the enemy's occupying it or to form ambuscades...."p. 66

"...It is a good rule that no more than halt of a company of rifle men must be advanced to skirmish at one time The other half is reserved and formed ready to support those advanced..."p. 67

"...Unevenness of ground is always in favor of riflemen thus advanced, and it is their duty to take advantage of every means that offers to cover themselves from the enemy's fire, while they can perform their duty in annoying the enemy. They must not be detained from taking their proper positions by any avenues or openness of ground, where they may chance to be placed..."p. 68
"....The general duties of rifle corps apply to every description of light infantry and the attentive and judicious military student will be able to combine the instructions for both where they are analogous Their movements are perspicuously explained in the several plates attached to this work The general duties of riflemen are also comprehended under the other remaining heads...but all the duties of light infantry will much depend upon locality, the nature of the country, the force and composition of the enemy's troops and the activity and intelligence of your own officers...." p. 69

"...When the leaders of the next rank see the rank that has retired formed and loading in their rear they give the whistle signal for their rank to fire and on firing come to the right pursue their retreat through the intervals the given distance come to the left about load and dress and so on alternately. Both in advancing and retreating arms are trailed and when the signal for halting is given each rank preserves the ground which it is upon facing towards the enemy...."p. 69


"...In the heat of battle, light corps often decide the conflict. They annoy the enemy by a galling fire on his flanks. They form in various small but compact bodies on numerous points, and sustain cavalry or horse artillery. They gain the rear of an enemy in force, and attack his rear, his baggage* or his ammunition. They attack a general officer and carry him or his suite off prisoners. They intercept the aid-decamps, and then send the orders they intercept to their own head quarters, or to the quarters or post of the most contiguous chief officer of division of their own army. They carry off as prisoners commissaries or other intelligent persons, who appear competent to give intelligence of the enemy's affairs. They seize all papers and send them unopened to head quarters...." pp. 69-70

 "...Light troops being always in advance and being the most Hardy, they are usually dextrous in passing rivers. If it should be necessary far an army to pass, and the construction of bridges occupy much time, light infantry are sent across in advance, to reconnoitre, to report on all that is interesting, to establish themselves if requisite in good positions, to occupy posts near the rivers, woods, hedges, houses, villages, and to prevent any communication with an enemy, so that in the passage of the river the main army may be unmolested..."p. 70

1 Maxim of Lafayette that an effective system of defence must be offensive

"...The United States cannot be attacked but from the sea, or from Canada, Florida, or Louisiana, attention should be particularly paid to the duties o f those who would have to guard t he sea coast, and to repel, annoy, impede, or watch an invading enemy. In every instance regarding the service as defensive, we must always keep in mind the solid maxim of the general La Fayette, " that there is no effective system of defence which does not act on the offensive ;" light corps being always preferred in advanced service, their duties apply to every corps employed in the like service...."p. 75


"...This description of light troops is in every respect excepting being mounted the same as riflemen on foot. They are peculiar to the United States.  French Voltiguers  bear a close resemblance to them."p. 82

"...prevent going to or coming from the enemy without leave. The nature of the ground or extent of the country must determine whether these posts are to consist of cavalry or infantry bat the same general rules will serve for either horse or foot...These main guards will be placed in preference upon the most important posts roads or openings of the country. If they cannot see one another they will sometimes in the day and often during the night send patroles from one to the other The eldest captain will therefore be placed in the centre of them to receive the advices or reports of the others. The officer commanding at each of these posts, must know the quarters of the general or field officer of the day, or of the Commanding officer named for the out posts if there is one that be may send information to him by some orderly men of the cavalry of any matter of importance which may happen during the day or night...."pp. 83-84


"...All these denominations may be applied to military persons of the same description, to infantry or cavalry, light infantry, or riflemen ; they only describe the particular service ; but the particular term vidette, though it may mean equally a centinel and an eclaireur, is generally applied only to a centinel on horseback ; which is also very generally understood by eclaireur, though the distinction between one and the other, consists in that the videttes are fixed centinels, the eclaireurs may be eiher fixed or occasional out scouts: so a patrole may; consist of a body of moving eclaireursj or one or two or more scouts.
The term eclaireur has been given to those who have been selected by officers for their intelligence and steadiness, (pour eclairer) to keep an eye on, to watch, to observe, to reconnoitre, to grade. Vidette had originally the same signification.
The duties of centinels is understood under the general scheme of service and guards. These few descriptions of troops, which are usually selected men, ascend heights, examine' passes and defiles, pass through villages, if required, to obtain intelligence, search thickets, hollow ways, bye roads, a word, see, hear, and examine every thing, necessary to be known for the purposes of military service by an officer acting offensively or defensively.
Videttes and eclaireurs are always detached two or more together, with orders not to separate out of sight, nor more than one or two hundred paces, so that they may not both be surprized, that they may know the routes, and act, if occasion requires, as guides.
When they enter villages, it must be in separate files. If they meet an enemy by night, and are compelled to fire, they must act so as to disconcert the enemy by a scattered and reiterated fire, constantly changing their own positions, and acting still in concert with their comrades ; and, if obliged to retreat, must even, rather than be taken, make a large circuit to avoid the enemy, and rejoin the next day. Videttes, above all things, must avoid offending, much less plundering, the people in whose neighborhood they are on duty. A conciliatory conduct is one of their first duties; they must be mild, but firm....kind to strangers, but faithful to their command. Videttes are stationed on the rear as well as in advance, and it is their duty to report every discovery they make to their commander...." pp. 83-85

"...The gallant enterprise of colonel Barton of the Rhode Island militia in seizing the British general Prescott should be kept before the minds of those who embark in gallant enterprizes and an officer in his military reading which ought to be the leisure occupation of every officer will find numerous matters of precaution as well as of counsel in gallant undertakings....
during night...double preparation made...The destruction of the American troops at Paoli and the Billet and the massacres at Egg Harbour during the revolution could not have been accomplished had there been a good look out by videttes or had due precaution been taken to watch traitors and disaffected persons...attack at a time little expected. Corps of American cavalry have frequently entered the lines of the enemy during the revolution after repeated false attacks and carried off horses and baggage This has been effected in noon day on some occasions..."p.86

"An officer of light troops detached in front of the line of the army at the very moment when the enemy meditates an attack whether to cover an important manoeuvre or a deployment will first receive clear orders from the general commanding His own discretion must determine how far he ought to advance in front of the line according to what kind of troops the enemy may offer to his view His conduct must also be regulated by the nature of the ground..."p. 88

"The escort of a convoy is commonly divided into three at the head one at the centre and one at the rear...To pursue an enemy very far in such service would be imprudent lest it should be a stratagem of the enemy to draw off the escort and in the mean time attack the convoy whose march should be continued if possible For this reason cavalry is useful to ascertain the exact number of the enemy and whether he is in sufficient force to be dangerous or only comes to reconnoitre the march...."p. 90

"An officer who is ordered to attack a convoy will go himself with a strong patrole or proper escort and reconnoitre the enemy's motions and number avoiding being discovered by him if possible."p. 93 

CHAP VIII Of the Rifle and Rifle Equipments                                                                       95
1 Properties of the rifle
2 Of loading the rifle
3 Of cleaning the rifle
4 Of the lock
5 Of Gunpowder
6 Of the patch
7 To preserve the rifle from the weather
8 Dress and equipments of riflemen
9 Of evolutionary bugle signals
10 Music for the signals
11 Musical signals by the whistle for out posts at night

"It must be obvious that the rifle barrel should not be bright; that the equipments of riflemen should be free from every thing that is glittering or of a striking color must be perceived upon every consideration of their duties. Great care, however, must be taken in the frequent inspection of the rifle to guard against any neglect of keeping it in order, when it has been browned, greened, or blacked...." p. 97  


"...Uniformity is essential so is simplicity there should be nothing glaring or bright about the rifleman or his equipments Warmth durability and sufficiency so that the body may be neither exposed to unnecessary inclemency of weather nor constrained in the free exercise of limbs and muscles but at ease in all its motions
His arms shoulders elbows ribs his knees the calves of his legs and feet should be entirely free from pressure or restraint for this reason breeches should not be permitted to riflemen nor to any other soldier neither should they wear low quartered shoes or buckles on the instep they should wear either the hunting or
Jefferson shoe....The coat should be short and well fitted, the skirt reaching to the line of the fork , the color dark green, pantaloons the same ; buttons yellow; waistcoat of the same color, or at least not white on service ; collar black. The head coveting a black cap of leather with a vizor in front, and an oil cloth of 24 inches square, folded within the crown, to be let down on an emergency of rainy weather to cover the neck behind ; a green or black plume—the cord of the cap and the regimental letters plum and not shewy. 

The knapsack square, with a square case for a blanket forming the cover, and the cap of the knapsack to contain necessaries. 
His arms should be the rifle, with a short sword of 30 inches, worn close to the left side, perpendicular to the body, and susceptible of being used as a bayonet, he might have a small axe and a knife in his powder belt.
A cartridge box of flexible leather containing two rows of tin unsoldered cases, to contain 30 to 36 rounds ball cartridge ; a double pouch slung over his right shoulder and under Kis left arm, one partition containing 60 loose well smoothed balls, and in the other partition his turn screw, knife, scouring brush, oil rag,
patches. Over his left shoulder and under his right arm hang his powder horn with the best powder.
Three white shirts, two flannel shirts with sleeves reaching four inches below the elbows, and opening like a coat at the front, closed by two pair of tape strings at the breast and about the waist; two pair flannel drawers reaching to the calf of the leg ; two pair of socks for winter only—none to be worn from June to October. The feet to be washed in cold water every morning as a rule of  discipline; would preserve health, assure vigor, and render stockings and socks totally unnecessary.
The hair cut close to the head once a month.
The pantaloons for winter, woollen cloth ; for summer grey unbleached linen or cluck ; and for an undress an unbleached hunting shirt with green fringe ; the pantaloons by boiling with vegetable substances may be made a dark green; or with bark a dark brown; but the discipline should rigidly guard against dirt with such colors...."pp. 98-99

"It now remains to explain a very important object in the discipline of light corps that of signals by which the various duties may be performed beyond the range of the voice by signals The infantry of the line have for a great length of time been exercised by the beat of the drum ; and cavalry manoeuvres have been performed by the trumpet, Rifle corps have been moved by bugle horn signals ; but no perfect or adequate system has yet been adopted in our service....This bugle has been universally used for light troops and it is therefore proper to provide some method by which there may be a determined system of bugle signals...." p. 100 [history of the bugle]

"Some mistakes in numbering the plates having taken place, owing to their being in the hands of the engraver while the work was printing, the following explanation is given to prevent errors from that source:The four plates first in order are illustrations by human figures and are numbered No 1 5 6 4.....The next four plates are No 1 2 3 4 and explain the movements of Riflemen in different modes These plates are from the American Military Library The remaining four plates are also from the American Military
Library and are numbered in the following order X...XI...XII...XIII..."  

example of graphics from Duane's plates:

  (Duane was seemingly prescient in depicting the "interception of a fleet of boats on a river" witness"The Battle of Big Sandy Creek" on May 30th, 1814, when Rifle Regiment Major Daniel Appling, in command of 150 Riflemen, accompanied by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey and five officers and twenty-five sailors , and perhaps 130 Oneida Indians, hid his forces in the brush and trees along the banks of the Creek, and surprised a British flotilla of three gun-boats (one with a 24-pounder and a 63-pounder), two cutters and one gig -  at the cost of  2 wounded: an Oneida Indian and a U.S. rifleman; British casualties were reported as 13 killed; 2 lieutenants of the Royal Marines and 28 sailors and marines wounded and captured; 7 officers and 133 others taken prisoner)

  A Handbook for Riflemen: containing the first principles of military discipline, founded on rational method; intended to explain in a familiar and practical manner, the discipline and duties of rifle corps: conformable to the system established for the United Stated military force, and the latest improvements in the modern art of war, by William Duane, printed by the author 1812


*"In the expectation of obtaining these contracts Duane opened a store in Washington, which was entirely unsuccessful from every point of view and left him in debt. Harassed by lawsuits and by finding increasing difficulty in obtaining the necessary credit or in continuing the old credits, he turned to other occupations, and the troubles with England pointed to a military career as possible and even profitable. His Military Library is but little known and is less esteemed. As a moneymaking scheme it would not have succeeded had he not sold an edition to the government, a sale based more upon favoritism than upon the merits of the work. His career in the army was of little credit to himself, and is told in brief in the Memoirs of John Quincy Adams.1 Poor, embarrassed, and by his conduct deprived of friends, Duane sought many ways of bettering his condition, but with little success....The " Aurora " had a large circulation in its first years, but the actual advent of the Jefferson administration raised competitors, and Duane had a hard struggle to maintain himself by the newspaper. He sought aid again and again from Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, of whose cause he regarded himself the champion. Having suffered in the " reign of terror," — the Republican name for the administration of John Adams, — and having been persecuted by the Senate for his writings, he looked to his patrons for rewards adequate to his own idea of the debt. His wish to obtain government contracts for printing and stationery met with the approval even of Gallatin, who was personally above any suspicion of wrong intent....
As his financial troubles became worse, his temper became more uncertain and irascible. No one appeared to trust him, his friends fearing him quite as much as did his enemies, and never knowing the day when he would turn upon them and abuse them with the knowledge he had gained in their intercourse. He criticised Madison and opposed Monroe; he fought Gallatin for reasons which had little foundation and were peculiarly exasperating to Gallatin's friends. His course in State politics was marked by a personal and intemperate bias that made him feared and hated. He was on the losing side, and the " Aurora" became less and less influential and profitable, and ceased to be the organ of Republicanism. Jefferson remained his friend, seeking opportunities to aid him, and Duane remained loyal to Jefferson ; yet even Jefferson recognized his errors. He wrote in 1811: " I believe Duane ! to be a very honest man, and sincerely republican; but his passions are stronger than his prudence, and his personal as well as general antipathies render him very intolerant." Thirteen years worked no change, and Duane transferred his pen to the aid of the opponents of the Republicans." pp. 258-259

Worthington C. Ford, ed., “The Letters of William Duane,” Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings 20 (1906–1907)

fn 1-
"Pennsylvania has been for about twenty years governed by two newspapers in succession : one, the Aurora, edited by Duane, an Irishman, and the other, the Democratic Press, edited by John Binns, an Englishman. Duane had been expelled from British India for sedition, and Binns had been tried in England for high treason. They are both men of considerable talents and profligate principles, always for sale to the highest bidder, and always insupportable burdens, by their insatiable rapacity, to the parties they support. With the triumph of Jefferson, in 1801, Duane, who had contributed to it, came in for his share, and more than his share, of emolument and patronage. With his printing establishment at Philadelphia he connected one in this city; obtained by extortion almost the whole of the public printing, but, being prodigal and reckless, never could emerge from poverty, and, always wanting more, soon encroached upon the powers of indulgence to his cravings which the heads of Departments possessed, and quarrelled both with Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin for staying his hand from public plunder. In Pennsylvania, too, he contributed to bring in McKean, and then labored for years to run him down—contributed to bring in Snyder, and soon turned against him. Binns in the mean time had come, after his trial, as a fugitive from England, and had commenced editor of a newspaper. Duane had been made by Mr. Madison a Colonel in the army; and as Gibbon, the Captain of Hampshire Militia, says he was useful to Gibbon, the historian of the Roman Empire, so Duane, the Colonel, was a useful auxiliary to Duane, the printer, for fleecing the public by palming upon the army, at extravagant prices, a worthless compilation upon military discipline that he had published. But before the war with England was half over, Duane had so disgusted the army and disgraced himself that he was obliged to resign his commission, and has been these seven years a public defaulter in his accounts, to the amount of between four and five thousand dollars, for which he is now under prosecution...."pp. 116-117
Memoirs of John Quincy Adams: comprising portions of his diary ..., Volume 5, by John Quincy Adams, 1875

A.C. Clark rebutted J. Q. Adams thusly:
 "That Mr. Adams' criticism is ill-founded and that he is not as strong in soldier erudition as in other things is conclusively convincing by this excerpt from Duane's Principles of Military Discipline:
"The great perfection of military discipline is to be found in the art of marching well, or, as the celebrated Marshal Saxe expressed it: 'All the mystery of military discipline is to be found in the legs, and he who thinks otherwise is a fool.'''
The Handbook for Infantry has this title page and following this official order:
19th March, 1813. General Orders.
The "Hand Book for Infantry," compiled and published by William Duane, of Philadelphia will be received and observed as the system of Infantry Discipline for the Army of the United States. By order of the Secretary of War,
T. E. Cushing,
Adjt. Genl.
Duane was appointed by President Jefferson, Lieutenant Colonel of Rifles, July 8, 1808, he resigned July 31, 1810; and, by President Madison, Adjutant General with the rank of Colonel, March 18, 1813, and he was honorably discharged June 15, 1815. William Bache in The Franklin Ancestry and Descendants in the Col. Louis Bache line states that during the War of 1812 defences were erected on the Delaware in the nature of fortified posts and earth works to prevent an attack on Philadelphia; and that Col. Duane commanded the troops at Dupont, New Jersey, one of these posts.
Charles Jared Ingersoll, in his History of the Second War says " Colonel Duane was a man of extensive military theoretical information...."pp. 36-38
William Duane, by Allen Culling Clark, 1905

for more on Duane's controversial life see
"Philadelphia Story, How a newspaper took on the Federalist Government in the 1790's," by WILLIAM LEE MILLER, New York Times, May 18, 1997 

William Duane's American Military Library, by Fred K. Vigman, Military Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1944), pp. 321-326
Vigman asserts Duane."'s "pioneer effort in evolving a theoretical and practical system of military science in the Early years of the republic" and thus improperly evaluated because critics incorrectly listed his American Military Library as being published in 1819 when it was published in 1809. The "indifference to his labors," which came out of devotion to the nation, Jefferson the president he helped elect, and at considerable personal cost and time, was coupled with "abuse from his political enemies." Duane's style, if not brilliant, was factual and properly subservient to its subject-matter with no journalistic flourishes and with only a few interpolations stressing the needs for systematized discipline and a recognized standard of training and battle tactics, and urging the importance of military study." The historical shortcomings of Duane's treatises may be said to be his too great dependence on the experience of the Old World, and his failure to assess the campaigns of the War of Independence...This omission is all the more regrettable because of of Duane's historical propinquity to the subject and its freshness in the national mind."

 “Early U.S. Riflemen: Their Arms and Training,” by Lewis Berkeley, American Rifleman 106, no. 12 (December 1958): 30-33
Col Berkeley quotes at length from Duane's Handbook for Riflemen in this illustrated article featuring six pictures of early American rifles.

"'Dry Books of Tactics': US Infantry Manuals of the War of 1812 and After," by Donald E. Graves, Pt 1. Mil Coll & Hist 38 (Summer 1986): pp. 50-61., Part II, Military Collector and Historian 38(4), Winter 1986, pp. 172-175 
 "'Dry Books of Tactics' Re-Read: An Additional Note on U.S. Infantry Manuals of the War of 1812," by John C. Fredriksen and Donald E. Graves, Military Collector and Historian, 39, No. 2 (Summer 1987)
"The Flood Tide of French Influence: The Work of Tousard and Duane, 1807-1810," For want of this precaution so many Men lose their Arms:" Official, Semi-Official and Unofficial American Artillery Texts, 1775-1815 Part 8
By Donald E. Graves, The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 15: May 2011 

“A French Army in America: The US Army’s Adoption of a French Way of Warfare
from 1814 through 1835,” by Michael Andrew Bonura, PhD, Major, United States Army, Pre-Circulated as part of the Transatlantic Currents in Military Theory Session 8, Panel 5, of the Society for Military History Annual Meeting, May 2012

For all things Drill - fall in at