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The Light Infantry - Rifles Debate - 1835-1836 and 1850s

Just finished a reading of Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh's
West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace, UNC Press Books, 2009
(linked preview at google books).

Hseih's work is multi-faceted; exploring and assessing a number of cross currents which impacted the development of a professional, albeit small, regular military force - "the old army" of the antebellum period 1815-1860.  But, as a study of an institution, to my mind it has one glaring omission and that is the "old army's" organizational challenges, development and growth. It is not unless one reads the author's footnote on page 201 that we learn his real de-limiting focus
" a study of, more than anything else, an institution, this work will tend to focus on the narrower world of the history of tactics, and how those tactics were then used in specific circumstances.  Strategic issues are, however, inherently unavoidable." p. 201

Although a West Pointer, a lover of most Civil War and/or any Old U.S. Army history, I found the title misleading, then perplexing, and at last disingenuous.
From a "worth to the profession" perspective, a more apt title might have been "The Old Army in War and Peace; Tactical and Strategic Continuities, Discontinuities and Transformation 1815-1865." Admittedly this is a title less conducive to sales! But I digress.

The book amply discusses "Light infantry" tactics and method, within the context of the "gradual dispersal of infantry formations that had occurred over the course of the antebellum period..."p. 197.  
Thereby, I found much of value on offer; and germane to other posts here on the "MMHRI" blog.

Specifically, the author's reference to several Army and Navy Chronicle articles spurred my further reading and research.

Hsieh writes; 
"The leading historian of Civil War minor tactics has made much of the increased movement rates found in Hardee's tactics, which he connects closely to the arrival of the rifle-musket:...The figures for Hardee's tactics do seem significant in comparison to the 1835 regulations [Scott's],...but they do not seem so striking when compared to the 1825 tactics...American officers had considered the use of quicker infantry movements long before the arrival of the rifle-musket. Indeed, the adoption of Scott's 1835 tactics also gave rise to a wide-ranging professional debate withing the American military establishmnet over the merits of the new tactics. The biggest foe of Scott's 1835 tactics, the author "Clairfait" in the Army and Navy Chronicle (a short-lived professional journal), denounced Scott's tactics in April 1835 on the grounds that, although light infantry methods were especially well suited to the American service, the new 1835 tactics mandated an inferior light infantry system.  Indeed, the Army and Navy Chronicle reprinted a piece in 1836 that saw the early disasters of the Seminole War as caused partly by the absence of a specialized light infantry corps in the American Army.  Clairfait was also not alone in believing the 1825 light infantry drill superior to the new tactics; "Young Fogram" backed his ideas in his own article in late August 1835....Clairfait's statements did not go unopposed. "Hindman" mounted a vigorous defense of the new tactics and rejected Clairfait's ideas about training pure light nfantry with no background in close-order tactics..."p. 43-45

A major omission, as with the 1835-1836 "New Infantry" debaters and  later tactical theorists of the antebellum period Hsieh discusses, is a lack of mention or seeming awareness of the organizational and tactical precedence (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) established by the Rifle Regiment(s) of 1808-1821, or the Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen Regiment of the Mexican War - a French inspired and combined arms intended formation (legion).  In addition,  there is little consideration of the purposes and efforts surrounding the formation of the 1st and 2nd  Dragoons (and dismounting of the 2nd) and the contentious debate surrounding the formation of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (actually two regiments of riflemen were proposed) in 1846. In light of his admission on page 201, I later learned "why."

For example, in 1837, then Major Bennet Riley informed one Congressman:  

"It is my opinion that a rifle regiment should be added to the peace establishment, as two wars have shown us that rifleman are the most efficient troops that were ever deployed by our country. Where can you find troops more efficient than Morgan's riflemen of the Revolution or Forsyth's riflemen of the last war with Great Britain?" Camp Sabine, Louisiana, August 28, 1837

American State Papers - House of Representatives, 25th Congress, 2nd Session Military Affairs: Volume 7, beginning at the bottom of page 957-958

Defence of the western frontier.--Correspondence with officers of the army relative to the establishment of military posts and ... 956
Riley, Major Bennet, relative to the establishment of military posts and defence of the western frontier.--Letter of ... 957

See excerpts below from other distinguished officers, Gaines, Kearney, and Kingsbury

See also the 1846 debates surrounding the "bill to raise two regiments of riflemen at:
Congressional Globe: Index to Appendix 29th Congress, 1st Session:

arranged by page number:

"The Army and Oregon" Page 124
(also at
"The Army and Oregon," THE NATIONAL REGISTER, 1846, p. 295)

McClernand, J. A., a Representative from Illinois--on the bill to raise a regiment of mounted riflemen, ... 420

Riflemen, remarks in the House of Representatives on the bill to raise two regiments of riflemen, by--
Mr. Haralson, of Georgia, ... 476
Mr. Yell, of Arkansas, ... 549
Mr. Gentry, of Tennessee, ... 551
Mr. Tilden, of Ohio, ... 564
(Speech of Mr. D. R. Tilden, of Ohio, on the bill to raise two regiments of riflemen and for other purposes: delivered in the House of Representatives, U.S. March 24, 1846)

Levin, Lewis C., a Representative from Pennsylvania-on the bill for raising a regiment of mounted riflemen, concerning the enlistment of foreigners in the army, ... 605

Campbell, W. W., a Representative from New York on the bill to raise a regiment of mounted riflemen, concerning the proposition to limit the enlistment and appointment of officers and soldiers to "Native Americans," ... 619

Memoirs of John Quincy Adams: comprising portions of his diary from 1795 to 1848, by John Quincy Adams, 1877 (see pages 229, 252, and 255 concerning political maneuverings of the bill)

Report of the General-in-Chief of the Army, accompanying the Report of the Secretary of War...

(omitted from Sec Wars Report Appendix in the online Congressional Globe 2nd Session  December 2, 1850 to March 3, 1851)
Strykers American register and magazine, Volume 5- pp. 495-496

House documents, otherwise published. as Executive documents: by United States. Congress. House, p. 114-115

Hsieh correctly notes that the old army's "...preference for Western nation-state adversaries, as opposed to Indian fighting, would mark the regular army throughout the century. " p. 19
[note the use of the academic "Western nation-state" reference in contrast to the actual "Western"threat - the Indians who were actually in our West!]  He adds that "the army "drew on Old World practice for the New World army they were trying to create."p. 23 
This statement is also correct; but what is with this new introduction of terminology of "Old World - New World" - as if 200+ years of Colonial European settlement and wars - and  40 years (1776-1815) had left no legacy on the Continental Army, and its follow-on U.S. Army? 

Hsieh ignores his own injunction to not read too much into the future (the Mexican or Civil War) at this point.  In a sweeping analysis he argues that the regular army's "three combat arms along with a functioning staff system represented a bare minimum of organizational competence which the United States had not possessed in 1812, despite having thirty years of peace after the Treaty of Paris to prepare for the War of 1812.  The United States, then fighting a war on its own soil, had found the time to recover with respect to Great Britain; however, fighting a war of conquest on foreign soil thirty years after the Treaty of Ghent, Polk could not have afforded the two years of bungling allowed to President James Madison. In short there was nothing automatic about the creation of a competent regular army after 1815. Indeed, the officers of the old army deserve much of the credit for the creation of the three combat arms...Professionally minded officers went to the time and trouble of translating foreign manuals, sitting on tactics boards, commenting on proposed tactical manuscripts, and even traveling to Europe to collect and adapt the professional expertise of the Old World [ugh! again]...The old army persevered, however, and in 1846 the United States could boast of an army far better prepared for a European style war at the commencement of hostilities than any other previous army in the history of the republic. What makes this achievement of the regular army even more impressive is that it spent most of this period engaged in taxing frontier duties very different from its hard-won reformulation of Old  World [ughx3!] military institutions.
Some historians have criticized the regular army for refusing to devote much professional thought or discussion to Indian fighting,  but in the regular's defense no Indian force could replicate the British sack of Washington.
[my italics - comment before]  pp. 35-36

See the above reference to "Correspondence with officers of the army relative to the establishment of military posts and defence of the western frontier," as just one example of the thoughts that went into western defense - the fact that Congress and the Army's own Eastern (non-frontier), bureau fiefdom apparatus - blocked expenditures of needed moneys and force enlargement and restructuring is the real culprit behind the Army's lack of a coherent Western strategy, force structure,  and competent tactical approach.

Hsieh acknowledges that; "Most forward-thinking regular army officers tended to view the introduction of the rifle-musket before the outbreak of the Civil War as an evolutionary development within the light infantry tradition of European and American practice..."p.194

But he could have added here the corresponding visionaries who argued for the combination of enhanced mobility and firepower at the beginnings of the old army, and with results in the 1830s, which resulted in the dragoon's and "the dragoon tactics" he later applauds in his concluding assessment of the Civil War:
"The Federal cavalry after Gettysburg, and earlier in the western theater, had evolved into a force that used its horses for greater mobility but frequently fought on foot, although saber charges remained in use. When combined with the Spenser repeater, the new dragoon tactics created a potent offensive striking force for the Union Army"...but then rightly criticizes Sheridan for not conducting screening and reconnaissance.p. 194-195 
J H Wilson's is mentioned for his reform efforts but why not his sweeping 1865 Cavalry Raid through Alabama and Georgia?
As concerns breech loaders and repeaters..the Ordnance bureau refused to consider them as a legitimate alternative well into the war. Breech loaders were by no means "new"and GIVEN government and Army support to entrepreneurs and armories, could have been advanced in design, development and fielding, well before the Civil War and perhaps even in time for the Mexican war - see below.

Nevertheless, the real problem  I have with  Hsieh analysis,  is that he has a limited view of what constitutes "professionalism" insofar as the regular army is concerned.  I would not argue that the innovators or even the tactical manual translator's etc., were not professional...but those who sought to have and develop on hand a more effective, efficient and hard-hitting frontier fighting force, even constabulary, because that was their given mission at the present, stymied time and time again, had a very real and tangible incentive beyond developing a force for the future. An efficient and capable force was needed to minimize the cost in lives (on both sides), and money. These realists and pragmatists struggled against a regular army mindset that could never adapt to the frontier REALITY it faced or develop a regular-militia relationship that transcended cultural animosities. The fact that the Army was good enough and well led enough, yes, even brilliantly by Scott - as well as lucky enough to face badly led Mexicans, in addition to being favored by good fortune at some critical moments - as correctly adjudged by Hsieh - can also be said IF that army had been a better organized and trained regular frontier force that it was obviously not.  The Army of Occupation and Observation drilled enough to make up for any previous deficit. Scott later marched onto the Halls of Montezuma with regulars blooded by Taylor,  and new regular regiments formed in 1847 (ten) that had drilled but few months before, not to mention some fine remaining volunteer units that all proved their mettle in the "nation-state to nation state"fighting. 
So, there was no "professional" excuse (outside of Congressional miserliness and cultural antipathy) for the army to be as ineffective an irregular fighting force as it was prior to fighting on foreign soil.  A non-interventionist could easily argue that they need never have been trained for such fighting in the first place - the war was a war of choice - not imposition.

As for "but in the regular's defense no Indian force could replicate the British sack of Washington.": 
Outgunned, out maneuvered and outfought by the Indians, NO British force could have replicated the Little Big Horn Massacre (Defeat) of Custer's 7th Cavalry! 
OR the far more bloodier Defeat (Massacre) inflicted on General  St Clair at the 1791 Battle of the Wabash (623 soldiers killed or captured-952total casualties) - "The Worst Defeat in the History of the U.S. Army" - after the Continentals had defeated the British and before we faced the them again in 1812-1815.

Moving on, Hsieh also provides a compelling analysis of Bvt. Lt. Colonel William J. Hardee's and Lt. Cadmus M. Wilcox's doctrinal contributions in the 1850s  to the development of light infantry. 

Hardee, he notes, "...chose the manual of the Chasseurs a Pied [French "elite light infantry"] as his model..."p. 78 

Hsieh pointedly affirms that: "In their original formulation, Hardee's tactics were never supposed to be a complete replacement  for Scott's 1835 infantry tactics; the old army instead intended Hardee's contributions to be a light infantry supplement to the tactics of traditional "heavy infantry," that is, line infantry fighting in close order.  [Secretary of War Jefferson] Davis's original order of March 29, 1855, authorizing the manual explicitly declared the new tactics "adopted for the instruction of the troops when acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen." p. 79

Wilcox's farseeing ideas, expansively quoted by Hsieh, were expressed in:
Rifles and rifle practice: an elementary treatise upon the theory of rifle firing, explaining the causes of inaccuracy of fire, and the manner of correcting it, by Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox, D. Van Nostrand, 1859

After further extensive discussion of skirmishing  and sniping (in the context of siege operations) Hsieh states:   
"The use of specialist units had ample precedent in the American light-infantry tradition. Sniping during siege operations also had earlier precedent, McLaws had recognized the importance of rifle-muskets to siege operations as early as the siege of Yorktown in the spring of 1862."p. 193

Again, before learning his stated purpose; why no mention of sniping as traced back to the siege of Boston, or beyond siege operations to the Continental Army at such battles as Saratoga -  when Timothy Murphy, of Morgan's Rifle Corps, eliminated British General Fraser? The author's self-judged "elastic" "old army" construct (the army before the last war) and his well-taken point that "The Continental Army was not a true regular Army, because it was disbanded after the end of the Revolution."p. 203), combine to limit his scope.  
It might help to recall that post War  of 1812 army started under de-moralizing circumstances at best,  owing to the amalgamation of nearly 50 infantry and rifle regiments into 8 infantry and 1 rifle.  As William Ganoe puts it "Some sinister effort must have been at work to deprive all the old regiments of their traditions and spirit. For no plan could have more shrewdly dammed any existing pride and affiliations than the following:

The old 1st Infantry went into the new 3rd Infantry;
the old 2nd went into the new 1st;
the old 3rd, into the new 1st;
the old 4th, into the new 5th;
the old 5th, into the new 8th;
the old 6th, into the new 2nd;
the old 7th, into the new 1st; and
the old 8th, into the new 7th.

(RG- the old  First Regiment of Riflemen into the new Rifle Regiment)

The new 1st was then made up of the old 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 44th;
the new 2nd, of the old 6th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd, and 32nd;
the new 3rd, of the old 1st, 17th, 19th, and 28th;
the new 4th, of the old 12th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 36th, and 38th;
the new 5th, of the old 4th, 9th, 13th, 21st, 40th, and 46th (revised correction in 1949?)
the new 6th, of the old 11th, 25th, 27th, 29th, and 37th;
the new 7th, of the old 8th, 24th, and 39th;
and the new 8th, of the 5th, 10th, 15th, 31st, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 39th, 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 45th."

(RG- the new Rifle Regiment from the old 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th  Rifle Regiments)

The further reduction of 1821, eliminating the Rifle Regiment (special unit precedent) and 8th Infantry continued this organizational waif and woe.

I found no reference by the author to the formation of, or tactical actions by, the two U.S. SharpShooter Regiments of CW fame - the most formalized (vice ad-hoc) organizational example and precedent of the "specialist units" created - and the foremost combat tested "rifle" force since the U.S. Rifle Regiment(s) during the War of 1812. 

Finally, on a positive note, Hsieh's analysis of Upton's life and role is splendid and moving indeed...

 Snippets from the 1835-1836 Army Navy Chronicle "New Infantry Tactics" Debate

*April 23, 1835
" Instruction for Light Infantry and Riflemen, or Skirmishers."
Of all the systems of Tactics adopted for the use of the service there has probably never been one better suited to the peculiar features of the country than the present Drill for Light Infantry and Riflemen. The broken and diversified character of the ground; the swamps, creeks, and rivers, Which intersect it in all directions; the variety of woods, orchards, cultivated fields, and scattered villages: with the very small proportion of clearings, commons, and plains; conspire to render light troops over all others, the most useful description of force, which we can possibly employ in a defensive warfare. Nor is this all. The country itself, is not only fully adopted to the action of this species of troops, but the genius and character of the great mass of the people, are in (he most perfect harmony with the nature of their set vice. The facilities which the peculiar duties of light infantry and riflemen afford for the exercise of their love of enterprise, individual intelligence, and singular skill as marksmen, constitute the great charms which it possesses in their minds over every other arm of the service; and the general, who overlooks these considerations in the constitution of his Army corps, Division, or even Brigade, will, in a very short campaign, find himself deficient in one of the most powerful levers of American warfare. If these facts be admitted, it is at once manifest, that too much care cannot be bestowed on the discipline of light infantry and riflemen. To effect this, two principal objects are to be regarded, namely ; the selection and arrangement of the best system of Tactics, and its thorough application in practice. This system should be complete in itself; and should be characterized by simplicity and uniformity in the evolutions, and brevity and clearness in the commands, in order to secure that expertness and rapidity of execution, which render light troops so formidable. It should, moreover, be not only good in itself, but should be adapted to the genius and habits of the troops, and the peculiar nature of their operations. These qualities belong, in an eminent degree, to the light infantry and rifle drill as at present practised, and make it not only invaluable, but indispensable, to that portion of the army on the frontier stations, not excepting even the dragoons. When a system of instruction is thus found to be not only excellent in itself, answering every purpose for which it was originally intended, but also susceptible of application to the service of cavalry, there can no longer be a question about its intrinsic value; and we know not in what manner to express the extent of our surprise and astonishment when we see it deliberately supplanted by a series of mere skirmishing manoeuvres. Of these manoeuvres, as they differ but slightly from those at present in use, we have but little to say ; but against the words of command attached to them, we declare open war. They are beyond all question, entirely too long; and instead of making the evolutions clearer, they serve no other purpose than to lumber up the minds of the men with a useless mass of words. Light infantry and riflemen are not only supposed to be intelligent, but they actually arc so ; and if this intelligence cannot be sufficiently depended upon to make them comprehend that the command "ExtendAdvancing" means that they shall take their proper intervals in extended order, as they move to the front, from the point where the command is given : "Deploy as skirmishers. 2, On the left file, take intervals. 3, Quick—(or double quick,) March," would never make the manoeuvre any clearer to them.
This prolix command also labors under the objection of containing the word "Quick," which ought always to be understood when no other is given, since this rate of march is the basis of all light infantry -movements.
In our former articles, we have generally compared the two systems of Tactics, by placing similar parts side by side ; but on (his occasion we acknowledge ourselves at a loss as to the best manner of proceeding, on account of the peculiar and marked characteristic* belonging to them.
We might indeed say, that the present Light Infantry drill was complete in itself, and that intelligent recruits, properly 9et apart in the school of the soldier, could become accomplished as light infantry and riflemen without knowing anything of the duties belonging to infantry of the line. Whereas, in the new Tactics, they are not only obliged to go through the heavy drill of the company and the battalion, before exercising as light infantry, but even then they have to make a manual to suit themselves; and commence skirmishing from their position in the battalion, without any preparatory instruction, and on no other close-order basis, than that which belongs to infantry of the line. We can easily imagine, that an intelligent infantry soldier can manage his musket at will, without much difficulty ; but how a rifleman is to handle his arms at close-order, we arc wholly at a loss to conceive.
When we reflect that the light companies of the different regiments on service, are constantly thrown together, and with a frequent change of commanders, we shall readily perceive, that nothing should be left, either to the construction of the officers or men; but that every movement should be clearly prescribed, and positively enjoined.
As the firings form a very essential and important part of the duty of skirmishers, one would naturally suppose that the manner of executing them would have been clearly and fully explained, and their performance strictly insisted upon. Hut such, unfortunately, is not the case ; since the subject is touched upon in the most general terms ; of which, paragraph 1669 may be cited as a specimen. "They," (the skirmishers) 'will also be exercised in loading and firing, kneeling and lying, leaving each man at liberty to execute 'those times (or pauses) in the manner he may find the easiest." This, it may be supposed, is a matter of but little importance ; since, the files being in loose order, uniformity is not so desirable. But it is from considerations superior to uniformity, that we look upon its instruction as highly necessary. These are ease, skillfulness, and rapidity of execution ; and when we reflect how little trouble it is to teach the soldier in what these consist; and how he shall best guard against accidents ; compared with the perplexity of allowing him to find them out by a long experience, attended with all the risks arising from ignorance and awkwardness, we are not a little surprised that the subject should have been thus overlooked. If some system of detailed instruction be not laid down in the new Tactics, those officers who take a pride in their men, and who arc ambitious concerning their efficiency, will be obliged to resort to the present Light Infantry drill for many of their most important lessons.
It cannot be reasonably expected that a rifleman can fire with that precision, on which the value of his piece so materially depends, if he is obliged to stand in the position of a soldier of the line ; nor will he unless equipped with Hall's patent rifle, he able to load it without special instructions; or, having loaded, will he be able to fire with that confidence and steadiness on which the accuracy of his fire is so essentially based.
We have before remarked, that we had nothing to say against the manoeuvres of the skirmishers ; but we find, on reflection, that the interval of ten paces between the files is much too large; and that a company displayed at intervals of eight paces, will fully cover the front of the remaining nine companies of its battalion in line, together with the proper space upon the flanks. This will always be an ample allowance, but as the grenadiers are frequently detached, there will occur cases where six paces might become the distance between the files. However, if eight paces be the habitual interval; since the rear (or centre) rank men step up into line, on the left of their proper front rank men; the distance between the files will become essentially six paces, or a little less than five yards. This distance should always he understood, unless the circumstances of the case require a different interval.
The only changes which remain to be noticed, are the extension of intervals; the marching, and firing by a flank in extended order ; and having the guide in the centre, when displayed advancing. These are all decided improvements, and increase the efficiency of the skirmishing accordingly.
On the whole, our objections to this system of skirmishing, are more against its incompleteness, and the inordinate length of the words of command, than against the manoeuvres themselves; for, with the slight exceptions above-named, they are essentially the same as those contained in the Tactics of 1825 ; and we could not give the reader a better idea of the whole matter, than by referring him to the last eight pages of the present Company Drill for Light Infantry and Riflemen.
While on this subject we cannot refrain from remarking, upon the singular disproportion which exists between the numbers of light troops as compared with infantry of the line, in our own service, and in that of the armies of the principal nations of Europe.
In a country, over all others in the world, peculiarly adapted to the action of light troops ; and with an inland frontier swarming with savages, whoso known rules of warfare are based upon individual craft and prowess; our infantry is organized into seven battalions, with only one-tenth equipped as light-infantry or riflemen ; while the armies of Germany, France, and England—with countries so open and exposed, as to be highly favorable to the operations of cavalry—are constituted in such a manner, that the yagers, tirailleurs, light-infantry and riflemen, form more than one-fifth of all their soldiers of the line. If for no other reason, than to give our little army that efficiency which the experience of all Europe has shown to be necessary, it would seem expedient to organize our infantry regiments with two light companies, at the least; since, at that rate, we should merely place our troops upon the same footing, as those nations who have much less need of this description of force than ourselves. This might be easily effected, by a single regulation, displacing that unmeaning collection of long and badly formed men, which lumber up the rights of regiments, under the denomination of grenadiers, by companies of light-infantry or riflemen.
We are well aware, that these suggestions may be met by the remark, that such a change would be useless, on account of the instruction which is prescribed for entire regiments ; and that throughout the infantry, it is an understood thing, that light-infantry and rifle movements come under the head of their ordinary duties. This is all very well in theory, but what, let us ask, is the practice?  Is it not notorious, that at some posts, it is wholly neglected ; at others, considered as a mere pastime, to indulge the men with a little exercise; while at a very few, it receives some degree of attention from the efficiency which their situation renders necessary?
For our own parts, we conceive its importance to be so great, that were the matter left to our direction, it should form the habitual and constant exercise of all troops on the frontier stations. CLAIRFAIT." p. 133
Army and Navy chronicle, Volume 1-2, 1835, by Benjamin Homans

August 27, 1835
Mr. Editor :—It seems as if the inventive powers of some individuals were endless. When we advised a different colored binding for the several volumes of the Infantry Tactics, for the sole purpose of distinction, it did not occur to us that this distinction, to be complete, should address itself to more senses than one. To effect the omission on our part, the brigadier in charge of the printing and binding has caused the second volume to appear in red and gold; the red cloth, unlike the blue imitation of seal skin, is smooth, and the emblematic bugle horn of the Dough Boys is stamped on the flanks of each book, so that by day or by night the most blind may find which is the Military Tactics and which the Infantry.
The color of the third volume has caused much speculation and many odd remarks. Since our suggestion has been followed, we flatter ourselves that good taste is properly appreciated, and accordingly propose that for the third volume, there be no binding whatever, inasmuch as it is unnecessary, since the Evolutions of the Line are never used except at the "seat of science," and then only for a few days of each year. A friend at my elbow says "Why not omit the printing itself, as the system will doubtless be changed before long, particularly when the price of translation is so high." We object to this, and say the whole system has been bought, and although " too much has been paid for the whistle," it must be printed, bound and sold again.
But to the inside. Here we perceive an omission of certain signals for the light infantry drill or rather skirmishing.
We are induced to believe this on account of the inordinate length of all the commands which should be, as every experienced officer knows, the reverse, if they are to be given to the troops by the "word of mouth." Now, as it is next to impossible, in their present state to do this, it struck us that they were to be made known by means of the bugle, and as no signals of this kind are mentioned, we have concluded that the above omission is accidental.
We regret to be obliged to say that this part of the tactics has undergone a total and thorough alteration of the manoeuvres and commands; and what is still more to be regretted, all for the worse! A single reading will prove our assertion conclusively—the very platoon, detained as a reserve, has been changed from that of the flank to the centre ! In short, it is so different, and withal so deficient, that it will be found useless, and in time of need, recourse will necessarily be had to the old system of light infantry.
Although this volume bears "a little " the marks of our genius, we, out of regard for the service, ask the immediate attention of the infantry officers to it, being confident that an attentive reading of it and a comparison with the old drill, will result in an application to the War Department that this part may be hung up under the second section of the orders issued on the 10th April, 1835, on the subject of which we have been writing, and of which we shall hold our peace hereafter.

Army and Navy chronicle, Volume 1-2, 1835, by Benjamin Homans

October 15, 1835
 This work being now in the hands of the army, a general exposition of the changes which it operates on the book of 1825, together with a defence of those changes, may not be unacceptable to the profession ; and, in order to a clearer comprehension of the whole subject, a brief history of our tactical mutations will first be attempted....HINDMAN." pp. 340-341

Army and Navy chronicle, Volume 1-2, 1835, by Benjamin Homans
*April  14, 1836
"LIGHT INFANTRY. The following communication appeared a few days since in the Globe, and is republished at the request of the writer.
The recent disasters in Florida, not only show a want of force, but a great defect in the organization of our military establishment.
The most useful troops in time of war are beyond all question Light Infantry. The want of such a corps, well organized and disciplined, it will not be denied, was most seriously felt during our last war with Great Britain, and more especially in our late warfare with the Indians. In Europe, a country by no means so favorable as the United States for the employment of this species of troops, they are considered indispensable in the organization of every army. Whether received in a compact, open or irregular order; they have always appeared equally conspicuous and useful in the field of battle.
If an army is to invade an enemy's country, their activity and vigilance, place them in front and on the flanks, to protect it from the enterprise of the enemy ; if it is retreating, they are in the rear to prevent assaults, and close pursuit ; if encamped, they are the outpost of the army, if a village, a height, or an important defile is to be seized, they are the first to take possession; if forage or other supplies are to be obtained, they are the covering party; if reconnoitering is the object, or a convoy to be intercepted, they are peculiarly well calculated to effect the end ; and in a general engagement, they are the first to commence the action, and conceal the movements of the line. If necessary, they can be united with the Infantry battalions ; when having been accustomed to every danger, they are the more steady, and the first to animate their companions to victory. Skilled in the open ard extended order, and taught to avail themselves of every cover, whether of grass, trees, thickets, or hillocks, in order to conceal themselves and to take advantage of the enemy, they are well calculated to operate successfully against savages. Such a corps, well organized, and instructed, would have been an invaluable auxiliary in conducting the recent operations in Florida.
In presenting this subject for consideration, it is with no expectation that a light infantry corps could be organized in time to render any aid in the operations now carried on in Florida. Ere this, I trust, the Indians in that quarter are subdued, and the war at an end. But in reference to the future, and to guard against scenes being enacted similar to those which have recently occurred in Florida, on the western and northern frontier, where we have a large body of Indians concentrated, which will be greatly increased by emigration from the east side of the Mississippi, I would most earnestly recommend a light Infantry corps. Whether the army is increased or not, such a corps should be immediately organized. Indeed every infantry regiment stationed on the Indian frontier should he taught practically light infantry tactics, which should be the primary instructions. It embraces activity, vigilance, concealment, and stratagem, and consequently the only corps, perhaps, well calculated . to contend with Indians. The instructions of light infantry and riflemen are the same. The only difference is in the arms.  One uses muskets, and the other rifles. Such a corps, or corps, with a few light, long 12-poundcr brass howitzers, directed by artillerists, and the dragoons, with the present regiments of infantry, would, I have little doubt, give protection to the inhabitants residing on our Indian frontiers. Without, however, such a corps, or such instruction to the troops stationed to guard the Indian frontier, we may always look for disaster, disgrace and defeat, when contending against an enterprising and savage foe. The instruction and discipline as here contemplated are not very dissimilar to that practised by the Indians when skilfully commanded, as in the case of Pontiac, Tecumseh, Black Hawk, or Powell, whose warfare was that of activity, vigilance, concealment, stratagem, and surprize."  p. 235
Army and Navy chronicle, Volumes 2-3, by Benjamin Homans, 1836

other related articles

March 5: I835.
"Infantry Tactics.

March 19, 1835....

March 26, 1835...

April 9, 1835

April 16, 1835

October 22, 1835
"The valuable essays, signed " Hindman,'s (three of which have already appeared in the Chronicle ) Contain So much historical information respecting our own systems of Infantry Tactics, and a complete exposition of the new French System, recently incorporated into our own (that we have concluded to reprint the three first numbers, for the benefit of those subscribers who commence with the new series. No. IV is in type, but reserved until the publication of the three previous numbers is completed. There will be eight altogether; the Subsequent ones will appear in regular order." p. 8

January 7, 1836

January 14, 1836

January 28, 1836
I shall now proceed with the Report of the French Commission, turning aside, if possible, from the Clairfaits and Young Fograms—those croakers, produced under " the green mantle" "of a calm world, and a long peace," who, on this subject, have whiled away an entire spring and summer of the Army and Navy Chronicle...."pp. 60-61

February 4, 1836
Learning that the second volume of this work is now after some delay in a course of general distribution I resume the translation of the Report which the French original for the approbation of Soult TITLE IV School or the Battalion...."pp. 76-78

February 11, 1836
The Report on the French Tactics of 1831 under head School of the Battalion thus proceeds.."pp. 90-91

March 10, 1836
The Report on the new French Tactics thus proceeds...."pp. 153-156

March 17, 1836
The following is the conclusion of the Report on the new French Tactics..."pp. 170-172

March 31, 1836
I shall now advert to certain miscellaneous work which have not been met by the Report or the incidental remarks thereupon the subject of commands...."pp. 203-206

March 31, 1836
 "The New Infantry Tactics.—The communication of " Hindman," in this days paper, concludes the series ,of articles in defence of the new system of Infantry Tactics, and in reply to "Clairfait," and other writers.
As Clairfait has been particularly alluded to by Hindman, it will naturally be expected that he should in turn have something to say for himself; but if our 'surmises' are correct, (and we have nothing but surmise to guide us in the case,) the author of Clairfait is no longer among the living.
If we should be in error, however, Clairfait will in due time answer for himself." p. 202

*April  14, 1836

April 14, 1836

April 21, 1836

June 9, 1836

September 28,1837
Army and Navy chronicle, and Scientific repository, Volume 5 By William Quereau Force, 1837
RIFLE CORPS. Thoughts On The Subject or A Rifle Corps—Hall's Rifle—The Old Yager—Muskets—Cochran's Rifle, Etc. Etc.
We have not a single corps of riflemen in the service, and hence the weapon which is most
effective when used by Americans, is seldom or never handled by the regular soldier. This is an
evidence of the want of nationality in our army, and of the neglect under which it has long
It is useless to say that a portion of the Infantry may at any time be armed with rifles, for
much practice is necessary to acquire skill in the exercise of these arms.
The following considerations will serve to show in some measure the relative advantages of
muskets and rifles for Indian warfare.
In target firing at the distance of one hundred yards, but one musket ball in five or six will
strike the size of a man ; and if there be three buckshot in the cartridge, these fly so much at
random that only one of the fifteen can be expected to strike the same object. An ordinary
marksman with a good rifle will scarcely fail to strike every time. Hence but little reliance is
to be placed on the musket for sharp shooting, and nearly all the execution done is by random
shots. What a small number of Seminoles have been killed since the commencement of this war. At
Dade's massacre, from all that we can learn, only eight or ten were killed; at the Wifhlacoochee,
ten or twelve ; at Wahoo Swamp, eight; at Game's battle, two or three ; at Fort Mellon, ten or
fifteen, including negroes. Did we believe, however, the newspaper accounts, but few warriors
would be left in Florida; while, if the fugitive Creeks be included, the number of our enemy is
without doubt as great now as at any period of the war.
The musket, then, has not proved very destructive to our savage foe, and it possesses the
following defects when used for light infantry:
1. It is heavy, and kicks so violently with a full charge, that many soldiers do not on this
account hold the piece steady.
2. The locks are too clumsy, and when the trigger is pulled, the action of the lock shakes the
gun somewhat out of direction.
3. Even should the musket be aimed accurately, the ball will often deviate.
Still the experience of the most civilized nations bas established its value as an arm for heavy
infantry, and when an enemy is drawn up in regular order any ■hot five feet above ground may take
effect. When troops, however, are drawn up, and fight in open order, as practised in the light
infantry drill, random firing does but little execution, and the rifle becomes the appropriate
weapon ; its superiority is then evident. Can we forget the glorious achievments of Morgan's
riflemen in the Revolution, and of Forsyth's in the late war, or the bold exploits of our western
hunters, and of the Texians who are armed with rifles? Should a corps of this sort be raised, the
best materials might be obtained in nearly every State in the Union, but particularly on the
frontier. They would require, however, much discipline, and a perfect acquaintance with the light
infantry drill, which might be effected in three or four months under good officers.
There are two kinds of rifle, of the same calibre, now used in the U. S. service:
1. The old yager, which experience has sanctioned ; 2d, Hall's rifle, which experience has not
The most intelligent and best informed officers and men, who have used Hall's rifle in the Creek
and Seminole campaigns, will say that it has the following faults:
1st. The locks are not sufficiently protected from the weather, on which account the internal
machinery is apt to become rusty and out of order; besides which, the mainsprings break more
easily than those of the musket.
2d. On a march, either on foot or on horseback, if the gun be loaded, a large portion of the
powder is apt to sift out between the barrel and breech ; hence the first attempt at firing is
often a complete failure, or mere squib.
3d. It does not shoot so strong, nor so accurately as the old rifle.
4th. More accidents have happened from its use.
5th. It is carried with much inconvenience, either on foot or horseback, being badly balanced.
6th. Rust, or other obstacles, will sometimes tender it impossible to raise or lower the breech;
this i9 often the case in the hands of volunteers.
7th. The. powder and ball flask very soon become unserviceable.
These are inherent defects, not easily corrected, which more than counterbalance the advantage of
loading at the breech—its only claim to merit.
About seven hundred of these rifles were issued to the Georgia volunteers, who performed much
hard service during the Creek war in the lower part of that State; with almost one voice, they
exclaimed against Hall's rifle, and would even prefer the common musket.
Captain Jernigan, a gallant officer who distinguished himself in many fights, much prefers the
old yager; his company of one hundred men was armed with yagers, and deserves great credit for
its valuable services. The Tennessee troops were at first pleased with Hall's gun, but they soon
began to consider the article a cheat. Captain J. M. Washington's company, fourth artillery, was
armed with Hall's rifles ; that experienced officer said the articles had proved a failure, and
possessed the defects enumerated by me. It is useless to say more on this subject: experience,
the only sure guide, if consulted, will decide against Hall.
The French, it is said, do not adopt any new invention in service, until it has stood the test of
a campaign. Had we followed this wise rule, a large sum might have been saved the Government.
Still Hall's rifle may answer very well for Arsenal practice, and would be valuable in the
defence of a permanent post, where it would not be used on marches, and might be kept in perfect
The above observations may in part be applied to Hall's carbine. The dragoons complain of the
powder sifting out, on a scout; it sometimes insinuates itself between the lock and wood-work,
blowing off a piece of the stock.
Cochran's rifle made a great noise in the newspapers ; but if all are as bad as the one I have,
they will never be fit for service. The article in my possession carries a ball of about sixty to
the pound, and appears to be well made ; it may be fired with great rapidity and certainty for
short distances, and would be of great value in close action, but it would not answer for the
Seminoles, who keep off to the distance of one or two hundred yards. Over a distance of forty
yards, no reliance whatever is to be placed upon this article ; at one hundred and fifty it is no
more effectual than a pop-gun; besides, when fired, the report is enough to deafen one, and it is
necessary to keep cotton stuffed in the left ear. The short distance at which this gun fires
accurately, is probably owing to the very limited charge of powder which can be used.
Having disapproved of all other weapons for light infantry, I am decidedly in favor of the old
rifle with flint and steel; it has gained many victories, and can gain many more.
Much is expected from the Board of officers now engaged in examining rifles of various patterns ;
but the best test would be to have them tried in Florida.

Rifles and rifle practice: an elementary treatise upon the theory of rifle firing, explaining the causes of inaccuracy of fire, and the manner of correcting it, by Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox, D. Van Nostrand, 1859

For example: 
"Many causes conspire to render the fire of infantry in battle ineffective, the rapidity of fire, the excitement incident to the strife, difficulty of aiming properly in consequence of the dust or smoke, necessity of firing by command, unsteadiness resulting from the pressure of files to the right or left, or in front or rear, and in general, one of the opposing forces being protected by fortifications, field or permanent. A more general cause of want of accuracy has been, doubtless, the firing beyond the effective range of the musket. In view of the improved rifle, it may confidently be asserted that battles will be more destructive than formerly, a greater number of balls will take effect; it will be difficult for the soldier to find himself in presence of the enemy, and yet beyond the range of his rifle, at least he would scarcely commence to fire beyond the range of his present piece. He will be inspired with more confidence, knowing the range and accuracy of his arm. At great distances he will no longer fire by hazard, but will use his elevating sight; at short distances, knowing the power of his rifle, he will fire with the utmost coolness, and with a certainty that the smooth-bore and round ball never could inspire. It may be that the infantry soldier, occupied with the care of aiming or adjusting his sight, will have his mind diverted from thoughts of danger, and be in the moral condition attributed to cannoneers, whose proverbial sang froid in the presence of the enemy is said to be due to the occupation that the pointing or aiming of the piece gives.
The increased range and accuracy of the rifle, and the confidence with which it must inspire the soldier, will cause the fire of infantry to be far more destructive than formerly, and every enemy killed or wounded will no longer cost his weight in lead (or ten times his weight in iron, when killed by artillery)." p. 237

"A Rifle, whatever may be its range and accuracy, in the hands of a soldier unskilled in its use, loses much. of its value ; hence the necessity of giving the most detailed and thorough practical instruction as to the means of preserving the piece, and of attaining the greatest possible precision of fire ; hence the necessity of creating schools specially for the purpose of teaching the soldier the art of firing,..."p. 238
"...There should be four battalions to the regiment; every company should be thoroughly instructed at target practice and the skirmish drill; but as some men will excel others in the use of the rifle, and have greater aptitude for the duties of light troops, the fourth battalion of each regiment should be formed of such soldiers. These battalions, although excelling at target practice, are not to be employed exclusively as skirmishers, but to be organized at times into special corps, to be launched at critical periods of battle in mass, moving with the accelerated pace against the almost victorious adversary : ....The new rifle clearly gives to infantry, in all secondary operations of war, and in the defence of positions, an element of force that it did not possess formerly." pp. 245-246 

More from American State Papers, House of Representatives, 25th Congress, 2nd Session
Military Affairs: Volume 7 

Defence of the western frontier.--Correspondence with officers of the army relative to the establishment of military posts and defence of the western frontier.

"I am decidedly of the opinion that, in addition to the posts and garrisons already placed upon the frontier...there should be held ready for action a disposable force of six thousand men...The points to be selected for the location of all military posts, and more especially for the proposed disposable force, should be guarded by law from the ruinous attacks of whiskey-traders, by placing under the entire control of the commanding officers a township of public land, of which posts should be on the centre section...The proposed frontier posts might be converted into military schools, for the instruction of many of the aspiring youths..., unable to obtain admission into the Military Academy at West Point...Graduates from such schools of the west would prove to be in nowise inferior to the graduates of West Point...."
Edmund P. Gaines, 
Headquarters Western Division, St. Louis, August 14, 1837 p.959

"The preliminary measure to protecting the frontier are to have the limits of the frontier definitely settled...the "military road"...should be laid out in the Indian country,...Upon this road should be erected strong and permanent military works,....for a frontier of about one thousand miles, four regiments of infantry or artillery and three of dragoons...As the military road is by law to stop at Red river, and as I suppose you do not ask my opinion of the country south of it, I shall say nothing about it....It is well known that the cause of most of the difficulties we have had with the Indians may be traced to the lawless acts of some white men amongst them...if Congress would by law authorize that tried in military courts, should the offender be apprehended in the Indian country, such authority would do more to preserve peace on the frontier than many additional regiments..."
S.W. Kearney, Colonel First Regiment of Dragoons,
Fort Leavenworth, June 20, 1837
  p. 960

"In addition to the present force, I think there should be a regiment of riflemen raised, to be mounted in case of an Indian war.  They should be armed with good rifles.  This has been proved to be the most effectual weapon against Indians.  The officers of the regiment should be hardy and enterprising men, possessing a knowledge of the frontier country, and acquainted with Indian character."
G P. Kingsbury 
Fort Coffee, West of Arkansas, September 10, 1837  p. 962
[KINGSBURY GAINES P Bom in Ohio Appointed from Ohio Bvt 3rd Lieut Mounted Rangers 1 July 1832 Trans to 1st Drag 14 Aug 1833 2nd Lieut 31 May 1835 1st Lieut 4 July 1836 Resigned 15 Oct 1836 Died 15 Aug 1839


In 1811 John Hall produced the first produced a breech loading flintlock rifle which was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1819. By 1833 a percussion version was used by U.S. Army Dragoons in the West during the Mexican War 1846-48. The Hall rifle was plagued by problems with the breach seal and gas leakage with an loss of muzzle velocity and dangerous explosions. In 1848 Christian Sharps developed a much tighter breech loading rifle that used that took a paper or linen wrapped cartridge. These carbines and rifles were percussion cap, came in .36-.52 cal. and could produce a rate of fire of about 4-5 shots per minute. The Sharps was very popular and effectively became a common rifle in the Plains where it was used extensively to kill bison  and adopted by the Army during the Civil War. However, these paper/linen cartridges and breechloaders were still plagued by leakage problems. Inventors like Samuel Colt and Horace Smith/Samuel Wesson were working cylinder rifles and revolvers and metallic rim fire cartridges. This allowed for repeating weapon magazines. The first of these was patented in 1860 by Christopher Spencer. The carbine used a lever to eject the spent cartridge and feed a new round from a tube in the stock and could fire seven rounds in 10 seconds, with reloading 14 rounds per minute. Also, in 1860 B.T. Henry developed another repeating rifle that employed a tube under the barrel to hold 15 shots. Later, Henry partnered with Oliver Winchester to establish the New Haven Repeating Arms Company. Thus the lever action Winchester rifle became a popular weapon in the American West beginning with the Model 1866 and continuing with the Model 1873, Model 1876 and ending with the 1894. These early Winchesters like the Henry had the modest .44 cal metallic cartridge which was great for the Western landscape and operating on a horse."

see also:

The Henry Repeating Rifle; Victory thru rapid fire, by Andrew L. Bresnan, M.S.,The National Henry Rifle Company

AUTHORIZED MILITARY BOOKS Published by Order of the War Department advertised in TheAmerican literary gazette,George W. Childs, 1861, p. 172

 "The experience of Russia, in her recent 'contest with Turkey, has had an effect upon ■conservative military opinion which promises to result in serious modification's of the tactics of battle. Armed with an American rifle and American cartridges, the Turks accomplished extraordinary results with volley firing at distances ordinarily regarded as not to be compassed by anything except the fancy shooting of rifle ranges or the tentative practice of sharp-shooters. Anywhere from a mile to nearly a mile and a half (1,500 to 2,500 yards) from the Turkish works, the Russians found themselves subjected to a fire so deadly that they speedily lost one-half of their effectives. General Zeddeler, who was with the Russian Guard at Gorni-Dubnik, reports that at 3,000 paces the Russians began to suffer loss, and at 2,000 paces were falling rapidly, the reserves, as the attack progressed, suffering nearly as severely as the firing line. Similar reports from Russian sources are common. An American observer, Lieut. F. V. Greene, an intelligent young officer of engineers, sent abroad by our War Department to record his experiences, relates the following incident:
On one occasion General SkoubelofT " found the men lying down and receiving the fire of the enemy without replying to it. Asking an explanation, the men replied that it was of no use to fire, for their guns would not reach the position of the Turks— about 1,500 yards off", across a ravine. While he was talking, his chief of staff was very badly wounded in the shoulder. Skoubeloff immediately ordered up a company of the 23d regiment, which he had armed with the Peabody-Martini rifles captured from the Turks. They had hardly opened fire before the Turks ceased their fire and retired behind the crest of the ridge."
To the gun, therefore, not to the Turk, are to be credited the extraordinary results which have elevated into a most important factor in the calculation of military possibilities the long-range fire, once supposed to be merely the amusement of experts. True, the employment of high-angle fire— or fire with the gun pointed midway between the zenith and the horizon—was one secret of the effect; but even where the Russians employed an equal elevation, they were un
able, with the inferior Krenk rifle with which the majority of their troops were then armed, to secure a range anywhere approaching that of the Turks.
One of the most notable demonstrations of the Turkish battle-fields was the marked superiority of American arms and ammunition. The gun, of whose deadly long-range fire such reports are given, was the product of a workshop in Rhode Island, that of the Providence Tool Company; the cartridges, to which so much of its effect was due, were made in Connecticut,—at Bridgeport, by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, and at New Haven by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Official investigation and private experience had, before this, satisfied experts of the superiority of our American manufactures of small arms; here the lesson was enforced by a most notable example in the view of all the world. Previous to the development of our arms manufactures, during our War of Secession, military as well as sporting arms were largely imported to this country, Colt's revolvers being the only American arms sold abroad to any extent. Since 1867 the tide has set the other way, and not far from one hundred millions of dollars have come to this country in payment for military arms and ammunition, the product of American factories. ...
In 181 2 John H Hall invented a breechloader which was manufactured under the orders of our government and issued to troops for trial as early as 1816 or half a century before the needle gun made itself famous In his letters to the War Department Hall laid great stress upon his plan of making every similar part of my gun so much alike that it will suit every gun that if a thousand guns were taken apart and the limbs thrown promiscuously together in a heap they may be taken promiscuously from the heap and all will come right How far Hall went beyond Whitney in the application of this principle we do not stop to consider It has certainly been greatly developed on this side of the Atlantic This principle of interchangeability of parts was first applied to government service by Hall at Harper's Ferry in 1818 and it finally established itself as the rule of the government workshops The Mexican war showed how much was gained by a system which enabled an armorer to carry with him to the field duplicate parts with which to restore a disabled gun to service" 

for follow-on history see:

Sidney B. Brinckerhoff, Pierce Chamberlin
Military Affairs, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1968), pp. 20-30
Published by: Society for Military History
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