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To all the Napoleonic enthusiasts out there,
Do you know if the order arms position was strictly for the parade ground, or was it also seen on the battlefield, mainly for troops waiting their turn to go into the battle?
Firstly, in relation to 'ordered arms' on the battlefield, there is an excellent account of the 'experience' of a French infantryman advancing towards a British line left to us by the French General Beaugard (who fought in the Peninsular), quoted in several books including Chandler et al 'On the Napoleonic Wars'; 1994 pp138-9). The account is too long to quote in full here, but it describes the contrast between a noisy French column advancing from about 1,000 yards towards a solid, silent British infantry line. It seems that for about 80% of the time the waiting British are under 'ordered arms' in fact until the French column comes within effective musket range, only shouldering arms, then presenting and firing volleys when the column is less than 200 yards away.
Extracts from the Beaugard account:
".....(at 1000 yards) The English remained quite silent with ordered arms, and from their steadiness appeared to be a long red wall..(The French advance further, noisily)...The English line remained silent and immoveable, with ordered arms, even when we were only 300 yards distant...(at about 200 yards)...the English wall shouldered arms....[and, with the distance narrowing, open fire]."
Different armies might specify a different 'approved' stance for their soldiers waiting to go into battle, but it is clear that a balance between looking soldierly, and being able to hold a heavy musket in position for a considerable time if needs be, would dictate things. Ordered arms allows this, as opposed to, say, presented arms (more of a parade ground stance) which entails having to hold the musket in a position in front of you: For presented arms look at the film 'Waterloo', both the opening scene at Fontainbleau when Napoleons bids 'farewell' to his Old Guard; and later in the film when Wellington is 'announced' by De Lancey and rides along the front of the 27th Foot.
There is then, of course, the 'stance' of soldiers behind the front line and waiting to go into battle.... sometime (but not soon). There are many accounts of British troops 'lying down', avoiding richochetting artillery shot, in the Napoleonic Wars. 'Lying' in this case clearly does not involve lying in a prescribed drill-stance, and for a better view of what such soldiers might look like it's worth having a look at the classic Russian/Soviet film version of 'War and Peace; and the reserve Russian infantry unit shown during the battle of Borodino sitting around, mending bits of kit, examining feet, polishing musket locks etc as the fateful shell lands and blows up.....
Napoleonic infantry sets 'at rest'....?:upside_down_face:
French Infantry Noisily at Advance?
Russian Infantry Nonchalantly at Rest?
British Infantry Ducking for their Lives?
But seriously, very good info, thank you Minuteman!
French Infantry in March attack or advance definately!! Noisily or not!!
I dont know about ducking but another type of set for Napoleonic Infantry could be "in retreat"/"falling back"?
A 50-50 split in a box, of troops retreating in good order and some in blind panic.
Bylandts Dutch/Belgian brigade at Waterloo is one such item that could be depicted this way. Some sources say they fell back in good order, some say they broke and ran. Probably a mix of the two I imagine.
As far as I know, yes troops could be at order arms on a battlefield, as in reserve maybe.
That is a good account Minuteman and a fine example of good tactics. As the French approach they can see what is going to happen, and as they get closer the tension builds - it's like an approaching wave of B-52 bombers or Mongol cavalry coming across a plain - you know what's going to happen and you know it's not going to be pleasant.
However at a more basic level and in response to the original question about the order arms position - "if the order arms position was strictly for the parade ground, or was it also seen on the battlefield, mainly for troops waiting their turn to go into the battle?"
The short answer is that there is no seperation between Drill and battlefield, there is just the drill system.
Drill movements have several functions - as above they can be tactical, but more importantly a drill system is about training a soldier how to do something, (learning the routine so that when it's all going pear-shaped around body memory will kick in and take over) It is also a language enabling a commander to convey to his men what he wants them to do, for example to come from the attention position (I'm sorry I speak 17th century drill, my napoleonic drill is very patchy) to the present (or 'shoulder' as Beaugard suggested, though that is another different position altogether) - the commands wuld be "Attention" > "Order" > "Present!" > "Aim!" > "Fire!"
The Order position is a crucial posture. It's a place that the drills depend on when you're doing things, you have to go to Order to do other things, but as in Minuteman's example, it's somewhere with uses of its own. For example having marched in column at the Shoulder, the troops would go into Order to march in close order. (A good officer would have them go to "At Ease" when they arrived in place if there was time) Coming to the Order after loading and before firing is a 'safe' position, hands are away from triggers and locks and both are protected by the left arm and body (though you wouldn't want to stay like that too long - just long enough for the French to get close enough). After firing you'd recover your guys to the Order to make sure no one (who may still be loaded) is going to pop one off.
Sorry about the diatribe. Drill done properly is a beautiful thing and there is much much more to it than many people think.
I agree with Steve's point. Drill and ceremony (D&C) looks great on a parade ground but its original purpose was to move masses of troops from "Point A" to "Point B" in an orderly fashion in an era predating modern communication. Once in position, drill was vital (as Steve said) to provide mass and directed fire in the musket era when the accuracy of the weapons was limited and range short.
Parade ground drill rose out of these necessities. Most of the movements modern armies perform today hearken back to those earlier days when they were effective tactics - except rifle teams tossing their rifles around. That's showing off. :wink:
A side story I hope will amuse: Our Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in my high school was in its first year when I joined it. Because I was an upper classman I was made a squad leader. Part of my duty was to teach my squad D&C. I was given an FM 22-5 (Field Manual for D&C at the time) and told to go at it. I literally learned D&C by teaching it.
Later on in the 1980s I was in the 82nd Airborne Division I was designated the NCO in Charge (NCOIC) of our periodic D&C Classes one afternoon in garrison. The guys were griping (of course) about what nonsense and a waste of time it was so I decided to give them a break for a few minutes (without them knowing it) by halting them and putting them at rest in place while I explained to them the origins of D&C hailing back to the movements and formations of Ancient Greece and Rome and the bugle calls and drum beats and how we still used marching today. I reminded them of our Annual Division Review where the 16,0000 paratroopers of the Division paraded on Memorial Day weekend each year and asked them what a nightmare that would be if we all weren't trained how to march.
When we resumed training the griping was much less. Maybe they were afraid of another lecture?
Flash forward over 30 years and a bunch of us old paratroopers have reconnected on social media. One of the guys asked me what I did after my medical retirement from the Army. I told him I went into teaching history.
He said it figures and reminded me of that afternoon back at Bragg. I had almost completely forgotten it. Then he said, "Imagine wasting your time trying to teach us lunkheads history."
My reply, "But you still remember it after all these years, don't you?"
"You got a point."
So I knew my Napoleonic drill was patchy. I have been confusing drill postures.
The position that I thought was called Order in Wellington's time was actually Present - with the musket butt held in the palm of the left hand and the musket vertical between the left arm and the left side of the body.
In actual fact Order is the same as I know it in the 17thC, the butt of the musket rests on the floor beside the right foot, with the right hand gripping the muzzle end of the stock.
Sorry about my confusion. Any other comments about the importance or the functions of drill, and whether there is a difference between parade ground and battlefield still apply.
"....you know what's going to happen and you know it's not going to be pleasant. "
Reminds me of an impending visit from the in-laws! :sweat_smile:
Order Arms goes back to the 18th century (when the command was "order your - FIRELOCKS", and before that. From the 'order' position, the command to 'rest' 'at ease' or 'parade rest' given as required.
The command "present - ARMS!" was used because as well as the firelock or musket, there was the bayonet and also edged weapons such as swords and the half pikes carried by Serjeants and officers.
Presenting arms was done as a salute - the weapon held out so that it could be taken and inspected by the commander, should he choose to do so; with the advent of shorter breech loading weapons, the 'inspection' was changed to a port arms (rifle held diagonally across the body) stance and present arms retained for salutes.
Every musket drill I have worked with has the soldier return his musket to the shoulder once loaded, both for safety and as a visual signal that he has loaded.
Thank you for all the additional information gents. The Steelers order arms figures are lovely, and it’s good to know there’s a further use for them beyond parade ground or camp scenes.
Very cool story Wayne. Not to hijack my own thread, but I was actually watching a WW2 movie the other day with American paratroopers who had both the 101st Airborne spade on their helmet and the 82nd Airborne shoulder patch and thought to myself, any paratrooper from either division wouldn’t like that!