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 Kirk's Cavalry Instructions

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Kirk's Cavalry Instructions Vide
PostSubject: Kirk's Cavalry Instructions   Kirk's Cavalry Instructions I_icon_minitime27.05.15 11:49

Kirk's Cavalry Drill

General Terms and Definitions

In order to understand the maneuvers described in this manual it is essential to understand the terms and definitions utilized in the cavalry as listed below:

A troop is composed of ranks and files
A rank is a line of men arranged side by side.  The men are normally designated as numbers ones, twos, threes and fours.
A file is two men, one behind the other.  Both men would be designated with the same number.
The file leader is a man of the front rank of a troop, relatively to the one who is behind him in the rear rank
The file-closer is an officer or sergeant posted behind the rear rank.
The front is the direction perpendicular to the alignment of a troop and before it, either in column or in line.
The Flank is the right or left side of a column or line.
The Interval is the vacant space between two troops, or between the fractions of a troop in line.  It refers more particularly to the space which the    squadrons of a regiment in line should preserve between each other.
This interval is 12 paces, (12 yards) measured from the knees of the sergeant (not counted in the rank) of the left of a squadron, to the knees of the sergeant on the right of the squadron which follows in order of battle.

distance schematic 1

Distance is the vacant space from one troop to another in column, or between the ranks of a troop, either in line or in column
The distance between the open ranks, when mounted is 6 yards, measured from the croups of the horses of the front rank to the heads of the horses of the rear rank; on foot, this distance is 6 paces.
When the ranks are closed, the distance , if mounted is 2 feet, measured from the croups of the horses of the front rank to the heads of the horses of the rear rank; on foot, it is 1 foot, measured from the breast of a man in the rear rank to the back of his file-leader.

distance schematic 2

The Depth of a column of platoons is equal to the front which the troop occupied in line; it is measured form the head of the horse of the officer commanding the first platoon, to the croups of the horses of the file-closers of the last platoon
To estimate the front of a troop, and the depth of a column, it is necessary to know that a horse, when mounted, occupies in breadth one-third of his length; this breadth is a little less than a yard.  To avoid fractions, and arrive at the same result by a more simple calculation, having regard also to the room which the men must always preserve in the ranks, it is supposed to be 1 yard.  The length of a horse being 3 yards, the two ranks occupy 6 yards, with a distance of 2 feet between the ranks; a space which is necessary to prevent them from interfering on the march.

A Platoon is composed normally of 12 files
A Division is composed of 2 platoons
A Squadron is composed of 2 divisions or 4 platoons

It would be advisable to call the unit a squadron, instead of company, in order to distinguish it from the infantry unit in reports, returns, and orders, without the necessity of circumlocution. 

distance schematic 3

A Regiment in order of battle (or line) is composed of its squadrons disposed on the same line, with their interval.
The regiment is in natural order when the squadrons are placed in the order of their numbers from right to left.
A Column is the disposition of a troop which has broken, and of which the fractions are placed one behind the other.
There are three kinds of columns: column in route, column with distance, and close column
Column in route is formed of men by twos or by fours.
Column with distance is formed of platoons, having between them the distance necessary to form in line in every way.  This column may also be formed of divisions; but the proportion of a platoon front is the most advantageous for all movements.
Close column is formed of squadrons with a distance of 12 yards from one to another, the object of this disposition is to give the least possible depth to the column.
General guides are the two sergeants who, in the formation of a regiment, mark the points where the right and the left are to rest.
They are selected in the first and last squadrons, and are under the orders of the adjutant and sergeant-major, for the tracing of lines.
Guide of the column is the man on one of the flanks of the front rank of a column; he is charged with the direction of the march
The guide is always left when the right is in front.  In the oblique march, the guide is on the side toward which the march is made; and when the original direction is resumed after having obliqued, the guide is where it was before having obliqued.
Wheel is a circular movement executed by a troop, returning to the point of departure - 360 degrees.
When a troop makes a wheel, it turns upon one of its flanks; each of the men composing it moves in a circle, larger in proportion to the distance from the central point.
About face, or wheel, is the half of a wheel - 180 degrees
Right, or left face, or wheel, is the fourth of a wheel - 90 degrees
Right half, or left half face, or wheel, is the eighth of a wheel - 45 degrees
Right quarter, or left quarter face, or wheel, is the sixteenth of a wheel 
The Pivot is the front-rank man of the flank on which the wheel is made.  There are two kinds: the fixed pivot, and the movable pivot.
The arc of a circle for the pivot with a rank of two, of four, of eight , or of a platoon making a right or left wheel is 5 yards; for a division it is 10 yards; and for a squadron it is 20 yards.
Paces.  There are three kinds: the walk, the trot, and the gallop.  A horse passes over about 100 yards per minute at a walk, 240 at a trot, and 300 at a gallop.
The Charge is a direct, quick, and impetuous march, the object of which is to reach the enemy.
Skirmishers (or flankers) are men dispersed in front, in the rear, or on the flanks of a troop, to cover its movements or its position.

Commands.  There are three kinds:
The command of caution, which is attention.  It is the signal to preserve immobility, and to give attention
The preparatory command.  It indicates the movement which is to executed.  It is at this point the horses are gathered.
The command of execution, which is MARCH, or HALT.
The tone of command should be animated, distinct, and of a loudness proportioned to the troop which is commanded.
The command of attention is pronounced at the top of the voice dwelling on the last syllable.
The commands of execution are pronounce in a firmer tone than the preparatory commands.  They are prolonged, because the movement which is to follow them being communicated from the man to the horse, all jerking or abruptness is thereby avoided.
The commands of caution, and the preparatory commands, are distinguished by italics; those of execution, by CAPITALS.
Those preparatory command which, from their length, are difficult to be pronounced at once, must be divided into two or three parts, with an ascending progression in the tone of command, but always in such a manner that the one of execution may be more energetic and elevated.  (The divisions are indicated by a dash ----) The parts of command which are placed in a parenthesis are not pronounced.
The command Form, as in “Form fours” means to increase the breadth of the column.  The command By, as in “By twos” means to reduce, or break, the breadth of the column.

Each officer and non-commissioned officer of a squadron has a specific post which he must maintain in order to maintain cohesion in the squadron. (See illustration above)


Posts of the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers of a Squadron in Line

The Captain commanding is posted at the centre of the squadron, the croup of his horse is one pace in front of the heads of the horses of the front rank.
The Second Captain is three paces in rear of the centre of the squadron.  He is charged with the alignment of the rear rank and file closers.
The senior First Lieutenant is posted in the centre of the first platoon, the other First Lieutenant commands the fourth platoon.
The senior Second Lieutenant commands the Second Platoon, and the other Second Lieutenant commands the third platoon.
Each of these officers is posted at the centre of his platoon, with the croup of his horse one pace in front of the heads of the horses of the front rank.
The senior Sergeant is posted behind the third file from the right of the first platoon; he is the principal guide when the column of squadrons is left in front.
The second Sergeant is behind the third file form the left of the fourth platoon; he is the principal guide when the column of squadrons is right in front.
The third Sergeant is posted on the right of the front rank of the squadron; he is not counted in the rank
The fourth Sergeant on the left of the front rank; he is not counted in the rank.
The fifth Sergeant on the left of the first platoon
The sixth Sergeant on the right of the second platoon
The seventh Sergeant on the right of the third platoon
The eighth Sergeant on the right of the fourth platoon.
The heads of the horses of all the file closers are at one pace from the croup of those in the rear rank.

Post of Officer of a Squadron in Order of Column

The Captain commanding marches on the side of the guides, and four paces from the flank, and abreast of the centre of the squadron
The Second Captain marches on the side opposite to the guides, four paces from the flan, and abreast of the centre of the squadron.
Thesenior First Lieutenant of the squadron marches at the head of the first platoon, one pace in advance of the first files, having the particular guide of the right on his right.
The chiefs of the other platoons march on the side of the guides, one pace from the flank of the column, and abreast of their first files; the file-closers march on the side opposite to the guides, one pace from the flank, and on a line with the centre of their platoons.
They all march in a similar manner on the flanks of the column when the left is in front; and, in this case, it is the junior First Lieutenant who marches in the column at the head of the fourth platoon of the squadron.

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Basis of Instruction

The Basis of Instruction includes the positions of the officers and men of the squadron: in Line, in Column of Twos and Fours, in Column of Platoons, in Column of Sections and in Column of Divisions.  It is essential that all officers and men learn these formations because a majority of the maneuvers of the Platoon and Squadron originate from them.  

There are far too many drills to illustrate all of major movements.  This manual will illustrate a few of the more common drills to be taught to the cavalry recruits.  

Counting Fours

In each rank - Count FOURS”The troopers count off from right to left, in a loud clear voice: “one, two, three, four, one, two....”



“PREPARE TO MOUNT”The numbers one and three in each rank lead their mounts forward one horse length.  Once they are in place, everyone moves to the left side of their horse and puts their left foot inthe stirrup.  Wait for the command to mount.

“MOUNT”Pull yourself into the saddle, place the right foot in the stirrup, and lower the carbine to the right side (suspended from the carbine sling) while keeping the horse still.

Form - RANKS”The numbers twos and fours gently ride forward and dress to the right.  Once each rank is formed, the rear rank moves up to form at closed order )two feet behind the front rank)



“PREPARE TO DISMOUNT”The numbers ones and threes of the front rank move forward six paces.  The numbers twos and fours of the rear rank rein back four paces.  All pass the carbine over the right shoulder, and remove the right foot from a stirrup.  Wait for the command to dismount.

All dismount on the left side of the horse and hold the reins in the right hand, six inches from the bit.

Form - RANKS”The numbers ones and threes remain in place.  The numbers twos and fours of each rank walk forward and dress to the right.  This will leave the formation in open order with one horse length between ranks.  Stand at attention on the left side of the horse, holding the reins in the right hand, six inches from the bit.  Left hand over the sabre.  If not carrying weapons, the left hand hangs by the side.


File Off

By the right (or By the left) - FILE OFF”Hook up the sabre and wait for the command to move

“MARCH”The trooper at the right (or left) of each rank leads his horse 4 paces forward and then turns in the direction ordered.  Once the first trooper in each rank begins his turn, he is followed successively by the next trooper from the right (or left).  Each trooper takes 4 steps forward before turning.  Do not pivot in place.  The file will bunch up behind you.

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Dressing the Formation

Right (or left) - DRESS”All troopers turn their heads tot he right (or left) without turning the shoulders and align themselves by lining up their shoulders with the rider on the right (or left).  The troopers on the far right (or left) of each rank do not turn their heads.  The troopers in the rear rank should be exactly behind the rider to their front, 2 feet from head to croup.  Keep the head turned to the side.

“FRONT”All turn the head to the front.


Break Platoon by Twos or Fours (From either the halt or marching) - from the right

By twos (or fours)”
Gather the horse and wait for the command to move.  In elevating a little the wrists, and closing the legs, the trooper “gathers the horse;” in elevating again the wrists, he slackens the pace; in repeating this movement of the wrists he stops the horse, or “reins back.”  The trooper should elevate the wrists without curving them, at the same time drawing them slightly towards the body.

The first set of twos (or fours) on the right move straight to the front.  As the haunches of the horse from the rear rank reach the head of the front rank, the next set of twos (or fours) move 6 paces forward straight ahead, the obliques (right quarter face-22.5 degrees) to the right.  When each set of twos or fours reach their place in line, they oblique back to the left to line up behind the column.  Each set of twos (or fours) is followed successively by the next set of twos (or fours) of troopers in line.  Each set of twos (or fours) moves at least six paces forward before obliquing.

Guide left
This command is called immediately after the MARCH All guide off the trooper on the left front of the new formation.

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Turning the Column

Head of column to the right
This preparatory command is only given if the commander is not at the head of the column.  When the formation is in a column, the commanding officer is placed in the middle of the column, on the left flank.  If the column is long, he may note able to effectively call the commands to turn these at the head of the column.  In this case the commander has an assistant (a junior officer, or NCO) riding at the head of the column.  When the commanding officer wishes to turn the column, he calls to his assistant: “Head of column to the right.”  The assistant then give the commands “Right - TURN” and “FORWARD” since these command need to be called by someone close enough to the head of the column to see what is going on.

Right - TURN”
The first rank of twos or fours turns to the right on a moveable pivot.  The trooper on the inside of the turn remains at his original speed, all other troopers speed up as required to stay in line during the turn.  The inside trooper does not immediately pivot his horse in place, he makes a small gradual turn of 5 paces to turn 90 degrees.  All continue to turn until FORWARD is called.  Each following set of twos or fours continue straight forward until they reach the point on the ground where the head of the column turned, then they turn on a moveable pivot to follow.  There is no MARCH command - The command of execution is TURN.

The troopers at the head of the column stop turning and begin to march straight ahead.  All other troopers follow the head of the column, turning when they reach the point on the ground where the head of the column turned.  The commander needs to be sure to call FORWARD at the correct time in order to stop the turn when the head of the column is going in the desired direction.

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Front into line

Front into line
Gather the horse and get ready to change formation

The first file, (set of twos/fours) continues straight ahead, All others immediately oblique to the left.  Each file (set of twos/fours) continues the oblique until they pass the file (set of twos/fours) in front of them, then they successively oblique back to the right and continue in the original direction.

HALT is called when the first file (set of twos/fours) has marched forward 20 paces.  Only the first file (set of twos/fours) halts.  All others keep moving until they are in their place on the line.

Right - DRESS”
The commander calls DRESS immediately after calling HALT.  The troopers do not dress until they are in place on the line.  Troopers keep their heads turned to the right until FRONT is called.

All turn their heads to the front.  (FRONT is not called until all troopers are on line and the formation is dressed.)

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Left into Line

Left into line
Gather the horse and get ready to change formation

The first file (set of twos/fours) immediately turns on a moveable pivot 90 degrees to the left and keeps moving.  All others continue to march straight ahead until they reach a position just short of where the troopers in front of them turned , then they successively turn to the left.

HALT is called when the first file (set of twos/fours) has marched 20 paces after turning.  One the first file halts.  All others keep moving until they are in their place on line.

Right - DRESS”The commander calls DRESS immediately after calling HALT.  The troopers do not dress until they are in place on the line.  Troopers keep their heads turned to the right until FRONT is called.

All turn their heads to the front.  (FRONT is not called until all troopers are on line and the formation is dressed.)

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The School of the Squadron is quite extensive and beyond the scope of this manual to illustrate each maneuver.  The following is an example for the orders pertaining to the movement to Form a line facing to the rear, on the rear of the column.

The squadron being in column with distance, right in front is to form a line facing to the rear.  The first captain commands:

Platoons left-about wheel.             
Front into line            
Guide left               

At the second command, each platoon executes its wheel to the left-about.

At the fourth command, the chief of the fourth platoon, which becomes the head of the column, when its wheel is nearly completed, commands:    FORWARD     Guide left;
and when it has marched thirty paces      HALT    Left - DRESS

The chiefs of the other platoons, on completing three fourths of their wheel, command:     FORWARD      Guide left   and direct themselves towards the place they are to occupy i line, conforming in other respects to what is prescribed for front into line, when the column has its left in front

The first captain commands front into line, in sufficient time to command  MARCH, and guide left, when the platoons have completed three-fourthsof their wheel.

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Of the outposts in general

The outposts are detachments upon whom is imposed the duty of securing the other troops against sudden attacks.
They are independent of, and in addition to, the camp and quarter guards, whose duty it is to watch over the interior order and police of the camp.
Light cavalry are employed on outpost duty wherever the ground permits them to act; in cases of absolute necessity, the outposts consist of infantry.

The outposts consist of :
1. A chain of double vedettes.
2. Pickets, which are the immediate supports of the vedettes.
3. Main guards, placed as supports in rear of the pickets.

If the outposts are pushed very far to the front, or if the nature of the ground is such as to render their retreat difficult, parties, called reserves of the outposts, are placed between the outposts and the troops guarded, to serve as a reserve and support for the former.

The outposts should enclose all the places and observe all the roads by which the enemy can approach the camp guarded.

The chain of outposts is placed in front of the general position of the troops, so as to intersect all the roads leading toward the enemy.  It forms a curved line, falling back on the flanks.

The outposts should be pushed so far to the front that, while in no danger of being cut off, they may give timely notice to enable the troops guarded to prepare to receive the enemy.

For this purpose the chain of mounted vedettes is usually placed at not more than three miles in front of the camp; the pickets not more than three-fourths of a mile in rear of the vedettes; the main guards at about the same distance behind the pickets.

The interval between the pairs of vedettes composing the chain should be such that in the daytime they can see each other, and at night hear every thing that happens between them.

The object of the pickets and main guards being merely to receive the chain, they are composed of small numbers of men.  Therefore, a picket consists of about a platoon, and a main guard of about a company.

The commander-in-chief determines approximately the general direction and extent of the chain; in conformity therewith, there are detailed the number of men necessary to guard the space designated.  The subordinate commanders carry out the details as follows:

A field officer, or captain, commanding two companies, conducts them to the place where the main guard is to be posted; leaving one company there, he takes the other to form the pickets and vedettes, and accompanies on of the platoons himself, to superintend the proper posting of the vedettes.  Separating gradually, - one moving to the right, the other to the left. – two platoons to continue to move on until the interval between them is about three-fourths of a mile, and their distance from the main guard about the same; they then halt.  The commander of each platoon, having cut off 6 men for patrols and carrying reports, divides the rest of his platoon into 3 reliefs.

He then conducts the first relief to the chain. The non-commissioned officer takes designated to post the vedettes accompanies  the relief; if there is but one officer with the platoon, the senior non-commissioned officer takes command of the picket until the return of the officer.

The commander of the picket having conducted the first relief to one flank of the line he is to occupy, posts the vedettes so that they may be in full communication with the vedettes of the neighboring pickets. The captain of the company which furnishes the pickets will command the more important of the two pickets.

Supposing each platoon to consist of 30 men, the main guard will consist of 60; each picket, deducting the six men for patrols, of 24 men: each picket will thus furnish 4 pairs of vedettes, the two together 8 pairs; supposing the intervals between the pairs of vedettes to be from 300 to 500 paces, the line occupied will be from 2,400 to 4,000 yards.  In this manner two companies, each 60 strong, will furnish a main guard and two pickets, which may watch a space of about 2 miles.  

Duties of the vedettes of the advanced chain

In each pair of vedettes, on is designated as the chief vedette.  Both remain mounted; the one in front has his carbine advanced, or pistol drawn; the vedette in rear is permitted to sling his carbine.

For the purpose of challenging all who approach the chain, the vedettes are furnished with the countersign; they are to remember it and keep it secret.

They must be always vigilant and cautious; therefore, everything which may in the least distract their attention is strictly forbidden, such as talking, smoking, whistling, singing, etc.; even horses that are much in the habit of neighing are not placed in the chain.

They must keep in view all the space between them, so that individuals may not cross clandestinely.

Therefore, one man in each pair should in turn, look and listen carefully, lest any thing occur in the direction of the enemy or of the next pairs;  the other man places himself some paces behind the first, to relieve the tension of sight and hearing.
During the day, in open country, they merely look towards the neighboring pairs; in a rough, obstructed country, at night or in a fog, when it is impossible to see the next pairs, one man, in his turn, carrying his weapons as prescribed for the front vedette, must  constantly ride along the chain to the next pair, or until meeting one of its members.  When they give each other predetermined signals, (such as tapping the carbine, or some such noise,) being careful, however, that the signals employed are of such a nature as not to attract the attention of the enemy.

Upon observing any thing whatever in the direction of the enemy, as, for example, extraordinary movements, dust, noise, kindling of extinguishing fires, changes in his outposts, sends in the other to inform the commander of the picket, remaining himself on the spot to continue watching what attracted his attention.

Unless they have special orders to the contrary, the vedettes permit no one to cross the chain towards the enemy, except officers’ detachments and patrols personally known to them.  If they observe any one attempting to steal over, they detain him until the arrival of the relief or patrol, and then send him to the commander of the pickets.

If any person, not personally known to the vedettes, approaches along the chain, the front vedette halts him 50 paces from the post, by stating, in a low tone, `Halt! Who comes there?”  If the reply is satisfactory, and the orders are to pass persons with the countersign, his ten states, “Advance, and give the countersign!” or, if it is a party that has approached, he directs one person to advance and give the countersign, not allowing him to approach nearer than ten paces for the purpose.  If the party challenged does not reply, and persists in attempting to pass the chain, the front vedette cocks his piece, goes to meet him, aiming at him, halts close to him, and twice repeats the challenge, “Halt, who comes there?”  If the person does not reply to the third challenge, the vedette shoots him.

It is to understood that vedettes fire only upon persons who are armed, or resist; with regard to others who approach the chain without the countersign, they are merely stopped, and the vedette awaits the arrival of the relief or patrol, to whom he turns him over as a prisoner, to be taken to the commander of the picket.

If the vedettes discover the approach of the enemy, they at onece inform the commander of the picket; but if he appears suddenly in front of the chain, they give the alarm by firing.  They should fire only when he approaches resolutely: to fire without necessity, and without being satisfied that it really the enemy, would be merely to create useless alarm.

Upon hearing a shot, the other vedettes redouble their vigilance and attention, exerting themselves to discover what is going on where the shot was fired, but not leaving their posts with receiving a signal or special orders to do so, unless driven in, when they will rally on the picket.

Duties of the commanders of the pickets

With every picket there must be an officer and a trumpeter.

The officer detailed for duty with a picket should have the parole, watchword, and countersign for the day.

Upon reaching his post, he communicates the countersign to all the men; he gives the watchword only to the non-commissioned officers who are to be sent out with patrols and reliefs.  

Having conducted his platoon to the position it is to occupy, he acts as directed earlier, and posts the first relief in person.  The non-commissioned officer who is to post the next relief rides with him; if there is no other officer present, the senior non-commissioned officer remaining with the picket sees that all the men remain mounted and fully ready to move, until the return of the commander.

When posting each vedette, the commander of the picket gives them their instructions where to stand, and to what their attention should be chiefly directed; he points out the direction in which they are to retreat in case of necessity, and designates the number of each post.  He designates the most reliable and experienced man of each pair of vedettes as chief vedette.  

If the chain, or a portion of it, is placed in advance of a stream, ravine, wide ditch, or other obstacle, the commander of the picket must see that the passages across are in good condition, so that in case of attack the vedettes can easily rally on the picket, and the latter have free communication with its vedettes.

Having posted the first relief of vedettes, the commander returns to his picket, and places it in the best position; that is to say, one convenient for receiving and supporting the vedettes, not visible from the side of the enemy, and which the latter cannot pass around; it is selected in preference on a road leading towards the enemy, and especially at cross-roads.

After this the commander orders the men to dismount; during the day, one-half of the men at a time may be allowed to unbit and feed their horses.  In the night; all the horses ought to be bitted, and one-half the men in perfect readiness to mount.  One-half of the men vay be allowed to sleep in the daytime.  Under certain circumstances it  may be necessary to deep the whole or a part of the picket mounted during the night.

Having arranged the vedettes and picket, the commander reports his dispositions, as well as every thing he has observed to the commander of the main guard, unless the latter was present at the time.

The pickets should always be vigilant, careful, quiet, and ready to move.  The arms ought to be loaded, the men fully accoutred, all the horses saddled, and the whole picket in an effective condition; the horses are sent to water in parties of two or three at a time, under charge of a non-commissioned officer, and take everything with them.  The horses should not be hobbled or picketed.  The use of firs is forbidden, without special permission.  The men change their dress, from the uniform to the overcoat, and the reverse, one at a time.  

When relief is sent out, which is normally done every two hours, but oftener in bad weather, severe cold, or after great fatigue, the whole picket mounts, and so remains until the return of the relief.

It being easy for the enemy to approach the chain during the night, in order to make a sudden attack at daybreak, the whole picket should be mounted some time before dawn.

If  a report arrives from the chain of any thing important in the direction of the enemy, or of his appearance, the commander of the picket verifies it in person, and informs the neighoring pickets; in the men time the picket mounts.

If it appears that the enemy, in small force, merely alarms the outposts, the vedettes commence firing, the pickets advance, and either endeavor to overthrow the enemy’s detachment of to keep him in check until the arrival of the main guard or the reserve of the outposts.

If it is ascertained that the enemy attacks vigorously in force, and has already approached so near the chain that the vedettes are in danger of being cut off, the commander of the picket gives them the signal to retreat, and, using them as a chain of skirmishers, he begins, if it is necessary, his retreat upon the main guard, again reporting the state of affairs to the commander of the latter, and the nearest pickets.  While retreating, he should endeavor to delay the enemy as long as possible, also to observe, as well as he can, his force, kind of troops, and direction, taking care, however, not to be cut off.

Duties of the commander of the main guard

The main guard is commanded by a field officer or captain; there must always be a trumpeter with him.

He communicates to the commanders of the pickets the parole, watchword, and countersign.

Having reached the position designated for the main guard, its commander details and sends forward the platoons that are to supply the pickets and vedettes.  Having turned over the command of the main guard to the next in rank of those remaining with it, he goes himself to the advanced chain, to superintend the posting of the pickets and vedettes; he gives all the parties their instructions, how they are to act upon the appearance of the enemy, and how in case of retreat; he carefully examines the ground.  The main guard remains mounted until the vedettes and pickets are posted.

In the disposition of the vedettes and pickets, the commander of the main guard should look to the connection of the whole chain and the pickets under his charge, and particularly to the facility of communication with the neighboring main guards.

Having returned to the main guard, its commander arranges it as follows: the guard dismounts; during the day one-half, by turns, unbit and feed their horses, holding them by the reins; the rest of the men remain with their horses, in perfect readiness, some 20 to 50 paces in front of those who are feeding.  During the night all the horses must be bitted, and one-half the men perfectly ready to mount.

Upon receiving from the pickets news of the approach of the enemy, or on hearing firing at the chain, the commander of the main guard at once sends an officer, or a sergeant, with two men, to ascertain what is taking place, and reports to the commander of the outposts.  That part of the main guard whose horses are bitted mount and ride to the front to receive or support the retreating pickets in case of necessity; in the mean time the other portion prepare, and if the firing continues, join the advanced party.

If the commander of the main guard is satisfied that the enemy attacks really and decidedly, he reports again to the commander of the outposts, and acts according to the preceding instructions; that is, he either endeavors to resist the enemy and holds his ground, or keeps up the firing and retards his advance, or simply falls back upon the reserves.

The commander of each main guard should constantly keep up his connection with his pickets and the nearest main guards by patrols; if the enemy advance, he must regulate his movements in conformity with those of the other main guards, so that, being as nearly as possible on the same line, they may be in a condition to render mutual assistance.

If the same two companies remain upon outpost duty for several days, the pickets are usually relieved every 24 hours.  It is best to relieve them in the morning, that the new pickets may be able to see the country.  If the two companies are detailed especially if they have been alarmed and have not had time to unbit their horses.  Such reliefs should be effected one or two hours before sunset, to give the new reliefs time enough to become acquainted with the ground.
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Kirk's Cavalry Instructions

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