18th Century Living History

Posts Tagged ‘18th century drill’

Charge Bayonets!

In Research on October 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Way back in February we wrote a series of posts about the drill carried out by the 18th century army. One post we never published related to the position of ‘charge bayonets’. As with much of the British armies drill during the seven years war, the position of charge bayonets probably changed.

A painting by David Morier depicting the Highlander charge against Grenadiers of Barrell's Regiment at Culloden in 1746. Morier reputedly used Barrell's (as well as captured highlanders) as models for this painting. It also depicts the charge bayonet position.

Our main sources for drill are the 1757 platoon exercise ordered by the Duke of Cumberland and the famous drill treatise of the period by Humphrey Bland. Each describes the charge bayonets position in similar fashion described and shown below.

A sketch by Lt. Baillie of a Grenadier showing the charge bayonets position as described by Bland and Cumberland around 1753.

“23d, Charge your bayonet. 1. Step forward about eighteen inches with the left foot, bending the left knee, and at the same time seizing the butt with the right hand, (placing the plate full in the palm of that hand) bring down the muzzle so as the firelock may rest upon the left arm, almost level, and as hight as your breast, the left elbow turned out towards the front, the fingers and thumb towards the lock.” (Cumberland: 1757: 11).

The position remains essentially unchanged from the position shown in Morier’s painting 11 years previous. In this instance the charge bayonets is essentially a defensive position and proves difficult to carry out offensive bayonet charges. This was something noted by William Wyndham in his ‘Plan for the Discipline for the Militia of Nofolk’ in 1760. The method of charging bayonets which he described as ‘pressing the piece against the top of your hip’ (14). And pictured in the manual as such:

The Charge Bayonets as described in William Wyndhams Treatise.

Wyndham explains that the above position makes a “a man is firm against shock, and in guard; having the command of his body, feet, and firelocks, to use as he shall see occasion, or opportunity, to defend himself, or annoy his enemy, or advance upon him, if he should give way” (1760:15). This as Wyndham indicates is the same method as used by Britain’s ally the Prussians, although he was fairly confident he had come upon this method by his own accord stating “Our manner of charging bayonets seems to be the same with which the Prussian use in action: so far as we can judge, from the obscure and unintelligible description, given of it in the regulations for the Prussian Infantry, printed in 1757 pag. 35” (1760:15).

In 1764 a new manual was issued replacing the 1757 manual. With this new manual came a new method of charging bayonets for the army which would be similar to that described by William Wyndham.

“#32- Charge Bayonets! (3 Motions)
1st. As in Explanation one.
2nd. Bring the Swell of the Firelock down strong upon the Palm of the Hand, turning upon both Heels to the Right, the right Hand grasping the Piece at the Small behind the Lock, and as high as the Waist-Belt; The Firelock upon a level with the Barrel upwards.”

In many cases official manuals of the Army simply standardised drill and practice all ready occurring in the regiments, certainly Wyndham had seen two regular units drill during the process of writing his treatise and several Prussian military practices had already been adopted during the course of the war. If the 1764 was simply standardising practice already happening, to what extent had this method been adopted by British regiments and at what date?


Election of 1761 Living History

In Events on April 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm

We’re returning to Ryedale on the 14th/15th May this year to re-enact the electric atmosphere of the 1761 election. The 1761 election is an interesting one as it was the first election following the accession of George III to the throne!

The poster for our event at Ryedale!

Although during the actual election very little changed, the aftermath would be incredibly interesting. The new kings distaste for Pitt the Elder and the Whig control of government would lead to Tory’s increasing importance at court and the end of Whig Rule. The end of 1761 would see Pitt retire from political life (for the moment) and the Kings favourite, Lord Bute, a Scotsman take a promiment role in government. Bute would eventually become defacto prime-minister in 1762.

This would be the last time any monarch would be able to use their power to chose the leader of the government. This itself would cause controversary around the freedom of government and Whigs declared George III to be an autocrat.The Kings and Butes policy of an end to intervention in Germany and peace with France would be in direct conflict with those of Pitt and divided opinion in the war weary nation.

So it was in the 1762 an unelected Scotsman would end up in charge of the government of the U.K. and deal with the goal of removing British intervention in foreign wars. Sounds familiar doesn’t it!?

Ryedale Photo Gallery

In General News on March 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

As promised a gallery of images from our training session at Ryedale Folk Museum has now been added to the 68th Society Website. You can look at the images here.

Morier painting from the Royal Collection showing full marching order.

We’ll be returning to Ryedale in May for a 18th century hustings. Information about the event and background history will be added over the next month or so. If you are interested in visiting the event or joining Lambton’s please contact me!

The Manual Exercise

In drill, ryedale folk museum on February 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

In the run up to our Drill Session at Ryedale Folk Museum, we have decided to add a couple of articles about the nature of drill in the 18th century. Following on from where we left off last time, our recruits tells us he was ‘soon dismissed from the school of walking, and was put to learn the use of the firelock to face the monsieurs’.

As discussed in our previous post we draw of drill from three sources the 1759 Treatise by Humphrey Bland, Cumberland’s Exercise of Foot 1757 and the Platoon Exercise 1757.

The Manual Exercise is the exercise each soldier was expected to learn to enable him to move a firelock effectively. The First 26 consist of the positions each soldier would be expected to learn including the Shoulder, Rest, Poise etc. Each movement was governed by either the beat of the drum or a count of 1,2.

It was only during the manual exercise that the ranks and files were to be opened. The distance between ranks being ‘6 feet or 3 paces distant and 1 pace or 2 feet distant in file spacing’ allowing the man to carry out the exercise unhindered.

The 2nd part of the exercise was that of the Platoon Exercise, this exercise was perhaps the most important for in learning the platoon exercise recruits would learn to load and fire the firelock. Each movement again is to be carried out with a 1,2 timing. The quick and correct loading of the firelock being of utmost importantce in the heat of battle. It not being unheard of new recruits to load muskets repeatedly without firing a round only for the weapon to explode.

Bland even highlight the importance of the Platoon Exercise

This dexterity of carrying out these movements becomes clearer when consdiering the manual also states that in firing the files are to be drawn shoulder to shoulder and the ranks are to be one pace distant.