The Finer Points of Skirmishing
By Don Gross

Part 1, Deployment

At Wilson's Creek the 1st US will portray Plummer's Battalion (ourselves) in Ray's Cornfield. For this scenario we will be operating as a single company and there is a good chance we will be the skirmish company. I think we will have at least 40 men there and we have a unique opportunity to actually perform skirmish as outlined in Casey's. In actuality the 1st would 
have been following Scott's but we won't stand on ceremony here. We've all done skirmish drill but, the typical Frontier Battalion company doesn't have the number of men, NCOs, nor officers to do it by the book. At Wilson's Creek we will!

For our purposes we will assume that the company strength is 40 rifles with a complete compliment of officers and NCOs. The company is divided into two platoons and each platoon is divided into two sections. The captain makes sure that the men know who is the center file of each platoon and section. When a company acts as skirmishers it will provide its own reserve, 
typically the first platoon will deploy and the second will act as the reserve. The reserve is placed 100 paces behind the center of the skirmishers. Their purpose is to fill vacant places, supply cartridges, relieve the fatigued, and serve as the rallying point. Figure 1 shows the basic company formation in line. Four sections of eight or twelve men; a captain, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Lieutenant (ovals); and five Sergeants (squares) all numbered appropriately.

Fig 1

The captain commands: 1. First platoon, as skirmishers; 2. On the left (right,center) file, take interval; 3. (Double quick), MARCH. At the first command, the 2nd and 3rd lieutenants place themselves behind the centers of their respective sections in the first platoon. (Figure 2) The 5th Sgt goes to the front center of the platoon and will move between the two sections as 
soon as movement begins. The 4th Sgt moves to the left flank of the platoon. 

Fig 2


The 1st Lieutenant moves to the center of the second platoon and commands: Second platoon backward, MARCH. The second platoon moves three paces to the rear to unmask the first platoon. When the 1st Lieutenant HALTS the platoon, the 2nd Sgt covers the left flank and the 3rd Sgt the right flank. (Figure 3)

Fig 3


While the second platoon is moving out of the way the Captain indicates to the 4th Sgt the point to direct his march. Since the deployment is made by the left file the guide is left. At the command MARCH, the left group of four, led by the 4th Sgt will move towards the point established by the Captain. The other groups move diagonally forward and to the right at the double quick. (Figure 4) 

Fig 4

Each group of four should end up 20 paces from the group on its left. As each group gets even with the left group they march to the front at the quick step.(Figure 5) 


Fig 5


When the left guide reaches the designated point the captain HALTS the line. The men deploy at five paces from each other. The front rank #2 man stands fast, the rear #2 moving five paces to his left. The front rank #1 moves ten paces to the right and the rear rank #1 fills the gap. From now on the men work in pairs, #1s together and #2s together. (Figure 6)


Fig 6


Once the line is established the left, right, and center NCOs place themselves 10 paces behind the line. After correcting any irregularities, the chiefs of sections move to 25-35 paces behind the centers of their sections. The captain should be 80 paces behind the center of the platoon. As the first platoon is deploying the 1st Lieutenant faces his platoon about and moves it to a point 150 paces behind the center of the line, maintaining this distance as the line advances or retreats.



Part 2, Deployment by the Flank

This part will cover deploying by the flank. For our purposes we will assume that the company strength is 40 rifles with a complete compliment of officers and NCOs. The company is divided into two platoons and each platoon is divided into two sections. The captain makes sure that the men know who is the center file of each platoon and section. When a company acts as skirmishers it normally provide its own reserve with one platoon deploying and the other will acting as the reserve. The reserve is placed 100 paces behind the center of the skirmishers. Their purpose is to fill vacant places, supplycartridges,relieve the fatigued, and serve as the rallying point. Figure 1 shows the basic company formation in line. Four sections of eight or twelve men; a captain, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Lieutenant (ovals); and five Sergeants (squares) all numbered appropriately.

Fig 1


The captain commands: 1. Second platoon -- as skirmishers; 2. By the right (left, right and left) flank -- take interval; 3. (Double quick), MARCH. At the first command, the 1st and 3rd lieutenants place themselves behind the centers of the first and second sections in the second platoon. (Figure 2) The 5th Sgt goes one pace in front of the center of the platoon. The 3rd Sgt moves to the right flank of the platoon and the captain indicates to him where to direct the march. 

Fig 2


The 2nd Lieutenant moves to the center of the first platoon and commands: First platoon backward, MARCH. The first platoon moves three paces to the rear to unmask the second platoon. When the 2nd Lieutenant HALTS the platoon, the 4th Sgt covers the left flank and the 1st Sgt remains on the right flank. (Figure 3)

Fig 3

At the command MARCH, the platoon faces to the right (without doubling) and marches guided by the 3rd Sgt.(Figure 4) The 1st and 3rd Lieutenants move to behind the left group of fours of their respective sections. The left group of fours stands fast. They will deploy as soon as there is enough room between them and the group of fours to their right. The second group halts at 20 paces, the third group at 20 additional paces, etc. As each group halts, they deploy facing the enemy. The 1st and 3rd Lieutenants stay with each successive group of fours to ensure they deploy at the proper place and to correct any irregularities.(Figure 5) 

Fig 4




Fig 5


Each group of four men deploys at five paces from each other. The front rank #2 man stands fast, the rear #2 moving five paces to his left. The front rank #1 moves ten paces to the right and the rear rank #1 fills the gap. From now on the men work in pairs, #1s together and #2s together. (Figure 6)


Fig 6

Once the line is established the left, right, and center NCOs place themselves 10 paces behind the line. After correcting any irregularities, the chiefs of sections move to 25-35 paces behind the centers of their sections. The captain should be 80 paces behind the center of the platoon. As the second platoon is deploying the 2nd Lieutenant faces his platoon about and moves it to a point 150 paces behind the center of the line, maintaining this distance as the line advances or retreats. (Figure 7)


Fig 7

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