Battle command terminology

Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
75
Location
Reno, Nevada
#1
Today I had the privilege of reading a witness's account of my gg-grandfather's detachment going into action during a retreat from Pilot Knob, Missouri, in September 1864. (How many of us get to SEE our ancestors fight?) It makes me very proud, but unfortunately, I can't understand the commands. Can anyone interpret "right dress" and "in nine times" in the passage below for me?

In the midst of all this confusion and alarm I heard the command,
“Fall in here, Fourteenth Iowa. D—n them, we can whip them ourselves!”
How encouraging it was to see that veteran captain, with his sword in his right hand and his hat in his left, forming his men steadily under the muzzles of the right wing of Battery H, and to hear him call out,
“Right dress! Front! Forward, march! Double-quick, march!”
Then forward they went, like Spartans of old; and when about one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards in front of the battery they halted, dressed, and we could distinctly hear the officer call out:
“Load! In nine times, load! Ready! Aim! Fire! Load! In nine times, load!” So simultaneous was their fire, that it sounded like the report of one gun, though as loud as a cannon. After about two hundred shots had been fired by Battery H, and probably twenty volleys by that brave little band of the Fourteenth Iowa, everything quieted down in the valley in front of us as if the enemy had seated themselves to take their after dinner smoke; and the guns limbered up and we went into column and jogged on into Leasburg without further trouble.
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

67th Tigers

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
3,426
#2
"Right dress" means form the line on the right hand guide. The men would turn their heads right and shuffle right to the correct interval (i.e. "touch of elbows". The following command "front" is for them to look forward.

"In nine times" is the number of proscribed drill movements in the load procedure. By spelling it out, the officer is telling his men not to skip ramming the ball, which soldiers frequently tended to do.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
75
Location
Reno, Nevada
#3
"Right dress" means form the line on the right hand guide. The men would turn their heads right and shuffle right to the correct interval (i.e. "touch of elbows". The following command "front" is for them to look forward.

"In nine times" is the number of proscribed drill movements in the load procedure. By spelling it out, the officer is telling his men not to skip ramming the ball, which soldiers frequently tended to do.
Thank you so much! That is exactly what I needed to know. I suspected something like that for the "nine times," but I didn't have a clue on dress. The Fourteenth had drilled constantly from June 1863 to January 1864 on garrison duty at Columbus, Kentucky, and had been fighting since then.
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Messages
114
#6
Did you find that account in a book? I'm pretty sure that I've read it before. Years ago, while I lived in Missouri, I was contracted by the MO Department of Natural Resources to research and write the text for an interpretive marker concerning the successful Federal retreat from Pilot Knob to Leasburg. The marker was to be erected in Leasburg, but I never got the chance to see it. The five-company battalion of the 14th Iowa (142 men) certainly was the backbone of the Union defense during the battle and retreat. The reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob, is held every three years at Fort Davidson State Historic Site on the actual battlefield. The Federal infantry reenactors always portray the 14th Iowa.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
368
#7
I will not engage in specifics, so as not to detracted from the story.......early in the war a prominent senior officer heard a junior officer command: "Load in 9 times". The older officer retorted: "9 times, hell. Load and fire as expeditiously as possible."
The junior officer issued the correct command, but in this instance, the senior officer wanted firing as fast as possible.
This was an excellent story about the 14th Iowa.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
3,640
Location
Denmark
#8
If the captain ordered "Load in nine times" the following list of the orders, should include all the needed orders to take the soldiers true every single step of the loading procedure. Handle cartridge, tear cartridge, charge cartridge... and so on...

The fact that an officer would give this order in the field tell us that that officer is ether:
An idiot who don't understand the drill book...
Or
He is in command of a unit where he don't trust the men to be able to correctly load their guns and want complete control... and was willing to accept a reduction in rate of fire... to achieve this.


The junior officer issued the correct command,
No he did not.
"Load in nine times" / "four times" / "load at will"
Are all orders you use when you are training men. In combat you just order "load" and the men will then load and (if you have just fired) end in the position of ready... saving both the movements of arms to the shoulder and the need for an order to go back to "ready".
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
368
#9
.



No he did not.
"Load in nine times" / "four times" / "load at will"
Are all orders you use when you are training men. In combat you just order "load" and the men will then load and (if you have just fired) end in the position of ready... saving both the movements of arms to the shoulder and the need for an order to go back to "ready".
You are correct. Of course, the incident was early in the war, and neither the men nor the officer were comfortable with acting on their own. I doubt such orders were given much longer in that unit. It was those men's first action.
 



Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top