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Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

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  • #16
    Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

    I ran into this not too long ago, and decided to do my own bit of research into it as well. I went to the source material itself, the 1791 French Réglement concernant l'exercice et les manoeuvres de l'infanterie, as well as the Règlement sur l'exercice et les manoeuvres des régiments d'infanterie, de carabiniers et de chasseurs à pied. American manuals I looked at were both versions of Hardee's, Casey's, and Scott's. There is no doubt in my mind that the left oblique is to be over the left shoulder, as Silas has so masterfully pointed out in this thread. I also love how he has pointed out the footwork, as it is so important not only in authenticity, but in safety. His illustrations make it easier to explain the footwork to my company. Wonderful work.
    Captain Matthew Joe Mallory
    Co E, 35th Alabama Infantry Regiment
    Co E, 73rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry

    Comment


    • #17
      Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

      Originally posted by Matthew Joe Mallory View Post
      I ran into this not too long ago, and decided to do my own bit of research into it as well. I went to the source material itself, the 1791 French Réglement concernant l'exercice et les manoeuvres de l'infanterie, as well as the Règlement sur l'exercice et les manoeuvres des régiments d'infanterie, de carabiniers et de chasseurs à pied. American manuals I looked at were both versions of Hardee's, Casey's, and Scott's. There is no doubt in my mind that the left oblique is to be over the left shoulder, as Silas has so masterfully pointed out in this thread. I also love how he has pointed out the footwork, as it is so important not only in authenticity, but in safety. His illustrations make it easier to explain the footwork to my company. Wonderful work.
      Doing Napoleonic Reenactment as my primary impression I do not see any similarity for left oblique aiming in the French 1791 manual and for example, Caseys.

      Drawing of it is below. The lowest drawing shows the position of the rear rank men when oblique firing to the left.
      https://abload.de/img/download14osfb.png

      There is no real similarity. In the 1791 manual you do aim over the left shoulder of the front rank man, but the foot position is completely different to the one in the American manuals. I do not think that you can take the 1791 manual as reference/proof for the oblique firing being done over the left shoulder.

      Interestingly enough, Smyths manual from 1812, which is an almost identical copy of the 1791 manual, leaves out oblique firing all together.
      http://1812marines.org/wp-content/up...ith_plates.pdf
      - Nico Kamps

      Comment


      • #18
        Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

        Originally posted by Olafson View Post
        Doing Napoleonic Reenactment as my primary impression I do not see any similarity for left oblique aiming in the French 1791 manual and for example, Caseys.

        Drawing of it is below. The lowest drawing shows the position of the rear rank men when oblique firing to the left.
        https://abload.de/img/download14osfb.png

        There is no real similarity. In the 1791 manual you do aim over the left shoulder of the front rank man, but the foot position is completely different to the one in the American manuals. I do not think that you can take the 1791 manual as reference/proof for the oblique firing being done over the left shoulder.

        Interestingly enough, Smyths manual from 1812, which is an almost identical copy of the 1791 manual, leaves out oblique firing all together.
        http://1812marines.org/wp-content/up...ith_plates.pdf
        Thank you for the images, and your knowledge of Napoleonic tactics. My comment on the left oblique was not necessarily on footwork, which you have shown is indeed different (the American manuals did have some deviation from the French). My point was merely that the left shoulder was indeed used in the left oblique. My only comment regarding footwork was to show an appreciation for Silas' images of which he posted, and how useful it is in ensuring safety.
        Captain Matthew Joe Mallory
        Co E, 35th Alabama Infantry Regiment
        Co E, 73rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

          I relied upon the foot movements from the Napoleonic manuals as an indicator that feet are positioned in relation to the target, not in relation to which shoulder or interval to place the musket. None of the American manuals, other than the 1820 Tactics, show how feet should be placed.

          And more is the pity. A period illustration from any of the post 1820 manuals would eliminate the guess work.

          The manuals from Gilham, Hardee and Casey only say that the right "about eight inches towards the right heel of the man next on the right of his file leader." That's the only instruction. That distance is not very far.

          Many read that line to mean eight inches FROM the right heel of the man next on the right of his file leader. Moving the right foot that far would make it easier to fire through the right interval. Unfortunately, the text says TOWARDS the right heel. Here's how that looks.

          Imagine your feet are in the inverted T of the ready position. My focus is on the the right foot. Either disregard in your mind that left foot, or just move it to the left to get it out of the way. From the inverted T position, pivot that right foot on the heel 45 degrees to the left. This aims the toes toward the front rank man on the right.

          Since the length of the foot is approximately twelve inches, look for them all of your right foot. That's going to be about eight inches from your heel. Move your heel to that spot where the ball of your right foot just was. You've successfully advanced your right foot eight inches toward the right heel of the front rank man to the right.

          That spot where you placed your right heel would be opposite your left instep.

          So, go back to the inverted T position. This time, leave the left foot pointed to the front. Look at your left heel and imagine where the ball of your right foot would rest if you pivoted your right foot 45 degrees as explained in the last paragraph. Now, move it to that spot by going around your stationary left foot. Viola! Your feet are now placed as shown in my illustration for left oblique.

          When I do this, I place my right heel in the necessary spot then pivot the foot 45 degrees. Either way will get you there.
          Silas Tackitt,
          one of the moderators.

          Click here for a link to forum rules - or don't at your own peril.

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

            Back in 2002, Jeff Blakely, writing for The Watchdog, reached the same conclusion. The attached article is from Vol. 10, No. 2, Summer 2002.
            Firing by the Left Oblique.pdf
            Eric Paape
            Because the world needs
            one more aging reenactor

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

              Originally posted by Silas View Post
              I relied upon the foot movements from the Napoleonic manuals as an indicator that feet are positioned in relation to the target, not in relation to which shoulder or interval to place the musket. None of the American manuals, other than the 1820 Tactics, show how feet should be placed.

              And more is the pity. A period illustration from any of the post 1820 manuals would eliminate the guess work.

              The manuals from Gilham, Hardee and Casey only say that the right "about eight inches towards the right heel of the man next on the right of his file leader." That's the only instruction. That distance is not very far.

              Many read that line to mean eight inches FROM the right heel of the man next on the right of his file leader. Moving the right foot that far would make it easier to fire through the right interval. Unfortunately, the text says TOWARDS the right heel. Here's how that looks.

              Imagine your feet are in the inverted T of the ready position. My focus is on the the right foot. Either disregard in your mind that left foot, or just move it to the left to get it out of the way. From the inverted T position, pivot that right foot on the heel 45 degrees to the left. This aims the toes toward the front rank man on the right.

              Since the length of the foot is approximately twelve inches, look for them all of your right foot. That's going to be about eight inches from your heel. Move your heel to that spot where the ball of your right foot just was. You've successfully advanced your right foot eight inches toward the right heel of the front rank man to the right.

              That spot where you placed your right heel would be opposite your left instep.

              So, go back to the inverted T position. This time, leave the left foot pointed to the front. Look at your left heel and imagine where the ball of your right foot would rest if you pivoted your right foot 45 degrees as explained in the last paragraph. Now, move it to that spot by going around your stationary left foot. Viola! Your feet are now placed as shown in my illustration for left oblique.

              When I do this, I place my right heel in the necessary spot then pivot the foot 45 degrees. Either way will get you there.
              It makes sense to me, placing the right foot 8inches TOWARDS the right man simply means that you will tilt your body 45 degrees to the left, making it a lot easier to fire over the left shoulder. My only problem with this is, that it does not bring you much closer to the front rank man, which might bring the muzzle dangerously close to the front rank. I guess this won't be a huge problem with a 3 band rifle, but with a 2 band rifle I can imagine it being to close?
              I am not sure, I have not tested oblique firing this way yet, but you did. What would be your conclusion regarding 2 banded rifles? I am assuming that 3 banded rifles are totally fine.

              Originally posted by Matthew Joe Mallory View Post
              Thank you for the images, and your knowledge of Napoleonic tactics. My comment on the left oblique was not necessarily on footwork, which you have shown is indeed different (the American manuals did have some deviation from the French). My point was merely that the left shoulder was indeed used in the left oblique. My only comment regarding footwork was to show an appreciation for Silas' images of which he posted, and how useful it is in ensuring safety.
              Fair enough. I don't really understand why the footwork changed in the american manuals, but I still do believe that they fired of the left shoulder, it simply makes sense.
              - Nico Kamps

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                Sorry for double posting, but just after I posted my previous post (Which is currently under review by moderators, so I can not edit it :/) I realized a problem with the oblique firing over the left shoulder.

                The command to oblique fire to the left is given between ready and aim, the rear rank man will have his rifle in between the front rank man in front of him and the front rank man to his right. If he now wants to aim over the left shoulder, he would have to lift the gun all the way over the head of the front rank man. This makes no sense. It works like fine in Scotts and the 1791 manual because their ready position has the gun upright, but for Casey it makes it needlessly complicated.
                I am sorry if you have already addressed this somewhere and I have somehow missed it.

                Maybe it is easier to do than I think, I have not actually tried this out with anyone yet, but just thinking about it, it seems to be a quite big problem? I can not imagine that they had to lift the gun over the head of the front rank man.

                (If there is a moderator reading this, can you please merge this post with my previous one? I am very sorry for the trouble)
                - Nico Kamps

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                  Originally posted by Olafson View Post
                  Doing Napoleonic Reenactment as my primary impression I do not see any similarity for left oblique aiming in the French 1791 manual and for example, Caseys.

                  Drawing of it is below. The lowest drawing shows the position of the rear rank men when oblique firing to the left.
                  https://abload.de/img/download14osfb.png

                  There is no real similarity. In the 1791 manual you do aim over the left shoulder of the front rank man, but the foot position is completely different to the one in the American manuals. I do not think that you can take the 1791 manual as reference/proof for the oblique firing being done over the left shoulder.

                  Interestingly enough, Smyths manual from 1812, which is an almost identical copy of the 1791 manual, leaves out oblique firing all together.
                  http://1812marines.org/wp-content/up...ith_plates.pdf
                  Good point -- the 1791 manual shows that if you wish to fire over the left shoulder the footwork should be analogous to that firing in the right oblique, which is toward the interval you're firing over, rather than away. And if you follow Casey's the foot position on left oblique is *towards the right foot of the man on the right of the file leader, not towards the front as in Mr. Tackitt's diagram. Either way there would be a problem with the acute angle of the weapon aimed to the left, as well as the troublesome issue of going from the Ready with the musket already in the right interval to the aim on the left without either moving the weapon to the old, vertical Ready position, or through the head of the file leader.

                  These questions and more were also discussed several years ago on a related forum, without so decided a conclusion in favor of Mr. Tackitt's proposed reinterpretation of the manual: http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/sh...t=left+oblique

                  [Added later] For an example of what I mean, in Upton's Tactics, oblique firing to the left indeed occurs over the left shoulder of the file leader, but the instructions specifically deal with the objections I mention. The rear rank men move their left, not right, feet, and they first bring their weapons to a vertical position. After firing they are similarly told to carry the muzzle over the head of their file leader to Recover. Those instructions occur in Casey's or, so far as I know, any other tactical manual used during the war.

                  "289. Should the command be left oblique, both ranks will cast their eyes to the left; the rear-rank men will at the same time raise their pieces to a vertical position. At the command aim, the front rank will aim to the left, without deranging the feet; each rear rank man will advance the left foot about eight inches toward the right foot of the man next on the left of his file-leader, at the same time bringing down his piece, and aiming to the left of his file-leader, the upper part of the body inclining forward, the left knee slightly bent.

                  "290. In recovering arms from the left oblique, each rear-rank man, at the command arms, will carry the muzzle of his piece over the head of his file-leader and take the position of ready."

                  You can read it for yourself here, on p. 44: https://books.google.com/books?id=PQ...page&q&f=false

                  Having read some of Casey's writings other than his Tactics, I find it impossible to believe that he would not have added those explicit instructions to effect firing over the left shoulder of the front rank man, if he intended that to be the case.
                  Last edited by Pvt Schnapps; 07-07-2018, 01:23 PM.
                  Michael A. Schaffner

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                    Originally posted by Pvt Schnapps View Post
                    Good point -- the 1791 manual shows that if you wish to fire over the left shoulder the footwork should be analogous to that firing in the right oblique, which is toward the interval you're firing over, rather than away. And if you follow Casey's the foot position on left oblique is *towards the right foot of the man on the right of the file leader, not towards the front as in Mr. Tackitt's diagram. Either way there would be a problem with the acute angle of the weapon aimed to the left, as well as the troublesome issue of going from the Ready with the musket already in the right interval to the aim on the left without either moving the weapon to the old, vertical Ready position, or through the head of the file leader.

                    These questions and more were also discussed several years ago on a related forum, without so decided a conclusion in favor of Mr. Tackitt's proposed reinterpretation of the manual: http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/sh...t=left+oblique
                    Casey's foot position does tilt the body 45 degree to the left, which would help with aiming through the left interval, but the fact that you would have to raise the gun to a vertical position (So basicially 1st movement of "Ready") seems counter intuitive. Either the oblique command has to be given before ordering ready or you have raise the gun vertically.
                    I am not really sure which way it is to be done, aiming over the left interval, like you said makes sense if you look at other manuals, and overall it is more logical, but it would require to either give the order at another time or to raise the gun. Now, maybe it is extremely easy and fast to raise the piece to vertical position (I have no one to try this with at home) and aim through the left interval, but I can not imagine it to be as efficient as just bringing it into the hollow of the shoulder, like you would do when aiming over the right interval.
                    - Nico Kamps

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                      Originally posted by Michael Cupcake Schaffner

                      Having read some of Casey's writings other than his Tactics, I find it impossible to believe that he would not have added those explicit instructions to effect firing over the left shoulder of the front rank man, if he intended that to be the case.
                      Nothing provides me greater confidence in the correctness of my conclusions about left oblique firing than your complete disagreement thereto. Thanks.
                      Silas Tackitt,
                      one of the moderators.

                      Click here for a link to forum rules - or don't at your own peril.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                        Originally posted by Pvt Schnapps View Post

                        Casey's writings.
                        Casey did not write the text in School of the soldier and school of the company. He reused the text from Hardee's translation. (Just like Gilham did)
                        I find it pretty clear that his main focus was on volume III, the one about the brigade and larger formations.

                        Since the 1855 drill book was not copyrighted anyone could use the text for their own drill books... and a number of people did.
                        Thomas Aagaard

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                        • #27
                          Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                          Originally posted by Silas View Post
                          Nothing provides me greater confidence in the correctness of my conclusions about left oblique firing than your complete disagreement thereto. Thanks.
                          Another perfectly good keyboard, ruined ;)
                          Soli Deo Gloria
                          Doug Cooper

                          "The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner

                          Please support the CWT at www.civilwar.org

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                          • #28
                            Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                            Originally posted by Silas View Post
                            Nothing provides me greater confidence in the correctness of my conclusions about left oblique firing than your complete disagreement thereto. Thanks.
                            That's a shame, Mark, as an actual historian would rely on the text under discussion rather than personal pique.
                            Michael A. Schaffner

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                              Originally posted by thomas aagaard View Post
                              Casey did not write the text in School of the soldier and school of the company. He reused the text from Hardee's translation. (Just like Gilham did)
                              I find it pretty clear that his main focus was on volume III, the one about the brigade and larger formations.

                              Since the 1855 drill book was not copyrighted anyone could use the text for their own drill books... and a number of people did.
                              Casey had at least an opportunity to edit it when he used his Tactics (and the earlier 1861 Tactics) as the basis for the 1863 USCT infantry manual. In the event, though, he pretty much limited the changes to altering the method of stacking (to the "swing"), eliminating the formation of the battalion in parallel division columns, and throwing out more than half the variations on forming square.
                              Michael A. Schaffner

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: Debunked: Left Oblique Aiming Over Right Shoulders

                                It seems to be indeed firing over the left shoulder. More clarification from the United Service Journal, Volume I, Number 13, Saturday, October 13, 1850:

                                Fire to the left.

                                283. At the command ready, the three ranks will execute what has been prescribed for the fire direct.

                                284. At the cautionary command left oblique, the three ranks will throw back the left shoulder, and look steadily at the object on which they ought to fire; in this position the men of the centre and rear ranks will be ready to take aim in the interval to the left of the men in front, and in an oblique direction.

                                285. At the command aim, the front rank will take aim to the left without inclining the knee or stirring the feet. The centre rank men will take aim through the intervals to the left of their file leaders, without stirring the feet. The rear rank men will advance the left foot about six inches toward the right heel of the centre men of their files; they will advance also the upper part of the body in bending a little the left knee, and take aim through the intervals to the left of their file leaders.

                                256. At the command load, the three ranks will come to the priming position, the pieces still obliquely to the left, and prime; the rear rank will bring back the left heel to the hollow of the right foot. In casting about, the three ranks will take the same position as in the fire direct.

                                Remarks on the Oblique Firings.

                                287. Throw back a shoulder in taking aim;
                                In order to be able to direct the sight more or less obliquely, according to the position of the object aimed at.

                                288 The Instructer [sic] will render this principle practically intelligible to recruits by placing a man in front, more or less to the light (or left), to represent such object, when they will fully understand the joinery or mechanism of the oblique firings.

                                289. Advance of tlhe left foot and upper part of the body in the rear rank;
                                To avoid accidents, because, without this precaution, the pieces of the rear rank would not sufficiently project along beyond the front in the oblique firings.

                                290. In firing obliquely to the left, to draw back the piece and prime in the oblique position;
                                Because, if the direct position were resumed, it would be necessary, in drawing back the piece to the priming position, to pass it over the head of the man directly in front.

                                https://books.google.com/books?id=ha...page&q&f=false
                                Jason R. Wickersty
                                http://www.newblazingstarpress.com

                                Received. “How now about the fifth and sixth guns?”
                                Sent. “The sixth gun is the bully boy.”
                                Received. “Can you give it any directions to make it more bully?”
                                Sent. “Last shot was little to the right.”
                                Received. “Fearfully hot here. Several men sunstruck. Bullets whiz like fun. Have ceased firing for awhile, the guns are so hot."

                                - O.R.s, Series 1, Volume 26, Part 1, pg 86.

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