Ltd (UK)


Major William Gilham's Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia has been used by the ACWS Confederate's since the late 1980's. Gilham was Instructor of Tactics, and Commandant of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, and published his manual in 1861. It was intended to expand on the existing manuals used by the regular army, and provide more explanation and clarification for the Volunteers and Militia, which the Regular Army took for granted. However, it was probably only used by militia and units originating from the VMI and Virginia State. It is a documented fact that many Confederate units, including the First Tennessee, used Hardee's Drill Manual from 1861-1865.

So why do we continue to use Gilham's Manual in the ACWS? It was adopted following a re-enacting trip to the States where our host unit used this drill and the position of Shoulder Arms on the left was viewed as more natural and comfortable than on the right. Also the Hardee's Drill Manual we had at the time just did not work for 3-band rifle-muskets. So we have kept Gilham's Drill Manual mostly for the sake of convenience, custom, and familiarity. Gilham's has many sections, which are effectively identical to other drill manuals of the period. There are, however, two Manuals of Arms, one for the short 2-band Rifle and one for the long 3-band rifle-musket. It has always been assumed that we should be using the Manual for the rifle-musket, but there is no documentary evidence for which one to use. When we look at Hardee's Manuals of 1855-1861, we will see that his drill was solely for the short 2-band Rifle and had to be modified in 1861 for the more common 3-bander.

Now for the history lesson. By the early 1850s, weapons technology had advanced enormously. Whereas the Mexican War of 1846-48 had been fought mostly with flintlock smoothbore muskets, the Crimean War saw large-scale use of percussion rifle-muskets. Usage of rifle-muskets goes back to the late 18th Century, but this was limited to specialised Rifle units. The introduction of the Model 1841 "Mississippi" rifle in the Mexican War, and the mass production manufacturing techniques available in the 1850's, led the United States to adopt a 33-inch barrel rifle in 1855 (a 40-inch barrel rifle-musket was adopted concurrently).

To accompany this new rifle, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis wanted a revised system of infantry tactics. The current system had been written by Winfield Scott in the 1830s, based on French tactics dating ultimately from the 18th century, and had survived virtually unchanged. Scott's tactics emphasised masses of men concentrated on the march and on the battlefield, to reap the greatest benefit from their relatively inaccurate firepower. By the 1850s, these movements were slow and outdated. However, masses of troops moving at common time found themselves at a severe disadvantage under rifle fire. Revisions were necessary to bring U.S. infantry tactics in line with the new long-range rifle. For this he chose Brevet Lt. Col. William Joseph Hardee, Second Dragoons. Hardee drew extensively on his knowledge of the French military and their 1841 drill manual, as well as his own experiences on the Texas Frontier (1849-41) and the Mexican War, to accomplish his task. His brief was to thoroughly modernise the U.S. infantry into a faster, lighter force, capable of taking advantage of the new rifle. Hardee's Tactics was finished in 1854; it was tested, approved, then published in June 1855. This new manual thoroughly modernised the U.S. infantry into a faster, lighter force, capable of taking advantage of the new rifle, where quick time (110 steps per minute) was the norm, and double quick time (165 steps per minute) was common.

Everyone seemed to assume the M1855 rifle would become the dominant infantry arm in late 1850's and beyond, and the manual of arms in Hardee's "Tactics" was naturally written for the 2-band rifle with sword bayonet. However, the rifle never was issued in the numbers envisioned. The militia, and indeed most of the army, were left with 42-inch barrel muskets or 40-inch barrel rifle-muskets, both having socket bayonets. Not only was Hardee's "Tactics" difficult for militia units trying to learn the new evolutions, his manual of arms proved awkward, and even sometimes impractical for the longer muskets (e.g. in fixing bayonets and stacking arms).

Consequently, "improved" manual of arms, based on Hardee's "Tactics," but suited to the 3-bander musket and rifle-musket, began to emerge. This included Ellsworth's Zouave Manual, the Kentucky State Guard Manual, as well as Gilham's. The latter included an extra Arms Manual for the longer rifle-musket, which was actually very similar to Scott's manual of the 1830's.

When the American Civil War broke out, it was only natural that the Confederates would adopt Hardee's manual. He was after all well known and was now a Confederate Officer. Many editions were printed without Hardee's approval, as he failed to obtain copyright until 1864, which was too late for him to profit from its success. Most of these other editions were simple copies of his 1855 edition and did not include the revisions he had felt necessary to make to incorporate the more common and longer rifle-musket.

Hardee was commissioned as a Confederate Colonel, and posted to Fort Morgan, in Mobile, Alabama. It was here in the spring of 1861 that Hardee produced an edition of his "Tactics" that included a revised manual of arms for the 3-band weapons commonly found in the Confederate army. It was published by S. H. Goetzel & Co. and advertised as Hardee's Correct, Complete, Perfect, and Revised and Improved Infantry and Rifle Tactics, suitable for all infantry, no matter how armed or organised. Hardee himself was quoted as calling this edition the "Only Complete, Correct And Revised Edition". Although the text was revised, the corresponding plates did not receive as much attention. The weapon was still shown as a 2-band rifle, with a socket bayonet substituted for the sword bayonet, and the positions of the piece were not changed significantly from the 1855 edition.

Hardee's revisions were actually fairly small and confined mostly to those parts of his 1855 manual of arms that had been written specifically for the 2-bander which were adjusted to suit the 3-bander. The main differences lie in the position of the musket during loading, fixing and unfixing the bayonet, and stacking arms. Each of these movements was revised to take into account the greater length of the musket and rifle-musket over the rifle, and the socket bayonet instead of the rifle's sword bayonet. He changed the first position of load and fix bayonet by placing the butt of the rifle-musket outside the left foot, lock to the soldier's left, barrel away from him, and inclined slightly away from his face and to the right - as in Scott's / Gilham's musket manual. Fixing bayonet was to be done with the right hand, as in Scott's / Gilham's musket manual - and unlike that awkward left handed sabre bayonet fix for the 1855 rifle. Also Hardee incorporated the so-called 'Kentucky swing' method of stacking arms. While this is first found in the 1861 Kentucky State Guard manual, there is evidence that it was used pre-war by Ellmer's US Cadet Zouave drill team and at West Point.

Hence, in practical terms, the only differences in Hardee's (as revised for the rifle-musket) and Gilham's compiled manual are: the position of shoulder arms; the 'cast about' in loading (Gilham's is 'load in 10 times' - Hardee 'load in 9 times'); and the method of stacking arms (Gilham's uses the 'musket stack', also used in Casey's - while Hardee incorporates the so-called 'Kentucky swing'). And since company and battalion evolutions are exactly the same, the above are the only practical differences one would have to consider in moving from one manual to the other.

Hardee's revisions were probably widely adopted, particularly in the western theatre, due to Hardee's early assignments. Following his posting in Mobile, he was promoted to General and sent to join the force that would become the nucleus of the future Army of Tennessee. Wherever he went, Hardee's fame as the author of the Army "Tactics" manual brought demand for his services as a drill instructor. It is unlikely that the manual of arms he taught did not contain his revisions for 3-banders. Hardee's revisions were also taught in the east. North Carolina published an edition, by order of the Governor, for the use of North Carolina troops. This edition was almost an exact copy of Goetzel's version, complete with all the revisions for 3-banders. Original copies of Goetzel's manual have also been identified as being used in the east.

In conclusion, it appears that the infantry drill manual of choice in the Confederate army was Hardee's "Tactics." In the almost total absence of period sources specifically naming other manuals, Hardee's was the most likely taught throughout the Southern military. It is probable that Hardee's own revisions were widespread, not only where he served in the western theatre, but also among eastern troops. Evidence points to this being the most common manual of arms throughout the Confederacy. Goetzel published more editions of Hardee's revised work than did any other publisher of any other Southern manual.

If custom and convenience are more important, then there can be a case made to keep Gilham's in the ACWS Confederates. It's a lot easier on the Shoulder-Arms position. However, if we wish to accurately portray the drill manual of the overwhelming majority of Confederate infantry, we should seriously consider changing to Hardee's "correct, complete, perfect, and revised and improved" manual of arms.

Above article from various sources including the Drill Manuals in questions, but also an invaluable article by Geoff Walden entitled Manual of Arms for Infantry - A Re-examination on the internet at and /manualarms_2.htm.

If you are interested in a Federal slant to this then the 2nd Wisconsin were using Scott's and Chandler Drill Manuals in 1861, before using the U.S. Infantry & Rifle Tactics. It will be noted that they used a drill manual similar to Gilham's!

by Mike Bussey, 1st Tennessee

The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, August 2002