Jeremiah Eames’s Rangers were in operation in 1776-1777 and this was before the Von Steuben manual was devised. Therefore, we are using the British 1764 manual that was commonly used by New England militia for training. The following are the sections used by Jeremiah Eames’s Rangers on a regular basis. These are primarily focused on musket positions used when formed with the rest of the Continental Line before and after battles. Since we don’t generally operate in ranks with volley fire in battle, we generally don’t need to know that. So, the following sections are drawn from the 1764 manual: marching positions, present, at ease in ranks, some firing commands. For those interested in the full manual, I have placed my interpretation on this website in the Eames’s Rangers section. In addition, the Safety Inspection used by all four unit interpretations is listed separately.
Manual of Arms
POSITION OF A SOLDIER UNDER ARMS: Shoulders square to the front, heels close together (but not touching) and toes pointing out slightly, the right hand straight down the side with the palm toward the thigh. The musket is carried on the left shoulder as low down as is comfortable, the butt supported against the thigh and the barrel almost perpendicular, the three last fingers under the butt and the thumb and fore finger before the heel (or top of the butt). The musket should be at half-cock and the frizzen closed over the pan.
Note: This is the position assumed when a soldier is commanded to assemble or fall-in. It is also the position of SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS. The manual also says the men should turn their heads to the right. This was done to keep the line dressed and prevent the men from gawking around. In fact, the head would be turned to the right during almost all the positions that follow. But I have found it is unrealistic to expect reenactors to do this, and that a certain amount of “gawking” is part of the enjoyment of the weekend. However, for ceremonial functions and demonstrations for the public, NCOs may want to enforce the turned head rule.
POISE YOUR FIRELOCKS ‑‑(Two motions)
First: Grab the musket at the wrist (the thin part of the stock behind the lock) with your right hand as you turn the musket so the lock is to the front, making sure the barrel remains perpendicular.
Second: With your right hand bring the musket up before your face, the lock at the height of the face (still faced to the front) and the barrel still perpendicular, at the same time bring up your left hand and seize the musket just above the lock.
Final Position: The body is still square to the front, the musket is close to the body (you should be able to just brush your nose with your left thumb), the barrel perpendicular and the left hand level with the eyes (A handy reference point is to look at the forward lock bolt). The little finger of the left hand should be resting on the frizzen spring. Be sure your elbows are not sticking out!
Note: This position is generally only used for the safety inspection of the lock before a battle, otherwise it is an important intermediate step for other positions.
[From Shoulder Your Firelocks]
SECURE YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Bring the right hand across the body and grab the musket at the wrist, but do not turn it.
Second: Release the left hand and grab the forestock just below the swell, your left forearm should be lying along the stock. In fact, you should simply bend your left arm, swinging the forearm upward.
Third: Release your right hand and swing the barrel downward by dropping your left forearm so that your left hand is at your waist. This motion should bring the butt behind your left shoulder and point the muzzle toward the ground (ideally, the ranks should be opened before doing this).
Final Position: Right arm at the right side, left arm slightly bent with the hand waist high supporting the musket which should be so positioned that the butt is elevated behind the left shoulder, the barrel is below the stock and the muzzle angled toward the ground.
Note: This command is mainly used to empty unfired charges from the barrel after a battle reenactment. If your musket did not discharge on the final volley, the unused powder will pour from the barrel. You should also reach across with your right hand and open the pan. Some people feel that if the individual paid for the powder, he should be able to blow it off, and so proceed to let those who have misfired keep trying until they succeed. However, this looks (and is) stupid and only detracts from the supposed discipline of the unit. A cease-fire is just that, a cease-fire, and unused charges should be dumped in an authentic manner (it looks just as ragged to have individuals dumping their powder, therefore the unit as a whole should go to the SECURE), leave the indiscriminate firing of unused charges to the militia. One final note, going to the SECURE to dump charges after a reenactment should wait until the barrels have cooled, otherwise the smell of burning flesh will waft above the ranks.
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Swing the musket around into the SHOULDER by bringing the left hand above the shoulder, at the same time bring the right hand across and grab the musket at the wrist.
Second: Release the left hand and grab the butt.
Third: Release the right and drop it to your side
Positions of Rest
REST YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: As in POISE, bring your right hand across and grab the musket at the wrist, turning the lock to the front.
Second: Bring the musket to POISE.
Third: Step back with the right foot slightly, so that the left heel is pointing toward the right instep. As you step back, quickly lower the musket over the left knee as far as your right hand will permit, turning the musket so the barrel is to the rear and perpendicular, the hands stay where they are.
Final Position: The right foot is to the rear about four inches (There is a tendency among reenactors to step back much too far in this motion. It is only a balance step, nothing more.), the musket is over the left leg (you should be able to see straight ahead with both eyes without the musket blocking the view) and the barrel is to the rear and perpendicular. The left hand is holding the forestock with the little finger resting on the frizzen spring and the right hand is on the wrist with the thumb behind and the fingers together and extended (the angle here precludes any attempt at actually grasping the wrist).
Note: It is one of the great mysteries of the eighteenth century why they ever called this position “rest” because it is surely one of the most uncomfortable positions in the whole manual. This position is also PRESENT YOUR ARMS, and can be a real killer when some officer or dignitary decides to make a speech and the commander forgets to release the troops from saluting.
ORDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Bring the musket across the body and into the right shoulder. Everything else should remain as is, hand positions, barrel, feet, and height of the musket.
Second: Release the right hand and grab the barrel so the thumb is extended along the barrel and laying on the bayonet lug. The right arm should not be raised, only bent at the elbow (which will bring the hand about level with the lower face), so in order to grab the area below the bayonet lug, the musket will have to be lowered with the left hand as you bring up the right.
Third: Simultaneously, release your left hand and drop it to your side, bring the right foot forward into position and lower the musket with the right hand so the butt is next to the right toe.
Final Position: The body is faced to the front, feet back in position, left hand hanging down the left side, the heel of the musket butt on the ground next to the right toe, the barrel to the rear, the right hand grasping the barrel with the thumb extended upward and the ball of the thumb resting on the bayonet lug (this provides a reference point so everyone’s hand is at the same level), and the muzzle pointed slightly away from the body.
Note: One of the great controversies among recreated units is whether the soldiers had to go through the actual command of REST before going to order. Unfortunately, there is no firm evidence to give a conclusive answer. In an edition of the Manual of 1764 printed in Philadelphia in 1776 they give this series of commands: UNFIX YOUR BAYONETS, SHOULDER, ORDER YOUR FIRELOCKS, EASE YOUR ARMS, CLAP HANDS. It should be noted that YOUR FIRELOCK was left off SHOULDER, and the command to REST was not given. However, the description of the movement for going to order simply says “As given in the manual,” and in the manual the men are brought to REST before going to ORDER. This would seem to leave two possibilities: the command to REST was given by the sergeants or subalterns, or the men went through the position of REST automatically without a distinct order. Either method is acceptable so I will leave it to individual units to decide which method to employ, at least until more information is uncovered.
EASE YOUR ARMS‑‑(one motion) Allow the musket barrel to fall back into your right shoulder as you release and drop your right hand. Your right arm should be fully extended with the right hand in front of the musket (fingers extended and together, back of the hand to the front).
CLAP HANDS‑‑(one motion) Bring both hands to your front, the right grasping the left so the right palm is over the back of the left. The musket will be cradled in the right shoulder. Some units perform this with some violence, producing a clapping noise as the right palm strikes the back of the left hand, thus justifying the term “clap”. I have found no evidence to confirm or deny this practice.
Note: This is the position of rest and relaxation. You are allowed to bend your knees, talk, take a drink from your canteen, smoke ’em if you got ’em, etc.. You are not allowed to leave your position in the line unless granted permission by an officer or NCO.
HANDLE YOUR ARMS‑‑(one motion) Bring your body to attention as you drop your left hand to your side and grab the musket with your right (the thumb on the bayonet lug) and assume the position of ORDER
REST YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Release your right hand and lower it to the swell, cradling the barrel between your thumb and forefinger, the other fingers together and extended.
Second: Raise the musket straight up with your right hand while you bring your left across to grab it just forward of the lock, the little finger of the left touching the frizzen spring. Ideally, the musket should be raised just high enough so the left forearm lays straight across the body.
Third: As you step back with your right foot slightly, release your right hand and place it below the trigger guard in the proper position of REST (the left hand will have brought the musket across the body into position over the left leg)
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(two motions)
First: As you bring your right foot forward into position, grab the wrist section with your right hand (having raised the musket with the left ever so slightly to enable you to do this) and swing the musket around, barrel to the front, and over into the left shoulder. At the same time, you will also release your left hand and place it under the butt in the proper position of SHOULDER.
Second: Release your right hand and drop it to your side.
ADVANCE YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(four motions)
First: As in POISE, grab the wrist with your right hand and turn the musket so the lock is to the front.
Second: Come to the POISE.
Third: Bring the musket down into your right side, turning it so the barrel is to the rear. As you do this, slip the thumb of the right hand above the bow on the trigger guard, the forefinger below, and the three other fingers under the cock on the other side. The left hand will only be used to guide the musket into place. It should not be actually gripping the musket during the final descent, only pressing the musket into the right shoulder with the fingers extended and together. In addition, when this motion is complete, the left forearm should be straight across the body, the hand approximately at the swell, and no lower. The musket will be held as low as the right arm will permit without forcing the situation.
Fourth: Drop your left hand to your side.
Note: This is one of the marching positions often employed, and the position assumed when you are under arms and walk near an officer. Also, corporals carry their muskets at ADVANCE when posting their men on sentry duty. If you have hands like a pro-basketball player, with nice long fingers, this position can be quite comfortable, but if you have short stubby fingers (like myself) then this position rapidly becomes a real pain in the digits as you strain to keep your fingers wrapped around that trigger guard.
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(four motions)
First: Bring your left forearm straight across your body and grab the musket just forward of the lock, the little finger touching the frizzen spring. In order to accomplish this you will have to raise the musket with your right hand as you bring the left across.
Second: Bring the musket up into the POISE.
Third: Turn and drop the musket into the left shoulder, barrel to the front, while you release your left hand and position it under the butt.
Fourth: Drop your right hand to your side.
Note: There is a tendency in this movement to reach down to the frizzen spring on the first motion, but properly done, the musket should be raised so the left arm can be placed straight across the body at approximately the waist. Another point concerning this and other similar movements is the movement of muskets when the free hand is dropped to the side. Usually the musket is placed too high when brought into the shoulder and has to be dropped into position as the free arm is released. The musket should not move once it is in its final position, you should take care that your left arm is fully extended when it receives the butt on the third motion, and NCOs should take the name of the man whose musket moves when his right hand is dropped to his side.
SUPPORT YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Grab the musket on the lower part of the wrist with the right hand, leaving enough room for the left arm to fit between the cock and your right hand.
Second: Release your left hand and bring you arm under the cock and across your chest so your left hand is on your right breast, the fingers together and extended.
Third: Release your right hand and drop it to your side.
Final Position: The musket should not have moved from the position of SHOULDER, it should still be almost perpendicular and at the same height, only instead of being supported at the butt it is supported by the cock (if you have neglected to have your musket at half cock you are now in a lot of trouble). The left hand is lying on the right breast with the palm down and fingers extended.
Note: This position and SHOULDER are the only ways that sentries may carry their muskets. When you are marching and go to SUPPORT, the right hand is kept on the wrist for further support. As soon as you halt, release the right hand, when you move again, bring it up to the wrist. There is no command for this, the soldiers should perform it automatically.
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(three motions)
First: Bring the right hand over and grab the musket at the wrist below the left arm.
Second: Bring your left hand under the butt.
Third: Drop your right hand to your side (again, no extra movement of the musket at this point).
Note: The command given in the manual to go back to SHOULDER from support is actually CARRY YOUR ARMS, either will do but reenactors seem to prefer SHOULDER.
SLOPE YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(one motion) Slide the musket butt up and to the left until the weight is balanced on the shoulder, the musket will be pointing to the right, the muzzle in line with the right shoulder. Be sure the muzzle is elevated enough to keep it out of the faces of the rear rank.
ERECT YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(two motions)
First: Slide the musket back down into the position of SHOULDER, bringing the right hand over to keep it pressed into the left shoulder.
Second: Drop your right hand to your side.
Note: An alternative command would be SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS, but reenactors seem to enjoy the command given.
TRAIL YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(two motions)
First: Bring your right hand across and grab the musket just below the swell.
Second: Bring the musket down to your right side, slanted so the butt is a few inches off the ground and the muzzle is about a foot and a half from your right shoulder. Be sure the muzzle is elevated enough to be away from the front rank man.
Note: Also called CARRY YOUR FIRELOCK IN YOUR RIGHT HAND (which is a real mouthful), this position is most frequently used when going under trees or over rough ground. If you are going over rough or slippery ground, it is best to remove bayonets before going to trail, or open the ranks more, so a stumble won’t create an accident. I would like to lay another issue to rest once and for all. Some reenactors have decided to invent commands to give them an easy way out of situations and one of these is “short trail”. This is used when units have to dress with other units but the men are at order. Rather then bring them to shoulder, some commanders have given the command “short trail” meaning, as I take it, to just lift the musket as is off the ground a little so you can move. However, there is no such command, and I would suggest unit commanders either wait until the line is fully dressed before having the men EASE their arms, or bring them to shoulder.
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(two motions)
First: Bring the musket over into the left shoulder, grabbing the butt with the left hand as you do so.
Second: Drop your right hand to your side.
PRESENT YOUR ARMS‑‑ Bring your musket to the position of REST YOUR FIRELOCKS. Yes, PRESENT YOUR ARMS is the same as REST the only difference being that there is someone or something that needs to be saluted, and you have your bayonet fixed.
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑
TAKE CARE TO DISPERSE, MARCH‑‑ The men do a RIGHT ABOUT FACE and walk off.
Loading and firing in Eames’s Rangers is usually done in extended order and the men working in firing teams. In the event we have to fire a volley, the following comes into play:
Rapid Fire Without Ramming
PRIME AND LOAD‑‑(Rather than individual motions, it is easier to think of PRIME AND LOAD as a series of steps or parts, the number of steps dependent on whether wadding will be used or not.)
First: Come immediately to the RECOVER; The position of RECOVER is one of the more difficult to master properly (not to mention describe!). Spring or throw the musket straight up with the left hand, twisting it as you do so the barrel is to the rear. Once the musket is moving, release your left hand from the butt and grab the musket just forward of the lock, your little finger should rest on the frizzen spring. At the same time bring your right hand across and grab the musket at the wrist. Properly done, both hands and musket should be moving at once, and when completed the musket will be positioned over the left shoulder, the barrel to the rear and perpendicular, the left hand at eye level, and the cock just touching the shoulder.
Second: Bring the musket down into the priming position (body faced a quarter turn to the right. left foot pointing to the front, right foot to the right, lock at right breast, muzzle pointing to the front and at the level of the hat, as described in the command FIRE above.)
Third: With the right thumb, open the pan by pushing the frizzen forward.
Fourth: Grab and tear open a cartridge
Fifth: Prime the pan, as in PRIME.
Sixth: Close the frizzen as in the first motion of SHUT YOUR PANS, then pause until the next command. Everything to this point should be done as quickly as possible.
Note: This point can get confusing but during the long loading you cast about automatically when you shut the pan, during the fast loading procedure you wait for an order before casting about.
‘BOUT‑‑ Cast about, pour the powder down the barrel, drop the empty cartridge paper on the ground, press the musket into the left shoulder with the right hand (the arm straight across the body, the fingers extended and against the barrel at the height of the large ramrod thimble)
Note: This will approximate the position taken at the end of RAM DOWN CARTRIDGE when the hand is extended across the rammer ready to push it in.
UP‑‑ Bring the musket up to the shoulder as you would if RETURN YOUR RAMMERS were given. That is actually the proper command at this point, but people get nervous when they hear rammers being mentioned during reenactments.
MAKE READY‑‑ (One motion) Spring the musket to the RECOVER, hook your right thumb over the cock and pull it to the full-cock position. Keep your finger off the trigger.
PRESENT‑‑ As described above.
FIRE‑‑ As described, pull the trigger and come to the priming position.
Before leaving the firing commands, there is one order that is not generally listed in manuals and not practiced by most reenactment units, yet, considering the concern with safety that we all have, this is very surprising. The command I am referring to is RECOVER. For the following instruction we will assume the soldiers are in two ranks with loaded muskets at the SHOULDER.
RECOVER‑‑ The men in the front rank drop the butt of the musket to the ground and remain kneeling, the men in the second rank bring the musket to the RECOVER and remain stepped to the right. Basically, the men return to the positions assumed when the command MAKE READY was given.
Note: Obviously this command is important to stop the firing sequence when some spectator (or more commonly some officer) wanders in front of your leveled and loaded muskets. The men should know this command as well as any of the others, and should be taught to wait until they hear either RECOVER or FIRE before they pull the trigger.
PRESENT‑‑ With the obstruction removed, you may proceed.
HALF-COCK YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑ As I mentioned before, it is not a good practice to teach the men to begin loading without waiting for the command to PRIME AND LOAD, as there may be no need to reload (for example, the end of a reenactment) and they will have wasted a cartridge. The basic rule is: Never anticipate an order!
SHOULDER YOUR FIRELOCKS‑‑(Two motions)
First: With the right hand (which should be holding the cock after bringing it to HALF-COCK), grab the musket at the wrist and bring it over to the left shoulder, the barrel to the front and the musket almost perpendicular. At the same time, release your left hand, drop it to your left side and grab the butt of the musket as your right hand brings it into position. The second rank steps to the left to cover their files.
Second: Drop your right hand to your right side and assume the POSITION OF A SOLDIER.
SHUT YOUR PANS‑‑(One motion) Bring the right arm straight across the body with the palm down and the fingers extended, and with a sweeping motion bring the fingers down on the frizzen (and thus closing the pan) and continue until the hand is down by the right side again.
Note: Obviously, there are two completely different motions connected with the command SHUT YOUR PANS, and it is just as obvious that common sense will show which is appropriate at any given moment.