OPERATING AS A PLATOON

by Steve Baule

As the NWTA is for the most part made up of squad and platoon sized units, an explanation of some of the most basic tenants of small unit operations is apropos to the organization. These tenants are the Standing Orders issued to Rogers' Rangers in 1759 by Major Robert Rogers. They would have been familiar to many British regiments which were influenced by Rogers, and the concepts would have been among the equipment the veterans of light infantry and ranger units would have brought with them on both sides of the battlefield throughout the Revolution.

Standing Orders, Rogers' Rangers - 1759.

.1. Don't forget nothing.
Planning an operation, especially those of small units, requires taking into consideration all possible contingencies. The "what if's" all need to have answers. These answers then must be spread throughout the unit, so even the lowliest private understands the entire mission and knows his job in the event of any circumstance. Soldiers who have been told to plan for a possible situation, no matter how dire, are much less likely to panic than those soldiers who are surprised. Additionally, each possible situation should be rehearsed so bugs can be worked out and corporals and sergeants can make corrections. These rehearsals need to be supervised by all the officers going with the unit and their commander where possible in order to instill the importance of rehearsals into the privates.

2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.
Soldiers should always be given time to clean their equipment and corporals need to inspect their squads regularly. Muskets should not all be cleaned at once, but in shifts in order to avoid being caught by the enemy without functional firearms among too many soldiers. Edged weapons, especially hangers, need to be inspected in order to see they have been cared for as well. Soldiers who do not show respect for their arms should be disciplined severely. Non-commissioned officers must instill in their men an extreme vigilance so that each soldier is constantly in a state of readiness to fall into line of battle. Each soldier should know where to fall in without the need to be sized or adjusted by the sergeants.

3. When your on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
Though martial music and fluttering ensigns have their place in warfare and in destroying an enemy's will to fight, small units need to utilize surprise and ambush to their advantage. Talking in the ranks is absolutely not tolerable in the field. Smoking is another way to give away your unit's position. Units should develop hand and arm signals for internal communication during field operations. All equipment should be inspected prior to movement to make sure unnecessary squeaks and rattles are eliminated. By all means, put those tin cups inside your haversacks.

To be continued...



Dressed To Chill!

Several members of the NWTA spent a weekend at Fort Michilimackinac on January 26th & 27th (yep, that's during the Great Midwest Blizzard of 1996). We braved sub-zero wind-chills to entertain several hundred grade-school kids who were bussed in from the nearby town of Cheboygan, and on Saturday the partcipants and park staff outnumbered the tourists ­ thanks in part to the extreme cold and near blizzard conditions. We were unable to stay in the guardhouse Friday night as we had planned because high winds caused the chimney to back up. Still, it was quite an adventure!

Shown braving the blizzard to practice the manual of arms are (from left): Brett Smiley, Bill Welter, Mark Tully, Paul Maher, Rick Holmes, Steve Gilbert, and Steve Baule (with halberd). Karen Sorkness, Terry Wellman, and Ralph & Mary Briggs were also present ­ Briggs snapped the picture.

More pictures, in color (53k).