Baron Von Steuben's Revolutionary War Drill Manual: A Facsimile Reprint of the 1794 Edition

Baron Von Steuben's Revolutionary War Drill Manual: A Facsimile Reprint of the 1794 Edition

by Frederick William Baron von Steuben

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On February 23, 1778, Frederick William Baron von Steuben reported to General George Washington at the Continental Army's bleak winder encampment at Valley Forge. Speaking virtually no English and at an unexpected ebb in his professional fortunes, Steuben nevertheless brought a depth of military training and grasp of command techniques sorely needed by the bedraggled, ragtag army. With his lofty military reputation, forceful bearing, and colorful personality, the Prussian commander had an immediate galvanizing effect on the disorganized insurgents. He soon became one of Washington's most valued officers — an essential figure in the success of the American War of Independence.
Commissioned to mold the troops into an efficient fighting force, Steuben formed a model drill company of one hundred men, transformed it into a precision unit copied throughout the ranks, and captured the imagination of the entire army. His record of drill instructions, written in brief installments, grew into the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. Commonly known as the army's "blue book," this basic manual of military training and procedures remained the official U.S. military guide until 1812.
This inexpensive facsimile reproduces the extremely rare 1794 edition of Steuben's drill manual, published in Boston by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews. It describes in detail the arms and accoutrements of officers and soldiers, formation and exercise of a company, instruction of recruits, formation and marching of columns, disposition and firing of fieldpieces, laying out of a camp, inspection, treatment of the sick, reviews of parade, and other essentials. The volume is further enhanced by reproductions of the eight copperplates from the 1794 edition and an Appendix (the United States Militia Act of 1792).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486249346
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 09/01/1985
Series: Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor Series
Edition description: Facsimile, Reprint of the 1794 Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 546,416
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

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Copyright © 1985 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14135-0


Of the arms and Accoutrements of the Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Soldiers.

THE arms and accoutrements of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, should be uniform throughout.

The officers who exercise their functions on horseback, are to be armed with swords, the platoon officers with swords and espontoons, the non-commissioned officers with swords, firelocks, and bayonets, and the soldiers with firelocks and bayonets.


Objects with which the Officers and Non-commissioned Officers should be acquainted.

THE officers and non-commissioned officers of each regiment, are to be perfectly acquainted with the manual exercise, marchings and firings, that they may be able to instruct their soldiers when necessary; they must also be acquainted with the dress, discipline, and police of the troops, and with every thing that relates to the service.

The commanding officer of each regiment is to be answerable for the general instructions of the regiment, and is to exercise, or cause to be exercised, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, whenever he thinks proper.


Of the Formation of a Company.

(Plate I. Figure 1.)

A COMPANY is to be formed in two ranks, at one pace distance, with the tallest men in the rear, and both ranks sized, with the shortest men of each in the centre. A company thus drawn up is to be divided into two sections or platoons; the captain to take post on the right of the first platoon, covered by a serjeant; the lieutenant on the right of the second platoon, also covered by a serjeant; the ensign four paces behind the centre of the company; the first serjeant two paces behind the centre of the first platoon, and the eldest corporal two paces behind the second platoon; the other two corporals are to be on the flanks of the front rank.


Of the Formation of a Regimen.

(Plat I. Figure 2 and 3.)

A REGIMENT is to consist of eight companies, which are to be posted in the following order, from right to left.

First captain's.


Fourth captain's.


Third captain's.

Lieutenant colonel's.

Fifth captain's.

Second captain's.

For the greater facility in manoeuvring, each regiment consisting of more than one hundred and sixty files, is to be formed in two battalions, (fig. 2.) with an interval of twenty paces between them, and one colour posted in the centre of each battalion; the colonel fifteen paces before the centre of the first battalion; the lieutenant-colonel fifteen paces before the centre of the second battalion; the major fifteen paces behind the interval of the two battalions; the adjutant two paces from the major; the drum and fife-major two paces behind the centre of the first battalion; their places behind the second battalion being supplied by a drum and fife; and the other drums and fifes equally divided on the wings of each battalion.

When a regiment is reduced to one hundred and sixty files, it is to be formed in one battalion, with both colours in the centre; the colonel sixteen paces before the colours; the lieutenant colonel eight paces behind the colonel; the major fifteen paces behind the centre of the battalion, having the adjutant at his side; the drum and fife major two paces behind the centre of the battalion; and the drums and fifes equally divided on the wings.

Every battalion, whether it compose the whole, or only half of a regiment, is to be divided into four divisions and eight platoons; no platoon to consist of less than ten files; so that a regiment consisting of less than eighty files, cannot form a battalion, but must be incorporated with some other, or employed on detachments,

In cafe of the absence of any field officer, his place is to be filled by the officer next in rank in the regiment; and in order that the officers may remain with their respective companies, if any company officer is absent, his place shall be supplied by the officer next in rank in the same company; but should it happen that a company is left without an officer, the colonel or commanding officer may order an officer of another company to take the command, as well for the exercise as for the discipline and police of the company in camp.

When the light company is with the regiment it must be formed twenty paces on the right on the parade, but must not interfere with the exercise of the battalion, but exercise by itself; and when the light infantry are embodied, every four companies will form a battalion, and exercise in the same manner as the battalion in the line.


Of the Instruction of Recruits.

THE commanding officer of each company is charged with the instruction of his recruits; and as that is a service that requires not only experience, but a patience and temper not met with in every officer, he is to make choice of an officers, serjeant, and one or two corporals of his company, who, being approved of by the colonel, are to attend particularly to that business: but in cafe of the arrival of a great number of recruits, every officer without distinction is to be employed on that service.

The commanding officer of each regiment will fix on some place for the exercise of his recruits, where himself or some field-officer must attend, to overlook their instruction.

The recruits must be taken singly, and first taught to put on their accoutrements, and carry themselves properly.

The Position of a Soldier without Arms.

He is to stand straight and firm upon his legs, with the head turned to the right so far as to bring the left eye over the waistcoat buttons; the heels two inches apart; the toes turned out; the belly drawn in a little, but without constraint; the breast a little projected; the shoulders square to the front, and kept back; and the hands hanging down the fides, with the palms close to the thighs.


At this word the soldier must be silent, stand firm and steady, moving neither hand nor foot, (except as ordered) but attend carefully to the words of command.

This attention of the soldier must be observed in the strictest manner, till he receives the word


At which he may refresh himself, by moving his hands or feet; but must not then fit down or quit his place, unless permitted so to do.


To the Left,—Dress!

At this word the soldier turns his head briskly to the left, so as to bring his right eye in the direction of his waistcoat buttons.

To the Right—Dress!

The soldier dresses again to the right, as before.

The recruit must then be taught

The Facings.

To the Right,—Face! Two motions.

ist. Turn briskly on both heels to the right, lifting up the toes a little, and describing the quarter of a circle.

2d. Bring back the right foot to its proper position, without stamping.

To the Left,—Face! Two motions.

ist. Turn to the left as before to the right.

2d. Bring up the right foot to its proper position.

To the Right about,—Face! Three motions.

ist. Step back with the right foot, bringing the buckle opposite the left heel, at the same time seizing the cartridge-box with the right hand.

2d. Turn briskly on both heels, and describe half a circle.

3d. Bring back the right foot, at the fame time quitting the cartridge-box.

When the recruit is sufficiently expert in the foregoing points, he must be taught the different steps.

The Common Step

Is two feet, and about seventy-five in a minute.

To the Front,—March!

The soldier steps off with his left foot, and marches a free, easy and natural step, without altering the position of his body or head, taking care to preserve a proper balance, and not cross his legs, but to march without constraint in every fort of ground: The officer must march sometimes in his front and sometimes at his fide, in order to join example to precept.


At this word the soldier stops short, on the foot then advanced, immediately bringing up the other, without stamping.

The Quick Step

Is also two feet, but about one hundred and twenty in a minute, and is performed on the fame principle as the other.

The recruits having been exercised singly, till they have a proper carriage, and are well grounded in the different steps; the officer will then take three men, and placing them in one rank, exercise them in the different steps, and teach them

The March by Files.

Which, being of great importance, must be carefully attended to; observing that the soldier carries his body more forward than in the front march, and that he does not increase the distance from his file-leader.

The Oblique Step

Must then be practised, both in the quick and common time.

In marching obliquely to the right, the soldier steps obliquely with the right foot, bringing up the left, and placing the heel directly before the toes of the right foot, and the contrary when marching to the left; at the fame time observing to keep the shoulders square to the front, especially that the shoulder opposed to the side they march to does not project, and that the files keep close.

The recruits being thus far instructed, must be again taken separately, and taught

The Position of a Soldier under Arms.

In this position the soldier is to stand straight and firm upon his legs, with the heels two inches apart, the toes a little turned out, the belly drawn in a little without constraint, the breast a little projected, the shoulders square to the front and kept back, the right hand hanging down the side, with the palm close to the thigh, the left elbow not turned out from the body, the firelock carried on the left shoulder, at such height that the guard will be just under the left breath, the fore-finger and thumb, before the swell of the butt, the three last fingers under the butt, the flat of the butt against the hip bone, and pressed so as that the firelock may be felt against the left side, and stand before the hollow of the shoulder, neither leaning towards the head nor from it the barrel almost perpendicular. When exercising, he is to be very exact in counting a second of time between each motion.


The Exercise of a Company.


Of opening the Ranks. Rear Rank! Take—Distance! March!

THE rear rank steps back four paces, and dresses by the right; the officers at the same time advancing eight paces to the front, and dressing in a line; the serjeants who covered the officers, take their places in the front rank; the non-commissioned officers who were in the rear, remain there, stepping back four paces behind the rear rank.

Rear Rank! Close to the Front!

The officers face to the company.


The rear rank closes to within a common pace, or two feet; and the officers return to their former posts.


Of the Firings.

The captain will divide his company into two or more sections, and teach them the fire by platoons, as directed in chap, XIII. art. 1,2.

The officers must give the words of command with a loud and distinct voice; observe that the soldiers step off, and place their feet, as directed in the manual exercise; and that they level their pieces at a proper height; for which purpose they must be accustomed always to take fight at some object.

The officer will often command, As you were! to accustom the soldier not to fire till he receives the word of command.

In all exercises in detail, the men will use a piece of wood, instead of a flint; and each soldier should have fix pieces of wood, in the form of cartridges, which the serjeant must fee taken out of the pieces when the exercise is finished.

When the company exercises with powder, the captain will inspect the company, and fee that all the cartridges not used are returned.


Of the March.

In marching to the front, the men must be accustomed to dress to the centre, which they will have to do when exercising in battalion; and for this purpose a serjeant must be placed fix paces in front of the centre, who will take some object in front to serve as a direction for him to march straight forward; and the men must look inwards, and regulate their march by him.

The captain must exercise his company in different forts of ground; and when by the badness of the ground, or any other accident, the soldier loses his step, he must immediately take it again from the serjeant in the centre. The officers must not suffer the least inattention, but punish every man guilty of it.

The Oblique March

Must be practised both in the quick and common step, agreeably to the instructions already given.

The March by Files

Is as important as difficult. In performing it, the officers must be attentive that the soldiers bend their bodies a little forward, and do not open their files.

The leading file will be conducted by the officer; who will post himself for that purpose on its left, when they march by the right, and the contrary when they march by the left.

The Counter March.

Note. This march must never be executed by larger portions of a battalion than platoons.


Take Care to counter march from the Right, by Platoons!

To the Right,—face! March!

The whole facing to the right, each platoon wheels by files to the right about; and when the right hand file gets on the ground where the left stood, the officer orders,

Halt! To the Left,—Face!

and the company will be formed with their front changed.


Of Wheeling.

The captain will exercise his company in wheeling entire, and by sections or platoons, both in the common and quick step, taking care that the men in the rear rank incline a little to the right or left, according to the hand they wheel to, to as always to cover exactly their file-leaders.


Of Breaking off, and Forming by the oblique Step.

The captain having divided his company into two sections, will give the word,

Sections! Break off!

Upon which the section on the right inclines by the oblique step to the left, and that on the left, following the former, inclines to the right, till they cover each other, when they march forward.

Form Company!

The first election inclines to the right, shortening its step, and the second to the left, lengthening its step, till they are uncovered, when both march forward, and form in a line.

Two or more companies may be joined to perform the company exercise, when they have been sufficiently exercised by single companies, but not till then; the inattention of the soldiers, and difficulty of instructing them, increasing in proportion with the numbers.


exercise of a Battalion.

WHEN a battalion parades for exercise, it is to be formed, and the officers posted, agreeably to the instructions already given in the third and fourth chapters.

The battalion being formed, it is then to perform the manual exercise, and the wheelings, marches, manœuvres and firings described in this and the following chapters, or such of them as shall be ordered.

N. B. When a battalion performs the firings, the six centre files, (viz. three on each side the colours,) are not to fire, but remain as a reserve for the colours; and the officers of the two centre platoons are to warn them accordingly.

The battalion will wheel by divisions or platoons, by word of command from the officer commanding.


When the battalion wheels, the platoons are conducted by the officers commanding them; the supernumeraries remaining in the rear of their respective platoons,

[See Plate I. Figure 4. and 5.]

The colours take post between the fourth and fifth platoons

The wheeling finished, each officer commanding a platoon or division, commands

Halt! Dress to the Right!

and posts himself before the centre, the serjeant who covered him taking his place on the right.


The whole step off, and follow the leading division or platoon; the officer who conducts the column receiving his directions from the commanding officer. When the battalion wheels to the right, the left flank of the platoons must dress in a line with each other, and the contrary when they wheel to the left.


Excerpted from BARON VON STEUBEN'S REVOLUTIONARY WAR DRILL MANAUL by FREDERICK WILLIAM, BARON VON STEUBEN. Copyright © 1985 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Page,
In CONGRESS, 29th March, 1779.,
CHAPTER V. - Of the Instruction of Recruits.,
I. - Poise——Firelock! Two motions.,
II. - Cock——Firelock! Two motions.,
III. - Take Aim! One motion.,
IV. - Fire! One motion.,
V. - Half-Cock ——Firelock! One motion.,
VI. - Handle——Cartridge! One motion.,
VII. - Prime! One motion.,
VIII. - Shut——Pan! Two motions.,
Explanation of the Plates.,

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