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Rifle and Riflemen

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Rifle and Riflemen
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Colonel von Ehwald & Ezekiel Baker
Date Published: 2011/09
Page Count: 172
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-728-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-727-2

An iconic weapon and the soldiers who carried it

This remarkable and unique Leonaur edition comprises two vital accounts; one concerning the development of the military rifle in the British Army and the other a treatise on the formation and operational activities of the light troops who employed it and who made both the rifle and themselves famous. The treatise, translated from the original German, is the work of Colonel von Ehwald and is essentially a guide book for the conduct of the petit guerre—the skirmishing combat the riflemen and other light infantry knew. Ehwald also covers the activities of light cavalry. This is very far from being simply a military instruction manual because the author was no mere theorist. He fought during the American War of Independence in British pay with the mercenary Hessians and commanded a ‘Jaeger’ corps of light troops in the Danish Army. So the concepts he explains in his book have been elaborated by the inclusion of descriptions real battlefield incidents based on personal experience. Those interested in the activities of light troops in action will be introduced to the activities of Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers and others. In its original edition this book was published using an archaic form of printed English with widespread use of ligatured characters and a form of the letter ‘f’ used as the letter ‘s.’ This edition has replaced those characters, often difficult to read for the modern reader, with contemporary forms, making Ehwald’s text truly ‘up to date.’ Ehwald’s book is accompanied here by Ezekiel Baker’s remarkable book on the creation, construction, maintenanance, firing and capabilities of his legendary Baker Rifle, the weapon used to such deadly effect by the green coated riflemen—the 95th and 60th—of Wellington’s Army of the Peninsular War and Waterloo. A must for all ‘Rifles’ enthusiasts.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Guards of cavalry must be placed in the open country, where vedettes can command an extensive prospect; and centinels be planted in the thickest cover, though in such a manner as to be able to discover their front and flanks at some distance. If the ground permit, vedettes and sentries ought to be advanced as far as eight hundred or a thousand paces. During the night the guards of cavalry must retire and take post behind those of infantry. Riflemen should perform the day, and light infantry the night duty, or act together mixed. If it can be done and the ground allow it, vedettes and sentries should be posted during the night so as to have high ground before them, as an object is far more easily discerned at night from below, than in looking down from an hill. If there be in the neighbourhood a wood crossed by any roads leading to the enemy, or any defilé near the posts through which the enemy can approach undiscovered; in either case the piquets must be advanced to these places; but should the post you are ordered to take be ill chosen, and should you find a much better within about a thousand paces, occupy the latter by all means, taking care to acquaint the general with it.<br>
For instance, in Lord Cornwallis’s retreat from Suffolk to Portsmouth, an officer of the staff planted me with a detachment of cavalry and infantry, between a thick wood and a river, the banks of which were swampy on both sides, with a dyke and bridge across. As I had been wounded in that very place, five months before in a skirmish, and fortunately for me knew the country better than he; I retreated over the dyke, reported the circumstance to headquarters, and my conduct was approved.<br>
In another instance; when General Sir H. Clinton made his retreat from Philadelphia, through the Jerseys in the year 1778, and wished to pass the Ankocus by Fostertown, along which river the enemy had ruined all the bridges; I was sent over with 150 yägers, to take post and cover the working parties which were to repair the bridge. The place where I had been sent was a plain, surrounded at the distance of a league with woods and heights, under the cover of which, the enemy could have approached unperceived and attacked me unawares. I placed my posts as I had been ordered, but taking with me an officer and 30 men proceeded to the summit of the highest hill, in order to reconnoitre the country around; from thence I perceived at the distance of half a league, a few houses and a mill, and by examining my map I concluded that it was a place called Carstown, situated upon an arm of the Ankocus.<br>
I sent for 30 yägers more, and having approached the place I saw that the bridge upon that arm had also been ruined. The mill was occupied by a small party of riflemen, who gave way after a few shots, when they saw that I was determined to carry the post. I contrived to cross the river upon the ruins of the bridge, occupied the mill and reported my conduct; upon which I received orders to continue where I was; I was reinforced with 30 yägers more, the bridge repaired during the night, and the general did me the honour to acknowledge that I had gained for him a day’s march.<br>
If the enemy be near, the best way (supposing the rear to be well covered,) will be to draw the outposts as near as possible to those of the enemy; they will thereby cover more effectually the intended ground; the men will be more alert, having the enemy in sight, his motions will be more easily watched, and a better opportunity given to profit by any fault he may commit. General Luckner always acted in this manner during the seven years war; the Duke of Lauzun by Gloucester in Virginia, would by this means have been of great service to the corps under General Choisy, if Lord Cornwallis had attempted so fight his way out of York, on that side with the remnant of his army, as was in fact the original intention of this brave general.<br>
Placing piquets and centinels is not to be considered as the only method for protecting an outpost; patroles must also be frequently sent towards the enemy in order to procure timely intelligence of his motions and approach; these must be, especially, during the night, incessantly backwards and forwards upon the roads which lead in that direction and cross each other before the line of vedettes and sentries. If the country be so intersected that the posts cannot see far before them, or a defilé, be so situated in front, that it cannot be conveniently occupied, and might offer an opportunity to the enemy to approach undiscovered, it would be proper to prepare in the night-time an ambuscade of a non-commissioned officer and a few yägers, with orders to give a volley as soon as they should hear a party of the enemy approaching.<br>
Supposing that it should occasion the loss of a man or two; so inconsiderable a loss is not adequate to the immense advantage which would result from this measure; and if the yägers be properly trained, it will but seldom happen. I cannot recollect more than one instance during the seven campaigns of the American war, where an ambuscade of this kind was lost. It happened near Portsmouth on the 19th of March 1781, when General Arnold was informed that the Marquis de la Fayette was marching against him with a strong corps; in order to be acquainted in time with the approach of that corps, I placed a non-commissioned officer and 6 yägers in ambuscade at about half a league upon the road which the enemy was to take, two of whom fell into his hands, but the Hessian and Anspach yägers were so well trained to this kind of warfare, that they were equal to the artful Croats, and even these two would not have been taken prisoners, if, out of eagerness to shoot some of the enemy, they had not suffered his advance guard to approach them too near.<br>
Such ambuscades are principally useful in an enemy’s country where the inhabitants are unfriendly towards you; and it will prevent the enemy from shooting or carrying off sentries in which the American militia were as great adepts as the Croats; it secures so effectually your posts against parties of the enemy, that they will not afterwards approach them without fear.