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This manual is the work of Captain Chris Svejk, for the use of his company's NCO's.  He has very kindly consented to allow us to present it here for the use of other reenactors.  Thank you so much for your hard work, Chris!

Company H

1st Maryland Infantry



Noncommissioned Officer Handbook



Noncommissioned officers were and are a very important part of the command structure. While the roles that NCOs played during the War Between the States were significantly different from those played by their counterparts in the modern military, they were no less important than they are today. In the pages that follow, these roles are defined and some of the knowledge required to be an effective NCO is presented. It is intended that this handbook can be used as a quick reference in the field so that new or inexperienced NCOs can develop their skills and talents more efficiently.

Information contained herein has been taken from Customs of Service, Confederate regulations, various drill manuals, and established company practices. Much research has been done to assure that the information is as authentic as possible. While reviewing this handbook, keep in mind two important points: 1) this manual is intended to develop NCOs from the Civil War-era military, i.e., a volunteer army from the 1860s, and 2) these principles are intended to be applied to a Civil War reenactment unit, i.e., volunteer hobbyists. Some of these practices may be contrary to modern military experiences. However, if a proper portrayal of the time period is to be done, compliance to these guidelines is strongly recommended. Feel free to carry this manual into the field and to reference it as needed.



 Table of Contents


Positions in Line of Battle


The Corporal


The Sergeant


The 1st Sergeant


The Manual of Arms


Forming the Company in Two Ranks


Morning Parade


Morning Inspection of Troops


Musket Field Cleaning


Musket Home Cleaning







2nd Section


1st Section


2nd Section


1st Section

S SPositions in Line of Battle























The Corporal


“They are selected from the most intelligent privates who have been longest in service and who are noted for their military appearance and attention to duty.”


1)                   Reports to and takes orders from the 1st Sergeant.

2)                   Knows / instructs the school of the soldier.

3)                   Corporal of the Guard

4)                   Corporal of the Police

5)                   Familiar with the sergeants’ duties.

6)                   Examples of neatness, cleanliness, and promptness.

7)                   Responsible for small details on fatigue, police, and garrison duty and equipment used.

8)                   Firm and fair but not arrogant; obedience

9)                   Perhaps in charge of a mess.

10)               Reports discipline problems to the 1st Sergeant.


The Sergeant


1)                   All of the duties of the corporal

2)                   Commands work, guard, police, and fatigue details.

3)                   Fair and impartial

4)                   Responsible for squad / detail equipment.

5)                   Preliminary instruction of the troops.

6)                   File closers – keeps men in ranks

7)                   Discourage straggling.

8)                   Discipline

9)                   Fill canteens / monitor ration consumption.

10)               Knows the duties of the 1st Sergeant.

11)               Commands a platoon if necessary.

The 1st Sergeant


“He is, in fact, the foreman; the men are the artisans.”


1)                   Keeps track of the clothing accounts.

2)                   Arranges all details.

3)                   Keeps a roster of details.

4)                   Leads large details.

5)                   Parades details to the Sergeant Major.

6)                   Morning, absentee, sick reports.

7)                   Supervises the company cooks.

8)                   Forms the company.

9)                   Keeps the roster.

10)               Does roll call.

11)               Responsible for all company equipment.

12)               Supervises the company police.

13)               Superintends the company clerk or acts as clerk in the absence of one.

14)               Gets orders directly from the commanding officer and/or company commander.

15)               Immediate supervision of the company.

16)               Goes to orderly and NCO calls.

17)               Discipline in the ranks and in camp.

18)               Company safety officer.

19)               Acts as Company Quartermaster, Armorer, and Commissary.

20)               Has prominent role in Dress Parade.

21)               Commands the company if necessary.

Manual of Arms


“Attention – Company!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Right Shoulder Shift – Arms!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Present – Arms!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Trail – Arms!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Support – Arms!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Secure – Arms!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Arms – Port!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Charge – Bayonet!”


“Shoulder – Arms!”


“Order – Arms!”


“Rest on – Arms!”


“Order – Arms!”


“Parade – Rest!”


“Attention – Company!”


“In place - Rest!”

Commands are always given in two parts: the command of preparation and the command of execution. The command of preparation is the first part of the entire command. It’s purpose is to prepare the soldiers in the ranks for the subsequent movement. The command of execution (in italics) is given to execute the movement. Emphasis when giving the command is on the command of execution and a short pause (approximately 1 second)  should exist between the two parts.




“Shoulder – Arms!”




Command of              Command of

Preparation                  Execution


NOTE: The Manual of Arms is always cycled through the Shoulder Arms position.



Forming the Company

in Two Ranks


I           Preparation – Falling in


Upon the sounding of Assembly or the

call to fall in, the company will fall in, in one rank tallest to shortest right to left.





4 Paces











II           Forming two ranks


The 1st Sergeant will then give the commands, “Attention – Company! Shoulder – Arms! In two ranks form company! By the right, double files! Company, Right – Face! March!” At the command to right face,



the tallest private will face about and take one pace forward. At “March!”, the files will be fill sequentially and will achieve the formation shown here:







The 1st Sergeant will then command, “About - Face!”  and place the corporals accordingly. Then he will command, “In each rank, count – Two!” Once counted in two ranks, the company will then be considered formed.



Morning Parade


I           Preparation


The company having been formed in two ranks and at the shoulder, The 1st Sergeant shall command, “To the rear, open order – March!” After the command of preparation, the 2nd Sergeant takes four paces to the rear. At “March!”, the rear rank falls back to the line established by the 2nd Sergeant. The sergeants of the company will automatically post themselves 2 paces in front of the company facing the 1st Sergeant once the ranks have been opened. The 1st Sergeant will then command, “Support – Arms!”


II          Roll Call


The 1st Sergeant, posted 4 paces in front of the company, will then call the roll in descending rank. Each soldier, upon hearing his name called, will go to the shoulder, report, and then return to the order.


III         Conclusion


The 1st Sergeant, upon completing the roll, will return the sergeants to their places in line.


IV         General


Morning parade will be held each morning promptly at 8:00 am. Saturday mornings, an N.C.O. call will be held prior to the parade so that the roles that each N.C.O. shall play during the parade and inspection can be defined for each day.



Morning Inspection of Troops


I           Preparation


The ranks already having been opened, the 1st Sergeant shall post himself 4 paces in front of the center of the company. He will then give the commands, ”Attention – Company! Inspection – Arms!” The men in the ranks, except the inspecting NCOs, will fix bayonets and spring rammers and return to the order. The 1st Sergeant will then post the inspecting NCOs 2 paces in front of the center of the company, facing forward. He will then order, “Open – Boxes!” and direct the inspectors to conduct the inspection.


II          Weapons Inspection


The inspecting NCO of each rank will pass sequentially down the line, inspecting each man’s musket. He will follow this procedure:

A.                  Trigger / hammer


1.                   Bring the hammer to half-cock and squeeze the trigger. If the hammer falls, the weapon has failed.

2.                   Bring the hammer to full-cock and apply pressure to it using the thumb. If the hammer falls to half-cock, the weapon fails.

3.                   Check the tightness of the hammer screw and the cleanliness of the nipple.


B.                  Rammer


Lightly drop the rammer on the breech. If no metallic “ping” is heard, the weapon fails

III         Gear Inspection


Reaching the end of the line, the inspecting officer will return to the right of the company, passing behind the rank he is responsible for inspecting. At this time, he will inspect the rest of the men’s gear following this procedure:


A.                  Canteens


All soldiers, whether members of our company or not, will have a full canteen or will be prevented from taking the field.


B.                  Bayonet scabbards / knives


All knives must be tied in or removed prior to taking the field. The tips of the scabbards must be intact or the bayonet will not be allowed in the field.


C.                  Cartridge boxes


Cartridge boxes must be full. Staples, paper clips, metal of

any kind, or live rounds will result in immediate banishment from the field.


IV         Report


Upon completing the inspection, the inspecting NCOs will once again post themselves 2 paces in front of the center of the company, facing the 1st Sergeant. They will then report, “Front (or rear) rank inspected and all passed.” If there is a failure/discrepancy, the report must reflect it so that corrective action can occur. The 1st Sergeant shall then dismiss the inspectors back to their places in line. He will then order, “Close – Boxes! Unfix – Bayonets!” and will provide replacement equipment for those that need it.


V          Capping off


The 1st Sergeant will command, “Shoulder – Arms! Prime!” and post the 2nd Sergeant 2 paces in front of the center of the company,

facing forward. He will then instruct the 2nd Sergeant to inspect the rear rank. One cap will be fired by each soldier into the ground. If no movement is observed when the cap is fired, a second one will be fired. If the second discharge fails to produce movement, the weapon fails.


VI         Report


Upon completion of capping off, the 2nd Sergeant will again post himself opposite the center of the company, facing the 1st Sergeant. He will report, “Rear rank inspected and all passed.” If there is a failure/discrepancy, the report must reflect it so that corrective action can occur. The 1st Sergeant will then order him back to his post.



Musket Field Cleaning


Field cleaning is the cleaning that should be done after each battle or drill in which powder is expended. When field cleaning, there is a certain amount of preliminary disassembling of the musket that needs to take place. Here are the steps for field:


1)      Remove the lockplate. When pouring water down the barrel, there is a really good chance that some water will spill over and flow down the side of the barrel. This spillage very often finds it’s way in behind the lockplate, thus rusting the internal mechanisms of the lock. To take the lockplate off, put the musket at half-cock and lay it across your lap with the heads of the lockplate screws facing upward. Loosen each screw approximately one turn and lightly tap on each screw head. What this does is prevents chipping of the stock while trying to pry the lockplate out. When the lockplate has been dislodged from the stock, loosen and remove the screws and the lockplate should fall right out. Insert the lockplate screws into the now removed lock and tightened 1-2 turns.


2)             Remove the nipple. By removing the nipple, a larger opening is available to push the dirty water, i.e., the powder, out. Leaving the nipple in can result in a build-up of a residue under it. Put the removed nipple in a safe place.


3)             Pour boiling water down the bore. Hot water cleans better, but what is more important, it evaporates, not allowing time for rusting to occur. Furthermore, no moisture will remain inside the barrel that can deaden the powder.


4)             Push patches down the barrel. There are two preferred “tools” that are used for pushing patches down the bore. One is using a cleaning rod and the other is using the ramrod. The size and thickness of the patches that you use are determined by which tool you use. For example, a rod and .54 cal. jag (the little brass piece on the end) works very well with the 0.01" thick patches. For this setup, the patch doesn’t fall off the jag and doesn’t get stuck. Using a ramrod, however, is a different situation. The ramrod has a jag on the end of it and has a rectangular hole cut through it. The jag is much too small to use 0.01” thick patches. If attempted, the patch is going to stay in the bore. Furthermore, the ramrod gets stuck if the corner of a 0.01” thick patch is pushed through the opening. Thinner, smaller-sized patches are required. If this is the method you use, push one corner of the patch through the loop and fold the rest back over the head of the jag. This will allow you to clean the breech (the bottom of the bore) effectively. Whichever method used, run patches until they emerge from the bore clean, making sure to go all the way down. Twist the rod around a couple of time with the patch resting in the breech to ensure a thorough cleaning. A scraper or worm can be used as well for scraping the residue out of the breech. The musket is not clean until the last patch comes out clean.


5)                   Clean the area where the nipple is inserted and the hole leading into the breech. This is the single step most overlooked by inexperienced gun cleaners. Upon removing a nipple from a brand-new, never-fired musket, a hole leading into the breech is visible. This hole is commonly referred to as the “touch hole.” This is the hole that allows the explosion of the cap to ignite the powder charge. This hole must be 100% clear. A partial or complete blockage can result in misfires and/or fractured caps that can injure the user or those around him even if the nipple itself is O.K. To clean this hole out, use a stiff piece of wire (not a drill). Also, scrape all of the powder residue out of the threaded opening until the metal at the bottom of the opening is exposed.


6)         Clean and return the nipple. Again, this is best done by using a nipple pick or stiff wire. Many people have suggested that using a drill one size larger than the clogged hole works well, but this should be done with extreme caution. Any time that a firearm is modified, which is done by enlarging the size of the hole by one drill size, serious problems can be introduced. Guns were designed a specific way for a reason. Soaking the clogged nipple in hot, soapy water or, even better, hydrogen peroxide, loosens the powder. When reinserting the clean nipple, tighten it down with a nipple wrench. Be prepared to periodically replace the nipple with a new one.


7)         Run one oiled patch, followed by one dry patch. When oiling the bore, it should be a light oil, and not much of it at that. Since the musket is in almost constant use during an event, there is little or no time for rust to build up inside the barrel. If too much oil is used, it will not be burned off when capping off and may deaden the powder.


8)         Reassemble the musket, following the above steps in reverse.




Musket Home Cleaning



Home cleaning takes the field cleaning principles and expands upon them. As indicated, these additions are not necessary in the field. Follow all of the field cleaning steps. However, before reassembling the musket, there are a few more things to do. They are:


1)         Remove the barrel from the stock and clean it. Three barrel bands and a tang screw (located at the breech end of the barrel) hold the barrel in place. Loosen the tang screw 2-3 turns. Then remove the bands. For Enfields, this requires loosening the screw that close each band. Do not remove the screws completely. Springfields barrel bands do not have screws and are spring released. Carefully slide each band off over the front sight of the musket. Remove the tang screw the rest of the way and slide the barrel forward and out. To clean the outside of the barrel, use gun oil on blued (a black finish) barrels. For muskets with a bright finish, metal polish can be applied with very fine steel wool to remove rust before oiling.


2)                   Clean and oil stock. It is a good idea to clean and oil all of the wood with lemon or gun oil regularly. Lemon oil takes out small scratches, removes dirt, and moisturizes the wood while it prevents rotting under the barrel. It is as important to maintain the stock as it is to maintain the rest to the musket


3)         Clean and oil the lockplate. Place it into a pot of soapy water and boil it. If, once removed from the water, there is still some rust and/or dirt still present, scrub it with an old tooth brush and put it back in the pot for a while. Once removed from the water and it is clean, oiling it is not quite as easy. Do not over-oil the inside mechanisms. Too much oil attracts dust and dirt. In fact, only four small drops of oil are needed to lubricate an Enfield lock properly. No further disassembly is necessary.


Reassembly can now be done. After it is all back together, it is a good idea to give the outside metal one more going-over with an oily cloth just to remove any moisture that might have been transferred during reassembly.


For more complete information on 19th Century Military Drill, visit the main page.

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