Safe and Authentic Behavior on the Battlefield
Brady's Sharpshooters General Order Number I
Safe Behavior on the Battlefield:
Safety is our number one priority in reenacting. The main dangers of injuries are
accidents involving powder burns. Black powder burns slowly. If you ever see a night
firing display, you will observe bright jets of light coming 10-20 feet out of the
barrels of the muskets! Even beyond this range, non-burning particles of powder have
enough force to tear into the skin (or eye). You will observe many of the veteran
reenactors bear little black speckled "tattoos" on their hands or face, the result of
powder burns. You do not want to burn anyone, friend or foe! To avoid burning others,
observe these rules: If you can make out the face of your target in the enemy's ranks,
aim over his head (This is further away than the traditional "whites of their eyes",
or around 30 yards. At closer ranges, or if fighting from a trench or lower position,
fire your weapon at a 45 degree angle upwards. Never discharge your weapon downwards,
due to gravel in the ground. At these close ranges, do not even aim (using sights)
your weapon at an enemy. This will frighten and perhaps anger both them and neighboring
To avoid shooting or being shot by your friends in our unit know your place in your
team, know where your neighbors are, and trust absolutely no one. Never fire unless
you are certain you are parallel to, or a foot in advance of, your neighbors. After
firing immediately take a long step back to load. At times we may be temporarily
intermixed with line units due to their coming to our position. If this happens,
step back immediately and let them have the position. At these moments the line
infantry will be disordered, excited and confused, so feel free to direct the line
boys on how to take turns "firing from a defile", stepping back to load. We will
pull ourselves out of the situation as quickly as possible, so look to the rear for
our officers and NCOs. These precautions will also avoid the second most common
cause of serious injuries, damage to your ears. Wear earplugs and use your eyes to
keep your relative position in the unit, if you can't clearly hear orders.
The third common cause of injuries is the result of hand-to-band combat. WE WILL NEVER VOLUNTARILY INITIATE HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT, as it is not authentic for our impression. But we may expect frequently to be overrun by charging Rebs and their excitable teenagers and occasional "nut cases" will generally be leading the charge. Beware particularly of the dismounted Reb cavalry, for they love to pistol you at point-blank range! In these situations, if you see a weapon aimed at you, cover your face with your hat and drop to the ground! If someone is trying to bayonet you, drop your weapon, grasp their muzzle and point it away from you (This prevents a point blank shot or a broken rib from the point). You may then, if he is a large Reb, cry out and drop to the ground. A very excited Reb should be bearhugged from behind while your comrade makes a gentle pass with his gun ("bayoneting" him). Of course, if we are being charged by a unit of more than one or two men, run away to our next rallying point! If you are one of our " Heavy Brigade", and cannot escape, surrender by reversing you gun or putting your hands in the air. Once surrendered, insist on retaining your gun, and get somewhere comfortable until you can rejoin the unit. In the real war, many more men surrendered than fought hand-to-hand!
The fourth cause of injury or death is sun or heat stroke, or heart attack. Do not push yourself too much to keep up! You may straggle, and catch up to the outfit when you can! It you feel overly warm or dizzy, if you stop sweating, or feel a pressure in your arm or chest sit down, drink water, and call "medic" if you think its serious. Trained paramedics will come to your assistance! Drink as much water as you can hold before the battle, and during the battle, and when you are out of water, you are out of the battle! I would like unit members to exercise aerobically twice week to strengthen their hearts.
The fifth common cause of injury is sprains and pulled muscles, tripping over rocks and the natural scenic fauna in the area. Inform your comrades of any holes and rocks you spot and assist each other over obstacles by holding back branches, and holding each other's guns as we cross. When traveling over rough terrain (bushes, cliffs) if your gun is loaded, UNCAP it! Again, take it slow, Officers and NCOs will adjust the unit's speed to its slowest member. We have time! It is no problem!
The sixth and final cause of danger at reenactments is horses. A horse will not step on you if he can help it, but he may not be able to stop or he may misstep. When horses approach, the outfit will head for cover. Even one tree or bush may discourage a troop of horses. If in the open we will form the "rallying square" clustered together with muskets extended towards the horse's head. Never sit or lie down if horses are in the area!
Authentic Behavior on the Battlefield:
Always remember that we portray a detachment of telescopic sharpshooters, and behavior of line or even light infantry may not be correct for us. For purposes of safety, we may at times operate in a slightly more dense and controlled formation than is truly authentic. There are also certain things reenactors typically do that are not quite authentic, and that we will avoid.
It is not authentic for skirmishers to take many casualties at even close range, especially when using cover. We do, however, urge each of our privates to take one walking wound at each battle we fight pick your time, grab yourself as if hit, pull your clothing away from the area to see how badly hit you are, and go back away from the unit and find some cover (this is bow it was for the majority of people hit during the war! Whether they died in 10 minutes or an hour, they generally could walk at least a short distance). After five minutes and some water, straggle back to our unit DO NOT join another unit, or operate on your own!
For NCO's especially, their presence on the field checking the positions of the men and checking what the recruits are doing is an issue of safety. If they take a casualty it may lead to disintegration of the unit and then an accident! Officers and NCOs may simulate receiving a flesh wound and then binding it up with a bandana and continuing on the to fight (I will not have a NCO who can't take 2 or 3 flesh wounds and keep on going!).
On the firing line, sharpshooters tended to work together as teams of 2 or 3 men. One man would spot, with field glasses if possible, while his partner shot. He would give him feedback like "left, right, a notch higher (or lower)" or "they're looking up" (or down). We will try to work this in more this season.
Do not shout modern expressions at the enemy. Authentic things to shout include "Here's your mule!" And taunts like "Johnny, I hear you got a new general, General Starvation". Soldiers did talk and joke a lot under fire. We may occasionally charge, by which I mean move threateningly upon the enemy without actually closing to hand-to-hand, at such times I want everyone to shout as loud as they can the Union battle cry which is "HURRAH!!!"
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