Saturday, January 31, 2009

March II. [Conclusion]

This is cooolbert:

Please keep in mind the blog entry dealing with the fifty mile hike. Marine officers once a year expected to complete a fifty mile hike, to be done in three days, carrying gear.

Especially so during the Napoleonic black powder era, units of "foot", [infantry] were required to march long distances as a matter of course. Obviously and intuitively so, "foot" meaning just that! Marching to battle!

The march of the British Light Brigade [43rd Regiment of Foot, the 52nd Regiment of Foot and the 95th Rifles] prior to and during the Battle of Talavera is the thing of legend. Talavera. Peninsular War - - Spain - - English versus French occupier! An entire brigade of foot [infantry], encumbered as they were, covered sixty-two miles in twenty six hours, NOT, however, arriving in time for the battle, and then HAVING TO MARCH FOR AN ADDITIONAL FIFTEEN HOURS SUBSEQUENT!!

The cadence, the marching step, for British light infantry is faster than the normal troop marching speed of one hundred twenty [120] paces per minute! [about 3 ½ miles per hour!]

Examples of such a faster cadence would include:

* Royal Green Jackets [RGJ] march at 140 steps per minute.

* Durham Light Infantry [DLI] march at 160 steps per minute.

[In each case, one step being two and one half [2 ½] feet long [76 cm.]]

Both RGJ and DLI traditionally functioning in the role of riflemen, skirmishers, pickets, etc. Light infantry [Light Brigade] NOT normally deployed as other troops of the black powder period. NOT fighting in closed formations of densely packed troops firing a massed fusillade with muskets. Carrying the specially designed Baker rifle. Issued in particular to the light infantry in furtherance of their unique mission.

[soldiers as portrayed in the TV series, “Sharpe’s Rifles”!]

In the case of the Light Brigade, to cover 62 miles in a twenty-six hour period would mean walking [marching] at a pace of slightly less than 2 ½ miles per hour

My assumption here is that the march was more or less continuous for the entire twenty-six hour period. NO breaks for meals or the ordinary ten-minute rest per hour generally prescribed for an infantry unit during an extended march.

This is eminently possible? For troops, unencumbered with impedimenta, carrying only a rifle [musket?], ammunition, and possibly bayonet, this does seem as “DO-ABLE”!

In the case of the Light Brigade, the troops WERE NOT stripped of all but the essentials, rather carrying the full combat and existence load!?

One would suspect that such a pace is possible for seasoned, experienced, and conditioned troops. Hardened veterans, enlisted and officers both, who know how to push themselves to the limits of endurance and beyond when necessary.

NOT ONLY hardened, experienced, seasoned, conditioned troops, but under the command of an officer, Craufurd, generally felt to be a harsh taskmaster. A commander given over to the lash when he saw fit.

Covering such a distance would be even more remarkable given that Talavera occurred on July 27th, during mid-summer, in Spain, a time of the year very hot and dry!

I am curious to know:

* What percentage of troops fell out on the march and did not arrive on the battlefield [in the aftermath of Talavera] with the brigade? Generally speaking, a soldier unable to keep up the pace and falling out during a forced march to battle would be in great peril. Alone, subject to assault and murder by marauders, irregulars, or just plain criminal attack! Emphasis on “staying together as a unit” is for GOOD REASON!

* To what extent was the APPROACH of the Light Brigade appreciated by the French commander and part of his battlefield calculations? The mere presence of a unit on the battlefield, even if not committed or capable of combat, can drastically change plans, calculations and perceptions! The potentiality of reinforcement [for or against or the total lack of] is something a commander must at all times consider

Regulations be damned too! It is the lot of a soldier that he may have to forgo food, water, be cold or hot, exhausted, without sleep, devoid of any creature comforts, MARCHING TO BATTLE IN A MANNER WITHOUT LET OR SURCEASE SHOULD BE EXPECTED FROM TIME TO TIME AS PART AND PARCEL OF THE SOLDIERS’ LOT!!

This is so!!


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