Greetings, all. I was wondering about the practice that is known today as 'Stand to' ; short, I believe, for 'Stand to your arms' and described by Peninsula & Waterloo veterans as the custom of falling in two hours before day break and remaining formed up till daylight or until “You can see a white horse a mile off.” (Surtees 95th ; Morris 73rd)
Surtees, serving in the Light Coy of the 56th (West Essex) in the Helder campaign of 1799, explained "the custom of being at the alarm post before daybreak.is almost universal; for, that being the usual time of attack, it behoves those who are apprehensive of a visit from the enemy to be on the lookout, and to be prepared to receive them when they come- here they remain, till as the vulgar phrase goes, “You can see a white horse a mile off,” that is, till it is clear daylight, and they have ascertained that no enemy is in the neighbourhood; after which, if all be quiet, they retire to their quarters."
From the midwinter campaign of 1794-95, Captain William Harness of the 80th desribed three weeks in the field, " Seven nights we lay upon our arms, we had seven night marches, and the other six we were so near the enemy as to sleep accoutred, ready to turn out at a minute’s notice, and every morning under arms at five o’clock and remained out till perfect daylight."
Can anyone enlighten me as to the process in our period ? Would troops in the field be roused by drum in order to form up "at the alarm post" or would this happen quietly, to avoid confusion or alarm, with NCOs moving among the troops, waking the men, passing the word along to 'stand to' ?
Last edited by jf42
on March 16th, 2017, 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.