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Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

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Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby jf42 » March 6th, 2017, 10:22 am

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.
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby Josh&Historyland » March 6th, 2017, 12:32 pm

As I understand it, Stand to was given in the presence of the enemy or if an action was expected. Otherwise the "General" was sounded. At Waterloo even the French remembered the cacophony of drums and bugles from the allied ridge, so I presumed it was done with instruments, unless for some specific reason.

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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby jf42 » March 6th, 2017, 2:16 pm

When you say that 'Stand to was given', Josh, do you mean a drum or bugle call?

At Waterloo, it was just short of midsummer, so two hours before daybreak would have been not long after midnight. It was, of course, a miserable, dark, stormy night but nonetheless.

Your reference to French memories of the noise on the opposite side of the valley is interesting. What time of day was that? I had the impression of an army of damp, hungry men, numb with fatigue, who had passed a cheerless, sleepless night, just shaking themselves out individually when morning broke and sorting themselves out as best they could, rather than being formed up to face a notional attack from the men opposite.
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby Josh&Historyland » March 7th, 2017, 12:30 am

Corporal Dickson said there were two calls. First being reville, trumpet call which got the men up, though Dickson was woken by a comrade having slept through the trumpeter, and sergeants also got the more drowsy men going. Then after breakfast etc I think Stand To was called, though I think in the cavalry Boot and Saddle came before that, if indeed it isn't the same thing.

I rather get the impression the call was communicated officially by Drum, trumpet and bugle followed by the NCO's walking the bivouac's and making sure everyone was roused. So there seems to have been at least two calls on the 18th at least. I think we might have to scour the memoirs and diaries to get a proper fix.

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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby jf42 » March 7th, 2017, 8:14 am

Thanks, Josh. Those are interesting details. It will be worth mooching through the the memoirs, as you suggest. It's possible the morning of the 18th was like few other days, or certainly was remembered that way

I think 'Stand to your arms' may have been an infantry command. Whether 'Boots and Saddles' was the cavalry equivalent, I am not sure. Certainly, without their boots on and horses saddled, cavalry wouldn't have been able to do much in the face of a morning visit from the enemy.
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby FROGSMILE » March 8th, 2017, 12:01 am

I think you will find that "boots and saddles" is a US Cavalry call, is it not? Heard before the Little Big Horn perhaps, but not Waterloo, unless I have been misinformed.
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby Josh&Historyland » March 8th, 2017, 12:56 am

Could've sworn I'd read of it being used by the British cavalry. Hmm.
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby Josh&Historyland » March 8th, 2017, 1:35 am

Yeah, the British use it for a parade call.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boots_and_Saddles_(bugle_call)

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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby FROGSMILE » March 8th, 2017, 8:24 am

Josh&Historyland wrote:Yeah, the British use it for a parade call.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boots_and_Saddles_(bugle_call)

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Yes, I have found it now: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uVX2hSft94s
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Re: Morning Drills- 'Stand to'

Postby jf42 » March 10th, 2017, 9:01 pm

My interest in this particular case lies in infantry practice before use of the bugle became standard.

Is anyone able to advise me where I might find examples of what would appear to be the relevant drum calls: i.e. reveille & rouse?

Mr Gøøgle is not coming up with much. I'll re-post this separately to see if any of the living history/re-enacting brethren can help.
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