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"To the very Ranks"

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"To the very Ranks"

Postby jf42 » December 20th, 2015, 6:56 pm

"The cavalry of the French pushed their way on the retreating picquets to the very Ranks"

I have been puzzling over this slightly odd phrase found in a veteran's account, which for some time I assumed meant that the pursuing French had pressed right up to the main British battle line. It now seems possible that what the narrator meant was that in a confused melée some French pushed as far as to where the senior officers were gathered at the GOC's command post. A Major General did manage to get a sabre cut across the face during this phase of the action so there is circumstantial evidence.

I am not entirely convinced, however. Is anyone else familiar with the use of the term 'the Ranks' to mean 'senior officers', i.e. 'people of rank'. Clearly, this would be the opposite of what we would understand today by the phrase 'the ranks', meaning ordinary or common soldiers, as in 'rising from the ranks' 'reduced to the ranks' etc.
Last edited by jf42 on December 21st, 2015, 9:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "To the very Ranks"

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 21st, 2015, 12:04 am

Not familiar with "Ranks" referring to Field or General Officers. Rank and File to me etc has always signified the "simple soldier", etc, I would read such a passage to mean the French rode upon the main line, unless further context was particularly striking.

Josh.
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Re: "To the very Ranks"

Postby jf42 » December 21st, 2015, 9:30 am

Well, probably, yes, Josh, I agree, but the possibility presented itself.
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Re: "To the very Ranks"

Postby TheBibliophile » December 21st, 2015, 9:59 am

I think I agree with Josh on this, although it is a tad ambiguous.

I would suggest it meant that the piquets had been driven in...

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