Back to First War

The commands of the Steuben musket drill seem too slow and deliberate to modern ears to be of efficient use in a battle situation. However, through proper execution of the training commands, the soldiers became a well- synchronized unit. Speed came with practice. In the stress of battle, officers gave shortened combat commands, and Washington's men could fire coordinated volleys of musket fire every fifteen seconds.

The Training Commands

1. Half-cock Firelock
Soldier pulls musket cock back one notch and opens the steel (frizzen).

2. Handle Cartridge
Soldier slaps cartridge box to settle the powder in the cartridges, tears open the cartridge with his teeth, and places the opened cartridge under his chin to protect it.

3. Prime
Soldier places a small amount of powder in the pan.

4. Shut Pan

Soldier shuts the steel to hold the powder in the pan and casts the musket about in order to place the cartridge in the barrel.

5. Charge with Cartridge

Soldier dumps powder down the barrel and then places the paper-wrapped musket balls into the barrel.

6. Draw Rammer
Soldier draws the ramrod out.

7. Ram Down Cartridge
Soldier rams paper-wrapped musket balls down securely on top of the powder with the ramrod.

8. Return Rammer

Soldier returns ramrod to its place beneath the barrel.

9. Shoulder Firelock
Soldier holds musket steady on the left shoulder.

10. Poise Firelock
Soldier places musket in the ready position.

11. Full-cock Firelock
Soldier pulls musket cock back to second notch.

12. Take Aim
Soldier levels musket.

13. Fire
Fires musket.

Combat Commands

1. Load
Soldier loads musket using steps 1-9. From the shouldered firelock position, the officers can order the soldiers to charge, retreat, or fire. If the officers want the soldiers to fire, the commands are:

2. Make Ready
Soldier goes through poise position and pulls musket cock back to second notch.

3. Take Aim
Soldier levels musket.

4. Fire
Fires musket.
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