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Usage of Gilham’s Manual

By Erik Mink, 4th Virginia

Many articles have appeared in The Camp Chase Gazette concerning the usage of “correct” drill manuals by reenactment groups. These articles have down-played the importance, and even the utilization, of William Gilham’s Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States [Confederate States]. I remember being asked once, when filming the movie Gettysburg, if we ever had any concrete evidence that Gilham, instead of William Hardee’s Infantry Tactics, was used by the “Stonewall Brigade.” I was forced to reply in the negative, but it prompted me to start searching, what follows is some evidence that certainly suggests that we chose wisely.

The first account I came upon was found in Henry Kyd Douglas’ I Rode With Stonewall. Interestingly enough, his mention of the use of Gilham involves Jackson. The incident occurred around August 1861 when Douglas, as a junior lieutenant in the 2nd Virginia, was officer of the guard on a dark and wet night. Jackson had been stopped by the guard and asked the countersign, which he refused to give. He asked Douglas under whose authority he was acting, and Douglas replied: “My authority was Gilham’s Manual. He told me to quietly and apparently without any annoyance to reinstruct the sentinel and bring Gilham to his tent the next morning. I did both and he was very cordial in the morning reception, admitted Gilham’s authority, but had a copy of his order given to me.”[1]

Although Jackson may not have been completely familiar with Gilham’s content, he obviously recognized its use among his troops. While Douglas’ mention places Gilham in use by the 2nd Virginia, it does appear that some of the other regiments of the Brigade were also deferring to his authority. Gilham’s Manual was written with the militia in mind, thus it is quite possible that some of the prewar Virginia units may have secured copies in the short period between its publishing and the commencement of hostilities. The 5th Virginia was composed of some of the finest militia units in the Shenandoah Valley, one of which was commanded by Captain John H.S. Funk. In the summer of 1861, Captain Funk sent his brother, Sergeant Jefferson W.O. Funk, on recruiting detail to Winchester. In an undated letter to his brother, Captain Funk requested that his brother: “Go to Leiut. Mesmer’s house & tell his wife that Bud Newton said send him Gilums [sic] drill book.”[2] Lieut. John R. Mesmer was a member of Company K, 5th Virginia, while Capt. James W. Newton commanded Company E in the summer of 1861. The fact that Capt. Newton had a copy of Gilham’s Manual at his home would indicate that he may have acquired it while in the militia prior to the war.

While some in the 5th Virginia may have obtained their copies in the prewar Virginia military, the officers in the 33rd Virginia apparently had to wait to purchase their manuals from the Confederate publishers. Although Virginia had commissioned Gilham to author the drill manual, upon its completion they found it too large and too expensive for their uses. The prewar edition was published by Charles Desilver of Philadelphia, but upon Virginia’s secession, they were now unavailable. Nonetheless, the enterprising Richmond publishing firm West & Johnston decided to print their own edition which appeared for sale in the beginning of August 1861. In order to acquire copies of the manuals, the Virginia officers were forced to purchase their own, thus was the case with the 33rd Virginia. Captain Frederick W.M. Holliday of Company E apparently made a trip to Richmond around August 1861 and took orders for Gilham’s Manual, as well as Army Regulations – 2nd Edition. In his collected papers at Duke University is the list he made of 33rd officers wishing copies of Est & Johnson’s edition of Gilham’s Manual. The names listed are John Gatewood Co. C, George W. Allen Co. F, David H. Walton Co. K, and Lieut. Martin Strickler Co. B. Unfortunately, General Jackson is also listed, but he declined a copy of Gilham yet needed a copy of Army Regulations.[3]

The above documentation indicates that at least during the first year of the war, the “Stonewall” Brigade used Gilham’s Manual. What many reenactors do not understand is that it made very little difference what manual the different companies and regiments used. ForĀ the Confederacy, there was only one manual that went beyond the battalion level, Winifield Scott’s Infantry Tactics. The third volume of Scott addresses the “Evolutions of the Line,” which might explain why Francis B. Jones, AAG to Colonel Jackson, wrote to his mother on June 4, 1861: “Do tell Sue not to allow any book of tactics to go out of my house to any body who ever it may be . . . . let her send me a copy of the “Militia Law”, the 3d Vol. Of Scotts Tactic’s.”[4] So it might be perfectly reasonable for different regiments within the same brigade to be using different battalion manuals, yet all adhering to Scott’s “Evolution of the Line.” But for our impression, it appears that we have chosen correctly with regards to Gilham’s Manual.


Sources

[1]. Henry Kyd Douglas. I Rode with Stonewall. Chapel Hill:The University of North Carolina Press. 1968. P. 14.
[2]. Undated letter of J.H.S. Fund to J.W.O. Funk. Typescript in Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania NMP.
[3]. Undated inventory of F.W.M. Holliday. Special Collections Library. Duke University. Thanks to Brian Swidal of “Co. E, 33rd VA” for discovering this information.
[4]. Margaretta Barton Colt. Defend the Valley: A Shenandoah Family in the Civil War. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1994. p. 70.

2 comments

  1. Al Combatalade says:

    I just purchased a copy of the manual inscribed by then Captain and later Lt. Col. Meriwether Lewis of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.

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