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Drill Bits: The Oblique Firings

By Brad Ireland. 4th Virginia, Co. A

The Right Oblique
What the manual says: “192. The oblique firings will be executed to the right and left, and by the same commands as the direct fire, with this single difference—the command aim will always be preceded by the caution, right or left oblique. Position of the two ranks in the oblique fire to the right. At the command ready, the two ranks will execute what has been prescribed for the direct fire. At the cautionary command, right oblique, the two ranks will throw back the right shoulder and look steadily at the object to be hit. At the command aim, each front rank man will aim to the right without deranging the feet; each rear rank man will advance the left foot about eight inches toward the right heel of the man next on the right of his file leader and aim to the right, inclining the upper part of the body forward and bending a little the left knee.”

What this means: The command given will be “At the right oblique, ready, aim, fire

  • For the men in the front rank, they will simply throw back his right shoulder so that his musket will aim to the right. We are looking for about a 35 Degree angle of fire to the right. It is important that the front rank man does not move his feet. They must stay in the proper “T” formation.
  • The man in the rear rank, in order to place his muskets on target, 35 degrees to the right, will need to adjust his foot position and throw back his right shoulder. To do this, he will advance his left foot about eight inches toward the right heel of the front rank man to the right of your file partner. The musket will, as always, be off the right shoulder of your file partner. You are looking to advance the musket to a point where your file partner’s ear is somewhere between the middle and rear barrel bands.

The Left Oblique
What the manual says: “At the cautionary command, left oblique, the two ranks will throw back the left shoulder and look steadily at the object to be hit. At the command aim, the front rank will take aim to the left without deranging the feet; each man in the rear rank will advance the right foot about eight inches toward the right heel of the man next on the right of his file-leader, and aim to the left, inclining the upper part of the body forward and bending a little the right knee. In both cases, at the command load, the men of each rank will come to the position of load as prescribed in the direct fire; the rear rank men bringing back the foot which is to the right and front by the side of the other. Each man will continue to load as if isolated.”

What this means: The command given will be “At the left oblique, ready, aim, fire

  • For the men in the front rank, this is executed exactly the same as the right oblique but now to the left. They will simply throw back his left shoulder so that his musket will aim to the left. We are looking for about a 35 Degree angle of fire to the left. It is important that the front rank man does not move his feet. They must stay in the proper “T” formation.
  • The man in the rear rank, in order to place his muskets on target, 35 degrees to the left, will need to adjust his foot position and throw back his left shoulder.   He will advance his right foot about eight inches towards the right heel of the front rank man to the right of your file partner. Again, you are looking to advance the musket to a point where your file partner’s ear is somewhere between the middle and rear barrel bands off his right shoulder.

Summary for the rear rank men: Remember you are always advancing your foot towards the right heel of the front rank man to the right of your file partner. Since that man is in his correct firing “T” foot position, his right heel will actually be a little to the left of his left foot. You are only advancing eight inches… you don’t need to step way up into the gap between the front rank men. The trick to remembering which foot to advance is to advance the opposite foot for the oblique you are executing. So a right oblique advances the left foot, a left oblique advances the right foot.

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