Reviews: Military Books



Standing Orders, as Given Out and Enforced by the Late Major-Gen. Robt. Craufurd for the Use of the Light Division during the Years 1809, 1810, and 1811

Craufurd, Robert. Standing Orders, as Given Out and Enforced by the Late Major-Gen. Robt. Craufurd for the Use of the Light Division during the Years 1809, 1810, and 1811. Campbell, William Pitcairn and Shaw, James (eds).  Godmanchester: Ken Trotman, 2006 (repr. 1814).  84 pages. ISBN# 1905074298.  Paperback. ₤15.

General Robert Craufurd, commander of the British Light Division through much of the Peninsula War, was a strict disciplinarian who demanded the highest standards from his troops.  Although they often bitterly disagreed with him and his methods, his officers and men obeyed and set the standard for the divisions in Wellington's Anglo-Allied Army.  Craufurd wrote a series of standing orders for his units follow, whether they were in bivouac or in the field.  These orders were not a static document, but were changed as the situation dictated – but only after much consideration on the part of the general.

The Standing Orders were divided into eight sections:

Section I:  Preparations for the March
Section II:  On the March
Section III: Arrangements after the March
Section IV: Duties in Camp or Quarters
Section V: Issue of Provisions
Section VI: Fatigue and Foraging Parties
Section VII: Commissariat
Section VIII: Inspections and Returns

Each section was subdivided into articles that spelled out the duties of the officers and soldiers, plus Craufurd's expectations when encountering different situations.  For example in "Section II: On the March," there are articles on where the officers are to be stationed during the march (company commanders marched at the rear of their companies), how the units and individual soldiers are expected to act during the march, how to deal with obstacles in their way, stragglers, how to avoid the accordion effect that happens when a unit gets strung out along a route, and baggage. 

General Craufurd firmly believed that strictly adhering to the Standing Orders saved the units time and effort in the long run.  For example, in "Section II: On the March," two pages are devoted to dealing with obstacles on the route of march.   If the unit encounters a stream along its way, it is human nature to find the driest way across it.  Craufurd's belief that by allowing soldiers to pick their way individually across the stream, it delayed the march so long, that instead of getting into the bivouac area at a time that would allowed them to make camp in relative ease and comfort, they would arrive after dark.  He actually wrote in the Standing Orders the following: "This order respecting defiling, is therefore as much calculated to provide for the personal ease and comfort of the men, as it is essential for the due performance of the movements of an army."[1]

Needless to say, the soldiers who had to ford the streams in the winter time and then march on with wet clothes and shoes, were not always appreciative of his concerns.  However, in 1812, when Craufurd was mortally wounded during the assault on Ciudad Rodrigo, according to legend, his burial party showed him the ultimate respect.

"As the Light Division returned from the grave of their late Commander there lay in its way deep slush and mud and as this was approached there passed down the ranks a low buzz.  The men drew themselves together and plunged into the mire. . . . It was a tribute to their dead chief whose iron discipline they well knew had so often led them to victory as it had saved them from avoidable losses."[2]

One of the great things about reading the Standing Orders is that there are enough memoirs and diaries left by the officers and men of the Light Division that you can see how the orders were carried out and what they were thought of them.  In "Article IV: Stragglers" of "Section II: On the March," there is a specific system set up to deal with soldiers who are injured or too sick to keep up with the rate of march. The purpose was to prevent straggling.

"Every man who is obliged to quit the ranks on account of illness, must apply to Commanding Officer of the company [who marches at the rear of the company] for permission to remain behind, and for a ticket or certificate, which will be given to him, if the Officer thinks it necessary that he should remain behind."[3]

Lieutenant George Simmons of the 95th Rifles, wrote of his duty of policing up the stragglers:

"I was order to pick up all stragglers and to take care that no baggage was left by me upon the road. The only baggage I found was the General's light cart filled with wine and eatables. I tried every means to make the mules draw this load, but without effect.  A soldier of my party volunteered to mount the first mule, and the slings of the rifles we laid on handsomely on both sides of the stubborn animals.  We at last started them, but they set off with the greatest fury, away went my rifleman, and luckily he was not hurt. The road happened to be very steep, so that the animals could not avoid increasing their pace every moment.  The cart was dashed to pieces, and the mules were also sadly injured... On entering Castello de Vide I proceeded first to lodge the prisoners in a secure place, and then to inform the General how well I had endeavoured to perform his orders. He had a party at dinner, and was expecting his light cart every moment with its contents in the best possible  order. When I related the sad catastrophe he became nearly furious, and directed me to march up the prisoners to their respective regiments, to obtain drummers, and in the front of each regiment to flog the culprits – in fact, to become a provost-marshal for the occasion. I was highly indignant at such usage for having exerted myself zealously to serve him. I went with my party to Colonel Beckwith, and made him acquainted with the instructions I had received from the General, He admonished the stragglers for having left the line of march, and told them to go and join their regiments and not transgress again."[4]

Although Craufurd's reaction appears to be unduly harsh, it is what is called for in the Standing Orders:  "Every man who quits the ranks, without leave of the Commanding Officer of the company without receiving a Ticket. . .  must be brought to a Court Martial. If ill, he must be tried as soon as he as recovered; but if not ill, it must be done on the Drum-head as soon as the regiment arrives, or as the man comes up, and the punishment inflicted forthwith."[5]

Standing Orders cover almost every contingency, from where and how often to dig latrines to how to issue the daily ration to ensuring equitable billeting to organizing piquets and guards.   It is a gem of a book that provides valuable insight to how a unit functions both in the field and in quarters. 

Ken Trotman Publishing has re-published the pocket edition, published by T. Egerton in 1814.  It is 24° (5.75 inches by 3.5 inches) and will fit in the pocket. It includes a twenty page index at the end of the book, however it is more a table of contents than an appendix. It is a facsimile of the original, so the type and layout is the same.  I strongly recommend it to all those interested in the period.  Although it is a modern reprint and in paperback, an re-enactor would have no problem re-binding it to be use at his events.

Captain John Kincaid summed up the soldiers feelings about General Craufurd and his Standing Orders the best:

"His funeral was attended by Lord Wellington, and the officers of the division, by whom he was ultimately, much liked.  He had introduced a system of discipline in the light division which made them unrivalled.  A very rigid exaction of the duties pointed out in his code of regulations made him very unpopular at its commencement, and it was not until a short time before he was lost to us for ever, that were capable of appreciating his merits, and fully sensible of the incalculable advantages we derived from the perfection of his system."[6]

Reviewed by Robert Burnham.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2006

Notes:

[1] Craufurd, Robert. Standing Orders, as Given Out and Enforced by the Late Major-Gen. Robt. Craufurd for the Use of the Light Division during the Years 1809, 1810, and 1811. Campbell, William Pitcairn and Shaw, James (eds).  Godmanchester: Ken Trotman, 2006 (repr. 1814).  P. 14

[2] Verner, Willoughby. The History and Campaigns of the Rifle Brigade: 1800 – 1813. London: Buckland and Brown; 1905. & 2 in vols., reprinted from 1912 edition by Naval & Military Press Ltd., 1994. Vol. 2, Page 354.

[3] Craufurd; P. 15

[4] Simmons, George. A British Rifleman. London: Greenhill Books; 1986. Pp 26-7

[5] Craufurd; P.  16

[6] Kincaid, John. Adventures in the Rifle Brigade in the Peninsula, France, and the Netherlands from 1809-1815. Staplehurst: Spellmount, 1998. P. 118

Reviewed by Robert Burnham, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2001

 

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