Right Shoulder Shift with Charge Bayonet?
by Mark (Silas) Tackitt
Is the rear rank going to right shoulder shift a reenactorism or not? Until Mark Terry of the 44th Tennessee Consolidated Infantry found a letter written by a western Confederate in April, 1863, I had thought that going to right shoulder shift was only a reenactorism debunked by Dom Dal Bello's article entitled, "Charge - BAYONET. I am not as certain any more.
Here is the letter:
April 17th 1863
Dear Papa and Mother,
It is with great pleasure that I take my knapsack on my knee and my pen in hand to write you a few lines informing you that I am very well at present and hope they may find yoiu all enkjoying the same. I have no news at all to write everything is exactly the same as when I wrote last the only thing that has transpired since then that is worth relating is a review we had the other day. A general review of Breckenridges Div. Genls Hardee and Polk were both present and after we had passed in review they called on Genl Breckenridge for three of the best Regiments he had, they wanted to see them drill and decide which was the best. Genl B selected our Regt, the 18th Tenn. and the 20th Lou as the best he had, and we at once commenced. Our Regt drilled first. Lieut Col Mashbourne of the 3rd Fla drilled us. We all did ouir best as we wanted to get the praise but the 18th Tenn beat us and got the praise of being the best and our Regt 2nd best. Just before oiur Regt quit the Col got us in line of battle across the old field and told us he wanted us to make a charge just like we did when we charged the Yanks. We started in common time but didn't get far before he gave us the command "Charge Bayonets, Douible Quick, March" when the front rank came to a charge and the rear rank to "right shoulder shift arms" we made the charge and yelled with as much spirit as if the Yanks had been there sure enough. The Genls waved their hats to us and said was very well done but the 18th Tenn beat us, they went through the same that we did and when they made the charge they got about half-way across the field yelling as loud as they could when all at once the Drum tapped and they all dropped like they were dead even the Col and his horse both come down. The horse lay as close the ground as he could get and the Col right behind him. They all lay for several minutes before they got up. It beat any thing I ever saw in my life and I never did hear such cheering in my life as was done when they dropped, they got the praise and well do they deserve it for they beat anything drilling that ever I say. The Col has his horse trained to lay down whenever he says to.
I received a letter from Jimmy & Sister the other day and also one from Johny. I have written to Jimmy and Johny both today.
Well, Papa and Mother, Goodbye for this time. Kiss all the children for me and write soon to your Affectionate Son
Wm D. Rogers
[1st Florida Infantry - Army of the Tennessee]
A link to the page where this letter and two others from Private William Rogers can be found by clicking here.
Under this letter, it would seem to be acceptable to go to the charge bayonet with the rear rank going to right shoulder shift - if the unit is marching some speed other than the common time. The standard reenactorism of marching at the common time remains incorrect (where's the shock value in a slow march toward the opposing line?), but there seems to be some evidence of the rear rank going to right shoulder shift.
However, a modern day reenactor believes that during the same review, or one made within the same time frame, General Hardee reprimanded General Lytle for allowing his brigade to use shortcuts in drill. What those shortcuts were is not known, but apparently it was obvious to the general. Hardee's comment to Lytle was that the command "was not performed as I wrote it."