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Western Independent Grays

Sword & Sabre Drill for Grays Officers

Article Researched and Written By John Duffer

Disclaimer - This manual is intended to create uniformity among Grays officers in the use of their sword, particularly when the battalion is on parade. It is not here presented as a historical tome and is not necessarily representative of what an actual Civil War era officer may have done, but rather what our Colonel has selected for the instruction of his Officers.

Drawing and Returning the Sword
Drawing and Returning the Sword

Orders will not be given to draw or return, the drawn sword indicates the Officer is in command of his men – for example the Captain would draw when his orderly Sergeant indicates the Company is formed, the Battalion Commander when the Adjutant reports the Battalion is formed, etc. As in "Load in nine times" the motions below are for instructive purposes and are not rigidly followed in practice. The sword, when on duty, will be hooked up—the sword reversed, edge to the rear, hilt behind the arm.


(First Motion) - Bring the right hand quickly to the first position of the salute—palm to the left; at the same moment seize the scabbard with the left, and turn the sword, bringing the hilt to the front; seize the gripe with the right hand.

(Second Motion) - Draw the sword from the scabbard by extending the right arm easily; turn the hand and bring the sword to The Carry.


(First Motion) - Raise the sword perpendicularly, point up, the flat of the blade opposite the right eye, the guard at the height of the shoulder—elbow supported by the body; carry the hand to the left opposite the left shoulder, and reverse the sword; insert the point of the blade in the scabbard which is held by the left hand.

(Second Motion) - Insert the blade, withdraw the hand from the gripe; with the left hand turn the sword, back of the blade to the front, hilt behind the arm; drop the hands by the side.

Ideally you should be able to return the sword without looking. This can be quickly learned if the thumb and forefinger of the left hand are placed near the mouth of the hilt to serve as a guide and practiced in front of a mirror until you can shut your eyes.

The Carry / Shoulder
The Carry / Shoulder

The Carry is the default position, and that used at the command to Shoulder—ARMS

The arm nearly extended, back of the blade against the shoulder, hand resting against the hip; sword supported by the thumb and two first fingers, extended and placed on the gripe in such a manner that in raising the sword to the salute, etc., the fingers can be introduced inside the guard, and a firm grasp of the sword obtained without effort. Note the blade should be vertical and not pointed over the shoulder.


From the Carry, drop the blade of the sword by the right side, hand against the leg, the point a little advanced and about two inches from the ground.


From the Carry, angle the blade across the across the body, supported by the left hand, which is held opposite the shoulder. At the command to Shoulder—ARMS use the left hand to place the blade against the right shoulder, resuming the Carry, and drop the left hand by the side.


To Salute – Three Times (or Pauses)

(One) At the distance of six paces from the person to be saluted, raise the sword or saber perpendicularly, the point up, the flat of the blade opposite to the right eye, the guard at the height of the shoulder, the elbow supported on the body.

(Two) Drop the point of the sword or saber by extending the arm, so that the right hand may be brought to side of the right thigh, and remain in that position until the person to whom the salute is rendered shall be passed, or shall have passed six paces.

(Three) Raise the sword or saber smartly, and resume the position of Carry.

If Present—ARMS be given follow numbers One & Two above, remaining at Two until "Shoulder—ARMS" is ordered and then return to the Carry.

Safety is of the utmost importance to the Western Independent Grays’ staff and, with that in mind, weapons inspections will be an integral part of our safety program. We want to insure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience at our events, and our musket inspections go a long way toward that goal.

During the first Battalion Assembly, usually on the Saturday morning of an event, we will hold our weapons inspections. In order to keep a fair, unbiased, and impartial inspection, the Company Commanders will inspect the Company to their right. The furthermost right Company will inspect the furthermost left Company. If there are only two companies, the Company Commanders will trade Companies.

The inspecting Officers will be accompanied by the 1st sergeant of the company being inspected. Any soldier whose weapon does not conform to our safety standards will have his name recorded by accompanying First Sergeant. The First Sergeant will be the one who gives the inspecting officer the soldier’s name – not the soldier himself. This way, no company wags can get by with creating a name or using someone else’s.


The point of the blade held downwards and a little to the right, about a foot off the ground—back of the blade to the left—sword held easily by the right hand.  Default position at the run or double quick.


Reverse the sword; rest the point in front of the left toe; clasp the left hand over the right, both resting on the guard, hilt and edge to the right; at the same time bring the right foot six inches to the rear, the left knee slightly bent. At Attention  or Order—ARMS, resume the position of Order.


The sword and scabbard may be carried at the wearer’s pleasure.


A number of manuals were studied in connection with the above, (most only cover the Salute and Carry) as well as articles by Dom Dal Bello of the AOP and T. R. Wheeley of the Lazyjacks Mess.  The bulk of the WIG manual is based on Ellsworth’s 1859 work “Manual of Arms For Light Infantry, Adapted to the Rifle Musket, with, or without, the priming attachment, arranged for the U.S. Zouave Cadets,” and from a drill session held by battalion officers at Fort Gaines earlier this year.  Additional works consulted:

“Abstract of Infantry Tactics; Including Exercises and Manoeuvers of Light-Infantry and Rifleman; For the Use of the Militia of the United States.” Winfield Scott, et al 1830.

“Infantry Tactics or, Rules for the Exercise and Manoeuvers of the United States Infantry New Edition.” Major-General Scott, 1861.

“Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics; For the Exercise and Manoeuvers of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen.” Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. W. J. Hardee, 1855

“Manual of Instruction For the Volunteers and Militia of the United States: With Numerous Illustrations by Major William Gilham" 1861.

“U.S. Infantry Tactics for the Instruction, Exercise, and Manoeuvers of the United States Infantry, Including Infantry of the Line, Light Infantry, and Riflemen Prepared Under the Direction of the War Department, and Authorized and Adopted by the Secretary of War, May 1, 1861."

“Infantry Tactics for the Instruction, Exercise, and Manoeuvers of the Soldier, a Company, Line of Skirmishers, Battalion, Brigade, or Corps d' Armee." Brigadier-General Silas Casey, 1862.