The Corporal

(from the Kautz NCO Guide)

313. The appointment of corporal is the first step to promotion in the army, and may lead to the highest distinction in the military service. The corporal is usually selected from the most intelligent privates, who have been longest in the service, and who are noted for their military appearance and attention to duty.

314. The sergeants are appointed from the corporals, and they should therefore look upon their position as one of probation, and should seek to perform well their part, in order that they may be advanced.

315. The pay of corporals of cavalry, artillery, and infantry is eighteen dollars per month; in the engineers and ordnance, twenty dollars. They get one ration per day, except the corporal of ordnance, who receives a ration and a half. They get a small increase on the allowance of clothing to a private.

316. The duties of a corporal are simple, and depend for their successful performance mainly upon his capacity to control and direct soldiers in the performance of their duty. They take charge of the smaller details for fatigue and police duty in camp and garrison duty: their most important duty is that of Corporal of the Guard. They frequently succeed to the responsibilities of sergeant in his absence, and should therefore be familiar with his duties.

317. Corporals should bear in mind that they are entitled to implicit obedience from the men placed under them; and, whilst they are not usually authorized to confine soldiers on their own judgment, they should always be sustained by their superiors in the performance of their duties, and in the execution of their office.

318. When a soldier neglects his duty towards a corporal, the corporal should at once report the fact to the first sergeant, whose duty it is either to decide in the matter, or to report it to his company commander.

319. Non-commissioned officers have it in their power at times to favor certain soldiers, that is, to relieve them from the most disagreeable part of the duty before them, and give it to others. Such distinctions soon destroy their influence over men, and give rise to trouble and difficulty.

320. They should seek to be just towards the men, treat all alike, and when a hardship falls upon an individual he should have no grounds for thinking he has been especially selected.

321. The corporal should insist upon obedience, without being arbitrary, and should maintain his position as a non-commissioned officer firmly, but without arrogance. When he first receives his appointment, his calibre meets with the severest tests. Soldiers, for a time, will be apt to try the material he is made of, which they do in many ways, and by progressive steps, and, if not checked, will increase to a complete disregard, and terminate in an entire inefficiency of the corporal.

322. He should take the first opportunity, and make it the decisive issue that will settle once and for all that he intends to maintain his position with the jealousy of the highest grade.

323. Corporals should be living examples for the soldiers in the neatness and cleanliness of their clothing, arms, and accoutrements. They should be the first to fall into ranks at roll-calls, and should have their tents or bunks, wherever their quarters, always systematically in order

324. They should be familiar with the “School of the Soldier,” and capable of instructing the recruits in the elementary principles of tactics.

325. In the field, where it is sometimes difficult to cook for the entire company, it is divided into messes and the non-commissioned officers placed in charge of the different messes pro rata. They attend to drawing provisions for their mess, and are held responsible for the conduct of the mess-mates in the keeping of their tents and the care of the camp and garrison equipage in their charge.

326. CORPORAL OF THE GUARD — This is the most important duty that falls to the corporal. He should be perfectly familiar with the duties of the sentinel, and able to instruct the members of the guard in their duties.

327. Ordinarily, a guard consists of a lieutenant and sergeant of the guard, and three corporals, one to each relief As soon as the guard has marched on it is divided into three reliefs. The senior corporal is assigned to the first relief the next to the second, and the third corporal to the last relief.

328. As soon as his relief has been assigned to him, the corporal makes a list of the names and numbers, beginning on the right, the odd numbers being in the front rank, and the even numbers in the rear rank. This list is handed to the sergeant of the guard. The corporal should keep a copy of it also.

329. As soon as the list of the first relief is taken, the corporal marches it off to post it, accompanied by the corporal of the old guard. No. 1 is relieved first; he is always stationed at the guard-house, and is not required to march round the chain of sentinels with the relief. The other sentinels are relieved in succession, and are required to fall in in the rear and march round in order, at a “Support Arms.” The Regulations proscribe: “When a sentinel sees the relief approaching, he will halt and face to it, with his arms at a shoulder. At six paces, the corporal will command, “Relief  HALT!”  where the relief will halt and carry arms. The corporal will then add, “No. 1” or “No. 2” or “No. 3” according to the number of the post, “Arms—PORT!” The two sentinels will, with arms at port, then approach each other, when the old sentinel, under the correction of the corporal, will whisper the instructions to the new sentinel. This done, the two sentinels will shoulder arms, and the old sentinel will pass, in quick time, to his place in rear of the relief. The corporal will then command “Support—ARMS!— Forward MARCH!” and the relief proceeds in the same manner until the whole are relieved.”

330. The first relief should be posted as promptly as possible, as both guards are kept waiting until all the sentinels have been relieved and have joined their guards to march off. The new guard does not “Stack Arms” until the old one has marched off.

331. If the guard is small, there may be but one corporal; and he then would be required to post all the reliefs, and, in all probability, there would be no officer of the guard, and the sergeant then would be the commander of the guard. When there is a corporal to each relief, each corporal parades his own relief, posts it, and instructs the sentinels in their duty. He answers the call of the sentinels of his relief for “Corporal of the Guard.”

332. The reliefs are usually posted for two hours; they have, therefore, four hours off post. It may be necessary to have two or all the corporals visiting the sentinels at once. The corporals of the other reliefs may therefore be called on when the corporal whose relief is on post is absent on duty. Each corporal, however, answers the calls of his own relief as far as possible.

333. The corporal should visit his relief thoroughly the first tour by daylight, and see that the sentinels know their day-orders well, and again the first tour at night, to see that they know and perform their night-duties properly. And they should be visited at other times also, until they know and perform their duties well; for the corporal will be held responsible by the officer of the guard that the sentinels are properly instructed.

334. Corporals should remember that the only persons authorized to give them orders when on guard are the commanding officer, officer of the day, and the commissioned and non- commissioned officers of the guard; and they take orders from no other persons.

335. The privates of the guard should make their applications to be absent from the guard, through the corporals, who are required to see that they return punctually and are not absent longer than is necessary. The corporal is held responsible that he reports to the officer of the guard all neglect of duty or disobedience of orders or instructions by members of the guard.

336. The corporal whose relief is on post at twilight receives the countersign and communicates it to the sentinels of his relief. Afterwards the countersign is communicated by the old sentinel to the new one when the relief marches round.

337. Corporals should be careful how they exercise their own discretion in reporting offenses or neglect of duty by the men: It often happens that it may be wise and judicious to let the first offense pass, with the admonition that if repeated it will certainly be taken notice of In no case should a repetition of the same offense be allowed to pass unreported, as it is sure to be followed by others.

338. In cities and towns, and in the neighborhood of camps, patrol guards are often sent out under a non-commissioned officer, to pick up soldiers absent without authority, and to correct any abuses of which soldiers may be guilty. Such patrol guards have no authority over commissioned officers, and it is not proper that such patrols should be instructed to demand passes of officers. Such patrols may, however, give information of improper conduct on the part of officers to the officer of the guard.


339. THE CORPORAL OF POLICE. — He may be on general police or company police. On the former, he will probably be under the direction of the officer of police or sergeant, and have a detail placed under his direction to police a certain extent of ground about the camp or quarters. On company police, he will have charge of cleaning up the company parade-ground and quarters, under the instruction of the first sergeant.

340. The police party is usually turned out twice during the day, — in the morning soon after reveille, and in the afternoon before evening parade. The duty is light if regularly performed and the corporals are attentive and require the men to do their work thoroughly each time they are turned out.

341. In barracks, the duty corresponding to police in camp, is room-orderly. He usually goes on for a week at a time, and alternates with the duty-sergeants and corporals, occupying the same room in barracks, in regulating the police of the room. He sees that the men keep their bunks or bedsteads in order, roll up their beds, and fold their blankets neatly after reveille; that the room is swept out and prepared for the morning inspection. In winter-time, or cold weather, the police party is required to cut wood for the kitchen and for the quarters, where the fires are used in common. The corporal superintends the party, and sees that the duty is properly performed.


342. FATIGUE — Corporals usually have charge of the smaller details for fatigue duty. Fatigue duty includes all the irregular work that the soldier is called upon to perform from time to time. In the field, it includes working upon roads, building field-works, rifle-pits, etc., making or removing obstructions, duty on forage-parties, and, in fact, all the duties where details of men are required, without arms, for short periods.

343. In barracks or quarters there are many duties that call for details for fatigue, such as loading or unloading of stores, the removal of stores from one place to another, digging of graves for deceased soldiers or officers, labor on the grounds, works, or buildings of the post, etc. All such duties are usually claimed as fatigue, and the labor should be divided pro rata among the non-commissioned officers and the men.

344. Corporals may either have charge of a separate party or a subdivision, and receive their instructions as to what they are expected to do, and are held responsible by their superior officers for the performance of their duty.

345. They should make lists of the names of the men under them, so that they will know at any time the detail. The habit of taking notes cannot be too strongly recommended to corporals and other non-commissioned officers.

346. They are also held responsible for the tools and other implements used by the party, and should Therefore take note of their number, kind, and condition, and, if any are lost, broken, or injured, they should report by whom and how they were damaged, and “whether by fault of any one,” when they are turned in again.