Infantry, the foot soldiers of an army. The term is comparatively modern, having been first used by the Spaniards in the wars with the Moors, to designate the body guard of a royal prince or infante. It was gradually extended to the entire body of foot soldiers, and finally adopted throughout Europe. (See Army.) The infantry, from its powers of endurance, its capabilities for battle on all kinds of ground, and its independence of those casualties by which other arms may be completely paralyzed, is, and with few exceptions always has been, considered the first arm in importance. All other branches are subsidiary to it, and are employed for special purposes to supplement its final effects; and the fate of nations in war at the present day is decided by the discipline and efficiency of their infantry. The service of skirmishing and light infantry operations, as they were formerly called, which now devolve upon all infantry alike, demand great individual address, intelligence, and well developed physical power.
It is generally conceded that against infantry operating with the modern breech-loading weapons, and with the improved system of tactics and defence, cavalry is powerless, except when operating dismounted and armed with breech-loading magazine rifles, or mounted to complete a victory already won, and to charge the disorganized and flying ranks. (See Cavalry.) Artillery is of the utmost importance to cooperate with infantry, in opening engagements and in demoralizing the enemy with persistent shelling until the infantry is within firing distance. (See Artillery.) The relative number of field guns varies with the ground and the special objects to be secured; from three to five guns to 1,000 men is the number adopted in most army organizations of the present day. - The lessons taught by history applicable to infantry of the present day are few and simple, but seem to be forgotten or ignored by those in authority at the outbreak of almost every great war. They are, that the infantry soldier should possess the highest attainable mental, moral, and physical development; be governed by the strictest discipline, and show implicit and unquestioning obedience to the superior officer; be controlled by the simplest possible manoeuvres in the field or in presence of the enemy; and be loaded as little as possible either with arms or equipment.
From the Napoleonic period to within the last 12 or 15 years some modifications had been made with reference to infantry, but they were comparatively unimportant. "Within this period, however, the invention of the rifle with the conical ball of Minie, the breech-loading needle gun of Dreyse, and a number of other modern improvements, have caused a very considerable change in the organization and manoeuvring of infantry; and now the general introduction of the breech-loading rifle, with the improved system of field defences, has completely altered the phenomena of the battle field. - United States. The infantry of the regular army of the United States since the civil war has been reduced in numbers several times, and now consists of but 20 regiments, each composed of 10 companies, and each company on the peace establishment of 53 enlisted men. The officers of the regiment are a colonel, a lieutenant colonel, a major, a regimental adjutant, and a regimental quartermaster. Each company is commanded by a captain, and has one first and one second lieutenant, and may have an additional second lieutenant, a graduate of the military academy. The non-commissioned staff consists of a quartermaster sergeant and a sergeant major.
Each company has one orderly sergeant, three common sergeants, and four corporals. Congress, when the necessity arises, authorizes the president, as commander-in-chief, to increase the army to the maximum standard. In each state there is a militia, in time of peace under the command of the governor, in time of war in certain contingencies, under that of the president of the United States, which conforms in all respects to the regular army in tactics and arms. (See Militia.) The arm of the United States infantryman is the Springfield breech-loading rifle. (See Rifle.) The equipments are a knapsack with greatcoat straps, a haversack, a canteen, a cartridge box, and a bayonet scabbard. The uniform, for privates, consists of a single-breasted dark blue basque coat, sky-blue trousers, blue cloth cap with a white pompon; for officers, a double-breasted frock coat of dark blue cloth, the rank to determine the number of buttons, and light blue trousers with black stripes. The overcoat is a dark blue double-breasted surtout. (For detailed description, see general orders No. 92, war department, adjutant general's office, Oct. 26, 1872.) Privates and non-commissioned officers are liberally supplied with underclothing, blankets, and waterproof blankets.
They can either draw their clothing in kind or commute it. Officers and men are allowed a definite amount of camp equipage, consisting of wall tents, shelter tents, mess pans, camp kettles, hatchets, axes, and spades. In the field, officers are allowed a definite amount of baggage transported at the expense of the government. Privates are obliged to carry their personal effects on their person. The pay of the United States infantry is as follows: colonel, $3,500 per annum; lieutenant colonel, $3,000; major, $2,500; captain, $1,800; adjutant, $1,800; regimental quartermaster, $1,800; first lieutenant, $1,500; second lieutenant, $1,400; chaplain, $1,500; first sergeant, $22 per month; sergeant, $17; corporal, $15; private, $13. An increase of 10 per cent. is allowed for every five years' service, provided the total amount of increase does not exceed 40 per cent. of the whole pay. Mounted officers are allowed forage for their horses. If quarters are not furnished by the government, commutation is allowed. An increase of $1 a month for the third, fourth, and fifth years of the first enlistment is allowed to non-commissioned officers and privates. - The great lesson taught by the civil war in America was, that the defence derived an immense benefit from shelter, however slight.
The rifle pit in the last years of the war was perhaps the most marked feature in the American system. Though generally not armed with a breech-loading weapon, but simply with the Springfield muzzle-loading rifle, experience showed that, so long as the men behind in-trenchments preserved their morale, the damage inflicted on the enemy was frequently nearly ten to one. Skirmishing, which was adapted to the character of the American hunter and backwoodsman, and which was first introduced to general notice in the war of the revolution, received a new impetus in the civil war, and was constantly employed on both sides. The character of the ground, broken and timbered, also generally favored this system of warfare. The Prussians have since adopted the skirmish line as the normal formation for battle, having been compelled during the Franco-German war to abandon the attack in masses in consequence of the destruc-tiveness of the breech-loader. They have since adapted their tactics to the new method of fighting. Cavalry cooperating with infantry was rarely used; but field artillery was brought to a state of great perfection, and was extensively used to open engagements and cooperate with the foot.
The infantry was generally drawn up in one or two lines of battle in two ranks, with a reserve at a proper distance in the rear to supply gaps and strengthen that portion of the line most heavily pressed. The skirmishers were in advance whenever the enemy's position was not known. The attack was generally opened by a fire of artillery, followed by a gradual advance of the whole line, and finally a charge at a run. The system of tactics used was that known as Casey's. It was an improvement on Scott's "Tactics," which was substantially a translation of the French Ordonnances of 1831 and 1845. Casey's system, which was succeeded by that of Hardee, was in turn superseded by that of Upton in August, 1867. This system, which is based upon a front of four men as a unit, seems the best adapted to meet the requirements of infantry manoeuvres of the present day. To give the breech-loader its maximum effect, it provides a single-rank formation, and also a new method of deploying skirmishers by numbers, by means of which, without destroying the manoeuvring unit of four, a battalion in line, in double rank, can promptly furnish one, two, three, and even four successive lines of skirmishers, each equal in strength to one eighth of the battalion.
The first line, if too weak, may thus be reenforced by successive lines till one half of the battalion is engaged, leaving the other half in line in single rank, ready to advance to the support of the skirmishers if successful, or to receive them if repulsed. If necessary, the entire battalion may be advanced in successive lines or united into a single line of skirmishers. The term regiment is used in the United States for administrative purposes, and tactically is interchangeable with battalion, as it generally consists of but one, differing in this respect from most European armies, where a regiment is composed of two, three, and sometimes as many as seven battalions. - Germany. The highest division of infantry solely is the brigade, composed of two regiments, each regiment, with one or two exceptions, of three battalions of four companies each. Each regiment has a colonel, lieutenant colonel, and adjutant, besides a commander who is an officer of the staff, and one major as fifth officer of the staff. Each regiment has a band, varying in number.
Each battalion, in war, has one wagon with munitions, containing from 16,710 to 16,940 cartridges and 1,290 explosive cartridges, 12 axes, 10 spades, etc.; one wagon containing the cash box of the battalion and accounts, articles of uniform in reserve, and the tools requisite for the shoemakers and tailors of the battalion; one cart containing drugs and medicines; one wagon for officers' equipage; and four horses with pack saddles. There are some slight changes in the arrangement for the fusileer and jager battalions. There is little more than a nominal distinction between the different regiments of foot, those called fusileers and the battalions of jagers forming the light infantry. The fusileers have no bayonets on their guns, but use short swords instead. The jagers are, as far as possible, recruited from persons who wish to become game keepers and foresters, and have been assistants to such before entering the army. Each battalion has a major and an adjutant, a surgeon and one assistant surgeon, a paymaster, a quartermaster, and two non-commissioned staff officers. Each company is composed of one captain, one first and one second lieutenant, and 250 enlisted men.
The following table gives the numbers of the German infantry on a peace and on a war footing:
Total number of men.