Baron Friedrich von Steuben is credited with professionalizing the Continental Army, teaching the troops, among other things, how to use the bayonet. Bayonets would help win the war, but the troops had little use for them until they were trained by von Steuben.
Von Steuben wrote the first manual for the U.S. Army during the American Revolution. Congress approved publication of the manual, nicknamed the Blue Book, in March 1779. For the rest of the war, Continental Army soldiers used that edition, which was in use until the War of 1812, 18 years after von Steuben’s death.
Here are the instructions for fixing and charging a bayonet according to Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I,
Bayonets were to be fixed with three motions:
Fix – Bayonets! Three motions:
1st and 2d motions the same as the two first motions of the secure. (Those are:
1st. Bring up the right hand briskly, and place it under the cock.
2d. Quit the but with the left hand, and seize the firelock at the swell, bringing the arm close down upon the lock, the right hand being kept fast in this motion, and the piece upright.)
3d. Quitting the piece with your right hand, sink it with your left down the left side, as far as may be without constraint, at the same time seize the baonet with the right hand, draw and fix it, immediately flipping the hand down to the stock, and pressing in the piece to the hollow of the shoulder.
They were to be charged with two:
Charge – Bayonets! Two motions:
1st. The same as the first motion of the secure.
2d. Bring the but of the firelock under the right ar, letting the piece fall down strong on the palm of the left hand, which receives it at the swell, the muzzle pointing directly to the front, the but pressed with the arm against the side; the front rank holding their pieces horizontally, and the rear rank the muzzles of their so high as to clear the heads of the front ranking, both ranks keeping their feet fast.
Here’s how to charge the enemy with bayonets:
Of the Charge with Bayonets.
The line marching, the commanding officer, on approaching the enemy, commands,
On which the whole advance by the quick step.
Charge — Bayonet!
The line charge their bayonets, and quicken their step; the drums beat the long roll; and the officers and man must take care to dress to the centre, and not crowd or open their files.
On Saturday, May 23, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, Conn., will host a Revolutionary War encapment that will include a demonstration of the proper use of the bayonet at 10:30 am. Sal Carmosino, Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum guide and organizer of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, will lead the demonstration. The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum Revolutionary War Encampment is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 211 Main St., Wethersfield, Conn. Admission to the event is free; regular admission is charged for optional tours of the museum. The encampment is underwritten, in part, by a grant from the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut.