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Subject: "Oblique" -- is it more than just diagonal? rss

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Michael Barlow
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What if any difference is there between oblique and diagonal? How old is the term? I see it in games about the Alamo, but where else it it used?
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Brian Korreck
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I've heard the term used in Napoleonic warfare as a way of manuevering lines against an enemy position. I heard it used in "Gettysburg" as Longstreet? gave orders to his junior officers. My take is your troops are advanving on a line that is neither parallell nor perpendicular to axis of advance.

Here's the link, about 2:50 start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRZj48Ys25U
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Donald Crasso
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I served in the Marine Corps infantry and we used the term on ocassion.
It does mean diagonal like port and starboard mean left and right. The term is used to imply an orientation relative to something. Hope that helped.

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Pete Belli
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A battle formation sometimes called the "oblique order" is also known as the echelon attack:

From Ancient Greece to Braxton Bragg; the echelon formation and the science of battle

Yes, it was used on July 2nd at Gettysburg.
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I think of marching in the oblique as heading in the diagonal direction, while maintaining a frontal facing. That is to say, your line continues to face forward, but marches at a 45-degree angle, so as to arrive at some point not directly ahead of you.

But that's just from "recreational marching" (SCA), so I've no idea if it's an actual marching order used in the military at any point.
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Lard Head
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Okay, so let me preface this with, I may not be the foremost expert on all things about the military, military history and wargames, and if someone has more specific knowledge please feel free to correct me or discuss it. I do have a couple points of reference though, that I'll apply to the question.

Oblique as far as I know really just means neither parallel nor perpendicular, which is pretty much how most people interpret diagonal. I will say that in reference to games I usually mentally assign diagonal with the connotation of being the directions that would be associated with 45, 135, 225 and 315 degrees (if 0 degrees was straight ahead), whereas for oblique I'm not as mentally specific (although that is often what it means anyway). I don't think that is a fixed definition though.

According to Webster its first known use was in the 15th century and it is from the Latin word obliquus.

As far as the difference, I think in most environments there is little if any (although Oblique has other meanings as well). In the sense of facing, line of sight or position relative to the enemy (which I presume is what you are getting at since that is generally the most relevant in games) I see little meaningful distinction.

I will add though, that in tactical environments (police being my point of reference but from talking to former military guys it seems to be pretty much the same there too) the term oblique is generally used instead of diagonal. For instance "moving on the oblique" would be moving in a manner that is neither parallel to nor perpendicular to the point of reference (usually the bad guys). "Shooting on the oblique" is used to mean shooting at an angle other than 90 degrees (so shooting without having everything frontally aligned and squared up to who/what you are shooting at). That pretty much makes "oblique" more or less the same as "diagonal" although I have never heard "diagonal" used in tactical environments except when explaining "oblique" to someone not familiar with the term.

In summary, I think that oblique is the more militaristic term if you will, but for most games I think that the two are pretty much interchangeable unless the rules expressly define some kind of difference. Hope that helps, even if it was a little long winded.
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Lard Head
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pete belli wrote:
A battle formation sometimes called the "oblique order" is also known as the echelon attack:

From Ancient Greece to Braxton Bragg; the echelon formation and the science of battle

Yes, it was used on July 2nd at Gettysburg.


I have heard it used this way as well.

Chanfan wrote:
I think of marching in the oblique as heading in the diagonal direction, while maintaining a frontal facing. That is to say, your line continues to face forward, but marches at a 45-degree angle, so as to arrive at some point not directly ahead of you.


This is in my experience also an accurate description of movement on the oblique.

EDIT: Corrected typo
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Jason Sadler
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Marching in the oblique is when every person in the formation turns 45 degrees and continues to walk forward. The formation is then marching towards one of its corners, instead of one of its sides, each individual is facing the corner that is the direction of movement.

Movement in a formation only really works if each person is marching to their own direct front. If a unit maintains its facing and walks at a 45 degree angle, it begins to have a swinging effect where the formation becomes S-shaped and expands and contracts like a slinky.

The difficulty of marching in the oblique is that the individual is not immediately behind anyone anymore and it can be difficult to maintain cover and alignment. However, it does avoid the formation slinky.

I imagine the oblique was used to make course adjustments after battle had been joined, but before the first contact. Moving to the flanks would stop all momentum, but cohesion becomes incredibly important right before you make contact and enter shock, so you couldn't afford to correct your course with a route step. A quick left oblique, followed by a right oblique would be the best way to continue moving, maintain cohesion, and keep your axis of advance on target.


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Les Haskell
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BeatPosse wrote:
Marching in the oblique is when every person in the formation turns 45 degrees and continues to walk forward. The formation is then marching towards one of its corners, instead of one of its sides, each individual is facing the corner that is the direction of movement.

Movement in a formation only really works if each person is marching to their own direct front. If a unit maintains its facing and walks at a 45 degree angle, it begins to have a swinging effect where the formation becomes S-shaped and expands and contracts like a slinky.

The difficulty of marching in the oblique is that the individual is not immediately behind anyone anymore and it can be difficult to maintain cover and alignment. However, it does avoid the formation slinky.

I imagine the oblique was used to make course adjustments after battle had been joined, but before the first contact. Moving to the flanks would stop all momentum, but cohesion becomes incredibly important right before you make contact and enter shock, so you couldn't afford to correct your course with a route step. A quick left oblique, followed by a right oblique would be the best way to continue moving, maintain cohesion, and keep your axis of advance on target.




Having trained, drilled, and commanded using Hardee's Light Infantry and Rifle Tactics (and US Light Infantry and Rifle Tactics) I can say that that is just about correct. A march by the flank would stop forward movement (and you never march by the flank in the face of the enemy - when the Confederate infantry is deploying on the first day to attack the Federal cavalry in the movie Gettysburg - never would have happened that way). A wheel would need to be followed by a wheel in the opposite direction to get the facing right. Oblique marching is a little awkward because the men are not marching relative to their file anymore. I would always have the men in the rear rank reach out and rest their hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them to help maintain alignment (if it didn't interfere with handling their rifles). It would only be used while marching forward to change position relative to other units to the right or to the left. If a little disorder happens as you oblique into position it can easily be remedied by dressing the lines. If there were no forward movement I would just have the company dress right or left. If we were behind the line and not moving I would position the sergeant and corporal in the new position and have the company dress on them.

You wouldn't oblique in one direction and then another to face front again, you would just oblique and front.

Oblique attack/Attack en Echelon is something completely different.
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Jason Sadler
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We mostly used oblique movements to swerve around parked vehicles and oncoming platoons at basic training.

The oblique formation is used occasionally in modern day. We used it to on the flank section in LAV movements that were passing dangerous areas so that the turrets could fire forward or rapidly traverse the turrets to the flank and fire without having to transition or stop moving.

On foot, this is still trained in squad movements, but I have never seen it in application at that level.
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Les Haskell
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BeatPosse wrote:
We mostly used oblique movements to swerve around parked vehicles and oncoming platoons at basic training.

The oblique formation is used occasionally in modern day. We used it to on the flank section in LAV movements that were passing dangerous areas so that the turrets could fire forward or rapidly traverse the turrets to the flank and fire without having to transition or stop moving.

On foot, this is still trained in squad movements, but I have never seen it in application at that level.


You made me remember when we used to get new reenactors in the company (fresh fish, veal) who had been in the real armed services. They always had to be retrained to do everything right. Especially the "about face". They always looked so sharp and crisp and perfect, and soooo wrong.
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tc237 wrote:
ZombyDawg wrote:
You made me remember when we used to get new reenactors in the company (fresh fish, veal) who had been in the real armed services. They always had to be retrained to do everything right. Especially the "about face". They always looked so sharp and crisp and perfect, and soooo wrong.

I can imagine, always wanted to know what the differences were.
From experience with modern drill I would say it is mostly in "road march" type formations, long 3-4 rank columns, not in lines.
So we just "right face" and march off, there is no wheeling of the entire formation (unless during a "pass in review" event).
To change directions they use a "Column Left(Right)" command, is there an ACW equivalent?


Most of time we drilled and maneuvered in companies. In battles, companies were usually the largest unit, even though we would have higher level commanders to coordinate everything (this was in Oregon - I'm sure they maneuver in larger units where they have larger events - we were just starting to coordinate larger formations when I left). The companies basically functioned like small regiments.

We would start by forming up in two ranks. Then count by twos. When the company marched anywhere we usually marched off "by the flank". By the flank marching commenced with the commands "Left Face. March" (we could march by the right flank, too, but we always taught by the left first). Left Face had every man face to the left, and the men numbered 2 would also step to the side and slightly ahead so that there were now four men side by side (1,2,1,2). This isn't really a column, but it was how we marched everywhere. When we turned is was like a four man wheel, but the command was more like "Company. Right Turn." (It's been so long I'm not exactly sure). When we stopped the command to get back into the 2 rank line was simply "Front".

Of course, you could move instantly back to the 2 rank line while marching (I forget the command) and there was a command to form into the 2 rank line in the direction of march - "By Company into Line. March" which was executed at the double quick (until you got within 2 or three steps of the line which was marked by the 1st Sergeant).

If we were ever to actually march in larger formations like they had back then it would have been in columns of platoons (half of the company) which would have been platoons in lines of 2 ranks or columns of companies. Then there would be evolutions to get those platoons or companies into one long regimental line (10 companies of 100 men each in 2 ranks). Moving units of that size would usually require wheeling by platoons or companies, or sometimes by marching the companies by the flank (which I think was more flexible). That's just regiments. There were usually (in real life) 3 to 5 regiments in a brigade, and 3 to 5 brigades to a division.

The "About Face" according to Hardee's was you were standing with your heels together, feet at about a 45 degree angle, and you would put your right foot behind your left foot with the arch of right at the heel of the left, heels on the ground and then you would pivot on your heels to the right.
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Jacovis
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Frederick the Great was pretty enamored with an oblique order as well, and he used it to variable success.

There is a small blurb here.

Cheers,

Jacovis
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>The "About Face" according to Hardee's was you were standing with your heels together, feet at about a 45 degree angle, and
1) you would put your right foot behind your left foot
2) with the arch of right at the heel of the left,
3) heels on the ground and then you would
4) pivot on your heels to the right.
>

???

From 3), the front of my right foot hits my left foot when it is pivoting

Also, pivoting on your heels has poor balance; its natural to pivot on your toes.
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Les Haskell
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Gronak wrote:
>The "About Face" according to Hardee's was you were standing with your heels together, feet at about a 45 degree angle, and
1) you would put your right foot behind your left foot
2) with the arch of right at the heel of the left,
3) heels on the ground and then you would
4) pivot on your heels to the right.
>

???

From 3), the front of my right foot hits my left foot when it is pivoting

Also, pivoting on your heels has poor balance; its natural to pivot on your toes.


I think it's cool that you tried it out. It takes a little practice. When you are placing your right foot, the heel needs to be where it will be after you have about-faced. I think the manual says to lift one foot slightly (probably the right), but if you place it in the right spot it still works.

The inherent instability of this is probably why they do it differently now.
 
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This calls for a short video... title it Heels-a-Poppin'...
 
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90. The full face to the rear (or front) will be executed in two times, or pauses. The instructor will command:

1. Squad. 2. ABOUT -FACE.

91. (First time.) At the word about, the recruit will turn on left heel, bring the left toe to the front rear, the hollow opposite to, and full heel, the feet Square to each Other.
92. (Second time.) At the word face, the recruit will turn on both heels, raise the toes a little, extend the hams, face to-the rear, bringing, at the same time, the right heel by the side of the left.
93. The instructor will take care that these motions do not derange the position of the body.
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Les Haskell
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The command to turn when marching by the flank ("column" of fours) is "By File. Right (or Left). March."
 
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Dan Fielding
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>91. (First time.) At the word about, the recruit will turn on left heel, bring the left toe to the front rear,
>

Now you are moving the other foot compared to your first description.
 
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Les Haskell
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Copied and pasted from a source with a typo.
It should read:

91. (First Time) At the word about, the recruit will turn on the left heel, bring the left toe to the front, carry the right foot to the rear, the hollow opposite to, and full three inches from, the left heel, the feet square to each other

In other words: Aim the left foot straight ahead so it's perpendicular to the right foot when you bring the right foot back.
 
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