A skirmish line was composed of two companies in groups of four comrades in battle, five paces apart with the groups separated by no more than forty. A small body called a support (and in practice
usually a company) was positioned about 150 yards behind “to fill vacant places, furnish the line with cartridges, relieve the fatigued, and serve as a rallying point.” All skirmishers were
instructed to “carefully profit by any accidents of the ground to conceal themselves from the view of the enemy, and to shelter themselves from his fire.”
Four hundred yards behind the skirmish line was the reserve, usually formed in close order, upon which the skirmishers could fall back if pressed. This could be the
main body of the regiment if close or another specifically formed for the purpose. The regulation stressed that strengths and distances could be adjusted as necessary. Rifles were in short supply
early in the war, so these usually went to the flank companies, which, under the command of the two most experienced captains, were tasked with establishing the skirmish line.