419. The duties of first sergeant are peculiar to his position, and require capacity and knowledge superior to those of other sergeants. Whilst he does not rank as high as some others, nor receive as much pay, his position is one of the most responsible and most honorable that non-commissioned officers can occupy.
420. The first sergeant is selected by the captain of the company from the other sergeants, without regard to rank, and commissioned by the commanding officer of the regiment. He may be reduced, like other non-commissioned officers by the commanding officer on recommendation of the company commander, or by sentence of a court martial. The pay of first sergeants of artillery, cavalry, and infantry is twenty dollars per month, with one ration and a allowance of clothing.
421. He has the immediate supervision of the company. He gets his orders from the captain or officer commanding the company, and sees that they are performed in the company. He is, in fact, the foreman; the men are the artisans. He lays out and superintends the details of the work which the captain has directed to be executed.
422. Orders received from the commanding officer or other officer by the first sergeant should be communicated to the company commander at once, before being obeyed, if there is time. Under any circumstances, they should be reported to him as soon as possible. Whenever the orderly call sounds, the first sergeant repairs to regimental or post head-quarters to receive the orders or instructions, and if they are at unusual, they should be communicated to the company commander without delay.
423. An hour is generally established for assembling the orderlies or first sergeants, usually at noon, for the distributions of orders and announcements of details, and for communicating any alteration in the ordinary routine. The published orders should be copied in the company order-book; and it is best, also to make memorandums of any other orders or instructions received.
424. He keeps the rosters, and makes all the details; he superintends the company clerk, and assists him in making out all the required papers. These duties are fully explained in "The Company Clerk," and are, therefore, omitted here.
425. He should memorize the roster of the company in alphabetical order, so that he can at all hours form the company and call the roll, day or night. Much natural shrewdness is required in this duty, to associate in the memory the name, the face, and voice of the soldier and his proper position in the ranks; for the men are frequently in the habit of answering absentees, and if they find that the sergeant can be deceived in this respect they are very likely to practice it on him.
426. There should be a uniform method of forming the company; and there is no reason why there should be a difference in the different corps or in different regiments. The company should be sized. In all the odd-numbered companies the tallest men are placed on the right, diminishing in size to the left, and in the even-numbered companies the tallest should be on the left, diminishing to the right, - the principal being that in each division the tallest men should be on the flanks, and the shortest in the center; the regimental front will thus present a level line, and there will be an apparent uniformity in size of the entire regiment.
427. At roll calls the first sergeant takes his place six or eight paces, according as the company is small or large, in front of the opposite the center of his company, facing towards it. If the company is forming without arms, the men fall in and take the position of parade rest, and the first sergeant takes the same position. (Reg. 335.)
428. They should fall in in two ranks, whether with or without arms. With arms they fall in at the shoulder arms instead of parade rest. The company is formed in the interval between the musicians' call and the last note of the assembly, when every man should be in ranks; and those who fall in afterwards should be punished for being late.
429. When the music has ceased, the first sergeant commands, "Attention!" whereupon the company, if at parade rest, take the position of the soldier, and if with arms, the sergeant adds, "Support arms." The roll is then called, commencing with sergeants, Adams, Smith, &c., in the order of rank, until all are called; Then "corporals," Brown, Jones, &c., to "farriers;" then "buglers or musicians;" and finally" privates," Ames, Brown, Cox, &c., in alphabetical order. As each name is called, they answer, "Here;" and if with arms at a support they come to a "shoulder" and finally to "order arms," immediately on answering to their names; if with sabres or pistols drawn, they return them to their scabbards.
430. After the roll has been called, the first sergeant turns to the officer superintending the roll call, and reports the absentees by name. If none are absent without authority, he reports, "All present or accounted for." If the officer should then take command of the company, the first sergeant takes his post on the right of the company, and acts as right guide.
431. The first sergeant makes out the morning report and signs it, and then submits it to the commanding officer of the company for his signature, after which it is handed in to the regimental or post commander. To make it correctly, the sergeant should be constantly posted on the changes in the company, as the report is valuable only in proportion to its correctness. It should be a correct statement of the company, in order that the commanding officer may each day be able to know the condition of his command.
432. The sick report must always be made up in the morning before the morning report, in order that the report may be accurate as to the number of men for duty. For duty means all the men available for the legitimate duties of the soldier; and the column "for duty" should show the effective strength for actual service of the company for each day. Some understanding is necessary with regards to the men on extra and daily duty, as to whether they are included in the effective strength or not. An order from post or regimental head-quarters would regulate this point.
433. The first sergeant should be quartered with the men, when possible, has a separate room or tent. He has general supervision of all company property, - the quartermaster and commissary sergeants assisting him in the details. He keeps rosters of all property issued to the men and non-commissioned officers, and sees the surplus property is cared for and properly stored.