A synonym of “rank and file,” that is, privates and corporals of infantry. As, “the number of bayonets was 25,000.”
“It is on the bayonets that a Quartermaster-General relies for his working and fatigue parties.” —Howitt: Hist. of Eng. (year 1854, p. 200).
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894