March Maneuver of the month:
"Forward into line": Paragraphs 440-465 of School of the Battalion Part IV, volume 2 Hardee’s; or in Gilham’s, paragraphs 329-330 of School of the Battalion (page 277).
This is a battalion maneuver, used when the battalion is in a column of companies, to deploy the battalion to the front into a line of battle. We use it in every reenactment.
Expect that in our march to battle we will first move in a column of fours; then in a battalion column of companies in line; and then deploy into line.
Here we are in a battalion column of companies in line, moving forward as the arrow indicates:
The Colonel will command:
"Forward into line. By company, left half wheel. March."
The leading (first) company will march forward to the designated line of battle, which will ordinarily be marked on the ground by "markers" directed by the Lieutenant Colonel (Markers are NCOs who have already told where to stand, probably the battalion general guides).
The rest of this article is devoted to what the other companies have to do to get into line of battle to the left of the first company:
All the other companies will do a half wheel to the left as the Colonel has commanded.
When the Colonel sees that the companies have wheeled enough, he commands
"Forward, march. Guide right."
which will put the companies, other than the 1st company, marching at about a 45 degree angle to the original line of march, and the companies will NOT be touching one another: see the illustration at right.
The guides (First and Second Sergeants) of the first company will step just forward of its line of battle, face left toward the colors, put their left shoulders against the chests of the corporals, and raise their muskets so as to make themselves easily seen by the other companies.
The 2nd, 3rd, etc. companies are now marching forward, headed to the left of the first company. At "guide right" the men in each company will touch elbows toward the right, guiding on the First Sergeant. The First Sergeants of the 3rd, 4th, 5th companies will each follow the file in the company ahead of them, which was in front of them at the end of the wheel. (They will stop following and march on their own when those companies do their "right turn" in the next paragraph.)
When the guide of the second company arrives behind the first company’s left, second company commander will command:
and the company will wheel right at the double,
then when it is three paces from the line of battle, its company commander will command
"Second company, Halt "
Here is where the second sergeant goes to work:
Now the left guide (second sergeant) does NOT halt, but will sprint forward out of the company formation, onto the line of battle, so as to be opposite to where one of the left three men of the company should end up. He will align himself with the first company’s guides, sighting along the line of their heads, and will raise his musket to ensure he is seen both by his company and the other companies’ guides.
It is our battalion’s convention that the First Sergeant will do the same, on the right, and place himself next to the left guide of the first company (which is, by definition, already on line), also aligned with the other company’s guides. (However the drill manuals say this is to be done by the commander.) Note that the First Sergeant must allow a one-man space between companies, so that he and the company commander have a file to fall back into, between the first and second companies. Otherwise the battalion will have to go through an annoying series of "give left’s" to make room.
Now these two sergeants are aligned on the guides of the companies which already came on line ahead of them. Note that the sergeants are not in the front rank with the other companies, but are aligned with the guides.
See that in the picture at left, the four guides are aligned just ahead of the line of battle, and the second company is not yet on the line of battle.
The second company commander will command "right – dress", and the company will quickly step forward their three steps (and if necessary move left or right) so as to align themselves on the two guides, with the chests of two men (ideally of the two corporals) against the guides’ shoulders.
The second company is now aligned exactly on the first company.
Each following company, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, will execute the steps just performed by the 2nd company, as the preceding company does its "right turn".
In this way, they will each come onto the line of battle in succession.
The picture at left shows the 1st and 2nd companies on line, 3rd company halted so its guides can get out, and 4th and 5th companies still marching toward the left.
The guides stay out until all companies have come onto line, and then:
When all the companies are on line, the Colonel will command "Guides – Posts"
And the first and second sergeants will lower their muskets and step back into their normal positions in or behind the line of battle.