Maneuver of the month, January 2001:
"By the right of companies, in column to the rear, right face. Forward, march"
The battalion does this frequently: ours, or anyone's battalion, for example the 1st Texas, as you will have noticed if you went to Liendo.
This command is for a battalion maneuver which is executed by each company at the same time. Two situations which call for it are a passage of lines, or a desire to move to the flank as a column of companies. This is what we're trying to do in a passage of lines:
Starting as a battalion in line of battle,
to pass back to the rear through another battalion (or through a line of guns)
Naturally the other battalion must open gaps in its line, by breaking files to the rear.
This maneuver can also be executed to the front.
The reason for the special command and maneuver is that with all the companies elbow to elbow, you can't just do "Right face, By files right, March". Why? Because there is no turning room for the first file: the company to the right is in the way! So we need a procedure to turn in zero room.
That procedure is: Immediately after the colonel utters the command of execution, "right, face" the two leading fours to "tuck in" as illustrated below. The first four moves to face to the rear, 90 degrees from the rest of the company, and moves a little sideways toward the center of the company. The second four moves to 45 degrees from the rest of the company.
In detail: Starting with the company in a 2-man deep line of battle,
On the command of execution "right face", the first thing everyone does is double into fours as usual.
But next, immediately and without any other command, the first (rightmost) two fours "tuck in", fanning toward the rear as illustrated below. The first four moves to 90 degrees from the rest of the company, and moves a little sideways toward the center of the company. The second four moves to 45 degrees from the rest of the company.
That first four's slight sideways move toward the center of the company is very important: The man on the inside of the turn must give right to make room, because the man on the outside of the turn is blocked by the neighboring company.
The First Sergeant moves to a guide position just forward of where the first corporal needs to be. As soon as this maneuver starts, the second sergeant should move to the inside of the turn, in order to supervise, push and pull people into position, because only a couple of counts will elapse between the colonel's first command, "by the right of companies in column to the rear, right, face" and the next command, "forward, march".
On the command "forward, march" the company steps forward, executing the turn of a "by files, right", which the first two fours have already begun. In a few steps this will put us all marching to the rear. The guide must take care that the distance between our company and the company next toward the center of the battalion, does not change as we march forward. If it closes, we won't have room to deploy into line after the passage of lines. If it opens, then after "by company into line" all the companies on our half of the battalion line will have to "give right" or "give left" to resume elbow to elbow contact. In addition, the company guides must all stay on one line so that after "by company into line" the battalion forms a single line.
This maneuver can also be executed to the front, in which case the command is "By the right of companies in column to the front". In this case we should expect to pass forward, perhaps to take the place of another battalion which is low on ammunition; or to pass through a line of artillery to attack. Passage through artillery to attack is very common in reenactment scenarios. Expect that after a forward passage of lines we will soon hear "by company into line!" to get back into a battle line.
This maneuver can also be executed to the left, in which case the command is "by the left of companies in column to the rear, left face." The left two fours would "tuck in" in the same way, and the second sergeant would move quickly to the guide position. The Red River battalion hasn't done "by the left of companies" for a few years, but it was useful when we did it.
If these maneuvers are executed not for a passage of lines, but to form a battalion column of companies moving to the flank, then the company commander will watch from the near corner of the neighboring company and call "halt" when the rear four completes the turn.
After this you would hear the command "left face", when naturally you would undouble into a company line of battle.
Instructions for the 2nd Sergeant: The left guides of the companies should then be lined up, to guide the battalion column, when the battalion is "right in front".
(In this marching formation, guide is to the left: the 2nd sergeants are on the left of their companies, and cover each other. The color guard will form the left of the color company):
This would be a move from this line of battle position:
To this, with the battalion ready to step off in the direction shown by the arrows:
Note for the 1st Sergeant: In this case, because the column of companies in line guides left the right guides would not expect to be lined up with each other at the command "halt".