The advance of a company into an engagement whether for attack or
defense) is conducted in close order, preferably column of squads, until
the probability of encountering hostile fire makes it advisable to
deploy. After deployment, and before opening fire, the advance of the
company may be continued in skirmish line or other suitable formations,
depending upon circumstances. The advance may often be facilitated, or
better advantage taken of cover, or losses reduced by the employment of
the platoon or squad columns or by the use of a succession of thin
lines. The selection of the method to be used is made by the captain or
major, the choice depending upon conditions arising during the progress
of the advance. If the deployment is found to be premature, it will
generally be best to assemble the company and proceed in close order.
Patrols are used to provide the necessary security against surprise.
Being in skirmish line: 1. Platoon columns, 2. MARCH.
The platoon leaders move forward through the center of their respective
platoons: men to the right of the platoon leader march to the left and
follow him in file; those to the left march in like manner to the right;
each platoon leader thus conducts the march of his platoon in double
column of files; platoon guides follow in the
rear of their respective platoons to insure prompt and orderly execution
of the advance.
Being in skirmish line: 1. Squad columns, 2. MARCH. See preceding
Each squad leader moves to the front; the members of each squad oblique
toward and follow their squad leader in single file at easy marching
Platoon columns are profitably used where the ground is so difficult
or cover is so limited as to make it desirable to take advantage of the
few favorable routes; no two platoons should march within the area of
burst of a single shrapnel (ordinarily about 20 yards wide). Squad
columns are of value principally in facilitating the advance over rough
or brush-grown ground; they afford no material advantage in securing
To deploy platoon or squad columns: 1. As skirmishers, 2. MARCH.
Skirmishers move to the right or left front and successively place
themselves in their original positions on the line.
Being in platoon or squad columns: 1. Assemble, 2. MARCH.
The platoon or squad leaders signal assemble. The men of each platoon or
squad, as the case may be, advance and, moving to the right and left,
take their proper places in line, each unit assembling on the leading
element of the column and reforming in line. The platoon or squad
leaders conduct their units toward the element or point indicated by the
captain, and to their places in line; the company is reformed in line.
Being in skirmish line, to advance by a succession of thin lines: 1.
(Such numbers), forward, 2. MARCH.
The captain points out in advance the selected position in front of the
line occupied. The designated number of each squad moves to the front;
the line thus formed preserves the original intervals as nearly as
practicable; when this line has advanced a suitable distance (generally
from 100 to 250 yards, depending upon the terrain and the character of
the hostile fire), a second is sent forward by similar commands, and so
on at irregular distances until the whole line has advanced. Upon
arriving at the indicated position, the first line is halted. Successive
lines, upon arriving, halt on line with the first and the men take their
proper places in the skirmish line.
The first line is led by the platoon leader of the right platoon, the
second by the guide of the right platoon, and so on in order from right
to left, by the officers and non-commissioned officers in the file
The advance is conducted in quick time unless conditions demand a faster
The company having arrived at the indicated position, a further advance
by the same means may be advisable.
The advance in a succession of thin lines is used to cross a wide
stretch swept, or likely to be swept, by artillery fire or heavy,
long-range rifle fire which cannot profitably be returned. Its purpose
is the building up a strong skirmish line preparatory to engaging in a
fire fight. This method of advancing results in serious (though
temporary) loss of control over the company. Its advantage lies in the
fact that it offers a less definite target, hence is less likely to draw
The above are suggestions. Other and better formations may be devised to
fit particular cases. The best formation is the one which advances the
line farthest with the least loss of men, time, and control.
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