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The Advance

Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual

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

er 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.