Forming and Dismissing a Battalion.

By Colonel Vincent J-R Kehoe, RLRAAC

General Humphrey Bland, in his A Treatise of Military Discipline (8th edition, 1759) did not specify any particulars relative to the commands given for the formation and dismissal of the Battalion. In Capt. Thomas Simes' A Military Medley (1768) and The Military Guide (1772) the section on forming or dispersing a Regiment are identically worded as follows:

Falling the Men into Ranks

When the Adjutant orders the orderly drummer to beat the Assembly, the Serjeants shall fall the men in at close order. When Officers' Call is beat, the Officers shall join their Companies at close order.

... When the To Arms! is beat, both Officers and Non-commissioned Officers shall do their utmost to form the men of their Companies as rapidly as possible and dress to close order. Assembly is the normal beat if the Colours are not present on the parade, while To Arms is beat when the Colours are present. The Battalion, in the latter case, will form on the Colours, dressing left and right. In Assembly, the Battalion (or Company) will form on the Serjeant designated as the right hand forming point, and dress on him.

It is most important that all the men of the Regiment run into their proper positions when the To Arms is beat on the drum. When the Assembly is beat, it is sufficient to take their place in line without delay, but at a walk.

Dispersing the Formation

To fall the men out of any formation of any size, the procedure is the same and should always be followed exactly. The commands to Disperse are:


At the command March!, the men face to the right about, take one step forward and, being at Shoulder, come to the Order before dispersing.

NOTE: Variations of this can be made by following the Guard dispersal as outlined in Thomas Reide's Treatise on the Duty of Infantry Officers (1798 ed. pp. 44-48), or referring to the Funeral exercise on p. 362 of Capt. Simes' 1772 edition, where he states: When drawn up on the regimental parade,. he [the officer] orders:


And the men go to their quarters.

In all senses, and for practicality in re-created units, the following dispersal procedure is recommended based on the available information above stated:

For small units without Officers or just one Officer or NCO commanding:

To disperse or dismiss a unit, the command should be given:


At the command March!, the men are to Recover their Arms (if they are at Shoulder), face to the Right About, take one pace forward, and disperse in any direction they so choose.

For Larger units of more than one Company and with Officers on parade:

To disperse or dismiss the formation, the following commands are given by the Commanding Officer:


At this command, the company Officers face to the right (if on the right), or to the left (if on the left), or if an Ensign in the rear, to the rear. They then take one step forward, turn to their right (or left), and march straight ahead to the rear of the Battalion, while their covering Serjeants step forward to the front rank. Once the officers are clear, the battalion can be dismissed as outlined above.

As there are no books or such that fully describe the dispersal or dismissal of any size unit in the 18th century (beyond those procedures stated herein), some commands have been taken from later manuals on this subject. The 18th-century books more often than not omitted many items that were considered to be common knowledge or, "as practiced by the Army" (thanks to Timothy Pickering for this quote). As such, these recommendations are based on practicality for today's re-created Regiments.