Help support TMP

"Infantry Platoon: 2 or 3 Section ?" Topic

23 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

744 hits since 12 Apr 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Osage201712 Apr 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

Dear All,

How many sections were in infantry platoon, always 2 ?
Do you know one example of 3 sections in platoon ?

Oliver Schmidt12 Apr 2017 12:33 p.m. PST

Which army ? Which time ?

Larry R Inactive Member12 Apr 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

2 per peloton for the French but again what Oliver asked.

Osage201712 Apr 2017 1:00 p.m. PST

French, Russian, Austrian, and Prussian
any year between 1810 and 1815

Oliver Schmidt12 Apr 2017 1:14 p.m. PST

Prussia from 1809 on: The company (Kompanie, old spelling: Compagnie) forms two platoons (Züge, singular: Zug) of equal size.

The platoon is sub-divided into sections (Sektionen, singular: Sektion) of between 4 and 6 files. Sections of 4 files were to be avoided. The 1811/1812 regulation gives as example a platoon of 16 files, which must be divided into one section of 6 files and two sections of 5 files, not into four sections of 4 files.

If the platoon had for example 19 files, it would be divided into four sections: three of 5 files and one of 4 files.

From 12 January 1813 onwards, a field strength Prussian battalion of 4 companies was to count 60 NCOs, 13 drummers and buglers, and 728 privates. Makes 182 privates per company: 60 files. The 30 files of a platoon would be split into five sections of 6 files or six sections of 5 files.

The French peloton is the equivalent to a Prussian Kompanie, the French section equivalent to a Prussian Peloton.

Osage201712 Apr 2017 1:58 p.m. PST

Thank You Oliver Schmidt ! Great info, very, very detailed.
BTW, why "Sections of 4 files were to be avoided" ???

Oliver Schmidt12 Apr 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

I don't know why the smaller sections were not wanted. The regulation doesn't give a reason.

And, by the way, if skirmishers were taken out, a Prussian company would form three platoons of two ranks each:


Oliver Schmidt12 Apr 2017 2:13 p.m. PST

And to add to the varieties, Morand's 1811 instruction for skirmishers in Davout's I army corps demands that each platoon is split into three sections:

However, this is not an official instruction for the whole army. The 1791 French infantry regulation (in use until 1831) is completely silent on skirmishers and, as Larry pointed out above, always divides the platoon in two sections.

Osage201712 Apr 2017 4:39 p.m. PST

Do you know who commanded each Section in the Prussian infantry ? Corporal, sergeant, or junior officer ?

If the French platoon had only 2 Sections, they must be much larger then the Prussian ones. Do you think the French sub-divided their large sections into half-sections ?
Squads ?

Le Breton12 Apr 2017 5:48 p.m. PST

For Russians, 1810 and later ….

4x "divizion" (division) = "batal'on" (battalion)
2x "divizion" (division) = "polubatal'on" (half-battalion)

2x "vzvod" (platoon) = division
a division was not at all the same as a "rot'" (company), which was an administrative unit

when forming the divisions on the right ….
vzvod 1, 2 : the 1st division was composed of the grenadier (senior) platoon of the grenadier company and the junior platoon of the 1st musketeer/fusilier/jäger company
vzvod 3, 4 : the 2nd division was composed of the senior platoon of the 1st musketeer/fusilier/jäger company and the junior platoon of the 2nd musketeer/fusilier/jäger company
vzvod 5, 6 : the 3rd division was composed of the senior platoon of the 2nd musketeer/fusilier/jäger company and the junior platoon of the 3rd musketeer/fusilier/jäger company
vzvod 7, 8 : the 4th division was composed of the senior platoon of the 3rd musketeer/fusilier/jäger company and the "strelki" (junior) platoon of the grenadier company

one could also form the divisions on the center, with a different repartition

the grenadier and strelki platoons would equalize, and separately the non-elite platoons would equalize
however, all the platoons would form with the same number of files, with voids in the third rank if needed

each vzvod could be divided into 2x "poluvzvod'" (half-platoon), commanded by an officer

each vzvod could be also divided into 3x or 4x "otdel'" (section), with 4x being somewhat preferred
a section could be 4 to 6 files of 3 ranks
each section had two NCO's – if there were not sufficient NCO's, the difference was made up by senior rankers ("efreytor" = lance-corporal)

the old practise of forming by height (tallest to right when formed on the right) had come to be replaced by :
first rank : more experienced soldiers
second rank : least experienced soldiers
third rank : oldest soldiers

increasingly, skirmishers for the heavy infantry battalions were taken as "zastrelski" : the outer 1 or 2 files on each flank of a platoon would be manned with best marksmen and these sent out to make a skirmish screen (absent the availibility of jäger, whose main rôle was to create fires from open order)
the prior method was to empty the third rank

minimum frontage of a platoon 12 files (below this the battalion should be consolidated)
maximum frontage of a platoon 24 files (largest platoon shown the "schools" of the company and battalion)

there were more rankers than this in the full-strength wartime establishment of the battalion, which in theory would allow 25 files per platoon – but there were various assignments for some of the rankers outside of the ranks

Oliver Schmidt12 Apr 2017 11:32 p.m. PST

The Prussian Sektionen were not acting independently, but used only during a few changes of direction or formation. Therefore they did not have a commander of their own. The two Pelotons of the Kompanie were commanded by the Capitaine and the Premier-Lieutenant.

The French 1791 infantry regulation doesn't split up the sections any further.

Le Breton13 Apr 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

A Russian "poluvzvod'" (half-platoon) might sometimes act independently, but Russian "otdel'" (section), as Mr. Schmidt says for Prussian Sektionen, were for changes of direction or formation.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 7:26 a.m. PST

I don't know why the smaller sections were not wanted. The regulation doesn't give a reason.

Wouldn't that be because the sections weren't equalized, which hampered formed formation changes and maneuver?

Oliver Schmidt13 Apr 2017 8:02 a.m. PST

No, it must have something to do with a dislike of a big number of sections, fewer but unequal sections being regarded preferable to more and equalized sections.

The example quoted from the regulation which I gave above, definitely discards four equal sections of 4 files in favour of three bigger, though unequal sections.

Rod MacArthur13 Apr 2017 11:18 a.m. PST

Although the query was about French, Austrian, Prussian and Russian, by any of comparison the British normally used four sections per company, each commanded by a Sergeant.

Austrians, Prussians and Russians used double sized companies compared to French and British, so their half companies (platoons) were approximately the size of British or French companies.


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

Thanks for that. It might also be because the Prussians, Russians and Austrians had a lower NCO/officer ratio than the French and British. You can't have the sections without someone in charge.

Le Breton13 Apr 2017 9:59 p.m. PST

Russian formed "vzvod" (platoon) full war-time strength 1810 and later :
- 2 officers
- 2 sergeants
- 3 corporals
- 3 lance-corporals
- 72 rankers

4 NCO's/officer
36 rankers/officer
9 rankers/NCO

Le Breton14 Apr 2017 1:23 a.m. PST

French formed "peloton" (company) full war-time strength 1808 and later :
- 3 officers
- 5 sergeants
- 9 corporals
- 120 rankers

4.67 NCO's/officer
40 rankers/officer
8.57 rankers/NCO


Osage201714 Apr 2017 5:17 p.m. PST

Oliver Schmidt wrote: "The French 1791 infantry regulation doesn't split up the sections any further."

According to Crowdy's "Napoleon's Infantry Handbook" Kindle edition, each squad (escouade) was supervised by corporal. Sergeant was responsible for a subdivision comprising 2 squads.

If French company in 1808 comprised 120 privates and 8 corporals, it gives 15 men per "squad". Eight such tiny "squads" per company.

Oliver Schmidt14 Apr 2017 11:22 p.m. PST

There are two different branches of organisation.

For administrative purposes, the French compagnie was split up in two sections, each of them in two subdivisions, each of these in two escouades: makes eight escouades per compagnie.

For tactical movements, the bataillon was split up in pelotons. The pelotons were split up in two sections and not any further.

Whenever necessary (maybe even every morning) the pelotons (with the exception of grenadiers and voltigeurs) of a battalion were lined up side by side and then equalised (men being transfered from the stronger pelotons to the weaker ones, in order to bring them all to equal strength. The equal strength and thus front width of the pelotons rendered the tactical movements more effective.

A French private was assigned to his compagnie permanenty, but in the worst case (high fluctuation of effective strength of the compagnies) some could end up every day in a different peloton. The officers and NCOs of a given compagnie however would always be with the peloton which was formed from their compagnie.

Le Breton15 Apr 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

Russian administrative "rot" (company, 4 per battalion) was divided into 4x "artel'".

Russian tactical "vzvod" (platoon, 8 per battalion) was divided into 2x "poluvzvod" (half-platoon) with an officer in command, or – essentially for movement and changing formation – 3x or 4x "otdel'"


For the French, "with the exception of grenadiers and voltigeurs" : did this persist into the post-1808 organization of 6 pelotons formed in 3 divisions? I thought that they used "grenadiers-postiches" : men from the fusilier/chasseur pelotons to top up the numbers in the élite pelotons. Yes? No?

Oliver Schmidt15 Apr 2017 10:52 p.m. PST

I thought that they used "grenadiers-postiches" : men from the fusilier/chasseur pelotons to top up the numbers in the élite pelotons. Yes? No?
I don't know ;-)

The French 1791 regulation explicitely provides instructions on how the peloton (or the combined division) of grenadiers has to move while forming the column, if it is stronger or weaker than the pelotons or divisions of fusiliers.

I don't know whether the procedure was changed after 1808.

I believe the grenadiers postiches existed only in the 18th century (before the revolution), at least under this denomination ?

Le Breton16 Apr 2017 4:38 a.m. PST

Actually, it seems the equalization of the élites was part of a broader open issue of "endivisionnement" of the 6 company battalions.
Reading from Bardin's Manuel d' infanterie …. (1813)

Bardin remarks that some were now in the habit of treating the élites together the center pelotons, forming the divisions as
voltiguers + 4e fusiliers/chasseurs || 3e + 2e fusiliers/chasseurs || 1er fusiliers/chasseurs + grenadiers/carabiniers

That is roughly what the Russians did, by the way : they commonly split "company" elements when forming :
standard infantry battalion in 4 divisions
stekli + 1/3 musketeers || 2/3 + 1/2 muskteers || 2/2 + 1/1 musketeers || 2/1 musketeers + grenadiers
combined grenadier battalion in 3 divisons
strelki jäger + strelki 1. infantry || strelki 2. infantry + grenadier 2. infantry || grenadier 1. infantry + grenadier jäger

Bardin argues against this, noting problems of placement of the aigle/enseigne and of detaching the élites.
He prefers that the élites each be treated as a division, or be taken together as a division (with the voltiguers forming on the immediate left of the grenadiers/carabiniers)
He also retains the fourriers of the élites with their pelotons, putting corporals in thier place in the garde of the aigle/enseigne, citing the possibility that the élites could be called away at a moment's notice.


French caporaux-potisches (!) in 1810 – like Russian lance -corporals

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.