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"Half Interval?" Topic

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Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 5:56 p.m. PST

I shall try again, and hope the bug does not strike. grin

I've seen several methods for calculating "half intervals" for infantry battalions. Which one is correct?

(Assuming our base unit is a peleton)

1. 1/2 peleton width from the front of the unit in front, to the front of the following unit.

2. 1/2 peleton width from the rear of the unit in front, to the front of the following unit.

3. 1/2 peleton width from the rear of the unit in front to midway between the front and rear of the following unit.

4. Something else?


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 4:08 a.m. PST

Not sure about Napoleonics, but in ACW, "Half Distance" means that whatever the frontage of your column (Platoon, one company, two companies) then the spacing between the elements would be half of the frontage, measured from front rank to front rank.

Allan F Mountford30 Aug 2017 5:24 a.m. PST

As Scott says – Napoleonic period would be the same.

Martyn K30 Aug 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

Two of my favorite books seems to agree, I will take the opportunity to recommend them:

Imperial Bayonets by George Nafziger – this book discusses Napoleonic tactics by nation.
Napoleon's Infantry Handbook by T.E.Crowdy – a very useful book on organization, tactics and everything to do with French Infantry.

Taking a French Column by Division, the column would have two Peletons width. Each Peleton would line up in three rows with a file closer row behind.

In an open column (colonne ouverte or colonne a distance entiere ), the next pelotons would line up behind the front pelotons with a sufficient interval for the battalion to wheel perfectly into line. This in effect means that for a two peloton wide column, the gap between the rows of pelotons would be equal to the two peloton width (plus probably a little bit so it wasn't too tight of a squeeze).

When the columns closed up to half distance, this distance would be reduced to half or the width of one peloton.

When the column closed up completely, or colonne serve en masse, the file closers would stand one pace behind their peloton, with a three pace gap between the the third rank and the first rank of the following peloton.

The key point is that open column has a spacing that allows it to wheel quickly into line. Half interval is half of this distance.

I recommend getting both books as the diagrams allow you to easily visualize this spacing, and it is a lot easier to understand than by just a description. Anyway, I hope that this information helps.

Martyn K30 Aug 2017 7:22 a.m. PST

I was just thinking about this issue a little more. One interesting quirk is that my French Battalions consist of 6 pelotons, each represented by six figures on a base of 3 figures wide by 2 figures deep. I give each figure a 20mm x 20mm area, so at a scale of 1mm = 1 yard, each peloton is a scale 60 yards wide (and vastly too deep). Reports are that each peloton was actually 70 yards in width, so close enough for me.

When deployed in column of divisions, my battalions are 6 figures wide by 6 figures deep. This gives a scale depth of 120 yards.
When the column of divisions was in an open column, the depth would have been just over 140 yards with the above spacing.
So my column of divisions with a 6 figure width and 6 figure depth takes up approximately the space of an column of division in open column even though it looks like a column of divisions that has closed up.

Just an interesting quirk of the scales that we operate with.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 7:50 a.m. PST

Martyn--yes, I have both books, and the reason this is coming up is that I lost several years worth of notes in a hard-drive meltdown over the summer, and I'm starting up the process of duplicating it all.

The issue I was asking about is the "where to where" on the measurement itself. Looking at it logically, I would measure it from back to front, leaving a 1/2 peleton (vzvod in my case) width of open space. If I measure from front to front, then the open space is 1/2 peleton width minus one peleton's depth.

If I have a 15m wide peleton (column of vzvod), with three ranks and two rows of ncos/officer followers, 7.5m measured from the front isn't going to leave a lot of room between the two units.

And yes to your follow-up post, all of this is gathering info to figure out a reasonable scale and basing so that the drill works out. So base depth is a big deal. grin So far, 1:300 seems to be working well, but the front-to-front method doesn't appear to leave enough space.

Martyn K30 Aug 2017 8:19 a.m. PST

If for example the column wants to wheel to the right to form a line, each peloton needs to wheel right keeping the man in the front row (probably a captain, unless it is a Saxon Battalion then it would be a first Lieutenant) on the right stationary.
The second "row" of peloton/pelotons, needs to fit into this gap between the front man of the first peloton and the front man of the second peloton.
So the minimum gap (in theory) would be front row to front row.

I cannot imagine that keeping the gap between the pelotons when moving in half intervals was that accurate, certainly not over 50 yard + distance. There would always need to be a little extra space between the pelotons so that when the column changed to a line at 90 degrees you weren't trying to fit too many men into too small a gap.
Also, when in a line there was probably a small gap between pelotons with captains and other officers at the end of the ranks needing a little room to do their job and keep everything lined up correctly, so you probably need to account for this space.

So in theory you could measure from front row to front row, but due to various factors, I suspect that the spacing was a little be more than this. I would at least measure back of the file closers to front of the next peloton.

Le Breton30 Aug 2017 1:35 p.m. PST

I don't know if this helps or hurts, but ….

I just checked the Russian schools of the company and of the battalion and did not see anywhere use of a column at half-interval – only full interval and closed up.

That does not mean such did not exist for the Russians, but I also did not see any obvious use or need of half-interval. The French, on the other hand, could usefully convert a 6 compagnie bataillon ployed in column of divisions at half interval (i.e. at peloton interval) into a "rectangular" square.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 5:41 a.m. PST

Breton--thanks for checking! The two references I have, Nafziger and the Zhmodikovs, cite a battalion attack column (column of divisions) at half interval. "Imperial Bayonets," p. 77 and "Tactics of the Russian Army…", vol 2, p. 13. The Zhmodikovs list "Military Regulations on the Infantry Service," SPB, 1816 as their source.

Know of any other sources I can reference online?

Le Breton31 Aug 2017 11:40 a.m. PST

Those are the best sources fro this in English.

Let's see ….
It is not in the "Воинский устав о пехотной службе" (Military Regulations on the Infantry Service) 1811 : but they did not publish a School of the battalion in 1811.

It is not in the 1826 version. Nor in the company School (part 2) of the 1816. However, it could very well be in the battalion School (part 3) of 1816 – which I do not have, and which I am guessing the Zhmodikovs *did * have. It is in the artillery museum library in Petersburg, about 2 km from their family home if I remember correctly what Alexander wrote on a Russian forum. And I can't find part 3 1816 online.

I am sure Steven H. Smith has it …. you could ask him on the Napoleon-Series if he would put it up in ICloud or similar – although he may have it only on microfilm or as a (very rare) copy of the original paper edition of 201 years ago.

I am tempted to think the half-interval made its way into the 1816 battalion School becuase the Russians saw the French using it.

I did later think of a possible use for it for Russians: to convert from column of divisons formed on the center (when forrmed closed up, this will be the same as a French "attack column") to a column of platoons formed on the right or the left – a half (platoon) interval would permit the conversion without any sub-unit having to countermarch. It would take more space and likely a bit more time, but that might OK compared to counter-marching (which requires the soldiers to turn away from the enemy and hence is rather bad form).

But that's not really a tactical use : it is more of an intermediate step in the process of a conversion that I can only imagine being performed away from the enemy. So I still don't see "why" it would be in the batallion School in 1816.

Does either of the works you have explain when/how the Russians used half-interval?

By the way, I forgot to answer your question (!) : the Russians measured "spaces" between ranks as from back of the man (or of the pack) of the front ranker to the front of the chest of the following rank.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2017 12:05 p.m. PST

Thanks for the info, Breton!

Rod MacArthur31 Aug 2017 11:33 p.m. PST

Distances should be measured from front rank to front rank of the following company or division.

The point of the half interval (or perhaps more accurately half-distance) column, was that it allowed the formation of squares really quickly. The leading company (or division) halted to form the front of the square, the middle ones split in two and wheeled outwards to form the sides of the square and the last one closed up and about faced to form the rear of the square.

The British did the same, but because their companies were in 2 ranks, they operated in quarter distance columns. To form a square the front company stopped and stepped back to the one behind it. These two companies formed the 4 ranks for the front of the square. The. middle companies broke into quarter companies (sections) and wheeled outwards so that the quarter companies on the flanks formed the two front ranks of the sides of the square and the quarter companies in the centre formed the rear two ranks of the sides of the square. The penultimate and last companies closed up and about faced to form the rear of the square.

Whether for French or British, the whole manoeuvre could be completed in less than 20 seconds, hitch was really important for infantry to protect themselves against cavalry in a fluid Napololeonic battle.

Some Nations (particularly Prussians and Russians) preferred to manoeuvre in close columns, one pace between successive companies, in which case they formed solid squares halting the complete column, the outer files on the sides facing to the left or right respectively and the rear company about facing.

There is an article about this in the Military Historical Research section of my website:


Le Breton01 Sep 2017 3:57 a.m. PST

Interesting topic, great contributions – thank you !

"Open" square from column of divisions at platoon interval (likely in the Russian battalion school of 1816) :
--- 1st division stops
--- 2nd and 3rd divisions' component platoons wheel to a flank
--- 4th divison advances the distance equal to the frontage of a platoon and turns about

"Open" square from closed column of divisions (No. 276 from the battalion school of 1826) :
--- 1st divison advances the distance equal to the frontage of a platoon plus ~6 steps
--- 2nd and 3rd divisions' component platoons move to a flank (the movement is not a perfect wheel for the 2nd division) to form the "sides" of the square
--- 4th division stops and turns about to form the "rear" of the square

For the Russians, the "stop and face outward" method of forming a "solid" square had the additional virtue (1812 and later) of having the first or last files of the platoons of the 2nd and 3rd divisons become the side "faces" of the square : these would be the "zastrelsky" – the designated skirmishers and assumedly among the best marksmen and most reliable soldiers.

In addition to the "stop and face outward" method that Rod mentions, No. 311 from the battalion school of 1826 is :
"Solid" square from closed column of divisions
--- 1st, 2nd, divisions stop
--- 3rd division turns about
--- 4th division (streki and grenadiers in a column formed on the center) platoons march by the flank, half turn toward the front, advance to cover the flanks of the other platoons, then face outward to form the "sides" of the "solid" square


Of course, the Russians, especially when advancing, were not shy about just leaving the men in the closed cloumn and, facing as needed, "counter-charging" the cavalry …. the idea being that stopping an advance and forming squares gave the enemy an operational advantage in that they had, whether the charge worked or not, stopped the Russian infantry from advancing.

They also made multi-battalion large squares when faced with huge numbers of cavalry – common against the Turks in the Ukraine, but also used in Neverovskiy's epic retreat before Smolensk in 1812.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Sep 2017 4:51 a.m. PST

Yes, the half-distance formation would be for forming square quickly. My reenactment battalion practiced that all the time. And as noted, keeping the exact interval distance is nearly impossible. When a unit wheels into line or square, there is inevitably a certain amount of 'dressing' that will need to take place.

Allan F Mountford02 Sep 2017 1:34 a.m. PST

A disadvantage of the closed column often cited is that the column cannot wheel. A half interval on a platoon/peleton frontage would temporarily overcome this, as it would appear to have no other function.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2017 5:27 a.m. PST

The Zhmodikovs in "Tactics of the Russian Army…", discussing A.I. Khatov's "General Essay on Tactics"…

(Alexander Zhmodikov on the Napoleon Series Forum: "Now I can say that the first volume of Alexander Khatov's General Essay on Tactics is the first volume of Guibert's Essai général de tactique translated into Russian with some additions and omissions. Khatov significantly abridged Guibert's lengthy Introduction. In the chapter on infantry Khatov added the battalion attack column and battalion square")

"Khatov considered attacks in closed columns dangerous and wrote that a closed column was usually in full disorder, even after a successful attack…Closed columns had to have a distance of three paces between….they were to march to attack at a fast pace… Open columns with full distance or half-distance, were to be used to move infantry over the battlefield… The former was to form a line parallel to the direction of the march by quarter-wheeling its platoons to either flank; the latter could form a line perpendicular to the direction of the march by moving its platoons by files."

Le Breton03 Sep 2017 2:15 a.m. PST

On the russian drill manuals from the excellent Steven H. Smith :


Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2017 5:11 a.m. PST

Superb--thank you Breton!

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2017 7:46 a.m. PST

Steven--if you're following this, I appreciate your following up on the drill questions on the Nap series forum (I would reply there, but I'm having trouble restoring my old profile)

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Sep 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

By the time of the ACW a closed column could wheel. It's tricky with the following elements in what I refer to as a 'controlled skid' :) but it does work--with practice.

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