A Treatise on Countermarch
by Gene Harmon

Based On Hardee’s Tactics
School of the Company
Lesson Sixth
Article Fourth

As we know, a soldier is taught from the beginning and then expands on his knowledge and execution with more advanced techniques and applications. This has not changed much through the years. During the Civil War, it was taught in progressively complicated stages starting with the School of the Soldier. Once he was accomplished in these lessons, training advanced to the School of the Company. NONE of what he had previously learned lost significance; now it was just applied while in a company formation. Likewise, a company drilling in the School of the Battalion applied all previously learned lessons in that for the “Company” within the battalion formation. Again, nothing had lost its importance or method of execution, but was now done as part of the larger maneuvers.

In the following treatise, I have laid out the significance in the above regarding to the “countermarch” command. This is one of those re-enactorims that apparently has survived for way too many years.

Article Fourth

334. The company being at a halt, and supposed to constitute part of a column, right in front, when the instructor shall wish to cause it to countermarch, he will command:

1. Countermarch. 2. Company, right-FACE. 3. By file left. 4 MARCH.

Now, two things jump out immediately to me from this first statement.

Company being at a halt” – Every mention of Countermarch in Hardee’s states it is executed from the Halt. It is not given to a company or column on the move.

and supposed to constitute part of a column” – This is stating that even though the drill is being conducted at a company level, it is theoretically being executed as part of a column of infantry. This, in essence, would mean several companies in battalion or regimental formation.

335. At the second command the company will face to the right, the two guides to the right about; the captain will go to the right of his company and cause two files to break to the left, and then place himself by the side of the front rank, to conduct him.

With the company facing to the right, the two guides ( using 1st and 2nd Sgts as examples ) now facing about and the captain breaking two files to the left, it does not sound like the countermarch we as re-enactors continue to execute. This would not adhere to the common practice of the entire battalion marching up to pivot at fixed point and march back down to be halted facing the other direction.

336. At the command march, both guides will stand fast; the company will step off smartly; the first file conducted by the captain, will wheel around the right guide, and direct its march along the front rank so as to arrive behind, and two paces from the left guide; each file will come in succession to wheel on the same ground around the right guide; the leading file having arrived at a point opposite to the left guide, the captain will command:

1. Company. 2. HALT. 3. FRONT. 4. Right-DRESS.

Once again, contrary to the accepted practice, this clearly states the company wheels around its 1st Sgt and then is halted near the 2nd Sgt before being fronted and dressed. Given this insight, if a battalion commander gives the countermarch command, EACH COMPANY should do its own countermarch. The order of companies would be inverted but NOT the ranks.

337. The first command will be given at four paces from the point where the leading file is to rest.
338. At the second command, the company will halt.
339. At the third, it will face to the front.
340. At the fourth, the company will dress by the right; the captain will step two paces outside of the left guide, now on the right, and direct the alignment, so that the front rank may be enclosed between the two guides; the company being aligned, he will command FRONT, and place himself before the centre of the company as if in column; the guides, passing along the front rank, will shift to their proper places, on the right and left of that rank.
341. In a column, by platoon, the countermarch will be executed by the same commands, and according to the same principles; the guide of each platoon will face about, and its chief will place himself by the side of the file on the right, to conduct it.
342. In a column, left in front, the countermarch will be executed by inverse commands and means, but according to the same principles. Thus, the movement will be made by the right flank of subdivisions, if the right be in front, and by the left flank, if the left be in front; in both cases the subdivisions will wheel by file to the side of the front rank.

To sum up this aspect, countermarch should always be done from the Halt and each company does its own countermarch even when part of a larger formation such as a battalion or regiment.

Hardee’s Skirmish
Illustrated Hardee’s
Mahan’s Outpost
Skirmish Primer
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