BACK to The Drill Network

BACK to The Liberty Greys

School of the Battalion made Comprehensible.

How to Study Hardee's SotB.


A dedicated military reenactor certainly owns a copy of the Hardee's  School of the Soldier and School of the Company, which are available at low cost from many sutlers.  A smaller number, though certainly almost all officers and first sergeants, will have a complete copy, either of the 1855 or 1862 versions.  Yet so few of us have a clear understanding of the essentials of the School of the Battalion.

Most of us have learned the manual the way the recruit did, from the earlier school to the higher one.  Yet to really understand the manual, it is necessary to look from the higher to the lower.  SotS is written to prepare the soldier to function within his company.  Much that is unclear becomes clearer when viewed from this perspective.

Similarly, much that may not make sense in SotC, makes perfect sense when one sees how a particular maneuver is used to move a company within a battalion, in the higher school.    Yet School of the Battalion remains difficult to study.

The problem has two aspects.  First, the organization of SotB is very poor.  The information is all there, and an experienced instructor can use it well, although it can take a while to find the exact information desired.  However, for the neophyte attempting to teach himself, it can become frustrating to the point of near impossibility.

When I was First Sergeant of the First Maryland, I attempted to study SotB on numerous occasions.  At that point, our battalion had not yet been formed, and we had done little if any true battalion drill.  Part First was always a pretty easy go, but as I delved into Part Second, It simply made no sense.  In an effort to learn, I would read on, but soon, frustrated by its sheer incomprehensibility, I would put it aside and return to the safety of SotC. 


A Better Order.


Eventually, I sorted it out, and began to understand the basics of the evolutions.  However, as a teacher, it seemed that there must be a better way to learn the material.  Two years ago, I was lucky enough to lay my hands on a copy of Upton's  Infantry Tactics.  As part of the research project, I wrote an extensive article comparing the work of Hardee with that of Upton.  As I poured over Upton's , I discovered that his School of the Battalion, while essentially similar in many respects, was organized in a far more common sense manner.   As part of that article, I developed a suggested reading order for Hardee's based on Upton's reorganization.  Here is the excerpt from that article:


------------yet, the organization is much more sensible. It is so much so, that I am tempted to recommend that the beginning student of Hardee's SotB study it out of order. A good order might be as follows: Part First complete; Part Fifth, Articles I-VII, IX-XI, and XVI; Part Second, Articles I and II; Part Third, Articles I-IV; Part Fourth, Articles II and III; and Part Fifth, Articles VIII and XII. This will give the student a fundamental knowledge of battalion maneuvers in line and column at full distance.

The next step would be to learn maneuvering of columns at half distance and closed in mass. Here I recommend studying Part Third, Articles V-IX; Part Second, Article III; and Part Fourth, Articles IV-V.

To understand the proper use of the countermarch of a column, study Part Third, Articles X and XI. The column doubled on the center is a powerful and versatile attacking formation. To learn about it, study Part Fifth, Article XIII.

For a sense of completeness, study the formation of squares and the rally in Part Fifth, Articles XIV and XV.------------------------

To arrange it more clearly:


Lesson 1.  Part First complete; Opening and closing ranks, Manual of Arms, Firings.

Lesson 2.  Part Fifth, Articles I-VII, IX-XI, and XVI; Marching in Line, Flank marching.

Lesson 3.  Part Second, Articles I and II; Wheeling into column, Maneuvering by right of companies.

Lesson 4.  Part Third, Articles I-IV; Marching in column.

Lesson 5.  Part Fourth, Articles II and III; Forming Line from Column.

Lesson 6.  Part Fifth, Articles VIII and XII; Passage of obstacles, Changes of front.



Lesson 1.  Part Third, Articles V-IX; Forming, Closing, Opening columns at full distance or closed in mass.

Lesson 2.  Part Second, Article III; Ploying into column.

Lesson 3.  Part Fourth, Articles IV-V; Forming and deploying columns into line


Lesson 1.  Part Third, Articles X and XI; Countermarching a column, forming division column.

Lesson 2.  Part Fifth, Article XIII; Column doubled on the centre


Lesson 1.  Part Fifth, Articles XIV and XV; Squares, dispersal, and rally.

This is actually remarkably similar to Hardee's own suggestion of instruction in arranging the manual into lessons.  Consulting page 142 of the North Carolina edition, which also appears in the same general spot in the 1855 edition, we find the "School of the Battalion. arranged into Lessons".  The main distinction between my suggestion and that of Hardee is that my lesson 2 is the march in line of battle.  It seems to me much better to begin there and progress to the formation of columns of various descriptions.

Still Hardee's version can be an effective learning and teaching tool.  One could wish that he had actually arranged the manual in his suggested order.

By studying the manual in my suggested order, the student begins with material that is much more familiar and easier to understand, and progresses in stages to the more difficult evolutions.  Full understanding is easier from a base of knowledge.




English, Please!


While the above suggestion helps greatly, there is still the problem of the language itself.  At its best, the language of Hardee's can be called, charitably, stilted.

In a recent study project, I have begun to study and compare Winfield Scott's Infantry Tactics with those of Hardee.  Both Scott and Hardee worked from French original manuals,  and their translations, while workable, are perhaps a bit too literal, particularly for the modern reader

A most interesting manual though, is the Instructions and Regulations for Militia and Volunteers, written by Samuel Cooper in 1836.  In his infantry section, he distills Scott's massive work down to 128 pages.  His battalion work is condensed from an entire volume by Scott, into a mere 50 pages.  He accomplishes this not only by small print or abridgement, but by paraphrasing his predecessor.  In so doing, the manual comes out in a much clearer text, easily readable by the modern reader.  Since the basic evolutions were little changed by Hardee, this manual becomes an excellent study tool when used in combination with Hardee's. 

Another manual, from 1862, is the Digest of the US Tactics, written by Steffan for the 44th Massachusetts.   It was intended as an assistance for volunteer officers, who were expected to understand SotS and SotC, but would have difficulties with the finer points of battalion evolutions, a very good description of many of our modern reenacting officers.  The result is a readable work that is as much commentary as it is instruction, and an excellent addition to the study of the topic.  Unfortunately, neither of the volumes has been reprinted, at least to my knowledge.

Perhaps the best tool for the reenactor is the brilliant Parade, Inspection and Review of an Infantry Battalion, by Domenic Dal Bello, now in its fourth edition.  This well researched modern volume is easy to read and understand, and well illustrated.  Every officer and first sergeant should own a copy.





As a first step, every officer and first sergeant, in order to have a hope of doing their job effectively, must own a complete edition of their battalion's recommended drill manual.  For the 6th Battalion, 1st Division ANV, that is Hardee's Rifle and Infantry Tactics, 1861 edition, which has been reprinted from an 1862 original printed for North Carolina troops.  This volume is available from Levi Ledbetter's Sutlery, and from the Big Bear Trading Post.  There is no substitute or acceptable shortcut for the original manual.

Study it in the order suggested above.  For those using other manuals, (Gilham's, Casey's) the order is easily adaptable to these essentially similar manuals.

The next study tool is Dal Bello's PIE, available from the AOP Press.  Evolutions are explained clearly, and are adapted where necessary for the reenacting battalion.

A study of Cooper's and Steffan's could be most beneficial, but acquiring the manuals can be a problem.  If your local library cannot be of assistance, these volumes are or will be, in whole or in part, posted on the internet at the Co. H, 1st Maryland Drill Research Site.

The best advice though, is simply to keep plugging away.  A better understanding of  battalion drill can only give a better educational experience for spectator and reenactor alike.



Leonidas Jones

Colonel cmdg

6th Regiment, 1st DivisionANV

The Liberty Greys





Here is a listing of the works I have consulted in making this study,  and a short commentary on their use.

Baxter, D.W.C. (1861) Volunteer’s Manual.  Philadelphia: King & Baird

            A version of Scott’s School of the Soldier, for Volunteer’s

Casey, Silas.  (1862)  Infantry Tactics. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1862

            The Standard Federal Manual for reenactors.

Cooper, Samuel.  (1936)  Philadelphia, Robert P. Desilver

            An excellent volunteer's manual by the future adjutant-general of the Confederacy.  It is of  special interest in a study of School of the Battalion.

Gilham, William. (1861)  Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States      Philadelphia: Charles Desilver

            A very useful volume.  Infantry is Hardee’s with additions for volunteer’s.

Hardee, William J. (1861) (original, 1855) Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics. Philadelphia: J.Lippencott & Co.

            Hardee’s original work.

Hardee, William J. (1862)  Rifle and Infantry Tactics.  North Carolina.

            Hardee’s revision for three band weapons. 1st printed in Mobile in 1861

Lee, Jas. K.  (1861) Volunteer’s Handbook.  Richmond: West & Johnston Press

            Another manual for volunteers.

Upton, Emory. (1867) Infantry Tactics.  New York:  D. Appleton & Co.

            The manual studied in this article.

Scott, Winfield.  (1830)  Abstract of Infantry Tactics. Boston: Hilliard, Grey, Little, and Wilkins.

            A short manual written by committee before Scott’s major work, Infantry Tactics.

Scott, Winfield.  (1861)  Infantry Tactics.  New York : Harper and Brothers.

            Scott's great work, originally published in 1835.

Steuben, Frederick, Baron von. (1794) Regulations for the Order and Discipline of  Troops of the United  States. Boston: Thomas & Andrews.


            The standard manual for Rev. war reenactors.  It was supplanted by the French manuals, which formed the basis of Gen. Scott’s work.


Steffen, William. (1862) Digest of the U.S. Tactics. Boston: Loring.


            An excellent synopsis and commentary on School of the Battalion.

BACK to The Drill Network

BACK to The Liberty Greys