Color Guard Drill Digest

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
I know that the Color Guard is attached to the left flank of 5th (or Right-of-Center) Company of the Battalion, and that it will follow its alignment and commands of its Commander (unless, of course, these commands somehow conflict with the duty of the Color Guard), but is the Color Guard truly considered to be integrated into 5th (RoC) Company? The Color Guard doesn't fight the enemy, or even bring their weapons from the Shoulder Arms carry, except in response to a DIRECT THREAT to the Colors. Therefore, if men are temporarily transferred from 5th (RoC) Company, as per the "Equalization of Strength of Companies of the Battalion" practice, then that is a loss of firepower of potentially 9 men to this Company. That seems to be particularly risky if this Company has more direct involvement in the protection of the Colors than do the other Companies of the Battalion. Is there anything that can absolutely clarify whether or not the Color Guard is really a part of 5th (RoC) Company during its formation, or is simply attached to this Company so that it is not an independent demi-unit within the Battalion?


the color company does not protect the colors. The Color guard itself does. The Sergeant and corporals of the Color guard are drawn from the several companies of the battalion/regiment. It forms as you mention on the left of the right-center company, which in the 10 company regiment is the 5th company.

When the battalion is dismissed, the color guard and color escort put away the colors, etc. Then when they break ranks the sergeant and corporals camp, etc. with their own companies... The commander of the regiment decides who is to act with the color guard, and there is no legal/permanent assignment to it.
 

grognard

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2018
When the battalion is dismissed, the color guard and color escort put away the colors, etc. Then when they break ranks the sergeant and corporals camp, etc. with their own companies.

Do we really know that? Remember that for dress parade, the color company (presumably including the Color Guard) is to be formed and in place while the other companies are assembling. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the members of the Color Guard camp together, near the centre of the battalion line? Kautz's "Customs of Service" is silent on this, and nothing in the Regulations prohibits it.

Do you think members of the Color Guard would take turns as Corporal and Sergeant of the Guard? Remember that guard duty is supposed to be a 24 hour assignment, and can take up to a third of the strength of a battalion. Who's going to take their places with the Color Guard? Isn't this a recipe for mass confusion?

This is where diaries, veteran accounts, etc would shed more light on What Was Actually Done than the Regulations and other period references do.

The commander of the regiment decides who is to act with the color guard, and there is no legal/permanent assignment to it.

True that "Color Guard" is not a "Field and Staff" assignment - the color bearer(s) and the corporals are still mustered with their individual companies.

My feeling is this was probably like "Temporary Duty" in the modern military. You still belong to, and are paid through, your unit of record. But where you go each day, what you do, and where you eat and sleep are determined by your "temporary" (but very REAL) assignment.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Corporal Hosmer of Company D, 52nd Mass. Vols.

Before Port Hudson, LA, with Co. A as the color-company...

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Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Location
Fayetteville, AR
For this reason, flexibility is key and the Color Guard needs to be an ad hoc entity. Ideally, every company commander should know the duties pertaining to the color company; every sergeant should be prepared to be a color bearer; and every corporal should know how to serve in the color guard. Whether this happened in practice probably depended a lot on the colonel's preferences and the quality of the battalion staff.

Absolutely. One of the points I made in response to an earlier comment is that most reenactors require a lot more training to try and reach drill proficiency. All reenactors must read SOS, SOC, and IFS; all low-level NCOs and above should be familiar with SOB; all officers and high-level NCOs should at least have skimmed EOL.

The reenactor-training gap really was the original impetus for writing this article; the ACG wanted to do color guard for our local mainstream battalion, but that required that (1) we were able to understand our responsibilities, (2) the battalion need to understand our duties, and (3) we thought it would be more effective to have it in a more consumable format which could be distributed to partner groups and the community at large.

On that note. One of these days I may write a SOB or full infantry-drill digest. Certainly the former, at least.

Do we really know that? Remember that for dress parade, the color company (presumably including the Color Guard) is to be formed and in place while the other companies are assembling. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the members of the Color Guard camp together, near the centre of the battalion line? Kautz's "Customs of Service" is silent on this, and nothing in the Regulations prohibits it.



This is where diaries, veteran accounts, etc would shed more light on What Was Actually Done than the Regulations and other period references do.

For what it’s worth, the opening description of the color guard does seem to imply that its members would split up and return to their home companies. @RedRover posted an example of the color guardsman leaving the color guard to bed down with his buddy in his home company. It may never be possible to know the degree to which this was done, and I think inevitably exceptions will be found to the rule.

This article in its current form is designed to be taken strictly from the manuals. However, as I've said, one of my goals for this winter is to peruse more anecdotal accounts from the ORs, the United States Service Magazine, the Army and Navy Journal, memoirs, etc., to see what I can find. From such accounts we can get a general idea of what may have been common, which we can try to emulate.
 
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RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Not to say the color guard never camped together, but how could they form their own mess? From which company would they derive their rations? They were already non-commissioned officers, and it was the privates of the messes who were to rotate the cooking chores (Army regs. 1863 edition). There is nothing that says they were exempt from the basic duties of NCOs in the four administrative squads into which each company is divided for routines, to say nothing of guard duty, etc.

In forming line of battle, companies were already, by the tactics, subject to assigning men over or receiving them, to equalize all of them for maneuvering. So it does not seem to me much of an impediment to have the assigned color-guard men with their own companies go over to form with the color-company before forming up...
 

grognard

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2018
So, what happens if the battalion is split up? Say the right wing (including the color company) goes to Mudville, while the left wing is 5 miles away in Pitiful. Are any left wing (6th - 10th company) corporals in the Color Guard replaced? If not - do they have to hike all the way to Pitiful to draw rations and bed down for the night? Suppose there's an alarm in the middle of the night - do they get up and double-quick all the way to Mudville?

Rations are interesting - but the regimental commisary is going to have to issue the same number, no matter how it's apportioned among the companies. If companies are "equalized" on campaign it would make a lot more sense to have them camp with their "host" companies, and draw rations from them, than have people running all over the place at every daily halt.

Casey's Infantry Tactics (and all the other books) note that:

The corporals for the color-guard will be selected from those most distinguished for regularity and precision, as well in their positions under arms as in their marching. The latter advantage, and a just carriage of the person, are to be more particularly sought for in the selection of the color-bearer.

This implies some degree of permanence. While the colonel is free to change the makeup of the Color Guard at any time, he would want to keep the most suitable men available for that duty. There is no way a corporal can do color guard duty in camp, and be Corporal of the Guard on a picket or outpost line, on the same day - he would have to be Superman to be in two places at the same time.

It's a shame this isn't further clarified - but I expect it was deliberately left to the battalion commander's discretion. Every situation is different, and the colonel needs the freedom to do what makes sense in his unit's circumstances.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
This implies some degree of permanence. While the colonel is free to change the makeup of the Color Guard at any time, he would want to keep the most suitable men available for that duty. There is no way a corporal can do color guard duty in camp, and be Corporal of the Guard on a picket or outpost line, on the same day - he would have to be Superman to be in two places at the same time.

"Color Guard duty" is only in line of battle. When the troops were not in the line of battle, the color guard neither remains in line, nor were they to guard the colors. That was to be generally done by a detachment from the regimental "police guard" which posts one sentinel over the colors. At "retreat" a sergeant of the police guard with two armed soldiers secures them (folds, etc.) and at reveille, the police guard sergeant replaces them in their place. (1863 ed. US Regs., para. 573, 587.)

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Hardee's "school of the battalion" mentions when forming into line the colonel might just hand the colors to the color sergeant, but when possible, have a company act as color escort for the color-sergeant to receive them, and then march to the line, the sergeant posts with the color guard, etc.

the "equalizing" of the companies was done before maneuvering. In pre-war manuals (Scott's 1825 tactics) is mentioned the regimental adjutant tells the captains how many files to form before falling in their companies, the balance of the men being apportioned where necessary. Hardee's is not so specific, but it is still to be an equalization. There is no suggestion that men moved from one company to another "For manoeuvring" were otherwise detached from their own companies.
 
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grognard

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2018
"Color Guard duty" is only in line of battle. When the troops were not in the line of battle, the color guard neither remains in line, nor were they to guard the colors.

Question: When the battalion stacks arms on the color line, where does the Color Guard stack arms? For that matter - what about the men detailed to "equalize" companies?

Do you think they fell out, took their weapons with them, and stacked them with their "permanent" companies? What kind of confusion would result if the Long Roll was beat and the regiment had to form line immediately?

The members of the police guard who aren't posted as sentinels stack arms at the guard tent or Post #1 - no matter what companies they are drawn from. Since stacking arms on the color line is intended to help form the battalion quickly, I would assume the same rule is followed. The Regulations are written for a Regular Army living in barracks, where the men take their weapons back to their company quarters after drill.
 

garytameling

Private
Joined
Nov 24, 2019
Location
New York
I see, from a post on another thread ("Color Company"), that I may have the answer to my original question of whether or not the Equalization of Companies occurred after the attachment of the Color Guard to Color Company:
RedRover:
In reviewing through the pre-war regulations/tactics, I see that from 1825 before a battalion/regiment was paraded and prepared for maneuvering by the tactics, the adjutant informed the company commanders how many files to form, with the excess men being sent to weaker companies so they can all be equal. There is also notice that the color-company was to form with three less files, so that with the color guard it would be equal to all the others. This latter was not specified in Scott's 1835 and Hardee's, etc., but I suspect it was understood to be the case since they note "equalized" companies.

Okay, so Color Company's firepower WAS reduced by up to 9 men during the Equalization of Companies. I am surprised at this, but this is not the first time that regulations and practices were polar opposites of what I considered to be logical. :banghead:
Perhaps a "digest" of an Order of Operations of the Formation of the Battalion and Color Guard would be helpful, at least in my own authorship efforts! :D Maybe something like this:
Initial Formations:
1) During one of the first formations of the Battalion after its creation: Corporals and Sergeants (8 Cpls and 1 Sgt if national flag only is utilized, or 7 Cpls and 2 Sgts if national and battalion flags are utilized) are chosen for the Battalion Color Guard; Sergeants are the Bearers of the Colors.
Daily Operations:
2) Company Commanders each receive notice from the Battalion Adjutant of the number of Files to be formed within the Companies that they command (three less files for RoC (Color) Company); Equalization of Companies: those Companies that can form more Files then transfer these "surplus" men to Companies that cannot form the required number of Files.
3) Each Company forms Line of Battle; this, in and of itself, has its own Order of Operations like Postings of Guides, Height Order, Postings of Corporals (and any Temporary Replacements), Postings of File Closers, etcetera.
4) Each Company aligns by the Seniority of Company Commanders in order to form the Battalion's Line of Battle.
5) Color Guard in Three Ranks - Front (Color) Rank of Color Bearer(s) and Corporal(s), and the other two Ranks behind, all members of which are aligned by Seniority - attaches itself to the RoC (Color) Company of the Battalion.
6) Other Operational Duties before the Battalion commences maneuvers.
I am sure that at least some of the above Order of Operations needs to be corrected or improved. Have at it, lads! :wavespin:
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Question: When the battalion stacks arms on the color line, where does the Color Guard stack arms? For that matter - what about the men detailed to "equalize" companies?

Do you think they fell out, took their weapons with them, and stacked them with their "permanent" companies? What kind of confusion would result if the Long Roll was beat and the regiment had to form line immediately?

Like you say, the battalion stacks arms in line of battle to fix the position of the men in the line of battle, but this is done so when they break ranks, they know where to fall back in. But once the line is dismissed, leaving the stacks in place, there is nothing official that restricts the "equalized" men, or the color guard NCOs, from camping, bivouacking, etc. with their own companies...

Daily roll calls gave the regimental headquarters a head count of each company so the calculations for equalization for manuevering could be made whenever necessary. In other words the colonel can "equalize" his regiments companies daily if he wanted or had to. Just because a soldier was sent by his captain to fall in with another did not mean he ceased to be a member of that captain's company, nor did being detailed permanently with the color-guard remove an NCO from his own company.

Roll calls were held on the "company" parades, not on the regimental one, where the arms might or might not be stacked...
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NCOs detailed by the companies as color guard, if not present with their companies during the roll call, must have been absent WITH leave.

I think a good question would be, were the color-guard NCOs accounted for on the rolls of the color company, or their own company for the purposes of common roll calls?

Notice that for parade alone, or company drill, it was not necessary for the companies to be "equalized." the tactics are clear that this was done "for manuevering" the battalion by the tactics. Nor is there any evidence the NCOs of the color-guard just sat around waiting for the battalion parade or drill. They were NCOs of THEIR OWN COMPANIES detailed for color guard WHEN the regiment formed in line of battle. Consequently, their company commanders had to see to their replacement (sergeants by corporals, etc.) within their companies.
 
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grognard

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2018
The matter was referred to Colonel Burnside, who at once decided that the color guard of eight men were exempt from general guard duty, but the balance of the company would mount guard.

Exactly. When Company F (which evidently was the third captain's company) was detailed for guard duty, it took its turn like any other company. If a color company was required in its absence, presumably the fourth captain's company took its place. The NCOs detailed for color guard duty (presumably drawn from all the companies) would form the color guard on its left. Think of it this way: They are exempted from picket and police guard duty because they do guard duty (of a different kind) every day.

That's not to say that a different colonel of a different regiment might not have established a different procedure...
 
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