The Method of Forming and Relieving Several Guards in and about the Encampment of a Battalion


By Eric Chetwynd — 2nd Mass. Regt.


The following article is based primarily on Baron v. Steuben's Blue Book, but also references similar instructions in both Cuthbertson's A System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry and Sime's The Military Medley.




As original guards were on duty for 24 hours, I would suggest a pared down version of this. Namely, that, if the schedule of the event allows, each guard would serve for the entire day. This would typically result in approx. 3 hour guard details each day. It is up to the officer of the Guard to manage the relief of the guard.


All of these works dedicate a good amount of space to the subject of Guards. I will attempt to summarize some of this information herein.



Of the Different Types of Guards:


  1. Camp Guard - This is the main guard for the interior management of the encampment and is therefore the largest. Their chief purpose is to "form a chain of sentinels around the camp. In order to prevent improper persons entering, or the soldiers going out of camp."

    For this purpose, the Sentinels of each battalion form a chain around the camp at approximately 300 yards (just beyond the battalion sinks).
  2. Quarter Guard - This guard is smaller in size and is intended as a internal guard between battalions. It is posted to the rear of the battalion.
  3. Outpost Guards - These should be formed along the main avenues to the camp and serve as a method to thwart a surprise attack upon the camp.

Of the Size of the Different Guards:


 Subalt.Serj.Corp.DrummPriv.
Camp Guard111127
Quarter Guard 1 9 
Outpost Gd.11 112
Police14 1 


Of the Postings of the Camp Guard (9 Sentinels):


1   before the Guard

2   to right and left of the Guard

1   on each flank of the Camp

1   before the Colours

1   before Commandant's marquis



Of the Postings of the Quarter Guard (3 Sentinels):


1   before the Guard

1   to the right and left of the Guard



Of Forming Guards on the Parade:


Each First Serjeant is responsible for seeing that an NCO from his company takes charge of the soldiers assigned from his company. He should inspect those soldiers prior to their marching to the parade and see that they are in the greatest order. This NCO is to see that the soldiers so assigned arrive fully accoutered before the Adjutant's Tent at the appointed hour.


Once on the Parade, the whole shall be sized and broken into their respective Guards. Officers and NCO's shall then take their place with the Guards and march them to their respective posts.



Of Posting and Relieving Sentinels:


Immediately upon arriving at their post the NCO or Officer of the Guard is to see that the Guard remains facing the enemy under arms until the first Sentinels have been posted.



The Sentinels are to be posted by the Corporal of the Guard in the following manner:


The Corporal shall form enough Sentinels as are necessary (attempting to keep files together whenever possible) and march them to the first Sentinel Post at Support Arms. The Corporal shall halt the Relief 6 Paces from the Sentinel (both facing enemy) and command:


Present Arms!


The whole shall Present, whereupon the Corporal shall command:


Sentinels! Shoulder Firelocks!


The relieving Sentinel and the one currently posted Shoulder. The Corp and Relieving Sentinel then march up to the Posted Sentinel. The Relieving Sentinel receives Orders from the Posted Sentinel. He then takes the Posted Sentinels place and the Relieved Sentinel now marches to the Relief and forms on the left of the Rear Rank.


The Corp then brings the Relief to Support Arms and marches the whole to the next Post.


Once the first chain of Sentinels is posted, the Guard may stack arms and stand down. They should, however, be ready to form at a moment's notice (particularly the Outpost Guard).



Of Challenging, Paroles, Passes and the Like:


Paroles and Countersigns were designed for use at night when the visibility of a sentinel would be greatly reduced. As we do not typically post during the night, this becomes an unnecessary activity for the Line in the field. As far as passes, if privates and the like needed to leave the camp, they would have done so under an officer. As such, passes should only be required in rather rare cases.



Of the Administration of a Guard:


While the junior NCO (Corporal) shall be responsible for the relieving and managing of the Guard, The senior NCO (Serj.) shall see that the proper paperwork is filled out. A Report of the Guard shall be compiled by each. Serj. and turned into the Adjutant upon the completion of the Mount.


Note: Those officers assigned to the Guard should take the time to read Instructions to Officers on Guard in von Steubens Manual (The Blue Book).


Copyright © 1997 Eric Chetwynd. All rights reserved.