1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Platoon
PLATOON (Fr. peloton, from Fr. pelote, a ball or pellet; cf. Ger. Haufe, heap), a small group of soldiers. In the early 17th century it was a definite tactical unit of infantry, corresponding to the modern section or half company. In the 18th century the battalion, irrespective of its organization into companies, was told off on parade into six, eight or ten platoons of equal strength. "Platoon fire" was the systematic and regulated fire of platoon volleys, the platoons firing one after the other. Hence a "platoon" sometimes means a volley. The fire of a long line of infantry was as a rule conducted on the same principles, each battalion of the front line employing platoon fire, which is often picturesquely described as a "rolling platoon fire," or "rolling volleys." The word is obsolete in the British army, but is used in the United States, and, in various forms, in the armies of France and other Latin nations.