Tactical military organization composed of a headquarters and two or more companies, batteries, or similar units and usually commanded by a field-grade officer such as a lieutenant colonel. The term has been used in nearly every Western army for centuries and has had many meanings. In the 16th–17th century, it denoted a unit of infantry used in a line of battle and was loosely applied to any large body of men. During the Napoleonic Wars, battalions were fighting units of the French army under the administrative unit of the regiment. In the armies of the British Commonwealth nations, infantry battalions are tactical units within regiments. The typical U.S. Army battalion is a unit of 800–900 soldiers, divided into a headquarters company and three rifle companies; two to five battalions form the combat elements of a tactical brigade. See also military unit.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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