Principal subdivision of a military company, battery, or troop. Usually commanded by a lieutenant, it consists of 25–50 soldiers organized into two or more squads led by noncommissioned officers. The term was first used in the 17th century to refer to a small body of musketeers who fired together in a volley alternately with another platoon. It has been used in U.S. military manuals since 1779, and throughout the 19th century it meant half a company. It was reintroduced into the British army in 1913. See also military unit.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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