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"ECW regiments and deployment" Topic


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Jagger10 Mar 2010 8:02 a.m. PST

I stumbled over this passage pertaining to regimental deployments last night from Soldiers of the ECW, Infantry.

picture

To sum up, a single regiment was typically divided into three or four "grand divisions" according to ECW tactical manuals. Each of the individual regimental grand divisions deployed as a central pike formation with wings of muskets. Thus a regiment might have 2-4 divisions each of a core pike with wings of muskets. Here is a diagram of a regiment with 3 grand divisions:

picture

(Note the regiment divided into three grand divisions with two front line divisions, one reserve division and even a forlon hope detachment. Very similiar to a deployed brigade or army battleline.)

For me, this is a revelation. I had always assumed a regiment formed the basic tactical maneuver element with a single pike core and two wings of muskets. The reality seems a regiment was formed of anywhere from 2-4 individual elements each forming a mini-regiment of pikes and musket wings.

When considering the size of a regiment is typically 10 companies and 1000 men, then the standard size of a grand division would be anywhere from 500-250 men dependent on the number of divisions.

I would guess that as regiments lost men to attrition that the number of divisions a regiment would field was reduced. Thus a 1000 man regiment might consist of 3-4 grand divisions but a 250-350 man regiment would only form a single grand division, a 500-600 man regiment might form 2 divisions at most. Thus the 250-350 man block of pikes and muskets seems to be the basic tactical unit of a regiment.

So now I wonder how much independence grand divisions had from their parent regiments? Were grand divisions commonly detached from their regiments with independent objectives? Or were grand divisions so closely tied to their regiment that the regiment was the basic tactical element?

lugal hdan10 Mar 2010 9:05 a.m. PST

Actually, it sounds like however many men the regiment had, they would divide the pikes into 3 bodies, then attach musketeers to those blocks according to their favorite ratio (2:1 or whatever), then form a fourth body with the remainder of the musketeers (if any) to use as a reserve.

My impression is that once the regiment was deployed, the grand divisions would work in concert. Remember that these soldiers were greatly influenced by the ideas of the Romans (hence "Renaissance") so the idea of mimicking "cohorts" would have been appealing to them.

In the TYW, it was not uncommon for regiments to detach their "extra" musketeers for special duty though.

Jagger10 Mar 2010 10:36 a.m. PST

How small can a pike block be before it is ineffective? Considering pikes have a depth of 8 ranks, an 8x8 block is 64 pikes. However is a block with an 8 man frontage effective? If you assume 250 men as a minimum division with 2-1 ratio, then you would have 80 pikes and 160 muskets.

I guess I am wondering just how small a division can be before a pike block with 8 rank depth is ineffective in providing cavalry protection?

Considering the small size of many regiments as the war progressed, it may have been very difficult to have 3 or 4 grand divisions and still have effective pike blocks. Reducing the number of grand divisions seems logical as it would ensure effective 8 rank pike blocks with smaller regiments.

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2010 11:36 a.m. PST

Don't forget, that in the ECW, a lot of the battlefields were criss-crossed with hedged lanes and the like. There were very few "open" battlefields like EdgeHill or Naseby.

The regiments of the time would have been deployed to suit the terrain. Hence the need for a lot of seperate units of musketeers, and smaller pike blocks.

Timmo uk10 Mar 2010 12:23 p.m. PST

Jagger

My understanding is that ECW foot were usually deployed six ranks deep. Also there are suggestions that many units had a greater ratio for pike to musket than 2:1 but that's another whole debate really and one perhaps with no definitive answer.

I also seem to recall that at Landsdown the Royalist pike formed up into much larger bodies than was usual.

BTW where are your references from? I'm interested in reading more.

Timbo W10 Mar 2010 12:48 p.m. PST

Hi Jagger and all,

Interesting find, I guess Knotters/ECWS-ers might be best to answer this. I'm not sure I can think of any contemporary mentions of 3 divisions per regiment in action, though this might be due to the generally small size of ECW regiments. By rights full strength should have been 1200 or so, but this was very rare, 800 was an exceptionally big regiment, 4-600 more common, and 1-300 after hard campaigning fairly usual. So if you have a slightly higher number at which to split into Grand Divisions, it comes out similarly.

Certainly the picture is from Streeter's engraving of Naseby and shows three regiments of the NMA, average size 600-or-so.

There are occasions where there's evidence of a large regiment being split into 2 Divisions, eg. De Gomme's plan of Marston Moor, showing Tillier's, Rupert's etc in that formation. Regarding infantry formations in the smaller battles, there's not an awful lot of information. What there is suggeste a lot of flexibility, eg at Lansdown where Hopton formed all the pike from 5 or more Rgts into a big block and sent the musketeers of to the flanks, many occasions where musketeers were detatched out to a forlorn etc.

reddrabs10 Mar 2010 1:21 p.m. PST

My understanding is that you got together enough troops to form a "battalia" (to misuse a term) which could be half a giant regiment (as Essex's in 1643) or several small regiments (as in the Royalist 1644 armies) as you needed 500-800 to control.

Based on much reading.

Jagger10 Mar 2010 2:35 p.m. PST

-------BTW where are your references from?------

Both the quote and the picture are from page 32 from the Osprey Elite Series title, "Soldiers of the English Civil War 1, Infantry.
---------Certainly the picture is from Streeter's engraving of Naseby and shows three regiments of the NMA, average size 600-or-so.------

Is it three regiments or a single regiment in the drawing? I was assuming a single regiment. Note on the photo there are three flags in each pike block representing three companies. Each company carried a flag. Looking at the drawing closer, I am guessing the regiment is Waller's regiment??

Timbo W10 Mar 2010 2:41 p.m. PST

Yep 3 regiments Jagger, Skippons (the Major General's), Hardress Waller's and Pride's, with the Forlorn of muskets out in front of the lot.

Will have to dig out the Osprey, may take some time,

Jagger10 Mar 2010 2:42 p.m. PST

----I'm not sure I can think of any contemporary mentions of 3 divisions per regiment in action, though this might be due to the generally small size of ECW regiments. By rights full strength should have been 1200 or so, but this was very rare, 800 was an exceptionally big regiment, 4-600 more common, and 1-300 after hard campaigning fairly usual. So if you have a slightly higher number at which to split into Grand Divisions, it comes out similarly.----

I am guessing the same thing. A large early war or newly raised full size regiment could form 3 or 4 grand divisions with a 1000 plus men. A late war or heavily attrited regiment of 250 or 300 men could only form a single entity-a regiment/division.

---- What there is suggeste a lot of flexibility---

I agree. I wonder just how mobile were their formations now.

Jagger10 Mar 2010 2:45 p.m. PST

---My understanding is that you got together enough troops to form a "battalia" (to misuse a term) which could be half a giant regiment (as Essex's in 1643) or several small regiments (as in the Royalist 1644 armies) as you needed 500-800 to control.------

I am noticing references to divisions and brigades rather than regiments during deployment at Marston Moor. Although many of the royalist regiments were extremely small. I am not sure if the division reference is the same as the division reference in the tactical manuals. At first glance, the division sizes do seem around 500 men.

Jagger10 Mar 2010 2:47 p.m. PST

-----Yep 3 regiments Jagger, Skippons (the Major General's), Hardress Waller's and Pride's, with the Forlorn of muskets out in front of the lot. -----

Any idea of the size of the regiments at that battle?

Timbo W11 Mar 2010 12:04 p.m. PST

Hi Jagger,

likely a bit biggeer than 600, around 700-800 on average for the NMA foot.

alincoln198112 Mar 2010 2:40 a.m. PST

Unfortunately my copies of Wanklyn (mentioned in the cavalry discussion) and Reid's "All the Kings Armies" are out on loan. Both of these will tell you numbers for Naseby but I am afraid I can't.

On the more general point Jagger is correct, in the later part of this, that units where normally organised into "battlia" or similar actually in the field. These usually numbered circa 500 (say 400 to 600). They could be a single regiment. But also a large regiment split into 2 parts or 2 or smaller units combined to reach this kind of number.

I think I remember that at Naseby each of the NMA regiments is a 'battlia' and so they were probably 400 to 600 strong – but check in the sources mentioned.

Tea Lover12 Mar 2010 4:02 a.m. PST

True, but both Skippon's and the Lord General's Regiment were larger, more like 1000 each in fact.

Timbo W12 Mar 2010 7:55 a.m. PST

By the way, I hear on the grapevine that a new Osprey is out on 'Pike and Shot Tactics', and has been given the 'thumbs-up' by one who knows about this sort of thing. Haven't read it yet, maybe I'll pick one up if I get to Alumwell.

Timmo uk12 Mar 2010 8:13 a.m. PST

Yup I've heard its good. Its on my must buy list.

gaming gnome12 Mar 2010 3:57 p.m. PST

I have a copy on the way – it should be here next week, will give a review

Rich Knapton12 Mar 2010 6:09 p.m. PST

I believe but could be wrong that the regiment was not a battlefield unit at least for the infantry. It was a support organization like the Spanish tercio. Each pike and shot unit would be called a battle and three battles would be called a brigade, at least on the continent.

Rich

Timmo uk13 Mar 2010 2:15 a.m. PST

RK

As far as I'm aware you are right. I've been told by re-enactors that civil war soldiers considered themselves firstly as a member of X company in Y regiment. Not sure if this is true but if so it does indicate that the regiment was not a sacred formation and that companies would be used as the building block of the fighting formations.

Certainly if you look at the Royalist Oxford army OOB circa 1644 there are three brigades (Tertia) of about 1,500(ish) men formed into three battalia. These in turn could be made up from companies drawn from 1-5 regiments and appear, at least in this army, to be semi permanent formations.

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