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"Pike and shot: how did it really work?" Topic

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3,545 hits since 24 Mar 2016
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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paperbattles24 Mar 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

Hi guys,
I am finishing my papersoldiers for the battle of Halmstad in 1676 between Danes and Swedes.
Even though I tried to figure it out, still I don't understand how in reality worked the system with poke and shot.
Just have a look at the image at 1:1 ratio of 1 battalion of the epoch:


as you can see, and how it was said, the number of pikemen were 1/3 or 1/4 the number of the musketeers.
So I can understand when the pikemen attacked as a mass, but I really cannot figure out how they could protect the musketeers.
Did they split in to narrow rows and protected the musketeers? Actually the number of pikes was not enough to cover the entire front of the musketeers towards a charge of cavalry.
So I am wondering…. how did pike and shot system really worked? anyone can help?

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2016 11:53 a.m. PST

I have always thought, although I have read no specific evidence, that this formation, and earlier, worked because of the difficulty controlling soldiers in anything other than "large mobs" during this period.

Your example of one-to-one scale in the picture helps a lot.
Because manouvering was so difficult and time consuming, it would have been too risky to break of small sub-units of cavalry to "pick-off" the sleeves of shot (like we can easily do on the wargames table), so cavalry commanders could only throw in complete units. Some units from a brigade attacking, while some provide cover against possible enemy reserves I assume.

So, when they attacked the foot frontally, the cavalry were doing so in large units with a frontage as broad or broader than individual foot units. Those charging home against the pike would have been at greater risk than those charging home against the shot. And as horses probably didn't actually go home against the pike, they would have veered off, or pulled up, there by throwing the rest of the formation into some confusion and reducing their capability through disorder.

As for the foot themselves, I'm quite sure that as the cavalry got closer, and the shot had fired their last shot, they would have closed up to. They would all have shuffled sideways to get closer to the pikes, and all the rear ranks would have closed up behind the ones in front to provide moral and physical support. It would have looked very much like a rugby scrum at this point I guess. Well, one without an opponent.

Of course, after the cavalry attack had been beaten off, the foot unit would have to re-order itself, which would have taken a bit of time I imagine.

That's my two cents worth. Seems to work reasonably well in my head, I'd be interested in hearing other opinions though.

stecal Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2016 1:05 p.m. PST

The BBC TV series "By The Sword Divided" had battle scenes using ECW reenactors where I remember the pikemen stood at open order and when threatened the musketeers would close into the gaps between the pikemen, forming a solid mass. Not sure how accurate this is, but watching the drill was interesting.

SBminisguy24 Mar 2016 2:22 p.m. PST

As for the foot themselves, I'm quite sure that as the cavalry got closer, and the shot had fired their last shot, they would have closed up to. They would all have shuffled sideways to get closer to the pikes, and all the rear ranks would have closed up behind the ones in front to provide moral and physical support. It would have looked very much like a rugby scrum at this point I guess. Well, one without an opponent.

It depends on the situation. If the Shotte deem appropriate they may stay at the flank of the Pike and continue firing or retire behind the Pike unit. Or they may intermingle with the Pike in the case of a charge by Cavalry and use a combined drill to essentially form square.

Check out this manual of drill for the Sealed Knot ECW group:

PDF link

Daniel S Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2016 2:24 p.m. PST

Well the thing is that both cavalry and infantry had the ability to operate in orderly sub-units of 20-25 men as long as the troops (particularly the NCOs) were trained professionals. 17th C troops were frequently a good bit more capable than they get credit for and their limitations tend to be either exaggerated or misunderstood.

For example both infantry and cavalry could operate in small sub-units and carried out complex manouveres in orderly formations. However they did so at a slower overall pace than was found for example in the Napoleonic wars. Infantry moved about 40-50 paces a minute most of the time while cavalry moved at the walk and most of the time only charged at the trot. These slower speeds shaped the way battles were fought and are important to remember when trying to understand the ebb and flow of combat.

Cavalry was also a fair bit more sensitive to casulties IRL than most wargames portray them, Montecuccoli wrote that losing 9 or 10 men in the front rank to musketry was enough to demoralize the rest of the squadron (200-300 men at the time he was writing). Of course this demoralisation was temporary, the troops could be rallied and charge again and some troops could press home the attack regardless but it is clear that even the loss of a small number of men would have a real impact on the combat ability of a unit. And even when the fire did not inflict casulties cavalry was not happy to be under infantry or artillery fire, particularly if they could not charge the firing unit effectivly. During the Swedish-Polish war of the 1620's even the Polish and Lithuanian hussars showed a real dislike of being under fire even if the fire did not cause any noteworthy casulties. And they would withdraw or reposition themselves to avoid continued exposure.

In real life cavalry trying to mount a frontal charge at an infantry line would not only expose themselves to a lot of muskets, they would also face the main gun line of the enemy and possibly regimental cannon/battalion guns as well. That is a lot of potential damage to the expensive cavalry and their horses and remounts were usually in short supply. And even if you get a unit to mount a successfull charge against a sleeve of shot it may well prove a phyrric victory as the charging unit would find it self trying to rally and recover from the charge in a very exposed position between enemy lines with the enemys 2nd line of infantry ready to blast any trooper getting to close. And on a number of occasions there would be supporting cavalry units in reserve behind the infantry line ready to either exploit the success of friendly infantry or to counter-charge enemy troops breaking through the line.

All in all it was safer and more effective to deploy the cavalry on the wings, success there would allow them to mount far more effective charge into the flank and rear of the enemy infantry line.

paperbattles24 Mar 2016 3:32 p.m. PST

This is the part I found on the useful link SB gave

"Engaging Horse
It is the duty of the Pike to protect the Shotte from enemie Horse. They
must be engaged with determination and confidence.
If the flanks of the Division(s) are secure, the pike may face the Horse
in one of 2 manners:
st Manner: The Pike moves their files to Close Order and charge
their pikes for horse to the front. The soldiers may
kneel to allow Shotte to fire over their heads at the
attacking force.
nd Manner: The Pike moves their files to Close Order and Port
their pikes. The files then close towards the centre of
their ranks to a distance of half a foot between files
and advance on the enemie. The order may be given
to ‘Charge' pikes and to advance on the enemie.
If the flanks of the Pike Division(s) are not secure, there are 2
manners of defence:
st Manner: The Pike form into a circle and move their files to
Close Order with their pikes at "Port." Shotte may
move to immediately in front of the pikemen. When
ordered to do so, the Pike will "Charge their pikes for
horse" to protect the Shot. On some occasions, the
Shot may fire their weapons from this formation at the
attacking Horse.
nd Manner: The Pike form into a circle and maintain their files at
Order with their pikes at "Port." Shotte may enter the
interior of the circle and the Pike will then move to
Close Order. When ordered to do so, the Pike will
"Charge their pikes for horse and kneel" to allow the
Shotte to fire over their heads.
This method may only be employed when several
Divisions are brigaded together to form an ‘enclosure' for the shotte".

paperbattles24 Mar 2016 3:36 p.m. PST

I like your helps and support, but still I am not convinced how to move the pike to defend the musketeers…..

pigasuspig24 Mar 2016 4:33 p.m. PST

Can recommend the Mount & Blade games for insight on this: typically you're going to advance through the game as medium cavalry, probably recruiting companions to ride with you, and mercenary foot to back you up. This works great until it doesn't.

In the game, a couple dozen pikes, even in just one place, make everything awful for cavalry: sure you can try to charge the wing of crossbows, but your companions will screw it up, charge too wide, and get stuck in with the pikes: if you blast through, half of your riders are in an ever-worsening mess and the other half are scattered and unlikely to reform usefully for at least a minute. If you turn to save them, all advantages of cavalry are gone and you're outnumbered 10 to 1.

The shifts in the game once forces get over 100 men are really extreme, and well worth investigating to see how tactics play out.

Mako11 Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2016 2:16 a.m. PST

I guess it depends upon the period, and nation/tactics the armies adopted.

I've read that in the Italian Wars era, early 1500s, shotte would be in front of the pikes, and would fire a volley, or two, or three into anyone attacking from the front, while the pikemen offered rear support.

Gunners would retire behind the other gunners to reload.

If really threatened, as mentioned above, they could retire into, or through the formation of pikemen to the rear, as needed/desired.

Given multiple ranks of pikemen, they could be fairly loosely assembled, with pathways available for the gunners to retreat rearwards through, while still providing a formidable array of pike points to their front, with no gaps for the attackers to get through.

Gunners could also move along, and cover their flanks as well, if desired.

The above permits the shotte/pike units to attack their enemies at range, before the closure to contact, in order to reduce their numbers, and perhaps their morale a bit, before they engage in melee in earnest.

Similarly, crossbowmen, and/or halberdiers/men with two-handed swords used to be used in the same manner, before handguns and arquebuses became common in renaissance armies.

Pikeman Nasty Inactive Member25 Mar 2016 9:42 a.m. PST

It really depends upon what system of deployment you have, usually relying on Dutch and Swedish precedents for the period.

Dutch style depends upon forming up your pike and musket in checkerboard fashion-basically alternating between one weapon or the other by company fashion-known as a demi-hearse. Rather than clear advances, the musket are there to support the pike by firing by salvee, rotating firing system by rank and volley. As soon as the enemy has been broken down enough, to be on the perceived brink of collapse, then the pike would move forward as a snooker cue and basically punch through the enemy defences, either through push of pike and hand to hand combat, the musketeers often engaged by clubbed musket as well

Swedish arrowhead formation worked very much in a similar manner, with two wings of shot, flanking a central block of pike. However, what makes the difference is a further block of shot acting as a reserve behind the pike. When trying to break down the enemies defences, the musket would form horne battaile, basically advancing in front of the shot and forming a composite block. When enough damage had been caused, the blocks would divide and retire to form demi-hearse again and the pike would advance.

When trying to protect against cavalry, really the only way to do that was to form a protective square/hedgehog of combined close order pike and shot. Porting their pikes to receive cavalry, the musket would group under the pike, allowing them to continue providing sporadic firing from relative protection. I think we need to look at this and argue that following drill book pattern does not add up and that individual units would have certainly performed this specific drill in different ways, maybe having shot with clubbed musket, or retiring to form line of battle, allowing the pike block to retire while shot provide cover.

What we should not expect is an isolated block of isolated troops and actually if we look at the metal detector remains at Lutzen and Cheriton, the killing field around these blocks actually extends in a larger sphere of defensive influence.

Hope this helps. If your after further information on how this might be enacted for real, can I recommend my new book "The Arte Militaire", which covers questions like this in depth link

Personal logo Condotta Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2016 3:38 p.m. PST

Interesting replies. Pikeman Nasty, thanks in particular for the info and link. One example is the Spanish Tercios, which deployed a large block of pike with musketeers at the corners, and the pike could be lowered to protect the musketeers.

Here is a basing guide for one set of rules from El Kraken, which also has a Kickstarter campaign ongoing:




Supercilius Maximus25 Mar 2016 3:45 p.m. PST

When trying to protect against cavalry, really the only way to do that was to form a protective square/hedgehog of combined close order pike and shot. Porting their pikes to receive cavalry, the musket would group under the pike, allowing them to continue providing sporadic firing from relative protection.

The problem with this is that, as the proportion of pike to shot decreases, it clearly becomes impossible for the pike to protect the numbers of shot that you end up with. Even at the basic 1 pike to 2 shot, it is going to be very "snug" in there! I'm not saying you are wrong (and in fact you have enunciated exactly what I was taught), but where did all the "spare" shot go?

Pikeman Nasty Inactive Member25 Mar 2016 4:43 p.m. PST

I think ultimately we need to be looking at the ratio and size of battalion at play. I think at present we are looking at regimental scale so say 500 men, of which 130 are pike, that is too little to cover all eventualities. But if we look at the Dutch method, while the deployment method is based checkerboard, such a deployment method also is perfect for battalia based organisation.

In this sense, we should not be looking at a basic 2:1 ratio of pike to shot (often between 1642-4 at 1:1 due to weapons shortages-Yorkshire almost exclusively commanded shot) but rather at amalgamated battalia or tercio based blocks, the same applying to the shot in the hope of evening these odds.

Certainly 1644-5 as well, a number of parliamentarian units were equipping themselves in the style of the two-armed man with Swedish feathers, accommodating a a steel pike head with a musket rest, thus just like 15th century archers accomodating for their apparent shortfall.

Certainly, these methods aren't supposed to last for very long and are far from foolproof. The large amount of time cavalry could be argued to be fighting in their own seperate engagement or chasing each other off the field. But if you look at battles, such as Lansdown and Cheriton with Bard's regiment, these structures collapse quickly. Therefore their actual eventuality in a wargames setting should be quite rare and merely acts as a covering act to allow your own cavalry to come up, or indeed cover the withdrawal of your own forces. Hope this helps

paperbattles25 Mar 2016 4:45 p.m. PST

yes maximus…. this is the point

RABeery27 Mar 2016 10:30 a.m. PST

I don't see Napoleonic cavalry having any problems swamping the infantry. It seems earlier gendarmes would just bull through the infantry. I think it was a cavalry problem of that time, with infantry fielding as much shot as they could get away with.

Duckmann Inactive Member31 Mar 2016 5:49 a.m. PST

The battalion in the picture is in the basic line formation, called simply "combat formation" ("stridsformering") in Swedish. This means 200 pikemen in the center and 200 musketeers on each wing, i.e. a 1:2 ratio. It was four ranks deep according to regulation in the early 1700s, but yours is a little earlier so it may differ.

As mentioned this was the basic formation when a battalion formed up in the battle line. However with cavalry in close proximity like in the picture they would probably form square. Another option was "beefing up the battalions" ("späcka bataljonerna" in Swedish) where the pikes form along the entire row of musketeeres between the first (kneeling) and second rank. This was the formation adopted by the isolated battalions under Roos at Poltava, for example.

Why the pikes in the middle? The answer is probably that it's easiest. With the pikes in the middle you can easily form square: musketeers fall back while last row of pikes turn about face and second and third row turn right and left. It's also easy for the musketeer wings to extend right or left without the pikes getting in the way.

Prince Alberts Revenge31 Mar 2016 7:18 a.m. PST

Not to hijack this thread, but how would pike and shot interact in the mid to late 16th century? Lets take the French Wars of Religion; would the pike and shot be integrated together or were they still operating somewhat separately? I'd imagine the Swiss and Lansknechts would be in large pike blocks with clouds of arquebus skirmishers on the sides or to the front, but I am not sure. If you were to base your figures on large bases (one base per unit (whatever that may be), what would they look like? Thanks for any input!

Daniel S Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2016 10:06 a.m. PST

Germans and Swiss had been operating integrated pike & shot units since at least the 1480's and knew how to do so both on the large scale of a massive Gevierthaufen as well as on the small scale of a single fählein (company). The typical basic deployment was for the shot to form a sleeve along one side of the square of pikemen & halberdiers. From that position the shot could carry out a variety of tasks including detaching from the square to take up a advantageous position or in order to contest the ground held by enemy shot.

By the time of the FWOR the main diffrencebetween the Swiss & Germans were the number of shot present, the Swiss were hired to supply the French army with pikemen and their companies contained a small number of shot compared to most contemporary forces (10-15% in several cases).
The landsknechts on the other hand usually deployed a much larger number of shot (30% or more, 50% shot was the German standard laid down in the HRE regulations of 1570). The limited firepower of the Swiss got them into trouble in the battle of Dreux as they could neither defend themselves against the pistol firing Reiters nor screen themselves against the fire of the Huguenot Enfants Perdu. The French Royalist commanders solved this problem not by increasing the number of shot in the Swiss companies but rather by attaching French and even Italian shot to the Swiss squares to give them the needed firepower. At Moncontour 1569 one Swiss square had 5 French and Italian regiments attached to it while the other was supported by 4 French regiments.

The Germans with their larger number of shot basicly used the same style of formation as the the Spanish, a central square (the shape and depth of which could be varied) with thin sleeves of shot along each flank, a few shot in front and/or behind and from 1 to 4 detachments of shot operating as sub-units the same way as the Spanish "mangas" did. However the lack of standing units prevented the Germans from developing the corps of professional officers, NCOs and men needed to make the most of these formations and they never came close to the level of efficiency and flexibility displayed by the Spanish.


Daniel S Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2016 3:13 p.m. PST

I don't see Napoleonic cavalry having any problems swamping the infantry

Unless the infantry was in squares, "battalion masse" or even line with secure/supported flanks. The Pavlov Grenadiers even held of French cavalry attacks from both front and back by turning the rear ranks of their line to fire at the attackers.

It seems earlier gendarmes would just bull through the infantry

Being able to "bull" through the infantry is not automaticly the same as defeating it, there are a number of examples such as Cerisoles and Dreux where Gendarmes charged through the infantry with little noticable impact on the cohesion and combat ability of the infantry. And when the charge failed to break the infantry "bull through" the square could be even worse than a failed charged that did not get past the front rank. At Cerisoles the Enghien's Gendarmes were badly mauled in their two charges through the Imperial infantry and by the end of the 2nd charge almost all of the horses of the men who were still alive were wounded and unable to charge at a full pace.

In addition a lot of Gendarme charges were not able to "bull through" the infantry even with the best effort of the Gendarmes involved (Marignano, and De Foix's fatal charge at Ravenna comes to mind, you also have the charges against the veteran French foot at Dreux.)

I think it was a cavalry problem of that time (…)

When used correctly even a small force of 17th Cavalry could inflict serious damage on opposing infantry, Montecuccoli noted that a small squadron acting promptly could "wreak great havoc among large infantry battle lines", he also provided a short list of when this was possible.
*The infantry was badly flanked by musketeers
*At a disadvantage because of the site
*Disorder which could be caused by a number of things including error or chance, the troops being out of step due the fault of the commanding officer or the troops were poorly trained resulting in "slovenly bearing". Disorder could also because by crossing difficult terrain obstacles such as ditches and so on.

As with Napoleonic cavalry and 16th C Gendarmes frontal charges against infantry in good order was not a good way to get results.

RABeery01 Apr 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

From the OP's picture, in the Napoleonic era, that would translate to an infantry battalion in double line. The wings would have no bayonets. I'd still bet on the cavalry winning almost every time.
Enghien's charge is a very interesting event and his force was so small. Not saying gendarmes could break pike formations, however pike & shot formations are another story.

paperbattles03 Apr 2016 3:07 p.m. PST

duckman: actually – as you pointed out – the period is a little before i.e. 1676; at that epoch pikemen where on 4 ranks while musketeers still in 6 ranks.
I like the suggestions you wrote, but simulating the square it seemed to me hardly functional, above all in the mayhem of a battle.
So I tried to figure out a different defensive way: please see the following pictures




Ottoathome03 Apr 2016 9:07 p.m. PST

Does it matter?

It depends on what level you are entering the game does it not?

As a general you leave it to the sergeants and junior officers of each unit to make it work. As a general you only care if a unit can and DOES make it work. If a unit makes it work, that's good. If they don't, that's an "oops." In my own Renaissance armies the entire unit (all 32 shot and 30 pike and six officers and musicians are on one big stand, 8" across, four inches deep. I, as general simply order this agglomeration of humanity around. If they roll good life is good. If they roll bad, Oh well, I guess Lieutenant Beitz or Sergeant Bloez screwed up. The unit looks good and looks like the illustration I see in the paintings.

What else matters? It's not like I NEED to know how they did it. The odds of me every commanding an an army in real life (and especially one using pikes and arquebusiers,)varies between slim and none, and Slim was last seen leaving town in a hurry with the Nun. I don't need the ego inflation of such minutia.

Besides I'd rather be the general than the sergeant or lieutenant. The chance of survival is so much better.

paperbattles04 Apr 2016 2:54 a.m. PST

actually my wargame goes from general CiC problems till Leutenent-colonel's problems. This because I use a 1:1 ratio and 1 battalion like that in the pictures is about 380 men strong.
Besides this, it's not just a matter of playing a wargame but also to understand historical tacticts and so on.

Father Grigori06 Apr 2016 4:12 a.m. PST

Nosworthy suggests that in the later C17th (which is spot on for your Danes) the pikes might form the third rank of the formation, so rather than being in a solid block, you have a line of pikes protecting the first two ranks of musketeers.

Mac163806 Apr 2016 8:15 a.m. PST

We had this disunion back in June 2015 under "Hegehogs"

There was no conclusion, I can only remember reading of foot being swept away by a cavalry charge frontally once,
Stapleton and Balfour's cavalry at Edgehill and braking the Lord General and the King's Life Guard regiments, this may well have happen during the pel-mall par of the battle also the troops are raw on both sides.
Most of the time cavalry pin foot from the flank and rear as at Marston Moor and Naseby.
The Royalist foot at Naseby was attacked in the rear by Cromwell's Horse.

Duckmann Inactive Member08 Apr 2016 6:18 a.m. PST

I double checked and the formation I talked about above ("späcka bataljonerna") should have the pikes in the third rank, not the second like I wrote before. Sounds from Nosworthy like this was rather standard.

According to the ECW drill manual above there were two ways for the pikes to deploy against horse. With "flanks not secure" they would form a circle, which is obviously a proto-square, but with the flanks secure they would advance to the front of the musketeers.

Since the battalion in the picture looks like it has its flanks secured by other units it seems the doctrinal, as well as the easiest, solution would be either for the pikes to advance or for everyone to just stay put, given that the formation is quite deep and the six ranks can face outwards to provide a credible front (a two or three deep line would be much more vulnerable).

Forming square is kind of messy and time consuming, and with the cavalry as close as in the picture it seems like it could end badly. Deploying the pikes in front on the other hand would only take two or three commands ("pikes forward march", "pikes halt", "pikes extend left and right" or something along those lines). Being kind of logical doesn't mean it was SOP, of course.

Here is a nice picture of what looks like well researched Carolean square at Poltava, fending off Russian dragoons:


Notice the uneven number of pikes on each side, while the musketeers are an orderly two rows in each direction. It's a useful reminder that formations could look different and not exactly like in the drill manuals or battle paintings.

Elenderil28 Apr 2016 4:48 a.m. PST

Personally, I think that charges to contact against steady well disciplined and reasonably well trained foot would be a recipe for disaster.

The frontage place at least two infantrymen against each horseman. In most mid 17th century period manuals it suggests horse attack in three ranks while foot both shot and pike will be in six ranks. So potentially there are six guns against each horse in the leading rank of cavalry.

Assuming that the horse continue on to contact after being hit by the volley then they have to contend with pike if its a mixed formation or shot swinging muskets. Again probably outnumbered two or three to one. While they may have the advantage of being mounted and the use of unfired pistols this isn't somewhere I would fancy being.

Some manuals suggest charging by individual troops with part of the unit held back to take advantage of the ensuing confusion. So the troops who lead are at more of a numerical disadvantage.

To me this suggests that frontal attacks are not a viable option. I could see a use for feints, and attempts to charge against shaken foot but no death or glory charges to contact against experienced foot.

Part time gamer14 Jun 2016 3:20 p.m. PST

Far from the point of your question, I must say that is one very impressive collection you have amassed.
Just curious, who makes / made those?

As to the pike, its Ironic that 'centuries' before the Macedonians IIRC practically dominated every battle they fought by use of the Pike. Only later it was realized while a very deadly defensive weapon, and intimidating offensivly, it made manuvering troops very difficult if the enemy came in close.

Queen Catherine11 Dec 2016 9:44 p.m. PST

Overall, I think the Pike's purpose was to give heart to the musketeers, and convince them they could withstand cavalry, and to dissuade the cavalry from trying to charge the pike.

Even with just a few volleys in their face, the height of a cavalry soldier would result in lots of casulaties, horses falling over, confusion. the mix of pike and shotte for morale and practical reasons was dangerous.

Add to this that horses don't like to charge into a "wall" as they percieve it, and I think you can see that cavalry is an over-rated arm. Yes, against fleeing, demoralized troops, they seal the victory. If they can rout the opposing cavalry on the flanks, then they can threaten the center, a bit. If the enemy has a couple of lines, then not even then.

Cavalry was, and is, a support unit. It is best to game it so. That includes the Napoleonic wars, or did I misunderstand the lack of effectiveness of elite cavalry on British squares?

So I see it as more about morale than about specific effectiveness and complicated formations.

Supercilius Maximus13 Dec 2016 8:26 a.m. PST

I have somewhere an early 18th Century cavalry manual, a reprint from the days when Baccus were doing a whole range of drill manuals. The cavalry manual was all about looking to attack the flanks of infantry, suggesting that frontal charges against steady infantry should not be tried, and talks about feints designed to make the foot fire at too long a range to be effective. For their part, the infantry would always reserve the fire of the rear rank. Given that pike had disappeared by this time, it gives some idea of how impressive a solid block of musket-and-bayonet infantry could appear.

paperbattles18 Dec 2016 8:58 a.m. PST

part time gamer: thanks I drawand trim all by myself. Hard work but worthing

Queen Catherine18 Dec 2016 12:34 p.m. PST

to the OP, I'd suggest buying the Osprey "Pike and Shot tactics, 1560-1660" by Keith Roberts. There are numerous diagrams and comments in there that not only answer this question, but show the variations and possibilities used by soldiers who had experience in different approaches, e.g. the Dutch, the Swedish, the German; eventually the English achieved a sort of "common practice" in the latter half of the ECW.

One answer that's becoming clear to me as I read this and several other books, is that there was considerable ability to move around and adjust the formation, which was not as linear as formations in 1700, 1750, 1800 etc, were.

So there are diagrams drawn from the time that show a Swedish formation of about 900 musketeers and 600 pike drawn up for battle.

"P" = 50 pike
"M" = 50 musketeers
all six deep.

Instead of looking like this:

the formation looks like this:



This formation is much more dynamic. seeing a cavalry threat before them, all the pikes could move to the front, and the musketeers make a line behind, with a reserve of 300 musketeers well behind and easily able to wheel to cover a flank.

Alternately, the formation could be opposed by infantry and put forward a full front of musketeers with the pike behind, to maximise firepower.

The key seems to be that in an actual battle, the divisions of musketeers and pikemen had flexibility within the formation – when marching forward, they typically did so using a formation that had files twice as long [so 12 deep] with a full, empty file alternating, like this [with each M being ONE man]:


When they got into engagement range, they'd close up, with the back 6 ranks [of the 12 ranks they were in] filing into the gaps, so they'd look like this:


This means that they'd be able to easily pass through the divisions of their battle formation, exchanging pike for shot if needed. The added depth meant that in essence, they covered their own flank, also. Add in that there's be a second identical formation in a second line 100-200 yards behind, and the Army or Wing is ready to fight to either flank as quickly as they can wheel the divisions into the gaps.

As horse just didn't operate very closely with infantry most of the time – most likely due to training and communications [a problem not solved btw tanks and infantry in WWII until Americans put telephones on the rear of the tank!] what it boils down to is that you have a more flexible infantry formation that is able to oppose charging horse with pike, and firing horse caracoling with shot.

In game terms, this has me thinking that I'm going to go a route where the standard – and limited – gaming formation of MMMM PPPP MMMM will have a lot more options, including:


Much as I dont' like the rules personally, I think this is one thing where Black Powder's "Pike and Shotte" has something of a right direction in that the sub-units of pike and shotte can operate independantly of one another, or stay in close support of one another. I don't like some of the abstraction in their execution of it, but at least they headed in that direction which has been pretty uncommon in rule sets.

Anyway, that's where my head is at these days as I work on some of my own rules, basically a spin-off of Neil Thomas in some ways, but with more flavor.

Hope it's useful for the discussion.

paperbattles18 Dec 2016 4:11 p.m. PST

it is really usufull indeed!

Queen Catherine21 Dec 2016 7:15 p.m. PST

rats, sorry, my diagrams got "unformatted" by TMP. I'll try again:

the formation looks like this:



Hopefully this works – I had to stick in the underlines to keep the spacing, but now you can see that the formation is sort of a column with a wide middle. The top P and M are centered on the second line after them. The M in the rear are centered and twice as far behind.

Note that this formation can fight as well to the flanks as the rear, and evolve quickly to the front with a large barrier of Pikes or a line of Shotte using firepower. Interestingly, the reserve force is 300 Musketeers, which clearly they felt could get stuck in with clubbed muskets or cheap swords.

paperbattles22 Dec 2016 11:43 a.m. PST

i like.. but I can't see how it really worked. canyou show it with 2 diagrams, please?

Queen Catherine24 Dec 2016 2:05 p.m. PST

For example, this formation:



Could become this formation if faced with infantry firepower:



Note that it provides a frontage nearly entirely of Muskets directly ahead, as it has consolidated the pike in the middle and the front muskets passed through the pike in front of them.

If that formation was then threatened by cavalry, they could instead assume this formation, putting the pikes to the front with some shotte still in support in case they were pistoliers, and if any cavalry tried to lap around the reserve Muskets could fire upon them or close up:



Hope that helps with the visuals! I think the key is to remember that these formations were much looser when moving around as the soldiers didn't march in step and weren't usually as well trained as 7YW soldiers.

Ryan T24 Dec 2016 5:17 p.m. PST

About 15 years back I came across a multi-volume set of book entitled Deutsches Militär Archiv. The price was out of my range, but I did copy a diagram from Band 3 Waffen-Taktik-Strategie that depicted the deployment of a Swedish Brigade into a firing line.

Unfortunately, I was inable to find the original source for this diagram.

The brigade in the initial deployment.



The shot on either side of the two rear pike blocks move forward to deploy on either side of the front battalion while the pikes remain in place.



Queen Catherine25 Dec 2016 6:09 p.m. PST

Hey Ryan,
What year of Swedish is that? I heard that they simplified their battaglia deployment after the death of Gustavus Adolphus.

Generally speaking, there seems to have been a lot more variation put forward by those in charge, and a let less standardization like later periods. The iron control Frederick the Great had on his soldiers was unusual – most commanders seem to have done as they pleased.

Ryan T26 Dec 2016 11:24 a.m. PST

I don't have any date for the diagram. I originally came across the Deutsches Militär Archiv set of books in a used book store and I paged through the volumes that looked the most interesting. Finding this one diagram I quickly drew a copy to add to my files.

I agree that the brigade as a whole, as well as the individual squadrons, could assume a variety of different formations. There are a number of diagrams illustrating the deployment of the Swedish Brigade in Barkman, Gustaf II Adolfs Regementsorganisation vid det Inhemska Infanteriet (1931). The majority of these diagrams show the shot organized in 8 Korporalskap, usually deployed with 4 Korporalskap (which made up 2 Pluton) on either flank of the pike; or all 8 behind the pike, or all 8 on one side or the other of the pike. A reserve of commanded shot was made up of the remaining Korporalskap of shot.

The diagram I mention in my earlier post seems to have neglected to create the reserve of commanded shot and kept these Korporalskap with their respective squadrons.

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