Help support TMP

"Basic Formations and Movement Drills" Topic

16 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the 18th Century Discussion Message Board

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

904 hits since 21 Jun 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Rod MacArthur21 Jun 2017 8:16 a.m. PST

I was chatting on the Naoploeon Series Forum recently on a thread which ended up discussing some basic tactical drills. It occurred to me that this was the subject of a chapter in a book which I began to write over 20 years ago, but never finished. I have therefore updated the diagrams, and published this on my website:


I intend publishing a future article on the Evolution of Tactics during the 18th Century (also a hitherto unpublished chapter of my unfinished book).


forwardmarchstudios21 Jun 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

Great article!
I was not aware that artillery batteries maneuvered in a column- very useful information indeed!

JimDuncanUK21 Jun 2017 9:05 a.m. PST

It would be interesting to hear your understanding of a manoeuvre called 'passage of the lines'.

Wargamorium21 Jun 2017 9:40 a.m. PST

Very interesting. Please post again when you have added more.

forwardmarchstudios21 Jun 2017 9:53 a.m. PST

This would be very useful for players new to the Horse and Musket period. It collects and organizes a lot of information that is currently not presented anywhere else online in such a concise manner.

attilathepun4721 Jun 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

Pay attention to anything Rod MacArthur posts; he really knows his stuff. And I recommend the historical articles on his blog in the highest terms.

streetgang6 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 10:57 a.m. PST

Great information. I've bookmarked your blog and thanks for sharing.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 12:45 p.m. PST

It is a great article.

Bill Protz's rules, Batailles de l'Ancien Regime, uses some of these maneuvers in describing how mid 18th century (i.e., SYW) forces got around the battlefield. Players are highly encouraged to follow the historical maneuvers.


John Miller Inactive Member21 Jun 2017 2:48 p.m. PST

Fascinating stuff! Thanks for posting this! John Miller

Martyn K21 Jun 2017 5:08 p.m. PST

Very interesting webpage with a lot of useful information. I had not seen the information on artillery columns before.

I was also interested on the caisson positions during deployment; I have seen this information before showing the first line 50m behind the limbers, the second line 50m beyond that and the reserve caissons 100m further back.

However, I have also read in "artillery of the Napoleonic Wars, Field Artillery 1792-1815 by Kiley" on page 110, a discussion by du Teil.

He says that the caissons form two files, with the head of the file on the flanking artillery pieces (presumably the howitzers). Each caisson is about 30m apart to prevent damage by fire. When the caisson at the front is emptied it will move to the rear of the file (and go seek ammo if there is any near-by) and the whole file will move up.

I have also read elsewhere (I cannot remember where) that this type of formation allowed infantry or cavalry to pass through the artillery battery without being hindered by the caissons.

I don't know if both type of formations were used (lines of caissons 50m apart and files of caissons) and if so, when and why was a particular formation used. I would be very interested if anyone could provide some insight into artillery caisson deployment during battles,

jwebster21 Jun 2017 7:02 p.m. PST

Thank you for the article, very informative.

I wonder whether artillery would have traveled across a battlefield with all the associated caissons and support (wagons, forge etc.). It seems to me that guns would have been deployed first with caissons coming up later from the "artillery park" to keep them supplied with ammunition. The park would be located away from the action to reduce casualties among horses. As the artillery train was a separate organization from the artillery they could therefore support multiple batteries with a limited number of horses.

However the above is supposition, I don't have any references. I don't even have a number for how long a single caisson could keep a gun supplied with ammunition.
I'm not even sure that armies other than the French were organized with separate train, and how the logistics of gun and ammunition transport on the battlefield worked out.


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 8:18 p.m. PST


Thank you for posting the article. great stuff and very clear regarding an 'arcane' subject. Don't tell me that my clueless question on the Series inspired posting here? Now you have cavalry wheeling backwards! Who knew? grin That requires some equestrian training.

Martyn's comments raise several questions.

1.Would the French and other nations follow the same processes you describe from British regulations and histories? I suspect so for a number of reasons, but there would be differences. For instance, the formation needs to deal with the French preference for the approach on the Perpendicular.

2. Martyn mentioned Kiley's reference to du Teil. du Teil published his treatise Usage de l'artillerie nouvelle dans la guerre de campagne ; connaissance nÚcessaire aux officiers destinÚs Ó commander toutes les armes in 1778. How much did that influence artillery handling twenty years later?

3. In tangent to that: The distance between guns could vary for a number reasons, both as 'common practice' and more particular reasons like terrain or national preferences. Did they often vary?

4. The latest British documents Rod references were published no later than 1798. What kind of changes did the next 17 years of war bring, if anything?

Also, concerning wheeling in line 90 degrees or more, Ney simply recommended forming company or battalion columns to do the move, forming line once to the new location… More cavalry protection, IIRC.

von Winterfeldt21 Jun 2017 11:01 p.m. PST

great effort – a labour of love

du Teil is overrated, no information in detail for deployment of artillery etc., there are much better works on artillery

Rod MacArthur22 Jun 2017 12:00 a.m. PST

Too many kind comments to reply in detail. However to pick up on a few.

This article was written over 20 years ago, before much more recent research (eg Kevin Kiley's book etc) became available. For example, French Artilllery deployment was mainly based on Paddy Griffith's book "French Napoleonic Artillery" plus a bit from Maj Gen Hughes book "Open Fire".

As regards cavalry wheeling backwards, I visited Horse Guards in London recently, as part of a visit by the Society of Army Historical Research. I saw a pair of Household Cavalrymen there reining backwards to change facing by 90 degrees. We are only talking about it being done by "fours" at most. Larger formations would change face by about turning, marching to the new position then about facing again.

As regards line wheeling, companies normally stayed in the same linear structure throughout. It would be very unusual for individual companies in a formed battalion to form company columns (it could only be by sections or quarter companies). It would have been possible to put the whole battalion into a column of companies (each company still being in line) wheeling it to the new position, then forming it back into line. However once the head of the company was in its desired place, the succeeding companies need to file march out to the left or right to form line, and are just as fragmented in this process as they would be in the echelon wheel portrayed in the article.

In the example used each company in the original line could have wheeled left into a column, then all apart from the first could have turned right, file marched to parallel to their new position, turned left and marched into their place in the line. That would be just as fragmented as wheeling the complete line in an echelon, and the echelon wheel is faster.

I do have copies of French, Prussian, Austrian and Russian Regulations (photocopies, reprints or electronic, unlike my original British ones), but it seemed to me that most of the basic drills were pretty much the same for all nations, and I found it easier to use mainly references from the British Regulations. I like finding "snippets" in memoirs showing how these regulations were actually implemented in the field, and these were from several nations.

Future articles will cover:

Evolution of Tactics in the 18th Century
Tactical practice at the commencement of the French Revolutionary Wars
Evolution of Tactics during the Napoleonic Wars
Tactical Legacy of the Napoleonic Wars

The first two are complete, but need all of the diagrams updating. The latter two need quite a lot of work on them, since this was when I "dried" up writing it 20 years ago. The framework is all there, but it was a lot of work to research all of the references to regulations and memoirs, and I was in a very busy job at that time. I will get back to it in the not too distant future.


Marc at work22 Jun 2017 5:42 a.m. PST

Yes, interesting stuff. Thanks Rod


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 6:47 a.m. PST

Future articles will cover:

Evolution of Tactics in the 18th Century
Tactical practice at the commencement of the French Revolutionary Wars
Evolution of Tactics during the Napoleonic Wars
Tactical Legacy of the Napoleonic Wars

Rod: Yes, please keep us informed.

On the Napoleon Series, Oliver Schmidt provided this link to Jakub Samek's nice animations which visualise the French battalion drill:


Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.