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"Napoleonic Infantry March Rates" Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

Of possible interest?


Hope you enjoy!


Rod MacArthur29 Jun 2017 12:57 p.m. PST

Hi Armand,

I have just added an addendum, since the original was written 20 years ago and contains the odd error.


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 12:59 p.m. PST

Many thanks!.


1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

So 55 yards a minute.

Windy Miller22 Jul 2017 3:41 a.m. PST

Oddly enough we use the same rates of advance today when writing artillery/mortar fire plans. During the approach we reckon on the infantry moving at 50m per minute, increasing to 100m per minute for the final bound. In other words never more than a fast walk.

Brechtel19822 Jul 2017 4:46 a.m. PST

Excellent article-very well done.

4th Cuirassier22 Jul 2017 4:56 a.m. PST

The bit that for me that is counterintuitive about Rod's fascinating research is that it suggests that columnar or even square formations enjoyed no relative mobility advantage over lines. All could move at the same rate.

This being so, why was column ever adopted? If it was no faster than a line, the line would be the better formation. Troops in line could develop more firepower and would be less vulnerable to it in return. What am I missing?

Windy Miller22 Jul 2017 6:05 a.m. PST

I think a lot of it is down to ease of control. A column is easier to maneuver than a line and in certain situations is actually preferable. What it lacks in firepower it makes up for in depth – successive attacking waves hitting one point instead of a thinly spread line. Also, although a column is actually more vulnerable to fire, the troops themselves feel less vulnerable which is an important factor in the attack.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2017 9:35 a.m. PST

Columns can also move through openings that a line can not. Many opening in treelines and barriers surrounding plowed fields were passible by a column but not a line. They can approach the enemy while taking advantage of dips in the terrain, hills to hide behind, and clumps of trees. The can also change direction quickly.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my good friend!. (smile)


Brechtel19823 Jul 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

An interesting aspect on this topic is how marches were conducted, the French in particular.

French marches were usually well-organized and structured, countered by less-than-perfect march discipline and straggling on long marches could be a problem and often was.

French marches, etapes, varied from 10 to 22 miles, with 15 being the usual average. For forced marches, the pace wasn't increased but the length of the march. 'Doubling the etape' could result in marches of 30 to 35 miles a day. During such efforts, men would fall asleep on their feet, fall and roll into ditches and officers and NCOs would gather them up, get them back on the road or into vehicles if possible, and continue to march.

Petits depots were established along the line of communications to collect the stragglers and those that simply wore out, and when able, they were reformed into provisional units and marched back to the main army and to their own regiments.

An outstandint example of how the Grande Armee organized its marches, which was a staff function which required much planning and organization, can be found in Heinrich von Brandt's memoirs about the movement of his unit, the Vistula Legion, from Spain to eastern Europe for the invasion of Russia.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2017 3:56 p.m. PST

Thanks!. …


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2017 5:35 p.m. PST

What makes the issue of movement more complicated are:

1. the pace distance for the various armies were different. For instance, the British were thirty inches while the French were 26 inches… the two measurements of 'inches' being different too.

2. because the the pace speed was the 'throttle' for the battalion and brigade, the troops could be slowed down or sped up as needed… which Rod's article alludes to.

3. Dundas and other regulations written in the 1790's were modified during the war. For instance, when Torren's rewrote Dundas's regulations in 1824 based on the British war experiences, he stated that quick time was the typical speed for troops during the war. The French, based on Guibert, were far less concerned about order in movement and known for their speed, even with a shorter pace than the British.

4. Quick time could be held for long periods of time, the regular pace being fairly slow. Even the Prussians increased their pace numbers in 1795 from their experiences in the French Revolutionary wars. In the best documented movement during the ACW, Picketts' charge moved at quick time [108 paces per minute] for twenty minutes under serious artillery fire and two dressing of lines and three planned angle adjustments and still arrived at the Union front lines at the expected amount of time moving at quick time. [1400-1600 yards in 19-20 minutes]

All of which makes it more important to look at what we know about how fast units actually moved on the battlefield using the drill created by Dundas, the French and others.

Kevin in Albuquerque Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2017 7:44 p.m. PST

Very nice, Rod.

42flanker23 Jul 2017 11:57 p.m. PST

[q]Picketts' charge moved at quick time [108 paces per minute] for twenty minutes under serious artillery fire and two dressing of lines and three planned angle adjustments and still arrived at the Union front lines at the expected amount of time moving at quick time. [1400-1600 yards in 19-20 minutes] [/q]

Nothing like being shot at to concentrate the mind.

Brechtel19824 Jul 2017 4:54 a.m. PST

Interestingly, if Hancock had not contradicted Henry Hunt's orders on conserving artillery ammunition for the expected infantry attack, it is quite probably that Pickett's troops would not have made it across that field. Hunt believed that to his dying day.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 8:14 a.m. PST

I think the argument for relative speed is exemplified by Dundas. In his regulations, he states that a line of eight battalions in line *should* cross 1000-1200 paces of open ground in 13 to 15 minutes under artillery fire.

That means the entire line is moving at 66 to 92 paces per minute. Which means there is an expectation of changing speeds from ordinary to quick step as needed.

That 60 to 90 paces a minute shows up in a number of places. For example, all the Allied columns at Austerlitz moved at approximately 66 paces per minute moving into position in the morning. Soult's corps, as Soult estimated, crossed @1400-1600 yards in twenty minutes, or around 80 paces per minute.

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