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"Mexican-American War battalion frontages" Topic


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19th Century
World War One

299 hits since 12 Aug 2019
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Lascaris12 Aug 2019 1:16 p.m. PST

Does anyone happen to know how American and Mexican battalions deployed during the MAW? I'm looking for how many ranks and roughly what spacing they maintained in order to calculate the width of a battalion of a given size.

Thanks much for any help.

Tom V.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2019 5:40 a.m. PST

According to Joseph Hefter's "The Mexican Soldier 1837-1847: Organization, Dress & Equipment" an infantryman with a backpack occupied 4 feet of frontage, with 1 foot between files. He states that the light infantry manual instructed troops how to fight 2,3 or 4 ranks deep. No specifics that I can discern on line infantry, other than that they seemed to study/follow French drill and, prior to the start of the war, their line infantry drill was simplified, whatever that means.

Other sources quote Hefter. I picked my copy up from The Virtual Armchair General.

That's all I've got for you. Hopefully someone else can chime in.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Aug 2019 11:47 a.m. PST

Both armies fought in double line open order and, as noted,
some four feet frontage per man.

Simple as that!

TVAG

Lascaris13 Aug 2019 8:26 p.m. PST

Thank you both!

Ryan T Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2019 7:23 p.m. PST

I cannot comment on the Mexican practice, but the US Army was using Scott's Infantry Tactics which called for either 2 or 3 ranks (the former being the standard according to the War Department) and a frontage of about two feet per file. Apart from skirmish order the men were formed up touching elbow to elbow.

cplcampisi14 Aug 2019 11:26 p.m. PST

As Ryan T alludes to, in the American peacetime army there seems to have been a preference for deploying in two ranks, but James Walker's paintings clearly show US troops deployed three ranks deep during the Mexican War. Walker accompanied Scott's army, so its possible that this was unique to Scott's army and Taylor's army didn't use 3 ranks.

Here is an article with two of Walker's paintings showing three rank formations:
link

Winfield Scott produced multiple manuals, but the 1835 manual is considerably different from his earlier manual (often reported as 1830, but it appears to originate in the 1820s). In many ways the 1835 manual is much simplified, although more complete.

The Mexican manual that I've seen is dated 1830 and it was for militia. It only had two ranks. Interestingly this manual shared some passages with a contemporary manual by Scott (which likewise also only has two ranks).

Scott's 1835 tactics was basically a copy of the French Ordonnance of 1831. I suspect the Mexican Army probably copied the same French manual, but I don't know for certain. Assuming they did, they too could deploy in either three or two ranks.

Like Ryan said, they deployed "elbow to elbow" in both armies. I don't know where the "four feet" per man frontage comes from. It is very excessive for close formation, too close for skirmish, and doesn't fit any formation in any manual I've drilled in*. In fairness, I know of few people who actually base their miniatures so that they are jammed together in elbow-to-elbow formation. :-)

*OK -- it's kind of close to the late 16th century pike drill I've done, but that doesn't seem to be applicable here. ;-)

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