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"The footprint of the Tercio, Dutch and Swedish battalions" Topic

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Berggeit10 Apr 2022 7:49 a.m. PST

I am planning a 2mm project for the 80 and 30 years wars and wondering about the footprints of the Tercio and the pike and shot battalions used by the Dutch and Swedish.

I found some diagrams floating on the internet but I would much prefer to have some literature. Can anyone give me a suggestion in which books this topic would be discussed?

According to those diagrams, the pike sections (of a full-strength unit) would be:

40m x 30m Elongated Tercio
20m x 50m Deep Tercio
30m x 40m Square Tercio
20m x 20m Dutch Battalion
30m x 12m Swedish Battalion

Charge The Guns10 Apr 2022 10:18 p.m. PST

Hi Berggeit, I would recommend the Osprey ‘Pike and Shot Tactics 1590-1660', no. 179 in their Elite series.

Ryan T14 Apr 2022 1:01 p.m. PST

Hello Berggeit,

The following is taken from my notes on unit formations in the first half of the 17th Century. Please note this is still very much a work in progress and needs to be expanded to include both more details on Dutch and Swedish practices as well as more details on the deployment and tactics used by the Spanish shot.

This is a generalization, but from what I have found is that both pike and shot formed up with about 3 feet frontage per man. The pike had no gaps along their entire frontage, but the shot would have a 6-foot space every 4 to 6 men (depending on the "drill book" in use) to allow for countermarching to the rear after the forward rank(s) fired.


Depth for both pike and shot were 6 feet per man. The pike would close up to 3 feet per man for combat (try marching with a pike with only 3 feet depth – all but the front rank will have their heads thoroughly bruised by the pike to their front).

Ignacio López and Iván Notario López, The Spanish Tercios 1536-1704, (2012) provide some details about Spanish tactical practices. According to the authors the frontage of each file of pike was 3 feet with each rank having a depth of about 7 feet.

The pike could be deployed in several formations. The first was the cuadro de gente (Square of Men). This formation had the same number of files as ranks, but because ranks had a greater depth the formation's footprint would be about twice as deep as it was wide. More common was the cuadro de terreno (Field Square or Terrain Square). Here the footprint was square, but again because of the greater depth of each rank the result was the number of pikes in the front of the formation was double the number of pikes of the unit's depth. If an even greater frontage was desired the cuadro prolongado (Extended Square) was used. This would vary in size but still retained the same spacing of each file (3 feet) and rank (7 feet).

Thomas Barker, in The Military Intellectual and Battle: Raimondo Montecuccoli and the Thirty Years War (1975), provides a translation of Montecuccoli's Sulle Battaglie (Concerning Battle), written between 1639 and 1642. Montecuccoli describes five pike formations: the Square Battalion, the Terrain Rectangle, the Double Battalion, the Oblong Rectangle, and the "Proportioned" Battalion.

The first three formations have the same positioning of the men as described in The Spanish Tercios, although the footprints of the units is not addressed by any direct references to the actual measurements of the frontage or depth of the unit. The Oblong Rectangle is described as being used only when a certain frontage or a certain depth is desired. The "Proportioned" Battalion is explained in terms of how to form a unit when what is wanted is a particular ratio between the frontage and the depth of the formation.

Montecuccoli states that "Square Battalions of men and Terrain Rectangles (note that here Barker believes Montecuccoli actually meant to say ‘Proportioned' Battalion instead of Terrain Rectangle) have been found to be weak frontally….Therefore these types of battalions are no longer of great utility in field encounters."

The description of the formation of the Terrain Rectangle assumes the same measurements of the frontage (3 feet) and depth (7 feet) as described by López and López. However, in the same paragraph Montecuccoli clearly implies that the depth of each rank was reduced to 3 feet when in combat. This would then give the Terrain Rectangle and the Double Battalion a similar footprint in combat of both having twice the number of men in the ranks as in the files as well as twice the frontage compared to the unit's depth.

According to Peter Engerisser and Pavel Hrnčiřik, Nördlingen 1634: Die Schlacht bei Nördlingen – Wendepunkt des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (2009), by the first half of the seventeenth century the Escuadron doblete (Doubled Squadron or Montecuccoli‘s Double Battalion), with the width twice that of the depth, was the most common Spanish infantry formation. In their analysis of the formations of the six Spanish and Imperial infantry units defending the Albuch at Nördlingen, Engerisser and Hrnčiřik conclude that the four Spanish units had their pike deployed in Terrain Squares / Double Battalions. As the latter is described by both authors, as well as Montecuccoli, as the more common formation I am assuming the use of Double Battalions.

On the left and right sides of the Spanish pike block were up to five files of arquebusiers which formed the guarniciones (Garrisons). According to The Spanish Tercios these arquebusiers each had both a frontage and depth of 6 feet and were assumed to have the same depth as the pike, both in number of ranks and the depth of the same. As well, the two Garrisons were not supposed to leave their position on the flanks of the pike. It should be noted that these Garrisons are unique to only Spanish raised units. Imperial formations did not have this feature.

Outwards of the central pike formation with its attendant Garrisons were the mangas (Sleeves) of musketeers. These could vary in number and, unlike the two Garrisons, could maneuver separately from the central pike block. López and López suggest that the rank and file both deployed with a spacing of 6 feet between the musketeers. In The Armies of Philip IV of Spain, 1621-1665 (2019) Pierre Picouet states that "In the seventeenth century, mangas were normally deployed in six to nine ranks, Davila Orejón Gastón (1669) gives the average number of seven ranks".

The question of spacing is indirectly addressed in Gustaf Barkman, Gustaf II Adolfs Regementorganisation (1931). A diagram illustrating the deployment of a 1000-man battalion according to the precepts of Giorgio Basta (1606) provides for a frontage of both the shot and the pike of 3 feet while the 12-man deep formation fits into a scheme of about 6 feet depth per rank. A similar illustration of a Dutch battalion shows similar spacing.

How then can this at time conflicting information concerning spacing in the ranks and files be interpreted? I strongly suspect that the spacing of the ranks changed from the 6 feet (open order according to George Monck (1671)) used during movement to the 3 feet (order) required in combat.

The Spanish use of 6 feet frontage for each file of shot would appear to be a requirement of the space needed for the countermarch where each rank would move forward or backwards between files. But the countermarch could also be performed with several files moving in gaps between groups of files. Basta arranged his shot in "divisions" of 7 shot, each having a frontage of 3 feet with a gap of 6 feet between each division.

The Dutch used divisions of 4 shot (again each with 3 feet frontage) with a 6 foot gap between divisions. The question remains as to whether the Spanish changed to the system for the deployment of shot as outlined by Basta and used by the Dutch or continued to use their original structuring.

But what of the Imperial forces? My understanding is that they initially followed the Spanish model, albeit without the use of the garrisons of shot. At the time of Breitenfeld, Tilly then would have his pikes in Double Battalions with twice the number of files as compared to ranks. While moving forward these pike blocks would have a square footprint, but once in combat they would have twice the frontage as depth.

Montecuccoli provides a formula to calculate deployment for a Double Battalion. Let us assume a unit of 1500 men will have a pike to shot ratio of 1:1. That provides for 750 pike. Double the number of pike (750x2=1500), then take the square root of that number =38.72 or 39) to obtain the number of files. Half of this number will then provide the number of ranks (39/2=19.5 or 20). But since 39x20=780 some adjusting will be needed.

The Dutch were the first to do away with such calculations by simply standardizing the number of ranks at 10 deep. Basta adopted the same reform and advocated 12 ranks. After Wallenstein returned to command he adopted a 7 rank standard. In turn the Swedes adopted a standard depth of 6 ranks. It can be argued that the accusation that Tilly was old-fashioned was not based on his retention of deep deployments but instead that he continued to adhere to the older mathematically structured formations.

The question still remains as to when the Spanish changed from mathematically-derived formations to standardized depths.

The following is Engerisser and Hrnčiřik's reconstructions of the composition of the Spanish and Imperial infantry defending the Albuch at Nördlingen. Note that the Spanish raised units all include Garrisons of shot while this feature is absent from the Imperial formations. Likewise, the Spanish units are all deployed in Double Battalions. In contrast the Imperial infantry is not – the combined Regiments of Webel and Alt-Sachsen are deployed in the Wallenstein-inspired ranks 7 deep.

It also is notable that the number of Sleeves or, in the case of Imperial troops, Abteilungen, was not fixed in either size or numbers. Engerisser and Hrnčiřik's maps show the shot acting both in close support of the pike or independently if so required.


Toraldo and San Severo Tercios – 900 men: 312 pike (26x12); 2 Garrisons each of 60 arquebusiers (5x12); 3 Sleeves each of 156 musketeers (26x6).

Salm and Wurmser Regiments – 1500 men: 512 pike (32x16); 2 Garrisons each of 80 arquebusiers (5x16); 4 Sleeves each of 204 musketeers (34x6).

Idiáquez Tercio – 1500 men: 512 pike (32x16); 2 Garrisons each of 80 arquebusiers (5x16); 4 Sleeves each of 204 musketeers (34x6).

Panigarola and Guasco Tercios – 1100 men: 390 pike (30x13); 2 Garrisons each of 65 arquebusiers (5x13); 2 Sleeves each of 208 musketeers (16x13) and 1 Sleeve of 210 musketeers (70x3).


Leslie (Imperial) and Fugger (Bavarian) Regiments – 1500 men: 500 pike (50x10); 4 Abteilungen (Sleeves) each of 250 musketeers (42x6).

Webel and Alt-Sachsen Regiments – 1000 men: 301 pike (43x7); 2 Abteilungen each of 129 musketeers (43x3) and 1 Abteilung of 280 musketeers (28x10).

Ryan T14 Apr 2022 1:49 p.m. PST

Two more sources that deal with the Dutch army are:

Olaf van Nimwegen, The Dutch Army and the Military Revolutions, 1588-1688, (2010); original published in Dutch as ‘Deser landen crijchvolck' Het Staaste leger en de militaire revoluties, 1588-1688 (2006).

J. P. Puype, "Victory at Nieuwpoort,2 July 1600" in Marco van der Hoeven (Ed.), Exercise of Arms, Warfare in the Netherlands, 1568-1648, (1998).

Stoppage14 Apr 2022 3:26 p.m. PST

File doubling explained:

TMP – The Swiss infantry in 1476-77

The doubled battalion/escuadrone is the fighting configuration. Overall frontage is retained but with twice the files and half the ranks.

Charge The Guns15 Apr 2022 1:50 a.m. PST

Very interesting, Ryan T. The experimentation and evolution that was going on through the 1620s and 1630s, on how best to use pike and shot, is fascinating.

Having read recently about Nordlingen I was struck by the tactical moves by the Spanish in detailing off their wings of musketeers, so interesting to see your description of that here.

I am assuming the change in the depth of pike ranks is to do with having the pike at the shoulder or at advance. At shoulder, with the pike balanced at an angle on pikeman's right shoulder, that extra space makes manoeuvre easier. At the advance, with the pike upright, it is possible to manoeuvre with ranks and files more closely packed, but is of course more tiring.

Ryan T15 Apr 2022 10:21 a.m. PST

I agree that the need for at least 6 feet between ranks was to be able to advance with shouldered pikes. Several years ago I did some "experimental archeology" with the three neighbour boys (ages 7, 9 and 12). I made some 10 foot pikes and had them shoulder them at different distances apart. Closer then 6 (scale) feet they repeatedly bumped their heads on the pike ahead of them. It demonstrated the reasoning behind the spacing very graphically before everything descended into a general melee. Great fun was had by all.

Berg geit18 Apr 2022 12:41 a.m. PST

Thank you Ryan and Charles for your book suggestions and Stoppage for the link.
Loved reading your essay, Ryan. That's certainly food for thought and very glad you added citations! It certainly clarified things quite a bit. Was completely oblivious that Imperial Tercio's didn't have garrisons. The spacing of the pike and the shot are great to know.

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