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"4 Ranks deep units - Help" Topic

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paperbattles13 Mar 2023 11:39 a.m. PST

I was wondering – and hoping to get a help – how did work a 4 rakns deep formation in WSS and WAS – later they fought on 3 ranks and this is another topic I already opened.

I mean: 1st and 2nd ranks shooting; 3rd loading the muskets 4th?
Or 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranks shooting and 4th loading the muskets
But how could they pass the muskets to the first rank? will they turn? no idea for me. Any suggestions

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Mar 2023 11:50 a.m. PST

Various methods were used but most involved those firing leaving their position in the unit to shoot and returning to reload. In others three ranks would shoot while the other would hold fire in case enemy attacked. A few tried the passing muskets but it was not a common method.

Most drill books of the period give more specific details and summaries of those drills are available on the internet.

Rod MacArthur13 Mar 2023 11:56 a.m. PST

The drill was for the front rank to kneel, the second and third to lock up so all three could fire. This is what the British and Dutch did since Marlborough's time. However, they began to stop the drill of the first rank kneeling, which led to the British, and their closest allies, adopting 2 rank lines.

French drills had developed from 5 ranks at the beginning of the 18th century, using matchlocks with gaps between files for troops to move through and fire. As flintlocks came in they reduced to 4 ranks in 1706 then 3 ranks in 1754. They fired the 3rd and 4th ranks by the front two ranks kneeling.

This is explained in the article on my website below:


After the Napoleonic Wars everyone used 2 ranks.


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