Roman Legion Formations

Spanish Tercios Osprey


Published in 1989 by Osprey Publishing Ltd 59 Grosvenor Street, London W1X 9DA © Copyright 1989 Osprey Publishing Ltd Reprinted 1991, 1992

All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Enquiries should be addressed to the Publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Roberts, Keith

English Civil War armies.—(Elite series; 25). 1. English civil war. Military forces I. Title II. McBride, Angus III. Series


ISBN o 85045 903 6

Filmset in Great Britain

Printed through Bookbuilders Ltd, Hong Kong

Author's Note

This is the first of two books in the Osprey Elite series dealing with the recruitment, organisation, equipment, training and tactics of the soldiers who fought in the English Civil War. The first describes the origins of the military theory used by both sides, and deals particularly with infantry regiments. The second will cover cavalry, dragoons and artillery.

Artist's Note

Readers may care to note that the original paintings from which the colour plates in this book were prepared are available for private sale. All

reproduction copyright whatsoever is retained by the publisher. All enquiries should be addressed to:

Scorpio Gallery P.O. Box 475 Hailsham

E. Sussex BN27 2$L

The publishers regret that they can enter into no correspondence upon this matter.


In memoriam Andrzej Roman Ciupha, 1954-1987.

With thanks to Julia Wheelhouse for her help in proof-reading my efforts.

Soldiers of the English Civil Wax (l): Infantry

The Military

Revolution politically callous attempts to re-introduce Classical strategy and tactics. Although read and discussed with interest these works failed to change radically the organisation of armies or the ways in which wars By the 17th century the military achievements of were fought. The reason for this failure was the the Classical world had long been admired by more absence of two crucial factors: a thorough modern European theorists who considered that understanding of the principles involved, and the with a good understanding of Classical writers such constant pay necessary to maintain discipline and as Julius Frontinus or Claudius Aelianus the 'Art of training.

War' could be revolutionised. Initially this fasci-

It was the Dutch leader Maurice of Orange and nation took the form of direct translations of Greek his cousins William Louis and John, who success-

and Roman authors; but the next stage, of fully wedded Classical theories to the changed commentaries on their use in modern warfare, soon conditions and weapons of the 16th century. They followed. The first of these was Niccolo achieved this through a combination of extensive

MacchiavellTs Libra della arte della guerra, which was reading of Classical military texts, and experimen-

published in Florence in 1521 and soon translated tal wargames. For the latter, lead figures were used from the Italian. The first English edition was

, , n tin • | r An illustration from George Monk's Observations on Military printed by Feter Whltehorne in 1560. & Political Affairs (1671)—an example of the combined use of

A number of I 6th century writers, such as Diego infantry and cavalry. This was potentially a very effective

; 0 style, but, if defeated, the cavalry could ride away while the de Salazar and Giulio Fcrretti, made similar if less deserted infantry were cut to pieces.

Maurits Triplex Acies

to discover solutions to the considerable practical problems which the process of re-learning Classical drill and tactics involved. The Dutch also had the necessary funds to keep an army in being long enough to train it in these new theories.

There were two key areas of change: the drill used to make units more responsive and manoeuvrable, and the more complex tactics which could be used by an army as a result. The new drill was taken particularly from the writings of Claudius Aelianus and used a standard system for five important aspects of drill: Distance, Facings, Doublings, Countermarches and Wheelings. The introduction of Countermarches was especially important in the development of firepower as it allowed the introduction of a system whereby each rank of musketeers fired in succession before retiring to the rear of the unit to reload. It would be wrong to suggest that the Dutch were alone in making military experiments; the Spanish, for example, had certainly been making some in volley firing. The advantage of Maurice's reforms, however, was the introduction of a complete integrated drill system for the Dutch army, something none of its contemporaries possessed.

The tactical styles introduced by Prince Maurice radically changed the face of the Dutch army with a re-organisation into smaller units termed 'bat-talians1. These were drawn up in a much shallower battle formation, ten ranks deep rather than the 40 or more found in the Tercios of their Spanish opponents. Perhaps the most far-reaching change was the tactical formation introduced for the army as a whole. Instead of the massive blocks of men used by the Spanish, Prince Maurice introduced a far more flexible system of triple battle lines based on the model of the Republican Roman triplex acies.

These reforms made the Dutch army a potentially more effective force. They certainly needed the advantage, since although the tactical style of the Tercios was basic in comparison with the Dutch battalions, the Spanish soldiers were veterans, and successful veterans at that. Prince Maurice was by no means a rash commander, and preferred manoeuvre and siegecraft to the risks of a pitched battle. The only major confrontation took place at Nieuport, the result of his reluctant but successful effort to rctieve the siege of Ostend in 1600; but this battle was fought in such unusual conditions that his success proved little for or against his new tactical style. It did show, however, that the new level of training and discipline Prince Maurice introduced had improved the standard of his soldiers.

Although there was no battlefield success to support his new theories, Prince Maurice's reforms caused contemporaries to reconsider the whole basis of their military thinking. The new Dutch practice was widely adopted in Protestant Europe, and the German princes sent representatives to John of Nassau's new military academy at Siegen. There was, perhaps, an excess of enthusiasm for the minutiae of the new drill; but the style of training inevitably produced more responsive soldiers and more manoeuvrable tactical units.

Catholic Europe remained unconvinced of the value of the new Dutch theories, particularly since the German princes who adopted them still fared dismally against the Tercios. Even so, Spanish military theorists saw the value of smaller units and by 1630 they had introduced shallower formations—although still not as shallow as the Dutch. The Tercios retained strongly offensive tactics but even in their reduced size their deep formations were still wasteful of manpower and lacked manoeuvrability. The Dutch style, on the other hand, made better use of firepower but was essentially defensive. The offensive quality of the

Roman Legion Formations

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