De Gheyn Exercise Of Arms

number of different tactical styles, but as William BarrifFe comments, a captain should 'make use of so many of them, as he shall think fit for his present occasion or exercise1. It is this choice of the essential forms of drill which the Earl of Essex referred to in the opening months of the Civil War when he instructed his officers not to attempt too much with the newly raised soldiers, but 'to bring them to use their arms readily and expertly, and not to busy them in practising the ceremonious forms of military discipline1.

The manuals show a series of tactical formations for the company, but these are simply a training aid, as the company itself was not used as a tactical formation in the field. In action the tactical formation was the regiment, which was divided into three or four 'Grand Divisions1 each composed of two or three of the regiment's companies. Each Grand Division was formed in the tactical style taught in company training: a centre of pikemen with wings of musketeers on each flank. To achieve this the regiment's sergeant major drew up its companies and divided them among the Grand

An enlarged view of the New Model infantry at Naseby, from Joshua Sprigge's Anglia Rediviva (1647). Note the 'Forlorn Hope' of musketeers, the artillery pieces sited between regiments, and Lt.-Col. Pride's Regiment in second line. (D. Carter collection)

Divisions; he would then draw out the pikemen from the companies which were to form each separate Grand Division to combine them to form its centre, and then divided the musketeers in two bodies, one for each flank.

Although the King's Army at Edgehill was drawn up in the complex Swedish tactical style this was unusual, and the English usually preferred the simpler Dutch style for their newly raised soldiers. To judge from Richard Elton's work, The Compleat Body of the Art Military, printed after the Civil War, the experience of five years of campaigning did finally produce officers and soldiers capable of successfully performing the more complex styles.

Into Battle

The basic training described above was sufficient to allow a commander to form up his regiments of foot in the open. This was usually in two lines, with the units positioned so that those in the second line covered the gaps between those in the first, rather like the pieces on a draughts board. Battles such as Edgehill or Naseby were fought on sites which allowed this classic style to be used.

A commander with a weaker force, or simply a better eye for the advantages of the ground, might

Naseby Battle



choose more broken country, especially if he had fewer cavalry than his opponents. Sir William Waller, in particular, was famous for this, as the Royalist Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Slingsby's comment shows: 'Indeed that Generall of the Rebells was the best shifter and chooser of the ground when he was not master of the field that I ever saw, which are great abilityes in a Souldier1.

In broken or wooded country the personal fighting qualities of the soldier and his ability to use his weapons were more important than the unit drill he had been taught. For this kind of scrambling action over ditches and hedgerows, files of musketeers were drawn out from their regiments and formed into separate 'commanded1 bodies, as pikemen were of little use. Contemporary commanders held the view that brave but poorly trained soldiers could be used in the open but would stand little chance against veterans in this 'hedge-fighting'. In 1648, for example, when the Scots army invaded England at the opening of the Second Civil War, Sir James Turner favoured the route through Yorkshire rather than Lancashire 'and for this reason only, that I understood Lancashire was a close country, full of ditches and hedges, which was a great advantage the English would have over our raw and undisciplined musketeers, the Parliament's army consisting of experienced and well trained sojors and excellent firemen; on the other hand Yorkshire being a more open countrey and full of heaths, where we both might make use of our horse, and come sooner to push of pike'.

The clash of major armies was only a part of the war; all over the country smaller forces contended for control of territory or strongpoints such as fortified towns or country houses, or simply conducted plundering raids. Swift marching and sudden surprise was the key to success in these small actions. To achieve this both sides commonly formed forces composed of cavalry, dragoons and 'commanded' musketeers, often providing horses for the musketeers or having them ride double with the cavalry troopers. Sir William Waller, whose liking for swift night marches earned him the name 'Night Owl', took this a stage further, and made serious but unsuccessful efforts in 1644 to mount all his infantry with the intention of using the mobility this offered to make up for inferior numbers.

Swedish Infantry

George Monk, a professional soldier who served in Europe and in the Royal Army in Ireland. He was placed in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Nantwich, but later served Oliver Cromwell. Monk enjoyed the close support of the army he commanded in Scotland, and his influence was the key factor in the Restoration of Charles II.

A Last Word.

George Monk had the last word in the Civil Wars since it was his support which made possible the Restoration of Charles II. It seems proper, therefore, to end with his advice: 'It is most necessary for a General in the first place to approve his Cause, and settle an opinion of right in the minds of his Officers and Souldiers: the which can be no way better done, than by the Chaplains of his Army. Also a General ought to speak to the Colonels of his Army to encourage their Officers with a desire to fight with the Enemy; and all the Officers to do the like to their Souldiers. And the better to raise the common Souldiers spirits, let their Officers tell them that their General doth promise them, if they will fight courageously with their Enemy, and do get the day that they shall have, besides the Pillage of the Field, twelve-pence apiece to drink, to refresh their spirits when the business is done. The which I am confident will make the common men fight better, than the best Oration in the world'.

Further Reading.

There are a whole host of books on the Civil War and its military, political and social aspects. Listed below are some of the most useful military works. Bariffe, A Civil War Drill Book (Partizan Press, 1988)

C.H. Firth, Cromwell's Army (London, 1905, 1921 and 1962)

R. Hut ton, The Royalist War Effort 1642-1646 (Longman, 1982)

J. Kenyon, The Civil Wars oj England (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988)

J.L. Malcolm, Caesar's Due: Loyalty and King Charles 1642-1646 (Royal Historical Society, 1983) S. Peachey & A. Turton, Old Robin's Eoot: the equipping and campaigns of Essex's Infantry 1642-1645 (Partizan Press, 1987)

K.A.B. Roberts, London & Liberty: Ensigns of the London Trained Bands (Partizan Press, 1987) I. Ryder, An English Army for Ireland (Partizan Press,


D. Stevenson, Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates (Ulster Historical Foundation, 1981)

P. Young and R. Holmes, The English Civil War, A Military History of the Three Civil Wars 1642-1651 (London, 1974)

A very useful forum for those with an interest in the latest developments of this period is the magazine English Civil War Notes and Queries published by Partizan Press at 26 Cliffsea Grove, Leigh-011 Sea, Essex SS9 iNQ.

The Plates

A: Peace—The Artillery Garden, c.1620 This plate shows members of the Society of the Artillery Garden practising with their arms in the 'Artillery Garden' from which the name derived. The society was a voluntary association of some of the wealthier London citizens who gathered together to practise weapon-handling and drill, often under the tuition of professional soldiers. Although sometimes mocked by outsiders, the Society did provide a good grounding in these military arts, and its form of training prepared members for their traditional roles as officers of the Militia regiments of the City of London. Members of the Society took their exercises seriously,

Three views of the position 'Order Your Pike'. The first is a close copy from Jacob de Gheyn's Exercise of Arms (1607), the second from an English manual of 1623, and the third a statuette c.i 638 from Cromwell House in Highgate. Note how closely de Gheyn's original design was followed. The statuette gives a good impression of the appearance of a pikeman during the Civil War. (Author's collection, British Library and by courtesy of the Board of Trustees, Royal Armouries)

although as much with the intention of excelling in a social accomplishment as with any intention of military preparation. There was no formal uniform for the Society at this time, and members wore their equipment over their civilian clothing. Their equipment conformed to statutory requirements but was often chosen more with an eye to display than the latest developments. Illustrations dating from 1642 show members carrying old-fashioned heavy muskets rather than the lighter pattern then being produced.

Ai: The Double-Armed Man

The English still felt a patriotic nostalgia for the longbow, and its general replacement with firearms

Old Fashioned Illustrations Jacob Gheyn

and William BarrifFe recommended it. There is no evidence that it was ever practised in the field. This citizen is practising Neade's style and so wears the full equipment of a pikeman—gorget, back and


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  • Daisy
    How do i get a copy of The Exercise of Arms ” by Jacob DeGheyn first published in 1608.?
    4 years ago

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