Matchlock Musketeer

Matchlock Musketeer

(Right) Reliance on a burning match could leave units of "shot" helpless at short notice in rainy weather (even very damp air increases the rate of misfires to anything up to 50 per cent). Naked flame and loose powder was a recipe for frequent accidents. Night attacks were often betrayed by the tell-tale points of light. Free from all these drawbacks were the early flintlock ("firelock") muskets, available to Civil War armies in small numbers. Needing no naked flame, they could be carried loaded but uncocked for hours, ready for instant use. Costing half as much again as a matchlock (in 1645, 15s.6d. - three weeks' pay for a soldier), they were normally carried only by special picked infantry units; and particularly by musketeers guarding the artillery, where smouldering match close to open powder barrels could cause catastrophic accidents. This musketeer of Walton's Regiment has a "dog-lock" flintlock, named from the safety catch visible behind the cock.

Matchlock Musketeer17th Century Scottish Soldiers

(Left) An officer of Devereux's Regiment of the Roundhead Association, ECWS. This might be described as "daily" military dress; back-and-breast plates might be added for battle. The felt hat was quite a costly item in the 17th century, as were imported feather plumes - dc rigeur for a fashionable officer. The opening, buttoned doublet sleeves arc typically banded with gold bullion lace; he has a fine lace collar falling over his gorget, and extra "boot hose" protect expensive stockings from the rubbing of his superb bucket-top boots, fitted with spurs on "butterfly" leathers for riding - an infantry officer would ride on the march. The broad fringed sash, tied in a huge bow, is typical. A more decorative and less functional "leading staff might be carried instead of a partizan.

A regiment of foot might have a staff of a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, a sergeant-major (then an officer rank), a quartermaster, a provost-marshal; and perhaps 27 other company officers. Roth sides, but particularly the Royalists, suffered as the war progressed from an excess of officers. Regimental strengths were whittled away by disease, death and desertion; but reduced units only grudgingly amalgamated with others, the officers refusing to give up their status and pay. (The Royalist garrison of Reading in 1644 included Blackwell's Regiment, of four companies, with a total of 56 men but 30 officers.) In both armies, but particularly the King's, officers without soldiers might fight in the ranks, sometimes forming whole troops or companies. These "rcformadoes" did not enjoy a high reputation for discipline or efficiency.

army on campaign used vast quantities of matchcord, and ensuring supplies was a major logistic problem: one threatened garrison of 1,500 men is recorded as having used some quarter-ton weight of match in 24 hours.

Parliament's armies at first favoured an eight-rank formation for the wings of musketeers flanking the "stands" of pike when drawn up for battle, but the Royalists may have adopted the Swedish six-rank style by the battle of Edgehill; by 1643 this seems to have been the norm on both sides. As the battle lines approached one another musketry was used to thin and disrupt the enemy's ranks. Although a musket ball could kill at 600 yards, and pierce armour at 200-400, it was hopelessly inaccurate at such distances. Individual marksmanship was generally unknown in pitched battles; the unit of shot fired "into the brown", by ranks, on their officer's order. Unless trying to provoke the enemy for some reason they seldom opened fire at more than 100 yards' range. Even then the effect was uncertain; but a solid hit, by luck or judgement, with a large, slow, soft-lead ball caused lethally mangling wounds.

The classic Dutch system used by both sides involved each rank of musketeers firing in turn, then retiring to the rear to reload. Variations of this system could be carried out while maintaining the same ground or while advancing or retreating; the object was to keep up a continuous fire (experiments prove that a competent musketeer could reload in about half a minute).

(Below) English Civil War Society musketeers assemble in York, March 1993, to take part in a march and wreath-laying ceremony to honour the memory of the great Civil War general and gentleman Sir Thomas Fairfax, creator and leader of Parliament's New Model Army. The scarlet-uniformed men of Devereux's Regiment in the foreground wear Montero caps;

the upper flaps could sometimes be folded in various ways to give protection from the weather -before the Civil War the Montero was already known in Germany as the "English fog-hat". Note also bandoliers of charges with blue-painted tubes and blue-and-white strings; these colours are specified in the surviving contract books of the New Model Army.

Dutch Musketeer

(Left) Musketeers of the King's Lifeguard, SK, at Carew Castle, carrying rests and reversed muskets; at left is a sergeant.

(Below left & right) Ranks of SK northern Parliamentarians, including Ballard's Greycoats, fire a "salvee" at Hdgehill. This Swedish variation on the usual rolling fire by ranks was well established in Continental wars before the 1640s. In the last moments before two bodies of foot came together, the ranks of "shot" might be doubled up to fire three ranks together - the front rank kneeling, the next stooping and the third standing behind them. By doubling their frontage all six ranks might even fire at once. This concentrated firepower might decimate the enemy front ranks at the psychological moment before hand-to-hand contact, but left musketeers with no time to reload.

Roundheads And Cavaliers

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  • bella davidson
    How an air powered flintlock?
    8 years ago

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