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1 r 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-talians'. 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 retieve the siege of Ostend in 1600; but this battle was fought in such unusual

Countermarch Maurice Nassau

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 1 ercios. 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

Countermarch Maurice Nassau

The new military styles introduced by the Dutch leader Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange were inspired by his extensive reading of Classical Roman and Greek texts. The illustrations here show the Roman Triplex Acies from a 17th century translation of Caesar's Gallic Wars (left); and a contemporary view of the Battle of Nieuport (right). This shows the Dutch 'Princes Battel' drawn up in the new style, and the Spanish Army in more massive but less manouevrable Tercios. (Author's collection, as are all other illustrations not otherwise credited.)

The new military styles introduced by the Dutch leader Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange were inspired by his extensive reading of Classical Roman and Greek texts. The illustrations here show the Roman Triplex Acies from a 17th century translation of Caesar's Gallic Wars (left); and a contemporary view of the Battle of Nieuport (right). This shows the Dutch 'Princes Battel' drawn up in the new style, and the Spanish Army in more massive but less manouevrable Tercios. (Author's collection, as are all other illustrations not otherwise credited.)

cavalry of both sides had deteriorated with their use of the pistol rather than the sword as a primary weapon.

The controversy remained undecided until the Protestant champion Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, intervened to support the cause of the Protestant princes against the Catholic Habsburg emperor. Gustavus led an army whose organisation and tactics were based upon the new Dutch style, but which had been considerably developed by his own innovative ideas and his campagn experience in Eastern Europe. Gustavus introduced a new formation, the 'Swedish Brigade', a battle group of three or four mutually supporting squadrons. This formation required a still higher ratio of officers (both commissioned and non-commissioned) to men, higher levels of organisation and continuous training; but it was effective both offensively and defensively.

The chief tactical aim of the Swedish system was the combination of mobility, firepower and offensive action. The depth of infantry formations was reduced to six ranks, and these could be reduced still further for musketeers by bringing the rear three ranks alongside the front three and firing all together in a single great 'salvee'. This massive volley would be accompanied by the fire of the light artillery pieces Gustavus introduced, and would be immediately followed by an attack intended to destroy an opponent reeling from the shock.

Swedish cavalry were trained according to the same three principles. Most West European cavalry

A diagram from William BarrifTe's manual Military Discipline or the Young Artilleryman. This shows a Company of Foot practising continuous fire; once the front line has fired it retires to the rear to reload, allowing the next rank to fire in its turn.

Front of Pities. TheHorn-battel.

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  • joshua
    What was the Swedish salvee tactic?
    8 years ago

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