The "Dutch Method"
Category : C17th History
Published by Nelmesy on 2007/6/14
After doing a bit of research i have come across some findings that may in some way try to answer the eternal question of a Pikemans role during the Civil War.
Part 1
To understand the way the armies fought a large scale battle during the mid 17th century we must look further back in history and to the continent.
The reformation of the Dutch army during the 1590,s by Captain-General Prince Maurice of Orange and his cousin, Louis-William of Nassau, changed completely the face of a european battlefield. It was history again to which they drew their inspiration.
The writings of Vegetius,Aelian,Frontinus,the Emperor of Byzantium Leo V1 and the teachings of the philosopher Justus Lipsius and mathematician Simon Stevin were instrumental in the restructuring of the Dutch army and the way it would fight in the future.
The way the Dutch Army fought before being reformed was the same as the Swiss,Spanish and French Armies of the period. Large squares of upto 3,000 men, later reduced to roughly 1,500 called "Tercios" were formed with pikemen in the middle and fringed all the way round by Arquebusiers.These formations were totally inefficient as most of the firepower was facing away from the battle and the pikemen in the center could do very little, which suited the ill- motivated mercenary forces of the time.
Prince Maurice split these tercios into five-company battalions each of 675 men, 10 ranks deep with pikemen in the center flanked either side by Arquebusiers, later superseded by musketeers armed with the latest in weapons technology the "Matchlock Musket".This type of formation taken from what they had learned about the Roman Legions centuries earlier, made the full use of men and firepower they had at their disposal.
Reducing the depth of the formations enables you to spread your army further across the battlefield thus maximising the firepower and its impact on the enemy. This new "Dutch Method" was to revolutionise the way battles were fought in the 17th Century during the "Thirty Years War". The British soldiers who fought in the various armies on the continent would have learnt this new way of fighting and brought it back home with them.
Their experiences on the continent would play a major role as their opposing armies were drawn up to face each other on the fields of Edgehill, Marston Moor and Naseby during the English Civil War.