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Army Marching Formations

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Army Marching Formations

Postby Blue Head » Thu May 22, 2008 12:26 am

Does anyone have any information on the formations of the Medieval Marching Formations, preferably the formations of European/English armies. I would also like to know what the typical army would look like; as in, how many spears would there be compared to swords, and swords to knights, and knights to archers etc.

Thanks,
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Postby HeartOfDarkness » Thu May 22, 2008 2:00 pm

What time period are you talking about?
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Postby Blue Head » Thu May 22, 2008 10:09 pm

Around the era of the creation and use of the pikes. If you don't understand the question (as I know I typed it a little skewy) then let me ask it another way. Did they march in a block formation, like so:

XXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXX

or did they have a more complex system, with more important soldiers or units closer to the center, like so:

XXXXXXXXXX
XXXOOOXXXX O=Important
XXXOOOXXXX X=Regular unit
XXXXXXXXXX

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Postby Damien » Fri May 23, 2008 3:10 am

There is no answer.

As with many topics concerning the medieval era, the only way to get a functional answer to a question is to be -way- more specific.

The march formation of a medieval army would depend heavily upon the composition of the army, which would vary based on a near-infinite number of factors. One would also have to consider where the army is, where they're going, why they're going, the area's inherent hostility (both in climate/land formation and in terms of local residents), area of origin of the marching army, etc, ad nauseum.


An army of the English composed of nearly half its number in archers is going to have a different march formation than an army of Sicilo-Normans whose numbers are largely different grades of horsemen. And both will march in different formation than a Norwegian army composed primarily of pikemen -- or 16th century Italian army with a large number of sword-and-buckler and pikemen.

Like I said - infinite variations depending on anything and everything from exact time period to just the simple matter of who is in the army at the time.
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Postby Heir of Black Falcon » Fri May 23, 2008 6:02 am

Check out Christine de Pisan's The Book of Feats of Arms and Chivalry for some info from the 15th, though this precedes the use of pike and shot of the 16th and 17th. As was said the differences make it impossible for a quick and easy division.

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Postby Blue Head » Fri May 23, 2008 12:13 pm

Alright, thanks. I guess I'll have to make a formation up according to where they are. The possibilities are endless, now that you mention it, and I don't think anyone has time to configure the details if I answer all those questions.

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Postby Tedward » Fri May 23, 2008 3:28 pm

You may also be using confusing terminology:

Marching Formation - a body of soldiers moving from one place to the next as a body.

Battle Formation - the positioning of soldiers in a group as they are about to engage in battle.

Medieval marching formations were one of two types: mob and big mob. Soldiers of the Early Imperial Period Roman Army may have marched in distinct formations but in the time frame from app. 500-1500 there is virtually no evidence that groups of soldiers travelled in anything other than a mob moving along the same road. :D

The battle formations of the medieval period would have been not much more coherant that the marching formations. Mobs of archers split into maybe two large groups; foot soldiers usually lumped in the middle in no more than three mobs (maybe a fourth in reserve if the leader was an advanced strategist); and one or two cavalry mobs prancing about.

The Military Revolution (c. 1550-1650 C.E.) saw the introduction of what we think of as disciplined battle formations based on Roman and Greek theories. There are lots of reprints of military manuals from that time period showing how to line up your pikes, muskets, cavalry and artillery. You will be looking for either the "Spanish" style of large blocks or the "Swedish" style of linear battalions. Some good modern resources:

The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (1): Infantry (Men-at-Arms) (Paperback)
by Richard Brzezinski (Author), Richard Hook (Illustrator), Osprey Publishing, 1991, ISBN: 978-0850459975

Matchlock Musketeer: 1588-1688 (Warrior) (Paperback) by Keith Roberts (Author), Stephen Walsh (Illustrator), Osprey Publishing, 2002, ISBN: 978-1841762128

Soldiers of the English Civil War (1): Infantry (Elite) (Paperback)
by Keith Roberts (Author), Angus Mcbride (Illustrator), Osprey Publishing, 1989, ISBN: 978-0850459036
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Postby Damien » Sat May 24, 2008 11:42 pm

500-1500 there is virtually no evidence that groups of soldiers travelled in anything other than a mob moving along the same road.


Quite untrue. There's plenty of evidence. Indeed, it's actually a Victorian-spawned myth that medieval armies were little more than masses of men moving without any real discipline.

For instance - when the Crusading armies of the Normans/Franks moved through Byzantine territory, we know that the footmen (in what seems to have been a big difference from 'normal') marched at center with horsemen on the outskirts to chase away the occasional skirmishers. One of these instances is actually when Anna Comnena made her famous remark about Norman knights and the strength of their mail and gambesons. Specifically, how they looked like pincushions but continued to march, since the arrows could not actually penetrate both mail and gambeson at once.

Despite her dislike of the Westerners, she remarked more than once on their discipline and prowess.
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