Moving 17th Century Soldiers

Closest Order

Closest Order is just that - and it's very close. Unsuitable for musketeers, this distance is appropriate for pikemen about to thrust themselves into push of pike.

William Barriffe does not include Closest Order in his discussion of distances.  Closest Order, however, is in "The A.B.C. of Armes," 1616, by 'J. T. Gent' (most likely a Gentleman with the initials J. T.) and "Souldiers Accidence," 1635 (2nd ed. corrected & edited by G. Markham), and both provide the distance as shoulder to shoulder.

Closest Order, as used in today's re-enactments by the Sealed Knot in England, is a very tight formation, likely tighter than what was usually done in the 17th century (that is, until two units of pikemen actually came together, which often resulted in a writhing mass of struggling flesh).  All in ranks and files press shoulder to shoulder, and then pack together even more.  In Closest Order, the many pikemen of a unit become a single block of brawn and determination.  As two blocks of re-enactment pikemen collide, they cease to act for any audience and a genuine contest ensues.  When "Closest Order!" is shouted, the pulse of all participants quickens.
Link to the Sealed Knot Closest Order.
 Link to Sealed Knot version of Closest Order
Sergeant Subtlelus says:
Some experts of drill may not have considered it necessary to have a command for 'Closest Order' simply because pikemen tend to bunch together on their own accord when about to push into an enemy.