Moving 17th Century Soldiers

From  Battlefield Formation to a Marching Column

The width of a battlefield formation will not fit the width of the usual road (unless a re-enactment officer orders all out onto a multi-lane freeway).  Hence, a narrowed column is required for the march.  In today's army, the battlefield formation could simply face left or right then march away.  In 17th Century armies, this could cause confusion because the direction all faced on the battlefield could be 90o to the soldiers' orientation during the march.  Think where such a movement places all the File Leaders for the march (you're right, one behind the other).  To resume the proper placement of File Leaders to their respective files, the column would have to re-turn 90o in the other direction.  If a unit performed several right faces and left faces, then the confusion could be so much that, well, recall the old Abbott and Costello routine, "Who's on First?" An officer's jovial demeanor would quickly burn away.

17th Century armies simply enlarged on that concept already illuminated in the little lesson on passing a wide unit through a narrow space.  The ranks of the battlefield formation could be divided into divisions clearly delineated and everyone made to understand.  Division by division, one behind the other, the entire unit could proceed with the march, as illustrated below.


In addition, be aware of the position of musketeers in relation to pikemen in the battlefield formation and thence on the march.  The pike form the center of the formation in both situations.  With pike in the middle of the marching column, the entire force may then readily assume a battlefield formation without any division having to cross the path of another.

By the way, prior to giving the command for the march, the officer should widen the distance between ranks to Open Order (an appropriate command for that is "Ranks open forward to your Open Order!").  Such was not done in this example simply because there was insufficient room on the page.

Sergeant Subtlelus says:
Since the battlefield formation is the raison d'etre of an assembly of soldiers, good sense would have this also be the form-up formation.  Each soldier can then become familiar with his placement and everyone else's before confronting pike, shot, horse and artillery.