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These are some questions that would take a lot of typing to answer, Sansovino!!
On the issue of firing: Yes, it is correct to state that French formations had more ranks (5 initially, reducing to 4 ranks later in the War of Spanish Succession); and that firing was by rank. The main problems with this were: not all soldiers were engaged (ranks 4 and 5); and controlling a whole rank in action along the front of the battalion was difficult, so fire control quickly broke down.
'Platoon' firing was introduced pre-1700, probably by the Dutch, and was adopted around 1700 by English and Brandenburg Prussian armies. The battalion was split into 3 Grand Divisions and 18 platoons, in 3 ranks. The objective was to enable better fire control, and a 'ripple' of fire along the line. English and Prussian armies each organised this in a slightly different way, but the effect in battle was a continuous volume of fire. Platoon fire could only be delivered effectively by highly-trained troops, and depended on close fire control and also speed of re-loading to be effective. At any one time one or two of the three 'Grand Divisions' could be held as a 'firepower reserve'. It was judged to be more effective both in terms of the psychological effect of continuous fire; and also in terms of casualties caused. Captain Parker, who fought in Marlborough's army, wrote:
" ...The Manner of our firing was different from theirs; the French at all times fired by ranks, which can never do equal execution with our platoon firing, especially when six platoons (ie: one third of the total line) are fired together..."
Hand-to-hand combat with one infantry line meeting another was very rare, and close-quarters fighting would be more common in the confusion of an attack on built-up areas (villages, defended farms or churchyards - eg: as at the battle of Ramillies in and around the churchyard there). I'd suggest that in this situation, ranks would break down and soldiers would form ad hoc 'battle groups' based on companies. There is a suggestion that I have read that the Dutch/Scots Brigades that attacked Ramillies village at the battle there in fact did so in column, not line, to enable a faster advance and better penetration into the narrow streets of the village.
There are two books (in English) that I would recommend very highly to read more about infantry tactics: One is 'The Art of War in the age of Marlborough' by the late David Chandler. The other is 'Weapons and Equipment of Marlborough's Wars' by Anthony Kemp. The Kemp book has some excellent and clear descriptions of how platoon firing worked, a comparison of French and English infantry formations, and some diagrams, on pages 44-51.
The Uniform of French infantry topic is a very complicated one. I would suggest that you try to get hold of a copy of the book by L and F Funcken, 'The Lace Wars Part 1'. This is now quite an old book, but it has some diagrams of ALL of the French infantry uniform facings (c. 1720) and the pocket configurations, including arrangement of buttons, by regiment. It is the best source of information I know of for this subject.
Good reply to a fiendishly big question, but the whole platoon firing thing has been rethought since Chandler wrote his mainly excellent works: the only example anyone has found of the platoon system being allegedly better than the continental practice is the Robert Parker one you mention ...and it turns out he wasn't involved in the incident with the Irish regiment! He formed his opinion on somebody else's account. Platoon firing didn't work when facing an all-out enemy assault, when of course reserving fire was pretty pointless, but may have given the Anglo-Dutch an edge in protracted firefights ...although after a few volleys the effectiveness of any musketry declined very sharply anyway. You are right though about hand to hand being rare: the osprey book on Ramillies gives a very good account of the attack by the Scots at Ramillies (and an excellent picture); it was hugely confused by the fact that they were counter-attacked by Viscount Clare's Irish regiment, which also wore red coats with yellow facings ...and carnage ensued.
In England as in France, uniform staffing was the responsibility of the owner colonels. It was very difficult to find a way to distinguish the different regiments between them.
In France, each regiment received uniforms carved in the regions where they were lifted. The tailors gave horizontal or vertical pockets. This system was complemented by the lapels of the sleeves and the colours of the flags.
To simplify the matter, various ordinances and regulations have been promulgated in an attempt to bring order to the level of the royal armies, in this complexity resulting from the personal initiatives of the colonels. To answer your question, I would have to describe several books. Only the trained eye of the contemporary soldiers made it possible to distinguish the Berri regiment from the Picardy regiment. As for me, I always need to refer to uniform boards. These boards must be in correspondence with the dates. But beware, an order modifying this or that part of the uniform, was not applicable immediately the next day. Most of the time, the current uniforms were used and then adapted to the new regulations. And yes, even then, the finances were not stretchable . . . . . . .
We love simplicity in France and this has always been the case. Personally it's so simple, I get lost often.
It's a great summary: Good luck. (Fred and Liliane Funcken is a great choice to start with).
Thank you for this information and insight Zouave72.
I can understand that the study of French uniforms and their intricate details in the 18th Century is a very specialised subject, and one which is probably best-suited for someone who is properly understanding of the French Language and culture. I very much appreciate that, in the France of King Louis XIV, the issue of status and precedence in the list of regiments (ie: which one is most senior, then which one is next etc) would be a matter of great importance. This would be reflected in pride in uniforms, and yes, the way that pockets and buttons were laid out would therefore also be an issue of pride. I also enjoy the idea that if you were, say, an officer in the Regiment of Champagne in 1700 and you happened to meet, say, an officer of the same 'rank' from the Regiment of Provence, you would immediately spot him by the detail of your and his respective uniforms...and also, you would immediately know that your Regiment (Champagne) was superior to his!
The L&F Funcken 'Lace Wars' books are very good for the uniforms (and flags) of France, Britain and Prussia and are a mine of information. They are less good for some of the other European states, but I treasure both of the volumes as key sources of information.
Regarding uniforms, the earliest French reference work I know of is Delaistre's (1720s, so not strictly a contemporary source for WSS). I guess the Funcken plates were mainly based on this source. Check it out (you might find more plates elsewhere):
Careful about the captions, not all are reliable (e.g., the first plate you see is hardly representing an officer of grenadiers of the Gardes Françaises but, rather, a drummer and hautbois of some dragoon? regiment ...:thinking_face: )
Another and perhaps handier survey of the plates is offered here:
Thanks a lot for all your helpful informations and links....
I have to study still more pages and links, but it seems that vertical pockets were quite rare in the french army which I won´t name it as simplicty. Sorry Zouave, but simplicity is for me surely an other thing. I am impressed that the WSS was really a axis-time where many details of uniforms and arms were rapidly changing - and later, after 1715-20 the uniforms and arms stayed quite unchanged till 1740.
It is a big subject and also a very contentious subject - but the Anglo-Dutch used "Dutch Drill" platoon firing (most of the time) and always fought in three ranks; the French began in five ranks then reduced to four, and typically fired off one rank at a time or occasionally several en masse. The Austrians probably retained five ranks rather longer, having developed their tactics to fight the Turks (hence the deep order).
It's not worth bothering about coat pockets in 1/72, but for more information go online and get the Editions Brokaw booklets; and - highly recommended- the Charles S Grant book on Armies of the War of Spanish Succession.
I'd ignore any wargame rules that give the Brits and Dutch a killer advantage in musketry - it is largely propaganda; however the quality of their infantry generally was reckoned very high.
With some minor exceptions all West European infantry of the period looked essentially the same (with some variants for grenadier headgear), and "British" infantry are fine for any troops of the period.
Interesting exceptions include Hepburn's regiment in the elite Scottish Dutch Brigade, which wore grenadier hats with falling bag.
The British were certainly rated as the best infantry by the French, although not necessarily for their musket drill, or at least not only that, and as you say this was used to advantage to pull the wool over French commanders' eyes on occasion.
I don't know if you remember the old book Firepower by Maj Gen B P Hughes (which I think all wargamers had back in the distant 70's): he produced stats which surprisingly appeared to show that early 18th century musketry could be more effective than later Napoleonic.
However I think we have to take a big pinch of salt, or maybe snuff, with this period, in many different aspects - the other canard (to use a nice French word) is the "French cavalry were old fashioned and useless" argument, as they supposedly relied largely on mounted pistols and carbines. I think the Anglo-Dutch did have an edge, but at Malplaquet the French Carabiniers (supposedly firearms troops) charged and routed Withers' flanking cavalry force; and at Ramillies the Maison du Roi broke four successive lines of Allied cavalry on the Allied left before reinforcements drove them back, and at Malplaquet, again, despite enormous Allied cavalry superiority the Maison du Roi counter-charged repeatedly until the closing stages of the battle, then covered the retreat of the army and never in fact broke ... although admittedly they were the cream of the French army. By contrast I don't think the French dragoons were ever any good, and were useful only as scouting and screening troops in the grand tactical approach to battle.
One factor which must be mentioned is the large number of new infantry regiments the French created to try and meet accelerating demand, and most of these would have been very poor, and in no way a match for the British, Dutch and of course Prussian infantry.
Fascinating period which I am very much looking forward to doing in 20mm ...I'm painting up Strelets GNW Russian dragoons as assorted German dragoons while waiting for Cadogan and the British Horse to arrive!
I agree with the need to be suspicious, even cynical, about alleged troop type superiority: we used to call it "red jacket syndrome", in which it was "plus 1" for everything as soon as you put on a British uniform ...but difficult to strike a balance as in both 18thc and Napoleonic most British troops were among the best, if not the best, in Europe - except for the notorious "fox hunt" tendencies of the British, but not KGL, cavalry.
In WSS some period-specific rules draw a sharp line between Anglo-Dutch practice and quality and French/continental, which I've never been convinced reflects the reality.
French and many other cavalry did still rely on pistols and carbines to a greater or lesser extent, whereas the Anglo-Dutch famously attacked at the trot without recourse to firearms; come to that the British also looked after their horses better (in both periods)too.
In the WSS "dragoons" would include Hay's and Ross's regiments; Scots Greys and Irish, who appear to have been near equivalents to "Horse" but could also fight on foot, whereas French dragoons, apart from elite royal regiments, appear to have been poor in both the infantry and cavalry roles.
The Gendarmes de France performed very poorly at Blenheim, while the Maison du Roi seem to have been exemplary wherever they fought - and no doubt the line regiments were every shade in between, depending on unit and campaign background, leadership etc.
I tend not to like generic "horse and musket" rules, as too much is averaged out, but have never found a WSS set I believe in, so we'll be using home-spun rules with theatre specifics for the war in Spain.
Meanwhile I think Zvezda are the best figures yet produced by anyone - a big claim, but they really are superb - and it's tragic they have accepted reality by largely ditching figure sets for their expensive WW2 stuff ...but best of luck to them.
Strelets and also Red Box are astronomically better than previously, and often among the very best available; and Strelets are incredibly prolific.
I agree with others on this forum that the WSS pikemen are a waste of a set (although maybe of use for GNW!) and the muskets in two of the French sets are inexplicably way too short ...but luckily the British sets are splendid and unless you are obsessed with pockets (in 1/72 why bother) they will do the job for most WSS infantry with a suitable paint scheme. The masters for the cavalry look terrific, and I am going to pre-order some from Models2U.