Battle Plans
By Keith Roberts, from 'English Civil War Times' (Caliver Books/Partizan Press)

The ECWSA supports Caliver Books
as the BEST international source for new/used books and research on the English Civil Wars and the 17th century in

Before marching out on campaign, an army commander in the early seventeenth century would decide upon a plan for the deployment of his army for battle. he might discuss the alternatives beforehand with his senior subordinates (in a Council of War) or he may impose his own preference. Once the decision had been made, a plan would be drawn out on paper by the General or his Sergeant-Major-General. I would describe this as a "Headquaters Plan."

The Sieur du Praissac described this process in his famous work 'Discours Militaires', which was largely based on the new Dutch practice, as:

"The Sergeant major Generall receiveth frm the Generall a plat of the form which he will give to his Armie, the disposition and placing of the members of it, Cavallrie, Infanterie, Artillerie; the order which they should observe in fight, with commission signed by the Generall to dispose it in that manner.

To this commission the whole Armie must yield obedience, and the Sergeant major Generall with the Marshals of the field shall dispose thereof, according to the form and place which the Generall shall have prescribed."
Several copies would be made, sometimes by an engineer officer on the staff. There would be a final discussion (Council of War) and the senior commanders would receive copies of the plan. Officers down to brigade level (brigades of either cavalry or infantry) would receive one personally if they attended the meeting or from the Sergeant-Major-General if they did not. An army marching where it might meet enemy forces would use an order of march which would enable it to deploy directly into battle formation. In order to achieve this each brigade commander had to know the correct place for his brigade. The brigade commanders should already have trained their men in various styles of deployment, but ideally, the whole army would also practice their commander's chosen plan(s) before marching out on campaign. The Dutch leader Prince Maurice of Nassau and his successor, Prince Henry, as well as Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, were noted for carrying out these practice maneuvers before a campaign. Sometimes practice deployments would be conducted during a campaign.

The commander's choice of battle plan would be limited to the range of formations currently in use, and for

© Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 The English Civil War Society of America. All rights reserved.