UK Battlefields - The UK Battlefields Trust Resource Centre - Sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Hartnett Trust
Home Page Printer Friendly Help Site Map Search for a Battle
You are currently here 
Resource Centre Home > Stuart Uprisings > The Armies  
Musketeer, pikeman and cavalry trooper from the campaigns in Ireland in the 1690s.
You can click on the image below to view a larger version of the image
Click on this image to enlarge
British troops of the 1690s
The Armies

Though at the Restoration Charles II had disbanded Cromwell's New Model Army he retained a small professional force as the core of a British army. These forces were expanded by James II to control internal dissent, and then by subsequent monarchs as they countered rebellion elsewhere in Britain and as they became engaged in major military action on the continent. The armies at the time of the first of the uprisings, the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, were still equipped and used tactics very similar to those seen in the Civil War. But some changes had already occurred and dramatic changes would follow, particularly amongst the infantry. Although of course, with the irregular forces that the professionals often faced, such as the Monmouth rebels, the use of outdated or makeshift equipment continued.

The look of the armies will have been slightly different in 1685 because long coats had replaced the short coats of the 1640s & 1650s. More importantly, the matchlock muskets had largely been replaced by flintlock muskets. This had a more reliable mechanism that was always ready for use, saving precious minutes in the lighting of the match, while at night there was not the glow of the match to give away the musketeersí position. The cartridge case also came to replace the bandolier, which had been in general though not exclusive use in the Civil War.

Then in the 1660s the first bayonet was introduced, although they were not issued widely issued until after 1685 and not to all musketeers until the beginning of the 18th century. This proved the death knell of the pike as a significant fighting force, just the last step in a process in which the proportion of musket to pike had been shifting throughout the 17th century. In the early 18th century the introduction of the socket bayonet, which allowed the musket to be fired while it was still in place, finally made the pike redundant, replaced by the bayonet and by sheer firepower. With this came important tactical changes, the infantry square replacing the defensive formations of pike and musket which had evolved through the 16th and 17th centuries. At last the musketeers alone could face a cavalry attack, even in open ground where in earlier times they had been so vulnerable with out pike support. It was with this new equipment and these evolving tactics that Marlborough, who had been second in command of the royal army at Sedgemoor in 1685, won his famous victories in Europe in the early 18th century.


Printer Friendly VersionClose Window