Instructions for Musters and Arms

Pages 134-135

Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 3, 1639-40. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.

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Instructions for Musters and Arms, and the use thereof, by Order of his Majesty's Privy Council.

July 27.1631.

Because the measure of these distances cannot be taken so justly by the eye, we take the distance of fix foot between File and File, by commanding the Soldiers, as they stand, to stretch forth their arms, and stand so removed one from another, that their hands may meet.

FIrst of all, it is to be understood that there are three forts of distances, to wit, Open Order, Order, and Close Order. Open Order, or the first distance is, when the Soldiers both in Rank and File stand six foot removed one from another.

And for the Ranks, we make account we take the same distance of fix foot, when the butt end of the Pikes do almost reach their heels that march before. We take the second order ordistance of three foot between File and File, by bidding the Soldiers set their arms a kenbow, and put themselves so close, that their elbows may meet. And we reckon we take the same distance between the Ranks, when they come up almost to the Swords point.

The second distance, or your Order, is, when the Soldiers stand three foot removed both in Rank and File one from another; and this Order is to be used when they are embattelled, or march in the face of an Enemy, or when they come to stand, or when you will wheel. But when you march thorow any Country, you much observe three foot only from File to File, and six from Rank to Rank. The third distance, or your Close Order, is commanded by this word Close, which is, when there is one foot and a half from File to File, and three from Rank to Rank; and this is for the Pikes only, and must never be used, but when you will stand firm to receive the Charge of an Enemy. The Musketteers must never be closer than the second distance of three foot in square, because they are to have a free use of their Arms.

In exercising your Motions, you are always to observe your Open Order of six foot in square, in which the Company being first placed, you are to acquaint them to these terms of directions.

Stand right in your Files.

Stand right in your Ranks.


To the right hand.

It is to be noted, when you are commanded to be as you were, you are ever to return by the contrary hand, from whence you came. As for example, If you did turn to the right hand, you are to return as you were to the left hand, and so in the rest.

As you were.

To the left hand.

As you were.

To the right hand about.

As you were.

To the left hand about.

As you were.

Ranks to the right hand double.

As you were.

Ranks to the left hand double.

As you were.

Files to the right hand double.

As you were.

Files to the left hand double.

As you were.

Middlemen to the right hand double your front.

As you were.

Middlemen to the left hand double your front.

As you were.

Ranks, to the right or left hand countermarch.

To the right or left hand, at discretion.

Files, to the right or left hand countermarch.

To the right or left hand as you were.

When you will countermarch to the right hand, the first Rank of Leaders only must advance one step forward with the right leg, and then turn, and all the other Ranks must march first up to the place from whence the first Rank did countermarch before they turn. So likewise if you will countermarch to the left hand, the first Rank must step forwards one step with the left leg, and then turn, and all the other Ranks behind must come up to that place before they turn, as before. The same order is to be observed when you will countermarch your Files; In countermarching, though both are her set down for distinction sake, you are to name neither Ranks nor Files: But are only to say, To the right hand countermarch, or to the lest hand countermarch.

When you exercise a Company single, you double your Ranks before you wheel, in regard the Body is small. But in a Division, or greater Body, you close first both your Files and your Ranks to your Order of three foot, and omit the doubling, and so wheel.

Before you wheel.

When you will wheel to the right hand, double your Ranks to the left hand; and when you wheel to the left hand, double your Ranks to the right hand. For so the right and left hand Leaders will keep their places on that corner towards which you wheel; When you will wheel to the right hand, double your Ranks to the left hand; and when you wheel to the left hand, double your Ranks to the right hand. For so the right and left hand Leaders will keep their places on that corner towards which you wheel.

Ranks, to the right or left hand double.

Files, to the right or left hand, or to the middle, close to your Order, to three foot between File and File.

Ranks, close to your Order, to three foot between Rank and Rank.

To the right hand Wheel, Which you lift, and each as often as you lift.
To the left hand Wheel,
Or Wheel about,

After you have wheeled.

This manner of opening is used only in a single Company. For in greater Bodies where the doubling is emitted, you open first your Ranks, and then your Files to your open Order of six foot, to bring them back again as they were; By double distance is meant twelve foot. For so the Ranks (which before did double) falling our again into their first places, come just to the distance of their open Order of six foot, in which they were before they doubled.

Ranks, backward open in double distance.

Files, open to your Order, that is, to three foot.

Ranks, as you were.

In opening Ranks or Files, you must make all the Files or Ranks, saving the outermost on that hand from whence you mean to open (which must stand) to move all together, till the second Rank or File, from that which standeth, have gotten its distance, and subsequently the rest.

If you will have them close their Files to the right or left hand, the outermost File on that hand you purpose to close, must be commanded to stand, and all the rest to close to it.

In charging, half the Ranks only must charge their Pikes, the other hindermost half of the Ranks do port their Pikes, that is, they carry them so couched over the heads of the foremost, as may give them no offence, either in charging or retiring. Besides, this way the Pikes are not so subject to be broken by the Shot of the Enemy, as when they are advanced.

Advance your Pikes.

Order your Pikes.

Shoulder your Pikes.

Charge your Pikes.

Order your Pikes.

Trail your Pikes.

Check your Pikes.

They must likewise observe when they charge standing, to fall back with the right Leg, and marching to step forwards with the left.

    These following Motions are to be performed both standing and marching.

  • Charge your Pikes.
  • Shoulder your Pikes.
  • To the right hand charge.
  • Shoulder your Pikes.
  • To the left hand charge.
  • Shoulder your Pikes.
  • Stand.
  • Order your Pikes.

For the Musket.

These are the Postures which in this Book are to be observed: But in exercising, you must only use these three terms of direction.

  • Make ready.
  • Present.
  • Give fire.

Your Musketteers must observe in all their Motions, to turn to the right hand, and that they carry the mouth of their Pieces high, as well when they are shouldered, as in priming, as also when they hold their Pans guarded, and come up to give fire.

In advancing towards an Enemy, when they do not skirmish loose and disbanded, they must give fire by Ranks after this manner: Two Ranks must always make ready together, and advance ten paces forwards before the Bodies, at which distance a Sergeant (or when the Body is great, some other Officer) must stand, to whom the Musketteers are to come up before they present and give fire. First, the first Rank, and whilst the first gives fire, the second Rank keep their Muskets close to their Rests, and their Pans guarded; and as soon as the first are fallen away, the second presently present and give fire, and fall after them. Now as soon as the two first Ranks do move from their places in the front, the two Ranks next it must unshoulder their Muskets, and make ready, so as they may advance forward ten paces, as before, as soon as ever the two first Ranks are fallen away, and are to do in all points as the former. So all other Ranks through the whole Division must do the same by two's one after another.

A manner there is to give fire retiring from an Enemy, which is performed after this sort.

As the Troop marcheth, the hindermost Rank of all keeping still with the Troop, maketh ready, and being ready, the Soldiers in that Rank turn all together to the right hand, and give fire, marching presently away a good round pace to the Front. As soon as the first Rank turns to give fire, the Rank next it makes ready, and doth as the former, and so the rest.

We give Fire by the Flank thus; the outermost File next the Enemy must be commanded to make ready, keeping still along with the Body, till such time as they be ready, and then they turn to the Right or Left Hand, according to the fight of their Enemy, either upon their right or left flank, and give fire all together: When they have discharged they stir not, but keep their Ground, and charge their Pieces again in the same place they stand. Now as soon as the aforesaid File doth turn to give Fire, the outermost next is made ready, always keeping along with the Troop, till the Bringer up be past a little beyond the Leader of that File that gave Fire last, and then the whole File must turn and give Fire, and do in all Points as the first did, and so all the rest one after the other. A Serjeant (or if the Troop be great) some other better qualified Officer must stand at the Head of the first File, and as soon as the second File hath given Fire, and hath charged he is to lead forward the first File up to the second File, and so to the rest one after another, till he hath gathered up again the whole Wing, and then he is to join again in equal Front with the Pikes.

Last of all the Troop or whole Wing of Muskettiers makes ready all together, and the first Rank without advancing gives Fire in the place it stands in, and speedily as it may, yet orderly, fall away, all the Ranks doing the same successively, one after another.

The Arms of a Pikeman are, Gorget, Curats, Head-piece, Sword, Girdle and Hangers.

The Arms of a Muskettier are, a Musket, a Rest, Bandeliers, Head-piece, Sword, Girdle and Hangers.

It is required, that the Muskets be all of a Bore, the Pikes of a Length. But to the end this course may not by a sudden Alteration turn to a general Charge and Burthen upon the People, the Lords Lieutenants, and the Deputy Lieutenants are rather to use the way of Advice, and Encouragement, as a matter which will be very acceptable to his Majesty, who will take Notice of the Affection of such as shall most readily provide Arms according to this Order than to enforce a present general Observation thereof. But in Case where the Arms shall be decayed, and must be renewed, this Order is to be strictly observed.

The Arms of Horsemen, Cuirassiers, are a Gorget, Curats, Cutases, Pouldrons, Vambraces, a left Hand Gauntlet, Taces, Cuisses, a Cask, a Sword, Girdle and Hangers, a Case of Pistols, Firelocks, Saddle, Bridle, Bit, Petrel, Crupper, with the Leathers belonging to fasten his Pistols, and his necessary Sack of Carriage, and a good Horse to mount on.

The Arms of a Harquebusier or Dragoon, which hath succeeded in the place of Light-horsemen (and are indeed of singular use almost in all Actions of War) the Arms are a good Harquebus, or Dragoon, sitted with an Iron Work, to be carried in a Belt, a Belt with a Flask, Priming-box, Key, and Bullet-bag, an open Head piece with Cheeks, a good Buff Coat with deep Skirts, Sword, Girdle, and Hangers, a Saddle, Bridle, Bitt, Petrel, Crupper, with Straps for his Sack of Necessaries, and a Horse of less Force and less Price than the Cuirassier.

In the exercise of the Foot Troops, the Companies are to be of Hundreds only, besides Officers, that they may be so much the nearer together to be trained and exercised with less Pains to the Soldiers, and less loss of time, when they shall be called together by their Captain.

The Company is to be divided into Files of ten in a File, the File is to be distinguished into a Leader, a Bringer up, two Middlemen, and Three between the Leader and his Middleman, and Three between the Bringer up and his Middleman. When the Companies come together, they are to be exercised ten in depth (as the Proportoin best fitted to receive all Charges, and perform all Executions) but in Cases of Necessity in Service, and for Exercise it will be requisite to reduce them into Five in File, and then those two Middlemen become Bringers up, and then have a kind of Charge over those three between the Leader and the Bringer up, and will be of great use in preparing and exercising of the Soldiers in the practice of their Arms and Order. For it is not intended that the whole Companies should be drawn together to be exercised: But that upon Sundays after Evening Prayer, and upon Holy Days (as it hath been formerly used for Bow) the Leader, Bringer up, or Middlemen should exercise together with the whole File, or such a part as dwells most convenient for him. And further, that once in a Month, or six Weeks, the Captain, Lieutenant, or Ancient, may (with the Knowledge of the Deputy Lieutenant that dwells next him) upon a Holiday exercise a Squadron of his Company, or the whole, as shall seem good to the Deputy Lieutenant.

  • Leaders.
  • Middleman
  • Middleman
  • Bringer up
  • Leader
  • Middleman
  • Middleman
  • Bringer up.

The like form for the Horse: But it is to be observed, that the Files of House are never to be above six, but distinguished by the Names of Leader, Bringer up, and two Middlemen, and to be doubled to three deep, upon Occasion. And to avoid the great abuse that is practised by those that are inrolled to keep Horses for the King's Service, That the Leader, Bringer up, or Middlemen of the Files of Horse, do exercise the Horse upon Holidays and Sundays after Evening Prayer: And that the Captain by himself, his Lieutenant, or Cornet, may (with Knowledge of the next Deputy Lieutenant) upon a Holiday, call together some Files, or a Squadron of his Company, to practise them in the exercise of their Arms. The Officers also both of Horse and Foot-Bands, as well in the Chief, as Inferiour, Serjeants, Corporals, and Lamprizadoes, are to have a more special care for the ordinary Exercising of the Souldiers of their Company, which dwell next unto them and properly for them.

A special Care and Order must be taken that all those that find a Man to serve on Horseback, whether they find the Horse or the Man, or both, must not change the Horse or Man at their Pleasure: For so it would be every day to practise a new Man, or a new Horse, and the Exercise be made Vain. But they must take into Consideration, that the Man and Horse designed to the Service of the King, hath (by the Intention of the Law) been dedicated so to the Interest of the King, as they must always be in readiness at the call of the King's Officers, and may not be changed without the Knowledge and Consent of the Captain, or Deputy Lieutenant next adjoyning, or by Warrant of the Lord Lieutenant. And this with this only Limitation, that another sufficient Man or Horse be supplied in the room of the Man or Horse made deficient, for a just Cause well approved of. And as the Soldier, or Horse may not be changed or discharged, without the Knowledge of the Captain or superior Officers, so it is not Lawful for the Captain to change or discharge any Man or Horse (once Inrolled) without the Approbation of the Lord Lieutenant, or his Deputy.

A principal Care is to be taken for the Provision of the Arms, that they may be provided at such Rates as they are truly worth, that the People be not subject to the abuse of Undertakers for these Businesses: And also for the furnishing of every Shire with a competent Proportion of Match, Powder, and Bullets, to which purpose Directions have been heretofore already given. Nevertheless it is not held necessary, until the Soldiers be perfect in their Postures and ready managing of the Pike when they are armed, and the Musket, together with the Rest, that there should be any Expence of Powder at all: And then for some time to be exercised with some false Fire, which is only a little Powder in the Pan: Nor at any time to blow away their Powder in vain; but that Powder which should be allowed by the Country for training, be bestowed only at Marks; in which Case it is to be wished, that little small Prizes might be provided at the cost of the Country, to be shot for at the Marks, which would give an Ambition to Men to carry them away, and would save the Country more in Powder than their Value: And a desire in Men to render themselves perfect, would make them to find themselves Powder with that Money, which on those Days, and in those Times, would be worse spent in an Alehouse.