A Regiment of Foot

The question arises, what did a Regiment of Foot actually look like? As wargamers we happily put a collection of thirty figures together and call it a 'regiment'. How many men were in a 'regiment' in real life? I'll try and have a go...

One of the problems that arises with the English Civil Wars/ British Civil Wars/ Wars of Three Kingdoms is the use of language and terminology. Many military terms start becoming more widespread in their use. We start coming across uniforms, regiments, companies, and battalia. From our standpoint in the 21st Century we have very specific views of what these terms mean; but in the 17th Century such terms, like spellings, had not been standardised. Throw into the mix large holes in our knowledge, due to a lack of records and documentation, and the best we can ever hope to achieve is a 'best guess'. With these caveats I set out on my quest.

The London Trained Bands and their structure is probably our best data mine for evidence. So I shall use the numbers from the LTB documentation. I also have a copy of Venn's Military and Maritime Discipline (1672) to hand which will help with layout. Unfortunately, Venn only illustrates company  level manoeuvres in his diagrams. I have not been able to locate a 'full regiment' diagram from the 17th Century so a little bit of Venn, Streeter and interpretation* have had to be employed.  

How many men in a Regiment of Foot?

The London Trained Bands mustered on Finsbury Fields on Tuesday 26th September 1643 (a number of Regiments were at Newbury, so their numbers are approximate). There numbers were as follows:-

Red Regiment - 1000 approx.

White Regiment - 1190

Yellow Regiment - 1024

Blue Regiment - 1000 approx.

Green Regiment - 863

Tower Hamlets Regiment - 1304

Westminster Regiment - 2018

Southwark Regiment - 1394

Green Auxiliaries - 1200 estimated

White Auxiliaries - 1000 estimated

Yellow Auxiliaries - 1000 estimated

Red Auxiliaries - 1000 estimated

Blue Auxiliaries - 1000 estimated

Orange Auxiliaries - 1000 estimated

How were they organised?

Regiments were organised in companies, Keith Roberts (writing in London & Liberty)describes the theoretical strengths of companies, but unfortunately does not provide the reference.

Colonel's Company - 200 men

Lieutenant Colonel's Company - 160 men

Sergeant-Major's Company - 140 men

A Captain's Company - 100 men

This gives an 'ideal' regiment of a colonel's, lieutenant-colonel, sergeant-major, and five captains' companies a strength of 1000 men. This fits with the figures for the London Trained Bands: we know that some regiments had more than five captains' companies. Westminster is a double strength regiment (as were Newcastle's, Manchester's Regiments amongst others).

Due to the constraints of my figure basing, and the physical size of my kitchen table I have settled upon 930 men (so slightly under strength), with a Regimental chaplain and a mounted Colonel for good measure.

Utilising Venn and Streeter's Plan of Naseby I have laid the regiment out in classic central pike block with two wings of musketeers. I have utilised the 'ideal' of 2:1 musket to pike ratio. An ideal that was probably more aspired to than ever actually achieved (at least until the New Modelled Army came into existence).

Ensigns, senior officers and drummers are centrally placed at the head of the pike block, other officers are arranged around the regiment. This regiment is probably a little too deep, again constraints of the kitchen table size I'm afraid.

My Twitter sneak-peek picture of a 1:1 Regiment of Foot post generated quite a bit of traffic and comment. Dr Stuart Jennings (author of A Very Gallant Gentleman) posted a  comment about the formation: "I've often wondered how, in this formation, the pike offered any protection to the musketeers?" Something that I had pondered myself, but given very little thought to. Is this a default formation that allows quick reactive manoeuvring to one of the many different defensive formations illustrated by Venn? 

Regardless, it is how Streeter illustrated Regiments of Foot at Naseby so, as regular readers (hello all eight of you) will know, it is my default setting.

Of course, all this is just theoretical: numbers fielded varied considerably, regiments were often brigaded together to make up numbers...

*I'm also utilising foot figures from across my collection, I'm not that daft to create a Regiment of Foot at 1:1 from scratch: hence ensigns from a number of my units, and I've had to use my existing bases.

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  1. Dr Jenning's question is a good one. As companies had a mix of pike and shot, it makes sense to me that the whole company would muster together, rather than being put into new composite formations. At that level, I think the pike does offer more immediate protection. Maybe Venn and Streeter are using the company to illustrate the regiment, just as wargamers do? However, that's not to rule out brigading of discrete files of shot and pike for specific purposes. For example as pike heavy assault formations or as musket heavy skirmishers.

    1. Agreed, but in this house Streeter rules! (And is responsible for quite a few things)

    2. I always wondered the same thing about the‘traditional’ formation of a regiment/battalion. I don’t know if it applied to this period but in the 18th century in some armies, the company was a purely administrative unit. 5 company Prussian battalions, for example, formed up in 8 platoons for combat. Splitting companies up to fight might even have had its origins in the pike and shot era?

    3. I have thought the same as Dex McHenry. The contemporary illustration above seems to show a company, representing a regiment. What a mess it would be if all the drills practiced were based on the company and then on the day of battle the companies were effectively broken up and musketeers many yards away from the pikemen they had been drilling with.

    4. Being limited by the size of my kitchen table didn't help much: companies of musketeers were separated from one another by 2 yards iirc. So possibly not quite as chaotic as it looks.

      The Trained Bands certainly mustered and drilled en masses, so possibly less of an issue for them - I wonder how well drilled the volunteer regiments were at Edgehill for example.

  2. Great post, very thought provoking. The comments are interesting as I have often wondered how a 1000 man regiment of foot could possibly be controlled on the battlefield, especially early war. Looking at your photos I can imagine total chaos trying to drill this mass of troops, firing by introduction for example! As a former Sealed knot pikeman I cannot imagine being in the middle of such a massive block, I was crushed and lifted off my feet in the middle of a 24 man block, struggling for breath at one point but luckily wearing armour. Excellent food for thought this.

    1. Thanks Lee - interesting to hear an insight from inside a pike block.

  3. Wow... that's hugely impressive in appearance... interesting comments. My only small contribution would be on the size of those trained band regiments.. by my (limited for sure) reading they are huge! Most of the Royalist regiments seem to have been 50-75% of that (they seem to be somewhere on the axis 5-700)

    1. Thanks Steve. Agreed the pictures have triggered some very interesting discussion. The LTB are enormous, but we're the most reliable figures that I could find (and also those closest to the drill manual 'ideal')

  4. Elton details how to deploy a Regiment of foot with multiple companies (IIRC he does this for regiments of 6 up to 12 companies) in each case he details how the pike men and musketeers are drawn forth and distributed to the flanks and centre of the regiment.

    I also recall a secondary source (or possibly tertiary) quoting Tilley as stating that there was a maximum to the number of files of shot which should be used on each wing of a regiment so they would be able to run to shelter safely. Of course having read it and though ‘ooh useful’ now I can’t track down the reference!

    Dave Geldard - Elenderils blogspot “small but perfectly formed”

  5. Read all the above with great interest as I, for one, had never understood how so many musketeers could "shelter" under the lee of so few pikes - it just never made sense. It still doesn't actually - I mean, how did they actually seek cover? Did they (a) all round around to the rear of the pike block, or (b) form a square/circle around the pikes, crouch down and try and keep out of the way, or (c) did they fall back into the ranks of the pike and continue with "useful sniping"? Or (d) something else?

    I suppose there was a logical progression from the large landsknecht-style pike blocks of the previous century, with a few shot (mostly calivers, maybe some early muskets) operating around the fringes - which does make sense in terms of relative numbers of the two troop types. Then one type seems to have "grown" and the other "shrunk".....

    I wonder if people were beginning to realise this, from a tactical perspective, and that is why "battalia" - typically 5-600 men in total - start to appear? These would be far more manageable than massive 1,000+ regiments. I must confess that I don't pretend to have any insight into this era - my area of expertise is very much the AWI/1770s-1780s, by which point the pike was largely (not quite entirely) a curiosity. By that time, the biggest threat to infantry in line was being caught in flank or rear by horsemen (thankfully rare in N America at this time), although frontal and even rear attacks could be fought off by maintaining a steady formation and just pouring as much lead into the horse as possible. Anyway, thanks for a useful discussion.


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