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Orders of Battle during the Italian Wars
Posted 26 Feb 2003
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The company was the building block of Infantry organisation (Heath, 1997). Larger units were made up of a number of companies. The company was not, however, necessarily a battlefield formation. The Pike and shot components of a company were usually deployed separately in the field.
In proportions of pike to shot, I've included command elements, swordsmen etc in the pike component. Although not strictly accurate this gives a reasonable approximation of the fire power of the unit relative to its size.
The initial expedition to Italy had a high proportion of crossbows and sword-and-buckler men (Gush, 1975). The former were gradually replaced by arquebusiers and the latter by pikemen. [Gush, 1975, suggests the infantry were initially organised into Colunelas of 600 men in three squadrons.]
A Spanish vandera or bandera (literally Ensign, but meaning company) were initially from 100 to 300 men (Heath, 1997). Companies were either pike (initially a mix of 2/3 Pike and 1/3 Shot) or Shot (100% Shot). They had 15-25 muskets per company, depending on the period and unit,. (Heath points out that Parker, 1972, mistakenly omits the Arquebusiers from the "Pike" companies, which would mean they only have 20 Musketeers, which is unlikely.)
20 Spanish c, coronelias, or colonellias, (little columns) were created in 1505 (Gush, 1975; Heath, 1997). The first batch had a 1,000 to 1,500 men, but subsequently a column could have fewer men. Pikes predominated, but they were supported by up to 20% sword and buckler men, a few halberdiers, and the remainder arquebusiers.
The Spanish tercios (thirds) appeared in the 1530s, when the existing cwere grouped into threes (Gush, 1976). From 1566 four or five typically served in the Netherlands at any one time (Heath, 1997). They had 1,500 to 8,300, but averaging 3,000 to 4,000; Gush, says the tercios of the 16th century were probably only 1,500 to 3,000 men. The pike component started at 50% but fell after our period. The remainder were shot. Shot was predominately arquebusiers, although there were 15-20 musketeers per company (about 10% of the whole)
Escuadróns (squadrons) were the most common Spanish battlefield formation during the tercio period (Heath, 1997). They comprised of selected companies for particular purposes and could be from a few hundred to several thousand men. The shot companies of several tercio were sometimes grouped in this way.
For the greater part of the 16th century the Spanish foot soldiers were the best in Europe (Heath, 1997). Until the introduction of the reforms of Maurice of Nassau in the 1590s Spanish infantry were clearly superior to their Dutch opponents.
Italian infantry were organised like the Spanish, i.e. in colonelli and tercio (Heath, 1997).
German Fähnlein (companies) were bigger than their Spanish counterparts (Heath, 1997). Miller (1976) gives them as 400 men in the early 16th Century. At that time 300 had pike, 50 two-handed swords or halberds, and the final 50 had arquebus (12%).
Germans infantry never used tercio, being organised into regiments instead (Heath, 1997), although Miller (1976) shows a very similar German formation (Gevierte Ordnung) from 1540 where the regimental pike block has four small sleeves of shot.
German regiments were bigger than their Spanish counterparts, comprising five to ten companies of 300-500 men each (Heath, 1997). This would give a regimental size of 1,500 to 5,000 men, i.e. pretty much like a tercio.
Corneta or Vanen (Cornet) or Tropa (Troop)
Typically a Spanish cornet was 60-100 men (Heath, 1997).
German cornets were 150-200 strong (Heath, 1997).
Trozo, Cavalry Tercio, Cavalry Regiment
Three to eight Spanish cornets (typically three to six) formed a Trozo (Heath, 1997). Probably just an administrative formation.
The typical battlefield formation for cavalry was a temporary group of 300-600 men (Heath, 1997). Some German groups had up to 1,000.
The Spanish used four specific calibres of artillery: cannon, demi-cannon, quarter-cannon or field-piece, and eight-cannon or falcon (Heath, 1997). Cannon were only used in sieges. The other types had gun carriages and limbers. Normally only half a dozen were used in a battle.
Brzenzinski, R. (1995). The Army of Gustavus Adolphus 1: Infantry [Men-at-Arms 235]. Osprey.
Heath, I. (1997). Armies of the Sixteenth Century: The Armies of England, Ireland, the United Provinces, and the Spanish Netherlands 1487-1609. Foundry Books.
Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.
Part of this book are available on-line on the myArmoury site:
Miller, D. (1976). The Landsknechts [Men-At-Arms 58]. Osprey.
Oman, C. (1987). A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Greenhill Books. Originally published 1937.
Parker, G. (1972). The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659: The logistics of Spanish Victory and Defeat in the Low Countries' Wars. Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, F. (1993). The art of war in Italy 1494-1529 (originally published 1921). Essex, UK: Partizan Press.