A weapon that in one shape or form had dominated battlefields since Alexander the Great’s phalanx, the pike was considered to be the most honorable weapon and fit for gentlemen to carry. Not that many gentlemen would have carried one. Carrying a 16-18ft ash pike, with its tip and sheaths of steel or iron, both in battle and on the march, required the strongest and sturdiest of men.
Pikemen were formed into dense pike blocks whose defensive role was to protect the slow loading musketeers, especially from fast moving cavalry.In offense the pike were used to break the enemy’s formation, engaging first at the ‘charge’ with pikes leveled against each other. Then they would close to ‘push of pike’ as pike blocks literally rammed into each other (somewhat like a modern rugby scrum). Sheer strength and courage determined who was driven back and broke first. To protect them pikemen wore a helmet and back and breast armour. As the Civil war went on armour was discarded in favour of mobility and manoeuvrability.
By the time of the Civil Wars the musket was becoming the dominant weapon on the battlefield.
A musket barrel would have been around 4 1/2 feet (1.4 metres) long and would fire a lead ‘bullet’ weighing around an ounce. With an accurate range of only around 50 yards and a slow and complex re-loading procedure the musket was only militarily decisive when used in mass formations.
The impact of receiving musket fire would have been devastating as the heavy, low velocity lead balls tore in to the densely packed ranks of pikemen or musket blocks.
The drill for reloading was slow and complicated. Gunpowder was poured down the barrel. The bal dropped in and rammed home with a piece of wadding or cloth to keep it in place. The priming pan at the breech was filled with a finer-grain gunpowder and covered with a swivelling lid. The smouldering match cord, held in place by a serpent shaped arm was held in front of the priming pan. Pull the trigger, the pan cover opened; the match dropped igniting the priming powder, sending a spark through the touch-hole to fire the main charge and propelling the ‘bullet’ out of the barrel. Then start the whole process over again.
Simple? Stay focused, concentrate and ignore the cavalry bearing down on you; the enemy musket block preparing to fire at you and the enraged faces of the advancing pike block whose comrades lay dead or wounded from your volley.
Nothing is more stirring and evocative than the sound of the drums, whether putting heart into your own troops or striking fear in your enemies at the sound of your advance.
The drums are the 'voice' of the Regiment. Formed in mass ranks, they are the only way of relaying orders from the commander to the troops above the noise and chaos of the battlefield. The sound of drums carries further and faster than any messenger can reach.
The drummers themselves also have a unique role to play. Not only are they the voice to your own side, they are also the means to communicate to the enemy. Soldier's superstition said it was unlucky to kill a drummer. Taking full advantage of this a commander would send a drummer to invite his enemy counterpart to a parley - to invite them to quit the field or agree surrender terms
Considered specialist rather than regular soldiers, pioneers and sappers were essential in constructing defence works to keep attackers out and on the other side, breaching siege and defence works to get the attackers in. Theirs was a dangerous task, carried out under the most difficult conditions and often the most exposed to the enemy, leading to a variety of specialist weapons.
In today’s re-enactments the role of the pioneer is equally vital. It’s a great battlefield role, without having to pick up a weapon.
The pioneers are very much on the front-line with the fighting troops, ensuring they are supplied with water and the ‘eyes and ears’ on the morale and safety of the ‘men’. Every soldier looks to the pioneers. Every good commander relies on them. Good pioneers, keep their unit in the fight!
The army would have been followed by their baggage train and potentially a large number of camp followers.
This would have comprised artisans that the army relied on and the families of some of the soldiers, who had a vital role to play in foraging, cooking and tending for the wounded. It wasn’t easy being a camp follower. The long marches. Frequently the camp and the baggage train were attacked during or after the battle, or by the hostile local population. Death was always close at hand with the diseases that frequently swept the camp. And after the battle searching for your husband, brother or father – to find them dead or wounded.
The army would march between major towns and garrisons where it could replenish stores and supplies.
In between it would rely on the local villages and communities it would pass through, imposing a huge demand for food and other supplies and the skills of the craftsmen needed to keep the army equipped
What does it cost
Membership of the Sealed Knot. This costs between £39 for single memberhsip and £55 for family membership, each year. This includes your insurance while you're taking part, access to our campsite and on site entertainment and facilites at our major events.
Clothing and equipment. We’re here to help with advice and with the loan of clothing and ‘kit’ to get you started and then you can build up from there. There's an active second hand market, specialist traders and even a bi-annual market. It's probably cheaper than golf!
You can even 'rent' a living history tent for the weekend (subject to availability)