Army formation: veterans at the first line

Army formation: veterans at the first line

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I am trying to understand the early roman legion deployment. I can see some advantages to putting the inexperienced warriors at the first line and the veterans at the last.

But have there been armies, that put the most experienced soldiers in the front row consistently? What are the advantages to such an approach?

Basically, the time to put veterans in the front line is when you are in an attacking mode. That is, you put your shock troops in front so that they can actually deliver a shock.

In a defensive mode, you put your less experienced troops in front 1) to give them experience and 2) to have them absorb casualties and spare your veterans. If and when the enemy breaks through, your veterans are available for a counterattack (the shock phase of the battle).

In the "olique" formation, generals would put their best troops at the "cutting edge," and "refuse the flank" with their weaker (backup) troops.

If your veterans are broken, your inexperienced warriors cannot help. Once the inexperienced are broken, the veterans can help. This is simple. If you put veterans in front row, you can rely only on them, and the young warriors are completely useless.

The Greek phalanx often deployed the most elite soldiers on the right flank of the formation.

Hanson writes as follows in Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience(emphasis mine)

Each individual hoplite carried his shield on the left arm, protecting not only himself but the soldier to the left. This meant that the men at the extreme right of the phalanx were only half-protected. In battle, opposing phalanxes would exploit this weakness by attempting to overlap the enemy's right flank. It also meant that, in battle, a phalanx would tend to drift to the right (as hoplites sought to remain behind the shield of their neighbour). The most experienced hoplites were often placed on the right side of the phalanx, to avoid these problems.

The most expirienced soldiers would not form the whole front row, but the most important part of it.

History of the Army's Basic Branches

Ten companies of riflemen were authorized by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. However, the oldest Regular Army infantry regiment, the 3d, was constituted on June 3, 1784, as the First American Regiment.

Adjutant General's Corps, June 16, 1775

The post of Adjutant General was established June 16, 1775, and has been continuously in operation since that time. The Adjutant General's Department, by that name, was established by the act of March 3, 1813, and was redesignated the Adjutant General's Corps in 1950.

Continental Congress authority for a "Chief Engineer for the Army" dates from June 16, 1775. A corps of Engineers for the United States was authorized by the Congress on March 11, 1779. The Corps of Engineers as it is known today came into being on March 16, 1802, when the President was authorized to "organize and establish a Corps of Engineers . that the said Corps . shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a Military Academy." A Corps of Topographical Engineers, authorized on July 4, 1838, was merged with the Corps of Engineers on March 1863.

Finance Corps, June 16, 1775

The Finance Corps is the successor to the old Pay Department, which was created in June 1775. The Finance Department was created by law on July 1, 1920. It became the Finance Corps in 1950.

Quartermaster Corps, June 16, 1775

The Quartermaster Corps, originally designated the Quartermaster Department, was established on June 16, 1775. While numerous additions, deletions, and changes of function have occurred, its basic supply and service support functions have continued in existence.

Air Defense Artillery and Field Artillery, November 17, 1775

The Continental Congress unanimously elected Henry Knox "Colonel of the Regiment of Artillery" on November 17, 1775. The regiment formally entered service on January 1, 1776.

Armor, December 12, 1776

The Armor branch traces its origin to the Cavalry. A regiment of cavalry was authorized to be raised by the Continental Congress Resolve of December 12, 1776. Although mounted units were raised at various times after the Revolution, the first in continuous service was the United States Regiment of Dragoons, organized in 1833. The Tank Service was formed on March 5, 1918. The Armored Force was formed on July 10, 1940. Armor became a permanent branch of the Army in 1950.

Ordnance Corps, May 14, 1812

The Ordnance Department was established by act of Congress on May 14, 1812. During the Revolutionary War, ordnance material was under supervision of the Board of War and Ordnance. Numerous shifts in duties and responsibilities have occurred in the Ordnance Corps since colonial times. It acquired its present designation in 1950.

Signal Corps, June 21, 1860

The Signal Corps was authorized as a separate branch of the Army by act of Congress on March 3, 1863. However, the Signal Corps dates its existence from June 21, 1860, when Congress authorized the appointment of one signal officer in the Army, and a War Department order carried the following assignment: "Signal Department--Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer to be Signal Officer, with the rank of Major, June 27, 1860, to fill an original vacancy."

Chemical Corps, June 28, 1918

The Chemical Warfare Service was established on June 28, 1918, combining activities that until then had been dispersed among five separate agencies of Government. It was made a permanent branch of the Regular Army by the National Defense Act of 1920. In 1945, it was redesignated the Chemical Corps.

Military Police Corps, September 26, 1941

A Provost Marshal General's Office and Corps of Military Police were established in 1941. Prior to that time, except during the Civil War and World War I, there was no regularly appointed Provost Marshal General or regularly constituted Military Police Corps, although a "Provost Marshal" can be found as early as January 1776, and a "Provost Corps" as early as 1778.

Transportation Corps, July 31, 1942

The historical background of the Transportation Corps starts with World War I. Prior to that time, transportation operations were chiefly the responsibility of the Quartermaster General. The Transportation Corps, essentially in its present form, was organized on July 31, 1942.

Military Intelligence, July 1, 1962

Intelligence has been an essential element of Army operations during war as well as during periods of peace. In the past, requirements were met by personnel from the Army Intelligence and Army Security Reserve branches, two-year obligated tour officers, one-tour levies on the various branches, and Regular Army officers in the specialization programs. To meet the Army's increased requirement for national and tactical intelligence, an Intelligence and Security Branch was established in the Army effective July 1, 1962, by General Orders No. 38, July 3, 1962. On July 1, 1967, the branch was redesignated as Military Intelligence.

Aviation, April 12, 1983

Following the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service in 1947, the Army began to develop further its own aviation assets (light planes and rotary wing aircraft) in support of ground operations. The Korean War gave this drive impetus, and the war in Vietnam saw its fruition, as Army aviation units performed a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, transport, and fire support. After the war in Vietnam, the role of armed helicopters as tank destroyers received new emphasis. In recognition of the growing importance of aviation in Army doctrine and operations, Aviation became a separate branch on April 12, 1983, and a full member of the Army's combined arms team.

Special Forces, April 9, 1987

The first Special Forces unit in the Army was formed on June 11, 1952, when the 10th Special Forces Group was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A major expansion of Special Forces occurred during the 1960s, with a total of eighteen groups organized in the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. As a result of renewed emphasis on special operations in the 1980s, the Special Forces Branch was established as a basic branch of the Army effective April 9, 1987, by General Orders No. 35, June 19, 1987.


Army Medical Department, July 27, 1775

The Army Medical Department and the Medical Corps trace their origins to July 27, 1775, when the Continental Congress established the Army hospital headed by a "Director General and Chief Physician." Congress provided a medical organization of the Army only in time of war or emergency until 1818, which marked the inception of a permanent and continuous Medical Department.

The Army Nurse Corps dates from 1901, the Dental Corps from 1911, the Veterinary Corps from 1916, the Medical Service Corps from 1917, and the Army Medical Specialist Corps from 1947. The Army Organization Act of 1950 renamed the Medical Department as the Army Medical Service. On June 4, 1968, the Army Medical Service was redesignated the Army Medical Department.

Chaplains, July 29, 1775

The legal origin of the Chaplains is found in a resolution of the Continental Congress, adopted July 29, 1775, which made provision for the pay of chaplains. The Office of the Chief of Chaplains was created by the National Defense Act of 1920.

Judge Advocate General's Corps, July 29, 1775

The Office of Judge Advocate of the Army may be deemed to have been created on July 29, 1775, and has generally paralleled the origin and development of the American system of military justice. The Judge Advocate General's Department, by that name, was established in 1884. Its present designation as a corps was enacted in 1948.

Civil Affairs, August 17, 1955

The Civil Affairs/Military Government Branch in the Army Reserve Branch was established on August 17, 1955. Subsequently redesignated the Civil Affairs Branch on October 2, 1959, it has continued its mission to provide guidance to commanders in a broad spectrum of activities ranging from host-guest relationships to the assumption of executive, legislative, and judicial processes in occupied or liberated areas.

The Greek Phalanx

The early Roman army, however, was a different thing altogether than the later imperial army. At first, under the Etruscan Kings, the massive Greek phalanx was the mode of battle. Early Roman soldiers hence must have looked much like Greek hoplites.

A key moment in Roman history was the introduction of the census (the counting of the people) under Servius Tullius. With this the citizens were graded into five classes, from these classes were in varying degrees recruited the ranks of the army.

The most wealthy, the first class, were the most heavily armed, equipped like the Greek hoplite warrior with helmet, round shield, greaves and breastplate, all of bronze, and carrying a spear and sword. The lesser classes bore lesser armament and weaponry, the fifth class carrying no armour at all, solely armed with slings.

The army officers as well as the cavalry were drawn from leading citizens who were enrolled as Equestrians (Equites).

All in all the Roman army consisted of 18 centuries of equites, 82 centuries of the first class (of which 2 centuries were engineers), 20 centuries each of the second, third and fourth classes and 32 centuries of the fifth class (of which 2 centuries were trumpeters).

In the early fourth century BC Rome received its greatest humiliation, as the Gauls sacked Rome itself. If Rome was to reestablish her authority of central Italy, and be prepared to meet any similar disasters in future, some reorganization was needed.

These changes were traditionally by the later Romans believed to have been the work of the great hero Fluvius Camillus, but it appears more likely that the reforms were introduced gradually during the second half of the fourth century BC.

Undoubtedly the most important change was the abandonment of the use of the Greek phalanx. Italy was not governed by city states like Greece, where armies met on large plains, deemed suitable by both sides, to reach a decision.

Far more it was a collection of hill tribes using the difficult terrain to their advantage. Something altogether more flexible was needed to combat such foes than the unwieldy, slow-moving phalanx.

Army formation: veterans at the first line - History

In 1775, when this country was striving for independence and existence, the nation’s leaders were confronted with the problem of not only establishing a government but also of organizing an army that was already engaged in war. From the "shot heard around the world," on 19 April 1775, until Valley Forge in 1778, revolutionary forces were little more than a group of civilians fighting Indian-style against well-trained, highly disciplined British Redcoats. For three years, General George Washington’s troops had endured many hardships--lack of funds, rations, clothing, and equipment. In addition, they had suffered loss after loss to the superior British forces. These hardships and losses mostly stemmed from the lack of a military atmosphere in country. Thus, an army was created with little or no organization, control, discipline, or teamwork.

Recognizing the crisis, General Washington, through Benjamin Franklin, the American Ambassador to France, enlisted the aid of a Prussian officer, Baron Friedrich von Steuben. Upon his arrival at Valley Forge on 23 February 1778, von Steuben, a former staff officer with Frederick the Great, met an army of several thousand half-starved, wretched men in rags. He commented that a European army could not be kept together in such a state. To correct the conditions that prevailed, he set to work immediately and wrote drill movements and regulations at night and taught them the following day to a model company of 120 men selected from the line.

Discipline became a part of military life for these selected individuals as they learned to respond to command without hesitation. This new discipline instilled in the individual a sense of alertness, urgency, and attention to detail. Confidence in himself and his weapon grew as each man perfected the fifteen l-second movements required to load and fire his musket. As the Americans mastered the art of drill, they began to work as a team and to develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit.

Watching this model company drill, observers were amazed to see how quickly and orderly the troops could be massed and maneuvered into different battle formations. Officers observed that organization, chain of command, and control were improved as each man had a specific place and task within the formation. Later, the members of the model company were distributed throughout the Army to teach drill. Through drill, they improved the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Army.

To ensure continuity and uniformity, von Steuben, by then a major general and the Army Inspector General, wrote the first Army field manual in 1779, The Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly referred to as the Blue Book. The drill procedures initiated at Valley Forge were not changed for 85 years, until the American Civil War, and many of the drill terms and procedures are in effect today.

Drill commands are about the same as at the time of the War of 1812, except that then the officers and noncommissioned officers began them by saying, "Take care to face to the right, right, face." Also, during the American revolutionary period, troops marched at a cadence of 76 steps a minute instead of the current cadence of 120 steps. Then units performed precise movement on the battlefield, and the army that could perform them best was often able to get behind the enemy, or on his flank, and thus beat him. Speed spoiled the winning exactness. Also, firearms did not shoot far or accurately in 1776, so troop formations could take more time to approach the enemy.

As armament and weaponry have improved, drill has had to adapt to new tactical concepts. Although the procedures taught in drill today are not normally employed on the battlefield, the objectives accomplished by drill--teamwork, confidence, pride, alertness, attention to detail, esprit de corps, and discipline--are just as important to the modern Army as they were to the Continental Army.

Military Music Origins
The earliest surviving pictorial, sculptured, and written records show musical or quasimusical instruments employed in connection with military activity for signaling during encampments, parades, and combat. Because the sounds were produced in the open air, the instruments have tended to be brass and percussion types. Oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and American Indian chronicles and pictorial remains show trumpets and drums of many varieties allied to soldiers and battles. ( Ceremonial Music Online )

Bugle Calls
These are used in US military service as the result of the Continental Army’s contact with the soldiers and armies from Europe during the revolutionary period. After the American Revolution, many of the French (and English) bugle calls and drum beats were adopted by the United States Army. (Bugle Calls)

The 24-note melancholy bugle call known as "taps" is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal, called "tattoo," t ha t notified soldiers to cease an evening's drinking and return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final bugle call to end the day by extinguishing fires and lights. The last five measures of the tattoo resemble taps.

The word "taps" is an alteration of the obsolete word "taptoo," derived from the Dutch "taptoe." Taptoe was the command - "Tap toe!" - to shut ("toe to") the "tap" of a keg.

The revision that gave us present-day taps was made during America's Civil War by Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield, heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Va., near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army's infantry call to end the day was the French final call, "L'Extinction des feux." Gen. Butterfield decided the "lights out" music was too formal to signal the day's end. One day in July, 1862 he recalled the tattoo music and hummed a version of it to an aide, who wrote it down in music. Butterfield then asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes and, after listening, lengthened and shortened them while keeping his original melody.

He ordered Norton to play this new call at the end of each day thereafter, instead of the regulation call. The music was heard and appreciated by other brigades, who asked for copies and adopted this bugle call. It was even adopted by Confederate buglers.

The Ceremony of Beating Retreat
The actual origin of this ceremony remains obscure but there is no doubt that it was one of the earliest to be instituted in the British Army. One of the first references to the ceremony, which was then called Watch Setting, was made in the 'Rule and Ordynaunces for the Warre', circa 1554.

It appears that the original call was beaten by drums alone, and that it was some years before the fifes were introduced. The bugle came at a later date still, and the present ceremony of having a band paraded is a modem innovation, which is purely used as a spectacle.

In days gone by, the hours of darkness brought a cessation of hostilities until the following day. The object of the call was to rally the guards necessary to secure the encampment for the night. It was also a warning for those outside the encampment or garrison to retire or else they would be kept outside until the next morning.

There is often confusion between a 'Retreat' and a 'Tattoo', The distinction was made in the General Orders of the Duke of Cumberland 'the Retreat is to be beat at Sunset', whereas 'the Tattoo is to be beat at ten, nine or eight o'clock at night'.

In 1799, the General Regulations and Orders for the Conduct of HM Armed Forces in Great Britain, laid down that it shall be "beat at sunset" and this is repeated in all editions of King's (and Queen's) Regulations down to the present day.

Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!"

Army formation: veterans at the first line - History

A variety of weapons was carried at Gettysburg. Revolvers, swords, and bayonets were abundant, but the basic infantry weapon of both armies was a muzzle-loading rifle musket about 4.7 feet long, weighing approximately 9 pounds. They came in many models, but the most common and popular were the Springfield and the English-made Enfield. They were hard hitting, deadly weapons, very accurate at a range of 200 yards and effective at 1,000 yards. With black powder, ignited by percussion caps, they fired "Minie Balls"—hollow-based lead slugs half an inch in diameter and an inch long. A good soldier could load and fire his rifle three times a minute, but in the confusion of battle the rate of fire was probably slower.

There were also some breech-loading small arms at Gettysburg. Union cavalrymen carried Sharps and Burnside single-shot carbines and a few infantry units carried Sharps rifles. Spencer repeating rifles were used in limited quantity by Union cavalry on July 3 and by a few Union infantry. In the total picture of the battle, the use of these efficient weapons was actually quite small.

US CIvil War Tactics and Strategy Map

US Civil War Strategy and Tactics Plan Map

Almost all of the bronze pieces were 12 pounders, either howitzers or "Napoleons." They could hurl a 12-pound iron ball nearly a mile and were deadly at short ranges, particularly when firing canister. Other bronze cannon included 24 pounder howitzers and 6 pounder guns. All types are represented in the park today, coated with patina instead of being polished as they were when in use.

Two other types of rifled guns were used at Gettysburg—four bronze James guns and two Whitworth rifles. The Whitworths were unique because they were breech loading and were reported to have had exceptional range and accuracy. However, their effect at Gettysburg must have been small for one was out of action much of the time.

These artillery pieces used three types of ammunition. All cannon could fire solid projectiles or shot. They also hurled fused, hollow shells which contained black powder and sometimes held lead balls or shrapnel. Canister consisted of cans filled with iron or lead balls. These cans burst apart on firing, converting the cannon into an oversized shotgun.

Weapons influenced tactics. At Gettysburg a regiment formed for battle, fought, and moved in a two rank line, its men shoulder to shoulder, the file closets in the rear. Since the average strength of regiments here was only 350 officers and men, the length of a regiment's line was a little over 100 yards. Such a formation brought the regiment's slow-firing rifles together under the control of the regimental commander, enabling him to deliver a maximum of fire power at a given target. The formation's shallowness had a two-fold purpose, it permitted all ranks to fire, and it presented a target of minimum depth to the enemy's fire.

Four or five regiments were grouped into a brigade, two to five brigades formed a division. When formed for the attack, a brigade moved forward in a single or double line of regiments until it came within effective range of the enemy line. Then both parties blazed away, attempting to gain the enemy's flank if feasible, until one side or the other was forced to retire. Confederate attacking forces were generally formed with an attacking line in front and a supporting line behind. Federal brigades in the defense also were formed with supporting troops in a rear line when possible. Breastworks were erected if time permitted, but troops were handicapped in this work because entrenching tools were in short supply.

Like their infantry comrades, cavalrymen also fought on foot, using their horses as means of transportation. However, mounted charges were also made in the classic fashion, particularly in the great cavalry battle on July 3.

Cavalry and infantry were closely supported by artillery. Batteries of from four to six guns occupied the crests of ridges and hills from which a field of fire could be obtained. They were usually placed in the forward lines, protected by supporting infantry regiments posted on their flanks or in their rear. Limbers containing their ammunition were nearby. Because gunners had to see their targets, artillery positions sheltered from the enemy's view were still in the future.

What Does the Future Hold for the AVF?

Today, with nearly 160,000 troops engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the AVF is being tested again. Military commanders continually point to the outstanding job the force is doing in this nontraditional military conflict. Remarkably, while enlistments have fallen off, retention remains at historically high levels. There were initial fears that soldiers would not reenlist if they had to redeploy even once into combat zones. However, the Army reports that some soldiers are now completing their third and fourth tours. Through improved pay and benefits for the military, America has demonstrated that it values an AVF. Our troops have likewise demonstrated their commitment through their willingness to serve.

A final judgment on the AVF has not yet been made. Indeed, it will always be a work in progress. However, the past 30 years &mdash and particularly the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan &mdash demonstrate that an AVF can be sustained during both peace and war. The dual challenges of longer periods of conflict and recurring deployments are formidable. There are no guarantees of permanent success. But, so far, the AVF has proven to be a resilient institution.

Black Soldiers in the First World War

As part of Black History Month, we remember the significant contribution of black soldiers to the British cause during the First World War.

Black soldiers have been a part of British military history since before the formation of a standing Army in the 17th century. Their involvement increased dramatically in the 19th century. From the global crisis of the Napoleonic Wars to the Boer War, soldiers from Africa and the Caribbean played a crucial role within the Army.

However, at no time has the service of black soldiers been more extensive than in the first half of the 20th century. During the First World War many men from Britain’s small black communities joined the war effort, including the professional footballer Walter Tull. Many more from Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean made their way across the Atlantic to enlist.

Over 15,000 men from the Caribbean are thought to have joined the Army during this period, including 10,000 from Jamaica. Most were posted to the British West Indies Regiment, which was established 100 years ago this month.

Despite their courage and commitment, black soldiers often suffered racial prejudice. Concerned at the number of black men enlisting, the War Office rejected several Caribbean volunteers in the early months of the war. They even threatened to repatriate any West Indians arriving in Britain.

There was also a reluctance to deploy West Indian soldiers in front-line positions, especially on the Western Front. Instead, they were given support roles, performing labour-intensive duties away from the fighting. This was based on a racial stereotype that Caribbean men lacked ‘martial spirit’. However, towards the end of the conflict, two battalions of the British West Indies Regiment saw front-line action during the campaign in Palestine.

At the same time, African troops and labourers played a key role both in containing the Germans in East Africa, and defeating them in West Africa. The local inhabitants were better able to cope with the climate and conditions than their European and Indian comrades. By the end of the First World War, most of the British Army in Africa was made up of African soldiers.

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Army formation: veterans at the first line - History

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