New Model Army Musketeer :
The British Civil Wars were a ghastly business : recent studies have suggested that the number of people who died as a result of them were a higher proportion of the population than in any other war in our history , including the Great War .
The causes were very complex , involving a religious revolt in Scotland and an ethnic and religious revolt against colonisation in Ireland , but in England it was a struggle for power between a weak king who attempted to impose hated policies without consulting anyone , and the emerging middle classes , who demanded a say in Government ; the result was nine years of fighting , ending with an eleven-year Republic including England , Scotland and Ireland .
It was not a success , but although the Monarchy returned in 1660 , its powers were curtailed , and the constitutional settlement that eventually emerged in 1688 was the basis of our present Government arrangements.
The struggle started in earnest in 1642 , with both sides , the King and Parliament , frantically raising troops from their areas of influence . For the next three years the war was evenly balanced , until the Parliament , frustrated with their failure to achieve a decision despite their superior wealth and resources in manpower , reorganised their regional small armies into a new , single army.
This became known as The ” New Model “ Army , commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax , and it is really the start of the British Army as it exists today : some of its units have had a continuous existence from that time until the present .
This army received its baptism in the summer of 1645 at Naseby , where , after a wobbly start , it destroyed the King’s infantry , going on to win the war over the next eighteen months in a series of seiges and battles.
Many of the captured Royalist Foot , offered good terms , joined its ranks.
It stayed in being , going on to conquer Ireland ( in a very confused state of sectarian war at the time ) and eventually Scotland, when the Scots , previously Parliament’s allies , changed sides .
It never lost a battle .
By being the first standing army in England , it became a power in its own right , and the Horse at least were highly politicised . Its triumph led to the Trial and execution of the King in 1649, the supplanting of Parliament by Cromwell and his supporters and the constitutional experiments that followed : that is another , and very complex story .
Suffice it to say that without the New Model Army the idea of one man one vote might not have emerged for another two centuries .
The New Model was formed from three existing forces : The Earl of Essex’s Army , Sir William Waller’s Army , and the Army of the Eastern Association .
It had twelve Regiments of Foot , each of a nominal 1200 men , and from the outset efforts were made to clothe and equip it in a uniform manner, though it was probably about a year before they achieved this goal .
Its soldiers were not the first English troops to wear red , but this time all the Infantry were thus clad , with each regiment having its coat lined in one of a range of different colours, the beginning of the coloured facings so familiar from later centuries .
We are fortunate to have some surviving contracts describing the uniforms , and the figure is based closely on what we can surmise from these , and other documents.
It’s remarkable that there is not a single surviving colour illustration of a British common soldier from this period: we have a few crude little woodcuts , some European paintings showing contemporary Continental troops ( mostly wealthy Dutch militia ) , and plenty of portraits of the officers , but none of the British private soldier .
A great deal of work by enthusiasts over recent years has come to a sort of consensus about what he may have looked like , but there are still some problems which we can probably never solve .
His uniform and equipment are largely as newly issued, and if not have been “ acquired “ in various ways .
The felt hat he” found” : most soldier were issued with knitted or cloth caps because they were cheaper.
He has a linen shirt over which he wears an old grey doublet ( in rags ) and his relatively new issue coat , of red broadcloth with a yellow lining : we believe Skippon’s Regiment were faced in yellow.
The first contracts specify the length of these( 29 1/4 “ ) , and that they were to be made from 1 yard of broadcloth, which is 60” wide. The only way that this can be done is to cut the coat in straight sections , without the usual flare or waist found in civilian garments.
There is no mention of buttons , which were a fashion necessity at the time , but facing coloured “tapestrings” were provided : some reconstructions have thus shown the coat closed by tape bows at the front . Since no other 17c. male garment was ever fastened by tapes , this is rather strange, and the tapes may have been intended instead as edge binding of some sort . We shall probably never know.
Other coat contracts mention buttons , and pictures of soldiers, however crude, always show them in profusion , so perhaps the soldiers were expected to improvise and add their own buttons . Tin ones like these were common .
The issue breeches were of grey cloth , lined with linen , with chamois leather pockets . Stockings were mostly grey .
[ grey at this time normally meant undyed wool of brown and white sheep mixed] . The shoes are issued , from the frantically busy shoemakers of Northampton , and are
“ straights “ , sized , but without distinction of left and right They got through three or four pairs in a year , but being barefoot was not unfamiliar .
The snapsack is of oiled and waxed leather , containing a spare shirt if he has one , several days bread and cheese , and any personal items like a wooden cup and plate etc..
The musket is a matchlock , fired by fitting the glowing match in the serpentine match-holder , opening the priming pan , and pulling the trigger , which lowers the end of the match into the pan. Otherwise its performance is exactly the same as the contemporary and later flintlocks , firing a .75” ball with reasonable accuracy to 80 yards , and with little chance of hitting anything smaller than the proverbial barn much beyond that ; but it would still kill at 300 yards .
Some older authors have been misled by the elaborate illustrated training manuals( actually very good ) into regarding it as a hopelessly slow and cumbersome weapon : this is sheer ignorance. The manuals tell you exactly what to do , stage by stage with an illustration for each . If taught using one , you can operate the gun with safety and speed.
I have personally watched one fired twice a minute with ease and accuracy, which is not quite as fast as a flintlock , but well enough .
The fact was that massed musketry was becoming the deciding factor in battle , and the proportion of muskets to pikes in the Foot increased as the War progressed, from two to one , to four to one or more .
Musketeers normally formed in battle array six deep : each rank fired and then fell off to either side , allowing the next rank to fire . Six ranks was the minimum needed to allow the first rank to be ready when their time came again .
This pic , showing a Danish company ( the Danes also traditionally wore red coats ) in 1660 gives an idea of what a company looked like in formation .They are shown in five ranks : I rather suspect the artist ran out of space to show six !
Musketeers were also often used as skirmishers , almost in the Napoleonic sense , especially where they could use natural features to protect themselves from Horse .
A body of well-trained musketeers can also break up a charge of Horse , as had beeen discovered in the Thirty Years War in Germany ; this tactic was used in many ECW battles.
The use of the musket rest disappeared during the war : the slightly lighter muskets then being produced didn’t really need one , and they were a pain to carry , and complicated the loading process horribly if you were not to drop them
( see the manual above ).
The musket was still being loaded from the bandolier : twelve wooden chargers or “ boxes “ , containing about 5 drams each , and a spouted priming flask. The bullets and wads are carried in the bullet bag at the bottom , and there is a spare link of match .
Paper cartridges , which became standard later , were perfectly well known and used by some, but the supply of suitable paper was expensive and intermittent , and there was no system for making them en masse , so they were not used by the common musketeer.
The chief reason for the gradual abandonment of the matchlock later in the century was the consumption of match : 800 musketeers ( a Regiment ) burnt 800 feet per HOUR or more : that’s 266 YARDS of the stuff , a considerable weight and cost . Getting hold of it was often a problem on campaign , and there are accounts of all the beds in a town being stripped of their cording to make it
[ Beds at the time had a lacing of rope to support the mattress ].
The flintlock , which had only existed for about ten years prior to the war , was used by several units by 1645, had the advantage of always being ready to fire without that expense, and was certainly easier to use : but the rate of misfires was much higher . The matchlock , if the firer knows what he is doing , always works , except in heavy rain .
The sword is copied from a Tower “ pattern “ sword believed to have been issued at the time : they were mostly made in Hounslow .
They were a status symbol as much as a weapon : at close quarters the butt of the musket was much preferred .
Making the figure :
The coat and doublet are made from brushed cotton :“ Winceyette “, which I’ve dyed myself using Dylon hot dyes.
The breeches are from an old skirt .
Despite the “ tapestrings “ reference, I’ve given him buttons .
The hat is felt moulded over a block.
The shirt is real linen.
The shoes are leather , made over a Sculpey last.
The snapsack is thin sheepskin from Little Trimmings.
The stockings are tailored from a piece of grey tennis shirt which has a knitted weave.
All the various buckles and buttons are cast pewter .
The sword has a pewter hilt on a steel blade , in a wood and leather scabbard in a buff baldric.
The bandolier bottles are turned painted wood , blue with blue and white strings as specified in the contracts . I own an original bottle , and the blue paint is almost certainly
“ verditer “, a cheap synthetic sky blue pigment. They are mounted on a buff leather belt ( deerskin in this case).
The musket itself is wood and steel : I found a length of 6mm pipe at a local workshop , and filed it down to make the barrel ( it’s actually a slightly shorter “ Bastard “ musket with a 46” barrel : officially they had 48” barrels , but surving examples vary from 41-48 inches ). All the lock fittings were fashioned from little bits of steel , and the lock actually functions , sort of .
Couldn't resist the Photoshop !
This musket was very much a one-off , really to see if it could be done : I have prepared another version for future use , made more conventionally for casting in resin and pewter .
As you can imagine , this has been a long term project , and I’ve been working on parts of this figure for a couple of years. Having discovered the brushed cotton as a 1/6th substitute for woolen broadcloth has prompted finishing him.
ENGLAND’S FREEDOM – SOLDIER’S RIGHTS !