Civil War Soldiers


The armies of the early civil war period were quickly recruited in the summer of 1642 from volunteers and members of local militia forces as the country had no standing army. Some impressments are also likely to have occurred, though this was more a feature of recruitment later in the war. Both the royalists and parliamentarians issued commissions to officers to raise soldiers.


Pikemen and Musketeers

Regiments of foot soldiers consisted of musketeers, armed with a muzzle loading matchlock musket and perhaps a sword, and pikemen, armed with a 4-6 metre long pike and sword. Some pikemen may have been equipped with a combination of metal helmet, back and breastplate and tassets, the latter to protect the thighs and groin. Regiments were not uniform in size and often operated at considerably below establishment on campaign.

Parliament began by creating regiments of 1,200 men, exclusive of officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). These were divided into ten companies belonging to the regimental colonel, lieutenant colonel, sergeant major and seven captains. The colonel’s company would theoretically consist of 200 men, the lieutenant colonel’s 160 men, the sergeant major’s 140 men and the captain’s 100 men each. However, difficulties in recruiting these numbers resulted in some regiments being established at 800 men with a respective reduction in company sizes.

Royalist regiments were similarly organised, though many of those involved in the campaign preceding the battles of Brentford and Turnham Green consisted of only eight or so companies. On campaign both royalist and parliamentarian regiments were invariably under strength.


The cavalry of the period consisted of three main types: harquebusiers, cuirassiers and dragoons. Harquebusiers were light cavalry armed with a short musket known as a carbine or arquebus, one or two pistols and swords. Some may also have had a metal helmet, back and breastplate. Cuirassiers were heavy cavalry, three-quarter armoured and equipped with pistols and a sword. Dragoons were mounted infantry who rode to battle, but dismounted to fight. They were often used for reconnaissance and defence of bridges, hedgerows or similar obstacles. They were equipped with inferior horses compared to other cavalry and were armed with a short musket, which had been known as a dragon – hence their name, and a sword.

The basic administrative unit for the cavalry was the troop, consisting of around sixty men exclusive of officers and NCOs. Troops were amalgamated together to form regiments. A regiment would consist of around six troops, though in the early stages of the war some regiments were formed of only three or four troops. On campaign few regiments operated at established strength.

Dragoons were organised into companies of 100 men, exclusive of officers and NCOs, with up to six companies forming a regiment.


Artillery of the civil war period was of two broad categories; field artillery and siege artillery. Field artillery, which was used on the battlefield and in defending against a siege, consisted of a range of different sorts of cannon firing shot between 340g and 4.5kg in weight. Siege artillery fired shot between 4.5kg – 29kg in weight and was used in besieging a town to destroy its defences.

To support the artillery a train of artillery existed which included, carpenters, blacksmiths, gunners, labourers, pioneers, wagoneers, miners, farriers, wheelers, coopers and ladlemakers. The train of artillery under the Earl of Essex in 1642 consisted on 570 personnel.