Social History of the English Civil War Soldier in Dorset and Hampshire
Article based on a talk given to the Society by Alan Turton
During the 17th Century the Army was small and men wanting to gain experience as soldiers joined European armies fighting various causes. When Civil War broke out in England, soldiers were required and men were encouraged to return by increasing the rate of pay. Recruitment often took place at fairs and market days, and offers of pay plus clothing found willing takers.
Foot soldiers were given a linen shirt, which was worn both day and night, a coat, stockings made from linen or wool, and leather shoes, and later trousers or breeches were provided too. Hats came in various styles and could be shaped to suit the weather conditions.
The food issued was usually a very hard biscuit that could be broken and mixed with water and form the basis of a vegetable or meat stew.
Most foot soldiers had the role of a pikeman or a musketeer.
The pikeman carried a five meter long pike and wore armour covering his head, upper body, waist and hips. This protected him from a pistol shot, but not from a musket ball. The helmet had a large brim to deflect slashing blows to the head directed from above by horsemen.
A musketeer carried his gunpowder in small bottles slung from a sash across his chest, each bottle holding one charge. Balls were carried in a shoulder pouch, and an experienced musketeer could prime, load and fire his musket every thirty seconds. Firing involved the use of a glowing rope end, and it was dangerous when a group of musketeers were close together blowing gunpowder and sparks around as they went about their business. If a musketeer ran out of ammunition for his musket, it became a formidable weapon if wielded by the barrel and used to strike blows with the stock.
Other soldiers in the Army included Cavalry men and Artillery men. A Cavalry soldier wore a thick leather coat and boots, plus protection for the forearm that held the reins of his horse. The thick leather gave protection from sword slashes but not from a musket ball. Protection from the weather came in the form of an over cloak. A Cavalry soldier was usually armed with a pair of pistols and a sword. Artillery soldiers rarely took part in battles as their guns were very heavy and could not be moved easily. These soldiers would be called up during a siege.