English Civil War Soldiers Facts & Worksheets

English Civil War Soldiers facts and information activity worksheet pack and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 year old (GCSE).

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Fact File:

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The types of soldiers during the Civil War
  • Battle tactics used by soldiers
  • Soldier equipment, uniforms and colours

KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION

  • The period covered on this resource begins with the outbreak of the First Civil War in 1642 and ends in 1660 with the Restoration of King Charles II. The following pages will discuss the English armies during the Civil War. Royalist and Parliamentarian armies had developed their own unique character. They differ in organisation, equipment and uniform.

Flashback to the Civil War

CHRONOLOGY

  • 1638 – 1640 – First and Second Wars of Scottish Independence.
  • 1642 – Charles I defeats Robert Devereux at the battle of Edgehill.
  • 1643 – Royalists win every battle until the battle of Newbury, commanded by Devereux.
  • 1644 – Recriminations among the Roundhead leaders bring about the formation of the New Model Army.
  • 1645 – The New Model Army defeats the main Royalist Army at Naseby and captures most of its foot and gun soldiers.
  • 1646 – Charles I gives himself up to the Scots.
  • 1647 – Royalists have no strongholds except in the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly.
  • 1648 – Second Civil War is in part an insurrection by discontented Roundhead soldiers, and in part a rising of Royalists with the support of a Scots army. But Oliver Cromwell and Fairfax turn out victorious at every siege against Royalists.
  • 1649 – Cromwell and Henry Ireton contrive the trial of Charles I, who is beheaded the 30th of January.
  • 1651 – Charles II, son of the late King, is defeated by Cromwell at the battle of Worcester.
  • 1658 – Oliver Cromwell dies, and is succeeded by his ineffective son, Richard.
  • 1660 – The Restoration of the monarchy in England which marks the return of Charles II.

Strategies in the Civil War

  • The Civil War was a series of battles and political schemes between Roundheads, supporters of Parliament, and Cavaliers, Royalist supporters of the Monarchy. It is noteworthy that these were the two main forces during the Civil War.
  • When the war ended, the idea of a well-trained army had taken root towards professionalism. Historians state that the soldiers in the New Model Army were the forerunner of modern professional soldiers. These forces were funded locally. However, the financing was unsystematic and would frequently fall short.

BATTLE TACTICS

  • Cavaliers and Roundheads used similar tactics and weapons during the Civil War.
  • Musketeers beat Pikemen
  • Pikemen beat Cavalry
  • Cavalry beat Musketeers

Military Tactics in the Civil War

  • Do you ever imagine what battle was like during those times? As always, tactics were determined by the type of ground and the weapon used.
  • In preparation, both sides would line up facing each other. Infantry brigades of musketeers and pikemen would be in the centre. Cavalry were placed on each side of the infantry. The lieutenant-general would lead the right-wing, and the commissary general the left-wing. Heavy artillery was stationed at the rear where it could fire over the heads of the infantry. Smaller cannons were positioned in front of the infantry.
  • A regular soldier would have metal armour that covered their breasts and backs. Since armour plates were expensive, some members of the infantry were forced to wear leather tunics instead. These tunics provided some protection against swords, although were completely inadequate against gunfire.
  • The pikemen carried pikes that had a length of between fifteen and eighteen feet. Pikemen aimed their pikes at the chests of the oncoming horses during a cavalry charge, while musketeers sheltered behind and between the pikemen.
  • The Dunbar Medal
  • The obverse has an engraved portrait of Oliver Cromwell and the words THE LORD OF HOSTS, which was the battle cry at the Battle of Dunbar.
  • Although inaccurate, a matchlock (sometimes called a musket), carried by musketeers could kill a man from three hundred yards.
  • A soldier shot would likely die because of the medical welfare conditions at the time.
  • The disadvantage of the musket was the reload time after each shot. The Musketeers’ solution was to retire to the back to reload. Another strategy was that musketeers in the first line would kneel, the second line would crouch and the third line would stand. After firing, these men went to the back and were replaced by the next three lines of musketeers.
  • Cavalry men carried either a short-barrelled musket or a flint-locked carbine. The men in the front fired, then wheeled away.
  • Their strategy was to advance at a quick trot and bore with all their force upon their enemies until they broke their ranks. When the enemy were in disorder, they advanced at full gallop, slaughtering opponents on their way. The start of the battle was groups of cavalries. Driving away the opposing cavalry was the main objective. If the goal was met, the victorious cavalry charged towards the enemy infantry.

Flags and Colours of the Civil War

  • Soldiers on either side had to pay for their equipment and uniform. The commander of the army would choose their ‘colours’, a sash worn around the body. Everyone in one unit would wear the same colour. Due to lack of funds, certain colours were sometimes used by both sides at the same time. Colours could be obscured during close quarter fighting. During the heat of battle, it was difficult to know who was on which side and soldiers had to make a split-second decision to save their lives.
  • Foot Regiments during the Civil War were organised into six to twelve companies, each bearing its own colour. The colour of the Colonel's Company was usually plain.
  • Parliamentary armies typically used conventional stars, disks, diamonds, crescents and other shapes. In Royalist amies, heraldic devices were more popular. Infantry colours were six feet square, made of silk or taffeta, with painted devices.
  • A junior company officer would carry a flag according to his duty. Standards or guidons were carried by Cavalry units. These flags varied in design.
  • Dragoons had fringed guidons with two rounded tails, following the infantry system, but of similar size to the cavalry standards. Infantry standard colours often, but by no means always, matched the regiment's coat-colour.

Soldiers of the Civil War

The Foot (Infantry)

  • The Civil War infantry was made up of two distinct types of soldier: pikemen and musketeers. The ideal regimental strength and balance was regarded as two pikemen for every musketeer. As the wars progressed, pike use declined when pikemen showed vulnerability to musket fire. By the end of the Civil War, the New Model Army had a ratio of one pikeman to two musketeers.

PIKEMEN

  • It was ideal for pikemen to be equipped with protective armour called ‘corselet’, which consisted of a helmet, iron collar or gorget, breast and back plates, and tassets. Gorget and tassets were cumbersome and became unpopular, so the use declined.
  • A ‘buff-coat’ was a thick leather jacket. It was used and worn under the corselet.
  • This jacket helped to turn a sword.
  • The pike was a sharp iron-headed spear. It was mounted on a shaft built from seasoned ash. The length of it was between fifteen and eighteen feet.
  • It required having to learn a complex set of drills and postures to effectively handle the pike. Pikemen were armed with a short sword called ‘tuck’ for close-quarter fighting.
  • In a battle, blocks of pikemen would level their pikes and move forwards the enemy into a crush also known as ‘push of pike’.
  • It was vital for pikemen to defend musketeers against the attack of opposing cavalry. Pikemen would crouch with the butt end of the pike placed against his right instep and the pike angled upwards. This group would be used as heavy infantry to deliver assaults to break the enemy’s line. Use of the pike declined during the Civil Wars; however it was not fully abandoned by the English army until the adoption of the bayonet in the early years of the 18th century.
  • The musket was quite a basic weapon, but load and firing it was slow and dangerous. Musketeers poured gunpowder into a tiny hole that leads to a ‘pan’ at the bottom of the barrel. Then, paper wadding was wrapped around the lead musket ball and inserted into the musket. A long stick called a scouring stick was used to compact these materials. The match cord or thin rope was soaked in saltpetre (potassium nitrate) to sear it gradually.

MUSKETEERS

  • The rope was attached to the serpent located in the trigger mechanism. When pulled, the trigger dips the burning match cord into the gunpowder in the pan. This allowed the gunpowder to burn through the little hole and light the explosive substance.
  • The shape of musket balls were uneven. These projectiles caused horrific injuries such as eviscerated organs and broken bones.
  • However, muskets were highly inaccurate and could not be relied upon.
  • Shooting a specific target at a long range was difficult. To effectively use them, musketeers aligned to shoot at the same time.
  • However, they were vulnerable due to the time it took to reload the musket. At that point, musketeers had no way to defend themselves from cavalry attacks.
  • Another disadvantage was their tendency to blow themselves up.
  • Muskets were cheap and robust, but if the match became wet the weapon was unusable.
  • Sometimes, the butt end of the musket was used as a club in addition to the short sword also provided for use in close-quarter combat.
  • The Musketeers’ tactic was to line up in six rows. The second row will replace the first row in firing muskets, and so on. This would continuously happen to maintain the charge. Three rows of musketeers would deliver ‘Salvee’ or massed volley to precede an assault.
  • Massed Volley or ‘Salvee’
    • A military tactic where soldiers continuously shoot in turns.
  • The Horse (Cavalry)
    • Like infantry companies, cavalrymen were assembled in troops. A captain commanded each troop consisting of at least 100 men. Cavalry troops sometimes worked independently or brigaded collectedly (around six troops) under a colonel’s order.
  • The fully armoured men-at-arms of the Middle Ages were predecessors of Cuirassiers.

CUIRASSIERS

  • They wore an articulated armour, except the back of the thigh and lower leg, shielded only by long boots.
  • In favour of swords, pistols and carbines, cuirassiers abandoned using heavy lance.
  • It became practical on horseback to use firearms with wheel-lock firing mechanisms.
  • There were only a handful of cuirassier units served during the Civil War.
  • The reasons were that equipment and maintenance of cuirassiers were expensive and it was not easy to find horses to carry heavy armoured soldiers.
  • As firearms developed, armour usage became ineffective.
  • Commanders on both sides were equipped as cuirassiers and headed into battle. Compared to the Royalist army, Parliamentarians had more established cuirassier units.

HARQUEBUSIERS

  • Cavalry in most Civil War battles was dressed as harquebusiers. An early form of matchlock firearms was called harquebus.
  • Harquebusiers were formerly foot soldiers. They traded the use of crossbow for harquebus. Like cuirassiers, harquebusiers were given a sword, pair of pistols and harquebus.
  • Only high-ranking soldiers carried harquebus. This type of firearm had a barrel length of around three feet and they were carried suspended from a shoulder belt.
  • A back-plate and light-breast armour were given to harquebusiers, as well as a three-bar pot helmet and sometimes gorget, to protect the throat.
  • Underneath the armour was a thick leather buff-coat. The distinct feature of the harquebusier was the three-bar pot helmet with articulated neck-guard. Cuirassiers were categorised as heavy cavalry, in contrast to harquebusiers who were regarded as lightweight cavalry.

DRAGOONS

  • Dragoon was theoretically derived from the Dutch word ‘tragon’, meaning mounted infantry.
  • The idea of musketeers on horse originated during the late 16th century. The effect was greater mobility.
  • Dragoons were classified under cavalry because they rode a (small) horse or cob.
  • They are infantrymen mounted on a horse to move into place and then fight on foot.
  • The weapons provided to them were musket and sword. They did not wear any protective armour.
  • Strategically, dragoons were best at guarding the side of an army. In addition, they acted as sentries and were instructed to accompany larger cavalry units to provide supporting fire.
  • In 1645, the New Model Army formation upgraded the full regiments of dragoons.
  • This cavalry played an essential part in the early phase of the battle of Naseby by shattering Royalist’s right-wing horsemen under Prince Rupert’s watch.

Ordnance (Artillery)

  • During the Civil War, artillery was broadly classified as light field guns, heavy field guns and sledge guns. They were cast in iron or bronze, smooth bore, and muzzle-loading.
  • Enemy walls during sieges are damaged by the heaviest guns. Artillery batteries were placed as near as possible to the enemy’s location without revealing gun operators to opposing fire. Gunners also sheltered in earth banks for protection. Field artillery was given to the major marching armies.
  • During the Civil War, artillery was broadly classified as light field guns, heavy field guns and sledge guns. They were cast in iron or bronze, smooth bore, and muzzle-loading.
  • Culverin was the heaviest field gun that could launch a ball of at least twenty pounds into enemy zones.
  • Demi-culverin was more common. It fired at least twelve pounds of balls and was used about ten times an hour.
  • At the start of a battle, heavier field guns stayed in place after positioned.
  • Their purpose was to blast artillery balls at the enemy from long range.
  • Light artillery pieces were attached to every regiment of infantry, a practice which they took from the European armies of the Thirty Years War.
  • To mask the opening between infantry units they used robinets, falcons or minions.
  • The general of the ordnance commanded the artillery train and had the responsibility of transporting the artillery, although this created serious logistical problems. The train carried supplies of military tools, soldier equipment, ammunition and gunpowder for the entire army.

Afterwards

  • The Civil War used artillery. Although cumbersome to move, heavy guns were used in siege warfare. Battle artilleries were not used in mass batteries. Their impact in battles were small. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, there were no current armies organised in England. The trained bands or county militias were the only military units.
  • Roundheads and Cavaliers initially recruited volunteer soldiers like servants, tenants, gentry and noblemen. The compulsory enlistment proved unpopular and resulted in recurrent abandonment from the ranks. Cavaliers and Roundheads had senior officers who gained military experience in the European wars. Major armies had key positions designated to professional soldiers. Gentry and noblemen were unskilled volunteers who raised their own regiments by gathering professionals as senior officers and advisers.