Organization of armies

The Infantry

Administrative organization and battlefield organization

At the time of the Spanish Succession war there was still a big difference between the administrative organization and the battlefield organization of armies. The smallest administrative organizational unit was the company numbering from 40 (France) to 200 (Swiss) men. The regiment was an administrative unit made up out of companies. Originally the battalion was a battlefield unit made up out of companies or sometimes even regiments. Around 1700 in most countries the battalion already was or was becoming also an administrative organizational unit, with the battalion staying together when the battle was over. The tendency was that a regiment could form 1 (Dutch) - 4 (Austrian) battalions on the battlefield. On the battlefield these battalions would then be grouped in and commanded as brigades numbering 2-6 battalions. To sum it up:

Battalion strength in some European armies

With regiments varying in size and in the number of companies and the number of men that were in these companies it might be nice to sum some up the theoretical strength of the units of some nations: (effective strength might be half these)

Country Btns./Rgt. Co's in Btn. Co. size Btn.size Rgt.size
France mostly 2 13 50 650 1300
Austria 4 4 (+1 Gr./ Rgt). 150(100) 600+ 2500
Prussia 2 5 145 725 1450
Bavaria 3 5 140 700 2100
Bavarian militia 2 3 200 600 12001
England 1 12+1 71 923 923
United Provinces 1 12 71 852 852
UP Switsers 2 4 200 800 1600
Spain up to 1704 Tercio 12 78 550-936 -
Spanish Netherlands from 1703 1-2 ? 650 ?

The company was commanded by a captain, a lieutenant, a 2nd lieutenant, an ensign and a number of sergeants. The regiment was commanded by a colonel (or colonel-commandant if the colonel also had a higher command), a lieutenant-colonel, a major, and under them the companies' commanders. I could go on explaining about how a battalion was in the field divided into divisions and platoons, but never having read much about platoons in battle this would only complicate matters

The French Infantry battalion

Here is a good description of the French infantry battalion2: In 1702 the French infantry battalion was composed of 13 companies of 50 men each. 12 Of these were normal companies containing 37 riflemen, 10 Pikemen, 2 sergeants with halberds and 1 drummer. The thirteenth company was the grenadier company all armed with muskets. For each company one also has to add: A captain; a lieutenant3 and a sub lieutenant. On the regimental level there were: The colonel (or Colonel Commandant), the Lieutenant-Colonel, the Major, 2-3 Aide Majors, the doctor, the priest and the prévôt (Military police).

The Cavalry

Like the infantry the cavalry was made up of the administrative and battlefield units. The administrative unit was likewise called regiment and divided into companies. The battlefield unit was called squadron, and was made up out of companies. Some examples:

The Artillery

The artillery was at this time still (or only just) organized into companies. Administered by some nations in two regiments or battalions with one being the field gun regiment/battalion and the other siege-gun regiment, but this is not relevant to our story. What is relevant is that a lot of battalions had their battalion or regimental guns, mostly 2 light guns per and resorting under a battalion in battle.

The Senior Officers

Above I have explained that on the battlefield a number of battalions would form a brigade. This also explains that a brigadier-general or brigadier is the lowest ranking of the generals. To explain the higher ranks top down:

France United Provinces England
General4 (i.e. the King) Captain General (Union Stadholder) King or generalissimo5
(Maréchal General) Field Marshal Captain General or CiC6
Maréchal de France7 General of Infantry/Cavalry General of Infantry/Cavalry
Capitaine General8
Lieutenant General Lieutenant General Lieutenant General
Maréchal de Camp Generaal Majoor Major General
Brigadier Brigadier Brigadier
Colonel/Mestre de camp9 Colonel Colonel


1) The Europische Mercurius for 1703 under February page 122 has the statement that the Bavarian army's old regiments consisted of 15 companies of 140 men each, forming three battalions.
2) Taken from: Batailles Françaises VI, Les Armées sous l'ancien régime page 24 a.f.
3) Lieutenant translates as Lieu (place) tenant (from tenir, holder)
4) This is the reason there were no 'generals' in the French army. In Histoire de la Milice Françoise tome II (published 1721) page 19 it's explained that later it became common to call a commanding Maréchal de France 'General'. In their patents the king appointed these as 'My Lieutenant General'. The lower ranking were appointed as 'one of my Lieutenant Generals´.
5) In our case generalissimo Prince George of Denmarck
6) There is some confusion about the Cic or Commander in Chief of the forces rank. It seems to have been local and temporary.
7) The order really was General/Connétable/Maréchal General/Maréchal de France, but the office of Connétable was no more. Villars would become Maréchal General, but that was after the war.
8) According to Histoire de la Milice Françoise Tome II Page 25 Tessé had this title in Italy in 1702. At the time it seems to have been used as a temporal appointment in order to let one lieutenant-General command over his equals during a campaign.
9) Mestre de Camp is a colonel of Cavalry