Previously said this and will reiterate - you want column attacks play Napoleonics. You can also have ordre mixte and ordre mince, not to mention squares and huge grand batteries as well as masses of skirmishers - all very not C18th.
Reenacting French Napoleonic infantry for nearly 2 decades I don't have the impression that assault columns had that effect on moral and I can't remember contemporaries who mentioned such a thing. In my point of view these columns were just fine to move the troops fast into the fighting, sometimes at high cost, but sometimes with good effect.
About SYW-tactics I can not tell, but my impression of WAS-tactics is, that the French often prefered a very aggressive style of fighting. Some French leaders recognized the fact that most enemies shot better than the French did and to compensate it, they tried surprise attacks (like Maillebois at Piacenza). The maréchal de Saxe ordered his infantry at Fontenoy - if I remember that right - to avoid firefights because he knew the superior quality of British volleys (and even Austrians were better).
To just move the French infantry in column in firing range would be of no success. Therefore I would assume that at least the French used columns for assaults. Naturaly deffensive battles, when the French fought as the defenders, which were a rare sight during the WAS (I remember Fontenoy only as a major battle), saw no use of columns. Dettingen for example is difficult to recapitulate because maps and accounts are not clear enough (for me).
Regarding HoW it would be an idea to give the columns some Advantage if you give the leading batallion the +2 modifier for Support, even if only 1 unit is in range to Support, but a 3rd unit is part of the assault-column.
Es marschierten drei Regimenter wohl über den Rhein...
Vtsaogames, I am just getting over a house move and now have my copy of Nosworthy to hand! Briefly, he describes the steadily evolving French tactical doctrine from the 1720s onward with its divergence from Prussian doctrine starting to take effect during the 7YW. The main aspects are improving drill and speed of formation changing, the use of light troops and, yes, columns for different purposes including assault. This was embryo stuff, not a fully fledged "Revolutionary/Napoleonic" system but its precursor. He then goes on to look at the actual use of the developments in combat. We are really looking at 1759 on when De Broglie institutes greater use of these techniques in his army.
Improved drill doesn't mean Prussian speeds of formation changing, just heading that way and, eventually, beyond. Enough said.
While the French made increasing use of Light troops it is in the use of skirmishers from the line battalions that I am concerned with. A piquet of just over 50 men was drawn from the 12 line infantry companies and operated as light troops in support of the battalion. Skirmishing was also done by the Grenadier company, the two often working together. Their job was to screen in both the advance and in retirement, especially against opposing light troops. There's no real attempt to "soften up" an opponent, just to protect the close order companies.
So, columns. There was a Column of Attack (and a Column of Retreat) written into the 1755 regulations; this was made up of two battalions placed side by side, each two companies wide and six companies deep and screened and supported by the grenadiers and the piquets. Troops were held in battalion columns behind the front line to best use available space, to take empty ground and to pass through difficult terrain.
In practice, line battalion "skirmishers" seem to have been widely used to counter enemy light troops. The Column of Attack does not seem to have been used for assaults but was used as a formation in circumstances where forming line was impractical. Nosworthy states that some battalions formed in this way at Rossbach, purely defensively. He gives examples of the techniques being used at Minden, Hastenbeck, Kloster-Kamp (columns), Sonderhausen, Lutternburg and Lippstadt(skirmishers). Bergen shows both columns and skirmishers being used extensively, but not the Column of Attack.
Saxe et al were being taken seriously but there was a long way to go before the classic column of attack drove home! Hope this informs your choices gentlemen!
Thank you rol, I can stop searching for Nosworthy. I never said full-blown attack columns were in use, just that the French were mucking around with it. And Montcalm seems to have sent two battalions forward in column at the Plains of Abraham. I will not try it when we get around to playing that one, fearing the same result.
I find the thing that really foreshadows Napoleonic warfare later in the SYW is when armies start arriving on the field from various places at various times. Early on each army shows up a single group and deploys. Not so later. The Austrians used columns of deployed battalions at Hochkirch and somewhere else I forget. They won at Hochkirch. Outnumbering the Prussians by a lot helped. Also they arrived from more than one place.
Only the Nosworthy was meant for you as your intention was to try to find and your opinion of columns was clear. Yes, he missed Quebec but that battle does demonstrate that columns were in commanders minds. Lots of things forshadow Napoleonic warfare, it shouldn’t really be surprising with our long view of history. Going back to WSS I find Marlborough’s detached flanking force designed to “turn” the French left at Malplaquet is also a harbinger of Napoleonic grand tactics. So much to take in! Cheers Rol
The conventional view is the at strict linear tactics were the order of the day. But if you read Fredericks "Instructions for his generals". There is little emphasis on the creation of firing lines. He states the important thing for the infantry is using the ground to make it secure and to use the open ground for the cavalry. He also says that they use shooting for defence and the bayonet to attack. Reading the whole does not give the impression that orderly lines are that important. Now it could be that these linear shooting tactics are so fundamental that they do not need repeating. It is like it goes without saying that a bayonet is used to skewer one's enemy - its sort of obvious. Having said that, the idea of these beautiful linear arrangements may be to do with how artists represented battles at the time. There is a lot of "geometry" in these representations. Something that Clausewitz makes reference to in his criticism of the 18th century theorists. So we must ask how much our view of what these battles were like is influenced by the pattern that the "age of reason" imposed on so many areas of the social scene - and war was no different. A battle or campaign could be resolved by reference to a clockwork-like mechanism. And so we see paintings and woodcuts with infantry in serried ranks and contemporary maps with equally regular rectangular representations of where the troops came and went. But maybe the actuality was a much less regular affair than this. Certainly it is possible to read the written accounts of Minden, Leuthen and many others and come to the conclusion that the "clockwork-war" model was not really appropriate.
Triarius - a very good point. We must always bear in mind that real battles were almost always a confused and bloody mess. The accounts of Austrian units piling up in front of Leuthen village are a well known example from perhaps the most famous battle of our period.
Such considerations must be born in mind when writing, interpreting and playing any SYW rule set. But on the gaming table, we have little choice but to represent such disorder and irregularity in a fairly orderly way, in order to make the rules workable.
A SYW Column of Attack? Actually, a messy traffic jam of two brigades in columns of lines!
(Note the 'composite' battalion second from last, made up of Fusiliers, Grenadiers and Musketeers. In actual fact, I did not have enough units for the scenario so I reduced my standard 4 base units to 3 bases and used the leftover bases to make up more units. I then used a smaller scale Quick Reference Sheet and it all worked a treat! Great rules!).
Well, that's the important part, isn't it? This is one of the main reasons why I frequent this period.
I have read that columns were sometimes used to move troops up for attack quickly until they got in good range of the enemy. Then they would be deployed into line - under fire - so they could return fire. Whether this was faster than deploying in line outside of range and then moving up into range, I don't know.
According to many sources troops not in fortified position would usually not stand to receive a charge. It was the THREAT of the bayonet or sabre that would break them, not the use. Almost all authorities indicate that the bayonet was almost never used for its primary intention. Many Napoleonic sources comment on the threat of the column charge and the unstoppable appearance of same that was the important factor. So either you stopped them with your firepower or they scared you away with their bayonets. As indicated, a charging column would potentially take less time to get to grips and be scarier.