1690 the Infantry of all armies in Europe were adopting linear
formations as opposed to column
formations . This was for two reasons , to increase the fire power
of the infantry and to reduce the casualties from artillery and
Infantry fire .
There were various adaptions of the line formation. Some countries
preferred four or five ranks such as the French and Spanish ,
others such as the British and Prussians preferred three ranks
. Later in the Napoleonic Wars two ranks were adopted by Britain
which proved effective time and again against the French columns
. The deeper formation was seen as a balance between the weight
of fire power and the amount of impact a unit had in a charge
. This theory did not work in practice against trained and disciplined
troops such as the British .
Once the armies of Europe had adopted the line formation some
readopted the column formation in attack . This came about during
the French Revolutionary Wars when France needed to get bodies
of untrained National Guard to advance quickly . Once close enough
the column would redeploy into line . The rapid advance combined
with the rapid deployment into line to deliver a volley caused
shock amongst Napoleons enemies . Napoleon also adopted the column
formation for the Cavalry with devastating effect .
After the Napoleonic War a number of armies maintained the column
formation . The country of note that kept the column formation
and would not use any other was Russia . If troops were to be
deployed into line they would be expected to think for themselves
. To ensure that the doctrine of the bayonet before the bullet
approach was kept all Infantry battalions deployed in column .
this was okay against the Turks but during the Crimean War the
Russian columns were devastated by the British line firing the
new Minnies which had a range of 600 yards . France also kept
the column and this proved a hinderance at Inkerman during the
Crimean War when the French line Infantry were asked to form line
but insisted that they only form up in column . The Zoaves though
formed line and charged sweeping the Russian columns off the ridge
into the valley below saving the day .
The Evolution of Infantry tactics saw the progressive use of the
Infantry . In 1690 Light Infantry did not exist but by the mid
1700's Light units were deployed by Austria . These irregular
light units caused so many casualties on the Prussian troops that
Frederick formed a number of light units , these were the Frei
corps troops . The virtue of the light Infantryman was seen in
the colonies where these troops could move freely in the forests
of America and Canada .
During the Napoleonic wars Light Infantry were formed into light
companies attached to Line Battalions , there were Light Infantry
Battalions and also there were the Rifle Battalions that excelled
at hampering the advance of the enemy formations .
In America during the American Civil War the tactics of the Light
Infantry was carried out by all the troops at some time . When
a skirmish screen was required battalions would be deployed in
front of the advancing troops to disrupt the enemy Infantry and
Artillery fire . The screens became even more formidable when
they were armed with breach loading or even repeating rifles or