English Civil War Glossary

English Civil War Glossary

The English Civil War witnessed new or modernised weapons in the battles fought in it especially in the later ones. These new weapons brought in new terms/words and some such as fusil have continued into later military terminology with fusilier.  

Basilisk: an artillery piece that fired a shot of about thirty pounds in weight. Generally thought to have been too heavy for general field service.

 

Buff-coat: a heavy leather coat, long-skirted and frequently sleeved, worn by cavalry.

 

Caliver: midway between the size of a musket and a carbine; a matchlock weapon.

 

Caracole: term given to a cavalry manoeuvre whereby the men in the front rank first their pistols and then rode to the rear to reload. While the front rank were riding to the rear, the second rank rode up to fire and then rode to the rear while the third rank took their place at the front.

 

Clubmen: men who lived in rural areas who got together to form a group who would protect their farmland from any military force that approached.

 

Commission of Array: a commission issued by Charles I to lord-lieutenants ordering them to summon the militia. Parliament questioned whether such an act was legal.

 

Committee of Both Kingdoms: created by two Parliamentary ordinances (February 16th 1644 and May 22nd 1644) to ensure cooperation between the Scots and Parliament. It sat at Derby House and the committee contained some of England and Scotland’s most influential men such as Cromwell, Manchester and Essex.

 

Committee of Public Safety: this was established on July 4th 1642 and its members came from both House of Commons and House of Lords. Its task was the purposeful execution of the war against the King. John Pym dominated the committee.

 

Corselet: during the English Civil War this usually referred to the armour worn by pikemen. It consisted of a breastplate and a backplate.

 

Cuirassier: heavy cavalry equipped with three-quarter length armour. Rarely seen in the English Civil War though Sir Arthur Hesilrige’s ‘Lobsters’ were classed as cuirassiers. They belonged to a different age – slow and cumbersome and not suited to the swift movement that Prince Rupert and the New Model Army used.

 

Culverin: an artillery piece that fired a fifteen-pound shot. At 4,000 lbs in weight, it was not particularly manoeuvrable. A demi-culverin weighed 3,600 lbs and fired a nine-pound shot.

 

Dragoons: mounted infantry. They rode into battle and fought on foot (though they were capable of fighting on horseback). Their name probably comes from dragon, which was a short matchlock weapon used at the time.

 

Engagement: The agreement between Charles I and the Scots signed on December 26th 1647, by which the Scots offered military support to the king while Charles agreed to establish Presbyterianism for three years.

 

Flintlock: the system that ignited a firearm; a flint struck against a steel plate (the frizzen) and a shower of sparks ignited the priming powder.

 

Fusil: light gun carried by men who supported the artillery.

 

Halberd: carried by a sergeant as a sign of his rank. Also spelt halbert or halbard.

 

Harquebusier: a cavalryman equipped with a harquebus (carbine). He also carried a sword and pistols. Cavalrymen on both sides would have come within this term but the word harquebusier rapidly fell out of use as the war progressed.

 

Ironsides: name given to Cromwell’s horse and later applied to the cavalry of the Eastern Association.

 

Matchlock: the most common method of firing a firearm used in the English Civil War. When the trigger of a firearm was pressed, a lever holding a length of a lit cord (the match) brought the match into contact with the priming powder.

 

Musket: smooth-bored firearm used by the infantry. Most muskets were fired by a matchlock. Its weight meant that many had to use a rest while it was being fired.      

 

Pike: usually between twelve and eighteen feet in length. The head was frequently diamond-shaped.

 

Pole-axe: a weapon that was popular with the Royalist cavalry. Looked like a small battle-axe but with a blade on one side and either a hammer or a spike on the other.

 

Swine-feather: usually about four feet in length and carried by musketeers, they were metal-tipped stakes that could be put up quickly against a charging enemy. Also known as a Swedish feather.

 

Wheel-lock: far more reliable than the matchlock, the wheel-lock worked when a trigger was pressed and a metal wheel – attached to a spring – spun round and grated against a piece of iron pyrites. A shower of sparks went into a priming pan and fired the weapon. Though far more reliable than a matchlock, it was also a lot more expensive and its cost limited the number used in battle. 






Find lyrics free


Online College and University Degree Guide



Popular content

Follow Us