Sunday, October 12, 2008


This is coolbert:

It is said that the American soldier marches in a manner similar to the Prussian Army from the time of Frederick the Great. A manner of march, simplified, as taught to the soldiers of the Continental Army by the Baron von Steuben.

The Prussians were renowned for their drill type maneuvers on the battlefield, large units of tens of thousands of men, all marching in step, silently, maneuvering in a manner as was seen on the black-powder battlefield of the era. Maneuvering in a tactical manner, executing the favorite battle plan of Frederick, attack on the oblique, "refusing flank"!!

[attack on the oblique [an angle], that I can understand. "Refusing flank", less clear to me??]


Today, of course, marching according to regulations is almost exclusively a parade ground, drill and ceremonies exercise. The most common cadence of march being called in the American Army "quick time", "quick step", or "quick march"!

* Quick March - "Quick March speed [U.S. Army] . . . The standard pace is 120 beats per minute with a 30 inch. [about 76 cm.] step." Equals about three and one half miles or slightly less than six kilometers per hour.

Even from ancient history, much prior to the black-powder era, we find coordinated drill and march used by the military forces of the a variety of nations and empires:

1. Greeks [Spartans?]. "the '3-step and stop' approach [when marching] towards the enemy. Meaning they would make 3 steps, pause and take 3 more. Such apparent calm helped them reach the enemy line with their own line intact and inspired fear to the enemies."

The Greeks, at Marathon, did this "dance" that surprised and mesmerized the Persians! This was something the latter had not seen before. The phalanx of the defender was intact, in one compact formation, ready for battle, upon contact with the invader.

2. Romans - - The steady, regular step was a marked feature of Roman legions. [according to Vegetius] . . . They [Roman Legions] should march with the common military step twenty miles in five summer-hours, and with the full step, which is quicker, twenty-four miles in the same number of hours. If they exceed this pace, they no longer march but run, and no certain rate can be assigned.

[what exactly by summer-hours is not exactly understood? I am correct that we are speaking here of the ability to march during the cool early hours of the day when the sun has risen very early during mid-summer? This is correct?]

We should not assume that in the present day, ALL UNITS OF ALL ARMIES OF THE WORLD MARCH TO THE COMMON QUICK TIME [120 paces per minute] STEP!! Quite to the contrary. Among elite military units, we find varying cadences and pace of military step. To include:

* "British light infantry and rifle regiments - - [Royal Green Jackets], Quick March at 140 beats per minute"

"As they [Royal Green Jackets] were used as shock troops and marksmen, they had to get to the front line of battle as fast as was possible; as a result the RGJ marches at 140 paces per minute whereas other regiments march at just 120" [paces per minute]!"

[please recall that one particular British regiment was able to march one hundred fifty [150] miles in one day while approaching Talavera, during the Peninsular Campaign. Probably through a process of speed-marching. Walk a mile, run a mile, walk a mile, run a mile, repeating the process through a full day!!]

* "Highland Regiments [Scotsmen] - - which march to bagpipe music, march at 112 paces per minute."

* "French Foreign Legion - - their unique marching cadence of 88 steps to the minute."

"the Legion’s majestic slow cadence--88 steps a minute, vs. the usual 120 for other armies--a pace that gives the impression they are still unconsciously tramping through the Saharan sands where the Legion was born."

* "The Spanish Legion - - march step is . . . 160-190 [paces per minute]!"

* "Spanish Army - - 90 steps per minute"

Even the U.S. Army has a cadence that differs from the norm. This "Double March"! Also referred to as "double time"?

"Double March - - [U.S. Army] This is essentially a moderate jog at approximately 180 paces per minute. It creates a travel speed of approximately double that of Quick Time"

Different strokes for different folks!!



Anonymous said...

interesting entry, I see no comments for some reason on most of your posts.

this is a very nice blog. keep it up.

S O said...

"[attack on the oblique [an angle], that I can understand. "Refusing flank", less clear to me??]"

It's simple. The wing that's ahead is much stronger to achieve the critical local superiority.
At the times of Epaminondas this mean that 16 lines were pushing against about 6 lines and therefore pushed the enemy phalanx back till it broke.
At the time of Frederick the Great this meant that two battalions faced (visible by terrain contours) six battalions and saw no chance, therefore being morally broken by the charge.

The other wing is naturally weak and kind of refuses to fight. It does not attack, and is often even allowed to trade some terrain for time (delay).

The strong, victorious wing turns asap to flank the other wing of the opponent.

The tactical elements of economy of force, mass, flank attack, morale, surprise and delay are combined for good effect in a successful oblique order battle.

Anonymous said...

Double March? I think you mean double time.

topsarge-stripes said...

For a great listing on military cadences, running and marching, check out

Anonymous said...

Refusing the flank is simply a wheel turn. Imagine the ends of your line as a door that can swing both ways, hinged where it connects to the line. Refusing the flank means it swings to the rear to keep the enemy from rolling your line. It is generally only a time saving measure so reserves can counter attack. The unit that performs the manuever will be outnumbered where they hinge and thus in danger of breaking. Well trained armies were able to mitigate this with large formation drill practice, and proper light infantry use, but most armies avoided having to do it when possible.

Also the US Army's running speed is referred to as Double Time. The normal march is 120 steps Quick Time.

Anonymous said...

Summer hours: in ancient and medieval times, an hour was not an invariable unit of time as it is now. Instead, the time of daylight and the time of darkness was divided into twelve equal intervals apiece. During summertime the daylight lasts a long time, and a twelfth of that time (a summer hour) is much longer than a twelfth of the time the sun is up in the winter (a winter hour). At the latitude of Rome (42 degrees N)the day is 15.1 modern hours long on June 21, the longest day of the year. A twelfth of that time is 75.5 minutes, which would be one summer hour. The normal Roman march speed therefore would be about 3.2 mph, and the full-step march speed would be 3.8 mph.

Unknown said...

The U.S. Army does not use the terms "Quick step", "Quick march", or "Double March". Those terms could possibly have been used prior to 1911, but I don't have any Army publications before that year.

The current terms, and the ones used since at least 1911 are "Quick time" and "Double time".

Mike Cowlishaw said...

Summer hours in the Roman quote refers to the fact that the length of an hour changed according to the time of day -- there were twelve equal hours from dawn to dusk, so the hours were longer in the summer than in the winter.