Skip to main content

Duties of Military Offices

The following describes the duties of our military officers. It is taken from the book The Approved order of Martiall Discipline published in London, 1591. It is interesting to discover that a quartermaster!s duty was actually to be a "quarters" master in charge of the layout of the lodging of the army!

Sargeants of the Bandes Charge. These Sargeants of the Bands, should be men of great experience, well knowne to bee suficiently instructed in these Martiall exercies: both secret and silent, for that they are too put their men into good order of aray at every suddain, to teach them the use of their weapons whatsoever, in the best and servicablest manner, practising the same in Garrison or in time of Musters, or trayning, marching, and retyring, untill they be perfect, that every man in time of battaile may bee able to discharge his duety.

Also to see them furnished with armours and weapons, to them most flU and agreeable. ready be the Ensigne at every calling, be it by sound of drum, or secret calling, either by night or day: who so refuseth their authority in such behaife, shall be punished as disobedient persons: for the assurance of the whole company consisteth in the same.

Hee shall assigne every Souldier to his place most fittest for him, suffering them not to strive for the one with the other, for any place: but every one to be placed according to his service and skill. Also, he is to see there is no want of victualles, powder, shone, or match: if any such things be wanting, he is to assigne it to his Captaine or Lejuetentant, who shall see it provided for them, in a readiness at all times. He is to accompany the watch to place of stand, either to market place, or to watch hyll, and at the breaking up to take the watch worde of the Sargeant Major, or high Marshall: wherefore he ought carefully to give attendaunce on the sargeant Major and hys Captaine, to be ready at his commaundement, for good sargeants in a disordered company, shall finde toyle more then enough, untill such time as they have trayned them: and therefore, his Captame is to have great regarde and consideration of him.

Drums and Phifes duetie. "It is necessarie that every Captaine have two Drums, the one to be resident with the colours, the other to march with the Troupes as upon occasion they shall be drawn forth: also, it were not amisse to have one phife, for that it is a good lightsomnes to the souldiers.

Those Drummers ought to be men of personage, faithful, secret and trusty: they ought to have sundry languages, and to know the sound and call of all marches, charges, retreites, alarums, and such like pointes of warre: for many times they are sent to parlie with the enemy, to summon their fortes or Townes, to redeeme and conducte prisoners, and divers other messages. If such Drums or Phifes fortune to fall into the handes of the enemie, no gyfte, no faire speaches, neither force, nor terror, shall cause them to betray any secrets knowne to them. They must often times practise their instruments and teach the company the sound of march, charge, retreit, alarums, and such like, that is necessarie to be knowne: They must be obedient to their Captains, Lieuetenants, and other Officers, when soever they command them either to goe or stand, or to sound any point of warre, what they thinke best, as in divers places in this booke you shall linde."

"Office and duty of a Quarter Master: Their ought to be appointed one quartermaster, whose experience ought to be great, for that he is to place and lodge a whole anny, either in field, or garrison, as it seems best to the High Marshal: for that he ought to appoint the ground for leager(camp), or place for garrison. The quartermaster ought to appoint convenient ways, or streets for men to pass through, either in leager, or garrison: and that he have a special regard to foresee that the ways be fair and easy for men to pass to the place of artillery, where men most commonly do assemble together in time of alarm.

This quartermaster ought to have four quartermasters under him, which ought to be ancient servitors, and men of good behavior and understanding in this service: and that they may at all times give diligent attendance on him, to know his pleasure. and what best is to be done in that service."

"The Corporal of the pikemen, his Office and duty. A Captain should choose a sufficient man, strong and expert in the handling of his pike, to be Corporal of his company of pikes: for that it is a most strong and warlike weapon. This corporal shall teach the soldier often times to use his pike, in pushing and trailing the same in good order, both for the beauty of the battle, and for the necessity thereof: and to see them have sufficient and good corsiets (breast-plates), for they be the greatest strength of your battle, and a terror to the enemies, and in any wise see the flue and easie for their bodies, that they may be able to use their weapones in time of fight, which is a great defence in a camp, and chosen chiefly for the battle.

They must have monons, swords, and daggers, their pikes of usuall length, sharp pointed, and well nailed: and cause them in time of marching, to lay their pikes on their shoulders, and their thumbs under the same, the butt end on the outside of his lead man’s leg. After this sort to march to muster, to retire, and in battle as aforesaid: having a great care and regard, that no soldier of spite or negligence do cut the same, or any way impair it, for the greatest strength of the battle consisteth therein."

"The Corporals and Launcespazadoes (from French, lancepessade, old soldier, literally "Broken lance") charge: It is necessary for the readiness of service, that five corporals be chosen, which ought to men of honest behavior and experience, every corporal having his squadron appointed to him who is not only to exercise them in the use of their weapons, to see them that they be well furnished with all necessaries, as shot, powder, match, bullets, and such like: but to have a special care in keeping their furniture clean and serviceable.

If any defaults be found, they are to complain, if amendment be not found presently, to the sargent, or leiutenant, who shall see it presently reformed, be it in garrison, or camp. Thus, justice and authority shall be maintained, and faults amended.

Also, the Launcespazadoes shall supply the charge of the corporals in their absence, if occasion at anytime call them. (These Launcespazadoes, seem to be, and might be the equivalent to the "rotmasters," under Gustavus, who are the leaders of strings, or files without corporals. Each file (rot) in a block of pike, or shot would be led by either a corporal, or a Rotmaster.)

Back to Articles

regimental ensign