Saturday, 29 September 2012

The outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession

In 1700 King Charles II of Spain, the last of the Spanish branch of the Hapsburg Dynasty, died without children. His closest heir was Duke Philip of Anjou, his sister’s grandson. Unfortunately, Philip was also a grandson of King Louis XIV of France and so might conceivably inherit both crowns. Louis was delighted, but most other European countries were horrified. The prospects of the two most powerful states in the world being united was a direct threat. War broke out in 1701 with France, Spain and Bavaria being pitched against Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic and numerous smaller states. After much bloodletting the war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Philip was allowed to become King of Spain, but only on condition that he renounced all claim to the French throne and gave Spanish lands in Italy and the Netherlands to the Austrian Hapsburg’s. Britain gained Gibraltar from the Spanish and various French colonies in North America and the Caribbean.
At this date, infantry were armed with smoothbore muskets to which bayonets could be fitted. The muskets had a range of about 100 yards, but were highly inaccurate. To get effective fire it was necessary to fire hundreds of muskets at the same time. For this reason infantry formed in formations three or four men deep and 200 men wide standing shoulder to shoulder. British infantry, such as Meredith’s Regiment, were proudly able to fire three times a minute which gave them the edge in a straight fire fight with most continental infantry. Like all British infantry, Meredith’s men wore a long red coat reaching to their knees over white trousers and black boots. To distinguish the regiments it was usual for the cuffs, collar and other “facings” to be of a distinctive colour. Meredith’s Regiment had  bright yellow facings while button holes and the like were edged in white. Officers wore silver lace. Men and officers wore black felt tricorn hats, those of the men edged in white and officers in silver.
Cavalry were armed with carbines — even less accurate than muskets — and swords. They would skirmish with their carbines, or charge with swords. Artillery fired solid cannonballs over a ranges of up to 1,000 yards with reasonable accuracy. At short range cannon fired grapeshot, a bag containing dozens of musket balls that spread like shot from a shot gun.

from "The Battle Honours of the Royal Hampshire Regiment" by Rupert Matthews
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About the book
The history of the Royal Hampshire Regiment and its predecessors as traced through the Battle Honours won by the regiment.

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