Company Organization

An English company of foot consists of between one hundred and two hundred men (mainly pikemen and musketeers), commanded by a captain, a lieutenant, two sergeants, and five corporals. In this they are aided by an ensign and a pair of drummers. The company will likely also have a clerk, a surgeon, and other auxiliaries. A variable number of companies may be grouped into a colony, commanded by a colonel.


Of the Captain…

“The place of a Captayne is not lightlie to bee considered of, for that upon his skill and knoweledge dependeth the safety or losse of many men’s lives…”

~ Jiles Clayton, The Approoved Order of Martiall Discipline, 1591

At the head of any company of foot, figuratively and literally, is the captain. He has quite possibly raised the company from scratch, and upon his shoulders rests the not-inconsiderable responsibility of keeping one to two hundred men fed, clothed, sheltered, equipped, and transported. Once in battle, he leads from the front. All this is the theory. In practice, many captains raised companies that existed only on paper, with men hired for the annual muster in place of real soldiers. Even an honest captain would reasonably be expected to divert some of the funds meant for general company upkeep into his own purse.

Goode’s Company is led by Captain Nathaniel Goode, who has been missing for some time. Rumors say that he fled the country ahead of a jealous husband, or that he is convalescing in France after a bout of the French pox, or that the devil himself collected him as part of an old debt. Whatever the truth, his subordinates carry on in his absence.


Of the Lieutenant…

“The Lieutennant of a Bande…is divers times to discharge his Captaine of many and sundry travails and paines, which to him belongeth.”

~ Jiles Clayton, Ibid

Second in command to the captain is the lieutenant. To him is delegated much of the day-to-day administration of the company: oversight of the sergeants and corporals, organizing of supplies, and training the men. In battle, the lieutenant brings up the rear of the company and is charged with, among other duties, convincing those who would desert in battle to return to the ranks.

Lieutenant William Elder de facto commands the company until the worthy Captain Goode returns from his “convalescence”.


Of the Ensign…

“For that the Ensigne in the fielde is to be honored of all men…he ought to bee sworne to be faythfull and loyall to his Prince and Captaine, professing rather to die, then to be dishonoured with the losse of his Coulours…”

~ Jiles Clayton, Ibid

The ensign—a corruption of “Ancient” (as in Shakespeare’s “Ancient Pistol”)—carries the company’s colors. That the colors themselves are also sometimes referred to as the ensign indicates how closely this man was to guard them. The colors, carried by the ensign, are vital in that they are the primary way for a general to identify a formation of men at a distance so that he might send them orders. While technically an officer, the ensign himself has no command authority. The ensign’s place in battle is at the center of the formation.

The office of ensign rotates among soldiers of Goode’s Company.


Of the Drums…

“It is necessarie that every company have two drumme, the one to be stil resident with the cullours the other to marche with the Troupes.”

~ Barnabe Rich, A Pathwaie to Military Practice, 1587

Good drummers are essential for communication of orders among a company of foot. Drum signals are commonly used and the drum signals the execution of every command. In battle the drummers will usually be found in the center of the formation near the ensign.

In Goode’s Company we try to maintain a pair of drummers but often have only one. A good drummer is a treasure beyond price. A bad drummer will make a march significantly more difficult and will incur the wrath of short-tempered people with spears and guns.


Of the Sergeants…

“These Sargeants of Bandes, should be men of great experience, well knowne to bee sufficiently instructed in these speciall exercises…to put their men into good order of aray…to teach them the use of their weapons…& trayning, marching, and retiring, until they be perfect…”

~ Jiles Clayton, Ibid

A company of foot generally has two sergeants, each overseeing a “sergeantry” of 50 men. They were responsible for ensuring that every man was trained properly, both in the use of his particular weapon, and in the marching and drill used in combat. Sergeants are also responsible for ensuring that the men’s equipment is in proper order and for tracking ready supplies like powder and ball. In battle, the sergeants—each carrying their weapon of office, the halberd—would be stationed on each flank of the formation to keep order.



Of the Corporals & Lancepresados

“Therefore a Corporall…ought to be no lesse prudent and careful over the government of his people, then a father in ruling of his family…”

~ William Garrard, The Arte of Warre, 1591

Five (or so) corporals are appointed to lead a “squadron” of roughly twenty men each, mainly in administrative things, like tracking supplies, keeping equipment clean, and ensuring the men’s attendance at muster. Think squad leader. Their place in battle varies, but often one would be assigned to the pikemen while the others led detachments of shot for independent skirmishing. Each corporal may be assigned a lancepresado who serves as his assistant.

Goode’s Company currently maintains four corporals, occasionally rotating the office for training purposes.


Of the Pikemen…

“Those that are appointed to carrie pikes in aray of rankes or battell, must know that pikes amongst all other weapons that belongs to souldiers, is of greatest honor and credite…”

~ William Garrard, Ibid

Pikemen make up anywhere from one to two thirds of a company of foot, with the proportion decreasing as the sixteenth century progresses. The pike itself is a sixteen foot long spear, equally effective at killing men and horses. Pikemen are strong, fearless, and disciplined. Maybe. Every man in a pike formation has a relative worth—based on his ability, experience, and armor—called his “dignity”. Men of higher dignity are placed on the front and rear of the formation to better resist enemy attack. At this time, piking was considered more noble than shot.

Every soldier in Goode’s Company trains as a pikeman first before they pursue other roles, like musketeer.


Of the Musketeers…

“They must carrie the touch hole under their armeholes, mach light in their handes covertly and drie, their peeces faire and clean within and without…”

~ Thomas Styward, The Pathwaie to Martiall Discipline, 1582

The musketeer enters battle with a dozen or more vials of explosive strapped to his body and a burning match in his hand. He is daring and probably a little crazy, which makes him right at home in Goode’s Company. He is frequently out ahead of the formation, firing at the enemy from advance skirmish positions. A “musketeer” may in fact be equipped with an harquebus (a smaller version of a musket).

Goode’s company has a small contingent of musketeers, limited mainly by the available firearms. They follow period practices and drill both with the pikes and on their own.