From: Bedfordshire UK
ORIGINAL: Chris Merchant
I noticed on another site that squares cannot move. This is not correct. Squares could move.
I was aware that in some desperate situations squares could very slowly relocate...but it was uncommon. Do you have references you could cite regarding this? I would be interested read more on mobile squares
Reading 'Waterloo - The French Perspective' : Andrew Field, which describes the attack of the Middle Guard advancing in square formation :
quote General Petit (French),
'It was about 7pm ....... the 3rd and 4th Chasseurs and Grenadiers marched forward. They crossed to the left of the road where they were formed into battalion squares with the exception of the 4th Regiments that, because of their weakness of numbers, formed only one square each.'
'Formed in square in echelon, they moved forward, General Friant at the head of the 1/3rd Grenadiers ......'
British reports refer to the Guard advancing in coloumns :
quote Ensign Dirom - 1st Guards (British),
'The French columns showed no appearance of having suffered on their advance, but seemed as regularly formed as if at a field day.'
quote Macready - 30th Regiment (British),
'They ...... came over the hill in beautiful order'
The British officers saw the Middle Guard advance as well ordered and controlled formations, which they referred to as columns, but French reports are consistent that the Guard was advancing in squares. The battalions of the Middle Guard were able to move in square and maintain their formation under intense fire, over difficult rising ground. The square formation, for the attack, seems to have been chosen after seeing the repulse of the earlier 1st Corps advance, that had been routed by the charge of the Household Brigade.
There seems to be some doubt as to whether the Guard intended, or was able, to deploy on reaching the top of the slope, but the square formation had given them the opportunity to present all-around fire against the defenders, rather than the restricted fire possible in a more conventional column formation. There were comments on the volume of fire the Guard poured onto the opposing Allied units, presumably whilst still in square formation.
The repulse was partially achieved by a Dutch battery, which was moved into a flanking position and delivered devastating fire into the Guard formation, which if still in square, would have been more vulnerable.
The Guard had little support and retreated as the fire of the defending units increased, as they closed onto the flanks of the attack.
As the French army dissolved in rout, several Guard units left the battlefield in moving squares, held with such resolution that most Allied cavalry units were reluctant to attack and so moved off to find easier targets.
This description is of the Middle Guard at Waterloo, which were elite troops, however it should have been possible for elite troops of other nations to achieve a similar performance, if placed in similar circumstances.
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