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Some of the military terminology of the mid-seventeenth century is sufficiently obscure to be virtually unintelligible even with a modern dictionary. The following elucidates some of the terms which may be encountered in works of the Civil War period.

It should be noted that, in their descriptions of peices of artillery, the authors adopt the scale of weight and caliber given in William Eldred's, The Gunner's Glasse (London, 1646). Several other scales exist, and on occassion differ substantially.


Agitators: Representatives from the New Model Army elected in April 1647 to confer with officers over grievances.

Agreement of the People: Constitutional proposal of 28th October 1647 drafted by Levellers and Agents in the Army. Lilburne and others issued a moderated version in May 1649.

Ancient: corruption of ‘ensign’, junior officer; e.g. “Tis one Iago, ancient to the general” (Othello, II, i)

Arminianism: School of theological thought that emphasized free will over predestination, usually used as synonymous with Laudianism - of High Church group headed by Archbishop Laud.

Attainder: Act of Parliament condemning a person convicted of high treason to forfeiture of property and goods, used against Strafford in 1641

Axletree or Extree: the wooden baulk used to mount artillery wheels.


Base-ring: (Artillery) the part of the gun breech that defines the end of the bore. Normally marked by a raised moulding around the circumference of the breech. It was often inscribed with the maker′s name and the date on which the gun was cast.

Basilisk or Basiliske: Piece of artillery firing a shot weighing approximately thirty pounds. The gun itself was deemed too heavy for field service by the time of the Civil War.

Billeting or Free Quarter: Placing of soldiers in civilian households. Often supposedly to be paid for later.

Bishops′ Wars: The conflict between England and Scotland 1639-41, caused by Scottish antagonism to the new Prayer Book, and ending in Scotland′s favour, necessitating the recall of the Long Parliament

Boutezselle: trumpet call for ‘boots and saddle’ (French)

Brigadeer: corporal of horse (orig. French)

Bringer up: officer or N.C.O. at the rear of a unit or file Captain of arms (or gentleman of arms): N.C.O. responsible for keeping the weapons of a company or troop in good order.

Buff coat: A heavy leather coat, long-skirted and often sleeved, worn by cavalry.


Caliver: Matchlock weapon of musket bore, midway in size between musket and carbine.

Caracole: Cavalry manoeuvre whereby the front rank fired its pistols, trotted to the rear to reload, and was followed by the second and successive ranks. First used by the German Reiters in the sixteenth century, but outmoded by the 1640s.

Carnous, Carnouz: (Artillery) the part of the gun breech behind the base ring.

Cessation: Temporary truce signed in the autumn of 1643 between Ormonde and the Irish Confederates.

Clerk (or Scrivener): N.C.O. keeping company rolls and acting as paymaster.

Clubmen: (i) Hastily-levied infantry armed only with clubs; (ii) Bands of countrymen who endeavoured to protect their areas from the depredations of either army. Particularly important in the West Country towards the close of the First Civil War.

Coat and Conduct: ‘coat and conduct’ money was the sum paid to a recruit for uniform, accoutrements and journey to his post.

Commanded: a ‘commanded᾿ party was one selected for a particular task or post.

Commission of Array: Commission issued by the King to the lords-lieutenant, ordering them to summon the militia. The legality of this process was contested by Parliament.

Committee of Both Kingdomes: Created by Parliamentary Ordinances of 16th February and 22nd May 1644, to ensure cooperation between English Parliamentarians and the Scots. Sitting at Derby House, the committee had both an advisory and an executive function. Its members included Essex, Warwick, Manchester, Waller and Cromwell. John, Lord Maitland, was the most significant of the Scottish Commissioners.

Committee of Public Safety: Committee of both Houses of Parliament, set up on 4th July 1642, for the prosecution of the war. Dominated by John Pym, the committee nevertheless included Denzil Holles and other moderates.

Convocation: Assembly of the clergy, in the two archdioceses of Canterbury and York. Voted money to Charles to fight the Scots in 1640.

Council of Officers: Body of the New Model Army, formed in August 1647 to negotiate with the King.

Corps de guard: guard party or guardroom (orig. French).

Corselet or Corslet: In the 1640s this usually referred to pikemen’s armour, consisting of breast and backplate, with tassets to cover the thighs.

Council of State: Executive arm of the Rump Parliament.

County Associations: Formed by both sides in the Civil War overcoming localist tendencies. Most effective was the Eastern Association, crucial to the Parliamentary effort, formed in 1642 from all the counties of East Anglia.

Covenant, Scottish National: Drawn up in 1638 to unify Scottish resistance to the new Prayer Book.

Cuirassier: Heavy cavalry equipped, in the 1640s, with three-quarter armour. Seldom seen in the Civil War - with the notable exception of Sir Arthur Hesilrige’s ‘Lobsters’. Their disappearance was partly due to the difficulty of finding horses strong enough to bear their weight, and partly to the cumbrousness of fighting in armour.

Culverin: A piece of artillery weighing 4,000 pounds and firing a 15-pound shot.

Curat: set of breast and backplate, i.e. ‘cuirass’ (orig. French).


Demi-culverin: A piece of artillery weight 3,600 pounds firing a 9-pound shot.

Dian: drum call of reveille (orig. French).

Diggers: Popular name for communist group of ‘true Levellers’ led by Gerrard Winstanley in 1649.

Dragon: Short matchlock weapon of musket bore.

Dragoon: Probably deriving their name from the weapon they originally carried (see above), dragoons were mounted infantry who rode to battle and fought on foot, although they were, on occasion, required to fight on horseback.

Drake: Light field-piece.


Enfants Perdus: French term for ‘Forlorn Hope’ (q.v.), sometimes used in England.

Engagement: The agreement between Charles I and the Scots, signed on 26th December 1647, by which Charles undertook to establish Presbyterianism in England for three years, in return for Scottish military assistance.

Excise: Tax upon luxury goods and alcohol first introduced by Parliament in July 1643 to raise finance.


Fifth Monarchist: Sect of the 1650s who believed in using violence to help bring about the imminent Fifth Monarchy of Christ.

Five Members: Leading MPs whom Charles I tried to arrest from the House of Commons on 4th January 1642, which was seen as a gross attack on privileges.

Flintlock: System of firearm ignition. A piece of flint was held in the jaws of the cock; when the trigger was pressed, the flint struck against a steel plate, the frizzen, and a shower of sparks ignited the priming powder, firing the weapon.

Forlorn Hope: Advanced guard; not specifically a storming party as the term later came to indicate.

Free quarter: Payment of meals or lodging by ticket; euphemism for theft.

Fusil: Light snaphaunce or flintlock gun, carried by the escort to the artillery, who later aquired the name fusiliers.


Gatloup: ‘running the gatloup’ meant running the gauntlet as punishment.

Granado: Mortar shell.

Grand Remonstrance: The demands put to the King by Parliament on 1st December 1641, and subsequently rejected, which rehearsed grievances and recent reforms and demanded further concessions. Its passing by a narrow margin alienated my waverers.

Guidon: (i) The standard of a troop of horse or a company of dragoons; (ii) Officer who carried a dragoon standard, equivalent in rank to an ensign in the infantry.


Halbard, Halberd, Halbert: Staff weapon with an axe blade tipped with a spike. Carried by sergeants as a badge of rank.

Handspike: A stout bar used to lever the gun carriage or barrel of an artillery piece.

Harquebusier: By the 1640s this term had come to mean a cavalryman equipped with a harquebus or carbine. He also usually carried a sword and a pair of pistols. The majority of cavalry on both sides in the Civil War could have been called harquebusiers, although the term itself fell rapidly out of use.

Heads of the Proposals: Relatively generous peace propositions of the New Model Army presented to the King on 23rd July 1647, and summarily rejected by him.

High Commission: Senior church court used by Laud to coerce opponents of his reforms in the 1630s, and abolished in 1641.

High Court of Justice: Commissioners appointed by the Rump Parliament after 4th January 1649 to try the King for levying war against his people and for high treason.

House of Commons: Lower house of Parliament, whose Committees guided the war effort.

House of Lords: Upper house of Parliament, much depleted from 1642 and abolished on 19th March 1649.

Humble Petition: document of 11th September 1648 appealing for constitutional change.

Humble Remonstrance: Army’s assertion of its constitutional role, which was ignored by the House of Commons and precipitated the Army’s occupation of London in December 1647.


Iconoclasm: Defacing of effigies and furnishings in churches, usually done in religious fervour.

Impeachment: Arraignment of persons charged with serious offences against the state, Stafford and Laud were prime cases, before Parliament.

Independents: Many sects, which all rejected state-regulated worship in favour of autonomous congregations.

Interregnum: One of the terms for the period between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of Charles II, embracing the Commonwealth of 19th May 1649 to 16th December 1653, and the Protectorate that followed. The term Commonwealth is often used for the entire period.

Ironsiders: Nickname of Oliver Cromwell’s regiment of Horse, later applied to the cavalry of the Eastern Association, and sometimes to the cavalry of the New Model as a whole.

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