Line infantry

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Line infantry is a type of infantry which composed the basis of European land armies from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century.

Line infantry appeared in the 17th century. At the beginning of 17th century the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus equipped his army with new muskets with wheellocks which were comparatively light when compared to older muskets, making it easier to fire the weapon without the aid of a support. Moreover, the new musket required less iron and it turned out to be cheaper to mass produce.

Linear Tactics and Function

With the massive proliferation of hand guns (firearms that could be carried by hand, as opposed to cannon; not to be confused with handguns) in the infantry units from the middle of 17th century the battlefield was dominated by linear tactics, according to which the infantry was aligned into long thin lines and fired volleys.

The relatively short range at which smooth bore muskets could accurately hit a target, added to the slow reload (2 to 3 rounds per minute), meant that massed formation firing was essential for maximising enemy casualties. The line was considered as the fundamental battle formation as it allowed for the largest deployment of firepower. Troops in skirmish formation, though able to take cover and use initiative, were highly vulnerable to cavalry and could not hold ground against advancing infantry columns. Line infantry provided an 'anchor' for skirmishers and cavalry to retreat to if threatened....
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