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Not convinced by the central pivot.

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Not convinced by the central pivot.

Post  Didz on Thu Jul 06, 2017 1:30 pm

I notice that Uncle Billy has a thread below 'Infantry Wheeling', which is primarily discussing whether infantry battalions would wheel to face a flanking threat as they do in the game.

My issue is not so much whether or not they would wheel, as to how they do it.   I've frequently witnessed battalions in my game pivot on their centre to face an new threat, and it looks all wrong to me, and completely out of kilter with my understanding of how massed infantry in close order manoeuvred at the time.  This might be a transition that existed in the US drill manual, which had different origins and was less formal in its expectations of maintaining frontage and protecting exposed flanks, but as far as I know it was not a transition that was prescribed or practiced by European armies.

Certainly the British drill manual only recognised two alternative drills for a change of facing ('Pivot' and 'Floating Pivot'.) and a trawl through the [Sorry Apparently I'm not allowed to post a link to this manual]British regulations 1798[/url] mentions both being used both forwards and backwards, but the battalion drills don't mention a manoeuvre to pivot on the centre of a battalion.

The Pivot (sometimes referred to as the Halted Pivot) basically involved the flank marker on the pivot point being halted and turning to face the desired direction, and then the rest of the unit pivoting on him to face in the same direction.  Whilst the 'Floating Pivot' involved the flank marker continuing to move with the unit and guiding it into the new direction.  Presumably, in both cases the movement and direction of the flank marker would be supervised by an officer or NCO who knew what direction was required.  (Note: The current British ceremony of the trooping of the colour makes frequent use of the floating pivot.)

The manual allows for the movements to be completed both forwards and backwards, with the backwards pivots involving the men taking smaller steps backwards rather than turning around and showing their back to the enemy.  But obviously a backwards pivot would be much slower.  It seems unlikely that either method would have been used to pivot a battalion around its centre, if only because the guiding process would be hampered by the proximity of men on both sides of the central markers.  It is also obvious when witnessing the battalions in the game that the consequences of a central pivot are to expose the external flank of the battalion, which is inevitably left hanging in thin air, and by implication leaving the flanks of the battalions on either side of it exposed.

Battalions would have practiced both pivots and floating pivots, forwards and backwards, during their training and would have begun practicing them as peletons (sub-divisions), then divisions, then grand divisions, half-battalions and finally as full battalions, and so would have the flexibility and ability to do so without major problems in battle.  However, it is dubious that a battalion would break the line in order the change facing if threatened from the flank.  The most likely response would be a backwards pivot, probably of a grand-division or half-battalion (Wing) to face the new threat, or at most a full battalion backwards pivot that maintained its contact with the secure flank.

The central pivot we see in the game frequently results in the exposed flank being brought under close range musketry from the unit it was facing before it changed front.  Which seems unlikely to be tolerated in real life.

The other thing worth mentioning is the frequent mention of 'Left or Right Shoulder' forwards in eyewitness testimony.  e.g. 'My battalion advanced right should forwards'.  This is almost certainly an indication that the battalion was changing facing as it advanced e.g. it was conducting a 'floating pivot' maneuver.  The command Right or Left shoulder forwards was a command given to the men to sever the physical contact between their right or left shoulder and the man next to them, and to effectively move obliquely in the opposite direction.  e.g. Left Shoulder Forward = Move obliquely to the right.  

In doing so everyman would be seeking to re-establish physical contact with the man on the opposite flank e.g. Left Shoulder forwards, would mean moving forwards to bring your right shoulder back in contact with the left shoulder of the man on your right.  So, the whole division, grand division, half-battalion or battalion would move forwards (or backwards) with every man trying to re-align with the man slightly ahead of him.  Consequently all the guiding officer needed to do was control the movement of the flank marker and the rest of the unit would float through the pivot to naturally come to rest facing in the direction required.

The surprise I discovered in reading the manual was that during the manoeuvre the men were required to turn their heads and look not at the internal flank marker whom they were aligning with, but to the outer flank marker, who dictated the pace of the pivot.  Presumably to ensure that they didn't quicken the pace and lose alignment during the movement.


Last edited by Didz on Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Not convinced by the central pivot.

Post  Mr. Digby on Thu Jul 06, 2017 1:39 pm

The game has many limitations. The central wheel around the flag is one of the big ones.

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Re: Not convinced by the central pivot.

Post  Didz on Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:18 pm

Yes! In my last battle I had the Cameron Highlanders pivot to face a threat to their flank and expose their other flank to a French column attack.  I was not at all happy. Evil or Very Mad

I just found a rather nice video posted by Andrew Coles of a re-enactment group performing the halted and floating pivot.


I assume Uncle Billy gave up trying to stop the wheeling behaviour?


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Re: Not convinced by the central pivot.

Post  Mr. Digby on Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:50 pm

Yes, sadly the game engine is incapable of doing it. There is a small wheel motion allowed on one flank, but this is only a 12.5degree wheel; we cannot access the parts of the game code that control either setting this to a higher value or doing away with the centre flag pivot.

The KS toolbar has this small flank wheel move incorporated into 4 buttons: forward left, forward right, rearward left and rearward right. I use these moves a lot in MP games because to me it looks nicer than the default wheel.

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"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Not convinced by the central pivot.

Post  Uncle Billy on Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:55 pm

The AI pivoting has been mostly stopped. Skirmishers will still wheel, but I think that is OK because it represents individuals moving around to find the best place to fire from. The pivoting that the AI will do is to turn from a pivot at the end of the line. However as Digby says, it is limited to 12.5 degrees. Instead, you'll see units marching laterally rather than a lot of twisting and turning. It's not perfect, but the best we can due given the limited code we have to work with.

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Re: Not convinced by the central pivot.

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