The Ordre Profond

            French tacticians drew from antiquity one key system: the ordre profond (the deep order). The ordre profond was based on the examples of both the Greek phalanx and the Roman legions, combining elements of both into a large, deep column formation. This stood in opposition to the ordre mince, or line formation. Though the ordre profond had a number of different forms and went through a number of different stages, in principle it relied on its depth and mass to advance quickly and break the thin line of enemy troops.[1] Generally speaking, the ordre profond was as dense as possible, usually consisting of anywhere between 200 and 2000 soldiers, all tightly packed. Given their faith in the universal principles of war mentioned above, many commanders were confident that even a small number of troops employed correctly could deliver the necessary decisive blow at the opportune moment. By 1791, the column had been outlined in the Règlement of the field army, and instructions were given for every manoeuvre and procedure which a soldier in column would be required to know.[2] Therefore, despite their many differences, proponents of the ordre profond agreed that, for the following reasons, the ordre would lead French armies to victory.

[1] Quimby, 27.
[2] Lacroix, xli.  The Règlement, also called the Ordinance, is cited in this bibliography as the Rules and regulations for the field exercise and manoeuvres of the French infantry, written by Lacroix, as the copy used is a translated and re-published copy. However, it will be referred to as the Règlement in the text in order to remain consistent with other scholarship.

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