Coordinating battles in the past


Hell, It's about time!
Does anyone know how commanders in the Civil War, Revolutionary War and Medieval wars communicated with and coordinated their troops and commanders on the battlefield prior to radios and computers?

Here is an example of what I'm talking about:


There are multiple instances where the general is giving orders in the battle, but how does that get communicated to the men on the field?


Do What Thou Wilt
More often than not, they would send a messenger boy. But by the time gun powder came into play, they would get killed and so they resorted to music. When gunpowder improved, they relied on flags

And, the final battle in The PAtriot is Cowpens. Guilford Courthouse occured later in the war. You see, Bejamin Martin is a fictional version of a real life colonel called francis marion, also called the Swamp Fox, and his tactics are EXCATLY like benjamin martin. Francis Marion did not join up with main forces until the battle at Cowpens, where he actually told his men, "two shots, then retreat" and the battle went exactly like that. just saying
Plus, I have the DVD, and the chapter title is titled "the Battle At Cowpens"
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Registered Member
Basically what's been already said; drums/horns, flags, messengers.

More often than not, a general was only really able to influence a battle through preparation, prior to the main engagement; once the battle was fully under way, there typically really wasn't too much an average general could do to control it's flow, aside from perhaps ordering the retreat, if such preparations were made. Battles were often won before they even started.


Creeping On You
It was sort of like a chess game. Each general had to anticipate what the other was going to do. Once it started, they had to hope their strategy was good. Usually they used flags and horns to signal different regiments and troops when to start their charge, or fire a volley etc, but they were limited in what all they could communicate.


Registered Member
Wish I could give you some more info than the stuff already mentioned, but alas :cool:

I'll just contribute a passage from SunTzu's overhyped work :lol:

(The Art of War, Chapter VII)

23. The Book of Army Management says: On the field
of battle, the spoken word does not carry far enough:
hence the institution of gongs and drums. Nor can ordinary
objects be seen clearly enough: hence the institution
of banners and flags.

24. Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means
whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be focused
on one particular point.

25. The host thus forming a single united body,
is it impossible either for the brave to advance alone,
or for the cowardly to retreat alone. This is the art
of handling large masses of men.

26. In night-fighting, then, make much use of signal-fires
and drums, and in fighting by day, of flags and banners,
as a means of influencing the ears and eyes of your army.