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Infantry

foot, cavalry, soldiers, troops, time, word and serve

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INFANTRY is a name given to the soldiers who serve on foot. It is imme diately derived from the Italian word fante, which, though in strictness denoting a child, is in general applied to any young person. From tue latter word comes fall face/no, and this is the origin offantassin, a name which was once commonly applied to a foot soldier. During the time that the feudal system was in vigour, the nu merous dependants of the nobility served in the wars, for the most part, on foot; and being called children, because they were so considered with respect to their patron lords, or to the towns from whence they were drawn, the word infantry be came at length the general name for that species of troops. Boccaccio, who wrote in the fourteenth century, designates by the word fanteria the men who marched on foot in rear of the cavalry.

Among the antient nations of Europe the foot soldiers constituted the chief strength of the armies. In the best days of the Grecian and Roman states battles were mainly won by the force and disci pline of the phalanges and legions, and the number of the Infantry in the field far exceeded that of the cavalry. The cavalry were then, as at present, employed chiefly in protecting the wings of the army and in completing the victory which bad been gained by the former. Most of the writers on tactics, from Folard down wards, express a decided preference in favour of the infantry.

The antient Franks, when they left the forests of Germany, were accustomed to march and fight on foot ; and they per severed in this practice even after they had obtained possession of the country of the Gauls, which abounded with horses.

In this country the greater part of the Anglo-Saxon forces consisted of infantry, the cavalry being formed of the thanes, or rich proprietors of the land : the in fantry were divided into heavy and light armed troops ; the former being provided with swords and spears and large oval shields, and the latter having only spears, clubs, or battle-axes.

But soon after the time of Charlemagne the institutions of chivalry began to be generally adopted in the kingdoms of Europe These led to frequent and splendid exhibitions of martial exercises on horseback, in presence of the princes and assembled nobles ; and the interest inspired by the achievements of the knights on those occasions was naturally followed by a high regard for that order of men. By degrees the cavalry, which

was composed of persons possessing rank and property, and completely armed, ac quired the reputation of being the princi pal force in war ; and the foot soldiers, ill armed and disciplined, were held in comparatively small estimation.

. From the capitularies of the French kings of the second race it appears that the foot soldiers who served in the armies of France consisted of slaves and freed serfs : the latter were either peasants or artificers, who, for the benefit of the army, occasionally exercised their parti cular trades, as shoeing horses, forming intrenchments, &c.; and,. in action, like the men of the inferior class, were em ployed as skirmishers or light-armed troops. Similarly the infantry of this country, for some time after the Conquest, consisted of the yeomanry, vassals and dependants of the feudal tenants ; and occasionally foot soldiers were engaged by the kings, under indentures, to serve in the wars. The English troops at that time wore a plain iron helmet called a bacinet, and a linen doublet stuffed with wool or cotton ; their arms were gene rally pikes, but frequently they had swords and battle-axes.

Under the third race of kings in France, the possessors of fiefs were not compelled to furnish infantry for the armies ; and it appears that this duty was then imposed on the towns. The troops thus raised were obliged to serve only in or near the towns to which they belonged ; or, if they were marched to a considerable distance from thence, they received pay. In the reign of Philip Augustus this militia must have been very numerous; for in some districts it was formed into legions, and was com manded by persons of distinction. At the battle of Bovines (1214) the municipal militia farmed the first line of the French army, but it was defeated by the German infantry, which was more numerous, and even then of better quality than that of France.

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