Monday, October 21, 2013

The Musketeers of the Line

Engraving of an early musketeer, likely from the 16th century (given the helmet).

One of the things that's been coming to my mind recently in my quest to overcome my approach and other social anxieties is the image of the musketeer, standing in line, exposed to enemy fire, bearing his weapon against the enemy.

I will never experience combat, and I will thus never know how truly terrifying it must be to go into battle, but I think that it must have been particularly terrifying to these men, standing in line with early firearms and fighting in linear formations. Unlike other forms of combat, such as phalanx formations, the Roman legion, and modern rapid movement tactics, or even the contemporary pike blocks that musketeers as pictured above would have seen, musketeers were absolutely exposed. They could not rely on the men to their left and right to protect them in the moment of action, as could their fellow warriors in a phalanx or pike block. There was no ducking for cover on battlefields like Breitenfeld, Naseby, or Leuthen for the infantryman armed with a musket. He did not have armor that could protect him from the weapons of the enemy as the Roman legionaries did and modern soldiers do, and given the limited medical knowledge of the day, physicians were often incapable of dealing with any gunshot wound in a vital area, so he could not even call for a medic with hope that he may live.

The musketeer had no hope but to pray that they weren't hit in the broad exchange of fire that defined the battles of this period, and would not essentially disappear until World War II. Instances such as the Duke of Wellington ordering his men to take cover from enemy fire behind a ridge at Waterloo are generally rare. In the moment of action, the musketeer had only his weapon and hope that the chaos of the battlefield would not engulf him.

Despite this, he faced down his fears and planted his feet firmly in the ground, standing the onslaught of cannon, enemy muskets, and cavalry ready to trample or cut him into bits. He was trained to face down these fears and do his job, and he did it with success.

Take this image of these musketeers, standing, fighting, and dying in line, completely exposed to the enemy. Now think of whatever it is you're afraid of- going on a job interview, doing a presentation, approaching a woman- whatever it is. Now think of the musketeers from centuries past facing down enemy fire with no protection- standing in a line almost waiting to die, and yet fighting anyway.

Chances are, whatever it is you're afraid of is utterly ridiculous when compared to the sheer amount of terror these men (or anyone who's gone into combat- but particularly them) faced. Yet through training, they overcame their fears and achieved glory. Who does not remember the stubborn redcoats withstanding the French artillery at Waterloo? The same can happen with you or me. Through training and discipline we too, can overcome any fear and achieve the immortality we desire. The obstacles we face pale in comparison to those that the musketeers did.

And so when I am facing a challenge that gets my brain to freeze out, I will try and picture the musketeers, among other things, whose discipline and bravery are the epitome of what I believe men should aspire to be, and were the cornerstones in the glory that they were able to achieve. Your fear is nothing to them, and your glory awaits.

The 28th regiment at Quatre Bras, by Elizabeth Thompson
Musketeer Gundpowder Warfare Courage

No comments:

Post a Comment