Greenjacket wrote:In Blackpowder, "attack columns" are assault formations, while "march columns" are for manoeuvre but get penalised heavily for fighting in.
QED British should not be able to form "attack column".
Actually contemporary regulations did not use the term March Columns. What Black Powder calls March Columns were called Columns of Route in the British 1792 Regulations and Colonne en Route in the French 1791 Regulations. In both sets of regulations these are described as full distance columns, ie the distance the column takes up from front to back is the same as its length when in line. As Black Powder quite correctly states on page 15 such columns were poor formations for fighting purposes. These were therefore used for non-tactical movement only by all nations in the Napoleonic era and not for movement on the battlefield, by the British or anyone else.
That same page of the Black Powder rules defines an "Attack Column" as a battalion advancing in column of companies or column by division (ie on a two company front). The British use of battlefield close columns (ie closed up to one pace between companies) or quarter distance columns (ie closed up to one quarter of the frontage between companies) is completely within this definition. The reason for the very frequent British use of quarter distance columns is explained in their 1792 regulations Part 3, Section 178, paragraph 10 " If the battalion is marching in open ground, where it is necessary to be prepared against the attack of cavalry" and goes on to state that it should march in a column of companies at quarter distance, and explains the drill for forming square from this formation (it took less than 20 seconds). British memoirs mention being in quarter distance column more than any other formation. Line could be formed fast from this formation or from Close Columns.
The French used columns of companies, just like the British (often closed up to only half-distance because this fitted their method of forming square best), Close Columns (Colon Serree) virtually identical to the British, Columns of division (ie double company frontage) and Columns of Attack, all of which could form line or square just as fast as the British, using similar drills. As mentioned in an earlier posting a French Colonne d'attaque (Column of Attack) was not designed to actually attack in that formation, but was merely had a particular order of companies within the column to facilitate speedy deployment into line from both sides of the column simultaneously, as is made entirely clear in the French 1791 Regulations, Ecole de Battalion, cinquieme Partie, Article 13, Colonne d'attaque (pages 382 to 387 in my copy of that manual). A French Column of division and a French Column of Attack look exactly the same, apart from the order of companies, but the former normally formed line on one flank only. In fact in 1808 Napoleon ordered that battalions operating with one or both of their flank companies detached (ie whenever the voltigeurs were skirmishing) should form columns of companies, not columns of divisions (the reason for this is that a French column needed a minimum of three complete rows of companies (or divisions) in order to form square).
All forms of close column, quarter distance columns and half distance columns by all nations fall within the Black Powder definition of Attack Columns.
The fact that the French sometimes attacked in columns of companies or columns of division, without forming line, was an abberation, not actually in their regulations. It worked sometimes but not against steady foes. Unfortunately the use of the term Colonne d'attaque, like that of the similar Prussian Angriffs Colonne have led many people to incorrectly assume that they were designed to actually attack in that formation, which they were not.