Did you ever have to think about why in the old days, even after the appearance of firearms, people fought for a long time in dense formations and slender living ranks. At the same time, almost in an instant they were abandoned in absolutely all the armies of the world? What was the reason and when did the "great tactical revolution" take place? And most importantly, why the firearms did not put an end to the formations immediately after their appearance.
Why people fought in dense formations for a long time
The first firearms made a splash in military affairs. For medieval people, it was akin to what the first example of a beam or electromagnetic weapon could become today. However, the first examples of firearms were still not so effective in getting people to abandon dense structures. A simple example: 7-15 musket shots in one battle were considered a sign of a very difficult, intense and bloody battle. In some 16th century, in the entire musket firefight of two armies, as many people could die as in the middle of the 19th century from one single artillery salvo.
In addition, until the 19th century, it made no sense to disperse the shooters. Since the accuracy of fire even from firearms of the 18th century was extremely low (by modern standards), the musketeers made sense only when they fired in one gulp, forming a wall.
Another important reason that forced the armies to hold on to linear tactics is the dominance of the cavalry until the Napoleonic era. Although the role of firearms and artillery on the battlefield grew steadily, the heavy cavalry remained the most formidable weapon for a long time.
The heavy cavalry did not necessarily wear any kind of armor, especially in later modern times. First of all, it was "heavy" because of the manner of fighting: the horsemen were advancing in a dense living avalanche, which simply trampled everything in its path. At least somehow, the attack of the heavy cavalry could only be resisted by a dense and highly disciplined formation of infantry. Until the 18th century, pikemen battles were used for this. With the advent of the bayonet and the development of muskets (primarily with an increase in their rate of fire by improving the technology of the trigger mechanism), the need for spearmen disappeared.
Why did people suddenly abandon dense structures
The rejection of linear tactics was not one-step and stretched out for almost a century. Gradually, more and more destructive means of engaging enemy manpower were created. This primarily concerned heavy artillery. The development of industry, new methods of casting metals and the discovery of new types of gunpowder made it possible to create ammunition for cannons with such a terrifying effect on manpower that Napoleon Bonaparte's gunners could only dream of.
At the same time, from the middle of the 19th century, the role of cavalry on the battlefield began to decline. The development of firearms and the continued growth in the number of foot formations made heavy cavalry less and less effective. The cavalry was increasingly assigned the role of light formations, engaged in flank attacks, reconnaissance and pursuit of the retreating enemy. The growing losses of the horse population from artillery and machine-gun attacks also had an effect.
The role of the salvo method of firing was also reduced. This was due to the fact that the standard infantry firearms became more and more accurate. In addition, the task of creating a lead shower gradually passed to the first canister machine guns. Thus, on the one hand, the development of means of destruction forced the soldiers to be more and more dispersed across the battlefield, and on the other hand, the departure of cavalry to the background made it possible to abandon monolithic formations without much risk of being "trampled" by an attack from a gallop.
Continuing the topic, read about why were the German pilots afraid of the Soviet pilot.