Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Administration of the army

And now for something completely different ...

the administration of the army.

In the 17th century the army as we know it today did not exist. Basically, the army consisted of regiments of foot and horse owned by the colonel-proprietor. This colonel was obviously paid by the government, but the regiment was his property so to speak (as were the soldiers in his regiments in some sense).

Other parts that would constitute an army were chiefly operated by civilians, or a mixture of civilians and military. One should think of artillery, engineers, and logistics. Here especially the latter gives an interesting insight in the administration that made the army operate (and probably, but that is the author's opinion, insight in how the society was organized).

Since the army did not possess a corps dedicated to supply and transportation (like the Royal Logistic Corps or Regiment Bevoorradings- en transporttroepen), civilians were contracted to provide food, transport the food, take care of the wounded etc etc. However, there was of course some administrative mechanism that, in theory, had to take care of all this. And here the step it made towards the topic of this article: the administration of the army. In this case the focus is on the British Army (which is an anachronism actually for the period under consideration). The author is very much aware information presented here is far from complete, and will try to provide updates soon.

At the top of the pyramid stood the monarch, being factual and titular head of state, and in command of the army.

Next came several departments and functions, that did not have a clear relation. But all had their voice in matters related to the army.

The deployment of the army was the responsibility of the Secretaries of State; there was a Northern Department for Northern European/Protestant countries, and a Southern Department for Southern European/Catholic and Muslim countries. (This is not the exact division!)

Furthermore, the role of the Secretary-at-War became more and more important towards 1700 and after. He was the administrative head of the army and looked after the day-to-day running of the army.

The Board of Ordnance with its Master-General of the Ordnance was important, as it controlled almost everything that was not foot or horse. However, he was not subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. The Board was actually a civilian organization, and didn't form part of the army.

The Lord High Treasurer at the head of the Treasury was important for obvious reasons. Subordinate was the Paymaster-General who took care of the disbursement of soldiers' wages and money for subsistence. Also subordinate to the Lord High Treasurer was the Commissariat Department. This department was responsible for moving and feeding the army. This was a civilian bureaucratic department, again not part of the army, and had to contract civilians for providing food, transport, etc.

Not least, an important role was played by the General in Chief Command and Captain General. However, that post was not always filled.

Next step will be to identify links between the various departments and their responsibilities with respect to the army. From the above, the author is aware that it will not be a clear and comprehensive chart that makes clear the responsibilities and hierarchy. (An initial investigation of the administration of the Dutch Army of the late 17th Century shows a much more comprehensive business model.)

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