The Perfection of Military Discipline

The Plug Bayonet and the English Army 1660-1705

Mark W. Shearwood

The book reevaluates the introduction of the plug bayonet within the English army and consequential impact on infantry tactics and equipment in the last seventeenth century.
Date Published :
May 2020
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Century of the Soldier
Illustration :
8pp color section, 46 b/w photos/ills, many tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781913118877
Pages : 176
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7 inches
Stock Status : Available


The book reevaluates both the plug bayonet as a weapon and its implementation which fundamentally changed how it impacted both the formation and tactics of all armies of the long seventeen century. The plug bayonets reputation was marred by General Hugh Mackay following his defeat at the Battle of Killiekrankie on the 27th July 1689 when he supposedly stated: ‘his men were defeated by an unforeseen technical flaw in their weaponry [plug bayonet]’. This view of the plug bayonet has been reiterated constantly over the following 300 years, with military historian’s sidelining the plug bayonet as a dead-end technology with little to commend it.

While the introduction of the bayonet was a monumental step in the development of infantry in infantry tactics from pike to shot, one chapter will look at some of the other important developments with military technology. It will look at the arguments of matchlock vs flintlock and how they developed, and the introduction of Chevaux de frise, etc. It will prove that unlike some previous assertions, advancements within this sphere were not linier in nature. I will show that the adoption of the bayonet or the re-adoption of the pike were down to individual regimental colonel’s perception of these weapons, and in some cases the overall general in charge of specific operations.

The following chapter investigates the changes within infantry battalion drill’s and organization. How foot battalions went from up to one third of all soldiers armed only with defensive weapons (the pike) to battalions fully armed with both offensive and defensive weapons, the musket with bayonet. This development increased the firepower of any one battalion by up to one third, a step which was as a direct consequence of the introduction of the plug bayonet.

The book will show that the plug bayonet was not only in use with English forces during the Dunkirk campaign in the early 1660’s, but the English establishment bought into the idea of the plug bayonet earlier than previously thought and placed large orders from the 1670’s, with the Board of Ordnance ordering 10,000 plug bayonets in 1678. Additionally, it will show that contemporary privately printed drill manuals are a valuable and accurate tool for identifying changes in military drill. It will identify how issues of supply and demand affected both English and continental armies.

This is the first book whose primary focus is on the plug bayonet and its lasting impact on military tactics and equipment. The book will highlight that a piece of technology, which was derived from a civilian hunting weapon developed to hunt boar’s during the 16th century, that was still in use as such in Spain and Germany in the 19th century, transferred to an important piece of military equipment. As such, the plug bayonet was in use with the English army from c1660 until after 1700, being in use for over 40 years of service and as such does not deserve its reputation as a failure.

About The Author

Mark Shearwood has had a lifelong interest in military history and wargaming. He is now in the second year of his Ph.D. at the University of Leeds. Following a brief career in the Royal Engineers he spent most of his working life with the courier industry, returning to complete his master’s degree at Leeds in 2018. The plug bayonet and its public perception has always been of interest and was the subject of his master’s dissertation. His primary research focus is on the military of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century from the Monmouth Rebellion to the end of the Great Northern War. His current Ph.D. research is looking into issues of religion and loyalty within the armies of James II and William III. He is married with four children and lives in Chesterfield on the edge of the Peak District.


"Mark gives us food for thought on so many fronts with information which could have been presented in a dry as dust way, brought to life and made very engaging and thought provoking."

- The NYMAS Review

‘’...not a book for the general reader but will interest those who have a deeper interest in warfare during the late 17th Century. The text reads like a Master’s Thesis; passively constructed and loaded with technical minutiae and chapters that skirt the main thrust of Shearwood’s argument. Nevertheless, this book is full of useful information for specialists and the footnotes help a lot to see the arguments Shearwood is pushing against. The colour plates and monochrome illustrations also help in that regard. Wargamers for this period will certainly need to take note of this book and Shearwood’s conclusions. 7/10’’

- Wargames Illustrated

"The author has certainly researched the plug bayonet in depth and there is much interesting material contained in this book’s pages…"

- Miniature Wargames

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