By Chris Grice
So you are running a solo campaign?
You may have set your efforts in a “real” historical context, or perhaps in a mythical country of your own devising; either way, it will doubtless not be long before you turn your attention to recruiting some troops. You will probably give a great deal of thought to the type or troops which are available, their weaponry, tactics, perhaps even their uniforms. Do you give any thought to the method of recruitment your army employs and how this might affect the strengths and weaknesses of the finished army? Together with the level of pay offered, the recruiting methods used can have a great deal of influence over your army’s character.
I have set out some thoughts on recruiting methods used by different armies in the 18th and 19th centuries, together with suggestions on how they could be incorporated into your solo campaigning.
The British (or Scum of the Earth) method:
The British army was made up of volunteers, paid a bounty on enlistment. In practice, some of the methods used to encourage a recruit to enlist were pretty dubious. Although some men joined up for adventure or from patriotic feeling, many more were simply drunks, runaways, the unemployable or actual criminals, the “King’s Hard Bargains”, given the choice of prison or a red coat. Given the background of much of the raw material, it is not surprising that training was harsh and time consuming and that only a proportion of men had the intelligence required to make a good skirmisher. The army was looked on as another world and had little effect on the country as a whole.
The Revolutionary method: The French revolutionary authorities appealed for thousands of volunteers to defend France against the foreign armies which threatened invasion. The resulting recruits came from all walks of life and were allowed to elect their own officers and NCOs. The new regiments were fired up with the revolutionary ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, which made them enthusiastic and aggressive but not well disciplined. (One unit threatened to lynch their CO as a despot because he tried to drill them.) Individually, many of the volunteers made good skirmishers and took to their training easily. France’s economy was already in tatters after the revolution, and the recruitment of men from all classes can only have made matters worse.
The French Method
The French Empire used a system of conscription whereby all unmarried men or military age were liable to serve. When the call came for recruits, the men drew lots, with the lowest numbers being the first to be called. There were some exemptions, but in effect men from all walks of life could be called up. I believe there must have been some disruption to local economics resulting from this method, if key citizens (e.g. the village blacksmith or wheelwright) came to be drafted. French recruits adapted well to their training and a large proportion made good skirmishers.
The Russian method: When recruits were needed, an Imperial decree would be issued requiring landowners to provide one young man for every 20 on his lands for service in the Tsar’s regiments. This, of course, provided said landowner with an excellent opportunity to get rid of the most useless, workshy or stupid of his peasants. This, coupled with appealingly low pay (the meager wages of a British soldier would have paid nearly 40 Russians!) and a disciplinary system which would have made even a redcoat cringe, made the Russian soldier little more than an unthinking block in a human wall. The Russian soldier’s stubbornness was legendary, but he showed little initiative and was slow to train.
The Austrian method: This was a mixture, about a third of the recruits were volunteers, the rest were conscripted. In theory, all men were liable for conscription, but there were so many exemptions that only the poorest were likely to be drafted. Given the low standard of many recruits, the Austrian army proved slow to train and ponderous in manoeuvre. It is perhaps noticeable that the Spanish, another army of legendary slowness, used a similar system, though their low officer-to-man ratio takes much of the blame for their sluggishness.
The Indian (or Sillidar) method: This can really only work in societies where soldiering is an honourable profession and pays considerably better than your prospective recruit could hope for in “civvy street”. The recruit paid a bond, called an assami, to the unit on enlistment. This was a guarantee of his good behaviour and was refundable on honourable discharge. The cavalry recruit brought his own horse and drew pay for it in addition to his own, being compensated if it were killed in action but not if it was lost through neglect.
For the purposes of our campaign. we can make a few sweeping assumptions from these examples, leading us to the following set of rule ideas: Assume that you can recruit a maximum of 2% of your country’s population into your army. Your chosen recruitment method will effect the class of your recruits, rather than increasing this maximum figure. Also assume that the ‘norm’ for a soldier’s wage is the same as that of the lowest class of labourer in your country.
Volunteers: These must be paid a bounty to induce them to enlist, therefore all volunteers will receive the equivalent of three months’ wage on enlistment. If rates of pay are set at the norm mentioned above, the recruits are probably not of the most intelligent (otherwise these would get another job!) so allow three months for basic training. No more than 10% of the recruits can be trained as skirmishers.
If pay rates are increased, so is the average intelligence of your recruits; if you double the pay, double the speed with which they can be trained and the proportion of prospective skirmishers, if you pay three times the norm, they will become trained troops in one month and you can train up to 30% as skirmishers.
This alteration of pay rates only works on troops being recruited – you don’t automatically increase the intelligence of your existing troops by raising their pay! Raising an army this way does not effect your national economy.
Enthusiastic volunteers: In order to raise troops who are determined and enthusiastic. Their home nation must be under threat, either from external or internal forces. You need not pay any recruiting bounty.
It is unlikely that their fervor will last more than, say, one year, but during this time these troops will take every opportunity to get to close combat with the enemy. They will also be difficult to control if successful. Grade the volunteers ‘A’ class, but four months will be needed to train them to full effectiveness. (In desperate times, of course, they will probably see action partly trained, but reckless).
Once their year of “enthusiasm” is over, they revert to normal trained troops. Up to 25% of the volunteers could be trained as skirmishers. For every 10% of your army raised in this fashion, reduce the income from your country by 2.5%.
Conscripts: Them is no initial cost to recruiting troops by conscription, but for each 10% of your army recruited by this method, reduce your nation’s income by 2% Up to 20% of your troops can be trained as skirmishers and all troops will be trained in two months.
Remember, conscription is not a popular measure; if you are introducing it to your nation for the first time, there is every chance of riots breaking out in your cities (Possibly requiring troops to quell them). Take a 10% chance of rioting in each of your cities as conscription is introduced, with the possibility of it spreading if not stopped immediately.
Recruitment by decree: There is little initial outlay involved in this method, and no bounty to be paid. You can also pay your troops as little as, say, a quarter of the “norm” and there is no effect on your economy.
In return for these savings, you must spend nine months to train your recruits to full effectiveness and no more than 5% can be trained as skirmishers.
Partial conscription: This method allows certain members of your population to be exempted from conscription. If you allow exemptions, there will be no adverse effect on your economy, however training time will increase to six months and no more than 10% can be skirmish trained.
Even partial conscription is unpopular, so chances of rioting are the same as above.
The Sillidar method: There is no initial outlay involved in this method, but pay rates must be at least four times the norm. You cannot count the assami as income, as it will be returned to the soldier on discharge. There is no adverse effect on the national economy and training will take two months. Up to 20% may be skirmish trained.
Mix and match:
You can, of course, use an amalgam of different recruitment methods to raise your army, or change your system to suit changing circumstances. The Austrians, as we have seen, conscripted part of their army, with the rest provided by volunteers. However, be warned, you could get into trouble if parts of your army are paid differently. The French revolutionary authorities got into difficulties when existing regular regiments discovered that the new volunteers were more highly paid than they were. If you take this risk, use the following formula: Higher pay x 10% = chance of mutiny in lower paid units.
One recruiting method I haven’t touched on is pressing into service prisoners of war. Although this sounds a risky proposition, some such units served their new masters well. The Chasseurs Britanique Regiment, for instance, was originally composed of French royalists eager to fight for the British against Revolutionary France. With time, however, the supply of emigres dried up and all manner of odds and ends were recruited, including a great many ex POWs. The Chasseurs nevertheless fought well, although their desertion rate was high and they could not therefore be used on outpost duty. Under the above rules, these would count as volunteers, though you could perhaps give a smaller bounty to compensate for the high desertion rate.
So, with your next solo campaign, I hope you will consider a bit more carefully the motivation of a recruit to “go for a soldier” and can include some of these ideas in your campaign rules.
I haven’t yet, however, come up with recruitment rules which would cover the life of one character I read about recently, Private Antoine Lutz. He was born in Alsace and was conscripted into the French Revolutionary army. At the second attempt he successfully deserted and joined the French Royalist army, though he later found himself, with his unit, transferred into Russian service. He deserted again and volunteered for the Austrian army, was captured by the French, and forced to join the Spanish army. While proceeding by sea to Spain, Lutz and his companions were captured by a Royal Navy warship and he subsequently enlisted in the British Minorca Regiment (later the 97th Foot) in which he was to distinguish himself at the Battle of Aboukir. I can only assume Private Lutz was an avid collector of the King’s Shillings!