The length of this war made it inevitable that the Dutch armies would evolve quite significantly during it. However this process was exaggerated by two factors. The Dutch rebels began the war with largely impromptu, rather disorganised armies, so as the war dragged on there was an inevitable improvement. The second was the role of Maurice of Nassau, the Dutch commander in the middle period of the war, who introduced a series of significant reforms that greatly improved the Dutch army (to the extent that people came to study the Dutch way of war).
The changes come in two main areas. The first was in the organisation of the troops, which in turn had a dramatic impact on their flexibility in battle. At the start of the revolt against Spain the Dutch armies were made up of large blocks of largely untrained men, incapable of anything but the simplest of movement on the battlefield. Even a simple advance required frequent pauses to reorganise. Over time the army was split into a larger number of smaller units, each of which was capable of quite complex manoeuvres, and the way in which these units operated together was changed to make it quicker for them to deploy.
The second area of change was in equipment. Over the course of the long war the weapons in use changed, as did the proportion of the different weapons. This was a period in which early firearms were in use alongside pikemen, halberdiers and sword-and-buckler men. The balance between the various weapons changed, the type of firearm in use and the size of balls fired was altered.
That long evolution makes this book more interesting, giving us an insight into how an army can evolve under the pressure of war.
Civil War, 1568-87
War for Independence, 1588-1620
Coalition War, 1621-48
Home-Defence & External Operations
Author: Bouko de Groot