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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Firearms had now come into general use


The Spanish army in the days of its greatness.]

The principal element in the Spanish army was the volunteer soldiery in the king's pay. Foreign mercenaries were obtained for stated lengths of time or for specific campaigns, but Spaniards enlisted for indefinite service, and thus became the veterans of the army. Military life was popular during the sixteenth century and the early part of the seventeenth, and the army abounded in _hidalgos_ and others of yet higher rank who did not disdain to serve as privates. Later the number of Spanish recruits grew less, when the state began to fail in its regularity of payments, and their withdrawal marked the era when defeats became frequent. Among the noteworthy changes in tactics was the appearance of the regiment. Firearms had now come into general use, and cannon were greatly improved, but it was the pikemen of the Spanish infantry who formed the principal branch of the army until near the close of the period. Because of the inferiority of their weapons the troops with firearms were regarded as a mere auxiliary to the pikemen. Armies were small; 20,000 to 40,000 men was perhaps the usual rule. Even in the century of Spain's greatness many lands were left without garrison, as occurred nearly always in the case of the Americas; one report of the period of Charles I stated that there was not a port in the colonies which could resist an attack of three hundred men. The worst evils in connection with the army

were those of bad administration and a lack of regularity in paying the troops and in remitting funds for munitions and other supplies. Fraud and graft accounted for a great deal of the money which the state did apply to the army. These factors contributed to a lack of military discipline; it was not unusual for ragged and starving soldiers to beg from door to door, and it is not to be wondered at that the troops occasionally took the matter of the collection of their wages into their own hands. It was customary for women of bad repute to accompany the armies, and it sounds strange today that one of the military manuals of the time recommended that there should be eight women, who should be common to all, for every hundred soldiers. Nevertheless, the Spanish infantry, for more than a century, enjoyed the reputation of being the most capable military unit in Europe.

[Sidenote: Naval warfare.]

Despite the frequency of naval warfare and the necessity of maintaining communications with the Americas, comparatively little attention was paid to the marine establishment, and properly speaking there was no official navy in the entire period. The principal method employed to assemble a fleet was by renting ships, whether from Spaniards or foreigners. In addition a few were built by the state, or purchased, and in times of stress merchant vessels were pressed into service, but this proved ruinous to commerce and ship-building alike. So long as other powers used the same methods Spain was not greatly handicapped, but with the development of national navies in England, France, and the Protestant Netherlands, she was placed at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, considerable fleets were often assembled. In 1643 a special fleet called the _Armada de Barlovento_ (fleet of the Barlovento, modern Windward, Islands) was organized at colonial expense for the defence of the Americas. It was soon withdrawn,--but the tax remained. The fleet of the Catalonian deputation was maintained for a while, but disappeared early in the seventeenth century. There were also a number of private fleets, engaged principally in reprisals against the Moslems, a kind of piracy. While privateering of this sort was forbidden by

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