Would you share your math?
(Question to anyone who’s reading this thread and might now: how did Redcoats c. 1780 drill for volley fire? Would they have fired in alternating volley by rank? Or just line up and everyone shoots at the same time? I think it makes a pretty big difference if the Redcoats fire one massive volley then they all have to reload before volleying again, or if the Romans are subjected to multiple, rolling volleys as they try to close the distance.)
Ok, fair enough. But the thing is, Redcoats are trained, drilled, and experienced in receiving infantry charges. They’re also trained, drilled, and experienced in reloading, firing, and getting set to receive infantry charges while under fire from muskets and canons. And historically the Redcoats fought enemies with spears, shields, and thrown weapons of various kinds. Romans simply have no frame of references for being subjected to musket fire.
Let’s take a look at the two experiences.
If you’re Roman, you see an infantry square of oddly dressed men wielding spears, which they’re leveling at you. Nothing you haven’t seen a thousand times bef-KRAKRAKABOOM!!! A rippling roar like a distant sound of thunder - and you’re from a world without internal combustion engines or radios and TVs or loudspeakers. And along with that, the enemy’s “spears” are flashing fire, and smoke is billowing from them. Simultaneously, shields, armor, and men all around you are being splintered and shattered, with no visible cause.
Maybe you hesitate. That gives the Redcoats more time to reload and fire again. Maybe you realize you are under a missile bombardment. If you do, maybe close ranks and form a tetsudo formation. That’s pretty effective against slings and arrows. But it’s worse than useless against musket volleys. Now you’re just a stationary, tightly clumped target - perfect for musket volleys.
Maybe you charge the enemy. Romans didn’t generally charge pell-mell - maintaining good order and unit cohesion was vital to their entire experience of warfare. So your “charge” isn’t going to be a sprint, it’s going to be a fast walk. And the Redcoats are going to be reloading and firing. (If the Redcoats are firing alternating volleys by rank, and again I don’t know if that was actually part of their drill, you’re going to be advancing under nearly continuous fire). You’re used to advancing under fire. But you’re used to being covered by your own missile troops, and you’re used to advancing under fire from slings and arrows, not thunder lances.
If you make it to within 30 or 40 yards, you’ll ready and throw your pilum or plumbata. Possibly while under close-range musket fire. But you know that’s just a distraction, and at best will break up the enemy formation. It won’t defeat them - for that, you need to close to melee contact.
Finally, if you survive the musket volleys and maintain discipline and unit cohesion (and again, you have no frame of reference for those thunder lances you’re being hit with), you come to grips with the enemy. Now you’re fighting unarmored spearmen, and you’re back on familiar ground, and all of your training and experience and gear are relevant again, and you drive the enemy from the field. If you get that far.
Now, let’s suppose you’re a Redcoat. You see an infantry formation armed with spears and shields. That’s unusual, but not unprecedented. But they’re dressed as ancient Romans! That’s deucedly peculiar. Maybe that causes you to hesitate. But they’re enemy infantry. Especially if they begin to advance, you know exactly how to deal with that. You shoot them. If they maintain discipline and unit cohesion and continue to advance, you know how to deal with that as well. You reload and you shoot them.
If they close to 30 or 40 yards, they start throwing javelins and darts. Again, unusual, but not unprecedented. And you’re drilled and experienced in reloading and firing while under fire. So you know what to do. You shoot them.
Finally, if they manage to close to melee range, you know what to do. You fix bayonets and set to receive the charge. Here, finally, your training and drill and experience and weapons betray you. You aren’t trained and equipped to deal with heavy armored infantry in close combat. So you are driven from the field. If they get that close.