From the Archives - The Introduction of the Bayonet into the English Army
The origins of the bayonet are rather obscure. The weapon is traditionally associated with Bayonne, a port city at the foot of the Pyrenees in southwestern France, a town apparently noted for a type of hunting knife with a long slender blade. Various tales are told of how the practice of putting one of these at the end of a musket arose.
One tradition holds that during feuds, local uprisings, or perhaps bandit excursions, some folks, having run out of ammunition, jammed their hunting knives into the muzzles of their muskets to improvise a spear. Another tale has it that men hunting bear or boar in the Pyrenees would jam a knife into the muzzle of their musket after firing rather than try the long process of reloading, just in case their target took offense. It’s also possible that both accounts are more or less accurate.
The first references to the military use of the bayonet come from about 1660. Soon afterwards it began to become common in both Spanish and French armies. By tradition it was introduced into the latter by Jean Martinet, who rose to Inspector General of the French Army before being killed by “friendly” artillery fire in 1672 (not “fragged” as is commonly reported).
The first allusion to bayonets in the English army is found in a Royal Warrant of King Charles II dated April 2, 1672:
Our will and pleasure is, that a Regiment of Dragoones which we have established and ordered to be raised, in twelve Troopes of fourscore in each besides officers, who are to be under the command of Our most deare and most entirely beloved Cousin, Prince Rupert, shall be armed out of Our stoares remaining within our Office of the Ordinance, as followeth; that is to say, three corporalls, two sergeants, the gentlemen at armes, and twelve souldiers of each of the said twelve Troopes, are to have and carry each of them one halbard, and one case of pistolls with holsters; and the rest of the souldiers of the several Troopes aforesaid are to have and to carry each of them one matchlocke musquet, with a collar of bandaliero, and also to have and to carry one bayonet or great knive. That each lieutenant have and carry one partizan, and that two drums be delivered out for each Troope of the said Regiment.