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Shae Bishop




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 9:21 am    Post subject: Sword usage 1630-1650         Reply with quote

I am wondering if anyone knows of any fencing manuals from the period 1630-50 or slightly before from England or anywhere else in western Europe. What I really want to get at is how were swords used during the English Civil War and later 30 Years War. I am interested both in the use of rapiers and broadswords (including so-called cut-and-thrust swords). Was rapier fencing at this point still taught based on the works of the 16th century Italian masters? I know that to a large extent the same priciples apply especially for weapons like the swept-hilt rapier which had been in use with minor variations since the mid 16th century and was at the end of it's heyday in the period in question, but what of English cup-hilts and the newer transitional rapiers of the period. Regarding broader-bladed swords, I know that many were used as cavalry weapons primarily, but what of their use on foot. Were swords such as mortuary hilts and other half-baskets ever used for dueling, I would imagine they were since many of the musketeer and pikemam's swords used as secondary weapons were of a similar form and used on foot, and if so how were they used? Were the methods of George Silver still prevalant in England for the use of basket-hilts and other cut-and-thrust swords? Finally, how much (if at all) would swordsmanship vary from England to continental Europe where the 30 Years War was being fought?

I know that this is a lot of questions to throw out there and some of them may not have an easy answer. I have tried to be as specific as possible to make answering easier. I know that there are some 17th century fanatics on this board so I thought I could try to draw on some of their knowledge.

Thank you very much,

Shae
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven Reich has made a nice illustration of a timeline of fencing manuals in Italy and elsewhere, published on the Order of Seven Hearts' website (the organisation founded by Tom Leoni):
http://salvatorfabris.com/Timeline.shtml

But the use in battle vs. duel is a difficult subject... As is the question of how widespread was a given style at one time. From what I've seen in manuals, it seems that the use of the rapier remained fairly consistent throughout the 17th century, i.e. it relies on the same principles. For more military types, cut & thrust weapons, I really don't know...

Hope this helps

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Martin Wilkinson





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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Pallas Armata manual, was published in 1639.

http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/pallas.htm

Hope this helps.

With regards to what was used, and how, I really can't say with any certainty, i'm currently looking into the swords used during the English Civil War, and can't really say alot about how they were used.

I just don't know if regular soldiers recieved any training in sword fighting. I do, however, know what they used swords for. Chopping wood.

Unfortunately i don't know what swords were issued to infantry men, whilst records exist of their cost, exact details, such as hilt and blade style don't exist as far as i can tell.

"A bullet you see may go anywhere, but steel's, almost bound to go somewhere."

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Dietrich Dellinger




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd check around the reenactment societies for the military use of the sword. I know there are surviving drill manuals from the period, but I don't know if they cover the use of the sword or not.

http://www.thesealedknot.org.uk/

http://www.ecwsa.org/
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Martin Wilkinson





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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dietrich Dellinger wrote:
I'd check around the reenactment societies for the military use of the sword. I know there are surviving drill manuals from the period, but I don't know if they cover the use of the sword or not.

http://www.thesealedknot.org.uk/

http://www.ecwsa.org/


You forgot one:

http://english-civil-war-society.org/

Also, so far i found no early-mid 17th Century drill manual which covers the use of the sword.

"A bullet you see may go anywhere, but steel's, almost bound to go somewhere."

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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 10:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The closest in time period is Pallas Armata from 1639. A complete transcription in the original English is at

http://www.stoccata.org/stoccata.nsf/Pages/Manuals

The rapier fencing system is basically Italian, though Chris Vivo, who is translating the extant French rapier sources, and I feel that it may be Italian coming via France (though there's a fair bit of supposition in that). The sword system is like a hybrid between Bolognese sword and English backsword as exemplified at this period by Swetnam (whose 1617 work can be found at that same page). Swetnam's rapier system is home grown English and is rather interesting as it seems to be heavily geared towards defending yourself from unschooled or poorly schooled fencers.

I think Silver was becoming out of date by the time he wrote, let alone by the Civil War 40 years later. The system may have survived in pockets and certainly Scottish swordsmanship as exemplified by things like the Penicuick Sketches appears to have remained more Silver like than English swordsmanship.

I own facsimiles of about twenty 16th and 17th century drill manuals and none of them has a section on sword use.

Cheers
Stephen

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It might also be worth your while to look up some information about the Marxbruder/Marx Brothers--they were still one of the foremost swordsmanship authorities on the Continent during the timeframe you have in mind.
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Shae Bishop




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2007 1:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for your responses and the links. I was not familiar with the Pallas Armata.
I find it interesting that there don't seem to be sword sections in 17th century drill manuals. I assume that includes sword use by cuirassiers and harquebusiers. Even if the sword was merely a secondary weapon, I'm a bit surprised that there aren't even brief sections on them in drill manuals. Do any period texts mention sword training or practice in miliatary camps?

Thanks,
Shae
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2007 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the key to the absence of swords from the drill manuals lies in the fact that swords were not formation weapons.

Muskets were fired (mostly) in volleys, and loaded and discharged on command. Pikes were mass weapons, and had to be handled in a coordinated, group fashion.

The effective use of a sword is not dependent on what the swordsman on your right or left is doing, as long as your flank is covered and your swords don't foul each other. Massed coordinated drill isn't needed. I suspect later sword drill manuals exist because it became necessary to teach large numbers of men the basics of sword handling. I don't know exactly how men of the ECW period picked up the basics of sword usage - this question goes back into early medieval times. We do know from Vegetius the Romans had some notions of basic sword training for recruits, but after that, the issue becomes obscure.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2007 3:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shae Bishop wrote:
Thank you all for your responses and the links. I was not familiar with the Pallas Armata.
I find it interesting that there don't seem to be sword sections in 17th century drill manuals. I assume that includes sword use by cuirassiers and harquebusiers. Even if the sword was merely a secondary weapon, I'm a bit surprised that there aren't even brief sections on them in drill manuals. Do any period texts mention sword training or practice in miliatary camps?

Thanks,
Shae

Drill manuals were never intended to teach individual weapon skills, to simplify matters the drill manuals taught the basic skills needed to move and fight as a unit. In a similar way the manul doesn't provide any details on who to actually fight with the pike or how to hit a target with the musket.

The reason for this is that the drill manuals was amied at the 'better sorts' and gentlemen who formed the officer corps, not the experienced NCO's and veterans who wer ein charge of teaching the individual soldier how to fight with his weapon . Literacy was low to non-existent in the groups who provided the rank and file so written manuals were of little use. Instead the armies depended on "living memory" & experience mantain and teach a lot of skills a soldier needed. Essentially a sort of master and apprentice system in which the older, 'master soldiers' taught the young 'apprentice soldiers' the skills they needed.

Cavalry units certainly praticed swordsmanship and military writings such as the 'Kriegsbuch' of Count Johann von Nassau-Siegen contained instructions on to test the swordsmanship of a trooper and to make sure that the men were properly trained in the use of their swords. However the actual details of this training is not written down. There are some cavalry manuals which provides rudimentary instuctions on mounted swordsmanship.

At least in the 30-Years war many foot soldiers were rather indiffrent swordsmen, the attrition rate was high, regiments could be wiped out in a matter of months by disease and starvation. The swords which were issued were often second rate and were probably used more in drunken brawls, the harassment of civilians or cuting of firewood that they were in combat. English and Scots soldier were actually noted for favouring the clubbed musket rather than the sword in close combat. On the other hand the French infantry at times used their sword agressivly and in mass. At Susa (1629) the Grade Francais cast aside pike and musket and charged with sword alone as they and the Garde Suisse stomed the entrenchments. The willingness of the French musketeers to charge sword in hand was noteworthy at a time when most other nations relied more and more on firepower.

Cheers
Daniel
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2007 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Weren't the Swedes fond of charging with the sword as well? I may be mixing them up with later (early 18th C.) Swedes, though.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2007 4:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Weren't the Swedes fond of charging with the sword as well? I may be mixing them up with later (early 18th C.) Swedes, though.

The descriptions of Hepburn's German-Scots brigade in action at Breitenfeld does suggest such a fondness. The problem is that the data is limited to a single brigade in a single battle. Descriptions of the battle of Lutzen and Nordlingen are ambigious as is the data from the Prussian war.

However after the disaster at Nordlingen the Swedish army (in fact mostly Germans) revertrd to a German version of Dutch tactics which focused on the firefight rather than closing with the enemy after a short but massive burst of firepower. These 'German' tactics remain in place until the until the late 17th Century when the Ga Pa tactics of the early 18th Century began to evolve.

Cheers
Daniel
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William Goodwin




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2007 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most info. on sword useage (manual / drill wise) during this time period has already been covered. Just wanted to
re-enforce the statement that (in English military anyway) most drilling / training was concentrated on the use of pike and musket. The sword was looked at by some as a last resort / close combat weapon. Only in the cavalry would the sword have had any formal training to any extent during the ECW and the Thirty Years wars.

Cheers,

Bill

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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2007 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Weren't the Swedes fond of charging with the sword as well? I may be mixing them up with later (early 18th C.) Swedes, though.


Tradition has it that after European cavalry got foolishly seduced by firearms the Swedes reinvented the cavalry charge, charging with swords. The truth is turning out to have been a little different. The most recent research in this area suggests that the Swedes charged because they had to, they had so few pistols and carbines. This is also why the Swedes interspersed bodies of musketeers among their cavalry, to increase the firepower. Far from being new, innovative and fantastic, Swedish cavalry had a lot of problems and Gustavus Adolphus innovated because he had to, to make up for the deficiencies of his army.

Cheers
Stephen

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jul, 2007 10:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I was asking about the Swedish infantry--which means Daniel's answer is precisely what I'm looking for. heck, I even forgot many of these "Swedes" were Scots and Englishmen!

Now that I think of it, isn't it highly probable that the shift to firefight-based tactics was also caused by the Swedes' increasing reliance on German mercenaries in the later years of the Thirty Years' War?
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Martin Wilkinson





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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jul, 2007 4:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Well, I was asking about the Swedish infantry--which means Daniel's answer is precisely what I'm looking for. heck, I even forgot many of these "Swedes" were Scots and Englishmen!

Now that I think of it, isn't it highly probable that the shift to firefight-based tactics was also caused by the Swedes' increasing reliance on German mercenaries in the later years of the Thirty Years' War?


My understanding of the Swedish army during this period is that it pretty much always contained large numbers of German mercenaries.

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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jul, 2007 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that it was General George Monck who was quite negaitve bout issuing rapiers to the average soldier, saying that he will use it mostly for cutting wood, and recommending "a good stiff tuck."
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jul, 2007 11:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
I believe that it was General George Monck who was quite negaitve bout issuing rapiers to the average soldier, saying that he will use it mostly for cutting wood, and recommending "a good stiff tuck."


Nearly. Rapiers weren't to my knowledge issued to any soldiers anywhere at any time. Monck was talking about swords and recommended the tuck, a short (at least compared to most rapiers) thrusting sword because it was more obviously unsuited to cutting wood than a sword.

The actual quote from pages 26 and 27 of Observations Upon Military & Political Affairs (1671) regards the offensive arms of a pikeman and after describing the pike, Monck writes,

"and a good stiff Tuck, not very long, with a Belt: for if you arm your men with Swords, half the Swords you have in your Army amongst your common men, will upon the first March you make be broken with the cutting of Boughs."

on page 28 he adds,

"Each two foot-Souldiersought to have a little Hatchet between them for the cutting of Wood"

Cheers
Stephen

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David Evans




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jul, 2007 5:19 am    Post subject: infantry swords         Reply with quote

I once asked the Royal Armouries for an idea of the usual infantry hanger or sword issued during the 1640's. After some disscussion their choice was a simple basket hilt, something in the style of A5.932 as attached.

Having read "The Pinder of Wakefield" published in 1632and Thomas Deloney's " The Gentle Craft" from about 1597 I'd argue that a tradtion of backsword play was alive and well in English culture into the mid 17th century and beyond. This style of fighting would have carried over into the armies of the civil war. Indeed, the accounts of brawls in Oxford where injuries of cut fingers and slashes were reported may well reflect the style of fight competions pre war!



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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jul, 2007 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Wilkinson wrote:
My understanding of the Swedish army during this period is that it pretty much always contained large numbers of German mercenaries.


But the proportion of German mercenaries within their forces (compared to other components like Swedes, Frenchmen, and Scots/Englishmen) increased appreciably after Gustaf Adolf's death, and especially after the Battle of Nordlingen.
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