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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2007 8:08 pm    Post subject: Battles won by reserve troops?         Reply with quote

I'm mulling over the use of reserve troops in pre-gunpowder warfare. Robert the Bruce held a small force of mounted men at arms at the battle of Bannockburn, which I believe stopped the Edwards's only real flanking manouvre (I may be mistaken here) at that battle.

Are there any more shining examples of strategic reserves (especially light troops or even levys) winning major battles? I'd love to hear about them. In most cases it seems like reserves are far less dependable troops who quit the field before they are of any use, but I don't have any concrete examples to back this up.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 2:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe the first battle of Ramleh ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ramla ). After first two divisions of Baldwin's army were broken, the third division was routed but it turned and broke the Egyptians.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the Roman Republic, the reserve was formed by the triarii, grizzled veterans all. If the younger hastati and principes couldn't win, they'd filter back to the rear, then the triarii would close ranks. Whether they were ordered to advance, hold, or retreat depended on how things were going!

At the battle of Cynocephalae in the 2nd century BC, a Macedonian phalanx was coming downhill at the Romans. On the right side the phalanx pushed the Romans right down the hill like a bulldozer, but on the left the Romans managed to hit the Macedonians before they were fully formed, and drove them back up the hill. A Roman tribune in that section of the line looked back and saw the Macedonians advancing past him on his right, so he peeled off 30 maniples of triarii from his own line and hit the enemy in the rear. The result was a slaughter. Many of the Macedonians tried to surrender by raising their pikes to vertical, but the Romans didn't understand and chopped them up anyway.

I think there are a few examples of the good use of good reserves in Caesar's wars, too, but it's been too long since I read all that! The triarii no longer existed by his day, but most decent Roman commanders understood the use of reserves. Even if they didn't, reserves were kind of built into their typical arrangement of 2 or 3 battle lines.

Matthew
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Micha Hofmann




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm... I think I know one more:

In the battle of the Marchfeld ( also called the battle of Dürnkut and Jedenspeigen ) in 1278, Rudolf I of Habsburg hid back 60 knights in a vineyard, to attack at the most crucial moment, even thought such a tactic was considered dishonorable at that time.
Their attack on the exhausted knights of Ottokar II of Bohemia broke the bohemian knights who were exhausted from three hours of fighting in heavy armour.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

60 knights? that's a tiny force - do you know the overall numbers on the field?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The battle of kadesh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kadesh

Quote from the above:

" Meanwhile a small group of Egyptian chariotry had formed, made up of Ramesses, his personal bodyguard and some of the chariots recovered from the broken divisions of Amon and Re. At this time a troop contingent from Amurru called Ne'arin, suddenly arrived, surprising the Hittites. Ramesses reorganized his forces and drove the Hittites back across the Orontes. Muwatalli sent an additional 1,000 chariots against the Egyptians, but the Hittite forces were almost surrounded and retreated back across the Orontes River to join their infantry. "

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Micha Hofmann




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2007 11:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
60 knights? that's a tiny force - do you know the overall numbers on the field?


I have just re-read my source ( german Wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlacht_auf_dem_Marchfeld and according to it, the reserves were not just 60 knights.

Each side entered the battlefield with just their mountet troops, while the infantry was left back to guard the camp.

King Ottokar of Bohemia entered the field with three units of 2000 knights each.

Rudolf of Habsburg brought about 4500 mounted knights, organized in three blocks of 1500 each of which he kept one entire block ( 1500 knights ) back, out of enemy sight. The sixty knights mentioned in my previous post were also hidden, to attack the enemy flank at the right time . Rudolf also fielded about 4000 hungarian horse-archers. The overall numbers could be inflated somewhat, as this battle's story was later told as "The larges knights battle ever". The size of the battlefield alone indicates that the numbers were probably smaller.

According to Wiki, the battle began with Rudolfs horse archers attacking and harassing the bohemian knights' flank to demoralize them. Unable to catch them, the bohemian knights suffered about a hundred casualties, before clashing with Rudolf's main force. In the heavy fighting, which lasted almost three hours, Rudolf of Habsburg was at the brink of losing ( he was himself unhorsed, when his mount was killed by a lance, and his knights suffered heavy losses), before he ordered his reserves to enter the battle.

When Rudolfs fresh knights entered the battle, some of Ottokars knights tried to outflank the 60 knights, attacking from the flank. This was mistakenly seen as a retreat by some of Ottokars troups. Reinforced by Rudolfs men with shouts like "They flee!", this led to the general rout and defeat of Ottokars army and his death during the rout.



I am sorry for my earlier mistake. If anybody knows some other sources regarding this battle, I'd be thankful. It sounds interesting...

Regards

Micha
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The main problem with early reserves is command and controll. You depend on very competent reserve commanders for them to work very efficiently.

This said, as the above example shows, even a small reserve can make a huge difference.

Although gunpowder era, a glorious example of a good reserve commander is at the Battle of Zorndorf, where Lt. General von Seydlitz commanded the prussian cavalry reserves on the left flank.
Due to a miscoordinated attack by the infantry, the prussian left flank was crumbling, and King Fredrick II (aka the great) sent repeated, increasingly heated orders to Seydlitz, ordering a counterattack, which he completely ignored.
(As it turned out, the terrain in front of Seydlitz's position did not allow for a cavalry charge, which the king did not know)
When the king's messager threatened with court martial and untimely decapitation, Seydlitz replied "Tell the king that he can have my head when the battle is over. For now, I will use it in his service."
After which, as the flank of the advancing enemy passed the obstacle, he ordered his squadrons on a charge that crushed the entire advancing russian force, horse and foot, and turned the flank all the way back to the russian batteries.
Needless to say, he kept his head.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Every night my wife calls in the Daddy reserve to fight the kid to bed.... Laughing Out Loud

Both mine are rather borderline I think. One is secret reserve like in Risk the second treachery.

Battle of Tagliacozzo in 1268. Conradin Hohenstaufen verse Charles of Anjou. Charles of anjou sits back with a large mounted force of reserve hidden some way behind hte main army. After the battle seemed decided and both armies had been severely worn down Charles rides out and wipes the enemy force out causing them to flee. Conradin flees but is later caught and beheaded.

Depending if you think as M. Jones does, which I do not, Bosworth in 1485 could be such a battle. Though the reserve in this was originally on the opposite side.

Richard supposedly according to Virgil had some 10k men but a large percent of the troops were under Lord Stanley who did not join in the battle but seems to have spectated for some time (likely to hedge his bets with the victor). Once Richard III's charge failed or lost steam Stanley joins in to basically trounce what is left of Richard's army. By this point it may be that Richard III was dead but his army certainly could hve swung the battle.


RPM
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject: Re: Battles won by reserve troops?         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
I'm mulling over the use of reserve troops in pre-gunpowder warfare. Robert the Bruce held a small force of mounted men at arms at the battle of Bannockburn, which I believe stopped the Edwards's only real flanking manouvre (I may be mistaken here) at that battle.


Gavin...

The limited number of horsemen which Bruce had at Bannockburn served two purposes. One, they got among the archers that Edward very lately deployed on his right flank to shoot into the ranks of the schiltrons, and took the archers out of action. Two, they followed Edward on his retreat to Dunbar, harrassing him most of the way. According to tradition and what contemporary writings there are, it was Sir James Douglas with about sixty Scottish knights who followed Edward. At Dunbar Edward took a boat to Berwick and from there he went to England, tail tucked way between his legs.

There were four Scottish divisions on the field the second day of Bannockburn. Three were commanded by Edward Bruce, Sir James Douglas and the Earl of Moray. The forth was under the direct command of King Robert and, while it was considered a reserve, it was engaged with the English almost from the start. I suspect the reserve that you are thinking of was the group of baggage keepers, servants and other camp followers who came from behind Coxit Hill when they learned that the English army had begun to fail. This group was lightly armed but by tradition had made banners of bed sheets and whatnot. When they appeared on the scene it was as if another Scottish army had arrived, further spreading panic among the English who were, by that time beaten any way, precipitating a route.

I do not believe you can say that Bannockburn was won by employing a reserve force. The Scottish army thoroughly defeated the English through the use of superior tactics, aided by the incompetence of the English leadership, specifically Edward II.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982


Last edited by Lin Robinson on Thu 22 Nov, 2007 4:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, thanks Lin, you've jogged my memory. The horse cancelled out the archers. I can only imagine a hail of arrows would spell rapid demise for a schiltron.

I hadn't heard about the baggage train "sallying" to join the route, but that's kind of an amusing image, especially with the bedsheets. It seems a keen sense of carpe diem had a lot to do with the Scottish victory as well.

From the examples thus far it seems that command and control would have to be left to a very competent leutenant; someone who would be wise enough (or seasoned enough) to avoid commiting the reserve to late, too early, or in the wrong place.

Heavy cavalry would be a natural coup de grâce, plus they have the manourve advantage to sweep the rear once they penetrate. Infantry (from what I've seen and read) is often undone by overadvancing and exposing a flank unwittingly, whereas mounted troops can get by and keep going to minimize the danger. Does that sound about right?
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 3:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Battle of Dreux in 1562, where in the Duc de Guise held the Catholic/Royalist reserve behind a village while the Huguenot Horse under the Prince of Condé wore itself out on fruitless charges against the King's Swiss. Guise is credited with winning that battle for the Marshall Anne de Montmorency by that action. Interestingly enough, both Condé and Montmorency (the opposing commanders in the battle) managed to get themselves captured in the course of the battle, a rather unusual turn of events, needless to say. For a brief description of the battle, go here: http://www.lepg.org/dreux.htm

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Ah, thanks Lin, you've jogged my memory. The horse cancelled out the archers. I can only imagine a hail of arrows would spell rapid demise for a schiltron.

I hadn't heard about the baggage train "sallying" to join the route, but that's kind of an amusing image, especially with the bedsheets. It seems a keen sense of carpe diem had a lot to do with the Scottish victory as well.


I will warn you about a bit of bogus information that has been around for some time and involves the Battle of Bannockburn, and that is the presence of the Knights Templar. The story has been around for about two hundred years that a group of fugitive Templars were in Bruce's army and tipped the balance of the battle in favor of the Scots. This view has been helped along by some of the baloney in Dan Brown's novel as well as in several books that preceded The DaVinci Code . I have looked at the story up one side and down the other and there is no proof of it at all. A careful examination of what is available in the way of contemporary and near contemporary works - and there are very few still extant - uncovers no mention of the Templars at all. Further, the application of common sense will always trump the conspiracy theorists who put out such drivel. Sorry, but this is a very sore subject with me and I guess I should not even have brought it up.....

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Nov, 2007 11:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin,

From what I could tell unless the Templars were in the pickets of spears they were not there. The rewards after Bannockburn can give an idea of the nobles and other landed men there. Two of my family back in that day earned a fair deal of lands for leading about 10 percent of the 500 horsemen who were there (yes I had to tell you this, sorry). I have always thought the victory was less due to Edward II being completely inept than Bruce knew how to exploit a weaker military mind than his. With Edward I he has less room to move and had to tred carefully. With Edward II the politics of how he ran the country might be just as responsible for his losses and Bruce was then free to gain what he needed. Bruce was a good tactician I think; Preparation of the field, arraying men with proper skills to neutralize the cavalry and archers, smart man. I do remember the story of the baggage train. Does not Barbour call them the small people?

RPM
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Lin,

From what I could tell unless the Templars were in the pickets of spears they were not there. The rewards after Bannockburn can give an idea of the nobles and other landed men there. Two of my family back in that day earned a fair deal of lands for leading about 10 percent of the 500 horsemen who were there (yes I had to tell you this, sorry). I have always thought the victory was less due to Edward II being completely inept than Bruce knew how to exploit a weaker military mind than his. With Edward I he has less room to move and had to tred carefully. With Edward II the politics of how he ran the country might be just as responsible for his losses and Bruce was then free to gain what he needed. Bruce was a good tactician I think; Preparation of the field, arraying men with proper skills to neutralize the cavalry and archers, smart man. I do remember the story of the baggage train. Does not Barbour call them the small people?

RPM


Randall...

By 1314 (much earlier actually) the Templars had been eliminated as a fighting force. There may well have been ex-Templars there but my wager is on their being in the English army, and fighting as individuals, not as a unit.

I will grant that Bruce had the superior tactical mind and experience. After all he had been fighting a protracted and successful guerilla war for some time. However, no competent commander would have placed his army in the position that Edward II put his - in the face of an agressive enemy force - on the night of June 23d.

Barbour called them the "small folk". They were not a reserve as such as they were not normally combatants. Had the English won they would probably have been chased down and slaughtered.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 7:35 am    Post subject: Re: Battles won by reserve troops?         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Are there any more shining examples of strategic reserves (especially light troops or even levys) winning major battles?


Perhaps you meant tactical reserves? Then there'd be thousands of examples to go by. If you're really talking about a strategic reserve winning a tactical battle, though...well, that's quite a tough question because it could mean either a strategic maneuver that resulted in a satisfactory end for an ongoing battle (the British turning movement during WW2 in Tunisia, perhaps?) or reserve troops being activated, sent to the frontline, and then winning a battle just like any other conventional troops (maybe the reserve elements in the WW1 BEF in France, or particularly distinguished units of the U.S. National Guard). Or, if we go by another plausible interpretation that what you meant by "reserve" was simply lower-quality troops, then maybe we could look around just in case the WW2 Russian penal battalions or the German Volksgrenadier troops had won a battle or two? In fact, I think I remember some supposedly low-quality German reserve troops fighting better than expected and playing a pivotal role in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest....

Duh. I'm beginning to ramble so I'd better stop before I clutter the forum with my incoherent thoughts.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I mean tactical reserves, pre-rennaisance. Specifically lightly armed or levy troops.
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Alexander Hinman




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Yes, I mean tactical reserves, pre-rennaisance. Specifically lightly armed or levy troops.


Kulikovo is one example (of many) of tactical use of reserves.

It didn't involve lightly armed reserves, though the majority of the troops were a levy of gentry cavalry.
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 6:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Lin,

From what I could tell unless the Templars were in the pickets of spears they were not there. The rewards after Bannockburn can give an idea of the nobles and other landed men there. Two of my family back in that day earned a fair deal of lands for leading about 10 percent of the 500 horsemen who were there (yes I had to tell you this, sorry). I have always thought the victory was less due to Edward II being completely inept than Bruce knew how to exploit a weaker military mind than his. With Edward I he has less room to move and had to tred carefully. With Edward II the politics of how he ran the country might be just as responsible for his losses and Bruce was then free to gain what he needed. Bruce was a good tactician I think; Preparation of the field, arraying men with proper skills to neutralize the cavalry and archers, smart man. I do remember the story of the baggage train. Does not Barbour call them the small people?

RPM


Randall...

That's very interesting to read that your family was a Bannockburn. I guess you are referring to the Moffats. I have met Lady Jean, the current chief. Very nice person.

Your mention of the land grants is interesting. I have waged something of a campaign to stifle some of this Templars at Bannockburn stuff that abounds today. I corresponded with the head of one of the Templar organizations that exists in this country a couple of years ago. He was telling me that they had proof, in the form of lands "granted to the Templars after Bannockburn", that the Templars were indeed present. When I asked for references he became vague and never did supply them. Of course as far as I know there are no post-Culloden grants to the Knights Templar because they were dissolved by the Pope in 1312. Even Bruce the ex-communicated would not have incurred the displeasure of the Catholic Church by acknowledging a continued existence and assistance of the Templars by putting something on the public record. He was, after all, trying to get back into the church.

For the record, I do belong to the SMOTJ, Knights Templar. But, we do not claim that the Templars fought for Bruce at Bannockburn.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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George Hill




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The way I've heard the story of Bannockburn, is that the battle ended when the Bruce committed a reserve of Highlanders. The Highlanders were considered undisciplined, and prone to charge without orders, or overextend themselves. As such, he kept there too far back to do any harm until his reliable troops were all engaged, and even growing tired. Then he orders the Highlanders into the battle, and seeing fresh and eager troops joining the Scots, the English retreated.... or ran like the blazes.
To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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