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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Apr, 2008 2:28 am    Post subject: What did the Horse think about Shot?         Reply with quote

Would a sufficiently large, well-trained, and well-officered body of shot in the mid-17th century be capable of repelling a frontal cavalry charge by the force of its fire alone? It would seem that a single-rank or multiple-rank salvo could allow them to do so, but did their doctrine actually provide for it? (i.e. would it allow a large enough number of shot to face a frontal attack by enemy horse without support from pike, friendly horse, or convenient pieces of terrain)?

Actually, what I'm really wondering about is the horse's perspective on the matter. Would it be realistic for an experienced officer of horse to dread the prospect of attacking the shot frontally under these circumstances?
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sat 12 Apr, 2008 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Would a sufficiently large, well-trained, and well-officered body of shot in the mid-17th century be capable of repelling a frontal cavalry charge by the force of its fire alone? It would seem that a single-rank or multiple-rank salvo could allow them to do so, but did their doctrine actually provide for it? (i.e. would it allow a large enough number of shot to face a frontal attack by enemy horse without support from pike, friendly horse, or convenient pieces of terrain)?

Actually, what I'm really wondering about is the horse's perspective on the matter. Would it be realistic for an experienced officer of horse to dread the prospect of attacking the shot frontally under these circumstances?


Yes, but single rank salvos would not do the job unless the horse was either of poor quality or rather shaken by previous events in the battle. The consistent failure of 'Dutch style' single rank fire to cavalry charges was one the major reason Gustavus Adolphus invented the "Swedish salvo" and fire by platoons. These methods did provide much of the firepower needed to repulse cavalry charges and allowed the Swedes to abandon the use of "swinesfeathers" which had been used to protect the musketeers.

At Gorzno 1629 the vaunted Polish hussars charged the musketeer squadrons of Teuffel and Klitzing head on only to be repulsed by the salvo fire. An eyewitness account describe how the hussars "bounced" as intense fire caused most of the to halt the charge and/or turn their horses around. A a small number of brave hussars did press on and charged through the Swedish musketeers but mostly only knocked men down without killing or wounding a significant number of them. Either way the elite troops of the Yellow, Blue and Green regiments simply reformed their ranks and continued firing.

At Lützen Götz regiment of Cuirassiers attacked Kyle's native Swedish brigade from the front. The 'Swedish brigade' had a ratio of pike to shot of 1-5 instead of the 1:1 laid down in the regulations which should have made the brigade very vulnerable to cavalry attack. But when Piccolomini arrived on the scene of the fighting he saw how Götz repeated charges was being thrown back by the "tremendous salvos" fired by the Swedish infantry.

In the same battle Pappenheims great charge foundered and fell apart as it first rode into the wall of lead produced by Swedish musketeers&regimental cannon and then was counter-charged by the elite of the Swedish cavalry.

Now the Swedish methods were not foolproof by any means, at Alte Feste Leaugist cuirassiers got the better of several brigades althoug the charge probably was directed at the flank rather than the front. At Jankow a couple of shot-heavy Swedish brigades were badly cut up by imperial horse which caught them by surprise as they emerged from a forrest.
Good defensive terrain and supporting pike and horse were very good to have on your side if and when things went wrong.

With regards to your second question I'd say that that would depend very much on the situation, the size of the units involved, the reputation of both Horse and Foot and so on.

Why do you ask if you don't midn me asking? :-)
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Apr, 2008 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Why do you ask if you don't midn me asking? :-)


I was reading G.A. Henty's historical novels--not the most accurate stuff, I know--and came across the passage where the main character told his battalion to reserve the fire of its rear ranks of Shot for repelling a cavalry charge, with the implication that he thought Shot could repel a frontal charge on its own. It sounded realistic enough to me, but I wasn't sure because I didn't know if the doctrine at the time would have allowed Shot to do so without the support of Pike, and then I ended up thinking about whether the Horse would have been all that happy anyway to launch a frontal charge against massed Shot. But then, maybe I'm just thinking too much because after all horsemen still attempted frontal charges against foot even in the era of Napoleonic battalion squares...
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Apr, 2008 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was certainly considered unwise to leave your Shotte out in the open without pike support in the face of any sort of Horse. The French Wars of Religion are rife with reports of large bodies of unsupported Shotte being ridden down wholesale by the enemy's Heavy Horse. The French, especially the Huguenots, had a strong tendency in this period to prefer the arquebus and musket to service with the pike, and thus their volunteer armies were usually exeptionally heavy with such firearmed foot soldiers. Forming them up in "battalions de parade" were attempts to make a square of Shotte as impervious to Horse as a square of Pikes, but it was for the most part unsuccessful, leading to the massacre of the Shotte. The only times in which Shotte, unsupported by their Pikemen were successful were such battles as Coutras and Ivry, where Henri of Navarre placed his Huguenot arquebusiers in blocks between columns of Heavy Cavalry, and they were used to break up the charging Leaguer Heavy Cavalry with a single salvo delivered at very close range. So even then the Shotte weren't totally unsupported, as they had the Heavy Horse at their side to mop up the remnant Leaguer Cavalry which may have remained to molest them while they reloaded.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 3:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm looking for mid-17th century rather than mid-16th century stuff. Still, Gordon, I think your remarks are not irrelevant to the subject of the original question because now it makes me wonder about the difference--if 17th-century Shot could sometimes repel horse just by the force of their fire while 16th-century shot generally couldn't, might there have been some important development that caused this discrepancy? Might the greater concentration of Shot in 17th-century infantry formations have provided them with the necessary mass of firearm-equipped soldiers to deploy enough firepower for repelling Horse, a mass which their 16th-century predecessors lacked? And might better and simplified drills have played a part in this transformation?

Oh well. I just can't help speculating about this stuff. The old adage of "the more you know, the more you become aware of what you don't know" seems doubly true for this subject of pike-and-shot tactics.
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Well, I'm looking for mid-17th century rather than mid-16th century stuff. Still, Gordon, I think your remarks are not irrelevant to the subject of the original question because now it makes me wonder about the difference--if 17th-century Shot could sometimes repel horse just by the force of their fire while 16th-century shot generally couldn't, might there have been some important development that caused this discrepancy? Might the greater concentration of Shot in 17th-century infantry formations have provided them with the necessary mass of firearm-equipped soldiers to deploy enough firepower for repelling Horse, a mass which their 16th-century predecessors lacked? And might better and simplified drills have played a part in this transformation?

Oh well. I just can't help speculating about this stuff. The old adage of "the more you know, the more you become aware of what you don't know" seems doubly true for this subject of pike-and-shot tactics.



I suspect it's tactical handling that improves the performance of shot from the 16th to 17th Century. I'd say that 600 shot deployed 10 or 20 ranks deep, in the style of a Terico, is always going to produce lower volumes of fire. Deploy that same 600 men in two divisions 6 deep is going to produce a greater volume of fire. Deploy half files to produce a 3 deep line all firing at once and you're in trouble.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Apr, 2008 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Was there any change in shock cavalry formations over this period, or between Poland and western Europe? It seems like that might affect how the cavalry responded to being shot at.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 02 May, 2008 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Was there any change in shock cavalry formations over this period, or between Poland and western Europe? It seems like that might affect how the cavalry responded to being shot at.


According to Gordon's excellent article in the Features section in this site, the answer is yes--there was a trend in Western Europe to turn from long, shallow formations of lance-armed cavalry to deep blocks of pistol-armed cavalry in the shock role. Interestingly, the Polish hussars seem to have preserved the older medieval/early Renaissance legacy of thin, long formations relying primarily on the lance, although (if I remember correctly) they also gradually shifted away from the lance and towards mounted firearm use in the last decades of their existence. I'm not sure about whether this change had an impact on their absolute and relative vulnerability to the fire of foot formations, of course, especially since the foot also underwent significant evolution within the timeframe of our discussion.
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Mon 05 May, 2008 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-It is my impression that that this was the reason the reason the dragoon or (Reiter in in German )was developed, by the Swedes and the Rhineland troops espically the Bishop of Leiges who was a famous mercenary in the War of the first coallition against Louis XIV. The Dragoons were heavy armoured horse and and man with a a heavy thrusting sword and a heavy carbine called a Dragon or Drragoon.
Ja68ms
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 09 May, 2008 3:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
Sirs-It is my impression that that this was the reason the reason the dragoon or (Reiter in in German )was developed, by the Swedes and the Rhineland troops espically the Bishop of Leiges who was a famous mercenary in the War of the first coallition against Louis XIV. The Dragoons were heavy armoured horse and and man with a a heavy thrusting sword and a heavy carbine called a Dragon or Drragoon.


Er...it seems that you're conflating several different types of cavalry together. For one thing, there were the dragoons proper--a troop type combining the tactical methods of mounted infantry with the strategic versatility of light cavalry, and which was already present in the 16th century long before Louis XIV was even born. (And they were not heavily armored--at least not compared to most other cavalry of their day, and by the end of the 17th century they were entirely unarmored). Then there were various light and heavy cavalry regiments of the 18th and 19th centuries who were "Dragoons" in name only, as they performed the tactical role of cavalry rather than mounted infantry. And of course, there were the 16th- and early 17th-century Reiters, who were a different kettle of fish altogether--some of them probably did fight dismounted on occasion, but the most that can be said of this is that this category overlapped with the "dragoons" category rather than being identical with it.

Last but not least, I don't quite understand what the dragoons had to do with the question of whether Shot could or could not repel a frontal attack by Horse solely with their fire....
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let me do a bit of thread necromancy here, since I ran across this interesting bit in Montluc's memoirs (I don't remember who dumped it on me, but I suspect Daniel Staberg deserves the credit and the blame):

Quote:
I then presently turned about to recover Savillan, and to carry the news to Monsieur de Termes, but as I was on this side [of] Cairas, and upon the skirts of the plain near unto some houses there called les Rodies, looking behind me I saw a Troop of Horse, that came fromwards Fossan, along by the meadow leading towards Albe which they then held: which made me to halt at those houses, to see what they would do; in which posture, they drawing nearer, discover'd me; and attempted to come up to me by a little ascent there was, enclosed with hedges on either side; but when I saw them advanced half up the Ascent, I sent out four or five Harquebusiers, who, firing upon them, shot one of their horses, whereupon they very fairly faced about. Which I seeing, and concluding it was for fear, advanced boldly into the plain, where I had not march'd five hundred paces, but I discovered them again in the said plain (for they had passed a little lower out of sight) being fourteen Launcers, and eight Harquebusiers on horseback, with another who came after leading the wounded horse, I had in all but five and twenty Soldiers, of which seven were Pikes, and Captain Favas and my self each of us a Halbert on our necks; Their Harquebusiers came up at a good round trot to charge us, firing all the way as they came, as some of ours also did at them, and their Launcers made a shew as if they would charge in amongst us; but it was very faintly; for upon the firing of our Harquebusiers they made a halt, and gave way, at which we took heart, and march'd boldly up to them with good smart claps of Harquebuze shot, upon which one of their men falling dead to the ground, they very fairly left him behind them, and descending once more into the plain retreated directly towards Albe. And thus I retir'd to Savillan, it being two hours within night before I got thither, which I thought fit to commit to writing, to the end, that other Captains may take example whenever Horse comes to charge the Foot, never to spend more than half of their shot, and reserve the other half for the last extream, which being observ'd, they can very hardly be defeated without killing a great number of the Enemy, who will never venture to break in whilst they see the Harquebusiers ready presented to fire upon them; who being resolute men, by the favour of any little bush, or brake, will hold the Cavary long in play, the one still firing while the other is charging again. For our parts we were all resolved never to yield; but rather to fight it out with the sword, fearing they would revenge what we had done in the morning, for the four horse that escap'd to Fossan had brought news of their defeat.


I was a bit surprised at Montluc's confidence in his ability to repel or at least hurt the Italian horse largely with the fire of his (admittedly quite experienced) Shot. But then, maybe it had something to do with the fact that the horse were Italian (the French and Imperials alike didn't seem to have had a very opinion of them), and I wonder if Montluc would have been as confident if he had been facing, say, renegade French horsemen.
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another factor would be if the horses were armoured as well as the rider.

Correct me if I'm wrong but weren't the italians still using condotierres at the time? If so the fact they were mercenaries may have had something to do with it.
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