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Doug Lester

Location: Decatur, IL
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2008 10:22 am    Post subject: Sergeants and sergeants-at-arms         Reply with quote

Reading various books and medieval European history I have become confused on who were sergeants and sergeants-at-arms. One author stated that sergeants were men-at-arms who were from the landed class but not of the knightly class who provided military service as mounted troops during times of need. They qualified as being a member of this class by their land holding and/or income. They might also incur this obligation as part of their tenantcy. Another author stated that sergeants were all men not belonging to the knightly class who were required by their obligation to their king or baron to provide military service in times of need and how they were to arm themselves was determined by their income and land holdings. They could be mounted men-at-arms or foot soldiers

Sergeants-at-arms were defined as any man from the class of sergeants who were employed full time men-at-arms by their baron or king and another stated that they were full time foot soldiers employed by the king only. Now I know that both of these depend on time and place, as just about everything in history, but what is the understanding of other members of this board concerning these two groups.
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M. Eversberg II

Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2008 11:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I know, a sergeant is someone who owned less than a full knights fee. I don't know what counts as a full fief, but I assume this means he is in charge of some facility (windmill, watermill, forge, stables) or owns part of a knights fief in exchange for service to the knight (sergeant of the guard, etc). I could be wrong, as I am still one of the many novices here, but that is how it has always been explained to me.

As to what they do in war, I imagine there were requirements they had to spend money / assets to acquire, but if he can't afford a horse, he wasn't serving as cavalry, if you follow.


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Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2008 9:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Basically the two definitions you give are about the same with slight changes. Not of knightly rank, true. At times they were landed; at times their payment was in cash. Land ownership was not exclusive to the knightly class or their betters so this is not surprising. Many military obligations come from ownership of land. You see commoners fairly common being required to do some form of military service as a sergeant or archer, often in a geographic area of castle garrison. Typically people indicate sergeants were not as well equipped but this is an average as some certainly were. They also seem to have been to serve mounted as well.

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Lafayette C Curtis

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Nov, 2008 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Watch out for a potential confusion between the military "sergeants" and the serjeanty form of tenure. The two overlapped a great deal, but they're by no means the same thing.
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Jared Smith

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Nov, 2008 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For some of the religious - military orders the term sergeant tended to be applied to one who led groups of foot soldiers in battle. The issue of rather they did so while mounted or from on foot was not clear to me when I read several accounts of battles (last searched and read some a couple of years ago.) Knightly class could be argued to be very broad, so its very likely that at least some of these had hereditary knightly background and distinguished service accomplishments. Within a couple of the 12th - 14th century orders a much smaller group of titled Knights tended (can't give a percent, just noticed background in looking at some of the membership roles) to be of wealthy background with significant political and financial connections. My memory is poor here, but, I believe there were instances of fortifications and outposts being under the command of either sergeants or "Knights" with variations in year and which fort or outpost you research.
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