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Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 753

PostPosted: Sun 02 May, 2010 1:09 pm    Post subject: Fictional medieval military organization and formations         Reply with quote

Good afternoon everyone. I am working on some unit organizations for a story idea I have and just wanted to get people's opinions on what I have come up with. For starters here a few things to keep in mind.

1. This is a feudal society with ties mainly to England and France as well.

2. The limit of technology for armor and weapons is set at 1350. So plate defences are available but complete suits are not around.

3. The units I am working on are an attempt to create a standing professional core around which feudal levies are added to bring the kingdoms army to full strength.

4. The east side of the main kingdom is bordered by water, the south is swamps and marshland, the west is bordered by plains and desert, and the north is more temperate forest giving way to arctic wastes eventually.

My first questions revolve around the formation of infantry companies. My thoughts are as follows on that.
1. The base unit is a four man group consisting of a corporal/sergeant armed with a long spear/pike, 2 others armed the same as the group leader and a shield equipped man with a 6' spear.
2. Would the shield equipped short spearman in the front of this group interfere with the pikeman's ability to fight in formation if they had all trained together?

I will have more questions and fill in more blanks as I go along and build this idea into hopefully a story of some kind.

Scott

Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
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PostPosted: Sun 02 May, 2010 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suggest you buy a copy of Machiavelli's Art of War. Lots of organizational detail, including formation diagrams and so on. And a heavy dose of fantastic Renaissance martial philosophy. Good stuff. Big Grin
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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F. Carl Holz




Location: someplace out on the water (and probably not able to access my PM)
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PostPosted: Sun 02 May, 2010 9:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

its also worth mentioning that most of the people I've talked to on the subject of small groups give the highest praise to the three man team
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David Clark





Joined: 10 Feb 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 02 May, 2010 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can see it working well in combination with several other similar units in a static formation style of combat. However, in a dispersed, skirmish style, I think it would do poorly as the pikes would be all but worthless. Then again, you didn't state whether your troops had back up weapons or what type of armour they had. It is good to see an author thinking about tactics and weapon/armour load out rather than just easily cleaving heads and lightning bolts! ;p
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Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 753

PostPosted: Mon 03 May, 2010 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the replies and thoughts everyone. I will be posting some more info probably later today about how the base 4 man group combines into larger units.

I will also post some more about the armor and weapons that are going to be used. Though at least in regards to backup weaponry I am thinking about what would have been carried historically. Either an arming sword, axe, or mace as well as a dagger/knife for each of the infantry. For armor I am looking at mail hauberk with bits of plate protection to supplement mainly in the form of greaves, bracers, and gauntlets with the possibility of elbow, knee, and shoulder protection of some kind. Though I am not sure about the last bits as I do not want to weigh them down to much and make it hard for them to maneuver.

Scott

Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
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PostPosted: Mon 03 May, 2010 10:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Clark wrote:
However, in a dispersed, skirmish style, I think it would do poorly as the pikes would be all but worthless.


Evidence suggests that's a myth. Various period manuals address one-on-one combat with the pike; George Silver gave the pike the advantage against most shorter weapons in single combat. I would have to check, but I believe some of the sixteenth-century military manuals describe pikemen used to support the shot in fairly loose formation.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sun 09 May, 2010 3:13 am    Post subject: Re: Fictional medieval military organization and formations         Reply with quote

Scott Kowalski wrote:
3. The units I am working on are an attempt to create a standing professional core around which feudal levies are added to bring the kingdoms army to full strength.


Take a close look at royal household troops, then. They're the closest mid-14th century approximation to the idea you seem to have here--the difference being that, instead of bulking up the army with feudal contingents, some kings prefer to enlarge the household contingent instead with mercenaries and paid volunteers using money levied from the feudal barons freed of the obligation to serve personally. By this time the contractual terms for feudal military service can really be very disadvantageous to the king/lord.


Quote:
My first questions revolve around the formation of infantry companies. My thoughts are as follows on that.
1. The base unit is a four man group consisting of a corporal/sergeant armed with a long spear/pike, 2 others armed the same as the group leader and a shield equipped man with a 6' spear.


As I see it, this four-man unit isn't that different from the classical file used as the basic building block for Renaissance armies after the translations of Aelian and the like. By this time the leader of the file probably wouldn't be a "corporal" or a "sergeant" as such; neither rank existed in their modern (read: post-17th century) meaning back in the time period you're talking about. He'd probably just be the most experienced or most respected soldier in the file with an informal appointment as the file leader (perhaps with a similar informal raise in pay). Well, OK, it's not that different from the concept of a modern lance-corporal/Gefreiter. But it didn't have any formal institutional shape back in the 14th century and probably wouldn't in a world based on 14th-century Europe (with an emphasis on formal). There was the lancepesade all right--one of the terms that got amalgamated into the lance-corporal rank--but as far as I know it was only used for the chivalry (i.e. the mounted men-at-arms) in Venice at a somewhat later timeframe than what your unit is based on.

Another concern is that the formed military "companies" of medieval Europe tended to be relatively self-contained combined-arms outfits; compared to the infantry file you have above, a contemporary English company would have had a man-at-arms and (on average) three longbowmen, all of whom usually fought on foot in major battles but at least the man-at-arms would be mounted for strategic duties (marches, pursuits, etc.). However, the mixed nature of these companies stemmed from the need to be able to recruit and disband formations into the army without greatly shifting the force composition away from the desired ideal, and applied mostly to mercenary and contract/indentured companies. The more homogeneous composition you propose would have been a bit unusual but (I think) not implausible given the fact that it's meant to a permanent part of the royal contingent rather than contract troops that could get mustered and disbanded according to the employer's needs and finances.


Quote:
2. Would the shield equipped short spearman in the front of this group interfere with the pikeman's ability to fight in formation if they had all trained together?


I don't think It'd be a bother. However, the idea raises the question of why the first-rank man needs to have a shorter weapon at all. The kind of thing we tend to see in medieval pike formations with shielded fronts is that the man in front either had no spear at all (only a sword or knife for use in an emergency) or the same kind of pike as the rest of the formation. After all, in a shock formation like this (i.e. no integral missile troops) the shield carried by the foremost man is likely to be rather small so as not to hinder mobility, and if this shield could be clipped to the forearm or guige-strapped around the shoulder or neck then there's no reason why the man shouldn't be able to wield a full-sized pike in conjunction with the shield. Look at the shielded pike formations of the ancient Macedonians, 14th-century Flemings, and 15th-century Burgundians. None of these needed shorter spears for the foremost man, and even if there was such a need it's much easier to cut down a long pike into a spear than to patch together two spears into a pike. Not to mention that just having pike for everyone would greatly simplify the logistics--not a trifling matter for a medieval army!
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Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 09 May, 2010 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the in depth thoughts on this Lafayette. I will be implementing some of the things you have said here. I had already planned on each infantry company having an organic 24 man platoon of missile troops, be they archers or crossbowman, in addition to 3 24 man platoons of the heavy infantry. Or do you thing it would make more sense to have the missile troops organic to each team by adding two of them to each four man unit of pike? That is one of the points I am unsure of. It would add more tactical flexibility to each file. Would it make things at a larger scale harder to organize if the missile troops are not used to working as a larger unit together?

On a side note, I am also hashing out heavy horse companies based on the same principle. Though each 6 man demi-lance consists of four men-at-arms with two mounted archers.

When I get home from my Grandma's today I will see about posting both of these units up as I have them right now.

Scott

Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sun 16 May, 2010 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Kowalski wrote:
I had already planned on each infantry company having an organic 24 man platoon of missile troops, be they archers or crossbowman, in addition to 3 24 man platoons of the heavy infantry. Or do you thing it would make more sense to have the missile troops organic to each team by adding two of them to each four man unit of pike? That is one of the points I am unsure of. It would add more tactical flexibility to each file. Would it make things at a larger scale harder to organize if the missile troops are not used to working as a larger unit together?


Well, first, I think it'd be better to find some other term than "platoon" in the finished thing. The word came up in the early 18th century to describe a procedural innovation for handling a firearm-bearing unit, so I just get this uncomfortable twinge when I see it being applied baldly to a supposedly medieval unit (without quotation marks around each instance to make it clear that "platoon" isn't a medieval concept).

Second, one thing that may interest you is the division between functional and administrative organization in medieval armies. The basic lance in a combined-arms company could have served as a tactical grouping in very small-scale scouting, raiding, or skirmishing actions, but in large-scale battles it is much more likely that the lance would be split into its constituent arms and each arm brigaded together into large segregated units. For example, to use the English four-man lance, it's not illogical to assume that each lance of one man-at-arms and three archers could have acted as a squad-like unit in an unexpected skirmish involving only one or two dozen men on each side. However, when deployed in battle array, it's much more likely that a company of, say, a hundred lances would be split into at least two tactical groups, one containing the 100 men-at-arms and the other containing the 300 archers (it is just as likely that the archers would be split into two 150-man or three 100-man groups). In this situation the lance's status as a functional grouping in suspended, so to say, and is only resumed at the end of the battle for the tabulation of losses, division of spoils, and attribution of ransomable prisoners.

Therefore, I think your fictional unit would be more in line with medieval practice if each basic administrative group (the file?) already contains a mixture of all arms--four pike and two bows/crossbows as you've mentioned, or three pikes and one bow/crossbow for a similar proportion. This way each file-leader can be held responsible for maintaining the desired composition of arms, and assuming that most file-leaders can do their jobs in this regard then the entire unit's composition would not vary much from the desired norm. Above this there would probably be an intermediate organization made up of five, ten, twelve, or twenty files each; you could name it based on the number of files in each unit (we have medieval examples of "tens," "dozens," and "twenties"), the total number of men ("hundred" isn't all that bad, you know) or some other medieval model (for example, "chamber/camera" seems to have been popular in the late 15th century, though I'm not sure that its usage extended to fully one century earlier). Every such unit would probably have been able to operate in two different configurations--by files in small-scale actions, and in groups segregated by arms in major battles and assaults. So a ten-file group would be divided into ten files for probing in loose array into a village that might be occupied by the enemy, or into a forty-man group of pikes and a twenty-man group of bows/crossbows for a major action. In fact, the segregation for a major action might go further--it might skip the intermediate level and go straight up so that a 100-file company is split into a 400-man group of pikes under the Captain and a 200-man group of bows/crossbows under the Master of Archers (under the assumption that the pikes are more prestigious--otherwise the Captain would be leading the shooters while the pikes would be placed under a Master of Spears or something like that).


Quote:
On a side note, I am also hashing out heavy horse companies based on the same principle. Though each 6 man demi-lance consists of four men-at-arms with two mounted archers.


This is probably way too heavy. Men-at-arms were heavy remember? Not just in terms of the armor they had in their full combat configuration (some lords even required a "covered horse"), but also in the logistical tail they had to bring along to keep themselves and their fighting gear in top condition. So by the mid-14th century the man-at-arms was almost always outnumbered by his lighter support troops in any given lance or company. The English lance had one man-at-arms per three archers by default but when money was short this was sometimes changed to one man-at-arms per four or even five archers in order to put a larger number of additional men for less additional expense. In the end, this seemed to have some undesirable effects, so the composition of the lance became a bit heavier once again--but this was not accomplished by adding another man-at-arms, but rather by adding a billman to make a five-man lance (thus making a lance consist of a man-at-arms, a billman, and three archers) because the billman allowed the addition one heavy infantryman without the expense of a man-at-arms's warhorse.

Note, also, that "demi-lance" can be potentially confusing because it's also a 16th-century term for an armored lancer who was nevertheless not as heavily equipped as a man-at-arms/gendarme (usually lacking the man-at-arms's horse armor and wearing a three-quarters or half armor instead of the man-at-arms's full harness).

Another issue is . . . well, why must the horse and foot companies be separated? Considering the usual medieval preference for mixed companies, isn't it more likely that the company is made up of, say, six-man lances consisting of a man-at-arms, two mounted archers*, two pikemen, and a foot archer/crossbowman? In fact, this kind of composition was used in Burgundian companies under the 1471 Ordonnance (100 lances per company, each made up of one mounted man-at-arms, a non-combatant page, a coustilier (consider this a lighter and cheaper counterpart to the man-at-arms), three mounted archers, and three infantrymen (normally a crossbowman, a handgunner, and a pikeman).


*) You may know this already, but just in case: by this time the mounted archer could still be a mounted infantryman with nothing more than rudimentary horsemanship skills, or he could have been a hybrid who fought on foot in major actions but could act as ad hoc light cavalry with swords or light lances for scouting, raiding, and other long-range strategic duties. Men-at-arms in this period often stripped down into lighter armor for handling the same kinds of light cavalry duties, and many obviously thought it would be nice if their support troops could help them out a little bit here.
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