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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Dec, 2010 12:24 pm    Post subject: The Centrality of Medieval Heavy Cavalry?         Reply with quote

Lately I've read some stuff that states that the idea of medieval heavy horse being the dominant arm in medieval warfare was aristocracy funded propaganda (Although there seems to be a certain amount of Heil Der Infantry! overtone in that).

So, is that true?


-Thanks

Ben.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Dec, 2010 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heavy cavalry started with Thessaly and Macedonia and was perfected in Persia/Parthia with the cataphract. The entire nobility was reorganised so that their land and resources could support these units. If they weren't effective then so many resources would not be invested by so many different cultures over such a long time period. Even after firearms became common a lot of money and resources were spent maintaining units of heavy cavalry.
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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Dec, 2010 11:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aristocratic propaganda? I don't think so. There wasn't much on the battlefield that could stand up to the sheer shock of a full charge of heavy cavalry in the medieval era. The effects on morale alone would be enough to shatter most infantry bodies, I would think. And I can't imagine a flanking manoeuver by heavy horse could do anything but shear through a formation like a knife through soft cheese.

Not that infantry wasn't important, but I'd agree with Dan. The old rule applies--if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used so much? I doubt an ineffective style of combat would have determined the entire structure of European society for so many centuries. Happy

Ex animo,

Connor
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Dec, 2010 3:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some commanders used heavy cavalry stupidly and lead it to some diastrous defeats. But that just means that there is no universal tactic and commander needs to use his forces according to situation, not that certain type of troops is no good...
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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Sun 19 Dec, 2010 3:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The old rule applies--if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used so much?


Though one has got to remember that it's a combination of: "It works well enough" and: "It serves our political ends" that ultimately shapes armies. Which was the reason for "anomalies" like the british archers or the swiss/southern german infantry and the Mangoit-line.
It's sort of like how Heiankyo shifted from state-funded peasant infantry armies to privately trained&equipped heavy horsemen archers on the interior a while after those regions had been pacified. It's not like the performance of the Samurai would've been something to write home about, but it worked well enough and served the political needs of policing the interior better than the standing army of footmen.

And think of the roman equus publicus and how the struggles about the political rights connected with it more or less obliterated the native roman heavy cavalry for an example on how politics can kill something we deem effective.
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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Dec, 2010 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Werner Stiegler wrote:
Quote:
The old rule applies--if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used so much?


Though one has got to remember that it's a combination of: "It works well enough" and: "It serves our political ends" that ultimately shapes armies. Which was the reason for "anomalies" like the british archers or the swiss/southern german infantry and the Mangoit-line.
It's sort of like how Heiankyo shifted from state-funded peasant infantry armies to privately trained&equipped heavy horsemen archers on the interior a while after those regions had been pacified. It's not like the performance of the Samurai would've been something to write home about, but it worked well enough and served the political needs of policing the interior better than the standing army of footmen.

And think of the roman equus publicus and how the struggles about the political rights connected with it more or less obliterated the native roman heavy cavalry for an example on how politics can kill something we deem effective.


Good points, but I'm not sure I see how the knight class in Europe served the political ends of anybody, at least not in the beginning. My understanding is that the practicality of heavy cavalry created the knight class, and not the other way around. Am I mistaken about that?

Ex animo,

Connor
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Dec, 2010 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Aristocratic propaganda?The old rule applies--if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used so much? I doubt an ineffective style of combat would have determined the entire structure of European society for so many centuries. Happy


It could also be status - the horse becomes a symbol of wealth or power, and so the aristocracy ride into war on horses to reemphasize the fact that they're aristocracy, not because it was necessarily the most effective tool for the battle. That is, the horse may have been more effective at making a statement about rank than at winning battles, and this could be reason enough to ride one into battle. We needn't assume that combat necessities defined the social structure of Europe; the symbols of power in the social structure (swords and horses) could, themselves, have defined the way combat was carried out.

I'm not suggesting that horses didn't have tactical value - I'm sure they did and that it was significant. But that doesn't have to be the only, or even necessarily the most important, reason for riding a horse into battle.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Dec, 2010 3:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Aristocratic propaganda? I don't think so. There wasn't much on the battlefield that could stand up to the sheer shock of a full charge of heavy cavalry in the medieval era. The effects on morale alone would be enough to shatter most infantry bodies, I would think. And I can't imagine a flanking manoeuver by heavy horse could do anything but shear through a formation like a knife through soft cheese.

Not that infantry wasn't important, but I'd agree with Dan. The old rule applies--if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used so much? I doubt an ineffective style of combat would have determined the entire structure of European society for so many centuries. Happy


Well, without any of my books to hand, i think that pike formations stood up pretty well to heavy cavalry; and prior to the pike, the long spear, hence the battle of Courtrai; horse archers consistantly made a mess of heavy cavalry - battle of Liegnitz; and cavalry was only effective if the terrain was in their favour and the enemy allowed them to ues an effective charge. Also the battle of Nicopolis comes to mind. Also, cavalry wasn't used at Towten, except in the pursuit following the rout. Consider also, Agincourt, Poitiers, Castillon, Bannockburn, Falkirk (the battle was won by infantry and archers with cavalry being used at the end); Hastings where william waited until Harolds line was already weakened before using his cavalry; he didn't risk an unsupported cavalry charge against an intact shield wall. There are a long list of battles where either cavalry were defeated in an open charge against intact lines or were used to exploit an already weakened and demoralised force.

So, in situations where heavy cavalry was effective it seems to me that it was used after the battle was effectively won by the infantry or archers and was used on already shattered units; not surprisingly quite effectively.

I think that there was more than a little aristocratic bias in the attitude that the elites had towards the use of their cavalry. If they believed that they, due to birth and rank were superior in all ways to the common fighting man then how how could they allow a battle history to be written that basically said that the infantry softened them up and beat the hell out them and we just came in at the end and finished them off? Keep in mind also the basics of "winner's history" and "target audience"; a monk or scholar with a noble patron would hardly write a history that would downplay the role of the patron class; they would flatter and promote their patron's role.

Also, the idea that if it wasn't effective, why would it have been used, is questionable. Consider the inherent conservativism of the nobility; crossbows were seen as somehow unfair or "unchristian" because they allowed a common soldier to drop a mounted knight at 100 yards - hardly sporting old chap. So i think, from memory, there were (short lived) attempts by a conservative aristocratic military establishment with the support of the papacy to ban the crossbow. But in this particular case, because it really was effective, they did keep using it.

The idea that heavy cavalry as the central fighting unit of an army persisted well into the renaissance despite changes in warfare - see what happened to the french gendarmes at Pavia. During the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries cavalry it was more often used against other cavalry formations than against infantry. When it was used against unbroken infantry formations it was more often than not broken by pike and musketry. Cavalry adapted to a certain extent and adopted pistols and muskets. Later at Waterloo, the french cavalry didn't "scythe" through the british lines, it was shatterd by disciplined musketry. The concept of a noble or upper class cavalry persisted until WW1 when vast numbers of cavalry were keep a few miles behind the front lines waiting for the big breakthrough that never came. Cavalry had become an anachronism but an aristocratic and conservative military failed to understand and wanted to hang on it. I think that it was the siege of Padua (?) where a large group of german knights refused a request by the Holy Roman Emperor to assist in the storming of a breach on the grounds that they would have had to fight on foot, which was, in their opinion, beneath their dignity. They threatened to go home rather than fight on foot. and the siege had to be abandoned. Hardly a pragmatic, practical or progressive approach to warfare.

There certainly was a time when cavalry was effective but i think that after that time passed there was a tendancy to inflate the role of the aristocratic cavalry, romanticising it, thus inflating the importance and role of the aristocracy themselves, promoting the image of the chivalric knight on his charger, etc.


Last edited by Christopher Lee on Mon 20 Dec, 2010 1:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Dec, 2010 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are several aspects to the question of the (readily evident) dominance of heavy cavalry in the early/high middle ages.

First of all, one has to look at the context of its apperance. Western europe in the later part of the first millennium saw small or fragmented kingdoms waging war in the same fashion as the germanic peoples had since antiquity; large formations of shield and spear armed infantry. These armies where raised from the population by legislation, personal charisma, threat of force, or most commonly a combination of the above. The kings had few standing forces, and thus lacked the means to efficiently control his territory without raising the levies.
In this context, the shift towards heavy cavalry is a question of the masses against the elite. By adopting a military system that is based primarily on the elite, the king and the aristocrats gain a much greater measure of control over their holdings and subjects.

With this in mind, one should consider that most uses of military force in the medieval period was not in large scale battles, but rather in "police actions", small scale conflicts between vassals, and so on. In these contexts, where the number of combatants are so small that the advantages of large infantry formations do not apply, heavy cavalry has a huge advantage.

In order to be efficient, heavy cavalry needs to be extremely aggressive and self confident. This in turn led to the cultivation of the chivalric warrior tradition, which promoted individual prowess and courage to the extreme. This produced dangerous individual or small scale fighters, but resulted in for predictable and overconfident behavior on the large battlefield. An organized opponent could exploit this, but since all the skilled commanders of the early middle ages where cavalrymen themselves, this seldom happened. The exceptions are seen in areas with no knightly class (switzerland) or when one combatant has significantly fewer knights (Scotland vs England, England vs france)

These exceptions gradually led the way to a new focus on infantry combat, while more efficient ways of government made the medvial Main battle tank/Policeman/Judge/tax colector nobleman obsolete, and enabled a return to massed infantry armies.

"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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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Dec, 2010 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good points Andrew, Christopher, and Elling. I spoke too boldly with my last post.

Elling stated what I was thinking, actually. Cavalry was the dominant force on a battlefield that didn't see a great deal of well-organized mass infantry. What I meant to say isn't that infantry cannot defeat cavalry--in many ways disciplined footmen are far superior in a head-on conflict--but that the infantry of Western Europe in the Middle Ages was not up to par with the noble cavalry. Nobility was, above all, a warrior class.

Hastings is actually a great example of why cavalry gained a dominant position, to my mind. The infantry of the time fought in tightly packed shield walls, where discipline and organization are incredibly important. Head on, there is little any cavalry can do to break up a formation like that. But when, as at Hastings, the discipline of the men in the wall crumbled and they broke ranks, whether in retreat or pursuit, cavalry had an immense advantage.

Come to think of it, could it have been a success factor that cavalry needs less strict discipline and allows for more individualistic combat than formation infantry combat? Just a thought.

This is a good conversation--I'm enjoying it!

Ex animo,

Connor
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 20 Dec, 2010 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben,

To answer your question: it really depends. The problem about making generalizations is that they are just that, generalizations. If you really want to know, you need to focus on various individual battles, sieges, skirmishes and conflicts. That having been said, there has been a general tendency in more recent medieval historiography to focus upon the integrated roles that cavalry, infantry and archery play within medieval warfare. The point isn't to overrule the importance of cavalry, but rather to demonstrate that all three types of unit were important in different conflicts.

In the past, historians have tended to treat the roles of heavy cavalry somewhat uncritically. Undue weight, emphasis and authority was given to statements like Anna Komnena's about the irresistability of the Frankish knight's cavalry charge. Similarly, because many chronicles that described battles or other military conflicts in detail were primarily concerned with describing the role of knights, historians tended to assume that their predominance was almost overwhelming. This lead to some historians essentially asserting that it was the knights and other heavy cavalry who would basically decide a battle or conflict, particularly in the High Medieval period.

A more careful reading of the historical sources will indicate that this was not always the case. The more recent scholarship emphasizes that in many cases, archers and infantry played key roles in battles, and could be crucial for the outcome.

For example, in our main source for the Battle of Bouvines (1214), which is William the Breton's chronicle, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the achievements of the knights, both individually and collectively. One can easily be given the impression from a quick reading of his chronicle that knights were really the only important players in the battle; however, a closer examination reveals that this is not the case.

William, for instance, notes that when the imperial forces attacked "the Viscount of Melun and those with him who were lightly armed... the bowmen...were containing the enemy's arrogance". The context of this passage was that both the Viscount and those with him were in grave danger, but William's choice of words indicates that the bowmen with the Viscount played an important role in fending off the enemy.

Later in the battle, in the heat of the fighting, it is the German infantry who come the closest to slaying Philip Augustus. While many of Philip's knights were attacking Otto and the German knights, "the Teuton foot soldiers who had gone on ahead suddenly reached the King [Philip] and, with lances and iron hooks, brought him to the ground. If the outstanding virtue of the special armour with which his body was enclosed had not protected him, they would have killed him on the spot."

William also notes the important role that infantry played on the imperial side in allowing knights to have a brief respite from the fighting. According to William, Count Renaud of Boulogne "was using a new art of battle: he had set up a double row of well-armed foot sergeants pressed closely together in a circle in the manner of a wheel. There was only one entrance to the inside of this circle through which he went in when he wanted to catch his breath or was pushed too hard by his enemies. He did this several times". Obviously, if the German infantry was unable to stand their ground against mounted knights and cavalry, Renaud's tactic would have been ineffective. And the fact that they were able to protect him demonstrates that infantry could resist the onslaught of mounted knights.

It is also notable that towards the conclusion of the battle, “there still remained in the field 700 [imperial] foot sergeants, courageous and strong, born in the land of Brabant; they were those who had been made into a wall and used as a defense against the onslaught of their enemy”. Philip Augustus ordered the knight Thomas of Saint-Valery to attack them. What is more interesting is that Thomas lead “fifty good and loyal knights… and 2,000 foot sergeants”. Even if William’s numbers are inflated, it is undeniable that the French foot sergeants vastly outnumbered the knights in Thomas’ troop. This final part of the conflict was largely a battle between opposing infantry forces, with the support of a small group of knights on the French side.

While the deeds of knights and mounted cavalry do constitute a predominate part of William the Breton’s account, as we have seen, infantry and archers played an important role in the battle. The archers helped to hold off the Imperial forces during the initial skirmish preceding the battle proper. During the main phase of the battle, the German foot soldiers nearly changed the course of history when they unseated Philip Augustus from his horse, and it is testament to the efficacy of mail armour as protection that Philip escaped largely unscathed. Moreover, the imperial foot sergeants provided an important supporting role for Count Renaud of Bolougne, and they were among the last to flee the field towards the end of the battle.

Although the Battle of Bouvines is but a single instance of medieval conflict, it provides an illustrative example of the integrated role that archery and infantry played in medieval warfare.

Source: William the Breton's prose account of the Battle of Bouvines, from De Re Militari. http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/sources/bouvines5.htm
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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Tue 21 Dec, 2010 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Good points, but I'm not sure I see how the knight class in Europe served the political ends of anybody, at least not in the beginning. My understanding is that the practicality of heavy cavalry created the knight class, and not the other way around. Am I mistaken about that?
On a very fundamental level, a germanic lord who manages to get his gefolgschaft outfitted with horses and mail would demonstrate his virtues in a very overt manner. Conspicuous presents were part of the politics of the time and having a group of heavy infantry on horses certainly is nothing to scoff at either. They're not heavy cavalry yet, but they're far from useless as either a fighting unit or a demonstration of your wealth and your generosity.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Dec, 2010 8:36 am    Post subject: Re: The Centrality of Medieval Heavy Cavalry?         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Lately I've read some stuff that states that the idea of medieval heavy horse being the dominant arm in medieval warfare was aristocracy funded propaganda (Although there seems to be a certain amount of Heil Der Infantry! overtone in that).


So often in historical works you read something like "boy we were so wrong 50 years ago, but now we know the truth'.

Keep in mind that 'History', the academic field, goes through different fashions and trends itself. I'm not an historian myself, but one can't help noticing a trend in modern history books to de-emphasize the role of 'great men' and place greater emphasis on the average person, economic and social trends, etc. I'm not saying this is totally right or wrong, just that sometimes the emphasis in academics gets shiftet out of balance by current trends and modern perspectives.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Dec, 2010 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JD: This is a well known phenomenon within academics, and strongly visible when it comes to several issues that is discussed on these fora.
While revisionism is definitely a good thing, it can often lead to stating something due to weaknesses in the previous dogma rather than sound evidence for your new statement. Taking the question at hand as an example "Heavy cavalry failed at instance x, y and z, showing that it was not as powerful as stated in classical text A, B and C. Therefore, we can dismiss heavy cavalry as a hype, while in reallity longbows/infantry/crossbows/apreciative camp followers decided the outcome of battles."

In this instance, it would be right to reexamine the efficiency of the heavy cavalry, but the emphasis should be on re-examining, rather than rejecting and posting a new theory. This means looking at the concept from the bottom up, rather than from a few selected incidents, determining the mechanics at work, and how these change with time.

Such an approach takes a lot more time, and gives fewer hard, sloganized answers, but can give a lot more insight.

"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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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Dec, 2010 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Werner Stiegler wrote:
Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Good points, but I'm not sure I see how the knight class in Europe served the political ends of anybody, at least not in the beginning. My understanding is that the practicality of heavy cavalry created the knight class, and not the other way around. Am I mistaken about that?
On a very fundamental level, a germanic lord who manages to get his gefolgschaft outfitted with horses and mail would demonstrate his virtues in a very overt manner. Conspicuous presents were part of the politics of the time and having a group of heavy infantry on horses certainly is nothing to scoff at either. They're not heavy cavalry yet, but they're far from useless as either a fighting unit or a demonstration of your wealth and your generosity.


Excellent point. As a college student who regularly wears pajama pants to class, I sometimes forget how important the appearance of wealth can be. Wink

Ex animo,

Connor
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 22 Dec, 2010 4:19 am    Post subject: Re: The Centrality of Medieval Heavy Cavalry?         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:

Keep in mind that 'History', the academic field, goes through different fashions and trends itself. I'm not an historian myself, but one can't help noticing a trend in modern history books to de-emphasize the role of 'great men' and place greater emphasis on the average person, economic and social trends, etc. I'm not saying this is totally right or wrong, just that sometimes the emphasis in academics gets shiftet out of balance by current trends and modern perspectives.


This is an excellent point, and it's something I had in the back of my mind while I was writing my response earlier. I was clear that I wanted to emphasize that infantry and archers played an important role in medieval warfare, but I didn't want to overstate their importance or significance, or for that matter, underplay the role of heavy cavalry. I'm not sure that I succeeded.

To a large degree, the problem is an issue of language- the words that are used, and not just the facts employed, construct or inform the perception that a reader has on a subject. Just by changing the words around, or by shifting the emphasis, or even using a slightly different wording, you can alter how the reader will understand the particular subject you are writing about. The best historians have to do a very careful juggling act of neither overstating nor understating the significance of a particular event or phenomena, to the best of their understanding and to the best of their own interpretation of the sources.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Dec, 2010 8:28 am    Post subject: Re: The Centrality of Medieval Heavy Cavalry?         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Lately I've read some stuff that states that the idea of medieval heavy horse being the dominant arm in medieval warfare was aristocracy funded propaganda (Although there seems to be a certain amount of Heil Der Infantry! overtone in that).

So, is that true?


One thing that this generalization misses is that the troop type we normally associate with medieval heavy cavalry--namely, the men-at-arms/knights--were not strictly heavy cavalry, but a rather flexible bunch that could also take on light cavalry and/or heavy infantry roles as the situation (and their mood!) dictated. Therefore, proving that heavy cavalry wasn't the sole deciding factor in a medieval battle (which is a fairly widely-accepted opinion nowadays) isn't the same as proving that the chivalric class of combatants didn't have a decisive effect in medieval European warfare. Indeed, it is possible to argue that the mounted men-at-arms' role in medieval wars was largely that of light cavalry, seeing as most military operations at that time (as Elling has mentioned) was a matter of raiding and pillaging the enemy's lands rather than crashing into their field armies head-on. Another greatly underemphasized aspect of medieval warfare is the siege, where the men-at-arms obviously fought (for the most part) as infantry.

(And it's worth noting that, in many medieval European battles where infantry prevailed over aristocratic horsemen, the infantry was often stiffened by dismounted men-at-arms--or were a bunch of dismounted or horseless men-at-arms in the first place. Look at all the unhorsed knights in the First Crusade! There's also a tantalizingly plausible theory that much of the heavy infantry on the Norman side at Hastings were knights and other men-at-arms who had to fight on foot because there weren't enough transports to get their horses across the Channel.)

I'm not even pretending that I'm saying the last word on the subject. If anything, the only good I'm doing is reinforcing the idea that medieval warfare was a complex affair and that any serious historian shouldn't try to mask this complexity with overly broad generalizations like "heavy cavalry reigned supreme in the Middle Ages" or "medieval heavy cavalry was a bunch of self-important rubbish."
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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Dec, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just another question regarding medieval infantry... The Imperial sergeants mentioned above--what sort of men would troops like this be? How were feudal societies organized to equip or train heavy infantry that was not of the noble class? Was there a special circumstance with the Imperial Cities, perhaps? Did they employ something like the Norman familia?

Also, how would knights (or other mounted men-at-arms) take on the role of light cavalry? What changes would they have made to their armaments or fighting style to accmodate the more mobile role? How did medieval commanders employ light cav, since we never really hear about its use.

Sorry to spring so many questions! Medieval army composition is just a very interesting topic to me. Happy

Ex animo,

Connor
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Dec, 2010 5:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye gives a pretty good description of late medevial/renaisance cavalry in his feature on the transition from lance to pistol:
http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_lancepistol.html

Light cavalry is used for scouting, foraging/pillaging, and hunting for vulnerable groups of enemies (Patrols, foraging parties, troops on the march...) These are tasks that can be carried out by knights without much modification. Heavy armour means less speed, but then again lightly armoured horsemen would want to think twice before attacking a heavier foe. This assumption is supported by the lack of dedicated ligth cav in the late middle ages.
Light hit-and-run raiding could be done by mounted infantry, like english mounted longbowmen, but these where not expected to fight on horseback, and would be easily overpowered by men at arms if they did not run away on contact.

Eastern heavy horsemen are even more adapted to this Recon-in-force role, being equipped with bows in addition to lances, and having a more cautious doctrine.

"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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David Sutton




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Dec, 2010 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

English armies at times included 'Hobilars' or 'Scurrers/Prickers' which did perform a light cavalry role. Also in Spain you have Jinetes which use light cavalry tactics. So there were some dedicated light cavalry types on the European medieval battlefield. Although I would not argue that this precludes knights acting in a similar role away from pitched battle. In fact bands of lighter cavalry might well be led or re-enforced by knights on raids etc.

Maybe we should think less of knights/men at arms as being defined purely by their arms and armour, but more as a group of elite martial artists that could and did perform a number of roles on the battlefield ranging from shock cavalry to heavy infantry; to light, fast raiders. Their expensive training then moves beyond simply that of equiping and instructing heavy cavalry, but towards the creation of an elite warrior corps that were a valuable asset on the battlefield in whichever situation they found themselves.

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