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Michail F




Location: MN, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 04 Jan, 2011 8:18 am    Post subject: weapons of Spanish conquistador western hemisphere 1492-1600         Reply with quote

I'm a long time collector and amateur historian in various periods, but I'm not finding much info on exactly what type of swords and pistols might have been carried by (for example)Corte's or Pizarro's soldiers early 16th century. My two main questions are, would they have had forms of rapiers or more likely types of broad swords, and secondly would anybody, even officers, carried wheelock pistols? If they might have had rapiers, what might these have looked like? A few years ago I had some way too brief time in Madrid at the incredible museums there, saw numerous rapiers, swept, cup, but I cannot recall if there were any references to Spanish armaments in the New World. I've read in various accounts of "pistols" being carried but there are never any details. Thanks for any info, books, references! Mike
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 04 Jan, 2011 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome! Many others will chime in here, no doubt, but I can offer a general overview:

High status mounted men could have used large wheellock pistols at this time, but those were complex machines and not necessarily what a knight would want on a far-ranging expedition. A lance would be the primary weapon for mounted, high-status men. The sword would be a secondary weapon, and could be anything from a single-hand arming sword with a blade of Oakeshott Type XVIII or XV up through a complex-hilt longsword of the day. "Rapier" is a troublesome term, but the form most folks think of when they hear that term--with a complex basket of bars protecting the hand and mounted on a very long, thick and narrow blade--had not developed by this time. It's predecessor certainly was on hand, with blades of various forms and a few bars and rings added to the simpler guard of earlier times.

Ordinary Continental soldiers in this period could have carried pikes, boar spears, halberds or matchlock guns as their primary weapons, with a relatively short and plain sword--straight and double-edged or slightly curved and single-edged-- or large dagger as their secondary weapon. Some men would have been designated as targeteers and armed with a tapering double-edged sword and target (medium-size shield, typically round, worn on the left forearm).

Here are some links to related threads here:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...erenissima

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...erenissima

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_lancepistol.html

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_visit_nmai.html

I highly recommend Peterson's Arms and Armor in Colonial America. It's cheap and has examples of Spanish colonial a & a.

This kit in this illustration is plausible. The figure is armed with a lance, steel target and a robust, complex-hilt bastard sword or longsword (the former is defined by a blade of single-hand proportion and hand-and-a-half grip, the latter has the same or longer grip and a longer blade).



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-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Jan, 2011 9:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do not forget crossbows. There were often more crossbows in most forces until the 1530s or 1540s or so than personal firearms.

I agree for the other info just wanted to chime in,

RPM
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 04 Jan, 2011 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

True, and looking again at the date range rather than the expeditions mentioned I'll add that by 1600 you'd certainly see wheellock and flint pistols for mounted use as the primary weapon, fully-developed matchlock longarms for infantry and the rapier in more-or-less its final form. You'd also have, by then, the hybrid field swords of the A&A Town Guard / Wolfgang Stantler variety, with fully-developed complex hilts mounted on stout arming sword blades. The typical infantry sword of that period was relatively short, tapered, DE and narrow, with a pommel of globular or barrel shape and a simple guard, sometimes with a knucklebow and sidering.

See Derrick's 1581 "Image of Irelande" for an impression of how English soldiers were armed in that era and conflict.

http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/about/bgallery/Galler...eland.html

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Michail F




Location: MN, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 12:53 pm    Post subject: Spanish arms         Reply with quote

Thank you Sean and Randall-your comments are extremely helpful and interesting. If you have the time, would you have any suggestions for a source for an authentic-as-possible reproduction sword of say the Spanish 1480-1520 period in the New World? I'd imagine the chances of ever owning an authentic original, not being wealthy, would be zero. I have three original later 1600-1700? rapiers, though one could be very early, with a thin, "rapier length" almost "broadsword" type blade with standard, simple, swept-hilt hilt, pretty crude, and if not a convincing/handmade fake (came from Italian auction house) could be maybe mid/later 16th c. or so?
I've looked some on line for 1480-1520 Spanish typre repro and will continue to do so, but haven't had much luck so far. Thanks again! Mike
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's so much variety among swords in this period that you have plenty of choices.

Any of these would be suitable for the period, culture and application:

http://www.reliks.com/merchant.ihtml?pid=2778 (ignore the manufacturer's dating)

http://kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=DT5160

http://kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=501048

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/sword036.html

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/rapier212.html

http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...af-xix.htm

http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...nn-xix.htm

http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...li-xix.htm

A&A will do custom work and probably would be happy to work with you to find a design that is unique and historically appropriate. Unfortunately, E.B. Erickson is not currently taking commissions. Otherwise I'd recommend him for something like this:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...plex+eljay

Do you have any shop skills? If so, you could make a simple and appropriate infantry sword for under $200. We can help!
A Hanwei-Tinker bastard sword blade is about $90 at Kult of Athena. A large spherical pommel is about $15 at Alchem. Other pommel types are available at Darkwood Armory. The cross is harder to come by, but since all you need is something very simple, you could probably turn one up with a search in the Marketplace here.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you are looking at a more broad blade than narrow and thin rapier one, in particularly if for war. The rapier blade, whil I am sure made it on the field still was primarily for carrying around town, most of the swords intended for war were of the more broad type. In your time frame and class especially this would be true.

I think Sean has put up some great examples for you. My guess is simple hilt would be very, very common for your interests.

Most late 15th, last decade or so, arms and weapons would be perfect for your use.

RPM
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michail,

I've recently been interested in swords of that period too...

Sean, as you know far more than I do, I'd like to know if Windlass' "Sword of La Biccoca" (http://kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=501122) could fit the bill in your opinion. To my newb eyes it quite resembles sword XIX.5 in Oakeshott's Records, which is dated circa 1480 - 1510 (it's apparently Italian but Oakeshott also mentions a very similar sword in Spain). Windlass' sword is also a type XIX it seems, but doesn't have the nice fullers of XIX.5 and the guard is bulkier... Still perhaps it could be a good start for a sword project?

Don't hesitate to tell me if I'm completely wrong... I'm interested in collecting late 15th - 16th century swords too, but am only at the beginning of learning to spot what's historical or not...

All the best,
Simon

PS : there's also Windlass' "15th century longsword", reviewed here, which to my eye seems more like early 16th (or even mid 16th), mainly because of the two side rings... Late longswords seem overlooked by most manufacturers, I'm currently looking for other sources as Windlass' version seems to be not very accurate... I'll keep everyone posted if I find interesting things!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 6:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simon: I think "project" is the key word with both of those swords. I have never handled the Bicoca but it clearly would need a huge amount of work just to begin to visually approximate anything historic--especially that elegant XIX in Oakeshott. Even the guard, as simple as it is, appears to be so over-built that it don't think it would be worthwhile to attack it. The blade doesn't really exist, historically, as far as I recall. The pommel is just crazy. It looks like a doorknob. Some massive grinding could turn it into something like the type on your XIX.5, but I don't think I'd try it. It's not an impossible project, but you could do much better. This is an example of my typical frustration with many Windlass products--they could have done so much more in terms of historical accuracy with so much LESS material, work and creativity.

I have owned the "15th c. Longsword". You're correct in spotting that as more of an early 16th c. weapon. It's not bad, but I bought it to use in multiple projects so chopped it up pretty quickly. The blade is slightly closer to something historical (especially if you reshape the lower section from diamond to lenticular) and the guard is a very nice platform for simple modifications (I wish I had another one!). The pommel doesn't make much sense to me, historically. The facets could be eliminated and the pommel narrowed more toward the top to create what Oakeshott described as "a drop of viscous fluid", but I found that a better use for it was grinding off the foot, reversing it and using it as a mid-15th c. scent stopper pommel for a very different sword project. The grip should be replaced, preferably with a slender bottle-shaped leather-over-wood type. If I had another of these I'd re-shape or replace the pommel as described above, file away the raised decoration on the rings and quillons, create a more appropriate grip and blacken the hilt furniture. Then I think you'd have an attractive German-ish sword for the period 1525-1550. I would consider that a pretty easy project and a good bargain below $200.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 7:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply Sean ! That's funny, I had more reservations on the longsword than on the La Biccoca... Guess I underestimated the bulkiness of the latter. But yeah, the pommel seemed wierd to me, too... And Windlass' rather ugly diamond-section blade sure can't compare to the beautiful one of XIX.5 with its elegant fullers...

Guess that for now, I'll hunt in other places, although I do like the diversity Windlass offers. As you said it's just too bad they sometimes overdo things...

PS : by the way, is there any good reference on 16th century longswords, since Oakeshott stops short of that ?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 8:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since the early part of the Conquistador period is around 1519-20 wheelock pistols would have been very rare or not developed yet although there is an early drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci of a wheelock type mechanism this may be too early for wheelocks except for undocumented early " adopters " who may have had the very first ones.

( I am doubtful that they existed prior to 1500 ).

By 1540-50 we can safely say that wheelocks would have been known, extremely expensive, fragile and if not too rare not in general issue use compared to the late 16th century early 17th.

Matchlock archebuses would have been available to the Conquistadors and I think their use is documented but the crossbow would have been very useful and easier to make new bolts for ( Or reusing salvaged bolts ) than finding gunpowder in the field in America once supplies where exhausted ( A lot depends on the logistics of having a resupply coming from Cuba or other Spanish Colonies ).

For swords I can see some possible use of the large twohanders and some of the complex hilted bastard/longswords like these:
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Half+Sword
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...Half+Sword
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...reat+Sword
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...nded+Sword

Certainly against unarmoured natives, but natives in huge numbers these long swords would have been useful when outnumbered 10 to 1 if not 100 to 1.

The firearms would have had more value for their psychological effects than in their actual fire power as well as the horses.

The Spanish couldn't have done it on their own if they hadn't made allies from local rival tribes of the Aztecs.

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




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Jan, 2011 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What sort of troops were the spaniards using in the Americas? I'd kind of a expect them to resemble pre-Tercio Spanish troops (some lighter cavalry, infantry with swords, infantry with missile weapons). On the other hand, I suppose everything was rather improvised.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I live in New Mexico and have always had an interest in Conquistador arms and armor. If I thought I could get away with it, I would start a conquistador reenactment group. Here in New Mexico, conquistadors are a touchy subject, and 500 year old wounds are still very tender. A statue of Onate that was recently erected here in Albuquerque, igniting protest, eventually had its right hand cut off.

One thing to keep in mind is that most combat on the Northern Frontier was mounted, and the weapons used reflected that. I recently saw a sword in the Acoma Pueblo museum that illustrates a typical conquistador sword of the type most common in the southwest. It has a long (36-40 inch), broad, flattened hexagonal section blade with a rounded tip, a long (9-10 inch) grip, an almost cylindrical scent-stopperish pommel and a long, curved cross with flared ends with a side ring with animal-head terminals where it meets the cross, and a "finger-ring" supporting a loop to protect the thumb complete with thumb-ring. I fell in love with this sword and would love to make a copy of it someday. Unfortuneately, I could take no pictures, but I spent a good 2 hours staring at it, trying to burn it into my brain. The thumb-ring in particular suggests mounted use. It would be very similar in feel and usage to a high-medieval great-sword. All of the rapiers I have seen in local museums have been post-1620, and even arming swords were greatly outnumbered by long-swords prior to the Pueblo rebellion in the 1580's.

The typical firearm pre-1580 would be an escopita, a 20-gauge arquebus with matchlock ignition. After 1580, miquelet locks predominate. Crossbows were far more common in 16th century America than they were in Europe, as Spain sent most of them to the colonies when they were removed from service in mainstream forces during the 1520's. The typical crossbow found in the southwest is a moderate-sized steel-bow with goats-foot spanning, ideal for mounted use. Bolts were generally very crude, with heads that are usually just cones bent out of copper or iron sheet. Various pole-arms were in use, but there is one that is unique to the Northern Frontier. I can not bring its Spanish name to mind right now, but it consists of a crescent-shaped blade mounted at a right angle to the shaft with the points up. It was used both in warfare and to hamstring the half-wild cattle brought to the region.

Armor consisted mostly of mail and padded cotton armours, plate armour was almost never used. Cabasstets and sallets far outnumber the "Spanish morion", which is actually somewhat rare. Surprisingly, the single most common form of conquistador armor found in New Mexico is scale armor, either of brass or iron. Primitive spagen-helm-like skull caps become more common as the 16th century progresses. The Spanish introduced the round hide shield to the southwest, prior to contact, all native shields were wicker. The steel rondella and the adarga were also fairly common, but the ubiquitous buckler was by far the most common shield. By the time of the Pueblo Rebellion, the native Puebloans had sophisticated iron-working technology and would have fought on horseback with sword and lance protected by hide armour and shields while the typical conquistador resembled the popular image of a Crusader more than he did the popular image of a conquistador.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I almost forgot to mention an interesting little tid-bit I discovered during the course of my research. Coronado was accompanied by Irish mercenaries when he came to New Mexico. It has been difficult to dig up any detailed information, but I am working on it.
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I recently saw a sword in the Acoma Pueblo museum that illustrates a typical conquistador sword of the type most common in the southwest. It has a long (36-40 inch), broad, flattened hexagonal section blade with a rounded tip, a long (9-10 inch) grip, an almost cylindrical scent-stopperish pommel and a long, curved cross with flared ends with a side ring with animal-head terminals where it meets the cross, and a "finger-ring" supporting a loop to protect the thumb complete with thumb-ring. I fell in love with this sword and would love to make a copy of it someday. Unfortuneately, I could take no pictures, but I spent a good 2 hours staring at it, trying to burn it into my brain. The thumb-ring in particular suggests mounted use. It would be very similar in feel and usage to a high-medieval great-sword. All of the rapiers I have seen in local museums have been post-1620, and even arming swords were greatly outnumbered by long-swords prior to the Pueblo rebellion in the 1580's.

Man... Scott, this sword sounds gorgeois indeed from your description... Any chance of you (or someone else) posting a picture of it in the future ?

And thanks for all the info on Conquistador equipment, it's fascinating (at least to me...). Any good reference books on this? There are so many things about Conquistadors, but I suspect that (as for other "mythical" soldier types) many of it is inaccurate...
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott,

Some very interesting information. I'd especially be interested in anything regarding the irish mercs they used as I had never heard of that. Makes sense as during the 16th they were often allies.

Do you know of more than the iron scale finds in New Mexico? I had never heard of any more than that one. I would be very interested if you do know of some more.

I am not sure regarding the exclusion of plate. I have a few full inventories of the groups in the new world and some plate armour seems to have been very common. Mail and textile armours are, as you say very common, especially on the commoners and men on foot.

As far as crossbows being unused in Europe after 1520 by the spanish... I'd not push that hard as they still show up fairly often in their rolls into the 1550s fairly often. Clearly they were getting very familiar with firearms for individuals but the crossbow was very familiar, trusted and reliable. I think more likely the spanish felt the crossbow was more flexible in the americas than just a place it could get by.

RPM
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a lot of swords that may have been used by the conquistadores, but to me, this type seems to scream CONQUISTADOR! the most:



I wonder about the use of longswords. The typical Spanish infantry swordsman was a rodelero. And a horseman would presumably prefer a single hander as well. Then where would a longsword fit in?
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 1:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Post 1550 German longswords with single-hand primary grips, complex hilts and, often, SE blades, were used by mounted soldiers. A bastard sword or longsword would be useful against infantry.


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-Sean

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Other nice things to have whilst riding down the hoi-poloi in the age of exploration:


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-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Thu 06 Jan, 2011 3:48 pm    Post subject: Conquista swords         Reply with quote

Drop an email to Vladimir Cervinka (see links above) and ask him what he has in stock. His swords are museum replicas and he often has something "in stock." Persoanlly, I think any period sword from Spain, Italy or Germany would be just fine as long as it was purposed for horseback. In the inventory of Don Juan de Ornate's proposed list of equipment he would buy if selected to lead the expedition were some polearms covered in purple velvet with yellow tassels and brass nails!
"Those who live by the sword...will usually die with a huge, unpaid credit card balance!"
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