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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug, 2011 2:01 pm    Post subject: Horse casualties         Reply with quote

I was reading through Osprey book about Winged Hussars by Brzezinsky where he stated that according to his research one hussar banner could expect to loose roughly 12 men and twice as much horses per battle.

I wondered if anyone else made similar research concerning specifically horse casualties in different battles in which french ordonnance companies participated. (or roughly between years 1420-1600 involving battles like Patay, St. Jacob, Castillon, Formigny, Ravenna, Marignano, Ceresole, Dreux, Courtras or Ivry....and the ones when they were on the loosing side. Laughing Out Loud )

Also if there is any research into how horse armour would (if at all) improve survivability of a horse on battlefield.

Is there any research that would conclude most common types of wounds to horses in battle?

How often would happen that wounded horse was healed/spent. (In Loyal servitor in part about battle of Marignan its mentioned that Bayard had one horse killed from beneath him and then used second one which was already wounded in a battle but was treated like a human afterwards which he remarked as something unusual, or Conde with his exhausted horse wounded on leg which he left to die at the battle of Dreux IIRC)

I assume that generally most horses died (or were eaten) of other causes than injuries in battles, even warhorses. Is this correct?

There were several remounts that each gendarme was expected to provide for himself and his archers. What if he lost them all in campaign? Would he then fight with infantry?
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Aug, 2011 9:38 am    Post subject: Horse casualties         Reply with quote

Many knights who fell from their horses during combat usually risk themselves being attacked by enemy forces. Horses were either injured or killed first by arrows, spears & pikes so that the fallen rider can easily be attacked on the ground.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Aug, 2011 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I research the history of the first Crusade and even though there isn't any reports of horses lost in any one battle there becomes a point during the sieges of Antioch that knights are scrambling for horses and are restoring to donkeys or mules.

now there was a starvation issue, but I really think that a knight would eat his mule before his super expensive war horse, it's more than likely that the horse were ether kia or taken as a prise of war.

you can also look to later centurys the 30 years war, and the american civil war which put a severe strain on the horse population in the U.S.

A man knows to defend himself on the battle field, but I wouldn't think that a horse would. other than 'I better not run into that sharp stick in from of me even though his lunatic riding on top of me is driving me right into it" sort of thing. If it's anything, throughout the middel ages horse+rider were considered greater than the man alone, so any unmounted man I would believe would try to take the advantage away by killing or wounding the horse.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2011 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

on the concept of eating horses, id definately say that would be reserved for already dead horses, or in absolute desperation
one thing thats not stressed enough is that what makes a knight a knight, and what makes him so priveledged and elite is his horse, anyone (cost forbidding can buy a suit of armour and learn to use a sword. but you need astonomical sums as well as viable land to maintain horses. if buying a plate harness was like buying a car, having a horse was like buying a house today

or having a kid (the estimated cost that goes into feeding clothing and educating a child up to adulthood gets pretty high but thats a topic for another time. )

but for the common soldier id imagine horses were just a lean cow as far as they were concerned. i remember numerous refernces to horsemeat in bernard cornwells sharpe series. i assume it was a common way to supplement their rations by cutting a prime cut of meat from a horse killed by cannonfire or a musket shot or bayonet. (makes sense too)

it is however quite intruiging when one thinks of all the numerous tactics and formations and implements used to defeat animal mounts and neutralise the advantage they might bring, not just horses, but also camels elephents and the odd donkey. (after all, the phrase kick like a mule wasnt made up because the writer felt like it..)
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2011 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Apparently during the crusades attrition among the mounts was often a problem. It seems as though the native european mounts struggled more than the Mideastern breeds, but with Middle Eastern stock added to the Crusaders European horses they became more hardy, but it was still a big problem.

Going lame, digestive track issues, water, food were all problems that contributed to this above and beyond horses wounded in battle.

One of the digestive issue problems - Horses in their natural state are grazers, getting small amounts of nutrients over a long period of time. Eating grain force many nutrients over a short period of time into a horse. The are best served if gradually "weaning" from grazing to grain or other concentrated foods. This is similar to someone who has been dying of thirst and then drinking a large amount of water in a very short period of time, but more serious.

My guess is there were often challenges logistically feeding horses - and being on the move in a campaign makes grazing tough. I would think that often the army had to feed it horses with whatever was available - grain, hay, or grazing of not on the move, These abrubt changes in diet probably contibuted a lot to the casualties and attrition of horses.
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 22 Apr 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2011 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Apparently during the crusades attrition among the mounts was often a problem. It seems as though the native european mounts struggled more than the Mideastern breeds, but with Middle Eastern stock added to the Crusaders European horses they became more hardy, but it was still a big problem.

Going lame, digestive track issues, water, food were all problems that contributed to this above and beyond horses wounded in battle.

One of the digestive issue problems - Horses in their natural state are grazers, getting small amounts of nutrients over a long period of time. Eating grain force many nutrients over a short period of time into a horse. The are best served if gradually "weaning" from grazing to grain or other concentrated foods. This is similar to someone who has been dying of thirst and then drinking a large amount of water in a very short period of time, but more serious.

My guess is there were often challenges logistically feeding horses - and being on the move in a campaign makes grazing tough. I would think that often the army had to feed it horses with whatever was available - grain, hay, or grazing of not on the move, These abrubt changes in diet probably contibuted a lot to the casualties and attrition of horses.


Thats what I meant. Even as late as napoleonic times it seems human casualties due to disease/atrition etc. would be several times higher than the ones suffered in battle. Why would it be otherwise with horses?

Casualties from firearms are mentioned in Brzezinskis book about winged hussars as most common. I find it quite logical that arquebus/crossbow/musket was real killer while pikemen/halberdiers were there as transportable wall. Even Swiss would have some of them in their army.

What could a body of pikemen do when lured into open country where cavalry can attack them from all sides and retreat freely when nessesary than let themselves be abused without good portion of shot?
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Aug, 2011 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
What could a body of pikemen do when lured into open country where cavalry can attack them from all sides and retreat freely when nessesary than let themselves be abused without good portion of shot?


Well, a battle was not a vaccum with one side all cavalry, the other side all pike. Pike would usually have it's flanks supported by other troops. Eliminating these support troops would be needed prior to outflanking the pike.

And these flanking troops would have to be eliminated before the pikes closed and possibly defeated the main wall of the opposing troops.

Well trained Pike can advance well and stay in formation - possibly even square to defend itself from all sides, but then the formation would not be as deep, and it takes well trained pikemen to do this.

The defeat of the Scots pikes (long spears, not quite as long in general as later pikes) in the 13th century had much to do with 2 things - the scottish supporting troops were inadaquate in numbers/ability (they had few archers and not much cavalry), and perhaps just as important, they were not usually as adept at marching in formation and forcing the battle - intheir losses they were usually a stagnant defensive line.

However, even these pikemen who were not trained as well had sucess against the English horse at times as well.

And to show what well trained pike with support could do, look at Alexander's army with Hypaspist troops supporting the flank, as well as companionm cavalry.

The later failures of Macedonian sucessor states had much to do with these states forgetting the value of supporting troops and becoming overly reliant on the Pike alone instead of maintaining the concept of a true combined arms force.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
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PostPosted: Thu 25 Aug, 2011 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and how about the horses that were taken as a 'prise of war' would we consider them a casualty as well (M.I.A.)

it was customary to chase down a routing force to their camp and take anything they had (tents personal possessions). most knights did have a second war horse. once one was spent a knight would relay between another. so if you left your other one behind at camp - someone's going to take it. if not take it from the field itself.

as for your question of the knight fighting with the infantry. no, not unless there was a dire need for it. knights were known to quite the field in earlier centurys if they did not have their horses. he has no advantage - he'll probably die with the rest of the infantry and a knight is at war to make money - not any ideology (at least in the most part) and why would he fight side by side with what he thought a lower class individual.

now there are instances where battlefield commanders made knights fight on foot for disciplinary actions. like i said knights were in the battle to make money so they'd charge in without any forethought of the battle structure to capture other knights or 'booty' before the command to charge and cause a total mess. they might even cause the loss of the battle - but hey they got rich and who cares.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Aug, 2011 9:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
as for your question of the knight fighting with the infantry. no, not unless there was a dire need for it. knights were known to quite the field in earlier centurys if they did not have their horses. he has no advantage - he'll probably die with the rest of the infantry and a knight is at war to make money - not any ideology (at least in the most part) and why would he fight side by side with what he thought a lower class individual


Incorrect here, but the time and place has a bearing. German knights frequently fough on foot, the French were the least likely, but they did as well. As the middle ages wore on, fighting on foot became more popular, 11th cnetury or so it was uncommon, by the 14th it was a common practice. Disciplined foot was certainly capable of holding off a mounted charge, from the Saxon fyrd stiffened by Huscarls (they only really lost because they broke ranks and pursued retreating cavalry - otherwise the Normans were making little headway) to the Scottish Schiltrons, who could handle cavalry fine unless they were barraged by missile fire with little covering fire of their own - when able to advance in formation, they beat the English cavalry a few times.

And this was not the best or most disciplined infantry - as time went on, more disciplined foot than the Fyrd or Schiltron came along, making mounted knights less effective.

So dismounting a portion of your knights and stiffening the front ranks of the foot could be a good idea.

Rarely down however in the crusader states, as dismounted heavy foot could not close with the cavalry of the saracens.

Quote:
like i said knights were in the battle to make money so they'd charge in without any forethought of the battle structure to capture other knights or 'booty' before the command to charge and cause a total mess. they might even cause the loss of the battle - but hey they got rich and who cares


This was the exception rather than the rule. And the pursuit was not usually to capture booty, but overzealous pursuit of a beaten enemy. You may think you are routing the enemy - but without modern communication it's tough to realize you have only routed one wing.

Troops other than knights have made this same error - from the professional trained mercenaries of Xenophon in their first battle when used by a Persian Satrap against the King of Persia to the Huscarls at Hastings, and this has happened many times with even disciplined troops.

The professionalism of knights is often underrated by those who like to look at them as undisciplined hotheads. Might I add, it was Norman KNIGHTS who through likely feigned flight lured the Saxons out of their shield wall and great defensive position.
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Aug, 2011 10:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well speaking about pursuit several battles picture quite nicely how useless cavalry could be in a battle that was going far too easy for their side.

At the battle of Monthlery in 1465 both burgundian and french mounted men at arms routed enemy at opposing wings and went on pursuing. It seems the battle was won by the side whose cavalry sooner returned to the field regrouped and claimed the it. Laughing Out Loud

At the battle of Guinegate in 1479 outnumbered and outclassed cavalry of Maximilian I was easily beaten and driven from the field (forcing their emperor to seek refuge among pikemen-or did he really heroically decided to fight among his beloved flemmish subjects? Evil ) with majority of their french counterparts pursuing. They fought their own battle some distance from the original battlefield. In the meantime franc archers perceiving battle to be won went on looting enemies baggage and were routed afterwards. When victorious french returned to the battlefield the battle was already lost it seems. They basically threw easy victory away as they failed to provide any further support.

As to the subject of dismounting, chef de chambre from armour archive points out quite frequently that seeing dismouting as preferred way to fight is only true in narrow scope of 14th-beginning of 15th century maybe and that it was never common practice on the continent. As I follow rather french history (last years of hundred years war and italian wars) from my own reading I agree with this and I hold him as an authority in this matter with all his facts based on proper research.

Even Swiss and veteran landsknechts/spanish had some not so one sided fights against french gendarmes at the battle of Dreux/Ceresole respectively. I still cant understand why few horsemen charging against well prepared enemy on a hill throwing anything they could at their unprotected horses and still being on the winning side in the end as happened at Hastings is allways celebrated for what even half peasant army can do and noone even mentiones battle like Ceresole with around 300 horsemen completely unsupported attacking repeatedly 5000 veterans with neither side giving ground and both sustaining considerable loss or 80 horsemen that at the same battle decided by their charge the outcome of a fight at the other side of the battlefield so that they could then attack enemy entertained by little cavalry force mentioned before.(This is suddenly described as fruitless charges. Cool )

I find this quite one sided and biased. Armoured lancer wasnt kicked out of battlefield by pikemen but by new emergent type of heavy cavalry pistoliers and not because they couldnt defeat enemy infantry in well prepared position which outnumber them by 10:1 (what could anyway? Swiss had their go at Marignan and Biccoca and as best infantry of their time failed in both cases) but because they could no longer fulfill their primary role effectively- defeat enemy cavalry to deprive infantry of their support.

Infantry or cavalry, it doesnt matter, with everything as it was, the best way to conduct battles like Bicocca, Courtrai, Bannockburn, maybe even Hastings would be to refuse the battle and force enemy out of position in which he feels safe. How unnerving would it be for the Scots for example if english army would simply go by not noticing them. That would completely ruin all their confidence in situation and battlefield they were trained for for a month or so. (Total war games really help here. Laughing Out Loud When you see someone with army deployed nicely on a hill that awaits your frontal attack and you just move to his flank he most times simply stay in his already prepared position as he doesnt know what to do and many times resign before battle is objectivelly lost as he feels tactically overwhelmed.....I did it several times as well Evil )
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
At the battle of Monthlery in 1465 both burgundian and french mounted men at arms routed enemy at opposing wings and went on pursuing. It seems the battle was won by the side whose cavalry sooner returned to the field regrouped and claimed the it.


It's interesting reading Anabasis by Xenophon. When fighting for Cyrus the Younger against the King or Persia in a dynastic struggle, they routed the troops on their wing and inflicted geat casualties. Only when they got rired and took a bit of a break, they relaized they had advanced way beyond their battle line and exposed their flanks. They also saw their center and other wing were being routed. They then made an orderly retreat from the battle field. They were experienced high quality mercenaries, and still made the same mistake that many others, incluing the knights you mentioned made.

It shows that the "fog of war" can make one vry unperceptive to what is going on in the battle, other than in one's immediate vicinity.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
do and noone even mentiones battle like Ceresole with around 300 horsemen completely unsupported attacking repeatedly 5000 veterans with neither side giving ground and both sustaining considerable loss or 80 horsemen that at the same battle decided by their charge the outcome of a fight at the other side of the battlefield so that they could then attack enemy entertained by little cavalry force mentioned before.(This is suddenly described as fruitless charges. )


This is specifically what cavalry are good for - A charge into the flanks of close order infantry that were already engaged to the front by close order infantry. Textbook Hammer and Anvil tactics, used by Alexander with his Pike and Companion cavalry.

I don't think anyone disputes the effectiveness of a cavalry charge into an already engaged unit's flanks. What I have not seen however is effective use of a head-on cavalry charge into a disciplined body of foot that remain cohesion and formation.
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