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R Ashby





Joined: 12 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Mar, 2012 11:44 pm    Post subject: Combat between knights in larger battles         Reply with quote

Hello all,

I have a historic question. How often did knights, I guess in the form of heavy cavalry, fight against each other in battles, as opposed to against foot soldiers or different types of units. I was discussing it with a friend, and said that I thought they were more often employed against different types of forces, such as foot soldiers, but wasn't sure. I told him that my extremely limited understanding was that heavy cavalry was used sort of like air strikes in WWII or Vietnam- for maximum shock and disruption against much larger forces of less armored men.

Am I totally wrong? It would not be the first time...
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sat 10 Mar, 2012 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well my understanding based on my own limited research concerning mainly second half of 15th century- first half of 16th century is they had a sort of target priority. Happy

This concerns mostly french gendarmes: their first target in any battle would be heavy cavalry of the enemy. They wouldve attempted to neutralize their opposition to gain advantage. Maybe its not totally true, but cavalry engagements tended to be quite fast while engaged infantry would generally struggle against each other for longer period of time unless one side lost heart and simply fled. And once enemy cavalry was driven off the field it was needed to detach significant portion of your own knights to pursue them and not allow them to regroup while some of them could return and strike at the flanks of engaged enemy infantry which generally ended instatnly or hugely facilitated infantry struggle in your favour. The problem with such a knightly cavalry as it seems was to recall them back, they tended to carry on pursuit once they defeated their equals having fat ransom for prisoners in mind rather than winning the battle itself. They couldve easily been carried off the field and some battles couldve been lost because of it. (My favourite is battle of Guinegate, 1479, and to the degree battle of Monthlery which is even weirder as both sides could be said left the field in pursuit of defeated enemy on opposite wings and burgundian eventually won because they returned to and claimed teh field of battle sooner. Laughing Out Loud On the other hand at the battle of Ravenna enough of them have returned and helped their almost decimated infantry to turn the battle in their favour by attacking into spanish encampment and into their rear which led to the rout of the spanish)

As for engaging infantry to me it seems it was on of the lowest priority targets if any tactics was cosidered in particular battle. Big Grin In some battle like Castilon, Formigny, Patay or Marignan they attacked infantry primarily because there was no opposition cavalry - and to me it seems with much sucess. In other battles, like Ceresole little french force of men at arms was attacking repeatedly imperial veterans before their own infantry came in support - not without quite a sucess once again Id say, in compare to their size. (something like 200-300 horsemen against 2000 spanish arquebusiers and 3000 landsknechts) At the battle of Dreux french men at arms were charging against Swiss, supported by detachment of arquebusiers and mounted pistoliers and caused significant damage before Swiss were eventually forced to abandon their position, which isnt something that happened any day.

These are Id say rather extreme examples in this period of infantry not giving ground and cavalry willing to collide with them where both sides would suffer heavily and of could be said what was the most elite infantry of the period, given the french gendarmes, mostly of knightly rank, against infantry of lesser quality or not prepared properly to receive their charge, or panicking before contact the results could be completely off the scale considering they couldve expected to be mostly badly outnumbered. (battles of Formigny, Patay and Castillon could be good example of this Id say)

In general Id say that to compare this super heavily armoured cavalry (both men and horses encased in plate armour) with modern air support is very fitting, less so for heavy cavalry of earlier periods concerning Europe, which tended to be much lighter in terms of armour and many times didnt have to worry about any opposing professional infantry so their primary goal was almost allways to beat opposing knights (and if confronted by well drilled infantry they generally failed miserably, mostly because they were unprepared for it and havent reacted properly to such a situation - in my own opinion) or later periods where standards of horseman and horse training seems to drop almost to the zero in compare to best rennaisance knightly heavy cavalry and quantity came on top over quality, while there well trained infantry was there in abundance and using almosst exclusively firearms, their chances of sucess against infantry dropped rapidly.

Im sure someone more knowledgeable will come in and describe it in more detail and complexity.
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R Ashby





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PostPosted: Sat 10 Mar, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you- I shall have to go hat in hand to my friend and tell him I was wrong... :-)
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 10 Mar, 2012 8:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It all really depends on era, locale, and what conflict you're talking about. Some battles and skirmishes were fought by mounted men at arms vs. mounted men at arms. Some were mounted men at arms vs. foot soldiers, while other featured primarily unmounted soldiers (men at arms, archers, infantry).

If you wanted to find trends, earlier in the medieval period, battles featuring large numbers of mounted troops might have been more common than later. But that's a gross over-simplification.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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R Ashby





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PostPosted: Sat 10 Mar, 2012 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Chad!
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 13 Mar, 2012 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The problem with such a knightly cavalry as it seems was to recall them back, they tended to carry on pursuit once they defeated their equals having fat ransom for prisoners in mind rather than winning the battle itself.


Reminds me of a battle I read about during the Albigensian crusade. The cavalry of the crusaders was victorious against the cathars, drove them from the field and continued pursuit.

Meanwhile, the Cathar infantry was victorious against the crusaders. The Crusader cavalry arrived back on the scene, and the cathar infantry were disorganized after driving their opponents from the field, and they were then routed by the returning cavalry Big Grin
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