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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 22 Apr 2006

Posts: 123

PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 5:51 pm    Post subject: Horseman against footman discussion         Reply with quote

Good day,

there is a lot of discussion about advantages and disadvantages of cavalry and infantry used on larger scale.

Ill ommit this topic now completely,what Id like to ask are some thoughts, examples, or experiences on one on one, or few against few engagements of horsemen against infantrymen.

Its not so much about getting one clear cut answer to who would win more propably, it would be good if it was a summary of different points by someone knowlegeable of such an examples in historical sources, that are quite well described, or someone with experience in training or recreating either cavalry, or infantry, that did have an opportunity to see or experience a measure of forces between the two.

Time period reenacted, or of the event/duel/battle/etc. in which this was recorded or weapons/armour involved doesnt matter so much, any input is welcomed, so hopefully, there will eventually be opinions from both sides. Happy It would be even better if there were some practical observations of people standing against a horseman on foot or against infantryman on a horse (in a friendly duel of course Laughing Out Loud ) of how they felt in this situation, what they considered their advantage and disadvantage etc.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 8:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An account from the Battle of Bouvines:

"After [Philip Augustus] said this, he sent ahead, on the Count of Saint-Pol's advice, 150 mounted sergeants to start the battle. He did this with the aim that the noble combatants of France, whom we have named above, would find their enemy somewhat agitated and worried.

But the Flemings and the Germans, who were very eager to fight, greatly scorned being first challenged by sergeants instead of knights. Because of this, they did not deign to move from their position but waited and received them very harshly; many of their horses were slain and they suffered many injuries but only two were wounded unto death. These sergeants were born in the Soissons valley; they were full of prowess and great courage and were fighting no less virtuously on foot than on horseback."

http://web.archive.org/web/20110605012556/htt...vines5.htm
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something else that must be kept in mind is that in all cavalry warfare, it is extremely common to attack horses. When you read medieval accounts of battles, for instance, you will notice that the more detailed accounts frequently mention both knights and infantrymen alike attacking the horses of enemy cavalrymen, usually in the form of a brief statement mentioning how many men and horses died, or something to that effect. A dying horse could easily throw or pin a man, which largely negates the advantage of being mounted.

Since you have requested historical examples, I'll give you a good one. In one of his campaings, Adolf II, Count of Schauenberg and Holstein, found himself trapped and badly outnumbered in one of his military campaigns. In order to escape, he and his men deliberately ham-strung the horses of enemy knights, a strategem which proved successful and enabled them to flee.
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 22 Apr 2006

Posts: 123

PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Something else that must be kept in mind is that in all cavalry warfare, it is extremely common to attack horses. When you read medieval accounts of battles, for instance, you will notice that the more detailed accounts frequently mention both knights and infantrymen alike attacking the horses of enemy cavalrymen, usually in the form of a brief statement mentioning how many men and horses died, or something to that effect. A dying horse could easily throw or pin a man, which largely negates the advantage of being mounted.

Since you have requested historical examples, I'll give you a good one. In one of his campaings, Adolf II, Count of Schauenberg and Holstein, found himself trapped and badly outnumbered in one of his military campaigns. In order to escape, he and his men deliberately ham-strung the horses of enemy knights, a strategem which proved successful and enabled them to flee.


Id like to ask if there are any specifics to this example: Like for example, when they hamstrung their horses. Was it in actual combat, while heavily outnumbered with horsemen all around them trying to kill them? Or was it something like a night raid, in which theyd deliberately try to put enemy horses out of use to make their escape easier then? (Or something completely different? Happy )

What about methods of dealing with horses being primary targets? I have stumbled upon many different manuals from various periods dealing with foot combat, or advices for footman about how to face a horse charge one on one, but I havent found any specific advices or manuals to cavalrymen. (I dont mean cavalry vs cavalry, like in Talhoffer for example) Most I found are quite modern and only concerned about cutting practice, or showing few basic parries. (But for example Le Marchant in his manual show guards for horse, which is quite interesting)

Was it so obvious how to fight from horseback, that there are so few detailed manuals, or was riding by, attemting cut at the enemy and praying that he wont resist and try to target either cavalryman or horse considered only viable option? Or are there some good specific advices somewhere about how to deal with resisting infantryman other than letting him be? (Once again I mean against single resisting enemy, not against them in tight formation. What Im trying to quetion is effectiveness of cavalry for anything other, than riding down already running and unarmed enemies.)
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 5:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Germanic tribes in Roman times were infamous for their use of horse-stabbers, lightly armed infantry ( usually almost naked and only carrying a knife) who would run under horses and disembowel them. Roman art usually shows the horse-stabber being ridden over and defeated but later depictions on 6th-7th century helmet foils show the horse-stabber being successful, with the doomed mounted warrior stoically facing his fate and Odin standing on the rump of the horse holding the butt of the riders spear. The fact that the feats of the horse-stabber were considered heroic I think shows that it is no easy matter to take on a horse with a knife even not taking into account the warrior he carries.

As to manuals with info about mounted combat, doesn't "Flos Duelatorum" sp? have a section on mounted combat? I imagine that mounted combat is 90% horsemanship and 10% combat skill. Especially one on one or in a skirmish, the mounted warrior will have a number of advantages not the least of which is the psychological advantage. Combat in humans, as with most animals, is mostly about display and threat, two areas where mounted warriors excel.
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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 6:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

mounted combat certainly was a skill to be mastered, and developed over time. Even today people are occasionally killed or severely injured when dealing with horses in non combat systems. I am not sure, but I think war horses were among the most expensive type of horse and they have to be fed. So being a mounted warrior was both a risky and expensive operation. Perhaps that is why the mounted infantry was developed?

Of course, from a physics stand point, a horse man is given more force to his weapon. However, would not the force of impact be equal for both parties when a knight charges a pikeman?
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Kurt Scholz





Joined: 09 Dec 2008

Posts: 390

PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is it possible to use mounts only for specific types of combat in which mobility and speed-endurance count? This allows for lighter horses and the mounted warriors switch to fighting on foot for more dangerous tasks such as assaulting an enemy infantry line. Prior to the assault close up mounted runs with javelins released might help to prepare for that.

The charge of cavalry against infantry is rather a chosen psychological tool that became default tried in Europe because success did have tremendous benefits and correspondingly a whole self-serving social structure was wrapped around this one option of cavalry against infantry. If you look at a broader picture charges by cavalry were not necessary for them to destroy infantry and groups with a different mentality put less emphasis on this option of mounted combat against infantry.
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ive came across light infantry stabbing horses in conjunction with their own cavalry, so that they intermingled among fighting cavalrymen and stabbed horses of riders occupied by fighting horsemen they support. (Like for example germanic cavalry against Gauls in Caesars service) But would they do it against an enemy fully aware of them? (What about the depiction of 6th-7th century? Might I ask if it was bound to some event/battle, or was it purely fictional?)

Hmm, I havent seen Flos Duellatorum for quite a while, though I lived under the impression it also depicts only foot combat, and tips for infantryman against a horse, maybe horse vs horse, maybe I forgot something, but were there some plates with tips for horseman against footman?

http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB3/viewto...d+warhorse

This is really interesting discussion on armourarchive, with some people, that really look to know what they are talking about stating explicitly, that, one on one, horseman was at severe disadvantage against someone who stood his ground and defended.

Well I can only imagine how intimidating it would be to fight against a well trained rider on a well trained horse constantly moving around, so my impression is, that under most circumstances, the initiative and resolve was still bigger at the side of a man on a horse. Id be especially interested in what would it look like to defend against a horseman one vs one with a poleaxe or halberd for example. Was it very easy to keep them at bay, easier than infantryman, or the other way around? What would a man on a horse do, if he needed to fight through and couldnt run away?
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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Posts: 123

PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
Is it possible to use mounts only for specific types of combat in which mobility and speed-endurance count? This allows for lighter horses and the mounted warriors switch to fighting on foot for more dangerous tasks such as assaulting an enemy infantry line. Prior to the assault close up mounted runs with javelins released might help to prepare for that.

The charge of cavalry against infantry is rather a chosen psychological tool that became default tried in Europe because success did have tremendous benefits and correspondingly a whole self-serving social structure was wrapped around this one option of cavalry against infantry. If you look at a broader picture charges by cavalry were not necessary for them to destroy infantry and groups with a different mentality put less emphasis on this option of mounted combat against infantry.


So the question is: Would a knight, that was trained both as cavalryman and for foot combat, that is thinking practically, dismount if he was to encounter single enemy on foot,that resisted him with lets say a halberd to have a better chance of beating him, or would he feel more confident engaging him in a saddle. (Not considering anything like engaging deep infantry pike square, or if he puts any emphasis on defeating foot soldiers by cavalry charge as first option, imagine it just as a random scenario without any such a pretext)
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
So the question is: Would a knight, that was trained both as cavalryman and for foot combat, that is thinking practically, dismount if he was to encounter single enemy on foot,that resisted him with lets say a halberd to have a better chance of beating him, or would he feel more confident engaging him in a saddle. (Not considering anything like engaging deep infantry pike square, or if he puts any emphasis on defeating foot soldiers by cavalry charge as first option, imagine it just as a random scenario without any such a pretext)


Remember that knights fought with lances on horseback, and then typically would draw out their swords as a follow up. So, against an infantryman, a calvary man need need be terrified. A couched lance can deal a tremendous amount of damage to a target, quite possibly punching through any wooden shield carried by the infantryman, and penetrating through mail armour with a solid hit. The fact that the knight fights from horseback gives him the advantage of having better reach than the typical infantryman, excluding pikemen of course. Further, we know that knights did use powerful descending stabs against their foes with their lances if needed; similar such stabs with swords are often shown penetrating mail armour.

So a mounted knight is far from helpless against an infantryman, but he does have to be careful, because if his horse is slain or crippled, he might find himself in a bad situation.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Kravcak wrote:

Id like to ask if there are any specifics to this example: Like for example, when they hamstrung their horses. Was it in actual combat, while heavily outnumbered with horsemen all around them trying to kill them? Or was it something like a night raid, in which theyd deliberately try to put enemy horses out of use to make their escape easier then? (Or something completely different? Happy )


In the case of Adolf II, it was definitely for the former reason: he and his men were in actual combat, badly outnumbered, and they needed some way to escape. It was not simply a matter of a stealthy night attack; indeed, if one could surprise one's enemy and maim his horses, couldn't one equally easily escape from that foe?
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


In German this weapon is called "Roßschinder". It's the Italian variant of the bill and the hook with the blade is considered suitable for attacking the legs of horses. I would not do that with a knife unless the knife is on a long pole.
The description of the battle of Carrhae by Cassius Dio highlights how Gallic heavy cavalry in Roman service fought Parthian cataphracts by attacking their horses from underneath.
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Jaroslav Kravcak wrote:

Id like to ask if there are any specifics to this example: Like for example, when they hamstrung their horses. Was it in actual combat, while heavily outnumbered with horsemen all around them trying to kill them? Or was it something like a night raid, in which theyd deliberately try to put enemy horses out of use to make their escape easier then? (Or something completely different? Happy )


In the case of Adolf II, it was definitely for the former reason: he and his men were in actual combat, badly outnumbered, and they needed some way to escape. It was not simply a matter of a stealthy night attack; indeed, if one could surprise one's enemy and maim his horses, couldn't one equally easily escape from that foe?


So they themselves were defending in tight formation, eventually cutting their way of retreat? Or were they mounted themselves? Well maybe that night attack wasnt the best way to explain myself, I rather meant it like if they were attacked and surprized, maybe even completely disordered, or the other way around, so that they took the iniative to try to catch the enemy by surprize.

Sorry for so many questions, Id just like to picture it better. Happy If there is some source about this incident reachable through internet, that describes it in some greater detail, than already mentioned, Id gladly read it.

Regarding the threat I posted, opinions there differed, but it was stated by some, that it is pretty easy to sidestep both charging horse and lance if it is timed right. Its hard to imagine how someone can arrive at such a conclusion by something different, than speculation. Is it practically testable under some safety measures? Would a man really have greater lateral mobility, than charging horse, or lance tip, that moves quite a lot by subtle movement at the other side maybe? And if he got out of both lances and horses way, wouldnt it mean throwing himself off the way to the ground, rather than stepping aside as such, losing opportunity to strike back from advantageous position?

Also does anyone have any examples or practical tests on how easy/hard it is to parry lance point with halberd for example, or pike point with sword from horseback? Or asked generally would a single man with halberd have something to worry about from a man on horseback attacking him with couched lance and sword, or mace respectively? (There is for example quote of Gomard who developed fencing system for bayonet, that the most formidable opponent for bayonet equipped infantryman is another bayonet equipped infantry and if he can defend againt him, he will have absolutely no trouble parrying any attack of cavalryman. Would this be overstatement on his side to highlight usefullnes of his weapon of choise, or conclusion of lifelong experience and many examples?)
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 09 Sep, 2012 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As I understood it, Adolf II and his men were mounted when they fought their way to escape. The details of the incident are recorded in Austin Lane Poole's book on Henry the Lion; I am not sure if there is information about it online.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Sep, 2012 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav, here is a link with more info on the foils depicting horse-stabbers: http://books.google.com/books?id=47p5ALv2HYgC...mp;f=false
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Sep, 2012 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe the ascendancy of the horseman in Europe was around the time of Charlemagne and the knights mostly faced the shield walls. That is after all what happened much later in 1066, prior to the couching of the lance. Knights charged a shield wall. In that case the lance is capable of breaking the shield, giving the advantage to the horseman. however, a knight versus a spear or pike man is a much more even match.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Sep, 2012 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
however, a knight versus a spear or pike man is a much more even match.


How much more even? I don't know of any text that explicitly addresses infantry versus cavalry out of formation, but I get the impression that being mounted conferred considerable advantage. Nothing skill couldn't overcome, of course, but a noctiable edge. Mair's manual includes various horse-against-foot encounters.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
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Axel Schünecke




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Sep, 2012 3:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Out of interest, I did a few experiments with a good friend quite a while ago. Him on horseback, me on foot, armed with sticks. No fighting intended or planned, so no real scientific insights here unfortunately...

However: the fear you get standing in a field when a horse is gallopping towards you at a very decent speed (not full charge, mind you, just a decent controllable gallop), EVEN when it's your friend on top of that horse who you trust and where you know what he can do... is just very hard to describe. The instinct to just turn and run and maybe void your bowels in the process is quite big. At the same time, though, my friend had signifcant trouble (even though he has been riding for decades) to keep his horse on track - horses try to avoid obstacles and especially human ones.

It is an aspect that should not be forgotten in this discussion - with all "technical" aspects of advantage and disadvantage, the aspect of the human psyche (and morale) should not be underestimated. A man on a horse, maybe even heavily armed, is bigger, faster, more menacing, louder than the one on foot. Add to this that the man on the horse is known to be a knight, warrior, professional while the man on the ground is more or a peasant with little training... and then add that both of them KNOW what the other is and is not, and you have yourself quite a situation.

Even if we assume for a moment that both know what they are doing - e.g. knight vs knight, one on horse and one on foot, the aspects of size. speed, sound would still hold true. A horse charging towards you as an awesome sight, it would require substantial training to keep calm and concentrated and recall that yes, you have a apike and yes, you actually stand a chance...

(and I have not even gone into things like unwritten rules and codes like "attacking horse vs chivalry".

So while this was not an historic account, it was at least based on personal experience...
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Sep, 2012 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting point. Could some training as a rider help the infantry man to get a different perspective on the horse? The test would be two riders, on on horse, one on foot against each other.
In a battlefield this would be a knight or a craftsman on foot if the craftsman had some training on the shared guild horse for jousting and such. I'd imagine the whole psychological issue gets different if someone who knows how to ride judges a rider and his horse.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Sep, 2012 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does charging a man on horse gives a person more courage than just standing there and waiting to be charged? I guess it might...
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