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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Any Swiss mercenaries in the new world? Reply to topic
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Karl Knisley




PostPosted: Sat 04 Apr, 2015 2:17 pm    Post subject: Any Swiss mercenaries in the new world?         Reply with quote

Hello
Were there any Swiss mercenaries with the conquistadors or early explorers of the Americas?

Thanks in advance
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Isaac D Rainey




Location: Evansville Indiana
Joined: 29 Sep 2012

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Sat 04 Apr, 2015 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is doubtful. The Spanish had a very professional army by the early 16th century and would have no need for Swiss mercenaries. Spain also was part of the Holy Roman Empire which at the time would have hired Landsknecht instead of Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss were almost exclusively hired by the French in the early 16th century and frequently fought the Imperial Landsknecht.
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Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 05 Apr, 2015 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't dismiss the possibility so readily.

If you get out of the popular, cable TV version of History, you'll find it's a lot stranger than we typically think.

First, Spain during much of the 16th Century was closely linked to the Holy Roman Empire and in spite of their professional armies they made extensive use of mercenaries from all over the place throughout their colonial period. For example my home town of New Orleans had an Irish (former mercenary) governor while under Spanish Rule. The Spanish made extensive use of Irish mercenaries as well as German*.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alejandro_O'Reilly

There were numerous well documented Landsknechts operating in the New World, both for the Spanish and for German enterprises. Perhaps the most spectacular case of the latter occurred when Charles I pawned Venezuela to a German merchant banking family from Augsburg in 1527. This led to a period of German rule by the Welser family which lasted from 1528-1546. The Germans spent most of their time marching around the jungle looking for gold and fighting native tribes, but they founded at least one major city during their adventure.

This is a a painting one of their expeditions, including the young Welser lad who led it



and this is a painting of one of their ships, the heavily armed and somewhat non-Euclidian Santa Trinidad, (possibly built by M.C. Escher?)



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klein-Venedig

There were several other individual Landsknechts who were also Conquistadors, some of whom appear prominently in the records. One example was Ulrich Schmidl who wrote his own memoirs. He was one of the founders of Buenos Aires among other notable adventures. Here he is standing on the back of a Jaguar (Jaguar's are obviously no match for Landsknechts)



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrich_Schmidl

Another prominent Landsknecht-Conquistador was Hans Staden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Staden

Isaac is correct that the Swiss Confederation eventually had an official policy of only hiring themselves out to the French, and specifically frowned upon their own citizens hiring to the Germans (and thereby the Spanish) but this wasn't fully enforceable and there were always individual Swiss among the Landsknechts, they were typically trained and drilled by Swiss officers and sergeants at least initially. Some of the regions where Landsknechts were hired hovered between Swiss and HRE control during the 16th Century. I haven't really researched if the Swiss were specifically involved in the New World but they were fighting in armies in Prussia, Poland-Lithuania, Bohemia and Hungary during the 15th and 16th Centuries (and were sought after, often offered double pay).

There were also, incidentally, Landsknechts fighting in the Philippines. In the midst of native Mexican warriors (also working for the Spanish) and Ronin samurai (working for Wako pirates and Dutch merchants) Moro tribesmen with their 'berzerk' capabilities, unique weaponry and martial arts skills. I would be willing to bet a gold doubloon that you could find at least one Swiss in that mix...

Somebody needs to write a book about that scene.

J

* they also made pretty extensive use of Native American mercenaries

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Mark T




PostPosted: Sun 05 Apr, 2015 7:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if they contain any material that directly answers Karl's questions, but two good sources about Swiss in general are One million mercenaries: Swiss soldiers in the armies of the world, by John McCormack, and Albert Winkler's 1982 thesis The Swiss and war: The impact of society on the Swiss military in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ... Winkler's PhD was done through Brigham Young University, and is available through library systems.
Chief Librarian/Curator, Isaac Leibowitz Librarmoury

Schallern sind sehr sexy!
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Joined: 14 Mar 2015

Posts: 262

PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2015 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would not believe at first. First by the army of Cortez in 1520 was about 1,300 men, a thousand of them were Rodeleros, swordsmen with sideswords and steel rondells.

The conquerors were generally poor Spanish and noble bankrupt who were trained for miltiary and exploration service. Apparently, they were very well trained and equipped, but there may be controversy. From what I saw here, there were actually some landsknechts in South America, but it seems that they were just employed during the Union of Crowns between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.

Someone tell if they fought in their pike formation or individually?
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Isaac D Rainey




Location: Evansville Indiana
Joined: 29 Sep 2012

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2015 5:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't believe they fought in a pike square. I could be wrong, but I remember reading somewhere that the men under Cortez cut down their pikes to be more manageable.
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Isaac D Rainey




Location: Evansville Indiana
Joined: 29 Sep 2012

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2015 5:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't believe they fought in a pike square. I could be wrong, but I remember reading somewhere that the men under Cortez cut down their pikes to be more manageable.
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