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Kuo Xie




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 12:11 pm    Post subject: Zweihander vs pikes: a theory         Reply with quote

I was having a related discussion on another forum when this thought occurred to me. Most of us know there's a running debate as to just how dopplesoldner used zweihander to break pike formations. Did they chop the pikeheads off, knock the pikes aside, or just hang around looking for openings? How about a fourth option: maybe they were used to draw enemy targeting?

Imagine you're a pikeman packed shoulder to shoulder in formation. Your weapons and your neighbors' weapons are pointed straight ahead at the enemy to make a uniform hedge. But all of a sudden a bunch of armored doppelsoldner with huge two handed swords step out of the enemy line. Their bright clothing and puffy uniforms draw everyone's attention and make them seem a lot bigger and scarier than they are. Your natural tendency is to point your weapon at the closest one, keep your pike between you and the threat. If everyone in your line does the same thing, your uniform pike hedge goes from an even line to a series of peaks and valleys like a saw's edge. This gives the opposing pike line openings to close and strike your front line without fear of being hit. Maybe it just takes a lot of discipline to keep your own pike pointed straight forward when there are highly visible threats to either side of you. Thoughts?
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Isaac D Rainey




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The issue with that idea is that everyone else would have been dressed in the same clothing as the Doppelsöldner. This style of clothing was not exclusive to the soldiers who used Zweihänder. Pikemen, aquebusiers, and halberdiers would have all worn the same puffed-and-slashed clothing.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-K7eGOuPiII0/TY0LTTJHrxI/AAAAAAAAAAM/UeVW_D1myGk/s1600/PoP1.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Der_Weisskunig_72_Detail_Landsknecht_Battle.jpg
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/attachment.php?...&stc=1
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 1:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Zweihander vs pikes: a theory         Reply with quote

Kuo Xie wrote:
I was having a related discussion on another forum when this thought occurred to me. Most of us know there's a running debate as to just how dopplesoldner used zweihander to break pike formations. Did they chop the pikeheads off, knock the pikes aside, or just hang around looking for openings? How about a fourth option: maybe they were used to draw enemy targeting?

Imagine you're a pikeman packed shoulder to shoulder in formation. Your weapons and your neighbors' weapons are pointed straight ahead at the enemy to make a uniform hedge. But all of a sudden a bunch of armored doppelsoldner with huge two handed swords step out of the enemy line. Their bright clothing and puffy uniforms draw everyone's attention and make them seem a lot bigger and scarier than they are. Your natural tendency is to point your weapon at the closest one, keep your pike between you and the threat. If everyone in your line does the same thing, your uniform pike hedge goes from an even line to a series of peaks and valleys like a saw's edge. This gives the opposing pike line openings to close and strike your front line without fear of being hit. Maybe it just takes a lot of discipline to keep your own pike pointed straight forward when there are highly visible threats to either side of you. Thoughts?



A few period depictions show people with halberds emerging from a pike block, essentially moving between the files closer to the front rank. In many of these pictures the two pike blocks are already engaged when they are shown somewhere in the middle. I reckon they engaged after pike blocks had collided and perhaps after several pikes had been dropped.



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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 6:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In a tight formation, you *can't* turn or aim a pike like that. You have only a little play left and right before your right hand and the butt of the pike bump into someone in another file. Even more so for anyone behind the front rank--your pikeshaft is limited by the men in front of you. So it's not a matter of discipline, that's simply the only direction you can point it, once it's leveled.

If you want to make a hole in a pike block, use archery, muskets, or cannons. If you can cheat, you don't have to die boldly!

Matthew
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just speculating about the presence of Zweihander distracting or disrupting a pike formation by making some pikemen turning their pikes towards the Zweihanders.

I think it's a good idea to discuss the pros or cons.

A) Would very well trained pikemen be so easily fooled in breaking formation ?

B) At the middle front of a pike formation if one's pike wasn't pointing directly at the Zweihander(s) another pikeman in your formation would have their pike pointed at the Zweihander(s).

C) This might work to distract and disrupt the cohesion of the formation if the Zweihander(s) menaced or attacked the corners of the pike formation or on an unprotected flank.

D) As mentioned halberdiers would come forward between the files of one's own pikemen to attack. I think that the Zweihanders could also do the same but would use their swords either as short spears or only use vertical blows from above when constrained by being in a tight formation.

E) Cutting off pike heads is probably less likely than pushing them aside and getting the pikes tangled up and disorganized making it easier for the halberdiers or sword/target armed to close.

Some of one's pikemen would also drop their pikes and use their Katzbalger if they managed to get deep into the enemy pike formation.

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




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
In a tight formation, you *can't* turn or aim a pike like that. You have only a little play left and right before your right hand and the butt of the pike bump into someone in another file. Even more so for anyone behind the front rank--your pikeshaft is limited by the men in front of you. So it's not a matter of discipline, that's simply the only direction you can point it, once it's leveled.

If you want to make a hole in a pike block, use archery, muskets, or cannons. If you can cheat, you don't have to die boldly!

Matthew



Matthew good point about moving one's pike would be almost impossible.

Attacking the corners might still be a good tactic if possible to do ? But combined arms like the archebuse sleeves on each side of a pike formation, pike blocks close to each other making flanking difficult to do, plus cavalry protecting the outer left or right wings of the entire formation would tend to minimize the good opportunities to flank or attack corners.

If they couldn't turn their pikes they might be tempted to drop their pikes and use their Katzbalger if they panicked ? Very well trained pikemen might not panic until the Zweihander(s) got very close and they felt trapped unable to defend themselves ?

Now, I think that my speculations would only work at the corners or sides of an exposed pike square.

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





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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 12:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Based on some of the threads I've read here, I was under the impression that the idea that the doppelsöldners mostly used zweihanders to break open pike formations is itself incorrect. Apparently the doppelsöldners were mostly armed with pikes; they were (initially) distinguished from the other soldiers in that they were willing to be in the front row of the pike block for double pay.
The big two-handers were only issued to a handful of troops with specialized roles (like guarding the standard).

For example, see these two posts:
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=269...mp;start=5
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=269...p;start=10

Here's a quote from the second thread which gives relative numbers for actual types of landsknecht troops:

Daniel Staberg wrote:
There is written evidence of how the men armed with twohanded swords were used, it is just a matter of taking the time to decode the old German handwriting or fraktur print.

So far I have yet to find evidence of them being deployed anywhere but deep inside the pike square where they were tasked with guarding the standards.

The 1536/1537 Trewer Rath envisons a 21 ranks deep formation

Quote:
(Each rank is 13 files wide)
1-4th rank: "Doppelsöldner"
5th rank: halberdiers
6-7th rank: "Mittelsöldner"
8-10th rank: "gemeinen söldner"
11-13th rank: "Führern, Furirern, Waybeln und Schlachtschwerter" together with the two ensigns
14-18th rank: "gemeiner söldner"
19th rank: "knebelspeiss"
20-21st rank: Doppelsöldner
The Hauptmann stod in the middle of the 1st rank while the Leutnant stod in the last rank.
On each side of the men with pikes, halberds and other melee weapons stod 23 ranks of men with firearms, each rank was 5 files wide. The first 4 ranks were made up of "doppel-schützen" i.e men armed with heavier firearms such as the musket or even heavier doppelhaken.


Erhard Schön provides an illustrated example of what the role of the men with "schlachtschwerter" played in the unit
http://i277.photobucket.com/albums/kk50/Dstab...parten.jpg
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 8:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could it be that the two-handed swords are there to protect the flanks and rear of the pikeman formation?? [and contra be send in to attack the flank of enemy pike formations if they are left unguarded?]
With very long pikes and when you are first engaged in melee it probably becomes pretty hard to turn your attention to enemies coming in from the sides.
Then it is an added bonus if they can be used as a surprise element to break more untrained pike-formations; but then any well trained pikemen unit should be able to do it easily when facing an untrained pike-unit, two-handed swords or not.....
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Could it be that the two-handed swords are there to protect the flanks and rear of the pikeman formation?? [and contra be send in to attack the flank of enemy pike formations if they are left unguarded?]


Yes. We know they were used for that at Flodden, by the Scots (who were copying continental pike practice).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 1:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Could it be that the two-handed swords are there to protect the flanks and rear of the pikeman formation?? [and contra be send in to attack the flank of enemy pike formations if they are left unguarded?]


Yes. We know they were used for that at Flodden, by the Scots (who were copying continental pike practice).


Thanks. Wink
It certainly does make sense as it is at the flanks they would have the most impact.
A long sweeping strike with a two-hander along a pike-flank would be really devastating!
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2016 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

think the initial theory is plausible, but not a probable answer.

no matter how I've looked at this scenario, charging two handers into the front ranks of a pike block seems pretty suicidal. firstly, because there is on way to use a two hander in a tight formation therefore you alone charge into a wall of pikes. and for one man to slip by and not get poked by 10-15 other individuals all pointing at him is pretty slim. moreover, because you can't have that tight charge into the lines, if one two hander does break the line, there are little to no supporting members of his charge to support him, so he'll probably get cut down by the second ranks.

however, if used to flank, they can potentially be devastating to the pike wall. one chop to a pike haft from a sword of any size will chip it, cleave it, break it, render it less functional as a whole, cutting away your opposing pikes leaving you troops with pikes leaves you at a huge advantage. or if you do cause your opponent to drop his pike or render them useless and use his side arm against a two hander still leaves them disadvantaged. the two hander has reach over the side arms (short swords axes etc) and is designed to defeat pole arms (halberds partisans).

the most probable theory is that the two handers functioned as a support or defensive tool. the actual advantage to this sword is that you don't need a formation to defend a position. 5 two handers can cover a position better than 5 pike men. pikes can only attack what is in front of them, two handers can defend from what is beside them, in front of them, and behind them easily. the use of the sword in all fight manuals focuses on how the sword can attack and defend against many.
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J. Nicolaysen




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2016 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I haven't seen anyone post this 1548 sketch of the Battle of Kappel yet. It has three men with zweihanders against a pike formation. Hard to draw solid conclusions from, but it fits the topic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_War_of_Kappel#/media/File:Schlacht_bei_Kappel.jpg



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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2016 11:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
Based on some of the threads I've read here, I was under the impression that the idea that the doppelsöldners mostly used zweihanders to break open pike formations is itself incorrect. Apparently the doppelsöldners were mostly armed with pikes; they were (initially) distinguished from the other soldiers in that they were willing to be in the front row of the pike block for double pay.
The big two-handers were only issued to a handful of troops with specialized roles (like guarding the standard).

For example, see these two posts:
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=269...mp;start=5
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=269...p;start=10

Here's a quote from the second thread which gives relative numbers for actual types of landsknecht troops:

Daniel Staberg wrote:
There is written evidence of how the men armed with twohanded swords were used, it is just a matter of taking the time to decode the old German handwriting or fraktur print.

So far I have yet to find evidence of them being deployed anywhere but deep inside the pike square where they were tasked with guarding the standards.

The 1536/1537 Trewer Rath envisons a 21 ranks deep formation

Quote:
(Each rank is 13 files wide)
1-4th rank: "Doppelsöldner"
5th rank: halberdiers
6-7th rank: "Mittelsöldner"
8-10th rank: "gemeinen söldner"
11-13th rank: "Führern, Furirern, Waybeln und Schlachtschwerter" together with the two ensigns
14-18th rank: "gemeiner söldner"
19th rank: "knebelspeiss"
20-21st rank: Doppelsöldner
The Hauptmann stod in the middle of the 1st rank while the Leutnant stod in the last rank.
On each side of the men with pikes, halberds and other melee weapons stod 23 ranks of men with firearms, each rank was 5 files wide. The first 4 ranks were made up of "doppel-schützen" i.e men armed with heavier firearms such as the musket or even heavier doppelhaken.


Erhard Schön provides an illustrated example of what the role of the men with "schlachtschwerter" played in the unit
http://i277.photobucket.com/albums/kk50/Dstab...parten.jpg


this to me makes the most sense.. the power and wide swings of a 2 handed sword or short polearm are excellent for covering a large area, as such, if the formation crumbles, that standard needs protecting.. and such weapons can act as crowd control, using their reach and power to lay about them and keep enemy soldiers away from the standards, allowing an orderly retreat or a rallying point for the rest of the men...

in the napoleonic era british sergents with their sponttons were often the last line of defence for the standard...
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To William P: Thanks; the parallel with the British Sergents is a good one I think.

J. Nicolaysen wrote:
I haven't seen anyone post this 1548 sketch of the Battle of Kappel yet. It has three men with zweihanders against a pike formation. Hard to draw solid conclusions from, but it fits the topic.


A quick reading of Wikipedia suggests that the battle of Kappel was quite one-sided; the protestant forces were heavily outnumbered, exhausted and poorly organized, and were badly beaten as a result, and fled the battlefield. Those two-hander armed troops might either be the last-ditch defense; there seem to be some people fleeing from the oncoming pike-formation, but it is too indistinct to be sure. In any case, unless the picture was created by an eye-witness, the possibility of artistic license cannot be dismissed, so although interesting, the picture is probably not conclusive evidence one way or the other.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also think the wood cut is rather hard to read. things to keep in mind will be - if the battle was one sided, the artist would want to show the fact that one side is retreating. to me the image is showing one side fleeing, not just the field, but also some kind of fenced area. or, because you see both movements, the standard is fleeing the field while other characters are facing the field - maybe coming onto the field.

but as you look, the upper right is where the fronts of the pike blocks are. one is coming out of the wooded area, the other facing them. the center of the wood cut then reads that the two hander troops are about to dash into the unprotected flank of the block, by their body language.

other interesting note, the center guy is half sword-ing possibly the image is too small to tell if he has a pike or sword.
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Kuo Xie




Location: Chicago, IL
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Posts: 76

PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isaac D Rainey wrote:
The issue with that idea is that everyone else would have been dressed in the same clothing as the Doppelsöldner. This style of clothing was not exclusive to the soldiers who used Zweihänder. Pikemen, aquebusiers, and halberdiers would have all worn the same puffed-and-slashed clothing.


Matthew Amt wrote:
In a tight formation, you *can't* turn or aim a pike like that. You have only a little play left and right before your right hand and the butt of the pike bump into someone in another file. Even more so for anyone behind the front rank--your pikeshaft is limited by the men in front of you. So it's not a matter of discipline, that's simply the only direction you can point it, once it's leveled.


Thanks everyone for commenting. It seems my theory - like a doppelsoldner charging a pike wall - got poked full of holes. but I appreciate all the educational responses.
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