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Tom DR





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PostPosted: Tue 22 Nov, 2016 4:19 pm    Post subject: 3/4th armour, Cuirassiers and metallurgy         Reply with quote

I’ve been wondering about a few peculiarities of Curassiers and their distinctive 3/4th armour.

Most three-quarter suits don’t use the combination of short tassets, faulds and cuisses that protects the hips and thighs on most cap-a-pied armours. Instead, they used long articulated tassets that went directly from the breastplate to the knees. Is there any reason for this configuration being so popular in the late 16th-early 17th century. Does it have something to do with cavalry dismounting less, so armour that is easy to walk in is less of a priority? Is it because of breeches and stockings being in fashion instead of hose, meaning the suspension points for hose couldn’t be beefed up and used for the leg armour? Is it just down to fashion or cost?

Secondly, the name of Cuirassiers themselves. I’ve heard that “Kyrisser” was originally a German synonym for Man-At-Arms, and just meant an armoured lancer. Later on, when the Cuirassier became an armoured pistoleer, the most distinctive part of a Cuirassiers equipment was their 3/4th armour. So the term Cuirassier, at least originally, by definition referred to a soldier with more armour than just a Cuirass. Only with the success of Gustavus Adolphus’s “Lyttare Ryttare”/Demi-Cuirassiers and the increasing impracticality of bulletproof armour, and the importance of the small war, did cuirassiers actually armour themselves solely with a cuirass. So, either Cuirass was originally a general term for body armour, or this is a rare case of the terminology used for soldiers actually getting more appropriate over time(contrast to such peculiarities as grenadiers who don’t carry grenades, or fusiliers as specialists when everyone carries a firelock). Which is correct, or am I just missing something obvious?

Thirdly, what sort of steel was the armour of the thirty years war made out of? I’ve heard that heat-treating, tempering and similar techniques had fallen out of use, resulting in smiths making absurdly thick breastplates to compensate. How true is this? Some numbers I’ve seen, originally from “The Knight and the Blast Furnace”, show that well tempered armour made out of good steel could be half as strong again as iron armour at half the thickness. Could these techniques remaining in use make armour(somewhat) more viable against guns?
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Peter Spätling
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Nov, 2016 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To your first point: If you make dozens of breastplates per week it is by far easier and faster to simply attach long tassets. Rather than building complete cuisses. They did so solely to be faster/cheaper. And it does not affect your ability to walk at all.
When you make "one size fits all" armour and you have the pattern for the tassets correct. One guy can cut the plates, and mount them, all day long. Given the length of the tassets, you probably need two guys, to keep up with the one making the breastplates. The tassets are often just a bent sheet of steel, except for the highest lames (faulds on the breastplate) as these have to be dished a bit.

Second: No idea

Third: During the 30 years war a lot of steel was already produced with melting the ore and later reducing the amount of carbon, by blowing air into the liquid steel. ("Frischen" in german) This is a really cheap and easy way which will give you low carbon - medium carbon steel. There can be very good stuff, but most of the time it 's referred to as being of bad quality. A good heat treatment on armour can help a lot but if you don't know how good your steel is you simply make the breastplates thicker. While everything else gets really thin.
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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Nov, 2016 11:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many late cuirasses were intended to be pistol proof. Wrought iron would have been a lot more impact resistant than the steel they had at the time and most of those kinds of cuirasses had a center section that was at least .2 inches thick. Nowadays we can achieve a lot more with a lot less but our best steel is incomparably better than what they had. To give you an idea a modern top of the line steel breast plate covers a much smaller area but is similarly thick and will stop a .30cal projectile with hardened penetrator moving at 2700fps.
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Jeffrey Hildebrandt
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Dec, 2016 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom,

One interesting feature of 17th C breastplate construction found on a surprising number analysed is that they have been made of several plies. These are referred to as "duplex" or "triplex" breastplates, and have been discussed on this forum before, if you want to find more information about them. It is thought that the layered construction was better for stopping bullets than single ply breastplates of the same weight.

One particularly interesting example of a triplex cuirass in the Royal Armouries was found to have a recycled pikeman's tasset as the interior layer.

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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Sat 10 Dec, 2016 12:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe "cuirasser" was just a general term for a horseman in heavy armor. In the same way an armored pikemen was sometimes called a "corslet" even though they were theoretically supposed to still be wearing tassets, pauldrons, and vambraces at the start of the century.

During the 17th century a heavy lancer would also carry a brace of pistols to use once he has lost his lance. Hence John Cruso's claim that the cuirasser was invented by taking a lancer and getting rid of his lance. Since they didn't really have anything else to define them (light cavalry and carbiners would generally carry a brace of pistols as well), they started being called just "cuirassers."
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Dec, 2016 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
I believe "cuirasser" was just a general term for a horseman in heavy armor. In the same way an armored pikemen was sometimes called a "corslet" even though they were theoretically supposed to still be wearing tassets, pauldrons, and vambraces at the start of the century.


There's an article written by F.M. Kelly concerning the proper usage of the term corset (and also burgonet) in which he sifts through a number of contemporary references which lead to the conclusion that a corset was actually the entire set of armour used by a heavy infantryman. Often the term even suggests the incorporation of full arm harness and gauntlets (as Sir John Smythe argued a pikeman should be armed), as well as the tassets and gorget. The Victorian use of the term to define a late period infantry cuirass without these incorporated parts is technically incorrect.

With that in mind, it seems logical that a cuirassier was differentiated from his fellows precisely because his armament was defined by the use of a heavy cuirass. It could have been presupposed that he was equipped with additional pieces of armour beyond a breast and back plate such as long tassets and arm harness, given the contemporary meaning of corset. Even if that were not the case, it was clearly the heavy breast plate that was the most critical component in a cuirasser's panoply, so the term may well have derived from that piece alone.

I do not know if there has been a study made of the contemporary catalogues referencing cuirasser harnesses, but it might well be that we will find 16/17th century writers describing the full armour associated with heavy cavalry pistoleers, carbiners, and lancers as a cuirass.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Dec, 2016 12:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom DR wrote:

Most three-quarter suits don’t use the combination of short tassets, faulds and cuisses that protects the hips and thighs on most cap-a-pied armours.


You might be surprised to find that cap-a-pied armour by the mid-17th century used long tassets too -- they just added greaves and maybe sabatons. Of course, by that time the complete suit would have been a rare sight outside triumphal parades and the owner would probably have gone to battle without the greaves and sabatons (making the armour an ornate but otherwise normal three-quarters harness).


Quote:
Instead, they used long articulated tassets that went directly from the breastplate to the knees. Is there any reason for this configuration being so popular in the late 16th-early 17th century. Does it have something to do with cavalry dismounting less, so armour that is easy to walk in is less of a priority?


Not exactly. In the 16th century this kind of armour was as popular among the infantry as it was among the cavalry. This thread has some pictures of Landsknecht armour with long tassets that went almost (though not quite) to the knee:

https://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=33947


Quote:
Is it because of breeches and stockings being in fashion instead of hose, meaning the suspension points for hose couldn’t be beefed up and used for the leg armour?


Not that either. Breeches originated as the upper half of hose, and they were still frequently pointed to the doublet well into the 17th century (possibly into the 1660s or 1670s). If people wanted to point their cuisses to the doublet, they could have easily done so.

Ultimately, I think Peter is right -- using long tassets is more practical from the production standpoint when it comes to making armour that must fit people with a variety of sizes (as opposed to having the luxury of individual fitting). It'd also be relatively easier to repair in the field, in the same way that the Roman segmented cuirass (the so-called "lorica segmentata") might have been used for a while because it was simpler to construct and repair than mail.


Quote:
Only with the success of Gustavus Adolphus’s “Lyttare Ryttare”/Demi-Cuirassiers and the increasing impracticality of bulletproof armour, and the importance of the small war, did cuirassiers actually armour themselves solely with a cuirass.


Not really. The Swedish "light horse" were not considered cuirassiers. They appear to have been armed according to the different (and lighter) "arquebusier" standard -- buff coat, cuirass, and open-faced helmet. English Civil War "horse" were also armed to the arquebusier standard even though they were supposed to do the jobs of both cuirassiers (as heavy cavalry) and arquebusiers (as light cavalry).


Quote:
So, either Cuirass was originally a general term for body armour, or this is a rare case of the terminology used for soldiers actually getting more appropriate over time(contrast to such peculiarities as grenadiers who don’t carry grenades, or fusiliers as specialists when everyone carries a firelock). Which is correct, or am I just missing something obvious?


A little of both. It's worth noting that our modern understanding of "cuirassiers" (as in the late 18th- and 19th-century understanding of the term -- that of a heavy cavalryman armoured in only a cuirass and a helmet) took a while to crystallise. The term "cuirassier" might not have been widely used in the modern sense before the mid-18th century or so; note that English heavy cavalry was first known as "Horse" and then "Heavy Dragoons" while French heavy cavalry was called "line cavalry" rather than "cuirassiers" up to the 1780s or 90s.
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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Wed 21 Dec, 2016 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
A little of both. It's worth noting that our modern understanding of "cuirassiers" (as in the late 18th- and 19th-century understanding of the term -- that of a heavy cavalryman armoured in only a cuirass and a helmet) took a while to crystallise. The term "cuirassier" might not have been widely used in the modern sense before the mid-18th century or so; note that English heavy cavalry was first known as "Horse" and then "Heavy Dragoons" while French heavy cavalry was called "line cavalry" rather than "cuirassiers" up to the 1780s or 90s.


"Cuirassiers" are what John Cruso calls heavy cavalry who don't have lances in the early 17th century.

https://books.google.com/books?id=bV1jAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA108&lpg=PA108&dq=Militarie+Instructions+for+the+Cavallrie&source=bl&ots=arrfoRBbOo&sig=6wGbdugLxfPb86w6lAYXDPnO6-o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjph96rkMbPAhUXHGMKHXfKCm0Q6AEIJzAC#v=onepage&q&f=false
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Dec, 2016 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
A little of both. It's worth noting that our modern understanding of "cuirassiers" (as in the late 18th- and 19th-century understanding of the term -- that of a heavy cavalryman armoured in only a cuirass and a helmet) took a while to crystallise. The term "cuirassier" might not have been widely used in the modern sense before the mid-18th century or so; note that English heavy cavalry was first known as "Horse" and then "Heavy Dragoons" while French heavy cavalry was called "line cavalry" rather than "cuirassiers" up to the 1780s or 90s.


The "understanding" of late 18th and 19th century cuirassiers is irrelevant to a discussion of the earlier form of heavy cavalry that were denoted by the term. Not only is it a standard term applied in modern academic studies to various heavy cavalry units throughout Europe far earlier than that, but it was also used in contemporary descriptions, such as during the Thirty Years War and English Civil War. The term cuirassier in these cases was (and is) used to describe cavalrymen wearing field harnesses, typically of a 3/4 length, who wielded pistols, swords, and in some cases, harquebuses. This is substantiated by numerous sorts of contemporary evidence and generally accepted in modern literature as an accurate description of such troops.

For example, based on inventories kept at the state armoury in Styria, a catalog of an exhibit published in "Imperial Austria - Treasures of Art, Arms & Armour from the State of Styria" (1998), describes a variety of individual cuirasses (breast-and-back plate combinations for cavalry use) as well as three-quarter harnesses to be worn by cuirassiers. That, by the way, contradicts my earlier assumption about the possibility of a cuirass defining the whole 3/4 harness of the cuirassier, based on the presentation of the corselet in F.M. Kelly's article. I am sure the Styrian inventory was referred to for these descriptions. However, more importantly, in the glossary the term cuirasser is described thus:

"A heavy cavalryman of the late 16th to the first half of the 17th century. The cuirassier wore a bulletproof, three-quarter armour with a close helmet or zischagge, and he was armed with pistols and a sword."

As far as cuirass being a term for body armour particularly, that is absolutely the case, and it has a much longer history of use than the existence of cuirassiers as a form of soldier. The word was probably associated with these troops precisely because it was the bulletproof cuirass that defined their presence on the battlefield. Pistoleers (such as the German reiters), harquebusiers and other mounted shooters using the same weapons and tactics as curiassiers were common on most battlefields by the 17th century, but it was the heavy armour of the cuirassier that made him stand apart.

-Gregory

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
A little of both. It's worth noting that our modern understanding of "cuirassiers" (as in the late 18th- and 19th-century understanding of the term -- that of a heavy cavalryman armoured in only a cuirass and a helmet) took a while to crystallise. The term "cuirassier" might not have been widely used in the modern sense before the mid-18th century or so; note that English heavy cavalry was first known as "Horse" and then "Heavy Dragoons" while French heavy cavalry was called "line cavalry" rather than "cuirassiers" up to the 1780s or 90s.


"Cuirassiers" are what John Cruso calls heavy cavalry who don't have lances in the early 17th century.


And these Cuirassiers had three-quarters armour, not just a cuirass and a helment as in the "modern" understanding of the term that I referred to!

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:
The "understanding" of late 18th and 19th century cuirassiers is irrelevant to a discussion of the earlier form of heavy cavalry that were denoted by the term.


It is because it was the second question raised in Tom's original post!


Quote:
Not only is it a standard term applied in modern academic studies to various heavy cavalry units throughout Europe far earlier than that, but it was also used in contemporary descriptions, such as during the Thirty Years War and English Civil War. The term cuirassier in these cases was (and is) used to describe cavalrymen wearing field harnesses, typically of a 3/4 length, who wielded pistols, swords, and in some cases, harquebuses. This is substantiated by numerous sorts of contemporary evidence and generally accepted in modern literature as an accurate description of such troops.


Again, that is not the "modern sense" of the term that I referred to -- that of a cavalryman armoured in only a waist-length cuirass (or even just a breastplate without a backplate) and a helmet. Like I've said before, this is relevant because it's the second item in Tom's original question at the beginning of the thread, and I felt the need to point out that the nomenclature of "cuirassier" might not have been in continuous formal use from the 16th to the 20th centuries, so the better-known and more lightly-armoured "cuirassier" in the 18th/19th-century sense might not have had any unbroken lineal descent from the more heavily-armoured "cuirassier" of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This means that we may be better off treating the two meanings of the term as separate and unrelated instances rather than the "cuirassiers" of the early 17th century gradually discarding the non-cuirass parts of their armour and becoming more literally appropriate to their name while retaining that name without any break in continuity.
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