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J. Douglas




PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 1:15 pm    Post subject: Light troops' weapons V Knights and soldiers armour         Reply with quote

Light troops weapons V knights and soldiers armour.

I hope I haven't made too many topics recently. Eek! Laughing Out Loud


So, light troops (especially cavalry) were used to harass the enemy, collect reconnaissance, break up formations, pick off individual troops, give chase, and generally cheese off the enemy.

But I do not understand why they were still used and how they were still effective against the armours of the high-late Middle Ages, and even the Renaissance.

Weather it be the Irish hobelars, the Spanish jeniti, (javelin throwing cavalry) the French coustillers, the Crusaders' turcopoles, the Mongolian horse archers, Saladin's cavalry and infantry (who, despite being light troops were very effective against armoured Knights) the Muslims and moors, (who used a lot of light cavalry,) the Russian Cossacks, and Also the many light forces of Poland, Lithuania, and Eastern Europe.

My question is- how were these light troops still effective against armoured infantry and cavalry. Yes, I know arrows and javelins and light lances and swords could penetrate an average persons Gamberson or chainmail, arrows could not penetrate plate or Knights armour (but I do not know about Javelins- could they? I'm just curios. Happy) but yet there are many cases of these light troops battling and even defeating Knights and men at arms, but how could they, if there weapons were so...light? And how were these light troops used in this period?

Thank you for any answers! Big Grin

~JD (James)
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simple answer, because not all targets are fully armored! Even plate-armored men at arms like to keep their visors open for air and vision before they go into combat, and a flurry of arrows means they either have to button up early, which is annoying, or run the risk of a missile in the face.

I also suspect that a lot of harrassing fire was just that, harrassment. Arrows pinging off their armor might still thump or bruise (particularly in mail), and even if they have excellent armor, they can't help wondering if one of those damn things is going to hit a thin spot or a teeny gap somewhere. How long do they want to sit there, taking that?

And their *horses* can still get wounded--even the armored ones are not completely covered.

For anyone else, it's that much worse, since they won't be completely armored, either. You don't have to kill very many men to harrass and disrupt an enemy force.

Plus, your opponents will have light forces, too! Perfect targets. And if you get through them, who knows, you might be able to get into the enemy's rear area and attack their camp.

Not to mention that a lot of duties will be off the major battlefield, such as scouting, foraging, raiding, that sort of thing. Knights prefer to leave that sort of thing to minions, eh?

Matthew
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J. Douglas




PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Simple answer, because not all targets are fully armored! Even plate-armored men at arms like to keep their visors open for air and vision before they go into combat, and a flurry of arrows means they either have to button up early, which is annoying, or run the risk of a missile in the face.

I also suspect that a lot of harrassing fire was just that, harrassment. Arrows pinging off their armor might still thump or bruise (particularly in mail), and even if they have excellent armor, they can't help wondering if one of those damn things is going to hit a thin spot or a teeny gap somewhere. How long do they want to sit there, taking that?

And their *horses* can still get wounded--even the armored ones are not completely covered.

For anyone else, it's that much worse, since they won't be completely armored, either. You don't have to kill very many men to harrass and disrupt an enemy force.

Plus, your opponents will have light forces, too! Perfect targets. And if you get through them, who knows, you might be able to get into the enemy's rear area and attack their camp.

Not to mention that a lot of duties will be off the major battlefield, such as scouting, foraging, raiding, that sort of thing. Knights prefer to leave that sort of thing to minions, eh?

Matthew


Wow, great answer! Thank you very much!

I do disagree with one point, though. About the "flurries of arrows", is is where I fail to understand horse archers. They cannot group En Masse, and so rather then hundreds of arrows raining down on you, it's just the odd one bumping into your armour, so agaisnt Knights, what real use did they have?

And another question to you, as you seem to know a lot about the subject. Big Grin

What about hobelars or that kind of light infantry or cavalry, where they have no missile weapons? What use were they? Apart from scouting and foraging and the like?

~JD (James)
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The percentage of troops in any army that was fully armoured was very low. There were plenty of targets for hobelars.witthout them having to contend with armour. In addition, even when a fighter was fully armoured, his horse was not. A lot of battles were won by taking out a knight's horse.
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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's also the fact that heavy lancers were typically only useful on very flat, hard, open ground. There are quite a few examples where a heavy cavalry charge was completely nullified by some ditch or other obstacle.

In general though, I think the fact that light cavalry weapons weren't very powerful during the late middle ages was a major reason that they generally played a secondary role to heavily armored lancers. The Spanish made heavy use of jinetes because they were useful when fighting against the Moors, but in Italy they tended to struggle against the heavily armored French and Italian Gendarmes.

Once wheelock pistols and carbines were introduced light cavalry started to become much more important and heavy lancers went practically extinct in western Europe.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 4:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the other hand, most soldiers wore some kind of armor in the 1450-1550 period. English archers wore jacks and sallets by default, for example. Even arquebusiers sometimes wore mail in that era, and they nearly always had helmets.

As far as light cavalry goes, the term potentially includes a lot of different cavalry kits. Light cavalry might be a rider with only a sword or it might be a lancer in three-quarters harness on an unarmored horse. (A true man-at-arms by 16th-century standards had a slightly more complete suit of armor and a barded horse.)

Going back in the 12th and 13th centuries, describing Saladin's forces as light and the Western European crusaders as heavy isn't necessarily correct. At least the elite Saracen cavalry had considerable armor. The same goes for the Mongols.

In the 1450-1550 period, even the lightest Western European cavalry typically still wore armor. A bit later, at the end of the 16th century, Sir John Smythe described how he thought that sort of light cavalry with lighter lances could defeat cavalry using the heavy lance (i.e. used with a rest). Basically, it involves the lighter cavalry refusing to engage the heavy lancers on their own terms and catching them in a melee so they couldn't effectively use their heavy lances, attacking their unarmored horses as necessary.

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Douglas wrote:
Wow, great answer! Thank you very much!


You're welcome! Medieval light horse are not my "thing", mind you, so I can only go so far.

Quote:
I do disagree with one point, though. About the "flurries of arrows", is is where I fail to understand horse archers. They cannot group En Masse, and so rather then hundreds of arrows raining down on you, it's just the odd one bumping into your armour, so agaisnt Knights, what real use did they have?


"Flurry", not "blizzard!" Harrassment, not necessarily an attempt to defeat them flat-out.

Quote:
What about hobelars or that kind of light infantry or cavalry, where they have no missile weapons? What use were they? Apart from scouting and foraging and the like?


As others have pointed out, much depends on the situation. Since European warfare was dominated by heavy cavalry, it didn't always make a lot of sense to divert resources into a significant force of light cavalry or hobilars, etc. You need as many heavy horse as you can get, and the rest should be heavy infantry and archers/crossbowmen. *Those* are the most effective troop types in that sort of warfare.

Elsewhere, there are more options! And like I said, most of warfare wasn't pitched open battles. You *can* get a lot of use out of a fast-moving unit of mounted infantry, or mounted archers, or horse archers, etc.

Matthew
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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Tue 14 Mar, 2017 8:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
On the other hand, most soldiers wore some kind of armor in the 1450-1550 period. English archers wore jacks and sallets by default, for example. Even arquebusiers sometimes wore mail in that era, and they nearly always had helmets.

As far as light cavalry goes, the term potentially includes a lot of different cavalry kits. Light cavalry might be a rider with only a sword or it might be a lancer in three-quarters harness on an unarmored horse. (A true man-at-arms by 16th-century standards had a slightly more complete suit of armor and a barded horse.)

Going back in the 12th and 13th centuries, describing Saladin's forces as light and the Western European crusaders as heavy isn't necessarily correct. At least the elite Saracen cavalry had considerable armor. The same goes for the Mongols.

In the 1450-1550 period, even the lightest Western European cavalry typically still wore armor. A bit later, at the end of the 16th century, Sir John Smythe described how he thought that sort of light cavalry with lighter lances could defeat cavalry using the heavy lance (i.e. used with a rest). Basically, it involves the lighter cavalry refusing to engage the heavy lancers on their own terms and catching them in a melee so they couldn't effectively use their heavy lances, attacking their unarmored horses as necessary.


Heavy cuirassers were still being used at the end of the 16th century and John Cruso when he wrote still had a negative attitude towards mounted harquebusiers who preferred to wear just a buff coat into battle. But the pistol was more effective than the sword or lance against armor. Roger Williams also was of the opinion that dismounted harquebusiers on the right terrain could defeat a force 10 times large which didn't have the like shot to answer and Barwick had anecdotes of something similar. That was something far more difficult to replicate with arrows, javelins, or spears.

And if the Harquebusiers did run into unarmored troops they could always use hailshot
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Mar, 2017 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding of medieval warfare in western Europe was it was primarily based on sieges, with pitch battles being rare and generally avoided, because of the uncertainty of the outcome.
So horse archers are less useful in this scenario compared to areas, where you have more open space for maneuvering (eastern europe). In siege warfare both attackers and defenders are generally more entrenched.

Horse archers could be extremely useful as harassment troops as they can pin down forces on the move into defensive boxes.
It makes it it possible to create "motti's" in the opposing forces infantry and then take them out one by one. You can also weaken them slowly when having them pinned, preventing them from getting food and water from their baggage train - especially effective when hot summers.
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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Mar, 2017 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sieges are more common than pitched battles. Raids, skirmishes, and other small unit actions were hugely more common still.

When you're going out to burn some peasant's crops to force the local lord out of his castle, you probably aren't bothering to wear full armour. You'll be travelling all day, and aren't likely to ever get into a fight.

This sort of small action is the natural home of lighter troops. Nobody is likely to be wearing sufficient armour that they'll find it impossible to be effective.

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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Mar, 2017 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Light cavalry does not actually have to engage it just has to look like it can.

Just being near to artillery or missile infantry checks certain moves, it forces every one to stand together or keep there own cavalry close by.
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Suresh Patel




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Mar, 2017 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The field of arms and armor is beset with romantic legends, gory myths, and widely held misconceptions. Their origins usually are to be found in a lack of knowledge of, and experience with, genuine objects and their historical background. Most of them are utter nonsense, devoid of any historical base.

Perhaps the most infamous example is the notion that “knights had to be hoisted into their saddles with a crane,” which is as absurd as it is persistent even among many historians. In other instances, certain technical details that escape an obvious explanation have become the focus of lurid and fantastically imaginative attempts to explain their original function. Among these, the lance rest, an object protruding from the proper right side of many breastplates, probably holds first place.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 25 Mar, 2017 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That myth has a kernel of truth. Henry VIII was apparently hoisted into his saddle during the siege of Boulogne. It wasn't because of his armour but because of his bad leg and corpulent obesity. He would have needed the winch even if he wore no armour at all.

The true function of the lance rest is easily discerned when one learns its proper name: arrêt. The arret de cuirass hooks into the arret de lance and the two work together to transfer the impact into the cuirass.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Douglas wrote:
I do disagree with one point, though. About the "flurries of arrows", is is where I fail to understand horse archers. They cannot group En Masse, and so rather then hundreds of arrows raining down on you, it's just the odd one bumping into your armour


Not necessarily. Procopius' account of Belisarius' war against the Sassanids can be read to imply that some exchanges between the armoured horse archers on both sides were fought in massed, stationary lines; and more mobile horse archers could swarm against a particular point on the enemy line and temporarily concentrate theittack against it (presumably this is also what Procopius meant by Roman/Byzantine horse archers "shooting from all sides" against the Goths in Italy).


J. Douglas wrote:
Irish hobelars,


They had lances by the 15th century -- perfectly capable of killing unarmoured or lightly armoured horses, and could still have some chance against the gaps in men-at-arms' armour.


Quote:
the Spanish jeniti, (javelin throwing cavalry)


The javelins were pretty heavy and arguably had better penetration potential than arrows. Besides, the jinetes also had swords and weren't too reluctant to use them even against heavy cavalry if they had superior numbers or some other advantage to offset their lighter kit. Indeed, "lighter" is relative; many jinetes wore plate cuirasses by the mid- or late 15th century, sometimes with plate shoulder protection too.


Quote:
the French coustillers,


Had lances. There are accounts of them being interleaved with men-at-arms to give the impression of greater numbers of men-at-arms, and this would have been impossible if their equipment differed too dramatically from the men-at-arms.


Quote:
the Crusaders' turcopoles,


Usually didn't travel far away from the main body of men-at-arms and infantry, so they had heavier troops within supporting distance if things got hairy (in fact, this was true of most medieval European light cavalry).


Quote:
the Mongolian horse archers,


Many had lances. Many had armour and were only marginally less well-protected than Western European men-at-arms. Indeed, their feigned retreat tactics was basically intended to lure heavier enemies into a position where they'd be vulnerable to a charge in the flank or rear by heavier Mongol and allied cavalry.


Quote:
Saladin's cavalry and infantry (who, despite being light troops were very effective against armoured Knights)


Saladin's army wasn't entirely light. His Kurds were mail-clad lancers. He also had Mamluks, who were reasonably well armoured and had to be skilled with bow and lance. Not to mention mail-clad sword-armed heavy cavalry from the Turkish borderlands. Even his infantry included some armoured spearmen (though some have interpreted these as dismounted Mamluks).


Quote:
the Muslims and moors, (who used a lot of light cavalry,)


You're talking about a huge variety of cultures across a huge geographic and temporal span. Worth noting that Arab cavalry were lancers, and many of them were given mail armour after the initial conquests. The Arab forces that crossed into Iberia/Andalusia had a high proportion of heavy shock troops, and the Arab cavalry that attacked Charles Martel at Tours-Poitiers were noted for the ferocity of their charges. No timid skirmishers, those.

The Moors did tend to be somewhat lighter than the Arabs in terms of both equipment and tactics -- part of this was a result of the Arabs' decision to specialise on shock while letting Berbers do the skirmishing. However, North African armies often had a core of heavy Arab infantry and cavalry (depending on the ethnicity of the ruling dynasty) and some of the Berbers learned to become hard-charging lancers too.


Quote:
the Russian Cossacks,


Had firearms.

Quote:
and Also the many light forces of Poland, Lithuania, and Eastern Europe.


Pretty much uniformly had heavy infantry and/or cavalry forces too and worked in conjunction with them.


Quote:
but yet there are many cases of these light troops battling and even defeating Knights and men at arms, but how could they, if there weapons were so...light?


They weren't that light. The javelins were pretty hefty. Crossbow bolts too. And with lances, you have to figure the whole weight of the horse and man behind the lance into the equation -- not just the lance itself.


Quote:
And how were these light troops used in this period?


Raiding, scouting, screening, outpost duties -- these things were far more crucial to the success of medieval armies than pure battlefield performance. Of course, on the other hand, sensible commanders would have known enough to keep their light troops within the supporting distance of some "heavier" reserves -- not to mention that "light" and "heavy" were very porous categories. A large proportion of Western European light cavalry were mounted men-at-arms who stripped down part of their armour for better comfort in long-distance travel, and these would have been quite capable of doing serious damage in a charge. Indeed, the Bayeux Tapestry showed that mailed knights were the Norman light cavalry in William's era!
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J. Douglas




PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
J. Douglas wrote:
I do disagree with one point, though. About the "flurries of arrows", is is where I fail to understand horse archers. They cannot group En Masse, and so rather then hundreds of arrows raining down on you, it's just the odd one bumping into your armour


Not necessarily. Procopius' account of Belisarius' war against the Sassanids can be read to imply that some exchanges between the armoured horse archers on both sides were fought in massed, stationary lines; and more mobile horse archers could swarm against a particular point on the enemy line and temporarily concentrate theittack against it (presumably this is also what Procopius meant by Roman/Byzantine horse archers "shooting from all sides" against the Goths in Italy).


J. Douglas wrote:
Irish hobelars,


They had lances by the 15th century -- perfectly capable of killing unarmoured or lightly armoured horses, and could still have some chance against the gaps in men-at-arms' armour.


Quote:
the Spanish jeniti, (javelin throwing cavalry)


The javelins were pretty heavy and arguably had better penetration potential than arrows. Besides, the jinetes also had swords and weren't too reluctant to use them even against heavy cavalry if they had superior numbers or some other advantage to offset their lighter kit. Indeed, "lighter" is relative; many jinetes wore plate cuirasses by the mid- or late 15th century, sometimes with plate shoulder protection too.


Quote:
the French coustillers,


Had lances. There are accounts of them being interleaved with men-at-arms to give the impression of greater numbers of men-at-arms, and this would have been impossible if their equipment differed too dramatically from the men-at-arms.


Quote:
the Crusaders' turcopoles,


Usually didn't travel far away from the main body of men-at-arms and infantry, so they had heavier troops within supporting distance if things got hairy (in fact, this was true of most medieval European light cavalry).


Quote:
the Mongolian horse archers,


Many had lances. Many had armour and were only marginally less well-protected than Western European men-at-arms. Indeed, their feigned retreat tactics was basically intended to lure heavier enemies into a position where they'd be vulnerable to a charge in the flank or rear by heavier Mongol and allied cavalry.


Quote:
Saladin's cavalry and infantry (who, despite being light troops were very effective against armoured Knights)


Saladin's army wasn't entirely light. His Kurds were mail-clad lancers. He also had Mamluks, who were reasonably well armoured and had to be skilled with bow and lance. Not to mention mail-clad sword-armed heavy cavalry from the Turkish borderlands. Even his infantry included some armoured spearmen (though some have interpreted these as dismounted Mamluks).


Quote:
the Muslims and moors, (who used a lot of light cavalry,)


You're talking about a huge variety of cultures across a huge geographic and temporal span. Worth noting that Arab cavalry were lancers, and many of them were given mail armour after the initial conquests. The Arab forces that crossed into Iberia/Andalusia had a high proportion of heavy shock troops, and the Arab cavalry that attacked Charles Martel at Tours-Poitiers were noted for the ferocity of their charges. No timid skirmishers, those.

The Moors did tend to be somewhat lighter than the Arabs in terms of both equipment and tactics -- part of this was a result of the Arabs' decision to specialise on shock while letting Berbers do the skirmishing. However, North African armies often had a core of heavy Arab infantry and cavalry (depending on the ethnicity of the ruling dynasty) and some of the Berbers learned to become hard-charging lancers too.


Quote:
the Russian Cossacks,


Had firearms.

Quote:
and Also the many light forces of Poland, Lithuania, and Eastern Europe.


Pretty much uniformly had heavy infantry and/or cavalry forces too and worked in conjunction with them.


Quote:
but yet there are many cases of these light troops battling and even defeating Knights and men at arms, but how could they, if there weapons were so...light?


They weren't that light. The javelins were pretty hefty. Crossbow bolts too. And with lances, you have to figure the whole weight of the horse and man behind the lance into the equation -- not just the lance itself.


Quote:
And how were these light troops used in this period?


Raiding, scouting, screening, outpost duties -- these things were far more crucial to the success of medieval armies than pure battlefield performance. Of course, on the other hand, sensible commanders would have known enough to keep their light troops within the supporting distance of some "heavier" reserves -- not to mention that "light" and "heavy" were very porous categories. A large proportion of Western European light cavalry were mounted men-at-arms who stripped down part of their armour for better comfort in long-distance travel, and these would have been quite capable of doing serious damage in a charge. Indeed, the Bayeux Tapestry showed that mailed knights were the Norman light cavalry in William's era!


Wow, thank you, a very comprehensive answer indeed.

I had simply listed various forms a of troops more to give any readers unfamiliar an idea of what I meant rather then a list of questions to be answered.

But thank you very much indeed!

I also apologise for my spelling of jenites. I really don't know why I made the plural like that. Probably an accident.

~JD (James)
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