Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > pikes vs shot? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posts: 147

PostPosted: Fri 07 Jul, 2017 1:03 pm    Post subject: pikes vs shot?         Reply with quote

The Pike and shot period often tends to b described as a case of rock-paper-scissors where horse beats shot beats pike beats horse. However the importance of pikemen still seems to be emphasized quite a bit for supposedly having a primarily defensive role, and the maurician-inspired pike and shot formations of the 17th century definitely seem to be optomized more for fighting infantry than for defending against cavalry.

I wonder if perhaps a better way to describe the relationship between pike and shot is that in skirmishes between small numbers of infantry on each side, a force with firearms only is much more useful. However in a battle involving very large numbers on each side an infantry force with shot only is generally at a disadvantage against a force with a large proportion of pikes or only pikes, even discounting any cavalry. This perhaps finally changed when faster-firing flintlocks and bayonets come about.

La Noue, who blamed French Huguenot defeats on the lack of armored pikemen uses this example to explain why a one on one duel doesn't determine the outcome of pitched battles:

Quote:
It is as if a man should say, that because in the field one harquebuzier may kill a pike man armed with his corcelet, it followeth that in pitcht fieldes the harquebuziers should ouerthrow the battailes of pikes: which neuerthelesse falleth out cōtrarie, for it is certaine that for the most part those battailes do giue the victorie.


Matthew Sutcliffe, though more an academic than a soldier, similarly concluded from studying recent battles that shot was more useful in a skirmish than in a large battle.

Robert Barret, in his 1598 "Theorike and Practike" seems to offer a dissenting opinion, instead again citing cavalry as the main reason shot must be supported by cavalry:

Quote:

As the armed pike is the strēgth of the battell, so without question, is the shot the furie of the field: but the one without the other is weakened the better halfe of their strength. Therefore of necessitie (according to the course of warres in these dayes) the one is to be coupled & matched with the other, in such conue∣nient proportion, that the aduantage of the one may helpe the disauantage of the other. For a stand of pikes, though neuer so well armed, being charged & assailed with the like, or a lesse number of shot, by euery mans iudgement would haue the worse, & not able to abide the field, vnlesse they had shot, to answer their enemies shot. In like sort, any troupe of shot, though neuer so braue & expert, being in o∣pen field, hauing no stand of pikes, or such other weapō, nor hedge, ditch, trench, or rampier, to relieue and succour them, could not long endure the force of horse, especially Launciers.


However, it might be that he's talking in general about a smaller stand of pikes than La Noue is talking about. Elsewhere he does often talk about fighting pikes with pikes and he repeatedly emphasizes again that pikes are still the "strength of the battle" and that victory is achieved by defeating the enemy's pikemen, not his musketeers:

Quote:
. . . for hee is but a foolish shot, that shooteth at, or among light skirmishers, where he may discharge vpon the body of his enemies battell, which standes thick together, and is a fayre marke to shoot at; for the armed pikes once ouerthrowen, which is the strength of the field, the victorie by all likelyhood is like to ensue.


On the subject of battles often being decided before the infantry comes into contact, he again interjects the importance of a strong backing of pikes:

Quote:
And againe it is rarely seene in our dayes, that men come often to hand-blowes, as in old time they did: For now in this age, the shot so employeth and busieth the field (being well backed with a resolute stand of pikes) that the most valiantest and skilfullest therein do commonly import the victorie, or the best, at the least wise, before men come to many hand-blowes.


Perhaps the fact that engagements were more often decided before contact has more to do with the fact that a charging block of pikemen disordered by gunfire were less willing to charge home into a well-ordered pike square of the enemy's than they would be against a force of unsupported arquebusiers.
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,189

PostPosted: Sat 08 Jul, 2017 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert III de La Marck (Florange) recounted how 400 Swiss halberdiers routed 800 arquebusiers at Novara 1513. Of course, those arquebusiers had already been shooting before this, so their pieces probably weren't in prime condition when the halberdiers attacked.
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
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 415

PostPosted: Sun 09 Jul, 2017 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was never a specialist in the 16th century, but you might want to look at how these debates continued into the 17th and 18th century.

If you have an academic library near you, there is an English-language book which looks at French infantry theory from the late 17th century to the days before the French revolution. I read it 10 years ago in Canada, and I don't have any idea how to find it in the new country though Sad But it gives an English-language summary of how people proposed to deal with the basic problem that shot could kill many soldiers but rarely sent whole armies running like a charge with swords, pikes, or bayonets could (while just sending men on foot with sharp pointy things into a hail of bullets did not work either).
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2017 2:19 pm    Post subject: Re: pikes vs shot?         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
The Pike and shot period often tends to b described as a case of rock-paper-scissors where horse beats shot beats pike beats horse. However the importance of pikemen still seems to be emphasized quite a bit for supposedly having a primarily defensive role,


"Defensive?" Bleh. Pikes were the assault/manoeuvre component in the pike-and-shot combination. They were expected to advance, attack, and seize ground. Of course, depending on the army and the era, they might have been expected to do this with minimal support from the Shot, or only after the Shot had successfully disorganised and demoralised the enemy with fire -- or something in between.

Quote:
and the maurician-inspired pike and shot formations of the 17th century definitely seem to be optomized more for fighting infantry than for defending against cavalry.


Yes -- in particular, for attacking enemy infantry.


Quote:
I wonder if perhaps a better way to describe the relationship between pike and shot is that in skirmishes between small numbers of infantry on each side, a force with firearms only is much more useful. However in a battle involving very large numbers on each side an infantry force with shot only is generally at a disadvantage against a force with a large proportion of pikes or only pikes, even discounting any cavalry. This perhaps finally changed when faster-firing flintlocks and bayonets come about.


Well, it's definitely not that simple. Terrain usually had a large part in the equation -- even as early as Cerignola, the Spanish field fortifications and battlefield obstacles allowed their Shot to have a more decisive effect than usual in attritioning Swiss numbers and morale in preparation for the coup de grace by friendly pikemen and sword-and-target men (rodeleros). It was rather more obvious in the English Civil War -- where the terrain afforded plenty of cover and obstacles, the Shot was often able to decide the fight by repelling enemy assaults with their fire, but in more open terrain the Pike remained crucial whether on the attack or the defence.

Another thing is that flintlocks didn't fire that much faster than matchlocks at first. The manual of arms for the firelock was still based upon that of the matchlock until the 1720s or even the 1740s or so in some places, including the need to "cast about" the weapon to keep the firearm (and especially the pan) on the opposite side of the body from the smouldering match. From that point on, the drills changed to make use of smaller, tighter, and faster movements made possible by the flintlock's lower susceptibility to accidental discharges.

Last but not least, pikes existed alongside bayonets for quite a long time -- in some armies it was still very common to have pikemen as part of the infantry battalion or regiment into the late 1710s. Armies that relied heavily on aggressive infantry tactics (such as the Swedes) found a core of pikemen particularly useful.


Quote:
Perhaps the fact that engagements were more often decided before contact has more to do with the fact that a charging block of pikemen disordered by gunfire were less willing to charge home into a well-ordered pike square of the enemy's than they would be against a force of unsupported arquebusiers.


That, and the "defending" pikes would have been more willing to countercharge against an enemy that had been repelled by fire before the latter had the chance to reorganise.
View user's profile Send private message
Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011

Posts: 76

PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2017 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lots of early pikemen where partaly shot resistet, so armour was useful aginst long range fire.
And givee the short effective ranges of most guns, one could often find your enermy to be all most out of shot or panicked when the pike entered the battle.

In close terrain muskets areforced to hold there fire and only start fireing at short ranges, contering both armour and the poor training of most musketeers.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > pikes vs shot?
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum