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Semih Koyuncu

Location: Turkiye
Joined: 23 Oct 2013

Posts: 15

PostPosted: Sat 21 Oct, 2017 1:36 pm    Post subject: Earliest references of cavalry armed with wheellock firearm?         Reply with quote

Hi all,

Could anyone please provide some sources about earliest use of wheellock firearms by cavalry? Also, was it common for Austrian-German cavalry between 1550-1562?

Thanks in advance.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião

Location: Sioux City, IA
Joined: 14 Mar 2015

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Oct, 2017 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Aparrently they started showing up by 1540's. Here's the first mention of It:

"Vuksic & Grbasic 1993 p100
"Towards the middle of the sixteenth century, Thuringian Count Günter of Schwartzburg created the Schwarzern Reitern (Black Horsemen). It was a modern cavalry unit, stressing firepower and agility. Reiter or ritter meant only 'rider', but it became the generic name for the mercenary, partly armoured cavalrymen recruited in Germany in the 1550s, and later, during the Wars of Religion, in Spain, Italy, and France.
​ "These reiters (swarte rutters to the English) were also hired by Henry VIII. They were armoured cavalrymen, but rode unarmoured horses."
Arnold 2001 p98

"A new type of heavy horsemen [SIC] first appeared in Germany in the 1540s, the reiters or ritters. These had abandoned the lance for the pistol, a short-barrelled firearm light enough to be wielded with one hand even from a moving horse."


“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)
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Andrew Gill

Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 149

PostPosted: Mon 23 Oct, 2017 2:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not directly relevant, but there is evidence of the use of crossbows by armoured horsemen in western europe in a number of earlier sources. Definitely in Talhoffer's manuscripts (c. 1450) and and even in the king's mirror (c. 1260 I think?). Using a lightweight firearm would seem like a logical progression, once they became available.
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Semih Koyuncu

Location: Turkiye
Joined: 23 Oct 2013

Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct, 2017 2:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for answers. I am asking about it because in his memories German ambassador Busbecq, resided in Constantinople from 1555 to 1562, writes about how a Austrian cavalry brigade outnumbered by Ottoman cavalry five to one, scattered them with firearms. He does not provide any date or particular arena but apparently it was close to borderlands near Dalmatia. I am curious about if Austrians were using wheellock firearms during that skirmish.
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Daniel Staberg

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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2017 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the 1555-1562 period wheellocks would have been the standard type among cavalry armed with firearms, it was simply the best lock available for mounted use.

The introduction of the wheellock in common use on cavalry firearms is hard to trace in anything but general terms due to the gaps in the surviving sources. Another complication is that many early sources don't distinguish between mounted arquebusiers who dismounted to fight with matchlock arquebus and the true mounted arquebusiers who fought both on foot and on horseback with wheellock arquebus.

In his study of the French army from 1494 to 1562 Ferdinand Lot first qouted evidence for "true" mounted arquebusiers in the chapter for 1536 or 1537 if I remember correctly. (I do not have the book available at the moment.) As the French were not pioneers on the subject this is a good indication that the wheellocks were becoming accepted in military use for mounted cavalry, at least for the light cavalry.
(Ferdinand Lot, "Recherches sur les effectifs des armées françaises des guerres d'Italie aux guerres de religion 1494-1562", Paris 1962)

It was the Germans who would become the leaders of the development of cavalry armed with firearms and they used such cavalry on a scale that was massive. By 1570 cavalry with firearms was the only type mentioned by the Imperial regulations for cavalry. The evidence for first large scale use of cavalry among German troops comes from the 1540s as source describe cavarly with both wheellock pistol and arquebus both on the border in Hungary as well as fighting in France in 1543-1544. Next came the Schmalkaldic war between the Protestants and the Emperor were we have a number of sources describing cavalry with wheellock firearms including the contract and musters for the cavalry to be recruited by Albrecht Alcibiades, margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. He was supposed to recruit cavalry that was 5% heavy lancer ("kurisser"), 75% demi-lancer ("speisser") and 20% mounted Arquebusiers (Schützen) but the 3 recorded musters show that he ended up with a force that was78% mounted Arquebusiers as he had 1946 of them.
These mounted arquebusiers had both pistol and arquebus and would in the next decades become famous as the "Reiter" or "Schwarz Reiter" because of the black armour that was in common use among them. Reiters would be used with great success against both the French and against other Germans as Albrecht Alcibiades fought a short but intense war inside Germany to establish his own dukedom. This war saw the bloody battle between Albrech Alcibiades and Moritz of Saxony at Sievershausen in 1553 were Elector Mortiz was mortaly wounded by a pistol shot.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Axel Schudak

Location: Norden, Germany
Joined: 31 Oct 2017

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PostPosted: Tue 31 Oct, 2017 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Can it be that the encounter with horse mounted arquebus during the Tunis expedition of 1535 played a role in the later spreading of these type of weaponry?

Afaik the earliest depictions of horsemen actually firing their weapons come from that expedition, and they are clearly depicted by Vermeyen, and there were plenty of Germans with Charles at Tunis.
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