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Jeff PM




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Oct, 2006 7:42 pm    Post subject: Landesknecht - any and all info sources wanted         Reply with quote

My Apologies if this is the wrong section, I've not been active in the forums here as of yet.

Anyway, after reading and understanding the enthusiams for history here, I was wondering if I might make a request. I'm doing a research paper, and wanted to do it on the Landesknecht, but information doesn;t seem to be the easiest to track down so far. Would anyone know any good sources of info to start with? I'd prefer books, but any good sources would be welcomed. Historical background mostly was my goal. (though I admit I chose them based on my aesthetic love for the zweihander.)

Anyway any help would be much appreciated.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Oct, 2006 8:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome to the site...

Like you, I'm also interested in Landsknecht history. Two sources for very general, overview information on the subject are two titles from Osprey:

Landsknechts (Men-At-Arms Series, 58)
Landsknecht Soldier 1486-1560 (Warrior Series)

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Oct, 2006 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff,

Do you speak & read German? All the important and more extensive works on the landsknechts are in German. The Ospreys mentioned by Nathan are a ok start but the Men-at-Arms book must be read with caution since it is old and contains a fair number of factual and editorial errors.

Regards
Daniel
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Jeff,
I can't vouch for the accuracy of the information, but the Blandford book Warriors & Weapons 3000 BC to AD 1700 in Colour by Niels M. Saxtorph has a colour plate and an entry about a German Landsknecht circa 1575. This is what the entry says:
Niels M. Saxtorph wrote:

The German Landesknecht too has heavier armour. Although his trousers are still baggy and colourful, they are now merely the prevailing fashion, which the Landesknechts themselves had earlier helped to create.

Sorry this didn't have much information.

I have found other books that mention the landesknecht. Warfare in the Middle Ages by Richard Humble mentions the landesknecht in the chapter "The Wars of the Renaissance". There is even a period picture of a Swiss mercenary in landesknecht dress dated 1529. Again, take the information with a grain of salt, but this is what Humble said about the dopplesoldner landesknechte (those that wielded the two-handed sword):
Richard Humble wrote:

The most spectacular product of anti-phalanx tactics, prompted by hard experience with the Swiss pikemen, was developed by the German landesknecht: the huge double-edged sword. This seems to have been swung horizontally, scythe-fashion, against the legs of the front-rank pikemen as well as diagonally to cleave the hedge of pikes. The landesknecht who opted for this extremely high-risk form of combat, fighting at the "sharp end" of the armies confronted with pike phalanxes, earned double pay - hence, the name also given to their montrous swords, dopplesoldner.

Medieval Warfare by H.W. Koch also mentions the landesknechte in the chapter "Professionalism". This is what Koch said about the landesknecht:
H.W. Koch wrote:

There is no English equivalent for this term (landesknechte as recruited by the Archduke, later Emperor, Maximillian). To apply the term mercenary to them is misleading because they differed in their original composition and constitution in several important respects. As Maximillian's original instructions made quite clear, the troops hired were to originate from a common region, serving as a unit, though not always under the same masters. They can be traced back to the popular levies of the Merovingian period, which since Charlemagne and the rise of the feudal system had been pushed into the background by the feudal host and had decayed. There are occasions when one sees this levy recurring, foot soldiers from the same region ready for action under a common leader to whom they had sworn obedience, or under a leader they had elected themselves. They had their own courts and were all freemen. A forerunner of the Landesknecht unit fought in 1276 for Rudolph von Hapsburg. After the battle the knights decapitated prisoners the unit had made without asking its permission, and its members refused further service. A hundred years later the city of Ulm and the League of Swabian cities recruited a unit of free Knechte, who called themselves the Federation of Liberty. Since then these troops had played an important part in most feuds in Germany, under different names and with varying succcess. In Holstein they were known as the Black Guards and were the "marine infantry" of the vassals of the Hanse. By that time of course the composition was very mixed, as can be expected, and included the dregs of society including murderers, but according to their code of discipline, marauders found harsh justice from their fellows, punishment ranging from being suspended by the limbs on chains to being burnt.
On those rare occasions when a city of the Reich did send its contingents to the emperor they were clothed in colorful garments for the purposes of recognition as well as demonstrating the city's status. Landesknecht was a convenient term for Maximillian to use. The estates of the empire were anxious to rid themselves of the plague of mercenaries, as were those of France and other countries. Maximillian's recruiting drive immediately provoked suspicion; after all it was peace, whereupon Maximillian retorted that they were servants of the land, the proper meaning of Landesknecht, and this was shown by the method of recruitment, their origins and the rigid discipline imposed on them.
Between 1482 and 1486 he recruited them in the Rhineland and in the regions of the lower Rhine and trained them in the same way, or according to the Swiss model, as he had done with Flemish troops. By 1486 Landesknecht had become a generally accepted term. Needless to say it required time to bring them up to the standard of the Swiss, but once this was achieved the Swqiss contingents and the Landesknechte viewed one another with deep hostility. The Swiss, conscious of their superiority, jeered at them, while the Landesknechte leaders would tell their men that they were every bit as good. Under Duke Sigismund of Tyrol, led by their captain Friedrich Kappler, they defeated the Venetian condottieri in the Battle of Calliano in 1487. A year later, as part of the army of the Empire on their way to the Netherlands, they took quarters in Cologne. When Swiss troops also appeared at the gates of the city the Archbishop of Cologne refused them entry to avoid clashed between them and the Landesknechte. In 1490 when Maximillian campaigned against the Hungarians, the Landesknechte stormed Stuhlweissenburg, and their European reputation as equals to the Swiss was established...

Koch goes on further, but I think this gives you the general idea.

All of these books are out of print, but you may be able to find them either through the bookstore here on the myArmoury site, or in your local library. If you would care for more academic or scholarly resources, you might try Medieval Warfare: a History, edited by Maurice Keen. There is a brief mention of the landesknechte in the chapter by Michael Mallett titled "Mercenaries". Here is what Mallett said:
Michael Mallett wrote:

Maximillian, King of the Romans, hired Swiss and German Landesknechte, groups of young men who shifted from brigandage in the south German countryside to mercenary military service at this time and imitated the method of the Swiss, for his war against France in 1486.


The Art of War in the Middle Ages by C.W.C Oman is rather old (first published in 1885), but it also contains mention of the landesknecht. This is what Oman said about the Landesknecht:
C.W.C. Oman wrote:

The first experiment tried against the (Swiss) Confederates was that of the emperor Maximillian, who raised in Germany corps of pikemen and halberdiers trained to act in a manner exactly similar to that of their enemies. The Landesknechte soon won for themselves a reputation second only to that of the Swiss, whom they boldly met in many a bloody field. The conflicts between them were rendered obstinate by military as well as national rivalry, the Confederates being indignant that troops should dare to face them with their won peculiar tactics, while the Germans were determined to show they were not inferior to their Alpine kinsmen. The shock of the contending columns was therefore tremendous. The two bristling lines of pikes crossed, and the leading files were thrust upon each other's weapons by the irresistible pressure from behind. Often the whole front rank of each phalanx went down in the first onset, but their comradesstepped forward over their bodies to continue the fight. When the masses had been for some time pushing against each other, their order became confused and their pikes interlocked; then was the time for the halberdiers to act. The columns opened out to let them pass, or they rushed round from the rear, and threw themselves into the melee. This was the most deadly epoch of the strife; the combatants mowed each other down with fearful rapidity. Their ponderous (?) weapons allowed of little fencing and parrying and inflicted wounds which were almost invariably mortal. Everyone who missed his blow, or stumbled over a fallen comrade, or turned to fly was a doomed man. Quarter was neither expected nor given.

Again, Oman might be a bit outdated, but it's interesting. I believe it is slated to be reprinted soon, too!

This is more of a "popular history" work, but Medieval Warfare by Terence Wise has a description of the landesknechte and their equipment. This is his description of the armour and clothing worn by the Swiss pikemen and the German landesknechte:
Terence Wise wrote:

The Swiss pikemen, again mostly because of poverty, wore simple steel caps and breastplates, many having only leather jerkins (I believe as clothing, not armour! There is an existing leather jerkin in a London museum ). Backplates, leg and arm pieces were so rare that there were usually only enough fully armoured men to form a single rank at the head of the phalanx. Towards the end of the century (15th) sallets were worn and a larger percentage of men had half armour. Hose and tunics were striped or particoloured but were tight fitting, without the slashing so common in the following century. In the main the Landesknechts were also unarmoured, wearing leather or fabric armour (pourpoints, perhaps?) and simple steel caps or mail caps under hats. Other clothing resembled that of the Swiss.

This is what Wise says about the two-handed sword:
Terence Wise wrote:

Towards the end of the fourteenth century, the long sword had developed into the two handed sword with a 50 in blade and 12 in grip. This had not been very popular, mainly because of the space needed to wield it effectively. The sword could be shortened by grasping it with one hand above the hilt, this part of the blade being left blunt. In the late fifteenth century these swords returned to favour, mainly with the Swiss and the Landesknechts, the bearers being known as double pay men (doppelsoldner), responsible for guarding the cantonal or company flag. The blunt part of the blade was now covered by a leather sheath and hooked lugs stuck out to serve as secondary quillons.


Another book, but one that has become hard to find, is Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight by David Edge and John Miles Paddock. It shows a nice period woodcut of an early sixteenth century German Landesknecht in "splint" harness
This is what Edge and Paddock said about the Landesknecht:
David Edge and John Miles Paddock wrote:

At the end of the (15th) century, the increasing number of Swiss and German mercenaries, the Landesknechts, used in Europe also hastened the end of the chivalric code of honour, since they invariably fought without quarter, took no prisoners and slaughtered commoners and nobles alike...
These (light "half-armours") were habitually worn by the German Landesknechts, who in the early sixteenth century achieved an impressive reputation as fearless mercenary soldiers. They were invariably infantry, and fought primarily with the two-handed sword, pike and occasionally other staff weapons such as the halberd, and eventually the hand-gun. In Germany especially, they affected an outlandish, variously-coloured, "puffed and slashed" mode of dress.


I know some of this information is probably outdated, but it gives you an idea where to look. I hope you found it interesting!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar


Last edited by Richard Fay on Thu 26 Oct, 2006 5:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Follow this link:

http://www.serner.de/blogs/ri/archives/2004/0...1500-1540/

Then download the very large PDF file (7.6 M) of Der Landsknecht im Spiegel der Renaissancegraphik um 1500 - 1540. The text is German so not much use to non-German speakers, but the document contains more than 200 contemporary depictions of Landesknechts (starting on page 296). It's the most complete visual resource I've found. I burned it to CD, and would encourage other Landesknecht afficionados to do the same.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Allen G.





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 2:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

I have those Osprey books Nathan mentioned, they're definately worth the price but keep in mind like all of Osprey's books theyre quite small.

I only know scattered online resources like:

http://www.landsknecht.com/html/body_history.html

Unfortunately theyre one of those highly romanticised unique soldier types so there seems to be a lot of exagerated info, I have a big sharp zweilander and attempted cutting a cheap pike staff while a friend held it in the air multiple times, not only did it not break it, it didnt even leave a mark after a good hour of parrying. theresnot enough resistance being held in the air to even scratch it. A hard wooden staff is unlikely to break laying on the ground hit with an axe in 1 hit, much less with a sword in the air. As far as batting the pike heads away, you can do that just as easy with another pike..
I think they had their use on the battlefield but that surely wasnt it.
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Allen,
Don't underestimate the strength of medieval and Renaissance warriors. They may have been able to perform feats most of us "soft moderns" would find difficult if not impossible. However, it's just as likely that the two-handed swords were used by soldiers guarding the flag (see the excerpt I posted from Terence Wise's Medieval Warfare, not the Opsrey title, but a separate publication), or used to attack the legs of the pikemen after the pikes were brushed aside (see the excerpt I posted from Richard Humble's Warfare in the Middle Ages).

I would highly recommend looking at some more general books on medieval and Renaissance warfare, like some of the ones I posted earlier. They often have some information about the landesknecht and the dopplesoldner.

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:
Hello all!

Allen,
Don't underestimate the strength of medieval and Renaissance warriors. They may have been able to perform feats most of us "soft moderns" would find difficult if not impossible. However, it's just as likely that the two-handed swords were used by soldiers guarding the flag (see the excerpt I posted from Terence Wise's Medieval Warfare, not the Opsrey title, but a separate publication), or used to attack the legs of the pikemen after the pikes were brushed aside (see the excerpt I posted from Richard Humble's Warfare in the Middle Ages).

I would highly recommend looking at some more general books on medieval and Renaissance warfare, like some of the ones I posted earlier. They often have some information about the landesknecht and the dopplesoldner.

Stay safe!

Then why is such feats with the zweiahnder not mentioned in the battle accounts? Or in the military manuals of the period? The Zweihand and it's use is surrounded by a large number of myths dating to the 19th Century.
One is that the they were the priamry arm of the doppelsölder. Nor is there a whole lot of evidence of a large scale issue of zweihanders as is suggest for example in your quotes. The basis for the myth of large scael use of the zweihander seems to be a single German broadsheet dated to 1515 regarding the Landsknechts who took part in the battle of Marignano. Supposedly this force was made up of 12.000 pikemen, 2000 arquebusiers, 2000 with zweihander, 800 halberdiers and 200 drabants i.e bodyguards.

There are several threads about the Zweihander and it's use in the forum as a seach will reveal

I'd be careful about using English language works on the Landsknechts, the research tend to suffer from flaws due to the limitations of the sources used. Few writers of general works have the language skills and resources needed to do in depth reserach so mostly one ends up with a rehash of older secondary works such as Oman's dated books. German sources see only limited use or are not used at all.

I'll try to post a basic bibliography of German works during the weekend but it'll be the tip of the iceberg. Also even German works have to be used with some care since they are far from immune to transmitting the romanticised version of the Landsknechts created in no small part by nationalistic German writers a hundred years ago.
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Daniel Staberg wrote:

I'd be careful about using English language works on the Landsknechts, the research tend to suffer from flaws due to the limitations of the sources used. Few writers of general works have the language skills and resources needed to do in depth reserach so mostly one ends up with a rehash of older secondary works such as Oman's dated books. German sources see only limited use or are not used at all.

I'll try to post a basic bibliography of German works during the weekend but it'll be the tip of the iceberg. Also even German works have to be used with some care since they are far from immune to transmitting the romanticised version of the Landsknechts created in no small part by nationalistic German writers a hundred years ago.


Daniel,
Unfortunately, some of us don't speak or read German, so we only have real access to English sources. I believe I stated in my first post that the information was often old, and should be taken with a grain of salt. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear about that!
Jeff was asking for resources regarding the landesknecht, I tried to provide that, but I am aware that some of the sources are outdated. I thought I could present the information directly out of the sources, and let the reader decide what to accept and what to reject.
Did I say they were definitely able to perform such feats? No, I just suggested that the possibility when adrenaline is rushing in the midst of a battle should not be entirely discounted. Again, sorry if my "middle of the road" attitude was wrong.
I don't speak German, so German sources are practically useless to me. Are you aware of any decent resources in English? Maybe someone should take up the task of translating some of the German sources into English so the rest of us would have access. And if even some of the German sources transmit "romanticised" details, how do we sort through what's "real" and what's "fantasy"?
Another thing, I was not necessarily supporting the tactics mentioned in the works, I was just quoting resources. I do believe the general history is fairly accurate (the fact that Maximillian recruited the landesknechts, that they were trained on a Swiss model, etc.). Am I wrong in that belief?

Anyway, in case anyone is still interested, I've found more, probably outdated, material about the Landesknechte. Again, I'll present it in its entirety, and the reader can decide whether to use it or ignore it. I hope I'm not wasting my time posting this; I hope someone reads it, even if it's debatable!
For those of us not skilled in reading other languages, I found more about landesknechts in Philippe Contamine's War in the Middle Ages.
Philippe Contamine wrote:

The most important development in the last years of the fifteenth century was the appearance of the lansquenets (Landesknechte). This has been explained by the fact that traditionally, at least in Upper Germany, there existed groups of young men, the warrior Knabenschaften, bands of companions (Knechte), who sometimes practised private warfare, preying on travellers, harvests and herds for their own benefit, and sometimes putting themselves at the service of towns, for example when the towns confederated in leagues, were forced to fight against the princes or knightly alliances. Sometimes these energetic fraternities of wild young men were called "liberties". In 1376, for example, the Swabian towns disposed of "many foot soldiers of the liberty who possessed thick jacks, pikes, and crossbows". At least to begin with the great majority of lansquenets originated in Upper Gremany, bordering Switzerland from the Vorarlberg to the Sundgau. Given these underlying sociological facts, the state could work on them; that is to say, Maximillian von Hapsburg could enroll these men, following the advice of the former faithful councillors of Charles the Bold like the counts of Romont and Nassau, who had witnessed the defeats suffered at the hands of the Swiss. It was "to wake up the French" on the Flemish frontier in 1486 that the king of the Romans employed Swiss for the first time and also lansquenets (Landesknechte), that is "companions of the country" as opposed to hired troops, originating in Bohemia (called Trabanten), or Swiss. "He was counselled to collect a great force of warriors in which there should be three or four thousand Swiss and the same number of German Landesknechte, together with many Picards, Hainaulters and others, both on command of my lord Philip of Cleves, the prince of Chimay, the count of Nassau and other chiefs and war captains." In the previous year Molinet had mentioned the entry into Ghent "in very fine order and all on foot" of "my lord the count of Nassau, the lord of Montigni, the lord of Palma and other leaders of 5,000 Germans marching eight abreast".
Thus around 1500 several countries in the West were using an infantry which was very different from the foot soldiers who had been traditionally known at all periods of the Middle Ages, an infantry collected on a massive scale who specialized and were well qualified to fight on foot from corps tactically organized in depth. Because of this depth, these units were better able to resist cavalry attacks, forcing them in turn to adopt new forms of combat.


I found another "outdated" book that contains some information. I'm not sure of its accuracy, but some may find it of interest. The following is from A Book of Military Uniforms & Weapons by Karel Toman. The book also contains a few color drawings of lansquenets to use the term the author uses), but the drawings remind me a bit of old school library books.
Karel Toman wrote:

After the first successes of the Swiss, other European countries endeavoured, with varying degrees of success, to put a similar infantry force in the field. The most typical exponent of sixteenth century military history was the German lansquenet, a professional soldier of great competence. His job was fighting, his object money. Bringing his weapons and gear with him, he was paid according to its quality. German lansquenets could be found wherever there was fighting and prospects of booty. The lansquenet cared little on whose side he fought. The costume of the lansquenet was strikingly bizarre. Uniform, as we know it, had not yet been adopted by soldiers.
Protestant lansquenets carried the Catholic emperor's banner against their fellow-believers; they fought the Turks and joined the French against the Spanish and Swiss, or vice versa. If the money for their pay was not forthcoming, the lansquenets became rebellious - not infrequently they turned their arms against their own captains - in short, gain was the only thing they cared for.
The lanquenets formed a separate caste, a kind of guild, with its own laws and customs. Their ranks were largely filled by young scamps and impoverished knights. There was a state of relentless enmity between the lansquenets and the Swiss, whose battle tactics they had adopted. Where lansquenets encountered lansquenets, they waged what they called "good warfare" - that is, both sides spared their prisoners' lives. When they happened to come across their Swiss counterparts, the ensuing warfare was distinctly "bad". In the early sixteenth century the core of the French army was German lansquenets and Swiss troopers.


Again, I make no claim as to the accuracy of the information. This is what I found in my personal library about landesknechts. I was trying to be helpful, but maybe it's causing more confusion than presenting useful information. Perhaps it's only a testament to the paucity of good information about landesknechts in English-language resources. I apparently should not have made a personal comment regarding potential landesknecht tactics or abilities, and will not make any such comments in this post. I should have stuck to just the history!

Stay safe!

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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 6:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I have a big sharp zweilander and attempted cutting a cheap pike staff while a friend held it in the air multiple times, not only did it not break it, it didnt even leave a mark after a good hour of parrying. theresnot enough resistance being held in the air to even scratch it. A hard wooden staff is unlikely to break laying on the ground hit with an axe in 1 hit, much less with a sword in the air.


There's evidence that swords could actually cleave wooden shafts. Fourquevaux considered targetiers quite capable of hacking up pikes with their one-handed swords. From the 1589 translation: "It is a moft certaine thing that the Targets will greatly anoy the enemyes Pikemen, in cutting off their Pikes with their Swords, which they might do without any great daunger, becaufe of the Targets which do couer them, & the Haftaries are at their heels do defend them : for if the Targets fhould get vnder the Pikes, they might eafily cut their throates, whileft the Haftaries do occupy them in fight.”

Swetnam recounted an example of man cutting off the head of a staff with a one-handed sword. He didn't seem to think this was amazing feat, only noting that man wielding the staff must have been unskilled. Later sources recount Scottish swords cleave pikes and smallswords.
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Allen G.





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 7:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well then; are modern reproduction pike/spear poles much stronger than their ancestors? If so it's possible. A hardened staff treated with some method keep it from decaying though... thats like saying you can cut down a small tree in 1 slash. I wasn't really underestimating historical warrior's strength. Rather as I stated there just didn't seem to be enough resistance unless you had the entire pike laying on the ground. As in even if the pike head alone was batted into the ground and chopped onto downwards by a sword capable of breaking it, it seems like the shaft would come out of the pikeman's grip before it broke in half.. no?

I hate challenging you on this because I know close to nothing about pikes and wooden shaft strength, but I recommend you attempt a similar experiment, I promise you'll feel what I mean. I was getting the same feeling you get if you try to cut through an empty milk jug, it will just fly aside rather than take any damage, no matter how strong the wielder.
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PostPosted: Thu 26 Oct, 2006 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I hate challenging you on this because I know close to nothing about pikes and wooden shaft strength, but I recommend you attempt a similar experiment, I promise you'll feel what I mean. I was getting the same feeling you get if you try to cut through an empty milk jug, it will just fly aside rather than take any damage, no matter how strong the wielder.


Be that as it may, I'll take period sources over modern tests any day of the week. Fourquevaux wasn't the type of writer to assign amazing feats to swordsmen. He had a great respect for armor, and suggested targetiers only thrust at unarmored parts. He wrote that one-handed swords could cleave pikes, so I believe it. Swetnam is also a good source, though he seems to have considered all weapons rather fragile.
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 6:49 am    Post subject: Pike Slashing         Reply with quote

Allen G. wrote:
Well then; are modern reproduction pike/spear poles much stronger than their ancestors? If so it's possible. A hardened staff treated with some method keep it from decaying though... thats like saying you can cut down a small tree in 1 slash. I wasn't really underestimating historical warrior's strength. Rather as I stated there just didn't seem to be enough resistance unless you had the entire pike laying on the ground. As in even if the pike head alone was batted into the ground and chopped onto downwards by a sword capable of breaking it, it seems like the shaft would come out of the pikeman's grip before it broke in half.. no?

I hate challenging you on this because I know close to nothing about pikes and wooden shaft strength, but I recommend you attempt a similar experiment, I promise you'll feel what I mean. I was getting the same feeling you get if you try to cut through an empty milk jug, it will just fly aside rather than take any damage, no matter how strong the wielder.


Thats true enough if you cut with a sword and connect to the pole-shaft at a 90° angle...but I am sure that they were very skilled and knew that if you bring the (very sharp) sword down at a steep oblique angle it would most likely cut it in two and if not, at least make the pole unusuable for defence let alone offence. This motion pushes the pole back towards the Pikeman and is most effective if the Pike happens to be butted to the ground. The length of the swords obviously kept the user as far as possible away from the pike heads but the heads could still be reached with the sweet spot of the blade.

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Follow this link:

http://www.serner.de/blogs/ri/archives/2004/0...1500-1540/

Then download the very large PDF file (7.6 M) of Der Landsknecht im Spiegel der Renaissancegraphik um 1500 - 1540. The text is German so not much use to non-German speakers, but the document contains more than 200 contemporary depictions of Landesknechts (starting on page 296). It's the most complete visual resource I've found. I burned it to CD, and would encourage other Landesknecht afficionados to do the same.


Nice one Sean! Already downloaded... You had better believe I wish I knew German... Do you have any feel for how accurate the illustrations are? Some of them have the flavor of later non-contemporary work...

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I haven't looked carefully at the text, but I'd guess from the title that all of these images are 1500-1540. The artists are identified in many cases (maybe all--check the text).

As for whether or not a haft can be severed. This should be a pretty simple question to answer. In addition to the contemporary text references and artistic depictions of destroyed polearm hafts, there is the simple fact that most polearms during this period featured langets. Some will argue that these served to distribute shock. I suspect that's true in those cases in which the langets are made of a piece with the head of the weapon, but what of the langets that are attached to the haft, but not to the head? They don't distribute shock and their presence would tend to make the weapon less agile (though theoretically would increase the impact of a strike). It's doubtful that these were decorative--some are quite crude. That leaves only defense of the haft as a reason for existing. So, defense against what? Not against firearms. Not against thrusting weapons. We're left with defense against cuts/chops and reinforcement of the haft for thrusting. All of these indicate that the haft was vulnerable--seasoned, treated ash or not.

I know of at least one contemporary image that shows a halberd so badly broken that the head and (bent) langets have been separated from the haft. The image shows the grim aftermath of battle, and appears to be closely observed in all respects. Broken polearm hafts/lances are pretty much a staple of martial artwork in the period. That alone doesn't constitute positive proof, but it's a great deal more compelling than any modern experiments I've seen. Add in the other evidence and I just don't see much room for the argument that hafts weren't in jeopardy.

Having said all that, I too am skeptical that two-hand swords were used to lop the heads off of polearms. Those swords are virtually polearms themselves and thrusting is the primary offense of most such weapons. Their construction, allowing and even favoring half-swording suggests that thrusting was a common use. It has been suggested that the full length of the weapon could be used to leverage aside pikes and other polearms in the press of battle. That seems reasonable as well. But I don't see how, in close quarters, the wielder of such a sword could swing in a broad enough arc to build enough force to do much good in chopping cuts. Draw cuts on the way in and out of a thrust would seem to be a logical offense as well.

We should also keep in mind that a cut need not sever the haft in order to compromise it. Imagine four or five shallow cuts to an unprotected haft. The wielder of that weapon thrusts or misses his target in a cut and the haft splits or breaks. How many of us have seen an inexperienced wielder of a modern wood axe miss his target and shatter the seasoned oval hardwood haft? I've seen that happen a few times, and seen the evidence of that many more times. Imagine if the haft was compromised to begin with, then throw in the chaos of battle and a target that very much wants not to be hit.


I'd be curious to know about the blade geometry of the two-hand swords. Do the plainest examples have fine cutting edges in the last quarter?

-Sean

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There was a rather nice, IMO very illuminating discussion on the use of beidenhänders in "Historical Arms Talk" last year: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=4221
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 8:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Sean Flynt wrote:

In addition to the contemporary text references and artistic depictions of destroyed polearm hafts, there is the simple fact that most polearms during this period featured langets.

I'd be curious to know about the blade geometry of the two-hand swords. Do the plainest examples have fine cutting edges in the last quarter?


Sean,
Thanks for the point about the langets. Your posts always seem thoughtful and reasonable! (I wish I had thought of that point! Oh well, lots on my mind I guess!)

I can't comment on the more complex aspects of two-handed sword blade geometry, I should leave that up to someone who has actually handled some specimens, but I can comment on the blade profiles as seen in several photos of these big swords. They almost invariably seem to have parallel edges that end at a somewhat rounded point, at least as compared to swords dedicated to the thrust. Some of the ones with "flamboyant" blades seem even more rounded than the straight edged ones. Certainly a thrust could be delivered with the point, but there were better thrusting swords out there, such as the estocs. To me, they appear more like big slashing swords.

I don't want to wade back into the troubled waters of landesknecht two-handed sword tactics, I'm just sharing what I've observed. Half-swording techniques were obviously used often with these swords, since they have the leather-wrapped ricasso, but can you use the technique to slash as well as thrust? I'm thinking about what you said about these weapons serving almost as pole arms (and I agree with you on that point). As you know, some pole arms were better thrusters, while others were better cutters (not to say that they couldn't do either, just some designs were better at one than the other). Could the two-handed swords be used more as cutting pole arms?

Again, this is just an observation based on a study of the photos. My thoughts could change if the two-handed swords were fairly dull-edged, relatively speaking. That would indeed lead one to believe they were used primarily for thrusting. Still, they don't have the "look" of thrusting swords (tapered edges leading to a sharp, reinforced point).

Does anyone have period pictures of two-handed swords in action that they could post? I would love to see some, if any exist!

A final thought, please don't confuse my musings with an endorsement of any one technique or tactic. I've read literally hundreds of books about the medieval period, but I'm still in the "learning stage" when it comes to others periods and places!

Stay safe!

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:

There was a rather nice, IMO very illuminating discussion on the use of beidenhänders in "Historical Arms Talk" last year:


Mikko,
I just took a look at the thread from last year (I was posting my previous post at the same time you were). Thanks! Interesting stuff!

Two-handed swords as primarily parrying weapons, if I'm reading it right? Maybe that's why they seem to have parallel-edges and somewhat broad points, to give them the mass to be used effectively in the defense. I did read in one of my disputed sources that the two-handed swords were used to protect the flag. I did think that sounded reasonable, but I think the point was lost in the reaction to my citing of older, outdated works.

Thanks again!

Stay safe!

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:
Hello again!

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:

There was a rather nice, IMO very illuminating discussion on the use of beidenhänders in "Historical Arms Talk" last year:


Mikko,
I just took a look at the thread from last year (I was posting my previous post at the same time you were). Thanks! Interesting stuff!

My pleasure. I found the whole thread extremely interesting, not least because it went against a whole lot of things I thought I knew about the Renaissance two-handers, and made far more sense. Big Grin

Quote:
Two-handed swords as primarily parrying weapons, if I'm reading it right? Maybe that's why they seem to have parallel-edges and somewhat broad points, to give them the mass to be used effectively in the defense.

Possibly, yes - the strong blade presence coupled with the great leverage would make it easy to displace offending weapons. (In addition to being able to threaten several attackers at once with bold, wide swings, as DiGrassi says.) Although I think it would, indeed, also make it a good cutting "polearm", perhaps somewhat analogous to the Japanese nagamaki... whatever speed is lost due to the mass of a large all-steel weapon would be made up for, I think, with the momentum and leverage (at least against heavy targets like people, although pike shafts would be more easily pushed aside than cut) and the modified balance resulting from half-swording. I imagine it would feel a lot like a poll-ax, in use, a brutally hard hitter but also surprisingly nimble...

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Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Oct, 2006 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All great points, folks! I completely overlooked the problem of the rounded points. I would think that half-swording could be used to strengthen a draw cut, in particular, and would provide extra leverage when trying to displace or bind polearms.

The mention of these swords in a guarding capacity reminds me that the Kuse was often deployed that way, and it is a cutting polearm, sometimes hafted to the length we see in the two-hand swords.

-Sean

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