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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Feb, 2007 9:53 am    Post subject: The Rebirth of the Cavalry Lance in the 18th Century         Reply with quote

Please correct me if I'm wrong but didn't most armies drop the lance as a major military weapon by mid-16th century, when the knight was on the brink of becoming obsolete as an effective mounted soldier?

Why did Napoleon Bonaparte (or whoever it was) revive the lance in 1789, when the pistol, carbine and saber where much more effective cavalry weapons by that time?

How did the lance as a cavalry weapon last for so long in the modern armies, all the way up, until the end of World War 2?
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Max von Bargen




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Feb, 2007 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, I'm missing most of my sources where I am right now, but if I recall correctly, the Poles continued to use the lance right up to the Napoleonic Wars. The (perhaps over-)simplified explanation for the resurgence of the lance in the Napoleonic Wars is that other nations were impressed by the Polish cavalry that they encountered and either recruited Poles into their own armies or equipped their own troops with the lance in imitation of the Poles (I think the French did both).

I've heard lots of different viewpoints on the usefulness of lances in Napoleonic combat. Some say that they were pretty useless, and others say that they were extremely effective. One story I heard is that when a British square was for some reason unable to fire, the French lancers outreached the British bayonets and thus were able to poke holes in the British square.

Sorry everything has been so speculative; I'll see if I can get some sources for this.

Max
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D Critchley




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Feb, 2007 3:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Max von Bargen wrote:
I've heard lots of different viewpoints on the usefulness of lances in Napoleonic combat. Some say that they were pretty useless, and others say that they were extremely effective. One story I heard is that when a British square was for some reason unable to fire, the French lancers outreached the British bayonets and thus were able to poke holes in the British square.



I think the general concensus is that the Napoleonic lancer is most effective against infantry, but at a disadvantage against cavalry unless in massed charge since once the cavalryman is past the lance head the lancer is undefended.

David C

"The purpose of the cavalry on the battlefield is to give tone to an event that otherwise might be considered a common brawl"
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I don't think there was really such a broad consensus. Of all the 19th-century military manuals I've browsed, the comments to lancers generally relate only to their capabilities against other cavalry, and it is true that in this respect they're generally considered superior when charging in formation but inferior in a melee. However, the authors seem quite split on the issue of effectiveness against infantry. So ma ctually consider cuirassiers as being better vs. infantry because their armor, regardless of the protection, made them somewhat braver in assaulting infantry formations.

Now back to the main subject. Justin, perhaps you ought to check the Features section and read teh article on the hussars. It clearly states that the Polish husaria retained their lances well into the 17th century, and later on the lance was taken up by other, lighter Polish cavalry units. The Cossacks also consistently carried lances when found in large numbers on horseback.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

BTW, isn't this subject more appropriate for the Off-topic Talk forum?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
BTW, isn't this subject more appropriate for the Off-topic Talk forum?


If it were, wouldn't we have moved it? Happy Honestly it rides the line between forum purposes. A lance is an historic weapon, so Historic Arms Talk is appropriate in may cases. However, some of the original post's questions deal more with usage than the weapon itself. Discussions of usage are better place in Off-Topic Talk. Based on how the discussion is going, a move might be in order.

If you have any concerns to be brought up with Moderators, though, please send us a message directly. Your post, and now my response to it, are indeed off-topic for the thread and any of our forums.

Happy

ChadA

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Martin Wilkinson





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 12:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Scots used lances in the mid 17th Century.

But i don't know how effcitively or how often. I also don't know when they stopped.

"A bullet you see may go anywhere, but steel's, almost bound to go somewhere."

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The lance was dropped by virtually all Western military formations by around 1600 due to the effectiveness of the pistol against armour, which was accompanied by a change from the thin single or double rank formation of the cavalry charge (en haye, which allowed the full force of every lance to come into play) to the much deeper columns favored by the pistoliers. However, the lance remained the primary weapon for the Poles, as most of their opponents were unarmoued, and retained the thinner formations.

As the next two centuries progressed, body armour became less and less, allowing the pistol (with its own set of tactical restrictions) to be used less and less, and the sword to be used more and more. Tactical formations went from 8 to 6 rank deep columns, to three rank columns. By the Napoleonic Wars, two ranks, allowing every sword to count, were common, and a return to the formations of the earlier centuries.

Marshal de Saxe tried to re-introduce the lance into the French Royal Army in the mid-18th Century, but it wasn't considered fashionable, so it didn't continue beyone him, while at the same time, the Hungarian-inspired Hussars were adopted with enthusiasm: their sabres were adopted, but not their traditional lance. The standard Western equipments of pistol and carbine were simply added to the costume.

With Napoleon's promises of Equality, Brotherhood and Liberty (odd coming from a dictator, but that's a whole different treatise) the Poles (with their lances) flocked to his banner, but this time the lance became fashionable. Lancers (or Uhlans in the German services) became quite the rage during the rest of the 19th, and in to the 20th Century. And against cloth, they're pretty effective.

(I believe that the incident where in the Polish Lancers broke a square was in Germany, and it was in the rain against a Landwehr unit. The rain insured that musketry wasn't an issue, and the lances definitely out-reached the bayonets of the muskets, leading to the destruction of the German square.)

The lance of course continued on into the early years of the 20th Century, where for a second time firearms led to the abandonment of the lance, though this time it coincided with a general abandonment of horse cavalry as well. (Machineguns and rapid-fire artillery are pretty tough on creatures that can't burrow into the ground, unfortunately.)

At least this is my own understanding of the situation.

Cheers,

Gordon

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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Feb, 2007 11:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I thank everyone who contributed with their responses to the topic!

There were two other questions that I wanted to ask before:

1) How difficult was it to charge and fight with a sword (Sabre) in a melee either against infantry or cavalry while on horseback?

2) Where the lances used in the same manner as their miedieval counterparts, or were these lances used (held in the hand) differently during a cavalry charge?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Feb, 2007 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mmm...Gordon, I think I remember a mention and illustration of an Imperial cavalry unit equipped similarly to other heavy reiters except that they had the old-style heavy lances at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. I don't see them mentioned in the battle accounts, though, so this might have been parade gear. The Scots, too, retained the lance into the English Civil War. One of their famous charges against the flank of an infantry formation was done with the lance.

But yes, these were fringe phenomena compared to the norm of sword-and-pistol cavalry.

There was another incident where a cavalry charge broke and routed a well-formed infantry square--at Garcia Hernandez, one day after the battle of Salamanca, where the heavy cavalry of the British King's German Legion broke two or even three French squares. These were conventional heavies, though, fighting without lances, and their success was due to the fact that a dead horse (killed by musket fire) from their ranks tore down a large gap in the French square as it fell.

Now, on to Justin's questions:

1) It depends on too many factors to summarize here. Do you have a more specific situation in mind?

2)It depends again. When charging in formation, the lance seems to have been couched under the armpit, rather like the medieval lance. The grip was both less firm and more flexible, though, since the lance was lighter and wasn't braced to an arret. When fighting in a loose-order skirmish or pursuit, the preferred method was underhand and overhand thrusts where the lance was not couched.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Feb, 2007 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette;

There are indeed a number of illustrations of "Lancers" (also "Demi-Lancers", "Launtiers", etc. in English, all being the equivalent of cheveaux léger or "light cavalry" of the late-16th Century) shown in early 17th Century military treatises, but for the most part they were the inspiration of the author's. Both Walhausen and Cruso put quite a bit of detail into their descriptions of the arming and duties of the Lancer, but hardly anyone in major European armies paid any heed.

One of the biggest things holding back the raising of Lancers though, at least according to the writers of the day, was the lack of decent horse-flesh. The Wars of Religion, the 80-Years War, and others had been pretty hard on the supply of suitable horses, which had to be not only sufficiently large to carry an armoued man, but also with spirit (meaning a Stallion usually) and also VERY well trained. Meaning EXPENSIVE. By the end of the 16th Century, most Lancers/Demi-Lancers/cheveaux-léger were expected to have a good horse in reserve, as well as their primary mount, but this wasn't a requirement. But for the compagnies d'ordonnance, it was a requirement to have at least two, better yet three sufficient horses. In the course of a campaign, there was a lot of "spoilage" of these horses, so a long war or series of wars was VERY hard on the supply of horses. Lancers had to have horses that were big enough to carry them and their armour, and go into combat at the gallop, while Pistoliers only needed large horses to carry them at the trot. A MUCH easier proposition!

I believe that the Scots of the ECW were rather more akin to Border Horse than Lancers of the 16th Century fashion, but I've got to admit to having ignored that particular campaign. Happy

I forgot about the KGL in Spain. I had thought it was a Hussar who, along with his horse, was killed in the process of charging the French square, but you're probably right that they were Heavy Cavalry. But that's one way to break a square, send in a dead horse to kick it open in his death-throes!

More later, got to work some ponies!

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Feb, 2007 11:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interestingly, the dead-horse trick only worked when it was unintentional. The French experimented it with codifying it as an official method in the 18th century but failed because the infantry officers usually could judge the distances for their volleys better than that.

And of course, there might have been another charge by the Hussars that achieved a similar result. But I'm not all that sure since Garcia Hernandez involved both the light and heavy cavalry of the KGL, and it might have been a light cavalryman who fell and made the initial gap. The only thing I remember for certain about Garcia Hernandez is that heavy cavalry were the ones who formed the bulk of the charge and did most of the work there.

That's the danger of posting without having your sources at hand!
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Mar, 2007 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
... The lance of course continued on into the early years of the 20th Century, where for a second time firearms led to the abandonment of the lance, though this time it coincided with a general abandonment of horse cavalry as well. (Machineguns and rapid-fire artillery are pretty tough on creatures that can't burrow into the ground, unfortunately.) ....

I'm a bit late with this response, I know, since this thread has been sleeping for a month. However, I just found this picture that backs up Gordon's statement, and I just had to share it. The source is World War I in Photographs, but J.H.J. Andriessen.



 Attachment: 37.72 KB
WWI German Lancer.jpg
Copyright 2002 Rebo International b.v., Lisse, The Netherlands

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Danny Grigg





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PostPosted: Sat 10 Mar, 2007 9:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steve, here's a bigger and clearer version of the pic you posted.

Danny
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Mar, 2007 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Danny Grigg wrote:
Steve, here's a bigger and clearer version of the pic you posted.

Danny

Excellent! Thanks!

"...dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful, and deadly."
- Sir Toby Belch
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