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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Knightly wedges and pistol blocks? Reply to topic
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sat 10 Feb, 2007 2:11 am    Post subject: Knightly wedges and pistol blocks?         Reply with quote

Does anybody know of any books or research journals mentioning an inquiry into the possible connection between the deep wedges used on several occasions by German mounted men-at-arms in the Middle Ages and the later deep formations of the reiters/pistoliers? So far I've seen the wedge mentioned in books dealing with medieval warfare and the deep pistol formations in those describing Renaissance warfare. I have yet to see any historical and developmental links being made between the two, though, and I'm not sure whether this is because the possibility has been disproved in a convincing, scientific manner or simply because nobody has had the time and resources to research it yet.

Thanks beforehand for the answers, pointers, and/or theories!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Feb, 2007 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette;

I'll bet you figured I'd answer this one, didn't you? Cool

To the best of my knowledge, there is a connection between the Germanic fashion for columns of Horse using the lance, and the later fashion for doing the same thing with the pistol, though presently I can't prove it. Oman quotes an unpublished manuscript by Philip von Seldneck, who was a Franconian knight and was supposedly written somewhere around 1480. In this treatise, von Seldneck recommends a minimum depth of nine ranks, and with a corps of 1,000 horsemen, he recommends a front of only seven men! Talk about a deep formation! This particular one he calls a spitz, or pointed, formation, and it broadens out in each successive rank until a breadth of 21 is reached. Still, a VERY deep formation indeed, considering that the French were using formations of at most two ranks deep.

The French of course thought that, certainly with the lance, this deep formation was the height of foolishness, for with the lance one can only rely upon the speed and power of one's horse to provide the shock power to the lance. Any more than two ranks and you can't effectively use the lance, and in fact, one is even better, since you don't clog up the way with dead horses and men. But such long, thin ranks such as the French prefered (en haye) were brittle, and a bloc such as von Seldneck recommended would probably punch right through the French line (the did later on). If it kept together such a bloc would have a great deal of power in and of itself, but I have yet to read of such a tactic being used prior to the advent of pistols in the mid-16th Century. Certainly not in the early years of the century.

I haven't myself seen a direct link between this treatise, or the practice in general, and the Pistolier cavalry which was begining to show itself by the 1540's, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to point to some sort of a connection.

Allons!

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




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

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 12 Feb, 2007 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On one side, yes, but on the other I also hoped some German would jump in and offer a "native opinion" or something. Wink

The funny thing is that unambiguous references to the wedge only began to appear in the 15th century--in the 1430s if I remember correctly, with a knight advising a group of men-at-arms to adopt a blunt wedge formation. The way the formation is usually described (especially how th ranks were arranged to widen towards the rear) sounds rather like how a 9th- or 10th-century Byzantine manual described the blunt wedge of their cataphracts, so it might have been a case of Byzantine learning filtering in although we don't have solid proof of it either. But if it was and if there's a link to the reiters, we might eventually blame the Byzantines for inspiring those pistol tactics.

(BTW, the Russian chronicles of the 13th-century Battle of Rakovor mention the Teutonic Knights forming up in two "boar's head" formations that might be interpreted as this kind of wedge. It's not a universal opinion, though.)

There's still a major difficulty in this interpretation. Are you aware of any examples of pistol-armed formations putting their best-armored men in front and the less-armored men in the rear? This seems to have been standard practice with the 15th-century wedges, and if this paradigm also appeared in the 16th-century formations then it'd make a stronger case for continuity between the two formations.
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Reinier van Noort





Joined: 13 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Feb, 2007 11:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
In this treatise, von Seldneck recommends a minimum depth of nine ranks, and with a corps of 1,000 horsemen, he recommends a front of only seven men! Talk about a deep formation! This particular one he calls a spitz, or pointed, formation, and it broadens out in each successive rank until a breadth of 21 is reached. Still, a VERY deep formation indeed, considering that the French were using formations of at most two ranks deep.


Hi Gordon, are you sure about those numbers? Because 1,000 men in ranks with a maximum width of 21 implies a depth of more than 50 ranks...

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Reinier van Noort wrote:

Hi Gordon, are you sure about those numbers? Because 1,000 men in ranks with a maximum width of 21 implies a depth of more than 50 ranks...


Reinier;

Well, not being a mathimatician, no, I'm not sure. Confused I just quoted from Oman's "History of the Art of War in the 16th Century", pg 83. Here's the quote:

"For a corps of 1,000 horsemen, Seldeneck makes the leading rank only 7 men broad, to be followed by seven more such ranks, having respectively 9,11,13,15,17,19 and 21 men apiece. The banner would be in the seventh rank, and then the remaining 900 riders would come on in a broad column of 20 ranks."

He has a note too: "See the analysis of Seldeneck in Jähns, pp 328-29"

So I make no claims for the veracity of the statement. I guess neither Sir Charles nor von Seldeneck were much at math either. Big Grin

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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Reinier van Noort





Joined: 13 Dec 2006

Posts: 165

PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah yes, having the remaining 900 come in a 20 rank, 45 wide block makes a bit more sense...
School voor Historische Schermkunsten

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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hm. Does anybody observing this thread Oman's book on medieval warfare? I recall some funny mentions in it about a figure known as Albrecht Achilles, otherwise known as Albert III, Elector of Brandenburg. As far as I remember he lost the battle of Pillenreuth in 1450 when his enemies (under a Swiss general!) formed a mounted wedge. I'm not sure Oman wrote about that, but I seem to remember that Oman said something about what the same Albrecht Achilles did in 1477--does my memory serve me well in telling me that Oman stated how Albrecht deployed his men-at-arms in the wedge at that time, having learned the trick from his enemies? I know this is going at a tangent from my original question. I just want to check whether my memory of Oman (which I read several years ago in a public library) is anywhere near as good as I think it is.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Duh. I've just read an online translation of Delbruck's treatment of the deep wedge formation at Pillenreuth and it hurts my head. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be much help in resolving the issue. Need aspirin now.
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