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Zlatko Vlašic




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Feb 2007

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PostPosted: Sun 11 Feb, 2007 4:18 am    Post subject: Men-at-arms Vs. the reiters         Reply with quote

Hello everybody...long time lurker, but first time poster here..

first of all let me introduce myself

I come from Croatia and have been a history buff all my life. Only recently however, I've discovered the vibrant online community such as this site, and found it to be an invaluable source of information and knowledge.

I am trying to find some info on the second half 16th century, and the demise of the full cap-a-pie men-at-arms versus the reiters.

Specifically, the battles that featured the clash of the two and which came out victorius and why, as I only know of the 1597 battle of Tournhout (spelling might be off a bit Wink ).

Also, can anybody privide me with a source for this period. I know that De la Noue and Blaise de Monluc wrote memoairs, in which they elaborated this issue at lenght. Are these memoirs perhaps available in English, somewhere on the net in the public domain? I'd like to read them, not only for the sake of the issue of reiters vs. gendarmes, but also as a general narrative of the French Wars of Religion.

Secondly, can anybody shed some light on the first appearance of the wheelock firearms, and the emergence of the reiters: how soon where these early pistols adopted (I read that the 1547 byttle of Muhlberg was the first to feature masses of pistol armed reiters), what was the background of the reiters (nobility, mercenaries, commoners?), and their equipment. From what I've read they differed wildly in appearnce, from wearing only a helmet and a buff coat, to full three quarters armour. What would be your average, run of the mill reiter?

By the way, what exactly was a „buff leather coat“, what was it made of, and how effective as a protective garment was it from slashes by swords, sabres etc., and piercing attack?

thanx for your time.

Cheers

"To you, Baldrick, Renaissance is just something that happened to other people."

Edmund Blackadder
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Feb, 2007 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, that's a lot of questions, and too bad none of them have easy answers. Battles where lancer-style heavy horse met pistolier-style heavy horse (reiters, that is) were fairly common--just look into the French Wars of Religion, especially the battles invovlving Henry of Navarre (Henry IV). He was one of the most outstanding cavalry commanders of the time--and you probably already know that.

Blaise de Montluc's memoirs have actually been translated by an Englishman named Charles Cotton. The translation is a 17th-century work, though, so I'm not sure if there are any editions in print. Project Gutenberg has some translations by Charles Cotton but not of Montluc's memoirs. Sad

Unfortunately there was no such thing as a run-of-the-mill reiter. The variety in equipment existed from the earliest days of firearms-wielding cavalry. Some people prefer to use "reiters" only for those with fairly comprehensive (i.e.) three-quarters) armor but I'm not sure whether this reflects historical usage. In the 17th century, there were "cuirassiers" (fairly complete armor, sword and pistol) and "arquebusiers" (less armor, sword, pistol, and carbine). Some historians consider both types to be reiters while others would exclude the "arquebusiers" from the category, in effect treating "reiters" as a synonym for these early "cuirassiers." Needless to say, not everyone agrees on the issue.

Wheellocks were already present in the 1520s if my memory serves me right (and no, I'm not implying I've lived that long. ;P ). The examples I know of are musket-sized, though. What's clear is that the pistol was already around long before 1547.

Buffcoats were coats made of...well, buff leather. In short, it's very thick and tough leather. As a whole, it's about as effective as other soft armor like quilted or padded jacks, and was even better when used as padding for cuirasses and the like. Don't be fooled by the term "coat;" some had long sleeves, some had elbow-length sleeves, and some were sleeveless, and lengths also varied from hip-length (about the same same size as a conventional doublet) to nearly knee-length. Even though this illustration displays Danish cavalry at a much later date, their buffcoats (the cream-is leather coats under the cuirass) were essentially the same as 16th- and 17th-century designs:

http://www.northernwars.com/DaCav.html

BTW, you ought to read Gordon's article in the Features section. It deals with this very subject.

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_lancepistol.html
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Feb, 2007 12:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Men-at-arms Vs. the reiters         Reply with quote

Zlatko;

Well, you've just hit on my favorite subject, so be prepared for a long ride here! I'm liable to go on at length and bore everyone to death with my bucketloads of information. Cool

To begin with, let me recommend a couple of books for you, since neither Francois de la Noue nor Blaise de Monluc are available on the net (to my knowledge at least, and certainly not in English). Both of those works are full of wonderful information and I recommend them highly, but they suffer from the standard 16th Century challenge of never managing to get to the point (though la Noue is FAR better than most at getting to the point!)

For period sources, after la Noue, I would highly recommend Sir Roger Williams' "Brief Discours on Warre", which was published in 159~. He was a very experienced soldier who had fought both with the Spanish Army of Flanders, as well as against it. He was also a protoge of Francois de la Noue, and makes reference to it on many occasions. I also recommend J.J. von Walhausen's "Kreigkunst zu Pferde" (given as either 1616 or 1634 publishing dates). He gets into a lot of archane, but very interesting discussions on the rightful place of Cavalry and it's employment. And my favorite, John Cruso's "Militarie Instructions for the Caval'rie" 1632.

Now for getting a hold of these, you will probably have to go to a University Library and use their internet system, as they SHOULD have access to these tomes through various means. But these should be read after you dig through the following books, just to get an idea of where they are coming from.

For modern books, there are several EXCELLENT resources. To begin with, I highly recommend Bert Hall's " Weapons and Warfare of Renaissance Europe". It's a wonderful overview of the weapons and tactics of the Age of Gunpowder, from the 13th through 18th Centuries. He gets into such details as smoothbore ballistics and what not that are a joy to read.

I also highly recommend "The King's Army" by James B. Wood. It's an in-depth study of the armies of the French Crown during the first half of the French Wars of Religion. Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery are all dealt with, as well as much of the social atmosphere that surrounded the conflict. A definite good read.

Old but grand is Sir Charles W. C. Oman's "History of the Art of War in the 16th Century", which has studies of major battles throughout the century, begining with Fornovo in 1494 and ending with Nieuport in 1600. He has quite a bit of material on the transition between Gendarme and Cuirassier, at least inso far as the commentators of the day were concerned. It's probably the best overview of that centuries battles still, even though it's almost 70 years old.

Finally, you might check out this article here at myArmoury: http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_lancepistol.html


Now for your specific questions.

To the best of my knowledge, the first reference to wheellock pistols being carried by horsemen in a military context is from 1543, where as a part of the garrison of Stülweissenburg, the German heavy horse were noted to be carrying wheellock pistols which attracted the attention of the Turks. The Turks then violated the terms of the surrender by confiscating them for their own use, since they'd never seen them before. The next reference is 1544, where Henry VIII of England, in the course of his "Enterprise of Boulogne" hired "Burgundian Heavy Horse" and was somewhat disgusted to discover that they weren't the gendarmerie he was expecting, but rather Pistolier cavalry, armoured themselves but not on armoured horses. Then as you note, Mühlburg in 1547, which featured masses of Pistoliers, AKA "Reiters".

Tournhout (1597) was far from the first time that Pistoliers had defeated Gendarmes, of course. The French, who had been at the receiving end of Pistolier charges for some time, adopted the pistol with some trepedation, but the Huguenots discarded the lance and went to the pistol with gusto under Henri of Navarre. Both Huguenot and Catholic of course had hired Reiters by the thousands in the course of the Wars of Religion, and they seem to have been reasonably effective, but the French remained true to the Lance until the Huguenot's adopted the Pistol en masse in the 1580's. At this point they combined the Pistolier tactic of firing their pistols at the point of contact between combatant lines, with the French tactic of continuing the charge though the opposing ranks. With the combination of German columnar formation and pistols with the French aggressive attack, it was a winning tactic. Henri won the battles of Coutras and Ivry as well as the Crown with them.

Per their arming, you're right, they seem to have differed wildy in arming and appearance. Some were (or were supposed to be) fully armoured hommes d'arms, while others were lucky to have a decent breastplate to their names. But the general fashion for Pistolier Cavalry was usually that of 3/4 suits of plate by the later 16th Century, though there are plenty of references and paintings (as well as existant armours) showing a plate corselet, gauntlets and burgonet with maille sleeves. And I'm sure that any and all combinations were used.

Buff coats are an interesting conundrum to me, at least. Some references claim that they were only to be used under armour, more of an arming coat than anything else, and not really an armour. Yet of course by the middle of the 17th Century, they formed the primary armour for most of the horsemen fielded in Europe. But it makes a certain sense, as the rather floppy leather is both excellent protection from blows, as well as providing a moducum of protection from spent balls. From cuts, the leather should "give" a bit, and it's a LOT more comfortable to wear than plate, I assure you. But it was expensive, so part of it may have been fashion, too.

Anyway, there's a start for you. Let me know what more you wish to discuss!

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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David Evans




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Feb, 2007 4:59 am    Post subject: Re: Men-at-arms Vs. the reiters         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:

Buff coats are an interesting conundrum to me, at least. Some references claim that they were only to be used under armour, more of an arming coat than anything else, and not really an armour. Yet of course by the middle of the 17th Century, they formed the primary armour for most of the horsemen fielded in Europe. But it makes a certain sense, as the rather floppy leather is both excellent protection from blows, as well as providing a moducum of protection from spent balls. From cuts, the leather should "give" a bit, and it's a LOT more comfortable to wear than plate, I assure you. But it was expensive, so part of it may have been fashion, too.

Gordon


Oh NO.....Not Buff coats and their cost! The often quoted proof of this form the Bishop's Wars is tricky. The source, which i shall have to look up, whinges that the buyer can't get a good buffcoat for under £5, and dribbles on a bit more. Now, I can accept this cost, for an officer and gentleman. in the midst of trying to equipe himself, along with everybody else in the complete Royal Court of Charles I. I've found sources that talk of spending as much as £1 on just dressing a buff coat, thats to say putting gold lace and buttons etc on the coat. Troopers Buff coats are much cheaper, There are quotes for coats for a Troop of 60 Horse costing £54, references to buffcoats at 30s a piece and so on.
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Zlatko Vlašic




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 1:51 am    Post subject: Re: Men-at-arms Vs. the reiters         Reply with quote

David Evans wrote:

Buff coats are an interesting conundrum to me, at least. Some references claim that they were only to be used under armour, more of an arming coat than anything else, and not really an armour. Yet of course by the middle of the 17th Century, they formed the primary armour for most of the horsemen fielded in Europe. But it makes a certain sense, as the rather floppy leather is both excellent protection from blows, as well as providing a moducum of protection from spent balls. From cuts, the leather should "give" a bit, and it's a LOT more comfortable to wear than plate, I assure you. But it was expensive, so part of it may have been fashion, too.
.


I saw a buff coat in the Tower once, and the thing was THICK. Before I never really understood the protective qualities of the buff coat, but that made me think. It looks like it was made from rhino skins:).

So could a trooper equipped with buff coat reasonably expect to be safe from all but the most dedicated slashes and cuts. And did the reiters ever use such protective garment?

"To you, Baldrick, Renaissance is just something that happened to other people."

Edmund Blackadder
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Zlatko Vlašic




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 2:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Blaise de Montluc's memoirs have actually been translated by an Englishman named Charles Cotton. The translation is a 17th-century work, though, so I'm not sure if there are any editions in print. Project Gutenberg has some translations by Charles Cotton but not of Montluc's memoirs.


Shame I was hoping for project gutenberg...but I didn't know who the translator might be, so I couldn't search the database.

What about la Noue memoairs or Roger Williams 'Brief discourse on Warre', are those available online?

Going back to the original issue of men-at-arms (lancers) vs. the reiters, I have read the myArmoury article Lance versus the pistol, but a clear conclusion escapes me. It seems that both Willaims and La Noue have their own opinion of the relative effectiveness of each cavalry type, so no conclusion can be made. What confuses the issue even more for me are the phenomenal successes achieved by the Poles in the same timeframe with lancers (winged hussars) over reiter style cavalry (Swedish cavalry in the 1601-1609 war in Livonia).

I do have the King's army book, it is truly a gem. What I would need now is a general history of the Wars of Religion that follows with the actual events from a political point of view, with an overview of the military operations, to go along with the King's army, which is a more of a military and social study that a general narrative of the wars.

"To you, Baldrick, Renaissance is just something that happened to other people."

Edmund Blackadder
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 5:04 am    Post subject: Buff coats and Rutters         Reply with quote

Right. The buff coat doesn't appear in pictures until sometime in the late 1610's - early 1620's. It becomes almost compulsury for any picture where the sitter/sitters wish to show that they are swordsmen, that is to say men with military leaning. It disappears sometime in the 1680's - 1690's.


Horse fighting in the style of Reiters could have worn buff coats, either alone or under armour. I'd say that the reason that Horse charging home in the style of Lancers would have quite some success against Reiters is done to willingness to get close and dirty, and the difference in formation. Lancers don't need space between files or ranks to peel off to the rear.

Yes they are very thick, you're looking at at least 2mm bufflo or ox hide in the thinnest parts, 3 -4mm thicker in places. They're a bugger to wear, if you don't cut the sleeves right, I've seen people who couldn't bend their arms enough to drink from a cup in their hand. Correctly made and dressed buffcoats have an interesting smell to them, somehwat like wearing a cod live oil tablet!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 9:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zlatko;

My impression is that the main reasons that Pistolier cavalry became the primary one was two fold.

First, Lancers just weren't able to defeat the armour that was present on the battlefield of the late-16th Century. La Noue and Williams discuss this (from different angles), as does Tavannes, etc. Pistols could, and did defeat most of the armour that was worn, and when it was an effective defense, it was often too heavy to wear for long periods of time. This is what I get from reading the original sources.

Second, according to Montluc, Tavannes, and la Noue, the quality of horses wasn't what it had been due to the constant warfare of the mid-to-late-16th Century, and the supply of horses strong enough, courageous enough and trained enough to consumate a lance charge given at "full career" wasn't sufficient to keep Lancer units up to snuff. Williams promotes the idea of using what he calls "Demi-Launtiers", and the French referred to as "chevaux lèger": lance armed, 3/4 armoured horsemen who were for the most part only equipped with one or at most two horses and could take part in the general service that was required of cavalrymen, rather than the type of noble gendarme who not only required several war horses and a retinue, but furthermore couldn't be bothered with scouting, guard mount and the like.

Of course the ultimate fate of Lancers was their demise from Western armies, so there must have been some good reason for it, be it cost, effectiveness, or just fashion. But there it is, Pistols stayed on, Lances were discarded.

Per the Poles vs. Swedish Pistoliers, I hope that Daniel Staberg can chime in on this one, as he's the expert on that. One of the things he has mentioned is that Swedish Cavalry was in general much lighter than, say, Austrian Cuirassiers due to the poverty of Sweden. And I don't think that the Poles had quite the success against Austrian Cuirassiers that they did against the Swedes, who were only armed in buff-coats with at most a breast and back, as opposed to a full 3/4 suite of plate.

David: Thanks for the info on buff coat costs. Sounds like they cost about the same as a breast and back then, which wasn't too horridly expensive. Thanks!

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: Tue 13 Feb, 2007 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Er...have to chime in that the Poles probably felt the need to keep the lance because they had a great variety of opponents, from the heavily-armored Germans in the west and the less well-armored Swedes in the north (and east) to the mess of armor types and coverages that was Russia a little further in the northeast, not to mention the largely unarmored Cossacks to the south and east. So they had plenty of not very well-armored opponents against whom their lances could have been effective.

And the husaria's lances have often been emphasized too far, sometimes so much that people forgot how these folks were also known for carrying lots and lots of pistols, up to eight per man in some cases. They were pistol maniacs too. An illustration of the husaria in the Battle of Vienna (1683) actually show more pistols than lances among the armored Poles, though I guess by that time the Polish heavies were less zealous about their lances than they were a century (or half a century) earlier and the distinction might have been the result of artistic license--as in the artist seeking an easy way to distinguish the "Christian" Poles from the "pagan" Turks.
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Feb, 2007 4:38 am    Post subject: Buff coats         Reply with quote

Gordon

They're more expensive that back and breast for the New Modelled army! The Troopers were getting Back and breats bought at 20s a set whilst buffcoats were coming in at 30s each. Prices vary a lot Gentry paid the most, Henry Westby paid £5 15s for a buffcoat and sword, The Verney papers inculde £2 19s 6d to make and dress a buffcoat with two sets of sleeves. Sir Thomas Martin paid 13s 4d, £2 and £7, Capt. Bird spent £1 18s each for 53 and Lt.Col.Thorpe paid £4 10s for 3.

Now, pictures showing buffcoats being worn MAY first appear in 1604 but I'm doubtful. After that I'm convinced that the first I've seen is 1613. These are in Dutch Militia group pictures. I'd suggest a look at a copy of the dutch book "Schutters in Holland". Although in dutch the pictures are stunning! A couple of pictures have groups of 12 plus sitters with 11 or more sitters wearing buffcoats. You can see details of gold lace, points, buttons etc.... Along with sword girdles and hangers, sashes, glasses and other pretty bits!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Feb, 2007 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David;

The first reference I have found for buffcoats is 1562, where a French Huguenot gentleman is discussing the make-up of his company and states that the rear ranks are formed of men who have "only buffcoats and pistols". But the translation may be mistaken, and I've only seen it as such. Here's the quote in it's entirety:

"There are 18 cornets supposed to consist of 80 troopers apiece. In mine there were 75: some are much larger; but the one supporting mine had only 40 or 45. The ranks behind the flag of this unit are filled up with men who have only buff coats and pistols: of gentlemen wearing cuirasses and closed helms, and with horses worth 50 gold crowns, there are, except in the very largest cornets, not more than ten or a dozen. These are called the 'gens de combat', and these decide the day" (from Oman, Sir Charles W. C. History of the Art of War in the 16th Century, p 406; footnote from d'Aubigné, p 215)

I've been searching for legitimate references to such items all over, but this is not only by far the earliest, but it's pretty much an orphan as of present. As you say, most of the references are from the 17th Century.

Oh, my reference to the cost of a corselet (it's 1595, though) stated a cost of 26 shillings, thus my thought that it and a buff coat were pretty close to the same price. That extra 6 shillings does, indeed, make a difference. Happy

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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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 1:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I wrote a lenghty reply only to have forum discard it. I'll try again later and see if the fourm is less unstable then.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 1:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Zlatko Vlašic"]
Quote:
What confuses the issue even more for me are the phenomenal successes achieved by the Poles in the same timeframe with lancers (winged hussars) over reiter style cavalry (Swedish cavalry in the 1601-1609 war in Livonia).

Second try with a shorter text.

The majority of the Swedish cavalry in Livonia were not 'true' Retiers but rather mounted arquebusiers aka 'Harquebusiers' i.e light cavalry and rather ill-equipped and mounted light cavalry at that.. Polish sources often label all 'western style' cavalry "rajtaria" i.e Reiters without any of the distinctions used in Western Europe.

At the start of the Livonian war the native Swedish cavarly was almost completly unarmored which rendered them very vulnerable to lances, only the few hundred troopers provided by the Baltic German nobility had any body armour.
The main tactic was to meet the Polish charge at the halt and try to repel with wtih arquebus and carbine fire. This was quite uncessfull and the Swedish cavalry was almost invariably routed in the melee that followed. A series of defeats in 1600-1602 cost the Swedish army irreplacable veteran troopers and thoroughly demoralised the remaining troops who spread their fears to new recruits shipped over from Sweden & Finland.
After the battle of Kircholm 1605 the Swedish cavlry knew that it could not face the polish cavalry in open battle and preformed accordingly.
At one point a Swedish field commander had to use the army wagons as a barrier behind his cavalry to force them to stand and fight.

There was nothing phenomenal about the Polish victories in Livonia, simply a well-equiped and highly motivated army usign good tactics to defeat a ill-euiped and increasingly demoralised army using bad tactics.


Last edited by Daniel Staberg on Sat 17 Feb, 2007 3:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 3:05 am    Post subject: Buff coats         Reply with quote

Gordon

Thanks for that, interesting, I wasn't aware of such a reference. The Royal Armouries book on the London Armourers suggests a group of Dutch Militia paintings from 1603 -1607 for the first sighting. I'm going to have to go and have a look.

I'm starting to think that the buffcoat has no connection to the old Arming Doublet. I'm suspecting that it's a move from lining armour with leather, see in some of the 1580's references to local councils dressing armour and having it re lined with leather,to wearing the lining as a coat. I'm fairly sure that the arming doublet has started to drop out of wide spread use by the 158-'s -1590's.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel;

Thank you VERY much for that information! I knew that the Swedish Cavalry at that point in time wasn't as well equipped as the Poles, but I had no idea that they were THAT poorly equipped. Unarmoured Harquebusiers who were little better than Dragoons would, indeed, have virtually no chance against armoured Lancers. All of the authors of the period definitely support that, but it's good to have some solid facts to back those opinions up.

David;

You're right in that the arming doublet was on it's way out by the 1580's or so. There are just a few paintings showing English gentlemen wearing arming doublets in this time with the re-rebrace being tied to the upper sleeve still, but from what I can understand, the move towards making the pauldron and re-rebrace, couter and vambraces into a single "sleeve" that you could pull on was well on it's way towards being the common way to arrange it.

Your theory as to the origins certainly has merit, as I know that many of the pieces of later-16th Century and 17th Century armour are indeed lined with leather. Such pieces as the pauldrons and tassets definitely are (it certainly reduces both the rattling and the scraping of metal-on-metal from them!). It definitely bears deeper research, as I would LOVE to have a better understanding of the process. Otherwise it seems as though buff coats just appear magically out of the blue around 1600 to replace arming doublets. Confused I'll have to check into those Royal Armouries monographs, too!
Thanks!

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: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, I wonder if the difference between the arming doublet and the buffcoat had something to do with the evolution of civilian fashion. The arming doublets followed the older lines of doublets with pronounced waists and all, while the buffcoat examples I know look quite similar to the later doublets with higher and less pronounced waistlines, in some cases being simply thick leather versions of such garments. So maybe the arming doublet and the buffcoat were two different lines of doublet evolution branching off at different points from the doublets' evolutionary tree?

(Or was is the arming doublet that formed the inspiration for the first civilian doublets? My memory is a bit rusty here.)
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 4:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The equipment of the Reiters

I'll stick my head out and say that there existed a 'run-of-the-mill' Reiter, at least on paper. Recruitment contracts from as far a part as France and Denmark essentially describe the same thing.
'good and valiant cavalrymen, men of war and service, true Germans, well mounted and armed with corselet, mail sleeves, gauntlets, morion, and equipped with two pistols each, a sword and a mace' to quote a contract for regiment in French service. (Do note that the French seems to have had a tendency to call all open faced helmets morions)

Of course many Reiters didn't live up to the image of the 'Perfect Reiter' laid down in the contracts while others surpassed it. It would all depend on how sternly the equipment regulations were enforced, how wealthy the Reiters or the military contractors were and the availability of arms and armour. It is likely that the Reiter units grew less well equipped as the number of units in Royal French, Huguenot , Dutch, Spanish and North European service grew. At least until the arms industry caught up and the equipment was available to those willing to pay for it.

In the 1540's and 1550's the Reiters were often equipped with only a single pistol and most of them carried boarspear in addition to pistol & sword. The last occasion of large scale use of the boarspear seem to have been the battle of Sievershausen in 1554.

The typical Reiter harness or corselet would have looked something like this though it was often in the black-and-white style.
http://62.99.243.14:81/FMPro?-db=zeughaus%5ff...amp;-find=
The less common heavier harness would feature partial or full plate protection for the arms and/or leg defences covering the thigh and the knee.

The 1590's was probably the last decade of the classic Reiter equipment, the classic black-and-white harnesses were disappearing as those Reiters that could afford the expense followed the French and Dutch example and turned themselves into full-blown Cuirassiers while those that couldn't became 'light cavalry i.e harquibusiers.

Who were the Reiters?
AFAIK no one has ever done an indepth study of the make up of the Reiter units so the following is a mixture of what has been written as well as conjecture based on studies the mercenary units of the 30-Years War.
As rule all Reiters were mercenaries, the units were temporary formations raised as needed by military contractors who seem to have been quite happy to fight against anyone as long as they were paid. The main exception seem to have been fighting members of the own faith. Reiter units hired by the French and Spanish armies were raised in Catholic areas while the Huguenots and Dutch recruited theirs in the Protestant parts of Germany.

The Reiters were recruited from the German Nobility & Petty Nobility and their retainers as only they possessed both the funds needed to pay for horse and equipment as well as the basic horsemanship skills needed in a cavalry unit. Of course recruits were drawn from other sources as well but those men were generally in the minority.

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The Battles
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Feb, 2007 1:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting info, Daniel. I wasn't aware that the mail sleeves were supposed to be standard equipment for reiters--I used to think they were supposed to have plate arm defenses instead.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Feb, 2007 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Daniel. As Always, VERY informative and interesting reading! I look forward to more...

BTW, I've always heard bits and pieces of Reiters carrying multiple handguns (rather than just the two usually seen on the saddle), but I've yet to come up with any solid primary source evidence (other than illustrations from Jost Amman). Have you seen any primary sources dealing with this?

Thanks again,

Cheers!

Gordon

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Feb, 2007 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon,
So far I've yet to encounter at contract that demanded three or more pistols by a Reiter, however some of them allow for extra pay for men armed with "long firearm" i.e an arquebus in addition ot the pistols. And in one case the men are allowed to subsitute and arquebus for one of the pistols but case applies to Swedish "imiation Reiters" led by a German officer ratehr than to a purely German unit.

However I doubt that the image of the Reiter armed with more than two pistols would have been used as a subject among artists such as Jost Amman unless there was some truth to it. Amman's work in particular has such a level of detail it's hard not to be convinced by it.

My personal opinion is that it's likely that a lot of Reiters that could aford would have carried more than the required two pistols. Even well into the 17th Century some units were laoded for bear from the looks of it. In 1639 a Scots cavalry regiment took to the field armed with carbine, two pistols in the saddle holsters and a pistol in each boot for good measure.

Cheers
Daniel
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