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Dimitris Anagnostopoulos





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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jan, 2014 11:13 am    Post subject: Late 16th-17th centuries military use of polearms         Reply with quote

Hi all,for a long time im trying to discover if polearms were being used in battlefields in late 16th and 17th century.
As far as i know the main polearm of these centuries was the pike and even halberd and partisan were used only as symbols of low ranking officers.
So halberd and various polearms stoped being used for battle after 1550?
Big Grin
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jan, 2014 11:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Late 16th-17th centuries military use of polearms         Reply with quote

Dimitris Anagnostopoulos wrote:
Hi all,for a long time im trying to discover if polearms were being used in battlefields in late 16th and 17th century.
As far as i know the main polearm of these centuries was the pike and even halberd and partisan were used only as symbols of low ranking officers.
So halberd and various polearms stoped being used for battle after 1550?
Big Grin

Halberds continued to be issued in diminishing numbers as battlefield weapons well into the 30-Years War and there were a few armed forces were the halberd was the the main polearm for much of the period. For example the Graz armoury still has thousands of halberds because these were purchased to arm the Styrian militia during the late 16th Century. Another example is the Swedish army which abandoned the pike almost completely after 1570 and instead armed the infantry with a mix of halberds and firearms until the early 17th C when the pike was reintroduced on a large scale during the war with Poland-Lithuania

Halberds and similar polearms remained useful for guarding the colours during battle and were also used in the "small war" where pikes were often too cumbersome to be effective (particularly in difficult terrain). Halberds and other polearms were also stored in fortress armouries for use when the walls or a breach in the walls was assaulted. Extra halberds made it possible to convert men with firearms into much more effective melee fighters than if they tried to resist with sword alone.

IIRC halberds and bills were also used to arm dismounted cavalry during the English Civil War when the cavalry in question was used as assault troops during sieges.

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




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 1:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to add to what Daniel said: If you see documents such as "Musterungrollen" (muster rolls) from that period (at least from German and German-influenced territories I´m more familiar with), you´d see quite a few people armed with halberds (which is probably a generic name, encompassing several designs). Rarely you´d find also some other pole weapons, such as Federspieß.
See for example here (from 1615): http://www.reichsstadt-rottweil.de/musterung1615.htm
These men did not probably serve only as guarding units in towns, but could have been used also in field operations (such as small wars and skirmishes, mentioned by Daniel). Also, polearms are mentioned in contemporary war manuals and records (Wallhausen 1615, Robert Munro 1620s)
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 5:00 am    Post subject: A bit later         Reply with quote

A bit later but polearms were used by both armies at the battle of Culloden 1746, albeit in a very minority role.
Neal

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the 1590s, Sir John Smythe wanted more halberds/bills than pikes. As with his desire for bows, Smythe was swimming against the current of English military practice. But Sir Roger Williams and Humphrey Barwick, both enthusiasts of the gun, considered halberds and/or bills important. Williams specifically asked for halberds/bills made of good steel. Back in 1548, Fourquevaux thought halberds invaluable in the melee and wanted about one in ten soldiers armed with a halberd. (Smythe wanted nearly one in three so armed.)
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also meaning there is a somewhat seamless transition from where polearms disappear, but the bayonet on the muskets comes into play?
There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Japan, pre-1600, other polearms were increasing displaced by spears. Bow and polearm warfare was turning into pike and musket. But there were still polearms to be found, into the 19th century, and they were used in the end-of-shogunate wars.

Chinese warfare was changing from bow, polearm, and cannon to pike and musket as well, and spear was the predominant infantry melee weapon after the Manchu conquest (if not before). But other polearms were still used by Chinese armies, including Imperial, militia, and regional troops, into the late 19th century.

Some Korean soldiers still carried polearms (the woldo, basically the Korean guandao).

All three of these states used the musket as a major infantry weapon (Ming armies were about 25-35% handgunners and artillerymen, and Qing infantry were mostly pikemen and musketeers; Japanese infantry were mostly pikemen and musketeers since before 1600; Korean infantry were mostly musketeers after the early 1600s (from no muskets (but plenty of cannon) before 1590, to sending forces of 75% musketeers to fight the Manchus in 1622).

Non-spear polearms, mostly various glaives, were used in SE Asian armies into the 19th century. Most infantry used spears.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Ming loyalist Koxinga apparently used very few handheld gunpowder weapons against the Dutch in Taiwan in the early 1660s. A Dutch source says that Koxinga's archers were his best troops and "very nearly eclipsed" the Dutch riflemen. Apart from a few musketeers, the rest of Koxinga's infantry used either the sword and shield or what the Duch called the sword-stick, which was a roughly 6ft polearm with a long sword blade. Of course, this was in the context of siege warfare. But notably Koxinga won and the Dutch, despite their guns and artillery, lost.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jan, 2014 7:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Koxinga had plenty of cannons. Artwork often shows a profusion of spears, but I've not seen much mention of them in text. In same ways, a typical Ming army. Not in all ways, since his army was a pirate army (notably deficient in cavalry).

Koxinga's Iron Men (his sword-stick musket-proof armoured force) are notable for the current discussion. An elite force, and only a small part of his army, using polearms as their main weapon.

The Chinese transition to mass use of muskets, and the replacement of (most) infantry bows and crossbows by muskets, only came under the Qing (who kept using bows in large numbers, but mostly as cavalry weapons).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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