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J. Douglas





Joined: 11 Mar 2017
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Mar, 2017 6:30 am    Post subject: Halberds, pikes, and spears.         Reply with quote

It's common knowledge among poeple that the spear was the primary weapon of the medieval battlefield, and all (if not most) normal infantry would be spearmen. (Not including greatswordsmen, dismounted Knights, longbows, crossbows, etc.)

But what did the infantry carry?

In the

-early Middle Ages (10-12 hundred AD)
-the high Middle Ages (about 12-14 hundred AD)
And
-the late Middle Ages (14-15 hundred or so AD)
-and the Renaissance.

But what did the men carry? Would an army carry

One handed Spears (or glaves or what not) with shields?
Halberds (or comparable two handed cutting/thrusting arms)
Or pikes?

What would an army in the high-late Middle Ages be using?

A few blocks of pike men with the rest spear (or other one handed pole arm) and shield men?
All pikes?
All spear?
All halberds?
A block or two of halberds and the rest spear ( or other pole arm) and shield?

Or did it just depend on the army?

Please tell me if I haven't explained my question well and I will re-phrase it. Big Grin

I wondered why he was unscrewing his pommel.

Then it hit me.

~JD (call me James if you want to quote me)
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J. Douglas





Joined: 11 Mar 2017
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Mar, 2017 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just realising that, upon reflection, this was a bit of a stupid question. Happy
I wondered why he was unscrewing his pommel.

Then it hit me.

~JD (call me James if you want to quote me)
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Mar, 2017 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are no stupid questions...only stupid answers. That's why I won't try to give you any! Laughing Out Loud ....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Mon 20 Mar, 2017 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You just want everything, don't you? Wink

Unfortunately, the answer to any of your questions is likely to be "It depends!" The year, the location, whether the troops are levies or mercenaries or household retainers, how quickly the army was raised, etc.

And while I'm big on the concept of the spear as the Queen of the Battlefield, that's only true up to a certain point in time. Even as early as the 12th century, the English Assize of Arms doesn't mention a shield for most men, so I suspect those "spears" may actually be used 2-handed as pikes. Certainly there are later references to spears or long spears that we are pretty sure are pikes, so we have to be aware of gray areas.

Otherwise, halberds and most other polearms don't seem to really show up before the 14th century, while one-handed spears used with shields are going away by then. Not *always* or *everywhere*, of course! And there really aren't any "one-handed pole arms", that I know of, unless you mean simple axes.

No point in quibbling that some of us start the "Early middle ages" a few centuries earlier than 1000 AD, ha!

Anyway, it's not a stupid question at all, I don't think, but it's certainly a BIG one!

Matthew
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posts: 58

PostPosted: Tue 21 Mar, 2017 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's definitely an interesting question, just sort of a broad one that's difficult to answer fully.

For the later period:

The 15th and 16th century are the period which saw the rising dominance of pikes over other melee weapons, largely stemming from the Swiss. According to Bert Hall, the Swiss infantry initially relied on massed halberds, but were then forced to switch to much longer pikes after these proved insufficient against heavy French knights. The rest of the 15th century saw Swiss victories and reputation steadily increasing. Notably Charles the Bold managed to put together a large, innovative army combining good quality cavalry, crossbowmen, and even a fairly large proportion of handgunners, but still had his forces utterly smashed by the advance of the Swiss pike squares.

The success of the Swiss lead to imitation, particularly by the German Landsknechts. Both the pike was copied and the Swiss tactic of arranging infantry in deep squares rather than long thin lines. These squares could maintain their cohesion better and fulfill a much more aggressive role than lines of infantry typically could in the past. In addition disciplined infantry with long pikes were considered the only thing that could reliably counter heavy Gendarmes, and on open ground nothing but pikes could stand against an opposing push of pike.

When the Italian wars began at the end of the 15th century, the Spanish army was primarily comprised of light cavalry and sword and shield infantry that had proved effective at fighting against the Moors. But at the battle of Fornovo in 1495 both were utterly crushed by French Gendarmes and Swiss Pikemen respectively, forcing a major restructuring of the Spanish army. This involved incorporating incorporating larger and larger numbers of pikemen, as well as incorporating larger and larger proportions of arquebuses and muskets. The Spanish found that massed firearms could be very effective against pikemen and armored cavalry at short range, provided they could be protected. This was initially accomplished by trenches and field fortifications, then later by close coordination with friendly pike squares and drilled volley fire, hailing the beginning of the "pike and shot" era.

Non pike weapons didn't completely disappear during this period. England in particular was relatively slow to modernize and it's armies continued to be mostly composed of county levies armed with bows and billhooks up until the middle of the sixteenth century. English Billmen even won a major victory over the Scottish pikemen at flodden in 1513. By the second half of the century though, many english veterans and writers were growing to despise the bow and bill as weapons which were outdated and not very useful. They stressed the importance of having a much larger proportion of pikes and a number suggested that even in situations where a pike wasn't suited it would be better to field halberds or targeteers than billhooks. Towards the end of the century, the typical recommended composition of the infantry was around 50% shot, 40% pikes, and 10% "short weapons" (billmen, halberdiers, swordsmen, targeteers, or whatever else was available). The idea being that the shorter weapons could be used to help back up the shot in a skirmish, or back up the pikes on rough terrain.

By the end of the 16th century however, the heyday of melee infantry could probably be considered past. Writers were already starting to note that it was becoming relatively uncommon for infantry to come to handblows, and even then the vast majority of the killing tended to be done by the shot, not the pikes. While pikemen were still important, their role as "the strength of the battle" had become largely psychological, to ward off cavalry and to give the shot courage and staying power when out in the open.

Some reading:

Hall, Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe

Taylor, The Art of War in Italy 1494-1529

Mallett, The Italian Wars 1495-1559

Webb, Elizabethan Military Science

Tallet, European Warfare 1350-1750
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J. Douglas





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PostPosted: Tue 21 Mar, 2017 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, great information, you two! I don't know much about the early renaissance, but it's a period I have been interested to learn about for a while now! Big Grin

Just wondering, what would the English and French infantry of the one Hundred Years' War (especially crecy and agincourt) be using? Spears, bills, halberds, glaves? I have tried to narrow this part of the question down a bit, but I feel I know enough already about the other eras. Big Grin (especcailly after your great moments! Happy )

I wondered why he was unscrewing his pommel.

Then it hit me.

~JD (call me James if you want to quote me)
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posts: 58

PostPosted: Tue 21 Mar, 2017 6:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Douglas wrote:
Wow, great information, you two! I don't know much about the early renaissance, but it's a period I have been interested to learn about for a while now! Big Grin

Just wondering, what would the English and French infantry of the one Hundred Years' War (especially crecy and agincourt) be using? Spears, bills, halberds, glaves? I have tried to narrow this part of the question down a bit, but I feel I know enough already about the other eras. Big Grin (especcailly after your great moments! Happy )


That I know fewer specifics about, sorry. As I understand it two-handed weapons were generally becoming more popular than spear and shield, with lots of exceptions (Italian militias were still using spears and shields even at the start of the Italian wars). The Hundred Years War in particular also saw a growing preference for English and French knights to fight on foot with shortened lances or poleaxes, but after the war ended the focus seems to have generally returned to mounted combat instead.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Tue 18 Apr, 2017 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not very well referenced but might do for a general overview: http://l-clausewitz.livejournal.com/526289.html
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