Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Gallowglass and Axes??? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4 
Author Message
Henry O.




Usergroups: None


Posts: 54
PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
The word "battle axe" in late medieval English usually referred to the weapon we'd now call a poleaxe/pollaxe -- which sometimes isn't even an axe at all. Silver isn't all that far removed to the last use of the poleaxe on early sixteenth-century battlefields so I'd wager that his "battle axe" was a knightly poleaxe too.


Are you sure the term "battle axe" couldn't refer to weapons like the sparth axe as well? Silver may have been somewhat removed from the knightly poleaxe, but English soldiers during silver's time would have had a lot of experience fighting against axes in ireland. At the very least the sparth axe probably falls under the "and such like weapons of weight" category.

There's also the fact that Silver claimed a halberd was supposed to be 5-6 feet long, which is closer to what we today would probablyt call a poleaxe. So he might be lumping poleaxes in with halberds.
View user's profile Send private message
Stephen Curtin




PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a summary of a report from 1575, listing the strengths of the Gaelic Chiefs of Ulster.

O'Neills of Tyrone: 200 horse 400 gallowglass 400 Scots 1000 kern
O'Donnells of Tirconnell: 20 horse 600 gallowglass 1000 kern
MacDonnells of the Glens: 72 horse 300 gallowglass 200 Scots 100 kern
O'Neills of Clandeboye: 600 horse 800 kern
McMahons of Dartrey: 100 horse 600 kern
Maguires: 80 horse 600 kern
McGuinnesses: 50 horse 300 kern 40 gunners
McMahons of Oriel: 60 horse 300 kern
McMahons of Farney: 50 horse 200 kern
O'Cahans: 40 horse 200 kern
O'Neill of the Fews: 30 horse 100 kern
MacShane O'Neills: 30 horse 100 kern
McQuillans of the Route: 24 horse 100 kern
O'Hanlons: 12 horse 100 kern

Horse = 1368
Gallowglass = 1300
Scots = 600
Kern = 5500
Gunners = 40
Total number of fighting men in Ulster in 1575 = 8808

These figures line up pretty well with my earlier estimate of 20% cavalry, 20% gallowglass, and 60% kern in larger Gaelic armies.

By this time most "gallowglass" had settled down and weren't really mercenaries anymore. Gaelic mercenaries from the Highlands and Western Isles were still being hired by the Irish. By this time these mercenaries were usually called "redshanks" by English writers, but in this text they are referred to as Scots.

This document also lists the wages of each troop type. The wages of the gallowglass, and "Scots" are said to be the same, whereas the kern received lower wages. This suggests that the "Scots", were similarly equipped to, and performed the same role as, the gallowglass.

This confirms something I said earlier. According to this document, Turlough Luineach O'Neill of Tyrone had 400 Scots, yet we know that when he married Agnes Campbell in 1569, he received 1200 men as a dowry from her father the Earl of Argyll. This only make sense if 400/1200 were heavy infantry, and 800/1200 were light infantry and counted amongst the kern.

The same is true of the 200 "Scots" in service to the MacDonnells of the Glens. After the death of Shane O'Neill in 1567, Sorley Boy MacDonnell travelled to Scotland and returned with 600 men. Again 200 of these men would have heavy infantry, and 400 men would have been light infantry.

Both of these examples back up the 2:1 ratio of light and heavy infantry as first pointed out in Ross Crawford's PHD thesis.

Éirinn go Brách


Last edited by Stephen Curtin on Wed 19 Apr, 2017 3:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Stephen Curtin




PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a map showing the territories of the above mentioned clans.


 Attachment: 46.6 KB, Viewed: 127 times
Ulster_Late_15th_Century.png


Éirinn go Brách
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Lafayette C Curtis




Usergroups: None

Location: Indonesia
Reading list: 7 books
Posts: 2,589
PostPosted: Wed 19 Apr, 2017 11:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
The word "battle axe" in late medieval English usually referred to the weapon we'd now call a poleaxe/pollaxe -- which sometimes isn't even an axe at all. Silver isn't all that far removed to the last use of the poleaxe on early sixteenth-century battlefields so I'd wager that his "battle axe" was a knightly poleaxe too.


Are you sure the term "battle axe" couldn't refer to weapons like the sparth axe as well? Silver may have been somewhat removed from the knightly poleaxe, but English soldiers during silver's time would have had a lot of experience fighting against axes in ireland.


I'd be rather skeptical of that. On one hand, we have hundreds of attestations for the term "battle-axe" for the poleaxe in the 14th and 15th centuries, so we know that it was what the English called a "battle axe" historically; on the other hand, Silver couldn't have been more than one generation removed from the use of the poleaxe on the battlefield, and the last tourneys/feats of arms fought with the poleaxe would have been well within his lifetime.


Quote:
At the very least the sparth axe probably falls under the "and such like weapons of weight" category.


This is much more likely.
View user's profile Send private message
Jason O C




Usergroups: None


Posts: 80
PostPosted: Thu 20 Apr, 2017 2:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the subject of sparth axes and why/how they were used. The consensus so far seems to be that the most common form of warfare amongst the Gaels was cattle raiding, and that the role of the gallowglass was to form a line of defence against counter attacks, while others drove the stolen cattle. If this was the role of the gallowglass on the side of the raiders, then what was the role of gallowglass on the side in pursuit?

I could be wrong but I imagine that these gallowglass might have either; decided not to wear armour, or rode horses, to enable them to catch up with the raiders. In any case I think that the majority of the time the gallowglass on the defensive side, would be faced with cavalry and/or light infantry.

Against an unarmoured opponent sparth axes would be a devastating (and terrifying) weapon. Now obviously the light infantry were unarmoured, but so were the cavalrymen's horses. Doesn't Gerald of Wales mention a couple of cases where Norman knights were brought down by axe wielding Irishmen?

Also if you look at the weapon of the Irish cavalry. They used spears in the overarm position. At a guess I'd estimate that these spears might have been about 9 or 10 feet long (any longer and they would be too unwieldy for single handed use). Now as these spears were held near the center of the shaft (for balance), perhaps 5 or 6 feet projected forward of the hand. This means that only about 3 or 4 foot of the spear projected forward of the horse's head. This means that to land a blow with a spear, a cavalryman would be well within the range of a blow from an axe mounted on a 6 foot haft.

Just a few thoughts.

Jason
View user's profile Send private message
Stephen Curtin




PostPosted: Thu 20 Apr, 2017 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting post Jason.

Jason O C wrote:
In any case I think that the majority of the time the gallowglass on the defensive side, would be faced with cavalry and/or light infantry........ Against an unarmoured opponent sparth axes would be a devastating (and terrifying) weapon. Now obviously the light infantry were unarmoured, but so were the cavalrymen's horses.


I agree that the sparth would have been a devastating weapon against unarmoured men and horses, but spears would have probably been just as effective, and halberds combined the best of both worlds.

Jason O C wrote:
Also if you look at the weapon of the Irish cavalry. They used spears in the overarm position. At a guess I'd estimate that these spears might have been about 9 or 10 feet long (any longer and they would be too unwieldy for single handed use). Now as these spears were held near the center of the shaft (for balance), perhaps 5 or 6 feet projected forward of the hand. This means that only about 3 or 4 foot of the spear projected forward of the horse's head. This means that to land a blow with a spear, a cavalryman would be well within the range of a blow from an axe mounted on a 6 foot haft.


If faced with a cavalry charge, I'd prefer to simply point a spear or halberd in the right direction and brace myself, rather than try to time my axe blow to hit the horse's head before his spear reached me.

Not that I think that Gaelic cavalry typically charged into a battalion of gallowglass. In fact I think that Gaelic cavalry and light infantry mostly resorted to showering gallowglass with javelins and darts.

So if Gaelic cavalry and light infantry rarely engaged in close combat with gallowglass, what exactly did gallowglass do? I'm starting to think that most of the time they just stood there, doing nothing other than acting as barrier between the pursuing cavalry and the fleeing kern. The cavalry wouldn't want to charge them, so they would just harass them with javelins and darts. On the other hand the cavalry wouldn't get close enough for the gallowglass to use their axes, so all they could do was throw darts back at the cavalry.

Éirinn go Brách
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Gallowglass and Axes???
Page 4 of 4 Reply to topic
Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4 All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2017 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum