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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Oct, 2017 3:47 am    Post subject: Sword or Axe in Historical Militia Laws         Reply with quote

In the last thousand years, many soldiers have carried an axe and a sword, or been allowed to use either as their taste or budget permitted. What are some examples? I saw at least one 18th century militia law from British North America which allowed either a hatchet or a hanger ... do some of you fans of that period know the source?

What about the exact text of the Scandy militia laws which allow sword or axe (early on) or dussack or axe (later)?

Many Hungarian cavalry from the 14th century onwards carried a sabre and a fokos ...

I am looking for written sources which I can cite. That said, if any reenactors want to chip in about the practicality of marching and camping with different weapons, feel free! I am just interested in primary sources which specify that soldiers can use either or must have both, to support a point about ancient warfare which I am making. All of my medieval and early modern books and notes are back in Canada.

Sean
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Ken Speed





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Oct, 2017 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do know that British officers drastically modified their dress during the French and Indian Wars although I don't know if this was officially condoned. I believe that many officers quit wearing gorgets because the made admirable targets and substituted tomahawks for swords. You can find references to this in The Crucible of War by Fred Anderson.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Oct, 2017 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure if you've seen the thread linked below Sean, but some of the Scandinavian laws are there in their original languages.

https://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32114

Éirinn go Brách
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2017 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Professor Ann Tlusty has a lot of stats on this in her books, translated records and so on. Notably in Martial Ethic in Early modern Germany. Most (I think all) of the towns in Central Europe required citizens to own a sword. Tlusty even mentions an incident in Nordlingen where a man was arrested for not owning a sword and given 8 days to 'honorably arm himself'

Martial Ethic is pretty expensive but some of her other books can be found for a more reasonable price on Amazon or Abe Books used. She has a lot of those kinds of stats for towns in South Germany mainly Augsburg, Nordlingen, and a few others.

J

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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Oct, 2017 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the suggestions so far! Most of my books on medieval and early modern things are back in Canada, so I can't check references to things which I am pretty sure are in 'one of the books on that shelf.' Its interesting that the Norwegians had "axe or sword" clauses from the 10th century into the 17th even as the kind of sword changed from a Viking sword to a dussack.

Jean, did any of those South German towns allow a short axe as a sidearm? I have been told that at one point one of the three Scandy kingdoms allowed either dussack or axe, but if I saw an Axt in a 15th/16th/17th century western European military context and no other details I would expect a big two-handed one.

Some folks like to tell the Internet that axes are just specialized anti-armour weapons and for most purposes a sword is better, but it seems to me that there have been places and times where the debate was not so settled.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Oct, 2017 11:24 am    Post subject: Re: Sword or Axe in Historical Militia Laws         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
What about the exact text of the Scandy militia laws which allow sword or axe (early on) or dussack or axe (later)?


Hi Sean.

When it comes to Denmark/Norway, you have a special case.
The monarch ruled both countries, but it didn't have a combined army.
You did have a professional combined navy though, directly under the King, established in 1510.
During war people were conscripted to the navy more or less according to the old "leding" rules, though the exact distribution of "skipæn" was changed from the old system in Skånske-, Sjællandske and Jyske Lov (Laws of Scania, Zealand and Jutland) from the first half of the 13th century.

So while the King controlled the Navy, the Danish Rigsråd controlled the Danish army! The King could not declare war and use the army without the consent of the Rigsråd. Technically the Danish King could as "Duke of Holsten" declare war as it was outside the Danish Rigsråd. Christian IV threatened to do that in 1611 against Sweden (here the Rigsråd accepted in the end), and he actually did it (where the Rigsråd firmly said no) in 1625, when he led Lutheran forces against the Catholics (using the mercenaries he had paid for).
Even though Denmark had NOT participated in the war, the catholics still occupied and ransacked Jutland (and not just Holsten).

After 1536 (Reformation war) the Norwegian Rigsråd was disbanded and the Danish rigsråd had some control also in Norway (the Norwegian noble families were dying out).

The Norwegian military was based on the Norwegian peasant militia law from 1604 which acquired all Norwegian men to arm themselves. See my thread here on the Norwegian peasant axe (an evolved Dane Axe):
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32017&highlight=

The Danish military was during this period primarily a mercenary army paid by the King and forces of the Noblemen.
In 1614 Christian IV founded two national Danish infantry companies as a standing army. So that is the official start of the Danish army. So you didn't have any "Danish militia" like what you see in Norway.
You had foreign mercenaries, beginnings of a standing army and noblemen conscripting peasant levies and possibly equipping and training them out of his own expenses - thus noblemen didn't pay tax. [I have no idea what exact requirement was placed on the noblemen, when he equipped his peasant soldiers?].

The Danish, Norwegian and Holsten forces could go to war independently of each other - they just happened to share the same ruler.

PS: Actually I think the noblemen generally wanted to avoid a trained peasantry in Denmark after the many peasant rebellions in the 15-16th centuries. So they likely had a group of well armed retainers under them as muscle in peacetime against the peasants and to be used when war broke out.
As noblemen got fewer and fewer in Norway the peasants actually stayed more free, whereas in Denmark they ended up as indentured servants in the 18th century [much worse on the eastern Islands, than in Jutland].

Christian IV law of 1604 is available here:
Source: http://www.hf.uio.no/iakh/tjenester/kunnskap/...nhold.html

Section II - Chapter 11:
A) "Odals bonde" or "leilending" who has full "redselsgaard" must have: A long musket with "fyrlås" (wheellock), gun powder and ammunition AND a tessack AND an axe.
B) Leilending, who has half "redselsgaard" must have: A long musket and a tessack.
C) Those who has a "tridings gaard" must have: A musket and an axe.
D) Those who has a "fjerdings gaard" must have: A halberd with iron shines (langets) two "alne" down the shaft and a tessack.
E) "Ødegaardsmand" (frontier farmer) must the first three years have: A halberd and a tessack, then after three years weapons according to the size of the farm.
F) Every "husmand" who lives at a bonde's place must have: A halberd with iron shins and an axe.
G) A "strandsidder" with good fortune must have: Long musket and a tessack.
H) Poor people must be assessed by a "tingmand" to what he can afford: So either a helbard and a tessack OR a spear and a tessack.
I) Boys who serves at full salary must have: A spear and a tessack.
J) Boys who serves at half salary must have: A spear and an axe.

The fine is one mark silver for each item missing!

NB: So it seems that my first assumption from reading secondary sources of "axe OR tessack" actually is wrong. The assumption was based on the medieval regional laws where people did have the choice (axe or sword + spear).
These different income groups should own either tessack or an axe (among other things), but none of these income groups could choose between these two!


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Mon 16 Oct, 2017 4:01 am; edited 2 times in total
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Håvard Kongsrud




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Oct, 2017 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A note on Norwegian Arms. I went through a ledger from ca 1775 from a lokal "peasant sheriff" in Østerdalen, Ole Evenstad, naming the arms of each and every household in the parish. Normally the farmer had musket and "verge" (sword) for himself, and axes for his servants and crofters.

Around 1617 muskets with garniture were compulsory sold by the state to the peasants in an effort to modernize the milita, before a successfull reorganization of the army took place in 1644.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Oct, 2017 3:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
A note on Norwegian Arms. I went through a ledger from ca 1775 from a lokal "peasant sheriff" in Østerdalen, Ole Evenstad, naming the arms of each and every household in the parish. Normally the farmer had musket and "verge" (sword) for himself, and axes for his servants and crofters.

Around 1617 muskets with garniture were compulsory sold by the state to the peasants in an effort to modernize the milita, before a successfull reorganization of the army took place in 1644.


So it seems that the very detailed income based system of what weapons to own was relaxed through time.
A system with landowners equipped with musket and verge (Swedish värja, Danish værge) contra "husmænd" and servants with axes is substantially easier bureaucratically.

The Law of 1604 is actually quite typical for the micromanagement Christian IV was infamous for; not trusting anyone else to "do it right". I'm pretty sure he himself spend time to device the perfect system for all these categories.
So the 1617 musket sales might be equivalent to the tessack sales -> the King bought a bunch of muskets and sold them cheaply to the farmers.

EDIT: I actually figured out that the Danish government in 1611 had bought 5000 dutch muskets with "double locks" from "Reinnerdt Passqer of Graffuishagen" (early type flintlock?).
Source: "Flintelaasens Indførelse i den danske Hær".
Otto Smith - Vaabenhistoriske Aarbøger II 1937-1939.
So the King could very well have made a similar purchase for the Norwegian militia OR given some Danish army muskets to the Norwegians.

NB: It is weird that "bøsse with fyrlås" was only specified for the richest farmers.
Fyrlås I see is normally as synonym for Hjullås (wheel-lock), but maybe is signifies something else like an early flintlock (snaphance type?).


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Sat 21 Oct, 2017 2:29 am; edited 2 times in total
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Oct, 2017 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Kongsrud wrote:
A note on Norwegian Arms. I went through a ledger from ca 1775 from a lokal "peasant sheriff" in Østerdalen, Ole Evenstad, naming the arms of each and every household in the parish. Normally the farmer had musket and "verge" (sword) for himself, and axes for his servants and crofters.

Around 1617 muskets with garniture were compulsory sold by the state to the peasants in an effort to modernize the milita, before a successfull reorganization of the army took place in 1644.


Professor Tlusty provides similar lists for South German towns in the 16th century in Martial Ethic of Early modern Germany, though the ratio of swords seems to be higher (probably due to being a wealthier area)

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Oct, 2017 5:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions so far! Most of my books on medieval and early modern things are back in Canada, so I can't check references to things which I am pretty sure are in 'one of the books on that shelf.' Its interesting that the Norwegians had "axe or sword" clauses from the 10th century into the 17th even as the kind of sword changed from a Viking sword to a dussack.

Jean, did any of those South German towns allow a short axe as a sidearm? I have been told that at one point one of the three Scandy kingdoms allowed either dussack or axe, but if I saw an Axt in a 15th/16th/17th century western European military context and no other details I would expect a big two-handed one.

Some folks like to tell the Internet that axes are just specialized anti-armour weapons and for most purposes a sword is better, but it seems to me that there have been places and times where the debate was not so settled.


The only 'axes' i've seen reference to in 15th -16th century German town documents were something about 'throwing axes' (this was translated already into English - but I assume maybe hurlbats?) being required to be left at inns by Jews in a couple of places, and by journeymen furriers in some other areas.

What this actually means I have no idea but it did generate a lot of questions in my mind.

I think for burghers swords seem to have been the preferred sidearm by the 16th Century anyway since getting in a fight with say, a beer mug or a fire poker could be considered 'unburgerlich' or something like that, which got people in more trouble. For peasants or gentry I would guess axes would be an acceptable substitute though I would just be guessing.

Messers and bauernwehr seem common for German peasants, of course. You see them in artwork a lot.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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