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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 7:07 am    Post subject: Mounted Crossbowmen in the Italian Wars?         Reply with quote

Does anyone have any good sources on how Italian "Mounted Crossbowmen" fought in the 15th-16th century? I know that there's evidence that some soldiers shot crossbows from horseback (for instance this illustration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schlacht_bei_Dorneck.jpg) but I only ever seem to find them depicted in very small numbers fighting alongside lancers. Would the Italian light cavalry really have been armed entirely with crossbows fighting like horse archers, or were they more like the French ordinance "Archers" who typically carried a lance or spear instead, despite the name?
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Peter Spätling




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No idea. But the text beneath this guy, who is a mounted crossbowman, (look at his feet to see the remnants of a crossbow), states that he fought in the Italian Wars. (Vendische Kriege = Venecian Wars, no idea if those are the same) He is from South Germany, and the dating I have is 1481. He got hit by a gun and because he prayed to the Holy mother and her child he survived and had this painting made for the church in his hometown. So that everyone can see gods grace etc. pp. usw. you know the drill


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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A crossbowman on horseback? That's about the strangest thing I've heard of on this site. WTF?! I can't see it being a 'functional thing'---especially if they had to use a crank to arm the bow. Maybe so, but I can't get my head around it. Worried .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Peter Spätling




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That 's another German source, scenes from the old Testament, 1470-75, Bamberg.


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Henrik Zoltan Toth




Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have seen several depictions of mounted crossbowmen and there are sources about hungarian and czech units.

This one is from the Thuróczy Chronicle:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-guCpO7yyefw/UvHRGpC...3%A1ny.png
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, I'll admit this may have been an actual historical event....but HOW? You are on a horse, reigns in hand, and you have a crossbow on your saddle. Say it's even cocked and ready...it's a one-shot deal and you will probably be dead in the next few seconds. I recon crossbowmen to modern-day snipers. You hide out and pick your shot. A crossbow, -especially a high draw-weight- is a whole different thing from a long bow or a horseman's bow. Sorry...just don't see it. Confused .......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mounted crossbowers who shot from the saddle go back to at least the 13th century if not earlier. They appear in James I of Aragon's book of deeds, for example. The appear in art and even at least one Talhoffer treatise.

David Potter in Renaissance France at War mentions some accounts of the French archers using their bows/crossbows.

I don't know of any sources on the Italian mounted crossbowers specifically, but I bet they shot from the saddle like their peers across Western Europe.

Near the end of the 16th century, Sir John Smythe wanted to resurrect the European tradition of mounted crossbowers, and he was very explicit that they were supposed to shoot while riding in similar fashion to mounted archers (which he also wanted). Smythe indicated the goat's-foot lever as the spanning device.

Paul Dolnstein's sketchbook contains a few images of mounted crossbowers from 1502, during the era of the Italian Wars but in a different location.

Mounted crossbowers were an established unit type until the arquebus, carbine, and pistol replaced the crossbow for mounted use.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

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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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of the regular crossbow spanning devices, the only one you can't really use on horseback is the belt and the windlass. Goats foot levers, cranequins, gaffe levers and latchet type bows should all be usable. You can possibly even use a spanning belt by pushing down with the foot instead of standing up. Sure, it's not the quickest thing to reload, but it works fine.

Ride along, shoot (either stationary or while moving), then ride off and reload. If you do get in close, the bow can be used as a parrying device while you counter with your sword. Talhoffer even shows a method to shoot the crossbow backwards over your own shoulder when being pursued.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Henrik Zoltan Toth




Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Feb, 2018 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Prince Maximilian. I don't see a spanning belt, but who knows if his majesty Big Grin had to span his crossbow by himself or not

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OYxSw0qyh0U/U67mrIl...Kunig2.jpg
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Feb, 2018 3:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Max is *hunting*---not engaged in heated warfare. This, I can see as a real use of crossbow from the saddle.
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Wed 14 Feb, 2018 7:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Mounted crossbowers who shot from the saddle go back to at least the 13th century if not earlier. They appear in James I of Aragon's book of deeds, for example. The appear in art and even at least one Talhoffer treatise.

David Potter in Renaissance France at War mentions some accounts of the French archers using their bows/crossbows.

I don't know of any sources on the Italian mounted crossbowers specifically, but I bet they shot from the saddle like their peers across Western Europe.

Near the end of the 16th century, Sir John Smythe wanted to resurrect the European tradition of mounted crossbowers, and he was very explicit that they were supposed to shoot while riding in similar fashion to mounted archers (which he also wanted). Smythe indicated the goat's-foot lever as the spanning device.

Paul Dolnstein's sketchbook contains a few images of mounted crossbowers from 1502, during the era of the Italian Wars but in a different location.

Mounted crossbowers were an established unit type until the arquebus, carbine, and pistol replaced the crossbow for mounted use.


I'm pretty sure that at least some of them shot from the saddle. Actually talhoffer includes quite a few illustrations detailing techniques for a duel between a lance and a crossbow on horseback.

What I'm curious about is if there were ever entire units armed exclusively with crossbows on horseback and no lances, sort of like the german Reiters later were with firearms. Or would a skirmish between italian light cavalry look more like this, where some have crossbows, some have lances, and they're all sort of mixed together:



This illustration from the wolfegg housebook supposedly depicting an army on the march shows cavalry similar to the ones in Talhoffer's illustrations, and while some have crossbows it's only a small number and they're still shown riding alongside light cavalry with lances. Even among the small groups of horsemen around the army who are presumably supposed to be scouting/screening forces most are still carrying lances instead of crossbows:

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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2018 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In 16th century Poland and Lithuania there apparently were no 'pure' units of shooters, or else, at least.

'Shooting' unit meant that, say 100 men in them were shooters, 30 were lancers and 20 hussars.

Similarly, 'lancer' retinue would have majority of lancers.

It would determine the tactical use of unit, but all of them would have some shooting and heavy melee capabilities.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2018 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:


What I'm curious about is if there were ever entire units armed exclusively with crossbows on horseback and no lances, sort of like the german Reiters later were with firearms. Or would a skirmish between italian light cavalry look more like this, where some have crossbows, some have lances, and they're all sort of mixed together:

Reiters were actually mixed formations as well for about two decades or so. If you read surviving muster rolls you find that they were a mix of fully armoured lancers ("Kurisser")s, a sort of "medium" lancers/demi-lancers ("Speisser") and the "shooters" ("Schützen"). It is only in 1570 that the lance is dropped form the formal regulations though in practice many units had gotten rid of it earlier on.

Units of "pure" mounted crossbowmen did exist though they tended to be rather small in most armies as they served in a fairly specialised light cavalry role. There were exceptions though, for example in Scandinavia the German style of mounted crossbowmen seems to have become a very common type of mounted soldier as he was cheap compared to the heavy lancer and well suited to fight both mounted and dismounted as needed. Equipped with half-armour, crossbow and sword this type of mounted crossbowman remained in use until the introduction of firearms. At times they also carried a light lance though it seems to have disappeared during the early 16th Century.

But I would say that mixed formations were probably more common i.e the German mixed them with both heavy and light lancers, the ratio between the two varied, one example I know of called for a split of 80 lancers and 20 crossbowmen in every 100 men. The Bohemians were famous for their mix of mounted crossbow and pavise equipped foot which allowed these mercenaries to carry out raids and the like as light cavalry but could transform into an effective infantry force for battle.

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by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Thu 15 Feb, 2018 12:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Henry O. wrote:


What I'm curious about is if there were ever entire units armed exclusively with crossbows on horseback and no lances, sort of like the german Reiters later were with firearms. Or would a skirmish between italian light cavalry look more like this, where some have crossbows, some have lances, and they're all sort of mixed together:

Reiters were actually mixed formations as well for about two decades or so. If you read surviving muster rolls you find that they were a mix of fully armoured lancers ("Kurisser")s, a sort of "medium" lancers/demi-lancers ("Speisser") and the "shooters" ("Schützen"). It is only in 1570 that the lance is dropped form the formal regulations though in practice many units had gotten rid of it earlier on.

Units of "pure" mounted crossbowmen did exist though they tended to be rather small in most armies as they served in a fairly specialised light cavalry role. There were exceptions though, for example in Scandinavia the German style of mounted crossbowmen seems to have become a very common type of mounted soldier as he was cheap compared to the heavy lancer and well suited to fight both mounted and dismounted as needed. Equipped with half-armour, crossbow and sword this type of mounted crossbowman remained in use until the introduction of firearms. At times they also carried a light lance though it seems to have disappeared during the early 16th Century.

But I would say that mixed formations were probably more common i.e the German mixed them with both heavy and light lancers, the ratio between the two varied, one example I know of called for a split of 80 lancers and 20 crossbowmen in every 100 men. The Bohemians were famous for their mix of mounted crossbow and pavise equipped foot which allowed these mercenaries to carry out raids and the like as light cavalry but could transform into an effective infantry force for battle.


Thanks. Do you think that the Italians were another exception? Machiavelli stated that he ideally wanted all of his light cavalry to be "crossbowmen", some of which would carry arquebuses instead, and a lot of history books just seem to call all native Italian light cavalry "crossbowmen". Yet the best light cavalry used during the Italian wars were the stradiot mercenaries who are usually described or depicted fighting with light Lances. Perhaps the Italians just preferred mounted crossbowmen because they didn't have skilled light horsemen of their own?

There's also the contrary example of France, where each Gendarme was initially supposed to be accompanied by a couple of mounted "archers" armed with either bows or crossbows, but it's generally accepted that these troops were quickly turned into light lancers themselves for the most part (although I think La Noue gives the impression that the archers would be armed with a variety of weapons and armor, essentially whatever they had available).

In 1548 Fourquevaux felt that "Hargolets", light horsemen armed with a lance or 12-foot double pointed spear, were a superior sort of light cavalry compared to mounted harquebusiers and doesn't mention mounted crossbowmen at all. Decades later this additude seems to have completely reversed, presumably due to the growing availability of wheellocks and snaphaunces, and even hargolets started to be armed with arquebuses almost exclusively.

It's risky to jump to conclusions about how mounted crossbowmen were used and what their tactics were, but do you think they were essentially just a primitive form of the mounted arquebusiers which later became the most popular cavalry in Europe? Or were they something completely different?
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Yesterday at 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As mentioned above, both accounts and regulations indicate that at least some French archers used their crossbows/bows during the Italian Wars into the early 16th century.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

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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James Arlen Gillaspie
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Location: upstate NY
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PostPosted: Today at 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry's first picture shows a fellow with a frog mouth helm using a bow and arrow (upper left). I have another proud addition to my album illustrating why period art can't be taken at face value. In fact, it's the best yet! Thanks, Henry!! Laughing Out Loud
jamesarlen.com
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Today at 11:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
Henry's first picture shows a fellow with a frog mouth helm using a bow and arrow (upper left). I have another proud addition to my album illustrating why period art can't be taken at face value. In fact, it's the best yet! Thanks, Henry!! Laughing Out Loud


That is pretty hard to swallow. WTF?! .....McM

''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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