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Dani Pollett




Location: Newfoundland
Joined: 25 Dec 2016

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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jan, 2023 3:34 pm    Post subject: On the question of wearing small shields         Reply with quote

So far as I can tell, wearing a full sized shield was rather cumbersome, to the point that it was often preferable to simply carry them in hand, such as how the Scutum might have been carried on march. I've seen images of shields slung over the shoulder or carried on the back before, but have found limited information on the topic and how practical or common this was, especially in the case of being worn on the battlefield (as warriors armed with long axes around Hastings are sometimes depicted).

Bucklers of course were easy enough to carry on the hip, which is one of the many reasons they were popular for everyday carry and civilian use. What I'm particularly interested in is to what degree this would be shared with say, a Rotella, or even a Targe, something in the range of a 50-65cm diameter. How would such shields be worn? how practical were these smaller round shields to carry on person? I'd be interested if anyone had any insight on the topic.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jan, 2023 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Cecil praised the Dutch target for pikers in his 1617 work "The duties of a private soldier":

Quote:
[Maurice of Nassau] hath found a Target of great use and advantage to the service of pikemen: it weighs but 6 pounds which is not much heavier than the pouldrons . . . In marching it hangs behind: about ones back, the neck and the body with little trouble. And to being used it is turned before with the motion onely of the left shoulder, and for applying it selfe as a man will, to the defence of all but the head and legs. It serves with a short sword when a man can use his Pike not longer; when pikes are broken it is a weapon of good safetie . . . upon a sudden alarm a man may defend himself in his shirt with it. The target will receive many Pikes into it.


This excerpt comes from The Complete Soldier by David R. Lawrence, page 175. I haven't yet been able to find a copy of the original source.

As you can see, Cecil claimed medium-sized shields are scant inconvenience to wear on the back & quick to deploy. This method of using the target likewise appears in Adam Breen's 1618 manual & the later English version. Historians continue to debate how successful Dutch employment of shields was. Shields don't seem to have been very important in 17th-century warfare at all, but you do find occasional references to them in military treatises from the first half of the century.

Going back to the middle of the 16th century, Raimond de Fourquevaux wanted pikers to have shields on their backs to sling down & use when they resorted to their swords. This differs from Dutch practice as depicted by Breen, which has the shield on the back for marching but slung down when wielding the pike in combat.

Similarly, one late-16th-century military treatise recommends for arquebusiers to wear a light shield on the back to sling down when needed, & there's this image of the practice.

So it seems like it is possible to wear a medium-sized shield on the back & have it ready reasonably fast, at least with the right setup & sufficient skill. This wasn't a very common practice, but was at least briefly institutionalized in the famous Dutch military.

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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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 543

PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 3:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

Without seeing Cecil's book, it's difficult to tell whether his judgement of the Dutch pikemen's shields was based on experience or on literary sources. It's worth keeping in mind that Macedonian phalangites carried shields that are described in ways that make them seem very similar to those described in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century military treatises. It may well be the case that pikemen's shields in early-modern Europe were far more important as a classicizing trope in manuals than they were as actual items on the drill field or in battle.

To return to the original question, I'm not aware of surviving early-modern targets or rotelle that have guige straps or evidence of other fixtures that would allow them to be carried on the body rather than in hand. I am, however, far from comprehensively familiar with the extant examples, so there could easily be ones about which I don't know. (If any reader can cite examples, please post them in this thread!) I think that iconographic evidence in this case requires some caution, because it may not necessarily reflect reality. Based on what I've seen, these medium-sized shields probably weren't commonly carried in civilian life, and probably were transported in carts by armies on the march.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The scutum was definitely slung on the back on the march. There have been all sorts of experiments with complicated strap systems, but I have found that a simple shoulder strap like any other shield works just fine. In fact it's possible that the scutum went from its tall Republican form to the shorter Imperial version when troops had to start carrying their kit on the march rather than loading it in wagons--the shorter version sits nicely on the back without bumping the legs nor interfering with the pack pole over the shoulder. Also speaking from experience, you do NOT want to be carrying a shield around in your hand all day...

Greek hoplites could sling their shields on their backs with a telamon or carrying cord, or (more likely) they could hand it to a servant to carry!

I've got at least 5 illustrations from the 16th or 17th century of shields with guiges for slinging on the back, plus I've found at least one artifact that has what must be a guige.

Macedonian pikemen depended on shields in battle because many of them had less armor than a Renaissance pikeman. One writer even says that the shield's shoulder strap can help support the weight of the pike, which sounds like the shoulder sling is used along with the arm straps for the left arm, while the left hand is holding the pikeshaft. I suspect later troops might have ditched any shields they were issued as an unnecessary weight... BUT targets were certainly popular in the Americas, since pikes were clearly not going to be any tactical use in the woods. Instead, targeteers with swords and pistols defended the musketeers, and everyone wore more armor than was becoming common in the Old World.

Matthew
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 5:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Cecil had considerable military experience in the Netherlands, including under Prince Maurice directly. So it's likely enough he knew about Dutch methods firsthand. It's true that Raimond de Fourquevaux & Adam van Breen both presented their systems as partially inspired by antiquity, as did tons of 16th/17th-century military writers. The level of detail in Cecil's description & van Breen's manual makes me confident Dutch shield use existed in practice. (This doesn't mean it was particularly effective; that remains debatable.)

For another reference to slinging a medium shield on the back, there's Luis Pacheco de NarvŠez's Nueva ciencia, y filosofŪa de la destreza de las armas (written in 1632 but published later). Pacheco advised the jinete (light horseman) who was dismounted to ditch the adarga (leather shield), putting it on the back if they cared about not losing it. This was in order to have more reach against an opposing rider (presumably by taking the lance in both hands for this purpose). This suggest Pacheco thought it was plausible for a person to sling the shield behind & then fight with a two-handed weapon without significant encumbrance. The adarga of the early 17th century was probably about the same size a rotella/rodela, though perhaps a bit smaller & of different construction.

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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Ryan S.




Location: Germany
Joined: 04 May 2012

Posts: 263

PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 6:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Edward Cecil praised the Dutch target for pikers in his 1617 work "The duties of a private soldier":

Quote:
[Maurice of Nassau] hath found a Target of great use and advantage to the service of pikemen: it weighs but 6 pounds which is not much heavier than the pouldrons . . . In marching it hangs behind: about ones back, the neck and the body with little trouble. And to being used it is turned before with the motion onely of the left shoulder, and for applying it selfe as a man will, to the defence of all but the head and legs. It serves with a short sword when a man can use his Pike not longer; when pikes are broken it is a weapon of good safetie . . . upon a sudden alarm a man may defend himself in his shirt with it. The target will receive many Pikes into it.


This excerpt comes from The Complete Soldier by David R. Lawrence, page 175. I haven't yet been able to find a copy of the original source.

As you can see, Cecil claimed medium-sized shields are scant inconvenience to wear on the back & quick to deploy. This method of using the target likewise appears in Adam Breen's 1618 manual & the later English version. Historians continue to debate how successful Dutch employment of shields was. Shields don't seem to have been very important in 17th-century warfare at all, but you do find occasional references to them in military treatises from the first half of the century.

Going back to the middle of the 16th century, Raimond de Fourquevaux wanted pikers to have shields on their backs to sling down & use when they resorted to their swords. This differs from Dutch practice as depicted by Breen, which has the shield on the back for marching but slung down when wielding the pike in combat.

Similarly, one late-16th-century military treatise recommends for arquebusiers to wear a light shield on the back to sling down when needed, & there's this image of the practice.

So it seems like it is possible to wear a medium-sized shield on the back & have it ready reasonably fast, at least with the right setup & sufficient skill. This wasn't a very common practice, but was at least briefly institutionalized in the famous Dutch military.


In that picture it says the "die Schotten", are the soldiers supposed to be Scots?
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
In that picture it says the "die Schotten", are the soldiers supposed to be Scots?


It's possible. There were quite a few Scottish soldiers (who shared the same Calvinist religion as the Dutch) in the Dutch army and navies.

However their equipment does not seem very "typically" Scottish. It seems rather Spanish (Dutch equipment was similar).
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2023 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While they may well of issued them i don't think they where all that popular with troops in the field.

Rotella's are heavy, there 4 kg + for a 55~ cm diameter shield.
And when do they get used? in rare edge cases that are short hand for a really bad day, musketeers in melee, pike men without there pikes.
As 99% of war is boredom, marching an guard duty, a 4kg item for rare edge case use? in to the next hedge with it.

Here's some examples 1 and 2 , needless to say your not carrying that in hand all day without major arm problems.

But there that heavy as there hopefully pistol proof, there around 2 mm thick, and maybe that will stop a musket ball at a hundred odd meters and the swords man can mange to sprint that gap in the next 20 seconds.


Targe's are much lighter and made of wood an leather, with no ideas about stopping bullets.
Example 1 , 80 mm x 457 mm x 457 mm an just 1715 g.
So easier to carry and still fitting over the back or even at the hip.
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