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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Fri 19 Sep, 2008 6:27 am    Post subject: Battle of Rocroi in "Alatriste" movie         Reply with quote

I recently saw the scenes depicting the Battle of Rocroi in the Alatriste movie on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_ZhoenHqP4

It shows a very interesiting interpretation of Reiter vs. pike and pike vs. pike battle.

Watching the scenes some questions came up to me:

- When the Reiter attacked the (pretty small and isolated) tercio, they swarmed around the pike square. A tercio usually had a huge number of musketeers/arquebusiers placed in the first ranks and in square sleeves (mangas) at the corners. Where did they go if such a cavalry attack occured? Within the pike square there ist not enough space for all of them to hide.

- If two pike blocks collide, what happens on the flanks? At least on one side one square will overlap the other. Will the pikemen break the line of the formation trying to attack the the other block from the flank?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Sep, 2008 10:51 am    Post subject: Re: Battle of Rocroi in "Alatriste" movie         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
I recently saw the scenes depicting the Battle of Rocroi in the Alatriste movie on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_ZhoenHqP4

It shows a very interesiting interpretation of Reiter vs. pike and pike vs. pike battle.

Watching the scenes some questions came up to me:

- When the Reiter attacked the (pretty small and isolated) tercio, they swarmed around the pike square. A tercio usually had a huge number of musketeers/arquebusiers placed in the first ranks and in square sleeves (mangas) at the corners. Where did they go if such a cavalry attack occured? Within the pike square there ist not enough space for all of them to hide.

- If two pike blocks collide, what happens on the flanks? At least on one side one square will overlap the other. Will the pikemen break the line of the formation trying to attack the the other block from the flank?


Reform into a hollow square or circle if surrounded maybe ? If the enemy is just on one side have the shot retreat behind the pikes? Multiple pike/shot formations could form checkerboard patterns and have the shot shoot shielded by the pikes at angles creating multiple arcs of crossfire ? Anyway, what I imagine I would do if I was commanding. Wink Razz Laughing Out Loud

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PostPosted: Fri 19 Sep, 2008 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well there is no doubt that pike fighting was a knock down drag out business...I'm impressed. To bad I can't find a copy to rent. Sad
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Sep, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great scene, makes me wish I had taken Spanish in school. It looked pretty realistic in comparison to what I have read. I noticed, however, they couldn't get away from the exploding solid shot that tossed men into the air, though later scenes showed a more realistic representation of what solid shot did to massed formations.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 8:12 am    Post subject: Re: Battle of Rocroi in "Alatriste" movie         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
- When the Reiter attacked the (pretty small and isolated) tercio, they swarmed around the pike square. A tercio usually had a huge number of musketeers/arquebusiers placed in the first ranks and in square sleeves (mangas) at the corners. Where did they go if such a cavalry attack occured? Within the pike square there ist not enough space for all of them to hide.


A lot simpler than you think--the shot probably ducked beneath the leveled pikes, and some might have popped back up to fire from among the safety of the pike-shafts. Remember that the pike shafts are quite long and would protrude quite along way beyond the foremost ranks of pikemen. Plenty of space for Shot to shelter there.


Quote:
- If two pike blocks collide, what happens on the flanks? At least on one side one square will overlap the other. Will the pikemen break the line of the formation trying to attack the the other block from the flank?


Probably they just jiggled to fit. It's hard to describe this if you've never actually seen a mass brawl in action; unless the overlaps at the ends of the line are really big, it's quite likely that the two lines would simply have wriggled around to meet each other on a fairly solid frontage. The resulting line of contact wouldn't be neat, but it's a solid line nevertheless and could hold for quite some time (at least for the modern mass brawl).

(I haven't seen the video, BTW. It's taking quite some time to download it on my not-so-reliable connection.)
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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

A lot simpler than you think--the shot probably ducked beneath the leveled pikes, and some might have popped back up to fire from among the safety of the pike-shafts. Remember that the pike shafts are quite long and would protrude quite along way beyond the foremost ranks of pikemen. Plenty of space for Shot to shelter there.


The relation between pike and shot went up to 1:1. I think not more than 2-3 rows of musketeers would find shelter among the leveled pikes. So there still would be enough of them left without cover.

BTW there is interesting page covering lots of details on the spanish tercio (though not my question).

http://www.geocities.com/ao1617/TercioUK.html


The fight between the tercio and the landsknechts in the Alatriste movie was very interesting. When the two pike block met, several of the first rank dropped to their knees, crawled below the pikes and stabbed their opponents in the unprotected abdomen. This reminds me very much on Macchiavelli's description of the rodeleros at the battle of Ravenna. I always had problems to visualize their tactic. But this movie scene gives me a good picure how it could have looked like.
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Tomas Kringen




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I love the Reiters in medieval total war II, but besides that I know nothing Happy
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Man that was awesome. I'm sure that there are glaring errors to anyone who knows the history of that era, but to someone who isn't versed in pike and shot this really gets my interest up. The few pike and shot reenactment groups that I've seen pictures of have lacked the bodies needed to really display the awesome force of a pike formation, which is unfortunate.

It is interesting to note that the few stuntmen who ride into the tercio manage to ride in under the pikes somehow Razz but are stopped by some unseen force.

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Dave W.




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 6:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The pikeman vs. pikeman battle looked like it would be absolutely terrifying for the front line. To get close enough to attack you had to walk right towards the blade that was pointing in your face. I saw the one guy drop his pike and dodge under. Was that a common tactic, to run around underneath the pikes? On another note, those swords seemed oftly flimsy and thin for pitch battle; did they actually use them or was that just something used in the movie?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 8:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dave W. wrote:
The pikeman vs. pikeman battle looked like it would be absolutely terrifying for the front line. To get close enough to attack you had to walk right towards the blade that was pointing in your face. I saw the one guy drop his pike and dodge under. Was that a common tactic, to run around underneath the pikes? On another note, those swords seemed oftly flimsy and thin for pitch battle; did they actually use them or was that just something used in the movie?


There also seemed to be some successful thrusts done at breastplates as if they where not there or where easy to pierce. Question

Remember the same sort of thing in old Errol Flynn movies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errol_Flynn

A lot of times the armour seemed only " decorative . if one based one's opinion only on how little protection they seemed to give.

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Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Mon 22 Sep, 2008 9:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Sep, 2008 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those pikemen did exactly what Smythe instructed pikemen not to do. For the period in question, this might be completely correct. I don't know. Overall, I'm impressed. One of the better movie battle scenes I've watched. Too bad they couldn't get away from the instant stop. For better or worse, humans rarely turn off like that when you stab them.
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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Tue 23 Sep, 2008 3:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What I did not like in the scenes was the depiction of the reiters/cuirassiers. They opened fire with their pistols far too early (must have been at least 100 m away). From what I have read the effictive range of a pistol was 5-10 m. Then they just kept waving around with them without doing anything else (like drawing swords).
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Sep, 2008 9:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
The relation between pike and shot went up to 1:1. I think not more than 2-3 rows of musketeers would find shelter among the leveled pikes. So there still would be enough of them left without cover.


All right. I forgot that the title of the video (and the discussion thread) is about the Battle of Rocroi after all. But in such a late period, with such a large concentration of Shot, wouldn't the Shot have had some capability for repelling the enemy Horse with their fire alone?

It's also worth noting that there were more than one method that Shot could use to shelter from Horse. I've mentioned two--ducking under the pikes and repelling the Horse by fire--and there was at least one more, which was to dive for the nearest piece of bad terrain that the Horse couldn't traverse easily. Rocroi was probably not fought on the pool-table flat plain depicted in the movie so there ought to have been many pieces of terrain that unlucky Shot could duck behind.

Some of the Shot might have got cut down anyway, but as long as there were not too many of these then I don't think there would have been a problem.


Quote:
BTW there is interesting page covering lots of details on the spanish tercio (though not my question).

http://www.geocities.com/ao1617/TercioUK.html


Note that the site has a detailed interpretation of the Battle of Rocroi--there's an English as well as a Spanish version


Quote:
The fight between the tercio and the landsknechts in the Alatriste movie was very interesting. When the two pike block met, several of the first rank dropped to their knees, crawled below the pikes and stabbed their opponents in the unprotected abdomen. This reminds me very much on Macchiavelli's description of the rodeleros at the battle of Ravenna. I always had problems to visualize their tactic. But this movie scene gives me a good picure how it could have looked like.


I don't think the trick would have been viable with rodeleros alone, though. Note the interlocked rows of pikes that kept the Pike formations stuck at about a pike's length away from each other. There wouldn't have been anything like that in a purely pike vs. rodelero battle and the rodeleros would have been simply trampled down (like they did at Seminara or some other early battle, IIRC). But it might have worked in a formation combining pikes with a picked force of rodeleros--just like the Spanish colunelas and tercios that won subsequent battles against the Swiss.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Sep, 2008 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Those pikemen did exactly what Smythe instructed pikemen not to do. For the period in question, this might be completely correct.


What did Smythe instruct them not to do in this instance? Crawling under and engaging with swords? Or standing back and "fencing" with the pike instead of barrelling on in one massive charge? (I'm assuming the latter, but I might have got the wrong impression.)
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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Sep, 2008 11:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a qoute of Smyhte's work I found on the swordforum:

"But after all this it may be, that some very curious and not skilfull in actions of Armes, may demand what the formost rankes of this well ordered and practifed squadron before mentioned shall doo after they haue giuen their aforefaid puissant blows & thrusts with their piques incase that they doo not at the first incountry ouerthrow and breake the contrary squadron of their enemies: thervnto I say, that the foremost rankes of the squadron hauing with the points of their piques lighted vppon the bare faces of the formost ranks of their enemies, or vpon their Collers, pouldrons, quirasses, tasses, of disarmed parts of their thighes; by which blowes giuen they haue either slaine, ouerthrown, or wounded those that they haue lighted vpon, or that the points of their piques lighting vppon their armours haue glanced off, and beyond them; in such sort as by the nearnes of the formost ranks of their enemies before them, they haue not space enough againe to thrust; nor that by the nearnes of their fellowes ranks next behind them, they haue any conuenient elbowe roome to pull backe their piques to giue a new thrust; by meanes whereof they haue vtterly loste the vse of their piques, they therefore must either prefentlie let them fall to the ground as vnprofitable, or else may with both their hands dart, and throw them as farre forward into & amongst the ranks of their enemies as they can, to the intent by the length of them to trouble their ranks, and presently in the twinkling of an eie or instant, must draw their short arming swordes and daggers, and giue a blow and thrust(tearmed a half reuerse, & thrust) all at, and in one time at their faces: A therewithall must presentlie in an instant, with their daggers in their left hands, thrust at the bottome of their enemies bellies vnder the lammes of their Cuyrasses, or at any other disarmed parts. "

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?p=1036307

I does not mention any dropping to the knees but he suggests to stab the enemy in the belly with the dagger. Very interesting though is his advice to use the pike as a giant javelin instead of just dropping it.

I have not read the original text of the Smythe. But there is a nice summary you can find here:

http://www.pikeandshotsociety.org/documents/article2.pdf
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Sep, 2008 9:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alatriste is definitely a cool movie, but there are some errors in the Rocroi scenes that bugged the heck out of my, I have to say.

To begin with, the Horse was pretty poorly disciplined (though they turned out to be a lot better than I had first feared when looking at stills from the production). French Horse of that era would never have been that helter-skelter in their charges. And as noted above, they fired from WAY to far away. These of course are probably directly attributable to A.) the director's decision for the look of the film, and B.) the training budget for their cavalrymen. Takes more than a couple of days to make Horse hold together in such a formation. But the worst thing was that they then played "Cowboys and Indians" a bit, what with lapping around the sides of the pike square, etc. I'm sure some of that happened, but after the initial contact, Horse was supposed to withdraw to reform, and try again. Standing there waving an empty pistol in the air is just an invitation for some arquebusier to shoot you.

The pike combat was a bit rudimentary too, and although the combat under the pikes was pretty cool, I strongly suspect that the pikelines would contact one another much more closely together than that, with the first ranks either dropping their pikes and going for swords and daggers, or at least going for swords and daggers to defend/attack against their immediate opposites in the melee.

But what the heck. Not many such films out there that even present such activities, let along get any parts of them right. So I have to say that despite my reservations and quibbles, it's a great scene. I wish I could have been there for the filming!

Cheers!

Gordon

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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Sep, 2008 12:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
But in such a late period, with such a large concentration of Shot, wouldn't the Shot have had some capability for repelling the enemy Horse with their fire alone?


I think the chances for repelling a determined cavalry charge on open ground with firepower alone were quite low before the introduction of the minie ball. In the rare instances when this happened like at Nagashino field fortification or terrain killed the momentum of the cavalry charge. I can only think of Minden when the firepower of smoothbore muskets alone did the job.

For an unrifled musket the maximum effective range is below 100m. That distance is covered is very fast by charging cavalry. So the musketeers would only get one or maybe two volleys before they would have to run for cover. Even the Swedes under Gustav Adolph and their 3-rank salvoe fire could not stop the charges of the polish hussars most of the time.

There is a nice calculation on this at http://www.kismeta.com/diGrasse/HowHussarFought.htm.


Quote:
It's also worth noting that there were more than one method that Shot could use to shelter from Horse. I've mentioned two--ducking under the pikes and repelling the Horse by fire--and there was at least one more, which was to dive for the nearest piece of bad terrain that the Horse couldn't traverse easily.


If the musketeers/arquebusiers loose their last volley at maybe 50m they would not have much time to run anywhere before the cavalry catches up. The size of a manga must have been about 200-300 men. The only shelter for such a large body of men could have been the pike block itself. I just find it hard to visualize how they could have disperse among the pike especially since there were already arquebusiers at the sides of the square.



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David Evans




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Sep, 2008 3:49 am    Post subject: Pike fighting         Reply with quote

Having finally watched the clip I've got a few points.......

1) the body is too lose, the pike should at close order in rank, order in file, that is each rank is almost touching chest to back., whilst the right hand cupping the butt of the pike is almost touching the left shoulder of the man behind.

2) Pike heads.....what the hell were those massive leaf things! As far as we can tell, they belong on the staff used by ensigns....... Most pike heads we've seen on 17th Century pike are quite small neat things, which can punch thro armour

3)Pike shafts.....The shaft should tapered, small at the head, bulging at about the bottom 5' to 6' mark and slimming down a little bit to the butt. Which makes the pike easier to use and fight with, you can thrust quite nicely with it and, to a small extent, fence.

The crawling about on your knees is, to be honest, bullocks. Pike bodies either crash into each other like hedgehogs on a ramage or stand off, fence a bit and then draw back because no one wants to get close enough. I know Smythe did write some good stuff, but he's a liitle bit of a dribbling reactionary. I suspect thro he's not refering to crawling about on your knees, since you couldn't do that if two pike bodies has actually made contact but grappling at body to body level.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Sep, 2008 5:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:



I think the chances for repelling a determined cavalry charge on open ground with firepower alone were quite low before the introduction of the minie ball. In the rare instances when this happened like at Nagashino field fortification or terrain killed the momentum of the cavalry charge. I can only think of Minden when the firepower of smoothbore muskets alone did the job.

For an unrifled musket the maximum effective range is below 100m. That distance is covered is very fast by charging cavalry. So the musketeers would only get one or maybe two volleys before they would have to run for cover. Even the Swedes under Gustav Adolph and their 3-rank salvoe fire could not stop the charges of the polish hussars most of the time.

There is a nice calculation on this at http://www.kismeta.com/diGrasse/HowHussarFought.htm.

Plenty of examples of charges being broken by firepower alone long before the introduction of the minie ball, it's just a question of readign the sources in enough detail.
17th Century muskets had an maximum effective range of well over 100 meters, period writer infact put the maximum effective range at 300 paces/225 meters. Later tests show that the muskets used in the 18th&early 19th centuries could archive around 20-25% hits on a unit sized target at 300 paces. 17th Century muskets which used more powerfull powder loads, fired heavier bullets and used rest woudl have been at least as effective if not more so. Furthermore a lot of 17th Century muskets actually had sights unlike military smoothbores of the later centuries.

Of course close range fire was more effective than long range fire which is why it was prefered to wait to fire at 50., 30 or even 10 paces when usign salvoes against cavalry. When firing by rank the unti woudl open fire at longer range since that kind of fire was attritional by it's nature.

Please do tell when & where all of these the alledged successfull hussar charges against Gustav Adolf's Swedish infantry took place. I have an extensive collection of sources for the Polish-Swedish war of 1625-1629 and can not find a single shred of evidence that salvo fire was ineffective "most of the time". In fact the evidence at hand paints a very diffrent picture. During the first Action at Mewe/Gniew in 1626 Gustav Adolf fought with superior Polish forces for 5 hours using a force of 1000 Horse and 2000 musketeers. The end result was a Swedish loss of 41 officers and men killed and 103 wounded.

At Langefelde 1627 the effective Swedish musketry allowed Alexander Leslie & Ĺke Tott to rout a force of 13 banners of Polish cavalry with a small force of 180 musketeers and 150 Finnish cavalry. No less than 4 banner were taken as trophies by the Swedes.

At Dirschau/Tczew 1627 Johan Baner halted an attack by 10 banners of cossack-style cavalry with his force of 1000 musketeers and then proced to use his firepower to force the Poles to withdraw back to their camp.

At Gorzno 1629 the hail of shot unleashed by a single salvo from Colonel Teuffel's elite musketeers was enough to break the charge of the hussars. Most of the hussars literarly 2bounced" as the physicla and pshycological impact of the salvo forced all but a few of those that survived to wrench their horses around and fall back out of range.

Movign on to Germany we have the battle of Lützen were Piccolomini saw how Kyle's Swedish brigade repulsed the charges by Götz's Cuirassiers with 'great salvoes' of musketry.

If needed I could make the list longer but I'll stop here for the moment
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Sep, 2008 7:43 am    Post subject: Musket training         Reply with quote

Nice points Daniel.

My evidence is mostly, if not all English based, and does suggest that the range Shot opened fire is greater than we think. I've come across a reference to training Shot in the Train Bands of Northants from the 1590's, when most shot were armed with Calivers, which tend to be a bit smaller than the musket at about 14mm bore. The writer instructs the Corporal to stand his Caliver 150 paces from a round target, maked with roundells. The Corporal was to instruct the men in taking their aim, firing and observing the fall of shot. The interesting bit is the range, the writer fully expects there to be no problem in instructing Shot to perfect aiming at a target at 150 paces.
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