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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Fri 12 Jun, 2020 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have an example from a different period which might be relevant and also I have some more thoughts to add about the possibility of combining large shields with long pikes.

For the first point, there's the Byzantine army of the 11th century in which according to the Taktika and Praecepta militaria the standard "hoplites" were supposed to be armed with shields almost 5 feet tall and long spears between 19-23 feet long. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/6h7rtv/in_many_medieval_strategy_games_the_army_is/diwgg4e/

As for the second point, here are some thoughts in no particular order

-We might be overestimating how much equipment is too encumbering based on the soldier's percieved role. The byzantine example in particular seems to represent a peak "heavy infantry as the defensive arm" mindset, with the spearmen serving as primarily pretty much a mobile wall or fortress while the actual attacking is done by either cavalry or light skirmishers, who would then retreat back behind the heavy infantry for protection. This is how the writings of vegetius mostly view heavy infantry and also seems to bear a lot of similarities to how pikemen and dedicated heavy infantry tended to be used by various nations aside from the Swiss. The aggressive swiss pike columns were not the norm. And if a foot soldier is expecting to spend most of the battle just standing in one place, then he can spend much of that time with his long pike or large shield resting on the ground. with a two-handed weapon he probably wouldn't have his shield strapped to his arm at all and instead possibly proped up on the ground, or else slung from the neck and shoulder like the macedonians supposedly did. "and with a slight wrying of the body, and lifting up the right shoulder, whirled their target, hanging at their back, upon the left shoulder, that stood next the enemy in the charge."



-

-As a caveat, while you can sometimes find sources that make a clear distinction, i tend to be skeptical about terminology remaining 100% consistant between different authors, regions and periods. So it might be that we're seeing is a transition between an era where to protect a pike formation against arrows you could create shields which were large, but still fairly lightweight and maniable, and an era in the 15th century where the increasing power of crossbows and firearms created a need to more often use to much thicker, heavier shields which had to be propped up on the ground as a stationary mantlet, or else carried by dedicated shield troops stationed in front to provide cover for those armed with crossbows or two-handed weapons. In the Heavy Arbalest thread a while back Jean posted this video which gives an example of just how elaborate the construction of some late medieval pavises could get: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2Rl9DLUfao

however while the idea of trying to protect soldiers from missiles with shields was eventually largely abandoned in the face of heavy gunpowder artillery, there are examples where it seems to have continued to be a recommended tactic at times against large numbers of archers in particular. From the English translation of Jacapo di Porcia's late15th century Preceptes of Warre:

Quote:
What is to be done when thyne enemyes be moost parte archers.

When our enemyes be for the mooste part archers, then set aganyst them, men fenced with tergates, whych sort of soul∣dyours be sometyme in the hostes of the East partie. And by this pollicie thyne army shalbe out of theyr daunger.


There's also the case of late 16th century ireland. Where, as the english longbow was increasingly being seen as obsolete on the continent, there started to be a pattern of english archers being redeployed to the wars in ireland with the idea being that they should still be able to do good work against the very poorly equipped irish rebels. However, according to Barnabe Rich, the irish were still able respond by creating large wicker shields to protect themselves:

Quote:
. . . [the irish] invented targets made of small wickers, like basket liddes, which weighing not above two pownd weight, would cover them from the toppe to the toe, and sometimes with their mantles hanging loose about their armes, which was the cause that our captains of that countrey, long sithence have converted all their bows to calivers, and from that time have so continued.


-

-Lastly, it's probably worth keeping in mind that in the late middle ages, for all but the poorest light infantry you would probably rarely expect to see a "marius's mules" situation where each soldier would actually be expected carry all his own arms and supplies while on campaign. Instead, even many of the infantry would likely had to have at least one servant, a draft animal, or at least shared a cart on which they toss most of their weapons and armor while on a long march. So in cases where soldiers were supposed to have more weapons than one could reasonably be expected to fight with at the same time it might be that it's purpose was just to help ensure that the army had a sufficient quantity of each one, and then before a given engagement the soldier would get to pick and choose whether he wanted to fight with his two-handed polearm, his pavise, or something else and then leave the rest behind with the baggage depending on whether it was a skirmish, a siege, or an open field battle.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Jun, 2020 5:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Henry. First off thanks for sharing that Barnabe Rich quote I haven't seen that one before. As for soldiers having different arms for different tasks that's certainly a possibility. There is even a possibile precedent for this practice in Scotland as some evidence suggests the better armed Highland Scots used both bows and arrows, and two handed swords, with attendants to carry whichever weapon they weren't current using.

Getting back to the targets Patten describes Scots as using at Pinkie Cleugh. A detail which we might be overlooking is that these were "new boards ends cut off". I wonder, does he mean that these targets were made recently, as in perhaps made after the Scots had made camp? If so then perhaps this is more evidence that these were some form of field fortification rather than individual shields. Also looking again at the online dictionary of the Scots language under targe, one usage has a type of tortoise like shelter used in sieges referred to as broad targes (braid targis).

Éirinn go Brách
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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, the description of the scottish shields given by Patten is definitely a bit odd. He does seem to consider them something of an oddity, mentioning them in the same paragraph as finding large paper rattles filled with stones on the end of long sticks which were supposed to scare the english horses.

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A09164.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Quote:
Nye this place of onset, whear the Scottes at their rū∣nynge awey had let fall their weapons (as I sayd) Thear found we, bysyde their com∣mon maner of armour, certeyn nice instrumentes for war (as we thought.) And they wear, nue boordes endes cut of, being about a foot in breadth and half a yarde in leangth: ha∣uyng on the insyde, handels made very cunnyngly of .ii. cordes endes: These a Gods name wear their targettes a∣gain the shot of our small ar∣tillerie, for they wear not able to hold out a canon. And with these, found we great rattels swellyng bygger then the bel∣ly of a pottell pot, coouered with old parchement or doo∣ble papers, small stones put in them to make noys, and set vpon the ende of a staff of more then twoo els long: and this was their fyne deuyse to fray our horses when our horsmen shoulde cum at them: Howbeeit bycaus the ryders wear no babyes, nor their hor∣ses no colts: they coold, neyther duddle the tone nor fray the toother, so that this pollecye was as witles as their powr forceles.


It could be that these were devices that only some of the scots were carrying, not necessarily the pikemen, and that despite their small size they were supposed to somehow slot together into a solid wall.

Or, it might be worth noting that Patten does not state that they were there to protect against english arrows specifically, but instead says they were worn against "our small artillerie" but "not able to hold out a cannon." Perhaps what's unique about these shields was that they were made of a fairly thick and heavy construction (possibly also helping explain their small size) and being carried by some troops in front to help provide a bit of extra cover against, not just arrows, but also smaller bullets and canister shot at a distance. Similar to how William Garrard and some other military authors sometimes would recommend putting in front of a column of pikemen or mixed in with skirmishers certain men armed with "targets of proof" to help provide a bit of extra cover against small shot. Although if this is the case then combined with the description of the two handles it makes me think its unlikely these were being carried by actual pikemen, since the left arm already has to bear most the weight of the pike when leveled, and so adding the weight of a shield to that same arm would get pretty tiring.

A few pages earlier, he does mention the pikemen carrying shields but uses the word "buckler" instead of "target" like he does in the above passage. Again this could just be an inconsistency on the part of the writer, and he's definitely not being very precise in the first place, but the implication might be that most of the pikemen were just carrying bucklers or other shields that weren't too interesting, and that only some of the scots were carrying these devises made of "new boards."

Quote:
They cum to the felde wel fur∣nished all with Iak and skull, dagger, buckler, and swoordes all notably brode and thin, of excedinge good temper & vni∣uersally so made to slyce, that as I neuer sawe none so good, so think I it harde to deuyse ye better: hereto euery mā hys py∣ke, & a great kercher wrapped twyse or thrise about his neck, not for colde but for cuttīg.


Quote:
Standing at defēce, they thrust shoulders lykewise so nie together ye fore¦rākes wel nie to kneling stoop lowe before for their fellowes behynde, holdynge their pykes in both handes, and thearwith in their left their bucklers, the one ende of the pyke agaynste their right foot▪ thother agaīst the enemie brest hye, their follo¦wers crossing theyr pyke poin∣tes with theim forewarde, and thus each with other so nye as place & space wil suffer, thrugh the hole warde so thick, that as easly shall a bare fynger perce thrugh the skyn of an angrie hedgehog, as ony encoūter the frunt of their pykes.


https://i.imgur.com/nMMfLsZ.jpg

picture unrelated

And again, unlles you're reading something like a fencing manual where the distinction really matters, i think a lot of english authors during this period tend to play it sort of fast and loose with the different words for shield. For instance when talking about the ancient Roman scutum I'm pretty sure I've seen even in the same work writers bounce back and fourth between calling it a shield, a buckler, or a target. So i don't think the word buckler here necessarily refers exclusively to the small, punch-grip weapon you would use in sword-and-buckler fencing.

-

Regarding having assistants to carry weapons, there definitely seems to be quite a lot of precedence for this in the 16th century at least. The tercios de flandes blog has some neat illustrations of the Spanish "shield page" which many spanish officers would have to help carry around their heavy proofed rodela for them. And while I'm not entirely sure of the degree to which this would be done in combat, it would apparently be a fairly common sight to see an officer walking around camp with several assistants following close behind, maybe one carrying his halberd, one carrying his pike, one carrying his greatsword, etc. This may have been increasingly becoming the case for many "regular" soldiers as well as the growing status of the footsoldier in the 16th century was making more gentlemen and better off members of society eager to serve as pikemen. There would even be rules for footmen who brought their own horse to war with them governing when, if ever they would actually be allowed to ride and when they would have to march on foot with the rest of their comrades.



Although my thinking is that even in earlier centuries the "heavy infantry" still wasn't necessarily the poorest of the poor, and that even if they couldn't afford a proper horse they might still be able to have at least a mule or donkey, or pool together with some fellow soldiers and use a wagon to help with all their stuff. And even if they couldn't really afford "servants" then maybe, you know, they could convince the wife and kids to come help out.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
It could be that these were devices that only some of the scots were carrying, not necessarily the pikemen, and that despite their small size they were supposed to somehow slot together into a solid wall..... Perhaps what's unique about these shields was that they were made of a fairly thick and heavy construction (possibly also helping explain their small size) and being carried by some troops in front to help provide a bit of extra cover against, not just arrows, but also smaller bullets and canister shot at a distance.


This is basically what I'm thinking at the moment.

Éirinn go Brách
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