Medieval cavalry charges?

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Peter K
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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 19 May 2012 19:46

A lot of wild claims, absolutely no sources to back up these claims. That's what you do.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Hanny » 24 May 2012 19:32

Well it's understandable that the Northumberland Fyrd wasn't really anxious to head that far south that time of year. Probably contributed to the decision to leave them behind.


Being Mercia and Northumbria Fyrd being called up to serve at gate Fulford and being almost exterminated there, and those called up later for Stamford bridge, was much more a reason.

Soldiers from levy en masse (such as Fyrd) are typically not willing to stay in the field for long time.
If the military campaign is taking too long, they start to want to go back to their homes.
Especially during harvest (if they are peasants).

But the campaign was hardly "taking too long". Indeed the Fyrd was still gathering that's why Harold's force wasn't stronger and why there would have been substantial additional forces available to him in the near future.


Fyrd was called up in the summer and the Invasion did not occur, they filled the mil feuadal obligation and were calle dup again after completing their feudal duties.


Well if you don't count the Huscarls I'm not sure that you are correct in that assesement. Certainly the information at:
http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/hastings/
suggest otherwise. In particular:
Harold paused only five days to assemble his army before marching on Hastings. Hoping to surprise William as he had Harald, he quickly covered the 58 miles to his assembly point at the "hoary apple tree", a well-known local landmark. Exhausted, his army arrived on the evening of the 13th with troops filtering into camp throughout the night.


No thats incorrect, only the Huscarles went North with Harold and only they came back, ( only One acount gives us Fyrd from Northampton arrtived late in the day, to join the Wessex, East Anglian and Mercian Fyrd meeting at the Hoar apple tree.

better link.
http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/sho ... ysprune=-1

Hanny
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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Hanny » 24 May 2012 19:33

Statues are not representative of average cavalry horses, or people.

Yes they are, as evidinced by Trajans column, as to the pysical proportions for Romans, and the Freeze of the Parthenon for Greek horses as used by academics.
Last edited by Hanny on 24 May 2012 19:36, edited 2 times in total.

Peter K
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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 25 Jun 2012 01:01

Regarding the endurance of horses to wounds.

Examples can be found in old casualty records. For example there are 2 detailed Polish casualty records from the battle of Klushino in 1610. Sometimes there are only laconic entries like "wounded" or killed", but in some cases more details regarding the type / cause of a wound or a mortal wound are given. We can find an example of a horse which was shot 3 times by muskets and survived (it is listed among wounded horses). Another one is a horse shot by a musket in its head - it also survived (it is also listed among wounded horses - not dead ones).

It's possible that they died later of their wounds, because this info comes from the casualty report which was written short time after the battle. It gives overall casualties of horses as "at least 188 dead, at least 20 missing and 181 wounded", while later this number was given as "226 dead, nearly as many wounded".

But - anyway - despite such severe wounds, they didn't die immediately but survived the battle.

======================================================

When it comes to casualties among soldiers - average casualties in dead & wounded men for 25 Polish cavalry banners in the battle of Klushino were 6,85%. By comparison the Light Brigade at Balaclava lost 36,4%.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 26 Jun 2012 23:34

--Example of the effect of volley fire. At the Battle of Quebec in 1759, General Wolfe's troops held their fire till the French were approximately 30 yards away. They then fired two volleys of musketry and the French troops broke. The French loss was approximately 650 men out of around 4000. Had the troops been firing at cavalry, it seems fairly certain they could have inflicted enough casualties to completely break up the attack due to all the dead and wounded horses one or two volleys would have caused. At 50 yards or less, a line of cavalry is a considerably larger target than a line of infantry.


I think that either the figure of 650 casualties from 2 volleys of musketry is an exaggeration (BTW - how many soldiers were firing in those volleys?), or those must have been some extraordinarily "lucky" volleys.

Swedish general Schulenburg in early 18th century estimated that one volley of a battalion of Swedish infantry ("paper strength" - 600 men) was - on average - inflicting 10 - 12 casualties (dead & wounded).

And Schulenburg's 10 - 12 probably refers to enemy infantry - which is in denser formations than cavalry.

Modern Swedish historan - Peter Englund - in his book about the battle of Poltava (in which he provides quite detailed casualty figures as well as figures on number of ammunition expended in this battle) is even less optimistic than was general Schulenburg in his estimations - Englund writes that only 1 of 300 rounds was hitting anyone.

However of course volley fire must have been more efficient than "fire at will", not in volleys.

But add to all of this the fact that percentage of duds was considerable (usually due to soldiers wrongly loading their muskets in the heat of battle - some other soldiers loaded correctly, but forgot to fire - instead loading again - later muskets with several rounds loaded inside were found on old battlefields by archaeologists).

====================================================

Regarding those Klushino casualties which I already mentioned above:

As I said - there are some original casualty records listing Polish casualties from the battle of Klushino (two major casualty records & some more of less detailed accounts). I compiled numbers* from these two "major" records into a table. I included only data of Hussars (who were vast majority of all Polish forces in the battle).

Note: strength figures are not precise but estimated (basing on the number of so called portions of soldier's pay from time period before the battle). Real strength on the day of the battle could be even a bit lower.

Image

*I said that I compiled "numbers" into a table, but in fact in these records you won't really find numbers - what is listed there, are names of each soldier who was killed or wounded.

So I had to count how many of them (dead & wounded) are listed there at first.

For example, losses of Żółkiewski's banner (7 dead, 9 wounded, 16 in total) were:

Dead:

Sir Borkowski
Sir Konarski
Sir Romiszawski (in the other report: Romiszowski) **
Sir Niezrawski
servant of Sir Tarnawski
servant of Sir Jasmanidzki
servant of Sir Tysza

Wounded:

Sir Naiaiowski
Sir Srzedzinski
servant of Sir Narojowski
servant of Sir Szczedrzynski
servant of Sir Dawidowski
servant of Sir Potemski **
servant of Sir Komorowski
2 servants of Sir Trzebuchowski

*Misspellings of surnames are quite common in these reports. I gave as an example Romiszawski / Romiszewski, but there are more similar spelling differences between both reports (however, in most cases it is clear that they are the same persons). Even in case of this banner there are more spelling differences, not just Romiszawski / Romiszewski - but I didn't list all of them in brackets above, I just listed one of the spelling versions in each case (but you can see in cases of servant of Sir Szczedrzynski and servant of Sir Narojowski - that these two guys were probably servants of Sir Naiaiowski and Sir Srzedzinski - so these are probably two more examples of spelling differences).

** It is noted that servant of Sir Potemski was hit (wounded - he survived) by a cannon ball. A lucky guy. :)

=====================================

These original casualty records / documents are also quoted in some of recently published books / works:

- in the book "Fenomen Husarii" (in Polish) by Radoslaw Sikora (one of them)

and

- (the other one) in the doctoral thesis of Radoslaw Sikora which is available here (in Polish):

http://rozprawy.uph.edu.pl/gsdl/collect/rozprawy/index/assoc/HASH7024.dir/Sikora%20Radoslaw.pdf

PS:

In one of these reports there are listed some KIAs / WIAs who are missing in the other report - and inversely. Also casualties of some units are missing in each of these reports (but they still list casualties of vast majority of units which took part in the battle). This shows that neither of these reports is 100% complete. But I compiled data from both, so I suppose that the data on Husaria casualties at Klushino given above is very close to being complete - apart from, of course, those 2 banners for which I had no data ("unknown casualties").

They then fired two volleys of musketry and the French troops broke. The French loss was approximately 650 men out of around 4000.


So they broke after suffering just 16,5% casualties (even if the number 650 is not exaggerated). This means that it was more about psychology of those French soldiers who fought there, than about real, deadly efficiency of musket fire. Musket fire was always very effective (like firecrackers), but less often so efficient. :wink:

Lanckoronski's banner at Klushino suffered 18,33% casualties in men (including their commander - Lanckoronski - who was WIA and died of wounds after the battle) and most likely even bigger % in horses (casualties in horses were usually bigger than in men) - yet they didn't break, but remained in combat until the battle ended.

They also participated in pursuit of escaping Russian forces after the battle.

The scale of losses suffered by the Light Brigade at Balaclava is rather more exemplary for what is needed to break a charge of a high morale cavalry - and they suffered 36,4% casualties in men, more in horses.

In the battle of Vienna 1683 a banner of Hussars (149 men) under Zbierzchowski carried out a reconnaissance charge into Turkish lines, which was quite suicidal. The banner lost 35-36 killed (including 12 "companions"). The number of wounded was probably also 30 or more. Overall scale of losses in men was probably ca. 40 - ca. 50%. The banner was forced to retreat, but retreated in good order (like for such a decimated unit).

And Zbierzchowski's Hussars suffered their losses in hand-to-hand combat. Turkish account says:

The first [Polish] unit, clad in iron, attacked the tent of the illustrious Serdar master [Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha]. Faced them and engaged them in combat levands [personal guard units] of the Serdar master under command of a sercheshmesh, as well as his palace and court aghas. Giaours however, were all clad in iron, so saber was not useful there, but experienced in battles heroes [Turkish soldiers] were not disconcerted by this at all. Each of them had a maul, a mace or an axe, so they started to hammer giaours in heads, faces and arms, while those who didn't have such weapons, tried to rip their horses with sabers. This way with grace of Allah they were forced to retreat, and most of them were killed or wounded."

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 27 Jun 2012 00:15

In fact to physically (not psychologically) stop a cavalry charge, you need automatic firearms: :wink:



... Or, anti-cavalry obstacles, such as for example "kobylice" ("chevaux de frise"):

http://www.old-picture.com/civil-war/pi ... te-001.jpg

Later in history, anti-tank obstacles were made in exactly the same way (just stronger):

http://www.korthalsaltes.com/Afbeelding ... dgehog.jpg

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by LWD » 27 Jun 2012 14:29

Peter K wrote:In fact to physically (not psychologically) stop a cavalry charge, you need automatic firearms: ...

I'm not so sure about that. By the ACW rifle armed infantry could probably do it certainly aritllery firing cansiter could.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 27 Jun 2012 16:14

In the ACW cavalry was so rarely ordered to charge infantry, that I don't think it was used to do it. So I don't think that the ACW cavalry was psychologically prepared to sustain a charge under heavy fire & not turn to escape.

By the ACW rifle armed infantry could probably do it certainly aritllery firing cansiter could.


Well, maybe in some cases. 90% of all infantry attacks in the ACW also allegedly ended in a failure (allegedly, because I've read about this somewhere, but it was not verified nor supported by any reliable data).

And of course it also depends on how many ACW rifle armed infantry vs how many cavalry issue.

But speaking of that time period - there were successful charges vs infantry in the Franco-Prussian wars.

And regarding heavy cavalry - people wonder why it still wore armour (usually breastplates or cuirasses) in 18th & 19th century. Actually heavy plate was able to stop musket balls (not mentioning balls of firearms of lighter calibres & shorter barrels - such as pistols). What's interesting is that the ability of armour to stop musket balls was much smaller in late 16th century to early 17th century than in 18th century and the Napoleonic period. That's because armour penetration capability of muskets decreased together with the decrease in calibre of muskets used on the battlefields. Average late 16th century musket was ca. 20mm calibre, 115 - 140 cm barrel length, 7 - 9 kg weight, 170 - 190 total length & was firing balls weighting 50 - 70 g each. An example of such a musket which can be found in armoury in Graz fires balls of initial energy 6980 J, its maximum range is 1279 m. After flying 100 m balls fired from this musket still have energy of ca. 3000 J and can pierce 4 mm of good quality steel plate (steel St 37).

By comparison an exemple of a musket from Styria, Germany, dated at 1st quarter of 17th century is firing balls weight of which is only 17,38 g. A ball fired from this musket has initial energy of 1752 J and already after flying 30 m its energy is only 1242 J. As was tested - such a musket is not able to pierce a breastplate No 678x (maximum thickness - 7 mm), which can be found in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, produced in 1630.

As we can see there is a large difference in armour penetration capabilities between muskets of various calibres. And musket calibres were generally becoming gradually lighter and lighter from late 16th century onward.

In the Napoleonic period newly produced cuirasses for French heavy cavalry were being tested by firing to them one musket shot from close distance. If a cuirass survived such a musket shot, it was considered fit for combat use. Initially they were testing cuirasses by firing to them 3 times (from a musket) from distance of 30 footsteps. But not many cuirasses were surviving 3 shots so they changed the requirements to just 1 shot.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by LWD » 27 Jun 2012 18:40

Peter K wrote:... But speaking of that time period - there were successful charges vs infantry in the Franco-Prussian wars....

There were also succesful charges during WWI and WWII a number being conducted by the Poles if I remember correctly.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 28 Jun 2012 04:59

="Peter K"

And regarding heavy cavalry - people wonder why it still wore armour (usually breastplates or cuirasses) in 18th & 19th century. Actually heavy plate was able to stop musket balls (not mentioning balls of firearms of lighter calibres & shorter barrels - such as pistols). What's interesting is that the ability of armour to stop musket balls was much smaller in late 16th century to early 17th century than in 18th century and the Napoleonic period. That's because armour penetration capability of muskets decreased together with the decrease in calibre of muskets used on the battlefields. Average late 16th century musket was ca. 20mm calibre, 115 - 140 cm barrel length, 7 - 9 kg weight, 170 - 190 total length & was firing balls weighting 50 - 70 g each. An example of such a musket which can be found in armoury in Graz fires balls of initial energy 6980 J, its maximum range is 1279 m. After flying 100 m balls fired from this musket still have energy of ca. 3000 J and can pierce 4 mm of good quality steel plate (steel St 37).

By comparison an exemple of a musket from Styria, Germany, dated at 1st quarter of 17th century is firing balls weight of which is only 17,38 g. A ball fired from this musket has initial energy of 1752 J and already after flying 30 m its energy is only 1242 J. As was tested - such a musket is not able to pierce a breastplate No 678x (maximum thickness - 7 mm), which can be found in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, produced in 1630.

As we can see there is a large difference in armour penetration capabilities between muskets of various calibres. And musket calibres were generally becoming gradually lighter and lighter from late 16th century onward.

In the Napoleonic period newly produced cuirasses for French heavy cavalry were being tested by firing to them one musket shot from close distance. If a cuirass survived such a musket shot, it was considered fit for combat use. Initially they were testing cuirasses by firing to them 3 times (from a musket) from distance of 30 footsteps. But not many cuirasses were surviving 3 shots so they changed the requirements to just 1 shot.



Well the thing was , that both the NW/CW infantry often had cannons; which made many cav charges "suicidal'.Much less the rifles of the ACW.

I suggest the main room of "Lourve" where the french crown jewels are . There is the cuirass of a French Cuirassier from Waterloo on the wall , with a grape-shot hole in it.

Quite impressive, along with all the diamonds/rubies/Sword of Charlemagne, etc.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 28 Jun 2012 22:46

Cannons are powerful but they were usually not very numerous.

Actually cavalry charging unprotected / unsupported artillery almost always ends very badly for artillery.

But you are right that cannons are able to provide crucial fire support for infantry.

LWD wrote:There were also succesful charges during WWI and WWII


It was possible in favourable conditions and / or when surprise effect was achieved.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 10 Jul 2012 16:46

In the battle of Gaugamela, Persian and Indian cavalry armed with long spears managed to break through the line of Macedonian phalangites (pezhetairoi) at the point of contact of taxis (one taxis = "paper strength" of 2048 phalangites) under command of Simmias and taxis under command of Polysperchon:

Arrian, Anabasis, III, 14 wrote:(...) Simmias and his brigade were not yet able to start with Alexander in pursuit, but causing the phalanx to halt there, he took part in the struggle, because the left wing of the Macedonians was reported to be hard pressed. In this part of the field, their line being broken, some of the Indians and of the Persian cavalry burst through the gap towards the baggage of the Macedonians; and there the action became desperate. For the Persians fell boldly on the men, who were most of them unarmed, and never expected that any men would cut through the double phalanx and break through upon them. When the Persians made this attack, the foreign prisoners also assisted them by falling upon the Macedonians in the midst of the action. But the commanders of the men who had been posted as a reserve to the first phalanx, learning what was taking place, quickly moved from the position which they had been ordered to take, and coming upon the Persians in the rear, killed many of them there collected round the baggage. But the rest of them gave way and fled. The Persians on the right wing, who had not yet become aware of the flight of Darius, rode round Alexander's left wing and attacked Parmenio in flank. (...)
There are words which carry the presage of defeat. Defence is such a word. What is the result of an even victorious defence? The next attempt of imposing it to that weaker, defender. The attacker, despite temporary setback, feels the master of situation.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 11 Jul 2012 08:24

Peter K wrote:In the battle of Gaugamela, Persian and Indian cavalry armed with long spears managed to break through the line of Macedonian phalangites (pezhetairoi) at the point of contact of taxis (one taxis = "paper strength" of 2048 phalangites) under command of Simmias and taxis under command of Polysperchon:

Arrian, Anabasis, III, 14 wrote:(...) Simmias and his brigade were not yet able to start with Alexander in pursuit, but causing the phalanx to halt there, he took part in the struggle, because the left wing of the Macedonians was reported to be hard pressed. In this part of the field, their line being broken, some of the Indians and of the Persian cavalry burst through the gap towards the baggage of the Macedonians; and there the action became desperate. For the Persians fell boldly on the men, who were most of them unarmed, and never expected that any men would cut through the double phalanx and break through upon them. When the Persians made this attack, the foreign prisoners also assisted them by falling upon the Macedonians in the midst of the action. But the commanders of the men who had been posted as a reserve to the first phalanx, learning what was taking place, quickly moved from the position which they had been ordered to take, and coming upon the Persians in the rear, killed many of them there collected round the baggage. But the rest of them gave way and fled. The Persians on the right wing, who had not yet become aware of the flight of Darius, rode round Alexander's left wing and attacked Parmenio in flank. (...)



Yes, yes, but the trouble with this whole deal, is that Alexander was the greatest Calvary commander that has ever been.
We will never see such the same person, doing such things again.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by Peter K » 11 Jul 2012 13:35

But it was Persian heavy cavalry which did it - not Alexander's. :P

And this happened already after Darius began to fly from the battlefield - in the late phases of the battle. Later this Persian cavalry which broke through phalanx in that place was encircled by returning Alexander's cavalry (when this happened he was already chasing the Persians in another part of the battlefield) and slaughtered.

But before that the Persians managed to attack and badly harm the Macedonian baggage train.

Another prove that Macedonian casualties given in Ancient sources are pure fantasy.

These sources actually even contradict themselves regarding casualties. For example Arrian in one place states that Macedonian losses in entire battle were said to be ca. 100 men killed, while in another place he writes that just in one engagement, in the very final phase of the battle, just one squadron of the personal bodyguard Companion cavalry of Alexander lost 60 killed and numerous wounded (and after that it was again involved in combats):

(...) The Persians on the right wing, who had not yet become aware of the flight of Darius, rode round Alexander's left wing and attacked Parmenio in flank. At this juncture, the Macedonians being at first in a state of confusion from being attacked on all sides, Parmenio sent a messenger to Alexander in haste, to tell him that their side was in a critical position and that he must send him aid. When this news was brought to Alexander, he turned back again from further pursuit, and wheeling round with the Companion cavalry, led them with great speed against the right wing of the foreigners. In the first place he assaulted the fleeing cavalry of the enemy, the Parthians, some of the Indians, and the most numerous and the bravest division of the Persians. Then ensued the most obstinately contested cavalry fight in the whole engagement. For being drawn up by squadrons, the foreigners wheeled round in deep columns, and falling on Alexander's men face to face, they no longer relied on the hurling of javelins or the dexterous deploying of horses, as is the common practice in cavalry battles, but every one of his own account strove eagerly to break through what stood in his way, as their only means of safety. They struck and were struck without quarter, as they were no longer struggling to secure the victory for another, but were contending for their own personal safety. Here about sixty of Alexander's Companions fell; and Hephaestion himself, as well as Coenus and Menidas, was wounded. But these troops also were overcome by Alexander; and as many of them as could forced their way through his ranks and fled with all their might. And now Alexander had nearly come into conflict with the enemy's right wing; but in the meantime the Thessalian cavalry in a splendid struggle, were not falling short of Alexander's suc cess in the engagement. For the foreigners on the right wing were already beginning to fly when he came on the scene of conflict; so that he wheeled round again and started off in pursuit of Darius once more, keeping up the chase as long as there was daylight. Parmenio's brigade also followed in pursuit of those who were opposed to them. (...)
There are words which carry the presage of defeat. Defence is such a word. What is the result of an even victorious defence? The next attempt of imposing it to that weaker, defender. The attacker, despite temporary setback, feels the master of situation.

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Re: Medieval cavalry charges?

Post by LWD » 11 Jul 2012 14:04

ChristopherPerrien wrote: Yes, yes, but the trouble with this whole deal, is that Alexander was the greatest Calvary commander that has ever been.

I'm far from convinced. Indeed to me it's always seemed that Alexander's strength was in combined arms rather than any arm in particular. I'd also hesitate to say that as a cavalry general he was supperior to any of a number of others.

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