How did Pike formations actually work? - Page 2 - Politics | PoFo

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Early modern era & beginning of the modern era. Exploration, enlightenment, industrialisation, colonisation & empire (1492 - 1914 CE).
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By Vanasalus
The opponents of the Spaniards in that scene are not Dutchmen, they are the French at the Battle of Rocroi.

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By Thunderhawk
The clip shows kjnifemen going under the canopy of pikes to stab at enemy pikemen. Why didnt the 3rd rank of pikemen angle their pikes down to stop/harass such knifemen?

MB. wrote:This thread makes is very clear that pikes were weapons intended to pin attacking formations. I would like to ask the pike enthusiasts here how valid the phalanx comparison is. I hear it frequently.

I second this question.
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By Suska
Also showed men riding up firing their guns in the air, which is super stupid when it takes 30 seconds to reload.

I think the director told the pikemen to just sort of wiggle their sticks around a bit, I noticed that too. They would obviously want to be poking at people, parrying each other, and trying to dodge getting the poke themselves.
By Smilin' Dave
Watch the following clip. Hopefully it will answer your question.

Watching Alatriste was one of the reasons I posted the question. The other was the rather dubious Warhammer: English Civil War (I never realised that the key to the English Civil War was mortaring the enemy general... ;) ).

1. You will observe there is no actual push. Neither side wants to wade in with pikes, because the other guy's pikes are just as deadly, the two sides were more locked in rather than 'pushing' as such.
2. The guys with matchlocks/swords raises the question of whether a pike formation works on the 'rock soup' principle. Basically, is the pike actually doing much, or does it come down to various other arms breaking up the pike block? Most nations added firepower to their pike formations, and I think a lot also added some kind of 'close combat' element. So in the clip it was the skirmishers with swords. I've heard that German mercenaries in the period would have doppelsoldner having around two-handed swords. Halberds/billhooks were apparently used for this purpose too. Reading English Civil War battle narratives also suggest that it was often the intervention of cavalry that turned the tide in pike vs. pike battles.

On the phalanx comparison, how do pikes compare length-wise with a hoplite's spear? IIRC Alexander's troops were noted to have longer spears, but what was the average?... then again, does the difference in length matter in relative terms if the opposition is using similar kit?
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By Suska
The Japanese used long spears too. If I remember correctly Japanese spears were sometimes extraordinarily long. I always pictured phalanx spears quite short, I'm not sure now but I did read a book on it, The Greek Way of War, I think. There was definitely a lot of body to body pushing going on in that book. He made it out to be like a reverse tug of war.
By pugsville
A long spear is around 9ft, a pike is around 15-18ft (I think some got out to 21ft). Generally you dont find much in between, either it's a spear or a pike not much in the half measures.

Classical Greek Hoplites (city states) used the long spear. With the rise of Macedon under Phillip then Alexander the pike Phalanx was a revolution. I dont know much about English Civil war and the general pike & shot period. But the important difference is that the ECW pikes were being used by hastily raised and trained levies. Would be a different proposition in the field to Macedonians. From a quick google round english civil war pikes were 16ft standard but often cut down a little in the field.

Japanese weapons were long spears, no true pike. They were edged weapons rather than point ones, so not quite the same in useage.

Cavarly was often the decisive arm in macedonian armies, the pike phalanx "pins" the enemy (it's pretty hard to ignore the pike phalanx) and the cavalry hits them in the flanks. Cavalry is often the better quality part of the Army, and has a lot of manourablity and range of action, accounts have cavalry switching flanks (ancient or pike and shot) often the decisive bit of battles is IF the victorous cavalry wing recalls and intervines in the battle or continues pursiant of the beaten enemy wing, leaving the remianing sectors of battle to decide the contest.
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By Suska
As I understood it, japanese spears could be long as or even much longer than the numbers you're giving for pikes.
By pugsville
After some quick research, The Yari, and Naginta the main Japanese spear like weapons were 7-9ft.

During the 16 century apparently a much longer Yari come into use, Wikipedia claims 10m (30ft) which I question as to the useability, cant get much on this later Yari, I should have some sort of Answer next week as I will be hopefully talking to some people next week about some other stuff and they will most likely know about this.

A more through search has a number other sources (with more credibility) saying the longest Yari in this later period was about 6m, more normally around 5m, which is shortish pikes 15ft rather than extra extra extra long pikes. Japanese wespon lengths are given is some arcane special japanese wepon length measurement thing. So the confusion might have arisen in the conversion process. I have found several refereneces which I find more credible than wikipedia (Osprey men-at-arms series for starters) so I'm calling wikipedia wrong on this one, my instintct that a 10m pike would NOT be useable.
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By soron
Cavalry, we are told, won't charge home against a pike armed formation because the horse won't happily throw itself into a wall of spikes. Why do the infantry do this then?

They didn't. This was what 'Doppelsöldner' (mercenaries who received double the normal pay) were hired for: They broke into the pike formations using Zweihander Swords.
Smilin' Dave wrote:So, in the age of shot and pike, where pike-armed infantry generally fought other pike armed infantry while other arms (the afore mentioned shot, artillery and the cavalry) did their bit. References are made to the 'push of pike'... but I don't get it, and I'm hoping someone can explain this for me.

Cavalry, we are told, won't charge home against a pike armed formation because the horse won't happily throw itself into a wall of spikes. Why do the infantry do this then? I suppose the guys at the back of the formation just push everyone else in. But doesn't that mean that the two formations become deadlocked on contact, a sort of sandwich filled with those who died going into contact and those now too compressed to do anything useful? Pikemen were generally not well armoured so I would have thought casualties would be high. While I suppose it would be hard to actually hit someone specifically with a pike, I would have thought a 'wall' of them would be bound to hit someone in the other 'wall'.

I can follow the idea of 'push' in ancient warfare between phalanxes, since combatants (as I understand it) were generally equipped with a shield and were probably more likely to be wearing armour. So in effect they are better equipped to close in and have an ideal tool for pushing the other side. The pikeman does not have these things.

So how does the 'push of pike' actually work? Or have I just misunderstood the warfare of this particular period?

I only just found this thread.

OK, there is a difference between pike and shot era pike tactics and ancient Macedonian pike tactics. The Swiss during the Italian wars era were more like the Macedonians.

To understand the role of pikes in the ECW we need to look at the evolution of the firearm from the Italian wars period. At the start of the Italian wars the French had the state of the art in land armies. They used Gendarme heavy knights, Swiss pikemen and artillery. The Spanish troops couldn't stand against this power in the open so they developed what we would call asymmetric forces to defeat the French. Thus the Spanish created the Tercio, a 16th century combined arms formation, mixing pikes with crossbows and gun powder weapons. The pikes formed up into a deep block with the missile troops at each corner, retreating into the block when threatened.

Though slow, this formation could defend again the Gendarmes and was able to stand up to the Swiss pikes. The French artillery could have potentially dealt with the tercio but historically the French had trouble getting their artillery in to play during battles due to the clumsy nature of 16th artillery. (it wasn't until well into the 18th century than artillery really became mobile on the battlefield).

The Spanish most often used field fortifications, good defensive terrain and gun powder weapons with the tercios or landsknecht waiting in support to reinforced the arquebusiers and swivel gunners when the Swiss got too close.

It was during the French wars of Religion, a generation or so later, that the Tercio idea was further developed by the Dutch. The idea was to deploy into a more linear formation that could concentrate the missile power of the gun powder weapons. This formation retained some pikes for defense against cavalry and is the prototype of the pike an shot infantry regiment. At this early time, the ratio of pikes to shot was low, with a greater proportion going to the shot as time went on. There was not much drill in the formation at this time. Later innovators introduced reloading drills, then drills to change the ranks as each fired in turn. the weapons became standardized, better arming mechanisms developed, and prepacked cartridges were introduced. Finally, the bayonet became common toward the end of the 17th century and the pike fell out of use during the time of the Great Northern War and the War of the Spanish Succession.

The innovations such as reloading drill, standardization and prepacked ammo, and flintlocks, meant faster reloading and thus a higher rate of fire. Formations became thinner and better drilled at maneuvering over the course of the 18th century. A Napoleonic infantry regiment was much nastier than an ECW regiment in all sorts of ways. They could fire faster, all men had bayonets, and they could march around and preform various maneuvers undreamt off by ECW period infantry. They were still vulnerable to cavalry if caught off guard or in disorder.

In conclusion, the pike and shot era pike played a role in protecting slow firing musketeers from assault, particularly from cavalry. It was part of the evolution of fire armed infantry and disappeared as the new gun powdered infantry development started to reach its potential. But it wasn't the same concept as the Swiss pikes or Macedonian pikes. The later was shock infantry deployed with the intention of closing with and destroying the enemy, rather than protect missile troops.

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