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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Warfare Through the Ages > The Medieval Era

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The Medieval Era Discussions on Knights and Crusaders, and all things medieval!

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  #31  
Old 26 Mar 07, 23:40
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Smile The Swiss victory at Laupen in 1339!!!

Another wonderful moment, and one of my favorites, was the Battle of Laupen in 1339. For it was there that this ferociously determined, though unarmored, Swiss force, which numbered 6000 strong and was armed primarily with halberds, defeated on open ground this Burgundian Army that had over twice as many men, including roughly 1000 mounted knights.

For it was at that Battle that "the Swiss militia demonstrated that it could win on an open field." It "also illustrated the tactical mobility and capacity of the battle square," which the extremely formidable Swiss developed in response to their need to defend themselves from attack against much larger armies that would seek to conquer and impose their will on the fiercely stubborn, die-hard Swiss. They had a better chance of shooting the moon out of the night sky, for the perennially resolute Swiss would rather die than bend a knee to any oppressive invader!!!

Although the Swiss almost always took the offensive---(for they stressed, constantly drilled for and placed this very heavy emphasis on taking offensive action, this devastating tactical doctrine that they invariably executed in the most rapid, terrifying, yet highly disciplined way possible!!!)---at Laupen they displayed their capacity for all-round defense as well. For right after two of their famed squares/halberd formations simultaneously charged downhill side by side---(from whence they took their positions to await the oncoming army of their enemies!)---into two separate, tactically divided bodies of the Burgundian Army, which was attacking uphill (one infantry, the other heavy cavalry, though the infantry had the steeper advance!), one of the squares immediately found itself being assaulted in the rear, on the flank and in the front by the broken, yet not beaten, cavalry force that they had just smashed into and driven off. Ouch!!!

Yet the cavalry, after falling back from that Swiss squares initial, extremely powerful impact, had regrouped, divided its force, and then regained its momentum as it began charging into the by now immobile Swiss square (the Burgundian infantry was entirely routed by the other square!), attacking it on all four sides.

Though the besieged Swiss square was prepared for this eventuality as it quickly halted and executed this impeccable all-round defensive action by facing their formations on all four sides (that awesome capacity for all-round defense!). So by taking such defensive action the assailed Swiss square was able to withstand and repel, while facing their halberds out in all four directions, the charging Burgundian cavalry, thus allowing the other Swiss square, which "kept its formation" after thoroughly routing the terrified infantry, to wheel about in perfect order and march "to the rescue of the square beset by the cavalry", therefore saving their comrades-in-arms and brutally decimating the Burgundian heavy cavalry in the process!!! That's what I call teamwork at its best!!!

So not only did the Swiss show to the whole World that they could win out in this open field against this much larger, better equipped foe, at Laupen in 1339 they proved the superiority of their unstoppable, highly mobile yet versatile battle squares, which had demonstrated this remarkable manueverability of alignment and halberd positioning.

I also believe that each charging battle square at that Battle was 30 ranks wide by 30 files deep, though as always the unbreakable, cohesive, and superbly drilled Swiss squares kept their formations intact despite the speed of their movement, never once losing their alignments, even after they crashed into and repelled the enemy. Though as far as weapons go the Swiss would continue to train, deploy and fight with the halberd until roughly 1425 or so, when they began to gradually adopt the pike with its long steel head, the weapon for which they became synonymous with (and for which they would gain this renown, fear and respect as the finest and most highly effective shock troops in the World until about 1522!)!!! Though, "even with the pike, the Swiss managed to retain the mobility on the field that characterized their halberd-armed formations." Though they did retain in the center of their squares some men armed with the trusty halberd, "where they could combat any cavalry or infantry that breached the pike wall and from which the halberdiers could sally to attack an opponent's flank or rear."

So in a sense the Battle of Laupen gave the World its first taste of Swiss shock power, ferocity, teamwork, discipline, elbow-to-elbow cohesion in the ranks, its fearsome fighting elan, morale and awesome versatility, whether in launching these offensive of defensive actions. It was also the genesis---(that is, barring the insanely ferocious ambush at Morgarten in 1315!)---of the Swiss fighting man, his immeasurable bravery, and his deeply inherent respect for unit, or square, integrity. Furthermore, the Swiss (along with the Scots and certain Landsknechte regiments!) would go on to prove themselves as the best of the best for the next 200 years or so as their near invincible pike and halberd (hedgehog!) formations, or battle squares, destroyed army after army of invading foe as the Swiss pikemen "shook feudal Europe to the core" with their amazing fighting prowess and love of combat!!!
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  #32  
Old 21 May 07, 06:59
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A favorite piece for this period is The Monks of Palestine.

"...the plague set his spotted foot on the Holy City, Jerusalem. The monks felt great alarm; they did not shrink form their duty, but for its performance they chose a plan most sadly well fitted for bringing down upon them the very death which they were striving to ward off. They imagined themselves almost safe so long as they remained withint their walls; but then it was quite needful that the Catholic Christians of the place, who had always looked to the convent for the supply of their spiritual wants, should receive the aids of religion in the hour of death. A single monk, therefore, was chosen either by lot or by some other fair appeal to Destiny; being thus singled out, he was to go forth into the plague-stricken city, and to perform with exactness his priestly duties; then he was to return, not to the interior of th econvent, for fear of infecting his brethren, but at some little distance from th einhabited rooms; he was provided a bell, and at a certain hour in the morning he was ordered to ring it, if he could: but if no sound was heard at the appointed time, then they knew this brethren that he was either delirious or dead, and another martyr was sent forth to take his place. In this way twenty-one (of forty) of the monks were carried off. One cannot well fail to admire the steadiness with which the dismal scheme was carried through; but if there be any truth in the notion that disease may be invited by a frightening imagination, it is difficult to conceive a more dangerous plan than that which was chosen by these poor fellows. The anxiety with which they must have expected each day the sound of the bell, the silence that reigned instead of it, and then the drawing of the lots (the odds against death being one point lower than yesterday) and the going forth of the newly doomed man,--all this must have widened the gulf that opens to the shades below. When his victum had already suffered so much of mental torture, it was but easy work for big, bullying pestilence to follow a forlorn monk from the beds of the dying, and wretch away his life from him as he lay all alone in an outhouse.

extracted from EOTHEN by Alexander William Kinglake

(When Churchill was asked who he read, he replied, "Kinglake, of course.")

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Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 21 May 07 at 07:02..
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  #33  
Old 22 May 07, 10:45
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This definitely not a moment, but it is an extraordinary, introductory paragraph to Middle Ages warfare in which the author synthesizes six centuries of European warfare. It's a short writing that I would like to share.

"The origins of Europe', a historian of the Middle Ages has recently reminded us 'were hammered out on the anvil of war'; and indeed 'war' is really too benign a term to describe the conditions of the European continent once the precarious Pax Romana had disintegrated and waves of invaders swept over it; Goths and Vandals from the east, Moslems from the south and finally, most terrible of all, Vikings from the north. Nearly six hundred years elapsed between the first barbarian incursions in the fourth centruy and the end of the tenth century, when the last of the invaders had been either assimilated or repulsed. Then in their turn the peoples of Europe began to expand, first eastward and then, as they learned the arts of navigation, southward and westward. So for a time-span as long as that which divides the thirteenth century from our own day, 'peace' in Europe, that peace for which the congregations in Christian churches so sincerely prayed, existed only in exceptional and precarious oases of time and place. It is hardly surprising that an entire social pattern should have come into being to enable the peoples of Europe to survive in such an environment: the pattern to be known to later generations of historians as 'feudalism'."

From "War In European History" by Michael Howard who is a master at concision. His short books are worth the read.

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  #34  
Old 02 Jun 07, 19:17
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My favourite timeperiod in the medieval times would be the period better known as the "Dark Ages" ! I would love to revisit the period between 700 and 900 ! The birth of the first European nations as we know them today, the end of barbarism, the petty fights between the many lords and regions, the many monks and their christianization in the extended frontiers of Europe, the beginning of the attacks of the vikings in the north and the ending of the attacks of the muslims in the south, the time of Charlemagne and Otto the Great, the high power period of Byzantium, the beginning of feudalism and the rise of the all encompassing christendom in the West !!!! Everything seems so wild and primitive in this period...
And my favourite moment?????
I think I would love to have witnessed the Battle of Poitiers in 732 where Charles Martel beat the Muslim invaders AND the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmasday 800 !!!



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  #35  
Old 04 Jun 07, 18:44
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Originally Posted by Stratego View Post
My favourite timeperiod in the medieval times would be the period better known as the "Dark Ages" ! I would love to revisit the period between 700 and 900 ! The birth of the first European nations as we know them today, the end of barbarism, the petty fights between the many lords and regions, the many monks and their christianization in the extended frontiers of Europe, the beginning of the attacks of the vikings in the north and the ending of the attacks of the muslims in the south, the time of Charlemagne and Otto the Great, the high power period of Byzantium, the beginning of feudalism and the rise of the all encompassing christendom in the West !!!! Everything seems so wild and primitive in this period...
And my favourite moment?????
I think I would love to have witnessed the Battle of Poitiers in 732 where Charles Martel beat the Muslim invaders AND the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmasday 800 !!!




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Good one Stratego. I've also been intrigued by Charlemagne aka Charles the Great. My mother always spoke pretty highly of him, so I tried to learn about him after she had spoken about him. No one did more for spreading Christianity throughout Western Europe than him. He also was very instrumental in setting up learning institutions, and many people started to learn how to read as well as learn. I read about his campaign against the Saxons. He would go and fight them and defeat them and setup his monastaries and learning facilities and then the Saxons would defeat the persons there after he left, and Charlemagne would hear about it and come back and defeat the Saxons and do the same thing. After a few times he got tired of doing this and executed like close to 3000 Saxon prisoners. However after this he didn't have to come back. Also I believe he was related to the king from the battle of Poiters.
Another person I find intriguing is Richard the Lionheart. He was involved with I think the Third Crusade. He started out with Prince Philip or King Philip and Frederick the Great aka Barbarossa. Frederick drowned on the way to the Holy Land, and Philip left and went back to Europe. Richard had conquered some cities and came to Jerusalem 2 times but never attacked. I have seen some differing reasons as to why, but after the second time he left Jerusalem and fought I think one more battle against Saladin. In the end he and Saladin made a truce which allowed unarmed Pilgrims to come to Jerusalem. However, Philip was attacking Richard's lands in Europe so Richard had to go back and deal with him. However, on Richard's return he was kidnapped and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid he went and defeated Philip.

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  #36  
Old 06 Jul 07, 13:22
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My favourite battle is one in a war that i cant remember. French Hired 2000 Italian calvary mercenaries and the Calvary dominated the 3000 English longbowmen. If u can remend me of which war that is please tell me
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  #37  
Old 16 Nov 07, 23:48
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There are so many to chose from but i would have to say, not just because it is one of the most talked about, but because how much it changed to cource of history. The battle of Hastings 1066
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Old 17 Nov 07, 00:06
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Charlemagne.

Period.

Self-explanatory.

Next.

ps. Altho Aetius gets high marks.
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Old 27 Nov 07, 02:59
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...Big fan of the 100 Years War and the Wars of the Roses.
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Old 06 Mar 08, 09:20
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Italian continuous fights between Comuni (a galaxy of little town-states) in XII and XIII century.
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Old 06 Mar 08, 09:33
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Battle at Lechfeld, 955 AD.

The Battle of Lechfeld (10 August 955), perhaps the defining event for holding off the incursions of the Magyars into Central Europe, was a decisive victory by Otto I the Great, King of the Germans, over the Magyar leaders, the harka (military leader) Bulcsú and the chieftains Lél (Lehel) and Súr. Located south of Augsburg, the Lechfeld is the flood plain that lies along the Lech River. The battle appears as the "Battle of Augsburg" in Hungarian historiography. It was followed up by the Battle of Recknitz in October.

According to the chronicler Widukind of Corvey, Otto "pitched his camp in the territory of the city of Augsburg and joined there the forces of Henry I, Duke of Bavaria, who was himself lying mortally ill nearby, and by duke Conrad with a large following of Franconian knights. Conrad's unexpected arrival so encouraged the warriors that they wished to attack the enemy immediately." [1]. Conrad's arrival was particularly heartening because the exiled duke of Lotharingia (Lorraine) and Otto's son-in-law, had recently thrown in his lot with the Magyars, but now returned to fight under Otto; in the ensuing battle he lost his life. A legion of Swabians were commanded by duke Burchard, who had married Hedwig, the daughter of Henry, the brother of Otto. Also among those fighting under Otto was Boleslav I of Bohemia. And of course about 3,000 Saxons were commanded by Otto himself.

With his in-laws and allies, Otto had managed to gather around him approximately 10,000 heavy cavalry ("eight legions in all" being Widukind's figure), in order to fight against the 50,000 or so Magyar light cavalry, according to chroniclers; modern historians assess the forces at figures that range as low as about a tenth of these figures. After Otto approached the Magyar force, their horsemen crossed the Lech unexpectedly; he was suddenly outflanked by a number of Magyar cavalry, so that his smaller force was caught in between two much larger forces, which should have led to his encirclement and defeat. However, the flanking Magyar force dismounted to loot the German baggage train; Otto was able to send part of his force to sweep over these dismounted troops, resulting in their annihilation.

With this accomplished, his combined force charged at the Magyar line. Despite a volley of arrows from the Magyars (which were mainly deflected by the German shields), Otto's army smashed into the Magyar line, and began to sweep over it. The Germans were able to fight hand-to-hand with the Magyars, giving the nomads no room to use their favorite shoot-and-run tactics. Bulcsú feigned retreat with part of his force, in an attempt to lure Otto's men into breaking their line in pursuit, but to no avail. The German line maintained formation and routed the Magyars from the field. The German forces maintained discipline and methodically pursued the Magyars for the next couple of days, rather than dispersing jubilantly, as German forces had been known to do. [2] "Some of the enemy sought refuge in nearby villages, their horses being worn out; these were surrounded and burnt to death within the walls." The captured Magyars were either executed, or sent back to their ruling prince, Taksony missing their ears and noses; on their return the Hungarian dukes Lél, Bulcsú and Sur, who were not Árpáds, were executed. "Never was so bloody a victory gained over so savage a people," was Widukind's conclusion.


Lehel killing his captor, miniature of the Chronicon Pictum, 1360.

Lifted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lechfeld
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Old 07 Apr 08, 14:41
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El Cid El Campeador

I'm currently focused on the Reconquista of Spain; which pretty much started gaining speed with El Cid (prior to 1100) and ended Fernando and Isabela in 1492.

It is with sorrow, that the star of the movie "El Cid", Charlton Heston has just so recently passed away.
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Old 27 Apr 08, 06:21
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The First Crusade - and the amazing capture of Jerusalem on July 15, 1099.

The Crusade was always so close to failing but it eventually proved to be more successful than any other. Iron Men & Saints!
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Old 23 Jul 08, 09:16
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the Battle of the Lake Peipus.
I love the Alexander Nevski movie .
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Old 23 Jul 08, 10:02
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The battle of Grunwald/Tannenberg 1410. between the Teutonic Knights Order/western volunteer Knights-guests and forcess of Kingdom of Poland and Grand Principality of Lithuania. this battle braked the back of the Order and led to foundation Of Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów the Confederacy and later Federal (republic) state (1569) of Poland, Lithuania,Latwia,Belarus and Ukraine, which ruled the Eastern Europe from XV to XVII century, and was couter balance for Germany and Russia.

This is my choice also. Its agruably the last great medieval "muscle" battle.

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