Heavy Cavalry vs. Light Cavalry

From: Lee R. Insley <maelstrom_at_usa.net>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 08:47:20 -0500

I looks like my missing postings made it to the digest after all. Again sorry.

Sandy Petersen:
> The Swiss did attack cavalry, but only in places that they could
>ambush the enemy horse. At first, the Swiss interspersed halberds &
>firearms in their columns, but these were later on dispensed with. It
>was realized that the halberds actually _weakened_ the columns, though
>apparently a few halberds were kept in the center of the square even
>until the end of Swiss supremacy.=20

It is my understanding that the halberds *corrected* the problem that the phalanx had over certain types of infantry and cavalry. Because of the long pikes, the phalanx had a problem when infantry/cavalry with short swords or close melee type weapons (i.e. the legion) would close to melee range. Yeah, the pikes would provide an initial crush, but as the melee degraded into individual battles following the initial clash of arms, the infantry/cavalry with the better close quarters weapon would prevail in the long run. Essentially, the legionaire's use of the short sword would allow him to fight toe-to-toe with the Macedonian. That long-spear would not help much at this point, nor could those in the back rows provide much support because of the inflexible nature of the long spear. The halberdeers, on the other hand, would be inter-mixed and would provide a much more flexible weapon to be used in close quarters, thus solving this problem. Thus you had a formation with long spears which were effective against cavalry and provided an initial crushing action, and shorter spears to be used as a melee weapon.

> I believe that the Sun Dome templars, who fight on flat ground
>(unlike the Swiss squares, which were developed in very rough terrain),
>and who fight almost exclusively against cavalry, use a linear =
>with extremely long pikes. Superficially it would look very much like a
>Macedonian Phalanx. I further believe that they use columns of 10 men.=20

I believe in another posting, I stated my view that the typical place you would find the Sun County militia would be in mercenary armies. There doesn't seem to be too much history of invading armies coming to Sun County where the militia would need to take up a traditional battle formation. Most of the time, they are dealing with nomad raids where I would think they would mostly hold up in fortified positions or harass the nomads with missile troops/magic. The reason I am saying this, is that it is my opinion that the Sun County system (what ever it is) would not be used almost exclusively against cavalry, but more than likely would be normally used as mercenaries in a bigger, more diverse army. I would think the SC militia would develop tactics which would be suitable for their mercenary duties rather than to defend/attack specifically against just cavalry.

In Sun County (pg. 44), it states that the Templars use a formation of 8 men deep and 8 men across. It also states (on pg.43) that they use 3.5 meter pikes or sarissa which would tend to support the phalanx type formation. Hoplites - while similar - used shorter spears (about 2 meters long). In this chain of discussions, I have been quilty of interchanging hoplite and phalanx. They are slightly different and should be treated so.

>>With the exception of the Rhino riders, the nomads of Prax would
>normally be considered light cavalry. =20
> Tactically, any mounted soldier who does not use missile weapons
>is "heavy cavalry". Some are tougher than other, but tactically they
>function similarly -- they must close to melee range to be effective. =
>any case, I would consider many of the Bison, High Llama, and even =
>tribe to be heavy cavalry by any reasonable definition.=20

My distinction here was *heavy* cavalry being the mounted knight with heavy armor, armored horse, and tactically using a close cavalry formation with an attack head-on into the front of infantry using a long lance/spear (which is what the Swiss pikemen were trying to defend against). *Lighter* cavalry would be those who use lighter armor and use the speed and height of their horses as their tactical weapons (wether they use an open or closed formation would depend on if they are missile troops or melee troops). I view the heavy cavalry as being able to break the infantry with their charge, where the lighter cavalry would need to out maneuver their opponent, harass them with missile fire, and/or fight hand-to-hand (as opposed to relying on the lance to break the infantry). Terminology doesn't really matter, the distinction is what are their combat methods. I think my distinction in your terms would be the *heavy* cavalry as used by the medieval knights versus the *heavy* cavalry as used by Alexander the Great (yes, in literature they are both listed as heavy cavalry, but the knights were much more heavy and much more suited to attack spear wielding infantry than the Macedonians). Alexander's companions did not use the charge with lance point down to win the battle. They used the speed and height of the horse to give them an advantage in the hand-to-hand combat. The overall point I am trying to make here is that the well armored knight with a long lance would be much more devestating to a phalanx/hoplite line (and would be more likely to survive the attack) than the Praxian nomads using the type of armor and armament I envision them using (which is very little). IMO, the Praxians wouldn't stand a chance against the line of Templars if they couldn't out maneuver them, whereas the medieval knights could do so.

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