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Author Topic: Huguenot commanded shot?  (Read 103 times)

AndrewW

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Huguenot commanded shot?
« on: April 17, 2021, 06:13:52 PM »
Alistair recently commented that he wanted to know more about how the Huguenot employed their shot.

The Wars of Religion were really a long series of minor and major conflicts punctuated by insincere truces.  The main, underlying cause seems to be the attempts of the Dowager Queen Catherine de Medici desperately trying to hang on to her power through her sons.  There were three major factions, the Catholic Royalist, the Protestant Huguenots and the “Politiques” who seem to have backed whoever was on top at the moment.  Add in meddling by Spain, the Pope, Queen Elizabeth I and the Dutch.  Nearly all the iconic troop types of the renaissance were involved, Landsknect, Swiss, mixed pike and shot foot, firearm only foot, artillery, Gendarmes, Curassier, Reiter, Stradiot, and mounted arquebusier.  Add in mercenaries who downed tools to demand more pay just before major engagements, incompetent generals, brilliant generals, lucky generals and unlucky generals.

Before Henry of Navarre became king the Huguenot foot were either mercenary landsknect or volunteers , mainly from south and western France. The volunteers were invariable armed with arquebus with few if any pike, towards the end of the conflict the arquebus was being replaced by musket.  The landsknect had increasing numbers of skirmishing shot as time progressed.  The volunteer foot were viewed as too vulnerable to pike armed foot and mounted in the open.  However they were very valuable in sieges, which were a common feature of the conflict.  These arquebus armed foot were sometimes given “nags” to allow them to keep up with the cavalry on raids (in approximately equal numbers), which suggests that they were useful to support the horse.

Huguenot foot in major battles.

Dreux 1532 – After the Huguenot gendarmes had beaten the Royalist gendarmes the foot were only involved near the end of the battle when Royalist foot emerged from the village of Epinay, “most escaped to the cover of nearby houses and trees”

St Denis 1567 - The Huguenot deployed in a defensive position, on each flank about 400 arquebusiers were hidden in trenches, when the Royalist Gendarmes attacked the shot emerged to enfilade the lines, shooting at about 45m range to great effect just as the Huguenot gendarmes countercharged.  By the end of the Royalist retreat these foot seemed to have been cut up.

Jarnac 1569 – The Huguenot withdrew after a major cavalry engagement when the Royalist foot threatened to get involved.  There is no mention of the Huguenot  foot being engaged

Moncontour 1569 – A body of arquebus armed foot were deployed in the centre in a large farm, others were deployed as a (skirmish?) screen in front of the reiter, they seem to have fallen back through the reiter in response to the Royalist gendarmes attacking.  The infantry were abandoned by the defeated horse/reiter, the landsknect were virtually wiped out by a combination of frontal attack by the Royal Swiss and mounted charges in the rear.  About half the french foot escaped into nearby woods.

Coutras 1587 – The first battle when Henry of Navarre was in charge.  A significant number of arquebusier had nags but there does not seem to be any suggestion they used these on the battlefield.

About 2000 arquebusier were sent into the broken ground of the warren where they faced off  many more royalist foot of the pike and shot variety for the whole battle.  Henry deployed his horse and reiter in blocks 6 deep with blocks of approximately 300 arquebus foot, deployed 5 deep, alongside the mounted.  The shot were instructed not to fire until about 20m range to avoid being ridden down by the Royalist gendarmes, the Huguenot mounted coutercharged immediately after the discharge, the Gendarmes were in a two deep line en haye and were destroyed in the space of a few minutes. This seems to have caused the Picardies regiment to break upon which the Royalist army broke.  The Huguenot foot seemed to have suffered very few casualties.

Arques 1589 – fought in a very narrow defile near Dieppe, the Huguenot were outnumbered but had had time to dig two lines of entrenchments and site cannon to cover at least the second line.  The arquebus fire (protected by the Royal Swiss) from the fortifications seemed to have tipped the balance  of the battle (incidentally the battle featured a flank march through a forest by landsknect and french pike and shot foot).

Ivry 1589 – Henry now had access to the Royal troops, the Huguenot deployed in a line with few reserves, cavalry units interspersed with french regiments, some of whom are described as arquebusier regiments.

Conclusions
1- Native Huguenot foot were deficient/totally lacking pikes and were not trusted to survive unsupported on an open battlefield
2 – There is a pattern of the Huguenot using mounted/shot combinations
3 – The Huguenot horse seemed to fight defensively, allowing the shot to influence/help their countercharge
4 – The number of shot used with the mounted was not small, possibly equal numbers shot to mounted?
5 – I suspect that the Huguenot had to use their foot this way or not use them at all
6 – Are the shot “commanded shot” as wargamers think of them  – a definite NO

My main source for the above is Sir Charles Oman “A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century” – book V.  My version is a reprint dated 1991, it contains the footnotes and most of the maps but does not have the bibliography.  The book makes an excellent starting point, even if the literary style is a bit dated.  Internet searches for the named battles yields maps and illustrations. Wikipedia has an excellent introduction to the Wars of Religion for those who want to know more.

Andrew

alasdair

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Re: Huguenot commanded shot?
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2021, 10:43:17 AM »
Thank Andrew for all this now to work out how to use them, my reading is they were often deployed in buildings, behind hedges, trench etc

Thank you

now to think about how to use them.

alasdair

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Re: Huguenot commanded shot?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2021, 05:15:43 PM »
Hi Andrew

Whilst in point 6 you say not as commanded shot as we see them to me the description below seems to suggest the current way we are using commanded shot would cover this with the rest L/S which would make them vulnerable. I am also worried lists to generic and from your descriptions have I allowed the HUgenot far to many pikemen

Coutras 1587 – The first battle when Henry of Navarre was in charge.  A significant number of arquebusier had nags but there does not seem to be any suggestion they used these on the battlefield.

About 2000 arquebusier were sent into the broken ground of the warren where they faced off  many more royalist foot of the pike and shot variety for the whole battle.  Henry deployed his horse and reiter in blocks 6 deep with blocks of approximately 300 arquebus foot, deployed 5 deep, alongside the mounted.  The shot were instructed not to fire until about 20m range to avoid being ridden down by the Royalist gendarmes, the Huguenot mounted coutercharged immediately after the discharge, the Gendarmes were in a two deep line en haye and were destroyed in the space of a few minutes. This seems to have caused the Picardies regiment to break upon which the Royalist army broke.  The Huguenot foot seemed to have suffered very few casualties.

bahdahbum

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Re: Huguenot commanded shot?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2021, 07:42:49 PM »
Funny as the swedes did something similar at Breitenfeld in 1631

AndrewW

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Re: Huguenot commanded shot?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2021, 12:03:21 PM »
sorry for the delay

in answer to Alistair's points

the reason I do not think they are wargamers commanded shot is that the units seemed to have an independent role as well as fire support for the millers.

shot on nags, I know of no occasions they appeared on the battlefield, they are probably the reason that Hugenot raids were fast and mobile, allowing the foot to more readily keep up with the horse

as to too many pikemen in a Huguenot army will need some more reading, early on they were mainly landsknecht, towards the end of the wars when Henry was king he had the royal Swiss, the middle .....?

Andrew

alasdair

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Re: Huguenot commanded shot?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2021, 01:58:11 PM »
It might be one of those cases were we offer players the choice