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How Terrifying is it to fend off Knights and similar elite heavy cavalry with Spears?

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  • How Terrifying is it to fend off Knights and similar elite heavy cavalry with Spears?

    A long time ago I had Shogun:Total War on my laptop. In one of the description for the Takeda Faction of the game, it stated something like "The Takeda horsemen are the best in the land. To Withstand the Takeda Horsemen is the ULTIMATE test of Courage".

    This really got me wondering. Usually Medieval Movies like Bravehart and RTS games like Age of Empires always show infantry with spears have a huge advantage over heavily armored cavalry elites like Knights and Samurais. As shown in Bravehart, all you have to do is wait for the Knights to charge than you pull your spears and hit the horses. In games like Rome:Total War and Age of Empires, its even more brutally easily to slaughter heavy cavalry-all you have to do is basically have the spearman attack the knights and they should be able to slaughter them with ease.

    In fact this easy countering of Knights and elite heavy cavalry by spear infantry as portrayed in movies and games has become so imprinted into popular culture, that many people who don't study Medieval History into detail think that you just have to wait for the Knights to charge your spears and boom they'll get slaughtered as they hit the spears. Basically in their view you just need to hold the spear steadily and you'll be able to slaughter elite knights just like that,

    However the quote from Shogun:Total War about the Takeda Cavalry being able to be fend off (even assuming you have spear men) as the Ultimate Test of Courage , made me wonder-is Heavy Cavalry as easy to destroy with spears as Bravehart and PC games portray?

    I read of cases in Medieval Warfare were spearmen-and we're talking about well-trained ones with long spears- would panic and run away even though they assume those killing positions with the spears (like how the Scotts angled their stakes upward) easily. Or if they do hold it off at first, it seems that as the Knights keep coming, there are times when they would just panic and run away (even if it looks like they did slaughter Knights like in the movies and games).

    Is it really that terrifying? So many people in today's world-including Military Historians who don't study Medieval Warfare in details and impose modern concepts on the past-think that with basic Discipline and the right position, the elite heavy cavalry should be easy to kill!

    I mean things I read in the Napoleonic Warfare states that Horses would not charge at men with mere bayonets that are only add 2-3 inches to the rifles they're attached to.And these rifles with their bayonets are much shorters than the spears traditionally used in Medieval and Ancient Warfare!

    So wouldn't the horses be too scared to charge at the Medieval Spearmen?

    What exactly made the Knights (and other elite heavy cavalry like the Takeda Samurai) so scary to fight against, even if you're using anti-cavalry weapons that disciplined and trained spearmen would panic and abandon their formations?

  • #2
    Firstly, bayonets in the napoleonic age were 18-24 inches not 2-3.

    The short answer is that the horses won't charge home into a massed group. If the infantry stand firm they are pretty safe, assuming they don't get flanked.

    Of course a horde of armoured men thundering toward you on warhorses is terrifying. And many/most spearmen were not well trained or experienced. The experienced professional fighters were often with the 'knights'.

    Originally posted by Pisces Adonis View Post
    I mean things I read in the Napoleonic Warfare states that Horses would not charge at men with mere bayonets that are only add 2-3 inches to the rifles they're attached to.And these rifles with their bayonets are much shorters than the spears traditionally used in Medieval and Ancient Warfare!

    So wouldn't the horses be too scared to charge at the Medieval Spearmen?

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