Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Brandenburg troops in the "Kirchweih von Affalterbach" 1502

For his feud with Nürnberg Kasimir von Brandenburg-Kulmbach had assembled an army of almost 7000 men, 6000 foot and 700 horse. The foot was mostly peasant levies drawn from the lands of his fathers domain but Kasimir also fielded a small force of professional mercenaries in the shape of 300 Landsknechts and 300 Swiss Reisläufer.

The nobility was well represented in Kasimir's army with no less than 3 Counts present (von Schwarzburg, Öttingen and Hohenlohe) alongside a large number of knights such as Götz and Philipp von Berlichingen, Ewald von Lichtenstein, Christoph von Giech, Paulus von Abensberg, Sigismund von Lentersheim and Hans Hund.

Ewald von Lichtenstein was appointed overall commander by Kasimir, Paulus von Abensberg led the "Vortrab" (mounted advance guard) while Christoph von Giech and Hans Hund commanded the remaining cavalry.

Sadly the section of the painting which depicts Kasimirs troops is among the worst damaged parts of the painting and it is hard to see the details of the armour worn by the men-at-arms due to the paint having worn off. 

3 photos showing the charge of the Men-at-arms in Kasimir's army

The painter seem to have made little effort to depict the foot in Kasimir's army. Most of the peasant levy had fled shortly after the start of the battle when their morale collapsed as a result of the Nürnberg gun fire. Only the Kitzingen fähnlein stood their ground alongside the professional Swiss and Landsknechts. Some of the men in the photo below may be intended to show Kasimir's Swiss or Landsknechts. The details that remain do hint at a more elaborate and flamboyant style of clothing than is seen on the typical Nürnberg infantryman in the painting.

A confused melee between horse and foot erupted as the Brandenburgers broke into the Wagenburg.
The last four close ups show the painters attempt to depict the full harness and plate barding used by the Men-at-arms in a bit more detail.
Several noblemen in Kasimir's army found themselves taken prisoner during the fighting around the Wagenburg.

Nürnberg Foot in the "Kirchweih von Affalterbach" 1502

Today I return to my examination of the 1502 painting showing "The battle before the gates of Nürnberg" or the "Kirchweih von Affalterbach" as it was known to contemporaries.
It turned out that I had had a fair bit of problems with the focus while taking photos of the "infantry" sections of the painting and the coverage is therefore both incomplete and not of as high quality as I would have liked.

The first 3 photos show Willibald Pirckheimer's sortie with 800 men towards the end of the battle
Willibald Pirckheimer and his guest Count Gian Galeazzo di San Severion at the head of the Nürnberg column
The middle of the column with halberdiers following behind the pikemen
The sortie was made from the Frauentor
The next series of photos show the troops of Ullman Stromer, 3rd "Oberster Hauptmann zu Nürnberg". Stromer led a force of 700 foot, 60 cavalry, 40 purpose built "war wagons" for use as a wagenburg and a number of cannon ("schlangen  buchsen"). It was Stromer's men who were hotly engaged with Kasimir's army and the painting seems to show them in the final desperate stage of the their fight when Kasimir's cavalry broke into the wagenburg and engaged the Nürnbergers in a bloody melee. Without the protection of the wagenburg the Nürnbergers were driven back and routed but not before inflicting considerable casualties on the cavalry.

Arquebusiers defend the Nürnberg standard

Nürnberger halberdiers and arquebusiers try to halt the enemy cavalry

Both friend and foe lie fallen in front of them
The rout begins and the fleeing Nürnberg foot is pursued by cavalry

Some of the "War Wagons" used by the Nürnbergs to create their Wagenburg
The Nürnberg artillery tries to withdraw as the rout begins

The Nürnberg standard was carried by Peter Schmied von Donauwörth, mortally wounded and unable to defend or hold the standard he bit into it with his teeth in a final attempt to keep it out of enemy hands. His staunch loyalty to his office was noted by contemporary writers even though the standard did fall into enemy hands and can still be seen today:

The final set of photos shows the arrival of the Nürnberg troops which had been sent to Affalterbach. 2000 men together with 12 cannon and a wagenburg. The horse was commanded by Wolf Haller and Hans von Weichsdorf while Wolf Bömer commanded the foot.

A commander at the head of the Affalterbach troops?
The Affalterbach detachments Vorhut advances on to the battlefield
A close up of the arquebusiers at the front of the Vorhut
The next instalment in my series of posts about this painting will take a look at the Brandenburg troops of Kasimir of Branden-Kulmbach followed by a final(?) post that will discuss the dress and equipment of the Nürnberg militia and Landsknechts in greater detail.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Two 16th Century "Doppelhaken"

The Germanisches Nationalmuseum had two fine examples of the "doppelhaken" aka "doppelhakebüchse" (roughly "double hackbut") a heavy firearm that was fired from walls, wagons or special mounts which allowed the gunner to brace the heavy gun and absorb the recoil using the guns "hook".  In Emperor Maximilian's artillery system the doppelhaken fired a lead shot with a weight of 1/4 pound and had a calibre of about 27mm. (Preserved guns of this typicaly have a calibre of 25-30mm.)

The doppelhaken in the Nationalmuseum are made of cast bronze, the first one is dated to 1510-1520

While the second is dated to 1534, this gun is also missing it's hook which has been broken off. 

These guns are quite large as can be seen in the photo below and Emperor Maximilians "Zeugbuch" from 1502 shows them being fired by a crew of two. 

However these later guns have been fitted with simple but effective matchlocks that would have made it possible for the gun to fired by a single man. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The appearance and equipment of German light cavalry in the early 16th Century

In the Summer of 2015 I visited the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg and in the entry to the section dedicated to arms & armour I made a fascinating discovery in the shape of a large battle painting from 1502 that I had neither read about, nor seen photos of before.

Painted in 1502 using water colours on a linen canvas it depicted the battle fought on the 19th of June 1502 between the forces of the city of Nürnberg and Kasimir von Brandenburg-Kulmbach. The battle is usually known as "The Battle in the Forest" or "The Battle before the Gates of Nürnberg". (Die Schlacht im Walde", "Die Schlacht vor den Toren Nürnbergs")

The alongside the numerous depictions of early Landsknecht dress the painting also gives us a rare full colour glimpse of the German "light" cavalry that supported the heavier men-at-arms and served as "jacks of all trades" alongside mounted crossbowmen in German armies of the period.

Only bits and pieces of plate armour are shown in the painting but IMO this is not a case of the men being unarmoured, rather most of their body armour is hidden beneath their woollen coats and in fact we have several pictorial sources which shows precisely this style of equipment with most of the armour worn beneath the coat while a few pieces such as the shoulder defences are worn over rather than under the clothing.

The best such depiction is Albrecht Dürer's Paumgartner altarpiece (painted about 1500) which shows in great detail the equipment used by these light cavalrymen in a way that was not possible for the artist who did the battle painting. 
 We can see the light lance, the demi-gauntlets hinted at above as well as the German style longsword wielded by several men in the painting and last but not least the pauldron being worn over the short coat. We also see details not shown in the battle painting such as the mail sleeves worn under the coat, the mail breeches protecting the lower body and groin and the legs being protected by a thin stripe of mail sewn to the hose. We also see the hood which is almost ubiquitous in the painting.

I found another example of this style of equipment in the medieval paintings section of the Nationalmuseum, a painting by an anonymous Swabian master from about 1490.

Again we see the combination of breastplate worn together with mail with a coat over as well as plate gauntlets, the hoods and last but not least the very distinctive covered sallets which is perhaps the most unusual part of the equipment worn by the German light cavalry.

In the painting almost all of the light cavalry wears sallets depicted in bright colours, often with additional decorations:

Today this style of sallet is known as a "black sallet", a piece of mass produced munitions armour that had a simple finish and were often left black ‘rough from the hammer’. The helmets were then either painted or covered with leather or cloth. Below you can see a "black sallet" that I photographed in the Imperial Hofjagd und Rustkammer in Wien. In this case the helmet is painted but you can clearly see the small holes around the visor and edge of the helmet which made it possible to attach a cover. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Colonel Rutger von Ascheberg's detachment in the battle of Konitz 1656/1657

"Colonell Ashemberg marched towards Pomerell with a party of 1500 horsemen, and in the night tyme not farr from Konitz falleth into the Polls quarters, fyreth some villages, ruineth Duke Dimitre Visniovitsky his and other regiments, and retires with some losse and in great confusion to Sluchow, the trowpes haveing lost each other and their guides in the woodes, and persued hotly by the Polls."
-Diary of Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries

Rutger von Ascheberg commanded four 6-pound cannon and 950 men drawn from the following five regiments
  1. Pfalzgraf Philip von Sulzbach's regiment of Horse: 4 companies
  2. Karl Gustav Wrangel's regiment of Horse:               4 companies
  3. Gustav Otto Stenbock's regiment of Horse:              6 companies
  4. Engel's regiment of Horse:                                        4 companies
  5. Rutger von Ascheberg's regiment of Horse:             4 companies
  6. In total 22 companies
Given the much reported weakness of the Swedish regiments in the fall and winter of 1656 the strenght reported above is suspicously high. If Ascheberg did indeed field 950 his troops would have included a large number of "commanded" troopers drawn from other regiments in the army which are not mentioned above.

Pfalzgraf Philip von Sulzbach's regiment of Horse 

(Aka The King's Life Regiment of Horse)
Lieutenant-Colonel Angel?

A large regiment with a paper strenght of 9 companies with 108 officers and 630 men which was raised in Germany. However by the time of the intial invasion of Poland only 330 men had been mustered in Pommerania. 8 companies with 270 men were part of Wittenbergs army while a single company with 60 men marched with Karl Gustav. 

The regiment took part in the march into southern Poland and was present at the battle of Zarnow It took part in the Krakow campaign and was in the thick of the fighting during the battle of Wojnicz. In the fall into took part in the campaign against Royal Prussia where it also found winter quarters. In March 1656 one squadron with 200 men joined the Pfalzgraf's mach to Warsaw which was in much need of reinforcements due to the local population rising against the Swedes across the countryside in central Poland. In April it rejoined the main Swedish and fought in the battles of Gniezno/Kleck and Warsaw.

In June 1656 the regiment mustered a total of 470 men, 270 men with the King's field army and 200 men with Stenbock's corps in Royal Prussia. The 2nd squadron took part in Stenbock's campaign in East Prussia and fought in the battle of Filipow in October 1656. It then rejoined the King's army and the now complete regiment took part in the winter campaign in Pomerelia in late 1656. 

Karl Gustav Wrangel's regiment of Horse

Major Johan Persson Lindorm

Raised in Germany as a 8 company regiment with 400 common troopers and 93 officers and staff in September 1655. In January 1656 the regiment can found in Poland were it was quartered in Brzesc Kujawski. Badly worn down by desertion, disease and partisan warfare it was brought up to strenght using the remants of Otto von Styrum's Dutch cavalry regiment as well as trying to find new recruits in Germany and Poland.

The regiment followed Wrangel during the campaign in April-May 1656 and fought in the battle of Gniezno/Klecko. In late May the regiment was made part of Robert Douglas corps and took part in the march to Pultusk. In June it rejoined the main army and fought in the battle of Warsaw. (Where it was one of the Swedish regiments that reinforced the Brandenburg wing of the army.)

In October 1656 the regiments fortunes began to decline as Wrangel was about to leave Poland for a new command in Livonia while Lt-Col. Planting went on leave in Pommerania. This left Lindorm in command of an unsupported regiment. The regiment may have been part of Stenbock's army at Filipow were a squadron of made up of "Lindorm" and a squadron of the Royal Guards is found in one document. But Lindorm could also have been temporarily attached to the Guards without the rest of the regiment being present. In the fall of 1656 the regiment was attached to Aschebergs regiment to form a combined unit refered to as "Wrangel-Ascheberg" by Karl Gustav. (Calrbom quotes a regimental strenght of 4 companies with 96 common troopers during this period) In February 1657 the remnants of Wrangel's regiment (which by then mustered only 50 common troopers) was formaly absorbed into Ascheberg's regiment and the regiment ceased to exist.

Gustav Otto Stenbock's regiment of Horse

Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Heinrich von Wussow

Recruited as a regiment of 8 companies in 1655-1656 the regiment entered Poland January-February as Wussow marched to joined Stenbock who was in Royal Prussia.

As part of Stenbock's army the regiment remained in Royal Prussia for most of 1656 and was engaged in the war against the forces raised by Gdansk (Danzig). As result it service record is less well covered in printed sources than that of units which served with Karl Gustav in the more famous campaigns in southern Poland. The regiment was part of the army which Stenbock led into East Prussia in the fall of 1656 and saw action in the battle of Filipow were Stenbock defeated the Lithuanian army.

The regiment may have contained a company of dragoons, there are loose references to "Stenbock's dragoons" at times though this coudl also refer to temporary dragoons drawn from Stenbock's regiment of Foot or a poorly documented dragoon regiment which is also connected to Stenbock. A muster from 1660 shows the regiment with 7 companies of horse and 1 company of dragoons though it is impossible to tell if the dragoon company is a later addition.


Engel's regiment of Horse

A composite unit made up of the remnants of the two regiments of Horse raised in Bremen by the brothers Jochim and Hans Engell. Both were veterans of the 30 Years War and Jochim had been in Swedish service since his youth and as a lieutenant took part in the defence of Stralsund in 1628. Hans began his military service some years later in 1636.

The Engell regiments saw extensive service in the war from the initial invasion in 1655 when they were part of Arvid Wittenbergs army to 1657 when the two had been combined into a single regiment commanded by Jochim Engell which was part of the the army which Karl Gustav led towards Denmark. The Engell's fought in the battle of Zarnow 1655 and were part of the winter campaign against Czarniecki in 1656 were they saw action in the battle of Golab. Joachim Engell's regiment took part in the last part of the Jaroslaw campaign and after a short rest both regiments fought in the battle of Gniezno (aka Klecko) were Hans Engell was in the thick of the fighting as the commander of the Swedish vanguard.
In the autumn of 1656 both regiments were part of the small corps with which Major-General Israel Ridderhjelm reinforced the Brandenburg army in East Prussia and as a result both regiments were badly mauled in the battle of Prostken. Hans Engell was taken captive by the Tartars and would spend long years in captivity before being released.

Rutger von Ascheberg's regiment of Horse

Major Reinhard von Hornberg

A veteran of the 30 Years War Ascheberg reentered Swedish service in 1655 when he was commissioned to raise a regiment of Horse in Bremen. The 6 companies had a paper strenght of 72 officers and 360 men and in November the regiment muster 318 men.

In December 1655 the regiment joined a detachment of German troops led by Major-General Valdemar Christian of Schlesvig-Holstein and marched into Pomerelia were it soon began engaged in the ongoing fighting with the troops commanded by Weyhers including beating up the quarters of four Polish companies at Kaselitsky near Marienburg. In January Ascheberg's regiment was sent to reinforce Douglas army and took part in the winter campaign against Stefan Czarniecki. At the manor of Zakrzow Ascheberg's detachment of 242 German and Swedish Reiters fought of a night attack by Stanislav Witowski who led a force of 800-1500 men made up of regulars, noble volunteers and armed peasants.

Rejoining the main Swedish army 3 squadrons of Ascheberg's regiment took part in the hard fought battle of Golab were Czarniecki was defeated. Afterwards Ascheberg took part in the so called "Jaroslaw march" during which Ascheberg and his regiment won several independet actions against Polish forces. An separate detachment of the regiment were part of the Swedish troops defeated at Warka and only 39 men managed to return to Warsaw. By June 1656 the regiment had been much reduced by the hard campaigns and mustered on 150 men in a single squadron. The regiment fought in the 3 day battle outside Warsaw but no details of it's service there seem to have been recorded. In the fall the still weak regiment was reinforced by attaching Wrangel's old regiment of Horse an attachment which was to be made permanent when the two regiments were combined into one in february 1657.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Danish army of the Kalmar War, part 2

Christian IV’s ‘Eastern’ army 1611

King Christian’s army was to besgie and capture the important Swedish town of Kalmar as the first stage of the invasion of Sweden.

Danish infantry

  • King’s own regiment (1336 men)
    • Tomas Nold’s company of Guards: 314 men
    • Peder Hundemark’s company: 308 men
    • Kasper Miltnitz’company: 400 men
    • Anders Sinclair’s company: 314 men

Mercenary infantry

  • Gert Rantzau’s regiment (625 men)
    • Blasius Belisarius company: 200 men
    • Paul Rantzau’s company: 200 men
    • Jakob Werkamp’s company: 225 men

  • Godske von Alefeldt’s regiment (1920 men)
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Alefeldt’s company: 386 men
    • Heinrich Ernst Brüning’s company: 217 men
    • Vilhelm von Friesendorff’s company: 190 men
    • Bernt von Hagen’s company: 234 men
    • Johann Kaufman’s company: 240 men
    • Joachim Köller’s company: 202 men
    • Melkior Rantzau’s company: 203 men
    • Joachim Schultz’ company: 248 men

  • Duke Georg von Braunschweig-Lüneburg’s regiment (700 men)*
    • The Dukes company: 500 men
    • Two companies: 200 men

Danish cavalry

  • Hoffane, Ditlev Rantzau: 150 men (150)
  • Sjaellendske fane, Peder Basse: 104 men (100)
  • Skaanske fane, Anders Bille: 132 men (200)
  • Fynske fane, Korfitz Rud,: 129 (200)

Mercenary cavalry

  • Joachim Bülows company (King’s Lifecompany): 130 men (100)
  • Jean Dupuis company of dragoons: 124 men (200)*


Some of the units assigned to Christian’s army were slow to arrive, Duke Georg’s regiment only joined the army on the 29th of May while Dupuis’ dragoons only landed at Kalmar on August 2nd.
These delays left Christian’s army understrenght at Kalmar, however the poorly prepared Swedish defences meant that the Swedes were unable to exploit his weakness before reinforments arrived by land and sea. Indeed Christians army was strong enough to capture the town (but not the castle) of Kalmar before any reinforcements arrived.

Fieldmarshal Sten Maltesen Sehested’s ’Western’Army 1611

The original Danish plan called for Fielmarshal Maltsen-Sehested to support and protect Christians army besieging Kalmar by advancing to Jönköping. However the border in northern Halland had been left completely unprotected and fearing a Swedish attack on the vulnerable province Sten Maltesen ignored his order to attack Jönköping and instead moved against the Swedish forces gathering around Elfsborg. This left Christian dangerously unsupported at Kalmar.

Mercenary infantry

  • King’s own regiment (1202 men)
    • Kristian Friis’ company: 260 men
    • Mortiz Galde’s company: 314 men
    • Peter von Heinemark’s company: 314 men
    • Holger Rosencrantz’ company: 314 men

  • Gert Rantzau’s regiment (1800 men)
    • The Colonel’s company
    • Jörgen Barolet’s company
    • Henrik Dringelberg’s company
    • Wollert Lützow’s company
    • Jakob Sehested’s company
    • Valentin Rosworm’s company
    • Markvard von der Wick’s company

  • Thesen von Parsows regiment (1244 men)
    • Georg Lunge’s company: 322 men
    • Three companies: 922 men

Danish cavalry

  • Aalborg fane, Ulrik Sandberg: 150 men (200)
  • Aarhus fane, Knut Brahe: 164 men (200)
  • Ribe fane, Albert Skeel: 161 men (200)
  • Sjaellendske fane, Krister Hansen,: 100 (100)
  • Hallandske fane, Tage Krabbe: 103 men (200)

Mercenary cavalry

  • Gert Rantzau’s company: 351 men (350, including 150 mounted arquebusiers)
  • Duke Ernst Ludwig’s company (Sachsen): 193 men (200)
  • Thesen von Parsow’s company: 196men (200)
  • Markvard Pentz’ company: (200)
  • Jörgen Grubbe’s company: (200)
  • Duke Philip’s company (Holstein-Sönderborg): (200)


Maltesen-Sehested’s army suffered from even greater delays than King Christian’s.
Intialy the Fieldmarshal only had Krabbe’s & Galde’s units on hand. By May 13th all of the native Danish cavalry had arrived together with Georg Lunge’s company of infantry had arrived and on the 16th the Fieldmarshal moved his small force to Kungsbacka in order to guard the border against the Swedish troops assembling at Elfsborg.

During the 27th to 30th of May significant reinforcements reach the Fieldmarshal in his camp at Kungsbacka:
5 companies of Gert Rantzaus’regiment
3 companies of the King’s own regiment
Rantzau’s, Duke Ernst Ludwig’s and Pentz’ companies of horse.

Von Parsow’s regiment of infantry and company of Horse joined with the army on the 11th to 12th of June together with Grubbe’s company.

The Danish Army of the Kalmar War part 1

The Danish army at the start of the Kalmar war


The Danes made extensive use of mercenaries, infact the majority of the Danish army was made up of such troops. A very expensive way to raise an army but one which gave the Danes an advantage in troop quality over the Swedes. The units were primarily Germans with some French and there were both French and Dutch specialists in the siege train.

Native troops

Unlike Sweden Denmark had no standing national army except for the Noble levy. In times of war the King could call out levies of the pesanttry as well but such levies were considered to have little military value. “Worse than beasts” in the words of Christian himself.
However a limited number of peasants were drafted to form 4 native Danish companies for the King’s own regiment as well as a small number of garrison units.

The Danish noble levy had been given a new and more regular form by Christian IV, only the youngest of nobles now served in person, the remaining men were enlisted professional soldiers paid for by the nobles. The cornets were also given a real command staff rather than beign ad-hoc formations led by a high ranking noble. So while the noble levy of 1611-1612 may not have shown the chivalric espirit de corps present in 1563-1670 they were much better disciplined and traiend as units in 1611

The cavalry

The Danes used 3 types of cavalry, cuirassiers, ‘Light horsemen’ and mounted arquebusiers. One problem is that I so far have been unable to find out the mix of cuirassiers and Light horsemen in the Danish units. Unless a unit is marked as containing mtd arquebusiers it can be assumed to contain shock cavalry, supposedly cuirassiers but perhaps a mixture of cuirassiers and Light Horsemen.

Cuirassiers wore full ¾ harness and were armed with two pistols and a sword.
The ‘light horsemen’ were probably copies of the French chevauxlegers, they wore back and breastplates, short or no thigh defences. The helmets were burgonet and the arms were protected by spaulder style shoulder defences and iron or leather gauntlets. The burgonet and the breastplate was suppsoed to be shot proof. Weapons were the same as for the cuirassiers.
The mtd. arquebusiers were armed with sword, one pistol and a wheellock arquebus. They wore back and breastplate and an open helmet (probably a form of morion). Only the breastplate was supposed to be bulletproof.

The infantry

The Danish infantry was equipped with two firearms for each pike, clearly they had learned their lesson from the previous war were the Danes had intitialy suffered from a serious shortage of shot while the plentifull pike proved of very limited use fighting in Swedish forrest. The most common firearm was the caliver as Chrstian had over 14000 matchlock, wheellock and snaphaunce calivers in his armoury in 1609 but only a bit over 2500 muskets. More muskets were probably brought by the mercenaries or imported but it is most probble that the claiver remianed the most plentifull firearm.
Danish pikemen wore back and breastplates with collar and helmet but durign 1611 the Danes began to buy simpler “corselets” made up of only a breastplate and helmet.