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Ask me about Warfare

Discussion in 'Research' started by thecoldembrace, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. Shadowfirelance

    Shadowfirelance Scribe

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    Wow, I really can't thank you enough for all of that, every bit helped!

    On the Artillery, I mean;

    They literally are massive range specialists, cannons, and the like were invented by them, as well as some of their own creations (Such as Greek Fire 2.0, things like trebuchets meant for infantry/calvary, and to be extremely simple, a primitive tank) They're also an extremely prepare-focused army, and they've been defeated before because they couldn't prepare fully.

    Would the actual composition of the army Change than an Infantry based army, other than the amount of artillery?

    How many non-combatants typically traveled with an army?

    And one more I forgot; So sorry.
    How much did calvary change? Would an army with loose to one with it?
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  2. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    First of all thank you, Devor :D glad I could help.

    To help you on your own question of:
    Most armies have an engineering corps whose main job would be to do exactly what you are asking. Their whole purpose was to path find. They would be the ones who search for the best cross points of a river and would do what is needed to construct a bridge across (if necessary).
    Typically however, an army will do it's best to avoid massive terrain entanglements. They would search for a pass through the mountain rather than over it. The same applies for a jungle. This is mainly because of one thing, the longer you spend hacking your way through weeds the more time you are giving to your enemy. Time is the most precious commodity in war.
    Its also very unfeasible for a large army to scale a mountain or cut through a jungle, especially because this in most cases leaves the supply lines behind. Getting men up the side of a mountain is one thing... getting a wagon loaded with provisions is something else entirely.

    The times when this drastic course of action is used is for a surprise attack on an enemy (especially if you are not yet at war). If this is what you are seeking, than it becomes a little different but not entirely. If time is not a worry than the only worry is being discovered. I would still stay away from a mountain climb if possible and find an old goat path or something of that nature that can move men even single file through to the other side.

    As to your river crossing question... how long would it take to cross a river? First of all how big is the river?
    In 55 and 53 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rhine river twice. The distance between shorelines was around 800- to I think 1000 feet with the river being around 16-17 feet deep. Caesar's engineers constructed a fully functional bridge in about 10 days... incredibly fast considering the challenge at hand.

    If you are talking about just crossing a river... no bridge building... it depends on the site of crossing. Mostly commanders look for a point where they can get their whole army over to secure the other side in a few hours, so that a bridge can be built from behind to bring the supply train across.

    As to equipment they used, that is a good question. Being completely honest my field of expertise on this is rather limited. I would imagine however that they would use what is most efficient. Short hacking blades and axes would be used to clear shrubs and trees, bamboo and reeds. Picks and so forth for rocks that need to be cut down to size or displaced. They would have teams of work animals to haul away whatever was needed to be moved. And they would probably have teams working day and night to cut through difficult areas and keep steady pace in order to not be caught or to save as much time as possible.
     
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  3. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    @ Shadowfirelance
    Ah I see now, alrighty.
    Armies are primarily always infantry based, it is the core, the backbone. An army that has access to gunpowder weapons, cannons, handheld firearms and the like would slowly undergo the same metamorphosis that changed the world when guns came on the scene in Europe. The fighting style changes to best use the advantage guns give you.

    For a nation that has exclusive access to firearms and their foe does not, the change would be noticeable. Soldiers would likely wear less armor, but not a ton less because they are still facing off against men who fight in the style before firearms, and thus they need the protection when battle gets to hand in hand. (Those stories and pictures of armies standing across a field from one another firing at each other over and over... that is wrong, a few shots were let off and then a general advance and charge would be sounded and hand to hand would begin.) Your force with the firearms would have to be trained on both the hand to hand aspect of fighting as well as the new firearm tactics and disciplines. The composition of your army would change from heavy infantry and light infantry into a singular infantry block that is generally uniform across the board.. save for special units like grenadiers and skirmishers.

    I can see how they could be defeated if caught unprepared, or not given enough time, but at the same time they would be drilled in the regular fashion of old warfare, because well... they are still fighting against it. It may take your artillery time to position itself for battle, or to get your primitive tank ready to steamroll, but your common soldier, your infantryman could be mustered in little time and buy that necessary time needed for its other aspects to arrive on the field to win the day.

    To go along with this, you can equip more men and train them rather easily, and more quickly than an army comprised of old fashioned warrior types. Take the way Japanese warfare completely did a massive transformation when they got brought up to speed on technology. The samurai may have had hundreds of years of tradition on their side, but in almost no time at all they could be overwhelmed by a vast influx of basically peasants taking up arms and trained. A single samurai lost could not be replaced, and it didn't matter that he could kill ten men before he died, there were ten more to take the place of the fallen.

    If we are talking from beginning to end, how did cavalry change, that might take a very long time. In order to save your eyes a ton of reading and my fingers tons of typing I will give some examples and see if this helps out your question.

    Ancient cavalry took a long time to arrive on the scene, and it took a long time further for it to go from east to west. Cavalry for a long time was limited to the steppe peoples of Central and East Asia, who perfected the use of the horse in combat.

    The horse before it became a single horse and rider started out in the Middle East with the war chariot. Two to four or more horses would be hooked to a chariot that could then be used in mass for flanking and harassment, or full on shock combat to finally exploit a weak spot in the enemy lines.

    Before it could be used effectively on the battlefield in the west a significant piece of technology had to be invented, the stirrup and the saddle. This gave the rider a great deal of stability and leverage. Riders could shoot bows, throw javelins, and use lances. It turned the cavalry unit into a multi-functional weapon system with the power and speed of a horse added to the skill of its rider.
    Horse archers and skirmishers could be extremely annoying, and extremely deadly against well packed infantry units. A heavy horseman with lance and armor turned into a massive fist that could be used for powerful shock attack, crashing into enemy lines and opening gaps.
    Light horsemen could run down fleeing troops, exploit gaps to ride through and attack the rear or flanks of an enemy battle line.

    Cavalry has many advantages, so many that it lasted until WW1 before the use was finally abandoned because against the machine gun it was far past its prime.
    Now as to your question of would an army without cavalry lose to one with it: This is situational. Cavalry has to have a lot of area to operate in effectively. In narrow or difficult terrain, uneven and rocky, cavalry was very ill suited.
    However, even on battlefields were cavalry can operate effectively doesn't mean that the army with would automatically win the day. Tightly packed units of infantry could resist a frontal assault by cavalry. Rear troops with long spears could ward off attacks from the rear or the flank.
    It is when cavalry and infantry work in tandem that it makes life extremely difficult for the army without.
    Preparation of a battlefield would also be key for a force without cavalry to win, as in laying down traps, or choosing the best terrain in which to fight.
    So as I said... situational.

    -Cold
     
  4. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    How much do you know about the real Vlad Dracula? Since you are an Ottoman aficionado I assume you must know something but I don't want to assume. If you say you know little, totally fine. If you know quite a bit, especially from the Ottoman perspective, I will have a lot of questions! (Consider yourself forewarned, ha ha!)
     
  5. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    If I had to enter into a war and was allowed the selection of only a single type of troops, it would be engineers. Hands down. Every time. :D

    ---

    @Trick: unless you are specifically asking about Vlad Tepes' warfare tactics (and only those), that might be better served by its own thread.
     
  6. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    I'm hoping to get the Ottoman impression of his tactics specifically from this thread. Also, I'd like to know if the tactics (both war and fear) that he used are likely something he learned while he grew up as a ward of the Sultan. If his tactics are actually similar to theirs, it will probably lead to a separate thread.
     
  7. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Also the cheapest to equip and maintain, and the easiest to train, especially on short notice. And, ultimately, it is the only force capable of occupying and holding ground over the long term.

    In fact, an army might consider something else to be its "backbone" (e.g. artillery)… but it's still going to require infantry, and quite a bit of it, even if they are viewed as auxiliary troops rather than the "main" force, simply because the artillery won't be able to kill masses of charging opponents rapidly enough to protect itself. That will be true regardless of how effective the artillery is. There's one command that every gunner dreads hearing, right up to the present: "Fire over open sights." Look it up.

    Also, look up the Charge of the Light Brigade… and find out what actually happened there, not what's remembered courtesy of a few decontextualized verses of Tennyson. Short version: the charge itself succeeded. And that was against 19th century artillery firing from three sides.


    Yep. The bayonet, for example, was standardized by the English army because the Scots weren't smart enough to realize their swords and targes were obsolete tech, the days of the "Highland charge" were past, and they wouldn't lay down and die when they were shot at like responsible victims ought to. :rolleyes:

    The bayonet remains in use to this day. By every military on the planet. Which should tell you something about how often things will come down to hand-to-hand combat.


    I would add that this varied to some extent with cultures even in the West. Macedonia, in Alexander's time, had some excellent heavy cavalry. The Celts had fairly effective cavalry during Roman times, as did the Germanic tribes; both would probably be best described as "medium," based on their armament and the ways they were employed, rather than light or heavy. The Romans, by contrast, had shifted their focus so far away from cavalry by the late Republic days that they generally hired locals to serve as auxiliaries for their all-heavy-infantry army… often from other tribes of Celts or Germans. All of these were with comparatively "primitive" saddles, and were prior to the introduction of the stirrup. (The actual effect of the stirrup on warfare is a hotly debated topic among military historians: some maintain, with fairly good reason, that it had almost no effect whatsoever on the "shock" value of cavalry charges. Certainly, lances were in use far earlier than stirrups were.)

    I would also add that cavalry was not abandoned entirely during WWI. There were still cavalry units in WWII which were employed as cavalry–i.e. making mounted sabre (not lance) charges against infantry forces–and not merely as mobile infantry (which was by far the more common use for them at that point). This was, admittedly, exceedingly rare by this point, and yes, a few well-emplaced machine guns with overlapping fields of fire could rip a charge to pieces. But they were still sometimes used with success. Which, again, points out how difficult it is to completely halt a charging opponent in the time available before they reach your lines.

    (In fact, there was even one battle in the opening days of WWII which saw cavalry from both sides engaging one another on horseback… the last such engagement in history.)

    Light cavalry has uses which range far beyond the battlefield, the foremost being scouting. As mentioned in the magic discussion, knowing where your foe is and what he's doing is invaluable. Cavalry can harass troops on the move, where they are strung out and incapable of easily forming up into invulnerable defensive formations. It can disrupt supply, both regular provision trains and foragers (who may or may not be light cavalry themselves). One major use, even during actual battles, was to get behind the opposing force and raid its camp, a tactic which usually compelled the opponent to redeploy some of its forces… at least if they wanted to eat the following day. Or if they didn't want to see the war chest with all their troops' pay carried off. Or see their tents burned, their sick and injured slaughtered, etc.

    The psychological impact of knowing there is an enemy in your rear should not be underestimated, either. You may know consciously that your pike squares can repel any cavalry charge… but surrounded is still surrounded. Worse, if you see some of your own guys redeploying to the rear to deal with the threat, you know something isn't going according to plan. And any troop movement to the rear looks to the guys in the fighting lines like a retreat, and once part of the army appears to be retreating–whether or not it actually is–the rest is gonna want to join it. Fast. If you don't have good command and control, this can turn into a rout in no time.

    Which is a partial answer to the question of whether or not an army lacking cavalry will lose to one which has it: if the situation allows the cavalry to be employed, then, yeah, probably, the army with it will win. Only the best-disciplined forces will maintain order in the face of an enemy which can strike them from any side at will. Which has happened historically, more than once, but it is the exception, not the norm. Even the best-disciplined forces will likely lose out in the long term: they might win every battle they fight, but if they're paralyzed into immobility and can't receive supply, they'll lose the war. So unless the situation is such that cavalry cannot be employed, or is severely restricted in the roles it can perform, at a minimum you'll want to have some sort of force capable of running it off whenever it tries to pull something on you. Historically, generally meant having your own cavalry… which is why, for instance, Rome bothered to augment its otherwise-invincible legions with local cavalry: they had to have some, even if for no reason other than to deal with what their opponents could do to them if they didn't.

    (Here's another opportunity for those looking to incorporate fantasy elements into real-world military activities: how do you counter enemy cavalry if you have none? The answer is left as an exercise to the reader. ;) )
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  8. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    I laughed so hard when I read this. Just this morning after one of my lectures I had one of my students come up to me with almost the same question.

    While I am not an expert on Vlad III Țepeș from the Wallachian POV, I have done personal studies on how the Ottomans viewed him, and more importantly how they eventually dealt with him and killed him. In my graduate years I had to view his impact on the buffer between the Ottoman Empire and the kingdoms of Europe, that buffer was Vlad.

    To start off, during his wardship in Edirne with the Ottoman court, Vlad received the finest education as well as being taught the Ottoman perspective of warfare (which he would later use to great effect).

    Ottoman tactics are defensive oriented. They were the first to incorporated guns and cannons, leaving other European powers to lag behind for awhile.
    Vlad's tactics however, were far different. Vlad had an offensive mindset for a commander. And being trained by the Ottomans on warfare, he secretly studied ways to defeat them should the day arrive that he had to enter battle against them.

    The day did arrive, and he used his own personal tactics against them. He became almost immediately a master at guerrilla warfare, ambush tactics, and most importantly a superb night attack commander. Vlad was also a proponent of the scorched earth policy, burning land, and unharvested crops as well as poisoning clean water sources. One other thing he did was to divert small rivers to specific areas, creating hard to travel through marshes.

    It is good to note that Wallachia did not have a very strong army. Most were irregulars (peasants and sheepherders, the boyars and paid mercenaries. It is because of this reason that Vlad chose to avoid as much as possible open engagement with the Ottomans who with their powerful tactics and strong military would crush him in hours.

    So Vlad opted for a hit and run strategy, one that worked very well. The most successful was the infamous Night Attack on June 17th 1462. Vlad used his learned knowledge of Ottoman warfare and the Turkish language to go himself disguised into the main Ottoman camp. He did this to find weak points and most importantly to find where the tent of Sultan Mehmed II was so that he could try and kill the Sultan with the coming attack.

    Strategically he placed his men around the Ottoman camp at three different places. They announced their presence with torch lights and bugle horns before invading the unprepared encampment. (Some historians would fight me on these next few points but meh.) Attacked from several angles and caught by surprise there was a great slaughter of man and beast. Vlad's personally led force aimed for the Sultan's tent... how he failed to remember what was what I don't know but he missed the Sultan and hit the tent of two of Mehmed's Pashas.

    Vlad retreated before dawn with minimal losses. When the Ottoman's pursued with Janissaries they were finally able to inflict some damage to Vlad's forces. It was soon after that Mehmed decided to siege the capital, (and reports on this part vary) but regardless the Ottoman host found around 20,000 impaled Turks and a Pasha. (Some say it was inside the capital, others say it was out in front.) But this gruesome scene was enough to force Mehmed's hand, forcing him to order a withdraw.. (a very quick one by all accounts)

    The use of such brutal tactics did a great deal to help Vlad's victory. He struck fear into the hearts of the Turks for good reason. Yet, it was not enough to discourage further expeditions by the Ottomans into Wallachia, mainly to rid themselves of a very, very nasty thorn in their side.

    I hope this answers some questions. If you have more let me know.
    -Cold
     
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  9. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Like I said: give me engineers any day. :p


    Just goes to show how confusing combat can be, even to the best minds, using the best preparation and planning.

    Were I to make a (highly uncharacteristic) guess…: he might not have "missed" the Sultan's tent. It's possible the Sultan was already somewhere else when he got there, and Vlad moved on to the number two target on his list. But that's only a guess. It could have happened any number of other ways–including, of course, Vlad flat-out getting confused, as the account suggests. (I'm also guessing that reliable reports of that night's events are somewhat difficult to come by, eh? Okay, that part isn't all that much of a guess… heh. ;) )
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  10. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    The funny thing is that the Sultan's tent is of course the most extravagant in the whole encampment. To miss it entirely is hard to comprehend. As you said it could have been a number of things, especially if battle in the camp forced Vlad's force to enter areas less well controlled, and it was night after all and smoky, with the hell of battle going on, so I suppose it could be missed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  11. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Thanks so much! Yes, this is very helpful. I knew some of this information but all my sources are short blurbs and not as informative as your information.

    I have one remaining question that pertains specifically to tactics. I read from one source that the practice of impalement was something Vlad learned from the Turks and then used on a far grander (and more brutal) scale. Do you think this is accurate?
     
  12. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Impalement was a rare tool used by the Ottoman state for a long time, mainly to deal with rebels, highwaymen and such. It cemented their rule in several places and put a great deal of psychological fear into dissidents. Yet, the practice wasn't Ottoman alone, several states in Europe also practiced the same thing, all to a very limited degree because it was such a brutal punishment.
    For Vlad, I do believe that he saw the effects of this during his wardship, and for a lack of a better phrase perfected the art when he returned to Wallachia. Vlad did not discriminate like the Ottomans, who would normally behead followers and impale the leaders, while Vlad impaled everyone... only making the leaders stand out by being higher up.
     
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    It's also possible most of his "impalements" were simply mounting corpses on sticks. Especially that grand gesture of 20K at once: the normal process of execution by impaling would have required far too much time to be carried out as history presents it. I'm not even sure how many man-hours it would take to cut 20K stakes and set them up—let alone round up and convince that many (living) people to mount them.

    On the other hand, considering how rapidly the Romans could build things when they set themselves to it… maybe.

    (Of course, some historian somewhere might also have added a zero to the number for effect. Ahh, I'm probably just being cynical; no one would ever really do anything like that.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  14. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Well reports say that the corpses of the 20k were at various stages of decay, with the ones closest to the Danube being "fresher" than the ones further inland. So it was a process of capture and kill and slowly build up to the effect that it was.
     
  15. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    You have no idea how refreshing it is to get information like this from an authority on the Ottomans. Can you recommend good sources on this area of history? Anything from the Ottoman point of view, though it will likely be as biased as European accounts, is just the perspective I need for my research. I get the impression that the Ottomans kept better records.

    Also, what weapons were most common for 1. cavalry and 2. infantry among the Ottomans of Vlad's time?

    Thanks again!
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  16. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Information in the States is very hard to come by, mainly because those who usually study the Ottomans are from the east. Most of my research was forced to be done in Ankara or Istanbul where the archives are kept... and having to learn the old Ottoman script pretty much by myself... to my knowledge few know it and fewer still teach it. And yes, they generally are very biased, but that is common in most historical texts and you have to learn to ignore it and use what is needed i.e. actual facts.

    In the 15th century the Ottomans had already begun using the gun very extensively, and by Vlad's time it was the standard issue weapon for Ottoman infantry. The typical Janissary had a musket, a sword like the Kilij or Shamshir, and depending on the part of the army he belonged to could have a halberd. They also loved to use grenades, pistols and hand-cannons. Azabs had muskets, and axes traditionally.

    The cavalry of the Ottoman military had several elements. They had a core of Akıncıs who were typical raiders, who went ahead of the army and sowed chaos, raided villages and enemy encampments and generally scouted for the main body of Ottoman troops. They were fast moving, still using the traditional bow, and curved sabers. Next was the Timariot, which was part of the Sipahi cavalry corps and were also mounted archers, though they had lances for shock combat. The Kapikulu Sipahis were the final tier, the household bodyguard to the sultan, and the heavy cavalry, a more advanced version of the classical cataphract, basically armored mounted lancers who had elements of horse archery, but could hold their own in melee with maces, axes, and using round shields and the traditional cavalry sabre.
     
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  17. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Perfect, thanks again! I was really hoping to find references to the yatagan from that time but it seems they didn't even exist until after Vlad's death. And apparently they weren't standard issue until even years after that. The Kilij will have to do for my purposes.
     
  18. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Heh. Another thing I bet it took some time to learn–how to produce the non-standard-keyboard characters. ;)
     
  19. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Lol don't get me started on using different languages characters in modern English text. That should be a separate academic course
     
  20. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Hm~ I'm not sure if this goes here, but I'm curious about your opinion on how mages would affect the compositions of armies and how wars are played out. I don't have any specific type of mages, just whatever you think of when you hear the word mage.
     
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