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Gunpowder changed Renaissance and Medieval Warfare, Weapons and Tactics

Advances in weaponry and the more effective use of gunpowder continued. The invention of the harquebus was a watershed invention in weaponry.

The harquebus is also known as the arquebus or the hackbut. This is a very primitive firearm used between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The musket is a successor of the harquebus. It was a smooth bore long firearm.

A matchlock is used to fire the harquebus. The matchlock is a device used to “cock” the weapon and have it ready to fire. It had a long barrel with end flared to make it easier to load. The fighter with the harquebus was the harquebusier. The harquebusier would brace the barrel of the gun onto a pole with a forked end when firing.

The use of the harquebus during the battle of Pravia in 1525 where the French knights were defeated by heavy fire from harquebusiers provided incentive for others to acquire the harquebus.

During the sixteenth century, the harquebus began being replaced by the lighter and more accurate musket.

With large cannons and the lighter harquebus the old aristocracy castles were no longer sufficient defenses. The role of the medieval cavalry had been fading during the late middle ages and the power of the aristocracies began to fade too.

Large armies could be devastated by the use of the English longbow and the Swiss pike. A longbowman could fire 12 arrows per minute which is much faster than a crossbow. The Swiss pike is a long pole weapon whose primary use was against cavalry assaults. These pikes had the resemblance of a spear and were typically between 10 and 14 feet long. Steel tips were added to the end to increase its effectiveness. These pikes would be used in a large square formation (called a “hedgehog formation) to protect archers and harquebusiers from cavalry assaults.

Although both of these weapons were effective it was very difficult to amass large armies with the skills necessary for their effective use. The longbow took years to learn to use effectively and the Swiss pike required large groups of very well-disciplined fighters moving in complex formations.

This is in stark contrast to a soldier who could be trained to effectively use a firearm in weeks instead of the years of training needed for the longbow and pike. There was no need to learn marksmanship skills because these early firearms were extremely inaccurate.

Firearms did not take great physical strength and could still annihilate armored cavalry forces. The harquebus (explained above) was the first relatively light weight firearm. Even though it had to be placed on a stand for firing, it could be operated by only one soldier.

The advantage of firearms was that they could inflict a lot of damage over a great distance, but at close distances, the cavalry could annihilate the firearm carrying soldier. The use of pikes to protect the soldiers with firearms was used for years. Interestingly enough, the bayonet combined the effective use of the two weapons.

The harquebus gave way to the muskets which were expensive to make and required a designated infrastructure to produce. The wealth and industrial capacity of a country became the most important factor in determining its military success. This meant that the trading nations of Western Europe had a significant advantage over the more agricultural nations.

The aristocrats who had routinely put down revolts in the past with their cavalry and armies could now be threatened. These new armies cost a lot of money and required a great deal of infrastructure to maintain so the countries became more dependent on taxation in order to maintain their armies.

The inaccuracy of the firearms meant that the armies had to be very large in order to be effective. Since any man could be trained in a very short period of time in the use of a musket it became easier for a country to rely on the population to enter combat on its behalf.

By today’s standards, these wars were not especially deadly. The lack of good roads meant the armies moved very slowly. The most common battle tactic was the siege (see the Siege Tactics section).

The changes and advancements in weaponry made the use of mercenary forces like those used during the Renaissance obsolete. As the Renaissance era ended, the mercenaries were, for a short time, used for training and administration of the armies and the infrastructure. These tasks were eventually taken over by the state with centralized administration. Some people believe the bureaucracy of today is an outgrowth of the centralized administration of the huge armies and the required infrastructure necessary for its support started during the Renaissance.

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Colleyville, Texas

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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