The dominance of the Swiss Pikeman
Duke Leopold of
The knights rode in the van, followed by 4,000 foot. The Swiss numbered 1,500.
At the pass of Morgarten the road runs between a
steep slope and
Then the Swiss advanced. The knights were so tightly packed they couldn't even lower their lances.
With halberd and morningstar, the Swiss cut them up. The Austrians couldn't retreat because their own infantry blocked their way.
Finally, in panic, the knights charged their own people and cut their way through.
Now the Swiss fell on the Austrian foot, killing
everyone they met. Here is where the Swiss first earned their reputation for
taking no prisoners, regardless of how high-born the man was, that made them
feared all over
This battled ensured the freedom of the Swiss cantons and established the Swiss reputation for fearsomness and mercilessness.
The Swiss reputation was cemented by the victory at Laupen (1339), where unsupported infantry defeated a fully-arrayed knightly army.
a. Swiss fought in a deep phalanx, Macedonian style. The pikes of four ranks of pikemen were projected beyond the first rank. As one fell, another moved up to take his place. Every unit had its flags, banners and pennons of town, guild, canton, etc.
b. Swiss armies formed up like this:
where the first rank and second advance while the third was held in reserve. Thus if either the first or second were repulsed, it could withdraw without disrupting the other. They also fought in single column and in a hollow square, called the "hedgehog".
The pike was an ash shaft 18' long, with a 12" head of steel. The soldier carried it shoulder high, angled slightly down, to give a downward thrust.
Swiss also used halberds. A halberd was 8' long,
with a heavy head: one side was a blade, the other a hook. It could cut through
helmet, mail or shield. It also had a spike at the end. In
Swiss always served in units organized by village, town or guild, and then by canton. Swiss armies were commanded by a council comprised of captains from each canton. It appointed field commanders. Swiss were poor at strategy, brilliant at tactics.
The Swiss were always very lightly armored. They found they could maneuver better. They did not wear steel caps or ormor, only a leather jerkin and a felt hat. Only the leaders and a few in the first rank wore metal.
Cavalry was unimportant to the Swiss.
They also had crossbowmen and, from very early on, musketeers. They were used as skirmishers.
End of Swiss Dominance
The Emperor Maximilian consciously created the Landesknechte -- deliberate imitations of the Swiss troops and tactics.
The Germans and Swiss fought terrible battles against one another in the late 15thc and early 16thc.
The Spaniards spelled the doom of the Swiss. As disciplined as the Swiss, the Spanish were armed and fought in the Roman style. When openings occurred in the Swiss lines, the Spaniards slipped into the gaps. Protected by shield and light armor, the Spaniards wrought havoc.
Artillery also contributed to the Swiss downfall.