17th century fighting equipment

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The fighting equipment of a early to mid-17th century warrrior is described by recovered artefacts, images and contemporary references.

The three primary troop types were musketeers, pikemen (collectively referred to as foote) and cavalry (horse). Whilst there also existed numerous gun crews they did not constitute a large part of a fighting force.

Equipment

Cavalry

Arms

  • sword - typically with a basket hilt and could be either double edged or a back sword. A rapier might be carried by a member of the civilian militia or officer, but would not be taken to battle as cutting swords were preferred for war.
  • pistol - not always carried. Might have a wheel or dog lock style triggering mechanism.
  • dragoon - some specialist troops would carry a short barreled dragoon on horseback to a positio, dismount and shoot from foot.

Armour

  • buff coat - frequently worn and often in conjyunction with a back and breast
  • back and breast - steel breastplate and matching backplate worn with a gorget. As the century progressed and armour abandoned, the gorget remained (often highly decorated) as a symbol of rank or nobility.
  • helmet - of lobstertail helmet, cabaset or combed morion style
  • armoured hat - metal helmet in the shape of a hat
  • gauntlet - for the hand that held the reins of their horse.
  • cuirasser harness - in the first half of the 17th century some wealthy individuals would wear a plate harness that included armet, and extended to just below the knees. This type of armour became rarer as the century progressed and by the middle of the century disappeared altogether.

Pikeman

Arms

  • pike - running to 17 ft and generally socketed, with 2 foot long cheeks, a butt ferrule 1 3/4 of inch thick at the waist (approx 4 feet from the butt) tapering to about 1 inch at the ends.
  • sword - typically a hanger for general troops. Some had a basket hilt and could be either double edged or a back sword. A rapier might be carried by a member of the civilian militia or officer, but would not be taken to battle as cutting swords were preferred for war.

Armour

  • pikeman's armour - consisting of back and breast, tassets and gorget. As the century progressed, articles of this armour were abandoned. The gorget and tassets were first to be abandoned by most pikeman and by the middle of the century the use of armour was relatively rare.
  • helmet - typically of the pot type (especially when purchased with a pikeman's armour as a set) but might also be of other types (except the lobstertail helmet.

Musketeer

Arms

  • arquebus- early in the century
  • musket - replaced the arquebus in many cases. Began with a forked rest but eventually lost this as the weapon became lighter. The barrel would be typically in excess of 48 inches long. A baldric of leather with twelve wooden containers each holding enough powder for one shot, a separate priming flask and a bag containing bullets and wadding.
  • sword - some troops (notably Irish) would also carry a sword (typically two edged and basket hilted) in addition to their firearm. The sword would be scabbarded and typically secured with a baldric. In a melee, musketeers without a sidearm would fall on the enemy and strike them with the heavy butts of their muskets.
  • targe - utilised by some Highlander troops and Irish troops.

Armour

  • none
  • buff coat - worn by some better equiped musketeers although by the middle of the 17th century appears to be almost universally absent.
  • helmet - for the earlier part of the century, a helmet of cabaset or combed morion style would be worn especially the Trained Bands.

Clothing

Soldiers of this time wore their own clothes to battle, although a commander might issue a doublet or coat in a specific colour if he so wished. By the time of Cromwell's New Model Army numerous companies were being issued specifically coloured clothing.