Essay on A Phalanx of Guns: The Spanish Tercio

1996 Words 8 Pages
By the beginning of the 16th century, the gradually increasing use of firearms in European warfare, along with the resurgence of older weaponry and tactics, had brought about a calamity of mixed weaponry which military minds struggled to apply efficiently and effectively on the battlefield, challenging the way wars had been fought for centuries. The dominating infantry weapons of the era, developed primarily in response to the overwhelming dominance of cavalry in the late medieval European system, were the heavy pike and the arquebus, the predecessor to the musket of later centuries. The limitations of both weapons severely restricted the situations in which they could be used independently and remain effective, and, as the Italian Wars …show more content…
However, their slow rate of fire and total lack of accuracy beyond a range of 50-100 meters made them extremely vulnerable without defensive structures. Even a large mass of arquebusiers firing in unison - necessary to produce the volume of fire to be effective – could be easily crushed by fast moving cavalry as they reloaded (Hale 51). The common answer to cavalry was the pike, which quickly put a stem on, though never completely eradicated, the cavalry charges of the earlier Middle Ages. Unfortunately, aside from the exceptional performance of the Swiss pike phalanx, densely packed pike formations proved unwieldy and lacked in mobility and devastating offensive capability. In order to address these issues, Gonzalo de Cordoba, commander of the Spanish army at the beginning of the 16th century, began experimenting with field fortifications, such as trenches and palisades, to replicate the defensive scenarios which had made the arquebus so successful, with great effect. Over the next 30 years or so, Gonzalo and his successors began to adopt pikemen as a method of mobile defense, which, combined with arquebusiers, provided mutual protection against cavalry and infantry alike. By 1534, the Spanish had standardized this formation as the tercio, a unit consisting

Related Documents