EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
From what I have understood the Presidial soldados de cuero and most Spanish forces in 18th century preferred the lance , often as stabbing weapons, rather than use as a javelin . Apparantly on the Spanish Southwestern frontier it was difficult to keep firearms serviceable not to mentions shortages of gunpowder. As noted the Caifornios in the 19th century had become formidable adversaries with the lance, as became powerfully apparent at the Battle of San Pasqual.
It is noted in Pierce and Chamberlain ("Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial American 1700-1821", p.108) that "...most of the extant lance blades which have been found throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico appear to be products of local smiths. There is an almost endless variety in the shapes and sizes used ."
It is noted that despite the lack of uniformity the lance was considered a regulation arm for the frontier troopers, and some effort was made to regulate these, though few ever conformed.
Of the few examples I have seen, the socketed type as seen here usually had a widening blade rather than the narrow pike type blade These do look rather like boarding pike heads (c.1816) as these type heads seem more aligned with these shapes.
In "American Polearms 1526-1865" R. Brown, 1967, p 81, the lances used at San Pasqual (1846) were well described, "..the writer has not seen or heard of any surviving Californio lances, but a number of the long, leaf shaped blades have been found". The blades were described as 9 or 10 " in length and tanged and set into hafts of mountain laurel or ash.
While it is of course tempting to consider these to be within the wide variation of lance heads used on the frontier by Presidial troopers, rancheros and Californios, it would be entirely speculative without provenance. These, while attractive indeed, do not correspond to the few examples I have seen.
As to how they were used, most of them were about 6 ft. and used as a stabbing weapon from horseback, not as thrown javelins. Some of the later lances were up to about 8 ft.