EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
On the practical and physiological aspects of the lance.
These weapons, while psychologically terrifying in an advance formation of cavalry, their impact was quickly ended once in the melee. These were useless in the ensuing combat, and even to drop them and draw swords would put the rider in immediate vulnerability.
Because of the horrific wounding potential of the lance, these horsemen were despised and vehemently attacked, never receiving quarter.
They were cumbersome even in normal maneuvers, and could be dangerous to other riders in formation. During the Civil War, an attempt was made to duplicate European lancer regiments, I believe it was a Pennsylvania regt.
The results were horrendous, and the troopers were their own worst enemy.
I believe the idea was abandoned and the troops back to regular cavalry.
The idea of lances ended up with blood hampering their grip is no more likely than from a sword or any edged weapon. Lances had their grips about half way down the shaft, suggesting that their use was not as much a full length penetration thrust, but more of a jabbing action. The idea was not to impale a victim on the lance, obviously rendering the rider weaponless or unhorsing him....but to inflict lacerating wounds at key locations.
At San Pascual, in California during the Mexican-American war, the dragoon forces attacked by Mexican lancers often had as many as 13 or more wounds. Actually they were unable to load their guns in the darkness and place the caps, while the Mexican lancers simply chose their targets . They used jabbing thrusts so as not to lose their weapons.
The notion of the pennon causing mortal sepsis by its entry into the wound is a valid observation, but penetration of that depth and with that pennon now an obstruction in retraction from the wound, something that probably led to some cavalry removing them prior to combat.
I think one of the most notable instances of lore about lances is the one about Polish lancer units attacking German tanks with these in WWII. This was pure propaganda, and while the unit was a lancer named unit, and they did have swords, they did not attack the tanks, especially not with lances.
They did use swords as German's exited disabled or stopped tanks though.
German Wehrmacht also had cavalry using sabres.