EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Its good to hear from you Gonzalo, and I have been compelled to look more into resources dealing with the lance in the Americas. It is as I have noted, a fascinating topic, and I discovered a bit more on them.
I am inclined to agree, that movements or raids of the Comanches that far into Latin America seems somewhat questionable. There was of course trade between many American Indian tribes well into Mexico, but it would seem more a case of interface between tribal groups at the perimeters of thier territories. In degree this is the exception with Comanches, who do not seem to have had specifically defined territories, but I would need more support to show them as far as Central America.
I agree that the nature of the lances used did have variation, and seem to have become longer in time from the earliest record of them in the Americas.
I found some material in "Leather Jacket Soldiers: The Cuera Cavalry of the American Southwest" by Rene Chartrand. "Military Illustrated" Part I, #53, October,1992 and Part II, #54, Nov.1992.
From this and other sources, I have found the following, so hope it will be of interest to everyone in the history of the lance in the America's.
"...the Presidial soldier had thier lances and shield from the 16th to the middle of the 19th centuries". (p.36).
During inspection of Spanish troopers at El Paso in October, 1684, it is noted that lances "...were not counted, but it was obvious they had them".
A traveller in 1697 mentions that these soldiers were armed with a shield , musket and a 'half pike'. (ibid.)
The inspection of the first Cuera soldiers by Juan de Onate in 1597, in New Mexico shows a lance with a triple blade head termed a 'runka'. (op.cit.p.25)
Through the 18th century, Michael Hardwicke ("Soldados de Cuera") describes the cavalry lances components : the iron head (moharra) seems to have determined various classes of this weapon; some heads of olive leaf shape (hoja de olivo), some diamond shape (punta de diamente) and some that adopted a cross bar (cruceta) just under the head. These were termed a 'reins cutter' (corta riendas), but the bars ended up being removed when the purpose proved impractical.
In 1807, then Lt. Zebulon of U.S. 1st Cavalry encountered Presidial cavalry and noted, "...the appearance of the Spanish troops is certainly a la militaire; thier lances are fixed to the side of thier saddle under the left thigh and slant about five feet above the horse". It is suggested these lances probably had the 'cruceta' bars on them in the accompanying illustration.
Surprisingly, there were native irregular cavalry in Colombia in the war between Simon Bolivar and the Spanish, and on the Plain of Apure, these forces "...showed remarkable skill in the use of a long light lance" and became the dread and terror of the Spanish troops.
("Travels Through the Interior of Colombia", Col. John H.Potter, London, 1827,p.168).
In 1828, Mexican dragoons carried the long lance with red, white and green pennons. Later, as earlier noted, the Californios distinguished themselves at the famed Battle of San Pascual in California in 1846 ("Lances at San Pascual", Arthur Woodward, 1948) and in the Garra Uprising in 1851, lances were made in Los Angeles to equip lanceros.
By the time of the Civil War, units of Mexican lancers were established for the Union Army, but remained in Arizona regions.
The powerful influence of Mexican lancers found its way further east during this time as well, and in 1861, a regiment of lancers was formed in the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, known as "Rush's Lancers" and were involved in many campaigns in the war, though the degree the lance was actually used is uncertain. They used a 9 foot long lance with 11" blade based on Austrian pattern, weighing about 8 lbs. with a scarlet pennon (Rush had been active in the Mexican American War, and wonder if the red pennon might have recalled those on the Californio lances ).
( for more see "American Polearms 1526-1865" Rodney Hilton Brown, 1967)
Clearly Mexican forces had profoundly influenced the American forces in the 'Mexican American War' with the proficient use of the lance being one of the notable factors, as units of lancers were formed with Mexicans in the west, and the unit in Pennsylvania.
All best regards,