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Old 7th September 2019, 12:32 PM   #1
fernando
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Default Breastplate for comments

This is in principle of Portuguese manufacture, most probably coming from the Royal smithies of Barcarena; where production of these basic examples is well recorded, in this case to equip the common soldier during the Restoration War (1640-68). Usually smiths working in these facilities did not mark their work; my search for a possible mark resulted inconclusive, after some vinegar etching ... an adventure i regret.
It came with a finishing cover of varnish, which gave it an ugly yellowish tone; i had to strongly rub it with acetone, to bring back its natural aspect.
Made of one piece (non laminated) steel plate, weighing closest to 4 Kilos and measuring 35,5 X 35,2 cms.
I would be willing to receive comments towards this piece, whether positive or discouraging so, Gentlemen, please fire at will.


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Old 7th September 2019, 03:10 PM   #2
Will M
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Wonderful find of a substantial breast plate. Since this is not my area of collecting do you have any illustrations of what the soldier would look like wearing this plate? What type of swords would accompany this?
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Old 8th September 2019, 11:10 AM   #3
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Thank you for your kind words, Will.
While i am not an expert either, what i can dare to tell you is that this being a pikeman 'half armor', that is, only composed of breastplate and back plate, a setup so called 'cossolete', without optionally extended faulds and tassets, to protect the upper thighs ... as we see no holes in the lower part for their fixation.
In some circumstances, they would wear a leather buff coat under the cuirrass, to make it more comfortable; this being however a luxury version, as these buff coats were more often worn as an outfit by nobles. Notwithstanding the fact that these could eventually be 'recuperated' by soldiers from the death in battle.
As it is recorded, the nuclear weapon was the pike, a sort of long lance with 3 to 6 meters length. These guys were part of regiments included in the so called 'terços', a term used both in Portugal and Spain, as their period army tactics followed the same formation.
Pikemen would also wear, when distributed, a morion or a cabasset ... or even a war hat, to protect their head.
The sword, i would say, by its historical encompassing timeline, was the cup hilted sword, in a basic but sturdy version.
All the above to be taken with a pinch of salt, as the use of uniforms and armament, in the period, was not strictly followed, as it depended a lot in stocks available; uniforms, for one, not being so 'uniform'.


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Old 8th September 2019, 12:39 PM   #4
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Is this breastplate an excavated find? It seems to have quite deep pitting all over on the front and the shape is a bit unclear. Interesting to see the strap fastenings as this gives an idea how the piece was worn. I recommend you put some mineral oil on it to prevent rusting. You seem to have done a good job of removing the yellowing varnish.

It almost looks like something you’d imagine a sapper wearing when removing mines.

Last edited by Victrix : 8th September 2019 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 8th September 2019, 05:37 PM   #5
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English pikemen tended to wear shorter 'hanger' type swords rather than cavalry length ones, as a backup weapon they hoped never to need. they were very vulnerable on the flanks and rear, the flanks were usually protected by cavalry, Halberders or men with partisans/bills, later with pistols and matchlock muskets. They drilled to include a way of a quick 180 if they saw a rear attack coming so they could bristle to the rear too. That was no good on the sides. cavalry or zweihanders could wreck havoc on the sides, so the hanger was their last hope other than dropping their pike and legging it. They were steamrollers, not melee troops. Officers as usual carried whatever they wanted & could afford. The pikemen were the resurrected equivalent of the late Greek/Macedonian Sarissa Phalanx, sans Hoplon but with better body armour.
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Old 8th September 2019, 05:40 PM   #6
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I don't think this was an excavated find; the guy i got it from said this was included in a lot with various things (weapons, i gather).
These being humble pieces and not those belonging in nobility armour, are more subject to weather exposure and to the places they were abandoned, specially the side that was facing the ground. There is a similar example in the Barcarena museum which, together with a more refined one, with Switz marks and Swedish re-marks, were found by a sports diver near a place where actually XV-XVII century wrecks occurred; only that, judging by their condition and knowing that iron corrodes fast in salty ambiances, they didn't reside there longer than a couple decades. If only that couple could speak.
The last picture here uploaded is of yet another example, this one belonging to a private collection. In this one you can see again the strap fastenings, typical of pikemen cossoletes, while in the one at the museum, the text refers that only some residuals remain.
You will also notice that all these rustic plates were not made following the finest design; instead care was taken to make resistant.
As for your wise advice to preserve mine with some oiling, that was the last of a multi episode saga. When i noticed that the varnish would easily scratch with a fingernail, i first rubbed it with a very soft brass brush. Lots of varnish 'powder' came off, but not the whole cover.That's when i gave it a double rubbing with acetone; then washed it with water & soap; and after pass it a gentle layer of 'sewing machine' oil.
BTW, bizarre comparison, that of an equipment for removing mines .


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Old 8th September 2019, 08:13 PM   #7
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Just some additional interesting pics I found on the subject.

Seems most pikemen’s breast plates were not shot proof marked. Presumably they were mainly for protection from enemy pikes and therefore perhaps need not be as thick as other breast plates. 4kg does not sound excessive for a pikeman’s breastplate. I have a shot proof marked Swedish 1680s cavalry breast plate that weighs about double that.
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Last edited by Victrix : 8th September 2019 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 8th September 2019, 09:46 PM   #8
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I love this breastplate, Fernando! As armor isn't my forte, I'll just say that if I collected such, this is exactly the type of piece I'd seek; munitions-grade worn by the troops in the field and not an officer.
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Old 9th September 2019, 12:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... English pikemen tended to wear shorter 'hanger' type swords rather than cavalry length ones, as a backup weapon they hoped never to need...

No cavalry sword type was mentioned Wayne, but cup hilted ones; and those you have them mounted on blades for all tastes, short, long, thin, thick. I have one with a rather small cup bowl, a wide blade but only 63 cms. long.
Actually i didn't find any specific description of sword used by pikemen; i gathered it was mostly the one used, as by the time, and not only, they were more than flies in number. And i have for myself tat pikes were not only abandoned as per virtual written tactics; they brake, they fall, they may become clumsy in determined circumstances. Having a sword at hand in real crude battle was a comfortable ally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... they were very vulnerable on the flanks and rear, the flanks were usually protected by cavalry, Halberders or men with partisans/bills, later with pistols and matchlock muskets. .

I was trying not to be heavy and only focus on the shown breastplate and its potential users. But i may widen the conversation and transcribe some documented records contemplating that angle...
" In total there would be in a Terço 480 pikemen, 720 musketeers 300 arquebusiers; as per the allocation recommended by the 1643 draft Regulation ".
" The defensive equipment referred to in the records shows that the use of chest and backplates was rare among infantry. Only the officers and the pikemen were entitled to this type of protection, but the proportions are very low in relation to the offensive armament existing in each company ".
" Breast and backplates range from 0.4% to 7.6%, morions between 0.4% and 8.3% (and this maximum is only reached in 1647, and is increasingly scarce in later years), the rodelas (round shields used by the captains) between 0.2% and 0.4% and the gorgeiras (collars) between 0.1% and 0.3%. In the case of rodelas and collars, their official use exclusively by officers justifies the small number found in the lists, but they were still very rare. The captains could choose to fight with pike or sword and rodela, or with musket and haquebut, if they preferred ".
" The abandonment of any metallic body protection was an obvious tendency in infantry. The Count of Ericeira reports that about 3,000 infantry cossoletes (breast & backplates) were adapted for cavalry armor in 1663, as they were no longer used by infantry. On the other hand, infantry use of couras (buffcoats ) depended on each military's ability to sourcing themselves - for example, by stripping off the dead, wounded, and enemy prisoners, particularly knights and officers. There is no reference to this type of protection in the records as it was not provided to the military on account of the royal estate ".

Let me show you details of a painting attributed to the Flemish painter Dirk Stoop (1610-1686), patented at the Lisbon City Museum. It represents a procession (probably Royal) in Terreiro do Paço, greeted by a small military force. It is plausible that the depicted scene is circa 1650. Dirk Stoop worked in Portugal during the 50's and 60's.
In the first image are unarmored pikemen (so called dry pikes).
In the second, on horseback and in front of a row of musketeers is a fieldmaster (although he may also be a sergeant, since this officer was also entitled to mount). However, if the force came from the Lisbon ordinance, the officer would not be a fieldmaster but a colonel, and instead of a terço, the unit would be designated by regiment, by tradition.
In the third and last image, also in front of the row of musketeers, is a sergeant, recognizable by the halberd that served as the insignia of his post, personal weapon, and instrument to align the ranks.

And in a last detail we may see how common was the cup hilt sword.


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Last edited by fernando : 9th September 2019 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 9th September 2019, 12:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
I love this breastplate, Fernando! As armor isn't my forte, I'll just say that if I collected such, this is exactly the type of piece I'd seek; munitions-grade worn by the troops in the field and not an officer.

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Old 9th September 2019, 01:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Just some additional interesting pics I found on the subject.

Seems most pikemen’s breast plates were not shot proof marked. Presumably they were mainly for protection from enemy pikes and therefore perhaps need not be as thick as other breast plates. 4kg does not sound excessive for a pikeman’s breastplate. I have a shot proof marked Swedish 1680s cavalry breast plate that weighs about double that.

My deepest apologies, Victrix; due to being influenced by service in the (ex-colonies) army i though you were referring to 'modern' sappers digging 'modern' landmines.
Concerning weight and shot proof tests, considerations would be; In the texts produced by the Barcarena Museum, breastplates made over there were subject to such tests, although i don't notice such shot in my example but, given the benefit of doubt, tests may take place as checked by the inspector, and not show the shot mark ... whether this was performed with a lighter musket or a lighter load. Curiously the other example exhibited at the museum is one made in Switzerland (Zurich arsenal) to export to Sweden, which ended up in Portugal in 1642 when Queen Cristina got rid of a lot of equipment after the years war. This is a more 'sophisticated' version,with signs that it has been lined, and also with strap fastenings... but no shot proof mark either.
Curiously it is recorded has (also) weighing circa 4 kilos.
Obviously your example weighing about the double served a different purpose; notwithstanding all that weight may not only be about thickness but also about (higher) measurements, to fit a men's in another manner.


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Old 9th September 2019, 04:28 PM   #12
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I was talking more about English pikers. The Spanish/Portugese ones favoured the cup hilt swords, English, not so much. I note in Victrix's entry above the sword hilts do show a couple cup hilts, the rest were more open styles.

I read that the 17c english armies went with infantry about 1/3 pikemen, just under 2/3 musketeeers with a few miscellaneous other types. The drawing I posted would seem to indicate the officer is the armoured one with the sword, and the unarmoured ones were the cannon fodder. but i suspect the armoured ones in front were being bossed about by the unarmoured older dandy hiding in the second rank pointing forward and the armoured ones were just lucky to have accumulated expensive armour. Alexander's sarissa pikemen probably were not quite so uniformly accoutored either. (They must have acquired the elephant along the way to India )

I'd found a nice modern photo from the same perspective as the macedonian photo of a group of english re-enactor pike persons from the sealed knot, all in buff leather coats and morions, but the two most prominent were rather excessively heavy looking and even more obviously female. Didn't think they were quite representative for here. Mean looking tho. They were their own shield wall.

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Old 9th September 2019, 07:17 PM   #13
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You did well Wayne .
Better than previously useful modern & charming re-enactment photos, certainly period paintings would have us traveling close(r) to reality. A not so easy task, though .
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Old 10th September 2019, 08:04 AM   #14
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Thanks, Fernando.

One faux pas by re-enactors is there apparent insistence on uniformity, us in everybody must be uniformed the same. A fairly modern concept in armies. The re-enactors above are all dressed in red, Roman re-enactors pretty much all have the same kit, the same shields, and the same paintings on them, with only limited variation. It started somewhere in the late renaissance - 18c, I suspect as firearms were more prevalent, as a fairly intelligent method of camouflage. The Officers of course wore more flamboyant markings of rank, but they knew the convention was that no one was supposed to give undue attention to shooting officers. That kinda went away in the late 18c - early 19c, especially after more accurate rifles made sniping and killing the officers a good tactic, as us gol-durn Americans found out to our benefit. Another reason swords went out of fashion, if you see a man with a sword, shoot him first. Worked enormously well in 1815 at New Orleans. A Scots regiment attacking the American line lost their officers, and with no one to order them to fight back, stood in place, arms shouldered as they were massacred to a man, obeying the last order they had received in true British fashion.

Ώ ξειν', ἀγγέλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ότι τήδε κείμεθα, τοις κοίνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι

‘dic hospes, Spartae, nos te hic vidisse iacentes,
dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.’

stranger, go tell the Spartans that here,
obedient to our law we lie.

It's the same method that flocks of birds, herds of zebra, antelope, etc. use. If everyone looks the same, a predator has trouble singling out and aiming for an individual. If you all wear the same colour, and the same hats, and it's different than your enemy. It helps prevent the blue on blue mistakes we make nowadays with our more modern cammys that blend more into the background...Now-a-days if you stand out at all, you probably WILL get shot.
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Old 24th September 2019, 10:01 AM   #15
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I believe the last real "push of pike" took place in 1544 at the battle of Ceresoles. It was mortiferous when the arquebusiers from both sides waited until pikes were contacting to shoot.

Afterward, pikes were used to form "shuttles" protecting the firepower inside from enemy cavalry. But if one of those formations would try to approach another for contact it will suffer too many casualties on the way. The arquebusiers inside a moving block of pike cannot shoot for obvious reasons. So they came outside to skirmish and entered the block again if cavalry was nearby. And they kneeled, fired prone or used cover. Something pikes could not do. Recharging was a really dangerous moment to do it outside the block and it could not be made on the move inside.

I have seen dozens of reports from battles from the second half of XVIth century to the end of TYW, and I do not see "push of pikes" anywhere. In spite of what re-enactment groups, movies and wargamers do.

The tendency to increase firepower and decrease pikes will just make it more difficult. The generalized exchange of soldiers quality (volunteers) for quantity (forced recruits), did the same. As did the more often use of field artillery and its rate of fire. If a block of pike decided to make a stand protecting a vital point it will be sooner targeted by guns than have another block of pike sent against them.

Again, the reports of wounded from hospitals have usually a lack of pike blemishes.

Of course, there were situations where firepower was scarce (lack of powder, or after heavy rain), so I imagine there could be some exceptions outside of the larger battles. I would like if somebody could give well-sustained examples.

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