Conquistadors against Aztec (part of 3)
This day was not enough
Guns, horses and armor.
Heinrich Heine. "Vitsliputsli". Translation by N. Gumilev
The main armament of the conquistadors were traditional swords, spears, crossbows, arquebuses and muskets with wick locks, as well as small-caliber light guns. On the medieval no longer resembled. The blade had a length of about 90 cm, a handle with a simple crosshair and figured topping. Most of the swords had double-edged blades, but a blunt edge — so that it would not get stuck in the mail of the enemy when struck. At the same time, in the 16th century, new technologies for hardening steel, including those borrowed from the Moors by the Spaniards, allowed the Toldi gunsmiths to begin making rapiers - weapons with a narrower blade, which was more light and sharp, but which was losing to old samples in terms of strength and elasticity. The edge of the rapier, on the contrary, was very sharp, which made it possible to hit the enemy in the gap between the joints of the armor and even pierce mail. The handle received a twisted guard freakish outlines. However, they served just not so much for decoration, as in order to enable the skilled swordsman to “catch” the enemy's blade and thereby either disarm him or ... kill the disarmed. The rapier was longer than the sword, so it was worn on a shoulder strap over the right shoulder, the ends of which at the left thigh were attached to the sheath so that it would hang obliquely. At the same time, the left hand could easily take hold of her scabbard, and the right hand could hold the handle and thus expose the weapon in a flash.
Cristobal de Olid at the head of Spanish soldiers and Tlaxcalans attacks Jalisco, 1522 (“History Tlashkaly ", Glasgow University Library)
The technique of owning such a rapier was as follows: a man stood frontally to the enemy and in his right hand he held a rapier, and in the left - a parrying dagger - dag. The blows were inflicted both by stabbing and chopping. The fencers sought to catch the blade of the enemy with special projections on the Dag (sometimes it had a specially moving blade!) And hit it with the guard of its own rapier on it.
Spanish or Italian rapier and dagger for left hand, approx. 1650 d. The length of the blade of the sword 108.5, see. (The Art Institute of Chicago)
Rapier for a boy, approx. 1590 - 1600 Length 75.5 cm. Blade length 64 cm. Weight 368 g.
The sword is probably Italian, 1520 -1530's. Total length 100.5 cm. Length 85 cm. Weight 1248 g. (Chicago Institute of Art)
However, broad swords continued to be used, and the conquistadors should have them. The two-handed version of such a sword had a blade length around 168. See, at first, these swords were used to cut through the peaks of the Swiss infantry. But it is not difficult to assume that such swords were supposed to produce real havoc in the dense masses of lightly armed Indian soldiers, who had no plate armor. They had conquistadors and halberds, and 3,5 and cavalry spears with which riders could strike infantrymen from a distance. And, of course, the Spanish infantry used the spears and spikes to create a “hedgehog” - a defensive system covering the crossbowmen and arquebusiers during the time they reloaded their weapons.
German sword from Munich, work of Melchior Difstetter, 1520 -1556 Weight 1219 (Chicago Institute of Art)
In principle, all of these conquistadors could be armed. Well, if they do not, then people of their time. (Dresden Armory)
Although crossbows were known in the III. AD, as reported by us, for example, the poem of Firdousi "Shahname", they were not very powerful and were used mainly for hunting. Only over time, medieval gunsmiths learned to make crossbow bows from different hardwoods, horns and bones, but in this case it was too hard to pull the bow too powerful. At first, the stirrup helped to ease the loading - a leg was inserted into it and the crossbow was pressed to the ground, while pulling the string with a hook and cocking the trigger at the same time. Then a “goat’s foot” lever appeared, and during the Hundred Years' War, a powerful gate with a polyspast. K XIV century. The crossbow has become an indispensable weapon of all European armies, no matter how the Pope himself curses him. His twelve-inch bolt (approx. 31 cm) could easily pierce steel armor at close range. By the beginning of the expedition of Cortez, on many crossbows they began to make a metal bow, which made the crossbow even more powerful. And already when the so-called “Nuremberg knob” appeared - a removable gate for tensioning the crossbow, it became absolutely good. Now the crossbow could charge the rider in the saddle, and the crossbow itself, even if with this rather complicated mechanism, was still a lot simpler than the arquebus that competed with it throughout the XV century. In the tropics of the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Central America, the crossbow was convenient because it did not need powder, which at that time looked like a powder (they could not granulate it) and easily dampened. In addition, the killing power of a crossbow at close range made it possible for two, and possibly three people, to be pierced with one arrow, so that the crossbow was not much different from the arquebus in terms of the effect on the dense construction of the Indians.
“Kranekin” (“Nuremberg Gate”), Dresden, 1570 - 1580 (Chicago Art Institute)
By 1450, the prospect of meeting a peasant armed with something that fired smoke, fire, thunder and a lead ball could frighten any nobleman wearing the most expensive armor. No wonder the Knight Bayard ordered the arrows to be cut off from the firearm. Everyone already knew that lead is poisonous, and therefore infections and gangrene caused by injuries by such bullets were attributed to its nasty properties, and not to banal dirt and unsanitary conditions reigning everywhere. But in order to prevent this from happening, healers burned wounds caused by lead, red-hot iron, or disinfected them with boiling olive oil - a completely barbaric method of treatment that only increased the hatred of knights for gunners. Fortunately, aiming and shooting at first was quite difficult at first, but after the wick lock appeared in 1490, the situation quickly changed.
It would be very interesting to consider it proved that Cortez was wearing armor like this. And he really wore them. But the question is: which ones? Maybe it was Milanese armor, like this field headset and at the same time tournament armor for a fight with a barrier? OK. 1575 d. Height 96.5 cm. Weight 18,580 (Chicago Institute of Art)
The first wick guns had an S-shaped lever planted on the rod, called “serpentine” (serpentine), in which a smoldering hemp wick was attached. To shoot it was necessary to push the lower part of the lever forward, then the upper part, on the contrary, moved back and brought the smoldering wick to the pilot hole. And immediately there were many different options for the trigger mechanism, including the very very original push-button descent.
During the XVI century. The trigger lever has become very similar to that used in modern firearms - that is, it turned the serpentine with a spring-loaded trigger. Then the triggers became smaller and attached a safety bracket to them against accidental pressing. They were fired with round bullets cast from lead, but not only. It is known, for example, that in Russia at that time food was squeezed and muskets could be charged “with seven cuts for three grivenki” and ... how could this be understood? But it's very simple - the bullets were not poured, but were cut from a pre-cast calibrated rod and laid as many as seven “cuts”, that is, bullets weighing three grivnas. Applied a similar method of loading conquistadors or not unknown. But why not, the technique is very rational. After all, the Spaniards, in contrast to the warriors in Europe, needed to shoot not at individual horsemen in armor, but for the dense mass of the advancing Indians, who were trying to crush them with their numbers and not so much kill them, as they would certainly take into captivity and sacrifice to their blood-bearing gods. Therefore, it is logical to assume that in the barrel they laid, if not cylindrical chopped bullets, then in any case, several bullets at once. Scattering when fired to the side, at a relatively close distance, they killed several Indians at once or inflicted injuries incompatible with life. Only in this way could they stop their desperate attacks. After all, it is known that the same Aztecs did not suffer from a lack of courage!
It is possible that in the battle of Otumba it was just like this that the armed horsemen decided the outcome of the battle. But this is nothing more than an assumption. Austrian armor from Innsbruck, approx. 1540 d. Height 191,8 cm. Weight. 14,528 kg. (Chicago Art Institute)
By the way, prior to the standardization of the Spanish arms production, carried out under Charles V, handguns had many different names. The most common was the name of espingard (pishchal), arquebus (in Spanish arcabuz) and escopet. The commander, who managed to understand the advantage of numerous shooters with arquebuses and find them a place on the battlefield, became the famous Cordoba. After all, it was only with the help of firearms that it was possible to break through the square constructions of Swiss pikemen, who were also dressed in metal armor. But now a large detachment of Spanish arquebuisers could, from a safe distance of 150 yards (approx. 130 m), disperse their first rows in one gulp, after which the soldiers with shields and swords cut into their frustrated masses and completed the fight in hand-to-hand combat.
Iron cannon charging from the breech, approx. 1410 (Paris Army Museum)
As for the documentary mentions of weapons supplied to America, the first of them is in Columbus’s request for 200 breast cuirass, 100 arquebus and 100 crossbows made by him in 1495. It was a weapon for a detachment of 200 soldiers, and it can be seen that the arquebuses and crossbows in the New World were equally used, and in addition, all these warriors had cuirass. But they did not need long peaks at all, since the Indians had no cavalry. They fought with large dense masses consisting of lightly armed infantry, and the conquistadors had the most fear that they would simply crush their ranks before they could use their advantage in armament. The descriptions of the battles with the Indians, made by Cortes, Díaz, Alvarado and other conquistadors, clearly show us what efforts the Spaniards had to keep the enemy hordes from themselves at a distance. At the same time, the Arquebusiers with their shots inflicted enormous damage on them, but it was a long matter to charge these weapons. Cover for arkebuziram at this time just provide crossbowmen, who charged their crossbows a lot faster. Swordsmen also fought with those who broke through the fire and those and others, and appeared directly in front of the Spaniards. When the first onslaught of the enemy weakened, the Spaniards immediately launched their artillery, the volleys of which could hold the Indians at a great distance almost infinitely.
The Spaniards and their allies are fighting the Aztecs. (“The History of Tlaxcala”, Glasgow University Library)
As for the artillery, the conquistadors had at their disposal two or three inch guns, which were called falconets. In general, these were ship cannons, discharged from the breech and placed on the sides for firing at the enemy, going to board the ship, but the conquistadors quickly came up with the idea of removing them from the ships and putting them on the wheel carriages. At a distance of 2000 yards (approx. 1800 m), they would kill five or more people at once with a well-aimed core. The sound of the shot almost always caused the superstitious horror of the natives, because in their view he was associated with such supernatural phenomena as thunder, lightning and a volcanic eruption.
During the capture of Mexico City, the Spaniards used heavier guns. Scientists are still arguing about what sizes and caliber these culevrin and pawnshops had. For example, Cortes in Veracruz in 1519 had four falcontes and ten bronze pawnshops. The Spaniards falcontes later lost in the "Night of Sorrows". The pawnbrokers turned out to be too heavy for maneuvers on the battlefield and were used only for the defense of the coastal fortress of Cortes Villa Rica. But then they were able to manufacture suitable vehicles for them and deliver them to Tenochtitlan, where they were used in 1521.
To be continued ...
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