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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lancers in the American Civil War

I recently did a guest post over at Genre Author about Medieval Weapons in the American Civil War. Space limitations didn't allow me to include all examples of "primitive" weapons used in the war, so here are some more.

Some Texas cavalry units had lances. These weren't the huge lances of the medieval jousting era, rather the slim lances used in the Napoleonic era. The Texans' lance blades were 3 inches wide and 12 long, mounted on a 9 foot shaft. Each sported a red guidon with a white star to "drink the blood" of the Yankees.

At the Battle of Valverde, New Mexico Territory,  on 21 February 1862, Texas lancers under Capt. W.L. Lang, Fifth Texas Regiment, formed three columns and charged the Union left flank. Facing them were the Second Colorado Volunteer Infantry. The infantry waited until the horsemen were only 20 yards away and then gave them a volley. At that range it was hard to miss. At least 20 fell and the Coloradans quickly reloaded and gave them some more of the same.

Some Texans managed to close with the infantry. The Colorado troops didn't break, instead fighting back effectively with their bayonets. At this point the Texans should have been able to destroy the infantry. They had longer reach, after all. That a lancer should be beaten by a bayonet hints that the Texans hadn't trained with their weapons much. A fellow history buff over at the RenWars Yahoo group told me the Texans, disgusted at their performance in battle, ended up using their lances as firewood!

Another RenWars user pointed out an interesting article on pikes used by soldiers in Georgia. None actually saw combat, which was probably a good thing as far as the Georgians were concerned.

I couldn't find a public domain image of the Texan lancers. There's a good modern painting of them here

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