Pike and Shot – The Spanish Tercio | Early-Modern Warfare

Pike and Shot – The Spanish Tercio | Early-Modern Warfare

Pike and shot warfare emerged in
response to dominating forces on the battlefield such as the Swiss mercenary
pikemen and Gendarmes, the French heavy cavalry . these powerhouses dominated
their respective troop types throughout the late Middle Ages the heavy French
shone down on the one hand bested enemy cavalry quickly the deepened Swiss Pike
Square on the other hand protected itself successfully from enemy cavalry
attacks and its depth gave it the necessary momentum to overcome enemy
infantry with steamrolling charges if these two worked together they were
seemingly invincible force on the battlefield the first to successfully
stand firm against these forces combined were the Spanish but they had to learn
it the hard way during the Italian Wars at the Battle of
seminara in 1495 the Spanish deployed their hitherto efficient light skirmisher
cavalry called jinetes and sword buckler man joined by pikemen the
spanish and italian troops took position behind the river while the french and
swiss were marching directly towards them the spanish calorie assaulted the
wading french knights with initial success by throwing javelins and
repeatedly breaking off but the situation soon turned sour the
inexperienced and outmatched italian infantry routed the Spanish troops just
about managed to cover the retreat to seminar only by desperately delaying
their pursuers after this battle el gran Capitan Gonzalo Fernandez de
Cordoba realized that his troops would never stand a chance against the
offensive power of the expanding and militarily dominant French and Swiss
pikemen in their service as a consequence he thoroughly reformed the
Spanish troops most importantly he added masses of firearms and more pikemen to
his sword infantry which he then combined into so-called coronelias of
about 6,000 men this change soon proved to be effective when the Spanish won the
battle of daring Lola in this battle the Spanish dug in together with the
mercenary lon in front of the city walls of cerignola
Ola from their entrenched positions over a thousand Spanish our cabooses shot the
attacking French Knights and the Swiss mercenary pikemen to pieces this is not
only considered the first battle borne by gunpowder but also the first proper
example of pike assault warfare in 1534 the coronelias were reformed into
Tercios which according to military historian Ignacio Lopez quote literally
means bundle or one third part of something and quote he thinks it most
likely that it referred to the three different weapon types deployed in the
formation firearm sword and pike according to the historian michael
sakura the Tercio ruled the battlefield of
europe up to the 30 Years War and quote there repeatedly proven military prowess
is exemplary for an era of military history and world similarly to other
regiments of European armies the Tercio consisted of ten to twelve
companies each numbering about 250 soldiers making the Tercio about 2,500
to 3,000 men strong but note that these theoretical numbers varied in reality
the main body of the Tercio would ideally have been composed of 1,400 to
2,500 pikemen and swordman when either side of them were so-called Garrisons
of shot which always stuck close to the melee warriors in number thirty to
sixty men additional force leaves of gunmen consisting of one hundred to four
hundred men operated independently around the formation they were
accompanied by a few pikemen or halberdiers to protect them against
cavalry attacks in case of a cavalry attack
they could also seek cover among the main body of the pikemen
the core of the turf field was made up by professional Spanish wet friends who
were frequently praised by others for their cohesiveness and discipline in
battle the veteran tercios were called tercio viejos old tercios
They were supplemented by soldiers recruited in the particular region of
their deployment this concern mainly Walloons Italians and mercenaries from
Germany but what was the key element to their success Robert Barrett a British
military writer and poet wrote around the year 1600 and spent
much of his life in Spain summed it up perfectly the wrong without the other is
weakened therefore of necessity the one is to be coupled and matched with the
other in such convenient proportion that the advantage of the one may help the
disadvantage of the other and hold this quote addresses the elephant in the room
pikemen on their own were vulnerable to gunmen whilst gunmen by themselves were
exposed to cavalry key to the success of the tercio was not only the
professionalism of its veterans but moreso the tactical symbiosis of a deep
and pike formation and a relatively new technology of portable firearms during
the medieval period an army would have simply had a corps of heavy infantry
with skirmishers on the flanks or to the rear on the flanks the skirmishes could
shoot continually but were vulnerable to enemy cavalry putting them on the rear
might have been safer for them but did not allow them to shoot anymore once the
melee warriors were engaged in combat after the melee lines had engaged they
were also no longer protected in the rear
during the pike in shot age the gunmen could not shoot over their friendly
infantry anyways because their bullets could not be shot in an arc thus if they
should have a somewhat protected position on the battlefield they had to
be integrated into the infantry formation and other reason for the
integration was the fact that the footmen on their own were vulnerable to
mounted skirmishers who now also used gunpowder weapons the most effective
tactic of these mounted skirmishes was the caracole generally speaking the
Caracole means spiral and was the answer of horsemen to Pikes it was an
alternative to shock assault of lances a tactic which had become problematic
since the medieval shield wall was reinforced with long Pikes in the 15th
century however when infantry and arquebusiers were combined as in the
spanish Tercios the caracale could be effectively countered the gunmen could
also devastate the enemy infantry on a distance by performing counter marches
this meant that the first row shot their load then ran behind the formation to
reload by the next row stepped forward to show
this was the common mode of fire for the garrisons on the side of the patio an
army usually consisted of multiple tercios they were organized in a
chekered formation the whole infantry formation created a prolonged front but
not an entirely closed line in this the tercios differed from medieval shield
walls or later line battle formations the checkered order had multiple
advantages firstly the forces did not necessarily fall apart if one unit had
been beaten as was often the case in a closed battle line secondly it allowed
damaged units to retreat safely under the protection of neighboring squares
which made it very hard for enemy troops to chase them down in the same way it
was possible to replace exhausted troops with reserve units without having to
give up the formation thirdly smaller units were clearly separated which
prevented panic and disorder to spread the division into smaller entities also
allowed the commanding officers much finer tactical interventions this in
turn made the Commandant much more complicated and led to a
professionalization of the commanding officers as firearms developed they
became more important their quota in the composition of the tercio grew
constantly starting from about 10% of gunmen in about 1,500 it rose to about a
50/50 ratio in the 30 Years War gunpowder weapons were much more
effective than for example crossbows according to Clifford J. Rogers a
heavy steel bowed crossbow produced an energy of up to 200 joules a well
charged R caboose ball however could leave its barrel with about two thousand
seven hundred joules portable firearms were not the only gunpowder weapons
which became more important artillery too became a while factoring warfare and
strategy at the same time melee fighters lost their importance swords axes and
short pole weapons made way to long pikes so that the Tercio consisted
almost exclusively of pikes and gunmen while being more effective gunpowder
weaponry resulted in much higher numbers of casualties
and a new form of defense the unsung heroes of early modern warfare are
bitches and trenches they of course didn’t bring about quick victories in
open field battles the early modern battlefield looked very different from
the medieval battlefield while the winner of a medieval battle could hope
to get away with many more losses the winner of an early modern battle often
suffered almost as many losses as the loser in the Battle of Newport both the
victorious Dutch and a losing Spanish suffered about 2,500 casualties each
overall open field battles became much rarer because both sides usually Verne
keen on losing so many men at the same time the numbers of sieges increased the
Spanish loss at Nieuwpoort against the newly reformed Dutch army is sometimes
seen as an early sign of the failure of the tercio formation a rather heroic
but ultimately failed display of the Tercios is the Battle of aqua which took
place in 1643 as part of the 30 Years War
this battle is considered to be a turning point in the perceived
invincibility of the Spanish Tercios while the Spanish army besieged the
fortress town of aqua the French were approaching to liberate the town the
Spanish turned away from the siege faced the French army at dawn of the 19th of
May the French infantry and the cavalry placed on their left wing launched an
attack but failed they needed help from the reserve troops in order to stop the
Spanish counter-attack in the meantime the French were able to rout the Spanish
cavalry on the other flank Verdun now would have had an opportunity to attack
the exposed Spanish infantry instead they rode along the Spanish rear this
allowed them to attack the remaining Spanish cavalry from behind the Spanish
cavalry routed the artillery flats and the infantry was left alone soon except
for six damaged Terios all Spanish troops had fled as the French commander
asked them to give in they replied quote His Excellency
seems to forget that he is facing a Spanish regiment and quote the fight
went on the remaining tavius repelled multiple cavalry attacks but they
suffered enormous losses to have in the end the French couldn’t break the
remaining chaos and thus had to grant them safe conduct in full armour
conditions usually only obtained by a besieged garrison in a fortress
although dis lost unsaddled to believe in the invincibility of the Tercios
they continued to be employed successfully throughout the 17th century
by the Year 1700 pol weapons had nearly been replaced by muskets with attached
bayonets in 1704 the tar fuels were finally abolished and replaced by an
army structure following the French model the next century was dominated by
a much more linear battle formation this was already foreshadowed by earlier
dutch and swedish reforms under Maurice of Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus
respectively but this will be subject of a future

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100 thoughts on “Pike and Shot – The Spanish Tercio | Early-Modern Warfare”

  • Mixed weapon strategies worked really well until the musket got so good that you didn't really have to bother with anything else any more.

  • I was surprised by your comment that the arquebuses could not fire curved trajectories. What do you base that comment on? In fact there is no reason they could not and I have read extracts from memoirs of one of the Spanish commanders of the time, whose name escapes me for the moment, describing precisely the use of arced fire against dragoons deployed behind an embankment. I have been trying to track down more information about this use of early firearms in the manner of archery (both direct and indirect fire as it were) and would love to read any sources you may have on that subject.

  • En los países bajos españoles sólo hubo un 17% de soldados peninsulares, el 83% eran hombres de Flandes y de una decena de paises

  • These troops had the first successful gun-battle and the first combined units in one regiment. Today's military have air and ground troops combined in one brigades (infantry + air support unite + armoured units).

  • The tercios started their dominance by defeating France at the battle of Cerignola 1503 then were destroyed by France in the battle of Rocroi 1643

  • I mean nowadays with assault rifles and nukes? Humanity just became cowardly, unable to meet face to face to sort issues out.
    This is how it should be done(roughly).
    2 countries have a falling out, put forward 500-1000 men armed with melee weapons only.. that’s how nations should settle things, rather than dropping bombs into civilian packed cities.

  • Ah, yes, when we were actually relevant in the world. Good times.
    PS: You know it's not a native English speaker when he actually puts effort in pronouncing spanish words. We appreciate that.

  • I've heard of the Tercio before. And knew what they were. But didn't know it's history until now. So thanks for making this video a reality.

  • I've been looking for the exact moment of transition! Wow. So it was pikes/guns that evolved into guns with bayonet. It was the throw away of plate armor and melee diversity, in exchange for what works better. You also see taking turns with the volley here. 🤔🤔🤔

  • Any other Latin American/American-Spanish speakers here cringe every time he said 'Tertheeo' instead of 'Tercio'? 😉

  • The Napoleonic Square formed to defend against massed cavalry attacks really is an homage to the Tercio. Thanks for the graphical instruction!

  • One small correction the first battle won by the use of gunpowder happened in Japan during the sengoku period, after the arrival of the portuguese. I don't quite recall the year but I'm certain it was before 1534

  • Fun fact: the tercio is what the shimazu and nobubaga in japan used to win against insurmountable odds.

  • Wasn't pike and shot "invented" by Ferdinando Francesco d'Avalos, Marquis of Pescara (who lernead warfare from Prospero COlonna) during the Italian wars and the 2nd invesion of the Franch into Italy,?!

  • It's always extremely funny to be a modern european and think about "How many fucking ways we invented to kill each other in Europe".

  • Not bad, but the units that fled at Rocroi were not Spanish, but German and Italian. The Spaniards hold their positions until the end.

  • Hay que tener pantalones y los kojones bien puestos para destruir 2 Potencias Mundiales Francais , England 🛡️🇪🇺viva España🇪🇺

  • Fireeeereeeeeeereeeereewreeereerr3eererrreaaaaaaawwrrrrrrms. Jesus fucking Christ way to drag out the playtime of a video

  • Lol, not a single youtube historian got the tercio tactics right. Not a single one. No, simply no, the arquebusiers didn't run into the the pike square when cavalry came. Such an act itself would automatically ruin all coordination and cohesion making the formation obsolete right then and there. My question is, what makes random people want to start a youtube career doing history? It helps when people stop when they read do more thinking and interpreting/analyzing rather than regurgitating. Everyone on youtube just sounds like each other, no original thought and therefor they tend to not know what they're even talking about.

  • I was looking for videos to improve my strategies with the Imperium in Total War Warhammer (a fantasy game) and it turns out to be a really useful and interesting video, the imperium has all the units to form a tercio, spearman, shielded swordman and gunman and if you complement it with a unit of semi-griffs cavalry or artillery you have a standard imperial army in Total War Warhammer. XD

  • Italy escaping from battle once again :D. They should be remembered as white flag nation instead of France lol.

  • nice, but when you pronounce the spanihs C or S, you don't have to exagerate it like that, nobody other than the spanish people speaks like that and technically speaking it is mispronounce of correct spanish castellano.

  • Tercios: the golden age of Spanish infantry, cavalry, and artillery, ¡viva la heroica España!

  • Very good documentary, but why are you pronouncing all of your V's as W's? It's a bit offputting for native English speakers lol

  • Oponiendo picas a caballos enfrentando arcabuces a piqueros con el alma unida por el mismo credo que la sangre corra protegiendo el reino
    Aspa de Borgoña flameando al viento hijos de Santiago grandes son los Tercios

  • Well in Europe if you are from Spain you got a similar case than in United States you are from the south west: from LA isn’t it¿

  • teacher: we are travelling to spain
    girls: omg i cant wait to see Madrid

  • Surley not the first won by guns the battle of castillon was one with guns as an important reason for victory and that pre dates this. It is unlikely to be the first either but it is one I know of.

  • This is one of the best (and shortest) military documentaries I've watched. Keep it up, you earned a new sub

  • Imagine if they were united fighting against a common foe. French cavalry as a flanking unit, swiss mercenary and spanish tercio at the center

  • So great!! .. well , I would like to ask about the formation was used during the Spanish invasion to Tripoli and the north African colonies. It was during 1510 A.C. and would like to know some references if possible, please!

  • The multiples comunities, in medieval age

    English comunity "In name of god"
    German comunity "Palästinaed"
    Spanish comunity "opiniendo picas a caballos, enfrentando arcabuces a piqueros"

  • In 2017, a recreation of tercio marched during the Hispanity Day. Take a look here. https://youtu.be/1xfe8669wsY

  • been using this kind of formation for years in command and conquer and now i discover it was created by our tercios thanks to your video!

  • i don't see steam tanks, rocket launchers and demigryph knights here. Everyone in empire knows that strongest infantry is halflings, not tercios.

  • The checkered tercio blocks looks a little like the roman maniples. Instead of a big, unwieldy single line or block you have several little blocks that move semi-independently and support one another.

    In practice, battlefields are messy. There's bits and stuff in the way and your long phalanx isn't going to have a perfect golf course to stand on.

  • Ojalá alguien haga un canal o algo para traducir estos videos que son excelentes.

  • It took always my attention than in many books written by British authors on "greatest battles of history" there was always a gap all along the XVI century. Now we know.

  • There isn't really any evidence that archers ever fired in arcade over formations. Lack of ability to see the enemy and reduced power of the weapon meant that it was largely a waste of arrows. It made more sense to drop the bow and fight hand to hand once things got up close and personal, because the effective ranges we're talking about for pre-gunpowder weapons was not very far. EDIT: Also, caracole comes from "caracol" which literally means "snail" in Spanish. It's called that because the riders approach at a trot to give the cycling ranks time to reload, so it's a slow attack.

  • How & why were the pikes finally phased out? The mention was too quick in passing. The trend toward three lines of muskets, with bayonets, needs to be elaborated. Thanks.

  • This kind of army used by Sweden was totaly destroyed by Lithuanian husars at Kircholm in 1605 although Sweden troops had 3 times advantage. From then mercenary infantry could refuse to fight when see husars on the battlefield. Thanks for your film!

  • 1610 yers Kluszyno 2700 Polisch wind husars vs 35000 Rusian and Sweden Victory Poland. 1605 yers Kircholm 3000 Polisch and Lituanian wind husars vs 13000 Sweden Victory Poland. Polisch and Lituanian husars the best cavalry in the World.

  • I knew that the Spaniards were always very brave warriors. I did not know that they were also very disciplined. No siesta for Tercio?

  • Perfecto, muy bien explicado el principio y el fin, de una manera de combatir, y si, realmente España era un país muy poco poblado, como para poder alargar su hegemonía en Europa, más de lo que lo hizo

  • Ni en Newport ni en Rocroi los españoles perdieron la batalla. Podemos considerarlo como dos empates. Solo hay que ver en que condiciones quedó el enemigo en ambas ocasiones para corroborar esto.