I just (well, a week ago) returned home from my adventures in California attending the School of the Renaissance Soldier:Actions of the Lowe Countries IV, which was held at Gibson Ranch Park just outside of Sacramento. It was founded four years ago by myself and Patrick Gaul (who is the present Muster Master of the event), based upon a concept by Nick Worthington. We had participants from not only up here in Washington State, but also from Wisconsin and even one hearty fellow who flew out from Massachusetts! I had driven down hauling the horses with my squire and protege, while wife, pard and a compadre flew down. It took us two days to drive, took them about two hours to fly. Hmmm...
The School of the Renaissance Soldier was designed as a means of gathering together as many like-minded individuals and groups as possible in a single setting to practice the military arts of the 16th and early 17th Centuries, something usually not possible with the small groups generally the norm in reenacting circles. We have thus managed to muster some pretty impressive numbers of both Pike and Shotte, actually sufficient to be able to form a "Square" of Pikes with "Wings" of Shotte around them. My own endeavour in this has been to experiment with 16th and 17th Century drill and tactics with Horse, both Heavy and Light. Although we're not quite up to critical mass on numbers of Horse, never the less we've all gained experience over the years with our experiments, and had LOADS of fun with it!
We tried out two new experiments this year with Horse. First was from the beginning to separate the Light from the Heavy Horse. Since Light Horse is primarily for scouting, harassing and otherwise annoying the enemy, I felt that they should do just that. Under the skilled hand of Corporal Berg, that's exactly what they did. The Heavy Horse, under either myself or Cornette Thompson, practiced the fine art of keeping a straight, steady Line of Battle at all gaits in readying for The Charge. LOTS harder to do in practice than in theory, I might add. We also practiced various maneuvers which would bring us from Column of March to Line of Battle at various gaits. Wheel's, Into Line's, About's etc. were practiced and eventually all got the hang of it. Saturday was pretty grueling, but we survived. Sunday was great, and we combined to practiced the "Charge Foote" while Foote responded with "Charge for Horse! Present Carrots!" whereupon we took all of the horses through the infantry ranks, while the infantrymen held out carrots to their four-footed friends. It was very useful in sacking out the horses in preparation for the Tactical later in the day.
The second major experiment was to attach a unit of Dragoons to the Horse. All of the Dragoons wrangled together (under "Reformado" Nick Worthington) had been cavalrymen at earlier events, so I had no problem with the fiction of them being mounted infantry. We of course didn't have sufficient horses to allow them to ride into the field, dismount and fight on foot, but it wasn't a stretch of the imagination for us. Nick outfitted his small detachment with caliver and carabine, with a border-lance performing the duties of a half-pike. The Dragoons performed very well, and gave both the Horse something solid to rally upon after being recalled from their Charges against the Foote, and it gave the Foote something somewhat less fluid than the Horse to maneuver against. It was a very successful experiment, and I anticipate a great deal of discussion and effort being put into putting together something somewhat more permanent for the future than the rather ad-hoc formation we enjoyed. It certainly gave a great deal of credence to the opinions of Sir Roger Williams, the Admiral Coligny and J. J. von Walhausen during the period!
I'm sure that over the next few weeks I'll be discoursing at length on these various things, so stay tuned (or not, as the case may be.)
(photos in this entry by Neb, Patrick Gaul, Zephram Gomez, Peter Nelson and Nathan Barnett)