Thursday, July 01, 2004

And now for something completely different
One of my many hobbies is miniature wargaming. Or, as my wife likes to call it, playing with little dolls with pointy things. Anyway one of the ‘Great Debates’ in various gamins circles is the role or utility of the pike. I came across a great quote that I think illustrates the role of the hapless piker nicely. This is an account by Johann Grimmelshausen from Chapter 13 of 'Tearaway' the English translation of 'Springinsfeld' written in the 1670s based on his service in the 30 Years War.
"I had to carry a pike, which I disliked so much I would rather have been hanged than fight with such a weapon for long . I didn't feel at all like that Swabian who wanted to take half a dozen of the staves, the 18 feet of just one was too much for me. All the time I was looking for a way to give my weapon an honourable discharge. A musketeer is a poor put upon creature but compared with a wretched pikeman's lot his situation is pure bliss. It's bad enough just thinking about the hardships the poor souls have to put up with, never mind talking about them. You wouldn't believe it if you hadn't been through them yourself. I think anyone who slays a pikeman, whom he could otherwise have spared, kills an innocent man and is guilty of unjustifiable manslaughter. Since these poor draft-oxen, as they are mockingly called, were created in order to protect their brigades from attack by cavalry in open combat, they don't set out to harm anyone; if a man runs into one of their long pikes it serves him right. I've seen lots of fierce battles in my time, but seldom seen a pikeman actually kill someone."


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