jtg452 wrote:Infantry squares were the standard defense for cavalry. Even before the bayonet came into use, that's what pikemen were there for.
Actually, the pikemen was the primary force, because a unit of well drilled pikemen can devastate just about anything.
Then in the 14th to 16th century, more and more musketeers were added as an integral part of pikemen units, as support, to soften up enemy formations before the pikemen´s punch.
16th to 18th century marked the change for units where roles reversed, ending up with about 1/3 pikemen and the rest musketeers, rather than the opposite(or progressively more as you go further back in history(depending on place and army of course)).
jtg452 wrote:Massed bayonets (front rank kneeling with the musket butt on the ground and held leaned forward at an angle with the second rank presenting bayonets over their shoulders when faced with an attack) was effective against mounted assaults. Horses aren't stupid and don't what to charge into a hedge of sharp steel any more than a human does.
A lot of horses also dislike shiny steel things even if they can´t see that they´ve got sharp points or edges.
jtg452 wrote:Throw in some volley fire by rank from the facing side and you have an effective defense against mounted attack.
Massed volleyfire up close is very effective against pretty much any attacker, because many shots fired together, to the one in front of them it´s like getting hit with a whole bundle of flashbang grenades.
jtg452 wrote:The only time I can remember a British square being broken was because a dead horse slid into the formation and broke it's cohesion. The some of the other, still living, cavalry charged though the gap before the infantry could reform.
Swedish cavalry broke into quite a lot of square formations actually. Their standard charge was V-formation, very close, first man having the head of a horse just ahead of each of his legs, in touch distance.
Then at 10-40m from target formation, they would jointly fire their pistols, creating a "dent" that they could charge into with sabers. If the formation was considered too strong to go at with sabers, they would either veer off after the pistolshot, or shoot once early and then again with a second pistol at very short range and then veer off to reload or go for sabers.
I don´t know of any other nation that did cavalry charges quite like that(extremely tight charge and everyone firing together for maximum soundchock effect), but an infantry square was definitely not secure against cavalry.
jtg452 wrote:That would be fine if the cavalry wasn't around. When infantry were in open order and the line were there most vulnerable to cavalry attack because there were flanks to turn and there was a lack of mutual support between subunits and individuals. If cavalry was present, most commanders stayed in their squares and just took the punishment from the cannons. Since their choices were a slow death by cannon or a quick death being routed and broken by the prowling cavalry, I guess staying in formation and hoping for support would be considered the lesser of the evils.
It should be noted though that infantry, even in tight formation, historically stood and took artilleryfire for the better part of a day without actually taking serious losses or breaking.
So, while artillery COULD be effective, it wasn´t automatically effective.
This is also where the "horse/light/mobile artillery" doctrines developed from, especially in Germany(making an impact that can still be seen), resulting in units with much lighter cannons and only small amounts of ammo with them, focused on achieving "a few devastating shots in the right time and place".