Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Hussite Wars: The War Wagons

One of the things I love about history is being surprised by it. One of the tools in the Hussite Army is the war wagon. When the majority of your forces hail from the peasants, who are farmers, they tend to have a lot of wagons used to carry their goods. Their leader managed to turn these wagons into proto-tanks.

They were first used when Jan Zizka used the landscape to control the flow of the enemy against him by using lakes as natural barriers and then arranging existing wagons as another barrier. After that, they become a central part of the Hussite army. One of the interesting things is that historically, it is assumed that these were defensive vehicles, using both crossbow men and gunmen using essentially murder holes to fire at the enemy and pike men to protect the outside. But that defensive nature seems overstated when in the book, two accounts talk about how the war wagons could encircle a part of the enemy army and cut it to ribbons.

Another interesting bit I like about the war wagons, is that despite having gun men, and a limited number at that due to the cost associated with the guns, is that they have stones for when the conflict gets too close. On one hand, using the gunpowder, on the other, man's earliest weapon.

The thing that comes across in the war wagon though, is that it's use was relatively limited to these areas because they required a lot of open area to use. Those in more mountainous or uneven terrain would find them useless. The other important part, according to that linked website, was the nature of the Hussite army. Peasants; infantry. When many armies consider the knight to be the pinnacle of military superiority, you make do with what you have.

When looking at the history of your own setting, remember the vital role that geography will play in the development of weapons; not just small weapons, but huge weapons of war.

Now if only Games Workshop would get around to releasing some War Wagons...