Online Encyclopedia

LANDSKNECHT

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 168 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LANDSKNECHT, a German mercenary foot-soldier of the 16th century. The name (German for " man of the plains ") was given to mark the contrast between the force of these soldiers, formed by the emperor Maximilian I. about the end of the 15th century, and the Swiss, the " men of the mountains," at that time the typical mercenary infantry of Europe. After the battles of Marignan and Pavia, where the military reputation of the Swiss had been broken, the Swabian landsknechte came to be considered the best fighting troops in Europe. Though primarily a German force and always the mainstay of imperial armies, they served in organized bodies as mercenaries elsewhere in Europe; in France they fought for the League and for the Protestants indiscriminately. In fact landsknecht, and more particularly its French corruption lansquenet, became in western Europe a general term for mercenary foot-soldiers. It is owing to the lange Spiesse (long pike or lance), the typical weapon with which they were armed, that the corrupted French form, as well as a German form, lanzknecht, and an English "lance-knight " came into use. The landsknechts were raised by colonels (Oberst), to whom the emperor issued recruiting commissions corresponding to the English " indents "; they were organized in regiments made up of a colonel, lieut.-colonel and regimental staff, with a varying number of companies, " colours " (Fahnlein), commanded by captains (Hauptmann); subaltern officers were lieutenants and ensigns (Fahnrich). In thus defining the titles and duties of each rank, and in almost every detail of regimental customs and organization, discipline and interior economy, the landsknechts may be considered as the founders of the modern military system on a regimental basis (see further ARMY).
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