Bayonets in the Hungarian fights

Before the use of bayonets took over the power on the battlefields, soldiers had tried several ways to combine lances and firearms. In the beginning, they tried to fix the gun on the lance, not the blade on the gun. It was a quite clumsy, dangerous, and expensive solution, though:

Muskets and rifles were heavy and were wielded as a club in close combat. The weapons had a lean-on to support the weight of the gun while shooting: it was also used in combat when there was no more time to reload. Look at this East-European musket-lean-on:

Still, these were not the perfect solutions. It was the plug-bayonet that has changed everything: soldiers didn’t need to carry cumbersome long lances anymore because cavalry could be stopped easily with the bayonets plugged into the barrel. These bayonets played a huge role in the anti-Ottoman wars in Hungary as early as 1686… The bayonets were first used in Hungary by the western soldiers at the siege of Buda Castle in 1686.

A plug-bayonet in the National Museum of Hungary

It gave them a huge advantage over the enemy as it was not known in the Ottoman army at that time. I dare say that the bayonet was the „miraculous weapon” that helped greatly to liberate Hungary for the Habsburgs…
The bayonets were invented as early as 1575, first in Bayonne, in France. These weapons were plugged into the barrel of the rifle so they were hard to remove once they have been fixed. (they were called “plug bayonets”.)

At the first time, it was just a long dagger that could be fixed like that, mainly preferred by hunters.

Bayonets appeared in the army only 100 years later and we know that they have revolutionized the entire warfare.
As for the Imperial army, the bayonets were first used in the Heister- and in the Scherfenberg regiments in the 17th century. These bayonets were adjustably fixed under the barrel, they looked like long iron spits, and they could be folded out. There is one of them in the Hungarian National Museum from about 1660, its length is one meter. Those bayonets which were fitted into the barrel were usually 48 centimeters long, their width was 3.5 cm. The grip (handle) of the bayonet was 22 cm.

At the end of the 17th century, there was a significant change when the bayonets were fixed onto the barrel instead of into it. However, the problem occurred that after each successful thrust, the blade got stuck easily in the enemy’s body and came off the barrel. These were the lose-fitting ring bayonets:

The final shape of this new combined weapon was developing quickly but there were a few dead-ends like this weapon from King Sobiesky”s army from 1683:

Yet, the Saxon regiments fighting in Hungary in 1694 were already supplied with an improved version of the ring bayonet where the bayonets remained steadily on the barrel.

modern bayonets

However, in the last decade of the 17th Century, pikemen still continued to make up 20 to 25 percent of infantry formations.
As for the Habsburg army, they introduced bayonets only in 1705 but these bayonets were still the old-fashioned ones that got stuck into the barrel. Not much later, they modernized them, though.
Hungarians began to produce bayonets during the War of Independence of Ferenc Rákóczi between 1703 and 1711.

(Sources: Sugár István and: Gróf Marsigli, a “katona és tudós” egy talján polihisztor emlékezete, and )


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