Introduction – the era of modern bayonet.


” … the Dutch Wars witnessed the first French bayonet charges.”

(Lynn – “Giant of the Grand Siecle”)

The term “bayonet” is thought to have derived from the French town of Bayonne, and referred to a long knife or dagger which was carried by soldiers. In late 1690s more emphasis began to be placed on the use of the musket as a primary weapon of the common soldier and as a result, the long pike was gradually phased out and so called plug-bayonet was introduced. It was a spear-like blade to which was attached a long conical steel plug inserted directly into the muzzle of the soldier`s musket, a collar lodging against the barrel to prevent it sliding too far in.
The disadvantage of this old-fashioned bayonet was that once fixed, the musket cannot be fired until the bayonet was removed.

The new , socket-bayonet first appeared in the French army in the 1670s but it was not until 1715 (in British army circa 1725) when the triangular bayonets were introduced. The bayonet had the blade attached to a hollow sleeve which slipped over the muzzle of the musket. The bayonet was below the barrel and left clearance to permit the musket to be loaded and fired while the bayonet was fixed.

The introduction of the bayonet eventually reshaped infantry tactics, perhaps even more than did the conversion to the fusil. Never before or since has an edged weapon had such impact on firepower. By replacing formations that mixed musketeers and pikemen with formations composed entirely of infantrymen bearing fusils tipped with bayonets, the French increased the number of men equipped to fire on the enemy without losing the shock potential of a charge with cold steel. … Belhomme claims that the first French army to employ such a bayonet was the Army of Flanders in 1642. …” the Dutch Wars witnessed the first French bayonet charges. …”

Before 1670, Vauban already dreamed of a bayonet ‘which could be so well accomodated to the end of the fusil that the bayonet would transform the fusil into a halberd while allowing the weapon to be loaded and fired as if the bayonet was not even there.” (Lynn – “Giant of the Grand Siecle” p 464)

The triangular socket bayonets were used in the following wars between France and Great Britain:
– 1741-1748 : War of the Austrian Succession
– 1756-1763 : Seven Years War (incl. the French and Indian War)
– 1792-1802 : Revolutionary Wars (incl. French invasion of Ireland)
– 1802-1815 : Napoleonic Wars

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