Advice on what would happen if the Aztecs defeated the Spanish in 1520 and how would it happen?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Sapphire Williams, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    ...Doesn't have what I asked for. At most, he can defend a claim that some people could possibly have had the skills to repair guns or take apart guns for parts. Industry is hard and also hard to hide. If it was there we'd know.

    I agree. Technology does help. A musket is a much better weapon than a bow, a sword is a much better weapon than a club. But people matter a lot more. In light of that:

    I know it wasn't you who first brought up King Phillip's War, but I wouldn't compare the Spanish soldiers and adventurers of the 1500s with English shopkeepers of the 1680s in terms of preparedness, motivation, or effectiveness. And I wouldn't compare a situation where competing colonies were feeding resources to allied American nations to undermine other Europeans to the situation in which the Spanish found themselves in Mexico (where their most dangerous opponents were other Spanish soldiers).
     
  2. generalurist Map Staring Expert

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    Even if the Aztecs beat back the Spanish a few times, their protection racket of an 'empire' will come tumbling down under the stresses of the colonial era before the 16th century is up.
     
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  3. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    Not necessarily. An early-16th century arquebus is terrible in a one-on-one contest with a bow. Bow's faster, quieter, sometimes even better for armor penetration. The key is that the gun can be used with a few hours of training tops, and used competently in weeks, whereas a competent archer takes between several months for a really simple bow to a decade or more for a longbow or some recurves, so the replacement rate of trained ranged troops is really low.

    Guns and bows also have better effective range than atlatls or thrown javelins, that's extremely useful.

    Sword vs. club also depends a lot on the situation.
     
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  4. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    The bow is basically useless against plate armor. Without firearms the only thing you can do is surround and isolate the armored man and tire him out. When you tire him out you can stab him somewhere he is not well protected, like the groin or buttocks. Once he’s down, lift his visor and stab him in the face.

    Against cavalry it’s the same process but first you have to get the man off his horse. Unfortunately for the AmerIndians they had no metal stabby weapons. They mostly used clubs.
     
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  5. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    Against sufficiently thick plate smaller bows are useless, but a longbow or sufficiently powerful recurve at about a hundred meters or so could punch through a less-than-fully-attired soldier's plate at least. With the right arrowhead and a quality archer, anyway. For a Spanish soldier of the 16th century, it'd probably be more effective to train archer marksmen and have them snipe for the head. That only really requires obsidian arrowheads or something like that at best. Or get in close, avoid or neutralize the pike and get within the usable range of the firearm, then go at his face with a dagger. Cut out his eyes, then you have the advantage and can slit his throat under the chin and above the gorget if any.
     
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  6. theg*ddam*hoi2fan Beware of the Leopard

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    Indeed.

    And as I've said before, you don't need to have the same equipment as the Spanish or whatever to beat them back. You just need to be hard enough. Let's face it: the Spanish historically were operating at the end of ridiculously-long lines, and quite often large numbers of any army brought on such a long sea voyage would die of illness or misadventure before landfall. With that... The main thing that let the Spanish win was (a) division among their enemies and (b) just how superior their tech was. But give the Inca powerful enough bows/crossbows and armour, odds are they'll be able to win out...and if they're too hard a nut to crack, then conquistador enthusiasm will be dampened considerably.
     
  7. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    I have never seen experiments using long bow against plate armor come close to success, even at point blank range. Mostly the arrow shaft snaps, sometimes the bodkin might embed itself in armor but it never goes through. Even against mail and gambeson it rarely penetrate enough for more than a flesh wound.

    Native bows were very low draw weight, around 40 pounds. Their stone tip arrows are easily stopped by native fabric armor which many Spanairds switched to because metal armor was often overkill. Bows were useless against them, which is why the most effective native weapon was the sling. In sufficient numbers the sling shots were still painful, especially against mail. But this was not lethal in most cases.

    We focus on weapons but the thing that may help the natives more is better armor. If they had jack of plate with work hardened copper or bronze that would make a huge difference. Even Tlingit wood cuirass would go a long way.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  8. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    I'm pretty sure you need a draw weight of nearly 130 lbs or even more, which is why late medieval nobles were more worried about their eye-holes than their breastplates when facing archers. Against soldiers in chain mail the longbow is still a lethally effective weapon. But the Natives don't have to do that, they just need archers who can shoot for the head, since the Spanish would be wearing armor more typical of the 16th century--with the emergence of the gun and the decrease in popularity of the bow, conquistadors would be more likely to have open-faced helmets.

    Don't get me wrong, steel armor is a massive advantage, more so than gunpowder even, and one that can't be hard-countered, but there are ways to mitigate its advantages.
     
  9. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    We have modern longbows of that draw weight, we can even simulate 200 pound bows. They just don’t penetrate plate. They don’t do that well against brigandine or mail and gambeson combination either. Long bow effectiveness is overstated. They are effective against unarmored horses and lightly armored people with only gambeson or only chain mail.

    Shooting people in the face with a bow is extremely difficult, these are moving targets and they have shields. Historically native bows were of little concern to the Spaniards. Hunters use arrows accurately because they ambush game at close range. On the battlefield arrows were typically used en masse, and were area weapons much like muskets.
     
  10. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    A gun has longer lethal range and comparable effective range, incomparably superior stopping power born of the combination of six times the energy for beating armour and something like twelve times the lethality against unarmoured foes (it's a ball of soft lead that expands when it hits bone, just picture it), can be used from prone or from cover, and doesn't care about leaves or branches that get in the way. And this incredible powerful weapon, while heavy, doesn't require the kind of athleticism a bow does.

    Also using one is not easy: loading a 16th c. gun is a 16-step process and if you screw up, you'll blow your hand off. And if you really screw up, you'll light up your whole bandolier and turn yourself into a fireworks show with a chance of meaty salsa. Maintaining it isn't trivial either. A good gun marksman was therefore always prized. It's much easier to aim with a gun, of course. You only have to really worry about not aiming too high and about the recoil: so for comparable amount of training, a gun is also more accurate than the bow.

    A bow is more silent and you can shoot with it a good deal faster, true. But the firearm is a hands-down winner in every other aspect, as borne out by history and specifically the very native American nations that we were discussing earlier. They were all very eager to adopt it and it changed everything. It broke generations-old deadlocks and caused horrific slaughters and mass migrations. But no matter how much the American nations loved the gun, they couldn't reproduce the technology end to end.

    EDIT: Okay, here's my thoughts on it: the Aztecs have the best chance of survival if the Spanish don't have monopoly in Mexico. If there's no Tordesillas (earlier POD than Cortez, I know), perhaps France and Portugal would get in on it right away and create that dynamic similar to east coast of US/Canada where the Europeans constantly supply their allies with whatever it is they need to keep fighting their native and European enemies. Can have England and Netherlands and whoever else join in after, too.

    It's also an under-explored scenario, in my estimation.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  11. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    I mean, I'm not arguing that the Aztecs aren't fucked no matter what. They are. Their empire is too unstable, their state development too rudimentary, and their situation too fundamentally unstable. I'm saying that if you're creative there's ways to use their kit or adapt said kit to cause significant conquistador casualties.

    Though I was under the impression that longbows were reasonably effective against armor even as late as Crecy and Agincourt.
     
  12. marathag Well-Known Member

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    takes longer than a few months for Archers.

    War Bows were over 80 pounds in draw weight, to some over twice that, so that's a lot of physical conditioning that you only get from practice with bows like that, a lot of practice, and from an early age


    In my time my poor father was as diligent to, teach me to shoot, as to learn me any other thing; and so I think other men did their children, he taught me how to draw, how to lay my body in my bow, and not to draw with strength of arms, as other nations do, but with strength of the body: I had my bows bought me, according to my age and strength; as I increased in them, so my bows were made bigger and bigger, for men shall never shoot well, except they be brought up in it: it is a goodly art, a wholesome kind of exercise, and much commended in physic.

    The Sixth Sermon preached before King Edward, April twelfth, 1549
     
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  13. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    What’s OP?

    By the time of La Noche Trieste Cortes had between 600 and 1000 (depending upon a source) Spaniards in the city out of which he lost between 400 and 800 (including casualties suffered at the battle of Otumba where they won having 500 Spaniards and few hundred Tlaxcala against at least 10,000 Aztecs with a loss of approximately 70) and had only 20 horses left. As big defeat as it goes. However soon enough he got reinforcements and within couple months was back to start siege of Tenochtitlan even if during that period the Aztecs launched a number of attacks against him and his allies. For the siege he had 84 cavalrymen and over 800 foot soldiers plus allies. Does not look like the Spaniards had been excessively upset by the losses as long as there was a gold “at the end of a tunnel”. By that time it became quite clear that even without Tlaxcala they can win a field battle with the odds more than 10:1 in Aztec favor and that Aztecs can act with some degree of success only in an urban fight. Which was clearly a good strategic situation for the Spaniards.
     
  14. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Besides a long time needed for bringing up a good quality long bowman, their successful deployment required combination of three major components:

    1st, “the English model” in which the archers are protected by dismounted knights (or have some artificial defenses) because without that protection they are extremely vulnerable. Look at what happened at Bannockburn when the archers had been left unprotected and were attacked by light Scottish cavalry. At Patty they did not have time to prepare their position and had been defeated by the French men at arms.

    2nd, they should be available in the big numbers because otherwise, according to Phillip de Comnin, they are useless (at Tannenberg they were present but did you hear about them?).

    3rd, they required accommodating opponent, preferably a slow moving one as was the case with the dismounted French knights at Poitiers and Agincourt. Or attacking in small groups while they are holding a prepared/protected position as happened at Crecy, and on the 1st stages of Poitiers and Agincourt. Anyway, at Poitiers the battle was won by a cavalry charge on the dismounted French knights and at Agincourt these dismounted knights had to cross a wet field.

    In the case of Spaniards vs Aztecs cavalry in question was much faster than the medieval knights and Spanish infantry was also advancing much faster than dismounted knights in a heavy armor.
     
  15. FriendlyGhost Haunting history for 45+ yrs

    Not quite true - maces and the like were very effective against armour - they don't need to penetrate to do damage or at the least cause significant restrictions on movement as the armour is bent out of shape. Even a basic club, if heavy enough and swung with enough force, can dent a breastplate enough to restrict breathing - and once you're struggling to breathe in a fight, you're in trouble. Of course, the trick is doing this to the armoured man whilst not being hit by his sword... it's difficult to swing a mace/club if you have a sword being swung at your head / stuck in you / slicing your arm off :eek:.
     
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  16. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    Maces can be effective against armor only if the user is also well armored. It would take multiple hits to injure an armored man using a mace, that’s assuming the mace can even make it past the swordsman’s shield, which is a big if. Meanwhile one stab in the femoral artery and you’d bleed out quickly. Archelogical evidence shows the Spanish liked using this trick against Indians with clubs.
     
  17. FriendlyGhost Haunting history for 45+ yrs

    I don't disagree - hence my last sentence. I was just disagreeing with the premise that firearms are needed to deal with a man in armour.

    @ the OP - sorry, I'm derailing your thread a bit. I'll bug out.
     
  18. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    True you don’t have to have firearms, but to deal with armor you would need armor yourself, or at least a really good shield.
     
  19. chornedsnorkack Well-Known Member

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    It was not clear. A large fraction of Spaniards felt that they had had a narrow escape and that they should either make good their retreat or at least wait for bigger reinforcements.

    In the event, Hernan Cortez prevailed in late 1520. His opponents prevailing would not be implausible.
     
  20. Daedwartin Well-Known Member

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    About 2 to 3 centuries, when they ended up actually inventing the cannon to begin with. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuwei_Bronze_Cannon
     
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