Those who attended the 1995 ECWSA Winter Siege Muster had the chance to participate in a new style of push-of-pike for tacticals. This involved a latex pike point that was screwed into the cheek pieces of the pike. This push-of-pike style was one that I had envisioned long ago for the ECWSA's Tactical Rules. Although due to access to the latex pike points being restricted, it naturally took a while to implement.
Historically, one charged pike by keeping the left fist securely beneath one's chin with right arm fully extended behind and holding the pike butt. Both ranks and files of the pike block were to be no closer then Close Order (1-foot between pikemen), not packed tight as others would have you believe. When the drum beat the 'Charge' the pikemen were to advance towards the enemy by stepping in a specific manner (like a left fencing stance). Therefore, this was the manner that is to be employed to hold the pike and advance/retreat while at charge for tactical push-of-pike.
To my knowledge no contemporary source states that pikes were thrust forwards like spears, rather instead the entire body of men moved forwards as one pushing the enemy back. Therefore no thrusting is allowed with latex tipped pikes in tacticals. Instead, pikemen were instructed to step forward and backward, using only their bodies to push the pike forwards while always keeping their left fist secured under their chin with right arm extended to the rear.
To move the pike head to parry an opponent's point while stepping forwards, this may only be done sideways or downward (never upwards), and only to be performed by moving the right arm to control the pike point (while keeping the left hand still secured under one's chin). By prohibiting pikes from parrying upwards this helps to prevent getting hit in the face. In addition, you are only allowed to aim for an opponent's chest/body/flank; never the neck/face area. Any hits received in limbs would be ignored as not being solid enough to cause a push back. It was suggested by Lt. Webb (C.O. of Samual Jone's Regiment of Foot) that those in armor could receive two hits before being pushed back, which seems reasonable.
When a pikeman receives a non-glancing touch/hit they are to drop the point of their pike to the ground, face about to the right, and trail their pike reversed in the left hand by the butt while proceeding down the half-file to the rear of their file.
Then once at the rear of their file they are to face about to the left and position themselves accordingly. In this way a pike block would get "pushed" back a little at a time as it lost or gained ground, and pikemen in the rear ranks would step forwards to take the place of those that fell before them. Once in a while a few pikemen would actually fall from trying to retreat and bumping into the rear ranks. This caused confusion and eventually caused commanders to 'Call' for a rally 10-20 yards to the rear.
During the tacticals at the siege, naturally at first the pikes kept raising up high and even striking dangerous areas (face), but due to latex points no harm was done. By afternoon, with 1 or 2 exceptions, most had started to do the push-of-pike correctly, and by Sunday everyone was doing it properly. The biggest complaint was that some pikemen were sliding the pikes through their hands 'like a pool cue', and that those pikemen on the flanks would start to separate from the main block and begin to flank their opponents, using their pikes 'like Zulu spears', but this was eventually stopped by constant reminding by all officers, and those hitting from the flanks were ignored as well.
It should be noted that pikes work best in deep formations, not wide ones, as when pikemen are in wide formations there is no one in the rear to take their place while they recover. This will easily lead to the unit falling apart and being forced to retire. Likewise, when a few individual pikemen try to flank their opponent's pike block, this also serves no purpose, as they are forced to work individually instead of as a cohesive force, and so should be ignored.
Also, if a pike block is at the proper distance (Close Order), then those in the rear ranks have room to maneuver their pikes to support those in front, as well as making the block more mobile to react as commanded. In addition, those trying to get to the rear can easily do so, thus allowing them to recover quickly and keep the pike block in tact.
This push-of-pike method seems to be worthwhile in pursuing, and for those that think it poses a safety hazard, this is overcome by having ALL units properly trained and officered by responsible people. In addition, ALL musters (whether Society ones or not) should have time set aside at the start of each muster where ALL pikemen can be assembled to practice the push-of-pike. Above all, everyone should remember that it is ONLY a game, and that we must return to work on Monday morning, plus no matter what the outcome of a push-of-pike, the Civil War will still remain unchanged. A unit that is both safe and successful in this push-of-pike will be one in which tempers are controlled and the pikemen fight as a unit, and not as individuals.
The rubber latex pike points cost about $15.00, and after getting new poles, the Society will start to practice the tactical push-of-pike. Note that I strongly recommend ash (or other hardwood) poles even for tactical pikes, as these are heavier then the pine closet-poles, and thus would go a long way to preventing pikemen (who are so inclined!) to try to thrust like a spear, and the weight would likewise keep the points lower.
We now have a historically accurate and fun way to push-of-pike for tacticals, rather then the rugby-scrum (which over the years is finally giving way to more at point pushing I am told). It is hoped that other non-ECWSA units will follow our (and Samuel Jones' Regiment) example and get the latex pike points, so everyone will have an even more enjoyable time in tacticals.
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