One Million Mercenaries (ePub)
The white mercenaries who attracted the world's attention in the Congo during the early 1960s were never more than a few hundred in number. In contrast, no fewer than a million Swiss troops served as mercenaries in the armies of Europe during the preceding 500 years. Swiss mercenaries form a significant strand in the rope of European military history, and this book draws on many French and German-language sources to describe how the Swiss emerged from the isolated valleys of the Alps with a new method of warfare. Their massed columns of pike-carrying infantry were the first foot-soldiers since Roman times who could hold their own against the cavalry. For a brief period at the end of the 15th century the Swiss army appeared unbeatable, and after Swiss independence had been ensured they were hired out as mercenaries throughout Europe. Kings and generals competed to hire these elite combat troops. Nearly half of the million served with the French, their centuries of loyal service culminating with the massacre of the Swiss Guards during the French Revolution. Marlborough, Frederick the Great and Napoleon all hired large numbers of Swiss troops, and three Swiss regiments served in the British Army.