From what I understand, the black/devil riders were a group of German soldiers or mercenaries who were famous for using black painted armor. They developed various techniques for fighting on horseback, especially using pistol-like weapons. What is the origin of the black riders, and were they a highly renowned group of mercenaries like the Swiss pikemen mercenaries were?

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    Is there any other name for them? Do you have any pointers or references to them? What time period? – Rajib Oct 31 '14 at 4:30
  • @Rajib They are more commonly known as simply reiters. – Semaphore Oct 31 '14 at 5:25
  • @Rajib the following is an excerpt: They first appeared in Germany in the sixteenth century. The riders developed a special tactic known as caracole, which allowed them to effectively bombard infantry units with constant weapons fire. – Ovi Oct 31 '14 at 5:25
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    The caracole was a trick where a wide column would approach the immobile pike square to pistol range, the first line would fire and split to the sides, then go to the end of the column and reload. The second line fires, and repeats. By the time the first line is back in front, they've reloaded. The infantry can't break formation or flee, and if they lose enough men they become vulnerable to a charge from the reiters with the sword. – Oldcat Oct 31 '14 at 17:29

You are referring to the Schwarze Reiters (i.e. black riders), named after the dark armour they wore. This was a type of cavalry that appeared in Germany after the decline of the medieval lancers, but later became a generic name (usually shortened to just reiters) for German cavalry mercenaries.

Around the mid-16th century, advancements in firearms as well as proliferation of pikes were making the earlier heavy cavalry obsolete. One of the ways cavalry forces responded was to shift their focus to mobility and firepower. The Schwarze reiters were the pioneering example of this paradigm shift. Created by Günther of Schwarzburg, the black riders adopted pistols as their primary weapons. Their integration of firearms into cavalry manoeuvres developed into the famous tactics known as the caracole.

The Schwarzern Reitern was probably so dressed and thus named due to the association of black with elite military status, and/or because of Schwarzburg (i.e. black castle).

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