It’s fairly rare to find someone who can give a well-reasoned argument in a respectful manner. I’m also far too interested in military history for my own good. I’ve learned a few things here too!
Ah, but it’s not survivorship bias. It’s well-recorded that the implications of the charge could cause one side or the other to break and rout before contact could be made - the intent of the charge was to gain ground, not cause casualties. The bayonet could win without spilling a drop of blood.
The bayonet was considered at the time a vital weapon. it was ‘what you do when you get close, were out of ammunition, or didn’t have time to load.’
So the question of 'how often?" isn’t even the right question. The right question is 'what were the times it did happen?" and how vital the bayonet was when you got there. That’s why things like that spring-loaded trainer were designed. It’s a really very advanced trainer, and reflects a significant investment in the tools of training with the bayonet.
And the medical people weren’t trying to keep statistics of the kind we’d like, nor have people ever been as good as we pretend at recording information. We aren’t even that good at it today. And the whole idea of keeping all this information and looking for patterns is itself fairly modern. We get a lot out of it, but we’ll get more as we get better at recording more data.
Against cavalry, the use of the bayonet is another kettle of fish. Nothing against that - it’s basically what the bayonet was designed for.
It was effective at that, and was an absolutely vital piece of equipment because of the fact that might happen. ‘Designed for’ is too far though. No one wanted to start a fight without a blade or a spike. The bayonet let you have a musket and a spear for little additional weight, and spears are magnificent weapons.
And, this is important. In understanding people of the past, we often see them as part of a specific time (which is true) but really, we should see them not as a product only of their time, but as a product of the time immediately before that. No one was ever as backwards or as forwards thinking as they looked from a distance. So, while we might look back and see what was happening, they were preparing not only for what did happen, and also for what would have happened in the previous war, as the enemy would most certainly know the older tricks even if you hope to win with the new ones.
So you had to be able to deal with CQB, for which spears are good, with the correct tools, and the spear was the best tool until the repeating firearm. Even then, they were still pretty good until Brigadier-general John T. Thompson decided he’d had more then enough of this crap and slapped together a no-man’s land saxophone with a 100 round drum of .45acp, a pair of pistol grips and an open bolt, and brought in the jazz era with a rata-tat–tat.
Heck, the last US Army horse Cavalrymen have been in the ground less then 20 years. I still have an old family keepsake, a US army 1911 manual which include how to shoot from a horse without taking it’s ears off, though I’m not sure where I put it. Here’s an image from online. (same book)
Now, on the subject of getting the enemy to break. Causing the enemy to break, for most of history, resulted in a slaughter. The late ideal, of waging war on ‘civilized terms,’ is itself a ideal, and men often fall short of the ideals they themselves hold.
Indeed, some of the more famous bayonet actions are from the receiving end of a charge. If troops were disciplined enough (and knew the slaughter that resulted from flight) they would stand their ground, and there would be nothing possible but to fight it out.
I will turn in this to Vegatus again, who states he is quoting Scipio Africanus, (named Africanus for having defeated Hannibal and securing Africa for Rome.) Most Roman texts on military arts are lost, but this one survived as a digest of all the previous ones.
THE FLIGHT OF AN ENEMY SHOULD NOT BE PREVENTED, BUT FACILITATED
Generals unskilled in war think a victory incomplete unless the enemy are so straightened in their g round or so entirely surrounded by numbers as to have no possibility of escape. But in such situation, where no hopes remain, fear itself will arm an enemy and despair inspires courage. When men find they must inevitably perish, they willingly resolve to die with their comrades and with their arms in their hands. The maxim of Scipio, that a golden bridge should be made for a flying enemy, has much been commended. For when they have free room to escape they think of nothing but how to save themselves by flight, and the confusion becoming general, great numbers are cut to pieces. The pursuers can be in no danger when the vanquished have thrown away their arms for greater haste. In this case the greater the number of the flying army, the greater the slaughter. Numbers are of no signification where troops once thrown into consternation are equally terrified at the sight of the enemy as at their weapons. But on the contrary, men when shut up, although weak and few in number, become a match for the enemy from this very reflection, that they have no resource but in despair.
And, even if the Infantry couldn’t catch the runners, the Cavalry certainly could, and would.
McBain (above,) begins his autobiography with an account of a fight where he was on the receiving end of an effective charge, in his first battle.
Here, McBain describes defeat, having his plug bayonet cut or knocked from his gun, giving the other fellow a buttstroke, and then taking to this heels before he ended up dead too. That said, if he’d failed to club the man in his face, he’d have died on the spot.
The Expert Swordsman’s companion is really an excellent book, even if you skip the directions on defense, just to read McBain’s accounts of his up and downs, and he doesn’t fail to tell of his defeats.