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It is quite common knowledge that longbows most likely did not penetrate the plate armor worn by the French chevaliers at Poitiers and Agincourt. However, how effective were these longbows in hampering the fighting ability of the French foot knights when they reached the English lines? Indeed at Poitiers Peter Hoskins in In the Steps of the Black Prince insinuates that the battle was won by Anglo-Gascon discipline, NCO experience and French incompetence but not the English archers. However, did the longbow archers play a big part by disrupting their foe's formations, wounding soldiers and making it harder to swing with arrows lodged in your armor?
Now as a caveat I must warn you that the question you are asking is pretty specific but I'm going to give you a general idea of the efficacy of French foot soldiers against the English forces.
Firstly, what you say is generally correct. French armour at the time was extremely well manufactured and using slopes and various inclinations in the armour, arrows were generally ineffective at full penetration of steel plate even at short distances. With that said, because high quality steel was expensive many soldiers especially footsoldiers, who were generally lower in rank then their mounted counterparts, could not afford full steel plate armour of the grade necessary to prevent arrow penetration. In this case, wrought iron armour or armour mix and matched from different craftsmen was used which a) decreased the overall effectiveness of the armour and b) caused certain parts of the armour, especially limb armour, to be relatively much weaker than breastplate armour. In this case it would be safe to say that while the French had superior armour, the prohibitive cost allowed English longbowmen to still remain effective at least on ground troops.
With that, running in 50 - 80 pounds of plate armour made footmen easy targets. Fatigue, heat exhaustion, and time wasted stepping over fallen comrades also hampered the effectiveness of French ground troops, giving longbowmen time to fire at the French line. In addition, like you said, I can't imagine those who did make it with a chest full of arrows being particularly effective at swinging a weapon.
As per the rest of the French army, English longbowsmen trained their arrows on the horses of charging knights. Because horses were generally less armoured, crippling a horse and throwing the rider was an effective way of eliminating mounted knights' combat effectiveness. In this case, the longbowmen excelled, but at an effective range of about 220 - 300 yards, a horse in full gallop could cross that in under a minute giving the archer about a dozen shots before the enemy was upon them. Furthermore, equipped with better armour, I'm unsure if the longbow was effective in crippling the mounted knights of the French.
In short, I theorize that longbowmen were quite effective in disrupting the attack strategies of French footmen. But as per the horse back riders, without more data it's hard to say.
As an aside: This video on youtube describes a process where arrows were shot at armour and effectively stopped by the plate. Some of the comments are worth reading too.
I don't know if this is applicable but I hope it can guide further research.
On the English longbow
More on bow/plate efficacy
Interesting discussion on the historical effectiveness of yew bows employed by the Brits
There have been many attempts at experiments over the last couple of decades as "experimental history" has gained respectability, but, it's very hard to reproduce the past in detail.
For example, in "Firepower: Weapon's Effectiveness on the Battlefield 1630-1850" the author Hughes notes that based on contemporary test of accuracy, impact and rate of fire of volleyed muskets, the historical flintlock would have 100 yards have swept the battlefield as effectively as a modern machine gun. Yet, clearly that did not happen. The reason that modern black powder muzzle loaders are so deadly lays in the quality of the manufacturing of the powder and weapons, borderline magical by historical standards, especially the powder, the amount of training of people using the weapons in test and, oh yes, the inability to measure the effects of people shooting at you on accuracy, rate-of-fire etc.
Likewise, it's impossible for modern researchers to replicate the effects of the historical longbow. We don't know for certain how the longbows were constructed, methods were usually craft secrets or handed down through families. We don't know how representative museum samples are or how time may have altered their composition. Likewise, it's difficult for use to replicate the low and varying quality of the metal used in armor and the arrows. Most of all, no living recreator, no matter how dedicated can duplicate the nuances of warriors trained from the age of five to shoot bows or fight as armored knights. Niether can we accurately evaluate the effects of actual combat of the effectiveness of the warriors and their weapons.
Still, based on modern experiments I would hazard that the longbow weren't really that lethal but instead had two primary effects on the control of the battle field and the ability of the French to advance.
Firstly, the longbow did allow the English to sweep from the field or prevent the taking to the field of any of the unarmored French units. The Genoa crossbowmen never got close enough, none of the French peasant infantry, nor their era's version of light calvary could stand the archers. The French knights were left like modern tanks attacking without infantry support.
Secondly, a longbow arrow didn't have to kill, wound or even penetrate the armor to become an important factor on the battle field. It wasn't just a matter of arrows either growing deep into flesh or bouncing off. The majority, or at least a large number of the arrows, would have penetrated slightly into the armor, and then lodged there. Period descriptions of the French dead definitely mention that the bodies seem festooned with arrows.
However, it's likely that the arrows functioned like the Roman Pileum spear, immobilizing the opponents armor rather than killing outright. As the French knights lumbers across the mud, they faces sleet of arrows and pretty soon every night would look like pin cushion with three-foot/one-meter yew dowel sticking off in every direction. Since the knights were marching shoulder to shoulder, in mud, the entangling and tripping effect of all those rods must have been enormous.
In this scenario, the arrows served more to velcro the knights into one hapless mass in which individuals could not move forward, backward or regain their footing. The French lines made it to the English stake line and I do imagine those on the front got shot through or speared. Then the rest would tangled by tangling arrows, mud and the odd dead guy. None of the rest of their force could come to their aid in the face of the longbows.
Then the English just darted out in the big tangled pile of French and gave them the old boot-dagger-under-plate coup de grace. Certainly, IIRC period sources don't seem to explicitly state the French were killed by the arrows. The did record many cases French smothered in mud although whether they recorded those deaths because the smothering was major cause of loss or because of the horror such a death provoked at the time, we can't say.
Poitiers and Agincourt, like all battles of annihilation, were so lopsided because one side did almost everything right and the other side did everything wrong.
Clearly, the longbows were just one element in a highly integrated battle plan that had deep roots in English doctrine and tradition at the time. English rule of law, firm protection for private property and relatively larger and broader middle-class or lower nobility, allowed the longbow to become a major battlefield weapon and to be available for Henry to anchor his strategy on it.
Conversely, the French's aristocracies sneering contempt for their lessors, their impoverishment of the people and their weak rule of law meant they had no substantial, effective and trustworthy talent pool to draw on. Instead they had, armored knights, hired mercenaries and peasants for road bumps. The French could not have replicated the English tactics with radical long term change to their social order.
I think Poitiers and Agincourt passed into English lore not much because of their decisiveness but rather, so much like Thermopile, because of what the battle told their respective societies about the power (real and imagined) of their values. The longbow became the heart of the story not because of its effectiveness but instead, as the sword is the symbolic weapon of the nobel, it symbolized the power the common English man.
Well, first of all a real longbow can penetrate steel armor, as long as the arrowhead is made of forged, hardened steel. Real longbows were made of yew and were really big, like taller than a man. They were very expensive and took special training of many years to use properly. In the right hands they were incredibly powerful and the arrows could penetrate armor. Also, crossbow bolts can penetrate armor.
As you say, arrows were mostly ineffective against knights in the general case. This was because many archers did not use real longbows, and because if the arrow hit at an angle, it would just glance off. You would have to get a good hit, and the problem is to get a really good hit you would have to be close to the knight--not a healthy place to be for an archer.
However, a good company of real, trained longbowman was absolutely deadly, even against knights on heavy cavalry, and this was clear at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). The Chronicle of Enguerrand de Monstrelet says the following:
The English loudly, sounded their trumpets as they approached; and the French stooped to prevent the arrows hitting them on the vizors of their helmets; thus the distance was now but small between the two armies, although the French had retired some paces: before, however, the general attack; commenced, numbers of the French were slain and severely wounded by the English bowmen. At length the English gained on them so much, and were so close, that excepting the front line, and such as had shortened their lances, the enemy could not raise their hands against them. The division under sir Clugnet de Brabant, of eight hundred men at arms; who were intended to break through the English archers, were reduced to seven score who vainly, attempted it. It is true that Sir William de Saveuses, who had been also ordered on this service, quitted his troop, thinking they would follow him, to attack, the English, but he was shot dead from off his horse. The others had their horses so severely handled by the archers, that, smarting from pain, they galloped on the van division, and threw it into the utmost confusion breaking the line in many places. The horses were become unmanageable, so that horses, and riders were tumbling on the ground, and the whole army was thrown into disorder, and forced back on some lands that had been just sown with corn. Others, from fear of death, fled; and this caused so universal a panic in the army that great part followed the example.
From this it should be clear that good archers were effective against knights.
Piercing power is effectively the same as range. That is, you can have bulletproof plate glass that a standard pistol fires into. No problem. Now, take a rifle shot to it, and it will generally tear through. This is because in order to travel farther, it is propelled at a faster speed. Effectively, the longbows at full vertical arc tend to lose their momentum. However, firing just above the defending troops would give the full power. The needle-like bodkin was able to shallowly penetrate most plate armor with a sufficiently good bow. More about it here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_longbow
It is pretty certain that Longbows couldn't penetrate full steel plate armor. Now they might have gotten stuck, but even that is unclear and also mostly comes down to: How far away was the archer? Where did it hit? The slight sloping of the breastplate might have even been enough to stop or deflect crossbow bolts up to 500 lbs and even more if lucky.
I would also suggest one thing. Whether or not longbows could penetrate plate armour, there are several accounts of knights or nobles being killed or injured from arrows in the face, neck or throat. I understand it would have been extremely uncomfortable and stifling to fight for an hour or more with the whole face and neck covered.
So, one suspects opportunistic archers would shoot at anyone they saw who raised their visor, or lowered the upper part of a Bevor covering the throat and chin leaving those vulnerable areas partly exposed. Henry V himself was nearly killed with an arrow in his face when he was a teenager.
The research done and performed into this subject is vast but as with all historic theories we approach it from a modern or 'present' though process. The replica breastplates used today for testing arrows against are often made from modern factory processed steel and not 'carbonised iron'. The arrows are often made from modern factory prepared wooden shaft and not hand straighten ash, there are just so many varients that it makes a modern test interesting but not a solid basis of 100% proof.
Historically we have evidence of knights being killed during battles of the 100 years war as in The Chronicle of Enguerrand de Monstrelet
"It is true that Sir William de Saveuses, who had been also ordered on this service, quitted his troop, thinking they would follow him, to attack, the English, but he was shot dead from off his horse."
This is a fascinating insight into a death that happened and by the writing sounds like it was caused by an archer. The truth of the cause of his death is unknown, it could be completely possible that he was shot off his horse and died of another reason (suffocation) before his body was collected.
The fact that it is mentioned in this chronicle is also interesting as it could be evidence of 'being shot dead with an arrow' is not the normal fact for an armoured knght and so the chronicler thought it worthy of mention.
Another chronicle of the time was of Ghillebert de Lannoy, lord of Willerval who says
"In 1415 I was at the battle of Ruisseauville where I was wounded in the knee and the head, and I laid with the dead. But when the bodies were searched through, I was taken prisoner, being wounded and helpless (impotens), and kept under guard for while. I was then led to a house nearby with 10 or 12 other prisoners who were all wounded. And there, when the duke of Brabant was making a new attack, a shout went up that everyone should kill his prisoners. So that this might be effected all the quicker, they set fire to the house where we were. By the grace of God, I dragged myself a few feet away from the fire. There I was when the English returned, so I was taken prisoner again and sold to Sir John Cornwall, thinking that I was someone of high status since, thank God, I was well accoutred when I was taken the first time according to the standards of the time. So I was taken to Calais and thence to England until they discovered who I was, at which point I was put to ransom for 1,200 golden crowns (écus) along with a horse of 100 francs."
This long chronicled account is of the fact that many french nobles were taken prisoner, surely if the archers we so effective against armoured knights then there would not be many prisoners at all, they would all be dead. But we sadly know that the prisoner number rose so high at Agincourt that Henry V called for them to be slain.
The truth of this argument will never be known, we have evidence for both arguments and the true answer will never rise to the top. I feel we have to live with the middle ground on this and say that it appears the archers were able to penetrate plate in some instances but we don't have evidence to say that it was the common.
Bows have been a feature of human life since the Neolithic and featured in armies from the beginning of military history. Weapons similar to the English longbow have been found in European bogs dating back to 6000 BC, and bows of one sort or another were important in European warfare until gunpowder made them obsolete.
What constitutes a longbow, and how unique a weapon it is, is a matter of some debate. William Weir has argued that longbows were used for thousands of years. A more popular view among Britons is that accepted by historians including Michael Prestwich – that the Welsh and English longbow was a distinct innovation of the 13 th century.
However, innovative the Anglo-Welsh longbow truly was, it marked the high point in the longbow’s fame and effectiveness. This began in the late 13 th century, when Welsh bowmen used these weapons against invaders led by Edward I. Though they were defeated by the English king, these archers were effective enough for him to adopt their weapon for his own armies. The era of the English longbow had begun.
[Unit 101] Archer and Bow (Medieval)
The Medieval era is a bit problematic, because it spans a very large time period of around 1000 years, depending who you ask, after all historians have different views on when the Middle Ages started and ended. This video will cover for most part the general information about what we know about Archers and their weapons during the medieval period. Be aware that debates among scholars are common and a lot of previous research needs to be reevaluated. Two give two examples from different scholars:
“Indeed, for those military historians who wrote about the Middle Ages, the focus on battles not only led to a grossly misleading depiction of medieval warfare, but by failing to place the focus where it rightly belongs, i.e., on siege warfare, they did a substantial disservice to our understanding of a millennium of European history.” (Bachrach, Bernard S.: Medieval siege warfare: a reconnaissance, Journal of Military History 58, No. 1)
Whereas Bradbury notes about army sizes:
“It has been argued that medieval armies were smaller than once assumed. Exact figures are rarely if ever available but reasonable estimates support this thesis in general. Medieval armies seldom consisted of more than a few thousand men and sometimes of only a few hundred. We must however be cautious, since large numbers were often available and we can rarely be certain how many were used.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 281)
Hence, you should take everything about medieval times and especially warfare with a grain of salt and this video is of course no exception. As always all sources are in the description, as is a link to the script with references to the various sources.
Attitude towards Archers
Archers in the Middle Ages for the most part were not well respected by the nobility, this had nothing to do with their effectiveness. Rather on the contrary, the church condemned the bow and also forbid the use of bows and crossbows against other Christians in the 12th century (1139) [ at the Second Lateran Council.] Yet, due to its effectiveness of bows the ban was largely ignored. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 1)
The bow in Europe was always a weapon of the lower classes, thus it was often neglected in literature and we shall not forget that the hero Robin Hood was an outcast. Yet, nobles used the bow quite regularly, but not as a weapon in combat instead they used the bow for hunting, one of their favorite pastimes. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 1-7) Nevertheless, there was a rather negative attitude towards archers. Bradbury notes that “One reason for hostility to the bow was precisely its effectiveness, especially from a distance. Nobles could be killed by low-class archers, without even an opportunity for retaliation.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 3) After all, quite many nobles were killed by bows or crossbows, probably the best known was Richard Lionheart, who died after a bolt hit him in 1199. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 3)
Now, there is an important aspect about medieval combat, but isn’t really shown in popular culture. Even though nobles fought regularly, they were quite often spared when captured due to codes of conducts among nobles and thus captured for ransom, especially in the early Middle Ages. The thing is, arrows don’t discriminate. Of course, the practice of capturing nobles for ransom or sparing them was abandoned occasionally, whereas in general the common men were not spared on the battlefield or even after capture. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 1-2) Hence, the gameplay mechanic in the computer game Mount & Blade, where you can’t kill nobles in combat is actually not so far-fetched.
Archers Social Status
Now respect on the battlefield is one thing, another thing is the social status in society. Due to the effectiveness of archers, they were paid more than regular infantry, which also resulted in a better social status. This is also indicated by comments on the composition of armies that suggest a higher status for archers than ordinary infantry, but definitely lower than knights. Their status grew over time, but they generally didn’t reach the lower classes of the nobility. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 171-175) Bradbury sums it up the following way:
“So the archer’s place in society was a humble one, but respectable and increasingly respected.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p.175)
In terms of recruitment and training a, it should be noted that for the most part there was no standing army in the Middle Ages. Also there were various forms of recruitment depending on the region and era. In general armies were raised for a campaign and afterwards disbanded. Of course some of these troops like militias or knights were in some way professionally organized, but quite different from an organized standing army like it was common in later centuries. (Bartlett, Clive Embelton, Gerry: English Longbowman 1330-1515, p. 4)
Since archers were ordinary people they were usually recruited from rural areas, militias and mercenaries. For this reason rulers encouraged their population to train archery. In England this was especially successful, nevertheless archery was a sports for the common man even before that. There is little doubt about the various archery activities for sports or training, because there are many documented accounts of practicing archery and also quite some fatal accidents. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 160) The effects of archery and its training on the archers should not be underestimated, from the shipwreck from the Mid 16th century we know that the bodies of two supposedly archers were quite affected:
“They were both in their twenties, but already physically affected by their occupation, which suggests constant training and practice. One had a thickened left fore-arm, from the pressure of drawing his bow and both had spinal deformations, from the pressure of drawing the bow hile the body was twisted sideways.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 157)
Types of Bows
Now, let’s look at the weapons of the archers, there were several types of bows, the short-bow, the longbow and also the crossbow. Often it is not clear from the sources which of them were used due to writers back then not clearly noting and using the same words them, thus often the correct weapon can only be determined by context, presuming there is enough information provided. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 8)
Short Bow – Composite Bow
Now, the short bow is often seen as a lesser and simpler bow, but this is, according to Jim Bradbury, both wrong and misleading: “The problem would be diminished if modern writers avoided describing short ordinary bows as shortbows. The shortbow proper is a particular kind of bow, built with considerable craftsmanship. It is a composite bow, the stave made normally in three pieces: a centre part and two wings.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 12)
Now, it was constructed broadly the following way. The inside is strengthened with bone that pushes outward, whereas the outside uses a sinew to pull inward. There is little evidence for a significant use of shortbows in Western Europe, only from illustrations and it can be assumed that it was very rare. Yet, shortbows were common in the east, for instance the Saracen used them quite often. Due to its size and power, it was ideal for horse archers. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 12 Waddell, Jack Palermo, Brent: Medieval Arms, Armor, and Tactics. p.126-127 Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 256)
Now, the Longbow is a quite iconic weapon, but:
“What was a longbow? It may be surprising to find that the answer is not as obvious as one might have supposed. For a start, the word ‘longbow’ was never used in the age with which we always link the weapon. Nor was there any special word in Latin or in French until the very end of the middle ages. Even then it was only called ‘longbow’ to distinguish it from the crossbow or the shortbow proper.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 71)
Bradbury notes that the notion that Longbow is something special is actually a modern depiction.(Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 71) Now, the Longbow is actually an ordinary wooden bow made from a single piece of wood, although it could be enforced with horn at the nocks. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 14)
Bradbury notes further that the Long Bow probably didn’t emerge at a certain point, but rather was the result of constant improvement of ordinary bows over a long period of time. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 12-15) He states that: “There is no fundamental difference between the Nydam bows from the Roman period, the Norman bows on the Bayeux Tapestry, and the longbows of the Hundred Years’ War.” (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 15 Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 253) Now, since the Nydam bow is estimated to be around from 200 to 400 AD and the One Hundred Years war lasted til 1453 we have a timespan of about 1000 years with very similar bow designs. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 77)
Measurements & Range
Now, let’s look at the long bow, it was usually made of yew. (The sapwood was on the outside and the heartwood in the direction of the archer). The size of the longbow depended on the archer’s height. The typical size of a bow was about 2 meters (six feet). In the center there was a thickened grip and the string was usually made from gut and sometimes from hemp. (Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 253) The range of a longbow was about 270 meters, although the effective range is considered to be 180 meters. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 38)
Effectiveness of the Longbow
Now, there is quite some debate on the effectiveness of the longbow, there are various historical accounts that claim that arrows could penetrate plate armor, whereas others deny this. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 95) Both are probably right, but as Rogers notes:
“King David and King Philip, after all, doubtless had the best armour available, yet that did not save either of them from suffering multiple serious wounds.” (Rogers ,Clifford J.: The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries ,p. 239)
Yet, we need to consider that the material of the armor and the arrow heads probably differed widely even for the same period. After all, even in World War 1 the steel armor plates for German machine gunners had a huge variety in terms of quality and those were produced in an industrialized age.
Another aspect is of course that only a limited number of troops were equipped with plate armor or other high quality armor. Hence, a knight in shining armor amongst a large number of troops and horses being killed and incapacitated by arrows is probably not ideal for the morale. After all, many times the number of wounded and killed soldiers was below 50 percent and often it is even below 25 percent. (Rogers ,Clifford J.: The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries ,p. 235)
Yet, as always there is a certain dynamic in tactics, technology, measures and counter-measures, which makes statements about the effectiveness of a certain weapon that was used for centuries quite problematic. As Rogers points out:
“I am willing to concede Gaier’s point that in the decades after the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453, armour improved (and archery declined) to the point that the English longbowmen were no longer capable of wreaking the kind of havoc I have described above. But I think there is plenty of evidence to show that, at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and for some decades thereafter, English longbowmen remained fully capable of ‘killing many’ on the battlefield.” (Rogers ,Clifford J.: The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries ,p. 241)
Now, let’s move on to the crossbow, which was already used in Roman times and considerably improved throughout the middle ages. It was not very popular with the English, although it was often used by mercenaries. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 8) One major advantage of the crossbow was that it could be readied and aimed without additional effort unlike a bow, where the string constantly needed to be held back. But this came at a price reloading a crossbow took quite some time, thus the rate of fire was considerably lower than that of bows. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 8) Depending on the size of the crossbow it could be reloaded by hand or needed mechanical devices ranging from simple ones like push and pull levers to more complex ones. . (Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 248)
Longbow vs. Crossbow
Now, both the crossbow and longbow had different characteristics, which made them better suited for certain circumstances.
In short the main differences were: (Mortimer, John: Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Formation during the Hundred Years War: The Role of the Longbow in the Infantry Revolution, p. 52-53 Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 38)
• Higher rate of fire for the longbow with about 4 to 5 shots in the time a crossbowman could fire one bolt and reload a second.
• Higher penetration of the crossbow for short ranges
• Less space taken up by the longbow on the battlefield, due to the horizontal bow of the crossbow, thus the same amount of frontage allowed more firepower
• A crossbow could be used by used with just basic training, whereas a longbow required years of training.
• No extra strength required for aiming a crossbow, thus in general the crossbow was less dependent on strength
• Longbows were in overall quite simple weapons, thus they were easier to maintain, repair and cheaper to produce
Although, the longbow has an advantage in nearly all areas, one should not forget that training was an ongoing investment, which of course takes time, resources and probably most importantly a proper system.
Time to look at arrows, let’s start with some basic anatomy: An arrow consists of the following parts the shaft with a nock at the end, the fletching and the head. [MAKE THOSE PARTS APPEAR]
A typical English arrow of the Hundred Year War had probably a length between 0.7 to 0.9 m(28 to 36 inches). (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 92 Mortimer, John: Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Formation during the Hundred Years War: The Role of the Longbow in the Infantry Revolution, p. 32)
Now, there were various arrowheads, a general purpose, bodkin, bodkin needle and broad head.
The early military arrowheads were usually broad with a flat blade, this had changed by the 13th century, when narrower arrowheads became common due to the common use of body armor. This resulted in a bodkin needle design. (Mortimer, John: Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Formation during the Hundred Years War: The Role of the Longbow in the Infantry Revolution, p. 31-32) The bodkin needle was especially effective against mail armor, because the narrow tip would penetrate between the rings and broader part could break them. Consequently Plate armor was designed in a way that such long arrowheads would be deflected, sometimes they even broke or bent on impact. To counter this the arrowhead was shortened and strengthened. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 92) Generally, bodkins were ideal for penetrating armor, whereas broadhead would inflict more damage against soft targets.
Equipment & Armor
In terms of armor and equipment there was a wide variety depending on the time period and region. Hence, here I will only broadly refer to English archer’s situation from 12th to 16th century. A decree from the late 12th century required free men to have a certain equipment depending on their income. This ranged from a gambeson, a spear and a simple helmet for the lower income to chainmail, helmet, shield and lance for knights. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 10-11) A Gambeson was an armor made of several layers of linen, wool or other fabric that were sewn together and stuffed with cloth or others material. It could be worn as independent armor or underneath other armor. (Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 264-265) A follow-up decree in Mid 13th century also included specifically archers which were required to have a bow and arrows. [Assize of Arms 1252]. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 10-11)
In terms of specialized equipment, I am bit unsure about archery gloves, since less reputable sources list two different archery gloves, whereas in more academic sources I only encountered very limited information on them, it seems that in general that bracers were common, but dedicated archery gloves probably not. (Stampf, Siegfried: Eine sozial und militärhistorische Analyse der englischen Langbogenschützen während des Hunderjährigen Krieges, S. 92-93)
Now, let’s take a look combat. Archers as mentioned before were quite effective in combat, this was the result of numerous factors like firepower, rate of fire, range, speed and also their flexibility. Archers could be used for the offensive and defensive in open field battles as during sieges. They were used for ambushes, providing covering fire, weakening the enemy, disturbing his preparations and provoking him to attack. (Bradbury, Jim: The Medieval Archer, p. 3-5 Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 287)
On the battlefield the archers could be protected by ditches, stakes or natural obstacles in order to discourage or limit the impact of an enemy cavalry charge. Originally, stakes were not used by this changed around the 15th century, they were probably a direct response to the introduction of special cavalry units targeting archers. (Mortimer, John: TACTICS, STRATEGY, AND BATTLEFIELD FORMATION DURING THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR: THE ROLE OF THE LONGBOW IN THE INFANTRY REVOLUTION, p. 75) Besides these passive defenses archers were usually protected by Pike or other infantry as well. (Waddell, Jack Palermo, Brent: Medieval Arms, Armor, and Tactics, p. 143)
During a battle archers opened fire at large initially firing in a wide arc, thus the enemies were showered by arrows. Even if those arrows weren’t deadly, they were at least disorienting, which could lead to breaking up enemy formations. When the distance decreased and direct fire was possible the archers switched to direct aimed fires.(Waddell, Jack Palermo, Brent: Medieval Arms, Armor, and Tactics, p. 142-143)
The number of archers varied for each army, but for the English who were using archers to a large degree this ultimately lead to degree 3 to 1 between archers and men-at-arms. (Bradbury, Jim: The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare, p. 281)
Summary / Conclusion
To summarize, the archer in the Middle Ages was a common soldiers, whereas the nobility disregarded combat with the bow, they couldn’t ignore the archers effectiveness on the battlefield. After all, the dominance of cavalry in the High Middle Ages was to a certain degree ended by the use of archers, although cavalry wasn’t made obsolete its effectiveness was severely reduced.
Nevertheless, neither archers nor their weapons were without flaw. The main drawback of archers with longbows was they required proper and regular training, something that not all rulers could achieve due to various reasons. Even the English that had established a proper system for replenishing their pool of archers faced major problems when the black plague hit. (Mortimer, John: Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Formation during the Hundred Years War: The Role of the Longbow in the Infantry Revolution, p. 89) This illustrates that seemingly excellent and simple weapon systems often rely on infrastructures that can be quite fragile and missed with a superficial glance.
Rogers ,Clifford J.: The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries
6 Answers 6
First of all, a note: late 16th century is a bit of a late time for plate armor. High-end armor of that time would already be designed with firearms in mind, which means a thicker cuirass with reduced mail and plate coverage to save weight. By that time, plate was also widely available to infantry, so doesn't at all imply cavalry or knighthood.
Generally, plate armor is designed to protect you from sharp things coming from the usual directions in combat. Where protection is not necessary, comfort takes priority, so it's not a solid second skin.
A pack of wolves will surround the victim and keep biting the limbs - which have limited armor coverage. The back of the legs, in 16th century plate armor, would very likely be unprotected or covered only by leather, which can be bitten through.
However, plate armor was commonly worn as an addition to mail, especially by cavalry, and older mail cuisses with total coverage would still be found in the 16th century. Mail is so effective against bites that it's used to this day for shark filming (or, sadly, trolling them to please the tourists).
If the knight is actually fighting back, he will likely be able to fight off the wolves (till they flee), and reliably so if wearing a mail layer. The plate armor will mostly just make him sweat more.
Bear claws and teeth can also be resisted by mail and plate, but bears can be quite large. Medieval armor offers limited resistance against full-body crushing blows. The bear will be able to break the knight's limbs, crush his chest, damage muscle with bites even through mail, and cause death through internal bleeding. Unless the bear is scared away or killed, armor is not sufficient protection.
Finally, a venomous snake has little respect for chivalry. While they won't attack unless disturbed, most venomous snakes are small and hard to notice, and there's plenty of holes in the armor. Just like in ancient tales, the mighty knight will fall to the snake.
That is, if exhaustion and thirst don't get him first.
P.S. Regarding exhaustion, infantry armor was designed to support marching in it for weeks. Modern weight-accurate reproductions are very comfortable to spend days in. A knight's armor is less comfortable for long walks, but a forest offers some shade. So it's possible and likely that one would keep their armor, since it wasn't easily replaceable, unless doing so was an immediate threat to their life.
P.P.S. This answer implies that the specified animals attack and persist in their attack. In reality, a walk in a European forest wouldn't present much danger. Most predators don't wake up with "Attack another predator, preferably an elite fighter of their species" on their to-do list for the day. Now, stranded in the Taiga or the Amazon. but the real danger would be mosquitoes and other insects, not large predators.
IMHO an unarmored man, let alone a armored man, would be rather safe, but not totally, walking through a forest in Europe. There were people too poor to afford any armor who worked in forests and spent all their time there, after all. And a man would be less safe walking through some forests in other continents.
Wolf attacks are rare in Europe and even more so in America, but they do happen and wolves do kill and eat humans. But even the Beast of Gevadaun supposedly killed only one unarmored man, the rest of the victims being women and children, and some unarmored women and children managed to fight it off. Most of the victims were children, guarding flocks of sheep, who were used to chasing off ordinary wolves with dogs and stones, and weren't prepared for a child-eating wolf at first.
An armored man should be able to kick or strangle a wolf to death. There are lots of dead branches lying around in most forests so the armored man could pick up a branch and club a wolf. Thus an armored man could probably beat off a lone wolf attack.
A rabid wolf would run around biting animals and objects and would attack an armored man. The armored man could probably kill or drive off a rabid wolf as easily as a normal wolf, but might possibly get rabies from touching any saliva on the armor later.
When really hungry, a wolf pack will attack large and dangerous and/or unfamiliar prey, so wolf packs can, and sometimes do, attack men. The wolves would find an armored man to be really hard to bite. Would they give up or keep trying to kill him?
Wolf hunting was a sport for European nobility and royalty. Louis the Grand Dauphin (1661-1711), son of Louis XIV, is credited with killing over a thousand wolves in his lifetime. His relatives, including women and children, also hunted wolves.
Bear attacks are rare, but do happen sometimes.
Even the smallest species of bears is large enough to kill a man, though many people survive bear attacks with various amounts of wounds. The brown bears in Europe are larger and stronger than American black bears, being Ursus arctos, the same species as the dreaded grizzly bear in North America.
Nobles in Europe often hunted bears for sport, and probably worn less than full plate armor for protection. For example, Emperor Louis IV (1282-1347) died of a stroke during a bear hunt aged 65.
Even though the largest European brown bears should be as strong as grizzly bears I find it hard to believe that they could break or dent steel armor. But a brown bear could knock an armored man around a lot and he could get really banged up inside his armor if his padding wasn't good enough. So a bear attack could injure or kill an armored man even though the claws would never touch his flesh. But I don't know what the odds would be.
A venomous snake would bite if stepped on or startled, but would only strike once or a few times, and its fangs would be unlikely to penetrate a chink in the armor. If the armored knight noticed the snake he could stomp on it, kick it away, or jump out of reach of the snake.
A giant tropical constrictor snake wouldn't be able to suffocate the armored knight and might cut itself on the sharper edges some armor had. In the worse case, the snake could die wrapped around the armored knight and the knight might be trapped there and starve to death.
The largest herbivores found in some, repeat some, European forests in your time frame could knock around an armored man a lot, more than a bear could, and might injure or kill him from being banged around inside the armor.
But all in all, a typical European forest in your time frame would be fairly - but not completely - safe for a man without armor to walk through, especially if he was being hunted by human enemies outside, and even safer - but not completely safe - for an armored man.
Regarding the weight of the armor argument, no its weight won't kill you, modern day soldiers have a very similar equipment weight when marching and in combat, and have a worse distribution. The ultra heavy plate and chain mail is a Hollywood myth. You can do gymnastics and run an obstacle course.
Against the wild animals, it depends. As Therac said, the wolves would probably not penetrate the the plate, the mail, or the padding, which is used today to train police dogs. But the bear probably is strong enough just to crush you and the snake will find a hole.
Interesting question.. As has already been mentioned, 16th C armour was quite different from that seen in the 15th C. mostly because of the advent of increasingly effective firearms and secondly due to the increased mobility of warfare as history moved into the modern age. Early 16th C battles like Flodden (1513) were one of the last instances where fully armoured men would have faced each other. However, fully armoured infantry were becoming replaced by partly armoured as is seen in the landschnecht (spelling!) mercenaries found in 1500s Germany and Switzerland. I suspect you are referring more to the type of armour seen on battlefields in the 1400's. At Bosworth field and Towton?
Would this be any good vs wild animals? well, yes, it would be, in the extent that it would stop you getting bitten however, armour is not designed to be worn for long periods of time, certainly not by infantry. I own a set of infantry armour of the type that would have been worn at Towton (1461) by a well to do gentleman at arms. This is far from the custom sets of tightly fitting armour worn by the super rich aristocrats at the time. By the 1400s, armies in England and those opposing English armies were fighting mostly on foot, horses were used to transport the army (as during the Agincourt Campaign) and for scouting or for pursuing a broken foe but were never used against infantry. Bannockburn (1314) had shown what a small, well trained army of phalanxed pikemen could do to armoured horse by the time Edward III and his son the Black Prince had perfected the longbow armed mounted archer (mount used to transport archer) using mounted men against formed longbow archers supported by armoured men at arms (infantry) was shown to be utter folly. The main problem using the type of armour I own is weight. TV gives us the impression that it is relatively easy to move and function wearing armour. This may be the case with the thin aluminium worn by modern actors but, speaking from experience, you have to be in peak physical condition to wear real armour and function in it, let alone fight, for longer than a few hours. Multiple period historical chronicles of the aftermath of battles describe beaten and fleeing troops stripping off their armour to escape. To the modern reader, unschooled or with no experience of actually wearing armour, this seems like a rash thing to do, but the reality is, if you need to run very quickly then your best bet is to ditch the armour as quickly as possible because you will certainly be able to outrun those who are still armoured - ie the victors, unless they are able to mount to pursue you. And this is the crux of it - running - which is critical to surviving wild animal attacks. OK you can't outrun a pack of wolves or a bear but you could feasibly run somewhere safe.
now my armour consists of this - skin up: - 1" thick padded linen arming jack (jacket) with 1" think padded linen leggings - maille (chain mail) leggings and hauberk (vest) these are by far the heaviest items. The Hauberk weighs 25 kilos, each leg, 9 kilos. - over the maille goes armoured lower arms and upper arms (14 gauge steel (4 kg each)) hinged and protected elbowx - greaves (lower legs) and thigh pieces (14 gauge steel (10 kg each)) hinged and protected knees - back and breast plate of 14 gauge steel (15 kg) with interlocking steel plate kilt which comes to mid thigh - steel gauntlets (5 kilos) - steel shoulders (spauldrons) (8 kilos) - steel gorget and beevor (4 kilos) this protects the neck and lower half of the face - lobster tailed sallet (helmet) with half visor - as an alternative to gorget, beevor and sallet you could wear a visored bascinet (usually with a pigs or hounds shaped visor to allow comfortable breathing) which has a maille avantail covering the neck and shoulders. These were going out of fashion circa 1420 but were still being used by some poorer men mid 1400s and are used for full contact fighting in modern times as they are safer than the sallet/Beevor - they fell out of fashion because visibility and comfort (O2) is seriously compromised and they also weigh 12 kilos and that weight is right on your neck. Under either helmet option you would wear a padded arming cap (looks like a thin version of a russian tank helmet (1" thick padded linen).
You can add up the weight yourself - when wearing the above for reenactment or for fighting full contact with blunt weapons I typically lose about 1 kg in sweat. It is literally exhausting. Now yes, a mid 40s modern man like me, even a fit one does not have the sheer physical strength of a 20 something 1440s man at arms who would have been trained to wear such form an early age, but even so, would not have worn it for anything other than combat or training for combat. Indeed historical chronicles frequently stress the size of baggage trains and going back to even 1066 we know that Harald Hardrada was beaten at Stamford Bridge by Harold Godwinson's Saxon army because his force was surprised and was unable to do its armour (in those days maille) which had been left on board the longships whilst Hardrada and his men feasted. Indeed, one of the only accounts of armoured incursion was Henry V's small mounted force of men at arms and archers who marched across Normandy and Picardy to the Pas de Calais during the Agincourt campaign. The fact that Henry ordered his archers and men at arms to ride in their armour, and not to take it off for the duration of the (forecast) 5 day ride was unusual enough to have been cause for comment by the chroniclers of the time. The purpose was to move very fast, with no baggage train and no tents. It poured with rain for most of the march and the men were suffering from dysentery. Most slept in hedges or on the open ground. On top of this, wearing steel plate either makes you overheat or it makes you very cold indeed, especially if you are wet. Your body heat is conducted through the wet arming jack to the steel - a brilliant radiator of heat. Having worn armour for one single day in the wet, without dysentery, I have nothing but huge admiration for the discomfort and fortitude of the men who won Agincourt.By the time the battle was fought they had been on the road, in torrential cold rain for several days and their armour would have been pretty rusted. Armour being carbon steel which, unlike stainless steel, does not shatter.
So would I fancy being in the woods wearing armour of this type when trying to escape wild animals? not on your nelly! Would I fancy being in the woods wearing the sort of armour an archer of the period would have been wearing? Absolutely. Archer armour of the period was usually: - gambeson with chains. This is a very thick padded linen jacket, a good 3 inches thick and it has long linked chains sewn into the arms from shoulder to wrist. The single biggest mistake that writers of this period make is to repeat the myth of 'leather' armour. Leather armour is a victorian fallacy, created to explain the 'coat of plates' or brigandine - which was a leather jacket with steel plates sewn on the inside of the jacket and frequently used instead of the back and breastplate described above. The lightest and most effective armour of the time was the padded gambeson, which is surprisingly effective against slashes and cuts but is exposed by arrows, bolts and thrusts by solid shaped points (spears, the pointy bits of pole weapons and the very nasty rondel dagger (think 16" 3 or 4 sided steel spike)The arm chains are there to give some protection to limbs from blades. Gambesons protect effectively from concussive blows. - On the legs the archer is seen often wearing padded leggings with either maille leggings or plate leggings of the type described above, or maille and plate on top. - a plate steel gorget with a sallet (usually without visor or beevor) would be worn on the head. - aside from the bow, the archer would be armed with mallets, axes, (for making the sharp stakes used to defend their position from horse attack) arming swords (one handed) and just about always either a vicious rondel dagger (above) or a more traditional ballock (bollock) dagger whose hilt is shaped. well. like bollocks. These daggers were specifically designed for murdering armoured men and the archers at Agincourt and Crecy did terrible carnage to the French men at arms once the men at arms were off their feet and lying in the mud - again - this shows the problem of wearing armour.
So the armoured infantry attack of the time would have been a bit like the tactic you see forwards use on the rugby pitch or the offensive line on an american Football pitch when they make a closely packed formation to protect the ball - it is effective because they keep their formation cohesion and use united strength. Imagine 4,000 men at arms, all armoured as above, all holding either pole axes or bill hooks, with hammers and rondels on their belts packed in tightly together, moving towards you at a rolling pace - about as fast as you can go in armour - shoulders hunched and heads down to present the strongest part of the armour to archers (the shield was out of use by the mid 1300s due to the improvements in armour). They key to their effectiveness was their momentum. They would smash through any line of unarmored troops. Provided they kept on their feet, they were the tank of the age. However, when off their feet, bogged down in mud - they were hugely vulnerable and when this happens we see men shedding their armour as quickly as they can, they would often keep a small, accessible and very sharp knife to hand so they could quickly cut the straps and the points (strings) which held the armour to their bodies. When such a formation was fought to a standstill or, worse, fell over and piled up on top of itself, lightly armoured men like archers, with suitable tin opener type weapons would have them at their mercy.
Whilst this doesn't directly answer your question, I wanted to give you some feeling to what period armour was actually like for the vast majority of armoured men and knights. It was only the super rich who could afford the Milanese or German customised plate which was designed to distribute the weight across the body and made from the most super hardened carbon steel possible with period technology. The vast majority wore a collection of bits and bobs, antique suits adapted and remodelled and pieces captured and adapted from other men. Even the customised suits restrict movement to some extent and also make it difficult to cover ground quickly.
*** - in response to the 'modern soldier has 100lbs of kit twice the weight of a medieval knight's kit'. and Heavy 'plate mail' being a Holywood myth. Both these statements are incorrect. Full armour from around 1450 weights at least 100lbs on its own. There is no such thing as 'plate mail' there is plate armour and there is maille (chainmail does not exist). They were frequently worn in combination which was the most affordable protection for most armoured men from 1330-1485. a modern soldier's kit is about twice the weight of what an archer between 1330 and 1530 would have carried onto a battlefield. It is certainly not twice the weight of what 99% of armoured men would have carried, if anything, it is lighter.
Yes, there were some very wealthy men with customised suits of armour which weighed as little as 60lbs but these were extremely rare and vastly expensive, being custom made from the finest steel possible.
Anyone who doubts this is very welcome to come to my house on the Anglo Scottish border and try wearing my armour - a faithful reproduction of an averagely wealthy landed gentleman at the time of the Wars of the Roses!
8 Answers 8
Medieval problems require medieval solutions: FIRE!
Either set the whole forest on fire, or just the tree where your targets are hiding (fire arrows were a thing already in medieval time).
If the trees burns, you are done.
If the tree or the shrubs on the ground do not burn promptly, they will produce enough smoke to allow your men to reach close to the tree and chop them down.
Your enemy has done 90% of the work of setting up a siege for you. Help them finish it.
Many medieval battles were fought as sieges - a well fortified position, a superior force surrounding it, and you starve them out. That's what we've got here.
Short of burning the forest down, or smoking them out, or cutting down the massive trees, just wait them out. Get your archers set up with a line of sight on the base of the trees, sheltered from the sniping enemy with shields (and / or brush), and just wait for them to starve or die of thirst. As they climb down they'll be very exposed and can be easily sniped.
Be sure to have nice cookouts within smelling distance. Pig-on-a-spit will break the soul of an enemy archer whose dying of hunger and thirst as he's been trapped up a tree for 4 days waiting for a shot that he can never take.
Your Archers Have a Bad Time
So my first thought is, "There's no way you could convince archers to do this." Why? Because of three things:
- Being up in a tree does nothing for them, archery-wise. You can't take a proper stance, because you're on a tree limb and worried about falling. You can't have massed volley-fire, because the tree branches block LOS and the archers are too dispersed. You COULD ambush people (even in urban fights where we 'expect' the Bad Guy to be in upper-story windows people don't look up. That tendency will only be exacerbated in a world where essentially none of your soldiers routinely think about "upstairs.") But the problem with that is.
- You can't decisively destroy the enemy force. The Tutenbourg Forest, where German tribesman slaughtered 3 Roman Legions, is a textbook ancient ambush. that lasted 3 days. Your archers are up trees. You wait for The Perfect Moment. You fire! Loose all the arrows! (probably not at your 12-shots-a-minute max speed because your archers are all up trees) Your accuracy. isn't great. Because it's bow-and-arrow at armored targets, in the woods, with lots of branches in the way. Plus ancient armor is DESIGNED to stop impacts from above anyway. Still, the enemy is disorganized, maybe some leaders are down, and they quickly fall back out of bowshot. Now what? Your archers clamber down 50ft of tree to chase after them? Not fast they don't! The enemy has plenty of time to reorganize themselves. If they even flee, which if they're smart they won't because.
- A guy in a tree is a dead man, one way or the other. There is a Very Good Reason you don't see this in real life beyond the very occasional lone sniper. That's because being in a tree might be great concealment, but the second the enemy knows you're there you're at a HUGE disadvantage. If the enemy sets fire to your tree, then what? Or if he simply keeps a watch on you from a safe* distance. *safe being either out of bowshot or within bow-range but under a pavaise of some sort.
Once the enemy knows you're there, exposed, on the side of a tree, it's not too terribly difficult to have their own smaller force of archers outflank you. The enemy on the ground has shields, you have a hard-to-move-around-in tree. You get shot. you die. Or they go around you, you starve to death, and die.
It's point 3 that really toasts this plan. A small ambush of 10ish guys up trees to kill 10 other guys? MAYBE that works out. But armies? You want me, Joe Archer, to stay in a tree, where I can't run away if the plan goes awry, and shoot arrows? Of which I have. how many? Not enough to hold my position if THEIR archers kill my 6 buddies. There's 6,000 enemies. What if a larger-than-average force comes at my position? I can't fall back, I can't kill them all, I probably can't even surrender fast enough. No sir, ain't doing it!
What you COULD Accomplish
So how do I fight an army of mostly-infantry with a force of archers in a woodlands environment? Simple. I DON'T. Not a smack-down drag-out fight anyway. Can't meet them in a pitched battle, arrowstorms don't work in woods, and without a line of infantry to support me I can't hold a position. So I send half the archers home, they're just mouths to feed and medieval logistics are murderous. Instead I harass their foraging parties, kill their scouts, have 6 guys fire 2 arrows each at the head of their column then have them meld back into the woods, just for another 6 guys to do the exact same thing 10 minutes later. Always always ALWAYS have a fallback position. Have other archers kill or drive away all the game in the area near where they're traveling, then have yet more archers kill the oxen pulling their supply wagons. Find a couple axes? Great! Chop down trees to slow their passage. Which means it takes yet more supplies for them to traverse said woods. The enemy starves, gives up, and goes home. Or starves, stays put, and is slowly attrited away to nothing.
A Note on Arrows A consideration when thinking of medieval archery is penetration of your arrows. It's not like Total War where your maximum range is maximum deadliness and the only difference is accuracy. The force of an arrow drops off DRAMATICALLY with distance. To the point where, if your bow can shoot an arrow 100 meters (totally arbitrary number) You're only really dangerous to a man at 50 meters (any further away and a quilted jerkin is likely to stop your arrow) and it's only at 20ish meters that your arrows are accurate and powerful enough to do things like "kill a guy in mail with a shield and a helmet" reliably. Even shooting downwards distance dramatically lowers punch. For more, see Armor punching myths
What tactics were used against horse archers in midieval times?
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Ideally, an army facing off against horse archers would have their own horse archers, which would hopefully eliminate the other side’s advantage. Otherwise there wasn’t really much you could do offensively. Mounted archers would try to deceive opponents and trick them into attacking, which would probably be disastrous for the attackers. But horse archers weren’t invincible, and the best tactic was strict discipline and defense, to avoid falling for their traps.
The advantage of mounted archers was the they were very light and very fast. They had small horses and small composite bows made of wood, horn, and sinew. Infantry and heavier cavalry couldn’t catch up to them. Their tactics involved shoot a lot of arrows in a short period of time, causing fear and disorganization, and pretending to retreat in order to trick an opposing army into chasing after them. This is how they fought for a thousand years, from Central Asia to the Middle East, to Africa and in Europe as well.
In the ancient world the Romans encountered mounted archers in the Middle East, at the Battle of Carrhae for example, in 53 BC. Mounted archer units were added to the Roman army and were used at least up to the 6th century, when they were still being used by the eastern part of the empire. A late Roman military treatise, probably written in the 6th century, discusses tactics for mounted archers:
“An archer using the bow while in motion can fire more accurately if he shoots in directly opposite directions. What I mean is when the pursuer shoots at the one fleeing or the one fleeing at the pursuer, both, of course, shooting from horseback.” (Three Byzantine Military Treatises, pg. 129)
Techniques for loosing an arrow are also discussed - how many fingers to use, where to hold the bow, etc. These tactics were used by Roman horse archers alongside the other usual late-Roman military units - regular heavy cavalry, other archers on foot, and foot soldiers carrying spears/javelins/slings. By then, the eastern part of the Empire (let's just call it Byzantine for convenience) was beginning to encounter nomadic tribes from the central Asian steppes such as the Huns, the Avars, and later the Turks, whose armies were entirely cavalry and sometimes mostly mounted archers. For some reason the Romans/Byzantines stopped using mounted archers in their own army perhaps a Byzantine military expert might know why better than me, but I’m guessing they started simply hiring Turkic archers and stopped training their own men in these techniques.
Whatever the reason, by the 9th century, emperor Leo VI complained that they had to learn how to defend against horseback archery because all forms of archery, mounted or not, had been completely forgotten by the Byzantine military. Leo focused on training archers, although only on foot, not mounted units. Leo noted that the Turks
“devote a great deal of attention to archery on horseback…they prefer battles fought at long range, ambushes, encircling their adversaries, simulated withdrawals and wheeling about, and scattered formations…when it comes to battle, an infantry force in close formation opposed to their cavalry will inflict the greatest damage on them. They do not dismount from their houses and, since they have grown up riding on horseback, they do not last long on foot.” (Taktika, pg. 455-459)
Tactics for defending against horseback archers involved limiting the distance between them and the Byzantine infantry to reduce their advantages in speed and manoeuverability. Strong discipline was also important. If the infantry could engage with Turkic cavalry at close range, then after bearing the brunt of an archery assault, they could attack with their own javelins and archers as the Turks would be at their most defenseless position in between volleys. Leo also suggested targeting their horses:
“…against the archers themselves, defenseless at the moment of loosing the arrow, and against the horses of their cavalry, the arrows shot by our army are extremely effective and will cause severe harm to the enemy. When the horses so highly prized by them are destroyed by the continuous archery, the result is that the morale of the Saracens, who had been so eager to ride out to battle, is completely beaten down.” (Taktika, pg. 447)
Of course, the success of these tactics depended on the Byzantines being able to surround the cavalry and attack in close quarters. Not so easy when the the Turks’ own tactics focused on attacking from a distance and causing disorder and panic.
At the same time, the Turks of central Asia were also well-known as expert horse archers in the Abbasid caliphate. The 9th-century Abbasid author al-Jahiz described their skills and tactics in his essay “The Virtues of the Turks”:
“The Turk shoots at wild animals and birds, a target on a spear, people, a bird on a pole, and raised images. He shoots while his mount is galloping backwards and forwards, right and left, up and down. He shoots ten arrows before the Khariji [Arab soldiers] can notch a single one. He races his mount down a hill or into a valley bottom faster than a Khariji on level ground. The Turk has four eyes, two in his face and two on the back of his head.” (Hutchins, pg. 195)
The Turks themselves didn’t leave much written evidence of their training and tactics, but there is a much later Mamluk treatise from 14th-century Egypt. By then the Mamluks for the most part probably weren’t Turks anymore, but they still uses mounted archery and their tactics and training were probably similar to their Turkic predecessors:
“Holding the reins with middle finger and ring-finger, the archer should grasp the bow with the whole hand…When charging, he stands in the stirrups and leans forward ever so slightly, taking care not to lean over too far. It is a half, and not a full, standing position that is required as the rider rises in his stirrups…” (Saracen Archery, pg. 73)
In the Muslim world, horse archers sometimes fought against Arab armies, and sometimes opposing armies both had units of mounted Turkic archers who fought against each other. In the 11th century, the Turkic sultan Mahmud of Ghazni wondered how to defend against them too. One of his advisors suggested taking enemy archers prisoner, cutting off their thumbs, and sending them back to the opposing army. Mahmud felt that would be too cruel - but it shows that one army of mounted archers didn’t really have any defense against another similar army. The only way to stop them would be to make it impossible for them to hold a bow.
During the crusades, western European armies encountered Turkic horses archers for the first time. Mounted European knights in Europe were heavily armed and armoured, and they would charge at an organized group of soldiers (cavalry or foot) who would either be broken by the charge, or resist them. They had no tradition of horseback archery but they were accompanied by foot soldiers armed with bows and crossbows as well as spears and pikes. Knights were relatively mobile, at least compared to the archers and other foot soldiers.
But compared to Turkic cavalry, European knights were very slow. There wasn’t really an organized mass of cavalry or foot soldiers for a crusader army to charge at. The lighter and faster Turks were constantly charging at them, loosing their arrows, retreating, regrouping, and repeating. Crusader archers on foot could shoot at them, as long as the Turks stopped in one place, but they usually didn’t - as the Byzantines had learned, drawing Turkic cavalry into close-quarter combat reduced their advantages in speed but crusader armies weren’t fast enough for that.
At a distance, accuracy wasn’t too important, and their arrows may not even have been lethal. At least among the heavily-armoured crusader knights, arrows might not be lethal, but could get stuck in their armour instead. Some crusaders noted with amusement in hindsight that they looked like a hedgehog with its spikes sticking out, but in the heat of battle it was probably terrifying, never knowing whether the next arrow would pierce the armour or not. And just as the Byzantines had discovered the effectiveness of targeting Turkic horses, the Turks did the same to crusader knights whenever they could:
“The tactical use made of this archery was to destroy the cohesion of the enemy, and this could be achieved by inflicting upon him the loss not only of men, but of horses…The Franks relied for victory in battle on the mounted charge, and the Turks were well aware of the value of destroying their horses.” (Smail, pg. 81)
If the Turkic cavalry was somehow contained and the battle turned into a hand-to-hand melee, the Turks would sling their bows over their shoulders, and use their other weapons - shields, clubs, and small swords. By this point their opponents might already be terrified and exhausted by the constant rain of arrows. But the ideal situation for the Turks was to remain on their horses. One of their usual tactics was to pretend to retreat. They could drag this out for days sometimes - retreat just far enough for the slower army to catch up, and then retreat even further. Eventually, enemy knights be separated from their foot soldiers, and they would be exhausted. The Turks would turn around and charge at them for an easy victory.
Armies fell for the trap of a feigned retreat surprisingly often even the Mongols, who used the trick themselves, were fooled by it at the Battle of Ain Jalut against the Mamluks in 1260. Whenever I read about feigned retreats I’m always thinking I can't believe you fell for the oldest trick in the book!
One of the first times that European crusaders encountered these tactics was at the Battle of Dorylaion in 1097:
“As the Turkish lines hurled themselves upon our forces, they let fly a shower of arrows which filled the air like hail. Scarcely a man in the Christian ranks escaped without a wound. The first shower had barely ceased when another no less dense followed. From this no one who had haply escaped from the former attack emerged unscathed. This method of fighting was strange to our men, and because they were unaccustomed to it, it seemed harder to endure. They saw their horses falling, yet were powerless to help, for they themselves were perishing as the result of blows coming from an unexpected and inescapable source. Nevertheless, they continued to charge the foe with sword and lance and tried to drive them back. But the Turks, when unable to withstand the force of the onset, purposely opened their ranks to avoid the clash, and the Christians, finding no one to oppose them, had to fall back deceived. Then as soon as our people returned to their own ranks unsuccessful, the Turks again closed their lines and again sent forth showers of arrows like rain. Scarcely a Christian escaped without receiving serious wounds. Protected by their breastplates, helmets, and shields, our men resisted as well as they could, but the horses and those who had no arms were felled to the ground without distinction…The ranks of the infidels kept growing stronger, and those of the Christians began to weaken. The Turks now attacked with swords at close quarters. Meanwhile the bow, hanging from the shoulder, neglected its office.” (William of Tyre, pg. 170-171)
In this case, the crusaders ended up winning the battle, because another part of the crusader army arrived unexpectedly and the Turks retreated. This wasn’t an intentional tactic the different sections of the army had become separated by accident and it was just a coincidence that the other section arrived when it did. But when an army could afford not to engage its entire strength, it was a good tactic to keep part of it in reserve, and hidden from view, in order to surprise the Turks from one flank or from behind.
Saladin’s armies used it against the crusaders sometimes too. During the Third Crusade in 1192, Richard I of England marched south from Acre toward Jaffa, hoping to turn east and continue to Jerusalem, or (more likely) meet Saladin in battle somewhere in between. Saladin’s troops followed Richard’s army and occasionally harassed his troops. At one point they attacked and faked a retreat, but Richard was expecting it. His army was well-trained and he was able to prevent them from chasing and being destroyed. This was probably the best tactic to use against Turkic cavalry: patience and discipline. Richard’s army remained intact and he was able to defeat Saladin in a pitched battle at Arsuf.
So, there often wasn’t much an army could do to defend against a mounted archery attack. The army could retreat, or it could do nothing, in hopes of eventually outlasting the attack. Byzantine tactics focused on out-manoeuvering the archers and drawing them into closer range where their speed and mobility would be reduced. Targeting the horses was also effective. Crusader tactics involved surprising the Turks and driving them off with unexpected reinforcements (even if it was just an accident the first time). Another successful tactic was strong discipline, not falling for the trap of a pretend retreat.
R.C. Smail, Crusading Warfare, 1097-1193 (Cambridge University Press, 1956, 2nd ed., 1995)
A.C.S. Peacock, The Great Seljuk Empire (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
John Haldon, Warfare, State, and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204 (Routledge, 1999, repr. 2003)
William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond The Sea, trans. E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey (Columbia University Press, 1943).
William M. Hutchins, Nine Essays of al-Jahiz (1989)
Saracen Archery: An English Version and Exposition of a Mameluke Work on Archery (ca. A.D. 1368), trans. J.D. Latham and W.F. Paterson (1917), p. 71-85
The Taktika of Leo VI, trans. George Dennis (Dumbarton Oaks, 2010)
Three Byzantine Military Treatises, trans. George Dennis (Dumbarton Oaks, 1985)
Maurice's Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy, trans. George T. Dennis (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984)
Armies of many civilizations relied on their archery, foot or mounted. Those that had better bows and arrows would often took the victory from their enemy and expand their empires. That is why bows and arrows are improved since the first day.
For a job - a tool. Different arrows have different uses and it is important to use them accordingly. Broadhead is a bad choice for hunting rabbits while judo points won’t stop a deer or a boar. That is why we have so many arrows and bows.
"Was the longbow effective vs. infantry" Topic
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Just wandering. It seems that WotR armies mostly fought dismounted, and all used equivalent complements of archers, which I've heard "cancelled each other out." Furthermore, the mercenary longbowmen in Charles the Bold's employ sure didn't seem to help him out much.
The longbow was very effective against infantry. They cancelled each other out because the bowmen were fairly well matched on both sides in many cases and neither side had the advantage. They were not able to easily destroy men at arms in full plate but they were able to slow them down by forcing them to dismount.
If you are referring to the battles of Grandson, Morat and Nancy, the missile units were not deployed in the ideal fashion, ie. massed in well-sited position.
Grandson was largely a meeting engagement, in Morat most of the defenders were out of position when attack came, and in Nancy the Burgundians were heavily outnumbered and attacked both from front and flank.
"They were not able to easily destroy men at arms in full plate but they were able to slow them down by forcing them to dismount."
The longbow was deadly at close range, even against plate armour.
Well Charles did actually get at least decent service from his archers in the battles before the Swiss war. Indeed the performance of the archers at Brusthem was quite good just as it had been in the Ghentish war of the 1450's.
At Grandson the archers wounded many Swiss but killed few, at Morat the outnumbered archers shot up part of the Vorhut effectively but the Swiss rapidly turned the flank of the fortifications.
In the WOTR the archers seems to have expended their arrows shooting up each other in several battles. (At least as far as we can tell from the limited sources). The mutual murderousness of this type of archery duel were noted already in the HYW were for example Waurin remarked on the archery duel between the Scots and the English archers at Verneuil. Skill, arrow supplies and the armour worn would determine the outcome of these duels.
In other battles one side gained the advantage over the other, Tewkesbury is an example of this as Yorkist had the advantage thanks to a combination of archery and artillery.
One should not forget that the archers would have played an important part in the melee as well. Well equipped archers such as those of John Howard and the English & French veterans of the last decades of the HYW were well armoured and woudl have been effective fighters in hand to hand combat as they joined in with longsword, sword&buckler or polearms. Indeed the Bridport muster roll shows that even a fair number of levied archers would have been well equipped for the melee.
One man actually being equipped with sallet, Jack, breastplate, gauntlets, warbow, dagger and pollaxe.
Other archers in the roll had spears, glaives and bills in addition to their bows.
Wasn't there some photo's posted a while back of a huge group of Eastern European reenactment archers letting off a volley? It showed a good idea of how effective archers were
Though in the siege of Neuss they also managed to start a famous fight in the camp, and almost shot an arrow through Chuck when he showed up to calm them.
Not AGAIN! TMP link scroll c. halfway down for TMP links. The longbow gets discussed often here, and most often associated with the battle of Agincourt .
The longbow was COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE against infantry. So bring on your foot troops and attack my Burgundians deployed in a defensive position with longbowmen.
Longbow an effective, expensive and finite resource.
The longbow was COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE against infantry.
That's just crazy talk. Ask the French at Agincourt and Poitiers, ask the Scots at any number of battles from Halidon Hill to Flodden, check in with Hotspur at Shrewsbury.
It's true that they were less effective against heavily armored infantry. The longbow were effective in the English tactical system, which was defensive in nature. So no, I don't think I'd be running out longbowmen against Burgudians in a defensive position--sounds like a wargamers wet dream, but not terrifically historical.
I think he was being facetious.
Daniel, I would like to ask your opinion on the Bridport Muster Roll. Do you think it was representative for England? The only reason I bring this up is that Dorset was one of the richest parts of the country at the time, and Bridport was, well, a port, and armed against French raids.
That said, from foreign accounts from the time seem to show that the English archers were indeed equipped with a lot of good eqipment, so if Dorset archers were well armed, the rest of the country couldn't be too far behind, especially in Marcher territories and the North.
As for the effectiveness of archers and the "canceling out" idea- HYW archery was usually one-sided. The English archers outnumbered and outclassed their opposing numbers (usually Crossbowmen). Further, they were usually the best picked men that went to France. Same goes for the Scottish Wars where archery was so devastating.
However when both sides have large numbers of good archers, most of the shooting would likely be at extreme range, to inflict damage without having to face enemy arrows at effective range. Certainly Fauconberg's trick at Towton counted on fire being returned almost immediately. The first Yorkist attack at Northampton was stopped cold by archery (the Lancastrians behind works would have been less vulnerable to shooting).
That's just crazy talk. Ask the French at Agincourt and Poitiers, ask the Scots at any number of battles from Halidon Hill to Flodden, check in with Hotspur at Shrewsbury
I think that is called SARCASM! It's just been invented to lull your opponent into a false sense of superiority.
The Bridport roll is the only detailed document to survive, the only partially published Ewelme roll does not provide the same level of detail regarding the equipment but merely notes "harness", "whole harness" or "no harness" as far as the defensive equipment is concerned. (Information about the arms is equally limited)
So one must be very carefull when using these documents, I would certainly never claim that the Bridport roll is typical of all "arrayed men". Clearly the level of equipment possesed varied depending on the wealth or lack of it of an area.
But it raised important questions abotu classic interpretatiosn of the nature of WOTR armies. For example it shows that 69% of the listed polearms were owned by men who were archers. Thus it can not be used as proof of the existence of large numbers of 'billmen' raised by commison of array. (Many descriptions of the Bridport roll only lists the number of weapons which gives the impression that you had one set of men armed with bows, another set with mixed polearms and a variety of secondary arms such as daggers & swords spread between the two groups.
IMHO there was a considerable diffrence between the 'professional' archers serving in retinues in France or England and the men raised by commission of array. Indeed there was probably diffrences among the retainers as well as minor nobles & gentry would not have been able to equipp men as lavishly as John Howard. There is also the question of wether all great lords did issue equipment at that level as Howard.
French eyewitnesses certainly suggest that a lot of English archers were very well equipped indeed. "mostly armed with brigandines, leg armour and sallets, of who the majority were glittering with silver, or at least had good jacks and haubergeons."
With this level of armour it is no wonder that Talbot's archers were willing to assault the entrenchments at Castilion.
The HYW archery contests is to some extent an example of the historical record being distorted. Even as late as 2005 you can find 'English' historians turning a blind eye to primary sources which provide a diffrent view of these contests. Oddly enought they have no trouble using the very same sources (Le Baker and Waurin to name two) when the content favour the English. So the mutually murderous nature of the archery at Verneuil gets left out as do the fact that the English archery failed to defeat the French crossbowmen at Poitiers not to mention that the later were still shooting in support of the last French attack.
While massed archery often gave the English an advantage it was not all as one side as is assumed nor was English victory in the archery contest automatic even when facing crossbows.
"The Scots were so surely harnessed with complete harness, German jacks, rivets, splents, pavises and other habiliments, that shot of arrows in regard did them no harm"
"They were so well appointed with arms and harness that few of them were slain with arrows"
That may be true Daniel S, but the longbow forced the Scots to pay points for upgrades to EHI armor.
EHI bad memories. About twenty years ago I played my Wars of the Roses army against an acquaintance who had a Burgundian army, using Gush' Renn rules. I was inexperienced, but soon realized he was trying to hustle and swindle me every way he could, and that was BEFORE the game began. On top of that, his troops were held to the bases with fun tac, and before my eyes he rebased his Crossbowmen as skirmishers.
When the fun began, I found my massed archers couldn't scratch his "EHI Skirmishers". He sat there shooting my units down like grouse while I ran out of ammo to no effect. Even though it ended as a draw, the shock of seeing a system "gamed" like that made me reconsider the hobby!
Skirmish order is extended "open order", i.e. twice the space between men as even open order. The answer for the English is to also adopt skirmish order with their half-harness troops then out-shoot the crossbowmen. If you were forced to shoot from a dense volleying formation, then those rules either suck or you were being manipulated .
was it not the case that by the WoTR, the best trained longbow men were off shore?
so while there were plenty of them in the battles, they were not the tip top condition professional fighters which were sent to Agincourt and Crecy in earlier years.
Yes. The "hand-picked" were there but so were the main mass of archers, who were not of the same calibre or physical prowess as the hand-picked lot. To reflect this in our rules, we make the WotR armies "up to 25%" with the usual "warbow", and the bulk of archers use a weaker bow (we even reflect Roger Ascham's "one man in ten" who uses a bow more powerful than the standard for the warbow in earlier discussions -- see the links I referenced -- Rocky Russo and I hypothesize that it was these elite archers who later were recruited to Henry VIII's warships) .
There is a lot of time from 1356 to 1415, which allowed for a lot of innovation.
If the field of Agincourt had not been rain-soaked history might have been very different. The histories are heavily politicized
both regents needed a victory to consolidate their rule. Henry got his. Thus French chronicles wrote their histories in the midst of what was more less a civil war and English chroniclers wrote theirs to promote Henry.
I consider Crecy (1346) the high-water mark of the longbow. Poitiers and Agincourt both had other factors which contributed as much as the longbow.
But back to the innovations the armor worn at Poitiers and the armor worn at Agincourt were very different. Recall that the French actually made it across the field to English lines at Agincourt, under arrows the whole way, only to be chopped down by the archers themselves.
So you can see above, archers facing armored horse on hard ground get their comeupance.
I suggest reading _Agincourt: A New History_ Anne Curry
The French failed to adopt the longbow. Why? I think this is because dealing with the English was only one of the multitude of matters the French had to deal with over the Hundred Years War. The English could only occasionally field archers on the scale they did. All longbow armies did not emerge. We always hear 'the long training' it took to become an archer a factor. Of course knights were also dedicated warriors and very costly yet there never seems to be a shortage. I don't buy 'class' distinctions because frankly there were tremendous innovations going on in European society of the time. What difference would another make?
So far as WotR go I would compare the ratios of archers deployed in the classic 'longbow' battles e.g. Poitiers and Agincourt against those at WotR. I would bet the ratios of archers is lower. I assume WotR is War of the Roses? The battles I see for it are mostly on a smaller scale yet longbowmen do not seem to dominate.
You make some good points about quality of armour and the state of France politically at Agincourt. However I would disagree with you concerning the nature of the French army up to the post-war reforms, and the impact of the longbow. Expense was not the issue for why the nation did not adopt the longbow.
While the English passed laws limiting the use of Mercenaries on their soil (12-13th C), France did not. England armed their citizens who were more socially and politically free than their French counterparts, and ordered them to train with the longbow. The French rulers did the reverse- they did not want their citizen to be well-armed (due to the number of revolts they faced). Also, the middle class developed much slower in France, so money was more concentrated with the Nobility who could afford better equipment.
Please understand that this is a GROSS oversimplification of the situation (and I'm no expert in the period), but it might explain why France continued to field Knight/Mercenary foot armies almost until the Italian Wars.
So I don't think it was a case of the longbow being overrated. The French found ways to defeat the longbow- guns at Formigny (1450), fortifications at Castillon (1453), and a series of ambush/surprise battles in the previous decades (Bauge, Herrings, etc).
From the 1440's onwards they seemed to be quite keen on increasing the number of bowmen in their armies.
The regular ordonnance companies established in 1444 or so tended to have each lance consisting of 1 gendarme, 1 coustillier, 2-3 archers (though these eventually evolved into lance-armed cavalry) and 1-2 valets/pages. The later Burgundian ordonnance forces utilised a similar lance, though adding to it an infantry element (pikeman, handgunner and crossbowman).
Additionally in 1448 there was established the corps of Francs archers, a sort of militia force that could be gathered in times of need. Initially around 8000 strong, they later on numbered around 14000 altogether.
But Grief, that they were called archers on paper doesn't demonstrate they showed up or what their equipment looked like.
According to Gerry Embleton the French ordinance from 1448 stated that a Francs Archier was supposed to be equipped with "huque of brigandine or jack, salade, sword, dagger, bow, quiver or crossbow".
As for the required equipment for the French ordonnance troops, I have not seen detailed list.
For the Burgundian ordonnance forces, I don't think that there is any question on whether the archers were expected to bring bows or not.
The equipment for both Ordonnance archers and the Francs-archers is well described thanks to a wide variety of sources.
There are no doubts that the Ordonnance archers were armed with longbows, Late HYW sources describe them thus "The archers wear leg armour, salets, heavy Jacks lined with linnen or brigandines, bow in hand and quiver at side". They are also consistently called "archiers", never "arbalestriers"
The French sources describe both French and English mounted archers in the very same terms. The main difference is that leg armour is mentioned more often as part of the French equipment.
The Ordonnace archers used the longbow well into the Italian wars, in 1494 Italian eyewitnesses mentioned the large bows carried by the OA and the engraving of the battle of Fornovo shows dismounted archers supporting the Swiss pikemen. Detailed 1510 painting shows French longbowmen in action during the conquest of Genoa in 1507. They are illustrated alonside accurately portrayed Swiss pikemen, Gendarmes and Stradiots.
The Francs-Archers are much more diffult because not only did the original 1448 regulation allow for the men to be armed with either bow or crossbow but the new regulation issued in 1466 actually laid down 4 diffrent types of "Francs-Archers": archers, crossbowmen, voulgiers and spearmen.
As few muster rolls survive it is all but impossible fidn out how many of each was raised. The roll for Compiegne is a rare survivor, it shows 20 archers, 2 spearmen and 1 crossbowman.
Just to cause further confusion there is an example of a man listed as a "Francs-Arbalestrier" who is actually equipped as a voulgier. Another town record shows 30 men but these are called both Francs-Archers and Francs-Arbalestrier not to mention that the town armoury only mantained 20 crossbows for these 30 men.
Clearly the terms "Francs-Archer" & "Francs-Arbalestrier" must be considered generic terms just as the commonly used "Gens de Trait" which can mean both archer and crossbowman.
The best thing to to is look at the original text to se if the author uses "archier" or "arbalestrier"
It should be noted that the Francs-Archers were a more or less a copy of the archer "militia" establised in Brittany in 1425. The Dukes regulations actually stated that even the minor gentry were to equipp themselves as archers if they knew how to use a bow.
So the French did actually did adopt the longbow, France, Brittany and Burgundy all fielded increasingly large numbers of longbowmen in the 15th Century. Clearly they had learned the hard way that if you can't beat them, join them.
Field Marshal Haig, order to British troops, 1918Heavy Inf agasint the Mongs. When there ammo is out then you'll inf will destory their cav and inf (hopefully )
'It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the ones who are the most adaptable to change' Charles Darwin
But I have a thing for cannon.
I am able to isolate one stack on Mongols, but it is a strong well balanced stack. It is composed of 1- General with 20 bodyguard, 5- Mongol Heavy Lancers, 5- Mongols Heavy Archers (the Mongol unit I hate most), 4- Mongol Foot Archers (almost no threat), and 5- Mongol Infantry. I can match them unit for unit exchanging Mongol Foot Archer with Armoured Swordsmen and Mongol Heavy Archers with Turkopoles. However, the match up does not look good on paper. Middle Eastern Bodyguards are superior to European Bodyguards, Mongol Heavy Lancers are superior to Knights Hospitaller, Mongol Heavy Archers are superior to Turkopoles, I am not too worried about my Armoured Swordsmen and finally Mongol Infantry and Retinue Longbowmen seem almost equal.
I am worried that once the archers run out of ammo, the Mongols will make me attack them. Mongol Cavalry does AP damage. It will be a VERY close battle if I do win.
Besides England, what empire have you played that was successful in defeating the Mongols/Tims with the fewest casualties?
Well the best way to combat Mongols/Timurids is to sit inside your city walls and use your armoured swordsmen to their best effect because cavalry have little room in sieges.
In open battles make sure your archers get a clear view to shoot, otherwise they'll shoot straight up into the air and that's really ineffective. On paper NONE of their units should be better than yours. The real advantages are first their large amounts of horse archers and second the ridiculous number of upgrades which means every unit stays and fights to the last man. Keep these in mind. Go for their generals to make it a bit easier. Catapults in open battle can be effective to take out blocks of archers from range. Rely on your armoured swords and good knight charges to hold back the enemy.
Another faction that's effective is the Turks with their Naffatun units. Just prop them on the walls and any unit that passes by be it elephants or cavalry get's instantly destroyed by boiling pot bombs. They're also very cheap units. It's much easier to defend in castles obviously. If you don't have access to naffatun, plug the streets and use catapults to shoot over your own men's heads. Here's an example although unfortunately I loose.
What was the effective range of Mongolian horse archers?
Well, the effective range and the maximum range are two different questions, as are, "effective range while moving at speed" and "effective range while stopped," and "Effective range while dismounted." Beyond that, the horse archer was effective beyond the range of his bow and arrow. That is the question I will attempt to answer
There are not many definitive answers to the maximum or even effective range of a Mongolian horse archer. Part of this, I believe, is due to how the Mongolians thought about horse archer tactics.
The concept of "effective range" as a definite number is more of a standard military idea than a Mongolian military idea. Range matters most when your ranged units are stationary and have to remain stationary to shoot. To the English longbowman, range matters a fair amount- before he can shoot, he has to get to a place where he can shoot, draw a very large bow, aim, and release, either with a lot of other archers while firing in volleys, or while shooting at specific targets. Typically, he is not fighting on his own, as he would be behind a line of spears or behind fortifications. The bulk of the conflict would be hand-to-hand at close range, where armored men with spears, axes, swords, and clubs would brawl.
So, his effective range is the farthest away he can be while still being useful while the armored guys fight it out. A good definition of effective range for us, then, is, "The range at which a particular unit is useful."
But Mongolians did not fight that way. The bulk of the Mongolian military consisted of mounted horse archers, supported by some mounted lancers. Sometimes, they would use Chinese-developed siege weapons. So, when asking about the effective range of a horse archer, we need to think about the range of the entire horse/bow system, because that determines the range we are trying to determine.
The horse archer was the "front line" warrior in the Mongolian military. Mongolians won battles mostly through superior maneuverability and by picking the "correct" battles to fight. Many times, they would push forward, feign an attack, retreat, and then double back, circle the enemy, and flank them. Typically when making these types of movements, the horse archers would be a few hundred feet away when they released arrows. Sometimes they were aimed, and sometimes they were in volleys. All of the horse archers were excellent shots who could pick targets, but sometimes tactical situations would call for unaimed shots.
For example, if the warriors were trying to lead a target into an ambush, they might ride forward, shoot into a line of infantry, turn, and ride away, knowing that skirmishers or cavalry would pursue. The arrows and bows were not effective against focused infantry lines, especially lines of infantry armed with spears. Instead of trying to whittle away defended positions, the Mongolians would find ways to scatter formations and cause confusion among the enemy ranks. So, after the skirmishers or light cavalry started to follow the Mongols in pursuit, the Mongols would ambush, destroy the pursuers, return to the formation they were attacking, and then do the same thing. While the formation of infantry or whatever else attempted to deal with one group of warriors, another group would make a wide flanking movement and start attacking from behind- they would attack with bows, but it was entirely possible that they might then close distance and attack with lances and swords before falling back and attacking with bows again.
And this could be happening across miles of pasture and space. A horse archer could move between 50-70 miles in a day.
So, for a strategic range, I would say, probably 50 miles. For a tactical range, Iɽ estimate about 1000 meters. Note- that is not the firing range, which was likely 300 meters, depending on the quality of the bow and the archer.