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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jul, 2012 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:


Then of course there are examples of troops acting like heavy infantry but who carried crossbows as a secondary weapon. In late 15th /early 16th century Stockholm, each city guardsman was supposed to be armed with a pollaxe, a messer and a crossbow.


Interesting, do you have a source for that? I was looking into buying some records for Stockholm and trying to translate from Swedish.


http://www.ssa.stockholm.se/Bestall/Stadsarki...adsbocker/

J

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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jul, 2012 12:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
I do not believe crossbowmen would be overly effective in a melee.

Correct me if I am wrong, but did not crossbowmen carry sidearms as opposed to main weapons?

The pavise would seem cumbersome in hand to hand, and I also think their formation would be less dense than heavy infantry. The fact they seem to be armoured would help a bit, but I would think crossbowmen would fight on the defensive, their pavises forming not a barrier but at least breaking up the enemy a bit, but also preventing the crossbowmen from functioning in a tight formation.

Not that they could not occasionally be effective, such as English archers going HTH with disorganized and fatigued french men at arms like at Agincourt, and they could fight as well in hand to hand as any other infantry desigend more for missile fire, but that would certainly not be their strength I would not think.


Look, a crossbow can be kept ready to shoot. That's impossible with a longbow that requires maximum strength. The crossbow did allow for combined arms shooting. One guy opens a hole in the formation and the other one kills them with his weapon. The Hussites are just one example of this idea. The problem with all kinds of bows were large shields. As soon as the enemy has enough shields as an inexpensive armour, he can move up to any formation of bowmen and engage them in close combat. The crossbow is part of this system of large shields, adding a precise long range missile weapon that does allow additional ranks to influence close combat (not disorganized melée) by shooting at any opening gap. It's very important for such a combined arms idea to be a trained team and fellow crossbowmen are good for that task. It's not required of the crossbowmen in the front ranks to be outstanding fighters, just hold the line and let the shooters further back do the killing. Problem is low density and shallow depth, making it possible to rush such a formation with a deep fast moving column, highlighted by the Swiss in Italy. There's no claim that the crossbowmen were outstanding with close combat weapons, they could survive and they had their crossbows to enable them to keep shooting at the enemy under close combat conditions - that was their advantage none else had.
The crossbow is a weapon for ranged combat and for close combat support, unlike the longbow that is ill suited for close combat support (the more, the more scarce openings to shoot are due to large shields - longbowmen lost to the combination of spearmen and crossbowmen in skirmishing combat in France). Close combat was the domain of the bill. There were still some supporting archers, but in a much diminished proportion to crossbowmen in the same role in a formation. That's why the crossbow works in a combination of crossbowmen and spearmen (or crossbowmen with their sidearms doing this in an emergency role) with large shields, they can shoot from a distance, get close and win in combined arms close combat - Lanchester's square law trumps Lanchester's linear law close combat approaches if the line holds - psychological problem.
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jul, 2012 1:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:


Interesting, do you have a source for that? I was looking into buying some records for Stockholm and trying to translate from Swedish.


http://www.ssa.stockholm.se/Bestall/Stadsarki...adsbocker/

J


Unfortunately I do not have a primary source on that, but the equipment is listed in Göte Göranssons's Gustav Vasa och hans folk (1983). Except for the already mentioned weapons, the city guardsmen were stipulated to carry a kettle hat, a "krevitta" (breastplate) and a shield.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jul, 2012 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is quite a lot of gear! Crossbow, pollaxe, messer, and a shield? any mention of body armor other than the helmet?

Does that book mention who the guards were? Were they professionals or servants of the town council or were they (as usually seemed to be the case) town watch made up of citizens?

J

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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jul, 2012 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
It's not required of the crossbowmen in the front ranks to be outstanding fighters, just hold the line and let the shooters further back do the killing. Problem is low density and shallow depth, making it possible to rush such a formation with a deep fast moving column, highlighted by the Swiss in Italy.


Density is of course an issue as you say - problem is a formation with little density will be overwhelmed by a more dense formation quickly, making it tougher to get those shots in while the fronline is holding (briefly as it may be holding that is).

Shallow depth of course is another issue as you say, and if you make the formation deeper you lose the frontage per man that is important for a missile unit.

Biggest problem though that I see - most missile units are not wanting to close for combat, or to be forced to close combat. Their first reaction if being closed to hand to hand by a non missile unit is to flee - which makes it tough to support the front line with missile volleys.

It seems they are best off if forced to combat if in a fortified position, or intermingled with other combat units.

There may be some exceptions to the idea that missile trrops are not good in close combat - anyone know of any? And by missile, I mean bows, crossbows or slings, not javelin users.
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jul, 2012 11:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That depends, there can be multipurpose troops who serve with missile and close combat and there can be dedicated troops. You can make a crossbowmen formation much deeper at the expense of direct shots, but it still lacks the pushing power of men dedicated to close combat - needs propped up shields to stomach enemy pushing. The crossbowmen formations were more shallow then the pike blocks and could be overrun if the pike blocks were fast. It's not diffferent from English and Scots, the English could be overrun with long spears except if they figured out a better idea for their missile troops - the notorious V formation for example.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Aug, 2012 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
the English could be overrun with long spears except if they figured out a better idea for their missile troops - the notorious V formation for example


The V formation does not help in close combat - it's designed to maximize the archers available to loose arrows.
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Aug, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
That is quite a lot of gear! Crossbow, pollaxe, messer, and a shield? any mention of body armor other than the helmet?

Does that book mention who the guards were? Were they professionals or servants of the town council or were they (as usually seemed to be the case) town watch made up of citizens?

J


Nope there is no mentioning of any other gear, and yes, it was the citizens who performed guard duty, apparently only 12 at a time. The equipment in question did not belong to the guardsmen themselves, but by the town counsel (and it is likely that it was stored in the town hall).

As a funny anectode, the tänkebok mentions at least one woman who in 1512 had to take up weapons and armour in place of her husband, who were off on pilgrimage when it was his turn for service in the watch...
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Aug, 2012 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:
Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
That is quite a lot of gear! Crossbow, pollaxe, messer, and a shield? any mention of body armor other than the helmet?

Does that book mention who the guards were? Were they professionals or servants of the town council or were they (as usually seemed to be the case) town watch made up of citizens?

J


Nope there is no mentioning of any other gear, and yes, it was the citizens who performed guard duty, apparently only 12 at a time. The equipment in question did not belong to the guardsmen themselves, but by the town counsel (and it is likely that it was stored in the town hall).

As a funny anectode, the tänkebok mentions at least one woman who in 1512 had to take up weapons and armour in place of her husband, who were off on pilgrimage when it was his turn for service in the watch...


That is really interesting, apparently in some Hussite towns in Bohemia women were also in the town watch, and the militia. I wonder how widespread that kind of thing was. It's in the 1512 entry?

I know the skotteböcker for Stockholm also mentions some female guild masters as well in the 15th Century...



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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Aug, 2012 12:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
the English could be overrun with long spears except if they figured out a better idea for their missile troops - the notorious V formation for example


The V formation does not help in close combat - it's designed to maximize the archers available to loose arrows.

The V formation is meant to keep the close combat troops in the center and the missile troops on the wings with little involuntary close combat, sorry for the misunderstanding. Crossbowmen were a good idea if they were few ranks in a formation that could securely stand their ground, best with propped up shields, but they could as well operate in the same formation as English archers that would have enabled them to use their missiles during any enemy approach (problem is that their presumably somewhat slower rate of shot made them less suitable if the exposed parts were not so significantly armoured to make bow and arrow useless. In the end the different mobility, rate of shot, ability to support close combat and power of shot made archers generally adopt the stakes and crossbowmen the paveses.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Aug, 2012 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You know the one thing we know little of (at least to my knowledge) is how troops intermixed in a unit and how this made them function in combat.

We have little tidbits, such as one of the Byzantine Manuals that I think have heavy cavalry lancers mixed with archers - ranks 1,2, and 5 as lancer, 3 and 4 as archer. But we don't know a ton about how this worked among many other armies, if someone does please enlighten me.

For example we have billmen and archers - were they intermingled? Did the archers fill the front ranks and prior to hand to hand the billmen moved to the front?

I am familiar with some of the more detailed minature games that try to factor this in. One of the ones that I think handles it the best is "Shock of Impact" where open order can move through a friendly formation with little problem, but close order cause disorganization, to where the advantage of better equipped hand to hand troops is almost lost due to being disorganized. This apparently is a bigger problem for pikemen, who if not "organized" are not nearly as effective.

Not that miniature games are true represenations of actual combat, though some do it much better than others. But they at least do it in a way that helps we wrap my mind better around what combat would truly be like.
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Thu 02 Aug, 2012 12:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
You know the one thing we know little of (at least to my knowledge) is how troops intermixed in a unit and how this made them function in combat.

We have little tidbits, such as one of the Byzantine Manuals that I think have heavy cavalry lancers mixed with archers - ranks 1,2, and 5 as lancer, 3 and 4 as archer. But we don't know a ton about how this worked among many other armies, if someone does please enlighten me.

For example we have billmen and archers - were they intermingled? Did the archers fill the front ranks and prior to hand to hand the billmen moved to the front?

I am familiar with some of the more detailed minature games that try to factor this in. One of the ones that I think handles it the best is "Shock of Impact" where open order can move through a friendly formation with little problem, but close order cause disorganization, to where the advantage of better equipped hand to hand troops is almost lost due to being disorganized. This apparently is a bigger problem for pikemen, who if not "organized" are not nearly as effective.

Not that miniature games are true represenations of actual combat, though some do it much better than others. But they at least do it in a way that helps we wrap my mind better around what combat would truly be like.


There is a depiction of mixed units:


by the landsknecht mercenary Paul Dolstein

Westholm, Gun Visby 1361, Invasionen has some (contemporary?) woodcuts of the Battle of Visby in 1361 with crossbowmen kneeling behind a thin line of spearmen while a block of swordsmen moves to attack that is possibly another source, but all are related to Sweden.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Thu 02 Aug, 2012 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

O.K. just a few theoretical ideas of how crossbowmen and Pike/Billmen could work together and change the formation prior to contact.

A) Six ranks of crossbowmen in front of 12 ranks or more of polearmed infantry.

B) From maximum effective range to closing range: The crossbowman counter march and fire rank by rank to provide a continuous barrage of bolts. ( Caracole type manoeuvre with first in line firing and then moving to the back of the crossbowmen formation to reload, next in line in the file firing, all in continuous motion )

C) As the enemy closes to a dangerous hand to hand combat range the crossbowmen now counter march in between files to behind the polearmed infantry formation after they have loosed their bolts until all ranks of crossbowmen are now safely behind the melee infantry.

D) if the enemy retreats the crossbowmen can reform in front and resume shooting assuming that the infantry is not ordered forward against a routed enemy.

This would need very well trained troops, a close formation but with one open space between the files of the melee troops so that the crossbowmen could get to the rear without disrupting the formation.

Alternative formation: Pike/polearm squares in a checkerboard pattern with crossbowmen squares ( The crossbowmen could still use the countermarch within each of their squares but would retreat " en mass " behind a pike square and the pike square that was behind them advance to fill the gap in the line.).

I may have some of the details wrong or just not figured out how the checkerboard could be best used in multiple layers of blocks in detail, but the point is not so much the exact method but how well each arm could support the other in a mixed arms formation.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 02 Aug, 2012 5:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
O.K. just a few theoretical ideas of how crossbowmen and Pike/Billmen could work together and change the formation prior to contact.

A) Six ranks of crossbowmen in front of 12 ranks or more of polearmed infantry.

B) From maximum effective range to closing range: The crossbowman counter march and fire rank by rank to provide a continuous barrage of bolts. ( Caracole type manoeuvre with first in line firing and then moving to the back of the crossbowmen formation to reload, next in line in the file firing, all in continuous motion )

C) As the enemy closes to a dangerous hand to hand combat range the crossbowmen now counter march in between files to behind the polearmed infantry formation after they have loosed their bolts until all ranks of crossbowmen are now safely behind the melee infantry.

D) if the enemy retreats the crossbowmen can reform in front and resume shooting assuming that the infantry is not ordered forward against a routed enemy.

This would need very well trained troops, a close formation but with one open space between the files of the melee troops so that the crossbowmen could get to the rear without disrupting the formation.

.



I have a description from 15th Century Poland (Jan Dlugosz) where he describes almost exactly this tactic being used successfully. I'll transcribe and post it here when I get a minute. I mean he doesn't mention anything baout a caracole or
continuous shooting, but he talks about the crossbowmen shooting, and then going back through the lines of the heavy infantry when the enemy tries to close with them, and then coming back as they retreat and shooting some more.
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Thu 02 Aug, 2012 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
O.K. just a few theoretical ideas of how crossbowmen and Pike/Billmen could work together and change the formation prior to contact.

A) Six ranks of crossbowmen in front of 12 ranks or more of polearmed infantry.

B) From maximum effective range to closing range: The crossbowman counter march and fire rank by rank to provide a continuous barrage of bolts. ( Caracole type manoeuvre with first in line firing and then moving to the back of the crossbowmen formation to reload, next in line in the file firing, all in continuous motion )

C) As the enemy closes to a dangerous hand to hand combat range the crossbowmen now counter march in between files to behind the polearmed infantry formation after they have loosed their bolts until all ranks of crossbowmen are now safely behind the melee infantry.

D) if the enemy retreats the crossbowmen can reform in front and resume shooting assuming that the infantry is not ordered forward against a routed enemy.

This would need very well trained troops, a close formation but with one open space between the files of the melee troops so that the crossbowmen could get to the rear without disrupting the formation.

Alternative formation: Pike/polearm squares in a checkerboard pattern with crossbowmen squares ( The crossbowmen could still use the countermarch within each of their squares but would retreat " en mass " behind a pike square and the pike square that was behind them advance to fill the gap in the line.).

I may have some of the details wrong or just not figured out how the checkerboard could be best used in multiple layers of blocks in detail, but the point is not so much the exact method but how well each arm could support the other in a mixed arms formation.


Good idea, but this might depend on the energy of the crossbow version. The more energy, the closer the use will reflect early firearms, the lower the energy store and the higher the rate of shot, the more they are among the concepts of slingers, javelineers and archers with their special close combat support capability.
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Thu 02 Aug, 2012 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:


Westholm, Gun Visby 1361, Invasionen has some (contemporary?) woodcuts of the Battle of Visby in 1361 with crossbowmen kneeling behind a thin line of spearmen while a block of swordsmen moves to attack that is possibly another source, but all are related to Sweden.


The image you are referring to is unfortunately not a period woodcut, but a drawing from 1943... However there is also an image of the battle scene on the early 15th century cenotaph of Henry, bishop of Finland, showing crossbowmen and bowmen fighting alongside heavy infantry: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...iainen.JPG
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Fri 03 Aug, 2012 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Quote:
This would need very well trained troops, a close formation but with one open space between the files of the melee troops so that the crossbowmen could get to the rear without disrupting the formation.

Alternative formation: Pike/polearm squares in a checkerboard pattern with crossbowmen squares ( The crossbowmen could still use the countermarch within each of their squares but would retreat " en mass " behind a pike square and the pike square that was behind them advance to fill the gap in the line.).

I may have some of the details wrong or just not figured out how the checkerboard could be best used in multiple layers of blocks in detail, but the point is not so much the exact method but how well each arm could support the other in a mixed arms formation.


Therein lies the problem Big Grin

well trained troops are at a premium, and more of a premium depending on what time period you are looking at. I'd think this would require a fair degree oftraining, and you would need both the crossbowman and the line infantry to be trained to do so. And with crossbowman often being "specialists", and at times imported, this would be tough indeed.

And doing manuvers like this in a training excersize are far easier than doing them under the stress of a true battle situation.

I'm more partial to the 11th-13th centuries, and am trying to think of any armies from this time which would be well trained enough to do this or anything similar to it. And not just a small unit of well trained types, but where the main force of the army would be well trained enough to handle this.

Perhaps the Tagmata of the Byzantines, though the used the composite far more. Maybe the Normans, who seemed to have a strong militaristic bearing and frequent wars going on to establish a marshall tradition. Maybe the forces of the marcher lords in Wales. Just some ideas I'm trying to think of.
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Aug, 2012 10:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
There was no contest at Crecy. Putting aside all the possible additional factors, such as rain and poor deployment, the English archers were in far greater numbers and up-hill. The Genoese crossbowmen were never going to make an impact in that context.

If you really want to compare the battlefield effectiveness of longbow vs. crossbow then you either need to look at the compaign that led to Crecy (read 'The Road to Crecy'), or you need to look at other battles where bows and crossbows were actually deployed against each other in large number - the last period of the Hundred Years War actually has quite a lot of examples of English and French archers and crossbowmen meeting, and remember that the French and Burgundians by that point had adopted longbowmen. The Flemish even had longbow archery guilds until the 16th century and probably later.

Parenthically, I think someone with the Italian, Spanish, and paleography skills could have a fun time looking at the records of all these Spanish and Italian bowyers and seeing where they were selling longbow staves to and when. It might help to put the stake in the heart of the "English bows were different than other European longbows" theory, now that we have some evidence for shorter European self bows in the late medieval period.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Fri 03 Aug, 2012 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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now that we have some evidence for shorter European self bows in the late medieval period.


I'm not familiar with this evidence. What specifically are you speaking about?

For "longbows", there seems to be evidence of bows shoter than the Mary Rose bows, but still about 6 feet in length. Same goes for Scandavian bows from the viking age.
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Aug, 2012 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
now that we have some evidence for shorter European self bows in the late medieval period.


I'm not familiar with this evidence. What specifically are you speaking about?

For "longbows", there seems to be evidence of bows shoter than the Mary Rose bows, but still about 6 feet in length. Same goes for Scandavian bows from the viking age.

See Clifford J. Rogers, “The Development of the Longbow in Late Medieval England and 'technological determinism',” Journal of Medieval History Vol. 37 (2011) pp. 321-341. Then read Kelly DeVries, “Catapults are not Atomic Bombs,” War in History Vol. 4 (1997) pp. 454-470. I generally find scholars like Bradbury, DeVries,and Strickland more convincing on late medieval archery than Dr. Rogers, but there is some interesting evidence in there.

His key pieces are a bowstave 49” long and arrow 24” long dated circa 1200 excavated at Waterford, Ireland (p. 334: but were these handbows or crossbows?) and two English legal records from around the year 1300 which mention bows a yard and a half long (p. 335-336: but one of these is marked as “Turkish” ie. composite or recurved).
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