Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sir John Smythe: Unreliable Narrator

Smythe in his 1590 Certain Discourses, gives a detailed account of a combat during the siege of Thérouanne in 1513, in which an English supply convoy was ambushed by a French force "which did farre exceed the English in number", The English drew their "carriages into a conuenient forme" with archers both filling the gaps between the carts and "in the two open places of the carriages before and behind" so that the French "were that day repulsed and ouerthtrowne by the excellencie of Archers", and "one of their chief Captaines, called Monsieur de Plessis lifting up his sword to strike, was with an arrowe shot in the arme hole through his gusset of maile, and there slain" Smythe names as a source a certain "old English Gentleman yet aliue...Master Caudwell that was there present"

Old indeed. If Master Caudwell was only eighteen at the time of the battle, he would have been 95 by the time Smythe published his Discourses.

Smythe seems to have conflated three different incidents.

In June of 1513, according to Hall's Chronicle, an English convoy was overrun and looted by French light horsemen, with 30 English archers and eight English gentleman killed. The French lost 87 horses and "diverse" Frenchmen.

In August of 1513, a cavalry skirmish near Guinegate, also called "The Battle of the Spurs" ended in a French route. The French captain Jacques de la Palice was captured.

In 1429, an English supply convoy was attacked by superior French forces near Vouvray. Forming a defensive circle of wagons the English defeated the attack in what would later be called the Battle of the Herrings

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Skirmish During the Siege of Therouanne: 1513

Upon the Mundaie beeyng the xxvii. daie of June xxiiii. Cartes charged with victaill, wer by the Garrison of Caleis conduited to Guisnes, and ther the Crewe of the castle and toune of Guisnes with three C. foote men, under the conduite of sir Edward Belknappe, al beyng in nombre iiii. C. lx. men, set furthe to conduite the saied victailes to tharmie liyng before Tirwyn, and so thei passed to Arde. And while the Carters passed the toune, the horsemen fel a drinkyng in the waie, and the foote men wer al out of ordre. The duke of Vandosme capitain generall of Picardie, which laie in a bushement in the forest side of Guysnes with viii. C. light horsemen, toke his advauntage and set on the victailers, the Carters perceivyng that losed their horses and fledd to the toune, whiche was but a myle of and left their Cartes. Sir Nicholas Vaux capitain of Guysnes did al he could, to bryng the foote men in an ordre: but the Frenchmen set on so quickly that thei could not set theim in ordre, the horsmen of Guysnes whiche wer but onely xxiiii. toke their speres and joyned with the Frenchemen: the Archers of Englande whyche passed not lx. shot manfully, and a noble capitain called Baltier Delien and diverse other, but the Frenchemen wer so many in nombre and in good ordre, that thei slew viii. gentlemen of the Garrison of Guysnes, and xxx. Archers slain and many hurte, and so thei distrussed the victailes, and caused sir Nicholas Vaux, and sir Edward Belknappe to flie toward Guisnes. This misaventure fell by tariyng of the horsmen and breaking of array, for if tharchers had taried together it had happened otherwise, for the fewe Archers that held together, slewe and hurt diverse Frenchemen: For on the felde laie lxxxvii. great horse which never went thence, by the which it appered that the Frenchemenne went not quite a waie without losse. 

Hall, Edward, and Charles Whibley. 1904. Henry VIII. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Crossbows of Horn, 1236

Re.r. De balistis.—Mandatum est H. Giffard', constabulario Turris London', quod de balistis regis que sunt in custodia sua habere faciat Amauro de Sancto Amando quatuor balistas de cornu ad duos pedes et decem balistas de ligno ad unum pedem ponendas in castris nostris Heref' et Sancti Briavelli. Teste rege apud Windes', xv. die Aprilis.

Great Britain. 1892. Calendar of the close rolls preserved in the Public Record Office. London: H.M. Stationery Office.  p. 258

The Duke of Orleans' Crossbows at Blois: 1418 and 1421

A 1418 inventory of the Castle of Blois describes 14 crossbows, 11 of wood and the rest unspecified. A 1421 inventory counts 27, 10 of wood, three of steel and the rest unspecified.

Revue des sociétés Savantes des Departments. 1900. pp 312-314

Crossbows in the Bastille 1436

Item, two crossbows of steel
Item, eight crossbows of wood, complete, of which three are large, called haussepiez
Item, five engines of wood for spanning crossbows, of which three are complete and the others not
Itam, five iron windlasses, both large and small, for spanning crossbows

Bournon, Fernand. 1893. La Bastille. Histoire et description des bâtiments.--Administration.--Régime de la prison.--Événements historiques. Paris: Imprimerie nationale.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Crossbows of the Dukes of Burgundy

 The dukes of Burgundy seem to have made a major technological shift in the 1440s. According to the records below, from 1362 to 1445 in cases where the material of the bow was identified they owned or bought 552 crossbows with wooden bows, and 195 composite bows of corne. From 1446, when they first began to acquire steel crossbows, to 1485, they owned or bought 197 crossbows with wooden bows, and 1,422 with steel bows.

Garnier, Joseph. 1895. L'artillerie des ducs de Bourgogne: d'après les documents conservés aux archives de la Côte-d'Or. Paris: H. Champion.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Medieval Elephants

I just had to share these charming, ferocious, trumpet snouted elephants from Royal 16 G VII - Les Anciennes Hystoires Rommaines, 1375-1400. 

As Fiore might say:
I am the mighty elephant, I'm wrinkled, grey and large
I bear a castle on my back, as massive as a barge
I am the noble elephant, I do not bend my knees
I am the mighty elephant, I trumpet when I sneeze

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crossbows at Tournoël and Marlborough: 1213 and 1215

Guy de Dampierre 
Inventaire du château de Tournoël 
Lettre adressée au roi Philippe-Auguste le 12 décembre 1213 

Guy de Dampierre au roi. 
Votre Sérénité connaîtra que Gualeran de Corbelles et Robert m’ont livré, dans le château de Tournoël : 11 arbalètes de corne, 7 arbalètes à ettrif, 3 arbalètes à deux pieds, une arbalète à tour, 10 arbalètes en bois, 8 casques, 2 cuirasses, 10 écus [boucliers allongés], deux targes [autre espèce de bouclier], 4 coffres de carreaux [flèches], ettrifs et autres traits, 2 tours à arbalètes, 2 crocs, 2 pelotes de fil, 100 livres de cire, 4 setiers de sel, 12 porcs salés, 19 setiers de froment vieux, 4 haches, 3 tarrières, 1 serpe, 6 pilons et 1 mortier de cuivre, 6 marteaux, 2 câbles, 6 couvertures, 2 coussinets, 53 setiers de froment nouveau, 10 setiers et 1 émine de fèves, 1 tonneau de vin et 13 muids, 3 setiers de fèves vieilles, 2 moles dans la tour, des tonneaux à contenir 100 muids de vin et 3 cuves. 

Source Texte retranscrit dans : Hippolyte Gomot, Histoire du château féodal de Tournoël, 1881, p. 33-34.

Crossbows at Marlborough in 1215: "balistae ad turnum...balistae ad unum pedem...balistae; corneae; ad unum duos pedes," 

Rot. Pat. 16 John.
British Archaeological Association, Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and Royal Archaeological Institute (Great Britain). 1844. The Archaeological journal. London: Longman, Rrown [sic] Green, and Longman. Volume 15.

By 1213, we see both the the stirruped crossbow spanned with one foot in the stirrup (ettrif) and a belt hook, or croc,  and the heavy crossbow spanned by a windlass or screw, or tour/turnum.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crossbows with Stirrups

An early crossbow without a stirrup, 1194-1196. Note the long draw.

Crossbow with a stirrup, 1225-1250.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Militarie instructions for the Cavallrie, 1632

His arms were a close casque or headpiece; gorget, breast pistoll-proof (as all the cuirasse in every piece of it), and caliver-proof (by reason of the placcate), the back pouldrons, vanbraces, two gauntlets, tassets, cuissets, culets, or guard de rein, all fitting to his body; a good sword (which was to be very stiffe, cutting, and sharp-pointed), with a girdle, and hangers so fastened upon his cuirass as he might easily draw it; a buffe coat, with long skirts, to wear between his armour and his cloathes ; his lance, either after the wonted manner, or (as Walhausen hath it) after the manner of a pike, only somewhat thicker at the butt end, the head of it either to be three-edged, or otherwise, like a pike head, made strong and sharpe, the length to be about eighteen foot, it being otherwise of little effect either against infantine or cavallarie; within two foot of the butt end to be bored through, and through it a thong of strong leather to be put, to fasten it to the right arm, for the surer holding and better managing thereof. On the outside of his right stirrop to have a socket of leather fastened thereunto, to place the butt end of his lance therein. His saddle to be handsome, made with advantage, fit for the rider to keep firm against the violence of a shock; thereat he should have one, if not two, pistolls, of sufficient bore and length, with keys and cartouches; also he must have flaske and cartouche-box, and all appurtenances fitting.
...again, is to be armed at all points, and accoated with a buffe coat under his arms, like the lance; his horse not inferior in stature or strength, though not so swift. He must have two cases, with good fire-locks; pistolls hanging at his saddell, having the barrell of eighteen inches long, and the bore of twenty bullets in the pound (or twenty-four, rowling in); a good sword, stiffe, and sharp-pointed, like the lancier. This sort of cavalarie is of late invention: for, when the lanciers proved hard to be gotten, first, by reason of their horses, which must be very good, and exceeding well exercised; secondly, by reason their pay was abated through scarcity of money; thirdly, and principally, because of the scarcitie of such as were practised and exercised to the use of the lance, it being a thing of much labour and industry to learn; the cuirassier was invented only by discharging the lancier of his lance. He is to have a boy and a nagge, as is otherwise said, to carry his spare arms and oat sacke, and to get him forage. His saddle and bit must be strong, and be made after the best manner. He is also to wear a scarfe, as hath been showed, chapter 20. He is to have his bridle made with a chain, to prevente cutting; and he must be very careful to have all his furniture strong and usefull.
The harquebusier was first invented in France, at the time of the warres of Piedmont; whom Melzo and Basta would have either not armed (though they confesse themselves contradicted therein by others), or but slightly (only with a head-piece and breast), and those but some few of the foremost. But the printed edict of the States of the United Provinces expressly commandeth that every harquebusier be armed with an open casque, gorget, back and breast, of the horseman's furniture; and captain Bingham, in his 'Low Country Exercise," appointeth him a cuirasse, pistoll-proof. Moreover, by the late orders rendered in by the council of warre, the harquebusier (besides a good buffe coate) is to have the back and breast of the cuirassier's arming more than pistoll-proofe, the head-piece, &c. For offensive arms, he must have the harquebuse of two foot and a half long (the bore of seventeen bullets in the pound, rowling in), hanging on a belt by a swivel, a flaske, and touch-box and pistolls, like the cuirassiers, (as some writers have it). His horse (according to the same edict of the States) should not be under fifteen hands high, being swift and well managed. The carabinier is to be mounted on a middling guelding, and to have a good buffe coat, a carbine or petronell (the barrel two foot and a half long, the bullet twenty-four in the pound, rowling in), hanging as the harquebusse, a sword, girdle, and hangers, flaske and touch-box, as the harquebusier.
The dragoni is of two kinds, pike and musket. The pike is to have a thong of leather, about the middle of the pike, for the more commodious carrying of it. The musketier is to have a strap or belt fastened to the stock thereof, almost from the one end to the other, by which (being on horseback) he hangeth it at his back, keeping his burning match and the bridle in the left hand. His horse is of the least price, the use thereof being but to expedite his march, alighting to do his service.
Cruso, John. 1632. Militarie instructions for the Cavallrie

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Presentation by Beatrice Nutz on the Lengberg Finds

On the blog Genevieve's Journeys.

Two Foot Crossbows

Arbalètes à deux pieds frequently appear in medieval inventories from the 13th century on, often contrasted with the arbalète à une pied. The one foot variety is presumably the familiar sort spanned from a standing position with one foot in a stirrup at the front of the stock. Some have suggested that the two foot crossbows are spanned with a wider stirrup for two feet. There are two objects to this theory. First the biomechanics are very poor. Second, there is no surviving bow that looks like that, and no examples in medieval iconography.

Robert MacPherson has suggested a far more plausible theory: that they were spanned while seated on the ground with a belt hook on the string and both feet on the prod, as though performing a short leg press. That makes a lot more sense.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

La Noue: Lancers vs. Reiters 1587

Whereupon I will say that although the squadrons of spears  do give a gallant charge, yet it can work no great effect, for at the outset it killeth none, yea it is a miracle if any be slain with the spear. Only it may wound some horses, and as for the shock it is many time of small force, where the perfect Reiter do never discharge their pistols but in joining and striking at hand, they wound, aiming always either at the face or at the thigh. The second rank also shooteth off so the forefront of the men-at-arms squadron is at the first meeting half overthrown and maimed. Although the first rank may with their spears do some hurt, especially to the horses, yet the other ranks following cannot do so,  at the least  the second and third, but are driven to cast away their spears and to help themselves with their swords. Herein we are to consider two things which experience hath confirmed. The one that the Reiter is never so dangerous as when they be mingled with the enemy, for then be they all fire. The other, that two squadrons meeting, they have scarce discharged the second pistol but either the one or the other turneth away. For they contesteth no longer as the Romans did against other nations, who oftentimes kept the field fighting two hours face to face before either party turned back. By all the afore-said reasons, I am driven to avow that a squadron of pistols doing their duties shall break a squadron of spears.

La Noue, François de, Edward Aggas, Thomas Orwin, and Thomas Cadman. 1587. The politicke and militarie discourses of the Lord de la Novve. Whereunto are adioyned certaine obseruations of the same author, of things happened during the three late ciuill warres of France. London: Printed for T. C[adman] and E.A[ggas] by T. Orwin. 

Williams: Lancers vs Reiters, 1590

Considering the resolute charge done with the might of their horses, the Launtiers are more terrible and make a farre better shew either in Muster or Battaile. For example, when the Almaines, during the time they carried Launces, carried a farre greater reputation than the do now being pistolers named Rutters. The most Chiefes of Souldiers of accompt are armed at the proofe of the pistol. If the leaders commaund their troupes to spoyle horses, the Launces are more sure, for divers pistols faile to go off: if charged it shakes in a man's hand so that often it touches neither man nor horse; if the charge bee too little it pierceth nothing to speak of. True it is, being pickt and chosen, the pistoliers murther more… but I was often in their companie when they ran away, three from one Launtier in great troupes and small… Without doubt, the Pistol discharged hard by, well charged, and with judgement, murthers more than the Launce; out of a hundred pistoliers, twentie nor scarce tenne at the most do neither charge pistol nor enter a squadron as they should, but commonlie and lightly always they discharge their pistols eight and five score off, and so wheele about: at which turnes the Launtiers charge then in the sides, be they well conducted… The Launtiers have or ought to have one pistol at the least.

Williams, Sir Roger. Briefe Discourse on Warre, 1590 p 50

Fourquevaux on Bows and Crossbows

Amongft other weapons leaft accuffomed, are the Bowe and the Croffebowe, which are two weapons that may do very good feruice against vnarmed men, or thofe that are ill armed, fpecially in wet weather, when the Harquebufier lofeth his feafon. And were it fo that the archers and croffebow men could carry about them their prouifion for their bowes and crossebowes, as eafily as y Harquebufiers may do theirs for their Harquebuffes I would commend them before the Harquebuffe, as well for their readineffe in fhooting, which is mutch more quicker, as alfo for the fureneffe of their fhot, which is almost never in vayne. And although the Harquebufier may fhoote further, notwithftanding the Archer and Croffebow man will kill a C, or CC, pafes off, afwell as the Harquebufier: and fometime the harneffe, except it be the better, can not hold out: and the vttermoft the remedy is that they fhould be brought as neere before they do fhoote as poffibly they may, and if it were fo handled, there would be more flaine by their fhot, then by twice as many Harquebufiers, and this I will prooue by one Croffebow man that was in Thurin, when as the Lord Marfhall of Annibault was Gouernour there, who, as I haue vnderftood, in fiue or fixe fkirmifhes, did kill and hurt more of our enemyes, then fiue or fixe of the beft Harquebufiers did, during the whole time of the fiege.

(1589 Translation of his Instructions sur le faict de la Guerre extraictes des livres de Polybe, Frontin, Vegèce, Cornazan, Machiavelle (Paris: Michel Vascosan, 1548)

Spanning a Crossbow from the Belt

When a belt hook is used to span a crossbow, the power of the bow is limited by the strength of the bowman's leg. The biographer of Pero Niño, the 15th century Castilian knight, says that he "used to bend the strongest crossbows from the girdle".

While leg pressing twice your body weight is considered a  good performance for a man in reasonably good condition some gifted athletes can exceed twice that. Dan Kendra holds the leg press record at Florida State University at over five times his body weight.

Bending a crossbow from the belt uses only one leg, so about half the weight of a leg press. On the other hand, a leg press is horizontal, and spanning a crossbow is pushing downward, somewhat aided by gravity.

Being able to belt span crossbows that everyone else needed a windlass or cranequin for would have been a useful and impressive skill to have.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Combat at the Barriers, Paris, 1514

First six foins with hand spears, and after that eight strokes to the most advantage if the spears so long held, and after that twelve strokes with sword......

At this tornay the Dolphyn was hurt in the hande, so that he coulde not performe hys chalenge at the barriers and put one of his ayde in his rome, the nexte daye after began the fight at the barriers and because the Dolphin was not present, the duke of Suffolke and the lorde Marques Dorsett that daye began the feld, and toke the barriers with speres in hand abydyng all commers. The Dolphin brought a man secretly, which in all the court of Fraunce was the tallest and the strongest man, & he as an Almayne and put him in the place of another person to haue had ye doke of Suffolke rebuked. The same great Almnyne came to the barres fyersly with face hyd, because he would not be knowen, and bare his spere to the duke of Suffolke with all his strength, and the duke him receiued, and for all his strength put hym by strong strokes from the barriers, and with the but ende of the spere strake the Almaine that he staggared, but for al that the Almayne strake strongly and hardly at the duke, and the iudges suffered many mo strokes to be foughten then were appoincted, but when they saw the Almayne rele & staggar, then they let fall the rayle betwene them. The lorde Marques Dorsett at the same time, euen at the same barre fought with a gentleman of Fraunce that he lost his spere, and in maner with drewe: When the rayle was let fall, these two noble men put vp their vysers & toke ayer, &; then they tooke swerdes with poynet & edges abated, and came to the barriers, and ye Almayne foughte sore with the duke, which imagened that he was a person set on for the nonce but ye duke by pure strength tooke hym about the necke, and pomeled so aboute the hed that the blood yssued out of his nose, & then they were departed, and the Almayne was conueyed by the Dolphyn lest he should be knowen. These twoo noble men of Englande that daye fought valiantly diuerse feates, and the Frenchmen likewise nobly them defended but it happened the lord Marques one time to put for his aide his youngest brother called the Lorde Edward Grey of the age of. xix. yere, and to hym was put a gentleman of Fraunce of greate stature and strength to thentente to plucke hym ouer the barres, but yet the younge Lorde was of suche strength, powre and pollecy, that he so stroke his aduersarie that he disarmed hym, al the face bare.

Hall, Edward. 1965. Hall's chronicle containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods ; carefully collated with the ed. of 1548 and 1550. New York: AMS Press. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Deed of Arms by Claude de Salins at Vincelles: 1512

The Seventh Chapter: and it is prohibited for one to take another by the bagpipe hold, or otherwise. Or to pull another from the saddle, or take away their sword. But you are ordered that it will be a combat done and performed by sword against sword, and not otherwise.

Jehan de Byes vs Claude de Vaudray: Pas de la Dame Sauvage, 1470

During their mounted combat:
...and the battle was fought so close that they fought with swords and gauntlets. And know well that I saw him strike the entrepreneur many blows with the pommel of his sword.
La Marche, Olivier de, and Bernard Prost. 1872. Traites du duel judiciaire, relations de pas d'armes et tournois, publies par Bernard Prost. Paris: L. Willem.  p. 82

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Hedgehog's Not For Burning

Apparently hedgehogs like to crawl into unlit bonfires. Bear this in mind on Guy Fawkes Day. This message brought to you by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

I can't remember when I first heard the phrase, but this election finally made me look up who first wrote it. So that's one good thing coming out of the election

George Herbert, 1593-1633. Poet, priest, and a cheerful, saintly man. Izaak Walton wrote his biography. He also wrote:

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.
Woe be to him that reads but one book

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Latest from Planet Fox

Fox News seems to be broadcasting from their own alternate universe. It's impossible to blame this on the Liberal Mainstream Media, because not even the Wall Street Journal is backing up the Fox version of reality.
But according to multiple people on the ground that night, the Blue Mountain Security manager, who was in charge of the local force hired to guard the consulate perimeter, made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier.
And yet the Blue Mountain employees at the "consulate", actually a mission, say they were not informed.
Fox News was told there were not only armed drones that monitor Libyan chemical weapon sites in the area, but also F-18's, AC-130 aircraft and even helicopters that could have been dispatched in a timely fashion.
And yet the U.S. Air Force continues to believe that their fleet of AC-130s is still deployed at airfields in Florida and New Mexico, rather a long way from Libya.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Worthy of Pulitzer, But Not in a Good Way

On October 26th, Fox News' Jennifer Griffin published serious allegations by anonymous sources about the Benghazi attacks:
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11. 

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down." 

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. ….They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. …The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights… 

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from. 
In this interview, Jennifer Griffin added that the the CIA team left the annex to go to the consulate at 10:30, on foot.

I've  italicized the allegations unconfirmed by any other news organization and flatly denied in detail by the CIA and Pentagon.

The story isn't Watergate, it's the Maine.  Fox is following the model of the yellow press on the eve of the Spanish-American War, with sensationalist, inflammatory stories based on false rumors.