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Tyler Li





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PostPosted: Sun 10 May, 2009 4:05 pm    Post subject: Demise of the French crossbowman         Reply with quote

When do you guys think the French dropped the crossbow? They almost certainly had it at the battle of Bicocca, but at Pavia, the French almost entirely dropped the crossbow. What caused the French to so suddenly drop the crossbow?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 10 May, 2009 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler,

What you may be looking at it different situations that are not directly linked to the dropping of crossbows. I would need to double check but there are likely crossbows at Pavia. It could have been any number of things that influenced the difference; recruitment, leaders, etc. Something to keep in mind is also the sources employed. Seems like with especially the Swiss and German events of the second half of the fifteenth people use documents of 50-100 years later without considering how much had changed in their equipment which is an issue. So my thoughts are to take a look at what primary sources are around to look at time frame they were written, by whom-were they first hand, second or further from the event, etc.

It may be that within a short time the change was more or less done. It can also be limitations on sources employed as well. The sixteenth century is not my focus though but from what I have seen of the second half of the fifteenth I think the crossbow should be reevaluated as it seems to have maintained itself very firmly, some scholars using one account or document to discount them.

Good luck and hope that helps!

RPM
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I recall, the French used Geonese mercenaries exclusively for their crossbow support. Large numbers of these had been killed at Poitiers and Crecey, so perhaps there was some apprehension later on to sell one's self to the French? At Crecey, most of the Geonese casualties came from the French themselves.

Additionally, Crossbows are powerful but expensive and sensitive to the weather more than selfbows. I've heard there were cultural stigma's regarding the arming of French peasantry with the weapon, further hampering French attempts to field the device.

All it all, it was probably a mixture of cost and availability.

M.

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 1:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Biccoca was in 1522, Pavia in 1525 so what had happend in 1346 & 1356 had no impact on the French armies of that time. Considerign that the French were happily arming select members of the "lower classes" with pikes, polearms, longbows, crossbows and firearms in the 15th Century i doubt they had any lingering reluctance to arm their professional soldiers of the 16th C with the same arms.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First of all we don't know that the French had dropped the crossbow by the battle of Pavia, the surviving records are not detialed enough to allow for that conclusion. However it is clear that following the poor perfomance of French crossbowmen against arquebusiers in 1521-1524 the French had begun to abandon the crossbow at an increasing pace. But the limited evidence suggest mixed companies of arquebus and crossbow in this period rather pure arquebus units. Of course the native French troops only supplied part of the missile troops of the French army. The French also hired numerous Italian mercenaries who had adopted the use of the arquebus more rapidly in this period.
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Helge B.





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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Payne-Gallwey mentioned in his book about the crossbow that Francis I. had a bodyguard of 200 mounted crossbowmen at the Battle of Marignano in 1515.

I do not know the original source of his statement though.
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Tyler Li





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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Randall and Daniel. That info. does help. As for Helge, crossbowmen were used in large numbers before the 1520 by the french. For example, The French infantry at Marignano included 6000 crossbowmen. Also, I believe that crossbows were used by cavalry long after the arquebus has replaced the crossbow as the primary missile infantry weapon, because crossbows were much easier to shoot on horseback than arquebuses.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 11 May, 2009 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could the slow fall in the price of gunpowder have something to do with it? As gunpowder production increased, it became practical to arm more men with firearms.

Bert S. Hall's book on the adoption of gunpowder weapons might have something on this topic.
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Tyler Li





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PostPosted: Tue 12 May, 2009 1:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

maybe... But I think the French troops saw the Italians win major victories at Bicocca and Sesia with arquebuses, so the French troops wanted to adopt it themselves.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
From what I recall, the French used Geonese mercenaries exclusively for their crossbow support. Large numbers of these had been killed at Poitiers and Crecey, so perhaps there was some apprehension later on to sell one's self to the French? At Crecey, most of the Geonese casualties came from the French themselves.


Hmm...hasn't there been a mention on another thread that the Genoese weren't really all "Genoese" as such, and that many of them were native subjects of the French crown from northwestern Italy and southeastern France? Also, I doubt that the casualties among the Genoese were so heavy as to take them out of the market, since they still appeared in French service later on.

Moreover, a lot of French crossbowmen were Gascons, who later also provided the French with some of their best arquebusiers and musketeers.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 7:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler Li wrote:
Also, I believe that crossbows were used by cavalry long after the arquebus has replaced the crossbow as the primary missile infantry weapon, because crossbows were much easier to shoot on horseback than arquebuses.


It's not quite that simple; large numbers of mounted handgunners were already present in the 1450s, and it appears that their roles were (at least initially) seen as identical with mounted crossbowmen since the two were usually brigaded together. The inconvenience of using a handgun on horseback might not have mattered all that much since firing once and then charging without reloading seems to have been a more common mode of tactical operation than sustained skirmishing in the manner of horse archers.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler Li wrote:
maybe... But I think the French troops saw the Italians win major victories at Bicocca and Sesia with arquebuses, so the French troops wanted to adopt it themselves.


Bicocca and Sesia are probably too late to explain the French adoption of arquebuses. The Swiss--whom the French hired in large numbers--were already making extensive use of primitive arquebuses in the closing decades of the 15th century, and weren't there arquebusiers on both sides at Fornovo?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette,

Any evidence for mounted handgunners in large numbers pre1500 is news to me. I'd love to hear it and take a look at it though. For sure the swiss were using handguns late 15th... not sure if I'd use extensive but they were clearly employed as a missile weapon over a wide area in respectable numbers. Large numbers of gunners in the 1450s is also a bit relative. I think having a group in the 100s at this date would be by far less usual unless merging a fair number of companies together. In the 1440s-1450s most german towns are sending of hundreds of men maybe 10 or 15 compared to 60-80s crossbowmen. The issue here is slow transition over time happens different in places. You do not see this happening in mid century France. Even late 15th France is still very much using the crossbow. Really what needs be done is research in arrays, musters, indentures and garrison reviews in these countries and see what people are showing up with over time.

The main issue regarding transition from mounted crossbowman to mnt. gunner to me is this. The mounted crossbowman appears at the latest in the 13th. They show up very common in the pay records of both English and French royalty in the mid to late 13th. Richard I may have had some mounted crossbowmen as well but there is some question about the term used and its possible meaning, perhaps being mounted archer. I have not gotten to looking at the original to say. one way or the other.

RPM
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 8:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The one that I can remember out of hand is Philipp von Seldeneck's manual, but there were clearly a number of earlier references. Let me poke around for them.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sat 16 May, 2009 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As I understand the original question it was about the transition from crossbow to arquebus among the native French troops? The French employed foreign units armed with arquebus from the start of the Italian wars but the native troops retained the use of longbow and crossbow well into the wars.

And for the French native troops the poor performance of the crossbow in the early 1520's probably played a part in the change of weapons
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 1:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm. Camillo Vitelli used some 400 mounted handgunners during his campaign in Puglia in April 1496. Wasn't expecting an Italian reference, since I thought I'd be better off looking at German sources, but well...

And I'm still looking for even earlier references because I'm pretty sure there are some.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Need input please... Where is this reference from and what date?

Something I noticed as I was digging throught primary sources on firearms in general is that many secondary sources keep pushing very early dates and numbers from primary sources decades, usually 50 years plus after the event.... a fairly dubious practice in a time of so much change. I'd not think 400 would be too far out of the realm of possibility but nonetheless would like to double check the reference. If it is the same camillo as I am thinking a great part of his career was in the 16th as well which could be an issue.

As far as German verse Italian examples. Not sure of that either. Seems a great deal of national pride got infused in research a few generations past with firearms so I think Germans have been also pushed earlier in use of firearms weapons than perhaps is accurate. Of course it has happened with various cultures and weapons but firearms seems especially so.


Do not worry too much about it. If it happened it would have been fairly small numbers and likely limited use if you think of the types of firearsm in use in the 2nd half of the 15th.

RPM
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Delbruck says the Camillo Vitelli reference is from Jovius's (Paolo Giovio's) Elogia virorum bellica virtuti illustrum. I'm still hunting the actual source to find out what it says, of course. Another line of inquiry I'm taking is about the ubiquitous "shooters" in that messed-up affair at Pillenreuth.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2009 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah I had wondered if that were it. Since Paolo was only 6 or 7 at the time and wrote that work in the 1540s I'd say it might fit into what I was talking about of accounts written 50 or so years after the account. Someday I'd like to do a general relooking at firearm sources but Bert Hall has already done so much that I think it can wait some...

It is an interesting history if you can get ahold of it though. I have only seen snippets from it really.

RPM
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