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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've read bits and pieces of this thread a number of times and I thought I might revive the thread with some new questions.

What do we make of the range of Byzantine and Turkic bows during the Crusades considering Anna Comnena's statement?

Quote:
This cross-bow is a bow of the barbarians quite unknown to the Greeks; and it is not stretched by the right hand pulling the string whilst the left pulls the bow in a contrary direction, but he who stretches this warlike and very far-shooting weapon must lie, one might say, almost on his back and apply both feet strongly against the semi-circle of the bow and with his two hands pull the string with all his might in the contrary direction. In the middle of the string is a socket, a cylindrical kind of cup fitted to the string itself, and about as long as an arrow of considerable size which reaches from the string to the very middle of the bow; and through this arrows of many sorts are shot out. [256] The arrows used with this bow are very short in length, but very thick, fitted in front with a very heavy iron tip. And in discharging them the string shoots them out with enormous violence and force, and whatever these darts chance to hit, they do not fall back, but they pierce through a shield, then cut through a heavy iron corselet and wing their way through and out at the other side. So violent and ineluctable is the discharge of arrows of this kind. Such an arrow has been known to pierce a bronze statue, and if it hits the wall of a very large town, the point of the arrow either protrudes on the inner side or it buries itself in the middle of the wall and is lost. Such then is this monster of a crossbow, and verily a devilish invention. And the wretched man who is struck by it, dies without feeling anything, not even feeling the blow, however strong it be.


Her other comments aside I am mostly struck by her calling it a very far shooting weapon. They were wooden crossbows and spanned by hand. I believe Tod reckoned a trained person could draw up to 300 lbs that way which others have reckoned is about as high as you can go with a reasonably sized wooden prod.

In a recent book Mike Loades mentions a test he conducted with a 300 lbs steel prod crossbow

Quote:
We wanted to compare the deceleration of a longbow arrow from a 150lb bow with that of a bolt from a steel-lathed 300lb crossbow, measured with Doppler radar (see Loades 2013: 66). The radar malfunctioned on the day and the results were not conclusive, but the following was observable. The longbow arrow, a heavy livery arrow, began to decelerate early in its flight but continued to fly for around 200 yards. By comparison the crossbow bolt lost very little initial velocity, having a higher-energy launch, but once it started to decelerate, after approximately 60 yards, it did so rapidly, losing any military effectiveness despite continuing to travel another 30 yards or so.


If this roughly 300 lbs wooden prod crossbow Anna saw had a military effective range of around 50 to 60 yards the bows the Byzantines and their enemies the Turks used must not have been able to effectively shoot much further and possible even less. Perhaps a bow shooting at a long range on a parabolic trajectory was not counted as effective shooting and only close range horizontal/point blank shooting was considered here, in which case the statement about the crossbows long point blank range might be true.

The 200 yards livery arrow shot is also worth remarking on. Christine de Pizan mentions English archers being able to hit a barge at 600 feet (which if they were akin to the later Royal Pied would be close to 212 yards) while a 16th century Englishman also mentions a livery bow and arrow managing 200 yards.

Dominic Mancini wrote in 1485 that the bows used by the English had a range of no less than our [Italian] arbelests, but this also makes me scratch my head. Were these crossbows he mentioned the belt and claw or belt and pulley spanned crossbows which show up in Italian art or much heavier cranequin or windlass crossbows? Besides would these be effective at 200 yards or was Mancini referring to close range point blank shooting?

The various accounts on the battle of Crecy in 1346 are also somewhat confused. Now I don't know if the crossbowmen present there had windlass crossbows or belt and pulley spanned ones but the latter seems likely to me. Froissart and another chronicle have the crossbowmen fire of the first shot/volley at the archers opposite them before the archers advanced a pace and shot back. Now Geoffroy le Baker mentions the quarrels of the Genoese falling short in this battle but at the battle of Poitiers he also has the crossbowmen firing the first volley. If these were belt and pulley spanned composite crossbows did they shoot at the English at around 200 yards or did they engage them at 50-80 yards?

The only somewhat contemporary account I know which is absolutely clear on this is that of Pero Nino who drew a very strong ballestas a cinto and also brought along many other strong crossbowmen who bend strong bows from the belt.



Clearly the archers who attacked the men equipped with belt spanned crossbows did so at a range where the crossbowmen could hit them, effectively enough for them to bring improvised shields, let down quite the arrow storm upon them but still waited for these crossbowmen to empty their quiver.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Trying to make sense of all this I can only really come up with three explanations

1: Mike Loades completely messed up his test, crossbows could be fired on a parabolic trajectory just as effective and just as far as arrows shot from bows

2: The Belt spanned crossbows used by Pero Nino and whatever bows used by the crossbowmen at Crecy and Poitiers were much more powerful than the bows used during the early part of the Crusades and had a much longer effective distance.

3: English archers could lob arrows up to 200 yards but chose to engage crossbow men at 50-70 yards distance anyways because that was were they were most effective.


The latter makes the most sense to me. Close to zero elevation, horizontal, point blank range shooting was the measure of effective range and crossbows, as attested or implied by Anna and Dominic nearly four centuries apart were better at that than most bows. Heavy warbows shooting clothyard shafts being a special case in that their heavy arrows could match crossbows when it came to point blank shooting.

I hope someone else will be able to give accounts that back up or discredit this suggestion.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 1:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I am mostly struck by her calling it a very far shooting weapon. They were wooden crossbows and spanned by hand.

Have another look at what she says.

"(The Frankish crossbow) is not stretched by the right hand pulling the string whilst the left pulls the bow in a contrary direction, but he who stretches this warlike and very far-shooting weapon must lie, one might say, almost on his back and apply both feet strongly against the semi-circle of the bow and with his two hands pull the string with all his might in the contrary direction"

So she is describing a bow spanned with both feet. You can shoot a hand bow like this, but it was more popular with crossbows. Crossbows designed to be spanned by sitting down and pushing with both feet are often "long powerstroke" types, so quite different than the later European ones many of us are familiar with.

Steel prods have the lowest effectiveness for a given draw weight of any common material. AFAIK its not an appropriate material for a bow with a draw of a few hundred pounds. So you can't assume that a wood or composite bow would perform as badly as a steel bow of the same weight, even aside from the possible difference in powerstroke.

If you are interested in what happened at Crécy, the sourcebook The Battle of Crécy: A Casebook by Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries is worth a read. It has English translations of every known story of the battle written in the 14th century.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 3:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
I am mostly struck by her calling it a very far shooting weapon. They were wooden crossbows and spanned by hand.

Have another look at what she says.

"(The Frankish crossbow) is not stretched by the right hand pulling the string whilst the left pulls the bow in a contrary direction, but he who stretches this warlike and very far-shooting weapon must lie, one might say, almost on his back and apply both feet strongly against the semi-circle of the bow and with his two hands pull the string with all his might in the contrary direction"

So she is describing a bow spanned with both feet. You can shoot a hand bow like this, but it was more popular with crossbows. Crossbows designed to be spanned by sitting down and pushing with both feet are often "long powerstroke" types, so quite different than the later European ones many of us are familiar with.

Steel prods have the lowest effectiveness for a given draw weight of any common material. AFAIK its not an appropriate material for a bow with a draw of a few hundred pounds. So you can't assume that a wood or composite bow would perform as badly as a steel bow of the same weight, even aside from the possible difference in powerstroke.

If you are interested in what happened at Crécy, the sourcebook The Battle of Crécy: A Casebook by Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries is worth a read. It has English translations of every known story of the battle written in the 14th century.


I know it was spanned with both feet but for lack of any mention of a belt I chose to call it hand spanned. It is the type of spanning which Tod reckoned could have a maximum pull of about 300 lbs. As for the power stroke is there anything to suggest these were at all different from later composite models? The few surviving wooden prods I have seen don't suggest that much. In fact Anna even mentions arrows used with this bow are very short in length, but very thick, fitted in front with a very heavy iron tip. which suggests these were the same heavy darts shot from short draw length crossbows of later era's.

I also haven't really seen much in the way of evidence to suggest steel prods were less effective than composite or wood. I've seen it stated often but without a contemporary accounts to back it up or a modern test. I did some back of the envelope calculations once with a 650 lbs steel prod crossbow Tod mentioned on here and some data from Mark Stretton's blog mentioning a 150 lbs longbow and I was surprised to find Tod's crossbow actually had a higher efficiency, one or two percent better if I recall correctly. Composite prods might have a lower density than steel but if you look at some museum examples you'll see very thick substantial composite prods where similar draw weight steel prods are much thinner and have an aggressive taper towards the tip.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I know it was spanned with both feet but for lack of any mention of a belt I chose to call it hand spanned. It is the type of spanning which Tod reckoned could have a maximum pull of about 300 lbs. As for the power stroke is there anything to suggest these were at all different from later composite models?

Crossbows spanned this way often had a much longer draw than the 20 cm or so of typical 15th/16th century Frankish crossbows. Arab and Chinese crossbows often had a powerstroke on the order of 80 cm. Among the Franks in the 12th and 13th centuries, there were what were called "two-foot" crossbows which often shot bolts twice as long and expensive as bolts for a "one-foot" crossbow. Frankish artists seem to only show the "one-foot" kind with a stirrup and a short powerstroke, but expense accounts and inventories and stories tell us that these were the cheapest of the three common Frankish types from 1150 to 1350. Earlier, we do not have the art or the inventories or the detailed literary sources.

Because W = Fd, doubling the draw (distance d) has similar benefits to doubling the draw weight (force F).

Pieter B. wrote:
I also haven't really seen much in the way of evidence to suggest steel prods were less effective than composite or wood. I've seen it stated often but without a contemporary accounts to back it up or a modern test.

Reference books like Robert Hardy's Longbow have the data.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
I know it was spanned with both feet but for lack of any mention of a belt I chose to call it hand spanned. It is the type of spanning which Tod reckoned could have a maximum pull of about 300 lbs. As for the power stroke is there anything to suggest these were at all different from later composite models?

Crossbows spanned this way often had a much longer draw than the 20 cm or so of typical 15th/16th century Frankish crossbows. Arab and Chinese crossbows often had a powerstroke on the order of 80 cm. Among the Franks in the 12th and 13th centuries, there were what were called "two-foot" crossbows which often shot bolts twice as long and expensive as bolts for a "one-foot" crossbow. Frankish artists seem to only show the "one-foot" kind with a stirrup and a short powerstroke, but expense accounts and inventories and stories tell us that these were the cheapest of the three common Frankish types from 1150 to 1350. Earlier, we do not have the art or the inventories or the detailed literary sources.

Pieter B. wrote:
I also haven't really seen much in the way of evidence to suggest steel prods were less effective than composite or wood. I've seen it stated often but without a contemporary accounts to back it up or a modern test.

Reference books like Robert Hardy's Longbow have the data.


I've seen Latin mentions of 'two foot' bolts before but how do we know about their length? I mean Anna claims to be unfamiliar with crossbows which would mean her frame of reference would be normal length arrows, for her to then claim the bolts fired from these crossbows were very short and thick would at least suggest she's saying they were shorter than commonly used arrows.

Now I know how sketchy it is to use medieval proportions in art but these two gents don't appear to be pulling/spanning their two foot bow beyond the kneecap. I would not the prods appear to be quite wide compared to some depictions I have seen of stirrup spanned crossbows but the overal draw length doesn't seem to be as excessive.






If you have Robert Hardy at hand please do provide some of the data if possible because I am eager to learn a bit more.


EDIT:

I noted you added the following to your answer

Quote:
Because W = Fd, doubling the draw (distance d) has similar benefits to doubling the draw weight (force F).


I think we might be talking alongside each other. What I was talking about was the efficiency of energy transfer from the spring to the projectile. The above is about the total amount of energy stored in a spring. In terms of how a spring transfers energy to a projectile distance and force are not equal.


Last edited by Pieter B. on Sun 03 Jan, 2021 4:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I've seen Latin mentions of 'two foot' bolts before but how do we know about their length? I mean Anna claims to be unfamiliar with crossbows which would mean her frame of reference would be normal length arrows, for her to then claim the bolts fired from these crossbows were very short and thick would at least suggest she's saying they were shorter than commonly used arrows.

Friends who do archival research have seen late medieval documents listing two sizes of bolts and then one-foot and two-foot crossbows, or a batch of bolts for one-foot crossbows costing x pence the hundred and then a batch of bolts for two-foot crossbows costing 2x pence per hundred. I don't have a copy of Hardy to hand and it would not be my responsibility to summarize the engineering data further (I am not an engineer or a physicist!) But the biggest points are that crossbows of different materials perform differently, and that crossbows with different designs perform differently, so you can't just use a copy of a steel crossbow from circa 1500 to model a wooden crossbow from 1100.

Edit: the meaning of the different types of crossbow in western European documents from 1150-1350 is not certain, but there is enough evidence that they were not just the same as German crossbows from 1400-1550 only weaker and with wood or horn bows but not steel. And that goes double for European crossbows in 1099 when all the kinds of evidence are even weaker.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 5:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could it be that we are looking merely at bolts for handheld crossbows and rampart/great crossbows? The latter certainly require much more substantial bolts easily twice the weight of others and hence could be quite a bit more expensive and required in lower numbers because there were fewer of them.

Mike Loades refers to one where a two foot crossbow was spanned with a windlass and there's a single reference to a three foot crossbow which I suppose the whole one or two foot thing is not necessarily related to the loading method but rather some measure of strength or prod width. At any rate do we know if people still spanned sitting down and drawing back with two feet in the 13th and 14th century?

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jan, 2021 10:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Could it be that we are looking merely at bolts for handheld crossbows and rampart/great crossbows? The latter certainly require much more substantial bolts easily twice the weight of others and hence could be quite a bit more expensive and required in lower numbers because there were fewer of them.

I am told that the different types of bolts for different types of small crossbow are separated from types for larger crossbows in the inventories and expense accounts.

Pieter B. wrote:
At any rate do we know if people still spanned sitting down and drawing back with two feet in the 13th and 14th century?

I am not an expert in high medieval crossbows. I think the stirrup crossbows start to show up in art at the end of the 12th century. The division of crossbows in England and France into three main categories "one foot" "two foot" and "turn" (plus springalds and great crossbows) runs from the first surviving documents around 1200 up to about 1350. Artists more or less only show what are probably the one-foot kind with a stirrup spanned from the belt. Probably, this is because they all look the same at 150 yard when the crossbowman pokes his head out of cover to shoot, and because of the strong aristocratic bias of high-medieval artwork. Many of the mechanisms for drawing a stronger crossbow than body strength can draw (screw presses, windlasses, giant levers) are first painted in the 15th or 16th century, so earlier we just have French and Latin names and don't know what was hidden behind them. Last time I looked into this, I walked away with "man, some of these questions can probably be answered, but not with the resources I can commit right now."

If I were an engineer or had the right books I could probably explain why steel prods are not as efficient at transferring stored energy to the projectile as most other materials. But first the energy has to be stored, and the formula for that is W = Fd. Doubling the draw force has a similar effect to doubling the draw distance.

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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jan, 2021 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is the closest I've found to a replica of the Berkhamsted Bow (it's ~8cm longer and 3mm thinner), and it provides what I think is the closest approximation of early crossbows. The results in that thread can be compared with these tests, which suggest a similar range with about 50lbs less draw weight and the possibility of a longer range. More importantly, the relatively long point blank range (~70m with a 50g bolt) and 240m+ range contradicts Loades' tests with steel prod bows and puts the range of the crossbow with both light and heavy bolts on par with 15th-16th century bows and light and heavy war arrows.

Whether the large wooden prod style of crossbow was still drawn with the feet or with a hook and belt after the 11th century is pretty much impossible to answer without finding a manuscript miniature or other artwork, but by the mid-13th century hooks seem to be the only method of spanning shown, if any method is shown at all. It's not impossible that the lack of a belt and hook means that some of the crossbows meant the audience would assume they were foot drawn, but even large wooden prod bows seem to have been drawn by the belt and hook method, so the artist might merely have though the detail was irrelevant and omitted it.

With regards to Crecy, the crossbows were almost certainly belt spanned. The interesting thing with the Geonese is that the earliest mention of the Genoese being outranged by the English is Geoffrey Baker. Prior to this the Genoese are said to have "demonstrated feats of arms" (Chronicle of the Este Family), been cut down by the disordered men-at-arms after they began to shoot (Chronicles of Artois and Saint-Omer), failed to make an impression on the English (the Rhyming Chronicle), had their efforts defeated by the protection offered by the wagenburg (Villani), were cruelly wounded (Pistoian History), were all killed in the first attack (Jean of Winterthur), were driven to flight because they lacked armour and shields (Gilles le Muisit), were put to flight by cannons (Grand Chronicles), were put to flight by an English counter-attack (William of Dene) and were "dealt many a bow" (Laurence Minot). Only then do we come to Baker's story, and the roughly contemporary Anonymous of Rome tells it yet another way, with the crossbowmen unable to draw their crossbows due to the thick mud making it impossible to get a firm foot in the stirrup (a more plausible version of the "rain made the crossbow strings too tight" story that started around this time).

Baker may well have had access to a now lost source - as well as oral histories - that described the English outranging the Genoese, but it's also possible (as Andrew Ayton has argued) that he wasn't overly well informed about the battle of Crecy (as opposed to the campaign) and was extrapolating the reduced range from the stories of Genoese having difficulties shooting following the rain storm. The Chronicle of Normandy is really the only other chronicle to specifically say the English outranged the Genoese without any qualification re: the effects of the rain, and Froissart in the B/C version of his Chronicles has the English simply walking forward a little - possibly to get into better range - and shooting the Genoese. I think it's more likely that the combination of the English field fortifications and the rain - whether because of the mud or damaged crossbow strings - impacted on the Genoese ability to return fire, rather than any inherent disadvantage in the range of the crossbow.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jan, 2021 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jonathan, that's a very nice crossbow they made.

I'd have to do some digging to find the paper on the original experiment by Mike Loades and find the parameters but my guess is that he never bothered to fire on a 40 degree angle. Furthermore I'd guess he attempted to shoot as heavy a bolt as possible and likely a shorter one than used with the wooden prod reconstruction. Beneficial when trying to actually wound someone but not so great for long distance shooting.

The tests by Bichler were nice to read too but do we have any idea what kind of impact the bolts could deliver at the upper end of the range? i.e. would a bolt fired 'a crossbows shot distance' actually translate to an effective attack? I know that in later times a musket shot distance was reckoned to be around 300 yards but most line infantry did not shoot before closing to half that distance.

I will report back tomorrow if I can find Mike Loades's paper.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jan, 2021 5:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bolts are way stiffer than arrows of the same weight., so they flex way, way less. Being 40% shorter makes huge difference.

Thus they don't waste as much energy "archer paradoxing", and have more stable flight.

On the other hand, they should generally be experiencing more drag.

They're also balanced differently.

With modern ballistics, I don't think differences in flight trajectories, though someone who knows what he's doing with math is required. Wink
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jan, 2021 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I always go back and forward on whether or not crossbows and bows were used at their maximum range with any frequency. The 16th century evidence is pretty clear for longbows, with multiple sources from the 1540s on attesting that long range shooting was an expected part of their usage, and even the most inveterate opponents allowed that this was so. Similarly, manuscript miniatures can be found of archers shooting against ground forces at an angle or shooting flat/downwards when the rear terrain wouldn't have allowed this (especially over some rivers), so I don't think the evidence against long range shooting being common is as secure as Loades makes out.

With that said, we also don't know how gunpowder changed the use of archers, and they may well have begun shooting at long range on the battlefield in imitation of some skirmishers armed with firearms. It's plausible that most archery and crossbow fire was done at ranges of a hundred yards or less prior to the 16th century, and we simply don't have the records that would let us see the change.

As to the long range performance, I really don't know. I don't think enough practical long range testing has been done with good replica crossbows, and unless someone can get a few of the great crossbow makers together and fund it, I'm not sure we're going to get reliable data.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jan, 2021 10:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, the original 2012 thread speculated that some crossbow strings could have been of rawhide or sinew. In the late 13th century, the crossbowmakers of Venice said that all strings shall be of hemp cord of a minimum quality or better. And if the Venetians had a rule, you can bet that the Genoese were at least as strict!

The problem with using art to say "only belt-spanned crossbows" is that from the 3rd Crusade onward, documents and accounts of sieges tell us that there were multiple spanning mechanisms and types of small crossbow in use. So we know the art only shows a fraction of what was in use. I would expect to have some marginalia showing the drop-on-your-bum-and-push-with-your-legs method if it were still common in the 14th century, but this research is still in early days.

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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2021 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I think we might be talking alongside each other. What I was talking about was the efficiency of energy transfer from the spring to the projectile. The above is about the total amount of energy stored in a spring. In terms of how a spring transfers energy to a projectile distance and force are not equal.


i think *usually* a longer power stroke tends to be more efficient at transferring energy. Draw weight already increases the farther back you draw a bow, so to achieve a high draw weight at a much shorter draw you typically need to make the limbs much stiffer and heavier, in addition to the fact that you're accelerating the projectile over a much shorter time period which means that all the materials involved essentially need to be able to react much quicker. This similarly the case with the ratio of bow length vs draw length, for a longer bow to have the same draw weight at a given draw length you typically need to make the limbs much stiffer and heavier, which is why sometimes english longbows tend to be better at shooting heavier arrows than lighter ones.

Also keep in mind that velocity, range, and efficiency are going to vary drastically depending on the projectile. If you were to shoot just a heavy iron bar out of any bow or crossbow then you could likely get close to a 100% efficiency of energy transferred, though it probably wouldn't go very far. For maximum range you essentially want to be shooting the lightest arrow possible while still having enough mass that it isn't slowed too rapidly by air resistance.

Regarding the aerodynamic shape of the bolt/arrow, I believe there's some sweet spot in between where if the arrow is too long relative to its thickness it will cause excess drag, and if the arrow is too short relative to its thickness it will cause excess drag. I'm not entirely sure where exactly crossbow bolts fall on the scale. Although Turkish flight archery for instance could sometimes involve a guide attached to the bow to let them shoot flight arrows that were slightly shorter than the bow's maximum draw. For that matter Turkish flight archery also sometimes involved the shooter laying on his back using his feet to draw the bow with either more force or even a longer distance.

Basically imo it was possible to make long-powerstroke crossbows this way with equal to or even better range and power than any handbow since you can draw more length and a greater weight with both arms instead of just one (though the resulting weapon might be somewhat large and awkward to actually shoot) and it's tempting to say that this may be what she is describing. However as far as i'm aware there's still a serious lack of evidence that this sort of crossbow ever really existed in significant numbers, all the artistic depictions tend to show much smaller, shorter-draw crossbows, and in later periods crossbows seem to have pretty much exclusively switched to very short draws even when drawn by hand or something like a belt hook.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2021 4:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
With that said, we also don't know how gunpowder changed the use of archers, and they may well have begun shooting at long range on the battlefield in imitation of some skirmishers armed with firearms. It's plausible that most archery and crossbow fire was done at ranges of a hundred yards or less prior to the 16th century, and we simply don't have the records that would let us see the change.


We know that various archers before then carried lighter and heavier arrows for long range and close range shooting and especially when dealing with unarmored but fast moving horses it would make all the more sense to try and hit them from as far away as possible.

However outside of areas with Turkic influence it seems to me like the general evolution was towards heavier and heavier projectiles suited mostly for short range shooting against hard targets. Think thick quarter pound arrows with fletching running down a third of the shafts length.

Personally I always got the impression that the long range shooting mentioned in some 16th century sources concerned cavalry. Especially since the ranges quoted for muskets of that period only seem credible if we assume they were shooting at such targets.

Quote:
i think *usually* a longer power stroke tends to be more efficient at transferring energy. Draw weight already increases the farther back you draw a bow, so to achieve a high draw weight at a much shorter draw you typically need to make the limbs much stiffer and heavier, in addition to the fact that you're accelerating the projectile over a much shorter time period which means that all the materials involved essentially need to be able to react much quicker. This similarly the case with the ratio of bow length vs draw length, for a longer bow to have the same draw weight at a given draw length you typically need to make the limbs much stiffer and heavier, which is why sometimes english longbows tend to be better at shooting heavier arrows than lighter ones.

Also keep in mind that velocity, range, and efficiency are going to vary drastically depending on the projectile. If you were to shoot just a heavy iron bar out of any bow or crossbow then you could likely get close to a 100% efficiency of energy transferred, though it probably wouldn't go very far. For maximum range you essentially want to be shooting the lightest arrow possible while still having enough mass that it isn't slowed too rapidly by air resistance.


It has to be made heavier indeed but we also see comparatively shorter prods and a lower draw length which, while potentially increasing the mass of the prods also reduced the amount of movement in them. You are right in that higher inertia projectiles are better able to absorb this energy from stiffer springs which I why the spring suspension on an 18 wheeler is significantly stiffer than that on a Volkswagen beetle. I think heavy weight projectiles were a goal of both warbow and crossbow design. It would explain how Tod was able to get so much more power out of a crossbow when he started shooting heavy.

Quote:
The last bow I made a steel of 850lb at 175mm/6.5". I fitted it with a draw length of 150mm/6" and so was drawing to 780lb.

I shot an adjustable bolt ranging from 80grams to 125grams (1 oz =28.4 grams) and tested the speeds using an F1 Chrony.

The 80 grams bolt shot at 49m/s = 161fps

using 1/2MV squared = 96J

What comes next I found very, very surprising.

When I raised the weight of the bolts, the velocity reduced as you would expect, but only very slightly, until I reached 125g and then it started to drop off very rapidly. At 125g the velocity had reduced to 48.5 m/s which is a reduction in velocity of 0.5m/s or 1.6fps.

Using a 125g bolts at 48.5m/s the energy has increased to 147J



As an aside to all this, how many crossbowmen actually got fielded during battle? I know Froissart's estimate of 15,000 Genoese crossbowmen runs counter to good sense and I believe Betrand Schnerb showed that in 1340 there were only 2000 crossbowmen in all of France, but do we know if the Italian city states could field many more?
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jan, 2021 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Personally I always got the impression that the long range shooting mentioned in some 16th century sources concerned cavalry. Especially since the ranges quoted for muskets of that period only seem credible if we assume they were shooting at such targets.


Not strictly on topic but I think many of these things are referring to bodies of troops, cavalry or otherwise. As I recall, some commentator on 16th century musketry stated that a musket had a good chance of hitting a target at 200 yds, provided he was shooting at something else. Shooting into a crowd in the hope of hitting someone near the aiming point is a reasonable tactic in these circumstances.

Anthony Clipsom
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2021 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
The problem with using art to say "only belt-spanned crossbows" is that from the 3rd Crusade onward, documents and accounts of sieges tell us that there were multiple spanning mechanisms and types of small crossbow in use. So we know the art only shows a fraction of what was in use. I would expect to have some marginalia showing the drop-on-your-bum-and-push-with-your-legs method if it were still common in the 14th century, but this research is still in early days.


I want to emphasize that I said it "seem to be" only belt-spanned crossbows, and then made a note that the artwork might not be reliable. With that said, when a particular method of spanning stays consistent for a couple of centuries across multiple genres of miniature (eg. hunting and warfare) and multiple style changes, I tend to think that it's likely to show a common method of spanning. I've also double checked Alm, and he does bring up Jean II's 1351 ordonnance, which required crossbowmen to have spanning belts, as well as a 1369 Florentine requirement for mercenary crossbowmen to have a belt and hook, paraphrased by Köhler. With that said, he also mentions a lot of 14th century evidence from Germany for a "back" crossbow, although he has no firm idea how it was actually spanned. I don't know if recent scholarship has changed that picture, however. It also seems that the Genoese were using spanning belts in 1343.

Pieter B. wrote:
However outside of areas with Turkic influence it seems to me like the general evolution was towards heavier and heavier projectiles suited mostly for short range shooting against hard targets. Think thick quarter pound arrows with fletching running down a third of the shafts length.


I have a slight disagreement here. We know from repeated 15th century laws against using aspen for anything other than arrows, from the Camber Castle arrowheads and from the Mary Rose arrows that most shafts were aspen, significantly lighter than ash or birch that you would need to make a quarter pound arrow without an absurdly heavy head, and the 1475 indenture reported by Wadge points to 7" fletchings being the most common (79.5%), in line with the Mary Rose arrows AFAIK, with 8" fletchings (17%) and 9" fletchings (3.5%) coming in a distant second. It seems likely that the focus was mostly on light shafts, rather than quarter pound arrows.

This still doesn't quite answer the question, though, as the more common, lighter arrows, might have only been used on a relatively flat trajectory over 100m or so, with the heavier arrows used for the last 25-30m or so if needed. As always, there's a lot we can only guess about.

Quote:
Personally I always got the impression that the long range shooting mentioned in some 16th century sources concerned cavalry. Especially since the ranges quoted for muskets of that period only seem credible if we assume they were shooting at such targets.


My reading of Fourquervaux and Rich paint infantry as prime targets as much as cavalry:

Amongst other weapons least accustomed, are the Bowe and the Crosse∣bowe, which are two weapons that may do very good seruice against vnarmed men, or those that are ill armed, specially in wet weather, when the Harquebusier loseth his season. And were it so that the archers and crossebow men could carry a∣bout them their prouision for their bowes and crossebowes, as easily as ye Harquebusiers may do theirs for their Harquebusse: I would commend them before the Harquebusse, as well for their readinesse in shooting, which is mutch more quicker, as also for the surenesse of their shot, which is almost neuer in vayne. And although the Harquebusier may shoote further, notwith∣standing the Archer and Crossebow man will kill a C. or CC. pases off, aswell as the best Harquebusier: and sometime the harnesse, except it be the better, can not hold out: at the vtter∣most the remedy is that they should be brought as neere before they do shoote as possibly they may, and if it were so handled, there would be more slaine by their shot, then by twice as many Harquebusiers, and this I will prooue by one Crossebow man that was in Thurin, when as the Lord Marshall of Annibault was Gouernour there, who, as I haue vnderstood, in fiue or sixe skirmishes, did kill and hurt more of our enemyes, then fiue or sixe of the best Harquebusiers did, during the whole time of the siege. I haue heard say of one other only that was in the army that the King had vnder the charge of Mounsieur de Lautrec, who slewe in the battaile of Bycorque a Spanish Captaine called Iohn of Cardone, in the lifting vp of his helmet. I haue spoken of these two specially, because that being employed a∣mongst great store of Harquebusiers, they made themselues to be so knowne, that they deserued to be spoken of: what would a great number of sutch do?

(Fourquervaux, Instructions)

But to shew thée what farther aduantage the shot hath of the Archer thou shalt vnder∣stand that where the Archer may shoot both wide short and gone, the other may shoott but wyde onely. But because thou mayst the better perceayue my meanynge thou must consider that when the Archer shoot∣eth any distance of grounde, the Arrowe commeth compasse of a great height, so that when it commeth where it should indanger, which is, with in the compasse of mans height it falleth presētly to ye ground and hath but as it were one lightyng place and paraduenture may come directly ouer one mans head and fall right at an other mans feet which standeth but .iii, yeardes behind, where if it had falne but one foote shorter, it had indaungered the firste so yf it had gone but one or two foote farther it had hazarded the last.

Thus as I haue saide the Archer though he shoote right yet he may shoote both ouer and vnder, where the other can shoote but wide onely, considering that the shot is styll carried away within the compasse of mans height, whiche aduantage to such as hath reason to decerne it arighte shall perceyue, that one shotte from the Musquet or Caly∣uer, is of greater possibilytie to indaunger then fiue that shall come from the beste Ar∣cher that is brought into the Feelde.


(Rich, Dialogue)

Quote:
As an aside to all this, how many crossbowmen actually got fielded during battle? I know Froissart's estimate of 15,000 Genoese crossbowmen runs counter to good sense and I believe Betrand Schnerb showed that in 1340 there were only 2000 crossbowmen in all of France, but do we know if the Italian city states could field many more?


Schnerb is referencing Contamine, and I wonder if there hasn't been a printing error in the numbers, as Contamine both provides a total of 2000 crossbowmen and claims that "a good quarter" of the 16 700 infantry were crossbowmen. It's possible that we should read "2000" instead of "200" crossbowmen as being present with the Royal army in Flanders.

One interesting little tidbit is that the Chronique de Normande - thought to be written by a lesser noble who spent the first part of his career in the general vicinity of Normandy, including in 1346, mentions only 2000 Genoese crossbowmen going forward, which a few later 14th century chronicles from the Low Countries echoed. We know Grimaldi commanded 32 galleys in 1346, which means approximately 800 dedicated crossbowmen out of ~6700 crew, another 50 crossbowmen can be found in Abbeville, and Doria had at least 6 galleys (150 dedicated crossbowmen, 1260 crew total). That brings us up to about a thousand crossbowmen we can put at Crecy with some degree of reliability. It's not inherently improbable, given how many ships he had previously been able to raise in comparison with Grimaldi, that Doria could have had a total of 30 ships or more, which could get us close to the 2000 mark, assuming some of the non-dedicated crossbowmen carried some or more urban militias supplied crossbowmen.

These are fairly large numbers overall. Even if we assume Genoa and its surrounding countryside had a total population of 400 000 (estimates for Genoa itself top out at about 100 000, and assuming Beloch is equally wrong about rural population density that gives us more or less 400 000 people), about 8% of Genoa's total population was in France in 1346, assuming only 38 galleys. If we assume 62 galleys, that rises to 13%. Not all of these men are actually going to be from Genoa, some are going to be from other parts of Italy and the Mediterranean, having signed on as crew over the years, but it gives us a rough ballpark figure for populations.

Missile troops (first crossbowmen and archers, then crossbowmen alone) seem to have made up about 10% of Florentine field armies from the mid-13th to the early 14th century, and a similar pattern can be seen in the Low Countries and elsewhere in Italy, so a theoretical pool of 10-13 000 crossbowmen should exist. 2000 would be a large proportion of this (15-20%), so it seems unlikely there could have been 4000 employed in France, let alone 6000. If 2000+ French crossbowmen were raised and placed under their command, however, you might approach the numbers some chroniclers relate.

An alternative theory, though, is that Genoese infantry went forward as well as the crossbowmen, which again might double the perceived numbers of Genoese crossbowmen. There are also a few accounts which mention communal militias being set forward with the Genoese, and this would increase the perceived number as well.

Overall, I think that 1000-2000 Genoese crossbowmen could reasonably have participated in the Battle of Crecy, and it seems likely that similar numbers of French archers and crossbowmen participated (although perhaps minus the 500 sent to guard the Blanchetaque), along with undetermined numbers of Genoese sailors and French infantry.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2021 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the very extensive answer, it had certainly given me some more things to ponder!

Those mobilization percentages seem awfully high though. Prussia, Sweden and the Dutch Republic managed around 7% between having very high taxes, war loans, mercenaries and forms of conscription. Using Villani's population figure for Florence and the size of the militia the city of Florence proper also managed to raise around 6 to 7 per cent but that meant having almost the entire arms bearing population march out and they could only do that for a short while within a very close radius to Florence itself. The numbers drawn from the Florentine countryside were inevitably lower and after a devastating loss it was decreed only a part of the urban militia could be send out at once.

The few medieval extrapolated demographic pyramids and early modern ones I have seen all suggest adult males made up roughly 25-30 per cent of the total population. Take away the priests, paupers, elderly and I can see how 6 or 7 per cent, a quarter of the adult male population, might be the best you can get. Of course this would be different for otherwise unarmed rowers who could be paupers but I am not sure if we should expect huge numbers of specialist crossbowmen to appear outside of the urban city limits of Genoa. If the military population of Genoa and countryside is around that mark (28,000) and one in ten carried a crossbow we arrive at scarcely 3000. We are using 19th century population estimated though so maybe we should allow for some leeway. Another thing I wonder is whether or not the rowers could be fielded as infantry, if they were truly poor I cannot imagine them showing up with much in the way of weaponry but I do know some later crews had rowers equipped with jacks and polearms or sword and shield.

Having 8 to 13 per cent of the Genoese population active in France would surely be a herculean effort and a major economic, security and demographic risk. Not without precedent or rather antecedent though, Hesse also had an army of around 5 to 6 per cent of its population and rented it out to Protestant nations.

The galley crews and crossbowmen numbering altogether 8000 drawn from a total population of 400,000 would still represent a level of mobilization for a long distance campaign rarely seen in Europe.

I am curious if you have seen demographic estimates and mobilization percentages that differ wildly from the above.
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2021 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Using the estimates population of Florence in 1252 and 1280 calculated by W.R. Day Jr. in his thesis, Florence might have had a total population of 70 000 in 1260, and mustered somewhere in the order of 8000 men for Montaperti, assuming David Waley's extrapolation of the records is correct, putting over 11% of the total urban population in the field. Villani claims 25 000 citizens capable of bearing arms in 1338, and modern estimates put the total population around 120 000, so roughly 20% of the total inhabitants could be called on for military service. In the countryside, the proportion seems to have been a little higher, based on an early 15th century Pistoiese chronicler cited by Day, who assumes that the population of the countryside was four times that of the number of men eligible for military service.

Based on this, I think my estimates of available military manpower in Genoa are in the right ballpark, although we are using slightly different population metrics (I'm talking about percentage of total military manpower, while you're talking about percentage of overall population). The actually percentage of overall population is significantly lower, about 2%, although if the split between urban and rural is the same as in the records for Montaperti then we're looking at around 4% of the urban population being involved vs 1.33% of the rural population.

But, to be clear, a proportion of these won't be Genoese, so it's not entirely reflective of the demographic impact. Some of the galleys might not have even been Genoese, but are just labelled as such because a Genoese contracted them. At any rate, we know for certain that 37 galleys were in French service in 1337-8, so there could be quite a large number of men serving away from home.

With regards to the rowers, Grimaldi's 1338 contract specifies that the "180 armigeri are to be “well armored” with cuirasses of plates (coirassis sive platis), helmets (cervelleriis), and mail gorgets (collarites de ferro), pavises, swords, and daggers (spatis et cultellis)" (quoted from Livingston and DeVries). Doria's earlier contract only specifies plate bascinets, gorgets and shields for the crew, so whether the CoPs were assumed or Grimaldi's contract was overly optimistic is hard to tell. There does seem to be some good evidence for the rowers being fairly well equipped, at any rate.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 10 Jan, 2021 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Montaperti debacle was what I was referring to when I mentioned the devastating loss. I then worked with the figures suggested for Campeldino and a population of around 80.000-100.000 but I hadn't considered the population of 1260 would be lower leading to a higher mobilization percentage around 1260.

I skimmed Day's thesis and his figures seem on point although I cannot help but think Villani's estimate of 25.000 to 30.000 arms bearing citizens is accounting close to the entire adult male population.

My reason for taking mobilization relative to the entire population is chiefly that it is how such figures are usually given in literature but I think it also accounts for the important fact that even when hired hands are involved the cost of them still has to be borne by the population.

Is there actually any known battle or campaign that involved more than circa 1500-2000 crossbowmen from the period?
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