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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 5:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Firearms had one advantage they could pierce the best armor:..


Minor quibble... It depended on the armor. There were many plate cuirasses that were tested to make sure they would stop a musket. That said, you are still right that firearms brought about the end of heavy armor. Even if your armor saved your life from the shot, the force was probably enough to knock you over, and if the enemy had already closed in when you were struck, that's a bad position to be in. Eventually the protective qualities of armor did not outweigh the practicality.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 7:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David,

I agree as long as armor is worn musket balls would penetrate armor more reliably. Initially the use of muskets gradualy makes archery obselete because it CAN do a better job against armor, once the bow is abandoned the armor seems doubly useless. This would be the ideal time to bring it back but at this time the skills have been lost and in the minds of the time it would seem like going back to an inneffective weapon. It would have also forced the return of armor cancelling the advantage of a return to archery.(Better to spend on huge musket armies than buy lots of expensive armor that will only be defeated again by the musket balls.)
I would conclude that this very circular relationship between armor, archery, musketery creates an unstable situation where musketery becomes dominant at the expense of both armor and archery.

I think there was another discussion about plate armor versus arrows that discussed about how protective was plate armor. Even if you could fire 5 times as many arrows as musket balls , if only 20% pierced the armor, the advantage would sort of be cancelled out. This sort of explains why one would bother with the weight, heat and cost of armor as long as arrows are used. (Without armor 100% of the arrows, on target, would produce casualties!)

Again in my example the 18th century troops have no protection from arrows: Arrows become even more deadly when the best counter measures have being abandonned.(For a single isolated battle there would be complete surprise and no time for countermeasures.)

How about the Zulus against the british in the 19th century: In this case spears instead of arrows, but again no armor worn by the british. ( In other words primitives weapons can be effective when the best protection from them has been abandoned!)

I hope this above is not too confusing or contradictory: I'm sort of thinking this out as I write it, I welcome any reasonned support or objections. (I'm enjoying this I hope others are also.)

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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2004 10:38 pm    Post subject: Muskets over Bows         Reply with quote

Sir Roger Williams and Humphrey Barwick tackled this question in the 1590's... and their answers were pretty definitive. The major problems with the Long Bow were that A.) the Archer needed to be trained for years to have the eye and muscles to actually hit his target at long range, and the art by that period was much decayed; B.) the Archer had to retain his health on campaign in order to "Shoot strong shoots"; C.) the Archer had to "discover himself", or expose his body in order to shoot from a trench, and D.) the logistical problems as noted above. Furthermore, a well armoured Man-at-Arms on a barded horse had virtually nothing to worry about from a longbowman, and there are records of Continental Men-at-Arms laughing at the longbow as an ineffectual toy. Nasty as heck against unarmoured opponents and horses, mind you, but not at all effective against the armour of 1500.

Arquebuses, and later Muskets, were simple to train men to use, would shoot as powerfully with an unhealthy soldier using it as a healthy one, could be fired from cover, and were easier (at least by the 1590's) to keep supplied in the campaigns in the Low Countries than longbows. And finally, the arquebus would penetrate light armour easily, and the Musket would penetrate all but the very finest armour, of which not more than one in 20 men was armed with. Sir John Smith wrote treatises defending the bow, but was effectively shouted down.

One thing to point out is that the 16th Century arquebus and musket was not nearly as inaccurate as the 18th Century variety. By the 18th Century, speed was paramount in their tactics, so ease of loading with paper cartridges was necessary, and a very loose-fitting ball was needed. Earlier however, accuracy and power were the primary motivators, so a much tighter fitting, and therefore more accurate ball was utilized. There are plenty of references to the accuracy of such weapons at well over 200 yards, and English "shot" were to practice by shooting at a 4X4" post at that range. Hardly something that was assumed to be shot at by inaccurate weapons. Sadly our ideas of smooth-bores have been coloured by the disparaging writers of the early 19th Century, not the views of the 16th Century.

The same argument was also going on over the differences between the Lance and (wheellock) Pistol (interestingly enough, Sir Roger Williams backed the lance, rather than the pistol), but such soldier-commentators as Blaise de Montluc, Tavannes and Francios de la Noue scoffed at the idea that lances were even worth the effort of carrying. La Noue even stated that it would have been a miracle if anyone were killed by a lance in the French Wars of Religion were he wearing decent armour. Pistols, on the other hand, were serious killers, and time after time the Huguenot cuirassiers, armed with pistols and full or 3/4 armour, would ride right through the Catholic lancers and destroy them. Both the Lance and the Pistol are one-shot weapons (the lance only being useful at speed), but you CAN reload the pistol at least! Once the lance is broken or dropped, it's useless. And of course, although a lance could NOT reliably pierce armour, the pistols could.

At any rate, the late 16th Century was the doom of the older weapons. What is ironic is that their very efficiency in displacing armour led to the resurgence of the use of armes blanche in the 18th Century... with no armour, swords, bayonets (as substitute pikes) and lances could once again dominate the battlefield. If anyone tried to re-introduce armour, the opponents would simply pull out their pistols or up the powder charge in their muskets to counter them, and back to square one. But why not re-introduce the Bow? I think it was simply that by the time the weapons would have been effective, there weren't enough men available who knew how to use them, or actually COULD use them, to make it worth while.

Interesting food for thought posted here, and many excellent answers to the questions.

Gordon Frye

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Allen W





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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon ,I think your overall reasoning is correct except when comparing the armour piercing capabilities of bow and wheelock(though you didn't compare these directly). Black powder is a low pressure propellent making it difficult to increase velocity by just adding more powder. You usually have to increase bore diameter to increase power until the advent of smokeless powder. This is best seen in the drop from eight gauge black powder elephant guns(roughly .80 cal.) to .450,.470 and .500 Nitro Express rifles for the same job. Also consider the transitions from .45-70 to .30-40 Krag or .450 Martini Henry to .303. I bring this up because all of the wheel locks that I have been able to see from the bore were between .40 and .45 cal., be they pistol or carbine. With a round ball these would be far less powerful than most modern medium bore handguns and were probably the weapons used to proof armour (these would be useless against arquebus and musket balls ranging from .80 cal. to 1-1/4" bores). I believe bodkins from long bows and certainly crossbow bolts would outpenetrate the wheellocks.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

Its always good to learn something new! Never heard before that 16th century muskets were more accurate than the 18th century versions. ( At least using loose fitting balls, it would also depend also on how much care was taken to have a geometrically good quality barrel.)( The Japanese musketry was probably as accurate as they copied European16th century originals and the level of Japanese craftmanship was always very high.)

I would assume that the accuracy of the 16th century muskets would be similar to what one expect from a modern 12 ga. using slugs.

A 200 yard range with good penetration against plate armor makes the long bow seem even less attractive for a 16th contexts.

Allen;

I think the proper comparison is between the power of .80 to 1" bore matchlock musket and the penetration capabilities of the long bow.
The wheel lock pistol would obviously be much less powerfull and would be used mostly by cavalry and maybe as a secondary weapon by officers.

I am in no way an expert with black powder weapons , but I think you can increase velocity by increasing the powder charge and using a longer barrel, at least to a moderate degree.
If you want a major increase in power I agree that an increase of caliber is the way to go.

Using the same .45 caliber, a petronel carbine with a 24" barrel should be able to display a higher velocity than a horse pistol with a 14" barrel. ( Using a larger powder charge.)
If you used the carbine charge in the shorter pistol barrel you would get only a small increase of velocity at a wastlull cost of powder. ( Please correct me if I am wrong.)

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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Using the same .45 caliber, a petronel carbine with a 24" barrel should be able to display a higher velocity than a horse pistol with a 14" barrel. ( Using a larger powder charge.)
If you used the carbine charge in the shorter pistol barrel you would get only a small increase of velocity at a wastlull cost of powder. ( Please correct me if I am wrong.)


It's not necessarily the barrel length or the powder charge, but the fit of the patched bullet, that determines how fast the shot is going at the muzzle. A tightly fitting lead bullet of .44 caliber can easily be propelled at speeds that will penetrate armor plate without the need for a rifle-length barrel. Even early Colt revolvers can fire a round lead ball well over 1,000 feet per second at the muzzle without compressing their powder charges. They are not muzzle loaders, and so can use bullets that are closer to bore diameter than a musket, which must allow some additional play to permit reloading after the bore is fouled. A muzzle loader must use undersized bullets with cloth patches, if the shooter is expecting to reload more than once or twice before being required to clean the bore thoroughly. Without a patch you would see significant lead fouling at high speeds, which is probably a bigger problem than powder fouling. So it's a tradeoff between muzzle velocity and the ability to fire repeatedly, all the way up until the invention of the jacketed bullet.
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 8:44 am    Post subject: Velocity vs. Calibre         Reply with quote

Allen; good points. The one thing I would mention though is that wheellock pistols started out at a fairly large calibre, say about .50-.60", with rather short barrels (around 10"). The best example would be the German ball-butted "Puffer"style pistols. However, buy the late 16th Century, the French at least, and the Dutch as well to some degree, had moved on to smaller calibred weapons (.35-.50") with MUCH longer barrels: up to 20" (English regulations for weapons in the 1630's stated that pistols would be .provided an 18" barrel) Most of the wheellock "Harquebuses" or carbines that I have seen are of somewhat larger bore though... usually around 20-gauge (.62") (although this is something to consider: a "Harquebus" was of about 20-bore, while a "Carabine" was of smaller bore, therefore your contention is indeed correct in that context), while of course full Muskets were of 11-bore (.75") with a 48" barrel. Obviously a Musket will have greater penetration than the Harquebus, which will have greater penetration than the pistol. But I believe that it was for significantly higher velocities, and hence greater penetration, that the pistols gained their smaller bores and longer barrels.

I appreciate your point about late-19th Century weapons, and the changeover from large-bore black-powder weapons to the small-bore, high-velocity smokeless powder weapons of the 20th Century. But the trend towards smaller bores and higher velocities was throughout the 19th Century. With the introduction of the Rifle-Musket, calibres were reduced from the standard .69-.75" (Franco-American and British standards) to the .577-.58" of the Crimean War and American Civil War. With the introduction of self-contained cartridges, calibres were reduced even more: the British going over to the .577/.450 and the US adopting the .45-70, while Europeans adopted various 11mm's. Contiuing the trend, Mauser introduced a black powder .40" calibre bolt-action magazine rifle, and in order to counter the French adoption of the smokeless powder 8mm Lebel of 1886, the British adopted the .303 using black powder, in their Lee bolt-actions with Medford rifling. It wasn't for a number of years that the British Army was able to develop the technology to manufacture smokeless powder, but they were able to compete with Continental powers via their use of compressed black powder. So as calibre went down, velocity went up, without a significant increase in barrel length. In fact, it decreased.

Anyway, sorry about the mass of info here... I guess I feel the need to defend my thesis! But I do believe that it was the wheellock Pistol that defeated the Lance, but it was also most certain that it was the Musket that defeated the Bow.

Cheers, and great discussion!

Gordon

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Allen W





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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My information on wheelock bore diameters comes from those I have seen in the Landeszeughaus Graz, the Kunsthistorisches Vien, Schloss Ambras and others in Austria. I have seen no larger bores on wheelocks (though they may have existed). From this I assumed that the smaller bores were due to relative fragility and weight of the actions. I agree that the wheelock ousted the lance but I do not believe it was an issue of armour penetration at least among the cavalry. The relation of Arquebuses and muskets relative to bows is largely an issue of penetration.
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The invention of the Minie ball projectile allowed the big muskets of the Napoleonic wars to be replaced with smaller caliber rifled muzzle loaders. The Minie solved the problem of undersized bullets by giving the projectile a hollow base and resulting skirt that expanded on firing to fill the bore. So the soldier could easily ram the Minie bullet home, yet the pressure was kept high by the expansion of the slug after firing. Round lead balls used in smoothbore muskets were kept considerably larger and heavier because they traveled at lower speeds, due to their undersizing compared to the bore to maintain ease of loading.
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2004 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allen;

If I understood your previous post: You assumed that the fragility of the lock mechanism was a reason to keep the calibre small, so as to minimize pressure on the firing mecanism!

The size of the action is a factor in a breechloading mecanism because it is subject to the pressures of ignition of the propelant.
In the case of matchlocks, flintlocks, wheelocks: The only function of the mecanism is to ignite the priming powder and has no relatioship to the power of the weapon and is under no pressure or stress.
There may be a tendancy to use bigger locks on larger guns just because a tiny/puny lock would look ridiculous and a bigger lock would better survive the rough handling of a battlefield weapon.

At least with flintlock horse pistols one of my reference books shows calibers of .70 .80 and .90 cal 18th century.
The same reference book shows earlier wheelocks at .40 .50 .65 cal. and a musket at .75 cal. 16th/17th century.

SMALL ARMS, FREDERICK WILKINSON , 1965, Ward Lock & Company Limited London and Melbourne.
(Probably out of print, I bought this book in 1966.)

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Gennady Tassarov





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i was fascinated to see this discussion played out as i had this exact same debate with a historian friend of mine and we couldn't figure it out at the time. However in addition to the factors already discussed i want to add an additional one which seems to have been overlooked (someone may have already pointed this one out but i couldn't see it). In the 18th century europe warfare followed almost codified rules and real engagements were avoided at all costs - you won a battle not through routing your enemy but through outflanking and outmaneuvering them - it was almost a game. As a result armies across much of europe became little more than toys and their masters all wanted their soldiers to have the latest kit almost regardless of its effectiveness.

Another point i thought i'd just make is that the british baker rifle used in the Napoleonic Wars only had a maximum effective range of 300 yards in the hands of an average rifleman (Thomas Plunkett of the 95th Rifles did acheive a hit at 800 yards). However this was at the cost of rate of fire dropping from around 3 rounds a minute to 1-2 rounds a minute because of the need to use finer powder from a horn and greased leather wrapped bullets not the usual paper cartridges. I am led to believe that a skilled longbowman can be accurate at a similar range and with faster rate of fire (please correct me if I am wrong) but i do take into account the training aspect.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a few random points.

The definition of "accurate" in regards to longbows was that the archer could put a longbow arrow somewhere in the midst of a large formation of men.

Generally firearms could outrange longbows but not by much as far as I can tell.

Longbow rate of fire was definitely a lot higher than firearms but they would also run out of ammo much earlier - within the first 5 minutes usually.

The ability of the longbow to penetrate armour has been greatly exaggerated. Even the earliest firearms had a much greater ability to incapacitate armoured men.

Williams' "The Knight and the Blast Furnace" has a lot of data regarding the performance of early firearms.
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm sure I'll be repeating some of the things already said, but here's some research I've done. It still fascinates me that the English gave up the longbow, Agincourt was still fairly fresh in mind, and many Englishmen blamed firearms (and their operators*) for the loss of Calais. Companies of archers did however join Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester in the Netherlands campaigns during the 1580's, and were present in the English battle plans during the Spanish Armada conflict.

The disabilities of weapons of fire were many...If there was insufficient saltpetre in the powder or it was damp it furred the pieces and they did not go off. The match must be well twisted and dry. Weapons must be clean and not overcharged. Bullets were some- times discharged with only half the powder burnt. The men had first to charge their pieces with powder from their flasks, by charges filled with powder or by cartridges. The bullet had to be placed on top of the charge and a plug pressed down with the scouring-stick or ramrod to keep the bullet close to the powder. Touch-powder had then to be put in the pan and the match into the cock or serpentine. After all this the wind might blow the powder away. It might have been added that the harquebusiers' glowing matches gave them away in the dark."
-Captain Sir John Smith

During a rebellion in 1548, the Duke of Northumberland was so impressed by the rebels' bows against mercenary German hackbutters, that he reportedly said (according to Smith) he would thenceforward hold the bow to be the only weapon in the world".

Points made in favor of the Longbow (16th Century arguments (by Smith and others)).

1. Higher rate of fire (Roughly 6 bow shots to 1 arquebus/caliver/musket shot)
2. More reliable overall**, especially in bad weather. No chance of explosion
3. A fitter, healthier soldier
4. More accurate
5. Silent
6. Standardization (Firearms at this time varied per smith/region until the standardized bore Caliver)

Points made in favor of firearms

1.To be effective with a longbow, one must practice from childhood
2. It took an average of two hours to train an arquebusier
3. Stronger armor made arrows obsolete***

*"Amonghtes three and twenty which were alowed to be serviceable, not fyve of them shott withing fyve foote of a marke being sett within foure score yardes" -Critique of the Portsmouth garrison, 1569
**"In times past ..there was especial care that all Livery or war bows, being of yew, were longer than they are now and so well backed that they seldom broke" -Sir John Smith
***The Spanish army at this time was famed for its light, unarmored, infantry. There were however many varients of armor-piercing arrowheads as well. I believe there is an Islamic account of the Crusades in which Arab archers marveled at the strength of the Crusader's mail coats, and related them to porcupines or hedgehogs for the number of arrows that had become trapped in them without wounding the individual. (Mail was generally out of use with the exception of those on the Scottish border or in some older armouries/over-seas campaigns).


Last edited by D. Rosen on Sat 29 Apr, 2006 9:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 8:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect the American preference for firearms was in part due to the performance of some of the better frontier rifles, and recognition of what a firearm could be capable of. This was touched upon in a previous post regarding how realistic the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" was. Whatever the cause, it seems like it inspired a tradition.

Very good firearms were available (in limited numbers) throughout any war period in the United States. However, top quality weapons were not furnished to troops who do not exibit justafiable skill. (Similarly, I suspect Destroyers were probably not likely to be issued to peasants who were conscripted with little training into a medieval mercenary regiment.)

The Kentucky "long rifles" actually owe their heritage to German immigrants. A friend of mine still has a rifled gun that his grandfather made for his father (actually preferrs to hunt with one of the shotguns his grandfather made.) There is nothing inferior about those weapons (accuracy, range, fit) by today's standards. The frontier rifles were supposedly constructed in a manner similar to rifles these craftsmen were familiar with from their homelands. Effective kill range of a "good" frontier rifle... up to 400 yards.

There were crack rifle troops ,even pre- Revolutionary war, in Europe. The use of "drop in" cartridge (pre packaged) reloads was also practiced. I do not know any specifics of Revolutionary war crack rifle units, but by Civil war times there were units that required 6 relatively small bullseyes be hit in one minute (reloading and firing at a range of approximately 100 yards.)

There were a few manufacturers that produced superior rifles (something like 60,000 of these higher quality rifles were supposedly issued during the Civil war) throughout the 1800s, with reasonable accuracy at ranges between 1000 to 1800 yards.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Amatures study Tactics, Professionals study Logistics". Big Grin

One of the major shortcomings that the Longbow had for English Expeditionary forces was the lack of a decent resupply of arrows, and the extreme cost and difficulty of shipping them from England. Arrows, compared to powder and shot by the 16th Century, were quite expensive and even though effective against unarmoured horses and men, much more difficult to manufacture. Thus, I believe, one of the main reasons for dropping the Long Bow by Privy Council decree in 1598.

BTW, I've not seen any source suggesting that practice of the longbow was outlawed in 1569. They were still considered to be quite serviceable troops, and very "English", thus more to be trusted than foreign inventions such as the Caliver or Musket. It really wasn't until the 1580's that the English reluctantly started to give far more serious thought to firearms than to bows. Traditions of victory die hard.

Anyway, despite what both Sir Roger Williams and Sir John Smythe said, both weapons (musket and bow) were efficient, serviceable weapons in the hands of those who knew their business. But fashion probably had as much to do with the demise of the bow as anything, when you get down to it... "Gotta be cool like those Continental folk are, and use firearms!"

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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D. Rosen





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 9:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You caught me Gordon, sorry about that. Big Grin It looks like I misread that part when I was glancing over my notes. It said that the English Government forbade accomplished archers to practice the use of the firearm in 1569 to prevent the wasting of a "natural resource." It didn't help that I have crappy handwriting, once again, sorry about that.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 9:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No worries! Even I (yes, even I) make mistakes on occasion... Eek!

Laughing Out Loud

(Oh that it were only "on occassion" though... Worried )

Great post otherwise!

Allons!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gennady Tassarov wrote:
i was fascinated to see this discussion played out as i had this exact same debate with a historian friend of mine and we couldn't figure it out at the time. However in addition to the factors already discussed i want to add an additional one which seems to have been overlooked (someone may have already pointed this one out but i couldn't see it). In the 18th century europe warfare followed almost codified rules and real engagements were avoided at all costs - you won a battle not through routing your enemy but through outflanking and outmaneuvering them - it was almost a game. As a result armies across much of europe became little more than toys and their masters all wanted their soldiers to have the latest kit almost regardless of its effectiveness... .


I must disagree with this. A number of 18th century commanders demonstrated great enthusiasm for pitched battle. The two most obvious ones are Marlborough and Frederick the Great. Some of these battles were very bloody - look up the record for Malplaquet. Their opponents were willing to accept battle, too, so long as they had time to build field fortifications. Other commanders did so also - the British in the American Revolution initiated many battles; and Washington launched a few attacks of his own. A few units were toys - notably Frederick I of Prussia, whose Guards were a showpiece of tall men rather than a fighting unit.

In re the American Civil War, most of the weapons were Minie ball firing rifled muskets, which were, as mentioned, a substantial improvement over smoothbores, and really initiated a new era in warfare.
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D. Rosen





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In terms of logistics, the English were critically short of gunpowder & saltpeter throughout the 16th century. I've heard that in some occasions, English commanders resorted to wooden cannon mock ups to make it appear as though they were heavily armed. I don't remember where I heard/read this, so I'm putting little faith it.

I'm also pretty curious now; In comparison, how long and how much effort did it take to make one bow and one caliver/musket/what have you? Arrows I'm sure were expensive, but didn't they have huge stocks in the Tower?


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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just got around to reading through this post. Very interesting discussion. There is really only one thing that I can add:

Nathan Cole wrote:
Is there any reason to think that bows were never used in "covert ops". I am thinking of the Swamp Fox, night raids and hit and run. Just my thoughts.


I have read one book (sorry, don't remember the title, but it was a children's book, so probably not the best source) that said Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox) did use a bow on one occasion. According to this book, he used a bow to fire flaming arrows at a rural house, so that he could burn out the occupants while staying within the cover of the woodline. Of course, the men with him had guns, and Marion used his pistols once the enemy had been forced out of the building in question.

I don't know if that story is really true or not, but it does provide some support for the use of bows in specialized circumstances.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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