Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Genoese Crossbowmen and crossbow tactics Reply to topic
This is a Spotlight Topic Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 10, 11, 12 
Author Message
Jonathan Dean




Location: Australia
Joined: 16 Feb 2019

Posts: 78

PostPosted: Fri 15 Jan, 2021 6:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
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.


Ah, sorry, my mistake.

Quote:
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.


Yes, I think that's a reasonable assumption. Citizenship of towns most often came with the obligation to perform military service, so I can well imagine that almost the entire body of military aged men - or roughly one from each household - is captured in Villani's estimate.

Quote:
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.


I had to track down Population, Welfare and Economic Change in Britain, 1290-1834, but I have a comparison from Wales and England when it comes to percentage of the population mobilised. Wales is estimated to have had a total of 300 000 people, and I'll assume that 75 000 of them were of theoretical military age (16-60). Edward I attempted to raise 10 500 men from Wales as part of his Falkirk campaign (and received 10 900), which is near enough to 14% of the manpower pool, and at least as many were raised in 1301. In raising men from England in 1300, Edward I raised a maximum of 9000 men from Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Northumberland and Yorkshire (Michael Prestwich says Derbyshire, but the writ his cites says Yorkshire), 5% of the manpower pool (total pop. 700 000), although he had aimed at 16 000 total.

A more similar example to Florence in 1260 might be Bruges in 1302, when 2500 to 3500 men were raised from a total population of no more than 35 000 (there were 6000 men in the city capable of bearing arms in 1340), or 7-10% of the total population and 40-60% of the military pool served. Cities could evidently raise larger numbers for nearby campaigns, at least those important to them, than could be raised from the countryside, but fairly large chunks of the adult male population were still being called up from the English countryside.

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


I can't say that I've had an exhaustive look, but a quick check of some basic reference books doesn't show more than 2000 crossbowmen fielded, except in very obviously exaggerated circumstances, prior to the 15th century, and even then it seems archers were preferred for large numbers of missile troops even by the French.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,312

PostPosted: Wed 20 Jan, 2021 8:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Figuring out the demographics of medieval armies, especially urban militia deployments is notoriously tricky, it's something I've looked into for a long time and I can offer some observations and a few data points, though I don't think we know enough to say anything definitively. I also think you have to be cautious comparing across regions and estates, in particular comparing England to the continent or urban to rural. There are big differences there.

That said, I do not think 2,000 crossbowmen is an unheard of number. It's large, but not beyond the pale. I believe you will find that many crossbowmen of some type in armies of the 15th century, including Bohemian, Flemish, Swiss, Burgundian, Hungarian, German and probably Italian armies. The best places to look for records for this sort of thing would probably be the Swiss chronicles, the letters of Matthias Corvinus vis a vis the Fekete Sereg or Black Army of Hungary, which had a large proportion of shooters, in the annales of Jan Dlugosz as he often talks numbers and knew military matters, and from the records of the Teutonic Order.

The best later 15th Century Italian source I can think of would be Piccolomini, who traveled around quite a bit as a spy and diplomat prior to becoming Pope, was an extremely prolific writer and understood military matters.

There are a couple of specific issues to break down here, as several are kind of tangled together, so I'll take a stab at unraveling one or two of them.

Urban Militia Demographics
This is tricky to unravel. You'll read in the urban chronicles of the larger towns over and over, that they deploy 3,000 men or 5,000 men for this or that, and they might distinguish horsemen from footmen, but it's fairly rare to get details on the composition. But you can find some examples. The conundrum for the cities is that if they deploy more troops, they get a better and more loyal army, but conversely, the army itself will be harder to control and will make more political demands if they win. The classic example of this is in Flanders after Golden Spurs, the guild militias forced their way into the town councils of Bruges, Ypres and Ghent. The other problem with guild militia is that they had a lot of political power even in the field, so they would routinely refuse to go beyond a certain distance from the city walls, to stay out overnight, or especially and in general, to go on offensive expeditions unless they saw a direct benefit. This was a major problem especially when town militia were fighting for a prince.

The second problem was the one you were alluding to for Florence, if they took heavy losses in their highly skilled artisans and merchants, it could send the town into an economic death-spiral. This almost happened to Ghent after a couple of their big defeats in the 14th and 15th Centuries, and in many other places. For example in the chronicle of Bremen it mentions that after a major defeat (during which an army of 2,000 men were wiped out in the Dithmarschen region of Frisia), grass was growing in the street for years before enough of a new generation came of age and enough immigrants came in to town to replace the losses. And that was a small army that was killed off.

So the solution or compromise for the towns was to mobilize a small force as the hard core of a larger army, and the army itself was mostly made up of mercenaries. A classic example that is often repeated comes from some records from Regensberg in the 1420's, as part of the general deployment against the Hussites of Bohemia. This excerpt was translated by Hans Delbrück and has subsequently been repeated by many others, often without attribution. The Regensburghers, who were probably not overly enthusiastic about the overall mission, provided a very well equipped and supplied force of 248 men. Of that number roughly two thirds (160 men) were fighters, and the others were skilled specialists of the type very helpful to military efforts like smiths, leatherworkers, cooks, butchers, pike-makers etc. The fighters consisted of 73 "constaffler" horsemen, mostly lancers but including about 20 mounted crossbowmen; 71 infantry crossbowmen;, and 16 hand-gunners. All of the fighting men were very well armored and kitted out. They came with 41 wagons of supplies which included 6,000 crossbow bolts, 300 fire-bolts, 19 extra handguns, 6 cannon, 300 lbs of cannonballs and 200 lbs of lead shot, along with tents and field fortification gear, and enough food and horse-fodder for six weeks.

This force of 248 men marched toward Bohemia and met up with a larger army of 1,500 Bavarians, of whom 500 were cavalry (likely Bavarian gentry) and 1000 were infantry, probably peasants. Then the whole force continued into Bohemia to their likely doom.

Sometimes these small, hard core urban militia units would combine with feudal armies as in the above case, but more often they would be combined with mercenaries, which further complicates matters.

Who were the mercenaries?

Medieval warfare was dominated by mercenaries. This was the role the Genoese militia was playing in France not just in Crecy but in several battles. Sometimes that was how it went - mercenaries would be contracted from a condottiere, or hired in one big group from one place, like one of the Swiss, Italian, or Bohemian towns. But more often the makeup of mercenary armies was something of a mystery, and many of them seemed to be hired directly by town authorietes for a specific campaign.

There have been some attempts to analyze and track down the names of some of these people, and in a couple of cases it turns out that as many as 25% may come from the town doing the hiring, and people who may be in the militia, but they would sign up as mercenaries instead. Others came from the local area, smaller towns and villages which may still have citizenship or 'paleburgher' status with the larger town organizing the expedition, and others come from more distant towns and regions.

Certain areas like the Swiss city-states actively cultivated their hinterland as pools for this kind of manpower and most towns, though especially the Swiss, conducted frequent enough expeditions and military raids etc. that they were used to fighting together. With medieval armies, especially those with disparate estates and factions, the number of times they fought together was one of the key determinants of success. This is the key difference between the success of the highly international Fekete Sereg in fighting the Turks, compared to the hastily thrown together Feudal armies such as were annihilated at Nikopolis etc.

These units were still routinely led by town political figures, bürgermeisters and members of the town council, who had to carefully balance the makeup of their forces, so that they had some degree of predictable loyalty as well as enough highly skilled fighters, while not putting too many of their guys at risk. The risks for the leadership themselves seemed to be quite high. For example, when they sent a small, hard core unit to storm a castle occupied by French Armagnac mercenaries in Alsace in 1444, the forces of Strasbourg lost two burgomeisters, one of whom was shot and another thrown off a ladder, in the otherwise successful action. I got into the details of that war here in an old essay on HROARR.

Crossbowmen vs. crossbowmen
Another conundrum for modern researchers and historians when looking at specific troop types like "crossbowmen", is that there was a lot of variety in terms of the demographics, training, and kit which made a big difference in what the term actually meant. Just as we know very well that a 'horseman' can be anything from a heavily armed knight or constaffler, to a demi-lancer, mounted archer, or light cavalry like a Hungarian hussar or Uhlan, 'crossbowmen' could also mean a variety of troop types.

By the late medieval period, as helpfully delinieted by Teutonic Knights expert Sven Ekhdal in his oft-linked 1998 essay, a marksman or crossbowman could mean several different things representing different estates or demographics, and far different capabilities. It could mean barely trained peasant levies using solid wood prod crossbows spanned by hand (and considered suitable only for static defense of fortifications), to more trained militia armed with steel or composite prod crossbows of medium power, to skilled experts, men who had won wreaths in the schützenfest, armed with deadly 'half ton' or 'stinger' arbalests of 1,000 lb draw or more, and accompanied by a paviseman and maybe a spare crossbow. The latter guys were being paid as much as 11 gulden per month by Mathias Corvinus. Or they could be mounted crossbowman of the equivalent rank as a lancer, or specialists with giant wall crossbows meant originally for sieges, but brought out into the field by the Bohemians and others on their war wagons, along with the hand-büschen, the arquebus and the field gun.

So the devil is definitely in the details, both in terms of demographics and the type of troops. Always interesting to discuss these things but we must be cautious of hastily drawing conclusions. There is a great deal more research to do.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,312

PostPosted: Wed 20 Jan, 2021 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another helpful guideline, though not something you can obviously draw definitive conclusions from, is looking at art such as from Kriegsbücher.

For example in these images from Philipp Mönch's Kreisgbuch from 1496 you can get an idea of a typical breakdown of forces between pikemen, halbderdiers gunners, lancers, and mounted crossbowmen. And of course the musicians.. always trhe musicians





If you look at say, 20 Kriegsbücher from rougly the same era, you'll find the ratios are pretty similar.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jonathan Dean




Location: Australia
Joined: 16 Feb 2019

Posts: 78

PostPosted: Thu 21 Jan, 2021 11:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Jean, thanks for those posts! I admit to being very focused on Western Europe, and in particular the 12th-14th centuries, so that's some very useful information.

Regarding the origins of troops, I will say that the Libro Di Montaperti does record the vast majority of Florentine infantry and cavalry coming from the commune, and as I understand it the town records for Ghent in 1302 are along the same lines. It feels like a big shift happened in the 14th and 15th centuries, with more and more locales hiring outsiders - even if it's just from the next town over - to make up their armies in order to avoid some of the losses that they had sustained in the large 13th century campaigns.

I've also managed to track down information on the geographic origins of Genoese crossbowmen: 43.1% came from Genoa itself, 10.6% from the suburbs, 2.6% from the Ligurian Apennines directly above Genoa, 31.6% from towns and mountains between Monaco and La Spezia, 3% from the plains of the Po, 1.3% from central and southern Italy, and the other 7.8% from all over the Mediterranean. In other words, about 88% of the crossbow complement on a Genoese ship was probably going to be Genoese lands.

(Gênes et la mer-Genova e il mare, p98-103)

The other interesting thing, however, is that galleys (and ships more generally) seem to have carried twice as many crossbows as crossbowmen. In the case of Genoese galleys, in peacetime galleys were only required to have 10 crossbowmen (originally 12, with 8 as rowers, prior to 1344), and judging by the contracts with France the number was doubled in war time. If the number of crossbows was doubled as well - as the Annales Genuenses with its mention of a scratch fleet have between 25 and 50 crossbowmen in each galley - that would allow the full complement of dedicated crossbowmen to be taken from each galley before it put back to sea prior to Crecy.

Source 1, Source 2

Edit:

I just did a quick look through the Annales Genuenses, and the only mention of there being more than 2000 crossbowmen was when archers and pavisiers were included in the count. Two thousand crossbowmen are mentioned a couple of times, but mostly less than a thousand are record. There may be some larger numbers hidden in the usual "great many"/"many"/"sufficient", etc descriptions.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,312

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2021 5:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Dean wrote:
Hey Jean, thanks for those posts! I admit to being very focused on Western Europe, and in particular the 12th-14th centuries, so that's some very useful information.

Regarding the origins of troops, I will say that the Libro Di Montaperti does record the vast majority of Florentine infantry and cavalry coming from the commune, and as I understand it the town records for Ghent in 1302 are along the same lines. It feels like a big shift happened in the 14th and 15th centuries, with more and more locales hiring outsiders - even if it's just from the next town over - to make up their armies in order to avoid some of the losses that they had sustained in the large 13th century campaigns.

I've also managed to track down information on the geographic origins of Genoese crossbowmen: 43.1% came from Genoa itself, 10.6% from the suburbs, 2.6% from the Ligurian Apennines directly above Genoa, 31.6% from towns and mountains between Monaco and La Spezia, 3% from the plains of the Po, 1.3% from central and southern Italy, and the other 7.8% from all over the Mediterranean. In other words, about 88% of the crossbow complement on a Genoese ship was probably going to be Genoese lands.

(Gênes et la mer-Genova e il mare, p98-103)

The other interesting thing, however, is that galleys (and ships more generally) seem to have carried twice as many crossbows as crossbowmen. In the case of Genoese galleys, in peacetime galleys were only required to have 10 crossbowmen (originally 12, with 8 as rowers, prior to 1344), and judging by the contracts with France the number was doubled in war time. If the number of crossbows was doubled as well - as the Annales Genuenses with its mention of a scratch fleet have between 25 and 50 crossbowmen in each galley - that would allow the full complement of dedicated crossbowmen to be taken from each galley before it put back to sea prior to Crecy.

Source 1, Source 2

Edit:

I just did a quick look through the Annales Genuenses, and the only mention of there being more than 2000 crossbowmen was when archers and pavisiers were included in the count. Two thousand crossbowmen are mentioned a couple of times, but mostly less than a thousand are record. There may be some larger numbers hidden in the usual "great many"/"many"/"sufficient", etc descriptions.


Very interesting and good post. Yes there are significant differences between regions and time periods, my own are of focus is primarily North - Central Europe in the 15th Century, so keep that limitation in mind. I am only gradually beginning to make sense of the vast complexity that is medieval Italy.

I think it might be helpful to distinguish between Genoese ship compliments as part of her own militia / navy (or working for the Bank of St.George which often amounted to the same thing) vs. mercenary contracts. I know it was Genoese militia compliments to Genoese galleys during the Crusades that first established their reputation as skilled marksmen with eventual clients like the French, but over the intervening centuries the commercial contracts often settled into their own patterns.

The main reason I mention it is that the similar deployments of Swiss Reisläufer, the makeup of the units sent out as mercenaries to France, Italy or elsewhere, was quite different both in terms of demographics / who went, and in terms of how they were armed, from the deployments of militia in their own wars. Foreign recruiters would often specify a certain number of pikemen, halberdiers, shooters, etc. for the mercenary contracts, which were negotiated with individual towns as the city council had to approve the deal. Quite often the city would act as a recruiting center for mercenaries from around the region, as the town often wanted to control how many of their own able-bodied men went off to fight for a prince in a risky war. The Swiss also had a policy of making sure that they did not end up on both sides of a fight (unlike say, the Bohemians). The Swiss towns were much smaller but even Genoa had a limited number of trained artisans, and it was those men (of the middling estates) who were the best and most sought after shooters. They wouldn't want to risk losing too many of these people.

Other towns in Liguria and nearby Tuscany and Lombardy did (and still do) have their annual crossbow shooting contests and had a lot of qualified marksmen, so they had a pool of suitable recruits around the area. For reasons of language and dialects spoken the Ligurian region would probably be better for them though.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jonathan Dean




Location: Australia
Joined: 16 Feb 2019

Posts: 78

PostPosted: Tue 26 Jan, 2021 8:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've been trying to think if there's any way I can directly test whether or not more foreign crossbowmen were hired by Genoese captains in peace time than were conscripted/hired in wartime, but given my resources and abilities I can't really look over the same records used by the author of the chapter, as the records don't appear to have been digitised and my paleography is non-existent in any case. They did check both war time and peace time records, however, so my suspicion is that even in mercenary contracts the crossbowmen would mostly be from Genoese territory. As the Genoese had been hiring out as mercenary crossbowmen for a long time, they may well have adopted some kind of regional pride that didn't let them pass off significant numbers of non-Genoese as Genoese. Another possibility is that lesser sons of rural elites might have decided to serve as crossbowmen, much as poorer gentry from the Low Countries did, because there was nonetheless some prestige to be had serving in this role and it needed more initial capital than most could afford, but less than serving as a man-at-arms.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,312

PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2021 6:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah I don't know either, though from what I gather Genoa was remarkably persistent in keeping all their old records, I know they still have commenda contracts and business letters going back to the 13th century. Maybe if you ever meet someone affiliated with a university there they might be able to help.

All your assumptions seem reasonable to me.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Genoese Crossbowmen and crossbow tactics
Page 12 of 12 Reply to topic
Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 10, 11, 12 All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2021 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum