Medieval Warfare

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    • Medieval Warfare

      So i made a long post in 30K because its long and not many can read it i will post it here just to share all i know about medieval warfare and at least get some value out off it, i spend 2 hours making this straight from my head, so enjoy.

      The medieval era are split into three periods: the early, high and late periods. I'm going to talk about each one, how they fought, and what advancement they bring at the time.

      -Medieval Warfare
      warfare in the Middle Ages are similar to the way Romans wage wars, in fact warfare stayed the same, it was improved upon and adapted to answer the military problems at the time, in essence the Middle Ages are split in three different periods the early medieval period, the high medieval period, and the late medieval period, these three periods have there own fair share of military and technological advancement, I will cover the military of these three periods, what they develop, tactics, and other manners of military.

      -Warfare in the early medieval period
      warfare In this period is characterize by heavy use of infantry and missile troops like archers, but the significant military development of the time is to develop the cavalry into an effective "shock troop". The idea to use cavalry as shock troops came because other armies like the Romans, Visigoths, Turks, Arabs, Mongols, and the French have a large force of cavalry, the role of cavalry of these named armies is to break the enemy formation with the Mongols an exception as mounted archers. The first advancement of the cavalry is to be heavily armed and armored as possible, the stirup was not invented at this period preventing the rider to use his entire weight in the charge, the cavalry of this period is more mounted infantry than actual cavalry but mounted cavalry also called light cavalry gives more mobility to outflank the enemy positions, the over value of Europe in their cavalry will later give rise to the "knight".

      -Armour and weapons
      weapons and bodily protection in this period is quite simple then those of the late medieval period. Because steel is expensive for Armour infantry and cavalry wear leather Armour with a chain mail mesh underneath, the simple Armour give the wearer protection from slashing blades and the chain mail protect them from arrows which is very common at the time. as far as weapons go the most common weapon are hand axes, much of the infantry are conscripted from various location throughout their territory and the axe is more cheaper and easier for untrained men to use, swords are mostly reserved for trained professional troops which take the role of "heavy infantry" or mostly called "elite" infantry, the spear is another common weapon it is used to repel cavalry and engage infantry before getting too close, shields are made out of wood with an iron rim for all unit types which tells you how expensive iron is, the cavalry is armed with swords, axes, and a wooden shield, and archers are armed with standard bows.

      -order of battle
      the common strategy in practice for most early medieval armies is as follow: 1)rain the enemy with arrows until the enemy formation become disorganized, 2)as the enemy positions become chaotic the infantry will move in to engage the opposing enemy infantry, 3) as the battle wage on the cavalry will attempt to attack the enemy rear position taking out archers and outflanking block infantry formations.

      victory will be based on how an army be able to break the enemies spirit, casualties, employment of cavalry, even shouting curses to the enemy. This is to attempt to demoralize the enemy forcing them to retreat, in fact in every medieval engagement more people die retreating than fighting because the cavalry can easily chase down the runners.

      -Pitched battles
      a pitched battle by definition "a military engagement where two opposing armies decide and agreed where to fight". mostly much medieval
      fighting are pitched battles one way or another, two generals will agree to fight on a determined place even if one of the generals are in a terrain disadvantage just to face the enemy, the reason of this willingness to fight even at a disadvantage is because of how warfare is fought at the time, as long as the enemy army is still present in the area no one can claim victory, avoiding the enemy will not last forever and it is impossible to hide a large army from the enemy to draw them to a disadvantage.

      pitched battle is similar to "pivotal battle" a battle that will decide the outcome of the entire war, examples of pivotal battle is the battle of midway of WW2, the battle of the bulge, the D-day invasion just to name a few, in medieval warfare when you manage to defeat the enemy you do not just win the battle you earn a victory, which can end the war. another reason for pitched battle is the timing, most soldiers are conscripts, farmers that need to reap the harvest to avoid famine, pitched battle are organized battle of two armies to immediately and decisively end a war, before winter strikes.
      "Victory needs no explenation, defeat allows none"
      -imperium thought of the day
    • -Warfare in the high medieval period
      with the introduction if the stirup the cavalry can assume the role of "shock troops" and can easily break infantry formations, this single invention give rise to the "knight" as the most dominant unit in the high medieval period.


      -Feudalism
      feudalism is a social and military organization with the economic organization being "Manorialism". Feudalism is where the lord will employ vassals, the vassals will fight for his lord in exchange for land and the lord is a vassal to the overlord of the land the king, when the king go to war he will call upon his vassals the lords to join him in battle in exchange for land this give the lords another name known as "warlords", the warlords will call upon his own vassals the Knights to join him in battle with the king in exchange for land the warlord won from the war and will give the land he won to his knights, this system allows the noble elite the Knights to have the land they needed to generate wealth from the peasants in order to not only earn their loyalty but to supply the Knights resource and money to purchase Armour, weapons and horses.


      -The Knight
      the knight is a vassal to a lord, and is the dominant unit in medieval warfare, they trained, born in the fires of war, aggressive and experts in combat,armed and armored to the teeth, the knight is the elite class of soldiers of the time, the problem of Knights is that their tactical value is often in question with much more practical commanders. Because Knights are nobles every knight foreign or otherwise will treat each other with some degree of respect towards one another, a knight caught alive will worth a huge ransom which will ensure your survival, this treatment towards one another is called chivalry a code of ethics and behavior a knight must follow at all times, the code of chivalry is important because it ensure the loyalty of Knights to their lord.

      we often heard of Knights in shining armor, protecting the weak and bringers of justice...but that if you trust Shakespeare, if you ask a historian a knight is an aggressive warrior in it for the wealth, glory, honor, fame, and the thrill of war and carnage. Chivalry does not apply to commoners only to other Knights, there have been many accounts of Knights killing ordinary citizens is because they can and they will.

      the good news the only requirement to become a knight is to be aggressive, warlike, and can kill man, woman, child, and beast and can still be able to sleep at night, go on make your dreams come true (but seriously guys don't kill anyone for no good reason it's not cool)


      -weapons and Armour
      in this period only the lords and Knights can afford steel weapons and Armour, everyone else will be armed and armored similar that to the early medieval period. Knights are armed with an assortment of weapons like the lance and sword they are also armored with heavy full body plate armor or some parts of the body at least, alongside with a chain mail mesh underneath and a leather vest or tunic with a surcoat as the cherry on top to carry their heraldry, you imagine that the Knights are heavy and bulky they are but have enough mobility to be a force to reckon with in the battlefield. a more revolutionary weapon the crossbow compete with the bow more specifically the English long bow of who is the best projectile weapon of the period, because the crossbow is expensive to make due to mechanical parts the longbow is more cheaper and effective, but the crossbow offer something's the bow cannot, the crossbow is very similar to a modern day rifle without the recoil point it to the enemy pull the trigger and he is dead is is very easy to train peasants with crossbow than with longbows because the longbow demanded more strength to the user which will require years of training unlike the crossbow only a week of training, also the crossbow can easily penetrate the plate Armour of Knights in close range than the longbow which the arrow will just bounce off if the Armour is high quality which is every plate Armour used by Knights.


      -order of battle
      the battle of how it was wage is just like the early but with a twist I will give you a tip, it requires a large amount of Knights in your army.

      the archers (or crossbow if your super rich) will rain arrows (or bolts) on the enemy formation, if the enemy formation become fractured or an opening present itself the fun starts. Knights will charge and expose the crack of the formation and open up the gap wider, when the infantry catch up the enemy formation broken most will run and retreat giving you the victory.

      in the high medieval period the knight is dominant because they are the only expertly trained me experience soldier available, victory will be decided on whoever have the most Knights in his army and who employ them better Knights can only be countered by other Knights because the spear man will either be broken up by arrows, flee, or the Knights crush them with heavy weight of their horses and Armour, it's all about the knights which characterize the high medieval period of warfare.

      -Fortifications
      the early medieval period is characterize by the threat of Vikings and barbarians this give rise to feudalism and fortifications, this is by building a fort to watch over the land and is the seat of power by the lords, high stone walls, towers with arrow slits, a fortified gate, a moat, burning tar, if you watch any medieval movie or a fantasy battle of siege this is quite self explanatory, the castle or the city the wall defend is also ready for a siege, canals to carry water to the city and large cellars for food. forts become important is because the barbarians of the early period is only raiding and not an actual invasion even a single fort can deter any raiders.


      -Siege warfare
      siege warfare is not new, the ancients and the Romans did it one way or another, but because of the development of fortifications, and high stone walls being build almost everywhere, siege warfare became one of the most bloodiest warfare ever participated by a medieval army, there are many ways how to besiege a fortified city, we will look at every one in dept. there are 5 techniques of siege warfare one by one I will explain it.


      1)Mining
      simple enough mining is a siege technique where sappers will destroy the support columns of a wall, the destruction of these columns will result to the wall being unstable and thus collapse, once the wall is down the infantry will ruse into the gap and fight the defenders.


      2)Sitting
      by definition siege means "to sit" the singing army will "sit" and wait until the defenders run out of food and surrender, because the sieging army encircle the city the city cannot produce or get supplies for the populous thus surrendering, this siege technique is comical and a complete waste of time, but there are some degree the siege will be a success but unlikely.


      3)use of siege engines also known as breaching
      the most well known and overused siege technique is to use battering rams to bring the gate down, catapults to bring the war down, and siege towers me scaling ladders to get over the wall. most siege engines are made in field, more on that later.
      Known siege engines:

      -the siege tower
      the siege tower is a fortified mobile tower used to get over the walls, unlike ladders the tower is protected by wood and wet animal skin to prevent fire as well as arrow slits for archers to shoot from. its made by stories or levels and at the top a ramp is used to fight the defenders, unlike other siege engines the siege tower is made in the field rather than being per-fabricated this is due to their size that may hinder an army on the move.

      -Trebuchet
      the trebucket is a catapult used by medieval armies to destroy castle walls and other fortifications, instead of arching the projectile the trebucket "throws" it giving it more power and accuracy than the ordinary catapult, this siege engine are made in-field, the Romans per-fabricated their catapults to use against armies but unfortunately per-fabrication of siege weapons or the idea of it is lost with the roman empire.

      -Battering Ram
      the most common and recognizable siege tool the ram could be a large platform with a swinging tree trunk used to smash open gates and fortified doors, other variation are iron beams or the most simple a wooden trunk carried by men to open doors.

      -The Cat and Weasel
      an unusual but real siege engine it is a large elevated platform with an "arm" used to bring the wall down by "clawing" it, best to imagine a cat clawing the wall. the Cat is not always like this it is a combination of other engines for example a large platform with a trebuchet on top and a ram underneath. The Weasel is similar to the Cat the only difference is the Weasel is lighter and use an iron ball than a "claw".

      4)Spies and Sabotage
      if you ever watched the movie "Troy" starring Brad Pitt or heard about the Trojan horse then I don't need to explain this to you.
      spies are sent into a castle town before the siege and conduct acts of sabotage such as water poisoning, spread of false rumors to break the defenders spirit, make the defenders desert and try to open the castle gates as well as acts of assassination.

      5)Psychological and bio weapons
      using diplomacy or threats to break or make the moral of the defenders, the use of dead animals and corpses by catapults to spread disease to the defenders, and the application of intimidation and false rumors to spread panic, not common but not unheard of.

      other weapons like the balista(large crossbow) is not present in the medieval ages for 2 reasons: 1.the balista or the knowledge of creating the balista is lost due to the fall of the roman empire and 2.if the balista do survive it will find little use as much of medieval fortification are stronger then before or the damage of the balista is very limited on a siege and better employed againts armies instead of a stone wall.
      "Victory needs no explenation, defeat allows none"
      -imperium thought of the day
    • -Warfare in the late medieval era the transition to gun powder weapons
      when the Black Death strikes Europe it spells the end of the Knights as the dominant unit of the era and give it back to the infantry, with severe manpower shortage a medieval army in this period is smaller, but because of there small size resource was invested in order to use the infantry more efficiently, soldiers are now paid in gold to fight wars, this give rise to professional soldiers that can fight well even in foreign soil, with the introduction of the pike a very long spear it cemented the infantries position and eclipsing the knight as a dominant force, gunpowder based weapons give a large shift to medieval warfare, the first cannons was used on the walls of a city in order to destroy enemy siege engines and make a bloody swaths in the enemy lines, with further improvements cannons are used to besiege a city making the stone walls obsolete, and small hand cannons and the first primitive rifles are employed, most gunpowder based weapons of the time tend to misfire killing the user than the intended target, and because cannons are expensive to make and maintain there are times the siegeing armies use the cannon for intimidation than actually using it to destroy the walls.


      -The War Wagon
      the war wagon was an invention of a Hussite general during the Hussite wars, it consist of a wagon covered all around with arrow slits or port holes to fire through, the large wagon can house archers, crossbow men, hand cannons, rifles or even a cannon, the war wagon is a miniature fort carried to war by horses or oxen and one may consider the first tank ever used in warfare.

      the above statement is the battle wagon, another variant of the war wagon also from the Hussite general are the infantry wagon, pushed to battle by men, the soldiers inside will wait till their wagon is close enough open the ramps and charge at the enemy, the war wagon may have inspired Leonardo Da Vinchi to draw a "tank" in many of his works.


      -Medieval Naval Warfare
      naval warfare is still the same through out the medieval era, their main use in times of war is to carry soldiers and supplies to the front, naval warfare is similar to the ancient naval warfare where the ship have a strong front prow to ram the enemy ship so the marines can board the enemy ship.

      Ships of this time tend to be high deck, resembling floating castles such as the carrack, ships like these are covered with arrow slits where archers can shoot the opposing ship from a height advantage, although they tend to be unstable it proved to be very effective against low deck ships.


      -military communications
      to communicate during a battle is very crucial to any commander at the time so many techniques was develop, the use of standard, the blowing of horns, or the showing of a specific color bears a meaning or message that was per-made before every battle. Other methods of communication is the use of pigeons to carry messages and the employment of scouts, another method is using a fire beacon, when the fire is lit it means the enemy is invading, if you watch lord of the rings part 2 you know what it means.

      there was also the use of a binary system using fire beacons in a specific order to represent a letter I don't remember who used it but the reason no one heard of it is because...


      -lost of knowledge
      in the medieval period certain techniques was lost to the wider world the one example I will give is the Romans build siege engines like the balista BEFORE the siege or expecting one, per-fabricated siege engines was lost of the technique was drop from practice because the fall of the Roman Empire.


      -Mercenaries
      mercenaries are very common in the medieval era, in Italy Italian city states employ mercenaries as their standing armies. mercenaries are mostly people that were conscripted by their lords and stayed there never going back to their old lives, mercenaries is favorable because there are experience troops and are mostly well equip the drawback is their difficulty to control, for their loyalty lies to wealth and if the enemy have more wealth they will back stab their original employer for a better pay.

      whats interesting about mercenaries is that in Italy mercenary to mercenary battle are often bloodless prefer to use a tactic that is both cowardly and under handed known as "indirect warfare" this style of warfare the Italian mercenaries practice is to target the enemies ability to wage war using sabotage, water and food poisoning, assassination, and spread panic by false rumors to break the enemies morale.


      -logistics
      the most important part for every medieval army are logistics, a failed logistics is a failed campaign. Supply can be carried by different ways the basic is the use of supply lines employing wagons and beast of burden to carry the supply with the army, this method can backfire because the army will not move ahead of the supply line preferring to stay close or simply nest to it and if the line is expose and attacked by the enemy it spell doom to the army. another is the use of barges along the river but this will limit how the army operates, another method is to fight close to shore or taking ports for supply ships to carry all the food and water the army needs.

      looting and foraging is often one of the primary objective of medieval war, when an army pass by an area they will ravage the land taking all the food, valuables and other supply, bringing famine and death to the villages and towns an army pass.


      -Role of the Church
      undoutingly all European soldiers and Knights, the lords and kings are Christians and as Christians they do not want to burn in hell, to that end they will pay the church to absolve them of their sins, the problem is that a warrior kills for a living and will kill again but want to go to heaven, this cycle is the reason why the church is more powerful than the king, a church because of their wealth act like lords, they will raise an army to fight for the king and even join themselves these "warrior priest" are armed with a mace, because their still priest they cannot kill but killing an enemy bloodlessly like blunt trauma is OK, still most priest favor the sword.

      a priest with the army have other roles than fighting, they also serve as medics for the injured or during the Crusades inspire them to fight harder. in Italy the Italians develop there own version of the war wagon, the wagon resemble a moving altar where the priest will encourage the fighters onward on top of an oversize chariot.


      -My thought on medieval warfare
      warfare in the medieval period is very different in modern warfare, for starters to survive the battle the skill of arms can save your life, medieval warfare is of course very bloody every battle is like dancing with death, compare it to modern warfare soldiers uses guns instead of swords (in my opinion a waste of resources) but warfare is not just war, war started from slingshots to the nuclear missile, warfare does not develop and improve just for war, warfare was improved so that war is short, today's modern soldier is nothing compare to a knight, sure a soldier have a gun but can use it rarely against people, a knight is different he knows he will die soon, he fights i the middle of mayhem, and fights almost daily, a person like that can easily lose his mind soldiers can retire if he had enough, but the knight was born to kill and be killed he loved it.

      the difference of today soldier to medieval soldier is principle, the modern soldier fight for country and each other, the medieval soldier fights to live and survive, today we fight wars seldomly, before we fight and we kill constantly.

      medieval warfare is bloody to the extreme, one can say compare to a knight soldiers today are cowards, but in truth it's better that way.
      "Victory needs no explenation, defeat allows none"
      -imperium thought of the day
    • Battles in medieval warfare are very different from modern battles. In medieval warfare they would barely take hours, and a skilful commander should stand at the rearguard and see the course of the battle and decide where to reinforce. In modern times, the length of time a battle can last varies from months (e.g. Battle of the Bulge) to hours (e.g. some battles of the gulf war).
      "You can't break a man the way you break a dog, or a horse. The harder you beat a man, the taller he stands." -Jackal (Far Cry 2)

    • Indeed, I would refer more to endurance maybe? bare in mind at waterloo it was just the brits for a while until the Prussians broke through and reinforced them (I think that's what happened from memory) During ww1 Britain was helped France from start to finish ( The Americans also helped even if they were late ;D) at ww2 it was just the Brits themselves for a while, in North Africa (El Alamein and so on) it was the commonwealth but the brits were the highest nationality percentage. 45% brits 55% commonwealth. the Malaya emergency was the Brits Malyans and ANZACs.
      British=best. Duh!