Crossbow > Chapter 7
> Handgun in Relation to the Crossbow
Handgun in Relation
to the Crossbow
The Seigneur de Montluc,1 who
fought so gallantly for Francis I. in his wars with Charles V. of Spain,
has left on record in his Commentaries, which so ably describe his fifty
years of active service, ' that when he first commanded troops (1518-1520)
under Francis I. only crossbowmen were in the French army, and not one
soldier with a hand-gun.' It is, however, recorded that at the siege and
capture of Turin in 1536, handguns had quite superseded crossbows, and
that only one crossbowman was then present in the French army, though this
man was so clever with his weapon that he killed therewith more of the
enemy than were killed by the best hand-gunner present at the siege.2
The first hand-guns seen in England, were carried by the Burgundian
troops under Warwick, at the second battle of St. Albans in 1461. In 1471,
when Edward IV. landed at Ravenspur, a port then existing on the north
shore of the Humber close to its entrance to the sea, he brought among
his troops 300 Flemings armed with hand-guns.
It is difficult to understand the increasing popularity abroad of the
miserably ineffective hand-gun, unless it was persistently encouraged as
a rival to the English longbow.
Throughout the greater part of the sixteenth century, foot-soldiers
with hand-guns, without the support of cavalry, would have been an easy
prey in open field of battle to men armed with longbows, who were properly
trained to use them.
In 1585, Montaigne3 wrote ' that the effect of the discharge
of a handgun, apart from the shock caused by its report, was so insignificant
that he hoped the use of these weapons in warfare would soon be discontinued.'
Another chronicler records that at the battle of Kissingen in 1636,
the slowest soldiers fired only seven shots with their hand-guns during
eight hours, and that at Wittenmergen in 1638, the soldiers of the Duke
of Weimar fired off their pieces only seven times each man, and this, too,
during an engagement which commenced at noon and lasted till nightfall
1 See Note 2, p. 38.
2 Discipline Militaire. - Doubtfully
attributed to Guillaume de Bellay, French general and historian, born 1491,
3 Michel de Montaigne - French moralist and
author of Essais, born 1533, died 1592.
4 Even a century after Wittenmergen the musket
was a very inferior arm, and the powder of its time so weak that an immense
charge was used. In 'Art de la Guerre, by the Marquis de Puyse"gur, Marshal
of France, printed 1748,' the author writes, 'We lose some men at 200 paces,
more at 100, and still more at 50 paces.' In ' Tactical Training of the
Prussian Army, 1745-1756, by Frederick the Great,' we read of his infantry
musket, that its caIibre = 20'14 mm., bullet = 31'3 grammes, charge of
powder = 19'53 grammes and that though fire was opened with it at 300 paces,
it only became effective at 200 paces (i.e. 167 yds.). In a trial of the
Prussian musket, about 1810, only 50 out of each 100 bullets that struck
it, pierced a pine-wood target one inch thick, at 200 paces.
> Chapter 7 >
in Relation to the Crossbow > p.39
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