Defensive and Offensive Strategy of the Middle Ages
Defensive and Offensive Strategy of the Middle Ages
At this moment, there are 500,000 blood-thirsty warriors ready to hunt me down and kill me. Lucky for me, they are still a few hundred miles away and I have time to prepare an army of my own. At the moment, I am located in central England in the year 1562. My name is Duke Sir Jarkeld and it is my duty to raise and train the largest and most powerful army I can for my king.
At my disposal are some of the finest blacksmiths in the world. They are in the process of creating many of the weapons and armor my army will use in the upcoming battle. Every item they make has a certain use and advantage in battle.
I shall start by describing the weapons we will be using. The short sword is a basic weapon for a man who does not have great strength but is still skillful at fighting. A stronger man would want to use a long sword. It has a larger range than the short sword and can do more damage with each hit. The broadsword is the largest of the three. It is reserved for men of great strength and excellent fighting ability. It is an superb weapon for hacking off limbs or heads. The battle axe has almost the same properties of the broad sword except it only has a blade on one side. The mace is a cruel weapon which looks like a spiked ball on heavy a handle. It is a medium sized weapon which can be used for disabling the limb of an opponent or smashing his helmet. (Macaulay 55)
Some wonderful types of armor are also made by my armorers. The most economical armor to make is chain mail. It consists of thousands of small metal rings which are linked together to form a heavy, yet flexible armor. Because of the tediousness of this process, it takes several months to make a full suit. The most durable armor is full plate armor. Metal plates are pounded into shape in and on molds to form a full suit, including fully articulated gauntlets and feet coverings, and helmet. Each piece is custom made to fit the wearer. This process takes days to complete each piece. (Gies 79-80)
Under my command, I also have several groups of bowyers, who devote their lives to making weapons for archers. The basic bow is the short bow. My yeomen use them for hunting unless they are called upon for defence of the castle walls. The long bow requires a bit more strength to use and has a lot more range and power. At close range it can go through chain mail and leather armor. The most powerful and accurate of the new bows being created is the crossbow. It fires a metal bolt a substantial distance with great accuracy and with enough force to pierce both chain mail and armor. It is difficult to load but it is fired with a trigger so that continuous pressure on the arms is not needed. (Macaulay, 55-56)
The final group of arms crafters under my influence is skilled in leather working. Some of the various items they make are shields, scale armor, belts, and boots. These items are less expensive than their metal counterparts and are better suited for peasant men in the infantry. These can also be reinforced with metal pieces. ("The Middle Ages")
The part of my army which will do the most fighting is the infantry. These men are foot soldiers who fight on the ground and help to defend other members of the army. Each soldier shall be equipt with a weapon of his choice. Weapons they may use range from a short sword to a battle axe. He shall also wear a set of light armor which will help protect him from the blows of the enemy. This armor is usually leather but if the fighter needs extra protection he also wear a suit of chain mail underneath. (Gies 11)
The second part of my army shall be the knights. These men are the most seasoned and most skilled of my fighters. Most will be using a broad sword or a heavy axe but if he trained with another weapon, it will be provided for him. All knights shall wear at least a set of chainmail. All others will wear full plate armor including a helmet and gauntlets. (Suskind 15; Gies 11)
The third section of my army shall be composed of knights on horses, called the calvary. All knights will use long swords in order to attack from several feet above their opponents. They shall wear full plate armor to protect from all forms of attack. To get a knight in full armor onto his horse, he must be lifted by several men or a mechanical device. The horses will wear leather armor to protect them from sword attacks but will still be susceptible to a lance attack to the legs or belly. It is in the knight’s best interests to protect his horse because if the horse is hit, the knight may be pinned to the ground by the dead or dying horse making him helpless to an attack by an enemy knight. (Gies 88)
The next group of men are the archers. They will stay away from the actual battle and shoot arrows at the enemy form afar. They will wear minimal armor and a set of archer’s gloves. The bows available to an archer at the current time are the short bow, long bow and cross-bow. The most skilled archers shall use the cross bow because of its distance and accuracy. Archers with less training will use long bows and short bows. They will fire randomly into the air showering the enemy footmen with a deady rain. Archer assassins will use cross-bows. These weapons can achieve a remarkable distance being extremely accurate when attempting to hit a predetermined target. ("The Middle Ages")
The last group of men shall be the lancers. As their name reveals, they shall use long, wooden lances to impale their opponents. He will be mounted on a horse and wearing heavy armor such as plate mail. When a lancer his killed a victim, he is to retreat from battle, reposition his lance, and charge for another attack. When he is not able to retreat, he must draw his short sword and attempt to ward off his attackers until a suitable escape route is established. ("The Middle Ages")
If this battle should end in a brutal defeat there is still the last line of defense. Around every major town, there is a high wall to keep out invaders. There are also several towers that are used to keep watch over the surrounding landscape. If an attack is made on the city, archers are called to the walls and they shoot arrows at the invading army. The gate to the city would then be closed and not opened until the invaders retreated. (Macaulay 14)
In a larger city, a fortress would rest in the middle. If the city was attacked and the outer wall was invaded, all of the townspeople could retreat to the safety of the fortress. The walls would be so tall that only the largest ladders could scale them. In fact, the only way to get in would be a large, heavy door in the front of the fortress. If a battering ram were to be brought to the front door, a vat of hot oil, water or molten lead would be ready to pour on the people manning it. A few dozen fire arrows would finish the job. (Gies 32)
If we were to win the war and hope to invade an enemy fortress, we would have several new strategies to help our cause. One is an effective invention called the catapult. It uses a lever mounted on a wheeled cart that is winched back by several strong men to launch a boulder toward a wall. Another way to weaken a wall is by mining an underground passage below the wall and burning the supports. (Gies 194-198)
I am certain of my victory because we have developed much newer technology than our enemies. When all of my troops are in place, I will be well prepared to start the war and defend my country. With the proper use of defensive and battle tactics, any war can be easily won.
Gies, Joseph and Frances. Life in a Medieval City. New York: Harper & Row, 1969
Macaulay, David. Castle. Boston, Massechusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977
Suskind, Richard. Men in Armor, The Story of Knights and Knighthood. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1968
"The Middle Ages." The Last Two Million Years. 1977 ed.
Word Count: 1472