History of Medieval Warfare Weapons and Defenses

Before the Dark Ages, Romans were undoubtedly the strongest empire in the world. Their strength was lost; but their customs were not. Medieval armies used many Roman tactics in the battlefield. Packed tightly, strong medieval armies could easily rout old and antiquate armies away from the battlefield.

The Stirrup
Stirrups were used to mount horses much easily. They were very important for medieval knights since; before they were invented, fighting on top of a horse was extremely difficult. Subsequently, the stirrup gave a quick twist to medieval warfare since it was quickly realized that infantry was not powerful anymore.

Knights are probably, before castles; the strongest conception that we have of the Medieval Times. They were so effective that every lord had to have a few knights in order to ensure his own safety. After the invention of the stirrup, knights were much more suitable for the battlefield.

Against knights and heavy cavalry
Different countries found different ways to overcome heavy cavalry. The British used thousands of long bowmen to easily kill everything in their path. Many French accounts said "When they fired so many arrows, the day turned to night."

The French, on the other hand; were more enthralled into using pike men. Pike men consisted of serfs wielding a very long spear which could easily stop a horse.

Troop formation
In carefully-planned battles, generals formed their troops by dividing them in the vanguard, the center and the rearguard. The vanguard consisted of archers and long-range attackers. The center consisted mainly of heavy horses and heavy infantry (such as pike men and sword men). And in the rearguard, faster horses were employed since they would be mainly used either for killing retreating units or for giving additional backup.

The vanguard was normally formed to the right while the center in the middle and the rearguard to the left. Horses were lined very tightly with four or more ranks deep. They constituted the main striking force that was supposed to either form a triangle and kill pike men or make a long line to kill other forms of infantry (such as sword men). If the cavalry proved to be unsuccessful, it would retreat while archers fired from behind, just a few moments before the infantry came in to finish the opposing army. If all of this failed, normally the remaining horses would be sent.

On a calm retreat, very few people died; but calm retreats were very scarce; and more people died when retreating than on the actual battle. When an army retreated; the opposing army's horses could easily kill the archers, pike men and infantry in general.

Medieval warfare after castles
Before castles, open field battles were very common. Nevertheless, castles happened to be much more effective for protecting land - which was the most common cause of war.

Castles were besieged frequently; but not very frequently since besieging a castle's cost was enormous.

Logistics is the term given to supplying goods. Most medieval armies were inadequate for providing resources for its integrants; let it be food or water. Most armies had to rely on the landscape for food. Nevertheless, more advanced armies had a fine line of supplies that could replenish their goods fast and easily. When possible, armies would follow a river for water and fish.

Naval Warfare
Most countries had many ships ready for battle. They were rowed by slaves; just like in the Greek Times; which was not very effective. Moreover, the object of a medieval ship was to ram another ship or simply conquer it by getting close enough for the infantry to go to the other ship.

Cannons were not very efficient when on a deck. They were very slow and sometimes caused fires which could turn into conflagrations if not taken care of. Nevertheless, cannons started to be improved which was a major accomplishment for naval warfare.

Ships were viewed by the French as "floating strongholds."

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