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Home > Books > The British Archer > Anecdotes of Archery
Part I: Anecdotes of Archery
Part 4 of 4

Sir John Smith also writes, speaking of the battle of Herrings, (so called by the French Chroniclers) fought in the reign of Henry VI. near Orleans, that this Engagement "doth evidently shew the great excellence of archery, against all other sorts of weapons; in which battle, Sir John Falstaff with other brave English Captains, by the Grace of God, and terrible shot of arrows, overthrew the Bastard of Orleans, the Lord High Constable of Scotland, the Count of Clermont, with many other Captains of great account, and their whole army of Frenchmen and Scots, in the which there were a great number of French harquebusseers and cross bow-men which against the archers wrought wo effect."

The arrow seems to have been the decisive weapon at the great battle of Towton in Yorkshire, between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, during the reign of Edward IV. where 36,726 Englishmen, including almost all the surviving Nobility of England, who had escaped from former civil contests, fell a sacrifice to the ambition of contending Princes. The battle began about nine o'clock in the morning of the 29th March, 1461, the slain, according to Stowe were buried in five great pits in the field by North-Saxton Church. Amongst the killed, was Thomas Lord Clifford,[62] who met his death by a headless arrow piercing him in the throat, of which wound he immediately died.

The Nobility were so thinned in the civil war, particularly at this tremendous battle, at which, all in the kingdom were present, that in the ensuing parliament, only 1 duke, 4 earls, 1 viscount, and 29 barons, could be found to receive summonses, and attend the house. Henry VII instituted a band of archers to guard his person, under the title of "Yeoman of the Guard." This band was afterwards armed with swords and halberts, instead of bows.

In the year 1513, James IV. of Scotland invaded the English borders, while Henry VIII. was in France. The Earl of Surry. raised the militia of the northern counties amounting to 26,000 men, and advanced to meet him. The battle, which happened at Flow-den field, was bloody, and terminated in the total defeat of the Scots with the loss of their king, the archbishop of St. Andrews, 2 abbots, 12 earls, and 17 lords. The victory in a great measure seems to have been owing to the archers under the command of Sir Edward Stanley. The van-guard of the English, was led by Lord Thomas, and Sir Edward Howard, the centre by their Father Lord Surry, and the rear, by Sir Edward Stanley : The Lord Dacres with a body of horse acted as a reserve. The King of Scots, exhorting his men to behave like soldiers, immediately sounded for battle Sir Edward Howard for a long time sustained a heavy charge, and had nearly been routed by the singular valour of the Earls of Lenox and Argyle, but the Lord Dacres brought up the reserve, and restored the fight. Lord Thomas Howard met with brave resistance from the Earls of Crawford and Montrose. The King and Earl of Surry, maintained a long and sharp dispute until Sir E. Stanley brought up his archers who immediately let fly their arrows with such great force and effect, that the Scots were routed. The King perceiving the disorder, redoubled his efforts, and pressing forward with almost irresistible fury, would have overthrown the English Standard, but for the timely assistance of Lord Thomas Howard, who being joined by Lord Dacre's Horse, instantly gave a turn to the fortune of the day.—The Scottish Monarch with the flower of his Nobility, threw themselves into a ring, in which form they did all that men could do in defending themselves, nor did any one exceed the King in personal valour, but being mortally wounded in the forehead by an arrow, he fell, and with his life, ended this fierce and bloody conflict.

A Poem was written (as it is said) by one Henry Jenkins, a Schoolmaster, at Ingleton, in Yorkshire, to commemorate the great battle, and to record the names of the nobility and gentry who were present, with their tenants. It bears some interest, as it presents a striking picture of the manner of raising our ancient Militiamen, who were one day at the plough, and the next, ranged under the banners of their respective leaders, with arms in their hands, to use only against the hostile Invader, whom having repelled, the survivors returned to their homes and domestic employments. This poem is a very long one, and as many of the names therein inserted, have long since past away, the following extracts from the production of the poetical Schoolmaster, are deemed sufficient in this work to shew the style of it. They afford some features of the historical facts of the great event which it was meant to record.

PART OF THE POEM OF "FLOWDEN FIELD."
BY HENRY JENKINS [63]

Then might you see on every side,
The ways all filled with Men of War,
Here silken streamers waving wide.
There polish'd helms glist'ring afar.

*     *     *     *     *

Young wives did weep in woeful cheer,
To see their friends in harness drest;
Some rent their clothes, some tore their hair,
Some held their Babes unto their breast.

There woeful mothers mourning stood,
Viewing their Sons harnessed on horse,
And shouting shriek'd when they forth rode
And of their lives took little force.

From Penigent to Pendal Hill,
From Linton to Long Addingham,
And all the Craven coasts did till,
They wish the lusty Clifford came.[64]

All Staincliffe hundred went with him,
With striplings strong from Whoredale,
And all that Hanton hills did climb
With Longstroth elce and Littondale

*     *     *     *     *

The right hand wing with all his route,
The lusty Lord Dacres did lead,
With him the bows of Kendal stout,
With milk coats and crosses red.

Thus Stanley stout the last of all
Of the rere-ward the rule did wield ;
Which done, to Bolton in Glendale,
The total Army took the Field.

march'd forth these men of War,
And every band their banner shew'd,
And Trumpets hoarse were heard afar,
And glittering harness shining view'd,—

The sounding bows were soon up bent,
Some did their arrows sharp uptake;
Some did in hand their alberta hent,
Some rusty bills did ruffling shaker—

*     *     *     *     *

With the rereward the river past,
All ready in ranks and battle array,
They had no need more time to waste,
For victuals they had none that day.—

Yet they such stedfast faith did bear,
Unto their king and native land,
Each one the other did up cheer,
'Gainst foes to fight whilst they could stand.

And never flee whilst life did last,
But rather die by dint of sword;
Thus over plains and hills they pass'd,
Until they came to Sandiford.

A Brook of breadth a Tailor's yard,
Where th' Earl of Surry thus did say,
"Good fellow Soldiers, be not fear'd,
But fight it out like men this day."

Strike but three strokes with stomach stout,
And shoot each man sharp arrows three,
And you shall see without all doubt,
The beaten Scots begin to flee.

*     *     *     *     *

The Englishmen their feather'd flights
Sent out anon from sounding bow,
Which wounded many warlike Wights,
And many a groom to ground did throw.

*     *     *     *     *

Till at the last great Stanley stout,
Came marching up the mountain steep
His folks could hardly fast their feet,
But forc'd on hands and feet to creep.

"My Lancashire most lively Wights,
And chosen mates of Cheshire strong,
From sounding bow your feather'd flights,
Let fiercely fly your foes among."

The noise then made the mountains ring,
And Stanley, stout they all did cry,
Out went anon the grey goose wing,
And 'mongst the Scots did flickering fly.

The King himself was wounded sore,
An arrow fierce in's forehead light,
That hardly he could see his foes,
The blood so blemished his sight.

Yet like a Warrior stout he said,
And fiercely did exhort that tide,
His men to be no thing dismay'd,
But battle boldly there to bide.

But what avail'd his valour great,
Or bold device, all was but vain,
His Captains keen fail'd at his feet,
And Standard-bearer down was slain.

The Royal Corpse was found next morning, and conveyed to Sheene, a Monastery in Surrey, (where says Stowe) it " remained for a time, in what order I am not certain, but since the dissolution of the Abbeys in the reign of Henry VI, Henry Grey then Duke of Suffolk, keeping house there, shewed the same body, wrapped in lead and thrown into a waste room, amongst old timber, stone, lead, and other rubbish." A strange monument of human instability!

Amongst the various accounts which have been handed down to the present day, of the dreadful effects produced by the English Long-bow in battle, few perhaps can shew greater pretensions for record, than the following occurrence, which took place in the Isle of Wight in 1377, at about the commencement of the reign of Richard II.

The French invaded the Island, and landed in considerable force at "Franche-Ville,''[65] which town they burnt. After this, they marched in two grand divisions towards Carisbrooke Castle, for the purpose of taking that strong hold. One body filed off in the south east direction, the other kept the more northern road towards Newport. The news of this invasion, was soon spread throughout the Island, and no time was lost in collecting the forces which it possessed, to repel the foe. The English troops consisted principally of archers who were so admirably posted in ambush, that the French were easily decoyed to their own pending destruction. The enemy had gained the fields immediately under the west side of Noddies-hill, when the general attack and slaughter began. The crowded ranks of the French, who were now hemmed in a narrow road which led from Newport to Carisbrooke,[66] rendered their downfall more ready and certain. Showers of arrows assailed them in such quick succession, that their resistance was but in vain. Each shaft seemed to be winged with certain death, for in a short time, the places ran with streams of blood. There was not one man left ! About the same moment of time, the other body of the French attacked Carisbrooke Castle. The English, on completing the destruction of the enemy under Noddies-hill, lost not a moment in proceeding to the relief of the besieged, who, with the assistance of their brethren in arms, soon spread terror and dismay amongst the opening ranks of the French. Destruction quickly followed, and the woeful fate of the invaders was, in this additional instance, sealed by the archers of England. [67]

It appears that much attention was paid towards keeping the Forts and Castles of the Isle of Wight well supplied with arms. The following list is from an old record :—

A LIST OF BOWS AND ARROWS, &c. IN THE ISLE OF WIGHT,
1547.

"Remaining in the Forts in the Isle of Wight, 1547.

The Castell at Yarmouth
Bowes......140      Shriffs of Arrows.....248
Bow Strings oone firkyne conteyninge 2 Grosse.

The Castell of Carysbroke
Chestes of arrows.....59      Chestes of bowes......21
Bowstrings......3 Barrels.

The Castell of Sandham baye
Bowes....oone chest,      Sheiff Arrows... .oone chest.

The Castell at the Weste Cowe
in the Mayne Towne
Bowes......19      Chestes of Arrowes....32"

From Sir John Smith we read, that, in 1548, "Ambrose Earl of Warwick that accompanied the Duke of Northumberland his father, (then Earl of Warwick) a man of great valour, was sent by King Edward VI. as his Lieutenant-General, with an army of horsemen and footmen, to suppress the rebellion of Ket, in Norfolk, who at that time lay encamped with a great power of notorious and hardy rebels by the City of Norwich, upon a high hill called Mount Surrey. To the which city, the Duke with his army being come, he with gread order did encamp and lodge himself and his army on the other side of the city and river, and the next day entered the Town, and brought 24 field pieces to the chief charge, whereof he appointed Colonel Courpenick an Alman, and a great soldier, with his regiment of Almans, which was 1,200 strong, the most of them brave shot, and all old soldiers, with divers English bands, and valiant captains of our own nation, for the guard of the same: but before they could thoroughly entrench themselves, those furious rebels (contrary to all expectation) descended down their hill with such fury of shot of arrows, (being all bowmen, swords, and bills.) that they gave such a terror, and fear to our people, as they were fain to run away, with the loss of ordnance, and slaughter of a great sort of soldiers ; and before the Duke could make head against them, they had taken 18 field pieces and carried them up to their hill, even with very force of men. And within two or three days after, those gallants did not let to abide the battle against the Duke and his whole army, in the plain field, where the battle was so manfully fought on both sides, that it would be hardly judged by the best soldiers that were there, which side was likely to prevail ; but in the end (God giving the victory,) it was seen by that battle, that arrows were a most noble weapon. And whereas the Duke, who at his first assembling and forming his army changed many archers into harquebusseers, because he had no opinion of the long bow, he after the victory and suppression of the rebels upon the experience that he had of the danger and terror of arrows, his own horse being wounded under him at that battle, with three or four arrows whereof he died, did, both then, and many times after, openly protest his error, before Count Malatesta Baglion, an ancient and noble soldier, and other great Captains, saying, that from that time forward, he would hold the bow to be the only weapon of the world. And this I have set down almost verbatim, from the report of the aforesaid Ambrose Earl of Warwick, who was present at that action, and had his horse wounded under him with two or three arrows."

Also about the year 1562, during an engagement between the English and French and Almau companies, near Newhaven, in which the enemy were greatly superior in number and "forced the Euglish to retire, it happened," says Sir John Smith, "that eighty tall archers, (Hampshire Men) did at that time land in the haven, who taking their bows and sheafs of arrows, with their other furniture, did presently march without any tarryance through the town into the field where the skirmish was; upon whose coming, the English bauds that a little before were forced by the often charges, and great multitude of the shot of their enemies, to retire even to the very town ditches and gates ; taking courage afresh, they and the bowmen entered again into skirmish with the Almans and French ; the eighty archers did behave themselves so notably against the enemy, with their vollies of arrows; that with the brave and valiant charges which they and the rest of the English bands gave upon their enemies, (but chiefly with the excellence of the archers,) they forced them to turn their backs and routed them, and became masters of the field. Upon which notable effect, of those few archers, as also upon divers others that Colonel Alman, the Reingrave, had before time seen in serving against the English, he shortly after, upon the return of a message sent by the Earl of Warwick, (Sir Edward Horsey being the Messenger,) did most highly commend the notable effects, that he long before, in divers services, had seen performed by English archers, both against horse and foot; and said also, that long before that time, he knew by experience that great numbers of English archers were able to perform great matters in the field : but that so small a number of bowmen, as were in that last great conflict, should be able, with their arrows to do so great mischief against his old bands of Almans, French, and Gascoignes, he could not have believed, if he himself had not seen it. And therefore he did with great reason and experience protest and acknowledge, the long-bows of England to be the most excellent weapons for the field, that were used by any nation in Christendom."

Further, Sir John Smith relates ' in our time, King Henry VIII. being at the siege of Teroüenne, a convoy with provisions was coming from Guienes, towards Teroüenne: the French Captains of Picardy, and Vermandois having intelligence of it, assembled all the men at arms, harquebusseers, and Cross-bow men, laid in ambush, and overthrew the English light horse Avan-couriers; which being perceived by the English, they so placed their archers, that after a long fight, and many charges by the French men at arms, and their shot given, (the French far exceeding the English in number) the French having a number of horses wounded and slain, were completely repulsed, and overthrown by the excellence of the archers.

From Neade, we fine that Henry VIII. won Turwin, Tournay, and Boulogne, chiefly by the use of the bow, which " amazed the enemy, and wounded almost every one." Such was the effect of well directed vollies of arrows.[68]

Henry VIII was an Archer.

In the reign of Elizabeth we learn, that the bow was extolled, and its value in military service, highly spoken of, not only by Englishmen, but by foreigners of high rank, and great military skill, who had witnessed its powerful effects. During this Queen's reign, 50 bowmen were on board each of the first rate Men of War, and the inferior rates also had a due proportion of archers, and, according to Sir J. Smith, a considerable part of the army drawn out at Tilbury, to oppose the Spanish Invasion, anno. 1588, consisted of Bow-men.

In 1643, the Earl of Essex issued a precept, "for stirring up well affected people by benevolence towards raising a company of archers for the service of King Charles I. and the Parliament.—And in the pamphlet (noticed by Grose) printed 1664, giving an account of the success of the Marquis of Montrose against the Scots, bowmen, are repeatedly mentioned. This, it appears, is the latest period to which any account of English military archery can be traced,[69] or that the bow has been held in requisition as an implement of war.

"Thou yieldest to Fate,
"Thy pride is fall'n, thy ancient Glories end."

The records from which the foregoing anecdotes are selected, show that with the power of the English archers, has France been ten times successfully invaded,[70] once brought to the brink of ruin under Edward III. once conquered by Henry V. one of her monarchs, viz. King John at the battle of Poitiers, with his son Philip and most of the French nobility made prisoners, and Lewis XI. of France, submitted to pay a tribute to Edward IV. to relieve himself from the terror of the English arms.

"Thus thou peculiar Engine of our Land!
Weapon of conquest! Master of the Field!
Renowned Bow! (that mads't this Crown command,
The Tow'rs of France, and all their pow'rs to yield,)

Thou first didst conquer us; then raised our skill,
To vanquish others:—
And now, how com'st thou to be out of date,
And all neglected leav'st us, and art gone!
And with Thee th'ancient strength, the manly state,
Of Valour and of Worth, that Glory won?
Or else stay'st thou 'till new priz'd shot abate,
(That never shall effect what thou hast done)
And only but attend'st some blessed reign,
When thou and Virtue shall be grac'd again.[71]

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