THE arrow feems to have been the decifive weapon at the great battle of Towton, between the Yorkifts and Lancaftrians, where thirty fix thoufand feven hundred and twenty-fix Englifhmen fell a facrifice to the ambition of contending Princes.
The battle begun about nine o'clock in the morning of the 29th of March 1461, at which time a thick fnow falling was driven by a brifk wind full in the faces of the Lancaftrians, who were thereby prevented from obferving the exact diftance of the enemy.
The LORD FAUCONBERG, an old and experienced officer, made an admirable ufe of this accident; for he ordered his men to advance as near as they conveniently could, and to difcharge a flight of arrows, and then retire with all fpeed out of the reach of thofe of the enemy.
This ftratagem had a wonderful effect: The Lancaftrians feeling the arrows, and thinking their enemies were not many yards diftant, emptied their quivers by repeated difcharges, EDWARD'S men all the white keeping theirs in referve. The Lord Fauconberg perceiving the Lancaftrians' fhot was near fpent, and that they were advancing, as was cuftomary, fword in hand, to begin a clofe fight, plied them with another furious difcharge, which obliged them to fall back on the main body. Moft authors agree, that this conduct of Fauconberg's was a great help to the victory.
STOW obferves that the flain were buried in five great pits in the field by North-Saxton church; and adds, that a Mr. HUNGATE caufed them to be removed from thence, and buried in the churchyard of Saxton; but they were certainly buried in many parts of the field, as their remains are often difcovered there by the plough-share.
Mr. DRAKE informs us, that in the year 1734, himfelf and two other gentlemen were pre-fent at this place, to fee one of thefe graves opened in the field ; where, amongft vaft quantities of bones, they found fome arrow piles, pieces of broken fwords, and five very frefh groat-pieces of Henry IV. V. and VI's. coin. Thefe laying, nearly altogether, clofe to a thigh bone, made it probable that they had not had time to ftrip the dead before their interment.
In the 5th year of EDWARD IV. an act paffed, that every Englifhman, and Irifhman dwelling with Englifhmen, fhould have an Englifh bow of his own height; which is directed to be made of yew, wych, hazel, afh, or awborne, or any other reafonable tree, according to their power. This act alfo directs, that butts fhall be made in every townfhip, which the inhabitants are obliged to fhoot up and down every feaft day, under the penalty of a halfpenny, when they fhall omit this exercife.
In the 14th year of the fame King it appears, by RYMER'S Foedera, that one thoufand Archers were to be fent to the DUKE of BURGANDY, whole pay is fettled at fixpence a-day ; which is more than a common foldier receives clear in the prefent times, when provifions are much dearer, and the value of money fo much decreafed.
This circumftance feems to prove very clearly, the great eftimation in which Archers were ftill held. In the fame year EDWARD, preparing for a war with France, directs the fheriffs to procure bows and arrows, as moft fpecially requifite and neceffary.
RICHARD III. by his attention to Archery, was able to fend one thoufand bow-men to the DUKE of BRETAGNE; and he availed himfelf of the fame troops at the battle of Bofworth: At this battle the Archers, on the fide of KING RICHARD, were commanded by the DUKE of NORFOLK; and the EARL of OXFORD was Captain of thofe of the EARL of RICHMOND.