On the Englifh Long-Bow.
Part 9 of 12
An old writer (quoted by Dr. Johnfon) fays,
The white faith of hift'ry cannot fhew,
That e'er a mufket yet could beat the Bow.
Alleyn's Henry VII.170
If we confider the unfkilful contrivance of the mufket, at the time Archery was in ufe in war, we fhall not be furprized that the Bow remained in favour fo long; indeed in the prefent day, although firearms are much improved, there is reafon to fuppofe the Bow would be of great fervice on many occafions, and particularly againft cavalry.
Sir John Hayward obferves, that "a horfe ftroke with a bullet, if the wound be not mortal, may performe good fervice; but if an Arrow be fattened in the flefh, the continual ftirring thereof, occafioned by the motion of himfelfe, will enforce him to caft off all command, and either beare down or diforder thofe that are neere."171
He proceeds to add, "that fome thought the cracke of the peice, ftrikes terrour into the enemy. But ufe, fays he, will extinguifh thefe terrours. And if it be true, which all men of action doe hold, that the eye in all battailes is firft overcome, then againft men equally accuftomed to both, the fight of a fhower of Arrows is more available to victory then the cracke of the piece."172
AS the Arrow muft neceffarily be elevated in fhooting to a diftance, Archers may be placed in almoft any pofition, with refpect to the other parts of the army; and accordingly we find, that in both ancient and modern tactics, they have been placed in the rear, as well as the front. Indeed contingent circumftances, fuch as the face of a country, whether woody or open, whether mountainous or plain, would require a varied diftribution of the lines of an army.
Archers ufually occupied the front, and retired between the ranks of the heavy-armed men, as the battle joined. It was not uncommon to place them in lines, behind thofe of the infantry, as they could act over the heads of the preceding ranks;173 for the fame reafon they fometimes fought behind the cavalry; but when the enemy approached, it was neceffary for the horfemen to incline forwards, and cover themfelves with their fhields.174 The Emperor Leo very much difapproves of this latter method of placing Archers, as from their fituation the Arrows being directed high, " they fell on the enemy," he fays, " in a pofition which was without effect." It is not obvious, however, why the Arrows elevated high, fhould fall without effect, as the experience of ages has proved the value of diftant Archery.
Matthew Paris and Hoveden mention, that the Englifh Archers were mixed with the cavalry, in the time of king Stephen.
At the battle of Crecy, our Archers are faid to have been placed in triangles behind the ranks; and at Poictiers they were in the wings, drawn up in the fame figure, "rangez en berfe"—See P. Daniel.
The real advantage of Archers in war, appears, during early periods, to have been inconfiderable ; they feem to be held in low eftimation by Homer, and are reprefented as lurking behind pofts and trees, in order to fhoot; or under the protection of fome fhield, held over them by the hand of a byftander; thus fighting in ambufh, like aftaffins, rather than as foldiers. At this period indeed, the Archers were armed only with the Bow,without fword or I; it would have been rafhnefs therefore, for them to have entered the battle with a weapon calculated only for diftant combat; and this may in fome degree, plead an excufe for their feeking fhelter.175