Friday, 14 April 2017

Details Of War

SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007).

In Chapter Eleven, p. 293, eight hundred archers shoot two hundred arrows per second. In less than a minute, ten thousand arrows are aimed at one hundred attacking men and their horses. Some of the remnant are shot in the back as they retreat.

In Chapter Seventeen, p. 461, nine hundred "kiltie" archers shoot a hundred and thirty thousand arrows in ten minutes at a thousand Portlander men advancing shoulder to shoulder. In fact, their commander, the Marchwarden, sent the infantry in first "' soak up arrows.'" (p. 463) Thinking that the kilties are now short of ammunition, he leads a cavalry charge and the enemy indeed retreats. Breaking through two fences, the cavalry charge into long steel points while nine hundred enemy bowmen, no longer retreating and not short of ammunition, resume shooting at close range. The Marchwarden takes an arrow in the eye.

I said here that Poul Anderson describes space combat as if from experience. SM Stirling seems to have experienced medieval warfare. He tells us that it is difficult to get dried and set blood out of fine machining or a scabbard. I believe it.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Even granting that it's a tough problem for infantry to get to grips with an enemy in the face of a massed arrow storm, it seems needlessly wasteful of brave soldiers to use them in a frontal attack. What I've wondered is whether a strong demonstration to the front of the MacKenzies to force most of their archers to stay put while a real attack to one of their flanks might have worked better. After all, if archers were shifted to meet a flanking attack that would also weaken the original front, giving their enemies a chance to attack there.

A real world soldier like David Birr might be able to point out any weaknesses in what I suggested here. I also had the real world Battle of Fredericksburg, in the US Civil War, in mind. The US General Burnside had used his army to try frontally breaking thru Lee's lines, but failed bloodily, due to the massed musketry and artillery fire of the Confederates. The only real losses Lee suffered was from a smaller US attack to his right flank. Might the battle had turned out differently if Burnside had concentrated most of his forces on a flank attack, leaving only a strong demonstration to Lee's front?