Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


This is coolbert:

  In several prior blog entries, I have stated that war is NOT anarchy!

And this is true. The rulers that make war and order their subjects to fight at war, generally do have reasonable, sane, thought out reasons for waging war in the first place.

However, at least until the advent of black powder warfare, war as it was fought on the battlefield DID to an extent resemble anarchy.

Consider the etymology [origin] of the word war:

"Etymology - - Anglo-Norman werre, from Old Northern French werre, a variant of Old French guerre, from Old Franconian werra, ultimately from Indo-European werza-, meaning "mixture" or "confusion.""


What we are speaking about here by confusion, perplex, mixture, is what was called the general melee'.

How battles were generally fought in the period PRIOR to black powder warfare.

Battles would usually commence by the two armies approaching one another en masse [as a massed group of warriors [as opposed to soldiers]]. There MIGHT be an exchange of missile firing weaponry [spears, arrow, glandes [lead shot the size of a kidney thrown by a peltist]]. After the missile weapon exchange, both sides would then rush one another, to close and engage at close-quarters with edged weapons.

A small minority of nobles and their liegemen [knights] would attack and fight on horseback, wearing armor and wielding swords, maces, lances. These would generally be the only trained military men on either side. Nobles and their lieges would engage and fight other nobles and lieges [persons quite often well known to them]. The idea for the nobles and their lieges and for the men-a-foot [peasantry] would be mano-a-mano combat with a single adversary, defeating same hopefully.

[defeat one man, advance on to another single combat, defeat the second man, advance on to another single combat, etc.!!]

[there WAS a definite code concerning the rank and station of adversaries. It would not have been sporting for a peasant to take on a noble or a noble to take on a peasant in single combat. Penalties were exacted in China for such errors of protocol!!]

Within seconds of the initial clash of armed men, literally thousands of combatants from both sides would have "mixed" and from afar the scene would have the appearance of "confusion". "Perplexing" the observer. Battles prior to blackpowder warfare more than anything else resembled a brawl writ-large. Little if any teamwork, fighting according to a plan, or accepting discipline.

The general melee' would continue until one side either gave way or was vanquished in sufficient numbers.

Picture the battle scene [Stirling Bridge] in the movie "Braveheart". The battle scene where the charge of the mounted English lancers on the Scots is repelled by the sharpened stakes of the defenders. The Scots then rush the English and the general melee' commences. That is what I am talking about.

The general melee', confusion, mixing, perplexing, generally ended with the beginning of the blackpowder warfare era? Some would suggest this is not so. The very nature of warfare even to this day is confusion and CHAOS. At least controlled but chaotic nonetheless.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home