Battle of Baliqiao (Palikao): 21 September 1860


The Battle of Baliqao was the culmination of the Second Opium War. An Anglo-French force of 4000 men soundly defeated a Qing Army of 30,000 east of Beijing. The allied victory was followed by the sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace northwest of the city, and the conclusion of the conflict. Prince Seng-ko-lin-Chin, one of the most successful Qing generals and Prince Sengbao, brother of the Emperor, blocked the road to Beijing with troops drawn from the Green Standard Army, reinforced by Imperial Guard troops of the Banner Army. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Anglo- French force led by French General Cousin de Montauban and British General Sir John Hope Grant attacked the Qing positions at the front and flank. After hard fighting the Qing cavalry was repulsed. The Imperial Guard held the bridge at Baliqao, but French artillery, and a determined bayonet charge by experienced infantry, dislodged them with heavy losses for the Chinese.

The Anglo-French expeditionary force landed and seized the forts at Tangku, then advanced up the Peiho River to Beijing. The combined Anglo- French force fought two successful engagements against overwhelming Qing forces, ultimately defeating them at Baliqao.

The victory at Chang chi wan over vastly superior forces gave Grant and Montauban even greater confidence in reaching the capital. As the Allies were en route to Toung-chou, the 101st Regiment under General Jamin arrived, further increasing French strength. After spending the night encamped outside the walled town, Grant and Montauban followed a canal tributary of the Peiho towards Baliqiao and its stone bridge, which carried the metalled road to the imperial capital. On the morning of 21 September, as the British and French columns moved out of their encampments past Toungchou, they found Prince Seng-ko-lin-ch’in’s army, reinforced by Imperial Guard soldiers under General Prince Sengbaou, brother of the emperor. Some 30,000 strong, it stood in position before Baliqiao Bridge.

The Chinese position was formidable, with its left on the canal, reinforced by the village of Baliqiao, another village in the centre, and a third on the far right. The road to Beijing passed through the rolling and wooded terrain and veered towards the canal and its stone bridge. Seng-ko-linch’in had brought order to his routed army, and strengthened its resolve with several thousand troops from Beijing. The prince’s position was supported by more than 100 guns in the villages, across the canal defending the bridge, and along the entire front. His army included a division of Banner soldiers, but the majority were drawn from the Green Standard Army and assorted cavalry. The Imperial Guard were kept in reserve at the bridge, but the main army under Sengbaou was disposed with strong cavalry on the flanks deployed in depth of squadrons and interspersed between the infantry battalions in and behind the villages. The Chinese front covered a distance of 5km (3 miles) but lacked substantial depth. Yet, there were significant knots of trees, which obstructed the line of sight of both armies.

Keeping to the line of battle used at Chang chi wan, Grant took the left and Montauban the centre and right with the canal to protect his flank. Montauban used the wooded terrain to mask his paltry numbers, sending the first column in a slightly oblique attack against the Chinese centre. General Jamin would move to Collineau’s right and against the Chinese left. Grant moved to the far left of Collineau, hoping to flank the Qing army with his column. General Collineau’s advance guard comprised the elite companies of the 101st and 102nd Regiments, two companies of the 2nd Chasseurs a pied (elite light infantry), an engineer detachment, two batteries of horse artillery and a battery of 4-pound foot artillery. Montauban and Jamin commanded the 101st Regiment along with two more companies of the 2nd Chasseurs a pied, a battery of 12-pounders and a Congreve rocket section.

Collineau’s infantry advanced through the woods towards the Chinese centre. The rapidity of the movement startled Sengbaou, and he moved much of the cavalry from the wings to protect his centre. The French advance guard moved in skirmish order, and formed out along the road towards Baliqiao. Montauban ordered Jamin’s brigade forward. Two large bodies of Qing cavalry, some 12,000 in all, charged each of the French columns. Collineau’s artillery poured fire into the serried ranks of Mongol and Manchu cavalry, while the elite companies found security in the ditch that ran along the main road. Accurate fire took its toll on the cavalry, but Collineau soon found himself embroiled in hand-to-hand fighting around his position. Generals Montauban and Jamin also managed to deploy their guns and fire with devastating effect while their infantry formed two squares just before the cavalry hit their position. The French 12-pound battery was positioned between Collineau and Jamin’s brigades and continued to pour canister into the enemy. After some time, the cavalry broke off their attack, having failed to break the French squares or overrun Collineau’s precarious position. The respite allowed Montauban to take stock, re-form and advance upon the villages held by the Green Standard battalions.

Cavalry Redeployed

Sengbaou and Seng-ko-lin-ch’in did not renew their cavalry assault, as Grant’s column moved against their right. Montauban could not see the British advance because he was in one of the squares during the attack. Grant’s appearance forced the Qing generals to redeploy their cavalry to the flank, thereby allowing Montauban to attack the village closest to the centre. With an abundance of cavalry, it remains unclear why Singbaou or Seng-ko-lin-ch’in did not leave a substantial body to retard the advance of the French. Grant’s force was larger, had more guns and cavalry, and one can only surmise that they perceived this threat to the flank as a priority and underestimated the elan of the French assault.

The 101st stormed the village of Oua-kaua-ye in the centre, dispersing with ease the infantry defending it, and suffering little from their ineffective artillery. Following up, Montauban ordered both brigades to attack the village of Baliqiao, which was defended by more determined troops. Qing infantry defended the road across which Collineau advanced. His elite companies made short and bloody work of these soldiers and continued towards the village. Large cannon in the streets and across the canal fired on the French columns. Jamin brought up his batteries to silence the Chinese guns while the infantry moved in from two directions. The village and bridge at Baliqiao were defended by the Imperial Guard. These soldiers did not give ground. Collineau brought his cannon up to form crossfire with Jamin’s batteries.

Collineau Storms the Village

After tearing the Imperial Guard troops apart, Collineau formed his troops into an attack column and stormed the village. Fighting raged at close quarters for more than 30 minutes. Montauban led the 101st to Collineau’s support securing the village. Not wanting to lose momentum, Collineau re-formed his command and advanced rapidly upon the bridge, with the French batteries providing effective and deadly fire. The Chinese artillerists manning their guns were killed, and the Imperial Guard gave ground under the canister, followed by Collineau’s attack. The bridge was taken.

Grant’s column helped the Chinese along as its attack on the left dislodged the Green Standard troops from their village, while the British and Indian cavalry rolled up the line, overwhelming Qing cavalry that tried to hold their ground. The British attack was swift, but hard-fought. Grant’s line of attack brought him within sight of a wooden bridge that crossed the canal some 1.6km (1 mile) west of Baliqiao.The arrival of the British on Seng-ko-lin-ch’in’s far right, and the collapse of his forces in the face of their attack, compelled the general to pull his army from the field before it was trapped on the far bank of the canal. By noon, only five hours after the battle began, Grant’s British were on the far side of the canal across the wooden bridge, while Collineau’s elite companies established a bridgehead at Baliqiao. The victory sealed the fate of the imperial government.

The Allied expedition sacked the Imperial Summer Palace northwest of Beijing, and the emperor capitulated to European demands. Napoleon III, flush with victory over Austria the year before, rewarded Montauban with elevation to the rank of Count of the Empire, as Comte de Palikao’. Little did Montauban know that he would end his illustrious career as Minister of War in 1870, presiding over the collapse of the Second Empire and the fall of France to German armies.

Outremer in the Crusades


Outremer is Established

The first organized crusade, led by Raymond of St Gilles, count of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother Baldwin, Hugh of Vermandois, Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred, set out in August 1096 by various routes, reaching Constantinople in April and May 1097. After swearing oaths of homage and fealty to Alexius, the Crusaders crossed the Bosphorus. The Byzantine troops accompanying them took Nicaea on 19 June and the first Frankish victory occurred at Dorylaeum on 1 July. The army then crossed Anatolia, taking Iconium (modern Konya), and arrived at the Taurus Mountains, where they divided into two groups; one led by Baldwin crossed the mountains and took Cilicia, while the other skirted around Anatolia to Caesarea and hence to Antioch.

The first major Frankish territorial gain and the establishment of the first Frankish state in the East came in March 1098 following the death of Thoros, prince of Edessa (Urfa), who after asking for Baldwin of Boulogne’s aid against the Seljuk attacks had adopted him as co-ruler and heir. With Thoros’ death during an uprising, timely from the point of view of Baldwin and perhaps instigated by him, Baldwin became count of Edessa. Prior to this, in the previous October, the Crusaders had gathered outside the walls of Antioch and a seven-month siege of the city began. Antioch was still protected by its remarkable fortifications built by Justinian and repaired in the tenth century. The long wall had over 400 well-placed towers. It surrounded not only the built-up area of the town but also its gardens and fields, and it climbed up Mount Silpius, making an effective siege almost impossible. Raymond of Toulouse was in favour of a direct attack on the walls. Such a strike might have succeeded, but instead a decision was made to try to encircle the city. In the end it was only through the treachery of one of the defenders, an Armenian named Firouz, that on 3 June 1098 Bohemond gained access to the city. With the capture of Antioch, the second Frankish state, the principality of Antioch, was established. After much delay, the march to Jerusalem commenced on 13 January 1099. Skirting the coastal towns, the Crusaders moved south to Jaffa and then turned inland to Lydda, Ramla and Nebi Samwil where on 7 June they encamped before the Holy City. After a six-week siege, on 15 July 1099 the wall was breached near the north-eastern corner by troops under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon. A week later Godfrey was elected ruler of the newly established kingdom of Jerusalem.


Siege of Jerusalem

During the reign of Baldwin I (1100–18) the kingdom of Jerusalem expanded as the coastal cities fell one by one to the Franks. Jaffa and Haifa had already been occupied in 1099. Caesarea and Arsuf fell in 1101, Akko in 1104, Sidon and Beirut in 1110, Tyre in 1124 and Ascalon in 1153. At its peak in the twelfth century, the kingdom occupied an area extending from slightly north of Beirut to Darum in the south on the Mediterranean coast, and inland to several kilometres east of the Jordan valley and the Arava Desert, down to the Gulf of Eilat.

The county of Tripoli, last of the mainland states, was founded by Raymond of Toulouse between 1102 and 1105, although the city of Tripoli itself fell to the Franks only in 1109. The northern principalities of Antioch, Tripoli and Edessa were essentially dependencies of the kingdom of Jerusalem, though they often acted independently. In 1191 Cyprus also came under Frankish rule.

Division amongst the Muslims enabled the Frankish states to maintain a degree of stability; but towards the middle of the twelfth century the Franks suffered a major blow when in 1144 Zangi, master of Aleppo and Mosul, took Edessa. This county, which had been the first territorial gain of the Crusades, now became its first major loss and Zangi became known by his followers as the leader of the Jihad (Holy War). After his death and following the humiliating failure of the Second Crusade which had attacked Damascus rather than Edessa, Zangi’s son Nur al-Din took Damascus. In order to strengthen his position Nur al-Din sent Shirkuh, a Kurdish general, together with Shirkuh’s nephew, Saladin, to occupy Egypt. Shirkuh took Cairo in January 1169 and on his death Saladin became vizier of Egypt. Although formally he was under the overlordship of Nur al-Din, Saladin was in practice sultan of Egypt. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin occupied Damascus and united Egypt and Syria, thereby establishing himself as the leader of the Jihad against the Franks.

At the time when Muslims were finding unity under Saladin, Frankish rule was falling apart. After the death of King Amalric in 1174, the 13-year-old Baldwin IV, who suffered from leprosy, ascended the throne of Jerusalem. Despite his youth and illness Baldwin proved to be an able ruler, but as his disease progressed it became clear that he would have to delegate rule to a regent until the coming of age of his heir, the future Baldwin V, who was the son of his sister Sibylla and William of Montferrat. The king reluctantly appointed as regent Guy of Lusignan, who had married the recently widowed Sibylla, but shortly thereafter replaced him with Raymond III of Tripoli. Baldwin IV died at the age of 24 in 1185, and Baldwin V died in the following year.

Whatever Raymond’s expectations may have been, it was Guy of Lusignan who became king. In the meantime Saladin had consolidated his hold over the region and in 1187 events came to a head. A truce which Saladin had signed with the Franks in 1181 was broken by Reynald of Châtillon, who even attempted to attack Mecca itself. A subsequent four-year truce signed in 1185 was broken two years later when Reynald attacked a caravan on its way to Mecca, capturing Saladin’s sister. Saladin prepared for war. A huge Muslim army that has been estimated at 30,000 with 12,000 cavalry prepared for battle. First Saladin attacked Reynald’s fortresses of Montreal and Kerak. Then in June 1187 he crossed the Jordan and on 2 July his troops laid siege to Tiberias. The Frankish army marched to Saffuriya (Tsipori) and on the morning of 4 July met the Muslims in battle at the Horns of Hattin. The Frankish army was encircled and destroyed.

Within a few months most of the castles and towns of the kingdom, including Jerusalem, fell to Saladin and by the end of 1189 only Tyre remained in their hands. Much of the territory to the north was also lost, though Antioch and the castles of Crac des Chevaliers, Margat (Marqab) and Qusair remained in Frankish hands, as did Tripoli. Even with the reoccupation of the coast by the Third Crusade (1189–92) and the short-lived recovery of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Toron and Sidon following a treaty reached in 1229, the Franks never really overcame this defeat. One of the few lasting consequences of the Third Crusade was the occupation of the island of Cyprus, which fell to Richard I of England in 1191. He sold it to the Templars and it was eventually granted to the deposed king of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan.


Outremer – Geography and climate

At their peak the Crusader states extended from Cilicia in the north to the northern edge of the Sinai Peninsula in the south; until the collapse that followed the Battle of Hattin, they included the whole of western Palestine and the eastern edge of Transjordan. After the Third Crusade the island of Cyprus also came under Frankish rule. Rarely are the blessings and curses of nature so heavily concentrated in one fairly small region, although the blessings perhaps outweigh the curses. In the north, from the Taurus Mountains to the east, the countryside is fertile and well watered. So too is the Lebanon and the coastal plain as far south as Rafiah. The Golan, and beyond it the Hauran, are highly fertile basaltic lands. To the south and east, however, aridity sets in, broken here and there by springs and oases. The climate varies over this region but generally falls into a pattern of an extended dry season commencing in April and continuing until late October, tempered only by occasional morning mists. It is followed by a wet season during which heavy but erratic showers occur, often of short duration but occasionally lasting for several days. Most of the towns are situated along the Mediterranean littoral. In the Crusader period these included Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Akko, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Ascalon. Several secondary and some important towns lie inland: Antioch on the River Orontes, Tiberias and Nazareth in the lower Galilee, Sebaste, and Nablus in the Samaria Hills, Lydda and Ramla in the inland plain, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron in the Judean hills.

The island of Cyprus is physically little different from the mainland. It is often coarse, dry countryside with narrow, seasonal streams, but it is also remarkably fertile. The well-watered Troodos Mountains rise at the island’s centre to a height of over 1800 m. To the north is the lower, Kyrenia range (1067 m). Between them is an extensive plain, the Mesaoria, and to the south of the Troodos are the plains of Paphos and Limassol. The principal towns and districts are Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos and Kyrenia. Under the Lusignans Cyprus was divided into twelve districts: Nicosia, Salines (Larnaca), Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos, Kyrenia, the Mesaoria, the Karpas Peninsula, the Masoto, Avdimou, Chrysokhou and Pendayia.

Outremer – The native population

The native population of the territories that came under Frankish rule included Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Jews, Samaritans and a number of Christian sects: Armenians, Copts, Greek Orthodox (Melkites), Jacobites, Maronites and Nestorians. The early Frankish conquests were accompanied by widespread slaughter of the local urban population, Muslims, Jews and even the Eastern Christians, a policy which left the Franks facing a significant demographic problem. The population of Jerusalem dropped to a few hundred knights and footmen (Fulcher of Chartres 1913:2.6; William of Tyre 1986:9.19). Non- Christians were not allowed to return to Jerusalem, but this was not the case elsewhere. In general, after the initial slaughters and expulsions the Franks came to terms with the existence of the local communities, particularly once the majority of the Crusaders had returned to Europe. Except in the case of Jerusalem there was probably never any intention of entirely eliminating the non-Frankish population from the cities, and the Franks must have soon become aware of the need to rely on the local peasantry for food and many other necessities. Thus most of the rural population remained in place, retaining a near-serf status little different from that which they had held under the Fatimids. The depopulated capital was resettled, not with the remnants of the previous population but with Frankish and Eastern Christians. On the whole the Franks appear to have been reluctant to remain in Jerusalem. It became necessary to pass legislation aimed at making settlement in the city more attractive by easing the tax burdens: tariffs were removed from certain goods entering the city gates. In order to put an end to the widespread absentee landlordship, a law was passed whereby an estate whose owner was absent for a year and a day would become the property of the tenant. An additional means of increasing the city’s population was by the organized settlement of local Christians from Transjordan. They were housed in what had previously been the Jewish quarter, Juverie, in the north-east of the city.

Outremer – The Frankish settlers

‘Crusader’—the popular label used to describe anything or anyone connected to the Frankish presence in the East—is a somewhat misleading term. If we limit its use to people who participated in a Crusade we are on safe ground, but what about those who were born in the East and never took part in a Crusade? Strictly speaking, ‘Frank’ is not much better. A large part of the Western population settled in the East was certainly not of Frankish origin: Normans, Germans, Italians and other nations made up much of the permanent population. However, ‘Frank’ (Franj in Arabic) has a certain legitimacy in that it was the name used by the local population at the time to refer to Westerners, both new arrivals as well as pulani (those who were born in the East), whatever their ethnic origins. The Frankish population included a minority of nobles and a large class of burgesses consisting of shopkeepers and artisans, many of whom were probably of peasant origin.

In the countryside there seems to have occasionally been voluntary downward social mobility, when men who had previously been burgesses chose to become peasants. William of Tyre hints at this when he suggests that it was easier for men of limited means to make a living in these settlements than in the towns (William of Tyre 1986:20.19).

Frankish administration and institutions

Following a brief leadership contest during which Raymond of Toulouse was offered the title but in such a reluctant manner that he refused it, Godfrey of Bouillon was elected to rule over the newly established kingdom. For reasons of piety he refused the title of king, but to all intents and purposes that is what he was. He ruled until his untimely death on 18 July 1100, when his brother Baldwin of Edessa ascended the throne and took the title of king of Jerusalem. After its nominal establishment the kingdom of Jerusalem began to emerge as a physical reality. The conquest of inland areas coincided with the progressive occupation of the coastal cities. Command of the coast was vital to the survival of the kingdom and of the northern principalities. Despite the gains of the First Crusade, the overland route was not a viable alternative to the maritime connection with Europe, a fact that became particularly obvious when Zangi, the ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, retook Edessa in 1144. From the outset the coastal towns served as the only route of contact with the West. Thus their conquest was a priority that was dealt with immediately after the conquest of Jerusalem and the defeat of the Fatimid army at Ascalon in the summer of 1099.

The king of Jerusalem headed what was in theory an elective monarchy but in practice a hereditary one. Baldwin I’s successor, Baldwin de Burg was elected to the position by a council of clergy and nobles, but he was also the king’s nephew and, according to Albert of Aix, one of his choices as heir. On his deathbed Baldwin II had his eldest daughter Melisende married to the barons’ choice of his successor, Fulk of Anjou. On Fulk’s death Melisende, who ruled jointly with the king, was crowned together with her eldest son Baldwin. Thus in fact the monarchy had dropped its elective facade and openly become a hereditary one. Subsequently, with a few exceptions, the succession remained hereditary.

In the early years of the century the king was prepotent, his power stemming largely from the possession of extensive tracts of land in the interior and from the commercial revenues deriving from the port cities. His strength declined, however, as the royal domains diminished in the twelfth century and much of the port revenues were siphoned off by the Italian merchant communes. Displaying perhaps lack of foresight but clearly also lack of choice, the kings of Jerusalem granted extensive lordships from the royal lands in Judea, Samaria and the coastal plain. In this manner the king’s holdings were depleted until what remained consisted of little more than areas around the cities of Jerusalem, Akko, Tyre and Nazareth, and the region of Darum in the south. The increasingly independent class of nobles who received these land grants thereby acquired considerable political authority at the king’s expense and exercised an expanding role in the decision-making of the Haute Cour (High Court). By the later twelfth century the king was largely dependent on the barons.

In the other Frankish states the situation was rather different. The principality of Antioch was ruled by the prince, who was theoretically a vassal not of the king of Jerusalem but of the Byzantine emperor. However, Bohemund II of Antioch married the daughter of Baldwin II and after Bohemund’s death in 1130 Baldwin became guardian of Antioch and the principality became a dependency of Jerusalem. The count of Tripoli was vassal of the king of Jerusalem, while the count of Edessa was vassal of both the king of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch. As for Cyprus, in 1192 Guy of Lusignan became ruler of the island but adopted the title dominus, rather than assuming the status of king. On his death two years later his brother Aimery (1194–1205) became the first of the Frankish kings of Cyprus. Although the new governing body, the High Court of Nicosia, was empowered to choose the king or if necessary regent; as in Jerusalem this was a hereditary kingdom. The position of the king in relation to the barons was much more advantageous than on the mainland. One reason for this was that in Cyprus, unlike the kingdom of Jerusalem, the hereditary fiefs received by the barons reverted to the Crown if there was no direct heir. Thus the king retained considerable landed property and there were no great baronies that could pose a threat to him. The seigneuries were generally limited to a few villages at the most. All the walled towns and castles were held by the king; the only exceptions were the fortresses of Kolossi and Gastria, which were held by the Hospitallers and Templars.

Outremer – The Roman Church

The Church


Although it did not achieve its expectations of establishing theocratic rule in the East, the Church maintained a certain influence throughout the two centuries of Frankish rule. The political strength of the patriarchate was never very great, and in comparison to its position in the West the Church in the Latin East was neither influential nor wealthy. However, individual ecclesiastical establishments did become important property owners. Notable amongst these were the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Convent of St Anne, St Mary of Mount Zion, and St Mary in Jehoshaphat in Jerusalem, the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Abbey of St Lazarus in Bethany. Their holdings were varied; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for example, possessed houses in the major cities as well as in many of the smaller towns, whole villages (both those of the indigenous peasantry and the newly established villages of Frankish settlers), mills, bakeries and other institutions.

The military orders


The military order was a new and uniquely Crusader institution combining the concepts of knighthood and monasticism. The orders became an important element in Crusader society, the principal means of maintaining organized and well-equipped armed forces in the Latin East. The possession of numerous castles added to their weight in the defence of the Latin East. The Order of the Hospitallers or the Knights of St John, which had its beginnings in the monastery hospital of St Mary Latin in Jerusalem established around 1070, was recognized in 1113 by the pope and became a military order around 1130. Its principal aim was to care for the sick. The second military order was the Order of the Templars, so called because they had their headquarters in al-Aqsa Mosque, which was known to the Franks as the Templum Salomonis. It was founded in 1119–20 by a knight named Hugh of Payns with the aim of defending pilgrims on the roads. Both orders developed into huge organizations with vast holdings both in Outremer and in Europe. There were other military orders, notable amongst them the German Teutonic Order founded in 1190 which had its headquarters in Akko, the Order of St Lazarus and the Order of St Thomas.

Battle of Oudenaarde [Oudenarde] , (11 July 1708)


The Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Oudenaarde (John Wootton).


The perfect illustration of the difficulties of double command. In 1708, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, wanted to raise the morale of his Dutch allies by winning a battle in Flanders. His main objective was to retake all the territories lost the two previous years. On the French side, the king had sent his grandson, the Duc de Bourgogne, to command the field army with the Marechal de Vendôme on a secondary front. Eugene of Savoy’s army was far away, and Marlborough’s troops were deployed all over northern Flanders, with Brussels as headquarters. On 16 May, the French army advanced toward Brussels, its superior number pushing away Marlborough’s troops. Then Bourgogne stopped waiting for orders from Versailles, 200 miles away. A very religious man, Bourgogne was also very cautious and was always at variance with Vendôme’s orders. On the other side, Marlborough asked Prince Eugene to join his army as soon as possible to coordinate an aggressive defense.

At the beginning of July, a sycophantic noble follower of Bourgogne suggested an attack toward Bruges and Ghent. The two towns were easily taken, and the royal army decided to encircle Oudenaarde on the River Scheldt. But Marlborough had discerned this move and sent his army to cross the river before the French arrived.

On 11 July, the French general Biron discovered the waiting allied troops and asked for orders. Vendôme refused to believe Biron and left his army without deployment orders until it was too late. Marlborough, urging his troops on, arrived at noon and deployed on a line of low hills north of Oudenaarde. His lines were protected by meadows and hedges. By 3 P.M., Bourgogne gave the order to the marching French to assault the waiting English lines. The attack began on the French right, soon supported by the center. All this uncoordinated movement gave predictable results, as all the columns were repulsed. The French left, under Vendôme, remained useless.

Eventually, with Eugene’s army facing Vendôme, Marlborough took the initiative. Following the retiring French right, he managed to encircle them, forcing thousands to surrender. The French rout sent them back to Bruges. Marlborough’s victory restored allied morale. The French had lost more than 15,000 soldiers and were no longer able to protect their northern border. France lay open to an invasion.

References and further reading: Belloc,H. The Tactics and Strategy of the Great Duke of Marlborough. London: Arrowsmith, 1933. Bluche, François. Dictionnaire du Grand Siècle. Paris: Fayard, 1990.

Vendôme, Louis Joseph, duc de (1654–1712). Maréchal de France.


Vendôme was one of Louis XIV’s late appointments to high command, a role in which he proved less able than he had previously shown himself to be as a subordinate to Luxembourg. Vendôme fought throughout the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697), including service under Luxembourg at Steenkerke (July 24/August 3, 1692). He next went to Spain, where he campaigned in Catalonia from 1695. He took Barcelona in 1697, after a two-year Allied occupation. Vendôme was the main French commander in northern Italy during the opening years of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). He replaced the captured Villeroi in northern Italy and was immediately defeated at Luzzara (August 4/15, 1702) by an Imperial army led by Prince Eugene. Vendôme faced Eugene again at Cassano (August 16, 1705), this time beating him. That allowed Vendôme to add additional Italian territory to Louis’ conquests.

Vendôme was recalled to Flanders to repair the damage done to French defenses when Marlborough partially broke the Lines of Brabant. He managed to slow Marlborough down over the rest of 1707. The next year, Vendôme bested Marlborough in a campaign of maneuver that allowed him to retake Bruges and Ghent. However, Marlborough and Eugene linked, caught up with Vendôme, and defeated him soundly at Oudenarde (June 30/July 11, 1708). Worse lay ahead: Vendôme lost the siege of Lille (1708) and with it, Louis’ confidence. He was removed from command, and was not restored until 1710. Thereafter, he fought with more success against the British and other Allied forces in Spain, winning at Brihuega (December 8–9/19–20, 1710) and again at Villa Viciosa(December 10/21, 1710). He died two years later. By that time, the succession in Spain was essentially won for Louis’ grandson, Philip V, in part due to Vendôme’s efforts.

Duc de Bourgogne, Louis, Duke of Burgundy


Louis de France, Duke of Burgundy, and later Dauphin of France 1682 –1712 was the eldest son of Louis, Dauphin of France. He became the official Dauphin of France upon his father’s death in 1711 but he died himself a year later.

In 1708, during the Spanish War of Succession, Louis, Duke of Burgundy, was given command of an army in Flanders, advised by Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme. Confusion arose over who was in command of the army, which led to delays in giving orders. For a time, all military decisions had to be referred to King Louis XIV. This caused further confusion as messages had to travel between the battle front and Versailles. The Grand Alliance, which opposed France in the war, took advantage of the indecisiveness and advanced its forces. The culminating Battle of Oudenarde was a significant defeat for the French due to Louis’ poor choices and reluctance to support Vendôme. In the aftermath, France lost the city of Lille and Grand Alliance forces made their way into France for a brief time.



SAS Formation and WWII


Colonel David Stirling, founder of the Special Air Service, talking with Lieutenant Edward MacDonald [driver] with SAS jeep patrol in North Africa, 18 January 1943.

The SAS was created in the Middle East Theatre of war during 1941 as ‘L’ Detachment of the non-existent Special Air Service Brigade (so-called to deceive German Intelligence). It was developed by Scots Guardsman and Commando, David Stirling, and several of his colleagues, who saw that there was room for a special force tasked solely with strategic small unit operations behind-the- lines, focusing on raiding, sabotage and harassment of the enemy’s military forces and infrastructure (see my forthcoming The Origins Of The SAS for a full and revised account). In other words, regular soldiers would take on a role more normally associated with irregular (non-Army) fighters, operating as guerillas. This was carried on with considerable success by foot and motor patrols between 1942 and 1944 in the Middle East and other Theatres, to such an extent that, by January 1944, a real SAS Brigade was established with the approval of the British Chiefs of Staff [COS], led by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff [CIGS], Field-Marshal (later Lord) Alan Brooke.

The SAS Brigade’s strength included a HQ staff, the 1st. and 2nd. British SAS Regiments, the 3rd. and 4th. French SAS Regiments, the 5th. Belgian SAS Regiment, and ‘F’ Squadron (HQ Liaison) of the ‘Phantom’ special signals organisation. All told, the SAS had about 2500 personnel at this point and was at the peak of its powers. Yet, because the SAS had not been granted its own Corps Warrant by the Army Council (under which new Regiments are raised), it “technically had no separate existence as regiments in the British Order of Battle [orbat] and, for administration [purposes, it] needed to be part of some established [or regular Army] force”. In view of the SAS’s familiarity with and expertise in parachuting, the HQ SAS Troops – formed in 1944, under Brigadier Roderick ‘Roddy’ W. McLeod – was attached to the 1st. Airborne Corps HQ. It was commanded by the highly regarded Lieutenant-General (later General Sir) Frederick A. M. ‘Boy’ Browning. As James Ladd points out, when it came to choosing a ‘home’ for the SAS in the Army, the Airborne Forces “was the obvious choice”, if not one that truly represented its particular function and broader talents.

Suitably impressed by the SAS’s pedigree, Boy Browning took it upon himself to get it incorporated into the British orbat for the forthcoming D-day landings in France. He approached members of the top brass who would be making the crucial decisions in this regard and, in anticipation of acquiring a place in the invasion forces, SAS staff working with Airborne Corps personnel at their Moor Park Golf Course HQ, in north-west London, started planning for these operations. The onus for “initial and strategic [SAS] planning, staff duties and training”, fell on the Brigade’s Liaison Officer to the Airborne Forces, Lieutenant- Colonel Ian G. Collins (a pre-war tennis champion), who worked in the Service’s Tactical HQ. While carrying out these duties – which in geographical terms spanned far more than just the upcoming return of British forces to France – Collins gained valuable experience that would prove crucial to the SAS after the War. Not only did he deal with the preparation of all SAS operations, he took part in the coordination of action with the Commandos and “the activities of special agents”. This included members of the Secret Intelligence Service [SIS, or MI6] and the Special Operations Executive [SOE]. Among other things, they assisted partisan Resistance fighters and movements around the world, just as SAS personnel were doing in Europe and the Middle East.

The knowledge of such enterprises that Lt.-Col. Collins and his colleagues acquired stood them in good stead when it came time to looking beyond immediate wartime requirements and plotting the SAS’s course in the post-war world. Collins, in particular, gained considerable insight into the way that guerilla forces worked, including nationalist partisans, who were the military arm of underground movements. He additionally developed relationships with other British and Allied agencies that were dealing with secret clandestine operations. Furthermore, numerous SAS soldiers gained first-hand experience of unconventional combat, fighting both as guerillas and alongside those operating in the Maquis and other anti-Axis irregular forces. All this meant that a pool of knowledge about unconventional warfare methods, organisation and their practitioners’ vulnerabilities was developing within the SAS, which boded well for a future in which the guerilla would play an increasing role on the international scene. Indeed, during their exploits in Alsace-Lorraine, in eastern France, during August 1944, the SAS and their French comrades-in-arms became the target of massive German counter-guerilla sweep operations, which featured a vanguard force of “special anti-partisan units”. These ‘Jagd-kommando’ (‘Pursuit Commandos’) conducted independent small unit patrols too, just as their quarry did, and the Allied forces had several brushes with these units. It is quite likely that such episodes made an impression upon senior British SAS officers and that they drew upon this wartime experience in due course.

By the autumn of 1944, it appeared to most Allied observers that the Axis was crumbling and that the European War would end sooner rather than later – certainly by 1946. Faced with the prospect of reductions in the British Armed Forces’ funding and manpower, the SAS had to think of ways to survive the axe and remain available for special operations during peacetime. Hence, it needed to demonstrate both that such commitments were likely to arise in the near future, and that it was best equipped to handle them – as opposed to any of the dozens of other wartime special forces.

Adaptability and flexibility would be the SAS’s bywords and, by at least 2nd. September 1944, such virtues were being demonstrated by Lt.-Col. Collins. At that time, “both Airborne HQ Troops and the SAS Brigade .. had begun to consider .. future employments”, and Collins floated the idea of using the SAS for counter-intelligence work in Germany. In addition, he pushed for the creation of Teams that could pursue and arrest suspected Nazi war criminals who had committed war crimes such as the execution of SAS personnel, and who would be trying to flee justice before the end of the War. Looking beyond that time, Collins thought that another commitment that the SAS could fulfil was the disarmament of Axis forces in Scandinavia. Finally, the war in the Far East looked like going on into 1946, so an SAS deployment in Asia was mooted. By 5th. October 1944, Lt.-Col. Collins produced “the first of a number of .. [written] appreciations that were designed to ‘sell’ the SAS to often sceptical higher headquarters” and, in this drive, he was backed up by several senior officers who were friends of the SAS, including Brig. McLeod and Lt.-Gen. Browning.

By 1945, the HQ SAS Troops was trying hard to find “a role – any role – for the SAS”, and a place in “the order of battle for any operation that was going”, whether in North-West or South-East Europe, the Middle East or the Far East. Every effort was made to lobby those in positions of authority, in the knowledge that unless the SAS Brigade was “in at the finish with a record of adaptability to current circumstances”, then it would not be in a position to “claim exemption from .. post-war cuts in manpower”.

Above and beyond the roles and missions suggested by Collins et al, at the end of 1944, the War Office was preparing for the possibility of a long drawn-out German underground resistance to an Allied invasion. In doing so, the Service Department’s Intelligence officers studied the potential problems posed by a determined, well-organised guerilla foe, and they produced reports recommending traditional-style large-scale counter-guerilla operations, such as area sweeps or drives. But, they also referred to the possibilities offered by experimental small unit forces with air support, including the use of pseudo-guerilla units that donned civilian clothing and feigned guerilla status. Some SAS personnel may well have picked up on such ideas and proffered counter-guerilla action as a future SAS role that would be necessary in the post-war world and which the Regiment was well placed to undertake. Indeed, by the end of 1944, there was a precedent for this that was well known to the SAS.

In December 1944, the SAS’s cousins in the SBS took a leading role in the suppression of Communist urban guerillas operating in Athens as part of a wider attempt to seize power there. As James Ladd indicates, Lt.-Col. Sutherland’s SBS soldiers got embroiled in what “was the first brush for their SAS line of descendants with urban terrorists”. Indeed, the SAS had at least one official observer on the spot, who was monitoring how the British forces tackled the Leftist gunmen – Major Roy Alexander Farran. Subsequently a legendary figure in the Regiment, at that point, he was the commander of third (‘C’) Squadron, 2nd. SAS Regiment. He already knew that part of the world and had propositioned the War Office Directorate of Military Intelligence [DMI] to send him to Greece, likely for the express purpose of assessing how counter/guerilla forces operated. Whatever the case, he was posted as the SAS’s observer at the Land Forces Adriatic HQ. From there, he witnessed the fighting on the ground and, although Farran later described his Hellenic sojourn as “a bit of a holiday”, there was a serious side to his employment. Indeed, details of the operations there were reported to his superiors, notably 2 SAS’s commanding officer, Lieutenant- Colonel Brian Morton Foster Franks.

Major Farran’s views would have carried much weight with Franks and others, for, after fighting with 2 SAS in North Africa, Sicily and France during 1943/44 (including missions alongside SOE operatives), Farran had developed “a considerable reputation” in the Regiment. Hence, it is interesting to note that, by 1945, both he and Franks were enthusiastic advocates of a future counter-guerilla role for the SAS. As James Ladd notes, “although special forces of SAS or Commando units were not trained or equipped for anti-terrorist roles [in 1945], there was probably the notion in some quarters that they could be used for this purpose”, and this was nowhere more so than in 2 SAS. Another officer with an even more formidable record in unconventional fighting joined the SAS hierarchy at the turn of 1944/45. Some historians have stated that, in December 1944, Brig. McLeod was replaced as commander of the SAS Brigade by Brigadier James Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert. Others note that he took over command of the SAS in February or March 1945. But his biographer, David Rooney, states that Calvert arrived at its HQ near Halstead airfield in January 1945.

Previously, Calvert had met the Stirling brothers (David and Bill) while instructing Commandos in 1940, before a posting with the War Office’s Military Intelligence (Research) [MI(R)] section. There, he shared his thoughts about unconventional warfare with colleagues like General Sir Colin M. Gubbins (co- founder of the SOE) and Lieutenant (later Field-Marshal Sir) Gerald W. R. Templer (who went on to make his name as COIN supremo in Malaya). During his time at MI(R), Calvert wrote a booklet, The operations of small forces behind the enemy lines, in which he advocated the guerilla defence of Britain by regular Army and irregular forces, in the event of a Nazi invasion. Calvert was able to implement his theories in various territories, following Japan’s conquest of South-East Asia and the Pacific. In 1941, he taught SOE and Commando leaders at the Burma Bush Warfare School and, in 1942, he organised ‘V’ (Viper) Force for guerilla operations on New Guinea. There, Australia’s Independent Companies followed the example set by those that had raided Norway in 1940 (and which had included the core of many British Commando units). Thereafter, ‘Mad Mike’ served with General Orde Wingate and his special force of Chindits in Burma. They practised jungle warfare, including short guerilla patrols, “long-range penetration”, and “strong- hold” tactics. Hence, on arrival at the SAS Brigade, he commanded great respect, both for his intellect and drive, fighting experience, and his will to see his new charge prosper.



A British-Indian force attacks Ghazni fort during the First Afghan War, c.1839.


Afghan forces attacking retreating British-Indian troops.

The competition for territory in Central Asia began in the early 18th century with the British and the Russians each racing for mastery in these lands. How- ever, in the early 19th century, events would catapult the clash into the British invasion of Afghanistan. As implemented under the reign of Zaman Shah, the main objective of the British imperialists was to control Afghanistan by keeping the country weak and therefore dependent on the British government. As was the situation in 1836, Dost Mohammad had removed Shuja Shah from power, thus removing the British figurehead and puppet monarch as established by the treaty in 1809. The British tired to secure a new friendship with Dost Mohammad in an effort to retain the Afghan’s amicable favoritism to the British occupation of Afghanistan. However, Dost Mohammad was resolute in his stance of Afghan independence from foreign occupation and refused to allow the British to roam at will throughout his state. He no longer agreed with the British treaty as signed by Shuja Shah to not allow other countries (namely, Russia) to pass through Afghanistan. Gradually, the British began to hear of Dost Mohammad’s interaction with the Russians, and the Persians, as part of the ruler’s endeavor to signify the British treaty, would no longer be part of Afghan policy.

However, in 1837 Dost Mohammad attempted to form an alliance with Britain in the hopes of capturing Peshawar, and in turn the British Captain Alexander Burnes was invited to Kabul. The British were willing to discuss and outline the strategic alliance against Ranjit Singh, but before doing so Dost Mohammad would have to retract any agreements with other European powers. At the time, Mohammad Shah of Persia was trying to capture Herat, which the British knew was the strategic foothold to gain entrance to India. Burnes arrived as a representative of Lord Auckland, the British governor- general of India, and also to represent the British interventionist diplomat Sir William Macnaghten. As such, the British swore to protect Dost Mohammad from Ranjit Singh if he ceased his attempts to recover Peshawar. Burnes would not offer the assurances Dost Mohammad needed, and instead Burnes insisted that the Afghan amir should place Afghan policy and control under British guidance. Recognizing the conundrum of his situation, Dost Mohammad rejected the British and quickly sought to form an alliance with Russia. On the cusp of Burnes’s failure to subdue Afghanistan, the situation was further intensified on witnessing the Russian emissary Lieutenant Vitkievitch in Kabul. The British retreated to India, and in 1838 Lord Auckland declared war on Afghanistan.

The First Anglo-Afghan War had officially begun, and in February 1839 the British forces advanced through the Bolan Pass of the Toba Kakar range in Pakistan, approximately 120 miles from the Afghani border. By late April, the army arrived in Kandahar to find that the Afghan princes had abandoned the area. Lord Auckland achieved his preliminary goal and restored the now quite elderly Shuja Shah to the throne as amir of Afghanistan. Dost Mohammad had previously fled the capital city and was forced to retreat into the Hindu Kush Mountains. Among the harsh terrain and extreme weather, Dost Mohammad and his supporters sought evasion in the caves of the mountains for nearly a year as the British intently pursued him. Finally weary of the advancing forces, Dost Mohammad surrendered to the British on the evening of November 4, 1840, by allegedly riding on horseback up to General Macnaghten and offering his amicable surrender. As prisoner, he was held in captivity during the British occupation of Afghanistan, and Dost Mohammed would be released after the recapture of Kabul in the fall of 1842.

By the end of 1841 and after having to endure watching their ruler be ousted and imprisoned by the British forces, the Afghan tribes rallied to support Dost Mohammad’s son Mohammad Akbar Khan. Over the following months, the British forces faced numerous revolts and bloody executions, including the murder of Sir Alexander Burnes and his aides by an angry horde in Kabul. After the attack, General Macnaghten tried to negotiate with Mohammad Akbar Khan to allow the British to remain in the country, but in a severe act of defiance against the British, Mohammad Akbar ordered Macnaghten thrown in prison. Macnaghten never made it to his confinement, for on his march to the prison he was attacked and dismembered by a livid Afghan crowd. As a gesture of their intolerance of any more British occupation in their country, the mob triumphantly paraded his dead and nearly limbless corpse around the streets of Kabul. The British recognized the severity of their situation in Afghanistan, and in January 1842 they reached an agreement to provide the immediate retreat of the British forces out of Afghanistan. As the exodus began, the British troops struggled through the snowbound passes and were ambushed by Ghilzai tribesmen. Along the treacherous pass between Kabul and Gandamak, almost 16,000 British soldiers and supporters were attacked and ruthlessly slaughtered. Only one survivor arrived at the British outpost in Jalalabad to describe the tale, and by that point Dr. William Brydon was barely breathing and slumped over his horse with only a faint trace of life left in his body. The horrifying massacre was enough to rejuvenate the British to return later in the year to relieve the British garrison at Jalalabad and rescue any remaining British occupants and prisoners in the country. The loss of life and property in Afghanistan, including the destruction of the bazaar (marketplace) in Kabul, resulted in a severe hatred of foreign occupation that is ingrained in the culture of Afghanistan to this day.

Often referred to by the British as “Auckland’s Folly” because of Lord Auckland’s erroneous judgments and decisions against the Afghan people, the First Anglo-Afghan Civil War from 1839 to 1842 resulted in the destruction of the British army, including the loss of nearly 20,000 soldiers and 50,000 camels and costs upward of £20 million. Further, the defeat and refusal of British hegemony attests to the Afghans’ fierce resistance to foreign invaders attempting to occupy their lands. By the end of the first British invasion and Afghan war, Shah Shuja was presumably assassinated in 1842. After several months of chaos in Kabul, Mohammad Khan was able to secure control of the city until his father Dost Mohammad was set free at the decision of the British government to abandon the control of internal politics in Afghanistan. On his return from Hindustan, Dost Mohammad was welcomed back to the seat of power in Kabul, and in April 1843 Dost Mohammad resumed his title as king. Over the next decade, Dost Mohammad would work at resuming control of the regions of Mazar-e-Sharif, Konduz, Badakshan, and Kandahar.

On his return to power, Dost Mohammad set forth with plans to implement his authority and control against the British. In support of his regime, he once again sought to defeat the Sikhs, who were engaged in combat with the British. In 1848, Dost Mohammad seized the opportunity to take control of Peshawar. However, in February 1849 his army was defeated at Gujarat, and he abandoned his previous intentions to control Peshawar. After he led troops back into Afghanistan, Dost Mohammad realized that he would not be successful in his actions to capture Peshawar, and he abandoned any further efforts to do so. By concentrating on other regions, Dost Mohammad conquered Balkh a year later and furthermore, in 1854, captured Kandahar and successfully assumed control over the southern Afghan tribes.

In retaliation for the humiliation endured in the First Anglo-Afghan War, the British attacked Afghanistan again, but this time the onslaught included a large Indian force. After several battles, new British forces relieved the previous Jalalabad garrison and then advanced into Kabul, destroying the central bazaar and the large citadel. By 1854, the British were ready to recommence associations with Afghanistan. In the following year, the British opened up diplomatic relations with Afghanistan in the Treaty of Peshawar. The treaty recognized the authority of each country and additionally acknowledged each county’s territorial boundaries. In doing so, the treaty declared henceforth a British–Afghan relationship of amenity in political interaction and unity in defeating enemies. On March 30, 1855, the Afghan leader agreed to the alliance with the British government, and as a specification of the treaty the province of Herat was placed in control of the Barakzai sovereignty. The coalition of the Afghans with the British resulted in both forces declaring war on Persia in 1857. During the period of Indian Mutiny in Afghanistan, Dost Mohammad abstained from supporting the uprising rebels despite the call for jihad in which the Sikhs were supporters of India’s movement against British occupation. Two years later in 1857, the treaty was amended so that while the British were fighting with the Iranians, Afghanistan’s parliament would allow the British military to maintain a presence at Kandahar. The Iranians had previously attacked Herat in 1856, and as such Dost Mohammad was eager to accept the terms in the addendum.

While America was fighting its own civil war, Dost Mohammad’s final years were troubled with revolts out of Herat and Bokhara. In 1863, he personally led the Afghan army with the British troops at his flank, driving the Persian army from Kandahar. As a result of the treaty’s allowance for the British presence, Dost Mohammad was able to seize back Herat from the Iranians only a few months before his death. On May 26, 1863, Dost Mohammad and his Afghan army captured Herat for good, but surprisingly Dost Mohammad died suddenly in the midst of his triumph. During his life, he played a pivotal role in shaping Central Asia and Afghanistan, and on his death his son Sher Ali Khan had been appointed heir to the kingdom.

China and Firearms I



Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun Collector’s Edition

In China the transmission of early firearms seems to have followed a similarly meandering and haphazard route. “European” weaponry appears in China with the Portuguese breech-loading culverins presented at the Ming court in 1522 (calledfolangii or “Frankish machines”) whose use to fight the Mongols was advocated in 1530 by Wang Hong. These small cannons, similar to culverins, , however, were not the first to reach China, as there is evidence that the Chinese were already making a similar cannon before 1522. In the southeastern province of Fujian the presence of a folangii is documented already in 1510; that is, even before the Portuguese reached Malacca in 1511. It is therefore possible that cannons known asfolangfi may have reached China, through a separate route. According to Pelliot the Chinesefolanji may have translated not “Franks” but the Turkish term farangi which the Moghul emperor Babur used shortly after 1500 to refer to those European cannons. Therefore, a cannon by that name may have reached China through anonymous carriers possibly from Malaya, before the Portuguese themselves (Pelliot 1948, 199207). There is also some evidence that the Muslim principalities of Hami and Turfan during the rebellion against the Ming in 1513 used Ottoman (R&ni) muskets, and one cannot lightly dismiss the possibility that the old “Silk Road” played an important role in the transmission of firearm technology to China, especially since during the first half of the sixteenth century there were several Ottoman diplomatic missions to the Chinese court. By the end of the sixteenth century, Ottoman muskets were copied and described in detail in Chinese military literature (Needham 1986, 441-9). Whether by sea or by land, the role played by the Ottoman empire seems to have been relevant to the diffusions of firearms in China.

In the sixteenth century the Ming began to deploy consistently firearms on the northern frontier, along the Great Wall, as a defence against the Mongols, but the actual effectiveness of fire power against nomads at this time is questionable. Qi Jiguang (1528-1588), possibly the most brilliant Ming general and strategist of the time, devised a way of usingfolangii cannons mounted on twowheel carts which worked as mobile artillery platforms. The se”battle wagons” included also protective screens to be raised as the battle started. Twenty soldiers were assigned to each battlewagon, ten of whom were in charge of the artillery pieces placed on the wagon, while the other ten – four armed with muskets – stayed on foot near the wagon. Tactically, the wagons were lined up next to each other to defend the army against cavalry charges. Heavier artillery pieces could also be used, such as the “generalissimo” cannon, which weighed more than 1300 pounds, but these were often found to be too cumbersome to be effective. The combined action of infantry and artillery theorized by Qi to counter Mongol cavalry assaults was never put into practice because the Mongol tribes bordering on the territory under Qi’s military jurisdiction reached a diplomatic agreement with the Ming court that brought hostilities to a halt (Huang 1981, 179-8 1). It is quite interesting to see that the concept of the battle-wagon, that is, a heavy wagon with cannon and arquebuses mounted on it, and the concept of chaining wagons together to form a barrier around the army was in use among the Ottomans in the fifteenth century, and by the sixteenth had been adopted by Babur via Turkish specialists in his employment (Inalcik 1975, 204). Was the battle-wagon developed by Qi also based on a Western Asian prototype? At present this question cannot be answered but the similarities raise doubts as to the originality of Qi’s tactical invention.

Finally, we should consider the development of firearms in Japan and their influence on China. In his writings Qi Jiguang, who was also involved for years in the protection of the south China coasts against the attacks of Japanese pirates, states that the Japanese introduced the musket known as niaochong (fowling piece) to China,(Huang 1981, 165; Needham 1986, 429) in the mid sixteenth century. The Japanese musket was made by copying Portuguese matchlocks, but soon Japanese gun-makers attained a high level of proficiency. Moreover, the Japanese adoption of the tactical use of firearms – the volley and the use of regular units of musketeers were already a reality in the sixteenth century – may have also influenced the wider indigenous use of these weapons in East Asia. Therefore, even if the earliest muskets might have been of Turkish origin, there is not doubt that the Japanese attacks along the southern coasts of China and other forms of contacts between the two countries also contributed to the circulation of muskets.

From these preliminary notes we can see that there were multiple routes in the transmission of firearms to China, whose departing points were western Europe and the Ottoman empire, and important intermediaries were Japan, and possibly also Malaya, India, and Central Asia. Therefore, the diffusion of firearms in Asia cannot be understood as the linear outcome of increased European mobility resulting from their progress in oceanic navigation. In order to model correctly the phenomenon of the spread of military technology it is necessary to keep into due account the parallel diffusion that was taking place across Muslim territories, and the genuine contribution that early on China and Japan made towards the improvement of firearms, both technically and tactically. Another observation concerns the specific use that firearms were intended for in the sixteenth century. While the efficacy of muskets was criticised in the fight against Japanese pirates in South China, their use was advocated by Chinese strategists for the defence of the northern frontier against Mongol incursions. Besides the aforementioned Wang Hong and Qi Jiguang, in 1541 the Governor-general of Shensi, Liu Tianhe, recommended that towers on the frontier be equipped with firearms (Serruys 1982, 32). Although the Ming government was often unresponsive or inefficient in dealing with these requests, the development of “fighting towers” on the northern frontier proves that the use of several kinds of fire-arms, from folangii to heavier cannons and muskets, were appreciated for in the defence of static fortifications.

Effectiveness of Chinese artillery against the Manchus

In 1583 the Jurchen chieftain Nurhaci’ began his political rise by affirming himself as a shrewd commercial operator and a fearless military leader. For thirty-three years he fought a long sequence of tribal wars, which led to the construction of a strongly centralized tribal confederation with the Aisin Gioro (i. e., Nurhaci’s) clan at its heart. In 1616 he moved to a new capital, called Hetu Ala (Flat Hill), and declared the founding of the Later Jin dynasty, so named after the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1125-1234), of which he felt he was the political heir. Two years later he pronounced the “Seven Grievances” against the Ming, a political declaration tantamount to an official declaration of war. This act of defiance towards the Ming dynasty, of which he had been till then a subordinate frontier chieftain, finally persuaded the Ming to send a massive expeditionary army to punish Nurhaci and annihilate the Manchu tbreat on the northeastern frontier. The opposite armies met in 1619 at Mount ~arhu, and the ensuing Manchu victory marked the true beginning of the ascent of Manchu power. On the plain at the foot of Mt. ~arhu, today at the bottom of an artificial water reservoir, Nurhaci defeated a mixed force of Chinese, Korean, and recalcitrant Manchurian tribes. Although the Ming army enjoyed superiority in terms of numbers and armament, the Manchus destroyed it thanks to their rapidity of movement,

1. Nurhaci belonged to the Jianzhou tribal confederation of the Jurchen people. The term “Manchu”was substituted to Jurchen when referring to the native people of Manchuria by imperial decree in 1635. For the sake of convenience I will use the term Manchu-to refer also to the people of Manchuria before 1635, even though, strictly speaking, this is anachronistic. brilliant tactical manoeuvring, and sheer bravery. Chinese and Korean troops carried light firearms and artillery pieces; in particular a Korean force of four hundred cannoneers was sent from P’yongyang (von Mende 1996, 115). These artillery pieces seem to have been used mainly to pin down Manchu cavalry in fortified areas and disrupt their movement (von Mende, 12 1). These tactics, however, proved ineffective in the context of a campaign that required high mobility and excellent coordination among the four columns into which the Ming army had been divided. According to the account of a Korean eyewitness, the Manchus also fired some artillery shots with Chinese cannons they had captured (von Mende, 123), which may indicate that Nurhaci had already obtained by then some firearms and might have used them to fortify his positions. However, if that is the case, artillery did not yet play an important role in the Manchu army, and firearms do not seem to have played a decisive role on either side.

After smashing the Ming army at ~arhu, Nurhaci launched a campaign to invade Liaodong, the prosperous northeastern province inhabited by Chinese agri cultural settlers, with a view to expanding its kingdom and giving it a more solid economic basis. The problem, from the military viewpoint, was that the cities of Liaodong were heavily fortified, and that their thick ramparts were protected with an extensive array of firearms. In De Bello Tartarico, an almost contemporary account of the Manchu conquest, the Italian Jesuit Martino Martini explained the tactics used by the Manchus when storming a city:

[The Manchus] were very afraid of muskets and bullets, in the face of which, however, they were able to find a strategy. They divided the army into three columns: the first column was armed with wooden shields and sent to the attack; the second was armed with ladders for scaling the city walls and the third consisted of cavalry. With such an array the Tartar king surrounds the city on all four sides. First the wall of wood advances against the volleys of the artillery, and in the blink of an eye, instantly the soldiers with the ladders have already climbed to the top of the walls, without it being possible for a soldier to fire a second time [ … ] The tartars are quick and violent, agile like no other people, and this is their great advantage,. They have the advantage to advance and retreat in the blink of an eye. In this type of attack the use of weapons by the Chinese soldiers has no great importance: they do not have time to open fire a second time and the Tartars, have already scaled and entered, and as [the Chinese] come out from all four sides they meet the fast cavalry. (Ma Chujian 1994, 3 10)

If we are to believe Martino Martini, then, the Manchu technique consisted in charging behind the protection of wooden screens, then quickly scaling the walls before fire-arms could be recharged and shot again. Once engaged in hand-to-hand combat the Manchu soldiers must have been superior fighters, since the Chinese troops, overwhelmed, attempted to flee the city, only to find the Manchu cavalry waiting for them outside the city walls. We should also recall that ever since the beginning of his military rise Nurhaci had devoted much effort to strengthening the Manchu military potential, and that Manchu armament, both armour and weapons, was made of iron and steel, and not inferior to the Chinese. At any rate, it was the Manchu quickness in charging and scaling the walls, and the slow rate of Chinese fire that accounted for the victories the Manchus obtained in Liaodong, where several cities fell one after the other. Thus Nurhaci temporarily overcame the disadvantage of having a cavalry army ill-suited to siege warfare.

In Liaodong the Manchus started to equip part of their army with firearms. The following decree was issued in 1622:

Ile Chinese officers in charge of four thousand people must produce 200 soldiers; ten large firearms (cannon) and eighty long firearms (muskets) must be prepared for one hundred of them; the other hundred can be employed as they wish. Those in charge of three thousand people, must produce 150 soldiers and equip [seventy-five soldiers] with eight cannons and fifty-four muskets; the other seventy-five can be used as they wish. Those in charge of two thousand people must raise 100 soldiers and equip [fifty soldiers] with five cannons and forty muskets; the other fifty can be used as they wish. The Jurchen [i. e., Manchu] officers in charge of 2,700 people must raise 135 soldiers; of them 67 should be made to handle 6 cannon and 45 muskets; the other 67 can be employed at leisure. Those [Jurchen commanders] in charge of 1,700 people should raise 85 soldiers and distribute four cannons and 36 muskets to 44 of them, while the remaining 41 soldiers can be employed as they wish. Those [Jurchen commanders] in charge of 1,000 people should raise 50 soldiers, of whom 25 must be equipped with two cannons and twenty muskets, while the other fifty can be used as they wish. Those in charge of 500 people should raise 25 soldiers; ten must be equipped with a cannon and eight muskets and the rest used as they please. (MBRT 11, 474-5)

From this edict we can see that a fairly extensive campaign was launched to raise troops armed with fire-arms. This edict referred to the newly conquered population of Liaodong, which had been placed under Chinese commanders who had defected to the Manchus or Manchu commanders put in charge of the occupied areas. It is quite remarkable that half of the troops recruited from Liaodong were supposed to carry firearms. Allowing a degree of latitude for the computational errors that can be found in the text quoted above, in general two men were assigned to each “large firearm”, which therefore might have beenfolanjis (culverins), while the “long firearms” were individual weapons, obviously muskets. According to a Chinese historian, the term dagilambi, which means “to prepare” in the text above refers to guns that had been captured from the Chinese and were being distributed among the troops.’ The implication is that at this time it is generally believed that the Manchus did not have a capacity to produce firearms (Hu 1986, 49). Given the quantity of weapons involved, however, one wonders whether local foundries had not been involved in the “preparation” of firearms.

There is no doubt that the incorporation of Chinese troops in larger numbers after the conquest of Liadong promoted a greater differentiation of military specializations, and therefore greater flexibility. At any rate, regardless of the edict he issued, it is uncertain to what an extent Nurhaci could invest in the production of firearms. The general consensus is that Manchu troops at this stage were only equipped with weapons taken from the Chinese arsenals in the cities they had conquered, while still lacking the capacity to manufacture firearms themselves.

On the Chinese side, however, efforts were being made to strengthen the defences of the cities that had not yet fallen. It is this connection that the work of European gunners acquires special importance. European intervention in the war against the Manchus was the result of pressures exerted by influential Chinese converted to Christianity, who sponsored Western military technology as a means to contain the Manchu threat. Around 1600 the Ming became acquainted with a much larger and more powerful cannon, first brought by the Dutch in 1604 and called by the Chinese the “hong-yi [Red (-haired) Barbarian] cannon” (Needham, 392). Larger guns of the same type were produced by the Portuguese in Macao in foundries operated by Chinese blacksmiths under the direction of European technicians. These cast-bronze cannon were approximately 20-feet long, 1800 kg. heavy, and were particularly effective in siege warfare, both offensively and defensively.

China and Firearms II


Sengoku Jidai: Mandate of Heaven

Fearing that the Manchus could attack Peking, Xu Guangqi and Li Zhizao, both Christian converts who had studied with the famed Jesuit Matteo Ricci, persuaded the court to request that Portuguese cannon be sent north. The request was accepted and between 1621 and 1623 several cannons were sent to the capital with Portuguese cannoneers. The move was not unopposed. For instance, an incident in which a Portuguese and some Chinese gunners were killed by the violent recoil of a piece caused considerable criticism of the foreign weapons. But nevertheless the Ming made a sustained effort to outfit their city walls with firearms. The Ming victory at Ningyuan in 1626, a city located in a strategic position beyond the Great Wall, is generally attributed to the greater firepower deployed by the commander Yuan Chonghuan, against the attacking Manchus. Manchu armament, still consisting chiefly of bows and arrows, was inadequate to the task. No matter how brave the soldiers, better fortifications, more powerful guns, and the advantage of protected firepower proved superior, and after a siege of six days the badly bloodied Manchu troops had to withdraw. It should be noted that in the Manchu records the defeat was attributed to poor performance of the Manchu troops, made lazy or cowardly by inactivity, to substandard equipment – such as short ladders, weak carts, and dull weapons – and even to the Khan’s own complacency, rather than to the superior fire power of the Chinese defenders (MBRT 1958, vol. 111: 1068-69). However, the illustrations that accompany the Manzhou shilu (the Annals of the rise of the Manchus, completed in 1635) clearly show a heavily fortified city walls, with crenellated ramparts from where cannon-mouths can be seen protruding. Explosive devices -probably fragmentation bombs – were tossed upon the Manchu troops attempting to scale or breach the wall, while several wounded soldiers are taken away. The general impression is one of powerlessness against superior defences.

The battle of Ningyuan was important for both sides. On the one hand, the Ming renewed efforts to procure Portuguese cannon, train cannoneers, and thus strengthen the northeastern defence line. On the other hand, the Manchus changed tactics and began to develop in earnest their own artillery. Initially, the Portuguese were unwilling to lend more guns to the Chinese as this might to weaken their artillery in Macao against aggressive Dutch competition, and therefore did not respond to Chinese requests. But in 1628 the emperor himself requested that ten pieces of artillery and twenty Portuguese cannoneers be sent to the capital. On November 10 of the same year seven bronze cannons and three iron cannons were selected to be sent to the capital. They left Canton of February 28, 1629, but reached the north after the Manchu offensive had already begun, at the end of the same year. The leader of the Portuguese contingent, Teixeira, and his companions reached the city of Jinzhou,’ were they mounted eight cannon on the ramparts and successfully repelled Manchu attacks with rapid fire (Teixeira 1976, 198-99). When the Manchus were repelled, the emperor welcomed Teixeira, Rodrigues, and the other Portuguese, and requested that a contingent of cannoneers be brought from Canton to Peking to train 10,000 Chinese artillery troops. It was reckoned that a force of about three hundred specialists should be sufficient. Thereupon the Jesuit Rodrigues was sent to Macao to raise the force, and at the end of 1630 160 Portuguese soldiers, 200 Macao residents and 100 Indians and Africans (as we can see, a number much larger than it had been estimated) left for the capital, attracted by a pay that is said to have been extremely attractive. However, partly because the Manchus had already withdrawn, partly because of the machinations of Chinese merchants in Canton, who feared that the emperor may consent, out of gratitude to the Portuguese, the opening of another trade port, thus damaging the interests of the Chinese commercial lobby in Canton, the force was almost entirely recalled. Teixeira (who had remained in Peking) and some Portuguese soldiers continue to fight for the Ming, and in 1632 set up their artillery in Dengzhou under Sun Yuanhua, another Christian convert who had been staunchly promoting the cause for the utilization of Portuguese guns against the Manchus. Here Texeira and the other Portuguese artillerymen behaved bravely, but were all killed in the mutiny of the Chinese garrison, except for three.

The Ming continued to rely on foreign military expertise to the very end. In 1642, when the dynasty was on the verge of collapse, the emperor order Father Adam Schall, the head of the Jesuit mission in China, to use his technical and scientific knowledge to set up a cannon foundry in Peking. What was asked of him was to reduce the size and weight of guns. Schall was reluctant but in the end accepted the charge, and in the first year of his work he made 20 prototype guns, of which 500 were produced the following year. At the same time, he also produced a book on artillery, called Huogoniz gieyao (“Essentials of Gunnery”) (Needham 1986, 394). The efforts of foreign professional soldiers and scientists could not prevent the loss of China, and even when the fighting moved to southern China the Portuguese guns used against the Manchus, while certainly effective, did not stop the advance of the Qing forces in pursuit of the last remnants of the Ming.

On the Manchu side, Hong Taiji, the son and successor of Nurhaci, is to be given credit for a wide-ranging programme of military modernization that focussed both on the production of firearms and on the creation of a body of specialized troops. Following the defeats or heavy losses suffered by Manchu troops attempting to storm “artillery fortresses,” the Manchus acquired the ability to make the first large European-type cannon, which they also called hongyi dapao, except that the character for yz was changed, since the word “barbarian,” even if referred to Europeans, did not agree with Manchu sensitivity. With the new “yi”, the meaning of hongyi was changed from “red (-haired) barbarian” to “redcoat” cannon.

Hong Taiji began the production of this type of heavier gun in 1631, a weapon that gave the Manchus the possibility to bombard enemy fortifications before storming a city or attacking a walled fort, thus increasing greatly their success rate in sieges and limiting their losses (Zhang 1993, Li 1997; Re 1994).

Huge rewards in gold and other valuables were given to soldiers proficient in the use of the cannon, who could also be raised to the highest military honours.

In 1642, in preparation for a massive offensive against the Ming, Hong Taiji set up a cannon foundry in Jinzhou, where several hongyi cannons were cast. The organization of this factory’s production represented a serious effort at standardizing the types of ordnance, since precise specifications were established as to the weight of and caliber of each type of cannon, quantity of gunpowder to be used per charge, and type of ammunition. After the conquest on China another factory was opened in Beijing and placed under the joint responsibility of the Board of War, Board of Public Works and Imperial Workshop (Hu 1986). However, we must say that apart from the Manchus’ efforts at making the production of artillery pieces and firearms more efficient, the guns produced were still based largely on Ming types, which were themselves modelled after the Portuguese ones. Serious “native” improvements of military technology were still to come.

With the independent production of firearms came also the training of specialized soldiers. The earliest troops employed specifically as cannoneers were Chinese troops organized in a military structure, called hanjun in Chinese (lit. Chinese military), which in the 1630s became part of the Eight Banners system. In Manchu the term used for these soldiers was ujen cooha (lit. heavy troops) which is often assumed to mean troops laden with a heavy armament, and by extension artillery troops. In a letter to the Ming general Zu Dashou requesting that he surrender, Hong Taiji boasted that he had a whole battalion of Chinese gunners ready to attack. However, the hanjun were not the only troops in charge of firearms. Each Banner had at its disposal a certain number of artillery pieces and soldiers in charge of them, and the Manchu troops at the capital had separate bodies of cannoneers and musketeers.

After the conquest of China the general tendency was towards the rationalization and centralization of both the production of firearms and the artillery corps. An imperial decree issued in 1673 ordered that each Hanjun Banner should train a battalion of firearm specialists, allegedly because not many Chinese soldiers were suited for cavalry service. In 1688 a new organ was established, called the “Office (yamen) of Firearms and Twice-trained Sword Battalion.” This office had jurisdiction over all firearms, and also took care of the preparation of specially trained assault units. In 1691 a measure meant to further centralize the control over firearms was enacted, namely, the creation of the “Firearm Battalion.” This was a special force that incorporated all the musket and cannon specialists previously subordinated to the Banners. This organism both professionalized artillery as a separate military corps, and brought under a unified command the various artillery units of the metropolitan Eight Banners (that is those resident in Peking), of the provincial Banner garrisons, and the Green Standard troops.

The production of ordnance was likewise centralized. The yearly manufacture of cannons depended upon specific requests. Unserviceable, damaged, or superfluous guns were sent from the provinces to the capital and handed over to the Board of Public Works, which made a decision of whether to continue to use the piece after appropriate repairs and modifications, or cast a new one. In case of provinces which were far from the capital, such as Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and others, inoperative guns were not sent to the capital but kept in storage locally. The local authorities sent a memorial to the Board of Works with a request for a replacement, and, after the approval of the Board, after funds had been raised locally, and after the emperor had personally affixed his note of approval, they could proceed to cast a new cannon locally. There is no doubt that getting new weapons must have been a bureaucratic nightmare.

Excerpt from:

European Technology and Manchu Power: Reflections on the “Military Revolution” in Seventeenth Century China, Nicola Di Cosmo, University of Canterbury



After countless unsuccessful experiments, lethal accidents and ineffective trials, firearms research and techniques gradually improved, and chroniclers report many types of guns—mainly used in siege warfare—with numerous names such as veuglaire, pot-de-fer, bombard, vasii, petara and so on. In the second half of the 14th century, firearms became more efficient, and it seemed obvious that cannons were the weapons of the future. Venice successfully utilized cannons against Genoa in 1378. During the Hussite war from 1415 to 1436, the Czech Hussite rebels employed firearms in combination with a mobile tactic of armored carts (wagenburg) enabling them to defeat German knights. Firearms contributed to the end of the Hundred Years’ War and allowed the French king Charles VII to defeat the English in Auray in 1385, Rouen in 1418 and Orleans in 1429. Normandy was reconquered in 1449 and Guyenne in 1451. Finally, the battle of Chatillon in 1453 was won by the French artillery. This marked the end of the Hundred Years’ War; the English, divided by the Wars of the Roses, were driven out of France, keeping only Calais. The same year saw the Turks taking Constantinople, which provoked consternation, agitation and excitement in the whole Christian world.

In that siege and seizure of the capital of the Eastern Roman empire, cannon and gunpowder achieved spectacular success. To breach the city walls, the Turks utilized heavy cannons which, if we believe the chronicler Critobulos of Imbros, shot projectiles weighing about 500 kg. Even if this is exaggerated, big cannons certainly did exist by that time and were more common in the East than in the West, doubtless because the mighty potentates of the East could better afford them. Such monsters included the Ghent bombard, called “Dulle Griet”; the large cannon “Mons Berg” which is today in Edinburgh; and the Great Gun of Mohammed II, exhibited today in London. The latter, cast in 1464 by Sultan Munir Ali, weighed 18 tons and could shoot a 300 kg stone ball to a range of one kilometer.

A certain number of technical improvements took place in the 15th century. One major step was the amelioration of powder quality. Invented about 1425, corned powder involved mixing saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur into a soggy paste, then sieving and drying it, so that each individual grain or corn contained the same and correct proportion of ingredients. The process obviated the need for mixing in the field. It also resulted in more efficient combustion, thus improving safety, power, range and accuracy.

Another important step was the development of foundries, allowing cannons to be cast in one piece in iron and bronze (copper alloyed with tin). In spite of its expense, casting was the best method to produce practical and resilient weapons with lighter weight and higher muzzle velocity. In about 1460, guns were fitted with trunnions. These were cast on both sides of the barrel and made sufficiently strong to carry the weight and bear the shock of discharge, and permit the piece to rest on a two-wheeled wooden carriage. Trunnions and wheeled mounting not only made for easier transportation and better maneuverability but also allowed the gunners to raise and lower the barrels of their pieces.

One major improvement was the introduction in about 1418 of a very efficient projectile: the solid iron shot. Coming into use gradually, the solid iron cannonball could destroy medieval crenellation, ram castle-gates, and collapse towers and masonry walls. It broke through roofs, made its way through several stories and crushed to pieces all it fell upon. One single well-aimed projectile could mow down a whole row of soldiers or cut down a splendid armored knight.

About 1460, mortars were invented. A mortar is a specific kind of gun whose projectile is shot with a high, curved trajectory, between 45° and 75°, called plunging fire. Allowing gunners to lob projectiles over high walls and reach concealed objectives or targets protected behind fortifications, mortars were particularly useful in sieges. In the Middle Ages they were characterized by a short and fat bore and two big trunnions. They rested on massive timber-framed carriages without wheels, which helped them withstand the shock of firing; the recoil force was passed directly to the ground by means of the carriage. Owing to such ameliorations, artillery progressively gained dominance, particularly in siege warfare.

Individual guns, essentially scaled down artillery pieces fitted with handles for the firer, appeared after the middle of the 14th century. Various models of portable small arms were developed, such as the clopi or scopette, bombardelle, baton-de-feu, handgun, and firestick, to mention just a few.

In purely military terms, these early handguns were more of a hindrance than an asset on the battlefield, for they were expensive to produce, inaccurate, heavy, and time-consuming to load; during loading the firer was virtually defenseless. However, even as rudimentary weapons with poor range, they were effective in their way, as much for attackers as for soldiers defending a fortress.


The harquebus was a portable gun fitted with a hook that absorbed the recoil force when firing from a battlement. It was generally operated by two men, one aiming and the other igniting the propelling charge. This weapon evolved in the Renaissance to become the matchlock musket in which the fire mechanism consisted of a pivoting S-shaped arm. The upper part of the arm gripped a length of rope impregnated with a combustible substance and kept alight at one end, called the match. The lower end of the arm served as a trigger: When pressed it brought the glowing tip of the match into contact with a small quantity of gunpowder, which lay in a horizontal pan fixed beneath a small vent in the side of the barrel at its breech. When this priming ignited, its flash passed through the vent and ignited the main charge in the barrel, expelling the spherical lead bullet.

The wheel lock pistol was a small harquebus taking its name from the city Pistoia in Tuscany where the weapon was first built in the 15th century. The wheel lock system, working on the principle of a modern cigarette lighter, was reliable and easy to handle, especially for a combatant on horseback. But its mechanism was complicated and therefore expensive, and so its use was reserved for wealthy civilian hunters, rich soldiers and certain mounted troops.

Portable cannons, handguns, harquebuses and pistols were muzzle-loading and shot projectiles that could easily penetrate any armor. Because of the power of firearms, traditional Middle Age weaponry become obsolete; gradually, lances, shields and armor for both men and horses were abandoned.

The destructive power of gunpowder allowed the use of mines in siege warfare. The role of artillery and small firearms become progressively larger; the new weapons changed the nature of naval and siege warfare and transformed the physiognomy of the battlefield. This change was not a sudden revolution, however, but a slow process. Many years elapsed before firearms became widespread, and many traditional medieval weapons were still used in the 16th century.

One factor militating against artillery’s advancement in the 15th century was the amount of expensive material necessary to equip an army. Cannons and powder were very costly items and also demanded a retinue of expensive attendant specialists for design, transport and operation. Consequently firearms had to be produced in peacetime, and since the Middle Ages had rudimentary ideas of economics and fiscal science, only a few kings, dukes and high prelates possessed the financial resources to build, purchase, transport, maintain and use such expensive equipment in numbers that would have an appreciable impression in war.

Conflicts with firearms became an economic business involving qualified personnel backed up by traders, financiers and bankers as well as the creation of comprehensive industrial structures. The development of firearms meant the gradual end of feudalism. Firearms also brought about a change in the mentality of combat because they created a physical and mental distance between warriors. Traditional mounted knights, fighting each other at close range within the rules of a certain code, were progressively replaced by professional infantrymen who were anonymous targets for one another, while local rebellious castles collapsed under royal artillery’s fire. Expensive artillery helped to hasten the process by which central authority was restored.