Arms & Armor Reference Information for Writing a Fantasy Novel – Part III

Medieval Life (Eyewitness Guides)

I’ve covered armor and weapons terminology but what about the actual fighting part and the organization of an army? Knowing how weapons were used and how armies were organized is just as important when writing a fantasy novel. Here is some more information on sieges, recruitment, ranks, and general organization:

Battle and Siege Information
-an average siege could take months
-escalade – scaling of a castle wall
-moat could be filled with brush and dirt to allow besiegers to reach the wall
-sheep, goats, and cows were gathered and kept on hand during a siege
-strategic locations included for those being besieged included river crossings, river confluence (point at which two rivers combine), stretch of navigation, coastal harbor, mountain pass, castle or fortress
-strategy in besieging a castle is to cut off supply lines by interrupting road or river traffic from a distant point, cut off water supply, dig a hole under the wall, before a siege begins soldiers dressed as peasants or merchants to gain access to the inner wall and take over the gatehouse
-the ground in front of the castle wall was cleared of trees so that the defenders can see the besiegers

Army Information
-2-3000 fighting men not including servants was a common army size in medieval warfare
-bulls and other livestock marched along with an army for fresh meat
-cavalry officers were obliged to hunt, pay for their own horses, hounds, and equipment
-commissions and promotions were often purchased, the money paid was given to the retiring officer or the crown
-field beds for officers were portable folding bedsteads
-field hospitals were rare
-fighting men included body guards and other household warriors, magnates, conscript forces, auxiliaries (soldiers from outside the kingdom), and mercenaries (professional soldiers paid to fight for an army other than that of his/her own country)
-soldiers were generally only half-armored, full armor was only worn in tournaments because it would have been too cumbersome to wear in battle
-soldiers who did extra work such as carpentry, tailors, roadwork, or bridge building received extra pay, wives were paid for doing laundry and such
-troops housed in barracks or at inns requisitioned by the army, officers might have rooms in an inn or private residence
-towns and cities rung bells to call to arms or for festival days

Ranks
-commoner occupations – cavalry and infantry or footmen, spearmen, archers, engineers, farriers, fletchers
-officer ranks – general, lieutenant general, captain, commander, lieutenant
-regular ranks – sergeant, regulars

Recruitment
-artillery, foot soldiers, engineers came from all walks of life
-poverty was the greatest incentive for enlistment
-sometimes soldiers recruited from criminals about to be punished
-vagrants and other men were apprehended in city streets and given a chance of serving or being punished
-women sometimes dressed as men in order to join the army
-when war was over, many soldiers and sailors were abandoned to the city streets

For more information on war in the middle ages, check out some reference books such as “Medieval Warfare” by Helen J. Nicholson, or “Medieval Life” by Andrew Langley. “Viking” could also be useful.

We have one more part to the arms & armor reference information. Check us out next week for miscellaneous fighting and other information.

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