Thomas Churchyard- A Praise of the Bovve, 1583

This poem appears in The Avncient Order, Societie, and Vnitie Laudable, of Prince Arthure, and his Knightly Armory of the Round Table. With a Threefold Assertion frendly in fauour and furtherance of English Archery at this day, translated and editted by R. R., 1583.

A Praise of the Bovve and Commendation of this Booke, written by Thomas Churchyard Gent.
IN forraine land and natiue soyle, where soldiars I haue seen:
And chefly in the martial dais (when youth was fresh & green)
I haue beheld both Bow & shot, the Bow for Archers meet:
The shot for vse of powders force, and lads of liuely spreet.
And iudging by experience great, in place where both were tried:
I found where shot was graunted good, the Bow was not denied.
First ere we found out shot aright, the Bow great battels won:
And long the Bow great glory gate, before we knew the Gun.
As lo this Booke doth mention make, & shewes in verses good:
For murthering shot came in of late, when Bovv in honor stood.
In elders daies when manhode shone, as bright as blasing starre,
And christian hart and noble mind, disdaind this turkish warre.
The Bow was vsed as force of man & strength of arms might draw
To glad the frend and daunt the foe, and hold the world in awe.
But when that strength and courage fail’d, and cunning crept in place
The shot and roring Canon came, stout people to deface.
The Bow not fit for cowards hand, for cowards strength doth faile:
VVhen man drawes arrow to the head, and then doth foe assaile.
with sword and dagger Lion-like, that bends both brow and taile
And grins and gapes with gnashing teeth, to make his enemy quail
The shot lies lurking in a hole, and spies aduantage great:
Then bullet, match, and powders force, do work a wicked feate.
The Archer showes a manly face, in field and euery where:
And when his arrowes all are spent, he dies with courage there.
The shot no sooner all discharg’d, but legs for life must shift:
These bold and venterous nimble boyes, can find no further drift.
But geue the charging horsmen place, the Archers do not so:
For foure and twenty headed shafts, belongs to euery Bow.
And surely shoote the Archers may, at many a thing ye know.
When men in broyles and battailes doubt, how warres and world wil goe.
There is a knight a soldiar great, in court doth white staffe beare:
That knowes what Bowes haue done in field, against both shielde and speare.
Yea many more are yet aliue, that honours Bovv indeed:
And can record what noble actes the Bow hath done at need.
I saw in sundry soyles my selfe, much shot discharg’d in vaine:
Yet graunt we must that through the same are thousands daily slain
But enterlard the shot with Bow, and tel me then your mind:
A gallant course of wars vnknown, in field then shal you finde.
Fiue thousand Bowes that shooteth still, in Battel may do good:
They gall the horse, or kill the man, or draw some desperate blood.
And thick as moates in ayer they flee, which hinder much the sight
And haply makes when horses is hurt, the mounted man alight.
VVel, speak of shot what best you may, the Bovv is braue in field:
And sure in skirmish Archers oft, makes feeble shot to yeelde.
A rare deuise I will set out, to strengthen Man and Bovv,
And when the plaine deuice thereof the world shall see and know.
The Bovv shall come againe in fame, and win his wonted grace:
Looke out of hand for my discourse, til then come Bovv in place,
And take thine Ancient, rowme & vse, as Arthures Knights thee gaue,
Thou art a fearfull fore in field, and yet a pastime braue.
That brings vp youth, and pleasures age, a noble thing in view
An auncient arte, a worthy guise, that scornes all practise new.
An exercise that all men loue, an vse of Armes and strength,
And to this English soyle of ours, wilt bring great fame at length.
So cease I heere, in prayse of Bovv, thinke of me what you please,
A longer matter shall I show, before I crosse the Seaes.
Finis qd. T. Churchyard.

John Bingham- The Tactiks of Aelian, 1616

P24-27

Archers haue alwayes beene of speciall esteeme for the field, and preferred before the other kindes of light-armed. Many nations haue beene commended for theire skill in shooting. Emongest the Graecians the Cretans were (of ancient time) sole archers, as Pausanias witnesseth. Yet was not theire service aequall with the service of the Persians. For Xenophon confesseth, that the Persian bowe overreached the Cretan a great way: and that the Rhodians with theire sling owt-threw the Cretan bow. Of the Carduchans a people, through whose Countrey the Graecians passed at theire returne out of Persia, Xenophon writeth thus: They caried noe other armes, then bowes and slinges. They were excellent archers; and had bowes well nighe three cubits long; arrowes more, then two Cubits. When they shotte, they drewe the string, applieng theire hand some what toward the neither end of the bowe, setting theire left foote foreward. With theire arrowes they pierced both targets, and Curates. The Graecians putting thonges to the middest of theire arrowes sent them back at the enemy in steede of Dartes. The same in effect is reported by Diodorus Siculus. Of the Parthian horsemen, Appian saith: When Crassus commaunded the light-armed to disband, & goe to the charge, they went not farre, but meeting with many arrowes, and being sore galled with them, they retired streight, and hid themselues emongest the armed, and gaue beginning of disorder, and feare, repraesenting to the sight of the rest, the force, and violence of the shotte, that rent all armes, they fell vppon, and made way aswell thorough bodies, that had the best, as the worst furniture defensiue: giving mighty and violent strokes from stiffe and great bowes, and forcing out the arrowe boisterously with the compasse, and bent of the bowe. Plutarch hath the very wordes, that are in Appian. The Indians also were good archers, albeit not much praised by Q. Curtius. Hee saith: theire arrowes were two Cubits long, which they deliver out of theire bowes, with more labour, then effect: for as much as the arrow, whose whole efficacy is in lightnesse, becometh altogether vnwieldy by reason of the weight. And yet hee telleth, that Alexander, at the assault of the principall City of the Mallians, was strooke thorough his Curace into the side beneath the pappes with an In∣dian arrowe: with whome Plutarch and Diod. Siculus accord. Arrian addeth the wound was so deep, that his breath was seene to issue out together with his blood. The Gothes and other people of the north, that invaded the Roman empire, had theire chiefe victories against the Romans by the help of bowes, and arrowes. Vegetius (before alleaged) speaketh it plainely: So our souldiers, saith hee, vnarmed both bodies and heads, encountring with the Gothes, were oftentimes wholy defeated, and slaine, with the multitude of theire arrowes. I may not pretermitte the praise of our nation in this skill. Our owne stories testify, that the great battailes, we gayned against the french, were gayned by the ioint-shooting of our archers principally. And that the English haue heretofore excelled in archery & shooting, is cleere by the testimony even of Strangers. Cicuta (whom I named before) commending the vse of bows, as necessary for the service of the field (& that long after gunnes were invented) praeferreth the English before all other, and setteth him downe, as a patterne for other to follow. And Patritius, disputing of the violence of arrows, doubteth not to affirme, that an English arrowe with a litle waxe put vpon the point of the head, wil passe through any ordinary Corslette or Curace. Howsoever the credit of bowes is lost, at this present, with many great souldiers, yet haue they of auncient time been highly prised. Vegetius saith; how great advantage good archers bring in fight, both Cato in his bookes of military discipline doth shewe evidently, and Claudius, by augmenting the number of archers, and teaching of them the vse of theire bowes, overcame the enemy, whome before hee was not able to matche. Scipio Africanus (the yonger) being to giue battaile to the Numantines, that before had forced a Roman army to passe vnder the yoake, thought hee could not otherwise haue the better, vnlesse hee mingled chosen archers in euery. And Leo the Emperour in his Constitutions military hath this Constitution ongest other: You shall commund all the Roman youth, till they come to fourty yeares of age, whether they haue meane skill in shooting, or not, to cary bowes & quivers of arrowes. For since the art of shooting hath been neglected, many, & great losses haue befallen the Romans. And in another place: you shall enioyne the Commaunders vnder you, in winter to take a view, and to signify to the Turmches (Coronells) how many horse, & what kinde of armes the souldiers, vnder their commaundes, stand in need of, that necessary provision bee made, & the souldiers be furnished in time convenient. But specially you are to haue care of archers; & that they, whoe remaine at home, & haue vacation from warre, hold bowes and arrowes in their howses. For carelessnesse heerin hath brought great dammage to the Roman State. So Leo. This of ould time was the opinion of the Romans concerning archers. Howe wee are fallen out with them in our dayes (the skill of the bowe, being a quality so commendable, and so proper to our nation) I knowe not, vnlesse fire-weapons perhaps haue put them out of countenance. And surely it may not bee denied, that the force of fireweapons of our time doth farre exceed the height of all old inventions for anoyeng the enemy. And, when I haue given them the first place, I will not doubt to giue the second to bowes and arrowes being so farre from casting them of, that I would rather fol∣low the wisdome of the Graecians; whoe albeit they esteemed arrowes the best flieng weapons, yet thought it not amisse to hold in vse slinges, and dartes- Every weapon hath it property; and that which is fitte for one service, is not so fitte for another. The fireweapons haue theire advantages; They haue also theire disadvantages. Theire advantage is, they pierce all defence of armour, and lighting vpon a place of the body, the wound whereof endaungereth life, they bring with them certeine death. Theire disadvantages are, they are not alwayes certeine, sometimes for want of charging, sometimes through over charging, sometimes the bullet rowling out, sometimes for want of good powder, or of dryed powder, sometimes because of an ill dryed matche, not fitte to coale, or not well cocked. Besides they are somewhat long in charging, while the musketier takes downe his musket, vncockes the matche, blowes, proynes, shuttes, casts of the pan, castes about the musket, opens his charges, chargeth, drawes out his sticke, rammes in the powder, drawes out againe, and puts vp his skowring stick, layes the musket on the rest, blowes of the matche, cockes, and tryes it, gardes the pan, and so makes ready. All which actions must necessarily bee observed, if you will not faile of the true vse of a musket. In raine, snowe fogges, or when the enemy hath gayned the winde, they haue small vse. Adde that but one ranke (that is the first) can giue vpon the enemy at once. For the rest behinde, discharging, shall either wound theire owne Companions before, or else shoote at randon, and so nothing endaunger the enemy, the force of a musket being onely availeable at point blanck. Contrary wise the disadvantage of arrowes is in the weaknesse of the stroke; which is not able to enter a Curace, that the foote or horse nowe vse. Yet can noe weather bee founde, where in you may not haue good vse of bowes: raine, snowe, winde, haile, fogges, hinder litle (especially the string of the bowe being not to wette) may rather profit Because in them you can hardly discerne, much lesse avoide, the fall of the arrowe. As for quicknesse in delivery the bowe farre excelleth the musket. A good single archer is able to giue fiue shotte in exchange for one of the musketier; and that with such certainty, that you shall not heare of an archer that misseth the delivery of his arrow, where the musketier, often faileth by reason of the accidents and impediuients before by mee rehearsed. Ioine that a whole squadron of archers, being embattailed, may shoote at once together: which onely the first ranke of musketiers may doe. And make the case there were a hundred musketters, and a hundred bowe-men eche digested into ten files, eche file conteyning ten men, the bowe men shall bee able to shoote at once a hundred arrowes (all theire arrowes) for ten bullets given by the musketiers, namely those ten of the first ranke discharging alone. It must not bee pretermitted, that the bowe and quiver both for marching, & all service, are lighter and of lesse labour to vse, then a musket, which is noe small advantage in armes and fight. To conclude the bowe-men may bee placed behinde the armed foote, and yet in shooting over the Phalange anoy the enemy before ioyning, and all the time of fight, even whilest they are at pushe of pike; where the musketier, there placed, must either idlely look on, or else playeng with his musket, most of all endaunger his owne friendes. Neither is the force of arrowes so weake, as is immagined, noe not in the arming of our dayes. For the pike albeit hee haue his head and body covered, yet are his legges, and feete, his armes, and handes open to woundes: any of which parts being wounded bringes a disability of service. To say nothing of his face, and eyes, before which the showers of arrowes falling like a tempest without intermission, must needes breed a remedilesse terrour, and make him thinke rather of saving himselfe, then offending his enemy. The musketier being also vnarmed is as subiect to the shotte of arrowes, as the archer is to the shotte of the musket; and the arrow touching any vitall parte, as much taketh away life, as doth the musket. Lastly a horse-man for his owne person (I must confesse) is safe enough from the daunger of arrowes by reason of his armour but his horse, being a faire and large mark, and having neither barbe, nor pectorall, nor ought else to hide his head or breast, how can hee escape woundes? Witnesse our fieldes in France, where our Archers alwayes beate the frenche horse, being barbed, and better armed, then our horse are, at this day. And for the bloudy effect of bowes the story of Plutarch is worth the rehersing. He, in the life of Crassus hath thus: The Parthians opposing the Cataphracts against the Roman horse, the other Persians galloping heer and there dispersedly, and troubling the face of the field, broke vp from the bottom, hills of sand, that raised infinite dust, whereby the Romans lost theire sight and voice: and thronging together, & thrusting one another were wounded, and died not a simple, or quicke deathe, but tormented with convulsions and panges of grief, wallowing vp, and downe, in the sande to breake the arrowes in theire woundes, or else endevouring to pluck out the hooked heades, which had pierced vaines and sinewes, renting a freshe themselues, & adding torment to torment: so that many died in this manner, & the rest became vnprofitable. And when Publius Crassus desired them once more to charge the Cataphracts, they shewed theire handes nailed to their targets, and theire feete fastened to the grownde, whereby they were vnable either to fly, or fight. These wonders did the Parthian bowes, which notwithstanding were not to bee compared to our auncient English bowes, either for strength, or farre shooting. And that wee may not seeme to rely vpon antiquity alone. The battaile of Curzolare (commonly called the battaile of Lepanto) fought in our dayes betwixt the Turkes, & Christians by sea may serue for an experience of the service of bowes and arrowes. In which there died of the Christians by the arrowes of the Turkes aboue siue thowsand, albeit they were in galleyes and ships, and had theire blindes pretended to saue from sight, and mark of the Turks, where as the artillery of all sorts of the Christians consumed not so many Turkes: notwithstanding the Christians had the victory. Nowe then for vs to leaue the bowe, being a weapon of so great efficacy, so ready, so familiar, and as it were so domesticall to our nation, to which wee were wont to bee accustomed from our Cradle, because other nations take themselues to the Musket, hath not so much as any shewe of reason. Other nations may well for beare that, they never had. Neither Italian, nor Spaniard, nor Frenche, nor Dutche, had these fiue hundred years, been accounted Archers. It was a skill almost appropriated to our nation. By it, wee gayned the battailes of Cressy, of Poitiers, of Agincourt, in France: of Navarre, in Spaine: By it, wee made our selues famous over Christendome. And to giue it over vpon a conceit onely (for noe experience can say that our bowe was ever beaten out of the field by the musket) will proue an immitation of Aesops dogge, whoe carieng a piece of fleshe in his mouth over a river, and seing the shadowe in the water, snatched at the shadowe, and left the fleshe. I speake not this to a base the service of muskets, which all men must acknowledge to bee great; I onely shewe, there may bee good vse of bowes, if our archers were such, as they were wont: which is not to bee dispaired, and will easily come with exercise.

William Somner- The antiquities of Canterbury, 1640

Somner chose to include the segment from John Bingham’s book Aelian Tactiks where he discusses archery. The segment from John Bingham will get its own separate post. Somner’s comments are interesting in themselves.

P267

Here, as from a fit occasion, let us observe by the way the alteration of the times in point of martiall and military weapons. The Bow, (the long Bow) and the Bow-man, we all know, were those which did the deed, and bare away the Bell in martiall brunts in former times, the Bow then the prime weapon for offensive service, and the chiefest instrument warre knew wherewith to try the mastery; the Gun, and Gun-shot being but of late (though too soone heaven knowes whilst earth rues) invented: and yet so cryed up and magnified, by Martiallists especially, that the Bow the whilest is quite rejected with contempt as uselesse, and doomd and deemd at best as onely fit for men of peace in way of recreation to sport withall. Now being grounded in a good opinion of Archery my selfe, and not unwilling to vindicate the under valuation of it with other men, I desire here to recommend unto my reader a worthy and judicious Elogie one commendation of (Englands ancient glory.)  Archery ; not my owne, nor yet any meere Mercurians, one able to judge only by theoreticall speculation, but a learned disciples both of Mars and Mercury, one equally experienced in both warfares, the armed and gowned; Master Iohn Bingham I meane, in his Notes upon Aelians Tactiks, where he playes the part of a most excellent advocate for discarded  Archery. The Booke is now somewhat deere and scarce, and there∣fore to save their labour and cost (of searching the originall) who can endure to see despised Archery commended according to it worth, I shall present them with a true Copy of that whole passage verbatim, as there it lyes, pag. 24. and so forward.

Barnabe Rich- A right exelent and pleasaunt dialogue, 1574

I was surprised to find that this one was published in 1574. The arguments are extremely similar to those of Roger Williams, whose Discourses were not published until 1590. The argument takes place in the form of a dialogue between Mercury and an English soldier. Since speaker tags have been forgotten in some places I’ve added them in for clarity.

 

 

Soul. But if without presumption I might but demaund this laste question wherein I greatly desire to be satisfied, and this it is, whether the Calyuer, or the long Bowe as we tearme them heare in Englande, be of greatest force I haue harde this question diuers times to be argewed on & some that haue bin supposed to haue had good experience haue preferred the the Caliver to be of greater force in seruice then the bow which I think few wisemen wyll beleeue, and our enemies can witnesse to the contrary that from time to time haue felte our Archers force, and how many noble victoryes haue bin by them achiued, Cronicles are ful, and Histories can well make mencion, and I am of that mind that one thousand good Archers would wronge tow thowsande shot, yea and would driue them out of the feeld and there be a great many of that opinion beside my selfe.

[Mer.] What hath bin don in time paste maketh nothing to the purpose for the time present for the order of the warres is altogether altered, and in an other manner then they haue bin in time past, but now to answer to thy demaund and breifly to satisfye thy desire, thou must first consider to what perfection shot is lately growne unto ouer it hath bin within these few yeares, when paradnenture if there were one that sarued with ah Halfhaake or a Hagbus as they termed them which were peeces to small efect, unlesse it were euen hard at hand, ther is now ten for that one, which serueth with that Caliver or Musquet which, peeces ar of a new inuention and to an other effect. So lyke wise they haue a better composition for the makynge of their powlder and the Souldier is grown by practise to a greater celetrity in the using of his peece then in the paste he hath byn of. Thus the effecte of the one by practise is increased, and the force of the other by nature is deminished, for the strength of men is generally decaied, whereby they are not able to draw so stroung a bow, nor to shoote so stronge a shotte as in the olde tyme men haue bin accustomed.

But to the ende thou mayest the better perceaue wherein the aduantage or disaduantage doth growe. I wyl use this comparison (wherby) I doubt not but thy owne reason shall perswade thee.

Suppose one thousande Archers shoulde be leuyed within two Shiers in Englande let them use no further reagard in the choice then of ordinary they ar accustomted: In the seruice of the Prince, let these Archers be apoynted with such liuery Bowes as the Country generally useth to alow, let these Archers continnewe in the feelde but the space of one weeke, abidynge such fortune of weather, with their Bowes and Arrowes, as in the mene time might happen. I would but demaunde how many of those thowsand men were able at the weeks end to shoote aboue x. score. I dare undertake that if one hundred of those thousande doo shoote aboue ten score, that .ii. hundred of the rest, wyll shoote shorte of .ix. score, and is not this a peece of aduantage thinkest thou? when euery Calyuer that is brought into the feelde wyl carry a shot xviii. score and .xx. score, and euery Musquet .xxiiii, and xxx. score.

Besides this euery Bushe, euery Hedge, euery Ditch, euery Tree, and lamost euery Moalhil is a sufficient safgarde for a shotte, where the Archer is little worse, but on a playne, when the shotte wyll conuay them selues into euery couerte, that the Archer shall not see whereat to shoote, and yet hee himselfe remayne a fayre marke for the other, or els can use no seruice.

Now whether part hath the aduantage, I thinke may well be deemed, and whether weapon is of greatest force, a man mays easlye perceaue, when the shotte shall be able to preiudice the Archer, who shal not be able to shoote halfe the grounde towardes him agayne. Farther when the Shotte shal take aduantage almost in eueri ground to shrowd himselfe, where the Archer must remaine an open mark uppon the plaine or els to occupy his Bow to smal efect.

[Soul.] But let it be that one thowsand Archers and one thowsande shot should meete in the playne feelde where no vantage were to be taken by the ground, & admit they were ioyned in skirmish, within .viii or .ix score where the Archer is able to shutte twice to the others once, wherby the Arrowes comming so thick amonst them, wil so astone them that the contrarye part shall not well know where at to shoote.

Mer. But those that frame this argument hath little practise in the use of the Calyver, and lesse experience in the order of a skyrmishe for if a thowsand Archers were brought into the feelde I trust all woulde not be brought to shootte at one instant for yf they were, some of them would shoote to small auauayle, as he that hath experience can well say.

And yet if there were no other aduantage to be used in skirmishe, but who can shoote fastest he that is a ready shoote I dare say, would be loth that an Archer should shoots aboue .viii times to his .v

And this aduantage in often shootyng is not so great in the one but the difference is much more in the other, considerig their force for where the one doth but gaulde the other doth either mayne or kyll.

But to shew thee what farther aduantage the shot hath of the Archer thou shalt undertstand that where the Archer may shoot both wide short and gone, the other may shoott but wyde onely. But because thou mayst the better perceaye my meanynge thou must consider that when the Archer shooteth any distance of grounde, the Arrowe commeth compasse of a great height, so that when it commeth where it should indanger, which is, with in the compasse of mans height it falleth presently to the ground and hath but as it were one lightyng place and paraduenture may come directly ouer one mans head and fall right at an other mans feet which standeth but .iii, yeardes behind, where if it had falne but one foots shorter, it had indaungered the firste so yf it had gone but one or two foote farther it had hazarded the last.

Thus as I haue saide the Archer, though he shoote right yet he may shoote both ouer and under, where the other can shoote but wide onely, considering that the shot is styll carried away within the compasse of mans height, which aduantage to such as hath reason to decerne it arighte shall perceyue, that one shotte from the Musquet or Calyuer, is of greater possibilytie to indaunger then fiue that shall come from the beste Archer that is brought into the feelde.

Soul. I understande the meanynge verye well, and doo nowe perceaue the Calyuer indeede to be of greatest force, and yet I had a great deale rather beleeue it my selfe, then to undertake to make a great many of others to beleeue it.

But now I perceaue we may hange our Bowes uppon the walles for I can not perceaue how they wyll nowe stande us in any great steede to serue in warres.

Mer. Nay not so neyther, was it any part of my pretence to absolutlye to objecte the Archer nor yet to make hym of so small effect, but that his seruice is to be commended, and not to be forborne, for so it mighte as well be sayde what should Horsemen do in the feelde where the enemye hath picks to defende them against whom they coulde yet neuer preuayle: yet no man doubteth but Horsemen are seruisable for manye causes, although it be not to run against the picks, so likewise Archers maye do verye good seruice, althoughe it be not to inconnter with shotte.

But my wordes tended to this ende that I woulde not haue thee to be ignoraunt in the use of so principall a weapon, but rather woulde wyth it might be practised, considering it asketh tyme, or many haue the ready use of it, for lyke as it is a specyall Weapon to hym that can use it in good order, so it is as defused, untowarde to hym that hath not the practise of it, and shal sooner indaunger hymselfe, or his friends that standes nexte unto hym, then hurte his Enemye. Therefore I woulde wyshe that those which shoulde use this Weapon, to be very expert and wary in the use and orderyng of the same.

Martino Martini – Bellum Tartaricum, 1654

Unlike Polofox, who I posted earlier, the Italian missionary Martino Martini, the author of this history of the Manchu conquest, had actually been to China. He has little to say on the types of arms used, only this:


Pages 16-18

But the City [Leaotung] was defended by exceeding many men, who generally were all armed with musquets: the Tartars had nothing by their Scymetars, with Bows and Arrows, which they discharged with strange dexterity & Art. But because they chiefly feared the musquet bullets, they resolved by a Stratagem to make that unknown Instrument less hurtfull to them than their Enemies did imagin. For the Tartarian King commanded such as made the first onset, to carry a thick hard board for their Shield, which was as good to them as a wooden Wall; these men were seconded by other Companies who carried Ladders to climb up the Walls; an the Horse came up in the Rear. In this manner he set upon the City in four quarters, and received the discharge of their Musquets against his Wooden wall; Then in a moment the scaling ladders being applied, before they could charge again, they were upon the Walls and enterd the City; for such is the quickness and nimbleness of the Tartars (in which they excel all Nations, and idn which also they place their chief art) that in a trice, they either prevail in their Designs, or retire: and the little skill the Chineses had in the use of Musquets, was no small hinderance to this War. For the Tartars quickness and nimblenes not giving them time to charge again being astonished with the suddain inundation of armed men, they presently fled which way soever they could…


The Ming seem to have had a shortage of bullets or cannon balls, at least in Beijing. In 1644 Beijing, the Ming capital, was besieged and captured by Li Zicheng’s rebel army. Shortly after crowning himself Emperor, Li fled the city to escape the invading Manchu army. This is the second reference I have seen to cannons being fired empty:


Page 85

But, however it was, these Pilferers came in a short time to besiege the Royal City of Peking. There was in that City a vast Garrison, and as great a quantity of Artillery; but on the Quarters upon which the enemy made there assault, there was none charged with Bullets, but only with Powder.


The second comes from the scholar-bureaucrat Liu Shangyou, who had arrived in Beijing just a few months before the siege:


Lynn A. Struve, Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm. Yale University Press, 2003. 11-12

On the 17th [of the 3rd month, April 23] artillery fire shook the heavens, and I knew the bandits had reached the foot of the city walls. The guns on the walls were fired empty as often as not– for lack of ammunition. Below the walls the bandits also relied on artillery for their attack; each firing of a cannon was sure to collapse a roof or topple some tiles– anything that got in the way was smashed. Their ammunition was shaped like a man’s thumb– keen and shiny, hard and slick, really effective.


Juan de Palafox y Mendoza – The History of the Conquest of China by the Tartars

Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Bishop of Puebla in Mexico, was privy to reports of the Manchu conquest of Ming China via the Phillipines. Though he had never been to China himself, Palafox used those reports to write a detailed history of the conquest. Throughout, the Manchu are referred to as Tartars.

Pages 521-522

The Tartars exercised their Souldiers every day before the Palaces of their Vice-Roys : There they drew up the Troops in Battalia, and fired at one another with their Muskets and Guns as eagerly, as if two Armies had been contending for Victory. They had likewise Prises, and persons appointed to take notice of, and recompense the address and expertness of those who shot with Bows and Guns every day at a mark. Whosoever hit the mark with three Bullets, or three Arrows, had given him, as a reward, a little piece of Siver Plate, fashioned like a shell, worth about four Julio’s ; ( a Julio is in value about six pence sterling : ) He who hit the mark twice had one worth about two Julio’s ; and he who hit it but once had one only of the value of one Julio. But they who missed the mark thrice were instantly bastinado’d. And to disgrace them the more, were publickly hooted and hissed at, or else had some other affront put upon them. The Tartars were not obliged to these exercises, but the Chineses of those Provinces, who had submitted themselves, that by custome they might learn not to be afraid of Guns or Arms. They designed by this continual exercise, to disaccustome them from that Effeminancy and Laziness, in which they had lain so long buried. These idle Fellows would very willingly have been excused from this trouble. But they deserved to be learnt by their Enemies the exercise of Arms, that they might carry them in their Service, since they so little concerned themselves, to make use of them in the defence of their own Country, and for the preservation of themselves.

Page 524-526

[The Manchu] Bows and Arrows are their most honourable Weapons, of which they are very proud, and take pleasure in shewing how skilfully they can shoot with them, which they do so dexterously, that several person with one draught of the Bow will let fly three or four Arrows at a time, with that force and violence, that should they at a due distance hit any man, the lightest would pierce him quite thorough. Their Bows are rather little than great. They are light but very strong and solid. Their Arrows are some long, some short, but all so strong, that they will pierce through a stiff board : The Iron heads are made four square, or triangular, but long and extraordinary well pointed and tempered.

They had no Fire Arms, when they first entred into China :  But as soon as they had possessed themselves of some places, they took out all the great Guns, Muskets and Fire Arms, which they found, and made use of them ever afterwards. But they never employed any Tartars as Cannoneers and Gunners, but only Chineses, and some few Europeans : Nor suffered any to carry Muskets or Fire Arms, but only the Chineses of those provinces which had submitted themselves, with whom they encreased their Army, that they might the sooner compleat their Conquest. As for Petards or Fire-works, they neither know how to make them or use them, nor how to spring a Mine. It may seem strange, that the Tartars would thus put their best Weapons into the hands of their new Subjects, and not learn how to handle them themselves. That they should train up both Citizens and Countrey people in their Military Discipline : For which several persons censure the Conduct of Xunchi, as likewise for entrusting the Princes of his Family with so great a Power. But this Monarch was convinced that the more he confided in his Uncles, the more he engaged and secured their Loyalty ; and by manifesting how little he feared, and how much he slighted the Chineses, he made them the more dread of his valour, and the courage of the Tartars.

Robert Barret – The Theorike and Practike of Moderne VVarres, 1598

Barret is another military writer critical of “inueterate conceirers of bowes and blacke billes”. Barret asserts the superiority of the firearm over the bow, the corselet over the jack, and the pike over the bill (halberd). I have skipped over the sections dealing with the bill and jack.
Pages 2-3
Gent.

You haue touched many pointes vnder a few termes, but (Captaine) all this and much more will hardly perswade our rurall sort; and I thinke many of vs Gentlemen not farre better minded: for in executing her Maiesties commands, for trayning our men, prouiding of armour, I heare many say, what neede so much a do, and great charge in Calliuer, Musket, Pyke and Corselet? our auncestors won many battels with bowes, blacke Billes, and Iackes. But what thinke you of that?

Captaine.

Sir, then was then, and now is now; the wars are much altered since the fierie weapons first came vp: the Cannon, the Musket, the Caliuer and Pistoll. Although some haue attempted stifly to maintaine the sufficiencie of Bowes, yet daily experience doth and will shew vs the contrarie. And for that their reasons haue bene answered by others, I leaue at this instant to speake thereof.

Gent.

Why, do you not like of our old archerie of England?

Capt.

I do not altogether disalow them; true it is, they may serue to some sorts of seruice, but to no such effect as any of the fierie weapons.

Gent.

Will not a thousand bowes handled by good bowmen, do as good seruice, as a thousand hargubuze or muskets, especially amongst horsemen?

Capt.

No, were there such bowmen as were in the old time, yet could there be no comparison.

Gent.

Your reasons.

Capt.

First, you must confesse that one of your best Archers can hardly shoot any good sheffe arrow aboue twelue score off, to performe any great execution, except vpon a naked man, or horse. A good Calliuer charged with good powder and bullet, and discharged at point blanck by any reasonable shot, will, at that distance, performe afar better execution, yea, to passe any armour, except it be of prooffe, & much more neare the marke then your Archer shal: And the said Calliuer at randon will reach & performe twentie, or foure and twentie score off, whereunto you haue few archers will come neare. And if you reply, that a good archer will shoot many shots to one; Truly no, your archer shall hardly get one in fiue of a ready shot, nay happely scarce one; besides, considering the execution of the one and the other, there is great oddes, and no comparison at all.

Gent.

But our bowmen may shoot by vollies, as thicke as hayle in the ayre.

Capt.

They may shoot thicke, but to small performance, except (as I said) vpon naked men or horse. But should there be led but eight hundred perfect hargubu∣ziers, or sixe hundred good musketiers against your thousand bowmen, I thinke your bowmen would be forced to forsake their ground, all premisses considered: and moreouer a vollie of musket or hargubuze goeth with more terrour, fury, and execution, then doth your vollie of arrowes. And againe, against a resolute troupe of horse, either Pistoletiers, Hargulatiers or Lanciers, they will stand lesse time (except they be well fronted with hedge, ditch or trench; or seconded with a strong stand of pikes,) then either Hargubuze or Musket, considering the execution of the one & the other. And what souldier is he, that commeth against a weapon wherein there is little hazard of life, which will not more resolutely charge, then against a weapon, whose execution he knoweth to be present death? Many more reasons might be alledged for the sufficiencie of the one, and the insufficiencie of the other, but others haue answered the same already, besides the proofe which dayly experience bringeth: and thus you heare mine opinion of your Bowes; desiring you (Gentlemen and others) not to conceiue sinisterly of me for this mine opinion, as not held of me for any dislike I haue of our old Archery of England: but that common experience hath made it most manifest in these our later warres: well wishing in my hart (had it bene Gods good will) that this infernall fierie engine had neuer bin found out. Then might we boldly haue compared (as our auncestors did) with the proudest Archers in the world.

But you must note this by the way, that the fierie shot, either on horsebacke, or foote, being not in hands of the skilfull, may do vnto themselues more hurt then good: wherefore the same is often to be practised, that men may grow perfect and skilfull therein.

Pages 4-5
Gent.

Your proportion I like well, but our countrey people are loth to be at the charges of so many costly weapons, although her Maiestie and her honorable priuie Counsell, haue giuen orders and directions for the same.

Capt.

I perceiue it to be so, whereat I grieue not a litle, considering, how dangerous is the time; how malicious, strong, & politike is the enimie; how carelesse, yea senslesse are we; and how vnwilling to our owne weale? But should these your secure men once heare the Alarme of the enemie, (from the which God defend vs,) then should you soone see them alter their copies, chaunge their colours, forget their great bragges of blacke Bills and Bowes, and stand at their wittes ende what course to take; and should they yet recall their courage, and plucke vp their spirites, and dare to looke the enimie in the face, what guides (I pray) haue they? It is not enough to say downe with them, downe with them, Lay on Billes and Bowes: they should encounter strong squares of armed Pikes, gallant squadrons of Muskets, braue troupes of shot, conducted by skilfull Leaders: then should they soone see the difference of weapons; the danger of the one, the litle doubt of the other, with repentance (perhaps) for not taking them to other weapons in time. Thus much I speak to our inueterate conceirers of bowes and blacke billes.