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.


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.

William Garrard – The Arte of VVarre

The Arte of VVarre, by William Garrad, d. 1587, published posthumously 1591.

Page 2-3:

He which seekes to attaine and attribute to himselfe the honourable name of a Souldier, must first employ his time in practice of those armes wherewith he means to serue, and so apply his time, that when any enterprise shall call him forth to make proofe thereof, he may be able to handle his peece with due dexterity, and his pike with assured agilitie : since those be the weapons wherwith now Mars doth most commonly arme his warlike troupe, and trie each doubtfull fight of bloudy battaile : for in this our age experience and practise makes apparant that Archers amongst forreine Nations be neuer vsed, and the halberd but either amongst few or few in number. The Archer serues to small purpose, but when he is shadowed with some trench or bulwarke free from hargabuse or musket-shot : Or that lyning a band of Hargabusiers, hee doth second them in any inuading onset, and then a whole flight of arrowes, so that they be light and able to flie aboue tweluescore, will maruellously gaule any maine battell of footemen or Squadron of Horsemen. The Halberd likewise doth onely serue in the sacke of a towne, in a breach, in a sally, or canuisado, to enter a house, or in the throng of a stroken battell to execute slaughter ; wherefore touching these two weapons, vnlesse necessitie constraine, and that Hargabusiers be wanting, Archers may well be spared : and these great numbers of Halberdiers and Bill-men, which are and haue beene in times past vsed in England, may well be left off, saue a few to guard euery Ensigne, and to attend vpon the Colonell, or Captaine, which in an armie will amount to a sufficient number to depresse the ouercome and flying enemy.

Page 82

Caliuers or Hargabuzieres, or Musketieres
Such must haue either of them a good and sufficient peece, flask, tutch-bore, pouder, shot, yron, mold, worme, tyrebale, rammer, swoord and dagger, and a morion. The like must the Musketeare haue, witha  forked staffe best hye, with a stringe to fasten to his wrist. Such as serue with shot in raine, mistes and windes, must haue their peeces chardged and primed: They must carie the tutch hoale of their peeces under their arme-hoales, match light in their hands couertly and drie, their peeces faire and cleane within and without, so bee they seruicable at all times, hauing regard they keepe their march and retyre of good distance in sunder, their match and pouder verie drie, and their peeces often chardged and discharged.

Archers or long Bowes.
Necessarie it is that euery man haue a good and meete bowe, according to his draught and strength, light & easie, a light side jake hanging loose to his knee, with a skul, swoord & dagger, nothing upon his armes, wherby in time of seruice hee may easilie draw the arrow to the head, that they may deliuer the same with strength and art, as Englishmen bee accustomed, They must haue also a bracer and shooting gloue, their stringes whipped and waxed ouer with glew, their feathers drie: and so is he seruiceable.

Page 112-113

These two bands of Hargabuzers set to encounter the enemy on their broad sides, the fronts discharge & turn their faces, retyring betwixt the other, which aduance in like maner for their rescue. These retire and charge againe to seruice, by practicing the skirmish in this sort, you may bring bands of Archers to seruice, to the great anoying & discomfiting of the enemie.

These bands of Archers beeing brought to seruice by the Hargabuziers, although the hargabuziers bee accompted to be of greater force then they bee of, and the Archers not now so much used in the field as they haue bin, yet hauing light shaftes made to shot 12. or 14. scoore, may keepe their place, shooting al together ouer the heads of the hargabuziers, to the gauling, blemishing, and great annoy of the enemie.

Jacopo di Porcia: The Preceptes of Warre

A military manual by Jacopo di Porcia. Some of the advise is obvious, some silly. This is a text transcription from EEBO and I’m not confident at all that it’s accurately transcribed. Translated 1544 by Peter Betham.

32. ¶ Of gonners on horsebacke.
It shal not be vnprofitable to acquaynten and wount your horses, as the duchmen do, to suffer the sytter whyche is a gunner and not to be affrayed therof. For no sorte of souldyers, is more profytable than they nor yet doth more myschife and hurte. For no man is so well harnaysed, that can be saulfe from them: such a vyolence is in that warlye instrumente.
33. ¶ Of gunnes called serpentines wyth other.
It shall be very profitable to haue many wagons & charettes laden with gons For there is none armye so strong, whom they wyll not destroye, so that horses & men far of be slayne, wyth them. Also the great sounde shal so feare men, that their strength and courage shal fal and decay.

42. ¶ Of bowes.
Fotemen with bowes, whych englysh men vse: do greate seruyce in an host. For there is no breste plate, whyche is able to wythstand, and holde owte the stroke of the arrowes, suche force and vyolence is in bowes.

87. ¶ What is to be done when we mistrust our souldyours to be afrayed of the sowne of gunnes and noyse of them yt wayle.
Yf any lykenesse be, or mistrust that thy souldyours bene afrayed of the gunshote and otherwyse, whereby theyr hertes be lyke to fayle, it is a good pollicye, to stop their eares with some thing, and so with out feare they shall fyght, neyther hea∣ryng the wofull waylynges of them that be wounded, ne yet the noyse of gunnes. Whych pollicye wyl serue at these dayes agaynst the Almaynes that vse a greate nombre of gunnes in theyr armyes.

88. ¶ What is to be done when thyne enemyes be moost parte archers.
When our enemyes be for the mooste part archers, then set aganyst them, men fenced with tergates, whych sort of souldyours be sometyme in the hostes of the East partie. And by this pollicie thyne army shal be out of theyr daunger.

92 ¶ A pollicie to diffeate and dispoynt the gunners, that they stande in no stede and vse.
The Frenchemen and Almaynes, at these dayes haue in thēyr armies a great nombre of gunners, which sore trouble & hyndre theyr enemies. Wherfore my counsayle is, that armye (which hath no suche souldyours) to sette vpon them in mooste raynye wether. For at those tymes they be vnseruyable, and can do no good.