WEAPONRY / MILITARY

                                              

Ahlespiess

Fifteenth century staff weapon especially popular with Swiss infantry. It had a long, spike-like head of square section with a rondel at its base to protect the user’s hand, and was designed for thrusting.

Anlace

Also analasse. First recorded use 1259 by Matthew Paris in Du Cange; short, two–edged sword, broad at the hilt with a tapering point, worn at the girdle by civilians.

Appellant

Challenger, especially in a joust or tournament.

Arming Sword

Cut and thrust fighting sword; part of a knight’s equipment for war.

Assay

To test the quality and fitness of armor and weapons.

Aventail

Pendant band of mail attached to the helmet to protect the throat. In 14th and early 15th century England, it was also called a camail.

Axe–hammer

Now the name of a stonecutter's tool, it was originally a weapon, the head of which consisted of a blade with a crescent cutting edge and a blunt hammerhead at the rear.

Backsword

Sword with a broad, single–edged blade, a type of broadsword.

Balister

Machine used in siege warfare.

Ballock–knife

See kidney–dagger.

Barb

A sharp point curving back from the tip of a weapon, such as a spear or an arrow, to make extraction more difficult.

Bard

Armor for a horse.

Bardings

Horse armor. See Chanfran, Estrivals, Flanchard, and Testimere.

Bascinet

Battle helmet of the 14th century, lighter than the tilting helm. It was smooth, conical in shape and worn with the aventail. Transitional headpiece between the mail headgear of the 11th century and the sallet of the late 15th century, when the use of mail above the shoulder was largely abandoned.

Basilard

Dagger.

Battle

A division of an army. Typically in the late Middle Ages there were three. On the march They formed van, main, and rearguard; they could go into action in line abreast, or in line behind the other.

Battle–axe

A large axe with a broad curved blade. See also Scrimasaxe.

Battle Royal

In a tournament, when each side was headed by a king.

Baudricks

When used in reference to armament inventories, a generic term for small arms.

Bill

Hafted weapon commonly used by infantry forces; probably developed from a farming tool of the same name. The head, set on a long handle had a single cutting edge which, at the top curved forward into a hook and top spike and the back of the head had a horizontal spike.

Blockhouse

A square wooden fort used extensively in the piecemeal conquest of the eastern Baltic lands (e.g., Pomerania, Prussia, and Lithuania) and the military orders.

Bombard

The largest and one of the earliest of medieval cannon; mainly used to breach castle walls. One of the most impressive of these massive stone–throwers, "Mons Meg," is on display at Edinburgh Castle.

Boulevard

Term beginning in fifteenth-century France to describe works generally made in front of gates, initially of earth, timber, and straw, and later of stone. Their function was to protect the structure behind from enemy gunfire, and to mount the defenders’ guns to fire against the besiegers. Also called ‘bulwark’ in English.

Brassart

Armor for the upper arm. Also see Vambrace.

Bridgehead Fort

Small fortress at each end of a bridge, a type of fortification developed to black rivers against the Vikings in France in the 860s. Some use was made of fortified bridges in England from the 890s to the 920s. London Bridge was the greatest of this type, defying attacks from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries.

Broadsword

Long, heavy battle sword with a broad cutting blade and obtuse point. For the double–edged version, see claymore.

Buckler

Small, round shield used by archers and billmen; when not in used it was hung from the sword hilt or from the belt.

Butts

Practice target for archers; regular practice at the butts was mandated by law in medieval and Tudor England.

Cabaleros Villanos

‘Commoner knights’; frontier warriors in 12th-13th-century Spain.

Caltraps

Iron balls with spokes so placed that one spike is always up. Used to discourage pursuit. Also spelled caltrops.

Camail

Piece of mail attached to the helmet to protect the throat. See also aventail.

Cap–a–Pie

Complete suit of armor, covering the wearer from head to foot.

Cat

A type of siege engine used throughout medieval Europe, consisting of a shed to protect men operating other battering or boring equipment during a siege.

Chain Mail

Flexible armor made of metal links or scales.

Chanfron

Armor protection for the head of the war horse.

Chape

Metal ferrule reinforcing the tip of a sword or dagger scabbard.

Charnel

Metal strip used to attach the tilting helm to the breastplate.

Chevauchée

Raid; expedition. Generally involved the taking of castles, towns and plunder of enemy territory, although not always harm to the civilian population, even though it did involve wastage of much of the countryside by the advancing forces. Decisive victory was not always the purpose of the chevauchée, which was considered successful if the enemy resources were severely crippled, especially to the extent where the enemy might sue for peace or accept proffered terms. E.g., Richard of Gloucester's Scottish expedition of 1482 was more of a chevauchée, characteristic of Border warfare, than of pitched battles.

Chiliarch

A Greek term meaning ‘commander of a thousand’. It is used loosely in 10th-century France, where it simply meant a military leader. There was no regular division into military units of one thousand (with their subdivisions of hundreds). The Latin legio meaning ‘legion’ was similarly misused in 10th-century Germany, meaning no more than a unit of soldiers.

Circumvallation

Works surrounding a besieged fortress. Generally, from the 11th century, individual siege castles were built outside the gates. In the 15th century, this could consist of a complete circle of trenches, faggots, bundles of branches, and wooden mantlets (large screens) to protect gunners. Intended to cut off relief from outside and protect the besieging army.

Claymore

Double–edged broadsword of the Scottish Highlanders; designed to be wielded with both hands and swung in either direction, as opposed to the single–edged broadsword used throughout medieval Europe.

Cloth Yard

Arrow; three–foot shaft fired from the longbow and derived its name from the cloth measurement of the same length.

Cloutes

Iron plates used to keep axle–trees from wearing.

Coif

A skullcap worn beneath a knight's mesh hood; the hood itself.

Commissariat

General term for organization responsible for for provisioning an army on campaign.

Coronel

Blunt head, often crown–shaped, fitted to a lance for jousting. It insured that the jouster's lance would get a good grip on an opponent's armor with a minimum of penetration.

Corselet

A breastplate or light form of body armor to cover the breast.

Couched

The position of the lance when it is tucked under a horseman's arm, possibly on an arrest, but lowered for attack.

Counterfort

Defense–work of beseiging forces.

Crannequin

Steel crossbow cocked by a rack and pinion activated by a crank.

Crossbow

Medieval weapon consisting of a bow fixed transversely on a grooved stock. Originally made of wood with effective range largely dependent upon the strength of the bowman, the 15th–century introduction of the steel crannequin brought new life to a weapon on the verge of extinction in England, where the Welsh longbow reigned supreme and cannon and firearms were becoming more widely used and effective.

Crusades

Military expeditions, traditionally eight in number, undertaken between 1095 and 1271 to win or hold the Holy Land against Muslim rulers.

Cuirass

The whole of the plate armor pieces protecting the torso; breastplate, back, culet

(or hoguine), and fauld (or paunce).

Cuisse

Armor protection for the thigh.

Culet

Armor protection for the back, below the waist.

Curtail

Short cannon.

Cusped

Decorated with points; usually referring to the edges of armor and the blades of hafted weapons.

De Re Militari

Classic, Latin study on military strategy by the Roman author, Vegetius Renatus; in the Middle Ages, it was still considered the definitive manual on the subject. It is known to have been translated into English by the early 14th century, when a manuscript was presented to Thomas Lord Berkeley.

Destrier

War–horse.

Estoc

Short thrusting sword with a very stiff blade of square or triangular section. Introduced early in the 15th century, it was usually fitted with a simple cross–guard, short grip and heavy pommel. Although principally a cavalry weapon, it was also used in foot–combat in the lists.

Estrivals

Defense for the lower part of a horse's legs; made of mail and/or possibly cuir-bouilli.

Falconet

Small brass of iron cannon.

Fauld

Plate protection from the waist to the taces or tassets of a suit of armor.

Field Army

Mobile forces, as opposed to those in garrisons in castles and towns.

Flail

Spiked, iron ball attached to a staff by a chain. Like the battle–axe and mace, it was used to crush, rather than penetrate plate armor and was particularly effective against the fluted , articulated harness of the 15th century.

Flanchard

Armor protecting the flanks of a horse.

Flanker

Gun emplacement commanding a curtain wall or from a recess in the flank of a bastion.

Fluke

Curved hook on the back of the blades of bills, halberds, and other hafted weapons.

Flying Bridge

A bridge suspended from the top of a ship’s mast used for assaulting coastal fortifications in crusading warfare.

Forced March

Abnormally rapid movement, traveling by night and day, to achieve surprise. For example, in 1471, the Lancastrian army covered almost 50 miles in 36 hours.

Freebooters

Soldiers owing allegiance to no lord, fighting on their own behalf; raiders, pirates.

Fyrd

The Anglo-Saxon militia.

Gabeon

Cylindrical basket, open at both ends, filled with dirt and used by military engineers in the construction of defense works.

Galloglasses

1) Class of warrior retained by Irish chieftains; 2) In Scotland, the term also meant henchmen or armor bearers.

Gardbrace

The reinforce attached to the armor elbow defense. See couter and coudiere.

Genouillière

Armor protecting the knee.

Glaive

From the 13th to 15th century, English writers used this word to describe an equivalent of the lance. After that, it was more often used in reference to a sword or dagger, but modern writers on armaments use it to describe staff weapons with knife–like blades.

Gorget

Mid–15th century improvement on the bevor, by which the plate armor protecting the neck and throat became an articulated part of the whole, allowing greater movement of the head and neck.

Gorget Plates

In the 15th century, round or rectangular plates suspended on a strap from the pauldrons to cover the armhole cap in a suit of armor necessary for movement of the arms.

Greave

Also known in 14th–century England as the jamber; defensive armor for the lower leg. Term included the simple shin guard (schynbald) as well as the type which enclosed the entire lower leg.

Greek Fire

Mixture of naptha, sulphur, and quicklime, which ignited spontaneously, burned fiercely, and was one of the most feared weapons of siege warfare. See petard and petardiers.

Hackbut

Hand gun. In 1484, these were among the items ordered by Richard III to supplement the armaments being built up in anticipation of Henry Tudor's invasion.

Halberd

Hafted weapon; long–bladed axe fitted to a handle approximately the height of the user; later developed into a single– or double–edged weapon that could be used for thrusting. Still borne on ceremonial occasions by the Vatican Papal Guard.

Hanger

1) Short sword with a curved blade and simple knuckle–guard used primarily for cutting; 2) The method of attaching the sword to the belt by means of straps fastened to the sheath with their other ends linked to a hock on the sword belt.

Harness

Generic term for armor which covered the whole body; cap-a-pie.

Haunch

The projections at the base of the grip of a ballock–knife that formed the guard. See kidney-dagger.

Haussepieds

Traps.

Hedgehog

Defensive formation assumed by pikemen against a cavalry charge. So named because of the resemblance of the wall of extended pikes to the bristles of a hedgehog.

Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV

Contemporary account of Edward IV's 1471 reclamation of the Crown which, though biased in the King's favor, contains the most detailed, extant record of events from the Yorkist forces' landing at Ravenspur through the Battle of Tewkesbury.

Hobilars

Mounted infantrymen.

Host

A temporary gathering which might be as little as a few dozen warriors.

Housesteads

Forts strategically placed on a craggy precipice.

Hundred Years’ War

A series of wars between England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Invest

To lay siege to a fortified place.

Jobbard

Tool.

Joust of Peace

Two–man, mounted contest in the lists in which rebated weapons were used. See coronet.

Joust of War

Two–man, mounted contest in the lists with sharp lances and fought in field armor. See pieces of exchange.

Kerns

Unarmored Irish foot soldiers. Often barefoot and bareheaded, they carried only a sword and several javelins. Their job was to burn down houses and carry off cattle.

Kidney–dagger

19th–century name for the ballock–knife, a lethal dagger made only for stabbing. The handle rose from two rounded lobes and, sometimes, two, sharp prongs extended on either side of the base of the blade. Also known in England as the dudgeon–dagger, a name probably derived from the boxwood (dudgeon) often used to make the hilts.

Ladle

Long spoon–type instrument used to load a cannon with gunpowder before the introduction of cartridges. As early as 1497, the ladle was used in this connotation.

Lager

An encampment, made by drawing an army’s baggage wagons into a circle or square. In the later Middle Ages, guns could be mounted on the wagons.

Longbow

Bow of exceptional length drawn and discharged by hand, as opposed to the crossbow; introduced into English weaponry by the Welsh and firmly established as a lethal force at the Battle of Crécy. Despite its proven effectiveness, the longbow remained an almost solely English weapon, English archers being highly sought–after experts in the international procurement of weapons and manpower. See cloth yard, bracer, and nock.

Longship

General term of a Viking warship, being 28 meters long, and 2.7 to 4.5 meters wide. They had masts and 24-50 oars, but their crews included a complement of warriors as well as oarsmen.

Loricati

Literally men with body armor (from the Latin loricum) of uncertain form; it could be mail, strips of metal sewn to a garment, or a solid breastplate.

Main–de–fer

Hand of iron; extra–heavy steel gauntlet developed to protect the left hand, or rein hand, of the knight in the joust; integrated into field armor with the abandonment of the shield as a defensive accoutrement in the 15th century. See pieces of exchange.

Mangonel

Projectile–throwing siege engine used throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Mantlets

Wood screens used to protect bowmen who were part of the attacking forces in a siege.

Matchlock

Early 15th–century improvement in firearms which allowed a gunner to fire while steadying the gun with both hands.

Meinie

Armed following; military retainers. See livery and maintenance.

Men-at-arms

Heavily-armored soldiers trained to fight as cavalry, by the 14th century in addition to knights, these included lesser nobles, such as esquires and gentlemen.

Merlin

A small cannon.

Mine

Tunnel dug under the walls of a fortress by besiegers; when the supporting wooden props were burned, the tunnel collapsed, creating a breach in the wall above.

Morrispike

Moorish pike which was shorter than the common English pike.

Nasal

Fixed or movable projection from the brow of a helmet to protect the upper part of the face from sword cuts; gradually replaced in the knight's accoutrements by the advancing design of the helmet and visor.

Nock

Notch, or part having a notch, especially on a bow or an arrow. A separate nock was fitted to the rear of most arrows to receive the bowstring; hence, the term "to nock".

Pavise

A tall shield, usually rectangular, used to give a man complete protection from the 12th to the 15th centuries, especially at sieges. It was either propped up, so that a crossbowman or handgunner could reload behind it, or it was carried in front of assaulting troops.

Petrary

Latin petrariae, a general term for any siege engines which used torsion or counter-weights to throw large stones against fortifications in sieges. See also mangonel, trebuchet.

Pike

Very long, thick spear used against cavalry by men standing in serried ranks.

Pole–axe

Battle weapon consisting of an axe mounted on a long shaft.

Quarter

A division of a town from which troops were raised in units, e.g., in the Flemish towns of Ghent or Bruges.

Quintain

An object used as a target and mounted on a post; a contest with such as object.

Ram

A device for battering down walls or gates in a siege. A long beam suspended from a timber framework with a metal head (originally in a ram’s head form) with a pointed metal end, was swung against the defenses. Rams could be covered with armored roofs or sheds to protect their wielders from the defenders’ missiles.

Routiers

The name used for bands of mercenary soldiers in 12th to 14thth-century Europe.

Scara

Frankish term for a fast-moving force, unencumbered by a baggage train, which could be used at short notice. Often consisting of household troops.

Schiltron

Circular formations of infantry armed with long spears, employed in Scotland at the end of the13th century in the wars of independence against the English.

Scimitar

An oriental sword having a long curved blade.

Scrimsaxe

See battle-axe.

Seax

A short–handled sword.

Shield Wall

Infantry formation used by the English and Vikings standing close in order, with their shields forming an unbroken front.

Siege

The military tactic which involves an army surrounding a castle, town, by another army until the trapped army is starved into surrendering.

Siege Engine

Machine, mainly stone–throwing catapults used to breach walls or fortresses. See also mangonel.

Siege Tower

A tall wooden structure, often several stories high, which could be wheeled up against a fortification. At the top level was a drawbridge which, when lowered, made it possible to cross to the walls. Also known as a belfry.

Siege Train

Siege engines, and later, gunpowder artillery, together with supporting services (wagons, forges, engineers, sappers, and raw materials)which could accompany an army on campaign in order to conduct sieges.

Tortoise

A portable roofed shed used in sieges to shield besiegers from missiles dropped from the walls by the defenders; often employed to protect a ram, or sappers removing stones from the base of the wall.

Trebuchet

A siege engine using manpower or a large weight to accelerate the throwing arm, with the missile placed in a long sling.

Wars of the Roses

A series of wars occurring from 1455 to 1487 between the Houses of Lancaster and York for the English throne. The House of Lancaster was represented by a red rose, the House of York a white one.

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