Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2006 11:58:49 -0500
From: Mathurin Kerbusso <>
Subject: [CALONTIR] Mathurin's Tale: Strike the Drum

Evidently posting directly from the mediablog to the Calonet is not terribly reliable. So I will do it the old fashioned way. :)

The lyrics to "Strike The Drum"

I wrote this one as a contest entry for "a marching song for archers". It seems to have gained some popularity.

All of the names in the song are battles where archery played a notable part. Most of them are English vs. French and cover the span of time most associated with the dominance of the English longbow; "Agincourt", "Crecy", and "Poitier" are in this category and are probably familiar to most folks.

"Halidon" refers to the Battle of Halidon Hill.

"Kadesh" refers to the Battle of Kadesh, between the armies of Egypt and the Hittites circa 1274 BC.

"Taginae" refers to the Battle of Taginae between the Byzantines and the Ostrogoths circa 552 AD.

These last two were just to stretch the sense of history, even though Kadesh is probably excessively anachronistic.


From the Clarion, August 2007:
Battle Explanations:

  1. At the Battle of Halidon Hill, July 19, 1333, Edward III first started honing the archery tactics that would later have such devastating effects at Crécy.

    Wikipedia says the Scots going up the hill were “so tightly packed that even the most indifferent archer could scarcely fail to hit his target. The fire was so intense that many turned their faces away as if walking into a storm of sleet.

    The Lanercost Chronicle reports: ‘...the Scots who marched in the front were so wounded in the face and blinded by the multitude of English arrows that they could not help themselves, and soon began to turn their faces away from the blows of the arrows and fall.’ Casualties were heavy, with some of the finest troops falling dead or wounded on the lower reaches of the hill. The survivors crawled upwards, through the arrows and on to the waiting spears” (Wikipedia).

  2. The Battle of Poitiers was fought on September 19, 1356, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years’ War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. “English archers ... shot the horses in the flanks. ... The results were devastating” (Wikipedia). The English captured the French king that day.

  3. August 26, 1346: Crécy was a battle in which a much smaller English army of 8,000 to 12,000 men defeated the much larger French force of 30,000 to 40,000. “The effectiveness of the English longbow, used en masse, was proven against armoured knights, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day which held that archers would be ineffective and be butchered when the armoured units closed” (Wikipedia).

    Although the French had Genoese crossbowmen, their bows suffered in the downpour before the battle (the English longbowmen simply unstrung their bows till the rain died), and the pavises (shields) behind which they reloaded had been left with the baggage train. The English longbowmen could fire twice to four times as fast as the crossbowman. “Frightened and confused, the Genoese crossbowmen retreated after heavy losses. About this time the French knights decided it was time to charge, and they ran right over the retreating Genoans” (Wikipedia).

  4. During the Battle of Agincourt, fought on St. Crispin’s Day (October 25, 1415), the much smaller English force killed “the flower of French nobility,” slaughtering thousands, including “the constable, three dukes, five counts and 90 barons” (Wikipedia).

    Wikipedia says the French outnumbered the English men-at-arms more than six to one, but they had no way to outflank the English line, in part because archers were on the flanks, protected by palings – sharpened wooden stakes set in the ground at an angle to deflect the cavalry. Even though the French had 4,000 to 6,000 crossbowmen, the terrain didn’t allow them to use them.

    During his famous St. Crispin’s speech, King Henry told the archers that, if caught, the French would cut off the fingers on their right hand so they could never draw another bow. Considering how the French had treated their own archers at Crécy, the English archers had a powerful incentive to keep fighting.

  5. The Battle of Kadesh was fought between the Egyptians and the Hittites in 1274 BC. Chariot archers were the mainstay of both armies. Wikipedia says it was may be the largest chariot battle ever fought.

  6. At the Battle of Taginae in 552, during the Byzantine “re-conquest” of Italy, Byzantine archers broke the Ostrogoth charge, which pretty much decided the battle. I included these earlier archery battles to show the historical sweep of archery, that victories thanks to skillful use of archery weren’t confined to the 14th and 15th centuries.