H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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parsimony, offered a retaining fee of 4 a year for harquebusiers
with competent weapons and good skill, on condition of their
being ready to turn out if wanted in case of invasion. In
15()U the Earl of Sussex, watching Scotland, writes to London
that he would prefer archers to the " so ill-furnished harque-
busiers " that have been put at his disposal. It was, in fact,
difficult to accustom the nation to turn from the old national
weapon to one that was still hardly understood: again and


again we hear complaints of the uncertainty and unskilful-
ness of the English practice with firearms.

The New The change from bow to musket, however, was inevitable:

an^the tne superior penetrating power of bullet over arrow was an
Old - argument that grew more and more cogent as the make of

firearms improved and the rapidity of their discharge was
quickened. We are told that in the beginning of the Queen's
reign a skilled harquebusier could fire but ten or twelve shots
an hour, while at the end the pace had quickened up to
thirty-five or forty. The archer could still let fly a much
larger number of arrows in that time but the rate was no
longer so infinitely quicker than that of the harquebus. More-
over, the ranid discharge exhausted his sheaf so quickly that



he soon required a fresh supply ; and arrows were a bulky
commodity for quick forwarding to the front line of battle.

We are fortunately in possession of a full discussion as to
the relative merits of bow and harquebus, conducted by men
who had seen them employed together, in the wars of the
Netherlands. This controversy produced, indeed, the first
considerable instalment of technical military writing in the
English language. The disputants were Sir John Smythe on
the side of the bow, and Sir Roger Williams and Humphrey
Barwick on the side of the harquebus. Smythe states his


preference lor archers to rest (1) on their better aim, lor the
harquebusier can only take true aim at point-blank, and shoots
wildly at anything over a hundred yards ; (2) on the liability
of the fire-arm to get out of order wet weather spoils the
powder, windy or rainy weather blows out or extinguishes the
match, the piece fouls and clogs easily, it is difficult to repair ;
(3) on the liability of the soldier to mishandle his weapon in
the excitement of the battle in his haste he forgets to put
wadding between the powder and the ball, or lets the bullet
drop out of the mouth of his piece by holding it with muzzle
depressed : (4) harquebusiers cannot stand more than two deep,
archers easily eight or ten deep, and the latter are much better
.able to defend themselves against cavalry than the former ;


(5) the extreme heaviness of the musket and harquebus tire
out, the soldier on the inarch, and render his aim unsteady
after a half-hour's engagement; (6) last comes the old and
most effective argument as to rapidity of fire. The only
advantage that he allows to firearms is for use " in bulwarks,
ramparts, and mounts of a fortress," when the harquebusier,
shooting from a steady rest without exposing himself much,
may he of "ood service.

\j o

Barwick, in replying to Smythe, controverts most of his
propositions. (1) He denies the impossibility of aiming at
long distances; (2) in bad weather bow-strings grow slack or
break, and arrow-feathers flake off', so that the archer is as
much in danger of mishap as the gunner; (3) archers in
battle are just as liable to accidents from nervous hurry as
harquebusiers they stoop to shield themselves, do not draw
the arrow full to its head, and let fly when only half drawn
they are actually, he asserts, scared at the smoke and noise
of opponents furnished with tire-arms : (4) when archers are
drawn up more than two or three deep, the rear rank shoot at
a venture over the front, without any power of taking aim :
(5) the bowman is far more dependent on being imfatigued
and in full possession of his bodily powers than the harque-
busier" if he get not his three meales every daye, as his
custome is to have at home, neither his body to lie warme at
nights, he presently waxeth benumbed," and cannot draw
his bow to any good effect ; (6) a good harquebusier can
now discharge forty shots an hour with steady and sure
aim, so that the greater pace of the bow is no longer what
it was.

The celebrated Sir Roger Williams also appears in the
controversy on the side of the harquebus. He would rather
hav^ with him in the field 500 good muskets than 1,500 bows.
Archers, he says, are of such mixed quality that out of 5,000
only some 1,500 can " shoote strong shootes," and he then pro-
ceeds to back up Barwick's fifth contention by the statement
that after three months in the field, in winter or bad weather,
not one man in ten can keep up his full bodily strength to the
pitch at which he started. " Few or none will do any great
hurt at twelve or fourteen score off" (240 or 2NO yards). The
harquebus, on the other hand, will shoot as strongly as ever,




so long as the soldier has strength enough to touch off his

While the controversy was in progress, and all through Last Days
the years 1570-1595, bow and musket were seen side by side BOW.
in every English levy. 1 A band was often composed on some
such scale as eighty harquebuses, forty bows, forty halberts,
eighty pikes, as in the instructions for the Lancashire levy of
15.S4. When such a mixed body was drawn up in battle order,
the halberts took post in the centre to guard the standard
ot the company, the pikes stood on each side of them, then
came the bowmen in two halves, flanking the pikemen, and
finally the men with callivers or harquebuses formed up at
the two extreme ends of the line.

The tactics of the English were, of course, greatly modified
by the increasing use of the musket. The harquebusier does
not seem to have been expected to drop his weapon and join in
the melee with sword or axe, as the old bowmen had been

1 Cf. "Ballad of Brave Lord Willoujrhby " (>. l.ISS) :

" ' Stand to it, noble jiikemen.
And look yon round about !
And shoot you right, you bowmen,
And \ve will keep them out ;

You musket and calliver men
Do you prove true to me,

And I'll be foremost in the fight, '
Says brave Lord Willoughby."


(I'itt-Iiirerx Minium, <hj~<>,-il.)



wont to do. When close fighting occurred, and the opposing
lines came " to push of pike," the musketeer was expected to
slip to the rear of the line of pikes and cover himself behind
them, or at best to keep up a sidelong tire on the attacking
force. But this last would be impossible if the enemy's flanks
were furnished with horse, to whom the musketeer would ha vi-
ta expose himself in the open field.

The muster-rolls of the army that was drawn together to
oppose the Armada give excellent data for the balance between
the two weapons in 1588. In most parts of England all the
trained men of the regular militia were now furnished with fire-
arms. In some counties, such as Somerset, Wilts, Cambridge,
Huntingdon, no archers at all appear. In London out of
6,000 train-bands not one carried bows, but of 4,000 untrained
men 800 kept the old weapon. In central and northern England
the proportion of bows to harquebuses in the whole array
was from one-fifth to one-third ; only in the two counties of
Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire were the archers more


numerous than the men carrying firearms.

Only seven years later [1595] the Privy Council finally
decreed that the bow should never be placed in the hands of any
member of regular train-bands, but that all without exception
should be armed with callivers, harquebuses, or muskets. Such
was the death-knell of the old English weapon that had done
such good service all through the Middle Ages.

w. LAIRD UNTIL well on in the rei^n of Queen Elizabeth the sixteenth


The Eliza- century witnessed comparatively few improvements in the art of
bethan shipbuilding for the Navy ; but then came man}* considerable

Sir Walter Raleigh informs us that in his time the

Navy :


o <_

shape of English ships had been greatly bettered : that the
striking of topmasts, " a wonderful ease to great ships, both at
sea and in the harbour," was of new invention : and that another
novel device was the chain pump, "which taketh up twice as
much water as the ordinary one did." He also notes the addition
to the courses of the bonnet and the drabbler, the introduction
of studding-sails, and the practice of weighing the anchor by
means of a capstan. " We have fallen," he continues, " into
consideration of the length of cables, and by it we resist the


malice of the greatest winds that can blow. Witness the
Hollanders, that were wont to ride before Dunkirk with the
wind at north-east, making a lee shore in all weathers : for true
it is that the length of the cable is the life of the ship in all
extremities ; and the reason is that it makes so many bendings
and waves, as the ship, riding at that length, is not able to
stretch it ; and nothing breaks that is not stretched." He
further mentions that ships had in his day been rendered more
seaworthy by a principle of so constructing them as to raise
the sills of the lower ports well out of the water.

The device of jointed masts, alluded to by Sir Walter, is
attributed to that great man and indefatigable reformer, Sir
John Hawkins, who, from 1573 until the day of his death,
was Treasurer of the Navy ; yet in the Elizabethan era but one
joint seems to have ever been used, the mast consisting only
of lower-mast and top-mast, and the bowsprit being, apparently,
still always a pole. The chain pump needs no explanation here.
The bonnet was an additional part, made to fasten with latch ings
to the foot of a sail so as to increase its area for fine weather
work. Though it may have been revived in Raleigh's time,
it was not then really of recent invention. The drabbler was an
addition to the bonnet ; and so, by latching on bonnet and
drabbler, the Elizabethan seaman attained the object which his
descendants have attained bv letting out reefs. As for studding-
sails, they are still, of course, in common use. Sprit-sails and
topgallant-sails were other Elizabethan innovations. The raising
of the sills of the lower ports was, no doubt, a valuable improve-
ment ; but it was not carried far enough, and few Elizabethan
ships could, in even a very moderate sea, fight their lower deck,
or, in other words, their heaviest guns, with either safety or

The Queen came to the throne five years after the Navy had ships of
suffered the disaster of the accidental burning of the Henri
Grace a Dieu at Woolwich on August 27th, 1553 (p. 300). The
disappearance of that notable craft left the Jesus, a vessel of
only 700 tons, to figure as the largest ship of the fleet. But the
Triumph, in which some of Sir John Hawkins' improvements
are believed to have been embodied, and which may be accepted
as a typical Elizabethan man-of-war, marked a distinct advance
upon all that had gone before her ; and, indeed, she remained

632 '////: KM'Axsiux off ENGLAND'.

the largest and finest British-built vessel in the Xavy until
the launching of the Prince Royal in 1610 A SV. Maftln'ir,
mentioned in a list of 159!), was as large and, perhaps, finer;
but she is understood to have been a Spanish prixe : :md the
Bear, or White Bear, which served, captained by Edmund,
Lord Sheffield, against the Armada, and which was a British-
built ship, was no better than, if as good as, the craft which flew
Sir Martin Frobisher's pennant on the same glorious occasion.

The Triumph was of either 1,000 or 1,100 tons burthen, and
had four masts ; but no trustworthy account of her dimensions
survives. A manuscript dated 1578, when she was nearly new,
tells us that she then carried 700 men, of whom 450 were
mariners, or seamen, 50 gunners, and 200 soldiers, the first being
for working the ship, the second for manning the heavy
ordnance, and the third for managing the lighter guns and small
anus, and probably for service as boarders. - Her " furniture," or,
as we should now say, her gunner's and armourer's stores,
included 250 harquebuses, 50 bows, 100 sheaves of arrows,
200 pikes, and 100 corslets. Other ships of her day were in
addition furnished with bills, or axes, but she is not mentioned
as having been supplied with these. Her heavy guns, as shown
by a manuscript of 1599, were 4 cannon (8 in. 60-prs., weighing
6*000 lb.), 3 demi-camion (O*- in. 33-prs., weighing 4,000 IK), 17
culverins (5i- in. 18-prs., weighing 4,500 IK), 8 demi-culverins (4
in. 9-prs., weighing 8,400 IK), 6 sakers (3}, in. 5.',-prs., weighing
1.400 IK), and 30 smaller pieces, such as falconets (2 in. K-prs.,
weighing 500 lb.), serpentines (H in. J-prs., weighing 400 lb.),
and rabinets (I in. J-prs., weighing 300 IK). The armament was
therefore considerably more powerful than that of the Henri
Grace a Dieu. Omitting the smaller pieces, the total weight of
guns carried was, in the old ship, 83,720 IK, and in the new,
148,1001K: and the weight of the broadside was 275 IK and
374 lb. respectively. This comparative statement alone is suffi-
cient to indicate how vast an improvement had, within a period
not exceeding about two generations, been made in the offensive
force of first-class men-of-war. It is' granted that only two or
three English ships of the time approached the Triumph, either
in force or in size : but the commonly received opinion as to the
inferiority, all round, of the English ships to those of the Spanish
Armada, and the popular belief that we fought at an immense


disadvantage, is greatly exaggerated. In 1588, of vessels of 1,000
tons and upwards, the Spanish fleet included only the flagship of
Don Pedro de Yalclez (1,550 tons), the Ragazone (1,294 tons),
the Santa Anna (1,200 tons), the Grangrina (1,160 tons),
the San Juan (1,050 tons) and the Trinidad Valencera and
San Martino (each 1,000 tons), or seven in all; and, although
we had but two of this large class, we had on the other hand no

-' UCtt


(Saxtmi a ml 7?i/rtf/-'.s- Atlas, 1570.)

fewer than 197 craft to oppose to the Spanish 132 all told ; and
the greater handiness of our ships is undoubted. Most ot the
contemporary accounts of the Spanish fleet were written by those
who were neither seamen nor men capable of forming just views
on such subjects. They represent Philip's ships as "so huge
that the ocean groaned beneath their weight " ; " so lofty that
they resembled rather castles or fortresses " ; " so numerous that
the i-ea was invisible " ; but Captain Fenner, who must have


been a competent judge, wrote to Sir Francis Drake that " twelve
of Her Majesty's ships were a match for all the galleys in the
King of Spain's dominions." " There is no doubt, however,"
says Professor J. K. Laughton, R.N., "that the Spanish ships
looked larger. Their poops and forecastles, rising tier above tier
to a great height, towered for above the lower-built English.
Not that the large English ships were by any means flush-
decked : but they were not so high charged as the Spanish.
The difference offered a great advantage to the Spaniards in
hand-to-hand fighting " a species of combat which the English
for the most part successfully avoided on the occasion " but it
told terribly against them when their enemy refused to close;
it made their ships leewardly and unmanageable in even a
moderate breeze : and, added to the Spanish neglect of recent
improvements in rig notably the introduction of the bowline-
it rendered them very inferior to the English in the open sea."
Naval Still more important than the inferiority of the Spanish

ships and of the Spanish seamen, who were neither as experi-
enced nor relatively as numerous as the British, was the
inferiority of the Spanish guns and gunners. Professor Laughton
has Avell brought out this. The following comparisons are based
upon information much of which has been supplied by him ;
and, as they deal with typical ships of the close of the fifteenth
century, they should be conclusive :





No. OF OF (Porxi>i:i.->.) SMALL
GUNS BRO \D~5iDE rt '"-'


11-. 00

33 24


\-l !>

- \ i \ -> .-.


San Lori'iizo ...











1\\ S. (It- Rosa ri





3 7



21 ;






. .:




-V. Mnrla <lc Vixutt,










.11 1( I









Ar/.' Royal







1 '




Mi-f Honour ...










.Y/I//JM ///'/

.101 1











31 ii i







Here we have a typical English ship of 800 tons which was both
more numerously manned and more powerfully armed than
a typical Spanish ship of 1,150 tons ; and an English ship of 300
tons which in weight of broadside was about twice as strong as a

3 ^


hH <^

^ <X

y: i

,- ~


Spanish ship of more than twice her size. Moreover, according 1
to Duro, " the cannon was considered by the Spaniards to lie In it
an ignoble weapon, good merely tor the opening of the fray, and
for trifling with until the arrival of the moment for engaging
hand to hand. With these views, the officers directed their
gunnel's to aim high, so as to disable the enemy and prevent his
escape : but as upright sticks are hard things to hit, the result
was that shots flew harmlessly into the water, or, at best, made
holes in the sails or cut away a few ropes of no account,"
On the other hand, the English found that the high Spanish
hulls made excellent targets. The Spaniards themselves, too,
estimated the English fire to be three times as rapid as their
own. They were further prejudiced by the fact that in their
ships the ports, perhaps in order to keep out as much small-arm
tire as possible, had been made so small that the guns behind
them could not be properly trained, depressed, or elevated. All
ports Avere unduly small in those days, but those of the Spanish
Navy were the smallest of any.

The "Ark The larger English ships of the period probably carried their

guns much as the Ark Royal (or Ark Raleujh), Lord Howard of
EfHngham's flagship in 1588, carried hers. So far as is indicated
in the interesting print here reproduced, her guns, particulars of
which have been already given, were carried as follows : On the
lower deck. 4 60-prs., 4 33-prs., and 8 18-prs. ; on the main deck,
4 18-prs., 12 9-prs. and 2 5-i-prs.; under the poop, 4 5i-prs., and 6
small guns; under the forecastle, (i small guns; and in the
barricade, waist and tops, the remaining 5 small pieces. We
know that the gallant Rerouge, of 500 tons and 250 men, at the
time of her capture by the Spaniards in 1591, carried 20, out of
her total of 43. brass guns on her lower deck, and that these,
weighing from 4,000 to 6,000 Ib. apiece, were 18-prs., 33-prs.,
and 60-prs.; and that on her upper deck for she had but one
complete covered deck- she mounted the remaining 23, which
in no case exceeded in weight the weight of a bastard-culverm
or 5-pr. She was built in 1579, apparently from the designs of
Sir John Hawkins, who was also before 1583 the designer or
modifier of, besides the Triumph, the Wit He Beat; Eliz<il><.'ih
Jo HUH, Ark Rot/l, and Victor i/. In addition to such improve-
ments as have been alread} 7 noticed, these ships had lower poops
and forecastles than usual, longer keels in proportion to their



length, and finer and sharper lines. All of them were engaged

i o O

against the Armada in 1588. Where the ships of the time were
built it is now, save in a few cases, impossible to discover. We
know, however, that members of the great family of naval con-
structors, the Petts, were concerned in the building of many of
them, especially in the River Thames. That family supplied
nearly all the most distinguished shipbuilders to England for a
period of more than a century.

Of the current prices of certain naval stores in the year of



(From a contemporary print.)

the Armada, records are preserved in various MSS. in the Naval
British Museum. The cost of anchors for the Navy was
33s 4d. per cwt. : black oakum was 7s. per cwt. ; boat oars cost
2s. 8d. apiece, and long pinnace oars 4s. 4d. : compasses suitable
for the Queen's ships could be had for 3s. 4d. each, and "running
glasses," or hour glasses, for lOd. ; sounding leads were 12s. per
cwt, : and a sum of 15 in all was paid for a boat of 33 ft,
long by 8 ft. broad for H.M.S. Sivift.mre. A harquebus cost
30s.; a musket complete 2(is. 8d. ; a caliver complete 18s. '
a long pike 4s. : a short pike 3s. 4d. ; a " black bill,'' or long-
handled axe, 3s. ; a bmv with its due allowance of arrows, (is. 8d. :


a hundred weight of lead for casting small shot 12s. ; and so on.
Of victuals for ships, biscuit in 1556 was 10s. 3d. per cwt. ; beer
30s. 8d. per ton of 4 hogsheads; beef 15s. per cwt. ; stock-fish
(salt cod) 26s. per cwt.; cheese 2-j-d. per lb.; salt, for salting beef,
8d. per bushel, and butter 3d. per lb. In 1570 bacon for the
fleet was 3d. per lb., and peas were 24s. per quarter. 1
The Navy j n the reign of Elizabeth the Royal Navy began to take form,

3,s 3, Pro-

fession. fts it had never done before, as a regular and permanent organi-
sation. It became, for the first time, a profession. Many officers
entered it as youngsters, and remained in it all their active
lives. Previously nearly all had flitted backwards and forwards
between it and the merchant marine, between it and such army
as there was, or even between it and civil life on shore. One <>f
the earliest examples of the professional naval officer was Sir
William Monson, who, as boy or man, served at sea in every
rank, and at pretty frequent intervals from 1585 to 1(535. He
is also memorable as the author of the " Xaval Tracts," which,
published after his death in 1643, preserve to us a very complete
picture of the English Navy as it was in his day. Concerning
the importance of having trained officers, he wrote : " The best
ships of war in the known world have been commanded by
captains bred seamen : and merchants put their whole confidence
in the fidelity and ability of seamen to carry their ships through
the hazard of pirates, men-of-war, and the dangers of rocks and
sands, be they of never so much value: which thev would never
do under the charge of a gentleman, or an experienced soldier,
for his valour only"; and again:

" The sea language is not soon learnt, much less understood, being only
proper to him that lias served his apprenticeship; besides that a boisterous
sea aud stormy weather will make a man not bred to it so sick that it bereaves
him of legs, stomach, and courage, S'> much as to fight with his meat. And
in such weather, when he hears the seamen cry ' starboard ' or ' port.' or to
'bide alooff,' or ' flat a sheet,' or 'haul home a cine-line,' he thinks he hears
a barbarous speech which he conceives not the meaning of. Suppose the best
and ablest-bred seaman should buckle on armour, and mount a courageous
great horse, and so undertake the leading of a troop of horse, he would no
doubt be accounted very indiscreet, and men would judge he could perform
but very weak service; neither could his soldiers hope of good security.

['MSS. Sloane 2450. Otho E. ix.. Harl. .W,. quoted in Charnock,
Marl nr Arc/i if, Tf/nr. 1800. Vol. II. Other lists will be found in l


being under an ignorant captain that knows not scarce how to reign his horse,
much less to take advantage for execution or retreat. And yet it is apparent

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 53 of 68)