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Alternatehistoryguy47
May 23rd, 2011, 06:45 PM
Something that I've been wondering about. In the American Civil War, the armor they wore was like nothing but cloth. begging the question, why didn't the Confederates use bows and arrows against the Union? Not as a complete replacement for guns, but as a kind of backup artillery? The Confederates could have been trained to use them. Get enough of those things in the air raining down on the US soldiers that were standing in a straight line, and they might have taken out quite a few. Like what the Persians did to the Spartans in 300, where their arrows blocked out the sun or something like that. They might have caused a few casulaties and confused the US soldiers enough to turn the tide of a few battles, or at least have the CS preform better. That begs the question of why not?

9 Fanged Hummingbird
May 23rd, 2011, 06:53 PM
Something that I've been wondering about. In the American Civil War, the armor they wore was like nothing but cloth. begging the question, why didn't the Confederates use bows and arrows against the Union? Not as a complete replacement for guns, but as a kind of backup artillery? The Confederates could have been trained to use them. Get enough of those things in the air raining down on the US soldiers that were standing in a straight line, and they might have taken out quite a few. Like what the Persians did to the Spartans in 300, where their arrows blocked out the sun or something like that. They might have caused a few casulaties and confused the US soldiers enough to turn the tide of a few battles, or at least have the CS preform better. That begs the question of why not?
Because they weren't trained to use longbows and guns at that time had a longer range anyways. And were easier to use. The only way to get bows involved would be to get the western tribes more involved. And have them still not join the armies, because I'd think any soldier would be given a gun.

Cash
May 23rd, 2011, 08:17 PM
By the ACW muskets were much more accurate and longer-ranged than in the Napoleonic Era, for example. I doubt longbows would be practical.

9 Fanged Hummingbird
May 23rd, 2011, 08:35 PM
Yeah, by this point the only battle where bows proved useful at all was the Little Bighorn, where some of the Sioux and Cheyenne claimed their bows were better than the Yankee Springfields because they could arc over their cover without having to expose themselves whereas the Cavalry could only shoot straight and had to expose their bodies to do so. And even then half the Sioux had Winchesters which were superior to the cavalry guns.

DarkCrawler90
May 23rd, 2011, 09:21 PM
Something that I've been wondering about. In the American Civil War, the armor they wore was like nothing but cloth. begging the question, why didn't the Confederates use bows and arrows against the Union? Not as a complete replacement for guns, but as a kind of backup artillery? The Confederates could have been trained to use them. Get enough of those things in the air raining down on the US soldiers that were standing in a straight line, and they might have taken out quite a few. Like what the Persians did to the Spartans in 300, where their arrows blocked out the sun or something like that. They might have caused a few casulaties and confused the US soldiers enough to turn the tide of a few battles, or at least have the CS preform better. That begs the question of why not?

Umm, being a skilled bowman takes years to train, and most of them usually have the skills even before they join the army. Why would anyone spend the time and effort in this when you can just hand off a gun to a farmboy and he's a half-way good soldier right there? Especially Confederates who had less people and resources.

tallwingedgoat
May 23rd, 2011, 09:30 PM
Since the mid 18th century European warfare had been dominated by artillery, with infantry playing an increasingly secondary role. By the Civil War rifled artillery was accurate to a thousand yards and Minie ball muskets out to five hundred yards. Considering massed archery was only effective out to a hundred yards, archers would be slaughtered before they could get a shot off.

Horse archery would do better, but they cannot stand up to attrition. Ever since the invention of the wheellock horse pistol, horse archery's days were numbered. Unlike highly trained horse archers, pistoliers were much easier to train. He would carry two pistols and a sword into battle and be as effective as a horse archer with years more training. The latter would be killed faster than they could be replaced.

By the ACW the cavalry had revolvers and repeating carbines. Horse archers may pull off a few successes, but in a long war they would soon be wiped out.

charl
May 23rd, 2011, 10:02 PM
Bows take time to learn how to use effectively. A lot more time than it takes to learn to shoot a gun. Crossbows could be an alternative, but even then arrows and bolts take up a lot more space and weigh a lot more per unit of ammunition than bullets do. It wouldn't be logistically practical.

Last of the Stuarts
May 23rd, 2011, 10:02 PM
Henry II banned the English from playing football, so they could have the time to practice their archery. The English longbow men of Henry V spent many years practicing, which is why the French never bothered to develope longbow warfare themselves.

Most nations used the crossbox, which was a crank and fire bow, needing none of the finese and strenght that the longbow needed. It was this that the musket replaced.

Darth_Kiryan
May 23rd, 2011, 10:07 PM
Why exactly would you want to use a bow and arrow when, in terms of "modern" warfare at the time, it is 2-300 years out of date

Alternatehistoryguy47
May 23rd, 2011, 10:14 PM
Why exactly would you want to use a bow and arrow when, in terms of "modern" warfare at the time, it is 2-300 years out of date

umm... tried and true?

Mike Stearns
May 23rd, 2011, 10:41 PM
umm... tried and true?

Exactly. Learning to use a bow well takes time, but they are simple to use and easy to make. I doubt that bows would totally supplant guns on the battlefield, but bows, or crossbows might be very well suited to guerilla raids behind enemy lines. They are quiet, accurate and the arrows can be recoverd once the battle is over.

9 Fanged Hummingbird
May 24th, 2011, 01:45 AM
Exactly. Learning to use a bow well takes time, but they are simple to use and easy to make. I doubt that bows would totally supplant guns on the battlefield, but bows, or crossbows might be very well suited to guerilla raids behind enemy lines. They are quiet, accurate and the arrows can be recoverd once the battle is over.
It's not as good as you think. For one they aren't all that accurate at any decent range, even longbows would simply be used en masse at long ranges whereas guns of this time could shoot accurately much further. And more importantly, beside the amount of time it takes to train with one, using a longbow is exhausting.

tallwingedgoat
May 24th, 2011, 02:59 AM
Exactly. Learning to use a bow well takes time, but they are simple to use and easy to make. I doubt that bows would totally supplant guns on the battlefield, but bows, or crossbows might be very well suited to guerilla raids behind enemy lines. They are quiet, accurate and the arrows can be recoverd once the battle is over.

A good bow is not cheap at all. The wood has to be seasoned for years. Bow makers used to set aside wood to age so their sons can make bows when they grow up. With composite bows, they can take a decade just for the glue and lacqure to set. Arrows are also much more expensive than lead balls. They require skilled craftsmen, whereas lead balls can be cast by anyone at a campfire.

Bows don't just require strong men, it requires healthy, well rested and well fed men. On grueling campaigns men often fall ill in large numbers. So you better hope you can choose your battles.

robertp6165
May 24th, 2011, 04:26 AM
Why exactly would you want to use a bow and arrow when, in terms of "modern" warfare at the time, it is 2-300 years out of date

For the same reason that the State of Georgia produced several thousand pikes to arm its militia? Desperation?

But the reasons other posters have cited as to why it wasn't done...the amount of time needed to train an adequate bowman versus an adequate rifleman, and the fact that rifles firing Minie Balls could be effective out to similar ranges.

Such a thing MIGHT have worked during the Napoleonic era, but by the Civil War, gun technology had left the longbow firmly behind in performance.

Elfwine
May 24th, 2011, 04:32 AM
Would be interesting to see how a corps of prepared longbowmen would do vs. the initial armies, though.

ASB material, obviously - just an interesting comparison of veterans with longbows and other medieval weapons to rookies with a mix of muskets and rifles and artillery.

The Ubbergeek
May 24th, 2011, 06:57 AM
Make one wonder if Rambo and his bow and arrow was anything realistic - in the sense, would that even be usefull in modern guerrila/special force way?

Cook
May 24th, 2011, 07:07 AM
Make one wonder if Rambo and his bow and arrow was anything realistic - in the sense, would that even be usefull in modern guerrila/special force way?

No and no.

Neither is Pieter Coetze’s (Hardy Kruger) poison tipped crossbow in The Wild Geese.

The Ubbergeek
May 24th, 2011, 07:17 AM
Well, at least, it was silent and basic arrowry and bows can be easy to make, but I guess indeed a simple gun would be better.

Can silencer stuff work in non-european conditions? a desert or jungle or arctic, by example, well?

Cook
May 24th, 2011, 07:27 AM
It is generally considered more useful to be able to put down an extremely high rate of fire rather than trying for silence.

basic arrowry and bows can be easy to make...

Actually no; It is a time consuming and skilled process to make a high quality compound bow and they are going to suffer in humid conditions worse than any rifle will.

The Ubbergeek
May 24th, 2011, 08:42 AM
Oh well, I stand corrected then.

charl
May 24th, 2011, 08:55 AM
Can silencer stuff work in non-european conditions? a desert or jungle or arctic, by example, well?

The silencer wasn't invented yet at the time.

But sure they can. A silencer is basically just a series of gates and stops the bullet has to travel through, dissipating sound waves and muzzle flash along the way. Why wouldn't it work in a desert or a jungle? Obviously you need to keep it clean, but the technology is surprisingly simple.

The Ubbergeek
May 24th, 2011, 09:02 AM
The silencer wasn't invented yet at the time.

But sure they can. A silencer is basically just a series of gates and stops the bullet has to travel through, dissipating sound waves and muzzle flash along the way. Why wouldn't it work in a desert or a jungle? Obviously you need to keep it clean, but the technology is surprisingly simple.

Thank, I see.

Well, I was just branching from my 'bows are silent' remark, then.

ahunter951
May 24th, 2011, 09:10 AM
Longbows with several caveats could have been used "just about" at Waterloo in 1815 as an effective area weapon against assulting French infantry columns. Even then they would have needed to use the reverse slope as protection against Napoleon's artillery and probably had a close protection regiment of infantry assigned to counter close quarter with an enemy column. Then and only then 1,000 archers could deliver 12,000 arrows per minute onto a French column at 100-180 yds. This is the shock effect that an archer regiment could bring to an early 19th Century battlefield. By the 1860's rifles were becoming available not just for skirmishing but for massed infantry regiments. Artillery had further improved in range, firepower and numbers on a battlefield and most cavalry units carried carbines to give them a secondary mounted infantry role. The training for Longbow use by hghly skilled medieval fighters would not have been possible given the speed of the American Civil War. If you look at the confederate cadre they were able to draw upon most if not all would be familiar with using firearms for hunting game etc. Why would anyone want to reintroduce technology from another era that was far more technically difficult to master and would only yield an advantage of rate of fire under extremely limited battelfield scenarios, whilst exposing irreplaceable bowmen to fire from artillery, massed rifle fire or counter attack in the flanks from mounted infantry? The longbow passed into history as a superweapon of its day in the same way that air defence is no longer provided over the UK by the Spitfire

King Midas
May 26th, 2011, 03:34 AM
If a bow was the best that was available.

What a general would want is to have troops armed with the most modern military rifles. Failing that, muskets and shotguns would be a good alternative. Didn't most militia show up at muster with their own weapon, and were upgraded from there, as resources permitted?

As one poster up thread pointed out, some troops were armed with pikes. While I understand that *good* training with the things takes years, the "Ya see that group of people in uniform over there? Plint an arrer at'em!" school doesn't seem to be too technical (and is actually simpler than spear formation training).

<threadjack>
Re using bowmen as snipers,
BTW, I've always been interested in military grade air rifles. Why did gunpowder beat them out?
</threadjack>

jackronner
January 20th, 2012, 12:23 AM
Initially, I wonder how many bow hunters were around in those days, especially in the south. It was obviously cheaper than a fire arm for poor folk, and had the salutary effect of not scaring off all the game with the first shot as guns did.
A second question is whether most riflemen were also armed with a revolver, allowing an increased rate of fire against an advancing line as they neared the defensive positions. This would cut into the rate of fire argument in favor of bows. If not, then their use at short range might have been of great advantage. Barring the existence of a considerable number of personally owned bows, the most salient factor against their use was probably one of logistics, i.e., their manufacture, transport, the weight of an arrow vs. a mine ball, etc. Conversely, unlike lead ball ammo, they could, under some circumstances, be recovered for re-use.
Remember, they passed out of use because of defensive advances, not just the advent of firearms; but the Civil War soldier had no such defense against their use. I shouldn't think that the bows to be used would have been prohibitively powerful like the long bow, nor would they be used as extreme range but only within a hundred yards or so, so the specialized training would not have been such a negative factor. Simply aiming generally at the advancing line would have been sufficient. Also, they had the added benefit of not being line of sight weapons, allowing archers to be almost totally hidden from fire behind defensive structures or terrain (tho' it's my impression that advancing troops themselves did not fire as they advanced, just artillery). If used against the flanks of the line, the commanding officer might not realize that they were being attacked and weakened due to the lack of sound and smoke, and might forego reinforcement and allow him to mistakenly rely on the decimated flanks for maneuvering they were no long capable of.
It is hard to discount the rate of fire almost 7 or 8 time greater than the rifled musket, which was also used in general fire, not necessarily against picked targets obscured by their own smoke. Let's not forget, the bowmen would be riflemen before and after their use, so they are not "dedicated" bowmen. Finally, they would be invaluable adjuncts to the rifles in night encounters, preserving the element of surprise as long as possible and sowing confusion in the enemy's lines.

RamscoopRaider
January 20th, 2012, 12:28 AM
Please don't necro

Snake Featherston
January 20th, 2012, 01:28 AM
There were bows and arrows used during the Civil War....by the Apache, Cheyenne, Navajo, and Sioux tribes against the USA. It ended badly in all cases. Bows and arrows worked in irregular hit and run warfare. Put them in an army v. army war and the side using them will be slaughtered by rifles and cannons. The CSA would be better off doing Malvern Hills in every single battle, the process would be cleaner, neater, and easier to make into Martyrdom in postwar whitewashing.

mowque
January 20th, 2012, 01:29 AM
I remember this thread!

Alternatehistoryguy47
January 20th, 2012, 01:51 AM
I remember this thread!

Me too! I didn't think anybody would stumble across this in the bowels of the forum.

Inquisitor Tolkien
January 20th, 2012, 01:56 AM
Dear lord, no. Besides the fact bows are not the equivalent of a musket in a Napoleonic battlefield. The equivalent of a musket or rifle would've been the standard pike/halberds/other hand-to-hand, shock weapon. Bows are the equivalent of artillery and cannon, both of which heavily outclass bowmen.

There are also many, many advantages of a musket or rifle over a bow anyways (from price, to training, to shock factor, to logistics [weather, ease of shot production over arrows, etc.], to lethality [musket balls and bullets are far more lethal than arrows], to ease of use [fatigue sets in quite quickly especially when using bows of high draw weights: muskets and rifles are also far more useful in close quarters and siege/urban situations].

Thande
January 20th, 2012, 02:26 AM
There were proposals to create longbow regiments in the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars, and some military historians reckon they could have beat equal numbers of enemy musketmen...but as said above, the trouble is for a longbow to be worth it you have to train the bowman for years, and thus if you're trading one longbowman killed for two enemy musketmen, it's costing you far more than it cost the enemy in the long run.

SargentHawk
January 20th, 2012, 03:17 AM
well i dont know about you, but me for one would be a hell of a lot more frightened by a well trained bowman with his weapon of choice, than some grunt that just got a gun slapped in his hand. i think it'd be a possibility for the union or confederacy to have an archery squad similar to that of a special ops team nowadays. to take out enemy encapments of limited sizes quietly, or for guerilla attacks in which they wanted to make the enemy think it was a loose band of indians rather than an enemy seek and destroy mission. to tell you the truth i was actually planning on putting the special op idea into my continued civil war storyline.

9 Fanged Hummingbird
January 20th, 2012, 03:20 AM
well i dont know about you, but me for one would be a hell of a lot more frightened by a well trained bowman with his weapon of choice, than some grunt that just got a gun slapped in his hand. i think it'd be a possibility for the union or confederacy to have an archery squad similar to that of a special ops team nowadays. to take out enemy encapments of limited sizes quietly, or for guerilla attacks in which they wanted to make the enemy think it was a loose band of indians rather than an enemy seek and destroy mission. to tell you the truth i was actually planning on putting the special op idea into my continued civil war storyline.
A better idea would probably to just get actual Indians to do it instead of scouring the nation for anybody who might be an accomplished archer who's both capable of taking part in commando operations and actually willing to fight.

Sucrose
January 20th, 2012, 03:56 AM
Someone asked the very same question, only about the ARW, in this Straight Dope (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2964/in-1776-why-didnt-soldiers-use-bows-and-arrows-instead-of-muskets) column, which pretty much sums it up. Apparently even Benjamin Franklin thought about using bows due to the shortage of guns and gunpowder. Long story short, you would be able to manufacture guns from scratch in less time than it would take to train longbowmen.

CandyDragon
January 20th, 2012, 03:57 AM
Please don't necro

His first post was a necro. That's quite the accomplishment.

Sucrose
January 20th, 2012, 03:59 AM
His first post was a necro. That's quite the accomplishment.

Maybe he only joined the site because he just had to know the answer to this question. :p

SargentHawk
January 20th, 2012, 04:28 AM
well, yeah they could just use indians, but im pretty sure both armies would be higher willing to use their own men, than highering mercinaries (indians) it goes against the art of war. also it wouldnt take that much scowering at least i wouldnt think so at least for the confederacy considering a high amount were hunters/farmers, they dont need to be perfect just enough to get the job done. and they can train themselves. but im sure there was at least 15% of people who knew how to adequtely use the bow, so just use them not to mention if you want to use indians you could also use them to train them.

Johnrankins
January 20th, 2012, 05:05 AM
well, yeah they could just use indians, but im pretty sure both armies would be higher willing to use their own men, than highering mercinaries (indians) it goes against the art of war. also it wouldnt take that much scowering at least i wouldnt think so at least for the confederacy considering a high amount were hunters/farmers, they dont need to be perfect just enough to get the job done. and they can train themselves. but im sure there was at least 15% of people who knew how to adequtely use the bow, so just use them not to mention if you want to use indians you could also use them to train them.

Actually both sides used Native American mercenaries during the Civil War. The CSA more than the USA though.

gaijin
January 20th, 2012, 01:57 PM
Regarding the use of bows for "silently" taking out enemies. The arrows might be silent, but something tells me the men who suddenly discover pieces of wood sticking from their body will be far from silent. My bet would be that screaming at the top of lungs would ensue.

CandyDragon
January 20th, 2012, 06:28 PM
Regarding the use of bows for "silently" taking out enemies. The arrows might be silent, but something tells me the men who suddenly discover pieces of wood sticking from their body will be far from silent. My bet would be that screaming at the top of lungs would ensue.

That made me laugh. I agree- it would take an impossible level of accuracy to silently kill foes, accuracy that the bow doesn't really have.

Johnrankins
January 20th, 2012, 06:52 PM
That made me laugh. I agree- it would take an impossible level of accuracy to silently kill foes, accuracy that the bow doesn't really have.

A crossbow could do it with someone who is a good shot. If they can hit the back of someone's head they will be dead before they can scream. But you are talking commandos or assassins not large bodies of troops here.

Johnrankins
January 20th, 2012, 06:55 PM
The silencer wasn't invented yet at the time.

But sure they can. A silencer is basically just a series of gates and stops the bullet has to travel through, dissipating sound waves and muzzle flash along the way. Why wouldn't it work in a desert or a jungle? Obviously you need to keep it clean, but the technology is surprisingly simple.


More to the point silencers don't actually make guns silent but make them less loud. They merely loud instead of LOUD!! :DIt suppresses the noise enough that you can't hear it maybe three rooms away instead of hearing it the entire block.

Inquisitor Tolkien
January 20th, 2012, 07:35 PM
There were proposals to create longbow regiments in the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars, and some military historians reckon they could have beat equal numbers of enemy musketmen...but as said above, the trouble is for a longbow to be worth it you have to train the bowman for years, and thus if you're trading one longbowman killed for two enemy musketmen, it's costing you far more than it cost the enemy in the long run.
No such proposals existed, to the best of my knowledge. The best I could find for such a wide-spread claim was that Wellington allegedly asked for longbowmen in the Peninsular Campaign in a letter to Parliament, but I have seen no actual historical documents to corroborate this claim (indeed, the best I could find was references in the Sharpe series [which is a wonderful piece of absolute fiction]). Do you perhaps have a (primary) source for this claim?

jayel
January 20th, 2012, 07:50 PM
Well, at least, it was silent and basic arrowry and bows can be easy to make, but I guess indeed a simple gun would be better.

Can silencer stuff work in non-european conditions? a desert or jungle or arctic, by example, well?arrows aren't really silent (quieter than a gun yes but they whistle/hiss as they fly) but a crossbow is definitely not silent, any power at all and they thunk and twang on release, true gun powder silencers require a closed bolt and a sub-sonic bullet, a bullet breaking the speed of sound makes a crack like a whip

Dathi THorfinnsson
January 20th, 2012, 11:46 PM
arrows aren't really silent (quieter than a gun yes but they whistle/hiss as they fly) but a crossbow is definitely not silent, any power at all and they thunk and twang on release, true gun powder silencers require a closed bolt and a sub-sonic bullet, a bullet breaking the speed of sound makes a crack like a whip
But they're a lot quieter than guns, and they don't have muzzle blast. So, for taking out sentries from hiding, your hypothetical raider might prefer to have a bow of some sort.

I do note that when Indians got access to guns, even when they were matchlock and required boughten gunpowder and lead, they abandoned bow and arrow for hunting really quickly.

9 Fanged Hummingbird
January 20th, 2012, 11:50 PM
But they're a lot quieter than guns, and they don't have muzzle blast. So, for taking out sentries from hiding, your hypothetical raider might prefer to have a bow of some sort.

Speaking from experience, even an experienced archer can't just place shots exactly where he wants, and if an arrow hits a sentry without immediately killing him (which is very likely) chances are he'd scream "Oh hell, I just got shot!" and there goes all the sneakiness. The best weapon for stealth will always remain the knife.