Bows and Arrows in the Civil War

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Alternatehistoryguy47, May 23, 2011.

  1. Alternatehistoryguy47 Member

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    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?
     
  2. 9 Fanged Hummingbird Some Random Guy

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    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.
     
  3. Cash Well-Known Member

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    By the ACW muskets were much more accurate and longer-ranged than in the Napoleonic Era, for example. I doubt longbows would be practical.
     
  4. 9 Fanged Hummingbird Some Random Guy

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    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.
     
  5. DarkCrawler90 Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  6. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  7. charl E an tiitil en carlans

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    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.
     
  8. Last of the Stuarts Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  9. Darth_Kiryan The Númenorean Sith

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    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
     
  10. Alternatehistoryguy47 Member

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    umm... tried and true?
     
  11. Mike Stearns Member

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    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.
     
  12. 9 Fanged Hummingbird Some Random Guy

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    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.
     
  13. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  14. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    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.
     
  15. Elfwine Byzantophilic Brony

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    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.
     
  16. The Ubbergeek Insane internet demigod (TN)

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    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?
     
  17. Cook Real friends stab you in the front.

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    No and no.

    Neither is Pieter Coetze’s (Hardy Kruger) poison tipped crossbow in The Wild Geese.
     
  18. The Ubbergeek Insane internet demigod (TN)

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    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?
     
  19. Cook Real friends stab you in the front.

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    It is generally considered more useful to be able to put down an extremely high rate of fire rather than trying for silence.

    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.
     
  20. The Ubbergeek Insane internet demigod (TN)

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    Oh well, I stand corrected then.