Help support TMP

"Medieval/Renaissance Use Of Refugees As A Weapon?" Topic

14 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Medieval Media Message Board

Back to the Dark Ages Message Board

Back to the Renaissance Media Message Board

Back to the Renaissance Discussion Message Board

Back to the Medieval Discussion Message Board

Back to the Classical Asian Warfare Message Board

731 hits since 12 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2018 4:03 a.m. PST

Was it the Mongols, or a different people entirely, who purposely drove refugees ahead to spread diseases (bubonic plague?), panic (via spies/agents), and to overwhelm the food, water and law enforcement resources of the cities and lands they were driven into?

I am looking for the specific literary reference.

Though it could be referring to much earlier (ancient?) events that might predate the Mongols, I'm pretty sure that the text is either Medieval or Renaissance period.

Also, did Europeans and others of that time ever learn to use the same tactic, of letting survivors swarm ahead to soften the resolve and capabilities of their next target?


NOTE: I am not looking to make any comparisons with any other more recent events. If that, however, is what you are looking to do then please start a new discussion elsewhere. Thanks again.

FatherOfAllLogic12 Apr 2018 6:37 a.m. PST

CC, it is a common effect of massive invasions or migrations to cause a wave of homeless refugees who would then spread fear, disease, etc. It is hard to see any such massive movements in the pretty small wars of Europe. Obviously on the small scale such things happened all the time, the question is scale.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2018 8:01 a.m. PST


Do you know if that was ever done on purpose, to intentionally use fleeing civilians in order to create said effect?


Griefbringer12 Apr 2018 8:35 a.m. PST

From the medieval perspective, deliberately encouraging civilian population to flee would be somewhat strategically short-sighted, for even if it could make initial conquest easier, it would leave you as a ruler of a de-populated land in the end, unless you could somehow convince the population to return back to their homes.

Sir Walter Rlyeh12 Apr 2018 2:20 p.m. PST

I think Dan is referring to the Siege of Kaffa. The Mongol siege failed when their armies became infected. Their commander had infected bodies catapulted into the city. Venetian Merchants then took the plague to Constantinople and I Italy. See below.


This was a one time thing.

Ex MAJIC Miniatures Inactive Member12 Apr 2018 2:21 p.m. PST

The Chevauchees of the hundred years wars HYW were used to terrorise the French. Systematic pillage and destruction of the economy demoralised the population and undermined faith in the French king. Mills, vineyards, crops and farmsteads destroyed. The use of Economic warfare limited king's abilities to raise taxes. The English emptied stores and burnt villages and farmsteads to the ground, then moved on. This made the French king look powerless and impotent. Villagers fled on hearing news of the army's approach. These refugees would spread fear and exhaust supplies of other villages and towns, prior to attack, reducing their ability to resist attack.

From the BBC History series – Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years' War

Cyrus the Great12 Apr 2018 4:04 p.m. PST

The Mongols drove civilian refugees ahead of their advance as mangonel fodder. There are several secondary sources that repeat this online. I would assume that they have some primary source to base that on in their bibliographies.

panzerjager13 Apr 2018 5:57 a.m. PST

The French drove out their own populace at the siege of Rouen. Not so much to disarray the English but to save on supplies. The over impact as not as expected. Henry V was a effective field commander and was not swayed by the plight of the citizens of Rouen.



Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2018 1:04 p.m. PST

Ex Magic Miniatures: "These refugees would spread fear and exhaust supplies of other villages and towns, prior to attack, reducing their ability to resist attack."

That exactly the tactic and objectives I was talking about.

PzJ, that is fascinating!


Lion in the Stars14 Apr 2018 4:01 p.m. PST

I'd want to drive extra civilians into castles or walled cities I was planning on besieging, just to force more mouths to feed and therefore reduce the length of time the food stockpile would last.

But you don't want to drive off all the farmers, because they're going to feed *your* army!

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2018 7:28 p.m. PST

And you don't want to give the enemy abled body men, except for those already in your employ.


Lion in the Stars14 Apr 2018 11:05 p.m. PST

Sure, but I wouldn't care if townfolk all went inside. They might be able-bodied, but it's another mouth to feed.

And you'd want some men not in your employ to go in, just to provide cover for the men that are in your employ. Probably even the majority of the able-bodied men should not be in your employ.

The suspicion is enough. If they kill all the men for possibly being spies, they destroy their own morale.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member17 Apr 2018 1:18 p.m. PST

More women to go round, though.

Lion in the Stars17 Apr 2018 7:08 p.m. PST

Then the remaining men wonder how long before another problem "that could have only been caused by spies" and they get executed.

It's a nasty self-reinforcing death spiral.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.