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"Numbers and Mercenaries at Barnet, 1471..." Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP26 Nov 2020 11:15 p.m. PST

Does anyone have any suggestions for numbers on either side at this battle.

Strictly going by wargaming sources I usually see 10-15,000 given for the Yorkists and 12-20,000 for Warwick's force.

In addition, The Burgundian mercenaries are either given as 500 or 1,500. Does anyone hazard a guess how many there would have been and what type of troops they were.

It's tempting to use the "1,500" figure for the Burgundians further dividing them into 3 different units of 500.

Thanks for any guesses or opinions.

GurKhan27 Nov 2020 2:52 a.m. PST

The only firm reference to a number in a contemporary source I am aware of is that the Great Chronicle of London apparently refers to Edward having "black and smoky sort of gunners, Flemings to the number of five hundred" earlier in the 1471 campaign.

Otherwise there is considerable disparity in the sources about the number of men Edward had originally landed with – and I assume he received no additional Burgundians after the initial landing, but I don't know if that's certain:

"Henry's government at first represented Edward's adherents as consisting wholly of foreigners, (Fœdera, XI, 705.) but afterwards admitted they were partly Englishmen and partly Flemings (Ibid. 706.) The Chroniclers are singularly contradictory. The Croyland Continuator describes them as 1500 Englishmen; (Gale, I. 554;) Fabyan as a small company of Flemings and others not exceeding 1000 in number; (Fabyan, 660;) Polydore Vergil as scarcely 2000 men at arms; (Vergil, 522;) the Chronicler in Leland as 900 Englishmen and 300 Flemings. (Collect. II. 503.)" – from link

Since the Duke of Burgundy was Count of Flanders, I would assume "Burgundians" and "Flemings" refer to the same force. Any such not armed as new-fangled gunners might perhaps have escaped notice, but the numbers cited do make it look as if 300-500 handgunners might have been the entire foreign contingent.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 7:04 a.m. PST

Not that I disagree with GurKhan, but it's worth noting that believability of numbers is not the same as credibility of sources. I tend to like smaller numbers for WOTR: armies were hastily assembled and logistics were primitive. But hardly any of our numbers for complete WOTR armies amount to more than "many" or "lots." We keep looking for a level of detail and certainty surviving sources just are not going to provide.

MajorB27 Nov 2020 9:26 a.m. PST

Cassell's Battlefields of Britain and Ireland has ~10,000 Yorkist against ~13,000 Lancastrians. There is no reference to the presence of any mercenaries.

Wesel's account refers to "arquebuses and serpentines", but these are probably field guns rather than hand guns.

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 11:25 a.m. PST

I'm afraid I can't help but in reference to Robert's remarks about 'believability' of numbers, it's always fascinated me how historians free dismiss classic sources as being exaggerated. I'm not saying they often aren't and I'm certainly not going to defend chroniclers but at the same time these historians just as often push out a reduced number with a supporting statement like 'this seems more likely' or words to that effect with no attempt whatsoever to explain how they arrived at their figures either.
I'd suggest your relative proportions might be more important here than your numbers. We all can get hung up on representative troops scales (I know I do – generally at 1:20) but if you are collecting both sides or your fellow players are starting out with you, it doesn't really matter I'd suggest. Good luck with it.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 2:39 p.m. PST

Not sure what counts as a classic source, Unlucky. I've always been partial to the historians who dismissed accounts of plentiful Sioux firearms on the Little Bighorn--notably by a cavalry sergeant who got a closer look than he really wanted. One academic carefully explained that this just COULDN'T be right, because the firearms the Sioux turned in when they went to the reservation were few and poorly maintained.

Still waiting for any of the historians to publish retractions after the archaeologists started turning up shell casings.

My problem with WOTR is that the numbers seem to be all over the place, and we have no reason--other than our own assessments--to prioritize one set over another. Not a lot of muster rolls. I have a dislike for sources with numbers higher than I think could be supported logistically: ancient and medieval soldiers didn't eat or drink less than 18th and 19th Century ones. But that's a negative process only. If I have a source which says 5,000 soldiers, a source which says 15,000 and a source which says 50,000, and I'm satisfied only 25,000 could have been fed, I can toss out the estimate of 50,000, but that gives me no way to choose between the 5,000 and the 15,000--and no particular reason to believe either one.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 4:29 p.m. PST

There are some interesting "historical" pages on the battle. While these should be taken with a grain of salt, they do add some additional color for wargamers. Here's one.


As I recall, there's a good Lance and Longbow Society book on it as well. I'll have to dig that up.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 9:29 p.m. PST

There's another good wargaming sources for Barnet that doesn't get talked about much.

The late Prof. Terry Gore made an excellent scenario book that covers all of the major battles of this conflict and even 1 "what if" scenarios.

Where actual troop numbers and types are not known, Gore makes best guesses without stretching reality.

For Barnet he gives the Yorkists 9,000+ and Warwick 12,000.

This book is hard to find but I believe it's still available for $25 USD at OMM. While it's intended for 15mm, it's very easy to scale up to 28mm for games like Hail Caesar.


4DJones28 Nov 2020 1:11 a.m. PST

Have 'arquebus' and 'serpentine' ever been described as 'field guns'?

Primary sources, Major?

MajorB28 Nov 2020 2:15 a.m. PST

Have 'arquebus' and 'serpentine' ever been described as 'field guns'?

"Warwick set up his ordnance of arquebuses and serpentines up the way towards Barnet, and the arquebuses carried over all night long and did not reach King Edward's people."
Gerhard von Wesel's Newsletter from England,
17 April 1471

4DJones28 Nov 2020 4:29 a.m. PST

But 'ordnance' doesn't equate strictly to 'field guns' does it?

And 'serpentine' I'm led to believe, describes the moving grip device that holds the 'match' used to ignite the powder in the pan of a handgonne, and sometimes used to describe the whole of the gun itself?

MajorB28 Nov 2020 5:37 a.m. PST

But 'ordnance' doesn't equate strictly to 'field guns' does it?

And 'serpentine' I'm led to believe, describes the moving grip device that holds the 'match' used to ignite the powder in the pan of a handgonne, and sometimes used to describe the whole of the gun itself?

I can only quote what Wesel wrote. If you wish to dispute what he meant by the words that is another matter.

This is the part relating to the overnight bombardment of the Yorkist lines. Hardly the sort of activity to be carried out by handguns with limited range. I am not aware of any historians who regard this text as referring to handguns as opposed to field artillery.

Warspite115 Dec 2020 9:03 a.m. PST

The nomenclature of early artillery is sometimes a little vague or contradictory.
In addition some weapons (defined in some wargame rules as 'heavy handguns') stood at the boundary between what we now recognise as hand weapons and true artillery.
Typically these used a forked stick driven into the ground for support and were aimed by one man, using a long tiller or stock, but were fired by a second man. They might also be hung over a castle wall or the edge of a war wagon. These heavy handguns might be loaded with a single shot or even early buck shot or scrap shot. The Mary Rose wreck suggests sharp flint flakes were popular as scrap shot.

A good example:
(and the accompanying article isn't bad either)

One hand-held piece recovered from the Mary Rose wreck (sunk 1545) was a square barrelled 'blunderbuss' which was loaded with iron cubes, just like iron dice. In this respect it resembled a hand-held Claymore mine. There were probably several weapons between 1340 and 1545 which never made it past the experimental or local novelty stage. All of these may have had colourful names and there was no national or international standard. One person's serpentine may have meant something quite different to someone else.

Barry (BTW, I formerly worked at Firepower, The Museum of the Royal Artillery)

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