Castle Defenses

Defensive Weapons - The Castle Army

Medieval knights, men-at-arms, squires and other soldiers usually comprised a castle garrison during the Middle Ages. These military personnel were also known as the mensie. Most males began a rigorous regime of medieval warfare training at an early age. Armies were counted by lances. Each lance was made up of one knight plus five other men. 1,500 lances equaled 9,000 men. In addition to these numbers were the many archers and other foot soldiers. While wealthy knights could afford armor or chain mail, the average foot soldier was lucky to possess a wooden shield for protection.

Animals were also used for military duties. Watchdogs, turkeys, and geese stood as sentries more often than humans. Pigeons could be used to send messages over long distances. Dogs were bred and trained to be vicious in battles.

Medieval Hand-Held Weapons
Medieval weaponry ran the gamut from the simple to the complex. Perhaps the simplest Middle Age weapons were rocks thrown from castle walls. These missiles were limited in distance, and primarily used against soldiers trying to scale fortress walls.

Archery served as popular medieval recreation, but most longbows were more effective on open battlefields. But they also had relatively shorter range and used lighter arrows than were needed to defend a castle. As such, the crossbow became very popular for both the attacking and defending armies. These weapons were not new, having been around since the early Middle Ages, but they were not used effectively until the 12th century. A Catholic Church decree had them banned for a short time because they were so deadly and effective. Crossbows were drawn by either a stirrup-cocking devise for those on horseback, or with a hand-crank winding mechanism for foot soldiers. Medieval fighters proficient with the crossbow often became prized members of a castle's garrison. Arrows, or bolts called quarrels, would be shot to distances up to 400 yards. Crossbows became very suited for castle defense and were often shot from small, slit-shaped windows in castle walls called muertieres. Arrows varied…flaming ones could be shot at wooden towers and medieval siege engines to set them on fire.

Ferocious hand-to-hand fighting would ensue once attacking soldiers had breached the walls. Broadswords, spears, and double-bladed battleaxes were all used in medieval combat. Men who possessed swords held great status among the soldier caste. Many hand-held weapons were relatively simple to build and were used throughout the Dark Ages.