Home Forums Medieval How often did melee troops actually close to melee? Reply To: How often did melee troops actually close to melee?


It would be interesting to know how much time was spent hitting each other versus standing just out of reach and yelling insults, given that battles like Towton are supposed to have lasted all day. Also, how many of the wounds were to the front versus how many inflicted as the losers fled? That might go some way to answering the question about how often they closed with the enemy.

Exactly. Grave evidence is difficult to use in this case as, by definition, it involves people who were actually killed in something resembling hand to hand combat.

But most deaths probably took place after one side had lost and was running away.

I think a lot of posturing, pushing and shoving took place and, certainly, plenty of missile fire  was probably exchanged. But actual melee, understood as people whacking at each other with handheld weapons in (to use a dictionary definition) “a confused fight, skirmish, or scuffle”? I bet that was rather rare. I bet that, as in later days, most combats were resolved one way or another before the groups actually engaged. If they weren’t, the two lines probably stood around tossing insults at each other and occaisionally pushing at each other with their shields (and maybe spears) until they got exhausted or until the morale of one of the groups broke.

This seems to be what happened at the Battle of Towton, from which a lot of the evidence cited by Conrad Sage, above, is drawn. The slaughter really didn’t start until the Lancastrians routed. That’s where most of those bodies in those graves were produced, I gather.


We get slapped around, but we have a good time!