Horses and Crossbows: Two Important Warfare Advantages of the Teutonic Order in Prussia

Horses and CrossbowsHorses and Crossbows: Two Important Warfare Advantages of the Teutonic Order in Prussia

Sven Ekdahl

The Military Orders, Volume 2: Welfare and Warfare (1998)

The thirteenth-century conquest of Livonia and Prussia by the Order of the Swordbrothers and its successor, the Teutonic Knights, would not have been possible if the numerically weaker knights and crusaders had not enjoyed certain advantages over the heathen peoples.1 These included several innovations in military techniques as well as experience gained by Christians in the Holy Land and other theatres of war. One such innovation was the erection of permanent fortresses in stone or brick: the manufacture of bricks and mortar was unknown in the eastern Baltic until then.2 Another innovation was the introduction of the crossbow, which, as a long-range weapon, proved to be superior to the spears and bows of the heathens.3 The combination of these two developments made it possible for the Order’s garrisons to withstand long sieges, provided they had sufficient supplies of food, weapons and crossbow bolts. Conquered territories were secured systematically with fortresses which were sited strategically in places suited to commerce and communications, most often along major river routes. These, together with the fortified larger towns, composed the backbone of the new military states in east-central Europe.4

During the fourteenth century, particularly in Prussia, there were also fortifications of the traditional style which, like the heathen garrisons, were built of timber and earth, in addition to the new stone and/or brick fortresses.5 The former were often constructed within a few weeks in the summer during expeditions into enemy territory.6


The fortresses served to secure those territories which were already under the control of the Order. However, it was also important that new military operations could be carried out from them. With this, the third great innovation in the Order’s military technique came into its own, namely the heavy cavalry against which the heathen forces were in most cases inferior. Only when these armoured cavalrymen could not use their strength to full advantage, as when they were fighting in boggy terrain or with poor visibility, was it possible for the light cavalry and infantry of the local population to defend themselves successfully and win victories. An example of this was the important victory of the Lithuanians and Semigallians over the Swordbrothers at Saule in 1236.7 Christian losses on the moor at Saule were so high that the Order of the Swordbrothers was unable to recover and a year later it was amalgamated with the Teutonic Order by a papal bull. Under normal conditions the armoured cavalry equipped with lances, spears and swords was able to crush everything in its path in one powerful attack. Their armour alone generally protected them from the impact of spears and arrows; however, if his horse fell, the heavily armed rider was very vulnerable because of his immobility. His life depended on the quality and battle worthiness of his war-horse, his destrier (dextrarius).

These are not the only examples of military innovation. We should also mention the heavy siege weapons, such as ballistas, catapults and trebuchets (Blinden), battering rams (Tümmlern) and siege towers (Ebenhöhen), which were also introduced by the Knights.8 In the second half of the fourteenth century, when the Teutonic Order was at war with the pagan Lithuanians, firearms were added to the Christian arsenal. At first they were used mainly as siege guns, firing large arrows, spears or stone shot.9 However, in all these cases the element of surprise was short-lived. Innovations are notorious for the speed with which they spread and it was always only a question of time before the opponent became familiar with them and thus was able to develop and use them. In the first half of the fourteenth century stone or brick fortresses were increasingly replacing wood and earth constructions in Lithuania.10 Moreover, Prussian or Lithuanian building techniques were even adopted in part in the territories of the Order.11 Heavy siege weapons were known to the Lithuanians at this time. The first reliable mention of the use of firearms (Lotbüchsen) by the Teutonic Order occurs in a chronicle describing a siege in 1362.12 Two decades later bombards were used by the Lithuanians against the fortresses of the Order.13 In addition, the possession of large war-horses did not remain a long-term privilege of the Christians, since capture or purchase made it possible for the heathens to overcome this disadvantage to some extent.14

For the Teutonic Order it was always a battle against time to maintain its advantage by continual improvements in technique, hardware and horsepower. Comparisons with development in our age of modern technology and communication come to mind. In any case the better position in this medieval competition was held by the Teutonic Knights who, one may say, because of their money and excellent organization in the areas mentioned above, made a first-rate showing. That the Order proved in the end unable to survive in eastern Europe depended on quite different factors.

Here we wish to take a closer look at two of the above-mentioned military advantages: the horse and the crossbow. A good illustration of these developments comes from the Prussian section of the Order, for which particularly detailed sources survive.15 In addition to charters and chronicles there are also, from the last third of the fourteenth century, increasing correspondence and various accounting books of the Order.16 Furthermore there are several surviving travel accounts from crusaders, for the fourteenth century was the classical period of European noble pilgrimage to Prussia, which was the starting point for the military campaigns into Lithuania (reysa or Litauenreisen).17 The best known are the two Prussian journeys of Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby, later King Henry IV of England, in the years 1390-1391 and 1392.18

During the conquest of Prussia, the Knights became familiar with a small horse indigenous to that region, the so-called Sweik (Schweike).19 This designation probably derives from a Baltic word meaning ‘healthy’ or ‘strong’.20 These animals had a stocky, muscular build and generally measured at the withers not much more than ten hands.21 In a letter of 1427 the grand marshal called them ‘little shaggy horses’ (‘cleyne gerugete pherde’).22 Although there is no reliable information concerning their colour, presumably they were light brown, fawn or grey and had a partial black dorsal stripe. Interestingly, this old breed of horse is still reared on stud farms in Lithuania where they are known as Zemaitukai.23 The Sweiks were swift, tenacious and hardy. They served the native Prussians and other peoples of the Baltic as saddle- and workhorses as well as war-horses. In the last case, however, it was only possible for the rider to be lightly armed with ‘the native Prussian weapons’ of spear, shield (scutum Prutenicum), plate armour (Brünne) and the Prussian helmet (a specific variety of the conical helmet).24

Although the Sweiks, because of their limited size, were not used by the Christian conquerors as cavalry horses, they were bred systematically by the Order.25 They had a variety of uses, from which stemmed their designation as castle, yard, fish, beach, mill, hunting, forest, plough, field or draught Sweiks. For the Knights’ courier service the so-called post Sweiks (Briesweiken) were indispensable. However, they were not bred by the Order itself, but purchased from native Prussians. On campaign the Sweiks served the Knights as pack-horses to transport provisions, fodder and war materials. In Prussia they had the same function as the mules prescribed for the Order’s use in the Holy Land.26 Their pack-saddles were kept in the saddle-house or in the so-called Karvan (an Arabic word) where carts and equipment were also stored. The pack-horses had to be provided by Prussian peasants.27 According to one chronicler, Wigand of Marburg, the Order first transported provisions to Lithuania on carts during a campaign in 1390, which seems to have been regarded at that time as remarkable.28 Valuable insights into the composition of a baggage train are provided in an instruction concerning equipment for the journey to negotiations in Kaunas in Lithuania at Christmas 1407. In addition to the delegation’s 200 war-horses and saddle-horses there were between 450 and 500 draught horses to transport provisions and fodder in carts drawn by two animals. These were certainly Sweiks.29

When, after a hard struggle, the Prussians had been defeated by the Teutonic Order in the thirteenth century, the native nobles had to perform military service for the Knights against the Lithuanians and later also against the Poles, as light auxiliary troops (equites Pruteni).30 Like the turcopoles in the Holy Land, they fought with their native weapons, with which they were familiar, ‘according to the custom of the country’, and thus we can assume that the Sweiks were employed as war-horses. The basis of such native Prussian service was the possession of a small farm, often no more than one or two hides of land, as the expense of horse and equipment was not very great. A hide corresponds to 16.8 hectares or about 42 acres. It is to be assumed that these light troops used the horse primarily as a means of transport, while they themselves fought on foot.

It was a different matter in the case of the heavy, non-indigenous war-horses, without which the Order would not have been able to achieve its successes against the heathens, and which were also a sign of their knightly pride – omnis nobilitas ab equo! During battle these horses had to be able to carry an armoured rider as well as (sometimes) their own protective attire in the form of covers or metal plates.31 At first they were brought by the knights of the Order from their respective home countries, mainly from Thuringia, Saxony and Meissen, but later in the fourteenth century chargers were brought increasingly from Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria, the Rhineland and other parts of the Empire.32 These horses, as well as those which many crusaders brought to the Order’s lands, were probably mixed with Oriental, that is, Arab, blood. There can be no question of uniformity of the breeding stock used by the Order (from the thirteenth century onwards) because of the different places of origin of the horses used. Apart from thirteenth-century information that returning crusaders left their horses in Prussia,33 evidence is available from 1322 which indicates that the Teutonic Order was breeding horses then. It deals with a pastura equorum in Heiligenfeld in north-western Sambia (Samland) on which the horses of the brethren grazed.34 In the subsequent period there were often reports in the chronicles about horses which were seized in Prussia by the heathens during their battles and plundering expeditions.35 However, it is Hermann of Wartberge who gives the first detailed description of a stud farm – one near Insterburg – which fell into the hands of the Lithuanians in 1376. It had fifty mares, two stud-horses and sixty war-horses and foals.36 At this time the records of transfer of the offices began, which contain a great deal of information about horse breeding in the Order’s lands.37 According to Fritz Rünger, in around 1400 there were over thirty stud farms in Prussia on which the Order bred heavy warhorses. These were the so-called ‘large (horse) stud farms’ as opposed to the ‘small (horse) stud farms’ for the Sweiks.38

When fortresses were to be built there was always the question of whether the site had sufficient grazing and meadowland for the breeding of horses and if it was possible to cultivate the necessary oats.39 In addition, the soil needed to be as heavy and firm as possible for the breeding of horses for knights. If these conditions were not available, it was necessary to deliver horses and, if need be, fodder to the fortress. This was, for example, the case with the castle of Ragnit (north-east of Königsberg).40 Castle environs had to be laid out to accommodate stables for the number of war- and saddle-horses required by the brethren (Konventspferde).41 They also had to contain stores of fodder and the required number of saddles, pack-saddles, bridles, horseshoes, carts and sledges as well as the various devices, weapons and equipment necessary for mounted warfare.42 In order to maintain these facilities and to protect and care for the horses, many stable hands and workers were required and their needs also had to be met. The surroundings had to be such that where possible hay could be harvested and delivery of taxes and dues in the form of oats made. Of all the dues paid to the Order, that paid in oats was the greatest.43

The breeding of horses was generally not carried out in the castles themselves but on the Order’s estates (Vorwerke) and on the stud farms which were primarily located in lowlands, deltas and river valleys.44 Therefore the most important of these were in the area of the Vistula, on the banks of the lagoon called Frisches Haff and in Sambia, whereas, for example, the thin soil of East Pomerania was unsuitable for breeding heavy horses. There could not have been a uniform type of knight’s steed because the breeding material was so very different and, anyway, the most important thing was the horses’ suitability for warfare. However, certain qualities were essential in the breeding of such horses.45 Size and weight were often decisive in cavalry battle. The neck of a knight’s steed was often strongly arched and this increased the certainty of its stride. The breast was broad and muscular, the back had to be short, that is, strong enough to carry an armed rider. The strong and arched croup was split and bound with a deep-lying tail. For such a heavy body, powerful extremities and joints were necessary which, however, were not to appear awkward and crude. They had to be strong and at the same time dry, with firm knees and short fetlocks. These war-horses were different from modern heavy workhorses in that they had to possess a special temperament as well as ability and ease of movement, notwithstanding their heavy build.46 Although black and white horses were favoured, colour was, for the practically minded Knights, only of secondary importance. Therefore, the horses which are mentioned in the inventories and lists have many different colours and markings.47

Here we will deal only briefly with the breeding as such.48 While the mares were primarily kept on the Order’s estates and breeding farms, the stud-horses were mostly stabled in the castles. The main reasons for this were better supervision and care as well as the increased safety this location offered. For every stud-horse there were ten to seventeen mares. Stud-horses were used for breeding from the age of five years, and the mares, one year earlier. Normally the mares were not used for ordinary work or military service, as they were kept exclusively for the purposes of breeding.49 However, there were exceptions to this. As far as the colts were concerned, most of these were gelded when they were three years old in order to perform military service as so-called ‘monk horses’ (Mönchpferde, Mönchhengste). This designation was used in order to make clear that they were not horses capable of breeding. There were, of course, ungelded war-horses in the army of the Teutonic Order but it would be a mistake to believe that they were in the majority. As far as can be determined from the account books relating to horse breeding, the ‘monk horses’ predominated.50

Because colts were almost always rendered infertile by ‘strangulation’ of the spermatic cords (Auswürgen),51 they were not castrated in the present sense of the word – as asserted in the older literature on the subject – but sterilized. As a result of this, an animal’s male characteristics remained largely intact. This also guaranteed that in the case of a defeat there was no danger that the enemy could use captured horses to develop the breeding of their own large horses. In his notes on the regulation of the Order, Grand Master Paul of Rusdorf (1422-41), declared in 1427: ‘Furthermore, nobody, except those who own mares, should possess stallions [horses capable of reproduction], only monk horses. Also the lords shall not give stallions [ungelded steeds] to the brethren’.52 When the same Grand Master two years later gave the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas (Witold) a valuable horse as a gift, it was a temperamental, yet infertile warhorse (ein fröhlicher Mönchhengst).53

A further method of sterilization was performed by crushing the spermatic cords with two sharp-edged pieces of wood (Kluppen),54 but this seems to have been applied less often. Occasionally genuine castration took place by the removal of the testicles. It can be assumed that these geldings were primarily used as draught or saddle-horses. Apparently, in Prussia there were skilled people who were able to apply this technique to human beings, because in 1437 Paul of Rusdorf issued a testimony for the ‘testicle-doctor’ (Hodenarzt) Master Nicholas, who was well practised in ‘the cutting of children and other people’.55

Fritz Rünger calculates that around the year 1400 there were 13,887 horses in the castles, on the breeding farms and on the estates of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, of which 7,200 belonged to the breed of large military horse.56 In addition there were the war- and saddle-horses of the brethren of the Order, which Max Töppen estimated at 2,250.57 Thus one can assume that the Order was in possession of around 16,000 horses at this time.

The large horses were bred not only by the Teutonic Order, but also in the four bishoprics and on the estates of the German nobles who were under an obligation to perform military service.58 Those who possessed more than 40 hides of land (672 hectares or about 1,680 acres) served with heavy armour on a covered horse (dextrarius opertus or textus) which had to be a stallion and with at least two further horsemen as escorts (Rossdienst).

Those with 10 to 40 hides had to perform one or more services with ‘plate’ or other light weapons (Platendienst). Plates were made in the form of a ‘poncho’ consisting of rows of vertically or horizontally arranged iron plates riveted to leather or thick cloth. The horse was sterilized or castrated (a spado). With the increasing importance of the crossbow as a long-range weapon, armour became heavier and the plate service developed into service on a war-horse which was three to four times as expensive as a Sweik. Around 1400, a good warhorse cost 12 to 15 marks and a very good one 15 to 18 marks, whereas a Sweik could be had for 3 to 6 marks. Much greater sums were paid for excellent chargers – even sums as high as 70 marks were paid.59

Important work has been published in recent years, mainly by Polish researchers A. Nadolski and A. Nowakowski, concerning the arms and armour of the Teutonic Order.60 This is based primarily on investigations of the inventories of the Order’s stores which contain a wealth of information, sometimes including details of equestrian equipment. This rather late evidence can be complemented by reference to the laws of Grand Master Luther of Brunswick (1331-5), according to which the brethren of the Order were to do military service with weapons ‘according to the customs of the country, that is plate or mail armour [panzir]’.61 The laws of his successor, Dietrich of Altenburg (1335-1341), prescribe the condition in which, amongst other things, saddles, harnesses and spurs were to be kept.62

The war between the Teutonic Order and Lithuania, which lasted about 140 years (1283-1411/1422), was characterized mostly by mutual devastation and pillage.63 Full-scale battles were the exception rather than the rule. In addition there were sieges, expeditions to erect fortresses (Baureisen) and defensive measures in their own territory in the case of the threat of attack (Landswehr and Geschrei). Particularly characteristic of the Order’s war strategy was the winter expedition, the ‘Lithuanian journey’ (reysa) par excellence. Werner Paravicini has ascertained that between the years 1305 and 1409 there were over 300 campaigns from Prussia or Livonia into Lithuania and has arranged them in a table twenty-two pages long.64

The Order’s razzias were generally brief attacks (Stossreisen, Ruckreisen), but there were also longer campaigns which could last several weeks.65 In all cases good planning was a precondition for the success of the undertaking. The provision of sufficient fodder for the large number of horses was part of this. In winter, hay and oats had to be transported on pack-horses or sledges, in summer the stages had to be planned so as to give the horses the opportunity to graze. If necessary, fodder was also transported on pack-horses or carts drawn by a team of two Sweiks. In favourable situations stores or fields of grain were encountered in Lithuania. As is recounted in the Order’s route descriptions (Wegeberichte), depots for provisions and fodder were placed along the route of march.66 If these provisions had already been captured or destroyed by the enemy when the army arrived, the situation became so acute that it was often a matter of life or death. These raids were very dependent on the weather: a winter that was too mild, too hard or very snowy made the wild countryside (Wildnis) just as difficult to travel through as when there was too much rain; a cold but not too snowy winter provided the most preferred conditions. This caused the waters and bogs to freeze over, thereby helping rather than hindering the progress of the horses. In winter, the excellent organization of the Teutonic Order came into its own. The heavy war-horses were not ridden during the march because they had to be saved for their military service. Other animals, palfreys, were available as saddle-horses. In Latin these were designated usually as palafredus. In contrast to the war-horses (hengste; mostly infertile, as already described), they were often referred to in the sources of the Order only as ‘horses’ or sometimes also termed ‘trotters’. Because of their soft stride the ‘amblers’ (nags) were particularly prized. Sweiks almost certainly also served as saddle-horses.

The care of the horses’ hooves was of great importance during the march. In summer unhardened horseshoes were used, whereas in winter hardened shoes were the rule. In the fortresses there had to be sufficient supplies of these; thus in the forge of the Order’s castle at Balga there were once over 13,000 horseshoes.67

When possible, the Order tried to transport part of its army and supplies along the waterways, whereas the mounted army had to force its way through the wild countryside in order to reach the Lithuanian settlements that were to be ravaged. The tremendous performance of the horses during these forays is difficult for us to imagine today, although authors such as the Austrian herald-poet Peter Suchenwirt as well as many other source documents report on their feats of endurance and prowess and the hardships they endured. Correspondingly the losses of horses were very high, as a result not only of their direct participation in warfare, but also of the harshness and privations of the journey itself. Particularly dreaded was the wild terrain of Grauden which was east of Sambia.

A good and reliable example of the losses of horses is provided by the Order’s own Tresslerbuch (treasurer’s book), which records how twenty-four German nobles from Kulmerland, who were obliged to perform military service, lost no fewer than fifty chargers, trotting and other horses during a campaign in Zemaitija (that is, western Lithuania) in the summer of 1402.68 This entry was made only because the Order, according to the Kulmer Handfest – a privilege from the year 1233 – was under an obligation to replace losses to the vassals of Kulmerland, if these losses occurred beyond the bounds of their normal military service.69 But we may wonder whether the loss of horses was not, in reality, much higher, because it is possible that the losses of pack-horses (Sweiks) which belonged to Prussian peasants were not replaced and for this reason were not mentioned in the records.

There was a section of the Order in Livonia, which we have not dealt with here, despite the fact that it was often coordinated with the operations of the army of Prussia. Presumably, heavy war-horses were bred quite early in Livonia too, as the routes for military provisions across the sea were long and dependent on weather conditions.70 In his description of the battles of the Königsberg-based Knights against the Prussians in Sambia in the years of 1262 and 1263, Peter of Dusburg writes in his chronicle that the brethren of the Livonian section of the Order came to their aid ‘with many large warhorses’ (‘cum multis et magnis dextrariis’).71 The Livonia visitation records of 1334 declare that commanders (Komture) and bailiffs (Vögte) were not allowed to give as presents or sell horses from the stud farms without the permission of the Livonian Master.72 In a letter to the Grand Master in 1420 the Master in Livonia made it clear that it was impossible to penetrate Lithuania by water or with carts. Only with the help of pack-horses would a campaign be possible in this region.73 In this respect the small indigenous Sweiks were irreplaceable also in Livonia.

In the thirteenth century the Sweiks were used by the Lithuanians too, particularly as a means of transport for their warriors, who fought on foot.74 As a result of the confrontation with the technically superior methods of warfare of the Teutonic Order, a reorganization of their own military tactics became necessary. This development should be dated to the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries.75 It included, among other things, the development of a cavalry with large horses and thus necessarily also the establishment of stud farms. Scattered reports of these are found in the chronicles of the Order. We know that around 1367 the Lithuanian prince Kestutis had a stud farm with fifty mares in Kaunas76 and there are also reports of a stud farm at another location.77 As many as 400 horses were kept in one stud farm in Zemaitija around 1379.78 It is to be assumed that the Lithuanians obtained breeding material for their large horses primarily during war and plundering campaigns into Prussia, as they did in 1376 at Insterburg when they attacked one of the Order’s stud farms which had fifty mares, two stallions and sixty warhorses and foals, and seized these.

In the course of the fourteenth century the ‘non-Christians’ became increasingly opponents which the Teutonic Order had to take seriously, as the knightly culture of western and central Europe was no longer unknown to them. It is not without reason that in an anonymous address composed in 1415 for the Council of Constance (presumably, however, not delivered) the Order complained that ‘the non-believers of whom one is at present speaking now appear powerful everywhere, with shining armour, with warhorses [geroesse] and other military equipment’.79 The author of this document knew what he was talking about, as five years previously the Order had suffered a devastating defeat at Tannenberg (in Polish known as Grunwald and in Lithuanian as Zalgiris) on 15 July 1410, by a joint Polish and Lithuanian army.80 The turning point in the battle was achieved by the Lithuanians, admittedly not through the use of heavy cavalry, but by the old tactic of simulated retreat. This was not known to the mercenaries and crusaders of the Teutonic Order, who in an undisciplined way left their battle formations to take up the pursuit, thereby exposing their flank so that strong Polish fighting units could penetrate the Order’s army from the side.81

The defeat of 1410 marked the end of the Order’s forays into Lithuania; now the question was one of survival.82 Instead of the razzias which had involved a limited number of knights, the Order, like the Poles, was now engaged in campaigns involving large armies that advanced into enemy territory. War in the region was taking on the form which we know from the rest of Europe: mercenaries replaced the crusaders, firearms increased in importance, castle sieges became a matter of routine. However, the conduct of warfare depended as much as before on the horse and its needs. Campaigns had to be planned so that as far as possible the army was self-supporting in enemy territory. It is not surprising, therefore, that they were carried out only in summer when fodder was available in the meadows and there was grain in the fields, or in autumn, when enemy stores could be plundered. This was the case in 1409, 1410, 1414, 1422 and 1431 as well as during the Thirteen Years’ War of 1454-66. That the infantrymen still played no important role in the conduct of the war (except in the case of sieges) was not only a consequence of the superiority of the cavalry, but also because, in contrast with the horsemen, they could carry only limited provisions with them. Mounted troops were quicker, more mobile and could stand their ground longer in the field. The introduction of military techniques developed by the Hussites gave the infantry considerably increased importance, as stores of every kind were now transported on heavy wagons which could also be used for parts of the Wagenburg, the wagon laager.83 The powerful draught horses needed to pull these wagons could also serve as saddle-horses, but did not need to be of the same quality as the knights’ war-horses.

The Order’s loss of horses at Tannenberg must have been enormous and the effect of that loss on the Knights’ horse-breeding activities and their capacity to defend their lands, devastating.84 The stud farms were also affected by the destruction that followed, and the horses were driven away. Only gradually was it possible to build up new breeding stock. Grand Master Heinrich of Plauen (1410-14) bought, among others, 140 mares of the heavy breed from the peasants in the Vistula delta for this purpose.85 As the lack of stud-horses was particularly great, he had a number of such horses purchased abroad and brought to Prussia.86 Considering the background situation, it is not surprising that the Order was no longer able to do without the help of mercenary troops, although as a result it experienced a severe financial crisis.87 To these adversities must be added poor harvests and an increase in horse diseases, the effects of which are abundantly testified to in the correspondence of the Order. In such time of crisis it is understandable that horses of the large breed, oats, yew wood for bows and other important materials were not exported. The ban on the export of horses and weapons following the Polish-Lithuanian Union in 1386 is well known.88 Similar prohibitions and regulations followed in 1394, 1400, 1418, 1432 and 1437. Horses were branded in order to prevent smuggling and illicit selling. Only the less militarily important Sweiks could be exported freely.

In order to maintain the military fitness of conscripts and mercenary troops, inspections and military reviews were held in the Order’s lands. Attention was also paid to the quality of the horses. Some of the inspection lists have survived and provide valuable insights into the art of war as practised at the time.89 The regulations concerning the hiring of mercenaries (Söldnerbriefe), are also rich sources of information.90

Occasionally horses were individually recorded according to their size, colour and other characteristics together with their value.91 Good war-horses, like falcons, were regarded as valuable diplomatic gifts, for the Knights’ horse breeding was highly prized in Europe. Letters from foreign princes requesting horses can be found in the Order’s archives in Berlin. These requests were often met, but sometimes they were refused by the Grand Master in times of war or emergency.92

Most of the wounds suffered by the horses during the time of the crusades of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were caused by spears, arrows and swords, later mainly by the bolts of crossbows. The better protected the rider, the more often weapons were directed against his vulnerable horse. In a draft contract from 1433, there was an order that a wounded horse should be put out to grass if it was still not fit for service after six weeks of care.93 The sources often speak of horse doctors and horse medicines. The Order’s text Liber de cura equorum (now in the Austrian National Library) bears witness to the great importance of the medical treatment of horses in Prussia. This work, written in 1408 and dedicated to Grand Master Ulrich of Jungingen (1407-10), who fell at Tannenberg, may be regarded as the oldest German equine veterinary encyclopedia.94

When, in the summer of 1390, Bolingbroke was preparing for his journey to Prussia he had, among other things, eighty longbows costing one shilling each and six broadbows, each at double the price, purchased for him.95 They were packed in hemp, tied up with straps made from Hungarian leather and provided with a lock. In addition, there were four bundles of broad arrows. Perhaps the wood for these bows came from Prussia, as the tough and elastic yew wood was an important article of export of the Ordensstaat. Thus, in the year 1396 the commander of Ragnit deposited no less than 7,600 unworked wooden pieces for bows (ywenbogenholcz) and 1,150 of the same for crossbows (knottelholcz) with a Danzig citizen on the Grand Master’s behalf.96 We also know that Bolingbroke’s bows were used in action because in a description of the siege of Vilnius (Lithuania) in autumn 1390 the Knights’ chronicler, Posilge, writes: ‘Also the Lord of Lancaster from England was there; he had many fine archers, who did much good’.97 The impression is that Posilge was very impressed by the effectiveness of the English longbows.

The Teutonic Order had, from the very beginning, preferred the crossbow to the ordinary bow. The oldest recorded use of the European crossbow dates from the fourth century AD, and one comes across them again in the tenth.98 During the First Crusade the crossbow was in general use. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries important improvements were made which led to the further spread of this weapon. The trigger, the notch for the bolt, the nut and its socket, and the stirrup were introduced, and these were only some of the changes made. The stirrup was fixed to the stock and served for spanning the bow. Already in the statutes of the Teutonic Order there was mention of the workshop in which the crossbows with stirrups (as well as bows) were produced: ‘Marschalus potest accipere de domo balistarum minores balistas aptas pedibus ad trahendum et arcus pro fratribus, quibus sive balistas sive arcus viderit expedire’.99

Both long-range weapons – bows and crossbows – were forbidden at the Second Lateran Council in 1139 as ‘deadly and hated by God’.100 However, this prohibition, which was later repeated by the Church, was directed only against the use of bows and crossbows among Christians. Behind this, surely, lay the fear that the social order might break down if these simple but effective weapons became widespread among the lower classes and thus might threaten the superiority of the nobility and the Church. However, the Church permitted the use of these weapons against non-Christians. Thus, the crossbow was brought into Livonia and Prussia by the military orders in the thirteenth century and played an extremely important role there in the war against the heathens, a fact which has, as yet, been greatly underestimated.101 It was an ‘everyday’ weapon, not only of the brethren of the Order, but also of its servants, local burghers and simple men-at-arms. However, in a later period that romanticized this era, it was given less attention than the arms and armour of the Knights.

In the thirteenth century important improvements were made to the crossbow. The wooden bow, up to that time the usual form of propulsion, was being replaced by the much more effective composite ‘horn bow’ – actually a ‘horn-layer bow’ made of horn, sinew and possibly fish-bone plates and strips of wood. Instead of pulling the bowstring with the hands, one now used a belt with a metal claw. In the fourteenth century further devices to aid drawing the bow, such as the cord and pulley (Seilrolle), goat’s foot lever (Geissfuss), wooden lever (Wippe) and windlass (Winde) were introduced. However, the simple bows and wooden crossbows (Knottelarmbrüste) were retained for ordinary use. The Order’s inventories mention these only occasionally, but sometimes Russian and Hungarian bows are itemized.102

The new composite horn crossbow quickly demonstrated its superiority over the short bow and thus caused the introduction of the famous English longbow, which had functioned magnificently in important battles such as Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415).103 The secret of the effectiveness of these longbows was revealed only a few years ago, when in 1982 over 100 bows and 3,000 arrows were salvaged from Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545.104 Physicists established that these bows would have had draw-weights ranging from 45 kg to a truly astonishing 80 kg.105 The long bodkin-headed arrows had a steel tip which was 10 cm long and could piece armour of 1.5 mm at a distance of 150 to 200 m. They hit their target at an angle of 50 degrees and at a speed of around 35 m per second.106 Despite these and other advantages, such as, for example, the fact that it could be shot up to six or seven times faster than the crossbow, the longbow did not replace the crossbow on the Continent. One reason is that the longbow was a weapon of the specialist, who needed to have practised its use from youth, whereas the drawing of the crossbow, which was made possible with the aid of a mechanical device, required no special training.

In the fifteenth century, to compete with the longbow and the emerging use of firearms, the crossbow was equipped with a powerful steel bow, with the help of which the draw-weight increased to up to 500 kg. In the case of the stirrup crossbow with a horn bow, the draw-weight was up to 150 kg.107 The strong steel bows could be drawn only with the special help of mechanical devices such as a windlass (the so-called ‘English winder’) or the ratchet winder (the so-called ‘German winder’ or cranequin). Even after 1450, the crossbow was in no way inferior to hand-held firearms, and it was also used as a weapon of war in the sixteenth century. But then the centuries-old superiority of this long-range weapon was over. However, it had still not completely disappeared, as it is still used as a weapon of modern warfare by commando troops. One good reason for this is that an arrow or bolt makes no noise when shot and this still gives it an advantage over firearms under certain circumstances.

The crossbow played an essential role in the continuous competition between weapons of attack and weapons of defence in the Middle Ages and, because of continuous improvements in its construction, it contributed to the development of shields, helmets, armour and horse armour. One only needs to think of the pavises or the kettle-hats with their long protruding brims which were intended to protect the wearer from arrows and bolts, or of the ever-improving bodily protection in the form of bascinets, mail hauberks and different forms of plates in their various stages of development. In answer to this, the wooden shafts of the crossbow bolts were fitted with slanting rather than straight fletching and, as a result, when in flight the bolt rotated around its longitudinal axis. This spinning action was not so much intended to improve the properties of flight as to enable the bolt, in a manner of speaking, to ‘screw’ into the armour rather than glancing off it. According to one chronicle the Swedish king Gustav Vasa taught the peasant soldiers in the province of Dalarna in Sweden in 1521 to produce bolts which were provided with slanting fletching ‘so that they could hook themselves on to the armour and screw themselves through this’.108 It is not surprising that, with this hectic pace of development, the non-Christian peoples of north-eastern Europe had great difficulty in keeping up with innovations. It was not only a question of quantity, but also of quality, and the Teutonic Order had the better capacity for both. Its need for crossbows, bolts and other equipment was met by its own comprehensive production which took place in its own workshops (Schnitzhäuser), located in the great castles. Also the larger towns in the Order’s lands had their own crossbow makers and craftsmen who mounted the bolt heads on the shafts and made the fletching, etc.109

It has been shown that during the first half of the fifteenth century the Order had eighteen Schnitzhäuser in which composite crossbows with bows made from billy-goat horn (Bockhörner), sinews and possibly fish-bone plates and wooden lasts were manufactured.110 Throughout the whole of the Middle Ages simple and cheap crossbows made from yew wood were used in the country districts. In the Order’s inventories they were, however, mentioned only occasionally, as Knüttelarmbrüste or Knottelarmbrüste.111 Steel crossbows gained ground only very slowly in east-central Europe because in their case there was always the danger that the bow would break in cold weather. Horn crossbows, on the other hand, became about a third stronger in cold weather. In addition, the steel crossbow was slower. That it eventually replaced the horn crossbow was due not least to the fact that it could be produced more simply and therefore more cheaply.112

In the Order’s workshops regular factory production of horn crossbows was conducted – presumably the greatest in Europe.113 An impression of this can be gained from inventories compiled as a result of the succession to office in which the existing store of raw material for the production of crossbows had to be listed.114 To give only a few examples, in the Schnitzhaus of Marienburg in the year 1409 there were no fewer than 1,200 billy-goat horns and 36,000 sinews; also birch bark for 1,200 crossbows.115 This bark was used to cover the bows to prevent them from drying out and to protect them from damp. In addition there was fish glue and glue obtained from the cooking of the neck hides of cattle. The 800 Sternhorn or Storhorn, used in the manufacture of the bows and mentioned in the inventories, have nothing to do with bulls’ horns (Stierhörner), as was hitherto assumed to be the case. Instead they were horns from the great sturgeon (Stör; Acipenser sturio), that is, either the big ganoid scales or part of the head.116 Plates made from these horns were fitted into the bow together with sheets of billy-goat horn and with sinews in order to furnish it with greater strength and elasticity. We can also mention 240 prepared nuts for the trigger mechanism, and twenty-seven stags’ antlers from which such nuts were turned, as well as twenty elk bones from which the material for the sockets was prepared. There was also wood for 340 stocks in various stages of preparation and 50 lb. of flax thread from Flanders for the production of bowstrings. The quantity of equipment and special tools required needs no more than a mention here.117 Crossbows were of different sizes and construction according to their purpose and manner of drawing. In addition to the simple forms by which the bowstring was drawn by a metal claw attached to the crossbowman’s belt, there were many other mechanisms.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, when the Teutonic Order was still at the height of its power, there were probably about 4,500 reserve crossbows and over one million crossbow bolts in Prussia.118 After the defeat at Tannenberg (1410) the number was greatly reduced, as was the case with the stock of horses.119 Furthermore, the size of the field army, excluding the crusaders and mercenaries and those remaining to garrison the fortresses, can be estimated at something over ten thousand men, not including servants and camp followers.120

A simple crossbow such as the stirrup crossbow (Steigbügelarmbrust) weighed up to 4 kg, of which 2 kg were accounted for by the bow. This, like the stock, was about 90 cm in length and the sectional dimensions at the middle were about 23 by 54 mm. In the case of a long-range shot of something over 300 m the bolt, after about nine seconds, struck the ground steeply at an angle of 70o. Although the energy on impact fell to about half the initial energy, the shot was still effective up to 200 m.121

At the beginning of a battle the crossbow bolts were shot diagonally upwards for a distance of about 200 m towards the enemy lines. Among the hail of normal bolts it was also the practice to include Heulbolzen (whistling bolts) which produced a sharp whistling sound; in the Order’s records they are referred to as Bremsen (gadflies).122 Their purpose was to weaken the enemy and their horses psychologically, and to cause confusion. This effect was not produced by the sound as such, but by the fact that experience had shown that there was a relationship between the sound and pain; there was something like a ‘Pavlovian Reflex’ in both man and beast. An interesting parallel could be made with the German use of the Stuka dive-bomber in the Second World War, which, of course, used the same device of the association of a particular sound with danger, in order to cause the same effect – namely fear and confusion on the part of the enemy.

After such a punishing hail of bolts at the beginning of a battle, the crossbowmen moved forward in order to take aimed shots at a distance of up to 80 m, and thus to contribute to the further course of the battle. The great difference from the English longbowman lay in the often decisive fact that the longbowmen could shoot six or seven arrows before the crossbowmen could get off one shot (if they had mechanical winders).123 The particular advantage of the crossbow as a weapon was that in the case of the siege or defence of fortresses and towns, it was often necessary to shoot from an angle or from small openings and to be able to keep the weapon drawn for a longer time.

As shown by the weapons and skeletons found in the mass graves of Korsbetningen near Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, where, in the year 1361, a battle took place between a Danish army and local peasants, enormous numbers of crossbow bolts were shot.124 The same was true in the case of sieges. Thus, in 1431 the commander of the Teutonic Order’s castle at Rehden in Prussia complained that he had only 1,800 bolts and that these would not be enough for defence against an attack.125 If one takes into consideration the fact that during a siege the attackers also shot thousands of bolts, it is easy to see why large supplies were needed on both sides.

Because the Knights in Livonia and Prussia did not have to fear a superior opponent equipped with English longbows, their composite horn crossbows remained the dominant, long-range weapon during the whole period of wars against the non-Christians and the Poles. This was so not only in the case of sieges but also in the many campaigns of war and devastation. Several remaining documents concerning the levy of troops and lists of equipment show that every second or third man in the Order’s army was equipped with a crossbow. The overwhelming importance of this weapon is also shown in the chronicles, the Order’s correspondence and the municipal Kriegsbücher (war books) of which one has survived, from the town of Elbing for the years 1384-1409.126 In addition, there are several extant contracts with mounted mercenaries who came to Prussia from various parts of the Empire and were either armed with spears (Spiessen) or crossbows.127 After the conversion of Lithuania (1387) the flow of crusaders was reduced and for this reason the Teutonic Order had to make an effort to recruit the services of mercenaries.128 This was particularly the case from 1409 onwards. A valuable remaining source for this fact is the Soldbuch (pay book) of the Teutonic Order for the years 1410-11 in which the payments to mercenaries are listed.129

The Genoese crossbowmen were counted among the most famous mercenaries of Europe in the later Middle Ages.130 They were organized in companies and their powerful horn crossbows were drawn with windlasses. Their reputation, despite their defeat at the hands of the English longbowmen at Crécy in 1346 and at Poitiers in 1356, also reached Prussia. In 1394 Grand Master Conrad of Jungingen (1393-1407) employed 150 of them to take part in a planned siege campaign in Lithuania.131 The negotiations were concluded with the help of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy. The Genoese were to demonstrate their prowess at the renewed siege of Vilnius (as in the year 1390 when Bolingbroke’s longbowmen were present). They did this throughout the whole campaign, as the chronicler of the Order, Posilge, emphasizes with praise, although Vilnius castle could not be taken and the siege had to be abandoned after three weeks.132 A letter from the Grand Master to Philip the Bold has survived, in which he offers thanks for wine received as well as the crossbowmen sent to him and confirms their good conduct.133 In the year 1409 Genoese crossbowmen were again being recruited by Conrad’s brother, Grand Master Ulrich of Jungingen, for the impending great war of the Teutonic Order against Poland-Lithuania. Details of this are, however, not known; the only remaining document is a letter to the Grand Master dated 11 July 1409 in which it is stated that ‘Vytautas [the Lithuanian grand duke] knows very well that we have sent for the guests [that is, crusaders and mercenaries] and for Genoese crossbowmen [genueren scucczen]’.134

After the battle of Agincourt, members of the Teutonic Order became increasingly aware of the advantages of the English longbow, as can be established from a letter from the Grand Master to Cardinal Henry Beaufort in about 1429. In this letter, which survives as a draft in the Order’s archives, the Grand Master speaks of acquiring English longbowmen (sagittarii) for combat against the heretic Hussites in Bohemia.135 In Prussia, however, the crossbow remained the most important long-distance weapon until the end of the fifteenth century; only then was it replaced by hand-held firearms. A document from the year 1433 concerning the equipment of wagons for the Wagenburg according to the Hussite pattern, states that at this time crossbows and hand firearms, called Lotbüchsen, should be regarded as of equal worth.136

In short, the crusades waged in north-eastern Europe by the knights of the Teutonic Order cannot be understood outside general European contexts. Developments in military architecture, weaponry, horse breeding and logistics influenced and promoted the Baltic crusades. It can be argued that the Order’s success, however limited it turned out to be after the defeat of 1410, the Thirteen Years’ War in the middle of the century and the Reformation in 1525, was based largely on the implementation of modern Western techniques, which it developed further. However, the knights of the Order also adopted and adapted local Prussian and Lithuanian material: fortifications of timber and earth, Lithuanian building techniques, local weapons like the Prussian helmet and shield, the Lithuanian spear and – last but not least – the ‘little shaggy horses’, the Sweiks. As so often, the cross-fertilization of ideas and techniques rather than the crude domination of one culture over another was a key to success.


MO – The Military Orders: Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick, ed. M. Barber (Aldershot, 1994)

SDO – Die Statuten des Deutschen Ordens nach den altesten Handschriften, ed. M. Perlbach (Halle, 1890)

SRP – Scriptores Rerum Prussicarum, ed. T. Hirsch et al. (Leipzig, 1861)

End Notes

1. For literature about the conquest of Livonia and Prussia, see the references in the contributions concerning the Teutonic Order in MO, 1, pp. 223-79.

2. S. Ekdahl, ‘Die Rolle der Ritterorden bei der Christianisierung der Liven und Letten’, in Glie inizi del cristianesimo in Livano-Lettonia. Atti del colloquo internazionale die storia ecclesiastica in occasione dell’VIII centenario della chiesa in Livonia (1186-1986), ed. M. Maccarrone, Pontificio comitato di scienze storiche, Atti e documenti, 1 (Vatican City), pp. 203-43 (at pp. 224-8).

3. Ibid., pp. 225-6.

4. F. Benninghoven, ‘Die Burgen als Grundpfeiler des spätmittelaltelichen Wehrwesens im preussisch-livländischen Deutsordensstaat’, in Die Burgen im deutschen Sprachraum. Ihre rechts- und verfassungsgeschichtliche Bedeutung, ed. H. Patze, 1, Vorträge und Forschungen, 19 (Sigmaringen, 1976), pp. 565-601. See also F. Borchert, Burgenland Preussen. Die Wehrbauten des Deutschen Ordens und ihre Geschichte (Munich and Vienna, 1987).

5. M. Arsz_ski, ‘Die Deutsordensburg als Wehrbau und ihre Rolle im Wehrsystem des Ordensstaates Preussen’, in Ordines Militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica, ed. Z.H. Nowak (Torun, 1983-present), 6: Das Kriegswesen der Ritterorden im Mittelalter (1991), pp. 89-123. Cf. G. Zabiela, Lietuvos medines pilys (Vilnius, 1995); English summary ‘Wooden Castles in Lithuania’, ibid., pp. 290-8.

6. W. Paravicini, Die Preussenreisen des europäischen Adels, 1-2. Beihefte der Francia, 17.1-2 (Sigmaringen, 1989-95) (at 2, pp. 59-64).

7. F. Benninghoven, Der Orden der Schwertbrüder, Fratres Milicie Christi de Livonia, Ostmitteleuropa in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, 9 (Cologne and Graz, 1965), pp. 327-47; E. Gudavicius, Kryziaus karai Pabaltijyje ir Lietuva XIII amziuje (Vilnius, 1989), pp. 45-6, 66; W.L. Urban, The Baltic Crusade, 2nd edn (Chicago, 1994), pp. 184-7.

8. Ekdahl, ‘Die Rolle der Ritterorden’, p. 227. For the use of such weapons see, for instance, Wigand of Marburg’s description of the siege of Kaunas in Lithuania in 1362: SRP, 2, p. 532.

9. An analysis of the earliest mentions of firearms in the eastern Baltic is given by A. Mäesalu, ‘Otepää püss ongi maailma vanimaid käsitulirelvi’, Kleio. Ajaloo ajakiri, 4 (1996), 3-11 (at pp. 9-10).

10. J. Jurginis, ‘Entwicklung der Steinbauten in Litauen im 14.-15. Jahrhundert’, in Kultur und Politik im Ostseeraum und im Norden 1350-1450, ed. S. Ekdahl, Acta Visbyensia, 4 (Visby, 1973), pp. 223-37. The last wooden castles vanished in the fourth decade of the fourteenth century, when they could no longer maintain a more significant defensive role. See Zabiela, p. 297.

11. The Polish archaeologist Professor T. Poklewski (Lódz) works on this subject.

12. Johann Posilge ‘Prussian Chronicle’, in SRP, 3, pp. 81-2. Cf. note 8. See also Paravicini, 2, p. 49, and the papers of an international conference on firearms used in the battlefield in the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries, held in Poland in 1994 and published in Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae (hereafter FAH), ed. A. Nadolski (from vol. 6, 1993, ed. T. Poklewski) (Lódz, 1986-present), 9 (1997).

13. Wigand of Marburg, p. 613. See Paravicini, 2, p. 49.

14. S. Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd und seine Rolle im Kriegswesen des Deutschen Ordens’, in Ordines Militares, 6, pp. 29-47 (at p. 36).

15. B. Jähnig, ‘Die Quellen des historischen Staatsarchivs Königsberg aur Geschichte der deutsch-litauischen Beziehungen in der Zeit der Ordersherrschaft und des Herzogtums Preussen’, in Deutschland und Litauen, Bestandsaufnahmen und Aufgaben der historischen Forshung, ed. N. Angermann and J. Tauber (Lüneburg, 1995), pp. 9-19. See also S. Ekdahl, ‘Die preussisch-litauischen Beziehungen des Mittelalters. Stand und Aufgaben der Forschung in Deutschland’, ibid., pp. 31-44.

16. S. Ekdahl, Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg 1410. Quellenkritische Untersuchungen, 1: Einführung und Quellenlage, Berliner Historische Studien, 8 (Berlin, 1982), pp. 77-106; J. Sarnowsky, Die Wirtschaftsführung des Deutschen Ordens in Preussen (1382-1454), Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 34 (Cologne, Weimer and Vienna, 1993), pp. 14-23.

17. See Paravicini, 1-2.

18. Ibid., 1, p. 134; cf. note 95.

19. F. Rünger, ‘Herkunft, Rassezugehörigkeit, Züchtung und Haltung der Ritterpferde des Deutschen Ordens. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der ostpreussischen Pferdezucht und der deutschen Pferdezucht im Mittelalter’, Zeitschrift für Tierzüchtung und Züchtungsbiologie einschliesslich Tierenährung, 2 (1925), 211-308 (at pp. 219-34). See also M. Töppen, ‘Über die Pferdezucht in Preussen zur Zeit des Deutschen Ordens, nebst einigen Bermerkungen über die Sweiken’, Altpreussische Monatschrift, 4 (1867), 681-702, and Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, pp. 31-2.

20. Cf. the Lithuanian adjective sveikas, ‘healthy’.

21. Cf. Rünger, 226-7.

22. Ordensbriefarchiv (hereafter OBA), no. 4861. The documents on paper in the OBA are listed in Regesta Historico-Diplomatica Ordinis S. Mariae Theutonicorum 1198-1525, ed. E. Joachim and W. Hubatsch, Pars I, 1-3 (Göttingen, 1948, 1950, 1973). The parchments are listed in Pars III (Göttingen, 1948). There is an index of Pars I, 1-2, and Pars II (Göttingen, 1965). Pars I,3 also contains an index.

23. Especially in Baisogala, about 100 km to the north of Kaunas. The total number of breeding females and males of the small old race (not interbred) is only twenty-six and six respectively (information by Prof. J. Kulpys from the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy in Kaunas in September 1996). According to a description by R. Zebenka the Zemaitukai are small, of strong constitution, and have very powerful legs. They have a well developed chest. The head is small, the forehead wide. They have small, very lively ears and big, expressive eyes, which makes them look intelligent. The neck, especially of the stallions, is comparatively short, nicely bent and strong.

24. S. Ekdahl, ‘Über die Kriegsdienste der Freien im Kulmerland zu Anfang des 15 Jahrhunderts’, Preussenland, 2 (1964), 1-14 (at pp. 3-4).

25. Rünger, 230-4; Töppen, ‘Über die Pferdezucht’, 686-8, 697-9.

26. Cf. SDO, p. 103.

27. Rünger, 231.

28. ‘In xlma fit reysa et ducunt secum victualia in plaustrum, quod ante ea non fuit visum.’ SRP, 2, p. 641. Usually carts could not be used during the campaigns because of the wild terrain.

29. OBA, no. 957. See Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, pp. 31, 42-3 note 31.

30. Ekdahl, ‘Über die Kriegsdienste’, 3-4.

31. Horse armour was introduced in the second half of the fourteenth century, yet it had a very limited number of owners. A. Nowakowski, Arms and armour in the Medieval Teutonic Order’s State in Prussia, Studies on the History of Ancient and Medieval Art of Warfare, 2 (Lódz, 1994), pp. 105-9 (at p. 105).

32. For the following, see Rünger.

33. See, for instance, SRP, 1, p. 365.

34. Codex diplomaticus Prussicus. Urkunden-Sammlung zur ältern Geschichte Preussens aus dem königl. Geheimen Archiv zu Königsberg, nebst Regesten, ed. J. Voigt (Königsberg, 1857), 2, no. 101.

35. See SRP, 1-3.

36. ‘Item abstulerunt a castro Insterborg equirream vulgo “die stut” de 50 equabus et duos emissarios cum 60 dextrariis ac polledris.’ SRP, 2, p. 110. See also Wigand of Marburg, p. 583.

37. Das grosse Ämterbuch des Deutschen Ordens, ed. W. Ziesemer (Danzig, 1921, repr. Wiesbaden, 1968). Also see Das Marienbucher Ämterbuch, ed. W. Ziesemer (Danzig, 1916). Cf. M. Burleigh, Prussian Society and the German Order. An aristocratic corporation in crisis, c. 1410-1466 (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 59-60.

38. Rünger, 266-80, 295, 303 (map). See also Töppen, ‘Über die Pferdezucht’.

39. Rünger, 239, 255, 280.

40. See, for instance, Ordensfolian (hereafter OF) 8, p. 430; 10, no. 379; 11, pp. 249-50, 269, 559.

41. For details concerning stables, etc., see Rünger, 281 and Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, p. 41.

42. See Das grosse Ämterbuch and Das Marienburger Ämterbuch. Cf. Z. Nowak, ‘Die Vorburg als Wirtschaftszentrum des Deutschen Ordens im Preussen. Eine Fragestellung,’ in Zur Wirtschaftsentwicklung des Deutschen Ordens im Mittelalter, ed. U. Arnold, Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte des Deutschen Ordens, 38 (Marburg, 1989), pp. 148-62.

43. Rünger, 238-9; cf. Sarnowsky, table 3-4, pp. 193-4.

44. Rünger, 253-5, 266-80, 303. See also H. Boockmann, ‘Die Vorwerke des Deutschen Ordens in Preussen’, in Die Grundherrschaft im späteren Mittelalter, ed. H. Patze, 1, Vorträge und Forschungen, 27 (Sigmaringen, 1983), pp. 555-76.

45. Rünger, 250-3. See also, for instance, A. Hyland, The Medieval Warhorse from Byzantium to the Crusades (Stroud, 1994).

46. Archaeological and iconographic material prove that the war-horses of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were not as large as generally supposed; see our plates. The heaviest horses were bred in the provinces of the Lower Rhine, whereas, for instance, those from Spain and central Europe were smaller. See the interesting article by K. Militzer, ‘Turniere in Köln,’ in FAH, 8 (1995), pp. 55-66, esp. pp. 60-1.

47. Rünger, 249-50.

48. See ibid., 253-66.

49. Ibid., 262, 287-8.

50. Ibid., 287-8.

51. Ibid., 265.

52. ‘Item sal nimant rossichen halden, sunder monchpferde, ussgenommen die da stutte halden. Ouch sullen die gebietiger den brudern nicht rossichen geben.’ OBA, no. 4849.

53. OBA, no. 5135.

54. Rünger, 265.

55. OF, 13, p. 422.

56. Rünger, 237.

57. Töppen, ‘Über die Pferdezucht’, 693.

58. For the following see Ekdahl, ‘Über die Kriegsdienste’.

59. Das grosse Ämterbuch, p. 4.

60. A. Nadolski, ‘Die Forschungen über die Bewaffnung des Deutschen Ordens und seiner Gegner in Ostmitteleuropa,’ in Werkstatt des Historikers der mittelalterlichen Ritterorden. Quellenkundliche Probleme und Forschungsmethoden, ed. Z. H. Nowak, Ordines Militares, 4 (1987), pp. 49-63; A. Nowakowski, ‘New studies on the Arms and Armour in the Teutonic Order’s State in Prussia. The Status Quo and Perspectives’, in FAH, 5 (1992), pp. 83-9; idem, ‘Some Remarks about Weapons stored in the Arsenals of the Teutonic Order’s Castles in Prussia by the End of the 14th and early 15th centuries’, in Ordines Militares, 6, pp. 75-88; idem, Arms and Armour.

61. SDO, p. 148.

62. Ibid., p. 151.

63. For literature, see S. Ekdahl, ‘The Treatment of Prisoners of War during the Fighting between the Teutonic Order and Lithuania’, in MO, 1, pp. 263-9. See also Paravicini, 2, esp. pp. 95-110. An important contribution was made by F. Benninghoven, ‘Zur Technik spätmittelalterlicher Feldzüge im Ostbaltikum’, Zeitscrift für Ostforschung, 19 (1970), 631-51.

64. Paravicini, 2, pp. 20-41. The different types of campaigns are dealt with on pp. 52-66.

65. Ibid., pp. 59-64; Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, pp. 34-5.

66. Die litauischen Wegeberichte, ed. T. Hirsch, SRP, 2 (1863), pp. 662-708.

67. Das grosse Ämterbuch, p. 153.

68. Das Marienburger Tresslerbuch der Jahre 1399-1409, ed. E. Joachim (Königsberg, 1896; repr. Bremerhaven, 1973), pp. 217-19. See Ekdahl, ‘Über die Kriegsdienste’, 8.

69. Ekdahl, ibid., 7-10.

70. Cf. Ekdahl, ‘Die Rolle der Ritterorden’, pp. 220-1, 224.

71. SRP, 1, p. 108.

72. SDO, p. 163.

73. Liv-, Est- und Kurländisches Urkundenbuch nebst Regesten, ed. F.G. v. Bunge, 5 (Riga, 1867), no. 2510. Cf. Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferde’, pp. 35-6.

74. A. Nikzentaitis, ‘Changes in the Organisation and Tactics of the Lithuanian Army in the 13th, 14th and the first half of the 15th century’, in FAH, 7 (1994), pp. 45-53, esp. pp. 46-7.

75. Ibid., pp. 48-9.

76. SRP, 2, p. 88.

77. Ibid., p. 559.

78. Ibid., p. 592.

79. S. Ekdahl, Die ‘Banderia Prutenorum’ des Jan D_ugosz – eine Quelle zur Schlacht bei Tannenberg 1410, Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Dritte Folge, 104 (Göttingen, 1976), p. 11; Lithuanian ed. S. Ekdahl, Jono Dlugoöo ‘Prusy veliavos’ Zalgirio muöio öaltinis (Vilnius, 1992), p. 19.

80. Ekdahl, Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg 1410.

81. Idem, ‘Die Flucht der Litauer in der Schlacht bei Tannenberg’, Zeitschrift für Ostforschung, 12 (1963), 11-19.

82. For the following see Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, pp. 36-7.

83. Z. Zygulski, Jr., ‘The Wagon Laager’, in FAH, 7, pp. 15-20.

84. Rünger, 266-80; Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, pp. 36-7.

85. Das Marienburger Konventsbuch der Jahre 1399-1412, ed. W. Ziesemer (Danzig, 1913), pp. 260-95. The Grand Master also bought mares from the Order’s mercenaries: see OBA, no. 1373.

86. Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, p. 37.

87. Sarnowsky, pp. 392-413.

88. Acten des Ständetage Preussens unter der Herrschaft des Deutschen Ordens, ed. M. Töppen, 1 (Leipzig, 1878), p. 50. Cf. Ekdahl, ‘Über die Kriegsdienste’, 10-11.

89. S. Ekdahl, ‘Zwei Musterungslisten von Deutschordens-Söldnern aus den Jahren 1413 und 1431’, in Arma et ollae. Studia dedykowane Profesorowi Andrzejowi Nadolskiemu w 70 rocznice urodzin i 45 rocznice pracy naukowej. Sesja nawkowa, Lódz, 7-8 maja 1992 r., ed. M. Gzosek et al. (Lódz, 1992), pp. 49-61.

90. On them see W. Rautenberg, Böhmische Söldner im Ordensland Preussen. Ein Beitrag zur Söldnergeschichte des 15. Jahrhunderts, vornehmlich des 13jährigen Städtekriegs, 1454-1466, 1-2, unpublished doctoral thesis (Hamburg, 1953. Very few copies, one of them in Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Berlin).

91. Ekdahl, ‘Zwei Musterungslisten’, p. 59. Cf. H. Boockmann, ‘Pferde auf der Marienburg’, in Vera Lex Historiae. Studien zu mittelalterlichen Quellen. Festschrift für Dieter Kurze, ed. St. Jenks et al. (Cologne, Weimer and Vienna, 1993), pp. 117-26.

92. Ekdahl, ‘Das Pferd’, p. 39.

93. OF, 13, pp. 191-2.

94. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2977, pp. 53v-115v. Ed. by O. Bederke, Liber de cura equorum. Bearbeitungen von Albertus und Jordanus Ruffus aus dem Deutschen Ritterorden, doctoral thesis (Hanover, 1962).

95. Rechungen über Heinrich von Derby’s Preussenfahrten 1390-91 und 1392, ed. H. Prutz (Leipzig, 1893), p. 33.

96. S. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust im Deutschordensland Preussen zu Beginn des 15. Jahrhunderts’, in FAH, 5, pp. 17-48 (at p. 21).

97. SRP, 3, p. 164.

98. For the history of the crossbow see R. Payne-Gallwey, The Crossbow, Medieval and Modern, Military and Sporting. Its Construction, History and Management. With a treatise on the Balista and Catapult of the Ancients and an Appendix on the Catapult, Balista and the Turkish Bow (first published 1903, 7th impression London, 1981). Also see J. Alm, Europeiska armborst. En översikt, Vaabenhistoriske aarbøger, V b (Copenhagen, 1947), and E. Harmuth, Die Armburst. Ein Handbuch (Graz, 1986).

99. SDO, p. 106.

100. In the literature mostly only crossbows are mentioned; see, for instance, Payne-Gallway, p. 3. Cf. Ekdahl, ‘Die Rolle der Ritterorden’, p. 226 note 113.

101. Ibid., pp. 225-6.

102. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, p. 21. Cf. Nowakowski, Arms and Armour, pp. 96-102. According to him, it is not possible to guess the meaning of the term knottelarmbrost (p. 99). However, there is no doubt that it means a crossbow with a wooden bow.

103. R. Hardy, Longbow. A social and military history (3rd edn repr. Frome and London, 1995). See also G. Rausing, The bow. Some notes on its origin and development, Acta archaeologica Lundensia, Papers of the Lunds universitets historiska museum, 6 (Lund, 1967). For a general survey, see F. Lot, L’art militaire et les armées au Moyen Age, en Europe et dans le Proche-Orient, 1-2 (Paris, 1946).

104. Hardy, pp. 194-236. See also G. Rees, ‘The longbow’s deadly secrets’, New Scientist, 138, no. 1876 (5 June 1993), 24-5.

105. Rees, p. 25. See also the table in Hardy, p. 213, as well as the analysis and technical considerations by P.L. Pratt, P.H. Blyth, P. Jones and other scientists in ibid., pp. 209-36.

106. Rees, p.25. See also Hardy.

107. Harmuth, pp. 34, 38.

108. P. Svart, Konung Gustaf I’s chronicle, ed. N. Edén (Stockholm, 1912), p. 21. The chronicle was written in the middle of the sixteenth century. Cf. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, p. 20.

109. Ibid., pp. 20-1.

110. Ibid.

111. See note 102 above.

112. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbruste’, p. 26.

113. Harmuth, p. 78.

114. For the following see Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, pp. 22-4.

115. Ibid. and p. 45 with an edition of the inventory in question. Also see Das Marienburger Ämterbuch, p. 22.

116. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, p. 22.

117. Ibid., pp. 23-6, 45.

118. Benninghoven, ‘Die Burgen’, pp. 595-6.

119. See the tables in Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, pp. 38-43.

120. F. Benninghoven, ‘Die Gotlandfeldzüge des Deutschen Ordens 1398-1408’, Zeitschrift für Ostforschung, 13 (1964), 421-77.

121. Harmuth, pp. 199-200. Our plate no. 9 shows the Wallarmbrust Baumkirchner in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (the Museum of Art History) in Vienna (HJRK A 108). It is a strong ‘wall crossbow’ of the fifteenth century. The bow was made from many glued layers of horn and wood and is covered by parchment. The crossbow’s weight is 8.6 kg; it is 110 cm long, 95.5 cm broad and 11 cm high.

122. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, p. 18. See also Harmuth, pp. 50, 175.

123. Payne-Gallway, p. 37.

124. B. Thordeman, P. Nörlund and B. E. Ingelmark, Armour from the Battle of Wisby 1361 , 1 (Stockholm, 1939), p. 187.

125. OBA, no. 5837.

126. Das Elginger Kriegsbuch (partly) ed. M. Töppen, Altpreussische Monatsschrift, 36 (1899), pp. 123-73.

127. E. Kutowski, ‘Zur Geschichte der Söldner in den Heeren des Deutordensstaates in Preussen bis zum ersten Thorner Frieden (1 February 1411)’, Oberländische Geschichtsblätter, 14 (1912), 407-522.

128. S. Ekdahl, ‘Der Krieg zwischen dem Deutschen Orden und Polen-Litauen 1422’, Zeitschrift für Ostforschung, 13 (1964), 614-51; M. Biskup, ‘Das Problem der Söldner in den Streitkräften des Deutschordensstaates Preussen vom Ende des 14. Jahrhunderts bis 1525’, in Ordines Militares, 6, pp. 49-74. See also Sarnowsky, pp. 402-13.

129. Das Soldbuch des Deutschen Ordens 1410/1411. Die Abrechnungen für die Soldtruppen, 1, ed. S. Ekdahl, Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 23/1 (Cologne and Vienna, 1988).

130. Harmuth, pp. 41-2. See also Lot.

131. Posilge, p. 194. The chronicler Wigand of Marburg writes: ‘Vocaverat eciam magister sagittarios de Genewel 150, cum quibus dominus Theodericus de Logendorff susceptis ibidem insigniis militaribus navigio venit in Prusziam, aliqui eorum nati erant de Francia, maior pars de Genewel, et veniunt in justa hora ad impugnandum infideles’: pp. 655-6. Nowakowski regards these mercenaries ‘de Genewel’ as Swiss crossbowmen (Arms and Armour, p. 101). Cf. Paravicini, 2, pp. 154-5.

132. SRP, 3, p. 196. Cf. ibid., 2, pp. 656, 660.

133. Codex diplomaticus Prussicus, 5, no. 57 (p. 70).

134. OBA, no. 1093.

135. Ibid., no. 5248.

136. Ekdahl, ‘Die Armbrust’, p. 32; printed at ibid., p. 47.

This entry was posted in Articles, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.