Trenholm 2It is no mystery that the introduction of gunpowder to the medieval army changedwarfare forever—indeed, the onset of the cannon and firearm revolutionized the wayhumankind warred. Gunpowder changed many facets of medieval warfare, and hadforced military commanders of the day to reform their opinion on how a war should befought.
Military leaders that recognized the potential of the firearm were immenselysuccessful, such as the French King Charles VIII, whose siege-weapons dominated allmedieval fortifications that stood in his way. Machiavelli writes, on Charles’ campaign inItaly, that he had, “seized Italy with chalk in hand”
, a reference to one marking a targetwith chalk on a map
. Particularly successful against those who did not seize theadvantages offered by gunpowder, firearm-equipped armies instilled a great fear into themedieval knight, bowman and lowly infantryman. The archaic stone fortifications of thedark ages could not stand against iron and brass cast artillery cannons; lowly peasantscould gun down well-trained and disciplined knights of noble blood, and as a result therole of the mighty medieval horseman was forever changed. The psychological impact of the use of gunpowder alone was a mighty asset on the battlefield, making up for thelogistical challenge in employing those firearms—inaccurate shooting, misfiring, andaccidental explosions all plagued the medieval gunner. With any new technology,however, one must accept the faults that would undoubtedly be corrected in time. Onething is for certain, though: the impact of gunpowder on medieval warfare was profound,and its introduction was the first great step on the evolutionary path to modern warfare.
Michael Jones, eds.
The New Cambridge Medieval History
. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1995), 11-12.
Bernard and Fawn M. Brodie,
From Crossbow to H-Bomb
. (Bloomington and London: Indiana UniversityPress, 1973) 51.