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Yeomen Archers

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"And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs'd, they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

William Shakespeare, Henry V (Act iv, Scene iii)

Yeomen
Unlike spears, guns or crossbows, longbows are very difficult weapons to master, but extremely deadly if put in highly trained hands. Yeoman archers are thus the elite among all bowmen, with a cost and rate of fire that puts arbalests and arquebusiers in the shade. With sufficient mass, longbowmen can easily mess up massed formations of infantry and can even pack sufficient punch to down more heavily-armed foes, with large splash areas to boot.

Yet, as archers, they all suffer from the same problems: have the enemy come too close, and their bows will be of little use. It therefore goes without saying that longbowmen must have the protection of a unit that can function as a meat shield vis a vis cavalry: having simple pikemen or eve knights-sergeants as an infantry screen, due to their large amount of hitpoints and their ability to counter both cavalry and infantry, with the rapid-firing longbowmen placed behind them, can be devastating against all types of enemy troops.

So valued did the longbow become in Norman eyes that in 1251, Henry III ordered all men in England to practice at archery on Sundays. Despite being ridiculed by the other military powers, English faith in the longbow was proven in the battlefields of France, and even convinced the Portuguese to use the same tactics as their English allies, allowing them to maintain independence from Spain. The wreck of the Mary Rose (lost in 1545CE) was found to have contained many longbows as well as hundreds of arrows. Although firearms proved their worth in ease of use despite being inaccurate and unwieldly, the English colonists in Virginia even considered longbows for use — the reason why the English then didn't use them wasn't simply because they had firearms, but because they didn't want the native Powhatan to learn to craft their own longbows in the English fashion and menace their own American settlements.

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