The Thursday Blog: Thanksgiving Edition

In December of 1620 Pilgrims from England (by way of Holland) settled in the wilderness of Plymouth Harbor seeking a place they could worship as they chose and be free from the religious persecution of their homeland. They were ill-equipped to survive the harsh New England winter, and were rescued by friendly Indians who shared their food with them, and when the weather turned warm, taught them to grow corn. After the following harvest, the Pilgrims invited the Indians for a feast, and thus was the first Thanksgiving born.

What a load of crap.

While the Native Americans who first settled here some 30,000 years before Christianity was invented might have been surprised to learn that they didn’t count because they weren’t European enough, the African slaves left behind in South Carolina by the Spanish to create their own settlement in 1526 probably wouldn’t have been. The French Protestants in St. Augustine certainly seemed surprised when the Spanish massacred them in 1565, although that paved the way for America’s first wave of Pilgrims seeking freedom from religious persecution… all of whom were Spanish. And Jewish. In fact, roughly a third of America was Spanish for about twice as long as it has been American. If not for the Spanish and our original Pilgrims, we would have had no cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and accordingly, no cowboys. Those Spanish soldiers who wiped out the French in St. Augustine celebrated the first known holiday called Thanksgiving, though they were probably just being thankful that French monks were such pussies.

In 1607 the London Company created Jamestown in Virginia, and there was a Dutch settlement in Albany by 1614, all before the much-vaunted English Pilgrims showed up to let everyone know it was okay for white guys to live here.

Back in Europe, the bubonic plague had wiped out close to 30% of the population. Even today, historians call it the worst disaster to have befallen mankind. Yet it pales in comparison to what happened to the Native Americans. European settlers wrote that god was clearly on their side, erasing the native population before them, but the truth was simply that the Europeans were dirty. (Squanto reportedly tried to teach the Pilgrims how to bathe themselves, but to no avail.)

Population estimates in 1492 put Europe at around 70 million, and the Americas at 100 million. By 1840 the Native American population had fallen to 2 million. In 1880 that number was 250,000. Go god.

So how does this affect our Thanksgiving? Heading back to our Pilgrims… when Plymouth Harbor was “settled” by the Pilgrims, it was hardly a wilderness. It was in fact the Wampanoag village of Patuxet, led by Squanto. French and British cod fisherman had been in the area for decades, occasionally stopping by to enslave a native or two for a little extra pocket money back home, and as a result by the time the Pilgrims (let’s just call them the Grims) showed, the village had just been ravaged… nearly annihilated in fact, by sickness. The Grims walked out into the fields and plucked the Wampanoags’ corn directly from the villagers fields, abandoned because there were too few people left alive to harvest. Squanto saw the gun-totin’ Grims on one side, and hostile tribes waiting to pounce on his prime real estate on the other, and decided appeasement was the better policy. He instructed the fifty or so remaining Wampanoags (out of over 2,000 just a few years before) to befriend the Grims, and let them take whatever they wanted. Which they did.

The first “American” Thanksgiving was therefore sharing the Natives own stolen food back with them, and being Thankful that they had almost entirely died out and left a really great (and already well settled) place for the Grims to take over.

Amen. Please pass the pie.

51 Responses to The Thursday Blog: Thanksgiving Edition

  1. So which rewritten history book did you get THAT stuff from? Squanto wasn’t the leader of his tribe, but he WAS kidnapped and taken to England, so when he got back, having missed the outbreak of the plague that wiped out the entire rest of his tribe, you could TECHNICALLY call him the leader, since he was the only one left. He acted as translator for another tribe (not his own) since he spoke English almost perfectly, and this is where the author of your incredibly faulty history book probably got the idea he was the leader.

    The natives were quite content to let the Pilgrims take that particular piece of land, none of them WANTED it, since they considered it cursed. They did show the Pilgrims what would and would not grow in the area, and they even brought back some tools they’d stolen from the Pilgrims earlier.

    And no, there was no Turkey at the “thanksgiving” feast that year, which was, in fact, merely a harvest celebration like those that were common in Europe at the time.

  2. I like Wednesday’s(Addams) Thanksgiving presentation better.
    Of course, there’s a silly notion out there that the Indians were some peace-lovin’, one-with-nature, tree-huggin’, peace-pipe-smokin’ hippies just out to make a peaceful and happy existence of picking flowers* and petting grizzly bears.
    Nope, they were just as bloody and savage as any others, they just got wiped out by another set of peoples, so all their own “sins” are forgotten(not that it has anything to do with justifying it, I just don’t care for the peaceful image that has been invented for them).

    I won’t comment on the hypocrisy of all the major colonial and religiously enslaving&persecuting people’s condemning a certain country’s existence and how they themselves are a major factor in the drive to make such a country exist after the great treatment they’ve given to the people establishing said country. I also won’t mention a certain bull-murdering nation’s extensive pass-time of persecution of said people and how it might have to do with the current popularity of criticism towards that country by said bull-murdering nation. No I won’t. Also, another thing that won’t be mentioned is how said nation is occupying their own little country and denying its people an independent government.

    *And why is “picking-flowers” considered a peaceful pass-time anyway? That’s murdering countless of flowers for no good reason- nobody eats them even!

    • The Natives had successfully repulsed several colonization attempts already, and there is considerable thought amongst anthropologists that the takeover of America would at best have taken about a hundred years longer than it did without the disease vector, if it happened at all.

      • Didn’t mean to imply otherwise. There’s a difference between stating the fact that yes, 1-on-1 Spanish conquistadors were better equipped and saying that they were so well equipped they could’ve achieved that much just by direct military action against overwhelming numeric superiority, with a virtual disconnection between their “home-base” and fresh supplies&personnel and all that in an unexplored, unfamiliar territory.
        By sheer logistical difficulties alone(that includes dead men and those too sick/injured to fight since reinforcements won’t be coming for months, at best, and even then as a slow trickle crammed on slow ships that could just sink in a random storm) it wouldn’t have worked on it alone even if Spain sent there half its army.
        The area is also vast, there’s not much you can achieve with a few hundred/thousand renaissance-era soldiers.
        You can see the same problem with Germany vs. USSR in WWII(not the only factor, sure, but a major one, not that Hitler had any excuse like he didn’t know what the Russian winter was like).

        • I didn’t think you did mean otherwise, sorry if you thought I did. You are of course correct. The ability to wage intercontinental war is a relatively new achievement, and probably one our least auspicious.

      • Where do you get the “Succesfully repulsed” part? no one KNOWS what happened to the Roanoake Colony, and that was the only major settlement that was a major failure earlier. Jamestown was still a going concern (Gotta love how John Smith jumped to the conclusion that Pocahontas fell in love with him when it was actually a ritual to “adopt” a stranger into the tribe, sparing their life to demonstrate that they COULD have killed him, but instead wanted peace) so what “several” colonization attempts can you cite that were “successfully repulsed”?

        • Well, it was a little farther north, but I’ve heard that was one reason the Vikings never really got established in North America, even during the Medieval Warm Period- the natives were quite fierce!

  3. I’m pretty sure any one with a high school education knows by know that the crap we were fed in elementary schools was overblown exaggerations. I am also pretty sure that a majority of our “holidays” did not originate as we have been told they did. Many have pretty dark origins that society doesn’t want drug up. Like the pagan origins of a certain gift-giving holiday or another pagan origin of a treat giving holiday. Gotta love those pagans!

  4. So, just one question and then I’ll move on: Given all this terrible background for your national holidays, who among you is going to pass up the stomach-expanding turkey (or alternate, in case you couldn’t buy yourself a big butterball, are allergic to fowl or vegetarian) dinner?

    • Regardless of the origins of the holiday, that isn’t what it’s about today. No, today Thanksgivin is all about kicking off the pre-Christmas season with a big dinner where it’s okay to eat as much pie as will fit in your face. Why would anyone want to give THAT up?

        • I miss my eating disorder. I was much closer to my target weight. I don’t miss the bad skin and being miserable though. Lol. I’m much happier now. Depression does seem to give you the ability to diet better though. I think you should be able to just sign up for an eating disorder for, say 3 months and then give it back. (;

          • You want to look better without dying faster from an eating disorder? Have no television or television-capable devices in your home, never take the elevator if you can take stairs, walk or bicycle all travel distances that are less than ten miles and never own electric-adjustable furniture (bed, chairs, etc).
            Consider the wisdom of the Twinkie(TM) diet: It’s all about matching your metabolism and activity to the vastly bloated intake of food energy and mass that is considered normal for Americans (and Canadians).

            • Pfft, “adjustable” furniture. Moving a few plates here and there doesn’t adjust anything. Chairdogs are the future, man!

              And I want to go on a twink diet. I’ll leave the details to your imagination.

      • Don’t forget the football. It’s also about football. Then again some of us just use it as an excuse to get together with friends and family, eat some good food, watch a movie and laugh a lot. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  5. 100 million?

    with that many people there technology should have been considerably better, right? so what happened? were native Americans really so technologically weak?

    • Accuracy of estimations aside(which personally I don’t think that far fetched), they’re talking about BOTH Americas and the “fringes” like Alaska and the southern arctic parts. That’s a fucking HUGE area. I don’t know where you’re from, but Israel is tiny. I look at European countries, even the smallish ones, and they can swallow it whole at least a few times. The USA and Canada are, individually even, unbelievably gigantic to me in a way I couldn’t even comprehend properly.

      By 1492 Europe has already had, and was still recovering from, several huge outbreaks of plagues.
      Also, the Europeans didn’t ride by killing millions of Indians one-by-one. Diseases, either spread on purpose or inadvertently, were the major cause of the deaths, and were spread by the Indians themselves much deeper than the Europeans had reached by that point.
      Hell, I’ve heard Indians(Native Americans?) can’t even drink alcohol like the drunken Europeans can.

      And yes, technologically, at least with militarily inclined technology, the Indians were much weaker. A simple steel cuirass and steel weapons(they didn’t actually take all that many firearms with the first waves of conquistadors from what I’ve heard, mostly rodeleros, i.e sword&buckler men, at least according to this Clausewitz on LiveJournal, and I tend to believe what’s posted there) were far superior to even what the otherwise technologically advanced central&south American societies had, and those were about the most sophisticated societies around(they were also just declining themselves IIRC, so not even at their peak). But as I mentioned above, the bigger collapse wasn’t due to military actions.

      • While their technology was different, the actual evidence suggests that they really weren’t far behind the Europeans in their sophistication. A bow is every bit as deadly as a musket, probably more accurate, and reloads WAY faster. (The musket’s advantage being the ability to be given to use by relatively untrained troops.) The Native’s farming was on par with the Europeans, they had horses and boats, pretty much the only distinct advantage the palefaces had was their filth. And it was their filth that killed the Native Americans, not their guns.

        • The alleged “dirtiness” of the Europeans was only half the equation in the spreading of disease. The other half was that the Native Americans’ immune systems were weak due to geological isolation, not just isolated from Europe, but even isolated from each other. Look at a map and note how Europe is pretty much a large, continuous land mass, connected in turn to another continuous land mass (Asia). Lots of migrations occurred throughout history in these regions – plenty of sharing of diseases went on, and plenty of opportunity for generations to build up immunities every other decade when a plague of some variety came through.

          Now look at the Americas. Two relatively large land masses connected only by the thin sliver of land known as Central America. Not a lot of migrating going on over here, as Central America is easily controlled by its inhabitants. Fewer migrations means less spreading of diseases, which really helps explain why the Native Americans were so overwhelmed by diseases the Europeans thought so little of.

          (I don’t remember the name of the program, but I got this theory from a documentary that I believe I saw on PBS last year).)

          • Not only were they more spread out, Ron, but they kept themselves physically clean. The diseases that had such success in Europe never had the breeding grounds to get going here. No exposure meant, as you have already observed, no resistances.

            The typical trajectory for the spread of the many diseases (primarily a jillion varieties of smallpox) that crisscrossed the Americas was for one village to be wiped out, and the few survivors to be taken in by a neighboring tribe, thus beginning the process anew.

        • I did say “at least with militarily inclined technology”. You’re right on the bows vs. early firearms of course, nothing new there, but they also apparently didn’t take much in terms of firearms. The real military advantage was probably their steel armor, and horses, I think, to some extent(though jungle warfare…not the greatest for the later).
          I’m not sure who you meant by “they had horses”, the natives? I understood the Americas had no horses since the last ice age or something like that, or I could be confusing things.

          Also, it’s not that related to “filth”, that’s judging them too harshly without context to the hygiene standards of the time. I’d like to see you getting stuck on a crowded ship for months and then trekking through jungles and still smelling of roses.
          They could’ve been squicky clean and still born all those germs either as active, crippling diseases or just what would be a mild cold to someone who’s grown up with them but would be a deadly influenza to the natives.

          It’s also a misconception that people need to bathe every half an hour to not die from infection. A little, or a lot, of grime doesn’t kill you. At worst it’ll get into a big open wound or if you really like cooking after taking a shit(“leaving a shit”, thanks to the late Mr. Carlin 😆 ) and aren’t fond of washing your hand a bit then you might get something.
          Why, I haven’t bathed in three years and I’m as healthy as an ox! 8)

          • I’m really referring to the filth of the major European cities where the diseases that were brought originated, though there are plenty of reports that the Natives thought the Europeans smelled bad and tried to get them to wash.

            Speaking of which, washing your hands is the number one thing a person can do to keep healthy. So wash your hands!

              • Which was my point, the Americas lost their horse populations around the last ice age, until the Spanish came.
                Wiki’ says(from entry “Mustang(horse): “However, the entire equus genus died out at the end of the last ice age around 10-12,000 years ago, possibly due to a changing climate or the impact of newly arrived human hunters.”
                But I see the source of confusion here, we were both talking about at least two time periods, the early Spanish conquistadors and the early 17th century pilgrims, and I probably didn’t make a clear distinction of whom I was talking and when. Though I doubt horses were much in abundance when the pilgrims came, given that the Spanish concentrated more on the southern areas. But then the pilgrims, while of course having soldiers among them, weren’t exactly an organized military expedition to begin with, so I doubt they really fielded cavalry units.

          • I would put the disease infestation down to intensive European livestock farming practices, urban population concentrations and the after-the-first-black-plague religious command to never bathe. That last was legacy stupidity since the Romans had fairly good hygiene, and was due to the church deciding to ban bathing, swimming and pretty much anything else that would give people reasons to get naked in public (which used to not be a problem).
            Why was that? It was due to papal horror at dying victims of the major bubonic plague in Europe in the 14th century. They turned bathhouses–where the dying took off their clothes and noticed the swollen lymph nodes that signaled that they were in their last hours–into public orgies. Why that happened is pretty simple; if you have those buboes you know you’re dying in less than a week barring successful treatment, so you know you’re not gonna live long enough to care about social mores anymore. They just wanted to enjoy some sins and confess them before they died.
            But hey, it’s Papal infallibility behind that decision, so it couldn’t be a stupid reaction to a misidentified problem, right? I mean the Catholics still ban bathing, right?

        • The advantages of the Musket over the bow and arrow were:

          Greater range (but not greater accuracy)
          Used against people not familiar with them (See native Americans) of a supersitious bent, the loud report and cloud of smoke are startling and evoke mental images of being brought down by a thunderbolt, thus inducing panic.

          The Disadvantages:
          Long LONG reload time by comparison Bow: a couple of seconds. Musket: At least a minute.
          Requires gunpowder, which does not occur naturally and is therefore in a limited supply. You make arrows out of sticks and rocks.
          Cannot be used in the rain (at least not in this era)

          • By 1620 the Native Americans were likely very familiar with firearms, since they had been dealing with Europeans for quite a while. Even among those unfamiliar, you would be lucky to scare them badly more than once.

            I am not actually certain what the relative ranges were between the musket of the day and the Natives’ hunting bows, but I do know that the accurate range of a “skilled” English longbowman was two or three times that of a musketeer. Of course, as has been observed elsewhere here, the two bows are not the same.

          • I’m not sure muskets had greater range, even disregarding the “accurate” part(about which, BTW, Clausewitz has a fascinating post and that truly changed my mind about some things).
            Fletching arrows isn’t just a simple matter of “sticks&stones”, you need a knowledgeable fletcher(gods dammit, doesn’t this stupid FF spellchecker even know what “fletch” is?! I’m getting red lines over everything here!) if you want to make arrows of reasonable quality, and you probably need certain types of wood for good arrows etc.
            Good bows also take a lot of time and work to make(logs for English longbows were aged for a couple of years at least IIRC) and are also susceptible to wet conditions(especially c0mposite ones because of the natural glues), if less so than early firearms(still, rain is NOT the type of weather you want to be stopping a charging horde in), and of course the arrows themselves are under greater forces during windy/rainy conditions than a musket ball.

            Of course, if you knew how to make gunpowder(which at least a few of the leaders had to know) and have located the necessary ingredients you could probably make a whole lot more and faster than arrows.

            • I think metallurgy probably had more to do with the difference in arrow technology between the English and Indians- river cane or canebrake is a native bamboo that was an easy and readily available shaft material. Much faster (and probably more uniform) than felling a tree, riving it, splitting that, and eventually shaving that down into cylinders. Canebrake isn’t nearly as heavy as ash, though, so it doesn’t hit as hard.

              But the reason I say it was metallurgy is that the English had had hundreds of years of trying to crack steel cans, while the Indians were focused on broadheads that would make an unarmored target (human or animal) bleed out and drop quickly. The former requires a much higher-quality steel to make a plate-piercing bodkin point. (As well as a heavier arrow to give it the mass for a solid hit, and a heavier bow for the range and puncturing power.)

              The other difference is that the Atlantic coast Indians tended to go for guerilla tactics in battle, sniping from a relatively close range (like hunting, really), instead of the European meet in a big field with thousands of archers and pikemen and cavalry- where adding an extra 20 yards range to your bows could mean that you could hit the other army with 10 arrows/minute/archer before he was in range to hit you. Shorter bows are much easier to maneuver in woods and underbrush than a 6-7′ longbow- but unless it’s a recurve like the Mongol horsebows, you’ll sacrifice power with the shorter length.

              • Yeah, I forgot all about broadheads vs. steel armor, another problem they had. Having no real knowledge of archery I would still presume such lighter arrows(and such hollow bamboo&cane “woods” are very light) would also mean much reduced effective range. I’m also unsure what the Indians were using at the time for arrowheads, I got the impression those were mostly(if not exclusively) still bone&stone heads. Did they have metal heads or was it too rare and expensive for them for such general use? Still, broadheads would really suck against “even”(again, Clausewitz has a delightful post regarding mail) mail, and by that time(of the conquistadors) plate armor cuirasses were already cheap and easy enough to make to mass produce and equip to “simple” soldiers.

                Speaking of penetration power, I also read on Clausewitz today that atlatl-assisted spears were reported to sometimes penetrate mail and the weaker areas of plate.

                • I’m not as familiar with native weaponry of the time (aside from the bows I’ve read about in the Traditional Bowyer’s Bible, which covers a wide range of cultures, most of my study has been 1500s England). On a quick Google, it looks like most of their arrowheads would have been antler or flint, neither of which would do much against plate. OTOH, with the spreading use of gunpowder in Europe, the 15th century full-plate was fading (not to mention still ridiculously expensive), and the male colonists would likely have worn a morion helm, breastplate, and backplate at most. An arrow in the thigh can still ruin your day pretty thoroughly.

                  On a semi-related note- I was at a SCA University where a guy had brought his collection of 1500s-early 1600s armor for show-and-tell. Many of the surviving pieces were very small, as larger ones could be cut down or restyled. There was a petite lady fencer in the room, in doublet and venetians (male attire, skirts aren’t as easy to fight in). He picked up a breastplate, rigged a strap to support it around her neck and back, and set a helm on her head. It was just amazing how she suddenly looked like a young man who’d stepped through a temporal rift… so real!

                  The other thing about arrows is that you want a different arrow for an armored target instead of an unarmored one- the point isn’t the sole difference. Today’s hunters tend to want a lighter arrow with a heavier point- lighter arrow reduces ballistic drop/increases range and accuracy, and the heavy (razor-edged) point adds stopping power (shorthand for goes deeper into vital organs). For an armored target, you want a heavy arrow for mass behind the point- if you imagine a bodkin squarely striking plate, if you don’t have enough mass/force behind the point, it will try to bounce off. The extra mass behind the point stops it from bouncing back as much and kind of hammers it through. (And that’s why the globose breastplates and earlier fluting were so popular- they increased the likelihood of a glancing strike that would skid off- both from a sword and an arrow. Just ask someone who’s worn a flat-topped great helm why they went out of style…)

                  I can believe that about the atlatls- I’ve seen them in action. They go an alarming depth into dense haybales considering they’re being thrown by people whose day job likely involves sitting in front of a computer.

          • @Elfguy: “Musket: At least a minute.”

            I’m not arguing with your basic premise (bow faster than musket), but the time you quoted seems off by a factor or 3 or 4; the stuff I’ve read always quoted that both English and French troops fired muskets at a rate of 3 shots per minute, and up to 4 shots per minute for veterans. IIRC, the order after firing was:
            – Grab a bullet and bite it (hence the expression)
            – Drive the ramrod to clear unfired powder
            – Pour in the powder, saving a pinch for the flashpan
            – Spit in the bullet
            – Drive the ramrod to ensure the bullet is set against the powder
            – Load the flashpad
            – Aim and fire

            As you stated, arrows are faster, but don’t discount all the steps involved:
            – Retrieve arrow from sheathe (back, thigh or wall if defending a fixed structure)
            – Nock and align
            – Draw
            – Sight and aim
            – Release
            (Or alternatively, sight-draw-aim-release)

            You’d think shooting arrows would be fast, but it takes a lot of arm strength, so you have to pace yourself in anything except a small skirmish. Muskets didn’t take that sort of strength to opperate.

  6. That’s a nice bit of history there. It always amazes me how we manage to whitewash the truth about history and make it all rosy and neat. Kinda like all that claptrap we’re fed about the “great” Christopher Columbus. And yet the same old dumbed-down, prettified version keeps getting fed to school kids who grow into adults who are completely ignorant of the real stories. The real facts are actually so much more intersting!

  7. Actually…
    The first Thanksgiving in the Colonies was held over a year before the Pilgrims landed at Plimoth. It was in Virginia on the James River at Berkeley Hundred, the future site of Berkeley Plantation, ancestral home of both Presidents Harrison. Granted, it probably wasn’t so much of a feast as a “Praise the Lord, we’re on dry land!”- but they wrote it down and proclaimed it a day of Thanksgiving:
    “Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

    Other notable trivia: Berkeley was where Taps was composed, and where the first bourbon whiskey in America was distilled.

    The Berkeley Thanksgiving was ignored largely due to being in a Southern state- they preferred to teach about the Plimoth thanksgiving in the aftermath of what some still call “The Late Great Unpleasantness.”

    (And yes, I’m spelling Plimoth that way on purpose- one of my current research projects is late 1500s embroidery techniques, and the Plimoth jacket is a spectacular recreation.)

    On the subject of weaponry- after the Indian massacre of 1622, England sent a store of weapons to Virginia, including 400 longbows and 800 sheaves of arrows. When the Virginians found out about this, they requested that these be unloaded in Bermuda and locked up there. They didn’t want the Indians to learn how to make an even better bow! The Indians had lower-draw-weight hunting bows (though a bow that will take a bear will still do a number against armor), the English warbows had draw weights of 180-200 pounds and there are records of arrows sticking through an 8″ thick oak beam.

    • With as powerful as the English longbow was, it still wasn’t much use without some real training. One of the things I thought was funny was the outlawing of the crossbow. When it was invented, nobles were the only ones who ran around wearing steel cans, and were thus much more likely to survive general melee than average troops. The crossbow threatened to take that away from the nobility, and worst of all, put that noble-stopping power in the hands of… gasp!… commoners. Anything that leveled the playing field between nobility and unskilled peasantry was seen as an affront to god and likely the work of the devil.


      • Crossbows were still often a staple weapon in times of war, for 2 reasons: To train a longbowman, you start him at 4-6 years old. (They can tell which of the skeletons on the wreck of the Mary Rose were archers because of the bone deformation in their shoulders.) To train a crossbowman, you tap him on the shoulder, tell him to put down the hoe, and with maybe a few weeks training he will be a creditable shot. It’s also a spectacular weapon for home defense, as Granny can turn a winch or pull a goatsfoot just as well as a strapping lad. And she can sit there with it cocked and poking through the gunflap in the shutters waiting for some dastardly foe to show up. (They actually have these still on some of the Route 5 plantations- a hinged wooden flap, a couple inches wide, to cover the gap between the main shutters- which were on the inside. They learned their lesson from 1622.)

        Rate of fire can suck, though. I say “can”, not “does”, because I have friends who can get off 6+ bolts in 30 seconds with a medieval-styled crossbow. If you’re using a winch, though, instead of hand-cocked, yeah, the rate of fire is going to be abysmal- but still probably faster than most firearms of the day.

        One of the reasons the longbow was still so prevalent was that it was better suited to the English climate- read some of the accounts of Agincourt where the English longbowmen kept their bowstrings dry under their hats, while the Genoese crossbowmen couldn’t- and were left with a barely-functional weapon as a result.

        The colonists had good reason to fear the Indians learning their bow technology- the Indians were already incredibly lethal with the shorter, weaker bows they had, and it wouldn’t have taken much time at all for them to adapt the English longbow to native woods. Hickory and Osage orange are both splendid bow woods, black cherry is finicky but hard-hitting, sinew or rawhide backing on walnut is nice, and so forth. Yew is good, but it’s not the only bow wood out there… The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible series is a nice set of books if you’re geeky like that.

        • Crossbows and firearms had the same advantage of fast training(especially the physical training part) for masses of troops, and the same disadvantage of slower rates of fire, but not as slow as most people probably think(like with your example of your fast-loading friends).
          And one final thing about bow accuracy- no one actually tried hitting individual, moving targets at long range, as that would be truly a miracle. They were fired en masse at large groups, just like muskets were.

          • You wandered square into 1 or 2 of my interests- early Virginia history and Elizabethan culture, especially archery and clothing. 🙂 Growing up near Colonial Williamsburg and being a member of the SCA has its advantages!

        • I’ll have to agree with one of the comments there that mentions the terrain(mud, narrow channel, well fortified slopes for the English) had a lot of impact on the success of the battle, much more than “the longbow won the day”. It did, if they didn’t have lots of longbows there wouldn’t be that much success even with all the bad terrain, but it was only half of the equation. To put it another way, the terrain conditions were godly for the most effective use of the longbow imaginable.
          From the same war there are examples of battles where the longbowmen didn’t thrive, especially one(the name of which escapes me ATM) where they were butchered because their stakes weren’t in position yet before they were charged.
          Regardless, Shakespeare’s(whoever “he” truly was) fanciful rendition of Henry’s speech, accurate or not, is still one badass piece of speech(and I love Branagh’s version, but then I think he’s awesome anyway) I’ll ne’er forget. 8)

  8. But despite it all, I hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving. And if you don’t celebrate it, then just have a great day.