Footnote 298

There is little agreement on the subject of Maitre Jean's culverin. The "Journal of the Siege..." describes his weapon as a "great culverin" which once killed 5 soldiers with two shots, which would seem to imply that it was one of the larger, early versions (i.e., a small cannon rather than something akin to a "gun", mounted on a long wooden stock and designed to fire small stone balls); but his ability to hit individual enemy soldiers with such accuracy from a position close to the fighting (such as during the assault against Les Augustins, based on Jean d'Aulon's testimony) implies that he may have been using the smaller, more portable version of the weapon which could be held under the arm or on top of the shoulder. Since there is no mention of an assistant, it's also possible that he could have been using the variation which had a primitive triggering mechanism (in the form of a long, curving metal bar which could be used to pivot a small flame into the gun's touchhole); the Hussites of Czechoslovakia are believed to have used such culverins during this period, and since Maitre Jean was apparently from Lorraine in the Holy Roman Empire it's possible that he would have been familiar with Hussite weaponry (the Hussites had been fighting Emperor Sigismund's forces for about a decade by that point). All of this is mere speculation, of course; but I think a reasonable compromise position which reconciles the various known facts would be to assume that he was using the version of the weapon (by then a rather common version) which consisted of a fairly hefty barrel two or three inches in diameter, fitted with a short pole and possibly a serpentine lever as a trigger.

For an informative page about Maitre Jean and his culverin from the Oriflamme Society, see the location below:
Maitre Jehan de Montesiler at Orléans (1429)

Two other pages on early handguns from the Hundred Years War period (with illustrations of surviving specimens in museums) can be seen below:
Gunpowder Weapons of the Late Fifteenth Century (which also includes early 15th century hand-cannons)
Early Handguns in Museums


Copyright © 2002 - 2003, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.

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