Historically, gauntlets were used by soldiers and knights. It was considered an important piece of armour, since the hands and arms were particularly vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat. With the rise of easily reloadable and effective firearms, hand-to-hand combat fell into decline along with personal armour, including gauntlets
Half-Armor Anton Peffenhauser (German, 1523-1603) Date1591MediumSteel, gilding, leatherDepartmentEuropean Sculpture and Dec ArtsClassificationArms and ArmorCreditGift of William Randolph Hearst FoundationAccession No.53.202ProvenanceWilliam Randolph Hearst; William Randolph Hearst Foundation (by 1951); Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation
It happened a hot summer day in 1361. The battle stood between Gotlands farmers and a battle hardened army from Denmark. The farmers had the numbers on their side, but that was about every advantage they had.
As the battle begun, the farmers were greeted by hails of crossbow arrows, killing hundreds of them before swords had even been crossed.
Then, the slaugther began. It was a ferocious battle for both sides, but many of the farmers were too old or too young, and the world isn’t always as fair as in Tolkiens Lord of the rings.
One man had his jaw smashed by a hammer, another had both his legs cut off by a single blow from a great axe wielded by a Dane. Just a couple of hundred meters away, the people within the walls watched on as the farmers were slaughtered.
Once the battle was over, the thousands of dead were cast into mass graves, a lot of them not even stripped of their battle-gear, since the heat was making the bodies decompose rapidly.
Exhibit A21 (Late 15th Century German Armour for Man and Horse) from The Wallace Collection.
To quote Peter Morwood, who helped correct the title of this piece, apparently unique, being the only armour for man and horse in any museum with provenance of being made at the same time (1475-85) in the same style and the same workshop for the same person, a baron of the Von Freyberg family.
Armor of Henry II of France (reigned 1547–59), ca. 1555. French, possibly Paris. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.121a–n) | This is one of the most elaborate and complete French parade armors, and it retains much of its original coloring.
So there's a lot on the Internet about what goes on before a battle, and even during battle (at least, after you wade through all the video game information), but what happens after? Did the losers or winners bury their dead comrades, or was that left to the people who live on the land they fought on? Did anyone think to conduct funeral rites of some sort? Or did they just lah-de-dah off into the sunset and hope the opponents didn't follow?
Though some battlefields were left littered with bodies, either if the battle was fought far from human habitation or to make a point…
…there were plenty of recorded mass burials, like these at Culloden.
One of the best known is at Visby, where hot weather and fast decomposition meant the winners buried - or ordered the locals to bury - a lot of enemy casualties not from altruism but to prevent disease. They were already getting too unpleasant to strip or loot (given the stronger medieval stomach, that says how nasty the bodies had become) so ended up providing lots of archaeological evidence of what “low-to-mid-level” armour like coats-of-plates looked like.
It also gave graphic evidence of what medieval weapons were capable of doing.
Even the fairly sober “Blood Red Roses” documentary about Towton had people expressing shock about this. It’s as if the scientists came to their work in a haze of fictional chivalry and knights-in-shining-armour (or possibly just the supposed “bluntness” of European medieval swords) and were surprised when they discover that hitting a man in the face with what was more like a three-foot-long razorblade did the same then as it would do now.
A modern sniper’s head shot makes just as much mess - check the famous Zapruder film, and that involved just a 6.5mm round, not the massive Barrett .50 (14.5mm) which can go most of the way to the Dirty Harry thing of “Blow your head clean off”. Yet injuries from hot lead don’t seem to provoke the same surprise as those from cold steel.
There may have been funeral rites of some sort; in fact, it being a fairly religious age, there probably were. It would have been as easy for a priest to say a funeral mass over a hole with 100 or 1000 corpses in it as over a hole containing one.
Not doing so probably involved religious differences, as in the Crusades, or was just putting the spiritual boot in to interfere with the enemy’s afterlife, like this incident in the classic John Ford / John Wayne 1956 western “The Searchers”…
[Brad Jorgenson smashes the head of a dead Comanche warrior with a rock]
Reverend Clayton: “Jorgenson!”
Ethan Edwards: “Why don’t you finish the job?”
[He draws his gun and shoots out the dead Comanche’s eyes]
Reverend Clayton: “What good did that do ya?”
Ethan Edwards: “By what you preach, none. But what that Comanche believes, ain’t got no
eyes, he can’t enter the spirit-land. Has to wander forever between the
winds. You get it, Reverend?”
I don’t know how viewers of sixty years ago would have responded to this; maybe they weren’t shocked, maybe they thought “the murderin’ redskin had it coming”. Or maybe, since Ethan was played by a noted “good guy” like Wayne, they’d have felt properly uncomfortable since it proves that the character isn’t a hero but an anti-hero, with a corrosive level of hatred that goes beyond the grave.
A brief scene of a grave-marker near the beginning shows that Ethan’s mother was killed by Comanches - the death of a family member is one of “the usual reasons” for any revenge-driven movie character - and Martin Scorsese writes…
(Ethan) hates Comanches so much that he actually has bothered to learn their beliefs in order to violate them.
(Ethan can also speak the Comanche language, going oddly far given his attitude which is that, quoting another film character entirely, “(I am) distrustful of language. A gun means what it says.“)
IMO this hatred at a spiritual level would have been equally shocking in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, at least among people of the same religion - you tried not to treat the enemy too badly either alive or dead in the hope that their side would do the same to yours.
It didn’t always happen - and still doesn’t, so we shouldn’t do any back-patting on that score - but sometimes it did even when not expected. A mass grave from the Battle of Lützen in the Thirty Years War, which was a really nasty religious war between flavours of Christianity, revealed that…
A few facts have already come to light. For example, the corpses…were, at
least, carefully laid to rest. The bodies were gathered from the
battlefield and placed in a grave next to the street, arranged in two
rows with their legs facing each other.
Several layers of dead probably lie within these two blocks, although
researchers have only uncovered the first. The burials were not taken
care of by the surviving soldiers, who were already on their way to the
next battle. Instead the good citizens of Lützen had to take on the
unpleasant job. They asked 200 soldiers in the neighboring garrison of
Weissenfels for extra support.
If there was care taken over laying out the bodies, it seems reasonable to assume that someone “said words” over them. Quite possibly the wrong words (Catholic service over Protestant corpses or vice versa) either because of what clergy was available, or maybe as a form of post-mortem conversion. It’s the thought that counts.
At least nobody said “Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms…”