So, I recently asked a question about dueling with bows.

The top answer for that included an account in The Scottish Journal which described bows and arrows as "Indian Artillery", which is a completely new term to me.

Does anyone know where this term comes from? If it was common-place? Just in Scotland, or further afield?

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    First off: Idk anything about red Indians if it has something to do with their traditions. Artillery however refers to mechanical objects which outrange and outgun the infantry held projectile-throwing weapons. This has evolved from Catapults to Howitzers over the history. This is the first time I am hearing about Bows referred to as Artillery. +1 for interesting question
    – NSNoob
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 9:41
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    @NSNoob I aim to ask interesting questions on here, it makes up for my pretty spotty knowledge of history.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 9:43
  • Is this question related to North America or the Indian sub continent? Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 13:05
  • @axsvl77 that's something I'd like to find out with this question. The source was from a Scottish newspaper.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 13:21
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    Throughout the heyday of newspapers it was the stock in trade of editors, columnists, and wannabe's to aggressively invent similes and metaphors; as a means of making the reporting of the mundane interesting as well as intellectually stimulating to the readers. Some would stick and become clichés, but most would die an immediate death. I suspect this case is an instance of the latter. The question can probably be better addressed on English Language. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 6:02

2 Answers 2


Indian here means "Red Indian" or Native American. His readers would be aware that Indians used bows and arrows so the writer is mocking the duelists' choice of weapons by calling it "Indian artillery" (and of course mocking the primitiveness of Indians). It's just a joke.


Agree with it being derogatory satire, but I think the label comes from artillery being an augment to the main effort, or attack, in battle.

In many cases artillery is used as indirect-fire, something that arcs - like the way you see bows and arrows used in Braveheart, GOT, or most mid-evil films. Bow and arrows do have the effectiveness to be used as direct-fire, where they are shot straight at the enemy.

Unlike the bow and arrow, artillery usually has a significant impact, like modern Howitzers, older cannons, or even older catapults and trebuchets. The punch line being the bow and arrow was the strongest weapon the Native Americans had.

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