In Chapter Thirty-Six of Deathly Hallows we have the following passage:

The house-elves of Hogwarts swarmed into the entrance hall, screaming and waving carving knives and cleavers, and at their head, the locket of Regulus Black bouncing on his chest, was Kreacher, his bullfrog's voice audible even above this din: "Fight! Fight! Fight for my Master, defender of house-elves! Fight the Dark Lord, in the name of brave Regulus! Fight!"

They were hacking and stabbing at the ankles and shins of Death Eaters, their tiny faces alive with malice, and everywhere Harry looked Death Eaters were folding under sheer weight of numbers, overcome by spells, dragging arrows from wounds, stabbed in the leg by elves, or else simply attempting to escape, but swallowed by the oncoming horde.

It is well established that house-elves are capable of combative magic. For example, in Chapter Twenty-Three of Deathly Hallows Dobby is able to easily disarm Narcissa:

“Dobby!” she screamed and even Bellatrix froze. “You! You dropped the chandelier – ?”

The tiny elf trotted into the room, his shaking finger pointing at his old mistress.

“You must not hurt Harry Potter,” he squeaked.

“Kill him, Cissy!” shrieked Bellatrix, but there was another loud crack, and Narcissa’s wand too flew into the air and landed on the other side of the room.

And in Chapter Eighteen of Chamber of Secrets he was able to throw Lucius backward:

But Dobby shouted, "You shall not harm Harry Potter!"

There was a loud bang, and Mr. Malfoy was thrown backward.

Why, then, did the elves at Hogwarts resort to crude Muggle tactics when they could have been disarming Death Eaters, throwing them around, and who knows what else?

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    Hum? "Death Eaters were folding under sheer weight of numbers, overcome by spells, dragging arrows from wounds" – Jenayah May 13 '19 at 18:51
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    @Jenayah That seems to be a general summary of what was going on. The spells were from wizards, the arrows were from centaurs, and the leg-stabbings were from elves. – Alex May 13 '19 at 18:52
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    Psychological warfare? Wizards don't tend to find house elves intimidating or worthy of respect, but an angry mob waving blades will make anyone think twice about their preconceptions. – Gaultheria May 13 '19 at 18:54
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    Why not fight with both magic and knives? The only reason wizards don’t is because they need wands to use magic. – Laurel May 13 '19 at 19:13
  • @Laurel Sure, but it seems that in this instance they were using knives instead of magic. – Alex May 13 '19 at 19:14

They might not have been able to...

For some of your quotes, I feel it is important to provide context. In your last two quotes, Dobby’s master ends up being very angry with him for performing magic against his master. However, we know that Dobby was one of few house-elves who wanted to be freed and wanted pay. This may also be the reason that he was able to perform magic against those he was bound to.

Therefore, it is highly likely that the other house-elves (who were clearly more obedient) were not able to perform the necessary magic.

In other words, house-elves who have not been freed are less likely to have anticipated that they would need to learn offensive spells in order to hurt someone. They generally tend to only be servile to others instead of fighting others. Dobby, of course, is a rare exception to that.

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    In both quotes Dobby was already free. And the elves at Hogwarts wouldn't have been using magic against "those [t]he[y] were bound to". – Alex May 13 '19 at 19:25
  • @Alex Right, but the unfreed house-elves we’re still in servitude and they were — for lack of a better phrase — good for nothing but service. They were servile and, therefore, did not know combative magic. – user112267 May 13 '19 at 19:30
  • So is your answer that house-elves don't know combative magic while in servitude, and they have to learn it after becoming free? Dobby did use magic against Lucius about a minute after being freed, so there wouldn't have been much time for him to learn how to do it if he didn't already know. – Alex May 13 '19 at 19:32
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    @Alex No, I mean that house-elves that are free (or want to be) generally feel more comfortable with hurting others rather than serving them. This is why Dobby had no second thoughts about attacking Lucius. Sorry if my answer was unclear. – user112267 May 13 '19 at 19:33
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    If that's the case then what's the difference between hurting them with magic or with knives? – Alex May 13 '19 at 19:39

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