Author Topic: Poitiers Campaign 1356 AD  (Read 45 times)

Erpingham

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Poitiers Campaign 1356 AD
« on: June 19, 2022, 01:41:11 PM »
The Black Prince’s Campaign of 1356 and the Battle of Poitiers According to the Monk of Malmesbury’s Eulogium historiarum, ca. 1366.
 
Translated by the Turma ad Latinam of the United States Military Academy (Cadets Cammack Y. W. Shepler, Paul Conroy, Marqus Hubbard, Ryan Kreiser, Aidan Looney, and Michael O’Connor; Major Thomas M. McShea; and Professor Clifford J. Rogers), 2022.

The battle
The prince, however, discussed with his own men by what way he should proceed toward his enemies. There was indeed between them a dense wood, covered in ditches, and above the hollow a high, thorny hedge, apparently without an approach except only in one place. It was said that the division of the French was in that woods. There was one gate which in the English language is called a leap-gate [lipᴣet], where five men-at-arms are able to enter by the front, standing upright, and no more. The prince, using his spurs, urged his destrier to jump over the pit and hedge; Sir Robert de Bradeston, it is said, was struck down in that attack, for he entered the gate first of all. And the Lord Maurice of Berkeley, son of Lord Thomas of Berkeley, entered first after him, where he was dreadfully wounded. When the battle was done, victory in that battle in the woods [or possibly “hedged fields”: boscagio] came by divine nod to the English. With those men subdued, killed, captured, and put to fight, the great army of the French appeared to the prince and his men, divided in three great battle lines, each having its own wings; the sight of which terrified many of our men, and no wonder.The prince, seeing these extremely large groups of men, put heart into his men with bold words, saying that strength in war is not so much to be found in men and arms, but rather in having trust in God alone;and he himself descends from his destrier and after him all the others: all of the French truly sent their own horses to their rear so that they might make a quick chase after the English. Then from both sides, charging at the same time, a great and mighty slaughter was made, such that it was unheard of that in any other conflict it was borne for so great a time. In former times, at the third or fourth or at the latest to the sixth drawing of an arrow, men knew immediately which side would triumph, but in this case, one archer sent one hundred aimed arrows and still neither side gave in to the other; it is unheard of in [histories of] wars and in [songs of] deeds that any another fight persevered for such a long while. It was said, but I do not assert it as truth, that the French saw an armed, mounted knight flying in the air and fightng against them. Once again, by divine will, victory came to the English. There King Jean of France was captured, along with his young son Philippe, a boy, but armed nevertheless. Captured were 14 counts, 21 barons and bannerets. And there were 22 bannerets killed. And three of the sons of the king, and the brother of the king, and the bishop of Langres, and 57 bannerets fled. Moreover, 1,400 knights were captured; in total 3,000 men-at-arms were captured. 2,500 men-at-arms were killed. The slain foot soldiers are not numbered. And thus ends the Battle of Poiters.



Comments :
One of the less often quoted sources for the campaign.  This is clearly based either on a campaign diary or perhaps a newsletter derived from such a diary.  Typically, these diaries were kept by the administrative parts of the army (e.g. the Prince's household) and contain interesting details such as obtaining fish supplies on Thursday for the Friday fast.  The account of the battle is confused, reinforcing the idea this is from a non-combatant witness.  Perhaps its best known feature is the expression of how closely fought the battle was

"In former times, at the third or fourth or at the latest to the sixth drawing of an arrow, men knew immediately which side would triumph, but in this case, one archer sent one hundred aimed arrows and still neither side gave in to the other; it is unheard of in [histories of] wars and in [songs of] deeds that any another fight persevered for such a long while."

While we would be unwise to treat this in any way literally, it is interesting that it is expressed in terms of archery, rather than the clash of men-at-arms.  Of course, it was the archers who opened the fighting and perhaps it reflects the view of the fighting men, relayed in camp to the clerks, that how the enemy reacted as the battle commenced allowed their mettle to be assessed.  It should be recalled that many medieval armies were newly assembled and hadn't been tested before collectively. 
  • Anthony Clipsom