Friday, June 22, 2012

Order of Battle for Poitiers: The English

James Audley's banner appears with the Black Prince's battle at Poitiers.
Poitiers is one of the big three battles from the Hundred Years War.  Big three because it was one of the decisive English victories, the other two being Crecy in 1346 and Agincourt in 1415.  There are other important English victories, and some big French victories, but we mostly forget them because we speak English and in these battles the French, to put it politely, got their asses kicked-hard, many times.

Of these battles, Poitiers may be the most important, the least remembered, the most unusual, and the most interesting to game. At Crecy and Agincourt, the French behave incredibly stupidly and are annihilated in a storm of arrows.  On horseback at Crecy (so the wounded horses aid the archers in dispatching their riders) and on foot in the mud at Agincourt. At Poitiers the French again behave stupidly, but there aren't so many archers or so many arrows as at the other battles, so it takes on more of a medieval slogging match. There's a mounted charge, an off board flanking movement, the King of France is captured, "humiliations galore" to quote Inigo Montoya. But it didn't have to be that way
Old Glory Welsh spearmen carrying the sometimes lethal Northstar spears. These will be light infantry
Lots more to write about the battle, but there are many better print accounts if you are interested, including some of very recent vintage.  Christian Teutsch's 2010 reinterpretation of the battle
VICTORY AT POITIERS: The Black Prince and the Medieval Art of War is on my birthday list.  However no book can be handier for the wargamer than David Green's The Battle of Poitiers, 1356. This 2002 account provides information about the battle, the composition of forces and the leading characters.  There is even a section on wargaming Poitiers.  A few not terribly useful color plates and some maps, make this a worthwhile purchase. Unfortunately, it's not currently in print, but can be had used for about ten bucks.  One more book that is quite useful if you can lay your hands on a copy is Don Featherstone's guide to gaming the battle, Poitiers, 1356.  Published in 1976, as one of the Knights Battle series, it's also a handy guide to the action, though not as well guided by recent scholarship.  Featherstone included a set of very playable rules I'll hope to adapt over to my game. Is available quite cheap used.
I currently have 12 painted stands of English knights and men at arms.  I only need 18-28 more!!
Poitiers is not a small battle, and the French army is especially large.  I've chosen to recreate the battle in approximately 1:25. 50mm square Infantry bases with 2-4 28mm figures to a stand equal about 100 men. Though there isn't much cavalry at this battle, I'm counting two figures on a 50mm square base as 50 figures.  I'm more interested in counting bases than I am figures.  You'll see the required number of bases is pretty big, so I've decided to use Old Glory figures.  Their Crecy and Poitiers range is quite acceptable.  I acquired quite a few figures a few years ago, but I'll need more.  My target is to have both sides painted for the anniversary in 2016.  To have any hope of finishing this and Bladensburg, however, I've begun painting now. 

According to David Green, the English army is composed of the the following troop types: 
3,000-4,000 knights and men at arms.
2,500-3,000 archers
1,000 light troops

The English order of battle is pretty straightforward.  The English army is divided into three commands: 

The vanguard is commanded by the earls of Warwick and Oxford, and includes the Gascon noble, the Captal de Buch.  According to Green, this command consists of 500 men at arms, 500 light infantry, and 1000+ archers.  For my purposes this will equal out to the following: 
6-8 stands of dismounted knights and men at arms.
5-6 stands of light infantry (these could be Welsh spearmen, Breton bidets or Gascon militia types)
12-15 stands of longbowmen (though the case could be made these could include some Gascon crossbowmen. 
As a note, these should also include three stands of mounted knights that delivered the final crushing flank attack against King Jean's division.  

The center is commanded by the Prince of Wales.  Many of his favorite retainers are included in this division, such as Sir John Chandos, Sir James Audley and Sir Reginald Cobham. This force totals some 2,000+ men at arms.  I plan to build them as: 
20-25 stands of dismounted knights and men at arms.  I'll likely split the stands into several smaller commands. 

The rearguard is commanded by the Duke of Suffolk. His command is similar to the  vanguard. I'll represent them as follows: 
6-8 stands of dismounted knights and men at arms
5-6 stands of light infantry
12-15 stands of longbowmen.  

One further consideration when fighting this battle.  When the action entered it's terminal phase, and King Jean's final battle was wavering and beginning to retreat, there is some suggestion that some of the English knights and men at arms ran to their horses and managed a charge against the French.  I don't know how much of this is true and I'm anxious to read Teutsch's account to see what he suggests. If you wish to include this, there might need to be a an English mounted contingent to replace some of the dismounted knight stands.


DeanM said...

Good to see you fielding your English again. A Truants' game perhaps? I have a lot of French - my Big 3: Formigey, Orleans, Patay and Castillon - oh, wait that's four. 4-3, French win! Best, Dean

Ted Henkle said...

I remember having a good conversation with you about a couple Bernard Cornwell novels set in this era. I haven't read his "Agincourt" yet, but I intend to!

Kevin said...

I haven't read Agincourt either. The three books I read began with The Archers Tale, which I honestly thought was the best of the three.