Sunday, June 24, 2012

Poitiers: Les Crapauds

That's not a very fair title.  Of course, I am English speaking.  Oh well.  For all those French speakers out there, I apologize.

Poitiers map showing the consecutive advances of the French divisions, allowing their numerical superiority to be squandered.
Unfortunately the French in 1356 were not blessed with dynamic leadership on the battlefield at Poitiers.  King Jean II responded to Prince Edward's chevauchee through Poitou by calling for the arriere ban, summoning his nobles and local militia to him.  Though he dismissed a great many of the more poorly equipped dross, he cornered Anglo/Gascon force near the important town of Poitiers. He proceeded to throw his army away in a series of uncoordinated attacks that tested English resolve, but ultimately wrecked his army, led to his capture and the economic and political humiliation of his country.

Green estimates the strength of the French at Poitiers as follows:

8,000 knights and men at arms
2,000 crossbowmen
5-6000 light infantry.  These could be a collection of the rather nice OG militia, halberdiers, pavisiers with spears.  They lack arms, armor and most of all motivation.

The French were divided into several divisions including a mounted contingent.  As you can see the French seriously outnumber the English, according to Green, some 15-16,000 against one that maxes out at 8,000.  Historically the size of the French army was estimated as much larger, perhaps as many as 30,000.  As Anne Curry (in Agincourt: A New History) has suggested, however, this is likely apocryphal-English mythmaking.  Armies this large were simply too large to maintain in the field, and many of the troops, local levies, simply more trouble than they were worth.  
Scottish knight William Douglas rides to his doom with the Marshals of France.
For game purposes, I will follow the same rules I laid down for the English.  Knights and men at arms are mounted four to a 50mm X 50mm base.  Light infantry and crossbowmen are three to a base with skirmishy types mounted two to a stand. One stand of infantry represents approximately 100 men.  Cavalry are mounted two to a base and 50 men.

Vanguard-The French vanguard represents the opening cavalry charges by the Marshals and the first infantry assault that closely follows their charge.
Marshal Audrehem: 4-5 stands mounted knights
Marshal Clermont: 4-5 stands mounted knights
Vanguard foot under Constable Brienne:
Knights and men at arms (includes a German contingent under the Duke of Sarrbruck and others)
12-15 stands
Light inantry:  5-8 stands
Crossbowmen: 15 stands

1st Division (Dauphin Charles)
Knights and men at arms: 20 bases (includes at least two bases of Scots led by William Douglas)
Light infantry: 10 bases

2nd Division: Duke of Orleans.  These guys were not happy campers, with at least half the division drifting away before their attack.  This division may never have contacted the English.
Knights and men at arms: 10-20 bases
Light infantry 10-20 bases

3rd Division: King Jean
Knights and men at arms: 30-35 bases.  20 of the bases should be elite
Light infantry: 15-20 bases
Crossbowmen: 5-6 bases
In this fanciful picture, King John is captured by the Black Prince.
As you can see, by simply counting the bases, the French are considerably larger than the English.  The facts of the battle are simply that the French failed to combine their disparate divisions to swamp the English/Gascon defenders.  However, it is clear from all accounts the English took many losses along the way, and were worn down by the constant fighting. The appearance of Jean's massive division was dispiriting when it appeared, advancing on the defeneses. 



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