ABSTRACT

Such secondary combats as Ardres or Saintes or Mauron had settled nothing. The next military lesson of real interest is only found when we reach 1356, and investigate the details of the celebrated battle of Poictiers. In the autumn of 1355 the Black Prince had sallied forth from Bordeaux and pushed a destructive but rather objectless raid as far as Toulouse and Narbonne. The French had not dared to meet him in the open field, and he had returned to Bordeaux loaded with spoil. In the summer of 1356 he resolved to conduct a similar foray into the heart of Central France—the districts along the upper and middle course of the Loire. Like his father, the younger Edward does not shine in the sphere of strategy. Though he seems to have had some vague idea of ultimately pushing northward to join the force under his brother John of Gaunt, which was operating on the borders of Normandy, his route and his whole conduct of the campaign show that his primary object was merely to harry as much of France as he could, to defy King John, and to bring back to Bordeaux as large a store of plunder as his men could convey. 1 His army, indeed, was too weak to do much more than execute a destructive raid, mustering only between three thousand and four thousand men-at-arms, two thousand five hundred or three thousand archers, and a thousand light troops of other kinds, “sergeants,” “brigans,” and Gascon “bidowers.” Apparently the bowmen were all mounted, that they might be able to keep up with the knights if hard marching became necessary. This 161fact accounts for the small proportion in which they appear in the host; ordinarily the archers outnumbered the men-at-arms three or fourfold in an English expedition. But on this occasion a very large part of the prince’s army was composed of the noblesse of Guienne, who brought with them hardly any followers of value save their contingent of mailed horsemen.