ABSTRACT

In the fourteenth century, as we have already seen, infantry, after a thousand years of depression, at last regained its due share of military importance. Between the catastrophe of Adrianople, of which we told in the first chapter of the First Book, and the group of battles—Courtrai (1302), Bannock-burn (1314), Morgarten (1315), Creçy (1346)—which mark the turning-point in tactical history, there had been many fights in which infantry took its share in a victory. Some, too, there had been in which infantry may be said to have settled the fate of an engagement in which both arms had been engaged on both sides. But from the beginning of the fourteenth century we begin to find a logical succession of victories for nations which used the infantry arm unassisted—or almost unassisted—against enemies who relied on their superiority in cavalry. And so great was the moral effect of these battles that a fatal blow was delivered at feudal chivalry—so much so that the knight for over a century abandoned his charger and fought on foot. He sacrificed the advantages of rapid movement and superior impact which his horse gave him, in order that he might try to beat infantry at its own game. There can be no more surprising contrast than that between the tactics on the French side at Creçy and at Poictiers—fights divided by only ten years of unhappy experiment. And this was only a parallel to the contrast in the English tactics at Bannockburn and at Halidon—divided by no more than seventeen years. Yet there was an essential difference between the causes, though the results were the same in each of these pairs of battles. The moral of Bannockburn had been that unaided cavalry could not break a phalanx of spearmen—which 234Edward II. might have deduced from his father’s experience at Falkirk. Edward III., more fortunate than his unlucky sire, and helped by the knowledge of what had happened at Dupplin Muir, showed that the mere phalanx of spearmen was helpless against the combination of dismounted knights and long wings of efficient archery.