Friday, December 27, 2013

BATTLE OF CRECY

I noticed something last night that I never really thought much about.  I like to write sometimes and when I'm really motivated, I can sit at the edge of a river or stream and write for hours.  The material rarely goes anywhere but I like to write.  What I noticed was that when I write with pen and paper I use better language, punctuation and sentence structure.  When I write with the computer I get choppy with the sentences and move through the operation of transferring thought to paper in a more haphazard fashion.  Interesting.  I wonder if those attributes are common among all people.  I wonder if the move to computers and away from the mechanical action of writing with pen and paper might be a detriment to school kids learning to read and write in the grade schools.  Bet cha!!
I've always liked to read about history and usually focus on the 17th century and the times preceding the birth of our nation.  The French and Indian War (7 Year War) in particular has been a fascination of mine all my life.  The people of those days were born with genes that maintained the wild aspect in humans of the time.  Frontiersmen could actually scent an enemy, much like a dog scents it's prey, which offers some small understanding of the differences between the hard people of those times and us.  There is, however, another time in history when the world was on fire and two nations fought each other and worshiped the same Christ, fought each other in his name and both praying to God for victory and the power and glory that would come with it - as if God would pick a side.

England had always felt that it was the rightful owner of the throne of France and in 1345 the turmoil that existed between Saxony (Brittain) and France came to the point of military confrontation. 

In 1346 Edward III of England, a Saxon king, arrived at Normandy and made his way inland to invade Philip VI of France.  The English army laid waste to everything in their path, pilliging, murdering, rapping and burning the pride of France.  King Philip moved against Edward's army, after considerable time, due to the logistics of assembling and moving his enormous military might across the water logged meadows, fields and forests of his country.  The two mighty armies met on a huge meadow near the town of Crecy.

Philip's army consisted of 70,000 men at arms and 6000 Genoise crossbowmen. These numbers are staggering!  The unimaginable and amazing fact is that all these combatants are in one place at one time for one battle and that's only one faction of the combatants.

Edward's forces were comprised of 4000 men at arms and knights, 7000 archers and 5000 spearmen.

The French outnumbered the English, as they usually did, but the English had one weapon that was deadly on the fields of battle of the time.  That weapon was the English archer.  The yew bow was a powerful weapon that was accurate to two hundred yards in the hands of an expert archer and all English archers were expert. They trained with the long bow since childhood, 5 to 8 years of age and wouldn't be proficient until the age of 14.  It required upper body strength to pull the yew's string back to the ear and hold it there for the release, and continual practice built that strength in the youths so inclined to the art.  A crossbow would load and shoot one bolt every two minutes.  An English archer could load and shoot an arrow every 5 seconds.  It's obvious that the 7000 archers fighting for Edward would throw up a wall made of arrows that would hold until the arrows were all expended, and they didn't run out.
On the day of August 26, 1346, France's might aligned on the meadow of Crecy to face the English power of King Edward III.
The warfare of the time was brutal and deadly where men would smash and bludgeon each other with iron and steel implements of all description.  The battle axe was a favorite weapon for those in the front line.  The long sword was replaced with a shorter sword that could be used for stabbing around and over shields and heavy iron maces would swing above heads and crush the helmets and body armor of an opponent.  
The English men at arms formed a shield wall as the French slowly marched forward toward them.  A shield wall is formed by a line of men holding their shields up where the top of the shield is just below eye level and the edges of each shield overlap just a bit with the man's shield who stands left and right of him.  Edward's archers were placed at the ends of the shield wall and to the rear where they could thwart any endeavors by the French to swing around the ends of the shield wall allowing an attack on the English rear.  The French men at arms were aligned in 5 rows of men at arms, foot soldiers, and behind them were the crossbowmen.  10,000 cavalry (knights on destriers) were positioned to the left and right ends of the lines.  They would be used to plow through the breaks in the English shield wall that the French men at arms would create.  Ideally, the cavalry would gain access to the English rear and crush their army from behind.
The French line walked ever closer and the English archers laid their sheathes of arrows on the ground to their left while planting 20 arrows into the ground to their right.  Bodkin tips sharpened to a needle point would be used to penetrate heavy armor and shields while the arrows tipped with broadheads would be used to penetrate deep into the flesh of horses that would become unmanageable, throwing their riders to the ground where the men at arms could bludgeon them to death unmercifly.  There was no mercy in the battles of the time.  The men at arms would push through the enemy lines maiming and killing, stepping over the wounded and leaving them on the ground for the warriors to kill who follow in the next line behind.
When the French men at arms finally arrived within range of the long bow, 2000 English archers drew the cords to their ears and released their arrows simultaneously causing a shadow over the enemy and the slaughter was underway.  The arrows  striking armor and shields sounded like rain made of pebbles falling from the sky, and the French started to run full out toward the English line.  The Genoise crossbowmen moved forward as the French men at arms closed in on the English shield wall.  A collision of men, shield upon shield created a thunderous sound as the French slammed into the English.  The French crossbowmen fired a flight of arrows into the back rows of English men at arms which drew the attention of the English archers who now altered their attention from the French lines to the Genoise bowmen.  The French and English were too close for the English archers to accurately aim their long bows because they were behind the combatants.  They now poured deadly fire onto the Genoise crossbowman with deadly results.  The French bowmen, outgunned, moved rearward.
The battle went on.  The English shield wall held and the French men at arms were pushed back.  Philip sent three more lines of his men at arms across the fields of Crecy to slam once again against the English shield wall.  Again the English archers sent their flying death into the French until the the French were driven back.  Finally, the French knights on their magnificent destriers were dispatched toward the English lines.  Some of the knights attempted to swing around the left of the English to gain access to their backs.  The entire rank of 7000 English long bowmen focused on the French cavalry endeavor and poured death upon them killing and maiming their horses and men alike.  Those who were thrown from their horse were instantly impaled by pike, or sword.  All lines of the English men at arms moved forward pressing the French back further and further and the long bowmen continued their deadly fire.  The English thrust forced the French back to Philip's pavilion where Philip realized his defeat.  His gauntlet was carried to Edward and the battle ended.  

Whew!  
Political and religious intervention prevented the entire takeover of France by the Saxons with the result of an ongoing struggle for power by these two great waring nations.  England would continue struggling against France through the 15th century and beyond and many bloody, barbaric wars and battles would follow Crecy.  Agincourt comes to mind.  And, that was a horrific battle.