Battle of Poitiers (1356)

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(1337–1360)

The Battle of Poitiers was fought between the Kingdoms of England and France on 19 September 1356 near Poitiers, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt.

Contents

Background

On 8 August 1356, Edward, the Black Prince began a great chevauchée (raid) north from the English base in Aquitaine, in an effort to relieve allied garrisons in central France, as well as to raid and ravage the countryside. His sortie met little resistance, his Anglo-Gascon forces burning numerous towns to the ground and living off the land, until they reached the Loire River at Tours. His forces were unable to take the castle nor could they burn the town, due to a heavy downpour. His delay there allowed John II, King of France, to attempt to catch Edward's army and eliminate it. The King, who had been confronting Henry of Grosmont in Normandy, arranged the bulk of his army at Chartres to the north of the besieged Tours, dismissing around 15,000–20,000 of his lower-quality infantry to increase the speed of his forces.

Upon receiving reports of the French army on the move, Edward decided a retreat was in order. He marched south pursued in earnest by John. The French caught up to the English a few miles southwest of Poitiers. A veteran of the battle of Crécy, at which he had fought when he was only sixteen years old, the Black Prince decided on the same tactical scheme employed at that earlier battle. He positioned his troops in a strongly defensive position, in a plain surrounded by natural obstacles, such as a creek on the left and a wood on the back. The luggage wagons, with a great amount of plunder, remained along the old Roman road, the main route from Poitiers to Bordeaux, to give protection to his weak right side. All his men dismounted and were organized in two, or perhaps three units, with longbowmen placed in a V-formation on both flanks.[2] The Black Prince kept a small cavalry unit, commanded by Jean de Grailly, the Captal de Buch, hidden in the woods at the rear.

The attacking French forces were divided in four parts. At the front were around 300 elite knights[citation needed], commanded by general Clermont and accompanied by German mercenary pikemen. The purpose of this group was to charge the archers and eliminate the threat they posed. These were followed by three groups of infantry (dismounted cavalry) commanded by the Dauphin (later Charles V of France), the Duke of Orléans and King John.

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