MilitaryHistoryNow.com is pleased to announce a partnership with Rowan Technology, publishers of the new digital app The West Point History of Warfare. The 71-chapter collection covers wars from Ancient Greece to Afghanistan and Iraq and includes more than 500 interactive battle maps, video and audio content, and commentary from nearly 50 military historians. Over the coming weeks, MHN will preview samples from this impressive and immersive library, all of which was compiled by historians at the United States Military Academy. We start our journey with a selection from the The West Point History of Warfare: Medieval, available NOW.
WITH THE PASSING of another VE Day, we revisit a victory in Europe that took place nearly 600 years prior to World War Two — King Edward III’s crushing defeat of France’s Philip VI at the Battle of Crécy, during the Hundred Years War.
The following excerpts are taken from the newly released interactive digital app The West Point History of Warfare: Medieval, written by Clifford J. Rogers, professor of military history at United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Hundred Years War & the Evolution of Modern Europe
How Edward Drew Philip Into Battle
By Clifford J. Rogers
Part of Edward’s problem was that his army’s tactical doctrine was strictly defensive. In hand-to-hand infantry combat, the formation that maintained its order best usually won, and it was much easier to keep a strong, tight formation when standing still than when marching over uneven farmland. Furthermore, Edward’s longbowmen fought best when standing still and raining arrows “as thick as motes in the sun-beam” on advancing enemies. So although he wanted a decisive battle—that is, he was trying to employ a strategy of annihilation—he could not simply march up to his enemy and attack. He wanted his enemy to attack him. That desire had been the principal reason for his siege of Tournai in 1340: he had hoped that Philip VI would attack him to break the siege rather than allow the city to be starved into surrender. Since that approach had failed, the English switched to a new strategy designed to force the French into taking the tactical initiative. King Philip could protect his towns behind walls, and his army by refusing to attack, but that strategy left the countryside vulnerable. So Edward launched deep invasions of France, spreading his horsemen out in bands of fire and devastation thirty miles broad. His men plundered everything worth taking, and burned or smashed the rest.
Crécy — “All of France suffered such shame”
By Clifford J. Rogers
All of Europe was stunned by the complete defeat of the French, and especially by the effectiveness of the English archers. It had been possible to dismiss earlier victories of common infantry over mounted aristocrats—Courtrai in 1302, Bannockburn in 1314, and Morgarten in 1315 (when the Duke of Austria had been ambushed in a steep valley by Swiss peasants)—as anomalies attributable to special circumstances of terrain or the incompetence of the defeated. But at Crécy, English foot soldiers routed Philip, king of France, by far the strongest ruler of Christendom. The psychological impact of the royal army’s destruction was all the greater because Philip had brought three allied kings to the battlefield, including the future Emperor Charles IV and the renowned chivalric figure Jean de Luxembourg, king of Bohemia, who was killed in the fighting. “All of France suffered such shame at the hands of the king of England as she had never before experienced, so far as anyone can now remember,” wrote a contemporary. It was no longer possible to doubt that infantry could be as effective as cavalry on the battlefield.
Other highlights from The West Point History of Warfare: Medieval include animated maps of the Battle of Hastings and the Battle of Agincourt, a 3D model of Orford Castle, and interactive deep-dives on the medieval English longbowman and Norman knight.