Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

THE BATTLE OF CASTILLON

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The Battle of Castillon, one of my favorite battles. Another battle that would make a great movie, dibs on the rights. 17 July, 1453. Near the town of Castillon in Gascony, which is the southwest corner of France, to the north of Spain. At the time, the waning days of the 100 Years War, Gascony, along with the city of Calais on the English Channel, were the last remaining English holdings on the European continent. The English Empire had barely begun, as seen on the map above, they started by invading Ireland. No comment. The New World’s discovery was a half century away, it was a smaller world then. In any event, the French had invaded Gascony and besieged the town of Castillon. Their army  was camped in extensive field fortifications they had built just out of range of Castillon’s guns. Guns were just starting to appear on battlefields in 1453, the French had about 300 of them.

So, England’s John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, marched to save the town of Castillon from the surrounding French. He was a feared and famous military leader. He had 6,000-10,000 men with him, the French had 7,000 to 10,000 men. The French army was commanded by a committee. These things happen. The French guy in charge of laying out the guns and fortifications knew what he was doing though. It was a hot dusty day. Talbot’s force had defeated a small French force in the previous few days, their morale was high. As they approached the town, the townspeople informed Talbot that a huge cloud of dust had come up behind the French camp, and they thought the French were fleeing.

Well crap, thought Talbot, the French are getting away. He ordered his army to attack the French camp immediately. His troops duly charged right into the French fortifications, expecting to find the fleeing remnants of the French army. Instead they charged straight into the withering fire of 300 guns protected by thousands of pikemen in fortifications. It was, shall we say, a slaughter. For unknown reasons Talbot ordered the attack to continue, possibly he thought his honor was at stake, this was the late Middle Ages and weird stuff like that still mattered. For example, Talbot wasn’t wearing any armor, because that was a condition of his release from being a POW of the French some years earlier.

So yes, thousands of English soldiers marched forward, only to be gunned down. It was said that every French shot killed six Englishmen. Was someone keeping count? The English continued their attack for about an hour, then a thousand French cavalry attacked the English flank. The battle quickly turned into a rout at that point, and Talbot and his son were killed in the confusion. As many as 4,000 English dead, maybe 100 French. It was a decisive victory for France, and effectively ended the 100 years war, with Calais being the only remaining British holding on the continent. Calais would last about another century before being conquered by France.

Wait, the giant cloud of dust the townsmen saw, if not dust kicked up by fleeing Frenchmen, what was it? Well, the French had word the English army was approaching. So they ordered the camp followers to flee the camp, since they would just be in the way. So thousands of wives, kids, girlfriends, tradespeople, and, um, sex workers fled. It was dust they kicked up that Talbot injudiciously mistook for fleeing French soldiers. An honest mistake, or did his opinion of French character cloud his judgement? The spyglass was 150 years away, so to attack a fortified position without reconnoitering it first was, well, pretty rash.

Talbot paid for his misjudgement with his life though, so at least he didn’t have to explain his loss to the king. It might have been really awkward, since the English king was already a half bubble off plumb so to speak. In fact the king completely snapped his twigs shortly after news of the disaster at Castillion reached him. Some said he snapped because of the bad news. A mad king on the throne is never a good thing, and it triggered a succession crisis and the start of the Wars of the Roses. So basically, an English  civil war started because of fleeing sex workers.

History is fun!

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Europe in 1450. Credit: Free from this site.)

Written by unitedcats

July 17, 2019 at 3:56 am

Posted in History, War, World

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