Battle of Patay
|Battle of Patay|
|Part of the Loire Campaign of the Hundred Years' War|
The French and English clashing. The English, however, did not fight on horseback
|Kingdom of France||Kingdom of England|
|Commanders and leaders|
La Hire |
Jean de Xaintrailles
John Fastolf |
Thomas de Scales
|1,500, mostly men-at-arms||5,000, mostly archers|
|Casualties and losses|
|About 100||2,500 dead, wounded, or captured|
The Battle of Patay (18 June 1429) was the culminating engagement of the Loire Campaign of the Hundred Years' War between the French and English in north-central France. It was a decisive victory for the French and with heavy losses inflicted on the corps of veteran English longbowmen. This victory was to the French what Agincourt was to the English. Although credited to Joan of Arc, most of the fighting was done by the vanguard of the French army as English units fled, and the main portions of the French army (including Joan herself) were unable to catch up to the vanguard as it continued to pursue the English for several miles.
After the English abandoned the Siege of Orléans on 8 May 1429, the survivors of the besieging forces withdrew to nearby garrisons along the Loire. A month later, having gathered men and supplies for the forthcoming campaign, the French army, under the nominal command of the Duke of Alençon, set out to capture these positions and the bridges they controlled. On 12 June they took Jargeau by storm, then captured the bridge at Meung-sur-Loire and marched on, without attacking the nearby castle, to lay siege to Beaugency on 15 June.
An English reinforcement army under Sir John Fastolf, which had set off from Paris following the defeat at Orléans, now joined forces with survivors of the besieging army under Lord Talbot and Lord Scales at Meung-sur-Loire. Talbot urged an immediate attack to relieve Beaugency, but was opposed by the more cautious Fastolf, who was reluctant to seek a pitched battle against the more numerous French. The garrison of Beaugency, unaware of the arrival of Fastolf's reinforcements and discouraged by the reinforcement of the French by a Breton contingent under Arthur de Richemont, surrendered on 18 June. Talbot then agreed to Fastolf's proposal to retreat towards Paris. Learning of this movement, the French set off in pursuit, and intercepted the English army near the village of Patay.
In this battle, the English employed the same methods used in the victories at Crécy in 1346 and Agincourt in 1415, deploying an army composed predominantly of longbowmen behind a barrier of sharpened stakes driven into the ground to obstruct any attack by cavalry.
Becoming aware of the French approach, Talbot sent a force of archers to ambush them from a patch of woods along the road. Apparently dissatisfied, Talbot attempted to redeploy his men, setting up 500 longbowmen in a hidden location which would block the main road. However, they were attacked before they had a chance to prepare their position by the vanguard of about 1,500 mounted men-at-arms under La Hire and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles and swiftly overwhelmed, leading to the exposure of the other English units which were spread out along the road. The English archers had inadvertently disclosed their position to French scouts before their preparations were complete when a lone stag wandered onto a nearby field and the archers raised a hunting cry. Fastolf's unit attempted to join up with the English vanguard but the latter fled, forcing Fastolf to follow suit. The rest of the battle was a prolonged mopping-up operation against the fleeing English units, with little organized resistance.
In the rout and mop-up the English lost over 2,000 men out of a force of about 5,000, many of them archers. By contrast the French lost only about one hundred men. Fastolf, the only English commander who remained on horseback, managed to escape. Talbot, Scales and Sir Thomas Rempston were captured. Talbot later accused Fastolf of deserting his comrades in the face of the enemy, a charge which he pursued vigorously once he had negotiated his release from captivity. Fastolf hotly denied the charge and was eventually cleared of the charge by a special chapter of the Order of the Garter.
The virtual destruction of the English field army in central France and the loss of many of their principal veteran commanders (another, the Earl of Suffolk, had been captured in the fall of Jargeau, while the Earl of Salisbury had been killed at the siege of Orléans in November 1428), had devastating consequences for the English position in France, from which it would never recover. During the following weeks the French, facing negligible resistance, were able to swiftly regain swathes of territory to the south, east and north of Paris, and to march to Reims, where the Dauphin was crowned as King Charles VII of France on 17 July.
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