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The ancient supremacy of heavy cavalry, as has been shown in an earlier chapter, had been destroyed in the fourteenth century. In different parts of Europe different tactics had proved fatal to the ascendancy of the feudal knight. The burghers of Flanders at Courtrai (1302) and the Scots of Robert Bruce at Bannockburn (1314) had shown that the pike-phalanx on favourable ground and with its flanks covered might prove invulnerable to the fiercest charge of horse. The Switzers at Morgarten (1315) had demonstrated the helplessness of cavalry in an Alpine defile; and at the less remembered—but more tactically important—battle of Laupen(1339) they had repeated the lesson of Courtrai, and beaten off the chivalry of Lesser Burgundy on an open hillside. These were victories of the pike and halberd over the horseman’s lance; but far more important for the history of the future was the other group of battles in which it had been proved that “combined training” of the bowman and the dismounted knight might produce a form of tactics fatal alike to the column of pikes and to the charging squadron. This group starts with the obscure fight of Dupplin Moor (1332), where for the first time an Anglo-Scottish army formed itself in the combination which was to rule for more than a century—a central and steady mass of fully armoured men-at-arms, and long wings of archery. The much more numerous Scottish army was shot to pieces on its flanks, while held at bay in front by the spears of the dismounted chivalry. The same lesson was repeated against the same army at the better-known battle of Halidon Hill in the following year (1333). It remained for Edward III, the victor of Halidon, to make the great experiment of trying the new tactical combination which had beaten the Scottish infantry upon the French cavalry. Crécy (1346) showed that it was fully as effective against the onset of successive waves of charging horsemen as against the slow-moving column of pikes. This decisive battle had an immense moral effect all over the continent, far greater than that of Laupen or Courtrai. It set the feudal lords—in France at first, but soon after in Germany and other countries also—searching for new methods of tactics by which the power of the bow might be discounted. But the first experiments were not—as might have been expected—in the direction of raising a numerous infantry armed with missile weapons, who might suffice to oppose and ‘contain’ the archery.

The first experiments for use against the English combination of bow and spear were in the line of dismounting the greater part of the men-at-arms and throwing them in column against the English centre, while a small proportion of the cavalry kept their horses and tried to turn the English flanks by a rapid encircling movement. This perhaps may have been inspired by a knowledge of the effective use of Sir Robert Keith’s squadron against the archery of Edward II at Bannockburn, for there were always Scots adventurers in the French hosts. But at the first two occasions on which it was tried, the combat of Saintes (1351) and the battle of Mauron (1352), it failed—in one case the encircling did not come off, in the other it broke one of the two English archer-wings, but did not succeed in cutting in on the flank of the main body. At Poitiers (1356) John of France varied the device: while dismounting the mass of his cavalry, he sent 300 chosen knights to ride in ahead of the columns of attack, and to endeavour to distract the archers by a very rapid charge pushed home with desperation, under cover of which he hoped that his front line might come up unmolested. The plan was hopeless: the whole of the forlorn hope were shot down, and never succeeded in closing with the archers. The main column had to fight its own battle without cavalry aid.

After Poitiers the French seem to have despaired of the event of all experiments on the English “combined tactics,” and allowed the whole of the rest of the first period of the Hundred Years’ War to pass by without attacking a fully equipped English army. Cocherel and Auray (1364) were cases in which their enemies were mainly of their own race, and had with them only a few hundred auxiliary archers from overseas. Even so it is to be noticed that the French regularly dismounted all or almost all their knights and fought on foot at both battles. So did the French contingent at Navarete (Nájera) (1367), though their Spanish allies operated against the English wings with clouds of light horse. Both alike failed lamentably against the Black Prince’s combination of bow and lance. In the end the ‘counsel of despair’ of Bertrand du Guesclin—the avoidance of all pitched battles—was destined to bring relief to France. He proved that a war might be won by harassing an enemy superior in battle-tactics, while denying him the chance of employing them. The English raiding armies found the French either elusive, or else so protected by stone walls or entrenchments (as at St Malo in 1378) that they could not be got at. But when the invading army had passed by, its enemies overran outlying English provinces of Aquitaine, and captured isolated towns and castles before another great force could be scraped together to retrieve them.

The first half of the Hundred Years’ War ended with a truce in 1388, by which Richard II gave up the idea of reconquering the lost regions, and secured for himself only the narrow coast-strip from Bordeaux to Bayonne. Hostilities ceased, but the definitive treaty of peace, ratifying the status quo.) was not signed till 1396.

Meanwhile the conclusion drawn by all continental captains after Poitiers and Navarete, that cavalry charges were useless, was working all over Europe. It was shown equally at Sempach (1386), where Leopold of Austria dismounted his knights to attack the Swiss phalanx, and at the large-scale battle of Castagnaro in Italy (1387), where the Paduan leader dismounted all his men-at-arms, under the advice of the English condottiere John Hawkwood, and received at a stand and behind an obstacle—a broad water ditch in a marshy meadow—the attack of the much heavier force of the Veronese tyrant Antonio della Scala. But the Veronese also, it is to be noted, sent their horses to the rear, and attacked on foot, only to be soundly beaten. There is but one notable victory to be recorded for the column of dismounted men-at-arms in these years, that of Roosebeke (1382), at which Charles VI and his chivalry trampled down the less heavily armed pikemen of Philip van Artevelde, the leader of Flemish revolt. But here it was the tactics of Mauron and Navarete—mailed men in the centre, encircling movements by detached bodies of horse on the flanks that turned the day against an enemy unprovided with any proper proportion of missile-bearing infantry. Had van Artevelde owned 5000 competent archers, the battle would undoubtedly have gone otherwise.

The only part of Europe in which during the last years of the fourteenth century the noblesse still fought on horseback was the East, where against Turk and Tartar the Hungarians, Poles, and Yugo-Slavs kept to the old methods. In each of these nations the strength of the State consisted in masses of light cavalry, and their enemies were also essentially fighters on horseback. When the French and Burgundian crusaders of 1396 went to the aid of Sigismund of Hungary against the Ottoman Sultan, they fell in with the system of their allies, kept their mounts, and charged the Turkish light horse, whose leading squadrons they rode down, but whose system of reserves, rallies, and successive attacks was too much for them in the end. Tired to death after several desperate melees, they finally succumbed when their horses could no longer be spurred to a trot, and their sword-arms were too weary to strike. Against an enemy composed mainly of light horse heavy cavalry is as useless for the offensive as is the phalanx of pikemen for the defensive. The only proper counter is the combination of large masses of missile-bearing infantry with a proper proportion of cavalry fit for the shock, or of heavy infantry able to protect the archers or bowmen from outflanking and encirclement. The first method was that employed by Richard I at Arsuf (1191) against the Saracen, the second that used by the Black Prince at Navarete against the Spanish genetours and their oriental tactics. Each was effective.

Probably the cavalry-battle fought on the largest scale in this epoch was that of Tannenberg (1410), where the united hosts of the Poles and Lithuanians beat and almost exterminated that of the Teutonic Order, the conquerors of Prussia and Livonia. The Knights of the Order, always engaged with the Polish enemy, and out of touch with new military developments in the West, had kept to the old system of war, and fought with squadrons of light horse supported by reserves of fully mailed men-at-arms. They had with them a certain number of cross-bowmen, but these apparently were used only for preliminary skirmishing; we hear of them at the commencement of the battle but not in its main clash. The Poles and Lithuanians were all mounted, the former with a certain proportion of heavily armed knights, but the latter mainly as semi-Oriental light horse. Hence the battle was along and desperate cavalry scuffle, in which the larger army finally overcame the less, though at the left end of the line the Germans at the beginning of the engagement drove off the ground a large part of the Lithuanian light horse. It is rather odd to find that both sides had brought a few cannon to the field; but, as in so many engagements of this age, they only got off two or three rounds and had no influence on the day. Artillery, as has been mentioned in a previous chapter, goes back to the first quarter of the fourteenth century, about seventy years after the mention of gunpowder by Roger Bacon. There are indisputable references to guns shooting missiles in 1324-26, and the first contemporary picture of a cannon may be seen in an Oxford manuscript of 1327. A few years later they were quite common, but remained for a long time very ineffective except for siege work and the defence of places, the idea of mounting them on wheels having come much later. In their early days they were fitted upon “gun stocks”, or large beams, and taken about on waggons. They could be set down and trained on a given spot, e.g. the gate of a town, or some weak spot in its enceinte, but change of position or of aim was a lengthy matter. The smaller ones were so ineffective, and the larger ones so cumbrous, that it was long before they could be used to any effect in the shifts of battle. At the most they could be set in fixed places in an entrenched position, if an army was resolved to accept a purely defensive action, and was certain of being attacked frontally.

In the middle years of the fourteenth century an attempt was made to secure volley-firing by a number of very small gun-barrels clamped together, and with their touch-holes so arranged that one sweep of the linstock would discharge them simultaneously. These primitive mitrailleuses were clamped to abeam with a mantlet to shelter the gunners, and sometimes mounted on wheels, so that they are called occasionally ‘carts of war’. But generally they are named ribaulds or ribauldequins. Their fatal defect was the impossibility of quick reloading: after giving one blasting discharge, they would take an intolerable time to be got ready for a second. Hence, after enjoying some vogue for two generations, they dropped out of use early in the fifteenth century.

Their disuse was mainly due to the discovery of the fact that a number of single tubes of very small dimensions, carried on a wooden stock and each managed by a single man, were a more effective battle-weapon than a clumsy ribauld. The original “hand-gun” was nothing but a toy cannon strapped to a staff, and fired by the application of a match to a touchhole. It was some time before men learnt to shorten the staff into a butt-end, and to fire the weapon from the shoulder. We begin to hear of “portative bombards” only a foot long and fired from the hand, as early as 1365; but it does not seem to have been before the fifteenth century had begun that they grew quite common, assumed somewhat the shape of the later arquebus, and were used by organised units of soldiery. The first army that made them well-known were the Bohemian bands of the Hussite general Zizka and his successors (1421-34). The invention gradually killed the ribauld, because the latter could only be fired in one direction and was intolerably slow to load, while the hand-gun could be rapidly changed from one mark to another as its bearer chose, and could be loaded with much greater rapidity. It was never popular in England in the fifteenth century, because the national long-bow retained for many generations the advantage of very rapid discharge, and its arrow was, when shot by a competent archer, almost as penetrative as the pellet of the hand-gun. In fact the advantages which the long-bow held over the cross-bow in the fourteenth century it still retained over the primitive fire-arms of the fifteenth—it was both quicker in shooting and more certain of aim. But in the greater part of Europe archers trained to the English level of competence could not be found. Hence the cross-bow survived till it was finally superseded by the improved hand-gun during the great Italian wars of the Renaissance. There were cross-bowmen in the Spanish ranks as late as the battle of Pavia (1525), though bands of hand-gunners had been familiar to most armies ever since the days of the Hussite Wars.

The perfection of the cannon was as slow as that of smaller firearms. “Bombards” had been known, and regularly used, first in siege-work and then tentatively in the field, since the second quarter of the fourteenth century. But they had been so slow in technical development that armies well provided with siege guns did not triumph over the defensive so rapidly as might have been expected. This is well shewn by the length of early fifteenth-century sieges, in which towns attacked by the best artillery of the day could hold out for six months or more, like Rouen in 1418-19 or Meaux in 1421-22. The first case in which a very heavy train of artillery made unexpectedly rapid havoc of a formidable ancient system of fortification was at the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Sultan Mahomet II had got together the largest accumulation of big guns yet known—62 pieces throwing balls of 200 lbs weight or even more. These in six weeks completely broke down several points of the ancient triple wall of the imperial city, and made the storming of the breaches easy.

From the peace of 1396 down to the invasion of France by Henry V in 1415 there was no conflict on a large scale between the English and their continental neighbours. Though small bands of French auxiliaries came to the help of Owen Glyn Dwr’s rebellion in Wales, and though Henry IV lent a modest contingent to the Burgundian faction in their strife with the Armagnacs in 1411, no serious collisions took place, and the two countries went on each in its own line of military usage. There was, however, one battle on English soil which deserves a word of notice—that of Hately field by Shrewsbury (1403). This was the first fight in which two armies both trained in the school of Dupplin and Halidon, each operating with a central mass of dismounted men-at-arms and wings of bowmen, met each other in action. The good archery on both sides made the fight very deadly, and, tactics being equal, it was finally numbers which settled the day, the army of Henry IV being decidedly larger than that of the rebel Percies.

Henry V was already by 1415 a veteran soldier, but his experience had been all in the mountain wars of Wales; the protracted sieges of the castles of Owen Glyn Dwr, and the long hunting down of his irregular and elusive bands, were a very different matter from the tackling of the forces of the great French kingdom. The experiment of his invasion of Normandy was therefore a very interesting one. Unlike those great raiders, Edward III, the Black Prince, and John of Gaunt, he was a strategist with limited and definite objectives, carrying out a plan for the slow subjection of Normandy by a series of sieges, each dealing with the key-town of a region. There is only one exception to this line of strategy in all his campaigns—the battle of Agincourt (1415). There is no doubt that he was convinced of the tactical superiority of the old English “combined training” of bow and lance, and he was anxious to court a pitched battle at all hazards. The French had made no attempt to disturb his siege of Harfleur; so he resolved to force them to action by marching at large through Picardy and challenging them to a fight. Only this intent can explain the apparent rashness of his Agincourt campaign, in which he ran many risks, not so much from the enemy as from the abominable weather, which left his army in danger of ruin from autumn cold and starvation. He finally obtained the battle which he wanted; the enemy got across his line of march to Calais, and after some hesitation attacked him. The tactics on both sides were precisely those of Poitiers repeated: the French sent in front of their great column of dismounted men-at-arms a vanguard of picked horsemen, who were to ride down the English archery, and cover the advance of the main body. Henry arrayed his army in the normal national formation—three bodies of dismounted knights, each provided with wings of archers thrown somewhat forward, covered with stakes planted in their front, and with orchards and villages covering the flanks. As at Poitiers the French advanced squadrons were shot down helplessly. But Agincourt saw a new modification of tactics: finding the enemy’s main body slow in coming on—the recent heavy rain had made the fields into a slough, and the French could only shuffle forward at a snail’s pace in their heavy armour—Henry took the offensive. He advanced against the enemy, halted long enough to let his archers riddle the front line with arrows, and then ordered a general charge, in which the lightly equipped bowmen joined in with their hand-weapons.

The chroniclers express their surprise that an onset of troops, many of whom wore little armour, should have rolled over in helpless confusion masses of dismounted knights. The explanation apparently is that the French line had been well shot about with arrows, was embogged from a weary trudge in the mud, and was tired out by long waiting in impracticably heavy armour. But of the result there was no doubt, and the rear lines presently shared the fate of the vaward division.

Henry could never get the French to oblige him with another pitched battle, and the rest of his series of campaigns is a record of sieges, the deliberate conquest town by town of Normandy, followed by encroachment farther inland after he had been taken into alliance by the Burgundian faction, and saluted as heir to the crown of France. His enemies of the dauphin’s party refused to meet him in the field, the superiority of the English national system of tactics being taken for granted, as it had been after Poitiers seventy years back. If anything was required to prove this admission, it was the one English disaster of the period—the combat of Bauge (1421)—in which the Duke of Clarence, having outridden his archers, was surprised, overwhelmed, and slain, because he had given battle with his men-at-arms alone.

After the death of Henry V the French obviously considered that the change of commanders might bring them luck, and twice ventured to face the Duke of Bedford at Cravant (1423) and Verneuil(1424). But it was the system that was beating them, not the general; at each of these battles the English fought with the normal array of lances flanked with archery, their enemies with masses of dismounted men-at-arms and detachments of mounted men told off for sudden strokes. The event was the same as at Agincourt, and once more the French gave up in despair all hope of beating an English army in the field, and fell back on the defence of their innumerable towns and castles.

This was a reversion to the policy by which Bertrand du Guesclin had saved France fifty years before; but it was not by mere passive resistance and the avoidance of general actions that the second and more dangerous English scheme of conquest was to be foiled. On this occasion the change of fortune was caused by a moral and psychological factor—the appearance of Joan of Arc to rally French national and religious sentiment to the side of Charles VII. We are not here concerned with spiritual things, and must only point out that the military side of Joan’s activity was appreciable. She not only put a new energy into the French generals, but showed them that the English force was too small for the great task that it had taken in hand, that detachments might easily be cut up, and—this was most important—that the way to tackle an English army was to surprise it before it could get into array and throw out its archer wings. For the credit of the battle of Patay (1429) was hers; coming on with headlong speed she caught Talbot’s force before the line was formed, or the archers had time to fix their stakes, and scattered it. Whether her coup was inspired by a true military instinct or by a mere eagerness to get to handstrokes, we cannot be sure.

Joan stopped the progress of the English invasion, and dissipated the prestige of English invincibility. But, owing to the grudging and pusillanimous policy of her king’s ministers, she did not finish her task, and perished unrevenged. The war lingered on for another twenty-three years, spent in the slow recovery of the fortresses which Henry V had mastered in 1415-22. It was essentially a war of sieges, but ended with two pitched battles of high tactical interest, whose details shew that we have arrived at a new epoch in the art of war, for in both field-artillery played a notable part. At Formigny (1450) the English army in Normandy had taken up one of its usual defensive positions, and seemed likely to hold it with success, when the French brought up two culverins to their front, and placed them on a spot from which they enfiladed the hostile line. They were outside archery range, and did so much damage that at last the English charged out from behind their line of stakes to capture the guns. This led to a hand to hand fight, which was undecided when a newly arrived French detachment rode in from the flank and rolled up the English line. Almost the whole force was exterminated. In consequence the few remaining English strongholds in Normandy surrendered with small delay.

In the final battle of the war, which lost Guienne as surely as Formigny lost Normandy, artillery was also prominent. Lord Talbot led the last levy of the English in the south to raise the siege of the loyal town of Castillon. The French faced him not in the open field, but behind a line of entrenchments, part of the contravallation which they had drawn around the besieged place. Talbot saw no way of reaching Castillon save by a frontal attack on the lines; the enemy, being completely “dug in” and under cover, could not be effectively reached by archery. All along the entrenchments their numerous artillery had been placed. Talbot formed his men, both lances and bows, in a column, and dashed at the weakest point of the lines. The guns opened upon him with a concentric fire, the head of the storming party was blown to pieces, and he himself was mortally wounded by a ball which shattered both his legs. A few of the English got inside the lines, but were soon expelled, and the French then sallied out and made an end of the shattered column (1453).

It is worth noting that this intelligent use of artillery by the French distinguished all the later years of the war; the two master-gunners of Charles VII, the brothers Bureau, established a great reputation by their siege-craft—it is said that in the years 1449-50 they reduced as many as sixty castles and towns, small and great, in Normandy, after sieges of no great length, which contrasted strongly with the six months or more of leaguer by which Henry V had won many of these same places thirty years before. Obviously artillery was now a growing power, and could even be used effectively in the field, though as yet only under certain limited conditions.

All through the last years of the Hundred Years’ War the English were still fighting wherever possible with the old tactics of the bows flanking the dismounted lances. The French shewed a growing tendency towards the use of cavalry for its proper purpose, but the merits of the two systems were hotly debated. When the Burgundians fought René of Bar at Boulgneville in 1431 there was long debate whether their knights should dismount or no; they chose the English system, and were victorious. At Montlhéry thirty years later, Commynes tells us of a precisely similar discussion, which ended in Charles the Bold bidding nearly all his men-at-arms take to their horses, only a few being left to stiffen his infantry. His French enemies all fought mounted, and succeeded in getting in some effective charges upon the Burgundian foot. This was in 1465; ten years later at Grandson Charles is found using all his men-at-arms as cavalry against the Swiss phalanx, which beat them off with ease. Nevertheless, except in England, where every battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on foot, the knighthood was tending to resume its old methods of action over the rest of Europe. The fact was that the English system depended in essence on the possession of a very large force of trained archers of high efficiency, and no country save England could produce them. The continental infantry were still inferior in the field, with the exception of the Swiss, whose pike-phalanx was immune against cavalry, and could only have been dealt with in this age by the use of masses of missile-bearing infantry properly supported by cavalry. But the Italian, Burgundian, and German enemies of Switzerland had not as yet any such infantry. And when the Swiss in the next century met their first checks, it was not from the bow or the hand-gun, but from the German Lanzknechts—pikemen trained in their own style—or from the combination of cavalry with field artillery, as at Marignano (1515).

In parts of Europe where the English archer had not penetrated, the fifteenth century shewed some curious tactical developments. The most interesting was that of the Hussite armies in the long Bohemian War (1420-34). This was the result of an improvisation by a general of talent, who had to face the feudal forces of Germany at the head of a raw but fanatical national levy, inspired at once by religious enthusiasm and by hatred for the Teutonic invader. Zizka’s device was the tactics of the Wagenburg or moveable laager of waggons combined with the use of masses of hand-gun men. It was as essentially defensive as the original English combination of archery and dismounted men-at-arms, but was less easy to handle, because its strength lay in the array of war-carts which sheltered the missile-bearing infantry. If there was leisure, not only were the carts chained together, but a ditch was dug in front of them, and the earth from it thrown up round the wheels. There was always a broad exit for sallies left in front of the Wagenburg, and another in the rear. But till the moment of counter-attack arrived these were closed with posts and chains. The hand-gunners mounted upon the carts, men irregularly armed with pikes, halberds, war-flails etc. were stationed in the narrow gaps between them. As the war went on the Hussites acquired cannon, which they mounted on specially built carts placed at intervals along each side of the fortification.

In the first years of the war the Germans repeatedly attempted to storm the Wagenburg, sometimes by cavalry charges, more often by columns of dismounted men-at-arms, but they were invariably repulsed. When the attack had been shattered by the effect of the fire-arms, the Hussites habitually charged out, the counter-attack being led by the small proportion of cavalry which they possessed. Hence came many victories against an enemy who seemed unable to learn anything from his defeats. At last the Germans refused to attack a Wagenburg, and the Hussites took to invading Bavaria, Meissen, and Thuringia, where they wrought great havoc. Obviously the tactics that should have been used against them were those of refusing to assault a prepared position, and of only attacking when the Hussites were on the march, and the Wagenburg not yet formed. Or when it had been formed, artillery placed at a safe distance should have been used against it en masse, so as to force the defenders either to suffer unrequited slaughter, or else to sally out and lose the advantage of their defences. As a matter of fact the defeat (Lipany, 1434) which ended the Hussite wars was inflicted by their own countrymen of the Calixtine or moderate party on the “Taborites” of Prokop. After the failure of a real or simulated assault on their Wagenburg, the Taborites sallied out against an enemy who was not really beaten, but waited till they had come far forward in pursuit, and then faced them in the open and charged their flank with cavalry. The pursuing horde was cut up, and the victors then stormed the inadequately manned Wagenburg. The main legacy which the Hussites left behind was the multiplication of small fire-arms: during the next generation bands of hand-gun men—Bohemian, or trained in the Bohemian wars—were to be found in most of the armies of Eastern and Central Europe.

The military history of fifteenth-century Italy shows no such interesting experiment as that of the Hussites. While Sir John Hawkwood and other condottieri trained in the wars of Edward III, who had many bowmen in their ranks, were the most noted figures in Italy, the English system was for a time employed—eg. we have already noted it at the important battle of Castagnaro. But as the influence of the Transalpine bands and generals faded away, and was replaced by that of native captains of fortune, the decisive use of infantry was forgotten, and cavalry tactics once more became predominant. Machiavelli and Guicciardini ascribe this to the decaying military efficiency of the civic infantry militia of the great towns; when mercenaries had been hired on a great scale, they forgot the valour of their ancestors, who had fought sturdily enough in the wars of the thirteenth century. When tyrants, the inevitable result of faction, grew common in Italy, they habitually discouraged the native levé en masse, preferring to rely on mercenaries. But the cities which never fell into the hands of a tyrant, such as Venice, were no less given to the employment of foreign bands than were the lords of Milan, Verona, or Padua. These mercenaries, hired out by their condottieri, or contractor captains, were from the early days of the fifteenth century onward nearly all heavy cavalry. Machiavelli remarks, with perfect truth, that in an army of 20,000 men there were often only 2000 or 3000 properly equipped infantry. A horseman naturally wishes to get the advantage of his horse, unless some overruling condition of war forces him to dismount, and the Italian battles of the fifteenth century were essentially cavalry fights.

But mercenaries fighting for profit, and hired one year by one prince and the next year by his rival, had neither patriotism nor fanaticism to excite them. To them war was a matter of business, and they were much more set on making and ransoming prisoners, or on extorting contributions from captured towns, than on killing their employer’s enemies. Why should a thrifty captain slay the men-at-arms of the opposite party, who were capable of paying good ransoms, and perhaps were old comrades who had been serving along with him in the last campaign? And since war was his trade, was it wise to put an end to war by a crushing and conclusive victory over the enemy of the moment? And so, as Guicciardini says, “they would spend the whole of a summer on the siege of one fortified place, so that wars were interminable, and campaigns ended with little or no loss of life.” When in 1428 the great condottiere Carmagnola captured nearly the whole army of the lord of Milan, at the battle of Maclodio, he disgusted his Venetian employers by ransoming all the chiefs and officers next day for his private profit.

The consequence of leaving the conduct of war in the hands of the great mercenary captains was that it came often to be waged as a mere tactical exercise or a game of chess, the aim being to manoeuvre the enemy into an impossible situation, and then capture him, rather than to exhaust him by a series of costly battles. It was even suspected that condottieri, like dishonest pugilists, sometimes settled beforehand that they would draw the game. Battles when they did occur were often very bloodless affairs, ransoms rather than killing being the object of the players. Machiavelli cites cases of general actions in which there were only two or throe men-at-arms slain, though the prisoners were to be numbered by hundreds.

This insincere and absurd form of war—long cavalry manoeuvres ending sometimes in an almost bloodless tilting-match—continued in Italy down to the moment when the French came over the Alps to conquer the kingdom of Naples in 1494. These Transalpines, and the Swiss hired to fight in the Milanese quarrels, shocked Italian military opinion by winning unscientific battles after they had been out-manoeuvred, and by slaying the routed enemy wholesale—cosa nuona e di spavento grandissimo a Italia, già lungo tempo assuefatta a vedere guerre più presto belle di pompa e di apparati, e quasi smili a spettacoli, as Guicciardini cynically remarks. The history of Italian fifteenth-century strategy and tactics ends with the coming of the bloodthirsty hordes of Charles VIII, and the introduction of the new forms of war which marked the period that was to endure for the next two generations.

The complicated and interesting battles of the great Italian wars between 1494 and 1558 only concern us here because it is necessary to shew that the elements of their tactics were already to be found existing as separate phenomena, not yet correlated, in the wars of the later fifteenth century. We have already noted the commencement of the practical use of field-artillery, and the multiplication of the smaller fire-arms which dated from the Hussite Wars. The cavalry charge, a thing almost extinct in Western Europe about the year 1400, had already been seen again at Montlhéry and in the wars of Charles the Bold with the Swiss. It was to emerge on a larger scale at Fornovo, Marignano, and many another bloody Italian field. Above all, the use of the heavy column of pikemen, as a thing immune against the cavalry charge, had been seen in all the earlier Swiss victories, and had reached its culminating point ot victory at Grandson and Morat. The simultaneous employment on one field of fire-arms great and small, of the column of pikes, and of the onset of the heavy gendarmerie, was to be the characteristic of the sixteenth century wars. But into these struggles we have not here to enter.

It was, in the end, to be the development of small fire-arms, capable of rapid discharge, which was to drive armour from the battle-field. But the hand-guns of the fifteenth century were still very imperfect weapons, not yet able to hold their own against good archery. Plate-armour had developed mainly as a defence against the long-bow, and defensive armour was at its prime during this period, for workmanship and for complicated ingenuity—we may add also for picturesque and artistic appearance; and the scalloped and fluted panoplies that are generally named after the Emperor Maximilian are certainly the most graceful armour ever known. But the man-at-arms paid dearly for the complicated defences which the smith forged for him. All through the century we hear complaints of the drawbacks of a complete harness. During the period when fighting on foot still prevailed, rapid advance was difficult, and retreat generally fatal. At Agincourt the French chivalry were wearied out, and finally almost embogged, by a mere march of a mile over newly-ploughed and rain-sodden fields. By the time that they got into collision with their enemy they were wellnigh exhausted. And the dreadful proportion of casualties among the higher ranks to be found in the Wars of the Roses was undoubtedly due to the fact that in a routed army the bowmen and billmen could make off rapidly, but the knights and nobles were doomed, unless they possessed exceptionally trusty pages to bring up their horses from the rear. In normal fights on the continent the slowly moving vanquished were captured and held to ransom. But when a party blood-feud was prevalent, as during the latter part of this great English series of campaigns, we find commanders like Edward IV giving orders to spare the commons, but to cut down every man wearing golden spurs. In such a struggle complete armour was a death-trap. When horse-fighting came back into favour the drawback was not quite so evident, since the wearer of a heavy panoply might escape, if his horse were not disabled. Masses of fully-armed horse were still seen during the great Italian wars which covered the period where the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries join. But when cavalry once more became the dominating arm, as the sixteenth century wore on, it was a much lighter cavalry, which had begun to discard great part of its armour, and to aim at rapid movement rather than at mere massive impact.

Only one more point of importance remains to be dealt with before we have done with the fifteenth century and its art of war. This is the beginning of the national standing army, as opposed to mere royal guards or small permanent garrisons of castles, with which the world was already familiar. Of royal guards the largest and most formidable existing in 1450 had been the Janissaries, the slave-soldiery of the Ottoman Sultan, a force of disciplined infantry armed with the bow, which by the time of Mahomet II had reached a total of some 10,000 of 120,000 men. No Western power could show any equivalent for it in numbers or efficiency; the personal retainers of Christian sovereigns never exceeded some few hundreds of men in permanent pay. And the existence of the Janissaries as a formidable unit of infantry had, all through the fifteenth century, given the Turks a great advantage over the irregular hosts of their Yugo-Slav, Polish, and Hungarian enemies—as witness Varna (1444) and the second Kossovo (1449).

But a permanent standing army had appeared in Western Europe, on a modest scale, in the year 1445, and was to be the first symptom of a general movement toward the creation of modern military organisations. This force was the Compagnies d’Ordonnnance of Charles VII, a body of 20 units of horse and foot combined, which the King of France kept under arms when he disbanded after the truce of 1444 the greater part of the heterogeneous troops whom he had been employing in the English war. Charles’s old levies had been Ecorcheurs for the most part, ill paid bands often hard to distinguish by their conduct from robber-gangs, working for the benefit of themselves and their captains. At the great disbanding in 1444-45 the king selected from the mass of his officers a score of professional soldiers, some of them great nobles, others condottieri mainly of French blood, only a very few foreigners being chosen. To each of them was given the task of selecting and organising into a “company” a limited number of trustworthy and efficient troopers and archers.

Each of the twenty companies—fifteen for Langue d’oil and five for Languedoc—consisted of a hundred lances fournies or lances garnies as they were sometimes called. The “lance” was composed of one fully equipped man-at-arms, a courtlier who acted as his squire, a page, two archers, and a valet de guerre. All were provided with horses for transport, but the two archers and the valet were intended to act as infantry, and it is doubtful if the page was a combatant. Thus the companies ran up to six hundred men apiece; they were each officered by a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, and a “guidon.” The total made up a standing army of 12,000 men, quite a considerable force for the fifteenth century. The man-at-arms received ten livres tournois a month, out of which he had to provide for his horses and the page. The other members of the lance had four or five livres apiece. That they were royal troops, and not mercenary bands hired from their respective captains, was shewn by the fact that the king nominated all officers, paid the men individually, and had a staff of inspectors, who reviewed the companies at reasonable intervals. They were not kept about the king's person, but garrisoned at strategic points all over France, and in their earliest years one of their chief duties was to keep the roads clear of highway-robbers, the legacy of thirty years of war.

It will be noted that the proportion of men trained to serve as infantry in the compagnies was small. To provide greater numbers, if of less valuable material, Charles tried the experiment of establishing a sort of local infantry militia, the Francs-Archers. In each parish or similar unit an able-bodied man was designated, who, in return for receiving immunities from taxation, was always to be ready to turn out with a bow or cross-bow, a steel-cap, and a “jack” or brigandine, when summoned to the field by the king. The archers of each district were to be assembled for inspection by royal officers four times a year, and were ordered to keep themselves efficient by regular practice at targets. The experiment was a failure, no arrangements for keeping the men organised in regular units, or accustomed to discipline, having been provided. Only long periods of embodiment could have made them a useful force. They turned out, when mobilised, to be little better than a peasant-levy, and though assembled in considerable numbers by Charles VII and by Louis XI in his earlier years, were gradually allowed to drop into obsolescence. The real origin of the infantry corps of the French standing army was to be found in the bodies of Swiss, whom Louis XI first hired, and who became under his successor a permanent part of the French military organisation. Regular infantry of native origin were not raised and kept on foot till the great Italian wars had begun, after our period has come to an end.

But from 1445 Europe had before its eyes the type of the modern standing army—the tool of Renaissance monarchs—as embodied in the Compagnies d’Ordonnance. Feudal armies are beginning to disappear, mercenary bands under condottieri or contractors are destined to follow them into oblivion, and in short the military organisation of the Middle Ages is about to give place to that of the modern world, though the hired adventurer, and the feudal man-at-arms doing his stipulated turn of service for his fief, were yet to be found for many a year on the rolls of the armies of the West