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The Battle of Patay (18 June 1429) was the culminating engagement of the Loire Campaign of Hundred Years' War between the French and English in north-central France. It was a decisive victory for the French and turned the tide of the war. This victory was to the French what Agincourt was to the English. Although credited to Joan of Arc, most of the fighting took place at the vanguard of the French army and the battle was over before the main body could arrive.
After the relief of the Siege of Orléans, the French recaptured several English strongholds in the Loire valley. This regained bridges for the subsequent French assault on English and Burgundian territory to the north. Nearly all of France north of the Loire river was under foreign control. The French victory at Orléans had destroyed the only French-controlled bridge. Three smaller battles had recovered bridges along the Loire.
The French Loire campaign of 1429 consisted of five actions:
- 1. The Siege of Orléans.
- 2. The Battle of Jargeau.
- 3. The Battle of Meung-sur-Loire.
- 4. The Battle of Beaugency.
- 5. The Battle of Patay.
The Battle of Patay took place the day after the English surrender at Beaugency. In this battle, the English attempted to use the same tactics it had in the victorious battles of Crécy in 1346, Poitiers in 1356, and Agincourt in 1415. These tactics called for having extensive numbers of longbowmen defended by sharpened stakes driven into the ground in front of their army, the stakes slowing and hampering a cavalry assault while the longbowmen massacred the enemy. However, in the Battle of Patay, the French knights were finally able to catch the English unprepared.
No other country in Europe used the longbow as extensively as England. Although the weapon itself was relatively inexpensive to produce, it was difficult to amass a large pool of trained bowmen: constant practice was required to develop the skills needed to use the longbow effectively. In order to ensure a sufficient number of skilled longbowmen, the English government required yeomen and peasants to train with their bows regularly. The large number of longbowmen the English could field as a result of this policy gave them a great military advantage during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Longbowmen had a serious weakness, however: due to their light armor (or complete lack thereof), they were at a distinct disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat when faced with armored men-at-arms. At Patay, the French army took advantage of this crucial weakness.
An English reinforcement army under Sir John Fastolf departed from Paris following the defeat at Orléans. The French had moved swiftly, capturing three bridges and accepting the English surrender at Beaugency the day before Fastolf's army arrived. The French, in the belief that they could not overcome a fully prepared English army in open battle, scoured the area in hopes of finding the English unprepared and vulnerable.
The English reconnoitered with remaining defenders at Meung-sur-Loire. The French had taken only the bridge at this location, not the neighboring castle or the town. Retreating defenders from Beaugency joined them. The English excelled at open battles; they took up a position whose exact location is unknown but traditionally believed to be near the tiny village of Patay. Fastolf, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and Sir Thomas Scales commanded the English.
The standard defensive tactic of the English longbowmen was to drive pointed stakes into the ground near their positions. This prevented cavalry charges and slowed infantry long enough for the longbows to take a decisive toll on the enemy line. However, the English archers 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.
On hearing the news of the English position, about 1,500 men under captains La Hire and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, composing the heavily armed and armoured cavalry vanguard of the French army, attacked the English. The battle swiftly turned into a rout, with every Englishman on a horse fleeing while the infantry, mostly composed of longbowmen, were cut down in droves. Longbowmen were never intended to fight armoured knights unsupported except from prepared positions where the knights could not charge them, and they were massacred. For once the French tactic of a large frontal cavalry assault had succeeded, with decisive results.
- Devries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military Leader (Glaucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1999). ISBN 0-7509-1805-5
- Richey, Stephen W. Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003). ISBN 0-275-98103-7
- Allmand, C. The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c. 1300–1450. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). ISBN 0-521-31923-4
- Jeanne d'Arc. Online University research project.
- Siege of Orleans and the Loire campaign a detailed description with strategic and tactical maps
- The Battle of Patay from the same site
- Joan of Arc And The Loire Valley Campaign from history of Joan of Arc
- Dynamic maps of Joan of Arc's campaigns from Southern Methodist University
- Jeanne d'Arc: Her Life and Death by Mrs. (Margaret) Oliphant
- A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times by François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, vol. 3
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Battle of Patay. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|