War in the Middle Ages
Written by Simon Newman
History - Middle Ages
Major Wars of the Middle Ages and tactics used
The Middle Ages are marked as the period between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance period. Although there is a lack of unanimity with regard to the exact timeframe of the middle Ages, it is generally agreed that the period began in 13th century. Undeniably, the middle age and the Middle Ages war mark some of most turbulent times of English history. New tactics of war developed with every subsequent battle in large due to economic, cultural, social and technological changes. Numerous middle ages wars were fought during this period but here are the major wars of the middle ages and the tactics used:
The Battle of Hastings & The Battle of Bannockburn
The Battle of Hastings was one of the most significant middle ages war due to the subsequent changes that it brought across the English throne. The battle had an impact on English language, culture and law and marked the early beginnings of the English feudalism. The battle of Hastings began 14 October 1066 AD when King Edward of England died without children to succeed him. After his death, his close friend Harold Godwinson took over the throne but this was met with opposition from Edward’s cousin, William the Duke of Normandy.
In an effort to take over the throne, William sent his 7000 strong army to descend upon the beaches of Pevensey. The English army of Harold was largely made up of an infantry of professional soldiers who rode their way to the battle and walked on foot when they were almost close to their destination. The Norman army was composed of mercenaries and nobles from Falders, Normandy, Brittany, France and Italy. At the start of the battle, both sides applied simple tactics; Harold had to form a strong shield at the top of Senlac ridge in Hastings, while William had to cut through this wall.
Initially William’s cavalry faced major blows, but when the English army ran down the ridge chasing the Flemish infantry, William saw an ideal opportunity to surround them from behind with his archers. The English army was thus trapped in between William’s archers and the infantry. The Normans raged a fierce battle and it is believed that Harold was killed at this moment, leaving William to gain the throne as the first Norman king of England.
The Battle of Bannockburn was Scotland’s war of independence against the Kings of England Edward I and Edward II. The war took place in Central Scotland on June 23rd and 24th 1314 between the Scottish army and the English, Welsh and a segment of the Scottish army. The battle began when Edward II, brother to the Scottish King took over Stirling Castle despite the fact that it had a formidable defense. The castles’ governor Sir Philip de Mowbray offered to surrender the castle to Edward II if no relief was forthcoming. Edward congregated an army totaling over 40,000 soldiers; these included knights, bowmen and both strong and lightweight infantry.
The Scot army under King Robert of Scotland, was made up of 13,000 soldiers, thereby convincing Edward II that he would conquer Scotland. The battle began June 23. Notably the English knight suffered more casualties than the Scottish soldiers. King Robert managed to defeat the strongmen of England by creating a ford through which the English knights and infantry passed through. This caused a sense of confusion causing the English archers to shoot at their own soldiers. It was this consternation that led the Scots to win the battle for independence.
The Battle of Tours
The Battle of Tours was one of the most important battles of middle ages war. The watershed of the battle was marked by Charles Martel’s decision to inhibit the Muslims from invading the Frankish Empire. The battle began October 10 732 AD and it is possible that it lasted more than one week. The Spanish army led by Abd-er Rahman sought to make headway to the city of Tours to besiege the Frankish Empire.
However, the army leader relied largely on the cavalry not knowing that the stony terrain around the city of Tours would not be suitable for a cavalry. In the end, the Muslim retreated from the city of Tours and Martel was able to capture Abd-er Rahman. This battle was specifically important for the Christians because if they lost, Muslims would in effect have taken over large parts of Europe.
The Siege Of Jerusalem
Christians had always undertaken pilgrimage to the Holy Land despite the prevailing Muslim rule. However, in 11 century the Seljuk Turks gained authority over Jerusalem and prevented Christians from undertaking the pilgrimages. This marked the beginning of the seven crusades that saw Christians wage a series of wars against the Muslims in an effort to get back Jerusalem. Crusaders numbering in their thousands sailed to the Holy Land in a historical journey that would cost many lives.
On July 1099, the Crusader reached Jerusalem where the Fatimid of Egypt, a weaker army than the Turks they had earlier fought seized Arqa from, faced them. The Crusaders were faced with the massive Jerusalem wall and had to device tactics to get through. They created siege towers and then attacked the city of Jerusalem after marching around the wall.
This first attack, launched from the northern wall, was under Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin his brother. The second attack was launched from the western wall and the city fell in the hands of the Crusaders who went ahead to kill anyone they found on their way. Only the governor and the royal guard survived after relinquishing the Tower of David.
Battle of Crecy
The Battle of Crecy was a decisive defeat of the French in the Hundred Years War, triggered by King Edward III, King of England who was claiming the French throne. The Hundred Years War lasted until the beginning of the 15 century.
Edward III King of England engaged his 12000 professional soldiers in a battle with 40,000 French soldiers under the command of Philip VI. King Edward III positioned his troops on a hill where they could fire their arrows easily; they threw an approximated 12 arrows per minute, causing massive destruction to the French army. King Philip largely depended on the knights who were heavily enamored with steel breastplates, but their horses remained vulnerable.
Once the English army targeted the horses, the knights would fall and succumb to the marauding English army that bore daggers, knives, bows and arrows. This battle saw the end of using chivalry for battle as more than 2500 knights were killed while the English suffered just about 1000 casualties. King Philip VI drew back in August 26 1346 while Edward III took over the French port of Calais.