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HISTORY]
519
INFANTRY


The tactics of feudal infantry at its best were conspicuously illustrated in the battle of Bouvines, where besides the barons, knights B I and sergeants, the Brabangon mercenaries (heavy foot) WV nes' and the French communal militia opposed one another. On the French right wing, the opportune arrival of a well-closed mass of cavalry and infantry in the Hank of a loose crowd of men-atarms which had already been thoroughly engaged, decided the fight. In the centre, the respective infantries were in first line, the nobles and knights, with their sovereigns, in second, yet it was a mixed mass of both that, after a period of confused fighting, focussed the battle in the persons of the emperor and 'the king of France, and if the personal encounters of the two bodies of knights gave the crowded German infantry a momentary chance to strike down the king, the latter was soon rescued by a half-dozen of heavy cavalrymen. On the left wing, the count of Boulogne made a living castle of his Brabangon pilces, whence with his men-at-arms he sallied forth from time to time and played the champion. Lastly, the Constable Montmorency brought over what was still manageable of the corps that had defeated the cavalry on the right (nearly all mounted men) and gave the final push to the allied centre and right in succession. Then the imperial army fied and was slaughtered without offering much resistance. Of infantry in this battle there was enough and to spare, but its only opportunities for decisive action were those afforded by the exhaustion of the armoured men or by the latter becoming absorbed in their own single combats to the exclusion of their proper work in the line of battle. As usual the infantry suffered nine-tenths of the casualties. For all their numbers and apparent tactical distribution on this field, they were “ residue, ” destitute of special organization, training or utility; and the only suggestion of “ combined tactics " is the expedient adopted by the count of Boulogne, rings of spearmen to serve as pavilions served in the tournament-to secure a decorous setting or a display of knightly prowess.

In those days in truth the infantry was no more the army than to-day the shareholders of a limited company are the board of directors. They were deeply, sometimes vitally, interested in the result, but they contributed little or nothing to bringing it about, except when the opposing cavalries were in a state of moral equilibrium, and in these cases anything suffices-the appearance of camp followers on a “ Gillies Hill, ”as at Bannockburn or the sound of half-a-dozen trumpets-to turn the scale. Once it turned, the infantry of the beaten side was cut down unresistingly, while the more valuable prisoners were admitted to ransom. Thereafter, feudal tactics were based principally on the ideas of personal glory-won in single combat, champion against champion, and of personal profit-won by the knight in holding a wealthy and well-armed baron to ransom and by the foot-soldier in plundering while his masters were fighting. In the French army, the term bidaux, applied in the days of Bouvines to all the infantry other than archers and arblasters, came by a quite natural process to mean the laggards, malingerers and skulkers of the army.

But even this infantry contained within itself two half smothered sparks of regeneration, the idea of archery and the idea of communal militia. Archery, in whatever Revival of . . . .

m, m, ,.y form practised, was the one special form of military activity with which the heavy gendarme (whether he fought on horseback or dismounted) had no concern. Here therefore infantry had a special function, and in so far ceased to be “ residue.” The communal militia was an early and inadequate expression of the town-spirit that was soon to produce the solid burgher-militia of Flanders and Germany and after that the trained bands of the English cities and towns. It therefore represented the principles of solidarity, of combination, of duty to one's comrade and to the common cause-principles which had disappeared from feudal warfare? It was under the influence of these two ideas or forces that infantry as an arm began once again, though slowly and painfully, to differentiate itself from the mass of bidaux until in the end the latter practically contained only the worthless elements. The first true infantry battle since Hastings was fought at Courtrai in 1302, between the burghers of Bruges and a feudal army under cond, " Count Robert of Artois. The citizens, arrayed in heavy masses, and still armed with miscellaneous weapons, were careful to place themselves on ground difficult of access-dikes, pools At Bouvines, it is recorded with special emphasis that Guillaume des Barres, when in the act of felling the emperor, heard the call to rescue King Philip Augustus and, forfeiting his rich prize, made his way back to help his own sovereign.

and marshes-and to fasten themselves together, like the Gauls of old. Their van was driven back by the French communal infantry and professional crossbowmen, whereupon Robert of Artois, true feudal leader as he was, ordered his infantry to clear the way for the cavalry and without even giving them time to do so pushed through their ranks with a formless mass of gendarmerie. This, in attempting to close with the enemy, plunged into the canals and swamped lands, and was soon immovably fastened in the mud. The citizens swarmed all round it and with spear, cleaver and flail destroyed it. Robert himself with a party of his gendarmerie strove to break through the solid wall of spears, but in vain. He was killed and his army perished with him, for the citizens did not regard war as a game and ransom as the loser's forfeit. As for the communal infantry which had won the first success, it had long since disappeared from the field, for when count Robert ordered his heavy cavalry forward, they had thought themselves attacked in rear by a rush of hostile cavalry-as indeed they were, for the gendarmerie rode them down-and melted away.

Crécy (q.v.) was fought forty-four years after Courtrai. Here the knights had open ground to fight on, and many boasted that they would revenge themselves. But they encountered not merely infantry, but infantry tactics, and were for the second, and not the last, time destroyed. The English army included a large feudal element, but the spirit of indiscipline had been crushed by a series of iron-handed kings, and for more than a century the nobles, in so far as they had been bad subjects, had been good Englishmen. The English yeomen had reached a level of self-discipline and self-respect which few even of the great continental cities had attained. They had, lastly, made the powerful long-bow (see ARCHERY) their own, and Edward I. had combined the shock of the heavy cavalry with the slow searching preparatory rain of arrows (see FALKIRK). That is, infantry tactics and cavalry tactics were co-ordinated by a general, and the special point of this for the present purpose is that instead of being, as in France, the unstable base of the socalled “ feudal pyramid, ” infantry has become an arm, capable of offence and defence and having its own special organization, function in the line of battle and tactical method. This last, indeed, like every other tactical method, rested ultimately on the moral of the men who had to put it into execution. Archer tactics did not serve against the disciplined rush of Ioan of Arc's gendarmerie, for the solidarity of the archer companies that tried to stop it had long been undermined.

Yet we cannot overrate the importance of the archer in this period of military history. In the city militias solidarity had been obtained through the close personal relationship of the trade grids and by the elimination of the champion., §§ ;, , s, Therefore, as every offensive in war rests upon boldness, y, ,-C;, ,, these militias were essentially defensive, for they could only hope to ward off the feudal champion, not to outfight him (Battle of Legnano, 1176. See Oman, p. 442). England, however, had evolved a weapon which no armour could resist, and a race of men as fully trained to use it as the gendarme was to use the lance.” This weapon gave them the power of killing without being killed, which the citizens' spears and maces and voulges did not. But like all missiles, arrows were a poor stand-by in the last resort if determined cavalry crossed the “ beaten zone ” and closed in, and besides pavises and pointed stakes the English archers were given the support of the knights, nobles and sergeants-the armoured champions—whose steady lances guaranteed their safety. Here was the real forward stride in infantry tactics. Archery had existed from time immemorial, and a mere technical improvement in its weapon could hardly account for its suddenly becoming the queen of the battlefield. The defensive power of the “ dark impenetrable wood ” of spears had been demonstrated again and again, but when the cavalry had few or no preliminary difficulties to face, the chances of the 'infantry mass resisting long-continued pressure was small. It was the combination of the two elements that made possible a Crécy and a Poitiers, and this combination was the result of the English social system which produced the 2 Crossbows indeed were powerful, and also handled by professional soldiers (e.g. the Genoese at Crécy), but they were slow in action, six times as slow as the long bow, and the impatient gendarmerie generally became tired of the delay and crowded out or rode over the

crossbowmen.