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520
[HISTORY
INFANTRY


camaraderie of knight and yeoman, champion and plain soldier. Fortified by the knight's unshakable steadiness, the yeoman handled his bow and arrows with cool certainty and rapidity, and shot down every rush of the opposing champions. This was camaraderie dc eombal indeed, and in such conditions the offensive was possible and even easy. The English conquered whole countries while the Flemish and German spearmen and vougiers merely held their own. For them, decisive victories were only possible when the enemy played into their hands, but for the English the guarantee of such victories was the specific character of their army itself and the tactical methods resulting from and expressing that character. But the war of conquest embodied in these decisive victories dwindled in its later stages to a war of raids. The feudal lord, The like the feudal vassal, returned home and gave place Hundred to the professional man-at-arms and the professional Vf-VS' captain. Ransom became again the chief object, w"° and except where a great leader, such as Bertrand Du Guesclin, compelled the mercenaries to follow him to death or victory, a battle usually became a mélée of irregular duels between men-at-arms, with all the selfishness and little of the chivalry of the purely feudal encounter. The war went on and on, the gendarmes thickened their armour, and the archers found more difficulty in penetrating it. Moreover, in raids for devastation and booty, the slow-moving infantryman was often a source of danger to his comrades. In this guerrilla the archer, though he kept his place, soon ceased to be the mainstay of battle. It had become customary since Crécy (where the English knights and sergeants were dismounted to protect the archers) for all mounted men to send away their horses before engaging. Here and there cavalry masses were used by such energetic leaders as the Black Prince and Du Guesclin, and more often a few men remained mounted for work requiring exceptional speed and courage) but as a general rule the man-at-arms was practically a mounted infantryman, and when he dismounted he stood still. Thus two masses of dismounted lances, mixed with archers, would meet and engage, but the archers, the offensive element, were now far too few in proportion to the lances, the purely defensive element, and battles became indecisive skirmishes instead of overwhelming victories. Cavalry therefore became, in a very loose sense of the word, infantry. But we are tracing the history not of all troops that stood on their feet to fight, but of infantry and the special tactics of infantry, and the period before and after 1370, when the moral foundations of the new English tactics had disappeared, and the personality of Du Guesclin gave even the bandits of the “ free companies ” an intrinsic, if slight, superiority over the invaders, is a period of deadlock. Solidarity, such as it was, had gone over to the side of the heavy cavalry. But the latter had deliberately forfeited their power of forcing the decision by fighting on foot, and the English archer, the cadre of the English tactical system, though diminished in numbers, prestige and importance, held to existence and survived the deadlock. Infantry of that type indeed could never return to the “ residue ” state, and it only needed a fresh moral impetus, a Henry V., to set the old machinery to work again for a third great triumph. But again, after Agincourt, the long war lapsed into the hands of the soldiers of fortune, the basis of Edward's and Henry's tactics crumbled, and, led by a greater than Du Guesclin, the knights and the nobles of France, and the mercenary captains and men-at-arms as well, rode down the stationary masses of the English, lances and bowmen alike.

The net result of the Hundred Years' War therefore was to re-establish the two arms, cavalry and infantry, side by side, the one acting by shock, and the other by nre. The lesson of Crécy was “ prepare your charge before delivering it, ” and for that purpose great bodies of infantry armed with bows, arblasts and handguns were brought into existence in France. When the French king in 1448 put into force the “ lessons of the war ” and organized a permanent army, it consisted in the main of heavy 1 As for instance when thirty men-at-arms " cut out ” the Captal de Buch from the midst of his army at Cocherel. cavalry (knights and squires in the “ ordonnance ” companies, soldiers of fortune in the paid companies) and archers and arblasters (francs-archers recruited nationally, arblasters as a rule mercenaries, though largely recruited in Gascony). To these armes de jet were added, in ever-increasing numbers, hand firearms. Thus the “fire” principle of attack was established, and the defensive principle of “ mass " relegated to the background. In such circumstances cavalry was of course the decisive arm, and the reputation of the French gendarmerie was such as to justify this bold elimination of the means of passive defence.” The foot-soldier of Germany and the Low Countries had followed a very different line of development. Here the rich commercial cities scarcely concerned themselves with the quarrels or revolts of neighbouring nobles, ,?, ';%';;f but they resolutely defended their own rights against o feudal interference, and enforced them by an organized militia, opposing the strict solidarity of their own institutions to the prowess of the champion who threatened them. The struggle was between “ you shall ” on the part of the baron and “ we will not ” on the part of the citizens, the offensive versus the defensive in the simplest and plainest form. The latter was a policy of unbreakable squares, and wherever possible, strong positions as well. Sometimes the citizens, sometimes the nobles gained the day, but the general result was that steady infantry in proper formation could not be ridden down, and as yeomen archers of the English type to “ prepare ” the charge were not obtainable from amongst the serf populations of the countryside, the problem of the attack was, for Central Europe, insoluble. The unbreakable square took two forms, the wagenburg with artillery, and the infantry mass with pikes. The first was no more, in the beginning, than an expedient for the safe and rapid crossing of wider stretches of open country af than would have been possible for dismounted men, bu, -fu whom the cavalry headed off as soon as they ventured far enough from the shelter of walls. The men rode not on horses but on carriages, and the carriages moved over the plains in laager formation, the infantrymen standing ready with halbert and voulge or short stabbing spear, and the gunners crouching around the long barrelled two-pounders and the “ ribaudequins ” -the early machine guns-which were mounted on the Wagons. These wagenburgen combined in themselves the due proportions of mobility and passive defence, and in the skilled hands o'f Ziska they were capable of the boldest offensive. But such a tactical system depended first of all on drill, for the armoured cavalry would have crowded through the least gap in the wagon line, and the necessary degree of drill in those days could only be attained by an army which had both a permanent existence and some bond of solidarity more powerful than the incentive to plunder—that is, in practice, it was only attained in full by the Hussite insurgents. The cavalry, too, learned its lesson, and pitted mobile three-pounders against the foot-soldiers' one- and two-pounders, and the 'wagenburg became no more than a helpless target. Thus when, not many years after the end of the Hussite wars, the Wars of the Roses eliminated the English model and the English tactics from the military world of Europe, the French system of fire tactics-'masses of archers, arblasters and handgun-men, with some spearmen and halberdiers to stiffen them-was left face to face with that of the Swiss and Landsknechts, the system of the “ long pike.” A series of victories ranging from Morgarten (1315) to Nancy (1477) had made the Swiss the most renowned infantry in Europe. Originally their struggles with would-be oppressors had The Sw, taken the form, often seen elsewhere, of arraying solid Ss masses of men, united in purpose and fidelity to one another rather than by any material or tactical cohesion. Like the men of Bruges at Courtrai, the Swiss had the advantage of broken ground, and the still greater advantage of being opposed by reckless feudal cavalry. Their armament at this stage was not peculiar-voulges, gisarmes, halberts and spears—though they were specially adept 1n the use of the two-handed sword. But as time went on the long pike (said to have originated in Savoy or the Milanese about 1330) - - - -

  • This tendency of the French military temperament reappears

at almost every stage in the history of armies.