- Battle of Formigny
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Formigny
Hundred Years' War
April 15, 1450
Formigny, near Carentan, France
result=Decisive French victory
Kingdom of England
Kingdom of France Duchy of Brittany
Comte de Clermont, Arthur III, Duke of Brittany
The Battle of Formigny (
April 15, 1450) was a battle of the Hundred Years' Warfought between Englandand France. It was a decisive victory for the French.
The French, under Charles VII, had taken the time offered by the
Truce of Toursin 1444to reorganize and reinvigorate their armies. The English, without clear leadership from the weak Henry VI, were scattered and dangerously weak. When the French broke the truce in June 1449 they were in a much improved position. Pont-Audemer, Pont-L'Evêqueand Lisieuxfell in August and much of Normandywas retaken by October. Cutting north and east the Bureau brothers oversaw the capture of Rouen(October 1449), Harfleur(December 1449), Honfleurand Fresnoy(January 1450), before moving on to invade Caen.
The English had gathered a small army during the winter of 1449. Numbering around 3,000 men, it was dispatched from
Portsmouthto Cherbourgunder the command of Sir Thomas Kyriell. Landing on March 15, 1450, the army was reinforced with a further 2,000 men under Sir Matthew Goughin late March.
Kyreill advanced south and captured
Valognesin a bloody clash, as further south two French armies joined (around 5,000 men under Comte de Clermont) and marched north for Carentan.
The English army circled Carentan on April 12, the French declined to sally although there were a number of smaller skirmishes. Kyriell turned east towards
Bayeux, reaching the village of Formignyon April 14. At the same time a third French force, under the Condéstable de Richmont, had reached St. Lôfrom the south.
On April 15, Clermont's forces were sighted by the English. The armies faced each other on the Carentan-
Bayeuxroad, near a small tributary of the Aure, the English with their backs to the stream. The English formation numbered around 4,000 — with a three-to-one preponderance in archers — and gathered in a long line behind a thicket of stakes and low earthworks.
Clermont opened the engagement with attacks against the flanks and small charges; these had little chance of success and were easily turned away. He then advanced two
cannons. After a period of fire that caused a few casualties, the English charged and captured the guns.
These initial skirmishes took some three hours. At this time the Breton army under
Arthur de Richemontarrived from the south, having crossed the Aure and now approaching the English force from the flank. They numbered almost 1,200 Bretons - almost all mounted judging from the pace of their march.
Kyriell drew back from Clermont and shifted his force into an "L", straddling the steam. With the prepared position abandoned and split by the enemy's firepower the English force was soon overwhelmed in a series of charges. Kyriell was captured and his army shattered.
The English had been dealt a major blow, 2,500 killed or seriously wounded and 900 taken prisoner while French and Breton casualties were no more than 1000 dead and wounded. With no other significant English forces in
Normandy, the whole region quickly fell to the victorious French. The advance continued elsewhere, quickly sweeping up all English possessions except Calais.
The battle is often cited as the first in which cannons played a pivotal role (the first "decisive" use of cannon is generally considered to have been the following battle, at Castillon). This is rather difficult to judge, contemporary accounts are dubious and it can be seen that the arrival of the Breton army of
Arthur de Richemont, future duke of Brittany, Arthur III, with his powerful force of cavalry on the flank of the English, forcing them to leave their prepared defensive position, was more significant, although it should be noted that the early artillery fire from the two French guns played a role in that as well.
The cannon may have been decisive, not so much for the effect they had themselves, but in that they alerted Richemont to the fact that there was a battle going on, and so caused his appearance on the field. It was fortunate for Clermont that this was so because one of his captains wrote shortly afterwards that if the Constable (Richemont) had not come when he did, Clermont's army would have suffered "irreparable damage".
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