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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Mar, 2008 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK, I stand corrected. But it's worth pointing out that this story differs from the conventional wisdom. Why is it that these heroic defences are so little known in Western Europe and North America? (Or maybe I am revealing my ignorance again).
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Mar, 2008 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D.

It is not your fault. A great deal of professional historians but more so pop history and media, video games and tv- thinking of AE2 here, make the mongol army seem like it was invincible and the west would have been doomed.

To be fair period sources do indicate them to be a terrible threat to Europe. But that said their excursions into Europe were meet with a great deal of costly battles. They may have won many of them and really wiped out their enemies but if you are fighting say 8 enemies and they each loose 1/2 their total armies in each fight but you loose an 1/8 or more every battle with them you begin to loose steam really fast. The battle of Mohi River is a good example. The Hungarians may have lost but the battle was costly to both sides. The Mongols were good but they knew better than invincible.

AS far as general discipline. This is very relative. You can find some extremely disciplined groups of knights in chronicles and accounts. That said it may be good to be wary in part that the blame game is not being used in some accounts as well as after a loss it becomes the time to blame someone for the failure and knight's indiscipline could be a fair way to do that.

The reason that the knights and nobles did not kill their prisoners at Agincourt was not anything to do with discipline. In fact quite the opposite. Henry V asked them something to do that was against their code of conduct and discipline as knights. The English men at arms during much of the 100 Years War show a great deal of discipline in war, even the mounted units. They are widely recognized in the period as disciplined actually, an account from Charles the Bold and maximilian come to mind.

We should be cautious to assume a 'wild' charge by a group of knights is a lack of discipline over thinking they see a good opportunity and are expected/allowed to act on it. They may not have been ordered to do this but we know very little of communications on medieval battlefields. They had not walkie-talkies to tell the right wing to advance or the left to stay so many of these 'undisciplined' knights may have been doing what was expected of them by their leaders at the time. It is really all guesses how battles were set up and commanded so between messengers or what not you are the captain of a group and you see a moment to do your job, you likely did it.

RPM
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Robin Palmer




Location: herne bay Kent UK
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Mar, 2008 1:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Randle

Reference the killing of the French knights the English knights in addition to their codes had one other reason for not wanting to kill them profit the knights were worth a fortune in ransom. Profit was a powerful motivation to medieval warriors a rich capture was worth a years revenues.

As to the discipline it is a recorded fact that the Henry had to specifically forbid the murder of priests rape of nuns and sacking of church property. One of the few armies in Europe which needed to do so the English army was noted for its lack of respect for the church.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Mar, 2008 1:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
OK, I stand corrected. But it's worth pointing out that this story differs from the conventional wisdom. Why is it that these heroic defences are so little known in Western Europe and North America? (Or maybe I am revealing my ignorance again).


There are many documents in Croatia that witness many heroic defends of fortresses, oral and archeological proves for Croatian victory at Grobnik, Bela IV gifts of lands to knights who proved themselves in battles, it is written about that in many Croatian history books, but it seems that international historians are for some reason not very interested in studying Croatian history and there is no international studies and books about that. One individual outside Croatia really can't know much about that... It's maybe because we are independent for a quite short time, and we were ignored during the time in which we were a part of Yugoslavia.
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Scott Eschenbrenner




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Mar, 2008 9:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Palmer wrote:
Hi Randle

Reference the killing of the French knights the English knights in addition to their codes had one other reason for not wanting to kill them profit the knights were worth a fortune in ransom. Profit was a powerful motivation to medieval warriors a rich capture was worth a years revenues.

As to the discipline it is a recorded fact that the Henry had to specifically forbid the murder of priests rape of nuns and sacking of church property. One of the few armies in Europe which needed to do so the English army was noted for its lack of respect for the church.


Agreed on the point of the ransoms. However, I'm not so sure about the assertion that the English army respected the church any less than other armies of the period. I'm of the opinion that looting churches was fairly common regardless of nationality, and the fact that Henry V's army mostly obeyed his order speaks to good discipline rather than the other way around.

Of course, those are two separate issues really: 1) how one sees church property (as a target or as inviolable) and 2) how readily one follows orders.

Now, there's a third issue which you may actually be referencing: how people from a particular country felt about the "big" Church. It is generally true that the medieval English felt more independent from the Pope than, say, France. Especially when the Pope moved to Avignon!
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Mar, 2008 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott,

I think your last point is likely the most accurate though many people likely had reserves about this. John Holland and his force were noted in a number of cases and keeping churches from being spoilt and likley others did. There is a section in Keen's book on Medieval Warfare that talks about this I thinks.

RPM
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Scott Eschenbrenner




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My impression on the commonality of church pillaging is mostly based on the earlier period (don't want to nail down hard dates, but say 10th-12th centuries). It is possible that the church attempted to co-opt the early ideals of knighthood so that they could influence them to respect church property. The nascent 12th-century secular writings on chivalry seem to pay mere lip service to the idea of honoring the church, while the church tried to impose such things as the "Peace of God", often retained soldiers for their own defense, and encouraged the Crusades as a way to divert military forces from making war in Europe against Christians. All this leads me to believe that, at least for a while, pillaging churches was common enough to demand some serious attention from the clergy.

Perhaps the continued development of chivalry in the 13th-14th centuries, especially the fact that the church was able to have some input to it, persuaded knights to protect church property more often than not. Which John Holland did you mean, 1st or 2nd Duke of Exeter?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott,

Sorry it was John's Father Thomas, Earl of Kent. I had been writing something on John that days so he was on my mind. It is in Froissart. I think at either the fall of Caen or Calais off the top of my head.

What is funny is that Henry V gets remembered as the English Monarch who is big on church protection but Edward III does the same. The only difference is that Edward often could not control all the many armies he had going at the same time.

There are exceptions and since churchs were usually well endowed men do attack them, especially rival kingdom's churches as they would likely be helping the rival king and this showed he was unable to protect them. People who breach trust, even church leaders, like the Bishop of Limonsin and the churchs, the townsmen there break trust with Prince Edward and he lets the entire town be sacked. The Bishop though had been a friend so this was a severe abuse to betray him.

Nothing I suppose is a hard fast rule but they certainly existed.

You likely are right that earlier it was worse as the Peace of God is made to remedy these trespasses.

RPM
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B. Fulton





Joined: 28 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 6:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having lived in Europe and traveled extensively for the last few years, being interested in medieval history and as a re-enactor/armored fighter (SCA) I have to agree. Much of the land, even now, is heavily castellated and most of those fortresses, especially the earlier ones (not some of the later fortified manors) would be seriously time consuming to take if it was even possible. One castle I've visited in Slovenia is built into a mountainside, and another in Austria is literally the entire mountaintop, with something like 17 gates you'd have to fight through before getting to the actual castle, which isn't even terribly large (big enough for at most 500).

Mongols would have probably bypassed it.


On the ORIGINAL topic..... yes, knights have been known to do impetous things. Some boils down to the fact that medieval army discipline seems to have been a giant pissing match "I don't have to listen to you" in various forms going up and down the theoretical chain of command.

One reason the Templars and Hospitallers in their day made such a big difference, they were trained and organized, stayed where you left them till you said otherwise and never retreated unless the appropriate conditions were met. Nearly Roman levels of discipline.

Drunkenness and stupidity are certainly factors, even in modern battles people have made some pretty dumb decisions.

Serious lack of communication and garbled orders are another. I know from personal experience that even with handheld radios, everyone speaking the same language (nowhere near guaranteed in many medieval armies), an actual practiced battle plan and SOPs, everything can STILL go to hell, and that's only in a practice situation where there are no real bullets flying.

Between garbled or deliberately misunderstood verbal orders, overly complicated plans or a complete lack of plans in the first place, having a group of knights, experienced or not, decide "screw it, we see an opportunity" and charging off is not really all that hard to believe. The command loop (do we ask? Send someone. Have him actually FIND the someone. Tell the someone. Someone decides.................................................................................... ok, he ACTUALLY gives an order. Get back. Make the plan clear. Go.) can definitely be so slow that a battle-winning opportunity is lost. Even up into the modern age, WW1/WW2, having a group decide they know the situation better and running off, and the commander having to modify his plans accordingly assuming that group didn't just lose the battle, is not all that uncommon.

Look up WW1's Sturmtruppen.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Mar, 2008 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
The southest territory in Europe that Mongols reached in 1242 was Croatia and they spent 6 months here and they didn't manage to inflict any significant victory upon Croats, they couldn't capture any of the walled cities they besieged, they suffered much casualties from Croatian ambushes and guerrilla tactics and they were finally defeated on the Grobnik field where they were in a plain surrounded with mountains, where they were denied their advantage of their horse archer tactics. In north - east plains we retreated to well fortified cities and in hills and mountains we chose the battlefield that suited us to defeat Mongols. If they had such problems with one little country like Croatia because of terrain and fortified cities, no way they could conquer any of central European lands like Germany, Austria or Swiss confederacy...


Thanks that is a very interesting post I wasn't aware of this, can you post any links in English where i could learn more about the Croatian experience with the Mongols?

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Mar, 2008 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
J.D. Crawford wrote:
OK, I stand corrected. But it's worth pointing out that this story differs from the conventional wisdom. Why is it that these heroic defences are so little known in Western Europe and North America? (Or maybe I am revealing my ignorance again).


There are many documents in Croatia that witness many heroic defends of fortresses, oral and archeological proves for Croatian victory at Grobnik, Bela IV gifts of lands to knights who proved themselves in battles, it is written about that in many Croatian history books, but it seems that international historians are for some reason not very interested in studying Croatian history and there is no international studies and books about that. One individual outside Croatia really can't know much about that... It's maybe because we are independent for a quite short time, and we were ignored during the time in which we were a part of Yugoslavia.


The same thing seem to largely be true about what happened in Bohemia. Even the incredible military achievements of the Hussites seem to be little known in the West, or at least in the US.

Perhaps because these countries were between great Empires which could not find any reason to extol their achievements. The only Eastern Europeans who seem to show up on History channel are Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad Tepich.

On a more general level, military history of this period seems to heavily emphasize the exploits of certain Kingdoms, England, France, Spain, in a period when the most feared army in Europe was the Swiss Confederacy and the most feared Navy was that of the Venetian Republic. I am not certain as to why but I suspect it may have to do with who paid the most people to write their preferred version of History.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Mar, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Eschenbrenner wrote:
My impression on the commonality of church pillaging is mostly based on the earlier period (don't want to nail down hard dates, but say 10th-12th centuries). It is possible that the church attempted to co-opt the early ideals of knighthood so that they could influence them to respect church property. The nascent 12th-century secular writings on chivalry seem to pay mere lip service to the idea of honoring the church, while the church tried to impose such things as the "Peace of God", often retained soldiers for their own defense, and encouraged the Crusades as a way to divert military forces from making war in Europe against Christians. All this leads me to believe that, at least for a while, pillaging churches was common enough to demand some serious attention from the clergy.

Perhaps the continued development of chivalry in the 13th-14th centuries, especially the fact that the church was able to have some input to it, persuaded knights to protect church property more often than not. Which John Holland did you mean, 1st or 2nd Duke of Exeter?


Lets not forget the Albigensien Crusade, which was entirely conducted against Christians and included the most extreme examples of looting, pillaging, rape etc. that one could imagine. Only a small number of the people who were attacked were considered to be Heretics. The papal legate famously advised "kill them all, god will know his own"

Personally I think this was a far more cynical time than people are usually willing to admit, and Chivalry was mostly an arrangement to ransom rather than kill prisoners of a certain rank (i.e. those who could afford to pay ransoms)

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Scott Eschenbrenner




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:

Lets not forget the Albigensien Crusade, which was entirely conducted against Christians and included the most extreme examples of looting, pillaging, rape etc. that one could imagine. Only a small number of the people who were attacked were considered to be Heretics. The papal legate famously advised "kill them all, god will know his own"

Personally I think this was a far more cynical time than people are usually willing to admit, and Chivalry was mostly an arrangement to ransom rather than kill prisoners of a certain rank (i.e. those who could afford to pay ransoms)


Ah, so that's where the expression comes from.

That was a terrible campaign in my opinion. You can take your pick for motivations between the church trying to protect its turf (under the guise of protecting society's morals), to a simple land grab.

I agree that ransoming was certainly a key part of chivalry from the outset, but I think it was also intended to extol the military virtues that were considered important at the time. It's like a cross between rules of engagement and a warrior code, though later developments made it obsolescent in some respects.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Eschenbrenner wrote:

Ah, so that's where the expression comes from.

That was a terrible campaign in my opinion. You can take your pick for motivations between the church trying to protect its turf (under the guise of protecting society's morals), to a simple land grab.

Yes soldier of fortune magazine didn't coin that phrase, it has a grim historical meaning, during the sacking of Béziers, 20,000 men women and children were put to the sword. Only about 5,000 were believed to be "heretics".

Quote:
I agree that ransoming was certainly a key part of chivalry from the outset, but I think it was also intended to extol the military virtues that were considered important at the time. It's like a cross between rules of engagement and a warrior code, though later developments made it obsolescent in some respects.


I agree with that, I just wanted to remind people that the foundation in "enlightened self interest" which made Chivalry actually work was the profitability of ransom.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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