The siege of Rouen, July 1418–January 1419 Part I

Early in June 1418 Henry V joined his army at Bec-Hellouin and advanced to the Eure. On 8 June the English crossed the river and laid siege to Louviers from both banks. Louviers was the last walled town of the Eure before it flowed into the Seine. It was a place of some strength, defended by a circuit of high modern walls and a triple line of ditches and manned by a Burgundian garrison. But their resistance lasted little more than a week. The English filled in the moat, undermined the walls and battered the town with artillery. The defenders launched several courageous sorties in an attempt to silence the English batteries. They made effective use of their own artillery, shooting projectiles into the English lines, one of which narrowly missed the King. But by the middle of June several breaches had been made and the besiegers began to prepare an assault. The townsmen, terrified of a sack, forced the garrison to negotiate a conditional surrender agreement. Its terms allowed a brief interval for relief. But with the government in chaos in Paris there was no prospect of that. Louviers punctually opened its gates on 23 June and submitted to the English King’s mercy. But Henry was not merciful. The surrender of Louviers opened a new and harsher phase of the English conquest. He refused to pardon the captain of the town, who had previously been captain of Bayeux and had sworn not to serve against him again. He hanged eight gunners of the garrison in retaliation for the casualties that they had inflicted. He imposed an indemnity of 8,000 écus on the inhabitants.

One of the men who was present to witness the scene was Cardinal Orsini. He had come into the English camp under safe-conduct to explore the possibilities of a negotiated peace. Orsini disapproved of Henry’s brutality (he protested against the execution of the gunners), and he was taken aback by the King’s obvious determination to press on with the conquest of Normandy. His report must have made gloomy reading when he returned to Paris. Henry had told him that his victories represented the will of God, who had sent him into France to chastise its sinful inhabitants. The visible disintegration of the country under its current rulers was proof of the justice of his claims. The Cardinal concluded that the King’s military position was so strong that for the moment any attempt at negotiation was doomed. The advance of the English seemed to be unstoppable. On 27 June the first contingents of Henry’s army reached the Seine at Pont-de-l’Arche.

Pont-de-l’Arche was a walled town on the south bank of the Seine. It was important mainly for its famous stone bridge of twenty-four arches, the only one between Rouen and Vernon. The bridge was fortified at both ends. It was defended by the river gate on the town side and by a great circular keep built on an island by the opposite bank of the river. The whole had been constructed by Philip Augustus in 1209 as part of a scheme of fortification designed to secure control of the lower valley of the Seine after the expulsion of the Angevin kings of England. When the English appeared before Pont-de-l’Arche in June 1418 the defence of Upper Normandy was in disarray. Robert de Braquemont had struggled on as royal lieutenant in the province even though he had been stripped of his office as Admiral of France by the triumphant Burgundians and many of the towns and garrisons for which he was responsible had repudiated the government which had appointed him. Braquemont was a good strategist. He realised that the only hope of holding Normandy was to keep the English south of the Seine, a broad, fast-flowing river which was the only practicable line of defence. He had therefore made no attempt to rescue Louviers and concentrated all his efforts on saving Pont-de-l’Arche. He had been remarkably successful in uniting the Normans of both allegiances behind this enterprise. At the beginning of June he had persuaded twenty-five walled towns of Normandy to enter into a treaty under which they had agreed to a limited measure of military cooperation regardless of party allegiance. He had also succeeded in raising a substantial field army from the towns and nobility of the province. About 1,000 men had been put into Pont-de-l’Arche under the command of Jean Malet de Graville, a firm Orléanist then at the outset of a long and famous military career. In addition there were about 2,000 men stationed on the north bank to stop the English trying to bridge the river or cross it by boat, and another 800 held in reserve ten miles away at the castle of Étrepagny. Braquemont’s reward was to be dismissed just as the English were approaching the town and denounced as a traitor in the streets of Paris.

He was replaced by an ardent Burgundian partisan, the lord of Chastellux, one of the Burgundian captains responsible for the capture of Paris, who had recently been made a Marshal of France by a grateful Queen. He arrived to take command just in time to witness the collapse of the French position on the Seine. In the early hours of 4 July 1418 the English succeeded in crossing the river. They had occupied a large island in the middle of the stream opposite the suburban abbey of Bonport, where they concentrated a large force under the command of Sir John Cornwall. About half a mile upstream another English force set up a noisy diversion. While the French moved the bulk of their forces along the riverbank to confront them, Cornwall silently crossed from the island in eight small boats assembled from wicker frames and animal skins. He was accompanied by his fifteen-year-old son and about sixty men. They brought with them a single horse and some small artillery pieces. There was a fight at the water’s edge, where a small number of French troops had been left to guard the bank. The alarm went up. But it was too late. By the time that the rest of the French force had returned to meet the new threat another 1,000 English had made the crossing in relays. When the sun rose Cornwall had established a secure bridgehead on the right bank. The Duke of Clarence crossed the river during the morning with another 4,000 men, about half the army. A strong French counter-attack was beaten off. The English could now invest both ends of the bridge and seal off the town. Their engineers began to assemble a pontoon bridge made of timber and hide which had been manufactured in sections in England and brought to the siege lines from Harfleur.

Chastellux’s army broke up before his eyes. Most of the men had been drawn from the garrisons of Rouen and other towns. With the English across the Seine their first priority was to defend their own walls. Inside Pont-de-l’Arche Jean Malet and his garrison recognised defeat. They sent parlementaires into the English camp and two days after the crossing, on 6 July, a conditional surrender was agreed. They promised to submit on 20 July unless by then the place had been relieved by the King of France or the Dauphin in person. Malet sent messengers to the Duke of Burgundy, accompanied by a delegation from the city of Rouen, bearing the terms of the surrender agreement and a desperate appeal for relief. With them rode an English herald. His mission was to call on John the Fearless to declare whether he intended to honour his treaty of neutrality with Henry V.

On 11 July 1418, they found John the Fearless at Provins, preoccupied with the preparations for his return to Paris. Everything there was in confusion. The Queen’s administration was in the process of being transferred from Troyes. All the principal officers of state and many senior officials and judges in Paris were being replaced by creatures of the Duke of Burgundy in the face of sullen obstruction from the civil service. The Parlement, which been in the forefront of the resistance, had been suspended and remained closed for six weeks while its personnel were purged. For the moment the operations of government were paralysed. On 14 July the Duke of Burgundy entered Paris with much ceremony by the Porte Saint-Antoine. He was accompanied by Isabelle of Bavaria in a golden litter and by all the leading Burgundian captains. They were escorted through the streets by 3,000 men-at-arms, 1,500 crossbowmen and 1,200 prominent citizens in uniform blue robes who had gone out to meet them at the bridge of Charenton. The procession made its way slowly across the city in the bright sunshine through streets strewn with flowers and lined with enthusiastic Parisians wearing St Andrew’s crosses. The air was filled with cheers and a deafening cacophony of trumpets and horns. Charles VI received them at the Louvre. He graciously welcomed the man who had murdered his brother. He kissed his estranged Queen. The crowd crammed into the great hall of St Louis wept. Then, spurning the traditional wine and spices proffered by the King, the Duke of Burgundy promptly left with the Queen to attend to more important business.

On the following day, 15 July, the Queen presided over a crisis meeting of the council. The main item of business was the situation on the Norman front. The representatives of Rouen and Pont-de-l’Arche were present. They were joined by messengers sent by the Bastard of Alençon from Domfront. After a siege of three months he had agreed to surrender the fortress to the Earl of Warwick on 22 July unless he was relieved. The Normans pressed for action. They wanted both Pont-de-l’Arche and Domfront relieved, Rouen reinforced and the English sieges at Cherbourg and Honfleur broken up. It was an impossible demand. But, ignoring the difficulties, the council went through the motions of complying. They ordered the immediate recruitment of an army of 15,000 men. They proposed to find 2,000 men-at-arms and 1,000 crossbowmen from the troops with John the Fearless in Paris and to support them with 12,000 infantry levies recruited in Paris and the towns of Upper Normandy. The English herald was sent back to Pont-de-l’Arche with a defiant message from John the Fearless declaring that when the time came he would confront Henry V in battle. The Duke of Burgundy’s dealings with the English had always been opportunistic. Now that he had won control of the King and the government it was in his interest to present himself as the defender of France against her ancient enemy. But John could not fight the English and the Armagnacs at once. Even if it had been possible to raise the troops and lead them to Pont-de-l’Arche within the five days that remained, there was no prospect of an army consisting mainly of raw urban infantry overcoming the experienced professional troops of the King of England. In the event the council’s plans proved impossible to execute. Pont-de-l’Arche surrendered on 20 July and Domfront two days later. Shortly afterwards the Duke of Exeter appeared before the walls of Rouen with a herald to reconnoitre the defences and summon the place to surrender. The response was a powerful cavalry sortie from the gates which resulted in the death of many of Exeter’s company. At about midnight on 29 July Henry V arrived with the bulk of his army outside the city.

Rouen was the largest French city which the English had besieged since the outset of the war eighty years earlier. Its thirty-five parishes were home to a permanent population of between 20,000 and 25,000 people. Its defences were outwardly imposing, ‘a prowde araye … welle hyt was ordaynyd for warre’, wrote John Page, an English soldier, probably an archer, whose account of the siege in doggerel verse is the most vivid of the contemporary narratives. Rouen was enclosed by a high wall nearly four miles in circumference, pierced by five fortified gates on the landward side and protected by a deep dry ditch. Most of these works dated from the beginning of the thirteenth century. On the north side, the city was dominated by the great citadel which Philip Augustus had built after 1204 to mark his conquest of the Norman capital from the Angevin kings of England. Since then a sprawling suburb had grown up north-east of the citadel to house the textile workshops and the tenements in which the industrial population worked and lived. These districts had recently been enclosed by a major extension of the walls. But there remained eight unprotected suburban parishes beyond the walls, all of which had been systematically demolished as the English approached, along with the Benedictine priory of St Gervais on the west and the Clos des Galées, the naval arsenal on the opposite side of the river. The towers and gates bristled with guns overlooking the desolate wasteland which the demolition teams had left around the city. A long fortified bridge constructed partly of stone and partly of timber linked the city to a heavily manned fort on the south bank. The task of organising the defence of the place had fallen to Guy Le Bouteillier and a group of Burgundian captains sent in haste from Paris. They commanded a professional garrison of between 1,200 and 1,600 men. But the main burden of the defence fell upon the 10,000 or so able-bodied male inhabitants. Guy Le Bouteillier installed himself in the citadel with part of the garrison. The rest were assigned to sectors of the city, each corresponding to one of the gates and each with its own commander. A mounted reserve was created to go to the aid of any sector in difficulties.

Henry V set up his headquarters in an abandoned Carthusian monastery by the Paris road, about half a mile east of the walls. At the outset a number of critical decisions were made. The King decided not to attempt an assault. Given the number of the defenders and the density of the streets and lanes within the walls it would have been a costly and uncertain business. He also seems to have resolved to make only limited use of his artillery. Although cannon were sited in front of all the gates and the city walls were overlooked on the north and east by high ground offering ideal vantage points, there is no evidence in any contemporary account of the siege of the kind of heavy artillery bombardment which the English had employed at Harfleur, Caen or Falaise, and no evidence of major damage to the city. The reason for this apparently surprising omission was that Henry wanted Rouen as much for its political as its military value. He intended it to serve as the capital of an English duchy of Normandy. The destruction of its walls and public buildings would have undermined this scheme and weakened the city in the face of a French counter-attack. So the English planned to starve the city into submission instead. Its sheer size made it vulnerable to famine. The harvest was not yet in. Too late, the municipal authorities had ordered every citizen to lay in supplies for ten months. The effect was simply to create a run on the shops and markets. An attempt had been made to reduce the numbers of ‘useless mouths’ by ordering out the old and infirm, the poor, and some of the women and clergy. But the response had been patchy and the magistrates’ efforts were largely frustrated by the great tide of refugees flooding into the city from the suburbs and surrounding country.

In the first few days after his arrival Henry set up a tight blockade. Working under the guns of the defenders and suffering heavy casualties from sorties, his men dug a deep trench and a bank the whole way round the walls on the landward side. The siege operations, like the defence, were divided into sectors corresponding to the gates of the city. The King himself took command of the eastern sector in front of the Porte Saint-Hilaire. The Earl of Salisbury occupied the marshy ground between the King’s sector and the river outside the Porte Martinville. The Duke of Clarence was posted in the ruins of the abbey of St Gervais on the west. The Duke of Exeter guarded the northern sector and Sir Thomas Mowbray and Sir John Cornwall were encamped outside the citadel. Access to the city by water was completely blocked. A large force commanded by the Earl of Huntingdon stood on the south bank opposite the quays of the city. The fort at the south end of the bridge was surrounded. Heavy chains were stretched across the river upstream and down and a timber bridge was constructed a short distance away. Barges filled with soldiers patrolled the stream on both sides. Eighty miles downstream where the Seine flowed into the sea, a fleet of galleys supplied by the King of Portugal blockaded the river mouth.

The first priority for the English after they had completed the blockade of Rouen was to secure their own communications. The English had an unhappy experience of major sieges. The few that they had undertaken in the previous century, at Tournai (1340), Rennes (1356), Reims (1359) and Nantes (1381–2) had all had to be abandoned because they could not feed their army. The lesson had been learned by 1418. A large-scale victualling operation was organised. This involved shipping supplies from southern England into Harfleur, which was turned into a great depot for the storage of supplies for the army. From there victuals were trans-shipped onto barges to be carried up the Seine.

The French held two garrisoned towns on the north bank of the Seine, at Quillebeuf and Caudebec, where they had stationed armed ships to block the passage of the river. These places had to be reduced if the English army was not to starve. Quillebeuf was besieged shortly after the investment of the city. Its garrison was annihilated in a battle beneath the walls on 16 August. But Caudebec proved to be tougher. The Earl of Warwick, who had recently arrived with his company from Domfront, was sent to deal with it. The place held out valiantly while no fewer than 100 victualling barges were held up in the Seine waiting to pass its walls. Eventually an English herald went into the town and negotiated an agreement with its defenders. They undertook to surrender if and when Rouen was captured. In the meantime they would allow free passage to English shipping travelling between Rouen and the sea. Upstream of the city the main problem was the occupation of the Mont Sainte-Catherine by a large French garrison based in the fortified monastery at the summit. Possession of this great hill east of the city was vital to the English in order to secure their communications with Pont-de-l’Arche and to protect their rear from any relief force approaching from the east. The garrison of the monastery successfully beat off a determined night attack in the first few days of the siege. But they had limited stocks of food, and after holding out for a month they were finally forced to surrender on 1 September.

The siege of Rouen, July 1418–January 1419 Part II

By October 1418 the English army was securely established around Rouen. The whole of the lower reach of the Seine was under their control. The harvest had been brought in. Armed foraging expeditions were returning daily with supplies. Large markets had been set up at the edge of their encampments which were constantly restocked. Only the quiescence of the French enabled the English King to conduct a siege on this scale and supply his army across 120 miles of sea and eighty miles of enemy territory, something which no previous English commander in France had achieved. As the haberdasher Henry Gloming remarked on returning to England, a determined French attack on Henry V’s lines ‘wolde breke his sege and make hem of Roon dokke hys tayle’. The council, to whom the conversation was reported, disliked people who spread despondency and objected to the idea that the King owed anything to luck. They committed Gloming to the Flete prison. But the truth must have been as obvious to the English as it was to everyone else. Inside the beleaguered city food was rapidly running out. The shops and markets were bare. Stocks changed hands only in private and at exorbitant prices. The Rouennais began to fear that they had been abandoned. From the end of August onwards they addressed increasingly desperate appeals for help to the Duke of Burgundy, to his councillors, to the city of Paris, the University, even to the Dauphin.

Reporting on sentiment in the capital at the beginning of September, the University told the Rouennais that everyone realised that if their city held out there was some prospect of recovering Lower Normandy from the English, whereas if it fell the whole province would be permanently lost and the rest of France in grave peril. The Duke of Burgundy was under no illusions about this. He was now the real head of government. His officers were conducting the defence of the city. His son had given the Rouennais solemn undertakings that they would be rescued if they were attacked. But his government had inherited many of the problems of the Armagnacs along with their capital. John received the appeals of Rouen with ‘good and gracious words’ but his resources of money and men were fully committed to fighting off the Armagnacs around Paris. It was clear that if Rouen was to be relieved there would have to be close cooperation between the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy. But the Dauphin’s councillors had no interest in helping the Duke to bear his burden. The Rouennais were no friends of theirs, they said. Charles moved his headquarters at the end of July 1418 to the immense fortress of Chinon in Touraine and began to recruit substantial numbers of troops. But his objective was the recovery of Tours and other strongholds in Touraine from their Burgundian garrisons. It was not the relief of Rouen.

Shortly after his flight from Paris the Dauphin had summoned a great council of his party to advise him how to put an end to the civil war. It met at the beginning of August 1418 at Chinon. Most of those present were anxious to find some compromise which would enable the Dauphin to cooperate with the Duke of Burgundy. They included the mediator of La Tombe John of Brittany, his ward the eleven-year-old John Duke of Alençon and Yolande of Aragon, the regent for her young son Louis of Anjou. Their lands were all on the marches of the English conquests in Normandy. They had the strongest personal interest in uniting the factions against Henry V. Against his better judgment as he later thought, the Dauphin allowed them to push him into agreeing to participate in a peace conference with the Queen and the Duke of Burgundy. The assembly agreed upon a set of proposals to be made to the Duke. They were recorded in a memorandum prepared by the Dauphin’s councillors. But his councillors were hostile to the whole idea of the conference and their hostility is reflected in its terms. What the document proposed was an informal partition of France between the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy. Each of them was to withdraw his garrisons from places outside his own domains and concentrate his resources on the defeat of the invader. But they were to operate separately against the English. The Duke of Burgundy would conduct military operations north of the Seine with the revenues and manpower of the north, while the Dauphin conducted his own distinct operations in Lower Normandy and the march of Aquitaine, drawing on the resources of the centre and south. Each of them was to act through his own council. The only element of coordination was that each man’s council would include a number of men nominated by the other. These were extraordinary proposals in both military and political terms. They had been carefully framed so as to keep the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy apart, by people whose main concern was to avoid exposing the young prince to the influence of his mother and her Burgundian allies. The proposed division of effort would have required John the Fearless to confront the army of Henry V outside Rouen with only half the resources of France.

The peace conference convened to discuss these proposals opened on 5 September 1418 at Corbeil, south-east of Paris. John of Brittany acted as mediator as he had done at La Tombe. After a fortnight moving from place to place to avoid the smallpox spreading through the Île de France, John V eventually established himself in the venerable Benedictine monastery of Saint-Maur-les-Fossés near Vincennes. The Dauphin was represented by the Archbishop of Tours Jacques Gélu and by Robert de Braquemont, who had now joined the Dauphin’s council after the debacle of his Norman lieutenancy. After ten days of negotiation an agreement in principle was reached on 16 September 1418 at a crowded plenary session in the castle of Vincennes attended by the Dauphin’s ambassadors and all the principals on the government side. The essential points were that the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy would both withdraw their garrisons from all walled places outside their own domains. The Dauphin would then rejoin the royal council and make common cause with the Duke of Burgundy against the English. The agreement was vague about the future shape of the government, but it was agreed that the Dauphin and the Duke would each have the right to nominate one of the three généraux des finances and that all other appointments would be made by the King on the advice of a council on which the Dauphin, the Queen and all the princes would be represented. Later that day the agreement was formally ratified on behalf of the King at the abbey of Saint-Maur in the presence of an impressive crowd which included the Duke of Burgundy and the Queen, the two papal legates and the representatives of the princely houses of France, Yolande of Aragon Duchess of Anjou and her young son, the Duke of Orléans’ brother Philip Count of Vertus, the Duke of Bourbon’s son Charles and the young Count of Alençon. All of them swore to observe it. As soon as the King’s seal was on the document the government set about recruiting an army to relieve Rouen with the combined strength of the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy. The arrière-ban was proclaimed across France and the muster of the King’s army fixed for 15 October. Troops from eastern France were summoned to join the Duke of Burgundy in Paris while recruits from the rest of France were ordered to gather at Beauvais. The rabble-rousing Carmelite Eustache de Pavilly, who had made the cause of Rouen his own, toured the northern towns preaching the cause and drumming up recruits.

All of these plans were thrown into disarray when the Dauphin unexpectedly refused to ratify the peace or to take any part in military operations against the English. At the time the responsibility for these decisions was laid at the door of his councillors. The Burgundians blamed three men in particular: Robert le Maçon, Jean Louvet and Raymond Raguier. The concerns of these men are easy to understand. The treaty departed from the essential point of the memorandum drawn up at Chinon. By providing for the Dauphin to return to the feverishly partisan atmosphere of the royal court it would remove the impressionable youth from the influence of the strong-willed men who had surrounded him for the past year and place him in the orbit of the Queen and the Duke of Burgundy. The Dauphin was the Armagnacs’ ticket to power and they were not ready to give him up. It is easy to accuse these men of sinking any hope of civil peace in order to protect their jobs and their power. Plenty of people said this at the time. But the Dauphin’s councillors were not alone. Behind them stood many thousands of more modest men who regarded John the Fearless as a usurper, a tyrant, a demagogue and a murderer, and could not bring themselves to deal with him. Some of these men were moved by tribal loyalties that had become ingrained over the past decade. They included the many retainers of the houses of Orléans, Anjou and Alençon.

But the most committed opponents of an accommodation with John the Fearless came from the civil service and the judiciary. The Burgundian proscriptions of 1413, followed by the Armagnac proscriptions of the next five years, had polarised the powerful public service. The Queen and John the Fearless had filled their administration at Chartres and Troyes with men who had been dispossessed and expelled from Paris by the Armagnacs. Now the boot was on the other foot. John the Fearless had replaced forty-two judges of the Parlement and twenty-five officers of the Chambre des Comptes within days of his return to Paris, not to speak of many hundreds of humbler functionaries. The renewed cycle of dismissals propelled a large and embittered class of ruined professional administrators into the Dauphin’s camp. The breach was completed by the mass confiscations of property which followed. In Paris those who fled the city were presumed to be traitors to the King and all their land and movable property were seized by special commissions. The Burgundians proceeded to make new enemies among men who had had only tenuous connections with the Armagnac party. Many of them had only fled for fear of mob violence, or because they had been thrown out of their jobs to make room for the newcomers, or simply because they had been prominent men owning handsome mansions which other people coveted. Jean Jouvenel des Ursins, who had been president of the commission charged with the administration of the aides, had got on well enough with John the Fearless in happier times. He had left Paris in the early hours of 29 May to escape the mob and arrived in the Loire valley with his wife, eleven children and three grandchildren and only the clothes they stood up in. He had lost a good salary, a fine mansion in Paris, a country retreat in the Île de France and valuable estates in Champagne and Brie. During the brief truce which followed the proclamation of the treaty of Saint-Maur men like him were joined by a steady stream of other well-to-do officials, judges, accountants, clergy and scholars who came out of hiding in the cellars and attics of Paris and fled the city while they could, leaving almost all they owned behind. They became lifelong enemies of the Duke of Burgundy.

On 21 September 1418, five days after the agreement at Saint-Maur, the Dauphin issued a series of ordinances from the town of Niort in northern Poitou which marked a point of no return. Using his powers as royal lieutenant, he set up his own rival administration, just as John the Fearless had done at Chartres and Troyes. The King, he declared, was no longer his own master. The Duke of Burgundy had usurped his authority. He had taken over Paris by force, ratified the massacres of June and August and filled the Parlement and the administration with stooges, incompetents and traitors. The Dauphin created a new royal chancery based at Poitiers under the direction of Robert le Maçon. Declaring that ‘there was no real Parlement in Paris’, he transferred the institution to Poitiers, placing Jean de Vailly at its head and filling it with refugees from Paris. Thereafter there were two chanceries and two parlements, each claiming to act in the name of the King. Officials across France received orders from each side not to comply with the orders of the other. The consequences were disastrous. The ordinances of Niort ensured that as long as Charles VI lived France would be geographically divided into two hostile zones, each with its own government, neither of them strong enough to overcome the other or defeat the English. It also meant, as Jean Jouvenel had predicted years before, that each government would bid against the other for the support of the English, who would emerge as the decisive force in French politics. This process began as soon as the ordinances of Niort had been sealed. Before the end of September the Dauphin’s councillors approached Henry V and asked for talks with a view to a military alliance against John the Fearless. In return they were willing to cede a large part of western France to the invader.

The news of the ordinances had not yet reached Paris on 22 September when the Duke of Brittany left to obtain the Dauphin’s ratification of the treaty of Saint-Maur. John V brought with him delegations representing the King, the Duke of Burgundy, the other princely houses of France and the city of Paris. As a gesture of reconciliation he also brought the Dauphin’s fourteen-year-old fiancée Marie of Anjou, who had been stranded in the Hôtel de Bourbon in Paris since his flight. The great cortège of dignitaries made their way slowly along the Loire valley and early in October arrived at Saumur. There they waited in vain for the Dauphin to appear. He was away in southern Poitou and showed no sign of returning. Access to him was reported to be strictly controlled. His councillors were not going to be caught out again as they had been at Chinon in August. John V tried to arrange a meeting but they would not hear of it. Eventually the Archbishop of Tours, Jacques Gélu, who had played the leading role in negotiating the treaty, arrived with the news that it would not be ratified. It seems unlikely that he gave John of Brittany the implausible explanation that his master was giving to everyone else. According to Charles the treaty was a charade, a trick. His ambassadors never agreed it. They had been ‘neither invited not heard’ at the principal session of the conference and had been absent from the gathering at Vincennes when it had been concluded. The first that they had heard about it was when the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany had proclaimed it publicly as a done deal. By the time that John V and his fellow delegates returned to Paris to report the failure of their mission the Burgundian council had learned of the Dauphin’s approach to Henry V. They issued an ordinance in the King’s name stripping him of his lieutenancy and revoking all his powers.

On 27 October 1418 four emissaries of Rouen appeared before the council in Paris. They brought Eustache de Pavilly with them to plead their cause. In a long and theatrical speech, interrupted by frequent heaving and sobbing, the elderly friar described the conditions in the city. The defenders, he said, had exhausted their supplies of food by the beginning of October. Since then they had been reduced to eating horses, cats, dogs and rats. The city would fall unless relief came quickly. The collapse of the rest of Normandy was bound to follow. The province had been loyal to the Crown for two centuries. Its taxes represented a large part of the royal treasury’s receipts. Was the council really willing to risk such a disaster? The orator concluded with a peroration directed personally at the Duke of Burgundy (‘you who have taken over the government of the King and the kingdom’). If the Rouennais were forced to submit to the King of England, he said, John ‘would have no bitterer enemies in the world and they would not rest until they had destroyed him and all his issue’. On the streets of Paris the fate of Rouen aroused high emotion. People were already beginning to murmur about the Duke’s apparent inaction. Under heavy pressure to do something, the government did the only thing it could do. It decided to press on with the attempt to relieve Rouen, even without the Dauphin’s cooperation. The plan was to leave 500 professional troops in the capital to keep order in the city and on the roads around. All the other available troops would be concentrated against the English in Normandy. In Rouen the news was received with a great outburst of joy. From their encampments around the walls the English could hear all the church bells of the city ringing.

Unfortunately for the Rouennais the celebrations were premature. The response to the government’s summonses was very disappointing. In the centre and south, where most of the baillis were loyal to the Dauphin, the royal summons was ignored. A large number of the Duke of Burgundy’s own retainers were tied down in garrison duties or in the debilitating struggle with the Dauphin’s partisans on the southern marches of Burgundy. On 15 October 1418, the day appointed for the muster, hardly anyone appeared. The contingents of the two Burgundies and Champagne did not arrive in Paris until November and then in less than half the numbers of the previous year. The other muster at Beauvais seems to have been a complete failure. The arrière-ban was proclaimed for a second time in November with no better results. On 10 November 1418 the King was taken with much ceremony to Saint-Denis to receive the Oriflamme, but as yet the promised army of relief hardly existed.

The hot and cold attitude of the Duke may have been one reason. Another was that men were afraid to leave their homes undefended for fear of the Dauphinist garrisons of the Marne and the Oise. But the major factor is likely to have been the royal government’s financial difficulties. Since he had begun his march on Paris in August 1417 John the Fearless had funded his wars in France from the revenues of his own domains, from borrowing on his own credit and from voluntary grants by towns which had declared for him. But once he had taken control of the machinery of government in Paris virtually the whole cost of warfare was transferred to the bankrupt royal treasury. Not only were payments from the receivers of Flanders and the two Burgundies for war purposes reduced to a trickle but a large part of the King’s revenues was transferred into John’s personal coffers by way of reimbursement of past war expenditure. In normal times the answer would have been to resort to taxation. But the Duke had won the support of Paris and the northern towns with improvident promises to bring an end to war taxation. These promises severely limited his room for manoeuvre. A special tax was imposed on wine throughout France, an aide in all but name. It was extremely unpopular and proved to be impossible to collect except in Paris. Some revenue was still coming in from the Île de France, Picardy and Beauvaisis. But collection had virtually ceased everywhere else. The main resource of the government was now coinage manipulation, a highly unpopular form of stealth taxation inherited from the regime of the Count of Armagnac. The value of its minting profits, however, was much reduced by the civil war and the struggle with Henry V. Of the twenty-four royal mints, the government in Paris directly controlled only three: Paris, Saint-Quentin and Tournai. Most of the profits of the Paris mint were assigned to the defence of the city against the surrounding Dauphinist garrisons. The other two had been farmed out for ready cash to a syndicate of financiers earlier in the year. The Duke of Burgundy had appropriated the four royal mints in Burgundy and Champagne and about half of the considerable profits of these mints went on war expenditure. But the lion’s share of that was consumed by operations against the Dauphinists leaving little or nothing to fund the war against the English. The other mints were in the process of being taken over by the officers of the Dauphin or the King of England. ‘Our ills are beyond remedy’, the University of Paris wailed to anyone who would listen, ‘and the kingdom is heading for disaster.’

On the morning of 10 November 1418, the day that the French King went to Saint-Denis, the Earl of Salisbury received the ambassadors of the Dauphin in the castle of Alençon. The English King was well-informed about the divisions of his enemies and had given much thought to the best way of exploiting them. In preparation for the conference with the Dauphin’s representatives he had a long and candid memorandum prepared for his council at Westminster, which gives a unique insight into his mind at a critical point of his enterprise. The author was probably Philip Morgan, Henry’s newly appointed Chancellor of Normandy and the ablest of the Chancery clerks who were with him in France. It is clear from this document that Henry thought that his position in France was much more precarious than it seemed to others. The fundamental problem was financial. Henry had been voted another double subsidy by Parliament in December 1417. The second part of the subsidy, which had been largely anticipated by borrowing and assignment, was due to be paid in February 1419. This would bring the number of standard subsidies which Henry had received to seven in five years. He was well aware that this level of taxation could not be maintained for much longer. The resources of England were not equal to the task of conquering the whole of France or even defending his conquests in Normandy. But it was far from clear what the alternatives were. One possibility was to tax Normandy for the cost of keeping it. Another was to allow the English army to live off the land. But both of these options carried a heavy political cost. Henry needed the support of the indigenous population and could not afford to provoke ‘general grouching’. No one of real stature in the conquered regions had submitted to him and very few gentlemen, as the author of the memorandum admitted. Even those who had submitted were ‘full unstable, and is no wonder’. For these reasons, ‘with more that were long to write as well,’ the King had to have a settlement soon.

The great question was with whom. Henry V had traditionally supported an alliance with the house of Burgundy. But by 1418 he and his advisers had concluded that a treaty with the Dauphin was the better option. In the first place it seemed to be attainable. The Dauphin and his supporters badly needed English help. They had been willing to trade territory for armed support at another crisis in their affairs in 1412, whereas when it came to the point John the Fearless had never gone that far. An Anglo-Dauphinist alliance would probably be strong enough to defeat the Burgundians, whereas it was unlikely that an Anglo-Burgundian alliance could conquer the extensive territories which the Dauphin controlled south of the Loire. At least as important was the fact that the Dauphin was in a better position than his rival to give Henry what he wanted, for only he could deliver Aquitaine. He would no doubt be willing to cede Normandy in order to get Paris. He might even be prepared to share the spoils of the fall of the house of Burgundy with Henry, ceding Flanders to England. It is the business of diplomats to count their chickens before they are hatched. But these proposals raised some tricky questions. One of them was Henry V’s claim to the French throne, a perennially awkward problem in English diplomacy. It had never been a primary war aim. But it would be discreditable to abandon it formally after all the emphasis that it had received in English propaganda. This might perhaps be avoided if the treaty took the form of a long truce instead of a permanent peace. Even more problematical was the question of authority on the French side. A treaty with the Dauphin would probably not be binding on the French crown. Henry’s advisers regarded the Dauphin’s claim to the regency of France as distinctly shaky. Legally they thought that Isabelle of Bavaria had a better title. They would therefore have to ensure that the lost provinces of Aquitaine, or at least some critical places such as La Rochelle, were formally handed over before the Dauphin recovered control of the French King. It would be difficult enough to persuade him to agree to this in advance, but probably impossible to do so later. Then there was the question of the Dukes of Orléans and Bourbon and the other notable prisoners of war in England. If they were allowed to ransom themselves they would return to become powerful figures in post-war France. Their hostility would be dangerous. Their consent to any treaty was therefore indispensable. But would it be forthcoming?

When the Alençon conference opened the Earl of Salisbury was flanked by the King’s Steward Sir Walter Hungerford, John lord Grey of Codnor and Philip Morgan. Opposite them sat a delegation of hardened Dauphinist partisans. Jean de Norry, who acted as spokesman, called himself Archbishop of Sens although he had in fact been elected only by the Armagnac faction in the cathedral chapter and was never consecrated. He resented the whole idea of haggling with the invaders and at one point likened their representatives to the Devil. With him sat the Duke of Burgundy’s intemperate old enemies Louis de Chalon Count of Tonnerre, Jean de Vailly the First President of the Dauphin’s new Parlement, and Robert de Braquemont the Dauphinist Admiral of France. Braquemont’s son had recently been captured by the English and sent to join other politically significant prisoners in the Tower of London. He cannot have felt much better about the occasion than Norry did.

The siege of Rouen, July 1418–January 1419 Part III

Illustration of the Siege of Rouen illustration from A Short History of the English People, by John Richard Green, illustrated edition, Volume II, Macmillan and Co, London, New York, 1893.

The negotiations were awkward from the start. They were punctuated by repeated wrangling about procedure. The two sides argued about their powers; about who should begin; about the order in which the issues should be discussed; about that old bone of contention, whether the proceedings should be in Latin or French. There were long sulky silences, in which the two sides glared at each other both refusing to speak. Once they got down to the substance of the matter a measure of common ground emerged. But the exchanges were ill-tempered throughout and were not helped by the acerbic manner of both the principal spokesmen. The English delegates made it clear that they would not consider anything less than the territories ceded by the ‘Great Peace’ of 1360 plus Normandy. The Brétigny territories, they pointed out, had already been offered to them by the Armagnac princes in 1412 and in 1415 and Normandy was theirs by right of conquest. The question was how much more the Dauphin was willing to offer in return for armed support against the Duke of Burgundy. The opening demand of the English was for Touraine, Anjou, Maine, Flanders and the old domains of Henry of Lancaster in Champagne. After much bluffing the French admitted that they were authorised to concede the Brétigny territories and the whole of Normandy with the important exception of the city and bailliage of Rouen. They were also willing to discuss the sharing out of the Duke of Burgundy’s domains in Flanders and Artois once they were conquered. This offer, which was in fact not far from the English side’s expectations, they professed to regard as ‘void, useless and virtually null’. But the English declined to give any indication of their irreducible minimum.

The Dauphin was evidently dismayed by his ambassadors’ interim report, which reached him after the first week. He wrote a personal letter to Henry V to ask him to be more reasonable. Peace was surely possible if the two of them combined to confront the ‘horrible evil, cruelty and deceit of the Duke of Burgundy against the nobility and monarchy of France from which you are yourself descended’. By the time this missive was received more fundamental difficulties had arisen. The main one was the feudal status of the ceded territories, the issue which had bedevilled every previous Anglo-French conference since the 1340s. Philip Morgan put the question directly. Was the Dauphin offering to cede the Brétigny provinces and Normandy in full sovereignty or were Henry and his descendants to hold them as vassals of the Kings of France? Norry ought to have been ready for this question, but he was not. He deferred his answer until the following day and when it came it was no answer. It was a difficult question, he said. He would prefer to discuss other matters first. He had gone as far as his instructions would allow. The matter would be better thrashed out at a personal meeting with the Dauphin. He assumed that Henry V, as a just man, would be willing to hold them on the same basis as his forebears. Philip Morgan’s reply was uncompromising. As rightful King of France he had no reason to accept any superior but God in those parts of France that he held. This provoked uproar. The delegates of both sides rose from their seats and, all talking at once, rehearsed all the old arguments.

Shouting above the hubbub the English put the question. If the negotiations continued was there any prospect of the Dauphin accepting Henry’s demand for full sovereignty? The French, according to the English record, seemed to have ‘some difficulty’ in answering, but eventually said that they thought that there was. Would the Dauphin be in a position to deliver, Morgan asked, bearing in mind that he was a minor and that his father was still alive? There followed a long argument about the Dauphin’s powers, the extent of the territory under his control and the amount of support which he enjoyed among the French princes. It seemed, said Norry in conclusion, that there was little prospect of agreement. Their safe-conducts were about to expire and they saw no point in continuing. The final session was held on the following day, 24 November. The French proposed a short truce until February 1419 for further discussions. Only if they put all their proposals in writing, said Morgan; but unless they had something better to offer than he had heard so far there would be no point. Thereupon the Dauphin’s ambassadors got up and walked out.

The English King was unconcerned. His bargaining power was bound to increase over the following weeks as the noose tightened around Rouen. Henry maintained just enough contact with the Dauphin’s court to avoid a final breakdown. He replied to the Dauphin’s letter with a suggestion that discussions should be resumed once Rouen had fallen. He received the Dauphin’s ambassador Louis de Chalon at his headquarters within days of his departure from Alençon, and suggested that another Dauphinist embassy should be sent to confer with him in person. Meanwhile he had already turned to the Burgundians to find out what they were willing to offer. Guillaume de Champdivers, the usual intermediary between John the Fearless and the English King, had visited his headquarters to lay the ground. Another conference had been set up for December to hear the proposals of the Burgundian side.

Outside the beleaguered city Henry V was preparing for battle with the Duke of Burgundy’s relief army. The garrisons of Lower Normandy had been stripped to the bone to increase his numbers. The long siege of Cherbourg had finally come to an end when the Duke of Gloucester’s miners succeeded in undermining a section of the walls. The starving garrison surrendered at the end of September, releasing several hundred troops to join the King at Rouen. More men arrived from England and 500 from Ireland, whose wild appearance, primitive-looking weapons and diminutive ponies astonished the defenders of the city. The English were digging themselves in. They cut trenches across the approaches from Paris and armed them with palisades, timber towers and artillery. They stationed men in the forests east of Rouen to stop the enemy from approaching unseen. They sent spies to watch the progress of the Duke of Burgundy in the Île de France.

On 24 November 1418 John the Fearless had about 4,000 troops in Paris according to English reports. Unable to feed them there and perhaps afraid of provoking riots among the citizens, he led them out of the city, accompanied by the Queen, and encamped twenty miles away outside Pontoise. The sick King was brought along in Isabelle’s baggage train for fear that others might take control of him in her absence. They remained at Pontoise for five weeks while John the Fearless addressed urgent appeals in the King’s name to the councillors in Paris to find reinforcements, to the treasurers to find money and to the defenders of Rouen to hold out against increasingly hopeless odds. They were offered mendacious promises of imminent relief which were read out in the market-place of Rouen. All the time the Dauphinist offensive continued unabated in the Duke’s rear. Their garrisons around Paris raided up to the suburbs and across the Île de France, frustrating all attempts to bring victuals to the troops encamped at Pontoise. Further south the Dauphin took advantage of the Duke of Burgundy’s preoccupations to march on Tours and lay siege to the only surviving Burgundian garrison in the Loire valley.

From Pontoise Philippe de Morvilliers and other Burgundian councillors, accompanied by the papal legate Cardinal Orsini, rode ahead towards Rouen to confer with the English. They clung to the hope of some negotiated solution that might save the Duke from the humiliation of losing France’s second city without striking a blow for its defence. Henry V’s delegates met them at Pont-de-l’Arche. Theirs were familiar faces. Richard Beauchamp Earl of Warwick was a veteran of earlier negotiations with the Burgundians going back to 1411, ‘a man of impressive bearing, exceptional judgment and great military experience, with a practised and accomplished eloquence on any subject,’ wrote an admiring contemporary. With him sat Henry’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford and the abrasive Philip Morgan, both of whom who had also been at the conference with the Dauphinists at Alençon, and Morgan’s fellow Welshman the lawyer Henry Ware. Henry V had no desire to hurry things along before Rouen fell. The talks were stalled for several days by another argument about the use of French, a language which the English King claimed that his commissioners ‘cannot write and hardly speak or understand’. This may have been true of some of them although Warwick certainly spoke excellent French. The discussions eventually proceeded in a mixture of English and French with documents being translated into Latin. But the message was no more palatable for being understood. The English expressed interest in a marriage alliance. Henry V declared himself to be delighted by the portrait of Catherine of France which was brought to him by the cardinal. But he wanted a dowry of a million écus along with the provinces of the south-west ceded at Brétigny plus Normandy, all to be held in full sovereignty. Unlike the Dauphin’s men, who had been willing to concede very similar territorial demands and even contemplated the possibility of giving way on sovereignty, the Burgundians dismissed the English claims out of hand. The King was incapacitated, they said. The Duke had no authority to alienate his heritage. About ten days before Christmas the conference broke up. The cardinal returned to Pontoise to report the failure of his mission. Then he gave up his peace mission as a lost cause and left for Italy.

Inside Rouen the defenders were reduced to the last extremes of privation and distress. People were eating roots and vermin. Cats were reported to be changing hands at 18 blancs and a quarter of a horse at 100 sous. No grain was to be had at all. By Christmas about 200 people a day were dying of starvation. Their bodies were thrown into great open grave-pits in the cemetery of St Mary Magdalen and then, when it was full, piled up in the streets. Disease began to spread through the city. Order broke down. People fought in the streets over morsels of food. The captain of the garrison turned to desperate measures. He organised a suicidal sortie from several gates at once with all the forces that could be spared, apparently with the intention of breaking through the English lines. At one of the gates the drawbridge collapsed beneath the weight of the horsemen, propelling them into the ditch. The rest were thrown back from the English siege lines with heavy losses. Shortly before Christmas the defenders rounded up several thousand ‘useless mouths’, mostly women and children and the poor and indigent, and pushed them out of the gates, hoping to save food and cast upon the English the moral responsibility for feeding them. But the English drove the wretches back with volleys of arrows, forcing them to cower in the ditch beneath the walls where many of them died of starvation or exposure.

The Duke of Burgundy’s army had by now exhausted the supplies available around Pontoise. After the failure of the negotiations at Pont-de-l’Arche John the Fearless decided to lead his troops north to the Beauvaisis where the rest of the army was supposed to muster at the end of December. The new plan was to march on Rouen from the east in the new year while another force approached to reprovision the city by water from the west. The Burgundian Admiral of France Charles of Lens was sent with a team of men to requisition ships along the coast of Picardy. They planned to load the holds with food and fill the decks with men-at-arms and archers and then force their way up the Seine and past the English siege works. A final appeal for support was sent to the Dauphin. He not only rejected it but forbade all those of his allegiance to join the army of relief. As a result none of the military nobility of France appeared at Beauvais except for the Duke’s own subjects and retainers in Picardy and Artois.

On 29 December the Duke of Burgundy entered Beauvais with the troops who had been with him at Pontoise. The rest of his army was waiting for him outside the town but in pitifully small numbers. John had a series of fraught meetings with his principal captains. In the midst of the discussions a delegation from Rouen appeared. They had made their way through the English lines at great risk to themselves with up-to-date reports of conditions in the city and an ultimatum. This was the last appeal that they would make to him for protection, they declared. Unless the city was relieved in a matter of days they would renounce their allegiance and submit to the King of England. John the Fearless was embarrassed and apologetic. To his infinite dismay, he told them, he did not yet have the strength to relieve Rouen. But before long, he said, reinforcements would arrive and the position would change. They asked him how long. By 8 January, he replied. The delegates of Rouen left to report back to the defenders of the city. But it soon became clear that the Duke had been too sanguine. Shortly after the men of Rouen had left a runner reached Beauvais with the news that the Dauphin had captured Tours. This was followed by persistent reports that he was marching on the bridge-town of La Charité-sur-Loire and threatening to invade the Nivernais and Burgundy. In the new year John was closeted with most of the senior officers of the financial departments from Paris. Their reports were dismal. On about 3 January 1419 he decided to abandon the relief of Rouen. The English were too strong, the Dauphin too threatening, the treasury empty. So the Duke of Burgundy disbanded his army and sent a runner to Rouen with a secret message advising the townsmen to sue for the best terms they could get.

By the time that this message reached the defenders of Rouen they had already given up hope and decided for themselves to negotiate with the besiegers. Late on 31 December 1418 a knight of the garrison appeared at the land gate at the southern end of the Seine bridge and called for a knight or baron to come forward from the English lines. The Yorkshire knight Sir Gilbert Umfraville appeared. They asked him to arrange for a delegation of twelve men to come before the King. The meeting took place on New Year’s Day at the Charterhouse by the Paris road. The Frenchmen began by trying to get relief to the wretched people in the ditch beneath the walls. ‘Fellows, who put them there?’ Henry answered. Then they asked to be allowed to negotiate a conditional surrender. They had been charged to defend the city by the King of France whose subjects they were, they said. They were willing to become subjects of the King of England but would need to give due notice to the Duke of Burgundy. Henry, in his most uncompromising mood, told them that their city was his by rights and they had kept him out of it. The Duke of Burgundy was well aware of the situation and had no need of more messages. They would have to choose between death or unconditional surrender.

There was a large element of ritual and theatre about such occasions. In fact these brutal exchanges were the prelude to a long and painful negotiation about the terms of surrender. On the following morning two large pavilions were erected outside the Porte Saint-Hilaire. There the abbot of the Norman abbey of Saint-Georges de Boscherville and an official of the cathedral, supported by twenty-two representatives of the garrison and citizens, haggled for two weeks with a commission led by the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury. The townsmen crowded onto the walls to watch. The English soldiers stood about in groups in no-man’s-land as the heralds of both sides, ‘dressed like lords’ in coats of arms and gold braid, passed from tent to tent with messages. Henry’s terms were bleak, and after a week he threatened to bring the talks to an end unless they were accepted. Inside the city a bitter dispute was in progress between the professional garrison, who were determined to hold out for terms that would salve their honour, and the mass of the population, who wanted to bring an end to the siege at any price. The garrison was blamed for the failure of the defence. Guy Le Bouteillier was even accused of having sabotaged the recent catastrophic sortie from the gates. A tempestuous meeting at the hôtel de ville broke up inconclusively, some declaring that they would rather die fighting than surrender while others plotted to kill the captains of the garrison unless they opened the gates. Eventually, on about 9 January 1419, the defenders resolved to demolish a large section of their walls and set fire to the city at several points unless the English King moderated his terms. Henry, who wanted to take the city intact, finally yielded. He appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chichele, who had recently arrived from England, to mediate with the clergy of the city. It was Chichele who finally reached agreement with the defenders on 13 January 1419.

The terms were harsh although not as harsh as they might have been. The town and castle were to be surrendered intact on 19 January 1419 unless by noon on that day they had been relieved by a French army commanded by Charles VI or the Duke of Burgundy in person. If the French army appeared the garrison and the inhabitants would have to witness the clash of arms from the walls without intervening. The remaining terms reflected Henry V’s determination to revive the twelfth-century English duchy of Normandy. Before the surrender the ‘useless mouths’ in the city ditches were to be taken back and fed. The city was to be cleaned up and all corpses buried outside the walls. Once Henry had taken possession, the city would retain all the privileges granted to it in times past, whether by his forebears the dukes of Normandy or by the kings of France. The inhabitants might retain their property in Normandy but only if they were willing to enter the English King’s allegiance. As for the garrison, non-Normans could depart under safe-conduct leaving nothing behind them, but native Normans had the choice of submission to their new master or imprisonment. The King exacted a heavy price for nearly six months of defiance by those whom he called his subjects. Rouen was to pay the largest indemnity ever exacted from a French city: 300,000 écus, the first instalment of which was to be handed over within three days of the surrender, the rest a month later. In addition all horses and war material were to be surrendered and the King was to be allowed a site of his choice in the city or its suburbs on which to build a palace. Eighty hostages were delivered up as security for the performance of these terms.

The interval allowed for the French to relieve Rouen was a perfunctory formality. By the time the captain’s messenger reached the Queen and the Duke of Burgundy they had already released their troops and left Beauvais. The Duke did not dare to show his face in Paris. He withdrew to Provins in Champagne until the spring, blaming the Dauphin for the disaster. For his part the Dauphin was not sorry to watch his rival’s humiliation. On about 15 January 1419 his representatives arrived at Louviers and received a safe-conduct to come before Henry V at Rouen. They came with proposals for a summit meeting between Henry V and the Dauphin to resolve the issues which had been too delicate for their ambassadors to broach at Alençon. They must have been present in the English camp to witness the surrender of the city on the 19th. In the Charterhouse Guy Le Bouteillier, who had directed the defence of the city for the past year, knelt before Henry V and delivered up the keys. The King handed them to his uncle Thomas Beaufort Duke of Exeter, whom he had appointed captain of the town. Later in the afternoon the banner of St George was hoisted above the citadel. Almost all the indigenous population of the city swore the oath of allegiance to Henry V, as they had warned John the Fearless they would. One of them was Guy Le Bouteillier himself, the first important layman to submit to the English King. He was to become one of the most loyal adjutants of the English government in Normandy.

‘If Rouen cannot defend itself what city can?’ asked the masters of the University of Paris. The doomsayers who had predicted that the fall of Rouen would be followed by the collapse of resistance throughout Normandy were swiftly proved right. No one wished to suffer the fate of Caen or Rouen. The nagging fear that the French King’s officers would return and punish them as traitors faded as the English occupation began to look as if it would endure. Caudebec surrendered automatically in accordance with the terms already agreed with the Earl of Warwick. The garrison of Montivilliers, the largest in the Pays de Caux, opened its gates to the English captain of Harfleur and marched away. The submission of these places was the signal for a wholesale desertion of the French cause. A number of task forces were detached from the English army and sent to overawe the regions which had not yet submitted. There was very little resistance in any of them. The seaports of the Pays de Caux, Fécamp, Dieppe and Eu, surrendered to the English one after the other in the month following the fall of Rouen. Honfleur, the last port of Normandy still holding out for Charles VI, was blockaded from land and sea by the Earl of Salisbury and entered into a conditional surrender agreement on 25 February. By the end of March all the walled places of the Seine were in English hands except for the fortress of La Roche-Guyon, dominating the river from its great man-made cliff at the edge of the Vexin, and Richard Coeur-de-Lion’s mighty Château-Gaillard at Les Andelys. North of the Seine only Gisors still held out and south of it only Ivry. The English had already penetrated upriver into the Île de France. Vernon, Mantes and Meulan were abandoned by their garrisons as they approached for want of stores to withstand a siege. Abbeville, Beauvais and Pontoise became frontier towns. The English were within twenty miles of Paris. Their raiding parties penetrated as far as Saint-Cloud, within sight of the city walls. ‘And now, blessed be God,’ wrote an Englishman with the army to a friend in London, ‘a man may ride from Brittany through the whole duchy of Normandy … and in a short time, I expect, all the way to Calais.’

Tarragona (1811)

By late December 1810 Marshal Jacques Macdonald had stabilised the situation in the north of Spain and was again able to support Louis-Gabriel Suchet’s attempts to capture Tortosa. Suchet therefore moved to begin the siege on 16 December, and for once the Spanish failed to defend a strong fortress well. In fact, by 2 January 1811 the place was entirely in French hands.

This success immediately released Macdonald to carry out the siege of Lerida, whilst Napoleon ordered Suchet to take Tarragona, arbitrarily transferring half of Macdonald’s corps to Suchet’s command. At this, Macdonald promptly retired to Barcelona and left Suchet to it.

On 9 April 1811 the French were shocked to hear that the fortress of Figueras had again fallen into Spanish hands, once more threatening the supply route from France. The local Spanish insurgents had worked with a few patriots within the fortress to obtain copies of the keys to the gates and surprised the garrison before any resistance could even be attempted.

Macdonald sent the news to Suchet, asking him to abandon all thoughts of besieging Tarragona and instead to march north with his entire army. Suchet rightly pointed out that it would take him a month to march northwards, and suggested that Macdonald should seek help from France instead, given that the French border lay only 20 miles from Figueras. Suchet then began his march to Tarragona on 28 April, believing that this operation would draw the Spanish south in an attempt to relieve the place.

Napoleon promptly scraped together a force of 14,000 men at Perpignan, whilst General Baraguay d’Hilliers, commanding at Gerona, managed to collect another 6,000 men. Between them, this force of 20,000 men would seek to recapture Figueras, a task made much easier when the Spanish General Campoverde reacted exactly as Suchet had predicted and moved his force of 4,000 men by sea to help save Tarragona. He abandoned the 2,000 men of the garrison of Figueras to their fate and Marshal Macdonald then moved north to take personal command of the siege of Figueras.

Suchet began the siege of Tarragona on 7 May and three days later General Campoverde arrived by sea and bolstered the defenders with his 4,000 troops. The French were obliged to work very close to the coastline, which rendered their works vulnerable to fire from British and Spanish ships. To remedy this, the first batteries constructed faced the sea and their guns forced the warships to move further away. The French now concentrated their efforts on capturing Fort Olivo, a detached redoubt protecting the lower town. This was successfully stormed on the 29th.

Two further battalions of Spanish troops arrived by sea from Valencia, but General Campoverde sailed to seek further support, leaving General Juan Contreras in command. By 17 June the French had captured all the external defences of Tarragona and the siege was reaching a critical point; Contreras, despite having 11,000 men, simply failed to disrupt the French besiegers at all. On the 21st the lower town was successfully stormed, meaning that command of the harbour also fell to the French. Things now looked bleak for Contreras, particularly with Campoverde accusing him of cowardice from a safe distance away.

On 26 June, however, things improved for the Spanish commander. A number of troop ships arrived with a few hundred Spanish troops on board; better still, some 1,200 British troops1 commanded by Colonel John Skerrett also arrived, having been sent by General Graham at Cadiz to aid the defence. Skerrett landed that evening and surveyed the defences with the Spanish; it was unanimously agreed that Tarragona was no longer tenable. As Graham had specifically ordered that the British troops were not to land unless Skerrett could guarantee that they could safely re-embark, he rightly decided to abandon the attempt and sailed with the intention of landing further along the coast and subsequently joining with Campoverde’s force. But this was a depressing sight for the Spanish defenders and undoubtedly damaged their already fragile morale. In fact, the very day that breaching batteries opened fire on the walls, a viable breach was formed by the afternoon and was promptly stormed. Within half an hour all the defences had given way and the French infantry swarmed into the town. A terrible orgy of rape and murder followed, and it is estimated that over 4,000 Spaniards lost their lives that night, over half of them civilian. At least 2,000 of the Spanish regulars defending the town had been killed during the siege and now some 8,000 more were captured.

The capture of Tarragona earned Suchet his marshal’s baton; it had destroyed the Spanish Army of Catalonia and severely hampered British naval operations along the coast. By contrast, Campoverde was soon replaced by General Lacy, who took the few remaining men into the hills to regroup.

Suchet marched northwards to Barcelona, ensuring that his lines of communication were secure. On discovering that Macdonald was progressing well with his siege at Figueras, he turned his attentions to capturing the sacred mountain stronghold of Montserrat, which fell on 25 July. The damage to Spanish morale proved more important than the physical retention of this monastic stronghold. On 19 August Figueras was finally starved into submission after a four-month siege, thus re-opening the French supply routes. Napoleon was delighted by the news but he promptly reminded Suchet that he was yet to capture Valencia.

The Spanish forces under General Lacy continued to make forays, even into France, and attempted to disrupt French communications with predatory raids by both land and sea. These operations restored somewhat the shattered morale of the Spanish guerrillas and the flame of insurrection, so nearly snuffed out, continued to flicker and occasionally flare up, giving the Spanish some hope. Macdonald was recalled to France, another Marshal of France finding eastern Spain a step too far.

Despite his own strong misgivings, Marshal Suchet again marched south for Valencia with a force of some 22,000 men. General Joaquin Blake, commanding some 30,000 men, was tasked with opposing him but simply allowed him to march there without resistance. Suchet’s force arrived at Murviedro on 23 September and, having signally failed in a foolish attempt to storm the fortress of Saguntum by direct escalade, the French army sat down before it and patiently awaited the arrival of the siege artillery, only opening fire on 17 October. Suchet attempted a second costly assault without success and looked nervously over his shoulder at the insurrections breaking out in his rear. However, at this point General Blake decided that he must advance to protect Saguntum; having collected no fewer than 40,000 men, he attacked Suchet on 25 October and was soundly beaten for his troubles, losing over 5,000 men. The garrison of Saguntum, acknowledging that there was now no hope, surrendered the following day. Blake had simply given Suchet’s troops hope, when in fact they had none.

Suchet now continued his march on towards Valencia. Arriving on the north bank of the Guadalquivir river, he found Blake facing him again, encamped on the southern bank with some 30,000 men. Having only 15,000 men with him, Suchet formed an encampment here and awaited reinforcements, with which he could advance to prosecute the siege of Valencia.

Napoleon, badly underestimating the British army under Wellington, but simultaneously recognising the importance of capturing Valencia, ordered King Joseph’s army to further supplement Suchet’s operations. Marshal Marmont’s army, facing Wellington, was also weakened when Napoleon ordered him to send Suchet 12,000 men. These developments would have a very significant effect on Wellington’s operations a few months later, in early 1812.

The promised reinforcements arrived with Suchet in late December and he immediately advanced to prosecute the siege of Valencia on the 26th, successfully completing the investment of the city by that evening. By 1 January work had begun on preparing siege batteries, which were armed and ready to proceed by the 4th.

Blake moved his troops from his fortified camp in the hills into the city, but the prospects for a successful defence appeared to be very poor. There was already a severe shortage of food and the morale of the Spanish troops was so low that they were deserting en masse. Suchet added significantly to their discomfort by bombarding the city with shells until the morale of the defenders finally collapsed. Blake was forced to agree to surrender on 9 January, with around 16,000 Spanish soldiers laying down their arms.

The almost impregnable fortress of Penissicola, garrisoned by some 1,000 Spanish veterans, was now besieged, the siege guns beginning a heavy bombardment on 28 January. Despite being well supplied with food and stores by the British navy, and his troops proclaiming their determination to fight on, General Garcia Navarro, the fortress commander, seems to have lost all hope after Valencia fell. A letter describing his fears was captured by the French and used to exert enormous pressure on a man obviously unable to cope; when a forceful summons was sent in on 2 February, the commandant surrendered without delay. Almost the entire east coast of Spain was now in French hands.

Second Siniavino Offensive, August 1942

  1. 27 August: at 0210hrs, the Soviet 8th Army begins its attack on the German XXVI AK in the Mga-Siniavino corridor. After an artillery preparation, the 6th Guards Rifle Corps crosses the Chemaya River and attacks near the junction of the 223. and 227. Infanterie- Divisionen boundaries. The 3rd Guards Rifle Division fails to capture the Kruglaya Grove from Oberst Wengler’s Grenadier-Regiment 366, but the 19th Guards Rifle Division manages to overrun Grenadier- Regiment 425’s forward defences and advances four kilometres. The 24th Guards Rifle Division captures Tortolovo.
  2. 27 August: the 128th Rifle Division launches supporting attacks on Lipki and Workers’ Settlement No. 8 (WS-8).
  3. 28 August: Oberst Wengler’s Grenadier-Regiment 366 is encircled in the Kruglaya Grove, but the 6th Guards Rifle Corps cannot eliminate this position.
  4. 28 August: Lindemann rushes up elements of the 28. Jager-, 5. Gebirgsjager- and 170. Infanterie-Divisionen to block the Soviet penetration.
  5. 30 August: the Soviet advance westwards has lost momentum, so Starikov commits the 4th Guards Rifle Corps to reinforce the main effort, but the German defence of the Siniavino Heights holds.
  6. 1/2 September: counterattacks by the 28. Jager- and 170. Infanterie- Divisionen stop the 8th Army advance five kilometres from the Neva River.
  7. 2 September: the 128th Rifle Division succeeds in capturing WS-8, but any further advance is blocked.
  8. 3 September: the Neva Operational Group tries to assist Starikov’s stalled advance by making another division-sized effort to cross the Neva River near Gorodok but it is easily repulsed.
  9. 27 August to 3 September: a regimental-sized Kampfgruppe from 12. Panzer-Division remains in reserve west of Siniavino, ready to counterattack any sudden Soviet breakthrough.

Despite the dilatory offensive preparations by Heeresgruppe Nord, the Stavka was aware of Operation Nordlicht from intelligence sources and Stalin was determined to break the siege of Leningrad before the Germans could make their move. After the disastrous Lyuban Offensive, Meretskov was ordered to rebuild 2nd Shock Army, using remnants that had escaped the pocket and new reinforcements. He also began planning for a new offensive to break the siege, using a simpler, more direct approach and a great mass of artillery. With the Stavka’s concurrence, Meretskov and Govorov agreed on a pincer attack, involving near-simultaneous assaults against the west and east sides of the narrowest portion of the German siege lines, around Siniavino. At this point, Meretskov’s forces were only 17km from Govorov’s forces on the Neva River and they calculated that they could attack and achieve a link-up before Kuchler could reinforce the sector.

The east side of the Siniavino sector, already dubbed ‘the corridor of death’ since it was under Soviet artillery fire from both sides, was held by General der Artillerie Albert Wodrig’s XXVI AK, with the 223. and 227. Infanterie-Divisionen. Wodrig had only seven infantry battalions defending a 15km front stretching from Lipki on Lake Ladoga to Mishkino, with five other battalions holding the Neva Line. Owing to the reduction of the infantry divisions from nine to six battalions, Wodrig persuaded Küchler to ‘loan’ him five battalions from the 207. and 285. Sicherungs- Divisionen, but he still had a very weak force to hold the most critical terrain in the siege lines around Leningrad. The XXVI AK front was protected by a combination of fortified strongpoints, minefields, pre-planned artillery barrages and extensive swamps. Wodrig built his defences upon the stoutly built workers’ settlements that had been built in this area before the war, with the key positions being Workers’ Settlement 8 (WS-8), the Kruglaya Grove and the dominant Siniavino Heights. On the west side of the salient, the very experienced SS-Polizei-Division also held part of the Neva River front. Although Wodrig had no reserves, part of Manstein’s AOK 11 was just arriving south of Leningrad for the upcoming Operation Nordlicht.

Once Soviet intelligence learned of the imminent arrival of Manstein’s forces, the Stavka pressed Meretskov and Govorov to launch their offensives immediately, to forestall any possible German success at Leningrad. Govorov dutifully kicked off his part of the offensive by attempting to seize two crossings over the Neva on 19 August, but the SS-Polizei repulsed these efforts with heavy losses. Unlike the winter months, where the Soviets could send tanks and infantry across the frozen Neva, a cross-river attack in the summer was relatively easy for the Germans to defend against. However, Wodrig’s corps was less well prepared for Meretskov’s offensive, which began at 0210hrs on 27 August.

Meretskov’s main effort was launched by General-Major Filipp N. Starikov’s 8th Army in the Gaitolovo sector, near the boundary of the 223. and 227. Infanterie-Divisionen. Starikov’s initial shock group consisted of three divisions of General-Major Sergei T. Biiakov’s 6th Guards Rifle Corps, with the second echelon formed by General-Major Nikolai A. Gagen’s 4th Guards Rifle Corps. Meretskov played by the book: he achieved a 4:1 advantage in infantry in a narrow five-kilometre-wide sector, and provided over 580 army-level howitzers, 120mm mortars and multiple rocket launchers to support the assault. Despite the superior mass and firepower, the 6th Guards Rifle Corps failed to capture the heavily defended Kruglaya Grove, but the 19th Guards Rifle Division was able to push its way three kilometres into the forwards defences of Grenadier- Regiment 425. As usual, by massing a rifle division against a single German battalion, the Soviets made a narrow breach, but the supporting attacks on the flanks were less successful. Starikov was limited to a narrow penetration battle – just as had happened to the 2nd Shock Army in the Lyuban Offensive. Furthermore, Küchler began to commit reserves more quickly than Meretskov had anticipated and Starikov’s advance slowed to a crawl in successive days. Elements of the 5. Gebirgsjager-Division and 28. Jager-Division began to arrive on 28 August, followed by the 170. Infanterie-Division and four Tiger tanks of s.Pz.Abt. 502. Rather than cracking under the Soviet sledgehammer, German resistance was increasing. Even though two German battalions under Oberst Wengler were encircled in the Kruglaya Grove, Starikov’s rifle units had great difficulty reducing this position.

Although the Soviets enjoyed a considerable superiority in artillery, the tactical execution of the offensive was seriously flawed. Rifle units were fed into battle piecemeal and the artillery was unable to identify and destroy the German main line of resistance, concealed in the heavily wooded terrain. Most Soviet artillery barrages were area fires, hindered by morning fog and inexperienced forward observers. Starikov ignored the terrain and sent his 124th Tank Brigade into swamps where 24 of its 27 tanks became mired and were then destroyed by German Panzerjdger. Furthermore, Meretskov failed to provide adequate engineer support to breach minefields and build corduroy roads over swamps, so Starikov’s forces were limited to advancing along a single, narrow axis.

In frustration, Meretskov ordered Starikov to commit the 4th Guards Rifle Corps into the fight, and then gradually committed the 2nd Shock Army piecemeal to keep the advance going. Govorov finally managed to get some infantry across the Neva on 26 August, re-occupying the former ‘five-kopeck bridgehead’ lost in April, but could not advance any further. By 31 August, the 8th Army reached the south-east edge of the Siniavino Heights but was rapidly running out of steam. Counterattacks by the 28. Jager-Division and 170. Infanterie-Division on 1/2 September stopped Starikov’s spearheads five kilometres short of the link-up with the Nevskaya Dubrovka bridgehead. Once again, Meretskov stood to eliminate an entire German corps if he could only complete the encirclement, but Govorov’s forces were unable to break out of their tiny bridgehead and Starikov no longer had the strength to advance. The Soviet offensive had stalled.

Manstein’s counteroffensive, September 1942

At his forward headquarters at Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, Hitler was concerned that the Soviet Siniavino Offensive would succeed in disrupting the execution of Nordlicht, even though it was already apparent that it had failed to raise the siege of Leningrad. Hitler ordered Manstein to take over the battle around Siniavino and crush the Soviet penetration as rapidly as possible. In a rather awkward command arrangement, AOK 11 was put in charge of all German forces already around Siniavino, as well as the reinforcements just arriving from the Crimea, which temporarily reduced Lindemann’s AOK 18 to a rump formation. In his haste to resolve the Soviet penetration quickly, Manstein’s initial improvised effort to cut off the base of the salient was repulsed on 10 September. Manstein decided to wait until all his forces were in place and then launched a powerful pincer attack with four divisions from XXVI and XXX AK on 21 September, which succeeded in linking up near Gaitolovo within four days. The German counterattack succeeded in trapping the bulk of the Soviet 8th Army and part of the 2nd Shock Army in the pocket. Just after Starikov’s forces were encircled, the 55th Army managed to get elements of two rifle divisions across the Neva River on 26 September, but it was too late. Manstein ordered the 12. Panzer-Division, which had 40 tanks, to counterattack and within days the Soviets had lost two of their three bridgeheads. Shortly thereafter, the 55th Army forces withdrew back across the Neva.

Manstein set about methodically reducing the pocket in late September although mopping-up operations in the swamps continued until mid-October At least 12,300 prisoners were taken and Meretskov’s forces had taken another battering for no territorial gains. All told, the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts suffered 113,674 casualties in the offensive – about 59 per cent of their committed forces. Heeresgruppe Nord suffered 25,936 casualties during August-September 1942 and Manstein requested 10,500 replacements before his forces would be ready to execute Nordlicht. Some of the best units slated for Nordlicht were particularly hard hit, such as 5. Gebirgsjager-Division which suffered 2,183 casualties and lost one-quarter of its horses. Although the OKH kept Nordlicht as an option for some time, it was effectively cancelled when Manstein and his AOK 11 staff were sent south to form Heeresgruppe Don in response to the Stalingrad crisis in November. While there is no doubt that the German defence of the Siniavino Heights was a major tactical success, the Soviets succeeded in pre-empting Operation Nordlicht and thereby saved Leningrad.

Siege and Defence of Castles During the First Crusade I

From a military point of view, one can relate to the castle – any castle – as a complex and expensive technological development intended to with- stand attack and to ward off enemy attempts to capture or mount a siege against it. Castle architecture, like all other improvements in military technology, was influenced and shaped by a constant tactical and strategic dialogue between opposing forces. When one side developed a new and successful siege tactic, the opponent countered with a new strategy of fortification that took the edge off the enemy’s innovation. This in turn led the attacker to come up with a new strategy for besieging the castle, and the cycle was repeated.

This phenomenon led Hugh Kennedy to write: `The development of castle architecture must be seen as the result of continuing dialectic between attack and defence which gave the advantage sometimes to one, sometimes to the other. Only by examining techniques of attack can we come to a real understanding of the architecture of defence.’ In other words, Frankish military architecture reflected not only the construction methods with which the Franks were familiar, but also Muslim tactics of siege and warfare, as well as the financial ability of the owners of these strongholds. And yet, even in his brilliant and innovative analysis of the strategic dialectic between the Frankish castle and Muslim siege tactics, Kennedy hardly refers to the gradual development of this very dialogue over time and space. He adopts a generalised approach to the common siege techniques and defence tactics, providing examples for every type of warfare and all types of fortifications, but the exact cause and effect relationship between new attack techniques and new defence tactics remains rather cloudy.

And yet, even if my assertion is correct, and the Franks were not endangered by the external enemies throughout the entire period and in all of their territory, they nonetheless had to strengthen their fortifications in accordance with the changing threats. It can be suggested, therefore, that to the extent to which a castle was subject to greater and more frequent threats, the greater was the tendency to invest more resources in the improvement of the fortifications. The opposite argument is also logical: to the extent that the threat was less imminent, the settlers could make do with less expensive and more compact fortifications.

The underlying assumption of this approach is that only an understanding of the ongoing development of the tactics of siege warfare of both sides and a better understanding of the ever-changing balance of power can enable us to gain a clear picture of the ongoing development of defence techniques. Siege warfare and castles account for only one part – important as it may be – of medieval military strategy, and it is impossible to separate the siege and defence tactics from the other elements of their military techniques. Besieging an individual castle is generally only one component of a wider plan of attack which always includes advancing into enemy territory and deploying siege machines, and on the other hand the advance of reinforcements and supplies to the besieged castle. This chain of events might end with the surrender of the besieged castle, the retreat of the besieging armies, or a general showdown in a field of battle.

Thus, the transformations undergone by the Frankish castles cannot be explained solely on the basis of their architectural features (as many of Kennedy’s predecessors attempted to do). However, these architectural changes also cannot be explained simply through a generalised analysis of techniques typical of warfare between Muslims and Crusaders, for these were not the only components of the strategic dialectic between them. The superiority or inferiority of one of the field armies is as important as the financial capabilities of the landlords and their willingness to invest the huge sums needed to provide defence and fortifications.

As for the balance of power between Frankish and Muslim land forces, it is reasonable to assume that during periods of clear Frankish superiority in the field there was less of a threat to nearby Crusader castles. During these periods the Muslims were fearful of engaging in direct land battles and were quick to lift the siege and flee when Frankish reinforcements drew near. The average duration of a Muslim siege during such periods was five or, at most, ten days, the length of time it took Frankish forces to come to the rescue of the besieged castles. The Frankish castles built during such periods were planned so that they could hold out for a week. A longer period of time was unnecessary and there was no need to invest huge sums in mighty fortifications or immense supplies of water and food.

In periods and regions in which the opposing land forces were more or less of equal strength, or during periods in which the Muslim armies were more formidable than those of the Franks, the frequency of Muslim sieges increased, as did their potential length. The castles erected in the frontier areas of the kingdom from the 1160s onwards were planned to withstand lengthier sieges and more frequent attacks than those of the earlier period, because the defenders within their walls could not rely on speedy relief by reinforcements from the centre of the kingdom.

We may conclude, then, that the strength of the castles and the sums needed to erect and equip them were in inverse ratio to the might of the land forces in the immediate vicinity: in periods and areas in which the Franks held military superiority they could make do with smaller, less fortified castles; whenever and wherever the Muslims held the upper hand, the Franks were in need of more mightily fortified castles.

Several factors influenced the relative cost of incorporating defence technologies. The stronger the Muslim land forces and the more improved their siege techniques, the longer the potential duration of the siege they could mount and the mightier the Frankish castles became. Therefore, the cost of castle building increased in a direct ratio to their potential of being besieged and the potential length of the siege warfare. Not every lord was able to assemble the funds needed to fortify and equip his castle; moreover, even if he were able to come up with such sums, it is doubtful that he would expend them unless conditions made this absolutely necessary. It is therefore quite likely that the new and expensive technologies were implemented differentially throughout the kingdom, depending on the frequency of the Muslim attacks and their geographic diffusion. More sophisticated strongholds were first erected in regions more prone to attack or those which in time became frontier areas; only later did these innovations also seep down into other regions in the interior of the kingdom. As a result of these high costs, in the final tally the frontier castles were gradually transferred from the possession of their seigneurial lords to the military orders, which could more easily raise the necessary funding.

Thus, I maintain that study of the archaeology and military architecture are not enough to gain an understanding of their development. Technological innovations and the speed of their diffusion, financial ability, and differential capabilities of the opposing land forces were important considerations influencing military architecture. Moreover, it is not enough to point to the dialectic between Muslim attacks and Frankish defence, for there was a simultaneous, ongoing dialogue by both sides concerning the adopted technique in both siege-fare and defence. I shall attempt to trace, in as great detail as possible, the sieges mounted by both Franks and Muslims, and try to ascertain the relative advantages of each side in the conflict. This analysis will enable us at a later stage to better understand the significance of Frankish military architecture.

Frankish Siege Machinery and Logistics During the First Crusade

The siege and defence tactics employed by the Franks during the First Crusade, and also later, when they took the cities along the Mediterranean seashore, were different from those used by the Muslims during that same period. Frankish attacks were almost always supported by siege engines and siege towers, as well as by various types of artillery, whereas the Muslims did not erect towers and made little use of heavy artillery when besieging enemy castles. They preferred tactics which became traditional: direct storming of the castle, a tight blockade, tunnelling under the walls, and limited use of light artillery.

The difference between the siege tactics of the two warring camps apparently did not stem from poorer technological skills of the Muslims; Latin chroniclers specifically mention that the Muslims were acquainted with heavy artillery and even employed it in defence. But the use by the Franks of heavy artillery, and especially of siege towers, was much more frequent. In fact, it can be maintained that they employed both these means in almost every siege they mounted, while the Muslims did so only very rarely.

I believe that the difference between the siege tactics can be put down to the Franks’ superior logistic capabilities during the first quarter of the twelfth century. They had advanced transport facilities, including four- wheeled wagons; they could call upon the services of trained craftsmen and carpenters who served in their land forces or supporting fleets; and they could count on ships for transport and much logistic support. The Muslim armies too employed the services of Muslim sailors, but they did this more to enhance their defence than their attack abilities. The Frankish superiority in logistic capabilities already came to bear during the First Crusade. The Franks began the siege of Nicaea, the first massive one mounted by the Crusaders in Asia Minor, with a tight land blockade, but what actually accounted for their victory was their superior technology and engineering, and the despair of the besieged.

Descriptions of the siege of Nicaea by Latin and Greek chroniclers indicate just how much the balance of power between the Frankish and Muslim land forces influenced the morale of those within the city. At first, when the Nicaeans believed that no outside help would be forthcoming, they agreed to surrender to the Byzantine emperor. Somewhat later, when they learned that the Seljuk sultan had not abandoned them and was trying to come to their aid, they were more determined and decided not to surrender, but to fight on.

The Franks then erected siege engines and positioned various types of artillery. Most of the engines were intended to protect the soldiers who were digging under the city walls to weaken their foundations, but Anna Comnena relates that her father, Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, who had little faith in the Crusaders’ ability to take the city, suggested that they use a new type of artillery. Anna does not provide specific details about this weapon, but she does note that the Franks did employ, inter alia, a rock-propelling device known as Helepoleis. The Helepoleis was already known by this name during classical antiquity, and Paul Chevedden, who has studied the development of medieval artillery for many years, believes that `Helepoleis’ does not necessarily signify a specific weapon; rather it is used to designate the most advanced type of artillery existing during each specific period of time. Chevedden provides no proof to substantiate this argument, but he bases his assertion upon it and on the fact that Anna Comnena mentions a new type of weapon, concluding that during the siege of Nicaea the Byzantines for the first time supplied the Franks with an artillery piece of the counterweight trebuchet type, which replaced earlier sorts of artillery (each of which had in turn been called Helepoleis). Though Chevedden’s articles are based on a multitude of references, I have been unable to find in them support for the argument that `Helepoleis’ designated the most advanced type of artillery at a certain point in time, or that the counterweight trebuchet was already in use at the time of the siege of Nicaea. Rogers and France too, both of whom have studied the Frankish siege of Nicaea, did not find any evidence of this fact in the sources describing that event. The question is too vast to be dealt with here in full, but it should be noted that the majority of the students of Frankish and medieval Muslim artillery follow Huuri, in asserting that leverage artillery was invented in China and was brought to the East and from there to Europe, but most of them date the invention of the counterweight trebuchets to the twelfth century.

Nonetheless, even if the Franks did not have artillery of the counter- weight trebuchet type at their disposal when they besieged Nicaea, they were able to employ other relatively advanced types of artillery, at least some of which had been planned and built by Frankish craftsmen on the basis of knowledge they brought with them from their countries of origin. The Latin sources repeatedly mention, sometimes even by name, crafts- men and carpenters who were an inseparable element of the fighting force. They also note that craftsmen were hired and paid to perform professional tasks, some of them even losing their lives while engaged in construction efforts. For example, two German noblemen, Henry of Aische and Count Hartmund, funded the construction of a mobile roof of oak planks to protect twenty knights who were digging under the city walls. This stratagem failed, however, and the roof collapsed under the weight of the rocks hurled down by the defenders. Some time later, craftsmen from southern France in the entourages of the count of Toulouse and the bishop of Le Puy were hired to erect a very high tower along Nicaea’s southern wall. The warriors atop this tower successfully created a breach in the wall, but the defenders soon blocked it.

Siege and Defence of Castles During the First Crusade II

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1754: Siege of a town led by Godefroy de Bouillon (c1060-1100) 1st Crusade (1095-1099), showing Saracens firing arrows at Crusaders as they attempt to scale the walls. From manuscript of Roman de Godefroy de Bouillon. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

The technological skills of the Franks were not limited to constructing siege engines and artillery. They managed to transport boats overland from the Aegean seashore to the shores of the Lake of Nicaea. This they did by joining together three or four wagons, creating large platforms each of which could carry one boat. One source reports that `during the night, by means of ropes wrapped around the necks of men and horses, they pulled [the boats] to the sea, a distance of seven miles or more’. From this description we learn that the Franks brought heavy four-wheeled wagons with them, and were able to move these wagons using horses. This source emphasises the ability of Frankish craftsmen and carpenters to build cranes under difficult battlefield conditions, and to harness horses to pull heavy wagons.

According to the Latin chroniclers, the breakthrough in the siege of Nicaea came when a Lombard carpenter and engine-builder managed to build a machine sufficiently fortified to withstand attacks by the defenders (for which he was generously paid and supplied with materials), thus providing cover for those who dug under the wall’s foundations. It was this effort which finally brought the lengthy siege to an end.

The Frankish sieges of Antioch, Ma’arat an-Nu’uman, and Arka also entailed the construction of siege engines and the use of heavy artillery. Siege towers reduced the advantage provided by the height of the city walls, and in cases in which they were not effective enough the Franks constructed real wooden fortifications. They were used, for example, in the siege of Antioch, where the Franks first initiated a lengthy land blockade, while the defenders, for their part, mounted surprise attacks and quick sorties through the city gates. At this time the defenders did not yet have special openings in the wall for such sorties, but time and again they managed to surprise the Franks by opening the gates and rushing out to strike at them. The latter responded by quickly erecting wooden fortifications to defend the camps of the besieging forces.

Thus, at a fairly early stage of the siege of Antioch they built a castrum or an external fortification (antemurale) which came to be known as Malregard and was intended to defend the camp of Bohemond and his men. Immediately upon the arrival of reinforcements, which included craftsmen and building materials, another wooden fortification (munitio) which they called the Mahomeria, was constructed on a site that previously had been a Muslim mosque. A third fortification, given the name Novum Presidium and manned by 500 warriors, prevented the defenders from exiting through one of the city gates.

Labourers, craftsmen – and sometime even mercenaries – from among the Crusader forces were employed to construct and maintain such fortifications. They were well paid, for demand greatly outstripped supply. In one case, when the Crusade’s leaders decided to construct a fortification opposite Antioch’s western gate, it was impossible to find persons who would build or man it without receiving due compensation. In the end, Tancred agreed to take this task upon himself, but only after he was promised a sizeable monthly income of 40 marks from the public treasury (ex publico). From this description we learn of the existence of such a treasury and also that sums were paid out of it for building operations connected with military action.

All these fortifications were erected in a matter of weeks, sometimes even days. It can therefore be assumed – though this is not explicitly stated – that they were built of wood and were similar to such fortifications known to us from contemporary Europe. A letter written by one Anslem of Ribemonte, who was party to the construction of one of the fortifications, to the lord of Reims, indicates that it was built atop an earthen motte, which indicates that the castle was of the motte and bailey type and was probably constructed of wood. William of Tyre relates that Bohemond was unable to defend one of the fortifications, so he set it on fire. In the exceptional cases in which they were built of stone, this is specific- ally mentioned: thus, for example, during the siege of Antioch the Franks built a wall of solid materials (`factumque muro cum propuganculist ex opere solido’).

All these sources and examples testify to a sizeable presence of expert craftsmen in the Crusader forces and to their willingness to use their specific skills for proper remuneration, but it is quite clear that such a situation was not characteristic of the Muslim armies as well.

Frankish technical capabilities and their ability to adopt innovations while mounting a siege were obvious during the siege of Ma’arat an- Nu’uman (12 November-12 December 1098). At first they tried to storm it, using ladders, but they had only two ladders. `Had they had enough ladders’, claim the Latin sources, `the city would have already fallen during the second day of the siege.’ When the frontal attack failed, the Franks began to construct shelters, artillery, and a mobile wooden tower, the first built during the First Crusade. According to Rogers, it was less perfect than those constructed during later sieges; though it could be moved by means of four wheels, warriors could not leap directly from it onto the walls. The Muslims propelled rocks and a buzzing beehive at the tower, but to no avail, for according to Ibn al-Qalanisi the tower was higher than the walls and the defenders could not protect themselves. Ibn al-`Adim too noted that the capture of Ma’arat an-Nu’uman was made possible only after the Franks had cut down all the trees in the city’s surroundings in order to build a wooden burj [tower] which dominated the walls. They attacked the city from all sides until they managed to place the tower against the wall. Only then did they raise their ladders and break into the city. We see, then, that the Muslim sources note the tower’s height as its primary advantage, disregarding its mobility.

From the descriptions of this siege it is also obvious that in order to implement Frankish siege tactics, which relied on the construction of heavy engines, they had to rely not only on carpenters and other skilled craftsmen. They also needed devoted rank and file troops trained to carry out tasks connected with the use of these engines. Thus, for example, in order to set siege engines against the walls one needed soldiers to carry weighty planks of wood, fill in dykes and defensive trenches, collect rocks to be propelled, and then drag the heavy engines, all this at a risk to their lives. During the siege of Ma’arat an-Nu’uman, the troops in question were an unusually wild group, known as tafuri, who had a reputation among the Turks as being ruthless and uninhibited warriors, even cannibals!

After completion of the tower, the fighting was primarily between the Frankish soldiers on its platform and Muslim defenders who faced them at the same height atop the walls. By means of lances and artillery, the attackers, commanded by William VI of Montpellier, provided cover for their fellow warriors who leaned ladders against the fortifications in order to scale the walls, and for others engaged in digging underneath their foundations.

Frankish Attacks and Muslim Artillery

The Muslims frequently used artillery to ward off attacks by the Franks against their own cities and castles. For example, in preparation for the Frankish siege of Antioch, the Turkish governor commanded the city’s residents to prepare stocks of iron and wood from which to create artillery pieces. The residents obeyed the governor, and their artillery hurled heavy rocks and fired arrows at the besiegers, forcing them to retreat to a safe distance from the walls. William of Tyre notes that Antioch’s rulers imposed most of the work involved in preparing the artillery upon the city’s Christian population:

If machines were to be erected or immensely heavy beams moved, that work was at once laid upon them . . . Others had to furnish the huge stones which were being constantly hurled beyond the walls by the engines and to manage the ropes by which these were operated.

Similar behaviour is recorded in descriptions of Muslim preparations for the siege of Jerusalem by the Franks. Commanders of the Fatimid forces made ready pieces of artillery and stationed them atop the city walls. William was convinced that the Muslim artillery was no more than an excellent imitation of that of the Franks:

Following our example, they built from these [beams], inside the walls, machines equal to ours in height, but of better material [Machinas interius nostris equi- pollentes, sed meliore compactas materia certatim erigebant]. This they did with the greatest enthusiasm, that their engines might not be inferior to ours either in construction or in material. Guards were maintained constantly on the walls and towers, who watched intently all that was done in our army, especially in regard to devices which pertained to engines of war. Every detail observed was at once reported to the chief men of Jerusalem, who strove with great skill to imitate the work of the Christians, that they might meet all our efforts with equal ingenuity.

Imitation, William goes on, `was comparatively easy, for the people of Jerusalem had at their command many more skilled workmen and building tools, as well as larger supplies of iron, copper, ropes, and everything else necessary than had our people’. He records that these engines, like the ones built by the Muslims during the Frankish siege of Antioch, were constructed by Eastern Christians who were forcibly recruited for the difficult task, which entailed carrying heavy wooden planks and other materials. William, however, attributes the knowledge necessary to build these engines to the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem, whose efforts became increasingly effective during the later stages of the siege, when real artillery battles were conducted between the Franks’ siege engines and the Muslim artillery on the walls. From William’s chronicle one can sense an atmosphere of technological competition, as each side made an effort to study and adopt the enemy’s war machinery.

The similarity between the Frankish siege weapons and those used by the Muslims for defence was most noticeable during the unsuccessful attempt to take ‘Arka and the successful siege of Jerusalem. Since the topographical features at ‘Arka prevented effective use of siege engines, the Franks tried their hand at the tactics favoured by the Muslims: mining under the foundations of the city walls. Despite their strenuous efforts, they were unsuccessful. Artillery, too, was not enough to take the city: the Muslims mounted on the walls artillery no less effective than that of the Franks and managed to hit an important Frankish knight.

The siege of Jerusalem also began with frontal attacks, whose failure was put down to the lack of ladders. The commanders soon decided to refrain from such attacks until they should have heavy artillery and siege towers at their disposal. During most of the siege (until mid-July 1099), the Franks engaged in the logistics which the construction of siege engines and towers entailed, until the two leading camps in the Crusader force each possessed a tower of its own. The one commanded by Godfrey of Bouillon built its tower along the northern wall, while the second camp, under the command of Raymond of St Gilles, erected its tower on Mt Zion. The logistics involved were far from negligible: they had to ascertain where suitable wooden beams could be found; furthermore, in order to cut down trees, prepare the heavy beams, and transport them they needed craftsmen and carpenters, camels, donkeys, horses, and experienced waggoners. Particularly hard hit by a lack of experienced craftsmen, the Crusaders were aided by two Genoese vessels that dropped anchor at Jaffa on 17 June 1099, only eleven days after the siege of Jerusalem began. Their commander agreed to supply the force surrounding Jerusalem with pro- fessional builders (`viri prudentes et nautarum more architectorie habentes artis periciam’) to `construct engines in the shortest time possible’. These craftsmen `brought with them a great selection of tools which proved to be of advantage to the besieging forces’.

Positioning the towers, too, called for much expertise, for this entailed transporting them and putting together the tower’s numerous sections under enemy fire. Both of these tasks were carried out under the cover of darkness to reduce the danger to a minimum. The builders’ expertise enabled them to do this in one night and complete the entire undertaking before sunrise. The fighting, accompanied by curses and acts of sorcery, raged around these towers. William relates that `two Muslim witches and three apprentice witches’, who threw a curse upon these most efficient siege engines of the Franks, died in the line of duty atop the walls of Jerusalem.

The rank-and-file labourers generally went unpaid, but the wages of the others (particularly expert craftsmen) were paid out of donations, since none of the Crusade commanders – with the exception of the count of Toulouse – had the funds necessary to hire expert builders. Yet, even Raymond of Toulouse’s men were ordered to place their beasts of burden and servants at the disposal of those who engaged in transporting building materials, and every two knights in his entourage took upon themselves to supply one ladder or one mobile shelter.

From the detailed descriptions of the sieges of Nicaea, Antioch, Ma’arat an-Nu’uman, and Jerusalem, as well as the less detailed ones of other cities conquered during the First Crusade, we see that the Franks made use of complex wooden structures and sophisticated artillery to breach the fortifications which defended the enemy. The presence in their camp at all times of expert carpenters and craftsmen, in addition to the relatively high availability of Italian fleets, eased these rather complicated efforts. Commanding a siege based upon artillery and siege towers called for much experience in deploying combined forces charged with executing diverse missions: construction of the siege engines and artillery, moving them towards the walls, defending them, and doing battle with the enemy at specific locations along the walls.

Advanced types of stationary artillery, prepared in advance of attack and mounted atop the walls, were used by the Muslim troops. William of Tyre was convinced that the Frankish artillery far surpassed that of the Muslims, and that the latter were in the habit of imitating that used by the Crusaders. During the First Crusade, however, the Muslims had no opportunity to build mobile field artillery or to employ heavy artillery during attacks and sieges.

The evident superiority of the Frankish armies over their adversaries, which enabled them to capture many of the coastal and inland cities of the Levant, did not emanate therefore from technologies which were unknown to the Muslim armies, but from their superior logistics and the presence of experienced carpenters and builders in the field armies. This advantage facilitated the construction of complex machines even under the difficult conditions which prevailed during the siege itself. The Muslims, who were able to construct similar installations to defend their own fortifications, did not possess similar logistical capabilities during their own siege campaigns.

Siege of Massilia, (49 BCE)

Battles of the Great Roman Civil War, 49-45 BC

The prosperous and influential ancient city of Massilia stood against Julius Caesar during his Civil War with Pompey the Great. By way of a prolonged siege, Caesar’s forces reduced the town’s resistance and secured his complete control of Gaul (modern France).

The modern city of Marseilles on the coast of southern France began as the Greek colonial settlement of Massalia (referred to as Massilia in Roman texts) in the late seventh century BCE. Greek merchants had been sailing along that coast for generations and the colonists, sent out by the city-state of Phocaea in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), negotiated with the local Ligurian tribe (the Segobriges) to acquire the site, a promontory surrounded by water on three sides and approached, with difficulty, from the land on the fourth side. The location and situation provided natural protection to the colony from pirates and marauding Gallic warriors, while its proximity to the Rhone River valley opened up access to trade with the Gallic tribes further inland; in exchange for wine, olive oil, and pottery, the Massiliotes received tin, grain, and amber from the Gauls. The harbor of Massilia was ideal for maritime commerce and opened the way for stiff competition with the Carthaginian merchants who were expanding their markets northeast- ward from their bases in Spain; this led to military confrontations as early as the fifth century BCE, which saw the Massiliotes come out on top. As noted earlier in the entry on Gallia Comata, the continued commercial rivalry between Massilia and Carthage was one of the major causes of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, the Romans claiming to defend Massiliote interests in the Western Mediterranean. From then on, the city remained one of Rome’s firmest allies in southern France.

When Civil War began between Pompey and Caesar in 49 BCE, one of Pompey’s firmest allies and Caesar’s inveterate enemies, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, intended to assume command of the provinces of Gaul; the senators in support of Pompey had agreed to this, while Caesar continued to consider himself the rightful governor. Domitius delayed his departure for Gaul until after his defeat (and despite his release) by Caesar at the Siege of Corfinium. In the meantime, young noblemen from the allied city of Massilia, who had visited with Pompey before his retreat from Rome, arrived home to encourage their fellow townspeople to support Pompey against Caesar. Having chased Pompey out of Italy and taken control of Rome, Caesar did not want to have a hostile Massilia, with great wealth and a powerful fleet, in his rear, perhaps working with Domitius; so, Caesar soon left Rome for southern Gaul, arriving in April 49 BCE.

When he arrived, Caesar discovered the gates of Massilia locked against him and intelligence reports indicated that the Massiliotes had collected large stores of grain and other necessary supplies, were beefing up their fortifications and ships, and had also arranged for the aid of local Gallic tribes- men against Caesar. Massilia possessed a strong oligarchic government, a council of 600 lifetime legislators presided over by a committee of fifteen executives chosen from among them. Caesar demanded a conference with the Fifteen, in which he warned them not to stand against him and instead to take the posture of the towns of Italy, most of which had quickly agreed to avoid hostilities by accepting Caesar’s authority. After conferring with the Council of 600, the Fifteen replied that their government could not decide between Caesar and Pompey; while they acknowledged that during his tenure as governor of Gaul, Caesar’s relations with them had been quite positive, they also insisted that from Pompey as well they had received equal benefits in the past (referring to Gallic territories that had been handed over to Massilia by Pompey). The city offered to remain neutral in the Civil War by cutting itself off from both belligerents.

The duplicity of such statements became clear when Domitius arrived and the Massiliotes admitted him into their city and gave him command of its defense against Caesar. Domitius ordered their ships to scour the area for stores of grain and to confiscate all civilian vessels they came across to bolster Massilia’s fleet and increase its material resources. In response to these actions and the now-hostile posture of the city, Caesar placed it under siege by three of his veteran legions. While Caesar himself proceeded to Spain against Pompey’s legates there, he left the siege operations under the command of Trebonius, with Decimus Brutus in charge of the blockading fleet of twelve warships.

The Massiliotes mustered their vessels under Domitius’s authority, who placed archers, Gallic warriors, and many poor (but desperate) Romans that he brought with him from Italy onboard as marines. Brutus commanded fewer ships but onboard were some of the very best soldiers from Caesar’s legions; they were prepared to fight hard with their weapons, but they also had all the apparatus necessary for seizing and boarding the enemy warships.

When the two fleets engaged, a bitter struggle commenced. The Massiliote ships made great speed and possessed clever helmsmen and skilled oarsmen, who attempted to make use of these advantages by ganging up on individual vessels of Brutus’s or slamming through their banks of oars or keeping their distance to encircle the Caesarians. The latter did not possess such advantages, since their ships were heavier and slower and their crews green, but they sought every chance to grapple the enemy ships and send their marines into hand-to-hand combat with the enemy crews. In the end, this proved good enough, as the Massiliote fleet gave up the fight after having lost nine vessels captured or destroyed.

The Massiliotes, who had not lost heart or courage, turned to repairing damaged ships and preparing further ones from all their supplies. Indeed, the entire population of the city had apparently come to believe that their next naval battle with the Caesarians would mean either decisive victory (and safety) for themselves or total destruction; as a result, every able-bodied man in Massilia had been called up to serve, and especially the members of the aristocracy had “volunteered” to man the fleet as marines. Domitius, meanwhile, received reinforcement warships under Nasidius, sent by Pompey himself all the way from Greece. Women, children, and the elderly prayed to the gods in their temples and watched hopefully and dreadfully from the walls of Massilia as their fleet and that of Nasidius joined up along the coast to the east of the city.

Decimus Brutus hurried his vessels to engage them. As in the first confrontation at sea, this one also was difficult and fierce. Indeed, Brutus’s flagship was almost smashed between two Massiliote vessels; like a scene in a modern movie, his crew managed to make speed just in time to get out of the way, the enemy ships collided with one another, causing severe damage, and other Roman vessels came in for the kill by surrounding and sinking the attackers. In the meantime, Nasidius’s crews proved unreliable; having no true personal or patriotic stake in saving Massilia from capture, they were unwilling to really risk their lives in the battle. They soon withdrew from action on various pretexts and sailed off to Spain. The Massiliotes having fought so bravely and skillfully, nonetheless, suffered sufficient losses to persuade them to retreat into port. The further defense of grief-stricken Massilia would have to rely on resisting the Roman siege.

All the while the naval battles had been in progress, Caesar’s land forces under Trebonius had been constructing their siege works. They had summoned workers and supplies, especially of timber, from all across the Roman province of Narbonensis (roughly Provence today) to accomplish the massive, and slow, task. A siege-ramp sixty feet wide and eighty feet high, made of earth shored up by a considerable amount of timber, was necessary to reach the top of Massilia’s walls on the landward side of the city. As the Romans erected this, the Massiliotes used artillery devices, like their massive tormenta (giant-size crossbows) and catapults, to bombard the workers and soldiers outside. According to Caesar’s own account, such devices hurled large missiles, twelve feet long, with such force that they penetrated the usual protective screens employed by the Caesarians. To counteract this, the latter designed covered passageways of thick timber and a large mobile hut (tortoise) of the same material to shield themselves as they built up the ramp. Of course, the Massiliotes did not let this stop them; they ordered their Gallic allies to rush out of the city from protected spots and regularly harass the Roman troops and disrupt their work with firebrands.

In response, Caesar’s men decided to build, about sixty feet from the ramparts of Massilia, a brick fort, thirty feet square with walls five feet thick, as a place of refuge and regrouping. Over time, they very ingeniously in- creased the height of this fort, turning it into a stationary siege tower, virtually impervious to artillery missiles and fire. From its base, they threw out a covered passageway in the direction of Massilia’s walls, not just made of thick timbers but also covered on top with brick, clay, animal hide, and wet quilts, to protect it from fire, as they had done with the roof of the siege-tower fort.

The defenders of Massilia dropped large chunks of stone and fiery barrels of pitch onto the siege passageway, to no effect, and were attacked themselves by volleys of javelins and other missiles from the Roman siege-tower fort. From inside the protection of the passageway, the Roman sappers had dug under the wall of Massilia and brought a portion of it to collapse. Crowds of civilians rushed out of the opening in the wall, begging for Roman mercy and asking for a cessation of hostilities until the return of Caesar from his victory in Spain. Trebonius agreed to this, knowing that Caesar did not at all wish his enraged troops to take the city by force.

The truce was uneasy. From both sides came raids against the other, especially a night raid in which the Romans were beaten back from their attempt to penetrate the city, and a midday raid by the Massiliotes, who successfully destroyed by fire almost all the siege works of the Romans, including their siege fort. Not surprisingly, Caesar, in his official account, placed all the blame for the violation of the truce on the Massiliotes, whom he accused of the basest treachery.

His men had few timber resources left to them to construct new siege works, so they attempted to build a ramp flanked by thick walls of brick, topped with what wood they had left, and covered over in clay to guard against fire. The Romans advanced this structure toward the walls of Massilia, again with the plan to undermine them and invade the city. The extraordinary efforts of the exhausted, but never-more-determined, forces of Caesar caused the Massiliotes now to pause and critically examine their position. After all, Caesar’s fleet had the city blocked off by sea and his ground troops had cut off any escape by land; they seemed resolute in doing over and over again anything needed to hold and take the city. On their side, the people of Massilia were suffering from illness and dwindling supplies of fresh food after nearly six months of siege. So, the Massiliote government requested another truce and offered to surrender in good faith.

Caesar arrived in late October to accept this surrender. He ordered the Massiliotes to hand over all their weapons and ships, as well as all the money in their treasury; to guarantee their continued cooperation, he stationed two Roman legions in the city. Otherwise, Caesar decided to take no further punitive action against the Massiliotes, out of respect, he said, for their ancient alliance with Rome. With Massilia secure, Caesar had no further need to worry over the Gallic territories for the remainder of the Civil War nor, indeed, for the rest of his lifetime.

Further Reading Carter, J. 1997. Caesar: The Civil War. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. De Angelis, F. 1994. The Archaeology of Greek Colonisation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology. Rivet, A. L. F. 1988. Gallia Narbonensis. London: Batsford.