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Battle of Patay - Conflict & Date:
The Battle of Patay was fought June 18, 1429, and was part of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453).
Armies & Commanders:
- Sir John Fastolf
- John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
- 5,000 men
- La Hire
- Jean Poton de Xaintrailles
- Joan of Arc
- 1,500 men
Battle of Patay - Background:
Following the English defeat at Orleans and other reverses along the Loire Valley in 1429, Sir John Fastolf advanced into the area with a relief force from Paris. Joining with John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, the column moved to relieve the English garrison at Beaugency. On June 17, Fastolf and Shrewsbury encountered a French force northeast of the town. Realizing that its garrison had fallen, the two commanders elected to fall back to Meung-sur-Loire as the French were not willing to give battle. Arriving there, they attempted to retake the bridge guardhouse which had fallen to French forces a few days earlier.
Battle of Patay - the English Retreat:
Unsuccessful, they soon learned that the French were moving from Beaugency to besiege Meung-sur-Loire. Outnumbered and outgunned by Joan of Arc's approaching army, Fastolf and Shrewsbury decided to abandon the town and retreat north towards Janville. Marching out, they moved up the Old Roman Road before pausing near Patay to rest. Leading the rear guard, Shrewsbury placed his archers and other troops in a covered position near an intersection. Learning of the English retreat, the French commanders debated what action to pursue.
The discussion was ended by Joan who advocated for a swift pursuit. Sending forward a mounted force under the leadership of La Hire and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, Joan followed with the main army. Ranging ahead, French patrols initially failed to locate Fastolf's column. While the vanguard paused at St. Sigmund, approximately 3.75 miles from Patay, the French scouts finally had success. Unaware of their proximity to Shrewsbury's position, they flushed a stag from along the road. Racing north it bounded through the English position.
Battle of Patay - the French Attack:
Spotting the deer, the English archers sent up a hunting cry which gave away their location. Learning of this, La Hire and Xaintrailles raced ahead with 1,500 men. Rushing to prepare for battle, the English archers, armed with the deadly longbow, began their standard tactic of placing pointed stakes in front of their position for protection. As Shrewsbury's line formed near the intersection, Fastolf deployed his infantry along a ridge to the rear. Though they moved quickly, the English archers were not fully prepared when the French appeared around 2:00 PM.
Riding over a ridge south of the English lines, La Hire and Xaintrailles did not pause, but instead immediately deployed and charged forward. Slamming into Shrewsbury's position, they quickly outflanked and overran the English. Watching in horror from the ridge, Fastolf attempted to recall the vanguard of his column but to no avail. Lacking sufficient forces to deal with the French, he began retreating up the road as La Hire and Xaintrailles' horsemen cut down or captured the remnants of Shrewsbury's men.
Battle of Patay - Aftermath:
The final battle of Joan of Arc's decisive Loire Campaign, Patay cost the English around 2,500 casualties while the French sustained approximately 100. Having defeated the English at Patay and concluded a highly successful campaign, the French began to turn the tide of the Hundred Years' War. The defeat inflicted significant losses upon the English longbow corps as well as was one of the first times a massed French cavalry charge had overcome the skilled archers.