The Battle Of Dreux - 19th December 1562


The Battle of Dreux was the first major engagement of the French Wars of Religion. Having conducted two successful sieges, capturing Bourges and Rouen from the Huguegnots, the Catholic commander, Francis de Guise led his army into the Seine region in an attempt to stop the Huguenot army led by Prince Louis of Conde, linking up with an English army of 3,000 men in Le Havre. These English allies, led by the Earl of Warwick, had been sent by Queen Elizabeth the first to bolster the protestant cause in France, but to date they had spent most their time holed up in the port. Having made plans to rendezvous with the English on the banks of the Seine, Conde marched north along the Chartes-Dreux-Rouen road. Notoriously bad for sending out scouting parties ahead of his main army, on the 19th December Conde found his path blocked by the Catholic army who were drawn up in battle formation across the road. After some Catholic cannon shots at the Huguenot light cavalry, Conde set up for battle himself and for two hours both armies just stood and faced each other. Thinking that the Catholics were not going to fight after all, Conde ordered his men to withdraw, but as they did began the Catholics launched their attack and once more the Huguenots took up battle positions. Below is a plan of how the two armies were set up at the start.


The Battle of Dreux - 19th December 1562

ORDERS OF BATTLE


The Catholic Army

Left Wing - led by Constable Montmorency

Gendarmes (1000 men) - 20 figures - lance armed mounted knights - regular quality

Light Horse (500 men) - 10 figures - arquebus - poor quality

Swiss Infantry (5000 men 75% pike 25% arquebus) - 100 figures - superior quality

French Infantry (5000 men 40% pike 60% arquebus) - 100 figures - poor quality

8 Cannon - 1 model - regular quality

Right Wing - led by Francis de Guise

Gendarmes (1000 men) - 20 figures - lance armed mounted knights - regular quality

French Infantry (4000 men 40% pike 60% arquebus) - 80 figures - regular quality

Spanish Infantry (3500 men 50% pike 50% arquebus) - 70 figures - regular quality

Landsknecht Infantry (2500 men 75% pike 25% arquebus) - 50 figures - regular quality

Gendarmes (250 men) - 5 figures - lance armed mounted knights - good quality

14 cannon - 2 models - regular quality


The Huguenot Army

Left Wing - led by Louis, Prince of Conde

Gendarmes (600 men) - 12 figures - lance armed mounted knights - superior quality

Reiters (1400 men) - 28 figures - pistol armed cavalry, armour - regular quality

Light Horse (500 men) - 10 figures - arquebus - poor quality

French Infantry (1500 men) - 30 figures - arquebus - regular quality

Landsknecht Infantry (2000 men 75% pike 25% arquebus) - regular quality

5 Light Cannon - 1 model

Right Wing - led by Admiral Coligny

Gendarmes (500 men) - 10 figures - lance armed mounted knights - superior quality

Reiters (1000 men) - 20 figures - pistol armed cavalry armour - regular quality

French Infantry (1500 men) - 30 figures - arquebus - regular quality

Landsknecht Infantry (2000 men 75% pike 25% arquebus) - regular quality


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED


At around midday, Louis Prince of Conde led a cavalry charge that pushed back the Catholic Swiss and resulted in six cannon being captured, as well as Constable Montmorency. However the Swiss being the superior fighters that they were, were able to compose themselves back in to good order and fend off a second cavalry attack made by the German Reiters. On the opposite wing, Admiral Coligny led a cavalry charge that defeated the opposing Catholic cavalry. Unfortunately rather than using this advantage, Coligny and his men pursued the Catholics off the field. Having recovered from the second cavalry assault, the Catholic Swiss now advanced, pushing back the Huguenot Landsknechts. At this point the Catholic Landsknechts also fell on their Huguenot counterparts who immediately surrendered.

Francis de Guise then led a full assault with his Gendarmes, Light Horse, French and Spanish infantry, which crushed Conde's remaining infantry and captured Conde himself. Coligny and a few of his cavalry now returned to the battlefield, but seeing that all was lost for the Huguenots, departed again.

The Catholics had succeeded in stopping the Huguenots from joining up with the English. They had captured 22 standards that they proudly hung up in Notre Dame cathedral and the Huguenot Landsknechts were sent back to Germany weaponless, although some in their mercenary nature joined the Catholics instead.

Coligny retreated to Orleans, which the Catholics would begin besieging the following year and where Francis de Guise would meet his end after an assassination attempt by a Huguenot spy.


Cavalry charge at the Battle of Dreux


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