Since October 1428, the English had been laying siege to the French city of Orleans. In February 1429 a wagon train loaded with supplies was despatched from English occupied Paris to the besieging troops at Orleans; 300 wagons and carts loaded with arms, cannonballs, and most notably, 80 barrels of herrings (from where the battle takes it's name), to feed the English soldiers during the meatless season of Lent. The French assembled an intercepting force of 4,000 men and artillery to be led by the dashing and accomplished 28 year old military commander, Charles de Bourbon. Included in his retinue was a Scottish contingent of 600 men under the command of Sir John Stuart of Darnley.
After passing through the town of Rouvray-Sainte-Croix, the English convoy began to cross a featureless flat plain, it was here that their forward scouts reported the approaching French force. The English commander, Sir John Fastolf, (later made famous as a fictional version of himself as Falstaff in Shakespeare's plays) knew his options were limited. His wagon train too was too slow to outrun the French, and his cargo too valuable to simply abandon it, so even though he would be heavily outnumbered, he took the decision to stand and fight. He ordered the wagons and carts to form a circle (laager) and for his men to plant sharpened stakes in the ground to protect the front and gaps between the vehicles. His men, 1000 Paris Militia and 600 English longbowmen, were positioned inside the wagon fortress, to wait for the French to make their move.
ORDERS OF BATTLE
Sir John Fastolf - Commander In Chief
Longbows (600 men) 24 figures - Armoured, Trained, Veterans, Excellent Morale, Longbow & 2 Handed Sword
Simon Morhier of Gilles - Sub-Commander
Paris Militia (1000 men) 40 figures - Armoured, Militia, Average Morale, 2 Handed Bills & Swords
Wagons in a complete circular laager with stakes around the entire perimeter
Sir John Stuart of Darnley - Sub-Commander
Scottish Men At Arms (150 men) 6 figures - Dismounted, Armoured, Impetuous, Good Morale, 2 Handed swords
Scottish Foot (450 men) 18 figures - Light Armour. Impetuous. Good Morale, Spears & Side Arms
French Men At Arms/ Knights (2 x 500 men) 2 x 20 figures - Mounted, Heavy Armour, Impetuous, Good Morale, Lance
Charles de Bourbon - Commander In Chief
Crossbowmen (600 men) 24 figures - Light Armour, Trained, Average Morale, Crossbow
Brigans (1500 men) 60 figures - Medium Armour, Trained, Average Morale, Spears & Shields
Artillery - 4 models of Organ Gun "Light" - crew, Trained, Average Morale
THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED
Seeing the English withdraw inside their laager, Charles de Bourbon, a young and "modern tactician", decided to bombard the defences with artillery. Bringing his guns forward with his crossbowmen he began a barrage of shot and bolts into the English wagon fortress. The term "barrage" is used loosely here, as in medieval warfare the deployment and use of gunpowder weapons to their best was still an unknown. Even so, sources say that the French were beginning to inflict damage on the English defences when the Scots became impatient and suddenly launched into a charge, forcing the French artillery & archers to cease firing in case they hit their allies. The English longbowmen stepped into the gaps between the wagons and launched volley after volley of deadly arrows into the Scots, mowing them down, including Sir John, before they ever made contact with the English. In an impetuous moment, seeing their comrades be shot down, the French cavalry charged to try and support the brave Scotsmen, only to also be shot down in droves. Among the wounded knights was Jean de Dunois " The Bastard of Orleans", who was to later play a big part alongside Joan of Arc in the retaking Orleans.
As the Scots and French Men At Arms fell in front of them, the English noted that the main body of French infantry was still a long way behind and advancing very slowly. they seized the moment and rushed out from their wagon circle and cut down the remaining wounded and hesitant enemy, sending the swifter of foot into a rout back to their lines. As the fleeing French cavalry hit the main body of advancing French infantry their resolve dissolved also, and the entire French army turned to run.
Losses are put at just 4 English killed, compared to the Franco-Scots losing 120 Men At Arms and 500 others (mainly Scots).
WARGAMER RULE ADAPTATION
Sources suggest that had the Scots not charged, that the French artillery would have eventually either routed the English, or forced them into another tactic. To recreate the Scots impetuous nature we would suggest a dice roll at the start of each game turn, a 5 or 6 on a D6 triggering the Scots charge.
To recreate this battle we suggest the Perry range of miniatures, which you will find in our online store. Their range includes English archers, foot soldiers, Men At Arms, Knights, Mounted Knights and French infantry. Use the code "Herring" at the checkout and get 10% off until the 1st March 2020.