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"War Without Fire is Like Sausages Without Mustard": The Legacy of the Tactic of Chevauchee in the Hundred Years' War, and How it Can Inform Military Operational Planners of Today
The historical legacy of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) is often personified by the great battles of the conflict: Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356), Agincourt (1415), and Orleans (1428) dominate both the literature and the public memory of the war between the kingdoms of France and England. However, rather than the singular, sustained period of conflict its name implies, the Hundred Years' War was largely conducted by a series of seasonal campaigns that ebbed and flowed in both frequency and violence. In the first fifty years of the conflict, one such method of fighting was the chevauchee. Literally translated as a "ride," a modern understanding of chevauchee, put simply, would be that of raiding an opponent's territory. Yet, chevauchee was not just the occupation of small bands of soldiers; moreover, in practice they were often large, highly orchestrated affairs which sought to undermine their opponents by weakening their states, reducing income through plunder and militarily challenging the ability of the attacked area to respond. Some chevauchees ended in large engagements, as was seen in the Battle of Poitiers, but they also ended too with the attacker culminating when their resources had been consumed. It is this dichotomy which has relevance to aspects of warfare today; how did chevauchees end and under what circumstances did hostilities cease or pause? Furthermore, does chevauchee have a lasting legacy for military planners? As violence continues to be used by various state and non-state actors to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of many governments around the globe there is arguably considerable relevance as to what knowledge a study of the early campaigns of the Hundred Years' War may illuminate for our current generation.
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