Tuesday 9 July 2013

King Stephen as military commander

Stephen was no mere brute who dashed into battle with physical courage, he understood and managed the business of war exceptionally well. Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to Stephen’s military skills was the fact that none of his men ever went hungry. No matter how many men he had, nor how far they had to march there was always enough food. Given the rudimentary nature of the supply system of medieval armies, this was a rare and valuable gift. Most medieval commanders expected their men to forage to some extent - a fact that made any passing army unpopular with the people unlucky enough to live along its route. Stephen kept his men fed, and that meant that he was able to keep them together as an army ready for action at a moment’s notice. He was also able to keep his men under his eye to ensure discipline was maintained. Stephen’s armies were as well prepared, well trained and well discipline as any 12th century army could be, and he deserves the credit for that.
Stephen’s contemporaries also maintain that he was a master at siege warfare. This was a skill that many commanders never managed to acquire. Nobles and kings were trained to fight as knights, charging into battle with lance and sword. The dirty business of digging trenches, constructing catapults and building battering rams was, many thought, somewhat beneath them. They could hire carpenters and builders to do that sort of work. Not so Stephen, he believed that if he was going to besiege a castle, or defend one, he needed to know how to do so himself. As a young man he set out to learn as much about siegecraft as he could. It was to stand him in good stead.

from "The Battle of Lincoln" by Rupert Matthews

Buy your copy HERE

A book dedicated to the Siege of Lincoln that marked a turning point in the Wars of Anarchy during the reign of King Stephen. A civil war between King Stephen and his rival Empress Matilda broke out in 1136. By 1141 England had fallen in to near anarchy with nobles using the unrest to pursue local feuds, slaughter rivals and pillage each other's land. In 1141 Stephen moved to capture Lincoln Castle and put down one such recalcitrant nobleman. While there he was surprised and attacked by a larger army led by Matilda. The ensuing battle was complex and confused, but it ended with Stephen utterly defeated - for now. This book follows the standard pattern set by others in the Bretwalda Battles series. The reasons for and course of the war in question are outlined, then detailed analyses of weapons, tactics and strategies are given with particular reference to this battle. The course of the battleis then followed, with comment on what there is to see at the site today. Short biographies of the commanders are also given. The aftermath of the battle, its effects and importance to the progress of the war are then described. The "Bretwalda Battles" series has been running with increasing success as ebooks for some time. Now the first books in the series are being published in print format.

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