Humanities › History & Culture The Chevauchée Was a Brutal Way of Waging War Share Flipboard Email Print Battle of Crécy from a Manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 3.0 History & Culture European History Wars & Battles European History Figures & Events The Holocaust European Revolutions Industry and Agriculture History in Europe American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Robert Wilde History Expert M.A., Medieval Studies, Sheffield University B.A., Medieval Studies, Sheffield University Robert Wilde is a historian who writes about European history. He is the author of the History in an Afternoon textbook series. our editorial process Robert Wilde Updated February 05, 2019 The chevauchée was a particularly destructive kind of military raid prominent during The Hundred Years War (and especially used by Edward III of England). Rather than besieging a castle or conquering the land, soldiers on a chevauchée aimed to create as much destruction, carnage and chaos as possible to both break the morale of enemy peasants and deny their rulers income and resources. Consequently, they would burn crops and buildings, kill the population and steal anything valuable before enemy forces could challenge them, often systematically laying regions to waste and causing great starvation. Comparison with the modern concept of Total War is more than justified and the chevauchée makes an interesting counterpoint to the modern view of chivalrous medieval warfare and the idea medieval people avoided civilian casualties. The Chevauchée in the Hundred Years War The chevauchée used during the Hundred Years War emerged during the wars of the English and Scots, along with the defensive longbow tactics of the former. Edward III then took the chevauchée to the continent when he warred with the French crown in 1399, shocking his rivals for his brutality. However, Edward was being careful: chevauchées were cheaper to organize than sieges, needing far fewer resources and not tying you down, and far less risky than open battle, as the people you were fighting/killing were poorly armed, not armored and proved little threat. You needed a smaller force if you weren’t trying to win an open battle, or blockade a town. In addition, while you saved money it was costing your enemy, as their resources were being eaten away. Edward and fellow kings needed to conserve money as raising funds were very difficult―even if Edward did break new ground in marshaling England’s funds―making the chevauchée even more attractive. Edward III of England and Chevauchée Edward made the chevauchée key to his campaign for his entire life. While he did take Calais, and lower ranking English and allies kept taking and losing smaller scale locations, Edward and his sons favored these bloody expeditions. There is a debate about whether Edward was using the chevauchée to draw the French king or crown prince into battle, the theory being you caused so much chaos and destruction that moral pressure mounted on the enemy monarch to attack you. Edward certainly wanted a quick show of god given right at times, and the victory at Crecy occurred at just such a moment, but many of the English chevauchée’s were smaller forces moving swiftly precisely to avoid being forced to give battle and take that larger risk. What Happened After the Losses of Crecy and Poitiers After the losses of Crecy and Poitiers, the French refused to battle for a generation, and chevauchées became less effective as they had to move through areas they’d already damaged. However, while the chevauchée certainly harmed the French, unless a battle was won or a major target took the English populace questioned whether the expense of these expeditions was worth it, and the chevauchées in the later years of Edward III’s life are considered failures. When Henry V later reignited the war he aimed to take and hold rather than copy the chevauchée.