Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

A strategem leads to the fall of Ferrol in Galicia

The King of Portugal campaigns in Galicia in support of the Duke of Lancaster.
Book III ch. 72-3 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 254-6).  The king of Portugal, on his departure from Oporto, left his queen, his sister-in-law, and the city, under the guard of the count de Novaire,
with one hundred lances, of Portuguese and Gascons who had come to serve him. When the
king took the field, he halted the first day at the distance of only three leagues from Oporto.
On the morrow, he dislodged, and marched in three battalions; but, on account of the infantry, which consisted of twelve thousand men, and the baggage, he could but advance at a foot's pace. The main battalion with the king followed, which was a thousand good spears, and in it were don Galois
Fernando Portelet, John Fernando Portelet, Guadaloupe Fernando Portelet, and Pounas
d'Acunha, sir Vasco Martin d'Acunha, who bore the king's banner, John Radighos, Pete
John Gomez de Salnez, Joao Rodriguez de Sa, and the master of Avis, Fernando Rodrigue
de Sequeira, all great barons. The constable of Portugal commanded the rear battalion
consisting of five hundred spears; with him were the count d' Angouse, the count de l'Escalle,
le petit Danede, Mondest Radighos, Roderigo de Valconsiaux, Ange Salvese de Geneve,
John Ansale de Popelan, all barons and knights.

In this manner did the Portuguese continue their march towards Santarem. They
advanced by short marches, and halted every third day: they also lay by the greater part
of the day. They arrived at Aljubarota, where they halted for two days, and took as many
in going from thence to Ourem. At last they came to Santarem, and quartered themselves
therein; for they found the town had been abandoned since the battle of Aljubarota, for
fear of the Portuguese, and the inhabitants had retired with their effects into Castille.

The castles, however, were well garrisoned with Bretons and Poitevins, who had been sent
thither for their defence. The king of Portugal was advised to attack these castles, which
were situated at each end of the town; for he could not, in honour, pass by without
attempting some deeds of arms: besides, as the Castillians had conquered this place from
the Portuguese, they wished to try if they could recover them. They had brought machines
of war from Oporto, for they knew they should have need of them on their march. The
king and his army were quartered in and about Santarem, which is situated at the entrance
of Castille, on the Tagus. By means of this river, they could have all their provision and
stores conveyed to them from Lisbon or Oporto, of which they took the advantage; for there
were upwards of thirty thousand men.

The constable, with his division and one half of the commonalty of Portugal, posted
himself opposite the eastern castle, called la Perrade. The marshal with his battalion, and
the other half of the commonalty, did the same at the opposite castle, called Callidon.
Morice Fonchans, an able man at arms, and a knight from Brittany, commanded in la
Perrade; and sir James de Mont-merle, a knight from Poitou, in Callidon. They might
each have with him fifty lances. Fifteen days passed without anything being done: their
machines were, indeed, pointed against the walls, and cast heavy stones ten or twelve times
a day, but did little damage, except to the roofs of the towers, which they ruined: but
the garrisons paid no attention to this, for their lodgings were well arched: and no engine
nor springall could hurt them with any stones they could throw.

When the Portuguese saw they had no hopes of success, they grew tired, and resolved to decamp and enter Galicia, to join the duke of Lancaster, which would increase their strength, and the king and duke nlight then advise together, whither to march. When they departed from Santarem,
they so completely burnt the town, that there did not remain a shed to put a horse in. The
garrisons, seeing them depart, were so much rejoiced, that they sounded their trumpets, and,
with other signs of joy, continued playing until the whole were out of hearing. The army
marched that day for Pontferrant, in Galicia, in their route to Val-Sainte-Catharine, and
arrived at Ferrol, which is a tolerably strong town, and in the interest of the king of Castille,
and they halted before it.

ch. 73.  The king of Portugal and his army found a plentiful country at Ferrol, which they
surrounded; and the constable and marshal said, they would storm it, as it was to be taken.
They were two days, however, without making any attempt, for they expected that it
would surrender without an assault, but they were mistaken; for there were in it some
Bretons and Burgundians, who said they would defend it to the last. The machines were
brought forth on the third day, and the marshal's trumpets sounded for the attack, when
all made themselves ready, and advanced to the walls. The men at arms in Ferrol, hearing
the trumpets, knew they should be stormed, and made preparations accordingly. They
armed themselves, and all men eapable of defence, and ordered the women to gather and
bring to them stones, to throw down on the enemy. You must know, that the women in
Galicia and Castille are of good courage to defend themselves, and equally useful as the men.
The Portuguese marched in handsome array to the ditches, which, though deep, were dry,
and merrily entered them. They began to ascend the opposite bank with much courage,
but were sorely treated, unless well shielded, by those of the town, who, from the waIls, cast
down on them stones and other things, that wounded and killed several, and forced them to
retreat whether they would or not. There was much throwing of darts on both sides; and
thus lasted the attack until eight o'clock, when the day became exceedingly hot, without
wind or breeze, insomuch, that those in the ditches thought they should be burnt: this heat
was so excessive, that the attack was put an end to, though the machines cast stones into the
town, merely for the chance of success. The Portuguese retired to refresh themselves, and
attend to the wounded.

The marshal resolved not to renew the attack but by his machines, for otherwise it would cost too many lives; and to skirmish at the barriers, to amuse the young knights, and enure them to deeds of arms. This being settled, there wcre, almost daily, skirmishes at the barriers; and these within the town were accustomed to post themselves without the gates, between them and the barriers, the better to engage their enemies.

Sir Alvarez Pereira, the marshal of Portugal, who was subtle, and had been long used to arms, observing this conduct, planned upon it all ambuscade. Opening himself to don Juan Fernando, he said, "I see these soldiers, when skirmishing, sometimes venture beyond the gates. I have formed a plan, which if you will assist me to execute, I think we may discomfort them. I propose that we form an ambuscade, as near the barriers as possible, of five or six hundred men, well mounted, and then commence a skirmish, as usual, but in no great number; and retreat by degrees, the moment they seem willing to pass their barriers, which I think their avarice and eagerness will induce them to do. We must then turn about and attack them lustily, and the ambuscade will gallop between them and the gates. The garrison will now be alarmed, and hasten to order the gates to be opened, and whether they will or not, we shall enter the place with them. But should the townsmen refuse to open
the gates, all those who are without must be our prisoners."

"It is well imagined," replied don Juan. "WeIl," said the marshal, "do you command one party, and I will take the other. You, sir Martin de Mello, and Ponasse d' Acunha, shall have the ambuscade, and I will skirmish, as that is part of my office," This plan was adopted, and five hundred men,
well armed and mounted, were chosen to form the ambuscade.

For three days there had not been any skirmishing, to the surprise of the garrison, who
said to the inhabitants: "See, wicked people as ye are, ye wanted to surrender to the king
of Portugal without striking a blow, and would have done so, if we had not been here to
defend the honour of your town; this we have so successfully done, that the king of Portugal
is on the eve of his departure, without having effected anything."

On the fourth day, according to what had been laid down, the marshal advanced to the
skirmish with but few followers: the great ambuscade remained behind. The Bretons,
eager to make rich prisoners, having already captured six, seeing the Portuguese at the
barriers, had the gates opened, which they left unfastened, in case of failure (for they had no
great dependence on the townsmen), and the wicket wide open, and sallied forth to skirmish
with darts and lances, as is usual in such combats. The marshal, when he saw the time was
come, made his men wheel, and act as if they were tired, retreating by degrees. Those
within the place, observing this, and thinking they should make prisoners of them all, opened
the whole of the barriers, sallied forth, and, falling on the Portuguese, captured five-and-
twenty. In the struggle and pursuit, the Bretons never thought of closing the barriers; and
the marshal now made his sigual for the ambuscade to advance, which it did full gallop, and,
by getting between the Bretons and the place, made themselves masters of the barriers.

The French and Bretons now hastened to re-enter the gates, but it was of no avail, for the
Portuguese entered with them; and thus was the town won. Very few were slain, and the
soldiers in garrison were made prisoners, except ten or twelve, who escaped by a postern
gate, and went to Vilalpando, where sir Oliver du Guesclin was in garrison, with one
thousand French lances at least, and their runaways related to him how Ferrol had been
lost. In this manner was the town won by the Portuguese, and put under the obedience of
the duke of Lancaster, for whom they made war. The king of Portugal was much pleased
at the success of his men, and instantly sent intelligence of it to the duke, adding, he had
greatly increased his inheritance by the capture of a town; and that he and his army were
desirous and active to conquer the rest.

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Posted originally on October 15, 2002