Mount the War-Horses, Take your Lance in your Grip . . .: Logistics Preparations for the Gascon Campaign of 1294
By Mark Kennedy Vaughn
Thirteenth Century England, Vol.8 (2001)
Introduction: In June of 1294 Edward I decided to embark on the most ambitious and desperate campaign of his reign – the recovery of the Gascon lands seized by Philip IV, king of France. The plan drawn up by Edward and his war council called for a series of alliances with powers to the north of France. To increase the influence of the northern alliances, Edward also planned a campaign in Gascony to the south. Edward had taken the advice of a member of his war council, Anthony Bek, archbishop of Durham to, “Mount the war-horses, take your lance in your grip.”
He would of course, have to make the necessary preparations before undertaking such an expedition. Edward was not going up against the leader of a rebellion in a small principality nor was he preparing to battle the leader of a small kingdom. He was, in fact, taking on Philip le Bel, one of the most well-funded and powerful monarchs of Europe. The corresponding logistics preparations would have to reflect this very real situation.
The strength of the thirteenth-century logistics process is evident in the acquisition and issue of supplies carried out by Edward’s household officials for the Gascon expedition of October 1294. The preparations for the Gascon campaign demonstrate the complexity of the logistics process and the ends to which the medieval logistician went to ensure that the proper means were available to his king.
The preparations for the Gascon campaign began on 6 June when Edward convened a council of military tenants of the realm at Westminster. Edward’s past experiences told him that several months of preparation were required before a campaign could be launched successfully. The initial task was to begin the planning for and accumulation of the resources necessary to wage war.
The first order of business was to determine the goals of the campaign, the number of men, horses, and the estimated length of the campaign. With these figures, the amount of supplies could then be calculated. Unfortunately, the details of the requirement calculations no longer survive, but enough circumstantial evidence exists to prove that they did take place. The proof of the planning is in the quantities of supplies purveyed and issued by a detachment of the royal household sent to Portsmouth to carry out the preparations.