Blast from the Past (Battle of Agincourt)

On Friday, Oct.25 of the year 1415, the English met the French in the battle of Agincourt during the 100 year war.

The English had land claims over the French signed by the Treaty of Bretigny, giving them right passage to the throne of France.  Often the Kings would denounce as long as the French king acknowledged the treaty, but this time Henry V wanted more.

King Henry demanded the French pay 1.6 million crowns(that’s 32 million English pounds), outstanding from the ransom of John II and that he would marry princess Catherine, the young daughter of Charles the sixth and receive a dowry of two million crowns.  The French offered generous terms with marriage, 600,000 crowns and a larger land mass recognized as English territory.

The English claimed the offer was a form of mockery towards King Henry and they raised up an army of about 12,000 and marched into French lands.  They attacked the Port of Harfleur for over a month until residents surrendered.  With winter nearing, the war campaign would have to come to a halt, but the French had other ideas.

The French followed the English army along the Somme river as they looked for a place to cross. The English forded the river and headed northwards with the French overshadowing their every move.

The next day, the French initiated negotiations as a stall tactic, but Henry refused and ordered his army to advance immediately.  At the end of the campaign the English had nearly run out of food and were starving after travelling 260 miles in two-in-a-half weeks and they were suffering from sicknesses’ such as dysentery.

Henry used the Port of Calais to re-equip his army of about 7,000 to last the winter.  After blocking off the northern exit on a narrow strip of land barring the English from reaching Calais, the French laid siege.

King Henry deployed welsh and English bowmen to guard the flanks of knights and men-at-arms accompanied by 200 archers who were placed at the very centre of the formation.

The English had about 1000 men-at-arms and 200 longbow men while the French had over 10,000 men-at-arms who were more heavily armed for combat. including 1,200  mounted on horses.  The odds struck fear into English soldiers who cleansed their bodies and asked for forgiveness of their sins to avoid hell.

The French leaders fell in love with their odds and as their eagerness to defeat the English increased, they made the fool-hardy mistake of placing themselves on the front line.

They were at a stalemate and it would have proved disastrous for the English when they made the bold move of leaving their defensive position to advance on the an army vastly larger, but the French were shocked by the move and didn’t act in time.

The English now approached with 900 men-at-arms, placed shoulder to shoulder and four men deep.  The French first line was between four and eight thousand, but they had no way of flanking the English as the battlefield was narrow.

Already losing the battle, the French King sent in his second line, which pushed at the backs of the men at the front, resulting in the men coming from behind having to walk over the dead, reducing their effectiveness and making matters worse for the French.

The French marched in mud up to their knees and were overcome by under-armed longbow men who were more fleet of foot.  After being knocked down, the French knights had a horrible time trying to get back up again because they were armed with 50lbs of plate mail.

The French cavalry charged at the English longbow men, but were unable to flank them because of an encroaching woodland and palings(wooden spikes) sticking up out of the ground to protect the archers at their front causing madness, retreat and defeat.

5,000 men-at-arms marched under a hailstorm of arrows, but the French were hardly scathed.  Despite being unharmed in the slow trudge through the deep mud, they were exhausted by the time they fought the English and were so overwhelmed that they could hardly lift up their weapons to fight.

The English won a significant battle with about 450 casualties in an army of about six thousand while the French suffered a devastating loss of four to eight thousand Frenchmen lost in the battle along with about couple thousand captured, tortured and executed following a surrender.  The French army suffered greatly as they lost the Constable, three Dukes, five counts and 90 Barons.

One of the most decisive and under-manned victories in the history of our world was won by the effectiveness of the longbow at the peak of its use as a weapon of war.

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