The Battle of Agincourt

The Battle of Agincourt marked a definitive English victory against a much larger, heavily armored French force which is known as a turning point in English/French hostilities in the 100 years’ war.  Although the smaller English force dominated the French army, it is not fair to say that superior military technology and dependence on archers won the victory for the English forces.  Instead, the English victory can ultimately be attributed to a combination of factors including the conditions on the battlefield, previous weather that caused massive amounts of mud on the battlefield as well and the superiority of the English archers over the French crossbowmen.

In the moments leading up to the battle, the French organized their forces in three main parts.  The van included most of the French leadership, 8,000 helmets which included both knights and men at arms with 1200 mounted as well as 4000 archers and 1500 crossbowmen.[1]  Following the van was the French main force which was comprised of an equal force of knights, archers, men at arms as the Van.[2]  The rear guard contained the surplus fighting force.  Combined, the French force is said to outnumber the fielded English army by a ratio of 6 to 1.[3] The English force, by contrast, sent 200 archers to secretly hide in a field near the battlefield to surprise the French as they approached with the rest of the archers, men at arms and dismounted knights.[4]  When both armies were completely formed, the English moved forward while the French remained in position, hemmed in on both sides by woods.[5]  The English, on the offensive, were able to stop periodically for rest in the muddy ground as they advanced.[6]  When the archers were in range, they fired upon the French Van, wounding or killing many.[7]  The French cavalry mounted an attack against the English archers, but many were mowed down by the English longbows which had much greater range than the French crossbows, and the barrage of arrows distressed the horses and sent them into disarray.[8]  As the horses of the heavy French cavalry bolted, the English men at arms as well as the archers equipped with pikes and axes began hand to hand combat.[9]  As the French van disintegrated, the English were able to attack the main force, despite a desperate French move to attack the rear.[10]  All French prisoners were ordered to be summarily executed to prevent them from joining French resistance in sight of the French front lines, further demoralizing the French.[11]

The English smaller fighting force proved superior to the larger French force, in large part, due to better organization, a willingness to follow orders more readily than their French counterparts who were thrown into disarray due to the continual volleys of arrows and the ability to recognize and seize the opportunities presented to them on the field of battle.[12]  Although the English longbow men were far superior in both range and accuracy to the French crossbows, their abilities alone did not claim the battle for the English.[13]  Ultimately the French placed too much faith in the arrogance of superior numbers and did not fully prepare themselves for the reality of the battle that they faced, cementing Agincourt as the best the English had to offer and the worst the French could muster simultaneously.[14]  Previous weather in Agincourt created a muddy battlefield that wreaked havoc on the French heavily armored troops, miring them in the mud, preventing them from reaching full speed in their cavalry charge and leaving them vulnerable to repeated arrow volleys from the English longbow men.[15]  By forcing a French charge and provoking the French into the battle due to increased pressure from both the archers and the hand to hand combat of the men at arms, the French rushed the English, exhausting themselves in the mud before they ever had a chance to reach the front line only to be cut down either by arrows or by swords.[16]

Although many more battles had to be fought to secure the English crown in France, Agincourt demonstrated the English professionalism and control in what seemed to be dire circumstances.  While English archers are often given sole credit for the Agincourt victory, a more fair description of the battle would also include the conditions, the strategy of Henry over the French lords and the willingness to comply with their leader’s orders over the disarray displayed by French forces.  Agincourt remains a unanimous and decisive victory for the English, though it gained King Henry V very little in the 100 years’ war and many more battles followed before a definitive victory over the French could be claimed.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

De Monstrelet, Enguerrand.  “Battle of Agincourt, 1415.”  Deremilitari.org. Internet.  Available from http://deremilitari.org/2013/02/battle-of-agincourt-1415/, accessed 20 January 2017.

 

 

Ellis-Peterson, Hannah and Isabelle Fraser.  “Battle of Agincourt: 10 Reasons Why the French Lost to Henry V’s Army.”  The Telegraph.  Internet.  Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8648068/Battle-of-Agincourt-ten-reasons-why-the-French-lost.html, accessed 27 January 2017.

 

 

Kerr, Wilfred Brenton.  “The English Soldier in the Campaign of Agincourt.”  The Journal of the American Military Institute 4, no. 4 (1940): 209-224.

 

Renna, Thomas. “Battle of Agincourt.” Salem Press Encyclopedia (January 2015): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed January 27, 2017).

[1] Enguerrand De Monstrelet, “Battle of Agincourt, 1415,” Deremilitari.org, Internet, Available from http://deremilitari.org/2013/02/battle-of-agincourt-1415/, accessed 20 January 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hannah Ellis-Peterson and Isabelle Fraser, “Battle of Agincourt: 10 Reasons Why the French Lost to Henry V’s Army,” The Telegraph, Internet, Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8648068/Battle-of-Agincourt-ten-reasons-why-the-French-lost.html, accessed 27 January 2017.

[6] Enguerrand De Monstrelet.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Wilfred Brenton Kerr,  “The English Soldier in the Campaign of Agincourt,”  The Journal of the American Military Institute 4, no. 4 (1940): 209-224.

[9] Enguerrand De Monstrelet.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kerr.

[13] Ibid.

[14]Kerr.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

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