The Battle of Agincourt: Revisited Essay

The Battle of Agincourt Many correctly regard the Battle of Agincourt as a courageous English victory, a battle where men who were tired, hungry and standing in their own diarrhoea somehow found the will to fight against an enemy almost five times larger, and won. The other common thought is also the battle was won by the use of the longbow. This is not true. The victory went to the English because of French mistakes and the men who were holding the longbows. The French army made many mistakes on Friday, the 25th of October, 1415, but their first was taking on the English forces on the field 500 yards from the castle called Agincourt.

The French were too arrogant to even think about where they were fighting the English, because of their massive advantages in numbers. Agincourt is a very narrow field and is in a funnel shape, so from the side that the French were on the field decreased from 730 metres down to 350 metres to where the English were standing. Unfortunately for the French, this meant that Agincourt was one of the few fields where they would be disadvantaged with more men if they charged. And charge they did.

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King Henry lured them into it by ordering his archers to unleash an arrow strike, and the French took the bait hook, line and sinker. They went into an all out charge with the cavalry and men at arms all sprinting at once to try and get the glory of drawing the first English blood. All the cavalry succeeded in doing was squeeze in too tightly, as the field funnelled in, to use their weapons. Also due to the squeeze, some horses fell over, but when people or animals are packed in a tight bunch, if one horse or person falls over, a whole heap of people or animals fall over.

This happened with the cavalry and the men-at-arms. However, the situation was worse for the men who were on the ground than it usually would be. This is because all of the Frenchmen who had participated in the brainless charge were in full armour and it takes 3 men to lift up someone wearing this. However at Agincourt, where it had rained continuously for the days leading up to the battle, had mud that when moved around, which it had been by the horses, becomes ultra-sticky.

The mud was also very deep in some areas and because the men in armour couldn’t move once they were on the ground, many drowned, including the Duke of York. But the effect of the mud didn’t end at some men lying unable to move and some men drowning, because anyone who made it to the other side was extremely tired due to every step in the mud being a struggle. So now, because of an inexplicable decision to charge, England faced a French army who were tired, depleted and couldn’t move properly. Also, because the field was so narrow the French army could only take on the English men one at a time.

This is a key factor because it meant that the French fight the English at the 5:1 odds that they had in their favour. In fact, in many cases, the English had a group of men on one, because of the major factor of the battle, the archers. It was the archers, who when the French were standing 300 yards in front of them provoked them into charging with an arrow strike. It was the archers who while the massive French army were struggling across the Agincourt mud on horses fired thousands of arrows that killed or frightened all of the horses.

This created massive confusion in the ranks and also caused wild horses to run through the second line of men on foot, which meant that another line of the French charge to turn into havoc and also that more men-at-arms were on the ground, wounded or dead meaning less men for the English men-at-arms to kill. It was the archers who when their arrows ran out grabbed any weapons they could find and took on the French men-at-arms one by one in groups of 3 to 4, as, clad in either cloth or something similar, they found it much easier to move in the thick and sticky mud than men in full body armour.

While this battle is often remembered as a battle that was won by the use of the longbow, it should be remembered as a courageous victory by the archers and the English men at arms. Although the English were helped out by French mistakes, nothing should be taking away from them as they successfully took on an army five times large than themselves. By Lachlan Kerin


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