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The Battle of Agincourt is one of the most famous battles of all time. It occurred during the 100 Years’ War, where the numerically inferior and tired English forces led by King Henry V defeated a much larger force of French troops led by a collection of noblemen in a narrow, muddy, tree-bordered field at Agincourt, France. Below are 10 facts about one of the most influential battles in history.
The English were very outnumbered
When the English and French finally arrived at Agincourt, the French had massed a lot of troops – estimates range from 6,000-9,000 Englishmen and 12,000 to 36,000 French troops.
The English were tired and sick
At this point, the English were tired and ill. They had been marching for some time down the River Somme (the French had been trying to prevent their crossing, and the English eventually found a river ford. Since the beginning of the campaign, the English had marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks, and were ill from dysentery.
The night before, the English were silent
The night before the battle, King Henry V was concerned that the French might launch a surprise attack, so he ordered his men to be silent, on pain of losing an ear.
The noblemen wouldn’t have been very concerned
The practice of the time was, instead of killing the noblemen, to capture them and hold them for ransom. Commoners, who weren’t worth any ransom, were simply killed.
The French didn’t take the English very seriously
The English came to Agincourt with five sixths of their force wielding longbows. French accounts tend to discount the bowmen – one chronicler, Edmond de Dyntner reported that there were “ten French nobles to one English,” ignoring the bowmen completely.
The French were waiting for more troops
As the French shadowed the English troops, they continued calling up extra troops. When they arrived at Agincourt, the French were still awaiting the arrival of over 8,000 more French troops.
The French became closely packed
When the battle began, The French were forced close together as they advanced, so that the ranks further back could not take full steps forward, and then had to step around or over their downed comrades. They reached such a density that they could not use their weapons properly – eventually, so many men were arriving from the back that they hindered those in front.
The English were helped by mud
The area the battle took place on had recently been plowed and rained on, leaving the whole field full of soft mud. The mud became an ally to the English – once knocked to the ground, the heavily-armored French nobles couldn’t get back up very easily – one French account said that some knights, unable to get up, drowned in their helmets.
The French had only one success
The only successful French offensive happened when the French attacked the English baggage train. Whether due to this or not, Henry became alarmed that they were under attack from the rear, and ordered the slaughter of the French prisoners, sparing only the highest ranked.
English longbows were the key to victory
The English longbowmen first fired arrows from the flanks of the English knights. The heavily-armored French had trouble moving, making them easy targets for the English arrows. However, once the melee had developed and the French were packed tightly, the longbowmen rushed the French flanks. The lighter-armored bowmen were less encumbered by the mud.