Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a decisive battle in the Hundred Years War. An estimated 30,000 French troops were under the command of Constable Charles D’Albret and 6,000 English troops, under the command of King Henry V, participated in this battle. However, a modern re-assessment of the number of troops present at the battle suggests they may have numbered as many as 9,000 on the English side and as few as 12,000 on the French side, although these numbers are not consistent with eyewitness accounts.
The Battle of Agincourt resulted in an upset victory for the English that can be credited in large part to the power of the English longbow. The battle was also the historical setting for much of Act IV in William Shakespeare's play Henry the V - especially the famous "St. Crispin's Day" speech.
On October 25, 1415 both armies arose before dawn and arrayed themselves for battle. The battlefield was bordered by a thick forest on either side that prevented the superior French force, who outnumbered the English 5 to 1, from out-flanking the English army. The French formed three lines. Flanked by the French cavalry, the first two lines were made of dismounted men-at-arms while the third was mounted. The French archers and crossbowmen were placed behind the first line. The English assumed a single line of 900 men-at-arms with 2,500 archers placed on either side.
The English line advanced to within extreme longbow range, at which point their line completely closed the field between the flanking woods, and began to shoot at the first French line. An English archer was capable of shooting up to ten arrows per minute; by the time each arrow had landed a second, and perhaps a third, was already in flight. The sky was thick with shafts pouring into the French lines. They responded with a cavalry charge followed by an advance of the first line of men-at-arms. Few of the French knights reached the English archers and those who did were impaled upon defensive stakes that had been set up. The retreating French cavalry broke the orderly advance of their own men-at-arms. These continued their unsupported advance, and though they lost many of their number to the heavy barrage of arrows, they managed to reach the English line. As the French were being beaten back by the English men-at-arms the archers exchanged their bows for swords, leaden sledgehammers (known as "mauls") and axes, and fell upon the French flank; the first French line was almost entirely killed or taken prisoner. Most of the second line, seeing what happened to the first, retreated; those who did not were destroyed.