A Slaughter in the Mud

On October 25, 1415, English King Henry V led his small army on chevauchée through France, and met the might of France at Agincourt.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” – Shakespeare

The St. Crispin’s Day speech, which the Immortal Bard places in the mouth of his hero, King Henry V of England, is one of the great battle speeches in literature. Though it is very likely Shakespeare’s own invention, it brilliantly portrays a young, inspiring commander attempting to hearten his starving and dispirited soldiers in desperate straits, as they face battle against (seemingly) hopeless odds. Whatever Henry may have actually said that fateful morning in October is lost to history. But what is not lost is how he and his tiny force of desperate men stood firmly on the muddy field of Agincourt and defeated five-times their number, which included the flower of French chivalry.

Henry, whose own claim to the English throne was questionable (his father had usurped the crown from his weak cousin, King Richard II) understood that nothing so unites a nation like a foreign war and a common enemy. The glorious victories of Edward III and the Black Prince sixty-and-more years earlier were hardly forgotten. Many an Englishman of all classes in society had benefited from the pillage brought home from frequent campaigns across the Channel during their campaigns in France. What Henry needed to cement the loyalty of his subjects was success in battle against the hated French, and to gain a reputation as a warrior king.

On 11 August, 1415 Henry crossed the Channel into Normandy to begin a grand raid across northern France, following the same strategy Edward III and others had used before. However, a short and successful raid was not in the cards. Henry’s first target, the port town of Harfleur, at the mouth of the River Seine, held out for much longer than expected. By the time the town was successfully stormed on September 22 it was too late in the campaigning season to exploit this minimal gain. The delay had also allowed the outraged nobles of France to assemble a large army near Rouen, under the command of the greatest magnates in the realm. These were marching north to punish Henry for his effrontery.

Merely embarking his army and returning to England would do little to improve his reputation, and might well be seen as cowardly; potentially fatal to a young king seated insecurely on an ill-gotten throne. So, instead, Henry decided to extend the campaign with a raid through Picardy, perhaps consciously following in the footsteps of Edward III and his Crecy campaign of 1346. Defiantly marching through northern France he could end this chevauchée at the sanctuary of English-held Calais; the only lasting fruit of Edward III’s great victory of Crecy.

As with any Medieval armies which sat down in one place too long, Henry’s army at Harfleur was racked by dysentery. So it was a sick and slow English force that set out, marching through a largely bare and (with winter approaching) an increasingly wet countryside. The English soon discovered that a dauntingly-large army, led by the greatest lords of France followed close on their heels, looking to bring them to battle. Worse, arriving at the River Somme, Henry found his way across blocked by a second French force of several thousand on the opposite bank attempting to block his crossing and trap him on the western bank.

This was exactly the same situation his great-grandfather had faced almost 70 years earlier. At risk of being hammered against the river by the pursuing French main army, Henry marched upriver, seeking an unopposed crossing point. All the while the French blocking force across the river shadowed his march, prepared to stop any attempt to cross. However, at a bend in the river, one that bulged northeast for many miles, Henry was able to cut across the base while the French on the opposite bank had to travel around the outside circumference. This allowed the English to find a crossing place unopposed.

The delay in getting across the Somme allowed Henry’s pursuers to cross down river and join the blocking force. The French, now north of Henry, moved to cut him off from Calais and force him to battle. The English halted near the castle of Agincourt, not far from where the French sat across their line of march. Here the terrain narrowed between two woods, offering Henry a place where his smaller army could fight with both their flanks secure. The English camped and prepared for battle.

The size of the English and French forces has traditionally been stated as being 6,000 and 36,000 respectively. Recent revisionist historians have attempted to place the French number at a mere 12,000, and the English (conversely) as high as 9,000 strong; and thus diminishing the wonder of Henry’s victory in the battle that followed. However, this is contrary to all contemporary sources, including French, which put the French forces as not less than 20,000; and most agree to the higher number of 36,000. It has been accepted by most historians since the battle that the French outnumbered the English by as many as five-to-one.

So there they stood arrayed. The French had gifted the English with a narrow field; perfect for an army so badly outnumbered. This narrowness allowed Henry’s much smaller army to anchor its flanks upon the woods to either side,  preventing them being outflanked, and to concentrate their archery (light artillery) on the mounted French knights.

A second (and even more critical) factor was the state of the ground itself: steady rain the previous days had turned the newly plowed field into a muddy morass. Worse, deep furrows had been plowed into the clay soil for the planting of winter wheat. With the previous night’s rain, these had become flooded man traps, with the clay beneath turned to sucking mud.

Terrain aside, Henry had another great advantage: the five thousand English archers were all armed with the longbow, a highly effective weapon capable of delivering 15 arrows a minute in the hands of the expert English archers. With an astonishing draw rate of 120 – 150 pounds, it could reach out to 350 yards killing horses, penetrating mail at 100 yards, light plate armor at 25 yards, and heavy plate — maybe not. At a rate of fire of 12 arrows a minute Henry’s five thousand archers could loose 60,000 arrows each minute; or 1,000 arrows every second! When the archers launched their attack the white goose-feather fletching’s on the falling arrows gave the appearance of a snow storm.

The Longbow had proven a battle-winner during the battles of the previous century. But the French knights in 1415 were heavily armored in the newest plate armor over their mail, much improved since the days of Crecy and Poitiers. For this reason (as well as class chauvinism) they disrespected and dismissed the potential effectiveness of the English archers in the coming battle.

The French cheerfully prepared for the coming battle, confident in their numbers and prowess. So sure were they of victory the French lords diced and drank heavily the night before, wagering for the ransoms they could expect to gain in the capture of the English nobility in Henry’s army. In the morning, the French deployed in three “battles” (divisions), on in front of the other. The vanguard, or first division, consisted of 5-8,000 dismounted men-at-arms, and was commanded by Constable D’Albret and Marshal Boucicault. This first division was crowded with nobles eager to be the first to fall upon and come to blows with the English “Goddames”, and included the Dukes of Orléans and Bourbon.

Their horses were sent to the rear, it being understood that the English arrows were particularly dangerous to the only partially armored horses. However, the vanguard would be supported in the initial attack by two wings of mounted cavalry under the Count of Vendôme and Sir Clignet de Brebant (a famous knight, one of seven French champions in a renown deed-of-arms against a like-number of English champions in 1402). Their role would be to charge and break through the archers on the English wings, and then to swing inwards and attack the English men-at-arms from behind, this while the first French “battle” pinned the English in place.

This tactic had worked well at the Battle of Roosebeke in 1382, where Boucicaut had earned his spurs; and it is likely that at the old soldier’s suggestion that this plan of attack was adopted.

The French second line was commanded by the Dukes of Bar and Alençon, and the Count of Nevers. Alençon had bragged the night before that he would personally kill or capture King Henry, so that he could be displayed in Paris (“in an iron cage”). This division contained 3,000 men-at-arms (also dismounted), and perhaps several thousand crossbows. The third line, or “rear”, was commanded by the Counts of Dammartin and Marle, and may have numbered as many as 10,000 and included most of the foot.

King Henry deployed his much smaller army across a 750 yard section of the field in the typical English fashion of the 100 Years War. His approximately 1,000 dismounted men-at-arms were also divided into three “battles”, side by side instead of one in front of the other (as with the French): the right-wing, led by the King’s uncle the Duke of York, a grandson of Edward III; the center (or “main”) led by King Henry himself, assisted by his younger brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester; and the left-wing, commanded by Thomas Lord Camoys.

Between each of the divisions were supporting wedges of archers, called “harrows”; with more archers thrown forward on both wings. The front of the archer’s position was protected from cavalry charge by sharpened wooden stakes, slanting forward to impale a charging horse.

The night’s rain had stopped by dawn. In the early hours after dawn both armies moved into position, though neither made a move against the other. The English planned to stand on the defensive, while the French were awaiting the arrival of even more troops. Henry pushed the issue by ordering his line to advance to within 300 yards (bow range) of the enemy. This entailed having the archers pull up their stakes and replanting them in front of their new position. During this maneuver, the complacent French made no move to interfere. Here we have another sign that no one was truly in over-all command of the French army. Certainly the veteran Boucicaut must have seen that this was their best opportunity to fall upon the English before they could rearrange their line; and, most critically, before the archers could replant their hedge of stakes. But no such order came for an attack.

The battle began in earnest with the English, now in bow range of the French first division, unleashing a hail of arrows into the ranks of their Gallic opponents. Some 60,000 bodkin-tipped shafts fell in that first minute; the smacking of iron arrow heads into steel plate armor sounding like hail clattering on a sheet metal roof. This deadly hail stung the French into action, and the first two divisions began to plod forward towards the English line.

As planned, the mounted cavalry on the flanks charged forward, attempting to scatter the English archers on Henry’s wings. However, the plunging fire from the English archery (firing broadheads) took a toll of their horses as they charged: though armored in front, the rear-quarters of the knight’s destriers were unprotected. Falling horses caused those behind to trip or swerve out-of-the-way, disordering the massed French cavalry. Wounded or riderless horses swerved away from the stakes protecting the English archers, some plunging through the dismounted French van as it advanced in the center, disrupting its ranks in the process.

Some of the French cavalry reached the archers, despite the arrow storm. However, they seem to have taken no thought as to how to penetrate the hedge of stakes. Brought to a halt before this chevaux de frise, they were decimated by point-blank fire. Man and horse could only take so much, and the remaining cavalry broke and fled, some at least disordering the oncoming French lines as they did and further churning up the muddy ground.

As the dismounted French vanguard drew closer to the English position they found themselves brought under ever more intense and effective archery fire from the flanking wings and wedges of longbowmen positioned between the English men-at-arms. Arrows found creases in armor, or at closer ranges pierced mail and the lighter armor on arm or leg. Lowering their heads so to protect their vulnerable eye-slots from the chance arrow, the French chivalry edged away from the archers; bunching ever tighter till their line instead began to resemble three deep columns approaching the English men-at-arms like the forks of a trident.

Now the very heavy armor that the French counted upon to provide some measure of protection against the galling English archery undermined their attack. In the soft clay-based mud, the heavily armored knights sank up to their calves; advancing only at a slow and exhausting pace. When they finally reached the English line, the French men-at-arms were already winded from this exertion. The deep mud and the plodding pace it forced upon them also served to deprive the French columns the “weight” their numbers should have lent their impact upon the thinner English line.

Even so, coming at last to close-quarters the French mass pushed into Henry’s line, their sheer mass pushing the English back several yards. But the furious melee quickly bogged down into a close-quarter slogging match. The English archers, running out of arrows, took up the heavy sledge hammers they had used to pound in their stakes, or pole axes they carried as a secondary weapon; and swarmed forward into the already-engaged French men-at-arms. Such heavy mallets and pole arms crushed armor or concussed the man beneath. Unencumbered by armor, the lightly-armed archers were much less effected by the mud, and now swarmed over and slaughtered the flower of French chivalry.

As the second French line under d’Alençon and Bar came up, it threw its weight behind those already embattled. This worked further to the detriment of the embattled French  van, already heavily engaged. Unable to budge Henry’s men-at-arms from their position, they now found themselves pressed closely from behind by comrades eager to join the battle, hampering their movement. The dead piled up in front of the English position in heaps, further encumbering the stalled French advance. By this point the field was churned into a bloody red morass, the deep-plowed furrows filling with blood.

At some point during this furious melee d’Alençon wounded the King’s brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. Seeing his brother fall, Henry rushed forward, warding the lad while Humphrey was pulled to safety. Nearly making good his boast to kill or capture the English king, d’Alençon struck Henry in the helm with his battle-axe; shearing off part of the golden crown on the English king’s helmet. Stunned by the blow, Henry staggered back; but was saved when d’Alençon was cut down by the King’s bodyguards.

Many on both sides died in the close press, though the casualties were overwhelmingly French. Packed in too tightly to fight effectively, the French were cut down in droves. On the English right the King’s uncle, the Duke of York, died still on his feet (likely of heart failure), unable to fall for the press of dead all around him!

After the first two divisions were slaughtered in turn, a lull in the battle allowed the English to take French prisoners to the rear. The ransom of noble prisoners could make a poor knight rich overnight; and the capture of such high-ranking nobles as were falling into the English hands promised great wealth indeed. However, as the French third division (itself larger than the English army) prepared itself to renew the attack, Henry could not spare a single man to guard the several hundred prisoners. The king ordered the prisoners killed, rather than have so many unguarded Frenchmen in his rear. Only those of the highest rank were spared.

This was not the only atrocity that day: during the battle a small force of French cavalry  rode around the woods and into the English rear. Here they had raided the English baggage, and in the process killed the young boys who acted as grooms and pages who had been left there.

As it turned out, the attack by the French reserve division never materialized. Perhaps seeing the wholesale destruction of the flower of the French army before them, the largely lower-status foot soldiers of the final division were loath to continue the obviously lost struggle. In any case, this reserve withdrew without striking a blow. (Lack of leadership may have played a part: the Count of Marle, who was one of the commanders of the French third line, was among the dead; apparently having deserted his place of command to join the melee.)

Agincourt was an utter and unexpected disaster for France. The casualties were staggering, numbering perhaps as many as 10,000 (according to French sources), and was particularly high amongst the elite of French society. Three Dukes (Alençon, Brabant, and Bar), at least eight Counts (including the Constable, d’Albret), a Viscount and an Archbishop were slain in the battle, along with numerous other nobles. Along with the Constable, France lost her Marshal, Boucicault (captured); and Lord Dampierre, the Admiral of France. Estimates of the number of prisoners vary between 700 and 2,200, including the Duke of Orléans. As the less valuable prisoners had been slaughtered during the crises of the battle, these were all ranking nobles.

For the English the battle was an astonishing change of fortune. A sick, tired, badly outnumbered army had triumphed against all odds. Though losing some 1,500 (or as little as 100 in some contemporary English sources) in the bloody fighting, they had gained a legendary victory, perhaps the greatest in English history.

At a stroke, England had regained the upper hand in her long war with France. Henry would use the victory at Agincourt to conquer all of northern France; and through subsequent negotiation and a royal marriage to the French King’s daughter place himself in line as heir to the throne of Charlemagne. Only Henry’s untimely death seven years later perhaps prevented a union of England and France under a Plantagenet dynasty.

47 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Joe. It was quite an affair. As with Crecy and Potiers, the French underestimated the utility of the yew bow. They felt that their Milanese armor would protect them from arrows, and while it may have to some extent, fighting in armor in knee deep mud, unable to raise your visor without fear of a goose fletched arrow flying through it, was far from ideal. The archers carried pole axes and war hammers and were able to take down the knights at point blank range when arrows didn’t work. It was like prying spam out of a can.

  1. This is incredible, I knew a tiny bit, but the detail makes one wonder, “Are we much different today?” May take, No…human nature does not change. The mentality of, “I want what you have so I’m going to take it.” Hence, Philly et al.

    We see it with the senile old man Dem candidate. Why isn’t Biden being indicted for treason, especially considering he would be massively compromised with China IF he were to become president? No, media ignores everything and we have little to no power to change that, except, maybe, put them out of business, assuming there are enough people out there with the veil lifted.

    Today we see the battles fought in tech, information for sale. Watched a short with Twitter’s Dorsey (Cruz was great, “Who the hell put you in charge?!”). That guy is the typical arrogant SOB hipster skinny jean wearing smug putz, with that idiotic statement beard. Loser with money. I’m sure his mother would be proud. My guess, like we’ve seen with a host of other immoral Godless scum getting off scot-free, is this is more exasperation theater…nothing will come of it.

    • well they are being protected by the deep state traitors. documents related to the case turned up missing when the package arrived. hope they made copies.

      • And unashamedly so. I’m sure TC’s producer made copies, but the rub is “How did they know what was in the Fed-Ex (likely) envelope, how they manage to swipe the contents without detection, and why not simply steal the envelope entirely?” Oh yeah, “plausible deniability”.

        Time for public hangings of the traitorous scum…might make the next guy think twice. And I don’t say that lightly, but at this point a reset is needed for the good, starting Nov. 4th.

        • I commented to RHT on LSP’s blog on this issue. Fox is filled with left and left leaning, likely penetrated at an “operational level”. Melissa Francis’ husband works (literally) for Soros, for example. It’s not necessarily the employee but who can get to the employee (a stalking horse).

          The Deep State runs very deep and the national counterintelligence agency is the FBI – they of the coup. So who do you run to for an investigation with national teeth? Nowhere. That’s the bottom line. They’re all owned, sadly.

          • Whatever do you mean? Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide (or Arkancide) as did the nearly forty people on the Clinton list. Of course, some died in attempted robberies-gone-bad. They were all accidents or tragic acts by disturbed people who displaced their anxieties at the feet of Bill or Hillary.

  2. LL, thank you so much for this. i had heard of the battle all my life yet never really understood what happened and what a great victory it was. gives new weight to the bard’s speech….and hope for the ‘morrow.

    • There’s always tomorrow.

      Remember this time last year when Hillary was up by 12 or something like that, and she had the big celebration planned?

      The English at Agincourt faced the most powerful army on the continent. They were tired, starving, and they did what they could to keep their bowstrings dry (hemp cords stretched when wet and wouldn’t work) because it rained HARD.

  3. And then (from what I’ve read of the battle), the English searched the battlefield, executing wounded French knights by opening their visors and knifing them to death.

  4. Thanks for the great write-up.

    Recent revisionist historians have attempted to place the French number at a mere 12,000, and the English (conversely) as high as 9,000 strong; and thus diminishing the wonder of Henry’s victory in the battle that followed.

    Yes, that IS the new stock in trade of our academic class, isn’t it? To diminish certain groups while exalting others. It must have been very painful for them in this case, since it was white people fighting other white people. (The Duke of York [1] and Margaret of Anjou [2] excepted.) I’m sure that in the end it came down to English language (more evil) vs French language (slightly less evil). Sad when they have to go to a fifth-tier tiebreaker [3].

    Anyway, I love the Kenneth Branagh Henry V. I don’t care if the play or movie are historically accurate in terms of who said exactly what. It is become the stuff of legend, and a people need myths and legends of heroic ancestors if they are to survive as a people. (Although it is beginning to appear that resentment, paranoia and overweening entitlement are at least as effective for maintaining group identity over time.)

    [1] The Duke of York was a Black man. Didn’t know that, did you? It’s true. A woke enterprise such as the BBC is ALWAYS careful to ensure that historical figures are accurately portrayed by actors having identical race and sexual orientation. Patterson Joseph depicted the Duke of York in The Hollow Crown so I can be certain that York was a proud Black man.
    https://www.moviestillsdb.com/tv/the-hollow-crown-i2262456/cCuQAp

    [2] Margaret of Anjou was portrayed by Sophie Okonedo, a stunning and brave Nigerian. See? It’s true, in the old days there was no such thing as racism. The French looked to a Nigerian to rule them. Racism is a modern invention.
    https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/667894/Sophie-Okonedo-Undercover-The-Hollow-Crown-Benedict-Cumberbatch-Dominic-Cooke

    Bad vs Good (Ironically, bad is on the left side in this list. But all decent people know that the right is bad, which is why this is ironic.)
    1. white vs non-white (note lower case, as per AP Style Guide)
    2. straight vs non-straight
    3. Christian vs other damned thing (yet weirdly, other Abrahamic religions cannot be criticized)
    4. male vs non-male

    • I didn’t know that Margaret of Anjou was Nigerian, but it only serves to underscore my woeful lack of historical understanding. You can attribute it to my lack of wokeness, my toxic masculinity and to my white DNA.

      They had the FORESIGHT to know that the Duchess of Suffolk would be part black. And she leads her poor husband around by the nose. It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

          • Your call…but I suspect – like me – they’d have to peel any cash out of your cold dead hands.

            Ps. Earl the micro-cattle dog is tougher than nails. CSU thought he’d have to stay a week to recover from “a complication”, but besides being hilarious he’s basically pissed he’s in the recovery bed and wants to go home, less than 24 hrs after an invasive procedure. If he wasn’t a chihuahua I’d swear he’s Irish, then again he is a MAGA alpha.

          • Wait just a minute. I’m willing to donate ammunition to BLM. Call it cash in kind if you will, and to cure any medical complaints and any cash flow issues they have. No more complaining, no more need for cash flow, no more worrying about the po-lice.

            Congrats to Earl-the-ankle-biter. May he continue to self-identify as a wolf.

  5. Excerpt from Robert Hardy’s “Longbow”.
    ” The French dead lie buried in the centre of the battlefield. Over the pits, in a little spinney,(?) is a cross set up by the family who own and farm the battlefield today, as they did in 1415. They lost a father and two sons in the battle. A few hundred yards away is a memorial to another father and two sons of the family, killed by the Germans in the Second World War.
    In 1961 I visited the family to ask permission for camera to film the battlefield. They were at first reluctant. I was told, “it was a bad day, for you as well as us, and many dreadful things were done by you to us,here”. I have a letter from them in which is written,”We defended our fields in 1415 and in 1915 in 1939 again and often in between”.

    In his book is a picture of the crucifix over the French grave pits.
    A excellent history of the longbow, a mostly forgotten weapon, probably because so few survive- it was a commoners weapon, and when no longer useful was likely burned in campfire or rotted away in barn. When the Mary Rose was excavated, the historians initially thought the bundles of longbows were unfinished blanks, as the size was beyond their conception of what a human could draw. Then they commissioned exact replicas to be made by a modern bowyer, and found a guy who could pull them. As you say, the draw weights were well over 100 pounds.

    • You couldn’t use a yew bow unless you started as a child. It was a law in England that men would practice at the butts to develop the sort of musculature necessary to draw and fire a longbow accurately. In the prime of my life, I hunted with my Kodiac recurve (85 lbs) bow and I will assure you that it took all I had to string the damned thing. I still have the bow and can’t string it, but I’m old. It’s tough to categorize yew sticks because the pull was likely different on them, but I think 100 lbs would be at the very bottom end in terms of draw weight. They could set up accurate plunging fire at 8-10 arrows a minute at a couple hundred yards and keep up the fire.

      The French (and others) didn’t have men who could draw a longbow, so contented themselves with crossbows, often fired from behind a pavaise (large shield). So they’d advance in two man teams. One held the pavaise and bolts and the other the bow itself, which fired slowly. I don’t look down on the crossbow, but it lacked the human elegance of an archer with a yew bow.

      • After Agincourt, the next King of France created a bow-corp utilizing steel long bows. Within 5 years a very effective fighting organization was created.

        The steel bows were tempered so it was easier to draw, but snapped back very hard.

        The bow-corps existed only a few decades before French nobles, scared of armed peasants, got the next-next king to disband them.

        Stupid French.

        • The longbow (far more than the crossbow) was the cross over weapon until handguns, later matchlocks, wheel-locks and flintlocks came on the scene.

          However, having written that, American units in World War 1 were issued crossbows for ‘special service’ – eliminating sentries.

  6. I read somewhere that the English were so sick with dysentery that they fought naked. But probably just no breeches . They must have been a hell of an ugly bunch, after the battle began, covered in mud and blood and shit.

    • I doubt that they were naked. It was cold, rained heavily, but they might have shit themselves while fighting, so no breeches is a plausible scenario.

    • Half naked, kind of. The lower clothes consisted of two tubes for the legs, tied to a belt, over a kind of boxer-shorts thingy. By Agincourt, most of the English weren’t wearing leg armor or the boxer-shorts thingy.

      On foot, one really doesn’t need, in tight ranks, leg armor. So no problem there. They were wearing body and arm armor though, with some coverings for the thighs.

      The French, on the other hand, were wearing armor more appropriate for on-horse, heavier, fully covered, yada yada.

  7. Like others here, I’d heard of Agincourt, but only as a “Medieval Battle”, and couldn’t have told you who fought it, other than “The French” and “The English”.

    Henry’s fighting position in the woods brings the “Fatal Funnel” to mind.

    • Yes indeed – fatal funnel. And the French picked the ground — a mud wallow. So much for recon. They were so sure of a victory that they just went for it. If they’d have waited a week, the English army would have been combat ineffective. But what glory is there to riding down sick, starving men?

  8. What a bloody day and no shortage of bravery on either side, not least on the part of the misguided French. Imagine, as I know you have, advancing to the English line under the fury of the arrow storm. And many did.

    That aside, well done, boys, beat ’em back and then some.

    You make an interesting observation at the end of the account, imo — “heir to the throne of Charlamagne.”

    There it is, even towards the end of the Middle Ages, European chivalry saw itself as the Christian continuation of the Western Empire. The French or Franks, the inheritors of Gaul, in particular. Curious that the English inherited that and, by extension, us too in the US.

    We are the West.

    Just a thought and imagine if Christendom had united to recapture the Eastern Empire from the Moslem horde. Well, that’s for the future, obvs.

    • Man-for-Man, the Western European soldier and knight was worth 3-5 muslims. Which is why the First Crusade, so outnumbered, smashed the dogsqueeze out of the paynim.

      If we were united, we could have maintained the Crusader states. But politics and disease (from CHINA, as usual) screwed up the Euros.

      Dammit.

      • The Crusader States were nation states unto themselves, and though I know that Beans has studied the subject, some other blog readers may have not. After one or two or more generations, the Europeans had been BORN in the Middle East and many had not been back to Europe. They developed their own alliances with the Saracens and the Saracens (Muslims all) had their own alliances within the Muslim world.

        An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, known as Salah ad-Din or Saladin, was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and the first to hold the title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. A Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity, Saladin united the diverse Saracen kingdoms and led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant – effectively. The Crusaders never enjoyed the same sort of enduring unified command. Saladin lived for fifty-four years, dying in 1193 AD.

  9. On a tangent, since we have been discussing bows , you might like salukibow.com

    The page on horn bows is amazing- all sorts of Asiatic horse bows.
    “Real replicas of the ancient Asiatic Horn Bows. Made of all natural materials (Wood/Horn/Sinew/Animal Glue Composite) in true historical fashion.”

    I would rather hang one of these on my wall than a lot of “art”.

    • Horn bows are great… in arid environs. Wet Europe? Not so much. West of the Urals was too wet for the effective use of horn lamellar bows.

      You can still get some wonderful hand-made Mongolian bows from Mongolia. And for the hunter, SK bows from South Korea are a good modern composite recurve bow using modern materials, easy draw with a wicked fast snap. Trust me, a 30lb draw SK bow hits like a 45lb standard self bow or fiberglass semi-recurve bow. (In the SCA, we fire arrows with a 1 1/4″ rubber and foam tipped arrow. A friend uses her SK bow and her SCA arrows to kill squirrels and doves. And my nuts. Shot way too many times in my nuts with those damned arrows.)

      • The horn bows were the earliest compound bows. As Beans mentions, they were good on the arid steppes. In the Middle East, ‘steel bows’ were also used. Not made of steel, but meteorite iron was used to reinforce the wood stave, with more limber tips (mostly horn) to give them a solid snap. Such weapons were known but were too expensive to equip an army with. The glue used broke down in wet environments, but the yew bow didn’t break down or have those problems. The bow string was the weak link but archers carried many bow strings, often in leather bags with animal fat used to waterproof them.

  10. There were a lot of old-to-ancient battles where poorly organized cavalry armies were defeated by smaller infantry armies in the right place. Seems like they all could easily have gone the other way if the cav forces were more patient and encircled the less mobile infantry forces, but I suspect that the primitive state of command-and-control made that difficult, if not impossible.

    -Kle.

    • The French did send light cavalry to the rear to loot the English baggage train and kill squires and camp followers. It was a smart move and would have all but stopped anything but a route if the English were interested in retreating – but they weren’t. So they had effective command an control and used their cavalry to attack the rear.

      And in this case, even though the French used cavalry as skirmishers on the battlefield, they attacked as somewhat articulated infantry, confident that their armor would stop arrows. And it went horribly wrong.

  11. Knew a guy who fought in a pointy-faced Bascinet helmet (like those shown, pointy snout.) Damn thing almost killed him because he tripped in a battle and fell face-first into mud. And the helm stuck.

    Same thing was the downfall of a lot of French knights. Their armor, designed for horse combat (meaning heavier than for foot combat) held them down into the mud and they literally drowned or suffocated as more and more people piled on them.

    Happened to me at one SCA ‘War.’ Had 6-7 guys piled on me during a battle after ‘Gumbo Night’ (where one group served a huge amount of Gumbo.) The killing thing was the gumbo farts. By the time they finally got to me, I was really having some issues breathing (not from the crush of people but from the Gumbo Farts. Seriously. Frigging nasty farts…)

    • There is no counting how many French knights tripped or were knocked off their feet and died there in the mud, suffocated. The fact that it was mentioned means that likely quite a few did. A titled man with a household would likely have knights who supported each other and looked after each other, but there were a LARGE number of less important knights who took part in the fight without that sort of supporting infrastructure. That and with visor down, you can’t see well. Visor up invites an arrow.

      The gumbo farts sound horrible.

      At Agincourt the French were eating, drinking and wenching the night before the battle, sure of victory…not unlike an SCA event.

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