Battle of Agincourt


Active member
In 1415, 6,000 longbow archers of Henry V of England met and fought a force of 25,000 French knights, pikemen, and mercenaries at the Battle of Agincourt, in France. The French led mercenaries were Genovese soldiers of fortune, and they were equipped with state of the art Italian crossbows. On the other hand, the English still used the longbow, great carved sticks of yew wood that required years and years of practice and enormous muscle strength to use effectively.

Given the discrepancy in men and equipment, the outcome of the Battle of Agincourt was one of the most surprising in military history. Twenty-five thousand frenchmen and allies, using crossbows no less, were soundly defeated by a force one-fifth their size utilizing the simple English longbow. There were many reasons for this, ranging from the blazing speed with which a longbow can be reloaded and shot, to superior English tactics and, most importantly, to rainy weather that muddied the fields so much that the heavy, armored French knights sank in the muck to their hips.

For all these reasons, the French lost 15,000 knights and soldiers at Agincourt, while the English lost only 300 men. It was so lopsided and impressive a victory that Shakespeare immortalized the incident in his play Henry V. The French were so impressed and enraged by the English longbow that they began a longstanding threat to summarily amputate the two fingers that hold the bowstring of any captured English archer.

That was quite a vicious threat, but the English were not easily cowed. they responded by waving their index and middle fingers in an insulting manner at the French from the top of their ramparts, as if to say, "My fingers? Here they are! Try and get them." To this day, this particular salute - two curved fingers raised in a V, held up to show the back of the hand and motioning up and down - remains in the English gesture lexicon as a terrific insult.

Excerpt from "Backyard Ballistics" by William Gurstelle
Here's a little taste from before the battle...

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
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.

If you wanna read the whole thing check out the following page: