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"Of the fault
My father made in compassing the crown,"
and recounting all he done by way of honourable interment for Richard's body, and the chantries he had founded,
"Where the sad and solemn priests
Still sing for Richard's soul!”
So says the only history of England which the great Duke of Marlborough professed ever to have read-Shakspeare-who has doubtless painted the fifth Harry to the life. The night, however, was not without its military arrangements: the king sent out some valiant knights by moonlight to examine the field, and report as to the French forces which were so close upon him. The famous answer of Sir David Gam is upon record, and deserves to be so; a few words in praise of it by Sir Walter Raleigh are worth your notice, coming from an author more talked of than read perhaps at all events read far less than he ought to be. Raleigh is describing the battle of Cannæ. "His (Hannibal's) brother Mago came to him, whom he had sent to view the countenance of the enemy. Hannibal asked him what news, and what work they were likely to have with these Romans? Work enough,' answered Mago, for they are an horrible many.' As horrible a many as
they are,' Hannibal replied, I tell thee, brother, that among them all, search them never so diligently, thou shalt not find one man whose name is Mago.' With that he fell a laughing, and so did all that stood about him, which gladdened the soldiers, who thought their general would not be so merry without great assurance.' I am disposed to think the gist of this piece of wit lies in some double entendre in the Punic language, incapable of translation. Raleigh proposes some explanations; its effect, however, is all that concerns us.
"But," continues Sir Walter, "if Hannibal himself had been sent forth by Mago to view the Romans, he could not have returned with a more gallant report in his mouth than that which Captain Gam, before the battle of Agincourt, made unto our King Henry V., saying that of the Frenchmen there were enow to be killed, enow to be taken prisoners, and enow to run away.' Even such words as these, or such pleasant jest, as this of Hannibal are not without their moment, but serve many times when battle is at hand, to work upon such passions as must govern more of the business, especially when other needful care is not wanting, without which they are but vain boasts."
The dawn of the day of St. Crispin, thenceforward so celebrated in our annals, must have discovered to Henry the agreeable fact of his having accidentally possessed himself of a position fully as well suited to his little army as any his best foresight could have selected. In his rear were the wooded enclosures of Maisoncelles, the village in which he had passed the night; right and left of him the land fell off in gentle slopes, sufficient to give a 'vantage ground to each flank. In his front the plot of ground between the three enclosures was amply adequate to the array of his own army, but narrowed so much where the French were stationed, that the interval between Tramecourt and Agincourt, where the road runs, connecting the two villages, is not more than 480 yards. Henry drew up his army much in the same form as that adopted by Edward at Cressy, which seems to have been the usual arrangement prescribed by the tactics Nov.-VOL. LXXXIV. NO. CCCXXXV.
of the day. Henry, indeed employed a little manoeuvring, which was entirely dispensed with at the battle of Cressy; his first step was to send "privily two hundred archers into a low meadow which was near to the vaunt guard of the enemies; but separated with a great ditch, commanding them there to keep themselves close till they had a token to them given, to let drive at their adversaries;" the place of ambuscade thus chosen must have been the southern end of the inclosures of Tramecourt, which lies sufficiently in a hollow to be quite concealed from an enemy, who had not circumspection enough to examine the ground. The division which formed the van-guard of the army was composed entirely of archers, and was commanded by Edward Duke of York, a man of high courage, who there fell valiantly fighting, leaving his ill-omened name to be claimed by the rightful heirs of the crown, his nephew and his nephew's son, men equally valiant in action, who did it no dishonour in their many wars,— wars, unhappily! nullos habitura triumphos! Out of Henry's 15,000 men, 13,000 were archers, billmen, and "all sorts of other footmen, 2000 only were horsemen." The archers were by far the most important corps, and their preservation was the principal object of Henry's solicitude. "He feared not the puissance of his enemies, but yet he used due caution to provide that they should not, with the multitude of horsemen, break the order of his archers, in whom the force of his army consisted. For in those days the yeomen had their limbs at liberty, sith their hosen were then fastened with one point, and their jacks long and easy to shoot in, so that they might draw bows of great strength, and shoot arrows of a yard long beside the head."
To secure them against the charges of the French cavalry, "he caused stakes bound with iron, sharp at both ends, of the length of five or six foot, to be pitched before the archers, and of each side the footmen like a hedge, to the intent that if the barded horses ran rashly upon them, they might shortly be gored and destroyed. Certain persons also were appointed to remove the stakes, as by the moving of the archers occasion and time should require, so that the footmen were hedged about with stakes, and the horsemen stood like a bulwark between them and their enemies, without the stakes. This device of fortifying an army, was at this time first invented; but since that time they have devised caltraps, harrows, and other new engines against the force of horsemen." "herse," or triangle, was again the figure in which this important corps was drawn up, and Henry stationed it, "by reason of his small number of people, to fill up his battle, so on the right hand of his main battle, which he himself led, that the distance betwixt them might scarce be perceived, and so in the like case was the rearward joined on the left hand, that the one might the more readily succour another in time of need." With the king's division, in which were all the strong billmen, was his brother the Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of Suffolk, Oxford, and others. "The Duke of Exeter, uncle to the king, led the rearward, which was mixed both with billmen and archers. The horsemen, like wings, went on every side of the battle."-" When he had thus ordered his battles, he left a small company to keep his camp and carriage, which remained still in the village, and then calling his captains and soldiers about him, he made them a right glorious oration, assuring them, in conclusion, that England should never be charged with his ransom, nor any Frenchman triumph over him as a captive, for either by
famous death or glorious victory would he, by God's help, win honour and fame !"
On the other side of the plain the French army were drawn up in three divisions. The first corps was composed of "eight thousand helms of knights and esquires, four thousand archers, and fifteen hundred crossbows, which were guided by the Lord de la Bret, Constable of France, having with him the Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, the master of the cross-bows, and other captains;" this division was supported by sixteen hundred men-at-arms as a wing on one side, and on the other wing eight hundred men-of-arms of "elect, chosen persons.” "In the middle ward were assigned as many persons, or more, as were in the foremost battle, and the charge thereof was committed to the Dukes of Bar and Alençon, and other noblemen. In the rearward were all the other men-at-arms, guided by the Earls of Marles, Dammartin, and others." Although it is stated that the French upon this occasion were not unprovided with artillery, yet we hear nothing of their performances during the action-a proof that the example of Cressy had not tended to encourage any improvement in this arm, and an inference that at Cressy the cannon were not of sufficient importance to justify their being ranked among the causes of that victory. The registers of Abbeville record that in the year of the battle of Agincourt, "1415, l'échevinage fit tailler deux mille cent soixante-onze pierres rondes ou boulets de grès, pour juer de canons contre l'ennemi."
"Thus the Frenchmen, being ordered under their standards and banners, made a great show; for, surely, they were esteemed in number six times as many, or more, than was the whole company of the Englishmen, with waggoners, pages, and all.”- -"Verité est," says St. Rémy, " que les Franchois avoient ordonné les batailles entre deux petits bois l'un serrant à Agincourt, et l'autre à Tramecourt; la place estoit estroite, et tres avantageuse pour les Anglois, et au contraire pour les Franchois, car les Franchois avait esté toutte la nuit à cheval, et si pleuvait." This was the first grand error committed by the French; after having had the choice of a field of battle so completely within their command, they selected this of Agincourt, and could not possibly have picked out a worse. The second error was, neglecting to reconnoitre the ground, so that the small body of English archers, secreted in the lower part of Tramecourt, remained unobserved until they discovered themselves but too manifestly by the unexpected discharge and fatal effect of their arrows.
An awful pause succeeded these preparations, and each army remained immovable in position. It formed no part of Henry's policy to commence an attack, and the overnight ardour of the French appeared to diminish considerably when the actual moment for its display had arrived. They again, whether in jest or not seems uncertain, despatched a herald to the English monarch to treat for his ransom; but the undaunted Henry replied, that in two or three hours he hoped the French would be compounding for their own ransoms, and, for his own part, he promised them his dead carcass rather as a prize, than that his living body should pay any ransom. The rejection of this overture was construed by the French into a decisive signal for instantaneous battle. The men of war put on their helmets, and caused their trumpets to blow to battle; with such hot haste was this marshalling performed, that some of the chiefs
could not wait for the arrival of their standards, and it is especially recorded of the Duke of Brabant, that he caused a banner to be taken from a trumpet and fastened to a spear, the which he commanded to be borne before him instead of a standard
Ceciditque in strage suorum
Impiger ad letum, et fortis virtute coactâ!
The armies were now within three bowshots, for the French had advanced a little, but still no disposition to engage was exhibited, except when any of the French horsemen who came at all forward were driven back by the English archers. "Thereupon, all things considered, it was determined that since the Frenchmen would not come forward, the king, with his army embattled, should march towards them." In front "there went an old knight, Sir Thomas Erpingham (a man of great experience in the war), with a warder in his hand, but when he cast up his warder all the army shouted." We gain from St. Rémy a description of the onset. "Lors les Anglais commencerent soudainement à marcher, en jettant un cry moult grant, dont grandement s'emerveillerent les Franchois. Et quand les Anglois virent que les Franchois point ne les approchoient, il marcherent vers eux tout bellement en belle ordonnance; et derechef, firent un tres grant cry, en eux arrestant et reprenant leur haleine." This account bears a singular resemblance to the charge of Cæsar's troops at the battle of Pharsalia. Pompey's army remained stationary, hoping the Cæsareans would be exhausted by the exertion—“ Quod nobis quidem," says Cæsar, "nullâ ratione factum à Pompeio videtur. . . . nostri cum animadvertissent non concurri à Pompejanis usu periti, ac superioribus pugnis exercitate, suâ sporte cursum represserunt, et ad medium ferè spatium constiterunt, ne consumptis viribus appropinquarent." To this ready discipline on the part of his troops Cæsar ascribes the victory, and he justly blames a general, who, by any imprudent orders, represses the natural ardour of his troops. This was the case evidently at Agincourt, where the French army having made a partial advance in the open field, were halted, and thus displayed a species of irresolution little calculated to inspire courage. The archers of England now began that discharge of arrows which was in the habit of carrying all before it, nor did it fail in this instance; at the same time, the body of men in the low ground of Tramecourt, observing the shout which followed the signal of the veteran Erpingham, starting from their concealment, attacked the flank of the first division of the French, under the protection of a deep ditch which rendered their position inaccessible. Nor was this manœuvre of the battle unlike another incident at Pharsalia, where Cæsar had placed six cohorts on his right wing, destined to attack Pompey's horse in flank, and admonished them that upon their behaviour the success of the day would mainly depend-and so, indeed, it did-the conduct of this body, and the effect of their attack, secured him the victory. Thus at Agincourt, the combined attack of the main body of archers in front, and that of the detachment suddenly opening fire on the flank of the French, threw the whole of the leading division into confusion, "so wounded the foot-men, galled the horses, and encumbered the men of arms, that the foot-men durst not go forward, the horsemen ran together in plumps without order; some overthrew such as were next
them, and the horses overthrew their masters.' The confusion in the enemy's line was quickly perceived, and as quickly taken advantage of by the English archers, who, dismissing their bows, and seizing their swords, axes, bills, and other hand weapons, rushed upon the French, and penetrated as far as the second corps, slaying every thing in their way. Henry himself came up with his division, and the second line of the enemy were overthrown-but the battle was one of great fury. York was slain, and Suffolk, who had kept with him in his chivalry, perished also. The Duke of Gloucester, fearfully wounded, was borne down to the ground, "with his face to the sky, and his feet to the foe." The king himself bestrode the prostrate body of his brother, and displayed that personal vigour for which he was as conspicuous as he was for his dauntless spirit. D'Alençon had vowed his destruction, and actually reached him with some brave attendants, and struck the king so furious a blow upon the head, that he was almost felled to the ground, and his bacinet, still suspended over his tomb in Westminster Abbey, is said to bear visibly the dent of the tremendous stroke; but it was the last stroke ever struck by D'Alençon-a blow from Henry brought him to the earth, when he was instantly despatched by the king's attendants, in spite of an effort on the part of his royal antagonist to preserve his life. Henry himself slew two of the duke's body guard. Yet, in the midst of all the confusion of the general battle and these personal encounters, Henry did not lose sight of his duty as cominander-in-chief. Perceiving the shaken state of the greater part of the enemy's forces, he adopted a second manoeuvre, which proved completely successful. "He ordered his horsemen to fetch a compass about, and to join with him against the rearward of the Frenchmen, in which was the greatest number of people." I conjecture this circuit must have been made round the enclosure of Agincourt. This unexpected attack appears to have completely paralysed the enemy, who made no more attempts at resistance, but either fled the field, or yielded themselves prisoners, and victory settled on the brows of the English monarch. Henry's position for command of the left wing, brought him up to the Agincourt side of the field of battle, and having inquired the name of the neighbouring chateau, and being answered that it was Agincourt, he directed that the conflict should be called the battle of Agincourt.
Then call we this the field of Agincourt,
Fought on the day of Crispin Crispanus !
Had he chosen to command the right wing, his advance would have led him towards Tramecourt, and, in that case, we should, perhaps, have heard for ever of the battle of "Tramecourt," instead of "Agincourt. In the meantime, the Seigneur of Agincourt himself, together with some other ruffians less occupied in sharing the duties and dangers of their countrymen in the action, than in thinking of what plunder might be obtained in the outskirts, perceiving the unprotected state of the English baggage, entered Maisoncelles, and with 600 horsemen began despoiling the tents, breaking open chests, carrying off caskets and all valuables, and slaying such servants as made the least resistance. "But when the
outery of lackeys and boys came to the king's ears, he, doubting lest his enemies should gather together again, and begin a new field, while his army were embarrassed with numerous prisoners, and contrary to his accustomed gentleness, commanded by sound of trumpet, that every man, upon pain of death, should incontinently slay his prisoner."