October 23, 1415. Somewhere in France
Posted by Exile on October 23, 2007
Having marched 18 miles the previous day, the 6000 English were tired, cold and hungry. Having lived off nuts and raw vegetables for many days, many were sick with dysentery. They had another 50 miles or so to go before they could feel themselves in any way safe from the French Army that had pursued them, without attacking, for the last week. And even then, they would have another two days march before arriving in Calais itself. Having been forced to go round the Somme by the French advance guard that had lain in wait for them, they had elected to turn south east before turning nothward back toward Calais and the extended march had wearied them and cost them most of their provisions.Two days previously, a French herald had issued the terms of combat or surrender. King Henry knew he was in no position to bargain but having once tried, and failed, to appease the French by offering to return Harfleur and make restitutions, he also knew he was in no position to stop and rest. As the herald’s message demanded;
“Our lords have heard how you intend with your army to conquer the towns, castles and cities of the realm of France and to depopulate French cities. And because of this, and for the sake of their country and their oaths, many of our lords are assembled to defend their rights; and they inform you by us that before you come to Calais they will meet you to fight you and be revenged of your conduct.”
Henry simply replied “Be all things according to the will of God.”
So, the French would meet him on the field of battle. As long as he kept his army on the march and as long as the French followed at a distance, Henry was sure they would not risk an attack. Their grandfathers had told them tales of Crecy and of the formidable fighting capability that the English longbow represented. Henry also did not want to fight here and now, even if the French were spoiling for it and eager to destroy the English army. His troops were not ready for battle and a confrontation here would have meant the loss of the campaign in France and the slaughter of his men. This was not the day. Nor was it the place.
But Henry knew it would come, and soon. All he could do for now was to press on toward Calais and encourage his men to do likewise. Somewhere in front of him were 25,000 French knights, nobles and men at arms. Hopefully, he would not meet them.