On a muddy field in France, 600 years ago this day, St. Crispin's Day, 6000 English tradesmen and farmers armed with bow, war hammer and knife, and a few men-at-arms, faced 30,000 Frenchmen, among them the finest armored knights in Europe. King Henry sent his horse away so his men knew he would not abandon them.
The knights charged down a freshly plowed field. It had rained before. The field was mud. English arrows fell like rain. Horses fell; knights fell. More knights charged down the field, now churned to a wallow. Arrows fell; horses fell; knights fell. The French charged again, men-at-arms wading on foot through knee-deep mud. Some of them reached the English lines, strengthened by sharpened stakes hammered into the grass. They were cut down by the archers and the men-at-arms.
It was one of the greatest English victories of all time; perhaps one of the most unexpected victories in the history of war.
The night before the battle, King Henry, fifth of that name, gave a speech, which Shakespeare imagined to go like this:
... And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
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 accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
And that's the story. Whether or not it is entirely 100% accurate
, still it is true.
Happy St. Crispin's Day