20/20 Hindsight Re-fight #2 Agincourt, Naseby, Culloden

Re-fighting famous battles with amateur style omniscience

Agincourt – 1415, the Hundred Years War   (Engage brain)

In this reality the English army of Henry V was withdrawing towards Calais in northern France. Riddled with dysentery and short of food the English found their path blocked by a much larger French army. Henry deploys his army (men at arms and predominantly longbowmen) in a recently ploughed field with forests close on either flank. The archers drove pointed stakes into the ground to repel cavalry.

The French were led by Constable Charles d’Albret and assorted nobles. They arrayed the army into two lines of dismounted men-at-arms, along with two wings of 600ish cavalry each, and a large rear guard of cavalry. Numbers of French archers and crossbowmen seem to have been relegated to the second line and played little part in the battle. The French delayed attacking, preferring to wait for yet more troops to arrive.

So Henry took the initiative, pulled up stumps, advanced his entire force, then reinstalled the stakes when within bow-shot of the French lines. The move seems to have caught the French by surprise. Spurred by English arrows the French cavalry attack in a disorganised fashion and not at full numbers. The woodland prevented any quick outflanking manoeuvres, whilst the stakes and arrow storm repelled the two cavalry wings.

Battle of Agincourt
The initial French cavalry charge is repelled by longbowmen and retreats chaotically through the advancing infantry. Meanwhile a flanking force approaches the English camp.

The French lines of densely packed infantry advanced across the now churned up, muddy field into the face of professional archers. Those who survived the hail of arrows engaged the English line and pushed it back whilst taking shot from the now flanking bowmen. When the arrows ran out, the lightly armoured archers charged in and attacked the exhausted and disordered French men-at-arms. The second French line reached the melee but the narrowness of the battlefield created a press of bodies which, along with the mud, hindered their heavily armoured soldiers. The French were killed or taken prisoner in their thousands.

There are desperate and dire moments when the English baggage train is wiped out, and then numerous French prisoners are put to the sword when a renewed offensive seems imminent. However, after three hours of fighting the second French line is also smashed and the French cavalry reserve, which had declined to join the fray, retreated. The English had won the day and taken comparatively light casualties compared to the French.

After Crecy and Poitiers, Agincourt was the third stunning victory of the longbow in the Hundred Years War.

But could the battle have turned out any other way?       YOU BETCHA!!!

 

This is the wrong place to fight ya French twits. Maybe not the worst ground ever, but YOU PICKED IT! Embarrasingly bad. Charging across muddy ploughed fields! Dense forests to protect the English flanks and constrict your own numerical advantage! ‘Stupidly confident’ or just plain old ‘stupid’?

But the French can still come out top dog. The obvious solution is for the French to move off to a better location, declining battle for a few more days whilst the English starve. However, assuming we are stuck with this muddy funnel of a battleground, and that the English re-positioning towards the French happens too quickly to take advantage of (ie lightning fast cavalry charge), there’s a few quick things to address…

Get a tight rein on those uppity nobles- no premature charges, no demanding to choose who or where they attack. Organise your mounted knights into 3 separate groups. You want simultaneous attacks on the front and rear on the English. So 2/3 of the mounted troops will go wide, right and left around the forests of Agincourt and Tramecourt. You have all that cavalry, all those troops, use your numerical advantage!

Push the French crossbows and archers forward. Try going through, or along the edges of, the flanking forests. Get them to shoot the lightly armoured English archers. Tell me you brought pavises? If not your missile troops will come off second best, but should still keep the longbowmen busy. They can be assisted by small units of infantry moving through the forests to flank the longbowmen.

Meanwhile your flanking cavalry trot in a huge encircling manoeuvre. It is only a 2 or 3 kilometre circuit around the forests – even in muddy fields it’s an hour at most (synchronise your hourglasses!). Hopefully they stay away from the English baggage for the moment (yeah good luck with that!).

To the English front your dismounted men-at-arms and third cavalry arm (flanking the infantry) will form up. When the English goad you with arrow fire – pull your frontal cavalry back and get your infantry to raise their shields (tell me you brought shields?) and start towards them. Meh, see it’s just pointy sticks at this range. Hopefully your missile troops will be returning the favour.

Agincourt AgainFought
Tie up the longbowmen with your own missile troops and flanking infantry, and send most of the silly French kniggits around the forest and lance the English in the derriere!

Your infantry are on the nasty muddy slog towards the English lines. But this time less bunched up and with fewer, or more distracted, longbowmen to contend with. When they are almost across the kill box, blow some horns and sound the attack. Your frontal cavalry charges in, on either side of the infantry, who should already be getting to grips. The cav may still have to negotiate the archers’ stake hedge but hopefully the longbows are already embattled by infantry on their flanks. This frontal attack will be hard going, but the English will be very busy holding you off. The slam dunk comes from the cavalry in the rear- they gallop around the forests and charge into the English derriere, wreaking havoc.

With any luck the enemy will fill their breeches and break like a rotten twig. And yes yes, now you can murder the helpless English baggage train.

You may say that this plan presupposes that the French know what the English will do. Ironically the French generals actually had a plan of battle very similar to this but it was not acted on due to poor command and control.

 

Battle of Naseby – 1645, the English Civil War   (Cav comes back)

Old school, no talent Royalists get pasted by commoner professional army – boo yah! But could the snobby prats actually have won? Not bloody likely when they were outnumbered, poorly trained and poorly led! Basically both armies have two cavalry wings and a pike and musket centre. The Royals take out the Parliament’s left flank but pursue off the battlefield. Parliament wins the right flank cavalry engagement and then turns upon the infantry and wins the day.

battle of naseby 1645

But with just a little itty-bitty 20/20 Hindsight, things could have been different!

Charles I’s army should not have fought this day – the numbers game was terrible. Parliament has about 13000 troops to the Royals 9000ish. Get some decent scouting action happening. Intelligence -get it and use it! Withdraw north and reinforce.

But assuming you insist on duking it out … proceed as before. Rupert to smash Ireton’s cavalry on your right flank but then for gawds sake- STOP CHASING THEM!!! Rally those bloody idiots and come back ASAP! Then Rupert’s cavalry hits the rear of the Parliamentarian infantry and counters Okey’s pesky dragoons coming out of the flanking hedge. Rupert could get tricky and ride across and double tap Cromwell’s cavalry from the rear while Langdale hits the front, but that is a big ask and still leaves the infantry vulnerable.

On the eastern flank Langdale’s cavalry should obviously NOT attack uphill against Cromwell’s superior numbers (*facepalm*). Just sit there looking threatening, especially if your infantry is doing fine. Let Cromwell’s cavalry make the first move. Langdale will counter and still be beaten off, but all is not lost.

battle of naseby remix

If Charles throws in his reserve forces immediately, they might just counter Cromwell’s attack on the Royalist left flank.  This includes Charles charging in with his lifeguard cavalry. He’ll have to slap down any nobles telling him to not risk his life. Hell yeah it’s risky! But lose this battle and the Royalist war is over and he may as well be dead anyhoo.

And bada-bing bada-boom! Royalist nepotism can lurch along a bit longer in the face of an embryonic meritocracy.

 

 

Culloden – 1746, the Jacobite Rising   (Retreat to victory!)

Whoever thought the Scots could beat the English in a frontal charge across boggy heather should have been chased out of the country wearing a dress. Culloden is terrible ground! Blind Fergus could have picked somewhere a wee bit more favourable. And the Scots had to wait under cannon fire for half a fuckin’ hour before getting the go order. Poor bastards.

The long night march on Nairn, wasn’t a totally bad idea (yeah, yeah -Prestonpans 2), but the slow going, confused and spread out forces on your home turf ain’t a good look lads. The night march ends up aborted piecemeal and the knackered squaddies trudge all the bloody way back. Brilliant start- NOT!  Considering what happened later that day, maybe the night march should have continued anyway. Surprise might not have been guaranteed but at least the English would be startled, their lines hastily drawn up and the cannons probably in crap positions.

Anyway assuming you end up back at Culloden… take one look at the ground and march west ASAP!! You should have ambushed Cumberland in a forest somewhere east of Nairn, but let’s not harp. Or maybe you should have captured Newcastle and cut off the coal to London, but we’re not harping…

Anyway the ground at Culloden is shite and, with the troops you have, not even the Armchair Corporal can pull this rabbit outta the hat. So about face and march the six miles to Inverness with the redcoats nipping at your heels. Their cavalry will be all over you but after their performance at the Battle of Falkirk Muir (massed pistol volleys shredded the horses) your lads should be safe. Get your artillery moving ahead and set up in some side streets, surely your useless gunners can manage that? Keep Cumberland’s boys close, chasing you into the town. Look scared, you’re on the run, lure him in…

Then turn on ‘em!! Your artillery unloads some point blank canister shot. Fire a musket volley or two from the front and from the flanking houses you’ve packed full of troops. Then Highland charge ’em with real Scots like Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson up in front! A close quarter brawl like this gives Bonnie Prince Charlie a great shot a victory. Street fightin’ Inverness style. Stitch that Jimmy!

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