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Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25- This Day in History

~Battle of Agincourt which was fought today in 1415

Today we're going to deviate from economic and financial issues of the day (trust us, they'll still be there tomorrow and the next week..) and focus on something more historical...

An enjoyable past-time each day is to glance at a listing of events, births and deaths which occurred on the specific day to see how occasions that were so important it its day are utterly forgotten or mere footnotes in the present, and situations that must have appeared trivial at the time, looking back now, take on great importance.

Today, October 25 is as good a day as any to find examples...

For example in 1940, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr became the first black general in the United States Army.  We are pretty certain back in the day this was not cause for celebration or front-page newsworthy.  Who knows how many in the black community back then even knew of it.  Certainly no one talks of Davis today..  However we know it had importance because now we don't even take a momentary gasp at the thought of a black General or Secretary of State or President...
Davis fought in the Spanish American War in the Philippines and WWI, and during World War II, he was commander of the 99th and the 332nd Fighter Group, which escorted bombers on air combat missions over Europe. Davis himself flew sixty missions in P-39, Curtiss P-40, P-47 and P-51 Mustang fighters.  He also was a flight instructor before WWII at Tuskeegee.

And then there's events which are so important at the time and in the present seem so trivial and irrelevant...   Like the fact that on this date in 1415, the Battle of Agincourt took place involving the English forces under King Henry V and French forces under Charles VI, though he was too ill at the time to command his men directly.

Back in the day, Agincourt was a very big deal..  So big to the English that a WWI frigate ship, the HMS Agincourt was named and that Shakespeare even wrote one of his plays on it called obviously 'Henry V' and made into films starring Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1940s and Kenneth Branagh in 1990.
~ Kenneth Branagh playing Henry V

It was a great victory for the English who in the midst of the Hundred Years' War invaded France with a small force of 9,000 men by estimates vs what some believe to be a French force of upwards of 36,000 troops.; a French advantage of 4 to 1.

Henry V believed he was entitled to control of France by birthright  through his great-grandfather, Edward III and obviously France saw things quite differently.  So after negotiations failed, Henry decided decided to invade via Normandy with the goal being the town of Calais.

After a 260 mile march in only 16 days and Henry's men starving and suffering from dysentery among other maladies, they ended up being stopped and blocked by French forces near Agincourt, and ultimately on October 25, 1415, known at the time as St Crispin's Day, the two forces engaged there with the French believing the victory would be quick, swift and devastating upon Henry.
~ Henry V as depicted flatteringly by an artist

We won't get into all the strategic particulars here of troop deployments and attack/counter-attack, but suffice to say by battle's end, Henry with his numerically inferior forces, won the day.  The casualties differ by who's account is looked upon; the French said between 4,000 to 10,000 French dead with 1600 English killed, while the English said they killed 1,500 to 11,000 French while only losing about 100 men.

After the Battle and fearing the French prisoners taken would rise up and kill them, Henry ordered his men to kill off all the prisoners they had captured, leaving not a single one for ransom.  Their deaths might explain why the death ratios are so dramatic between France and English soldier.

Eventually after a more years of fighting, Henry V was able to achieve all his objectives... then shortly later he died and his son Henry VI's military and political ineptitude caused the unraveling of all his father's gains. (For historical context, this is the time when Joan of Arc fought the English and became so famous to the French people)
~ Henry V, as he really looked..

And so this big battle worthy of national accolades and plaudits, ends up being forgotten for the most part.  It did not change world history in any way that we living today feel the affects from, and the two combatants have now been allies for over 100 years.

History is a funny thing-- the events we think so important, end up being trivial and the trivialities we don't bother remembering end up carrying political, economic and/or social significance.