Henry V landed in France with about 10,000 men in the summer of 1415. His first objective was Harfleur, a port town on northwestern France. The siege lasted for about a month and Henry marched into the town victorius but with his army severly depleted mainly from illness. His next stop was to be Calais but he was intercepted at Agincourt.
Harfleur, now a drab suburb of Le Havre, was a considerable town in 1415, a fishing port, a centre for the cloth trade specialising in weaving and dyeing, a busy trading town, protected by a high encircling wall two and a half miles in circumference, studded with twenty-six taller towers.
The town garrison was commanded by two experienced knights, the Sir Sieur d'Estouteville and the Sieur de Gaucourt, who arrived to reinforce the normal garrison of 100 men with a further 300 men at arms, shortly before the English army completed their encirclement of the walls, Although a convoy of supplies and munitions was intercepted and captured by the Duke ofClarence.
Henry formally summoned the town to surrender on 16th August, and on receiving the expected refusal, his army surrounded the town, which was completely invested by 18th August, and then began to bombard the walls with cannon, catapults and mangonels.
The normal arbiter of a medieval siege, starvation, was not an option here, since the town was well provisioned and a relieving French army might be expected at almost any time. Henry's heavy siege artillery therefore began to pound the defences, while his sappers begun to dig in and undermine the walls. Within two weeks his twelve great guns, some hurling stone cannonballs weighing up to 500Ib, had done severe damage to the defences and Henry felt confident that a successful conclusion was almost in his grasp.
Problems had already arisen in the besieger's camp, for the weather was hot that August and, fuelled by a total lack of sanitation and a great host of flies, sickness (notably dysentery) began to spread swiftly in the English army. Drunkenness was also common, although Henry's army was noted, even by the French, for it's discipline and good order. Henry had forbidden his soldiers to wander off into the surrounding country in search of loot, and declared his intention to hang any soldier who even threatened to kill or rape a woman.
The same dire penalty awaited any soldier who stole from a church, and all the English soldiers were compelled (for purposes in identification) to wear a large red cross of St George on their back and chest.
The men grumbled at the lack of women, but those harlots who came to join the army were told that they risked having their left arms broken if they came within three miles of the King's host. Such discipline, and the presence of the King in the forward trenches, kept his soldiers at their duty. By the middle of September, the outcome of the siege was finely balanced, but there was no sign of relief from the main French army, which was said to be mustering near Paris, and supplies were growing short within the town.
Two days after the landing, the young Duke of Clarence, who was turning out to be a considerable soldier, had captured a convoy carrying supplies and ammunition for the garrison. A month later on 16th September, with military supplies of all kinds running out, the garrison tried a desperate sortie from the South West gate, attempting to overrun English artillery positions. Though this sally failed, on the following day the French tried again, finally being driven back in disorder by a force under the young Earl of Huntington.
That night, having noted the state of the French dead, interrogated the prisoners and viewed the shattered walls, Henry gave the order for a general assault on the following day, 18th September. Before that attack went in, the defenders asked for a parley.
It was eventually agreed that unless the Dauphin arrived with an army before 22nd September, the town would surrender. For the next Three days the cannon were silent and then, no reliving force having appeared, the garrison opened their gates. Henry treated the inhabitants much as Edward III had treated the people of Calais in 1346, forcing the leading burghers to kneel at his feet in submission before accepting the keys.
Then the knights were released on parole to gather ransom, the townspeople where prepared to sever their allegiance with France were allowed to remain, while the rest were ordered to depart. Like Calais, Harfleur was to become an English Town, a beachhead in France for English armies.
Date: Aug 1415 - Sep 1415
Location: Harfleur, France
Outcome: English victory.
English Leadership: Henry V
English Strength: -10,000 men
English Casualties: ?
French Leadership: Sir Sieur d'Estouteville and Sieur de Gaucourt
Town population: about ? people
French Strength: 400 men
French Casualties: ?