The Battle Of Hastings dawns
On Saturday, the 14th of October the great Battle of Hastings dawned.
The King Harold and the Anglo-Saxons had no cavalry and few archers but formed a tight shield wall with the Housecauls and their Danish battle-axes at the ready (a two-handed, long-handled battle axe with a heavy chopping head) together with their long double-edged swords. The levies were equipped with missiles, spears and hammers.
William's forces were separated into three columns. The Bretons were on the left, the Normans were in the middle & Flemings were positioned on the right. At the head of each column stood archers, behind whom there were ranks of infantry and cavalry. The battle began with William's archers opening fire followed by an infantry assault.
It is not difficult to compose a narrative of its principal incidents from the historical information which we possess, especially if aided by an examination of the ground. But it is far better to adopt the spirit-stirring words of the old chroniclers, who wrote while the recollections of the battle were yet fresh, and while the feelings and prejudices of the combatants yet glowed in the bosoms of living men.
Robert Wace, the Norman poet, is the most picturesque and animated of the old writers, and from him we can obtain a more vivid and full description of the conflict than even the most brilliant romance-writer of the present time can supply.
We have also an antique memorial of the battle more to be relied on than either chronicler or poet (and which confirms Wace's narrative remarkably) in the celebrated Bayeux tapestry, which represents the principal scenes of Duke William's expedition and of the circumstances connected with it, in minute though occasionally grotesque details, and which was undoubtedly the production of the same age in which the battle took place. Whether we admit or reject the legend that Queen Matilda and the ladies of her court wrought it with their own hands in honor of the royal Conqueror The Norman host is pouring forth from its tents, and each troop and each company is forming fast under the banner of its leader. The masses have been sung, which were finished betimes in the morning; the barons have all assembled round Duke William; and the Duke has ordered that the army shall be formed in three divisions, so as to make the attack upon the Saxon position in three places.
Let us therefore suffer the old Norman chronicler to transport our imaginations to the fair Sussex scenery northwest of Hastings, as it appeared on that October morning.