She reorganizes the French army and warns the English to leave France.
Joan's first official act as General-in Chief of the armies of France was to send a letter to the English commanders concentrate before Orleans ordering them to deliver up cities in their possession and depart France.
Joan was never one to hesitate or lose time once her work was in view. She sent this letter at once by a trusted messenger, Guienne, so that the Englishmen might have time to cogitate over it while she was making preparations to follow it up. The letter is among the original documents preserved still in archives of Paris. It reads:
"King of England; and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the Kingdom of France; you, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; John, Lord Talbot; and you, Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourselves Lieutenants to the Duke of Bedford: Give satisfaction to the King of Heaven; give up to the maid, who is sent hither by God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns in France which you have taken and broken into. She is come here by the order of God to reclaim the blood royal. She is quite ready to make peace, if you are willing to give her satisfaction, by giving and paying back to France what you have taken. And as for you, archers, companions-in-arms, gentlemen and others, who are before the town of Orleans, return to your own countries, by God's order; and if this be not done, then hear the message of the Maid, who will shortly come upon you to your very great hurt.
King of England, I am a chieftain of war and, if this be not done, where-so-ever I find your followers in France I will make them leave, willingly or unwillingly; if they will not leave I will have them put to death.
I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven, to drive them all out of the whole of France. And if they will obey I will have mercy on them.
And do not think to yourselves that you will get possession of the realm of France from God, the King of Heaven, Son of the Blessed Mary; for King Charles will gain it, the true heir; and God, the King of Heaven, so wills and it is revealed to him, (the King) by Maid, and he will enter Paris with a good company.
If you will not believe the message of C and of the Maid and act aright, in whatsoever, place we find you, we will enter therein a make so great a disturbance that for a thousand years none in France will be so great.
And believe surely that the King of Heaven will send greater power to the Maid, to her and her good men-at-arms, than you can bring the attack; and, when it comes to blows, we shall see who has the better right from the King of Heaven.
You, Duke of Burgundy, the Maid prays and enjoins you, that you do not come to grievous hurt. If you will give her satisfactory pledges, you may yet join with her, so that the French may do the fairest deed that has ever yet been done for Christendom.
And answer, if you wish to make peace the City of Orleans; if this be not done you may shortly be reminded of it to your very great hurt.
Written this Tuesday in Holy Week, March, 22, 1429.
Now was a busy month ahead for Joan.
Following the King's proclamation that she was henceforward the chief in command of the armies of France, was the necessity for her to see the generals and the army, to recruit and reorganize.
The great and good Dunois, Governor of Orleans, had been clamoring for weeks for speedy assistance. He sent a valued veteran officer to the King, old D'Aulon, whom the King at once recommended to Joan, and was accepted as chief of her personal staff.
Joan had all her old friends of the journey from Vaucouleurs put on her staff, too, relying for success more on honest hearts than on military knowledge; for had she not said time and time again that the victory would come from God?
The King had a complete suit of armor made for her at Tours nearby, a town famous for its workers in metals. It was of silver white steel, complete as any soldier's, but lighter in weight.
She herself designed her standard for the painter, whose name was James Powers, as the records tell.
The banner was of white silk, fringed. For device it bore the representation of God the Father, enthroned in the clouds, the globe in His hand, two angels kneeling on either side.
The reverse bore the crown of Charlemagne upheld by two angels.
A smaller standard was made also bearing a picture of the Annunciation.
Joan chose for recruiting station and marching point for Orleans, the town of Blois, about thirty miles from Orleans, and like Orleans on the north bank of the Loire—whereas Chinon and Tours were on the south side of the river.
At Blois a great store of provisions were prepared to be conveyed to the famished Orleanists. At Blois, too, the army was put in shape for Orleans. La Hire, the Marshal of France, was placed in charge of it till Joan should arrive.
Joan all in armor and with her standards and her general staff of officers, D'Alencon, D'Aulon, Bertrand de Poulengy, Jean de Metz, her two brothers, Louis de Contes, and a giant in size though not in sense, named in all the records "The Paladin," who had followed her from Domremy, and to whom she gave charge of her standards, and a numerous retinue all in new armor, came to Blois in the last week of April, 1429.
There she found an army of about twelve thousand men well armed and well organized under the leadership of La Hire who next to Dunois, Bastard of Orleans, bore the mightiest military name in France. La Hire had his
battallions well drilled in military tactics but Joan wanted more than that. She wanted a moral soldiery.
She allowed no women in the camp. She forbade all drinking and disorder. More than that, "Every man who joins my standard must confess before the priest and be absolved from sin; and all accepted recruits must be present at divine service twice a day," she proclaimed.
She caused a banner bearing a representation of Our Lord on the cross to be painted, and twice a day she had the priests to assemble in the midst of the army, raising this banner and singing hymns to 'the Blessed Virgin. Only the soldiers who confessed in the morning were allowed to join in these hymns. And she saw to it that priests were always on hand to hear confessions. This is known on the sworn testimony of many of these priests.
These same documents tell, too, of Joan's efforts to bring to a state of grace the giant old soldier, La Hire. He whose every second word was an oath and to whom prayer and pity were equally strangers, was gently approached by this angel of both prayer and pity.
As they rode side by side through the camp, inspecting and perfecting, Joan broke it to La Hire that he, too, had a soul to save and that he must do honor to God by raising his hands in prayer to Him. At first the old soldier laughed at the idea. But Joan pressed him hard. He must pray.
La Hire held out as long as he could, but his prayer at last is among the records of those miraculous days, and is worthy of the strong simple soul of the old soldier, whose whole life was spent on battlefields - always grim and mostly hopeless.
At Joan's gentle persistence La Hire, who could refuse her nothing, raised his mailed hands to heaven as he stood before the Maid and prayed: "Fair, Sir God, I pray you to do by La Hire as he would do by you if you were La Hire and he were God."
And for the time being Joan was obliged to appear satisfied.
At last all was ready and on the 27th of April, the French army, Joan of Arc at its head, started in great strength and splendor for Orleans.
Joan in her shining white armor rode at the head of it with her personal staff; then a body of priests bearing the crucifix and singing the "Veni Creator "; behind them in five divisions,
the army of France, not more than twelve thousand but, under the new leader and the new hope, an invincible legion.
Joan's plan was to march along the north bank of the river to Orleans and into Orleans. But the old military leaders of France had put their heads together and deemed that a risky plan.
Joan's proposal to march boldly up on Orleans seemed to them insane. How could an army of twelve 'thousand force its way through Talbot's English camp, the major part of which was just near that western gate she planned to enter? Better go the other way and instead of offering open battle in the face of odds, besiege the besiegers by cutting off their supplies and reinforcements.
So Joan and the army, unsuspicious of treachery, were led to Orleans by way of the Soulonge instead by the Bleuce road. The third day's march brought the army in sight of Orleans and Joan saw the river Loire between her and the beleaguered city and knew she had been tricked.
Dunois, the Governor of Orleans, came with his staff in a boat across to meet her.
"Are you the Bastard of Orleans?" she asked, using the only title he bore then.
"I am, and right glad of your coming," said he.
"Was it you who gave counsel to come by this bank of the river, so that I cannot go straight against Talbot and the English?"
"I, and others wiser than I, gave that counsel, and I think it the wiser way and the safer."
"In God's name, the counsel of Our Lord is wiser and safer than yours. You think to deceive me, and you deceive yourself, for I bring you better rescue than ever came to knight or city, the succor of the King of Heaven. At the prayer of St. Louis and of Charlemagne, he has had pity on Orleans and will not suffer the enemy to have both the Duke of Orleans and his city." (The Duke of Orleans was at this time a prisoner in England.)
Joan was hurt and sad. Here were provisions for the starving in Orleans, but the boats were below the city, the wind was against them, and 'the army had no chance whatever of marching into Orleans.
Dunois admitted a blunder had been made. "Yes, a blunder has been made and except God take your proper work upon Himself and change the wind, there is no remedy."
But at the prayer of Joan just that did happen. The wind did change, the fleet of boats came up and conveyed the provisions into the city.
But Joan and the army must go back to Blois and start again for Orleans on the other side of the river.
Joan gave her orders accordingly with many grievings over the precious time so lost while her army was in the state of grace and so full of enthusiasm.
Worse yet, Dunois begged her not 'to go back with the army. Let the other generals lead it. The people of Orleans were expecting her and he could not answer for what they might do if he went back to them without her.
So Joan bade her beloved army go all the way back to Blois and crossing the river to come by the other road to Orleans where she would be looking for them inside a week. She went with La Hire and a few companies of lancers to Orleans.
All Orleans crowded to meet her. On her white horse and with the shining white armor that seemed even brighter in the glare of the innumerable torches Joan looked 'the inspired messenger of Heaven. It was evening when at the Burgundy gate the expectant masses inside met the long-hoped band of deliverance, and the air was filled with shouts of joy and cries of welcome.
Straight for the great Cathedral at Joan's command the procession formed.
Joan was allowed to enter first and after her as man could get in and those on the squares streets around took up the hymn of thanks praise while bells rang and cannon boomed was late that night when Joan laid aside coat of mail in which she had slept the previous nights with great discomfort to and muscle.
At the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer of the city, rooms were prepared for her w she was to stay, while in Orleans, the honored guest of Madame Boucher and her young daughter.
Next morning, Saturday, she was up early and after hearing several Masses in the Cathedral and before she broke her fast, we are she set about inquiring about her messenger that she had sent with the letter to the English. No one knew of any answer nor of any messenger. She had sent him from Blois directions to bring her the answer in Orleans. She now sent her two heralds with a new letter warning the English to raise the siege to return the missing messenger. For answer to her demands they brought back from English commanders to her a notice that would presently catch her and burn her. Then she sent the heralds back:
"Go back and say to Lord Talbot from me:
'Come out of your bastiles with your host, and I will come with mine; if I beat you, go in peace out of France; if you beat me burn me, according to your desire."
This challenge was not accepted.
Sunday morning she spent again in the Cathedral and later in the day she told Dunois her army was in some danger and begged him to go to Blois and lead it for her to Orleans. Dunois sure enough found one Regnault de Chartres, a self-seeking, proud officer, conspiring with others of lesser importance to prevent the march to Orleans. Dunois rushed the army to Orleans—all the city turned out to meet it. Joan and her staff met and greeted the head of the column four or five miles outside the city and Joan held a review of the now happy troops - happy at having her again for encouragement and inspiration.
It is told in the annals of that day that the greatest surprise those French soldiers ever bad so far was that march into Orleans. With Joan on her white steed at their head they rode past the fortified bastilles with which the English had surrounded the principal avenues of approach to the city. The strongest fortress of the English was just on the line of march of that incoming army. Each side could see the other; Lord Talbot's men could easily count the Frenchmen.
But Joan nor her men looked Lord Talbot's way—nor did Talbot's men take any notice of Joan's army. Doubtless it was again the cloud by day shielding those whom God would shield. By night Joan's army was safe inside Orleans and the city had yelled itself hoarse with joy welcome all settled down for as peaceful a night as Orleans ever saw before or That was Tuesday, May 3, 1429.