War In Joan’s Time. Her Army

Section 1 – Manner of Warfare

In the Middle Ages military service was amongst the chief duties of the nobility. The order of nobles had been created to promote order and justice in the fiefs, and to defend the king, the country, and all national causes. Each powerful feudatory nobleman brought in his train, his vassals and their liegemen. The soldiers were the nobles, as was just and natural; and none were ever braver or nobler. From them we have all the grace and nobility of Christian chivalry, which has so leavened and elevated our modern civilization – faith, honor, courtesy, valor, defense of the weak.

Their manner of warfare was worthy of them. Nothing is easier than to ridicule in contrast the mechanical slaughter of modern soldiers in field or trench by long-range cannon. War in the Middle Ages demanded the greatest skill and bravery. The choosing of the ground, the arrangement of the army, the manner of attack, ruses of war, the conduct of sieges, ect., gave full scope to the genius of the captain.


Cannon, too—and there was a great variety of it—played a much more important part than is generally thought. It was invented fifty years before the campaigns of Joan of Arc, and had often decided the fate of town and castle. In the fifteenth century the arms of the preceding age were employed with those of modern use. The knight, mounted and steel-clad, was followed by his squire, page and valet, who assisted him in the fray and chained the prisoners. The English archers, strong, cool, and brave, shot so swiftly their long, heavy cloth-yard shafts, tipped with iron, that they penetrated the armor of the knights, and often decided the hard-fought field. Each archer carried a stake, pointed at each end and shod with iron, which being set in the ground, formed a stockade which repelled or threw into disorder the knightly cavalry.

As the ages grew, mercenaries began to be employed under the leaders who recruited them. These chiefs were usually needy nobles, who sought fortune rather than fame. The mercenaries, often ill-paid, were the scourge of the country, off which they lived. They had an evil reputation; and in the beginning of the fifteenth century went by the name of brigands. There was, moreover, a municipal soldiery, which really consisted of the citizens themselves, trained and armed for self-defense. They were despised by the proud nobles, whose trade was war and who gloried in rich and well-fashioned armor.


The arms of the citizen soldiers were often very primitive. These men followed Joan of Arc with unrestrained enthusiasm, and were her chief support at Orleans and in other places. They carried the banner of the city or of their patron saint.

Although strong castles had been battered by cannon before the campaigns of Joan of Arc, they were still taken by assault. France bristled with the fortresses of the noble families They were usually situated on a height and surrounded by a moat. The cities were protected by strong ramparts with towers, in which were set the engines of war, and surrounded by trenches or moats, often double, wide and deep, and easily, if not always, filled with water. On the outer edge of the moat was the boulevard, an earthwork with parapet, for the defense of the fortress proper. It united the outward defenses, and insured the communications of the defenders. The strong gates were furnished with bridges that could be raised at need, and portcullis, made of stout wooden bars toothed with iron, which could be lowered. Before the invention of cannon the ordinary way of reducing a city was by the starvation of its inhabitants. The heroism shown by defenders of ancient cities and castles is rarely paralleled in modern warfare. The besiegers surrounded the beleaguered place with a line of counter-fortifications, to prevent the bringing of food or reinforcements, and the escape of those within.


In attack the moats were filled up at points to be passed over, and the walls were scaled by means of ladders on which the assailants endeavored to protect themselves by forming a sort of roof with their shields; while there rained on them from above stones, shafts, boiling liquid, etc.

Captives taken in war were very valuable; but if not able to ransom themselves, were hanged or knocked on the head. The captain of the band received one-third of all the booty or ransom; the king, another third.

Section 2.—Joan's Army

As the royal cause had been abandoned by very many of the nobles, the greater part of the king's forces was composed of bands of adventurers, foreigners constituting the larger portion—Spaniards, Lombards, Scots, etc. Scotland had long been the recruiting ground for the armies of the French kings. Levies of as many as six thousand men are said to have been raised at one time. These were gathered and led by nobles of the blood royal—by the son of the Regent, Albany; by the High Constable of Scotland; by Sir John Stewart of Darnley. The unfortunate Charles of France, not only paid out his treasure lavishly, to pay them, but also signed away his states—for instance Touraine—so that there was a saying amongst the people that France was divided between the English and Scotch. The Battle of Bauge in 1421, was won chiefly by the Scotch.


They fell in great numbers at Crevant and Verneuil. We find them again at Rouvray, where the Constable and his son perished. There were many Scots with Joan; and they took a very prominent part in the plot to hand over the city of Paris. A Scot penetrated into her prison at Arras, in order to show her a portrait of herself, probably painted by him. Scots were chosen as the special bodyguard of the king; and the name of the Scottish Guard long remained, even though no Scot was any longer numbered in it. An important part of the garrison of Orleans was Scottish. But after the siege had been raised, we rarely hear them mentioned.