JOAN RAISES THE SIEGE
WIEN Joan entered Orleans, all but two hundred lancers of her force returned with the leaders to Blois to bring up another convoy of provisions. They promised to return by the north bank, through the Beauce country, despite the English garrisons at Beaugency and Meung, and their strong forts around Orleans. At Blois, however, the French war council was far from being decided or unanimous. The chiefs spoke, and apparently with intent, of returning to Chinon or home. Dunois sent a letter, which confirmed their courage, but had finally to go himself.
Joan had entered the beleaguered city on Friday, April 29th. On Saturday, the last day of the month, La Hire, Florent d'Illiers, and several knights and squires, with some armed citizens, all now inspired with fearless ardor, flung their banners to the breeze; and issuing northwards from the city without informing Joan, attacked the English at their strong fort of St. Pouair so fiercely that these fell back to the cover of their defenses. A cry went up through the city to prepare straw and faggots
to fire the English quarters. But the stubborn foemen raised their much-feared battle shout and made ready their array. Seeing which, the French withdrew. It was a long and hard skirmish, with cannon, says the chronicler; and many fell on both sides.
As evening fell Joan sent two heralds to the English, demanding the release of the messenger who had brought her letter from Blois; while Dunois threatened to kill all the English prisoners, as well as envoys who had come from England to treat of ransom. Contemporary writers say Joan assured the heralds they would return in safety, as they did. They told, at their return, of the insulting words of the English leaders, and their menace to burn Joan if they could catch her. At nightfall she went to the French fort of Belle Croix on the bridge, and summoned Glasdale and his men at the Tourelles to surrender to God and be gone. Glasdale, in particular, called her by the vilest names. This she felt bitterly, and wept. She did not deserve the names, she said; and as for her insulator, he would soon die a bloodless death. He was drowned at the taking of the Tourelles.
On Sunday, first of May—the month of Joan's triumph, capture and death—Dunois, La Hire, and the other captains consulted Joan regarding the manner of the city's defense. It was decided that Dunois, with d'Aulon and others, should depart with a guard for Blois, to bring up reinforcements and food.
When they were ready to move out, Joan mounted; and, accompanied by La Hire with a band of soldiers, put herself between Dunois' party and the English forts; he thus passed unattacked. On the same day (Sunday) Joan rode through the city with a troop of knights and squires, to be seen by the people and to encourage them; for in their desire to see her, they almost broke open the doors of the house at which she stayed. The streets were so thronged that it was difficult to pass along; but her appearance and horsemanship fascinated the people. On that day, also, she summoned the English to depart at the Croix Morin, northwest of the city. On the following day, Monday, May 2nd, she boldly rode out, and leisurely reconnoitered the English positions, followed by a delighted and fearless multitude of the townspeople. It was the eve of the patronal feast of the cathedral of the Holy Cross, and Joan assisted at the first vespers of the solemnity. On the feast of the morrow (May 3rd) she was in the procession through the streets, in which were carried the relics of the Holy Cross. On Wednesday, the 4th, she sallied out with de Villars, Florent d'Illiers, La Hire, with many other captains and five hundred men, to cover the entry of Dunois and de Boussac with the convoy. The immobility of the hitherto victorious English soldiers is astonishing, and their fear is attested by all the contemporary chronicles. The word of
Dunois is evidently true, "From the summoning of them by Joan to surrender, four or five hundred Frenchmen could resist any force the English could send; whereas, heretofore, two hundred English routed from eight hundred to one thousand Frenchmen. '
This 4th day of May Joan's work began in earnest. After dinner, says d'Aulon, Dunois came to visit her where she was lodged. He said that many trustworthy reports had come of the approach of Sir John Fastolf with men and food sent by the English regent from Paris. Joan's face was radiant at the news. "I command you in the name of God," she said with gay familiarity to Dunois, "to let me know when Fastolf appears; for if you do not, I will have your head." Her gallant commander assured her she would get the first news. Then, as he left the house, Joan and her hostess sought to rest, while d'Aulon stretched himself on a couch. But he had hardly closed his eyes when Joan roused him hurriedly, saying that her Voices bade her go against the foe; but she knew not whether against Fastolf or the forts. She knew nothing of the attack being made on St. Loup. D'Aulon armed her quickly as he could; but before he could follow, she dashed into the street, made a page dismount from his horse, sprang into the saddle, and galloped straight eastward to the Burgundian gate, the fire flying from the stones as she sped, the old chronicles take care to relate. She afterwards said her Voices told her where to go.
Here she paused to ask who was the wounded man that was being carried in. And when she heard he was one of the defenders, she said, as d'Aulon came up, "I never yet have seen French blood shed without my hair standing on end." As they passed through the streets and the gate, they heard cries that it was going ill with the French. They soon came up with a strong French force, fifteen hundred men under Dunois and several nobles. All turned to the strong English fortification of St. Loup for an immediate assault. Its defenders fought hard for three hours; but the French were irresistible. The place was stormed, one hundred and fourteen English soldiers were slain and forty made prisoners, then the whole place was burned and razed to the ground. The French losses were very few; and none, it is said, after Joan had come up. The Chronicle of the Maid says that some Englishmen were taken in the towere vested as priests, no doubt, in order to escape. These were about to be slain, when Joan saved them, saying that everything belonging to the church should be respected—thus teaching a fear and horror of sacrilege, so common in war.
Daring the assault on St. Loup, Lord Talbot sent a strong force to help it from St. Pouair, m the northwest of the city. The bells of Orleans gave the alarm; and de Boussac and other leaders with six hundred men hurried out against them, at sight of whom the foe withdrew.
It was an evening of jubilee in Orleans as Joan entered with her victorious troops. All the bells rang out in joy and triumph; and there was thanksgiving and the multitudinous singing of hymns in every church. The English invader heard it all, and feared the more; "for there was no such joy yesterday and the day before."
Pasquerel, Joan's confessor, relates, that, because of the many English soldiers slain without confession, Joan bitterly lamented their fate; and she herself immediately confessed. She bade him warn all the men-at-arms to confess their sins, and thank God for the victory; and that if they did not, she would not accompany them. On that same day, the eve of the Ascension, she told him the siege would be raised before five days would have passed, and that not an Englishman would remain outside the walls. In the evening she said to him that on the morrow, in honor of the feast of the Ascension, she would not wear armor nor engage in combat; but that she would receive Holy Communion; as, in effect, she did.
On Ascension Thursday she had public announcement made, that no one should go out of the city to fight without confession, and that all evil women should be banished from the French camp: "It was done as Joan ordered." On each of these days of conflict she herself went to confession. On Ascension Day she again wrote to the English to depart without bloodshed.
"You have no right to be here," she wrote; "depart or I will cause you such a defeat as never shall be forgotten." Then, taking an arrow, she attached the letter to it, and bade an archer shoot it into the English camp, while she cried out to them, "Read; there is news." They called her by the vilest name; "at which she sobbed and shed an abundance of tears." Soon she was consoled, and said she had news of her Lord.
It is not always easy to harmonize the different contemporary accounts of the deeds of Joan, as the observers saw different scenes, and each describes what impressed him most. The chiefs held a council on the feast of the Ascension, and called in Joan only at the end. Even then they wished to conceal from her the plan of battle, and even their intention to cross the Loire, and attack on the south side. Joan was annoyed, and would not sit down, until Dunois soothed her and revealed more or less the decision of the council. By clearing the foe from the south side, communications would be assured with the king and the loyal provinces. But the feat was difficult to accomplish; for the English commander could attack the French soldiers as they crossed the river, and could reinforce his own men, who were strongly entrenched. It was decided by the French leaders to make a diversion against the English on the north side of the city during the crossing of the stream; but Joan led them straight to the forts on the south.
"On the morning of Friday, May 6th," says Pasquerel, "I got up very early, heard Joan's confession, and sang Mass for her and her people in the city of Orleans. Then they set out for the attack, which lasted from morning until the evening." Joan crossed with about four thousand men, and at the head of the soldiers proceeded straight to the first fort, St. Jean-le-Blanc. This was either taken, or evacuated and burned by the English as they fell back to St. Augustine. Many of her party had been halted in the river at Ile-aux-Toiles for lack of boats, or had fallen back from the attack. Followed by only a small number of men, amongst whom were Dunois, de Boussac, and La Hire, she advanced and set her standard over the moat of the boulevard, or encircling earthwork, of St. Augustine. An English cheer announced reinforcements from St. Prive, farther down-stream; and Joan's men, to her great affliction, ran back towards the river. There was nothing to do but to follow them. The English, too, followed in numbers, shouting insults. Suddenly she turned on them; the French began to follow; and the English retired to the cover of their fort. D'Aulon's account is that Joan and La Hire, having retired to the island, took each a horse, re-crossed immediately to the south side, mounted instantly,
and setting their lances in rest, rushed upon the enemy. When Joan had planted her banner on the boulevard, de Rais quickly joined her. He was followed by many others, who attacked with such fury that the bastille of St. Augustine was taken by assault. Within they found many English slain; and because her soldiers forgot their danger in cupidity of plunder, Joan burned the whole place. She had been wounded in the foot, and was, much against her will, brought back to Orleans at night. She left her men besieging the Tourelles and its outworks at the end of the bridge.
The opposition of some of the captains to Joan is revealed by various chroniclers. For instance, Jean Chartier, the official historiographer, tells of their purpose to exclude her from the councils of war; they felt humiliated at the leadership of the peasant girl. Joan, he says, almost always came to a decision different from that of the captains. They did not wish to see her armed or mounted, strange to say, even to save her country. On the night of this victory of the 6th, Pasquerel relates, that "a valiant and notable knight came to the lodgings of Joan, to persuade her not to attack the Tourelles on the following day, because the captains disapproved." What moral courage the heroine needed to disregard the leaders! The English position was, moreover, very strong and stoutly defended. But Joan answered without hesitation, "You have been at your council, and I have been with mine.
Believe me, the council of the Lord will prevail, while that of men will be brought to naught." Then, turning to Paquerel, she said, "Rise early tomorrow, earlier than today. Remain always near me; for to-morrow I shall have much to do —much more than I have ever had in my life. To-morrow the blood will gush from my body above the breast."
"Saturday," he continues, "I arose at dawn and celebrated Mass. Joan went straight to attack the fort of the bridge, which was held by the Englishman (Glasdale). The attack lasted without interruption from morning until sunset. - In the assault of the afternoon, Joan, as she had foretold, was struck by an arrow above the breast. She began to fear and wept; but, as she said, she was consoled. Some soldiers, seeing her so severely wounded, wished to employ a charm. But she said she would rather die than do a sinful thing. Then they put on the wound olive oil and lard. After which, she confessed to me with tears and lamenting. She returned to the assault, calling out, "Glasdale, Glasdale, surrender to the King of Heaven. You called me a bad woman; but I have much pity on your soul and the souls of your companions." Then she saw Glasdale fall into the river; and, moved with compassion, she began to weep with great sobs for the soul of Glasdale and the other Englishmen, who, in great numbers, perished in the avatar. On that day all the English beyond the bridge either were taken prisoners, or lost their lives." Thus far Pasquerel.
Yet in the morning of that great day, de Gaucourt was at the gate of the city to prevent the Maid's departure, and the attack on the Tourelles was begun without the aid of the royal officers.
Many more details of the taking of the Tourelles are given by the chroniclers. The preceding night (of Friday) was one of anxious fear for Joan lest the English would attack her men during the night. On the contrary, they burned their fort of St. Prive, and retreated across the river to the fort St. Laurent. When offered food in the morning after her Communion before crossing the river, she refused to eat until evening, saying they would have Englishmen to share their supper. All the French captains thought that the English position at the Tourelles could not be taken within a month, even with twice the number of their soldiers. "I will take it to-morrow," she said; -'and return by the bridge." The bridge just then was broken down at the southern end. At seven in the morning on Saturday she had the trumpets sounded for the assault as she arrived at the place of combat. Immediately the attack began furiously. As it progressed the captains in the city, passing along the bridge to the broken arches, rained a hail of death on the Tourelles with cannon, culverins, and arrows.
They brought planks to cover the broken space, and so pass over to the English position. Assault after assault was made by Joan's soldiers, attempting to fill up the moat, fire the place if possible, and fix their scaling-ladders. In one of these furious attacks Joan was shot with an arrow clear through the shoulder. She herself drew it out, and had -the wound stanched with cotton. Meanwhile as evening fell, Dunois and the others thought it impossible to succeed, and were about to sound a retreat. Joan assured them they would soon take the place; and mounting her horse, rode aside to pray. She quickly returned; and dismounting, took her standard and advanced with the prophecy that as soon as it touched the wall, the place would be theirs. "Fierce and marvelous" was the assault; no soldier there had ever seen another like it. Joan set the scaling-ladders and bade her men go in. Meanwhile, the cannonade from the bridge was so sustained that the English could not show themselves on the walls. They fought, however, with the most stubborn, bravery; and when their ammunition began to run short, defended themselves with stones and with their lances. At length, unable to hold the boulevard, they attempted to get into the Tourelles over the drawbridge. This broke under them; and falling through fully armed, Glasdale and many others perished. The French on the bridge attempted to throw planks across the broken arches. The gallant Knight of Rhodes, Nicolas de Giresme, attempted the impossible feat of passing over.
He succeeded, and was followed by others. Then the Tourelles, assailed on both sides, quickly fell; and of five hundred English knights and squires, reputed the best, only two hundred remained alive as prisoners, who passed over the bridge with Joan, as she had foretold. It was almost night, and all the bells pealed at her command, and in each church there was thanksgiving to God. Her wound was carefully dressed; but for supper she had only a little bread dipped in wine, and she retired to rest.
Through all this fierce affray Talbot and Suffolk made no attempt whatsoever to help their hard-pressed comrades.
The Registrar of La Rochelle, a respectable chronicler, says that Joan after taking the Tourelles, warned Talbot to depart; for if he remained until Monday, she would do him much harm, On Sunday, May 8th, at sunrise, the English evacuated the remaining forts, leaving most of their cannon and baggage; and drawn up in order, remained for an hour in view of the French, who had issued in force, horse and foot, from the city, at the same time. Joan forbade the army to attack; because she said, it was not pleasing to Our Lord to fight on that sacred day. She assembled the priests, who sang hymns; and, in presence of both armies, two Masses were celebrated in the open air. When they were said, she asked what way the English were going;
and being told that they were marching away, she said, "Let them go; will
you have them another time." Their abandoned forts were pillaged and destroyed, the cannon being removed to Orleans. Suffolk with a part of the English troops went to Jargeau on the Loire, nearly five leagues east of Orleans; while Talbot, Scales, and others, led their men to Meung, four and one-half leagues to the west, or rather southwest, and Beaugency, about two leagues farther down-stream. La Hire and Ambrose de Lore, with one hundred lancers, hung on the rear of the retreating foe to see their course, and then returned. On that Sunday of triumph there were processions in the streets of Orleans, and in them were blended in a common joy noble and plebeian; knight, squire, and citizen. On Monday or. Tuesday (May 9th or 10th) Joan bade good-by to the people, who wept with joy, and offered themselves and all they possessed to help her in her campaign.