THE CAMPAIGN OF THE LOIRE
Section L—Joan Goes to Meet the King
AFTER Orleans had been relieved, some of the French troops returned to the towns of which they had formed the garrison. Some disbanded; for food was scarce, and money scarcer. The brave and skillful Dunois, with de Boussac and others, wished to follow up the advantage given them by victory, and marched on Jargeau, the next strongest place held by the English, twelve miles or so west of Orleans. The attack, or skirmish, lasted three hours; but Dunois had no means of crossing the moat flooded from the river, and withdrew.
Meanwhile Joan had gone to Blois, on the 9th or 10th of June, with many of the nobles, and, apparently, a part of the army. It had mustered at Blois, thirty-five or forty miles below Orleans on the Loire before the siege. She was on her way to the king, to urge his coronation at Reims. It was the second great stage of her prophecy and career. Her sign was her triumph at Orleans; then she was to lead the king to Reims; for she said "she would last—or live—little more than a year."
After two or three days at Blois, she went almost as far more southwest on the river, to Tours, whither the king came on June 13th from Chinon, farther southwest, to meet her.
It is not altogether in accordance with history to represent, at this period, King Charles of France as a puppet, or a do-nothing. In the midst of treason and poverty, he seems to have done what he could. His acceptance of the aid of Joan of Arc was a piece of master-policy. After Orleans, he published officially everywhere her peerless deeds, attributing the victory entirely to her, and justly declaring that he seconded her efforts as well as he could. Now he met her at Tours as a saint and conqueror. In the midst of the glittering array, he uncovered his head as she approached, bowed low with joyous gratitude, and raised her up as she bent before him, while he loudly proclaimed her praises and those of his valiant captains.
They remained two weeks at Tours; and, naturally, there was much deliberation as to the course to be pursued. The princes of the blood and the royal captains proposed a campaign in Normandy—perhaps to get rid of the leadership of Joan; or because Normandy was so wasted and so determinedly held by the English. Others proposed to clear the Loire of the invaders, and not leave them in the rear. And this Joan approved of when she had finally induced the king to undertake the march to
Reims. But she herself, eagle-like, had urged Reims immediately for the crowning, and Paris directly after—a plan, which would undoubtedly have succeeded; then she could have driven the English into the sea. The king dispatched his messengers to call in the noble leaders, as well as those that had been at Orleans and those that had not. He then moved southwest, about thirty miles to Loehes on June 23rd, where preparations were being made for the attack on Jargeau. Here there was further delay, and the ardent Joan wearied of it. Dunois was with her to help on her cause. He represents her knocking at the door of the king's chamber, where he sat with his nobles; and embracing his knees, as was her way, while she begged him to hold no more councils, but go at once to Reims; for once crowned, she said, his enemies would decline. The English understood this master-stroke, for Bedford urged the crowning of .he boy-king of England in France. As at Vaucouleurs, Joan felt the pain and sting of desire to accomplish her mission.
Section 2.—Preparation for the Campaign
The letter of the two Lavals represent Joan with the king at Selles, on June 5th, forty or miles northeast from Loches, on the way the rendezvous at Romorantin, some few miles farther on. The two young Briton noblemen had come to join Joan, and were willing to sell or mortgage their possessions in order to equip themselves.
Their grandmother, to whom they wrote as well as to their mother, was the widow of the famous knight Du Guesclin. And it was probably on this account that Joan received them so graciously and gracefully. She poured them out a cup of wine, and said they would soon drink more at Paris. She had sent to the grandmother a small gold ring; wishing, she said, that it were better. The older of the brothers, Guy, was about twenty years; the younger, Andre, eighteen. Andre had, however, been made a knight at the age of twelve on the field of Gravelle, in 1423. Both followed Joan to Reims; and we find Guy later under the walls of Paris. Both rose to lofty station; and their sister became the wife of Louis Vendome, from whom sprang the Bourbon branch that gave Henry IV to France. The Lavals were immensely impressed by the manner and appearance of Joan. Fully armed in steel, she seemed to them something divine. On the same day on which they saw her she went on to Romorantin. These were the days of Joan's high tide of favor and admiration. At Loches, as at other places, the people crowded around her to kiss her hands and feet. Reproved, or warned, by one of her ecclesiastical examiners at Poitiers, that this was encouraging idolatry, the lowly, simple-hearted Maid said that it was only the grace of Heaven kept her from being vain of it.
The king had now appointed d'Alencon to the chief command, with the express order, we are told, that he should follow implicitly the program of Joan of Arc.
This young nobleman—he was only twenty-two years of age—willingly and faithfully did. There were now at Romorantin about two thousand men-at-arms; and with these Joan began her march to Orleans, just as Fastolf was leaving Paris with five thousand to reinforce the English garrisons on the Loire.
Section 3.—The Taking of Jargeau
She entered Orleans on June 9th, and the grateful and enthusiastic city quickly made ready her war train against Jargeau. This strong town was on the south bank of the Loire, about twelve miles east of Orleans, and held by the Earl of Suffolk with about seven hundred men. Its fortified bridge communicated with the northern shore.
The Accounts of the city of Orleans give interesting details of the preparation of the siege train—cannon (one required twenty-four horses to draw it), scaling-ladders, powder, rope, a forge, etc. D'Alencon estimated his command at six hundred lancers; which, with bowmen, artillery, etc., would be over two thousand. There were many citizen soldiers; and these with Dunois' forces would probably make six or seven thousand. With the combined force were the old leaders—de Boussac, de Culan, La Hire, d'Illiers, Xaintrailles, etc. But there had not been unanimity in their counsels.
For some wished to wait for Fastolf, and go directly against him, when he came; some returned home; and it was only Joan's influence that held the rest together.
On June 11th the French forces marched on Jargeau, arriving in the afternoon before the town. The citizens rashly attacked the English garrison before the regular troops came; but were beaten back, and some were slain. Joan immediately rushed to help them, her banner floating on the breeze; the English were repelled, and the faubourgs of the town were occupied. As night fell Joan summoned Suffolk to surrender, but to no purpose. Early next day, Sunday, June 12th, the trumpets announced the assault, which soon became furious. A tall, strong Englishman, clad in armor, caused great loss to the French by hurling on them heavy stones as they attempted to scale the fortification. D'Alencon summoned the famous cannonier, John of Lorraine, who, with his culverin, shot the Englishman in the breast, and he fell dead out over the wall. D'Alencon himself was warned by Joan to step aside, for a cannon was pointed at him from the wall. Almost immediately a gentleman from Anjou, stepping imprudently into the place of the duke, was killed, his head being struck off with a cannon-ball. Suffolk proposed an armistice of fifteen days; his purpose being to wait for Fastolf’s reinforcements. Joan answered that if they wished to leave immediately and without arms, they might do so; while her captains angrily called to La Hire to break off the parley.
Assault after fierce assault had lasted for hours, when Joan called on the "fair Duke of Alencon" to advance with her and lead in storming the walls. He hesitated, judging it rashness to make the attempt. Joan gently chided him. "Gentle Duke," she asked, "are you afraid? Do you not remember I promised your wife to bring you back safe?" Then he accompanied Joan as she sprang into the moat where the fight was fiercest, and attempted to ascend a ladder. A stone, hurled at her, struck her to the ground. But she was up in a moment. "Go up boldly," she cried, "and in upon them; the place is ours." So it was. The English could resist no longer, and attempted to cross the bridge over the Loire. The Earl of Suffolk's brother, Alexander, was slam; and the earl himself, pursued by Guillaume Regnault, surrendered to him after having conferred on him the dignity of knighthood. Another brother of the earl and many of the leaders were made prisoners. The unrestrained victors pillaged the town and even the churches before Joan knew of it; for there was so much booty stored away. Many prisoners, too, in the hands of the gentlemen were slaughtered by the municipal soldiers; and still more, it would appear, on the way to Orleans, because of a dispute regarding the ransom.
Joan, to save Suffolk and the others, had them sent by water to Orleans during the night. About four or five hundred English soldiers lost their lives; and not more than twenty of the French, it is said. That night the army marched back to Orleans, for the hostile forts lay on the other side.
Section 4.—Meung, Beaugency and Patay
Meung was twelve miles west, or rather southwest, of Orleans, with a fortified bridge over the Loire. Beaugency, with another bridge, was about half the distance farther down. Joan immediately proposed to attack these. On June 25th the bridge of Meung was taken; and leaving a guard, Joan went on to Beaugency, whence Talbot had gone with forty lancers and two hundred archers to Janville, twenty miles north of Orleans, to meet Sir John Fastolf. The faubourgs were taken without a blow, and the garrison capitulated. Hither came Arthur, Duke of Richemont, the former Constable, with four hundred lancers and eight hundred archers, his entire force numbering, it seems, over two thousand men, to join the army of Joan. D'Alencon was strictly forbidden by the king to accept his aid, and threatened to resign rather than do so. But the tact and patriotism of Joan prevailed, she taking the responsibility, and promising to obtain Richemont's pardon. He swore fealty to King Charles, and added his imposing force to Joan's army.
Talbot, in order to save Beaugency, advanced to attack the bridge of Meung; but being informed of the surrender, he retired slowly northward, willing to offer battle in a favorable position. The French cavalry, under Dunois and La Hire, hung like a cloud upon his rear, in advance of their main body. Joan ardently desired to be in the van with the cavalry; but d'Alencon and Richemont retained her with them. On the 18th of June Talbot had gone about twelve miles north of Meung through the Beauce country, which was wooded; and so the French approached without seeing him. They were near Patay when a deer startled by the advancing cavalry rushed towards the English line and was greeted with shouts. La Hire announced their presence to the French leaders, and asked Joan what to do. "Ride hard upon them," she said; "and you will have good guidance. Strike hard, and they will soon run." From the morning she had foretold the victory and the pursuit. "You will need good spurs," she said, "to overtake the English."
Talbot, seeing his position, halted his rearguard, in order to give Fastolf time to form the main body. But La Hire struck the English guard like a wolf, before they could form their array or set their usual stockade. Talbot, vainly essaying to re-form them, was taken prisoner.
Meanwhile Fastolf endeavored to draw up his army between a monastery, or church, and a wood; but as Joan, Alencon and Richemont threatened the left wing they broke and fled. Dunois put the English losses at four thousand: much more than half that number were slain. In the wild pursuit, Joan saw an English prisoner struck on the head by his captor, and knocked senseless. She dismounted instantly and took the dying man's head on her lap, while she burst into tears, and called a priest to hear his confession. The vanquished fled to Danville, fifteen or twenty miles to the northeast; but the fortress closed its gates, and submitted to King Charles.