THE FIGHT FOR PARIS
ARRIVED at St. Denis, the Maid and d'Alencon stationed their troops in the neighboring villages; Monstrelet mentions Aubervilliers and Montmartre. Immediately, "great" skirmishing, says Cousinot, began around the walls. It was continued every day; and, sometimes, two or three times a day. Joan took much fearless pleasure in reconnoitering the city, usually with d'Alencon, to see where an attack could be made. She must have realized well her chances of success; for she was far too sharp a soldier to risk a forlorn hope. A bridge was built across the Seine on the western side, giving access to St. Germain, etc. In these days, Joan took the castles of Bethemont and Montjoie, and perhaps other places. No one in the city ventured outside the gates except the skirmishers.
The whole army was needed for the attack; and so d'Alencon went to Senlis on September 1st to urge the king to come. He promised to follow next day; but failed; and on the 5th d'Alencon went again, and succeeded in bringing his Majesty to St. Denis—"to dine."
Meanwhile "all, of every condition," were saying, "she will put the king in Paris, if he does not prevent her." The Maid had determined to attack the gate of St. Honore, on the west, or rather northwest, of the city. A little to the north of it was an eminence, later called the Butte or Knoll of St. Roch. To this, from its rallying point at La Chapelle, midway between St. Denis and the city, the army moved at eight O'clock, on the morning of the f east of the Nativity of Our Lady, September 8th. They had already performed the religious duties of the day, as we may understand from the words of Joan at Rouen. And when some one, perhaps not over-zealous, reminded her of the feast, she laconically said, "All days are good for battle." It appears from the chronicles, that the army was well provided with all required to storm the city—wagons of faggots to fill the moats, six hundred and seventy ladders, etc. At the knoll, and protected by it from the cannon of the city, remained one division under d'Alencon, as a guard against a surprise attack on the rear from the St. Denis gate, on the north of the city. The party destined for the assault, composed, it seems, of volunteers, were led by the Maid, de Rais, and de Gaucourt. It was near midday, when some advanced barriers were fired, and the Parisians were driven into the city, probably causing the panic, which drove the citizens to the churches, or caused them to shut themselves up in their houses. The assault, beginning quickly after,
was "fierce and long," all admit; and the Parisian cannon well served and effective. The boulevard, or breastwork, before the gate, was soon taken; and the Maid, carrying her banner, descended amongst the first into the outer moat, which was dry. Here she seems to have been accompanied and followed by many combatants. Instantly she sprang on the mound or wall between the outer and inner moat; and here, as it seems, alone, or accompanied only by her standard-bearer, she coolly endeavored, for a considerable time, to fathom the water at various points, under a hail of bolts and arrows. She urged the soldiers to fill up the moat; but she was poorly seconded. Her standard-bearer was now shot through the foot, and as he opened his visor to see or staunch the wound, he was shot between the eyes, to the immense grief of the heroine. Sunset had come, when the Maid, still urging on her soldiers, was shot in the thigh by a bolt, aimed at her with gross insult from the walls. She stood her ground, and called her countrymen to the assault. The men were wearied with the long, fierce, and profitless battle; and de Gaucourt and others took the unwilling Maid away. They put her on a horse, and she returned to La Chapelle, bitterly protesting that the city could have been taken. Here the soldiers, more bitter than Joan, spoke openly of the cowardice of the king, saying that he did not wish to take the city.
How had they noticed it? And why was not Joan informed about the moat? And why did the soldiers hold back? There were very many present at the attack, or near it, who had arranged fool's or traitor's truce, with the Duke of Burgundy, a few days before. They bore exalted names—the Chancellor Archbishop, Regnault de Chartres, the Bishop of Seez, Rene, Duke of Bar, Counts Clermont and Vendome, d'Albret, La Tremoille, d'Harcourt, de Treves, de Gancourt. "Some who were with her at the assault," says Cousinot, "would be glad if evil befell Joan." "If well conducted, the attack would have succeeded," testifies the Journal du Siege. "La Tremoille called the soldiers back from Paris," writes the Herald of Berri. "The captains did not agree; some councilors of the king recalled the troops," the Chronicle of Tournay affirms. The notary, Pierre Cochon (not the bishop), states that Joan's soldiers were on the point of gaining the ramparts —they had only to set the ladders, when they were hindered by La Tremoille.
Joan said at Rouen that she was asked by the captains to make a demonstration, or feint on the city—perhaps they and she expected a surrender, through love or fear; but she herself determined to storm Paris. So did Alencon and the daring spirits that understood her. The king had already determined to retreat, hence his hesitation.
The men who made the truce were evidently not of Joan's way of thinking.
She was probably told, as they led her away in the gloom of night, that there would be an attack next day; and so the means and material of war remained under the walls, or near. Next morning, she arose early, though wounded —the wound healed in five days—and begged Alencon to sound the trumpets, and return to the assault, affirming she would never leave the city unconquered. The "Fair Duke" and some captains were willing to go with her. And while they were speaking, there came out from the city the Baron de Montmorency with fifty or sixty gentlemen to join the Maid. But Rene de Bar and Count Clermont came from the king, to forbid an attack, and with order to bring Joan with them. As the company went back, the hardier spirits, Joan, Alencon, and some others, entertained the hope, that, on the following day, the 10th, they could attack the city from the other side, by means of the bridge which they had constructed. Hearing of the project, the "gentle gentle Dauphin," Charles VII, had men labor all night to take the bridge apart, and so kill the last hope of victory.
Joan's Voices had been silent, leaving the assault on Paris to her own initiative—they could not tell her to lead soldiers against the command of the king, however much a fool. Subsequently, they encouraged her to stay at St. Denis – in hope, no doubt, of winning yet.
But, finally, they gave her advice to depart. Sadly she hung up her white armor as a votive offering at the shrine of St. Denis, for his name, she said, was the battle cry of France. Soon the English came, and took it as a trophy to Paris. Failure meant that God was no longer leader of the royal host; and Joan's unparalleled prestige had lost its magic. She knew better than all others what the check at Paris meant, as she knew best what the victory would mean; hence she persistently refused to retreat from the walls. Through the long twilight of eighteen more mouths must she go before she stands in the shameful splendor of the pyre at Rouen.