THE SORTIE AND CAPTURE OF JOAN
WE seek with yearning interest the details of Joan's last fight and of her falling into the hands of the Burgundians. Alain Bouchard, advocate of the parliament of Rennes and author of the Annals of Brittany, says that he himself heard at Compiegne from aged men what they had heard and seen as children on the morning of Joan's capture. This story has been ridiculed; but the criticism is more ridiculous than the story. Old men often forget; but it would be exceedingly strange if two of them invented the story they told. They were present in the church of St. James when Joan heard Mass and received Holy Communion. Then she told the little gathering that she was betrayed and sold, and would soon be put to death.
She had ridden hard with her company all the preceding night; nevertheless, they made a sortie on the day of their arrival in Compiegne. Did Flavy, the commander, order it, or did he allow it? Military critics are astonished. What good could it do? And what hope to escape destruction?
As a matter of fact, before Joan could vanquish the Picards whom she attacked in front of Domremy, both the Burgundians and English came up, and she was hopelessly over matched.
There was prepared in 1500, by order of Louis XII, at the suggestion of Admiral de Graville, what is called the "Abridgment of the Process," with biographical notes on the Maid. The writer says he had read in many chronicles that Joan was much opposed to the sortie from Compiegne. Naturally she would be; for she was surprisingly prudent in her ardor. Why was a sortie made so late as five in the afternoon? Why did the portcullis fall and the drawbridge open when only Joan and a few brave companions remained outside? What fear for the city if a few more English or Burgundians got into the city? They would have an unpleasant time. No matter how viewed, the more carefully we view it, the stranger this fateful event appears.
The fuller details of the combat are from Joan herself, and the two Burgundian chroniclers, Monstrelet and Chastellain; the latter, a man of great literary reputation, historiographer to the Duke of Burgundy, and honored by Charles VII. His account is all the more valuable because he probably saw Joan of Arc.
About five, then, in the afternoon of May 23rd, the Maid, in full armor, over which she wore a rich robe of crimson cloth of gold, and mounted on " a dappled gray war-horse, very beautiful and spirited."
with banner floating over her band of some four hundred men, rode through Compiegne, and over the bridge which spanned the Oise. They passed out by the fatal boulevard, or fortification at the end of the bridge, which was guarded by a drawbridge and portcullis. They quickly swept along the road, or causeway, half a mile long through the marshy meadows, straight to the Picard fort at Margny, under Baudot de Noyelle. The Picards, taken by surprise, were having an unequal fight, when, "as luck would have it," if luck it was, John de Luxembourg himself was coming to visit de Noyelle, and saw from a distance the furious affray. He immediately called his Burgundians from Clairoix, two miles north, and swiftly they came, falling on the flank and rear of Joan's men. These fought like heroes, as Joan did, animating her soldiers. "Strike hard," she is reported to have said; "it depends upon yourselves to win." It seemed as if she would win. Twice, she said, she drove them back to the quarters of the Burgundians, which seems to have been a long distance—and once more (as she was retiring) she drove them back over half the causeway. They were retiring in good order, fiercely fighting. Joan was guarding the rear, "greatly endeavoring," says Monstrelet, "to support her friends and bring them back safely." "The Maid," says Chastellain, "above the nature of woman, bore the brunt of the fight, and strove hard to save the company, remaining
behind the company, remaining behind as a valiant captain." But now came up the English from Venette, two miles below, and rushed on the flank of her troop. The fierce attack seems to have forced her into the fields from the road. But she rallied and encouraged her band; which now mingled with English and Burgundians, reached the boulevard at the end of the bridge. Here, says from hearsay the French captain, de Cagey, the combat was hottest. Joan was hemmed in by her foes. A Picard archer, seizing her cloak, dragged her down prostrate on the ground. Her companions devotedly defended her, and endeavored to have her remount; but she was taken, and asked to give her word of surrender as a prisoner. Her answer is, probably, the proudest of her life. "I have sworn and given my faith to another than you (to God and her king), and I will keep my word." The portcullis of Compiegne bridge fell sharply, the drawbridge was raised, and the Bastard of Wandonne quickly took the Maid back to Margny, and guarded her there until the end of the fray. Her brother was taken, too; her gallant d'Aulon, who had never left her, and a few others. All the English, Picards, Burgundians, etc., gathered round their prey, and "aised great shouts, and gave themselves up to transports of joy," says Chastellain, "because of the capture of the Maid."'
The Duke of Burgundy came up at the end of the fight, and approached the Maid. Some
words were said; but what they were no one remembers; nor, perhaps, cared to remember.
"Who was happy that day?" asks the Burgundian historian. "It was he – Phillip the Good. Immediately he wrote an account of the capture, and sent the good news as far as Brittany and Savoy. His story is not truthful; but it shows the character of the chef merchant of the blood of Joan of Arc.