THE MAM OF ORLEANS
Joan rides to battle
It wason the morning of the fourth of May, 1429, that Joan of Arc at the head of five hundred men rode out of Orleans, to meet and escort into that city Dunois and d'Aulon who were bringing back the army from Blois. How far she went on the road to meet them we do not know, but when she had greeted Dunois and her captains and troops, all marched into Orleans without the slightest interference from the English forts. Father Pasquerel, who was among them, in charge of the priests and the holy banner, thus described the entrance:
"Having known of our coming, Joan came out to meet us, and all together we entered the city. There was no resistance; we introduced the supplies under the very eyes of the English. This was a marvelous thing. The English were in great strength and multitude, excellently armed and ready for battle, and they saw that the King's men made a sorry figure, by comparison. They saw us; they heard the chanting of our priests, in the midst of which I was, carrying the banner. Very
well, they made no movement, and neither priests nor soldiers were attacked."
Joan's army was reduced in size, some of it having melted away, as she had feared it might. The English were in great need of provisions, yet they did not attack. They were as if under a spell, unable to move or make a sound. And thus, as she had planned in the beginning, the Maid in white armor and carrying her banner led her army safely past the forts where were Talbot and the English. The people held this to be the work of God, and became eager to attack.
Joan, herself, was in high spirits. While happily eating her midday meal with Jean d'Aulon, Dunois came in with a report that English troops from the north, commanded by Sir John Fastolf, were marching with supplies for the enemy. A hearty girl of seventeen, the Maid could not repress her spirits. With excitement and good humor, she answered Dunois:
"On my faith, I command thee that as soon as thou shalt know of the coming of this Fastolf thou shalt let me know; for if he pass without my knowing I will have thy head taken off! "
Dunois as good humoredly replied:
"Thou needst have no doubt Joan but that I will let thee know."
There was no plan to give battle that day, nor on the next, which was Ascension Day. The tired army and its leaders needed a rest. The soldiers of Orleans, now full of confidence,
could not wait, and made up an attacking party. At the home of Jacques Boucher the weary d'Aulon had laid down on a couch, and not far away Madame Boucher and Joan had also composed themselves for a nap. All at once the Maid sprang up in great excitement.
"What is the matter? What has happened?" called d'Aulon and Madame Boucher together.
"In God's name," cried Joan, "my Voice has told me to go against the English, but I do not know if I must go at their bastiles, or against Fastolf who would bring them supplies!"
D'Aulon and Madame Boucher hastily collected the Maid's arms. Meantime a great noise arose in the street, and a cry that the enemy was destroying the French. Joan went plunging down the stairs to arouse her page, de Contes.
"Ha, graceless boy!" she cried, "you did not tell me that the blood of France was flowing! Go quickly for my horse!"
She ran back up the stairs, where d'Aulon and Madame Boucher quickly armed her. As she reached the street, de Contes appeared with the horse.
"My standard! " she cried. "My standard!"
De Contes flew up the stairs and passed the banner to her through an upper window. Standard in hand she left at a gallop, in the direction of the tumult. Joan of Arc was riding which the page did. What glory for a boy of fifteen!
"Ride after her!" shouted Madame Boucher, to de Contes, to battle! Fire flew from under her horse's feet!
D'Aulon, meantime, had armed himself, and a minute later came pounding after them, overtaking them at the Burgundy gate, beyond which was the fighting. The French had attacked the fortified church of St. Loup, and as usual were getting the worst of it. As Joan, d'Aulon, and de Contes reached the city gate a wounded man was being carried in. The Maid checked her horse.
"Who is that you are carrying?" she asked.
"A wounded Frenchman."
"French blood! I never see it that my hair does not rise!" They swept through into the field. French reinforcements were now pouring from the city. Joan waved her standard. "Forward with God!" and they charged in the direction of St. Loup. The English, catching sight of a white standard and a figure in shining armor bearing down upon them, became panic-stricken. A moment later they were stampeding back to their fort, the French in close pursuit. Then soon it was all over; the terrified enemy, unable to resist, was cut down or captured. St. Loup had been a church, and some of the English, hastily putting on robes they found there, claimed mercy as priests. Joan ordered these to be spared, unwilling to violate even the appearance of piety. Also, to the sound of a trumpet, she commanded that there should be no pillage of the already desecrated church.
The battle was over, the fighting for the day at an end. St.Loup had fallen. One hundred and forty of the English
had been killed, and forty taken prisoners; apparently none had escaped. The battles of that day were seldom on a grand scale, but they were bloody.
Surrounded by her army, Joan, victorious but sorrowful, rode back to her lodgings. It was her first battle, her first bloodshed. The little girl who had "known neither how to ride nor conduct war," who in tears and trembling heard the command as to what she must do, had led soldiers to battle and seen men struck down to die. Now again she wept at this piteous need. Of the fallen English she said:
"Those poor people—they died without confession! I would I might have saved them!"
She confessed herself to Father Pasquerel, and commanded him to warn her soldiers to confess and give thanks for victory. "For," she said, "otherwise I will no longer aid them, or remain in their company." Further, she told him:
"In five days the siege of Orleans will be raised, and there will not remain an Englishman before the city." And added:
"On tomorrow, the day of the Ascension of our Lord, I will not arm myself, neither will any soldier go out of the city to battle without previous confession." Night came down to the ringing of bells and shouts of rejoicing in the streets of Orleans, sounds that fell ominously on English ears. Joan of Arc, a peasant girl of seventeen, had given her soldiers victory, their first in a weary time.
Capture of the Augustines
Joan next morning sent her final summons and warning to the English; it ran:
"You men of England, who have no right in the kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends word to you, and commands, by me, Joan the Maid, that you quit your bastiles and return to your own country. Otherwise I will cause you such confusion that it will be of perpetual memory. This is what I write to you for the third and last time, and I will not write to you any more. Jesus Mary.
Joan the Maid.
"I would have sent my letter more honestly; but you retain my heralds; you have retained my herald Guienne. Return him to me, and I will send you some of your men, taken at the Battle of St. Loup; for they were not all dead."
Taking a thread, Joan tied her letter to the end of an arrow and ordered an archer to shoot it among the English, crying:
"Read, here is news!"
The arrow reached the English, who read the letter and began shouting with great clamor:
"News from the Jezebel of the Armagnacs!" with other evil words, at which Joan sobbed and wept, asking God to help her; but presently became calm, comforted by her Voices.
A council of war was held at which it was agreed that the
next attack should be made across the river, to get possession of the Tourelles, which controlled the end of the bridge on that side of the Loire.
The following morning—it was Friday, May 6—this attack was begun. Pasquerel rose at break of day, confessed Joan, and chanted mass before all the people. A great number of boats had been assembled under the walls of Orleans, and these now ferried the army to the island St. Aignan above the bridge. This island lay very close to the south bank; the narrow channel between could be spanned by two boats on which the soldiers could march over. The fort of St. Jean le Blanc was just there; their first purpose was to attack it. Joan and La Hire did not cross immediately. The troops, hot for battle, did not wait for them, but rushed on St. Jean le Blanc, only to find it abandoned, the enemy having taken refuge in the larger and stronger bastile of the Augustines, near the end of the bridge. The eager French pushed toward this fort, but the enemy, seeing that the Maid was not with them, regained confidence, and with their "terrible hurrah" sallied forth in a charge so fierce and sudden that the old-time fear again fell upon the French and sent them scurrying in the direction of their boats. It was just at this time that Joan and La Hire, each with a horse in a boat, landed from another par: of the island, and seeing at a glance what had happened quickly mounted.
"In God's name, forward boldly!" Joan shouted, and with La Hire rode straight at the enemy.
Instantly all was changed. English and French, seeing the white armor and the banner, were equally inspired—the one with fear, the other with courage. The French literally raced with each other to reach the enemy, now stampeding to their stronghold. Arriving just behind the English, the French found a powerful and brave English soldier, a veritable giant fully armed, blocking the entrance, standing in the narrow gateway, disdaining to close it. No more than one or two could get near him, not enough to make an impression on the huge combatant. D'Aulon turned to "Master John, the cannoneer," whose weapon must have been one of the small hand pieces, then recently invented, and bade him fire on this giant, which Master John did, and with such good aim that with one shot he brought the great warrior to the ground.
Two knights who had joined hands and raced each other to the fort now rushed in, all the others following, attacking groups of the enemy who made no very stout resistance. It was St. Loup over again, except that some of the English escaped to the bastile of the Tourelles, the towers at the end of the bridge. No assistance came from the Tourelles, nor from any English stronghold on either side of the river. The English were not leaving their strongholds to face that hair-lifting figure in white armor that in the sunset had warned them from the city walls. That night, indeed, those in St.
Prive, lower down, burned their own defenses and escaped to the bastiles, across the river, leaving to their fate their comrades in the Tourelles, who being hemmed in had no choice but to remain. The Tourelles, however, were very strong; few believed they could be taken.
The French army camped that night in the Augustines. The Maid herself was persuaded to return to her lodgings at Orleans, for proper rest and food, in preparation for the heavy work ahead. Father Pasquerel testified that though it was Friday, she did not fast that night, having so much to do. He added this interesting and curious incident:
"She was finishing her repast, when there came to her a noble and valiant captain, whose name I do not recall. He said to Joan: 'The captains are assembled in council. They recognize that there are not many French as compared with the English, and that it has been by the grace of God that they have obtained some advantage. The city now being full of provision, we can hold it easily while waiting succor from the King. Wherefore, the Council does not find it expedient that the soldiers tomorrow make an attack.'
'You have been at your Council, and I have been at mine. Now, be assured that the Council of the Lord will fulfill itself, and prevail, and that yours will fail.' And addressing herself to me, who was near her, said: ‘Rise tomorrow very early, earlier even than today, and do the best you are able. It will be necessary to keep always near me,
for tomorrow I shall have much to do, and greater need of you than I have ever had. Tomorrow the blood will flow from my body, above the breast."'
Joan had foretold her wound, both in Chinon, to the King, and to persons in Tours. In the letter already mentioned, written two weeks before the event, the writer, a Flemish diplomat, tells of the Maid and of her statement that she is to be wounded at Orleans by a shaft, but will not die of it; also, that before the end of summer the King will be crowned at Reims. This letter is still preserved in the library of Brussels.’ (See "Joan of Arc—Maid of France," by the same author, Vol. I, pp. i66-x67, for facsimile and translation.)
In spite of her two splendid successes, Joan was still opposed by some of her captains. Possibly they were jealous of her, or perhaps the Tourelles, rising dark and grim in the night, overawed them. There is a story that next morning Raoul de Gaucourt, military governor of Orleans, tried to prevent Joan leaving the city, and was denounced by her in rather severe terms. Some sort of opposition there must have been to the attack on the Tourelles, but it proved of no avail. Father Pasquerel rose an hour after midnight and celebrated mass.
As Joan was making ready to leave her lodgings a man came bringing a fish for her breakfast, an close—in English, a shad. Seeing it, she said to Madame Boucher:
"Keep it until evening, because this evening I will bring you a godon [French term for the English] and will return by the way of the bridge."
With Pasquerel and a troop of soldiers, Joan now crossed the river and went to the assault of the bastile of the Tourelles, the stout fortress commanded by the English Glasdale who had reviled her.
The defenses of the bridge were very simple: at the entrance, a short distance from the Augustines, there was a steep embankment, or boulevard, in front of which was a fosse, a deep, dry ditch. Behind the embankment was a wooden drawbridge, connecting it with the Tourelles, two great stone towers, which stood on the end of the bridge itself. Beyond these there was a gap in the bridge of several feet, broken out by the English to prevent attack from the Orleans side. It seemed a complete defense, and may well have discouraged Joan's captains. The Duke of Alencon later testified that with a small force in the Tourelles he could have defied an entire army.
Joan of Arc did not even know the word discouragement. Arriving on the scene, she summoned her captains, unfurled her banner, and ordered a general attack on the outer embankment. At once ladders began to rise and shouting men to
scale them; arrows began to fly, the small cannon of that day to roar, and fling their wicked little balls of chipped stone. And at the top of the embankment were the desperate English with axes, lances, guisarmes (a long steel weapon, hooked and sharpened at the end), leaden maces—the owners of these fierce weapons thrusting, smiting, stabbing, even with their bare hands flinging the ladders back, their bowmen sending flight after flight of arrows into the throng of attacking men. A stirring picture of medieval warfare it was; and amid it all a figure in white armor, encouraging her soldiers, lending a hand to the work—her standard, held aloft by a bearer, floating before her on the wind.
De Contes, that brave boy, was there and told how she called to them continually:
"Have good heart! Do not fall back, you will have the bastile soon!"
Through the May morning and deep into the afternoon the strife continued. Then came what seemed disaster: that which the Maid had foretold occurred. She was setting up a ladder when a bolt from a crossbow, fired directly from above, struck her between the shoulder and the throat with such force that it pierced armor and body through, the length of half a foot.
She was helped from the field, the cruel shaft was withdrawn, and the upper part of her armor removed. Oh, the fierce tearing pain, the jetting bloods Soldiers wished to
"charm" the wound, but this she refused, believing such work to be a sin. She willingly accepted a dressing of olive oil and lard, weeping and lamenting meanwhile, just a girl of seventeen, sorely wounded. But then her Voices came, that of Saint Catherine, as she said later, and the pain eased. Confessing briefly, with her page's help she donned her armor and returned to the field.
By this time the face of the battle had changed. The Maid's misfortune had given new confidence to the English. They had drawn blood from the witch in white armor; she had crawled off to die. Correspondingly the French had lost courage; without the Maid they would be where they had been before her coming. They were worn out; the hour was near sunset; as Joan appeared on the field a retreat was being sounded. Hurrying to Dunois, she called out:
"Not yet! not yet! I beg that you wait a little!"
Assisted to mount her horse, she rode to a near-by vineyard to pray. A few moments later she returned, seized her standard, planted it on the back of the fosse, and ordered a charge. Seeing her again among them, the soldiers, with renewed courage, ran to the ladders. (This is Dunois's account. De Contes testified that she said, as it seemed to him: "When you see the wind carry the banner to the wall, it will be yours" --a version which imaginative writers have turned into an incident still more dramatic.)
And now the enemy looking down, became terrified. Only a little while ago the witch had been carried from the field to
die. She had returned and after working some deadly spell in the vineyard, was about to destroy them. "They shuddered," according to Dunois, "and were filled with terror." Joan called out to the English commander:
"Glasdale, Glasdale, surrender to the King of Heaven! You called me Jezebel, but I have great pity for your soul, and for your followers!"
The English had still another reason for their terror. The people of Orleans had been busy, and had timed their assistance well. In the midst of the final assault, a fire raft loaded with a quantity of inflammable material had been ignited, and from the end of the isle of St. Aignan carefully drifted exactly under the wooden drawbridge, which connected the outer embankment with the Tourelles. Busy with the attack, the English had not noticed this maneuver. Their first warning of it was a cloud of rising smoke, the smell of pitch, the fierce crackle of flames. For them no further interest in the French assault, but only a general dash for safety. A good portion of them must have crossed, but then the burning structure gave way, and all on it, including Glasdale and other nobles, true knights last to go, were plunged into the swollen river and being armored gave no further sign.
Those who had managed to cross to the Tourelles found themselves little better off. The Orleans carpenters had prepared a narrow bridge, made from a long trough, or gutter, which they now pushed across the broken-out gap behind the
Tourelles. Over it passed a knight of the Order of Rhodes, fully armed, and behind him many others. To the enemy looking down into the flame-lit smoke and night the narrow support was invisible--the Orleans soldiers seemed to be coming through the air. With fire behind and below, completely hemmed in, the English made no further resistance. Not one escaped; all not killed or drowned were captured.
Though he had called her evil names, Joan lamented the death of Glasdale. Sorrowful, weary, sorely wounded, and triumphant—to the sound of bells and the chanting of the people of Orleans—the Maid rode back by the bridge as she had promised, bringing her godon, many godons, to supper. She did not eat the alose, saved for her. At her lodging a surgeon dressed her wound, after which she took a few slices of bread, dipped in water and reddened with wine, and so the eventful day ended. Did her wound throb and burn and break her sleep? Or did Saint Catherine again soothe away the pain? We have her own statement that it was cured in a fortnight, and that meantime she did not cease to ride.
Early next morning—it was Sunday, the eighth of May, 1429—the report was brought to Joan that the English facing Orleans had left their bastiles and arrayed themselves in order
of battle. The Maid rose, and because of her wound armored herself only in a light coat of mail. As she left the house she was asked:
"Is it wrong to fight on Sunday?"
"We must hold Mass."
Her army had formed outside the walls, facing the enemy. A portable altar was brought and two masses celebrated which the Maid and her soldiers heard with great devotion.
The service ended, Joan, still kneeling, asked:
"Do the English face our way?"
She was told that they had turned toward the chateau of Meung.
"In God's name," she said, "they are going. Let them go, while we give thanks to God, and pursue them no farther, since today is Sunday."
Less than two months before, at Poitiers, Joan had said:
"I did not come to Poitiers to work signs. Take me to Orleans, and I will show you the sign for which I was sent."
She had kept her word, she had shown her sign. A situation which had baffled the French captains, kept a city in terror, and a king in walled retirement for nearly seven months, a girl
of seventeen had relieved in three days.
The English had decamped leaving much material; also, their sick and certain prisoners—among them, by one account,
Joan's herald, Guienne. The people of Orleans at once ordered the bastiles pulled down.
And on that same Sunday the city joined in great procession, in which churchmen, soldiers, and citizens mingled was the first of the fetes to be held in honor of the Maid Orleans, for such she had become to them, so to remain this day.