The Maid of France
THE SIEGE OF ORLEANS BEGUN
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
Here we leave Jeanne for a moment : little is known of her life
from July 1428 to January 1429. We turn to the siege of
Orleans, the Moscow campaign of the English in France. They
did not see the signs of the times. In France, as a military
novelist of about 1460 says (Bueil, in Le Jouvencel), a new
generation was coming into action, and new allies from Scotland
were in the field.
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The Constable, with Sir John Stewart of Darnley, and John
Wishart, repulsed the English under Mont St. Michel. Stewart,
taking a lesson from the English, dismounted all his men, and
had a success. It is to be observed that, in the deadly feud
between the Constable and La Tr^moille, the Scots took sides
against the obese Royal favourite.
In September 1427, La Hire and Dunois defeated the English
and raised the siege of Montargis,--a gleam of light on a dark
The English attempt on Orleans, the effort to break the
line of the Loire and drive the Dauphin to Spain or Scotland,
was, indeed, an insensate scheme, devised in mad self-confidence,
and the English were equipped with forces and munitions wholly
inadequate. " God knoweth by what advis the siege of the city
of Orleans was taken in hand," wrote, in 1433, the Duke of
Bedford, Regent for the infant Henry VI, to the English Govern-
ment. If Bedford did not know to whom fell the responsibility
for this wild enterprise, we cannot hope to discover the truth.
Here it may not be out of place to describe, from unpublished
documents, the nature of the English preparations for the
complete subjugation of France. The artillery and siege material
were collected by the vicars of Enfield and Cheshunt, and by
John Parker, Master of the Ordnance for the Earl of Salisbury.
Parker drew £666, 13s. 4d. for ordnance, and £66, Js. gd. for
master manners and others to carry it across the Channel.
He purchased fourteen small brass guns called fowlers ; each
was one foot and a half in length ; each had three chambers,
and could throw stones of two pounds in weight. There were
three other brass guns with one chamber, and twenty-nine other
cannon. Sixteen small "hand-cannons" were supplied, bound
with iron rings, with twelve hundred leaden bullets. This kind
of hand-cannon, a most monstrous musket, with a rest, was used
effectually on the French side, as we shall see, by Master John
For guns of position, three great iron pieces were furnished,
capable of throwing 18-inch stones; two other pieces were of
16-inch calibre. Three more of 18 to 14-inch calibre were
bought from another factory. Stones from 24 to 14 inches
were purchased, 1214 in all, with 200 stones for the "fowlers."
About 320 "pavoises" or strong wide shields used in assaulting
fortified positions were provided, and 123 chests of bows and
arrows. Four pairs of bellows were commissioned, to be used, if
necessary, in casting new guns beyond the sea. From French
military science was borrowed the idea of employing quantities of
lead to make " samons '' for strengthening the feet of the cannon,
(ad usum Francice). A great wooden instrument, le vice, was
manufactured, to be used in loading and unloading the guns.
Preparations so immense, and outlay so lavish, were calculated
to strike terror into the boldest hearts in France. England was
going to work regardless of expense, and employed the latest
appliances of military science.
As for the host thus equipped, it was levied, by contract, by
Salisbury himself, on the shortest service principle. The men
were engaged for a period of six months : the officers were 6
knights bannerets, 34 knights bachelors, 559 esquires, and with
1800 bowmen, including 30 details, there were 2509 men in all.
Two hundred and forty combatants, however, did not keep tryst
at the port of Sandwich on June 30, 1428, and Salisbury enlisted
450 more archers. A hundred and nineteen men-at-arms, devoid
of ambition, had preferred to stay at home in England.
Bedford added, at Paris, 400 lances and 1200 archers, so that,
exclusive of pages, Salisbury was at the head of nearly 5000
men. Reinforcements were drawn from garrisons, to the extent
of 8 men from Rouen, and so on. By the end of March 1429
the feudal levies of Normandy were called out for the siege
of Orleans, and were largely used in guarding convoys. The
number of Burgundians employed in the siege is unknown, but
they were withdrawn before Jeanne set out to relieve Orleans.
The whole English equipment was much below what Bueil,
many years after the events, thought necessary. Writing after
his years of war are over, probably about 1460, Bueil remarks
that new military inventions are constantly being made :
among these, probably, are the light leather boats, capable of
being transported by horses, which were used for crossing the
water moats of towns. His idea of the artillery needed in the
siege of a large strong town like Orleans is a park of 250 pieces,
of various calibre ; and his notions of the adequate gunpowder for
each gun would have startled the English of 1429.
Bueil, moreover, in thirty years of experience, had learned to
distrust bastilles^ or palisaded earth-works, such as were used by
the English and Burgundians in the sieges of Orleans, Compiegne,
Dieppe, and Mont St. Michel. These extemporised forts, built at
intervals all around the threatened town, are represented, in the
illustrated manuscripts of the period, as mere circles of park
palings, not of the height of a man. They were, in fact, much
stronger ; the palisades crowned high earth-works, and tall scal-
ing ladders were needed by assailants, while the artillery of the
period did not easily breach them.
The English before the end of the siege had ensconced their
men in twelve or thirteen of these bastilles. But, as Bueil argues,
they were so remote each from each, that the garrison of one fort
could not rescue the men in its neighbour, if attacked, and they did
not supply accommodation for horses. " I have always heard
that no good comes of bastilles, and, in the late wars, I saw them
ruined at Orleans, Compiegne, Dieppe, and St. Michel." Really
the bastilles were not to blame, but there were not enough of
them, because the investing armies were numerically inadequate.
Bueil's criticisms came too late ; nor is it easy to see how the
English could, with their limited forces, have done better than they
did. They had not soldiers enough to man twice the number of
bastilles, but, till the Maid arrived, the French never assaulted one
of their thirteen forts.
From Salisbury's original force of about 5000 men, with which
he took forty towns and castles in September 1428, must be
deducted the garrisons which he left in these places of strength.
This deduction makes it plain that he had not men enough either
to invest Orleans, a town with a coronal of towers, a river frontage,
and walls of great height and thickness ; or to take by storm a
city well found in guns of various calibre, and garrisoned by
people of laudable courage and patriotism, and by the companies
of all the great French leaders. Other cities, the Estates, and the
Dauphin, contributed money and provisions ; the town was well
victualled, well provided with guns, powder, arrows, pavois or
shield-screens, and all the munitions of war. The citizens
destroyed the houses and the beautiful churches of their suburbs,
on the opposite side of the river, and welcomed adventurous
captains, men like Dunois, La Hire, Poton de Saintrailles.
Unluckily for France the massive churches were only wrecked,
not levelled ; and several of the investing forts of the English were
palisaded earth-works, or bastilles, surrounding and resting on the
half-ruined walls of the churches and the strong church towers.
On October 1 2 the siege began ; firing from the opposite bank
of the Loire, the English guns of position threw heavy stone balls
into the town, and killed--one woman. They destroyed the water
mills, but the townsfolk established mills worked by horse power.
The bridge-head, on the English side of the stream, was protected
by two strong towers, " the Tourelles," with an outer boulevard.
From its boulevard, or outwork, the English were repulsed, with
loss of 240 men in killed alone. The English then mined, or were
believed to have mined, the outwork, and the French deserted
the Tourelles on October 23, breaking down an arch of the
bridge, and erecting a barricade on the arch of the Belle Croix
(later enriched by the ladies of Orleans with statues of Charles
VII and the Maid, kneeling in prayer on either side of the Fair
On October 24, Salisbury was mortally wounded by a cannon-
ball as he reconnoitred the town from a window of the Tourelles.
This discouraged the English as much as the arrival of Etienne
de Vignoles (the famous La Hire), of the brave Dunois, then
styled Bastard of Orleans, and of their bands, with archers, cross-
bowmen, and professional infantry from Italy, encouraged the
townsfolk. On November 8 the English army broke up, retiring
to more hospitable quarters in the adjacent towns of Meun and
Jargeau ; while William Glasdale, a north countryman and a soldier
of high repute, held, under Lords de Moleyns and Poynings, with
five hundred men, the Tourelles and their outwork. Glasdale
could only observe the city, while the French destroyed twelve
churches and monastic houses in the suburbs, that they might not
afford shelter to the main body of the English on their return.
We hear of no attempt to recapture the bridge-head, with its
fortifications ; the French were not yet led by Jeanne d Arc, and,
though greatly superior in numbers, had no heart for the assault.
On December 1 the great Talbot arrived to reinforce the
English in the Tourelles with men, food, guns, and ammunition.
He kept up a well-nourished fire of ponderous missiles, which
injured many buildings, but caused almost no loss of life. The
garrison replied with a huge new piece of ordnance; but by
Christmas Day, when there was a truce, and Orleans lent musicians
to the enemy, neither side had done anything new of the slightest
note. A famous gunner named Jean u sniped " a few English day
by day : on December 29 the Orleanais levelled eight or nine
more churches ; the Earl of Suffolk and Talbot arrived on the
Orleans side of the water with 2500 men, and established a huge
fortified camp, or bastille and boulevard, at St. Laurent des
Orgerils, outside the west gate, Porte Regnart, of the city. This
camp was intended to close the Porte Regnart and the road
down the river towards Blois, so as to stop any French relieving
force advancing from that centre. The English were only opposed
by skirmishing bands of cavalry under Dunois : there were daily
skirmishes, but no attempt was made to prevent the English from
fortifying themselves in their great bastille of St. Laurent and
So the siege, if it can be called a siege, went on. Day by day
bands of the French sallied out and teased the English ; day by
day the English advanced " with marvellous cries " against one of
the gates of the city. There was no genuine attack, no resolute
fighting, no night assault ; and each side retired when it came within
the very limited range of hostile artillery fire, some five hundred
yards. French troops and supplies entered Orleans at pleasure,
but the English erected a bastille on the isle Charlemagne, which
lay in the river between their fort of St. Laurent and their new fort,
St. Prive, built on the opposite bank of the river to secure the
ferry from the isle Charlemagne. The garrisons of these works
could not keep out (January 10, 1429) a great convoy with
supplies and ammunition sent from Bourges, due south of
The English, in fact, had on that day appreciable losses in
slain men and prisoners, while, next day, a cannon-ball from the
Orleans side destroyed the roof of the English bridge-head fort.
On January 12 a herd of 600 swine was driven into the city;
while, on the following day, Sir John Fastolf reinforced the
besiegers with a company of 1200 men, guns of various
calibre, powder, victuals, and supplies of arrows. Presently 40
beeves and 200 swine were thrown into Orleans; but next day
the English seized the ferry-boat of the Orl^anais which plied
between the opposite bank, and the church of St. Loup in the
fields outside of the eastern wall, and also made spoil of 500
head of cattle intended to supply the town, slew a number of the
enemy, and captured the famous light field-piece of that master
gunner, Jean the Lorainer. This piece, which had caused them so
much loss, the English bore in triumph to the Tourelles ; but Jean
escaped by swimming. So they continued to skirmish, the towns-
folk being in good heart, and well fed. There we leave them, on
January 30, 1429, rejoicing in the arrival of nine pack horses
laden with oil for their winter salads.
The fighting was not much more serious than the combats with
apples and cheeses, in the pleasant land of Torelore, as described
in the old romance of Aucassin and Nicolete. The French,
according to the contemporary author of the Journal du Siege, do
not seem to have lost fifty men ; the English, save at the Tourelles,
not a hundred. If we may believe the mysterious Scots chronicler,
the Monk of Dunfermline (who avers that he was with the Maid
till her end), the English camp was like a great fair, with booths
for the sale of all sorts of commodities, and had sunk ways, leading
from one fort to another.
Certainly the French had plenty of supplies ; but the siege was
soon to be tightened, and from February 25 till the arrival of
the Maid at the end of April, but small quantities of provisions
were introduced. The arrival of a few pigs is duly chronicled !
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