Joan D’Arc’s Victory at Orleans

The Maid, La Pucelle, Joan of Arc. Few women are as recognizable and famous as her. Her story reads like a fantasy legend, but it's history and history is our business.

The Maid, La Pucelle, Joan of Arc. Few women are as recognizable and famous as her. Her story reads like a fantasy legend, but it’s history and history is our business.

Zach – Today we have a special guest and good friend of the blog. Everyone give a warm welcome to Joan of Arc!
(Joan comes up on stage in full armor and waving at the audience. She sits down on an ugly chair beside Zach’s desk. Anna Komemne sits on a chair next to her.)
Zach – Thanks for coming out today.
Joan – Iz no problem. I love to be here and shout ze truth to ze heavens. Oui?
Zach – Something like that. So, how have you been?
Joan – Very good. I went to restaurant last night and saw ze “French Fries” so I had to get zeem. So good. Not French like I remember, but good.
Zach – Especially covered in chili.
Anna – You’d like anything if it were covered in chili.
Zach – Yeah, pretty much.
Anna – You’re such a refined individual.
Zach – So, Joan. we’re here today to talk about your great victory at Orleans.
Joan – Oui, it was part of my divine mission to free France from the ‘orrible English.
Zach – Let’s back up a second. So, you get a mission to free France: what did you do to prepare for it? Did you sit back and think God would handle it all?
Joan – Absolument no! I was given mission, oui, but I was in as much danger as ze lowest soldier. I had mission, but it was up to me to work for it. When I had free time I would train with ze sword, lance and gunpowder weapons.
Anna – Indeed, I have a quote from Jean, Duke of Alencon. He said. (clears throat.)
“And after a meal [at Chinon Castle] the king and I went for a walk in the fields, and there Joan ran with the lance (she was jousting) and seeing Joan conduct herself in the wielding and running with the lance so, I gave her a horse. E
“Everyone marveled at this, that she acted so wisely and clearly in waging war, as if she was a captain who had the experience of twenty or thirty years: and especially in the setting up of artillery, for in that she held herself magnificently.”
Zach – “She shall know the ways as if born to them.”
Anna – That’s quite impressive, Joan. Sounds like you were a quick learner.
Joan – If I am going to lead men into ze battle, I had to know how to fight. Iz logical.
Zach – It also seems you had an affinity to black powder weapons.
Joan – Oh, yes. I love zeem. zey make loud noise like thunder. Last week Gaspar Correia let me shoot some of his gun collection.
Zach – Really? If I recall, he has mostly modern weapons. What did you think?
Joan – Very different! If I had one of zoz…what did he call it? Oh, yes, an M-14. Yes, If I had one at Olreans, it would be very short battle.
Anna – Why Olreans, Joan? You were given a mission to save France, but why start your campaign there?
Joan – A part of my mission was to get ze Dauphin crowned king in Reims. If English captured Olreans, zay would have cut ze Dauphin off from Reims. And, with ze control of Olreans, zay would control ze entire river, thus cutting France in half. It would strangle ze crown prince. Also, God told me to rescue Olreans.
Zach – Like how the North had to gain control of the Mississippi in the Civil War.
Anna – Now, Lord Salisbury had an army of about 8,000 more or less. A small army. In fact, too small to successfully surround Orleans. So Salisbury set up several small forts surrounding the city. These “boulevards” were earthen works with wooden palisades. Not intimidating but manned by Englishmen with longbows and gunpowder weapons, they were rather serious threats.
Zach – Let’s bring up a map.

There's the town of Orleans with the demolished bridge.  See the small forts all over the place? As we discuss the battle you should refer back to this map. It'll help.

There’s the town of Orleans with the demolished bridge. See the small forts all over the place? As we discuss the battle you should refer back to this map. It’ll help.

Zach – Before you arrived on the scene with your army, the English had captured the small fortress called “the Tourelles” that over looked the river and bridge.
Joan – Oui, but my brave French soldiers paid him back. He was on the Tourelles and a cannon ball from Orleans took his head off his shoulders. Divine punishment. Zen Lord Talbot came and took charge of ze English. Ze people of Orleans were very brave and refused to surrender, but zay could not hold out much longer. Zay needed help or ze city and ze river it controlled would fall to ze English.
Zach – Now, the two men in charge of the defense of Olreans were Jean “the bastard” and “La Hire” (La Hire means “the lion” in French because this guy was a large, ferocious veteran of countless battles.) The Bastard was a cousin to the Daupin and in charge. They settled in for a long siege. A siege seldom about fighting and more about logistics. Whoever starved first usually lost. It was simple.
Joan – When I arrived with my army on ze evening of April 29th, I had almost 4,000 soldiers with me and many supplies for the people.
Anna – I imagine the food was almost as welcome a sight as your army.
Joan – It all goes to ze same purpose: defending France.
Zach – Is it true you just marched in without any trouble.
Joan – No, no. Ze soldiers of Orleans sallied out of ze town and attacked ze English to give us time to enter. Zay even captured one of ze English banners in ze skirmish.
Zach – Awesome. So, what was the first thing you did when you got inside the town walls? A planning meeting? Inventory?
Joan – I asked them to take me to ze cathedral for Mass and Confession.
Zach – I shoulda known.

The town loved her and threw a parade for her. They fought to touch her or even her horse. Already several miracles were being attributed to her.

The town loved her and threw a parade for her. They fought to touch her or even her horse. Already several miracles were being attributed to her.

Joan – I was not happy at all. I yelled at Jean ze Batsard. I wanted to go out and fight ze English that night! Why wait? God did not want us to wait. And ze next morning I awoke ready to attack, but the officers did not want to attack! They just wanted to sit on zare tooshes and eat. Zay were afraid to attack. So, I went to ze walls and shouted out at ze English, telling zem to surrender in ze name of ze King of Heaven. They did not surrender. Instead zay threw insults at me. I wanted to get zem to fight, but zay did not want a fight either.
Anna – Insulted you? How barbarous.
Joan – A three days went by with no fighting. I rode out to look at ze boulevards and make plans. My friends said zat each boulevard could hold against our entire army. I did not believe zis. God told me to take back Orleans and I know he would not tell if to do so if zare was not a way. But zare was another reason I wanted battle sooner zan later. I heard zat General Fastolf was coming with another army to help ze English. We had to win before a second army joined ze first.
Zach – No time for waiting around, then.
Joan – Not at all! Ze King of Heaven demanded we take zis town back and so we would.
Zach – On ze morning of ze 4th, I awoke from a dream. My visions told me zat French blood was being spilled on French soil! I jumped up, strapped on my armor, grabbed my sword and banner and ran outside. Ze idiots had started attacking without me! Did zay not think me capable of fighting? Ze attack was on boulevard of St. Loup. (Look up on ze map.) I charged in and ze battle lasted three hours. If we lost, French spirit would have been crushed and Talbot would have lasted until Fastolf arrived. We had to win!
Zach – This was your first real combat, wasn’t it?
Joan – Oui.
Zach – I know what that’s like. Everyone takes it differently. How did you handle it?
Joan – I looked around at ze devastation and wept for ze dead soldiers on both sides. It was sad loss of life.
Anna – You wept for the English? I thought you hated them.
Joan – I hated what ze leaders chose to do. Ze soldiers were just men like anyone else. I could not believe so many were dead. I don’t like it.
Zach – What then?
Joan – My Voices told me zat ze siege would be over before five days were over. Everyone cheered. Ze next day was Ascension day and I would not fight on such a holy day. Instead I wrote a letter to ze English telling zem to surrender in the name of the King of Heaven.
Zach – I take it they didn’t react they way you had wanted.
Joan – Zay called me a whore and I cried at their wickedness.
Anna – That wasn’t very nice of them.
Joan – On ze morning of ze 6th we had a meeting to discuss strategy. The lord of ze city thought nobody should attack, zat zay should wait and see. So, I stood up and called him a wicked man! I called to ze soldiers and ze people of the town to take up arms against the English. Against ze orders of Lord Gaucourt, I led the army out of ze gates, crossed ze river and attacked ze boulevard of ze Augustins just in front of ze Tourelles. Jean Ze Bastard wanted to wait, but I gave him no choice. I waved my banner and ze people followed me. Two attacked and took the boulevard.
Anna – I want to make something clear. Many modern people have the idea that you were just a glorified cheerleader and that you didn’t do much fighting.
Joan – What? Not at all! I charged into battle with my men and fought all day. Ze battle lasted morning until evening. The English sallied out of ze Tourelles and me, La Hire, ze Bastard and Jean D’ Alcon fought them back into ze towers.
Zach – After a full day of fighting, you and your army rested for the night, right? I could imagine how tired you were.
Joan – Not so tired as some! Ze Bastard and the others wanted to sit and wait for more reinforcements. Silly fools. I told zem zat zay had zere council and I had mine and zat ze King of Heaven would deliver the English into our hands.
Zach – But, didn’t it make sense to wait for backup? That was an awfully powerful fort there.
Joan – Doesn’t matter! (Draws sword and raises it above her head.) I had a mission and I would not be stopped by the slow minds of men! Without telling ze officers, I awoke early, had mass and confession, zen woke my brave soldiers up and called zem to arms!
Zach – Without telling to other officers? Nice!
Joan – Zay could come if zay wanted to.
Anna – Did you give a stirring speech?
Joan – No, no need. We all knew ze dangers and importance. I was never much of a speaker. Zay said I was too…blunt. It doesn’t matter because we charged and attacked ze mighty Tourelles. It was a bloody battle with many dying on each side. And then I was struck by an arrow between my neck and shoulder.
Anna – You were shot?!
Joan – Oui. It was very painful. Crossbow bolt. Penetrated my armor.

An arrow wound was nothing to laugh at. Especially before anti-septics and pain killers. A arrow from a long bow could not penetrate full plate. A crossbow bolt at close range could or if an arrow got really lucky and got between the armor.

An arrow wound was nothing to laugh at. Especially before anti-septics and pain killers. A arrow from a long bow could not penetrate full plate. A crossbow bolt at close range could or if an arrow got really lucky and got between the armor.

Zach – Holy cow. That had to suck. You went to the rear where the doctors were, right?
Joan – No, no! I refused to leave ze fight. I would not leave my soldiers. I told zem to put some medicine on, zen strapped my armor back on and continued fighting.
Zach – That’s hard core. Seriously hard core.
Joan – Ze fighting went on until eight at night.
Anna – That long? I don’t know how you lasted so long, especially with a wound.
Joan – Ze Bastard wanted to stop for ze night, but I told him to wait. I went off by myself and prayed. I was told to continue fighting. So, I took my banner and walked up right under ze walls of ze Tourelles and my soldiers followed. We stormed the walls and I was ze first to lay ze ladder up the wall. During ze fighting I lost my banner. I was too busy with my sword. But a brave soldier held it for me and refused to let it fall. Withn ze hour we took ze Tourelles. It was horrible. So many French and English killed. I could not stop crying. Zay should have believed me! Couldn’t zay see zat I was sent by Heaven?
Zach – It might have been the adrenaline dump. Stress will do that to ya. Still, it was a great victory. You ended the siege and did it in a way that frightened the English out of their minds and raised the spirits of your fellow Frenchmen, who, and let’s be honest here, badly needed it.
Joan – Oh, oui! Great victory. English ran away and ze road to Reims was open.
Anna – So, if it weren’t for you, the French commanders would have sat on their hands doing nothing. You kept pushing and pushing them to attack. That’s was very amazing. You had more guts than all those men put together.
Zach – Thank you, Joan for you story. It was an amazing battle that saved France. If you had lost there, France might never had recovered. You gave them courage again and showed them to fight and press the attack. Attack, attack, attack. Simple but effective strategy.

And, because I like this painting of Joan I did, here it is again. She wasn't just some glorified cheerleader and France would not have survived without her. She took sword in hand and fought for her country. She knew what was right and did it despite what everyone else said. She was honest with herself and couldn't be anything else.

And, because I like this painting of Joan I did, here it is again. She wasn’t just some glorified cheerleader and France would not have survived without her. She took sword in hand and fought for her country. She knew what was right and did it despite what everyone else said. She was honest with herself and couldn’t be anything else.

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Vichy France

Zach – We have an interesting topic today. Usually I come up with topics through random research and tangents. One interesting thing leads to another and I find a forgotten corner of history. Today is a piece of history that’s always been in the open but never paid attention to. Last week I was looking at “Operation Torch” where the Allies invaded North Africa and the Vichy French fought back.

The occupied French were fighting against the liberators??  Huh???

The occupied French were fighting against the liberators?? Huh???

I was confused. Here was something I didn’t understand but wanted to. So, I delved into a topic I knew little about in order to find out the truth of this matter.
Anna – Let’s get into it and see if we can make sense of Vichy France. With us we have Countess Matilda of Tuscany: personal face wrecker to the Pope,  Gaspar Correia: imaginative historian and conquistador. And lastly we have St. Olga of Kiev: Russian convert to Christianity and expert at blood soaked rampages.
Matilda – Let’s start with the military crisis that created Vichy France. Having fought the Germans before, I know how stubborn they can be in battle. The French were completely unprepared for the German invasion in 1940. Their tactics were outdated and they had no desire for war. After the destruction of WWI, the French people simply had no stomach for a fight. The German tactics rolled over the French army and France was occupied in a matter of weeks.
blitzkrieg-5
Anna – How did France respond to this total defeat? That’s a rather complicated answer. The response depended on the group. Some military and government leaders fled and went to either England or the French colonies. Some welcomed the Germans because they feared the English even more. Others simply gave up and accepted it. Most, including the average person, just wanted to live in peace. The question was, what cost were they willing to pay for this peace?
Zach – This is what will define the Vichy government, peace at any price, even if that price was war. The ease of the German defeat crushed the French spirit so completely that they had no hope of ever regaining their independence. So, instead of fighting back, they just ducked their heads and rolled over. They saw no way of fighting the Germans. The French had another problem: they were completely divided. The socialists hated the conservatives, the conservatives hated the Republicans, the Republicans hated the liberals and everyone hated the communists. The conservatives (don’t confuse these terms for modern political ones) accepted the occupation because they like Germany’s focus on strong leadership, family and strength. The socialists accepted the Nazis because they liked the Nazi’s focus on socialism with government ownership of private business and social programs. The communists accepted it because at the time Germany was allied with Soviet Russia. Seeing German troops goosestepping around Paris seemed a small price to pay for survival. They feared that if they fought back, they’d lose their country completely.

The Germans directly occupied the norther half of the country and let the southern half have nominal autonomy. All of this was a joke however.

The Germans directly occupied the northern half of the country and let the southern half have nominal autonomy. All of this was a joke however.

Olga – (Laughs) Oh, these Frenchies, they so proud of they freedom and thought they could work with German mean men.
Gaspar – Yes, the French, who hated the former Republic, were glad to see it go and viewed the occupation as a chance to set their government right. They changed their constitution and set up a WWI hero named Petain as a virtual dictator.

Petain's the guy on the left and, oh yeah, the guy he's shaking hands with is freaking Hitler.  (I know I usually have a rule to not mention the "H word" but this is to prove a point.) This guy kept wanted to have meetings with the Big H, but Hitler didn't even care enough to respond.

Petain’s the guy on the left and, oh yeah, the guy he’s shaking hands with is freaking Hitler. (I know I usually have a rule to not mention the “H word” but this is to prove a point.) This guy kept wanting to have meetings with the Big H, but Hitler didn’t even care enough to respond.  He unfriended him on Facebook.

Matilda – Germany didn’t occupy the entire country because they had better things to do. As long as France didn’t get uppity they were left alone for the time being. They mistakenly interpreted this as a good sign. In reality it was that France was now beneath their notice and was cheaper to let France police themselves. Petain started trying to negotiate with Germany as if they were equals. They wanted to maintain the independence by pleasing their new masters. They hoped that if they collaborated with their evil overlords they would prove useful and work as partners. I remember when Germany invaded my beloved Tuscany and I rolled over and surrendered…oh wait, that’s right. I fought back against the entire Holy Roman Empire.  Hmmm…
Gaspar – There were a few problems with trying to negotiate in a rational manner on equal terms. One: they had nothing Germany wanted that they couldn’t just take. Two: German wasn’t rational. Three: Germany had no desire to work with the French. The Big Evil H wanted revenge, not friendship. He’d rather lose the war than have his men march shoulder to shoulder with Frenchmen. This is why he deployed undead soldiers to occupy France to free up his living soldiers for the rest of Europe.

These unstoppable undead stormtroopers struck fear into the local populace.

These unstoppable undead stormtroopers struck fear into the local populace.

Olga – Fire works against zombies, dah?

Anna – The Germans laid down the terms of the armistice and the French accepted them. But that was not all, the French wanted to go further. They wanted to fight against the British. In fact, the Germans were so surprised at the willingness of the French to work with them, that they distrusted them even more. They were like a small, annoying dog trying to get its master’s attention.

The dog waiting obediently for its master's voice.

The dog waiting obediently for its master’s voice.

Even Dr. Seuss saw that the Nazis weren't exactly well intentioned neighbors.

Even Dr. Seuss saw that the Nazis weren’t exactly well intentioned neighbors.

Zach – The Vichy French didn’t see the realities of the situation. They thought this Germany was the same Germany they’ve been dealing with for the past thousand years. They saw a post war Europe where Germany dominated several partners. They thought Germany could be rational. But slowly the Germans kept taking away freedoms and liberties. For the first year, 1940-41, the resistance was practically non-existent. This could be due to shock from such a total defeat, to an idea that they could finally make France how they wanted, to the fear that England would come in and take over. They wanted to maintain their overseas empire.

Thank you, Gordon Ramsay, that is a very good question.

Thank you, Gordon Ramsay, that is a very good question.

Olga – Okay, okay. I still no understand. Why do French peoples no fight back? I get it. They want peace, yes? But I no take crap like they take. I fight back and burn German houses down…with them in it.
Anna – Many were more afraid of a possible British invasion and the chaos and destruction that would come with it.
Olga – They too scared to fight. That is sad. Theywant be slaves and safe than risk danger and be free. I don’t think I like these Vichy French peoples.
Zach – In 1942, the Allies invaded North Africa and the Vichy French fought back. They wanted to impress the Germans to show they could be partners. They also didn’t want to lose their overseas territories to the English. The Allies destroyed the French navy while they were still in port in a matter of hours. Another humiliating defeat. A few days later, Germany occupied the rest of France. Now the illusion of autonomy was proven false to everyone but the most fanatic of pro-Vichy politicians.

Joan D'Arc would not be pleased with this outcome. This made Agincourt look good.

Joan D’Arc would not be pleased with this outcome. This made Agincourt look good.

Gaspar – What about this famous Resistance I keep hearing about?
Zach – At first they had to hide. After the 1940 invasion, the idea of resistance was met with disdain and a French jackboot to the face. Young men didn’t have local support so they would flee to the mountains and hills and fight any way they could including assassinations and bombings. As Germany ran out of slave labor from Eastern countries, they began to take men from France. As time went, they wanted more and more laborers and instead of being packed up in train carts, they fled to the mountains and joined the resistance. Think about it, these men wanted to fight for their country, but their own country didn’t want them too. That makes the handful of Resistance fighters that actually fought back, that much more impressive. They were the real heroes while the rest of the country were tripping over themselves to please the Nazis.

The French people didn't try to fight back because they didn't want to risk anything. Safety was worth more than freedom and it ended up costing them heavily. It cost them their honor and their souls.

The French people didn’t try to fight back because they didn’t want to risk anything. Safety was worth more than freedom and it ended up costing them heavily. It cost them their honor and their souls.

Anna – But now we have to talk about something even more unpleasant. The Germans demanded that France deliver their Jews to them. At first it was only the foreign Jews that came to France as refugees, but as the quotas increased, they began to deport French citizens. Out of 76,000 Jews that they deported, only about 3,000 ever returned. In contrast, Fascist Italy fought back against the deportation of Jews and Bulgaria flat out refused. France didn’t care as long as they pleased their overlords.
Olga – Now I really no like this Vichy France place. I go burn their houses down.
(Olga gets up and leaves.)

Gaspar – Is that alright that she just left? I mean, she might just burn down the first house she sees.

Anna – It’ll be fine……………right?
Zach – What could go wrong? I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I started digging around the history of Vichy but I wasn’t expecting this. What I saw was the desire for safe slavery at any cost. They were willing to fight England, deport Jews and help the Nazis. I was hoping to find some real reasons for what they did, maybe some secret resistance against the occupiers. I was hoping the battle in Northern Africa was a fluke, but it turns out, Vichy France wanted to fight England much more. This is my opinion, but what I found I thought was absolutely pathetic.
Anna – This makes the Resistance much more heroic in my eyes. Dugal, the exiled French general that fought to regain his country, faced opposition from his own countrymen. There were real heroes in this story, but they weren’t working with Vichy France.
Zach – As always, I encourage the reader to investigate this story and find out for yourself. Maybe your opinion may be different than mine. Two people can look at the same set of facts and come out with completely different conclusions. (Disclaimer: I’m not talking hating on the entire French people or their history, just this one period of time that was led by cowardly and weak politicians. )

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