Famous Battles in History Joan of Arc and the Battle of Orleans

About the famous battle of Orleans between the French led by Joan of Arc and the English, part of the Hundred Years' War.

MORE FAMOUS BATTLES--ON LAND AND AT SEA

ORLEANS, 1429

In 1428 France was in danger of collapse. The English were victorious on all fronts in their slow, methodical conquest of the land. The city of Orleans provided a crucial battleground which led to the decisive phase of the Hundred Years' War.

After capturing Paris, the English marched south to take Orleans. The city was to provide an important base for the conquest of southern France. A tiny English army of 4,000, later joined by 1,500 Burgundians, surrounded the city in October, 1428. The heavily fortified and well-provisioned city was protected by 5,400 men, but the English were confident of victory--so confident they refused to allow the French to surrender to the Burgundians.

The siege began well for the English. They captured the outer forts and maintained a heavy barrage on the town. The despondent French sank lower and lower into despair. But suddenly the balance shifted. First, the fiery English commander, Salisbury, was killed by a chance shot and was replaced by the cautious Earl of Suffolk. Then the incredible Joan of Arc broke through the extensive blockades with reinforcements and supplies for the hungry city.

Joan, only 17, claimed divine guidance and convinced the dauphin to give her command of a relief force for Orleans. She sparked French resistance and gave new hope to the defeated army. To the French she was a saint. To the superstitious English she was a heretical witch.

Two days after Joan's triumph in Orleans, she led 4,000 soldiers in a sortie. The French captured an English force and gained a sweet taste of victory. A bitter struggle for the English-held fortifications lasted through May 7, 1429. Joan, although seriously wounded in the shoulder by an arrow, returned to battle, convincing the English that she was supernatural.

By May 8, the English had surrendered or deserted all their fortifications. The Earl of Suffolk ordered a retreat, and the siege was over. France was saved and never again in great danger during the Hundred Years' War, although it dragged on until 1453. Unfortunately, Joan did not live to see the fruits of her victory. She was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English--to be burned at the stake as a witch.

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