Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/237

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

AT ORLEANS. 231


in prayer. But on the following morrow it was resolved by the chiefs of the garrison to attack the English forts on the south of the river. For this purpose they crossed the river in boats, and after some severe fighting, in which the Maid was wounded in the heel, both the English bastilles of the Augustins and St. Jean de Blanc were captured. The Tourelles were now the only post which the besiegers held on the south of the river. But that post was formidably strong, and by its command of the bridge, it was the key to the deliverance of Orleans. It was known that a fresh English army was approaching under Fastolfe to re-enforce the besiegers, and should that army arrive while the Tourelles were yet in the possession of their comrades, there was great peril of all the advantages which the French had gained being nullified, and of the siege being again actively carried on.

It was resolved, therefore, by the French to assail the Tourelles at once, while the enthusiasm which the presence and the heroic valor of the Maid had created was at its height. But the enterprise was difficult. The rampart of the tete-du-pont, or landward bulwark, of the Tourelles was steep and high, and Sir John Gladsdale occupied this all-important fort with five hundred archers and men-at-arms, who were the very flower of the English army.

Early in the morning of the seventh of May, some thousands of the best French troops in Orleans heard mass and attended the confessional by Joan's orders, and then crossing the river in boats, as on the preceding day, they assailed the bulwark of the Tourelles "with light hearts and heavy hands." But Gladsdale's men, encouraged by their bold and skillful leader, made a resolute and able defense. The Maid planted her banner on the edge of the fosse, and then springing down into the ditch, she placed the first ladder against the wall, and began to mount. An English archer sent an arrow at her, which pierced her corslet, and wounded her severely between the neck and shoulder. She fell bleeding from the ladder; and the English were leaping down from the wall to capture her, but her followers bore her off. She was carried to the rear, and laid upon the grass; her armor was taken off, and the anguish of her wound and the sight of her blood made her at first tremble and weep. But her confidence in her celestial mission soon returned: her patron saints seemed to stand before her, and reassure her. She sat up and drew the