Siege of Orléans (1429)Siege of Orléans (1429) - It's said about The Hundred Years' War that England won most of the battles, but France ultimately won the war.  After devastating defeats at Crécy, Poitiers and especially Agincourt, France could have easily collapsed under the strain of those losses.  However, at Orléans, it began to turn things around.  Actually, credit for France's salvation is largely given to one person; not a man, but a woman.  Joan of Arc.  England's strategy for victory relied on capturing Orléans, and it very nearly did.  Had it done so, it might well have won the war.  Orléans was the northernmost town still loyal to the French crown.  Everything north of it was under English (or her allies) control.  And it was situated on the Loire River; which would make campaigning into the heart of France much easier.  The siege began in October 1428.  England tried to make quick work of Orléans by bombarding it with artillery.  However, French reinforcements arrived just in time to repel the assault.  They then managed to destroy the bridge spanning the Loire, thus disrupting England's supply line.  So the English changed tactics and tried to starve the city into submission.  This meant a much longer siege.  The French tried to break it in February 1429, but were beaten at the Battle of the Herrings.  The defeat destroyed French morale.  At this point they were all but resigned to the loss of Orléans and perhaps the war too.

 

According to the Chronique de la Pucelle (Chronicle of the Maid), one of the sources of The Hundred Years' War, on the very day of the Battle of the Herrings, a young peasant girl in Vaucoleurs named Joan (Jeanne d'Arc in French) was trying to convince Robert de Baudricourt, a captain in the French army, that she was divinely appointed to deliver the Dauphin Charles from the English army.  After several failed attempts, and perhaps because Baudricourt came to the realization that there was nothing left to lose, he relented and dispatched her to the Dauphin under armed escort.  After some persuasion, the Dauphin provided her with armour, a banner, a page and heralds, and added her to a force of five hundred soldiers that left for Orléans at the end of April 1429.  They approached from the South and came up with a plan to enter the city.  While 300 of the soldiers attacked the English fort (the French fort Tourelles which was occupied by the English) guarding the river, the other 200 (including Joan) equipped with relief supplies approached the landing outside the city.  Ships from Orléans sailed out and picked them up.  According to the chronicle, one of Joan's miracles was performed there.  The winds which brought the ships out, suddenly shifted and allowed them to return to the city under cover of darkness.  Joan disembarked from one of the ships with her banner raised and the people rejoiced.  They had been resupplied with fresh provisions and their spirits were immediately lifted.

 

Siege of Orléans (1429)The plan was to send a relief force from Blois to Orléans and when it arrived, the army guarding the city would break out and crush the English siege.  While they waited, Joan sent messengers to the English warning them to withdraw, but they were dismissed as being "emissaries of a witch."  They also conducted makeshift repairs on the bridge at night so as to allow the English to be attacked from both sides.  When the relief force arrived, the French still did not have enough troops to beat the entire army, so they concentrated their attack on the Tourelles guarding the Loire.  They captured it on May 7th.  At that point, the English lifted the siege because without control of the Tourelles, they could guard neither the bridge nor the river and the French could resupply the city at will.  While the Siege of Orléans ended in heavy losses for the English and a failure to capture the city, they merely considered it a setback and were far from beaten at that point.  The war would drag on for another 24 years, but they were never able to penetrate into the heart of French territory after that and eventually had to abandon their plans of conquering France.