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Diary of a Soldier part II

Onwards.

31st of April

We arrived at Orleans two days ago. Usually when we have marched towards a battle I have wondered which of my comrades I wouldn’t see again, or if they would see me again. I would have wondered how my family are doing, if my little brother has learned how to bring in the sheep without our father getting furious, or if they are even still alive. But not two days ago. Two days ago we marched and we were filled with hope, confidence, belief. We are confident that with Jeanne we will drive the English out. Never before have I seen my countrymen march with their heads so high, their eyes filled with such determination. We do not believe we are marching to our doom, but with God’s blessing on Jeanne and on us we believe we will win.

But even though our arrival at Orleans has made us cheerful, despite the knowledge that there will be a battle soon and many of us will die, I can see that Jeanne’s face is filled with worry and anger. Jean d’Orleans, the commander of the besieged forces, has refused to let Jeanne join in on the war councils. He refuses to believe the sanctity of Jeanne and will not listen to her advice that we need to march against the English. For five months they have been sitting inside their walls, only attempting to break out once. The disaster of that attempt has turned this into a waiting game. They are just waiting for the English to attack and hope that they can drive them away again, hoping that they can tire the English out and force them to retreat.

I have heard from knights who are present at the council that Jeanne stands in the background, shaking her head as they talk and talk but never act on anything. She says that God has told her to act, not sit around and wait. But again they refuse to listen. I can only hope that Jeanne does not lose faith in her mission, because then I know we will surely crumble. I fear that if we stay here for too long, the men will show their displeasure and start questioning Jeanne. I know I will not.

6 th of May

Jeanne is truly supported by God himself, there is no doubt about it. After a week of waiting and hearing the war council talk, Jeanne finally decided to take action. Two days ago we marched towards the fortress of Saint Loup, some distance away from the city. It presents in itself no major tactical advantage other than securing traderoutes, but to us it showed us that the English are not unbeatable. Those that did not die as we took the fort fled like scared rabbits as we raised the fleur de lise everywhere. The men cheered as Jeanne approached and we all went silent as she spoke to us, telling us how this was only the beginning. We were spellbound and from that point onward, there is not one of us who is not willing to face any army, even if it outnumbers us 100 to 1, as long as it is Jeanne who leads us.

I think the English were scared by our courage, because yesterday when we marched on the fortress Saint Jean le Blanc we found it deserted. The men joked and laughed of the cowardly English who did not even dare to stand up against us. They once said that the French army were nothing but peasants, not worthy of an arrow, but yesterday they did not show up. I guess it is not us who are the peasants anymore.

But even though we accomplished more in two days than what the commander of Orleans had done in five months, he still refused to see what Jeanne could do. The war council had decided to continue to wait, to wait for more reinforcements. They could not see that Jeanne was all the reinforcement she needed. Those of us who were near the tent as Jeanne marched out in anger this morning were worried that it had come to an end, that we would no longer fight. But our worries were soon settled as Jeanne came out of her tent and got up on her horse and told us to prepare to march on Saint Augustins. Jean d’Orleans stood baffled and sent a man to order to close the gates of Orleans and make sure none entered or left. But Jeanne would not let a simple order from a coward stop her.

She forced the mayor of Orleans to open the gates and from the town square she spoke to the people. She wanted every man who was willing to free France to step forward and join her against the English. She assured them that with God on our side, we would not lose. Never before have I heard someone speak in such a convincing way. And obviously neither had the people of Orleans. Not only did the soldiers step forward, ready to follow Jeanne, but even regular townsmen who had never before been in a battle stood ready. One man was even willing to follow wielding only a knife and fork. When one of the soldiers told him to go home he said that with his knife he would carve an Englishman open and with the fork he would pull out the heart. The fire in his eyes was intimidating.

So out we marched, toward Saint Augustins. The earth trembled as the marched forward and I got chills as they sang songs I had not heard since I was a child. But even though the men followed, only one of the captains, La Hire, decided to join. Although there is no doubting this man’s brilliance as a commander alongside Jeanne, he is known for his savagery and lust for blood, preferably English. Like we all knew it would, the day ended with another victory. Surely we are blessed.

7th of May

Once again, we were told to wait for reinforcement. After three victories in three days we were told to wait! Jeanne was furious. Not only has Jean d’Orleans decided to wait for reinforcements, but he had also excluded her from the war council. Once again we saw her leave in anger only to give her captains orders to tell us to get be rested the following day. We all went to sleep excited. Had it not been for three days of consecutive fighting, I do not think anyone of us would have slept.

As we were woken up this morning Jeanne was already strapped in her armour. We hastily had our breakfast and marched towards les Tourelles, the main British stronghold near Orleans. A victory here would mean a liberated Orleans.

We sang and cheered as we followed Jeanne to the fortress. Behind us we left the angry noblemen who called us deserters and traitors who were only seeking death. Not one of us disagreed that they were the deserters.

The battle was long and hard, as we all had expected. Despite suffering defeats the English were still a tough enemy. In the middle of the battle Jeanne was hit by an arrow in her neck. She fell from her horse and many believed that she had died. Some men were even already wavering. But before it turned into a rout Jeanne got back up on her horse, one hand clutching her wound while the other raised her standard and she charged forward. We followed like crazed men, her courage and passion afflicting us all. They called us mad. We might have been mad, but we won. The mad men liberated Orleans.

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