Date: 11–12 June 1429
Location: Jargeau, France
Outcome: French victory
English Leadership: William de la Pole
English Strength: 5.000
English Casualties: Heavy
French Leadership: Jeanne d’Arc. John II of Alençon
French Strength: 3.000
French Casualties: Light
Battle of Jargeau: After her victory in the relief of the besieged city of Orelans, Joan of Arc leads French forces in her first offensive action: recapturing the city of Jargeau from the English. The English defenders will suffer heavy losses, and the French will take the city after two days of fighting.
The Battle of Jargeau took place on June 11 – 12, 1429. It was Jeanne d’Arc’s first offensive battle. Shortly after relieving the siege at Orléans, French forces recaptured the neighboring district along the Loire river. This campaign was the first sustained French offensive in a generation in the Hundred Years’ War.
Jargeau was a small town on the southern bank of the Loire river in central France, about ten miles east of Orléans. Conquered by the English a few years earlier as a staging point for a planned invasion of southern France, the city was defended by a wall with several towers and fortified gates. A ditch just on the outside of the walls further enhanced the defenses. Outside the walls, suburbs had grown. There was a single fortified bridge, of strategic significance during the latter part of the war, crossing the Loire River to the north bank. The city was defended by approximately 700 troops armed with gunpowder weaponry.
Jeanne d’Arc and Duke John II of Alençon controlled a force that included captains Jean d’Orléans, Gilles de Rais, Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, and La Hire. The duke of Suffolk William de la Pole led the English defense. The battle began with a French assault on the suburbs. English defenders left the city walls and the French fell back. Jeanne d’Arc used her standard to begin a French rally. The English retreated to the city walls and the French lodged in the suburbs for the night.
The following morning Jeanne d’Arc called upon the defenders to surrender. They refused. The French followed with heavy artillery bombardment using primitive cannons and siege engines. One of the town’s towers fell. Suffolk entered surrender nominations with a minor French captain, La Hire. This breach of protocol antagonized the French command. Jeanne d’Arc initiated an assault on the town walls, surviving a stone projectile that split in two against her helmet as she climbed a scaling ladder. The English suffered heavy losses. Most estimates place the number at 300-400 of some 700 combatants. Suffolk became a prisoner. The French had some 1200 troops and their losses appear to have been light.
By the end of 1428, during the later years of the Hundred Years’ War, the English and their Burgundian allies had occupied almost all of France north of the Loire River. Many strategic points along the Loire had also been seized, and Orléans, the last major city on the river, had been under siege since October of that year (1428). Were the English able to secure complete control of the Loire valley, the southern part of France, the last remaining position of the Dauphin would be open to invasion. In early March of 1429, Jeanne d’Arc arrived at Chinon to meet with the Dauphin and, after being examined by church officials in Poitiers, joined a large French force which set out to relieve the siege at Orléans. This operation proved successful as the siege was lifted by May 9.
The bridge at Orléans had been destroyed shortly before the siege lifted. The French had lost control of all other river crossings. Three swift and numerically small battles at Jargeau, Meung-sur-Loire, and Beaugency demonstrated renewed French confidence and laid the groundwork for subsequent French offenses on Rheims and Paris. The Loire campaign killed, captured, or disgraced a majority of the top tier of English commanders and decimated the numbers of the highly skilled English longbowmen.
Following the lifting of the siege of Orléans, the French forces spent the next month or so recruiting and growing in strength for the next phase of military operations. In early June, at a meeting of French military leaders in the presence of the Dauphin, it was decided to pursue a strategy of clearing the Loire River valley of English troops. The army was assembled at Orléans where Jeanne rejoined them on June 9. That same day the army departed for Jargeau, the first stop on the Loire Valley Campaign. Meanwhile, on June 8, Sir John Fastolf finally left Paris with a reinforcing army of several thousand, headed for the Loire River valley.