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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday galette for a French saint on horseback.
** Linger to ponder the 102-year-old letters of a soldier writing home.
** Savor a last ½ cup hearing about 5000 conscripted war horses.
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Dear Folks at home –
Will try and write a few lines as I am sure you will all
be worrying about where I am and also explain
why it has been so long since I wrote…
– letter written by my grandfather, Francis Finnegan,
while at Camp MacArthur, Texas
before leaving for Domrémy, France
Slice of Cake:
Somewhere around 500 years before my grandfather—with a
transport-shipload of US Army horses—made his way to Domrémy,
there was a teenager there named Joan, who was leaving.
Joan of Arc left her small village of Domrémy, France and traveled to see the regional governor. She was adamant that the governor should send her to meet with Charles, heir to the French throne. Her idea was that Charles would then equip and commission her to lead a battle to end the siege at Orléans.
It took almost a year, but the governor finally consented, and in February 1429 sent Joan with a small escort to see Charles in Chinon, over 300 miles away.2
It was then up to Joan to convince Charles, Dauphin of France, to send her, an unknown village girl, into battle.3
This took a few months.
She presented herself to Charles
with her hair cut short and wearing a man’s clothes…
[asking] Charles to provide her with
a horse, a suit of armor, and weapons, and to place her
at the head of the army marching to rescue Orléans…
She was seventeen years old.
– Stephen W. Richey 3
While she was waiting for Charles to agree to her vision, Joan worked on her jousting.
The Duke of Alençon (who was a relative of the king) saw Joan practicing:
riding a borrowed horse and doing target practice with her lance.
He believed she showed natural ability.
In fact Alençon was so impressed, he gave Joan a war horse as a gift. 3
This Maid has a certain elegance. She has a virile bearing,
speaks little, shows an admirable prudence in all her words.
She has a pretty, woman’s voice,
eats little, drinks very little wine;
she enjoys riding a horse and takes pleasure in fine arms,
greatly likes the company of noble fighting men,
detests numerous assemblies and meetings,
readily sheds copious tears, has a cheerful face;
she bears the weight and burden of armor incredibly well,
to such a point that she has remained fully armed
during six days and nights.
– Perceval de Boulainvilliers
in a letter to the Duke of Milan 3
Wearing white armor, astride a white horse, carrying a banner she’d designed herself,4,3
Joan of Arc lead the French army—first to Orléans then on to a series of victories
that changed the outcome of the Hundred Years’ War. 3
Happy 609th birthday
** Jeanne d’Arc **
– born January 6, 1412
in Domrémy, France
I have seen her ride a horse
and wield a lance as well as the finest soldier,
and the soldiers themselves were most astonished by this.
– Marguerite de Touroulde2
We had 5000 horses turned over to us
and we have been working long hours every since…
– Francis Finnegan
I’ve been thinking this week about family history and I’ve been going through old photo albums.
My mom died three years ago tomorrow, and when my siblings and I were cleaning out her house,
I found lots and lots of photographs.
This week I was going through one of her photo albums and I came across
two letters I’d never seen before—they’re from World War I,
written by my grandfather at training camp in Texas
addressed to his parents back home in Michigan.
It feels astounding to hold these 102-year-old letters in my hand. It’s also pretty amazing to me that only a year ago I learned that my grandfather’s job during the war was taking care of the army’s horses in Domrémy, France. And now, a year later, here are his own letters, talking about army horses.
I never got to meet my grandfather, though I’ve heard a lot of stories about him.
Now I can read a few of his own stories in his own words.
“Half Cup More”
Dear Folks –
Just a few lines to let you know I am feeling fine and
well fit for the move, which I am quite sure will be this week…
It has been raining all day to-day and when you walk, it picks up
a foot deep on one’s heels. I never saw anything like it before.
Lieutenant Cotton came down to my tent when he got back and we had quite a visit.
I am working under him at present, but suppose I will lose him when we move for he goes on
the first train, and I go on the seventh with the horses.
I don’t know where we are going but don’t worry…
if we go across on a transport, we will be better off than if on a troop ship.
I will have a chance to write a card once in awhile on the train, for we have to stop and
exercise horses six hours out of every thirty-six…
Dear Folks at home –
Will try and write a few lines as I am sure you will all be worrying about where I am
and also explain why it has been so long since I wrote.
About the time we were to leave we had 5000 horses turned over to us
and we have been working long hours every since and I get so tired that
I haven’t written to anyone as I should…
We had a large fire last night about a quarter of a mile from our tent. I will put a clipping of it in this letter.
Say do you remember the McMellon’s that use to live on the McGraw branch? Well, last night I was on the roof of one of our stables with a pail of water watching for sparks and a fellow came along and sat down and started to talk. He was telling me of one time he saw a horse barn burn on the McGraw branch and come to find out it was Willie McMellon! We have had some good old time chats since. He is in the next Co. to ours and I have seen him before but never dreamed I ever went to school with that guy. He is about six foot three and weighs some 200 pounds with fire red hair.
Well, I guess I have written about all there is to write and so will close –
I guess you can write to me here yet for awhile…
I have not heard from
any of them up there yet but they must know my address…
I will close now and try and
write again before we go IF we go this week.
Your Ever Loving
Thank you for reading!
— Kelly J Hardesty
Scroll down to the end—and you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.
You Can Read More…
You can read more about my mom or about Joan of Arc
or my grandfather’s service in Joan of Arc’s hometown during WW1
in my earlier posts from January a year ago—or two years ago!
notes & footnotes
Not all of the “small escort” who accompanied
Joan of Arc to Chinon were fans of hers.
Not at first, anyway.
Dame Marguerite de Touroulde was the widow of a king’s counselor.
She gave testimony in the posthumous re-trial
(called the nullification trial) of Jeanne d’Arc.
Marguerite de Touroulde said:
“I heard from those that brought her to the king
that at first they thought she was mad, and intended to
put her away in some ditch,
but while on the way they felt moved to
do everything according to her good pleasure.”
The court declared Jeanne d’Arc innocent
on 7 July 1456—
25 years after she was killed.
Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation
by Stephen W. Richey
Richey wrote this:
Joan had to possess an innate genius that enabled her,
an illiterate teenage farm girl,
to quickly learn what she had to learn to deal
as an equal with royalty, bookish clerics,
and trained soldiers of high rank…
Coupled with this genius there had to be
phenomenal force of will…
Her force of will empowered her, a peasant girl,
to browbeat royal officials into granting her an audience
with the Dauphin Charles VII—and, having won that audience,
to persuade Charles to place her at the head of his army
with a horse, a suit of armor, a sword, a banner,
and an entourage of her own.
Joan of Arc
published Nov 9, 2009
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© Kelly J Hardesty 2022