Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Francis Atremen takes Damme (1385)

The men of Ghent, having been foiled at Ardembourg, have withdrawn to the Quatre Mestiers.

Book II, ch. 163 (Johnes, v. II, p. 41-42). On a Saturday night, Francis Atremen marched with seven thousand men from the Quatre Mestiers, whither he had retreated after the failure of his attempt on Artembourg: he had promised his townsmen, on his departure, that he would never return until he had taken some good town. The Ghent men were desirous of finding the French employment, so that they should be unable to send more men to the admiral in Scotland, to make war on the English; for it was currently reported, that the constable, together with a large body of men at arms and cross-bows, was about to embark
to reinforce those sent to Scotland.

Francis Atremen, being an expert man at arms, sallied out one Saturday evening from tine country called Quatre Mestiers, and when it was dark, advanced to the walls of Bruges, in hopes of taking it, but could not. When he found he could do nothing, he marched towards Damme, and met his spies whom he had sent thither and round that neighbourhood: they told him he would do well to advance to Damme, for sir Roger Guistelles had left it, and only women were there. This was true; for he had gone
to Bruges, thinking the inhabitants were able to defend themselves, but in this he was disappointed.

When Francis Atremen heard that sir Roger de Guistehles was not in Damme, he divided his men into two divisions, and, taking the smallest said to the other, "You will advance to that gate, and make no attack until you hear our trumpets sound: then
attempt the barriers, and cut down and destroy all, and on the side we will break down the gate, for we shall never enter the town by ladders."

His orders were punctually obeyed. He advanced with the smaller division, leaving the other behind him: the foremost marched with ladders through the ditches, where they met with no resistance, and, having passed the mud, fixed their ladders to the walls on entering the town, they sounded their trumpets and made for the gates without opposition, for they were masters of the place, the good people being still in their beds. It was the 17th day of July when Damme was thus surprised. They advanced
to the gate, and broke all the bars of it with strong axes: those without destroyed the barriers, and thus all sorts of people entered the town.

The inhabitants began to be in motion; but it was too late for they were made prisoners in their houses, and those whom they found armed were slain without mercy. Thus was the good town of Damme taken, wherein they found much wealth: in particular, cellars full of Malmsey and other wines. I heard also that those of Bruges had brought thither great riches for fear of a rebellion of the populace whom they suspected.

Francis Atremen was much rejoiced on being master of Damme, and said, "Now I have well kept my promise to Ghent: this place will enable us to conquer Bruges, Sluys, and Ardembourg."  He instantly issued a proclamation, that not the smallest harm or insult should be offered to the noble ladies in the town; for there were seven ladies, the wives of knights, who had come thither to visit madame de Guistelles, who was within child and near lying-in. After having pillaged the town and put to death those who would not join their party, they began to repair it.

When those in Bruges heard of this, they were much enraged, and not without cause: they instantly armed and marched to Damme, and began to skirmish and attack it but it was of no avail, for they lost more than they gained: they therefore marched back to Binges. You may suppose, when this news reached Ghent, they were much pleased, and considered it as a valiant enterprise, and also looked on Francis Atremen as a gallant soldier.

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