Page images
PDF
EPUB

cordiality again grew up between the outposts policy was most simple; that the French might The officers bowed to each other, and the men do as they please, that as for themselves (the Gertook off their caps in sign of friendship, and talked mans) they were sure of Paris, its fall being merely together. Sorties indeed continued, but their char

a question of time. 6. The French took Rome acter was wofully changed. Instead of brilliant

brilliant without injuring its monuments; the Germans will and impetuous battalions, they consisted first of do the same with Paris, which is a city of art in tens, then forties, fifties, and even hundreds, of which nothing shall be destroyed. I have nothing wretched, haggard, half-starved deserters. For a to say to the various considerations that you lay time these were received by the Prussians; but on

before me.
You tell me that

your
Metz
army

is a body of 800 presenting themselves, they were the sole element of order remaining in France, and told they must go back and endure their troubles that it is alone capable of establishing and upholda little longer. Another day, through the driving ing a government in the country. If this is the sleet which flew like a thick mist across the plain, case, constitute this government; we will offer no a black mass was descried advancing towards the opposition, and we will even render you some Prussian lines, which at first was supposed to indi- assistance. The marshal will repair to some town to cate a last desperate effort, and the alarm was at be named with his army, and summon the empress once given. As the shower passed there stood thither. In our eyes the sole legal government before the Germans, not soldiers, but thousands of of the country is still that of the plebiscitum of men, women, and children, the civil inhabitants of the 8th of May; it is the only one we recognize. Metz. The officer at once despatched orderlies in You speak to me of the necessity for putting an all directions, with orders to the foreposts to allow end to a war such as this one; but whom am I to no individual to pass, and to fire upon any who treat with? There is no Chamber. I had proshould persist in the attempt. One man, sent as posed to let the elections be held on the 2nd of advance guard of this band, advanced a little too October; the departments occupied by the Prussian near, and was shot. The unfortunate citizens came troops would have had full liberty in the selection to a standstill; but a woman advanced with a white of their deputies. This offer was not taken advanpocket-handkerchief fastened on the point of a tage of. I then suggested the date of the 18th of stick. The Prussians by this time were keeping | October, with no better success.” Count von up a sharp fire over the heads of this jaded crowd, Bismarck, entering into another train of ideas, then who took the warning, and in a short time went said with no little warmth, “I cannot say what back to Metz. The female kept advancing, but, on will befall France, nor what is the future that looking round and seeing herself deserted, she also awaits her; but I do know this, that it will redound turned and fled.

to her shame, to her eternal shame in all time, But if military operations were for a time sus in all ages, and in all tongues, to have abandoned pended, diplomacy was not idle. On the 17th of her emperor as she did after Sedan. The stain October Marshal Bazaine's aide-de-camp, General which she will never wash out is the revolution Boyer, passed blindfolded through the German mili- of the 4th of September.” Finally, returning to tary lines to the headquarters of Prince Frederick what was peculiarly the object of the interview, Charles. On the 18th he went to Versailles and the chancellor repeated that he would offer no was conducted to Count von Bismarck. His appear- opposition to the reconstitution of a government ance created such a sensation among the French by Marshal Bazaine and his

army. inhabitants, that a guard had to be sent for to keep General Boyer stayed two days at Versailles, had an open space in front of the count's windows. two interviews with the count, and then returned to According to an apparently trustworthy account the neighbourhood of Metz, before entering which, of their interview, published in the Debats in however, he visited Wilhelmshöhe. On the 23rd he June, 1871, and when there had thus been ample once more repaired to Versailles. From his statetime to obtain correct information, the general, ment it appeared that Bazaine was now quite willing after a few formal remarks, asked Count von Bis- to surrender with his army, but the commandant marck what were his aims and objects; in a word, of Metz, General Coffinières, would not consent to what he desired as the result of the war. To this give up the fortress. Prince Frederick Charles Count von Bismarck replied very frankly, that his very naturally objected to take charge of 80,000

or 90,000 soldiers, hampered with the condition accustom both soldier and civilian to the idea of having the same battle to fight for the city, and of capitulation. his answer simply was, “ Metz, or nothing at all.” General Cissy was then sent to arrange a meetMeanwhile, so confident were the German author- ing between the headquarters of the two armies, ities of the early surrender, that a château at and, as we have just stated, General Changarnier Frescati was prepared for the expected negotiations. subsequently had an interview with Prince Morning after morning every eye was turned Frederick Charles.

Frederick Charles. It was hoped that the veteanxiously in the direction of the town and out- ran soldier of France now sent to negotiate works, until, on the 25th, a flag of truce appeared would be able to obtain exceptionally honourwith a despatch to Prince Frederick Charles, inti- able terms for a valiant army, which had held mating that General Changarnier would wait upon the Prussians in check for three months and him at twelve o'clock that day.

a half, after having been beaten by them several Marshal Bazaine had received, almost at the times. The prince gave the general an affable and same moment, a despatch from General Boyer, cordial reception, but told him, that as he did not and another from Count von Bismarck, in which form part of the active army, he could not treat the latter declined all negotiations save on the with him regarding the conditions of the capitulabasis of unconditional surrender. On receipt tion; and that their conversation must be confined of these documents, which destroyed the mar- to pure and simple details respecting local events. shal's hopes and plans, he immediately con- He said, he knew well that Metz had victuals voked his council of war. The council decided for only three days, and showing Changarnier a unanimously, with one exception, that the capitu- train in the railway station crammed with different lation was necessary.

Almost up to the last kinds of provisions, he added: “That is for the moment General Coffinières desired to make city of Metz and for your army, which is in want another attempt to break through the Prussian of everything. We wish to put an end to your investment. By seven o'clock in the evening, suffering!” Changarnier, however, proved to the however, Bazaine had succeeded in convincing prince that, although holding no separate command, Coffinières that, even if successful, such an attempt he was nevertheless officially attached to Bazaine, would only postpone the capitulation for a few and was acting in this matter with his authority. weeks, at a great sacrifice of life; and accordingly He pleaded hard to obtain for the soldiers the a messenger was sent to Prince Frederick Charles, privilege of returning to their homes and families; intimating an intention to surrender. This was the but of course such a request could not be granted, first proposition which included both the fortress and it is almost surprising that so old and experiand the army of Bazaine encamped outside. In enced an officer should have thought of making it. expectation of an outbreak on the 24th, Bazaine, At the conclusion of the interview he was almost whether rightly or wrongly, had fully made up his heartbroken, and said, with a flood of tears, “We mind that further sorties were useless, and that shall fall, but with honour. I wish, gentlemen, Metz must speedily succumb. The Viscount de that neither you nor any brave soldier may ever Valcourt contrived to escape in disguise through experience this.” Changarnier was then conducted the Prussian lines, with a despatch in a hollow tooth, back, as he had been brought, blindfolded, through covered with a top dressing of gutta percha. This the Prussian camp, and General Cissy was once more was addressed to the authorities at Tours, and ran sent to continue the negotiation. He urged that thus :—“I must give up Metz in a day or two. though the army capitulated, that was no reason Make peace as soon as you can.—Bazaine, Mar-why Metz should surrender. The prince replied: shal,” &c. On the 25th October the marshal “Before the declaration of war, we knew as well as communicated to the council of war that he had you, down to the most minute details, the state of the received a despatch from General Boyer, stating defences of the town. Then the forts were scarcely that the empress would not accept the regency. sketched out, and the town could only make a Bazaine added, that as Bismarck had now refused feeble resistance. It is since the presence of the to separate the fate of the town from that of the French army under its walls that Metz has become army, nothing remained to be done but to en- what it is. Through your exertions it has been deavour to get the best terms possible, and to converted into a fortress of the first class, and

[ocr errors]

must accept, as a consequence, all the conditions gage by written promise not to bear arms against
of a capitulation which will make no distinction Germany, or to agitate against Prussian interests
between the town and the army.” As no mitigation during the war, should not be made prisoners, but
of the humiliating terms thus seemed possible, should be permitted to retain their arms, and to
submission only remained, and General Jarras, of keep their personal property, in recognition of the
the marshal's staff, was sent to arrange the clauses

arrange the clauses courage displayed by them during the campaign.
of the capitulation.

It was also agreed that all questions of detail, such
The discussion of these details was long, obsti- as might concern the commercial rights of the
nate, and often warm, the terms demanded by the town of Metz, and the interests and rights of
Germans appearing to their adversaries extremely civilians and non-combatants, should be considered
and needlessly severe. The evening of the 25th, and treated subsequently in an appendix to the
the whole of the 26th and the 27th, was occupied military paper of capitulation; and that any clause,
before the clauses were finally settled. So certain, sentence, or word which might present a doubt
however, were the Germans of the ultimate issue as to its exact meaning, should be interpreted in
of whatever negotiations were carried on, that their favour of the French people.
second corps received marching orders for Paris at The Metz municipal council, wrought up to the
noon on the 25th, and was on its way early in the highest pitch of excitement by the reticence of
evening. On the 26th the interview became very the military authorities, went on the 24th to
stormy on the part of the French commissioners. General Coffinières and demanded to be informed
They insisted on the officers retaining their side how matters stood. The governor told them
arms, and it was found necessary to telegraph to he had no information to give, either as to the
the Prussian king at Versailles for specific instruc- position of affairs in the rest of France or of
tions. The king conceded the privilege in a tele- those more immediately outside Metz; and advised
graphic despatch which arrived at three a.m. on them to apply to the marshal, which they agreed
the next day. Early on the morning of that day to do. The result of the inquiry confirmed their
the commissioners again met, there being present worst fears, that a capitulation was in course of
General Jarras, Marshal Bazaine's chief of the arrangement. . A thrill of rage and consternation
staff, and Colonel Fay and Major Samuele on the passed through the city as the truth flashed upon
part of General Coffinières, the commandant of it. The town council now met daily, and in
the fortress. The German commissioners were answer to their persistent demand for a true state-
Generals Stiehle and Wartensleben.

The con

ment of the situation, General Coffinières, on the
ference lasted until eight o'clock at night, when a morning of the 27th, issued the following official
draught was signed for the absolute surrender of proclamation :-
Metz and all its fortifications, armaments, stores,
and munitions, together with the garrison and the " Inhabitants of Metz,—It is my duty to faith-
whole of Bazaine's army.

fully state to you our situation, well persuaded
In addition to the leading points of the sur- that your manly and courageous souls will rise to
render, the draught stipulated that the French the height of this grave occasion. Round us is
troops should be conducted, without arms, by an army which has never been conquered, which
regiments or regimental corps, in military order, has stood firm before the fire of the foe, and with-
to some place to be afterwards indicated by the stood the rudest shocks. This army, interposed
Prussians; that the French officers in command of between our city and her besiegers, has given us
the men should, after their arrival at this place, be time to put our forts in a complete state of defence,
at liberty to return to the entrenched camps, or to to mount upon our walls more than 600 pieces of
Metz, on giving their word of honour not to quit cannon, and has held in check an army of more
either place without an order of permission from than 200,000 men. Within our walls we have a
the German commandant; that the troops, after population full of energy and patriotism, firmly
surrender, should be marched to bivouac, retaining determined to defend itself to the last extremity.
their personal effects, cooking utensils, &c.; that I have already informed the municipal council that,
the French generals, officers, and military employés notwithstanding the reduction of rations, notwith-
ranking as commissioned officers, who should en- / standing the perquisitions made by the civil and

1

military authorities, we have no more food than the army and the weakness of their generals. will serve till to-morrow. Further than this, our “ How was it," it was inquired, “that in the early brave

army, tried already by the fire of the enemy, days of the siege officers were allowed to draw has lost 42,000 men, after horrible sufferings from their double rations in camp, and then to come the inclemency of the season and privations of into the town and eat and drink as though no every kind. The council of war has proof of these allowance had been made them! There were for facts, and the marshal commanding in chief has three-quarters of the time an average of 8000 given formal orders, as he had the right, to direct officers, with double rations for at least fifty days a portion of our provisions for the purposes of the of the blockade, giving a total of 800,000 single army. With all this, thanks to our economy, we rations, and who, meanwhile, fed upon the

procan still resist up to the 30th inst., but then our visions of the town. All this, if you knew we situation will not be sensibly modified. Never in had not sufficient provisions for a lengthened time, the annals of military history has a place resisted you should have prevented.” until its resources have been so completely exhausted There seems to have been some truth in this, as this has, and none has ever been so encumbered but expostulation came too late to serve any good with sick and wounded. We are, then, condemned purpose; already upon the walls was the proclamato succumb; but it will be with honour, and when tion of Marshal Bazaine, announcing the dreaded we find ourselves conquered by famine. The event in even plainer terms than that of the comenemy, who has so closely invested us for more mandant. It ran as follows:than seventy days, knows that he has almost attained the end of his efforts. He demands the

GENERAL ORDER. —No. 12. town and the army, and will not permit the severance of the interests of the one from that

To the Army of the Rhine. of the other. Four or five days' desperate resistance “Conquered by famine, we are compelled to would only place the inhabitants in a worse position. submit to the laws of war by constituting ourselves Rest assured that your private interests will be prisoners. At various epochs in our military hisdefended with the most lively solicitude. Seek to tory brave troops, commanded by Massena, Kleber, support stoically this great misfortune, and cherish Gouvion St. Cyr, have experienced the same fate, the firm hope that Metz, this grand and patriotic which does not in any way tarnish military honour city, will remain to France.

when, like you, their duty has been so gloriously “F. COFFINIERES,”

accomplished to the extremity of human limits. " the General, &c.

“ All that was loyally possible to be done in

order to avoid this end has been attempted, and • METZ, 27th October, 1870."

could not succeed. This proclamation, though full of kindly feeling, “ As to renewing a supreme attempt to break did not satisfy the people. The old question was through the fortified lines of the enemy, in spite asked and re-asked—Why were we not told of of your gallantry and the sacrifice of thousands of the shortness of provisions before? Why were lives, which may still be useful to the country, not some means taken to prevent waste? Waste it would have been unavailing, on account of the indeed there had been. On the retreat from the armament and of the overwhelming forces which battle of Gravelotte, coffee, sugar, and biscuits, to guard and support those lines : a disaster would the value of more than 100,000 francs, were burnt have been the consequence. because they encumbered the roads. More than “Let us be dignified in adversity. Let us seventy carriages, which had been in the morning respect the honourable conventions which have full of provisions, entered Metz empty. The road been stipulated, if we wish to be respected as we side ditches were choked with boxes of biscuit deserve to be. bearing the English weight, and with the familiar “Let us, above all, for the reputation of our inscription, in large black letters, “ Navy biscuit.” army, shun acts of indiscipline, such as the deSoldiers filled their sacks with sugar, which they struction of arms and matériel, since, according sold in town, or returned with a sugar loaf on each to military usages, places and armament will be shoulder as a trophy of the maladministration of restored to France when peace is signed.

VOL. II.

Q

from you.

[ocr errors]

“ In leaving the command I make it a duty to effect of defeating the seriously-entertained design express to generals, officers, and soldiers all, my of spiking the guns which yet remained in position, gratitude for their loyal co-operation, their brilliant breaking the small arms contained in the arsenal, valour on the battle-field, their resignation in pri- and finally blowing up the forts.

Men were vations, and it is with broken heart that I separate willing to brave death, but they feared being

laughed at. The voltigeurs of the imperial guard, “The Marshal of France, Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by the half of a regiment of the line,

quickly suppressed the disorderly demonstration. (Signed) BAZAINE." The arms of the national guard were taken from

them, and the few officers who could fled in sorrow It is almost impossible to describe the excite- from their last hope. Some of them managed to ment which prevailed when this order was issued. steal through the gates of the town, and tramped The bewildered citizens ran to and fro in the streets, along the muddy road to Grigy, joined here and seeking a leader but finding none. The national there by a few stragglers. They crept through guard refused to give up its arms, and assembled the dark wood, but there all hope was lost. At in the Place d'Armes. Some few officers of dif- four mètres apart stood the Prussian outposts; to ferent regiments would have placed themselves proceed was death, to go back shame. They chose at their head, but they were without any plan or the shame, and the last night they entered Metz point of union, and ran about like ants in an was one of weeping and tears. invaded ant-hill. The door leading to the clock- Once more, and for the last time, the municipal tower was broken in with the butts of muskets; council of the French city of Metz assembled, and, the staircase was carried, and the great alarm bell as if ashamed of the childish display of their of Metz was rung for the first time since 1812. fellow-townsmen, addressed to them a manifesto The population streamed into the square from all as follows: quarters, and the streets were crowded with angry citizens. In the caserne of the engineers, a huge in supporting an evil without those agitations

“Dear Fellow-citizens,—True courage consists building on the esplanade, a band of officers of which but serve to aggravate it. AMicted as we artillery and engineers, who had long been discontented with their enforced inactivity, were gathered all are by that which has fallen upon us to-day, tented with their enforced inactivity, were gathered not one of us can reproach himself with having together, and 8000 officers and men, divided into bodies, hidden in different parts of the town, were

failed, even for a single day, to do his duty. Let ready to put themselves under a general who had

us not present the wretched spectacle of intestine promised to lead them; but at the last moment

strife, nor furnish any pretext for future violence, he failed, and consternation and disorder were the

or for new and worse misfortunes. The thought

that this trial will only be a transient one, and that result. Now was exhibited a ridiculous feature of the

we have assumed none of the responsibility to the outbreak. Foolish men crept in, and wise men

country or to history attached to it, should be in crept out. An editor of one of the Metz news

such a moment our consolation. We confide the papers, who had before achieved glory by entering common security to the wisdom of the population.” the ante-chamber of General Coffinières and break- This proclamation was signed by the mayor and ing down the harmless bust of the ex-emperor, all the council, but it had no date. The date was, preserving the whip with which he had done it as in fact, sufficiently fixed by the circumstances. a trophy of his prowess, mounted his horse armed That black Friday—a day henceforth doubly unwith a revolver, which he fired repeatedly in the lucky in the history of the city of Metz—needed air. He was attended by a young lady, the no formal date. daughter of a gunsmith, who, mounted on one of At one o'clock on the 28th it was ordered that her father's horses, and armed with one of his the French army should formally lay down its arms pistols, having a pocket handkerchief tied to it, within the city. There was no set ceremony, yet the bore aloft her standard, like a second Joan of Arc, affair was imposing from its very simplicity. Each through the streets of Metz. Ridicule speedily corps, in order, laid down its arms in the neighbourput an end to the silly movement; but it had the hood of its own station. The third army corps—that

« PreviousContinue »