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Gambetta exercised a wise discretion in assigning newly-organized army was posted between the two the Loire army to younger and bolder men, he only railway lines, one coming from Paris and Orleans, paid a just tribute to his merits in offering him the along the banks of the Loire, to Blois and Tours, command (declined on the ground of ill-health) of the other from Paris direct to Tours by Châteaudun the new camp of instruction at Cherbourg. and Vendôme. Between Beaugency, on the first
When it was decided to remove General line, and Fréteval, a few miles north of Vendôme, d'Aurelles from the charge of the army, it was on the second, extends the forest of Marchenoirgenerally acknowledged that M. Gambetta made a a region chosen by the French at an early period good choice of a successor, for there was no doubt in the campaign as well adapted for defensive that Chanzy had shown more military capacity operations. than any general as yet tried on the Loire. It was Up to the evening of the 8th, Prince Frederick he who really won the battle of Coulmiers on the Charles, with the tenth corps, remained at Orleans, 9th of November; it was the left wing, under his while the rest of the German forces spread themcommand, which had fought-at Patay, on the 1st selves out like a fan, along the roads which the December—the only creditable engagement of the retreating enemy had taken. Not at all expecting Loire army in the several days previous to its to meet with any serious opposition, the prince retreat from before Orleans; and of all the undis- sent the duke of Mecklenburg, with about 40,000 tinguished crowd of worn-out veterans, naval troops, comprising the seventeenth division, and officers, and hastily-promoted colonels under whom the remnant of Von der Tann's Bavarians, to that
army was first brought together from its scat- follow up those who had taken the right bank of tered depots, Chanzy was the only general who had the river. It did not seem probable that the shone out conspicuously for vigour and military advance upon Tours would be impeded by only capacity in the field.
a portion of that French army which, as a whole, Even before the Bordeaux government had had already been beaten and dispersed. On the settled itself in its new home, General Chanzy had 6th of December the cavalry, who were sent to thoroughly justified his title to the most import- clear the way to Blois, were, on entering the town ant military command M. Gambetta had to confer. of Meung, fired upon by a body of 1200 foot We have seen how he was cut off from Orleans gendarmes, who after a short resistance disapon the 2nd and 3rd of December, with his own peared, and the road was reported clear for the (sixteenth) corps and the seventeenth. These, advance of the army. Accordingly the leading reinforced on the following week by the twenty- columns passed through the town, unmolested and first corps, sent to him from Tours, constituted without suspicion, about ten o'clock on the mornthe new active army of the Loire, with which he ing of the 7th; but no sooner did they debouch was to endeavour to fulfil the hopes which General upon the plain covered with vineyards, on the D'Aurelles had failed to realize. M. Gambetta side towards Beaugency, than they were received had pledged himself to support the new commander with a hot artillery and Chassepot fire, which with all the forces of the west; but as yet these compelled them to fall back behind the extreme were only in a rudimentary condition, and weeks houses of Meung, which they rapidly loopholed must elapse before they could with any certainty and defended. After a short delay the artillery be drawn upon. Meanwhile, it was most import- came to the front, the Mecklenburgers again ant to present the best possible face to the enemy advanced, and the battle became general. The
The sixteenth corps, after the defeats of the 3rd French army was in position along the road which and 4th of December, had retreated down the runs at right angles to the Loire by Ouzouer-leriver as far as Mer, within fourteen miles of Blois. Marché. Some brigades had been pushed along General Chanzy ordered its columns to re-form at in echelon towards Meung, but the main body Beaugency, seven miles nearer to Orleans. With extended from Villorceau on the right to Cravant marvellous rapidity he established a new system of on the left, the village of Beaumont forming the defence, presented himself, much to the astonish- centre of the position. A slightly undulating ment of his enemy, at the head of at least 100,000 plain separated the two armies, and owing to the men, and offered a resistance which forms one of hard frost, the country was in admirable condition the most interesting episodes of the war. The for the passage of artillery and cavalry. But the precaution taken by the French commander of to the right, was Langclochere, the centre of the causing the vine stakes to be left in the ground, battle-field of the 7th. Still further round the paralyzed to a great extent the latter arm, in curve, but far more to the front, was Beaumont, which the Germans were exceedingly strong. and beyond that, at the broken end of the German The seventeenth division, which found itself thus part of the horse-shoe, Cravant. These villages suddenly engaged with an enemy in very superior were generally from a mile to a mile and a half force, was for a time obliged to bear alone the distant from each other. The twenty-second whole brunt of the attack, and the seventy-sixth Prussian division, which formed the German right and ninetieth regiments of Mecklenburgers suffered wing, was to have commenced the attack, but severely both in men and officers. Cavalry opera- was anticipated by the French. The Bavarians, tions, as we have said, were impracticable; but who as usual had to sustain the brunt of the the country was very favourable for riflemen and action, occupied the centre; and the seventeenth skirmishers. The German artillery, however, by division, forming the left wing, held the high their excellent range and practice, prevented any- road leading to Beaugency at Baulle, a little in thing like a forward movement on the part of the rear of Messas, which with Cravant had not yet French, until the Bavarians, who were at some been taken. For a long time the battle lay with distance in the rear when the fight began, by an the artillery of the respective armies, and this arm extraordinary feat in marching came up on the of the French force did much to retrieve its right of the Mecklenburgers late in the afternoon, character. About one o'clock the Germans enand by their dash and impetuosity carried all before deavoured to storm several of the villages in their them. At dark the French, who had made a front, but found the work by no means easy ; gallant fight throughout the day, found themselves mobiles as well as the more seasoned troops condriven back at all points, and the German army testing gallantly every inch of ground. Messas, camped upon their hardly-won field.
Cravant, and Beaumont were, however, ultimately During the night the duke of Mecklenburg was taken, though after severe loss. Batteries on the strengthened by the arrival of the twenty-second | left bank of the Loire commenced bombarding Prussian division. General Chanzy also received Beaugency in the afternoon, and painful havoc reinforcements, and early on the morning of the was committed among the wounded soldiers, with 8th commenced a vigorous attack, which might whom many of the houses and public buildings have seriously altered the German position but were crowded. for the timely arrival mentioned. At first the Towards evening a storming party pushed forform of the battle-field was very nearly that of ward, and after severe fighting managed to occupy a horse-shoe halved into pieces, separated at some the town and capture a battery of six guns and distance from each other. One end of the shoe 1100 prisoners. The day thus closed favourably on rested upon the village of Baulle, about half way the whole for the Germans, who had slowly gained between Meung and Beaugency, and the other ground. The resistance of the enemy, however, upon Tavers, a village beyond Beaugency, on a had been as obstinate as it was unexpected, and ridge at the bottom of which a small stream flows throughout the camp an unpleasant sense of disinto the Loire. On this ridge the French were appointment prevailed. It was, therefore, resolved posted; their position extending in a curve as if that something further should be done to augment to complete the horse-shoe, which it was prevented the acquisitions of the day; and about midnight from doing by the German position occupying the two Hanseatic regiments who were occupying corresponding curve. The strength of the French Messas, finding that the village of Vernon, immeposition was on the ridge near the end of the diately in front of them, was still occupied by the straight part of the shoe; that of the Germans at French, determined on surprising it; and rushing the curve. In other words, the force of the attack suddenly in, captured 400 prisoners without firing of both armies was from their respective right a shot or losing a man. The Bavarians were wings. Between Baulle and Beaugency, a little equally successful in a night sortie from Beaumont to the right of the main road, was the village of upon the neighbouring village of La Mee, which Messas; in the same direction, and a little in rear they also took by surprise and without loss. of it, lay Villeneuve. Yet further back, and more The scenes in Beaugency, immediately after its capture, were painfully memorable. The night | early in the day, and Cernay about the same time was very starry, and the rattle of the musketry by some regiments of the twenty-second division. never quite ceased. There was also a good deal Both villages were the scene of desperate engageof desultory firing about the streets by Prussian ments; and at the close of the day the dead patrols, who sometimes caught sight of the uni- Bavarians and French around Villorceau lay thicker forms of French soldiers who had brought in than pheasants after the hottest battue in England. wounded comrades, and were endeavouring to It was noticed towards the afternoon that General rejoin their corps. The whole town was a vast Chanzy was concentrating strongly on the Gerhospital, and there was only one doctor capable man right: he was in reality falling back on the of performing amputations! In the theatre alone forest of Marchenoir. About three o'clock the were upwards of 200 desperately wounded men, order was given for a general advance; and as forming a scene which those who speak lightly of the artillery went to the front, and the sharpwar, or who hold in their hands the power of shooters began to feel the enemy along the whole making it, should have witnessed. For many line, the firing became terrific. The rifles seemed hours there was no medical man in the place. The endeavouring to rival the mitrailleuse in loudness cold was intense, and many a man's life slipped and rapidity, and the two, combined with the away because there was no one sufficiently skilled bursting of the shells and the fire of some heavy to bind up his wounds. The dead lay thick among naval guns which the French had in position, the dying; and as the former were dragged out made four distinct sounds, which between four and their places were instantly filled. Miserable objects, five o'clock blended in a roar fierce beyond descripwith broken jaws or faces half shot away, wandered tion. At this time, immediately under the blaze of about, pointing to their wounds, and making piteous the setting sun, might be seen long lines of French signals for water which they could not swallow. troops apparently retreating rapidly northwards, Officers and men, veterans and boys, all lay in one and their opponents had clearly the best of the indistinguisable mass of misery, from which the fight. The day before it might have been concries of “Water! For the love of God, water! sidered a drawn game, but it could not be doubted A doctor! A doctor!” never ceased to come. It who were the victors this evening; and the shade was indeed a relief when the surgeon arrived of anxiety which clouded all countenances the from other similar scenes, and calling out loudly, previous night and this morning, at the unexpected
Voyons, où sont les gravement blessés ? où check which the German armies received, had now sont les amputations?” set to work with deter- disappeared. Still the French were spoken of in mined but kindly energy. It will always be a far higher terms than at any time since the comsatisfaction to the subscribers to the great English mencement of the war, and general admiration fund for the sick and wounded to know, that num- was expressed for the commander who, out of a bers of the French were spared unutterable tor- beaten and flying army, could have got together ture, and owed their lives to the supply of English material to present so bold and determined a front. chloroform, blankets, bandages, and wine which in the course of the day the grand-duke was was fortunately forthcoming on that fearful night, strengthened by the arrival of the tenth corps and called forth many blessings on our nation. from Orleans, and the army once more camped
On the 9th cannonading began at day break, and among the frozen bodies of friends and foes, the both sides were soon engaged along their whole interment of which had been prevented by longlines. The German position had been improved, continued fighting on almost the same area of the grand-duke's army occupying almost the exact operations. The duke of Mecklenburg, in imitafront of the French on the previous day. The tion of his illustrious master, telegraphed to his shape of the half horse-shoe was still preserved, wife with reference to this engagement of the but the French half was now occupied by the 9th: “The enemy attacked us violently, but was Germans, who were slowly pushing their enemy victoriously repulsed by the advance of the sevenback in every direction, though the latter still teenth and twenty-second divisions. God was with pertinaciously strove to hold their ground, and Our losses were smaller than yesterday.” replied furiously to the German batteries. The As if by signal the firing ceased at dusk on the village of Villorceau was taken by the Bavarians 9th, and it might have been in ferred that both sides were utterly exhausted by the three days of the day was caution. With this one exception carnage. Quiet was therefore expected on the there were no brilliant dashes, no furious fusillades 10th, and by a few hours of much needed repose of small arms, and after a time even the artillery the grand-duke of Mecklenburg hoped to prepare fire languished; but the day being remarkably his troops for the decisive battle, which it was clear, the scene, as a military spectacle, was thought might be looked for on the 11th. There perfect. were two parties, however, to this arrangement, The incessant fighting of the last four days and the irrepressible French seemed little disposed over almost the same few acres, rendered it exto enjoy the luxury of rest. On the 10th they tremely difficult to administer the usual alleviations hastened to commence an attack upon the twenty- to the sufferings of the wounded and dying. The second division, which was holding Cernay and scenes occurring in Villorceau might have been Cravant, and bombarded those villages furiously for witnessed in almost every one of the numerous two hours. The Germans quickly brought their hamlets in and about which the work of slaughter artillery into position, and an engagement became had been done. The chief house in the place general along a line extending from Villorceau was a Pension de Jeunes Filles, and it is doubtto L'Hay, a little eastward of Cravant. The two ful if any of the horrors of war depicted by the armies were now in almost parallel lines, from north- truthful pens of Erckmann-Chatrian equal those west to south-east, the French right resting on
which that house exhibited. Every room (and Josnes and the left on Villermain and Montigny. there were many), from the cellar to the roof, The attack made by the French in the early part was crowded with dead and starving men, lying of the day ceased, after having been replied to for
so thick that it was impossible to move among a while; and the German army was too much in them. Some had been there since Tuesday need of rest to court a struggle which would in evening, many of them since Wednesday. It all probability have to be renewed on the morrow. was now Saturday, and not one drop of water, Only one incident of special note occurred during not one atom of food, had yet passed their the day. The Prussians had taken the village of lips. Many were desperately wounded, although Villejouan, but the French in considerable force still alive. Among them were several officers. attacked and retook it, making more than 100 The house contained no furniture; the windows prisoners. A couple of German regiments came had been broken; and all these days and nights of to the rescue, and, after losing very severely, almost arctic cold had the men been lying on the again took the village; but their comrades had | bare floor with their wounds undressed. The been passed to the rear in time to prevent their stench was fearful. Every house in the village liberation. The French still swarmed around the was in the same state. In some rooms were village, and the Germans found themselves with twelve or fourteen men—many of them corpses ! out ammunition. A number of the enemy, how- That night a kind uhlan doctor volunteered to ever, were made prisoners, whose cartouche boxes bind up a few of the worst wounds, to enable the were still well supplied; and the Germans, seizing men to be transported, but he had nothing with their Chassepots, returned the French fire with him but a pair of scissors and some pins. Fortheir own weapons. While still hotly engaged, tunately the resources of the English society did the ammunition waggon on its way to their relief not fail, and most of the sufferers were removed was suddenly brought to a standstill by three during the night of the 10th or on the following of its horses being shot, on which a party ran day to the Couvent des Ursulines at Beaugency. out under a heavy fire, brought in the waggon Many were too near their end to bear being in safety, and finally succeeded in repelling the moved, and an excellent French abbé-himself French attempt to retake the village. As all the a martyr to consumption—spent the night with superior officers had been previously killed, the them in prayer, and in dispensing, with the battalion was commanded by a captain, who for assistance of an English Protestant soldier, the this brilliant feat of arms received thanks from last sacraments of the church. the grand-duke in person, and a promise of the On December 11 the two armies remained iron cross.
Along the whole of the now very inactive, and on the 12th it was found that the extended line, however, the chief characteristic | French had mysteriously disappeared.
evident that the attack of the 10th was designed sight of the wood on the other side of which the to mask a movement of retreat, for General Chanzy battle of the 9th was fought, with the same army had retired in perfect order, leaving not the before them, and in a stronger position than it slightest trace behind. The army of the grand had ever previously occupied ! No German army duke of Mecklenburg immediately set out by cross- was now between General Chanzy's and that roads, in full pursuit. Chanzy, however, eluded which was investing the capital, and only an his pursuers, and while they were thinking of inferior force was behind. . As Chanzy was in driving him upon Tours, he moved to take up a communication with Le Mans and the west, he position, stronger than that which he had aban- might at any time become strong enough to addoned, on the direct road to Paris, and where he vance, and might then, indeed, be advancing upon could receive reinforcements from the west.
Paris by Châteaudun. The position of the French Running almost parallel with the Loire is the at Fréteval was too strong to be stormed with the Loir, upon which are the towns of Châteaudun force at the grand-duke's disposal; but, fortunately and Vendôme, about midway between which the for him, a direct attack became unnecessary. river traverses a range of hills—winding round Prince Frederick Charles had sent the ninth the spur of one, and passing through a narrow corps down the Loire (a different river, it must be valley, scarcely abrupt enough to be called a remembered, from the Loir), which had appeared gorge, in the hollow of which lies the little town in the rear of Blois, on the east bank of the river, of Fréteval. From the left bank of the Loir the on the 12th; but as the bridge was broken the extensive forest of Marchenoir runs back in the corps could not enter Blois until the tenth corps, direction of Beaugency, for a distance of twenty marching to that city, held out a hand to it by miles or more; while on the right bank the forest throwing up hastily a bridge of boats, by which it of Fréteval extends westward to almost an equal passed over. The tenth corps was sent to Vendistance. The French had taken up a position dôme, and by threatening the right of General on the spur on the right bank of the river, with Chanzy, succeeded in compelling the French to the wood of Fréteval on the left and in rear, the abandon their strong position at Fréteval, higher wood of Marchenoir on the right, and the river up the river. The French were posted in front Loir, which there makes a bend, in front. To of Vendôme, which they held on the 14th and strengthen the immense natural facilities for de 15th; but having been beaten in an artillery fence offered by his new position, General Chanzy duel, they, on the evening of the latter day, planted batteries wherever any advantage of ground evacuated the town, which the Germans entered was to be had, and filled the wooded slopes with on the 16th. The German line was now formed, sharpshooters. The village of Fréteval was taken the duke of Mecklenburg occupying Cloyes and by the Germans at the point of the bayonet after Morée, the tenth army corps being at Vendôme, some fighting on the 14th, but could not be held and the ninth at Blois. On the 17th Chanzy on account of its exposed position ; and on the had another rear-guard action with Von der Tann morning of the 15th the state of affairs was critical at Epuisay, where the roads from Vendôme and for them, and singularly creditable to the tactics Morée to St. Calais meet, and then withdrew to of General Chanzy. The duke of Mecklenburg Le Mans, which he entered on the 21st. had been sent to drive farther away from Paris The French had throughout been fighting the army of the Loire, and now by a skilful a losing battle, but their commander felt that movement it had not only placed itself on the anything was better than the continued retreats . road to the capital, but had got the start and by which the soldiers had been disheartened. A left its pursuers in the rear. It will be remem- peculiar character was given to these daily encounbered that on the 9th of the previous month the ters by the stern determination with which the small Bavarian force under the command of General French renewed the struggle, day after day, refusvon der Tann, after making a gallant stand at ing to consider themselves as beaten, even after a Coulmiers, was obliged to retreat before the French series of undeniable defeats. Again and again the army of the Loire. Now, after the lapse of five Germans in the morning found themselves occuweeks, after marching incessantly and fighting pying the positions held by their opponents in eight battles, the Germans found themselves in the evening; but the French held others in the