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The German Plan of Campaign in the North of France--Alarm in the town of Havre-Singular Treatment of a Governinent Order-Appoint
ment of General Faidherbe to the Command of the French Army of the North—The Germans lose an Opportunity-Advance of Faidherbe on Amiens—Von Göben despatched to accept the Challenge - The Positions of the respective Armies—Battle of Pont Noyelles—The Struggle around Querrieux-Gallant Conduct of the French-Ingenious Device of General Faidherbe to secure an Unmolested Retreat-By an Incautious Advance Von Göben provokes another Attack from the French—The Battle of Bapaume-Positions of the Armies—Excellence of the French Artillery— The Prussians forced back into Bapaume-Critical Position of Von Göben's Troops-General Faidherbe claims the Victory, but omits to follow up the Advantages — Incident of the Pursuit-Von Göben retires from Bapaume-Fall of Péronne -Sharp Engagement near Havre-Siege and Capitulation of Mézières-France in very Serious Circumstances—M. Gambetta conceives a last desperate Effort against the Invader-Prompt Consent of General Faidherbe for the Army of the North to do its Share — The French descend in force upon St. Quentin-Characteristics of Von Göben— The Battle of St. Quentin-Position of the Town and of the respective Combatants—Fatal Separation of the French Army-Fearful Charge of Prussian Cavalry—The French obliged to give way, and finally retreat in disorder— Imposing Advance of the German Army-Storming of St. Quentin-An Opportune Railway Trip— The Siege and Fall of the Fortress of Longwy.
THE plan of campaign adopted by the Germans in came an order from the Tours government for 4000 the north, after the capture of Amiens on Nov- of the troops, and a proper complement of guns, ember 27, was considered as pointing to immediate to be embarked for Cherbourg. This created a operations against Havre. The greatest excite- furious scene of riot and disorder. Vast crowds ment, therefore, prevailed there on news being
news being paraded the town, protesting against the order, brought that Rouen had been occupied; and the which the authorities were about to carry into excitement was by no means allayed by the fur-effect. The guns had been shipped, but the mob ther intelligence that on the same day the Prus- proceeded to the harbour and compelled the comsians had succeeded in recapturing Orleans. The mander of the transport vessel to unship them. commandant-in-chief of Havre and the mayor Finding that no other course would appease the at once issued the following proclamation to the populace, both the civil and military authorities inhabitants:—“ By a rapid march the enemy has resolved to disobey M. Gambetta's order, and issued arrived at the gates of Rouen. Havre, more all over the town a proclamation to the effect, that in menaced than ever, but long prepared, is deter- their opinion he was not in so good a position as mined to offer the most energetic defence. At the themselves to judge of the local necessities of the approach of danger we make a new appeal to the defence.“ In presence, therefore, of circumstances patriotism of the population. No sacrifice will be the gravity of which hourly increases, and the too great to repulse the enemy, and preserve our | legitimate emotion of the population, the superior rich and valiant city from pillage and the inroads | commandant and the sub-prefect have replied to of the foreigner. Supported by its energetic co- the government that the departure of troops from operation, we answer for the safety of Havre." Havre was inexpedient just now.” The proclamaThe inhabitants of the neighbouring communes tion afforded a curious illustration of the state of were invited to take refuge within the town, large discipline prevailing in the country at this time. stores of cattle and fodder were collected, and such There have been instances of disobedience of things as could not be received, but which might orders in all countries; but the conduct of the have been serviceable to the enemy, were destroyed. authorities of an unruly town in informing the The situation of Havre was especially favourable for mob, under whose pressure they acted, that they defence. There was no lack of men, arms, and had disobeyed because they knew better, was ammunition. The fortified works around the town unprecedented even in the history of France. were formidable; and as it could not be entirely After the battle of Villers-Bretonneux and the surrounded by the Germans, it could evidently capture of Amiens, the remnants of the French stand a very protracted siege. General Briand, army of the north fell back behind the formidable with the forces which had evacuated Rouen, network of fortresses by which France is defended shortly came in, together with a large number of on her Flemish frontier. franc-tireurs and moblots. Almost simultaneously The three northernmost departments, from the
Somme to the Belgian frontier, hold about twenty from various neighbouring garrisons, they formed fortresses of various sizes, which, though wholly for General Faidherbe an army of about 50,000 useless nowadays against a large invasion from men and 70 guns. Belgium, formed a most welcome and almost un- The 20th of December was fast approaching when attackable basis of operations in this case. When Manteuffel, while engaged in the comparatively Vauban planned them nearly 200 years before, sentimental work of capturing open towns and taking he could not have foreseen that they would serve seaside trips to Dieppe, received intelligence that a as a great entrenched camp, a sort of multiplied new French army of the north was descending upon quadrilateral, to a French army against an enemy Amiens, and Von Göben was hastily despatched advancing from the heart of France! But so it back to the scene of his encounters of November was; and small as this piece of territory is, it was 27. General Faidherbe had advanced much sooner for the nonce impregnable, as well as important than was originally intended, in consequence of on account of its manufacturing resources, and its a rumour that the Germans were preparing an dense, hardy, and patriotic population.
attack upon Havre. He had gathered together The army of the north first assembled under a large number of men, and in his safe northern the command of General Bourbaki; and when the retreat would gladly have had a little longer time ex-commander of the imperial guard was sum- for reorganizing them. The fact, however, that moned to take charge of part of the Loire army, the second seaport of the country was threatened the northern forces were left for a time under hastened his movements, and he advanced on St. the direction of General Farre. It was during Quentin, a detachment capturing Ham in passing; this interval that the battle of Villers-Breton- reconnoitred La Fère; and on the 14th December neux was fought and Amiens captured. On commenced demonstrations in the direction of the 3rd December M. Gambetta replaced General Amiens. The German commander had been too Farre by the appointment of General Faidherbe, well aware of the strength of Havre to lightly one of the most competent commanders the war attempt an attack upon it; and the fears of the produced. He was a native of the provinces he inhabitants, for which, indeed, there had been no was called to defend, having been born at Lille real cause, were dispelled by the maneuvres of on June 3, 1818, and had greatly distinguished General Faidherbe; in consequence of which large himself in Algeria and Senegal.
detachments of Manteuffel's army were at once Opposed to Faidherbe was probably the least recalled, and a series of closely-contested engagedangerous of the German military leaders, as was ments ensued, the most serious commencing on evidenced by the fact that, had the advantages December 23 and ending on January 3. secured by the battles before Amiens on the 26th At a little distance from Amiens General Faidand 27th November been promptly followed up, herbe found that nature had supplied him with the greater part of the beaten French army would defences much superior to those of the best enundoubtedly have been captured. So great was gineer. From Querrieux to Bussy, on the summit the panic that whole regiments of the French lay of a hill, or kind of elevated plateau, about three concealed for days in the woods adjoining Amiens, miles in length, the French army was posted, not daring, in the presence of the dreaded German with its artillery, ready for action. Near the foot troops, to retire on the open field. But when, of this hill ran a small river, the L'Hallu, skirted much to their surprise, they found they were not by a long narrow line of wood, beyond which were pursued, they collected their scattered forces and numerous small villages—Daours, Pont Noyelles, retired behind their northern fortresses, while the Querrieux, Bavelincourt, &c. The French right main body of the Germans went off towards Rouen. wing rested on a wood on the brow of the hill Had General Manteuffel, instead of taking this overlooking Contay and Vadencourt; the centre course, made a bold effort to cut off the retreat, it was at Pont Noyelles and Querrieux, and the left seems certain that French operations in the north at Daours. would have been permanently paralyzed. As it The great festive season of the year was, the number who escaped to the triangle pro- and throughout England bright faces, blazing fires, tected by Arras, Cambrai, and Lille was so large groaning tables, mirth and laughter were to be seen that, with the addition of some mobiles and drafts on every side. It was far different, however, with our nearest neighbours, who, especially here in village was occupied, while as yet not a French the north, were busily preparing again to defy soldier was to be seen. But an orderly galloped their enemies to mortal combat. The morning up to say that the village of Querrieux in the of December 23 was bitterly cold and the frost front was strongly held by French troops. At Lesmost intense, as the army of General von Göben Alençons a road leads off to the left through the assembled on a vast plain near Querrieux, before village of Cardonette, and on to the Pierregột road. marching to accept the challenge of the French. Along this galloped Captain Allborn with orders The fifteenth division, under General Kummer, from General von Göben to the sixteenth division crossed the Somme by some pontoon bridges near to change front to their right flank, and, marching Carnon, and, leaving Rivery to the left, formed across between Molliens-aux-Bois and Mirvaux, to on the plateau in front of Allonville, with the storm the French positions in the villages of Bavecavalry of General Count Groben on the right. lincourt, Behencourt, and Frèchencourt. From The sixteenth division, under General Barnakow, the château of Bengerie the French tirailleurs were marched up the road to Rainneville and Pierregôt seen retiring upon Querrieux. The twenty-ninth to the north of Amiens, whilst a brigade proceeded brigade then brought their left shoulders forward, along the Somme from La Motte upon Vecquemont. and two batteries of artillery took up position on the General von Göben's plan was to advance upon right. At ten minutes past eleven the first shot the French position of Allonville and Querrieux, was fired by the French infantry from a windmill and to make a strong demonstration on their centre to the right of Querrieux, and the batttle of Querand left flank; whilst General Barnakow, with the rieux-or of Pont Noyelles, as it was called by sixteenth division, after arriving at Rubemprè, was the French-commenced. By twelve (noon) the to wheel round, and, having first taken the villages village was stormed, and the French had retreated along the extreme right, to advance upon the French upon the well-nigh impregnable position already position, and endeavour to turn their right flank, referred to. The considerable village forming the thus encircling them so as to shut them up to a centre of their line of battle was thus taken; but retreat on the Somne, which it was thought would the position of the Germans was anything but be fatal.
pleasant, as the ridge and village they occupied Having ridden some distance out upon the Albert were easily commanded by Faidherbe's artillery road, the general and his staff dismounted, and, from the elevated plateau opposite; and the French sending their horses to the rear, awaited the advance batteries all along the height, especially that to the of the troops upon Allonville. This little village right of the villages of La Houssoye, kept up a is situated upon one of those ridges of hills that determined and well-directed fire upon it. Meanlie along the east side of the valley which stretches time, to the right the Prussians had taken the from Frèchencourt past. Querrieux to Corbie. A villages of Daours, Vecquemont, and Bussy, the magnificent sight was presented by the advance of French retiring upon their intrenched position in the troops. The twenty-ninth brigade, commanded front of Corbie. Here both sides fought hard, by Colonel von Bock, and composed of the thirty- appealing to the bayonet to settle the disputed third and sixty-fifth regiments, with artillery, and possession of the villages, whose capture in fact one squadron of the king's hussars, marched for- formed one of the most remarkable incidents of ward to the right of the farm of Les-Alençons; the battle, as it was accomplished by the Rhenish the thirtieth brigade, with the seventieth and rifle battalion against a whole division of the twenty-eighth regiments, and two batteries of French army. With only about 800 men, Major artillery, advanced upon the left of Allonville, Bronikowski waited till the heavy columns of the covered by a regiment of lancers; whilst Count enemy who came to attack him were within ninety Groben's dragoons rode along the crest of the hill, paces. The Germans had every one been waiting looking across to the heights on the other side, at this point with the
at this point with the eye on their enemy and the above Corbie. Steadily, as if on parade, marched finger on the trigger; and when their commander the compact masses of infantry; the skirmishers gave the word, “Nun! Kinder, schnell Feuer!” in front, with their supports to the right and left they sent such a volley into the ranks of the of the Albert road. They took possession of the French as to leave upwards of forty dead in one woods beside Allonville, and in a moment the place. The Germans had in the meantime been
reinforced, but they had not more than 2500 men teenth division to a halt. Now, however, the in all at this point; and with this inferior number Germans held the line of villages in the valley the French left was forced back upon Corbie, the through which the small river L'Hallu flows, and villages of Bussy, Daours, and Vecquemont were which now formed the line of demarcation between taken, and, still more surprising, held against the two armies. On the other side of this stream a repeated assaults.
natural glacis extended to the summit of the ridge At two p.m. the French, under a heavy fire of of hills occupied by the French. Up this glacis, artillery, endeavoured to retake the village of with 50,000 troops at the top, and fifty or sixty Querrieux. Hard, indeed, was the struggle between guns, it was both too late and too dangerous to the combatants here. For nearly twenty minutes advance; but the artillery on both sides continued they fought, actually looking into each other's. firing, as did also the skirmishers, some of whom eyes. But the French again retired, and again were at a distance of but 300 yards apart. their five batteries of thirty guns opened a crush- Meantime the village of Querrieux was held by ing fire upon the Prussian line.
the Prussian line. Every eye was two battalions of the thirty-third and the sixty-fifth now anxiously turned to the left flank, but as yet regiment. Again and again had the French unthere were no signs of Barnakow's division. The successfully tried to retake it. Thus far all had Prussians were very weak before Querrieux, and gone well for the Germans throughout the day, the reserve was ordered to move up to the left and as darkness set in it was hoped the French of that village. The thirtieth brigade deployed in would give up the contest. Suddenly, however, the valley and took a small village, into which the a fire was opened from the hill, far exceeding French poured a shower of shell and shrapnel in intensity and deadliness the artillery play at from their batteries to the right of the Albert Gravelotte. It was dusk, and the spectacle was Road. And now the space between Querrieux indescribably grand. To this fire the Germans and Bengerie began to be filled with those tell- responded but feebly, as the men had expended tales of an action—carts and carriages of all their ammunition, which encouraged the French descriptions, bearing ghastly burdens to the rear. to come down the hill and renew their attack on Fortunate it was that the waggons of the British Querrieux. The sixty-fifth were obliged to fall Society were there, for they supplied blankets to back, and as they did so the dark uniforms of the cover the poor suffering soldiers, the pain of French chasseurs were seen advancing at the other whose wounds was increased by the biting frost end of the principal thoroughfare. They had not and intensely cold winds. About this time— proceeded far, however, before they were received half-past twoʻp.m.—the French made a strong by a murderous fire from the thirty-third, who demonstration between La-Neuville and Daours. advanced upon them from the cross streets with With their guns planted to the left of La Houssoye the bayonet, and once more drove them back pellthey opened a heavy fire upon the Prussian right mell out of the village. The thirty-third and flank, a considerable body of troops at the same sixty-fifth were now nearly without ammunition, time advancing as if to retake Bussy. But Cap- but the gallant fellows would not give up tain Fuchius' battery of horse artillery galloped position so dearly bought; and there they stood, to the right, unlimbered, and opened such a hot each man in his place, determined to make cold fire upon them that first of all the infantry halted, steel do the work of ball-cartridge. It was now then faced to the right about, and eventually dark. The Prussian artillery had ceased firing, doubled to the rear in a most orderly manner, the and the village of Querrieux was burning in four artillery quickly following their example.
places, the flames throwing their light far and About three o'clock the welcome sound of wide over the surrounding country. Six comGeneral Barnakow's artillery was heard, and his panies of the thirty-third regiment determined to troops were shortly seen advancing on Frèchen- avenge the last attack of the French. In the court from the Contay road. At four p.m. the dark they stole out of the village, formed line, and sixteenth division had stormed the villages of at the point of the bayonet charged up to the Bavelincourt, Behencourt, and Frèchencourt; but French battery on the right of the Albert Road. their further advance was stopped by the same They had spiked two guns and taken the horses formidable position which had brought the fif- when they were attacked by five French bat
talions, before whom they were forced to retire wore on; General Faidherbe declined to follow up into Querrieux, followed so closely that at one his “victory;" and the two armies stood still, moment it was thought the village was lost. By silently confronting each other. Their weakness this time, however, the sixty-fifth had received in numbers had been apparent to the German comammunition, and drove the French back with a manders early on the 23rd, and Manteuffel had withering fire. It was now nearly six o'clock, and telegraphed for reinforcements. About midday on the battle of Pont Noyelles was over, in which the the 24th, intelligence was received that Prince Germans had taken seven villages, 900 prisoners, Albrecht was coming from Paris with a cavalry a lieutenant-colonel, and a post-captain in the division of the guard, and that General Schüler navy, who was jocosely asked why he had not von Senden, with a division, was advancing in the brought his ship with him. The day had wit- direction of Corbie from St. Quentin. Meanwhile, nessed one of the severest actions of the cam- General Barnakow had been detached to the French paign, but had resulted in no real gain to either right, in order, if possible, to turn their position; party. The Germans had captured the villages and the Germans now commenced such disposiand numerous prisoners, but the French still held tions of their troops as would enable them to avoid the formidable position just beyond them, across making an assault on the Franvillers heights. the little stream. For that reason General Faid- Towards the afternoon a heavy cannonade, interherbe claimed the victory, and in support of his mingled with the discharge of rifles, was opened claim made his men bivouac on the ground, from the hill, the reason of which was soon after with the thermometer marking 8° below zero, apparent. The French, witnessing the movements impressing on them, with the susceptibility of of their enemies, had seen at once the great peril a French general, that the hardship was absol- they would be in should the Germans succeed in utely necessary to show that the day was theirs. completing their tactics, which must have led to That they fought stoutly there is not the least a repetition of the manæuvre at Sedan. They question, and great credit was due to their artil- peopled, therefore, the top of the hill with soldiers, lery, which was well served; but from the course and feigned an intention to continue the battle. their general felt compelled to take almost directly For that purpose they discharged cannons and rifles, afterwards, it is difficult to see how he could fairly galloped to and fro along the line, and showed claim to have obtained any advantage.
themselves exceedingly busy. But in the rear, As night closed in each army could observe the behind the hill, was going on the very different position of the other, clearly marked by the lines movement of conveying men, horses, and cannon to of bivouac fires, which burnt brightly in the in- the railway train. This completed, the dummies tensely frosty atmosphere at intervals of 1500 to on the summit suddenly disappeared, and when 2000 yards. Early next morning Generals von the sixteenth German division had completed their Göben and Manteuffel visited the field of battle, arrangements for attack, they found that the French and witnessed the curious sight of nearly 60,000 had abandoned the most magnificent position nature French troops, with at least seventy cannon, look- could give them, and were in full retreat upon ing down upon 24,000 Prussians with forty guns. Arras and Lille. General Faidherbe admitted the There stood the heavy masses of the French loss of 1400 in killed and wounded, while that of infantry, drawn up along the brow of the hill, with the Germans was officially returned as 800, includtheir batteries right and left of the brigades, ing twenty-six officers. The brunt of the day's covered by cavalry ; there stretched a long line of action was borne, on the German side, by the forces tirailleurs covering the whole front, keeping up a under Von Göben, who from this time became constant fire, wherever there was a chance, upon general of the army of the Somne, while Benthe valley below. On the German side all was theim, at the same time, took command of the still. The troops stood to their arms, the artillery army of the Seine, with headquarters at Rouen, was unlimbered, the cavalry kept their bridles over General Manteuffel still holding the commandtheir arms; but not a shot was fired. They felt in-chief. that they were too weak to attack the powerful With only one of his divisions—the fifteenth, force opposed to them, by which every moment with which he had fought at Pont Noyelles—and they expected to be assailed. The day, however, with the younger Prince Albrecht's flying column,