« PreviousContinue »
mand; I did not order the troops you mention to be posted where they were.' Here, gentlemen, I beg to say that I am thoroughly convinced that if I had been in command the case would have been precisely the same. I further said to General Lebreton, 'Look here, general, you want me single-handed to stop the advance of half a million of men who are surging up towards the Assembly; and yet you must know as well as I that it cannot be done; but as you make this demand in the name of the Corps Législatif, I will attempt the effort, though I am well assured of its failure.' Ten minutes later I was on horseback, on my way to the Corps Législatif. At the same moment I despatched General Schmitz to the Tuileries to inform the empress of what I was going to do. I was accompanied by two aidesde-camp, and had no difficulty in getting through the Carrousel, though the place was crowded, because nobody seemed to want to penetrate into the Tuileries ; but when I got to the quay I had great difficulty in moving through the huge mass, which stretched from a long way beyond the Pont Neuf, far up in the Champs Elysées. I witnessed, not without fear or emotion, such a sight as I had never beheld, although I had seen both 1830 and 1848. An immense multitude of men, women, and children, wholly unarmed, and in which kindliness, fear, anger, and good nature were oddly mingled, surged up all around me and wholly prevented my advance; men with sinister faces threw themselves on my horse's reins, and shouted, 'Cry“Vive la Sociale !": Yes, gentlemen, 'Vive la Sociale.' I said to them, 'I will not cry anything at all; you want to bind my free will — you sball not do it. Other men, understanding my position, remonstrated, and shouted, “He's right.' It took me nearly an hour to get to the corner of the Pont de Solferino. There I was compelled to come to a stand-still. I had long since lost my two aides-de-camp, and could neither go forward nor back. I kept parleying with the crowd, trying to get them to open a way for me, when a tall man elbowed himself up. I did not know hiin; he was under the influence of great emotion. He said, 'General, where are you going?' 'I am going to try and save the Corps Législatif.' 'The Corps Législatif has been invaded. I was there I saw it. I give you my word it is so. I am M. Jules Favre.' M. Jules Favre added, “That is the culminating disaster; here is a revolution being consummated in the midst of the disasters of our armies. You may be sure that the demagogues who are going to try and turn it to account will give France her death-blow if we don't prevent it. I am going to the Hotel de Ville : that is the rendezvous of the men who wish to save the country.' I replied, 'Monsienr, I cannot take such a resolution at present ;' and we parted. It took me about an hour longer to get back to the Louvre. Whilst these events were taking place, the empress had left the Tuileries. General Schmitz had found her gone, and had been received by Admiral Jurien de la Gravière, who had remained at the palace. The official historiographers, whose narratives I have read, generally add—The principal functionaries of state crowded round the empress to take leave of her ; alone General Trochu did not appear.' No, I did not appear, because at that time, instead of paying compliments of condolence to the empross, I was making an attempt personally to protect the Corps Législatif, at the request of General Lebreton. A little after my return to the Louvre a group of persons, utterly unknown to me, presented themselves. The person who led them said, 'I am M. Steenackers, a deputy. I am sent to you with these gentlemen to tell you that a real drama is being enacted at the Hôtel de Ville; it is sur. rounded by the mob; deputies have met there to form a Provisional Government; but there are no troops ; there are no soldiers; there are no means of enforcing any decision that may be arrived at; they imagine that your name will be a kind of sanction, and that the troops dispersed all over Paris would rally round you.' I asked for five
minutes to see my family, and went to the Hôtel de Ville. What I saw there was striking enough. There were the same enormous crowds as during the morning, but very much more mixed. Shouts, clamours, and threats arose on every side. The Hôtel de Ville itself was filled with so dense a crowd that it was only by devious ways that I was able to reach a closet, about four times the size of this tribune, in which the Provisional Government had stationed itself by the light of a solitary lamp. I didn't know whether the men I saw there for the first time—with the exception of M. Jules Favre, whom I had seen during the day-were really usurpers, vultures soaring down on power as a prey; but they did not look like it. I felt that they and I were exposed to a great peril. One of them said, 'General, in this formidable crisis we are especially anxious that the government should not fall into the hands of the people in the next room. Just now, taken aback by the suddenness of events, they are assembled, but they are not yet armed; but they will be to-morrow. If you consent to be the minister of War of the Provisional Government to-morrow, the officers and soldiers in Paris will gather round your name, and there will be some means of enforcing the measures that must be taken for the preservation of order in Paris.' I replied, “Before making up my mind it is my duty to go to the War office and acquaint the minister, who is my chief, of what is going on here.' I went and found General Palikao in his office a prey to intense grief; he thought that his son, a clever young officer, had been killed at Sedan. On this occasion be received me with the greatest cordiality. "General,' he said, "the revolution is a fait accompli; if you don't take the direction of affairs it is all up with us; if you do, probably the result will be just the same; but the soldiers will rally round you.' I returned to the Hôtel de Ville, where I found the Provisional Government had received during my absence an addition to its numbers in the person of M. Rochefort. I told them, “If you want me to be of any use at this fearful crisis I must be at the head of affairs. M. Jules Favre is president; I must be president in his place.' Such, gentlemen, in a very condensed form, is the history of September 4."
In his letter to the President of the National Assembly, referred to at the end of the previous chapter, Count Palikao, referring to this part of General Trochu's defence, said:—“On the morning of the 4th the council met as usual, and only broke up at balf-past eleven, as the ministers bad to go to the Chamber; none of the persons whose duties called them elsewhere were therefore with the empress—We all know the dangers of the situation as well as the governor of Paris. I was the last to leave the Corps Législatif. I had strenuously contended with the insurgents in the Salle des pas Perdus until the very last moment, exposed to the brutality of an infuriated mob, excited against me by a member of the Extreme Left; and was only rescued from the hands of these misguided men by my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-colonel Barry, and Captain de Brimont, my orderly officer. I bad one last duty to fulfil- to wait upon the empress. It was three o'clock when I got to the Tuileries ; at that hour the guard were leaving their posts and the mob bad invaded the palace. The empress had gone, no one knew whither. It was therefore impossible for me to take her orders. I returned to the ministry at four o'clock; the Revolution had conquered through an insurrection doubly criminal, from the fact of its taking place before a victorious enemy. At five o'clock General Trochu called upon me, to inform me that he had replaced me at the War Office; he wished to know my opinion as to what he had to do. He did not mention his meeting M. Jules Favre, nor what he had done during the day. I replied, that as disturbances might entail the greatest calamity, the presence of men of order such as he could not but be useful. He could not ask me-Dor could I give him-advice as to what his conscience might dictate. I have not seen him since."
The Situation and Possibilities on both sides after the Battle of Sedan—The great mistake of the French in not constructing Intrenched Camps
and making the Sea the Base of their Operations for the relief of Paris—Commencement of the March of the Germans on Paris the day after the Battle of Sedan-Their Forethought and Organization—The Routes taken and System adopted by the Armies in their March to the Capital — Escape of a French Corps which had been sent to assist MacMahon—No resistance offered to the Germans—Their Arrival at Rheims, and Sarrender of the City-Catastrophe at Laon, which caused the Explosion of the Powder Magazine in the Citadel - The Commandant declared innocent by the Germans—Letter from him to his Wife on the General State of Affairs-Description of Laon and its History, Skirmishes as the Germans approached nearer to Paris— Their Investment of the City-General Trochu's Plans-Engagement between the French under General Ducrot and the Germans under the Crown Prince of Prussia, on September 17—The French are completely defeated A more severe Engagement on the 19th, in which the Germans are again Victorious—Disgraceful Conduct of part of the French TroopsManifesto of General Trochu on the Subject-Entry of the Germans into Versailles-Sketch of the Palace, in which their Headquarters were established, and Town- Negotiations for an Armistice-Count von Bismarck's opinion on the general Situation--His difficulty in dealing with "the Gentlemen of the Pavement"-The German intention of starving the City out, and the only Terms on which Germany could consent to Peace - Meeting between Jules Favre and Count von Bismarck at Ferrières—Epitome of the Reports issued by each on their Interview - The French Government reiterate their Determination not to cede “an Inch of their Territory, or a Stone of their Fortresses ”—The Action taken by the English Government between both Belligerents—The Operations of the Besiegers up to the end of September— The Feeling in Germany—Speech and Imprisonment of Dr. Jacoby-Events in Italy—The French Troops withdrawn from Rome on the outbreak of the War, and the Italians at once determine to take possession of the City-Enthusiasm in the Army-Triomphant Entry of the Troops on the 20th of September, after three hours' fighting - The Fall of the Temporal Power proclaimed-A Plebiscitum declares unmistakably in favour of the New Order of Things.
BEFORE proceeding further, it may be of service that national guards ; the regulars greatly disheartened we pass in brief review the situation and possibili- by the events of the war. This force too, wanted ties on both sides, at the time to which our narra organization, and was very imperfectly armed. tive now reaches, as they were estimated by an able The garrison was almost destitute of field artillery. writer in the Quarterly Review for January, 1871. Guns had to be cast, and the horses and gunners
First, as to France, Starting with the assump- trained, while the enemy was thundering at the tion that Paris could resist for three months, we gates. Until this was effected, sorties in force, find the French bent on continuing the struggle- though the soul of the defence, could not be suca determination which appears to have been inten- cessfully undertaken. sified by every fresh disaster; but the only elements Thus the composition and equipment of the of success were supplied by the superior numbers garrison were in every respect so inferior to those and wealth of the defenders. Of able-bodied men of the approaching besiegers, that the salvation of there was no lack; but they were at first without the city depended absolutely on the formation of arms and without officers, to organize them. such an army without the walls as, in co-operation Especially were they deficient in field artillery, a with the army within, might be able to drive the deficiency for which no amount of courage or num- Germans from their prey. Now, the organization, bers could make up. The action of the civilian arming, and provisioning of such a force required prefects in many cases disgusted the officers of the both time and a place where, secure from molesregular army; and the hoisting of the red flag at tation, it might be drilled, and disciplined, and Lyons and Marseilles, referred to in the previous supplied with all the matériel and provisions neceschapter, threatened at one time to divide the sary to enable it to take the field with any prospect French people into two hostile camps.
of success. Such a place the sea alone could furWhile such was the state of affairs without the nish. During the whole war the sea was at the city, the temper of the Parisian populace could not command of France, and should have constituted be counted on. Dissensions were known to exist, the base of operations for the relief of Paris. Three and the Belleville clique, headed by Flourens, were harbours, Bordeaux and Havre being two of them, noisy and violent. As already stated, the armed might have been fixed on as the rallying points for force at the disposal of Trochu was of a mixed the whole of the French levies ; by united and character, consisting of regular troops, mobiles, and ceaseless effort on the part of all who were able to labour, entrenched camps might have been con- sufficient to hold fast 150,000 French occupying structed round those ports, the flanks resting on the centre of the circle, and with every strategical the sea; and the works armed with heavy guns advantage in their favour. from the fleet, which should have been recalled At Strassburg a French garrison of 19,000 was to the defence of France and divided between the besieged by 70,000 Germans. By one Prussian three ports, to which the whole available merchant- division, under the grand duke of Mecklenburg, marine should have been constantly employed in a garrison of 2000 mobiles was besieged at bringing field-guns and breech-loading rifles for Toul, whose cannon, commanding the railroad the equipment of the armies, as well as the stores from Nancy by Châlons and Epernay to Paris, of food and forage required for their maintenance compelled the Germans to unload their trains in an advance on Paris. The three camps, each some distance east of the town, to transport garrisoned by 150,000 fighting men, and armed their supplies on wheels by a long detour, with guns very superior to any the Germans could and to reload them on trains to the west of bring against them, would easily have defied attack, the fortress. Thus the persistent defence of the and divided the operations of the enemy. To assail garrison, which only surrendered in the last days them, indeed, it would have been necessary to of September, contributed largely in delaying employ three powerful armies, so widely separated the operations of the besiegers of Paris. Thionfrom each other in a hostile country as must have ville, Longwy, Montmédy, and Mézières, all held rendered intercommunication tedious and difficult; French garrisons, and prevented the Germans and those armies could not even have been brought from using the railroad passing by these places into the field, and provided with the requisite to Rheims and Paris. Thionville and Montmédy heavy guns, except by abandoning the siege of were blockaded, and the blockades of Bitsche and Paris.
Phalsburg were continued ; they were defended The defence of the three camps, on the other chiefly by mobiles, and occupied about 18,000 hand, might be considered as one; since they German troops. could have maintained constant and rapid com- To compensate somewhat for their inferiority in munication by steam, and reinforced each other the field, the French, as fighting in defence of their according to need. As soon as they were ready own soil, had this advantage, that instead of being to take the field, the French marine could have limited to one general line of retreat, they could, easily transported the armies of the two southern in the event of defeat, retire in any direction save camps to Havre, from which an united army of the one barred by the enemy. With such an ex450,000 men might have marched to raise the tent of seaboard and a powerful fleet they would siege of the capital. To the last a screen of troops have been secure of finding safety and support on should have been maintained as far as possible in reaching any point on the coast where local conadvance of the two camps ; but all serious engage- ditions were favourable; and this circumstance ments in the open country, where success might would evidently give them a real tactical advanbe doubtful, and especially all attempts to defend tage in battle. open towns, should have been avoided.
Turning, now, to the Germans. The capture of After Sedan the only organized army remaining Paris was the one great object they proposed to to France was shut in at Metz, under Bazaine, and themselves in continuing the war, as its attainment, consisted of 150,000 men, exclusive of the regular they considered, would lead to the immediate garrison of the fortress. This force was now submission of France. The siege of the capital, hemmed in by strong lines of circumvallation, and therefore, was the one great central operation to invested by the first and second German armies which all the other military movements were under General Manteuffel and Prince Frederick accessory. Had the Germans foreseen the resistance Charles, consisting of seven corps and three they would have to encounter, it is not improbable divisions of cavalry, reinforced later by one infan- that, after Sedan, they would have offered terms try division. Thus, a German force, never pro- of peace which the French might have accepted; bably exceeding 210,000 men, spread over a but they were under the impression that Paris circumference of twenty-seven miles, which was would yield on the mere appearance of their forces divided into two parts by the Moselle, was found | before it, and thus they were committed to a tedious and difficult enterprise, the duration of of which these columns represented the spokes. which gave France all the chances arising from The object for which they were employed, was the the mutability of human affairs in general, and the collecting of supplies, and preventing the siege changes which time might work in the opinions from interruption by the different bodies of French and conduct of the other European powers. troops which were organizing all over the country.
Destitute as France was at this period of any With these explanations clearly apprehended, organized military force in the field, the most the movements of the German forces, which otherobvious way of reducing her to subjection was wise would appear confused, will assume in the to prevent the assembling and training of such a mind of the reader a methodical and symmetrical force, by sending strong movable columns of the arrangement. three arms into
district. But from the On the evening of the 2nd September, the day large extent of France it was impossible, even on which the surrender of Sedan was consumwith the overwhelming numbers at the dis-mated, the German armies received their marchposal of the Prussian monarch, to coerce in that ing orders, and on the morning of the 3rd broke manner more than a small portion of her area. up in different directions, en route for Paris. The The German columns could command only the readiness and rapidity with which they resumed ground on which they encamped, with a certain their march were noteworthy. An army of 120,000 zone around it; and the fire of hatred and resistance, prisoners, with their personal arms, artillery, camp smouldering over the whole surface of the country, baggage, ammunition, military train, and military would thus be stamped out in one quarter only to stores, had to be received and transported on a burst forth with increased violence in another. sudden emergency. The transport, store, and To this it was owing that the French government commissariat services were thus put to a severe was left so long unmolested at Tours, as it would strain; and the victors were hampered in proporhave been hazardous, in view of the strength of tion to the magnitude of their victory. The men the garrison, to detach to so great a distance from and horses which came into their hands required Paris a large force from the investing armies, to be fed, and the sick to be provided for. The and a small one would have run the risk of being ease, however, with which all this was accomplished overpowered.
was equally astonishing with the victory itself, The base of operations for all the German forces and showed extraordinary forethought and organwas formed by the line of frontier extending from ization. The demolition of the French army and Saarbrück on the north to Basle on the south, capture of the emperor seemed only a little episode, and all their movements were necessarily regulated by which the stern purpose of the invaders reby that consideration.
mained unshaken and unaltered. Their goal was The lines of communication for the army en- Paris; and orders were issued that by the 14th of gaged in the primary operation of the siege of September the battalions were to be each in posiParis took their departure from the northern half tion at a distance of ten leagues from the city. of this base; and on these lines were situated The eleventh corps and first Bavarians, both all the strong places excepting Strassburg, such belonging to the third Prussian army, were deas Thionville, &c., which the Germans were tailed to escort the prisoners to Pont-à-Mousson, besieging at the period of the fall of Sedan. whence, having handed over their charge to the The southern half formed the base of operations tenth corps, employed before Metz, they were to for the troops engaged in the siege of Strassburg, make all speed to join the Crown Prince of Prussia and for those subsequently employed in reducing in his march to Paris. Schlestadt, Ncu Brisach, Belfort, &c.; as well as The third and fourth armies marched on the for the armies operating by Dijon towards Lyons, capital by two different routes. The third, under and to the south of Belfort towards Besançon. the Crown Prince of Prussia, passed by Rethel,
The position of the investing army at Paris Rheims, and Epernay, to the south bank of the formed a secondary base, from which radiated the Marne; and continued its march by Montmirail to different columns acting towards Orleans, Chartres, Coulommiers, whence the different corps diverged Dreux, Evreux, Amiens, St. Quentin, &c.; the to take up their respective investing positions from capital being, as it were, the centre of the wheel, | Lagny, on the Marne, towards Versailles. The
Crown Prince of Saxony, with the fourth army, hardly a single fortress of the invaded country moved his columns to the south-west, but without had fallen; and Bazaine was still in occupation encroaching on the roads to the west of the line of Metz with an immense force. The Germans formed by Remilly, La Besace, and Le Chêne. had not, indeed, mastered even one of the main They passed by Vouziers, Rheims, and generally roads or railways necessary to maintain their comby the north bank of the Marne to Claye, whence munications with the interior and with the frontier the several corps diverged to their respective posi- of Germany, but they still pressed forward, not tions for continuing the investing line from Lagny doubting that Paris would soon be within their on their left, round by Gonesse to St. Denis and reach. . Their march was well described by a Argenteuil, north of the city. The tracks of the correspondent of the Daily News:—" All through crown princes intersected each other at
the fertile province of Champagne, down the Rheims. That one army of 80,000 men, with all straight roads, with their lines of poplar trees, and its trains and impediments, should, without serious among the pleasant villages on the vine-covered inconvenience, have been able to cut across the slopes, the Prussians advanced towards Paris. march of another numbering 120,000, added There was a great bend to the northward when another proof to the excellence of the working the Crown Prince swung round upon MacMahon, staff amongst the Germans.
and pinned him in against the Belgian frontier at Each army marched in parallel columns, the Sedan. There was a momentary pause after the lateral communication between which, as well as success of September—a pause merely to rest the between the two armies, was kept up by the exhausted troops ; then a second movement, as cavalry; and in particular, the outward flanks of decided and almost as rapid as that of the shutting both were protected by strong bodies of mounted in of MacMahon. The German forces returned troops. Their front was, at the same time, covered to the main road to their promised goal. They by a chain of advanced guards, at a distance of came slanting back to the line of the Marne, and from twenty to thirty miles, in communication occupied village after village and town after town, with each other by means of cavalry patrols, thus with astonishing quickness. The French had no forming a continuous circle, either for protection time to prepare a systematic defence. Before the or conveying information, enveloping the head of national guard could even be armed, far less exthe line of march of both armies.
ercised, those fluttering pennants of black and A new French corps d'armée, which had been white which told of the Prussian lancers, or those formed in Paris, under the command of General spiked helmets of the Prussian dragoons, were Vinoy, was despatched by rail to Soissons, Laon, seen approaching. Everything had to be abanMarle, Vervins, &c., to join MacMahon on his doned. The armed force, such as it was, dispersed way from Rheims to Stenay, to attempt the relief or retreated, and the people submitted themselves of Bazaine at Metz. This thirteenth corps consisted to the inevitable in the way of war contributions.” of the four last regiments of infantry and two of On and on marched the invaders. Heralded by light cavalry that had arrived from Algeria, and the their trusty cavalry, the immense armies moved in débris of one of MacMahon's cuirassier brigades; open order, although never beyond the reach of to which were added regiments de marche com- their prescient strategist, who required but a few posed of fourth battalions and depôts. The corps, hours' notice to mass them for any possible conhowever, did not get beyond Mézières; but retreat- tingency. Dr. Russell also wrote as follows to the ing as quickly as possible, escaped by rail, via Times on the subject:"One thing which causes Laon, Soissons, and Villers-Cotterets, to Paris, astonishment to me is the perfect impunity with before the first-named town surrendered to the which the Prussian communications have been cavalry division of Duke William of Mecklenburg. preserved. Their military administration is most
The march of the Germans met with little vigorous, and its apparent severity prevents bloodopposition. After the defeat at Sedan, although shed and secures their long lines against attack. France still had considerable elements of mili- It is · Death' to have any arms concealed or tary power, they were for a time so disorganized retained in any house. It is Death' to cut a that they could offer but a feeble resistance to telegraph wire, or to destroy anything used for the the advance of the enemy. As yet, however, service of the army. What can a disarmed popula