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Volunteers 1870 (page 3)


The organization had worked quickly. We took only sturdy young workers, looking resolute and having good certificates; they were mainly mineworkers or mine carpenters, all of them alert people, strong, decided, accustomed to often face up death and to fight with it. In the course of my life, I saw many of these classes of people which one calls mine workers and seamen and one can say they are connected by numerous features of likeness: the same bravery, the same ingenuity, dedication; as for physical qualities the same sober temperament, knowing how to defy climate's fatigues and works.

I had at first to create four companies but as events rushed I decided that we would go on the war pass as soon as two companies only would be formed. Besides my second about whom I spoke, my other officers were also all engineers accustomed to lead the men from mines and factories. As for as my non commissioned officers they still were sub-engineers or supervisors of works. This is a class that one has not enough revealed and the most of during the war; these young people formed however officers' best frame that one could find then in the civil element, either for the special weapons, or to show to their colleagues how one speaks to the men to make them obey and obey cheerfully. Unfortunately, one too often preferred, on the contrary, to these already formed subjects, people of office, pen fellows or idle people who, chosen in the ranks of " classe bourgeoise," still had all the defects of the "bourgeois éducation": love and custom of physical prosperity, disdain of military honors and, what is still worse, indifference or skepticism for patriotic feelings..."

The stories of this campaign are scattered with critical notes concerning the incompetence of the generals, the lack of preparation, the opposition Paris - Province and the fatal political involvement of such or such dignitaries and especially the way that military and human disasters, which were to mourn for, could have been avoided. I am going to give punctual examples extracted from the work itself. One finds this type of comments in textbooks and current historic works. No sooner reorganized had Mac-Mahon tried to combine with the army of Metz; he took offensive with a discouraged troop of which defeat increased indiscipline; it is in these conditions that this general came to himself between the hammer and the anvil; every step which he made forward moved him closer to an evident disaster.

The Prussians, for their part, lost then an enormous advantage for, if they had taken the road of Paris following our fugitives, we should assume that, in the state of discouragement and disorganization where they would have found the capital, they would have entered it meeting no resistance. But this huge mistake of the Prussian generals was in a sense repaired by the plan, which adopted Mac-Mahon to operate his connection with Bazaine. The leader of the army of Chalons might know that the Crown prince walked to him with impressive arm forces, which, besides, was the huge vanguard of a series of columns which was spread up to the chains of Vosges, occupying the main roads. Could a general of the experience of Mac-Mahon suppose that an army improvised as was his army be ever able to execute the extraordinary march, which the necessity of the plan required absolutely?

This project seemed so insane on behalf of a renowned warrior that one supposed (with good reason maybe) it had been imposed by Napoleon III who, doubtless, preferred all the disasters rather than withdraw to Paris which he seemed to be afraid of, at that time, more than Crown prince's troops. If that's how it is, in which degree of lowness had fallen this sovereign… (the influence of politics on this march of general Mac-Mahon seems today demonstrated) Somewhere else: It is not for me to criticize a general who had shown proofs of capacity but it is allowed to say that, in these circumstances, (siege of Paris) general Trochu was not stimulated with this patriotic flame which devours all the obstacles and places spirit above all the difficulties: the slogan was not what it had to be: " to save the country or death " Oh, if he had had in the service of this noble cause the wild energy of particular leaders of the Commune!"

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