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Volunteers 1870 (page 4)


One remembers that decisions taken by the committee of the armament in Tours, on October 22 had been realized very swiftly. It had been necessary to wait until November 17 to obtain orders and precise orders which showed themselves divergent and certain bailiffs or field officers act so as to delay or to oppose an urgent action -which one would call today of commando group- During this time, the recruited volunteers, divided into squads, exercised to rise along telegraph poles by several people and, within one minute to cut threads or special devices without one can see it at the foot of the pole. Others placed invisible torpedoes under rails or still to deprive any stability of railway tracks or to maneuver " our special electric machines "

From Tours, the telegrams of answer left to J. Garnier any initiative in the struggle opened between the army of the Loire and the invaders: " We judged that we could be useful in this supreme fight and we toke, on December 3, the direction of battlefields. The snow was running down, a breeze from the North which had made the thermometer go down lower several degrees below zero, were the preludes of the severe winter which we were going to face; however, my volunteers sang according to a custom, one would not remove in our country, while they followed the road which leads to Vierzon's station. " They arrived at Tours only in the night of December 5 so much ways were blocked to ear about the series of disasters undergone of which the evacuation of Orlêans and even the threat of encirclement of Tours where from left hurriedly the staff of ministries with their family and "canary filled cage, sic". Not having been able to find in the station powders and instruments, it was necessary to bring back others from Saint Étienne.

The first emotion produced by the unexpected disasters of the army of the Loire having a little calmed down, I received the confidential order to go and blow up Foug's tunnel, in the Meurthe, within about 30 km on the West of Nancy and at 8 km west of Toul. This underground passage is one of the keys of the line from Strasbourg to Paris; if one succeeded in damaging it enough to prevent the trains from circulating in it during a month, it was of a major importance because one held up or stopped the coming of the troops, materiel, supplying, etc. which passed there then constantly in the direction of Paris.

According to the information which were given to me this underground passage has 800 m of length; it is dug in marls and clayish banks of Oxford-clay; it is paved inside with a masonry and the wells of ventilation are spaced out of about 50 m My purpose was, with the powerful powder which I had - and which acts very well out in the open, that is when it is simply placed on the object to be broken - to drive down at least with a cable and along one of the wells of the tunnel 500 kg of this powder (equal to about 4000 kilograms of common powder). This enormous torpedo, immediately arrived near the connection of the bottom of the well and the intrados of the tunnel would be ignited electrically and would produce certainly an enormous damage shaking, once more masonries at a big distance what would require long repairs. To arrive at Foug, we had to go at first to Nevers by railway; from there, to reach the city of Langres by squeezing us between Châtillon on the Seine and Dijon through the enemy lines...

I have to say that I received for my volunteers on behalf of experts of numerous compliments. As we had been equipped by the war department, I had chosen the very convenient uniform in campaign of the infantry men on line; the kepi of the engineers and a double black strip on the red trousers distinguished them only of this last one. Besides, they carried, suspended around the neck by leather lace, a steel shovel a millimeter and a half thick that weighed about 1 pound and was in the test of the bullets. Handle of this shovel was fixed on the bag and was used as tent peg. They could in no time remove this shovel, fit into a handle and use it; I had trained them to as it was practiced successfully by American guerrilla warfares to be make a quick shelter from a hole in the ground; the earth which resulted from it being still placed towards the enemy so as to form a retaining wall on which leaned the rifle to fire. One will see that this operation was useful for us.

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