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Volunteers 1870 (page 5)


We saw that in the station of Tours it had been impossible to find gun powders and explosives which should have accompanied the train. By telegram a young engineer of St Étienne was kind enough to take care of making these torpedoes and detonator. He was waited in station of Nevers; unfortunately ! the same misfortune happened to him and he was able to find in his train only one precious but sufficient box presently. It is necessary to know that, Garibaldi, arrived at Tours on October 8 to lend his support to France had been appointed general-in chief, commanding the zone of Vosges in which then were some volunteers' units and mobilized. Since, he had especially taken charge to organize his army. We are going to summarize the actions of this army from the beginning of November to the beginning of December and we shall find at that time our narrator and his mine workers whom we left on December 5 in station of Tours.

During the night of the 9 and 10 of November 18 railway trains brought from Dôle the army of Garibaldi to Autun of which he made an excellent operation's base. As soon as november 25, he launched the army in an offensive which brought him to several successes within 50 km northward under the walls of Dijon outposts which were pulled out by bayonets but, the shooting of the Prussian 's artillery batteries suddenly threw into panic these little-toughened-up troops and this audacious smash-and-grab attack changed into rout and hasty retreat to Autun against which the cannon began thundering on December 1° afternoon. Then took place a scene of indescribable disorder where the soldiers looked for their weapons and the officers surprised-inside the "cafés" for most part of them did not know where to go : " … So everything seemed lost when the mobile artillerymen of the Charente to whom belonged two of the batteries spontaneously run in their artillery cannons, bring them in front of the enemy, aim them and counter attack. Most of these fellows had yet never attended even an exercise with fire and they were obliged, to have ammunitions, to kick down by axes strikes boxes locked or screwed. This swift reply of our artillery brought back courage, cold blood to most people. As for our three batteries, they were settled on an esplanade which extends at feet of the minor seminar; from there it controlled wonderfully all the assaulting army but their field of operation was too much restricted; furthermore, they were completely exposed, also they lost there 1/ 5-th of the strengths: eighteen deaths and 40 wounded persons. These three batteries sent 1360 missiles answering german in quick succession.

When one knows position in amphitheatre of the city of Autun where it is so easy to find out numerous points from which one could fire at the positions of the aggressors, one regrets that not to have thought, at this moment, of occupying those places by our small artillery, dividing the batteries; better protected artillerymen offering moreover a less vast target would have not only less suffered but even better answered. Moreover at the distances where shot complied it is the only smoke of the cannon shot which indicates its exact situation. Why, in that case, not to use a very simple guile consisting in firing here and there boxes of which explosion and smoke would aim to deceive all the time the enemy on the exact place of our artillery cannons. German who doubtless did not expect such a resistance weakened and went away foot little by little; however when the night came to interrupt battle they were pushed away but by two or 3 km. The last fires of mousqueteries stopped with the day. In summary the result of the battle of Autun was very important for us. The road of Creusot, the objective of German was closed them... "

When they arrived at Autun, the volunteers were surprised, then shocked by the army of Vosges : "they loved the purple, golden profusion on clothes and acrobats' suits …" They badly bore their behavior and the arrogance of the Italian general staff but also, the example of the colonel Cheney sentenced to death some days before with an obviously biased mind, had still increased the antipathies.

The colonel Lobbia very badly received JJGarnier in the point that he had to produce the precious certificate from the Ministry of War which authorized him to act as he would please, in a independent way. Provided with very good maps he had taken from a Prussian officer, he left with his people (confined as a precaution during the night in their barracks) in the night from 17 till 18 December. His mind was made up to cut immediately the railway track in the North of Dijon.

Indeed : "According to informations, the enemy was concentrated in Dijon with general Von Werder; from there he pushed daily southward to make there reconnaissances and requisitioning and waited for the right time to deliver battle to the armies of Cremer and Garibaldi, who, the one in Nuits, the other one in Autun, could not give hand each other rather quickly . Master of Dijon-Paris's railway, the enemy would still use it to receive reinforcements and even, one thought with some reason that determinedly he was just waiting to march on Lyon the arrival, by that railroad line, of some siege batteries. So this was an excellent occasion to use the torpedoes I had left "…

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