STEPHANE LAUZANNE LIEUTENANT IN THE FRENCH ARMY, CHEVALIER OF THE LEGION OF HONOR EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE "MATIN," MEMBER OF THE FRENCH MISSION TO THE UNITED STATES
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JAMES M. BECK, LL.D. LATE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
TRANSLATED BY JOHN L. B. WILLIAMS, A.M. SOMETIME FELLOW OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON
Copyright, 1918, by
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
MY CHIEFS MY COMRADES MY MEN WHO ARE FIGHTING FOR THE GREAT CAUSE OF LIBERTY AND CIVILIZATION
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
To be Editor-in-Chief of one of the greatest newspapers in the world at twenty-seven years of age is a distinction, which has been enjoyed by few other men, if any, in the whole history of journalism. There may have been exceptional instances, where young men by virtue of proprietary and inherited rights, have nominally, or even actually, succeeded to the editorial control of a great metropolitan newspaper. But in the case of M. Stephane Lauzanne, his assumption of duty in 1901 as Editor-in-Chief of the Paris Matin was wholly the result of exceptional achievement in journalism. Merit and ability, and not merely friendly influences, gave him this position of unique power, for the Matin has a circulation in France of nearly two million copies a day, and its Editor-in-Chief thereby exerts a power which it would be difficult to over-estimate.
M. Lauzanne was born in 1874 and is a graduate of the Faculty of Law of Paris. Believing that journalism opened to him a wider avenue of usefulness than the legal profession, he preferred—as the event showed most wisely—to follow a journalistic career. In this choice he may have been guided by the fact that he was the nephew of the most famous foreign correspondent in the history of journalism. I refer to M. de Blowitz, who was for many years the Paris correspondent of the London Times, and as such a very notable representative of the Fourth Estate. No one ever more fully illustrated the truth of the words which Thackeray, in Pendennis, puts into the mouth of his George Warrington, when he and Arthur Pendennis stand in Fleet Street and hear the rumble of the engines in the press-room. He likened the foreign correspondents of these newspapers to the ambassadors of a great State; and no one more fully justifies the analogy than M. de Blowitz, for it is profitable to recall that when in 1875 the military party of Germany secretly planned to strike down France, when the stricken gladiator was slowly but courageously struggling to its feet, it was de Blowitz, who in an article in the London Times let the light of day into the brutal and iniquitous scheme, and by mere publicity defeated for the time being this conspiracy against the honor of France and the peace of the world. Unfortunately the coup of the Prussian military clique was only postponed. Our generation was destined to sustain the unprecedented horrors of a base attempt to destroy France, that very glorious asset of all civilization.
De Blowitz took great interest in his brilliant nephew and at his suggestion Lauzanne became the London correspondent of the Matin in 1898, when he was only twenty-four years of age. This brought him into direct communication with the London Times which then as now exchanged cable news with the Matin, and it was the duty of the young journalist to take the cable news of the "Thunderer" and transmit such portions as would particularly interest France to the Matin, with such special comment as suggested itself. How well he did this work, requiring as it did the most accurate judgment and the nicest discrimination, was shown when he was made Editor-in-Chief of the Matin in 1901.
His tenure of office was destined to be short for, when the world war broke out, M. Lauzanne, as a First Lieutenant of the French Army, joined the colors in the first days of mobilization and surrendered the pen for the sword. His career as editor had been long enough, however, for him to impress upon the minds of the French public the imminency of the Prussian Peril. As to this he had no illusions and his powerful editorials had done much to combat the spirit of pacificism, which at that time was weakening the preparations of France for the inevitable conflict.
The obligation of universal service required him to exchange his position of great power and usefulness for a lesser position, but this spirit of common service in the ranks means much for France or for any nation. The democracy of the French Army could not be questioned, when the powerful Editor of the Matin became merely a lieutenant in the Territorial Infantry. As such, he served in the battle of the Marne and later before Verdun, and thus could say of the two most heroic chapters in French history, as AEneas said of the Siege of Troy, "Much of which I saw, and part of which I was."
Having fulfilled the obligation of universal service in the ranks, it is not strange that in 1916 he was recalled to serve the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For a time he rendered great service in Switzerland, where from the beginning of the war an acute but ever-lessening controversy has raged between the pro-German and the pro-Ally interests.
He was then chosen for a much more important mission. In October, 1916, he came to the United States as head of the "Official Bureau of French Information," and here he has remained until the present hour. As such, he has been an unofficial ambassador of France. His position has been not unlike that of Franklin at Passy in the period that preceded the formal recognition by France of the United States and the Treaty of Alliance of 1778. As with Franklin, his weapon has been the pen and the printing press, and the unfailing tact with which he has carried on his mission is not unworthy of comparison with that of Franklin. No one who has been privileged to meet and know M. Lauzanne can fail to be impressed with his fine urbanity, his savoir faire and his perfect tact. Without any attempt at propaganda, he has greatly impressed American public opinion by his contributions to our press and his many public addresses. In none of them has he ever made a false step or uttered a tactless note. His words have always been those of a sane moderation and the influence that he has wielded has been that of truth. Apart from the vigor and calm persuasiveness of his utterances, his winning personality has made a deep impression upon all Americans who have been privileged to come in contact with him. The highest praise that can be accorded to him is that he has been a true representative of his own noble, generous and chivalrous nation. Its sweetness and power have been exemplified by his charming personality.
Although he has taken a forceful part in possibly the greatest intellectual controversy that has ever raged among men, he has from first to last been the gentleman and it has been his quiet dignity and gentleness that has added force to all that he has written and uttered, especially at the time when America was the greatest neutral forum of public opinion.
If "good wine needs no bush and a good play needs no epilogue," then a good book needs no prologue. Therefore I shall not refer to the simplicity and charm, with which M. Lauzanne has told the story with which this book deals. The reader will judge that for himself; and unless the writer of this foreword is much mistaken, that judgment will be wholly favorable. There have been many war books—a very deluge of literature in which thinking men have been hopelessly submerged—but most books of wartime reminiscences do not ring true. There is too obvious an attempt to be dramatic and sensational. This book avoids this error and its author has contented himself with telling in a simple and convincing manner something of the part which he was called upon to play.
I venture to predict that all good Americans who read this book will become the friends, through the printed pages, of this gifted and brilliant writer, and if it were possible for such Americans to increase their love and admiration for France, then this book would deepen the profound regard in which America holds its ancient ally.
JAMES M. BECK.
WHY FRANCE IS FIGHTING
The declaration of war and the French mobilization—The invasion and the tragic days of Paris in August and September, 1914: personal reminiscences—The premeditated cruelties of Germany: new documents—The German organized spying system in France 1
HOW FRANCE IS FIGHTING
France fighting with her men, her women and her children—The men show that they know how to suffer: episodes of the Marne and of Verdun—The women encourage the men to fight and to suffer: some illustrations—Sacred Union of all Frenchmen against the enemy—all, without any distinction of class or religion, die smiling—Letters of soldiers—The organization in the rear: the work in the factories 51
FRANCE SUFFERING BUT NOT BLED WHITE
Despite her sufferings, France is able to pay 20 billions of dollars, for the war, in three years—French commerce and French work during the war—France is helping her allies from a military standpoint and financially—The saving of Serbia 94
THE WAR AIMS OF FRANCE
Restitution: Alsace-Lorraine—Restoration: The devastated and looted territories. Guarantees: The Society of Nations 138
APPENDIX I.—HOW GERMANS FORCED WAR ON FRANCE 179
APPENDIX II.—HOW GERMANS TREAT AN AMBASSADOR 183
APPENDIX III.—HOW GERMANS ARE WAGING WAR 196
APPENDIX IV.—HOW GERMANS OCCUPY THE TERRITORY OF AN ENEMY 200
APPENDIX V.—HOW GERMANS TREAT ALSACE-LORRAINE 206
APPENDIX VI.—HOW GERMANS UNDERSTAND FUTURE PEACE 229
WHY FRANCE IS FIGHTING
Had you been in Paris late in the afternoon of Monday, August third, nineteen fourteen, you might have seen a slight man, whose reddish face was adorned with a thick white mustache, walk out of the German Embassy, which was situated on the Rue de Lille near the Boulevard St. Germain. Along the boulevard and across the Pont de la Concorde he walked in a manner calculated to attract attention. He approached the animated and peevish groups of citizens that had formed a little before for the purpose of discussing the imminent war as if he wanted them to notice him. You would have said that he was trying to be recognized and to take part in the discussions.
But no one paid any attention to him.
Finally he came to the Quai d'Orsay, opened the Gate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and said to the attendant who hastened to open the door for him:
"Announce the German Ambassador to the Prime Minister."
He was Baron de Schoen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of his Germanic Majesty, William the Second. For two days he had wandered through the most crowded streets and avenues in Paris, hoping for some injury, some insult, some overt act which would have permitted him to say that Germany in his person had been provoked, insulted by France. But there had been no violence, the insult had not been offered, the overt act had not occurred. Then, tired of this method, de Schoen took the initiative and presented a declaration of war from his government.
The declaration, as history will record, was expressed in these terms:
The German administrative and military authorities have established a certain number of flagrantly hostile acts committed on German territory by French military aviators. Several of these have openly violated the neutrality of Belgium by flying over the territory of that country; one has attempted to destroy buildings near Wesel; others have been seen in the district of the Eifel, one has thrown bombs on the railway near Carlsruhe and Nuremberg.
I am instructed and I have the honor to inform your Excellency, that in the presence of these acts of aggression the German Empire considers itself in a state of war with France in consequence of the acts of the latter Power.
At the same time I have the honor to bring to the knowledge of your Excellency that the German authorities will detain French mercantile vessels in German ports, but they will release them if, within forty-eight hours, they are assured of complete reciprocity.
My diplomatic mission having thus come to an end, it only remains for me to request your Excellency to be good enough to furnish me with my passports, and to take the steps you consider suitable to assure my return to Germany, with the staff of the Embassy, as well as with the staff of the Bavarian Legation and of the French Consulate General in Paris.
Be good enough, M. le President, to receive the assurances of my deepest respect.
(Signed) DE SCHOEN.
Immediately M. Rene Viviani, the French Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs, protested against the statements of this extraordinary declaration. No French aviator had flown over Belgium; no French aviator had come near Wesel; no French aviator had flown in the direction of Eifel; nor had hurled bombs on the railroad near Carlsruhe or Nuremberg. And less than two years later a German, Dr. Schwalbe, the Burgomaster of Nuremberg, confirmed M. Viviani's indignant denial of the German accusations:
"It is false," wrote Dr. Schwalbe in the Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, "that French aviators dropped bombs on the railway at Nuremberg. The general of the third Bavarian army corps, which was stationed in the vicinity, assured me that he knew nothing of the attempt except from the newspapers...."
But a blow had just been struck that announced the rising of the curtain on the most frightful tragedy the universe has ever known. This announcement was contained in the brief, plain words of the declaration of war.
De Schoen left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he had been courteously received for many years, and made his way out. He was escorted by M. Philippe Berthelot, who was at the time directeur politique at the Quai d'Orsay. As he was going out of the door, de Schoen pointed to the city, which, with its trees, its houses, and its monuments, could be seen clearly on the other side of the Seine.
"Poor Paris," he exclaimed, "what will happen to her?"
At the same time he offered his hand to M. Berthelot, but the latter contented himself with a silent bow, as if he had neither seen the proffered hand nor heard the question.
It was a quarter before seven o'clock in the evening. From that time on France has been at war with Germany.
* * * * *
Mobilization had commenced the previous evening. To be exact, it was on Sunday, August third, at midnight.
How many times the French people had thought of that mobilization during the last twenty years, in proportion as Germany grew more aggressive, more brutal and more insulting! Personally I had often looked at the little red ticket fastened to my military card, on which were written these brief words:
In time of mobilization, Lieutenant Lauzanne (Stephane) will report on the second day of mobilization to the railroad station nearest his home and there entrain immediately for Alencon.
And each time I looked at the little red card, I felt a bit anxious.... Mobilization! The railroad station! The first train! What a mob of people, what an overturning of everything, what a lot of disorder there would be! Well, there had been neither disorder nor disturbance nor a mob, for everything had taken place in a manner that was marvelously simple and calm.
Monday, August third, at sunrise I had gone to the Gare des Invalides. There was no mob, there was no crowd. Some policemen were walking in solitary state along the sidewalk, which was deserted. The station master, to whom I presented my card, told me, in the most extraordinarily calm voice in the world, as if he had been doing the same thing every morning:
"Track number 5. Your train leaves at 6.27."
And the train left at 6.27, like any good little train that is on time. It had left quietly; it was almost empty. It had followed the Seine, and I had seen Paris lighted up by the peaceable morning glow, Paris which was still asleep. And I had rubbed my eyes, asking myself if I wasn't dreaming, if I wasn't asleep. Were we really at war? My eyes were seeing nothing of it, but my memory kept recalling the fact. It recalled the unforgettable scenes of those last days—that scene especially, at four o'clock in the evening on the first of August, when the crowd along the boulevard had suddenly seen the mobilization orders posted in the window of a newspaper office. A shout burst forth, a shout I shall hear until my last moment, which made me tremble from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. It was a shout that seemed to come from the very bowels of the earth, the shout of a people who, for years, had waited for that moment.
Then the "Marseillaise"! Then a short, imperious demand:
"The flags! We want the flags!"
And flags burst forth from all quarters of Paris, decorated in the twinkling of an eye as if it were a fete day. Yes, all that had really happened. All that had taken place. We were really at war.
Little by little the train filled up. It stopped at every station, and at every station men got aboard. They came in gayly and confidently, bidding farewell to the women who had accompanied them and who stayed behind the gate to do their weeping. Everybody was mixed in together in the compartments without any distinctions of rank, station, class or anything else. At Argentan I saw some rough Norman farmers enter the coaches, talking with the same good natured calmness as if they were going away on a business trip. One expression was repeated again and again:
"If we've got to go, we've got to go."
One farmer said:
"They are looking after our good. I shall fight until I fall."
The spirit of the whole French people spoke from these mouths. You felt the firm purpose of the nation come out of the very earth.
The country side presented an unwonted appearance. I remember vividly the view the broad plains of Beauce offered. They looked as if they were dead or fallen into a lethargy. Their life had come to an abrupt end on Saturday, the first of August, at four o'clock in the afternoon. We saw mounds of grain that had been cut and was still scattered on the ground, with the scythe glistening nearby. We saw pitchforks resting alongside the hay they had just finished tossing. We saw sheaves lying on the ground with no one to take them away. The very villages were deserted; not a human being appeared in them. You would have said that this train that was passing through in the wake of hundreds of other trains had blotted out all the inhabitants of the region.
We detrained at Alencon, arriving there about mid-day. Alencon is a tiny Norman village that is habitually calm and peaceful, but on that day it was crowded with people. An enormous wave, the wave of the men who were mobilizing, rushed through the main street of the little town in the direction of the two barracks. I went with the current. My captain, whom I found in the middle of a part of the barracks, had not even had time to put on his uniform. He explained the situation to me with military brevity:
"It's very simple.... It's now three o'clock in the afternoon. The day after tomorrow, at six o'clock in the morning, we entrain for Paris. We have one day to clothe, equip and arm our company."
It is no small matter to clothe, equip and arm two hundred and fifty men in twenty-four hours. You have to find in the enormous pile, which is in a corner of a shed, two hundred and fifty coats, pairs of trousers and hats which will fit two hundred and fifty entirely separate and distinct chests, legs and heads. You have to find five hundred pairs of shoes for two hundred and fifty pairs of feet. You have to arrange the men in rank according to their heights, form the sections and the squads. You have to have soup prepared and transport provisions. You have to go and get rifles and cartridges. You have to get funds advanced for the company accounts from the very beginning of the campaign. You have to get your duties organized, make up accounts and prepare statements. You have to breathe the breath of life into the little machine which is going to take its place in the big machine.
And there was not a person there to help us to do this—not a line officer, not a second lieutenant. The captain had to act on his own, to think on his own, to decide everything on his own. He had to do all by himself the work that yesterday twenty-five department store heads, twenty-five shoe makers and twenty-five certified public accountants would have had a hard time doing.
He did it! Every captain in the French Army did it. And the next morning at six o'clock our little machine was ready to go and take its place in the operations of the big machine. The following day, at six o'clock, we entrained again; but no longer was it the confused and disorganized crowd that it had been the evening before. It was a company with arms and leaders; a company which had already made the acquaintance of discipline. That was proved by the silence reigning everywhere. At the moment of departure the Colonel had commanded:
There was not a sound. The long train, crowded with soldiers, was a silent train which passed through the open country, the towns and the villages all the way to Paris without a sound except the puffing of the engine. In the evening, silent always, we detrained at Paris and marched to a barracks situated to the north of the capital. We were to stay there a month.
* * * * *
The story of Paris during the month of August, 1914, is an extraordinary one that would deserve an entire volume to itself. That feverish city has never lived through hours that were more calm and peaceful. During the first two weeks Paris seemed to be in a sweet, peaceful dream, in which the citizens listened eagerly for sounds of victory coming from the far distant horizon. On the twenty-fifth of August Paris, which had heard only vague echoes of the Battle of Charleroi, awakened with a jolt when it read the famous communique beginning with the words: "De la Somme aux Vosges...."
So the enemy was already at the Somme, a few days' march from the capital! But the awakening was as free from disturbance as the dream had been. Paris felt absolute confidence in the army, in Joffre; and the Parisian reasoning was expressed in one phrase, "The army has retreated, but it is neither destroyed nor beaten; as long as the army is there, Paris has nothing to fear...." And when Sunday the thirtieth of August came, Paris was as calm and confident as it was on the first day of the war.
I shall remember the thirtieth of August for a long time.
They had posted on all the walls two notices. One of them was large, the other small. The large one was a proclamation of the Government announcing the departure of its officials for Bordeaux:
For several weeks our troops and the enemy's army have been engaged in a series of bloody battles. The bravery of our soldiers has gained them marked advantages at several points. But in the north the pressure of the German forces has compelled us to withdraw.
This retirement imposes a regrettably necessary decision on the President of the Republic and the Government. To protect national safety the government officials have to leave Paris at once.
Under the command of an eminent leader, a French army, full of bravery and resource, will defend the capital and its people against the invader. But at the same time war will be carried on over the rest of the territory.
The small notice was from General Gallieni, the new Governor of Paris. It had, in its brevity, the beauty of an ancient inscription:
"I have been ordered to defend Paris. I shall obey this command until the end."
That same Sunday, the thirtieth of August, was the first day the Taubes came over Paris. By chance I was guarding one of the city's gates. I saw the airplane coming from a distance. I had not the least doubt about it for it had the silhouette of a bird of prey that rendered the German planes so easily recognizable at that time. For that matter, no one was deceived by it, and from all the batteries, forts and other positions a violent fusillade greeted it. There was firing from the streets, windows, courts and roofs. I followed it through my field glass, and for a moment I thought it had been hit, for it paused in its flight. But this was an optical illusion.... The plane simply flew higher, having without doubt heard the sound of the fusillade and the bullets having perhaps whistled too close to the pilot's ears. When he was almost over my post, a light white cloud appeared under its wings and, in the ten ensuing seconds, there followed a terrible series of sounds, for a bomb had just fallen and exploded very near at hand. But so entrancing was it to observe the flight of this pirate who, in spite of everything, continued in his audacious course, that I gazed at the heavens, trying to determine whether or not I saw once more the little white cloud, the precursor of the machine of death.
And everyone who was near me—workmen, passers-by, women, children—stayed there too, their feet firmly on the ground, their glances lost in the limitless sky. No one ran away; no one hid; no one sought refuge behind a door or in a cellar. It's a characteristic of airplane bombs that they frighten no one, even when they kill. The machine you see does not frighten you; only the machine you can't see upsets your nerves.
However that may be, the curiosity of Paris was insatiable. Even in the tragic hours we were living through at that time, this curiosity remained as eager, ardent and amused as ever. Every afternoon, at the stroke of four, crowds collected in the squares and avenues. The motive was to see the Taubes! Since one Taube had flown over the city, no one doubted that a second one would come the next day. A girl's boarding school obtained a free afternoon to enjoy the spectacle. The midinettes were allowed to leave their work. At Montmartre, where the steps of the Butte gave a better chance of scanning the horizon, places were in great demand.
There was a crowd along the fortifications to see the works for the defense on which, by General Gallieni's order, men were working. Thousands of spectators of both sexes, but especially of women, were examining the bases that were being put in for the guns, the openings they were making to serve as loopholes, the joists they were putting across the gates, and the paving stones with which the entrances were being barricaded. This crowd did not want to believe in the proximity of the enemy. Or, if it believed it, it didn't want to admit that there was danger. Or, if it admitted that there was danger, it wanted to share in it. Above everything it wanted to see; it wanted to see!
The last night in August I had a hard time freeing the approaches of the gate I was guarding. There were only women, but there were thousands of them and neither prayer nor argument could persuade them to make up their minds to go home.
"Nothing will happen," I told them. "Look here now, be reasonable and go home to bed."
"But we want to see...."
"What do you want to see?"
"Want to see what kind of a reception the Prussians will get if they come."
Aside from this the mob was remarkably easy to get on with. A strict order had forbidden that anyone be permitted to enter or leave Paris until sunrise. As a result the capital found itself cut off from the suburbs, and lots of little working girls, who came in for the day from Clichy or Levallois-Perret, couldn't get back to their homes in the evening. They had to camp out under the stars.
"It's very amusing," they said, "here we are just like soldiers."
I even heard one of them say:
"What a pity there isn't always war."
That same night, about eleven o'clock, a heavy sound was heard coming from the direction of the city. Some urchins shouted:
"It's the soldiers. It's the soldiers."
An entire Algerian division was, as a matter of fact, detraining and hurrying to fight before Paris. Behind it followed a long line of taxi-cabs, the famous line of taxi-cabs requisitioned by General Gallieni to carry munitions to the battle field of the Ourcq. They made an incomparable spectacle, that magnificent summer night, in the bright moonlight, the long column of Algerian cavalry, with their shining burnouses, on fiery little horses. Applause burst forth from the mob and reached the soldiers. The women threw kisses at them, but they overwhelmed my men and me with reproaches:
"See," they shrieked at us, "if we had minded you and gone home, we wouldn't have seen them."
* * * * *
Paris, which didn't know about the Battle of Charleroi, knew about the Battle of the Marne. Paris knew about the Battle of the Marne not only on account of the troops who marched through its streets, but because it heard the big guns roar for three days, without stopping, towards the north.
What has not already been written and said about the Battle of the Marne, a conflict which will remain legendary in history? What will not be said and written on that subject in the future?... Some writers will see in it a miracle, others a strategic action engineered by a genius, others a chance stroke of destiny. The truth of the matter is more simple and appealing than any of these explanations and, although the whole truth is not yet known about the fight at the Marne, enough is known to make clear the two or three chief reasons why victory came to France and defeat to Germany, safety to civilization and a repulse to barbarism.
To be sure there was a great deal of strategy in it; and the stroke that was conceived in the master brain of Joffre and carried out by Generals Gallieni and Maunoury—a stroke which consisted in forming a new army on the extreme right of the German hordes to come and hurl itself sharply against these hordes—was a brave and bold maneuver which prepared the way for victory.
But this maneuver would not in itself have sufficed to win the victory if Maunoury had not attacked with an irresistible elan on the extreme left, upsetting the German plan of battle; if Franchet d'Esperey had not supported Maunoury's attack vigorously and succeeded in breaking the German left; if, especially, Foch, at the center, had not performed unheard of miracles in breaking down the enemy's resistance and not allowing his own lines to be broken; if, farther on, de Langle de Cary and Sarrail had not held off the Princes of Bavaria and Prussia before Vitry; if, on the right, de Castelnau had not held until the end the Grand Couronne at Nancy. The first truth is that they were all—Joffre, Gallieni, Maunoury, Franchet d'Esperey, Foch, de Langle de Cary, Sarrail, Castelnau, Dubail, to mention them in the order of the battle line from left to right—absolutely incomparable. As an eye-witness said, "each man was on his own," each man gave the very best there was in his brain, his skill, his mind, his soul, his heart. The battle would have been lost if a single one of them had failed once during the entire seven days it raged. Opposed to the Huns was a chain forged of the finest steel, every link in which met the test for equal and unparalleled resistance. Therein lay the miracle of the Marne!
And the second great truth is that behind these generals, who all showed themselves without equal, were armies which, without exception, had kept intact their fighting spirit, that is, their faith in themselves, in their leaders, in the destiny of their country, in the beauty of the cause for which they fought.... Enough can never be said of the elemental importance that lies in the morale of the fighting men on the battle field. It is lamentable to hear far distant strategists reduce the conflict of two peoples to a problem in tactics or a list of ordnance statistics. It is enough to make angels weep when spectators, at a safe distance, speak of succoring a beaten people by sending them food stuffs, shells and men. Above all, beyond all, is that immaterial, incalculable, invaluable force which is the sole true mistress of warfare—moral force—fighting spirit!
The Frenchmen in the Battle of the Marne kept their fighting spirit intact. I remember asking many of the officers attached to the forces which, after the Battle of Charleroi, retreated under a broiling sun, along roads burning with heat, through a suffocating dust, how they felt at this disheartening time. All of them answered, "We did not know where we were going or what we were doing, but we did know one thing—that we would beat them!" One writer, Pierre Laserre, described this retreat in the words, "Their bodies were retreating, but not their souls!" This is proven by the arrival on the fifth of September of Joffre's immortal order, "The hour has come to hold our positions at any cost, and to fight rather than retreat.... No longer must we look at the enemy over our shoulders; the time has come to employ all our efforts in attacking and defeating him."... That evening, when they heard their leader's appeal, the hearts of the men bounded in response. The next morning, at dawn, their bodies leaped up and hurled themselves on the enemy. Therein lay the miracle of the Marne!
Finally, at the very hour when the fighting spirit of the French Army had never been higher, the fighting spirit of the German Army had never been lower. It was low because the physical strength of the Germans was low, worn out, and broken by the shameful orgies, the disgraceful drinking which had reduced these men to the level of swine. It was low because the German fighting men had been led to believe that they would have to fight no longer, that the great effort was ended, that there was no French Army to put a stop to their pillaging and burning. "Tomorrow we enter Paris, we are going to the Moulin Rouge," von Kluck's soldiers said in their jargon to the inhabitants of Compiegne. "Tomorrow we will burn Bar-le-Duc, Poincare's home town," the Crown Prince's soldiers said. What sort of resistance could such men oppose to Joffre's soldiers? Their spirit, granting that they had ever had any, was broken beforehand. And that is another thing that will explain the outcome of the Battle of the Marne.
* * * * *
What Paris knew very quickly, very completely and very surely were the details of frightful looting and of the first atrocities perpetrated by the Germans, who demonstrated a premeditated intention to destroy, defile and wipe out everything in their path. And Paris was doubtless the first city in France to comprehend the significance of this war, which is a war of civilization against barbarism, a sacred war in which the forces of humanity raise a rampart of human breasts against the violent reappearance of primitive savagery.
Those of us who had a hand in some part of the Battle of the Marne were not slow to comprehend who the enemy was we were fighting and why we had to fight him to the death.
Among the many things that will be always engraved on the tablets of my memory, the deepest is of the time when I was on guard at the field of battle on the Ourcq, north of Meaux, on the extremity of the battle line of the Marne. Field of battle I have just written. No, it was not a field of battle but a field of carnage. I have forgotten the corpses I met in the roads or in the fields with their grinning faces and their distorted attitudes. But I shall never forget the ruin that was everywhere, the abominable manner in which the fields had been laid waste, the sacrilegious pillage of homes. That bore the trade mark of German "Kultur." That trade mark will be enough to dishonor a nation for centuries.
I see again those humble villages situated along the road to Meaux, Penchard, Marcilly, Chambry, Etrepilly, where a barbarian horde had passed. Since there were no inhabitants remaining—men whose throats could be cut, women who could be violated, or babies to shoot down—the horde had vented its rage on the furniture and the poor little familiar objects in which each one of us puts a bit of his soul.
I arrived in Etrepilly at the same time as a detachment of Zouaves. While they piously buried their companions who had fallen in forcing their way into the village, I wandered alone among the ruins. There had been a hundred houses there, and not a single one was untouched. Some had been hit by shells, and the shell which burst in the interior of the house had destroyed everything. That, of course, was war, and there was nothing to say about it.
But other houses, which had been spared by shell fire, had not been spared by the Kaiser's soldiery. The Barbarians had placed their claws on them. Everything had been taken out of the houses and scattered to the four winds of heaven. Here is a portrait that has been wrenched from its frame and trampled on. A baby's bathtub has been carried into the garden, and the soldiers have deposited their excrement in it. There are chairs that have been smashed by the kicks of heavy boots and wardrobes that have been disemboweled. Here is a fine old mahogany table that has been carried into the fields for five hundred meters and then broken in two. An old red damask armchair, with wings at the sides, one of those old armchairs in which the grandmothers of France sit by the fire in the evening has been torn in shreds by knife thrusts. Linen is mixed with mud; the white veil some girl wore at her first communion is defiled with excrement.... An old man is wandering among the ruins. He has just come back to the devastated village. He says to me simply:
"I saw them in 1870. They came here, but they didn't do this. They are savages."
A woman was there, too. She had come an hour or so ago with the old man, and she stood on the step of her defiled, despoiled home where the curtains hung in tatters at the windows. She saw me pass by. She wanted to speak to me, but her voice stuck in her throat. There she stood, her arms extended like a great cross. She could only sob:
And she was like a symbol of the whole wretched business.
The men who do such deeds are the men France is fighting.
* * * * *
Vincy-Manoeuvre was another one of the villages. It is situated near the border of the Department of the Oise. It was still in flames when I entered it. On the outskirts of the hamlet there used to be a large factory. Only the iron framework of this factory remained; the ashes had commenced to smoke, giving forth flames from time to time. Here also every house had been destroyed and pillaged. Only the church remained standing, and on the belfry which was silhouetted against the sky, the weather cock seemed to shudder with horror.
Bottles covered the ground everywhere at Vincy-Manoeuvre. There were bottles in the streets, along the highways, in the fields. They marked the road by which the vanquished hordes had retreated. I counted almost two hundred in one trench, where a German battery had been placed. They lay pell-mell, mixed in with unexploded shells. Panic had apparently swept the gunners away. They had not had time to carry off their shells, so they had left them behind. But they had had time to empty the bottles. Absinthe, brandy, rum, champagne, beer, and wine had all been consumed, and the labels lay alongside of each other. Drunken, bloodthirsty brutes, thieving, sickening, nauseous beasts were what had descended upon France and passed through her country. Ruins, ashes and filth were the traces left behind by the German mob.
Some hundreds of yards from the village I noticed a woman lost in the immense beet fields. Apparently she was unharmed. I walked in her direction, thrusting aside with my legs corpses of men and horses, scaling the trenches, making a circuit around the craters made by shells. Suddenly what was my surprise at seeing two German soldiers, accompanied by a farmer, coming along a footpath! They stopped at six paces, gave me a military salute, and pointed to the white brassard of the Red Cross they wore on their arms.
"Where do you come from?" I asked. "What are you doing here?"
"We come from that farm, where we have been for two days caring for two of our wounded. We didn't see any French soldier or officer. We don't know what to do. We want to go to the village down there," they pointed out a hamlet two or three kilometers off, "where we left a doctor and one hundred and fifty-three wounded."
"Very good," I said, "follow me."
Obediently the two orderlies marched behind me to the village they had pointed out. It was situated on the national highway to Soissons. In this place were a hundred and fifty or two hundred Germans, quartered in four or five houses under the guard of a company of Zouaves who had just arrived a half hour previously. The German major, informed of my arrival, stood in front of the main building. He wore gold-rimmed spectacles, his face was the type the Alsatian Hansi loves to show in his books. He spoke very good French and even pretended that he did not want to answer the questions I asked him in his own language.
"Show me your wounded," I ordered.
He immediately conducted me everywhere, explaining the nature of each wound. Some were suffering and groaning; others, seeing the uniform of a French officer, tried to raise themselves up and salute.
The German major asked:
"When they come to evacuate the wounded to Meaux or some other place, do you suppose I shall be allowed to accompany them and continue my treatment?"
"I don't know," I replied, "but there is one thing you can be sure of. My superiors will act in accordance with the demands of humanity. Now you follow me."
I led him outside to the doorstep. I pointed out the poor homes of the village, ruined, reduced to dust. Everywhere were the dwellings of the entire region, with their furniture lying in the mud and ashes.
"Look at that," I said to him. "That is what your men have done."
The German officer turned very pale, then very red. He answered:
"It's sad, but it is war."
"No," I replied, "it isn't war. It's pure barbarism and it's abominable."
Some few paces away from us French Zouaves were sitting beside some wounded Germans. In their own glasses they poured out a little cordial for their prisoners; they gave them their last cigarettes. One of them had even taken, as if he were his brother, the head of a wounded German in his left hand to support it. With his right hand, very carefully, he was giving him a drink. I pointed that out to the German major, saying:
"There! That is war—at least it's war as we understand it."
This time he made no answer.
But all the German prisoners repeated what he had said to me as a set phrase. On the whole, when you have seen ten German prisoners you have seen a thousand; when you have questioned one German officer you have questioned fifty. The characteristic of the race is that they have abolished all individuality. You find yourself in an amorphous mass, cast in a uniform mold, not in the presence of human beings who think their own thoughts.
I often saw trains stop in what is called a gare regulatrice, where the prisoners are questioned and distributed. These trains bring in prisoners and their officers. The commandant of the station, in accordance with his duty, has the officers appear before him so that he can question them:
"Your name? Your rank?"
The German states his name and rank, offering of necessity his identification card.
"Such and such a regiment."
"Your army corps?"
"Such and such an army corps."
"Who is the general in command?"
Like an automaton the officer replies:
"Das sage ich nicht." ("I can not answer that.")
And you know that it would be an easier matter to make the stone beneath your feet talk than one of these prisoners.
However, the commandant frowns slightly, glances over his notes, and says coldly:
"I know who your general is. If you belong to such and such an army corps, the general in command must be General von Bissing."...
"I have nothing to say."
As a general thing one of the staff had something to say. The interpreter, the convoy officer or the station master would get a lot of fun out of reciting to the German passages from von Bissing's famous and ferocious proclamation ordering that no quarter be given and that the troops should not encumber themselves with prisoners. Then he would ask:
"What would you say if we were to put such a principle into practice?"
The German often became very pale. He would content himself with a shrug of the shoulders—the shrug of the brute who knows that he is safe among civilized men.
The men I questioned were often doctors who ranked as majors or held some commission in the German medical corps. They were less stiff and automaton-like than the officers and sergeants of the line service. Their attitude varied in accordance with the number of stars they had on their epaulette. If their rank were inferior to mine, they were exaggeratedly obsequious, holding their hands along the crease in the seam of their trousers with their fingers close together—at strict attention. If their rank were superior to mine, they were defiant and insolent. Nevertheless, they showed themselves more communicative than their comrades of the line service. Most of them spoke French—well enough, though not perfectly. All of them had been in Paris, and one and all repeated this phrase:
"We know your beautiful country well. We have been in your beautiful capital often...."
For my part, I invariably spoke to them of the atrocities their men had perpetrated in that beautiful country, or of those they had perpetrated in the country of our beautiful neighbor.... Rheims, Ypres, Louvain, Andenne, were the names that always returned to my lips. I hoped each time that I would get from those men who, in spite of everything, were men of science, members of humanity's most generous profession, if not a word of contrition at least a banal word of regret. Since they had not ordered the sacrileges or the massacres, they need not keep silent. But it was all in vain. They also excused, justified and explained....
The explanation was simple and stereotyped. For the battered Cathedral of Rheims, for the total destruction of Clermont, for the systematic laying-waste of Louvain, for the frightful company of old men, women and children who were dragged off into captivity, three words were the justification—the three words of the German major at Vincy:
"Das ist Krieg." ("It is war.")
For the blackened ruins of Senlis, for that charming city of Louvain, razed to the ground in one night as completely as if the scourge of God had passed through it; for Andenne, assassinated in cold blood with not one of its houses being granted mercy by the assassins; for Termonde, where General Sommerfeld, seated in a chair in the midst of the Grande Place, gave the order that it be burned and replied to the entreaties of the mayor:
"No. Burn it to the ground!"
Five other words sufficed to explain everything:
"Civilians fired on our troops."
Not one village in flames, not one desecrated monument, not one organized killing, not one tortured city that does not fall under the scope of one or the other of those justifications, "War is war," or "Civilians fired on our troops."
Doctors, savants, officers, Bavarians, Saxons, and Prussians have adopted the double excuse with a marvelous unity: they advance it in a certain tone of voice. It is firmly embedded in what is left of their consciences as firmly as the iron cross is riveted on their necks.
Besides, it was all planned, wished for, arranged in advance. German frightfulness formed a part of the plan of campaign. It is enough to read the manual called "Kriegesgebrauch in Landkriege" (Military Usage in Landwarfare) to be very much edified. Every German officer has had this manual in his hands since the days of peace. It comprised his rules of warfare. It was a part of his war equipment, the same as his field glasses and his staff-officer's card. And here is what he reads on the very first page:
War carried on energetically can not be directed against the inhabitants and fortified places of the hostile state alone; it will endeavor, it ought to endeavor to destroy equally all the enemy's intellectual and material resources. Humanitarian considerations, that is, consideration for the persons of individuals and for the sake of propriety, can have no recognition unless the end and nature of the war allow it.
And, a little farther on, he reads there:
Profound study of the history of war will make the officer guard against exaggerated humanitarian concessions, will teach him that war can not take place without certain harshness, that true humanity consists in proceeding without tenderness.
Farther along in that book, he reads:
All the methods invented by the technic of modern warfare, the most perfected as well as the most dangerous, those which kill the greatest number at once, are permitted. These last are conducive to the quickest end of the war; they are, if you consider matters carefully, the most humane methods.... Prisoners may be killed in case of necessity if there is no other means of guarding them properly.... The presence of women, children, old men, the sick and the wounded in a beseiged city can hasten the place's fall; in consequence it would be very foolish of the beseiger to renounce this advantage.... They will force the inhabitants to furnish information concerning their army, military resources and secrets of their country. The majority of writers in all nations condemn this usage. It will be used none the less—very regretfully—for military reasons.
Finally, on the volume's last page, is found this extraordinary maxim:
"Any wrong that the war demands, however great it may be, is allowed."
Therefore the horrors which the Germans performed from the war's very beginning, which provoked an expression of great indignation from all the civilized world, were not perpetrated in a moment of orgy or madness. They have been perpetrated coldly, deliberately, intentionally.
Besides, not only the officers and the common soldiers have been taught to make war in this barbarous fashion. It has been taught to the entire German people. This precept proves the case. It emanates not from a soldier but from a poet, who is not addressing the military class but the civilians, the women, the children, and all Germany. It is the "Hymn of Hate" by the poet Heinrich Vierordt, which, before the war, was recited in even the German kindergartens:
Hate, Germany! Slit the throats of your millions of enemies. Raise a monument of their smoking corpses that will rise to the heavens!
Germany, arm yourself with brazen armor and pierce with your bayonet the heart of every enemy. Take no prisoners! Strike them dumb. Transform into deserts the lands that lie near you!
Hate, Germany! Victory will come from your anger. Shatter their skulls with blows from your ax and the butt of your musket. These brigands are timid beasts.... They are not men.... May your fist perform the judgment of God!
It is useless to say what this spirit has brought about. Germany has carried on the war with vigor, has armed herself with brazen armor! She has transformed neighboring lands into deserts! She has slit throats, laid waste fields, shattered skulls, she has destroyed all that lay in her path! She has tried to impress the terror she holds salutary upon the souls of inoffensive old men and women and children!
This is the first of all the reasons why it is necessary now to fight, and to fight to the death; because these men will understand the abominable nature of "frightfulness" only when they see that "frightfulness" does not pay; only when they see the uselessness of unchaining horror and of beginning another war. Let an assassin go at liberty and he will commence his killing all over again; send him to the electric chair and he will regret his crime.
* * * * *
Just as France and Paris were not long in understanding what war meant in Germany's mind, France and Paris were not long in accounting for the danger they had passed through on account of the German spy system, on account of the formidable web of espionage the German agents had woven around all France.
People felt that this German spy system was there, speculated about it and talked about it for years and years, but it was only in the first days of the war that they really appreciated how diabolical it was and how far it had penetrated into the heart of France.
What happened at Amiens at the beginning of September, 1914, is especially characteristic of this.
Amiens was occupied twice by the enemy. To use the expression of a military historian, it seemed as if "the French and the Germans were playing hide-and-seek around the town." As soon as the blue caps of the French appeared over the horizon, the yellow pointed helmets of the Germans disappeared, rapidly. German occupation meant the same thing it did everywhere else—exactions, brutalities, rape. Immediately after he had entered the Prefecture, the German governor levied a war contribution of one million francs. He also demanded that the citizens furnish his troops with wine, cigars, and tobacco; drew up a list of hostages; and arrested all the men between the ages of seventeen and twenty years. Within twenty-four hours they were led away under guard.
Nothing of all this surprised the brave Picard city. Proudly she submitted to her fate. But one thing moved her, or rather angered her, and that was the surety and speed with which the German authorities went directly to all the places they should occupy. They did not hesitate an instant about the street to follow or the door at which to knock. The arrest of the fifteen hundred young hostages occurred with an unheard-of rapidity. It seemed as if an invisible but exceedingly clever hand guided each step, regulated each movement of the invaders. Who could it be who directed, advised and commanded the Germans from behind a veil?
Doubtless the mystery would never have been solved if, during the second occupation, the citizens had not been warned that the next day they would have to keep their shades down and close all shutters because His Imperial Highness, Prince Eitel Friedrich, the Kaiser's son, would then make a formal entry into the capital of Picardy. The shutters were closed; automatically the streets were emptied.
Into a deserted city, to the sound of trumpet and drum, preceded by a staff gleaming with gold braid and mounted on spirited steeds, the German army entered in state. All the shades were drawn in the city. However, behind some of them drawn faces peered forth in sorrow or in anger. In a house on the principal street was a lady whose husband was at the front. Her father, an aged general who had fought bravely in the war of 1870, was with her. Through the drawn shades of her home she was watching the hated scene. And her glorious old father, however indignant he felt, was watching by her side.
When the parade was passing by, he made a sudden gesture and said:
"Look at that man on the horse, there, now!"
The man in question seemed to have a horse that pranced a little more than the others. He rolled around in his saddle a little more than the others. And the two onlookers had no trouble in recognizing this aide-de-camp of Prince Eitel's as one of the former directors of a language school that had had a branch at Amiens!
There is a sequel to the story ... for on the afternoon of that unhappy day Madame X and ten other society ladies of Amiens at different times heard a ring at their doors and saw that same individual, in full regalia, booted and spurred, enter their drawing rooms. He came to call on them, to pay his respects, as if it were the most natural thing in the world that he should be there in that costume. They all had to restrain the feeling of disgust and anger this spy aroused in their breasts. It was for the sake of the safety of their homes, for the lives that were dear to them, that they did this. And he, entirely unconscious in his vileness, was suave and polite, played the man about town, recalled one thing or another, mentioned dances and parties....
So we once more find justification for the famous definition of German contained in Schopenhauer's famous phrase: "The German is remarkable for the absolute lack of that feeling which the Latins call 'verecundia'—sense of shame."
The essence of this feeling which is found among the most savage peoples is entirely lacking in the Teutonic race. And once more we find an abominable ambush placed for French culture, good faith and generosity.
This is not an isolated incident. When the whole truth is known, there will be even more surprised indignation felt than there is at present. Inquiries will have to be made. It will be necessary to know why the enemy, in certain places, has rushed in as if he came out of a trap door. It will be necessary to know why, in certain ravaged districts, some houses have been entirely destroyed and others carefully spared. It will be necessary to know why tennis courts have been put in certain places and why certain masses of rhododendrons have been planted in certain parks....
For we know that the tennis courts have helped the Germans carry out their schemes, and that the flower beds have had a place in the machinery of war they were developing, which they kept alive until they were at our gates. A tennis match seems a mere nothing—something very innocent in the way of pleasure, far from being war-like. And then, one fine day the discovery is made that the tennis court has a foundation of reinforced concrete twenty centimeters thick, fit to support a house six stories high and, consequently, a heavy gun!
A clump of rhododendrons is very lovely, something very gracious, charming, most poetic. And one day the discovery is made that the clump conceals a platform set in concrete on which an entire battery can be aligned.
All that will have to be investigated. All that will have to be stopped.... And it makes another reason why it is necessary to fight today, to fight to the death. For these Germans will understand the inanity of their Machiavellian scheming and of their spy system only when they shall see these methods fall to pieces, when they shall see their system fail absolutely.
In conclusion we may say that France fights for two reasons. The first reason is because on the third of August at a quarter before seven o'clock war was declared on her; she was forced to fight; her territory was invaded, her cities burned to the ground; her fields ravaged; her citizens massacred. The second reason is because she does not want to have to fight in the future; she does not wish this horror to be reproduced a second time; she wishes, in the immortal words of Washington, "that plague of mankind, war, banished off the earth."
To accomplish this the engine that makes war must be destroyed. The engine that makes war is "made in Germany." War is the national industry of the Germans, it has been developed and made perfect in Germany, it is dear to all German hearts. They are proud of it and have faith in its power. The machine must not only be stopped; it must be broken and destroyed, thrown out as scrap iron to prevent the pieces from being reassembled, readjusted and put in running order once again.
That is why France is fighting, why the whole world ought to fight to the end, to death or until victory crowns its efforts.
HOW FRANCE IS FIGHTING
Two words, courage and tenacity, will serve the future historian in his description of how France fought, when the time shall have come for telling the entire story of the world war.
No one has ever doubted French courage throughout all the centuries of her tormented history; but skeptical remarks have been made in times past of the tenacity of the French people.
Ten epigrams do not describe this war; nor do three. But one alone serves this purpose—know how to endure. No more thoughtful words have ever been spoken than those of the Japanese, Marshall Nogi: "Victory is won by the nation that can suffer a quarter of an hour longer than its opponent."
During the four years of war, France has proven that she knew how to suffer and was able to suffer a quarter of an hour longer than her enemies.
They knew how to suffer, those soldiers of General Maunoury's army in the Battle of the Marne. And they turned the tide of battle in favor of French arms. They marched, fought and died for five days and five nights, in the passing of which some battalions marched forty-two kilometers and did not sleep for more than two hours at a time. The mobility of the fighting units was such that the commissary department was absolutely unable to supply them with rations. For three days many of them had no bread, no meat, nothing at all! They subsisted on crusts they had with them, or on the food they were able, by the fortunes of battle, to pick up in the villages where they happened to be. In spite of all this, whenever the order was given to charge, they charged the enemy with a sort of inspired madness.
"The fight has been a hard one," Marshall Joffre wrote in an order of the day that will be famous throughout eternity. "The casualties, the number of men worn out by the exhaustion due to lack of sleep—and sometimes of food—passed all imagining.... Comrades, the commander in chief has asked you to do more than your duty, and you have responded to this request by accomplishing the impossible." That is the finest word of praise that has been given fighting men since the world began.
* * * * *
They knew how to suffer, those other soldiers of the Battle of the Marne who were a part of General Foch's army at Fere-Champenoise. Five times they attacked the Chateau de Mondement, and five times they were driven back. Their officers were consulting as to the best thing to do; and the men surrounded the officers, begging them with tears in their eyes to lead them to the assault for the sixth time. For the sixth time the attack was sounded, and at the sixth assault Chateau de Mondement fell.
That officer at Verdun knew how to suffer. He will remain a figure for the legends of the future for, running to transmit an order, he received a bullet in the eyes which shattered his optic nerve. He was completely blinded. Nevertheless, he continued to advance, trying to grope his way through the night that had fallen upon him. He encountered something lying on the ground—a something that was a man just as badly wounded. The blind man besought him for help.
"How can I help you," said the wounded man, "a shell has broken both my legs."
"What difference does that make," shouted the blinded man, "I am going to carry you on my back. My legs will be yours, and your eyes will be mine."
And, one supporting the other, the blinded man and the lamed man carried on!
* * * * *
That officer knew how to suffer whom one of my brothers met on the battle field of Lorraine. An artillery officer, his arm was shattered, a few bits of flesh barely holding it fast to his shoulder. My brother, when he saw the man painfully dragging himself along, asked him whether or not he needed help.
"I don't need help," replied the wounded man, "but my battery down there does. It is retreating."
"If it is retreating, it can't be helped and it is a waste of time for me to get it ammunition...."
"No," begged the lieutenant, "get the munitions. We Colonials fight until the last man falls...."
He offered to guide my brother, mounted beside him on the artillery caisson, and stayed there all day. For after he had supplied his own battery, it was the battery next it, and then the one next to that, which he wanted to supply.... Finally, in the evening, at nightfall, they came to take him off in the ambulance. The major looked at his shattered arm, examined his frightful wound, and muttered:
"You are in a bad way. Couldn't you have come here sooner?"
The lieutenant replied humbly:
"Pardon me, I lost a lot of time on the way."
* * * * *
Those men I saw for months fighting and dying to the south of Verdun, at the Butte des Eparges, knew how to suffer.
The Butte des Eparges dominates the great plain of the Woevre, and from the very beginning it has been the theater of a frightful and long drawn out battle of the kind one seldom sees in this war. The Germans have been entrenched on the left side of the Butte, the French on the right. And day and night for four years there has been an incessant battle over its summit of grenades, bombs and shells; a terrible hand-to-hand fight in which neither one of the contestants yields an inch of ground. A brook of blood runs its interrupted course on each slope. On the south slope it is red with German blood; with French blood on the north.
The two slopes of the Butte have been so raked by firing that they have not a single tree, bush, or blades of grass on them; they stand out sinister and frightful in their nakedness, seeming to cry out to the men of the plain:
"See, all of you, the scourge of God has passed over this place."
They are dented, furrowed and blown into crevasses by the explosions of mines; they are sown over with the enormous funnels in which the fighters take shelter; they are covered with an incessant smoke from the projectiles that plow them up.
As for the summit, it is a no man's land, that belongs to the dead men whose bodies cover it. The summit stopped being a battle field to become a charnel house. The number of men who have fallen there will never be known. The most fantastic figures come from the lips of those who come down ... 5,000, 8,000, 10,000 ... it will never be known. But what is known is that the dead are always there. They form a parapet above which the living fight on. These dead rot in the sunshine and in the rain. In accordance with the wind's being from the east or the west, the frightful odor of all this rotten flesh strikes the Germans or the French. They lie there, an indistinguishable mass on the ground, and the men are unlucky who watch by night in the listening posts or the trenches. They think they are stumbling against a stone, and it is a skull their feet are touching; they think they are picking up the branch of a tree, and they have hold of the arm of a corpse.
However, in the shadow of this human charnel house, at the edge of this bloody sewer, some little French soldiers come and go, eat and sleep for months at a time. The dreadfulness of the sights, the stench in the air, the tragic presence of death has not gripped their souls, their courage or their nerves. They are no less confident and merry than the others and, in the evening, when the setting sun adds the purple of its shadows to the red of all the blood that has been shed on the Butte, they sing from the depths of their charnel house sweet love songs.... This is the most regally beautiful sight I have seen in this war; it is the most splendidly moving example I know of what personal sacrifice for one's country's sake can do.
One day, in a rest village in the neighborhood, I met a soldier from one of the battalions which was encamped in the charnel house. He was a boy twenty years old, who hurried along with a flower in his buttonhole, whistling a tune.... He was so joyful that I asked him:
"You seem as happy as you can be."
"I have leave, Sir," he answered, "and in a week I shall go to the country to see my mother. But, for the present, I have to go and take the trench at Eparges...."
As he mentioned the name of the accursed Butte, I could not repress a movement. He saw it and said:
"Sir, I am glad to go there."
And he told me his name and the number of his company. Then he hurried away.
It chanced that precisely one week later I met one of his officers. I asked him about the merry fellow.
"That man? He was killed the day before yesterday at Eparges."
And my comrade added in a low voice:
"He was shot down at my side, struck with a bullet square in the chest. The death agony set in at once. As I was trying to do something for him, passing my hand gently across his forehead, I said to him:
"Courage, my boy, courage."
He murmured the reply:
"Oh, I'm glad to die."
Glad ... the same phrase, the same words I had heard a week ago, which can be heard everywhere on the French front—and they are glad to go into all the trenches and into all the charnel houses, and it is with a happy heart that they rest in peace.
* * * * *
But France has not only fought with all her courage, with all her soul, with all her tenacity. She has fought with all her living strength, with her men, her women, even her children.
What can I say which has not already been said about the men? When I think of my own men, when I think of all the men floundering and fighting in this mud, I can find no other means of expression than the words that have already served the Commander in Chief of the French Army, General Petain, on the evening of his great victory at the Chemin des Dames. In receiving the American newspapermen, he said to them:
"Do not speak of us, the generals and the officers. Speak only of the men. We have done nothing; the men have done everything. Our men are wonderful; we, their leaders, can only kneel at their feet."
* * * * *
The women have been no less wonderful. And I want to write a few words about them.
The women who are at the front have fought like the men. Can you imagine a more beautiful deed of arms than that of a young girl, twenty years old, named Marcelle Semer, whose heroic story a French Cabinet Minister, M. Klotz, told recently at one of the Matinees Nationales at the Sorbonne.
In August, 1914, there lived at Eclusier, near Frise, a young girl with gray eyes and blonde hair named Marcelle Semer. She was twenty years old at the time and kept accounts in addition to overseeing the work of a factory. At the time of the August invasion, after the Battle of Charleroi, the French tried to halt the Germans at the Somme. Not being in sufficient force, they retreated, crossing the river and the canal. The enemy immediately pursued. Marcelle Semer, who was following the French troops, had the presence of mind, after the last soldier had crossed the Somme Canal, to open the drawbridge in order to prevent the Germans from crossing it, and to hurl the key to the bridge into the canal in order that they might not take it from her when they came up. An entire enemy army corps was thus detained for twenty-four hours by this young girl's presence of mind; and it was only on the following day that the enemy, having found some boats on the Somme, made a bridge of them and passed over the canal. But the French soldiers were already far away.
The Germans were masters of the neighborhood for some days. They seized the inhabitants as hostages and shut them up in a cave. Marcelle Semer secretly carried them food. She also carried sustenance to other inhabitants who had hidden in the woods or in cellars. She succored and concealed the soldiers whom wounds or fatigue had prevented from following the main body of troops. She contrived that sixteen of them, dressed as civilians, escaped. Then she was apprehended by the Germans, arrested and led into the presence of a court-martial. The judgment was summary, and after a quarter of an hour's questioning Marcelle Semer was condemned to death.
"Do you admit," asked the presiding officer, "that you helped French soldiers to escape?"
"I certainly do," she replied. "I managed it so that sixteen of them escaped, and they are beyond your reach. Now you can do what you want to me. I am an orphan. I have only one mother—France. She does not disturb me when I'm dying."
This was one time when God intervened. Marcelle did not die. Brought to the place of execution, at the very moment when they were about to shoot, the French reentered the village and, by a miracle, she escaped her executioners. Today she wears the Croix de Guerre and the medal of the Legion of Honor.
* * * * *
They were Frenchwomen and fighters, these women whose names and deeds are to be found in the columns of the "Journal Officiel." Read, for example, this citation concerning Madame Macherez, President of the Association des Dames Francaises de Soissons:
She willingly assumed the responsibility and the danger of representing the city before the enemy, and defended or managed the interests of the population in the absence of the mayor and the majority of the members of the town council. In spite of an intense bombardment which partially ruined the city, she took the most effective means possible to maintain calm in the city and to protect the lives of the inhabitants.
In this department, a lay instructress, Mlle. Cheron, merited a citation which does not contain the least over-praise:
She evidenced the greatest energy in difficult circumstances. Charged with the duties of Secretary to the Mayor, and alone at the time of the arrival of the Germans, she was not disconcerted by their threats, and kept her head in the face of their demands with remarkable calm and decision. When our troops returned, she assumed responsibility for the service and feeding of the cantonment. She personally took the steps necessary for the identification and burial of the dead. Finally, she was able to prevent panic at the time of the bombardment by the force of her example and her encouragement of the populace.
Those three nuns were also Frenchwomen and fighters of whom the "Journal Officiel" in the general order spoke as follows:
Mlle. Rosnet, Marie, sister of the order of St. Vincent de Paul, Mother Superior of the Hospice at Clermont-en-Argonne, remained alone in the village and showed during the German occupation an energy and coolness beyond all praise. Having received a promise from the enemy that they would respect the town in exchange for the care the sisters gave their wounded, she protested to the German commander against the burning of the town with the observation that "the word of a German officer is not worth that of a French officer." Thus she obtained the help of a company of sappers who fought the flames. She gave the most devoted care to the wounded, German as well as French....
Mlle. Constance, Mother Superior of the Hospice at Badonvillers, during the three successive German occupations in 1914, assisted the sisters and remained bravely at her post night and day, in spite of all danger, and was busy everywhere with a devotion truly admirable....
Mlle. Brasseur, Sister Etienne, Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in the Hospital at Compiegne, from the war's beginning at the head of a staff whose tireless devotion has deserved all praise, has given the most intelligent and enlightened care to numerous wounded men. During the time of the German occupation, her coolness and energetic attitude assured the safety of the establishment she directed. Her brave initiative allowed several French soldiers to escape from captivity.
The modest postmistress and telegraph operator was a Frenchwoman and a fighter, who, in the little village of Houpelines, in the north of the country, deserved this citation in the orders of the day, of which thousands of soldiers would be proud:
Refusing to obey the order that was given her to leave her post, she remained in spite of the danger. On the first of October the Germans entered her office, smashed her apparatus and threatened her with death. Mlle. Deletete, who had put her valuables and accounts in safe-keeping, gave evidence of the greatest calmness. From the seventeenth on she endured the bombardment. Her office having been damaged severely by the enemy's fire, she took refuge in the civil hospice, where four persons were killed at her side. She resumed her duties on the twenty-third, since which date she has continued to perform them in the face of frequent bombardments which have found many victims.
The women behind the lines have been worthy of their sisters at the front.
In the forges, the foundries, the factories and the munition plants they have not feared to don the blouse of the workingman, and on this blouse they wear as insignia a large grenade like that on the brassard of the mobilized men. Note these figures. On the first of February, 1916, the civil establishments of war, the munition plants, and the Marine workshops employed 127,792 women. The number has increased, and on the first of March, 1917, they numbered 375,582 women. On the first of January, 1918, the women working in the factories manufacturing war material amounted to 475,000; that is to say, in round numbers, a half million.
Others, in the hospitals, ambulance and dispensaries have devoted themselves to the wounded, the mutilated, the sick and the suffering, to the sacrifice of their health, their youth, and sometimes their life itself. Here again the figures are eloquent—they speak for themselves. Three great societies, constituting the French Red Cross, have carried on this work of charity and devotion—the Societe de Secours aux Blesses Militaires, the Union des Dames de France, and The Association des Dames Francaises. At the war's outbreak the Societe de Secours aux Blesses had 375 hospitals with 17,939 beds; today it has 796 hospitals with 67,000 beds and 15,510 graduated nurses, three thousand of whom are employed in military hospitals. On the thirty-first of December, 1916, the Union des Dames de France had 363 hospitals with 30,000 beds and more than 20,000 graduate or volunteer nurses. From August, 1914, to March, 1917, the Association des Dames Francaises had raised the number of its hospitals from 100 to 350, and from 5,000 to 18,000 the number of its beds; the number of its graduate nurses from 5,000 to 7,000.
On the thirty-first of December, 1916, the three societies counted about 42,000,000 days of hospital work, 25,000,000 for the Societe de Secours aux Blesses alone. From the beginning of the war, this society has expended for equipment the sum of 38,700,000 francs.
Aside from these there are other figures which show the material effort of the Frenchwomen which I can not pass over in silence. They show the civic devotion of which they are capable. The Societe de Secours aux Blesses has been granted one cross of the Legion of Honor, 94 Croix de Guerre, 119 Medailles d'Honneur des epidemies. The Association des Dames Francaises has won 17 Croix de Guerre and 80 Medailles des epidemies. The Union des Femmes de France has won 39 Croix de Guerre. And last comes the glorious list of martyrs of the societies: 110 nurses have died in the devoted performance of their duties.
The heroism of these valiant women, many of whom remained in the occupied territories, will be the eternal pride of France. Madame Perouse, President of the Union des Femmes de France wrote to M. Louis Barthou telling him the number of women who had risked their liberty, their life, their honor even, to protect in the face of the ferocious enemy the sacred rights of the French wounded. It is fitting to add that, if they have taken care of the German wounded as well as the French wounded, they can always recall the reply of a devoted teacher of the Marne district, Mlle. Fouriaux, to a German major:
"Sir, we have only done our duty as nurses, never forgetting that we are Frenchwomen."
Mlle. Joulin, a nurse at Douai, did not forget her duty as a Frenchwoman. She was held a prisoner by the Germans for a year in the camp at Holzminden, in which she took the place of the mother of five children who had been put down on the list of hostages drawn up by the German barbarians.
And if you would know where these heroic women have poured out their courage, their coolness and their physical resistance, which they have put in the service of their country and of humanity, you have but to listen to the declaration of one of them, Mlle. Canton-Baccara, who has been made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, for having shown bravery and exceptional devotion in the face of the greatest danger:
"The wounded soldier who suffers," said Mlle. Canton-Baccara, "the soldier who is complaining or the peasant who is weeping for the farm that has been pillaged, a woman's smile ought to console and her voice ought, under all circumstances, to be ready to recall to him that above these sufferings and troubles, above the paltry struggles of interest and ambition, there is, above all this, France, our France, which matters before all else."
Still other women, who were neither in the hospitals, at the front, nor in the factories, have been admirable fighters. They fought, according to Mlle. Canton-Baccara's words, with their heart and with their smile. They fought by the example of abnegation they gave, by the moral force with which they inspired the men in the trenches.
Madame de Castelnau is a glorious figure, she, the wife of the General who saved Nancy and stopped the rush of the barbarians on the Grand Couronne!... Madame de Castelnau had, before the war broke out, four sons. Three fell on the battle field. The fourth is actually still a prisoner in the hands of the Germans. On the lips of their father there is never the slightest word of complaint; on the lips of the mother there are these admirable words, which the children in the schools will repeat later on.... Madame de Castelnau was in a little village when her third son was killed. The cure of the village had the pitiful task of telling the already mourning mother of this new blow that had struck her. The cure found Madame de Castelnau, and, in the presence of her great sorrow, he hesitated and was overcome with embarrassment:
"Madame," he said, "I come to bring you another blow. But know well that all the mothers of France weep for you."
Madame de Castelnau knew the truth at once. She interrupted the priest and, looking him straight in the eye, replied:
"Yes, I know what you are going to tell me.... God's will be done. But the mothers of France would be wrong in weeping for me. Let them envy me."
Those are the words of a Frenchwoman of noble descent. But you can place on the same high level the words of an old woman, a humble soul, whom the gendarmes found one night crouched on a grave that was still fresh. It was up near Verdun. She told the gendarmes:
"I come from La Rochelle. Five of my sons have already fallen in the war. I have come here to see where the sixth is buried—the sixth—my last son."
Moved by the tragic grandeur of the sight, the gendarmes rendered her military honors and presented arms. The mother rose and uttered the words her dead and her heart inspired:
"Even so, Vive la France!"
All of them, mothers of noble birth and of peasant stock, rich and poor, wives, sisters, and fiancees are the first to exhort their sons, husbands and brothers to fight to the end. All have the same words of sacrifice and abnegation on their lips. All of them find words which best fortify, exalt and console their men.
Read this letter I picked up on the field of battle, a letter written by a humble peasant woman whose heart, after centuries of noble and wise discipline, was in the right place:
MY DEAR BOY:
We got your letter, which gave us great pleasure. We waited anxiously for it. You wrote it two days ago. Since that time things have changed. Did you get my letter? I hope so. I must reassure you about your father the very first thing. He was away only three days, time enough to guide a detachment to Bourges. So there is only one vacant place at the fireside, but how big that one is.
My dear boy, you speak to me of sacrifice; yes, it is one. And I can tell you it is the greatest one that has ever been asked of me. However, I keep calm. I tell myself sometimes that I have deserved it. I am ready to pay, but I wish so much that you might not pay.
My dear boy, you speak to me of duty and of honor. I have never doubted that you would do what you ought to. Yes, my son, a soldier's honor lies in being on the battle field when the country is in danger. Go, then, my son, with the blessing of your mother and your father, and with that most mighty one of your country and of heaven.
You tell me to accept my lot courageously. Alas, sometimes it fails me. However, I shall try to be resigned and I hope to see you again in spite of everything. If that should not happen, say to yourself, my dear boy, when you close your eyes, that you have all the love and all the sweetest kisses of your mother, who would like to fly to you.
The sisters are worthy of their mothers. Here is a letter written by two young girls who live in Lorraine, near Nancy. Plutarch never wrote anything more beautiful:
MOYEN, 4 SEPTEMBER, 1914.
MY DEAR EDOUARD:
I have heard that Charles and Lucien died on the twenty-eighth of August. Eugene is badly wounded. As for Louis and Jean, they are dead also.
Rose has gone away.
Mother weeps, but she says that you are brave and wishes that you may avenge them.
I hope that your officers will not refuse you that. Jean won the Legion of Honor; follow in his footsteps.
They have taken everything from us. Of the eleven who went to war, eight are dead. My dear Edouard, do your duty; we ask only that.
God gave you life; he has the right to take it away from you. Mother says that.
We embrace you fondly, although we would like to see you. The Prussians are here. Jandon is dead; they have pillaged everything. I have just returned from Gerbevillers, which is destroyed. What wretches they are!
Sacrifice your life, my dear brother. We hope to see you again, for something like a presentiment tells us to hope.
We embrace you fondly. Farewell, and may we see you again, if God grants.
(Signed) YOUR SISTERS.
P.S. It is for us and for France. Think of your brothers and of your grandfather in 1870.
And this next letter is sublime. It was addressed to M. Maurice Barres by a lady from the city of Lyons, which is perhaps the most mystic city in all France. In the newspapers mention had been made of the men disabled by war, and of all the unfortunates who were mutilated, whose limbs had been amputated, who were helpless or blinded. The question was raised of knowing what ought to be done to help them. Then the lady wrote as follows to M. Barres:
SIR: One of these recent days, when our troubles have been so hard to bear, I went to regain my courage into one of the beloved sanctuaries of Notre Dame.... A lady dressed in black came in beside me and, as all mothers are sisters in these trying days, I asked after her men at the front. She told me sadly that she was a poor widow, and that the war had taken away her two sons, her sole means of support. One of them had had an arm amputated—the right arm—and the hands of the other were cut off at the wrists. She came from seeing them to pray to the Mother of Sorrows for her children and herself.
I was deeply moved by her sorrow and by her not complaining. I sought means to console her. This is the means I have found, sir, and I tell it to you now....
Let us ask the Virgin, I said to her, to create young women in France so brave, so strong, and so devoted that they will gladly and proudly consent to marry the poor, injured men and to be not only their hearts but the limbs which will aid them to make their daily bread; leaving to the men the privilege of loving them, of respecting their presences and of guiding their lives.
The poor woman understood me. We separated. My own youngest daughter was in my thoughts; and do you not think that the men who have a wider audience could stir the hearts of the young women, twenty years of age in France, if they asked them to perform this act of devotion, and to be the companions of the mutilated, maimed men of France?...
Then, too, the women who had only their dignity and their high spirit to defend themselves against the grossness and the insults of the Prussians, have been the incarnation of the spirit of France.
An old woman who dwelt in a village on the Aisne was spattered with mud by the Kaiser as he passed by on horseback. He made a gesture excusing himself. She fixed her eyes on him and said simply:
"It doesn't matter, sir. That mud can be washed off."
A great lady in one of the chateaux in the invaded regions, had to receive one of the Kaiser's sons. The day of his departure he sent for her to thank her for the hospitality she had shown him. The old lady, looking at him, contented herself with replying:
"Do not thank me, sir. I did not invite you here."
And she reentered her house with all dignity.
* * * * *
Because the women of France have been all this and have done all this, France has been able to fight on, and will be able to fight to the end. Because the women of France have been all this and have done all this, the soldiers, in the mud of the trenches, revere them as Madonnas.
The historian Tacitus tells somewhere how, on a hot spring day, a slave, panting and worn out, entered one of the gates of the Eternal City. He crossed the Forum without stopping and, in his course, mounted the Hill of Mars. Finally he came to one of the greatest houses of the patrician section of the city. His cries and shouts filled the house:
"Alas, alas!" he cried.
A lady hastened to him. She was the mistress of the house, the famous Cornelia Graccha.
"What news do you bring?" she asked.
"Alas, alas," repeated the slave, "in the battle down there in Umbria, two of your sons have been killed."
"Fool," was the reply, "I do not ask that. Have the Barbarians been conquered?"
"They have, Cornelia."
"Then what matters the death of my sons if my country is victorious!"
Those wonderful words have been handed down from generation to generation as a symbol of what ancient Rome was. Those words thousands of French women have uttered for the last four years, and they still utter them today. Other voices answer them. They rise from the trenches, and they say:
"Be without fear, women of France. For you we will fight to our last gasp, we will shed our last drop of blood. Know that if for months we have held our heads below the level of the muddy trench and offered our breasts to death, it is that you may be freed from the wild beasts that have burst forth from the German forests. For your sakes our homes are not in ruins and our towns are not vassals to the enemy. It is all for you, so that when we shall return you need not throw your arms around conquered necks. Our country, women of France, is made up of our homes, our churches, and our fields, and of your beloved faces. Throughout the tragic periods of its history, our country has always been incarnated in your faces, whether they called themselves St. Genevieve or Jeanne d'Arc. And in our building, to personify the cities that are dear to us, we have always taken your bodies, your foreheads, and the folds of your gowns—see, in Paris, that statue in the Place de la Concorde, in the shadow of the Tuileries, which for days has worn a crepe veil.... Well, today is the same as yesterday. In our trenches our country appears to us in those visions wherein are mingled your faces. We shall believe that our country has been well served only when, on your beloved faces, we shall have caused a smile to appear because the palms we have placed at your feet are the palms of victory."
Future historians will state that France has fought not only with all her courage, her tenacity and her soul, with all her men, women and children: they will also state that these men, women and children, in spite of the terrible times, their suffering and their mourning, have remained firmly united, forming a firm rock from which not a single stone has been splintered.
In that tormented, feverish France where the ardor of the Revolution still boils, there were, before the war, different parties, cliques, groups and churches. The war has leveled, united and bound them all together.
In some admirable pages, consecrated to the "Effort of French Womanhood," M. Louis Barthou has painted the picture of the sacred union there is among all the French women:
I have seen [he writes] our women at the front and behind the lines, in the hospitals, the railway stations, the automobile service, the canteens, the factories, in relief work and in charity work. I have met nurses, unmoved under a bombardment. I have tested the spirit of fellowship which unites them, including as it does the names of the most aristocratic French families and the most modest citizens. There is no false pride among those in high places nor envy among those lower in the social scale. They wear the same garb, the same cap, with the same cross on their foreheads. For the soldiers there is the same uniform, and when you say uniform you mean equality in devotion, in the risk of life, and in loyalty to duty. Between the classes of society there is no contention, there is only emulation. I do not know whether or not, in times of peace, they had all and everywhere escaped the local passions which have poisoned national life, but the war has given them sacred union for a countersign, and they, as disciplined soldiers, have respected this countersign.
The French nurse's smile will have served the nation's defense well, but I emphasize this when I think how well it will have served the nation's unity in the aftermath that shall follow war. What rancors it will have appeased! What jealousies it will have blotted out! What petty prejudices it will have conquered! These society women and women of the middle class who have leaned over the beds of sick or wounded peasants, and these young girls who have tended their hurts, bound up their wounds, and calmed their sufferings have, with their delicate hands, so expert in the worst treatments, laid the foundations of a France that is united and fraternal, where envy and hate have no place. All eyes have opened to broader vistas of revealed clearness, to which they have hitherto remained closed through prejudice, or obstinacy. They will have learned that bravery, devotion to the right, loyal and tried disinterestedness, heartfelt and wise knowledge can dwell in the simple soul of the peasant and the workingman. The peasants and the workingmen who have come out from their care will have learned that luxury does not exclude goodness, that beauty is not always a sterile gift, that youth is not altogether callow, that a woman can be pretty and generous, delicate and courageous, rich and sympathetic, and that the mothers whose children are dead excel in lavishing the care of their hands and the tenderness of their hearts on the wounded children who are suffering far from their mothers.