THE INSURRECTION IN PARIS
An eye-witness of that frightful war and of the terrible evils which accompanied it
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A. LEMOIGNE, EDITOR
26, PLACE VENDOME
Imprimerie de F. Le Blanc-Hardel, rue Froide, 2 et 4, a Caen.
Paris, June the 25th 1871.
To you who have been pleased to take some interest in what I wrote about Paris, I inscribe this small volume which, according to your suggestion, I publish under the form of a nearly day per day correspondence.
The desire of appreciating de visu the results of a five month's siege in a town of two million inhabitants, unexampled in the annals of humanity, made me leave London on the twentieth of March.
Hardly landed in the Capital of France which I thought of finding tranquil and occupied in exercising its genius in repairing the disasters caused by the enemy, I heard with stupefaction that Paris, a prey to civil war, was under the blow of a fresh siege.
Sad change! the German helmets had given place to the French kepys; citizens of the same nation were going to cut one another's throats.
My first thought was to withdraw from this mournful and dangerous spectacle. Of what importance to me, a simple citizen of Great Britain, were the disorders and furies of that people, in turn our most cruel enemy or our friend according to circumstances, as European politics or the interests of sovereigns make of them our adversary or our ally?—Why expose myself voluntarily to the heart-rending and often dangerous trials of a war that had none of my sympathies either on the one side or on the other of the enclosure? Was I going to see a great people breaking its irons and fighting to death in order to recover its rights and liberty?—No—the French people had at last the government of their choice,—the Republic. There was, then, question of an impious war, undertaken by a blind multitude for the profit of a few hidden ambitions: that is to say, a war without grandeur and without interest for a simple spectator.
However, after due reflection, I overcame my repugnance. I had, in my excursions, remarked, among the armed bands, so many heterogeneous elements; that is to say, thousands of individuals of all social positions and of so many nationalities, that I began to think it would perhaps be useful to my compatriots to hear by and by a sincere recital, written by a disinterested pen, of the events about to take place.
I did not conceal from myself the dangers to which my curiosity would expose me; but had I not, and that too without any advantage, incurred as great dangers in escalading Mont-Blanc and in going up along the borders of the Nile? Besides, as is generally the case, the certainty of an imminent peril only served to strengthen my resolution. Moreover, not wishing to run any useless risk, I thought good to take a few precautions: I went to see Monsieur ***, an old French refugee that I had known at London, by the interposition of M. Causidiere. I asked him if he could not procure me a permission, a pass, some paper or other.
"Are you quite decided on staying?"
Asked that gentleman, whom I do not name for a reason that will be appreciated by the reader.
"Could nothing, not even good advice, make you renounce your intention?"
"Then come with me to the Town-hall."
I followed him; and, half an hour afterwards, I was in possession of a pass signed by two members of the Commune.
This precaution was not to be useless. A few days afterwards, going to see the fort of Vanves, strongly menaced, I was arrested and taken before the commander of the Fort.
This officer examined my pass; and, hesitating without doubt as to my identity, he put several questions to me in English. My answers certainly satisfied him, for he took me by the hand and said to me in a tone not without emotion:
"Go, Sir, I will give you some one to accompany you; I like the English; I have seen them under fire; I was at Inkermann."
The next day, having advanced too near Courbevoie, I was arrested by a patrol, and taken before a Commander of the army of Versailles. There I exhibited a letter from the ambassador's.
"Ah!" said the Commander, "I knew in the Crimea two brave officers of your name."
"John and Lewis—Captains—they were cousins of mine."
"That is it exactly—what has become of them?"
"Lewis is in the Indies—John is dead."
"He is very happy", said the commander sorrowfully, in bowing to me."
I went back, not without thinking of those two men—of those two brothers-in-arms, who perhaps were going to fire upon each other, after having mingled their blood before the enemy for the defence of their country. Alas! I was destined to see greater crimes.
Certain, henceforth, of being able to get safely out of all scrapes, thanks to my pass of the commune and my papers from the ambassador's, I persevered in following step by step the events I am about to relate.
Not having the pretention to write the history of the French revolution, with an appreciation of its consequences, as was done by our illustrious compatriot Carlisle for the revolution of 93, I will content myself with a simple and daily account of what I have seen and heard, and nothing more.
The events offer of themselves sufficient interest and need not be augmented.
In default of merit to which this book, so rapidly got up, cannot pretend, I dare hope that its sincerity will gain for it the reader's sympathy and esteem.
A certain calm reigned in the city in consequence of the hope that was entertained of seeing the commune come to an understanding with the government of Versailles. Several battalions even marched only because they were forced to do so. This hesitation was caused by the convocation of all the freemasons for bringing about a reconciliation between the two parties. It was, in fact, on this very day, that all the freemasons of Paris went to the Town-hall to hear pronounced, by several members of the commune, speeches of a fiery character and leading to civil war.
All efforts of reconciliation have failed. Dombrowski, then, has ordered the inhabitants of Neuilly to leave in 24 hours, having the intention to reduce the village to ashes. The day ended by the arrest of general Cluseret.
This day is signalized by the capture of the railway-station of Clamart, where the insurgents lost, in addition to 60 prisoners, about 300 killed by the bayonet. The soldiers of Versailles gave no quarter, excited as they were at the sight of the deserters of the Line who served in the ranks of the commune.
It was also on this day that general Mariouze retook the castle of Issy, having captured 250 insurgents. This number was increased by others, made prisoners during the day, and they arrived at Versailles 400 in number.
The scaffolding for the destruction of the Vendome Column is arranged, and the eighth of this month is the day fixed for its fall.
The fighting around Paris continues violent and the troops of Versailles press steadily forward.
The railway-companies are taxed to the amount of 2,000,000 fr.
Let us terminate this day by the recital of the pillage of Notre-Dame.
* * * * *
People were astonished that the commune should have restored the treasure of Notre-Dame after having had it taken away. To day the astonishment will cease: the furniture and vases had been brought back only to be re-taken.
On monday, april 26th., in the afternoon, a certain number of national guards, accompanied by the self-styled delegates of the commune, loaded, for the second time, in two carriages, the treasure of Notre-Dame. Then, having doubtless met with some difficulties, they had the horses taken away and left the two carriages loaded.
The next day, at 1 o'clock, a pompous bill was stuck up at the town-hall and at the mayory of the 4th. arrondissement, announcing that the treasure of Notre-Dame had all just been restored. But, at about 3 o'clock, fifty national guards arrived at Notre-Dame, the horses were again put to, and the two vehicles were taken no body knows where.
These gentlemen are to return, for they have only done half their work; time has not permitted them to take all.
Such then is the end of the promises and protestations of gentlemen, members of the commune, who declare aloud that probity is their ruling virtue.
These gentlemen propose, moreover, it is said, to rake up, so to speak, the very ground; that is to say, to upset every thing in the church, cellars and caloriferes. They insist on finding there arms and ammunition.
It is true that, during the siege, the gunners of the national guard, who occupied the park of artillery established round the basilic, demanded of the chapter's steward the authorisation to put in the cellars and caloriferes their ammunition which was exposed to the shells of the Prussians, and that this authorisation was granted them without the least difficulty.
After the Armistice, they took away all these arms; but could they have had the indelicacy to leave some behind in order to be able to justify the impious and sacrilegious robbery they were meditating. This would be odious but not impossible in such times as these.
A few days before two men employed in guarding the church were arrested. They were kept 3 or 4 days, and, before being set at liberty, the keys of the church were taken from them. What took place is however unknown, for the poor fellows are afraid to utter a word.
A commissary came, in the name of the commune, to sequester the objects belonging to the church Sainte-Marguerite, in the little borough of St. Antoine. A picket of 10 national guards is in permanence in the church to keep sight of the clergy.
The church Saint-Merry has also been ransacked by the sicaires of the Commune.
The vicar, fortunately, had stolen away from their fraternal visit.
The church Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs is transformed into a club-house.
The parishioners are robbed, plundered, driven from their temples, and the preaching of the Gospel is replaced in the pulpit by the declamations of epileptic tribunes.
At Plaisance they have sequestered a chalice and a sum of 175 franks, the personal property of M. l'abbe Orse, first vicar.
The curate, M. Blondeau, is in the prisons of the Commune.
A manifestation, provoked by the Freemasons, took place in the afternoon. A body of several thousands of people crossed the Champs-Elysees, carrying green branches and white flags. Arrived at the gate Maillot, the firing ceased, but the manifestation was warned not to approach and that only two parliamentarians would be received. They accordingly presented themselves and will be this evening at Versailles. It is reported that yesterday 200 soldiers, wearing the uniform of troops of the Line, went down the Champs-Elysees. It was said they were deserters from Versailles. We can positively state as a certain fact, that from the first week of april no deserter has been counted in the army of Versailles.
Two brigades carried off last night the park, the castle and cemetery of Issy, taking 8 guns, ammunition and a hundred prisoners. They had a few dead and 20 wounded. The cemetery is about 210 yards from the fort. The capture of this fort appears imminent.
Yesterday, Mr. Thiers received two parliamentarians, freemasons, who declared, however, they had no mandate. Mr. Thiers gave them an answer similar to those already known; that he desired more than any body the end of the civil war, but that France could not capitulate before a few insurgents; that they must apply for peace to the commune who had troubled it.
Yesterday evening, a parliamentarian summoned the fort of Issy to capitulate.
The insurgents answered that they were going to deliberate about it, that they would give a reply in half an hour; then they asked for a prolongation of the delay.—The parliamentarian returned.
The negociations for the capitulation, resumed in the morning, will probably succeed.
The coup de main on the farm of Bonamy, in front of Chatillon, was executed by a company of the 70th. and by that of the scouts of 71st.
Two officers of the insurgents were killed, and 30 insurgents killed or wounded. They made 75 prisoners and among them 4 officers.
The last military facts of the day took place in the quarries and park of Issy which were vigorously carried by the battalions of the brigades Derocha, Paturel and Berthe, with the assistance of the marine musketeers.
The insurgents, in very large numbers, retired precipitately, leaving numerous dead and wounded, as well as a hundred prisoners, 8 pieces of artillery, much ammunition and 8 horses.
Nothing particular this afternoon. The insurgents are busy about mining Paris, and the Versailles troops have silenced the firing of the fort of Issy which is now completely invested.
The fort of Issy is summoned to surrender, but Rossel, previously colonel, who has replaced General Cluseret, gives the parliamentarian a most arrogant answer of refusal threatening to have shot any other messenger of the army of Versailles, the bearer of such a demand.
MAY 5, 6th.
Such was the remark I heard made yesterday by a poor and very old peasant woman as she stopped work for a moment in a field above Montretout to look at the Fort firing. She followed up this admirable summary of recent military operations by asking me whether it was not amazing that somebody could not "invent" a means to put a stop to this Civil War. I think the whole world must concur with this poor old woman. It is always the same repetition that is certain, and it is so to even a greater degree than she was aware of. Not only is the cannonading the same repetition, but the game of taking positions, giving them up and retaking them, to lose or abandon them once more, has been the night work of the last week. Except it may be by treason, or by the Commune falling to pieces, they are not nearer a march on Paris than they were three weeks ago. I won't say a month ago, because then the work could have been done by a few thousand good troops. A non-official organ of the Government now tells us to be confident, because "unless in the case of such accidents as one cannot suppose, or of unforeseen surprises, some weeks will be sufficient to bring to an end the necessary but sad entreprise of the attack on Paris!" The same paper is of opinion that only "some months" will have elapsed before order is restored in the capital. It thinks the Journal Officiel ridiculously sanguine, because the latter says, "our works of approach advance with a rapidity which elicits the admiration of all men of art, and which promises to France a speedy end of its trials, and to Paris a deliverance from the horrible tyrants who oppress it." Perhaps it is because the artillerists and other military men whom I meet are not "men of art," but certainly I cannot find that any of them take so bright a view of the position. I have just spoken with a very distinguished foreign officer who has seen the position here and who has been every where to look at the Insurgent side. He tells me that at the batteries outside the city he saw some very good men, but that, taken as a whole, the National Guards within the city are the most miserable lot he ever saw under arms. All the barricades are admirably made as to workmanship, but there is not one of them that could not be taken by troops approaching from streets at angles with the points at which those obstructions are placed. The Place Vendome is "a rat-trap," and the Insurgent chiefs take good care not to make it their own Head-Quarters. The gallant gentleman to whom I refer believes that if the troops once got inside the enceinte, the insurrection would utterly collapse; but if the military confine themselves to the operations in which they are now engaged it will be a considerable time before Paris gives in. Such is the report of a competent and impartial authority. Rumours of the most contradictory character are rife from morning till night in the open air lobby of the Assembly—the Rue des Reservoirs. Deputies who "ought to know better" circulate very absurd canards; but, as remarks a local print, "Que voulez-vous? On s'ennuie, il faut bien passer le temps!" In my last letter of Thursday night I stated that the affair at Moulin Saquet was a repetition of that at the Clamart Station. I find to-day a contradiction of the statement that insurgents were butchered at Moulin Saquet. It is true, nevertheless. The Commune, wishing, no doubt, to keep the whole truth from their followers fearing its disheartening effect, state enough for their purpose, which is to represent the Versailles Government as assassins. It says that 15 of the National Guards were killed with knives. The fact is as I stated it. The redoubt was taken by surprise, and the soldiers gave no quarter. The number I gave as that of the wretched men killed by the bayonet was 450. I was under the mark. In his report of the affair General Cissey says,—"Two hundred insurgents were left dead on the spot. We have taken many insurgent officers and 300 prisoners and cannon." The Commune alleges that the redoubt fell into the hands of the Versailles troops by means of treason. In this instance I dare say the cry of "Nous sommes trahis!" is not far from the truth. The unfortunate garrison were asleep when the troops entered, the sentinels having, as is alleged, fled, when they found the enemy was upon them. There were 800 men in the redoubt, and before they could prepare any effective resistance the massacre was effected. Now, after all this slaughter and capture of prisoners and guns, Moulin Saquet is again in the hands of the Insurgents. The Commune boasts that the National Guards attacked it with much dash, and re-took it from the troops of Versailles. The fact is these troops found the place too hot for them, and were obliged to abandon it. It is exposed to the fire of Bicetre, Ivry, and Hautes Bruyeres. Was it worth while for the sake of eight cannon to commit such a terrific slaughter? Most of the prisoners taken on the occasion declare that they had been forced to serve, and that they had been sent to Moulin Saquet as a punishment for their having refused to march on Neuilly. Among the captives is an interesting looking young woman, in the uniform of a cantiniere. Poor thing, she is wounded and in hospital. Her story is that some months ago she became the wife of a young man, who after the breaking out of the Civil War was forced to serve in the ranks of the Insurgents. For eight days she was without any tidings of him, and in her despair she adopted the uniform in which she was wounded and captured, in order that she might visit all the outposts in search of her husband. She had not succeeded in finding him, and she does not know whether he is living. Had she been successful she would have died by his side rather than have been separated from him again. I am happy to say that the wound of this heroine is only slight, and that everything is being done to promote her recovery.
If the Insurgents have not actually re-taken the Clamart Station, the scene of the other slaughter, they have established themselves very close to it, in a cutting which forms a communication between the Station and a barricade on the line of railway. As the Station is under fire from Fort Vanves I have no doubt that the military found it impossible to hold it, and that if not now in it the Insurgents may re-occupy it whenever they like. Again, there was much boasting about the taking of the Chateau of Issy. We were told that it was an admirable position, completely screened from the insurgent fire, and affording an excellent vantage ground for riflemen. I saw it on fire yesterday. The Insurgents succeeded in making their shells reach it and making it very much too hot for the Chasseurs. The truth is the Insurgents have been doing the Versaillais quite as much damage as the latter have been inflicting on them. The fire from the batteries at and about the Point du Jour has been excellent. There must be artillerists there quite as good as any on this side. The manner in which the ruins of Fort Issy have been defended is surprising. There is not a roof or a window frame in one of its barracks, but from the embrasures in the earthworks the fire is still kept up from one or two points. To take it by assault would be a matter of no difficulty, but General Faron believes that it is mined, and even in its crippled position he won't venture to attack it at close quarters. With the exception of bayoneting some 500 poor wretches who could not defend themselves, taking a few hundred prisoners who are rather an embarrassment to them, and capturing a few cannon which they don't themselves want and which the Insurgents can easily replace, the Government has done nothing this week. In the words of the old peasant woman, C'est toujours la meme repetition.
In consequence of a large placard posted over the walls of Paris this morning I passed through the gate of the private garden of the Tuileries, and made my way, in company with a crowd of citizens of all classes, through the apartments occupied but a few months ago by the ex-Emperor and Empress. The printed invitation announced that we might see the rooms in which the "tyrant" had lived, for the modest sum of 50c., but that, should we think proper to take tickets for the concert, "whereby these saloons might be at length rendered useful to the people," we should be permitted to enjoy the extra show gratis. I took a ticket, and joined myself to a thick stream of people who belonged to every nationality and rank of life, and whose remarks and criticisms were most edifying. There were shopkeepers and their wives, only too delighted to take advantage of the mildest dissipation; gentlemen whose National Guard trousers were rendered respectable by the gray jacket or blouse of a citizen; humdrum housewives who approved everything, and gaped their admiration of so much gorgeous wall-colouring; there were flaunting ladies in bonnets of the latest fashion and marvellous petticoats, who criticized the curtains and pointed the parasol of scorn at faded draperies; people who felt the heavy hand of the spectre of departed glory, and people who exulted at beholding the hidden recesses of an Imperial mansion laid bare to the jokes and ribaldry of Belleville and La Villette. Every class of Parisian society was represented in the throng that swayed and hustled through the rooms, but the saddest sight of all was a knot or two of decrepit veterans from the Invalides who leant against the balustrade of the grand staircase, and gazed with pinched-up lips and dry eyes at the National Guards on duty, lounging and carousing down below. The stairs were littered with bedding and cooking utensils, shirts and stockings hanging to dry over the gilt railings, while in the square at the stairs' foot were ranged benches and boards on trestles, and there the soldiers of the Guard sat in picturesque groups enough, contrasting in the carelessness and dirt of their general appearance with the lavish ornaments of marble and gilt work which served as a background to their figures. Marching orders, more or less thumbed and torn, hung in fragments from the panelled walls; names in pencil and names in ink, and names scrawled with a finger-nail, defaced the doors and staircase wall. A sentry stood at every door to see that the citizens behaved themselves—a precaution by no means unnecessary, the outward aspect of certain members of the crowd being taken into consideration. In the Salle de la Paix a number of women were busy uncovering a number of chairs for the promised concert, and in the Salle des Marechaux beyond, where the concert was to be given, velvet benches were already occupied by old ladies in white caps with baskets in their hands, who presented a stern aspect of endurance, as though they were determined to sit there through the preparations as well as the promised entertainment, and still to continue sitting until turned out by sword and bayonet. The "Salle des Marechaux" exists no more except in name, for men on ladders were employed covering up the portraits which decorate the hall with screens of red silk—I suppose lest the past glory of French heroes should pale the brilliancy of the National Guard, just as the bas-reliefs of the Vendome Column act as an outrage upon the susceptibilities of the Commune. White cloths were being tied over the busts of Napoleon's Generals, and everything relating to the past carefully obliterated—a rather foolish proceeding, considering that the bee-spangled Imperial curtains still hang over the doors, and festoons of the same drapery decorate the gallery above. The brocaded panels of the Salle du Trone were objects of much remark among the ladies, as were the tapestries of the Salle des Gobelins; but the bareness and total absence of furniture were commented on freely on all sides. Not a chair or a window blind, or even a door-plate or handle, is to be seen in any of the rooms, except in those used for the concerts, and the question arose, naturally enough. "Where is it all gone to?" The same demand was made so often of an elderly bourgeois on duty at the end of the Salle de Diane that he was fairly bewildered, and looked round for help, and hailing the gold stripes on my cap as a haven of relief, he forthwith seized upon me as a superior officer, and insisted on an explanation. "You know there were quantities of cases carried off during the time before Sedan," he said, "but, with all their cunning, they can't have dismantled a whole palace of this size, can they?" And the crowd stood round endeavouring to account for the nakedness of the land, until a remark that the Commune had been feathering their nests with the chairs and tables dispersed them laughing. The Empress's bedroom was a great attraction, Chaplin's charming decorations being subjects of sufficient interest, independent of the absent furniture. The looking-glasses which spring from the walls called down ejaculations of delight from a party of dressmakers, who carefully took notes of the mechanism, "in order to imitate it, my dear, when Paris becomes itself again." There was a large placard upon the wall of a kind of library, inviting the attention of the public to the secret arrangements in a recess whereby the Empress obtained her dresses and linen from some manufactory of garments above, and an old lady, after having carefully examined the elaborate details, turned away with a sigh and a shake of the head. "How foolish of them, after all, not to have done a little for us in order that they might have continued to abide in this paradise!" How different was the Empress's apartment this morning, bare and crowded with the dregs of the Paris population, from the night when I last saw it, the night of her flight, when bed-clothes still littered the floor, and gloves and little odds and ends of female finery told of recent occupation! All was silent then with the stillness of a coming storm; now the walls re-echo with a stir of unhallowed feet, and the spring sunshine streams in at the open window accompanied by whiffs from the garden below, while a distant cry reaches us from the street beyond of "Le Vengeur," "Le Cri du Peuple," "Le dernier ordre du Comite du Salut Public," and we detect curls of smoke about the Arch of Triumph, which remind us that the bombardment still goes on. A reflective sentry at the door of the cabinet de travail begged me to remark the portraits set round above the doors. "Those are the Empress's favourite ladies," he informed me; "are they not salopines, one would say, of the period of Montespan? And those were the ladies who were models for the women of our land—no wonder that Paris should have become the Gomorrah that it is!" In the evening the concert was given, and a wonderful bear-garden the Imperial Palace presented. Members of the Commune flitted about in red draperies and tried to find room on the already crowded benches for the struggling mob, who rubbed their hot faces with their unaccustomed white gloves, and used such language to each other as, it is to be hoped, those august walls have seldom heard. Meanwhile, the crowd increased in numbers, and by 8 o'clock the reception rooms were full, and some 2,000 people still stood in a long string in the garden outside. They behaved with the wondrous good nature which characterizes a French crowd, laughing over the absurdity of their predicament and waving the tickets, which they would never be enabled to present, jestingly at one another. In course of time the whole of the jardin prive was full of people, who looked up at the lights streaming from the windows, and sat about on chairs quietly smoking their cigars and enjoying the lovely evening, listening to the occasional boom at the other end of the long alley, where a bright flash which bore death upon its wings appeared in the sky from time to time, in mockery of the gas-lit chandeliers and feeble attempts at revelry that were going on above our heads.
The reigning scandal of the day is the affair of the Convent of Picpus. So highly roused has public indignation been by the supposed discovery of atrocities committed within those jealous walls that the people have been peremptorily excluded until the investigations of justice shall be complete. I managed, however, to penetrate within the precincts by attaching myself to the cortege of an English friend, who was journeying thither under special official orders, to investigate the case of an English Sister named Garret. In the Rue de Picpus, near Mazas prison, stand two large buildings, each surrounded by high walls, above which may be seen green trees at intervals. The one is an establishment of the Jesuites; the other the Convent of the White Nuns. The Jesuites Brothers escaped at the first sign of approaching danger, but the Sisters held their own until forced into cabs and conveyed to the cells of St. Lazare, there to await the results of a judicial inquiry into certain matters that are deemed suspicious. Arrived at the gate of the Convent, we were obliged to force our way through a crowd of angry people who demanded instant permission to enter, and who were as persistently swept back by a group of National Guards—we, however, being admitted inside the door under cover of the official pass and signatures. In the court-yard, under the shade of some fine trees, a few Guards were playing bowls in the Jesuit's alley, and making up to one of them, whose cap displayed tokens of authority, we mentioned our business, and begged permission to see what was to be seen. Our friend was very civil, accepted a cigar, and marched us off to go the rounds. He pointed out to us the fact, of which there certainly could exist no kind of doubt, that the two buildings communicated one with the other, by means of an old door which still exists at the back of a stable, as well as by other apertures in the garden wall, which show signs of having been recently closed up. The Jesuit's garden is a most beautiful one, occupying a space of some 12 acres, laid out with care and furnished with fruit trees of every description, pruned and trained after the latest horticultural designs. There are wondrously ingenious plans, too, for irrigating the beds, forcing pits and hothouses, and long alleys with vines trained over them. Through the old door above mentioned we passed into the Sister's garden, equally large and beautiful, though not kept with the same care. In the centre stands a gymnasium, I suppose for the use of the children brought up under the Sisters' care, and further is their cemetery, a lovely spot, where, under the heavy shade of ancient cypresses, lie bearers of some of the most ancient names in France—"Prince of Salm-Kyrbourg, immolated under the Terror, aged 49;" "Rochefoucauld," "De Noailles," "Montmorency," "the great Lafayette," the whole family of the Talleyrand-Perigords, and legions of Princes and Princesses. Some of the vaults have been opened, and many lead coffins, half-covered with rotting velvet and gold lace, lie exposed to the light of day, awaiting an examination at the hands of the Minister of Justice. At the extreme end of the garden, however, are the three little conical huts, side by side, resembling white ants' nests, which have been the prime cause of so much excitement and judicial inquiry. When the Convent was occupied by the National Guards these little huts were tenanted each by an old woman, enclosed in a wooden cage, like a chickens' pen, the three buildings being similar in size and construction, six feet square by seven in height, with a slate roof, through which daylight was visible, while the three old women were all of them hopeless idiots. The Lady Superior has kept her lips resolutely closed up to the present time, but admitted, when first questioned, that the three sufferers had lived in their hideous prison for nine years, in an atmosphere of stifling heat throughout the summer and half frozen with cold throughout the winter; "but," she added, "they were idiots when they came." The conductor of the inquiry replied that, if such were the case, it was illegal to have admitted them to the Convent at all, and that even supposing them to have been admitted, the place where they were found was not a fit dwelling-place for a dog. A key was discovered among her papers, labelled "key of the great vault;" but where this great vault may be has not yet been found out. The Superior and her nuns keep a uniform and persistent silence upon the point; excavations have been made at different points in the garden, and under the high altar of the chapel, but hitherto without effect. At one end of the nuns' garden stands an isolated building, in which were found mattresses furnished with straps and buckles, also two iron corsets, an iron skull-cap, and a species of rack turned by a cog-wheel, evidently intended for bending back the body with force. The Superior explained that these were orthopaedic instruments—a superficial falsehood. The mattresses and straps struck me as being easily accounted for; I have seen such things used in French midwifery, and in cases of violent delirium; but the rack and its adjuncts are justly objects of grave suspicion, for they imply a use of brutal force which no disease at present known would justify. On our way back through the gardens our guide made a detour in order to show us a great subterranean warehouse, where an enormous quantity of potatoes was stored, as well as barrels full of salt pork, while in a yard hard by lay grunting a fat pig. "Look at this!" cried our National Guard indignantly. "Look at these stores, which might have helped to feed the starving poor of the arrondissement during our six months' siege, and think that these people were begging from door to door the whole time for money to buy broken victuals for their pensioners!" Arrived at the entrance gate our guide nudged me, telling me in whispers to look at the old woman who was wandering about, followed by a younger one, stooping from time to time to pick up a leaf or rub her hands with sand and gravel. "That is Soeur Bernadine," he said, "one of the three prisoners of the wooden cages. She is the most sane in mind of the three, and we keep her here under the care of one of our wives to cheer her up. She is only 50, though she looks past 70. The other two have been removed, as they were rendered violent by the crowd and change of scene." I passed close to her and she looked up—a soft, pale face, with sunken eyes shaded by the frills of a great cap. She looked at me dazedly, without taking any notice, and stooping again, filled her hands with refuse coffee grounds, which she put into her mouth until prevented by her companion. Without showing the least prejudice in the matter, I think I can safely say that the ladies now shut up at St. Lazare will find it no easy matter to clear themselves of blame; for, though there are doubtless many suspicious circumstances that maybe explained away, there are also hard facts which will remain hard facts in spite of the most elaborate attempts at refutation.
In consequence of the bombardment daily expected from the Montretout batteries people have been hurriedly leaving Paris in great numbers.
Fort Vanves took fire last night, and had to be evacuated. It was found impossible to extinguish the fire. It is still burning.
The explosion at Issy arose from a torpedo, not a powder magazine. The Fort is evacuated.
There has been a general heavy firing to-day, and the Point du Jour has suffered severely.
Father Hogan, the cure of St. Sulpice, a British subject, was again arrested yesterday. Mr. Malet has with difficulty procured his release on condition that he leaves Paris.
The Government troops were compelled to evacuate the railway station at Clamart in consequence of the effluvia arising from the great number of unburied corpses in and about the station, which was then occupied by the Federalists, subsequently again evacuated by them upon the approach of the Versailles troops.
The Government have sent away to the Departments all the young soldiers who have parents or relations domiciled in Paris.
The statement that M. Schneider intented to remove his iron foundries from Creuzot to Stockton-on-Tees is incorrect. A large number of models and designs have been sent from Creuzot to foundries at Stockton-on-Tees, where it is intended to instruct a staff of workmen in the production of steel before commencing that branch of manufacture at the French establishment.
Fort Issy was captured and occupied by the Government troops this morning.
MAY 9th.—AND 10th.
Forts Montrouge and Vanves have been reduced to silence by a battery of mitrailleuses established on a parapet of Issy, which picks off Federal artillerymen when they show themselves. Seven guns on bastions 72, 73, and 74 have been dismounted by the new battery of Montretout and the bastions silenced. Many prisoners are said to have been taken at Issy yesterday.
The National Guards of Vaugirard and the Pantheon decline to march, barely a third of their numbers having answered the call.
The Vendome Column is definitively to fall on Friday.
The Lycee, on the high ground behind Issy, is being hurriedly formed into a fortress mounted with guns, earthworks connecting it with Vanves.
Three shells per second are said to have fallen on Auteuil this morning.
Nineteen battalions were reviewed yesterday by Colonel Rossel in the Place de la Concorde. Rossel continues to command in spite of his resignation yesterday, which is attributed to a quarrel with the Central Committee. The Committee of Public Safety is still sitting. It is rumoured that should he decline to withdraw his resignation, the functions of the Ministry of War would be absorbed by the Committee of Public Safety, who would attach to themselves an Assistant Military Commission, headed by Dombrowski.
The Committee of Public Safety, in consequence of the proclamation of M. Thiers, which was placarded in Paris, has issued a decree ordering the furniture and property of M. Thiers to be seized, and his house in the Place St. Georges to be immediately demolished.
The Commune, in its sitting of yesterday, decided to bring Colonel Rossel before a court-martial.
Delescluze has been appointed Delegate of War.
Colonel Rossel was arrested yesterday and handed over to the custody of Citizen Gerardin. At 5 p.m. an announcement was made to the Commune that Rossel had left with Gerardin. The Commune accepted the offer of General Bergeret to re-arrest Rossel. Nevertheless, at 2 o'clock this morning this had not been effected.
Felix Pyat, in the Vengeur, accuses Rossel of treason.
There is increasing discouragement among the National Guards, in spite of the retaking of Vanves. The Vengeur hints at a plot headed by Gerardin, and states that 400 National Guards, who exhibited no numbers of their battalions, were assembled for an unknown purpose at the Luxembourg; that at the same time officers who were making a domiciliary visit at Gerardin's house were attacked, and that in another quarter an attempt was made to assassinate Dombrowski.
A considerable portion of masonry from the Auteuil Viaduct has fallen into the water.
A search has been made at the Bank of France under the excuse of looking for arms. It is said that the employes of the Bank are armed and victualled, and will stand a siege rather than surrender the gold under their care.
In consequence of pressure from Delescluze the Central Committee abandon the direction of the War Administration, and Moreau resigns his office of Civil Delegate.
The furniture and pictures are being carted from M. Thiers' house, and sounds of hammering within suggest the commencement of its demolition.
Six newspapers have been suppressed—viz., the Univers, Spectateur, Moniteur, Etoile, Anonyme, and Observateur.
The batteries at Montretout continue a vigorous firing. Throughout last night they received only six shells from the Insurgents.
The shells thrown from the floating battery bridge at the Point du Jour and from the land batteries near that point generally drop short of the mark and fall either into the Seine or on the slopes of the railway by the right bank.
This afternoon I saw many projectiles from Montretout and Meudon explode among the houses at the Point du Jour and the enceinte near it. The wall screening the Ceinture Railway between Auteuil and Vaugirard has been dreadfully battered in various places.
The Bois de Boulogne, in a semicircle from about the Villa Rothschild to Bagatelle, following the race course at Longchamps, is one vast camp, and from this camp to the village of Boulogne the work of constructing trenches parallel with the enceinte is being pushed rapidly forward. I saw hundreds of men working at them to-day.
The Fort of Vanves is still occupied by the Insurgents, but Moulin de Pierres and Chatillon cover it with shells.
By means of cannon shots the troops of Versailles have demolished the houses in the village of Vanves, as they concealed and covered the postern of the Fort. The military had succeeded in occupying the village, but were obliged to abandon it because the houses were exposed to the fire of the Insurgents.
There has been a sharp musketry fire to-day in the plantations to the north-east of Issy, and just over the Vaugirard road.
There has been fighting of the same kind in the direction of the St. Ouen station at the other end of the lines. The sphere of attack is again being extended, and in consequence of this the Insurgents are obliged to defend themselves at, perhaps, three or four points simultaneously.
There was a considerable movement in the city yesterday consequent on desperate attempts to enlist refractory citizens in marching battalions. Pressgangs paraded the streets all day, and many men within the ages of 19 and 40 were, it is said, temporarily incarcerated in the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette.
An extraordinary meeting was held at the Hotel de Ville in consequence of a supposed discovery of a reactionary plot. Forty-seven Gendarmes, says the Mot d'Ordre, were found in the Marine Barracks disguised as National Guards, besides a great quantity of tricoloured brassards.
M. Beslay, surnamed the Father of the Commune, has retired, because he disapproves the confiscation of M. Thiers' goods.
The new batteries on Montmartre opened fire last night, but ceased this morning.
The 46th battalion Montrouge were relieved from duty two hours before their time last night because they talked of opening the Gates. This battalion consists for the most part of shopkeepers.
The new battalion called the "Vengeurs du Pere Duchesne" were shut up in the Luxembourg Gardens, all points of egress being guarded, because they declined to march outside the city.
Difficulties have arisen in the Quartier Val de Grace, consequent upon the heavy tax recently levied on meat.
The Versaillais gunboats at the Asnieres Bridge forced the Federal troops to recoil several hundred yards towards the city walls.
Felix Pyat announces his opinion publicly that the fall of the Commune is imminent.
Mortars are being placed on the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
The demolition of the house of M. Thiers has commenced.
The Central Committee have ordered that all the quarters of Paris shall be searched for arms and refractory National Guards. All the young men in Paris are to be armed.
A large crowd has been waiting in the Rue de la Paix since 4 o'clock to see the fall of the Vendome Column. Its fall had been officially promised at that hour, but up to half-past 6 it was still standing. It will probably fall to-day. The tricolour flag has just been attached to the statue, amid faint cheers from the crowd.
An Armistice has been arranged for next Wednesday, to enable the inhabitants of Vanves and the neighbourhood to remove.
Cluseret, Megy, and Schoelcher have been released.
The 8th and 11th Battalions have been disarmed on suspicion of being reactionary.
Paschal Grousset has sent a circular to the principal towns of France, inviting them to join the Communal movement.
The approaches are now within 150 metres of the enceinte, and a breaching battery is being constructed. The Montretout batteries have already made a considerable breach in the enceinte by the side of the Auteuil Gate, which has been demolished.
There was a very lively fusillade this afternoon between troops in the Bois de Boulogne and the Insurgents, who fired from houses and other shelter behind the enceinte between Passy and Auteuil. Mortars were also used by the military.
The Insurgents have shot a captain of Engineers who imprudently advanced beyond the Versailles lines.
In the Fort of Vanves a soldier of the Line has been found; his feet were tied together, and there are numbers of bayonet wounds in different parts of his body. The Insurgents had made him prisoner.
Of the 60 pieces of cannon left in the Fort, the greater number had been rendered useless by the fire of the troops.
It is believed that the garrison escaped by a subterranean passage communicating between Forts Vanves and Montrouge.
Every commander of an Army Corps will henceforward have the command of an Arrondissement, and will be answerable for the defensive measures undertaken in his zone.
All persons in the possession of sulphur and phosphorus must declare to the Commune the amount of each within three days.
La Cecilia has again undertaken the command at Petit Vanves.
Torpedoes are to be laid down at exposed parts.
The night has passed off quietly, and nothing of any importance has transpired.
The Versailles troops are under the walls of Paris, and are exchanging shots with the Insurgents on the ramparts from the Muette Gate to the Issy Gate.
The Federalists have been driven out of their entrenchments between Forts Vanves and Issy.
A battery is being erected in the garden of the Tuileries, from which the Communists will be able to keep up a flank fire upon the Champs Elysees.
There is no doubt of the existence of a serious conspiracy, possessing wide ramifications, in Paris to effect the overthrow of the Commune.
The Garden of the Luxembourg has been closed, and is occupied by four battalions of National Guards, as a precaution against the rising which is apprehended.
The Journal Officiel announced that the Column would positively fall to-day at 2. A great concourse assembled. Bands played. The Commune and their Staff, amounting to 200, attended on horseback. At 3.45 p.m. an attempt was made, which failed owing to the breaking of a snatchblock. The ropes slackened suddenly, injuring two men. Another attempt was made, fresh ropes having been added, and the Column fell at about 10 minutes to 6. It broke up in the air as it fell. The concussion was nothing like what had been expected. No glass was broken or injury done to the Square, excepting that the Column forced itself into the ground. The excitement was intense. The crowd rushed with loud cheers to scramble for fragments, while speeches were made by members of the Commune, mounted on fallen masses, and red flags were hoisted on the pedestal. Immense crowds assembled in the streets outside, making it almost impossible to leave the Place Vendome. It was forbidden to take away any fragments, and people were searched before leaving the Square.
MAY THE 16th.
Two hundred National Guards entered the Grand Hotel last night. After having searched every room, under the pretence of looking for arms, they retired with a good deal of plunder.
This is on that subject a letter forwarded by Mister van Henbeck to the Figaro Journal.
It has been spoken in different ways of the frequent searches made in the Grand Hotel, since the occupation by the admiral Saisset and his Staff, which had rendered the Hotel suspected by the "Commune" and the "Comite Central."
The last visit of these Gentlemen, has been marked by many strange proceedings:
In the night of may 15th a band of about 300 armed men, pseudo-sailors of the "Commune" and Belgian volunteers of both sex, rushed into the Hotel. During five hours these mad men, several of them being intoxicated, had to make in every part of the Hotel fantastic searches, they went breaking the doors and menacing the administrator, the clerks and servants.
They had no mandamus to do that, but the pretext was the arrestation of a battalion of "Gendarmes" and the discovery of a subterranean vault leading to Versailles.
The search for "Gendarmes" was not long to make, but the one for the vault was stopped only when they had found the wine cellar. The door was knocked out:
The great attention they paid to those investigations can be evaluated by a consummation of 1764 francs of wine.
That operation began at 4 a.m. and was out at 6.
The whistles of those supposed sailors and the trumpets of the "Federes" ordered the end of that small festival. The cellar was left a-side, and the servants of the Hotel were obliged to bring up in the court-yard those of the band who could not walk any more; at last, the troop went out carrying away a good supply of provisions as wine, cigars, watches, jewels and purses stolen in the servants' rooms, and also clocks and about a hundred table-plates belonging to the Hotel.
They went with empty hands, but the pockets were full. Two of the servants were obliged to go with them, and they said they would come back the next day to arrest many others.
These wicked orgies having no political character, I will address myself to the "Code penal" for a repression, and I deliver into the hands of the "Procureur de la Republique" a complaint justified by the deposings of all my servants, and indicating the names of the chiefs of that curious performance.
Be good enough, Sir, to believe me yours most respectfully: V.....
Administrator of the Grand Hotel.
The Insurgents have evacuated all their positions between Fort Vanves and the enceinte.
The only gunboats now beneath the Viaduct at the Point du Jour are mere wrecks, and their guns have completely disappeared.
The Insurgents' battery on a bastion between Vaugirard and Montrouge has been firing frequently to-day. One of its shells came as far as Bas Meudon.
Fort Issy has been directing its fire upon the Point du Jour. About noon there were two conflagrations at the Point du Jour and one at Auteuil.
The soldiers working at the parallels and the breaching batteries are suffering from the musketry of Insurgents behind the enceinte. As many as 30 of them have been killed during one night, but the sap has been carried to within less than 400 metres of the ramparts.
The Insurgents are raising additional barricades in the Rue de Vaugirard, and also at Passy and Auteuil. Pontoon bridges and fascines in great numbers are being sent forward to the military foreposts.
The Committee of Public Safety has appointed a military Commission to replace the existing Commission; it is composed of Arnold, Avrial, Johannard, Tridon, and Varein.
Henri has been appointed Chief of the Staff of the War Ministry, and Mathieu commander of the troops posted between the Point du Jour and the Wagram Gate.
All mechanics over 40 years of age have been called out to work at the city defences. They will receive 3f. 75c. as daily pay.
Important resolutions are expected to be taken at the sitting of the Commune to-day, and the serious division will be terminated by the dissolution of the Central Committee, or by the absorption of the Committee of Public Safety in the Central Committee.
The Commune announces that the Versailles troops were repulsed in several attacks made by them last night upon the barricades at Chatillon, Moulin de Pierre, and Moulin Saquet.
There was a vigorous engagement yesterday evening at the Dauphine and Maillot Gates, and the Versailles troops were driven back with considerable loss.
It is rumoured that Fort Montrouge has been evacuated.
The Commune declares that it has a reserve force of 20,000 men.
Of M. Thiers' house little more, it is feared, than the outer walls remain standing.
The "Majority of the Commune"—as the Commune is now spoken of in consequence of the secession of 22 of its members—has resolved to form a Central Club like that of the Jacobins, composed of delegates from various clubs of Paris, in order to keep itself en rapport with public opinion.
The 12th Legion has formed a battalion of women, who in addition to their other military duties are to disarm publicly all runaways.
The Communal Delegation of the 2d Arrondissement, considering that slavery was considered immoral even before the American War, and that a standing army has been suppressed by the Commune, decrees that all houses of ill fame in their quarter shall be immediately closed, as involving traffic in human beings.
Peter's Restaurant was searched last night, and several arrests were made, among them officers of the National Guard suspected of complicity in the Tricolour Brassard Plot. The Restaurant is closed.
The heaviest firing to-day has been against the Point du Jour. Large pieces of Marine Artillery have been placed on the ramparts behind Montrouge.
A terrific explosion has just (6 o'clock) created general alarm. Enormous volumes of smoke are visible from a great distance. The cartridge manufactory near the Ecole Militaire has exploded. Six hundred employes, chiefly women, are said to have been killed. Bullets were launched in all directions, killing and wounding many passers by.
The Insurgents have constructed a battery of Marine pieces, which much embarrasses the troops and retards the breaching works. Breaches will be opened at three points—namely, at Mortemart, opposite Auteuil, at Bastion 65, opposite the Parc-aux-Princes in the Bois and in the neighbourhood of Vaugirard.
This afternoon the Insurgents fired from three batteries between the left bank ending the viaduct at the Point du Jour and Montrouge. One of these batteries was placed close to the Vaugirard Gate, and its fire was directed to a point at which the Engineers were supposed to be constructing a trench.
There were conflagrations this evening in Auteuil, the Point du Jour, and between the latter place and Vaugirard. The flame and smoke were distinctly visible. We hear it was the blowing up of a powder factory in the Rue de Wagram, Paris, or at the Trocadero.
The Committee of Public Safety, in order to save the country from a military dictatorship, has associated Civil Commissioners with the various Generals of the Commune. With Dombrowski are joined Burger and Dereuve, with La Cecilia, Johannard, and with Wrobleski, Leo Meillet.
All passenger and goods trains leaving Paris have to stop outside the walls for examination. Trains contravening this order will not be permitted to proceed.
Possessors of petroleum are to declare the amount they hold to the authorities within 48 hours.
Fort Montrouge is still held, and is strongly supported by the Hautes Bruyeres.
The Government troops have not yet occupied Vanves; they are pressing upon Billancourt and La Marette.
A letter of General Cluseret in the Mot d'ordre advises that every exertion should be made for the erection of barricades at the Barriere de l'Etoile, the Place Roi de Rome, and the Place Eylau, with a second line between the Passy Gate and the Grenelle Bridge, and a third line from the Pont de la Concorde to the Ouen Gate.
The Versailles and Auteuil Gates of Paris have been demolished by the cannonade. The neighbouring bastions are subjected to a tremendous fire, but do not reply.
Fort Issy, which is now in the hands of the Versailles troops, is vigorously bombarding Petit Vanves, Grenelle, and Point du Jour.
The last is utterly untenable by the Insurgent gunners.
A belief obtains that the Versailles Engineers are laying a mine under the walls of Paris in the direction of the Muette Gate. The disagreement between the Commune and the Central Committee continues.
The Versailles troops have made good their communications from Montrouge to Issy, and have established batteries on the glacis before Fort Vanves. They are vigorously attacking Bicetre and Hautes Bruyeres.
A terrible bombardment of the Maillot Gate and the Arc de Triomphe is going on.
The Federalists in the village of Malakoff are in danger of being cut off from Paris, while those stationed in the villages of Petit Vanves and Montrouge have been compelled to retire into the city.
Ladders for scaling the ramparts have reached the Versaillist outposts in the Bois de Boulogne.
The Versailles troops are endeavouring to cut a way through the wood to the Avenue of Neuilly.
The cannonade in the direction of the Arc de Triomphe is increasing in intensity.
To-day was a day of feasting, and National Guards surrounded the Churches of St. Augustin and La Trinite, and forced the priests to stop Divine service, and turned out the congregations. The establishment of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul was also surrounded. An inventory was made of the goods, the Sisters being themselves placed under lock and key until to-morrow, when they will be turned out.
Bodies are being removed from the crypt of the Church of Les Petits Peres, near the Bank of France, for examination. Rumours are afloat that people have been recently buried there under false names, and bones strew the pavement on both sides of the church door.
The Versaillais are at a distance of 200 metres from the ramparts from the Point du Jour to Vanves. The National Guards in great numbers are assembled under the cover of the ramparts, and an attack is hourly expected. Shells have fallen on the bridge of Grenelle, killing several persons. An attack was made yesterday on the Zoological Gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, which turned out disastrously for the Federals.
The fire from the Insurgents' batteries on the enceinte has been stronger to-day than at any time previously since the opening of the new redoubt at Montretout. They have been throwing shells from La Muette against the troops in the Bois de Boulogne, but mortars placed in the Bois near the large lake have been responding vigorously, and a field battery at Mortemart, the south-eastern extremity of the Bois, has been protecting, by its fire, the Engineers working at the breaching battery, and also doing some damage to the Artillery on the bastion.
Between Passy and Auteuil the Insurgents are in considerable force behind the enceinte. Their three batteries on the enceinte, between the Point du Jour and Montrouge, have been firing on the military position at Bas Meudon and Issy. There has been a return shelling from these positions between the rival Artillery.
Engineers are engaged in sapping from Issy in the direction of Vaugirard. They are much exposed to the batteries of the Insurgents, but neither yesterday nor to-day did I see a single shell fall into the French lines where they are at work.
The Committee of Public Safety has issued an appeal to the National Guards calling upon them to secure the triumph of Paris, and describing the fearful results which would ensue from the victory of the Versailles troops.
A later attack which was made on Neuilly yesterday was repulsed.
This morning the Federal batteries at Montmartre are bombarding the Chateau Becon.
The Journal Officiel of the Commune of to-day accuses the agents of Versailles of having caused the explosion of the cartridge manufactory, and says that a hundred persons have fallen victims to it. Four arrests have been made in connexion with this affair. The Verite demonstrates that the explosion could not have been the result of intention, but was solely attributable to accident. The same paper states that no shell fell in the Champ de Mars at the time of the explosion.
The Versailles troops are constructing trenches within 200 yards of the Auteuil Gate, but the breach is not yet assailable.
Fort Montrouge still holds out, but offers only a feeble resistance.
The Communists claim to-day to have repulsed all attacks.
The bombardment is incessant.
The German troops are taking up imposing positions.
The tribunals of the Commune have decided to-day as to who among the prisoners in the hands of the Commune are to be regarded as hostages. It is asserted that three hostages will be executed to-morrow.
The firing was heavier last night than it has ever been. There were both a cannonade and a fusillade. Everybody thought that the Versaillais had at last made their assault. It appears that the Communists attempted a sortie, and were repulsed with great loss. Numerous waggons filled with wounded were taken to Versailles. Various battalions returned to Paris, apparently much dispirited. Numerous reinforcements, however, were brought up.
The bullets are falling so thickly about the ramparts that the Communists with difficulty maintain their position there. The Versailles shell-practice has improved. The shells burst about the bastions instead of in the town.
The conscription is carried on with increased rigour, death being threatened to those who refuse to serve. A Lieutenant-Colonel and a Commandant have been sentenced, the one to 15 years' and the other to 10 years' imprisonment for cowardice, and their battalion has been dissolved. The Chief and Staff of the 6th Legion have been dismissed for not disarming the refractory battalions.
It is said the prisoners accused of firing the cartridge manufactory are to be shot in 24 hours.
Much fear is entertained for the fate of the hostages, whose execution has been so strongly advocated in the Commune, in reprisal for the alleged violation and murder of an infirmiere by the Versaillais.
Some iron cupola-shaped cases, capable of holding each 1,000lb. of powder, were to-day taken to the barricades near the ramparts for the purpose of blowing them up if necessary.
It has been proposed in the Commune to abolish all titles of rank, with the emoluments and advantages appertaining to them; also that all children now illegitimate shall be for the future legitimate; and that, instead of the present form of marriage, any man over 18 and woman over 16 may be allowed to go before a municipal magistrate and declare their wish to marry.
The only breaching battery that has as yet opened fire is that established in the Parc aux Princes, at 400 metres distance from the ramparts. It directs its fire against the enceinte at Auteuil, where the gates and the drawbridge have been destroyed.
The Fort of Montrouge is almost surrounded by the troops, who advance also by means of trenches towards the Redoubt of Hautes Bruyeres.
Towards the South a series of attacks have been made, with the view of driving all the Insurgents on that side from their positions outside the enceinte.
Last night, in an affair at Lagrange, the military put 110 Insurgents hors de combat and made 43 prisoners.
All the breaching works are not yet completed.
To-day the Insurgents have been firing from La Muette, which is on the enceinte between Passy and Auteuil, and I observed that they had added to the number of their guns between the Point du Jour and Montrouge. Yesterday they had three batteries between those points; to-day they have been firing from five.
Mont Valerien has done very little to-day, and Montretout has not been so violent as usual, but the military batteries at Bas Meudon, Les Moulineanx, and Issy have been very active, as have likewise been the mortars and field guns in the Bois de Boulogne.
Twenty-one members of the Commune no longer attend the sittings of that body, but remain in their Arrondissements.
Four hundred Versailles Chasseurs are said to have deserted from their own side into Paris yesterday.
Batteries of 30 guns have been established at the Dauphine Gate.
The Cri du peuple says the Committee have determined rather to blow up Paris than capitulate.
A requisition has been made of the silver candlesticks at the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires.
No one without a special pass is allowed to leave the city at night by the Eastern or Northern gates.
The Commune has ordered that all prostitutes and drunkards shall be arrested.
A decree of the Committee of Public Safety, published to-day, orders the suppression of the Revue des Deux Mondes, Avenir National, Patrie, Commune, Justice, and five other newspapers.
No new journals will be allowed to appear until the end of the war.
All articles must be signed by the writer.
Attacks on the Government will be dealt with according to martial law.
Officers who hesitate to obey the orders of the Committee of Public Safety will be tried for high treason by court-martial.
The Salut Public alleges that one of the chief persons implicated in the explosion of the cartridge manufactory is Count Ladislas Zamoyski, and that papers have been found upon him proving him to be in communication with the Government of Versailles.
The same paper announces that the Germans demand that an armistice should be entered into between the Commune and the Versailles Government, in order that a Plebiscite of all France may be held to decide upon the future form of Government.
The Commune has seized the silver ornaments and other valuables of the Church of the Trinity. All the other churches of Paris will shortly be treated in a similar manner, and will then be closed.
All arrests and requisitions are being carried out by Flourens's corps of Avengers.
The demolition of the Expiatory Chapel was commenced to-day.
The gate at Point du Jour is destroyed.
Yesterday evening two battalions of troops carried the Ory Farm and Plichon House, near Fort Montrouge, at the point of the bayonet. The Federalists had about 400 killed and wounded, and lost 42 prisoners, including a Chief of Battalion. The troops also captured a flag, but subsequently evacuated the conquered positions, as they were too much exposed to the fire of the enemy. The loss of the Versailles troops was small.
* * * * *
THE VENDOME COLUMN.
Foul is the bird that soils her own nest! As though they had not suffered enough of mortification and defeat at the hands of the enemy, the Parisians have succeeded in emptying the cup of disgrace to the dregs by dragging down the monument of their military glory, amid hoots and hisses, and toppling over the effigy of their greatest soldier-hero on to a bed of mire, at the same time publicly tearing the tricoloured national flag which has for so many years led their armies to victory. Upon the official announcement some days back that the Vendome Column was to be sacrificed as an insult to the principles of fraternity, everybody laughed and thought it a good joke, never believing that the plan would be carried out, even in spite of the ominous scaffoldings and curtains which rose around its base. A few days later we were told that it had been sawn through, and that a solemn Festival would be held to commemorate this new display of liberty. We thought the party of Order would protest; that the veterans of the Invalides would make a movement; that the mass of the population would insist upon the abandonment of such a piece of folly. But we forgot the state of coma into which respectable Paris has fallen, and that those who had allowed themselves to be ground down by a tyrannical few would scarcely bestir themselves in defence of their public monuments. It became apparent that the column was really doomed, and the Rue de la Paix was crowded by an expectant multitude at about 3 o'clock on Monday afternoon; the balconies were filled with ladies; all the windows were pasted with paper to neutralize the expected concussion, while cake and newspaper vendors and marchands de coco plied a busy trade, and elbowed their way about among the people down below. Three ropes had been fastened round the top of the column beneath the statue, communicating with a crazy-looking windlass and anchor placed in the centre of the road at the entrance of the Rue Neuve des Capucines, and a long narrow dung heap filled with sand and branches had been spread in the square to deaden the shock of the falling mass. Public excitement was at its height, and the strangest surmises went from mouth to mouth as to how far the statue would be thrown, whether balconies would fall and slates be shuffled down, and whether the great weight would or would not crash through the vaulted arch into the sewers under the road. Still the crowd increased in numbers, when at about 4 o'clock a cordon of National Guards was formed, who pushed back the people as far as the Rue des Augustins, leaving an empty space along the Rue de la Paix, which was duly watered in true Parisian style, and became the arena for a display of equestrian prowess on the part of sundry officers and members of the Commune. They rattled backwards and forwards at full gallop, and made figures of eight, and turned and twisted in a marvellous manner, suggestive rather of a circus than a barrack-yard; but their evolutions served to amuse the crowd, who waited patiently until sunset, when it became evident that the affair would be put off until the morrow. It turned out that the members of the artistic federation who, with Courbet at their head, had decided on this piece of Vandalism, had been playing off a little practical joke upon the crowd, for their preparations were not complete, and workmen were still hacking at the stonework from behind their curtain screen until evening had settled into night. With the easy good nature of a Paris crowd, everybody quietly went home, a few disappointed at the failure of a promised excitement, but by far the greater number rejoicing in their hearts at the reprieve of the bronze pillar which they had been accustomed from childhood to regard with pride. Tuesday's Officiel positively announced the ceremony for that day at 2, and the concourse was greater than ever. The Rue de la Paix and the space behind, up to the steps of the New Opera, was a sea of heads, and the elite of Communal aristocracy who held passes to the Square itself were forced to elbow their way and struggle through relays of guards long before the prescribed hour in order to be certain of getting there at all. So far all their arrangements were so bad as to suggest misgivings as to the result of the attempt. Three meagre ropes were to do the deed, while two beams, applied one on either side the column, were to give it the proper inclination as it fell. Now, every one knows that, from some fault in its construction, the Column has always leant a little towards the Ministere des Cultes, and people moved restlessly about, uncertain where to station themselves, lest the tottering mass, once set in motion, should fall in an entirely different direction from the one intended. The bed, too, which was to receive it seemed strangely small and narrow, and it appeared a matter of doubt whether the bronze Emperor might not force his way into one of the adjoining houses, and pay a visit as little desired as it was expected. Meanwhile, a party of workmen continued to drive wedges into the space which had been sawn, while others gave a finishing touch to the dung heaps and cleared away the curtains and scaffolding that had obscured their operations. At half-past 3 the Commune arrived on horseback, attended by their Staff, and placed themselves in front of the crowd in the Rue de la Paix—a mounted squadron of some 200 persons; while at a given signal a number of bands stationed at different points began to play a medley of patriotic airs, regardless of general effect. Trumpets brayed forth signals, and all strained their eyes into the dazzling sky, not without having first assured themselves of a safe retreat through some friendly doorway in case of a disaster, as the ropes were seen to tighten—"See! It moves!" "No, 'tis the effect of a passing cloud;" and, after a second's pause of intense anxiety one of the ropes snapped, knocking down in its whirl several men at the windlass. And now began a murmur and a shaking of heads, "Ah, I knew it could not succeed; they will be obliged to blow it up with gunpowder; shame on them for the attempt!" "Why cannot they leave it alone?" said one man to his neighbour, "it has cost so much." "Yes, it has," replied the other; "it has cost us millions of human lives on the plains of Germany and in the Russian snows." The attempt had failed, and people were preparing to move away, when news arrived that the Commune were not going to be thus baffled, but had sent for more ropes and apparatus, and were determined to have their way at any price. Meanwhile, the great figure looked calmly down upon his persecutors, seemingly as secure as ever, while the bands continued to play, and the horsemen galloped about the square. It was half-past 4 before the two new ropes arrived, and fully 5 o'clock before they had been hoisted to their places, not being attached to the capstan like the others, but held, one on either side the road, by 50 sailors each. Brute force had failed, and so they had determined to try the effect of a series of swings. People laughed at these renewed preparations; and could scarcely be kept close under the houses out of immediate danger. The ropes slackened and tightened again for a final effort, and a cry burst from the assembled multitude in the horror of a coming danger which might be incalculable as the great giant swayed for a few seconds and finally tottered down with an awful crash, separating into rings in the air, upon the foul bed which had been prepared for him: a shapeless mass of shattered metal and stone lying in uneven coils like some mighty serpent. The wooden sentry-boxes in the square reeled round and fell, while a cloud of filth and dust obscured the fallen monster, and men looked awe-struck at one another like naughty children who had broken something which they ought not to have dared to touch. The moment of compunction was a short one, and a howling throng rushed with one accord into the noisome cloud, fighting and quarrelling for bits of bronze and stone, and a man near me drew back, half stifled for an instant, saying, with disgust, "See what a stench the Empire has!" The statue had fallen beyond the heap, and, having smashed the pavement into splinters, lay a wreck, with one arm broken and the head severed from the body, while women kicked and spat upon it, waving their arms wildly, and shouting, "Vive la Republique!" "Vive la Commune!" All the bands struck on the Marseillaise in different keys, a few people crowded on the remnants of the pedestal waving red flags and shrieking in their excitement, and a sergeant who endeavoured to unburden himself of an oration was speedily gagged and hustled down to make way for the great "Bergeret lui-meme," who, in all the glory of a red scarf and tassels, waved his hat and struggled to be heard above the general hubbud of music, voices, and battering of bronze. "Citizens," he said, "the 26th of Floreal will be memorable in our history. Thus we triumph over military despotism, that bloody negation of the rights of man. The First Empire placed the collar of servitude about our necks—it began and ended in carnage—and left us a legacy of a Second Empire, which was finally to end in the disgrace of Sedan." Much more he said, but his voice was drowned in the continued hammering of metal, while our attention was distracted by peremptory orders to "move on." Such an order at such a moment was particularly exasperating, and led to many little tussles with citizens, who refused to consider this a pleasant opening to the era of liberty, an exasperation very considerably increased at the different exits from the square by an uncompromising search into the contents of pockets, and a consequent disgorging of trophies and remembrances. A fight was going on meantime in the Rue de la Paix between a company of Marines and the multitude of people gathered in the street, who struggled and fought with an energy worthy of a better cause in hopes of gaining a share in the spoils. As I emerged from the conflict into the comparative peace and coolness of the Boulevard, I was stopped by a procession—two battalions of National Guards returning much shorn of numbers, from the Bois de Boulogne, bringing with them in a furniture waggon a portion of their dead, among whom was their colonel, whose feet projected from under the flapping awning of the cart.
An order of the day of Marshal Mac-Mahon has been published in which he announces the demolition of the Vendome Column. He says:—
"The foreigner respected it; the Commune of Paris has overthrown it. Men calling themselves Frenchmen have dared to destroy, under the eyes of the Germans, who saw the deed, this witness of the victories of our fathers against Europe in coalition. The Commune hopes thus to efface the memory of the military virtues of which the Column was the glorious symbol. Soldiers! if the recollections which the Column commemorated are no longer graven upon brass, they will remain in our hearts. Inspired by them, we know how to give France another proof of bravery, devotion, and patriotism."
Never have I witnessed a scene of greater excitement than the entry of Rochefort into Versailles as a prisoner to-day. He was brought in by the St. Germain road, and was seated in a family omnibus drawn by two horses. First came a squadron of gendarmes, then the omnibus, surrounded by Chasseurs D'Afrique, and lastly a squadron of the same corps. In the vehicle with Rochefort were his secretary, Mouriot, and four police agents dressed in plain clothes. Outside the omnibus were an officer of the gendarmerie in uniform and two or three sergents-de-ville not in uniform. Rochefort's moustache had disappeared. He had himself shaved closely before setting out from Paris in order to disguise himself, but there was no mistaking him. It was half-past 1 o'clock in the afternoon when the cortege, arriving at the end of the Boulevard du Roi, entered the Rue des Reservoirs. Every one ran into the street, and shouts of execration were raised on all sides. It was no mere demonstration of a mob. The citizens of all classes joined in it. One man ventured to cry "Vive Rochefort!" He was kicked by several persons who happened to be near him, and was saved from further violence only by arrest at the hands of the sergents-de-ville. Along the rue des Reservoirs, the Rue de la Pompe, the Place Hoche, the Rue de Hoche, and the Avenue St. Cloud Rochefort was greeted with incessant shouts of "A bas l'assassin; a pied le brigand; a mort!" The people wanted to have him out of the omnibus, and it was with difficulty the cavalry prevented them from dragging him out and inflicting summary execution. The cavalcade was obliged to go at a slow pace, but finally he was safely lodged in gaol. I believe that but for the precautions taken by the Government he would have been killed before he had got near it. The demand to have an example made of him, and the dissatisfaction at seeing him brought to prison in a carriage, were loud and general.
There was a tremendous fire against the bastions this morning at 5 o'clock, and a strong fire has been maintained all day.
The fire of the Insurgents is much weaker than it was yesterday and the day before, except at Vaugirard, and from there to Montrouge, where mitrailleuses and musketry were brought into requisition.
Up to 5 o'clock this afternoon Auteuil still shelled.
From 3 o'clock I have observed a very large number of the Versailles troops under arms at a short distance from the Point du Jour, and a considerable body of the Insurgents watching them from near the Vaugirard Gate.
At 5 o'clock the white flag was displayed at the Porte d'Auteuil.
Orders have been given for the troops to march onward and occupy it.
M. Thiers has issued a circular, dated noon to-day, in which he says:—
"Several Prefects having demanded that news should be published, the following answer has been sent to them:—Those persons who are uneasy are greatly mistaken. Our troops are working at the approaches, and at the moment of writing the breaching batteries continue their fire upon the walls. Never have we been so near the end. The members of the Commune are busy making their escape."
The breaching batteries are still keeping up a very heavy fire against the enceinte.
M. Thiers has sent a despatch to the Prefects announcing that the gate of St. Cloud was forced down by the fire of the Versailles guns, and General Douai then rushed with his men into the interior. The troops under Generals Ladmirault and Glinchamps were at once set in motion to follow them.
The Versailles troops entered Paris at 4 o'clock this afternoon at two different points—namely, by the St. Cloud Gate at Point du Jour, and by the gate of Montrouge.
The ramparts were abandonned by the Insurgents.
* * * * *
THE CAPTURE OF PARIS.
MAY 21st.—AND 22d.
The great event of yesterday came upon every one by surprise. It had been expected, but not for yesterday.
Even the Marshal Commanding-in-Chief looked onward to at least six more days of sapping and mounting of batteries and actual breaching before his army would be able to make the final movement.
A certain number of the troops were inside the enceinte before any one but themselves knew of it, and Auteuil and the Point du Jour were shelled for nearly two hours after they had fallen into possession of the forces of Versailles.
One man, M. Clement, an officer of Engineers, played a prominent part in this historical affair. Soon after midday, proceeding cautiously in advance of a party of his men, who were lying in concealment between the nearest parallel and the Porte de St. Cloud, he crept up to the bastion and found it and the ramparts adjoining without a single sentinel. Keeping near the ground, he waved a white handkerchief; it was seen by the small party of Engineers who were lying outside the last parallel, and also by Lieutenant Treves, of the French Navy. At first the signal was not understood; but M. Clement continued to wave the handkerchief violently, and beckon to those who saw him to come on immediately. It was with difficulty 100 men could be collected in the trenches, but about that number advanced and occupied the deserted position. In the meantime the word was passed from post to post in their rear, and a batallion was soon on its way after them. By half-past 3 o'clock dispositions had been effected for occupying both Auteuil and the Point du Jour with a sufficient force, and proceeding to the other gates both right and left. The gates and drawbridge of Auteuil had been demolished several days previously, but the Insurgents had substituted an enormous barricade, which shut off the iron bridge uniting the Railway Station with the Viaduct.