1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orleans
ORLEANS, a city of north central France, chief town of the department of Loiret, on the right bank of the Loire, 77 m. S.S.W. of Paris by rail. Pop. (1906), town, 57,544; commune, 68,614. At Les Aubrais, a mile to the north, is one of the chief railway junctions in the country. Besides the Paris and Orleans railway, which there divides into two main lines — a western to Nantes and Bordeaux via Tours, and a southern to Bourges and Toulouse via Vierzon — branches leave Les Aubrais eastwards for Pithiviers, Chalons-sur-Marne and Gien, north-west for Chateaudun and Rouen. The whole town of Orleans is clustered together on the right bank of the river and surrounded by fine boulevards, beyond which it sends out suburbs along the various roads. It is connected with the suburb of St Marceau on the left bank by a handsome stone bridge of nine arches, erected in the i8th century. Farther up is the railway bridge. The river is canalized on the right, and serves as a continuation of the Orleans Canal, which unites the Loire with the Seine by the canal of the Loing.
Owing to its position on the northernmost point of the Loire Orleans has long been the centre of communication between the Loire basin and Paris. The chief interest of the place lies in its public buildings and the historical events of which it has been the scene. Proceeding from the railway station to the bridge over the Loire, the visitor crosses Orleans from north to south and passes through the Place du Martroi, the heart of the city. In the middle of the square stands an equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, in bronze, resting on a granite pedestal surrounded by bas-reliefs representing the leading episodes in her life. In 1855 it took the place of an older statue executed in the beginning of the century, which was then transferred to the left bank of the Loire at the end of the bridge, a few paces from' the spot where a simple cross marks the site of the Fort des Toiirelles captured by Joan of Arc in 1429. From the Place du Martroi, the Rue Jeanne d'Arc leads to the cathedral of Ste Croix. This church, begun in 1287, was burned by the Huguenots in 1567 before its completion. Henry IV., in 1601, laid the first stone of the new structure, the building of which continued until 1829. It consists of a vestibule, a nave with double aisles, a corresponding choir, a transept and an apse. Its length is 472 ft., its width at the transept 220 ft. and the height of the central vaults 112 ft. The west front has two flat-topped towers, each of three storeys, of which the first is square, the second octagonal and the third cylindrical. The whole front is Gothic, but was designed and constructed in the 18th century and exhibits all the defects of the period, though its proportions are impressive. A central spire (19th century) 328 ft. high, on the other hand, recalls the pure Gothic style of the 13th century. In the interior the choir chapels and the apse, dating from the original erection of the building, and the fine modern tomb of Mgr. F. A. P. Dupanloup, bishop from 1840 to 1878, are worthy of note. In the episcopal palace and the higher seminary are several remarkable pictures and pieces of woodcarving; and the latter building has a crypt of the 9th century, belonging to the church of St Avit demolished in 1428. The church of St Aignan consists of a transept and choir of the second half of the 15th century; it contains in a gilded and carved wooden shrine the remains of its patron saint, who occupied the see of Orleans at the time of Attila's invasion. The crypt dates from the 9th to the beginning of the 11th century. The once beautiful sculpture of the exterior has been altogether ruined; the interior has been restored, but not in keeping with the original style. A third church, St Euverte, dedicated to one of the oldest bishops of Orleans (d. 391), is an early Gothic building dating from the 13th, completely restored in the 15th century. St Pierre-le-Puellier dates in its oldest portions from the 10th or even the 9th century. To the west of the Rue Royale stand the church of St Paul, whose façade and isolated tower both bear fine features of Renaissance work, and Notre-Dame de Recouvrance, rebuilt between 1517 and 1519 in the Renaissance style and dedicated to the memory of the deliverance of the city. The hôtel de ville, built under Francis I. and Henry II. and restored in the 19th century, was formerly the residence of the governors of Orleans, and was occupied by the kings and queens of France from Francis II. to Henry IV. The front of the building, with its different coloured bricks, its balconies supported by caryatid es attributed to Jean Goujon, its gable-ends and its windows, recalls the Flemish style. There are several niches with statues. Beneath, between the double flight of steps leading up to the entrance, stands a bronze reproduction of the statue of Joan of Arc, a masterpiece of the princess Mary of Orleans, preserved in the Versailles museum. The richly decorated apartments of the first storey contain pain tings, interesting chimneys, and a bronze statuette (also by the princess Mary) representing Joan of Arc mounted on a caparisoned horse and clothed in the garb of the knights of the isth century. The great hall in which it is placed also possesses a chimney decorated with three bas-reliefs of Domreniy, Orleans and Reims, all associated with her life. The historical museum at Orleans is one of the most interesting of provincial collections, the numismatic, medieval and Renaissance departments, and the collection of ancient vases being of great value. The city also possesses a separate picture gallery, a sculpture gallery and a natural history museum, which are established in the former hôtel de ville, a Renaissance building of the latter half of the 1 5th century. The public library comprises among its manuscripts a number dating from the 7th century, and obtained in most cases from St Benoit on the Loire. The general hospital is incorporated with the Hôtel Dieu, and forms one of the finest institutions of the kind in France. The salle des fêtes, formerly the corn-market, stands within a vast cloister formed by 15th-century arcades, once belonging to the old cemetery. The salle des Thises (1411) of the university is the meeting-place of the Archaeological Society of the city. Among the old private houses numerous at Orleans, that of Agnes Sorel (15th and 16th century), which contains a large collection of objects and works of art relating to Joan of Arc, that of Francis I., of the first half of the 16th century, that occupied by Joan of Arc during the siege of 1429, and that known as the house of Diane de Poitiers (16th century), which contains the historical museum, are of special interest. The hôtel dela Vielle-Intendance, built in the 15th and 16th centuries, served as residence of the intcndants of Orleans in later times. The “White Tower” is the last representative of the towers rendered famous by the siege. A statue to the jurisconsult, R. J. Pothier (1699-1772), one of the most illustrious of the natives of Orleans, stands in front of the hôtel de ville. The anniversary of the raising of the siege in 1429 by Joan of Arc is celebrated every year with great pomp. After the English had retired, the popular enthusiasm improvised a procession, which marched with singing of hymns from the cathedral to St Paul, and the ceremony is still repealed on the 8th of May by the clergy and the civil and military functionaries. Orleans is the seat of a bishopric, a prefect, a court of appeal, and a court of assizes and headquarters of the V. army corps. There are tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitration, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France; and training colleges for both sexes, a lycee for boys, a technical school and an ecclesiastical seminary.
The more important industries of the town are t he manufacture of tobacco (by the state), blankets, hairpins, vinegar, machinery, agricultural implements, hosiery, tools and ironware, and the preparation of preserved vegetables. Wine, wool, grain and live stock are the commercial staples of the city, round which there are important nurseries.
The site of Orleans must have been occupied very early in history by a trading post for commerce between northern and central and southern Gaul. At the time of the Roman conquest the town was known as Gcnabinn, and was the starting-point of the great revolt against Julius Caesar in 52 B.C. In the 5th century it had taken the name Aurelianiim from either Marcus Aurelius or Aurelian. It was vainly besieged in 451 by Attila, who was awed by the intercession of its bishop, St Aignan, and finally driven off by the patrician Aetius. Odoacer and his Saxons also failed to take it in 471, but in 498 it fell into the hands of Clovis, who in 511 held here the first ecclesiastical council assembled in France. The dignity which it then obtained, of being the capital of a separate kingdom, was lost by its union with that of Paris in 613. In the 10th century the town was given in fief to the counts of Paris, who in 987 ousted the Carolingian line from the throne of France. In 099 a great fire devastated the town. Orleans remained during all the medieval period one of the first cities of the French monarchy; several of the kings dwelt within its walls, or were consecrated in its cathedral; it had a royal mint, was the seat of councils, and obtained for its schools the name of university (1309), and for its soldiery an equal standing with those of Paris. Philip, fifth son of Philip VI., was the first of the dukes of Orleans. After the assassination of his successor Louisbyjean Sans-Peur, dukeof Burgundy (1407), the people of Orleans sided resolutely with the Armagnacs, and in this way brought upon themselves the attacks of the Burgundians and the English. Joan of Arc, having entered the beleaguered city on the 20th of April 1429, effected the raising of the siege by means of an attack on the 7th of May on the Fort des Tourelles, in the course of which she was wounded. Early in the i6th century the town became a centre of Protestantism. After the Amboise conspiracy (1560) the states general were convoked at Orleans, where Francis II. died. In 1562 it became the headquarters of Louis I. of Bourbon, prince of Conde, the Protestant commander-in-chief. In 1363 Francis, duke of Guise, laid siege to it, and had captured the tcte-dii-pont on the left bank of the Loire when he was assassinated. Orleans was surrendered to the king, who had its fortifications razed. It was held by the Huguenots from 1567 to 1568. The St Bartholomew massacre there in 1572 lasted a whole week. It was given as a lieu de suret-' to the League under Henry III., but surrendered to Henry IV. in person in 1504. During the Revolution the city suffered from the sanguinary excesses of Bertrand Barere and Collot d'Herbois. It was occupied by the Prussians in 1815 and in 1870, the latter campaign being discussed below.
See E. Bimbenet, Histoire de la ville d' Orleans (Orleans, 1884–1888).
The Orleans Campaign of 1870
Orleans was the central point of the second portion of the Franco-German War (q.v.), the city and the line of the Loire being at first the rendezvous of the new armies improvised by the government of National Defence and afterwards the starting point of the most important attempt made to relieve Paris. The campaign has thus two well-marked phases, the first ending with the first capture of Orleans on the 10th of October, and the second with the second and final capture on the night of the 4th of December.
Shortly after the fall of the empire the government of National Defence, having decided that it must remain in Paris in spite of the impending siege, dispatched a delegation to Tours to direct the government and the war in the provinces. This was originally composed (10-15 September) of two aged lawyers, Cremieux and Glais-Bizoin, and a naval officer, Vice-Admiral Fourichon, who had charge of both the war and the marine ministries. A retired general, de la Motte-Rouge, was placed in command of the " territorial division of Tours." He found, scattered over the south and west of France, a number of regular units, mostly provisional regiments, squadrons and batteries, assembled from the depots, and all exceedingly ill supplied and equipped; but of such forces as he could muster he constituted the 15th corps. There were also ever-growing forces of mobiles, but these were wholly untrained and undisciplined, scarcely organized in battalions and for the most part armed with old-pattern weapons.
In these circumstances — the relative unimportance of the provincial war, the senility of the directors, the want of numbers, equipment and training in the troops available outside the walls of Paris — the role of the delegation was at first restricted to the establishment of a cordon of weak posts just out of reach of the German cavalry, with the object of protecting the formation of new corps and divisions in the interior. At the time of the investment of Paris part of the provincial forces were actually called in to reinforce the garrison. Only Reyau's weak cavalry division was sent out from Paris into the open country.
On their side the Germans had not enough forces left, after investing the capital with the III. and IV. Armies and Metz with the I. and II., to undertake a long forward stride to the Loire or the Cher. The only covering force provided on the south side of their Paris lines was the I. Bavarian corps, which had also to act as the reserve of the III. Army, and the cavalry divisions (6th, 4th, 2nd), whose chief work was the collection of supplies for the besiegers.
Shortly after this, near the end of September, francs-tireurs and small parties of National Guards became very active in Beauce, Perche and Gatinais, and the Germ.an 4th cavalry division between Etampes and Toury was reinforced by some Bavarian battalions in consequence. But no important assemblies of French troops were noted, and indeed Orleans was twice evacuated on the mere rumour of the German advance. Moltke and every otiier German soldier gave no credence to rumours of the formation of a 15th corps behind the Loire — Trochu himself disbelieved in its existence and the cavalry divisions, with their infantry supports, went about their ordinary business of gathering supplies.
In reality, however, the Delegation, unready as were its troops, was on the point of taking the offensive. In deference to popular clamour, a show of force in Beauce was decided upon. This was carried out by a force of all arms under Reyau on the 5th of October. It succeeded only too well. Prince Albert of Prussia, commander of the 4th cavalry division, which engaged Reyau at Toury, was so much impressed that he gave back 20 m. and sent alarming reports to army headquarters, which thereupon lost its incredulity and announced in army orders that the French " Army of the Loire " was advancing from Orleans. Von der Tann, the commander of the I. Bavarian corps, was ordered to take up a defensive position at Montlhery and to send out a detachment to cover Prince Albert's retreat. The 22nd infantry division was added to his command, and the 2nd and 6th cavalry divisions warned to protect his flanks. Thus the Germans were led to pay attention to the existence of the 15th corps when that corps was not only itself incomplete but also unsupported by the 16th, 17th and other still merely potential formations.
The preparations of the Germans were superfluous, for the demonstration ended in nothing. Reyau drew away leisurely towards Fontainebleau forest, and only a part of the 15th corps was sent up from Bourges to Orleans. Further, the fears of a sortie from Paris, which had occupied the German headquarters for some time, having for a moment ceased, Moltke on the 7th ordered von der Tann, with the I. Bavarian corps, 22nd division, and the three cavalry divisions, to advance. Next day these orders expanded. Orleans and, if possible. Tours itself were to be captured.
The punishment for the military promenade in Beauce was
at hand. The main body of the 15th corps, which had not been
required to take part in it, was kept back at Bourges
- . and Vierzon, and only the miscellaneous troops
capture or, , ■ rl ■, 1, ,11
Orleans. actually m Beauce were available to meet the blow
they had provoked. On the 10th von der Tann attacked Reyau, who had returned from Fontainebleau towards Orleans, at Artenay. Had it not been that von der Tann believed that the 15th corps was in front of him, and therefore attacked deliberately and carefully, Reyau's resistance would have been even more brief than it was. The French were enormously outnumbered, and, after a brave resistance, were driven towards
Orleans in great disorder. Being still without any real offensive intentions, the Delegation and La Motte-Rouge decided, the same night, to evacuate Orleans. On the nth, therefore, von der Tann's advance had to deal with no more than a strong rearguard on the outskirts of Orleans. But he was no longer on the plain of Beauce; villas, hedges and vineyards, as well as the outskirts of the great forest of Orleans, gave excellent cover to the French infantry, all of which showed steadiness and some battalions true heroism, and the attack developed so slowly that the final positions of the defenders were not forced till close upon nightfall. The Germans lost at least 1000 men, and the harvest of prisoners proved to be no more than 1500. So far from pressing on to Tours, the Germans were well content with the occupation of Orleans.
The defeated enemy disappeared into Sologne, whither the assailants could not follow. Rumours of all sorts began to assail the German commander, who could not collect reliable news by means of the agencies under his own control because of the fluctuating but dense cordon of mobiles and francs-tireurs all around him. Moltke and Blumenthal wished him to strike out southward towards the arsenals of Bourges, the depots of vehicles at Chateauroux and the improvised government offices at Tours. But he represented that he could not maintain himself nine or ten marches away from his nearest supports, and he was therefore allowed to stay at Orleans. The 22nd division and the 4th cavalry division, however, were withdrawn from him, and under these conditions von der Tann became uneasy as to his prospects of retaining even Orleans. His uneasiness was emphasized by reports of the appearance of heavy masses of French troops on the Loire above and below Orleansreports that were true as regards the side of Blois, and more or less false as regards the Gien country. This news was obtained by the III. Army headquarters on the 19th of October, and next day von der Tann was ordered " not to abandon Orleans unless threatened by a greatly superior force." Such a threat soon became pronounced.
A new directing influence was at work at Tours in the person of Leon Gambetta, who arrived there by balloon from Paris and took control of the Delegation on the nth. With de Freycinet (who was appointed deputy minister of war) as his most valued assistant, Gambetta at once became not merely the head of the government in the provinces, but the actual director of the war, in virtue of the fact that he was the very incarnation of the spirit of resistance to the invader. De la Motte-Rouge was replaced at the head of the 15th corps by General d'Aurelle de Paladines, under whom at the same time the embryo i6th corps was placed. The new commander with practically dictatorial powers occupied himself first of all with the organization and training of his motley troops. The Delegation indeed planned an advance from Gien on Fontainebleau, but this was given up on d'Aurelle's representations, and the 15th corps drew back to a strong position at Salbris in front of . Bourges. There by dint of personal ascendancy, relent-, ^ /w less drilling and a few severe courts-martial, d'Aurelle produced an enormous improvement in the quality of his troops. Gambetta reinforced the troops at Salbris to the figure of 60,000, for the camp there was not merely a rendezvous but a school, the atmosphere of which profoundly affected even troops that only spent three or four days within its bounds. Meantime the i6th corps was formed at Blois and Vendome, covered by a screen of francs-tireurs and National Guards. On October 23 a large force was sent over to the i6th corps from Salbris. This step was the first in a new plan of campaign.
A few days before it was taken, there had occurred an incident which led Moltke to a fresh misunderstanding of the situation towards the Loire. As mentioned above, the 22nd infan- chat try and 4th cavalry divisions had been withdrawn from ^^^ von der Tann's command and ordered back to Paris, and on their way thither they were told to clear the country round Chateaudun and Chartres. General von Vv'ittich, therefore, with the 22nd division and some cavalry, appeared before Chateaudun on the 18th of October. The little town was strongly held and repulsed the first attack. Wittich then prepared a second assault so carefully that sunset was at hand when it was made. It would seem indeed that at this period, when the Germans were hoping for a speedy return to their fatherland, the spirit of the offensive in all ranks had temporarily died away. The assailants carried the edge of the town, only to find themselves involved in a painful struggle in the streets. House-to-house fighting went on long after dark, but at last the inhabitants gave way, and the Germans punished the town for its unconventional resistance by subjecting it to what was practically a sack.' After this von Wittich passed on to Charters, which, making his preparations more carefully, he was able to occupy after a few shells had been fired. These events, and the presence of a French force at Dreux, as a matter of fact signified nothing, for the 15th and 1 6th corps were stil l on the Loire and at Salbris, but they
In 1879 the government added the cross of the Legion of Honourto the town arms of Chateaudun.
bewildered the German headquarters and conjured up a phantom " Army of the West, " just as the promenade in Beauce had fashioned " the Army of the Loire " out of the small force under Reyau. Once more, indeed, as so often in the war, the Germans tried to solve the French problem by German data, and in their devotion to the net idea of " full steam ahead, " could not conceive of military activity being spasmodic or unaimed. But this time the Versailles strategists were wrong only in their guess as to the direction of the blow. A blow was certainly impending.
By now the deliverance of Paris had become the defined objective of the " new formations " and of the provincial Delegation. Many plans were discussed, both at Paris and at Tours, for a combined effort, but each strategist had to convince the rest of the soundness of his own views, and the interchange of information and plans between Trochu and Gambetta was necessarily precarious. In the end, however, a few clear principles were accepted — Paris must be relieved, not merely re victualled, and the troops must be set in motion with that object at the earliest possible moment. For 200,000 French regulars were closely invested in Metz by Prince Frederick Charles with the I. and II. Armies, if they passed into captivity, the veterans of Vionville and St Privat could be brought over to the Loire, and already there were strange rumours of intrigues between Bazaine, Bismarck and the empress Eugenic. But de Freycinet and d'Aurelle had different views as to the method of recapturing Orleans, which was agreed upon as the first thing to be done, and a compromise had to be made, by which 25,000 men were to advance by Gien and Chateauneuf and the main mass (75,000) from Blois by Beaugency, the hazards of this double movement being minimized by the weakness of the forces under von der Tann (the highest estimate of these that reached Tours was 60,000 and their real number only 26,000). The preliminary movements were to be completed by the 29th of October, when one strong division of the 15th corps was to be set at Gien and the remainder of the 15th and i6th corps between Blois and Vendome.
This was duly carried out, and the Germans were confirmed in their suspicions of a concentration to the west of Paris by the despatch of dummy troop-trains to Le Mans. But bad weather, the news of the disastrous capitulation of Bazaine and the opening of a series of futile peace negotiations delayed the denouement, the Gien column
was hastily recalled, and the French armies stood fast all along the line in their original grouping, 75,000 men (15th and i6th corps) at Blois-Vendome, 10,000 men in Sologne and 25,000 at Gien. The Germans round Orleans were some 25,000 strong. Between Montlhery and Chartres were 21,000 more; but these were paralysed by the fictitious " Western Army " of the French, and von Wittich even thought of obtaining assistance from von der Tann. The activity of the irregulars, and the defiant attitude of the civil population ever>'where, presaged a blow to be delivered by the once despised " new formations, " but the direction of this blow was misconceived by the German headquarters, by the staff of the III. Army and by von der Tann alike, till the eve of its delivery. The halt of the French army allowed this uneasiness to grow, and, in default of a target, Moltke was unable to assign a definite task to the II. Army, now on its way from Metz. One of its corps, therefore, was sent to the lines before Paris to release the 17th and 22nd infantry divisions from siege duties, and these, with the I. Bavarian corps and the 2nd, 4th and 6th cavalry divisions, were constituted into a special detachment of the III. Army, under Friedrich Franz, grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwcrin. The duke was ordered to cover the siege of Paris and to break up the " new formations, " but he was directed, not towards Orleans or even Tours, but towards Le Mans, concentrating with that object between Ch^teaudun and Chartres.
D'Aurelle, if cautious and slow, at least employed spare time well. The i6th corps was disciplined to the standard attained by the 15th and Chanzy was placed at the head of it, General Fiereck, commanding at Le Mans, was ordered to attract the enemy's notice to the west by demonstrations, the defence of localities by irregulars was thoroughly organized, and in the first days of November, on de Freycinet's demand, the general advance was resumed. There was a difference of opinion between d'Aurelle and Chanzy as to the objective, the latter wishing to make the main effort by the left, so as to cut off the Bavarians from Paris, the former, to make it by the right with a view to recapturing Orleans, and, as on the German side at Gravelotte, a compromise was made whereby the army was deployed in equal force all along the line.
The debut was singularly encouraging. Part of the German 2nd cavalry division, with its infantry supports, was severely handled by the French advanced guard near the hamlet of St Laurent des Bois (November 8). The half-heartedness of the Germans, evidenced by the number of prisoners taken unwounded, greatly encouraged the " new formations, " who cheerfully submitted to a cold bivouac in anticipation of victory. Next morning the advance was resumed, d'Aurelle with the 15th corps on the right wing, Chanzy with the l6th on the left and Reyau's cavalry to the front. The march was made straight across country, in battle order, each brigade in line of battalion columns covered by a dense skirmish line. The French generals were determined that no accident should occur to shake the moral of the young troops they commanded.
At Orleans, meanwhile, von der Tann, in ever-growing suspense, had, rightly or wrongly, decided to stand his ground. He had been instructed by the headquarters staff not to fall back except under heavy pressure. He had his own reputation, dimmed by the failure of 1866, to retrieve, and national honour and loyalty seemed to him to require, in the words of his own staff officer, that " ere actual conflict had taken place with the ' greatly superior ' enemy, no hostile force should enter the city placed under the protection of the Bavarians." But he could not allow himself to be enveloped in Orleans itself, and therefore, calling upon the far-distant IH. Army reserves for support, he took up his position with 23,500 men around Coulmiers, leaving 2500 men to hold Orleans. The line of defence was from St Peravy on the Chateaudun road through Coulmiers to La Renardiere, and thence along the Mauve stream, and here he was attacked in force on the 9th of November. The French approached from the south-west, and when their right had taken contact, the remainder gradually swung round and attacked Ijhe Bavarian centre and right. The result was foregone, given the disparity of force, but the erratic movements of Reyau's Battle of cavalry on the extreme left of d'Aurelle's line exposed Coulmiers (^fj^^izy to a partial repulse and saved the Bavarian right. When at last the French stormed Coulmiers, and von der Tann had begun to retire, it was already nightfall, and the exhausted remnant of the L Bavarian corps was able to draw off unpursued. The Orleans garrison followed suit, and the French army, gathering in its two outlying columns from Sologne and Gien, reoccupied the city. So ended the first blow of the Republic's armies. Coulmiers would indeed have been a crushing victory had Reyau's cavalry performed its part in the scheme and above all had d'Aurelle, adopting unreservedly either his own plan or Chanzy's, massed his troops here, economized them there, in accordance with the plan, instead of arraying them in equal strength at all points. But d'Aurelle wished abov'e all to avoid what is now called a " regrettable incident " — hence his advance across country en bataille — and to thin out his line at any point might have been disastrous. And incomplete as it was, the victory had a moral significance which can scarcely be overrated. The " new formations " had won the first battle, and it was confidently hoped by all patriots that the spell of defeat was broken.
But d'Aurelle and the government viewed their success from the standpoint of their own side, and while von der Tann, glad to escape from the trap, fell back quickly to Angerville, d'Aurelle's only fear was an offensive return. Not even when von der Tann's defensive intentions were established did d'Aurelle resume the advance. The columns from Gien and the Sologne peacefully reoccupied Orleans, while the victors of Coulmiers went into cold and muddy bivouacs north of the city, for d'Aurelle feared that their dispersion in comfortable quarters would weaken the newly forged links of discipline. The French general knew that he had only put his hand to the plough, and he thought that before ploughing in earnest he must examine and overhaul his implement. In this opinion he was supported not only by soldiers who, like Chanzy, distrusted the staying power of the men, but even by the government, which knew that the limit of the capital's resistance was still distant, and felt the present vital necessity of protecting Bourges, Chateauroux and Tours from Prince Frederick Charles, who with the H. Army was now approaching from the east. The plan of General Borel, the chief of staff, for a lateral displacement of the whole army towards Chartres and Dreux, which would have left the prince without an animate target and concentrated the largest possible force on the weakest point of Moltke's position, but would have exposed the arsenals of the south, was rejected, and d'Aurelle organized a large fortified camp of instruction to the north of the captured city, to which came, beside the isth and l6th corps, the new 17th and i8th.
To return to the Germans. An army at the halt, screened by
active irregulars, is invisible, and the German commanders were
again at a loss. It has been mentioned that a day or two
ola^s before the battle of Coulmiers Moltke had created an
^yj^^ Army Detachment under the grand duke of Mecklenburg
for operations south of Paris. His objects in so doing
"• must now be briefly summarized. On November the i s't
he had written to the II. Army to the effect that " the south of
France would hardly make great efforts for Paris, " and that the
three disposable corps of the army were to range over the country
as far as Chalon-sur-Sa6ne, Nevers and Bourges. By the 7th his
views had so far changed that he sanctioned the formation of the
" Detachment " with a view to breaking up the Army of the Loire
by a march into theyjest towards Le Mans, the right wing of the II.
Army at the same time hurrying on to Fontainebleau to cover the
south side of the Paris investment. The king, however, less convinced than Moltkeof the position of the Army of the Loire, suspended the westward deployment of the Detachment, with the result that on the 10th the retreating Bavarians were reinforced by two fresh divisions. But the same day all touch with the French was lost perhaps deliberately, in accordance with the maxim that defeated troops should avoid contact with the victor. The curtain descended, and next day a few vague movements of small bodies misled the grand duke into seeking his target towards Chartres and Dreux, directly away from d'Aurelle's real position. Once more the king intervened and brought him back to the Orleans-Paris road (Nov. 13-14), but Moltke hurried forward the IX. corps (II. Army) from Fontainebleau to Etampes so as to release the grand duke from covering duties while satisfying the king's wishes for direct protection towards Orleans.
Moltke's views of the problem had not fundamentally changed since the day when he ordered the II. Army to spread out over southern France. He now told the grand duke to beat the Army of the Loire or Army of the West near Dreux or Chartres, and, that done, to sweep through a broad belt of country on the line Alengon-Verneuil towards Rouen, the outer wing of the II. Army meanwhile, after recapturing Orleans and destroying Bourges, to descend the Loire and Cher valleys towards Tours (14 Nov). On the 15th a fresh batch of information and surmises caused the leader of the Detachment, who had not yet received orders to do so, to leave the Paris-Orleans road to take care of itself and to swing out northwestward at once. The Detachment reached Chartres, Rambouillet and Auneau that night, and headquarters, having meanwhile been mystified by the news of a quite meaningless fight between German cavalry and some mobiles at Dreux, did not venture to reimpose the veto. The adventures of the Detachment need not be traced in detail. It moved first north towards the line Mantes-Dreux, and delivered a blow in the air. Then, hoping to find a target towards Nogent le Rotrou, it swung round so as to face '*'<"'*" south-west. Everywhere it met with the sharpest resist- ""^"'^ <> ance from small parties, nowhere it found a large body J /**" of all arms to attack. Matters were made worse by staff "™"'e'» blunders in the duke's headquarters, and on the 19th, after a day of indescribable confusion, he had to halt to sort out his divisions. Moltke gave him the rest day he asked for the more readily as he was beginning to suspect that the king was right, that there were considerable forces still at Orleans, and that the Detachment might be wanted there after all.
This alteration in his views had been brought about by the reports from the 11. Army during its advance from Champagne to the Gatinais. At the time of the first order indicating Chalon, Nevers and Bourges as its objectives this army had just f^^ opened out into line from its circular position round of the U. Metz, and it therefore naturally faced south. Moving '^tny. forward, it reached the line Troyes-Neufchateau about the time Coulmiers was fought, and was ordered to send in its right (IX. corps) to Fontainebleau. The II. corps had already been taken to strengthen the besiegers, thereby releasing the two Prussian divisions (17th and 22nd) that joined von der Tann on the lOth. The II. Army next changed front, in accordance with Moltke's directions, so as to face S.E. towards Orleans and Gien, and on the i6th the IX. corps and 1st cavalry division were at Mereville and on the Orleans-Paris road, the III. at Sens and the X. at Tonnerre. The III. and X. from this time onward marched, camped and slept in the midst of a population so hostile that von Voigts-Rhetz kept his baggage in the midst of the fighting troops, and Prince Frederick Charles himself, with an escort, visited the villages lying off the main roads to gauge for himself the temper of the inhabitants.
From prisoners it was gleaned that the French i8th corps, supposed by the Germans to be forming in the Dijon-Lyons region, had arrived on the Loire, and a deserter said that there were 40,000 men encamped at Chevilly, just north of Orleans. Moltke's faith in his own reading of the situation was at last shaken; whether the Army of the Loire had joined the Army of the West or was still on the Loire, he did not yet know, but it was almost certain that from wherever they came, considerable French forces were around Orleans. He warned the prince to check the southward swing of the X. corps " because it cannot yet be foreseen whether the whole army will not have to be employed towards Chateaudun and Orleans, " and turned to the Detachment for further information, cautioning the grand duke at the same time to keep touch with the II. Army. But, ignoring the hint, the grand duke, thinking that he had at last brought the elusive " Army of the West " to bay in the broken ground round Nogent-le-Rotrou, opened out, in accordance with German strategic principles, for a double envelopment of the enemy. He struck another blow in the air. The " Army of the West " had never really existed as an army, and its best-organized units had been sent back to join the new 2 1st corps at Le Mans ere the Detachment came into action at all, while the older mobiles continued the " small war " in front of the Germans, and sniped their sentries and . trapped their patrols as before. .Almost simultaneously with the news of this disappointment, the prince, who had meanwhile used his cavalry vigorously, sent word to Versailles on the 20th that the French 15th, i6th, 17th and iSth corps (in all over 150,000 men) were round Orleans, At this moment the III. corps was close to the Forest of Orleans, the IX. corps away to the right rear at Angerville, and the X. equally distant to the south-east, as well as separated in three self-contained columns a day's march apart. It seemed as if another Vionville was at hand, but this time Alvenslcbcn and Voigts-Rhetz did not attack an obscure objective coule que coilte. They stood fast, by the prince's order, to close up for battle and to wait on events in front of the Detachment.
The Germans had now discovered their target, and their strategical system, uncomplicated by past nightmares, should have worked smoothly to a decisive result. But there was nearly as much confusion between the various high officers as before. Prince Frederick Charles, in possession of the facts and almost in contact with the enemy, wrote to the grand duke to say that the II. Army was about to attack the enemy, and to suggest that the Detachment, which he knew to be heading for Le Mans, should make a " diversion " in his favour towards Tours, reserving to himself and his own army, as on the 2nd of July 1866 before Koniggriitz, the perils and the honours of the battle. The grand duke meanwhile, whose temper was now roused, was making a last attempt to bring the phantom " Army of the West " to action. Rejecting Blumenthal's somewhat timidly worded advice to go slowly, the grand duke spread out his forces for the last time for an enveloping advance on Le Mans.
He had not gone far when, on the 23rd, he received a peremptory
order from the king, through the III. Army headquarters, to bring
back his forces to Beauce and to be on the middle Loire
TheDe- ^j latest by the 26th. In vain he pleaded for a day to
"rf ""d" close up; the king replied that the march must go on,
to ards ^'^'^ much depended on it. Moltke, in fact, had seized
Orleans ^^^ reins more firmly at the critical moment, and given
directions to the army commanders that the II. Army and
the Detachment were to make a combined and concerted attack
as soon as possible after the 26th. By that date the last brigades
of the II. Army would have come up, and the Detachment was to
time its own march accordingly. Yet even at this step Blumenthal,
the original author of the Western expedition, in transmitting the
king's order to the grand duke, assigned not Orleans but Beaugency,
some miles down the river, as the objective of the Detachment.
D'Aurelle meanwhile had resolutely maintained his policy of inaction, confirmed in that course by the miserable and ill-equipped condition of the troops that came from the east and the """^ west to double the numbers of the relatively well-discip ""'*■ lined army of Coulmiers. In the grand duke's move to
the west, d'Aurelle saw only a trap to lure him into the plains and to offer him up as a victim to the approaching II. Army, the force of which he at first greatly exaggerated. All this time Gambetta and de Freycinet were receiving messages from Paris that spoke of desperate sorties being planned, and assigned December 15th as the last day of resistance. On the 19th of November de Freycinet wrote to d'Aurelle urging him to form a plan of active operations without delay, and even suggesting one (which was, in fact, vicious), but in reply the general merely promised to study the civilian's scheme. A severe letter from Gambetta, which followed this, had no better effect. D'Aurelle had, in fact, become a pessimist, and the Delegation, instead of removing him, merely suggested fresh plans.
On the 24th, however, the French at last took the offensive, in the direction of Fontainebleau Forest, to co-operate with the great sortie from Paris which was now (definitely arranged. But owing to d'Aurelle's objections, the first orders were modified so far that on attaining the points ordered, Chilleurs (15th corps) Boiscommun-Bellegarde (20th), the troops were to await the order to advance. Shortly afterwards the 1 8th corps from Gien was ordered to advance on the line Montargis-Ladon. The rest of d'Aurelle's huge army was scarcely affected by these movements. Meanwhile Prince Frederick Charles, to clear up the situation, had pushed out strong reconnaissances of all arms from the front of the II. Army, and these naturally developed strong forces of the defenders. The advanced troops of the X. corps had severe engagements with fractions of the 20th corps at Ladon and Maizieres, and those of the III. corps were sharply repulsed at Neuville and drew the fire of several battalions and batteries at Artenay. The French offensive slowly developed on the 25th and 26th, for the Germans were not ready to advance, and in addition greatly puzzled. The erratic movements of the grand duke towards Le Mans before he was recalled to the Loire had seriously disquieted both the Delegation and d'Aurelle, and the 17th corps, under a young and energetic leader, de Sonis, was moved restlessly hither and thither in the country south and west of Chateaudun. A fight at Brou (10 m. W. of Bonneval) provoked the grand duke into another false move. This time the Detachment, then near Drou6 (12 m. W. of Chateaudun) and Authon (22 m. W. of Bonneval), swung round north-east in defiance of the order to go to Beaugency, and had to be brought back by the drastic method of placing it under the orders of Prince Frederick Charles. General von Stosch of the headquarters staff was at the same time sent to act as Moltke's representative with the duke's headquarters, and Lieut. -Colonel von Waldersee to Prince Frederick Charles's to report thence direct to 'the king, who was dissatisfied with the diluted information with which the various staff offices furnished him. Still, the upshot was that Prince Frederick Charles was entrusted with affairs on the Loire, and all
superior control was voluntarily surrendered. The prince had very clear ideas, at the outset, of the task before him. If the French advanced towards Fontainebleau or elsewhere, he expected to be able to repeal Napoleon's strategy of 1814, fighting containing actions with the IX. and X. corps and delivering blow after blow at different points on d'Aurelle's line of march with the 111. If the French, as seemed more likely, stood fast, he thought his task more formidable, and therefore, abandoning the idea of a strategic envelopment, he ordered the Detachment inwards with the intention of directly attacking the Orleans position from the north-west.
As regards the method of the offensive, there is herein no material advance on the prince's first scheme; the detachment is simply added to the forces making the attack, and the diversion on Tours is abandoned. But the prince was at any rate a leader who enjoyed the responsibilities of director of operations — he even said that he would find the shuttle-play of the III. corps alluded to above " an interesting novelty in his experience of Army command " — while at the same time the unfortunate d'Aurelle was asking the Delegation to give orders direct to his generals.
It was now November 27lh. The Versailles headquarters were in a state of intense nervous exaltation waiting for the sortie of 70,000 men that was daily expected to be launched at the investing line, and the king's parting words to von Waldersee indicate sufficiently the gravity of the decision that was now entrusted to the most resolute troop-leader in the service: " We are on the eve of a decisive moment. I know well that my troops are better than the French, but that does not deceive me into supposing that we have not a crisis before us. . . . If Prince Frederick Charles is beaten, we must give up the investment of Paris. . . . "The II. Army was waiting events on a dangerously extended front from Toury on the Paris-Orleans road (which the prince still thought it his duty to cover) to Beaune-la-Rolande. The Detachment, which never yet had concentrated save to deliver blows in the air, was approaching Chateaudun and Bonneval when von Stosch arrived and gave it the encouragement, the reforms in the staff work and the rest-day it needed. The French, who themselves had suffered from over-extension, had by now condensed on the extreme right. In these general conditions the battle of Beaune-la-Rolande took place — an engagement almost as honourable to Voigts-Rhetz and the X. corps as Vionville to Alvensleben and the 111. The French attack began early on the morning of the 28th, under command of General Crouzat. It was directed on Beaune-la-Rolande from three sides, and only the want of combination between the various units of the French and the arrival in the afternoon of part of the III. corps saved the X. from annihilation. As it was, the Germans engaged were utterly exhausted, and the X. corps had but three rounds of ammunition per man left. But the magnificent resistance of the men of Vionville prolonged the fight until night had fallen and Crouzat, thinking the battle lost, ordered his troops to evacuate the battlefield. As at Coulmiers, and with even more deplorable results, the French commander saw only the confusion in his own lines, and feared to hazard the issue of the campaign on the mere supposition that the enemy was even more exhausted. There was another resemblance, too, between Coulmiers and Beaune-la-Rolande, in that the French forces on the outer flank towards Artenay stood idle without attempting to influence the decision.
Prince Frederick Charles himself took only a cursory survey of the battlefield, and failed to realize that the whole of the enemy's right wing had been engaged, in spite of what Waldersee, who had been in Beaune, told him of events there. So far, therefore, from considering the battle as a great victory to be followed up by an energetic pursuit, he still feared a move round his left flank from Gien and Montargis towards Fontainebleau. The II. Army orders issued on the night of the battle actually had in view a farther extension eastward. Beaune-la-Rolande was a French defeat without being a German victory, and for the fact that it was a defeat, not a mere check, there was no cause but Crouzat's impressions of the state of the 20th corps, which, composed as it was of the newest levies in his array, was the most susceptible of unreasoning bravery and unreasoning depression.
In view of this, d'Aurelle and de Freycinet decided that the offensive was to be continued not towards Beaune-Nemours, but from the front of the steadier 15th and i6th corps towards Pithiviers, and with that object, on the 29th — a day of inaction for the Germans — the 1 8th and 20th corps began to close on the centre. There was sharp fighting on the 30th at various points along the north-eastern and eastern fringes of the Forest of Orleans, in which for the most part the French were successful. On the 29th the II. Army was inactive in spite of almost frantic appeals from Versailles to go forward (the great sortie from Paris had begun), and the Detachment, in accordance with the prince's orders and not with the views held by von Stosch, headed eastward to prolong the right of the II. Army, halting on the 29th in the area Orgeres-Toury. The prince's message to the grand duke contained the significant phrase, " my plans to drive the enemy out of Orleans " — he no longer thought of a strategical envelopment of the Army of the Loire in Orleans.: Disillusioned during the 30th as to the supposed danger on the side of Montargis, he closed from both wings towards the centre, but still defensively and well clear of the edge of the dangerous forest.
Rolande, On this day d'Aurelle and the French generals assembled to receive de Freycinet's orders for the next advance. The i8th and 20th corps were to attack Beaune-la-Rolande, the 15th and i6th Pithiviers, while the 17th, aided by the 21st from Le Mans, was to look after the security of Orleans against a possible southward advance of the Detachment. A wise modification was arranged between d'Aurelle and Chanzy, whereby the first day's operations should be directed to driving away the Detachment with the lyth and i6th corps, preparatory to the move on Pithiviers. On the 1st of December, then, no events of importance took place on the front of the II. Army, the centre of gravity having shifted to Orgeres-Toury and the direction of events to the grand
duke and Stosch. Fortunately for the Germans the
cavalry general von Schmidt, who had been called upon to return to the II. Army with his division, managed to impress Stosch, in a farewell interview, with the imminence of the danger, and a still more urgent argument was the action of Villepion-Terrainiers, in which Chanzy with one infantry and one cavalry division attacked part of the I. Bavarian corps and drove it to Orgeres with a loss of 1000 men. Von Stosch, therefore, so far from literally obeying the waiting policy indicated in the orders from Prince Frederick Charles, cautiously led the grand duke to prepare for a battle, and the grand duke, seeing the chance of which he had been cheated so often, and secure in his royal rank and in the support of Moltke, Stosch and Blumenthal, took control again. Lastly, von Stosch called back the 22nd division, which had been taken from the Detachment to form the reserve of the II. Army.
The result of the decision thus made at the Detachment headquarters was of the highest importance. The French main body Battle of n'°'^"g north-westward in the general direction of Tour-Loiiiny encountered first the I. Bavarian corps, then the 17th Pouory division, and finally the 22nd division, and the leadership
of the German generals, who took every advantage of the disconnected and spasmodic movements of the enemy, secured X a complete success (battle of Loigny-Poupry, 2nd Dec). Meanwhile, and long before victor>' had declared itself. Prince Frederick Charles, still keeping the III. and X. corps on the side of Boiscommun and Bellegarde, had sent the IX. corps westward to support the Detachment, and halted von Schmidt's returning cavalry division on the Paris road. But from this point there began an interchange of telegrams which almost nullified the strategical effect of the battle. The grand duke and von Stosch, desirous above all of enveloping — that is, driving into Orleans — the target that after so many disappointments they had found and struck, wished to expand westwards so as to prevent the escape of the French towards Chateaudun, and with that object asked the II. Army " to attack Artenay and to take over the protection of the great road." Both von Stosch and von Waldersee had reported to the II. Army the importance of the French troops west of the main road, and Prince Frederick Charles, as above mentioned, had already moved the IX. corps and 6th cavalry division towards the Detachment. But when after the battle the grand duke's request to the II. Army arrived at the prince's headquarters, the reply was a curt general order for a direct concentric attack on Orleans by all forces under his command.
This was Moltke's doing. Before Waldersee's telegrams from the front arrived at Versailles, he had sent to the prince a peremptory order " to attack Orleans and thus to bring about the decision." This order was based on Moltke's view that the main body of the French had, after Beaune-la-Rolande, gathered on the west side of the great road, and although the king, in spite of the repulse of the great sortie from Paris, was still uneasy as to the possibility of a French offensive on Fontainebleau, he allowed the chief of his staff to have his way. The order, consequently, went forth. Long before it could be translated into action, the battle of Loigny-Poupry had completely changed the situation. Yet it was obeyed, and no attempt was made by the prince either to obtain its cancellation or to override it by the e.xercise of the beloved " initiative." At the prince's headquarters it was construed as a reflection upon the lethargy of that army after Beaune-la-Rolande, and — although it was the incompleteness of his own reports of that action that had misled Moltke as to the magnitude of the effort that had been expended to win it — the prince, bitterly resentful, fell into that dangerous condition of mind which induces a punctilious execution of orders to the letter, at whatever cost and without regard to circumstances. Hence the order to the Detachment, which allowed the French field army to escape, and substituted for a decisive victory the barren " second capture of Orleans."
The plan for this second capture was simple: III. corps to fight its way from Pithiviers to Chilleurs-aux-Bois and thence down the
Pithiviers-Orleans road through the forest, IX. corps to ni'corps ^'^^^"ce on Artenay and thence down the main road, laOrleans I^detachment to fight its way southward over the plains. Forest. ^' '^°'^P^ '" rear of the centre as reserve. Only a small
force was left on the side of Montargis, and the III. and X. corps, which were many miles away to the south and south-east, had to get into position at once (evening of the 2nd) by night marches if necessary. In short, a single grand line of battle, 40 m. long, supported only by one corps in rear of the centre, was to sweep over all obstacles, woods, fields, orchards and enemy, at a uniform rate of progress, and on the evening of the second day to converge on Orleans. The advance opened on the morning of the 3rd of December. The French left or main group included the 15th, i6th and 17th corps, the right of the 15th corps being in advance of the forest edge near Santeau. The right group, now under Bourbaki, consisted of the i8th and 20th corps, and faced north-east towards Beaune-la-Rolande and Montargis, the left flank being at Chambon. Fortunately for the III. corps, which numbered barely 13,000 rifles in all, the thinnest part of the opposing cordon was its centre, and the adventurous march of this corps carried it far into the forest to Loury. Only at Chilleurs was any serious resistance met with; elsewhere the French sheered otT to their left, leaving the Pithiviers-Orleans road clear. In the night of the 3rd-4th isolated fractions of the enemy came accidentally in contact with von Alvensleben's outposts, but a sudden night encounter in woods was too much for the half-trained French, and a panic ensued, in which five guns were abandoned. But, as Alvcnsleben himself said, when he marched into the forest from Chilleurs he " went with open eyes into a den" from which it was more than probable he would never emerge — Chilleurs was, in fact, reoccupied behind him by part of the 15th corps. By the fortune of war the III. corps actually did emerge safely, but only thanks to the inactivity of the French right group under Bourbaki, and to the almost entire absence of direct opposition, not to Prince Frederick Charles's dispositions.
On the main road, meantime, the IX. corps had captured a series of villages, and at nightfall of the short December day reached the N.W. corner of the Forest. The Detachment, slowly pushing before it part of the army it had defeated at Loigny, and protecting itself on the outer flank by a flank guard (I. Bavarians) against the rest, had closed in towards Chevilly. Prince Frederick Charles, angered by the slow, painful and indecisive day's work, ordered the advance to be continued and the French positions about Chevilly stormed in the dark, but fortunately was dissuaded by von Stosch, who rode over to his headquarters. But the prince never (except perhaps for a brief moment during the battle of Loigny-Poupry) believed that there was any serious obstacle in the way of the Detachment except its own fears, and repeatedly impressed upon Stosch the fact that Orleans was the watchword and the objective for every one.
In pursuance of the idee fixe, the prince issued orders for the 4th to the following effect: III. corps to advance on Orleans and to " bring artillery into action against the city, " at the same time carefully guarding his left flank; IX. and 6th cavalry division to go forward along the general line of the main road; Detachment to make an enveloping attack on Gidy in concert with the attack of the IX. corps. In the forest Alvensleben, knowing that he could not capture Orleans single-handed, guarded his left with a whole division and with the other advanced on the city, stormed the village of Vaumainbert, which was stubbornly defended by a small French force, and close upon nightfall perfunctorily threw a few shells into Orleans. The flank-guard division had meanwhile been gravely imperilled by the advance of Crouzat's 20th corps, but once again the III. corps was miraculously saved, for Bourbaki, receiving word from d'Aurelle that the left group could not hold its position in advance of the Loire, and that the line of retreat of the right group was by Gien, ordered the fight to be broken off.
In the centre the IX. corps, after fighting hard all day, progressed no farther than Cercottes. The prince and the grand duke had a short interview, but, being personal enemies, their intercourse was confined to the prince's issuing his orders /^'h" t without inquiring closely into the positions of the Detachment and its opponents. Thus while the main body of the French left group, under the determined Chanzy, slipped away to the left, to continue the struggle for three months longer, the Detachment was compelled to conform to the movements of the IX. corps. But it was handled resolutely, and in the afternoon its right swung in to Ormcs. The 2nd cavalry division, finding a target and open ground, charged the demoralized defenders with great effect, a panic began and spread, and by nightfall, when the prince, who was with the IX. corps, had actually given up hope of capturing Orleans that day and had issued orders to suspend the fight, his rival and subordinate was marching into Orleans with bands playing and colours flying. There was no pursuit, and the severed wings of the French army thenceforward carried on the campaign as two separate armies under Chanzy and Bourbaki respectively.
See F. Hoenig, Volkskrieg an der Loire, and L. A. Hale, The People's War, besides general and special histories and memoirs referred to in Franco-German War.
(C. F. A.)
- The same night Moltke received copies of the prince's orders and also news of the victory of Loigny-Poupry, but for some reason that is still unknown he let events take their course.
- With all his faults, Bourbaki was hardly responsible for this failure. Gambetta had for some days been giving orders to the i8th and 20th corps direct, but precisely at the moment he handed back the control of the group to d'Aurelle, this being arranged over the wires while the III. corps was advancing.