The Central Committee found in the War Office, and the Officiel of the Commune published on the 25th April, the following letter from the supreme commander of the artillery of the army to General Suzanne:
12th December 1870
My dear Suzanne,
I have not found among the young auxiliaries your protege Hetzel, but only a M. Hessel. Is it he who is meant?
Tell me frankly what you desire, and I will do it. I will attach him to my staff, where he will be bored, having nothing to do, or else I will send him to Mont Valerien, where he will run less risk than at Paris (this for the parents), and where he will have the air of firing cannons into the air, according to Noel’s method.
Unbutton – your mouth, of course.
The Noel mentioned at that time commanded Mount Valerien.
The role of the Central Committee during the day of the 18th March. (Extract from an account addressed to the author by a member of the Central Committee)
I would remind you that the members of the Committee had separated at about half-past three in the morning of the 17th to the 18th. Before raising the sitting it had been decided that the meeting of the following day should take place at eleven o’clock in the evening, at a school requisitioned for the purpose in the Rue Basfroi.
Despite the lateness of the hour, nothing had transpired as to the movements which the Government had decided upon, and the Committee having only just constituted itself for the examination of its powers and the distribution of the commissions, had received no information which might have led it to suppose the imminence of the peril. Its military commission had not yet begun to work; it had taken possession of the documents, notes, and minutes of the former one, and that was all.
You know how Paris woke up on the morning of the 18th. The members of the Committee heard of the events of the night through public rumours and the official posters. For my own part, aroused at about eight o’clock, I hurried on my clothes, and repaired to the Rue Basfroi, crossing the Place de la Bastille, occupied by the Guard of Paris. I had hardly entered the Rue de la Roquette when I saw that the people were beginning to organize the defence. A barricade was being commenced at the corner of the Rue Neuve de Lappe. A little higher up I was refused passage, in spite of the declaration which I made of my quality of member of the Central Committee. I was obliged to go up the Rue de Charonne, the faubourg, and come back in the direction of the Rue St. Bernard. No work was going on as yet in the Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine, but the excitement there was great. At last, towards half-past ten o’clock, I reached the Rue Basfroi, which was barricaded at both outlets, with the exception of an opening reserved for the cannon drawn up in the open grounds of this street, which were taken away one by one to the different barricades in course of erection.
I succeeded, not without difficulty, in getting into a school-room, where some of my colleagues were gathered. Citizens Assi, Prudhomme, Rousseau, Gouhier, Lavalette, Geresme, Bouit, and Fougeret were there. Just as I entered, a staff sub-lieutenant, arrested in the Rue St. Maur, was being led in. He was examined. Next a gendarme was brought, but the only papers found in his possession were notices transmitted to one of the mairies. X. looked after this business, and had organized a sort of prison in the courtyard. I also saw a march past of about fifteen individuals, military and civil, arrested by the people. In. the meantime I learnt that Bergeret had been sent to take the command of Montmartre, where he had been named chef-de-légion the day before. Varlin, who came immediately after me, had set out again in order to organize the defence of the Batignolles. Arnold also put in his appearance for a moment, and then went to place himself at the head of his battalion. The Committee had added Citizens Audoyneau, Ferrat and Billioray to its numbers.
At midday the course events would take was still waited for, and nothing was decided upon. I begged some of my colleagues to leave X. to his useless interrogations, and to come and to deliberate in another room, the one we occupied having by degrees been invaded by persons who were strangers to the Committee. As soon as we were installed, we asked for some citizens willing to serve as our general staff, and to inform us is to the situation in the different quarters. A great number presented themselves. We sent them in all directions, to tell our colleagues to hurry on as much as possible the construction of the barricades, to muster the National Guard, to take the command of it, and to specify the points whither we were to forward our communications.
Of our messengers only four returned. He whom we had sent to the twentieth arrondissement informed us that the rallying point was in the Rue de Paris and at Menilmontant, in front of the new mairie. Varlin had great trouble in grouping the National Guards of the Batignolles. One staff had mustered forces at the Place du Trone, and had repaired to the Neuilly Barracks, but the soldiers had closed the gates, and assumed a menacing attitude. Brunel, together with Lisbonne, was preparing to threaten the barracks of the Château d’Eau.
Other accounts apprised us that the orders of the Committee were being waited for. Duval had established himself at the Panthéon, and waited. Faltot sent us a note in these words: ‘I have five or six battalions in the Rue de Sèvres; what am I to do?’ Pindy had taken possession of the mairie of the third arrondissement, and was mustering the battalions devoted to the Committee. As soon as we had got this intelligence some dispositions for the attack were taken.
While these resolutions were being discussed Lullier had come to place himself at the disposal of the Committee. The Committee had given him no formal order, and confined itself to telling him that all forces available for the taking of the Hôtel-de-Ville were being mustered.
In order to assure the transmission of the orders, each one of the members then present – others had come up, but I could not say who – undertook to carry them to a designated point. So at three o’clock the Committee broke up, leaving Assi and two other members as a permanent sub-committee at the Rue Basfroi.
Here is a letter from one of them, later a most violent enemy of this Revolution, M. Méline, general secretary of the Ministry of Justice, written on the 30th March, to the president of the Council of the Commune:
Ville de Paris
(First Arrondissement, Mairie of the Louvre)
I no longer possess sufficient physical strength after prolonged fatigues to combat in the midst of our Assembly, which is destined to discuss so many grave questions. I beg you then to accept my resignation, and my sincere hopes that the Assembly may consolidate the Republic.
Receive, Citizen President, the expression of my fraternal sentiments,
30th March, 1871.
Here is a letter addressed to the Delegate at War:
Excuse my addressing you these lines, and be so kind as to take into consideration the request which I address to you.
I have three sons in the ranks of the National Guard – the eldest in the 197th battalion, the second in the 126th, and the third in the 97th. As to myself, I am in the 177th.
However, there yet remains to me one son, who is the youngest. He will soon be sixteen years old, and desires with all his heart to be enrolled in no matter what battalion; for he has sworn to his brothers and to me that he will take arms to sustain our young Republic against the hangmen of Versailles.
We have all agreed, and we have sworn an oath to revenge him who should fall under the fratricidal balls of our enemies.
Citizen, take then the last of my sons. I offer him with all my heart to the Republican fatherland. Do with him as you wish, place him in a battalion of your choice, and you will make me a thousand times happy. – Accept, citizen, my fraternal salutation,
Guard of the 177th Battalion.
18 Avenue d’Italie, Paris,
12th May 1871.
Instances of their courage abound in the journals of the time. One quotation taken at hazard from La Commune of the 12th April:
On Thursday, the 6th, at the moment when the 26th battalion of St. Ouen defended the barricade of the cross-roads, a child, V. Thiebault, fourteen years old, ran up amidst the balls in order to give the defenders something to drink. The shells having forced the Federals to fall back, they were about to sacrifice the victuals of the battalion, when the child, in spite of the shells, sprang towards a barrel of wine, which he stayed in, crying, ‘At any rate they shall not drink our wine.’ At the same instant, seizing the rifle of a Federal
who had just fallen, he charged it, took aim, and killed an officer of gendarmes. Then perceiving a wagon with two horses harnessed to it, whose driver had just been wounded, he mounted the horses and saved the wagon. – Eugène Léon Vanvière, thirteen and a half years old, contrived to save the guns at the outpost of the Porte-Meillot, in spite of his wound.
The prefect of police, Valentin, sent the following circular to the commissaries of the different railway stations:
15th April 1871
The chief of the executive power has just decided that, dating from today, all victualling trains and all supplies of provisions directed to Paris shall be stopped.
I beg you to take all measures you may deem needful for the execution of this decree at once. You are to examine with the most vigilant attention all the railway trains, all the carriages destined for Paris, and you will send back to the purveyors all the provisions you may discover.
You will for this purpose concert with … etc.
The delegate to the functions of prefect of police.
Extract from an account addressed to the author by Theisz:
… Accompanied by Frankel and one of my brothers, I proceeded to the General Post-Office, which was still occupied by the National Guards of order. I was immediately received by M. Rampont, surrounded by the Board of Administration. M. Rampont at first declared that he did not recognize the authority of the Central Committee, which had appointed me; but I think this was a merely formal precaution, for he began to parley immediately. I told him that the Government of the 4th September, which had named him, was also born of a revolutionary movement, and that notwithstanding this he had accepted his post. During this discussion he told us that he was a Mutualist-Socialist, a partisan of Proudhon’s ideas, and consequently hostile to Communist ideas, which had just triumphed with the Revolution of the 18th March. I answered that the Revolution of the 18th March was not the triumph of a Socialist school, but the prelude of a social transformation fettered by no particular school, and that I myself belonged to the mutualist school. After a long conversation, in which he declared himself ready to acknowledge the authority of the Commune, which was to be named in two or three days, he proposed to me to submit the following undertaking to the Central Committee. Till the day when the Commune should have decided, he engaged to remain at the head of the Post-Office; he accepted the control of two delegates of the Committee. I communicated this proposal to Vaillant and A. Arnaud (who had made over to me my nomination), in order that they might inform the Committee. I waited in vain for an answer.
The Commune met. The second day, perhaps, I broached the question of the Post-Office. It was to be comprised in the order of the day, but always in the confused way which one finds in the order of these debates, when, on the 30th March, a workman came to apprise Pindy that the administration of the Post-Office was deserting. The Commune immediately voted my nomination, and gave me the order to have the office occupied. Chardon set out at the head of a battalion, accompanied by Vermorel and myself. It was seven or eight o’clock in the evening. The work was done, and only a small number of employees remained. Some gave us a sympathetic welcome, others seemed indifferent. Chardon left a guard, and I spent the night alone in the office.
The next day, at three o’clock in the morning, I walked through the rooms and courts where the employees were arriving for the first delivery. A manuscript notice, posted in all the rooms and courts, ordered the employees to abandon their services, and repair to Versailles, under pain of dismissal. I tore down these posters and exhorted the men to remain true to their posts. There was at first some indecision, then a few made up their minds to rally round me.
At eight o’clock other employees came; at nine o’clock still more. They formed groups in the large court, talked, discussed, some beat a retreat, and their example was about to be followed.
I had the doors closed, and militarily occupied by guards; and I went from group to group, discussing, threatening. At last I gave the order to each one to return to his respective bureau. Thereupon a valued auxiliary came up, Citizen A – an employee at the Post – Office, a Socialist, for whom I had a letter from a friend. There was a momentary hesitation. The father of a family, much respected, sure of an early promotion, he was about to risk an advantageous place. But his hesitation lasted only a few seconds. He promised me his assistance, and he gave it me faithfully up to the last day. He brought me into relation with Citizen B – , who soon became my second. Both of them furnished me with information of the greatest utility concerning this department, of which I did not know the most simple details.
All the heads of departments had abandoned their posts; so, too, had the second head clerks, save one, who immediately had himself put on the sick-list. A – and B – got together some friends, head clerks, who for a long time had done all the work of the heads of departments. Citizen C – was placed at the head of the postal service for Paris.
All the divisional offices, save two, had been closed and abandoned. The stock had been carried off, the cash-box emptied, as was proved by the minutes drawn up by a commissar of the Commune, with the assistance of several well-known people of the quarter, amongst whom was M. Brelay, since named deputy of Paris. Postage stamps were wanting. The carts had set off for Versailles.
A., B., and some others of an indefatigable zeal, had the divisional offices opened by locksmiths in the presence of the commissars of the quarter, and installed well-meaning citizens, whose apprenticeship they superintended. But there was a stoppage of two days in the delivery of letters, which gave rise to public grumbling, and I was obliged to explain the facts in a poster. At the end of forty-eight hours A. and B. had reorganized the collection and delivery of letters.
All the citizens whose services had been accepted as auxiliaries received provisionally, till their capacities could be judged of, a salary of five francs a day.
By chance we found some postage-stamps of ten centimes at the bottom of a chest. Camelinat, appointed the director of the Mint, sent for the plates and the stock, and forthwith began manufacturing stamps.
During the first days bundles of letters from Paris destined for the provinces were taken in by the receiving officer of Sceaux, who no doubt was without precise instructions; then the blockade was completed. The sending of letters to the provinces became the object of a daily struggle. Secret agents went to throw them into boxes of the offices for ten miles round. The letters of Paris for Paris alone were stamped with date-marks. Those sent to the provinces by our smugglers only had the postage-stamp, which did not permit of their being distinguished from the others. When Versailles found out the manoeuvre, it changed the dotting of the stamps. We were quits at Paris by sending off the letters of importance without prepayment, and procuring stamps from the offices of Versailles.
If the offices for the letters to be sent out of Paris could still work, those for the collection of the letters from abroad were at a stand-still. The letters from the provinces accumulated at Versailles. Some men of business set up agencies, where, for a very high fee, the letters which they went to fetch at Versailles might be obtained. These people exploited the population, but we could not supersede them, and we were obliged to shut our eyes. We contented ourselves with reducing the profits somewhat, by deducting from each letter the postage of Paris for Paris, without their being able on that account to raise the sum fixed by their advertisements.
The efforts of Versailles to disorganize the reconstituted postal services were several times baffled, thanks to the vigilance of our two inspectors. However, we could not prevent the success of all their attempts at subornation.
From the first days of April we instituted a council at the post-office, composed of the delegate, his secretary, the general secretary, all the heads of services, two inspectors, and two head postmen. The postmen, gardiens de bureaux, and sorters had their wages raised, very little, alas! for our receipts, considerably reduced, did not allow us to be very liberal.
We decided upon the suppression, if not absolute, at least partial, of the time for serving as supernumerary, which was reduced to the strictly necessary time. The aptness of the workmen had henceforth to be proved by tests and examinations, as also the quantity and quality of their labour.
The limits of this Appendix oblige me to make a résumé of the extremely interesting accounts by Faillet and Louis Debock on the direct taxes and the National Printing Office:
In the evening of the 24th March Faillet and Combault (of the International) presented themselves at the administration of the direct taxes. On the written declaration that he yielded to menaces, the director handed them over the keys. Citizen X., who was thoroughly acquainted with the administrative movement, placed himself very promptly at their disposal.
The original register and other materials for the collection of taxes had disappeared. It was decided that the taxes should be gathered according to the list of 1869. The personnel of the forty collectorships, the valuers, the employees, to make up the list, had fled. The collectors were replaced by forty citizens, some working men belonging to the International, the others clerks of commercial houses or government offices. Some of the old officials who had not withdrawn were retained, but under the superintendence of a safe man. The presence of Citizen X. decided a great number of employees to come and work under the new directors.
The service of the direct taxes was composed – for the interior, of a director, a general administrator, a general secretary, two sub-secretaries, one chief of the bureaux of taxes and lists, a head accountant, five other accountants, and two inspectors of the collecting offices; for the exterior, of forty tax-gatherers, each one assisted by two or three clerks, a bearer of summonses, and an agent with his accountants at the bonded warehouse for wine.
Once or twice a week the director made a round in all the collector’s offices, which the inspectors visited every day. Each tax-gatherer brought the cashier of the direction the receipts of the day before. The cashier every evening laid the returns before the administration, and made over to the Central Pay Office of the Finance Department all that was not needed for the general expenses of the service.
The service ceased on the Saturday evening, 25th May. A hundred clerks, not thinking their whole duty to the Commune done, formed a corps of scouts, whose post was established in the presbytery of the Temple des Billettes.
On the 18th March, at five o’clock in the evening, Pindy and Louis Debock presented themselves with a battalion at the National Printing Office, and established themselves there. The director Hauréau came down, tried to negotiate, and then went up again to his apartments. Hauréau took advantage of the occasion to protest his republicanism, said he was a former editor of the National, a friend of Marrast, Arago, etc., and that the movement of the 18th March had no raison d’être whatever. A few days were allowed him for removing.
The whole personnel was maintained, with the exception of the director, the sub-director, the overseer, and the chief of the works, Felix Derenémesnil, who was cordially detested for his brutality and injustice. These spread abroad that the Central Committee had no money, and that the workmen would not be paid. Debock answered by an order of the day posted up in the workshops, guaranteeing the wages in the name of the Central Committee.
At the end of March, on the injunction of Versailles, all the employees and heads of the services, with very few exceptions, abandoned the printing-office after having received their salaries. The new director took advantage of this to have the new foremen of the workshops appointed by the workmen themselves. The places of managers of the printing-press were put up for competition. As the administration of the Rue Pagevin threw obstacles into the way of posting up the decrees and proclamations, Debock advised the workmen bill-stickers to organize themselves. They did so; their wages increased by 25 per cent, and the printing-office saved 200 francs a day.
The bulk of the salaries was greatly reduced; that of the lower clerks and workmen increased. On the 18th March a fortnight’s salary was due to the working men and women, and a week’s to the employees. The Commune discharged these arrears. Versailles, victorious, refused to pay the few days’ wages due to the workmen. Yet the Versailles administration found the stock intact and in perfect order.
The budget of monthly expenses before the 18th March rose to 120,000 francs, of which 23,000 were absorbed by the salaries of the functionaries, employees etc. After this date the expenses did not reach 20,000 francs a week, the expenses of postering included.
After the Commune the Union Republicaine announced in the journals that it had saved the Archives and the National Printing-Office from the flames. This was a lie, as proved by the order sent on the 24th May to the Archives at the request of Debock.
Order. – The archives not to be burnt. – The colonel commanding the Hôtel-de-Ville, Pindy.
AS to the printing-office, it was occupied by Debock up to the invasion of the quarter. In the night of the 24th he sent to ask the Committee of Public
Safety for the documents, papers, and articles necessary for the composition of the Journal Officiel. The next day, having received no answer, and the Versaillese pressing forward, he repaired to Belleville, where the three proclamations or posters which appeared on the following days were printed by his order.
Certainly the Communal principle must have been very strong in itself to have held sixty days against such fools. (‘Behind the Scenes at the Commune’, Fraser’s Magazine, December, 1872.)
To conquer was so easy and simple, that it needed the double dose of vanity and ignorance with which the feeble brains of the majority of the Commune were stuffed to baulk the people of its victory. (’the Paris Commune of 1871’, Fraser’s Magazine, March, 1873.)
He (Delescluze) had only once dared to attack me to my face, but it resulted m so much discomfiture to himself, and he came out of the affair so crestfallen, that for the future he confined himself to plotting against us behind my back, while to my face he was as civil as possible. (‘Behind the Scenes at the Commune’, Fraser’s Magazine, December, 1872.)
At the trial of the members of the Commune, the advocate of Assi read a letter which the prisoners in Germany had sent his client.
Citizen Assi – So you no longer think, with the Central Committee of the crapulous, that we are tired of your farces and evolutions without an aim and without limits … Woe to you, sink of the people! All possible reverses will accumulate upon you, and give you, as the whole result of your acts deprived of common-sense and capacity, the hatred of the prisoners confined in Germany, and the severe punishment which the admired representatives of all France will mercilessly inflict upon you. Once over the frontier, the last of the prisoners will go and plunge into the heart of the guilty the dagger which is to give back security to the legal government. Be prepared for the sentence which all the prisoners in Germany have in store for you…. Death to the insurgents! Death to the infernal Committee! Tremble, brigands!
Seen and approved by all the prisoners of Magdebourg, Erfurt, Coblentz, Mayence, Berlin, etc.
The signatures follow.
One of Laroque’s reports concluded thus:
I send you the names of the friends of order and of the agents who have rendered the greatest service. Jules Masse, P. Verdier, Sigismond, Galle, Tarjest, Honobede, Toussaint, Arthur Sellion, Jullia Francisque Baltead, E. Philips, Salowhicht, Maniel, Dolsand (42nd battalion), Rollin, Verox (seminarist), D’Anthome, Sommé, Cremonaty, Tascher de la Pagerie, Josephine Legros, Jupiter (police agent), the manager of the Café de Suede, the proprietor of the Café de Madrid, Lucia, Hermance, Amélie, little Celestine of the Café des Princes, Camille and Laura (Café Peters), Madame du Valdy (Faubourg Si. Germain), Leynhass (brewer).
This is what had passed between the Committee of Public Safety and Dombrowski. (Extract from an account addressed to the author by a member of the Committee of Public Safety):
The latter came to us one evening and informed us that through the instrumentality of one of his officers (Hutzinger), Versailles had made overtures to him, and asked him to appoint a rendezvous. He demanded of us whether something could not be got out of this for the Commune. We resolved to let him try the interview on condition that he should tell us all that passed. That evening we charged somebody to follow and arrest him if he yielded. From this time Dombrowski was closely watched – it is thanks to this surveillance that he was not carried off by the Versaillese who made use of a woman to allure him to the neighbourhood of the Luxembourg – and I declare we learnt nothing that was of a nature to weaken our confidence in him.
He came the next day, and told us that a million was offered him on condition that he would betray one of the gates. He gave us the names of those he had seen; amongst others, there was a confectioner of the Place de la Bourse, the address of the suborners (8 Rue de la Michaudière) and announced another rendezvous for the next day…. He explained to us how he would entice a few thousand Versaillese into Paris to make them prisoners. Pyat and I opposed this attempt. He did not insist, but demanded that the next day 20,000 men and some howitzers should be provided for him. He had decided on attracting the Versaillese troops by a surprise within reach of the fortifications…. Of the 20,000 men, 3,000 or 4,000 only could be mustered, and instead of 500 artillerists, there came only fifty.
Here is an extract from the report addressed to the Municipal Council of Toulouse by the delegates sent to Versailles to M. Thiers and the deputies of the Extreme Left to inquire into the situation:
We went then for information to the members of the Extreme Left; Martin Bernard, the companion and friend of Barbes, Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, etc.
M. Louis Blanc gave us the most precise information. It is useless, said he to us, to again attempt conciliation; there is too much animosity on both sides. Besides, with whom could one treat in Paris? These different and hostile forces dispute for power.
First there is the Commune, the result of an election at which only a small number of electors took part, composed chiefly of unknown men, of doubtful capacities, and sometimes even of doubtful honour.
In the second place a Committee of Public Safety named by the Commune, but soon coming to a violent rupture with it because it wanted to direct dictatorially.
In the third place, the Central Committee, formed during the siege, and principally composed of agents of the International, solely occupied with cosmopolitan interests, and caring very little for Parisian or French interests; it is this Central Committee which disposes of the cannon and the munitions, in one word, of almost all the material forces.
To all this must be added the Bonapartist and Prussian influences, whose more or less apparent action it is easy to trace in all three powers.
The Parisian insurrection (continued M. Louis Blanc) is legitimate in its motives and in its first aim – the demand for the municipal franchise of Paris. But the intervention of the Central Committee and the pretension manifested of governing all the other Communes of the Republic, have quite altered its character. Finally, the insurrection in the presence of the Prussian army, ready to enter Paris if the Commune is victorious, is altogether condemnable, and must be condemned by every true Republican. This is why the mayors of Paris, the Left of the Assembly, and the Extreme Left, have not hesitated to protest against an insurrection which the presence of the Prussian army and other circumstances might render criminal.
M. Martin Bernard held the same language, and spoke almost in the same terms. ‘If Barbès still lived,’ cried he, ‘his heart would have been rent, and he too would have condemned this fatal insurrection.’
All the other persons whom we have been able to see – MM. Henri Martin, Barthélemy St. Hilaire, Humbert, Victor Lefranc, etc., have spoken to us in the same way, and this unanimity could not but make a deep impression upon us.
(Thiers and Jules Favre themselves have calumniated Paris less than Louis Blanc. The first says in the Enquête sur le 18 Mars, Vol. II. p. 15: ‘It is not true, as has been asserted, that I had great difficulties with the Prussian Government concerning the Commune, or that it had any predilection for the latter.’ Jules Favre, Vol. II, p. 49; ‘I have seen nothing that could authorize me to accuse either the Bonapartists or Prussia. General Trochu has been mistaken. I have seen nothing that could authorize me to accuse the Bonapartists of having fomented the ]8th March. After the insurrection of the ]8th March, I spent my time in refusing the offers which were made me by the Prussians to assist in the overthrow of the Commune.’)
This is the textual copy of a report addressed to the Versaillese general staff:
The mot d’ordre has been tampered with on the 17th, 18th, and 19th. We had that of Versailles (General Douai’s corps).
There has been an explosion at the Rapp powder magazine, as I have already reported to you. There were some dead, and many wounded.
A commissar of police of the Commission of Safety has made about forty arrests. Those made on account of the explosion are estimated to be about 125.
Seargeant Toussaint (3rd battery, 2nd squadron) has been arrested by the Commune. It is said that this brave officer is shot.
The sick, according to our information, had been taken away either the day before or on the morning of the day of the catastrophe to the Hôtel des Invalides. The work-women. and not the men, were sent home earlier that day.
The official of the Audit Office of the Hospital du Gros-Caillou, M. Bernard, has behaved very well.
1 recommend to the good-will of M. le Ministre, MM. Janvier, Bertalon, Mauduit, Morelli, and Sigismond, men enjoying an excellent reputation.
They desire the cross or an important’ collectorship.
Signal services have been rendered by Madame Brosset, and by Mademoiselle Gigaud. It is at the latter’s house that I hid for eight days when Rigault’s people were searching for me.
This woman is very devoted; she lives in the Quartier du Gros Caillou, Rue Dominique St. Germain. She is the daughter of an ex-officer. She would be glad to have a tobacconist’s shop. (Report of Commander Jerriait, Ex-Chief of Squadron.)
A categorical deposition of this fact was made by M. E. Belgrand, Director of the Service of Public Roads, before the Commission of Inquiry into the 18th March (‘Vol. III, p. 352-353):
The insurgents attempted nothing with the sewers. In short, I may affirm that from the 18th March up to the entry of the troops into Paris there was no attempt at all as to the sewers; that no chambers had been established there; that no incendiary or explosive matters had been introduced, nor wires destined to set fire to mines or to incendiary matters.
The Bien Public, M. Thiers’ organ directed by Vrignault, published in its number of the 23rd June, 1871:
All Paris has preserved the souvenir of that terrible cannonade directed from Montmartre during the last three days of the civil war against the Buttes Chaumont, Belleville, and the Pere Lachaise. Here are some very correct details of what was happening then at the summit of the Butte, behind the batteries at No. 6 Rue des Rosiers.
There had been installed in this house, so sadly celebrated, a provostship, presided over by a captain of Chasseurs. As the inhabitants of the quarter rivalled each other in zeal in denouncing the insurgents, the arrests were numerous. As the prisoners arrived they were questioned.
They were forced to kneel down, bare-headed, in silence, before the wall at the foot of which the unfortunate Generals Lecomte and Clement-Thomas had been assassinated. They remained thus a few hours, till others came to take their place. Soon, to lessen what might be cruel in this amende honorable, the prisoners were allowed to sit down in the shade, but always opposite the wall, the aspect of which prepared them for death, and shortly after the principal culprits amongst them were shot.
They were taken a few steps from there to the slope of the hill, at the spot where during the siege a battery overlooked the St. Denis route. It is there too that Varlin was conducted, whom they had great trouble in protecting from the violence of the crowd. Varlin had confessed his name, and made no efforts to escape the fate that awaited him; he died game. V. B.
The day before, at five o’clock, at the moment when the baggage of the War Office arrived at the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Avenue Victoria, two guards,
carrying a chest, were assailed with a hatchet, by an individual dressed in a blouse and wearing a cap. One of the Federals fell dead. The assassin, immediately seized hold of, cried, ‘You are done for! you are done for! Give me back my hatchet and I shall recommence.’ On this madman the commissar of police of the Hôtel-de-Ville found papers and the livret, proving that he had served in the sergents-de-ville.
During the evening of Tuesday, an individual, wearing the uniform of an officer of a free corps, came to ask for orders at the Hôtel-de-Ville. A commandant of the same corps entered the hall and saw this officer, and not recognizing him, asked his name. The latter grew confused: ‘But no, you are not one of my men,’ said the commandant. The individual was arrested, and found to be the bearer of Versaillese instructions and orders.
Treason assumed all shapes. The same morning at Belleville, Place des Fetes, Ranvier and Frankel heard a drummer reading the Federal Guards the order not to leave their arrondissements. Ranvier, interrogating the drummer, learned that the order emanated from General du Bisson.
Colonel Gaillard, chief of the military prisons, interrogated by the Commision d’Enquete as to the objects of value found on the insurgents, answered: ‘I can give you no information on this head. There were valuables which have not been sent to Versailles. A few days ago I saw a minister of Denmark. He came to inquire what had become of a sum of 100,000 francs seized on one of his compatriots who had been shot near the Hôtel-de-Ville. His minister told me he had been unable to obtain any information. Many things happened in Paris of which we know nothing.’ (Enquete sur le 18 Mars, Colonel Gaillard, Vol. 2, p. 246.)
Shall we ever know of all the spurious speculators, the commercial men with no resources left, the men at the brink of bankruptcy, who made use of the conflagrations in order to settle scores? How many cried ‘Death!’ who had themselves just set the petroleum on fire.
On the 10th March, 1877, the assize court of the Seine sentenced to ten years’ hard labour a ruined Bonapartist, Prieur de la Comble, found guilty of having set fire to his house, with the object of getting a heavy premium from the companies where he was insured. He had prepared his crime with the greatest sangfroid, painted the walls, saturated the hangings with petroleum, made sure of nine different centres of fire. His father, a former mayor Of the
first arrondissement, had failed to the amount of 1,800,000 francs, and at the end of the Empire there had been proceedings of bankruptcy instituted against him. Now, on the 24th May, 1871, the house of the accused in the Rue du Louvre, that of his father in the Rue de Rivoli, that of the assignee of the failure in the Boulevard Sebastopol, were consumed, and owing to these triple conflagrations the account-books and vouchers disappeared. This fact was only mentioned before the assize court, and the president confined himself to saying that it was odd. He took good care not to interrogate Prieur; and one knows that the presidents of assize courts are not usually chary of sifting the antecedents of the accused.
The motive of this extraordinary reticence is that no blame was to be thrown upon the army and the courts-martial, which had shot or condemned some petroleuses for the burning of these very houses set on fire by Prieur de la Comble.
The death of Millière is recounted as follows by M. Louis Mie, Conseiller-General of the Dordogne, Municipal Councillor of Perigeux and deputy of Bordeaux to the Chamber:
A picket of soldiers emerged from the Rue de Vaugirard on our left. They marched in two ranks. In the midst of them was Millière.
He was dressed exactly as I had seen him some months before at Bordeaux on the tribune of the Assembly and in the Republican Circle – black trousers, dark-blue overcoat, tight and buttoned up, a high black hat.
The picket stopped before the door of the Luxembourg. One of the soldiers, who held his rifle by the end of the barrel, cried, ‘It is I who took him! it is I who am entitled to shoot him!’ There were about a hundred persons there of both sexes and of all ages. Many cried, ‘Death to him! shoot him!’
A National Guard, wearing a tricolor armlet, seized hold of Millière by the wrist, led him into the corner on the right, and placed him against the wall, then he retired. Millière uncovered himself, placed his hat on the pedestal of the column, crossed his arms on his breast, and calm and cool looked at the troops. He waited.
Round us the soldiers were being questioned. ‘Who is it?’ one of them was asked, and I heard him answer, ‘It is Mayer.’
A priest came out of the Luxembourg; he wore a straight-cut cassock and a high hat. Advancing towards Millière, he spoke a few words to him and pointed to heaven.
Without ostentation, but with a very firm and calm attitude, Millière appeared to thank him, and shook his head in sign of refusal. The priest retired.
Two officers came out from the palace and addressed themselves to the prisoner. One of them, whom the first seemed to guide, spoke to him for a minute or two. We heard the sound or voices without understanding the words exchanged, then I heard this command: ‘To the Pantheon!’
The picket re-formed round Millière, who put on his hat, and the cortege remounted the Rue de Vaugirard in the direction of the Pantheon.
We reached the rails at the same time as the picket. The door opened and shut upon them. Placing my feet on the stone balustrade, I passed my two arms round the top of the bars; my head overlooked them, for thew railings are low. By my side a soldier, the sentry of the interior, answered some prostitutes who were questioning him; his elbow, leaning against the rails, touched mine.
The picket of the troop had stopped and almost leant against the closed door. Millière was led between the two columns of the centre. Arriving at the spot where he was to die, and after having ascended the last step of the stain, he exchanged a few words with the officer. Searching in the pocket of his overcoat, which he had just unbuttoned, he took out an object, which I believed to be a letter, and handed it over to him, as also a watch and a locket. The officer took them, then seized hold of Millière and placed him in such a manner that he should be shot from behind. The latter turned round with a brusque movement, and, his arms crossed, faced the troop. This is the only movement of indignation or of anger that I saw him make.
.Some more words were exchanged; Millière seemed to be refusing to obey an order. The officer came down. The instant after, a soldier seized him who was to be shot by the shoulder and forced him to bend his knee upon the flagstone.
Half the rifles of the platoon only were levelled at him; the others remained in the arms of the soldiers. During this time, believing his last moment come, Millière three times uttered the cry, ‘Vive la Republique!’
The officer approaching the picket of the troop, ordered the rifles, which had been too hurriedly lowered, to be raised again, and then he pointed out with his sword how the order to fire would be given.
‘Vive le Peuple! Vive l’humanité’ cried Millière.
The soldier on sentry, whose elbow touched my arm, answered the last words by these: ‘On va t’en foutre de l’humanite!’ I had hardly heard them when Millière fell as if thunder-stricken.
A military man, whom I believe to have been a non-commissioned officer, went UP the steps, approached the corpse, lowered his rifle, and fired point-blank near the left temple. The explosion was so violent that the head of Millière bounded, and appeared as if twisted back. The rain for three-quarters of an hour had beaten against his face; the cloud of powder fixed itself there.
Lying on his side, his hands joined, his clothes open and thrown into disorder by the fall, his head blackened, as if burst open, seeming to look at the frontispiece of the monument, his corpse was something terrible to behold …
Madame Millière having instituted judiciary proceedings against Staff-Captain Garcin, the murderer of her husband, the trial was cut short by the following letter:
30th June, 1873.
Captain Garcin of the General Staff attached to the 2nd corps, has during the second siege of Paris only executed the orders given him by his superiors. He can thus in no way be made responsible for deeds which were the result of these orders. The responsibility rests exclusively upon those who have given the orders.
The Minister at War
To the number of the innocent victims of our civil discords we have the sorrow to add the name of a young man, twenty-seven years old, M. Faneau, a doctor of medicine.
Dr. Faneau had worked from the beginning of the war in the International ambulances. During the whole siege of Paris he did not cease tending the wounded with zealous devotion.
After the revolution of the 18th March he remained in Paris, and resumed his service in the ambulances.
On the 25th May he was on duty at the Grand Seminaire de St. Sulpice, where the Federals had established an ambulance.
When the army had taken possession of the cross-roads of the Croix Rouge, it advanced as far as the Place.
A company of line soldiers came up to the door of the seminary, where floated the flag of Geneva.
The officer who commanded asked to speak to the chief of the ambulance. Dr. Faneau, who filled this function, presented himself.
‘Are there any Federals here?’ the officer asked him.
‘I have only wounded,’ answered M. Faneau, ‘they are Federals, but they have been in my ambulance for several days.’
At the moment when he was concluding these words, a shot was fired from one of the windows of the first storey, and struck a soldier.
This shot was discharged by one of the wounded Federals, who had dragged himself from his bed to the window. [The Siecle, in search of attenuating circumstances for the army, had invented this more than phantasmagorial incident. – L.]
Immediately the officer, exasperated, threw himself upon Dr. Faneau, crying to him, ‘You lie, you have set a snare for us; you are the friend of these rascals; you are going to be shot.’
Dr. Faneau understood that it would be in vain to attempt to justify himself; also, he offered no resistance to the firing-party.
Some minutes after the unfortunate Young man fell, struck by ten bullets.
We knew Dr. Faneau, and we can affirm that, far from sympathizing with the members of the Commune, he deplored their fatal errors, and waited with impatience for the re-establishment of order. (Le Siecle.)
In the National of the 29th May appeared the following:
Paris, 28th May 1871
Last Friday, at the time when corpses were being picked up in the Boulevard St. Michel, some individuals of nineteen to twenty-five years old, dressed as well-to-do people, were seated with gay women inside, and at the doors of certain cafes of this boulevard, indulging with these in scandalous merrymaking. – Accept, Monsieur le Rédacteur, etc.,
55 Boulevard D’Enfer.
The facts mentioned above were repeated every day.
The Journal de Paris, a Versaillese journal suppressed by the Commune, wrote:
The manner in which the population of Paris manifested its satisfaction yesterday was rather more than frivolous, and we fear it will grow worse as time progresses. Paris has now a fête-day appearance, which is sadly out of place; and unless we are to be called the Parisians of the decline, this sort of thing must come to an end.
Then he quoted the passage from Tacitus:
‘Yet on the morrow of that horrible struggle, even before it was completely over, Rome, degraded and corrupt, began once more to wallow in the voluptuous slough which was destroying its body and polluting its soul – alibi proelia et vulnera, alibi balnea popinaeque – (here fights and wounds, there baths and restaurants.)’
The Versaillese journals confessed to 1600 prisoners buried in the Père Lachaise.
The Opinion Nationale of the 10th June said:
We do not wish to leave the Père Lachaise without saluting with a look of Christian compassion these deep trenches, where lie entombed pell-mell the insurgents taken under arms, and those who would not surrender.
They have expiated their criminal folly by an act of summary justice. May God pity and have mercy upon them!
Let us rectify, in passing, the exaggerated rumours which have been spread on the subject of the executions at the Père Lachaise and in the environs.
It appears from certain information – we might almost venture to say official statements – that there have only been buried in that cemetery, shot or killed fighting, sixteen hundred men in all.
But the following account of the executions of La Roquette has been given me by an eye-witness, who barely escaped death:
I had returned to my house on the Saturday evening. Sunday morning, on crossing the Boulevard du Prince Eugène, I was taken in a razzia. We were conducted to La Roquette. A chief of battalion was standing at the entrance. He surveyed us; then, with a nod of the, head, said, ‘To the right,’ or ‘To the left.’ I was sent to the left. ‘Your affair is settled,’ the soldiers said to us; ‘you are going to be shot, canailles!’ We were ordered to throw away our matches if we had any about us, and then the signal was given to march on.
I was the last of the file, and by the side of the sergeant who conducted us. He looked at me. ‘Who are you?’ he asked me. ‘A professor. I was taken this morning as I came out of my house.’ No doubt my accent, the elegance of my clothes, struck him, for he added, ‘Have you any papers?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Come!’ and he took me back before the chief of battalion. ‘Commander,’ said he, ‘there is a mistake. This young man has his papers.’ ‘All right,’ answered the officer, without looking at me, ‘to the right.’
The sergeant led me off. As we went along, he explained to me that the prisoners taken to the left were shot. We had already got to a door on the right, when a soldier ran after us: ‘Sergeant, the commandant says you are to take back this man to the left.’
Fatigue, despair at the defeat, the enervation caused by so much anguish, deprived me of all strength to dispute my life. ‘Well, shoot me,’ said I to the sergeant, ‘for you it will be but a crime the more! only return these papers to my family,’ and I turned to the left.
I already perceived a long file of men drawn up against a wall, others lying on the ground. Opposite them three priests read in their breviaries the prayers of the dying. A few steps more and I was dead, when suddenly I was seized hold of by the arm. It was my sergeant. He took me back by force to the officer. ‘Commandant,’ said he, ‘we cannot shoot this man. He has his papers!” Let me see,’ said the officer. I handed over my pocket-book, which contained a card as employee at the Ministry of Commerce during the first siege. ‘To the right,’ said the commandant.
There were soon more than 3,000 prisoners on the right. All Sunday and part – of the night detonations resounded by the side of us. On Monday morning a platoon came in. ‘Fifty men,’ said the sergeant. We thought we were going to be shot by parties, and no one stirred. The soldiers took the first fifty they came across. I was of the number. We were taken to the famous left side.
On a space which seemed to us endless we saw heaps of corpses. ‘Pick up all this rubbish,’ said the sergeants to us, ‘and put them into these carts.’ We raised up these corpses covered with blood and mud. The soldiers made frightful jokes: ‘See what grimaces they cut,’ and with their heels crushed some face. It seemed to me that some were still living. We told the soldiers so, but they answered, ‘Come, come! get on!’ Certainly some died under the earth. We put 1,907 corpses into these carts.
The Liberté of the 4th June said:
The governor of La Roquette during the Commune, and his acolytes, were shot on the very scene of their exploits.
For the other National Guards arrested in this neighbourhood, and whose number exceeded 4,000, a provisional court-martial was installed in the Roquette itself. A commissar of police and police security agents were charged with the first examination. Those appointed to be shot were sent into the interior; they were killed from behind while they were walking along, and their bodies were thrown onto the nearest heap. All these monsters had the faces of bandits; the exceptions were to be regretted.
At the time of the trial of the members of the Council of the Commune before the third court-martial sitting at Versailles, a certain M. Gabriel Ossude came to give evidence as witness against Jourde, in whose arrest he was concerned, he said, in his quality of provost of the seventh arrondissement, and as Colonel Merlin, president of the court, seemed astonished that such a function should have devolved upon a civilian, M. Ossude entered into very precise explanations, which I remember perfectly.
He declared that towards the end of the Commune the prevotal courts had been instituted by the Government of Versailles in view of the early entry of the troops into Paris; that the number and the seats of the exceptional tribunals had been arranged beforehand, as well as the topographical limits of their jurisdictions; that he (M. Gabriel Ossude) had received his nomination from the hands of M. Thiers, although he held no rank in the army, but as captain of the seventeenth battalion of the National Guard. (Letter of Ulysse Parent, Rappel, March 19, 1877.)
Near the Ecole Militaire the scene is at this moment very affecting; prisoners are continually being led there, and their trial is terminated beforehand. It consists only in detonation s. (Siecle, 28th May.)
The courts-martial functioned in Paris with unheard-of activity at several special points. At the Lobau Barracks, at the Ecole Militaire, the shooting is permanently heard. It is the settling of accounts with those wretches who openly took part in the struggle. (Liberté, 30th May.)
Since morning (Sunday, 28th May) a strong cordon is being formed round the theatre (Châtelet); where a court-martial is permanently established. From time to time one sees a band of fifteen to twenty individuals coming out, composed of National Guards, civilians, women and children fifteen to sixteen years old.
These individuals are condemned to death. They march two by two, escorted by a platoon of chasseurs, who lead and bring up the rear. This cortege goes up the Quai de Gevres and enters the Republican Barracks in the Place Lobau. A minute after one hears from within the fire of platoons and successive musketry discharges; it is the sentence of the court-martial which has just been executed.
The detachment of chasseurs returns to the Chatelet to fetch other prisoners. The crowd seems deeply impressed on hearing the noise of the shootings. (Journal des Débats, 30th May, 1871)
A journal of the Belgian bourgeoisie, the Erode, one of the most violent against the Commune, allowed this avowal to escape it.
The majority have met death like the Arabs after battle, with indifference, with contempt, without hatred, without anger, without insult to their executioners.
All the soldiers who took part in these executions, and whom I have questioned, have been unanimous in their accounts.
One of them said to me, ‘We shot about forty of these canailles at Passy. They all died like soldiers. Some crossed their arms, and stood head erect. Others opened their tunics and cried to us, ‘Fire! we are not afraid of death.’
Not one of those whom we have shot trembled. I especially remember an artillerist, who by himself did us more harm than a whole battalion. He was alone serving a piece of cannon. During three-quarters of an hour he peppered us with grape shot, and he killed and wounded not a few of my comrades. At last he was overwhelmed. We had turned his barricade.
I still see him. He was a strongly-built man. He was bathed in perspiration from the service he had done during three-quarters of an hour. ‘Your turn now,’ said he to us. ‘I have merited shooting, but I shall die game.’
Another soldier of General Clinchant’s corps told me how his company had led to the ramparts eighty-four insurgents taken bearing arms.
They all placed themselves in a line, he said to me, as if they were going to exercise. Not one faltered. One of them who had a handsome face, wore trousers in fine cloth tucked into his boots, and a Zouave’s belt round his waist, said to us calmly, ‘Try to aim at my chest; be careful not to touch my head.’ We all fired, but the poor fellow had half of his head carried away. A functionary of Versailles made me the following recital:
During the day, Sunday, I made an excursion to Paris. I went by the Théâtre du Chatelet towards the smoking ruins of the Hôtel-de-Ville, when I was surrounded and carried along by the stream of a crowd which was following a convoy of prisoners.
I found among them the same men whom I had seen in the battalions of the siege of Paris. Almost all seemed to me to be working men.
Their faces betrayed neither despair nor despondency nor emotion. They walked on with a firm, resolute step, and they seemed to me so indifferent to their fate that I thought they expected to be released. I was entirely mistaken. These men had been taken in the morning at Menilmontant, and knew whither they were being led. Arrived at the Lobau Barracks, the cavalry officers who preceded the escort had a semicircle formed, and prevented the curious from advancing.
One of the most ignoble barkers of Versailles, Francisque Sarcey, wrote in the Gaulois of the 13th June:
Men who are quite cool, of whose judgment and word I cannot doubt, have spoken to me with an astonishment mingled with horror of the scenes they had seen, seen with their own eyes, and which rendered me rather meditative.
Young women, pretty of face, and dressed in silk dresses, came down into the street, and a revolver in their hands, fired at random, and then said with proud mien, elevated voice, eyes full of hatred, ‘Shoot me at once!’ One of them. who had been taken in a house whence they had fired from the windows, was about to be bound in order to be taken to Versailles and judged there.
‘Come,’ said she, ‘save me the trouble of the journey!’ And placing herself against a wall, her arms spread open, her breast bare, she seemed to solicit to provoke death.
All those who have been seen executed thus summarily by furious soldiers
have died, insults on their tongues, with a laugh of contempt, like martyrs, who in sacrificing themselves accomplish a great duty.
At the time of an action entered against M. Raspail, fils, in 1876, for his pamphlet in favour of an amnesty, the following letter, addressed to him by M. Hervé de Saisy, senator, was read in court.
I cannot, for motives of discretion bearing on divers persons, repeat in this letter the recital which I made you viva voce on the occasion of which you remind me. However, I wish to answer your courteous appeal by repeating here the words which served as a reason for the iniquitous order by which the life of M. Cernuschi was menaced, during the day on which the troops took possession of the prison of Sainte Pélagie and the Jardin des Plantes.
These are the words pronounced by the general of division who gave the order of summary execution. Learning that Cernuschi had repaired to the prison, at the door of which I saw his carriage, he said to some one, whom I cannot mention, ‘Ah! it is Cernuschi, the man of the 100,000 francs of the plebiscite. Return to the prison, and let him be shot within five minutes.’
Five minutes represented the time that would be required by the bearer of the order in going to the prison from the Cedre du Jussieu, whence the general watched the phases of the combat.
At first I did not understand this st~ phrase, but some moments after I remembered that it was the expression of a political vengeance which was about to be exercised against M. Cernuschi for having offered 100,000 francs for the propaganda which the Opposition was to make during the final plebiscite of the Empire.
Profoundly indignant at what I had just heard, I was fortunate enough to bring about a fortuitous incident to which the already condemned victim owed his salvation.
Such are the details I am able to furnish you, with.
Hervé De Saisy.
From the Echo de la Dordogne, 19th June, 1871:
Some journals of Paris have repeated that Tony Moilin had been condemned and shot for having been taken arms in hand on the 27th May. This report is incorrect.
One single fact was Tony Moilin reproached with: that of having on the 18th March taken possession of the mairie of his arrondissement, and having thus had a share in giving the signal for. the insurrection. He was shown a kind of dismissal given by him on that day to M. Hérisson, the mayor whom he had replaced. No witness was heard.
Moilin admitted the fact; then he added that he had exercised the function of mayor during hardly two days; that at the end of this time, little in accord with the men of the Commune, he had voluntarily ceased to appear at the mairie, where he had been immediately replaced.
The court-martial asked Moilin to account for his time and his acts since the day of the entry of the army of Versailles into Paris. He answered that, known for a long time, especially through the Blois trial and by his writings, as one of the leaders of the Socialist party, having no answer for taking possession of the mairie of the eighth arrondissement on the 18th March, fearing a too summary justice and the fury of the first moments, he had sought and found shelter at a friend’s, and that, from the Monday morning tin the Saturday night; … that on the Saturday evening, the 27th May, this friend had asked his guest to leave his retreat, and that on leaving this inhospitable house, discouraged, not seeking any longer to defend his liberty, nor even his life, he had returned to his home, where, on the denunciation of his porter and his neighbours, he had been almost directly afterwards arrested and taken before the court-martial at the Luxembourg.
To this recital was confined the defence of Tony Moilin, who was immediately condemned to death. The court-martial condescended to tell him that the fact of du mairie, the only one he could be reproached with, had in itself not much importance, and did not merit death, but that he was one of the leaders of the Socialist party, dangerous through his talents, his character, and his influence over the masses; one of those men, in short, of whom a prudent and wise Government mot rid itself when it finds a legitimate occasion to do so.
Tony Moilin could only be satisfied with the urbanity (sic) of the members of the court. Without any difficulty a respite of twelve hours was granted to him in order that he might make his testament, write a few words of farewell to his father, and finally give his name to the woman who had, during the Blois trial and since, shown him the greatest devotion. These duties fulfilled, on the 28th May, in the morning, Tony Moilin was led into the garden a few steps from the palace and shot. His body, which his widow claimed, the surrender of which had been at first promised, was refused her.
This assassination also stands to the debit account of Garcin. Let us again allow him to speak.
Billioray at first attempted to deny his identity. He wanted to rush upon a soldier; he was a man of athletic strength …. He defended himself, he foamed with rage. There was hardly time to interrogate him. He began some tale about money, whose place of concealment he could indicate. He spoke of 150,000 francs; then he interrupted himself, in order to say to me, ‘I see you are going to have me shot. It is useless for me to say any more.’ I said to him, ‘You persist?’ ‘Yes.’ He was shot. (Enquête sur le 18 Mars, Vol. II, p. 234.)
Account by a Military Surgeon published in the Gaulois.
The event took Place on Thursday 25th May, at a few minutes past six in the evening, in the small Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. Valles was coming out of the Théâtre du Châtelet, led off by the firing-party charged to shoot him. He wore a black coat, and light trousers of a yellowish shade. He wore no hat; and his beard, which he had shaved but lately, was very short, and already getting grey.
On entering the lane where the ominous sentence was to be carried out, the sentiment of self-preservation gave him back the energy which seemed to have abandoned him. He wanted to fly; but, held back by the soldiers, he got into a horrible fury, crying ‘Murder!’ writhing, seizing his executioners by the throat, biting them, offering, in one word, a desperate resistance.
The soldiers were beginning to be embarrassed and a little moved at this horrible struggle, when one of them passing behind gave him such a furious blow in the loins with the butt-end of his gun that the unfortunate man fell with a low groan.
No doubt the spinal column was broken. They then fired some shots with their revolvers straight into his body, and pierced him with bayonet thrusts. As he was still breathing, one of the executioners approached and discharged his chassepot into his ear. Part of the skull burst open; his body was abandoned in the gutter till someone came to pick it up.
It is then that the spectators of this scene approached, and despite the wounds that disfigured him, were able to establish his identity.
The Radical of the 30th May, 1872, published the following letter from an employee at St. Thomas d’Acquin, who during the Commune had rendered the Versaillese the service of preventing the firing of the cannons of 8 cm breechloaders:
To Monsieur le Comte Daru,
President of the Committee of Inquiry into the Insurrection of the 18th March,
Monsieur le President,
I have just read in a book, which is entitled Enquête Parlementaire sur l’Insurrection du 18 Mars, under the head, Evidence of witnesses, the following evidence by the Staff-Captain Garcin:
‘All those who were arrested under arms were shot during the first moments, that is to say, during the combat. But when we were masters of the left bank there were no more executions.’
In the report of Marshal MacMahon on the operations of the army of Versailles against insurgent Paris, I find the following declaration:
‘In the evening of the 25th May the whole left bank was in our power, as also the bridges of the Seine.’
The evidence of Captain Garcin is unfortunately contrary to the truth. Four days after the 25th May my son and fourteen other unhappy victims were killed at the Dupleix Barracks, situated on the left bank, near the Ecole Militaire.
On the 31st August I addressed the Minister of Justice a complaint on this subject, of which I send you a correct copy. After having related the facts with regard to my son, I demanded that the law should search for and punish the culprits.
Up to the present time the law has remained deaf to my claims, notwithstanding the publicity I have given this complaint, in order to prove the disappearance of my child.
If it were true, as Captain Garcin declares, that orders had been given by the general commander-in-chief of the troops of the left bank to put an end to these executions after the evening of the 25th May; if again it were true that Marshal MacMahon had by his despatch of the 28th May given the order to suspend all executions, as the Colonel presiding over the court-martial at the trial of the members of the Commune declared – the officer of the gendarmerie, named Roncol, who ordered the massacres at the Dupleix Barracks, and his accomplices should have been prosecuted for having, in contempt of the orders of the chief of the army, had unfortunate people killed who had taken no part in the combat.
Thus, horrible fact, in the morning of the 29th May, while I was giving up the cannon at St. Thomas d’Acquin, which my son and I had sworn on our honour to preserve for the state, and for which we had risked our lives, my son was being massacred at the end of a stable by those who ought to have protected him.
In consequence of these facts, which I have just made public, I beg Monsieur le Président to be so obliging as to have the evidence of Captain Garcin rectified, which is on this point of the executions entirely contrary to truth. – I have the honour, Monsieur le Président, etc.,
The correct copy of this was addressed in a registered letter of the 28th March, 1872, under the number 158, to M. le Comte Daru, who has acknowledged the receipt of it.
Paris, 23rd May 1872.
It is in the Bois de Boulogne that those condemned to death by the court-martial will for the future be executed. Whenever the number of the condemned shall exceed ten men the execution platoons will be replaced by a machine-gun. (Paris Journal, 9th June.)
All circulation is forbidden in the Bois de Boulogne.
One is forbidden to enter there, unless accompanied by a platoon of soldiers, and still more forbidden to come out again. (Paris-Journal, 15th June.)
One man, a swarthy, burly fellow, with a shock head of black hair, sat down at the corner of the Rue de la Paix and declined to go any further, shaking his fist at the people and grinding his teeth. After several attempts at coercive measures, one of the soldiers lost all patience, and drove his bayonet twice into his body, telling him to get up and walk on like the rest. As might have been expected, this method was not successful, and so he was seized and placed on a horse, from which he speedily threw himself, and was then tied to its tail, and dragged along the ground after the manner of Brunhilda. He soon became faint from loss of blood, and having thus been reduced to a quiescent state, was bundled into an ambulance wagon, and carried off amid the shouts and execrations of the populace. – (Times, 31st May.)
Another prisoner, who had also refused to march, was dragged by the hands and hair of the head along the road. (Times, 30th May.)
Near the Parc Monceaux a husband and wife were seized, and ordered to march forward towards the Place Vendome, a distance of a mile and a half. They were both of them invalids and unable to walk so far. The woman sat down on the kerbstone, and declined to move a step in spite of her husband’s entreaties that she would try. She persisted in her refusal, and they both knelt down together, begging the gendarmes who accompanied them to shoot them at once if shot they were to be. Twenty revolvers were fired, but they still breathed, and it was only at the second discharge that they finally sank down dead. The gendarmes then rode away, leaving the bodies as they had fallen. (Times, 29th May.)
The conservative Paper, the Tricolor, said on the 31st May:
Sunday morning, the 24th, out of more than two thousand Federals, one hundred and eleven of them have been shot in the ditches of Passy, and that under circumstances which show that the victory [the conclusion of this nonsensical phrase must be given in the original] était entrée dans toute la maturité de la situation.
‘Let those who have white hairs step out from the ranks!’ said General Gallifet, who presided at the execution, and the number of grey-headed Federals amounted to one hundred and eleven!
For these the aggravating circumstance was having been contemporaries of June, 1848.
There is here a new retro-synopante theory which might take us a long way back.
The Liberté of Brussels published the following declaration, signed by eyewitnesses, of the facts which had occurred at La Muette on the 26th May, 1871:
On the 26th of last May we formed part of the column of prisoners who had left the Boulevard Malesherbes at eight o’clock in the morning in the direction of Versailles. W e stopped at the Chateau of La Muette, where General Gallifet, after having dismounted from his horse, passed into our ranks, and then making a choice, he pointed out to the troops eighty-three men and three women. They were taken away along the talus of the fortifications and shot before us. After this exploit the General said to us: ‘My name is Gallifet. Your journals in Paris have sullied me enough. I take my revenge.’
Thence we were directed to Versailles, where during the journey we were again obliged to assist at frightful executions of two women and three men, who, falling down exhausted and being unable to keep up with the column, were killed with bayonet-thrusts by the sergents de ville forming our escort.
The names followed, with the professions and addresses of the signers, to the number of eleven.
The column of prisoners halted in the Avenue Uhrich and was drawn up four or five deep on the footway facing to the road. General the Marquis de Gallifet and his staff, who had preceded us there, dismounted, and commenced an inspection from the left of the line and near where I was. Walking down slowly, and eyeing the ranks as if at an inspection, the General stopped here and there, tapping a man on the shoulder or beckoning him out of the rear-ranks. In most cases, without further parley, the individual thus selected was marched out into the centre of the road, where a small supplementary column was thus soon formed…. They evidently knew too well that their last hour had come, and it was fearfully interesting to see their different demeanours. One, already wounded, his shirt soaked with blood, sat down in the road and howled with anguish; … others wept in silence; two soldiers, presumed deserters, pale but collected, appealed to all the other prisoners as to whether they had ever seen them amongst their ranks; some smiled defiantly … It was an awful thing to see one man thus picking out a batch of his fellow-creatures to be put to a violent death in a few minutes without
further trial…. A few paces from where I stood, a mounted officer pointed out to General Gallifet a man and woman for some particular offence. The woman, rushing out of the ranks, threw herself on her knees and with outstretched arms implored mercy, and protested her innocence in passionate terms. The General waited for a pause, and then, with most impassable face and unmoved demeanour, said: ‘Madame, I have visited every theatre in Paris; your acting will have no effect on me’ (ce n’est la peine de jouer la comédie)… I followed the General closely down the line, still a prisoner, but honoured with a special escort of two chasseurs-a-cheval, and endeavoured to arrive at what guided him in his selections. The result of my observations was that it was not a good thing on that day to be noticeably taller, dirtier, cleaner, older or uglier than one’s neighbour. One individual in particular struck me as probably owing his speedy release from the ills of this world to his having a broken nose on what might have been otherwise an ordinary face, and being unable from his height to conceal it. Over a hundred being thus chosen, a firing party told off, and the column resumed its marching, leaving them behind. In a few minutes afterwards, a dropping fire in our rear commenced, and continued for over a quarter of an hour. It was the execution of these summarily convicted wretches. (Daily News, 8th June, 1871)
Yesterday (Sunday 28th May) about one o’clock, General Gallifet appeared at the head of a column of 6,000 prisoners … Upon their haggard countenances and in their downcast eyes there was no ray of hope to be seen. They were evidently prepared for the worst fate, and dragged listlessly along, as though it were not worth while to walk to Versailles to be shot when an immediate execution might save them the trouble. M. de Gallifet seemed to be of the same opinion, and a little beyond the Arc-de-Triomphe he halted the column, selected eighty-two, and had them shot there and then. A little after this a band of twenty Pompiers were marched into the Parc Monceaux and executed. (Times, 31st May, 1871)
Here is a copy of a letter addressed to Me Versaillese general staff, and probably still in its possession, bearing the number 28 bis:
To the Chief of the General Staff
I have been mistaken for a M. de Beaufond, and this annoys me all the more in that negligences committed by him are imputed to me.
I have certainly not wasted my time during this period of fifteen days. I have organized quite a legion of combatants. Their order is to run away at the approach of the troops, and thus to throw the ranks of the Federals into disorder.
The means indicated by the Committee of A seems to be practicable. I will make use of it. With only one hundred drunkards one can do many a thing.
This, according to the, of course, very approximate report of General Appert, is the contingent furnished by the different professions:
528 jewellers, 124 pasteboard makers, 210 hatters, 328 carpenters, 1,065 clerks, 1,491 shoemakers, 206 dressmakers, 172 gilders, 636 cabinet makers, 1,598 commercial employees, 98 instrument makers, 227 tin-workers, 224 founders, 182 engrave rs, 179 watchmakers, 819 compositors, 159 stained paper printers, 106 teachers, 2,901 day labourers, 2,293 bricklayers, 1,659 joiners, 193 lace-makers, 863 house-painters, 106 bookbinders, 283 sculptors, 2,664 locksmiths and mechanicians, 681 tailors, 347 tanners, 157 moulers, 766 stone-cutters.
Notably in the affair of the spy of the Hautes-Bruyères, for which several persons had already been condemned. This spy – a young man of twenty, and not a child, as the reactionaries have stated – had attracted the shells of the enemy to the Federal positions. Brought before a court-martial, composed of La Cécilia, commander of the army corps, of Johannard, delegate of the Commune, and of all the chiefs of battalions, he admitted having taken the Versaillese the plan of the Federal positions, and having received twenty francs as reward. He was unanimously condemned to death. At the moment of the execution, Johannard and Grandier, La Cécilia’s aide-de-camp, explained to the condemned man that he would be pardoned if he would reveal the name of his accomplice, an inhabitant of Montrouge. He replied, ‘You are brigands. Je vous emm …’ This fact, odiously travestied, has furnished for his Annus Terrible, as unjust to Johannard as to Sérizier, one of the men shot at Satory. The great poet owes himself a disclaimer.