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Chapter XXXIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5>

D'Aurelle now determined to concentrate the army on a line extending from Romorantin to Argent, with its centre at Salbris; to strengthen the position by throwing up field works, and to continue the as yet imperfect work of organising and training the new levies. He meant to bring the 16th and 17th Corps, under Chanzy, over the Loire at Beaugency and Blois, and to bring up the 18th and the 20th Corps from the direction of Gien. With the army thus concentrated once more, he calculated upon being ready to take the offensive again at the end of a few days, and he mentally resolved to admit of no more dictation on the part of civilians as to the movements of the army. But all his plans were rendered nugatory by the receipt of a despatch from Gambetta, on the 6th December, depriving him of the command, creating a second Army of the Loire under Chanzy, and giving the command of the First Army (15th, 18th, and 20th Corps) to Bourbaki. This was the reward which the noble-minded d'Aurelle received from the incapable dictator, to whose hands the fate of France was unfortunately committed, - for having laboured night and day to create, discipline, instruct, and moralise the army which he then, alone of all French generals hitherto, had known how to lead to victory.

The new Second Army of the Loire, under Chanzy, had an eventful history, which must here be summed up in a few words. Chanzy struggled gallantly; but so far from advancing nearer to Paris, he was ever driven farther away from it; he was continually fighting and falling back. He fought a battle at Villorceau, on the 8th December, against the Duke of Mecklenburg, and maintained all his positions, except on the right, at Beaugency, which the Prussians obtained possession of in the night. This disaster was owing to another interference by Gambetta with the movements of the troops. Admiral Jauréguiberry had given positive orders to General Camo, who commanded the movable column of Tours, to hold firmly a strong position which he assigned to him in front of Beaugency. But during the day a direct order was received by Camo, from the Minister of War, to retire behind Beaugency; this order he obeyed, and the result was tantamount to a defeat. After two more days' fighting, Chanzy fell back to the line of the Loir, hoping to protect Vendome. Prince Frederick Charles followed, and a general engagement took place near Vendome on the 15th December, in which, as before, the French fought well; but at its conclusion, his line being forced back at one point, Chanzy resolved to evacuate Vendôme and fall back on Le Mans. He arrived at Le Mans on the 21st December, and here for the present we will leave him.

In the east, the military operations were not at first of such importance as to have much effect on the issue of the war. Since France had declared herself a Republic, the sympathies of Garibaldi were enlisted on her behalf; he came to Tours on the 9th October. Colonel Charrette, of the Papal Zouaves, was at Tours at the same time, seeking a commission from Gambetta. A common cause thus strangely united the champion of the Pope and Ultramontanism, and the bitter enemy of both. Garibaldi was warmly received by Gambetta, and appointed to a special command in the east of France; a brigade of Franctireurs, of miscellaneous composition, being placed under his orders. Garibaldi's health was too infirm to allow of his exhibiting any great activity in the field. He is said to have chiefly distinguished himself by plaguing and troubling the French clergy, for whom his aversion was notorious. His head-quarters were fixed at Autun, where he turned the fine old cathedral into a barrack for his Franctireurs. General Werder, who commanded the German troops employed in this part of France, was little hampered in his movements, either by the efforts of Garibaldi, or by those of his more regular opponent, General Cambriels. A dashing exploit was performed by Ricciotti Garibaldi on the 19th November. He had heard that a German battalion, 800 strong, was quartered at Chatillon, between Tonnerre and Chaumont. By a night march he surprised the Germans, having himself only 560 men under his command; carried off 160 prisoners, drove the remainder out of the town, and returned to Saulieu with considerable booty. Before this, on the 29th October, the important town of Dijon, the ancient capital of Burgundy, had fallen into the hands of Werder. The strong fortress of Besançon defied the German arms. It was of the highest importance for them to take Belfort, a fortress of the first class, situated in the southern corner of Alsace, in the gap between the Vosges mountains and the Jura. General Treskow appeared before the place on the 3rd November, and commenced to invest it; but the investment was for a long time very incomplete, and communication with the country outside was scarcely interrupted. Garibaldi marched towards Dijon, on the 27th November, at the head of a column of Mobiles and Franctireurs 10,000 strong. At a place called Pasques he fell in with Werder's outposts, who held his force in check till the arrival of a brigade from Dijon, by which the Garibaldians were easily routed, with the loss of many prisoners. On the whole, the employment of Garibaldi did more harm by causing disunion among the French, than it did good by any loss that it inflicted on the Germans.

General Michel was appointed to succeed Cambriels in the command of the French Army of the East. But Gambetta, in November, called him and his forces into the valley of the Loire, to augment the army under d'Aurelle de Paladines. The Germans in Alsace being thus left unmolested, besieged and took nearly all the fortified places remaining in the province at their leisure.

In September, a circumstance occurred which gave us the disagreeable certainty that, although secured from the direct risks of war by what Mr. Gladstone calls " the silver streak," we too might be injuriously affected by the disturbance of the European equilibrium caused by the prostration of France. A circular note, addressed by Prince Gortschakoff to the representatives of Russia at foreign Courts, and made public at the end of October, declared that it was the intention of His Majesty the Czar no longer to be bound by that clause of the Treaty of 1856, concluded after the Crimean War, which prohibited Russia from keeping up a naval force above a certain strength in the Black Sea. Among those who interested themselves in the state of the East, the feeling had been growing for some time that, considering the altered state of things since the date when the treaty was concluded, and the greater political solidity of Turkey, it was no longer desirable that a restriction so galling as that now in question should be maintained; and had Russia proposed a conference with a view to the re-consideration and amendment of the treaty in this sense, the weight of English opinion would have been in favour of acquiescence. But in the mode of action chosen by the Russian Government there was an apparent discourtesy - a disregard of the rights and susceptibilities of the Governments that were co-signatories with her to the Treaty of 1856 - which elicited much angry comment from the Press, and not a little disquieted Mr. Gladstone's Government. Lord Granville, in a despatch to Sir A. Buchanan dated the 10th November, 1870, stated that the British Government could give no sanction to the course announced by Prince Gortschakoff, whose despatches " appear to assume that any one of the Powers who have signed the engagement may allege that occurrences have taken place/which, in its opinion, are at variance with the provisions of the treaty; and, although this view is not shared by the co-signatory Powers, may found upon that allegation, not a request to those Governments for the consideration of the case, but an announcement to them that it has emancipated itself, or holds itself emancipated, from any stipulations of the treaty which it thinks fit to disapprove. Yet it is quite evident that the effect of such doctrine, and of any proceeding which, with or without avowal, is founded upon it, is to bring the entire authority and efficacy of treaties under the discretionary control of each one of the Powers who may have signed them, the result of which would be the entire destruction of treaties in their essence."

The conciliatory tone adopted by Prince Gortschakoff in his reply to Lord Granville went some way to neutralise the disagreeable impression which the circular had produced. He would not admit that Russia encouraged a laxity of principle in regard to the obligation of treaties; and in the case of this particular treaty he declared that in its main stipulations Russia considered it as binding as ever, although she declined to be bound any longer by the special convention with Turkey which it contained, regulating the number and size of the men-of-war which the two Powers might maintain in the Black Sea. With regard to the objection that Russia had not sought for a modification of the treaty through the medium of a conference, Prince Gortschakoff remarked that Lord Granville well knew that " all the efforts repeatedly made to unite the Powers in a common deliberation, in order to do away with the causes of complication which trouble the general peace, have constantly failed." There was something deceptive in this way of stating the matter, because it did not follow, if difficulties had arisen in the way of the meeting of congresses to settle all the perplexing questions of Europe, such as that proposed by Napoleon in 1863, or to prevent the meeting of a congress to settle some one or two dangerous questions, such as that proposed by the neutral Powers in 1866, that therefore a proposal by Russia for a conference of the signatory Powers to discuss the comparatively unimportant matter now on the tapis, would have encountered any serious opposition. Lord Granville pointed out this distinction, admitting at the same time with satisfaction the moderation and courtesy of tone by which the Russian despatches were distinguished. Here, as between England and Russia, the matter rested. But a doubt, not unattended with anxiety, remained, whether the conduct of Russia had not been previously sanctioned, possibly even instigated, by the Court of Berlin. Mr. Odo Russell was sent to the royal head-quarters at Versailles to clear up this delicate point, and brought back the tranquillising assurance from Count Bismark that the German Government had given no sanction to the step. At the same time a proposal was made by Prussia that a conference of the Powers should be summoned, and meet in London, in order to settle the question. This was accepted both by Russia and this country, on condition that the conference should assemble " without foregone conclusions."

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Pictures for Chapter XXXIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

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