As soon as relations became "strained" between France and Germany, according to the term used in diplomacy, the king of Prussia ordered home all his subjects who had found employment in France, especially those in Alsace and Lorraine.[1] Long before this, those provinces had been overrun with photographers, pedlers, and travelling workmen, commissioned to make themselves fully acquainted with the roads, the by-paths, the resources of the villages, and the character of the rural officials. In the case of France, however, though all the reports concerning military stores looked well on paper, the old guns mounted on the frontier fortresses were worthless, and the organization of the army was so imperfect that scarcely more than two hundred thousand troops could be sent to defend the French frontier from Switzerland to Luxemburg; while Germany, with an army that could be mobilized in eleven days, was ready by the 1st of August to pour five hundred thousand men across the Rhine. The emperor placed great reliance on his mitrailleuses, - a new engine of war that would fire a volley of musketry at once, but which, though horribly murderous, has not proved of great value in actual warfare. Towards the Rhine were hurried soldiers, recruits, cannon, horses, artillery, ammunition, wagons full of biscuit and all manner of munitions of war. The roads between Strasburg and Belfort were blocked up, and in the disorder nobody seemed to know what should be done. Every one was trying to get orders. The telegraph lines were reserved for the Government. Quartermasters were roaming about in search of their depots, colonels were looking for their regiments, generals for their brigades or divisions. There were loud outcries for salt, sugar, coffee, bacon, and bridles. Maps of Germany as far as the shores of the Baltic were being issued to soldiers who, alas! were never to pass their own frontier. But while this was the situation near the seat of war, in other parts of France the scene was different, especially in Brest and other seaports. These towns were crowded with soldiers and sailors; the streets were filled with half-drunken recruits bawling patriotic sentiments in tipsy songs. And now, for the first time since the Empire came into existence, might be heard the unaccustomed strains of the "Marseillaise." It had been long suppressed in France; but when war became imminent, it was encouraged for the purpose of exciting military ardor.

[Footnote 1: Erckmann-Chatrian, La Plebiscite.]

Every day in the provincial towns the war fever grew fiercer. The bugle sounded incessantly in the streets of any place where there were troops in garrison. Regiment followed regiment on its way into Paris, changing quarters or marching to depots to receive equipments. Orderlies galloped madly about, and heavy ammunition wagons lumbered noisily over the pavements. Everybody shouted "A Berlin," and took up the chorus of the "Marseillaise." The post-offices and telegraph-offices were crowded with soldiers openly dictating their messages to patient officials who put them into shape, and it was said that nearly every telegram contained the words, "Please send me..." Alas, poor fellows! it is probable that nothing sent them in reply was ever received.[1]

[Footnote 1: I am indebted for much in this chapter to a private journal.]

Parisians or residents in Paris all believed at that time in the prestige of the French army; only here and there a German exile muttered in his beard something about Sadowa.

On July 27 all Paris assembled on the Boulevards to see the Garde Imperiale take its departure for the frontier. This Imperial Guard was a choice corps created by Napoleon III. at the outset of the Crimean War. It was a force numbering nominally twenty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. It was a very popular corps, and the war with Germany was popular; consequently the march from its barracks to the railroad station was one continued triumph. At every halt the Parisians pressed into the ranks with gifts of money, wine, and cigars. "Vive l'armee!" shouted the multitude. "A Berlin!" responded the troops; and now and then, as the bands struck up the "Marseillaise," the population and the troops burst out in chorus with the solemn, spirit-stirring words.

At the head of this brilliant host rode Marshal Le Boeuf, who was minister of war and military tutor to the Prince Imperial. After the departure of the main body of the corps, large detachments of cavalry and artillery which belonged to it were expected to follow; but they remained behind in the provinces, because Lyons, Marseilles, and Algeria, all centres of the revolutionary spirit, could not, it was found, be left without armed protection. Therefore only a portion of the crack corps of the French army went forward to the frontier, - a fact never suspected by the public until events, a few weeks later, made it known.

Paris was jubilant. The theatres especially became centres of patriotic demonstrations. At the Grand Opera House, Auber's "Massaniello" (called in France the "Muette de Portici") was announced. For many years its performance had been interdicted under the Second Empire, the story being one of heroic revolt. The time had come, however, when its ardent patriotism entitled it to resuscitation. Faure, the most remarkable baritone singer of the period, suddenly, at the beginning of the second act, which opens with a chorus of fishermen inciting each other to resist oppression, appeared upon the stage bearing the French flag. The chorus ranged themselves to right and left as he strode forward and waved the tricolor above the footlights. The house broke into wild uproar, cheer after cheer rose for the flag, for the singer, for France.

"The violence of the applause," says one who was present, "continued until all were breathless; then a sudden silence preceded the great event of the evening. In clear, firm tones, Faure launched forth the first notes of the 'Marseillaise;' and as the first verse ended, he bounded forward, and unfurling the flag to its full length and breadth, he waved it high above his head as he electrified the audience with the cry, 'Aux armes citoyens!' and subsequently, when in the last verse he sank upon one knee, and folding the standard to his heart, raised his eyes towards heaven, he drew all hearts with him; tears flowed, hand grasped hand, and deeply solemn was the intonation of the volunteer chorus following the call to arms!

"The month of July was drawing to a close when the emperor took his departure for Metz, where he was to assume the post of generalissimo. With him went gayly the young Prince Imperial, then fourteen years old. Their starting-point was the small rustic summer-house in the park of Saint-Cloud, the termination of a miniature branch railroad connecting with the great lines of travel. There the father and son parted from the empress, who removed the same day to the Tuileries, where she administered the imperial government under the title of empress-regent.

"It would have been injudicious for the emperor at this time to risk a public departure from Paris. The Parisians were so full of confidence and enthusiasm that he might have received an inconvenient ovation in advance."

Skirmishing had been going on along the frontier between the French and German outposts since July 21. On August 2 the campaign began in earnest. After luncheon on that day, the emperor and the Prince Imperial set out by rail from Metz, and returned to Metz to dinner, having invaded German territory and opened the war. They had alighted at Forbach, and proceeded thence to make a reconnaissance into the enemy's territory near Saarbrueck, - a small town of two thousand inhabitants, where, strange to say, an International Peace Congress had held its session not many months before. This place had an ordinary frontier garrison, and lay two and a half miles beyond the boundary of France. General Frossard, under the emperor's direction and supervision, led on his men to attack the place. The first gun was fired by the Prince Imperial, who here, as his father's telegram that night reported to the empress, received his "baptism of fire." The garrison returned the fire, and then, having lost two officers and seventy-two men, it retired, leaving the French in possession of the heights above the town. Poor Prince Imperial! Some harsh lines concerning his first exploit were published in the London "Spectator:" -

  "'How jolly, papa! how funny! 
     How the blue men tumble about! 
    Huzza! there's a fellow's head off, - 
     How the dark red blood spouts out! 
    And look, what a jolly bonfire! - 
     Wants nothing but colored light! 
    Oh, papa, burn a lot of cities, 
     And burn the next one at night!' 
      "'Yes, child, it is operatic; 
     But don't forget, in your glee, 
    That for your sake this play is playing, 
     That you may be worthy of me. 
    They baptized you in Jordan water, - 
     Baptized as a Christian, I mean, - 
    But you come of the race of Caesar, 
     And thus have their baptisms been. 
    Baptized in true Caesar fashion, 
     Remember, through all your years, 
    That the font was a burning city, 
     And the water was widows' tears,'"

When these lines were written, how little could any man have foreseen the fate of the poor lad, lying bloody and stark on a hillside of South Africa, deserted by his comrades, and above all by a degenerate descendant of Sir Walter Raleigh, who should have risked his life to defend his charge!

The day after the attack on Saarbrueck compact masses of Germans were moving across the frontier into France, and the next day (August 4), a division of MacMahon's army corps was surprised at Wissembourg, while their commander was at Metz in conference with the emperor. The French troops were cut to pieces, and the fugitives spread themselves all over the country. The battle had been fought on ground covered with vineyards, and the movements of the French cavalry had been impeded by the vines. In this battle the French were without artillery, but they took eight cannon from the enemy. The Prussians, however, being speedily reinforced, recovered their advantage and gained a complete victory. Wissembourg, a small town in Alsace, was bombarded and set on fire. There seemed no officer among the defeated French to restore order. They had never anticipated such a rout, and were, especially the cavalry, utterly demoralized.

The French army was divided into seven army corps, the German into twelve. Each German army corps was greatly stronger in men, and incomparably better officered and equipped, than the French. The Germans began the war with nearly a million men; the French with little more than two hundred thousand on the frontier, though their army was five hundred thousand strong on the official records. The habit of the War Office had been to let rich men who were drawn for the conscription pay four hundred francs for a substitute, which substitute was seldom purchased, the money going into the pockets of dishonest officials.

The two hundred thousand French were stretched in a thin line from Belgium to the mountains of Dauphine. A German army corps could break this line at almost any point; and throughout the whole campaign the French suffered from the lack of reliable information as to the movements of the enemy.

On August 6, two days after the defeat at Wissembourg, the battle of Woerth, or Reichshofen, was fought between the German corps d'armee under the Prussian Crown Prince and the corps of MacMahon, which was completely defeated, and only enabled to leave the field of battle in retreat rather than rout, by brilliant charges of cavalry. The French lost six mitrailleuses, thirty guns, and four thousand unwounded prisoners. On the same day the German reserves retook Saarbrueck, and put to flight General Frossard's division. After these reverses Napoleon III. proposed to retreat on Paris and to cover the capital. This also was the counsel of MacMahon; but the empress-regent opposed it strongly, considering it a movement that must prove fatal to the dynasty. She even refused to receive back her son. And indeed it did not seem unlikely that the good people of Paris, who ten days before had cheered clamorously their beloved emperor, might have tom him in pieces, had he come back to them after such a succession of disasters.

On the 7th of August, the very day after the battle of Worth, while MacMahon was retreating before the victorious army of the Prussian Crown Prince, the Parisians were made victims of an extraordinary deception. A great battle was reported, in which the Crown Prince had been made prisoner, together with twenty-six thousand of his men.

All Paris turned into the streets to exult over this victory; everyone rushed in the direction of the Bourse, where details of the great victory were said to have been posted. In every street, from every house, people were summoned to hang out flags and banners. An excited crowd filled up the Bourse, many men clinging to the railings, all shouting, singing, and embracing each other. No one for a long time had any clear idea what the rejoicing was about, yet the crowd went on shouting and singing choruses, waving hats, and reiterating the "Marseillaise." The carriage of Madame Marie Sasse, the prima donna, who was on her way to a rehearsal at the Grand Opera House, was stopped, and she was requested to sing the "Marseillaise." She stood up on the seat of her carriage and complied at once. "There was profound silence," wrote a gentleman who was in the crowd, "when she gave the first notes of the 'Marseillaise;' but all Paris seemed to take up the chorus after each stanza. There was uproarious applause. The last verse was even more moving than when Faure had sung it, on account of the novelty of the surroundings and the spontaneous feeling of the people. There were real tears in the singer's eyes, and her voice trembled with genuine emotion as she came to the thrilling appeal to Liberte."

At the same moment Capoul also was singing the "Marseillaise" in another street, and in the Rue Richelieu the mob, having stopped a beer cart and borrowed some glasses from a restaurant, were drinking healths to the army and the emperor.

"All this time," says the American, who mingled in the crowd and shouted with the rest in his excitement, "it never occurred to me to doubt the accuracy of the news that had so stirred up Paris; for the newspapers on the preceding days had prepared us to expect something of the kind. All at once, upon the Boulevard, I was aware of a violent altercation going on between a respectable-looking man and a number of infuriated bystanders. He seemed to be insisting that the whole story of the victory was untrue, and that despatches had been received announcing heavy disasters. I saw that unlucky citizen hustled about, and finally collared and led off by a policeman, the people pursuing him with cries of 'Prussian!' But some time later in the day some persons in a cab drove down the Boulevards with a white banner, inscribed: THE AUTHOR OF THE FALSE NEWS IS ARRESTED! This, however, was not the case, for the news was never traced to any person."

The mob as soon as it began to believe that it had been the victim of some stockjobbing operators, rushed to the Bourse, determined to pull everything to pieces; but the military were there beforehand, and it had to content itself with requiring all householders to pull down the flags which two hours before it had insisted must be hung out.

The Parisians were not easily appeased after this cruel deception, and took their revenge by spreading damaging reports about the Government of the regency, especially accusing the ministers of basely suppressing bulletins from the army, that they might gamble on the stock-exchange. The chief of the cabinet, Emile Ollivier, was very nearly mobbed; but he pacified the people by a speech made from the balcony of his residence. He was at the time really unaware that more than one defeat had been sustained.

Hour after hour alarming reports kept coming in; and at last, on August 9, the fatal news of three successive defeats was posted all over the city. Soon an ominous message, sent by Napoleon III., revealed the full horror of the situation: "Hasten preparations for the defence of Paris."

The greatest dismay prevailed. The Chambers were summoned to an evening session. The legislators were guarded by cavalry from the mob which surged round the Chamber. Ollivier and his cabinet were forced to resign, and a new cabinet was hastily installed in office, calling itself the Ministry of National Defence. Its head was Count Montauban, a man seventy-five years old, who had gained the title of Count Palikao by his notorious campaign in China in 1860, when he sacked the summer palace at Pekin. M. Thiers had pronounced him far more of a soldier than a statesman. He was in command of the fourth army corps at Lyons when summoned by the empress-regent to take up the reins of government; but in the course of the unvaried succession of misfortunes which made up the history of the French arms during the month of August, the public statements of Palikao proved as unreliable as those of his predecessor. His favorite way of meeting inquiries was to say oracularly: "If Paris knew what I know, the city would be illuminated."

Confidence increased after the empress-regent had proclaimed a levee en masse. There were no arms for those who responded to the call, and most of them had to be sent back to their homes; but it was considered certain that the mere idea of a general call to arms would intimidate the Prussians. Indeed, there was a popular delusion, shared even by foreigners, that the Prussian soldiery, on their march to Paris, would be cut to pieces by the peasantry. The conduct of the peasantry proved exactly the reverse of belligerent. The penalties inflicted by the invaders for irregular warfare, and the profits made by individuals who remained neutral, were cleverly calculated to render the peasantry, not only harmless, but actually useful to the enemy.

Meantime the French were rapidly evacuating Alsace, and preparing to make their stand on the Moselle. General Failly's corps of thirty thousand men, which had failed to come up in time to help MacMahon at Woerth, were in full retreat, without exchanging a shot with the enemy.

The Germans continued to march steadily on. The country was systematically requisitioned for supplies. The maire or other high official of each village was informed twenty-four hours beforehand how many men he was expected to provide with rations; namely, to each man daily, 1-1/2 lb. bread, 1 lb. Meat, 1/4 lb. coffee, five cigars, or their equivalent in tobacco, a pint of wine or a quart of beer, and horse feed. If these demands were not complied with, he was assured that the village would be set on fire; and after a few examples had been made, the villagers became so intimidated that they furnished all that was required of them.

Here is a description of one night's work done by a Prussian general. It is taken from a work by Erckmann-Chatrian;[1] but those graphic writers took all their descriptions from the mouths of Alsatian peasants who had been eye-witnesses of the scenes which they described: -

[Footnote 1: La Plebiscite.]

"The first thing the Prussian commander did on entering his chamber in a cottage where he had quarters for the night, was to make three or four soldiers turn out every article of furniture. Then he spread out on the floor an enormous map of the country. He took off his boots and lay down on the map flat on his stomach. Then he called in six or seven officers, all captains or lieutenants. Each man pulled out a small map. The general called to one of them by name: 'Have you got the road from here to Metting?' 'Yes, General.' 'Name all the places between here and there.' Then the officer, without hesitation, told the names of all the villages, farms, streams, bridges, and woods, the turnings of the roads, the very cow-paths. The general followed him on the large map with his finger. 'That's all right. Take twenty men and go as far as St. Jean by such a road. You will reconnoitre. If you want any assistance, send me word.' And so on, one by one, to all the others."

Such was the system and order of the Germans; while the French, full of amazement at their own defeat, unled, unofficered, and disorganized, are thus described by Edmond About as he saw them entering Saverne after the disastrous day at Woerth.

"There were cuirassiers," he says, "without cuirasses, fusileers without guns, horsemen on foot, and infantry on horseback. The roads taken by the army in its flight were blocked by trains of wagons loaded with provisions and clothing, and the woods were filled with stragglers wandering about in a purposeless way. Among the spoils of that day which fell into the hands of the Prussians were several railroad freight-cars loaded with Paris confectionery: and two days after the battle it was easier to obtain a hundredweight of bonbons at Forbach than a loaf of bread."

All this happened in one week, from August 2 to August 6. During this week the emperor stayed at Metz, having been implored by his generals to keep away from the army.

A week later, Strasburg was besieged. MacMahon, the remnants of whose corps had been driven out of Alsace by the Crown Prince, was endeavoring to effect a juncture with the army corps of De Failly.

The object of the emperor and Marshal MacMahon was to concentrate as large a force as possible before the very strongly fortified city of Metz. But as soon as they reached Metz the armies of General Steinmetz and Prince Frederic Charles, two hundred and fifty thousand strong, began to close in upon them. There seemed no safety but in further retreat. The emperor wanted to give up Lorraine, and to concentrate all his forces in an intrenched camp at Chalons; but advices from Paris warned him that a revolt would break out in the capital if he did so. He therefore resigned his position as commander-in-chief to Marshal Bazaine. He was coldly received in the camp at Chalons, and his presence with several thousand men as a body-guard was an impediment to military operations. He was therefore virtually dropped out of the army, and from August 18, when this news was known in Paris, his authority in France was practically at an end. On the same day (August 18) Bazaine's army was driven into Metz after the battle of Gravelotte, at which battle the French, though defeated, distinguished themselves by their bravery. Bazaine had one hundred and seventy thousand men with him when he retired behind the walls of Metz. Here he was closely besieged till October 27, when he surrendered.

The news that reached Paris of these events (just one month after the emperor had signed the declaration of war) not only resulted in his practical deposition, but caused a notoriously anti-Bonapartist general to be appointed military governor of the capital. Imperialism remained an empty name. France was without one ally, nor had the emperor one friend. Meantime Palikao, to appease the irritation of the public, continued to announce victory after victory. Of all his fantastic inventions, the most fantastic was one published immediately after Bazaine had shut himself up with his army in Metz. A despatch was published, and universally accepted with confidence and enthusiasm, announcing that three German army corps had been overthrown at the Quarries of Jaumont. There are no quarries at Jaumont, there were no Prussians anywhere near the spot, and none had been defeated; but the Parisians were well satisfied.

After the first panic caused by the despatch that Paris must prepare for defence, means were taken for provisioning the city. Clement Duvernois, an ex-radical, an ex-Bonapartist, and one of the members of the Ministry of Defence, gave ignorant and reckless orders for supplies, which, in spite of the gravity of the situation, amused the Parisians immensely.

Droves of cattle passed all day along the Boulevards, going to be pastured in the Bois de Boulogne, where they were tended by Gardes Mobiles from the rural districts. The cattle, the camps, and the fortifications attracted crowds of curious spectators.

The tap of the drum was wellnigh incessant in the city; and while the enemy was drawing near, and bloody defeats followed each other in rapid succession, the Parisians seemed chiefly stimulated to write fresh libels in the newspapers, and to amuse each other with caricatures and satires.

Among other foolish measures was that of ordering all firemen from the departments up to Paris. They remained in the city a week, and were then sent home. In their absurd and heavy uniforms, and with nothing whatever to do, the poor country fellows presented a miserable appearance as they sat in rows along the curbstones of the avenues, with their helmets glittering in the August sun, "looking," as some one remarked, "like so many rare beetles on exhibition," the spectacle being all the more ludicrous from the extreme dejection of the innocent heroes.

Troops were always on the move. The Gardes Mobiles, formed into companies, were not wanted anywhere. Being too raw as yet for active service, they were transferred from one barrack to another, and were drilled in the open streets and in the public squares. The forts absorbed a number of them; others were employed as shepherds and drovers. The surplus was billeted on the citizens.

Towards the end of August there began to be a notion that the city was full of spies, and all suspected persons were called Prussians. The mania for spy-hunting became general, and was frequently very inconvenient to Americans and Englishmen. Germans in Paris, many of whom had intermarried with the French, naturally found themselves in a most unhappy situation. At first they were strictly forbidden to leave Paris; then suddenly they were ordered away, on three days' notice, under penalty of being treated as prisoners of war.

This decree affected eighty thousand persons in France, nearly all of whom were connected by family ties or business relations with the country of their adoption. The outcry raised by the English and German Press about this summary expulsion procured some modification of the order, - not, however, without a protest from the radicals, who clamored for the rigor of the law. Mr. Washburne, the American minister, the only foreign ambassador who remained in Paris during the siege, had accepted the charge of these unhappy Germans, and heart-breaking scenes took place daily at the American Legation.

Soon after the defeats in the first week in August, Mr. Washburne had his last interview with the Empress Eugenie.

"She had evidently," he says, "passed a sleepless and agitated night, and was in great distress of mind. She at once began to speak of the terrible news she had received, and the effect it would have on the French people. I suggested to her that the news might not be quite so bad as was reported (alas! it was far worse), and that the consequences might in the end be far better than present circumstances indicated. I spoke to her about the first battle of Bull Run, and the defeat that the Union army had there suffered, which had only stimulated the country to greater exertions. She replied: 'I only wish the French in these respects were like you Americans; but I am afraid they will get too much discouraged, and give up too soon.'"[1]

[Footnote 1: Recollections of a Minister to France.]

All this time the "Figaro" was publishing articles that held out hopes of victory and flattered the self-confidence of the Parisians. Marshals MacMahon and Bazaine were represented as leading the enemy craftily into a snare, and the illusion was kept up that the Germans would be cut to pieces by the peasantry "before they could lay their sacrilegious hands," said Victor Hugo, "upon the Mecca of civilization." Instead of this, the Crown Prince's army was marching in pursuit of MacMahon's forces through the great plains of Champagne. MacMahon had some design of turning back, uniting with another army corps, and attacking the Prussians in the rear, thus hemming in part of their army between himself and the troops of Bazaine in Metz; but he seems to have been really in the position of a pawn driven about a chess-board by an experienced player.

Continually retreating, the emperor, who was with MacMahon's army, at last found himself at Sedan, safe, as he hoped, for a brief breathing space, from the attacks of the two Prussian army corps which were following in his rear. He had been warned repeatedly that he must not return to Paris without a victory. "The language of reason," he remarked, "is no longer understood at the capital."

On Aug. 30, 1870, the retreating French were concentrated, or rather massed, under the walls of Sedan,[1] in a valley commonly called the Sink of Givonne. The army consisted of twenty-nine brigades, fifteen divisions, and four corps d'armee, numbering ninety thousand men.

[Footnote 1: Victor Hugo, Choses vues.]

"It was there," says Victor Hugo, "no one could guess what for, without order, without discipline, a mere crowd of men, waiting, as it seemed, to be seized by an immensely powerful hand. It seemed to be under no particular anxiety. The men who composed it knew, or thought they knew, that the enemy was far away. Calculating four leagues as a day's march, they believed the Germans to be at three days distance. The commanders, however, towards nightfall, made some preparations for safety. The whole army formed a sort of horse-shoe, its point turning towards Sedan. This disposition proved that its chiefs believed themselves in safety. The valley was one of those which the Emperor Napoleon used to call a 'bowl,' and which Admiral Van Tromp designated by a less polite name. No place could have been better calculated to shut in an army. Its very numbers were against it. Once in, if the way out were blocked, it could never leave it again. Some of the generals, - General Wimpfen among them - saw this, and were uneasy; but the little court around the emperor was confident of safety. 'At worst,' they said, 'we can always reach the Belgian frontier.' The commonest military precautions were neglected. The army slept soundly on the night of August 31. At the worst they believed themselves to have a line of retreat open to Mezieres, a town on the frontier of Belgium. No cavalry reconnoissance was made that night; the guards were not doubled. The French believed themselves more than forty miles from the German army. They behaved as if they thought that army unconcentrated and ill-informed, attempting vaguely several things at once, and incapable of converging on one point, namely, Sedan. They thought they knew that the column under the Prince of Saxony was marching upon Chalons, and that the Crown Prince of Prussia was marching upon Metz.

"But that night, while the French army, in fancied security, was sleeping at Sedan, this is what was passing among the enemy.

"By a quarter to two A. M. the army of the Prince of Saxony was on its march eastward, with orders not to fire a shot till five o'clock, and to make as little noise as possible. They marched without baggage of any kind. At the same hour another division of the Prussian army marched, with equal noiselessness, from another direction, on Sedan, while the Wuertemburgers secured the road to Mezieres, thereby cutting off the possibility of a retreat into Belgium.

"At the same moment, namely, five o'clock, - on all the hills around Sedan, at all points of the compass, appeared a dense, dark mass of German troops, with their commanders and artillery. Not one sound had been heard by the French army, not even an order. Two hundred and fifty thousand men were in a circle on the heights round the Sink of Givonne. They had come as stealthily and as silently as serpents. They were there when the sun rose, and the French army were prisoners."

The battle was one of artillery. The German guns commanded every part of the crowded valley. Indeed, the fight was simply a massacre. There was no hope for the French, though they fought bravely. Their best troops, the Garde Imperiale, were with Bazaine at Metz. Marshal MacMahon was wounded very early in the day. The command passed first to General Ducrot, who was also disabled, and afterwards to Wimpfen, a brave African general who had hurried from Algeria just in time to take part in this disastrous day. He told the emperor that the only hope was for the troops to cut their way out of the valley; but the army was too closely crowded, too disorganized, to make this practicable. One Zouave regiment accomplished this feat, and reached Belgium.

That night - the night of September 1 - an aide-de-camp of the Emperor Napoleon carried this note to the camp of the king of Prussia: -

MONSIEUR MON FRERE, - Not having been able to die in midst of my troops, it only remains for me to place my sword in the hands of your Majesty.

  I am your Majesty's good brother,


The king of Prussia replied, -

MONSIEUR MON FRERE, - Regretting the circumstances under which we meet, I accept the sword of your Majesty, and I invite you to designate one of your officers, provided with full powers, to treat for the capitulation of the army which has so bravely fought under your command. On my side I have named General von Moltke for that purpose.

  I am your Majesty's good brother,


Before Sedan, Sept. 1, 1870.

"The next morning early, a carriage containing four French officers drove out from Sedan, and came into the German lines. The carriage had an escort of only three horsemen. When it had reached the Germans, one of its occupants put out his head and asked, in German, for Count von Bismarck? The Germans replied that he was at Donchery. Thither the carriage dashed away. It contained the French emperor."

With Napoleon III. fell not only his own reputation as a ruler, but the glory of his uncle and the prestige of his name.

The fallen emperor and Bismarck met in a little house upon the banks of the Meuse. Chairs were brought out, and they talked in the open air. It was a glorious autumn morning. The emperor looked care-worn, as well he might. He wished to see the king of Prussia before the articles of capitulation were drawn up: but King William declined the interview. When the capitulation was signed, however, he drove over to visit the captive emperor at a chateau where the latter had taken refuge.

Their interview was private; only the two sovereigns were present. The French emperor afterwards expressed to the Crown Prince of Prussia his deep sense of the courtesy shown him. He was desirous of passing as unnoticed as possible through French territory, where, indeed, exasperation against him, as the first cause of the misfortunes of France, was so great that his life would have been in peril. The next day he proceeded to the beautiful palace at Cassel called Wilhelmshoehe, or William's Rest. It had been built at ruinous expense by Jerome Bonaparte while king of Westphalia, and was then called Napoleon's Rest.

Every consideration that the German royal family could show their former friend and gracious host was shown to Louis Napoleon. This told against him with the French. Was the man who had led them into such misfortunes to be honored and comforted while they were suffering the consequences of his selfishness, recklessness, negligence, and incapacity?

Thus eighty thousand men capitulated at Sedan, and were marched as prisoners into Germany; one hundred and seventy-five thousand French soldiers remained shut up in Metz, besides a few thousands more in Strasburg, Phalsbourg, Toul, and Belfort. But the road was open to Paris, and thither the various German armies marched, leaving the Landwehr, which could not be ordered to serve beyond the limits of Germany, to hold Alsace and Lorraine, already considered a part of the Fatherland. The Prussians did not reach Paris till September 19, two weeks after the surrender at Sedan, - which seemed rather a lull in the military operations of a war in which so much had occurred during one short month.