In the meantime, the French quickly formed the Chalon army, including the 1, 5, 7 corps under the command of MacMahon and the newly formed 12 corps. The core of the 12 Corps was a division left on the Spanish border, joined by four regiments of marines. In addition, two cavalry divisions were added. The French emperor arrived at Chalon and placed in command of Marshal MacMahon a new army. In the French main apartment (headquarters) it was believed that Marshal Bazin retreated from Metz. The counter movement of the Shalonsky army, approximately, to Verdun could in a few days lead to the unification of both armies, and the creation of a powerful army group capable of resisting the victorious German army. On the other hand, MacMahon should have also taken care of the defense of Paris. The appearance of the army of the crown prince of Prussia on the Meuse threatened both the French capital and the right flank of the Shalonsky army.
On August 18, a report was received from Bazin that he held his position in the battle of Rezonville, but in order to proceed further, the troops must be supplied with ammunition and food. At the same time, it became obvious that the messages of the Rhine Army were already under threat. Marshal MacMahon decided to go to Reims, from where he could go to Paris (making a small detour), or move towards Bazin. However, having received the news that not all Prussian troops were drawn to Metz and that Prussian cavalry had already appeared before Vitry, the marshal decided that he should go to Paris. There he could give battle under favorable conditions, as he had the support of the capital’s resources and even in case of failure could make a retreat, hiding behind a huge city and its forts.
MacMahon believed that a movement to help Bazin could lead to the loss of the only remaining French army. The Chalon army, in his opinion, could soon become the core for the formation of 250 — 300-thousand. an army that could defend Paris. "Heading east," McMahon argued to the government, "I may be in a difficult situation and suffer a rout that I seek to avoid." Marshal believed that he "could not take such a risk and find himself surrounded by the Prussian armies" and offered to go to Paris.
However, the new messages from Metz still misled the supreme French command and did not give a clear idea of the situation there. It was reported that 18 August "the army also maintained its position," only the right wing made a change of front. “The troops need 2 – 3 days of rest,” but Marshal Bazin “still expects to move north” and make his way through Montmedy and Saint-Meneuld to Chalon if this road is not very busy. In the latter case, he will go to Sedan and even through Mezieres to reach Chalons. In addition, 22 August from Paris received a dispatch addressed to Napoleon III from the Minister of War. In it, Cousin-Montaban insisted that MacMahon go to Metz, since political considerations, the interests of preserving the empire, require it. “Paris, by the way, does not need an auxiliary army,” the head of government and the minister of war assured. “He is able to defend himself against the army of the crown prince of Prussia. The defensive work has moved far ahead; a new army is being created in Paris. ”
As a result, MacMahon did not dare to leave Bazin’s army without support, and on August 23, he did take the place of Paris in the direction of Stenay. This movement was poorly prepared. Two corps were left completely without food. The French commander was forced to pull the army north to Rethel, where large food warehouses were located, and where the railroad facilitated the transport of everything needed. Thus, fatigue from previous marches, demoralization as a result of previously suffered defeats, lack of food and other supplies led to the fact that the movement of the Chalons army was extremely slow, with forced deviations to the west in search of food. As a result, the Shalon army lost some advantage in time over the Prussian army and very slowly moved east.
Marshal Patrice de MacMagon
At that time, as the French army was moving in a wide arc to the east, the German armies, speaking at the same time, went in a direct direction to the west. The Prussian command decided that the left-flank 3 Army moved to the 1 transition ahead of the right-flank Maas Army so that, wherever the French stopped, attack them simultaneously from the front and the right flank, swinging north of Paris. The first transition brought the German troops to Maaas, the second - August 24 - on the line Saint-Dizier, Bar-le-Duc, Verdun. The second attempt to take the Tul fortress on the move did not lead to success. At the same time, the cavalry pushed far ahead reported that the French had cleared Chalon and moved towards Reims. 25 August both armies were instructed to move in the direction of Reims.
New news confirmed the direction of the French army. The newspapers in Paris readily blurted out military secrets; they gave harsh speeches in the National Assembly: "A French general who leaves without the help of his comrade will be subject to the curse of the fatherland." Declared shameful for the French people, if the brave Bazin left without support. With the power of public opinion in France, it was obvious that military considerations would submit to political ones. Indeed, a telegram from London reported to the Paris newspaper Temp that MacMahon suddenly decided to help Bazin, although the location of the Shalon army near the capital was more advantageous from a military-strategic point of view, and leaving the road to Paris threatened the security of France.
As a result, in the evening of August 25, the Prussian king approved the turn of the armies to the right and at night orders were sent directly to the appropriate corps. August 26 German cavalry intelligence discovered the 7 French Corps on the heights of Vouziers. The appearance of several weak cavalry outposts, sent out by the Germans for observation, caused in the French army a hardly explainable commotion. Things reached the point that the appearance of enemy cavalry was considered to be the start of the German offensive. The 7 corps stood all night in a rifle in the pouring rain, and Marshal MacMahon decided the next morning to move with all the troops to the aid of the 7 corps. The main reason for the French panic was poor intelligence. If the Germans skillfully used the cavalry for reconnaissance, then the French had a failure in this area. If the French had used their cavalry on the right flank, the sudden appearance of the German cavalry would have been impossible. But the French 1-I cavalry division was in front of a completely safe left wing, and the 2-division was behind the army.
After the German cavalry appeared on the right flank, MacMahon should either go towards the enemy, so his southern flank was under threat of an enemy strike and further eastward, led to the enemy's embrace of the Shalon army, or it was necessary to admit that the march was impossible and that its continuation leads to a catastrophe. This forced the army to return to Paris, where its presence was more appropriate. According to some military historians, the 27 of August MacMahon still had the opportunity to overthrow the 12 German Corps blocking his way, since the rest of the German troops were so far away. However, MacMahon, ill-informed about the location of the enemy, was afraid to be surrounded by the German armies. Therefore, after clearing up the misunderstandings, Marshal 27 of August continued his march, at least with some of the forces. The 7 and 5 corps covered the movement in Wuszier and Bussancy, the 12 corps moved forward to Le Schoen, and the 1 corps and part of the cavalry were left behind on p. En In the meantime, the Prussians were marching northward with reinforced marches.
Finding that no one could be seen in Montmedy from the Rhineland army, that Bazin’s army still remained with Metz, MacMahon decided to retreat. He gave orders to carry it out and conveyed his intention to Paris. However, he was not allowed to realize this correct intention. On the night of August 28, McMahon received persistent objections. The war minister telegraphed: "If you leave Bazen without help, a revolution will break out." The Council of Ministers set a specific requirement - to release the Metz. It was indicated that the marshal had only a part of the blockade German army in front of him, that he was several days ahead of the crown prince, and to cover Paris he moved to Reims General Vinoy with the newly formed 13 corps. Marshal, contrary to his understanding of the military situation, complied and gave new orders. McMahon, as he later claimed, was aware of the unreasonableness of the army march to the east, but he did not have enough independence to defend his opinion. The troops had already acted, and so when changing the direction of the march numerous crossings of columns occurred, which complicated and slowed down the movement. This further demoralized the army. Senseless marches exhausted the soldiers.
It is worth noting that the MacMagon army had weak combat capability, in contrast to Bazin’s army. The Shalonian army was formed from the remnants of MacMahon's troops, retreating to Chalon after the defeats of August 6, as well as from the troops of the 12 corps formed in Chalon. As acknowledged by the Chief of Staff of the 12 Army Corps, General Schmitz, who was observing these forces at Chalon, they “looked as if they had been fighting for six months already ... The majority did not have backpacks or rifles. All the officers lost their luggage and their horses in these ill-fated battles of 6 August 1870. ” Schmitz's data coincide with the characteristic that Engels gave to the remnants of MacMahon's troops in those days. "It was," he wrote on August 19, "a mixture of soldiers of all military branches and different regiments, without weapons, without cartridges, without satchels; cavalrymen had no horses, gunners no guns; a motley, disorganized, demoralized crowd, which would have taken weeks to organize into battalions, squadrons, and batteries. ” The troops that made up the 12 Army Corps, with the exception of the Marine Corps brigade, were also of little use for immediate engagement with the Prussian army. This corps has so far been staffed only by the 18 battalions of the Mobile Department of Seine, with 13 500 men, and a small number of untrained new recruits. Many were armed with guns of outdated systems, others did not have guns at all. Thus, to lead such an army to meet the powerful German corps meant to destroy the last army at the disposal of the French command. Such an army could fight the enemy, relying on the resources and fortifications of Paris, and not in the course of maneuvering combat.
At this time, the German cavalry was categorically ordered not to interfere with the enemy and not crowding him, limited to observation. Therefore, the 29 of August the Germans were not looking for a battle. It was supposed to start a decisive clash only on August 30. On the German side, first the Saxon corps went out to the French, then the guard. After some time, the rest of the corps came up. The German headquarters moved to Grand Pré, and on the basis of the reports received there, it was decided to 30 in August, before the French go over the Meuse to attack them. The Maasian army was indicated to advance on Bomon, the 3 Army between this point and Le Chen.
Domestic crisis in France
At this time there was a split in the military-political leadership of France. There were two strategic lines. The head of the French government, Cousin-Montaban, who acted in concert with the regent, believed that the MacMagon army should have gone to Metz and, having overcome the resistance of the German troops, on the way, joined Bazin’s 170 thousandth army. After the successful completion of this operation, it was intended by the combined forces of both armies to give battle to the Prussians in the vicinity of Metz, and then by moving to Paris to suspend the march of the remaining Prussians to the capital. Cousin-Montaban wanted to remove from the capital the emperor, so as not to cause a revolutionary explosion. A military victory over the Prussians was supposed to save the building of the Second Empire. The victorious army could stop the revolution. Thus, the movement of the MacMahonian army to the rescue of Bazin’s army was dictated mainly by political considerations. Therefore, the government continued to insist on the movement of the MacMahonian army to Metz, to help Bazin and after it became clear that Bazin did not want to lead troops from the encirclement.
General Louis Jules Trochu, who claimed to be the Minister of War, was a decisive opponent of this plan. He had already 10 August, that is, before the army of Bazin was surrounded, suggested, without waiting for the final formation of the Shalon army, immediately begin moving to Paris troops of MacMahon and Bazin. Later, when it became clear that Bazin’s army was blocked in Metz, Troshu urged to abandon the idea of combining the forces of the two armies, in which he did not believe in success, and insisted on an immediate movement of the Shalon army to Paris. He believed that having an army near Paris would solve two problems at once: prevent the revolution and save the capital from the Prussians.
Both Cousin-Montauban and Troshu wanted to prevent a revolution in Paris, but with different methods. 17 August 1870 passed military council at Chalon. The imminence of the revolution, as soon as the capital becomes aware of the 16 defeat of August, seemed so obvious to the meeting participants that Prince Napoleon (Napoleon IV heir to the French throne) openly spoke to the emperor about the danger of being "forcibly removed from the throne". "Under the circumstances," the prince noted, "only one person, General Trochu, who is popular among the people of Paris, can try to save the emperor." Troshu was to return immediately to Paris as the emperor-appointed military governor of the capital and commander of the Paris garrison. His task was to prepare the population of Paris for the return of the emperor and to carry out the necessary military measures for this.
Troshu, who was keen on this, expressed his willingness to take on "such a hard mission." “In that dangerous state of the country,” he said, “the revolution will plunge it into the abyss. I will do my best to prevent a revolution. ” It was decided that an emperor would arrive in Paris after the general. The Shalonsky army also had to start moving immediately to the capital. However, as we know, the army was eventually driven to “help” Bazen. In addition, Troschu set an additional condition for the immediate return to Paris of the 18 mobile guard (mobile) battalions.
The unexpected appearance of General Troshu in Paris was greeted by the head of the government and the Minister of War Cousin-Montaban (Count Palicao) with extreme hostility. The regent also reacted to this. Upon learning of the upcoming arrival in Paris of Napoleon III, Empress Eugenia said: “Only the enemies of the emperor could advise him to return to Paris. He will not return alive to the Tuileries. ” For such a claim the regent had good reasons. Rumors of military defeats brought Paris to the brink of a revolutionary explosion. On August 18, the regent sent a dispatch to Napoleon III at Chalon, which stated: “Have you considered all the consequences of your return to Paris after two defeats suffered? As for me, I do not take responsibility to advise you that. " In fact, the empress demanded to abandon the decision and stay in Chalon. Palikao still 17 August, as soon as he became aware of the Schalon decision, telegraphed the emperor, insisting on maintaining the former strategic plan. 18 August from Napoleon III arrived the answer. The French emperor announced his decision to abandon the plan adopted at Chalon. The head of government immediately re-ordered MacMahon to join up with the army of Marshal Bazin.
From the very first day of his return to Paris, Troshu began to demonstrate autonomy from the government. In an appeal from 18 in August to the Parisians, he made it clear that he intended to focus on the majority of the population, and was not inclined to coordinate his actions with the political line of the government. Troshu declared his readiness "not to use the power that is given to him by the state of siege, but to base his relations with the population on the principles of mutual trust and moral influence on those who, due to excessive zeal, are not able to restrain themselves." He assured the population of Paris that the capital would henceforth be turned into a center of military defense. “Paris,” said the general, “again assumes the role that belongs to him; he intends to become the center of great efforts, great sacrifices and examples. ” On August 19, the general had to give a special explanation in the press regarding his statement yesterday about “moral strength” as the basis of his future relationship with the public. However, in his new clarification, Troshu even more clearly emphasized his differences with the government of the Second Empire. Thus, Troshu challenged the political regime of the Second Empire. No wonder the French and foreign press regarded the statements of Troshu as “political manifestation”. Troshu's next two appeals — the first of 19 August “To the National Guard of Paris, to the mobile guard, to the soldiers of the Parisian regular army and to all other defenders of Paris”, and the second from 23 of August, specifically addressed to the mobile guard, were made in the same spirit .
Troshu's speeches caused a split in the top leadership of the Second Empire, which was already in crisis. Cousin-Montaban took all measures to limit communications Troshu with the troops under his command. They could not remove the military governor from his post; Troshu's popularity grew in Paris every day. He became the idol of the Parisians. The press in every way praised his military talents, reinforcing among the broad masses the conviction that in his person the empire had finally found its savior. Thousands of mobile guard bayonets with relatives and other communications in the capital stood behind Troschu. In an effort to gain as much popularity as possible, Troshu held an 24 of August in the camps Saint-Maur a military review of the mobile guard battalions returned to Paris by 18. The inspection was organized with great pomp and attracted many citizens. The camp was announced cries of "Long live Troshu!" Long live the general! ”
Thus, the split in the top leadership of Paris weakened the defenses of the French capital. Each center of power ignored the orders of the other. In addition, as the defeats of the Second Empire grew, Troshu, like Thiers, was increasingly inclined to the idea of creating a coalition bourgeois government. Just like Thiers, he considered it expedient to temporarily cooperate with the bourgeois Republicans, in order to prevent the revolution in Paris and seize all power in their hands.
At the same time, while the MacMagon army was going to defeat, the government still hid from the population of Paris the defeats suffered by the French troops in the Metz area. While the German press reported, for example, that the French army suffered 16 on August defeat at Mars-la-Tour, the Paris press claimed that the Germans were thrown against the Moselle on August X., and French troops won, only with big losses. The false reports about the battles of 16 and 16 of August, which ended allegedly in favor of the French army, were interspersed on columns of French government newspapers with equally false statements about the full combat readiness of the Chalons army and the undoubted success awaiting the MacMahon army. The Parisians believed these reports, although the whole of Europe was full of rumors of a new military catastrophe that befell France. Therefore, the bitter truth will be for them a very heavy blow.
French Prime Minister Charles Cousin-Montaban (August 9 1870 - September 4 1870)
Military Governor of Paris, General Louis Jules Trochu
To be continued ...