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Chapter 4


Let us review the situation.

The Germans have numbers on their side; they are three against one,
perhaps four; they own to 250,000 men, and it is certain that their
attacking front extended for 30 kilomètres; they have on their side the
positions, they crown the heights, they fill the forests, they are
covered by all these escarpments, they are masked by all this shade;
they possess an incomparable artillery. The French army is in a valley,
almost without artillery and without supplies, utterly naked beneath
their hail of lead. The Germans have on their side the ambuscade, and
the French have only on their side heroism. Death is glorious, but
surprise is profitable.

A surprise, that is the true description of this brilliant exploit.

Is it fair warfare? Yes. But if this is fair, what is unfair warfare? It
is the same thing.

This said, the story of the Battle of Sedan has been told.

I should have wished to stop there. But I cannot. Whatever horror the
historian may feel, History is a duty, and this duty must be fulfilled.
There is no incline more inexorable than this: to tell the truth; he who
ventures on it rolls to the very bottom. It must be so. The guardian of
Justice is doomed to justice.

The Battle of Sedan is more than a battle which has been fought; it is a
syllogism which is completed; a formidable premeditation of destiny.
Destiny never hurries, but it always comes. At its hour, there it is. It
allows years to pass by, and at the moment when men are least thinking
of it, it appears. Of this character is the fatal, the unexpected
catastrophe named Sedan. From time to time in History, Divine logic
makes an onslaught. Sedan is one of those onslaughts.

Thus on the 1st of September, at five o'clock in the morning the world
awoke under the sun, and the French army under the thunderbolt.


Victor Hugo