There was no alternative between death and opprobrium; either soul or
sword must be surrendered. Louis Bonaparte surrendered his sword.
He wrote to William:
"SIRE, MY BROTHER,
"Not having been able to die in the midst of my troops, it only
remains for me to place my sword in your Majesty's hands.
"I am, your Majesty,
"Your good Brother,
"Sedan, 1st September, 1870."
And on the 2d of September, at six o'clock in the morning, this plain,
streaming with blood, and covered with dead, saw pass by a gilded open
carriage and four, the horses harnessed after Daumont fashion, and in
this carriage a man, cigarette in mouth. It was the Emperor of the
French going to surrender his sword to the King of Prussia.
The King kept the Emperor waiting. It was too early. He sent M. de
Bismarck to Louis Bonaparte to say that he "would not" receive him yet
awhile. Louis Bonaparte entered into a hovel by the side of the road. A
table and two chairs were there. Bismarck and he leant their arms on the
table and conversed. A mournful conversation. At the hour which suited
the King, towards noon, the Emperor got back into his carriage, and went
to the castle of Bellevue, half way to the castle of Vandresse. There he
waited until the King came. At one o'clock William arrived from
Vandresse, and consented to receive Bonaparte. He received him badly.
Attila has not a light hand. The King, a blunt, straightforward man,
showed the Emperor a pity involuntarily cruel. There are pities which
overwhelm. The conqueror upbraided the conquered with the victory.
Bluntness handles an open wound badly. "Whatever was your reason for
declaring this war?" The conquered excused himself, accusing France. The
distant hurrahs of the victorious German army cut short this dialogue.
The King caused the Emperor to be reconducted by a detachment of the
Royal Guard. This excess of ignominy is called "an escort of honor."
After the sword the Army.
On the 3d of September, Louis Bonaparte handed over to Germany 88,000
"In addition" (says the Prussian report):--
"One eagle and two flags.
"419 field-guns and mitrailleuses.
"139 heavy pieces.
"1079 vehicles of all kinds.
"6000 horses, still good for service."
These German figures are not wholly to be depended upon. According to
what seems useful at the moment, the Aulic chancellors swell or reduce
the disaster. There were about 13,000 wounded amongst the prisoners. The
numbers vary in the official documents. A Prussian report, reckoning up
the French soldiers killed and wounded in the battle of Sedan, publishes
this total: _Sixteen thousand four hundred_ men. This number causes a
shudder. For it is that very number, _Sixteen thousand four hundred_
men, which Saint Arnaud had set to work on the Boulevard Montmartre upon
the 4th of December, 1851.
Half a league to the north-west of Sedan, near Iges, the bend of the
Meuse almost forms an island. A canal crosses the isthmus, so that the
peninsula becomes an island. It was there that there were penned, under
the stick of the Prussian corporals, 83,000 French soldiers. A few
sentinels watched over this army.
They placed but few, insolently. These conquered men remained there ten
days, the wounded almost without care, the able-bodied almost without
nourishment. The German army sneered around them. The heavens took part
against them. The weather was fearful. Neither huts nor tents. Not a
fire, not a truss of straw. For ten days and ten nights these 83,000
prisoners bivouacked with their heads beneath the rain, their feet in
the mud. Many died of fever, regretting the hail of bullets.
At length ox-wagons came and took them away.
The King placed the Emperor in some place or other. Wilhelmshöhe.
What a thing of rags and tatters, an Emperor "drawn" like a fowl!
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