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Chapter 22

"A little after one o'clock, a quarter of an hour after the last order given by Louis Bonaparte to General Roguet, the boulevards throughout their whole length, from the Madeleine, were suddenly covered with cavalry and infantry. Almost the whole of Carrelet's division, composed of the five brigades of Cotte, Bourgon, Canrobert, Dulac, and Reibell, making a total of sixteen thousand four hundred and ten men, had taken up their position, and extended in echelon from Rue de la Paix to Faubourg Poissonnière. Each brigade had its battery with it. Eleven pieces were counted on Boulevard Poisonnière alone. Two of the guns, with their muzzles turned different ways, were levelled at the entrance to Rue Montmartre and Faubourg Montmartre respectively; no one knew why, as neither the street nor the faubourg presented even the appearance of a barricade. The spectators, who crowded the sidewalks and the windows, gazed in dismay at all these guns, sabres, and bayonets.

"'The troops were laughing and chatting,' says one witness. Another witness says: 'The soldiers acted strangely. Most of them were leaning on their muskets, with the butt-end on the ground, and seemed nearly falling from fatigue, or something else.' One of those old officers who are accustomed to read a soldier's thoughts in his eyes, General L----, said, as he passed Café Frascati: 'They are drunk.'

"There were now some indications of what was about to happen.

"At one moment, when the crowd was crying to the troops, 'Vive la République!' 'Down with Louis Bonaparte!' one of the officers was heard to say, in a low voice: 'There's going to be some pigsticking!'

"A battalion of infantry debouches from Rue Richelieu. Before the Café Cardinal it is greeted by a unanimous cry of 'Vive la République!' A writer, the editor of a Conservative paper, who happens to be on the spot, adds: 'Down with Soulouque!' The staff officer in command of the detachment aims a blow at him with his sabre, which, being dodged by the journalist, cuts in two one of the small trees on the boulevard.

"As the 1st Regiment of Lancers, commanded by Colonel Rochefort, reached a point abreast of Rue Taitbout, a numerous crowd covered the pavement of the boulevard. They were residents of the quarter, tradesmen, artists, journalists, and among them several young mothers leading their children by the hand. As the regiment was passing, men and women--every one--cried: 'Vive la Constitution!' 'Vive la Loi!' 'Vive la République!' Colonel Rochefort,--the same who had presided at the banquet given on the 31st of October, 1851, at the Êcole Militaire, by the 1st Regiment of Lancers to the 7th Regiment of Lancers, and who, at this banquet, had proposed as a toast, 'Prince Louis-Napoleon, the head of the State, the personification of that order of which we are the defenders!'--this colonel, when the crowd uttered the above perfectly lawful cry, spurred his horse into the midst of them through the chairs on the sidewalk, while the Lancers precipitated themselves after him, and men, women, and children were indiscriminately cut down. 'A great number remained dead on the spot,' says a defender of the coup d'état; and adds, 'It was done in a moment.'[1]

[1] Captain Mauduit, Révolution Militaire du 2 Décembre, p. 217.

"About two o'clock, two howitzers were pointed at the extremity of Boulevard Poissonnière, a hundred and fifty paces from the little advanced barricade at the Bonne Nouvelle guard-house. While placing the guns in position, two of the artillerymen, who are not often guilty of a false manoevre, broke the pole of a caisson. 'Don't you see they are drunk!' exclaimed a man of the lower classes.

"At half past two, for it is necessary to follow the progress of this hideous drama minute by minute, and step by step, fire was opened before the barricade languidly, and almost as if done for amusement. The officers appeared to be thinking of anything but a fight. We shall soon see, however, of what they were thinking.

"The first cannon-ball, badly aimed, passed above all the barricades and killed a little boy at the Château d'Eau as he was drawing water from the fountain.

"The shops were shut, as were also almost all the windows. There was, however, one window left open in an upper story of the house at the corner of Rue du Sentier. The curious spectators continued to assemble mainly on the southern side of the street. It was an ordinary crowd and nothing more,--men, women, children, and old people who looked upon the languid attack and defence of the barricade as a sort of sham fight.

"This barricade served as a spectacle pending the moment when it should become a pretext.


Victor Hugo