seeing policy steadily pursued for more than fifty years.

The military organisation of Prussia, since 1814, is based on the principle that every man capable of bearing arms shall receive military instruction and enter the army for a certain number of years. Every Prussian subject is enrolled as a soldier as soon as he has completed his twentieth year. He has to serve for seven years—from twenty to twenty-three in the regular army, and from twenty-three to twentyseven in the


of reserve. At the end of this term he enters the “ Landwehr," or militia, for nine years, and is liable to be called upon for annual practice, and to be incorporated in the regular army in tine of war. Leaving the Landwehr the soldier is finally enrolled, till the age of fifty, in the Landsturm-a body which is only called upon for service within the frontiers of the country in case of invasion. In fact the whole male population of Prussia is trained for arms,-ready for offensive warfare, in the army or the Landwehr, from the ageof twenty to that of thirty-six; and for defensive warfare, in the Landsturm, till the age of fifty. Nor is this a liability which the Germans endeavour to avoid. The regiments are full to overflowing. Even men in feeble health are eager to join the army. At the utmost sacrifice, but with heartiest goodwill, students, shopkeepers, merchants, manufacturers, skilled artisans hurry to their quarters, eager to fight for the Fatherland, and to keep the enemy far away from their own beloved country. The enormous foundry of M. Šrupp, at Essen, in Rhenish Prussia, employs nearly 8,000 men.

Of these no fewer that 1,488 have had to join their colours-indispensable, skilled workmen-and yet there is not a murmur. The streets of the best-known towns are well-nigh deserted—only old men and invalids mix with the women and children. The streets of Cologne are dead and noiseless, and everywhere throughout Germany the thews and sinews of the people are gone to the war.

And this energy and enthusiasm are the results of knowledge and intelligence. There is no boasting and swagger, no exaggerations of victory, no concealment of facts, no lies. For intelligence, education, even military training and weapons of war, there is probably no such army in the world as the Prussian ; and they are encouraged by the undisguised sympathy of the freest, and strongest, and most advanced nations of the civilised world-England and America. Whatever Prussia herself might be, France has been for generations the scourge of Europe-at once bullying and treacherous. Napoleon himself, and his dynasty, is a standing menace. It is impossible to realise the reckless waste of blood and treasure for which that one man is responsible. The direct cost of war to France is a very imperfect index of the misery that has been wrought, yet even that is sufficiently appalling. The three wars of the Crimea, Italy, and Mexico, have cost France alone 440,000,0001. sterling, and 205,000 men; and this represents but a small part of the loss to the rest of Europe, in men, in money, in the ruin of commerce, in the pressure of taxation and the maintenance of enormous armies and fleets. If France could be disarmed there is scarcely any limit that could be reasonably assigned to European prosperity.

It was confidently expected that the Imperial forces would sweep rapidly on towards the Rhine, take possession of the long-coveted territory on its left bank, and almost reach Berlin before the Germans had awaked out of the terror and surprise of the sudden proclamation of war. Count Bismarck, however, was not long in announcing that “German territory would be spared the direct inconvenience and burdens of war operations." Those horrors are now bounded by the French frontier, while that frontier itself is rapidly changing, and not unreasonable fears are entertained even for the safety of Paris.

The operations of war began, indeed, at Saarbrücken, just within the frontier on the German side, a few miles fron Forbach. Here there was a battle, in which the Germans retreated with very trifling loss, and which exhibited in the most marked manner both the infatuation and the suicidal self-confidence and boastfulness of the French. The infatuation amounts almost to a fatal paralysis. It is now known that Saarbrücken was held by only three como panies of the 40th Regiment, while it was attacked by General Froissard with a whole corps d'armée under his command; and even when he had attacked it with overpowering numbers he was afraid to enter the place. The Emperor and his little boy were present, and Napoleon telegraphed to the Empress that Louis had passed through his " baptism of fire,” and had shown himself so unmoved, though “the bullets fell at his feet,” that the soldiers wept at the sight of his fortitude. To an ordinary Englishman the theatrical sentimentalism of French telegrams, proclamations, appeals to patriotism or appeals to despair, is simply sickening. But the monstrous exaggeration of the first victory has been terribly avenged both on the frontier and in Paris. Apart, however, from this first engagement, which did very little harm, not even interfering with the railway traffic or destroying the junction, the war has been wholly within the French territory, the frontier of which in this direction, exclusive of neutral territory, extends from the Meuse to the Rhine, and along the Rhine to Basle.

The French frontier in the basins of the Escant and Rhine is, excepting at the Rhine itself, exceedingly artificial and defective; nor can any one be surprised that French ambition has so often longed and striven for that far more perfect barrier which would be furnished by the whole course of the Rhine--to say nothing of the

Rhine Province and Belgium, with their fertility and beauty, and, above all, their fortifications. The weakness of the existing frontier arises from several causes. It offers no natural obstacles (except at the Rhine itself) to the advances of an enemy. Its rivers run perpendicularly to the boundary line, opening up natural roads by which the country may be penetrated. These rivers, again, are only separated from one another, almost throughout their whole course, by lines of low hills or insignificant heights. It has, therefore, been necessary to create this frontier of every variety of ground, and to protect it entirely by artificial defences.

The defence of this imperfect boundary was a task entrusted to the genius of the illustrious Vauban, that most renowed of military engineers—who had the conduct of fifty-three sieges, was present at one hundred and forty battles, erected thirty-three fortresses, and renewed the works of three hundred old ones—whose biography is almost, for his own lifetime, the history of France. He regarded the frontier line between the sea and the Rhine as divided into eight principal sections by the seven lines of rivers and mountain chains by which it is intersected—viz., the Lys, Escant, Sambre, Meuse, Moselle, Vosges, and Rhine. His aim was to arm each of those lines which form the flanks of each section with two or three fortresses ; to provide also the intervals or gaps between these lines with one or more defences, generally placed on the tributaries of the lines themselves; and finally “ to form of all these fortified points, and of the natural accidents which support them, eight faces of a vast citadel, of which Paris may be considered the interior retrenchment.” Our insular position renders it, happily, hard for us to regard a whole country as a fortification, not so much to be lived in and enjoyed as to be defended from attack or made the base of offensive operations.

The sixth of these sections of Vauban is included between the Moselle and the Vosges, of which these two boundaries may be considered the flanks. The line of the Moselle is protected by the fortresses of Thionville, Metz, and Toul, the Vosges by Bitche and Phalsbourg, and the interval between them by Marsal. The imperfection of this frontier is apparent enough. Marsal is quite inadequate to the defence of the wide interval between the Moselle and the Vosges, into which, moreover, the river Sarre forms a natural entrance. Since the fortress of Sarrelouis, a work of Vauban's, was taken from the French by the Allies in 1815, Metz may be eluded by way of Nancy, and the basin of the Marne and the road to Paris reached with comparatively trifling obstacles.

It is, in fact, in this section that one of the most brilliant Prussian successes has been achieved—that is to say, the victory at Saarbrucken and Forbach. The narratives of eye-witnesses as they come to hand, with fuller and fuller details, are more exciting than wine or the clang of martial music. The French had made their stand on two hills, divided by a narrow valley, and also behind an entrenchment on a plain, extending from the side of the second of these hills up to a wood which marked the left of the French position, the right being equally marked by a wood on the top of the first-mentioned and most inaccessible of the two hills.

The correspondent of the Times tells us how “the most inaccessible of the two hills, the Spickler Berg, as the Germans call it, with its natural fortification of forest on the right, was assaulted three times before it was taken. Two regiments had exhausted themselves in attacking the position, and had retired, leaving long lines of dead and wounded on the slopes, when the 40th, the most popular regiment in Saarbrucken, and one of the most justly esteemed, advanced under a cross fire of artillery, and with a heary musketry fire falling upon it in front and from above rushed up the heights and ended by scaling them. This exploit cost the 40th no less than 16 officers and 600 men.” This is the very regiment that had “retreated” from Saarbrucken when the little Prince Imperial was playing at soldiers on the opposite hill. Both armies performed prodigies of valour, but fresh troops came up from General Zastrow. The French were attacked in flank and rear with terrible losses, and the day was won.

The effects of this victory have been precisely those foreseen by the military geographers. The roads to Nancy and Metz were open. Nancy has been taken. Metz is surrounded. Toul has been summoned to surrender. And unless the routed forces can win a decisive victory in Champagne, Paris itself must before long be at the mercy of the invader.

The seventh of Vauban's sections of this northern frontier is between the Vosges and the Rhine, defended in the Vosges by Bitche and Phalsbourg, on the Rhine by Lauterburg and Strasburg, and between the Vosges and the Rhine by Weissembourg and Haguenau. These defences, excellent in themselves (excepting, perhaps, Weissembourg and Haguenau), have been rendered almost useless by the loss of Landau, one of Vauban's fortifications, whieh was taken from the French by the Allies in 1815. The Vosges can now be turned by Mentz and Sarrelouis, and the Rhine by Mentz, Gemersheim, and Landau. In the military operations of 17011703 and 1793 and 1794 Landau was invariably the pivot both for the enemy to penetrate into France and for the French to repulse the enemy. So now again in 1870 it is the basis of operations. Its occupation by the German Powers left the road from Mentz to Strasburg nearly open. Already Weissembourg has been taken and Lichtenburg. Strasburg is surrounded, feebly garrisoned, and

scantily provisioned. A bloody victory at Woerth has, moreover, opened a way for one main division of the German army to communicate with the rest, already a mighty and triumphant host.

Fortunately “the seat of war” has not for us the interest which at first we feared. The beautiful Rhineland is spared. The Vosges, notwithstanding their romantic beauty, are not much known by tourists. Fortresses like Metz have scarcely more than a military interest, and, anticipating the future, the best of Champagne is what can easily be imported into England. But

“ There is a land, of every land the pride,

Beloved of heaven v'er all the world beside.
There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.

Tbat land our country, and that spot our home.” Already our newspaper correspondents, and even the generals themselves, are sickening over the horrors of this war.

Women weeping on the thresholds of their desolated homes ; whole villages emptied, and their terrified and helpless inhabitants—tottering old men, infants at the breast, little prattling children, in their sweet innocence, half amused at their hurried flight-starving in forests, or crowding into towns already too full of men, too empty of food; miles of dead bodies; tens of thousands of widows, orphans, childless, friendless mourners; these are the sights which invest with a solemn and terrible interest any seat of war. Even while we write, bloody battles are adding their new horrors. The fortune of war may change, and any victory must, to thousands of innocent hearts, bring unutterable and incurable agony. We can only hope and pray that God may give peace in our times—a peace the more stable and beneficial for all the miseries by which it has been prepared.

[blocks in formation]

CHAPTER XXI.—THE PORTRAIT. In the midst of so much gaiety time went swiftly by. There were several English families in Paris with whom the Marchioness and her step-daughter visited ; and through them—for I always accompanied their ladyships—I came to know a great many people, with whom, for the most part, I speedily grew intimate, so that very soon my engagements were manifold, and I really had not an hour unoccupied. When I say “unoccupied " I do not mean that any actual duties were performed by me--quite the contrary, indeed!

« ElőzőTovább »