WITH AN AMBULANCE
DURING THE
FRANCO-GERMAN WAR

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND ADVENTURES
WITH BOTH ARMIES
1870-1871

By

CHARLES E. RYAN,
F.R.C.S.I., M.R.C.P.I.
KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF LOUIS II. OF BAVARIA

WITH PORTRAIT AND MAPS

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
153-157 FIFTH AVENUE

1896

 

TO

JAMES TALBOT POWER,

MY OLD FRIEND AND

SCHOOLFELLOW,

I DEDICATE

THE FOLLOWING PAGES.

 

PREFACE.

ERE I attempt to set before the public this slight record of my experiences during the Franco-German War, I must first disclaim all pretence to literary merit.

It was written in 1873, and is simply an embodiment of a series of notes or jottings, taken during the war in my spare moments, together with the contents of a number of descriptive letters to my friends. They were written solely for them, and nothing was farther from my mind at the time than the idea of publication.

Thus, they remained in a recess of my study for nearly a quarter of a century, until a new generation had grown up around me; and doubtless, but for their friendly importunity, there they would have lain until the memory of their author, like the ink in which they were written, had faded to a blank.

I would ask my readers to bear in their kindly recollection that the scope of such a work as the following must of necessity be limited.

As a medical man, 1 had at all times and in all places my duties to perform; hence I have been unable to be as elaborate as other circumstances might warrant.

I would also remind them (and every one who has been through a campaign will know) how vague and uncertain is the information which subordinates possess of the general movements of the army with which they are serving.

It happens occasionally that they are wholly ignorant of events occurring around them, the news of which may have already reached the other side of the world.

Again, I am greatly impressed with the difficulty of representing, in anything like adequate language, those scenes---some of which have already been delineated by the marvellous pen of M. Zola in Le Débâcle---which the general public could never have fancied, still less have realised, except by the aid of a masterly exposition of facts such as that stirring chronicle of the war has given. In it the writer has dealt rather with history as it occurred, than invented an imaginary tale; and those who were eye-witnesses of Sedan can add little to his description.

For many reasons, therefore, I am filled with the sense of my own incompetence to do justice to my subject. But I console myself with the reflection that my theme is full of interest to the present generation. Nor does it appear a vain undertaking if one who was permitted to see much of both sides should give his impressions as they occurred, and in the language he would have used at the time. My feeling throughout has been that of a witness under examination. I have endeavoured to narrate the incidents which I saw, certainly with as close an approach to the reality as I could command, and, if in a somewhat unvarnished tale, yet, as I trust, have set down nought in malice. I have added no colour which the original sketch did not contain; and have been careful not to darken the shading.

CHARLES E. RYAN.
GLENLARA, TIPPERARY,
January, 1896.

 

CONTENTS

PREFACE

CHAPTER I. FROM DUBLIN TO PARIS VIA BRUSSELS.---THE WAR FEVER.---LEVIES TO THE FRONT.

CHAPTER II. I JOIN THE ANGLO-AMERICAN AMBULANCE.---M. DE FLAVIGNY'S SPEECH.---TO MÉZIÈRES AND SEDAN.

CHAPTER III. AT SEDAN.---THE EMPEROR IN TRANSIT.---OUR FIRST RETREAT BEFORE THE PRUSSIANS.---THE CASERNE D'ASFELD.

CHAPTER IV. THE FIRST OF SEPTEMBER, 1870.---EXPERIENCES AT THE CASERNE.---WOUNDED HORSES.---THE FRENCH RETREAT BECOMES A STAMPEDE.---SOLDIERS DESPAIR.

CHAPTER V. THE BURNING 0F BAZEILLES.---WORTHLESS FRENCH OFFICERS.---A WALK ABOUT SEDAN.---IN THE VALLEY.

CHAPTER VI. WORK IN THE HOSPITAL.---THE ISLE OF IGES.---MY ARAB HORSE.---PRISONERS SENT INTO GERMANY.

CHAPTER VII. MORE WOUNDED.-SIGHTS AFTER THE BATTLE. --- A COUNTRY RAMBLE.---HEAVY HOSPITAL TASKS.---L'EAU DE ZOUAVE.

CHAPTER VIII. TWO THOUSAND PATIENTS.---NIGGER CHARLIE.---LOUIS ST. AUBIN, CHASSEUR D'AFRIQUE.---THE BOY PEYEN.---GUNS CAPTURED IN THE TOWN.

CHAPTER IX. SUSPICIOUS PRUSSIANS.---THE ILLUSTRIOUS STROMEYER. ---OPEN-AIR TREATMENT.---NEUTRALITY BECOMES DIFFICULT.---DR. SIMS LEAVES US.---UNDER ARREST.---FAREWELL TO SEDAN.

CHAPTER X. RISKY TRAVELLING.---AT BRUSSELS.---FRENCH AMBULANCE BREAKS DOWN COMPLETELY---WE START AGAIN FOR PARIS.

CHAPTER XI. AT ROUEN.---ON THE ROAD TO PARIS.---IN THE WOODS AMONG THE FRANCS-TIREURS.---TAKEN FOR SPIES.---A REFUGEE FENIAN.---TO MANTES.

CHAPTER XII. A TOWN CAPTURED BY FIVE UHLANS.---MANTES TO VERSAILLES.---WE ARE ANNEXED BY THE GERMANS.---GENERAL SHERIDAN AND NIGGER CHARLIE. ---SOUTHERN EXILES.

CHAPTER XIII. THE PRUSSIAN HEADQUARTERS IN VERSAILLES.---A POLISH LADY.---THE BURNING OF ST. CLOUD.---GERMAN PRINCES.---BY ÉTAMPES AND THE BATTLEFIELD OF CHEVILLY TO ORLEANS.

CHAPTER XIV. ENTERING TO THE SOUND OF CANNON.---66 QUAI DU CHÂTELET ASSIGNED TO US, ALSO THE RAILWAY TERMINUS.---DESCRIPTION OF OUR NEW QUARTERS.

CHAPTER XV. ASSISTANT SURGEON.---IMPRESSIONS OF THE GERMAN CHARACTER.---THE ARMY AND ITS DISCIPLINE.STATE OF SIEGE.---VON DER TANN'S PROCLAMATION.---LEOPOLD SCHRENK.

CHAPTER XVI. CASES AND PATIENTS.---MARTIN DILGER.---HEAVY LOSSES.---FRENCH IRRELIGION CONTRASTED WITH GERMAN PIETY.

CHAPTER XVII. FALL OF METZ ANNOUNCED.---THE BAVARIANS EVACUATE ORLEANS---OUR DIFFICULT POSITION.---WE ARE TOLD OFF TO THE BATTLEFIELD.---THE ENGAGEMENT AND VICTORY OF THE FRENCH.

CHAPTER XVIII. AFTER THE BATTLE.---ORLEANS FROM WITHOUT AND WITHIN.---THE MOB AND THE AMBULANCE.---THE BAVARIAN GIANT.

CHAPTER XIX. OUR AMBULANCE RETURNS.---ENTRY OF THE FRENCH. ---THEIR DISHEVELLED APPEARANCE AND DISARRAY.---WE ARE SENT OUT OF THE RAILWAY STATION.

CHAPTER XX. AMERICAN FRANCS-TIREURS.---PONTOON BRIDGE OVER THE LOIRE.---FRENCH CARELESSNESS.---SOLITARY DEATHS OF THE WOUNDED.

CHAPTER XXI. TO THE FRONT.---TURCO AND ZOUAVE ENCAMPMENTS.---SKIRMISHING.---FALSE NEWS.---THE SHAM FIGHT AT NEUVILLE.---RETURN TO THE CITY.

CHAPTER XXII. BATTLE OF PATAY. --- THE FRENCH RETREAT. ---KNIGHTS TEMPLARS.---THE BATTLE CONTINUED.---ATTACK ON ORLEANS BY THE GERMANS.---BURNING OF THE PONTOON BRIDGE.

CHAPTER XXIII. FIGHTING IN THE STREETS.---THE TOWN CARRIED BY ASSAULT.---NARROW ESCAPES.---THE RED PRINCE ENTERS WITH HIS WHOLE ARMY.

CHAPTER XXIV. DESECRATION OF THE CATHEDRAL.---MY FIRST CAPITAL OPERATION.---MORE FIGHTING.---WOUNDED BAVARIANS.

CHAPTER XXV. CHRISTMAS DAY AT STE. EUVERTE.---GOING THE ROUNDS.---YOUNG HEROES.---ARRIVALS DURING THE NIGHT.---A GLIMPSE OF THE DEAD-HOUSE.

CHAPTER XXVI. VISITORS.---NEW YEAR IN HOSPITAL.---THE CHURCH EVACUATED.---I GET FURLOUGH,---AND CATCH A NIGHT-GLIMPSE OF PARIS.

CHAPTER XXVII. TRAVELLING IN FROST. --- AMMUNITION TRAIN IN DIFFICULTIES. --- FERRIÈRES. --- THE CAMP OF CHÂLONS.---HOW GERMAN OFFICERS TREAT JEWS.

CHAPTER XXVIII. STRASBURG AFTER THE SIEGE.---ALONG THE RHINE.---HOME, AND BACK AGAIN TO VERSAILLES.---CAPTAIN BRACKENBURY.---I LOSE MY PAPERS AND HAVE TO GET FRESH ONES.

CHAPTER XXIX. IN ORLEANS ONCE MORE.---PEACE IS SIGNED.---AN EASY TIME.---SENDING AWAY THE CONVALESCENTS.---THE AMBULANCE BROKEN UP.

CHAPTER XXX. I FALL ILL OF FEVER.---GERMANS LEAVE ORLEANS.---MY BROTHER ARRIVES FROM HOME.---END OF MY EXPERIENCES AS A FIELD SURGEON.

CHAPTER XXXI. AN APPENDIX.---M. AND MADAME COLOMBIER.---VISIT TO THE BATTLEFIELD OF COULMIERS.---THE SOLE FRENCH VICTORY.---CONCLUSION.

EPILOGUE.


Chapter One