The Young Franc Tireurs And Their Adventures in the Franco-Prussian War

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The refugee girl Louise is killed while at school. They learn of the siege of Metz and the fall of Sedan. Sergeant Klein is killed. Sylvie is found in Basle. Finally, the family, together with the reunited Lisbeth and Elsie, move to London. From the innocence and spontaneity of childhood they are exposed to physical danger, material deprivation, conflict and violence between boys desperate for food, the deaths of neighbours and friends.

They learn at first hand the horrors of war and the fact that there is no glory in it. Only little Elsie remains untouched in her unspoilt goodness of heart.


At the outset of the action Max explains:. Here were we, French citizens, with a French garrison and a French governor; when only a mile or so away was Germany. We spoke German too, and we had dear friends who were in the habit of coming to visit the people of Strasbourg, and whom they visited in return. There was not any enmity between us, any more than there is between the English and the Scotch, who live close and good neighbours on the borders, with only a line on the map to separate them. That was how we were living together up to the middle of July last year.

I suppose the Emperor and the King and their statesmen knew that there was mischief brewing; but none of their townspeople knew p.

The Young Franc-Tireurs. And their Adventures in the Franco-Prussian War. New edition.

They will not let us settle our disputes by fighting; and I ask you, Max, which is the worse — for two men to fight, or two hundred thousand? Towards the end of the book, when the populace is attempting to surrender, Max sees a picture of Christ on the cross, still hanging in the ruins of their old house, and feels that Christ is being crucified afresh in Strasbourg.

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She shows how food becomes scarce and prices rise, how hunger forces people into violence. They encounter at first hand the death of their elderly neighbour, while that of little Louise, to whom they have given refuge, is reported to them rather than directly experienced.

The Young Franc Tireurs, and Their Adventures in the Franco-Prussian War

Stretton is skilful at making the results of the war real to her child readership. Now there could be no more coming in or going out of Strasbourg until Marshal Bazaine came to our aid, or General Uhrich and his brave garrison drove the invaders back to their own side of the Rhine. The worst of it was that they were the Baden troops that surrounded us; the people who had been our friends and neighbours for many a quiet year. Even now we did not feel any hatred towards them; everybody said they were only doing what the Emperor and his army had intended to do to them.

We could scarcely believe it was all true p. A Story of the Siege of Strasbourg []. The German response is swift:. The Germans entered Strasbourg the next morning, bringing with them wagon-loads of provisions, which had been prepared in readiness against the surrender of the city. You should have seen the crowds of all sorts of people thronging round the wagons, with glistening eyes, eager to snatch away the first thing put into their hands.

Our old friends across the Rhine had not forgotten us, nor had they turned into enemies. The soldiers themselves, who had been doing all they could to destroy us, were now ready to share what they had with us. The suddenness of the change was almost more than we could bear Above all, the book is a call to the emotions with many incidents calculated to move the reader to tears. As it focusses almost exclusively on the French civilian population, very little is said about the Germans.

Until the very end, when they bring provisions into the defeated Strasbourg, they are an impersonal military force and more or less off-stage, though their bombs and military might wreak havoc on the city and its inhabitants. Like Hesba Stretton, Henty was writing here from personal experience.

After serving in the army for some years and experiencing the Crimean War, he had eventually turned to journalism and was correspondent for the Standard during the Franco-Prussian War and the period of the Paris Commune. He was always concerned about the authenticity of the historical events in his stories. Even in this early book Henty had an unerring way of weaving an exciting adventure story involving teenage boys into the broader context of important historical events.

In this instance it was contemporary history. It begins in Dijon and moves then to the Vosges; there is an episode in Mainz and along the Rhine, followed by a long trek to Tours, an adventure mission to Paris, return to Tours, a cross-country escape back to Dijon, with a final attack on the Germans, after which the boy heroes learn of the general defeat of the French. While Stretton deals with the war in terms of its victims, Henty, the military man, depicts it as a set of adventures, full of daring and danger, in which two English boys join the volunteers known as franc-tireurs and engage in a variety of glorious exploits.

Ralph and Percy Barclay, nearly sixteen and fifteen years old respectively, are the sons of Captain Barclay, wounded in one of the Indian wars, and his French wife. Now living in France, they have been two years each at school in England and Germany, so they are fluent in three languages. The boys have two cousins, Louis and Philippe Duburg an oddly spelt surname — Dubourg would be more plausible , who play a minor role in the story.

The fact that Philippe is wounded in a desperate fight near Mutzig and returns to Dijon with Louis effectively demonstrates that the English are always better than anyone else. The disguise is not adopted on this occasion, but when the two boys later undertake a spying expedition through the German lines into Paris on behalf of General Gambetta, it is as stereotypical Jewish traders that they disguise themselves:. There are a number of Jews who follow the army, and either buy these stolen goods from them, or undertake to convey them back to Germany at a certain price His moral values are military, conservative and born of an unquestioned conviction of English superiority.

The French lack of discipline and organization is a recurring theme in novels about the war. An incident of treachery is given a very high profile. When, on their first spying mission, the Barclay brothers accidentally learn that the French schoolmaster in Grunsdorf has betrayed the franc-tireurs to the Prussians, the eventual result is that the franc-tireurs return to the village, capture the schoolmaster and hang him.

There is, however, no such sense of outrage when the boys are helped to escape from the lodgings to which they have been paroled in Mayence Mainz by the daughter of the house. One day Ralph encounters an old peasant taking vengeance, who explains:. I had a nice farm near Metz; I lived there with my wife and daughter, and my three boys. Someone fired at the Prussians from a wood near. No one was hit, but that made no difference. After considerable argument the lieutenant finally obeys, declaring he has done his duty, but then blows his own brains out.

The main thrust of the novel, which is really a romance, is to show how the war affected two contrasting families, both part of the decayed minor aristocracy. It is the Protestant Evangelicalism that constitutes the unspoken English factor in the book, pointing the way to success. The mother had been a governess at the neighbouring castle, had fallen in love with the son of the family, but was prevented from marrying him. Meanwhile, Conrad is attacked and wounded in the woods near the castle, as a result of which he too dies.

The two are buried side by side. One day she lends her Bible to a wounded soldier and in so doing discovers that Conrad was a friend of his. He turns out to be Karl Erhardt and is betrothed to Thekla. Their mother is ill from April onwards, dying on 18 December and in some measure symbolizing France. Hilaire, and eventually marries Nina at a simple Protestant wedding. Victor is first wounded and then killed on the battlefield, where he is found by Augustine. As Hesba Stretton had used the figure of the child Elsie to symbolize innocence and hope, so Annie Lucas invents a little English girl who is attempting to care for her sick mother during the siege of Paris.

Lilian is taken into the French family, where her simple faith in Jesus converts Nina from despair and Augustine from agnosticism. His sister Thekla gets her name from one of the most famous first-century saints, the first woman martyr, who according to legend came from a noble family. The French, on the other hand, are either misguided Roman Catholics or Deists. The events of the war and the cross-connexions between the characters are designed to demonstrate that Christian discipleship transcends and reconciles otherwise divided nations. It would therefore be otiose to look for any military or political account of the war.

This was Fritz of the Tower by L. Lobenhoffer the initial L concealed the name Lillias. It is the only book to focus on German experience of the war, and the detail that it provides about the Black Forest, especially the village of Maulbronn, and its use of German words lead one to surmise that the author herself was German. She certainly writes warmly and knowledgeably about many aspects of ordinary German life. The story opens with the village doctor acclaiming the patriotic enthusiasm of a group of students:.

We shall have fine stirring times. Well, so much the better. It is time that Germany asserted herself. One common defensive war will settle the jealousies of all our petty states, will do away with our insane dislike for everything North German or Prussian, as we call it , and create that national union which till now has seemed to be an impossible dream. After his departure things get worse and the poverty-stricken Frau Walther is turned out of her home.

She leaves Maulbronn and is found some days later in the forest by a couple of fiddlers, who think she is dead, but take the child and deposit it with a couple who guard the church tower in a nearby town. The boy is regarded as a gift of God from the childless couple, and he becomes known as Fritz of the Tower.

Meanwhile, Frau Walther is rescued by a charcoal-burner, recovers, eventually learns that her husband is ill in France and goes off to nurse him. Herr Walther had been appointed field preacher i. At a later date when coincidentally visiting the town in which Fritz of the Tower has grown up, he discovers his son and can confirm his identity through the betrothal ring that he wears round his neck.

Fritz rejoins his parents, but keeps an affectionate contact with his foster-parents. It is a story of separation, poverty and physical deprivation, but also one in which simple human kindness and Christian faith combine to bring about a happy conclusion in the reunion of husband, wife and child. The military side of the war is a backdrop; what matters here is the effect on those left behind in Germany.

It is rather like a history of part of the war presented in the form of fiction, but with not very much of a plot. Rose has been sent there to separate her from her lover, Max Meyer, because of their youth. The political and military progress of the war occupies plenty of attention from the declaration of war on 15 July to the surrender of Metz on 27 October.

Max Meyer has been heroic enough to receive the Iron Cross. The book ends with the two couples living only a ten-minute walk away from each other in Germany. Clements was a writer of Christian stories, but in this book the Christian message is largely implicit. However, Metz in general and the schoolgirls are depicted initially as devoted admirers of the first Napoleon and loyal enthusiasts of Napoleon III, Metz being a garrison town and full of soldiers marching and exercising.

Gascon explains the plebiscite called by the Emperor as an invitation to a vote of confidence in the constitutional changes made in the past ten years. The girls expect a confirmation of the Emperor, but Madame Briey has doubts which she is careful to conceal. Gascon gives the girls the benefit of his views on the present condition of Prussia, seen as a provocation to France on her northern boundaries:. Prussia, puffed up with her little victories, won by some trick of improved fire-arms, or rather by the inferiority of the arms of her adversaries, dreams that by making herself dictator among the Germanic States she can erect herself into an impassable barrier on this our only open side.

Shall she be permitted to do so? Shall not France, with her love of that liberty for which she herself has suffered so much, hasten to interfere on behalf of the smaller Germanic States, deliver them from the unwelcome dictatorship of the newly-aggrandized neighbour, and at the same time chastise the arrogance of this parvenu among the nations?

But the provocation to France was enough, and the Emperor declared war on 15 July. That evening Rose is too upset to go into the salon.

That was also the mood reported by Lobenhoffer at the beginning of Fritz of the Tower. In ways like this Clements makes apparent her desire to document accurately the different aspects of the war. Gascon represents the belligerent mood of the French towards the Prussians, while Col. Metz is in a different mood. For me, I find it somewhat undignified of his imperial majesty to seek to touch the emotions of his troops by exposing a child to danger and hardship Yes, it is very touching, no doubt, the enthusiasm of this Buonaparte child!

It is touching; but it is not war pp. However, one girl, who has lost her father at Woerth, sympathizes with Rose, wondering whether she too may now be an orphan. Many of the girls are now sent away from Metz to Belgium for safety. The advance of the Prussian infantry, the retreat of the Emperor in a third-class railway carriage from Verdun to Chalons, the appointment of Marshal Bazaine to join MacMahon, the battles at Courcelle, Vionville and Gravelotte are all noted.

Metz is surrounded, besieged, and ordinary people keep asking why Marshal Bazaine has not done such and such, but no satisfactory answers are forthcoming. In another comment, taken from subsequent accounts, Clements reports that the Germans could have successfully bombarded Metz, provided it did not matter how many lost their lives, but that King William, shocked at the awful cost of the victories of Vionville and Gravelotte, ordered the avoidance of further sacrifice of life which, consistently with the purposes of the war, might be spared.

In the beleaguered city life concentrates on the care of the wounded and the decreasing supplies of food. Ernst, on learning she is English, dilates on the medical assistance given by the Red-cross Association, in which many English people are employed. Madame Briey, now dying of an unspecified illness, is one of the few who do understand this call to brotherhood.

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The named French characters have had their day: M. Gascon disappears from the story before the surrender; Madame Briey dies just after, and Col. The future of the younger generation lies in Germany, though it is a curiously vague entity. Surprisingly the Army of the Loire scored some French victories. Orleans was successfully re-occupied and in a second battle the French defeated Prussian forces at Toury. They lack training, proper arms and professionalism, but these forces made up of mere civilians require us to be constantly harassed by small engagements.

The Army of the Loire advanced on Le Mans on 6 January with the intention of freeing the city from the Prussians. The French were met with stiff Prussian resistance and by the next day the French realized they would not be able to liberate Le Mans. The attempt to take Le Mans was the last major gasp of resistance in the Loire area and cost the Army of the Loire 6, soldiers in killed and wounded and 20, Frenchmen were taken prisoner.

Never one to quit, Gambetta then placed the hopes of France on the Army of the North. He ordered the remnants of the Army of the Loire to disengage and move north in order to form a junction with the 35,strong Army of the North.

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In November and December the Army of the North fought some inconclusive engagements with the Prussians, but their morale remained high. This was a tragic mistake for the Army of the North. Their success in asymmetrical warfare led the French leadership to incorrectly believe they could defeat the Prussians in a conventional attack on a fortified position. So confident were the French that the besieged garrison in Paris decided to attempt a breakout that day under General Trochu. The result was the Army of the North was crushed at the battle of St. Quentin on 19 42 Ibid.

The starving French garrison and the people of Paris were able to hold out for another week. On 27 January an armistice was signed ending hostilities. As a gesture of Prussian respect to the courage of the French Bismarck gave the French garrison the honor of firing the final artillery shot of the war. It can be argued that in no way was victory possible for the French, especially after destruction of their field forces at Sedan and Metz. However, it was the transformation of a civilian population into a unified force willing to fight and die for their country that truly marks the development of these irregular forces as a turning point in military history.

The lessons from the Franco-Prussian War would not be lost on them. By , some 7, works portraying the Franco-Prussian War as the model for the next European war had been published. In he developed his Schlieffen plan; written and predicated on the need to annihilate France in one quick enormous battle in order to forestall the emergence of any asymmetrical warfare 49 Central to the Schlieffen plan were two factors, rail deployment and a massive army. General von Moltke had argued as much in , that rapid deployment was key to victory.

The Schlieffen Plan, however, set the aim at the destruction of France. Further, Schlieffen saw that the Russo-Japanese War had bogged down into trench static warfare. Therefore, Prussian military planners became fixated on the notion of a battle of annihilation, the destruction of the enemy army which would deprive the state of a fighting force and lead to an early armistice. This resulted in the exact type of war Schlieffen warned against. The Franco-Prussian War should have been a quick and decisive victory for the Prussians. However, after their shocking defeats at Sedan and Metz, the French population rallied around the idea of the war being a matter of survival of the nation.

Key to this transformation was Gambetta, who may not have invented the idea of the franc-tireurs, but certainly encouraged their spread. The franc-tireurs in the Franco-Prussian War are a clear development in the transformation of European war from Napoleonic set-piece campaigns to the total destruction that would characterize the First and Second World Wars in the 20th century. Asymmetric warfare was also effective in Vietnam against the Japanese, French, and Americans and in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the s. Similar asymmetrical strategy also degraded coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in this century, although the suicide bomber is a new asymmetric tactic that has yet to be dealt with.

By blurring the line between civilian and solider, warfare moved from the battlefield to the whole of society. Total warfare was born. The Franco-Prussian War Oxford: Osprey Publishing, Caglioti, Daniella. Accessed 3 August Central Intelligence Agency. Asymmetric Warfare Threats to U. Washington D. Chrastil, Rachel. Organizing for War: France, Clausewitz, Carl von.

On War: The Complete Edition. Rockville, MD: Wildside Press, Forrest, Alan. New York: Cambridge University Press, Giap, Vo Nguyen. New York: Praeger, Henty, G. London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden and Welsh, Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussian War. New York: Routledge, Horne, Alistair.

London: Pan Books, Hozier, H. London: William Mackenzie, Lele, Ajey. Non-State Conflict. Accessed 26 July Lorimer, John. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Moltke, Helmuth von. The Franco-Prussian War of Translated by Archibald Forbes. Nabulsi, Karma. Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance, and the Law. New York: Oxford University Press, Steefel, Lawrence. Taithe, Bertrand. Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, The Art Of War. Edited by James Clavell. New York: Delacorte Press, Vacca, Alexander, and Mark Davidson.

Accessed 28 July Walworth, W. Discuss with Reference to the Franco-Prussian Campaigns of Accessed 25 August Wawro, Geoffrey. Edited by Major General J. London: Swan and Sonnenschein, Zuber, Terence. Related Papers. By Michael Gunther. By Tess McCann. By Grant Peters. The Schlieffen Plan.