Wednesday, 15 January 2014

More on the Voltigeurs from Capitaine Richard

  "In the night of 21 to 22 May, the Russians had erected a very important gabionade 60 metres from the wall of the cemetery, in front of our Attacks on the Left. General Pelissier, who was by then Commander in Chief of the Army of the East, was resolved to capture these works to get rid of this dangerous work.
Three columns of attack were organised for this operation. The Right-hand Column under the orders of General de La Motterouge was formed from the elite companies of the 1st Regiment of the Foreign Legion, supported by battalions of the 28th and 18th Regiments of the Line. They had, for the reserve, the greater part of the 1st Regiment of the Voltigeurs of the Guard. This column debouched on the south-east corner of the cemetery to attack the Russians lodged on the slope of the ridge which dominated everything from the north.



The Left-hand Column, commanded by General Renard, comprised three companies from the 10th Battalion of Chasseurs a Pied, the 2nd Regiment of Foreign Legion and a battalion of the 98th Regiment of the Line. They were to advance via the Quarantine Bay to attack a group of Russian Ambuscades which supported the work. This column is supported by the 1st Regiment of Voltigeurs of the Guard and a part of the 2nd Regiment [of Voltigeurs].
A third column, commanded by General Pate, is composed of two battalions from the 2nd Regiment of Voltigeurs of the Guard under the orders of Colonel Marolles, the 5th Battalion of Chasseurs a Pied and the 80th Regiment of the Line, which, in case of failure of the other two, were to attack the work in front. This principal reserve is held in the second parrallel, behind the cemetery, to remain there until disposed by General la Salles. The General Laboeuf, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Verniet de Laumiere, newly promoted, and Captain De La Jaille, all from the Artillery of the Guard, was the officer close to the person of General Pate who was commanding the reserve.
As the night fell, all our troops were prepared, all waiting for the signal, which would be given at nine o'clock in the evening.
Our Column of Attack on the Left is launched with resolution; they cleared the ambuscades crowning the escarpment which bordered the right bank of the Quarantine Ravine. After an obstinate combat, they remained masters of the position.
On the Right, the column of General de La Motterouge first siezes the gabionade. The Russians return in great number, and the companies of the Foreign Legion are ejected, onto the 28th Regiment of Line. These recover and soon go back to the combat. But a fresh Russian regiment makes a new offensive, at around half past ten, forces our troops to retire again.
One battalion of the 18th Line stopped the enemy with its violent fire and forced it to retire in its turn.
Two companies of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Voltigeurs of the Guard are also sent, to the extremity of the cemetery, on the side of the Quarantine, to defend against an approach by the Russians to outflank our troops where they were able to establish ambuscades after a fierce combat.
In front of the cemetery they found two apparently unoccupied ambuscades, because they were silent as the enemy approached. A solitary brave, Voltigeur Beaupoil, volunteered to his Captain, Mr. Borel,  to scout the ambuscades. Beaupoil abdanced resolutely and fell into the middle of some Russian Grenadiers which flowed out of their hiding place. "To me! Voltigeurs! It's the enemy!" he cried to his comrades, as he died, his chest pierced by a bayonet...
The two companies of Voltigeurs, stand on guard and survey the two ambuscades. This produced a moment of calm in the combat, whilst French and Russians re-assembled their forces.
Around half an hour after midnight, the struggle started over with renewed and terrible intensity. In the Left-hand Column, a Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Voltigeurs victoriously resisted the efforts of the Russians to turn and re-enter the ambuscades. The soldiers of the Guard charge with the bayonet at the backs of the enemy who presented in compact groups, and pushing with loud "Hourahs!". The Captain Vichery is wounded in one of these pursuits. At his side, the Captain Bouton is remarkable for his courage: he communicated an indomitable energy to his company; they cling to the ground and hold the ambuscades they have captured throughout that terrible night until the day of the 23rd. We now cite...the valorous conduct of the Sergeant Bessin who killed two Russians with the bayonet; also the Sergeants Drouet and Rochette; of the Sergeant Conte killed by his hand  a Russian Colonel, and brings back, with the acclamation of his comrades, two Russian prisoners from the ambuscades. Voltigeur Cartellier is surrounded by four enemies, he quickly kills them but falls grievously wounded... The Corporal Caer is wounded three times and still charges at the enemy with the bayonet. Voltigeur Bollenger, surrounded by Russian Grenadiers kills two of them, evades the others and runs back to his comrades. The Corporal Durand receieves his first wound but refuses to be taken to the ambulance; wouldned for a second time by a bayonet-thrust, he continues to fight with valour and does not abandon his post. The Corporal Han is suddenly faced with two Russians, one of them shot him in the end which smashes the shoulder, the valiant corporal still has the strength to kill his assailant with a bayonet thrust and drag the other assailant by the collar into our ranks....
The two companies of the 1st Voltigeurs detached at the cemetery resist heroically against all the most furious assaults. The officers fall one after another. The Captain Devoge has his arm broken by a gun-shot; the Lieutenant Niel and Sous-Lieutenant Fariau are wounded. But not a man retires. The only remaining officer, the Sous-Lieutenant de Sommyevres, is remarkable for his sang-froid and his courage through the whole ordeal.  His clothes are ragged wtih holes from musket balls and bayonet thrusts; finally he too is wounded.
The neighbouring company is commanded by the Sergent Jeantrelle: a veteran Sub-Officer who has taken command of his company because all the officers are dead. At a return offensive by the enemy, he shows the example and is the first our men to attack them. He fights body-to-body with the Russians, and kills three with his own hand, but he stumbles and falls over on the ground and is carried off to the ambuscade. His sang-froid never left him, and in the blink of an eye, he turns from his agressors, and rejoins his company. The Sergent Casanova spent the entire night on the battlefield to carry orders from the Lieutenant-Colonel Mongin to the two [detached] companies. With the aid of two elite companies from the 2nd Foreign Legion, the Voltigeurs push the Russians into the ravine. 
Repulsed on this point, the Russians fall on our Right, to pierce our Line. ... 
The General de La Motterouge, calls on the battalions of De Boulatigny and D'Anthes of the 1st Regiment of Voltigeurs.
The Commandant Boulatigny, who had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel the day before, would not abandon his battalion during the first time it saw fire. It's with remarkable ardour that he raised his men, electrified by his attitude. He quickly fell terribly mutilated; he had an arm missing, a leg and hip also. After him fell the brave Captain Genty, hero of the affaire of 2nd Mayand the brave Captain Chicard, qho later died from his suite of wounds. The fight is terrible; the struggle body-to-body, where the bayonets thrust and the sabres cut with repeated shocks....
It is about one o'clock in the morning and we have been fighting since nine in the evening. Our troops are overwhelmed. It is now that the troops of the General Reserve are called forward: it's the 1st Regiment of Voltigeurs, commanded by their Battalion Chiefs Farine and Gremion, who receive the order to go forward to retake the gabionade that our troops had been driven out of.
The 1st Battalion of the 2nd Voltigeurs is directed towards the Fourth Parrallel, facing and in front of the place d'armes of the Russian work. There, the troops crossed the breastwork and as they emerged lay flat on their stomach. This was how they advanced under a blanket of case-shot and reached the foot of the scarp of the work without firing a single musket-shot. There they half-rise,
then butts under the Russians bayonets, helping hands, shoulders, they throw into the gabions interior of the book in the overthrow of the defenders. They thus make some holes passing and driven by the lieutenant Boscary, penetrating in gabionade. The, engages in the shadow fight body to body in which the brave lieutenant falls seriously injured among his Voltigeurs. Voltigeur Rondet, is among the first in the book, it makes the space around his officer injured, defending him with the bayonet  with an unequaled ardour: soon the others arrive.Faced with this sudden irruption of our Voltigeurs, the Russians fold first, but brought back  their reinforcements, they reject us out of gabionade. Three times, the Voltigeurs of the Guard are thrown back, but three times they come back in charge with indomitable energy. The wounded fighting alongside the unwounded....
The General Pate gave the order to the Battalion of Voltigeurs of Commandmant D'Anthes
to attack the Russians withthe bayonet and tumble them into the ravine. The brave Anthes inspired his men by his example, they went at the run and starts with impetuosity on the Russians, who, turned over, were pursued the bayonet in the belly, withdrew in disorder into the same city walls. But the Commander Anthes has fallen seriously wounded, both legs shattered by a bullet, a terrible injury that cost him his life."

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