« EdellinenJatka »
dred men; he halted this little troop and said, "Come, my men, look these fellows in the face; they are six thousand, you are three hundred; surely the match is even." This speech was sufficient. The Frenchmen awaited the onset till the enemy was within pistol-shot; then, after a murderous volley, they charged on the Arabs, who broke and fled in dismay. During the remainder of the day they would not approach this band nearer than long rifle_range.*
The siege of Constantine may properly be said to have ended the war of occupation in Africa. Hitherto we have seen the Zouaves only in time of active war, or in the defence of hill-forts, obliged to unity through fear of an ever-menacing foe, and laboring for their own preservation or comfort only; but now commenced a new training for them, no less severe and dangerous, in which they showed themselves equally willing and competent, a war against stubborn Nature in all her most forbidding aspects. Under the blazing suns of that tropical climate they recommenced at Coleah the work already begun at Dely Ibrahim; ditches were to be dug, works thrown up, roads made, draining accomplished, farms tended, all that was necessary for the establishment of those permanent colonies which France was so anxious to settle in Algeria was to be done by the Zouaves; yet, despite that terrible labor, the danger and hardship, the sickness and death, the ranks of the regiment filled up rapidly; and, joined by the wrecks of the battalion of Mechouar, they were kept full to overflowing. This battalion of Mechouar was a troop left by Clausel in the mechouar, or citadel, of Tlemcen, in the West of Oran, under the command of Captain Cavaignac; on the conclusion of the war, in 1837, they, of course, returned to their regiment at Coleah.
This deceitful peace lasted only till 1839. In this year the vigilant colonel of Zouaves perceived in his native
* Moniteur, December 16, 1886; report of Marshal Clausel.
troops alarming symptoms of mutiny, and learned, to his surprise, that they were in a ripe condition for revolt. Wild Santons of the desert, emissaries, doubtless, of Abd-el-Kader, held secret meetings near the camp; many soldiers attended them, and were seduced by artfully prepared inflammatory harangues and prophecies. In the month of December, 1839, at the raising of the standard of Islam, the natives flocked in vast numbers to rid the land of the Christians; and most of the native Zouaves deserted to join the fortunes of the prince whom they reverenced as a prophet. Old soldiers, trained in the French service to a thorough acquaintance with European tactics, and gray with battling long for Lamoricière, suddenly left him, and by their knowledge of the art of war gave great advantage to the Arab force. In their combats with the Sultan, the Zouaves not infrequently found that a sharp resistance or a masterly retreat on the part of the enemy was executed under the direction of one of their former comrades in arms. It was a critical moment for the Zouaves; but at the announcement of the renewal of hostilities volunteers flowed in on all sides, whether of young men full of ardor and excitement, or, as in many instances, of old soldiers who had already served their time. After a winter of petty skir mishing and reëstablishing in Algeria the semblance of security, the Duke of Orléans led the army, considerably reinforced, in a raid against the Arabs under Abd-el-Kader in their own territory. The Zouaves accompanied this expedition, and whether in their charges against the mountaineers, who, with the aid of the Arab regulars, defended each pass, or sustaining the shock of the provincial cavalry, or even standing unmoved before the attack of Abd-el-Kader's terrible "Reds,” * they maintained their character of rapid, intrepid, and successful soldiers. What names we find in this regiment! Lamoricière, Regnault, Renault, (now General
*The mounted body-guard of Abd-el-Kader, so called by the Fre ch from their complete red uniform.
of Division,) Cavaignac, Leflô, (now General of Brigade,) and St. Arnaud, who died Marshal of France two days after the victory of the Alma.
A singular instance of the handiness of the Zouaves is found in the notice of their forced march on this campaign, undertaken May 20th, to support the retreating Seventeenth Light Infantry. Their cartridges were fired away, the regulars of Abd-el-Kader were upon them, and nothing seemed to remain but an heroic death, when, "Comrades," cried one, "see, here are stones!" Not a word more; each caught the hint, and, with simultaneous volleys of stones, drove off the charging enemy, and broke their way to where the remains of the Seventeenth rallied under Colonel Bedeau, after a retreat more properly to be called a continual attack!
Hard at work during the winter of 1840-41, General Bugeaud found these indefatigable soldiers in perfect condition to take the field again, when he landed in April. There had been sharp fighting during the past year at Mouzaïa, in which the Zouaves always led the van, and were, as in every engagement they ever fought, covered with honor. "The Second, electrified by the example of its officers, and led by Colonel Changarnier, flung itself on the intrenchments; the redoubts were carried, etc. At the same time, in the other column, Lamoricière led the way with his Zouaves, followed by the other troops. The Zouaves surmounted the almost impassable cliffs, attacked and carried two lines of intrenchment, and, in the teeth of a murderous fire, forced a third; a few moments later the two columns joined, and, rushing up the acclivity, planted the flag of France on the highest peak of the Atlas."* Little variation is found in the reports of generals concerning the Zouaves at this time; they say of these troops always, "The First," or "The Second, was covered with glory."
But now, with the arrival of Bugeaud, the war in Africa was changed; hitherto it had been a mere war of occupation,
* Report of Marshal Valée: Moniteur.
a holding of the ground already French against the attacking Arabs; now it was to be a duel, a war of devastation; thus only could France hope to tame the indefatigable Abd-el-Kader, and permanently hold her own. The trouble was not so much to fight him as to get near enough to fight him; for he pursued a truly Fabian policy, and being lighter armed, was consequently swifter than the invaders. Under Marshal Clausel, the French, drawing with them the heavy wagons and munitions of European warfare, were obliged to follow the high-roads, and the Arabs could never be taken by surprise; scouts gave information of their numbers, and after harassing marches they would find that the foe had either retreated to unknown fastnesses or assembled on the spot in prodigious force. Now Lamoricière proposed a plan, in the execution of which he was eminently successful. Bugeaud's design was, to follow the Arabs into the desert, to climb the steep mountains, to plunge into their chasms, to storm every hill-fort, and to drive, step by step, the swift Abd-el-Kader far from the land which his presence so troubled; but how? for swift troops are light-armed, carry no luggage, and but little provision; and to follow without food the Arabs who concealed food in silos, caches in the ground, seemed hopeless. Lamoricière required but his Zouaves, who carried only four days' provisions, and no baggage of any sort; when they drew near any of these silos, which were always, of course, in the vicinity of the deserted villages, he spread out his troops in a long crescent, and they advanced slowly, rooting up the ground with their bayonets till some one struck on the stone or pebbles covering the precious deposit. Thus, without wagons, trained to tireless activity, they could follow the Arabs from douar to douar with little delay, and with fatal effect.
Great reinforcements were sent to Africa, and the Zouaves were not forgotten; for, in the royal ordinance of September 8th, 1841, the regiment was raised to three battalions of nine companies; only one of the nine, however, could receive
natives, so that but three native companies now existed, and few Algerines were found even in these. The reasons seem to have been threefold: first, the danger from mutiny; second, the evils arising from the mixture of the two races, which had augmented their vices, without a corresponding improvement in their good qualities; third, and perhaps most important of all, the discontent very properly felt by the French Zouaves, who were compelled to work at the trenches, to dig, to plant, etc., while the Mussulmans utterly refused to take part in this, to their mind, degrading toil. The Gordian knot was cut, and all difficulty done away, by making the regiment, in effect, exclusively European. Thus reorganized and reinforced, the regiment, on receiving the standard sent it by the king, immediately separated, one battalion marching for Oran, one for Constantine, while the other remained at Blidah, in Algeria.
The year 1842 was full of great results; the new system worked well, great numbers of tribes laid down their arms and swore fealty to France, and the provinces were more than nominally in the hands of the French. Still many of the more distant and powerful tribes held to their allegiance to the Prophet Sultan. The war gradually took on itself the form of a civil contest, and mutual animosities gave rise to many occasions for sanguinary combats; one of these, in the valley of the Cheliff, September, 1842, lasted unintermittingly for thirty-six hours! In this battle, and that of Oued Foddah, and, in fact, in almost every battle of those years, the Zouaves took an honorable part. In mountain fights, long marches over burning sands, repulses of cavalry, at Jurjura, Ouarsanis, among the Beni Menasser, at the Smalah, in the struggles of Bedeau with the Moroccan cavalry, and in the memorable battle of Isly, they did good service; their history was but a narrative of brilliant exploits. In many of their hill fights, the deserters of 1839 gave much trouble. In a skirmish, 1844, on the south side of the Aurès, in which Captain Espinasse (died General of Di
to trace minutely each step by which they mounted to their present position, would be to write, not an article, but a book. In 1842 the natives disappeared finally from their ranks; the best and bravest soldiers of the African army eagerly sought their places, attracted by the uniform, the manner of life, the constant danger and no less constant excitement, the liberty allowed, the glory ever open to all. As their numbers were decimated by the continual warfare, the ranks were immediately filled by the descendants of those brave Gauls who once said, "If the heavens fall, what care we? We will support them on the points of our lances!" In 1848, the Zouaves received a large accession from Paris; the gamins of the Revolution were sent to them in great numbers; out of this unpromising, rebellious material, some of the finest of these admirable troops have been made. And now, when the entry into this regiment was longed for by so many, as a species of promotion, on the 13th of February, 1852, Louis Napoleon, then President of the Republic, decreed that three regiments of Zouaves be formed, each on one of the three battalions as a nucleus, taking the number of the battalion as its own. Thus the first regiment was formed at Blidah, in Algiers; the second at Oran, in Oran; the third at Constantine, in the province of Constantine. Officers of the corps of infantry were eligible to the new regiments, holding the same grade; the men were to be drawn from any infantry corps in the army, on their own application, if the Minister of War saw proper. None were accepted but men physically and morally in excellent condition; the officers had, for the most part, already served with
credit; the under-officers and soldiers had been many years in the service; and even many corporals, and not a few ensigns and lieutenants, voluntarily relinquished their positions to serve in the rank-and-file of the new corps. So, occupied in pacificating and securing the three provinces, the regiments lost nothing of their former renown; obedient to orders, and fearless of danger, it was no idle compliment paid them by Louis Napoleon, when, in the winter of 1853-4, he said, "If the war break out, we must show our Zouaves to the Russians." They were a body trained in the school of a terrible experience of twenty-four years; they had learned, like the lion-hunter, Gerard, to take death by the mane, and look into his fiery eyes without blenching; they were fit for this service, which demanded the best nerve of the two most powerful nations of the world. What they did there is known to all; at the battle of the Alma, Marshal St. Arnaud was unable to repress his admiration, calling them "the bravest soldiers in the world." All Europe, at first wondering at these strange troops, with their wild dress, their half-savage manners, and strange method of warfare, found speedy cause to admire their courage and success; France was proud of their renown, and they became immensely popular in Paris, sure proof of their remarkable qualities. Their oddities, their courage, their imperfect knowledge of the distinctions of meum and tuum, their wondering, childlike simplicity, furnished themes for endless songs and caricatures; the comedy of "Les Zouaves" met with great success; and the cant 'name for them, "Zouzou," is to be heard at any time in the streets. In 1855, the Fourth Zouaves was created, consisting of but two battalions, and enrolled in the Imperial Guard; they are distinguished from the others by wearing a white turban, while that of the other regiments is green; since the formation of this regiment, no new corps have been added. The peace with Russia, in 1856, was not peace for the Zouaves, who returned, desiring nothing better, to Africa, where,
in the continued war, they found congenial employment till the final submis‐ sion of the last tribes, July 15, 1857, dissolved the army of Kabylia, and made them, perforce, peaceful, till the 26th of April of this year brought them to win fresh laurels on a new field.
Vague reports, assertions without proof, have been not infrequently made, to the effect that the Zouaves are in character cruel, dissolute, and excessively given to hard drinking. That they are absolutely free from the first charge I shall not attempt to deny ; that they are more so than other men, in like circumstances, there is no proof; there is even good reason to state the contrary, if we may judge by instances, of which, for want of space, one shall suffice here. The Zouaves were in the van of the army, on their march toward the Tell; in their charge was a large body of prisoners, wounded, and helpless women, old men, and children, whom they were conducting to the Tell, to restore them to their homes. The weather was intensely hot, even for Africa; the nearest well was eleven leagues distant; and the sufferings of the poor people must have been dreadful indeed. Mothers flung down their infants on the burning sand, and pressed madly on to save themselves from the most horrible of deaths; old men and boys sunk exhausted, panting, declaring they could go no farther. "Then it was," says an eyewitness, "that the Zouaves behaved like very Sisters of Charity, rather than rough bearded soldiers; they divided their last morsel with these unfortunates, gave them drink from their own scanty stores, and, putting their canteens to the mouths of the dying, revived them with the precious draught. They raised the screaming infants, overturned and held ewes, that they might suckle the poor creatures, abandoned in despair by their mothers, and, in many instances, carried them the whole distance in their
son to believe that in peace they are, to say the least, not less humane than others.
The author of "Recollections of an Officer" sums up the character of the Zouaves in a few words which clear them from the other two charges, those of dissoluteness and drunkenness. He says,― "Beside the condition of success result ing from the first organization, it must be said, that, somewhat later, the happy idea came to be adopted, of giving to the Zouaves destined to fight in the light-armed troops the costume of Chasseurs-à-pied. The recruitment added also not a little to the reputation which the Zouaves so rapidly acquired; the soldiers are all drawn, not from conscripts, but from applicants for the service. Many are Parisians, or, at all events, inhabitants of the other great French cities; most have already served, are therefore inured to the work, accustomed to privations, which they undergo gayly,—to fatigues, at which they joke, to dangers in battle, which they treat as mere play. They are proud of their uniform, which does not resemble that of any other corps, - proud of that name, Zouave, of mysterious origin, proud of the splendid actions with which each succeeding day enriches the history of their troops, happy in the liberty they experience, both in garrison and on expeditions. It is said that the Zouaves love wine; it is true; but they are rarely seen intoxicated; they seek the pleasures of conviviality, not the imbrutement of drunkenness. These regiments count in their ranks officers, who, ennuied by a lazy life, have taken up the musket and the chechia,-under-officers, who, having already served, brave, even rash, seek to win their epaulettes anew in this hard service, and gain either a glorious position or a glorious death,-old officers of the garde mobile,-broad-shouldered marines, who have served their time on shipboard, accustomed to cannon and the thunderings of the tempest,-young men of family, desirous to replace with the red
* Souvenirs d'un Officier du 2me de Zouaves. Paris, 1859.
ribbon of the Legion of Honor, bought and colored with their blood, the dishonor of a life gaped wearily away on the pavements of Paris.
"Composed of such elements, one can scarcely imagine the body of Zouaves other than brilliant in the field of battle. The officers are generally chosen from the regiments of the line, men remarkable for strength, courage, and prudence; full of energy, pushing the love of their colors to its last limit, always ready to confront death and to run up to meet danger, they seek glory rather than promotion. To train up their soldiers, to give them an example, in their own persons, of all the military virtues,— such are their only cares. Our ancestors said, 'Noblesse oblige'; these choose the same motto. Their nobility is not that of old family-titles, but the uniform in which they are clothed, the title of officer of Zouaves. Esprit de corps, that religion of the soldier, is carried by the Zouaves to its highest pitch; the common soldiers would not consent to change their turban for the epaulettes of an ensign in the other service; and many an ensign, and not a few captains, have preferred to await their advancement in the Zouaves rather than immediately obtain it by entering other regiments. There exists, moreover, between the soldiers and officers, a military fraternity, which, far from destroying discipline, tends rather to draw more closely its bonds. The officer sees in his men rather companions in danger and in glory than inferiors; he willingly attends to their complaints, and strives to spare them all unnecessary privations. Where they are exposed to difficulties, he does not hesitate to employ all the means in his power to aid them. In return, the soldier professes for his officer an affection, a devotion, a sort of filial respect. Discipline, he knows, must be severe, and he does not grumble at its penalties. In battle, he does not abandon his chief; he watches over him, will die for his safety, will not let him fall into the hands of the enemy if wounded. At the bivouac he makes the officer's fire,