Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 5

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 5
The July Revolution: military action on the 29th of July



The 29th saw the appearance of fresh combatants: the students of the École Polytechnique, in collaboration with one of their old comrades, Monsieur Charras, forced the issue and sent four of their number, Messieurs Lothon, Berthelin, Pinsonnière and Tourneux, to offer their services to Messieurs Lafitte, Périer and Lafayette. These young men, distinguished in their studies, were already known to the Allies, when they presented themselves before Paris in 1814; during the Three Days they became popular leaders, the crowd placing them at their head with perfect trust. Some students went to the Place de l’Odéon, others to the Palais-Royal and the Tuileries.

The order of the day published on the morning of the 29th offended the Guard: it announced that the King, wishing to show his satisfaction with his brave servants, granted them a month and a half’s pay; an unseemly action which the French soldiers resented: it valued them like the English who would not march, or rebelled, if they had not received their money.

During the night of the 28th, the people had stripped the paving stones from the streets for twenty yards on either side and the next day, at day-break, four thousand barricades had been erected in Paris.

The Palais-Bourbon was guarded by troops of the Line, the Louvre by two Swiss battalions, the Rue de la Paix, the Place Vendôme, and the Rue Castiglione by the 5th and 53rd of the Line. Nearly twelve hundred infantrymen arrived from Saint-Denis, Versailles and Rueil.

The military position improved: the troops were more concentrated, and they had to cross large empty spaces to reach each other. General Exelmans, who had judged these deployments well, arrived, at eleven o’clock to place his courage and experience at the disposition of the Duke of Ragusa, while for his part General Pajol presented himself to the Deputies in order to take command of the National Guard.

The Ministers had the idea of convoking the Royal Court at the Tuileries, so far were they from understanding the needs of the moment! The Marshal urged the President of the Council to repeal the decrees. During their conversation, Monsieur de Polignac was summoned; he went out and found Monsieur Bertier, the son of the first victim sacrificed in 1789, who having crossed Paris, declared that everything was going better as far as the Royalist cause was concerned: it is a fatality that the members of that race, who were entitled to revenge, were hurled into the grave during our first troubles, and invoked in our recent misfortunes. Those misfortunes were nothing new; since 1793, Paris had grown accustomed to watch events and Kings pass by.

While, according to the Royalist reports, everything was going well, the defection of the 5th and 53rd regiments of the Line was announced, who joined forces with the people.

The Duke of Ragusa proposed a suspension of the fighting: it was carried out in some places and not executed in others. The Marshal had sent for one of the two Swiss battalions stationed at the Louvre. He was sent the battalion which was garrisoning the colonnade. The Parisians, seeing the colonnade deserted, approached the walls and entered via the imitation doors which led to the inner Garden of the Infanta; they gained the crossroads and fired on the battalion stationed in the courtyard. Terrified by the memory of the 10th of August, the Swiss rushed from the palace and threw themselves among their third battalion which was situated facing the Parisians outposts, but was observing the suspension of fighting. The people, who had reached the Gallerie Musée of the Louvre, began to fire, from amidst masterpieces, on the lancers lined up in the Carrousel. The Parisians outposts, carried away by their example, broke the armistice. Driven beneath the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Swiss pushed the lancers into the portico of the Pavillon de l’Horlogue and emerged pell-mell into the TuileriesGarden. Young Farcy was killed in this skirmish: his name is inscribed on the corner of the café near where he fell; and a beetroot processing plant exists today at Thermopylae! The Swiss had three or four soldiers wounded or killed: this handful of dead has been portrayed as an incredible butchery.

The crowd, with Messieurs Thomas, Bastide, and Guinard entered the Tuileries by means of the wicket-gate at the Pont Royal. A tricolour flag was planted on the Pavillon de l’Horloge, as in Bonaparte’s time, apparently in memory of freedom. The furniture was torn apart, the paintings hacked by sabre blows; in the armoury the diary of the King’s hunts was found and that of the fine slaughter executed on partridges: an old custom of the royal gamekeepers. A corpse was placed on the empty throne in the Throne Room: that would be dreadful if the French, these days, were not always indulging in theatricals. The ArtilleryMuseum, at Saint-Thomas-d’Aquine, was pillaged, and the centuries passed along the riverbank, beneath the helmet of Godfrey de Bouillon, and the lance of Francis I.

Then the Duke of Ragusa quitted headquarters, leaving behind a hundred and twenty thousand francs in sacks. He left by the Rue de Rivoli and went to the TuileriesGarden. He gave the order for the troops to withdraw, first to the Champs Élysées and then as far as l’Étoile. It was thought peace had been made, and that the Dauphin was coming; several carriages from the stables, and a wagon, crossed the Place Louis XV: it was the Ministers leaving their posts.

Arriving at l’Étoile, Marmont received a letter: it announced to him that the King had appointed Monsieur le Dauphin commander-in-chief of the troops, and that he, the Marshal, was to serve under his command.

A company of the 3rd Guards Regiment had been overlooked in the house of a hatter on the Rue de Rohan; after lengthy resistance the house was taken. Captain Meunier, struck by three bullets, leapt from a third-floor window, fell onto the roof below, and was carried to the Gros-Caillou hospital: he survived. The Babylone barracks, attacked between noon and one by three students from the École Polytechnique, Vaneau, Lacroix and D’Ouvrier, was only defended by a depot of Swiss recruits about a hundred strong; Major Dufay, of French origin commanding: for thirty years he had served with us; he had been an actor in the highest dramas of the Republic and Empire. Called on to surrender, he refused to accept any conditions and shut himself in the barracks. Young Vaneau perished. Incendiaries set fire to the barrack-room doors; the door collapsed; immediately, Major Dufay emerged through this flaming maw, followed by his mountaineers with fixed bayonets; he fell to musket-fire from the keeper of an inn nearby: his death saved his Swiss recruits; they regained the various corps to which they belonged.