Paris under the Commune eBook

John Leighton Stuart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about Paris under the Commune.

This morning, the 23rd, after a combat of three hours, the barricade of the Place de Clichy has not yet yielded.  Yet two battalions of National Guards had, at the beginning of the fight, reversed their arms, and were fraternising with the soldiers on the Place de la Maine, a hundred and fifty yards from the scene of the fray.  The cracking of the rifles, the explosion of shells, and the sound of mitrailleuses filled the air.  The smell of powder was stifling.  Dreadful cries arose from the poor wounded wretches; and the whizzing projectiles from Montmartre rent the air above in their fiery course.  “Beneath us,” said an inhabitant of Batignolles who gave me these particulars, “beneath us the city lay like a seething caldron.”

The beating of drums and the sharp trumpet-calls mixed in this monstrous din, and were every now and then lost in the tremendous noise of the firing.

About half-past one the sounds grew quieter; the barricade was taken.  The insurgents were retreating to La Chapelle and Belleville in disorder; the soldiers of the line rushed like a torrent into the Avenue de Clichy, leaving a tricolour flag hoisted upon the dismantled barricade.

Here and there, in the streets, the struggle had not ceased.  In the Rue Blanche a rifle-shot proceeded from a ground-floor; the man was taken and executed outside his own door.  The artillery was moving up the Rue Chaptal towards Montmartre and La Chapelle.  The day was very hot; pails of water were thrown over the guns to quench their burning thirst.  All the young men who were found in the streets were provisionally put under arrest, for they feared everyone, even children, and horrible vengeance and thirst for blood had seized upon all.  Suddenly an isolated shot would be heard, followed a minute or two after by five or six others.  One knew reprisal had been done.

At about four o’clock in the afternoon, when the quarters of Belleville and Clichy were pretty well cleared of troops, two insurgents were walking, one behind the other, in the Rue Leonie.  The one who walked last lifted his rifle and fired carelessly in the direction of the windows; the report sounded very loudly in the silent street, and a pane of glass fell in fragments to the ground.  The insurgent who was in front did not even turn his head; these men seem to have become quite reckless and deaf to everything.

What the troops feared the most were the sharp-shooters hidden in the houses, aiming through little holes and cracks; suddenly a snap would be heard, and the officers would lift their glassed to their eyes; more often nothing was to be seen at all, but if the slightest shadow were visible behind a window curtain, the order was, “Search that house!” The executions did not take place in the apartments.  Now and then an inhabitant or two were brought down into the street, and those never returned!


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Paris under the Commune from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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