This panorama gives an idea of the theatre of operations of the Second Siege of Paris. The Prussians closed the eastern enceinte, whilst the Federals held the southern forts to the last, with the exception of Issy and Vanves that were abandoned. Point-du-Jour and Porte Maillot were the parts particularly attacked; the former being defended by the Federal gunboats on the Seine. Mont Valerien, it will be seen, commands the whole of the distant plateau. About one mile and a half beyond the Triumphal Arch the river Seine intersects the space from south to north, enclosing the Bois de Boulogne and the villages of Neuilly, Villiers, and Courcelles, being a sort of outer fortification. The walls of Paris follow the same line, falling about half a mile on the other side of the Arch, and parallel runs a line of railway within the fortified wall.
This view exhibits the portion the Prussians were permitted to occupy for two days: all the outlets, except the west, being barricaded and defended.]
This spectacle, however, of combatants and gapers distresses me, and in despair of learning anything I return into the city.
At some distance from the scene of events one gets better information, or, at any rate, a great deal more of it. Imagination has better play when it is farther from the fact. A hundred absurd stories reach me. What appears tolerably certain is, that the Federals have received a check, not very important in itself, the Versailles troops having made but little advance, but at any rate a check which might have some influence on the resolution of the National Guards. They have been told that the army would not fight, that the soldiers of the line would turn the butt-ends of their guns into the air at Neuilly as they had done at Montmartre. But now they begin to believe that the army will fight, and those who cry the loudest that it was the sergents de ville and Charette’s Zouaves who led the attack alone, seem as if they said it to give themselves courage and keep up their illusions.
But from which side did the first shot come? On this point everyone has something to say, and no one knows what to believe. Official reports are looked for with the utmost impatience. The walls, generally so communicative, are mute up to this hour. The least improbable of the versions circulated is the following: At break of day some shots are said to have been exchanged between the Federal advanced guard and the patrols of the Versailles troops. None dead or wounded; only powder wasted, happily. A little later, and a few minutes after the arrival of General Vinoy at Mont Valerien, a messenger with a flag of truce, preceded by a trumpeter and accompanied by two sergents de ville (inevitably), is said to have presented himself at the bridge of Courbevoie. The name of the messenger has been given,—Monsieur Pasquier, surgeon-in-chief to the regiment of mounted gendarmes. Two of the National Guards go to meet him; after some words exchanged, one of the Federals blows out Monsieur Pasquier’s brains with his revolver, and ten minutes later Mont Valerien opens a formidable fire, which continues as fiercely four hours afterwards.