On Aug. 27 we had also succeeded in throwing back upon the Meuse the enemy, who was endeavoring to gain a foothold on the left bank. Our successes continued on the 28th in the woods of Marfee and of Jaulnay. Thanks to them we were able, in accordance with the orders of the General in Chief, to fall back on the Buzancy-Le Chesne-Bouvellemont line.
Further to the right another army took part in the same movement and carried out successful attacks on Aug. 25 on the Othain and in the region of Spincourt.
On the 26th these different units recrossed the Meuse without being disturbed and were able to join in the action of our centre. Our armies were, therefore, again intact and available for the offensive.
On Aug. 26 a new army composed of two army corps, five reserve divisions, and a Moorish brigade was constituted. This army was to assemble in the region of Amiens between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1 and take the offensive against the German right, uniting its action with that of the British Army, operating on the line of Ham-Bray-sur-Somme.
The hope of resuming the offensive was from this moment rendered vain by the rapidity of the march of the German right wing. This rapidity had two consequences, which we had to parry before thinking of advancing. On the one hand, our new army had not time to complete its detraining, and, on the other hand, the British Army, forced back further by the enemy, uncovered on Aug. 31 our left flank. Our line, thus modified, contained waves which had to be redressed before we could pass to the offensive.
To understand this it is sufficient to consider the situation created by the quick advance of the enemy on the evening of Sept. 2.
A corps of cavalry had crossed the Oise and advanced as far as Chateau Thierry. The First Army, (General von Kluck,) comprising four active army corps and a reserve corps, had passed Compiegne.
The Second Army, (General von Buelow,) with three active army corps and two reserve corps, was reaching the Laon region.
The Third Army, (General von Hausen,) with two active army corps and a reserve corps, had crossed the Aisne between the Chateau Porcien and Attigny.
More to the east the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Armies, namely, twelve army corps, four reserve corps, and numerous Ersatz formations, were in contact with our troops, the Fourth and Fifth Armies between Vouziers and Verdun and the others in the positions which have been indicated above, from Verdun to the Vosges.
It will, therefore, be seen that our left, if we accepted battle, might be in great peril through the British forces and the new French Army, operating more to the westward, having given way.
A defeat in these conditions would have cut off our armies from Paris and from the British forces and at the same time from the new army which had been constituted to the left of the English. We should thus be running the risk of losing by a single stroke the advantage of the assistance which Russia later on was to furnish.