The role of the French Army, which was operating to the right of the British Army, was threefold. It had to support the British attacking on its left. It had on its right to support our centre, which from Sept. 7 had been subjected to a German attack of great violence. Finally, its mission was to throw back the three active army corps and the reserve corps which faced it.
On the 7th it made a leap forward, and on the following days reached and crossed the Marne, seizing, after desperate fighting, guns, howitzers, mitrailleuses, and 1,300,000 cartridges. On the 12th it established itself on the north edge of the Montagne-de-Reime in contact with our centre, which for its part had just forced the enemy to retreat in haste.
THE ACTION OF FERE-CHAMPENOISE.
Our centre consisted of a new army created on Aug. 29 and of one of those which at the beginning of the campaign had been engaged in Belgian Luxemburg. The first had retreated on Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 from the Aisne to the north of the Marne and occupied the general front Sezanne-Mailly.
The second, more to the east, had drawn back to the
south of the line Humbauville-Chateau-Beauchamp-Bignicourt-B
The enemy, in view of his right being arrested and the defeat of his enveloping movement, made a desperate effort from the 7th to the 10th to pierce our centre to the west and to the east of Fere-Champenoise. On the 8th he succeeded in forcing back the right of our new army, which retired as far as Gouragancon. On the 9th, at 6 o’clock in the morning, there was a further retreat to the south of that village, while on the left the other army corps also had to go back to the line Allemant-Connantre.
Despite this retreat the General commanding the army ordered a general offensive for the same day. With the Morocco Division, whose behavior was heroic, he met a furious assault of the Germans on his left toward the marshes of Saint Gond. Then with the division which had just victoriously overcome the attacks of the enemy to the north of Sezanne, and with the whole of his left army corps, he made a flanking attack in the evening of the 9th upon the German forces, and notably the guard, which had thrown back his right army corps. The enemy, taken by surprise by this bold manoeuvre, did not resist, and beat a hasty retreat.
On the 11th we crossed the Marne between Tours-sur-Marne and Sarry, driving the Germans in front of us in disorder. On the 12th we were in contact with the enemy to the north of the Camp de Chalons. Our other army of the centre, acting on the right of the one just referred to, had been intrusted with the mission during the 7th, 8th, and 9th of disengaging its neighbor, and it was only on the 10th that, being reinforced by an army corps from the east, it was able to make its action effectively felt. On the 11th the Germans retired. But, perceiving their danger, they fought desperately, with enormous expenditure of projectiles, behind strong intrenchments. On the 12th the result had none the less been attained, and our two centre armies were solidly established on the ground gained.