The spectacle of these devoted men chanting a national song as they marched on to certain death was inspiring. It was at the same time pitiable.
And if any proof were needed that untrained valor alone cannot gain the day in modern war, the advance of the Twenty-third German Corps on Oct. 23 most assuredly furnished it.
Besides doing its share of execution on the hostile infantry, our artillery in this quarter brought down a German captive balloon.
As some gauge of the rate at which the guns were firing at what was for them an ideal target, it may be mentioned that one field battery expended 1,800 rounds of ammunition during the day.
On Saturday, the 24th, action on our right was once more confined to that of artillery, except at night, when the Germans pressed on, only to be repulsed.
In the centre, near Armentieres, our troops withstood three separate attempts of the enemy to push forward, our guns coming into play with good effect. Against our left the German Twenty-seventh Corps made a violent effort with no success.
On Sunday, the 25th, it was our turn to take the offensive. This was carried out by a portion of our left wing, which advanced, gained some ground, and took two guns and eighty prisoners. It is believed that six machine guns fell to the French.
In the centre the fighting was severe, though generally indecisive in result, and the troops in some places were engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Toward evening we captured 200 prisoners.
On the right action was again confined to that of the guns.
Up to the night of the 25th, therefore, not only have we maintained our position against the great effort on the part of the enemy to break through to the west, or to force us back, which started on the 20th; we have on our left passed to the offensive.
These six days, as may be gathered, have been spent by us in repelling a succession of desperate onslaughts. It is true that the efforts against us have been made to a great extent by partially trained men, some of whom appear to be suffering from lack of food. But it must not be forgotten that these troops, which are in great force, have only recently been brought into the field, and are therefore comparatively fresh. They are fighting also with the utmost determination, in spite of the fact that many of them are heartily sick of the war.
The struggle has been of the most severe and sanguinary nature, and it seems that success will favor that side which is possessed of most endurance, or can bring up and fling fresh forces into the fray. Though we have undoubtedly inflicted immense loss upon the enemy, they have so far been able to fill up the gaps in their ranks and to return to the charge, and we have suffered heavily ourselves.
One feature of the tactics now employed has been the use of cavalry in dismounted action, for on both sides many of the mounted troops are fighting in the trenches alongside the infantry.