101st French Regiment

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, September 14, 1861

This 1861 Harper's Weekly newspaper contains a variety of important news of Civil War. The paper contains original woodcut illustrations created by eye-witnesses to these historic events. These pages allow you to see the events of the Civil War unfold, just as the people of the day saw them.

(Scroll Down to See entire page, Newspaper Thumbnails will take you to the page of interest)

 

Fort Hatteras

Fort Hatteras

Slave Proclamation

Fremont's Slave Proclamation

Martial Law

Martial Law in Missouri

General Rosecrans

General Rosecrans

Indiana Volunteers

22nd Indiana Volunteers

Southern Family Escaping North

Escaping Southern Family

French Regiment

101st French Regiment

Marines

Civil War Marines

Rebel Naval Battery

Rebel Naval Battery

Butler's Expedition

Butler's Southern Expedition

Cannons

Civil War Cannons

Summersville

Battle of Summersville

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln Cartoon

 

 

 

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[SEPTEMBER 14, 1861.

586

THE HUNDRED AND FIRST
FRENCH REGIMENT.

WHAT is a regiment ? Every body looks upon it from his own point of view. The dictionary calls it "a body of military men." The country regards it as a faithful dog that hinders the neighbors from committing petty annoyances ; orderly people pretend that it is tranquillity ; agitators will have that it is the sword of Damocles struck off in three thousand copies. Contractors consider it as an income of twelve hundred pounds per year; mathematicians, as an integral number reducible to vulgar fractions. For Beranger it was the Sons of France ; for the nursemaids of the Tuileries it is the Conservatoire of Sentiment. Mothers are sad when they see it pass; fathers are good-natured enough to fancy that it is gratuitous board and lodging which the government oilers for the reception of their sons. To the school of cowards it is an enigma; to the women it is three thousand men. In all this it is possible that only the women and the dictionary are right.

The Hundred and First is a fine regiment. Separately, the men are not handsome ; by no means. But put them together in a corps, and they are magnificent—and are they brave? Inquire of the whole army. 'Tis not along the Boulevards that you should see the Hundred and First pass; there you will think it stuck up and given to attitudinizing—two sad defects in a regiment. Here, on the high road, is the place to see it, with its cap on one side and its eye alert. It enjoys existence, laughing and singing, with its three thousand voices, one of its favorite songs. While it sings on its way let us have a good look at it. Take a chair. First come the sappers.

To know one sapper from another is a proof of remarkable perspicacity. Sappers resemble negroes in this respect, that if you know one you know all. This soldier—not to call him always by his name—with his hairy cap, his face to match, and his hatchet, reminds you of Robinson Crusoe. He wears a white apron, the emblem of his functions in the capacity of nursemaid; you will see him soon taking out the colonel's little girl for a walk. That black and bearded head beams ineffable smiles on the little pink and white creature, who, far from being afraid of him, calls him " My ducky darling sapper!" If you listened to the stories which the soldier invents to amuse the child you would be highly delighted. They overflow with unheard-of-ness. Unfortunately, the denouement never varies. It is, to wit, the history of a little girl who, after being very well-behaved, very kind, very charitable, and very virtuous, marries at last—a general of division. Poor little thing!

Good gracious! What a handsome soldier!

Parbleu ! I believe so; 'tis the drum-major. I would wager my head, Sir, that you have heard that the drum-major of the Hundred and First is somewhat stupid ? It is really the case ; but the whole truth is, that he won't take the trouble to sharpen his wits. What could he do with them if they were sharp? " That sort of thing is beneath his position." Accustomed to behold humanity beneath him, he believes himself above humanity. Envied by some, disdained by others, he remains alone—with his shoulder-belt. Even love can not regenerate him, for he is loved solely for his feather and his cane. Of all the varieties of womankind he knows only the most insipid—the women who admire fine men. Don't wish to step into his shoes, and stop your ears, for here are the trumpeters.

Handsome pay (three sous per day) and the certainty of making a noise in the world, render the drummer insufferably proud. In obedience to tradition, he slightly cocks his head on one side, to give himself a gracious air. When he returns to his cottage, his daddy, and his pigs, he will cleverly insinuate that he renounced military honors to follow his vocation for agriculture.

The colonel is always serious and wearied out, which is perfectly comprehensible. To manage three thousand men is no trifle, and to hear the regimental band play every day the same variations on Guillaume Tell is any thing but amusing. On his Arab horse, with his back turned to the regiment, the colonel sees and knows every thing; what he does not know, he guesses. On returning to quarters he will consign to barracks for a couple of days number seven of the second rank, of the third company, of the second battalion, for slinging his cartridge-box awkwardly ; but his proverbial severity will cease the moment he passes general of brigade.

The lieutenant-colonel speaks like the colonel, walks like the colonel, scolds like the colonel, laughs like the colonel, does every thing like the colonel. But he is an older man. How does this happen ? Nobody knows ; it lieth between Destiny and the Minister.

The commandant of the third battalion, scarcely thirty years of age, won his epaulets and the officers' cross of the Legion of Honor in the Crimea, where he reaped glory by wagon-loads. He bears one of the most honorable names in France; he has an income of sixty thousand francs a year; and he has a young wife as fair as his fortune. Esteemed by his chiefs, beloved by the soldiers, a magnificent career is open to him. Here is more than enough to make him the happiest man in the world. Well; he is nothing of the kind. This poor commandant bears a serpent in his bosom—a chronic grief, an incurable pain. The serpent, the grief, the pain, lie in the fact that he is an inch shorter than M. Thiers, the shortest of all known great men.

Among the officers of the Hundred and First is found the married officer who associates with nobody, not even with his married colleagues, because it "gives rise to gossip ;" and, in the corps, half a word soon takes gigantic proportions. It is an unlucky day when Captain Michel calls on Captain Baudoin, and asks, "Captain, is it true that you said that I said my wife told me that Captain Laudry's wife had told her that her husband wore stays?" The officer of fortune has no fortune at all. The serious officer employs his time in studying

theory, administration, and manoeuvres. One type has all but disappeared from the French army ; namely, the loud, braggart, coarse officer, finding fault with every thing in season and out of season. Every day Atticism is gaining ground. The Crimean war gave the last blow to boastfulness and insolence. Why need a man boast, when he has shown solid proofs of courage? What is the use of putting on threatening looks and staring right and left with an ever-knitted brow, when all the world knows how redoubtable you are if occasion require?

The sergeants constitute three categories : the sergent who has only seven years' service, the sargent who has fourteen, and the chargent who has one-and-twenty.

The sergent is a badly-drawn portrait, with a feeble outline of the features. He combines simpletonism with presumptuousness. In the novelty of his relative superiority, he feels an immoderate craving to display his full authority; he worries the soldiers. If the colonel knew it ! Never does he leave the chamber without having punished his man. The French soldier never murmurs ; he sings, which is his revenge. Hardly has the punisher turned his heels, when the light breeze wafts to his ear the finale of the Vexed Sergent:

And, rrrantaplan,

Do what you can;

Lieutenants two

Are higher than you

So, while we can,

Sing r-r-r-rantaplan.

His looks are sombre, he boils with rage, but he holds his tongue for fear of being taken for a vexed sergent.

The sargent is quite a different person. A perfect trooper, serving for the love of the art, conscious of his value, nothing moves, nothing surprises, that placid and martial countenance. Provost at arms—pronounce provoo–he takes a part in every duel. In the regiment, they fight more readily than in the world. If one soldier says to another, " You are an awkward fellow !" it is sufficient. The proper steps are taken. Arrived on the ground, the adversaries salute each other. Then one of them, laying his sword-guard on his heart, says, " Begin, Monsieur."

" Certainly not," replies the other, with courtesy.

"To oblige you," resumes the first, stretching his legs, almost wide enough to split himself.

The blades are on the point of crossing. The sargent advances, and gravely pronounces the following speech, which never varies :

" An instant! Before you begin you ought to know that, from the remotest times of antiquity, even as far back as the Romans, the diverse disputes of honor have always been decided by arms, notably by the foil, which is the noblest, without wishing here to humiliate the sabre in any way. But before your fury carries you beyond the bounds of politeness, reflect that it is more beautiful to repair a fault than to have not committed it. It is never too late to retrieve one's errors, and to avoid the greatest remorse in this worldly life. If you feel yourself to be in fault, throw yourself into the arms of your adversary, that he may grant you pardon. In the other case, if your cause is good, fight till your very last breath ; for remember, both one and the other of you, that he who retracts out of fear and pusillanimity, or through other motives, no matter what, is considered as a coward and—and—as a pignouf,

The combat commences; you know how it finishes; a scratch on the right hand, the accolade, and all is over.

The chargent is brave to the tip of every hair. For the last twenty years a hundred thousand men have saluted his lace stripes; and it costs him a very slight effort to believe that those salutes are addressed to himself: which belief justifies the very good opinion he entertains of his own person. He has seen every thing, he knows every thing; beloved and respected by the Hundred and First, he expects to be beloved and respected every where. Louis XIV. was not so strict about ettiquette as he is about his prerogatives.

A carabineer, passing near him neglected to raise his hand to his cap.

"Why don't you salute me?" asked the chargent, walking straight up to him.

" I beg your pardon, sergeant, I did not notice your stripes."

" Do you intend to insinuate that you are short-sighted ?"

" No, but—"

" There is no ' but' in the matter. I could take down your matricular number and have you put into the corner; but I am not susceptible of bringing any body to grief. Only please to listen to what I say. You belong to the First Carabineers, which is the finest regiment in France ; well ! by your insolent incongruity you entirely deprive it of its prestige. That is all I have to say to you."

The carabineer was flabergasted, as well he might.

With this profound knowledge of life he is overwhelmed with questions, "Chargent, what is that grease in the yellow pots which stand in the windows of the dealers in eatables ?"

" Grease ! It is fat liver pate ; the most delectable thing in the world. It costs twenty-seven francs the half-pound, without the truffles." " Oh, ho ! And with the truffles ?"

" It is worth its weight in gold."

" Have you ever tasted any yourself, chargent?" "Approximatively."

" I don't know what that means."

" It means that I have never tasted it personally myself; but I once had a comrade who had a fellow-townsman who polished the floors of a captain who often had it on his table."

" Chargent, is it true, what Corporal Siphlet says, that at Bordeaux you kept company with a black woman ?"

" Certainly, it is quite true."

" With a negress?''

"Not exactly."   ..

" With a ulatress ?"

"Not exactly; it was with one of my fellow-townswomen whose husband was a coal-heaver."

" Chargent, why does the commandant of the firstt battalion wear green spectacles ?"

" When his wife gives him a glass of sugar and water, it is to make him fancy it is a glass of hock."

As long as the oldest trooper can remember, the Hundred and First has always had in its ranks a sergeant who saved a general. At Fontenoy, Wagram, and Montereau, the glorious deed was performed. In Spain, during the campaign of '23, a sergeant found an opportunity of saving a lieutenant-general, who, in truth, was in no great danger; but seeing the difficulties at the time of finding a general more exposed, they could not be over-particular, and the Hundred and First maintained its traditional heroism. Alma and Inkermann were inscribed in glorious letters on the regimental flag, without the possibility occurring of saving a general. They saved superior officers, captains, lieutenants, subalterns, corporals, and soldiers, but nothing in the shape of a general. A man is a man, and it is a very fine thing to save one's fellow-creature, but humanity once satisfied, vanity holds. up her head. It is of no use talking : one is better pleased to save a general than a musician, to say nothing about a sapper and miner. Besides, it was necessary for the honor of the corps; the colonel several times alluded to it with some degree of bitterness. But it is probable that the persevering way in which the subalterns of the Hundred and First watched over their generals prevented even the likelihood of their ever falling into danger.

This topic was the general subject of conversation in camp, when, during the night of the 15th of February, 1855, Sergeant Blandureau with four volunteers was posted in an ambuscade situated about forty yards front the French parallels, and about seventy from the Russian batteries. The weather was enough to kill a dog; there was the silence of death and so thick a darkness, that you could not tell a foraging-cap from a twenty-four cannon ball. Sergeant Blandureau had to remain there fourteen hours—from half past four in the afternoon till half past seven in the morning ; and, to pass the time, he could not even venture on the resource of smoking. The light of his pipe would have betrayed him to the enemy ; and he was placed there to give the alarm to the guard of the trenches in case of a sally. With his eye on the watch, his neck stretched to its utmost length, and his ear attentive, the brave subaltern could not prevent his thoughts from wandering to his native village, when the sound of a trumpet recalled them.

"Listen, sergeant," whispered one of his companions; " they are going to be at it again tonight—"

The poor wretch had no time to say more; a Russian bayonet pinned the rest of the sentence in his throat. The other three volunteers were instantly killed. The sergeant had scarcely time to give the alarm by discharging his musket, when he was felled to the ground with gun-stock blows. But a sergeant of the Hundred and First is not so easily settled ; he is tough enough to stand a score of hard knocks. Blandureau was a little stunned; nothing more.

The Russians were vigorously repulsed. A calm succeeded to the cannonade. Sergeant Blandureau recovered his senses, sought for his comrades, called them by name. Dead ! All dead ! He was the sole survivor. He determined to regain the trenches. Still bewildered by the contusions he had received, he groped his way with difficulty. All was black around him ; at every step he stumbled over a corpse. Is the Hundred and First never to set eyes on its sergeant again ? Courage, then ! And on he plodded again. Once more he tripped against a body stretched on the ground. It was that of a Frenchman, still alive ; for it rapped out so energetic a " Nom de Dieu !" that the Russians, who were only twenty paces off, heard it.

A cannon illumined the scene for an instant. Blandureau heard the grape-shot plow up the earth ; a biscayan shattered his gun. Misfortune is always good for something; the flash showed him the direction to follow. He resolutely hoisted on his shoulders the comrade who had procured him this friendly greeting from the Russians.

" Sacrebleu !" he thought as he toddled along, "here's a fellow who does not starve himself! The clocks of Sebastopol are striking three in the morning, and I have yet a good long walk to take, with this well-fed individual on my back."

And so he tottered and stumbled along, sometimes wrong and sometimes right, over rough ground, among dead bodies and broken weapons, until at last he deposited his burden in the battery which guarded his regiment, and then fainted.

Next morning, Blandureau woke up as fresh as if he had passed the night in his bed. "Where's my wounded man?" he cried, rubbing his eyes. "Let me see the little lamb who could not walk because he had a couple of bullets in his belly."

" Here he is," they said, pointing to a person surrounded with surgeons, who were dressing his wounds with the most anxious care.

" The general !"

" Yes, my brave fellow. Come, and let me press you in my arms."

"The general ! 'Twas the general !" shouted Blandureau, half crazy with joy.

" Yes, indeed ; 'tis I. Come to me, I say !" "Oh, general !"

"You are a brave fellow ; thank you. I shall never forget that I owe you my life."

" As for that, general, you are under no great obligation. I took you for one of my comrades so thoroughly as to call you a little lamb. But since it is you, general, you may be sure that-that—certainly that—I am very glad of it, and that if I had known it—naturally—I should have saved you all the same. There !"

The corporal—that subaltern commandant—is the connecting link between the soldiers and the inferior officers. Charged with the direction of four men, you are aware with what modesty he acquits

himself of that important mission. Occasionally obliged to send in a report, he compresses his orthography in a style which is not without its merit.

" Onthetwen tysev enthmarchin theeve ningwe metfourmen."

[On the twenty-seventh March, in the evening, we met four men.]

In eighteen hundred and forty-odd, Monsieur De X., the prefet of a department, resigned his place to come to Paris. But monsieur, his son, twenty years of age, was gifted with sundry qualities which unfitted him for the capital. Consequently, young De X. enlisted in the Hundred and First, in the expectation of dazzling every body around him by his smartness and his handsome allowance. The very day of his arrival he heard a corporal call him by name.

" The matter, ying man, is that you are on corree, task-work, to-day, and that you must sweep out the court, ying man."

" Good ! We'll see about it."

So the young patrician set to work bravely. After slaving at it for a couple of hours, the court was a little dirtier than when he began. Up came the corporal.

" What have you been doing there ?"

" I have done what I could ; but I don't know—"

" You don't know—and they call you a eddiccated ying man ! I dare say ! But how did they spend their time in your family if they never taught you how to sweep a yard ?"

"I meant to learn as soon as I had taken my degree."

" The explanation is quite sufficient ; begin again, and try to do it better. If you don't, I will nail you for four-and-twenty hours."

" Oh ! corporal, you have too much integrity—" " That will do ; don't add insolence to insubordination—"

In a regiment there are as many types of the soldier as there are men—from the model grenadier to the fellow who will be shot. The latter is known by the name of customer; but the race has rapidly diminished ever since the government has interfered with the procuring of substitutes. The town workman, when he is called by lot, turns soldier with indifference, sometimes gladly, when the times are hard; but the case is quite different with country folk. One day a peasant lad received a paper summoning him to join his regiment. He ought to have been prepared six months, because at the conscription he drew No. 7. He weeps ; it is a sad thing to leave his kindred for so long a time, and to be cut off from communicating with them, because he can not write. A conscript's departure is pitiable to see. After grief conies rage; he says he is a peasant, and won't be a soldier. He seizes his gun, his flail, his scythe, and is transformed, for two or three minutes, into a sort of revolted angel. But his father comes and says, " It is your duty." His mother pretends to dry her tears ; he goes away singing. On reaching his corps he neither weeps nor sings. The revolted angel is become an angel of resignation. In six months you will see him proudly strutting in the Champs Elysees, cheerful and happy.

Did you notice a man with a red nose, and a ribbon the color of his nose, closely buttoned up to the chin, with a stiff gait, a sparkling eye, and a brush mustache? He follows the regiment. We found him at the door of the officers' mess-room, we saw him in the barrack-yard, and we find him again at the gate of the quarters. That man is Captain Morel, the last of the grognards, or grumblers, literally translated.

The species is becoming rare, which is not to be regretted. This person is a unique specimen of the grognard and ill-bred officer. Retired on half-pay three years ago, he can not live without the regiment to which he ceases to belong; he is now merely an ornamental appendage. He is tolerated, but not liked; he is wearisome. His only excuse is that he has been a brave fellow in his time. While he was in the corps the soldiers used to say, " That mad fellow, Captain Morel, is never happy but when he is in a rage."

During his last year of service the colonel, who had been made an officer of the Legion of Honor, gave a grand dinner, to which were invited the authorities of the town and the whole staff of officers. As ladies were to be present, he sent for Morel to come and speak to him.

"Captain, I give a dinner on Monday."

" I know it, colonel."

"And, as I hold you in esteem, I have sent you an invitation, but I now beg of you not to come." "May I ask, without indiscretion, colonel, why you offer me such an affront as this?"

"Mon Dieu, captain, there is no affront in the matter, since the refusal will come from you; but considerations which you will understand—"

"All I understand is, that I am not considered in the least."

"Well, then, I am afraid that your very military style of conversation should shock the ladies whom we expect."

"A thousand thunders! May the devil's carcass double strangle me if I understand !"

"You will go on in that way at table. You know that the City dames are a little—"

" Stiff and starch, precise and prim ; butter won't melt in their mouths. They screw up their lips like—"

" Exactly."

"Very well, colonel, the thing is settled ; I won't come. I am a mangy, itchy, scurvy fellow. It's a pleasant position—"

"But, captain—"

"It's a very pleasant position to be in, after thirty years' service, eleven campaigns, and seven wounds !"

" If you would only promise me not to talk?"

"As for that, colonel, I can easily promise you; even if I had your permission, I would not open my mouth."

" Positively ?"

" If I utter a word I'll spit out my tongue five and-twenty feet above the level of the sea." (Next Page)


 

 

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