Sunday, 18 March 2012

Les Freres Minart

Charles Minart was born in Bergues, 19th September 1824 and entered the Ecole Militaire on 10th November 1841; promoted Sous-Lieutenant in the 27e Ligne 1st October 1843; Lieutenant in 27e 3rd May 1848; Captain 13th August 1852; Capitain-Adjutant-Major in the 27e 23rd September 1855; Chef de Bataillon 2e Regiment Tirailleurs Algerien 27th December 1861; Lieutenant Colonel 72e Ligne 1869. He commanded the 72e at Sedan (1st September 1870) and retired in 1871. He died in 1902.

Alfred Minart was born in Bergues 21st December 1828; engaged as a volunteer in the 26e Ligne 16th June 1848; passed into the 27e Ligne as corporal 18 September 1849; promoted to sergeant major 7th June 1852; Sous-Lieutenant and Porte-Drapeau 20th December 1855; Lieutenant 25th November 1857; Captain 20th June 1866. He was killed at the Battle of Sedan, 1st September 1870.

Edouard Minart was born in Bergues 19th November 1833 and engaged as a volunteer in the
64e Ligne 27th December 1850; promoted to corporal 11th September 1851; transferred to the 1e Regiment Zouaves 1st March 1852; promoted to sergeant 26th March 1855; Sous-Lieutenant in 1e Zouaves 20th June 1859. He was killed at Solferino four days later.

Letter from Captain Charles Minart, 27e Infanterie de Ligne, to his mother.


The Camp of Balaklava, one league from Sebastopol, 29 September 1854.

My dear mother,
…The 20th the entire army marched to stain the gravel of the heights of the Alma. The Russian Army, a force of 42,000 men, is on the summit of the heights under the General Menchikoff, and he flattered himself that he could hold us for fifteen days before his position. At two o'clock we were on the banks of Alma. I assure you that at first the position was very formidable.
  Here is a small description of the terrain. The Alma is a small river very hemmed in, steep banks, its width is about three to four meters, its depth of one meter. On the right bank where we were, there were vineyards and orchards, fences and dry stone walls; beyond, it was the plain. The  left bank is formed of very steep hills and  ridges. They  were all filled artillery of Russian troops. The position was very well chosen, well defended and by other troops, it would have taken longer to capture.
  The Marshal with his army, in trying to take this position, developed the following plan: The English were to effect a turning movement on the Russian right. The 2nd  French Division with the Turks must proceed along the sea and fall on the Russian left, while the rest of the army was to attack Russians in the front.
  At two o'clock the action began with the  tirailleurs fighting in the vineyards at the foot of Alma. When we heard the cannon of the English and the 2nd Division, we dropped out knapsacks and we went running up to the river. There, we each crossed the river: we climb the slope and we found oursevles on the plateau, in the beard of the Russians.
  When all the troops were reformed, we pushed the Russians over. The English gave them a terrible beating. The retreat of the enemy was in great disorder. What a pity we did not have cavalry! The English captured two cannons and two flags. Battle of the Alma is really a lucky shot, nothing can resist an army like ours. The English are good troops, with allies like these, nothing is impossible. The fleet was powerless, they enjoyed looking on, it seems that it was magical.
 While the battle lasted two hours, it gives us an immense moral and material advantage; the Russian army is demoralized and yet half of the army no longer takes a shot. The battlefield is covered with the dead of the wounded, this is a painful spectacle, but one had to close the heart and go forward. Our battalion was our all time behind or near a battery, so he received bullets and shells a-plenty. All these shots don’t make much of an effect, we salute them despite ourselves. Finally, all three of us are healthy. Edward has had his baggy pants torn by a shell-splinter but without any harm to him, and a ball grazed the thigh, but without harm.
  The Russian army is has lost 5,000 or 7,000 men killed or wounded. The English 2,000 to 2,500; the French 1,500 to 1,800… General Canrobert was very lightly wounded by a shell-splinter but he is good.
   I have had a beautiful anniversary of my birth, because you do not doubt, dear mother, putting myself in the world, thirty years ago, that for the thirtieth anniversary of my birth, I would be in the middle of the scrap. Later, of course, we take to bury the woundedon the battlefield and to aide to the wounded men. I saw many wounded Russians, almost all of whom were wounded in the head. In the beginning, when we wanted the help them, they thought we were going to finish them.

Letter from Sergeant-Major Alfred Minart 27e Infanterie de Ligne, to his mother.

At the camp of Balaklava, 24 September 1854,

My dearest Mother,
I had written you a long letter of five pages, and awaited the courier; at the moment when I had finished it, a drunk Chasseur d’Afrique lays down at the door of my tent, I put the nose out to see what is happening, at the same time, the wind blows my letter that falls dan the fue. I well-cursed this cavalryman!.
  Charles is constantly on the division for council of war which he is secretary so I do not see him. Edward is ten minutes from here. I do not see him often because he is so high perched...
  We had a terrible storm the night before last, the wind begins to batter the three tents of Colonel. He crieslike hell for someone to come to his assistance, but no one could go outside without the risk of being blown away by the storm. Luckly, the sappers had pity on him and gave him a small tent where he could spend the day.  The tents of other officers had the same fate and were blown away. Only that of Charles survived, and was quickly invaded by other officers who came to seek asylum. Other refugees went to Balaklava, hoping that myladies would let themselves be seduced by the piteous of our officers: but the ladies do not have the heart as sensitive as ours, and the conquerors returned crestfallen. I laughed comic scenes caused by the hurricane. Thecantinieres who had taken refuge in their wagons, they took the position without horses and descended into the ravines.
  On the morrow, the wind ceased and they could rebuild their homes. We are making barriers to stop the wind, and making underground houses. The government has just sent us the sheepskin overcoats, we look like vertiable Eskimos. I have a victim  of a big deception, I was proposed for promotion to second lieutenant with the number 2, because we had three vacancies, most of the rewards of Alma just arrived. I well hoped be named  a place in the depot in France. But the man proposed: indeed, if Colonel favours him, he will go far with a commission, he did appoint, but from two noncommissioned officers of the Zouaves, Division of Prince Napoleon. One of the newly promoted arrived a few days ago, they made him welcome, but he disappeared. The next day we learned that he was found dead,  from a gunshot to the heart. We do not know the motives of his act of despaire.


Letter from Corporal Edouard Minart, 1e Regiment des Zouaves, to his mother

Before the walls of Sebastopol 10th October 1854

My dearest and best mother,
 …On the 19th, after a long and very fatiguing march in grass and scrub that was waist-high, we saw Russian sharpshooters. Immediately we have put ashore bag and Nouse are in scope to cover before the main guard was going to install. In the evening, the enemy Cavalry wanted to spend, but the cannon began to shoot and it was dspersee. Le Marechal Saint-Arnaud came to see the artillery, then my battalion that supported. We started to shout "Vive le Maréchal" but the brave men told us: "Go and rest, my children, because tomorrow we will have to play a good battle, and shoutLong live the Zouaves, instead of "Vive le Maréchal! "
  Indeed, the next day, after two hours of walking, we were greeted by bullets: our sharpshooters have declined by advancing Russians. in this case, a wretch who was next to me was shot in the mouth, which broke his jaw. Another was struck in the chest and died.
  We dropped out knapsacks and we were told to lie down on our bellies behind a low rise. Bullets whistled above our heads, but I stooped not, something told me that I would not be reached. Finally, after fifteen or twenty minutes, we stood up and we were given orders to clear the enemy position. It was great struggle, and well defended with 10,000 Frenchmanagainst100,000 Russians. Finally forty-eight minutes after we reached the heights, the Russians retreated before our bayonets, and we planted the flag of the regiment on a ruined tower which dominated heights. The Marshal came to us and said "My children, we never saw anthing like it, taking sucha position in forty-eight minutes" We drew up the tents and we have two days rest. I forgot to tell you that on reaching the top, a shell splinter ripped my pants and brushed my left thigh but did not split the skin.
  Since that day, we approached Sebastopol, marching with precuation, a small journey in the bush. We have been twenty-seven hours without eating or drinking. Food is scarce, it is hoped that it will get better in two o three days, when we take Sebastopol.

Commandant Henri-Victor-Alpin Adrien

 Letter from Comamandant Henri-Victor-Alpin Adrien 6e Infanterie de Ligne, to Captain E. Joppé


Field of the Battle of the Alma

20 September

The Alma is a small river whose meridional slope is high and deeply ravine. The heights command the road to Sebastopol. The Enemy play the wind Nouse. This is to seize it. The movement consists of turning the Russian left, near the sea, the lar 2nd Division and the division of Turkey, and at the same time, their right by the English army, while the 1st and 3rd divisions french attack head on. The 4th division and division English Evans will form the reserve. The divisions should work round the flanks of the enemy will turn on at daybreak. The rest of the army left its bivouac at eleven o'clock. Towards half-past twelve the battle began on the right. The 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division has a serious struggle has support on the heights. A very lively cannonade is heard. The fue strength of our frigates Russian cavalry has Abandoner the plain. The turning movement is completed, and the left wing of the Russians is forced to fall back. During this movement, the 1st and the 3rd Division attacked the enemy's centre.
  Musketry ceded it’s main role to the artillery. The English flanking columns began their movement.The Russian artillery are engaged by a fire more deadly. The English retire and form again and fearlessly mount the assault of the battery.  Three guns remain in their power as well as a Russian General. On all sides, the Russians are forced to retreat. Covered by their artillery, they retreat by echelons. They cannot be pursued  for lack of cavalry. This is a succinct analysis of this battle, or our soldiers were admirable in elan and courage. Their fearlessness had them climb the heights over the scarps, the protection which the Russians relied heavily upon, not just contibuted to disconcert them but their precipitate retreat.
  A very sharp struggle of four hours had been necessary to come to the end. They were only about 30.000 but admirably protected by the field. Allied  army had about 50,000 men. There were 3, 410 men killed and wounded, including 1,340 French, including 70 officers, and 2,070 English. Three standard-bearers were killed, including those of the 7th and 20th Line. The four brave men who succeeded each othe carry the standard of th the 7e Line all were killed our wounded. The Finnish Riflemen, have a Tige-rifle like our do, and  have demonstrated their marksmanship too.
   To all probability, the Russians have made considerable losses more than ours, because they hurt us a lot of abandonment, a General of Division, and three of their 30-pounder guns have fallen into the hands of English. A secretary of Menchikoff was taken prisoner. The army bivouacked on the field of battle among the dead and wounded of the enemy. Bellies as they are ours, and I myself aided the transportation of a few. The regiment gathered up  over a hundred muskets abandoned by the Russians. Examination of clothing, and their equipement  and weapons of wounded proves that their army is well organized. Their clothing was coarse, but solid. Their muskets and ours are similar, yet their cartridges are protected by and contained in a strong cardboard box, which is placed in the pouch; their knapsack straps are made from buffalo leather and are four fingers wide.

Colonel Alexandre-Hippolyte le Breton

Letter from Colonel Alexandre-Hippolyte Le Breton, 74e Infanterie de Ligne, to his wife.


Camp of the Alma

21 September 1854

We have fought here our first battle. I do not have a scratch. I've only had two men wounded. The affair was very hot .We were on the right bank of the Alma. The Russians were on the left bank, a formidable position. They were about 45.000, the prisoners said they had one hundred pieces of cannon. The whole army combined  Franco-Anglo-Turkish fighters formed around 50.000.
The plan of the Marechal was to support a vigorous attack with his left, to turning movement with the 2nd Division on the right, then to place himself at the head of the 4th Division to halve the Russian army and crush one of his wings. The ardor of our troops has made these projects unncessary. No sooner was the flanking movement begining, our first Division cannonaded very vigorously, has rapidly crossed the river Alma. Zouaves and Tirailleurs Indigenes have flushed the enemy's
sharpshooters. Our last three Divisions and the British, left, have removed all the positions successively occupied by the Russians, although they held a certain obstinacy.
  I have few details to give you on this matter which was brilliant reports of trophies if we had some cavalry to collect straglers, and the guns during the retreat of the enemy, which resembled a route. The Marechal’s bulletin that he publishes today will be much more explicit than the rumors I poorly transmit to you, for in these great fights, everyone  only sees what is happening around him. As a far as my regiment, as we were to give the final blow with the rest of the division, under direct orders of Marechal, we crossed the river last, therefore without loss, although bursts of shells and many cannon balls aimed at out Chasseurs  à Pied which fell in large numbers around my battalions. The Marshal Saint-Arnaud sent me orders to carry me to the rescue of the English who had captured the position: the fire stops I stopped and to my right and I deployed my soldiers. The 39th Regiment had just engaged and occupied a blockhouse which the Zouaves had first attacked. I arrived beside it [the block house], and placed myself in the first line on his left. A battery fired on our two regiments stubbornly out of reach of musket-shot. They never ceased its fire for half an hour, a hail of bullets passed over our heads, thanks to an undulation in the terraince that made them ricochet.
  Well the 39th was well placed, with about forty killed and wounded; its standard-bearer was killed. Mine was a close call, a bullet brushed past me. Beuret had his horse injured by a shell-splinter. The lieutenant-colonel O'Rianne, had his horse killed while close to me. But then, the Russians were in full retreat, and the battle started at one o’lock, was over six o’clock. The Russians have left many more dead and wounded than we do. We cared for them them with the same solicitude as our own wounded. I saw over a hundred at the ambulance in our division; there were not forty of ours. The generals Canrobert and Thomas were injured but not fatally. D'Aurelle was lucky: a ball has crossed his pants behind the right calf, was amortized on pannels of his saddle and the ball went into his boot.
 We occupied the Russian camp, and each of my soldiers has been enriched by a Russian knapsack, because I did order my men to take off their  knapsacks to climb the blockhouse, a place where a Russian regiment had deposited its own  knapsacks to attack the first Division. Without cavalry, as I was sure, we could not complete our victory and we  perceived this morning the enemy rallied on strong positions, formed behind a small river, the Loukou, which is 7 or 8 kilometers distant. The victory gives such confidence to our troops that it ensures the success of subsequent commitments. Each of our soldiers is confident that he is equal to two Russians!