We start again on the 12th, at three in the morning. Not a Burgher remains with us. They have all gone off in the directions of Wynburg and Kroonstad.
On the 13th we are on the bridge of the Modder River. We establish ourselves in a deserted farm, and execute some stray ducks, which would no doubt have died of hunger but for our timely appearance--a most painful end, I believe.
Scouts are sent out. In about an hour the English are suddenly sighted. We rush to the road, and in ten minutes a barricade is thrown across it. I am in the centre with the others. But the English hang back, and finally go off.
Towards noon we start in the direction of Brandfort, where our convoy, which was to travel day and night, is expected to be by this time. It is about 4.30 when we come in sight of the village.
There is a cloud of dust on our left, then two despatch-riders on bicycles fly past us. The Lancers!
We set off at a gallop to get to the houses before them. It is a steeplechase between us. After an hour's ride we arrive at the same time as the head of the enemy's advanced guard, which falls back at a gallop. We try to pursue them, but our broken-down horses can carry us no further.
We rush into the village, while our men hastily harness our carts. The Colonel sends us to take up a position to cover their retreat, for there are two squadrons of Lancers in the little wood 500 metres from the village. The Landdrost, fearing reprisals, comes to beg me not to fire. I give him these alternatives--to hold his tongue or to be shot. He prefers the former, and I see him no more.
Meanwhile, C---- and Michel get down a cannon from a truck at the railway-station. The terrified artillerymen refuse to work it. But the English, not knowing what our numbers are (we are barely twenty-five), dare not attack us, and we get away in the night.
Our rallying-point is Kroonstad, the new capital of the Free State.
On the 15th we are at Wynburg. We leave it again on the morning of the 16th by the last train, setting fire to the railway-station and destroying the reservoirs. Comfortably installed in a train we made up ourselves, at Smaldeel we are invaded by a whole commando.... Six men to every carriage, with their six saddles, six bridles, six rifles, six cloaks, a dozen blankets, and some twenty packages.... Ouf!
These good Burghers, who smoke as long as they can, are without the most elementary ideas of ordinary civility of behaviour. Their familiarity of manner is extraordinary; happily, they show no resentment if one retorts in like fashion. One of them, to steady himself during his slumbers, thrusts his foot--and such a foot!--into the pocket of C----'s coat. C----, put quite at his ease by this proceeding, does not hesitate to increase the comfort of his own position by a reciprocal thrusting of his foot into the waistcoat of his sympathetic vis-a-vis. They form a touchingly fraternal group, and in this position they sleep for ten hours. At every sudden stoppage, the rounded paunch of the good Burgher acts as a buffer, deadening the violence of the jolt for my friend.
My vis-a-vis--I had almost said my opponent--much more formal, is content to plant a bag on my knees, and a box on my feet.... How beautiful is the simplicity of rustic manners!
At last, on March 17, we reach Kroonstad and establish our camp there. We take advantage of this sojourn to pursue the education of our 'boys.'
In consequence of our having 'chummed' with other comrades, our suite has taken on alarming proportions; we look like a company of slave-dealers.
The biggest and oldest of our boys is called John. He seems to have an inordinate affection for straws, with which he delights to adorn the calves of his legs.
The second is also called John; he is one of the best. We have christened him 'Cook,' in allusion to his functions. An old stove, found in a house that had been burnt, gives him quite an important air when he prepares our meals.
The third is called Charlie. He is very intelligent, an excellent mule-driver, but a thorough rascal.
The fourth, who is chocolate-coloured, is good at guarding the mules at the pasture. He is called 'Beguini,' which means little.
The fifth is not of much use for anything, but he is very fond of his master, a sympathetic survivor of 'Fort Chabrol.'
The sixth belongs to no one. But noting that his compatriots seem happy enough with us, he has established himself in our kitchen, and serves us more or less like the others.
The Walsh River, a very remarkable stream, for there is water in it,[#] flows past Kroonstad, and we occupy our leisure moments with the bucolic occupation of fishing.
[#] Most of the rivers are dried up in summer-time.
All the members of the Government have assembled at Kroonstad; the two Presidents, the generals, the military attaches, and Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil are present at their deliberations.
There seems to be a tendency to energetic measures. A martial law decreeing the death-penalty against deserters is passed and proclaimed. Unfortunately, it was never enforced. The confidence of the Burghers has been somewhat shaken. The Executive begins to understand that he who foretold the consequences of their blunders so unerringly may perhaps be able to remedy them.
On the 20th, accordingly, Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil is appointed Vecht-General, and all the Europeans are placed under his command. But scarcely had this just and intelligent resolution been passed, when jealousy, pride, and fear of seeing a stranger succeed where they themselves had failed took possession of the Burghers, and the orders to concentrate were never carried out.
It is much to be regretted that sentiments so injurious to the national cause should have deprived the Government of the inestimable services that might have been rendered by a corps of 1,500 or 2,000 resolute Europeans, all formerly soldiers, under the command of a man of the science, the valour, and the worth of General de Villebois-Mareuil.
Nevertheless, about 200 men of all nationalities, drawn by the confidence such a leader alone could inspire, came of their own free will to place themselves under his orders. With these he organized the 'European Legion.' It included the two divisions of the French corps, a Dutch corps, and a German corps.
Everything General de Villebois asked for was promised, but nothing was carried out. His plan consisted primarily of raids like those which marked the War of Secession.
On the 20th he addressed this stirring proclamation to us and to those who were scattered further afield:
'To the Legionaries who have known me as their comrade:
'Officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers! I know you have not forgotten me, and that we understand each other, hence this appeal to you.
'We see around us a worthy people, who are threatened with the loss of their rights, their property, and their liberty, for the satisfaction of a handful of capitalists.
'The blood which flows in the veins of this people is partly French blood. France, therefore, owes them some manifestation of sympathy.
'You are men whose martial temperaments, to say nothing of the great obligations of nationality, have brought together under the banner of this people. May success and victory attend their flag! I know you as the ideal type of a corps made for attack, and ignorant of retreat.'
Influenced mainly by the unfriendly attitude of certain generals to whom his promotion had given umbrage, Villebois determined to strike a great blow in all haste.
Without waiting to complete the organization of the Legion, he formed us into a corps of 100 men, which he made up by the addition of twenty-five Afrikanders, under Field-Cornet Coleman; and as soon as the cartload of dynamite he had been awaiting arrived, he set out on the 24th, at eight o'clock in the evening.
His parting orders to me were to hold myself in readiness, with the rest of the men (about 100) and the new arrivals, for Saturday next, March 31, and to collect horses and provisions. On the 31st, he would come back and explain the second part of the operation he was then beginning.
Absolute secrecy was preserved as to the object of his expedition. To Breda's question as to the direction he proposed to take, he replied: 'To the right.'
Our poor General was very nervous. On March 23, the eve of his departure, he telegraphed to a wounded friend who was returning to France: 'You, at least, know your fate, whereas I am uncertain what lies before me!' A dark presentiment, perhaps. In any case, what melancholy underlies that short phrase! I do not say discouragement, for there are some stout hearts who know not the feeling, and Villebois was of these.
Two days after, one of my men returned in the evening; his horse had broken down on the road. They had made a very rapid march, taking only four hours' rest at night and four in the day, in two fractions. Nevertheless, after thirty-six hours of marching at this rate, this man, unmounted, and separated from the rest of the column, had found a horse in a kraal, and had been able to return to Kroonstad in two hours.
Where then had the guide led them? If I could have communicated with the General, I would have warned him, but this was out of the question. On the 31st, there was no news; on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of April, still none. On the 4th, after a notice from Colonel Maximoff, our detachment moved to Brandfort.
We are at a loss to account for the delay in the return of our comrades. But in a campaign delays are so common, the unexpected happens so constantly, that our anxiety is not very great.
The special train that takes us to Smaldeel consists of fifty-three coaches, the number found necessary for the men, waggons, and horses of our contingent. We found that the railway had been cut beyond Smaldeel, and we were obliged to go on to Brandfort by the road.
Brandfort had been occupied by the Lancers for several days, but they had fallen back. The village is now the centre of Generals Delarey, Kolby and Smith.
We arrive on April 7 at 8.30. In the afternoon a telegram is posted up announcing that General Christian de Wet, who is operating to the east of Bloemfontein, has arrived near Sanna's Post, cutting off the water-supply of the Bloemfontein garrison, and carrying off 375 men, 7 cannon, 1,000 mules and 400 waggons. Three days later, on April 4, at Dewetsdorp, he took 459 more prisoners and 12 waggons.
This was the beginning of that series of razzie and surprises he has been carrying on incessantly ever since, astonishing the most audacious by his audacity, and by the rapidity and suddenness of his movements defeating the most scientific and elaborate devices for his capture. Broadwood, Rundle, Hunter, even Kitchener have been forced to give up the chase, and to wait till Fortune, unfaithful for a day, shall deliver the valiant Burgher into their hands.
We met the Landdrost of Brandfort again, now more patriotic than ever; but he seemed slightly embarrassed when he saw us.
On April 7, the day of our arrival, we made a reconnaissance towards the south with four men. As we left the Boer lines we met a man, who, hearing us talking French, came to bid us 'Bon jour!' We entered into conversation, and he seemed to take a great interest in European news. At last he told us he was a Belgian, and suddenly asked:
'You had a war with the Germans one time, didn't you?'
The war of 1870 was news to him. He had been on the Veldt since 1867.
'Do you know if our Leopold is still on the throne?'
After assuring him of the health and even vigour of his Sovereign, we continued our reconnaissance, not without moralizing a little over a man who had so completely broken with Europe and the old civilization.
The English positions were visible from Brandfort, on Tabel Kop and Tabel Berg, the other side of the plain that stretches south-east of the little town. Towards five o'clock we received a few volleys, hastily fired, which did no damage. But our object was attained: we had discovered that the enemy's positions extended a good way to the south.
The 8th was a Sunday. In the evening I received this telegram from President Steyn:
'The Landdrost of Hoopstad sends me the following: "Field-Cornet Daniels reports that the troops under Methuen's command at Boshof have marched upon Hoopstad, and I have received from Methuen himself the letter I communicate below. The native who brought the letter tells us that an engagement took place with General de Villebois in the neighbourhood of Boshof, that ten men were killed on our side, and fifteen on that of the enemy, among them a superior officer, but that all our force was finally made prisoner. Field-Cornet Daniels supposes that the enemy will march upon Christiana and Hoopstad, and thence upon Kroonstad."
"'HEADQUARTERS, SWARTZ KOPJEFONTEIN, "'April 8, 1900.
"'To THE COMMANDANT OF THE FREE STATE LAAGER.
'"I have the honour of sending you a copy of Lord Roberts' proclamation to the Free State, laying down the conditions under which you are invited to surrender.
'"Two days ago the Foreign Legion was taken prisoner by me, and their General, Villebois, was killed.
'"The English army is advancing on every side, and I beg you to consider the very liberal conditions now offered you, which would not be renewed at a later date.
'"I have the honour to be, sir,
'"Your obedient servant, '"METHUEN,"
'"Lieutenant-General commanding the 10th Division."'
This telegram was a thunderbolt for us. The anxiety we had felt at the General's delay had not been such as to have caused us to dream of such a catastrophe. Yet we could not doubt the news.
'Two days ago the Foreign Legion was taken prisoner by me, and their General, Villebois, was killed,' said the telegram.
That evening two reconnoitring parties were sent out; the first, from the Tabel Kop direction, came in next morning with a wounded man. The second, under Wrangel, started for the neighbourhood of Hoopstad, and could not return for several days.
On the 9th we made an inventory of the property belonging to the General, to Breda, and to the rest of our poor comrades, all of which was packed for transmission to Pretoria. The same day I received the following telegram from Colonel Gourko:
'Thomson unites with me in the expression of our profound grief at the cruel loss you have sustained in the person of Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil, a valiant soldier and distinguished leader.'
This homage from the Russian and Dutch attaches to the memory of our great compatriot touched us deeply.
On the 10th one of Ganetzki's men was killed in a reconnaissance. Comte Ganetzki had his day of Parisian celebrity in connection with La belle O----.
On the 11th I had a telegram from Wrangel:
'I reached here (Hoopstad) at 5.30 this evening, with five men. The English are at Knappiesfontein, an hour and a half's march from Boshof. There are no Burghers at Hoopstad. I shall start for Boshof to-morrow, and send you a report later on. I await your orders.'
I at once communicate this news to General P. Botha. He believes that the environs of Hoopstad are occupied by the Burghers, and that the English will march upon Smaldeel to cut off communication (April 12). Events proved him to have been entirely mistaken; but I might have talked to him for hours without altering his convictions an iota.
Cannon had been thundering all the evening in the distance, but we had not been able to determine in what direction they were. On April 13, Commandant Delarey, brother of the General, was appointed honorary commander of the European Legion--'honorary' because he could not act save in concert with the heads of the different corps--Rittmeister Illich for the Austro-Hungarians, Captain Lorentz for the Germans, myself for the French.
An official telegram announces that General de Villebois was buried at Boshof with military honours. Lord Methuen was present, and the prisoners of the Legion were represented. There was even a funeral oration, to which Breda replied.
In the engagement of April 5 there had been 11 killed, the General being one, and 51 wounded, out of 68. The rest had been made prisoners.
Easter Day, 1900.--A second telegram from Wrangel, dated from Hoopstad, reports as follows:
'1. Braschel (a former officer of the German artillery) informs us that 10,000 men and 700 cavalry are marching from Boshof on Bultfontein. He counted thirty-six gun-carriages, cannon, and waggons.
'2. There are about 700 Burghers at Landslaagte.'
On the 16th, we take horse at noon with every man available to join Kolby. This excellent General, one of the best men that ever lived, is not remarkable for the originality of his combinations. He witnessed our arrival with delight, smiling--he is always smiling--received us very cordially, and asked us what we had come for! He had had no instructions about us; however, it was all the same to him whether we slept there or elsewhere, so we remained. We came in for a perfect deluge of rain all night, and at four the next morning we started to take up a position with Delarey's, Botha's, and Kolby's commandos.
We number from 1,000 to 1,200 Burghers, with two Creusot guns, a Krupp and a Nordenfeldt.
At 4.30 in the evening, orders are given to retire to the different camps. We arrive at 10 o'clock.
On the 18th, it rains again in torrents. In the evening, about 9 o'clock, Wrangel's reconnoitring party comes in. I will transcribe the account given me by one of his men, Meslier, that it may lose nothing of its interest by a paraphrase.
'Starting on Monday, the 9th, in the evening, we marched secretly and rapidly towards Hoopstad, following first the Vedula and then the Wet River across the veldt. We crossed rivers without any fords, passing through a country without roads or paths, and through the dense bush that grows on the banks of the water-courses. Out of ten picked horses two died, and three men fell out on the road exhausted. One of them went into hospital at Smaldeel.
'On Wednesday, the 11th, we reached Hoopstad at five o'clock in the evening, and slept at the President Hotel, which is kept by a German.
'At six o'clock next morning (April 12) I started with Braschel and Brostolicky in the direction of Boshof. The English, after having advanced upon Bultfontein, as reported in our telegram of the 15th, returned for the most part towards Boshof. We slept that night at Landslaagte, where the Johannesburg Politie are encamped. They number about 200, and expect a reinforcement of 300 men.
'We left again on the morning of the 13th, separating at a given point, Braschel and his companion going towards the camp of Commandant Cronje (brother of the General taken prisoner at Paardeberg), and I towards Boshof.
'Towards noon I passed Driefontein, which was supposed to be occupied by the English. The inhabitants of the farm told me that when Colonel de Villebois arrived an English corps had been in the neighbourhood for several days, apparently waiting. The people at the farm heard the noise of the battle, which lasted about four hours, and helped to collect the dead and wounded afterwards. Among our men they noticed one who had a handkerchief bound round his head and a very large nose. Another had a very long beard.
'Towards one o'clock I arrived at Muyfontein, where there was a little outpost of thirty Lancers under an officer. I sheered off to the east, and arrived near Boshof about half-past four.
'Boshof was full of troops. From the neighbouring kopjes one could distinctly see the "khakis" moving about in the village. Skirting Boshof, I arrived at Kopjefontein on the south-west. There I was a good deal disturbed by strange hissing noises coming from about 800 metres away, and the pursuit of a party of twenty Lancers, who followed me for about half an hour.
'I returned to Rothsplaats Farm, where I spent the night. I had fastened my horse to a cart, and had laid down myself under a tree. About ten o'clock eight marauders approached from the path. Not seeing me, some of the party installed themselves in the farm, while the rest chased a young pig, which, flying in terror before them, came quite close to the corner where I was lying in ambush. Fortunately he changed his mind, and made off in another direction. Finally, to my great satisfaction, they caught him, and the whole party returned to the farm. They stayed about two hours, and then departed.
'At four in the morning I continued my journey, and at eight o'clock I arrived at Landslaagte, where I joined the Johannesburg Politie.
'Between Landslaagte and Driefontein I met Cronje with about 2,000 men, a Krupp and a Nordenfeldt gun. His intention was to attack Kopjefontein. I reported what I had seen, and went on towards Hoopstad; but my worn-out horse fell when we were still some four hours distant from the town. I was obliged to sleep at a farm, and was unable to reach Hoopstad till the afternoon of Sunday, the 15th. All our seven horses had broken down. We asked for others, which the Landdrost refused. Wrangel accordingly telegraphed to President Steyn, who replied by an order to give us everything we required.
'We took some excellent horses and a few necessary garments, for a three days' journey through the thorns and bush that border the Wet River had reduced us to absolute rags.
'These negotiations and a brief rest occupied Monday and Tuesday. We started on Wednesday at one o'clock, and knowing the road to be safe, we passed through Bultfontein, accomplishing our return journey in a day and a half.
'At Hoopstad we were told that when the Villebois contingent had passed through, all had remarked the gaiety of the General, who had kept the piano going all the evening, and the depression of Breda.'
These last words gave a fresh poignancy to our regrets. Just as the General had been the ideal of the brilliant and revered leader, so had Breda been the ideal of the devoted friend, the good comrade, the man of sound judgment and charming amenities.
* * * * *
From this report we gathered certain facts hard to explain. We group them here together with others which reached us from a different source.
1. Wrangel and his men, who left Brandfort on the evening of the 9th, arrived at Driefontein at noon on the 13th--in four nights and three and a half days. The General, under the conduct of his Afrikander guide, took twelve nights and eleven days (from the evening of March 24 to the morning of April 5) to cover an equivalent distance. Now, the length and irregularity of this march were utterly irreconcilable with the object the General had in view, with the dates he had himself fixed, and with the length and severity of the distances he was in the habit of exacting from his men.
2. Numerous desertions took place among the Dutch and the Afrikanders, men who spoke the same language.
3. Finally, and this is a very serious coincidence, a whole English brigade, which retired as soon as it had made the coup determined on, was lying in wait for the contingent, the itinerary of which had been kept so strictly secret that only the guide could have known it exactly.
This fact was confirmed by the following statement made to me by an English officer present at the engagement. The General, finding himself surrounded at daybreak, after having marched all night, took up a position on a kopje near the farm of Driefontein. Artillery fire began almost immediately, opened by Battery No. 4 of the Royal Field Artillery.
Throughout the four hours of the engagement the General was seen walking up and down, encouraging first one and then another, and pointing out the spots at which his followers were to fire. His death was followed by the surrender of the decimated band.
The General wore the costume he always put on for expeditions and for the field--a brown hat, fastened up on one side with a badge bearing the arms of the Transvaal; an old black tunic, the large metal buttons of which had been replaced by large black ones; brown corduroy trousers, and shooting-boots, laced in front and buckled at the sides; his revolver in a cross-belt, and at his waist a yellow leather case, containing a chronometer, a barometer and a compass. He always wore brown kid gloves, and carried a bamboo cane. I will not yet express the melancholy thought which, with me, has become a firm conviction; but when I learned the fate of my revered chief, 'the La Fayette of South Africa,' as one of the most distinguished Generals of the French army called him, how could I but remember the disappointments he had suffered during the last six months, the petty jealousies by which he had been pursued, and the ill-will which had hampered all his bold and intelligent initiative?
Pondering these things, I recalled the day when, before Kimberley, the General had received from France a little gold medal, which he showed me with proud emotion. It bore this inscription: 'To a great Frenchman, from the companions of his daughter.'
Yes, a great Frenchman! For in him flourished all high thoughts of duty and abnegation, all the noble virtues that make up a great leader and a great patriot. He was a man and a soldier.
In this connection it will be of interest to record what my friend and comrade Breda told me, on his return from Saint Helena, of the engagement of April 5. He cannot believe that there was treachery, yet he cannot explain certain strange coincidences.
'We started, as you know,' he said, 'on the evening of March 24. Our guide began by losing his way the first night and the first day. (This confirmed the story told by my man, who came back in two hours, after marching out for thirty-six.)
'At last we arrived at Hoopstad, where an important group of the Dutch contingent refused to advance.
'The General, determined to advance with the French alone, ordered the names of the Dutch who remained faithful to be taken down. A sudden revulsion of feeling made the majority of them give in their names, and the detachment set off in the direction of Boshof.
'At the farm of Driefontein a messenger came in search of the General. A most important communication from a distinguished personage awaited him at Hoopstad. A serious scheme was on foot for the formation of a large legion.
'This project appealed strongly to the General, who left me at Driefontein with the detachment, returning himself to Hoopstad to confer with the envoy. He returned in three days, and the march towards the south was resumed.
'The General supposed that there might be about 200 or 300 men at Boshof, and, on being assured of this, a Boer commando of about 200 men joined us. But on the 4th, information was received that Boshof was much more strongly occupied, and that it might hold from 800 to 1,000 men. The General, believing this story to be an invention of the Burghers to excuse their defection--of which they immediately gave notice--disregarded it, and continued his march.
'We arrived near a farm where, it appears, the English officers at Boshof were in the habit of coming to picnic on Sundays. The General made for a point a little way from this, and halted beside a small kopje. We unsaddled the horses and sent them to graze, and the tired men lay down to sleep.
'I remained talking with General de Villebois, when we suddenly caught sight of a few horsemen.
'I went off to wake the men quietly, for we hoped to surprise this little reconnoitring party. There were so few of them that we did not fetch in our horses.
'They came nearer. All of a sudden, behind them in the distance a long column of "khakis" came in sight. It was no longer a question of surprising a patrol. We had to defend ourselves.
'The General at once recognised the gravity of the situation. He arranged his men on two little kopjes, the Dutch on one, the French on the other, remaining himself with the latter. Each man had his place assigned him, his rock to defend.
'And the battle began--a furious, hopeless encounter. For three hours we replied as well as we could to the tremendous fusillade that soon made gaps among us.
'Almost at the outset the Dutch hoisted the white flag and surrendered. Two or three of them who chanced to be with the French contingent came and asked General de Villebois to surrender. He pointed to the kopje where their compatriots had already laid down their arms.
'"Here we do not surrender," he said.
'By degrees, however, the first shelters were abandoned, and the men fell back on some rocks beyond. The General noticed this.
'"Return to the first positions!" he ordered.
'Bullets were falling like hail. There was a moment's hesitation.
'"Shall I go myself?" cried the Chief, advancing.
'But a brave fellow springs forward. It is Franck, who had already distinguished himself at Abraham's Kraal. Waving his rifle with a grand gesture, he cried: "Vive la France!"
'He fell instantly, struck by two bullets. But the impulse had been given; the positions were resumed.
'On all sides, however, the "khakis" were closing in upon us. They fixed their bayonets and charged. Suddenly the General fell back without a word. He was dead.'
* * * * *
Whatever the strength and vitality of a man may be, the inert body will fall when the soul takes flight. Villebois was the soul of the legion. Accordingly, when he was killed, the survivors surrendered, after four hours of heroic resistance.
Out of twenty-seven Frenchmen, the General, Le Gilles and Robiquet were killed, Bardin, Bernard, Franck and the others were wounded.
The English officers told us that they had been informed several days before of the arrival of 100 Frenchmen at Hoopstad, thus confirming the story of the Driefontein farmers.
The Comte de Villebois, one of the youngest colonels in the French army, had been severely wounded as a sub-lieutenant in the army of the Loire in 1870. His conduct had been such as to merit the Cross of the Legion of Honour at the age of twenty.
I will transcribe here, as a touching homage to his memory, the order of the day which Colonel de Nadaillac addressed to his regiment, informing them of the glorious death of their former chief:
'Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil, who had the honour of commanding the 130th Regiment, has died a soldier's death in the Transvaal, shot through the breast by the fragment of a shell.
'Retiring at an early age, at his own request, he took his sword and the resources of his fine intelligence to the aid of the little Boer nation.
'His chivalrous soul could not resist the appeal of those generous sentiments which have so long been a tradition in our fair France. He wished to defend the weak against the strong.
'Let us respectfully salute this victim of the noblest French virtues, this valiant soldier who has fallen on the field of honour.
'The former Colonel of the 130th will be held in loving remembrance by us, and we offer the just tribute of our patriotic regrets to his memory.
'May God have mercy on the brave man who left child, friends, and fortune, to defend the oppressed.
'The death of Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil will be recorded in the regimental annals of the 130th.'