Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung June 1848
Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 134;
Written: by Engels on June 27, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 28, June 28, 1848.
Paris was occupied by the military throughout the entire night. Strong pickets were stationed in the squares and boulevards.
At four o'clock in the morning the rally was sounded. An officer and several men of the national guard went from house to house and fetched out men of their, company who had failed to report voluntarily.
At the same time the roar of the cannon resumes most violently in the vicinity of the Saint Michel Bridge which forms the juncture between the insurgents on the left bank and those of the Cité. General Cavaignac who this morning has been invested with dictatorial powers, is burning with the desire to employ them against the uprising. Yesterday the artillery was used only in exceptional cases and for the most part only in the form of grape-shot. Today, however, the artillery is brought everywhere into action not only against the barricades but also against houses. Not only grape-shot is used but cannon-balls, shells and Congreve rockets.
This morning a heavy clash began in the upper part of the Faubourg Saint Denis. Near the northern railway, the insurgents occupied several barricades and a house which was under construction. The first legion of the national guard attacked without, however, gaining any advantage. It used up its ammunition and lost about fifty dead and wounded. It barely held its own position until the artillery arrived (towards 10 o'clock) and blew the house and the barricades to smithereens. The troops reoccupied the northern railway. The battle in this whole neighbourhood (called Clos Saint Lazare which the Kölnische Zeitung has transformed into “courtyard of Saint Lazare”) continued, however, for a long time and was conducted with great bitterness. “It is a veritable massacre,” writes the correspondent of a Belgian newspaper. Strong barricades went up at the barrières of Rochechouart and Poissonnière. The fortification at the Allée Lafayette was also built up again and yielded only in the afternoon to cannon-balls.
The barricades in the rues Saint Martin, Rambuteau and du Grand Chantier could likewise only he captured with the aid of cannon.
The Café Cuisinier opposite the Saint Michel Bridge was destroyed by cannon-balls.
The main battle, however, took place towards three o'clock in the afternoon on the Quai aux Fleurs where the famous clothing store La Belle Jardinière was occupied by 600 insurgents and transformed into a fortress. Artillery and regular troops attack. A corner of the wall is smashed in. Cavaignac, who here commands the firing himself, calls on the insurgents to surrender, otherwise they will all be put to the sword. The insurgents reject this demand. The cannonade begins anew and finally incendiary rockets and shells are poured in. The house is totally destroyed, burying eighty insurgents under the rubble.
The workers also fortified themselves on all sides in the Faubourg Saint Jacques, in the neighbourhood of the Panthéon. Every house had to be besieged as in Saragossa. The efforts of dictator Cavaignac to storm these houses proved so fruitless that the brutal Algerian soldier declared that he would set them on fire if the occupants refused to surrender.
In the Cité, girls were firing from windows at the troops and the civic militia. Here, tool howitzers had to be used in order to achieve any success at all.
The Eleventh Battalion of the mobile guard which attempted to join the insurgents was wiped out by the troops and the national guard. So at least goes the story.
Around noon the insurrection had definitely gained the advantage. All faubourgs, the suburbs of Les Batignolles, Montmartre, La Chapelle and La Villette, in brief, the entire outer rim of Paris from the Batignolles to the Seine as well as the greater part of the left bank of the Seine were in their hands. Here they had seized 13 cannon which they did not use. In the centre, in the Cité and in the lower part of the rue Saint Martin, they advanced towards the Hôtel de Ville which was guarded by masses of troops. Nevertheless, Bastide declared in the Chamber that within an hour the Hôtel de Ville might fall to the insurgents and the stupefaction which this piece of news evoked caused the Chamber to proclaim a dictatorship and martial law. Cavaignac had hardly been endowed with his new powers when he took the most extreme and cruel measures, such as never before have been used in a civilised city, measures that even Radetzky hesitated to employ in Milan. Once again the people were too magnanimous. Had they used arson in reply to the incendiary rockets and howitzers, they would have been victorious by the evening. They had, however, no intention to use the same weapons as their opponents.
The ammunition of the insurgents consisted mostly of gun-cotton, large amounts of which were produced in the Faubourg Saint Jacques and in the Marais. A cannon-ball foundry was set up in the Place Maubert.
The Government continuously received support. Troops were rolling into Paris throughout the entire night. National guards arrived from Pontoise, Rouen, Meulan, Mantes, Amiens and Le Havre. Troops came from Or1éans and artillery and sappers from Arras and Douai; a regiment came from Orléans. On the morning of the 24th, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and twelve artillery pieces arrived in the city from Vincennes. By the way, the railway workers on the northern railway have torn up the tracks between Paris and Saint Denis in order to prevent the arrival of further reinforcements.
These combined forces and that unprecedented brutality succeeded in pushing back the insurgents during the afternoon of the 24th.
The fact that not only Cavaignac but the national guard itself wanted to burn down the entire quarter of the Panthéon shows how savagely the national guard fought and how well it knew that it was fighting for its very survival!
Three points were designated as headquarters of the attacking troops: the Porte Saint Denis where General Lamoricière was in command, the Hôtel de Ville where General Duvivier stood with 14 battalions, and the Place de la Sorbonne whence General Damesme attacked the Faubourg Saint Jacques.
Towards noon the approaches to the Place Maubert were taken and the square itself was encircled. At one o'clock the square fell; fifty members of the mobile guard were killed there! At the same time, after an intense and persistent cannonade, the Panthéon was taken, or rather, it surrendered. The 1,500 insurgents who had entrenched themselves here capitulated, probably upon the threat of M. Cavaignac and the infuriated bourgeoisie to set fire to the entire quarter.
At the same time, the “defenders of order” advanced further and further along the boulevards and captured the barricades of the adjacent streets. At the rue du Temple, the workers were forced to retreat to the corner of the rue de la Corderie. Fighting was still going on in the rue Boucherat and also on the other side of the boulevard in the Faubourg du Temple. Single rifle shots were still being fired in the rue Saint Martin and one barricade was still holding out at the Pointe Saint Eustache.
Around 7 p.m. General Lamoricière received two national guard battalions from Amiens which he immediately used to encircle the barricades behind the Château d'Eau. The Faubourg Saint Denis and also almost the entire left bank of the Seine were at that time peaceful and free. The insurgents were besieged in a part of the Marais and the Faubourg Saint Antoine. These two quarters were, however, separated by the boulevard Beaumarchais and the Saint Martin Canal behind it, and the latter could be used by the military.
General Damesme, the commander of the mobile guard, received a bullet wound in his thigh at the barricade of the rue l'Estrapade. The wound is not dangerous. Nor are the representatives Bixio and Dornès as severely injured as was at first believed.
The wound of General Bedeau is also light.
At nine o'clock the Faubourg Saint Jacques and the Faubourg Saint Marceau were as good as captured. The battle had been exceptionally fierce. General Bréa was in command there at the time.
General Duvivier at the Hôtel de Ville had less success. But even here the insurgents were pushed back.
General Lamoricière had cleared the faubourgs Poissonnière, Saint Denis and Saint Martin up to the barrières after overcoming heavy resistance. Only in the Clos Saint Lazare were the workers still holding out; they were entrenched in the Louis Philippe Hospital.
This same information was given by the President to the National Assembly at 9:30 p.m. He was forced, however, to disavow his own statements several times. He admitted that heavy shooting was still going on in the Faubourg Saint Martin.
Thus the situation in the evening of the 24th was as follows:
The insurgents still held about, half the terrain which they had occupied in the morning of the 23rd. This terrain consisted of the eastern part of Paris, i.e. the faubourgs St. Antoine, du Temple, St. Martin and the Marais. The Clos St. Lazare and a few barricades along the Botanical Gardens formed their outposts.
All the rest of Paris was in the hands of the Government.
What is most striking in this desperate battle is the savagery with which the “defenders of order” fight. They who in former times displayed such tender feelings for every drop of “citizen’s blood” and who had even sentimental fits over the death of the municipal guards on February 24, shoot down the workers like wild beasts. Not a word of compassion or of reconciliation and no sentimentality whatever, but violent hatred and cold fury against the insurgent workers reign in the ranks of the national guard and in the National Assembly. The bourgeoisie, fully conscious of what it is doing, conducts a war of extermination against them. The workers will wreak terrible vengeance on the bourgeoisie no matter whether it wins for the moment or is defeated at once. After a battle like that of the three June days, only terrorism is still possible whether it be carried out by one side or the other.
We shall end by quoting some passages from a letter written by a captain of the republican guard who describes the events of the 23rd and 24th as follows:
“I am writing to you while muskets are rattling and cannon are thundering. By about 2 o'clock we had captured three barricades at the head of the Notre-Dame Bridge. Later we moved to the rue St. Martin and marched down its entire length. When we arrived at the boulevard, we saw that it was abandoned and as empty as at 2 o'clock in the morning. We ascended the Faubourg du Temple and stopped before reaching the barracks. Two hundred paces further on there was a formidable barricade supported by several others and defended by about 2,000 people. We negotiated with them for two hours, but in vain. The artillery finally arrived towards 6 o'clock. The insurgents opened fire -first.
“The cannon replied and until 9 o'clock windows and bricks were shattered by the thunder of the artillery. The firing was terrible. Blood flowed in streams while at the same time a tremendous thunderstorm was raging. The cobblestones were red with blood as far as one could see. My men are falling under the bullets of the insurgents; they defend themselves like lions. Twenty times we mount an assault and twenty times we are driven back. The number of dead is immense and the number of injured much greater still. At 9 o'clock we take the barricade with the bayonet. Today (June 24) at 3 o'clock in the morning we are still up. The cannon are thundering incessantly. The Panthéon is the centre. 1 am in the barracks. We guard prisoners who are being brought in all the time. There are many injured among them. Some are shot out of hand. I have lost 53 of my 112 men.”