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“ Quite alone, and left to myself, I rode away on the heights to the left, and could plainly survey the favourable position of the French ; they were standing in the form of a semicircle, in the greatest quiet and security; Kellerman, then on the left wing, being the easiest to reach.
“I fell in with good company on the way, officers of my acquaintance, belonging to the general staff and the regiment, greatly surprised to find me here. They wanted to take me back again with them ; but I spoke to them of particular objects I had in view, and they left me, without further dissuasion, to my well-known singular caprice.
“ I had now arrived quite in the region where the balls were playing across me: the sound of them is curious enough, as if it were composed of the humming of tops, the gurgling of water, and the whistling of birds. They were less dangerous by reason of the wetness of the ground; wherever one fell, it stuck fast. And thus my foolish experimental ride was secured against the danger at least of the balls rebounding
In the midst of these circumstances, I was soon able to remark that something unusual was taking place within me. I paid close attention to it, and still the sensation can be described only by
similitude. It appeared as if you were in some extremely hot place, and, at the same time, quite penetrated by the heat of it, so that you self, as it were, quite one with the element in which you are.
The eyes lose nothing of their strength or clearness ; but it is as if the world had a kind of brown-red tint, which makes the situation, as well as the surrounding objects, more impressive. I was unable to perceive any agitation of the blood; but everything seemed rather to be swallowed up in the glow of which I speak. From this, then, it is clear in what sense this condition can be called a fever. It is remarkable, however, that the horrible uneasy feeling arising from it, is produced in us solely through the ears. For the cannon thunder, the howling, and crashing of the balls through the air, is the real cause of these sensations.
“ After I had ridden back, and was in perfect security, I remarked, with surprise, that the glow was completely extinguished, and not the slightest feverish agitation was left behind. On the whole, this condition is one of the least desirable; as, indeed, among my dear and noble comrades, I found scarcely one who expressed a really passionate desire to try it.”
Contrary to the expectations of both friends and foes, the French infantry held their ground
steadily under the fire of the Prussian guns, which thundered on them from La Lune ; and their own artillery replied with equal spirit and greater effect on the denser masses of the allied army. Thinking that the Prussians were slackening in their fire, Kellerman formed a column in charging order, and dashed down into the valley in the hopes of capturing some of the nearest guns of the enemy. A masked battery opened its fire on the French column, and drove it back in disorder, Kellerman having his horse shot under him, and being with difficulty carried off by his men. The Prussian columns now advanced in turn. The French artillerymen began to waver and desert their posts, but were rallied by the efforts and example of their officers, and Kellerman, reorganising the line of his infantry, took his station in the ranks on foot, and called out to his men to let the enemy come close up, and then to charge them with the bayonet. The troops caught the enthusiasm of their general, and a cheerful shout of Vive la nation, taken up by one battalion from another, pealed across the valley to the assailants. The Prussians hesitated from a charge up hill against a force that seemed so resolute and formidable; they halted for a while in the hollow, and then slowly retreated up their own side of the valley.
Indignant at being thus repulsed by such a foe, the King of Prussia formed the flower of his men in person, and, riding along the column, bitterly reproached them with letting their standard be thus humiliated. Then he led them on again to the attack, marching in the front line, and seeing his staff mowed down around him by the deadly fire which the French artillery reopened. But the troops sent by Dumouriez were now co-operating effectually with Kellerman, and that general's own men, flushed by success, presented a firmer front than ever. Again the Prussians retreated, leaving eight hundred dead behind, and at nightfall the French remained victors on the heights of Valmy.
All hopes of crushing the Revolutionary armies, and of the promenade to Paris, had now vanished, though Brunswick lingered long in the Argonne, till distress and sickness wasted
his once splendid force, and finally but a mere wreck of it recrossed the frontier. France, meanwhile, felt that she possessed a giant's strength, and, like a giant, did she use it. Before the close of that year all Belgium obeyed the National Convention at Paris, and the Kings of Europe, after the lapse of eighteen centuries, trembled once more before a conquering military Republic.
Göthe's description of the cannonade has been quoted. His observation to his comrades, and the camp of the Allies at the end of the battle, deserves quotation also. It shows that the poet felt (and, probably, he alone of the thousands there assembled' felt) the full importance of that day. He describes the consternation and the change of demeanour, which he observed among his Prussian friends that evening. He tells us that most of them were silent: and, in fact, the power of reflection and judgment was wanting to all. At last I was called upon to say what I thought of the engagement; for I had been in the habit of enlivening and amusing the troop with short sayings. This time I said : • From this place, and from this day forth, commences a new era in the world's history; and you can all say that you were present at its birth.""
SYNOPSIS OF EVENTS BETWEEN THE BATTLE OF
VALMY, 1792, AND THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO, 1815.
A.D. 1793. Trial and execution of Louis XVI., at Paris. England and Spain declare war against France. Royalist war in La Vendée. Second invasion of France by the Allies.
1794. Lord Howe's victory over the French