Tag Archives: Franco-Prussian War

James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/james-tissot-tommy-bowles-brave-the-siege-together-october-1870/. <Date viewed.>

 

Tommy Bowles [Thomas Gibson Bowles, 1841 – 1922)] at 29 had met the challenge of establishing the Society magazine, Vanity Fair, which was now a profitable business.  On Tuesday, September 6, 1870, he was cruising in his yacht up the Southampton Water, fishing on the Cornwall coast, when he went ashore and read about Napoléon III’s surrender in the newspapers.  A republic had been established, and with or without the emperor, France was at war with Prussia.  Tommy took the first train to London, obtained a passport, and soon was busy in Paris as a war correspondent for the Morning Post.  “I know a considerable number of people here,” he wrote, “but I find that they have one and all fled.  Lodging is naturally extraordinarily cheap.”  He found a “splendid suite of apartments – some ten white-and-gold rooms” with a long balcony overlooking the boulevard, for just six francs a day.

Because there were not enough French troops, a National Guard – a volunteer militia independent of the regular army – was forming to defend Paris.  On Friday, September 9, Tommy was surveying the scene of Garde Mobile squads drilling or wandering around along the avenue de l’Impératrice [near James Tissot’s sumptuous villa at No. 64], “when my hand was suddenly seized, and I found myself talking to one of my smartest Parisian friends [James Tissot] who had donned the blue uniform like everybody else.  He was delighted to see me.”  Tissot promised that if there was a sortie, he would make sure that Tommy had the chance to see some action.  [Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt learned that James Tissot actually had enlisted in the Garde Nationale de la Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion, in 1855 – as soon as he had arrived in Paris at age 19.]

Ten days later, on September 19, 200,000 Prussian troops encircled Paris in attempt to starve the French into submission.  No food could enter the city; all communication between the French capital and the outside world was cut off.  The Siege of Paris had begun.

French soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71 (Wikimedia.org)

By September 28, Paris residents were erecting a barricade on the straight, short and splendidly wide avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue), which led to the recreational grounds at the Bois de Boulogne.  It soon would be renamed avenue Uhrich after the hero of the Siege of Strasbourg, General Uhrich.

On October 3, Tommy Bowles recorded an unexpected guest in his luxurious rented lodgings:

France

James Tissot, self-portrait, 1865 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A friend [James Tissot] has turned up in a promiscuous, beleaguered sort of way, and has come to share my lodgings and to relieve with his society the tedium of waiting for the bombs.  We neither of us have got any money left, but we propose to support each other by our mutual credit, to fish each other out of the prison that yawns in the mouth of every Garde Nationale, and to share our last rat together.  Meantime we are not greatly to be pitied.  Our joint domestic, Jean, one of those handy creatures yet to be invented in England, makes our beds, scrubs the floor, brushes the clothes, cooks like a cordon bleu, and is, as we believe and fervently hope, capable of producing any explanation or invention that may be required by persons in search of payment.  He has been especially successful as regards meat.”

The British journalist and the French painter shared a mischievous sense of humor – and strong survival instincts.  After nine days together, on October 12, Tommy noted:

“We are all being put upon rations, and are to share and share alike the meat left, according to the number in each family.  My friend and I have returned ourselves as two families, and if our supply runs short we mean to make a touching appeal for our starving children and wives.  We have also brought our birthdays into the present month, and we expect our friends in Paris to give us at least a leg of mutton each as presents.”

Elihu B. Washburne (Wikimedia.org)

By that same day, October 12, the military operations had driven even Elihu Washburne (1816 – 1887), the United States Minister to France, out of his house at No. 75, at the end of the former avenue de l’Impératrice near the Porte Dauphine, the gate in the city wall opening into the Bois de Boulogne.  The avenue was filled with troops.

The lush woods of the Bois de Boulogne, planted only fifteen years ago when Napoléon III and Baron Haussmann began turning Paris into the showpiece of Europe, was nothing but pointed stumps for a hundred yards.  The gilded ornamental gates of the Porte Dauphine at the western end of the avenue had been removed and thrown off on the ground, replaced by a rough wooden drawbridge leading to a thirty-foot mound of earth.  On it stood two rows of palisades, and from openings in the rampart, cannons pointed down upon any Prussian troops attempting to enter Paris from the west.

By October 22, the eastern end was blocked — entry from the city to what was now called the avenue Uhrich was cut off by a barricade at the Arc de Triomphe.

But by then, James Tissot was armed and fighting on the front line – as well as saving lives as a Red Cross stretcher-bearer.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

Oil on canvas

L’Attaque (Attack!) by Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour (1838 — 1910). (Photo: Wikipedia)

 

CH377762

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

“Napoleon is an idiot”: Courbet & the Fall of the Second Empire, 1870

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. ““Napoleon is an idiot”: Courbet & the Fall of the Second Empire, 1870.” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/napoleon-is-an-idiot-courbet-the-fall-of-the-second-empire-1870/. <Date viewed.>

 

Napoleon_III

Napoléon III (Wikimedia.org)

On July 15, 1870, Napoléon III, Emperor of the French, heeding his advisors in a diplomatic quarrel regarding the succession to the Spanish throne, declared war on Prussia – and its well-equipped and impeccably-trained army of more than 500,000 men with 160,000 reserves.  France’s troops, disorganized and short of everything from maps to ammunition, numbered less than 300,000.  “We do not have sufficient troops.  I regard us already as lost,” the Emperor wrote to the Empress Eugénie, who was Regent in his absence.  Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, unlike the Empress Eugénie, did not want France to go to war, and she had told Napoléon III – her cousin – that he was unfit to take personal command of the French army.

English: Gustave Courbet Français : Gustave Co...

Gustave Courbet (Wikipedia)

Gustave Courbet, at 51 was fresh from the glory of having refused the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, from the minister of Beaux-Arts in the cabinet of Napoléon III’s reform-minded premier, Émile Ollivier, in late June.  On July 15, 1870, Courbet wrote his loving and loyal mother, father and sisters in Flagey, a village in eastern France:  “War is declared.  Everybody is leaving Paris.”  By the end of his letter, he added, “In everyone’s opinion I am the greatest man in France.  My sensation lasted three weeks in Paris, in the provinces, and abroad.  Now it is over.  The war has taken my place.”  On August 9, he wrote them, “We are passing through an indescribable crisis.  I do not know how we shall come out of it.  Monsieur Napoléon has declared a dynastic war for his own benefit and has made himself generalissimo of the armies, and he is an idiot who is proceeding without a plan of campaign in his ridiculous and criminal pride.”  He ended, “I cannot return home now.  My presence is needed here, and besides I have a good deal of property to protect in Paris.  Don’t worry about me.  I have nothing to fear from anyone.”

Napoléon, 62, surrendered himself — and the French troops accompanying him — to the Prussians on September 2, and the Second Empire collapsed.

Napoleon III Surrenders his Sword, 1870 (Wikimedia.org)

Princesse Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.  Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Photo by Lucy Paquette

Princess Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette.

On the night of September 3, 1870, the fifty-year-old Princess Mathilde Bonaparte fled Paris at the insistence of her friends, first heading for Puys, near Dieppe on the English Channel, where her friend, the forty-six-year-old novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas the younger,  offered his home to her.  France was proclaimed a Republic on September 4; a provisional French government, the Third Republic, was created, and it deposed Napoléon III on September 4.  In the French press, it was rumored that Princess Mathilde had stolen up to 51 million francs in her luggage, and that she had been arrested; it was further alleged that she had stolen diamonds and important paintings from the Louvre.  Meanwhile, Mathilde (with two servants) secretly made her way across the French border, to Belgium.  By September 12, she had stopped in the first town to she came to — Mons, an hour from Brussels.  By October, she wrote, “I am horribly sad and my heart is broken.  I remain here, not knowing where to go and not wishing to leave; besides, I really do not care.”  She added, “I am sadder than ever; there is nothing left but our complete ruin, and I have not even the hope of better days.”  [Mathilde did return to Paris, in mid-June of 1871, and she lived there until her death in 1904 at the age of 83.]

Her former lover, the faithless Comte de Nieuwerkerke, ordered the most valuable paintings removed from Paris on August 30.  Convoys from the Louvre left for Brest each day from September 1 to 4.  Nieuwerkerke was dismissed by the new government from his post as Superintendent of the Imperial Museums on September 5.  It was rumored that he was in prison until he could account for important paintings “which he may have lent to friends.”  In reality, Nieuwerkerke – who had been warned of his imminent arrest – fled Paris in September dressed as a valet.  He went into exile in England, at Eastbourne.  [In April, 1871, Nieuwerkerke sold his home to an American, William Henry Riggs (1837 – 1924) for 188,500 francs and his collection of armor and weapons for 400,000 francs to Sir Richard Wallace (1818 – 1890); it now is part of the Wallace Collection in London.  Nieuwerkerke then went to Northern Italy and retired beside a picturesque lake in a luxurious villa at Gattajola, near Lucca, which he bought in May, 1872.  He died there in 1892.]

Empress Eugénie, c. 1869-70 (Wikimedia.org)

The forty-four-year-old Empress Eugénie had, with the help of her American dentist, Dr. Thomas Wiltberger Evans,* escaped incognito to London with a forged passport (and her lady-in-waiting) on September 5.  She settled at Camden Place, a secluded estate at Chislehurst, just southeast of London, and was reunited with her only child, the fourteen-year-old Louis Napoléon, Prince Impérial of France.  [After six months as a prisoner in Germany, Napoléon III spent the last few years of his life in exile in England with Eugénie and the Prince Imperial, who was killed in the Zulu War in South Africa in 1879.  Napoléon III died of kidney disease in 1873; Eugénie, a Spanish countess when she married,  lived to the age of 94 and died among her relatives in Spain in 1920.]

In the meantime, while ordinary people were shocked and alarmed, mobs chanting “Vive la République!” and belting out the “Marseillaise” scrawled “Property of the People” across the entrance to the vacated Tuileries Palace and tossed statues of the emperor into the River Seine.  They changed street and shop names to obliterate all signs of the despised, now-fallen empire.  The avenue de l’Empereur became, with some paint, the avenue Victor Noir.  French journalist Victor Noir (1848 – 1870)  became a republican hero after being shot by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, a cousin of Napoléon III, in a duel in January.  At some point after the Siege of Strasbourg on September 28, 1870 – when General Jean Jacques Alexis Uhrich (1802 – 1886) tried in vain to defend the fortress considered one of the strongest in France — Tissot’s elegant avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue), the boulevard leading to the recreational grounds at the Bois de Boulogne, was renamed avenue Uhrich.

Although Tissot was too patriotic – or optimistic – to realize it for another eight months, his charmed life in Paris was over forever.

The Empress Eugénie’s rescuer, the influential American dentist, Thomas Wiltberger Evans (1823 –1897) was a neighbor of Tissot’s.  Dr. Evans’ elegant villa, “Bella Rosa,” stood at no. 43, at the intersection of avenue Malakoff; Dr. Evans also owned lot no. 41, across the street.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

How much do you know about the Impressionists & War?  Take my quiz on goodreads.com!


CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.