Paris in the early days of the war: August 3, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 2 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Monday, August 3, 1914. — This is the second day of mobilization. A warm, cloudy day with occasional showers. Thermometer, 20 degrees centigrade.

At six this morning Félicien, with a brown paper parcel containing a day’s rations consisting of cold roast beef, sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, bread, butter, and potato salad, walked off to the Gare St. Lazare, which is his point of rendezvous indicated by the mobilization paper. His young wife wept as if broken-hearted. Félicien, like all the reservists, restrained his emotions. I shook him warmly by the hand and said that I would surely see him again here within six months, and that he would come home a victor. “Don’t be afraid of that, sir!” was his reply, and away he went.

I watched the looting of the Maggi milk shops near the Place des Ternes. The marauders were youths from fifteen to eighteen years old, and seemed to have no idea of the crimes they were committing. The Maggi is no longer a German enterprise, and the stupid acts of these young ruffians can only have the effect of depriving French mothers and infants of much-needed milk. I bought a bicycle to-day at Peugeot’s in the Avenue of the Grande Armée, because it is hopeless to get cabs or motor-cabs. While there, the shop was requisitioned by an officer, who took away with him three hundred bicycles for the army.

The aspect of the main thoroughfares in the Opéra quarter, the center of English and American tourist traffic, was depressing in the extreme this afternoon. All the shipping offices in the Rue Scribe closed in the morning. The Rue de la Paix is never very brilliant in August, but now it is an abode of desolation. Nine tenths of the shops have their shutters up and the jewelers who keep open have withdrawn all their stock from the windows.

Many of the closed shops on the boulevards and elsewhere bear placards designed to protect them from the possible attentions of the mob. On these placards are such texts as “Maison Française” or even “Maison ultrafrançaise.”

On the Café de la Paix is the following announcement, in several places: “The proprietor, André Millon, who is mayor of Evecquemont (Seine-et-Oise), has been called out for service in the army and left this morning.” Similar messages, written in chalk, are to be seen on hundreds of shutters.

Steps have been taken at the American Embassy to supply credentials, in the form of “a paper of nationality,” to citizens of the United States, which will make it possible for them to register as such with the police, as required by the French Government. The proposed American Ambulance has been organized under the official patronage of Ambassador Herrick, and the auspices of the American Hospital of Paris.

Beginning to-day, all cafés and restaurants will be closed at eight in the evening. They were left open till nine yesterday as an exceptional measure, owing to the fact that there was not time to distribute the order for early closing by eight o’clock.

The aspect of the boulevards last night was the completest possible contrast to what was seen on Sunday night. The city was under martial law, and the police showed very plainly that they did not intend to be trifled with.

Instead of shouting crowds and stone-throwing by excited youths and women, one saw only a few citizens walking slowly along. One group of policemen took shelter from the intermittent showers under the marquise of the Vaudeville Theater, and other detachments were in readiness at corners all along the line of the boulevards, which were dotted with isolated policemen.

No one was allowed to loiter. To wait five minutes outside a house was to court investigation and possibly arrest. There was no sound except that of footfalls and a low murmur of conversation. It was the first night of war’s stern government.

Germany officially declared war upon France at five forty-five this evening.

~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).

(see the next post in this series: August 4– Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 3, 2014 at 11:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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