Paris in the early days of the war: August 10, 1914 — Charles Inman Barnard



(see previous post in this series: August 9 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Monday, August 10, 1914. Ninth day of mobilization. Hot, sunny weather. Temperature at five P.M. 29 degrees centigrade. Light southerly breeze.

Depicted on all faces this morning is anxious but confident expectation, for the public are conscious that a desperate encounter between two millions of men is impending in Belgium and on the Alsace-Lorraine border from Liège to Colmar.

The French capital is, at the present moment, a city of strange contrasts. Mothers, wives, sisters, and brides were last week red-eyed from the sorrow of parting. Now these same women have decorated their windows with bunting and have no thought other than of working as best they may to help the national cause.

In the streets, the shrill voices of children pipe the latest news from the front; small girls cry grim details of the war.

All prisoners charged with light offenses who are mobilizable have been allowed to go to the front to rehabilitate themselves. The central prison of Fresnes, which ten days ago contained nine hundred criminals, has now only two hundred and fifty left.

And all the time Paris lives an every-day, humdrum life, makes the best of everything, and never complains.

Day by day the aspect of the streets becomes more normal, for the reason that more and more vehicles are freed from military service and can now resume their ordinary duties of transporting the public. Pending the return of the motor-omnibuses, a service of char-à-bancs has been started on the boulevards, which reminds Parisians of the days of the popular “Madeleine-Bastille” omnibus.

Diplomatic relations between France and Austria-Hungary were broken off to-day. War however has not been declared between France and Austria.

I met to-day M. Hedeman, the correspondent of the Matin, who recently witnessed in Berlin the arrival of Emperor William and the Crown Prince, which he compared to the departure of Napoleon III for Sedan in 1870. We were talking at the Ministry of War, where I also met the Marquis Robert de Flers, the well-known dramatist and editor of the Figaro, and M. Lazare Weiler, deputy. M. Hedeman told me that two days after the declaration of war a skirmish took place near the village of Genaville in the department of Meurthe-et-Moselle, between French custom-house officials and a squadron of German cavalry. The commander of the German detachment was shot in the stomach, fell to the ground, and was captured. He was Lieutenant Baron Marshall von Bieberstein, son of the former German Ambassador at Constantinople. A French lieutenant of gendarmes helped the prisoner to his feet. Lieutenant von Bieberstein, who was mortally wounded, said: “Thank you, gentlemen! I have done my duty in serving my country, just as you are serving your own!” He then died. M. Charles Humbert, senator of the Meuse, gave the helmet and sabre that had been worn by Lieutenant Marshall von Bieberstein to the editor of the Matin.

~ ~ ~ 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 11 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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