This is a English version

The DUTCH version The Story of Les Dernieres Cartouches





In the advertising department of the tobacco-museum of Wervik, in cupboard 27, one can find a booklet of cigarette-papers called ‘les dernières cartouches’. On the cover one can see a colored reproduction of a war scene. Close to this paper, between cupboards 21 and 22, there is an illustrated plate (40 x 63 cm.) made of terra-cotta, which represents the same scene.


These are two representations of a famous work of the French painter Alphonse de Neuville (Sint-Omer 1835 - Paris 1885). This painting renders his interpretation of a war scene which took place in Bazeilles (near Sedan) during the French-Prussian War.


The French-Prussian War (1870-1871)    [1]


The cause for this war has to be found in the Prussian Prime minister Otto von Bismarck’s intention to successfully complete the German unity in favor of the Kingdom of Prussia and its king Willem I. After the war for the duchies Sleeswijk, Holstein and Lauenburg (1864), the war against Austria (1866) and the founding of the North-German confederation (1867), the unity of Germany was almost complete. In order to unify Germany completely, only the southern duchies, who strongly disliked Prussia, had to be persuaded to join the confederation. Bismarck tried to stir up hatred among the southern German people towards France and its ruler, Napoleon III.


The succession of the Spanish throne appeared to be a perfect cause for rousing antipathy towards France. A cousin of Willem I, Leopold von Hohenzollern, was a candidate for the throne. France considered his candidacy to be a serious threat for its own power and demanded the withdrawal of this candidacy. Napoleon III also demanded that Willem I would never allow a Hohenzollern to become the king of Spain. The Prussian king however sent a telegram to Bismarck in which he stated that he refused to bind himself to foreign demands. Bismarck deliberately intensified and exaggerated the content of the king’s telegram and published it in the newspapers, causing the much wanted antipathy towards France. Napoleon III, strongly offended by this publication, declared war on Prussia, and against his expectations, the southern German states joined forces with Prussia and the North-German confederation.


The two opponents were not equal in strength: Prussia possessed a well trained and disciplined army. Its commander-in-chief was a visionary chef of the general staff called Helmuth von Moltke. The French army wasn’t well prepared at all: it was lead by leaders who occasionally were incompetent and its soldiers were not so well equipped.  


The operations started on august the second, 1870. The French were defeated in the Elzas and near Metz (4-6 of August) and were forced to retreat, due to the total surrounding of marshal Bazaine’s army by the Prussian forces. In the camp of châlons-sur-Marne, escaped war prisoners, the newly formed ‘Division d’Infanterie de Marine’ and new battalions of recruits and volunteers were joined together into a new army, which stood under the command of marshal Mac-Mahon. On the 17th of August, Napoleon III commanded his new army (120.000 persons) to march to Reims, but on the 23rd of August, Napoleon wanted his forces to join Bazaine’s army. Therefore, Mac-Mahon ordered his troops to retreat from Paris and to cross the French Ardennes. The army arrived at the river Aisne on the 25th and had to cross the Meuse on the east-side near Sedan. But Moltke had heard of these plans and on the 30th of august, he attacked the French forces just before they could cross the Meuse, in a village called Beaumont-en-Argonne. Having a lot of casualties, the French had to retreat. Mac-Mahon decided to seek shelter in Sedan, but he didn’t know that the third and the fourth German army would attack him there from the East and the West. Napoleon III and his new army, that followed Mac-Mahon’s forces, arrived at Sedan on the 31st. On that day, ‘la bataille de Sedan’ began, and was followed by very harsh struggles on the 1st of September in Bazeilles (near Sedan), which forced Napoleon III to surrender. Together with 83.000 of his men, he was taken prisoner of war. In the battle of Sedan, 3000 Frenchmen died and 14.000 got wounded.


On the fourth of September, the Republic was proclaimed in Paris, and on the 19th, the German occupation of the city began. On the 18th of January, the German Reich was proclaimed in the palace of Versailles! The war lasted until the 28th of January 1871.


On the 10th of May 1871, the peace-treaty of Frankfurt was signed, by which the French lost Elzas and Lotharingen (Alsace-Lorraine).


All these events would play a significant role in World War I and in the following peace-treaties, and in may 1940, Sedan would be in the news once again...


The French marine-infantry: from the harbors to the eastern frontier


In the 17th century, a hundred ‘Compagnies Ordinaires de la Mer’ were founded to serve on the ships and in overseas territories. In the 19th century, ‘Les Troupes de la Marine’ were formed. These forces depended on the Marine Department but operated independently from the ground troops (Armée de Terre).


In 1870, France had at its disposal ‘L’Infanterie de la Marine’ (general staff, four regiments, and special corpses), ‘L’Artillerie de Marine’, ‘Le Corps du Service de Santé de la Marine’, services and schools. Nearly halve of its companies (18 to 22) were stationed in France, the rest in overseas territories. The first regiment quartered in Cherbourg, the second in Brest, the third in Rochefort and the fourth in Toulon    [2].


On the 4th of August, the four regiments were asked to form a military march division: four times 18 companies of 130 soldiers. The general staff and the leaders of the other services were recruited out of the ranks of the Marine. Four artillery-batteries of ‘L’Artillerie de la Marine’ had to enforce the division, which then would have about 10.000 souls. Commander-in-chief was general De Vassoigne, former general inspector of the Marine. Under his command, the units of the division had to leave the harbors and penetrate Paris unexpectedly. They had to stay there in barracks.  

Due to the dark blue uniforms and headgear, this new division was called ‘La Division Bleue’[3]. On the ships, the sailors called the storm troopers ‘Marsouins’, from the Danish ‘marswins’ meaning ‘sea-swines’or ‘porpoise’, because they lived as parasites.


On the 12th of August, the Blue Division had to move to the barracks of Châlons-sur-Marne in order to become part of Mac-Mahon’s new army. This army marched a week towards the north-east and reached the Meuse on the 30th of August, and engaged in the battle of Sedan.


The Blue Division in Bazeilles (31st of August - 1st of September 1870)  


On the 31st of August, the first Bavarian corps has conquered Bazeilles. Now the second brigade of the marine-infantry (the second and the third regiment) is ordered to retake the village.


In the afternoon, they chase away the Bavarians, but due to the latter’s superior forces, they have to retreat. In this encounter, both sides suffer a lot of casualties. The village is on fire. Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the French army is reinforced by the first brigade (the first and the fourth regiment). Before dusk, in spite of harsh struggles and lots of victims, they are once again able to recapture the village.


During the night, barricades are thrown up and guard posts are placed near the Meuse to protect its entrances and the lower parts of the village. Early in the morning, these guard posts have to retreat due to a new invasion of the Bavarians, who now think that the village is abandoned. But a fierce attack from 150 Marsouins surprises them completely and throws them out of the village. Consequently, Bazeilles is in hands of the Blue Division for the third time.


During these fights, marshal Mac-Mahon got wounded and gave the command of the army to general Ducrot (the commander of the first French corps). Because Ducrot wants to escape the ambush (see above ‘the battle of Sedan’) and regroup his forces in the West, he gives the order to leave Bazailles. The Marsouins comply displeased and leave the village, for which they fought so fiercely and for which so many comrades sacrificed their lives.


But it seems that the new commander of the fifth French corps, general Wimpffen possesses a letter from the authorized minister which states that he should have followed up Mac-Mahon. Wimpffen, who is older than Ducrot, seizes command of the Blue Division and orders the troops to proceed to Metz. Therefore, the Blue Division has to recapture Bazeilles from the Bavarians once again. After a harsh battle, the Marsouins conquer the village for the fourth time.


But the reinforced first Bavarian corps launches a new attack to the village. In a battle of one against ten and under heavy artillery that destroys walls and houses, the Marsouins are forced to retreat once again. In spite of heavy French casualties and a lack of ammunition, these street-fights in fire and dust continue until midday. And it is in this phase of the war in the house of Bourgerie that the fragment of ‘les dernières cartouches’ takes place.


During midday, the situation of the Blue Division looks grim. The 12th French corps calls off the attack. The Marsouins fight their way back towards Sedan.


Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, general Wimpffen wants to try to invade the East once again. He commands the Blue Division to charge Bazeilles once again. The remaining Marsouins advance towards the East and are able to recapture almost all off Balan, the region between Bazeilles and Sedan.


Napoleon III however decides to break off the action and runs up the white flag on the citadel of Sedan. On 4. 30 p.m., the cease fire is a fact, and the Marsouins are taken prisoners of war.


In Bazeilles, almost one quarter of the Blue Division soldiers were wounded or killed during the attacks (2655 men).


Later, a great mausoleum was built on the graveyard of Bazeilles containing the remains of approximately 3000 French and German soldiers.


The house of ‘la dernière cartouche’  


In the northern part of Bazeilles, near the road to Balan and Sedan (2.7 km.), one could find a large tavern with the following sign-board: ‘Bourgerie, vin, bière, eau-de-vie’. Nowadays, it is still there: a big house on the corner of the road, with three doors on the front and one floor with eight windows with a view to the village. It has become an inhabited museum called ‘la maison de la dernière cartouche’.


During the many movements in and out the village, the Marsouins got familiar with the (abandoned)

house. In the morning of the 1st of September, captain Bourgey of the second regiment is ordered to turn it into a base that has to withstand the Bavarian attacks. In the house, he finds the wounded commander Lambert[4], underchief of staff of the Blue Division. He assembles some commissioned and non-commissioned officers and Marsouins, all together about 60 men from different units of the marine-infantry. Also, one lost soldier of the line-infantry would have joined the base. They begin covering the windows with furniture, sacks and mattresses. In the roof, they remove some roofing tiles in order to shoot at the enemy. The Marsouins take all the remaining bullets and give them to their best shooters.


The 15th Bavarian infantry-regiment attacks but is being blasted by the French ‘Chassepot-riffles’[5]. Both sides suffer heavy casualties. At 2.30 p.m., the big clock on the wall of the house is being hit. Up until now, one can still see the minute and hour hands of the clock pointing at that exact moment in time. The Bavarians besiege the entire house and point their canons at it. As a result, parts of the roof get blown away and a fire starts. The defenders regroup in the chambers below and hope to turn the situation in their favor. They manage to assemble 30 last cartridges: les dernières cartouches.


But the Bavarians attack once again, and the French Chassepots fire their last bullets. Captain Aubert of the second regiment, who was a shoot-instructor and the best shooter of them all, has the honor to fire the last bullet at the enemy: la dernière cartouche.


Captain Lambert summons a council of war while the Bavarians set up their artillery. The defenders decide to hang a white handkerchief on a riffle and to hang it outside a window while leaving the house at the front door. Lambert and Bourgey leave the house together with some twenty survivors. A Bavarian officer (captain Lissignolo) prevents them, ‘les diables bleus’, from being slaughtered by the infuriated attackers. The Marsouins are taken prisoner of war and march along approximately 600 dead soldiers around the house, saying: ‘Tous, nous marchons le front haut et nous disons nous ne sommes pas de la capitulation de Sedan’[6].


For France, the whole of the military action of ‘L’infanterie de la Marine’ in Bazeilles was a highlight in the defeat during this terrible year. Especially the defense of the house of Bourgerie, until ‘la dernière cartouche’, appealed to the imagination of the disappointed Frenchmen.  

Photo 1: Lambert and the besieged French have fired ‘les dernières cartouches’ and leave the battered house. The Bavarians approach them, but captain Lissignolo prevents any act of retaliation (anonymous illustration; inaccurate representation of the house, the French and German soldiers in different uniforms).  


Photo 1

Photo 2: chamber in the museum ‘La dernière cartouche’. Postcard with stamps of the museum, date and signature from the sender with stamp and postmark.


Photo 2

Photo 3: reproduction of the painting ‘Les dernières cartouches’. Brown and white postcard with postmark (1923) on the reverse side.


Photo 3


The painting ‘Les dernières cartouches’  



The painting

It is a portrait in oils, framed, height 108 cm., length 165 cm. Bottom-left, it is signed: ‘Alph. De Neuville’, bottom-left, the pictured event is written down: ‘Balan près de Sedan - 1er Sept. 1870’[7].


The painting was first presented in the ‘Salon’ of 1873. It is now owned by the ‘Comité National des Traditions des Troupes de Marine’ and hangs in the second chamber of the ground-floor of the museum of ‘La dernière cartouche’ in Bazeilles (thus in the house of the Bourgerie where the events took place on the midday of the 1st of September 1870).


It represents some ten French militaries who during the rearguard action withdrew themselves in the third room of the first floor and fired their last 30 bullets at the Bavarian enemy, including ‘la dernière cartouche’.


On the left side of the painting, one can see one of the two windows (the fifth viewed from the street); a great cupboard is standing to the inside wall of the room; next to it, one can see the opened and loosened door to the second room. On the right of the hidden rear elevation, there is an alcove. The ceiling is damaged, the floor covered with debris of the ceiling, dust and equipment: opened packages of bullets, a broken riffle, a (German?) helmet... The window is covered by a curtain, a wooden trunk and a checked mattress. The smoke of the fire and the gunpowder enter the room and cover partially the ceiling.


By visiting the museum, we could recognize the scene: the window, the cupboard, the inner door, the alcove and the damaged ceiling.


The represented persons on the painting are, however, not historically correct. De Neuville was moved partially by his imagination and enthusiasm, also by the personal narrative of the event by commander Lambert. The reissue of the novel ‘Lépaulette’ by Georges Darien[8] allows us to reconstruct the real historical event.


The defenders of Bazeilles were Marsouins, soldiers of the marine-infantry, wearing blue uniforms. But although the painter knew these uniforms very well, he has represented the soldiers in another kind of uniforms, namely those normally worn by the line-infantry, ‘les tirailleurs algériens’ and ‘les chasseurs à pied’. These were uniforms which were very well known, perhaps even better than those of the marine-infantry. But there is a more significant reason for the painter’s alteration of the historical reality: he aimed at more brilliance and a magnificent display of color in his representation of the events.


The characters of the painting can be interpreted as follows: left in the front, two soldiers are sitting on the floor wearing uniforms of the line-infantry, thus wearing red trousers. They are looking for ‘les dernières cartouches’ because on the floor we can see opened packages and a cartridge belt with a bayonet. One of the soldiers, the one with the bum bag and red headgear, is looking for something on the ground. The underlieutenant who has stripes on his shoulders and wears obscure headgear, is holding his riffle on his knee while watching the others. In the front on the right side of the painting, a young soldier (a hunter on foot) is wearing a blue uniform, blue trousers and blue headgear pushed backwards on his hair. He is holding his hands in his pockets and watches intensely the other two soldiers that are looking for the last bullets[9].


Captain Aubert, who is standing in front of the window, is shooting his riffle while holding it at a slant. A ‘tirailleur algérien’ or ‘turco’, a North African soldier in a blue short jacket with yellow decorations, is standing next to him. He’s holding his riffle in his hands, but since he is watching whether the captain is hitting his target, it is no longer pointed at the window. Leaning against the cupboard, there is commander Lambert. Historically, he had been wounded on his foot and was lying on a bed in that same room and had helped with the organization of the defense. On the painting, however, he is represented standing up, looking curiously at the captain while wearing a distinct bandage on his knee. Here we have a symbolic representation of the French national flag: blue (his uniform), white (the bandage) and finally red (the color of his trousers).


In the doorway leaning against the cupboard, we can see a soldier who is supporting his wounded left arm with his other arm. Behind the door, on the bed, lies a soldier with a pained and twisted face and a contorted hand. He is probably seriously injured.  


In the doorway, a soldier of the line-infantry appears holding his left shoulder. Once again, we see the colors white (of the door) and blue (of the coat). In this room, a few other characters can be discerned, for instance someone  wearing a blue uniform who is holding a gun in his right hand. This could perhaps be a good representation of a true commander of the marine-infantry.


There exist a number of reproductions of this painting: in publications on the French-Prussian War, on the French marine-infantry or on Alphonse de Neuville; as a postcard (brown-white, black and white or colored); as an illustrated plate (like the one hanging in the advertising department of the tobacco-museum of Wervik, mentioned above)[10], and finally as the cover of cigarette papers.


On top of that, there exists a resembling postcard, representing the fifth act of the play ‘les dernières cartouches’ which was performed at 5 p.m. every evening in the ‘Théâtre de l’Ambigu’[11]. This play was written by Jules Mary and Emile Rochard and was based on a novel by P...[12] It consisted of 10 acts, of which the fifth was called: ‘A Bazeilles en 1870 - La Défense de la maison Bourgerie’.


The painter Alphonse De Neuville (1835-1885)[13]


Alphonse was the first-born child of Edouard Deneuville and Louise Sophie Reumaux. He was born in Saint-Omer on the 31st of Mai 1835. His father was a manufacturer of candles and in 1840, he took up his residence in the ‘rue haute de Saint-Bertin’ (nowadays the ‘rue Saint-Bertin, nr.39).


Concerning his youth, we do not know very much. He would have been a student at the ‘Collège Saint-Bertin’ and of ‘Lécole des Beaux-Arts’. During these years, he is constantly drawing: musketeers, children’s games, scenes on the street, ...


He graduated and in 1853, in the lyceum of Lorient, he prepared himself for the entrance examination of the ‘Ecole Navale’. There, he made an album filled with drawings of uniforms, ships and buildings. After that, he went to Paris to begin his study of law. After three years, in 1856-1857, he renounced a brilliant career and decided that he would devote his life to art.


He had a quick hand and worked a lot as an illustrator for many magazines (for instance ‘L’illustration’) and several books. But his imagination lead him to the historical artwork, and he decided that he wanted to make a career in this genre of painting.


In 1858, he made his first ‘peintures militaires’ and in 1859, he presented his work for the first time at the ‘Salon’. He received the third price and medallion for his painting ‘Siège de Sebastopol’, which represented an attack by French troops in the Crimean War (1853-1856) in 1855. In 1861, he received the second price and medallion, once again for an artwork on the siege of Sebastopol. Almost every year he presented a painting representing an aspect of a battle: Magenta in Italy, San Lorenzo in Mexico, ... Meanwhile, he worked as an illustrator, he drew posters for the opera and he traveled a lot. In this period of time, he changed the spelling of his name. In 1861, he signed his paintings with De Neuville (two words in stead of his official name ‘Deneuville’), and later, he signed them with ‘de Neuville’ (‘De’ with small letters), although he had not been ennobled.


In 1870-1871, during the French-Prussian War, he was assigned as a lieutenant to the military engineering. In 1872, he presented the painting ‘Bivouac devant Le Bourget’. It is a vivid representation of the misery of war after the battle of the 21st of December 1871. In 1873, he created his most famous masterpiece: ‘Les dernières cartouches’. With this work, he received high recognition of the French public which considered him to be ‘le peintre de l’épopée de la défaite’. In 1873, he also received ‘La Croix de la Légion d’Honneur’. He was very fond of this cross for immediately after receiving it, he began to paint his self-portrait: the artist himself, standing next to a painting, wearing the honorable cross on his chest and holding a cigarette in his left hand. During these years, he also painted other kinds of paintings, ‘pour prouver sa facilité à traiter toute espèce de sujets’.


In the following years, he created more artwork on the French-Prussian War: paintings for the ‘Salon’, but also half of the ‘Panorama de la Bataille de Champigny’, a large painting (16 m. high and 180 m. long), of which the other half was painted by the famous Edouard Detaille (1848-1912)[14].


Alphonse lived in Paris, and in 1880, he let himself build a luxurious ‘hôtel pariculier’ in the ‘rue Légendre’. Due to a heart disease followed by albumin, he died there on the 19th of May 1885. On the first of May, on his sickbed, he had married his fiancée Aurélie Maréchal.


On command of the military governor who wanted to show respect towards the painter of the French heroism and ‘les dernières cartouches’, the funeral was attended by a delegation of all weapon divisions of the garrison of Paris. Alphonse was not buried in Saint-Omer but on the cemetery of Montmartre (‘23ième division’) in Paris. There, he received a marble monument representing the gate of the cemetery of Saint-Privat which he had painted in his representation of the battle that had taken place there on the 18th of August 1870.


On the ‘Place Wagram’ in Paris, he received a bronze statue which was officially unveiled in 1889. During the second World War, it was stolen and melted by the Germans. The plaster reproduction ended up in the museum of Saint-Omer. In this place, as in Paris, a street was named after him.


Alphonse de Neuville’s paintings are preserved in numerous French art galleries, for example in Paris, Saint-Omer (Hôtel-de-ville, Hôtel Sandelin), Rijsel (Musée des Beaux-Arts), Tourcoing (same here), ...


Since 1864, many exhibitions of his work have been organized, for instance in 1971 (in remembrance of the French-Prussian War) in Bapaume and Saint-Omer, in 1973 in Paris, and in 1978 in Paris and in Saint-Omer.


Photo 4: side wall (near the street) and front (near the village) of ‘la Maison de la dernière cartouche - Musée de Bazeilles’. Postcard (dating approximately from 1925).


Photo 4


Photo 5: opened cover of the booklet ‘Les dernières cartouches’. On the right, however, the ribbon is missing. Colored reproduction of the homonymous painting by Alphonse de Neuville.


Photo 5


Photo 6: opened contemporary version of the booklet ‘Les dernières cartouches’. It is a simplified representation of the original painting.


Photo 6


The cigarette paper ‘Les dernières cartouches’  


It is not odd at all that cigarette papers are related to ‘cartouches’. The first specimen of this kind is often considered to be the one representing a war scene during the Crimean War: as a bullet hit the pipe of a soldier, its tobacco fell on the paper of his cartridges[15]. And during the first World War, the French and Belgian soldiers simply called their cartridges cigarettes[16].


By creating his cigarette paper, the manufacturer of ‘Les dernières cartouches’ gladly made use of the French patriotism that aroused after their heroic defeat in 1870-1871 and of the fame of the painting.


The booklet of cigarette paper in the tobacco-museum has a cover which is folded in three around the package of flat and ungummed papers. In the front, there is the name ‘Les dernières cartouches’ next to the hunter on foot. In the back, commander Lambert is standing; inside the room, one can see captain Aubert. The booklet is closed by a small ribbon. The cover is a simplified but vivid drawing with bright red and blue colors. The ordering of the characters somewhat differs from that of the painting. On the double, slightly red flyleaf, we can find some relevant information: the ‘Société Anonyme des Anciens Etablissemments Braunstein Frères’, of which the chair was located at 73, ‘Boulevard Exelmans’ in Paris, had several factories. The company got several golden medallions and recommendations on different national and international expositions. The firm was also the manufacturer of the gummed cigarette papers of the light blue booklet. The cover represents the head of a Swiss Guard, the ‘Bloc Zig-Zag[17]/Gommé 601/Automatique’[18].  


Mister Wilfried Trio gave us a more recent booklet. The text on the inside is once again in French, but it has an announcement  in Dutch as well: ‘new practical reproduction of the famous booklet ‘Les dernières cartouches’, containing the same paper which has guaranteed the success of the mark so far’. The cover is divided into two parts and has been simplified once again: on the front, one can read ‘dernières cartouches’ (without the article) next to one character (the hunter on foot). In the back, four characters are still present (captain Aubert, the ‘turco’, commander Lambert and a soldier). It is a four-colored reproduction: a lot of blue, less white, some red and a background with some yellow. On the backside, between the two parts, one can read the following text: ‘non gommé/automatique’.


Nowadays, in a few shops, similar booklets are sold which have been made by the Lacroix Inc. Of Wilrijk. The cover has the same drawing and mark as the one we just mentioned above, and its colors are also almost the same. On the backside, we can read ‘non gommé/automatique’ once again. The text on the inside of the cover, however, is somewhat different. It says: ‘Ce papier superfin respecte au maximum l’arôme du tabac. Papier à cigarettes - Cigarette paper - Sigarettenpapier - Zigarettenpapier’.


In 1990, 120 years after ‘les dernières cartouches’ in Bazeilles, we have shown the original booklet that we have discussed in this essay to five seventy-year-old men. They all knew the booklet from their youth, and they all responded affirmatively to our question whether the cover represents French soldiers. However, due to the red trousers of the soldiers, all five of them thought it was a fragment taken from the first World War (specifically, from 1914). Three of them were convinced that the cover represented Swiss Guards. If the soldiers of the marine-infantry could read this right now, we guess that they wouldn’t be happy at all!



Layout bye  © Caers Paul 




[1] To learn more about this war, please refer to A. Guerin, ‘La folle guerre de 1870’, Hachette, Paris, 1970, and to G Hiltermann, ‘Triomf en Neergang van Europa’, dl.I ‘Sesam Geschiedenis van de oorlog 1870-1871’, Baarn, 1988.

[2] To learn more about these troops, see J. Cogniet, ‘Bazeilles - 31 aôut - 1er septembre 1870’, 3rd edition, 1987

[3] L. Delperier, ‘Le marsouin de Bazeilles 1870’, in ‘Uniformes’, vol. 15, nr.88, May-June 1985, pp.10-15

[4] In the French army, a commander is considered to be a high officer and is called a ‘chef de bataillon’, similar to the rank of major in the Belgian army.


[6] This is a quote by the French marshal J. Gallieni (1849-1916), who in 1870 was an underlieutenant in the marine-infantry. He had his baptism of fire in Bazeilles.

[7] The event took place in Bazeilles, ‘route de Balan’. Balan is the region between Bazeilles and Sedan.

[8] G. Darien, ‘L’épaulette’, collection 10/18, Paris, 1978.

[9] It is believed that this hunter on foot is the painter himself: he is standing around watching the events

[10] In the ‘Musée de la Dernière Cartouche’, the reproduction of the painting (20,8 by 29,8 cm.) is selling very well. Its current price is 10 FF

[11] We were unable to locate this theatre. And by the way, what does its name mean?

[12] The other lettering of the name is missing on the poster of the play.

[13] Biographical information in PH. Chabert, ‘Alphonse De Neuville, L’épopée de la défaite’, Copernic, Paris, 1979, 80 pages with a lot of illustrations. See also in PH. Guilloux, ‘De Neuville, ou le désespoir dans l’art’ in ‘Uniformes’, nr. 53, January-February 1980, pp.12-19.

[14] For information concerning ‘les panoramas’ of the 19th century, see F. Robichon, ‘Detaille, de Neuville et les panoramas’ in ‘Uniformes’, nr.59, January-February 1981, pp.14-20.

[15] See ‘Encyclopédie du tabac et des fumeurs’, Le Temps, Paris, 1975, p.238.

[16] See R.V. Verbeke, ‘De jas en zijn pijp. De rookgewoonten van de Belgische soldaat in de eerste wereldoorlog’, in ‘het album van het Verbond voor Heemkunde’, 1991.

[17] We also possess a little box ‘Zig-Zag’ containing 120 booklets of cigarette paper made by the same firm.

[18] An ‘automatique’ is a booklet with papers that have been folded into one another. When one pulls out a paper, the following one takes its place. This booklet received many rewards back in 1904 and 1905.