Spectre of Europe - An Alternative Paris Commune Timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Reydan, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1 - Two Old Men

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Author's Note:
    Hi there all, Reydan here. Longtime lurker first-time poster. This is a alternate history I've been working on for a while, but it is my first so comments and ideas are more than welcome.

    I'll cite my sources a little later, as I wanted to get the first chapter up and rolling now!

    Chapter One – Two Old Men


    Louis Auguste Blanqui sat in the physician’s window at Bretenoux and looked out over the sleepy little commune. Little birds flitted about in the still February air, moving from tree to tree, gabled roof to gabled roof. It was quiet. Ever so quiet.

    ‘I cannot answer for your health if you do take this course of action’ Dr. Simon sighed, running his gnarled hands over each other where he stood by the bed. ‘Your heart is weak. You need rest, not excitement. At your age….’
    Blanqui did not turn, but the slight rise and fall of his shoulders, an irritable action, suggested that he was not amenable to this particular line of argument. Simon however, a martyr to his profession, insisted.

    ‘I will state it plainly for you, my friend. Honestly and openly as you so often demand of those around you. Your heath will not stand much more exertion or excitement. You must be careful, and rest here in the south, or you will not live to see another spring.’

    The ram-rod straight back and greyed, close-cropped, hair in front of him did not stir.

    ‘Please, Monsieur Blanqui…’ he began, but then the figure did move. Blanqui stood, sweeping his shabby coat around him, and turned to face the concerned doctor. Tall and rail thin, piercing eyes swept over Simon in a calculating way.

    ‘No, my dear Doctor’ he said with a low yet powerful voice. ‘No. Revolution is in the air, so strong and concentrated that one has only to stick out the tongue to taste it. The Emperor has fallen. The war is over. Prussian victory has revealed the weakness of the capitalist system. Now is the time. The time to strike.’

    He swept across the room, pausing in the doorway to look back at the Doctor briefly. ‘Paris is in foment, Doctor’ he said imperiously ‘and when I am done, no man in France will be known by the honorific Monsieur.’ His hand tightened on the door knob. ‘We shall all be comrades’.



    Halfway across France another old man was having a similar conversation with his Doctor.

    ‘I do not know, really, why I bothered hauling you halfway across the country for this examination really’ Adolphe Thiers grumbled, lighting his cigar and then reaching out to light that of his companion. ‘I am completely fine. I’m certain it is just a reaction to the chill in the air’.

    Doctor Martin, a greying man as round as he was tall, still had a little height on his patron, a man many tipped to head the new post-war Government. Thiers had opposed the war with Prussia and now, in a France stinging from defeat and faced with the loss of territory demanded in the peace treaty, the man looked like a prophet. A latter day Cassandra, foretelling a doom that no-one had believed until it was too late. Doctor Martin had heard that Thiers was likely to win twenty or so Departments in his bid to become the new president.

    ‘You did right to send for me’ Martin said, puffing away and producing a huge cloud of grey-blue smoke. ‘One cannot be too careful. You are not a young man.’ He caught the twinkling amusement in his old friend’s eyes. ‘Still, I believe you have more than a decade left in you yet old boy!’ Martin chuckled.

    They turned as a uniformed officer stepped into the room after tapping softly at the door. ‘They are ready for you downstairs gentlemen’ he said before departing again.

    ‘Ahh the dangers of political life. So many banquets and feasts to attend’ chuckled Thiers. ‘Much longer in this life and I will be as round and as content as you my friend!’ He patted Martin’s straining waistcoat. ‘Just let me freshen up and then we will proceed’.

    Martin puffed away at his cigar, pondering the merits of his new students at the Medical School back in Tolouse. So much potential in those young eyes. He was startled, suddenly, by a crash from the room behind. Standing up sharply and spilling cigar ash over the carpet, he hurried to the bathroom door and yanked it open.

    Thiers lay on the tiled floor, blood pooling from a gash on his head. The side of the basin was stained deep red.

    ‘My God Adolphe!’ Martin exclaimed, kneeling and trying to pull the man up. He called for help and in the shouting and running feet he missed the whispered words of his friend. ‘What was that again my friend?’ he said, leaning closer to the pallid face.

    ‘I cannot move my legs’ Thiers whispered, his breath hot on Martin’s face. The Doctor looked down. Saw the clenched right arm. The stiff, unmoving droop of the right hand side of his old friend’s face.

    ‘Dear Christ’ he said in a low, terrible voice.

    “Whilst the historiographical tradition has been, in recent decades, to move away from the individual and towards the group and the factor as a means of understanding the past, there is no denying that in these circumstances personal misfortune did shape the 1870s for France. The collapse of Adolphe Thiers on 2nd February 1871 from a massive stroke, from which he never really fully recovered, effectively ruled him out of the Presidential election he had been all but proclaimed the winner of by this point. With the Republicans discredited and in disarray, the only option for an alarmed country was the election of Patrice de Mac-Mahon.”

    Eugen Weber, Peasants into Subjects: Modern France and the Restoration, University of California Press, 1976.

    “There could have been no Paris Commune without the presence of Auguste Blanqui in Paris in 1871.”

    George Rude, Commune, University of Oslo Press, 1980.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 2 - Cold Februaries

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Cold Februaries

    The election of Patrice de MacMahon

    With the Republican wing of the Legislative assembly in disarray, and the more moderate centrists broken by the tragedy that had befallen Thiers, the power vacuum at the top of France intensified.

    The situation itself did not promote democratic debate. Forty three departments were still occupied by German forces, Paris was isolated by the siege, and in the interest of public security meetings and demonstrations had been banned. In these stultifying conditions, only one clear voice emerged during the 1871 election.

    That voice was the commanding tones of the Duke of Magenta, Patrice de MacMahon. In his early sixties, the veteran of the Crimea and the Italian Wars was nursing a wound taken when his army was encircled by the Prussians at Sedan, but nevertheless signalled that he was willing to take control. MacMahon, a devoted monarchist and conservative, felt that only one thing would unite the country in this turmoil – a new monarchy.

    Patrice de MacMahon, new leader of France ​

    And, in the chaos of those cold February days, the stars seemed to have aligned for him. The two rival factions within the Monarchist movement were currently backing the same candidate. The Comte de Chambord, Grandson of Charles X and leader of the Legitimist wing, was only fifty one but in relatively poor health. A persistent bachelor, Chambord also received the support of the Orléanist party in the hopes that he would die without an heir and the two lines would combine in their candidate Phillipe, Comte de Paris. With MacMahon’s hands on the reigns and a Monarchist majority in the Assembly it would be possible, many hoped, to push the new monarchy through. And, in that feverish cold of February, so it turned out to be. The Republican wing of the Assembly was drubbed in the polls.

    Final results of the 1871 Legislative Assembly elections:
    Radical Republicans 38
    Moderate Republicans 72
    Liberals 53
    Orléanists 231
    Bonapartists 20
    Legitimists 224
    Total 675[1]

    It was an astonishing victory for MacMahon, erasing the shame of defeat, and it seemed that in a few weeks, when the new Government reassembled in Versailles, a long-awaited new era could begin for France. Pro-Monarchist crowds were allowed back onto the streets, waving banners and chanting “Long Live the Restoration”. Brittany, most Royalist of strongholds, seemed to largely drink itself in a stupor for a whole week after the election.

    Henry, Comte de Chambord, now styling himself Henry V​

    So overwhelming were the festivities that it took a little while for MacMahon and his government to realise the teething problems of the new Restoration. Chambord, now awaiting coronation as Henry V, was proving a little too intractable. It started with a few minor issues, but very soon missives were flying around the ersatz court at Tours. The new King wanted to return to the Fleur de Lys flag of his ancestors, scrapping the Republican tricolour. His court was instantly swollen with Legitimists and Orleanists who poured out of the woodwork, but MacMahon and his ministers found that the King simply refused to work with those officials trained under the Bonapartist years, narrowing the pool of appointees for top jobs to men who had been in Government before 1850.

    “We must be weary lest His Majesty alienate his new subjects before the crown touches his head.”
    Minister for the Interior, Charles Beulé, to Prime Minister MacMahon, 1871.

    Most crucially, however, and most frustrating for MacMahon, was Henry V’s refusal to move from Tours before the coronation. Never an admirer of Paris, the new King proclaimed his desire to re-occupy the city from the Prussians with crown firmly in place. Little did he know that, around 150 miles away, events in his new capital were beginning to spiral out of control.

    Whilst France became a Monarchy, Paris was becoming something else entirely.


    So now the butterflies start to flap their wings. Next post will deal with events in Paris with Blanqui at the helm
  3. RyuDrago Italian? Yes, but also Roman

    Nov 30, 2010
    A French King, and of fresh election, disregarding Paris? Well this will not surely end well... so, subscribed.
    lucaswillen05 and Knightmare like this.
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 3 - The Madness of March

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Three – The Madness of March

    Thanks RyuDrago!

    A Parisian insurrection which repeats the old mistakes no longer has any chance of success today.
    August Blanqui, Manual for an Armed Insurrection, 1866.

    Blanqui and the other leaders of the new Commune are proclaimed by the crowd of citizens, National Guard, and mutinous soldiers​

    Since the armistice with the Prussians Paris had been in foment. Deprived off food, having suffered a long and draining siege, and with a population swollen by refugees from the occupied territories and stripped of the well-to-do who had fled the city as the Prussians advanced, Paris simmered through the cold of February.

    Ballot papers had arrived in the city but, really, the electoral process had been a farce. Too many men cut off from the registers, or unable to prove their identities, meant that turn-out was almost non-existent. Democracy found, instead, a new home in the cafes of the city. Café life had, despite the privations of the siege which had seen even the elephants in the city zoo killed for meat, not abated. And now these little spaces became talking shops. Men and women came together, argued, debated, socialised, and generally connected. It was a fervid atmosphere of defiance. One that Blanqui was only peripherally aware of.

    Cloistered in his own rooms near Place de Bastille, Blanqui was instead reconstructing his cadres. Unlike other socialist thinkers of the time, Blanqui cared little for the working-class as a revolutionary force. Everything in his ideology was a call to arms on their behalf, but he had never believed that they themselves would rise up. Revolutions, he told those young earnest men and women who gathered around him in his dingy flat, needed to be led. To be forced. Blanquism was the midwife of the new world, prepared to rip it kicking and screaming into being. Lead, he told his young cadres, and they will follow.

    So cloistered was Blanqui that he almost missed his opportunity to lead. The morning of 18th March dawned early, dew crisping the streets, and the people of Montmartre, one of the poorer suburbs of the city, almost missed the heavy tramp of military boots. Some, opening windows to look out, assumed the dark dressed men, huddled up against the cold, were National Guardsmen. But as they climbed the hill to where the battery was parked, rumours began to fly. Around 170 cannons, of the 400 old fashioned pieces left in Paris, had been placed on the hill by the National Guard for safe-keeping. Now, under orders from MacMahon himself, two brigades of regular army infantry were assembling to take the cannons away.

    Yet, as his men reached the unguarded heights and began to limber up the guns, General Clement-Thomas realised his mistake. No horses. No wagons. Nothing to draw the guns away. As the morning dew burned away in the sun, crowds began to gather. “Don’t take our guns” shouted women, wrapped in shawls, at the young soldiers. “We have done you no harm” shouted men “ we only want to be safe!”. In other places the atmosphere was less tense, picket lines disrupted by civilians appearing with cups of coffee or baskets of bread, sharing meagre supplies with the hungry soldiers. As the morning wore on and the horses Clement-Thomas had sent for failed to arrive, his officers watched discipline disintegrate. More and more of the men were fraternising with ordinary Parisians.

    When the horses did arrive, around midday, the result was electric. The crowd, agitated by the realisation the guns might be taken, began to beg and plead with the soldiers, arguing and cajoling them. “Fix bayonets” the order rippled down the line but, faced with women and children, few men drew the inches of gleaming steel their officers required. Clement-Thomas, having helped crush the 1848 uprising, knew the writing was on the wall. His subaltern’s order to fire on the crowd did not even see a single musket raised and the only things leaving on the horses were Clement-Thomas and his staff, pursued by the jeers and catcalls of both the crowd and his erstwhile soldiers.[1]

    Emboldened, the crowd surged towards the Hotel de Ville. It was only the quick actions of Blanqui’s young protégé Emile Eudes, who jerked the old man awake, that allowed the cadres to arrive before the new government of Paris was announced. Nevertheless, Blanqui’s revolutionary zeal and fame afforded him a prominent place – as he arrived the old man was hefted onto the shoulders of the crowd and carried up the stairs to the balcony. There he was proclaimed Provisional President until an election could be held. His deputies, called for by the crowd rather than chosen by the somewhat stunned Blanqui, were the journalist Louis Charles Delescluze and the Radical Republican MP Felix Pyat.

    Standing on shaky legs Blanqui proclaimed, in a hoarse voice the tumultuous crowd had to strain to hear, the proclamation of a new people’s government. It would take as its name the traditional body of organisation that had existed since medieval times and achieved so much fame in the French Revolution.

    It would be called the Paris Commune.

    [1] OTL General Clement-Thomas was captured by some of his men trying to escape in civilian clothes and met a nasty fate. ITTL he'll have a different path to take in life.
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  5. Jonathan Edelstein Rooted Cosmopolitan

    Oct 25, 2009
    Kew Gardens, NY
    The king may not last long enough to be crowned, though, since Henri seems to be making himself unacceptable in all the same ways he did IOTL.
    Knightmare likes this.
  6. DanMcCollum P-WI

    May 29, 2011
    Wauwatosa, WI
    I don't know much about French history in this era (save for seeing a rather too-long experimental French film ...) So I really have little to add of substance. Bit I'm looking styles this as a chance to learn more! Totally following :)
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 4 - 200,000 Rifles

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Four – 200,000 Rifles

    Thanks Jonathan Edelstein! Yeah, Chambord OTL actually missed his chance to be King through being so intractable.

    Great to hear. Was the film the Peter Watkins one about the Commune by any chance?

    Author's Note: Should I keep footnotes about what my changes are ITTL? What do you guys think?

    “Blanquism was, in essence, a military creed in 1871. Regardless of what it became later, and what historians have claimed, armed force lay at the heart of Blanqui’s ideas of revolution. No new society without revolution, no revolution without force, no force without arms.”
    Francois Furet, Blanqui, University of Nantes Press, 1993.

    When the crowds settled down it became clear that, for now, Blanqui was at the helm. Although, this was not what it looked like to contemporaries. The first hours of the Commune’s existence were governed by a flurry of pronouncements from Delescluze and Pyat. Working men’s tools were redeemed from pawn shops. Crèches established. Prisoners freed from the prisons of the capital. And, inevitably, the haphazard Communal election sketched out. All men over the age of eighteen were to be allowed to vote in their arrondissement. Delescluze, the idealist, had wanted a council of 92 – one member for every 20,000 residents of the city – but Pyat and Blanqui had argued him down to a more workable number of 60. Aware that their seizure of power could turn sour at any moment, the triumvirate pushed for the election to be held the following week.

    Blanqui, however, was more interested in the existing powerbase. The seizure of power that day had, in effect, left the National Guard Committee in effective control. They had proclaimed the Commune and hoisted the three men around the small table in the Hotel de Ville to prominence. Now, in Blanqui’s mind, they needed to be brought into line. Moulded into an effective tool of revolution.

    A National Guard unit poses for a picture at one of the outer forts of Paris​

    The National Guard, originally a volunteer force, had been bolstered by conscription during the Prussian siege. It was, officially, a solid force but, as Blanqui well knew, in reality a mess. The force existed more on paper than anywhere else. Its officers, volunteers themselves, had no idea how many men were in their units at any given time, and the men were prone to leaving their posts to have meals at home as they had during the siege. As a political faction, too, the National Guard was riven with factions. Each unit, belonging to an arrondissement of Paris, had its own local loyalties. Blanqui knew, from the reports, that senior officers were much surer about the commitment to the Commune of units from poorer areas of the city than they were of units from the more well-to-do arrondissements.
    Blanqui’s solution was three appointments to the Guard.

    Louis Rossel, Chief of Staff​

    Louis Rossel, only 27, was appointed Chief of Staff. The young officer, trained at one of the leading military academies in the country, was to report directly to Blanqui and given wide-ranging organisational powers over the National Guard. Not a Blanquist exactly, the young man was a fellow traveller.

    Jaroslaw Dombrowski, General in Chief

    Jaroslaw Dombrowski, a Polish revolutionary who had fled the failed uprising against the Czar in 1862, was given direct command of the National Guard as General in Chief. Blanqui was less certain of this appointment, or the cadre of Polish officers Dombrowski brought with him, but was convinced by Delescluze and Pyat. Both more Internationalist than Blanqui, they urged him to make use of the military experience the Poles offered.

    General Gustave Cluseret​

    The final appointment, Gustave Cluseret, was a more obvious choice. A radical republican and a veteran of the American Civil War, Cluseret had hoped for the top job occupied by Rossel. Instead he was given direct control over the outer ring of fortifications that protected the capitol.

    The three men, despite their differences, gelled instantly. Within hours of his appointment Rossel was scouring Paris for the 200,000 rifles and 1100 cannons held there and began to centralise the Commune’s hodge-podge arsenal. Dombrowski, meanwhile, turned up the following morning at 5am to kick the well-dressed members of the respectable 8th Arrondissement National Guard (Champs-Élysées section) out of their barracks for three hours of drill. Cluseret was less predictable in his movements, already a frustration to Commune leadership, but over the first week it was noted that bands of workmen began to remove many of the larger trees from municipal parks around Paris.

    Next update - back to the Royalists!
    moopli, Time Enough, Enzo and 8 others like this.
  8. Positively Indecent Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2010
    Peoples Republic of New Jersey
    I confess that this is a subject that I know little about but I'm interested already. Will the intractable nature of the king lead to greater sympathy for the Commune ITTL I wonder.
    tuxer likes this.
  9. Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter 3.5 - Ch-ch-changes

    In deference to my kind readers, I've decided to spell out the changes between OTL and TTL here. I'll add them into future posts.

    1. The main POD here is a linked one. In 1871 Thiers was elected President and went on to arrest Blanqui who was ill at the time. In this timeline Thiers collapses from a stroke, leaving Blanqui free to return to Paris.

    2. There were talks of making Chambord king after the suppression of the Commune but, as previously noted in the comments, he was jut too difficult to work with and the Royalists missed their windows. ITTL MacMahon, a devoted monarchist, pushes the decision through as President (now Primeminister)

    3. The Commune's leadership was, at best, completely chaotic. OTL Delescluze was a sort of vague leader, but really the unwieldy council of 92 scuppered practical decision making. ITTL Blanqui, who was elected OTL leader of the Commune despite being in prison outside of Paris, is on hand to offer a controlling and directing voice.

    I think that about covers the changes! Next post is an internal view of the Royalists and then things start to heat up.
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 5 - Assemble in April

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Five – Assemble in April!

    MacMahon, ensconced in Tours for over a week as the Commune took shape in Paris, estimated that he would need 150,000 men to supress the revolt. Little was known about what was happening in the capital. All was chaos, Clement-Thomas’s breathless arrival speaking of another 1848, the streets again filled with barricades and armed paupers. MacMahon had noted, darkly, that neither the cannons nor the majority of Clement-Thomas’s men reappeared over the following days.

    The upheaval of the recent war with Prussia had bled France badly, and it was taking all of the new Royal government’s efforts to assemble the shattered remnants of the French Army. It was not all bad. A large contingent of the Breton National Guard had diverted from Paris, wanting nothing to do with the madness of popular insurrection, and been ordered from their bivouacs near Versailles to the marshalling camps at Tours. There they rubbed shoulders with the first regiment of the Foreign Legion, battle hardened after time in Mexico as well as on the Prussian front, and Zouave units from North Africa, their colourful costumes causing them to shiver in the cool spring air.

    Soldiers slowly reassemble as the Royal Army in Tours, April 1871​

    Macmahon also had most of the cavalry. From his ministry office he could see a squadron polishing their already gleaming cuirasses in the square below.

    Polishing for the coronation.

    Finally, after significant cajoling and handling from his ministers, Henry V was ready to be crowned. The towering gothic marble of the cathedral at Tours rang to the sounds of preparation already. Crowds of well-dressed hangers on were already beginning to file past the rows of parade-dressed soldiers. MacMahon frowned. No cannons for the salute though. So far only small batteries had been salvaged. The army, scattered to the four winds by the Prussian advance, was only slowly coming back together, and so far MacMahon had a large store of powder and shell but few cannons to fire them.

    The door scraped open and the King stood there, resplendent in his uniform for the coronation, and MacMahon shot to his feet.

    “Patrice” the King smiled, striding to the window and looking out at the parade ground.

    “Your majesty” MacMahon replied, uncertainly, watching his new monarch.

    “I have your new Corps commander here” the King said, gesturing to the figure in the doorway.

    MacMahon’s eyes narrowed as he surveyed the tall moustachioed figure in the doorway. The Marquis of Galliffet stood, rake thin, arms folded across his chest. He did not salute, merely inclining his head and letting the medals on his chest rattle a little. He was a hot-head, though MacMahon. He had been injured too early at Sedan to see Galliffet take part in the series of cavalry charges that tried to break the infantry out of the trap, but he had heard about it. Heard about the screaming bloody chaos of those attacks. Talented, yes, but rapidly promoted from colonel to brigadier then. And now to general?

    “The Marquis is leaving” Henry V said, still looking out at the square below. “Taking two thirds of the cavalry. We must stop these godless rebels before they advance on Versailles. Before they damage the precious heritage of our Kingdom.” He turned to face MacMahon and questions died in the Prime Minister’s mouth. The King finally seemed to have found his spine. “Galliffet will establish a perimeter around the city. Secure Versailles. Stop the rot spreading. We will follow on next week”.

    Surprised by his King’s sudden activity MacMahon could merely nod and follow him from the room as the bells of the cathedral began to peel.

    Across town a huddle of be-suited men stood in the light rain at the railway station.

    “I am going” announced Leon Gambetta, hefting the case in his hands.

    “But the coronation?” began one of the other men, a younger member of the Radical Republican faction. “If you are not seen to be there?”

    “Young man” Gambetta replied, fixing him with a baleful eye. “I did not pronounce a republic in February to see it entombed in April.” He sighed. “I am going to Spain” he said, the set of his face ending conversation as effectively as a full stop.[1]

    As the other men trailed away, back towards the Cathedral, Gambetta looked over at the one remaining man. “What about you Louis?” he asked.
    The sixty-year old socialist stood there, his heavy coat flapping around him, and looked downcast. “I cannot” he said softly. “Cannot leave France again. I was in exile during the Empire and I will not go again so soon. Nor can I go to Paris. This madness….it is no Republic”. As Gambetta watched the man shook his hand, turned, and made his melancholy way back through the grey streets of the rain-slicked city.[2]

    Alone on the platform Gambetta climbed into the train and settled into his seat. A dowdy looking old woman and her frail husband looked reprovingly at him as his coat and hat splashed water into the cabin.

    “Look on the bright-side madam” Leon smiled. “At least we are not travelling by balloon”.[3]


    [1] Gambetta did, in 1871 after the Republicans did badly in the polls, go to Spain for a holiday IOTL.

    [2] Louis Blanc didn't approve of the Commune IOTL too, despite being a leading socialist. There will be some butterflies with him though.

    [3] IOTL Gambetta flew out of Paris, under siege by the Prussians, in a hot air balloon to rally the nation after Sedan.
    moopli, Time Enough, halfcoop and 7 others like this.
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 6 - Onwards to Versailles

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Six – Onwards to Versailles

    “Compare these Parisians, storming heaven, with the slave to heaven of this newly restored French Kingdom, with its posthumous masquerades reeking of the barracks, the Church, musty-legitimism and above all, of the philistine.”
    Karl Marx, Private Letter, 12th April 1871

    “Bold, ever so bold, and bloody”
    The Times of London muses on the Versailles offensive.

    The Commune needed to expand or die. Blanqui, by the tail of end of April President of a newly elected Commune of sixty members, was convinced of this. His “party”, if the loose collection of cadres and supporters could be called such, performed moderately well in the election. Eighteen of sixty seats were held by Blanqui and his supporters. A further twenty four were held by International Socialists, devotees of the broad church of left wing groups meeting across Europe in this period, and the rest were filled with an array of trade unionists, independent radicals, and a few erstwhile members of the Radical Republicans. It was a fractious group, torn over how to enact the Revolution in Paris, and it took considerable skill to wield it.

    Yet despite Blanqui’s distaste for democracy and the chaos of elections, he found two unlikely allies. Eugene Varlin, a bookbinder and trade unionist, and Leo Frankel, a Hungarian Jew, emerged from the array of Members as leading and earnest voices. Frankel was, given his extraction, an obvious internationalist, whilst Varlin was closer to the ideas of the anarchist Pierre-Jean Proudhon. But both young men supported Blanqui’s call for decisive action.

    Just over ten miles from the centre of Paris, to the west, lay the city of Versailles. Home to the opulent palace of the former kings of France, its very existence conferred legitimacy on the new Henry V who had already announced his intention to settle his court there once the “present unrest” as he put it was over. It was also, currently, where a decent stockpile of weapons and material had been assembled by the Royalist Government. Although no out-right hostilities had occurred between the Commune and the Royalists the two sides were wary. This, Blanqui urged the committee, was a matter of strike first or regret later.

    Thus, on a warm morning on 2nd May, merry with the excesses of a May Day that had consumed much of the alcohol in Paris’ bars and cafes, a column of 8000 Guardsmen left Paris under the command of another Polish commander Walery Wroblewski. Reaching Versailles around noon, they came up against the 3000 gendarmes guarding the city. The situation was tense, the Communards certain that their “fellow comrades” would not open fire. For a moment or two the lines hesitated, drawn up opposite each other, and then the Gendarme officer ordered his men to fall back, dispersing into the nearby countryside. Wroblewski, shocked, did not look a gift horse in the mouth.[1]

    For much of the afternoon his men were given free reign to roam the palace and gardens, feasting on left-over supplies and posing for pictures in the halls and ballrooms of the grand palace. Surprisingly little damage was done, save for a statue of Louis XIV that was toppled by some men from the Entrepot (10th Arrondissement) section with crowbars and hammers. The only productive activity, apart from the posting of sentries, was the detachment of engineers that Rossel had sent with the expedition who, within an hour, had the forty four cannons left behind in the Gendarme camp hitched up and rolling back to Paris.

    Overlooking the scene, however, were the gendarmes. Retired in good order they had joined up with the Royalist force arrived under the Marquis of Galliffet. 3000 infantry paired with 15,000 cavalry. Slowly, carefully, Galliffet began to position his men for the strike that evening.

    [1] IOTL The Commune did attempt an advance on Versailles, twice, but were beaten back quite easily. Here the gendarmes pull back to allow them into the trap.
  12. guinazacity Banned

    Oct 15, 2011
    In a mud hut
    Well, fuck.

    That general better have drilled their soldiers to exaustion, because they'll need it.
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 7 - Terrible Surprise

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Seven – Terrible Surprise: The Battle of Versailles

    You'll have to wait and see!

    "Seize them"
    Galliffet's only order given during the Battle of Versailles 2-3 May 1871

    "It was a night I will never forget, as much as I wish I could. It is etched into my mind."
    Emile Georges, Communard National Guardsmen, remembers the battle

    It started at dusk, ripples of fire sparking from the muskets of the pickets as they fired into the sky, alerting their units that the Royalists had arrived. Panicked Communard soldiers ran to their unit colours as officers shouted orders. Gendarme soldiers were pushing up the main road of the town in the dying light and it was only quick thinking by a Communard Captain whose detachment had been billeted in a furniture warehouse that their advance towards the railway station was blocked. Soon around 2000 of the National Guardsmen were locked in a sporadic and disorganised fire-fight with Gendarmes across the southern part of the city.

    Wroblewski, who had set up his command post in a hotel opposite the famous Palace, dispatched a staff adjunct with a report back to Rossel. Some on his staff were counselling caution, not needing to overextend the Commune’s forces by calling for aid when they were only under attack by a handful of military police. Wroblewski was less convinced – why, he argued, had the Gendarme fallen back earlier if they were planning to fight?
    The Communard General, marked out by his red-sash, made it across the cobbled courtyard of the Palace and out into the verdant gardens beyond when the first dragoon cavalry swept over the low ornamental hedges and ploughed into the half assembled ranks of Guardsmen.

    The National Guard of Paris was not a veteran force. Trapped behind the city walls it had resisted a siege but largely by existing rather than fighting. Now, taken by complete surprise, it started to waver. It was a company on the right that went first, slashed at by green-coated dragoons its surviving men fled back towards the ornate windows of the palace. Soon a stream of men were following them, Wroblewski and his staff officers caught up in the flood of panicked men. Above their heads a sharp volley from some of the more trained and drilled men on the first floor drove off the attacking cavalry men, but it was becoming clear to the Communards that they were surrounded. The white faces surrounding the general all spoke the same terrified story of realisation.

    Down in the streets of the town cuirassiers wheeled and charged, their horses’ hooves sparking on the cobbles as they ran down fleeing Guardsmen. Galliffet’s plan seemed to be working, as the stiffer opposition in the town was chipped away by the terror of the cavalry attack. The Gendarmes, however, were having difficulties. Pushing up the street they were caught by fire from the buildings that struck at cavalrymen and infantry alike, spattering the dusky streets with blood and gore. Pushing back into the houses, those Communards who were not already fleeing into the rapidly approaching night were finding that houses were their best hope for protection.

    Back in the courtyard, around those ornate gates, Wroblewski assembled his remaining Guardsmen into a massed column. In the face of cavalry attack his only hope, he told his men in the darkening night, was to push as one back to Paris. It was a terrible advance, many of the survivors remembered afterwards, crawling down the street in a massed column, so thick with men in places that it resembled a dark sinuous snake. At every crossroads his men exchanged fire with cavalrymen circling them, muskets and pistols blazing into the night, and wounded men were dragged or carried with them. This group mopped up surviving pockets of Communards elsewhere, adding them to the formation, as it made its ragged way to the bridge over the river.

    Here Galliffet struck. His only artillery, a small battery of horse guns, opened fire. No sooner had the first shells ripped into the tightly packed unit than everyone was running. Screaming shoving terror in the dark of the night as men scrambled back to Paris. The horses were amongst them, slashing and cutting, and when Wroblewski turned to help up a junior officer who had stumbled beside him he was slashed down with a sabre.

    Within two hours of the attack, the Communard force was in complete rout and fleeing headfirst for Paris.
  14. zeppelinair これ以上の詳細は略する

    Jul 20, 2013
    이렇게 된 이상 청와대로 간다
    Oh, I'm enjoying this. Please continue
  15. guinazacity Banned

    Oct 15, 2011
    In a mud hut
    Damn :(

    Well, I hope those mistakes wisen up the commune's leadership. They are outnumbered and need to act accordingly.
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 8 - The Ruins of Billancourt

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Eight – The Ruins of Billancourt

    Thanks Zeppelinair!

    Just wait and see.

    Chapter Eight – The Ruins of Billancourt

    "Stand firm. Stand here. Stand for each other"
    Emile Eudes, Blaquist Deputy, rallies retreating Guardsmen as they flee into the city.

    Come on. Big Victory.
    Be quick. Bring horses"
    Galliffet's scrawled order to the commander of his rear-guard, Major Henri Heroux.

    Boulogne-Billancourt had been a wealthy new suburb of Paris. Part of the Haussmanisation of the city, expanding and modernising the old medieval core, the area had attracted a number of wealthy residents and grand houses. These had all but been destroyed in the Prussian siege. Now Billancourt was a field of ruins and half-destroyed houses across the Seine from the small suburb of Sevres. On the route that the routing Communards needed to take into Paris.

    As the ragged remainder of Wroblewski’s column staggered through the darkness, having somehow evaded the pursuing cavalrymen, they were met by flaming torches across the river. Rossel, fuelled by a mixture of adrenaline and ersatz-coffee made from ground-up hazelnuts, had arrayed relief forces across the mouth of the bridge to prevent any Royalist attack. His men were shocked as the remnants of the Versailles column staggered in, and the clerks in his detachment buried their faces in their notebooks so as to avoid his ashen visage.

    Of the 8,000 Communard National Guard that had left the city that morning, now, at midnight, around 3,000 were able to stagger back to the bridges. More stragglers, over the following day, made it back into Paris, but a full half of Wroblewski’s force was lost, Wroblewski himself amongst them. In fact, the majority of the force’s staff officers were gone – the most senior remaining officer was a Major from the 13th Arrondissement, a cobbler in day to day life. Many men had lost their rifles in the panicked flight, more had left behind supplies and bivouacs, and as the rain began to drum down onto the assembled men Rossel’s confidence began to fade.

    The detachment at the bridge, maybe some 2,000 Rossel had scrapped together at short-notice, huddled in the darkness, watching the road. He almost didn’t notice, scanning the crumpled pages despondently as his men handed them to him, the arrival of the fresh column from the city. “It was only when Jaroslaw swung down from the saddle and splashed me with the rain water from his coat in the process that I became aware of myself” Rossel was to recall years later.

    Across the Seine, in the pitch blackness of night, Galliffet was also struck by the circumstance. The fight, although victorious, had been bloody. The infantry attached to his forces had come out worst – of 3,000 maybe 1,700 were combat ready by midnight. Many were dead or wounded, others guarding Communard prisoners, and still more wandering the night-time countryside looing for their units. Col. Fentenoux, commander of the Gendarme detachment, was already sullenly considering the accusations he would later level at Galliffett for so carelessly disregarding his men. But Galliffet was a cavalryman first and foremost and, with around 13,000 of his mounted troops ready for action he felt confident in continuing the attack. Leaving 2,000 to stay behind with the Gendarmes at Versailles, he led the remaining force towards Sevres and the bridge to Paris.

    “Dark like a Rome destroyed by Vandals, all echoing ruin and terrible blackness” recalled one of his officers later. The column found Sevres deserted, save for a few alarmed civilians, and pushed on towards the bridge. It, too, was clear, and as they crossed the stone structure Galliffet joked with some of the hussar units about watering their horses in the Tuilleries Gardens the following day. It was the sparkle of campfires to the left that attracted attention, but Galliffet’s men were unable to react before the first shells fell amongst his units. Explosions tore men and animals apart, showering the survivors with rubble from the buildings surrounding them, and it was only quick thinking by the commander of the lead regiment that saw the whole column wheel towards the park where the flashes of fire were coming from.

    The Bois de Boulogne, a great park gifted to the city by the now deposed Emperor, was a familiar place for many of Galliffet’s officers for one reason. The Hippodrome de Longchamps was a major favourite of the rich and famous in French society and, before the war, many officers had flocked there to watch the races. Now, as their men cantered onto the edge of the field amid a slight crackle of small arms fire, their grins widened. The Communard artillery was arrayed across the race course from them, lined up and vulnerable with only a few thousand infantry to support. As the odd bullet found its mark Galliffet had his officers line up their men. And then, with the thunder of hooves, they charged.

    If any of the cavalrymen recognised the actions of the Communards stepping behind their artillery pieces and beginning to work crank handles is unclear. The existence of the Mitrailleuse had been a closely guarded secret in 1870 to the extent that many of the units issued with them had no idea how to use them against the Prussians. But now, as the cranks turned and the strange putter putter of bullets began to fly, the power of the weapon in the open field became clear. Horses and men tumbled. As the cavalry pressed on, tightly packed into the racecourse, Communard musket fire joined the action. More men fell, reeling, or were sent flying as their horses collapsed. Suddenly a glorious charge was turning into a scattered and chaotic bloodbath and, as the moon came out from behind a cloud to reveal the cannons behind the Communard lines, shells became to hit the rear ranks.

    Panic swept through Galliffet’s force, unsupported by any artillery or infantry, and units began to wheel and break off. Those currassiers who did charge home were soon caught in the hedges and jumps of the race course laid out by Dombrowski to trip the horses. As Galliffet’s men began to peel back the Communards advanced, bayonetting horses and men as they went, dragging prisoners from the ground. Retreat turned to rout and, within minutes, thousands of panicked men and animals were streaming back across the bridge into Sevres. Soon all that remained of Galliffet’s force on the Parisian side of the river were the dead, the dying, and the bedraggled prisoners.

    For now, as both forces withdrew to consolidate, the first Battle of the French Civil War was over. Stalemate.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  17. Unknown Member

    Jan 31, 2004
    Corpus Christi, TX
    How far are you going with this?
    FratStar likes this.
  18. guinazacity Banned

    Oct 15, 2011
    In a mud hut
    Oooh yeah.

    Come on communards, it's rich-eating time!
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 9 - The Law of Suspects

    Reydan Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2015
    Chapter Nine: The Law of Suspects

    I'm not sure, to be honest. One way or another I will resolve the conflict between the Royalists and the Communards.

    Did you have anything you'd like me to cover?

    I feel like I keep answering your points with "you'll see" but...y'know...."you'll see"

    Chapter Nine - The Law of Suspects

    "Immediately after the publication of the present decree, all suspects within the territory of the Republic and still at large, shall be placed in custody.
    The following are deemed suspects:

    1– Those who, by their conduct, associations, comments, or writings have shown themselves partisans of tyranny or federalism and enemies of liberty..."

    Opening text of the original Law of Suspects, 1793.

    Paris was in turmoil that morning. The 3rd of May was chaos. Bedraggled soldiers from Wroblewski’s column caused a stir as they were marshaled back to the Hotel de Ville. Much of the city had been up all night, listening anxiously to the booming exchanges coming from the Bois de Boulogne.

    As the morning dawned frantic crowds surrounded the deputies as they assembled at the Hotel de Ville, demanding action. Men and women shouted and argued, delivered impromptu speeches from lampposts, and thronged the streets and alleys around the centre of the Commune's government. Unaware of what was going on at Billancourt, the assembly under Blanqui voted almost unanimously for an introduction of the Law of Suspects.

    The original law, put in place in the darkest days of the original First Republic, had given the government sweeping powers to arrest and punish anyone suspected of attempting to subvert or overthrow the new revolutionary regime. Now, in the fetid atmosphere of that May morning a young Blanquist deputy stood to argue the case for a new Law of Suspects.

    Raoul Rigault

    Raoul Rigault was only twenty five, but looked much older, and had been a committed follower of Blanqui from his teenage years. Now, standing in the assembly room with the cries of the crowd ringing outside, he called for the Law of Suspects to be returned. Paris was in danger, he argued, and that required drastic action. The Commune had not been elected unanimously - who knew, Rigault argued, what sorts of people lurked in Paris? What if the column had been betrayed? What if there were traitors within?

    Normally those deputies who were not Blanquists, and less committed to dictatorial control, might have objected. But now, in the panic, they voted Rigault as Police Commissioner and fellow, but more moderate, Blanquist Theophile Ferre as his superior Minister of Justice. Rigault left immediately to establish his force, and the Commune turned to the next matter at hand, the unusual commandeering of black paint, straw, and winter coats by General of Defence Clusseret.

    Before they could delve too deeply into the general's unusual behaviour, though, they were interrupted by the crowd. The doors of the Hotel de Ville burst open and Rossel was carried in on the shoulders of his men. The Chief of Staff looked as though he had aged a decade, but he was smiling. In the square outside the tramp of boots and grinding of wheels announced the return of his men and guns from Billancourt.

    "Organiser of Victory!" the crowd cried, a reference to Lazare Carnot, the technocrat deputy who had supplied the Revolutionary armies from scratch in the 1790s. He had, when he was finally put down, a solid report to read to the deputies in a tired but calm voice.

    The Battle of Billancourt had been bloody. The Communards had lost some 300 men, but the Royalists had lost more. Much more. Although the majority of Galliffet's force had escaped, over five thousand men and even more horses were dead or captured. The route into the city was secure, overlooked by one of the forts now commanded by Clusseret, and for now the Commune had avenged its defeat at Versailles.

    Yet, beyond the hills surrounding the city, the Royalist army was on the march.
  20. zeppelinair これ以上の詳細は略する

    Jul 20, 2013
    이렇게 된 이상 청와대로 간다
    Will we see a surviving Communist France? ;)
    The civil war rages on...
    Nuka1 likes this.