Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crossing the Marne


‘Sunday, the 6th of March [1644], I went to Charenton, two leagues from Paris, to hear and see the manner of the French Protestant Church service. The place of meeting they call the Temple, a very fair and spacious room, built of freestone, very decently adorned with paintings of the Tables of the Law, the Lord's Prayer, and Creed. The pulpit stands at the upper end in the middle, having an inclosure of seats about it, where the Elders and persons of greatest quality and strangers, sit; the rest of the congregation on forms and low stools, but none in pews, as in our churches, to their great disgrace, as nothing so orderly, as here the stools and other cumber are removed when the assembly rises. I was greatly pleased with their harmonious singing the Psalms, which they all learn perfectly well, their children being as duly taught these, as their catechism.

In our passage, we went by that famous bridge over the Marne, where that renowned echo returns the voice of a good singer nine or ten times. ‘

John Evelyn writes in his diary, on March 6, 1644 of crossing the Marne River.  It was much easier for him to pass in 1644, than it was for Count Gebhard von Blucher 170 years later, in his battles with Napoleon.  Walter Scott’s “Life of Napoleon” discusses the strategy for entering Paris.

‘A general council of war, held at the castle of Brienne, now resolved that the two armies (although having so lately found the advantage of mutual support) should separate form each other, and that Blucher, detaching himself to the northward, and uniting under his command the division of Yorck and Kleist, both of whom had occupied St. Dizier and Vitry, should approach Paris by the Marne; while Prince Schwartzenberg and the Grand Army should descend on the capital by the course of the Seine.  The difficulty of finding provisions for such immense armies was doubtless in part the cause of his resolution.  But it was likewise recommended by the success of a similar plan of operations at Dresden, and afterwards Leipsic, where the enemies of Buonaparte approached him from so many different quarters, as to render it impossible for him to make head against one army, without giving great opportunity of advantage to the others…’

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