The Mexican campaign: the first Battle of Puebla (contemporary accounts)

Author(s) : BIBESCO Prince Georges, GUINARD P.
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The first Battle of Puebla, 1862

“And now the Zouaves have begun to approach the fort; the cannonade firing at us has not stopped, but other cannons firing grapeshot have now been met by our column. Our troops continue to advance, taking cover where they can in the dips in terrain.” [Guinard]

“The general formed two columns. […] On one side (to the left), Major Cousin, at the head of a Zouave battalion, cleared the uneven terrain in front of him, and reached the foot of the glacis. On the other side (on the right), Major Morand advanced diagonally with another Zouave battalion, before falling back on Guadalupe, seeking cover from fire coming from Loretto. Two detachments of sappers follow each column. Each one is carrying a board with nailed rungs, clearly insufficient for the task but the only things that could be obtained in haste. In addition, the detachment on the left is equipped with a bag of [gun]powder intended to blow the redoubt gates.
Sensing that at that moment a daring attempt could achieve victory, the general did not hesitate to send for the battalion of chasseurs à pied which had stayed back to guard the convoy and have them directed to the position. They are intended as support troops for Cousin's battalion. The general and his staff followed the troop movements and settled at a point from where they could see and direct everything. Recognising the general's pennant on the battlefield, the enemy has focussed their fire on his position. Up to this point, there had only been a threat of death, when suddenly it arrived at his side. A cannonball landed, ricocheted, knocked sous-intendent Raoul from his horse, and threw him, dying, to the ground. The division chaplain was going by at that moment and, seeing the terrible event, hastened [to his side], dismounted, and blessed the dying man with one hand whilst holding him in the other. The priest's calm and serene benediction was a touching sight in amongst all the death that surrounded him.
And yet, ever more terrible, the battle waged on. As our columns approached the fort, the defence intensified and [the defenders] redoubled their fire. The air is filled with nothing but the uninterrupted hissing of cannonballs and bullets. To our left, the chasseurs à pied have come up on their position; and now they have launched into the fray alongside the zouaves.” [Bibesco]

The authors

Captain P. Guinard commanded the 9é régiment d'artillerie's first battery and took part in the first Battle of Puebla. His “Lettres sur la guerre du Mexique” was published in the Revue rétrospective in July 1892 (pp. 25, 92 and 172).
Prince Georges Bibesco, whose account Au Mexique, 1862 ; combats et retraite des six milles (Paris, Plon, Nourrit et Cie), was published in 1887, was dispatched by the French War Ministry as part of the first expedition. His mission was to produce written reports on the campaign. Placed under de Lorencez's command, he arrived in Mexico in March 1862.

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