Thomas Herbert Russell.

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expenditure of German lives which its construction demanded. A wonderful
work had been accomplished that Sunday morning in the livid, London-like
fog and twilight produced by the lowering clouds and battle smoke.


While the German assaulting columns in the van fought the French hand to
hand, picked corps of workers behind them formed an amazing human chain
from the woods to the east over the shoulder of the center of the
Douaumont slope to the crossroads of a network of communicating trenches
600 yards in the rear.

Four deep was this human chain, and along its line nearly 3,000 men
passed an unending stream of wooden billets, sandbags, chevaux-de-frise,
steel shelters, and light mitrailleuses - in a word, all the material for
defensive fortifications passed from hand to hand, like buckets at a
country fire.

Despite the hurricane of French artillery fire, the German commander had
adopted the only possible means of rapid transport over the shell-torn
ground covered with debris, over which neither horse nor cart could
go. Every moment counted. Unless barriers rose swiftly, the French
counter-attacks, already massing, would sweep the assailants back into
the wood.

Cover was disdained. The workers stood at full height, and the chain
stretched openly across the hillocks, a fair target for the French
gunners. The latter missed no chance. Again and again great holes were
torn in the line by the bursting melinite, but as coolly as at maneuvers
the iron-disciplined soldiers of Germany sprang forward from shelters to
take the places of the fallen, and the work went on apace.


Gradually another line doubled the chain of the workers, as the upheaved
corpses formed a continuous embankment, each additional dead man giving
greater protection to his comrades, until the barrier began to form
shape along the diameter of the wood. There others were digging and
burying logs deep in the earth, installing shelters and mitrailleuses or
feverishly building fortifications.

At last the work was ended at fearful cost; but as the vanguard sullenly
withdrew behind it, from the whole length burst a havoc of flame upon
the advancing Frenchmen. Vainly the latter dashed forward. They couldn't
pass, and as the evening fell the barrier still held, covering the
German working parties, burrowed like moles in the mass of trenches and



Approximate Positions of German Troops at Various Dates, and More
Important Actions of the Verdun Campaign in in Their Chronological
Order. - See Key to Letters and Numbers on Opposite Page.]


Key to Map on Opposite Page

Battle lines showing the approximate positions of the German troops at
Verdun at various dates are designated in the map as follows:

A. Positions Feb. 21, 1916, when German offensive was begun.

B. Positions on Feb. 23.

C. Positions on Feb. 25.

D. Positions on Feb. 27.

E. Bethincourt salient, April 7, before French retired.

F. Positions on April 18.

The more important actions of the Verdun campaign in their chronological
order are indicated as follows:

1. Germans open offensive against Verdun, piercing French lines.

2. French evacuate Haumont, Feb. 22.

3. French recapture Forest of Caures, Feb. 22, but lose it again.

4. Germans pierce French line, taking 3,000 prisoners.

5. Germans capture Brabant, Haumont, Samogneux, etc., Feb. 23.

6. Berlin reports capture of four villages and 10,000 French prisoners
Feb. 23.

7. Germans capture Louvemont and fortified positions Feb. 25. Fort
Douaumont stormed by Brandenburg corps, then surrounded by
French, but relieved by Germans March 3.

8. Germans take Champneuville Feb. 27, with 5,000 prisoners.

9. Bloody encounters at village of Eix on Woevre plain, Feb. 27.

10. Germans occupy Moranville and Haudiomont, Feb. 27.

11. Champlon and Manheuilles fall Feb. 28; 1,300 French prisoners.

12. Verdun battered and set on fire by 42-centimeter guns.

13. French evacuate Fort Vaux, after heavy bombardment, March 1.

14. Germans begin violent bombardment of Dead Man's Hill, March 1.

15. Germans capture village of Douaumont, March 2; 1,000 prisoners.

16. Fresnes captured by Germans, March 5.

17. Germans capture Forges, March 5; drive against French left wing.

18. Germans take Regneville, west of Meuse, March 6.

19. Germans capture heights of Cumieres, etc., March 7.

20. Village of Vaux taken and retaken by Germans, March 8-10.

21. Crown Prince brings up 100,000 reinforcements, March 10-12.

22. French recapture trenches March 14, with 1,000 German prisoners.

23. Struggle for heights of Le Mort Homme, March 16.

24. Germans capture positions north of Avocourt, March 20.

25. Artillery duels east of Verdun, March 25.

26. French recapture part of Avocourt Wood, March 28.

27. Germans capture Malancourt, March 29-31.

28. Heavy fighting south of Douaumont, April 2-5; French successes in
battle of Caillette woods, etc.

29. Germans recapture Haucourt, April 6.

30. Germans close in on Bethincourt salient, April 7.

31. French withdraw from Bethincourt April 9, but hold lines south.

32. French lines bombarded continuously, April 10-15, with violent
assaults but no decisive results.

So sound was the barricade, padded with sandbags and earth-works, that
the artillery fire fell practically unavailing, and the French general
realized that the barrier must be breached by explosives, as in
Napoleon's battles.

It was 8 o'clock and already pitch dark in that blighted atmosphere when
a special blasting corps, as devoted as the German chain workers, crept
forward toward the German position. The rest of the French waited,
sheltered in the ravine east of Douaumont, until an explosion should
signal the assault.

In Indian file, to give the least possible sign of their presence to the
hostile sentinels, the French blasters advanced in a long line, at first
with comparative rapidity, only stiffening into the grotesque rigidity
of simulated death when the searchlights played upon them, and resuming
progress when the beam shifted. Then as they approached the barrier they
moved slowly and more slowly. When they arrived within forty yards the
movement of the crawling men became imperceptible.

The blasting corps lay at full length, like hundreds of other motionless
forms about them, but all were working busily. With a short trowel, the
file leader scuffled the earth from under his body, taking care not to
raise his arms, and gradually making a shallow trench deep enough to
hide him. The others followed his example until the whole line had sunk
beneath the surface.

Then the leader began scooping his way forward, while his followers
deepened the furrow already made. Thus literally inch by inch the files
stole forward, sheltered in a narrow ditch from the gusts of German
machine-gun fire that constantly swept the terrain. Here and there the
sentinels' eyes caught a suspicious movement or an incautiously raised
head sank down pierced by a bullet, but the stealthy, molelike advance
continued. Hours passed. It was nearly dawn when the remnant of the
blasting corps reached the barricade at last and hurriedly put their
explosives in position. Back they wriggled breathlessly. An over-hasty
movement meant death, yet they must hurry lest the imminent explosions
overwhelm them.

Suddenly there was a roar that dwarfed the cannonade and all along the
barrier fountains of fire rose skyward, hurling a rain of fragments upon
what was left of the blasting party.


The barricade was breached, but 75 per cent of the devoted corps had
given their lives to do it.

As the survivors lay exhausted the attackers charged over them,
cheering. In the melee that followed there was no room to shoot or wield
the rifle. Some of the French fought with unfixed bayonets, like the
stabbing swords of the Roman legions. Others had knives or clubs. All
were battle-frenzied, as only Frenchmen can be.

The Germans broke, and as the first rays of dawn streaked the sky only
a small section of the wood was still in their hands. There a similar
barrier stopped progress, and it was evident that the night's work must
be repeated; but the hearts of the French soldiers were leaping with
victory as they dug furiously to consolidate the ground they had gained,
strewn with German bodies, thick as leaves. Over 6,000 Germans were
counted in a section a quarter of a mile square, and the conquerors saw
why their cannonade had been so ineffective. The Germans had piled a
second barrier of corpses close behind the first, so that the soft human
flesh would act as a buffer to neutralize the force of the shells.


While all the German attacks upon the French lines in front of Verdun
were marked with the utmost valor and intensity of devotion, the
continuous defense made by the French under General Petain was equally
vigorous and often truly heroic. Volunteers frequently remained in the
French trenches from which the rest of the French defenders had been
compelled to retire, to telephone information about the advancing enemy
to the French batteries, and some of the heaviest losses of the Germans
occurred when they believed themselves successful in an attack.

The consequences of such devotion on the part of French volunteers
were exemplified early in the morning of April 12, at a point called
Caurettes Woods, along the northeastern slopes of the hill known as Le
Mort Homme (Dead Man's Hill), where a French withdrawal had been carried
out. Volunteers remained behind to signal information to the French
batteries, and an eyewitness of the attack described what followed thus:

"The French seventy-fives immediately concentrated on the hostile trench
line. The Germans suffered heavily, but persevered, and soon dense
columns appeared amid the shell-torn brushwood on the southern fringe of
the Corbeaux Wood, pouring down into the valley separating them from the
former French position on the hillside.

"Thinking the French still held the latter, the Germans deployed
with their latest trench-storming device in the form of liquid fire
containers, with special groups of four installed, two men working the
pump and two directing the fire jet.

"The grayness of the dawn was illuminated by sheets of green and red
flame and black oily clouds rolled along the valley toward the river
like smoke from a burning 'gusher.'

"Suddenly the air was filled with shrill whistling, as shells of the
seventy-fives were hurled against the attackers. Thanks to the devoted
sentinels dying at their posts in the sea of fire, the range was exact,
and the exploding melinite shattered the charging columns.

"An appalling scene followed. The shells had burst or overthrown the
fire containers and the Germans were seen, running wildly amid the
flames which overwhelmed hundreds of wounded and disabled.


"In this scene of confusion the French charged with bayonet, despite the
furnace heat and fumes produced by the red-hot containers flying in all
directions. The enemy offered little resistance. It was like a slaughter
of frenzied animals.

"The French mitrailleuse corps pressed close on their comrades' heels,
placing weapons at vantage points that had escaped the fire and
showering a leaden hail upon the main body of Germans retreating up
Corbeaux Hill.

"Hundreds fought in a terror-stricken mob to hide in a hole that might
have sheltered a score. Those beneath were stifled. Those above threw
themselves screaming into the air as the bullets pierced them or fell
dead in a wild dash toward a safer refuge. Flushed with success,
the French charged again right to the entrance of the wood, and the
slaughter recommenced.

"Five of the heroic sentinels, wonderful to say, returned with the
French wave that ebbed when victory was won for that day."


Several determined attacks were delivered by the Germans on the French
lines at Verdun between April 15 and 20, enormous masses of men,
sometimes as many as 100,000, being hurled against points in the
northeast sector of the battle front. But the French defense held firm,
although some trenches were lost and a considerable number of French
prisoners were taken. Up to this time the total number of prisoners
taken by the Germans at Verdun, from the beginning of the offensive,
February 21, was claimed to be 711 officers and 38,155 men.

Such were the conditions before Verdun on April 20, when, with spring
well under way on the Western battle fronts, there was daily expectation
of a vigorous drive by the Allies against the German lines between
Verdun and the sea. While both sides expressed confidence in the outcome
of the war, no man could foretell with any degree of certainty what the
final result of the great struggle would be.


During the month of March and early in April a number of Zeppelin raids
upon various parts of England did more or less damage, though none of an
important military character. The east coast of Scotland also suffered
from a Zeppelin visit in April.

Reports and figures issued by the British War Office showed that during
the fifteen months from Christmas, 1914, to April 1, 1916, no fewer than
thirty-four separate aerial raids occurred in Great Britain, including
those of aeroplanes and Zeppelins. The total casualties suffered, mainly
by civilians, men, women, and children, were 303 killed and 713 injured.
This record of results is interesting when it is remembered what
they must have cost the Germans in money and men, in view of the
comparatively small amount of damage that seems to have been done.
Germany, however, insisted that her air raids had done more substantial
harm to England than the War Office would admit.


With the approach of spring in 1916, new activities began on the Eastern
front, and the Russians threatened a vigorous attack on the German lines
in the north "after the thaw." By the middle of the summer the Russians
expected, according to semi-official reports, to have twelve million men
armed, drilled, and equipped for battle.

On April 1 the Berlin government declared that in the Russian offensive
on the Eastern front, against Field Marshal von Hindenburg, which lasted
from March 18 to March 30, the losses to the Russians were 140,000 out
of the 500,000 men engaged. This campaign was carried on mostly in the
frozen terrain of the Dvinsk marshes, and along the Dvina River, and the
German losses were also heavy, although the Russian attacks were as a
rule repulsed.


In Asia Minor, however, Russian successes of the winter were crowned in
the early spring by the fall of the Baltic seaport of Trebizond, which
was occupied on April 18. This city, the most important Turkish port on
the Black Sea, was captured by the Russian army advancing from Erzerum.
Aided by the Russian Black Sea fleet, the invaders pushed past the last
series of natural obstacles along the Anatolian coast when, on Sunday,
April 16, they occupied a strongly fortified Turkish position on the
left bank of the Kara Dere River, twelve miles outside the fortified
town. The official Russian report said:

"Our valiant troops, after a sanguinary battle on the Kara Dere River,
pressed the Turks without respite, and surmounted incredible
obstacles, everywhere breaking the fierce resistance of the enemy.
The well-combined action of the fleet permitted the execution of most
hazardous landing operations, and lent the support of its artillery to
the troops operating in the coastal region.

"Credit for this fresh victory also is partly due the assistance given
our Caucasian army by the troops operating in other directions in
Asia Minor. By their desperate fighting and heroic exploits, they did
everything in their power to facilitate the task of the detachments on
the coast."


The long-continued controversy between the United States and Germany
over the methods and results of German submarine warfare came to a
climax with the torpedoing of the British channel steamer Sussex, on
March 24, 1916, in pursuance of the new German policy of attacking
merchant vessels without warning. There was no pretense that the Sussex
was an "armed merchantman," and no warning was given the passengers
and crew, the former including a number of Americans on their way from
Folkestone to the French port of Dieppe. The ship, though badly damaged,
made port with assistance, but the loss of life from the explosion
and drowning amounted to fifty, and several American passengers were
injured. Germany disclaimed responsibility for the disaster, but the
weight of evidence pointed to a German submarine as the cause, and in
view of the repeated violations of German promises to the United States
to give due warning to passenger vessels and insure safety to their
occupants, President Wilson and his advisers, in April, seriously
considered the advisability of breaking off diplomatic relations with
the German Empire, by way of a protest in the name of humanity. On April
18 the President decided to lay the whole matter before Congress.

The record of German submarine attacks involving death or injury to
American citizens up to this time included the sinking or damaging of
the following vessels: British steamer Falaba, 160 lives lost, including
one American; American steamer Gulflight, three Americans lost; British
steamship Lusitania, 1,134 lives lost, including 115 Americans; American
steamer Leelanaw, sunk; liner Arabic sunk, two Americans killed; liner
Hesperian sunk mysteriously, three days after Germany had promised to
sink no more liners; Italian liner Ancona sunk (by Austrian submarine),
with loss of American lives; Japanese liner Yanaka Maru sunk in
Mediterranean; British liner Persia sunk, United States Consul McNeely
killed; steamer Sussex attacked, several Americans seriously injured;
British steamers Manchester Engineer, Eagle Point and Berwyn Dale
attacked, endangering American members of crews.


On Wednesday, April 19, President Wilson appeared before Congress,
assembled in joint session for the purpose of hearing him, and announced
that he had addressed a final note of warning to Germany, giving the
Imperial German Government irrevocable notice that the United States
would break off diplomatic relations if the illegal and inhuman
submarine campaign was continued. The language used by the President,
after recounting the course of events leading to his action, was as

"I have deemed it my duty, therefore, to say to the Imperial German
Government that if it is still its purpose to prosecute relentless
and indiscriminate warfare against vessels of commerce by the use of
submarines, the government of the United States is at least forced to
the conclusion that there is but one course it can pursue; and that
unless the Imperial German Government should now immediately declare and
effect an abandonment of its present method of warfare against passenger
and freight-carrying vessels this government can have no choice but to
sever diplomatic relations with the government of the German Empire


Germany replied to the President's note on May 4, denying the
implication of intentional destruction of vessels regardless of their
nature or nationality, and declaring that in future no merchant vessels
should be sunk without warning or without saving human lives, "unless
the ships attempt to escape or offer resistance."

On May 8, President Wilson dispatched a reply to Germany's note,
accepting the German promises as to the future conduct of submarine
warfare, but refusing to regard them as contingent on any action between
the United States and any other country. Germany later admitted that a
German submarine sank the Sussex, and promised that the commander would
be punished and indemnities paid to the families of those who perished.

This was regarded at Washington as practically closing the submarine
controversy, and the German war-cloud, which had assumed serious
proportions, gradually passed away. ABORTIVE REVOLT IN IRELAND.

An attempt at rebellion by Irish extremists, accompanied by bloody riots
in Dublin and other cities in the south and west of Ireland, followed
the sinking on April 21 of a German vessel which, convoyed by a
submarine, endeavored to land arms and ammunition on the Irish coast.
Sir Roger Casement, an anti-British Irishman of considerable note, who
had been resident in Germany for some months, was taken prisoner upon
landing from the submarine.

For several days, beginning April 25, the rebels, who formed an
inconsiderable part of the Irish people and were strongly condemned by
the Nationalist leaders and party, held possession of streets and public
buildings in Dublin. Incendiary fires did damage estimated at over
$100,000,000, many peaceable citizens were killed, and the casualties
among British troops and constabulary amounted to 521, including
killed, before the uprising was quelled and the "Irish Republic"
overthrown, with the unconditional surrender of its deluded leaders,
on April 30. Next day the remnants of the Sinn Fein rebels in Ireland
surrendered, making over 1,000 prisoners, who were transported to
English prisons. Military law had been proclaimed throughout Ireland and
nearly a score of the leaders of the revolt, who were accused of murder,
were tried by court-martial and summarily executed. The revolt was
alleged to have been encouraged in Germany and also by Irish extremists
in the United States, by whom the rebel leaders executed in Ireland were
regarded as "martyrs."


After holding out against the Turks at Kut-el-Amara, in Mesopotamia,
for 143 days, General Townshend, the British commander, was compelled,
through exhaustion of his supplies, to surrender his force of 9,000
officers and men, on April 28. This force included about 2,000 English
and 7,000 Indian troops, many being on the sick list. The Turks
recognized the gallantry of the defense and refused to accept General
Townshend's sword. Many of the sick and wounded were exchanged, and it
was planned to imprison the rest of the British force on an island in
the Sea of Marmora.


German attacks on the French lines at Verdun continued with the utmost
vigor up to June 10. From time to time they resulted in small successes,
gained at immense cost in human life. From May 27 to May 30 the battle
raged with especial severity, this period marking the greatest effort
made by the Germans during the whole of the prolonged operations at
Verdun. The French stood firm under an avalanche of shot and shell, and
drove back wave after wave of a tremendous flood of Teutonic infantry.
The infantry fighting in this struggle was described as the fiercest of
the war.

The total German casualties up to June 1 were estimated at nearly
3,000,000; the French at 2,500,000, and the British at 600,000, over
25,000 of the latter being commissioned officers.

General Joseph S. Gallieni, former minister of war of France, died at
Versailles on May 27, universally mourned by the French, who regarded
him as the saviour of Paris in the critical days of August-September,
1914, when he was military governor of Paris and commander of the
intrenched camp.



_British and German High-Sea Fleets Finally Clash in the
North Sea - Huge Losses in Tonnage and Men on
Both Sides - _British Navy Remains in Control of the

After many months of unceasing sea patrol on the part of the British,
and of diligent preparation in port on the German side, it came at
last - the long-expected clash of mighty rival fleets in the North Sea.

It was on the misty afternoon of Wednesday, May 31, that Admiral David
Beatty, in command of Britain's battle-cruiser squadron, sighted the
vanguard of the German high-seas fleet steaming "on an enterprise to the
north" from its long-accustomed anchorages in the placid waters of the
Kiel Canal and under the guns of Helgoland.

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 38 of 49)