W. (William) Harding.

Dreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age online

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words did not have the sense evil minds have sought to give them."


M. Labori theu had General Gonse called to the bar, and asked him if
he had not used the alleged confession of Dreyfus in opposing Colonel Pic-
quart's arguments in favor of a revision.

General Gonse replied that he had not, whereupon M. Labori asked
that the letters exchanged between General Gonse and Colonel Picquart
should be read.

The clerk of the court began to read a letter which began " My dear
Picquart," when General Gonse interrupted him and asked that Colonel
Picquart's previous letter be read first, but, as the letter was not available
for the moment, the reading of all the letters was adjourned until Septem-
ber 1st.

Major Forzinetti, who was governor of the Cherche-Midi Prison during
the time Dreyfus was imprisoned there, and who testified in behalf of
Dreyfus, declaring he had never heard of the confession Dreyfus is said to
have made, was the next witness called. He repeated his testimony before
the Court of Cassation, adding that he frequently met Captain Lebrun-
Eenault and Captain d'Attel, and that neither of them ever alluded to the
alleged confession.

The witness declared that he once taxed Captain Lebrun-Renault be-
fore General Gonse and other witnesses, with saying he had spoken to the
witness (Major Forzinetti) of the confession, and Captain Lebrun-Renault
did not reply. "Whereupon," Major Forzinetti said, "I seized his arm
and cried : ' If the words repeated as yours are true, you are an infamous
liar.' "

Major Forzinetti then declared that on visiting General de Boisdeffre
to express fears about the health of the prisoner, the general asked him
his opinion of Dreyfus, and the major replied :

"My General, had you not put that question to me I would have
kept my counsel. But since you ask my opinion, I declare I believe he
is innocent."

The witness then recounted Colonel Du Paty de Clam's theatrical de-
vices to surprise Dreyfus, to which Forzinetti declined to be a party, and
the major also said that on one occasion, when Dreyfus was in a crisis of
despair, he, the witness, remained with the prisoner, consoling him, until
three o'clock in the morning.

Colonel Jouaust asked Major Forzinetti if Dreyfus ever had ideas of


suicide, and the witness replied that Dreyfus had asked for a weapon, and
that also, after his condemnation was read to him, he was with difficulty
prevented from dashing his head against the wall.

After the last visit of Du Paty de Clam to Dreyfus, continued Major
Forzinetti, the prisoner wrote to the Minister of War a letter which con-
cluded with the words :

" When I am gone, let them seek the culprit, "

At the conclusion of Major Forzinetti's evidence, Dreyfus, on Colonel
Jouaust's invitation, and after reference to the last interview with Du
Paty de Clam, said, looking with gratitude at the major:

"There is a matter which Major Forzinetti has just recalled which has
greatly moved me, and which I wish to recall, for I wish to say to whom
I owe the fact that I have done my duty — to whom I owe having done it
for five years after my condemnation. I had determined to kill myself. I
had made up my mind not to undergo the frightful torture of a soldier from
whom they wished to tear the insignia of honor.

" Well, then, let me say this : That if I went to that torture, I can say
here that it was thanks to Madame Dreyfus, who showed me my duty, and
who told me that if I was innocent I ought to go to it, for the sake of her
and our children. If I am here, it is to her I owe it, Colonel."

Here Major Forzinetti said :

" It is quite true. In his last interview with his wife Dreyfus said :
' For her and for my children I will undergo this torture of to-morrow.' "

This declaration of Dreyfus that his life was due to his wife deeply
stirred all his hearers. He spoke in a broken voice, with emphatic ges-
tures, swaying to and fro with emotion, and when he had finished he sat
down abruptly, evidently to conceal his discomposed features from the
gaze of the spectators in court, who when he was seated were only able
to see his back. Tears were glistening in his eyes, and he was clearly sup-
pressing an outburst of sobbing.

General de Boisdeffre denied that Major Forzinetti had expressed to
him his conviction that Dreyfus was innocent. But the major main-
tained his assertion.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gu^rin, whom General Saussier ordered to attend
the degradation of Captain Dreyfus and report upon it, said :

"At about 7:45 I saw the prison van arrive. Dreyfus alighted and


was taken to the office, where he was guarded by Captain Lebrun-Renault,
whose name I did not know at that time. At 8:55 the adjutant of the
garrison relieved Captain Lebrun-Renault, with four artillerj^men and a
corporal, composing the guard which was to conduct the prisoner to the
place of degradation. At that moment I was at the door of the building.

" Captain Lebrun-Renault, when relieved from duty, saw me and im-
mediately began to relate what Dreyfus had said. The three statements
which struck him, because of their importance, remained so graven in my
memory that I could never forget them, — namely, first, the prisoner's pride
in the facings he had lost; second, his confession that he had delivered
documents to a foreign power; third, that in three years justice would be
done him. A group of officers were standing near, and as Captain Lebrun-
Renault's conversation was not confidential, and the statement he had made
me was of great importance and interest to us, I begged him to repeat to
the officers what he had just told me.

" I must add that Captain d' Attel had been ordered to superintend
matters, and his special duty required him to report everything which oc-
curred in the office of the adjutant while Dreyfus was there, and until
Dreyfus was conducted to the place of degradation.

" Throughout the ceremony the prisoner walked automatically. After-
ward, when he was conducted to the prison van, I stood, in company with
some officers, in the passage Dreyfus traversed, and Dreyfus, addressing
the officers, repeated that in three years justice would be done him. He
then entered the van and disappeared.

"After the ceremony I verbally reported to General Saussier the inci-
dent of the morning, particularly the statements made by Dreyfus to Cap-
tain Lebrun-Renault.

"During the day Captain d' Attel also told M. Wunenberger, archivist
of the Paris Headquarters, that Dreyfus had confessed."

M. Demange — How do you reconcile his protests of innocence with
the alleged confession?

Colonel Gu^rin — That is not my business.

M. Demange — You reported the confession to General Saussier?

Colonel Gu^rin — Certainly.

M. Demange — Was it suggested that steps be taken to verify the
alleged confession?


Colonel Guerin — I do not recollect.

M. Demange — So there was no attempt to interrogate Dreyfus in re-
gard to the alleged confession?

Colonel Guerin — The case had passed out of the hands of the military
authorities, the prisoner having been handed over to the civil authorities.

Dreyfus, when the usual question was put to him, said he had nothing
to add to the reply he had made to Captain Lebrun-Renault.

One of the judges asked the witness whether M. Weil, when attached
to the Army Headquarters, had relations with Esterhazy, to which Colonel
Guerin replied that he believed M. Weil had known Esterhazy for a long

The Judge — Do you think Esterhazy knew the prisoner?

Colonel Guerin — I do not know.

Dreyfus here remarked that he never knew Esterhazy.

Major de Mitry of the hussars testified to Captain Anthoine telling
him of the alleged confession of Dreyfus,

Army Controller Peyrolles also testified that he heard of the confession
from Colonel Guerin. The latter he added, introduced the witness to Cap-
tain Lebrun-Eenault on their way to the Zola trial.

Continuing, Major de Mitry said :

" I said to Captain Lebrun-Eenault, point blank : ' How is it the con-
fession of Dreyfus was not reported to our President and Premier when
you were summoned to the Elys^e ? '

"Captain Lebrun-Eenault replied: ' I did not report it, through a
kind of apprehension, because when in the anteroom I heard some one say
" Who is this gendarme who is betraying professional secrets and feeding
the press? He might smart for such indiscretions." '

" I replied : ' Eenault, you have made a mistake. In your place I
would have told the President.' "

When called upon to reply, Dreyfus declared he had never said his
trial would be revised in three years.

"I do not understand these words," said the prisoner. "I should be
very grateful to you, Colonel, if, in the interest of truth, you would make
public the letter which I wrote to the Chief of the Headquarters Staff. It
would then be seen in what terms I asked that an investigation should be


Colonel Jouaust — But why in three years ?

Dreyfus — I have already told the court that I told Colonel Du Paty
de Clam that the Government had the means of investigation, but that it
required time to use them. I said, therefore, that before two or three years
my innocence would be acknowledged. But I emphatically assert there
was no sinister motive in my mind such as has been attached to these
words. [Excitement.]

Dreyfus evidently referred to the General Staff's suggestion that when
he used the expression " three years " he knew that Esterhazy would then
appear as a man-of-straw and try to take Dreyfus's place.


Chapter XLV.


Immediately after the opening of the session of the court-martial on
September 1st, Colonel Jouaust aroused the interest of the audience by-
remarking :

" Maitre Labori the other day asked that information be obtained re-
garding the character of a certain witness. I would not have acceded if
the witness had not expressed a similar desire. Information which has
now reached me will be read. "

The clerk of the court accordingly read a report regarding M. Dubreuil,
the Parisian friend of M. de Beaurepaire, who testified on August 23d
that Dreyfus met a German attache at the house of a mutual friend named
Bodson, and whose cross-examination reflected severely on his reputation.
The report was to the effect that M. Dubreuil never was a horse-dealer,
as claimed by M. Labori, and that the character of the witness was most
respectable, he being held in general esteem.

This was a very satisfactory session for Dreyfus. The Beaurepaire
witness, Germain, who was to prove that Dreyfus attended the Alsatian
mancBuvres, found his statements denied by a reputable witness, while
Germain himself, it was proved, had undergone two convictions for swin-

In his deposition Germain declared he saddled a horse for Dreyfus to
follow the manoeuvres, and he said that his employer, Kuhlman, accom-
panied Dreyfus riding, and adding that the major told the witness the
name of his companion.

Colonel Jouaust questioned Dreyfus on this point, and in reply to the
usual question Dreyfus admitted that about 1886 or 1887 he spent a fur-
lough at Mulhouse, adding:

" Every year, both while studying and attending the gunnery and artil-
lery training schools, I passed one or two months at Mulhouse. But I


can positively affirm that I never was present either in an official or semi-
official capacity at the German manoeuvres. I was never invited to attend
the German manoeuvres, and I never dined or lunched with any German
officer. On each visit I called on the general commanding at Mulhouse
with my regular passport, in accordance with my duty.

" I would like to point out, in regard to the manoeuvring ground to
which reference is made, that the Mulhouse ground is not ground over
which manoeuvres could be carried out. It is merely a small drill ground,
nothing more than a clearing in the Hartz Forest on the road from Mul-
house to Basle. It is true that in the course of my excursions in 1886
I might have seen regiments drilling. But I emphatically declare that
while out riding in 1886 or 1887 I never dined or lunched with German
officers, was never even invited to do so by foreign officers, and never
spoke to foreign officers."

Eeplying to Colonel Jouaust, Dreyfus said that while he was at Mul-
house he rode his brother's horse, and did not remember anything about
the horse mentioned by Germain.

During the cross-examination M. Labori asked the groom, Germain, if
he was acquainted with M. de Beaurepaire, and the witness replied that
he was not acquainted with him, but he added that M. de Beaurepaire
knew the facts to which he testified, through the witness's friends, and he
also admitted having written to M. de Beaurepaire giving information
which the latter had published in the Eclio de Paris.

The next two witnesses, however, gave strong testimony in favor of
Dreyfus, and sadly knocked Germain's testimony about.

Kuhlman, the livery-stable keeper, who employed Germain at this
time, in his testimony said that he never rode with Dreyfus as stated by
Germain ; that he never went to the manoeuvres in company with Dreyfus,
and absolutely denied all Germain's statements. Germain, the liveryman
added, was in his employ, and possibly the groom accompanied Dreyfus.
But the witness had no knowledge of it.

In conclusion, Kuhlman emphatically reiterated that he never rode
with Dreyfus. He said he was well acquainted with the whole Dreyfus

Major d'Infreville testified that he had known Germain since 1894.
He added that Germain informed him that Dreyfus attended the German


mancBuvres. Witness had never said that an officer Germain saw in the
Bois de Boulogne was Dreyfus, for the simple reason that he did not know

Germain, on being recalled, asserted that he certainly thought Major
d'Infreville told him the officer referred to was Dreyfus.

The next witness, Captain Le Monnier of the Headquarters Staff, who
was a probationer at the same time as Dreyfus, deposed that while they
were at the School of War in 1894, Dreyfus, in the course of a conversa-
tion referring to the covering of troops in the Vosges region and the move-
ments necessary for the invasion of Alsace, said that he was well acquaint-
ed with a certain position to which the Germans attached great importance
as a means of checking a French advance. This position, witness con-
tinued, was westward of Mulhouse, and Dreyfus said he reached this
opinion after following the German manoeuvres on horseback.

The prisoner at this point quietly pointed out that the position men-
tioned by Captain Le Monnier was situated in an entirely different locality
from where he, the prisoner, is supposed to have followed the manoeuvres.
Dreyfus added :

" Captain Le Monnier must have confused it with a position which I
described from knowledge acquired when traversing the whole district on
horseback while a youth."

The prisoner reiterated that he never attended the manoeuvres in ques-

The next witness, M. Villon, another of the friends of M. de Beaure-
paire, declared that when in Berlin during the year 1894 he overheard a
conversation of some German officers who were lunching in an adjoining
room of a caf^ in that city. One of the officers, the witness added, ex-
pressed indignation that a French officer was guilty of treason, and his
companion replied:

" It is a good thing for us. You know we are getting the plans of
mobilization from Dreyfus." [Murmurs of assent and dissent.]

At the request of M. Demange, M. Villon detailed the alleged con-
versation, and said he had not mentioned the conversation in 1894, because
Dreyfus has been arrested, and, knowing him to be guilty, the witness
foresaw he would be convicted.

The caf^, however, in which the above conversation is reported to


have occurred has since disappeared, and, as there are no means of veri-
fying Villon's testimony, it certainly should not have had much eft'ect on
the judges.

Two or three witnesses, in support ot Dreyfus on artillery questions,
were next heard, and special Commissary Fischer of the Eastern Military
Railway System testified that he was charged to investigate the leakage of
documents at the gunnery school at Bourges, and found nothing to in-
criminate Dreyfus.

Fischer asserted that he was not long in finding out that a former
artilleryman named Thomas had communicated to a foreign power docu-
ments affecting the national defence. Thomas, he added, was sentenced
to death for attempted murder in 1886, but the sentence was commuted
to pdnal servitude for life. The witness went to Avignon and secured the
convict's confession that he communicated sketches of " shell 80 " of the
horse artillery and of the "120 siege-gun," for which he had received one
thousand francs.

Replying to Colonel Jouaust, the witness declared that, as Thomas was
arrested in 1886, he could not have been a spy at a later date.

Fischer was followed by Lieutenant Bernheim, who testified that, while
in garrison at Rouen, he furnished Esterhazy with information and docu-
ments regarding the artillery, in which Esterhazy was much interested.
The witness was never able to recover the documents. He supposed at
the time that Esterhazy was anxious to increase his military knowledge,

Replying to M. Demange, Lieutenant Bernheim said he had not testi-
fied at the Esterhazy trial, because his testimony was then considered to
be of no great value.

Lieutenant Brugere, of the Artillery Reserve, the next witness called,
said it was perfectly easy for any officer to inspect closely the " 120-short "
gun. Moreover, he added, detailed explanations and information regard-
ing the brake were given to the officers present when the gun was fired.
On two occasions, witness also said, when the gun was fired he noticed the
presence of a group of non-artillery officers. Therefore, the lieutenant
pointed out, it was plain that access to the gun was quite easy.

In May, 1894, Lieutenant Brugere continued, the new Firing Manual
was distributed. A copy was given to each battery, and, as the captain's
lectures were not fully understood, other copies of the Firing Manual were


printed, and all officers and non-commissioned officers so desiring could
obtain as many as they liked. In some regiments even the ordinary gun-
ners secured copies, and among those favored regiments, Lieutenant Brugere
pointed out, was the Sixth Artillery, stationed at Eennes. [Excitement.]

The witness said he gave his copy of the Firing Manual to an infantry
officer on May 17, 1894. The Societe cle Tir h Canon, of Paris, also re-
printed the manual and distributed it among its members.

Captain Le Rond here interposed, saying that no batteries of the
" 120-short " gun were at the Chalons camp in 1894, and Lieutenant Bru-
gere retorted that he only referred to what he saw in the month of May.
A lively discussion ensued. General Eoget and General Deloye denying
Lieutenant Brugere's statements.

General Eoget asked Lieutenant Brugere if he was not the officer who
had written M. Cavaignac, then Minister of War, a violent letter tendering
his resignation and declaring it was a dishonor to serve in the French

This declaration caused a scene, for Lieutenant Brugere, turning to
General Eoget, cried:

" I protest against General Eoget's words. I affirm that I never said
any such thing."

General Eoget then backed down, saying :

" Well, that was the general sense of the letter. "

A roar of disgust came from the audience at this apparent underhand-
edness upon the part of the general, and Lieutenant Brugere again em-
phatially declared General Eoget was wrong.

General Deloye, to whom General Eoget appealed, said he had been
consulted by the Minister of War as to what ought to be done in connec-
tion with the letter, and witness read the report which he made on the
subject to the President of the Eepublic, who, he added, immediately
signed an order relegating Lieutenant Brugere to the Territorial Army.

After this Lieutenant Brugere again arose, and emphatically main-
tained that he made no statement in the sense indicated by General Eoget,
but had only alluded to some personalities, and had not mentioned the
French army. It would have been absurd to do so, he continued, since
the French army consists of all citizens over twenty years of age.

Maitre Labori and Colonel Jouaust agreed that the letter should be


obtained from the Ministry of War and read in court. Lieutenant Bru-
gere expressed satisfaction at this step, while General Koget returned to
his seat with less buoyancy than he left it.

The next witness, Captain Carvalho, a handsome young artillery officer,
proved an excellent reinforcement for Dreyfus. He gave his evidence
clearly and boldly, and emphatically declared that there were no special
precautions to keep the mechanism of the " 120-short " gun secret. He
said the gun was frequently operated in the presence of non-artillery offi-
cers, who were told everything that they desired to know, including a de-
scription of the hydro-pneumatic brake. Moreover, he added that in
April, 1894, the artillery officers had a description of the hydro-pneumatic
brake given them.

Regarding the 1895 Firing Manual, witness said copies were obtaina-
ble in 1894 in all the regiments of the army, and asserted that he had
purchased a copy.

"Here," said Captain Carvalho, "is an actual copy of the manual,
which I hand over to the court-martial."

M. Labori then had an animated discussion with Colonel Jouaust, who
at first refused the counsel's request to read a letter which the latter had
received on the evening of August 31st. After receiving a reluctant per-
mission from the court, Labori read the letter, which proved to be from a
spy named Corningue, stating that he had copied the Firing Manual in
the room of Major Panizzardi, the Italian military attach^ at Paris, in
the presence of Colonel Schwartzkoppen, the German military attach^ at
Paris (referred to in the letter as A and B). Labori then said he was not
certain whether this was the 1894 or 1895 manual, and begged the Presi-
dent to question Colonel Picquart on the subject.

Picquart said, in response, that he believed it was the 1895 manual,
and that the copy was made in 1896 in Major Panizzardi's room in the
presence of Major Panizzardi and another person. Colonel Picquart added
that Major Lauth ought to know something about a certain mark on the
manual. All the manuals at the Versailles garrison were ordered returned
to headquarters in order to see which one was missing.

General Deloye admitted that he was not sure whether it was the

1894 or 1895 manual, and corroborated Colonel Picquart's statements.

Major Lauth expressed surprise at the fact that Colonel Picquart's rec-


ollections were so vague, and added that Picquart had relations with the
spy, Corningue, who, he said, was a doubtful character.

Here M. Labori asked to what spy Major Lauth was able to give a
good character, to which the major replied:

"Why, none." [Laughter.]

M. Labori then said that Major Lauth insinuated that Corningue was
trying to levy blackmail. Was that his idea?

Colonel Jouaust refused to allow the question.

M. Labori then asked to be allowed to question Major Lauth further,
but Colonel Jouaust refused. Counsel insisted, but Colonel Jouaust waved
him down, whereupon M. Labori cried :

" You suppress all awkward questions." [Sensation.]

The Government Commissary, Major Carriere, said :

" I desire to point out that the defence is always asking to speak, while
I am always refused permission to do so when I ask."

Colonel Jouaust, out of patience, retorted :

" I have heard enough. Be quiet. The incident is closed."

This cavalier treatment of the Government Commissary, who, however,
made himself ridiculous whenever he opened his mouth, caused general

Addressing Colonel Picquart, M. Labori asked:

" When did you know that the Firing Manual was being copied ? "

Colonel Picquart — During the summer of 1896.

M. Labori having remarked that this was all he desired to ask at pres-

Online LibraryW. (William) HardingDreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age → online text (page 21 of 35)