Massacres of the South HTML version

Chapter 9
It was on Saturday that the white flag was hoisted at Nimes. The next day a
crowd of Catholic peasants from the environs marched into the city, to await the
arrival of the Royalist army from Beaucaire. Excitement was at fever heat, the
desire of revenge filled every breast, the hereditary hatred which had slumbered
during the Empire again awoke stronger than ever. Here I may pause to say that
in the account which follows of the events which took place about this time, I can
only guarantee the facts and not the dates: I relate everything as it happened; but
the day on which it happened may sometimes have escaped my memory, for it is
easier to recollect a murder to which one has been an eye-witness, than to recall
the exact date on which it happened.
The garrison of Nimes was composed of one battalion of the 13th Regiment of
the line, and another battalion of the 79th Regiment, which not being up to its full
war-strength had been sent to Nimes to complete its numbers by enlistment. But
after the battle of Waterloo the citizens had tried to induce the soldiers to desert,
so that of the two battalions, even counting the officers, only about two hundred
men remained.
When the news of the proclamation of Napoleon II reached Nimes, Brigadier-
General Malmont, commandant of the department, had him proclaimed in the city
without any disturbance being caused thereby. It was not until some days later
that a report began to be circulated that a royal army was gathering at Beaucaire,
and that the populace would take advantage of its arrival to indulge in excesses.
In the face of this two-fold danger, General Malmont had ordered the regular
troops, and a part of the National Guard of the Hundred Days, to be drawn up
under arms in the rear of the barracks upon an eminence on which he had
mounted five pieces of ordnance. This disposition was maintained for two days
and a night, but as the populace remained quiet, the troops returned to the
barracks and the Guards to their homes.
But on Monday a concourse of people, who had heard that the army from
Beaucaire would arrive the next day, made a hostile demonstration before the
barracks, demanding with shouts and threats that the five cannons should be
handed over to them. The general and the officers who were quartered in the
town, hearing of the tumult, repaired at once to the barracks, but soon came out
again, and approaching the crowd tried to persuade it to disperse, to which the
only answer they received was a shower of bullets. Convinced by this, as he was
well acquainted with the character of the people with whom he had to deal, that
the struggle had begun in earnest and must be fought out to the bitter end, the
general retreated with his officers, step by step, to the barracks, and having got
inside the gates, closed and bolted them.
He then decided that it was his duty to repulse force by force, for everyone was
determined to defend, at no matter what cost, a position which, from the first
moment of revolt, was fraught with such peril. So, without waiting for orders, the
soldiers, seeing that some of their windows had been broken by shots from
without, returned the fire, and, being better marksmen than the townspeople,