Thursday, 2 December 2010

Battle of Loigny - 2nd December 1870

Today is the 140th anniversary of the battle of Loigny, a heavy defeat for the Army of the Loire, which marked the end of any realistic hope of relieving the siege of Paris from the west.

The battle is probably best known for the gallant charge by the Volunteers of the West, the former Papal Zouaves, who had been renamed to appease the anti-clerical instincts of the new French republican government.

Here we see Colonel Athanase de Charette leading the zouaves. He was to be wounded and (briefly) taken prisoner. Two-thirds of the 300 zouaves who charged were killed, wounded or captured.

There is a commemoration every year at Loigny on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary and I attended this year’s event. It can be seen that it was appropriately cold and snowy! Note also how flat the ground is and how exposed to German fire the Zouaves would have been advancing across these fields.

Amongst those present were four cadets from St Cyr, the French military academy, in their traditional uniforms. It was very evocative to see the pantalon garance once again being worn on an 1870 battlefield.

The monument in this picture is to General Gaston de Sonis, the commander of the French 17 Corps, who was badly wounded during the action. De Sonis was a staunch Roman Catholic (as of course were Athanase de Charette and his Zouaves), and the annual commemorations at Loigny have a strongly Catholic spirit.

During the service in Loigny church, I sat under this picture of de Sonis lying wounded in the snow after the battle, being consoled by a vision of the Virgin Mary. The painting is by Lionel Royer, who as an 18 year old fought in the battle as a Papal Zouave.


  1. Fascinating - excellent reading

  2. It was the end of a dream to change the face of the war!!

    A lot of glory, and a lot of suffuring!