The shells have begun falling

Prussians parading through Paris in March 1871. Wikimedia.

During the month of January in 1871, from their surrounding positions, Prussian forces fired more than 12,000 shells into Paris and brought a wave of death and destruction to the magnificent city. This deadly bombardment marked the end of a four month-long siege and in turn the Franco-Prussian War, with Germany emerging victorious. On 6th January, as that shelling began, noted French writer Edmond de Goncourt described the experience in his journal.

The Diary Entry

Friday, 6 January

The shells have begun falling in the Rue Boileau and the Rue La Fontaine. Tomorrow, no doubt, they will be falling here; and even if they do not kill me, they will destroy everything I still love in life, my house, my knick-knacks, my books.

On every doorstep, women and children stand, half frightened, half inquisitive, watching the medical orderlies going by, dressed in white smocks with red crosses on their arms, and carrying stretchers, mattresses, and pillows.

Further Reading

This entry is from the Goncourt Journal, a very entertaining diary famously kept by two brothers, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, until the latter’s death in 1870. It was then that Edmond continued alone. Many editions exist, some of which can be read online thanks to the Internet Archive.

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