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Orders were given to change the base to St. Nazaire, and establish an advance base at Le Mans. This operation was well carried out by the Inspector General of Communications.
In spite of a severe defeat inflicted upon the Guard Tenth and Guard Reserve Corps of the German Army by the First and Third French Corps on the right of the Fifth Army, it was not part of Gen. Joffre's plan to pursue this advantage; and a general retirement to the line of the Marne was ordered, to which the French forces in the more eastern theatre were directed to conform.
A new Army (the Ninth) had been formed from three corps in the south by Gen. Joffre, and moved into the space between the right of the Fifth and left of the Fourth Armies.
While closely adhering to his strategic conception to draw the enemy on at all points until a favorable situation was created from which to assume the offensive, Gen. Joffre found it necessary to modify from day to day the methods by which he sought to attain this object, owing to the development of the enemy's plans and changes in the general situation.
In conformity with the movements of the French forces, my retirement continued practically from day to day. Although we were not severely pressed by the enemy, rearguard actions took place continually.
On the 1st September, when retiring from the thickly wooded country to the south of Compiègne, the First Cavalry Brigade was overtaken by some German cavalry. They momentarily lost a horse artillery battery, and several officers and men were killed and wounded. With the help, however, of some detachments from the Third Corps operating on their left, they not only recovered their own guns, but succeeded in capturing twelve of the enemy's.
Similarly, to the eastward, the First Corps, retiring south, also got into some very difficult forest country, and a somewhat severe rearguard action ensued at Villers-Cotterets, in which the Fourth Guards Brigade suffered considerably.
On Sept. 3 the British forces were in position south of the Marne between Lagny and Signy-Signets. Up to this time I had been requested by Gen. Joffre to defend the passages of the river as long as possible, and to blow up the bridges in my front. After I had made the necessary dispositions, and the destruction of the bridges had been effected, I was asked by the French Comander in Chief to continue my retirement to a point some twelve miles in rear of the position I then occupied, with a view to taking up a second position behind the Seine. This retirement was duly carried out. In the meantime the enemy had thrown bridges and crossed the Marne in considerable force, and was threatening the Allies all along the line of the British forces and the Fifth and Ninth French Armies. Consequently several small outpost actions took place.
On Saturday, Sept. 5, I met the French Commander in Chief at his request, and he informed me of his intention to take the offensive forthwith, as he considered conditions very favorable to success.
Gen. Joffre announced to me his intention of wheeling up the left flank of the Sixth Army, pivoting on the Marne and directing it to move on the Ourcq; cross and attack the flank of the First German Army, which was then moving in a southeasterly direction east of that river.
He requested me to effect change of front to my right-my left resting on the Marne and my right on the Fifth Army-to fill the gap between that army and the Sixth. I was then to advance against the enemy in my front and join in the general offensive movement.
These combined movements practically commenced on Sunday, Sept. 6, at sunrise; and on that day it may be said that a great battle opened on a front extending from Ermenonville, which was just in front of the left flank of the Sixth French Army, through Lizy on the Marne, Mauperthuis, which was about the British centre, Courtecon, which was on the left of the Fifth French Army, to Esternay and Charleville, the left of the Ninth Army under Gen. Foch,
Battle of the Marne.
The great advance to the Petit Morin and the Marne, where important captures were made by the British.
and so along the front of the Ninth, Fourth, and Third French Armies to a point north of the fortress of Verdun.
This battle, in so far as the Sixth French Army, the British Army, the Fifth French Army, and the Ninth French Army were concerned, may be Isaid to have concluded on the evening of Sept. 10, by which time the Germans had been driven back to the line SoissonsRheims, with a loss of thousands of prisoners, many guns, and enormous masses of transport.
About Sept. 3 the enemy appears to have changed his plans and to have determined to stop his advance south direct upon Paris, for on Sept. 4 air reconnoissances showed that his main columns were moving in a southeasterly direction generally east of a line drawn through Nanteuil and Lizy on the Ourcq.
On Sept. 5 several of these columns were observed to have crosed the Marne, while German troops, which were observed moving southeast up the left flank of the Ourcq on the 4th, were now reported to be halted and facing that river. Heads of the enemy's columns were seen crossing at Changis, La Ferté, Nogent, Château-Thierry, and Mezy.
Considerable German columns of all arms were seen to be converging on Montmirail, while before sunset large bivouacs of the enemy were located in the neighborhood of Coulommiers, south of Rebais, La Ferté-Gauchier, and Dagny.
I should conceive it to have been about noon on Sept. 6, after the British forces had changed their front to the right and occupied the line Jouy-Le ChatelFaremoutiers-Villeneuve Le Comte, and the advance of the Sixth French Army north of the Marne toward the Ourcq became apparent, that the enemy realized the powerful threat that was being made against the flank of his columns moving southeast, and began the great retreat which opened the battle above referred to.
On the evening of Sept. 6, therefore, the fronts and positions of the opposing armies were roughly as follows:
Sixth French Army.-Right on the Marne at Meux, left toward Betz.
British Forces.-On the line Dagny
Fifth French Army.-At Courtagon, right on Esternay.
Conneau's Cavalry Corps.—Between the right of the British and the left of the French Fifth Army.
Fourth Reserve and Second Corps.East of the Ourcq and facing that river. Ninth Cavalry Division.-West of Crecy.
Second Cavalry Division.-North of Coulommiers.
Third and Seventh Corps.-Southwest of Montmirail.
All these troops constituted the First German Army, which was directed against the French Sixth Army on the Ourcq, and the British forces, and the left of the Fifth French Army south of the Marne.
The Second German Army (IX., X., X.R., and Guard) was moving against the centre and right of the Fifth French Army and the Ninth French Army.
On Sept. 7 both the Fifth and Sixth French Armies were heavily engaged on our flank. The Second and Fourth Reserve German Corps on the Ourcq vigorously opposed the advance of the French toward that river, but did not prevent the Sixth Army from gaining some headway, the Germans themselves suffering serious losses. The French Fifth Army threw the enemy back to the line of the Petit Morin River after inflicting severe losses upon them, especially about Montceaux, which was carried at the point of the bayonet.
The enemy retreated before our advance, covered by his Second and Ninth and Guard Cavalry Divisions, which suffered severely.
Our cavalry acted with great vigor, especially Gen. De Lisle's brigade, with the Ninth Lancers and Eighteenth Hus
On Sept. 8 the enemy continued his retreat northward, and our army was successfully engaged during the day with strong rearguards of all arms on the