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Ministry of War at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

All the perfections which we are generally pleased to acknowledge in the nineteenth century, and the progress of which our age is so glorious, do not prevent the men who live in the year 1867 from differing little from their predecessors on this earth. For a long time to come, force will remain the first condition of all security, and so true is this, that even in these days of peaceful celebration and compliments, arms and military equipment hold an important place at the World's Fair. - In every country, those who govern the people seem to have put a certain amount of self-respect into showing the powerful means at their disposal to ensure, in case of need, support and protection to the arts and industry whose marvellous products form a magnificent setting for all those devices of destruction admitted to the Champ de Mars, as the most effective instruments of universal peace, and it is for this reason as much as to make people admire the qualities of manufacture, that the Ministry of War has brought together in a special room in the Park, the specimens of everything connected with the material organisation of the army.

The army, in fact, like all human things, is composed of two quite distinct elements, the moral organisation and the material organisation. - The latter provides the former with the means necessary to accomplish its work, provides in time of peace as well as in time of war for all needs, assures the soldiers, in the best possible conditions, of the maintenance and good condition of the body, the primary basis of this whole singular ensemble, and gives them those weapons and munitions perfected by science, which their will, obeying the supreme leader, will direct against the common enemy.

To wage war successfully, and to maintain the preponderance of arms, it is necessary that the material be on a par with the most recent progress, and that the equipment, if we may use this expression, be perfect. From this point of view alone, the War Ministry's exhibition would be worth attracting visitors, even if the place chosen was not one of the most charming in the garden. - On a beautiful lawn, in the shade of _rands arbres_, in front of a building whose shape is reminiscent of an elongated tent, is the artillery park: siege guns, mortars, a piece intended for the defence of the coasts, a position piece and a field gun, a carriage for the bridge crews with its boats and boards which will enable the sturdy pontonniers to establish in a few minutes a passage over the fastest river; a carriage for the train of crews embracing all kinds of service, from that of the staffs to the transport of foodstuffs, the ambulances, the treasury and the posts. The canvas tents comprising the various models in use in war; the tent of the Council and that of the general-in-chief, the large tent for sixteen men, and the modest shelter which the soldiers carry on their packs, form one side of the small camp which extends as far as the watering place, where beautiful swans take their frolics, and come to play at the feet of this gigantic lighthouse whose crystal dome rises majestically in the air.

Algeria has made us familiar with these canvas houses, and what Parisian has not seen one of his friends come, on his return from Africa, to sit at his table and tell these long stories of bivouac, where the tent always plays an important part. He knows the great tent of the general-in-chief which the soldiers of the engineers erect in a moment, when, after a long march, the hour of the ball has arrived, and he knows the services of this modest tent-shelter which divides up and thus follows the men in all places, preserves them from the bad weather and allows them to take a little rest, without that with the alarm clock, The dew, so dreadful in hot countries, brings them fever, or the icy rain, stiffening their limbs, gives them one of those sudden illnesses which would force them to go to the ambulance and place themselves on one of these mules, carriers of cacolets, so well represented in one of the pavilions where are gathered together, with canteens destined for the ambulances, the reduced models of the installation of the camp of Chàlons. The cacolet, this small iron and leather armchair which folds up when necessary against the pack-saddle of the mule, and allows it to be loaded with a considerable weight of food, and the litter, a sort of iron bed suspended from the two flanks of the strongest animals and on which the soldier suffering from a serious wound is laid, come to us from Africa where they have contributed to all our successes, by giving confidence to the soldiers, who, whatever the difficulties of the terrain, are assured of being brought back to the ambulance; And even now, if war broke out in Europe, they would render the same services on the battlefields as they did during the Italian campaign, and, if the theatre of the struggle moved to the mountains, they would be used for those rapid ventures and coups de main which sometimes decide the success of an entire campaign.

War, indeed, let us not forget, resembles those fantastic conceptions which the imagination sometimes likes to see represented on our great stages. The unforeseen plays the leading role, especially now that steam lends it its power and electricity is at its command: nothing equals the suddenness of the spectacle, and it is scarcely if the witnesses of these gigantic struggles manage to grasp the whole. In a few days, sometimes in a few hours, the destinies of an entire people are decided for many years, and that is why an army is made up of the sap, the strength, the life of a nation. - Hence also the deep sympathy that everyone feels for the livery of devotion worn by the soldier who stands at the disposal of all and, if necessary, will make his body a protection and a bulwark for those women, for those children, for those families who now surround him with their affection; - and this feeling is so true, that everyone takes pleasure in seeing and watching, seeks to understand what can be these battles and these dangers in so many forms that often appear in the stories in a confused way; and in the great hall of the exhibition of the Ministry of War, where the models of the various weapons, the cannon and their life-size carriages, the pack mules carrying the mountain howitzer, the various parts of the material and equipment, and the plans in relief admirably executed by the engineering depot, representing the surroundings of a stronghold and the various actions of war, opening and attacking a breach, removal and passage of force, siege work, trenches, gabionades, establishment of a bridge and a large camp,-you will be surprised to see the crowd which constantly surrounds these lively pictures rendering so well the danger, the struggle, the individual and collective action, and making one grasp by the eye, better than by the longest comments, the perils of the soldier's life and the necessity of this strong education without which he would find himself, at the supreme hour, exposed to the astonishments and weaknesses which could bring about the ruin and disaster of the whole country. If you are looking for an education yourself, stop here for a few moments, listen to the words of those who pass by, the reflections of the French crowd, and you will soon understand how and why this country wants to be and will always be respected. - Honour is a heritage that France has kept intact and that it will pass on without fail to the generations that will succeed us in this noble country. - To maintain and defend it, we have, thanks to heaven, the energy and the courage. It is a product of our land. It is ours, like the generous sap that Providence hides in our soil and that our wines contain. - Everyone envies them, seeks to produce them, and yet it is always France that must be asked for them. - Let us therefore be without anxiety, the nation has not degenerated, and if the honour of the country ever imposed on the Emperor the necessities of a bloody struggle, in a few hours we would see it rise up in its entirety and surround him, ready to run into danger. Success would crown the effort, for a vigilant administration would have prepared everything so that our battalions would be provided with weapons and equipment, transformed by the incessant progress of industry.

The Military Exhibition contains curious testimonies of the changes which the discoveries of science produce in the material of war. The Artillery Directorate has taken pleasure in bringing together, as a souvenir and perhaps as a tribute to the past, all the weapons which were adopted at the time of their appearance as the most perfect, and which in turn were abandoned following a new discovery, and which have now been replaced by the revolver and the breech-loading rifle. - Everything is linked and connected here below, and, since speed is in fashion, since electricity now requires only a few seconds for thought to reach the ends of the world, and since our bodies, delivered to the railways, now travel fifteen leagues in an hour, death has wanted to keep up with progress, and our scientists have worked so well that the same rifle can without difficulty wound or kill a score of men a minute. More ingenious discoveries have been made, it is said, for the guns, but they are not all exhibited. Those which are shown at the Champ de Mars, and the great fuses of war hung along the walls, without speaking even of the curiosities of the, capsulier and other instruments and models deposited under the showcases, are enough to indicate a notable advance in the art of destroying by large mass, to which the artillerymen are especially devoted. - It is true that if the devices of destruction are also remarkable, the equipment itself of the soldier and the effects intended to safeguard him from bad weather, or the means gathered to give him the most attentive care if he is wounded or sick, are not less worthy of attention. - Relative excellence and cheapness are found in these strong and thick sheets, these warm blankets; all the details of the large and small equipment, which embrace all the necessities of life, from the wrought-iron pot, intended to boil on an improvised stove with two stones, the marching ration, up to the elegance of the great outfit, deserve praise, as much by the results obtained as by the desire and the search for the best, which obviously directs and inspires all the efforts of the administration. The cost price of each object is marked in known figures, and does great credit to the French industry which makes them at such low cost and delivers them on such good terms to the State. - The specimens of canteens and supplies of all kinds for military hospitals, the surgeons' kits, and even the boxes containing, by methodical classification and in such a way as to be easily transported in both, medicines and apparatus, are no less remarkable; But in this exhibition, so curious in so many ways, and where the use of the new inventions of science in the preparation of war, like the application of photography to the surveying of plans according to the method of the colonel of the engineers of Laussedat, have in Captain Savary, who shows us a large survey carried out in 1866 according to these procedures, very worthy representatives, It is regrettable perhaps to find no trace of the new equipment made necessary by the use of railways in war, nor any indication that the French army possesses a special organisation, similar to that which, if we are to believe the accounts of the last German war, rendered such great services to the Prussian army.

Be that as it may, and although the Ministry of War has not shown us all that it possesses, its exhibition deserves special mention, and we recommend it not only to special men, but also to all those whom curiosity attracts to the Champ de Mars. Those who are not acquainted with the military family will perhaps be surprised to find there A B Cs and books intended for education; for they are unaware that in each regiment a school directed by an officer receives the illiterate conscript and teaches him the principal elements which will make it possible for him, after his release from service, to exercise jobs requiring a certain degree of instruction. Emulation is the great motive of our army, and the efforts of the leaders always tend to raise the moral level of the men they command. Finally, if, after this long journey of war, you allow me to address a prayer to you, do not leave the military pavilion without taking a look at a small machine, which is near the large relief map of the surroundings of the town of Laon. It has nothing bellicose about it and stands modestly aside, waiting for the encouragement and praise it deserves. It is a new sewing machine, with two shuttles, having two needles, one fixed and the other mobile, offering, I am assured, by its construction great advantages. A simple artillery worker invented it. His name is Leconte and he now stays with his father in the Rue des Singes, No. 9, at the corner of the Rue des Blancs-Manteaux. My indiscretion, as you can see, is complete, since I am asking you to encourage by your orders the military worker, now released from service, and to give help and protection to the modest establishment founded by a child of the army.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée