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The Long Walk Home

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Some New Friends

The raucous cheers could be heard throughout the encampment. Dozens of soldiers sang the La Marseillaise as celebratory drinks slid down anxious throats . For some, it would be their first battle. Sitting with his comrades in the frozen evening, Jacques Moreau enjoyed a drink by the campfire. It was snowing and a penetrating cold swept through the Russian front. They all knew there would be heavy casualties in the battle tomorrow, both armies amassing a total of 111,000 troops, but The Grande
La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France, was composed during the French Revolution and became a common marching song among the French Army (Halsall). Napoleon’s army, The Grande Armée, originally amassed in the chaos of the French revolution would consist of 45,000 troops. The French force combined equaled 71,600 men . During the Battle of Eylau, the French fought against 76,000 Russians (Chandler 144). In 1798, conscription became law (Bell 234). Half of the French Army was made up of conscripted peasants (Bell 243-44). After being appointed Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor, Marshal Augereau began leading a corps into Russia for eighteen months (Chandler 30). There was little to no training for French soldiers, and they had to learn how to fight on the battlefield (The Soldier’s Life). Marche a Regret is the French Army slang for conscript (French Army Slang Terms). The French government expected all able-bodied men to sign up to join the army willingly, but to ensure this, any Frenchman who did not would lose their citizenship (The Soldier’s Life). Avoir sa Pente is the French Army slang term for a drinker (French Army Slang Terms).
Armée would be prepared .
Amid the chatter, Jacques Moreau was wondering if he was ever going to find his father. It was only six months ago that he had been hiding from the French forces roaming the countryside around Giverny conscripting everyone they find . His father had joined the army a year earlier to serve for the honor and glory of France, but Jacques could not see the honor in dying and went into hiding. After a year without his father, his loneliness got the better of him and he decided to enlist. He joined not for the glory of France, but to rescue his father from his misguided loyalty and bring him home. He was determined to get things back to normal—he wanted his family altogether to take care of the farm.
Jacques enlisted. He was rushed through training and was eventually sent into Marshal Augereau’s VII corps d’armee as an infantryman on the Russian front . In his corps, he learned to march, fire a musket, and fearlessly execute a bayonet charge . It turned out that he was a good soldier. He was excited, not for war, but for another opportunity to find his father. His unit had been following a Russian army for months. It was cold. He was afraid. He had not yet found his father.
The campfire provided the only warmth for the soldiers in the cold, Russian night. The flames danced across his brown eyes. Sighing loudly, he brought the brown bottle to his lips and took a long mournful swig causing two other recruits sitting against their packs to stop talking.
“Don’t idle your conversation on account of me,” Jacques said, breathing out the harsh burning sensation in his throat, “enjoy your last few hours.”
“There is no need for that kind of talk, we are assured of victory when we fight for France,” responded the upright young man sitting next to him.
“Who are you? What is your story?” asked Jacques.
“I am Michel Martin, and this man sitting next to me is Jean Leroy. I am a marche a regret and was taken from my home . There are not too many of us that want to be here; we are at war ! home. You do not need to act like you are the only one.”
“And I joined the army as I had nowhere else to go. Once the revolution broke out, my family was killed in the frenzy,” said Jean fondly remembering his home. Jacques was about to say something, but his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell backwards onto the ground.
“Did he just pass out?” Michel wondered aloud.
“I guess he is not much of an avoir sa pente,” Jean laughed .
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