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|30 Apr 1863|| Rate Topic
|Posted: Sat Apr 30th, 2011 04:03 am||
The Battle of Cameron’
which occurred 30 April 1863 between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army, is regarded by the Legion as a defining moment in its history. A small infantry patrol led by Captain Jean Danjou, Lt Maudet and Lt Vilain, numbering 62 soldiers and three officers was attacked and besieged by a force that may have eventually reached 2,000 Mexican infantry and cavalry, and was forced to make a defensive stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, in [url=http://watchfreeks.com/wiki/CamarÃ³n_de_Tejeda]Camarón de Tejeda[/url], Veracruz, Mexico. The conduct of the defence ascribed to the Legion a certain mystique—and Camarón became within Legion ranks synonymous with bravery and a fight-to-the-death.
As part of the French intervention in Mexico, a French army commanded by the Count of Lorencez, was besieging the Mexican city of Puebla. Fearing a logistical shortage, the French sent a convoy with 3 million francs, matériel, and munitions for the siege. The French Foreign Legion detachment was charged with protecting the convoy, and Captain Danjou was assigned the 3rd company of the Foreign Regiment. As the company had no officers, Captain Danjou assumed command.
On the 30 April, at 1 a.m., the 3rd company—62 soldiers and three officers—was en route. At 7 a.m., after a 15-mile march, they stopped at Palo Verde to rest and "prepare the coffee". Soon after, a Mexican Army force of 600 cavalry was sighted. Captain Danjou ordered the company take up a square formation, and, though retreating, he rebuffed several cavalry charges, inflicting the first heavy losses on the Mexican army that suffered from the French long-range rifle.
Seeking a more defensible position, Danjou made a stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, an inn protected by a 3-metre-high wall. His plan was to occupy Mexican forces to prevent attacks against the nearby convoy. While his legionnaires prepared to defend the inn, the Mexican commander, Colonel Milan, demanded that Danjou and soldiers surrender, noting the Mexican Army's numeric superiority. Danjou replied: "We have munitions. We will not surrender." He then swore to fight to the death, an oath which was seconded by the men.
Around 11 a.m. the Mexicans were increased in size by the arrival of 1,200 infantry. The Hacienda took fire but the French had lost all water early in the morning when pack mule were lost during the retreat.
At noon, Captain Danjou was shot in the chest and died; his soldiers continued fighting despite overwhelming odds under the command of an inspired 2nd Lt. Vilain, who held for four hours before falling during an assault.
At 5 p.m only 12 Légionnaires remained around 2nd Lt. Maudet. Soon after, with ammunition exhausted, the last of Danjou's soldiers, numbering only five under the command of Lt. Maudet, desperately mounted a bayonet charge. Two men died outright, while the rest continued the assault. The tiny group was surrounded and beaten to the earth. A Belgian Legionnaire, Victor Catteau, leapt in front of Lt. Maudet in an effort to protect him from the Mexican guns when they were leveled at him but died in vain as both he and Lt. Maudet were hit in the barrage.
Colonel Milan, commander of the Mexicans, managed to prevent his men from ripping the surviving legionnaires to pieces. When the last two survivors were asked to surrender, they insisted that Mexican soldiers allow them safe passage home, to keep their arms, and to escort the body of Captain Danjou. To that, the Mexican commander commented, "What can I refuse to such men? No, these are not men, they are devils", and, out of respect, agreed to these terms.
Finally, the French supply convoy made it safely to Puebla. The Mexicans failed to relieve the siege and the city fell on May 17.
Capitaine Danjou was a professional soldier and had lost his left hand while on a mapping expedition in the Kabyia campaign. He had a wooden articulated prosthetic hand made, painted to resemble a glove, strapped to his left forearm. Overlooked by both French and Mexican comrades who came to bury their dead it was found by an Anglo-French farmer, Langlais. Two years later it was sold and taken to the Quarter Viénot in Sidi bel-Abbés, the home of the Foreign Legion. When the Legion left Algeria Capitaine Danjou's wooden hand went with it to Aubagne where it remains in the Legion Museum at their headquarters. The hand is the most cherished artifact in Legion history and the prestige and honor granted to a Legionnaire to carry it on parade in its protective case is among the greatest bestowed on a Legionnaire.
Today April 30 is celebrated as "Camerone Day", an important day for the Legionnaires, when the wooden prosthetic hand of Capitaine Danjou is brought out for display and veneration in special ceremonies. That day officers prepare and serve all lesser rank Legionnaires coffee to celebrate the "...coffee they [The Legionnaires of Camarone] never had."
In 1892, a monument commemorating the battle was erected on the battlefield containing a plaque with the following inscription in French:
ILS FURENT ICI MOINS DE SOIXANTE
Release the Kraken !!!
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