The last stand of camaron is one of the foreign legions greatest momments. Although not immortalised in cinema like rorkes drift and nor was it as grand as the battle of Thermopolaye. The Battle of Camaron is one of the greatest and least known last stands in history.
The year is 1863 and french forces have arrived in mexico, for 2 years they have fought in the dust and sweat of Mexico. They are but inches away from taking the capital. They lay siege to pueblo in the march of that year. They needed supplies, 3 million francs were sent in a convoy guarded by 62 french foreign legionairres and 3 officers. Commanded by captain jean danjou. Who had lost his hand almost a decade ago due to a musket explosion, and now wore a wooden prosthetic. Only 6 miles north of them was colonel fransisco milans volunteer regiments, of over 2000 infantry and 800 mexican cavalry. Milan chooses to go after the supply train.
The french foreign legion was only 30 years old. It had yet to achieve its truly legendary status. The legion was a part of the french army comprised of french nationals willing to serve. All a mans past crimes where overlooked and he was given a clean slate. Not only french men served. But British, spanish, polish, algerian, brazilian, portugese, german, russian, turkish.
07:00: The escort arrives at an old spanish hacienda, an abandoned stable and a ranch. Surrounded by walls, with a gate. They begin to prepare the morning coffee, as dawn approaches the cry to arms goes up, the company scrambles to its feet and mans the haciendas ten foot walls. The mexican cavalry has appeared on the hill.
09:00: The mexican reinforcements arrive and rally. they numbered around 600 light cavalry. Danjou wanted to draw the main force away from the convoy. So he made his stand. He orders his men to form a hollow defensive square. The cavalry was met with volleys of bullets. The horses throw off their riders after being stung by bayonets, some horses simply would not charge the square of bayonets and veered off into nowhere. Sometime later milan arrives with 200 lancers
hoping to intimidate the mexican fighters, captain Danjou marched on Milans regiments, and fought a hard battle to hold off the mexican lancers, The mexicans fought like savages and wave after wave kept coming after volleys of fire. The attackers retreated. The company is now down to 47 men.
Milán sends one of his captains to negoiate surrender, saying
“you will be needlessly slaughtered.” Danjou replied that he “had plenty of ammunition and shall continue to fight”. Captain Danjou makes his men swear an oath to the fight to the death on his own wooden hand. The mexicans promptly charged the western gate of the hacienda. Where Danjou is cut down in the first minutes. Second lieutenant Vilain assumes command. A huge force appears over the horizon, the french believe its a relief force, but infact its Milans infantry.
14:00: Now confident he can win, milan launches an all out attack, causualties mount on both sides but the company lacks food and water, they are also hit hard by the intense heat of the climate. The attack is repulsed, but the ammo stores are running dry. They are offered yet another chance to surrender. An brazilian sergeant in the legion replies “Merde” or figuratively “Go to hell”. However the legion is down to 32 men.
14:30 Lieutenant Vilain is shot dead. Lieutenant Maudet is the only commisioned officer remaining and he assumes the command. The men now were pushed back to the stable, some fought on the rooftops, Only 20 fighting men remain.
17:30: The ranch roof had been burnt away and all men now fight in the abandoned stable. A third surrender offer was made. The legion respectfully refused. The legion is down to 12 men.
18:00: During the next wave. Corporals Everiste Burg, Karl Magnin and Heinrich Pinzinger, plus fusiliers Leon Gorski and Hippolyte Kunnasseg were captured. The Legion is down to 5 men. Lieutenant Maudet is badly wounded and the ammo has run out. They Feebly attempt one last bayonet charge, 1 man is killed outright, 4 are surrounded, one leaps infront of lieutenant maudet, but is ripped apart by mexicans. Lieutenant maudet accepts surrender if they leave him his arms and equipment, and gives Maudet treatment for his wounds.
When the trio is brought to Milán, he asked, "Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” Then, he proclaimed in shock and amazement
“These are not men! They are demons!
Lieutenant Maudet died from his wounds and Captain Danjou’s wooden hand was brought back to the foreign legions headquarters, and placed in the
Legion Museum of Memory. Where it resides today.
The French foreign legion had rightfully achieved its place as one of the finest armies in the world and now numbers at 7000 members today. The french won the siege and the supplies reached their destination, but they pulled out of mexico 4 years later.
If you have any ideas for what I should post for next military monday, it can be anything, a battle, a leader, an idea, a concept or tactic, a military unit or formation. Do not hesitate to send in your suggestions, either by message or comment.
‘It is that of a young Roman who has been reading through the night the letters of his lost love; and at dawn, behold, the curtains of his bed are parted, and there before him stands, in spirit or in truth, the lady herself, decked as on her bridal night, and gazing upon him with sad but loving eyes’ (Millais, II, p.304
When Britain’s railway system expanded
through St. Pancras Church’s graveyard
in the 1860s, Thomas Hardy had to
exhume hundreds of bodies and bury
them in another cemetery. He decided to
place the old headstones around an ash
tree in the churchyard, where they
formed a haunting root system that’s
lasted for centuries. Source