The siege of Puebla

The siege of Puebla

General Bazaine attacks Fort San-Xavier during the siege of Puebla, March 29, 1863.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

In Mexico, after a violent civil war, the liberal Benitó Juarez won over the conservatives. The French army then entered Mexico City, where Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg, brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico.

Image Analysis

The moment of the capture of the fort of San-Xavier represented by Beaucé is when, according to the booklet of the Salon of 1867, “the troops come out of the trenches and rush on the work, the first column heading to the left on the projecting from the work, the second column on the right on the flanks of the southern bastion. At the time of the attack, a fierce shootout started from the crenellated walls, terraces, doors, windows, bell towers and covered our attacks. The enemy unmasked rooms hidden behind the barricades. He joined the fire of numerous mortars and that of a field battery placed in front of Carmen. The works of Santa-Anita, San-Pablo, Morelos, etc., give their fires an incredible intensity. Despite this deluge of projectiles, our troops continued their success and entered the penitentiary ”. In the center of the composition, we see General Bazaine, leaning on the lining of the trench and giving orders. Beside Bazaine, General de Laumière collapses, mortally wounded.

Interpretation

Landscape and battle, individual portraits and anonymous mass of combatants make up this representation of the siege of Puebla. The precision of the staging, following to the letter the Marches Journal of the 1st Division of the Expeditionary Force, is enhanced here by the superb architectural view of the fortress, which alone would justify the painter's enterprise. Through the figures with the opposite destinies of Bazaine and Laumière, it is obviously an explanation of the French victory in the face of the resistance of the enemy which is given here: strategic intelligence supported by courage until sacrifice.

  • battles
  • Bazaine (François Achille)
  • Mexico
  • Second Empire

Bibliography

Jean AVENEL The Mexican campaign (1862-1867): the end of European hegemony in North America Paris Economica, 1996.Maurice BEAUMONT Bazaine: the secrets of a marshal (1811-1888) Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1978. Jean-François LECAILLON Napoleon III and Mexico: the illusions of a grand design Paris, L’Harmattan, 1994.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "The siege of Puebla"


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