Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Silent Night: Part 2

Part 2: From Mutiny to Revolution and Peace
Anti-War Riots Rock London!
LONDON, DECEMBER 31- In response to the attack on British Truce Fighters by loyalist troops, thousands upon thousands of angry Londoners took to the streets of the British capital today to protest the actions of the government. In most quarters of the city, the police simply stayed out of the way, concentrating their presence around Buckingham Palace and around the Houses of Parliament, which seemed to be the target of the marches. The crowds were calling for, among other things, the resignation of Prime Minister Asquith, for his part in the orders to fire on the Truce Fighters who refused to surrender on December 29th. Since that act, things have been unraveling on the Front, and it is now estimated that close to 180,000 British soldiers have taken up the so-called “Truce Banner,” a white flag that often has a Christmas tree in the center, and are refusing to reengage the enemy army. All told, between German and French and British troops, it is estimated somewhere between four and five hundred thousand men now are refusing to fight on the Western Front. This unprecedented event has left leaders in London and Paris stunned, unable to find a proper course of action. 
-”Anti-War Riots Rock London!” The New York Times, January 1, 1915. 

The New Years Peace Riots of 1915 are often considered the tipping point in the Christmas Truce Movement. Over the course of New Years Eve 1914 and New Years Day 1915, the cities of London, Paris, and Berlin were all paralyzed with angry mobs demanding an end to the war. In addition, there were organized protests in New York and Washington D.C., calling on the American government to try and help the peace process. Some of the strength and legitimacy for these riots can be attributed by the outspokenness of Pope Benedict XV, who cried out against the attacks the British made on their own troops on the 29th of December, and announced on the 30th that he would be more than willing to host a peace conference in Rome. 
The situation in Paris was especially volatile. The French government had managed to keep news of the Truce out of the press for days, but the story finally broke on December 31st, and the people were outraged that the government had kept them in the dark, and support for the Truce exploded across the city. The police refused to combat the riots in most parts of the city. Jean Juares and the French Socialists were the most vocal about their anger towards the government and their support of the Truce.  On New Years day, after they learned of the Truce, Juares and the French Socialists call for a nationwide general strike to show solidarity with the soldiers of the “Christmas Revolution.” Within days, much of France is paralyzed, especially in Paris. 
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

PARIS, JAN 1 - The official word circulating the French capital is that the officers taking part in the Christmas Truce have organized into what is supposedly being called the “Army of the Christmas Republic.” Several riders entered the city and were escorted by the so-called “Red Guard of Freedom” (or GRL), a socialist paramilitary group that seems to have replaced the police in the French capital every since word of the Truce broke here on New Years Eve, and were taken to the French government to supposedly present terms from the leaders of this “Christmas Army.” From what we have been able to gather and confirm, it appears that the army officers from the French, British, and German armies met at Rheims over December 30 and 31 and have established preliminary organization to their forces that now number over 200,000. In addition, the leaders meeting at Rheims also have apparently established what they call the “Christmas Republic,” which is being led by 3 men, one from each nation, who style themselves as “Consuls of the Republic.”
Not much else is know about this so-called Christmas Army, and we are just now beginning to piece together their intentions. From sources inside the French government, it is believed that the Three Consuls have demanded that France, Germany, and Great Britain immediately declare a ceasefire, and then agree to meet to work out a formal peace agreement.We are not sure if that is all they are calling for, or what they plan to do if their demands are not met. 
- “Truce Fighters Organize,” The Times (London), January 2, 1915. 

“Under no circumstances will the government of France meet with these traitors, nor will we give into their demands. By order of the Government, all French soldiers participating in this mutiny are to surrender by noon on January 3, 1915. At 1:00 in the afternoon all French forces are to engage all mutinying troops as if they were the enemy.”
-Order Issued by President Raymond Poincare and the French Government, January 2, 1915. Musee de la Revolution, Paris, PRF. 

The January 2nd Order, as it is commonly known, spurred the Christmas Army into action. They knew that the British, despite earlier failures, were considering trying a more forceful action against the mutinying forces, as were the Germans. With the French giving a new ultimatum first, the Truce Fighters had to act, and quickly. The Consuls of the so-called Christmas Republic met and decided that an army of up to 90,000 men should be dispatched towards Paris to force the issue of a cease fire with the French. at the same time, action was needed against the Germans. The French member of the Consulate, Charles Dumont, would lead an army of 80,000 mostly French troops (augmented by British soldiers) to march on Paris. Then the rest of the Christmas Army, under the leadership of Consul Henry Martin of Great Britain and Consul Friedrich Bauer of Germany would march into Germany, initially with the aim of occupying Frankfurt am Main. 
The Paris Army marched out from Rheims at approximately 11:00 a.m. on January 3, 1915, first encountering loyal French troops just before noon. They mostly dispersed, being outnumbered, and some actually joined the ranks of the Christmas Army. The First and only real battle of the Christmas Truce Movement would occur on January 4, 1915 near the town of Barcy.
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

PARIS, JAN 4 - The French Army has put up a major defensive line at the town of Barcy, East of Paris, in an attempt to stop the advancing Christmas Army troops that are marching on the French capital. It is believed that this branch of the Christmas Army, being led by Frenchman Charles Dumont, has some 80,000 French and British troops that intend to force the French government to agree to a cease fire. This move has sent shockwaves through Paris, where the French Socialists, led by agitator Jean Jaures, has taken total control over parts of the city and are calling for the resignation of President Poincare and the entire government, and for the nation to embrace a ceasefire with Germany at once. So far, it appears that the French Army have stalled the advance of what they refer to simply as “the mutineers,” but have sustained heavy losses. In addition, there are reports that many men are running over and joining the forces of the Christmas Army. If the Truce Fighters break through and make it to Paris, which isn’t an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination, it is possible that the civilian rioters could overthrow the government, sending France to even more chaos. 
-”French Battle Christmas Army!” The New York Times, January 5, 1914. 

WASHINGTON, JAN 5 - After days of speculation in the capital, President Wilson has spoken out about the impromptu truce that has thrown the continent of Europe into disarray. Since Americans have learned of the “Christmas Truce,” there have been dozens of rallies across the country calling for support of the Truce Fighters and their cause. Ministers of every creed have said that it was a sign from God to end the fighting. This was of course bolstered by the Pope’s own declaration of support for the Truce on December 28. On New Years Eve, there was a massive rally in New York City calling for American support of the Truce. Many of those demonstrators were waving around the so-called “Christmas Flag,” a white banner with a green Christmas Tree in the center, a variation of what the Truce Fighters are now using. And in response to French action, there was another large march in the nation’s capital yesterday rallying for peace. 
In light of all of this, President Wilson came before members of the press and announced that, “This war has already seen nearly one million lives lost, and for what? For national pride? for a few hundred acres of land? I do not think the gains outweigh the cost in this war. And America can no longer remain silent. I call on the belligerent nations of Europe to put down the sword of war, and come to the peace table to negotiate and end hostilities. This war in Europe must end. As President of the United States, I offer these warring states our services as mediators to help end this conflict. In addition, I am now asking the members of Congress to act quickly to make American aide to the Christmas Fighters in any way possible. Along with all of this, I have directed Secretary of State Bryan to travel to Europe to meet with the leaders of this “Christmas Republic,” and to meet with European leaders to help speed up the peace process.”
-”President Wilson: War in Europe Must End.” The Washington Post, January 6, 1915. 

With America lending its support to the Christmas Army on January 5, and the planned economic sanctions that the leaders of Congress were preparing, the days of the War of 1914 were numbered. What became the death blow to any serious plans of continuing the war happened on January 7, 1915. That morning, the Christmas Army, fresh from victory over the French at Barcy, arrived in Paris. The pre-revolutionary mood that had gripped the city since the first of January exploded into outright Revolt. the Red Guard seized control of the government quarter and kept the government under guard as the Truce Fighters, led by Consul Dumont, was escorted into the city, greeted mostly as heros. In many places, Parisians waved the Christmas Banner and cheered the soldiers as the occupied key areas of the city. At noon, Consul Dumont and his staff met with President Poincare and head of the Socialists, Jean Juares. About an hour and a half later, church bells rang out across the city, as it was announced that Poincare and his ministers had signed official orders declaring a cease fire for the French Army. The following morning, Juares announced that President Poincare had dissolved the government, and then went on to declare the birth of the People’s Socialist Republic of France. Juares and his fellow socialists leaders who would, in the coming days, work to pacify Paris and try to stabilize the country in the face of radical nationalist opposition groups led by men like George Clemenceau, in addition to confirming their commitment to the Christmas Peace and the terms agreed to by President Poincare. 
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

BERLIN, JAN 9, 1915 - In light of the turn of events in France, which saw rebel fighters belonging to the Truce Army arrive in Paris and destabilize the government in that country and lead to a socialist revolution, the Kaiser has agreed to declare a general cease-fire on both the Western Front and the Eastern Front, effective at 10:00 a.m. on January 10th. Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow has been in contact with London, and the British government has agreed to issue an official cease-fire at the same time, bringing the current war to a possibly permanent close. However, even though the war is ending, all is not stable or peaceful. Socialist agitation in the capital and in numerous other cities continues, and is believed to be why the Kaiser agreed to a cease-fire, to avoid a repeat of what occurred in France. In addition, there are over 150,000 German soldiers currently aligned with with the Christmas Truce Army, technically committing treason and desertion.  A good portion of that Army is also on the march within Imperial territory, believed to have been originally bound for Frankfurt, although now it appears to have shifted course to the south, possibly to Strasbourg, capital of Elsass-Lothringen, the territory that France has refused to recognize belongs to the German Empire since the Franco-Prussian War. There is some speculation that the Christmas Army and it’s so-called Republic wish to occupy this territory and call for it to be independent, neither part of Germany nor France. 
- “Peace! Kaiser Declares Cease-Fire!” Frankfurter Zeitung, January 10, 1915. 

(Click Here for Part 3)

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