Thursday, September 24, 2020

Battle of Camarón in 1863

In Mexico, Foreign Regiment legionnaires were to support the French troops besieging the city of Puebla. Their main task was to guard French supply convoys moving on Royal Road, an old important road connecting Veracruz (an eastern port city occupied by the French) and Puebla. 

The story of the Battle of Camarón on 30 April 1863, when Captain Danjou lost his life, has become the stuff of legionnaire legend. This battle took place in a Mexican village where a contingent of legionnaires held out against a superior Mexican force. Although the legionnaires lost the battle, it demonstrated their staunch resolution and determination.

In the eight-hour battle, a company of 65 men of the French Foreign Legion faced almost 3,000 Mexican infantrymen and cavalrymen. This action is portrayed as a pure example of bravery and determination of fighting to the finish.

Surrounded by 3,000 Mexicans, Danjou and 64 of his men were given the chance to surrender. Danjou, however, knew that if he held up the Mexicans, a vital convoy of supplies would have time to get through to his men. So, there would be no surrender. His legionnaires swore to fight to the death. Barricaded in the hacienda, they cut down wave after wave of Mexican infantry with disciplined fire.

The murderous fire continued, and the legionnaires continued to drop. Their own disciplined fire inflicted heavy losses on the Mexicans, but there seemed to be no end to the attackers.

Down to their last cartridge, the final six legionnaires standing made a bayonet charge.

Three of the six survived (with hideous wounds) and were protected by a merciful Mexican officer impressed by their bravery. Even then these three gave in only when their terms were met: that they kept their empty rifles and could give an honour guard to escort the remains of Captain Danjou.

French troops arrived days later to find the battleground still littered with the bodies of the legionnaires.
Battle of Camarón in 1863

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