Our new brigade commander, General Wathiez, was able during the these various actions to win the affection and regard of the troops. As for the divisional commander, General Exelmans, we knew only his reputation in army circles which was that of a man of outstanding bravery; but he was also regarded as being somewhat unreliable. We had proof of this in an event which occurred at the re-commencement of hostilities.
At a time when the division was carrying out a withdrawal, to which my regiment was giving cover, General Exelmans, on the pretext that he was about to lay a trap for the Prussian advance guard, ordered me to place at his disposal my elite company and 25 of my best marksmen, whom he put under the command of Major Lacour; then he put these 150 men in a meadow surrounded by woodland, and after telling them not to move without his permission, he went off and completely forgot them... The enemy arrived, and seeing the detachment abandoned in this manner, they halted, fearing that it had been put t to lure them into an ambush. To reassure themselves, they sent some individual men to slip into the wood, on the right and left, and when they heard no sound of gunfire, they gradually built up the number until they had completely surrounded our troopers. It was in vain that several officers pointed out to Major Lacour that this movement was going to cut off his retreat; Lacour, brave but lacking initiative, stuck rigidly to the order he had been given, without considering that General Exelmans might have forgotten him and that it might be as well to send someone to remind him, and at least to reconnoitre the terrain over which he might be able to retreat. He had been ordered to stay t, and he would stay t even if his men were killed or taken prisoner!
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