At Craonne, on the 7th of March, he destroyed Blucher's corps in a severe action, but the victory was attended by great loss to the conqueror. Marshal Victor was seriously wounded, as well as Generals Grouchy and La Ferriere.
The French captured first-line German trenches over a front of three-quarters of a mile northeast of Chevreux near Craonne, during the night of May 8, 1917, capturing several hundred prisoners. Vigorous counterattacks made about the same time by the Germans to regain lost positions on the plateau of Chemin-des-Dames and on the Californie Plateau were shattered by the French artillery.
Their right flank was covered by the powerful defenses of the Aisne and the guns of the Craonne plateau, their left flank was a series of intrenchments along the river Suippe, which merged into the second line of defense of the main army under the Duke of Württemberg.
The stench from the unburied bodies was so great that officially all the tobacco for the whole battle front was commandeered and sent to the trenches under the plateau of Craonne and on the hill to the westward, where the British First Army Corps was placed.
On advancing farther, we found the Russians established on the heights of Craonne, and covering the road to Laon in what appeared to be an impregnable position; but nevertheless the advance guard of our army, commanded by Marshal Ney, rushed forward and succeeded in taking Craonne. That was enough glory for this time, and both sides then passed the night preparing for the battle of next day.
Fresh attempts were made in May; Craonne was taken on the 4th, and the California plateau to the north of it and Chevreux in the plain to the east were seized on the 6th and held against counter-attacks, while east of Reims Auberive had fallen, and by the 20th the whole summit of the Moronvillers massif was said to have been secured.
The French Fifth Army had been compelled to abandon all idea of a direct attack upon the Craonne plateau, the natural position being far too strong. The Second and Third Corps of the British army could do nothing.
Curious conversation between General Reynier and the Emperor Alexander Napoleon repulses the Prussians The Russians at Fontainebleau Battle of Brienne Sketch of the campaign of France Supper after the battle of Champ Aubert Intelligence of the arrival of the Duc d'Angouleme and the Comte d'Artois in France The battle of the ravens and the eagle Battle of Craonne Departure of the Pope and the Spanish Princes Capture of a convoy Macdonald at the Emperor's headquarters The inverted cipher.
"He works tooth and nail for a peace," wrote Stewart, "as far as depends on him. He dreads Bonaparte's successes even more than ours, lest they should make him more impracticable." But, unfortunately, his latest and most urgent appeal to the Emperor reached the latter just after the Pyrrhic victory at Craonne, which left him more stubborn than ever.
I did not know until I looked upon the horrors of Craonne that such conditions could exist in modern warfare. "I thought that frequent truces would be negotiated to give the opposing armies an opportunity to collect their wounded and bury their dead. I had an idea that the Red Cross had made war less terrible.