Sunday, 22 March 2015

Luise Seidler

Twenty-year old Luise Seidler reports on the aftermath of the Battle of Jena:
After the victorious French troops occupied Jena, the castle was turned into a hospital. Every morning at nine o’clock, with terrible punctuality, the funeral carriage rattled into the courtyard. Shortly afterward it left with its gruesome freight, which was covered only lightly with straw, from which heads, arms, and legs stuck out. The carriage passed through the gate, which shut with a creak of its hinges.
Pans filled with tar were set on fire, to prevent epidemics and cleanse the air polluted with the exhalations of the sick and dead. For many days after the battle, badly wounded soldiers were brought in. They were in terrible condition and had survived on grass and dew. Most of them died almost immediately after being taken in.

The water supply in the city had been interrupted.
The cannons being transported through the city had shaken up the ground and ruptured water mains. People had to make do with water from the Saale river, in which dead horses, human remains, and bloody rags floated around.

Trade came to a standstill.
The victors confiscated all food. We could only satisfy the most urgent hunger by begging of the enemy tickets called “bons”, which entitled us to have meat and bread delivered by the superintendent of the military...It was only at the beginning of the new year 1807 that conditions in the hard-hit city normalized to some extent.

During the Napoleonic occupation, Luise made the acquaintance of the French physician in charge of the hospitals, Dr. Geoffroy. He became a frequent visitor to her house.
He read to me his favourite poets, Corneille and Racine, and we made music together, he playing the cello, and I accompanying him on the piano. Our mutual interest grew…at last he asked for my hand in marriage, and my parents agreed.
Their romance ended in tragedy, however. Dr. Geoffroy was transferred to Spain and died there before the wedding could take place.

(Source: Luise Seidler. Erinnerungen und Leben; my trans.)

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