3455 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
his immense army and accepting the defensive.
Three French armies were already on
the Belgian and Luxemburg borders. One
under General Lanrezac extended from
about Maubeuge to the Meuse, a second,
under General Langle de Cary, was posted
across the Ardennes-Luxemburg border,
and a third, under General Ruffey, held
the region west of Verdun. Some of these
forces had attempted to push forward
into Belgium, but, after a considerable
success won at Dinant, August 15th, by
Lanrezac, the French were checked and
then thrown back:
Great hopes were placed by the Allies
upon the resistance which they expected
would be made by Namur, just north of
the Belgian border. This place, with its
five large and four smaller forts, was
deemed at least as strong a place as Liege,
and it had had much longer time for preparation. It commanded the confluence
of the Meuse and the Sambre and also
important roads leading into France. It
was garrisoned by about 26,000 men, but
many of them were raw troops and most
had become discouraged by defeat and
by the stories of the vast numbers and
terrific power of the enemy. On the 20th
of August, a German army of about 150,000
men began an active attack upon the fortress. A continuous stream of 21, 28 and 42-centimeter shells was soon pouring
in upon the forts, which, with their much
lighter guns, were unable to make any
effective return. Under this storm of
fire and iron the defenders soon became
demoralized and fled from the trenches.
One fort held out until the 25th, but
by the 23d the Germans were able to
secure the passages of the Meuse and
Sambre and pass on with their main
forces into France. Part of the garrison of Namur succeeded in escaping into
France, and about 12,000 were subsequently transferred from Havre to northern Belgium by sea. With the fall of
Namur the preliminary stage of the campaign may be said to have ended, and the
real campaign to have begun.
For the great onslaught the Germans
had in motion a horde of about a million
and a half men, divided into several armies.
Much the greater number of this vast
force was moving southward out of Belgium and Luxemburg, and the cavalry
attached to this wing alone about equaled
all the men who fought on both sides at
Gettysburg. Pushing in through the
Longwy gap there was also another great
army under the German Crown Prince.
The German plan was to dash southward
at tremendous speed, crush all opposition,
destroy the French armies, capture Paris,
and force France to sign a peace.
To meet the invasion the French, at
this time, had about 1,300,000 men mobilized, but only about half were near the
frontier, and, of this half, too large a proportion seemed concentrated in the east.
To meet the great avalanche from the
north there were only the armies of Generals Lanrezac, Langle de Cary, and Ruffey
and the little British army. This last
force consisted of two army corps and a
considerable number of cavalry, in all about