Page 3673

3673 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

themselves helped to build; but they went

at it with a fury of determination to leave

nothing of what they had built to aid the

enemy.

" 'It was pretty hard, one of them said,

on the morning after the finish of the

wrecking process of Moreny, the most

productive of the oil districts; 'it was

pretty hard to break up one's home,

furniture, books, grand piano, everything.

But we did it thoroughly, by Jove! Millions of pounds' worth of property destroyed in a few days. Oil burned, wells

blocked, machinery demolished, refineries

put out of action. Some wreck, believe

me.' All over the country round about

the smoke of the bonfires turned day

into night. At Targovistea, twenty miles

distant, there rolled over the town, at

4 o'clock in the afternoon, a dense black fog

which hid the sky."

Notwithstanding this destruction, the

invaders had been able to capture much

booty of which they stood in need, and it

was clear that if they could continue to

hold the region they would be able to

draw from it great quantities of food

stuff's and oil.

Up to the time of the Roumanian

campaign, the year 1916 had turned

distinctly in favor of the Entente Allies,

but the striking Teutonic victories against

Roumania threw a dark cloud over the

record and created much concern and

dissatisfaction in Allied countries. The

Teutons made the most of their Roumanian

victories both to hearten their own people

and to impress the outside world, and

they endeavored to create the impression

that this was the decisive operation of the

war. Though admitting that a great

opportunity had been lost in Roumania,

Allied commentators refused to consider

the overrunning of that country as other

than a minor campaign, and most of them

insisted that the war would ultimately

be decided in the west.

On that front, on the 24th of October

the French won a success that was regarded

as possessing great significance. The stroke

had been carefully prepared, and both

the plan and the execution were largely

the work of General Robert Nivelle, who

in May had succeeded General Petain in

command at Verdun. Nivelle was the

son of a French father and an English

mother, and he received thorough technical

training at Saint-Cyr and the Ecole

Polytechnique in both infantry and artillery tactics. At the outbreak of the war,

he was merely a colonel of artillery, but

he displayed an almost uncanny skill and

adroitness in the management of his guns

and performed several wonderful feats

in Alsace, at the Marne, and in the Battle

of the'Aisne, and was soon made a brigadier

general. It was he who stopped the unforeseen German drive at Soissons, in

January, 1915. Early in April, 1916, he

took part in the defense of Verdun as

commander of the Third Army Corps and

was soon given direction of the defense of

that place, a task he performed gloriously.

In the attack of the 24th of October,

every detail was carefully worked out in

advance. The secret of the plan lay

largely in a synchronizing of artillery barrages and infantry attacks. A barrage, in the

old sense of the term, was a dam-barrier,

but the word now came to mean a curtain