Jour Camerone

Legionnaires

Today in Aubagne la Légion étrangère, the French Foreign Legion, celebrates its most important anniversary, the battle of Camerone.

Camerone was the action that defined the spirit of the French Foreign Legion.  A company of only 62 men and three officers fought an army of 3,000 Mexicans to a standstill in a battle lasting ten hours.

When he realised that they were surrounded the French commander, Captain Jean Danjou, asked his men to swear an oath to fight to the death.  They swore their oath on the wooden prosthetic arm of the Captain.  This wooden hand is now the most prized possession of the Legion in Aubagne.  The greatest honour for a legionnaire is to carry the arm in parade.

The legionnaires fought action after action in the course of the day.  Three times the Mexicans begged them to surrender and save their lives.  Three times they refused.  When at last the final five ran out of ammunition, instead of surrendering they mounted a bayonet charge.

Thus was born the legend of the French Foreign Legion.

-o0o-

Ils furent ici moins de soixante

Opposés a toute une armée

Sa masse les écrasa

La vie plutot que le courage

Abandonna ces soldats Français

Le 30 Avril 1863

A leur memoire la patrie eleva ce monument

-o0o-

Here it was that less than sixty

Opposed an entire army

Its numbers crushed them

Life rather than courage

Abandoned these soldiers of France

April 30, 1863

In their memory the homerland raised this monument

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I have a rendezvous with Death ; by Alan Seeger (American & Legionnaire)

I have a rendezvous with Death

At some disputed barricade,

When Spring comes back with rustling shade

And apple-blossoms fill the air—

I have a rendezvous with Death

When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

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It may be he shall take my hand

And lead me into his dark land

And close my eyes and quench my breath—

It may be I shall pass him still.

I have a rendezvous with Death

On some scarred slope of battered hill,

When Spring comes round again this year

And the first meadow-flowers appear.

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God knows ’twere better to be deep

Pillowed in silk and scented down,

Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,

Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,

Where hushed awakenings are dear…

But I’ve a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town,

When Spring trips north again this year,

And I to my pledged word am true,

I shall not fail that rendezvous.

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