54mmCamerone - 1863
Mexicans' next attack was upset again by the legionnaires, knocking down tens upon tens of foot soldiers. Some of them stopped in surprise, and others shot confused blanks. Captain Danjou was hit in the breast and the legionnaires' spirits sank. It was about 1 pm and they were fighting for about 3 hours, since their jurament. They were fewer and fewer able riflemen left, in spite of the fact that the Mexicans' new attack was pushed back, and this time their loss was bigger.
At 2 pm another attack was fatal to Lieutenant Vilain. Standard -bearer Maudet was the only officer left alive. In the boiling afternoon heat the Mexicans could set fire to the wooden beams of the roof from the ruins. The legionnaires were able to put out the fire, but at 5:30 pm only Maudet and eleven other men were still able to fight. A Mexican officer asked them again to surrender. Maudet's answer was so harsh that the Mexican turned back to his lines, shaking his head.
On their next attack, the Mexicans could wipe out the half of the surviving twelve legionnaires. The left five legionnaires, remained with their guns empty after the last shots, heard Maudet's order Bayonets!". They threw themselves into the attack under the bullet rain of the Mexicans. Maudet and two other legionnaire fell wounded to death. The other three legionnaires, Corporal Maine and riflemen Wenzel and Leonard went on unhurt, ready to be cut to pieces, when a Mexican officer with his sabre in hand appeared in front of the three brave soldiers, asking them per favor to surrender. With their bayonets touching on the breast of the Mexican officer, and with the rifles aimed by Mexicans towards them, Corporal Maine answered "We will surrender if you promise to help our wounded, and if you leave us the honor of keeping our arms."
It was six o'clock in the afternoon, the 65 legionnaires had held out for eleven hours against 2000 men, killing 300 and wounding as many. Only three legionnaires remained unhurt at Camerone. Second Lieutenant Maudet and other eight soldiers who were seriously wounded were to die within a few hours. Nineteen more legionnaires died later in prison, and only twelve men survived to be set free.
The heroic stand of the Foreign Legion ensured the French supply convoy made it safely to Puebla. The Mexicans failed to relieve the siege and the city fell on May 17.
After hearing of the battle, French Emperor Napoleon III had the name Camerone embroidered onto the flag of the Foreign Legion.
Today April 30th is celebrated as Camerone Day by the Foreign Legion, and is the most cherished battle in the history of the Legion. The word Cameroneis inscribed in gold on the walls of Les Invalides in Paris.
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