14-18 Langres

at war

The citadel:

The departure of the 21st Infantry Regiment and the Americans in Langres

On Friday 31st July, people’s spirits were concerned with the worrying events which were playing out in the town. In the morning, the horses were requisitioned by the army and then, from contradicted rumours, the Langres people learned that the 21st Infantry Regiment was on the move. This regiment, which had occupied the citadel since 1873, did the Langres people proud, as they lived at the pace of marches and concerts of military music. When the regiment left the town for Vosges on the morning of Saturday 1st August, the population accompanied the soldiers, well aware that the situation was serious. However, the press was reassuring: the Le Spectateur wrote in a column: « We mustn’t exaggerate the significance of this measure. It is not, in the proper sense of the word, mobilisation. » (Le Spectateur 2nd August 1914, Coll. Bibl. Marcel-Arland). The journalist was right; it didn’t intervene until a few hours later at 4pm…

On 26th February 1938, friends of the veterans of the 21st Infantry Regiment inaugurated a plaque paying homage to the soldiers of the 21st, 221st R.I and the 51st Territorial Infantry Regiment who had been killed in battle. This plaque remains on the façade of one of the barracks at the entrance to the Place d’Armes.

In 1917, when the Americans arrived in Langres, they moved into the citadel to make it into a site of barracks, but also exercises. This was the place chosen to house an essential division of the American Armed Forces: the 29th Engineers, which specialised in the making of Ordinance Survey maps.

The American army, not content merely supplying men, turned up with state of the art equipment. When the Americans arrived in Langres, they set up a number of infrastructures which would allow them to live autonomously. They had their own shacks and power generators and assumed ownership of a network of drinkable water which fed the town from Brévoines to modernise it.

In the spring of 1918, the American Secretary of State in times of War (equivalent to the Foreign Affairs Minister), Newton Baker, came to France on a visit to inspect the American Expeditionary Forces. Accompanied by General John Pershing, he made the journey to Langres and made the most of it by inspecting the first graduates of the American War Schools in the Place d’Armes in the citadel.

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