The Battle of the Marne.
Although it was distant from the front, Langres was threatened by the rapid advance of the German army in the early stages of the war. Fear of seeing the enemy arrive at the foot of the ramparts was real and lasted till the battle of the Marne, when the front was established.
26th August: a census commission of “unnecessary mouths” met at the town hall and divided the city into 22 regions. The census took place during the following days.
28th August: the governor of the fortress published a decree to close the gates of the citadel in the evening.
30th August: rumour of a decree to evacuate military wives created panic. The former cog-railway was stormed and houses were emptied one after another. However, the order for evacuation had not yet been announced by the Governor of the fortress. The following day, the mayor reassured everybody that an evacuation would not take place.
3rd September: measures to defend the town were continued: the bridges of Blanchefontaine were taken down to re-establish the citadel's ditches.
6th September: as the Battle of the Marne had just started, fresh rumours of an evacuation were spread. The decision was made to prepare three convoys in case the town was threatened.
7th September at 6.30 pm: the evacuation order was officially given. The first convoy of people in need and locals left the following afternoon. In the general commotion, the town council met at 9pm to debate the irrevocable order to evacuate given by the Governor of the fortress. The Under-prefect arrived at the town hall at 10pm to announce the possibility of postponing the evacuation. The decision was made official the following day at 12.30, German retreat from the Marne was under way.
9th September: as the Battle of the Marne was coming to an end and the German army was digging its first trenches, the town continued to prepare its defences. The side-door of the gate of the town hall was walled up, while on Belle-Allée, defence work was underway along the road. The trees between the town hall gates and the 'piquante' tower were cut down to clear the view to the north of the town, and the chestnut tree avenue was pruned. To control all comings and goings, the decision was made to close all the city gates from 8pm to 5am, except the town hall gates, the Auges gates and the road around the citadel (road to the fodder enclosure). Owners of buildings with a water-cistern were invited to clean them out in order to meet possible needs of water during a siege.
These traumatic experiences brought about the placing of an ex-voto in the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Délivrance on the Fourches hill in 1918. The following text was engraved on a metal plaque: « On the morning of the 8th September 1914, the people of Langres promised to Virgin Mary to place an ex-voto here if they received on that day a sign of her protection, if the diocese escaped invasion, if France was victorious. That same day, the recent order to evacuate the town was postponed. For these three favours obtained, THANKS to Mary who was once more Our Lady of DELIVERANCE. »
In the early 1950s, following an order by Canon Turlure, commemorative plaques with the names of the soldiers of Langres fallen for France in 1914-1918 and in 1939-1945 were fixed to the cross standing on the Fourches hill.
President Wilson in Hûmes.
In December 1918, the American President, Woodrow Wilson, journeyed to France to attend the Peace Conference in Paris (12th January 1919). On 25th December 1918, he visited the American troops accompanied by General Pershing in a field near to Hûmes. It was the first foreign visit of a serving American President.