28 May 1871

The fall of the Paris Commune.

This series of slides shows key figures and events during the Paris Commune of 18 March – 28 May 1871. The Paris Commune was a revolutionary government which was initially elected as the city council “commune”, but later declared itself to have authority to rule all France. It was violently suppressed by the regular French army in “the bloody week” of 21-28 May 1871. The final slides in the talk show a march in the 1920s or early 1930s to commemorate the Paris Commune, possibly on the 50th or 60th anniversary.

Unfortunately Henry Sara’s notes for this talk haven’t survived, but we have been able to add captions to some of the slides by using various sources, including some of the books from which Sara took his illustrations. Henry Sara wrote an article on the Paris Commune ‘The March Past’ for the Communist Review of March 1926 – this has also been reproduced and may give some idea of the arguments put forward during his lantern lecture.

On the morning of 27 May, the regular army soldiers of Generals Grenier, Ladmirault and Montaudon launched an attack on the National Guard artillery on the heights of the Buttes-Chaumont. The heights were captured at the end of the afternoon by the first regiment of the French Foreign Legion. One of the last remaining strongpoints of the National Guard was the cemetery of Père-Lachaise, defended by about 200 men. At 6:00 in the evening, the army used cannon to demolish the gates and the First Regiment of naval infantry stormed into the cemetery. Savage fighting followed around the tombs until nightfall, when the last 150 guardsmen, many of them wounded, were surrounded; and surrendered. The captured guardsmen were taken to the wall of the cemetery, known today as the Communards’ Wall, and shot.

On 28 May, the regular army captured the last remaining positions of the Commune, which offered little resistance. In the morning the regular army captured La Roquette prison and freed the remaining 170 hostages. The army took 1,500 prisoners at the National Guard position on Rue Haxo, and 2,000 more at Derroja, near Père-Lachaise. A handful of barricades at Rue Ramponneau and Rue de Tourville held out into the middle of the afternoon, when all resistance ceased.