Evangelical Lutheran Aristocratic German Woman’s Diary of Her Work as an Unpaid Volunteer Nurse Hospital Administrator and Spy During the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71

$15,000.00

The fourth daughter of Franz Karl Rumpff, Staff Captain of the German Army, born at Frankfurt 11/23/1825 – 12/19/98, Clementine Louise Rumpff was created Baroness von Bratiano, of Bratiano, near Krajova, Roumania, on May 12, 1872, by the German Emperor and King of Prussia, William I, “In virtue of her noble Ancestry, and in consideration of the valuable Services she has rendered to the Fatherland, shall be henceforth authorized, to adopt in addition to her Family Name the Title and Rank of Freifrau (Baroness) von Bratiano.” This is the diary of a cultured and high-born lady, born to a lifestyle that prepared her to apply the administrative and management skills she learned growing up in a large household with numerous retainers, many with task-specific positions. In addition, her aristocratic pedigree gave her access to the royal families of England and Germany from childhood. She received the Iron Cross from the King of Prussia for her nursing work at Versailles. Mme Rumpff’s access to the highest levels of German society made her a natural choice for clandestine intelligence missions into Paris during the ceasefire of February 1871. Her detailed reports went to Otto von Bismarck, with whom she had direct and frequent contact  and also in the presence of the King-Emperor. The accounts she gave of the early days of the Commune are gripping. The text of “To the Inhabitants of Paris,” signed by A. Thiers, Jules Favre and Ernest Picard, is given in full, telling the Parisians what they must do to prolong the Armistice. Mme Rumpff’s piety and selfless desire are both evident. She was a patriot and a strong woman who lived her faith by helping wounded soldiers, doing what she believed was the Lord’s work.

Description

RUMPFF, Clementine Louise, Fragments from the Diary of a German Lady, during the Franco Prussian War 1870 – 1871. Madame Rumpff’s Diary of War of 1870-71, Vol. I, 133 pages; Vol II, 139 pages; and, Vol. III, 112 pages [4 blank pages, 30 handwritten pages, 2 blank pages, 36 pages, 2 blank pages, 17 pages, 1 blank page, 14 pages, 9 blank pages]. A manuscript in three matching lined composition notebooks, 22.5 cm x 17cm, with marbled pasteboard covers and cloth spines, ink on paper, written mostly in English, with a few German and French quotations.

The fourth daughter of Franz Karl Rumpff, Staff Captain of the German Army, born at Frankfurt 11/23/1825 – 12/19/98, Clementine Louise Rumpff was created Baroness von Bratiano, of Bratiano, near Krajova, Roumania, on May 12, 1872, by the German Emperor and King of Prussia, William I, “In virtue of her noble Ancestry, and in consideration of the valuable Services she has rendered to the Fatherland, shall be henceforth authorized, to adopt in addition to her Family Name the Title and Rank of Freifrau (Baroness) von Bratiano.” This is the diary of a cultured and high-born lady, born to a lifestyle that prepared her to apply the administrative and management skills she learned growing up in a large household with numerous retainers, many with task-specific positions. In addition, her aristocratic pedigree gave her access to the royal families of England and Germany from childhood. She received the Iron Cross from the King of Prussia for her nursing work at Versailles. Mme Rumpff’s access to the highest levels of German society made her a natural choice for clandestine intelligence missions into Paris during the ceasefire of February 1871. Her detailed reports went to Otto von Bismarck, with whom she had direct and frequent contact  and also in the presence of the King-Emperor. The accounts she gave of the early days of the Commune are gripping. The text of “To the Inhabitants of Paris,” signed by A. Thiers, Jules Favre and Ernest Picard, is given in full, telling the Parisians what they must do to prolong the Armistice. Mme Rumpff’s piety and selfless desire are both evident. She was a patriot and a strong woman who lived her faith by helping wounded soldiers, doing what she believed was the Lord’s work.

Provenance: A manuscript annotation in Volume II, “Seaton Gippsland Victoria” indicates this diary may have had an Australian owner, in a very small town, according to the post office, first named Bald Hills (Gippsland) in 1862, and renamed Seaton (Gippsland) in 1879. There is an ownership stamp “Mrs John Greg,” which is believed to belong to a prominent family in Melling, Merseyside, in Lancashire, where the diary was written or perhaps reconstructed from earlier notes in 1888. In Vol. I, is a penciled note: “Clementine Louise Rumpff, Baroness von Bratiano May 12, 1872,” below which is the ownership stamp, “Mrs. John Greg.” The same ownership stamp appears in the front of Vol. III.

Vol. I

Madame Rumpff’s Diary of War of 1870-71, Vol. I, 133 pages. Condition: Cloth backstrip torn with cloth missing, covers loose but not completely detached. Interior very good.

A single German woman living in England, Clementine Louise Rumpff traveled to the Continent from London August 14, 1870, traveling via Rotterdam to set up a private lagarette, funded by the English National Society, at Homburg near Frankfurt, as she was a “lady who understood English hospital work.”  With her brother, a doctor and a German Army Staff Officer, as her guide and sometime travel escort and expediter, Baroness Rumpff made a tour of the lagarettes set up for the care of both French and German wounded en route to Homburg. Mention is made of Madame Rothschild Lagelles’s private hospital for sixteen patients, who were waited on by staff in the Rothschild livery and served off silver dishes. Rumpff made the suggestion these wounded would be more comfortable if a “more homely way” of nursing was introduced. Her advice was taken. She writes her observations of every hospital she visited en route to Homburg.

She writes of her meeting with the Crown Princess, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter. She refers to her nursing attire as her “Nightingale costume.” Mme Rumpff records staying at Castle Homburg with the Crown Princess, playing with the young royal children, and being sent to Versailles, to the staff of the Third Army (Troisième Armée) as a “Voluntary Nurse to the Sick and Wounded” September 25, 1870. Traveling free by rail, using a pass signed by Major von Norman,  issued to her by the Crown Princess Frederick to the Staff of the Third Army at Versailles as Voluntary Nurse to the Sick and Wounded, “that Fraulein [Rumpff] may find immediate Work on or near the Battlefield.” Armed with other letters of introduction to medical and the German General Staff, Rumpff made her way, recording what she saw, uniforms, troop movements, even copying graffiti left by French soldiers into her notebook. She mentions the landmark fortresses of Pfaltzburg and Lutzelstein.

Once at Versailles, Rumpff details the conditions, including outbreaks of typhus. Known to King-Emperor William I of Hohenzollern through her father’s family, she records details of her face-to-face encounters with various members of the German royal family. For instance, she records King William arrived from the Château de Ferrières, the Rothschild estate, where he had been staying en route to Versailles.

At Versailles, she praises the titles she found in her four “splendidly furnished rooms (one a library with a good stock of French Novels, besides Works of Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire etc. Works which are admired by all Germans, and we always consider them the greatest after those of Antiquity;) as well as describing the house servant assigned to serve her. The doctors with whom she interacted at Versailles were Dr. Wegner and Dr. Wilms.

The Hall of Mirrors was used as a sick room, as were other state rooms. The disinfection regimen followed to prevent the spread of typhus and the search for heavier clothing – even repurposing blood-soaked garments some still holding arms and legs that had been cut away in great haste to perform rapid medical treatments — were among her first priorities to improve the conditions in her hospital. She mentions money sent to her through her brother, then stationed in Frankfurt, by the English National Association. She describes food shortages. Tube-feeding a Polish soldier with a facial wound was her adaptive solution. Distribution of Iron Crosses by King William and the presentation of a pipe to Crown Prince Frederick with the word “peace” carved into it.

Among the most interesting non-medical observations she makes are descriptions of von Moltke, with whom she interacted frequently, even visiting him in his command center, of which she records details about the maps, telegraph machines and Moltke’s servant von Polniz. Little escaped her notice on her first close visit to the battlefield. Also, on that first visit to the front, she describes the three Sanitäts Detachments in every army corps in hierarchical detail, down to the litter bearers.

Doctors Neithart, Chalons and Stieber were helpful to her in combating Typhus Fever. Even though she states King William’s health was a secret, she describes his rheumatic infirmity, having observed treatment given the king.

Hermann Cohen’s death from smallpox, possibly contracted from French prisoners arriving in Germany, is recorded, as is a brief summary of his biography from scion of a wealthy Jewish banking family, piano wunderkind, pupil and disciple of Franz Liszt, until his lifestyle created an irreparable rupture with Liszt; and, as Cohen converted to Roman Catholicism, he became a celebrated priest-preacher. Also, she describes a chemical water purification system Bismarck used to be sure his drinking water was safe.

Vol. II Madame Rumpff’s Diary of War of 1870-71, Vol. II, 139 pages. Condition: Cloth backstrip torn with cloth missing, covers not detached. Interior a few pages unsewn, no text loss.

November 23rd 1870 2nd Field Lazareth 5th Army Corps 3rd Army. Lycée – Versailles.

This volume begins with a statement: “Now after 18, years I can write this account in the enjoyment of health …” indicating this account of her time in France nursing both French and German wounded soldiers was perhaps transcribed or even translated into its surviving manuscript. (Volume I has pages where the English grammar and syntax were under visible revision.)

Clementine Louise Rumpff continues in Vol. II her detailed record of hospital hazards such as typhus, gastric fever, rheumatic fever and a condition she describes as “cannon and brain fever,” known later as shell-shock. She names Dr. Herrman, with whom she treated these fevers. She records care package contents. Princess [Agnes] Salm-Salm appears again as Rumpff’s friend and diligent co-worker. Rumpff eschews payment from Dr. Putbus, preferring to work out of love. Her ordering various herbal tea preparations for the soldiers is also recorded. She bought games with her own money for the wounded. Isolation wards are described. She writes of an information board over the patient’s bed with name, age, family, regiment and money due. She used iced poultices for delirium.

In the midst of her description, she records that Otto von Bismarck, living near her station, played a Beethoven piano sonata “… who could find time to enjoy the charm of Music.” Prince Bismarck objected to the band playing “O, Strasburg!”, by yelling out the window, “Not that!” General Voigts-Rhets and Maj. Von Mishke are mentioned. She records using furniture to fuel a wood stove for heat and hot water, to make coffee for the patients. She segregated patients according to contagion. She mentions the Johanniters sending men to help with those who were dangerously ill. She obtained French and German dialogue books “with the most useful questions and answers” from Frankfurt. She sent “beautiful” caricatures drawn by the patients of the King to His delight, and the King asked for more of them.

Her description of Christmas at Versailles (Dec. 24, 1870) is a remarkable entry complete with the acquisition of many trees, how they were decorated, as the celebration took place in the Salle Louis XIII. Rumpff mentions woolen clothing sent from London by Ambassador Count Bernstoff. She describes tables covered with presents, listing what they were. To remember Dr. Neithart’s Christmas Eve birthday, a cross-dressing ensign (Otto Schulz) was habillé en femme to give the doctor his present. Pastor Wernike gave a short address to the medical staff. A lottery was held to give a silver watch from the King to the winning patient. Rumpff gives an eyewitness account of the Prussian bombardment of Paris on Dec. 27, 1870, in the company of the King and Crown Prince. Drs. Wilks and Wegner were in charge.  A lock of her hair turned white over night. She got the Iron Cross from the King, whom she had known since childhood. In Jan. 12, 1871 it was announced the King would become Kaiser, at a service held at Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors. As space was limited in the Galerie des Glaces, Rumpff mentions competition for a place behind one of the many peeopholes at Versailles. Mention is made of a Mme Ponteraliff, a grande dame of society, famous for her glittering soirées.

The elevation of King William I to Kaiser took place Jan. 18, 1871 at Versailles, A leaflet for the service is tipped in bearing the printer’s name, “Versailles, imprimerie Beau, rue de l’Orangerie, 36.” The discourse by Rogge for the high-ranking military and members of the royal family is described and the text of the Proclamation issued is recorded by Rumpff in her English translation, which revived a title nascent for 60 years and promised restoration of lands taken from them, as well as protection from invasion by France. The Grand Duke of Baden made the acclamation and received homage from the royalty and nobles present. Prince Pless was head of the Johanniters. The lazarettes at Versailles were evacuated on trains, and Rumpff was sent to Le Mans. The passe-par-tout given to Rumpff by Crown Prince Frederick served her well is some rough circumstances in Le Mans, where lodging for a  woman traveling alone was very hard to find. Smallpox outbreaks were noticed and recorded, signs on the fronts of houses said, “Les petits Vérôles.”  Rumpff took charge and segregated the wounded exposed to smallpox in unused rail carriages, which she fitted out with mattresses and charcoal heaters. A large bonfire was kept burning as well. She mentions the German patients’ tolerance for their “Erbsenwurst.” A lazareth was set up at Nogent-le-Rotron. Rumpff was commissioned to oversee the transfer of wounded from Le Mans to Versailles. Chateau de Rambouillet was used to house wounded.  The three-week armistice signed by Jules Favre is described as allowing freedom of movement to transfer wounded and maintain the places where they received care. Lala Campbell and Count Usedom joined Rumpff back at Versailles.

The fire at Meudon is detailed as set by the French, following the burning of the royal residences at St. Cloud and Malmaison. A vague account of what a German soldier told

Rumpff is given, blaming the start of the fire on French shelling that set off grenades stored around the castle.

Back at Versailles she was ordered to attend Mme Ponteraliff’s. Bismarck referred her to a stack of accumulated letters and documents and asked her if she had ever been to Paris. Germans remaining in Paris during the siege had sought laissez-passer to escape worsening conditions as well as violent ant-German sentiment. It was considered safe for Rumpff to go through the security cordon around Paris because she had been living in England for 17 years prior to the outbreak of war, so Rumpff was sent to give assistance and grant selective laissez-passer where desired.

Styling herself as English on a “mission of mercy” and armed with introductions by Mme Ponteraliff, Rumpff entered Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, noting slight damage to one pillar in the Basilica of Saint-Denis and that the planks laid over the tombs of the kings for protection were still in place. The Rue de Paris in Saint-Denis was “a sad picture of destruction.”

She details the “reddition,”  how the Germans took over the French forts, in detail and records the 1,357 cannons the Germans took in ”perfect order” from the forts and another 602 cannons from the French army in Paris.  Once at Mme Pontleraliff’s she received further instructions from von Brauchitsch, the Chief of Police, who gave her a list of names of people to find, the same number of people as the number of laissez-passer signed by Jules Favre. All this done with a special pass signed by von Brauchitsch stating she resided in London and was sent by the English National Society “to nurse the sick and wounded” and “commissioned by Mme Pontleraliff to visit her two nephews,” two wounded French officers being nursed at the Russian Embassy. Von Brauchitsch also gave Rumpff a letter of introduction to “the American Minister (Consul) Washburne,” who had helped Germans trapped in Paris. Rumpff was also given 1,000 francs to aid designated families, told to buy newspapers printed during the siege and to “write down anything of interest.” Mme  Pontleraliff gave Rumpff “a very ingenious double bag for carrying papers.” Rumpff was given one of Mme Ponteraliff’s fine dresses to wear, with a red cross sewn onto the front of her dress, rather than her usual nurse’s uniform. Rumpff entered Paris alone at Gare Saint-Lazare, wearing her nursing uniform, in the early days of the Commune. She describes Paris that night as a “Lunatic Asylum.”

Rumpff notes the greatest bombardment destruction was in Saint Germain, Saint Jacques and the Quartier Latin. Six of the twenty districts in Paris were too dangerous to live in, and seven others were considered unsafe. She estimated one million people had been made homeless, and from this displacement came famine and plunder. She goes into the dropping price of horseflesh because the government controlled the feed for livestock. There is an antisemitic reference to “… some speculating Jews, would buy the best [horses], and were selling them now again, at an immense profit, nobody knew where and how they had been fed during the last 2 and 3 months.” Rumpff describes starving horses roaming Paris and butcher shops selling horsemeat. Restaurants served “boeuf du cheval.”  While at the Russian Embassy, Mme Rumpff noticed an odor, and after asking about it, was told rabbits and fowl were being raised and kept inside the building to prevent them being stolen. Canaries were killed by desperate Parisians and turned into broth. German-French married couples experienced patriotic enmity of the French during the siege of Paris. Rumpff stayed with Mme Blandon in Belleville, where Blandon had rented rooms in an old mansion used as a  boarding house.

Butcher shops would sell one ham at a time, saying it was the last and auction it to the highest bidder. Then, the next single ham put out would start at a price thirty percent higher than the last as Rumpff witnessed on February 5, 1871. Rumpff describes an English woman, a former governess, a Miss Wakefield, trapped and starving in a ruined area of St. Jacques, living on bread and water after she had killed and eaten her pet cat. Street demonstrations in Paris are described. Queen Victoria, Emperor William and Napoleon III were reviled together in effigy. Communard street orators ranted about conspiracies, the coming German occupation of Paris, food shortages, what was in the food and treasonous military conspiracies about damage done not by the enemy but by the French generals.  Trochu was blamed personally for the capitulation. Cries of “Vive la Commune!” rang out.

Vol. III

RUMPFF, Clementine Louise, Fragments from the Diary of a German Lady, during the Franco Prussian War 1870 – 1871. Madame Rumpff’s Diary of War of 1870-71, Vol. III, 112 pages [4 blank pages, 30 handwritten pages, 2 blank pages, 36 pages, 2 blank pages, 17 pages, 1 blank page, 14 pages, 9 blank pages]. Condition: backstrip intact, not loose. Corners of the covers are scuffed. Interior fine.

Feb. 12th, 1871

Upon her return to Versailles from Paris, Mme Rumpff was given a citation for her care of the wounded at Le Mans. She was also summoned by an appreciative Bismarck for her eyewitness account, a refreshing change from the usual sources of the Chancellor’s information. Bismarck joked with Rumpff about negotiations with Picard, a finance minister, for an extension of seven days. She records souvenirs made from French cannons were prepared and distributed as favors after a celebratory dinner. Gen. Voights-Retz introduced Rumpff to his daughter, the wife of the Mayor of Eulenberg, and an old schoolmate of hers in their younger years. The Emperor teased her about seeing Paris before he did. Bismarck told her to go to Paris not later than Feb. 18 and to bring back caricatures as well as some of the French soldiers’ bread. She was also to carry another letter to Blandon.

En route to Paris, she describes the French peasants taking down telegraph poles for fuel. Rumpff also describes whole villages abandoned by the French. Vacated houses, inns and bakeries were taken over by Germans to feed and house the German army. She describes the words “Liberté Égalité Fraternité”  having been written on white squares on the main portal of the Basilica of Saint-Denis as inappropriate for the burial place of the French kings.

Rumpff describes the damage to some of the Parisian suburbs. Noting no city like Paris with two million inhabitants, a garrison of 500,000 men and provisions for four months had ever been taken by an army of only 300,000 men. She obtained a sample of the black bread given daily to the French infantry, which had visible sawdust and some kind of meat in it, which she says a dog wouldn’t eat. On Bismarck’s instructions, she kept this daily ration and gave the soldier some money to get better food. Rumpff writes about more than 200 people in line to buy Gruyère cheese. She mentions the Communards’ “Orsini bombs” and details the damage they could do. “Les Amazones de la Seine” were an all-woman citizen infantry allied with the Communards preparing to defend Paris from the German army. She describes their uniform. Mob violence against former members of Napoleon III’s government is detailed.

When the ceasefire became a permanent peace, Mme Rumpff describes her entry into Paris with the triumphant German army, the distribution of the troops – both French and German, as the route taken allowed her to enjoy seeing the great monuments, which her clandestine visits did not allow. She makes a remarkable statement: “I forgot to say, that I had received strict Order, not to go near Belleville, when in Paris with the Army.” Rumpff also tells the reader that her sister and brother-in-law had been living in Paris for several years when war broke out, as he had “an appointment” at the German Embassy. She says that “our loved Emperor” William I went out driving without an escort, and the Crown Prince Frederick walked with the Emperor at the Trocodero, where they shook hands with Mme Rumpff, while she was wearing her Iron Cross. She adds the Parisians gesticulated at it and said some impudent things. She does say one or two potshots were taken at the 13th Regiment of Hussars, but no one was wounded. Her route back to Versailles through the Bois de Boulogne, where the trees had been cut, and over a pontoon bridge replacing the bride to Sèvres was uneventful, and she records her desire to return to Germany. Emperor William I gave a speech to the troops on March 4, thanking them for their service. Mme Rumpff then outlines how the troops will be distributed on both banks of the Seine. Finalization of the peace talks in Brussels will determine the disposition of troops, as she notes only the Landwehr and the Artillery were going “home.” She writes that the conditions in France, especially the refusal of the Revolutionary Party to recognize the terms of the peace, made an occupying army a necessity. Prior to leaving France, she undertook a final trip to collect wounded at Orléans, and relates the ransacking of the Napoleon’s Chateau à la Motte Beuvron by the French, who had put up a sign that said “Propriété Nationale.”

At Chartres, she saw the Corm Market, run exclusively by women, and so well run all business was over very quickly. Opting to change her ticket on a First Class train to travel with some of her severely wounded former patients in converted baggage cars, she bought food for the trip (ham, bread, coffee, tobacco and sweets for the non-smokers), which they were having at a rail siding campsite, when the noise of the train she was originally scheduled to travel on was heard colliding with a “goods train coming from Paris.”  She met her brother Louis and relieved his anxiety about her change of trains.

Rumpff traveled on to her hometown, Frankfurt, the ancient coronation town, to welcome the newly crowned Emperor, as Germany had not had an empire for a century. Von Moltke was presented with a large sausage in Frankfurt. Weber’s “Jubilee Ouverture” was played. “Watch on the Rhine” was sung.

She mentions the decorations she received: Order of Merit (Brevet), June 17, 1871, from the Emperor in Berlin; The Medal for Service in War from the King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, May 22, 1872;  the War Medal in Steel, May 12, 1872; as well as the Iron Cross, January 1, 1871.

In a final personal note dated March 1888, when she made final entry, she explains why she lived a solitary life. Her mother family, the Bratianos, were a wealthy Roman Catholic family. Her father was Protestant. In the terms of the marriage settlement, the boys were to be raised as protestants and the girls as Catholics. Her father became so angry that the presiding bishop would not enter the house of a heretic to baptize his third daughter that he determined all of his children would be raised as protestants. As a result of this, Mme Rumpff’s mother was disinherited. The small estate she was given when she was made a baroness brought with it a yearly income of 200 marks, but the estate was located in an unhealthy, marshy region of the Danube. As a baroness, she could not live the lifestyle her title would require in Germany, so she lived quietly and modestly in England. She was awarded a pension by the German government. She lived out her days in Melling, Merseyside, in Lancashire.

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