Pierre Loti and the battle of Thuan An
Enseigne de vaisseau (first officer) Louis-Marie-Julien Viaud (1850–1923), who served in Courbet’s Tonkin Coasts naval division aboard the ironclad Atalante, described his campaigning experiences in a number of popular articles published under the pen name Pierre Loti. He wrote a detailed account of the battle of Thuan An entitled Trois journées de guerre en Annam, which was published in three parts in Le Figaro on 28 September and 13 and 17 October 1883. Viaud’s brutally realistic description of the fighting at Thuan An, his account of French atrocities (the bayoneting of wounded Vietnamese soldiers by French marine infantrymen after the battle) and the obvious pleasure he took in the slaughter of the outclassed Vietnamese, caused great offence in France, and he was recalled by the navy ministry and suspended from duty. The great slaughter now began. Our men fired double volleys, and it was a pleasure to see their streams of well-aimed bullets shredding the enemy ranks, surely and methodically, twice a minute, on the word of command… We could see some men, quite out of their senses, standing up, seized with a dizzy desire to run… They zigzagged, swerving this way and that way as they tried to outrun death, clutching their garments around their waists in a comical way… Afterwards, we amused ourselves by counting the dead… — Pierre Loti, Trois journées de guerre en Annam, extract.