Near Orléans, in late 1870: a Turco, soldier in the French Army, fought alone a Prussian regiment…

Despite a wounded leg and broken arm, shooting with one hand with his rifle, he stopped for a time his numerous ennemies.

He was the brave Turco, an Algerian skirmisher in the French army. The hero of the village of Chanteau, on the southern edge of the Orléans forest.

It is December 5, 1870, during the war between France and Germany.  After its defeat on the 2nd of December against the Prussians in Loigny, the Armée de la Loire withdrew through the Orléans forest.

Battle of Loigny in 1870 - painting by Charles Castellani (1838 - 1913) - Public domain

But one of his soldiers, a Tirailleur algérien or ‘Turco’*, got lost on the way. He is received by some farmers of Chanteau. Then, a regiment of Prussian soldiers is coming on their way to Orléans. Instead of running away into the forest, like he’s asking for by the inhabitants, the Turco will perform a heroic act…

He positions himself at the top of a ditch by the roadside, places his cartridges next to him. The Prussians advance and then he opens fire against their vanguard. 

Thus, he succeed in stopping the regiment’s march in its tracks. For a time. The brave man pushes back five charges before he has a broken arm and a wounded leg. He shoots four more times and then is riddled with bullets. The Prussian officer killed him with a sword. Tragic end of a hero.

Route d'Orléans à Chanteau where the Turco fought the Prussian regiment
Stele in tribute to the Turco hero of Chanteau, near Orléans
Grave of the Turco in Chanteau, near Orléans

Since then, the village of Chanteau shows its eternal gratitude

There is a double tribute in his memory: a monument on the site of his achievement and a huge tomb, the tallest in the local cemetery. And most of all, a patriotic ceremony in his memory every year.

 

Who was this native of Algeria? What was his name? Why did he sacrifice himself like that? Questions still unanswered…

Passer-by, native of Orléans or tourist, if you goes to the forest near Chanteau, make a stop there to pay tribute to the Turco…

*Turco: from the régiment de Turcos: previous name and later nickname of the military corps of the Tirailleurs algériens in the French army during the 19th century.

Nota bene: As there are no images of what happened in Chanteau, the illustrations in this post are depicting combats with Turcos or Zouaves in the area of Orléans, in late 1870. Although the Turco on the cover is with a comrade-in-arms, his position in combat is a good illustration of our Turco’s act of bravery. This is “Le Turco Ben Kaddour”, a painting by Jules Monge (1855 – 1934).

Find out more

Franco-Prussian War

Battle of Loigny-Poupry

Armée de la Loire

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