Fear > Storming of the Bastille > An Eyewitness account of the Storming of the Bastille
My name is J. B. Humbert, and I am a native of Langres, working and living in Paris, at M. Belliard's, watchmaker to the king, rue de Hurepoix.
I went to the district of St-André-des-Arts on Monday morning July 13 with the rest of the citizens and patrolled the streets with them all that day and night, armed with swords, the district having no firearms or only a few.
Overcome with weariness and lack of food and sleep, I left the district at six in the morning. I learned during the course of the morning that arms for the various districts were being distributed at the Invalides. I promptly went back to inform the garde bourgeoisie of St-André-des-Arts.
We reached the Invalides at about two o'clock. I followed the crowd, to get to the cellar where the arms were kept. On the staircase leading to the cellar, seeing a man armed with two muskets, I took one from him.
Armed with my gun, I then set off for my own district. As I learned on the way that they were handing out powder at the Hôtel de Ville I hurried thither, and was given about a quarter of a pound, but they gave me no shot, saying that they had none.
As I left the Hôtel de Ville I heard someone say that the Bastille was being besieged. My regret at having no shot prompted an idea which I immediately carried out, namely to buy some small nails, which I got from the grocer's at the Coin du Roi, Place de Grève. There I prepared and greased my gun and immediately set off for the Bastille, loading my gun as I went.
It was about half past three. the first bridge had been lowered, and the chains cut; but the portcullis barred the way; people were trying to bring in some cannon which had previously been dismantled.
I crossed over by the small bridge and from the further side helped to bring in the two guns. When they had been set up on their gun-carriages again, everybody with one accord drew up in rows of five or six, and I found myself in the front rank. The cannon were then leveled: the bronze gun at the large drawbridge and a small iron one, inlaid with silver, at the small bridge.
It was decided to start the attack with musket fire. We each fired half a dozen shots. Then a paper was thrust through an oval gap a few inches across; we ceased fire; one of us went to fetch a plank which was laid on the parapet to enable us to go and collect the paper. One man started out along it, but just as he was about to take the paper, he was killed by a shot and fell into the moat. Another man, carrying a flag, immediately dropped his flag and went to fetch the paper, which was then read out loudly and clearly, so that everyone could hear.
This message, which offered capitulation, proving unsatisfactory, we decided to fire the gun; everyone stood aside to let the cannan-ball pass.
Just as we were about to fire, the small drawbridge was lowered; it was promptly filled by a crowd of people, of whom I was the tenth. We found the gate behind the drawbridge closed: after a couple minutes an invalide [veteran] came to open it, and asked what we wanted: Give up the Bastille, I replied, as did everyone else: then he let us in. My first concern was to call for the bridge to be lowered; this was done.
Then I entered the main courtyard (I was about eighth or tenth). I happened to glance at a staircase on my left, and I saw three citizens who had gone up five or six steps and were hurrying down again.
I immediately rushed over to the staircase to help the citizens, whom I assumed to have been driven back. I rapidly climbed up to the keep, without noticing that nobody was following me; I reached the top of the stairs without meeting anyone, either. In the keep I found a Swiss soldier squatting down with his back to me; I aimed my rifle at him, shouting: lay down your arms; he turned round in surprise, and laid down his weapons, saying: 'Comrade, don't kill me, I'm for the Third Estate and I will defend you to the last drop of my blood; you know I'm obliged to do my job; but I haven't fired.'
Immediately afterwards I went to the cannon that stood just above the drawbridge of the Bastille, in order to push it off its gun-carriage and render it unusable. But as I stood for this purpose with my shoulder under the mouth of the cannon, someone in the vicinity fired at me, and the bullet pierced my coat and waistcoat and wounded me in the neck; I fell down senseless. When I recovered from my swoon I found myself very weak and decided to go downstairs; people made way for me on seeing my blood and my wound.
On the way to the Bastille kitchens I met an army surgeon, who urged me to show him my wound; when he had examined the place, he told me I had a bullet in my neck which he could not extract by himself, and persuaded me to go to a hospital to get it seen to.
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