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The cashiering of a General Staff Officer

The cashiering of a General Staff Officer

Upsetting the established order

Dreyfus was appointed intern to the Army Staff Office on 1 January 1893, and thought that, in a democratic country like France, the doors to a smooth and brilliant career were opening to him. In a short time, however, he sensed a certain reticence of the part of certain heads of office, who were alumni of the Ecole d'Application d'Etat-Major and who ardently hoped for a situation that favored graduates of Saint-Cyr. Dreyfus spent six months in each of the four offices that made up the strategic services of the high command in peacetime. According to Vincent Duclert, his successive appointments included the first bureau for drawing up the order of battle of the armies, the fourth bureau for the railway service allowing for the concentration of troops, the second bureau for the study of German artillery, and finally the third bureau for "the signature of supply registers for covering troops." Although General Renouard noted that Captain Dreyfus, a very intelligent officer, had "everything one needs to succeed," his enthusiasm for learning, study and observation would be held against him when it came to making him out to be guilty and a traitor.

The torment of an innocent man

Dreyfus was arrested on 15 October 1894, and accused of being the author of a bordereau (a detailed list), which had been found in a wastebasket in the office of the military attaché at the German embassy. He was convicted of treason on 22 December 1894, and sentenced to permanent deportation to a fortress, and many regretted that "the rogue had not been shot." His sentence was confirmed on 31 December 1894 by the review board, and Alfred Dreyfus was cashiered on 5 January 1895. He experienced this "dismal ceremony" as a torment and an agony, and he tried in vain to convince the attendant crowd of his innocence.
In his Journal, Edmond de Goncourt noted "the opinions of journalists are those of boys climbing trees and [that it] is really quite difficult to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused by examining his bearing."
On 9 January, writing in the newspaper Gil Blas under the title "Crime and Punishment," the lawyer Ajalbert stated that no one looked guiltier than an innocent man who was exhausted. Dreyfus arrived in French Guyana on 12 March 1895, and was landed on Devil's Island on 13 April of the same year. The choice of this place made his sentence worse. One of his judges at the Court of Cassation, Alphonse Bard, wrote that the island transformed it into an "instrument of torture." He would stay there more than four years before returning to France, where he was convicted once again. Although he was rehabilitated and became officer Dreyfus once again.