In October 1894, Captain Alfred
Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff trainee of the 14th Artillery, was accused
of high treason and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's
Island. Ferdinand Forzinetti, commandant of Cherche-Midi military prison where
Dreyfus was first held, was convinced of Dreyfus's innocence from the beginning
and is credited as the first Frenchman to protest his innocence. This
collection of letters, documents, and photographs provides a unique vantage
point for understanding the Dreyfus Affair, which became the vortex of French
politics in the latter part of the 19th century.
This collection is arranged primarily in chronological order,
following the descriptive catalogue
The Forzinetti Archive & The Dreyfus
Affair, by Patrick J. McGrath and Glenn Horowitz. A copy of the
catalogue is available in the repository with the inventory. In a few
instances, the date arrangement has been adjusted to facilitate the narrative.
The collection items are in individual folders and are described individually
in the following folder list. Folder numbers follow the catalogue's item
numbers, and narrative headings from the catalogue also appear in the folder
list. While the documents are present in the original French language,
translations by Professor Julie Fette of the University of Maryland are
provided in the catalogue, and dates have been anglicized.
of note include George Clemenceau, Alfred Dreyfus, Ferdinand Labori, Auguste
Mercier, Georges Picquart, and Joseph Reinach. There are over thirty letters
from Dreyfus to Forzinetti during the eleven year period from 1899-1909, dating
from Dreyfus's pardon to Forzinetti's death. Transcriptions of Forzinetti's
letters to Dreyfus are also present. Authors and photographers of the letters,
documents, and photographs are listed in the index at the end of the finding
The documents include the text of the
"Bordereau," written by Dreyfus at his
second court martial in 1899; Forzinetti's communications with the military
command regarding the incarceration and treatment of Dreyfus; Emile Zola's
"J'Accuse" in the January 1898 issue of
L'Aurore; and a copy of Dreyfus's
compilation of letters to his wife,
Lettres D'un Innocent, published in 1898.
In all, the documents trace the narrative from its duplicitous beginnings,
through the coverup, to exoneration, all with an overlay of anti-Semitism and
political intrigue. The papers also reflect the price Forzinetti paid for his
convictions, for he did not fair well at the hands of the authorities, as his
military career faltered and finally ended in the early
Photographic images include a police photograph of Dreyfus taken
after the degradation ceremony on January 5, 1895; and portrait photographs of
Georges-Marie Picquart, Emile Zola, and Alfred Dreyfus.
The papers also
contain correspondence of the subsequent generation, through the sons of
Dreyfus and Forzinetti. Forzinetti's son, Louis, annotated many of the
documents and letters, adding dates and other pertinent information.
of the material is fragile and has been housed in mylar sleeves. Care should be
taken in handling these papers.
Additional material by and about Alfred
Dreyfus and the Dreyfus Affair can be found in the Ransom Center's Ernest
William Smith and Carlton Lake Collections. These materials include books,
newspapers and magazines, a number of letters and postcards, and two original
drawings of courtroom events (one by Paul Renouard), as well as items
concerning the British film
The Dreyfus Case (1931).