FRENCH REPUBLIC b
GERMAN EMPIRE d
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
Napoleon III (POW)
* F. A. Bazaine (POW)
Louis Jules Trochu
Louis Jules Trochu
* Patrice de MacMahon (POW)
* William I
Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
* Helmuth von Moltke
* Crown Prince Friedrich
* Prince Friedrich Karl
* Karl F. von Steinmetz
Albrecht von Roon
TOTAL DEPLOYMENT: 2,000,740
* 492,585 active, including 300,000 reservists
PEAK FIELD ARMY STRENGTH: 710,000
TOTAL DEPLOYMENT: 1,494,412
* 730,274 regulars and reservists
PEAK FIELD ARMY STRENGTH: 949,337
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
* 138,871 dead
* 143,000 wounded
* 474,414 captured or interned
* 17,585 killed in action
* 10,721 died of wounds
* 12,385 died from non-combat causes
* 4,009 missing and presumed dead
* 89,732 wounded
* 10,129 missing or captured
* a Until 4 September 1870.
* b From 4 September 1870.
* c Leading member of the North German Confederation.
* d From 18 January 1871.
* Loigny et Poupry
* Le Mans
* St. Quentin
* Belgian reaction
The FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR or FRANCO-GERMAN WAR (German :
Deutsch-Französischer Krieg, French : Guerre franco-allemande), often
referred to in
France as the WAR OF 1870 (19 July 1870 – 10 May
1871), was a conflict between the
Second French Empire of
and the German states of the
North German Confederation
North German Confederation led by the
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia . The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to
extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the
European balance of power that would result if the Prussians
succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von
Bismarck deliberately provoked a French attack in order to draw the
independent southern German states—
Baden , Württemberg , Bavaria
and Hesse-Darmstadt —into an alliance with the North German
Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck
did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they
On 16 July 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on the
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia and hostilities began three days later. The
German coalition mobilised its troops much more quickly than the
French and rapidly invaded northeastern France. The German forces were
superior in numbers, had better training and leadership and made more
effective use of modern technology, particularly railroads and
A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France,
culminating in the Siege of Metz and the
Battle of Sedan , saw
Napoleon III captured and the army of the Second Empire decisively
Government of National Defence declared the Third Republic
in Paris on 4 September and continued the war for another five months;
the German forces fought and defeated new French armies in northern
France. Following the Siege of Paris , the capital fell on 28 January
1871, and then a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune
seized power in the capital and held it for two months, until it was
bloodily suppressed by the regular French army at the end of May 1871.
The German states proclaimed their union as the
German Empire under
the Prussian king Wilhelm I , uniting
Germany as a nation-state . The
Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871 gave
Germany most of
some parts of Lorraine , which became the Imperial territory of
Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen). The German conquest of
France and the unification of
Germany upset the European balance of
power that had existed since the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna in 1815, and Otto
von Bismarck maintained great authority in international affairs for
two decades. French determination to regain
Alsace-Lorraine and fear
of another Franco-German war, along with British apprehension about
the balance of power, became factors in the causes of World War I .
* 1 Causes
* 2 Opposing forces
* 2.2 Germans
* 3 French Army incursion
* 3.1 Preparations for the offensive
* 3.2 Occupation of Saarbrücken
Prussian Army advance
* 4.1 Battle of
Battle of Spicheren
Battle of Wörth
Battle of Mars-La-Tour
Battle of Gravelotte
* 4.6 Siege of Metz
Battle of Sedan
* 5 The war of the
Government of National Defence
Government of National Defence
* 5.2 Siege of Paris
* 5.3 Loire campaign
* 5.4 Northern campaign
* 5.5 Eastern campaign
* 5.6 Armistice
* 6 The war at sea
* 6.2 Pacific and Caribbean
* 7 Aftermath
* 7.1 Analysis
* 7.2 Effects on military thought
* 7.3 Casualties
* 8 Subsequent events
* 8.1 Prussian reaction and withdrawal
* 8.2 The
* 8.3 German unification and power
* 8.4 French reaction and
* 9 See also
* 10 Footnotes
* 11 References
* 12 Further reading
* 13 French and German studies
* 13.1 Caricatures and editorial cartoons
* 14 External links
Causes of the Franco-Prussian War Map of the
North German Confederation
North German Confederation (red), the Southern German States (orange)
The causes of the
Franco-Prussian War are deeply rooted in the events
surrounding the unification of
Germany . In the aftermath of the
Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia had annexed numerous territories
and formed the
North German Confederation
North German Confederation . This new power
European balance of power established by the Congress
of Vienna in 1815 after the
Napoleonic Wars .
Napoleon III , then the
emperor of France, demanded compensations in Belgium and on the left
bank of the
Rhine to secure France's strategic position, which the
Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck , flatly refused. Prussia then
turned its attention towards the south of Germany, where it sought to
incorporate the southern German kingdoms,
Bavaria , Württemberg ,
Baden and Hesse-Darmstadt , into a unified Prussia-dominated Germany.
France was strongly opposed to any further alliance of German states,
which would have significantly strengthened the Prussian military.
In Prussia, some officials considered a war against
inevitable and necessary to arouse German nationalism in those states
that would allow the unification of a great German empire. This aim
was epitomized by Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's later
statement: "I did not doubt that a Franco-German war must take place
before the construction of a United
Germany could be realised."
Bismarck also knew that
France should be the aggressor in the conflict
to bring the southern German states to side with Prussia, hence giving
Germans numerical superiority. Besides he was convinced that France
would not find any allies in her war against
Germany for the simple
reason that "France, the victor, would be a danger to everybody –
Prussia to nobody," and he added, "That is our strong point." Many
Germans also viewed the French as the traditional destabilizer of
Europe, and sought to weaken
France to prevent further breaches of the
The immediate cause of the war resided in the candidacy of Leopold of
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen , a Prussian prince, to the throne of Spain.
France feared encirclement by an alliance between Prussia and Spain.
Hohenzollern prince's candidacy was withdrawn under French
diplomatic pressure, but
Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck goaded the French into
declaring war by altering a telegram sent by William I . Releasing the
Ems Dispatch to the public, Bismarck made it sound as if the king had
treated the French envoy in a demeaning fashion, which inflamed public
opinion in France.
Some historians argue that
Napoleon III also sought war, particularly
as a result of the diplomatic failure, in 1866, to obtain any
concessions following the
Austro-Prussian War , and he believed he
would win a conflict with Prussia. They also argue that he wanted a
war to resolve growing domestic political problems. Other historians,
notably French historian Pierre Milza, dispute this. On 8 May 1870,
shortly before the war, French voters had overwhelmingly supported
Napoleon III's program in a national plebiscite, with 7,358,000 "Yes"
votes against 1,582,000 "No" votes, an increase of support of two
million votes since the legislative elections in 1869. According to
Milza, the Emperor had no need for a war to increase his popularity.
Ems telegram had exactly the effect on French public opinion that
Bismarck had intended. "This text produced the effect of a red flag on
the Gallic bull", Bismarck later wrote. Gramont, the French foreign
minister, declared that he felt "he had just received a slap". The
leader of the monarchists in Parliament,
Adolphe Thiers , spoke for
moderation, arguing that
France had won the diplomatic battle and
there was no reason for war, but he was drowned out by cries that he
was a traitor and a Prussian. Napoleon's new prime minister, Emile
Ollivier , declared that
France had done all that it could humanly and
honorably do to prevent the war, and that he accepted the
responsibility "with a light heart." A crowd of 15,000–20,000
people, carrying flags and patriotic banners, marched through the
streets of Paris, demanding war. On 19 July 1870 a declaration of war
was sent to the Prussian government. The southern German states
immediately sided with Prussia.
For the organization of the two armies at the beginning of the war,
Franco-Prussian War order of battle .
A French mitrailleuse in the
Bundeswehr Military History Museum
The French Army consisted in peacetime of approximately 400,000
soldiers, some of them regulars, others conscripts who until 1869
served the comparatively long period of seven years with the colours.
Some of them were veterans of previous French campaigns in the Crimean
War , Algeria , the Franco-Austrian War in Italy, and in the Mexican
campaign . However, following the "
Seven Weeks War " between Prussia
and Austria four years earlier, it had been calculated that the French
Army could field only 288,000 men to face the
Prussian Army when
potentially 1,000,000 would be required. Under Marshal
Adolphe Niel ,
urgent reforms were made. Universal conscription (rather than by
ballot, as previously) and a shorter period of service gave increased
numbers of reservists, who would swell the army to a planned strength
of 800,000 on mobilisation. Those who for any reason were not
conscripted were to be enrolled in the
Garde Mobile , a militia with a
nominal strength of 400,000. However, the
Franco-Prussian War broke
out before these reforms could be completely implemented. The
mobilisation of reservists was chaotic and resulted in large numbers
of stragglers, while the
Garde Mobile were generally untrained and
French infantry were equipped with the breech-loading
, one of the most modern mass-produced firearms in the world at the
time. With a rubber ring seal and a smaller bullet, the
a maximum effective range of some 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) with a short
reloading time. French tactics emphasised the defensive use of the
Chassepot rifle in trench-warfare style fighting—the so-called feu
de bataillon. The artillery was equipped with rifled, muzzle-loaded
La Hitte guns . The army also possessed a precursor to the
machine-gun: the mitrailleuse , which could unleash significant,
concentrated firepower but nevertheless lacked range and was
comparatively immobile, and thus prone to being easily overrun. The
mitrailleuse was mounted on an artillery gun carriage and grouped in
batteries in a similar fashion to cannon. French reservists
responding to the call, painted by
The army was nominally led by
Napoleon III, with Marshals Francois
Achille Bazaine and
Patrice de Mac-Mahon in command of the field
armies. However, there was no previously arranged plan of campaign in
place. The only campaign plan prepared between 1866 and 1870 was a
Prussian Army was composed not of regulars but conscripts.
Service was compulsory for all men of military age, and thus Prussia
and its North and South German allies could mobilise and field some
1,000,000 soldiers in time of war. German tactics emphasised
encirclement battles like Cannae and using artillery offensively
whenever possible. Rather than advancing in a column or line formation
, Prussian infantry moved in small groups that were harder to target
by artillery or French defensive fire. The sheer number of soldiers
available made encirclement en masse and destruction of French
formations relatively easy.
The army was still equipped with the
Dreyse needle gun of Battle of
Königgrätz fame, which was by this time showing the age of its
25-year-old design. The rifle had a range of only 600 m (2,000 ft)
and lacked the rubber breech seal that permitted aimed shots. The
deficiencies of the needle gun were more than compensated for by the
famous Krupp 6-pounder (3 kg) steel breech-loading cannons being
issued to Prussian artillery batteries. Firing a contact-detonated
Krupp gun had a longer range and a higher rate of fire than
the French bronze muzzle loading cannon, which relied on faulty time
The Prussian army was controlled by the General Staff , under Field
Marshal Helmuth von Moltke . The Prussian army was unique in Europe
for having the only such organisation in existence, whose purpose in
peacetime was to prepare the overall war strategy, and in wartime to
direct operational movement and organise logistics and communications.
The officers of the General Staff were hand-picked from the Prussian
Kriegsakademie (War Academy). Moltke embraced new technology,
particularly the railroad and telegraph, to coordinate and accelerate
mobilisation of large forces.
FRENCH ARMY INCURSION
PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE
Map of German and French armies near their common border on 31
On 28 July 1870
Napoleon III left Paris for Metz and assumed command
of the newly titled Army of the Rhine, some 202,448 strong and
expected to grow as the French mobilization progressed. Marshal
MacMahon took command of I Corps (4 infantry divisions) near
Wissembourg , Marshal François Canrobert brought VI Corps (four
infantry divisions) to Châlons-sur-Marne in northern
France as a
reserve and to guard against a Prussian advance through Belgium.
A pre-war plan laid out by the late Marshal Niel called for a strong
French offensive from
Trier and into the Prussian
Rhineland. This plan was discarded in favour of a defensive plan by
Generals Charles Frossard and Bartélemy Lebrun, which called for the
Army of the
Rhine to remain in a defensive posture near the German
border and repel any Prussian offensive. As Austria along with
Bavaria, Württemberg and
Baden were expected to join in a revenge war
against Prussia, I Corps would invade the Bavarian Palatinate and
proceed to "free" the South German states in concert with
Austro-Hungarian forces. VI Corps would reinforce either army as
Unfortunately for Frossard's plan, the Prussian army was mobilizing
far more rapidly than expected. The Austro-Hungarians, still smarting
after their defeat by Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War, were
treading carefully before stating that they would only commit to
France's cause if the southern Germans viewed the French positively.
This did not materialize as the South German states had come to
Prussia's aid and were mobilizing their armies against France.
OCCUPATION OF SAARBRüCKEN
Cuirassiers guarding captured Bavarian
Napoleon III was under immense domestic pressure to launch an
offensive before the full might of Moltke's forces was mobilized and
deployed. Reconnaissance by Frossard's forces had identified only the
Prussian 16th Infantry Division guarding the border town of
Saarbrücken , right before the entire Army of the Rhine. Accordingly,
on 31 July the Army marched forward toward the
Saar River to seize
General Frossard's II Corps and Marshal Bazaine's III Corps crossed
the German border on 2 August, and began to force the Prussian 40th
Regiment of the 16th Infantry Division from the town of Saarbrücken
with a series of direct attacks. The
Chassepot rifle proved its worth
against the Dreyse rifle , with French riflemen regularly
outdistancing their Prussian counterparts in the skirmishing around
Saarbrücken. However the Prussians resisted strongly, and the French
suffered 86 casualties to the Prussian 83 casualties. Saarbrücken
also proved to be a major obstacle in terms of logistics. Only one
railway there led to the German hinterland but could be easily
defended by a single force, and the only river systems in the region
ran along the border instead of inland. While the French hailed the
invasion as the first step towards the Rhineland and later Berlin,
General Le Bœuf and
Napoleon III were receiving alarming reports from
foreign news sources of Prussian and Bavarian armies massing to the
southeast in addition to the forces to the north and northeast.
Moltke had indeed massed three armies in the area—the Prussian
First Army with 50,000 men, commanded by General Karl von Steinmetz
Saarlouis , the Prussian Second Army with 134,000 men
commanded by Prince Friedrich Karl opposite the line Forbach
Spicheren , and the Prussian Third Army with 120,000 men commanded by
Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm , poised to cross the border at
PRUSSIAN ARMY ADVANCE
BATTLE OF WISSEMBOURG
Battle of Wissembourg (1870) French
muzzle-loading artillery in position during the
Upon learning from captured Prussian soldiers and a local area police
chief, that the Prussian Crown Prince's Third Army was just 30 miles
(48 km) from Saarbrücken near the town of Wissembourg, General Le
Napoleon III decided to retreat to defensive positions.
General Frossard, without instructions, hastily withdrew the elements
of the Army of the
Rhine in Saarbrücken back to
Spicheren and Forbach
Marshal MacMahon, now closest to Wissembourg, spread his four
divisions over 20 miles (32 km) to react to any Prussian invasion.
This organization of forces was due to a lack of supplies, forcing
each division to seek out basic provisions along with the
representatives of the army supply arm that was supposed to aid them.
What made a bad situation much worse was the conduct of General
Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot , commander of the 1st Division. He told
Abel Douay , commander of the 2nd Division, on 1 August that
"The information I have received makes me suppose that the enemy has
no considerable forces very near his advance posts, and has no desire
to take the offensive". Two days later, he told MacMahon that he had
not found "a single enemy post ... it looks to me as if the menace of
the Bavarians is simply bluff". Even though Ducrot shrugged off the
possibility of an attack by the Germans, MacMahon tried to warn the
other divisions of his army, without success. Bavarian infantry
at the battle of Wissembourg, 1870.
The first action of the
Franco-Prussian War took place on 4 August
1870. This battle saw the unsupported division of General Douay of I
Corps, with some attached cavalry, which was posted to watch the
border, attacked in overwhelming but uncoordinated fashion by the
German 3rd Army. During the day, elements of a Bavarian and two
Prussian corps became engaged and were aided by Prussian artillery,
which blasted holes in the defenses of the town. Douay held a very
strong position initially, thanks to the accurate long-range fire of
the Chassepots but his force was too thinly stretched to hold it.
Douay was killed in the late morning when a caisson of the divisional
mitrailleuse battery exploded near him; the encirclement of the town
by the Prussians threatened the French avenue of retreat.
The fighting within the town had become extremely intense, becoming a
door to door battle of survival. Despite a never-ending attack of
Prussian infantry, the soldiers of the 2nd Division kept to their
positions. The people of the town of
Wissembourg finally surrendered
to the Germans. The French troops who did not surrender retreated
westward, leaving behind 1,000 dead and wounded and another 1,000
prisoners and all of their remaining ammunition. The final attack by
the Prussian troops also cost c. 1,000 casualties. The German
cavalry then failed to pursue the French and lost touch with them. The
attackers had an initial superiority of numbers, a broad deployment
which made envelopment highly likely but the effectiveness of French
Chassepot rifle-fire inflicted costly repulses on infantry attacks,
until the French infantry had been extensively bombarded by the
BATTLE OF SPICHEREN
Battle of Spicheren Map of Prussian and German
offensive, 5–6 August 1870
The Battle of Spicheren, on 5 August, was the second of three
critical French defeats. Moltke had originally planned to keep
Bazaine's army on the
Saar River until he could attack it with the 2nd
Army in front and the 1st Army on its left flank, while the 3rd Army
closed towards the rear. The aging General von Steinmetz made an
overzealous, unplanned move, leading the 1st Army south from his
position on the
Moselle . He moved straight toward the town of
Spicheren, cutting off
Prince Frederick Charles from his forward
cavalry units in the process.
On the French side, planning after the disaster at
become essential. General Le Bœuf, flushed with anger, was intent
upon going on the offensive over the Saar and countering their loss.
However, planning for the next encounter was more based upon the
reality of unfolding events rather than emotion or pride, as Intendant
General Wolff told him and his staff that supply beyond the Saar would
be impossible. Therefore, the armies of
France would take up a
defensive position that would protect against every possible attack
point, but also left the armies unable to support each other.
While the French army under General MacMahon engaged the German 3rd
Army at the Battle of Wörth, the German 1st Army under Steinmetz
finished their advance west from Saarbrücken. A patrol from the
German 2nd Army under Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia spotted decoy
fires close and Frossard's army farther off on a distant plateau south
of the town of Spicheren, and took this as a sign of Frossard's
retreat. Ignoring Moltke's plan again, both German armies attacked
Frossard's French 2nd Corps, fortified between
Spicheren and Forbach.
The French were unaware of German numerical superiority at the
beginning of the battle as the German 2nd Army did not attack all at
once. Treating the oncoming attacks as merely skirmishes, Frossard did
not request additional support from other units. By the time he
realized what kind of a force he was opposing, it was too late.
Seriously flawed communications between Frossard and those in reserve
under Bazaine slowed down so much that by the time the reserves
received orders to move out to Spicheren, German soldiers from the 1st
and 2nd armies had charged up the heights. Because the reserves had
not arrived, Frossard erroneously believed that he was in grave danger
of being outflanked as German soldiers under General von Glume were
spotted in Forbach. Instead of continuing to defend the heights, by
the close of battle after dusk he retreated to the south. The German
casualties were relatively high due to the advance and the
effectiveness of the
Chassepot rifle. They were quite startled in the
morning when they had found out that their efforts were not in
vain—Frossard had abandoned his position on the heights.
BATTLE OF WöRTH
Battle of Wörth
Aimé Morot 's La bataille de
Battle of Wörth (also known as
Fröschwiller or Reichshoffen)
began when the two armies clashed again on 6 August near Wörth in the
Fröschwiller , about 10 miles (16 km) from Wissembourg. The
Crown Prince of Prussia's 3rd army had, on the quick reaction of his
Chief of Staff General von Blumenthal, drawn reinforcements which
brought its strength up to 140,000 troops. The French had been slowly
reinforced and their force numbered only 35,000. Although badly
outnumbered, the French defended their position just outside
Fröschwiller. By afternoon, the Germans had suffered c. 10,500
killed or wounded and the French had lost a similar number of
casualties and another c. 9,200 men taken prisoner, a loss of about
50%. The Germans captured
Fröschwiller which sat on a hilltop in the
centre of the French line. Having lost any hope for victory and facing
a massacre, the French army disengaged and retreated in a westerly
direction towards Bitche and Saverne, hoping to join French forces on
the other side of the Vosges mountains. The German 3rd army did not
pursue the French but remained in
Alsace and moved slowly south,
attacking and destroying the French garrisons in the vicinity.
BATTLE OF MARS-LA-TOUR
Battle of Mars-La-Tour The Prussian 7th
Cuirassiers charge the French guns at the
Battle of Mars-La-Tour , 16
About 160,000 French soldiers were besieged in the fortress of Metz
following the defeats on the frontier. A retirement from Metz to link
up with French forces at Châlons, was ordered on 15 August and
spotted by a Prussian cavalry patrol under Major Oskar von Blumenthal.
Next day a grossly outnumbered Prussian force of 30,000 men of III
Corps (of the 2nd Army) under General Konstantin von Alvensleben,
found the French Army near Vionville, east of Mars-la-Tour.
Despite odds of four to one, the III Corps launched a risky attack.
The French were routed and the III Corps captured Vionville, blocking
any further escape attempts to the west. Once blocked from retreat,
the French in the fortress of Metz had no choice but to engage in a
fight that would see the last major cavalry engagement in Western
Europe. The battle soon erupted, and III Corps was shattered by
incessant cavalry charges , losing over half its soldiers. The German
Official History recorded 15,780 casualties and French casualties of
On 16 August, the French had a chance to sweep away the key Prussian
defense, and to escape. Two Prussian corps had attacked the French
advance guard, thinking that it was the rearguard of the retreat of
the French Army of the Meuse. Despite this misjudgment the two
Prussian corps held the entire French army for the whole day.
Outnumbered 5 to 1, the extraordinary élan of the Prussians prevailed
over gross indecision by the French. The French had lost the
opportunity to win a decisive victory.
BATTLE OF GRAVELOTTE
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Battle of Gravelotte
Juliusz Kossak , Battle of
Gravelotte, depicting the Prussians at Gravelotte, 1871
The Battle of Gravelotte, or Gravelotte–St. Privat (18 August), was
the largest battle during the Franco-Prussian War. It was fought about
6 miles (9.7 km) west of Metz, where on the previous day, having
intercepted the French army's retreat to the west at the Battle of
Mars-La-Tour, the Prussians were now closing in to complete the
destruction of the French forces. The combined German forces, under
Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke, were the Prussian First and
Second Armies of the
North German Confederation
North German Confederation numbering about 210
infantry battalions, 133 cavalry squadrons, and 732 heavy cannons
totaling 188,332 officers and men. The French Army of the Rhine,
commanded by Marshal François-Achille Bazaine, numbering about 183
infantry battalions, 104 cavalry squadrons, backed by 520 heavy
cannons, totaling 112,800 officers and men, dug in along high ground
with their southern left flank at the town of
Rozerieulles , and their
northern right flank at St. Privat .
On 18 August, the battle began when at 08:00 Moltke ordered the First
and Second Armies to advance against the French positions. By 12:00,
General Manstein opened up the battle before the village of
Amanvillers with artillery from the 25th Infantry Division . But the
French had spent the night and early morning digging trenches and
rifle pits while placing their artillery and their mitrailleuses in
concealed positions. Finally aware of the Prussian advance, the French
opened up a massive return fire against the mass of advancing Germans.
The battle at first appeared to favour the French with their superior
Chassepot rifle. However, the Prussian artillery was superior with the
all-steel Krupp breech-loading gun. By 14:30, General Steinmetz, the
commander of the First Army, unilaterally launched his VIII Corps
across the Mance Ravine in which the Prussian infantry were soon
pinned down by murderous rifle and mitrailleuse fire from the French
positions. At 15:00, the massed guns of the VII and VIII Corps opened
fire to support the attack. But by 16:00, with the attack in danger of
stalling, Steinmetz ordered the VII Corps forward, followed by the 1st
Cavalry Division. The "Rifle Battalion 9 from Lauenburg" at
Gravelotte Prussian Guards at the
Battle of Gravelotte
By 16:50, with the Prussian southern attacks in danger of breaking
up, the Prussian 3rd Guards Infantry Brigade of the Second Army opened
an attack against the French positions at St. Privat which were
commanded by General Canrobert. At 17:15, the Prussian 4th Guards
Infantry Brigade joined the advance followed at 17:45 by the Prussian
1st Guards Infantry Brigade . All of the Prussian Guard attacks were
pinned down by lethal French gunfire from the rifle pits and trenches.
At 18:15 the Prussian 2nd Guards Infantry Brigade , the last of the
1st Guards Infantry Division , was committed to the attack on St.
Privat while Steinmetz committed the last of the reserves of the First
Army across the Mance Ravine. By 18:30, a considerable portion of the
VII and VIII Corps disengaged from the fighting and withdrew towards
the Prussian positions at Rezonville.
With the defeat of the First Army,
Prince Frederick Charles ordered a
massed artillery attack against Canrobert's position at St. Privat to
prevent the Guards attack from failing too. At 19:00 the 3rd Division
of Fransecky 's II Corps of the Second Army advanced across Ravine
while the XII Corps cleared out the nearby town of Roncourt and with
the survivors of the 1st Guards Infantry Division launched a fresh
attack against the ruins of St. Privat. At 20:00, the arrival of the
Prussian 4th Infantry Division of the II Corps and with the Prussian
right flank on Mance Ravine, the line stabilised. By then, the
Prussians of the 1st Guards Infantry Division and the XII and II Corps
captured St. Privat forcing the decimated French forces to withdraw.
With the Prussians exhausted from the fighting, the French were now
able to mount a counter-attack. General Bourbaki , however, refused to
commit the reserves of the French Old Guard to the battle because, by
that time, he considered the overall situation a 'defeat'. By 22:00,
firing largely died down across the battlefield for the night. The
next morning, the French Army of the Rhine, rather than resume the
battle with an attack of its own against the battle-weary German
armies, retreated to Metz where they were besieged and forced to
surrender two months later.
The casualties were horrible, especially for the attacking Prussian
forces. A grand total of 20,163 German troops were killed, wounded or
missing in action during the August 18 battle. The French losses were
7,855 killed and wounded along with 4,420 prisoners of war (half of
them were wounded) for a total of 12,275. While most of the Prussians
fell under the French
Chassepot rifles, most French fell under the
Prussian Krupp shells. In a breakdown of the casualties, Frossard's II
Corps of the Army of the
Rhine suffered 621 casualties while
inflicting 4,300 casualties on the Prussian First Army under Steinmetz
before the Pointe du Jour. The Prussian Guards Infantry Divisions
losses were even more staggering with 8,000 casualties out of 18,000
Special Guards Jäger lost 19 officers, a surgeon and 431 men
out of a total of 700. The 2nd Guards Infantry Brigade lost 39
officers and 1,076 men. The 3rd Guards Infantry Brigade lost 36
officers and 1,060 men. On the French side, the units holding St.
Privat lost more than half their number in the village.
SIEGE OF METZ
Siege of Metz (1870) Surrender of Metz.
With the defeat of Marshal Bazaine's Army of the
Rhine at Gravelotte,
the French were forced to retire to Metz, where they were besieged by
over 150,000 Prussian troops of the First and Second Armies. Napoleon
III and MacMahon formed the new French
Army of Châlons , to march on
to Metz to rescue Bazaine.
Napoleon III personally led the army with
Marshal MacMahon in attendance. The
Army of Châlons marched northeast
towards the Belgian border to avoid the Prussians before striking
south to link up with Bazaine. The Prussians, under the command of
Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke, took advantage of this
maneuver to catch the French in a pincer grip. He left the Prussian
First and Second Armies besieging Metz, except three corps detached to
form the Army of the Meuse under the Crown Prince of Saxony. With this
army and the Prussian Third Army, Moltke marched northward and caught
up with the French at Beaumont on 30 August. After a sharp fight in
which they lost 5,000 men and 40 cannons, the French withdrew toward
Sedan. Having reformed in the town, the
Army of Châlons was
immediately isolated by the converging Prussian armies.
ordered the army to break out of the encirclement immediately. With
MacMahon wounded on the previous day, General Auguste Ducrot took
command of the French troops in the field.
BATTLE OF SEDAN
Battle of Sedan
Napoleon III and Bismarck talk
after Napoleon's capture at the
Battle of Sedan by
Anton von Werner
Anton von Werner 's 1894 painting Im Etappenquartier vor Paris
(A Billet Outside Paris) depicts German soldiers making themselves at
home in a requisitioned French house
On 1 September 1870, the battle opened with the Army of Châlons,
with 202 infantry battalions, 80 cavalry squadrons and 564 guns,
attacking the surrounding Prussian Third and Meuse Armies totaling 222
infantry battalions, 186 cavalry squadrons and 774 guns. General De
Wimpffen , the commander of the French V Corps in reserve, hoped to
launch a combined infantry and cavalry attack against the Prussian XI
Corps. But by 11:00, Prussian artillery took a toll on the French
while more Prussian troops arrived on the battlefield. The French
cavalry, commanded by General Marguerite, launched three desperate
attacks on the nearby village of Floing where the Prussian XI Corps
was concentrated. Marguerite was killed leading the very first charge
and the two additional charges led to nothing but heavy losses. By the
end of the day, with no hope of breaking out,
Napoleon III called off
the attacks. The French lost over 17,000 men, killed or wounded, with
21,000 captured. The Prussians reported their losses at 2,320 killed,
5,980 wounded and 700 captured or missing. By the next day, on 2
Napoleon III surrendered and was taken prisoner with
104,000 of his soldiers. It was an overwhelming victory for the
Prussians, for they not only captured an entire French army, but the
France as well. The defeat of the French at Sedan had
decided the war in Prussia's favour. One French army was now
immobilised and besieged in the city of Metz, and no other forces
stood on French ground to prevent a German invasion. Nevertheless, the
war would continue.
THE WAR OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
"Discussing the War in a Paris Café"—a scene published in the
Illustrated London News
Illustrated London News of 17 September 1870.
When the news arrived at Paris of the surrender at Sedan of Napoleon
III and 80,000 men, the Second Empire was overthrown by a popular
uprising in Paris, which forced the proclamation of a Provisional
Government and a Third Republic by general Trochu, Favre and Gambetta
at Paris on 4 September, the new government calling itself the
Government of National Defence . After the German victory at Sedan,
most of the French standing army was either besieged in Metz or
prisoner of the Germans, who hoped for an armistice and an end to the
war. Bismarck wanted an early peace but had difficulty in finding a
legitimate French authority with which to negotiate. The Government of
National Defence had no electoral mandate, the Emperor was a captive
and the Empress in exile but there had been no abdication de jure and
the army was still bound by an oath of allegiance to the defunct
The Germans expected to negotiate an end to the war but immediately
ordered an advance on Paris; by 15 September Moltke issued the orders
for an investment of Paris and on 20 September the encirclement was
complete. Bismarck met Favre on 18 September at the Château de
Ferrières and demanded a frontier immune to a French war of revenge,
Alsace and most of the
in Lorraine of which Metz was the capital. In return for an armistice
for the French to elect a National Assembly, Bismarck demanded the
Strasbourg and the fortress city of
Toul . To allow
supplies into Paris, one of the perimeter forts had to be handed over.
Favre was unaware that the real aim of Bismarck in making such
extortionate demands was to establish a durable peace on the new
western frontier of Germany, preferably by a peace with a friendly
government, on terms acceptable to French public opinion. An
impregnable military frontier was an inferior alternative to him,
favoured only by the militant nationalists on the German side.
While the republican government was amenable to war reparations or
ceding colonial territories in Africa or in South East Asia to
Prussia, Favre on behalf of the Government of National Defense,
declared on 6 September that
France would not "yield an inch of its
territory nor a stone of its fortresses." The republic then renewed
the declaration of war, called for recruits in all parts of the
country and pledged to drive the German troops out of
France by a
guerre à outrance . Under these circumstances, the Germans had to
continue the war, yet could not pin down any proper military
opposition in their vicinity. As the bulk of the remaining French
armies were digging-in near Paris, the German leaders decided to put
pressure upon the enemy by attacking Paris. By September 15, German
troops reached the outskirts of the fortified city. On September 19,
the Germans surrounded it and erected a blockade, as already
established at Metz.
When the war had begun, European public opinion heavily favoured the
Germans; many Italians attempted to sign up as volunteers at the
Prussian embassy in
Florence and a Prussian diplomat visited Giuseppe
Caprera . Bismarck's demand for the return of Alsace
caused a dramatic shift in that sentiment in Italy, which was best
exemplified by the reaction of Garibaldi soon after the revolution in
Paris, who told the Movimento of Genoa on 7 September 1870 that
"Yesterday I said to you: war to the death to Bonaparte. Today I say
to you: rescue the French Republic by every means." Garibaldi went to
France and assumed command of the
Army of the Vosges , with which he
Dijon till the end of the war.
SIEGE OF PARIS
Siege of Paris (1870–1871)
Siege of Paris (1870–1871) "The War: Defence of
Paris—Students Going to Man the Fortifications"—one of the iconic
images of the Siege of Paris .
Prussian forces commenced the Siege of Paris on 19 September 1870.
Faced with the blockade, the new French government called for the
establishment of several large armies in the French provinces. These
new bodies of troops were to march towards Paris and attack the
Germans there from various directions at the same time. Armed French
civilians were to create a guerilla force—the so-called
Francs-tireurs —for the purpose of attacking German supply lines .
These developments prompted calls from the German public for a
bombardment of the city. Von Blumenthal, who commanded the siege, was
opposed to the bombardment on moral grounds. In this he was backed by
other senior military figures such as the Crown Prince and Moltke.
Dispatched from Paris as the republican government emissary, Léon
Gambetta flew over the German lines in a balloon inflated with coal
gas from the city's gasworks and organized the recruitment of the
Armée de la Loire. Rumors about an alleged German "extermination"
plan infuriated the French and strengthened their support of the new
regime. Within a few weeks, five new armies totalling more than
500,000 troops were recruited.
The Germans dispatched some of their troops to the French provinces
to detect, attack and disperse the new French armies before they could
become a menace. The Germans were not prepared for an occupation of
the whole of France.
On 10 October, hostilities began between German and French republican
Orléans . At first, the Germans were victorious but the
French drew reinforcements and defeated the Germans at the Battle of
Coulmiers on 9 November. After the surrender of Metz , more than
100,000 well-trained and experienced German troops joined the German
'Southern Army'. The French were forced to abandon
Orléans on 4
December, and were finally defeated at the
Battle of Le Mans (10–12
January). A second French army which operated north of Paris was
turned back at the Battle of
Amiens (27 November), the Battle of
Bapaume (3 January 1871) and the Battle of St. Quentin (13 January).
Battle of Bapaume (1871) took place from 2–3 January 1871,
Franco-Prussian War in and around Biefvillers-lès-Bapaume
and Bapaume. The Prussian advance was stopped by Genéral Louis Léon
César Faidherbe at the head of the Armée du Nord.
Following the Army of the Loire's defeats, Gambetta turned to General
Faidherbe 's Army of the North. The army had achieved several small
victories at towns such as Ham, La Hallue, and
Amiens and was
protected by the belt of fortresses in northern France, allowing
Faidherbe's men to launch quick attacks against isolated Prussian
units, then retreat behind the fortresses. Despite access to the
armaments factories of
Lille , the Army of the North suffered from
severe supply difficulties, which depressed morale. In January 1871,
Gambetta forced Faidherbe to march his army beyond the fortresses and
engage the Prussians in open battle. The army was severely weakened by
low morale, supply problems, the terrible winter weather and low troop
quality, whilst general Faidherbe was unable to command due to his
poor health, the result of decades of campaigning in
West Africa . At
the Battle of St. Quentin, the Army of the North suffered a crushing
defeat and was scattered, releasing thousands of Prussian soldiers to
be relocated to the East.
A group of men from Bourbaki's army in Switzerland
Following the destruction of the French Army of the Loire, remnants
of the Loire army gathered in eastern
France to form the Army of the
East, commanded by general
Charles-Denis Bourbaki . In a final attempt
to cut the German supply lines in northeast France, Bourbaki's army
marched north to attack the Prussian siege of
Belfort and relieve the
In the battle of the Lisaine , Bourbaki's men failed to break through
German lines commanded by General August von Werder . Bringing in the
German 'Southern Army', General von Manteuffel then drove Bourbaki's
army into the mountains near the Swiss border. Facing annihilation,
the last intact French army crossed the border and was disarmed and
interned by the neutral Swiss near
Pontarlier (1 February).
Armistice of Versailles In this painting by
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes a woman holds up an oak twig as a symbol of
hope for the nation's recovery from war and deprivation after the
Franco-Prussian War. The Walters Art Museum.
On 26 January 1871 the
Government of National Defence based in Paris
negotiated an armistice with the Prussians. With Paris starving, and
Gambetta's provincial armies reeling from one disaster after another,
French foreign minister Favre went to Versailles on 24 January to
discuss peace terms with Bismarck. Bismarck agreed to end the siege
and allow food convoys to immediately enter Paris (including trains
carrying millions of German army rations), on condition that the
Government of National Defence surrender several key fortresses
outside Paris to the Prussians. Without the forts, the French Army
would no longer be able to defend Paris.
Although public opinion in Paris was strongly against any form of
surrender or concession to the Prussians, the Government realised that
it could not hold the city for much longer, and that Gambetta's
provincial armies would probably never break through to relieve Paris.
President Trochu resigned on 25 January and was replaced by Favre, who
signed the surrender two days later at Versailles, with the armistice
coming into effect at midnight. Several sources claim that in his
carriage on the way back to Paris, Favre broke into tears, and
collapsed into his daughter's arms as the guns around Paris fell
silent at midnight. At
Bordeaux , Gambetta received word from Paris on
29 January that the Government had surrendered. Furious, he refused to
Jules Simon , a member of the Government arrived from Paris
by train on 1 February to negotiate with Gambetta. Another group of
three ministers arrived in
Bordeaux on 5 February and the following
day Gambetta stepped down and surrendered control of the provincial
armies to the Government of National Defence, which promptly ordered a
cease-fire across France.
THE WAR AT SEA
French warships at sea in 1870 Illustration of SMS
Arminius engaging French warships during the
When the war began, the French government ordered a blockade of the
North German coasts, which the small
North German Federal Navy with
only five ironclads and various minor vessels could do little to
oppose. For most of the war, the three largest German ironclads were
out of service with engine troubles; only the turret ship SMS Arminius
was available to conduct operations. By the time engine repairs had
been completed, the French fleet had already departed. The blockade
proved only partially successful due to crucial oversights by the
planners in Paris. Reservists that were supposed to be at the ready in
case of war, were working in the Newfoundland fisheries or in
Scotland. Only part of the 470-ship
French Navy put to sea on 24 July.
Before long, the French navy ran short of coal , needing 200 short
tons (180 t) per day and having a bunker capacity in the fleet of only
250 short tons (230 t). A blockade of Wilhelmshaven failed and
conflicting orders about operations in the
Baltic Sea or a return to
France, made the French naval efforts futile. Spotting a
blockade-runner became unwelcome because of the question du charbon;
pursuit of Prussian ships quickly depleted the coal reserves of the
To relieve pressure from the expected German attack into
Napoleon III and the French high command planned a
seaborne invasion of northern
Germany as soon as war began. The French
expected the invasion to divert German troops and to encourage Denmark
to join in the war, with its 50,000-strong army and the Royal Danish
Navy . It was discovered that Prussia had recently built defences
around the big North German ports, including coastal artillery
batteries with Krupp heavy artillery, which with a range of 4,000
yards (3,700 m), had double the range of French naval guns. The French
Navy lacked the heavy guns to engage the coastal defences and the
topography of the Prussian coast made a seaborne invasion of northern
French Marines and naval infantry intended for the invasion of
Germany were dispatched to reinforce the French Army of
Châlons and fell into captivity at Sedan along with
Napoleon III. A
shortage of officers, following the capture of most of the
professional French army at the Siege of Metz and at the Battle of
Sedan, led naval officers to be sent from their ships to command
hastily assembled reservists of the Garde Mobile. As the autumn
storms of the North Sea forced the return of more of the French ships,
the blockade of the north German ports diminished and in September
1870 the French navy abandoned the blockade for the winter. The rest
of the navy retired to ports along the
English Channel and remained in
port for the rest of the war.
PACIFIC AND CARIBBEAN
Outside Europe, the French corvette Dupleix blockaded the German
corvette SMS Hertha in Nagasaki and the Battle of Havana took place
between the Prussian gunboat SMS Meteor and the French aviso Bouvet
Havana, Cuba , in November 1870.
German uhlans and an infantryman escorting captured French
soldiers Europe at This Moment (1872)- A Political-Geographic
Fantasy: An elaborate satirical map reflecting the European situation
following the Franco-Prussian war.
France had suffered a crushing
defeat: the loss of
Alsace and much of Lorraine; The map contains
satirical comments on 14 countries
The quick German victory over the French stunned neutral observers,
many of whom had expected a French victory and most of whom had
expected a long war. The strategic advantages possessed by the Germans
were not appreciated outside
Germany until after hostilities had
ceased. Other countries quickly discerned the advantages given to the
Germans by their military system, and adopted many of their
innovations, particularly the General Staff, universal conscription
and highly detailed mobilization systems.
The Prussian General Staff developed by Moltke proved to be extremely
effective, in contrast to the traditional French school. This was in
large part due to the fact that the Prussian General Staff was created
to study previous Prussian operations and learn to avoid mistakes. The
structure also greatly strengthened Moltke's ability to control large
formations spread out over significant distances. The Chief of the
General Staff, effectively the commander in chief of the Prussian
army, was independent of the minister of war and answered only to the
monarch. The French General Staff—along with those of every other
European military—was little better than a collection of assistants
for the line commanders. This disorganization hampered the French
commanders' ability to exercise control of their forces.
In addition, the Prussian military education system was superior to
the French model; Prussian staff officers were trained to exhibit
initiative and independent thinking . Indeed, this was Moltke's
expectation. The French, meanwhile, suffered from an education and
promotion system that stifled intellectual development. According to
the military historian Dallas Irvine, the system "was almost
completely effective in excluding the army's brain power from the
staff and high command. To the resulting lack of intelligence at the
top can be ascribed all the inexcusable defects of French military
Albrecht von Roon , the
Prussian Minister of War from 1859 to 1873,
put into effect a series of reforms of the Prussian military system in
the 1860s. Among these were two major reforms that substantially
increased the military power of Germany. The first was a
reorganization of the army that integrated the regular army and the
Landwehr reserves. The second was the provision for the conscription
of every male Prussian of military age in the event of mobilization.
Thus, despite the population of
France being greater than the
population of all of the German states that participated in the war,
the Germans mobilized more soldiers for battle.
Population and soldiers mobilized at the start of the war
POPULATION IN 1870
Second French Empire
Northern German states
At the outset of the Franco-Prussian War, 462,000 German soldiers
concentrated on the French frontier while only 270,000 French soldiers
could be moved to face them, the French army having lost 100,000
stragglers before a shot was fired through poor planning and
administration. This was partly due to the peacetime organisations of
the armies. Each Prussian Corps was based within a Kreis (literally
"circle") around the chief city in an area. Reservists rarely lived
more than a day's travel from their regiment's depot. By contrast,
French regiments generally served far from their depots, which in turn
were not in the areas of
France from which their soldiers were drawn.
Reservists often faced several days' journey to report to their
depots, and then another long journey to join their regiments. Large
numbers of reservists choked railway stations, vainly seeking rations
The effect of these differences was accentuated by the pre-war
preparations. The Prussian General Staff had drawn up minutely
detailed mobilization plans using the railway system, which in turn
had been partly laid out in response to recommendations of a Railway
Section within the General Staff. The French railway system, with
multiple competing companies, had developed purely from commercial
pressures and many journeys to the front in
Alsace and Lorraine
involved long diversions and frequent changes between trains.
Furthermore, no system had been put in place for military control of
the railways, and officers simply commandeered trains as they saw fit.
Rail sidings and marshalling yards became choked with loaded wagons,
with nobody responsible for unloading them or directing them to the
Denmark had both wished to avenge their
recent military defeats against Prussia, they chose not to intervene
in the war due to a lack of confidence in the French.
also failed to cultivate alliances with the
Russian Empire and the
United Kingdom , partially due to the diplomatic efforts of the
Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and thus faced the German
The French breech-loading rifle , the Chassepot, had a far longer
range than the German needle gun; 1,500 yards (1,400 m) compared to
600 yd (550 m). The French also had an early machine-gun type weapon,
the mitrailleuse , which could fire its thirty-seven barrels at a
range of around 1,200 yd (1,100 m). It was developed in such secrecy
that little training with the weapon had occurred, leaving French
gunners with no experience; the gun was treated like artillery and in
this role it was ineffective. Worse still, once the small number of
soldiers who had been trained how to use the new weapon became
casualties, there were no replacements who knew how to operate the
The French were equipped with bronze, rifled muzzle-loading
artillery, while the Prussians used new steel breech-loading guns,
which had a far longer range and a faster rate of fire. Prussian
gunners strove for a high rate of fire, which was discouraged in the
French army in the belief that it wasted ammunition. In addition, the
Prussian artillery batteries had 30% more guns than their French
counterparts. The Prussian guns typically opened fire at a range of
2–3 kilometres (1.2–1.9 mi), beyond the range of French artillery
Chassepot rifle. The Prussian batteries could thus destroy
French artillery with impunity, before being moved forward to directly
support infantry attacks.
EFFECTS ON MILITARY THOUGHT
The events of the
Franco-Prussian War had great influence on military
thinking over the next forty years. Lessons drawn from the war
included the need for a general staff system, the scale and duration
of future wars and the tactical use of artillery and cavalry. The bold
use of artillery by the Prussians, to silence French guns at long
range and then to directly support infantry attacks at close range,
proved to be superior to the defensive doctrine employed by French
gunners. The Prussian tactics were adopted by European armies by 1914,
exemplified in the French 75 , an artillery piece optimised to provide
direct fire support to advancing infantry. Most European armies
ignored the evidence of the
Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 which
suggested that infantry armed with new smokeless-powder rifles could
engage gun crews effectively. This forced gunners to fire at longer
range using indirect fire , usually from a position of cover.
At the Battle of Mars-la-Tours, the Prussian 12th Cavalry Brigade,
commanded by General
Adalbert von Bredow , conducted a charge against
a French artillery battery. The attack was a costly success and came
to be known as "von Bredow's Death Ride", which was held to prove that
cavalry charges could still prevail on the battlefield. Use of
traditional cavalry on the battlefields of 1914 proved to be
disastrous, due to accurate, long-range rifle fire, machine-guns and
artillery. Von Bredow's attack had succeeded only because of an
unusually effective artillery bombardment just before the charge,
along with favorable terrain that masked his approach.
The Germans raised a total of 33,101 officers and 1,113,254 men for
the war, of which they lost 1,046 officers and 16,539 enlisted men
killed in action. Another 671 officers and 10,050 men died of their
wounds, for total battle deaths of 28,306. Disease killed 207 officers
and 11,940 men, with typhoid accounting for 6,965. 4,009 were missing
and presumed dead; 290 died in accidents and 29 committed suicide.
Among the missing and captured were 103 officers and 10,026 men. The
wounded amounted to 3,725 officers and 86,007 men.
French battle deaths were 77,000, of which 41,000 were killed in
action and 36,000 died of wounds. More than 45,000 died of sickness.
Total deaths were 138,871, with 136,540 being suffered by the army and
2,331 by the navy. The wounded totaled 137,626; 131,000 for the army
and 6,526 for the navy. French prisoners of war numbered 383,860. In
addition, 90,192 French soldiers were interned in Switzerland and
6,300 in Belgium.
PRUSSIAN REACTION AND WITHDRAWAL
Europe after the
Franco-Prussian War and the
The Prussian Army, under the terms of the armistice, held a brief
victory parade in Paris on 17 February; the city was silent and draped
with black and the Germans quickly withdrew. Bismarck honoured the
armistice, by allowing train loads of food into Paris and withdrawing
Prussian forces to the east of the city, prior to a full withdrawal
France agreed to pay a five billion franc war indemnity . The
indemnity was proportioned, according to population, to be the exact
equivalent to the indemnity imposed by
Napoleon on Prussia in 1807 .
At the same time, Prussian forces were concentrated in the provinces
Alsace and Lorraine. An exodus occurred from Paris as some 200,000
people, predominantly middle-class, went to the countryside.
THE PARIS COMMUNE
During the war, the Paris National Guard , particularly in the
working-class neighbourhoods of Paris, had become highly politicised
and units elected officers; many refused to wear uniforms or obey
commands from the national government. National guard units tried to
seize power in Paris on 31 October 1870 and 22 January 1871. On 18
March 1871, when the regular army tried to remove cannons from an
artillery park on Montmartre, National Guard units resisted and killed
two army generals. The national government and regular army forces
retreated to Versailles and a revolutionary government was proclaimed
in Paris. A commune was elected, which was dominated by socialists,
anarchists and revolutionaries. The red flag replaced the French
tricolour and a civil war began between the
Commune and the regular
army, which attacked and recaptured Paris from 21–28 May in the
Semaine Sanglante (bloody week).
During the fighting, the
Communards killed c. 500 people, including
the Archbishop of Paris, and burned down many government buildings,
Tuileries Palace and the Hotel de Ville . Communards
captured with weapons were routinely shot by the army and Government
troops killed between 7,000 and 30,000 Communards, both during the
fighting and in massacres of men, women, and children during and after
the Commune. More recent histories, based on studies of the number
buried in Paris cemeteries and in mass graves after the fall of the
Commune, put the number killed at between 6,000 and 10,000.
Twenty-six courts were established to try more than 40,000 people who
had been arrested, which took until 1875 and imposed 95 death
sentences, of which 23 were inflicted. Forced labour for life was
imposed on 251 people, 1,160 people were transported to "a fortified
place" and 3,417 people were transported. About 20,000
held in prison hulks until released in 1872 and a great many
Communards fled abroad to Britain, Switzerland, Belgium or the United
States. The survivors were amnestied by a bill introduced by Gambetta
in 1880 and allowed to return.
GERMAN UNIFICATION AND POWER
Unification of Germany Proclamation of the
German Empire, painted by
Anton von Werner
Anton von Werner
The creation of a unified
German Empire greatly disturbed the balance
of power that had been created with the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna after the
end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Germany had established itself as a major
power in continental Europe, boasting the most powerful and
professional army in the world. Although Britain remained the
dominant world power overall, British involvement in European affairs
during the late 19th century was limited, owing to its focus on
colonial empire-building, allowing
Germany to exercise great influence
over the European mainland. Anglo-German straining of tensions was
somewhat mitigated by several prominent relationships between the two
powers, such as the Crown Prince's marriage with the daughter of Queen
FRENCH REACTION AND REVANCHISM
La Tache Noire (1887) by
Albert Bettannier , depicting a French
schoolteacher teaching his pupils about the loss of Alsace-Lorraine,
represented by a black mark on the map
The defeat in the
Franco-Prussian War led to the birth of Revanchism
(literally, "revenge-ism") in France, characterised by a deep sense of
bitterness, hatred and demand for revenge against Germany. This was
particularly manifested in the desire for another war with
order to reclaim
Alsace and Lorraine. It also led to the development
of right-wing ideologies emphasising "the ideal of the guarded,
self-referential nation schooled in the imperative of war", an
ideology epitomised by figures such as General Georges Ernest
Boulanger in the 1880s. Paintings that emphasized the humiliation of
the defeat became in high demand, such as those by Alphonse de
* War portal
Franco-Prussian War order of battle
History of French foreign relations
Foreign relations of Germany
Belgium and the Franco-Prussian War
International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919)
* ^ see Occupation of Saarbrücken
* ^ A B C D E F G Clodfelter 2017 , p. 184.
* ^ A B Howard 1991 , p. 39.
* ^ Nolte 1884 , pp. 526–527.
* ^ Nolte 1884 , p. 527.
* ^ A B C Clodfelter 2017 , p. 187.
* ^ For instance, A. Ramm highlights three difficulties with the
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Germany 1789-1919, Methuen & Co. Ltd, London, 1967, pp. 308-313.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 40.
* ^ A B Howard 1991 , p. 45.
* ^ von Bismarck 1899 , p. 58.
* ^ A B C Britannica: Franco-German War .
* ^ Von Poschinger, Heinrich, Conversations With Prince Bismarck,
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* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 41.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 101.
* ^ Milza, Pierre, "L'année terrible, p. 47–50.
* ^ Milza, Pierre, "L'année terrible, p. 57–59
* ^ McElwee 1974 , p. 43.
* ^ A B McElwee 1974 , p. 46.
* ^ A B C Wawro 2002 , p. 102.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 103.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 4.
* ^ Palmer 2010 , p. 20.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 104.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 89.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 110.
* ^ Palmer 2010 , p. 30.
* ^ Wawro 2002 , p. 113.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 58.
* ^ Zabecki 2008 , pp. 5–7.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 47.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 78.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 69, 78–79.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 66–67.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 47, 48, 60.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 85, 86, 90.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 87, 90.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 94.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 82.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 95.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 100–101.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 101.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 97, 98, 101.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 101–103.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 101–103.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 108.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 87–88.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 89–90.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 92–93.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 98–99.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 108–117.
* ^ Howard 1961 , p. 145.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 152–161.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 160–163.
* ^ Baldick 1964 , p. 20–21.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 228–231.
* ^ Howard 1961 , pp. 230–233.
* ^ Craig 1980 , p. 31.
* ^ Howard 1961 , p. 234.
* ^ Ridley 1976 , p. 602.
* ^ Howard, p 341
* ^ Foley 2007 , pp. 19–20.
* ^ Shann, Stephen (2012). French Army 1870–71 Franco-Prussian
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* ^ Hozier, Sir Henry Montague; Adams, William Henry Davenport
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* ^ Ollier, Edmund (1883). Cassell\'s history of the war between
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* ^ "Hope".
The Walters Art Museum .
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* ^ Wawro 2003 , p. 191.
* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 190–192.
* ^ A B Wawro 2003 , p. 192.
* ^ Maurice & Long 1900 , pp. 587–588.
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* ^ van Creveld 1977 , p. 96.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 23.
* ^ A B Irvine 1938 , p. 192.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 23–24.
* ^ Holborn 1942 , p. 159.
* ^ Howard 1991 , pp. 19–20.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 21.
* ^ Howard 1991 , p. 68.
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* ^ Wawro 2003 , pp. 52–53.
* ^ Bailey 2004 , p. 217.
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* ^ Taylor 1988 , p. 133.
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* ^ Rougerie 1995 , p. 118.
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FRENCH AND GERMAN STUDIES
* Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, 1870: La
France dans la guerre (Paris:
Armand Colin, 1989) ISBN 2-20037-165-9
* Baumont, Maurice. Broché – Gloires et tragédies de la IIIe
République. Hachette, 1956
* Fontane, Theodor, Der Krieg gegen Frankreich, 1870–1871, Verlag
der königlichen geheimen Hofbuchdruckerei, Bwelin, 1873, Reprint
2004, ISBN 3-937135-25-1
* Förster, Stig, ed., Moltke: Vom Kabinettskrieg zum Volkskrieg:
Eine Werkauswahl (Bonn: Bouvier Verlag, 1992) ISBN 3-41680-655-7
* Helmert, Heinz and Hansjürgen Usczeck, Preussischdeutsche Kriege
von 1864 bis 1871: Militärischer Verlauf (Berlin: Militärverlag der
Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1967)
* Mehrkens, Heidi, Statuswechsel: Kriegserfahrung und nationale
Wahrnehmung im Deutsch-Französischen Krieg 1870/71 (Essen: Klartext,
2008) ISBN 3-89861-565-0
* Nolte, Frédérick (1884). L'Europe militaire et diplomatique au
dix-neuvième siècle, 1815–1884 (4 volumes). E. Plon, Nourrit et
OCLC 4899575 .
* Stoneman, Mark R. "Die deutschen Greueltaten im Krieg 1870/71 am
Beispiel der Bayern," in Kriegsgreuel: Die Entgrenzung der Gewalt in
kriegerischen Konflikten vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, ed.
Sönke Neitzel and Daniel Hohrath (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh,
2008), 223–39 ISBN 3-50676-375-X
CARICATURES AND EDITORIAL CARTOONS
* Morna Daniels, "Caricatures from the
Franco-Prussian War of 1870
and the Paris Commune" Electronic British Library Journal 2005 Online
* W. Jack Rhoden, "French caricatures of the
Franco-Prussian War and
Commune at the British Library", FSLG Annual Review issue 6
(2009–2010), pp. 22–24 Online
* Bettina Müller, "The Collections of French caricatures in
Heidelberg: The English connection", FSLG Annual Review issue 8
(2011–2012), pp. 39–42 Online
* British Library collection of caricatures from the Franco-Prussian
* Henry William Pullen, The Fight at Dame Europa\'s School, 1871.
Satire with illustrations by
Thomas Nast .
Wikimedia Commons has media related to FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR .
Wikisource has the text of The New Student\'s Reference Work
article FRANCO-GERMAN WAR .
* (in French) La guerre de 1870–71 en images
* Texts and documents about German–French relations and an