FRENCH REPUBLIC b GERMAN EMPIRE d
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
TOTAL DEPLOYMENT: 2,000,740 INITIALLY: 909,951
* 492,585 active, including 300,000 reservists * 417,366 _ Garde Mobile _
PEAK FIELD ARMY STRENGTH: 710,000
TOTAL DEPLOYMENT: 1,494,412 INITIALLY: 938,424
* 730,274 regulars and reservists * 208,150 _ Landwehr _
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.
* v * t * e
* Belgian reaction
The FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR or FRANCO-GERMAN WAR (German :
_Deutsch-Französischer Krieg_, French : _Guerre franco-allemande_),
often referred to in
On 16 July 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on the German 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 artillery.
A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France,
culminating in the Siege of Metz and the
Battle of Sedan , saw
The German states proclaimed their union as the
* 1 Causes
* 2 Opposing forces
* 3 French Army incursion
* 3.1 Preparations for the offensive * 3.2 Occupation of Saarbrücken
* 4 Prussian Army advance
* 5 The war of the Government of National Defence
* 5.1 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
* 7 Aftermath
* 7.1 Analysis * 7.2 Effects on military thought * 7.3 Casualties
* 8 Subsequent events
* 9 See also * 10 Footnotes * 11 References * 12 Further reading
* 13 French and German studies
* 13.1 Caricatures and editorial cartoons
* 14 External links
The causes of the
In Prussia, some officials considered a war against
The immediate cause of the war resided in the candidacy of Leopold of
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen , a Prussian prince, to the throne of Spain.
Some historians argue that
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
For the organization of the two armies at the beginning of the war, see 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
French infantry were equipped with the breech-loading Chassepot rifle , one of the most modern mass-produced firearms in the world at the time. With a rubber ring seal and a smaller bullet, the Chassepot had 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 Pierre-Georges Jeanniot
The army was nominally led by
The 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 shell, the Krupp gun had a longer range and a higher rate of fire than the French bronze muzzle loading cannon, which relied on faulty time fuses.
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 July 1870
On 28 July 1870
A pre-war plan laid out by the late Marshal Niel called for a strong
French offensive from
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
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
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
PRUSSIAN ARMY ADVANCE
BATTLE OF WISSEMBOURG
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
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 General 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
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 Prussian artillery.
BATTLE OF SPICHEREN
Main article: 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
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
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
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 (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
BATTLE OF MARS-LA-TOUR
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 13,761 men.
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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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 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
SIEGE OF METZ
Main article: Siege of Metz (1870) Surrender of Metz.
With the defeat of Marshal Bazaine's Army of the
BATTLE OF SEDAN
Battle of Sedan _
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,
THE WAR OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
_ "Discussing the War in a Paris Café"—a scene published in
Illustrated London News
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 imperial régime.
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,
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
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
SIEGE OF PARIS
Main article: 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
Battle of Bapaume (1871) took place from 2–3 January
1871, during the
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
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
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
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 surrender. 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
To relieve pressure from the expected German attack into
French Marines and naval infantry intended for the invasion of
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
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.
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
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 policy."
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
Population and soldiers mobilized at the start of the war
POPULATION IN 1870 MOBILIZED
Second French Empire
Northern German states 32,000,000 550,000
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
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
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 mitrailleuse.
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 or the 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
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
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
THE PARIS COMMUNE
See also: 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
During the fighting, the
GERMAN UNIFICATION AND POWER
The creation of a unified
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
* War portal
Franco-Prussian War order of battle
History of French foreign relations
Foreign relations of Germany
Belgium and the Franco-Prussian War
* ^ 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
argument that Bismarck planned or provoked a French attack. Agatha
* Bailey, J. B. A. (2004). _Field Artillery and Firepower_.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591140293 .
* Baldick, R. (1964). _The Siege of Paris_ (NEL, 1974 ed.). London:
Batsford. ISBN 0-450-02190-4 .
* "Franco-German War". _Britannica.com_. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
* Bresler, Fenton. _
FRENCH AND GERMAN STUDIES
* Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, _1870: La