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Qt^ Z36C.0'. /9
1>arvar^ CoUeae Xibrar^^
FROM THE BEQUEST OF
CLASS OP i8jo
SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS
FOR BOOKS RELATING TO
POLITICS AND PINB ARTS
' m^^ JtjAm^iii^mBm
The Franco-German War
1 8707 1
COUNT HELMUTH VON MOLTKE
CLARA BELL and HENRY W. FISCHER
H^/TJf A MAP
IN TWO VOLUMES
JAMES R. OSGOOD, McILVAINE & CO.
45, Albemarle Street, W.
[^All rights reserved]
FEB 3 1R92
Fighting round Paris.
Paris in Xovember
The Attempt to Release the Army of Paris (November
30th and December 2nd)
The Advance of the Ist Army in November
The Battle of Amiens (November 17th)
The Taking of La-F^re (November 27th)
The Taking of Diedenhof (November 24th)
The Investment of Belf ort in November
Battle of Orieans (December 3rd and 4th)
The German Advance on the South, East and West
The Grand Duke's Battle (December 7th, 8th, 9th, and
The Interraption of Serious Offensive Operations in
The XrVth Corps in December
The Ist Army in December .
The Taking of Meziftres
Paris in December
The Fight at Le Bourget (December 21st)
The Reduction of Mont-Avron (December 27th)
vi The Franco-German War. '
Active Operations in the Provinobs.
Tho Army of the East under General Bourbaki . . 86
The Advance on Le-Mans 90
Battle of Le-Mans (10th, 11th, and 12th of January) . 112
Operations on the North of Paris during January . .139
The Battle of Bapaume (January 3rd) . . . .142
Actions on the Lower Seine 146
Occupation of P^ronne 149
Battle of St.-Quentin (January 19th) .... 156
Operations at the South-Eastern Seat of War up to 17th
of January 169
Transfer of the French Eastern Army to the South-
Eastern Scat of War, towards the end of December. 174
Action of Villersexel (January 9th) . . .178
Battle of the Lisaine (January 15th to 17th)
Tho Bombai-dment of Paris (January, 1871)
Battle of Mont-Valerien (January 19th) .
The Bombardment of Paris till the Armistice
The Progress of the War in the South and West.
The Army of the South under General von ManteuflTel . 227
General Hanu von Wey hern's March on Dijon . .261
Occupation of the Departments of Doubs, Jura, and
The Siege of Belfort 264
SnRREin>ER AND PbAOE.
The Annistice 275
The Return March of the German Army 284
Memorandum on the Councils of War said to have
BEEN HELD DURING THE WaRS UNDER KlNG
THE FRANCO-GERMAN WAR.
FIGHTING ROUND PARIS.
Paris m November.
The report, which became known on the 14th
November, of the happy result of the action at
Coulmiers on the 9th, had raised new hopes in
Paris. No one any longer doubted that the enemy
would find it necessary to send large forces in that
direction, which would considerably weaken the
investing lines, particularly in the south.
In order to assist the hoped-for relief by inde-
pendent action when the time came, three armies
were formed out of the garrison of Paris.
The first, under General Clement Thomas, con-
sisted of 226 battalions of the National Guard, in
round numbers 130,000 men. They were to de-
fend the city walls and maintain peace in the city.
The second, under General Ducrot, included the
most trusty elements, particularly the troops which
had hitherto constituted the Xlllth and the XlVth
Corps. This army was divided into three Corps
VOL. n. B
2 The Franco-German War.
and one Division of Cavalry, consisting of fully
100,000 men and more than 300 guns. They were
intended for active service in the field, and for
making sorties on the investing forces. The third
army, under General Vinoy, 70,000 strong, con-
sisted of six regiments of the Garde-Mobile, and
one Division of Cavalry ; and Maud'huy's Infantry
Division was also distributed among them. They
were to support the more important sorties by
making feints against the foremost besieging lines.
Besides these, 80,000 of the Garde-Mobile were
in the forts, and 35,000 men at St.-Denis under
Admiral de la Ronciere.
The available fighting power consequently
amounted to above 400,000 men.
The garrison exhibited a remarkable activity in
small night engagements. The heavy guns in the
place would carry as far as Choisy-le-Roi, and even
to Beauregard, near Versailles. They worked hard
in the trenches on the peninsula of Gennevilliers
and constructed a military bridge. Several things
showed that the French intended to make an attempt
on the west. But since, as long as the Ilnd Army
was still incomplete, the greatest danger threatened
the Germans from the south, their Commander-
in-Chief, as already mentioned, kept the Ilnd Corps
behind the Yvette from Villeneuve to Saclay. On
the north of Paris the Corps of Guards spread them-
Preparations in Paris. 3
selves out to the left towards Aulnay, the Xllth
crossed to the south bank of the Mame, and the
Wurtemburg Division moved to the position left
vacant by the Ilnd Corps, between the Mame and
On November 18th the summons came to
Paris from Tours to effect a prompt connection
with the Army of the Loire, somewhat prematurely,
as we know, since that army was still deliberating
about merely defensive measures.
In Paris, arrangements were, indeed, being made
for a great sortie. But as the earlier attacks on
the centre of the Vlth Corps had shown that this
had been considerably strengthened by fortifica-
tions at Thiais and CheviUy, it was decided to
reach the uplands east of Joinville and from thence
to turn oflF to the south. The attention of the
Germans was to be diverted by means of attacks in
the opposite direction.
On the 18th, the day on which the Army of
Orleans had vainly endeavoured to press on to-
wards Beaune-la-Rolande, GeneralDucrotassembled
the Ilnd Paris Army in the neighbourhood of
Vincennes, and the Ilird, with Hugues's Division,
occupied Mont-Avron on the following day. As,
however, the construction of bridges at Champigny
and Bry was not yet completed, battle was post-
poned till the 30th ; but it was left to the leaders
4 The Franco-German War.
of the minor engagements to carry them into
effect simultaneously or separately. Accordingly,
Maud'huy's Division collected during the night of
the 29th behind the redoubt at Hautes-Bruyferes,
and marched towards L'Hay before daybreak.
Warned by the heavy firing from the southern
forts, General von Tlimpling had ordered the 12th
Division to get under arms early in their posi-
tions, and the 11th to assemble at Fresnes.
The French, favoured by the darkness, made
their way through the vineyards into L'Hay ; yet
they were successfully driven back by the Germans
with the bayonet and clubbed arms.
After continuing the firing for some time, the
French renewed their onslaught at 8.30, but with-
out success; and then the defenders, reinforced
from the reserve, replied with a vigorous charge.
At ten o'clock the enemy retreated to ViUejuif.
Admiral Pothuau had at the same time ad-
vanced up the Seine with the Marine Infantry and
the National Guard. A vedette at Gare-aux-
Boeufs was surprised and taken prisoner, and Choisy-
le-Roi was fired upon by field-guns, artillery, and
some gunboats which appeared on the Seine.
Meanwhile, as the Grenadiers of the 10th Regiment
(German) were on the point of making an attack
on their side, General Vinoy stopped the fighting.
This demonstration cost the French 1000 men
Sorties from Paris. 5
and 300 uninjured prisoners ; the Prussians, who
were under cover, lost only 140 men. Still, the
forts kept up fire till mid-day, and then the enemy
were allowed a short truce, in order to carry away
their numerous wounded.
Against the centre of the Vth Corps also a strong
force of infantry had advanced at eight o'clock,
upon Garches and Malmaison, and had driven in
part of the outposts. But they soon met with
opposition from the battalions, and at noon retreated
The Attempt to Release the Army of Paris.
(November 30th and December 2nd.)
On November 30th the Ilnd Paris Army opened
the battle which was to decide the fate of the
To prevent the concentration of the Germans
towards the real attack, the investing lines were
engaged against sorties at almost every point.
General Ducrot ordered SusbieUe's Division of
his Ilnd Corps to march to the south. These had
already reached Rosny by three o'clock in the
morning, crossed over the Mame at Cr^teil by a
flying bridge, and from thence, briskly supported
by the neighbouring forts, opened fire on the
6 The Franco-German War.
Wurtemburg Division, whose outposts had been
pushed forward as far as Bonneuil and Mesly.
General von Obemitz had to maintain an ex-
tended position, his 1st Division, being near
Villiers on the peniQsula of Joinville, his 2nd at
Sucy-en-Brie, and his 3rd at Br<5vannes. The
division had been placed under the general in
command of the Army of the Meuse, who had re-
ceived orders from Versailles to increase his strength
considerably by the addition of the Xllth Corps,
or even of some troops of the Corps of Guards.
In consequence of the enemy's enormous num-
bers on Mont- Avron, the Saxon Corps believed them-
selves immediately threatened on the right bank
of the Mame, and requested to be immediately
transferred to the left ; but the Crown Prince of
Saxony gave orders that the whole of the 24th
Division should assemble there on the following day.
Thus, for the present, no help could be rendered
to the Wurtemburgers but by means of the wing
of the Ilnd Corps, which was posted at Villeneuve,
instead of the 7th Brigade of Infantry, which was
sent near Br^vannes to Valenton.
The fire of three German batteries, on their
way to that town, first brought the advance
of the French Division to a stand. The attempt
of the Wurtemburgers to take Mont-Mesly com-
pletely failed at the outset ; but after the artillery
Sorties from Paris. 7
was brought into play they succeeded in taking
the hill by twelve o'clock, and the Prussian
battalions made their way into Mesly. The
Wurtemburg troopers attacked the enemy's re-
treating guns with great success. At 1.30 the
reopening of the fire from the forts announced
the end of this sortie. It cost the Germans 350
men, and the French 1200.
During this time the centre of the Vlth Corps had
not even been disturbed. General Vinoy, who
had not been informed of the advance of Susbielle's
Division, as soon as its retreat was noticed, opened
a rapid fire on Ivry and the adjoining works, which
was augmented by gunboats on the Seine, and
armour-plated batteries on the railway. Then
Admiral Pothuau advanced against Choisy-le-Roi
and Thiais. He once more set his marines to drive
out the Prussian outposts from Gare-aux-Boeufs.
But the further advance failed, and General Vinoy
recalled his troops, after which the fighting at
Mesly ceased, and only the thunder of artillery
continued till five o'clock.
After a preliminary cannonade from Valerien
the Garde-Mobile advanced against the centre of
the Vth Corps as early as seven o'clock. They were,
however, repulsed by the outposts, and supports
who were in readiness, and retired at eleven
8 The Fran(X)-German War.
Further towards the north of Paris a sharp
skirmish took place. At mid-day the Fort de la
Briche, supported by field-guns and a floating
battery, opened a heavy fire on the low-lying
village of Epinay, on the right bank of the Seine.
At two o'clock Haurion's Brigade advanced, two
companies of marines pressed into this place along
the bank of the river, and drove out the garrison,
which consisted of only one company. A second
also retired from the base of the fortifications in a
northerly direction towards Ormesson. At three
o'clock in the afternoon, the village, with a few
obstinately defended farms on the further side of
the mill-race, fell into the hands of the French.
Meanwhile the troops of the IVth Army Corps
had assembled, and established seven batteries on
the heights above. The infantry rushed into the
village from all sides with loud cheers, and after
a fierce street-fight recovered possession of the
lost posts ; and it was this transitory victory that
was to raise such great hopes in Tours. The losses
on both sides amounted to 300 men.
These were all mere feints to facilitate the chief
action ; and whilst the investing troops were thus
engaged and attracted to various points, two Corps
of the French Ilnd Army at 6.30 in the morning
crossed the bridges at Joinville and Nogent which
had been completed during the night. After
Sorties from Paris. 9
repulsing the German outposts they both deployed,
and completely covered the peninsula between
Champigny and Bry. The Ilird Corps had taken the
road along the north bank of the Mame, towards
Neuilly, to cross the river there, thus at the same
time threatening the position of the Saxon Corps,
who therefore detained the 47th Brigade on the
right baok, though it had been sent to the assis-
tance of the Wurtemburgers. Consequently only
two Grerman brigades, spread over three-quarters
of a mile, were left to face the two French Corps
on the left bank, with the Saxon 48th at Noisy,
and the Wurtemburg 1st between ViUiers and
At ten o'clock Maussion's Division advanced
towards the Park of ViUiers. Supported by the
Saxon divisions from Noisy, the Wurtemburgers
repulsed a first attack, but in following it up met
with heavy losses. The French batteries of two
divisions and those of the Artillery Reserve formed
line in front of the park. On their right wing
Faron's Division, which had met "inth no slight
losses, occupied Champigny, and was drawn up
for defence in front of this position.
General Ducrot's original idea had been to pro-
long the engagement on the peninsula until he
could be joined at Noisy by his Ilird Corps. But
as news arrived that at eleven o'clock they were
lo The Franco-German War.
still beyond the Mame, he ordered a general
attack by the two other Corps to commence at
On the left their advance was checked for
a considerable time by the German batteries
bet^veen Noisy and Villiers, and when Colonel von
Abendroth advanced with six companies of the
48th Brigade from both those places to attack in
force, the French retired to the vineyards on the
western slope of the plateau, even leaving two guns,
which, however, the Saxons could not take away
for want of horses.
In the centre, Berthaut's Division tried to pass
south of Villiers, but, under a fire from five
batteries stationed there and at Comilly, its
ranks were so much thinned that it fell back
before the advance of a Saxon battalion.
On the right wing, the guns which had been
brought up for the defence of Champigny had at
last been compelled by the German artillery to
withdraw, and had again sought cover further north,
near the lime-kilns. A division of infantry had
advanced along the river to Maison-Blanche, but
in the meantime the 2nd Wurtemburg Brigade,
although itself attacked at Sucy, had des-
patched two companies and a battery to Chenne-
vieres as reinforcements. Moving forward from
the Hunting-lodge, the Wurtemburgers took 200
Sorties from Paris. i r
French prisoners at Maison-Blanche ; though, on
the other hand, the attempt to scale the heights
before Champigny with the companies assembled
at Comilly failed with heaxj losses. However, on
the renewal of the flank attack from the Hunting-
lodge, Faron's Division, which had already been
seriously shaken, was obliged to retreat to Cham-
General Ducrot decided to be content, for that
day, with having established a firm footing on the
left bank of the Mame, and he brought up
sixteen batteries to a position in his front, to
secure the ground he had gained. On the follow-
ing day the attack was to be renewed by aU three
The Germans, on their part, had to congratulate
themselves on having held firm against superior
numbers. And so in the afternoon the fighting
gradually died away, until it broke out again in
The French Ilird Corps, marching up the right
bank of the Mame, had left a strong force in
NeuiUy, and had driven back the outpost of the
Saxon 23rd Brigade. Under cover of six
batteries the construction of two military bridges
below NeuiUy was begun at ten o'clock, and
finished by noon. Just at this time it happened,
as we have seen, that the French on the plateau
12 The Franco-German War,
were retiring, so the passage did not take place
until two o'clock in the afternoon. BeUemare's
Division marched along the valley to Bry, where
they joined the left wing of the Ilird Corps. A
regiment of Zouaves, trying to ascend the heights
from that side, lost half its men and all its officers.
Notwithstanding this, Greneral Ducrot decided to
bring his increased reinforcements to the renewal
of the attack on ViUiers.
Reinforced by four battalions, the divisions
advanced in this direction, although the artillery
had not succeeded in battering down the park wall ;
repeated onslaughts of infantry were repulsed, and
finally the French retreated into the valley.
Simultaneously with this, Berthaut's Division failed
in an attack on the railway, and Faron's in one on
the Hunting-lodge. Not till darkness had set in
did the firing cease on both sides.
In the direction in which the French Ilird
Corps had been fighting in the morning, the
Crown Prince of Saxony had collected the
23rd Division near Chelles ; but as soon as the
enemy's true plans could be known, he sent off a
detachment of the 47th Brigade and part of the
Artillery Corps to the threatened position held by
the Wurtemburgers. In the same way General
von Obemitz, as soon as the fighting at Mesly was
over, despatched three battalions to the Hunting-
Attacks from Without. 13
lodge. At night orders came from head-quarters
for the Ilnd and Vlth Corps to send reinforce-
ments to the position where the investing lines
were in danger, and the 7th and 21st Brigades
arrived at Sucy on the following day, the 1st of
The attempt on the part of the French to break
through without help from outside was already
considered as fairly hopeless, and it was only the
fear of popular indignation which caused the Ilird
Army to remain any longer on the left bank of the
Mame. Instead of attacking, the French began to
intrench themselves, and in order to clear the
battlefield a truce was arranged. The thimdering
of the artillery of Mont-Avron must serve for the
present to keep the Parisians in a good humour.
The Germans also worked at strengthening their
positions, but, suffering from the sudden and
extreme cold, they withdrew at least part of their
troops to quarters further to the rear.
The command of the whole of the German Army
between the Mame and the Seine was handed over
to General von Fransecky. The Commander-in-
Chief of the Army of the Mouse had already
arranged that Prince George, with all the available
troops of the Xllth Corps, should take Bry and
Champigny by surprise in the early morning.
With this object, on the morning of the 2nd of
14 The Franco-German War.
December, the 24th Division assembled at Noisy,
the 1st Wurtemburg Brigade at Villiers, and the
7th Prussian at the Hunting-lodge.
The foremost battalion of the Saxon Division
drove back the enemy's outposts by an unexpected
rush, took 100 prisoners, and after carrying a
barricade, entered Bry. Here the fighting took
the form of fierce action round the houses, in which
the 2nd Battalion of the 107th Regiment lost
nearly all its officers. Nevertheless, they held
their ground, in spite of the heavy fire from the
forts in the northern parts of the village.
The Wurtemburgers also seized Champigny, but
soon met with fierce resistance from the enemy,
who were sheltered in the buildings. Bois-de-la-
Lande, previously occupied, had to be abandoned,
and General Ducrot himself determined to attack.
The strong lines of artillery on his front came into
action at about nine o'clock, and two divisions
deployed behind them.
Meanwhile, the battalion of Fusiliers of Colberg's
Regiment marched once more from the Hunting-
lodge on Bois-de-la-Lande, and took possession of
it at the first onslaught. The French, who were
firing steadily from the railway embankments, drove
back the Pomeranians with clubbed rifles and at
the point of the bayonet. A brisk fight was carried
on at the same time near the lime-pits, where at
The Fight at Champigny. 15
noon 160 French laid down their arms. Whilst the
6th Wurtemburger and the 9th Prussian batteries
were by degrees brought into action against Cham-
pigny, General Hartmann succeeded in getting as far
as the Bry road. As, however, the batteries were
prevented by their own troops from firing, and
were suffering, too, from the projectiles from the
forts, they were withdrawn behind the slope of the
valley near the Hunting-lodge. At two o'clock
the 1st Wurtemburg and the 7th Prussian Brigades
had established themselves in the line from the
churchyard of Champigny to Bois-de-la-Lande.
Meanwhile, the French divisions, imder Belle-
mare and Susbielle, had reached the battlefield
from the right bank of the Mame. The two
(German) battalions at Bry, having already lost
thirty-six officers and 638 men, were compelled,
on the approach of the enemy in very superior
force, to evacuate the village and retire on
Noisy, but not without taking 300 prisoners with
them. The remainder of the Saxon forces held
Villiers, where the batteries still available also
took up a position.
When, at two o'clock, the French were leading
a strong body of artillery to this point, fom' bat-
teries of the Ilnd Corps rushed out of the hollow
near the Hunting-lodge at full gallop, and opened
fire at 2000 paces on their flank. In scarcely ten
i6 The Franco-German War,
minutes the French batteries retired and the
Prussians went back to their sheltered position,
Several of the enemy's battalions which, at about
three o'clock, attempted a renewed assault on
ViUiers, were repulsed with less difficulty, and at
five o'clock the fighting ceased. Only the French
kept up a fire of field and fortress artillery until
General Ducrot had received information, in
the course of the day, that the Army of the Loire
was marching on Fontainebleau, and he therefore
determined to mamtain, if possible, his position
During the night of December 3rd, provi-
sions had been procured, also additional teams and
ammimition for the batteries ; but the advance of
support from without was by no means confirmed.
The troops were completely exhausted by the
disastrous fighting they had gone through, and the
Commander-in-Chief was justified in dreading a
repulse on the Mame from the enemy's invigorated
forces. He therefore ordered a retreat, the troops
being informed that the attack should be renewed
as soon as they were once more in a condition to
Soon after midnight the divisions were already
drawn up behind the outposts, and the baggage
trains were sent back first. At noon the troops
Repulse of the French. 17
were able to follow over the bridges at Neuilly,
Bry, and Joinville. Only one brigade remained to
protect the passage.
The retreat was very skilfully covered by a
series of small attacks on the German outposts.
The French batteries had opened fire at Le-Plant
and Bry by daybreak, and the withdrawal of the
enemy's army was completely hidden by the thick
Greneral Fransecky assembled the Saxon and the
Wurtemburg Divisions in fighting order atVilliers
and Coeuilly, the 7th Brigade with the artillery
of the Ilnd Corps and two regiments of the
Vlth at Chennevieres, intending to wait for the
expected reinforcement of the 4th which was to
come from the Vlth Corps. The 23rd Division
received orders from the Crown Prince of Saxony
to cross to the left bank of the Mame, whilst the
corps of Guards had in the meantime extended
their outposts to Chelles.
Matters remained so on the 3rd, with the except
tion of petty frays, and at four o'clock in the after-
noon the troops returned to quarters. But early
on the 4th, as the patrols rode out towards Bry
and Champigny, they foimd these places vacated,
and the peninsula of Joinville deserted by the
The French Und Army, which had been severely
VOL. II. c
1 8 The Franco-German War.
reduced and its discipline much shaken, turned
back to Paris ; by their own statement they had
lost 12,000 men. The Germans had lost 6200
men, but took up the position again that they had
previously held in the investing lines.
This determined attempt on the part of General
Ducrot is the most serious effort that was made to
break out of Paris. It was directed towards what
was at the moment the weakest point of the in-
vestment, but only met "vvith good results at the
The Advance of the 1st Army in November.
The newly-formed army in the north of France
had not remained inactive. Rouen and Lille were
its chief centres. In front of Lille, the Somme
with its fortified passages at Ham, Pdronne,
Amiens and Abbeville afforded a field equally
advantageous for attacks in front or for a secure
retreat. The advance of the French in independent
columns had, indeed, on various occasions, been
' A legend was subsequently circulated that the voice of
one general at one of the German councils of war had, in oppo-
sition to all the others, prevented the removal of the chief
head-quarters from Versailles. Apart from the fact that during
the whole course of the invasion no council of war was ever
held, it never occurred to any member of the King's military
suite to set so bad an example to the army.
Advance of the 1st German Army. 19
checked by detachments of the Army of the
Meuse, and they were not strong enough to rid
themselves permanently of that incubus.
We have already seen how, after the fall of
Metz, the Ilnd Army retired towards the Loire,
and the 1st into the northern departments of
A large portion of the 1st Army was detained
as far back as the Moselle by the transport of the
numerous prisoners and by the watch kept at the
fortresses which interrupted the communications
with Germany, The whole of the Vllth Corps
were either in Metz or before Diedenhof and
Montmddy. Of the 1st Corps, the 1st Division
had been withdrawn to Rethel, the 4th Brigade
had been carried forward by railway beyond Sois-
sons to the investment of La-F^re, and the 3rd
Division of Cavalry had been sent on towards
the Forest of Argonnes. The remaining five bri-
gades followed with the artillery on the 7th
Marching on a wide front, they had already reached
the Oise, between Compiegne and Chaimy, on the
20th. In front of the right wing the cavalry,
supported by a battalion of Jagers, came across
the Garde-Mobile at Ham and Guiscard, but the
French forces retired to Amiens on the advance
of the infantry columns. It was uixderstood that
20 The Franco-German War.
15,000 men were there, and reinforcements con-
tinually joining them.
On the 25th the 3rd Brigade reached Le-Ques-
nel. Of the Vllth Corps, the 15th Division suc-
ceeded in getting beyond Montdidier, and the 16th
as far as Breteuil, whence they established com-
munication Tvith the Saxon forces at Clermont.
On the 26th the right wing started for Le-Ques-
nel, the left for Moreuil and Essertaux. The
cavalry made incursions across the Somme, the
right bank of which they foimd occupied by the
French. The enemy's attitude showed that they
restricted themselves to the defence of that
position. General von Manteuflfel thereupon de-
termined to attack, without waiting for the arrival
of the 1st Division, which had been inexplicably
delayed on the way by railway from Rethel.
He wanted first, on the 27th, to concentrate his
available forces on a smaller front, as they were
spread out over an extent of four miles, but the
battle was unexpectedly fought on that same day.
Battle of Amiens.
General Farre, with his 17,500 men divided into
three brigades, stood on one side of Amiens, on the
south bank of the Somme, at Villers-Bretonneux,
Battle of Amiens. 21
and at Longueau, on the road to Peronne, keeping
possession of the villages and the copses on his
front. Besides these there were 8000 Gardes-
Mobiles half a mile in front of the town in
In accordance with the instructions from head-
quarters, General von Goeben had arranged that
the 15th Division should take up their quarters
at Fouencamps and Sains on the 27th ; the
16th at Rumigny and Plachy, and in the vil-
lages further back ; the Artillery Corps at Gratte-
panche. The Vlllth Corps had to assemble before
Amiens between the Celle and the Noye, standing
at least half a mile from the 1st Corps, and divided
from them by the Noye and the Avre. General
von Bentheim, on the other side, had directed his
advanced guard, the 3rd Brigade, to find quarters
north of the Luce.
At an early hour the Germans seized the fords
of the stream at D^muin, Hangard, and Domart.
At ten o'clock they moved forward in order to
occupy the quarters intended for them, and as the
enemy were already in possession, a fight began
which gradually increased in magnitude.
The wooded heights on the north bank of the
Luce were taken without any particular resistance,
and maintained in spite of several assaults by the
French. The artillery advanced in the intervals.
22 The Franco-German War.
On the left the 4th Regiment seized the village
of Gentelles, on the right the 44th Regiment
rushed up to within 300 paces of the left wing of
the French position, and by a vigorous onslaught
carried by storm the earthworks at the railway-
cutting east of Villers-Bretonneux. Soon after
mid-day a strong force of the enemy drew up
at Bretonneux and in Cachy, directly opposite
the 3rd Brigade, which was extended nearly a
On the left wing of the Germans the 16th
Division had by eleven o'clock already reached
the quarters assigned to them, and had driven
the enemy out of H^becourt, as well as out of the
woods north of this place towards Dury. When
the Vlllth Corps was called out on the left bank
of the Noye, the 15th Division was moved from
Moreuil along the left bank of the Noye by way of
AiUy to Dommartin, and the advanced guard from
HaiUes marched on Fouencamps.
Thus it happened that before noon, betAveen the
two Corps, the roads from Roye and Mondidier
were left completely exposed on the German side,
while a French brigade was standing at the fork
of the road at Longueau, though, in fact, it re-
mained absolutely inactive.
This interval was at first screened only by the
numerous retinue and the staff of the Commander-
Battle of Amiens. 23
in-Chief; and then it was to some extent filled up
by the battalions constituting the escort of the
head-quarters. As, however, at ten o'clock the
French on their side commenced an attack on the
3rd Brigade, General von Manteuffel ordered the
15th Division to join in the fight as far as pos-
sible on the right wing.
After a steady defence, the companies of the
4th Regiment were driven back out of the Wood of
Hangard towards the slope of the hill in front of
Ddmuin, and subsequently, after having fired away
all their ammunition, the defenders of Gentelles
were driven back to Domart.
General von Strubberg, instructed from the camp
beyond the Luce, had sent four batteries in this
direction, which crossed the Avre, but came imder
such a heavy fire from the Wood of Gentelles that
their further advance was prevented, and they had
to change front on the copse. Behind them, how-
ever, the other detachments of the 30th Brigade
pressed forward to St.-Nicolas on the right bank,
and to Boves on the left, and with the help of the
29th Brigade drove out the French from the heap
Meanwhile a part of the 1st German Division,
which was retiring, had come up behind the 3rd
Brigade. The -position of the artillery was con-
siderably strengthened, and the guns were directed
24 The Franco-German War.
against the earthworks south of Bretonncux. As
further support the Crown Prince's Regiment
marched out, and the French were again soon
driven out of the Bois-de-Hangard. The East
Prussians, wlio were following, crouched behind
the earthworks ; several detachments of the 4th
and 44th Regiments gradually collected there from
the neighbouring woods, and drove the enemy
from this position. Thirteen batteries now silenced
the French artillery, and, after they had fired for
some time on Bretonneux, the place was, at fom*
o'clock, seized by the Prussians, who came in from
all sides with drums beating. The French in the
town only opposed them at a few places ; for the
most part they hurried over the Somme at Corbie
under cover of the darkness, and with the loss of
180 unwounded prisoners.
When, somewhat later, General Lecointe ad-
vanced with the reserve brigade on Domart, he
found the place already in possession of the 1st
Division, so turned back. The French only suc-
ceeded in holding Cachy till late in the evening.
The troops of the 1st Corps were accommodated
for the night in the hamlets to the south of the
Luce ; the outposts remained on duty on the north
bank, and Bretonneux also was occupied.
On the left wing of the battle-field the 16th
Division had advanced on Dury, had driven
Battle of Amiens. 25
the French out of the neighbouring churchyard,
but had been forced to retire from an attack on
the enemy's lines of intrenchment, which were
extensive and strongly defended. They bivouacked
It was night before General von Manteuffel
received news of the enemy's complete defeat.
Early in the morning of the 28th the patrols of
the 1st Army Corps foimd the ground clear of
the enemy as far as the Somme, and all the
bridges across the river demolished. By noon
General von Goeben returned to Amiens, and the
citadel capitulated two days later with 400 men
and 30 cannon.
One peculiarity of the battle of the 27th No-
vember is the small extent of the battle-field in
proportion to the number of the troops engaged.
General Farre, with 25,000 men in roimd num-
bers, covered a front of three miles from Pont-de-
Metz, south of Amiens, to the east of ViUers-Bre-
tonneux, with the Somme close on his rear. As
the Germans attacked on about the same length
of front, there was a break in their centre. The
danger caused by this gap was not taken advan-
tage of during the morning through the inactivity
of the enemy, and it was then nullified by the
occupation of St.-Nicolas.
The superiority of numbers was on the side of
26 The Franco-German War,
the Germans, for, although of the 1st Division in
their rear, only the Crown Prince's Regiment could
take part in the fighting, they were 30,000 strong.
The 3rcl Brigade had borne the brunt of the
battle, losing 630 men and 34 officers, out of a
total of 1300. The French also lost 1300 killed,
besides 1000 reported missing. Part of the Na-
tional Guard threw down their arms and fled for
their homes. The main body of the French Corps
retired on Amiens.
Immediately after the battle the 1st Army was
reinforced by the 4th Brigade, which had been
brought from La-Fere.
The Taking of La-FIire.
This little fortress had become quite important,
since it closed the line of railway passing through
Rheims, whether to Paris or to Amiens. Lying
in low open ground, well watered by the Somme
and its tributaries, it is difficult of access ; other-
wise, the fortifications were restricted to a wall
standing apart, with small earthworks lying close
in front of it, and it was entirely exposed to view
from the heights situated on the east at a distance
of not more than 1500 metres.
LA-FtRE AND DiEDENHOF. 2^
The brigade had temporarily invested La-F^re
on the 15th November, and when the siege-train
arrived from Soissons with thirty-frsvo heavy guns,
seven batteries were constructed and armed during
the night of the 25 th on the heights already men-
tioned. On the following morning these opened
fire, and on the 27th the place capitulated. 2300
Gardes-Mobiles were taken prisoners, and the most
serviceable of the 113 guns were carried to Amiens
to arm the citadel. The Vllth Corps, which was
to have supported the 1st Army, meanwhile never
appeared in sight, because they still had further
work to do on the Moselle ; on the 13th November
the greater part of the 14th Di\dsion had only
The Taking of Diedenhof.
This fortress, being shut in on all sides by hills,
was entirely without bomb-proof space ; the direct
approach from the south was, on the other hand,
rendered more difficult by inimdations, and on the
west and north by marsh-lands. General von
Kameke therefore decided to await the results of a
heavy bombardment before making a regular at-
tack. Batteries were erected on both banks of the
28 The Franco-German War.
Moselle, and on the morning of the 22nd eighty-five
guns opened fire. At first the fortress answered
briskly. In the following night, to lay the first
parallel, the infantry advanced to within 600 paces
on the west front, but, in consequence of pouring
rain and the condition of the ground, the work
made but small progress. However, on the 24th
at mid-day the commandant sent in negotiations
for the surrender of the place. The garrison, 4000
men strong, with the exception of the National
Guard stationed in the place, was captured and
sent to Germany ; and 199 guns, besides a consider-
able amount of provisions, arms and ammimition,
fell into the hands of the victorious troops.
The 14th Division was now required to lay siege
to the forts on the northern frontier, which would
occupy it for some time. TTie 13th Division was,
by orders from head-quarters, directed to commence
operations in the south of France.
The Investment of Belfort in November.
On the south-east of the seat of war Belfort had
become the centre of continuous small engagements
between French scouts and the rear of the XlVth
Corps, which, imder General von Werder, stood
However, when the Divisions which up till then
Battle of Orleans. 29
had been standing before Strasburg had been
relieved by a new contingent from Germany, the
troops that were at Neu-Breisach were available,
and these forces marched in the direction of Upper
Alsace ; while the 1st Reserve Division had reached
Belfort by the 3rd November, and by the 8th had
effected the preliminary investment of that place.
The larger half of the 4th Reserve Division had
marched to combine with the XlVth Corps at
Vesoul, a detachment under General von Debschitz
occupied Montb^liard, and the 67th Regiment held
Mulhouse and Delle.
If we glance back at the German successes
during November and the general military position
towards the end of the month, we see the grand
sortie from Paris repulsed in the north, the
danger of being hemmed in done away with by
General von Manteuffel's victory at Amiens ; in the
east, Diedenhof, Breisach, Verdun and La-Fere
taken, Montm^dy and Belfort surrounded ; and in
the south Prince Frederick Charles preparing to
attack the French army at Orleans.
Battle of Orleans.
(December 3rd and 4th.)
When the telegraphic order was received by
the Ilnd Army, soon after noon on the 2nd of
30 The Franco-German War.
December, the Prince on the same day assembled
the Xth Corps at Beaune-la-Rolande and Boynes,
the Ilird at Pithiviers, and the IX th at Bazoches-
les-Gallerandes. By evening the collected forces
had their marching orders.
The attack was expected to take place two days
later. The Illrd Corps was first to advance on
Loury by way of Chilleurs-aux-Bois ; the Xth
only on Chilleurs ; the IXth, however, were to
attack Artenay at half-past nine. The 1st Division
of Cavalry, supported by the infantry on the left
wing, was to keep a look-out over the Yonne ; the
6th was to follow the right wing. The Grand
Duke, to whom it had been left to plan his own
march on the west of the road to Paris, ordered
the 22nd Division to assist in the attack on
Artenay, the Bavarian Corps to advance on
Lumeau, the 17th Division to remain at Anneux.
The 4th Division of Cavalry was to scour the
country on the left flank.
Already by nine o'clock in the morning on the
3rd of December the Ilird Corps met eight
battalions and six batteries of the French at
Santeau. The 12th Brigade and the artillery of
the 6th Division, which had been marched up in the
rear of the foremost battalions in the column of
route, therefore formed line at La-Brosse. After
a few rounds, one of the batteries of the left wing
Battle of Orleans. 31
had to be withdrawn from the battle, which had
now commenced ; on the right, on the contrary, the
Artillery Corps came up by degrees, and by noon
seventy-eight Prussian guns were in full action.
The French, yielding to such superior strength,
retired on Chilleurs ; but, after the German
batteries had advanced 'within 2000 paces of that
place, and their right flank had been threatened
by an assault from the Jager battalions, they com-
menced a retreat towards the forest, and at three
o'clock part of the 5th Division followed them up
by the path which led to the south, and the 6th
by the high-roads. As these had been obstructed
in several places, it was six o'clock in the evening
before the clearing by Loury was reached.
On the right, brisk musketry-fire was heard in
the direction of Neuville, and an announcement
also arrived that on the left the French were
In consequence of this, some of the reserve forces
that had remained at Chilleurs were brought up
as a support ; one regiment was fronted towards
the west, a second towards the east, and, imder
cover of the outposts on the south, the remainder
of the troops bivouacked and went into quarters at
The IXth Corps had at first assembled at
Ch&teau-Gaillard, on the road to Paris, and then
32 The Franco-German War.
advanced along the high-road and against Villereaii
by way of Dambron,
At Assas they met the French, who were soon
driven back by the guns, and vanished towards
Artenay. At about ten o'clock an obstinate duel
was opened with the batteries of the 2nd Division
(French) in position at this place, in which part of
the Corps' artillery bore a part, seconded presently
by the batteries of the 22nd Division, which had
come up to Poupry. General Martineau slowly
retreated in echelon before the overwhelming fire
of ninety guns, the artillery leading the way, on
La-Croix-Briquet and Ferme-d'Arblay. By twelve
o'clock the Germans were in possession of Artenay,
and after half an hour's rest they renewed the
attack. It was a long and obstinate duel of artil-
lery and infantry alike, while the 22nd Division
pushed hard on the French left flank. At two
o'clock their guns were silenced, the left wing
column of the IXth German Corps took the farm
of Arblay, and the centre drove the enemy down
the high-road, fighting persistently, past La-Croix-
Briquet to Andeglou, where, under cover of the
marine ordnance, resistance was kept up till dark.
General Puttkamer had brought up five batteries
to within 800 paces of CheviUy, and the 22nd
Division was advancing on the burning village,
when the general in command gave the order to
Fighting round Orleans. ^^
halt, the Grand Duke doubting the wisdom of a
night attack on an intrenched position. But when,
soon after, a patrol of Hussars announced that it
was already evacuated, General von Wittich ordered
his men to take possession.
The troops bivouacked, under a heavy snow-
storm, in and to the rear of La-Croix-Briquet.
At the first advance the IXth Corps had sent a
detachment of four battalions of Hessians against
St.-Ly6 on the left. They had met the enemy at
La-Tour, and had driven him back on St.-Germain,
but could not drive him out again.
When the Xth Corps, marching round by Pithi-
viers, reached Chilleurs at about three o'clock, in
the rear of the Ilird Corps, part of the 20th Divi-
sion went on in the direction of the battle at
Neuville, which, in the evening, became audible at
Loury. Darkness had already come on and pre-
cluded the use of artillery, but the infantry broke
into the village at several points. However, they
found the streets barricaded, and met with obsti-
nate resistance, so the attack had to be postponed
till the following day.
The XVth French Corps had alone received the
onslaught of three Prussian Corps. Strong con-
tingents of the Army of the Loire, posted to the
right and left of the XVth Corps, made but feeble
efforts throughout the day to support it. General
VOL. II. D
34 The Franco-German War.
Chanzy alone, at about two o'clock, ordered the
2nd Division of the XVIth Corps to advance when
he heard firing from Artenay, though he had that
morning begun his retreat on St. P^ravy and
Boulay. But this reinforcement met the Prussian
17th Division, which, coming up from Anneux,
was on the point of joining in the fight at Ande-
glou, and with it the Bavarian Corps advancing
from Lumeau. Their strong artillerj^, in position
at Chameul and Sougy, soon forced the French to
retire. First Douzy and then Huetre were taken,
and the chateau of Chevilly occupied by the 17th
Division. Here too darkness put an end to the
fighting. The troops of the right wing encamped at
Provencheres, Chameul and other places to the rear.
Thus the German army had made its way with-
out much fighting to within two miles of Orleans.
The French, indeed, had maintained their ground till
evening in the neighbourhood of Neuville, but the
detachments stationed there were ordered to retire in
the course of the night. They were to get into the
Pithiviers road by Rebrechien, and make a circuit by
Orleans to Chevilly. But they thus came under the
fire of thellird German Corps, encamped at Lomy,
and fled in disorder back into the wood, whence they
attempted to rjBach their destination in detachments.
It was i only to be expected that the French would
stoutly defend their intrenchments at Gidy and Cer-
Fighting round Orleans. 35
cottes, on the following day, if only to keep open
their retreat on Orleans. On the 4th, therefore,
Prince Frederick Charles ordered the Grand Duke's
forces and the IXth Corps to attack both points
from all sides. The Ilird Corps was to advance
from Loury on Orleans, and the Xth, again forming
the reserve, was to follow on CheviUy.
General d'Aurelle had returned in the evening to
Saran. Here he saw the 2nd Division of the XVth
flying past in complete rout, and heard that the 1st
too had failed to make a stand at Chilleurs. The
Corps of the right wing were altogether shattered
by the battle of Beaune, and those of the left no
less by the fight at Loigny. The French General
saw the danger of being driven on the Loire, with
undisciplined hordes, and thus blocking the only
passage across the river at Orleans. He decided
therefore on a divergent retreat. Only the XVth
Corps was to retire by Orleans ; General Crouzat
was to cross the Loire at Gien, General Chanzy at
Beaugency. Then their reunion must be attempted
beyond the Sauldre. The necessary dispositions
were made during the night, and communicated to
the Government. From the Green Table at Tours,
indeed, counter orders came next morning, to main-
tain the position at Orleans, which was, in fact,
already given up ; but the General adhered to his
36 The Franco-German War.
On December 4th the Illrd Army Corps (Ger-
man) marched out of Lomy in two columns, one by
the high road and one by Vennecy. Both reached
Boigny by noon, having met none but deserters.
A detachment was sent on to Neuville on the
right, and captured seven deserted guns and stands
of arms. To the left, another detachment occupied
Ch^zy, on the Loire. After a short rest the main
columns advanced, and by two o'clock the 6th
Division reached Vaumainbert, which was occupied
by part of the French XVth Corps. Although
the country was not open enough to allow of the
emplojrment of artillery, the place was taken by
the Brandenburgers, in spite of the stout resist-
ance of the French Marine Infantry, and the fire of
the batteries on the heights to the north of St.-
Loup could now be directed on that suburb of
The 5th Division had meanwhile come up behind
the 6th and taken part in the fight.
The XXth French Corps, which was still at
Chambon, in the eastern part of the forest opposite
Beaune-la-Rolande, had received orders at four in
the morning, from Tours direct, to march on Orleans.
Contradictory orders had previously arrived from
General d'Aurelle, but nothing further had been
heard. General Crouzat had, as a precaution, sent
his train across the Loire at Jargeau, arid then
marched in the direction he was ordered to take.
Fighting round Orleans. 37
When, at half-past two, at Pont-aux-Moines, he
met the detachment marching on Ch6zy, he deter-
mined to fight his way across ; but as General von
Stiilpnagel reinforced his two battalions by bring-
ing up the rest of his Division, the French gave
up the attempt and withdrew to the other side of
the river, crossing again at Jargeau.
On the German side the attack on St. -Loup was
tmsuccessful ; and since from the site of the battle
he got no news of the other Corps, and dark-
ness was coming on, General von Alvensleben
postponed any further attack on the city till the
To the north of Orleans the IXth Anny Corps
(German) had advanced from La-Croix-Briquet on
the intrenched position of Cercottes. At about
one o'clock the foremost detachments of infantry
entered the place. The 2nd Division of the French
XVth Corps was driven by the fire of the artillery
into the vineyards outside the town. Here the
infantry alone could continue the struggle. The
French defended every tenable spot, and in the
railway station just outside Orleans especially held
their own with great persistency. The station and
the deep cutting through which the road ran were
fortified with barricades and rifle-pits, and armed
with naval guns. It was not till nightfall, at
about half-past five, that they abandoned this posi-
tion, but renewed the contest a little further back.
38 The Franco-German War.
To avoid street-fighting in the dark, General von
Manstein put a stop to the battle at about seven
o'clock, till next day.
The advanced guard of the 17th Division of the
Grand Duke's forces had found Gidy intrenched
and strongly occupied. But at the approach of the
IXth Corps the French abandoned the position at
about eleven o'clock, leaving 8 guns behind them.
The German Di^dsion, to avoid the wood, now
marched to the west, on Boulay, whither the 22nd
and the 2nd Cavalry Division followed as a resene.
They here found the Bavarian Corps and the 4th
Cavalry Di^dsion engaged in a fight, having already
driven the French out of Bricy and Janvry. When
the artillery had for some time been engaged
General von der Tann stormed the position, at
about twelve o'clock. But the French did not
wait for this ; they beat a hasty retreat, leaving
some of their guns in the trenches. The 2nd
Cavalry Division followed in pursuit.
The 4th Hussars, of the 5th Brigade, galloping
past Montaigu, charged a French unlimbered
battery and seized all the guns ; another at Ormes
was brought out of action by a horse battery.
From thence a strong body of French horse
suddenly appeared on the left flank of the 4th
Brigade as these were crossing the road to Ch&teau-
dun. But Blucher's Hussars, with a sharp swerve.
Fighting round Orleans. 39
drove the enemy through the village and back on
The 4th Cavalry Division was placed to watch
on the Grand Duke's right flank ; and the Hussars
here charged 250 men of the 2nd Life Guards,
forming the escort of a baggage-train on the road
to Chdteaudun, and took them all prisoners.
While the Germans were thus converging on
Orleans from the north and east, the French
XVIIth Corps and the 1st Division of the XVIth
were still in the field at Patay and St. P^ravy.
General Chanzy had assembled the latter at
Coinces, and, to protect himself against their
threatened attack in flank, General von der Tann
drew up his 3rd Infantry Brigade, with the Cuiras-
siers and artillery resen^e, on a front towards Bricy.
The 4th Cavalry Division marched on Coinces,
where General von Bemhardi, leaping a Avide
ditch, with four squadrons of Uhlans, drove a body
of French horse back on St. Peravy without their
stopping to do more than fire one volley. Other
squadrons of the 9th Brigade charged the French
tirailleurs, and pursued the cavalry till they had
fallen back on a strong body of infantry. The 8th
Brigade was observing Patay, and after that place
had come under the fire of a battery and been
abandoned, General Chanzy gave up all further
attack and retired behind the wood of Montpipeau.
40 The Franco-German War.
The 2nd Cavalry Division now made for the
Loire immediately below Orleans. Its artillery
destroyed a bridge at Chapelle o^'er which a
baggage-train was passing, and compelled the troops
which were marching on Clery, along the further
bank, to fly back to Orleans. Two military rail-
way-trains from thence were not to be stopped by
the firing, but one from Tours, in which, as it
happened, was Gambetta himself, returned thither
with all speed.
The Bavarian Corps, meanwhile, had advanced
on the high road, and the 22nd Division, in touch
with the IXth Corps, on the old Chateaudun road ;
the 17th Division on La-Borde between the other
two. This Division was called upon at about 3.30
to take the village of Heurdy, which was stoutly
defended ; and when the Bavarians from Ormes had
turned to the right on Indre, it proceeded by the
high road towards v St.-Jean-de-la-Ruelle. Having
overcome all opposition there too, the head of the
Division reached the gates of Orleans at about six
General von Tresckow there negociated with
the military authorities the formal occupation of
the town. An agreement was arrived at by ten
o'clock, and shortly after midnight the Grand Duke
marched in with the 17th Division followed by the
2nd Bavarian Brigade.
The bridge over the Loire was forthwith secured
Occupation of Orleans. 41
th3 French not having had time to blow it up.
The rest of the troops found quarters to the west
and north of the city.
The peremptory orders from the Government to
hold Orleans had shaken General d' Aurelle's original
determination. When the greater part of the XVth
Corps (French) arrived there in the forenoon, he
wanted to renew the attempt at resistance. But
the necessary orders could not be transmitted to the
Corps on the right wing, nor carried out by those
on the left ; and by five o'clock the General in com-
mand was convinced of the futility of any further
conflict. The artillery of the XVth Corps was first
transfeiTed to La-Ferte-St.-Aubin ; the infantry
followed. The XXth Corps, as we have seen, was
at Jargeau ; the XVIIIth had recrossed the Loire
at Sully ; the XVIth and XVIIth moved off west-
ward in the direction of Beaugency, but remained
on the right bank of the river.
The battle, which had lasted two days, had cost
the Germans 1700 men; the French lost 20,000,
of whom 1800 were taken prisoners. Their large
army, lately massed before Orleans, was now spht
up into three separate bodies.
The German Advance on the South, East,
The troops were too much exhausted for
immediate pursuit in any direction.
42 The Franco-German War.
It was decided that the 6th Cavaby Division, re-
inforced by an infantry detiachment of the 18th Divi-
sion, should follow up the enemy to the southward
only, ascertain his whereabouts, and destroy the
connection of the railways from Bourges, Orleans
and Tours at the Vierzon junction. These Cavalry
troops were in quarters to the north of the city ; the
French XVth had a long start of them, and their
main body had reached Salbris, when, two days
after the battle, on December 6th, General von
Schmidt arrived by a forced march at La-Ferte-St.-
Aubin. Here he found a detachment of the 18th
Division, which had already driven the French
rear-guard back on La-Motte-Beuvron and was now
ordered to retire on the Loiret. Only two com-
panies of the 36th Regiment and one of Pioneers
joined the advance, and followed the cavalry partly
in baggage-waggons and on gun-limbers.
On the 7th, under orders from Tours, the French
left the high road and executed a flank movement
of four miles in an easterly direction to Aubigny-
Ville. The cavalry, supported to the best of their
power by their artillery and the small infantry
force, had a smart fight with the French rear-
guard at Nouan-le-Fuzelier, and again in the even-
ing at Salbris, in which the French finally had the
best of it. The neighbourhood being very thinly
populated, the Division had to get back in the dark
General German Advance. 43
to Nouan, to find shelter from the bitter winter
Long before daybreak on the 8th, the French
rear-guard had left Salbris to avoid a farther
encounter Tvith the enemy, whose strength they
After some slight skirmishes the Cavalry Divi-
sion reached Vierzon that evening. The telegraph
wires were cut and the railway line torn up in
several places, 70 goods' vans were armour-plated,
the direction of the enemy's retreat reported, and
any offensive movement on the part of the French
from that side was regarded as most improbable.
The Division had fulfilled its task ; it was now
ordered to leave one brigade as a corps of obser-
vation, and to advance on Blois with the rest.
General von der Groeben maintained his positions
at Vierzon and Salbris till the 14th.
The winter campaign of this 6th Cavalry Divi-
sion was exceptionally fatiguing. It was almost
impossible to move excepting along the high roads,
and they were frozen so hard that it was often
necessary to dismount and lead the horses. The
inhabitants of the Sologne district were extremely
hostile, the advanced troopers were shot down in
every village. The French forces, on the other hand,
made but a feeble resistance. Numerous prisoners
and large quantities of abandoned materiel bore
44 The Franco-German War.
witness to a hasty retreat, in many cases to despe-
rate flight. Nevertheless, in spite of much pur-
poseless marching and counter-marching, the Corps
of the right wing had by December 13th succeeded
in joining the Army of Orleans at Bourges.
The state in which they arrived may be gathered
from the telegraphic Correspondence Urgente of the
Government with General Bourbaki, who, when
General d'Aurelle was deprived of the command
in chief, took that of these three Corps.
Monsieur Freycinet, who was no doubt kept well
informed by the country people, assured General
Bourbaki that only a weak force of cavalry stood
in front of him, and repeatedly urged his
advancing on Blois. The General replied that if
he were to make the attempt, not a gun, not a man
of his three Corps would ever be seen again. His
intention was to retreat at once from Bourges on
St.-Amand, and if necessary yet further to the
rear; the only danger was that he might be
attacked before he could accomplish this, and be
involved in disaster.
The Minister of War himself went to Bourges,
but he too renounced all idea .of an offensive
movement when he saw the disorder of the troops.
" Cest encore ce que fai vu de plus triste" It
was with great difficulty that he persuaded the
Corps not to retreat at once, but to await the
The Grand Duke's Battle. 45
course of events, under cover of a detachment
pushed forward on Vierzon.
On the day when General Schmidt entered
Vierzon, the XVth Corps was in the neighbour-
hood of Henrichemont, at about an equal distance
with himself from Bourges. The XVIIIth and
XXth Corps were at Aubigny-Ville and Cemay,
from two to three marches away.
It can scarcely be doubted that, if the 18th Divi-
sion had followed the advance of the 6th Cavalry
Division, the Germans might have taken possession
of Bourges and of the vast military stores there.
To the east of Orleans the Ilird Corps had
marched up the river on Chdteauneuf. They only
met parties of stragglers till the 7th, when two
Divisions of the XVIIIth French Corps attempted
to cross to the right bank of the Loire at Gien.
This resulted in an engagement biBtween the ad-
vanced guards at Nevoy, with the result that these
Divisions retreated across the bridge in the course
of the night and continued their march on Bourges.
The Grand Duke's Battle.
(December 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th.)
The Grand Duke's forces were in a position close
to the retreating left wing of the French. In
46 The Franco-German War.
contrast to the disorder of the right wing, General
Chanzy, certainly the most capable of all the
leaders whose duty it became to fight the invaders
in the open field, had, in a great measure, restored
the discipline and spirit of his troops. They were
not only able to make a stand, but could even
attack the enemy. They had, indeed, been con-
siderably reinforced by the newly formed XXIst
Corps and by Cam6's Division. The latter formed
the advanced guard at Meung ; behind it were
the XVIth Corps at Beaugency, the XVIIth at
Cravant, and the XXIst at St.-Laurent by the
woods of Marchenoir.
On the day after the fight the Grand Duke
gave the troops a day's rest; only the cavalry
pursued the French. The 4th Cavalry Division
reached Ouzouer ; the 2nd, arriving at Meung, met
a strong force of infantry.
On the 7th, the Grand Duke's forces advanced
on a very wide front. The 17th Division, on the
left wing, marched on Meung, where its artillery
opened a duel with that of the enemy. Towards
four o'clock, a Mecklenburg battalion carried
Langlochere by storm, but found itself threatened
on both sides by the approach of the enemy's
columns. On the left Foinard was ere long
taken and a gun seized, while on the right the
1st Bavarian Brigade advanced on La Bourie.
Here, almost at the same moment, the 2nd Cavalry
Tub Grand Duke's Battle. 47
Division came up by by-roads from Renardierc,
having driven the enemy out of Le-Bardon by
the fire of its guns. The Bavarians now marched
out to meet the mass of French approaching from
Grand-Chatre. They fought a hard battle till
nightfall, supported by the horse batteries, ending
in the retreat of the French on Beaumont.
During this conflict of the left wing, the Grand
Duke's Army, the 1st Bavarian Di\dsion, had
marched a considerable distance on Baccon, and
the 22nd on Ouzouer ; and then, finding the French
offered a determined resistance, the Grand Duke
decided on closing up his forces to the left.
December Sth. — ^To this end the 22nd Division
advanced to the south of Ouzouer on Villermain.
After repulsing the swarms of tirailleurs which
attacked their left flank \mder cover of a fog,
General von Wittich directed his march on Cra-
vant, to effect a junction with the right wing of
Bavarians who were already engaged in a hot
struggle. They had repulsed the enemy's advance
i from Villechaumont and had advanced with the
\ 2nd Division alon^ the road from Cravant to Beau-
\ gency; when all three French Divisions charged
1 afresh, the Bavarians retreated on Beaumont. Here
they found support from the former and 17
batteries, which were gradiially brought into the
\ fighting Ime. Their fire and an impetuous attack
, from three Bavarian brigades at last forced the
48 The Franco-German War.
enemy to fall back, and the position in the high
road was recovered.
The French now, on their side, brought up a
strong body of artillery, and the XVIIth Corps
prepared to advance on Cravant. But the 22nd
German Division had already arrived there at
about one o'clock, after taking Beauvert and
Layes, with the 4th Cavalry Division on their right
and the 2nd on their left. So when, at about
tliree o'clock, the dense French columns advanced
on Cravant, they were checked by an impetuous
attack of the 44th Brigade, which had joined the
Bavarians, and soon driven out of Layes, which
they had taken on their way. The five batteries
nearest to Cravant had suffered so severely mean-
while that they had to be withdraAvn.
When at last, at about four o'clock, the Bavarian
battalions advanced to storm the height in front of
them, they were met by fresh troops of the enemy,
and after losing the greater part of their officers
were compelled to retreat on the artilleiy position
at Beaumont. Finally, however, the French aban-
On the left wing of the Grand Duke's forces the
17th Division had pursued the retreating French
beyond Vallees and Villeneuve, and then at about
half-past twelve had attacked them at Messas.
The defence was obstinate, and it was not till dusk
The Grand Duke's Battle. 49
that they succeeded in carrying the place. The
artillery directed its fire on dense masses assembled
by Vernon, the infantry stormed the hill of Beau-
gency, and finally forced their way into the town,
where a French battery fell into their hands. Cam6's
Division then retired on Tavers, and even after
midnight Greneral von Tresckow attacked Vernon,
whence the French, taken quite by surprise, fled to
The Commander-in-Chief of the Ilnd Army (Ger-
man) had intended to march the Ilird, Xth, and IXth
Corps on Bourges, from Gien, Orleans, and lastly
from Blois. But the Grand Duke's force in its ad-
vance on Blois by the right bank of the Loire had met
with unexpected resistance and a two days' engage-
ment. At the army head-quarters at Versailles it
was regarded as indispensable that the Grand Duke
should immediately be reinforced by at least one
Division. Telegraphic orders to that efifect were
despatched at ten in the morning of December 9th.
The IXth Corps, which was already on the march
along the left bank and had no enemy in front,
could not give the required support, as all the
bridges over the river had been blown up. The
Illrd Corps was therefore ordered to leave only a
detachment at Gien, as a corps of observation, and
to march back on Orleans. The Xth Corps was to
call in the detachments it had posted to the east
VOL, II. B
50 The Franco-German War.
of the city and advance on Meung. Thus, on the
9th, the Grand Duke was still actually facing eleven
French Divisions with four Divisions of infantry,
quite unsupported. Early next morning General
Chanzy proceeded to the attack.
December 9th. — ^The two Prussian Divisions at
Beauvert and Messas stood firmly awaiting the
French charge. The two Bavarian Divisions,
having sustained great loss, were left at Cravant as
a reserve, but soon had to be absorbed in the fight-
ing line, when at seven o'clock strong columns of
the French were seen advancing on Le M^e.
Dense bodies of tirailleurs were repulsed both
there and at Vernon, and came under the fire of
the devoted German artillery, which silenced the
French guns and then opened fire on Villorceau.
In spite of a stout defence, this village was taken
by about half-past ten by the Bavarian infantry.
The French advance on Villechaumont in greatly
superior force was also repulsed, with the assistance
of three battalions and two batteries of the 22nd
Division. The Thuringians then stormed Cemay,
where 200 French laid doAvn their arms, and one
of their batteries lost its team and carriages.
On the right wing, by a misunderstanding, the
Germans evacuated Layes and Beauvert, and the
French marched in. However, with the support of
the 2nd Bavarian Brigade, the enemy was again
The Grand Duke's Battle. 51
driven out of both places. Further to the north,
the 4th Cavalry Division was observing the move-
ment of a French detachment marching on Viller-
The French made renewed efforts by midday,
advancing agaiu on Cravant in strong columns ; but
this movement General Tresckow attacked in flank,
from Messas. He left only a weak detachment in
Beaugency and secured the villages on the left on
the way to Tavers. The main body of the 17th
Division advanced on Bonvalet, reinforced the
hardly-pressed Bavarians in Villorceau, and occu-
pied Villemarceau in front of that place. Here the
Division had to maintain a severe struggle, at about
three o'clock, with the strong columns of the French
XVIth and XVIIth Corps. The infantry rushing
on the enemy with cheers succeeded, however, in
repulsing him and holding their ground in spite
of a hot fire. At the same time three Bavarian
battalions, with cavalry and artillery, had marched
up from Cravant and had driven the French out of
Villejouan. Further to the right a battalion of the
32nd had taken possession of Ourcelle. A line
from thence to Tavers marked the ground so
laboriously wrung from the French.
The battle ended with the retreat of the enemy
on Josnes and Dugny.
On this day the Ilird Corps were on the march
,52 The Franco-German War.
to Orleans. The IXth could only take no part in
the fighting but by the fire from their artillery on
Meung and Beaugency, from its position on the left
bank. It was not till near Blois that they met
some French detachments. Fifty men of one of
the Hessian battalions stormed the fortified castle
of Chambord a little way from the river, and there
took 200 prisoners and twelve anmiunition waggons
with their teams.
Of the Xth Corps only the infantry at the head
had reached Meung, but it had sent forward a regi-
ment of Hussars with eight batteries, which arrived
at Grand Chatre by about three o'clock in the
The Commander-in-Chief of the Ilnd Army now
ordered the Bavarian Corps to retire on Orleans, to
recruit after its heavy losses. But even when
reinforced by the Xth Corps the Grand Duke still
had to meet an enemy of double numerical strength,
and instead of pursuing he had rather to think of
defending his position.
December 10th. — Before daybreak General
Chanzy renewed his attack, which even the Bava-
rians were presently required to repel.
At seven in the morning the French XVIIth
Corps rushed in dense masses on Origny, took
150 prisoners, and forced their way into Ville-
jouan. This advance was met by the 43rd Brigade
The Grand Duke's Battle. 53
at Cemay on the front, and by the ith Bavarians
with six batteries at Villechaumont ; while on the
right flank General von Tresckow marched on
Villorceau and Villemarceau. In this last village
two of his battalions, supported by four batteries,
resisted every onslaught of the French from Origny
and Toupenay. At noon the main body of the
17th Division advanced to repossess themselves of
Villejouan. Here the French made an obstinate
stand. The fighting, with great loss on both sides,
was continued till four o'clock, and then fresh
troops of French came up to recover the position
the Grermans still held in one single farmstead.
All the artillery of the Prussian Division had,
however, deployed to the south of Villemarceau ;
they were joined by two horse batteries of the Xth
Corps, and the batteries of the 22nd Division also
opened an effective fire. The concentric fire of
all these guns put an end to any further attack of
the XVIIth French Corps.
Beaugency was now occupied by part of the
Xth Corps. During the past few days the German
left wing had had a firm position on the Loire to
depend upon, but on the right such a point had
been whoUy lacking. The French had nevertheless
made no attempt to take advantage of their
superiority by extending their front. Not till this
day did they march on the unprotected German
54 The Franco-German War.
flank. The greater part of the XXIst Corps was
deployed opposite to it, between Poisly and
M^zier^s, and at half-past ten the strong columns
advanced on Villermain. The Bavarians were
compelled to form in a bow-line, with the 2nd
Brigade, from Jouy to Coudray. Seven batteries
were brought into that line, and on its right wing
the 4th Cavalry Division stood in readiness. Be-
fore two o'clock 2 more horse batteries and 4
batteries of the Xth Corps arrived from Cravant,
and joined them there with three brigades as a
reserve. The fire of over a hundred German
guns made the French take their artillery out of
action at about three o'clock, and separate weak
attacks by their infantry were repulsed without
difficulty by the Germans, who awaited them in
The French losses in this four days' battle
are unknown. The Grand Duke's force lost 3400
men, of which the larger half belonged to the two
The Grand Duke had held his own against three
corps of the enemy, till the first supports could
come up, and this he owed to the bravery of his
troops, more especially of the artillery. This alone
lost 255 men and 356 horses. The guns were
brought into such requisition that at last almost
all the steel guns of the^ht batteries of the 22nd
The Grand Duke's Battle. 55
Division, and most of the Bavarian, were rendered
useless by the burning out of their breech blocks.
The Ilird Corps had on this day just arrived at
St.-Denis, and the IXth at Vienne opposite Blois ;
but here too the bridge over the Loire was blown
On the French side, General Chanzy had learnt
from the telegraphic correspondence of General
Bourbaki with the Government at Tours, that
nothing had come of Bourbaki's attempt to divert
part of the German forces against himself. The
long delay led him to fear an attack from their
whole force ; he had therefore decided on a retreat,
which resulted in the removal of the Assembly
from Tours to Bordeaux.
At the Grand Duke's head-quarters a fresh attack
was decided on for December 11th. The villages
in front had been left strongly occupied, and it was
only at noon that the enemy's retreat became
known. They were at once pursued on the left by
the Xth Corps, and on the right, south of the
woods of March^noir, by the Grand Duke's force.
On the north, the 4th Cavalry Division was engaged
A thaw had followed the hard frost, making the
march equally difficult for both armies. The
Germans found the roads blocked with abandoned
waggons and cast-away arms ; the bodies of men
56 The Franco-German War.
and horses lay unburied in the fields, and in the
villages were hundreds of wounded quite uncared
for. Several thousands of stragglers were captured.
The orders from the army head-quarters at
Versailles were for a pursuit, which should render
the enemy incapable of further action for some time
to come ; but not beyond Tours. The Ilnd Army
was then to muster at Orleans and the Grand
Duke's forces at Chartres, and the troops were to
have the rest they needed. From the first point
constant and strict watch could be kept on General
Bourbaki's army, and to this end a connection was
to be made with General von Zastrow, who was
to go to Chdtillon-sur-Seine on the 13th, with the
Vllth Corps. Still, no operations were to extend
beyond Bourges and Nevers.
The Ilnd Army was accordingly next marched
on the Loir, and by the 13th held the line of
Oucques — Conan — Blois, that town having been
On the 14th the 17 th Division marched on
Mor^e, and on the Loir past Frdteval. A fight
ensued at both these points. Though the French
had advanced so far, they seemed to intend
making a firm stand on the Loir, where they had
occupied Cloyes and Vendome in great strength.
To attack with success, Prince Frederick Charles
began by collecting all his forces. The Iltd
The Grand Duke's Battle. 57
Corps, hurrying after the army by forced marches,
was in the first instance to fill the interval between
the Grand Duke's forces and the Xth Corps, which
was withdrawn irom Blois and Herbault on Ven-
But when, on the 15th, the Xth Corps marched
in that direction, the main body met with such a
determined resistance close in front of Vend6me
that it could not be overcome before dark. The
troops therefore retired to quarters in the rear of
Ste.-Anne. A left flanking detachment had found
St.-Amand occupied by a strong force, and had
halted at Gombergean. The Illrd Corps had
advanced in the course of the day on Coulom-
miers, near Vend6me, had fought the French at
Bel-Essert, and driven them back across the Loir
and established communications. The Grand
Duke, in obedience to orders, acted at first on the
defensive. The IXth Corps, after the restoration
of the bridge at Blois, was at last able to follow
the army, leaving a brigade in occupation.
A greatly superior force was now assembled oppo-
site the enemy's position, and a general attack was
decided on ; but to give the troops a much-needed
rest it was postponed till the 17th, and meanwhile,
on the 16th, General Chanzy withdrew.
It had certainly been his intention to hold the
Loir Valley still longer ; but his Generals assured
58 The Franco-German War.
him that the condition of the troops would not
allow him to prolong the struggle. He accord-
ingly gave the order for the retreat of the army at
daybreak on Le-Mans, by Montoire, St.-Calais, and
Thus, in the early morning, the Xth Corps
found the French position in front of Vend6me
abandoned, and entered the city without opposi-
tion. On the French left wing only, where march-
ing orders had not yet arrived, General Jaur^s
made an attack on Fr^teval, but in the evening he
followed the other Corps.
The Interruption of Serious Offensive
OpERAtioNS IN December.
On the 17th of December general orders had
been issued from Versailles to the Annies both to
the north and south of Paris.
Now that General von Manteuffel had crossed
the Somme, and Prince Frederick Charles the
Loir, the Germans held possession of almost a
third of France. The French were driven back on
every side; and in order not to split up their
forces, it was thought advisable that the Germans
should concentrate into three principal divisions.
The 1st Army was therefore to assemble at Beauvais,
the Grand Duke's forces at Chartres, the Ilnd
The Situation in December. 59
Army near Orleans ; the troops were to have some
needful rest, and their efficiency to be restored
by the arrival from Germany of fresh reliefs
and equipment. If the French made any new
move, they were to be allowed to approach as close
as possible, and then be driven back by a strong
The Ilnd Army had but little prospect at present
of overtaking the enemy beyond the Loir ; and the
reports from the Upper Loire now necessitated a
sharper look-out in that direction. News came
from Gien that the posts established at Ouzouer on
the Loire had been driven in ; and it seemed not
imlikely that General Bourbaki would take the
opportunity of advancing by Montargis on Paris,
or at least on Orleans, which at this moment was
occupied by only a part of the 1st Bavarian Corps.
Prince Frederick Charles had got rid of his
enemy, probably for some little time, and he decided,
in obedience to orders from Versailles, to remain
with his forces in an expectant attitude at Orleans.
Only the Xth Corps was to be left to keep watch
on the Loir. To secure support at once, for the
Bavarian Corps in any case, the IXth Corps, on
its arrival from Blois at La-Chapelle-Vend&moise,
on the 16th, was ordered to march on Beaugency
that day, and on Orleans on the morrow. It
covered eleven German miles in twenty-four hours,
6o The Franco-German War.
in very bad weather. The Illrd Corps followed it
However, it was soon known that the enemy's
detachment which had been at Gien did not form
part of a large body of troops, and was intrenching
itself at Briare for its own safety. So the Germans
retired into comfortable quarters, the 1st Bavarian
Corps at Orleans, the Ilird there and at Beaugency,
the IXth in the plain of the Loire and up as
far as Ch&teauneuf, with a strong post at Mon-
The Bavarian Corps was then transferred to
Etampes, to recover at their leisure, to recruit their
numbers, and make good their clothing and equip-
ment. Nor were the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg's
forces in a condition to pursue General Chanzy be-
yond the Loir. Six weeks of daily marching and
fighting had tried them to the utmost. The dreadful
weather and the state of the roads had reduced
their clothing and boots to a miserable state. A
reconnoissance beyond the Loir showed that the
French could only be overtaken by long and rapid
marches. So the Grand Duke allowed his troops a
long rest, from the 18th, in the villages on the left
bank of the river.
Of the Ilird Army, General von Rheinbaben, on
the contrary, had the three Brigades of the 5th
Cavalry Division at Courtalin, Brou, and Chartres
The Situation in December. 6i
reinforced by 5 battalions of Guard Landwehr
and 4 batteries. A letter from the Chief of
the General Staff at Versailles had pointed out
that this cavalry might probably be employed with
great success in attacking the flank and rear of the
enemy's retreating columns, and the Crown Prince
had already given orders that they should advance
on Brou in full strength on the 15th. In contra-
diction to these, the Division obeyed an order which
reached them on the 16th from the Grand Duke,
imder whose command they had not been plax^ed^
to take up a position on the Yeres.
On this day the patrols had found the roads open
to Montmirail and Mondoubleau, but there was a
body of French infantry in front of Cloyes, which re-
tired after a short fray. On the left, comiiiunica-
tions were established with the 4th Cavalry Division.
On the 17th, the 12 th Cavalry Brigade entered
Cloyes, already evacuated by the French ; on the
13th they advanced on Arrou, and only General von
Bartz marched on Droue with a force of all arms,
where he surprised the French at their cooking,
and carried off much plunder.
On the 18th, the 12th Brigade still found a few
stragglers there, but the other two brigades
inarched a little way to the westward on La-
Bazoche-Gouet and Arville, whence the enemy had
quite disappeared. To the south of An^ille a batta-
62 The Franco-German War.
lion of the Guard Landwehr drove the French
infantry out of St.-Agil.
With this the pursuit ended on the 19th. The
Division retired on Nogent-le-Rotrou by the Grand
Duke's desire, and subsequently undertook the ob-
servation of the left bank of the Seine at Vernon
The Grand Duke's forces left their quarters on
the Loir on the 21st. The 22nd Division occupied
Nogent-le-Roi, and the 17th Chartres, till the 24th
of the month. The 4th Bavarian Brigade rejoined
its own Corps at Orleans.
During the remainder of December only the Xth
Corps had any fighting, having been detailed to keep
watch beyond the Loir from Blois and Vend6me.
Two brigades were marched on Tours on the
20th. On the further side of Monnaie they met the
newly-formed troops of General Ferri-Pisani, 10,000
to 15,000 strong, and which were advancing from
Angers on Tours.
The soaked groimd made it most diflSicult to
deploy the artillery and cavalry. The cavalry,
indeed, could do no more than pursue the retreating
French in deep columns along the high roads,
thereby suffering severely from the enemy's fire,
delivered at very short range.
On the following day General von Woyna ad-
vanced unopposed, with six battalions, on the bridge
Engagement on the Brave. 63
at Tours. A light battery was driven up on the
bank of the river and dispersed the masses firing
from the opposite shore, but it would have cost too
many lives to storm the city, which, since the re-
moval of the seat of Government, had ceased to be
of any great importance. The detachment was
recalled to Monnaie, and the 19th Division went
into quarters at Blois, the 20th at Herbault and
From thence, on the 27th, a detachment of frsvo
battalions, one squadron, and two guns marched
past Montoire on Soug^ on the Braye, and there
met a greatly superior force. General Chanzy had,
in fact, marched a Division of the XVIIth Corps on
Vend6me to draw the Prussians away from Tours.
Behind St. Quentin the weak Prussian detachment
found itself hemmed in between the river and the
clifi*, enclosed on every side, and imder heavy fire.
Lieutenant-Colonel von Boltenstem succeeded, how-
ever, in cutting his way through. Without firing a
shot the two Hanoverian battalions rushed on the
dense body of tirailleurs who cut off their retreat,
and fought their way out hand to hand. Through
the gap thus made the guns followed, after firing a
round of grape-shot, and notwithstanding losses to
the teams they were got back to Montoire. The
squadron also charged through two lines of riflemen
and rejoined the infantry.
64 The Franco-German War.
As a result of this incident General von Kraatz,
after collecting the remainder of the 20th Division
from Herbault, determined to enlighten the situation
by a fresh reconnoissance. Four battalions were
to advance from Vend6me, aud the 1st Cavafry
Brigade from Fr^teval was to scout towards
Epuisay. On this day, however, General de
Jouifroy was marching on Vendome to attack it
with two Divisions.
When, at about ten o'clock, the . reconnoitring
force from Vendome reached the Azay, they came
under a hot fire from the opposite slope of the
valley. Soon after this six French battalions
attacked them in flank from the south, and re-
peated notice was brought in that considerable
forces of the enemy were marching on Vendome
direct, from the north of Azay by Espereuse.
General von Kraatz perceived that he would have
to face a planned attack from very superior
numbers, and determined to restrict himself to
the local defence of Vendome. Under cover of a
battalion, left to mamtain its position at Huchepie,
he achieved the retreat of the detachment in per-
fect order, and it then took up a position on the
railway embankment to the west of the city.
Further to the north the French columns,
advancing past Espereuse, had afready reached
Bel-Air. A battaUon hastening up from Vend6me
French Attack on Vendome. 65
occupied the ch&teau, but being outflanked on
the right by a superior force was obliged to retire,
and likewise took up a position behind the rail-
way. At about two o*clock the French attacked i this
position in dense masses of sharpshooters, but came
under the fire of six batteries posted on the heights
behind Venddme, which drove back their right
wing. A column advanced, along the left bank
of the Loir from Varennes, to attack this line of
guns, but hastily retreated out of range of their
The attacks on the railway from Bel- Air and
Tuileries were a more serious affair ; eight com-
panies placed there, however, repelled them. At
four o'clock the French once more advanced in
strength ; fortune wavered for some time, and at
last, as darkness fell, they retired.
The 1st Cavalry Brigade, with two companies
and a horse battery, had marched on Danz^.
Captain Spitz, with a small number of his West-
phalian Fusiliers, fell on two batteries which had been
drawn up there, and captured two guns and three
limbers. With these and fifty prisoners General
von Liideritz returned to Fr^teval by about one
o'clock, after pursuing the enemy as far as Epuisay.
The French attempt on Vend6me had utterly
failed, and they now retreated to a greater distance.
General von Kraatz, however, was ordered, with an
VOL. u. F
66 The Franco-German War.
eye to a greater enterprise to be described later, to
remain in a state of preparation on the Loir.
The XIVth Corps in December.
In the south-eastern scene of war the French had
at last decided on some definite action.
Garibaldi's Corps, assembled at Autun, advanced
on the 24th ; the detachments marched by
Sombemon and St.-Seine, with various skirmishes
and night attacks, close up to the front. Cramer's
Division advanced on Gevrey from the south.
But as soon as reinforcements had reached Dijon
from Gray and Is-sur-Tille, the enemy was driven
back, and now General von Werder, on his part,
ordered the 1st Brigade to march on Autun.
General KeUer arrived in front of the town on
December 1st, driving the French before him.
Preparations had been made to attack on the
following day, when orders came for a rapid retreat.
Fresh detachments were needed at Ch&tillon, where
those posted to protect the railway had been sur-
prised, at Gray, against sorties by the garrison of
Besan9on, and also to observe Langres.
The Prussian Brigade marched on Langres with
two cavalry regiments and three batteries, and on
the 16th they met the French not far from
Longeau, in number about 2000. The French were
Fighting in the South-East. 67
repulsed, losing 200 wounded, fifty prisoners, two
guns, and two ammunition waggons. General von
der Groltz had, in a day or two, surrounded Langres,
driven the Gardes-Mobiles posted outside into the
fortress, and occupied a position on the north for
the protection of the railways.
In the country south of Dijon fresh massing of
the French troops had now been observed. To
disperse these General von Werder advanced on the
18th with two Baden Brigades on Nuits. In Bon-
court, close to the town on the east, the advanced
guard met with lively opposition, but carried the
place by noon. The French, assisted by their
batteries drawn up on the hiUs west of Nuits, offered
an obstinate defence in the deep railway cutting
and by the Meuzin. When the main body of the
Brigade came up at two o'clock General von Gliimer
ordered a general attack. The infantry now rushed
across the open plain, with great loss, especially
in superior officers, against the enemy, who was
well under cover and who, firing at short range, was
not driven back on Nuits till four o'clock, after a
hand-to-hand struggle. At five o'clock they aban-
doned the place to the German battalions.
The Germans had met Cramer's Division, 10,000
strong, which had lost 1700 men, among them 650
unwounded prisoners. The Baden Divisions, too,
had lost 900 men. They encamped for the night
68 The Franco-German War.
on the market-place of the town and in the villages
to the eastward.
Next morning the French were found to have
retreated still further, but the Germans were not
strong enough for pursuit. The XlVth Corps had
already been obliged to spare seven battalions for
the investment of Belfort. General von Werder
therefore returned to Dijon, where he assembled all
the forces stiU left to him with those of General von
der Gt)ltz from Langres, waiting to see whether
the French would renew the attack. But the
month of December ended without any further
The 1st Army in December.
While the Ilnd Army was fighting on the Loire,
General von Manteuflfel, after the siege of Amiens,
had marched on Rouen.
General Farre was indeed at Arras, in the rear
of this movement, but the disorder in which his
troops had retired after that battle made it prob-
able that he would do nothing, at any rate for the
present. The 3rd Brigade, too, was left in Amiens
with two cavalry regiments and three batteries, to
occupy the place and protect the important line of
railway to Laon.
The outlook on the west was more serious than
on the north, for there, at this juncture, French
The Armies in Normandy. 69
forces threatened to interfere with the invest-
ment of Paris. General Briand was at Rouen
with 20,000 men, and had advanced his leading
troops as far forward as the Epte, where, at Beau-
vais and Gisors, he met the Dragoon Guards sent
in from the Army of the Meuse and the Saxon
Cavahy Division. The detachment of infantry
which had escorted the cavalry had lost 150 men
and a gun in a night attack.
When the 1st Army reached the Epte, on De-
cember 3rd, the two Cavahy Divisions joined the
march, and the French retired behind the Andelles.
The Vlllth Corps arrived near Rouen, after
skirmishes on the road, and found an intrenched
position abandoned at Isneauville ; and on Decem-
ber 5th General von Goeben entered the chief city
of Normandy. The 29th Brigade advanced on
Pont-Audemer, the 1st Corps crossed the Seine
higher up, at Les-Andelys and Pont-de-rArche.
Vernon and Evreux were occupied, numbers of
Grardes-Mobiles having retreated by railway to
Liseux. On the northern bank the Dragoon Guards
reconnoitred as far as Bolbec, and the Uhlans
found no French even in Dieppe.
The French had retired to Le-Havre, and a con-
siderable force had been conveyed, in ships that
were in readiness, to Honfleur, on the other bank
of the Seine. The 16th Division continued its
JO The Franco-German War.
march, reaching Bolbec and Lillebonne on the
The orders from head-quarters at Versailles had
been transmitted by the Chief of the General Staff,
and, in obedience to these, Greneral Mantenffel now
decided on leaving only the 1st Corps on the
Lower Seiae, and returning with the Vlllth on
the Somme, where the French in Arras were now
Besides making this evident by various small
encoimters, on December 9th they had attacked a
compai^y detailed to protect the reconstruction of
the railway at Ham, surprisiag it at night, and
taking most of the men prisoners ; and on the 11th
several French battalions advanced as far as La-F6re.
To check their further progress, the Army of the
Meuse sent detachments to Soissons and Compiegne,
General Count von der Groeben took up a position
at Roye with part of the garrison from Amiens, and
on the 16th encountered the 15th Division at Mont-
didier, which immediately retired on the Somme.
Only the citadel of Amiens was now held by the
Germans; General von Manteuffel, who had not
approved of the evacuation of the town, ordered
an immediate reoccupation. The inhabitants had,
however, remained peaceable, and on the 20th the
16th Division, which had given up the attack on
Le-Havre, arrived via Dieppe.
Battle on the Hallue. 71
A reconnoissance action by Querrieux made it
certain that great numbers of French were drawn
up on the bank of the Hallue, and General von Man-
teuffel now concentrated the whole Corps at Amiens.
Reinforcements might shortly be expected, for the
3rd Reserve Division was on the march, and had
abeady reached St.-Quentin. The 1st Corps was
also ordered to send another brigade from Rouen
to Amiens by raQway, and the General in com-
mand determined to attack at once with 22,600 men,
his only available force.
General Faidherbe had assembled two Corps, the
XXIInd and XXTTTrd. His advance on Ham
and La-F6re, intended to divert the Prussians
from attacking Le-Havre, had succeeded. He next
turned on Amiens, and had advanced to within two
miles (German). He now stood, with 43,000 men
and eighty-two guns, fronting to the west behind the
Hallue. Two Divisions held the left bank of this
stream for one and a half miles, from its confluence
at Daours up to Contay, and two beyond, at Corbie
andFravillers. The Somme secured their left flank.
On December 23rd General von Manteuflel, with
the Vlllth Corps, advanced on the road to Albert.
The 3rd Brigade of the 1st Corps formed his reserve.
He intended to keep the French busy with the 15th
Division on their front and left wing, and with the
1 6th Division outflank their right. The unexpected
72 The Franco-German War,
extension of the French right wing prevented this,
and it became a front-to-front battle along the
whole line. The commanding height of the eastern
bank gave the French a superior aridUery position,
and the villages lying at the foot had in every
instance to be stormed.
The French had withdrawn their outposts to this
line when, at eleven o'clock, the head of the 15th
Division reached the copse at Querrieux, and
brought up a battery. Two battalions of the 29th
Brigade took the place at mid-day at the first
onslaught, crossed the stream, drove the French on
the further bank out of Noyelles ; but they now
found themselves under an artillery and infantry
fire from all sides. The East Prussians stormed
the slope at about four o'clock, and took two guns
which were being served, but were forced to retire
to the village before the advancing masses of the
Soon after mid-day, too, F^chencourt was carried
on the left, and Bussy on the right; and the
enemy, after a feeble resistance, was driven back
across the stream. Here, on the other hand, the
German Artillery could at first do nothing against
the strong and well-posted batteries of the French.
Vecquemont, however, was stormed, though
stoutly defended, and street-fighting lasted till the
Battle on the Hallue, 73
The 15th Division, against the intentions of their
leader, had become involved in the fight before the
16th, operating more to the left, could afford them
any assistance. It was not till four o'clock that the
31st Brigade arrived at B^hencourt, and, crossing
the river by flying bridges, drove the French back
into the village, where they still offered a firm, stout
resistance, but had finally to give way. The 32nd
Brigade, on the extreme left, got across the
Hallue and into Bavelincourt.
Thus all the hamlets on the river were in the
hands of the Germans; but the short December
day was closing in, and further progress must be
postponed till the morrow. Even in the dark the
French made several attempts to regain the posi-
tions they had lost, particularly about Contay,
where they overlapped the German position. But
their attacks were repulsed both there and at
Noyelles. They succeeded, indeed, in getting into
Vecquemont, but were driven out again, and then
the Prussians, pursuing them across the stream, also
carried Daours, so that finally the Germans held
every passage of the Hallue.
The battle was over by six o'clock. The troops
retired into quarters in the captured villages,
placing outposts near every egress.
The attack had cost the Germans 900 men;
the defence had cost the French about 1000,
74 The Franco-German War.
besides 1000 unwounded prisoners* taken into
At daybreak on the 24th the French opened fire
on the Hallue cutting.
Having ascertained that the enemy's numbers
were ahnost double, it was decided this day on the
German side to act only on the defensive, awaiting
the arrival of reinforcements and intrenching them-
selves in the positions gained. The army reserve
was pushed forward on Corbie to threaten the
French left flank.
But at two o'clock in the afternoon Greneral
Faidherbe was already retiring. His insufficiently-
clothed troops had suffered fearfiilly through the
bitter winter's night, and were much shaken by the
unfavourable issue of the fight. He therefore led
them back under shelter of the fortresses. When,
on the 25th, the two Prussian Divisions and the
cavalry pursued them beyond Albert, and then
almost as far as Arras and up to Cambrai, they
found no compact force at all, and only captured
some hundreds of stragglers.
When General Manteuffel had disposed of the
enemy, he sent General von Minis to invest
P^ronne, while he himself returned to Rouen.
By drafting off six battalions as a reinforcement
to Amiens, the 1st Army Corps was left with only
two brigades. The French had 10,000 men on
Taking of M£zi£res. 75
the right bank, and 12,000 on the left bank of the
lower Seine. And these forces had come very
close to Rouen; on the south side within two
miles. Meanwhile, however, the 2nd Brigade had
again been sent up from Amiens, and on its arrival
the hostile force was once more driven back.
The Taking of M^zieres.
On the northern field of war, before the end of
the year, the siege of M^zieres was brought to an
end. After the battle of Sedan the Commandant
had to send out provisions from the stores of the
besieged town for the maintenance of the large
number of prisoners, and it was, therefore, for the
present exempted from attack. After that the
fortress precluded the use of the railroad ; still it
was only kept under observation till the 19th of
December, when, after the disaster of Montm^dy,
the 14th Division fell back on M^ziferes.
The garrison numbered only 2000 men, but it
was effectually seconded without by volunteers, who
were extremely active in this broken and wooded
country. The town was not completely invested
till the 25th.
M^zi^res stands on a spur of the mountains,
surrounded on three sides by the MoseUe, and
shut in by high ground. The construction of the
76 The Franco-German War.
fortress, which wsa strengthened by Vauban, was
not calculated to resist modem artillery, There
was an outer rampart at a distance of from 2000
to 3000 metres from the inner wall, and although
the long delay had been utilized to make good the
weak points by throwing up earthworks, a bom-
bardment could not fail to be fatal to the defence.
When Verdun had surrendered, heavy artillery
had to be brought by nul from Clermont to a
position close under the southern frx)nt of the
fortress. The only hindrance to the erection of
the batteries was the state of the soil, which was
frozen to a depth of twenty inches ; but at a quarter
past eight on the morning of the 31st of December
eight field-gims opened fire.
At first the fort replied vigorously, but by the
afternoon its artillery was silenced, and the white
flag was hoisted next morning.
The garrison were taken prisoners ; large stores
and 132 guns fell into the hands of the Germans.
But the chief advantage gained was the opening
of another line of railway to Paris.
Paris in December.
In Paris General Ducrot had been busily em-
ployed in making good the losses sustained at
Villiers. A part of the greatly reduced 1st Corps
Paris in December. ^^
must be kept in reserve, the Ilnd Army was re-
distributed. A sortie by the peninsula of Genne-
villers and the heights of Franconville had not
been approved by the government. They ex-
pected confidently to see the Army of Orleans
appear ere long under the walls of the capital, and
steps were being taken on the 6th of December to
facilitate a junction, when a letter from General
von Moltke announced the defeat of General d'Au-
relle and the occupation of Orleans. A sortie to
the south would thenceforth be aimless, and after
long discussion it was at last decided to break
through the enemy's lines on the north by a great
The little stream of the Mor^e offered some pro-
tection on that side, but only so long as the ice
would not bear. And there were but three Ger-
man corps amounting to 81,200, over an ex-
tent of forty-five kilometres (twenty-seven miles
Earthworks were constructed in preparation
between Bondy and Coumeuve, the forts to the
north were armed with heavier guns, and a
battery was mounted on Mont-Avron. Ninety
rounds of ammunition were served out to each
man, with six days' rations ; and four days' fodder
for the horses. They were forbidden to carry
their kit, but the camp bedding was to be taken
78 The Franco-German War,
The day at first fixed was December 19th, but it
was postponed till the 2l8t.
Thus, during great part of the month, the in-
vesting army remained almost undisturbed by the
defenders. Regular food, warm winter clothing,
and abundant supplies through the unfailing
punctuality of the mails, had kept the troops in a
thoroughly satisfactory condition.
The preparations of the garrison for a new
offensive did not escape the notice of the be-
sieging forces. Deserters brought reports of an
imminent sortie. On the 20th information came
from the posts of observation that a large force
was assembling at Merlan and Noisy-le-Sec, and
early on the 21st the 2nd Division of foot-guards
were, by order of the Commander-in-Chief of the
Army of the Meuse, in readiness to cross the
Mor^e. Part of the 1st Division remained in
reserve at Gonesse; the rest were to be relieved
by the 7th, and brought into action. On the
right wing the Landwehr Division of Guards oc-
cupied the country between Chatou and Carri^res-
St.-Denis; on the left a brigade of the Saxon
Corps held Seran. The 4th Infantry Division of
the Ilnd Corps were drawn back on MaJnoue to
support the Wurtemburgers in case of need, as
they were to make a stand against the French at
Fight at Le-Bourget. 79
To divert the attention of the Germans from the
true point of attack, a brisk fire was to be opened
early in the day from St.-Val^rien ; a considerable
force was to engage the right wing of the Guards,
General Vinoy was to lead the Illrd Army against
the Saxons, and Admiral de la Roucifere was to
fall upon Le-Bourget. This place, which was a
standing threat, must at any rate be seized, and
not till then was General Ducrot to cross the
Mor^e, near Blancmesnil and Aulnay, with the
Ilnd Paris Army.
The Fight at Le-Bourget.
Le-Bourget was held by only four companies
of Queen Elizabeth's Regiment (German) and one
battalion of foot guards. When the mist rose at
about a quarter to eight, the little force found
itself under fire from the forts and several
batteries, as well as from the armour-clad railway
carriages. Within half an hour strong columns
of the French were marching up from east and
west. To the east the village was defended for
some time against seven French battalions, and
on the other side, five were brought to a stand-
still close to the church by the rapid fire of the
Germans ; but some of the marine fusiliers made
8o The Franco-German War.
their way into the place from the north. Pressed
on all sides by superior numbers, the defence was
concentrated at the southern end of the village.
The party holding the churchyard tried to force
their way through to this point, but some of them
were taken prisoners in the attempt. The French
advanced step by step under great loss, and did
not succeed in obtaining possession of the glass-
works. Five fresh battalions of the French reserve
marched up from St.-Denis to the gas-works, and
battered down the garden-wall, but still could not
break the steady resistance of the Germans.
At nine o'clock they were reinforced by one
company, and at ten o'clock by seven more, who,
in a bloody hand-to-hand struggle, fought their
way to the churchyard and gas-works. By eleven
the last of the assailants were routed, and Le
Bourget, in the expectation of a fresh attack, was
occupied by fifteen companies. Two batteries of
field artillery, which had been busy by the brook,
were brought up to defend the village. *
Meanwhile Greneral Ducrot had waited in vain
for the signal which should have announced suc-
cess at Le-Bourget. He had pushed the advanced
guard of his army past Bondy and Drancy, when
he was warned by the disastrous issue of the
struggle on his left to give up the attack on the
line by the Moree.
Fighting at Le-Bourget. 8i
The triumphant exploit became a mere camionade,
to which the German field-guns replied as far as
possible. By noon the French had retired.
They had lost, by their own account, about 600
men. The German Guards had sacrificed 400,
but they carried off 360 prisoners. In the evening
the outposts resumed their old positions.
The various feints of the Parisian garrison had
had no result, and produced no alteration in the
plan pursued by the German Commander-in-Chief.
Their advance from St.-Denis to Etains had been
repulsed, and two gim-boats on the Seine were
driven back by the fire of four field batteries on
Orgemont. The tinfling sortie on Chatou was
scarcely heeded. General Vinoy had indeed led
a larger force along the right bank of the Mame,
but that was not till the afternoon when the fight
at Le-Bourget was over. The Saxon outposts
retired to the intrenched position near Le Chenay.
One of the German battalions in quarters there
drove the enemy out of Maison-Blanche that same
evening, another attacked Ville-Evrart, where fight-
ing went on till midnight ; they lost seventy men,
but brought in 600 prisoners. Next morning the
French abandoned Ville-Evrart, under the fire of
the German artillery posted on the heights on the
opposite side of the river.
Paris had now been invested for three months.
VOL. II. O
82 The Franco-German War.
A bombardment — ^never a satisfactory mode of
action — could have no decisive effect against so
large a place; and the Germans were, in fact,
well aware that nothing could reduce it but a
regular siege. But the engineering siege-works
must wait till the artillery were in a position to
It has already been shown that the fortress ar-
tillery had been first employed against those forts
which interrupted the commimications in the rear
of the army. There were indeed 235 heavy pieces
standing ready for action at Villacoublay ; but
it had proved impossible as yet to bring up the
necessary ammunition for an attack which, when
once begun, must on no account be allowed to flag.
By the end of November, railway communica-
tion had been opened with Chelles, but the greater
part of the ammunition had meanwhile been
deposited at Lagny, and would now have to
be forwarded by the cross-road. The ordinary
country carts with two wheels proved totally imfit
for the transport of shell, and only 2000 four-wheeled
carts could be requisitioned for many miles roimd.
Hence 960 more were brought from Metz with
horses sent from Germany, and even the teams of
the nird Army were called into requisition, though
they were almost indispensable just then as re-
mounts towards the efficiency of the army on the
The Works round Paris. 83
Loire. Finally, all the horses of the pontoon trains,
of the field bridging troops, and the columns of
intrenching tools were taken for the transport
A new difficulty arose when the breaking-up of
the ice necessitated the removal of the pontoon-
bridges over the Seine.
The roads were so bad that it took the waggons
nine days to get from Nanteuil to Villacoublay and
back. Many broke down under their loads, and
the drivers constantly took to flight. And at this
juncture the chief of the staff gave the artillery
another task to be carried out forthwith.
Though the besieged had not hitherto succeeded
in fighting their way through the enemy's lines,
they now proposed to extend their operations so as
to repel the besiegers tiU the circle became so thin
that it could be broken. On the south side the
German lines already extended beyond Vitry and
Villejuif to the Seine ; and on the north, between
Drancy and the Fort-de-l'Est, there was an ex-
tensive system of trenches and batteries reaching to
Le-Bourget over a distance of 1000 mHres, which
in part might be dignified as regular siege-works.
The hard frost had indeed arrested their con-
struction, but they were armed with artillery and
occupied by the Ilnd Army. Hence the most
favourable poinUd^appui for a sortie to the east,
84 The Franco-German War.
as well as to the north, was the commanding
eminence of Mont-Avron, which, with its seventy
heavy gunsj stood out in the Mame valley like
the point of a wedge between the northern and
southern German lines.
The Reduction of Mont-Avbon.
To drive the French from this position fifty heavy
guns from Germany, and twenty-six from La-Ffere
were brought up under the command of Colonel
Bartsch. By the exertions of a whole battalion
as a working party, two groups of batteries were
erected in spite of the severe frost, on the western
slopes of the hills behind Raincy and Gagny, and
on the left ridge of the Mame Valley near Noisy-
le-Grand, thus threatening Mont-Avron on each
side at a distance of from 2000 to 3000 metres.
At half-past eight on the 27th of December
these guns opened fire. A heavy snowstorm
interfered with accurate aim, and prevented any
observation of the execution done. Mont-Avron
with the forts of Nogent and Rosny replied
promptly and rapidly.
The German batteries had lost two officers and
twenty-five gunners, several gim-carriages had
broken down under their own fire, and everything
MoNT-AvRON Abandoned. 85
pointed to the conclusion that no result would be
obtained on that day. But the firing had been
more efiectual than the men supposed. The fine
weather on the 28th allowed of greater precision ;
the Prussian fire proved most telling, making fear-
ful havoc of the strong but exposed French infantry
garrison. Mont-Avron was silenced and the forts
only kept up a feeble fire. General Trochu, who
had commanded in person, ordered the troops to
abandon Mont-Avron, and it was so effectually
disarmed in the course of the night by the energy
of Colonel Stoffel that only one disabled gun was
left on its flank.
On the 29th the French guns were silenced, and
ihe hill was deserted, as the Germans had no in-
tention of occupying the position Their batteries
were now turned on the forts, which suffered
severely, and on the earthworks near Bondy.
Before the year was out the besiegers succeeded
in storing the most indispensable ammunition in
Villacoublay. The siege operations were entrusted
to General Kameky, the artillery was under the
command of General Prince Hohenlohe. The
batteries had long been finished, and by the da^vn
of the new year 100 guns of the heaviest calibre
were ready to open fire on the southern fortifica-
ACTIVE OPERATIONS IN THE PROVINCES.
The Army of the East under General
While the French forces were engaged in con-
stant fighting, in the north, on the Seine and the
Somme, in the south, on the Loire and Saone,
General Bourbaki's army had kept out of sight.
Since the 8th of December, when the 6th Division
of cavalry had reported its presence at Vierzon,
all trace of it had been lost. It was, of course, of
the greatest importance to the German Commander-
in-Chief to know the whereabouts of so large an
army; only the Ilnd German Army could learn
this, and on the 22nd received instructions to
To this end General von Rantzau set out from
Montargis towards Briare, where he found that
the French had abandoned their position ; in the
course of the next few days he met them, and was
BouRBAKi's Movements. S7
The Hessians were reinforced to a strength of
three battalions, four squadrons and six field-pieces,
but were nevertheless withdrawn to Gien on the
Ist of January, The French had displayed a force
of several thousand Gardes-Mobiles, twelve guns,
and a body of marine infantry. A noticeable fact
was that some of the prisoners taken belonged to
the XVnith French Corps, which formed part of
the Ist Army of the Loire.
A regiment of the 6th Division of Cavalry,
sent out to reconnoitre on the road to Sologne,
returned with the report that a strong force of the
French were marching in column on Aubigny-
Ville. On the other hand, two drivers, who had
been taken prisoners, declared that the troops
from Bourges were already being moved by rail-
way, and the newspapers pointed to the same
conclusion ; still, too much weight could not be
attached to mere rumour as against a circum-
stantial report. At Versailles it must be assumed
that the Ist Army of the Loire had not moved
from Bourges, and that General Bourbaki, after
recuperating his forces, would act in concert with
These two armies might attack the Germans at
Orleans on both sides, or one might engage and
detain them there, while the other marched to
relieve the capital.
88 The Franco-German War.
This, in fact, was what General Chanzy pro-
posed. Since the 21st of December he had been
resting in quarters in and about Le-Mans, where
railways from four directions facilitated the arrival
of new detachments. His troops had no doubt
great difficulties to contend with. For lack of
biUets for so large a force some had to camp out
under tents in the snow, and suffered severely
from the intense cold. The hospitals were full of
wounded, and sjnall-pox broke out. On the other
hand, these narrow quarters were favourable to the
redistribution of the companies and the restoration
of discipline. The news from Paris, too, urged
the General to prompt action.
General Trochu had sent word that Paris could
not, unaided, repel the enemy. Even if a sortie
should prove successful, the necessary provisions
could not be carried through, and nothing but the
simultaneous arrival of an army from without
could secure supplies. Now General Chanzy
was quite ready to march on Paris, but it was
indispensable that he should first know exactly
what Generals Bourbaki and Faidherbe were doing.
Of course, the concerted action of the three great
Army Corps could only be planned and ordered
from head-quarters. The General therefore sent
an officer of his Staff on the 23rd of December to
Gambetta at Lyons, to express his opinion that
Chanzy's Advance. 89
only a prompt and combined advance could pre-
vent the surrender of Paris. But the Minister
believed that he knew better. The first ne^vs of a
quite different employment of Bourbaki's army
only reached Chanzy on the 29th, when Bourbaki
was already on the march. Nor did Gambetta's
reply convey either distinct orders or sufficient
information. "Vous avez decime les Mecklem-
bourgeois, les Bavarois n'existent plus, le reste
de Tarm^e est ddja envahi par I'inquietude et la
lassitude. Persistons et nous renverrons ces hordes
hors du sol, les mains ^ddes." ^ The plan of the
Provisional Government was to be that "which
would most demoralize the German army." *
Under such obscure instructions from head-
quarters. General Chanzy, trusting to his own
forces, determined to make his way to Paris un-
aided; but he soon found himself in serious
The Germans had no time to lose if they wished
to profit by their position between the two hostile
armies, advantageous so long as those armies were
not too close upon them. The simultaneous at-
tacks, on the 31st of December, at Vcndome on
* *' You have decimated the Mecklenburgers, the Bavarians
are wiped out, the rest of the army is a prey to uuHasiness and
exhaustion. Let us persevere, and we shall drive these hordes
off the land, empty-handed."
' *^ Qui demoralisera le plus Tarmee Allemaude.*'
90 The Franco-German War.
the Loir, and at Briare on the Loire, seemed to
indicate that they were already acting on a con-
On New Year's Day orders were telegraphed to
Prince Frederick Charles to re-cross the Loir and
march against General Chanzy without delay, as
being the nearest and most imminently dangerous
enemy. To effect this the ILid Army was
strengthened by the addition of the Xlllth Corps
of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg (17th and 22nd
Divisions) and the 2nd and 4th Divisions of
Cavalry. The 5th Cavalry Division was des-
patched to protect the advance on the left flank.
Only the 25th (Hessian) Division was to be
left in Orleans to receive General Bourbaki, and to
keep a look-out on Gien. To provide against a
possible advance of the Army of the Loire, General
von Zastrow was posted at Arman9on with the
Vllth Corps ; the Ilnd Corps was detached from
the besieging force and sent forward towards
Prince Frederick Charles expected to get three
of his corps on the Vendome-Morde line by the
6th of January, and to move the Xlllth from
Chartres on Brou.
The Advance on Le-Mans.
The Germans had hoped to find the enemy in
winter quarters ; but General Chanzy had provided
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 91
against surprise by strong outposts. Nogent-le-
Rotrou on his left was held by General Rousseau's
Division, and a large force of volunteers ; strong
detachments were posted from Vibraye and St.
Calais, as far as the Braye stream, where General
Jouffroy had come to a stand after the last action
at Vendome ; on his right he had General Barry at
La-Chartre, and de Curten's Division at Ch&teau-
The wings of the German army came into col-
lision with these forces on the 5th of January.
General Baumgarth, on the German left, had
brought three battalions, two regiments of cavalry
and two batteries, as far as St.-Amand. The
57th had stormed Villeporcher, on the road to
Chateau-Renault, had retired before four battalions
of the French, and then had recaptured and held
it. This much, at any rate, was now clear : a not
inconsiderable force of French was assembled in
front of the left wing of the German army, now
marching westward. In following up this move-
ment General Baumgarth was now deputed to
ensure its safety, and with this object was re-
inforced by the addition of the 6th Cavalry
Division and the 1st Cavalry Brigade.
The 44th Brigade on the right, in its ad-
vance on Nogent-le-Rotrou, had had a sharp
encounter. It stormed the enemy's position at
La-Fourche, and seized three guns, with a large
92 The Franco-German War.
number of prisoners. The main body of the Corps
reached Beaumont-les-Autels and Brou, but the
cavalry failed to penetrate the woods to the north
January Qth. — By six in the morning the
advanced guard of General Baumgarth's detachment
was on the march to Pnmay, but the main body
could not foUow, having to face a strong attack at
about half-past nine. With a view to observing
the enemy, the German infantry were opened
out to great intervals between Villeporcher and
Ambloy, and only a small reserve remained at La
None. The engagement soon assumed wider
proportions, and the Germans with difficulty
maintained the Les-Haies — Pias line, being
seriously threatened by the envelopment of their
left wing, which the 6th Cavalry Division were
now able to join, but could only come into action
with one horse battery. The reserve, however,
moved up along the high road to Ch&teau- Renault
and repulsed the French, who had already made
their way into Les-Haies. But when they renewed
the attack in close columns and brought up four
batteries against the place, the Germans were
obliged to retire behind the Brenne.
Meanwhile the 16th Regiment, which had
already got as far as Ambloy on the march to
Vendome, had turned back to St.-Amand to
support General Baumgarth, and the 38th
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 93
Brigade of infantry deployed between Neuve St.-
Amand and St.-Amand with a strong force of
cavalry on each wing. But as by some mistake
the town was evacuated, the General of the 6th
Division of Cavalry, Duke William of Mecklen-
burg, ordered a retreat. The infantry had already
come to a stand at Huisseau and there found
quarters. The advanced guard fell back on
Ambloy ; the cavalry partly on Ambloy and partly
During the engagement at St.-Amand the Xth
Corps had advanced on Montoire, in two columns
along the left bank of the Loire, leaving a bat-
talion before Vend6me on the right, to secure the
egress of the Ilird Corps at this spot.
When the 20th Division reached St.-Rimay, at
about one o'clock, they found the hills on the
opposite side of the Loir . occupied by General
Barry's troops. All the German batteries were
brought up to the southern ridge of the valley
and soon drove the French off the broad slopes ;
but the defile of Les-Roches in the front remained
quite unassailable. The ruined bridge at Lavar-
din, lower down the stream, was therefore made
practicable with pontoons. The 19th Division
had meanwhile reached that place, several bat-
talions crossed from the south to attack Les-
Roches, and easily dislodged the French. As
darkness came on, preventing any further ad-
94 The Franco-German War.
vance, the Corps found quarters in and about
The General in command of the Ilird Corps
had intended this day to make a halt before Ven-
dome, and only push forward his advanced guard
as far as the Azay ; but this detachment met ere
long with such stout opposition, that the main
force was compelled to advance to their assistance.
General de Jouffroy, with the idea of helping
General de Curten, had started to renew the attack
on Vendome, so the advanced guard of the 5th
Division, on reaching Villiers at about half-past
one, found the 10th Battalion of Jiigers, which had
been marching at the same time along the right
bank of the Loir, engaged at Villiers in a sharp
fight which had already lasted four hours. They
brought their two batteries up to the plateau to
the north of the village, and the 48th Regiment
made its way to the ridge of the lower Azay
valley, though its broad meadow slopes were swept
by the French long-range rifles and the artillery
which fired down the valley. And here the
French sent over swarms of sharp-shooters to
continue the attack.
The 8th Regiment (Gennan) was presently
brought up, and after a short fight on the right
took possession of Le-Gu(5-du-Loir ; then further
reinforcement arrived in the 10th Infantry
Brigade, and by degrees the Prussian gims num-
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 95
bered thirty-six. The French artillery could not
face their fire, and within half an hour it was
turned on the infantry. At about half-past four
the German battalions got across the valley, seized
the vineyards and farms on the opposite hills, and
stormed Mazange. Under cover of the darkness
the French retired to Lunay.
Further to the right (German) the 6th Division,
on leaving Vendome at eleven o'clock, found the
battalion left by the Xth Corps at Courtiras
fighting hard against a very superior force of
the French. The 1 1th Brigade advanced upon the
Azay intrenchment, though not without heavy
loss, and when at about half-past three the 12th
also came up, the artillery was brought to bear
upon the place ; Azay was stormed, the river was
crossed, and they established themselves on the
heights beyond. The French repeatedly returned
to the charge, but were successfully repulsed, and
by five o'clock fighting was over and the French
The Ilird Army Corps took up quarters between
the Azay stream and the Loir. A detachment was
told off to occupy Danze, higher up the river.
It had lost thirty-nine officers and above 400
men, but had also taken 400 prisoners.
In the course of the day the IXth Corps crossed
the upper Loir at Fr^teval and St. Hilaire, with-
out opposition, and proceeded along the high road
96 The Franco-German War.
to St.-Calais, as far as Busloup. The Xlllth re-
mained at Unverre, Beaumont, and La Fourche.
Prince Frederick Charles had not been led into
any change of pilrpose by the attack on St.-
Amand and the obstinate fight at the Azay. The
Xlllth Corps was expected to reach Montmirail,
and the Xlth to be at Epuisay, both by the 11th of
January ; the Illrd was to continue the attack
on the French at Braye. But after the reverse
experienced at St.-Amand, the presence of a
strong French force on the left flank could not be
suffered to pass unnoticed. Duke William was
given verbal orders, at the head-quarters at
Vendome, to return forthwith to St.-Amand
with the 6th Division of Cavalry, and General von
Voigts-Rhetz was ordered to support General
Baumgarth, if necessary, with his whole corps.
The country between the Loir and the Sarthe,
through which the Germans must march, offers
peculiar difficulties to an invading force, and great
advantages for its defence.
The roads leading to Le-Mans are all inter-
sected at right angles by numerous streams flow-
ing through broad and somewhat deep meadow
valleys. Groves, villages, and country-houses with
walled parks cover the cultivated high ground ;
vineyards, orchards and gardens are enclosed by
hedges, ditches or fences. Hence almost the whole
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 97
burthen of the struggle in view had to be borne
by the infantry ; there was no space for deploying
cavalry, and the use of artillery must be extremely
limited, since in a country so closely overgrown
only one gim could be brought to bear at a time.
The enemy's centre could only be approached
by four high roads, and the communications
between the columns, starting at least six miles
apart, were confined to the cross roads, which
were almost impassable from the severity of the
season and the hostility of the inhabitants. Any-
thing like mutual support was, at first, quite out
of the question.
Under these conditions their movements could
only be guided by general instructions, and the
officers must be left free to act on their own re-
sponsibility. Special orders for each day, though
they were indeed issued, might, in many cases, be
impossible to execute. The Commander-in-Chief
could not foresee in what relation the various corps
might stand to each other after a day's fight.
Reports could only come in at a late hour of the
night, and the orders pre\'iously drawn up often
came to hand when the troops, to utilize the short
day, had already set out on the march.
January 1th. — In obedience to orders from head-
quarters. General Voigts-Rhetz sent that part of the
19th Division which had already reached Vend6me,
VOL. II. H
98 The Franco-German War.
back to the support of St.-Amand. The 38th
Brigade had reached this place early in the day,
and General von Hartmann, who had taken the
command of it, marched out, the cavalry forming
a right and left wing, by the high road to Chateau-
The advancing column found the enemy at Ville-
chauve, at about mid-day. A thick fog prevented
the employment of the artillery, and it was at the
cost of many killed that Villechauve, Pias, and some
other farms were seized from the French. Ville-
porcher and the adjacent hamlets were in their
possession, and at about two o'clock they came out
and attacked on the high road with a force of
several battalions. The weather had cleared, and
it was soon evident that this move was only
intended to screen the beginning of a retreat of the
French to the westward.
The Germans were quartered on the spot, and
the reinforcements sent to their aid remained at
The Xth Corps, waiting for their return, did
not quit its quarters at La-Chartre ; only the
14th Brigade of Cavalry went on to La-Richardiere
to maintain communication with the Illrd. But
they did not succeed in taking the village with
only dismounted troopers.
General von Alvensleben hoped to come upon
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 99
the French on that side of the Braye, and to get
round their left wing so as to join the Xth Corps,
who had promised him assistance. The Ilird
Corps made its way towards Epuisay, leaving
one brigade at Mazange, and as soon as news
reached it on the march, that the French had
abandoned Lunay and Fortan, that brigade also
proceeded to Fortan,
Epuisay was found to be strongly occupied, for
the advanced guard of the IXth Corps, retreating
from Busloup, had just arrived there. It was not
till half-past one that the French were expelled
from the little town, having barricaded the streets ;
and even after crossing the Braye they fought
hard, under shelter of various villages and farm-
A long fusilade on both sides was kept up
through the thick fog ; but at last, at about four
o'clock, the 12th German Brigade got forward
to the ridge of the valley. The 9th Brigade took
possession of Savigny without meeting any serious
opposition, and Souge was stormed in the dusk.
The corps had lost forty-five men and taken 200
prisoners. It found quarters behind the Braye,
but placed outposts on the western bank.
The IXth Corps retired for the night to Epuisay
though two corps lost their w^ay in one of the few
roads in the neighboui'hood. On the right, the
icx) The Franco-German War.
2iid Division of Cavalry went off to Mondoubleau,
to join the Xlllth Corps. The French retreated to
The order from head-quarters, that the Xlllth
Corps was to march on Montmirail, had been
issued on the hypothesis that it would have reached
Nogent-le-Rotrou by the 6th, whereas it had in
fact, as has been sho\vn, remained at La-Fourche,
Beaumont, and Unverre. The Grand Duke, who
had expected a stout resistance, did not set out
to attack Nogent till the 7th. When the 22nd
Division reached the spot, they found all the
villages deserted in the valley of the Upper Huisne,
and entered the town without any fighting, at
about two o'clock. They took up quarters there ;
the 4th Cavalry Division went to Thirion-Gardais,
and only the advanced guard went to search for
the enemy. They found the wood by Le-Gibet
strongly occupied by the French, and did not
succeed in getting there till night-fall. The French
retired to La-Ferte-Bemard.
The 17th Division had at fii'st gone with the
reserve ; but at one o'clock, in consequence of the
reports brought in, the Grand Duke diverted it to
Authon on the south ; and in order to follow in-
structions from head-quarters as closely as possible
he pushed at least a detachment of two battalions,
two cavalry regiments, and one battery on towards
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. , loi
Montmirail, under the command of General von
January Sth. — Finding, on the morning of the
8th, that the French had made no further attempt
on St.-Amand, General von Hartmann, at nine
o'clock, sent back the troops told off for his sup-
port. At ten o'clock he received instinictions to
join the XVIIIth Corps also ; but the French still
held Villeporcher and the wood lying behind it, and
were also drawn up across the road to Chateau-
Renault in a very advantageous position behind
the river Brenne. The General perceived the
necessity of making a stand at this spot, and took
the best means to that end by acting himself on
the offensive. Supported by the fire of his battery,
and with the cavalry on either flank, six companies
of the 6th Regiment marched on Villeporcher,
drove the defence into the wood of Ch&teau-
Renault, and took 100 prisoners. On the left, the
9th Uhlans rode down the Chasseurs d'Afrique.
Not till darkness had set in did General von Hart-
mann retire in the direction of Montoire.
General von Voigts-Rhetz had already set out
from thence very early in the day. The night's
frost had covered the roads with ice, which greatly
impeded any movement. The road on the right
bank of the Loir was in many places broken up. It
leads up and down a series of abrupt hollows, and
I02 The Franco-German War.
on emerging from these the advanced guard foimd
themselves face to face with a force of about 1000
Gardes-Mobiles, who had taken up a position in
front of La-Chartre. Their mitrailleuses were
soon forced to a hasty retreat by the fire of two
field-pieces, but it was only after a prolonged
struggle that the Gennan infantiy, moving with
difficulty, succeeded in entering the town, where
they took up their quarters. Two battalions,
which were sent further on the road, had to fight
for their night's lodging; all through the night
shots were being exchanged with the French in
the neighbourhood, and 230 prisoners were taken.
The 39th Brigade, which left Ambloy in the
morning to follow the corps, only got as far as
General von Schmidt was sent to the right, to
establish communications with the Illrd Corps. He
was met at Vance by a brisk fire. The squadron
which led the van made way for the horse battery,
and a A'oUey of grape-shot drove the dismounted
Cuirassiers behind the hedges for shelter. When
two more guns could be got into position, a
few rounds of canister dispersed a long colunm of
French cavalry in every direction.
Colonel von Alvensleben pursued the French
cavalry ^^ath the 15th Regiment of Uhlans till they
came upon a body of infantry guarding the stream
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 103
of Etang-fort. The brigade stayed at Vance, after
putting about 100 French out of action.
Of the Ilird Corps the 6th Division had gone
forward by St.-Calais. The French tried to
line the trenches on greatly cut-up roads; but
they did not await a serious attack, and made off,
for the most part in carts which were in waiting.
The 5th Division, proceeding in a parallel line on
the left, met with no opposition ; but the state of
the roads made the march very difficult. The
corps halted at Bouloire. The 9th, coming up
behind them, entered St.-Calais.
The Grand Duke had moved both Divisions
of the Xlllth Corps on La-Fertd-Bemard. On
their way they came across none but stragglers,
but they found the roads in such a state that
not till four in the afternoon did they reach the
town and settle into quarters. The French had
retired to Connerr^. The 4th Cavalry Division
was to secure the right flank on the further
advance, but could not get as far as Bell^me;
on the other hand. General von Ranch's detach-
ment, despatched to Montmirail, surprised the
French in Vibraye, and took possession of the
bridge there over the Braye.
By the evening of that day the forces forming
the German right and left wings were at an equal
distance from Le-Mans, on the single high road
104 The Franco-German War.
which leads across from La-Fert^-BemiEird by St.-
Calais and La-Chartre; the Illrd Corps was
further in advance, with an interval of a long
march. A closer combination of the forces could
only be assured by a further advance along the
converging highways. Prince Frederick Charles
therefore issued an order, at ten o'clock that
evening, for the Xth Corps to march next day
to Parignd-l'Eveque, the Ilird to Ardenay, and
the Xlllth as far ahead as Montfort, each send-
ing an advanced guard beyond those points.
The IXth was to follow in the centre, while
General von Hartmann was to protect Vend6me
with the 38th Brigade and the 1st Division of
But the mere distance was too great to allow of
the wings being brought so rapidly to the points
designated; and on the 9th of January snow-
storms, ice-bound roads, and a thick fog still
further impeded their progress.
January 9th. — General von Hartmann marched
his infantry brigade on Chdteau Renault, and
entered the town by one o'clock. Curten's Division
(French) had started early in the day for St.-
The Xth Corps, though incomplete, retreated
this day, in two columns ; General von Woyna's
detachment was to march from Pont-de-Braye by
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 105
Vanc(5, the remainder of the corps from La Chartre
via Brives, to meet at Grand-Luc^.
The 20th Division had scarcely set out, by this
route, from L'Honmie, when they came under a
sharp fire of shell and bullets. In this place
there happened, for once, to be room for three
batteries to advance, but in the heavy, snow-fall
aim was out of the question. The German infan-
try, however, by degrees drove the French out of
various hamlets and farmsteads, and back across
the Brives. To pursue them beyond that stream a
bridge must have been thrown across, with some
loss of time, and then Chahaignes would have had
to be seized.
But in the narrow valley which lay before them
they expected some rather hot work. The nature
of the road was such that the artillerymen and
cavalry had to dismount and lead the horses. The
General in command rode on a gun-carriage ; his
staff went on foot. Some horses which had fallen
in front stopped the way for the column ; the
artillery were then sent back to try next day to
come on by the Vanc6 road.
To facilitate the march of the 20th Division,
General von Woyna had been instructed to deviate
from his direct road and attack the enemy's left.
When he approached the hoUow, there was no
sound of fighting there, and the detachment was
io6 The Franco-German War.
turned back at Vance ; but at Brives, at about
half-past three, the main column met with fresh
resistance, being received with a brisk fire from
the heights north-east of the village. Not even
the infantry could move beyond the high road, so
there was no alternative ; they must march straight
on. Meanwhile, however, the 30th Brigade came
up and drove off the enemy.
It was half-past six in the evening, and quite
dark, when Colonel von Valentini set out for St.-
Pierre with four battalions, and there took 100
French prisoners and a loaded baggage train of
The Xth Corps spent the night with its van as
far forward as Brives and Vance, but its rear
straggled as far back as the valley of the Loir. Nor
had the 14th Brigade of Cavalry been able to make
Of the Ilird Corps the 6th Division had proceeded
by the high road, beyond Bouloire, with the
artillery corps ; the 5th had moved on, on the left,
by cross roads.
The advanced guard of the Ilird Corps, after a
smart brush, had expelled the French from a
position in front of Ardenay, but at two o'clock
had to repel a determined attack there. After
General de Jouffroy h?id withdrawn to the south
of St.-Calais, General Chanzy had pushed the
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 107
Division tinder Paris forward from thence towards
Le-Mans. He had taken up a position near
Ardenay, occupying the chateau on the right, and
placing four guns and two mitrailleuses on the left
close to La-Butte. To oppose these there was only
room on the road for two German field-pieces, which,
however, in the course of half an hour had silenced
the mitrailleuses, and then carried on the unequal
contest with the greatest obstinacy. At about four
o'clock five companies of the 12th Brigade stormed
the chateau, while othei's, crossing the meadow-
land to the right, forced their way through a
clump of trees to La-Butte. As night came on the
French tried to effect a general attack along the
high road ; but this w^as repulsed, and the Bran-
denburgers, defying the steady firing of the
defenders, took La-Butte and Ardenay with a rush
and loud cheers, without firing a shot. The
French were driven back into the valley of the
Narais, losing many prisoners.
On the right a detachment, consisting of one
battalion, two squadrons, and two guns, had ad-
vanced with the 6th Division. They drove before
them numbers of Franc-tireurs, but at La-Belle-
Liutile they met with more serious resistance.
The post had already been carried by the 24th, who
possessed themselves of a large ammunition and
provision train, and took above 100 unwounded
io8 The Franco-German War.
prisoners. Count zu Lynar then prepared the
village for defence.
The 5th Division had met with no opposition,
but the state of the roads had seriously delayed its
progress. It was not till the afternoon that the
head reached the Narais at Gu6 de T Aune and took
up quarters there and to the rear as far as St.
Mars de Locquenay. The advanced guard went
on, however, to La Buzardiere, thus forming
the van of the whole army; Parign^-rEveque,
on their left flank, was in the hands of the
The IX th Corps had followed the Ilird to Bou-
No orders from head-quarters had as yet reached
La-Ferte when, at nine in the morning, the Grand
Duke marched on Connerre with the Xlllth Corps.
Soon after midday the 17th Division came upon
the French near Sceaux, and after an obstinate
struggle, advancing all the time, drove them first
out of the villages and then off the road. The
French, who had retreated to Connerrd by forced
night marches, lost above 500 prisoners in this
small affair. But the short day was closing in and
the advanced guard halted at dusk at Duneau. A
detachment, on going further, found Conuerr6
occupied by the French, and many watch-fires
were blazing in the vaUey of the Due. The main
Between Orleans and Le-Mans. 109
force of the German infantry found quarters in and
Ranch's detachment, being ordered to rejoin the
Corps, took possession of Le-Croset, and of the
bridge over the Due near that village, and then
expelled the French from Thorign^.
The French stayed in Connerr6 only till the even-
ing ; then, leaving a company in occupation, they
continued their retreat. This inevitably led them
from the left bank of the Huisne through the
quarters taken up by the Ilird German Corps, who
were disturbed all night by wandering detach-
ments of French soldiers, even at Nuill^, where the
head-quarters of the Division were established.
On the extreme German right the 4th Division
of Cavalry had occupied BeUeme, after driving
out the French battalion, which had likewise been
By this day the centre of the Ilnd Army Corps
had also got within two miles of Le-Mans, fighting
all the way; while the two wings were stiU at
some distance behind. As it was probable that
the French would give battle in some strong posi-
tion beyond the Huisne, it seemed advisable to
await the arrival of the Xth and Xlllth Corps ;
on the other hand, this was giving the French time
to collect their forces also. By attacking at once,
two of their Divisions, now at Chateau-Renault
no The Franco-German War.
and Le-Chartre, could scarcely be brought up
quickly enough, and the rest of their army, now
concentrating on Le-Mans, were involved in fight-
ing at a disadvantage on all sides. Prince Frede-
rick Charles therefore sent the Ilird Corps to
scour the country beyond Ardenay ; the Xth was
to advance on Parigne, and the Xlllth on St.
Mars-la-Bruy^re, though that place could scarcely
be reached from the positions actually occupied
by the corps that night.
As we have seen, the army assembled near
Le-Mans was still acting on the offensive on
January 6th ; General Jouffroy advancing on
Vendome, and Curten on St.-Amand. But on
the 7th the French found their whole front, ten
miles in length, reduced to the defensive. General
Rousseau, on the left wing, had evacuated Nogent-
le-Rotrou, and, without being hardly pressed, be-
gan his retreat by a night march to Connerre. In
the centre, the crossing of the Brayc was wrested
from General Jouffroy; he retired from St.-
Calais, not on Le-Mans, but to join General Barry
to the south. On the right. General de Curten
abandoned Chateau-Renault, and set out, unpui*-
sued, on the road past Chitteau-du-Loir. To
bring about some concerted movement of the
three Divisions of his right wing, General Chanzy
placed them under the superior orders of Admiral
Outside Le-Mans. hi
Jaur^guibeny ; he sent the Paris Division on to
Ardenay by the road General Jouffroy had aban-
doned, and reinforced General Rousseau on the
left, by ordering three Divisions to support him
on either side of his line of retreat. General
Jouffroy was to return to Parign^-l'Eveque, and
a Division was sent to meet him there and at
General de Curten succeeded on the 9th in
checking the progress of the left German wing
for some time close to Chahaignes; but Paris's
Division was driven back on Ardenay, and General
Rousseau, thus surrounded, abandoned Connerr^
the same evening. The two Divisions of the right
wing withdrew to Jupilles and Nuill^-Pont-
Under these circumstances General Chanzy's
commands were that on the 10th Jouflfroy's Divi-
sions should fall back on Parign^-l'Eveque, and
the Paris Division march once more towards Arde-
nay. He sent the remaining three Divisions of
the XXIst Corps to meet General Rousseau, with
instructions to retake Connerre and Thorigne.
These intended attacks on both sides gave rise
to the fierce battle which, on the German side,
was fought by the Ilird Corps single-handed.
112 The Franco-German War.
Battle of Le-Mans.
(10th, 11th, and 12th of January.)
January lOf A. — The fight at Parign4 and Change.
As, owing to the nature of the country, deep
columns could not deploy without great loss of time.
General von Alvensleben advanced on a wider
front of small subdivisions, moving with intervals
in front of and between Gu^-de-l'Aune and Arde-
nay, with the 9th and 11th Infantry Brigades
next to Change. On his right the 12th marched
along the high road to Le-Mans ; on his left the
10th were to start from Volnay if Parigne were
found abandoned by the French, and leaving that
place on their left, were also to make for Chang^.
Parign^ had, in fact, been deserted by the
French, but had been reoccupied before daybreak
by Deplanque's Division ; and before the German
troops had started, the far-advanced posts, towards
the wood of Loudon, were smartly attacked by
the French. The greater part of the 9th Brigade
had to be brought up by degrees between Blinieres
and the edge of the wood, but only seven guns
could be brought into play against the strong
French artillery. General von Stulpnagel decided
to reserve his strength for the struggle at Chang^,
and not to carry on a sustained contest here,
Battle of Le-Mans. 113
which must be decided as soon as the 10th Brigade
on the left should make its appearance.
This brigade, delayed by the difficulties of the
march, did not reach Challes till noon; but it
brought two batteries to strengthen the German
artillery, which now cleared the way for the
infantry attack on Parigne, which stood on high
ground. In half an hour the battalions rushed on
the place with shouts of " Hurrah for Brandenburg ! "
taking a gun which the enemy had abandoned,
and two mitrailleuses fetiU being served. When
the French returned to try to recover them they
were repulsed, and lost another field-piece, two
colours and several waggons. After losing 2150
prisoners they fled to the shelter of the forest
of Ruaudin. To keep a watch here, General
von Stulpnagel left two battalions at Parign^, and
proceeded at once to Chang<5 in two columns. In
front of this village, at about three o'clock, the
11th Brigade had met with a violent resistance by
the Gud-Perray, from the other brigades of
Deplanque's Division. The 36th Regiment of
the 2nd Battalion lost nine officers and above
100 men in a severe struggle at Les-Gars. The
General in command, who was on the spot, dis-
lodged both flanks of the enemy from strong posi-
tions, and on the left two companies succeeded in
crossing the stream at La Goudriere.
VOL. II. I
114 The Franco-German War.
These at four o'clock came into contact with the
advanced guard of the 9th Brigade, which Colonel
Count von der Groeben had brought on from
Parign^, taking possession of the Chateau of
Girardrie on the way. As the two companies of the
11th Brigade sent up to the right reached Auvign6
at the same time, the "General Advance" was
sounded. Auvigne was stormed, the bridge north
of Gu^-la-Hart was crossed, and that village taken
after a hard fight. About 1000 prisoners were
again taken from the flying French.
It was already dark, and Change, the goal of
the struggle, was not yet won. But when a
barricade outside the village had been demolished
it was found that the 10th Brigade was already
in possession. This brigade, on its way along the
high road from Parigne, had met with resistance
both at Chef-Raison and Paillerie. Having only
two guns, they failed to silence the French artillery,
but General von StUlpnagel left a battalion here
too, to watch the enemy, and hurried forward
^vith part of the brigade to support the Germans
at Gu^-la-Hart ; the rest were to attack Change.
Here the French had already been for the most
part dismissed to quarters, but they soon formed
and ojflfered a determined resistance. There was a
long and fierce street-fight, which ended in about
an hour's time, by the whole garrison of 800 men,
Battle of Le-Mans. 115
who had crowded into the market-place, surrender-
ing as prisoners.
The 12th Brigade had at last got off from
Ardenay, but not till eleven o'clock; they pro-
ceeded unchecked along the high road as far as
St. -Hubert, where they seized an abandoned com-
missariat train. Having aligned themselves with
the rest of their corps they halted for a while,
but soon after they were attacked by French
artillery; and the enemy again advancing along
the highway, General von Buddenbrock likewise
advanced to the attack, and drove the French
out of Champagne, some across the Huisne,
and some back on the hUls behind the village.
Two guns then successfully defied the fire of the
French artillery near Lune-d'Auvours, and the
infantry expelled them from that shelter also.
Further to the right a German battalion had
taken St.-Mars-la-Bruyere after a slight skirmish,
and was subsequently joined there by General
Count zu Lynar.
Thus the Ilird Corps had by this time taken
more than 5000 prisoners and many valuable
trophies, by equal skill and good fortune ; it had
indeed left 450 men for dead.
The Xth Corps had started that same day from
Vanc^ and Brives, and had reached Grand-Luc6,
but not till two o'clock, unobstructed by the
ii6 The Franco-German War.
French, but along very heavy roads. Here they
took up their quarters.
The IXth Corps remained at Nuill^.
Of the Xlllth Corps, the 17th Division had
continued its advance along the left bank of the
Huisne, and had found Connerr^ already deserted
by the French. But on the further side of the
river, the heights of Cohernieres, the railway
station and the wood on the north, were occupied
by the 2nd Division of the French XXIst Corps.
General von Ranch led two battalions to attack
them from the south, while from the east the
22nd Division was brought up, ha^dng crossed
the Huisne at Sceaux and gone on to Beill6
along the right bank. The French made a stout
resistance, and the fight lasted with varying
fortunes till darkness came on. The Ch&teau of
Coul^on and several villages at the foot of the
wooded hills were taken by the Germans, but the
French maintained their hold on the heights and
their position at Cohernieres.
The 17th Division had meanwhile continued
its advance, along roads frozen till they were
as smooth as glass, and reached La-Belle-Inutile ;
the 22nd passed the night at Beillc.
This division had that morning sent a detach-
ment to Bonn^table, whither the 4th Cavalry
Division had already proceeded. The 12th
Battle of Le-Mans. 117
Cavalry Brigade followed as far as Belleme.
Colonel von Beckedorif then marched forward to
Chanteloup, whence he drove out tlie French in
spite of an obstinate defence.
General Chanzy had resolved on a decisive
engagement before Le-Mans. Curten's Division
had not yet arrived, and only a part of Barry's
had come up, still the army from the camp, at
Coulie amounted to 10,000 men. The right wing
of the French position rested on the Sarthe ; the
centre extended above a mile along the Chemin-
aux-Boeufs, and the left, making a slight bend,
rested on the Huisne. Barry's Division, already
weakened by reverses, and General Lalande's Na-
tional Guards — an ill-disciplined and ill-armed
troop — were placed on the right where the danger
was least. Deplanque's and Roquebnme's Divi-
sions, with Desmaison's Brigade and Jouffroy's
Division, held the centre and the left, Jouffroy
facing General von Alvensleben. Behind this
Kne Bouedec's Division and Colonel Marty's troops
were placed in reserve. These 50,000 to 60,000
men under Admiral Jaur^guiberry, very suffi-
ciently defended the position between the two
rivers, which was well protected by earth-works
at the most important points. Five other Divi-
sions, under the command of General de Colomb,
stood on the other side of the river, about two
Ii8 The Franco-German War.
miles distant, the Paris Division at Yvre ; Gou-
geard's still occupying the heights of Auvours to
the north of Champagne, Rousseau's at Montfort
and Pont-de-Gesnes, Collin s in a bow-shaped posi-
tion at Lombron, while Villeneuve's, quite on the
flank, faced Chanteloup.
January Wth. — On this day the Ilird German
Army Corps was standing exactly opposite the
main body of the Flinch forces. It could not for
the present hope for any support from the corps
on its wing, and had a hard struggle before it.
On the left, the Xth Corps was still at Grand
Luc^ that morning, and on the right the Xlllth
Corps had been detained on the previous day by
the obstinate resistance of the French, who had
held their own between Les-Cohemieres and La-
Chapelle, and occupied Le-Chene in their front.
The 22nd Division had been thrown into
great confusion in the course of the struggle in
the wood, and it was not till they had been re-
formed and the enemy's position had been recon-
noitred by both the Generals of Division that the
fighting could be renewed, at about eleven o'clock.
Two battalions of the 17th Division and one
battery had been left in a post of observation in
front of Pont-de-Gesnes, on the southern bank of
the Huisnes ; on the northern side, the Mecklen-
burg battalions stonned Cohemieres in the after-
Battle of Le-Mans. 119
noon, and after a sharp contest, in conjunction
with the Hessians forced their way to the west-
ward as far as the Gue and on towards Lombron
at about four o'clock.
Further to the right, two companies of the
90th Regiment of the 22nd Division had mean-
while taken Le Chene, in spite of a stout defence ;
the 83rd Regiment, after a sharp fire from the
guns, had taken the farms of Flouret and La
Grande Metairie. Colonel von Beckedorif, on
being relieved at Chanteloup by the 4th Division
of Cavalry, had driven the French out of
St.-Celerin and advanced to La-Chapelle-St.-R<!*my,
to the right of the division, which occupied a large
extent of ground behind the points it had seized.
The Mecklenburg Grenadiers had held their own
for a long time at Le-Gue and La-Brosse against
superior numbers attacking from Pont-de-Gesnes ;
and the main body of the 17th Division retired
that evening on Connerre.
But the more completely General von Alvens-
leben was thrown on his own resources the more
important it seemed to keep the troops in close
connection. A strong force of the enemy was on
his flank, nay, almost in his rear, on the hills of
Auvours, and only kept at bay by the 12th
Brigade, which, being thus engaged, could not at
present advance to his assistance.
I20 The Franco- German War.
And it was there that the battle began. The
French had repossessed themselves of Champagne,
and their artillery formed line under cover of
the ridge. When their fire had been somewhat
checked by four of the German gims, two battalions
advanced to the attack. It was not till eleven
o'clock, after an obstinate contest, that the
French were driven back to the heights, and the
bridge over the Huisne was taken. General von
Buddenbrock now placed two battalions in a post
of obsei'vation, sent a third to Lune-d'Auvours,
and by noon returned with the rest of the brigade
to rejoin the corps.
Meanwhile the conflict had been raging with
such fury all along the front that at twelve o'clock
Prince Frederick Charles sent orders from St.-
Hubert to General Voigts-Rhetz, to proceed with all
speed to the field with the Xth Corps ; and at the
same time General von Manstein was instructed to
seize the heights of Auvours with the IXth.
It was one o'clock before the advanced guard of
the IXth marched up the hollow way through
deep snow-drifts. They were followed by two
battalions of the 12th Brigade, bringing up two
batteries with the greatest difficulty. The German
infantry plunged into the wood, which was full of
French soldiers, in the direction of Villiers ; the
11th Regiment of Fusiliers seized three mitrail-
Battle of Le-Mans. 121
leuses that were being served, and as soon as the
French had abandoned the position, turned them
on the wood.
Further to the left, at about three o'clock, two
battalions of the 85th Regiment were detached
from the main body of the 18th Division, to pro-
ceed to the western end of the ridge, supported by
the Jagers and two batteries which were posted at
Les-H^tres. To protect them, two companies
moved on to La-Lune, hindering the French from
crowding down on the high road. But in opposi-
tion to this movement the French opened a severe
fire from their elevated batteries behind Yvr^;
notwithstanding this, the Holsteiners on the left
rushed on a French battery and seized three of
its guns. On the right they took possession of a
neighbouring farmstead; and soon after five the
French had vanished from the high ground to the
Here, however, a strong counter-attack had to
be met that same evening, for part of Gougeard's
Division marched up the slope from Yvre. Their
further advance was effectually stopped ; but they
could not be prevented from remaining there for
the evening and night. Still, by this struggle the
18th Division had kept open the rear and flank
of the Ilird Corps. It was again required that
evening to secure the crossing of the Huisne during
122 The Franco-German War.
the night for use next day ; so three battalions and
one battery went down to the northern bank and
repulsed the French troops in possession of the
bridge. The division had lost 275 men.
General von Alvensleben had postponed the
advance of the Ilird Corps till eleven o'clock,
hoping for the arrival of the 12th Brigade.
During the night the French completed the
works on the skirts of the wood and took up a
position there ; they also occupied the high bank
on the opposite side of the river, where they had
brought up several batteries. Thus a direct attack
would involve heavy loss, and it was impossible to
out-flank such extensive lines. General von
Alvensleben therefore decided on advancing at
first only against the enemy's left wing, and sent
forward the 11th Brigade. The 10th and 9th
remained in reserve for the present, at Chang^ and
Gu^-la-Hart. The 12th, released at Mont-Auvours,
were also advancing, but by a circuitous route,
because the high road was everywhere commanded
by the batteries above.
The 11th Brigade, scarcely 3000 strong, followed
the course of the Gue-Perray streamlet, roxmd the
northern end of the wood. To protect it against
the French columns which threatened it from the
heights, the 35th Regiment formed line on the
brook and occupied the Ch&teau of Les-Arches.
Battle of Le-Mans. 123
The 20th tried to get forward by the cattle-path,
and while holding the Chdteau of Les-Noyers and
the bridge there over the Huisnes, drove off the
French by sheer hard fighting, as far as Les-
Granges. But they presently returned with so
strong a force that the whole brigade was gradually
brought up into the fii'ing line. Les-Granges
was lost and retaken several times with heavy loss,
particularly of officers; but the Brandenburgers
fought steadily on.
On their left the 10th Brigade now made its
appearance, having come up from Change at one
o'clock. By two, the 52nd Regiment had posses-
sion of the farm of Le-Pavillon, of the wooded
slope in front and the farm of Grand- Anneau, but
their loss was severe. Strong columns of the
French coming up from Pontlieue were driven
back, two batteries were got forward xmder heavy
fire from the Chassepots to within 800 paces of Le
Tertre, and yet the 12th Regiment did not succeed
in getting into the farmstead till two battalions of
the 9th Brigade had come to their assistance from
Chang^. The position was taken by storm at
about five o'clock, with the help of the 8th Regi-
ment of the Grenadier Life Guards. The 52nd
Regiment, having spent all its ammunition, had
to be taken out of action, but the battalion of
.Grenadiers rushed do^vn on the cattle-path, taking
124 The Franco-German War.
two French guns which were firing on them, after
a desperate conflict; but the enemy's repeated
attempts to recover them were steadily frustrated.
A battery which the French were bringing up on
the western side of the wood was driven back by
When it was foimd that the 35th Regiment
must be brought back from the Gud-Perray to
support the 20th, the French recovered possession
of Les- Arches. Here the 12th Brigade had arrived
from Auvours at two o'clock, only three battalions
strong ; the 64th, however, recaptured the ch&teau
after a short fight. The overwhelming storm of
fire from the artillery and musketry on the oppo-
site side of the river hindered the Germans from
getting up their guns, and it was only with great
difficulty and the loss of many gunners that the
pieces were brought away again ; but every attack
on the position by the French from Yvre was
It was now quite dark, but the firing had not
ceased. The Ilird Corps had taken 600 prisoners,
but had lost 500 killed. It had fought its way
into the heart of the French position, and its out-
posts were in close proximity to the enemy's front.
And now, though late, strong reinforcements
The Xth Corps had moved from Grand-Luc6 to
Battle of Le-Mans. 125
the westward early in the day, to block the high
road from Tours to Le-Mans, but the frozen state
of the ground again delayed it on the way, so
that it only reached Teloche in the afternoon.
The sound of firing to the northward left it
in no doubt that General von Alvensleben was
fighting a great battle. The orders sent from
headquarters at St,-Hubert reached General
Voigts-Rhetz at noon ; but he then judged, and
very rightly, that his assistance would now be
more effective on the enemy's flank than on the
field where the Ilird Corps was engaged. So in
spite of the exhausted state of his men, who had
had no hot meal on the way, he at once pushed
To protect himself against Curten's Division,
probably at Chfi.teau-du-Loir, he despatched one
battalion to Ecommoy. It was received with
firing from the houses, surrounded in the darkness,
and compelled to withdraw from the place ; but it
kept the road clear in the rear of the corps.
The head of the 20th Division found Mulsanne
feebly defended, and drove the detachment back
beyond the cutting of La-Monnerie.
The nature of the country here afforded great
advantages to the French. Ditches and fences
were good cover for firing from, farmsteads and
copses excellent positions for defence. Only eight
126 The Franco-German War.
guns could be brought to bear against the enemy's
artillery ; but nevertheless four battalions (West-
phalians and Brunswickers) persistently repelled
the French, and by night-fall had got as far as
Point-du-Jour. The conflict only ceased at the
cattle-path by Les-Mortes-Aures. Here the French
held the whole plain before them, by the continu-
ous running fire, kept up from behind lines of
shelter-trenches rising one above the other.
The battle wavered for a long time, but the
German left presently gained ground. The 1st
Battalion of the 17th Regiment rushed on the
enemy, who returned their fire at the shortest pos-
sible range, and then made for the wood ; and when
the drums of the 1st Battalion of the 56th Regi-
ment were heard at Point-du-Jour, beating the
charge, the French carried away their mitrailleuses
and evacuated Les-Mortes-Aures.
This battalion had received orders to end the
struggle at the point of the bayonet. Captain von
Monbart led the attack at the double in close
order ; all the companies at hand joined in it,
and in spite of a steady fire from the cover of the
wood, La-Tuilerie was carried by half-past eight ;
and here the brigade re-formed, while the 37th
stood ready to support it at a spot beyond at Mul-
sanne. The French vanished in the darkness.
The constant roll of wheels, the noise of de-
Battle of Le-Mans, 127
parting railway trains and a confusion of cries
announced their flight. Still the prisoners, who
were brought in in numbers, all agreed that
a strong force was encamped in the woods.
Watch-fires blazed there through the night, and
instead of resting, the troops must have been pre-
paring to meet a fresh attack. By about half-past
ten the outposts reported the approach of a strong
force of the French from Pontlieue.
Hitherto the Germans had only had to deal with
National Guards under General Lalande at this
point, a force not much to be relied on ; but the
Admiral now sent Bouedec's Division against La-
Tuilerie, with General Roquebrune's to support
The battalions in the first lines were under fire
for above an hour in a perfect storm of projectiles,
but no serious attack was attempted.
According to French reports, their officere
strove in vain to induce their troops to advance ;
they constantly gave way. And a subsequent
effort with the Garde-Mobile was equally fruit-
Still, there was to be no rest. At two in the
morning the din of fighting again made itself
heard on the right. Deplanque's Division had
been disturbed by a flanking force of the 40th
Brigade, who had been marching along the road
128 The Franco-German War.
from Ruaudin to Pontlieue, to be at hand in case
of need ; without returning the enemy's fire, they
had attacked the detachment holding Epinettes
and took possession of it, close to the cattle-
January \2th. — Only the Ilird and Xth Corps
could be reckoned on for the inevitable battle next
day. The other two could only afford indirect
assistance by keeping part of the French forces
Of the Xlllth Corps the 17th Division was
to proceed via Lombron to St.-Comeille, without
allowing themselves to be dra-wn into a fray with
the enemy still occupying the banks of the
Huisne; the 22nd was ordered from La-Cha-
pelle to Savigne. The little river Gu6 could easily
be held, and part of the artillery was left at Con-
nerr6 with the 7th Brigade of Cavalry,
In their advance the Germans found that the
enemy had already abandoned Lombron, Pont-
de-Gesnes, and Montfort. Scattered arms and
equipment betrayed how hastily they had fled.
Several stragglers were brought in, and it was
not till reaching the Merdereau, at about noon,
that the 17th Brigade met with any opposition.
An attack from all sides dislodged the French from
the Ch&teau of Hyre and from St.-Comeille at
about four o'clock, and 500 French were taken
Battle of Le-Mans. 129
prisoners. They were then driven back behind
the Parance, where the advanced guard halted at
Colonel von BeckedorfTs detachment of the
22nd Division had marched on Chanteloup from
Sille, repulsing the French on La-Croix, where
a large body of their troops made a stand.
But when, after a long delay, the main body of
the division arrived, the Germans attacked at
once. Whole regiments of French here laid down
their arms, and 3000 men surrendered, ^7ith
An attempt of the German cavalry to get across
the Sarthe to break up the railway conmiunication
was, however, xmsuccessful.
The force occupying the ridge of Auvours had
surrendered in a body. The 35 th Brigade
marched up to Villiers, but patrols sent ahead
brought news that the French had retired behind
When the noise of fighting at St.-Comeille was
heard at mid-day, the brigade was ordered to pro-
ceed northward to support the 17th Division
engaged there. The 84th Regiment, passing by
La-Commune, lent valuable assistance in the
attack on Ch&teau-Hyre. Outposts were left
by the Parance for the night, but the main
body of the brigade returned to Fatines, and the
VOL. II. K
130 The Franco-German War.
36th took up quarters between Villiers and St.-
By the battle of the previous day the French
position before Le-Mans had been forced ; but they
still stood firm behind the Huisnes, and as their left
wing had been driven back on their centre, that
point had been considerably strengthened. Still,
the stream must be crossed, the steep slope must
be climbed, where every hedge of the terraced
vineyards was held by strong firing lines, and
where the heights were crowned with batteries.
The ford by Yvr^, on the left, was very strongly
protected, and the ground in front of the wood
of Pontlieue had been made impassable in many
places by abattis. Against such a position the
artillery could do little, and the cavalry nothing,
while deep snow hampered every movement of
the infantry. General von Alvensleben therefore
decided for the present on acting only on the
defensive with his right wing, while with his left
he prepared to support General von Voigts-Rhetz
in his advance.
The troops were roused from their short rest
at six in the morning. Two companies of French
were making their way towards the bridge at
Ch&teau-Les-Noyers with powder-bags, but they
were compelled to retreat, leaving the explosives
behind them. At about eight o'clock the French
Battle of Le-Mans. 131
made a determined attack on the outposts of the
12th Regiment, quartered in the wood, and drove
them in as far back as Le-Tertre. Again the fight
raged furiously round this farmstead, which was
almost demolished by shell. One by one the last
battalions of the 10th Brigade were drawn into the
struggle, whilst detachments whose ammunition
was exhausted were ordered out of it. Only four
guns could fire with any effect, but by eleven o'clock
the French volleys gradually died away, and they
were seen to retire on Pontlieue. The battalions
of the left wing pursued, and came out on the
Parign^ road in immediate touch with the Xth
General von Voigts-Rhetz had left two batta-
lions at Mulsanne, for protection from Ecommoy ;
the whole Corps, after many unavoidable detach-
ments had been detailed from it, was assembled
by about half-past seven to march forward on
Pontlieue. The main body of the 20th Division
was to diverge along the Mulsanne road to go
to LarTuilerie. Three battalions of the 19th
Division were to meet at Ruaudin to strengthen
the detachment occupying Epinettes, while two
battalions and the 14th Cavalry Brigade took the
road to Parign^, with the Corps' artillery, which
could be of no service in the plain further to the left.
Reinforcements had meanwhile arrived at Ruau-
J 32 The Franco-German War.
din, and General von Wojma made his way without
hindrance through the woods to La-Source, where
he halted at one o'clock, having formed line on
the 20th Division. These had already brought a
heavy battery into action, driving back the French
mitrailleuses beyond Pontlieue. On the right, a
light battery of the 19th Division was brought up
to La-Source, and ten horse-artillery guns as far as
the Parign^ road. The atmosphere was, however,
so thick that their fire could only be directed by the
At two o'clock General von Kraatz advanced in
close column on Pontlieue, whither General von
Woyna was now also marching. The southern
side of the village was taken after a short struggle ;
but on the further side of the Huisne the French
held the houses along the river-bank, and just as
the Germans had reached the bridge it was blown
up. The demolition, however, was not complete,
and the foremost battalions got across over the
debris to get at the enemy. Two made their way
down the high street, one turned to the left, to the
railway station, whence came the sound of signals
for departing trains. There was nothing to hinder
the iron railway-bridge from being blown up,
and by this means many prisoners were taken,
besides 150 provision waggons and 1000 hundred-
weight of flour.
Battle of Le-Mans. 133
The artillery were next directed to fire on the
town of Le-Mans.
Meanwhile the detachments which had become
mixed up in the fight in the wood had reformed,
and joined the Ilird Corps. After a ration of
meat, the first for three days, had been served
out to all the troops, the 10th Brigade re-
sumed its march. The battalion of Brandenburg
Jagers crossed the river by the paper-mill of
L'Epau, and two batteries at Ch&teau-Funay con-
tributed to the firing on Le Mans.
When, soon after, the infantry entered the
town, a fierce struggle began in the streets,
blocked as they were by the baggage-trains of
the French. Access to the houses had to be
cleared by artillery ; a large number of French
were taken prisoners, and a vast quantity of sup-
plies seized. The fighting went on till night-
fall, and then the Xth Corps and haK of the
Ilird took up alarm quarters in the town. The 6th
Division took possession of Yvr^, which the enemy
had abandoned, and placed outposts at Les-Noyers
and Les- Arches on the further side of the Huisne.
The actions fought by the French on this day,
had been arranged for the sole purpose of giving
the army time to set out.
On learning from Admiral Jaur^guiberry that
every effort to get the troops to advance had
134 T"E Franco-German War.
failed, and that the last reserves were shattered,
General Chanzy had, at eight that morning, issued
orders for a general retreat on Alen9on. Here
the Minister of War had arranged for the simul-
taneous arrival of two Divisions of the XlXth
Corps from Carentan.
The march of the Ilnd Army on Le-Mans had
been a series of seven days' incessant fighting. It
had fallen at a season when the winter was most
severe. Smooth ice and snow-drifts had hampered
every movement. Bivouacking was out of the
question; the troops had to seek their night
quarters often at a distance of some miles in their
rear ; their reassembling in the morning wasted
precious hours, and then the shortness of the day
prevented their taking full advantage of their
successes. Whole battalions were employed merely
in guarding the prisoners. The roads were in
such a state that baggage could not be brought
up ; officers and men alike marched in insufficient
clothing and on reduced rations. But spirit,
endurance and discipline had conquered every
The Germans had sacrificed in this prolonged
struggle 3200 men and 200 officers, the larger half
belonging to the Ilird Corps alone. Several com-
panies fought under the command of non-commis-
The French Line of Retreat. 135
The French estimated their losses at 6200 men,
and 20,000 taken prisoners ; seventeen gims, two
colours, and an abundant supply of materiel re-
mained as trophies in the hands of the victors.
After such severe eiForts the troops imperatively-
needed some rest. The orders from head-quarters
were that the operations were not to be extended
beyond a certain area of country ; and the Ilnd
Army might almost immediately be required
on the Seine and the Loire. Prince Frederick
Charles therefore determined to follow up the re-
treating enemy with only a small force.
On the French side, if each Corps was to have
an independent road for escape to Alen9on, two
Corps must necessarily start to the westward. And
on the evening of the last day's fight the X Vlth
Corps had reached Chauffour on the Laval road,
and the XVIIth was at Mayenne on the way to
Conlie, each protected by its rear-guard. The
XXIst was assembled at Ballon, to the east of the
Sarthe. From these points all were to march
northwards. General Chanzy still deluded himself
with the hope of getting on by Evreux to the assist-
ance of the besieged capital. He would have, indeed,
to make a wide circuit — a bow to which the Ger-
mans could easily have formed the string in a
much shorter time ; and in the condition in which
his troops now were, across a country where all
136 The Franco-German War.
arms could be brought into action, they must have
been annihilated. In short, the conquered army
was already driven to the west of the Sarthe.
After distributing rations to men and horses,
General von Schmidt set forth at midday on the
13th with four battalions, eleven squadrons, and
ten guns, and reached ChauiFour after some
skirmishing. The Xlllth Corps (German) ad-
vanced to the Sarthe, the 17th Division sending
their outposts across the river at NeuviUe, and the
22nd driving the French out of Ballon, whence
they retired completely routed to Beaumont. The
XXIst Corps (French) had taken up quarters this
day at Sill^. The National Guards from Brittany
fled wildly to Coron, and thence back into their own
province. They were joined by the troops left in
camp at Conlie, after they had plundered the
camp. The XVIIth Corps also went oiF, without
halting by the V^gre, as they had been ordered to
do, but marching straight on to Ste.-Suzanne. The
XVIth withdrew on Laval, leaving Barry's Division
at Chassill^ to protect their rear. Numbers of
abandoned baggage-waggons, and cast-away arms,
testified to the condition of the defeated army.
On the 14th the French were driven out of
Chassill^. The XVIth Corps was by this time in
dire confusion ; it retired during the night to
St.-Jean-sur-Erve. In the camp at Conlie 8000
Pursuit Northwards, 137
rifles had been abandoned with 5,000,000 cart-
ridges, and various other warlike stores.
The Grand Duke had marched on Alen<;on
along the right bank of the Sarthe. The French
advanced guard of the 22nd Division made a
sKght stand at Beaumont and lost 1400 pri-
On the following day General von Schmidt made
further progress on the road to Laval, but he found
that the French had concentrated at St.-Jean and
had posted a strong force of artillery on the heights
beyond the Erve. The Oldenburg Regiment forced
its way as far as the church of the little town,
and the Brunswickers drove the enemy back on
Ste.-Suzanne, higher up the river, but there the
pursuit ended. /
Although Barry's and Deplanque's Divisions
had now no more than 6000 fighting men, by the
French estimate, and Curten's Division had not
yet come up, the German force at hand was very
considerably inferior. The rest of the Xth Corps
was moving up to their support, but had as yet
only reached Chasilld. A battalion proceeding
jfrom Conlie came into conflict at SiU^ with the
XXIst Corps (French) assembled there, and sus-
tained heavy loss. The 22nd Division of the
Xnith Corps also met with serious opposition
before reaching Alen^on, from the National Guards
138 The Franco-German War.
and Volunteers under Lipowski ; so the attack on
the town was postponed till next day.
But on the following morning the French posi-
tion in Alen9on was evacuated, as well as Sill<5 and
St.-Jean. The places were at once occupied by
the Germans, and General von Schmidt marched
on, close to Laval. Numerous stragglers from the
retreating army were taken prisoners.
Curten's Division had now reached the western
bank of the Mayenne, and there the renmants of
the Army of the Loire re-assembled. Reduced to
half its original strength, and very greatly demoral-
ized, it would be hors de combat for some time to
come, and the object of the German march on Le-
Mans was fully attained.
To the north of Paris, however, the French were
again preparing to attack. It was needful to with-
draw those Divisions of the 1st which were still on
the Lower Seine, in the direction of the Somme ;
and orders came from head-quarters that the XEIth
Corps of the ILid Army should march on Rouen.
On the Upper Loire two French detachments had
been sent to attack the Hessians holding positions
about Briare, and had driven them back, on the
14th, to Ouzouer ; while from Sologne came a
report of the advance of a newly-constituted French
Army Corps — the XXVth.
The German IXth Corps, after evacuating and
Operations on the Somme. 139
razing the camp at Conlie, was therefore sent to
reinforce Orleans. The remainder of the Ilnd
Army, the Ilird and Xth Corps with the three
cavalry divisions — about 27,000 foot, 9000 horse,
and. 186 guns — were assembled under Prince
Frederick Charles round Le-Mans. The cavalry,
placed as a corps of observation in the front and
on the flanks, had several small skirmishes, but no
further serious hostilities were attempted.
The 4th Cavalry Division held Alen9on on the
right, and on the left General von Hartmann
entered Tours without any opposition.
Operations on the North of Paris during
At the beginning of the New Year a consider-
able part of the 1st Army (German) was engaged
in investing P^ronne, which would have aiForded a
safe passage for the debouching of the French over
to the southern bank of the Somme. General
Bamekow had laid siege to the little town with the
3rd Reserve Division and the 31st Brigade of
Infantry. Hitherto it had only been kept under
observation by cavalry, but recent circumstances
had raised it to importance. So much of the Vlllth
Corps as was available on the Somme formed, for
I40 The Franco-German War.
the protection of the besiegers on the north, a wide
curve from Amiens as far as Bapaume.
The 1st Corps, posted at Rouen, at first consisted
only of three brigades ; but the IVth was on the
march from Pdronne, where it had now been
relieved. No reinforcement of the 1st Army had
been effected ; the 14th Division, after reducing
M^ziferes and taking Rocroy, had received fresh
orders from Versailles which transferred it to
another field of action.
General Faidherbe had concentrated his troops
from the rest-camp south of Arras, behind the
Scarpe, and had begun his forward march on
January 2nd. He advanced with the XXIInd Corps
to the relief of P(5ronne through Bucquoy. The
XXIIIrd followed by the high road to Bapaume.
As early as half-past ten the Derroja Division of the
former Corps obliged the 3rd Cavalry Division, as
well as those battalions of the 32nd Brigade which
had been attached to it, to retire on Miraumont,
pursuing it, however, only as far as Achiet-le-Petit.
The other Division, under General Bessol, had
only advanced towards Achiet-le-Grand in the
afternoon. There he was opposed for several hours
to two companies of the 68th, a detachment
of Hussars, and two guns, who retired towards
evening on Avesnes. The French did not pursue,
but established outposts at Bihucourt.
Operations on the Somme. 141
Payen's Division had deployed at Behagnies,
on the high road, and its batteries opened
fire on Sapignies, where, however, General von
Strubberg had posted five battalions. These met
the attack, and at two o'clock entered Behagnies
with a rush, took 240 prisoners, and prepared the
village for defence. The enemy withdrew to Er-
villers, and there once again showed front, but
attempted no further attack.
The other Division of his XXIIIrd Army Corps,
consisting of mobilized National Guards, under
General Robin, had pressed forward on the left
on Mory. There was only one battalion and a
squadron of Hussars to oppose them. By extend-
ing their line on the heights of Beugn&tre, they
succeeded in deceiving the enemy as to their
numerical strength. The latter marched and
counter-marched, and also brought up artillery,
but did not attempt an attack, and remained at
The 30th Brigade and the 3rd Cavalry Division
took up their position for the night in and about
Bapaume. The 29th Brigade occupied the
neighbouring villages Jon the right and the left of
the Arras road.
142 The Franco-German War.
Battle of Bapaume.
General Faidherbe had brought his forces close
up to a position covered by the siege of P^ronne.
His four Divisions consisted of fifty-seven batta-
lions, opposed by only seventeen German battalions.
He decided on the 3rd to pash on in four columns
to Gr^villers, Biefvillers, on the high road, and to
Favreuil on the east.
But General von Goeben was not inclined to
give up his position at Bapaume. During the
occupation of Favreuil, General von Kummer
brought up the 30th Brigade in front of the
town, and behind it the 29th, of which, how-
ever, three battalions were left in the villages to
left and to the right. A reserve was established
further to the rear, at Transloy, whither the 8th
Rifle battalion, with two batteries, was detached ;
and General von Bamekow received orders to hold
three battalions and the 26th Division of Foot
in readiness at Sailly-SaiUisel, without raising the
blockade. Then the Division under Prince Albrecht,
jun. — three battalions, eight squadrons, and three
batteries — advanced on Bertincourt, near to the
battle-field. In this order, in severe cold and
gloomy weather, they were to await the attack of
Battle of Bapaume. 143
General Count von der Groeben had already sent
the 7th Cavaliy Brigade against the enemy's right
flank, but it did not succeed in forcing its way
through those villages that were occupied by the
At Beugn&tre, the right wing of the Robin
Division was met by so sharp a fire from two
battalions of the 65th, and two horse artillery
batteries that had joined them from Transloy, that
it withdrew again on Mory, and the garrison of
Favreuil was reinforced by two battalions and two
batteries against the approach of the Payen Division,
which was marching down the high road to the
east of that place. The first French gun that came
out of Sapignies was immediately destroyed, but
several batteries soon became engaged on both
sides, and the French entered Favreuil and St.
The 40th Regiment advanced to these places at
noon from Bertincourt, and, after a lively action,
occupied them ; yet had to evacuate Favreuil again,
and a battery of horse artillery took up a position
alongside of the 2nd Regiment of Uhlans of the
Guard close to Fr^micourt, which secured the right
of the Division.
On the left, Bessol's Division had driven the
weak garrison out of Biefvillers. The 1st Battalion
of the 33rd Regiment, which had set out to retake
144 The Franco-German War.
that place, became hotly engaged ; it lost all but
three of its officers, and had to retire upon Avesnes.
The Derroja Division had also taken part in this
fight. The French now brought a strong force of
artillery to the front, and extended their firing-line
to the south nearly as far as the road to Albert.
Therefore, at mid-day. General von Kummer
decided to confine himself to the local defence of
Bapaume. With some sacrifice, the artillery covered
the move of the infantry thither. The 1st heavy
battery, which was the last to withdraw, lost 2
officers, 97 men, and 36 horses : their guns could
only be got away with the help of the infantry.
The 29th Brigade now prepared for an obstinate
defence of the old city wall. The 30th was posted
behind the place, and the French advanced leisurely
as far as the suburb. Then there was a cessation
of hostilities. General Faidherbe hoped to take the
town by further investing it, ^vithout exposing it
to the horrors of a bombardment such as precedes
the taking of a place by storm. A brigade
of the Derroja Division endeavoured to advance
through Tilloy, but met there with stubborn re-
sistance from the Rifle battalion and two batteries
which had arrived from P^ronne. At the same
time twenty-four guns of the batteries that were
posted behind Bapaume opened fire on the advanc-
ing columns, which then withdrew, at half-past
Battle of Bapaume. 145
three, -by the road to Albert. They soon resumed
the attack, and succeeded in entering Tilloy. All
the neighbouring batteries now opened fire upon
this place. General von Minis, who, when the 3rd
Cavalry Division had passed through Miraumont,
had been left behind there, seeing no enemy in
his front, but hearing the fighting at Bapaume,
advanced from the west, and General von Strub-
berg from the to^vn, to resume the attack. The
French did not await their arrival, and were driven
both out of the suburb and Avesnes. The French
detachments encamped for the night at Grevillers,
Bihucourt, Favreuil, and Beugnatre, thus sur-
rounding Bapaume on three sides. The day had
cost the Germans 52 officers and 698 men, and the
French 53 officers and 2066 men.
But only by dra^Wng on every available resource
of the Vlllth Army Corps had it been possible to
withstand the preponderating attack of the enemy.
It had not yet been possible to provide fresh
ammunition, and General von Goeben decided to
immediately shift the battle-field to behind the
Somme. This movement was being executed when
the patrols brought information that the enemy
was also evacuating its neighbouring position.
The French troops, as yet unaccustomed to
active service, had suiFered extremely from the
day's fighting and the severe cold of the ensuing
VOL. II. L
146 The Franco-German War.
night. General Faidherbe could perceive that
the forces before P(5ronne had been withdrawn to
Bapaume, and that the Germans thus reinforced
would assume the defensive. His first object, the
raising of the siege, had been obtained, and the
General thought it best not to endanger his success
by a second encounter. He led his Corps back in
the direction of Arms.
Of the German cavalry the 8th Cuirassiers
succeeded in breaking through a French square.
The 15th Division withdrew behind the Somme
to close under P^ronne, and the Saxon cavalry
joined the right wing at St.-Quentin.
Actions on the Lower Seine.
Exactly at the same time the other Corps of
the 1st Army was engaged with the enemy on
the Lower Seine. The French had not taken up
any new position on the right bank of the river, but
they held the wooded heights of Bois-de-la-Londe,
which surround the southern defile of the little
river-peninsula of Grand-Couronne. Here Gene-
ral von Bentheim, with a view of gaining ground
in this direction, had posted half of the 1st Army
Corps, and advanced on the 4th of January on Les-
Moulineaux. Before daybreak Lieut.-Colonel von
Hiillessem surprised the enemy's outposts, stormed
Fighting on the Lower Seine. 147
the fort of Chfiteau Robert-le-Diable, and took
prisoners those who had sought refuge amid the
ruins of the castle ; and the heights of Maison-
Brulet were scaled under a heavy fire from the
enemy, who lost two guns on this occasion. After
renewed fighting at St.-Ouen the French withdrew
on Bourgachard in the afternoon, pursued towards
six in the evening by half a squadron of Dragoons,
two guns, and a company driven on waggons, who
took from them two 12-pounders set up on the
approach to Rougemontier, disabling the gunnel's
and capturing an ammunition waggon.
After a slight skirmish, the enemy had been driven
out of Bourgtheroulde and thrown back in the direc-
tion of Brionne. However, the French right wing at
Elbeuf had, during the night, hastily withdrawn
from- a position rendered precarious by the waver-
inor of the remaining detachments. The aiFair
had cost 5 officers and 160 men. The loss of the
French must have been equal, besides which they
lost 300 prisoners and 4 guns.
General Roye posted his troops behind the Rille
on the Pont-Audemer — ^Brionne line, but the Ger-
mans now held Bourgachard, Bourgtheroulde, and
Elbeuf strongly garrisoned, with three battalions
in readiness at Grand-Couronne for further secu-
rity. The other troops returned to Rouen. An
attempted passage of the French from the
148 The Franco-German War.
northern bank of the Somme had already been
averted at Fauville, whence they again withdrew to
Meanwhile it had not escaped the observation
of the Vlllth Army Corps that this time the
French did not seek to intrench themselves in the
northern forts, but that they halted south of Arras,
thus betraying an intention to shortly renew the
attack on the investing forces of P^ronne.
General von Goeben therefore decided to pass
over to the northern bank of the Somme, to their
protection, and to take up a flank position whose
front the enemy would have to cross in its advance.
On January 6th, after the troops had had one
day's rest, and the ammunition had been replenished,
the 30th Brigade advanced on Bray, the 29th on
Albert. In close vicinity to the enemy was the 36th
Cavalry Division at Bapaume, behind them the
Cavalry Brigade of the Guard. To secure the left
flank Lieut.-Colonel von Pestel occupied Acheux,
and the 3rd Reserve Division of the investing Corps
advanced west of the position on Feuilleres. The
Corps Artillery remained meanwhile on the left
bank of the Somme, for it almost seemed as if the
enemy were preparing an attack on Amiens.
But during the next day the French did not
undertake anything of importance, and on the 9th
Occupation of P^ronne.
For fourteen days this little place had been
invested by eleven battalions, sixteen squadrons,
and ten batteries. Flooded meadows on one side,
and on the other, walls with medieval towers had
secured it against surprise ; yet it was commanded
on all sides by overhanging heights.
Still the fire of fifty-eight German guns had
not done much damage, and in any case must
soon have been given up for want of ammuni-
tion ; the fire with captured French materiel re-
mained without result. The fort continued its
fire, and its garrison of only 3500 men even
attempted sorties. As before mentioned, on the
day of the battle of Bapaume, a portion of the
besieging troops had been obliged to withdraw to
the support of the Vlllth Army Corps, and in the
uncertainty as to the result of this fight it had been
necessary to taJvC precautions for the parking of
the siege materiel. The troops that remained
behind were in marching order, and part of the
heavy guns had been withdrawn. But the garri-
son of the place kept on its guard.
Two days later a siege-train of fifty-five heavy
guns arrived at La-F^re. A second, of twenty-
eight, laden with French ammunition, was on the
way from M^zi^res. The preliminaries of a regular
150 The Franco-German War.
siege were accomplished, and when at last, on the
8th of January, a large ammunition-transport
arrived, the commandant was summoned to give
up a defence that had become hopeless.
On the 10th of January, General von Bamekow
entered the fortress so amply provided with arms,
ammunition and provisions. The garrison were
On the 7th of January, his Majesty the King had
summoned General von ManteufFel to another part
of the theatre of war, and had given the supreme
command of the 1st Army Corps to General von
Freed from all care as to Peronne, his only
mission thenceforward was the protection of the
siege of Paris. For this purpose the Somme,
whose passages were all in the hands of the
Germans, formed a natural bulwark, behind which
even the attack of a superior enemy could be met.
And some reinforcements now arrived for the
Vlllth Army Corps. The peaceful condition of the
Lower Seine permitted of two infantry regiments
and two batteries being sent from thence to Amiens.
At head-quarters an infantry brigade of the Meuse
Army Corps was held in readiness, which in case
of need was to precede them by rail.
It was still a matter of uncertainty where the
enemy would strike the first blow. General von
The Invaders on the Somme. 151
Goeben, therefore, spread his forces behind the
Somme on a ten-mile line, still holding the places
he had acquired to the front of the river, so that
if needful he could proceed to attack. In the
middle of the month, the portions of the IXth
Army Corps under the command of General Count
von der Groeben occupied Amiens, Corbie and
the Hallue line in a flank position. The 15th
Division, holding Bray, took up its quarters south
of this place. Next to them, on the left of
P(5ronne, were the 36th Reserves, to the right
the 16th Division, and the 3rd Reserv^e Cavalrj^
Brigade, holding Roisel and Vermand, in front.
The 12th Cavalry Division was at St.-Quentin.
The French army had already begun to move
on the Cambrai high-road, and its XXIInd
Corps had forced back the 3rd Cavalry Division
first out of Bapaume and Albert and then back on
the HaUue. The XXIIIrd followed the same road,
and their goal really appears to have been Amiens.
But a reconnaissance had enlightened them as to
the difficulty of attacking in that direction, besides
which a telegram from the War Minister an-
nounced that the Paris Army would make a last
supreme effort to break the bonds of the blockade,
and the Army of the Nord was enjoined to draw,
as far as possible, the attention of the enemy's
forces towards itself and away from the capital.
152 The Franco-German War.
According to these orders General Faidherbe
decided to advance on St.-Quentin without delay,
whither the Isnard Brigade was akeady marching
from Cambrai. The attack on the right wing of
the Germans, consisting for the time being solely
of cavalry, endangered their communications, while
the vicinity of the northern forts oflFered the French
army shelter and also greater liberty of action.
But General von Goeben had foreseen this
Avithdrawal of the enemy on the left, and had con-
centrated all his forces to meet it.
The convalescents who were fit for service were
attached. Only weak detachments were left at
Amiens, and through the approach of the Xlllth
Corps, from the Sarthe to the Lower Seine, it
was easy to transfer the 3rd Grenadier Regiment
and a heavy battery to the Somme.
The withdrawal of the French from Albert and
the march of their Army Corps on Combles and
Sailly-Saillisel were soon reported by the recon-
noitring of the cavalry. A newly-formed Pauly
Brigade occupied Bapaume, and the Isnard Brigade
entered St.-Quentin, when General zur Lippe,
according to orders received, retired on Ham.
At this jimcture. General von Goeben set out in
an eastern direction, using the roads on both banks
of the Somme so that he might the sooner come
up with the enemy.
Advance on St.-Quentin. 153
January llih. — On the 17th, the 12th Cavahy
Brigade advanced on La-F^re, the 16th on Ham.
The 3rd Reserve Division and the Cavalry Brigade
of the Guard arrived at Nesle ; the 15th Division
and the Corps Artillery, at Villers-Carbonnel. An
Army Reserve had been formed out of the troops
last from Rouen, which followed to Harbonnieres.
On the northern bank, the detachment under
Count von der Groeben advanced close to P^ronne.
The four French Divisions had so far advanced
on Vermand that they were enabled to eflFect a
junction next day at St.-Quentin. The XXIIIrd
Army Corps was to retire straight upon the town,
the XXIInd to cross the Somme lower down, and
take up a position south of St.-Quentin.
January 18<A. — On the German side, the 16th
and the 3rd Reserve Division advanced on Jussy
and Flavy, on the southern bank of the Somme,
the Army Reserves on Ham. The 12th Cavalry
Division at Vendeuil found the country east of the
Oise still free from the enemy.
On the other hand, the 15 th Division was to
cross the Somme at Brie, and advance, together
with the troops of General Coimt von der Groeben,
on Vermand and Etreillers, with a view of obtain-
ing touch of the approaching enemy. General
von Kummer had been enjoined, in case he foimd
that the French had taken up a position, merely
154 The Franco-German War.
to watch them and follow them should they retire
north, but should they march towards the south,
to attack them in force.
At half-past ten, the 29th Brigade came up
on this side of Tertry with the rear-guard of
the XXIInd Corps and its train. The Hussai's
broke through one of the screening battalions,
drove the waggons in the greatest disorder back on
Caulaincourt, but had to abandon prisoners and
loot under the fire of the approaching infantry.
The French brigade had changed front, and now
advanced to the attack of Trescon. This was
resisted by the 65th Regiment and three batteries
until after two o'clock, when General du Bessol,
who had just arrived on the scene of action,
ordered the march on St.-Quentin to be resumed.
The XXIIIrd had also halted and detached a
brigade against the left flank of the 15th Division.
This, however, on retujhing Cauvigny Farm, came
upon the German battalions, which, after protracted
firing, pursued the retreating enemy and entered
Caulaincourt at half-past three, making 100
prisoners and capturing fourteen provision-
Meanwhile Count von der Groeben had hastened
forward at the sound of firing. The General
realized that he could help most efficaciously by
marching straight on Vermand. Four battalions
Advance on St.-Quentin. 155
inarched on PcEuilly, which was occupied by the
enemy, and when the 4th Grenadiei-s came up to
the assault the French retreated, losing some
prisoners. Many Gardes-Mobiles were dispersed by
the Uhlans. But at Vermand the whole of the
XXIIIrd Corps had begrm its march.
Count von der Groeben therefore posted his
troops behind the Poeuilly ground, thereby occa-
sioning the retiring troops to immediately front
whenever pressed. The 15th Division had taken
up quarters at Beauvois and Caulaincourt.
The sole aim which the French Generals ap-
pear to have had in view on that day was to reach
St.-Quentin. They neglected the opportunity of
^alUfiig with their two Corps upon the single
15th Division. The XXIIIrd Corps passed
the night in and westward of St.-Quentin, and
likewise the XXIInd, after crossing the Somme
at S^rancourt, south of that town. A further
advance either on Paris or on the German line
of communications depended, now that the Ger-
mans were so close upon them, on the issue of a
battle; and this. General Faidherbe wished to
await at St.-Quentin.
It was important that he should make a stand
there, in case the Paris Army succeeded in break-
ing through the blockade. The ground offered
certain advantages — the heights in front of the
156 The Franco-German War.
town facilitated firing and oflFered covered shelter
to the reserves. Although the Somme divided the
army in two halves, the Bridge of St.-Quentin
secured to both mutual aid. The enemy also
occupied two sides of the river, and including the
now newly-joined Isnard and Pauly Brigades, they
counted 40,000 men, against an enemy numerically
weaker. The Germans, all counted, numbered
32,580 combatants, nearly 6000 being cavalry.
Battle of St.-Quentin.
General von Goeben had ordered the general
attack for the 19th.
General von Barnekow advanced along the
southern bank of the Somme (during the occupa-
tion of Serancourt) with the 16th, and the 3rd
Reserve Division from Jussy on Essigny; the
12th Cavalry Division advanced on the road which
led to La-Fere.
The French columns were still marching to take
up their position so as to have the town on their
rear ; and they already occupied Grugies. While
the 32nd Brigade marched north to Essigny —
the Reserve Division halting behind the place —
the 31st Brigade started at a quarter to ten for
Battle of St,-Quentin. 157
This attack was flanked by the French brigade
under Gislain, which had meanwhile occupied the
positions of Contescourt and Castres. Its front
was met by the brigades imder FoersterandPitti^.
The fire of the approaching German batteries
was at once returned vigorously from Le-Moulin-
de-Tout-Vent. At eleven o'clock the second bat-
talion of the 69th Regiment formed into company
columns, to cross the entirely open ground towards
the heights between them and Grugies ; but the
attempt, which was renewed four times, was
frustrated by the annihilating cross-fire of the
enemy. The isolated battalion was nearly ex-
hausted, and only on being joined by six fresh
companies of the 29th Regiment did it succeed in
forcing the French back, after a desperate hand-to-
hand fight; but the latter made a stand before
Grugies and its sugar-factory.
On the right wing, the 12th Cavalry Division
had preceded the others on the La-Fere road.
The French brigade under Aynes, which had
hitherto been held in reserve, pushed forward at
the double to meet it, and as Count zur Lippe
could dispose of but one battalion of infantry, the
movement was arrested at Comet-d'Or. But
when, at noon, they were joined by reinforce-
ments from Tergnier, the Saxon Rifles stormed the
park on the high-road, and the Schleswig-Holstein
158 The Franxo-German War.
Fusiliers stormed La-Neuville. The French, after
losing many prisoners, were vigorously pursued
back to the outskirts of St.-Quentin, the first place
which afforded them shelter.
Meantime, the Slst Brigade was engaged in a
hot fire on both sides of the railway-line before
Grugies; behind its right wing was posted the
32nd, in the valley near the high-road, where it
suffered severely from the enemy's shrapnel. On
the left, the advancing detachment had not suc-
ceeded in entering Contescourt ; and now the
French at Grugies made so determined and over-
whelming an attack, that the 16th Division had to
be withdrawn as far as Essigny.
When, after twelve o'clock, General Faidherbe
joined the XXIIIrd Corps, he had every reason
to hope that the XXIInd Corps would be able
to maintain its position. But certainly the
most important result was to be looked for on
the northern portion of the battle-field.
Here Robin's Division had taken up a posi-
tion between Fayet and Francilly. The brigade
under Isnard had joined it on the left, the brigade
under Lagrange of Payen's Division extended
its line as far as the Somme. At Gricourt the
Michelet Brigade remained behind in reserve, and
the brigade under Pauly secured the commimica-
tions in rear.
Battle of St.-Quentin, 159
As early as eight o'clock General Count von der
Groeben (on the Gennan left) set out on the Roman
road from Poeuilly with eight battalions and
twenty-eight guns; on the left the cavalry
brigade accompanied the march.
The East-Prussians immediately drove the
French out of Holnon and Sdlency, and then
advanced against Fayet and up the heights of
Moulin-Coutte. A gun that was being served,
ammunition-waggons, and many prisoners were
then taken from the enemy.
By degrees the twenty-eight guns all reached the
mill on the height and opened a duel with the
artillery of Robin's Division. But after half an
hour the ammunition failed, for the waggons
which had been sent on the previous day to the
Vlllth Corps had not yet come up to the relief.
The batteries, which were, moreover, suffering
from the fire of the infantry, had to retire on
Holnon, and as Francilly was still occupied by the
enemy in flank and rear, a further advance was
On the right. General von Kummer with the
15th Division had already begun the march from
Beauvois, and had reached Etreillers at ten. The
King's Hussars, after driving back the enemy's
horse, drew up near to L'Epine-de-Dallon, and the
29th Brigade entered Savy. North of that place
i6o The Franco-German War.
three batteries opened fire against the artillery of
Payen's Division, and then the 65th Regiment
advanced to the attack of the surrounding woods.
The smaller one to the south was taken, but here,
as at Francilly, the Isnard Brigade established itself
in the larger one to the north.
At noon the brigade under Lagrange advanced
on the small wood and soon entered it, but was
again driven back by the 65th.
The 33rd Regiment was posted in readiness to
secure the threatened right flank of the 29th
Brigade, and with those already under fire was
joined by two heavy batteries which had just
come with the Corps Artillery from Savy. At
the same time the 30th Brigade advanced from
Roupy on the right of the 29th.
Meanwhile, Colonel von Massow had, at one
o'clock, again assumed the offensive against! the
much more advanced enemy's left. Six companies
of the 44th Regiment advanced on Fayet, and open-
ing fire at the shortest range, drove the French
from the field. They were followed by twoj bat-
teries, which resumed action against the great
artillery position at Moulin-de-C^py.
General Paulze D'lvoy, who saw his communi-
cations with Cambrai in such imminent danger,
had already summoned the brigade under Michelet
from its reserve post, west of the town, and^ thus
Battle of St.-Quentin. i6i
reinforced now advanced on Fayet. Those
Prussian detachments that were in the place had
to be withdrawn to Moulin-Coutte ; but the further
advance of the enemy towards this height was met
by a flank attack on Selency, and at the same time
the farm of Bois-des-Roses was carried. The
French again withdrew on Fayet.
There, at Francilly, and in the northern stretch
of wood, they held their own until half-past one,
while at that time, on the German side, the three
brigades had been brought up into the fighting-
line. The Army Reserve had, indeed, advanced
from Ham on Roupy, but General von Goeben,
who had from that spot observed the slow pro-
gress of the 16th Division, had already sent this
Reserve through Sdrancourt to its relief at eleven
Colonel von Boecking, Avith his three battalions,
three squadrons, and two batteries, advanced from
there against Contescourt. Hastening forward
with the cavalry, he brought his artillery into
action ; the 41st Regiment, upon its arrival, im-
mediately moved forward to the attack. In
communication with the battalion of the 19th
Regiment which was already on the spot, the
French were at one o'clock driven out of that
place and out of Castres, with the loss of many
prisoners, towards the heights of Grugies. Against
VOL. n. M
1 62 The Franco-German War.
these heights the fire of the artillery was now
directed, having gradually been increased to thirty
So as to yet further dispute the position^
General Lecomte reinforced Gislain's Brigade by
several battalions withdrawn from the brigades of
Pittie and Ajmes.
The East-Prussian Regiment succeeded, never-
theless, by half-past two o'clock, although itself
attacked on all sides, in hurling back the enemy
into the hollow in front of Grugies.
Colonel von Boecking's vigorous attack was con-
spicuous along the whole line.
With a view to again undertaking a general
advance. General von Bamekow now ordered up
his last reserves from Essigny, when towards three
o'clock Pitti^'s Brigade unexpectedly pressed for-
ward along the line of railway. With his right
under the fire of the artillery posted at Castres, he
allowed his left to be surprised by the charge of
five squadrons of the reserve cavalry at XJrvilliers,
Simultaneously Colonel von Hartzberg now ad-
vanced with the 32nd Brigade, and drove the
enemy back to Moulin-de-Tout-Vent.
But Foerster's Brigade,''south of Grugies, had
held out stubbornly, although now seriously
threatened on the left from GiflFecourt, as well as
by the 12th Cavalry Division. With the retreat
Battle of St.-Quentin. 163
of Pitti^'s Brigade now completely exposing
their left flank, and their last troops exhausted by
a long struggle, the French found themselves
finally forced to vacate their hard-contested posi-
The 31st Brigade advanced along the railway-
line as far as the sugar-factory, and Colonel
von Boecking drove the last French detachments
out of Grugies. He then opened his attack upon
Moulin-de-Tout-Vent with his artilleiy. Up
these heights the 41st Battalion, ordered up from
Essigny, and the 32nd Brigade advanced in a com-
bined attack. The French did not hold out
much longer, and were soon in retreat. The entire
German front, with the 12th Cavahy Division on
its right, moved forward on to the town, which
now also suffered from the fire of the artillery
posted at Gauchy. The cavalry repeatedly broke
through the retreating portions of the enemy's
force; and the railway-station and suburb, in
which was found the rear-guard only of the XXth
French Corps, fell after a short struggle.
Whilst on the southern portion of the field of
battle the action took this turn, the attack on
the northern side had also been renewed.
Already by two o'clock the 28th Regiment from
Roupy had carried the farm-house of I'Epine-de-
Dallon, on the Ham road ; and almost simulta-
1 64 The Franco-German War.
neously Count von der Groeben's infantry came
up to resume the offensive.
Whilst on the right some companies of the 4th
and 44th Regiments opposed the debouching of
the French out of the extensive woods, Major von
Elpons, with six companies of the Crown Prince
Grenadiers, advanced from Hobion and Selency
upon Francilly, and, notwithstanding the hot fire
of the defenders, forced an entrance into this most
straggling village, in which many prisoners were
made. As, however, the East-Prussian Regiment
advanced yet further south of the Roman road, it
had in its turn to sustain a formidable attack.
To cover their threatened line of retreat,
Michelet's Brigade from Foyet once more advanced,
and Pauly's Brigade also marched upon Moulin-
Coutte. This position, which ha4 in the mean-
time been strengthened by artillery, was, however,
obstinately contested by the 44th Regiment, and
when the Grenadier companies poured in from the
left of the Roman road, the enemy's attack was
here again repulsed.
Meanwhile the 29th Brigade, followed by the
30th, had begun to move on St.-Quentin, having
the 33rd Regiment on its right and the 65th
Regiment on the left. The latter regiment now
took complete possession of the more extensive
of the woods, and forty-eight guns were driven
Battle of St.-Quentin. 165
up on both sides of the road from Savy. The
farther advance of the infantry was effected in
company column and in extended order, for the
troops were suffering severely from the heavy
grenade fire brought to bear upon them by
the French. However, the Lagrange and Isnard
Brigades did not await the assault, but at four
o'clock retired on St.-Quentin with the loss of
The French artillery once more came into
action at Rocourt, but at five o'clock had quickly
to abandon the position, and the French now
confined themselves to the defence of the barri-
caded entrances into the suburbs of St.-Martin.
Six Prussian batteries were brought up against
these, and the 29th Brigade was for some time
engaged under a hot fire of the strongly-manned
buildings and gardens ; whereupon several com-
panies from Rocourt established themselves in the
suburb, in which street-fighting was still continued,
even when Lieutenant-Colonel von Hiillessem had
succeeded in crossing the bridge over the canal,
and entered the town itself.
By four o'clock. General Faidherbe had already
concluded that the XXIIIrd Corps would in all
probability be unable to hold its position.
Under these circumstances his choice was limited
between a night retreat, or throwing himself
1 66 The Franco-German War.
into St.-Quentin. He had not yet come to any
decision, when he met in the town General
Lecointe, who reported that he had abandoned the
defence of the left bank of the Somme. Thanks
to the resistance still offered by the XXIIIrd
Corps on the north, the XXIInd was enabled to
retire unmolested on Le-Cateau.
The officer in supreme command now ordered
General Paulze d'lvoy to retire on that place, but
the latter only received the order at six in the
evening, when the brigades on the right mng —
Pauly's and Michelet's — ^had already been routed in
the direction of Cambrai. The more obstinately the
two remaining brigades now defended the suburb
of St.-Martin, the more critical for them must
prove the result of the action. Attacked in rear
by the battalion under Colonel von Boecking, the
greater portion were made prisoners. The 41st
Regiment alone took 64 officers and 2260 men
prisoners, besides capturing 4 guns. General
Faidherbe only escaped a similar fate through
the instrumentality of the inhabitants.
The action only ceased at half-past six that even-
ing, and the troops passed the night in the town
and in the captured villages.
. The hard-won victory had cost the Germans
96 officers and 2304 men ; 3000 wounded French-
men were fotmd on the scene of action, and
Battle of St.-Quentin. 167
the number of unwounded prisoners exceeded
According to theory, pursuit should invariably
follow on a victory — a law recognized by all, and
particularly acquiesced in by novices ; and yet, in
practice it is seldom observed. Military history
points to few examples, such as the well-known
one of La-Belle-Alliance. It requires a very
strong and pitiless will to impose fresh exertions
and dangers upon a body of troops who have
marched, fought and fasted for ten or twelve hours,
instead of the longed-for rest and food. But
given the existence of this supposed will, pursuit
will yet depend on the circumstances under which
the victory has been obtained. It will be difficult
of execution when all the units on the field of battle,
as at Koniggratz, have become so intermixed that it
requires hours to again re-form them into tactical
bodies ; or when, as at St.-Quentin, all, even the troops
last committed to action, have become so entangled
that not one single tactically complete infantry
force is available. Without the support of such a
body, cavalry at night will be delayed by ever\'
obstacle and every small post of the enemy, and
by itself can seldom fulfil the task.
General von Goeben did not pursue the enemy
till the following day. His advanced cavalry fought
up to the suburbs of Cambrai and the glacis of
1 68 The Franco-German War.
Landrecies, without meeting with any resistance,
and they brought in merely some hundred
stragglers. The Infantry Divisions pursued within
one mile (three English) of Cambrai. Against
this fortress nothing could be undertaken through
want of siege materiel, and there was no mUitary
advantage to be derived in extending further
north. Among the news to hand, it transpired that
a considerable portion of the French Northern
Army had retired upon Lille, Douai and Valen-
ciennes. As fresh enterprises were consequently
not to be expected, General von Goeben brought
his force back to the Somme, where towards the
end of the month they entered upon their winter
quarters, between Amiens and St.-Quentin.
On the Lower Seine, the Grand Duke of Meck-
lenburg had entered Rouen with the Xlllth
Corps on the 25th, after having encountered on
the march only a few Franctireurs. Although
General Loysel had increased his force to nearly
30,000 through the reinforcements from Cherbourg,
he had remained entirely inactive.
General von Goeben had in view the transfer to
the Army of the Somme of that portion of the 1st
Corps still before Rouen ; but this was disapproved
of by telegram from head-quarters, who, on political
groimds, ordered its further retention there.
Operations at the South-Eastern Seat of
War up to 17th of January.
Investment of Belfort. — ^At the south-eastern
seat of war, the forces detailed to operate against
Belfort had only been gradually brought together
under cover of the XlVth Anny Corps.
The town is surrounded by a bastioned enceinte.
The citadel, standing upon high rocks, has the
advantage of a great command, and for more effec-
tive fire its surrounding works are terraced. On
the left bank of the Savoureuse, newly erected
lines of works protected the suburb and rail-
way station. On the adjacent heights to the
north-east, the forts of La-Miotte and La-Justice,
connected to the main work by continuous lines,
enclosed a spacious intrenched camp. The
two forts of Les-Perches might certainly have
threatened the safety of the site, approaching the
citadel as they do on the south, to within only
1000 metres, from whence the works on the left
bank of the river come under the direct fire of its
guns. But here two waUed forts had been erected
before the advent of the enemy, and besides these
the adjoining woods and positions, as for instance
Perouse and Danjoutin, had been intrenched ; nor
was the fortress deficient in bomb-proof places. It
was armed with 341 heavy guns, and provisioned
170 The Franxo-German War.
for five months. As immediately after the open-
ing of the campaign the Vllth French Corps had
vacated Alsace, only about 5000 Gardes-Mobiles
remained behind in Belfort, whose garrison, how-
ever, increased by the National Guard, now ex-
The far-seeing Commandant, Colonel Denfert,
exerted all his resources mainly in the occupation
in force of the zone in his immediate front. The
advanced detachments were every day assigned fresh
operations, which the artillery of the fortress had
to support at extreme ranges.
Opposed to him, General von Tresckow could, in
the first place, only dispose of twenty weak
Landwehr battalions, five squadrons and six field-
batteries, making an aggregate of barely 15,000.
At first, he had to confine himself to a mere invest-
ment. The troops intrenched themselves in the
distantly radiating villages, and were called upon
to repel many sorties.
Orders had been received from army head-
quarters to undertake the regular investment of
the fortress. To General von Mertens was en-
trusted the direction of the engineer duties, and to
Lieut.-Col. Scheliha, the command of the artillery.
The difficulties of the undertaking were apparent.
The rocky nature of the soil could not but in-
crease the laboui' of throAving up earthworks, and
Siege of Belfort. 171
the cold season was approaching. The assault
could only be delivered successfully on the south
of the main work — ^the formidable citadel. At
this period only fifty heavy gims were available,
and the infantry was not even strong enough to
efficiently invest the place on all sides.
Under these circumstances, it was left to the
discretion of General von Tresckow to attempt
the possibility of reducing Belfort by mere
bombardment. Towards this purpose the attack
was chiefly directed on the western side, in which
quarter, after the enemy's garrison had been driven
out of Valdoye, the infantry occupied Essert
and BaviUiers, as well as the adjacent wooded
On December 2nd, seven batteries were con-
structed on the plateau between these two
villages, by 3000 men, under cover of two bat-
talions. The hard-frozen ground added to the
difficulties of the task ; yet, notwithstanding the
moonlight night, these operations would appear to
have escaped the attention of the besieged. When
on the following morning the sun had dispersed
the fog and lit up the fortress, fire was opened
The fortress replied at first but feebly, but after-
wards with increasing vigour, from the entire
line of works, up to within 4000 metres of the
172 The Franxo-German War.
forts of La-Miotte and La-Justice, and the losses
in the trenches were considerable.
Nevertheless, four fresh batteries were con-
structed in advance of BaviUiers, and on the fall
of La-Tuilerie the infantry pressed on until
within 150 metres of the enemy's most advanced
They succeeded also in causing a conflagration
within the town ; but the ammunition was soon
exhausted, whilst from the high citadel an effective
fire was \mceasingly kept up, and there were con-
stantly renewed sorties on the part of the garrison
to be repelled. It was now clear, after all previous
attempts had failed, that no assault could prove
successful unless systematically carried out.
Colonel von Ostrowski, to the south, had, on
December 13th, carried the French positions of
Adelnans and the wooded heights of Le-Bosmont
and La-Brosse. To the east of the latter place
two batteries, and on the northern skirt four
additional batteries had been thrown up, not
without great difficulty arising from thaw having
bogged the soil. On January 7th fifty guns opened
The superiority of the artillery of the attack
was soon manifest. Fort Bellevue suffered
severely, and the fire from Basses-Perches was
entirely silenced. But more important than all,
Siege of Belfort. 173
the village of Danjoutin, strongly garrisoned and
intrenched by the enemy, opposed all further
advance. During the night of the 8th January,
seven companies attacked this position on the
northern side, at the same time occupying the
railway-embankment. With empty rifles, the
Landwehr posted themselves against the hot fire
of the French, and broke into the streets up to the
church itself. The supports hastening from the
fort were driven back at the railway-embankment,
but the fight went on around the buildings in the
southern quarter of the village till towards noon.
Of the defenders, twenty officers and 700 men were
Typhus and small-pox had broken out in Bel-
fort ; but with the besieging force also the num-
ber of the sick reached a considerable figure,
caused by arduous work undertaken in in-
As a rule, the battalions could only muster 600
strong, and this led General von Tresckow to devote
half the nimiber to securing the investment from
without, principally on the south.
Trustworthy intelligence estimated the French
strength at Be8an9on at 62,000. Although
hitherto entirely inactive, they now evinced a
strong desire to press on to the relief of the hard-
pressed fortress, by the line of the Doubs.
174 The Franco-German War.
The fortified castle of Montb^liard was held by
one battalion, and armed with heavy guns. Be-
tween the Doubs and the Swiss frontier, at Delle,
General Debschitz had taken up a position with
eight battalions, two squadrons, and two batteries,
and General von Werder concentrated the XlVth
Corps at Noroy, Aillevans, and Athdsans, to oppose
in strength any movement on the part of the
From January 5th onwards there were fought
before Vesoul a series of engagements, in which
the besiegers advanced from the south and west
up to within a distance of one mile of that to'vvn.
There could be no doubt that very considerable
forces were engaged in these operations. East of
the Ognon, the enemy's posts were advanced as far
as Rougemont, although in lesser force. In these
actions 500 were taken prisoners ; and it was at
once evident that besides the XVIIIth, also the
XXIVth and XXth Corps formed part of Bour-
baki's army ; and this circumstance suddenly threw
a new light upon a totally changed phase of the
Transfer of the French Eastern Army to the
South-Eastern Seat of War, towards the
END OF December.
As had been foreseen at army head-quarters
Freycinet's Tactics. 175
at Versailles, an attempt had been made to bring
about a combined action between the forces
of Chanzy and Bourbaki. As we have already-
seen, the advance of the former (Chanzy) was met
by Prince Frederick Charles, already on the Loir,
and Bourbaki had prepared his advance by Mon-
targis to the relief of Paris. But he delayed its
execution until the 19th December, when the Ilnd
German Army had already returned to Orleans,
from its expedition to Le-Mans. General Bourbaki
then perceived the fact that the Ilnd Army would,
upon his further advance, fall on his flank, and he
the more readily fell in with another plan, devised
by Monsieur de Freycinet, and favoured by the
This was for the XVth Corps to remain at
Bourges and to secure that place by intrenched
positions at Vierzon and Nevers ; the XVIIIth and
XXth were to proceed to Beaune by railway, and,
in conjunction with Garibaldi and Cremer, 70,000
strong, to occupy Dijon. The newly-formed
XXrV'th Corps was also to be moved by railway
from Lyons to Besan9on, where, in combination
with the forces already there, it would attain a
strength of 50,000. Co-operating then with the
" victorieux de Dijon," it would be easy to raise
the siege of Belfort, "mSme sans coup f^rir."
It was considered that the mere presence in that
176 The Franco-German War.
place of this large force, greatly exceeding, as it
did, 100,000, would preclude any attacks upon the
Northern forts ; in any case, there was the cer-
tainty of cutting through the enemy's various lines
of communication, and later on, the prospect of a
combined action mth Faidherbe.
The movements by rail from the Loire to the
Sa6ne had already commenced by December 23rd.
In the absence of all preparations, many inter-
ruptions in the traffic naturally occurred, and the
troops suffered severely from the intense cold and
from want of necessary comforts. After Chagny
and Chalons-sur-Seine had been reached, and it
was ascertained that the Germans had already
evacuated Dijon, it was decided to again embark
the troops so as to bring them nearer to Besan9on,
whence arose a fresh delay ; and it was only in
the beginning of the new year that the Eastern
Army was in readiness, between Dijon and Besan-
9on. The XVth Corps was also ordered up, but
it took fourteen days to get so far.
The comprehensive plan of Freycinet, and his
sanguine expectations, had been favoured by the
circumstance that the transfer of a large contingent
of the army to a distant place in the seat of war
had been kept from the knowledge of the Hnd
Army, as well as from that of the XlVth Corps
and army head-quarters, for a fortnight. Ru-
New Phase of the War. 177
mours and newspaper articles had no doubt
somewhat before this given intimations, but Gene-
ral von Werder's telegram of January 5th was
the first really authentic announcement by which
it was known beyond doubt that the Germans
now stood face to face with a changed aspect of
the situation. In Versailles arrangements were at
once made and steps taken for the formation of a
new Southern Army.
There was available for this purpose the Ilnd
Corps at Auxerre, under General von Zastrow, which
during this period of uncertainty had constantly
operated between the Saone and Yonne, according
as the one or the other appeared to be threatened.
The supreme command of these two Corps, to which
was afterwards added the XlVth, was entrusted to
General von Manteuffel. General von Werder
could not be immediately reinforced, and for a
time the XlVth Corps was thrown upon its own
Notwithstanding their advantage, the French
did more man*uvring than fighting. General
Bourbaki aimed at surrounding the left wing of
the XlVth Corps, and thus entirely cutting it off
On January 5th the XVIIIth Corps had ad-
vanced by Grandvelle, and the XXth by Echenoz-
le-Sec, on Vesoul; but, as we have seen, they
VOL. II. N
178 The Franco-German War.
had there met with opposition, and as the
Corps diverging to the right to Esprels heard
that ViUersexel was occupied by the Germans, the
Commander determined upon a still more easterly
and circuitous route. On the 8th the two Corps of
the left wing marched off to the right, the X Vlllth
to Montbozon, the XXth to Rougemont; the
XXIVth went back on Cuse. At the same time
General Cramer received orders to move from
Dijon on Vesoul. On the 9th, therefore, the
XXIVth and XXth Corps lay near Villechevreux
and Villargent on the Arcey- ViUersexel road,
whilst the head of the XVIIIth Corps reached
that latter place and Esprels.
General von Werder had no alternative but
to follow this flank movement in all haste.
He ordered the Baden Division to Ath(5sans, the
4th Reserve Division to AiUevans, and Von der
Goltz's Brigade to Noroy-le-Bourg^ The Trains
were marched on Lure.
Action of Villersexel.
On January 9th, at seven in the morning, the
Reserve Division was sent from Noroy on to
Aillevans, and commenced bridging the Ognon, to
admit of the continuation of the march. A flaliik-
. Action of Villersexel. 179
ing part of the 25th Regiment, sent to operate
on the right, was fired on at Villersexel, and the
attempt to carry the stone bridge at that place
failed shortly after. The French had occupied,
with two and a half battalions, the town, situated
on a height, on the further bank of the river.
Shortly afterwards reinforcements came up on the
German side. Two batteries opened fire upon
the place and upon the still advancing enemy.
The 25th Regiment crossed the river and broke
into the walled-in park and into the castle. At
one o'clock the French were driven out of the
town, with the loss of many prisoners, and a
cessation of hostilities ensued.
The Prussian contingent had been seriously
threatened in flank by the advance from Espreb of
the 1st Division and the reserve artillery of the
French XVIIIth Corps. General von der Goltz,
however, opposed them by occupying the village of
He also sent to Villersexel nine companies of
the 30th Regiment, to the relief of the 25th Regi-
ment, so as to allow the latter to rejoin its own
jiivision in the forward march. His combined
brigade was eventually to form the rear-guard to
the entire column.
General von Werder, who observed the con«
siderable force in which the French moved on
i8o The Franco-German War.
Villersexel from the south, had concluded that
there was less to be gained by forcing his own passage
across the Ognon than by opposing that of the
French, who saw in it facilities for a nearer
approach to Belfort. He therefore recalled the
infantry already issuing from the southern quarter
of the town, and sent it with the batteries to the
northern side of the river. Here the main body
of the 4th Reserve Division took up a defensive
position, and the Baden Di\dsion was stopped in
its march at Arpenans ahd Lure, to come to the
reinforcement it now stood greatly in need of.
It was already evening when large columns of
the French advanced on Villersexel and shelled
the town with their artillery.
Favoured by the darkness, the French found their
way into the park and castle, from which the
German garrison had already been withdrawn ; and
as the general condition of things did not seem to
necessitate the occupation of Villersexel, the com-
manding officer ordered the evacuation of the
place. Though hard pressed by the enemy,
this move had been nearly completed, when orders
arrived from General von Werder to hold the town.
At once four battalions from the Reserve Divi-
sion advanced to the renewed attack. The 25th
Regiment turned about at the bridge over the
Ognon and joined them. The Landwehr rushed
German Defeat at Villersexel. i8i
into the lower floor of the large castle, but the
French defended the upper floors and the cellar.
On the stairs and in the passages of the already
burning buildings there ensued a hot and change-
ful combat, and the fight was maintained in
the streets. Not till the General in command
was left to his own free will, and ordered a
cessation, were dispositions made at one o'clock in
the morning for gradual retirement, which was
completed by three. The Reserve Division then
recrossed the bridge at Aillevans, and occupied
St.-Sulpice on its right.
General von der Goltz had contested Moimay
Of the XrVth Corps only 15,000 had been
engaged, of whom 26 officers and 553 men were
killed. The French losses included 27 officers
and 627 men ; but they left, behind in the hands
of the Germans 700 unwounded prisoners. Those
who chiefly took part in these operations were
the XVIIIth and XXth Corps; the XXIVth
Corps, on account of the fighting behind it, had
discontinued its march from Arcey to Sevenans.
Detachments of the gradually incoming XVth
Corps moved from the south in the direction of
On the morning of January 10th, General
von Werder massed his Corps in the vicinity
i82 The Franco-German War.
of Aillevans, ready to engage the enemy should
the latter attempt an advance on Viller-
sexel. But an attack was not made, and thus
the march was resumed that same morning. As
a matter of fact, the French in three Corps were
as near to Belfort as the Germans were with three
Divisions. To cover the retreat, the Reserve Di\i-
sion took up a position at Athesans, and on the
following day all the Commands had reached and
occupied the Lisaine line. On the right, by Frahier
and Chalonvillars, stood the Baden Division; in
the centre, the Reser\'e Brigade, between Chagey
and Couthenans ; on the left, the Reserve Di\dsion,
at H^ricourt and Tavey. On the south. General
von Debschitz watched from Delle, and Colonel von
Bredow from Arcey ; and to the west, at Lure, was
Colonel von Willisen, ^Wth the detachment from
Vesoul of eight comj^anies, thirteen squadrons,
It would, in fact, have been possible to pass
between the enemy and Belfort.
The French leader had, under the intoxicating
impression of a victory, resigned himself to in-
activity. " Le General Billot," he reported to the
Government at Bordeaux, "a occupe Esprels et
sy est maintenu." We know that he was
never attacked there at all, and that he did
not succeed in driving away General von der Goltz
Advance on the Lisaine. 183
from the vicinity of Moimay. "Le General
Clinchant a enleve avec un entrain remarquable
Villersexel ;" but the fight of the 9th was, as regards
the Germans, maintained with only a portion of
the XlVth Corps, to secure the right flank in the
march of the main body. Whilst, then, these
moves were zealously continued, the French anny
remained stationary for two days, ready for action
and with the confident expectation that the enemy,
described as beaten, would return to the attack.
Only on the 13th did the XXIVth Corps ad-
vance on Arcey, the XXth on Saulnot, and the
XVIIIth follow up to Sevenans. The XVth was
to support an attack on Arcey by Ste.-Marie.
General von Werder had utilized this interval,
and preceded the troops to test the possibility of
taking up a position on the Lisaine, and to take
counsel with General von Tresckow.
An inspection showed that at Frahier the
Lisaine becomes an unimportant streamlet, flow-
ing through a broad grassy hollow, and thence
to Chagey through steep wooded slopes. At
H^ricourt the valley opens out into a wide plain,
which is however commanded by the rocky heights
of Mont-Vaudois. Lower down the wooded
heights follow the river as far as Montbeliard,
which forms a strong base where the line closes by
;i84 The Franco-German War.
The wooded nature of the plain, west of the
Lisaine, would necessarily increase the assailants'
difficulties in deploying large masses, and with a
long artillery column. It is true that during the
prevailing severe cold the river was everywhere
frozen over ; hut only two high roads ran in the
direction by which the French army in the
valley were marching down the stream on Mont-
beliard and on Hericourt. The other ways down
were narrow, hollow roads, rendered difficult by
General von Tresckow had already occupied the
most important position with siege guns, the Castle
of Montbeliard with six, and the neighbouring
height of La-Grange-Dame with five heavy guns.
Seven of them were placed on Mont-Vaudois and
near Hericourt; besides these, twenty-one others
commanded the valley of the Allaine as far as
Delle, on the south.
All the troops that could be spared from the
investing force were withdrawn from before Belfort.
Still there remained the important consideration
that the available forces might not suffice to entirely
cover the whole of the Lisaine hne. The right
wing was the locally weakest portion of the whole
position, but here there was the least danger of the
enemy's main attack, for the many needs of the
nimierous but inadequately equipped French army
The Line of the Lisaine. 185
made the nearest possible vicinity of one of the
raiboads a necessity. The Vesoul line, over Lui'e,
was broken in many places, and the Besan9on line
led to the strong left wing. The country north of
Chagey might therefore be held by weaker forces,
and a reserve was formed out of the largest part of
the Baden Division, which was distributed in rear
of centre and left between Mandre\dllars, Br6villiers
The respite accorded by the enemy was turned
to account with th§ utmost eagerness for the dig-
ging of rifle-pits, the building of batteries, the
restoring of telegraph and relay lines, the improve-
ment of roads and the providing of victuals and
January IMh. — On the morning of the 13th the
posting of the 3rd Reser\^e Division was begun at
Arcey, Ste.-Marie and Gonvillars. They were
instructed to withdraw before a superior force, but
to hold their o^vn long enough to entail the de-
ployment of the French columns. The duel with
the widely dispersed French artillery was there-
fore prolonged for some time ; then, after a three
hours' obstinate resistance, a new position was taken
up behind the stream of the Rupt, and the retreat
on Tavey delayed imtil four in the afternoon.
The advanced guard of General von der Goltz,
after a whole brigade had deployed against it,
i86 The Franco-German War.
also took up a position on the same level, at
Alon": the Allaine line the French had not sue-
ceeded in driving General von Debschitz's detaxjh-
jnents out of Dasle and Croix.
January \U1i. — On the 14th, General von
Willisen, with fifty dismounted Dragoons, drove
back the enemy who were advancing on Lure,
and then retired with his detachment on Ron-
The French army did not, even on that day,
undertake a serious attack. It lay massed ^vith the
XVth, XXIVtli, and XXth Corps, and hardly a
mile (German) from the German left and centre.
The right was supposed by General Bourbaki to
rest upon Mont-Vaudois. His plan was to cross
the Lisaine above this place in force, and to facili-
tate the front attack by surrounding the enemy.
The XVIIIth Army Corps and the Division under
Cremer were told off for this purpose. The draw-
back to this judicious ari'angement was that the
two above-mentioned detachments, destined by the
officer in supreme command to open the fight on
the 14th, had to advance by the longest line of
march. On this day the leading troops of the
XVIIIth Army Corps barely succeeded in reach-
ing Lomont, by difficult hill and woodland passes,
and the Cremer Brigade had only then begun to
Advance on Belfort. 187
advance from Vesoul. A postponement to the
15th was thereupon detennined.
On the German side, a general attack of the
superior enemy was hourly expected, and General
von Werder felt himself bound to telegraph the
extreme seriousness of his position to Versailles.
The rivers, being frozen, were passable, and the
duty of covering Belfort curtailed the liberty of
his movements and endangered the existence of
his corps. He earnestly prayed that a decision
might be arrived at as to whether Belfort was still
to be held.
At the army head-quarters it was considered
that any further withdrawal of the XVth Army
Corps would have the immediate effect of raising
the siege and causing the loss of the considerable
materiel which had been provided for it ; that it
was impossible to foresee where such a line of
action would end ; and that it could but delay the
co-operation of the amiy advancing by forced
marches under General von Manteuffel. At three
o'clock p.m. on the 15th of January a positive
order was conveyed to General von Werder to
accept battle in front of Belfort. He was, as
was only fair, relieved of the moral responsibility
of the consequences of a possibly disastrous issue.
But before this order could reach him, the General
had already decided on its execution.
i88 The Franco-German War.
Battle of the Lisaine.
(January 15th to 17th.)
January 15th. — On the morning of the 15th of
January, the French XVth Army Corps, ^ith two
Divisions augmented by artillery, advanced on
Montb^liard, a third followed in reserve. The
East-Prussian Landwehr battalions, which had
pushed fonvard as far as the farm of Mont-Chevis
and Ste.-Suzanne, held their position for a long
time, advanced to the attack of their own accord,
and drove the heads of the enemy's colxmms back
upon the stream of the Rupt. But when the latter,
during the afternoon, posted themselves in force
along the edge of the wood, they were at two
o'clock ordered back to the left bank of the Lisaine.
The neighbouring town of Montb^liard, entirely
commanded by the surrounding heights, was
voluntarily evacuated, and the fortified castle alone
held. But east of Montbc^liard General von Gliimer
with the 1st Baden Brigade took up a position, and
had four field-batteries besides siege guns brought
up to the plateau of La-Grange Dame.
Towards the close of the day the French, after
continuous but ineffectual bombardment from eight
batteries, took possession of the to^vn, but did not
make any further advance.
Neither had they succeeded in crossing the
Battle of the Lisaine. 189
Lisaine at B^thoncourt. An officerand sixty men,
who sought cover within a walled cemetery from
the sharp fire of the defenders, were taken pri-
Further to the north the French XXIVth Corps
continued to advance, but it was two o'clock
before their columns succeeded in deploying out of
the wood. Four battalions did, indeed, succeed in
entering and occupying the village of Bussurel,
situated on the western bank of the Lisaine, but
their further advance was frustrated by the fire of
the defenders posted behind the railway embank-
ment, and by that of the Baden battalions and
batteries drawn from the main reserve.
H^ricourt, but one mile from Belfort, on the
great high road of Besan9on, became a place of
importance in the German line. Here the enemy
on the hither side of the Lisaine was met by the
right wing of the 4th Reserve Division.
The little wooded height of Mougnot, which
forms a sort of bridge-head at the narrow gorge
through which the road passes, had been fortified
by abattis, batteries and rifle-pits, the town in the
rear prepared for defence, and the base of the
heights on either side studded with artillery.
Four East-Prussian Landwehr battalions were
joined on the right by the Reserve Brigade, which
held the slopes of Mont-Vaudois as far as Luze.
igo The Franco-German War.
At about ten o'clock the French artillery deployed
on the open heights close to the line of approach in
the neighbourhood of Tremoins. Upon their in-
fantry advancing on the left over Byans, the detach-
ment which till then had been left at Tavey went
back to H^ricourt in reserve, and the enemy's first
attack on Mougnot was repulsed by the garrison
and by the fire of sixty-one guns on the further
bank of the river. The attempt was not repeated
on that day, and the French confined themselves to
a sharp but inefiectual cannonade.
According to the instructions left behind by
General Bourbaki, the French were to await the
result of the great encircling movement which was
to be carried out by General Billot with the
XVIIIth and by the Cramer Divisions. As, how-
ever, these latter had not yet put in an appearance,
the main reserve had to be brought forward left of
Coisevaux to secure General Clinchant's flank.
The orders from head-quarters had only reached
the XVIIIth Corps at midnight. The latter had
moreover to effect a hea\y march over deeply
fenowed-up woodland paths. This entailed inter-
oommimications, not only between the wing-
columns of the 1st and 3rd Divisions, but even
with the Division under Cremer at Lyofians.
This Di\dsion had by dint of the greatest exer-
tion reached Lure during the night, and could not
. Battle of the Lisaine. 191
get beyond B^veme until nine in the morning. A
fresh delay was occasioned by the order to bring
up in front of the infantry the artillery (even the
reserve artillery, which brought up the rear), and
thus it happened that the XVIIIth Corps did not
succeed in deploying two of its Divisions against
Luze and Chagey till between 12 and 2 p.m.
The 1st Division occupied Couthenans with one
battalion, and brought up five batteries on the
decline behind the heights to the north of that
But the fire from the bank on the other side of
the river prevented their further ascent, and after
the lapse of a short time several of these detach-
ments had but two guns left fit for action, although
the Germans, with regard to the difficulty of pro-
curing fresh ammunition, had used it as sparingly
as possible. At three o'clock there was a pause in
the firing, which Avas resumed on the arrival of
reinforcements, when the artillery of the XXIVth
Corps took part in it. An infantry attack on a
larger scale was not yet attempted.
There was scarcely more purpose in the move-
ment of the 3rd Division against Chagey, which
was only occupied by a Baden battalion ; yet it
was here that the enveloping movement of the
German right wing by way of Mont-Vaudois was to
take place. The wood adjoining the first houses
192 The Franco-German War.
of the village and its steepness was the only diffi-
culty attached to the descent of the hill. Two
French battalions suddenly appeared from the
gorge that lay south of it and drove in the Baden
outposts ; the further attack was to be supported
from Couthenans on the south, but the infantr}' ad-
vancing from thence foimd itself forced to turn back
by the fire from the opposite bank. Only after a
renewed effort did the Zouaves succeed in entering
Chagey, where a hard fight began amid the houses.
Meanwhile two Baden battalions arrived, who, at
five o'clock, drove the enemy out of the villages
back into the wood. Fresh reinforcements hastened
to their support from the reserve near at hand, the
short winter's day was over, and during the night
the French attempted nothing further. The 2nd
Division of the French Corps had only arrived as
far as B4veme, the cavaby had not moved from
The Cramer Division had, despite its late arrival
at Lure, continued the march in the early morning.
After the above-mentioned halts and intercommu-
nications the 9th Brigade advanced on Etobon, and
there at noon an engagement took place with a
detachment of General von Degenfeld. When the
2nd Brigade came up, the first moved forward
through the Wood of Thure, to cross the Lisaine
above Chagey. The roads had first of all to be
Battle of the Lisaine. 193
partly made practicable by pioneers, which occa-
sioned considerable delay. The 2nd Brigade then
followed in the dark, leaving a reconnoitring party
behind at Etobon. A fresh collision with some
Baden contingents determined General Creamer to
extinguish all the watch-fires. His troops re-
mained under arms throughout the hard winter
On the German side, all who were not told off for
guard found shelter in the neighbouring villages,
only the pioneers were kept at work with their
pickaxes. The actions had cost both sides about
600 men, without bringing about any decisive
result ; but every day was a gain to the defenders.
General von Werder, on the heights north of
Hericourt, had received constant reports as to the
issue from the head-quarter Staff officers, who had
been posted in various places, by which the rein-
forcements from the reserves could be regulated.
Still the reserve ammunition was a cause of anxiety,
as a transport announced from Baden had not yet
General Bourbaki informed his Government that
he had taken Montb^liard (of course without the
castle), occupied the villages on the west bank of
the Lisaine, and that he would attack on the 16th.
He had learned from General Billot that the Ger-
man right wing extended far across Mont-Vaudois,
VOL. II. o
194 The Franco-German War.
whence he gathered that they had been consider-
ably remforced ; he esthnated the enemy at 80,000
to 100,000 men. Meanwhile he looked forward to
obtaining good results by extending the encircling
movement further to the west.
January IQtJi. — At half-past six on the morning
of the 16th the Germans once more got underarms
in the same positions as the previous day.
The French be^can the attack with their riorht
wing again. From the loopholed houses they fired
on the Landwehr company stationed at the Castle
of ^lontbdliard, causing some loss among the latter
as well as among the working gxmners. The
simimons to surrender was disregarded, and the
fire of the fort artillery used to such good purpose
against two batteries that had just appeared on the
neighbouring height, that these were obliged to
retire, leaving behind them two guns. Neither
could they advance from a new position they had
taken up at the farm of Mont-Chevis, where they
were reinforced by three batteries, for the fire from
La Grange-Dame, although they continued the
cannonade until dark. No attempt was made from
Montb<51iard to break the German line.
Further to the left the reinforced 1st Division of
the French XVth Corps advanced on Bethoncourt.
At one o'clock the fire of their artillery from Mont-
Chevis and Byans obliged a Baden battery to limber
Battle of the Lisaine. 195
up, and it was then brought to bear on the village.
Meanwhile large bodies had been massed in the
neighbouring forest, and at three o'clock advanced
out of it. General Gliimer had abeady sent rein-
forcements to the threatened spot. Two deter-
mined attempts to carry the place by rushes close
up to the position were frustrated by the annihilat-
ing artillery and rifle fire of the defenders. A third
attack with a whole brigade, at four o'clock, was
not even permitted to approach. The losses on the
French side were considerable, the snowy field was
strewn with the slain. Some unwounded prisoners
were also taken.
One Division of the XXIVth French Army
Corps had taken up a covered position in the woods
behind Byans, and as they had already occupied
Bussurel on the previous day, the German line of
defence in the rear of the railway embankment
appeared to be threatened from the immediate
vicinity. The General in command therefore sent
General Keller with two Baden fusilier battalions
and one heavy battery, from Br^villiers in this
direction. The latter joined the two battalions who
had been engaged on the slope of the hiU since
morning. The fire from five of the enemy's
batteries was soon silenced by the unerring
orenades of the German ffuns. At noon the
French artillery retired from Byans, leaving here
196 The Franco-German War.
also two guns, which cotdd only be brought away
later. The infantry, one Division strong, had only
threatened to break the line without proceeding to
carry it out.
The XXth Corps brought up two Divisions
against the H^ricourt — Luze line. A thick fog
covered the valley, and the early cannonade was at
first scarcely answered by the Germans. To obtain
some insight into the plans of the enemy, two com-
panies of the former had advanced on the height
west of St.-Valbert, surprising the opponents who
were advancing from Byans with so rapid a fire
that they turned back. But soon after, at half-
past nine, several battalions from Tavey attempted
to carry the Mougnot. Two attacks were frus-
trated by the steady resistance of the Landwehr
battalions, and a third attempt directed against the
southern defile of H^ricourt had no result. About
four o'clock the infantry again massed against the
Mougnot, but renouncing further attacks under the
fire from Mont Salamou, confined themselves till
evening to an ineffectual cannonade.
At Chagey two Divisions of the XVIIIth Corps
foimd themselves face to face with the Germans.
They did not attempt anything.
The slackness with which, on January 16th, the
action against the whole front from Montb^liard
to Chagey was conducted, points to the conclusion
Battle of the Lisaine. 197
that the French were everywhere awaiting the
issue of the plan of encircling the German right
This task now devolved on General Cramer.
The 2nd Division of the XVIIIth Corps joined him
Two Divisions advanced thence on . Chenebier,
where General von Degenfeld was with two bat-
talions, two batteries, and one squadron. There
could be no doubt as to the result. At eleven
o'clock the Penhoat Division of the XVIIIth Corps
advanced from the west to encircle northwards, and
Cramer's Division, for the purpose of barring the
defenders' retreat on Belfort, advanced from the
south, the wood of La-Thure covering his approach.
The batteries of both Divisions were brought up on its
northern edge, where they opened fire. After firing
had continued for two hours, the masses of infantry
advanced from three sides. Under General Cramer's
personal guidance the Baden fusiliers were driven
from the south to the north of the village, and as
here the surrounding movement through the wood
of Montedin had become practicable. General von
Degenfeld was, after an obstinate resistance,
obliged to begin the retreat in a northerly direction
through Frahier. Thence he again turned south-
east and took up a position in front of Chalonvillars,
on the high-standing miU of Rougeot, where, at six
198 The Franco- German War.
o'clock, he was joined by Colonel Bayer with strong
reinforcements. The French did not pursue ; the
Cremer Division, which had lost 1000 men, retired,
on the contrary, on the wood of La-Thure, while
the Penhoat Division confined itself to the occupa-
tion of Chenebier.
Accordingly the German line of defence was not
broken on this day ; still, its extreme right wing had
been driven back to within three-quarters of a mile
The fortress celebrated the victory of French
arms by afeii'-de-joie^ but made no serious attack
on the investing forces, already weakened by the
despatch of reinforcements, who, however, on their
side, quietly continued the construction of batteries.
General von Werder, desirous above all of setting
the scene of action back to his right wing, could
only hold in reserve four battalions, four squadrons,
and two batteries, bringing up these from the least
exposed places, and even from Belfort, to Brevilliers
and Mandrevillars. At eight o'clock in the evening
General Keller was ordered to retake Chenebier.
To this end he left Mandrevillars with two Baden
battalions, reached Moulin-Rougeot at midnight,
and found Frahier already occupied by Colonel
January 11 Ih. — On the morning of the 17th,
eight battalions, two squadrons, and four batteries
Battle of the Lisaine. 199
had assembled there. Three of these detachments
advanced on the northern, three on the southern
part of Chenebier ; the others remained in reser\T
at the mill, where also three 15-pounders had been
At half-past 4 a.m. the first column, advancinoj
in breathless silence, surprised an outpost of the
enemy's at Echevanne, but it was unavoidable that
the rifle fire at Chenebier should draw the attention
of the French to the danger by which they were
menaced. Even north of the place, in the wood, the
Germans met with serious resistance ; and the danger
that in the darkness and the dense undergrowth
their troops might fall on each other obliged them
to ^vathdraw them to the outer edge of the wood.
Tlie other column, advancinor throu<?h the vallev
of the Lisaine, had advanced at the double as soon
as the first shots were heard. The 2nd battalion of
the 4th Baden Regiment rushed with cheers into
the southern part of Chenebier, where a Avild fight
ensued. But daybreak showed that the heights on
the west of the village were strongly occupied, and
that columns of all arms were approaching from
Ectobon. At 8.30 Colonel Payen was compelled to
retire from the half-conquered village, and take up
a position at the wood of Fery, to cover the road
to Belfort through Chalonvillars ; he took with him
200 The Fran- co-German War.
At the same time the right column, strengthened
by a battalion of the reserve, had renewed the at-
tack on the wood, and in a battle which lasted for
two hours, with heavy losses on both sides, at last
took possession of it. But the attempt to get into
the barricaded and strongly-defended village was
A destructive fire met every attack; one
single round of mitrailleuse, for instance, killed
twenty-one of the assailants. At three o'clock in
the afternoon General Keller therefore collected his
troops at Frahier, where they were supported by
With such inferior strength, and after failing in
this attempt, it was useless to think of dri\nng the
enemy beyond Chenebier ; the only thing to do was
to hinder his further advance on Belfort. The end
was fully achieved; the French did not pursue.
Instead of outflanking the German right, they
seemed chiefly concerned for their own left. They
defended Chenebier stoutly, but gave up all further
In the expectation of such an attack succeeding,
General Bourbaki's plan seems to have been to
engage the enemy in front only, and so detain him.
Even durino: that ni<]:ht the Germans were alarmed
at Bethoncourt and before Hericourt, while they,
on their part, disturbed the French at Bussui-el and
Battle of the Lisaine. 201
in the wood of La-Thure. The infantry fire went
on for hours, and nuinerous detachments had to
spend the cold wmter's night under arms. In the
morning two Divisions of the XVIIIth Corps
(French) advanced on Chagey and Luze, supported
by the Army Reserve artillery, but they could not
come up with the Germans, so several repeated
attacks on those places were without result.
Firing went on incessantly from one o'clock.
In front of Hericourt there was a mutual shelling,
and Bussurel, held by the French, was in flames.
To drive the French out of Montb^liard, the town
was fired on from La-Grange-Dame and from the
Chdteau till the inhabitants begged that it might be
spared, declaring that the position was abandoned,
which subsequently proved to be false. Ten: batta-
lions of the French XVth Corps advanced from the
woods in the forenoon, and tried to push on past
Montb^Uard, but suffered severely from the flanking
fire of the heavy guns at La-Grange-Dame ; only a
few got into the valley of the Lisaine. The western
road from Montb^liard, and the hills immediately in
front of it, remained in the hands of the French,
but the attack ceased at about two in the after-
Further to the south. General von Debschitz's
posts in front of Allaine had easily checked the
advance of the French detachments.
202 The Franco-German War,
The Germans were now convinced that no further
attack would be attempted.
The condition of the French troops, not yet
inured to war, was, in fact, serious. They had
been obliged to bivouac in bitter weather, some-
times under arms, and for the most part without
food. Their losses were enormous, and the superior
officers who were invited to meet the Grenerals at
three in the afternoon, in the neighbourhood of
Chagey, expressed their objections to a yet more
extensive movement to the left, since supplies
would be impossible, and there would be danger of
the Germans cutting off the conmiunications from
the side of Montb^liard. On this came the news
that the heads of General von Manteuffel's Corps
had already reached Fontaine-Fran9aise, and was
near to Gray.
Under these circumstances General Bourbaki
thought he must decide on a retreat. He tele-
graphed to the Government that by the advice of
his Generals, and to his deep regi'et, he had been
compelled to take up a position further in the rear,
and only hoped that the enemy might follow him.
Hence this experienced General can have felt no
doubt that his army, after failing in the attack on
the Lisaine, could only escape a very critical position
by a steady retreat.
January ISth. — On the morning of the 18th the
Battle of the Lisaine. 203
Germans were in the positions they had secured
the day before, and under arms, the French in full
force along the whole front. It was a significant fact
that they were busily employed on the construction
of earthworks. They had evacuated Montbdliard
the evening before, and now held the country to
the west of the town strongly manned and fortified.
During this day nothing occurred but a shell-
ing and small skirmishes. General Keller had
come up on the right German wing with reinforce-
ments, and as the enemy retired to Etobon in the
afternoon he was able to re-occupy Chenebier.
Further north. Colonel von WiUisen again marched
on Ronchamp. Coutenans was taken possession of
in the centre, and the enemy driven out of Byans
by artillery fire ; but on the other hand the
Germans could not yet penetrate the woods. On
the southern bank of the Allaine General von
Debschitz's detachment drove the enemy back
beyond the line of Exincourt-Croix.
In the three days' fighting on the Lisaine the
Germans had lost 1200, the French from 4000 to
In spite of many detachments having to be
drafted off, and of the threatening attitude of
the enemy, the siege-works were uninterruptedly
carried on outside Belfort, and as soon as the
investing forces were again reinforced General von
204 The Franco-German War.
Werder followed the retiring French to Etobon,
Saulnot and Arcey.
The Bombardment of Paris.
In the place of the Ilnd Corps, now engaged
with the Army of the South, the 1st Bavarian Corps
had come up, of which Gambetta had said, " Les
Bavarois n'existent plus." It had made such good
use of its time of rest south of Longjumeau that
by the beginning of the New Year it was already
17,500 strong, with 108 guns. It was drawn up
between the Vlth Prussian Corps and the Wurtem-
burg Division on both banks of the Seine. The
Wurtemburgers extended from Ormesson to the
Mame, and between that river and the Sausset
were the Saxons, so as to diminish the front of the
Guards' Corps now that the Moree was frozen over
and afforded no protection.
The observation of such a huge stronghold made
great demands on the endurance of the troops.
By extending their works more and more out-
side ViUejuif and Bruyeres, the French threatened
to outflank the Ilnd Bavarian Corps. To avert
such an attack the Vlth was obliged to keep a
strong detachment constantly in readiness at
The supports on the south could not in any
Bombardment of Paris. 205
way be protected against the fire of the heavy-
fortress guns, nor the outposts against that of the
Chassepots. They consequently could often not be
relieved for several days, and the relief was
usually effected at night. The less the success of
the French arms in the open field, the more lavish
were they in the expenditure of ammunition from
Mont Valerien hurled its giant shells to a dis-
tance of from seven to eight kilometres (from
four to five English miles), but this perpetual
cannonade, to .whose din the ear was soon accus-
tomed, did little damage.
The Artillery Attack on the Southern Front —
Till Mont Avron was carried, the Germans had
only been able to brrag field guns to bear against
the French fortress artillery. But early in
January their preparations had at last got so far
forward that seventeen batteries, which had long
been completed, could be armed with heavy guns
against the southern front. A battery stood apart
on the left wing in the park of St. Cloud, to the
north of Sevres ; four more, close together, on the
steep slope of the hill to the west of Meudon ; five
crowned the plateau of Moulin-de-la-Tour, where
the mill, serving to guide the aim of the French,
had been blown up. Four more batteries were
constructed in a lower position between Fontenay
2o5 The FkancoGerman War.
and Bagneux. Two, between Chevilly and La-Rue^
protected the German troops against a flank move-
ment from Villejuif, with the field artillery of the
Ilnd Bavarian and Vlth Corps. Covered ways
were prepared, and intermediate depots were sup-
plied with ammunition from the great magazines
Colonels von Rieff and von Ramm conducted
the artillery attack under Greneral von Kameke
and General Prince Hohenlohe; General Schulz
directed the engineering works. The men served
twenty-four hours in the batteries, and then took
two days' rest. The officers had but one day's
The heavy guns were brought into position be-
hind masked batteries on January 3rd by daylight,
without any interference ; in all the others by
night, after the outposts had been driven in. Thus,
on the morning of the 4th, 98 guns were ready to
open fire: 28 on Issy, 28 on Vanves, and 18 on
Montrouge ; 10 against the emplacements between
the first two forts. But a thick fog hid every
object, and it was not till January 5th, at 8.30
in the morning, that the signal was given for
The enemy replied at once. There were in Fort
Vali^rien 106 guns, in Issy 90, in Vanves 84, and
Bombardment of Paris. 207
in Montrouge 52 ; there were about 70 in the
sectors of the ramparts which came under fire
and at Villejuif, 16-cm. guns for the most part ;
so the attack at first was under great difficulties.
But when, at about noon, all the batteries had
opened fire, the situation gradually improved, and
the greater accuracy of the Grerman aim began to
tell. Issy was almost silenced by two o'clock,
nine guns were destroyed in Vanves, and had lost
thirty gunners ; only Montrouge still replied with
any vigour. The artillery from the ramparts now
opened fire, but the forts never again got the best
of it. Some gunboats coming up by Point-du-
Jour very soon had to retire.
The field-guns of the Ilnd Bavarian and Vlth
Corps were also so efiective that no attack was
attempted from the works at Villejuif, nor was a
shot fired on the batteries at Bagneux. A num-
ber of parapet guns and the long-range Chassepots
looted from the French did such good service that
the enemy were driven further and further in. The
German outposts took possession of the trenches of
Clamart, and in the course of the night turned their
front towards the forts.
Only a few 15-cm. shells were thrown into the
city as a serious announcement ; the first thing to
be done was to batter down the outworks, and for
2o8 The Franco-German War.
some few days all the firing was directed on them.
The most serious counter attack was from Mont-
rouge and from a mortar-battery in a very
advantageous position behind the high railway
embankment to the east of Issy ; next, from the
south front of the ramparts, almost a mile (German)
long in a straight line. Foggy weather on some
days necessitated a suspension or entire cessation
of firing. But meanwhile the German advanced
lines were from 750 to 450 metres nearer to the for-
tifications. New batteries were constructed further
forward, and armed with thirty-six guns out of
those left in the rear.
January 10th. — ^The French garrison were all
this time very active. On January 10th they suc-
ceeded in the dark hours in carrying the weakly-
occupied position at Clamart. They placed three
battalions in the place, and dug a shelter-trench
of 1200 metres towards Ch^tillon.
January \Uh. — ^The Ilnd Army of Paris was
still encamped outside the town to the east and
north, from Nogent to AuberviUers. After some
small alarms, on the evening of the 13th some
strong detachments advanced, under cover of a hot
fire from the forts from Coumeuve and Drancy on
Le-Bourget. But the troops in occupation were
on the alert, and being reinforced at once by
several companies, repulsed the repeated attempts
Retaliation from the Forts. 209
of the French to storm it till two o'clock in the
January lUh. — On this day the French renewed
the attempt on Clamart with 500 marine infantry
and several battalions of the National Guard.
When these last had assembled at the railway-
station near, with a great deal of noise, their
advance was reported soon after midnight. The
fight lasted about an hour, and ended with the
retreat, or flight, of the attacking party. Patrols
pursued them close up to the trenches of Issy.
The distance was so great that the fire from
the ramparts had not yet perceptibly moderated.
Battery No. 1, isolated in the park of St.-Cloud,
suffered most, being shelled by two batteries, from
Point-du-Jour and from Mont-Val^rien. The
steep slope behind the battery made it easy for the
enemy to take aim. The breastwork was repeatedly
breached, and it was only the most zealous devo-
tion which enabled the struggle to be continued at
this point. The French also poured a heavy fire
into batteries Nos. 19 and 21, pushed forward into
a particularly dangerous position under Fort
Vanves. The fire from the ramparts, coming
from a long range to the breastwork, was plung-
ing and breaking through the platforms, and
a great many gunners were wounded or killed.
The powder-magazine blew up in two of the
VOL. II. p
2IO The Franco-German War.
batteries, wounding both the officere in command,
besides several other superior officei-s.
To the east of Paris, the fifty-eight German gims
placed there after the reduction of Mont-Avron
were opposed to 151 of the French. The G-ermans
nevertheless soon proved their superiority ; the
forts only occasionally opened fire; the French
withdrew their outposts to the works, and alto-
gether vacated the peninsula of St.-Maur. By
degrees the heavy siege-guns could be removed
from hence to the banks of the Moree.
The forts to the south had meanwhile suffered
severely. The ruin at Issy was visible to the
naked eye; fire broke out repeatedly, and the
powder-magazine had to be cleared out at great
risk in the night of January 16th. Fort Vanves
had lost seventy men ; it opened fire usually every
morning, but soon became silent. Montrouge, on
the contrary, on some days filled as many as 500
rounds from eighteen guns. But here, too, the
casemates no longer afforded any shelter, and one
of the bastions was a heap of ruins.
In spite of the steady fire from the ramparts, part
even of Paris was distressed by the 15-cm, shells.
An elevation of 30 degrees, through a peculiar
contrivance, sent the shot into the heart of the
city. From 300 to 400 shells were fired daily.
Under the pressure of public opinion the Grovem-
Debates in Paris. 211
ment, after repeated deliberations, decided on
another great enterprise, to be directed this time
against the German batteries at Chatillon. The as-
sembled Generals agreed, indeed, that such sorties
could promise no results without the co-operation of
an army outside ; but, on the 8th, Gambetta had an-
nounced the " victory " of the Army of the North
at Bapaume, and had promised that both the Armies
of the Loire should advance. Hereupon General
Trochu advised that they should at least await
the moment when the investing army should be
weakened by detailing further detachments ; but he
was opposed by the other members of the Govern-
ment, especially by Monsieur Jules Favre. He
explained that the Maires of Paris were indignant
at the bombardment, that the representatives
of the city must be allowed some insight into
the military situation, and, above all, that nego-
tiations ought long since to have been entered
Finally, on January 15th, it was determined
that the German lines should be broken through at
Montretout, Garches, and Buzanval.
While confusion and dissensions thus prevailed
in Paris, the unity of the German nation was
proclaimed at Versailles under the Emperor
212 The Franco-German War.
Battle of MoNT-VALfiRiEX.
The sortie was to be effected on January 19 th.
On that day, as we have seen, Greneral Faidherbe
marched on St.-Quentin, on the way to Paris, and
the army which was to make the sortie was stand-
ing on the eastern and northern fronts of the
capital. The attempt to break through was, how-
ever, made on the opposite side. In fact, the
peninsula of GennevilHers was the only ground
on which large masses of troops could be deployed
without being exposed for hours, while they
were being assembled, to the fire of the German
Two days previously the mobilized National
Guard had relieved the divisions told off for the
sortie, from the positions they held; 90,000
men in three columns were to attack at the same
time. General Vinoy on the left, supported by the
fire from the rampart, was to carry the height of
Montretout ; General Bellemare in the centre was
to advance on Garches ; General Ducrot on the
right, on the Ch&teau of Buzanval.
The attack was to begin at six in the morning,
but blocks occurred at the bridges of Asnieres and
NeuiUy, as no explicit orders had been issued for
crossing them. When, at seven o'clock, the signal
Attack on Mont-Val£rien. 213
to advance was made by gun-fire from Mont-
Valerien, only the head of General Vinoy s force
was formed up, the other columns had not yet
deployed, and the last detachments tailed back
as far as Courbevoix. Before they had reached
the rendezvous the left wing was already marching
fifteen battalions on St.-Cloud.
These at first met only isolated posts and
patrols, eighty-nine men in all, who rushed into
the gorge of the work of Montretout, and there
made a stand for some time; they then fought
their way out with great bravery, but some of
them were taken prisoners. There, and on the
north of St.-Cloud, the French at once prepared
The centre column, under General BeUemare,
also took possession without difficulty of the hill of
Not tiU now, nearl)?' nine o'clock, did the first
supports of the German outposts appear on the
scene. Till within a short time the patrols had
been able to report nothing but thick fog ; but
reports from the right and left wings announced
that a serious attack was threatened on the whole
front from St.-Cloud to Bougival. The IVth
Corps were called out, and General von Kirch-
bach joined the 9th Division. To the German
right, in the park of St.-Cloud, stood the 17th
214 The Franco-German War.
Brigade ; to the left, behind the Porte-de-Longboyau,
the 20th ; the other troops of the Corps advanced
from their quarters at Versailles and the villages
to the north of it on Jardy and Beauregard. The
Crown Prince ordered six battalions of the Land-
wehr Guard and a Bavarian Brigade on Versailles,
and himself rode to the Hospice of Brezin ; the
King went to Marly.
The French meanwhile had seized the foremost
houses at Garches, and made their way here and
there through the breaches in the east wall into the
park of the Ch&teau of Buzanval. The 5th Jiiger
Battalion, supported by single companies of the
58th and 59th Regiments, drove the enemy back on
Garches, occupied the cemetery on the north, and
still reached the advanced posts at La-Bergerie in
good time. The other Di^dsions under General von
Bothmer carried on a persistent fight, by order from
head-quarters, on the skirts of the park of St.-Cloud,
merely to gain time. By half-past nine they had
repulsed an attack by BeUemare's column, stopped
the advance of the French up the Rue-Imperiale of
St.-Cloud, and even returned the attack from the
GriUe-d'Orl^ans and the Porte-Jaune. It was in
vain that five French battalions tried to storm
La-Bergerie. A squad of Engineers had tried
with great self-sacrifice to demolish the wall which
surrounded the enclosure, but the d}Tiamite was
Fighting in St.-Cloud. 215
frozen and would not explode, and the Jagers held
the position steadfastly throughout the day.
The attacks of the French had hitherto been
attempted with no help from their artillery. That
of General Vinoy had been seriously delayed by
running into the centre column, and now lingered in
the rear to meet a possible attack at Briqueterie.
General Bellemare's batteries tried to get up the
slope of the hill of Garches, but the exhausted
condition of the horses compelled them to take up
a position at Fouilleuse. Meanwhile the batteries
of the 9th Division (German) came up one by one,
and by noon thirty-six guns had opened fire. In
St.-Cloud a hot street-fight was going on. General
Ducrot alone, on the French right wing, had
opened the battle with his strong force of artillery,
which he got into position on both sides of Rueil.
The tirailleurs then advanced, and made their way
through the park of Buzanval to the western wall,
but were then driven back by the 50th Regiment
At half-past ten the chief attack was made at this
point, and supported by part of the central column.
Only a non-commissioned officer's detachment met
the attack at Malmaison, but at the eastern road from
Bougival, at La- Jouchfere and Porte-de-Longboyau,
it found the 20th Infantry Brigade, which had
already been reinforced. General von Schmidt still
2i6 The Franco-German War.
kept the reserve of the 10th Division in the rear
at Beauregard. A murderous fire from the well-
protected German infantry checked the rush of the
French, and converted it by mid-day into a steady
fire action, the German artillery joining in with
great effect. Two batteries of the 10th Division
at St.-Michel were strengthened by two of the
Guards' brought up from St.-Germain to Louven-
ciennes ; a third advanced on Chatou and drove
an armour-plated train on the station north of Rueil
to retire rapidly on Nanterre. Four batteries of
the IVth Corps finally opened fire from Carrieres,
without heeding the guns of Valdrien, shelling the
compact masses of French infantry, who still held
Rueil in the rear.
At two o'clock the French decided on renewing
the attack. When two of their batteries had bom-
barded Porte-de-Longboyau a brigade marched on
this place, and a second on the western wall of the
park of Buzanval ; a third followed to give sup-
port. Equally bold, but equally unsuccessful, was
the attempt of a party of Engineers, one officer and
ten men, to blow up part of the wall ; they were all
killed. The attacking columns had advanced to
within 200 paces, but now thirteen companies
met them from the German side, and, firing
on them at the most effective range, stopped
their advance, and presently routed the French
Fighting at St.-Cloud. 217
in spite of a valiant effort on the part of their
They found, however, a good support in the
park-wall, which had been prepared for defence
with great skill and with the utmost rapidity. The
attack of some companies from Brezin and La-
Bergerie on this wall was repulsed with heavy loss.
But the strength of the French attack was already
broken. Even by three o'clock a retreat was ob-
servable in the left; wing, and as dusk fell they
began gradually, in the centre, to withdraw from
the heights of Maison-du-Cure. When Colonel
von Kothen pursued, "with a small force, several
battalions indeed fronted, and even attempted a
counter-attack; but timely support arrived from
La-Bergerie, Garches, and Porte-Jaune, and,
seconded by the fire of the batteries, the Germans
continued the pursuit. The King's Grenadiers
drove the enemy almost as far back as FouiUeuse.
Still, the Germans had not succeeded in re-
possessing themselves of the works at Montre-
tout. The chief difficulty arose from their having
been unable to advance through the town of St.-
Cloud. As, however, these positions were indis-
pensable for the protection of the right wing. Gene-
ral von Kirchbach gave orders that they were to be
carried either that evening or early next morning.
General von Sandrart decided on immediate
2i8 The Franco-German War,
action, and at eight that evening five batteries ad-
vanced to the attack. Only a few French were
found in the earthworks, and these were taken
prisoners ; but in the town the struggle was severe.
Finally the Germans had to restrict themselves to
blockading the houses occupied by the enemy.
The French also held the wall of the park of
Buzanval all through the night. The Landwehr
Guard and the Bavarian Brigade were therefore
assigned quarters in Versailles, to form a strong
reserve close at hand in case of need on the
following day. The remainder of the troops with-
drew into their former quarters.
At half-past five General Trochu had ordered a
retreat. He perceived that a prolonged struggle
could not succeed, especially as the National Guard
were mutinous. The brave defenders of St.-Cloud
were forgotten in these orders ; they did not sur-
render till the day after, when artillery opened
fire on the houses they had occupied. Even the
park-wall was held till the following morning.
The French attack of January 19th had failed
before reaching the enemy's main position. The
reserves in readiness on the German side had not
been brought into action. The Vth Corps alone
had driven in an enemy of four times its own
strength. It lost 40 officers and 570 men; the
French loss in killed and wounded was 145 officers
The Bombardment Continued. 219
and 3423 men, besides 44 officers and 458 men
When .the fog lifted, at about eleven o'clock on
the morning of the 20th, they were seen retreating
on Paris, in long colxunns, across the peninsula of
The Bombardment of Paris till the
After the repulse of this last struggle for .release
on the part of the ganison, the bombardment was
renewed on the north as well as the south and west.
The siege-guns no longer needed against the
smaller fortresses and on the Mame were parked
to this end at Villiers-le-Bel. The Army of the
Meuse had prepared abundant material for con-
structing batteries, and requisitioned above 600
waggons. Already twelve batteries were placed
in the lines between Le-Bourget and Lac-
d'Enghien, and the guns were mostly brought up
at night. ' By January 21st eighty-one heavy gims
were ready for action, and Colonel Bartsch opened
fire at nine that morning on La-Briche, Double-
Couronne, and Fort-de-l'Est.
The forts, now exposed to the fire of 143 heavy
guns, replied briskly, and on the following day
the thick weather prevented the Germans from
220 The Franco-German War.
opening fire again till the afternoon. But the
ground in front was clear of the French, and the
outposts of the German Guards and IVth
Corps took possession of Villetaneuse and Temps-
In the course of the night, fire was opened on St.-
Denis, with every endeavour to spare the Cathedral,
and many places were set in flames.
By the 23rd the steady fire of the Germans had
perceptibly reduced the \agour of the French ar-
tillery. La-Briche was silenced, and the other
forts only fired an occasional salvo.
During the night of the 25th four batteries were
advanced to within from 1800 to 1200 metres of
the enemy's outworks. Engineering works could
now be begun, and a row of new batteries was con-
structed, for which, however, there was never any
The eficct of this six days' bombardment was
The forts had suffered greatly. On this side — '
unlike the south front — they lacked the support of
the ramparts behind them, and they had, too, no
bomb-proof space. The temporary galleries were
shattered by shell, the powder-magazines were in
the greatest danger, and the garrisons were devoid
of shelter. The inhabitants of St.-Denis fled to
Paris in crowds, and the insufficient security of the
The Bombardment Continued. 221
battered works were no longer a protection against
assault if the city held out any longer.
The attack on the north front had cost the Ger-
mans one officer and twenty-five men ; the French
stated their loss at 180.
The fire of the forts on the east front was kept
under, and the Wurtemburg Field Artillery was
enough to prevent the French firom again getting a
foothold on the peninsula of St.-Maur.
The south front meanwhile suffered more and
more from the steady bombardment. The ram-
parts and the mortar-pits behind the railway
were still active, but in the forts the barracks
were in ruins, partly battered in and partly
burnt down, and the men had to take shelter in
the empty powder-magazines. The ramparts were
too much choked for free circulation, the parapets
afforded no protection. In Vanves the gaps
were filled up with sand-bags; in Issy, on the
southern curtain, five blocks of casemates in the
outer wall were demolished. Even the isolated
ravelin-walls of Vanves and Montrouge were de-
stroyed, forty guns dismounted, and seventy gun-
The whole situation of France, political and
military, and above all that of Paris, was such as
to cause the Government the gravest anxiety.
Since the retuiTi of Monsieur Thiers from his
222 The Franco-German War.
diplomatic tour it was certain that no mediatory
influence would be exerted by any foreign power.
The sufferings of the capital were now very great.
Scarcity and high prices had for some time been a
burthen to the inhabitants ; their provisions were
exhausted, and even the army stores of the garrison
had been encroached on. Fuel was lacking in the
bitter cold, and petroleum was an inefficient sub-
stitute for gas. When the long-deferred bombard-
ment began on the south side of Paris, the people
took refuge ia the cellars or fled to the remoter
quarters of the town ; and when the northern side
was also shelled the inhabitants of St. -Denis crowded
into the capital.
The great sortie of the 19th had proved a total
failure, and no relief was to be hoped for from outside
since Grambetta had sent news of the defeat at Le-
Mans. The Paris Army, of whose inactivity he com-
plained, was reduced to a third of its original strength
by cold, sickness, and desertion. The horses had to
be killed to provide meat for the inhabitants, and
General Trochu declared any further offensive
movements to be quite hopeless ; the means even
of passive resistance were exhausted.
Hitherto the Government had been able to keep
the populace in a good humour by highly-coloured
reports, but now the disastrous state of affairs could
no longer be concealed. Everything they could do
The Condition of Paris. 223
There was a large body of people in Paris who
were but little affected by the general distress.
Those members of the civilian class who had been
equipped for the defence of their country were fed
and well paid by the authorities, without having
too much to do for it. They were joined by all the
dubious social elements, whose interest it was to
foment disorder ; these had been quite content with
the state of affairs as they had been on September
4th, and these formed the mob which was presently
to assume the hideous aspect of the Commune.
Already some popular gatherings had been only
dispersed by force of arms, and even a part of the
National Guard had given signs of some mutinous
outbreak. The revolutionary clubs, too, supported
by the press, demanded further active measures,
even a sortie en masse of all the inhabitants of Paris,
Thus the feeble Government, dependent as it was
on popular favour alone, was under pressure from
the impossible demands of an ignorant mob on the
one hand, and, on the other, the inexorable coercion
There was absolutely no escape but by capitu-
lation ; every delay increased the necessity, and
left them at the mercy of harder terms. Unless all
the railways were at once thrown open for the
delivery of supplies from a considerable distance,
the horrors of famine were imminent for more than
two million souls ; and later it might not be possi-
224 The Franco-German War.
ble to meet it. Yet no one dared utter the fatal
word surrender, no one would take the responsibility
of the inevitable.
A great council of war was held on the 21st.
Ajb all the elder Generals pronounced any further
offensive measures to be quite impossible, it was pro-
posed that the younger military authorities should
be consulted, but no decision was arrived at. As,
however, some one must be made answerable for
every misfortune. General Trochu, hitherto the
most popular member of the Government, was
degraded from his position as Governor, and the
chief command was entrusted to General Vinoy.
General Ducrot resigned his command.
All this did nothing to improve the situation, so
on the 23rd, Monsieur Jules Favre made his appear-
ance at Versailles to negotiate at any rate for an
The German Emperor was ready to meet this
request ; but of course some guarantee must be
given that the capital, after obtaining supplies,
would not renew its resistance. All the forts were
to be given up, including Mont-Valerien and the
city of St. -Denis, and the disarmament of the
I'amparts was demanded and acceded to.
All hostilities were to be suspended on the even-
ing of the 26th, so far as Paris was concerned, and
aU ways of ingress to be throAvn open. A general
Terms of the Armistice. 225
armistice of twenty-one days was to begin from the
31st of January, exclusive, however, of the depart-
ments of Doubs, Jura, and C6te-d'or, and of the
fortress of Belfort, where, at the time, operations
were being carried on, in which both sides were
equally hopeful of success.
This armistice gave the Committee of National
Defence time enough to call a freely-elected
National Assembly together at Bordeaux, whose
business it would be to decide whether the war
should be continued, or on what conditions peace
could be concluded. The election of the depu-
ties was unimpeded and uninfluenced even in
the parts of the coimtry occupied by German
The regular forces of the Paris garrison, troops
of the line, marines, and Gardes-Mobiles were to
lay down their arms at once ; only 12,000 men and
the National Guard were to retain them for the
preservation of order. The garrison were interned
for the time of the armistice ; afterwards they were
to be regarded as prisoners. As to their transfer
to Grermany, where every possible place was already
overflowing with prisoners, that question was post-
poned in expectation of a probable peace.
The forts were occupied on the 29th without
The French Army gave up 602 guns, 1,770,000
VOL. II. Q
226 The Franco-German War.
stand of arms, and above 1000 ammunition-
waggons; the fortress surrendered 1362 heavy
guns, 1680 gun-carriages, 860 limbers, 3,500,000
cartridges, 4000 hundred-weight of powder,
200,000 shells, and 100,000 round-shot
The blockade of Paris, which had lasted 132
days, was over, and the greater part of the German
forces detained outside the walls were released to
end the war in the open field.
THE PROGRESS OF THE WAR IN THE
SOUTH AND WEST.
The Army of the South under General
The two Army Corps under General von Man-
teuffel consisted altogether of fifty-six battalions,
twenty squadrons, and 168 guns. When he arrived
at Ch&tiUon-sur-Seine on January 12th, the Ilnd
Corps was on the right, and the Vllth on the left
of Noyers, extending to Montigny over ten miles
(German). One brigade, under General von
Damienberg, which had already had several frays
with portions of the French Army of the Vosges,
had advanced on VUaines to cover the right flank.
Several good roads led from these quarters con-
vergiag on Dijon ; to Vesoid, on the contrary, the
roads were bad, and deep in snow down the
southern slopes of the wild plateau of Langres. The
Commander-in-Chief, nevertheless, took this line of
march, to afford General von Werder indirect assis-
tance at least, as soon as possible, by coming up
in the rear of the enemy who threatened him.
228 The Franco-German War,
The advance was between the two towns of
Dijon and Langres, both strongly occupied by the
French. Wooded heights and deep ravines sepa-
rated the columns and prevented any mutual sup-
port ; each had to provide for its own safety on
every side. The troops had severe fatigues to en-
counter, and badly as they needed rest none could
be granted, nor could the evil plight of their boots
and the horses' shoes be in any way remedied.
On January 14th the march began in a thick
fog and bitter cold, along roads frozen as smooth as
To keep up the supplies was absolutely essential,
and the 8th Brigade had from the first to be left
in the rear to secure the all-important railway-line
from Tonnerre by Nuits and Ch&tillon, until com-
munications could be established vid Epinal,
On the very first day the advanced guard of the
Vllth had a fight before Langres. A detachment
of the garrison of 15,000 men wasr.epulsed on the
fortress with the loss of a standard, and a detach-
ment was therefore left behind to observe the place.
Under its protection the Corps marched past the
fortress next day, while the Ilnd advanced as far
as the Ognon.
The weather changed during the night of the
15th. Fourteen degrees of frost (Centigrade) gave
way to storm and rain. The water lay on the
Advance on the Doubs. 229
frozen roads, and it was with the greatest difficulty
that the Vllth Corps reached Prauthoy and the
Ilnd Moloy, closing up to the left.
On the 18th the left wing advanced on Frettes
and Champlitte, to the south-east, the right
assembled at Is-sur-TiUe, and its advanced guard,
after marching fifty kilometres (thirty-one English
miles), reached the bridges at Gray. On the flank
and rear of the Corps, there had been some fighting,
but the heavy march across the mountains was over
and they were in the cultivated vaUey of the Saone.
General von ManteufFel had already received
news of the happy issue of the first day s fighting
on the Lisaine. Later telegrams from General von
Werder reported that the French Army of the East
would probably be obliged to retire imder difficul-
ties, and the German general at once determined
to cut off its retreat on the Doubs below Besan9on.
The defeated French army was still greatly
superior in number to the German force. And the
troops must again be called upon for severe exer-
tions. They must again cross a thinly-populated and
mountainous country, where it would be a matter
of great difficulty to procure food and the shelter
needful during the bitter winter nights. They
must also leave hostile forces in the rear, imder
very insufficient observation at Langres, Dijon, and
Auxonne. However, in spite of every obstacle
230 The Franco-German War,
the advance in this new direction was begun on the
The first difficulty might be the crossing of the
Sadne, here very deep and sixty metres wide, and
full of drifting ice ; but the advanced guard of the
Ilnd Corps had found Gray abandoned by the
French and both the bridges uninjured, and had
taken possession of the place. The head of the
Vllth Corps crossed the river by the railway-bridge
at Savayeux, which was found intact, and by a
pontoon-bridge thrown across higher up.
On the following day both Corps advanced in a
southerly direction, the Vllth on Gy, the Ilnd on
Pesmes. Here they crossed the Ognon after
driving off by artillery fire a French detachment
which tried to oppose the construction of the bridge.
On the 21st, the advanced guard found Dole
occupied by the enemy. General von KobUnski
attacked at once ; in spite of a violent street-fight,
in which the townspeople took part, the Grenadiers
of the 2nd Regiment made their way through the
town and seized a train on the other side of 230
waggons of provisions and necessaries, intended for
Besan9on, and left standing in the railway-station.
As the Doubs was thus crossed at this point, so
the Vllth Corps forced a passage across the Ognon
at Marmay and Pin.
General von Werder had been told off to follow
BouRBAKi's Movements. 231
close on the heels of the French retreat, and while
he held his own in front of the XlVth Corps,
the 2nd Baden Brigade had advanced on the right
wing on Etobon, while Colonel von Willisen and
his twelve squadrons had marched on by Lure. On
the left, Colonel von Zimmermann with the East-
Prussian Landwehr had driven the French out of
Ste.-Marie. These detachments everywhere found
cast-away arms and portions of equipment, and
hundreds willingly gave themselves up as prisoners.
During the next few days General von Werder
effected a general change of front to the left and
south. The right wing held Villersexel, and it
was the left wing only that met the enemy at
Isle-sur-Doubs, and afterwards in greater num-
bers, at Clerval and Baume-les-Dames.
General Bourbaki had quitted the Lisaine on
the 18th. The XXIVth Corps (French) alone
were left on the Doubs with orders to defend the
defiles in the steep mountain-path of Lomont on
the east of Clerval, towards the north ; all the other
troops withdrew between the Doubs and the
Ognon, with Cremer's Division as a rearguard.
The Ognon might have formed a natural cover for
the right flank of the French army, and orders had
been given for the destruction of all the bridges ;
but we have seen how little they had been obeyed.
On the 21st the XVth and XXth Corps had
232 The Franco-German War,
arrived in the neighbourhood of Baume-les-Dames,
the XVlIIth at Marchaux ; and here, having Be-
san9on close in his rear, General Bourbaki was
anxious to await the next step of the enemy. In
order to concentrate his forces more completely,
the commandant of the place was desired to send
up all the battalions he could spare of the Gardes-
Mobiles, on Blamont, so as to release the XXIVth
Corps. Nine battalions of the mobilized National
Guard had before this reached Besan9on, and might
have relieved the Corps, but they were armed
with Enfield rifles, for which there was no ammuni-
tion in store. Thus they would only have added
to the mouths to fill, and Greneral RoUand had
simply sent them back again. The Commissary-
General declared that it was impossible for him to
continue any longer to bring up the supplies
ordered for the maintenance of the army, and
what proved decisive was the news received this
day that not only was the line of the Ognon lost,
but that the Germans had crossed the Doubs.
Under these circumstances the French Commander-
in-Chief determined to continue his retreat on
Besan9on and there cross to the southern bank of
Doubs, so as not to be compelled to give battle
with the river in his rear. The train was sent
off during the night, but above all things the
XVth Corps was ordered at once to take possession
BouRBAKi's Movements. 233
of Quingey, and hold that position to the last man,
to keep open the communications of the Corps with
the interior. All the other Corps were to con-
centrate round Besan9on, even the XXIVth, which
consequently gave up the Lomont passes.
General Bourbaki reported his situation to the
Minister of War, who held out hopes of support
from that portion of the XVth Corps now remain-
ing on the Loire. Assistance could have been
more easily and effectually given from Dijon.
The Government had concentrated a very con-
siderable force on that to^vn to replace Cramer s
Division which had joined the Army of the East,
and to defend the ancient capital of Burgundy as
a point-d'appui for the operations of General
Bourbaki. A Corps of 20,000 men was to hold
the place ; a very inappropriately-named Army of
the Vosges, more than 40,000 strong, was to
manoeuvre in the field. But aU this did little to
hinder the toilsome advance of the Germans over
the mountains. The detachments forming a Corps
of observation allowed themselves to be driven in
by General von Kettler, who followed the move-
ments of the Corps on the right flank, and they
retired on Dijon.
Colonel Bombonnel, at Gray, urgently but vainly
begged for assistance to enable him to defend the
passages of the Saone ; his applications were re-
234 The Franco-German War.
fused because Dijon was in too great peril, and it
was not till the Prussians had already crossed the
river that Garibaldi began to move.
He advanced on the 19th in three columns on
Is-sur-Tille, where only a part of the 4th Infantry
Division was now left. But he moved forward
only a mile (German), Garibaldi did no more
than observe a reconnaissance party which advanced
to meet him, from the hiU at Messigny, and he
then retired on Dijon with his troops, to the sound
of the Marseillaise.
However, at General von Manteuffel's head-
quarters, the enemy was held in too small estima-
tion, when General von Kettler was simply ordered
to go and " take Dijon."
The city had been fortified with the greatest care.
Strong earthworks, and other works of defence
protected it to the northward ; more especially had
Talant and Fontaine-les-Dijon been converted into
two independent forts and armed with heavy guns
which commanded every approach on that side.
The whole constituted a position which could be
held against a much larger force than the five
and a half battalions of the 8th Brigade with
which General Kettler advanced to the attack.
Fighting at Dijon^ January 2\st and 22nd. —
They had reached Turcey and St.-Seine, and on
the 21st advanced in two columns from the
Fighting round Dijon, 235
west on Dijon, still three miles away fixnn Is-
sur-Tille on the north ; Major von Conta was
approaching with a small reinforcement. Some
companies of volunteers indeed, the " Franctireurs
de la Mort," the " Compagnie de la Revanche,"
and others, had been driven out of the villages on
the way without any great difficulty, and beyond
the deep ravine of the Suzon; the village of
Plombieres on the right had been defended with
spirit and stormed, and Daix carried on the left ;
but in front of the fortified position of the French,
and under fire of their heavy batteries, the bold
advance was forced to come to a standstill. Major
von Conta had also marched on, through continuous
fighting, but failed to come up with the brigade
before dark. General von Kettler, recognizing the
enormous superiority of the French, finally re-
stricted himself to repulsing their sorties.
The French had lost seven officers and 430 men
in prisoners alone ; but the battle had also cost
the brigade nineteen officers and 322 men. The
troops had performed a severe march in bad
weather, along heavy roads, and had no hot food
either before or after the fight ; and ammunition, too,
could only be supplied by a column which was
expected to come up next day. Nevertheless
General von Kettler did not hesitate to remain for
the night in the position he had gained, imme*
236 The Franco-German War.
diately in front of the enemy, and then to seek
quarters in the nearest villages.
The French allowed him to do so without any
serious opposition. Such complete inactivity made
General von Kettler suspect that the main body of
the French had perhaps retired by Auxonne to
the support of the Army of the East, and he
determined to bring them back on Dijon by a
On the 23rd at eleven o'clock, by a flank
march along the enemy's front, after his advanced
guard had routed a detachment of Gardes-Mobiles,
he reached the farm of Valmy on the Langres
road, and advanced on that place with his two
batteries against the village of PouiUy, which was
walled and strongly occupied. Here, as was
almost always the case when they had buildings to
defend, the French made a stout resistance. The
61st Regiment had to storm each house in turn,
and it was not till the chS^teau was in flames that
the strong party of defenders, who had taken refuge
in the top storey, surrendered to the Germans.
Beyond this place the enemy were found
to have intrenched themselves between Talant,
which had been regularly fortified, and a large
factory-building on the high-road. Here the
German advance was checked till the remainder of
the regiment came up from Valmy, and the
A DESPERATE ATTEMPT. 237
defenders were driven in at various points, and
back on the suburb.
It was evident that the French were still at
Dijon in full force ; but now unfortunately a tragic
episode took place, for the storming of the factory-
was insisted on — a huge building, almost impreg-
nable for infantry unaided. When all the senior
oificers had been killed, a first-lieutenant, whose
horse had been shot and he himself wounded, took
the command of the 2nd battalion. No sooner had
the 5th company, only forty strong, appeared from
the neighbouring quarry, than they came under a
hot fire from all sides. Their leader was at once
woimded, and the sergeant who carried the colours
fell dead after a few steps ; so did the second-
lieutenant and the , battalion adjutant, who again
raised the standard. It was passed from hand to
hand, first to the officers then to the men ; every
bearer fell. The brave Pomeranians nevertheless
rushed on the building, but there was no entrance
on that side, and at last the under-officer retreated
on the quarries with the remnant of the little band.
Here, for the first time, the colours were missed.
Of their own accord they went out again in the
darkness to seek them, but only one man returned
unwounded. It was not till afterwards that they
were foimd by the French, shot to ribbons, in a pool
of blood, xmder the dead.
238 The Franco-German War.
These were the only German colours lost through-
out the war, and only thus were these lost.
Of the French, eight officers and 150 men were
taken prisoners, and the brigade had again lost
sixteen officers and 362 men. It mustered at
Pouilly, and remained under arms till eight o'clock
to be prepared for possible pursuit ; then quarters
were found in the neighbouring villages.
The Movements of the Army of the South. —
The order to take Dijon could not be executed ;
but the bold advance of this small brigade had
reduced the hostile army to inactivity, so that
General von Manteuffel could advance unopposed.
His intention was to reach the enemy's line of
retreat to the south of Besan9on.
There were but few roads to the south of France
available for troops, through the ravined and
terraced hills of the western Jura. The most direct
connection was by the road and railway to Lous-le-
Saulnier, on which Quingey and Byans were
important points to guard. Further to the east, by
a wide detour, a road runs by Omans, Salins and
Champagnole to St. Laurent and Morezi
On the other hand, several ways centre in Pon-
tarlier, traversing the rocky passes, peculiar to
that fomxation, known locally as Cluses ; they are
breaches in the long ridge connecting the lateral
valleys. From Pontarlier one road only runs past
Fighting on the Doubs. 239
Mouthe, and in suspicious proximity to the Swiss
January 22nd. — On this day the advanced
guard of the 13th Division marched from Audeux
to St.-Vit, and, after breaking up the railway and
plundering several loaded waggons, down the river
on Dampierre, On their way four bridges over
the Doubs were found uninjured and were occu-
pied. The advanced guard of the 14th Division
advanced from Emagny to observe Besan9on. The
Ilnd Corps, diverging on Dole, sent reconnoitring
parties out beyond the river.
January 23ri. — The concentric movement of all
the contingents of the German army, was con-
General Debschitz, approaching from the north,
in passing Roches found only the abandoned camp-
ing place of the XXIVth French Corps. The 4th
Reserve Division occupied L'Isle without opposi-
tion, and met no resistance till it reached Clerval
On the Ognon the Baden Division drove the
French out of Montbazon.
In the centre of the army the Vllth Corps pushed
the advanced guard of the 14th Division forward on
Dannemarie, near Besan9on. A fight ensued which
resulted only in a cannonade, lasting till night.
The 13th Division, on the contrary, which had
240 The Franco-German War.
crossed the Doubs at Dampierre, advanced on
Only one French brigade had been able to come
up by railway for want of rolling-stock, and the
last trains were received at the Byans station with
Prussian shell. These troops were in such evil
plight that they were unable even to place outposts.
They abandoned Quingey almost without a struggle,
and their retreat, almost a flight, on Besan9on and
beyond the Loue, stopped the advance of reinforce-
ments already on the way. Thus 800 prisoners and
a train of 400 convalescents fell into the hands of
the Prussian advanced guard, who at once broke up
the railway at Abbans-dessous.
On the right wing, the head of the Ilnd Corps
had advanced in the valley of the Loue on the
southern bank. Various cuttings on this road had
been prepared for defence, but were undefended.
It was not till it reached Villers-Farlay that it met
a strong detachment of the enemy.
On the evening of this day, of the French forces
the XXth Corps was on the north of Besan9on and
the XVIIIth on the west, at the distance of about a
German mile. Cavalry, artillery and the train were
passing through the town or encamped on the
glacis of the fortress. The XXIVth Corps was on
the march hither, and the 2nd and 3rd Divisions
of the XVth were in possession of the southern
A Council of War. 241
bank of the Doubs at Bauine and Lamod ; but the
1st Division had not succeeded in holding Quingey.
Thus the most direct and important line of com-
munications of the army was cut, and its position,
by this fresh disaster, seriously aggravated. Pro-
jects and counsels from Bordeaux, on which it was
impossible to act, abounded, but did not mend
matters ; and on the 24th General Bourbaki
summoned the superior officers to a council of war.
January 2Uh. — ^The Generals declared that they
had scarcely half their number of men under arms,
and these were more inclined to fly than to fight.
General Pallu alone thought he might answer for
the men of the army reserve. The Commissary-
General reported that, unless they could seize the
stores in the place, the supplies in hand would last
for four days at most. Greneral Billot was in
favour of attempting to fight a way through to
Auxonne, but he declined to take the command in
chief, which was offered him. The exhaustion of the
troops and their insubordination, which was evi-
dently increasing, gave little hope of the success of
offensive operations. So there was no alternative
but to retire on Pontarlier, as the Commander-
in-chief had proposed.
This, even, was seriously threatened. To clear
the country to the northward. General Bourbaki
ordered the XXIVth Corps to advance once more
VOL. !!• R
242 The Franco-German War.
and hold the passes of the Lomont. On the south
the XVth was to defend the deep mountain ravine
of the Loue, and General Cramer was more espe-
cially to cover the retreat of the army on the
right flank, which was most threatened. For this
difficult task a division of the XXth Corps was
placed under his conamand, as well as his own force,
and the army reserve, as the most trustworthy of
the troops. The XVIIIth and the remainder of the
XXth were to await marching-orders at Besan9on.
At the German head-quarters, where of course
the plans of the French could not be known, various
contingencies had to be reckoned on.
If the French remained at Besan9on there would
be no need to attack them there ; the plax;e was not
adapted for a large army, and its supplies could
not hold out long. That they would again attempt
to advance northwards was scarcely likely ; they
would be leaving all their resources in their rear,
and must encounter the larger part of the XVth
Corps (German) on the banks of the Ognon.
An attempt to cut a way past Dijon seemed on
the whole more probable. But this would be
opposed at St.-Vit by the 13th Division, atPesmes
by Colonel von WiUisen's detachment, and finally
by General von Kettler.
Thus the retreat on Pontarlier seemed the most
likely course ; and to hinder their advance on that
French Retreat on Pontarlier, 243
side must be the duty of the Ilnd Corps, so long as
the Vllth was employed in observing the main
body of the French collected at Besan9on, and in
checking their sorties on both sides of the river.
The Commander-in-Chief therefore confined him-
self to giving general instructions to the superior
officers, expressly authorizing them to act on their
own judgment under such circumstances as could
not be foreseen.
Greneral von Werder was ordered to advance by
Mamay and obtain touch with the Baden Division
and Von der Goltz's Brigade, and distribute
them in the first instance along the right bank of
the Doubs. The 4th Reserve Division was to restore
the bridges at L'Isle and Baume, and cross over
to the left bank. Colonel von Willisen joined the
Vllth Corps to supply the lack of cavalry. The
Ilnd Corps was assembled behind Villers-Farlay.
January 25th. — ^Extensive reconnaissances were
arranged for next day. That of the Vllth Corps
resulted in a sharp skirmish at Vorges. The head
of the Ilnd Corps met the French at Salins and at
Arbois, but found that they had not yet reached
January 2Qth. — The advanced guard of the
Ilnd Corps marched on Salins. The forts of St.-
Andr^ and BeKn, on high ground near that town,
fronted on Switzerland, but they also commanded
244 The Franco-German War.
the plain to the south and west in the enemy's line
of march. Salins is a strong key commanding the
road to St.-Laurent, and as long as it could be
held would at the same time secure the retreat
of the columns marching from Besan9on on Pont-
The two field-batteries of the advanced guard
could, of course, do little against the heavy guns
of the forts ; but the Fusiliers of the 2nd Eegi-
ment advanced in rushes of small detachments up
the narrow ravine, scaled the steep walls on that
side, and, supported by the two battalions of
Grenadiers, forced their way, by about half-past
two, into the railway-station and suburb of St.-
Pierre. They lost 3 officers and 109 men.
Soon after this General von Koblinski arrived,
vid St.-Thi^baud, with the 42nd Regiment. As,
in consequence of the representations of the MairCj
the commandant had abandoned the idea of bom-
barding the town, the advanced guard could take
up its quarters there ; the main body of the 3rd
Division retreated from under the fire of the forts
onMonchard, and the defile was closed against all-
comers. It would have to be turned on the south.
On that side the 4th Division already occupied
Arbois, its head marching on Pont-d'H6ry; it
found Poligny and Champagnole on the right
French Retreat on Pontarlier. 245
The Vllth Corps had reconnoitred both banks of
the Doubs, and had found the enemy in strong
positions at Busy and at Vorges.
The 4th Reserve Division advanced along the
southern bank as far as St.- Juan-d' Adam, ' near
Besan9on; the remainder of the XlVth Corps
marched on Etuz and Mamay.
General von Kettler s report of the fighting on the
21st and 23rd determined General von Manteuffel
to make a renewed attempt on Dijon. He detailed
General Hann von Weyhem to this duty, placing
him in command of the 8th Brigade, with Colonel
von Willisen's troops and Degenfeld's Baden
On the French side, General Bressolles had
started on the 24th, in obedience to orders, to take
possession of the passages of the Doubs and the
defiles of Lomont. At first, with d' Aries' Division,
he had marched on Baume ; but as d' Aries could
not succeed even in driving in the German out-
posts from Pont-les-Moulins, he retired on VerceL
In consequence of this, on the morning of the 26th,
Carry's Division, which had found the defiles of
the Lomont unoccupied, also retired on Pierre-
Fontaine. Comagny's Division had already re-
treated on Morteau, and was quietly making its
way on Pontarlier.
General Bourbaki was greatly disturbed by this
246 The Franco-German War.
failure of his right wing ; more than was needful,
perhaps, since, in fact, only one German division
stood to the north of him, which at most could
drive his rearguard back on Pontarlier, while the
main force of the enemy threatened him far more
seriously on the west. He nevertheless ordered a
renewed advance, on the 26th, of the XXIVth Corps,
which was now to be supported by the XVIIIth.
But the march through Besan9on of the XVIIIth
Corps alone, over streets covered with ice, took
up the whole of the day which should have been
devoted to the attack, so that nothing came of the
The Army Reserve had reached Omans, and
had formed up. The two other divisions ad-
vanced on the road to Salins, but heard, while on
the march, that the Germans had just carried that
place. They therefore occupied D^servillers and
Villeneuve-d'Amont, to keep open the roads from
thence to Pontarlier.
The War Minister, meanwhile, had emphatically
refused his consent to the general retreat of the
army, without any regard to the imperative
necessities of the case.
The military dilettanteism which fancied it could
control the army from Bordeaux is characteristi-
cally expressed in a telegram of the afternoon of
the 25th. Monsieur de Freycinet gives it as his
French Retreat on Pontarlier. 247
" firm conviction " ^ that if General Bourbaki
would collect his troops, and, if necessary, come to
an understanding with Garibaldi, he would be
strong enough to fight his way out, either by Dole,
or by Monchard, or by Gray, or by Pontarlier (north
of Auxonne). The choice was left to him.
Still more amazing was the suggestion that if,
indeed, the state of the troops prohibited a long
march, they should take the railway from Chagey,
under the eye, no doubt, of the pursuing enemy.
But such communications could only avail to
shake the brave commander s self-confidence. The
disastrous reports which poured in from all sides,
and the state of the troops, which he had seen for
himself as the XVIIIth Corps marched through
the town, crushed his last hope and led him to
attempt his own life.
The Commander-in-Chief had of course to bear
the blame of the total failure of a campaign planned
by Freycinet ; his dismissal from the command
was already on its way. General Clinchant was
appointed in his stead, and under these disastrous
circumstances took the command of the army.
AU the Generals were, no doubt, most anxious
to avoid bringing their weary and dispirited troops
face to face with the enemy. Every line of retreat
was closed, excepting only that on Pontarlier.
^ Coii7iction bien Bxi^t6o.
248 The Franco-German War.
The new Commander-in-Chief had no choice but to
carry out the plans of his predecessor. He at once
ordered the further march. He himself proceeded
to Pontarlier. In that strong position he hoped
to be able at least to give the troops a short rest.
No large body of the Germans had been met with
so far, the ammunition columns had got safely
through, and if they could but reach the defiles of
Vaux, Les-Planches and St.-Laurent before the
enemy, and hold them, there was still a possibility
of escape to the southwards.
On the evening of the 27th, Poullet's Division
was at Levier, nearest to the Grermans, the two
other Divisions under General Cramer, with the
XVth and XXth Corps, were ^chelonned on the
road between Omans and Sombacourt ; the
XVnith Corps was alone on the eastern road by
Nods. The XXIVth, in a miserable condition, ex-
tended to Montbenoit, with its head at Pontarlier ;
two Divisions were still in Besan9on.
On this day General von Fransecky collected the
main body of the Ilnd Corps at Arbois, and
reinforced General du Trossels lines at Pont d'H6ry.
The XlVth Corps relieved the 14th Division of
the Vllth Corps at St.-Vit ; this advanced to the
right of the 13th Division into the ravine of the
Loue, which the French had already abandoned.
On the north, General von Debschitz held Blamont
French Retreat on Pontarlier. 249
and Pont-du-Roide, while General von Schmeling
kept watch on Besan9on from St.-Juan, and
General von der Golfcz marched on Arbois to form
January 28fA. — Suspecting that the French
were already on the march by Champagnole on St.-
Laurent, General Fransecky, to cut off that line
of retreat, advanced on the following day in a
southerly direction with the Ilnd Corps.
General du Trossel reached Champagnole with-
out opposition, and sent his cavalry down
the road on Pontarlier. Lieutenant-Colonel von
Guretzky arrived at Nozeroy with a squadron of
the 11th Dragoons, and found the place occupied ;
but he seized fifty-six commissariat-waggons, and
stole the field treasure-chest, taking the escort
The 5th and 6th Brigades advanced on Poligny
The 13th Division of the Vllth Corps, being
relieved at Quingey by the Baden troops, assembled
at La-ChapeUe, while the 14th advanced on D^ser-
viUers. Its head, at Bolandoz, did not meet the
enemy, but found his camp-fires still smouldering,
so that the main body of the French was not over-
taken that day.
General Clinchant had in fact moved his Corps
closer on Pontarlier. But it soon became evident
250 The Franco-German War.
that supplies could not be counted on for any long
stay. General Cramer received orders that night
to advance at once on Les Planches and St.-
Laurent with three cavalry regiments, already on
the road to Mouthe. The mountain-roads were
deep in snow, but he reached the points designated,
by a forced march, by the next afternoon. The
XXIVth Corps and a brigade of Poullet's Division
followed next day, this last placing two battalions
to occupy Bonnevaux at the entrance to the defile
of Vaux. On the evening of the 28th the rest of
the French army was distributed as follows : the
XVIIIth Corps was behind the Drugeon at Hou-
taud close before Pontarlier ; the 1st Division of
the XVth had advanced to Sombacourt, beyond
the stream, the 3rd Division was in the town. On
the left the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of the XXth
Corps held the villages from Chaifois to Frasne, and
on the right the army reserve occupied Byans.
Greneral von ManteufFel had ordered a general
advance for the 29th on Pontarlier, where the French
at last must certainly be found.
January 29th. — General Koblinsky of the Ilnd
Corps, had set out from Poligny before daylight.
When he reached Champagnole and had assembled
the whole of the 5th Brigade he advanced at about
seven o'clock. General du Trossel with the 7th
Brigade reached Censeau without finding the enemy.
French Retreat on Pontarlier, 251
On the right Colonel von WedeU had marched
from Pont-du-Navoy on Les-Planches with four
battalions of the 6th Brigade, He found only
dismounted troopers, posts probably left by
General von Cramer, who were easily dispersed by
the Jagers. Detachments were then sent out on
aU sides, and everywhere met with scattered troops ;
but at Foncine-le-Bas the head of the XXIVth
Corps was found, and Colonel von Wedell now cut
off their line of retreat, the last that had been left
With the rest of the Ilnd Corps General von
Hartmann marched unopposed on Nozeroy,
The 14th Division of the Vllth Corps had not
received the order to advance on Pontarlier till
somewhat late ; it did not start from D^servillers
till the afternoon, and only reached Levier at three
o'clock, where, at the same hour, the head of the
13th Division also arrived from Villeneuve-
d'Amont, the state of the roads having greatly
delayed them on the march.
The advanced guard of three battalions, half a
squadron, and one battery, had met only stragglers
on their way, and General von Zastrow commanded
them to advance on the Drugeon. Through the
woods on the left of the road compact detachments
of the French were retiring on Sombacourt, and
Major von Brederlow, with the 1st battalion of the
252 The Franco-German War.
77th Regiment, made a flank movement on that
village. The 2n(l company, under Captain von
Vietinghof, made its way in by Sept-Fontames witJi
loud cheers, and was at first surrounded by a
strong force of the enemy ; however, the other
companies soon came to. its assistance. The 1st
Division of the XVth Corps (French) was com-
pletely routed without the reserve close at hand
in Byans having come to its support. Fifty officers,
including two generals, were taken prisoners with
2700 men ; ten guns, seven mitrailleuses, forty-
eight waggons, 319 horses and 3500 stand of arms
fell into the hands of the Hanoverian battaUon
which was left in occupation of Sombacourt.
The remainder of the advanced guard had mean-
while advanced on ChafFois, where the road opens
out from the mountain gorge into the broad valley
of the Drugeon. The place was occupied, as we
have seen, by the 2nd Division of the XXth Corps
Colonel von Cosel attacked at once. Three com-
panies of the 53rd Regiment surprised the French
picquet and seized the first houses in the village,
but then the mass of the French XVIIIth Corps
stopped their further advance. By degrees all the
forces at hand became engaged, as weU as the rein-
forcements brought up from the main body of the
14th Division. ITie fight had lasted with great
News of the Armistice. 253
obstinacy for an hour and a half, when suddenly
the French ceased firing and laid down their arms.
They appealed to the armistice already agreed
Monsieur Jules Favre had, in fact, telegraphed
to Bordeaux at a quarter-past eleven on the night
of the 28th, that an armistice of twenty-one days
had been concluded, without adding that, with his
consent, the three eastern departments had been
excepted from it. The information, in this im-
perfect form, was transmitted to the civil authori-
ties by the Chambers at 12.15 at noon of the 29th ;
but Monsieur Freycinet did not forward it to the
military authorities, whoin it principally concerned,
tiU 3.30 in the afternoon.
Thus could General Clinchant, in all good faith,
transmit to General Thornton, in command of the
Division at ChaflFois, a message which, as regarded
the Army of the East, was altogether incorrect.
He at once sent a staif officer to the Prussian
advanced guard, who were stiU firing, requiring
them to cease on the strength of the official
General von Manteuffel, at Arbois, had received,
at five in the morning, fuU particulars from head-
quarters of ihe terms of the armistice, by which the
army in the south was to continue operations till
further orders. General orders announcing this to
254 The Franco-German War.
all the troops were at once sent out, but did not
reach the Vllth Corps till evening.
Nothing was known there of any armistice ;
however, the news might be on the way, and
General von Zastrow granted the temporary cessa-
tion of hostilities and even released his prisoners,
but without their arms.
Chaffois, with the exception of a few farmsteads,
remained in the hands of the 14th Division
(Grerman), who found such quarters there as they
might ; the 13th retired to the villages from Sept-
Fontaines to D6servillers.
January ZOth. — In full confidence in the news
from the seat of government, General Clinchant,
on the 30th, stopped the retreat of his army. The
newly-appointed Commander of the XXIVth
Corps, General Comagny, also gave up his intended
attempt to cut his way with 10,000 men through
Colonel von Wedell's small brigade at Foncine.
The other Corps remained, after the unfortunate
issue of the evening s fight, close pressed at Pont-
arlier ; but detachments of troopers were sent out
one by one on the roads to Besan9on and St.-
Laurent, to establish a line of demarcation and
also to keep up communications with the fortress
and with the south.
After receiving the general orders at about
eleven at night, General Zastrow informed the
A Misapprehension. 255
French in his front of the resumption of hostilities,
but restricted his immediate demands to the com-
plete evacuation of ChaflFois, which was agreed to.
Otherwise the Corps remained where it was, and
Greneral du Trossel, of the Ilnd Corps, had set
out very early from Censeau, but the appearance
of a French flag of truce, and his fear of offending
against the law of nations, here too occasioned
considerable delay. The woods of Frasne were not
clear of the French till evening. Lieutenant-
Colonel von Gruretzky made his way into the village
with quite a small force, and took the twelve officers
and 1500 men who held it prisoners, with two
colours. The 5th Brigade then also arrived at
Frasne ; the rest of the Corps occupied the same
quarters as on the previous day.
A flag of truce had also been sent to Les-
Planches, but Colonel von Wedell had simply
dismissed the bearer. The outposts of the XlVth
Corps did the same.
On the north of Pontarlier, General von Schmeling
advanced on Pierre-Fontaine, General von Debs-
chitz on Maiche.
Jarmary 31s<. — On the morning of this day the
French Colonel Varaigne made his appearance at
General von Manteuffel's head-quarters at Ville-
neuve to propose that a cessation of hostilities for
256 The Franco-German War.
thirty-six hours should be agreed upon, till all
doubts could be removed ; but this was refused, as
the German General had no doubts whatever.
Permission was granted for a direct application to
Versailles, but it was at the same time explained
that the movements of the Army of the South would
not be suspended till the arrival of the answer.
On this day, however, the Ilnd Army Corps
marched only on Dompierre on a line with the
Vllth, its advanced guard pushing forward to the
Drugeon on Ste.-Colombe and La-Riviere. Thence,
in the evening, a company of Colberg's Grenadiers
crossed the steep moxmtain ridge and descended on
La Plan^e, where it took 500 prisoners. On the right
a flanking detachment of two battalions and one
battery under Lieutenant-Colonel Liebe marched
unopposed up the gorge from Bonnevaux to Vaux,
taking 2 officers and 688 men prisoners. The
French then abandoned the defile of Granges-Ste.-
Marie and retired on St.-Antoine in the mountains.
The Corps had found every road strewn with
cast-away arms and camp utensils, and had captured
4000 men in all.
As soon as the enemy had been informed that
hostilities were resumed, the 14th Division of the
Vllth Corps extended on the left along the
Drugeon as far as La-Vrine, whence a connection
was eflfected with the 4th Reserve Division of the
Negotiations with Switzerland. 257
XlVth Corps at St.-Gorgon, The 13th Division
advanced on Sept-Fontaines. PontarUer was now
completely surrounded, and General von Manteuffel
had fixed February 1st for the attack. The Ilnd
Corps was to advance from the south-west,
the Vllth from the north-west ; General von
der Goltz was to remain at Le\der with a reserve
Meanwhile the French Commander-in-Chief had
conceived doubts as to whether the communications
from Government were perfectly correct. The
passes over the mountains to the south were now
lost, and an escape in that direction was no longer
to be hoped for. General Clinchant had already
sent back the baggage and ammunition columns, the
sick and the exhausted, through La-Cluse under
shelter of the forts of Joux and Neuv. And when
in the afternoon a message from Bordeaux
announced that in fact the Army of the East had
been excluded from the armistice, the Commander-
in-Chief called a council of war. Every General
present declared that he could no longer answer
for his troops. He himsdlf therefore went out
the same evening to Les-Verrieres, to conclude
negotiations he had already opened, by which on
the following day, February 1st, the army was
to cross the frontier into Switzerland by three
VOL. II. s
258 The Franco-German War.
To cover this retreat, the Army Resen^e was to
hold Pontarlier till all the baggage-trains had crossed
the ridge at LarCluse, and the XVIIIth Corps was
to occupy a position between the two forts.
Fortifications were at once begun. So much of
the XVth Corps as had failed to get beyond Morez
with the cavalry was to try to cross into Switzer-
land at any available point.
Fehruary 1st. — ^\Tien the advanced guard of the
Ilnd Corps (German) marched on Pontarlier from
Ste.-Colombe it met with but slight resistance at
the railway station. Colberg's Grenadiers took
possession of the town without a struggle, took
many prisoners, and then found the roads beyond
entirely blocked by guns and waggons.
They were toiling along with great difficulty
through deep snow. Just in front of La-Cluse the
road winds up between high walls of rock to a
large cirque formed by the Doubs, which is com-
pletely commanded by the fortified castle of Joux
on an isolated knoU of rock. On debouching into
this valley the foremost companies were received
by a hot fire. Four guns, dragged up with the
greatest difficulty, could do nothing against the
heavy guns of the fort, so the French themselves
Colberg's Fusiliers had meanwhile scaled the
heights to the left, followed by the 2nd Battalino
Fight at La-Cluse. 259
of the Regiment and a battalion of the 49 th, who
drove the French out of the farmsteads and rifts on
the plateau. The steep cliff on the right was
also scaled, several files of the 49th Regiment
clambered down the slopes above La^Cluse, and
Colberg s Grenadiers advanced to the foot of Fort
To take the castle by storm was obviously im-
possible, and the nature of the country is such as
almost to prohibit the escape of a defeated enemy.
Of the French, twenty-three officers and 1600 men
were taken, and 400 loaded waggons; of the
Germans, nineteen officers and 365 men were killed,
mostly of Colberg's Regiment. The troops spent
the night on the field.
As no large force could be brought into action
at La-Cluse, General von Fransecky had ordered
the main body of the Obrps to march to the south
on Ste.-Marie. To avoid the necessity of crossing
the chain of the Jura, General von Hartmann
marched first on Pontarlier to avail himself of the
better roads from thence, but there he was de-
tained, the fight at La-Cluse having assumed
unexpected proportions. The Vllth Corps and
the 4th Reserve Division also, which had reached
the Doubs at noon, were equally unable to get at
During the whole day the French columns were
26o The Franco-German War.
crossing the Swiss frontier. The Army Reserve
in Pontarlier was from the beginning carried away
by the tide of baggage-waggons and drivers, and
only joined the XVIIIth Corps on reaching La-
Cluse. During the night they both followed in
the general line of retreat. Only the cavalry and
a few hundred men of the 1st Division of the
XXIVth Corps reached the department of I'Ain,
the next to the south ; 80,000 French crossed on to
General Manteuffel had transferred his head-
quarters to Pontarlier. Only then, and not till
night, did he hear from Berlin of the agreement
between General Clinchant and the Swiss Colonel
General von Manteuffel had achieved the impor-
tant success of his three weeks' campaign through a
succession of fights, but without a pitched battle
since quitting the Lisaine, simply by marches;
such marches, indeed, as none but well-seasoned
troops could have accomplished under bold and
skilful leadership, under every form of fatigue
and hardship, in the worst season and through a
Thus two French armies were now prisoners in
Germany, a third interned in the capital, and the
fourth disarmed on foreign soil.
General Hann von Weyhern's March on Dijon.
It only remains to glance back on the advance
on Dijon which had been entrusted to the com-
mand of General Hann von Weyhem on January
On that same day Gtiribaldi was appealed to,
to take some energetic measure against D61e and
To support him, the Government, indefatigable in
the evolution of new forces, were to send 15,000
Gardes-Mobiles under General Crouzat from Lyons
to Lons-le-Saulnier, and a XXVIth Corps in course
of formation at Chdtellerault was to be detached to
Beaune. As it was beyond doubt that General
von Manteuffel had marched with a strong force to
cut off the communications of the Army of the
East, an order was transmitted on the 27th to the
Commander of the forces in the Vosges, to leave
only from 8000 to 10,000 men in Dijon and to
advance at once with the main body beyond D61e.
But the General was anxious for Dijon; he
occupied the principal positions on the slopes of the
C6te-d'0r and detached a small force to St.- Jean-de-
Losne, behind the Canal-de-Bourgogne. Nothing
had as yet been seen of 700 volunteers who had
marched on Dole.
Langres had shown a little more energy, several
262 The Franco-German War.
and often successful sorties of small outpost com-
panies and depot troops had been led out finom
time to time.
General Hann von Weyhem's purpose of attack-
ing Dijon from the south had to be abandoned,
because the bridge over the Saone at St.-Jean-de-
Losne had been destroyed. He therefore on the
29th crossed the' river at Apremont, and on the
31st assembled his detachment at Arc-sur-Tille.
Here again General Bordone, the Chief of the
general staff of the Army of the Vosges, vainlj-
a'ppealed to the supposed armistice. On the 31st
General von Kettler marched as an advanced
guard on Varois. To cut off the enemy's com-
munications with Auxonne a detachment on the
left held the bridge over the Ouche at Fauvemey.
The first shells drove the French back on their
intrenched position between St.-Apollinaire and
When the attempt to bring about an armistice
had failed, General Bordone determined to evacu-
ate Dijon in the course of the night and retire
on to really neutral ground. Thus, on February
1st, the head of the advanced guard found the out-
works abandoned, and General von Kettler marched
in without any opposition, just as the last train of
French troops moved out of the railway-station.
Sombemon and Nuits were also occupied on the 2nd.
Occupation of the Departments op the Doubs,
Jura, and Cote-d'Or.
Nothing now remained for General von Man-
teuffel but to effect a military occupation of the
Departments he had invaded, and to protect them
General Pelissier was still within their limits,
having reached Lons-le-Saulnier from Lyons with
the 15,000 Gardes-Mobiles joined by the battalions
sent back from Besan9on by General Rolland,
numerically a by no means insignificant force, but
of no great practical use. The commanders were
recommended to retire and avoid further blood-
shed ; and they did so, as soon as some detach-
ments of the Ilnd Corps (German) advanced on
Lons-le-Saulnier and St.-Laurent. Others occu-
pied Mouthe and Les-Allemands, where twenty-
eight guns had been abandoned by the French.
The Swiss frontier was watched by eight battalions
for security. The forts of Salins, the little fortress
of Auxonne, and Besan9on from the east side, were
kept under obsenation.
Although the Department of Haute-Mame was
included in the armistice, the commandant of
Langi'es had refused to recognize the authority of
the Government. So this place had to be invested,
and perhaps besieged. General von der Goltz was
264 The Franco-German War.
first ordered to march on it, and General von
Erenski was already advancing with seven bat-
talions, two squadrons and two batteries, with a
siege train from Longwy, which he had reduced
to capitulation on January 25th, after a bombard-
ment of six days' duration. But it was not called
into requisition at Langres.
General von Manteuflfel aimed at no further
tactical results ; he was anxious to save his troops
from further losses, and to afford them all possible
respite after their unusual exertions. Not till
now was the baggage brought up, even that of
the staff oflBicers having been necessarily left
behind during the advance through the Jura.
The troops were distributed for the sake of com-
fort in roomy quarters, but in readiness for action
at any moment, the Ilnd Corps in Jura, the
Vllth in Cote-d'Or, the XlVth in Doubs. But
the siege of Belfort was to be stringently carried
The Siege op Belfort.
Immediately after the battle on the Lisaine the
forces investing Belfort were increased to 27
battalions, 6 squadrons, 6 field batteries, 24 com-
panies of garrison artillery, and 6 companies of
Sappers and Miners ; in all 17,602 infantry, 4699
Siege of Belfort. 265
artillery, and 1166 engineers = 23,467 men, with
707 horses and 34 field-guns.
While the town was invested on the north
and west by only a few battalions, the main force
was assembled to the south and east.
On January 20th the batteries on the east
opened a hot fire on P^rouse. Colonel Denfert
inferred that an attack was inuninent, and put
four battalions of his most trusted troops into
the village, which was fortified for an obstinate
At about midnight, two battalions of the 67th
Regiment advanced from Chevremont without
firing a shot on the Haut-Taillis wood. Only
inside it there was a determined struggle, but
the French were driven back on the village, and
the sappers immediately intrenched the skirt of
the wood towards P(5rouse under a heavy fire
from the fort.
Half an hour later two Landwehr battalions
advanced from Bessoncourt to the copse on the
north of the village. They were received with a
sharp fire, but made their way onward over
abattis, pits and ^vire-entanglements, driving the
enemy back into the quarries.
A brisk fire was now opened on both sides, but
the 67th presently renewed the attack, and without
allowing themselves to be checked at the earth-
266 The Franco-German War.
works forced their way into Perouse. They took
possession of the eastern end of the straggling
village at about half-past two, and the party
defending the quarries, finding themselves threat-
ened, retreated. At five o'clock, Colonel Denfert
surrendered the western part of the position,
which was now occupied by the Germans.
They had lost eight officers and 178 men ; the
French left five officers and ninety-three men
January 21s< to 21th. — ^The next day the first
parallel was thrown up along a front of 1800
metres from Donjoutin to Haut-Taillis. Five
battalions and two companies of Sappers were
engaged in this work, and undisturbed by the
French; but the rocky soil prohibited its being
constructed of the usual width.
General von Tresckow already believed that he
might proceed to storm the two forts of Perches.
Two half-closed redoubts with perpendicular ditches
cut three metres deep out of the rock, casemated
traverses and bomb-proof block-houses in the
gorge, insured protection for the defenders. They
were armed ^vith seven 12-cm. guns in each. The
works were connected by trenches, behind which
a reserve force was in readiness.
On the right flank this position was protected by
a battalion and counter-batteries in Le-Foumeau ;
Siege of Belfort. 267
on the left the wood, which was not more than
600 paces distant, was cleared, and wire-entan-
glements between the stimaps formed an almost
impenetrable obstacle. In front the gentle slope
of the hill was under the cross-fire of the two
As soon as the construction of the parallel was
suflBiciently advanced, on the evening of the 26th, to
allow of its being occupied by larger detachments,
the storming was begun. Two columns of one bat-
talion, one company of Sappers, and two guns, pro-
ceeded to the attack at daybreak on January 27th.
Two companies of Schneidemiihrs Landwehr Bat-
talion advanced on the front of Basses-Perches and
threw themselves on the ground within sixty to
100 metres in front of the works. A party of
sharp-shooters and a few sappers got to the ditch
and unhesitatingly leaped in ; the two other com-
panies, going round the fort to the left, had
reached the rear, and here too the men jumped
into the ditch of the gorge. But the French, who
had been driven out of their shelter-trenches, had
now re-assembled, and the battalion advanced from
Le-Foumeau. All the forts of the place opened
iire on the clear and unprotected space in front of
the parallel, and an attempt to cross it on the
part of the reserve force failed. The 7th Company
of the Landwehr Battalion were suiTounded by
268 The Franco-German War.
superior numbers, and after a brave struggle were
for the most part taken prisoners. Most of the
men in the ditch were still able to escape.
The advance of the right column against Hautes-
Perches also failed. It had to cross 1000 metres
of open ground. An attempt to surround the
fort did not succeed ; it was impossible to get
through the abattis and other obstacles under the
fire of the French.
This disastrous attempt to storm the place cost
10 officers and 427 men ; the slower engineering
operations had to be resumed.
January 2%th and February Ihth. — As the
Germans got nearer to the forts the flying sap
could be carried forward about 300 metres every
night without any opposition from the enemy.
In spite of aU the difficulties caused by the nature
of the soil, by February 1st the second parallel
had been advanced half-way to the forts of Les
As the Fort-de-la-Justice was a particular
hindrance to the works, two batteries had to be
constructed to the east of P^rouse to bear upon it.
Four mortar-batteries on the flank of the parallel
could now fire on Haute and Basse-Perches at very
short range. Three batteries were also placed in the
Bois-des-Perches to attack the castle, and one on the
skirt of the wood by Bavilliers against the main
Siege of Belfort. 269
work. Henceforward 1500 shells a day were fired
on the fortress and outworks.
But the progress of the attack became more
and more difficult. General Debschitz, by re-
tiring, had seriously reduced the working strength
of the besieging force. The loss in sappers was
particularly serious, and two new companies had
to be brought up from Strasburg. The bright
moonlight lighting up the sheets of snow far and
wide made it impossible to proceed with the flying
saps. Sap-roUers were called into requisition ;
the heads of the saps had to be protected by sand-
bags and the sides by gabions, while the earth
for filling had often to be brought from a long
distance in the rear.
On the top of this, on February 3rd, a thaw
set in, and the water from the slopes fiUed the
trenches, so that all intercourse had to be across
the open ground. Torrents of rain damaged the
finished works ; the parapet of the 1st parallel
gave way in places and the banquette was washed
away. The arming of the batteries was most
laborious with the ground in such a state, and
the teams of the columns and field artillery had
to be employed in bringing in ammunition.
Several guns had become useless by over-
heating, while the enemy, by rapidly running out
their guns, firing, and then running them back
270 The Franco-German War.
again, greatly disturbed the work. Not merely
was it necessary to continue the shelling of Les-
Perches during the night, but a brisk rifle fire
had to be kept up. Only now and then did the
batteries newly placed in the parallels succeed in
silencing the guns of Hautes-Perches. Gun epaul-
ments were erected to front Fort Bellevue, and
the fortified railway station and Fort-des-Barres
brought into action again. That under such toil
and the unfavourable weather the health of the
troops must have suffered severely need not be
said ; the battalions could often only muster 300
men for duty.
Meanwhile, however, the artillery of the attack
had become very much stronger than that of the
defenders, and, in spite of every obstacle, the saps
were pushed on to the edge of the ditch of Les-
On February 8th, at 1 in the afternoon. Captain
Roese had the sap rollers flung into the ditch of
Hautes-Perches, sprang into it with five sappers,
and rapidly scaled the parapet by the steps hewn
in the escarp. He was immediately followed by
the trench-guard, but no French were surprised
excepting a few in the casemated traverses.
The situation of the garrison of the fort had in
fact become most critical. Ammunition could only
be fetched under the enemy's fire, water only be
Siege of Belfort. 271
had from the pond at Vernier, and only boiled
inside the works. Colonel Denfert had already
given orders to conceal the materiel. Unseen by
the besiegers, those guns of which the carriages
could still be moved had been withdrawn, and only
one company left in each fort, who, in case of a
surprise, were to fire and escape. Nothing was to
be found in the abandoned works but wrecked gun-
carriages and four damaged guns. This fort was
at once so adapted that its front should face the
fortress, but at three o'clock the main work opened
such a destructive fire on the lost positions that the
men were forced to take shelter in the ditches.
The garrison in Basses-Perches attempted some
resistance, but supported by a reserve they soon
retired on Le-Foumeau, leaving five guns and
much battered ordinance.
Here also the fire from the main work at first
prevented the work of restoration, but four 15-cm.
mortars were at last brought into the fort, and two
9-cm. guns placed on the spur of the hill to the.west-
ward, now directed their fire on Le-Foumeau 1 and
BeUevue. During the night of the 9th the works
were connected by a shelter-trench 624 metres
long, and thus a third parallel was established.
By this time they were in a position to direct
the immediate attack on the castle, and on
this the batteries in the Bois-des-Perches and those
272 The Franco-German War.
in the second parallel opened fire. Moitte,
Justice, and Bellevue were shelled simultaneously.
General von Debschitz had returned, and the
investing corps was by this means again reinforced
to its full numbers, and all the conditions were
improved by the return of the frost. By the
13th ninety-seven guns were mounted ready in
the third parallel.
The town had suffered terribly from the pro-
longed bombardment. Nearly all the buildings
were damaged, fifteen completely burnt down, also
in the adjoining villages 164 houses had been de-
stroyed by the defenders themselves. The fortifi-
cations showed not less visible signs of destruction,
particularly the castle. The stone facing of their
walls had cnmibled into the ditch. Half of the
mantleted embrasures had been shattered, the ex-
pense powder magazines had been blown up, and a
nionber of casemated traverses broken through. The
guns in the highest positions could only be reached
by ladders. The original strength of the garrison
had been 372 officers and 17^322 men, but they had
lost 32 officers and 4713 men, besides 336 citizens.
The place was no longer tenable ; in addition to
this came the news that the army by whom they
expected to be relieved had laid down their arms.
Under . these circumstances General von Tresc-
kow summoned the commandant after such a
Evacuation of Belfort. 273
brave defence to surrender the fort, with a free
retreat for the garrison, this stipulation having the
sanction of his Majesty. The French Government
themselves had given the commandant permission
to accept these terms ; however. Colonel Denfert
insisted that he must have a more direct order.
To procure this an officer was sent to Basle, whilst
there was a provisional armistice.
On the 15th a treaty was signed at Versailles,
which extended the armistice to the three depart-
ments which till then had been excluded from it,
and also to Belfort ; but the 1st article demanded
the surrender of that place.
After the conclusion of the definitive treaty, the
garrison, in the course of the 17th and 18th, with
its arms and trains, left the precincts of the fort,
and passed to L'Isle-sur-Doubs and St.-Hyppolyte
on French territory. The march was effected in
Echelons of 1000 men at intervals of 5 km., the
last accompanied by Colonel Denfert. The pro-
visions which had been stored in the fort were
carried after them in 150 Prussian baggage-
waggons. At three o'clock in the afternoon, on
February 18th, Lieutenant-General von Tresckow
entered the place at the head of detachments of all
the troops of the investing corps.
They found 341 guns, of which 56 were useless,
356 gun-carriages, of which 119 were shot to
VOL. II. T
274 The Franco-German War.
pieces, and 22,000 stand of aims, besides consider-
able supplies of ammunition and provisions.
The siege had cost the Germans 88 officers and
2049 men, 245 of whom were released from im-
prisonment by the capitulation. Immediately the
work of restoring and arming the fort began, and
the levelling of the siege- works.
SURRENDER AND PExiCE.
On the basis of the agreement of January 28th
a line of demarcation was dra^vn, from which
both parties were to ^vithdraw their outposts to a
distance of 10 km. The line ran south from the
mouth of the Seine as far as the Sarthe, crossed
the Loire at Saumur, following the Creuse, turned
eastward past Vierzon, Clam^cy and Chagny, and
then met the Swiss frontier, after passing to the
north of Chdlons-sur-Saone and south of Lons-le-
Saulnier and St.-Laurent. The departments of
Pas-de-Calais and du Nord, as well as the promon-
tory of Havre, were particularly excluded.
The remainder of the forts held by French
troops within the provinces of which the Germans
had taken possession were allowed a radius in pro-
portion to their importance.
In carrying out the details of the agreement a
liberal interpretation was in several places allowed.
The assent of those members of the National
276 The Franco-German War,
Defence Committee who were in Paris was ob-
tained ; but the delegates at Bordeaux, who had
hitherto conducted the war, at first held aloof, and,
indeed, as yet had not been informed of the stipu-
lations. Gambetta, however, suspended operations,
but could give the commanders no more precise
Greneral Faidherbe was thus without orders with
regard to the evacuation of Dieppe and Abbeville.
General von Goeben, however, deferred taking
possession. On the west of the Seine, the Grand
Duke was forced to announce that the non-recogni-
tion of the line pf demarcation would result in an
immediate recommencement of hostilities.
The commandant of the garrison at Langres
also raised difficulties, and only retreated within
his rayon on February 7th, as, later on, did
Greneral RoUand in Besan9on. Auxonne refused
to surrender the railway. Bitsch, which had not
been worth the trouble of a serious attack, rejected
the convention ; the investment had therefore to
be strengthened, and only in March, when threat-
ened with a determined attack, did the garrison
abandon its peak of rock.
Also the volunteers did not acquiesce at once,
and there were skirmishes with them in various
places. But after the conditions were finally
settled, no more serious quarrels took place be-
Relief of Paris. 277
tween the inhabitants and the Grerman troops
during the whole course of the armistice.
All the Grerman corps outside Paris had occupied
the forts lying in their front, more particularly the
Vth that of Mont-Val^rien, and the IVth the town
of St.-Denis. The ground between the forts and the
walls remained neutral ground, which only civilians
were allowed to cross, along particular roads placed
under control of German examining troops.
In their anxiety as to the indignation of the
people, the French Government had so long hesi-
tated to pronounce the word " capitulation," that
now, even with free ingress of supplies, Paris was
threatened with an outbreak of real famine. The
unnecessary stores in the German magazines were
therefore placed at the disposal of the authorities.
The Commander-in-Chief, the Government authori-
ties, and the military inspectors received orders to
place no difficulties in the way of the repairing of
the railways and roads in their districts, and they
were even allowed to make use of the railroads
which the invaders used to supply their own army,
under German direction. Nevertheless, the first
provision train only arrived in Paris on February
3rd, and it was the middle of the month before the
French had succeeded in remedying the prevalent
distress in the capital.
The German prisoners were at once given up.
278 The Franco-German War.
The smrender of arms and militaiy materiel
followed by degrees, also the 200 million francs
ransom imposed on the city.
But it was still doubtful if the party of war
" k outrance " in Bordeaux would agree with the
arrangement of the Paris Government, and if at
last the National Assembly, which was about to be
convened, would accept the conditions of peace
made by the conqueroi-s. Such measures as were
necessary in case the war should break out again
were therefore taken on the French as weU as on
the German side.
The distribution of the French army at the close
of the armistice was not a favourable one.
By General Faidherbe's advice the whole Army
of the North was disbanded, as being too weak to
face the strength of the forces that stood opposite
to them. After the XXIInd Corps had been
transported by sea to Cherbourg, the Army of
Bretagne, under General de Colombo, was made
up of this, ^vith the XXVIIth and part of the
XlXth Corps, and, including Lipowski's volimteers,
Cathelineaus and others, amounted to 150,000
men. General Loysel, wth 30,000 ill-armed and
inexperienced Gardes-Mobiles, remained in the
trenches before Ha\Te.
General Chanzy, after his retreat on Mayenne,
had made a movement to the left, in order to assist
Precautionary Measures. 279
in a new plan of action with the Ilnd Army of the
Loire, with its base at Caen, which, however, was
never carried out. The XVIIIth, XXIst, XVIth,
and XXVIth Corps stood between the lower Loire
and the Cher from Angers to Ch&teauroxix, about
100,000 men strong, the XXVth under General
Pourcet at Bourges, and General de Pointe's Corps
at Nevers. The Army of the Vosges had with-
drawn to the south of Chalon-sur-Saone, and
the remainder of the Army of the East assembled
under General Cremer at Chambery as the XXIVth
The total of all the field-troops amoimted to
534,452 men. The volunteers, even the most
reliable, were dismissed, and the National Guard
were for the present regarded as incapables de
rendre aucun service a la guerre. In the barracks,
the manoeuvring camps, and in Algiers there were
still 354,000 men, and 132,000 were on the muster
rolls as recruits in 1871, but had not yet been told
If the war should be persisted in, a plan for
limiting it to defensive measures in the south-east
of France had been suggested, for which, however,
according to the report sent on February 8th by the
Committee of Inquiry to the National Assembly,
scarcely more than 252,000 men in fighting con-
dition were available. The fleet, besides, had
28o The Franco-German War.
given up so considerable a number of its men and
guns for service on land, that it was no longer
able for any great undertaking at sea.
On the German side the first consideration was
to restore the troops to their war-standing, and
make good the stores of materiel.
The forts round Paris were at once armed on
the fronts facing the city walls. In and between
these stood 680 guns, 145 of which had been taken
from the French; they were more than enough
to keep the restless population under control. A
part of the forces which till then had been occu-
pied with the siege, being no longer required, were
removed, in order that all the troops might have
better accommodation. Besides, it seemed desir-
able to strengthen the Ilnd Army, which faced the
enemy's principal force ; in consequence the IVth
Corps marched on Nogent-le-Rotrou, the Vth on
Orleans, and the IXth, which was relieved there,
on Vend6me ; so that now the quarters of this
army extended from Alen9on to Tours, and up
the Loire as far as Gien and Auxerre.
The 1st Army was in the north with the Vlllth
Corps on the Somme, and on both sides of
the Lower Seine ; in the south the Army of the
South occupied the line of demarcation from
Baume to Switzerland, and the coimtry in the
Precautionary Measures. 281
At the end of February the invading field-army
standing on French ground consisted of : —
464,221 men with 1674 guns.
Troops in garrison
105,272 men with 68 guns.
Total . 630,736 men and 1742 guns.
Reserve forces left in Germany : —
Arrangements were made, that in case of a re-
commencement of hostilities, the strongest resistance
could be made at all points. The armistice had
nearly reached its end, and the troops had already
been more closely collected to be ready to advance
first of all on the ojffensive, towards the south,
when the clerk of the Council announced that the
armistice was extended to the 24th, and again
prolonged to midnight on the 26th.
Considerable difficulties had arisen from the dif-
ferences of opinion with regard to the election of
the National Assembly, between the Government
in Paris and the Delegation at Bordeaux. The
282 The Franxo-German War.
Germans wished to see the choice, not of a party,
but of the whole nation, expressed by a free
suffrage. But Gambetta had ruled, contrary to
the conditions of the armistice, that all those who,
after December 2nd, 1851, had held any position
in the Imperial Government should be regarded as
ineligible. It was not till the Parisian Goveiiunent
had obtained a majority of votes by despatching
several of its members to Bordeaux, and till the
dictator had resigned on February 6th, that the
voting went on quickly and unhindered.
The deputies were already assembled in Bor-
deaux by the 12th. M. Thiers was elected chief of
the executive, and went to Paris on the 19th with
Jules Favrc, determined to end the aimless war at
Negotiations for peace were opened, and after
five days' violent debating, when at last the Ger-
mans consented to restore Belfort to the French,
the preliminaries were signed on the afternoon of
France agreed to surrender to Germany a part of
Lorraine and Alsace, with the exception of Belfort,
and a war indenmity of five milliards of francs.
The evacuation of the places that the Germans
had taken was to begin immediately on the ratifica-
tion of the treaty, and be continued by degrees in
proportion as the money was paid. As long as the
German Occupation of Paris. 2S3
German troops remained on French soil they were
to be fed at the expense of France. On the other
hand ; no further requisitions were to be made by
the Gennans. Immediately after the first evacua-
tion the French forces were to retire behind the
Loire, with the exception of 40,000 men in Paris
and the necessary garrisons in the fortresses.
After the ratification of these preliminaries,
further terms were to be discussed in Brussels, and
the return of the French prisoners would begin.
Thus the armistice was prolonged to March 12th ;
but it was in the option of either of the belligerent
powers to end it after March 3rd by giving three
Finally, it was stipulated that the German Army
should have the satisfaction of marching into Paris,
and remaining there till the ratification of the
treaty ; but they would restrict themselves to the
quarter of the to^vn lying between Point-du-jour
and the Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honor^. This was
occupied on March 1st, after a parade in Long-
champs before his Majesty of 30,000 men, con-
sisting of 11,000 of the Vlth, 11,000 of the Ilnd
Bavarian, and 8000 of the Xlth Army Corps. On
the 3rd and 5th of March they were to have
been relieved by other detachments of the same
strength, but M. Thiers succeeded by March 1st in
getting the National Assembly at Bordeaux to
284 The Franco-German War.
accept the treaty, after the deposition of the Napo-
leonic dynasty had been voted. The exchaoge of
ratifications took place in the afternoon of the
2nd, and on the 3rd the first detachment marched
back into quarters.
The Return March of the German Army.
By the Ilird Article, the whole of the land be-
tween the Seine and the Loire, excepting Paris,
was to be evacuated with as little delay as possible
by both armies ; the right bank of the former river,
on the other hand, was only to be cleared after the
conclusion of the definitive treaty of peace. Even
then the six eastern departments were still left in
possession of the Germans as a pledge for the last
three milliards; not, however, occupied by more
than 50,000 men.
The order of march was drawn up at head-
quarters, with a view no less to the comfort of the
troops than to the re-formation of the original
order of battle, and the possibility of rapid assembly
in case of need.
The forces told off for permanent occupation of
the ceded provinces marched thither at once.
The reserve and Landwehr troops in Germany
were disbanded, as well as the Baden contingent,
which, however, for the present remained there as a
Return March of the Invaders. 285
mobilized force. The Army head-quarters in Lor-
raine, Rheims, and Versailles were broken up, and
their authority handed over to the Generals in com-
mand ; but in order to maintain order in the rear
of the army, the Vlth and Xllth Corps, as well as
the Wurtemburg Field Division, were placed under
the immediate command of the Army head-
By March Slst the Army had taken possession
of the newly-acquired territory, bounded on the
west by the Seine from its source to its mouth.
The 1st Army was in the departments of Seine-
Inf^rieure and Somme, the Ilnd in front of Paris,
in the departments of Oise and Seine-et-Mame, the
Ilird in the departments of Aube and Haute-
Mame, the Army of the South in the last hostile
districts. The forts of Paris on the left bank were
given up to the French authorities ; the siege park
and the captured war materiel had been carried off.
In consideration of the wishes of the French
Government, in order that the National Assembly
might be allowed as early as possible to sit at
Versailles, the head-quarters were broken up and
transferred to Ferriferes, even sooner than had been
agreed. On March 15th his Majesty left Nancy for
All the troops that were left before Paris were
placed under the command of the Crown Prince of
286 The Franco-German War.
Saxony, and General von Manteuffel was nominated
Commander of the Army of Occupation.
At the moment when France had freed her-
self by a heavy sacrifice, an enemy of the most
dangerous character appeared from within : the
Commime in Paris.
The 40,000 men who had been left there proved
themselves unequal to the task of keeping the
rebellious movement under control; even during
the siege it had on several occasions betrayed its
presence, and now broke out in open civil war.
Large masses of people, encouraged by the
National Guard and the Garde-Mobile, took
possession of the guns and set themselves up in
armed opposition to the Government. M. Thiers
had already, by March 1 8th, summoned to Ver-
sailles such regiments as could still be trusted,
to mthdraw them from the dangers of party
influence, and for the protection of the National
Assembly there. The French capital remained
destroyed, and plundered by the French troops.
The GeiTOans could have easily and quickly put
an end to the matter, but what Government would
allow its rights to be established by foreign
bayonets ? The German Commanders-in-Chief
limited themselves to forbidding any rebellious
disturbances within their own district, and to pre-
venting any further marching into Paris from out-
The Commune in Paris. 287
side. The work of disarming, which had com-
menced, was interrupted ; the troops of the Ilird
Corps were drawn closer to the forts, and the out-
posts were replaced along the line of demarcation,
where 200,000 men could be collected within two
The authorities in Paris, however, announced
that any attempt to arm the fronts facing the
Germans would result in an instantaneous bom-
bardment of the city. The rebels, however, were
fully occupied in destroying and burning, and in
executing their superiors in the interior of Paris.
They did not turn against their foreign enemy, but
against the Government chosen by the nation, and
prepared for an attack on Versailles.
The leaders of the State who were there, bound
by the conditions of the treaty, were almost defence-
less ; meanwhile the Germans were prepared and
willing to march up a reinforcement of 80,000 men,
troops from Besan9on, Auxerre and Cambrai;
and their transport would be furthered by the
German troops in occupation of the districts
through which they would have to pass.
The releasing of the prisoners had, on the con-
trary, been reduced. And these were, for the most
part, the best disciplined of the forces ; but they
might not improbably join the hostile party, so at
first only 20,000 troops of the line were set free.
288 The Franco-German War.
General MacMahon inarched on April 4th with
the Govemment troops towards Paris, and entered
the city on the 21st. As they then were engaged
for eight days in barricade fighting, and troops of
fugitives threatened to break through the German
lines, the Ilird Army was ordered to form in
closer order. The outposts advanced almost to the
gates of the city, and barred all communication
through them until, at the end of the month, Paris
was again in the control of the Govemment.
In the meantime, the negotiations commenced
in Brussels and continued in Frankfort were
making rapid progress, and by May 10th the
definite treaty of peace, based on the preliminaries,
was ready to be signed. The ratification on both
sides followed within the appointed time of ten
Thus a war, carried on with such a vast expen-
diture of force on both sides, was brought to an
end by incessant and restless energy in the short
period of seven months.
Even in the first four weeks eight battles took
place, under which the French Empire collapsed,
and the French Army was swept from the
Fresh forces, massive but incompetent, equalized
the original numerical superiority of the Germans,
General Estimate of Losses. 289
and it needed twelve more battles to secure the
decisive siege of the enemy's capital.
Twenty fortified places were taken, and not a
single day passed without a struggle, great or
The war had cost the Germans many \dctims ;
they lost 6,247 officers, 123,453 men, 1 flag,
The total losses of the French were incalculable ;
in prisoners only they amounted to : —
In Germany . . 11,860 officers, 371,981 men.
In Paris . . 7,456 „ 241,686 „
Disarmed in Switz-
erland . . 2,192 „ 88,381 „
21,508 officers, 702,048 men.
107 flags and eagles, 1,915 field-guns, 5,526
fort-gims were captured.
Strasburg and Metz, which had been aUenated
from Germany in a time of weakness, were re-
conquered, and the German Empire had risen
Memorandum on the Councils op War said to have
BEEN HELD DURING THE WaRS UNDER KiNG WlLLIAM.
In the accounts of historical events^ as they are handed
down to posterity, mistakes assume the form of legends
which it is not always easy subsequently to disprove.
Among others is the fable which very circumstantially
ascribes the great decisions taken in the course of the
German campaigns, before and in 1870-71, to the con-
sultations of councils of war previously convened.
For instance, the battle of Koniggratz.
I can relate in a few lines the circumstances under
which an event of such far-reaching importance had
The Master of the Ordnance, Feldzeugmeister Bene-
dek, had, in his advance to the northward, to secure him-
self against the Ilnd Prussian Army marching on the
east over the mountains of Schleswig. To this end four
of his Corps had one after another been pushed forward
on his flank, and had all been beaten within three days.
ITiey now joined the main body of the Austrian Army,
which had meanwhile reached Dubenetz.
Here, then, on June 30th, almost the whole of the
Austrian forces were standing actually within the line of
operations between the two Prussian armies; but the
Ist was already fighting its way to Gitschin, designated
294 The Franxo-German War.
from Berlin as the point on which they were to concen-
trate^ and the Ilnd had also advanced close on the Upper
Elbe ; thns they were both so near that the enemy conld
not attack the one without the other falling on his rear.
His strategic advantages were nullified by the tactical
Under these circumstances, and having already lost
40,000 men in previous battles, General Benedek gave up
the advance, and during the night of June 30th began
his retreat on Koniggratz.
The movement of six Army Corps and four Cavalry
Divisions, marching in only four columns, which were
necessarily very deep, could not be accomplished in the
course of a single day. They halted in close order
between Trotina and Lipa ; but when on July 2nd they
were still there, it was owing to the extreme fatigue of
the troops, and the difficulty, nay, impossibility, of
withdrawing so large a body of men beyond the Elbe,
under the eyes of an active enemy and by a limited
number of passages. In fact, the Austrian general could
no longer manoeuvre ; he must fight.
It is a noteworthy fact that neither his advance on
Dubenetz nor his retreat on Lipa was known to the
Prussians. These movements were concealed from the
Ilnd Army by the Elbe, and the cavalry of the 1st at
that time constituted a useless mass of 8000 horse
remaining with the Corps. The four squadrons attached
to each Infantry Division were of course not able to effect
the reconnoissance, as subsequently was done in 1870 by
a more advantageous plan of formation.
Thus at head-quarters at Gitschin, where the King was,
nothing certain was known. It was supposed that the
main body of the hostile army was still advancing, and
that it would draw up in a position with the Elbe in its
front and the wings at the fortress of Joseph-stadt and
Koniggratz. There were these two alternatives — either
to outflank this strong position, or attack in front.
By the first the communications of the Austrian Army
would be so seriously threatened at Pardabitz that it
might be compelled to retreat. Bat with such a move-
ment the Ilnd Prussian Army must take the place of
the 1st and cross over to the right bank of the Elbe.
At the same time the flank movement of the 1st Army,
close past the enemy's front, might easily be interfered
with, if passages enough were opened.
In the second case, success could only be hoped for
if an advance of the Ilnd Army on the right wing
of the enemy's position could be combined with the
attack in front. For this it must be kept on the left
The separation of the two armies, which was for the
present intentionally maintained, allowed of either plan
being followed ; but mine was the serious responsibility of
advising his Majesty which.
To keep both open for the present, General von
Herwarth was ordered to occupy Pardubitz, and the
Crown Prince to remain on the left bank of the Elbe,
to reconnoitre along that river as well as the Aupa and
the Metau, and remove all obstacles which might oppose
a crossing in either direction. At last, on July 2nd,
Prince Frederick Charles was ordered, in the event of
his finding a large force in front of the Elbe, to attack
at once. But, on the evening of that day, it was an*
nounced to the Prince that the whole Austrian Army
had marched on the Bistritz ; and, in obedience to in-
structions^ he at once ordered the 1st Army and the
296 The Franco-German War.
Army of tlie Elbe to unite close in front of the enemy
by daybreak next morning.
General von Voigt-Rhetz brought the news at eleven
o'clock in the evening to the King at Gitschin^ and he
sent him over to me.
This news settled all doubts and lifted a weight from
my mind. " Thank God ! " I said, sprang out of bed,
and hastened across to the King, who was lodged on the
other side of the Market Place.
His Majesty also had gone to rest in his little camp-
bed. After a brief explanation on my part, he said he
fully understood the situation, decided on giving battle
next day with all three armies at once, and desired me
to transmit the necessary orders to the Crown Prince,
who was at once to cross the Elbe.
The whole interview with his Majesty had lasted barely
ten minutes. No one else was present.
This was the Council of War before Koniggratz.
General von Podbielski and Major Count Wartens-
leben shared my quarters. The orders to the Ilnd Army
were drawn up forthwith and despatched in duplicate by
two different routes before midnight. One, carried by
General von Voigt-Rhetz, informed Prince Frederick
Charles of the steps to be taken ; the other was sent
direct to Koniginhof.
In the course of his night-ride of above six miles
(German), Lieutenant-Colonel Count Finckenstein had
to pass the outposts of the 1st Army Corps, which was
most to the rear. He handed to the oflScer on duty a
special letter to be forwarded immediately to the general
in command, ordering an immediate muster of the troops
and an independent advance, even before orders should
reach him from the Crown Prince.
The position of the Anstrians on July 3rd had a front
of not more than a German mile. The Prussian armies
advanced on it in a semicircle of about five miles in
extent. But while in the centre the Ist and Ilnd Corps
of the Ist Army stood before daylight close in front of
the enemy^ on the right wing General von Herwarth had
to advance on the Bistritz from Smidar in the dark, by
very bad roads, above two miles ; and on the left, orders
from head-quarters could not even reach the Crown Prince
before four in the momiug. It was therefore decided
that an engagement was to be fought with the centre to
detain the Austrian Army for some hours.
Above all, any possible ofEensive move on the part of
the enemy must here be met, and for this the whole
Ilird Corps and cavalry stood at hand ; but the battle
could only be decided by a flank movement by both the
Prussian wings at once.
I had ridden out early to the heights above Sadowa
with my officers, and at eight o'clock the King also
It was a dull mcrniDg, and from time to time a shower
fell. The horizon was dim, for on the right the white
clouds of smoke showed that the head of the Ist Army
was already fighting some way off, outside the villages on
the Bistritz. On the left, in the woods of Swip, brisk
rifle-firing was audible. Behind the King, besides his
staff were his royal guests with their numerous suites of
adjutants, equerries, and led-horses, in number as many
as two squadrons. An Austrian battery seemed to have
selected them to aim at, and compelled him to move
away with a smaller following.
Soon after, Count Wartensleben and I rode through
Sadowa, which the enemy had already abandoned. The
298 The Franco-German War.
vanguard of the 8th Division had drawn np the guns
nnder cover of the tirailleurs who had been sent forward,
but several shells fell there from a large battery at the
skirt of the wood. As we rode down the road we
admired the coolness of a hnge ox which went on its
way heedless of the shot^ and seemed** determined to
charge the enemy's position.
The formidable array of the Ilird and Xth Austrian
Corps' Artillery opposite the wood now prevented any
attempt to break through if, and I was in time to
countermand an order which had been given to do so.
Meanwhile^ further to the left. General von Transecky
had already acted on the offensive. After a sharp
struggle he had driven the enemy out of the Swip woods,
and got through to the further side. Against him he
had the lYth Austrian Corps ; bnt now the Ilnd and
part of the Ilird Corps turned on the 7th Division ;
fifty-one battalions against fourteen. In the thick
brushwood all the detachments had got mixed, individual
command was impossible, and, in spite of our obstinate
resistance, whole troops were taken prisoners and others
Such a rabble rushed out of the wood at the very
moment when the King and his staff rode np ; his
Majesty looked on with some displeasure,* but the
wounded officer who was trying to keep his little troop
together at once led them back into the fight. In spite
of heavy losses the division got possession of the
northern side of the wood. It had drawn down itself
^ I have a history of the war, pablisbed at Tokio, in the Japan-
ese language, with very original illustrations. One of these has
for its title, " The King scolding the Army."
very large forces of the enemy which were subsequently
missing in the positions they ought to have defended.
It was now eleven o'clock. The head of the 1st Army
had crossed the Bistritz and taken most of the villages
along its banks; but these were only the enemy's out-
posts, which he tad no serious intention of guarding.
His main Corps held a position in the rear from whence,
with 250 guns, it commanded the open plains which the
Prussians must cross in ordei* to attack. On the right.
General von Herwarth had reached the Bistritz, but on
the Jeft nothing was yet to be seen of the Crown
The battle had come to a standstill. In the centre the
1st Army was still fighting round the villages on the
Bistritz ; the cavalry could not get forward, and the
artillery found no good position to occupy. The troops
had been for five hours under the enemy's hottest fire,
without food, for there had not been time to prepare it.
Some doubt as to the issue of the battle existed pro-
bably in many minds ; perhaps in that of Count Bismarck
as he offered me a cigar. As I was subsequently in-
formed, he took it for a good sign that of two cigars I
coolly took the best.
The King asked me at about this time what I thought of
the prospects of the battle. I replied, '* Your Majesty
to-day will not only win the battle, but decide the war."
It could not be otherwise.
We had the advantage in numbers,' which in war is
^ During a loug peace the sphere of action of the War Minister's
department and the G-eneral Staff were not distinctly defined The
providing for the troops in peace was the function of the former,
and in war-time a number of ofRcial duties which could be super-
intended by the central authorities at home. Thus the place of
300 The Franco-German War.
never to be despised ; and our Ilnd Army must come up
in the flank and rear of the Austrians.
At about 1.30 a white cloud was seen on the
height crowned with trees and visible from afar^ on
which our field-glasses had been centred. It was
indeed not yet the Ilnd Army, but the smoke of the fire
opened on its advance. The joyful shout, *' The Crown
Prince is coming ! " ran through the ranks. I sent the
desired news to General von Herwarth, who, meanwhile,
had carried Problus from the Saxons in spite of a heroic
The Ilnd Army had started at 7.30 in the morning;
only the 1st Corps had waited till about 9.15. The
advance by bad roads, in part across the fields, had
taken much time ; the ridge of hills stretching from
Horenowes to Trotina, in the march, if efficiently held
must be a serious obstacle ; but in their eager pursuit
of Fransecky's Division the enemy's right wing had
wheeled to the left, so that it lay open to some extent to
an attack in the rear.
The Crown Prince's progress was not visible to usf, but
at about half-past three the King ordered the advance
of the 1st Army.
the Minister o! War was not at head-quarters, but at Berlin. The
Chief of the General Staff, on the other hand, from the moment
when the mobilization is ordered, assnmes the whole responsibility
for the marching and transport already prepared for during peace,
both for the firnt assembling of the forces and for their subsequent
employment, for which he has only to ask the consent of the
Commander-in-Chief — always, with us, the King.
How necessary this severance of authority is,! learnt in June,1866.
"Without my knowledge the order had been given for the Vllth
Corps to remain on the Bhine. It was only by my representa-
tions that the 16th Division was also moved up into Bohemia, and
oar numerical superiority thus brought np to a decisive strength.
As we came ont of the wood of Sadowa we found still
a part of the great battery which had so long prevented
US from debouching there^ but the teams and gunners
lay dead by the wrecked guns. There was nothing else
to be seen of the enemy for a long way round.
The Austrian retreat from the position, stormed on both
sides^ had become inevitable^ and had^ in fact^ been effected
some time since. Their capital artillery^ firing on to the
last moment^ had screened their retreat and given the
infantry a long start. Crossing the Bistritz seriously
delayed the progress, especially of the cavalry, so that
only isolated detachments came up with the enemy.
We rode at a smart gallop across the wide field of
battle, without looking much about us at the scene of
horror. On the other side we joined our three armies
which had at last pushed through the narrow place from
various directions, and got much mixed. It took twenty-
four hours to remedy the confusion and re-form the com-
panies ; pursuit was at that moment impossible, but the
victory was complete.
The exhausted men at once sought a spot to rest on
in the villages or the open country where best they
might. Anything that came to hand by way of food
was of course taken ; my wandering ox probably among
the rest. The death-cries of pigs and geese were heard ;
but necessity knows no law, and the baggage-waggons
were naturally not on the spot.
The King, too, remained at a hamlet on the field. Only
I and my two oflScers had to ride five miles back to
Gitschin, where the offices were.
We had set out at four in the morning, and had been
fourteen hours in the saddle. In the sudden emerging
no one had thought of providing himself with food. An
302 The Franco-German War.
Uhlan of the 2iid Begiment had given me part of a
sansage-bread he had got. On onr way back we met
the endless train of provision and ammunition waggons,
often extending all across the road. We did not reach
oar quarters till midnight. There was nothing to eat
even here at this hour, but I was so exhausted that I threw
myself on my bed in my great -coat and scarf, and fell
asleep instantly. Next morning new orders had to be
drawn out and laid before his Majesty at Horitz.
The Great King had struggled for seven years to
reduce the might of Austria, and his more fortunate
and more powerful grandson had achieved it in as
many weeks. The campaign had proved decisive in the
first eight days from June 27th to July 8rd.
The war of 1866 was entered on not because the
existence of Prussia was threatened, nor in obedience to
public opinion and the voice of the people : it was a
struggle, long foreseen and calmly prepared for, recog-
nized as a necessity by the Cabinet, not for territorial
aggrandizement or material advantage, but for an ideal
end — the establishment of power. Not a foot of land
was exacted from conquered Austria, but it had to
renounce all part in the hegemony of Germany.
The Imperial family alone were to blame if the old
Empire had now for centuries allowed domestic politics
to override German national politics. Austria had ex-
hausted her strength in conquests south of the Alps, and
left the western German provinces unprotected, instead
of following the road pointed out by the course of the
Danube. Its centre of gravity lay out of Germany;
Prussia's lay within it. Prussia felt itself strong enough
and called upon to assume the leadership of the German
races. The regrettable but unavoidable exclusion of
one of thorn from the new Empire could only be to a
small extent remedied by a subsequent alliance. But
Prussia has become immeasurably greater without Aus-
tria, than it was before with Austria.
Bat all this has nothing to do with the legends of
which I was speaking.
One has been sung in verse, and in fine verse too.
The scene is Versailles. The French are making a
sortie from Paris^ and the generals^ instead of leading
their troops, are assembled to consider whether head-
quarters may safely remain any longer at Versailles.
Opinions are divided, no one dares speak out. The Chief
of the General Stafi*, who is above all called on to express
his views, remains silent. The consternation seems
to be great. Only the War Minister rises and pro-
tests with the greatest emphasis against a measure so
injurious from a political and military point of view as
a removal. He is warmly thanked by the King as being
the only man who has the courage to speak the truth
freely and fearlessly.
The truth is that while the King and his whole escort
had ridden out to the Vth Army Corps, the Chamberlain
in his over-anxiety had the horses put to the royal
carriages, and this became known in the town ; and this
indeed may have excited all sorts of hopes in the san-
Versailles was protected by four Army Corps. It
never entered anybody's head to think of leaving it.
I can positively assert no Council of War was ever
held either in 1866 or 1870-71.
Excepting on the march or in days of battle, an
audience was regularly held by his Majesty at ten
o^clock, at which I, accompanied by the Quartermaster-
304 The Franxo-German War.
Greneral^ laid the latest reports and news before liim>
and made onr suggestions on that basis. The Chief of
the War Cabinet and the Minister of War were also
presentj and^ so long as the head-quarters of the Ilird
Army were at Versailles, the Crown Prince also, but all
merely as listeners. The King occasionally required
them to give him information on one point or another ;
but I do not remember that he ever asked for advice
concerning the operations in the field or the sugges-
tions I made.
These, which I always discussed beforehand with my
staff officers, were, on the contrary, generally maturely
weighed by his Majesty. He always pointed out with a
military eye and an invariably correct estimate of the
position, all the objections that might be raised to their
execution; but as in war every step is beset with danger,
the plans laid before him were invariably adopted.
GXLJIS8T AND BITXirOTOJr, LD,, IT. JOXV'l KOVBI, OLSBKBVWILL, I.C.
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