James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 12) online

. (page 37 of 55)
Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 12) → online text (page 37 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

obtain du r ing the war an opportunity to
cancel the Treaty of Paris of 1856. In
Italy King Victor Emmanuel was indeed
personally inclined to support the French,
on whose side he had fought in 1855
and 1859 ; but his Ministers were opposed
to a war which was waged against the
growing unity of Germany. Any hin-
drance to this growth must signify a defeat
of the principle of nationality, and thus
become dangerous to the unity of Italy.
The lowest price at which Italy could be
won was in any case the surrender of Rome ;
but Napoleon III. stood in awe of the
clerical party, and could not make up his
mind to a step which would incense them.

The policy .of Austria was at least trans-
parent. She intended to complete her
preparations lor war under the cloak of
neutrality, without exposing herself to a
premature attack from the side of Russia.
The rapidity with which the French army
was crushed, however, by the Germans
soon stifled any wish to take part in the
war which had been felt at Vienna.

On the eve of the declaration of war, on

July i8th, an event involving grave issues

occurred at Rome. The Vati-

_ e kp * can Council, assembled since

December 8th, 1869, was op-

pressed irom the outset by the

sense of an inevitable destiny. The
Opposition reckoned some 150 bishops
and abbots. But it was out-voted in
the ratio of three to one by the supporters
of infallibility, and was itself divided,
since one part alone was opposed to the.
dogma itself, the other part only did
not wish to see it proclaimed just then.
Besides this the papal plenipotentiaries
were said by their opponents to have
proceeded in such a way as to preclude
freedom in voting. After a trial vote
of July I3th had shown the result that
451 ayes and 88 noes were recorded,
and a deputation of the Opposition to
the Pope had produced no effect, most of
the Opposition left Rome.

Thus, on July i8th, 1870, amid the
crashes of a terrible storm which
shrouded the council hall in darkness,
the dogma was accepted, by 533 votes
against two, that the Pope of Rome,
when he speaks ex cathedra to settle
some point of faith and morals, is in-
fallible, and that such decisions are in
themselves unalterable even by the
common consent of the Church.



IT was to be expected, from the rapidity
* with which France had brought on the
outbreak of the war, that she would have
the start of the Germans in its preparations,
and would bring the war as soon as possible
into Germany. Leboeuf, the Minister of
War, certainly used the phrase, "We are
absolutely ready to the last gaiter-button,"
and possibly the emperor hoped to break
the spirit of Prussia by rapid blows, and
then to incorporate Belgium. But it was
soon shown that France was not ready.
" There was a deficiency," so the French
historian, Arthur Chuquet says, " in money,
in food, in camp-kettles, cooking utensils,
tents, harness, medicine, stretchers, every-
thing, in short " ; the existing railways
were inadequate to convey to the frontiers
the 300,000 men whom France had at her
disposal for the war, so that half of them
were obliged to march on foot. The
regiments were not constructed according
to definite and compact geo-
. graphical districts : Alsatians

Unprepared .

. had to travel to Bayonne in

for War

order to join the ranks of their

regiments, and southerners to Brittany.
The result, under the stress of circum-
stances, was an irremediable confusion
and an unusual delay in the advance. On
the other hand, the mobilisation proceeded
quickly and easily among the Germans,
where everything had been prepared as far
as could be beforehand, arid every day was
assigned its proper task. Moltke made
the suggestive remark that the fourteen^
days of the mobilisation, during whicrtSe
there was nothing to carry out that had
not been long foreseen, were some of the
most tranquil days of his life. .

The French, according to the original
and proper intention, formed one single
army, the army of the Rhine, whose
commander-in-chief was to be the emperor,
with Leboeuf as chief of the General Staff ;
but when it came to the point, this army

was divided into two forces, one of 200,000
men under Marshal Bazaine in Metz, and
one of 100,000 men under Marshal
MacMahon in Strassburg. The German
troops were divided into three armies.
The first was posted, under General
Steinmetz, north-east of Treves, round
Wittlich, and was made up of the yth and
Tk TK * ne ^ n corps, from the Rhine
6 districts and Westphalia; it
ofGerman numbered some 60,000 men.
y Next to it came the second
army, under Prince Frederic Charles,
which consisted of the 3rd, 4th, and loth
corps ; that is to say, of Brandenburgers,
Saxons from the province, and Hano
verians, and of the Guards ; it took up
its position round Neunkirchen and Horn-
burg, and was 134,000 strong. Finally,
the third army, 130,000 men, was placed
under the command of the Crown Prince
Frederic William ; to it belonged the 5th
and nth corps, from Posen, Hesse, and
Thuringia, as well . as the Bavarians,
Wiii tembergers, and Badeners ; they
were stationed at Rastatt and Landau.
The Crown Prince, before going to the
front, visited the. South German courts
and quickly won the hearts of his soldiers
by his chivalrous and kindly nature.
Strong reserves stood behind the three
armies namely, the gth and i2th corps,
the Schleswig-Holsteiners and the Saxons
from the kingdom, at Mainz, and the ist,
2nd, and 6th corps, the East
Prussians, Pomeranians, and
Silesians, who on account of
the railway conditions could
not be sent to the front until the twentieth
day. and \\ere also intended to be kept in
readiness for all emergencies against
Austria. The sea-coast was to be guarded
against the expected attacks of the French
fleet by the ijth division, Magdeburg and
the Hanse towns, and by the Landwehr.
Moltke, as chief of the Prussian General






FKMU a photograph



Staff, disclaimed all idea of a minutely
elaborated plan, since the execution of
such a plan cannot be guaranteed, for
every battle creates a
new situation, which
must be treated and
regarded by itself.

Moltke therefore laid
down three points only
as of paramount import-
ance. First, when the
enemy is met, he must
be attacked with full
strength ; secondly, the
goal of all efforts is the
enemy's capital, the
possession of which,
owing to strict central-
isation of the French
( ii >\"crnment, is of para-
mtnmt importance in a
war against France ;
iiy, the enemy's
! nvs are, if possible, to
1'c driven, not towards
the rich south of France, but towards
the north, which is poorer in resources
and bounded by the sea. Since no
blow was intended to be struck before


From a photograph

the advance of the entire army was
completed and the full weight of a
combined attack was assured, the French
had for a few days
apparently a free hand,
and with three army
corps drove back out
of Saarbriicken on
August 2nd the three
battalions of those ( p-
posed to them. During
the operations the em-
peror took his son, a
boy of fourteen, under
fire ; according to the
official telegram " some
soldiers shed tears of
joy when they saw the
prince so calm." But
the satisfaction was soon
turned into chagrin
when the third army, in
order to cover the left
flank of the second
army, which was ad-
vancing towards the Saar, marched closer
to it, and on August 4th attacked the
French division of General Abel Douay,
which occupied the town of Weissenburg,


From photographs


The prospect of a war with Germany roused the inhabitants of Paris to a state of the highest enthusiasm, and for
weeks they deluded themselves with hopes of victory, shouting themselves hoarse with the cry, " i, Berlin!" The
defeats that followed brought with them terrible disillusionment, and the whole blame was laid on the Government



and the Gaisberg lying
south of it, and utterly
defeated it. Among the
prisoners was a number
of Turcos or Arab soldiers
from Algiers, whom
Napoleon, though they
could not be reckoned as
civilised soldiers, had no
scruples in employing in
the war against the
Germans; but they could
not resist the impetuous
valour of the Bavarians
and Poseners. On August
6th the third army on
its advance into Alsace
encountered the army
of Marshal MacMahon,
which occupied. a strong
position near the small
town of Worth, on the
right bank of the Sauer-
bach, a tributary

battalions were on the
spot against thirty-nine
of the French, whose
commander, since he did
not wish to be cut off
from Metz, saw him-
self compelled to make a
hasty retreat, which
abandoned Eastern Lor-
raine to the Germans.
The ' news from the
scene of war produced
in Paris, where for weeks
the inhabitants had
deluded themselves with
infatuated hopes of
victory, and had shouted
themselves hoarse with
the cry " a Berlin ! " a
terrible disillusionment,
and then a fierce bitter-
ness against the Govern-
ment, on whose shoulders
all the blame for the
was laid, since

Ol A distinguished soldier who had served France
Thp Ra \rari ani in earlier wars, he commanded the first army

. i ne Bavarians corps in the Franco-German war, and, de-

attacked On the right, feated at Worth, was captured at Sedan. He that was the most COn-
the Prussians On the left, -s elected President of the Republic in m3. ven i e nt thing tO do. The

and in the last period of the protracted
and bloody battle the Wiirtembergers
had also the chance of intervening
with success. The end was that

French, whose numerical
inferiority was counter-
balanced by their formid-
able positions on heights
and vineyards, were com-
pletely defeated, and with
a loss of 16,000 men and
33 cannons they poured
into the passes of the
Vosges in headlong flight.
"After they had fought
like lions," says Arthur
Chuquet, " they fled like
hares." The Germans paid
for the brilliant victory,
which gave to them Lower
Alsace with the exception
of Strassburg, by a loss of
10,000 men, among whom
were nearly 500 officers.
On the same day the
disgrace of Saarbriicken

Ollivier Ministry was overthrown by a
vote of want of confidence in the Chambers,
which declared it incapable to organise
the defence of the country ; but the
Republicans did not succeed
in their intention of placing
an executive committee of
the Chambers at the head
of the country, and so
superseding the Empire
offhand. On the contrary,
the empress transferred the
premiership to General
Palikao, who took the
Ministry of War from
Lebceuf and gave him the
command of a corps. The
emperor wished at first
to retire with his whole
army to the camp of
Chalons-sur-Marne, where
MacMahon .was collecting
the fragments of his army
and gathering fresh troops
round him. But since the
abandonment of the whole
of Eastern France to its
fate would have been a

was wiped out by the

German capture of the GENERAL STEINMETZ

apparently impregnable A Prussian general of experience and political mistake, Napoleon

heights of Spicheren, near distinction, he commaridedTone of the remained for the moment

, ... three German armies in the Franco- . -,

baarbrucken, although German War, and after failing in his stationary in Metz, against

only twenty-seven German Gevr,"

which the first and second



armies now were put into movement,
while the third advanced through the
Vosges toward Chalons. Since this latter
had the longer way to march, the king
issued orders that the two
other armies should
advance more slowly, in
order that the combined
German forces might
compose an unbroken
and continuous mass with
a front of equal depth,
and that the enemy
might not find any oppor-
tunity to throw himself
in overwhelming numbers
on any one part. On
August i4th the advance
guard of the first army,
under Goltz, had almost
reached the gates of Metz,
when they found the
French main army pre-
paring to retreat. In

five miles in a whole day, since the baggage
train blocked all the roads. Meantime,
the Third Army Corps, that of the Branden-
burgers, had reached the road which leads
from Metz past Vionville
and Mars - la - Tour to
Verdun and the valley of
the Meuse, and their
general, Alvensleben, de-
termined at all hazards
to block the further
march of the enemy in
that direction, although
he was well aware that
he would have four
French corps opposed to
him, and for a consider-
able time could count on
no support being brought
up. A desperate struggle
began on August i6th.
At two o'clock in the after-
noon Alvensleben had not
BAZAINE a single infantry battalion

order to check them on Resigning the supreme command of the French or any artillery in re-

thp riaht hank of the army and yielding to public opinion, Napoleon __.. ,,,-. + }, + w V.Pn
e appointed Marshal Bazaine to that office, Serve , mat WH(

Moselle and to bring on a but the anticipated success did not follow. Marshal Canrobert, with

, , , , , ,, Si, , Bazaine capitulating to the enemy at Metz.

pitched battle at Metz, sound judgment, pressed

Goltz, in spite of his inferior numbers, on in order to break up the exhausted

attacked the enemy. The French, eager German line, the Twelfth Cavalry Brigade

at last to chastise the bold assailant, was compelled to attack the enemy, not-

immediately wheeled round ; but, just as withstanding all the difficulties of a cavalry

at Spicheren, the nearest
German regiments, so soon
as they heard the thunder
of the cannons, hurried to
the assistance of Goltz,
freed him from great dan-
ger, and drove the French
back under the fort of
St. Julien, which, with its
heavy guns, took part at
nightfall in the fierce en-
gagement. Thus the retreat
of the French was delayed
by one day, and in the
meantime the main body
of the Germans had reached
the Moselle. Napoleon,
yielding to public opinion,
now resigned the supreme
command to Marshal 12th c
Bazaine, in whom the army &op~rince~A\bert~ofs A xony*:w"hZd faced

and navy reposed Un- the re P uta ti> of being a splendid leader.

founded confidence, left Metz with pre-
cipitate haste on August I4th, and entered
Chalons with MacMahon on the lyth.
The main army itself did not leave Metz

attack on infantry armed
with chassepots. This
" Charge of the 800 "
recalls that of Balaclava ;
only half of them came
back. But here it saved the
day. "Canrobert did not
move again that whole day ;
he might have broken
through, but from the
furious onslaught of
Bredow's six squadrons he
feared to fall into a trap
ami kept qiiH't." But since
V gradually the Tenth Corps
from the left and the Eighth
Corps from the right came
OF SAXONY to Alvensleben's . support,
'n War_the 9th and the danger passed; the
Germans, who on this day
a great army of
120,000 French at first

with 29,000 and later with 65,000 men,
were in possession of the field of battle.
Of the roads by which Bazaine could
reach Verdun from Metz, the southern was

until August i5th, and then only advanced blocked against him ; he could only effect



his retreat now on the
northern road, by Saint-
Privat. And that pos-
sibility was then taken
from him, since on
August i8th the two
German armies, both of
which meantime had
crossed the Moselle
above Metz, advanced
to the attack on the
entire front fromSainte-
Marie-aux-Chenes and
Saint-Privat to Grave-
lotte. In the course of
the operations the
Saxons, under the
Crown Prince Albert,
and the Guards, under
Prince Augustus of
Wiirtemberg, stormed
the fortress-like position
of Saint - Privat with
terrific carnage ; on the
right wing at Gravelotte
no success was attained.
But the main point
had been achieved. The
great French army had


To his military genius Germany owed much of her
success over France in the war of 1870. A great
strategist and organiser, he prepared the army
with wonderful skill, and thus laid the foundation
of the many brilliant victories which followed.
From a photograph

been hurled back on
Metz, and was imme-
diately surrounded there
by the Germans in a
wide circle. The inde-
cision of the French
commander-in-chief was
much to blame f OB. this
momentous issue. to this
prolonged struggle, in
which some 186,000 men
on either side ultimately
took part. From fear
of being finally -cut off
from Metz itself and
surrounded in the open
field. Bazaine <kept a
third of his forces in
reserve ; if he had
staked these, he might,
perhaps, have won the
game. The casualties
on either side were
enormous. The Germans
lost on the i4th, iMh.
and i8th . of , August
5,000, 16,000, and
20,000 men, making a
total of" 41,000.. killed,




wounded, and prisoners ; the French, 3,600,
16,000, and 13,000, some 33,000 men in all.
The comparative smallness of the French
losses is explained by the fact that they
were mostly on the defensive, although
they ought properly
to have attacked,
and fought behind
entrenchments. The
French army in
Metz was lost if a
hand were not
stretched out to it
by its comrades-in-
arms outside the
town; it was
rumoured that
Bazaine would make
a renewed attempt
to meet the expected
relieving force at
Montmedy or Sedan.
All the journals in
Paris declared with
one voice that
Bazaine must be
rescued at any cost.
Under the pressure
of this situation Mac-
Mahon, who had been
reinforced at Chalons
by a division recalled
from the Spanish
frontier and by four
regiments of marines,
and had been nomi-
nated commander-
in-chief of all the forces outside Metz,
decided not to retreat to Paris the course
which seemed to him most correct in itself
but to leave the camp of Chalons to its
fate and march on Montmedy by way of
Vouziers and Buzancy, and there effect a
junction, if possible, with Bazaine.

King William had meantime com-
manded Prince Frederic Charles to invest
Metz. General Steinmetz, since he was
not on good terms with Prince Frederic
Charles, now his superior, and especially
since he had failed in his task at
Gravelotte, was appointed Governor-
general of Posen and Silesia. The Ninth
and Twelfth Corps, as well as the Guards,
were placed, as " the Meuse Army," under
Crown Prince Albert of Saxony, a splendid
leader, and instructions were given to
him to push on towards Chalons with the
third army ; his task was to frustrate all
attempts of the French to take up a



An advanced Liberal, he took office in the Government of
National Defence after the proclamation of the Republic,
becoming- Minister of the Interior. He later became
Dictator of France, and wished to continue the war against
Germany, even after the surrenders of Metz and Paris.

From a photograph

position there and advance on Metz.
But when the Meuse army had passed
Verdun, and the third army had reached
Ste. Menehould, Headquarters, which
followed these movements, learnt ol
MacMahon's march
from Chalons and
Rheims ; Moltke im-
mediately issued
orders, on August
25th, that the two
armies would wheel
to the right, in order,
if possible, to take
MacMahon in the
rear. This dangerous
manoeuvre, which
extended, of course,
to the baggage trains
of the armies, was
completely success-
ful, without causing
any confusion to the
columns. MacMahon
failed to see the
favourable chance,
which presented
itself for several
da;ys, of hurling his
120,000 men against
the 99,000 under the
Crown Prince of
Saxony and annihi-
lating them before
the third army came
up. When MacMahon
found no trace of
Bazaine on August 27th at Montmedy, he
wished to commence the retreat on Paris ;
but on the direct orders of Palikao, the
Minister of "War, and postponing military
to political considerations, he continued
his march in the direction of Metz, and
hastened to his ruin. On August 3Oth the
corps of General de Failly was attacked
by the Bavarians and the Fourth Prussian
Corps under Gustav von Alvensleben at
Beaumont, and thrown back
on Mouzon. The whole French
army retired from that place to
the fortress of Sedan, in the
hope of being able to rest there and then
to retire along the Belgian frontier north-
wards. But that was not allowed to
happen. The Meuse army pressed on from
the east, the third army from the west ;
the Eleventh Corps seized the bridge which
crossed the Meuse at Donchery, and thus
cut of the road to the north-west. The

The French
to Sedan


neighbourhood of Sedan was certainly easy
to defend, since the Meuse, with other
streams and gorges, presented considerable
difficulties to an attack ; but on September
ist the Germans, who outnumbered the
French by almost two to one, advanced
victoriously onwards, in spite of the most
gallant resistance. The Bavarians cap-
. tured Bazeilles on the south-

March'of* WeSt ' WheFe the inhabitants

took part in the fight, and thus
the Germans ,

brought upon themselves the

destruction of their village. The Eleventh
Corps took the cavalry of Illy in the
north. A great cavalry attack, under the
Marquis de Gallifet, at Floing could not
change the fortune of the day ; the
French army, thrown back from every
side on to Sedan, had only the choice
between surrendering or being destroyed
with the fortress itself, which could
be bombarded from all sides.

Marshal MacMahon was spared the neces-
sity of making his decision in this painful
position ; a splinter of a shell had severely
wounded him in the thigh that very
morning at half-past six. The general next
to him in seniority, Baron Wimpffen, who

had just arrived from Algiers, was forced,
in consideration of the 690 pieces of
artillery trained on the town, to conclude
an unconditional surrender on September
2nd. In this way, besides 21,000 French
who had been taken during the battle,
83,000 became prisoners of war; and
with them 558 guns were captured. The
French had lost 17,000 in killed and
wounded, the Germans, 9,000 ; an army
of 120,000 men was annihilated at a
single blow. Two German corps were
required to guard the prisoners and
deport them gradually to Germany.

The Emperor Napoleon himself fell into
the hands of the Germans, together with
his army. It is attested, as indeed he wrote
to King William, that he wished to die
in the midst of his troops before con-
senting to such a step ; but the bullets,
which mowed thousands down, passed him
by, in order that the man on whom, in the
eyes of history, the responsibility for the
war and the defeat rests, although the
whole French nation was really to blame,
might go before the monarch whom he
had challenged to the fight, and that the
latter might prove his magnanimity to



be not inferior to his strength. The
meeting of the two monarchs took place
at two o'clock in the Chateau of Belle-
vue near Frenois, during which Napoleon
asserted that he had only begun the
war under compulsion from the popular
opinion of his country. The castle of
Wilhelmshohe near Cassel was assigned
him as his abode, and the emperor was
detained there in honourable confine-
ment until the end of the war.

That evening the king, who in a tele-
gram to his wife had eiven God the
honour, proposed a toast to Roon, the
Minister of War, who had
whetted the sword, to
Moltke, who had wielded
it, and to Bismarck, who
by his direction of Prus-
sian policy for years had
raised Prussia to her
present pre-eminence. He
modestly said nothing
about himself, who had
placed all these men in
the responsible posts and
rendered their efforts
possible; but the voice
of history will testify of
him only the more loudly
that he confirmed the
truth of the saying of
Louis XIV., " gouverner,
c'est choisir " the choice
of the men and the
means both require the
decision of the monarch.

The victory of Sedan

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 12) → online text (page 37 of 55)