The franco-german War

The German-French War resulted from the disagreement of a heir to the throne for Spain, the publication of a telegram which led to national indignation in both countries and finally ended in war. After that, a united German Reich, a new French Republic and with the loss of Alsace and Lorraine the next reason for a war.





In 1868, the Spanish Isabella II was deposed in a military coup. Subsequently, a suitable successor was sought in the European aristocratic families, which also corresponded to the ideas of the Spanish Parliament and would be elected.

The Portuguese King Ferdinand II himself rejected the Spanish throne, but referred the Spanish parliament to his son-in-law, Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who came from the line of the Hohenzollern and should correspond to the ideas.

Although Prince Leopold initially rejected a request in April 1870, he was persuaded by Otto von Bismarck and the Prussian King Wilhelm I to run as a successor.

Politically, the candidacy was a move by Prussia to the French Emperor Napoleon III. to provoke. At a coronation of Prince Leopold, he saw France surrounded by Prussian interests, which put him under political pressure in his own country. The French Foreign Minister Duke of Gramont saw this danger and did not hold back in a speech in the French parliament, which also included war threats to Prussia.

In order to end this point of contention, Prince Leopold withdrew the candidacy on the advice of King William. But this step did not go far enough for the French foreign minister, he also demanded that Prussia now has to keep entirely out of the throne Spain. This demand was presented by the French Ambassador Vincent Graf Benedetti personally to the Prussian king on the spa promenade of Bad Ems.

The contents of this meeting of Bad Ems was sent to him by a Bismarck employee by telegram. Bismarck shortened the contents so that one could regard the appearance of the ambassador as well as the reaction of the Prussian king as clearly rugged. The article was subsequently published on July 13 in the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

The article then gave the French government the opportunity to cover up its failure and use the meeting in Bad Ems as a provocation of Prussia as a reason for a war.

On July 19, 1870, France declared war on Prussia in the belief that the southern German states would stay out of the war and put the public of other European powers on the side of France. But the plan of Napoleon III. did not go on, because both the South German countries after their protection and Trutzbündnis on the side of Prussia stood and the European great powers the reason for war of France as petty and useless were. France was alone against an overpowering opponent.




The course of the war:

At the beginning of the war, the much better planned organization of the German army had an effect on the rapid mobilization. Thus, the conscript soldiers were equipped in their garrisons and relocated on reaching the total strength with the well-developed railway network to the front. The mobilization of the French troops was much more disorderly. Thus, the troops were scattered across the country, but their equipment was always stored in their home garrison. So the troops had to be moved first to the garrison and then to the front, which took a lot of time. In contrast to the German troops, however, the French infantrymen were equipped with the better Chassepot rifle and had with the Reffye Mitrailleuse an early machine gun. Frontal attacks by the German infantry would be associated with high losses.

Despite the faster mobilization of the Germans, the French troops managed to capture Saarbrücken on August 2, 1870, which was protected by only a few soldiers because of its isolated position. But only a short time later, the city was cleared again. On August 3, 320,000 German soldiers were already standing on the French border, Napoleon's plans for a major offensive were thus made a niece.

The German troops were divided under Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz, Prince Friedrich Karl Nicholas of Prussia and Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm in 3 armies, over the Helmuth von Moltke received the command. Due to the superior mobility of the troops against the French, Weissenburg was quickly captured on 4 August 1870, Wörth and Spichern on 6 August.


Sturm auf die Spicherer Höhen bei Saarbrücken

Storm on the Spicherer heights near Saarbrücken


Die Berennung von Lichtenberg

The battle of Lichtenberg


The German southern army also pushed further into Alsace and the Rhine Valley, which was evacuated by the French and besieged the fortress Belfort.

Moltke's tactic aimed at the speed and agility of German troops. Thus, most French units were circled in pincer movements and either destroyed, had to surrender or withdrew hastily before closing. This tactic also brought victory in the battle Mars-la-Tour, which denied the French army of the Rhine retreat to Verdun. Even when the Battle of Gravelotte ended in a defeat of the French, her commander Marshal Bazaine decided to move his remains to Metz in the local fortifications. There his army was included from 20 August by the 2nd Army under the leadership of Prince Friedrich Karl (coming from the left bank of the Mosel) and the 1st Army under Manteuffel (coming from the right bank of the Moselle).


Das preußische 7. Kürassier-Regiment greift die französischen Stellungen in der Schlacht bei Mars-la-Tour am 16. August 1870 an

The Prussian 7th Cuirassier Regiment attacks the French positions in the Battle of Mars-la-Tour on 16 August 1870


To break the siege of Metz, the French government decided to put the troops that were assigned to protect Paris under the command of Marshal Mac Mahon and send them to Metz, the French emperor Napoleon III. would accompany the army. On August 25, the French surrounded the French troops by the Germans. MacMahon mentioned the retreat, but was pushed by the French government to continue marching.

On August 30, his army was defeated at the Battle of Beaumont and the French army had to retreat to Sedan, where they suffered a devastating defeat on September 1 and had to capitulate. This was not only the army but also the French emperor Napoleon III. in prison.


Napoléon III. bei Sedan, Gemälde von Wilhelm Camphausen

Napoleon III. at Sedan, painting by Wilhelm Camphausen


Bismarck bei Sedan

Bismarck at Sedan


Napoleon übergibt seinen Degen, Lithographie von Hartwich

Napoleon hands over his sword, lithograph by Hartwich


Napoléon III. als preußischer Gefangener im Gespräch mit Bismarck nach der Schlacht bei Sedan vor dem Maison Tisserand

Napoleon III. as a Prussian prisoner in conversation with Bismarck after the battle at Sedan in front of the Maison Tisserand


After the defeat at Sedan, the French army had only about 100,000 operational soldiers. Bismarck decided to bring the war to a quick conclusion and let his troops march to Paris.




The deposition of the French emperor and the establishment of the third republic:

After the capitulation of the French troops at Sedan and the capture of Emperor Napoleon III. In Paris a bloodless overthrow was carried out by General Trochu. He established an interim government and instructed to raise new troops to continue the war.

On September 19, 1870, the German troops reached Paris and besieged the city. In return, the French forces led a guerilla war against the Prussians by attacking their supply trains and occupation forces. Then Paris was shot at by the German artillery.

After the last French troops surrendered from Metz on 27 October, the now vacant troops under the leadership of Prince Karl could be used against the newly established French armies in Flanders, the Loire, Lyonnais and Normandy, not to these To march Paris.




The end of the war:

Contrary to the orientation to continue the war demanded by the French Interior and War Minister Léon Gambetta, the Government member Jules Favre acted a ceasefire on January 31, 1871 entered into force. For this purpose, some parts of Paris were to be occupied by German troops, but since elections for a new National Assembly were granted on 8 February, Bismarck did not want to obstruct them with his troops.

The election result brought many voices, especially for the supporters of the monarchy, who wanted to end the war with Prussia as soon as possible in order to settle accounts with the supporters of the republic and restore the monarchy.

Adolphe Thiers, who had been appointed provisional head of state, finally signed on February 26 a preliminary peace of Versailles with Prussia.

Already during the war Bismarck negotiated with the South German states the November contracts, which thus also joined the contents of the North German Confederation. On 8 December, the Federal Constitution was amended and came into force on January 1, 1871. Thus the designation North German federation in German empire was renamed and the king title in imperial title. On January 18, Wilhelm I was officially proclaimed Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles.


Die Proklamierung des deutschen Kaiserreiches (18. Januar 1871) im Spiegelsaal von Schloss Versailles, Historiengemälde von Anton von Werner aus den 1880er-Jahren

The Proclamation of the German Empire (18 January 1871) in the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles Palace, historical painting by Anton von Werner from the 1880s


The end of the war was decided on 10 May with the peace treaties of Frankfurt.


Preußische Truppen ziehen nach dem Krieg in Berlin ein, 1871

Prussian troops move into Berlin after the war, 1871




Consequences of war:

France had to cede its territories Alsace and Lorraine to Germany with the peace treaties, which was regarded as disgrace in France and was reversed in the treaties after the First World War. In the French population, with the cession of the areas also developed a great rejection of Germany.

France also had to pay a compensation of 5 billion francs to Germany. With this money, large infrastructure measures and public buildings were financed in Germany.

During the war, the South German states joined the North German Confederation. A new constitution created in January 1871 the first German Empire with Wilhelm I as German Emperor. Thus the agreement of all German states was accomplished.


Mitteleuropa von 1866 bis 1914

Central Europe from 1866 to 1914






You can find the right literature here:


The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 violently changed the course of European History. Alarmed by Bismarck's territorial ambitions and the Prussian army's crushing defeats of Denmark in 1864 and Austria in 1866, French Emperor Napoleon III vowed to bring Prussia to heel. Digging into many European and American archives for the first time, Geoffrey Wawro's Franco-Prussian War describes the war that followed in thrilling detail. While the armies mobilized in July 1870, the conflict appeared "too close to call." Prussia and its German allies had twice as many troops as the French. But Marshal Achille Bazaine's grognards ("old grumblers") were the stuff of legend, the most resourceful, battle-hardened, sharp-shooting troops in Europe, and they carried the best rifle in the world. From the political intrigues that began and ended the war to the bloody battles at Gravelotte and Sedan and the last murderous fights on the Loire and in Paris, this is the definitive history of the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is Professor of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Wawro has published two books: The Austro-Prussian War (Cambridge, 1996) and Warfare and Society in Europe, 1792-1914 (Routledge, 2000). He has published articles in The Journal of Military History, War in History, The International History Review, The Naval War College Review, American Scholar, and the European History Quarterly, and op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Providence Journal. Wawro has won several academic prizes including the Austrian Cultural Institute Prize and the Society for Military History Moncado Prize for Excellence in the Writing of Military History. He has lectured widely on military innovation and international security in Europe, the U.S., and Canada and is host of the History Channel program Hardcover History--a weekly book show with leading historians, pundits, critics, statesmen and journalists.

Click here!



The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871 2nd Edition

In 1870 Bismarck ordered the Prussian Army to invade France, inciting one of the most dramatic conflicts in European history. It transformed not only the states-system of the Continent but the whole climate of European moral and political thought. The overwhelming triumph of German military might, evoking general admiration and imitation, introduced an era of power politics, which was to reach its disastrous climax in 1914.

First published in 1961 and now with a new introduction, The Franco-Prussian War is acknowledged as the definitive history of one of the most dramatic and decisive conflicts in the history of Europe.

Click here!



The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire

The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire Paperback – September 14, 2018

*Includes pictures
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
After Prussia was victorious in the Austro-Prussian War, Bismarck played a waiting game where the unification of Germany was concerned, as the joining of the southern states - initially resistant to Prussian rule, friendly with Austria, and bent on independence - would have to be overcome. What was needed was “a clear case of French aggression” toward either Prussia or the southern states. Not only would such a move by Emperor Napoleon III trigger the terms of the treaty between the German states, but it would keep the remaining world powers out of the conflict.
The Franco-Prussian War started in August 1870, and a number of victories followed for the Prussians in battles in northeast France. By September, the strategic city of Metz was under siege, and forces fought a major battle at Sedan. Led by Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, the Prussians forced the French to surrender at Metz, and then at Sedan. Emperor Napoleon III, commanding his country’s forces at Sedan, was taken prisoner, humiliating France and its impetuous leader.
The Prussians immediately marched on Paris, but the capital refused to submit, and a separate siege was mounted that ended up lasting 130 days. Obviously, French society was in tumult, but a Third Republic and Government of National Defence was pronounced in place of the French Empire. An uprising subsequently took place in the stricken city, dubbed the "Paris Commune," which sought to establish a radical alternative to the status quo and was itself put down by French troops.
Prussian forces besieged Paris starting in September 1870, and although French units attempted to make inroads at battles in the north and east of the country, the Prussians were in comfortable control of the conflict. Food was becoming scarce, and an armistice was signed on January 26, 1871 with Paris on the brink of starvation. The Prussians lost 45,000 men during the conflict, while France suffered almost three times as many dead and wounded. The French government accepted the terms of its defeat with the Germans, which would prove a painful experience, and for their part, the Prussians could avenge the humiliation of the Napoleonic occupation and the treatment at the hands of the French conqueror 65 years earlier.
On January 18, 1871, King Wilhelm I was crowned Kaiser of the German Empire, and though the Franco-Prussian War was still taking place, this moment was essentially the point at which Germany was unified. The other German states had to agree to this profound constitutional change, but they acquiesced after the clear victory of the Prussian-led forces. German unification was the territorial expansion of Prussia by another name, but Berlin demonstrated it could protect the interests, or at least the safety, of German-speakers under their watch.
Despite the campaigns of nationalists and liberals over the previous decades, it was ultimately a victory on the battlefield that united the German states. This was the real-world application of Bismarck’s "Blood and Iron" concept. From this position of strength during war, Prussia achieved an unassailable position. During the relatively short wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-71, Bismarck roused nationalist sentiment, and in so doing, he achieved the long awaited goal of German unification. Nevertheless, the manner in which Germany was united drew much criticism. Prussia was at the head of a militarized state led by an authoritarian regime. This version of a German Reich would move irrevocably toward the First World War, which started 43 years after the Empire’s founding. For many, nationalism became a substitute for political participation in the unified Germany.

Click here!



German Armies 1870–71 (2): Prussia’s Allies

German Armies 1870–71 (2): Prussia’s Allies (Men-at-Arms) (v. 2) Paperback – February 5, 2005

Although the war of 1870–71 has gone down in history as the 'Franco-Prussian War', nearly half of the German troops sent to the frontier were from other German states – both the willing members of the North German Confederation and the southern states who were in some cases more hesitant about accepting Prussian domination. Some contingents had only one or two regiments – though these might be of high quality, like the 'Black Brunswickers'; others provided whole army corps, like Bavaria and Saxony. This book lists and illustrates the organization and varied uniforms of all these allied contingents, most of which fought well when it came to the test of battle.

Click here!






This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Français (French) Italiano (Italian) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish) العربية (Arabic)

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!